Politics & Policy

Why Kamala Harris’s Speech Fell Flat

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While watching Kamala Harris’s vice-presidential nomination speech last night, I thought her two biggest problems were that she was upstaged by Barack Obama’s strong performance and that the staging for her own speech just didn’t work. Two teleprompters flanking the podium were visible to TV viewers in the early part of the speech, and Harris awkwardly turned from side to side to use them; that’s normal when addressing a live audience but seemed strange when addressing a mostly empty room with a few dozen reporters scattered throughout. She would have been better off in a smaller room looking directly at the camera, as the Obamas did in their speeches.

But after reading the transcript, it seems the bigger problem was the text of the speech itself: Harris neither effectively tore Trump down nor built Biden up. The latter problem was probably exacerbated by the fact that after the Democratic primary, everyone knows Harris doesn’t really believe Biden is great. Harris was never strong on the stump during the Democratic primary, but she might fare better in her debate against Vice President Pence.

World

Speak for America

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Former president Ronald Reagan speaks at the opening of his library in Simi, Calif., 1991. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Everyone is down on political conventions, pretty much — I mean the traditional convention, with its pageantry, goofy hats, balloon drop, and such. Apparently, those days are over (pandemic or no pandemic). From now on, the conventions will be different.

I accept this, I guess, but I have a great fondness for the traditional political convention. I will miss these affairs. And I begin my Impromptus column today with a fond look back.

My first convention, I’m pretty sure, was the Republican convention of 1976, held in Kansas City. I was twelve, and listened to the convention on the radio (from Maine). Thought it was pretty exciting.

What else is in that column? Many things, many topics, as usual — including our current election. The Republican nominee, President Trump, said, “The only way we lose the election is if the election is rigged.” In my view, that’s a lousy thing for a leader in our democracy to say.

Can you imagine how we righties would react if a Democrat said it?

Then there is the matter of Trump and Vladimir Putin — always a sore subject (for some of us). In 2007, the American sent the Russian a letter, saying, “As you probably have heard, I am a big fan of yours!” He underlined those last words: “I am a big fan of yours!”

On the subject of Edward Snowden, I quote Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, who, in 2016, said, “Edward Snowden is a traitor who is currently under the care, custody, and control of Russian security services.”

Cotton went on to say that Snowden had done “irreparable harm to U.S. national security.” Also: “Any thought to pardoning Edward Snowden should be immediately dismissed by President Obama, or anybody seeking to hold the office of the president.”

I further touch on Belarus, where the dictator, Lukashenko, is willing to smash as many faces as he can to remain in power. He is virtually friendless in the democratic world.

Two months ago, Viktor Orban paid Lukashenko a visit in Minsk. The Hungarian said that it was an “honor” to do so. He also said that he would work to lift EU sanctions on Belarus, etc. This is par for the course.

My column also touches on some new GOP House nominees; an ancient mariner; the late Brent Scowcroft; and language. What about language in particular? Well, the words “technocrat” and “technocratic,” for one thing. Also, some phrases that live in our ear or head because of song lyrics.

But back to something less lighthearted: Belarus. National Review published an editorial on the subject yesterday, saying, in part, that

 the president of the United States should speak up for the people of Belarus and their rights. He should place this country on the side of their cause. We urged that he do the same for Hong Kong. The United States should stand for freedom, democracy, and human rights against the tyrants and torturers. In this way, we will be true to ourselves. It is hard to be genuinely American otherwise.

Last night, a friend and I were recalling a dramatic episode in the House of Commons, unfolding in September 1939. The prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, had spoken. (He was a Conservative, as you remember.) Ordinarily, Clement Attlee, the Labour leader, would have spoken, but he was absent, so a colleague, Arthur Greenwood, rose in his place.

Greenwood announced that he was speaking for Labour. Across the floor, a dissident Conservative, Leo Amery, cried out, “Speak for England!”

The president of the United States seems disinclined to speak for American ideals in the matter of Belarus, etc. Freedom, democracy, and human rights do not seem to be in his repertoire. There is ample evidence on this question. But there are other people in our government, other leaders in our country.

Must Republicans remain mute? On the campaign trail in 2016, Senator Marco Rubio used to speak of “the children of Reagan.” I hope that these “children,” these men and women, can find their voices, somehow.

Elections

Barack Obama, Center Stage on Kamala Harris’s Night

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Former President Barack Obama speaks by video feed during the 2020 Democratic National Convention, August 19, 2020. (2020 Democratic National Convention/Pool via Reuters)

It’s hard to ascribe much importance to the conventions this year; the reported TV ratings are terrible for the Democrats so far, and even if that’s hard to measure — the audiences are undoubtedly scattered among all sorts of platforms — the visual effect of speakers without crowds is a real buzz-killer. Joe Biden couldn’t even do the traditional bunny-hug with his running mate, although given Biden’s history, that may be for the best.

Tonight was Barack Obama and Kamala Harris’s night. And Harris probably would have been wise to turn down Obama’s offer to let her go last. Obama may have been overrated as a communicator, in the sense that he has often given speeches with no content anyone remembered much later, but nobody has ever questioned the man’s talent at delivering a speech. If anything, the absence of an audience to play to for applause lines made him more effective. Which made him a tough act to follow.

Conservatives will (as I did) gag at a lot of Obama’s platitudes about the Constitution and being a president for all the people (the latter a pretense he ditched later in the speech to start ranting about what THEY want and how THEY are standing in your way), as well as his longstanding tic of referring only to religion as “worship” (as president and in his 2012 campaign, he was not so big on letting people practice their faith) and lauding Biden as the last man in the room when he made big decisions (skimming over the time Biden opposed the raid that got Osama bin Laden), but none of that is likely to stick in the craw of any persuadable voter tonight. What was most effective was the more-in-sorrow-than-anger way he went after Donald Trump for not taking the job seriously — not “putting in the work,” which of course has been a great frustration even to many of Trump’s supporters:

I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care. But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves. Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.

What Harris mostly succeeded in conveying was how very, very happy she was to be on this ticket. Which is something: It’s better than picking a former rival who is obviously unhappy to be there. Harris’s affect during the primary debates always veered between the courtroom histrionics of a trial lawyer and a strange giddiness; I could never tell whether the latter was an effort at Al Gore–style overcompensation. In any event, we got a blend of the two tonight, but mostly the giddiness. She rather audaciously promised that “Joe will bring us together to end this pandemic,” but then, it is apt to end some time in the next four years, so why not start taking credit now? Harris’s speech was actually remarkably short on attack-dog lines, which may reflect a sense that it was more important to introduce her than to have yet another speaker bash Trump.

Energy & Environment

Democrats Promise to Bring California-Style Blackouts to Everyone

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The sun sets behind power lines in Carlsbad, Calif., in 2006. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Gotta say, it was bold of Democratic Party convention organizers to let voters know they plan on passing federal energy policies that would transform the rest of the country into California. The Golden State is experiencing rolling blackouts even as the Democrats speak. Millions of people are having their electrical power turned off in the middle of a heat wave — more specifically, their air conditioners. Blackouts aren’t merely an inconvenience, it is an economic drag and dangerous to vulnerable populations.

California doesn’t have enough reliable power — which is to say fossil-fuel and nuclear energy – because it depends on intermittent sources like solar and windmills. California is what happens when quixotic political aspirations smother economic reality. I’m skeptical that most Americans – even Californians – will be willingly to roll back modernity for long. We’ll see.

California governor Gavin Newsom was forced to admit the state’s “transition” away from fossil fuels was one of the contributing factors in rolling blackouts, so you can imagine how serious it is. For context, renewable energy is now responsible for approximately 36 percent of the state’s energy generation, and it’s already putting a tremendous strain on the state. It has to nearly double that number within a decade, and go 100 percent fossil-fuel free by 2045.

Just a reminder: To keep up with IPCC recommendations on carbon emission cut and meet the Paris treaty goals that Democrats promise, Americans would be compelled to shut down virtually the entire economy. The only time we’ve kept pace with those numbers was during the lockdown.

Both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden support the Green New Deal, which calls for the elimination of all fossil fuels within a decade – not to mention cars and planes and entire industries. To be fair, Democrats often treat “The Green New Deal” as some amorphous catch-all slogan. But Biden’s plan calling for “clean energy revolution and environmental justice” not only ostensibly relies on the Green New Deal, it promises to make the plan the “framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” That means “a 100 percent clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050.”

Or, in other words, welcome to California!

U.S.

Do Democrats Really Want to Bring Up the Pulse Nightclub Shooting?

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FBI officials collect evidence from the parking lot of the Pulse night club in Orlando, Fla., June 15, 2016. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

An early segment about gun control on the third night of the Democratic convention made a reference to the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016.

It’s remarkable how little reckoning there has been about how spectacularly inaccurately that event was described in the initial days after that attack, and how an Islamist terror attack was widely re-spun as a reflection of “homegrown homophobia,” in the words of the Washington Post. During the trial of the shooter’s wife, it became clear the shooter was not a closeted gay man as some initially claimed, his original target had been Disney World, and in fact it was not clear if the shooter knew the Pulse club was a gay nightclub when he went in with his murderous intent. The shooter’s motive was not hard to determine when he literally pledged his loyalty to ISIS while on the phone with police. The Orlando Police Department did not classify the massacre as a “hate crime” – although one could reasonably argue that all terrorism meets any common definition of hateful, if not the legal definition.

You may recall the FBI initially released an edited transcript of the shooter’s call with police, removing references to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State — a move that then-House speaker Paul Ryan called “preposterous.”

The entire episode suggested that some voices in our government were in such adamant denial about the reality of ISIS-inspired attacks that they would attempt to persuade the public that somehow Republican hostility to gay marriage was spurring American-born Muslims – who just happened to previously have been on FBI watch lists – to shoot up crowds of gay Americans.

You can argue that the Pulse nightclub shooting illustrates the need for gun control – although you’re likely to encounter a great deal of skepticism from gun owners and Second Amendment supporters. But the way that the FBI, Obama administration, and major voices in the media responded to that attack – along with the San Bernardino attack, the Minnesota stabbing, the Chelsea bombing and other ISIS-inspired attacks – probably contributed to Americans fearing that their government wasn’t being honest with them about the threat of Islamist terrorism, and that some segments of the media were complicit in the dishonesty. There are many reasons Trump won in 2016, but that sense that Hillary Clinton would continue a willfully blind approach to this kind of terrorism was almost certainly one of them.

Elections

‘Streaming on a Device Near You’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Jim discuss the dreadful online DNC format, the unnecessary hysteria around the USPS, and whether or not candidates such as Laura Loomer hurt the GOP. Listen below, or subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

World

Will a U.N. Human-Rights Expert Defend Belarus’s Dictator?

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko takes part in the celebrations of Independence Day in Minsk, Belarus, July 3, 2020. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

As the international response to the August 9 presidential election in Belarus takes shape, one key international official might step in to lobby against the use of sanctions targeting the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko — a U.N. human-rights official.

The election, which resulted in an apparent victory for Lukashenko, has widely been regarded as fraudulent and illegitimate, with massive vote counting irregularities and the intimidation and disqualification of opposition candidates (there’s more on this in National Review’s tour de force editorial on the situation). It’s no secret that Lukashenko is guilty of egregiously abusing fundamental human rights, but this might not stop Belarusian academic Alena Douhan, who in March became the second U.N. Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures, a special human-rights office. By “unilateral coercive measures” the office’s creators, of course, meant sanctions — particularly, the kind of sanctions employed by Western governments to target chronic human-rights abusers.

That special rapporteur position was created by a 2014 resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council introduced by Iran on behalf of the non-aligned movement. According to the resolution, that official would be charged with collecting information on sanctions that allegedly contravene human-rights law. The list of countries that voted for it mirrors, unsurprisingly, the countries that are oft targeted by international sanction on human rights grounds — China, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, and others.

Douhan’s role is receiving fresh scrutiny in the wake of an EU decision this morning to impose sanctions on individuals involved in manipulating the electoral process in Belarus. On Twitter, Hillel Neuer, the director of U.N. Watch, an NGO that holds the international organization accountable to its fundamental human-rights guarantees, said that Douhan could weigh in against the EU move.

“The UNHRC will condemn these EU sanctions against the Belarus regime as ‘unilateral coercive measures,’” he wrote. “They have a Special Rapporteur — @AlenaDouhan (of Belarus . . .) — dedicated to condemning all sanctions on dictatorships as ‘human rights violations.”

National Review requested comment from the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights but had not received a response at the time of publication.

During an interview on Tuesday with Truthside TV, an online video channel, Douhan argued against the use of sanctions, describing them as unlawful and against international human-rights legal instruments. She made a similar argument in April, issuing a statement that called on “the international community to take immediate measures to lift, or at least suspend, all sanctions until our common threat is eliminated,” referring to the coronavirus epidemic.

This is a common refrain repeated by the governments of authoritarian countries that are targeted by international sanctions. It’s a neat rhetorical trick that transforms enforcement action intended to stop human-rights abuses into a violation of the targets’ rights, and the sovereignty of the countries implicated in the sanctions. At the U.N. Human Rights Council, authoritarian regimes are provided a platform to make their case — and they’re vested with the institutional legitimacy of the U.N. to do it.

It remains to be seen whether Douhan will eventually speak out against the EU’s decision to impose sanctions on officials linked to the Belarus regime and any additional sanctions against Belarus that are put in place by the U.S government. If she does, this will be another testament to the brilliance of the international authoritarian investment in the U.N.’s human rights mechanisms. It’s a gambit that’s paid off before, and it will continue to pay dividends to the world’s dictators.

Update: Douhan responded to a request for comment with the following statement on August 20:

Regarding the decision taken by the European Union to impose sanctions against Belarus, I have not seen the document so far, but I should emphasize that my mandate as a Special Rapporteur is to focus on only one aspect of sanctions – the negative impact they sometimes can have on human rights. Therefore, my purpose is to ensure that human rights standards are not violated by the introduction of unilateral sanctions wherever it occurs. The rules of human rights protection are the same regardless of the names of the targeting and targeted countries.

I do welcome very much that the mass media is reporting about the phenomenon of sanctions more comprehensively, so I would like to explain my focus in more detail and to give it some perspective, in case it is useful for your article or in your future reporting. You may consider anything here to be on the record.

The UN Charter empowers the UN Security Council as the only entity that is legally able to take any enforcement measures in response to the use of force, the threat of force or an act of agression. The UN Charter does not provide any possibility for the application of unilateral sanctions. Today, however, the world community faces an enormous expansion in the application of various types, forms and means of them. While they started as targeted actions aimed to minimize the negative humanitarian effects of comprehensive UN sanctions, unilateral sanctions have now become more and more comprehensive, and thereby transform exceptions in international relations into the routine practice of many States. Their negative humanitarian effect can be enormous, especially when they target the broader population.

As the legal status of specific unilateral sanctions is not always clear from the standpoint of international law, it is necessary to address and seek to minimize the humanitarian consequences of their application, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations, the fundamental principles of international law, including the observance of human rights and humanitarian standards, and the rule of law. The Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly have repeatedly affirmed that people should not be deprived of their own means of subsistence, especially as concerns food and medicine, which quite often happens when trade embargoes or expanded sectoral sanctions are applied. Naturally, the negative humanitarian impact of targeted sanctions is much lower.

In the meantime, under international law, not every unfriendly act or application of pressure by a State is illegal. States are free to choose their partners in trade, economic or other types of international relations and they may decide to stop some sorts of relations, all in accordance with international law. International law also provides for the possibility of proportionate countermeasures in response to serious breaches of obligations under the most compelling norms of general international law like the bans on aggression, genocide and mass gross violations of fundamental human rights that shock the conscience of mankind, as long as the countermeasures do not violate these peremptory norms of international law as well as fundamental human rights. It is notable that the European Court of Justice has considered more than 360 cases related to sanctions and in a number of them it annulled the EU actions because human rights standards had not been observed.

If these rules are not observed, then unilateral sanctions will constitute unilateral coercive measures, and numerous resolutions of the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have affirmed the illegality of these.

Therefore, the application of unilateral sanctions should reflect the principles of legality, legitimacy, necessity, proportionality and protection of human rights, especially the rights of women, children, the elderly and other vulnerable categories of the population. Regardless of the grounds and purposes for introducing unilateral sanctions, humanitarian concerns should always be taken into account. Sanctions, even when implemented for legitimate purposes, must comply with human rights standards, including the rights to life, to due process and the presumption of innocence, and shall include relevant humanitarian exemptions and procedural safeguards. A common reason for unilateral sanctions is to promote more respect for human rights in other countries, but human rights cannot be protected by the violation of human rights. This is precisely the kind of problem that I focus on through my mandate.

Elections

Laura Loomer and the Illusion of the Useful Fringe Candidate

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President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters, flanked by a line of local law enforcement, as he arrives at Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Fla., July 31, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Republican primary voters in Senate and House races have done a fairly solid job this year of rejecting some of the party’s best-known toxic figures, such as Steve King, Roy Moore, and Kris Kobach. Arthur Jones didn’t sneak by again in Illinois’ Third District, where the Democrats were purging the most prominent pro-lifer left in their party. But every cycle, a few nuts slip through. One is QAnon believer Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia’s 14th District, and another is Laura Loomer in Florida’s 21st District. Loomer got 42.5 percent of the vote in a six-way race that included another QAnon believer and a former exotic dancer.

Loomer is obviously bad news both morally and politically, but she’s not really that important by herself, any more than Arthur Jones was; she’s running in a deep-blue district and is going to lose, absent some truly bizarre circumstances. She got a little under 15,000 votes in the primary, compared to 75,000 for Lois Frankel, who is seeking her fifth term. Frankel won by 27 points in 2016, and ran unopposed in 2014 and 2018. The party should just drop a terse statement of non-support and ignore her, which of course is not what happened: Donald Trump congratulated her on her primary win, and Congressman Matt Gaetz went further and actually supported her in the primary. Trump sucks up so much oxygen that Loomer will probably do less damage to other Republicans than would usually be the case, but this is still an unforced error.

Setting aside the specifics of why Loomer is bad news, is there a case for wanting a well-known provocateur to run in a race that would otherwise be uncontested? There is an argument you can make that sounds plausible in theory, but it never works out in practice. The argument goes something like this: Lois Frankel could just cruise to another uncontested reelection or walk over another unknown, but instead, a figure such as Loomer will bring money and attention to the race, compel Democrats to spend resources there, and interrogate Frankel in debate with her confrontational approach. On this theory, even though Loomer has no prayer of winning, she helps stretch the playing field.

It typically does not work that way. Sure, Loomer raised a little over $1 million in the primary and will probably bring in more than that in the fall through fringe boosters such as Roger Stone and Alex Jones. And of course, the media will love covering her. But forcing Frankel to spend a bunch of money or get rattled in debate (or even, for that matter, debate her opponent at all) first requires her to see Loomer as a threat. And it is unlikely that she will; Democrats are salivating at walking over her.

From Trump’s perspective, of course, there is a different calculus: How Loomer affects other Republicans is of far less interest to him than his own campaign. Florida is a must-win state in the presidential race that he carried by 1.2 percent of the vote in 2016. (Georgia is likewise a battleground.) Most voters already know that Donald Trump has no standards in whom he associates with, and most conventional voters are going to show up anyway. If Loomer brings out a handful of loons and conspiracy nuts to the polls, that could help Trump — if the presidential race is competitive, a big if at this juncture. From Trump’s perspective, to the extent he’s not just running on his raw instinct, that would seem to be the logic behind congratulating a candidate who really should have no business on a ballot. But she could have given him just the same benefit if he simply kept his mouth shut.

Politics & Policy

State Aid and the Lockdowns

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One response I’m getting to my column saying the federal government should give some aid to state governments (as much as possible in the form of loans) is that the states decided to lock down and should pay the price for it.

Remember, though, that the collapse in economic activity preceded government lockdown policies. The pandemic itself, in other words, has had serious economic costs. (Voluntary adoption of social distancing cuts both ways with respect to the argument about lockdown policies: It means that some of what appear to be the costs of the policies weren’t, but it also means some of what appear to be their public-health benefits weren’t.) State governments would be in trouble even if they hadn’t imposed lockdowns, as federal officials, sometimes including Trump, encouraged them to do.

And to the extent aid is structured as a loan, governments that pursued better policies, whatever those will turn out to have been, will still come out ahead in the long run.

Politics & Policy

Andrew Cuomo Can’t Decide If COVID Is Over

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at his daily briefing at New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y., May 7, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

On Monday night, Andrew Cuomo took a victory lap at the Democratic National Convention. His speech began with a declaration that “we climbed the impossible mountain, and right now we are on the other side.” He went on to dismiss COVID as merely “a metaphor” for the ills of our country’s politics. The next day, Cuomo announced that he would have a book, American Crisis: Lessons in Leadership from the COVID-19 Pandemic, out on October 13.

Oddly enough though, Cuomo warned today that actually “COVID is NOT over. At best it’s half time. You don’t call it a win at half time no matter the score.” The governor is apparently unable to make up his mind on where we are in our battle with the coronavirus. His quandary is understandable. He wants simultaneously to be able to claim that New York has reached the light at the end of the tunnel thanks to his leadership . . . and to continue to be in the thick of the pandemic so that he can hold his silly press conferences and receive fawning press coverage.

Obviously he got it right the second time; the pandemic has not yet ended. But in New York —where Cuomo failed to flatten the curve and his constituents paid the price — the crisis has largely abated. Whatever Cuomo believes about coronavirus, it’s beyond clear at this point that Andrew Cuomo believes first and foremost in himself.

Science & Tech

Uncommon Knowledge: Mathematical Challenges to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

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Based on new evidence and knowledge that functioning proteins are extremely rare, should Darwin’s theory of evolution be dismissed, dissected, developed, or replaced with a theory of intelligent design?

Has Darwinism really failed? I discuss it with David Berlinski, David Gelernter, and Stephen Meyer, who have raised doubts about Darwin’s theory in their two books and essay, respectively The Deniable Darwin, Darwin’s Doubt, and “Giving Up Darwin” (published in the Claremont Review of Books).

Recorded on June 6, 2019 in Fiesole, Italy

Elections

Biden on Masks: One Step Forward, One Step Back

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Former Vice President Joe Biden adjusts his protective face mask during a campaign event in New Castle, Del., July 21, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The step forward is that he is now acknowledging that whether mask usage is made mandatory is up to the states, not the federal government. He is merely calling for the governors to impose mandates.

The step back is now that he has outlined his policy in more detail, it does not seem at all scientifically supported. He says that all Americans should wear masks “when they’re outside, for the next three months at minimum.”

When they’re outside? Faye Flam writes at Bloomberg Opinion:

Risk communication consultant Peter Sandman says he was puzzled by Biden’s statements. “Did he misspeak, saying ‘outdoors’ when he meant ‘indoors’? Did he misunderstand the briefings he has been getting from experts, who surely told him transmission is at least an order of magnitude likelier indoors than outdoors?”

The latest evidence about aerosol transmission points to indoor environments being the primary risk.

The good news is that the governors are free to ignore Biden’s advice, as they should.

Religion

No, Catholics Should Not Embrace ‘Reproductive Justice’ Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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(File photo: Nick Oxford/Reuters)

Always willing to entertain the odd heresy, the National Catholic Reporter has published a piece urging Catholics to embrace “reproductive justice” as championed by Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who identifies as a Catholic.

Columnist Jamie Manson gives away in the game in just the second paragraph, describing pro-life Catholics as those who “oppose the right to access abortion care.” As Manson surely knows, such Catholics would deny both that abortion is a right and that it is care at all, because every successful abortion procedure results in the death of an unborn human being.

This biological, medical fact appears nowhere in the article, nor does Manson so much as acknowledge that this is why pro-lifers, Catholic or otherwise, object to abortion. In fact, she does the opposite, arguing that abortion opponents disagree with “bodily autonomy,” which she defines as “a women’s right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term.”

But for the pro-life person, abortion is not, first and foremost, an issue of female autonomy. Virtually all pro-lifers would agree that women have equal dignity and freedom and, consequently, should never be coerced into sex, i.e. the activity that often naturally results in the creation of a new human life. Pro-life people object not to the reality that a woman has control over her own body but rather to the sinister notion that her God-given freedom grants her authority over the body inside hers, allowing her to choose death for the distinct human being in her womb.

Like most Catholics who defend legal abortion, Manson entirely ignores reams of Church doctrine that explicitly condemns abortion as unjust killing and a grave moral evil that harms both the unborn child and the mother. Instead, she relies on an argumentum ad populum fallacy, citing Pew data to show that 56 percent of U.S. Catholics believe abortion should be legal.

But, of course, the poor catechesis or willful rebellion of any number of Catholics neither alters nor disproves the fundamental teachings of the Church, which has for millennia been the world’s most stalwart defender of every unborn human being’s right to life. NCR’s latest ill-conceived effort to elide that fact will do nothing to change it.

Law & the Courts

A Blow to Women’s Sports

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A federal judge moved to block an Idaho law designed to prevent biological males from competing in women’s sports. U.S. District Judge David Nye — a Trump pick, no less — explained his decision in that the ACLU’s suit seeking to repeal the law was “likely to succeed.”

We can expect much more of this going forward. Earlier this year the Supreme Court decided in Bostock v. Clayton County that differentiating between the sexes can amount to unlawful discrimination if a person claims transgender status. On top of this, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have promised to pass the so-called Equality Act within 100 days of their administration’s start. The Equality Act would require all federally funded entities — be they educational, athletic, or public accommodations — to extend the legal definition of sex to include gender identity.

As we’ve seen in Connecticut and across the country, such policies are tremendously unfair to women and girls, depriving them of the opportunity to compete and win in their own sporting category. Yet the tone-deaf American Civil Liberties Union heralded the decision as a “victory for all women and girls in Idaho” (all of them!), adding that “trans people belong in sports” — well sure they do, but, like the rest of us, they belong in teams that correspond with their biological sex.

Health Care

Wife Loses Lawsuit to Prevent Husband’s Euthanasia

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Euthanasia/assisted suicide subverts family cohesion. For example, what if one spouse wants to be made dead, and that decision is opposed by the other? Or, what if siblings object to a depressed brother’s decisions to be put down and beg doctors not to kill him, to no avail?

Both cases happened in Canada, the most recent involving a wife trying to prevent her husband’s being euthanized. She lost because the benefit of the doubt goes to death once assisted suicide/euthanasia becomes legal. From the Saltwire.com story:

As part of the evidence, one nurse practitioner said the husband met the criteria for assisted suicide, while another argued he did not. The latter “authored a separate written report in which she elaborated that ‘I do not feel he is capable of making decisions regarding MAID due to dementia. . . . He has a grievous progressive and incurable illness (dementia/COPD) but I do not feel that death is foreseeable.’ ”

Imagine being helpless to prevent a doctor or nurse practitioner from killing your beloved spouse!

We saw the same phenomenon here in the States, too. Early on in Oregon’s assisted-suicide regime (as reported by the Oregonian), Kate Cheney — an elderly woman with dementia — was determined by a psychiatrist to be mentally ineligible to consent to assisted suicide, and moreover, believed Cheney’s daughter might be driving the process. If the “protective guidelines” worked as advertised, that would have been the end of it. But, as often happens, the daughter went doctor shopping and a psychologist okayed the assisted suicide despite the potential for family pressure. And so it came to pass.

The moral of these stories: In a culture of death, death always has the upper hand.

Elections

The Disparate Coverage of Lunatic Candidates Who Win Primaries

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(Gabriela Bhaskar/Reuters)

Last night, Republican primary voters nominated an infamous conspiracy theorist for a House seat . . . again.

Unlike Marjorie Taylor Greene running in the heavily Republican House seat in Georgia, Laura Loomer is running in a D+9 district against incumbent Lois Frankel in Florida, so it is unlikely that the next Congress will feature Loomer on the floor of the House of Representatives, arguing that mass shootings are staged or ranting about false-flag operations.

The victory of Loomer last night is on par with Alvin Greene winning the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in South Carolina in 2010 — an embarrassment and missed opportunity, but in a race the party was unlikely to win anyway and a footnote in the story of the overall election cycle. (You might argue that Greene is a more fascinating oddity, as apparently more than 100,000 people voted to nominate him knowing absolutely nothing about him.)

It is a fact of political life that sometimes primary voters will pick the absolute worst choice, and a party like the GOP will face what feels like endless media coverage of some figure such as Roy Moore or Todd Akin, and numerous efforts to tie every other Republican to fringe gadfly candidates.

Both parties have these kinds of candidates. Pam Keith, the Democratic candidate in Florida’s 18th District, declared all Republicans to be white supremacists. In Michigan, John Hoadley’s old Twitter feed includes a claim he went to a gay bar to learn about crystal meth and made references to “4-year-old girls wearing thongs.”

Sometimes those oddball candidates win. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently argued that New York City’s recent crime spike is driven by rent increases; it was left to Andrew Cuomo to observe that this explanation is particularly unlikely when evictions are currently banned. Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio recently chained himself to a mailbox to prevent Donald Trump from taking it away.  Representative Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania apparently just forgot to disclose his ownership of a private plane and million-dollar lake house in financial disclosures required by Congress.

The nice thing about being a Democrat is that unless you’ve been reading conservative media that spotlights embarrassing House candidates, you’ve probably never heard of Pam Keith or John Hoadley. Better-known, statewide-elected Democrats are rarely asked about these candidates or pressured to denounce them. Most of the national media — heck, most of the state-level media, to the extent state-level media still exists — doesn’t see a wacko candidate as reflecting any deep-rooted problem of extremism in the Democratic Party. There’s no broader lesson to be learned, no troubling narrative taking shape.

No, when a wacko wins a Democratic primary down ticket, it’s just some random thing that happens.

Politics & Policy

COVID Relief: The Case for Compromise

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My new column:

Split the difference. That’s what Republicans and Democrats should do on Covid-19 relief.

Compromise doesn’t always work. If one group wants to build a bridge and another doesn’t, there’s no point in trying to make everyone happy by building half a bridge.

In the case of the stalled negotiations over “phase four” of the federal response to the pandemic, though, meeting in the middle is exactly what ought to happen. . . .

 

Capital Matters

How We Used Those COVID Checks

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A new study has some data for a survey. Bottom line:

Most respondents report that they primarily saved or paid down debts with their transfers, with only about 15 percent reporting that they mostly spent it. When providing a detailed breakdown of how they used their checks, individuals report having spent or planning to spend only around 40 percent of the total transfer on average. This relatively low rate of spending out of a one-time transfer is higher for those facing liquidity constraints, who are out of the labor force, who live in larger households, who are less educated and those who received smaller amounts.

As the authors note, this is more or less what happened after previous efforts to stimulate the economy by sending everyone checks, too.

Basically, indiscriminately chucking money at people is not a great way to get cash out into the economy. Plenty of folks weren’t too affected by the pandemic financially — the unemployment rate never topped 15 percent — and just saved the money or put it toward debt. If you want to help the individuals and businesses most affected by the problem, or if you want to get money to the people most likely to spend it, you want to target them specifically.

Our relief efforts did directly help businesses and the unemployed too, of course. But I’m not sure this checks-for-all thing was a good use of funds, as much as everyone likes free money.

Woke Culture

Non-Woke Grad Students Need Help

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At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, September 20, 2018 (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

It is increasingly difficult for tradition-minded grad students in history to find support. Few faculty members are interested in working with students who aren’t enthused about looking at the world through the standard lenses of race, gender, and oppression. Moreover, financial support is drying up for students who don’t want to pursue “progressive” projects.

That is the argument of Harvard history professor James Hankins in today’s Martin Center article. He writes:

Some of us came into history precisely to escape the passions of the moment, to gain the breadth of outlook that comes with a deeper historical perspective. We understand, as many of our contemporaries seem not to, that importing modern agendas into the study of the past makes us worse historians, less able to understand the past in its own terms.

There still are students like that, but the deck is badly stacked against them. Finding a faculty adviser is very difficult. Hankins explains:

Even if someone who came into our program wanting to study the American Founders, for example, could pin down a professor to direct his research, he’d quickly find himself isolated. His fellow graduate students would think his interests outdated and he would have difficulty finding sympathetic people to talk to about his research. He would soon get the message that he should work on a topic that his peers think is cool and compelling, something attuned to climate change, globalization, or social justice, for instance.

As for the funding, that’s also a big problem. Foundations that used to assist students with a wide array of interests have lately turned leftist — the Mellon Foundation, for instance.

Hankins pleads for more support for the few associations that remain friendly toward grad students of all persuasions and for donors who see the problem to create new institutions to support conservatives.

He concludes:

Viewpoint diversity, freedom of conscience, a fair presentation of the achievements of Western civilization, and sound, unbiased historical scholarship will never be restored unless it is possible for traditional and conservative historians to survive and flourish in American graduate schools.

Elections

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Declines to Preach Unity at the DNC

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“I hereby second the nomination of Senator Bernard Sanders for president of the United States of America.” Those were the only words that mattered in New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks at the Democratic National Convention. Notably, Joe Biden, the man who will appear on the ballot in November as the Democratic nominee, did not merit a mention. It seems odd that Ocasio-Cortez — who lamented that she would only have a minute to speak at the convention — decided not to be a part of the push for party unity at the DNC.

While she’s already thrown her support behind Biden, it’s hard to take her speech, which was dedicated to a word salad that stood in for the Sanders agenda, as anything but a message that she doesn’t plan on staying quiet in a potential Biden administration. Instead, she may become a thorn in his and House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s side, both of whom embrace a more practical approach to politics. Time will tell if Ocasio-Cortez will be able to assemble a red rose, or progressive caucus that can effectively move the party to the left. If so, the results of a similar effort in the GOP conference indicate that Biden and Pelosi could find governing more difficult than they anticipate, even if the Democrats retake the Senate.

Elections

For Four Nights, Democrats Try Really Hard to Be Nice

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Former Vice President Joe Biden reacts in a video feed from Delaware after winning the votes to become the Democratic Party’s 2020 nominee for president during the second night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention as seen at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wis., August 18, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Pool/Reuters)

Every four years, the Democratic Party gets together and tries to put its best foot forward, the image that it believes is going to maximize its appeal in the upcoming election. Kyle Smith correctly observes that this means hiding much of the agenda that stirs the party’s activists — ending the use of fossil fuels, packing the Supreme Court, nuking the filibuster, confiscating guns, hiking taxes, massive new spending programs, etc.

But at the convention, the Democratic Party also tries really hard to be . . . nice. Expressions of anger either disappear or are heavily modulated. A party that doesn’t usually overflow with respect for flyover country and red states suddenly speaks fondly of small-town America. Sunny optimism abounds. The American flag, sometimes considered jingoistic and a little gauche in some Democratic circles, is ubiquitous again. The types of images featured in Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” ad return in the musical montages between speakers — farmer’s tractors, firefighters, veterans, schoolkids, and seniors.

The Democratic Party that appears on our television screens on nights like this doesn’t have any Antifa protesters, or anyone who sympathizes at all with rioters in the streets. It doesn’t appear to include anyone who thinks the pandemic restrictions have gone too far or become unreasonable. Everyone agrees to “listen to science,” and believes science always offers one clear answer that will satisfy everyone. Everyone makes it sound like getting everyone all the health care they want, at the price they want, will be a snap. (Wasn’t the Affordable Care Act supposed to do that?) Tributes to immigration — with no specification of legal or illegal — are gauzy, vague, and heartwarming. Immigration enforcement starts to seems like a bizarrely counterproductive policy of keeping out valedictorians and doctors and small-businessmen.

The country depicted by the Democrats during the convention is a cheerful America, free of racial tensions — the smiling faces are diverse, but everyone is getting along. Cops and African Americans engage each other with trust and goodwill. Businessmen of all sizes and environmental activists have no discernable disagreements. Urban gun-control activists and rural gun owners see eye to eye. Tax revenue will be so abundant, everyone will get what they want from government, and we will all live happily ever after. It’s an America where everyone seems to get along a lot better, in part because political and ideological divisions have disappeared.

It’s a happy, happy myth. You can’t really blame the party for trying to sell that image, but you can blame the electorate if they buy into it.

Elections

Do Democrats Really Need Bill Clinton to Speak Tonight?

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Former president Bill Clinton speaks to the nation following his acquittal by the U.S. Senate on impeachment charges, February 12, 1999. (Blake Sell/Reuters)

There’s no law that says a former president has to speak at his party’s convention. Democrats didn’t have to invite Bill Clinton to speak at this year’s convention. CBS News asked Democrats who they wanted to hear from at the convention this week, and 56 percent of Democrats said they wanted to hear from Bill Clinton, and 44 percent said they did not — well below almost all of the other choices besides John Kasich. (For Hillary Clinton, respondents split 58 percent for yes, 42 percent for no.)

And, in what is almost certainly a perfectly timed leak, the Daily Mail revealed photos of Bill Clinton receiving a neck message from Chauntae Davies, then a 22-year-old massage therapist. The photos appear to be in an airport waiting area of some kind and are not particularly salacious — both are dressed. The Mail reports that Clinton complained of a stiff neck while traveling on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane, the one given the unsavory nickname, “the Lolita Express.” Davies is one of the women who accused Epstein of sexual abuse, but told the Mail, “although the image looks bizarre, President Clinton was a perfect gentleman during the trip and I saw absolutely no foul play involving him.”

Flight logs indicate that Bill Clinton flew on Epstein’s plane at least 26 times; Clinton insists the cumulative flights amounted to only four trips.

The photo, by itself, does not prove sexual impropriety on the part of Bill Clinton. It does not, by itself, corroborate the claims of Virginia Giuffre that she saw Clinton on Epstein’s private island with two “young girls,” and that Epstein claimed the former president owed him favors. Separately, one of Epstein’s former IT contractors claimed he once saw Clinton at Epstein’s villa home. Clinton denies that he ever traveled to the island.

And yes, the incumbent president has his own issues regarding Epstein, most notably a bizarre insistence that he wishes alleged Epstein accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell well as she faces multiple counts of allegedly helping Epstein sexually abuse minor girls.

But the explanation from Bill Clinton is that the former president knew absolutely nothing about any illegal behavior by this jaw-droppingly malevolent sexual predator, and that all of their time spent together was in the context of Epstein’s support for the Clinton Foundation.

Bill Clinton will hopefully understand that the world is not particularly credulous about his denials of improper sexual actions.

You notice Bill Clinton has not done a potentially hostile interview since Craig Melvin of NBC News asked him about the #MeToo movement and his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and Clinton turned beet red, angrily insisted he had done the right thing and accused Melvin of ignoring “gaping facts.”

Bill Clinton hasn’t been president for nearly 20 years. Hillary Clinton is no longer the Democratic-nominee-in-waiting. They can no longer promise future cabinet jobs or other favors. If the Biden campaign denied Bill Clinton this moment on the national stage, it would not cost them any votes, any donations, any future leverage.

But apparently that much of a reckoning with Bill Clinton is just too much to ask.

Politics & Policy

‘Harrison Bergeron’ and Equity

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Kurt Vonnegut, in his short story “Harrison Bergeron,” explores the logical end to equity — the use of state power to effect ostensibly equal outcomes in society. He depicts a world where everyone must be handicapped to the lowest common denominator so that no man, woman, or child has a competitive advantage over another. Whenever I see the “Office of Equity and Inclusion” on a college campus, or BLM signs demanding equity, this story leaps unbidden to the mind. I hope you find it equally illuminating. Vonnegut writes:

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

The rest, due to reasons of a litigious nature, must be read here.

“Harrison Bergeron” is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.

Politics & Policy

Against Arbitrary Critiques

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Shay Khatiri, a frequent contributor to The Bulwark, took issue with Alexandra DeSanctis’s piece on Kamala Harris and her criticism of Joe Biden during the Democratic primary. In it, DeSanctis reminded readers of Harris’s claims that Biden was insufficiently supportive of school integration and that she believed all of the women who have accused Biden of sexual misconduct. In a tweet promoting her article, DeSanctis posed the question; “Will anyone ask Harris whether she’s changed her mind?” Khatiri responded by asking if anyone at National Review had asked the White House if President Trump had changed his mind about Ted Cruz’s dad killing JFK.

I thought this a silly and irrelevant retort to the article and engaged in a brief back and forth with Khatiri. I pointed out that whether National Review had asked a question — the answer to which strikes me as manifestly obvious — was immaterial to DeSanctis’s argument. Khatiri repeated his query. I shared three separate articles published at National Review that condemned and mocked Trump for his reckless slander of Rafael Cruz. Khatiri responded, “So nobody asked the White House.” I explained that because I was in high school when the incident occurred, I could not say with any confidence if a representative of National Review had asked that specific question, but noted that National Review is first and foremost a commentary publication, and that all of its commentary on this subject had excoriated Trump. Khatiri replied “When it was easy. Of course,” before going on to again repeat his original, inane question. I left it alone after that, but if Khatiri wants evidence that the writers and editors of National Review remain willing to criticize the president when they think him wrong, I’d direct him to not one, not two, but three recent editorials.

Lazy, stubborn accusations levied between conservative supporters and detractors of Donald Trump — a staple of the Trump era — are only increasing in frequency as Election Day nears. Both factions would benefit from remaining clear-headed in their arguments, instead of relying on arbitrary purity tests.

For those more interested in persuasion than preening, I’d recommend reading Cameron Hilditch’s excellent piece on the statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln.

Politics & Policy

The Lincoln Project Sinks to a Remarkable New Low

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This smear of Marco Rubio by political mercenary Steve Schmidt is one of the grossest ad hominem attacks I’ve seen in a long time:

As someone whose parents defected from the Soviet bloc, I find this kind of slander especially indefensible because it belittles the horrors of tyranny for cheap political points, and because it’s impossible to defend against. It would be tantamount to Rubio saying, “Steve Schmidt is the type of guy who would have been leading the mob in Kristallnacht because it might mean a few extra Reichsmarks in his pocket.”

Then again, we’re used this kind thing from The Lincoln Project, whose mission, it seems, is to outdo the worst tendencies of Donald Trump at every turn. But what excuse is there for a CNN “analyst” to concoct a counter-history in which Rubio, who has such a long record of speaking out about Chinese Communists that he has been personally sanctioned by Beijing, is a vicious Castro-regime apparatchik?

Maybe someone will ask Brian Stelter.

Politics & Policy

Even a Good Convention Doesn’t Have Much Lasting Impact on the Presidential Race

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Rep. Gwen Moore (D., Wis.) speaks during the Democratic National Convention at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wis., August 17, 2020. (Scott Olson/Pool via Reuters)

As someone who is — stifles groans — obligated by journalistic duties to watch all nights of the Democratic convention this week and the GOP convention next week, it is an argument against interest to tell you that very little of what happens at these conventions is likely to affect the outcome of the presidential race. Sometimes a convention features a star-making moment — Barack Obama’s address in 2004, Sarah Palin’s debut in 2008 — or a moment of genuine surprises and controversy, such as Ted Cruz’s telling the audience to “vote your conscience” in Cleveland in 2016. And both party’s nominees usually get a nice polling “bounce” out of four nights of de facto propaganda.

But those bounces almost always fade, and so even conventions that run smoothly or get rave reviews end up being marginally relevant footnotes in the overall story of the election. It’s easy to forget that by almost every measure, the 2016 Democratic convention in Philadelphia was a success. Television ratings were high, although more viewers tuned in for Trump’s speech than Hillary’s. Most of the speeches were well-received. Despite a bit of grumbling from Bernie Sanders’s most diehard supporters, the party appeared unified. While lots of protesters showed up, only 11 were arrested.

On August 7, 2016 — ten days after the Democratic convention ended — Harry Enten wrote at FiveThirtyEight:

Hillary Clinton’s polling surge is showing no signs of fading. She leads Donald Trump, on average, by about 7 percentage points in national polls, and is an 83-percent favorite to win on Nov. 8, according to our polls-only model. Our polls-plus model — which accounts for the “fundamentals,” as well as the tendency for a candidate’s numbers to temporarily rise after his or her convention — gives her a 76 percent chance. Those are her largest advantages since we launched our election forecasts back in June.

Yes, things looked wonderful for the Democrats in August, even more than a week after her convention address! But as you may recall, the November election did not go the way Hillary Clinton wanted. By the time voters cast their ballots — increasingly in October, as well as the first Tuesday in November — they’ve forgotten about the convention. Their perceptions of the candidates are shaped by more recent events.

Joe Biden walked into this week with a healthy lead in the polls, and he’s going to exit this week with a healthy lead in the polls. He may well be at his natural ceiling of support and not have much more room to grow in a deeply divided country, so maybe he won’t get much of a “bounce.”

Whatever happens in November, it is extremely unlikely that we will look back and think, “Yes, the convention in August was the turning point.”

Politics & Policy

GOP Congressmen Ask the U.S. to Defund U.N. Groups That Promote Abortion

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The United Nations logo is seen at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

In a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), 60 Republican congressmen are demanding that the U.S. cease funding United Nations organizations that promote abortion.

Citing the Siljander amendment — which Congress attaches each year to the appropriations bill for the State Department and foreign-spending programs — the letter notes that U.S. funds may not be “used to lobby for or against abortion.”

“United States leaders and diplomats should insist that U.S.-supported international agreements and multilateral assistance do not include abortion under the guise of sexual and reproductive health,” the letter states.

The signatories point out that, in recent years, the U.N.’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) has promoted “abortion as having the same level of necessity as food” and includes in its humanitarian-aid packages “supplies for abortion, like manual vacuum aspiration and abortion-inducing drugs.”

The letter also notes that U.N. organizations such as the World Health Organization, the U.N. Population Fund, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women all lobby for increasing access to elective abortion around the world.

As Elyssa Koren documented in a recent article here at NRO, some of these U.N. committees have been guilty of delaying humanitarian aid during the COVID-19 global pandemic, insisting on including elective abortion in relief packages even in countries with pro-life policies and strong public opposition to abortion.

“U.S. contributions to UN Secretary General and UN organizations that lobby for abortion should be reduced in amounts proportional to their abortion-related lobbying,” the letter continues. “. . . U.S. tax dollars should not finance UN organizations that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning through voluntary contributions, including for global health activities.”

The letter comes about a year after the Trump administration took a strong stance on abortion at the U.N., calling on the organization to cease defining it as an “international right” and lobbying for its expansion in euphemistic terms. This spring, the administration also demanded that the U.N. cease delaying COVID-19 aid by insisting on expanding elective abortion as part of its humanitarian-response plan.

This recent letter from Congress to the USAID was spearheaded by Senator James Lankford (R., Okla.) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.) and signed by nearly a dozen GOP senators and about 50 GOP congressmen. The full text of the letter can be found here.

Politics & Policy

Democrats Find the Flag, but Not Much Else

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The control room for the virtual Democratic National Convention at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wis., August 17, 2020. (Scott Olson/Reuters)

The flag is back, I guess, at least for a few nights.

The first half of Monday night’s DNC virtual convention oscillated between shiny corporate-assurance messaging about COVID and hyper-patriotic videos that could easily have been Budweiser Super Bowl commercials circa 2005. It was somewhat shocking to see this unfettered display of patriotism after months of racial “reckoning.” Democrats were enthusiastically reciting the Declaration of Independence (still written by the nefarious, slave-owning Thomas Jefferson) and the choir was singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” (still penned by the slave-owning Francis Scott Key.) Kids who’ve been studying the 1619 Project curriculum must have been confused by the spectacle. And I’m sure a whole bunch of them tuned in to catch Stephen Stills’s performance.

Did everyone at home kneel? How does it work? America needs some guidance on when we’re allowed to celebrate the Founding and pre–Civil War history. Or maybe it’s simply that some of us are never allowed to celebrate. I suspect if Republicans had opened with a joyous, flag-waving spectacle, they would have been accused of being insensitive to the historic moment.

The second half of the night had more of a 1980s-telethon vibe going. Needless to say, when Republicans go low, Democrats do virtual roundtables with Megan Rapinoe. But the problem wasn’t that the speeches were substantively worse than usual — they were just as platitudinous as always — it’s that without a crowd cheering on every canned line, the vacuity of it all becomes even more conspicuous.

The most effective speech of the night was given by a highly disappointed Michelle Obama. The former first lady harped on the themes that helped her husband win the presidency. Unity. Empathy. Republican malevolence. Like him, she talked about government as if it were the national church and the president as if he were the patriarch. I generally find this rhetoric overwrought and un-American, but I suspect she’ll get high grades from most onlookers.

Then again, Michelle Obama’s speech was pre-taped, which is why she didn’t even mention vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris. Which also probably tells us just how important these conventions really are in 2020.

Elections

Andrew Cuomo’s ‘Clear Direction’ for New York

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DNC moderator and desperate housewife Eva Longoria introduced New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday night as a leader who had guided his state through the crisis of COVID-19 with “memorable PowerPoints” and “clear direction.” Credit where it’s due, Longoria wasn’t lying. The direction was clear; as of right now, over 7,700 more people have died of coronavirus in New York City alone than in New Jersey, the state with the next most deaths. Throw in the rest of New York State and that number balloons to over 16,600. But hey, at least those PowerPoints were memorable.

In his speech though, Cuomo was anything but clear. He repeated his bizarre claim that COVID-19 — which originated in Wuhan, China — is a “European virus,” called New York’s response to the crisis “beautiful,” and explained knowingly that “In many ways COVID is just a metaphor.” Andrew Cuomo is many things; a politician whose last name bequeathed Albany to him; an unwitting asset of the Chinese Communist Party; and a terrible speechwriter. But a strong and competent leader, he is not.

Elections

Will Memories of Obama Be Enough for Democrats This Week?

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Former Vice President Joe Biden appears by video feed from Delaware at the start of the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention, August 17, 2020. (Democratic National Convention/POOL via REUTERS)

You have to grade the 2020 Democratic National Convention — partially live, mostly pre-taped, from all over the country — on a curve. Because of the pandemic, the event features little of the usual pageantry and hoopla, Joe Biden won’t even be in the city for his acceptance speech, and probably no confetti or balloon drop. This year, we will all be like that disappointed, frustrated, off-color CNN producer in Boston in 2004.

Perhaps there was no way to put together two hours of programming under pandemic restrictions that wouldn’t feel like a telethon or a series of Zoom calls.

In the first hour, Americans tuning in got to watch Eva Longoria in a surprisingly large role as host, opening with some anodyne interviews with average Americans who just happened to represent key demographics and mostly lived in swing states.

We moved on to pre-taped segments of Biden having stilted remote conversations with voters and Democratic officeholders, offering gems like, “Most cops are good! But the fact is, the bad ones have to be identified and prosecuted and out. Period.”

In between, those watching sat through a couple of montage videos set to music that were indistinguishable from all of the “in these uncertain times, we at Weyland-Yutani are committed to getting through this together” commercials that appeared at every break as the pandemic took hold.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to take one more undeserved victory lap about his state’s management of the coronavirus and to let us know, “In many ways, COVID is just a metaphor.” Er, no, governor, it really isn’t, not in the ways that count the most. The speechwriter who let that line get through ought to be canned.

On paper, with Joe Biden enjoying a big lead both nationally in the swing states, the Democrats might think they have an easy assignment with this year’s limited convention: Just don’t blow it.

Then again, things looked good for Hillary Clinton after the Democratic convention in Philadelphia four years ago: “Five new public surveys, each conducted over the weekend following Democrats’ national party convention, give Clinton a lead ranging from 3 to 9 points. Four of the five pollsters point to a clear Clinton bump, having found Trump ahead or down by only a single point the week before.”

Based upon what we saw Monday night, Democrats may play it safe and point to the country’s current problems, blame Trump, offer a safe, generic message of “change,” and paint Biden as Obama’s third term. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer insisted that the Obama-Biden GM bailout “saved the auto industry.” (GM then used the money to make cars that could kill you if your key chain was too heavy.)

Ripping Trump and playing up Obama nostalgia might be enough. But Democrats who remember last cycle might wonder if that’s really enough.

Democrats may think Donald Trump is the devil, but there’s the nagging fact that he convinced quite a few Obama voters in the upper Midwest that late-second-term Obama’s America was a place where they were being left behind. If Obama’s presidency was such a rousing success, it should have helped Hillary Clinton reach 270 electoral votes, even if she was a flawed candidate.

U.S.

Andrew Cuomo’s Shameless Revisionism

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During the virtual Democratic National Convention tonight, New York governor Andrew Cuomo had the temerity to tell a national audience that, “Our way worked. And it was beautiful.”

The shameless and vulgar self-aggrandizing — which he’s only able to get away with because of criminal lack of media scrutiny — didn’t end there, as Cuomo went on to say idiotic things like, “in many ways, COVID is just a metaphor” and “COVID is the symptom, not the illness.” 

It’s important to keep reminding Americans that there is no leader in the United States — or anywhere in the free world, for that matter — who did a worse job preserving life than the governor of New York. Cuomo was late to enact preventative measure and also downplayed the virus, just like the president he criticizes. I can’t think of a single instance in American political history when exhibiting this level of deadly incompetence has been given a pass. The illness, not the metaphor, killed 35,000 New Yorkers. It was Cuomo’s personal mistake, an executive order forcing nursing homes in his state to accept patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in March, that sent thousands to their deaths. The Associated Press puts the real number of nursing home deaths close to 11,000 — more than the total fatality count in any state other than New Jersey.

“Beautiful,” indeed.

Fiscal Policy

Wealth Tax: A New Bad Idea for California?

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California State Capitol in Sacramento (Pixabay)

Among the subjects touched upon in the latest Capital Note are some new proposals to increase taxes in California (yes, it’s a day ending with a y). They are all bad, and in all likelihood, self-defeating (yes, it’s a day ending with a y), but it’s worth noting that they include a wealth tax, something that appears, increasingly, to be in the air. The Wall Street Journal has some of the grisly details here.

So far as the wealth tax is concerned, it would be charged at a rate of 0.4 percent on assets over $30 million. That, of course, will not worry 99 percent (at least) of the population, but it should, because what those who want to impose a wealth tax are saying is that nothing that anyone owns is, in the end, theirs. Once the principle is conceded, the number, whether it is $30 million or $300,000, is merely a matter of negotiation, as is the rate at which it would be levied. Everything you own, you own simply at the pleasure of the state.

Forbes has more:

California Assembly member Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, proposed the legislation. The tax would be applied to the net worth of about 30,400 Californians, “raising approximately $7.5 billion annually,” the summary claims. “The tax takes into account all assets and liabilities held by an individual, globally, capturing the immense levels of accumulated wealth held by the top 0.1% of Californians.”

…There are administrative nightmares too. Wealth isn’t about income, but about assets. How do you determine the value of everything you own? For example, what about stock options in private companies? You can bet that you might say one figure, and the notoriously aggressive Franchise Tax Board might say something quite different. That could prompt more than just billionaire CEO Elon Musk threatening to abandon California.

And a tax on wealth is also an attack on privacy. To start with, all those subject to the levy will have to list everything they own. More than that, I suspect that those who might be liable might, if only as a precautionary measure, feel compelled to furnish the state with a schedule of their assets, a process that we can be sure will, in due course, be repeated further and further down the rich list.

Sweden abolished its wealth tax in 2007.

The Financial Times had this to say at the time:

The move will have virtually no effect on government finances. The tax raises around SKr4.5bn a year from just 2.5 per cent of all tax payers, but it has been blamed for years of massive capital flight from the country estimated at up to SKr1,500bn.

Wealthy individuals including Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, the furniture store, and one of the world’s richest men with a $23bn fortune, have sought to avoid the tax by setting up overseas foundations to control his wealth.

Experts in Sweden said the abolition of the wealth tax should halt – or at least slow – this damaging capital flight and make more resources available for venture capital and other early stage investments…

The wealth tax has been blamed for Sweden’s low level of investment by individuals in start up businesses, contributing to disappointing entrepreneurial activity in comparison with other European countries.

Among the 25 members of the European Union, Sweden ranks 18th in terms of the percentage of citizens that run their own businesses.

As this Cato report (from 2019) notes:

More than a dozen European countries used to have wealth taxes, but nearly all of these countries repealed them, including Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Sweden. Wealth taxes survive only in Norway, Spain, and Switzerland.

And:

It was the same story with the French wealth tax, which was imposed in 1982 and repealed in 2017. Over the years, a parade of French businesspeople and celebrities left the country to avoid the tax — many going to Belgium, which is also a high‐​tax country but has no wealth tax. The government estimated in 2017 that “some 10,000 people with 35 billion euros worth of assets left in the past 15 years” for tax reasons. French economist Eric Pichet estimated that the outflows were much larger.

As the wealthy moved abroad, the government lost revenues from a range of other taxes they would have paid. Pichet calculated that while the wealth tax raised about 3.5 billion euros a year, the government lost 7 billion euros a year from reductions in other taxes.

There is a reason why the Californian proposal also makes provision for continuing to levy the wealth tax (at gradually diminishing rates) on former residents who have left the state, but that will do nothing to halt the losses from the other taxes that those residents would have paid had they stayed put.

Back to the Wall Street Journal:

[T]he top 0.5% currently pay 40% of the state’s income-tax revenue—$32 billion in 2018—and are mobile. California has experienced an accelerating exodus of high earners since the state in 2012 raised taxes on individuals making more than $250,000. In 2018 the state lost $8 billion in adjusted gross income to other states, up from $135 million in 2012, according to IRS data.

The proposed wealth tax would (for now) ‘only’ affect the top 0.1 percent, but even so . . .

Politics & Policy

Congressmen Call On the IRS to End Tax Deductions for Abortion

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In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, more than 100 U.S. congressmen have called on the Internal Revenue Service to cease providing tax deductions for abortion procedures by designating them as “medical care.”

“In all but the most extreme circumstances, abortion is an elective procedure that has nothing to do with, ‘the prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness,’” the letter states, quoting the relevant IRS regulation’s definition of medical care.

“Any procedure for which a successful outcome depends on the death of a living human being, born or unborn, cannot be considered health care,” they write. “. . . Abortion is not health care, neither for the mother nor her unborn child.”

But since 1973, IRS regulations have included amounts paid for legal abortion among the qualified kinds of medical-care expenses that are eligible for tax deductions.

The congressmen write that this regulation “creates tax breaks for abortions through the medical expenses deduction as well as through health flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, and other tax-preferred health accounts and tax breaks that incorporate [the regulation’s] definition of ‘medical care.’”

They ask the IRS “to revise the regulatory definition of ‘medical care’ . . . to exclude amounts paid for any abortion,” except for those performed when a mother’s life is physically endangered.

“While we believe Congress should amend the statute to exclude categorically any health insurance that covers such abortions, enforcing the law’s separate accounting requirements is an important intermediary step,” the letter adds. It goes on to cite several statutes and judicial holdings to substantiate the argument that abortion does not qualify as medical care under the relevant regulations.

Senator Mike Braun (R., Ind.) and Representative Warren Davidson (R., Ohio) spearheaded the letter, which was signed by nearly two dozen Republican senators and almost 80 representatives. The full text of the letter can be found here.

Elections

On Multilateralism, Biden Will Be Obama 2.0

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Former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden in the Rose Garden at the White House, 2015 (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

During the Democratic National Convention this week, expect to see the party’s leaders assail the Trump administration for damaging America’s alliances and disregarding international institutions that advance U.S. foreign policy. A few of these criticisms might align with what some Republicans think, particularly where Trump has bucked GOP national-security orthodoxy, but many of the Biden campaign’s promises seem to mimic the mistakes of the Obama administration. An unreflective approach to multilateral engagement is one of these mistakes, and it is enshrined in the platform that the Democratic Party will approve during this week’s festivities.

Included within a draft of the document is a pledge to strengthen the international institutions “from which President Trump has orchestrated an American retreat,” thereby weakening U.S. influence. The draft platform pledges to “rejoin and reform the WHO, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the United Nations Population Fund, because in a global public health crisis and a global democratic recession, American leadership is needed more than ever.”

Presumably, the global democratic recession referenced by the document owes its existence to such authoritarian countries as Eritrea and Venezuela — which are currently members of the council. Serial human-rights abusers and persistent subjects of U.N. commissions of inquiry such as North Korea and Syria, which participate in the council’s debates, also contribute to the existence of a democratic recession. The same for Russia, which is a candidate for membership in October, and China, which plays a role in selecting U.N. human-rights experts. Meanwhile, the council has yet to hold a session on Beijing’s mass atrocities targeting Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley attacked the draft platform on Twitter when it was approved in July: “Which thing do the Dems like best, the extreme bias against Israel, the refusal to denounce China’s concentration camps, or the support for communist dictators in Cuba & Venezuela?”

Still, Haley’s approach upon entering office was to pursue a reform effort, but it didn’t yield any of the desired changes, leading the Trump administration to withdraw. Before that, Team Obama’s strategy was also to reform the council from within. Clearly that was unsuccessful. The 2020 Democratic draft platform promises to reform the council, but this ignores the unfruitful efforts of previous administrations. There’s no reason to believe that a future Biden administration will be any more successful. The council’s flaws are fundamentally structural, and will require changes to the criteria for elections and its standing agenda, which singles out Israel and no other state. The Trump administration does not seem to have lost much by withdrawing, as U.S. allies such as Australia have pushed back against the body’s authoritarian members.

This issue is undoubtedly one that will receive little attention this week, with all the conversation about the Postal System and other big ticket issues. But the Biden team should not get a free pass on championing multilateralism and American leadership if that means legitimizing the participation of the world’s worst dictatorships and abusers of human rights on an institution that considers itself the world’s top human-rights body. And sadly, the draft platform suggests that a potential Biden administration is poised to repeat the missteps of the Obama years.

Elections

Tight Race in North Carolina

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The North Carolina Senate race between incumbent Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic state senator Cal Cunningham was a dead heat until July, when several surveys showed Cunningham opening up a nearly ten-point lead in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. But now the average of four new polls in August shows Cunningham’s lead shrinking to just over three points.

The presidential race has also tightened: At the end of July, Biden led Trump by nearly five points in the RCP average of North Carolina polls, but Biden now trails Trump by less than one point.

Trump currently trails Biden in the other battleground states that will likely determine the outcome of the election.

Culture

What Portland Has Become

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The beating of a motorist over the weekend by a BLM and Antifa mob was deeply disturbing.

Politics & Policy

Why John Kasich Keeps Reminding Us His Dad Was a Mailman

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Former Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at the site of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 2019. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

Former governor of Ohio John Kasich will speak at the Democratic National Convention tonight. With the ongoing — and frequently overwrought — worries that the U.S. Postal Service will collapse upon the waves of ballots in the mail, it is a near-certainty that Kasich will remind us, for what seems like the millionth time, that his father was a mailman.

Way back in 2014, our John J. Miller wrote, “If Kasich had a dollar for every time he mentioned his father’s job, he might be able to retire with the equivalent of a generous postal-service pension.” Almost every candidate mentions their parents and, to the extent they can plausibly claim humble roots, tries to emphasize their long and difficult climb to political success. But Kasich almost turned it into a mantra, mentioning it so often others turned it into a running gag.

After the Obama campaign carpet-bombed Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch, wealthy, Swiss-bank-account-owning corporate elite — “Mitt Romney: Not One of Us” — you didn’t need a secret decoder ring to understand the point Kasich wanted to emphasize. He was just another kid from just another blue-collar family in small-town America.

Except . . . Kasich was pretty far from just another kid. He wrote a letter to President Nixon that spurred a chance to meet the president in the Oval Office during his freshman year at Ohio State. Fresh out of college, he was hired as a researcher for the Ohio Legislative Service Commission in 1975, and then went to work for a state senator. Four years out of college, Kasich ran for state senate and won — the youngest candidate elected to the state senate at that time. Four years later, Kasich was elected to Congress.

Kasich had even more reason to emphasize his humble roots during the 2016 cycle. In between his years in Congress and election as governor of Ohio, he worked for Lehman Brothers, the firm that set off the Wall Street crash in 2008. Kasich said he knew “next to zero” about investment banking when he was hired, but described himself as “just a hard-working banker traveling the country.”

Kasich himself didn’t have many years of hardscrabble blue-collar work to cite. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a person spending his entire career in white-collar environments. In a less populist era, Kasich could justifiably argue he had more experience with government and the reality of how it works than any of his rivals. But that sounds too much like a “well-connected political insider” and Kasich’s past work for Lehman Brothers didn’t help any. Kasich needed to emphasize his father’s unpretentious, non-lucrative profession — and did so, over and over and over again.

Sometime tonight, John Kasich is probably going to lament that the Republican Party nominated Donald Trump to be president in 2016. Anyone with memories going back four years will recall that a contributing factor was Kasich’s refusal to quit the race, despite having won only his home state’s primary, ensuring that the non-Trump vote was split between Kasich and Ted Cruz. In fact, according to Tim Alberta’s book, American Carnage, shortly before withdrawing from the race, Cruz privately met with Kasich and declared, “Respectfully, you’re not going to win this nomination, and if you are really invested in preventing Donald Trump from being the Republican nominee, you need to drop out of this race. One of us has to, or he is on a glide path to the nomination.” Kasich told Cruz, “Ted, I am going all the way to the convention in Cleveland. Nothing you can say is going to change my mind about this.”

A few days later, Cruz lost the Indiana primary and decided to quit the race. One day later, contradicting what he had said in their private meeting, Kasich quit the race as well.

A few people in this world are more responsible for Donald Trump being president than John Kasich, but not many. Hillary Clinton, maybe James Comey . . .

Woke Culture

The Cavalry Arrives at the Civil Rights Commission

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The eight-member U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has had a 6-2 progressive majority for the last seven years. During that time, the Commission has issued a number of reports supporting or promoting progressive policy positions on policing, illegal immigration, voting rights, hate crimes, prison reform, trans rights, education funding, “environmental justice,” school discipline, and religious freedom (more accurately, suppression). If you want to have a clear picture of what the Left has planned for America in 5–10 years, come to a Civil Rights Commission hearing today. Unerring.

Gail Heriot and I have been the lone conservatives on the Commission during this period. Though outnumbered, largely because of Gail’s formidable intellect and integrity, we were never outgunned. Still, we had to be three times as fast and four times as agile.

But now the terms of two progressive commissioners have expired, and President Trump has sent outstanding reinforcements in Stephen Gilchrist and J. Christian Adams. Stephen was the first to arrive and already has impressed with his knowledge and judgment. Most readers know Christian for his outstanding work on elections and voting. Ten years ago, Christian, then a highly regarded lawyer in the Justice Department’s Voting Section, was barred by the Holder DOJ from testifying before the Commission on the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case.  Refusing to be silenced, Christian, at great risk to his career, resigned from DOJ and testified nonetheless — one of the more electrifying Commission hearings of the last 20 years. He’s been confounding the Left ever since.

Politics and law are downstream from culture. The Commission’s the canary in the coalmine for all three.  Too often, conservatives have no idea where the next toxic blasts coming from. The canary’s a bit more vigilant today.

World

Spain’s Controversial Mask Mandate

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The resistance to mask-wearing is not only an American phenomenon. This past weekend, hundreds took to the streets of Madrid to oppose the Spanish government’s national mask mandate.

In addition to requiring face coverings, Spain has also banned smoking in outdoor public spaces where people are unable to maintain a six-foot distance after research indicated that smokers might be spreading the virus more easily through droplets as they exhale. But there was more to this decision, as the Spanish health minister explained: “Current evidence indicates that smoking is associated with. . . a higher risk of developing a severe form of symptoms.” You don’t say! Of course, current evidence also indicates that smokers are at higher risk of cancer and lung disease, but provided people are informed of these risks (and non-smokers have sufficient protection from passive smoke in public), isn’t it better to leave them alone?

In the context of a pandemic, mandatory mask-wearing — with exemptions for those who need them — is a relatively unintrusive measure which is, if used on a temporary basis, proportionate to the crisis at hand. Nevertheless, it is reassuring to see that governments who use this policy as a pretext to encroach on other freedoms are being met with opposition.

Elections

The Cloudy Forecast for ‘Biden Republicans’

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Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, August 10, 2019. (Scott Morgan/Reuters)

On the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal, former Chicago mayor and Obama administration White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel argues that his party can and should make this year’s “Biden Republicans” part of a lasting coalition. “We don’t want these voters simply to ‘rent’ the Democrat Party to remove Mr. Trump from the Oval Office. We want them to ‘buy’ into our agenda so that they fuel legislative victories through the next decade on our core issues.”

“Biden Republicans” could stay with the Democratic Party, but that scenario would require the interruption of a stubborn historical pattern. Between the Election Day victory and the inauguration, every modern president makes some reassuring noises about an eagerness to put past bitterness aside and work together with the opposing party on the challenges facing the country. And then the new president and his team get down to work, and they find the opposition party unreasonable, stubborn, and intransigent. They decide to pass their agenda on party-line or mostly party-line votes: the Clinton tax hikes, the Bush tax cuts, the Obama stimulus, Obamacare, the Trump tax cuts and repeal of the individual mandate.

Freed from any sense of needing to work with the opposition, the new administration starts heading off in directions different and generally more ideologically extreme from what the candidate promised. (Obama proposed reducing the charitable deduction during a recession; populist Trump signed a tax cut bill that was exactly what most of corporate America wanted to see.) And then, most years, the electorate recoils, concluding this is not what they expected to get when they voted for the new president. The only midterm elections that went well for the incumbent president’s party in the past generation have been 1998 (with a voter backlash against Bill Clinton’s impeachment) and 2002 (with the post-9/11 popularity of George W. Bush). Just about every other midterm, the electorate told the president, “You’re not giving us what we wanted, and we’re going to take it out on your party.”

Because we’ve had so many years of divided government, and because lawmakers know the opposition is unlikely to go along with much of their agenda, any period of united government is likely to feature the party in power passing everything they can while they still have majorities in the legislature. In a strange way, the Democrats’ best chance of avoiding a bad 2022 is if the GOP keeps control of the Senate; then a new Biden administration would have to chart a fairly centrist path to get legislation passed in the Senate. If Democrats control both the House and Senate, their lawmakers and activists will expect them to pass all kinds of progressive legislation — the kind likely to stir up passionate opposition among the GOP grassroots, setting up another midterm rebuke.

Could Biden interrupt this pattern, and define the first two years of his presidency by standing up to his party’s left wing? Sure, anything’s possible, but considering how quickly and extensively Biden moved left to cover his flank from Bernie Sanders, it seems likely that a President Biden would want every faction in his party to get along — and he would throw Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Squad and the Sanders wing of the party a lot of bones to keep them happy.

If Biden Republicans were really eager to “buy” the entire Democratic legislative agenda, they would not call themselves “Biden Republicans”; they would call themselves “Democrats.” The fact that they don’t see themselves as Democrats indicates that some aspects of the Democratic agenda repel them — perhaps the tax hikes, or the idea of abolishing private health insurance, or taxpayer-funded late-term abortion on demand, or abolishing ICE or the police or whatever is exciting the progressive grassroots this week.

Donald Trump is an extraordinarily divisive political persona, the kind of man who spends his Sunday afternoon watching Fox News and then complaining that it isn’t as good as OANN. Few if any “Biden Republicans” were enthusiastic supporters of Biden before the Trump presidency. Without Trump as a contrast . . . how many Biden Republicans will remain Biden Republicans?