‘We Would Never Call Trump a Nazi’

Sign at an anti-Trump demonstration in New York City, May 23, 2018. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Dana Milbank hilariously leads off his latest Washington Post column about how the Reichstag is supposedly burning by telling us that he and his colleagues realize how grave it is to compare someone to Hitler, so they would never ordinarily do such an extreme thing. “For five years,” he claims, “my colleagues and I have taken pains to avoid Nazi comparisons. It is usually hyperbolic, and counterproductive, to label the right ‘fascists’ in the way those on the right reflexively label the left ‘socialists.’ But this is no longer a matter of name-calling.”

I’m not sure who Milbank considers his “colleagues,” but whether he means fellow journalists, or even just fellow Washington Post columnists, the Nazi analogies have hardly been rare. As for Milbank’s own work, it’s fair to wonder whether he has read much of it. He routinely smears Trump as a Nazi or at least a fascist.

Column: “Donald Trump, America’s Modern Mussolini.” (December 8, 2015) A claim that Trump was the new Wendell Wilkie inspired Milbank to write, “Trump is the very opposite of Willkie, pulling the party to the black-shirted right by playing on fears of foreigners and racial and religious minorities” and asserts “Trump uses many of the fascist’s tools: a contempt for facts, spreading a pervasive sense of fear and overwhelming crisis, portraying his backers as victims,” etc.

Column: “Trump’s flirtation with fascism.” (March 29, 2016) Trump asked followers at a rally “Can I have a pledge?” and asked them to raise their right hands. This amounted to “leading supporters in what looked very much like a fascist salute . . . the sort of scene associated with grainy newsreels from Italy and Germany” and added, “the Germans, too, find him dangerous — and they should know. Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine, last month called Trump ‘the world’s most dangerous man’ and leader of a ‘hate-filled authoritarian movement.'”

Column: “Reality is catching up with Trump, everywhere.” (February 5, 2018) Milbank gloats that the stock market has plunged two thousand points in recent days and says, “Trump has given rhetorical support to white supremacists . . . look where this is Göring.”

Column: “Trump’s America is not a safe place for Jews.” (October 28, 2018). “Trump’s presidential campaign began with genteel anti-Semitism, progressed to dog whistles and ended with a full-throated targeting of Jewish ‘globalists.'” Milbank reminds us he “wrote on Election Day that the results would be coming in on the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the infamous night of Nazi violence and vandalism against German Jews” and adds that Trump’s “words and deeds inspire the hateful and the violent.”

Column: “Trump’s rhetoric is a hallmark of totalitarianism.” (May 29, 2019). Milbank notes Trump’s penchant for using words like “incredible,” “thriving” and “booming” and says this is the way dictators talk. “Trump isn’t necessarily a fascist, but his language is,” Milbank says, then turns to a professor, Jason Stanley of Yale, who has been publicly calling Trump fascist for years. “Goebbels talks about propaganda being best when it appeals to straightforward emotion: fear, suspicion, anger, and then it would be culminated with ‘we’re winning,’ ‘we’re going to get them,'” Stanley tells Milbank.

This Is ‘Anti-Racism’?


Ibram X. Kendi has become famous for proposing that we abolish the U.S. Constitution and replace it with a dictatorship led by people of whom he approves. As such, I suppose that it is not a surprise that he doesn’t approve of Amy Coney Barrett, who wishes to preserve that Constitution. But I must ask this: Kendi has said that there is “racism” and “anti-racism,” with nothing in between. Which one is this?

Energy & Environment

Is a ‘Climate Lockdown’ Next?


You knew they would try to pivot off the draconian COVID policies and use climate change as the pretext to deploy the same rigid controls over our lives. Now, perhaps a trial balloon is being floated for a “climate lockdown.”

The noxious idea is that we are at (yet another) tipping point, and that unless government radically seizes centralized control of the economy, it will be shutdown time. From, “Avoiding a Climate Lockdown,” by Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director of the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose:

Under a “climate lockdown,” governments would limit private-vehicle use, ban consumption of red meat, and impose extreme energy-saving measures, while fossil-fuel companies would have to stop drilling. To avoid such a scenario, we must overhaul our economic structures and do capitalism differently.

You can just imagine the authoritarianism Mazzucato proposes — meaning, it wouldn’t be capitalism at all. For example:

We need to reorient our energy system around renewable energy – the antidote to climate change and the key to making our economies energy-secure. We must therefore evict fossil-fuel interests and short-termism from business, finance, and politics. Financially powerful institutions such as banks and universities must divest from fossil-fuel companies. Until they do, a carbon-based economy will prevail.

Never mind that the U.S. has led the world in reducing emissions because of the fossil fuel known as natural gas!

The good news about all of this is that in the United States at least, it will never happen. I mean, if people rebel against lockdowns and controls in the midst of a pandemic, they are not about to let these radical technocrats thwart their living the good life based on global-warming hysteria.


Europe Makes Its Choice

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, in Brussels, Belgium, August 19, 2020 (Olivier Hoslet/Reuters)

The president of the European Council does not usually make news when addressing the UN General Assembly. In fact, the current occupant of the post, Charles Michel might be used to giving UN addresses that attract minimal attention. He is, after all, a former prime minister of Belgium.

However, today was different. Michel told the world that the European Union has made its choice in the emerging strategic contest between the United States and China:

Since I became President of the European Council, I have often been asked a question that is both simple and brutal: “In the new rivalry between the United States and China, which side is the European Union on?” My answer is the following…

We are deeply connected with the United States. We share ideals, values and a mutual affection that have been strengthened through the trials of history. They remain embodied today in a vital transatlantic alliance. This does not prevent us from occasionally having divergent approaches or interests.

We do not share the values on which the political and economic system in China is based. And we will not stop promoting respect for universal human rights. Including those of minorities such as the Uighurs. Or in Hong Kong, where international commitments guaranteeing the rule of law and democracy are being questioned.

Michel’s remarks might sound like a statement of the obvious, but the speech is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it’s actually not that obvious. It dispenses with a rhetorical trick used by top European politicians in the early years of the Trump administration. It was commonplace to hear certain leaders, such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, refer, in a single breath, to the United States, China, and Russia as global challenges to be surmounted (Macron once called for the creation of a European army to defend against the three countries). It’s difficult to imagine that formulation making a comeback, even from Merkel.

The second reason is that, despite the myriad warnings offered by purveyors of the conventional wisdom, Trump’s conduct in office has not meaningfully alienated the United States from its allies. Certainly, there are areas where the two sides differ, as they always have. But no amount of disagreement over, say, the Iran deal and the Paris Agreement, has caused an irreparable rupture.

There was renewed worry about this a week ago, when the Pew Research Center released a poll showing declining public approval of the United States in 13 of its Western allies. Some commentators and former officials said that the new numbers are disastrous for America’s standing in the world. The Washington Post’s Max Boot wrote that the poll shows how “Trump has turned the United States into a global pariah.” Nicholas Burns called it “devastating,” a sentiment echoed by Colin Kahl, a former Obama administration national security official.

And the results of the poll are certainly not promising. The survey indicates that the citizens of other liberal democracies believe that the U.S. botched its coronavirus response. It even showed that the president of the United States is less popular than his counterparts in Germany, Russia, and China. These perceptions matter because they can eat into American credibility.

That said, it’s also worth considering that China’s coronavirus-era misconduct has become an enormous factor in European diplomacy, too. U.S. popularity in Europe ebbs and flows with each administration — Republican presidents aren’t really admired on the continent. But the Chinese Communist Party has done much to help the Trump administration convince its European counterparts to take a stand on everything from 5G to Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

However, it’s not correct to claim that the administration had no hand in Europe’s turn against the CCP. Despite what the critics say, top Trump officials have worked hard to put U.S. alliances to work against Chinese authoritarianism. In light of Michel’s remarks, and the relatively frosty China–EU summit that took place earlier this month, it’s difficult to argue that trips by Mike Pompeo and Robert O’Brien to Europe this summer didn’t amount to anything.

It remains to be seen exactly how much attention Michel’s remarks, made on the Friday of a week that kicked off with speeches by Trump and Xi, will actually get. But his speech clarifies what was once unclear: Europe, which was once reluctant to declare itself so, resides firmly in the U.S. camp in the strategic contest that’s shaping up.


Defund the Swiss Guard!

The Swiss Guard outside Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Rome, Italy (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

The Pope has thoughts on gun ownership:

It would take a book-length response to debunk this tweet. But, as many people have noted, if the Pope truly believes the possession of weaponry fuels distrust and fear, he has the power to dismantle one of the oldest military organizations in the world. The Swiss Guard guarantees the Pope Francis’ security. If it’s “perverse logic” to link guns with his personal security, why does the detail exist?


Cancel Daphne du Maurier!

(iStock/Getty Images)

Daphne du Maurier’s brilliant novel Rebecca, first made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock (who ruined the ending), has inspired a remake. Netflix is set to release the movie on October 21, 2020. Even though I don’t expect to enjoy the film half as much as the book, it is a fantastic story, and — what with everything else that’s going on (and not going on) in the world — I was quite looking forward to seeing it. So, imagine my horror, then, when I walked into my local bookstore, picked up a copy of Du Maurier’s short stories and learned — to my shock and dismay — that she was a massive transphobe.

The offending passage is from “Don’t Look Now,” a short story in which a character named John and his wife, Laura, go out for lunch in Venice, and notice some sinister-looking people at the table next to them.

“They’re not old girls at all,” [Laura] said. “They’re male twins in drag.”

Her voice broke ominously, the prelude to uncontrolled laughter, and John quickly poured some more Chianti into her glass.

“Pretend to choke,” he said, “then they won’t notice. You know what it is — they’re criminals doing the sights of Europe, changing sex at each stop. Twin sisters here on Torcello. Twin brothers tomorrow in Venice, or even tonight, parading arm-in-arm across the Piazza San Marco. Just a matter of switching clothes or wigs.”

“Jewel thieves or murderers?” asked Laura.

“Oh murderers, definitely. But why, I ask myself, have they picked on me?”

Now obviously I didn’t read the whole thing (because who has time for that?), but from my quick flick through, it was quite obvious that the characters in question are the villains of the story. And as far as I could tell (at least from the skimming the beginning and end), the moral of the story seemed to be: If you look at people in drag, you will die. To add grave insult to grievous injury (just when I thought that the story couldn’t get any more offensive) I discovered that the aforementioned, transphobically described characters weren’t merely ominous, they were Scottish!

Alas, it is with great sadness that I bought du Maurier’s book in order to burn it. I encourage you all to do the same. #RIPDaphneduMaurier

Economy & Business

Greener Fields?

(SARINYAPINNGAM/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Two years ago, I wrote about Congress’ efforts to reform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the interagency body that vets acquisitions of sensitive U.S. assets. The Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA), which Congress passed in August of 2018, expanded the powers CFIUS has to review, and potentially block, investments by foreign entities that could pose as a threat to U.S. national security. Among its expanded powers, CFIUS now can review small investments, particularly in the technology, data, and infrastructure industries, that do not result in foreign control, and acquisitions of real estate near sensitive ports or military bases.

However, one important category of foreign transactions was left out of the bill — “greenfield investments,” particularly by Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Greenfield investments result in the control of newly built facilities in the U.S., and they were not addressed inf the reform bill mostly because governors and state governments embrace them. That is understandable; they typically bring the promise of creating American jobs.

However, greenfield investments by Chinese SOEs pose a unique threat, and should be met with the highest scrutiny by all levels of government. This was certainly front of mind when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the National Governor’s Association’s winter meeting this past February. During his speech on U.S. and China competition, Secretary Pompeo warned state officials of how closely the Chinese government is watching them and looking for opportunities in their states:

Indeed, last year, a Chinese Government-backed think tank in Beijing produced a report that assessed all 50 of America’s governors on their attitudes towards China. They labeled each of you “friendly,” “hardline,” or “ambiguous.”

I’ll let you decide where you think you belong. Someone in China already has. Many of you, indeed, in that report are referenced by name.

So here’s the lesson: The lesson is that competition with China is not just a federal issue. It’s why I wanted to be here today, Governor Hogan. It’s happening in your states with consequences for our foreign policy, for the citizens that reside in your states, and indeed, for each of you.

And, in fact, whether you are viewed by the CCP as friendly or hardline, know that it’s working you, know that it’s working the team around you.

Competition with China is happening inside of your state, and it affects our capacity to perform America’s vital national security functions.

Secretary Pompeo’s speech occurred right before the COVID pandemic, which has highlighted American dependence on Chinese pharmaceuticals. Right now, a Chinese SOE could build a greenfield pharmaceutical plant in the U.S. making an essential medicine, use Chinese state financing to corner the market and destroy competition — and the U.S. government would be powerless to address this based on the national security risk.

Last month, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana introduced a bill that would fix this CFIUS loophole. The “Exposing China’s Belt and Road Investment in America Act” would give CFIUS the jurisdiction to review greenfield investments made by entities controlled by the Chinese government for any potential national security threats. Senator Kennedy’s bill will also make it mandatory to file a declaration with CFIUS if China has a substantial interest in a particular greenfield investment. Note that this would not actually block any investments; it would merely give CFIUS the authority to assess whether a threat exists and address it accordingly.

In its report to Congress last year, the U.S.–China Economic Security Review Commission outlined several recommendations Congress and the Federal government must take into consideration as it makes decisions — particularly about foreign investments.

The Commission’s recommendations would make clear the scope of Chinese influence in their investments on U.S. soil through aggressive disclosure requirements, including disclosure of any financial backing from the Chinese government and any ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Beijing’s influence reaches far and wide, and a national-security threat to the U.S. can arise from Chinese control of certain U.S. businesses, regardless of whether they acquire an existing company or through a greenfield investment. Senator Kennedy’s bill is an important step to curbing these predatory actions by China here at home and protecting our national security.

Law & the Courts

Get Ready to Hear A Lot about People of Praise


As Ramesh Ponnuru noted on the Corner earlier this week, some media coverage of Judge Amy Coney Barrett — the leading candidate to replace late Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — has zeroed in on Barrett’s purported membership in a mostly Catholic group called People of Praise.

Ramesh’s post chronicles how one such story, from Reuters, has undergone several iterations (mostly achieved via stealth-editing), after starting out as an under-reported and overwrought attempt to portray People of Praise as an ultraconservative and abusive cult.

Other media outlets have, like Reuters, claimed that the group was the inspiration for the fictional, misogynistic nation Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, one of progressives’ favorite pop-culture weapons for demeaning religious conservatives. In reality, Atwood has suggested that the main inspiration for the repressive, quasi-religious state in her novel was “the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th-century Puritan New England.”

For a more even-handed account of People of Praise, this 2018 article from the National Catholic Register is a good place to start:

Bishop Peter Smith, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Portland, Oregon, is a member of the Brotherhood of the People of Praise, an association of priests connected to the group, founded with the support of the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. Bishop Smith was ordained a bishop on April 29, 2014.

People of Praise was founded in 1971 as part of the “great emergence of lay ministries and lay movements in the Catholic Church,” Bishop Smith told CNA.

The group began with 29 members who formed a “covenant” — an agreement, not an oath, to follow common principles, to give 5% of annual income to the group, and to meet regularly for spiritual, social, and service projects. . . .

While most People of Praise members are Catholic, the group is officially ecumenical; people from a variety of Christian denominations can join. Members of the group are free to attend the church of their choosing, including different Catholic parishes, Bishop Smith explained.

“We’re a lay movement in the Church,” Bishop Smith said. “There are plenty of these. We continue to try and live out life and our calling as Catholics, as baptized Christians, in this particular way, as other people do in other callings or ways that God may lead them into the Church.”

Nothing terribly sinister there. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan offers similar clarity in her latest, which is worth reading in full. Here’s part of what she points out:

Judge Barrett is a Roman Catholic, like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. Judge Barrett is also a member of a faith community called People of Praise, which is part of the Charismatic Renewal movement within the church that started in the 1970s, after Vatican II. The movement emphasizes personal conversion and bringing forward Christ’s teachings in the world. There are tens of millions of members throughout the world, and about 1,700 members of People of Praise in more than 20 cities in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. . . .

People of Praise has been accused of being a right-wing sect. It answers that it has politically liberal and conservative members. They don’t appear to be obsessed with traditionalism or orthodoxy and are ecumenical: Members include Protestants as well as Catholics. They have joined together intentionally, in community, to pray together, perform service, and run schools. They’re Christians living in the world.

If they are right-wing religious extremists someone had better tell Pope Francis, who appointed a member of People of Praise’s South Bend community as auxilliary bishop of Portland, Ore. . . .

Joannah Clark, a local leader of People of Praise in Portland and the head of Trinity Academy, a People of Praise school, also appears to be failing at submissiveness. “I consider myself a strong, well-educated, happy, intelligent, free, independent woman,” she laughs. She has a doctorate from Georgetown. Trinity’s culture is “distinctly Christian” but “purposely ecumenical.” The emphasis is on reading, writing and Socratic inquiry. “Our three pillars are the humanities, modern math and science, and the arts—music, drama.”

Do they teach evolution? They do.

“We are normal people—there’s women who are nurses, doctors, teachers, scientists, stay-at-home moms” in the community. “We are in Christian community because we take our faith seriously. We are not weird and mysterious,” she laughs. “And we are not controlled by men.”

To no one’s surprise, interviews of this sort have yet to appear in the publications that were quick to assert that People of Praise describes itself as “ultraconservative,” when, in fact, the group does no such thing. If this is the best line of attack progressives are prepared to launch against Judge Barrett, they can expect it not only to fail but to backfire.


Y’All Remember Democrats Used to Win in the Midwest and South, Right?

(Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

Related to the argument that the Senate somehow unfairly overrepresents Republicans because largely rural states in the interior have as much say as more heavily populated coastal states . . . these folks know that a bunch of those rural interior states had Democratic senators not that long ago, right?

As recently as 2004, all four senators from North Dakota and South Dakota were Democrats. Jon Tester currently represents Montana, and as recently as 2014 the state had two Democratic senators. The state may have two Democrats again soon, as Steve Bullock has a decent shot in the current Montana Senate race.

Rather than elaborate schemes to add more states or somehow alter the role of the Senate under the Constitution, the Democrats could just try to win more races in these parts of the country. They did it before, not that long ago. In 2008, Democrat Mark Begich won a Senate seat in Alaska, Mark Pryor won a seat in Arkansas, Mary Landrieu won a seat in Louisiana, and Kay Hagan won a seat in North Carolina. Arizona has one Democratic senator and could get another one starting in January.

If you look at governor’s races, you see even more signs that Democrats can win in these states. Laura Kelly is the Democratic governor of Kansas. Andy Beshear is governor of Kentucky. Bullock is governor of Montana.

It’s not that different a story in the South, long perceived as a Republican stronghold. Cal Cunningham has a decent shot in the current North Carolina Senate race, and if you believe the polls, Jaime Harrison has a real shot at knocking off Lindsey Graham. Jon Bel Edwards is governor of Louisiana and Roy Cooper is governor of North Carolina. At least one Democrat represented Florida in the U.S. Senate from 1872 to 2018.

If Democrats want to win more races in more rural and sparsely populated states, they should run candidates who do a better job of appealing to voters in those states! Alternately, the rest of the party could at least try to not communicate anything that could be construed as contempt for “flyover country” or rural Americans.

There are very few states that are so deep red that no Democrat ever has a chance and very few states that are so deep blue that no Republican ever has a chance. (Think of Chris Christie winning the governor’s race in New Jersey, Larry Hogan winning the governor’s race in Maryland, and Phil Scott winning the governor’s race in Vermont.)

How much of what certain Democrats perceive as a permanent, unjust, structural bias against their candidates is just a reflection that they’ve nominated some real turkeys in these states the past few cycles?

Film & TV

Why We Should Care about Cuties


Much has already been written, including here at NRO, about the new French independent movie Cuties, hosted on Netflix. Last week, I had a piece refuting the absurd notion that only far-right conspiracy theorists and Internet trolls might take issue with a movie that features young girls watching pornography, discussing oral sex, taking and sharing nude pictures of themselves, and learning how to strip dance.

But I think the debate over the movie is actually even more important than the passing online controversy. Cuties turned into a flashpoint in the culture war, with progressives pretending that only right-wing extremists or repressive Puritans might object to the movie’s content, and those who disliked the movie began an Internet campaign to boycott Netflix for continuing to stream it.

In my latest column for the Catholic Herald’s “Chapter House” blog, I brought up a few points about children, young adults, and their use of technology, a subject that Cuties touches on and that deserves a great deal more attention that the movie itself. Here’s a bit of what I had to say in that piece:

The debate over the movie has offered an occasion to reflect on how today’s younger generations are growing up with omnipresent technology, providing access to a nearly unlimited universe of addictive, damaging, and sometimes dangerous content.

A 2018 Pew Research Report poll found that 45 percent of teenagers in the U.S. said they use the Internet “almost constantly,” 44 percent said they go online several times a day, and a whopping 95 percent said they either own or have regular access to a smartphone. In 2016, a Common Sense Media survey reported that one out of every two U.S. teenagers said they feel addicted to their phones, and nearly 80 percent said they check their devices at least hourly.

And it’s not just teenagers: A 2012 survey found that about 60 percent of children in the U.S. between the ages of eight to twelve had cellphones, a percentage that almost certainly has increased over the last decade.

While laptops and smartphones aren’t inherently problematic, they carry significant risk of overuse, addiction, damage to mental health, and exposure to harmful or dangerous content — even for adults, but especially for children and teenagers. An increasing number of studies have found, for instance, that social-media use by minors is linked to a greater risk for depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidality.

The average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography, meanwhile, seems to fall somewhere between eight and eleven years old, though many report being much younger. Nearly 40 percent of all teenagers report having posted or sent sexually suggestive messages, 22 percent of teen girls report having sent semi-nude or nude photos, and 15 percent of all teens who have done so say they sent the photos to someone on the Internet whom they’ve never met.

These statistics are incredibly frightening, and they receive little to no attention in our public conversations, whether about Cuties or anything else. Regardless of one’s views about the movie and its sexualized depiction of child actors, perhaps the debate will spur us to seriously consider these startling realities — in the public square, certainly, but more important, in our communities and our homes.

Politics & Policy

Football Is a Luxury That Most Colleges Should Drop


Some years ago, I asked a professor who was from New Zealand what he thought about the obsession with intercollegiate sports here. He replied that he found it odd, since in his country, “College was for studying, not for sports.”

Maybe it’s time for American schools to rethink their costly commitment to big-time sports.

In today’s Martin Center article, Laurence Peterson, dean emeritus at Kennesaw State University, argues that the COVID-19 pandemic underscores what has been obvious for many years — that college football is a waste of resources and a distraction that schools should finally drop.

Peterson writes, “The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting universities to develop costly new teaching methodologies, require expensive campus protection strategies, and has caused severe revenue declines due to reduced enrollment. Consequently, universities expect to lose millions of dollars, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Yet, surprisingly, no university administrators have canceled their high-cost, money-losing football programs to avoid academic cuts.”

Most schools lose lots of money on their football programs, requiring infusions of money from students and taxpayers. A good example is the University of Akron. About that institution, Peterson notes, “Now facing a $65 million budget shortfall, Akron’s administration cut its 2020-2021 budget by 19 percent. However, they are not planning more substantial reductions to their $34.6 million athletics budget, of which $12 million is football. Akron, other MAC schools, and most mid-majors are reluctant to drop football during a budget crisis, even as costs go up and student enrollments go down.”

Expensive football programs don’t benefit the students in general, nor do they provide long-run benefits for the players, few of whom ever play professionally and usually get a pathetic “college education” for their years of playing on the gridiron.

Peterson sticks the landing with his conclusion: “Even before the pandemic, the cost of college football and the buffet of other sports programs was an expensive luxury for most universities. Now is the time for higher education to critically assess the role of football, and all intercollegiate sports, on campus. At many schools, it may be better for leaders to cut their losses and refocus on their core mission.”


Ten Things That Caught My Eye Today: Lebanon, Amy Coney Barrett, Singing Friars & More (September 24, 2020)


1. Habib Malik: Lebanon, Both Free and Hostage

2. Russia Seizes Kremlin Critic Navalny’s Apartment


4. Don’t treat children like consumer goods

5. Notre Dame profs push back on Amy Coney Barrett portrayals: Not just ‘an ideological category’

6. Laura Wolk: What I Learned From Amy Coney Barrett: 

I went on to succeed that semester and, by God’s grace, to become the first blind woman to clerk on the Supreme Court. The warmth and compassion that Judge Barrett has shown me on so many occasions flow from the same wellspring of faith for which she is now so excoriated. The ease with which she donates her time and energy to serving others comes from years of loving the Lord with her entire heart, mind, and strength, and loving her neighbor as herself. And for a young, disabled woman like me struggling to find my footing and place in this world, that faith has made all the difference.

7. Andrea Picciotti-Bayer: Cancel Culture College Administrators Put on Notice

8. Erika Bachiochi in America: What I will teach my children about Ruth Bader Ginsburg

9. Fr. Matt Malone in America: We Need to Recover the Sense of Fun in Politics 

As a lifelong political junkie, I have a long list of places and events at which I would love to have been a fly on the wall. The journey of the L.B.J. Special nears the top of the list. This frenetic, passionate barnstorm through the backroads and hamlets of rural America was U.S. politics at its best. Sure, there were some tricks involved, some sleight of hand, as well as partisan hyperbole and overly sentimental populist appeals. But that is also the sort of stuff that made the whole spectacle not just effective but entertaining.


Politics & Policy

Do You Want 51 or 52 States Next Year?

A formation of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron “Blue Angels” and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the National Mall in Washington, D.C., May 2, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“The prospects of statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have never been greater, but many significant obstacles loom,” The Hill declares.

The Constitution declares, “new States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.” On paper, all it takes for a new state to be created is a majority of the House and Senate.

The push for statehood for either Puerto Rico or the District of Columbia or both could succeed in 2021, if the decisions are not perceived as a partisan power grab by a newly-elected Democratic majority.

Both eager Democrats and skeptical Republicans would be wise to remember that the current non-voting member of Congress representing Puerto Rico – sometimes called the “resident commissioner” – is Jenniffer González-Colón, a Republican. Luis Fortuno, also a Republican, held the position from 2005 to 2009. If two new Senate seats were created to represent Puerto Rico, there is no guarantee those seats would both be Democrats either immediately or in the long term.

The argument for Puerto Rican statehood would have to be, “Puerto Ricans are full U.S. citizens, so why shouldn’t they have the same rights and representation as everyone else? And hasn’t being a territory and not a full state resulted in them getting unjustly ignored and shortchanged when they needed help the most?” Americans are likely to be receptive to that and there already is fairly broad public support for making Puerto Rico a state; 66 percent of Americans told Gallup they supported the idea in July 2019, including 45 percent of Republicans.

Any Democratic messaging that amounts to “this is our chance, let’s add more votes to Congress that we think will be on our side most of the time,” would turn the issue of statehood into another partisan football.

Legislation to make either Puerto Rico or the District of Columbia a state would have to pass the Senate, meaning that if the filibuster is in place, forty lawmakers could block it. As our John McCormack recently reported, some Democratic senators who once described themselves as staunch defenders of the filibuster are now leaving some wiggle room. But an effort to eliminate the filibuster, specifically to add two new states and create four new senators, would likely strike much of the public as a cynical power-grab atop another cynical power-grab. It is fair to wonder if Joe Biden wants this to be the defining fight of the first two years of his presidency; he will still be facing a coronavirus pandemic and lingering economic problems if he takes office in January.

As for the District of Columbia, the argument for statehood is weaker. For starters, geographically, the district is by no measure a state; it is a city, and really only the geographic center of a city that spills out into Virginia and Maryland. The current smallest state, Rhode Island, is 1,045 square miles; the District of Columbia is 68 square miles. It functions under a city government, not a territorial government.

The District of Columbia lacks the sorts of things you can find in just about every other state. It has no rural population and the only agriculture is some urban farms and community gardens; the aim is to expand to five acres in the “medium term.” The district has no major airport; Reagan National and Dulles International are in Virginia and Baltimore-Washington is in Maryland. It has no major port and almost no manufacturing. (Nationwide, 8.6 percent of Americans work in manufacturing; in the District, less than one tenth of one percent.)

Washington D.C. is not just a city, it is a particularly unique city because of the outsized role of the federal government in its economy. The last traditional car dealership with a large lot left the District in 2014; a downtown Tesla dealership became the only place to purchase a new car within the city limits. Quite a few industries are so small that they’re barely measurable within the district: private transportation and warehousing, building materials, landscaping services – even residential building construction employs less than 900 District residents.

Washington D.C. is a city that is particularly dependent upon its neighboring states to function. All of the water in the city goes through the Dalecarlia Reservoir on the border with Bethesda, Maryland, run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. All of the city’s solid waste goes to landfills in Virginia, the recyclables go to Maryland. Almost all of the electricity that powers the District comes from other states.

Washington D.C. is a city that is particularly dependent upon the federal government to cover its operating expenses. The federal government pays for the D.C. courts system, and since 2001 all D.C. prisoners are integrated into the federal Bureau of Prisons system. The city does not have a district attorney or state attorney general; the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia prosecutes all serious local crime committed by adults in the District of Columbia.

If the District were to become a state, it would have a relationship with the federal government unlike any other, even beyond the factors above. Roughly 27 percent of all District residents work for the federal government, way more than any other state. Roughly 38 percent of all District residents work for government at some level.

Advocates for statehood can argue that their population would not quite be the smallest; with an estimated 705,000 people, Washington, D.C. has more residents than Vermont (623,000) and Wyoming (578,000). But the roughly 19 other U.S. cities that have higher populations will ask, fairly, why the District gets to be a separate state and not, say, New York City or Los Angeles.

Finally, two-thirds of the American public oppose statehood for the District of Columbia, and that figure includes 51 percent of self-identified Democrats.

In the Federalist Papers, James Madison argued that the nation’s capital should not be within any particular state: “The public money expended on such places, and the public property deposited in them, requires that they should be exempt from the authority of the particular State. Nor would it be proper for the places on which the security of the entire Union may depend, to be in any degree dependent on a particular member of it.” Advocates of D.C. statehood argue that the “district” of the nation’s capital would become Capitol Hill, the National Mall, and the White House, while the surrounding area became a new state.

Certain legal scholars argue reducing the size of the federal district in that manner would violate the Constitution. The Cato Institute’s Roger Pilon testified before Congress in 2019:

[The proposal] would make the federal government dependent on this new independent state, “Washington, D.C.,” for everything from electrical power to water, sewer, snow removal, police and fire protection, and so much else that today is part of an integrated jurisdiction under the ultimate authority of Congress. Nearly every foreign embassy would be beyond federal jurisdiction and dependent mainly on the services of this new and effectively untested state. Ambulances, police and fire equipment, diplomatic entourages, members of Congress, and ordinary citizens would be constantly moving over state boundaries in their daily affairs and in and out of jurisdictions, potentially increasing jurisdictional problems exponentially.

Interestingly, advocates for one state may not necessarily agree with advocates for others. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia, told The Hill, “[Puerto Rico] is bankrupt, so the United States has had to pump money in it just to keep it going. In order to become a state, you [have] to … show that you’re fully able to support yourself.”


Liberals and Political Violence


While I’m highlighting things to read elsewhere, First Things has a bone-chilling piece by historian Gary Saul Morson. It is about the role liberals played in Russia ahead of the revolution. Most of it normalizing and apologizing for revolutionary violence. Here’s a small taste. Absolutely worth buckling down:

Anyone wearing a uniform was a candidate for a bullet to the head or sulfuric acid to the face. Country estates were burnt down (“rural illuminations”) and businesses were extorted or blown up. Bombs were tossed at random into railroad carriages, restaurants, and theaters. Far from regretting the death and maiming of innocent bystanders, terrorists boasted of killing as many as possible, either because the victims were likely bourgeois or because any murder helped bring down the old order. A group of anarcho-­communists threw bombs laced with nails into a café bustling with two hundred customers in order “to see how the foul bourgeois will squirm in death agony.”

Instead of the pendulum’s swinging back—a metaphor of inevitability that excuses people from taking a stand—the killing grew and grew, both in numbers and in cruelty. Sadism replaced simple killing. As Geifman explains, “The need to inflict pain was transformed from an abnormal irrational compulsion experienced only by unbalanced personalities into a formally verbalized obligation for all committed revolutionaries.” One group threw “traitors” into vats of boiling water. Others were still more inventive. Women torturers were especially admired.

How did educated, liberal society respond to such terrorism? What was the position of the Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) Party and its deputies in the Duma (the parliament set up in 1905)? Though Kadets advocated democratic, constitutional procedures, and did not themselves engage in ­terrorism, they aided the terrorists in any way they could.




Over at the indispensable, Sam Leith questions why an interview with Judith Butler received so much overpraising. Butler is widely credited for popularizing the conceptual split between sex and gender that has driven transgenderism. The United Kingdom, more than anywhere else, has produced dissent against transgenderism from feminists. Leith had hoped to find some clarity from a veteran academic. Instead, Butler was evasive. Maybe there’s less here than meets the eye.

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