World

China Censors Video of Tedros Saying End of Pandemic Is ‘In Sight’: Report

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, speaks during a news conference on the coronavirus at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

The Standard Hong Kong reports on how an optimistic World Health Organization assessment about the Covid pandemic has met the digital buzzsaw of Chinese government censorship:

The World Health Organization chief’s comment that the end of the pandemic is within reach sparked lively online debate — and some censorship — in China, the only major country still trying to stop the spread of the virus.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that “we have never been in a better position to end the pandemic. We are not there yet, but the end is in sight.”

China Newsweek and popular online media outlet Guancha.cn reported on Tedros’s remark and shared videos on social media platform Weibo, but those were removed in the afternoon. A hashtag on Tedros’s comments that gathered some 4.5 million views also appeared to have been removed, and Chinese media disabled the comment function on Weibo posts sharing the news.

Discussions still flowed in the vibrant but closed-off world of China’s internet, with many saying that the shift Tedros spoke of wouldn’t apply to them. China continues to address Covid pretty much as it did at the start of the pandemic in early 2020 — trying to cut off transmission and wipe out the pathogen with intensive restrictions.

Chinese officials have doubled down on their draconian zero-Covid policy in recent weeks. Although Chengdu exited a two-week-long lockdown on Thursday, Radio Free Asia recently reported on a disturbing Covid lockdown in Xinjiang, where the lockdowns seem to be exacerbating the impact of the Chinese Communist Party’s mass atrocities:

More than 600 mostly young Uyghurs from a village in Ghulja were detained by authorities in Xinjiang on Monday after they ignored a strict COVID-19 lockdown and staged a peaceful street protest against a lack of food that has led to starvation and deaths, a local police officer said.

The detention figure was much higher than China’s official number issued the same day on an official police website stating that only two people who violated the lockdown restrictions in Ghulja (in Chinese, Yining) city were sentenced to five days of detention.

Ghulja, a city of roughly a half-million mainly Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Ili (Yili) Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in the northern part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), has been under lockdown since early August, prompted by outbreaks of COVID-19.

Culture

How the Sexual Revolution Harmed Women

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In the latest issue of the magazine, I review Louise Perry’s brilliant book The Case Against the Sexual Revolution. 

Team Biden’s Mysterious U.N. ‘Reform’ Push

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President Joe Biden arrives to speak during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, September 21, 2021. (Eduardo Munoz/Pool via Reuters)

When world leaders converge on Manhattan next week for the U.N. General Assembly’s annual high-level week — filled with speeches from heads of state and a circus of diplomatic side events — one of the Biden administration’s top priorities will be to fundamentally reshape the way in which key U.N. institutions work. Top officials say that their aim is to modernize U.N. institutions so that Russia and like-minded dictatorships cannot shield themselves from accountability.

Along the way, the administration might pursue a path that unilaterally disarms American diplomats as they face off against foreign adversaries at the U.N.

U.S. ambassador to the

World

In Liz We Trust?

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I have a piece in the latest issue of the magazine about Britain’s new prime minister.

Politics & Policy

What Is the American Economic Model?

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Michael Moore was right to call Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania the “Brexit States” in 2016. This was the region largely left behind by the American economic model ushered in by giving China Most Favored Nation status. It was the region that, like the old Labour heartlands that went for Brexit in 2016, was moving from left to right as the Left increasingly identified itself with the upwardly mobile metropoles. The fact that every successful candidate from George W. Bush onward has at least tried to placate these voters on the economy is suggestive. So too the fact that Trump broke through all four states in 2016 with an openly American-System campaign of tariffs and internal improvements, then suffered a setback after his economic agenda turned out to be a Ryan tax cut and asking the Chinese to buy more soybeans.

So to sharpen the question. Will those Obama–Trump voters in those states look at Ron DeSantis as the tanned version of Mitt Romney, as a man who is in the position he is because he fundamentally benefits from the very economic model they have come to detest? Or do they see his willingness to stand up on Covid and a number of culture-war issues as an indication that he will stand up against the economic orthodoxy that they believe works against them?

Further, if the Republican Party does end up with a Trump–DeSantis race, does Trump effectively push DeSantis to distinguish himself from the former president by re-embracing the Bush–Clinton economic model?

White House

Well, at Least It’s above 30

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The “Inflation Reduction Act” is about as popular as you might expect, according to the latest New York Times poll:

The poll’s findings also suggest that Mr. Biden’s legislative successes have done relatively little to boost his or his party’s credibility on economic issues.

Only 36 percent of voters said they approved of a centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda, the health and climate spending bill passed by Congress last month known as the Inflation Reduction Act. More than a quarter said they had never even heard of it. The country was divided over the administration’s student debt plan, with 49 percent saying they supported the cancellation of up to $20,000 worth of federal student loans, compared with 45 percent who say they opposed it.

Politics & Policy

Re: ‘The Question for DeSantis’

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MBD, I had never thought of the point you raise in your column about whether DeSantis will have Rust Belt appeal in a potential GOP primary.

We haven’t really heard from him on some of these national economic issues, but he is — understandably and rightly — relentlessly sunny about the Florida model.

It’d be interesting to see how much sheer combativeness, especially on the culture, matters to those voters, or if there is simply no substitute for a populist economics.

World

Iranian Woman Dies after Being Beaten by Morality Police Over ‘Improper Hijab’

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An Iranian man carries a national flag during a ceremony to mark national Chastity and Hijab day at a conference center in Tehran, Iran, in 2010. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

An Iranian woman died today in the custody of Iran’s morality police after witnesses say she was beaten for wearing an “improper hijab.” The death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old from the country’s Kurdistan province, is already sparking protests in Iran.

Eyewitnesses told the BBC Persian that the police detained her on Tuesday in Tehran, and that they beat her as she rode in a police van. Amini’s family told the outlet that she had been moved to a hospital shortly after her arrest, before learning today that she has died.

BBC Persian also reports the following, about growing outrage within Iran about the apparent murder:

Many Iranians, including pro-government individuals, are expressing their outrage on social media platforms regarding the very existence of the morality police, also known as Guidance Patrols, and are using hashtags that translate as Murder Patrols.

Videos have emerged on social media appearing to show officers detaining women, dragging them on the ground, and forcefully whisking them away.

Many Iranians blame the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, directly. An old speech of his is being reshared on social media in which he justifies the role of the morality police and insists that under Islamic rule, women must be forced to observe the Islamic dress code.

Compounding the potential for unrest unleashed by Amini’s death, Khamenei fell “gravely ill” last week, the New York Times reported today.

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi is already maneuvering to portray Amini’s killing as the work of a few rogue officers, with state media outlets reporting that he ordered a probe into her death. The police are denying that they beat her, per Reuters:

“Based on detailed investigations, since her transfer to the vehicle and also at the location (station), there was no physical encounter with her,” a police statement said, rejecting allegations on social media that Amini was likely beaten.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage carried by state TV appeared to show a woman identified as Amini falling over after getting up from her seat to speak to an official at a police station. Reuters could not authenticate the video.

Police earlier said Amini had suffered a heart attack after being taken to the station to be “convinced and educated, state television said, denying allegations she was beaten. Her relatives have denied she suffered any heart condition.

The Biden administration’s first response to the incident came from Robert Malley, President Biden’s Iran envoy. In a tweet this afternoon, Malley called her death “appalling,” and called on the Iranian regime to end its violence against women.

Meanwhile, Sharon Kleinbaum, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, called on Biden to “unreservedly condemn Iran for its violent and systematic attacks on women like Zhina (Mahsa) Amini,” during his U.S. address next week:

Politics & Policy

The GOP’s Abortion Inconsistency

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Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., November 10, 2020. (Susan Walsh/Pool via Reuters)

On this week’s second edition of The Editors podcast, our panel takes the internal NRO abortion argument to the airwaves. Lindsey Graham started this ball rolling a few days ago, when he announced he was bringing legislation for a 15-week federal abortion ban to the Senate, and it caused a flurry of responses from National Review writers.

Rich turns to Michael first, who lays out his concerns with Republicans’ unpreparedness in this area: “Republicans have been naked on the issue of abortion since Dobbs was overturned. They’ve failed to articulate what the Republican Party wants as a party now to be the standard going forward.” 

Michael appreciates what Graham is trying to do here, saying “I agree with Graham’s politics on this — that Republicans can’t have nothing on this issue while Democrats are making it a big issue in these midterms.” He is of the mind, though, that we can’t fight for abortion to be a state-level decision, and then turn around and push for a 15-week abortion ban at the federal level. 

Rich views it differently, saying that “Republicans need to have a defensible compromise position on abortion,” and “15 weeks is a pretty good spot.” Maddy finds the various arguments compelling, and says that the “patchwork” of states’ abortion laws is “grotesque.” She also points out that this 15-week ban proposal is similar to abortion compromises our friends across the pond have already come to. 

But what about the 14th Amendment? Rich pitches the constitutional question about this policy to Charlie, who immediately reminds us that, in the history of the U.S., “there has never been . . . any doubt whatsoever that the states are able to regulate and prohibit abortion.” He reminds listeners that, “It’s not a question of whether or not the Founders and those who came after them after the Civil War were prepared to protect unborn life. It’s a question of at what level that protection is sanctioned by the limited powers that the Constitution accords.”  

NR’s strong pro-life stance, and the pro-life stance of its writers who are debating this issue, are not in question here. But this is a rousing debate worth tuning in to. Listen below to the entire conversation, which includes more discussion of this topic, as well as the looming European energy crisis and Democrats’ migrant problem.

 

Sports

R.I.P. John Stearns

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Then-New York Mets catcher John Stearns during batting practice in New York City, June 29, 1977. (James D'Alba/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Former Mets catcher John Stearns has died at 71, of cancer. A withered, frail-looking Stearns still took his swings in the batting cage at Mets Old-Timers’ Day, three weeks ago. It was characteristic of the approach that earned him the nickname “Bad Dude” as a safety and punter on the University of Colorado football team. In the majors, Stearns was a good player, star-quality when healthy, although his four All-Star appearances owed a good deal to the requirement that at least one player per team be chosen. His 25 stolen bases in 1978 was then a modern record for catchers. Statistically, Stearns from 1976–82 batted .265/.346/.382, good enough for a 105 OPS+ (i.e., 5 percent better than a league-average hitter) and averaged 4.4 Wins Above Replacement and 19 stolen bases per full season. But he played just 105 games a year in that seven-year period, during which time the Mets finished last in a six-team division four times, and fifth twice.

It wasn’t the numbers on the scoreboard that endeared Stearns to Mets fans, who had to be won over after Stearns was acquired from the Phillies for fan favorite Tug McGraw. It was Stearns’s toughness, combative attitude, and utter unwillingness to back down to anybody that made him inspiring to watch on a lot of terrible teams with little to play for. Stearns had a huge 1979 brawl with Gary Carter (then the Expos catcher) after Carter ran into Stearns at home plate. On another occasion, Stearns took off from the bench to fight Expos pitcher Bill Gullickson. In 1980, Stearns ran down the left field line to tackle a fan who ran on the field, and pin him down until the cops got there; he did the same in 1982. He gave the same treatment to mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa, the now politically-incorrect Braves mascot of the era, in 1975 and again in 1981, just for taunting the Mets. As described in Stearns’s SABR bio:

Stearns ran onto the field and tackled the mascot as he pranced through his pregame war dance. “I watched him for three or four years and I said, ‘Someday I’m going to clothesline this guy,’” Stearns recalled in 2010. “One day I took off, running at him like a defensive back. He looked at me like, ‘What is this guy going to do?’ I didn’t really hit him. I kind of dragged him down. It was just a fun thing but Joe Torre was our manager and he didn’t like it.” Torre said later that “[it] was just the Dude being the Dude.”

The most legendary Stearns moment, however, was his 1978 collision at the plate with Dave Parker of the Pirates. Parker was a huge man, 6’5″ and 230 pounds in peak shape at the time, and in 1978 he could still run like the wind. He outweighed Stearns by a good 40 pounds. Parker went on to win the National League MVP Award in 1978. By the time the Mets squared off with the Pirates on June 30, 1978, Parker had established a reputation for barreling into catchers so hard they ended up in the hospital or on the disabled list. That was no mean feat: The National League in 1978 had a lot of very tough catchers, including Stearns, Carter, Johnny Bench, Steve Yeager (nephew of Chuck Yeager), Bob Boone, Ted Simmons, and the Pirates’ own Ed Ott, who ended the career of Mets second baseman Felix Millan in 1977 by body-slamming him breaking up a double play.

As I recall it — I can’t pin this down exactly right now — Parker had already injured two other catchers that season. At any rate, there was a fair amount of anticipation in advance as to what would happen if he tried this on Stearns. As it turned out, the game was on the line: It was the bottom of the ninth, and the Pirates were trailing 6–5 after Parker tripled in two runs off Mets reliever Dale Murray. With one out, Bill Robinson hit a fly ball to Mets right-fielder Joel Youngblood, who had a cannon arm; Parker tagged up and stormed home. Youngblood’s throw beat him, and Parker crashed into Stearns to shake the ball loose — but Stearns hung on, and then some. As Stearns recalled in an interview:

“Obliterated me, actually…I was way back on the Astroturf about 15 feet behind home plate after he hit me. And I had the ball, I held the ball up for the umpire. I put the tag on him and then he hit me. Held the ball for the umpire, and the umpire went, ‘You’re out of there!’ The game was over. We had won the game. [Parker] was lying on the ground, holding his cheek and moaning after it was all over. So I got lucky.”

What happened was that Stearns basically threw a forearm at Parker as he came in, and he broke Parker’s cheekbone. Parker missed two weeks and returned wearing a hockey goalie’s mask for much of the rest of the season, which made him look even more frightening. (It didn’t hurt his hitting — Parker hit .351/.410/.632 the rest of the way). Parker, who now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, says today that in retrospect he was hurt worse than he knew:

If a catcher blocked home plate, Parker reverted to being the Cincinnati Courter Tech high school running back. He figures there were maybe seven or eight home-plate collisions during his career. Remember the collision at home plate with Mets catcher John Stearns in June 1978? The one that broke Parker’s cheekbone? Stearns held onto the ball, but Parker says he didn’t remember that at first. He couldn’t recall if he was safe or out. In hindsight, Parker insists, he had a concussion. “Nobody diagnosed it then,” he says. “You said his bell was rung, and you moved on.”

Stearns was finished as a ballplayer at 31 due to his injuries. He stayed in the game in a variety of capacities in the decades after that, broadcasting and scouting. It was a tough game, and these were tough guys, and what the game took out of them is part of why pro sports are played differently today. But in his time, nobody played it tougher than John Stearns, and Mets fans will always hold a special place in their hearts for the Bad Dude.

Health Care

How Far Must Medicine Go to Fulfill Subjective Desires?

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(stefanamer/iStock/Getty Images)

Transgender activists have conscripted the medical professions to physically alter people who identify as the opposite sex. This includes puberty blocking, hormone injections, mastectomies, and “bottom” surgeries to create faux genitals of the sex as which the patient identifies — sometimes even in adolescents.

But now the ground is being prepared for these interventions to go even further — to uterine transplants in transgender women (biological males) so they can experience gestation and birth (a procedure already available to women). And the activists are all on board for allowing this extreme intervention once it has been widely tested in animals (which I consider animal abuse). From the Euronews story:

Mats Brännström is a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology and chief physician at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. He is also the doctor who helped deliver that first-ever baby born as a result of a uterine transplant. Now, he frequently gets emails from people assigned male at birth asking about the procedure.

“I get emails from people all over the world,” he told Euronews Next. “But there is the risk that we will rush into this because we have patients who are very interested”.

“I say to them we haven’t done enough research, but I think it will be possible in the future. It may take five or 10 years, I would say”.

“If it’s an efficient method with no risk, I don’t think there are any ethical boundaries,” he added, pointing out that many societies already allow for people to undergo gender-affirming procedures that help them transition to their self-identified gender. “We change the legal statutes, we do corrective surgery for other things in the body. So this is part of it”.

But no surgery is “without risk.” And this particular surgery would implant an organ into a body not designed (if you will) to gestate and give birth. Moreover, such a pregnancy would require the injection of hormones and other medications to supplement what the female body contributes to gestation. And even if gestation was successful, giving birth would almost certainly require a caesarian section. These are no small things. Nor are they inexpensive.

I also hasten to add that none of this would be for the benefit of the baby, but to allow the patient to have a fulfilling experience:

Just as the desire to experience gestation has spurred uterus transplant research in women who suffer from uterine factor infertility, uterus transplants in transgender women should also be considered in the same light, the researchers conclude.

“I feel quite strongly that uterus transplantation enables a specific type of experience,” said Chloe Romanis, Associate Professor in Biolaw at Durham University in the United Kingdom and a fellow at Harvard University in the United States.

“Wanting to be a parent is one thing but wanting to be a gestational parent is another; it’s quite a unique experience,” she told Euronews Next. “It’s something that people will feel very strongly about, it’s something that people will feel speaks to their identity, not just as a person, as a parent, but also as a woman”.

“So I think that that’s something that we need to respect”.

No, we don’t. We are not entitled to everything we want because we want it. Moreover, if such procedures are deemed a matter of human rights, how will we ever control health-care costs?

Besides, if we have the right to experience every aspect of how we identify, why should it stop at transgenderism? If the armamentarium of medicine must be put in harness to allow transgendered people to live out their intense inner desires — whatever it takes — why not also similarly enable patients who identify deeply and fervently as disabled?

This is not a hypothetical situation. A mental-health patient suffering from BIID — body integrity identity disorder — is an able-bodied person who believes his true self to be, say, an amputee, blind, or a paraplegic. If the biological maleness of a transgender woman’s body can be surgically recreated to appear female — even to the theoretical extent of implanting a uterus — on what principled basis would the person who fervently yearns to have an amputation, or to have his spinal cord snipped, be denied the same satisfaction? I mean, what is the difference?

The only distinction I can think of is that one has to do with sex — an all-powerful force in contemporary society — pushed by the irresistible LGBT cultural juggernaut. Issues of disability don’t (yet) demand the same obeisance.

But once transgenderism has swept the field, BIID will become the next radical cause, and I can think of no principled way to permit the former while denying the latter, since both are about validating and effectuating fervently held inner states and, you know, equity! Indeed, there has already been advocacy in that direction among mental-health professionals and transhumanists.

These issues are civilizational. If everything that ultimately matters becomes subjective, we will descend into social anarchy and chaos.

Politics & Policy

LIVE Now: ‘Originalism: A Matter of Interpretation,’ Featuring Rich

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Should the U.S. Constitution be interpreted according to its original meaning? Is the Supreme Court consistent in its application of constitutional originalism? In celebration of Constitution Day 2022, join us for a keynote conversation at the National Constitution Center with Emily Bazelon, staff writer at the New York Times Magazine; Rich Lowry, editor-in-chief of National Review; Steven Mazie of the Economist; and Ilan Wurman of Arizona State University, exploring one of the most important constitutional topics of our time. Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, moderates. Watch it here.

Politics & Policy

How Destabilizing a Post-Nuclear Senate Could Be

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The Capitol Building viewed from the Washington Mall in Washington D.C., August 5, 2021 (Brent Buterbaugh/National Review)

There’s a wealth of analysis in John McCormack’s story about what could happen if Democrats do hold the House and pick up at least two Senate seats during the 2022 midterms. Netting two Senate seats would allow Democrats to nuke the legislative filibuster and permanently remove one of the moderating guardrails of American politics. His story already discusses how destabilizing a post-nuclear Senate could be, but I think it might be worth underlining the disruptive potential of nuking the Senate.

At the heart of the nuclear option is not just the elimination of the filibuster but the direct attack on the Senate as a body bound by rules. The rules of the Senate have traditionally given a wide range of protections to individual senators and made the body much more resistant to top-down partisan control. Senate rules say that a two-thirds vote is required to change the rules of the Senate, but the nuclear option is the act of a narrow majority to ignore those rules. It opens the door to much more partisan discipline, pushing the Senate more in the direction of the House.

Nuking the filibuster for nominations helped further polarize the nominations process, and further attacks on regular order would likely only worsen that polarization. Bound by the filibuster, the current 50-50 Senate has been a hub of bipartisan deal-making; the incentive for such bipartisan cooperation drops precipitously in a post-nuclear Senate.

In allowing a party that controls Congress by only the slimmest margins to have absolute control, nuking the filibuster would allow for wild swings in policy, as McCormack’s story notes. It could also dramatically weaken federalism. Right now, the passage of most federal legislation requires relatively broad consensus, which means that states have more of an opportunity to set policy in areas of national controversy. Rule by narrow congressional majority could threaten the project of states as policy workshops.

Nuking the filibuster could also have broader constitutional effects by dramatically affecting the balance of power in the federal government. A post-nuclear Congress could decide to pack the Supreme Court on a narrow, party-line vote. Civil-service protections could also be revised by only the slimmest of partisan majorities, with significant implications for the federal bureaucracy.

Other than Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, every incumbent Democratic senator is on board with the nuclear option. In January, Michael Bennet, Catherine Cortez Masto, Maggie Hassan, Mark Kelly, and Raphael Warnock (all up for reelection in November) all voted to exercise the nuclear option on the legislative filibuster. Senate challengers Mandela Barnes, Val Demmings, John Fetterman, and Tim Ryan have also said that the filibuster should be scrapped. In Utah, independent Senate candidate Evan McMulllin (who is supported by the state’s Democratic Party) says at the moment that he only supports certain reforms to the filibuster — but his campaign did not respond to a request for comment about whether McMullin would support the nuclear option or not.

In early 2021, proponents of the nuclear option argued that the Senate was permanently deadlocked: Legislative cooperation was a forgotten relic of the past. Contrary to that argument, the Senate has passed one compromise bill after another during the 117th Congress. If the past two years have shredded one argument against blowing up current legislative institutions, they have also shown the dangers of escalating political conflict. In a post-nuclear Senate, the Overton window for policy and political conflict is considerably expanded. For all the talk about the crisis of “democratic norms,” intensifying political conflict threatens the stability of democratic life.

World

Modi Publicly Rebukes Putin’s War on Ukraine: ‘Not an Era of War’

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards the crowd after the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, January 26, 2022. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi delivered an unexpected public rebuke of Russia’s war against Ukraine during a conversation on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization today. He also seemed to say that he’s voiced doubts about the invasion during his private conversations with Putin.

“I know that today’s era is not an era of war, and I have spoken to you on the phone about this,” Modi said, according to Reuters. The newswire also reported that as Modi made this comment, Putin “pursed his lips, glanced at Modi and then looked down before touching the hair on the back of his head.”

Putin then responded to Modi’s remarks, saying that he knows Modi’s position on Ukraine as well as “the concerns that you constantly express.” “We will do everything to stop this as soon as possible,” the Russian president said, claiming that Ukraine had refused Russia’s attempts to negotiate a ceasefire.

While the U.S. and its allies have vocally condemned the Russian invasion, India had, until today, taken a conspicuously cautious approach to the matter. At the U.N., India has abstained on a series of significant votes related to the war until late August, when it supported a procedural motion to permit Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to address the Security Council. In April, New Delhi had also abstained during a vote that led to Russia’s suspension from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

In early September, Modi spoke publicly about the “special partnership” between India and Russia, during remarks to Vladivostok’s Eastern Economic Forum. He also urged “diplomacy and dialogue” to end the war. His remarks criticizing the Russian invasion come as Ukrainian forces have launched a counteroffensive and retaken significant swaths of territory in eastern Ukraine.

Modi’s comments during the SCO summit — which has also convened the heads of several authoritarian states — may also have been motivated, at least in part, by India’s growing work to counter Beijing.

Although India’s concerns about China had brought it into closer cooperation with U.S.-led efforts to counter Beijing’s aggression, the country has still maintained its defense ties with Moscow, leading to at least one recent diplomatic spat.

When Russia hosted multinational military exercises in its far Eastern regions in recent weeks, India sent troops to participate. Interestingly, the exercises, called Vostok 2022, drew criticism from Japan, as Russia and China announced plans to conduct naval drills near islands claimed by Tokyo and Moscow.

That’s significant, considering New Delhi’s adversarial posture toward China and the diplomatic arrangements which concerns about Chinese aggression have inspired. India and Japan, along with the U.S. and Australia, are members of the Quad grouping, which convenes officials from the four countries for dialogues on the Indo-Pacific region; this initiative is widely understood to be an effort intended to counter Beijing’s growing influence and military strength.

After Japanese officials objected to India’s participation in Vostok, India declined to participate in the naval portions of the drills.

India’s purchase of Russian S-400 air-defense systems has also been cause for concern in Washington, sparking a debate in Congress as to whether the U.S. should exempt India from sanctions triggered by its purchase of Russian weapons. So far, lawmakers and the State Department have declined to impose penalties for the S-400 purchase.

One point that may prevent Modi from making a more substantive break from Putin is energy. Since the outset of Russia’s war in Ukraine, India seems to have received an effective discount on its oil imports from Russia, the Financial Times reported.

Ahead of Modi’s meeting with Putin, Indian officials said that the prime minister would discuss “energy security and other issues” during the SCO summit.

Education

The ‘Sleeper News’ in Biden’s Student-Debt Plan

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Adam Looney of the Brookings Institution has a long, must-read piece about the changes to “income-driven repayment.” This is an existing program that allows undergrad borrowers to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for 20 years and have any remaining balance forgiven. Biden plans to drop the payments to 5 percent — and exclude income up to 225 percent of the poverty line, instead of 150 percent, as not “discretionary.” Roughly $33,000 in earnings won’t even count for purposes of calculating each borrower’s 5 percent payment.

These changes make the program extremely attractive:

The vast majority of college students will be eligible to make reduced payments (roughly 85% of undergraduates age 25-34) were they to take student loans, and a majority of undergraduate borrowers (perhaps 70%) would expect to have at least some debt forgiven after 20 years. On average, borrowers (current and future) might only expect to repay approximately $0.50 for each dollar they borrow.

As Looney notes, this turns the student-loan program — which used to be profitable, or at least close enough to be arguably profitable, to the government — into a grant program that doesn’t do a particularly good job of targeting the most needy borrowers for aid. This will increase borrowing and taxpayer costs, subsidize low-quality colleges whose alumni don’t earn much, and enable schemes where colleges lure students by giving large sums of loan money back to them as cash for “living expenses.”

Read the whole thing.

History

The Woman King’s History Is Worse Than I Thought

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Viola Davis in The Woman King. (Sony Pictures/Trailer image via YouTube)

In writing about the new film The Woman King, I assumed from the trailer and advance press releases that the central plot of the film would focus on the West African kingdom of Dahomey’s defeat and colonization by France in two wars in 1890 and 1892, thus whitewashing Dahomey’s prior, longstanding history as the most extreme example of a state built on the enslavement of free people among its own neighbors — a history in which its female soldiers, the “Amazons,” played a willing and culpable part. Well, Kyle Smith has seen the movie, and its history is even worse:

Set in 1823 . . . the film . . . positions Nanisca (based on a real person, although she lived in a later era) as the leader of an epic fight to destroy slavery. Under the approving eye of a wise king — also a real person — named Ghezo . . . she suggests transforming the country’s trade into one built on palm oil. All that is required to achieve this economic and moral revolution is one final decisive victory against the Oyo, who after being rejected in a demand for tribute seek to defeat and enslave the Agojie. Beat the Oyo, and slavery will be beaten.

Even leaving aside the extensive slave-raiding and slave-trading history of Dahomey prior to 1823, this is comical: Oyo collapsed in 1835, and Ghezo used the opportunity created by the fragmentation of the empire to capture more slaves from Oyo’s now-unprotected population. Warring to enslave his neighbors was the main source of Ghezo’s wealth. He stoutly resisted every British entreaty and threat to get him to abandon slave-trading and get into the palm-oil business (which, it should be noted, was itself largely produced on slave plantations within West Africa). It is true enough that Oyo was a larger, once-mighty state that exacted tribute and sometimes worse from Dahomey, but that was all normal in West African politics — and had been since before the Europeans arrived in the 1440s.

A movie in which Ghezo and his female soldiers are anti-slavery figures in the 1820s makes about as much sense as a movie painting John C. Calhoun as an abolitionist.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Canada and FTC

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Jon Hartley writes about Pierre Poilievre’s ascension to being the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada:

The Conservative Party of Canada chose Pierre Poilievre as its new leader, and he is now leader of the opposition in parliament. His campaign slogan is to “make Canada the freest country in the world,” and that is a welcome message for a country that has been shocked during the pandemic by the illiberal government of Justin Trudeau. From spending taxpayer money recklessly to mishandling the peaceful trucker protests in Ottawa to imposing harsh Covid-19 lockdowns and vaccine mandates, the Trudeau government is long overdue for a comeuppance.

What makes Poilievre special is he is the first Canadian political leader to eloquently and effectively promote a free-market policy agenda evocative of Ronald Reagan while drawing crowds at campaign events similar to those of Donald Trump (in Canada, politicians don’t normally get crowds). Poilievre has been drawing in new younger members to the Conservative Party, and many people who were previously uninterested in supporting Conservatives are now giving them a second look in response to Trudeau’s ineptitude.

Alden Abbott of the Mercatus Center writes about potential problems for the Federal Trade Commission:

The FTC recently lost two merger challenges brought before its internal administrative court — and, even more significantly, faces a Supreme Court challenge to its administrative-enforcement authority.

This November, in Axon Enterprise, Inc. v. FTC, the Supreme Court will consider whether a company facing an FTC administrative complaint may bring a constitutional challenge, in a federal court, to the FTC’s structure, procedures, and even its existence. The case involves the merger of two manufacturers of body-worn camera equipment and related data-management software for law-enforcement agencies. The parties went to federal court arguing that the FTC had no right to challenge their deal.

The Axon matter comes at a time of renewed Supreme Court interest in the Constitution’s separation of powers — under which the right to enforce the law and the right to render judgments are assigned to separate government branches, the executive and the judiciary. Such concerns are particularly acute in the case of administrative-law enforcement at “independent agencies” (which enjoy some statutory freedom from presidential control) such as the FTC.

David Bahnsen is joined by John Catsimatidis on the latest episode of the Capital Record. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Law & the Courts

People Are People

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In my comment arguing, contrary to some of my colleagues, that the 14th Amendment gives Congress the authority to ban abortions, I was inadvertently unjust to those colleagues, having skipped over one argument that Andrew McCarthy mentioned and endorsed. He notes Professor Jonathan Adler’s argument — made before him by Justice Harry Blackmun in Roe itself — that other references to “persons” in the Constitution do not have prenatal applications. Hence, goes the argument, unborn children are not persons to whom the Constitution guarantees the equal protection of the laws.

I think this is mistaken reasoning. Several constitutional references to “persons” are extremely unlikely to refer to young children, either, but this does not mean they are not persons entitled to the protection of the laws. The main way the law could recognize that unborn children are persons would be to extend to them protections against homicide, as the law increasingly did when the amendment was ratified.

A longer response to Adler ran on NRO.

Elections

Is Quinnipiac at It Again?

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Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock speaks to labor organizers and the media outside a labor union’s offices in Atlanta, Ga. January 5, 2021. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

Earlier this week, incumbent Senate Democrat Raphael Warnock of Georgia received what appeared to be good news, when Quinnipiac’s new poll showed him ahead of Republican Herschel Walker, 52 percent to 46 percent.

The thing is, back in 2020, Quinnipiac’s final poll in Georgia, conducted in mid October, showed Biden ahead by seven points; Jon Ossoff ahead of incumbent Senator David Perdue by six points, 51 percent to 45 percent; and Warnock well ahead in a three-way race, with 41 percent against Republican Doug Collins (22 percent) and Republican Kelly Loeffler (20 percent).

Biden won Georgia by three-tenths of a percentage point, and both Ossoff and Warnock went to runoffs. On Election Day, Purdue finished with 49.7 percent, Ossoff finished with 47.9 percent. Warnock finished with 32.9 percent, Loeffler with 25.9 percent, and Collins with 20 percent; only Warnock and Loeffler advanced to the runoff.

In other words, Quinnipiac’s final look at the Georgia electorate included too many Democratic-leaning demographics and too few Republican-leaning demographics. (This may well reflect that Republican-leaning demographics are less likely to answer the phone and answer questions from a pollster.) A similar phenomenon was at work next door in South Carolina, where, three times, Quinnipiac’s surveys showed a tied race between incumbent Republican senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. On election day, Graham won, 55 percent to 44 percent. Sometimes, Quinnipiac just misses in a southern state . . . by quite a bit.

Maybe Quinnipiac has improved its sense of which Georgians are actually going to vote in November. This poll comes out to 33 percent self-identified Republicans, 33 percent self-identified Democrats, and 26 percent self-identified independents. The other 7 percent were other, didn’t know, didn’t say, or refused to answer.

In the 2020 exit polls, 38 percent of Georgia voters identified as Republican, 34 percent identified as Democrat, and 28 percent identified as independent. In the 2018 exit polls, 33 percent of Georgia voters identified as Republican, 37 percent identified as Democrat, and 30 percent identified as independent.

This new poll showing Warnock up is an outlier compared to other recent polls; the last polls showing the Democrat with a comparable lead were in mid t0 late July.

The safer bet is that Georgia’s Senate race is still very close — a virtual coin flip between Warnock and Walker.

World

Monarchs, Up Close and Personal

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King George VI and Princess Elizabeth in the gardens at Windsor Castle, England, July 8, 1946 (Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa / Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Impromptus today begins with Queen Elizabeth II, and other kings and queens. “She was above politics,” people are saying of Elizabeth. I thought of King Leka, the pretender to the Albanian throne. I had an encounter with him in 2005. He was heading a political party — and this was Election Day. “Have you voted?” I asked him. He said, “I don’t vote. I am above all political parties, even my own.”

My column has a variety of items, as usual. To see it, go here.

For my latest Q&A podcast, go here. It is with David Pryce-Jones. We talk about Queen Elizabeth — and about her father, George VI. In 1942 or ’43, when David was six or seven, he met the King at Buckingham Palace. David’s grandfather, Harry Pryce-Jones, a professional soldier, was receiving the Order of the Bath. This was in the middle of the war, of course.

There were various soldiers and pilots receiving awards from the King. Many of these men were in bad shape: on stretchers and in wheelchairs; with burned faces and missing limbs. David believes he remembers a Pole, weeping. It was explained to David, “He has lost his country.”

King George patted David on the head. He said something like, “Glad to have you here. There are lots of interesting things to see in this palace. I hope you have a good time.”

David next “saw” the King, so to speak, when he observed the King’s funeral procession. This was in 1952, at Windsor. David was in school, at Eton College. They lined the route. The King’s coffin was being carried on a gun carriage, with the King’s crown on top of the coffin. The slope was steep — and the men in charge of the carriage lost control of the carriage. It began to move on its own, gathering speed. And the crown fell off the coffin — right in front of David.

Another boy saved the day: He caught the crown. That was Mike Naylor-Leyland. It was a good thing he caught it, too, because if the crown had hit the ground, it would have been damaged, and that would have been taken as a bad omen.

For his act — his catch, his save — young Naylor-Leyland was given an award: an MVO, i.e., Member of the (Royal) Victorian Order.

Two years later, it’s 1954, and David Pryce-Jones is 18, doing his military service. He attends the Grand National, the horserace, at Aintree, in Greater Liverpool. He is with his friend Edward Cazalet, the son of Peter Cazalet, a royal horse-trainer. They are in the box of Lord Sefton, the owner of Aintree. So is the Queen (a smashing woman in her late twenties).

Suddenly, the Queen beckons David. Handing him a five-pound note, she asks David to place a bet on a horse. David needs to go down a spiral staircase, which is difficult to negotiate. He finally reaches a bookie, who refuses to take the bet — because the race has already started. David thinks: What if the Queen’s horse wins? I will have to pay her a very large sum of money. And I don’t have it. He goes to a second bookie — “less honest,” as David says — who takes the bet.

At any rate, the Queen’s horse fell at the third fence.

There is more in this podcast. David Pryce-Jones discusses royalty and its meaning, for Britons and others. But the stories are special, and to hear them in DPJ’s own voice is more special yet. Again, to listen, go here.

Education

Here’s a Remaining Island of Academic Rigor

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Much of American education has been dumbed down over the last 50 years. Less learning is expected of students, and yet grades keep rising.

There are, however, some exceptions. In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Clark Ross of Davidson discusses one of them: the Advanced Placement (AP) economics exam. He points out that the AP course and the first-year college course ought to be academically equivalent. Some people say that the AP courses are generally weaker, however, and that’s why colleges often decline to give students credit even when they get high scores on their AP exams.

Ross observes that college courses have been getting less rigorous over time and that the AP exam is more rigorous. He writes, “I directed one such colloquium for AP economics in Philadelphia in March 2014, and the college faculty present were quite surprised by the content taught and the degree of rigor expected in student answers. Specifically, in AP microeconomics, they were surprised that the course included such topics as elasticity calculations (including cross-price and income elasticity), increasing cost industries in perfect competition, and monopsony in the labor market. Very few college introductory courses will go into all of these nuanced topics.”

Ross also praises the College Board (creator of the AP exams) for updating AP economics with contemporary topics that aren’t always found in college courses.

He concludes, “The publicly released curricula for AP economics courses are rigorous and in the vanguard of economics teaching. Indeed, they are likely ahead of the majority of undergraduate economics courses in certain respects. In sum, the AP economics system is well-designed and trustworthy. Many introductory college courses have some catching up to do.”

Elections

2022 Matters a Lot for the Long-Term Pro-Life Cause

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Signs at the Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Ramesh is sanguine about the impact on the pro-life cause of an underwhelming showing for Republicans this fall compared with the high expectations that prevailed in June: “A political setback for Republicans will be a rout for pro-lifers as well only if one or more of the following happen: 1) Republicans do so poorly and their defeats are blamed so widely on the abortion issue that the party capitulates on the issue; or 2) Republicans do so poorly that Democrats can pass a sweeping abortion-rights bill at the federal level.” I am more concerned about the first of these possibilities.

Elections matter in America for two reasons: one is because they decide who can wield power, and the other is because they are interpreted as statements by the voting public. It is the latter function that will be much contested in 2022, and why it might end up being The Most Important Election for pro-lifers.

Narratives about elections are more powerful when multiple factions have a common incentive to interpret them the same way. If Republicans underperform in 2022, there will be three distinct groups bent on reading the tea leaves as proof that voters rejected Dobbs and do not want pro-life policy:

  1. Democrats, liberals, and progressives. They of course would like nothing more than to conclude that they have discovered a perennially winning political position in taking a maximalist pro-abortion position everywhere on every aspect of the issue. They will be highly motivated to spin any and all victories as a Dobbs backlash.
  2. Squishy Republicans and conservatives, perhaps including not only Beltway political consultants and veteran elected officials but also Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices, most notably Chief Justice Roberts. Some of these folks have never believed in the pro-life cause, and others have never wanted to fight over it or any other major cultural issue. Their case within the party, and within the courts as well, will be strengthened by any perception that Dobbs was a loser at the ballot box.
  3. Donald Trump and his die-hard defenders. Some of these folks are quite pro-life, and some are not; but having invested heavily in picking a series of sketchy nominees in Republican primaries, if those nominees disproportionately fail in November, Trump’s defenders will have an enormous incentive to shift the blame (witness their obsession with blaming the two Senate losses in Georgia on Mitch McConnell and resistance to cutting more COVID checks, rather than on Trump’s campaign to sow mistrust of Georgia’s electoral process). Their loudest spokespeople are likely to join the Democrats in blaming Dobbs in order to deflect blame from Trump.

Whether any of this is true could end up being beside the point, if people within the two parties come to a common conclusion that drives the behavior of people in power and people who run campaigns. Anyone who cares about the pro-life cause should approach 2022 accordingly.

Politics & Policy

Protecting the Unborn: The Case for Federal Action

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A pro-life demonstrator holds a sign outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2022. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Contributors to this fair Corner have been debating whether the federal government has the constitutional power to prohibit abortion for pretty much its entire history. So I wasn’t surprised that our editorial endorsing a federal ban on abortions after 15 weeks would generate dissent. I am a little surprised at some of the forms that dissent has taken. Rather than respond in detail to each of my colleagues individually — here’s Andrew McCarthy, Charles Cooke, Andy again, Philip Klein, and, on the side of truth and righteousness, Alexandra DeSanctis – I’ll address what I see as their main points.

Let’s start with a brief sketch of the constitutional argument for a congressional power to prohibit abortion.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution obviously grants powers to the federal government, and specifically to Congress (Sec. 5), that it had not previously had. Those powers include enforcing (Sec. 5 again) the guarantee that all states supply equal protection of the law to all persons (Sec. 1).

What does “equal protection of the law” mean in historical context? Here’s how two originalists recently summed up what they (correctly, as far as I can tell) say that “much modern scholarship suggests”: The equal-protection clause “stated a . . . limited principle about equality in the protection of the laws: ‘those activities of government that secure primary rights against invasion,’ per Blackstone’s description” (emphasis in original, footnotes omitted). As another originalist puts it, the clause concerns “the right to protection from violence and the right to a remedy.”

Assuming that unborn children are persons, states that permit elective abortion are denying some persons the right to protection from lethal violence. If Congress may legitimately find that unborn children qualify as “persons” who deserve the protection of the laws it is supposed to safeguard — see here for a brief that makes that case and indeed goes further — then Congress has the constitutional power to act to remedy states’ dereliction and may even have a constitutional duty to act where possible. See also this law-review article arguing similarly.

One may agree or disagree with this argument. None of my colleagues here attempts to rebut it — which is understandable, perhaps, given that the editorial merely alluded to it in passing. Instead they offer various reasons for dismissing any argument that yields the result that Congress may act against abortion. Presumably this view entails thinking that Congress should repeal or the Supreme Court should strike down the federal law against partial-birth abortion.

The proffered reasons for dismissal? The argument that the equal-protection clause implies a federal power to restrict abortion is, according to my colleagues, a betrayal of originalism, a “fringe theory,” and a “bait-and-switch.” None of this should, I think, give conservatives any pause.

The argument is an example of originalism rather than a departure from it. The argument starts with the constitutional text and attempts a historical recovery of its meaning and an application to a current issue. Perhaps it is an unsuccessful originalist argument, but that would require a showing that none of my colleagues (again, perhaps understandably) has even tried to make.

It is every bit as originalist as other arguments that conservatives regularly advance. The argument that Congress can’t delegate its power to impose tariffs to a president, which Cooke embraces, has less going for it: The textual implication is weaker, the historical evidence murkier. It’s no less originalist, or mainstream, than McCarthy’s argument that states have primary authority over immigration policy.

In the run-up to the 2012 Obamacare case, nearly all conservatives insisted that the federal government has no power to mandate purchase of health insurance. Four and a half justices ended up agreeing. They were right to do so, even though the best originalist argument for their position rested on an inference from assertions and silences in the Constitution rather than on a specific constitutional provision such as the equal-protection clause. For that matter, the argument for judicial review itself can’t be pinned in an obvious way to any specific provision of the Constitution.

As for the idea that taking federal action against abortion is a “bait and switch”: That accusation picks out some pieces of pro-life political rhetoric and gives them a maximalist spin while ignoring a lot of other pro-life talk and action. The argument that the 14th Amendment authorizes pro-life laws is not a recent invention. The Republican platform has declared that “we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children” in every presidential election starting in 1984. The 20-week abortion limit passed by the House of Representatives in 20132015, and again in 2017 explicitly cited the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment as a source of constitutional authority to protect the lives of unborn children. A real bait and switch would be for congressional Republicans to abandon legislation they have almost unanimously supported.

Nor is the federal time limit the first example of Republican legislation to provide federal protection to unborn human beings. It took more than a decade of (very nearly unanimous) conservative effort to pass a federal ban on partial-birth abortion and then defend it in court. (The theory that it unconstitutionally intrudes on state authority over abortion has never so much as generated a case; perhaps we should call it “fringe”?)

It’s true that conservatives often said of abortion that the Supreme Court should “return it to the states.” The Court had illegitimately blocked states’ laws against abortion and we rightly urged it to get out of the way. Rarely, though, did any conservative make the mistaken claim that the Constitution says abortion is an exclusively state matter. (The Republican platform denied any such thing.) And abortion policy would remain largely a state matter, in practice, even if Congress enacted a 15-week ban. “There would be much looser abortion laws in, say, Massachusetts and New York than in Alabama or Mississippi,” just as Klein says there should be.

For Klein, there are “federalist principles” separate from the constitutional argument. There may indeed be some good reasons to avoid federal action even in an area where the Constitution allows it, and he mentions one, the possibility that state-by-state debate will be less divisive than a federal one. But that’s not really a principle. It’s a consideration, weaker and stronger depending on circumstance, and defeasible by other considerations. I think it is a weak one here — it is not at all obvious to me that our country will find arguing about a 15-week federal ban more divisive than we find arguing about state abortion laws (and, for that matter, proposals for federal pro-abortion laws). And the considerations on the other side, notably the human rights of unborn children, are very weighty.

I’ll finish by returning to the issue of consistency and rhetoric. Nearly everyone now accepts that following the Reconstruction Amendments, the federal government has an important role in protecting basic rights — even though there are important disagreements about the scope of those rights and of the permissible federal actions. That was the point of the comment in the editorial — about the federal government’s “undoubted” role in protecting civil rights — that so exercised my colleagues. The pro-life movement has as a loudly advertised bedrock conviction that abortion is a denial of basic human rights, with many calling it the civil-rights issue of our time. It would be decidedly odd if pro-lifers believed the right to life of unborn children to be fundamental, believed that the federal government should protect rights, and yet balked at a federal role in fighting this massive rights violation. Especially without any good grounds for rejecting that role.

National Review

What If the Democrats Win the Midterms?

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(Jim Watson/Getty Images)

For most of the last year, Republicans have been not-so-quietly confident that the midterms will bring forth a massive red tsunami. In this thinking, the inexorable result of rising inflation, general dissatisfaction with congressional Democratic flailing, and the crushing unpopularity of Joe Biden would sweep the GOP back into power.

But what if it doesn’t?

The generic congressional ballot has now been tightening for six weeks, Republican campaigns and committees have found themselves short of cash, and the GOP is visibly struggling to regain the traction that seemed to come so naturally this spring.

As John McCormack reports in the new issue of National Review, some analysts such as Dave Wasserman with the Cook Political Report think the Democrats now have about a one-in-four chance to hold the House. Combined with a number of toss-up Senate races, the chances of another two years of unified Democratic control of the federal government are suddenly a very real possibility.

“With a House majority and 52 Senate seats,” McCormack writes, “Democrats would have the votes to gut the Senate’s legislative filibuster — the long-standing 60-vote rule for passing most legislation. They would no longer need to seek bipartisan support on any matter, and they would no longer be constrained by the moderating influence of Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.”

If you thought it was frustrating when all that stood between America and trillions of dollars of new spending was a wobbly Joe Manchin, just wait until the Democrats no longer need his vote.

From abortion, to gun control, to H.R. 1 — the Democrats’ 791-page behemoth of a bill that amounts to a federal takeover of elections — don’t expect an empowered Democratic caucus to take the moderate path.

Why not? Because today’s Democrats aren’t your father’s Democrats.

“Joe Biden leads a party that is more left-wing than either Bill Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s,” Matt Continetti writes in his essay “The Woke and the Restless.” “Take, for example, the growth of the Congressional Progressive Caucus”:

Six Democratic House members launched it in 1991. Bernie Sanders was its first chairman. Today the caucus has more than 100 members, including Senator Sanders. It is the second-largest caucus in the Congress (after the conservative Republican Study Committee) and outnumbers the pro-business New Democrat Coalition.

Dobbs changed the political environment by energizing the Democrats’ left-wing activists base. And the result, Continetti writes, “has moved inflation, border security, and CRT off the front page.”

If the Democratic coalition is energized and its Republican counterpart is subdued, a coalition of “college-educated white voters behind pro-choice candidates” could “prevent a Republican takeover of the Senate.”

You’d better buckle up, America.

Elsewhere in this issue, do read the stirring tribute to Queen Elizabeth II by John O’Sullivan, “The Queen Lays Down Her Burden.”

“Elizabeth the Second of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been the sovereign for the entire life of anyone under the age of 70,” John writes. “It’s said that the number of British subjects she met in her reign amounted to about a third of the U.K. population. It sounds unlikely but not impossible. For I met her twice — once when she visited the offices of the Daily Telegraph in the year of her Silver Jubilee, another time when I received a decoration from her after serving in government.”

We didn’t know it when we made plans to send Maddy Kearns across the pond to report on Liz Truss rising to be the new Conservative prime minister, but Maddy would be in London when the Queen died.

“The change in Britain’s new political era came at dizzying speed,” Maddy writes in “Change and Decay.” “On Tuesday, Boris Johnson and his successor, Liz Truss, had been summoned to Balmoral Castle in Scotland by Queen Elizabeth II, a constitutional necessity for the transition of the office of prime minister. Few had any idea it was to be her final act of service.”

The next few years will be difficult and challenging, and Truss must make the hard choices and change course from the Boris years because, as Maddy writes, “under recent leadership, the Tory Party has not been reliably conservative.”

If you’re a subscriber, you already have access to read the new issue here.

If you’re not already a subscriber, please consider signing up for NRPlus. Right now, you can get an incredible 60 percent off the newsstand price if you sign up for a digital membership (just $40) or the print-and-digital NRPlus bundle — just 52 bucks for a year’s online access and 24 issues in your mailbox.

From Charlie Cooke on student-loan forgiveness to Ari Schulman’s epic reexamination of the Covid era to Ross Douthat’s review of Three Thousand Years of Longing, each issue of National Review is a movable feast.

Check it out here.

Politics & Policy

Will Progressives Have the Last Laugh as They Kick Joe Manchin Around?

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) leads a group of legislators to introduce a bill to ban Russian energy imports at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 3, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Senator Joe Manchin may have hoped he would repair relations with congressional progressives by signing on to their mammoth clean-energy bill last month.

Instead, progressives are aiming to torpedo the pro–federal energy permitting provision of the deal that Manchin used as a fig leaf to justify his flip-flop. Senator Bernie Sanders and House progressives are furiously opposed to anything that would promote oil and gas production. They vow that looser permitting won’t be part of any short-term government funding bill this month.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell agrees, telling reporters, “The real permitting-reform bill is Shelley Moore Capito’s.” That would be Manchin’s fellow senator from West Virginia, who was kept in the dark about Manchin’s version of the permitting provision. Few Republicans are likely to reach out and help Manchin.

House progressives are even more of a danger to Manchin’s bill. About 70 Democrats are urging Speaker Pelosi to keep Manchin’s bill separate from any government-funding measure. They dismiss Manchin’s bill as a “fossil fuel wish list” that would perpetrate “environmental racism.”

Should Manchin see his permitting provision go down, he will have given up his leverage for nothing. He is already persona non grata with West Virginia voters, with a new poll showing him with a 26 percent approval rating. His odds of winning statewide again are pathetic, given his narrow three-point victory in 2018.

Perhaps that’s why other senators are speculating that Manchin is eyeing the post of ambassador to Italy as his reward for saving President Biden’s energy pork barrel.

World

Lavrov Gets Visa for U.N. Meeting, but the U.S. Snubs Other Russian Officials

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The State Department granted a Russian delegation led by foreign minister Sergei Lavrov 24 of the 56 visas it had requested to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Reuters reported:

The United States has given Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a visa to travel to New York for the United Nations’ annual gathering of world leaders next week with half the delegation Moscow requested, a Russian diplomatic source said on Tuesday.

Moscow had asked Washington for 56 visas, according to a Sept. 2 letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres from Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. The Russian diplomatic source said on Tuesday the United States had approved 24 visas.

Nebenzia had also noted in his letter that the flight crew for Lavrov’s plane had not received visas. It was not immediately clear if Washington had granted visas for the Russian flight crew or if Lavrov would be expected to fly commercial airlines to New York.

Prior to the State Department’s issuing the visas, Lavrov had complained that Washington was not behaving correctly.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov alleged that the U.S. has violated its obligations as the United Nations’ host country by denying the other Russian officials visas, according to a state media report. Peskov added that the foreign ministry “is taking certain steps” in response.

Law & the Courts

DOJ Refuses to Release Its Plan to Implement Biden’s Voting Initiative

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A voter walks with her ballot during early voting in Brooklyn, N.Y., October 25, 2021. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Despite a court-imposed September 8 deadline, the Justice Department has failed to produce its strategic plan to implement President Biden’s directive regarding voter registration and participation.

On March 7, 2021, Biden issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to submit within 200 days their plans to promote voter participation. This directive, EO 14019, was premised on the fiction that “many Americans, including people of color, confront significant obstacles to exercising that fundamental right” (to vote). The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), the public-interest group that filed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking disclosure from the DOJ, says there has been no explanation from Main Justice for its resistance to release relevant documents.

In a lawsuit it filed shortly after the directive, FGA noted the observation of many congressional Republicans that EO 14019 bore a striking resemblance to “a federal election takeover plan crafted by the radical left-leaning group known as Demos.” This plan, the lawmakers said, “called for the weaponization of the DOJ” for the purpose of imposing federal standards on the states. To attempt this in light of the fact that the Constitution essentially commits elections to the states is worrisome enough. But here, Biden is attempting to proceed by federal executive fiat, under circumstances in which the Constitution reserves only to Congress the prerogative of altering states’ election procedures.

This summer, a federal court ordered the Justice Department to respond well in advance of the midterm elections, and imposed a September 8 deadline for the production of documents. FGA reports that DOJ has turned over some heavily redacted documents but has refused to disclose its 15-page strategic plan.

FGO’s Tarren Bragdon asks why DOJ is “treating these documents like they are classified information dealing with nuclear weapons?”

Obviously, given the failure of Democrats — despite control of both congressional chambers — to legislatively enact their attempted federal takeover of elections, Biden–administration officials will try to impose their progressive wish list by lawless executive action. Indeed, they have recently endeavored this in erasing student debt: another policy that lawmakers accountable to voters could not bring themselves to enact.

The Justice Department’s job is to uphold federal election law. It is antithetical to the Justice Department’s duty to participate in a partisan political initiative in favor of some voters over others. Attorney General Merrick Garland owes the public a comprehensive disclosure of any DOJ plan to implement Biden’s dubious executive order.

Woke Culture

Trans Journalist Posts ‘I Condone Any/All Violence’ Alongside Pictures of His Critics

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Dawn Ennis during an online meeting (Keystone Strategy/Screengrab via YouTube)

Readers of National Review may remember this trans activist from his altercation with Kellie Jay Keen at the NCAA swim championships.

His name is Dawn (formerly Don) Ennis. He lived 49 years unambiguously as a man, marrying a woman and fathering three children, before deciding he wanted to play-act being a woman. The New York Daily News reported how, three months after leaving his wife in 2014, “Dawn showed up at work as Don again,” later claiming to have “suffered from amnesia,” and accusing “his wife of dressing him in a wig and creating a fake ID card with the name ‘Dawn’ on it.” Later, Don went back to calling himself Dawn. His ex-wife has since died. As if the poor woman didn’t suffer enough, he now claims that he is their children’s mother.

Ennis is a freelance writer for Forbes, the Daily Beast, and a number of other publications. In a recent piece for the Los Angeles Blade (later published in Forbes), Ennis targeted Chloe Cole — a teen detransitioner who had a double mastectomy at age 15 — claiming that “while there have been exceptions for some 15, 16 and 17-year-olds, most surgeons won’t operate on anyone younger than 18.” (Forbes has since retracted the piece.)

The Libs of TikTok Twitter account highlighted the absurdity of this, writing: “‘Minors aren’t getting “gender affirming” surgery except for when they are.’ Just incredible journalism.”

Ennis then changed his Twitter cover photo to a collage of pictures of Libs of TikTok, Chloe Cole, and of the American journalist Andy Ngo having just been assaulted, under a banner that read: “I condone any/all violence.”

Ennis has since changed the banner to something else. Still, the double standard here is incredible. Ennis posted something that appeared to incite violence towards an Asian American and two women. Other straight white men have been canceled for much less.

National Security & Defense

Bipartisan Opposition to a New Iran Deal Continues to Grow

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(Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

U.S. and Israeli officials suggest that Washington’s potential return to the nuclear agreement with Iran is unlikely to take place before America’s midterms and Israel’s latest round of elections, as the talks appear to remain gridlocked over Tehran’s demands. But this doesn’t mean that the talks are dead.

Although it seemed that American and Iranian negotiators had resolved the differences that, in March, had hindered an imminent conclusion to the talks, the two sides have now traded proposals and counter-proposals for weeks. An EU–backed proposal that had been expected to break the logjam has apparently failed to do so.

Iran–deal opponents in Washington and Jerusalem predict that the talks won’t yield an agreement until after the elections in November. “I don’t think there’s any chance the agreement will be announced before our election, or the Israeli election [set for November 1], because the politics of this agreement are probably not good in either place,” Senator Lindsey Graham said in an interview with Jewish Insider last week. He added, however, that he thinks there will ultimately be a deal, since the Biden administration has signaled its high interest in getting one.

Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz put it bluntly during a conference in Tel Aviv today. “The Iran nuclear deal seems like it is in the ER room,” he said, adding that “there’s a period maybe after the elections, we’ll see how it goes.” His optimism on the talks follows an intensive diplomatic push by Israeli officials in recent weeks to convince Biden officials of the dangers of a potential agreement.

Still, amid heightened Iranian assassination threats targeting U.S. officials, and Tehran’s sale of Iranian drones to assist Moscow’s war effort, the White House has stayed the course, declining to withdraw from the negotiation process. It will likely fall on members of Congress of both parties to throw up roadblocks that would make a U.S. return to the nuclear deal untenable.

In a sign that the administration might face noteworthy bipartisan opposition to its march towards a deal, 52 lawmakers of both parties wrote to President Biden to ask that he deny Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi a visa to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York City this month. Their letter, sent last week, tied Raisi’s attendance to Iran’s ongoing terrorism campaign against U.S. citizens:

It is unacceptable that the Iranian government continues to back state-sponsored terrorist activities around the globe, including campaigns to assassinate American officials. The Department of Justice recently announced charges against a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for planning to assassinate former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Additionally in 2019, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Ebrahim Raisi for his role in oppressing Iranian civilians and promoting terrorism abroad, pursuant to Executive Order 13876.

And this morning, Fox reported that another bipartisan group is introducing legislation intended to increase the pressure of sanctions on the Iranian regime:

The bill would require the “imposition of sanctions with respect to Iran’s illicit weapons programs, conventional weapons and ballistic missile development, and support for terrorism, including Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.”

Current co-sponsors include Reps. Susie Lee, D-Nev.; Grace Meng, D-N.Y.; Angie Craig, D-Minn.; Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J.; Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; Maria Salazar, R-Fla.; Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla.; Randy Weber, R-Texas; and Mike Waltz, R-Fla.

Politics & Policy

‘In Defense of Lindsey Graham’

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I wrote about Graham’s proposal for Politico today:

Boy, did Lindsey Graham step in it.

The South Carolina senator proposed a national restriction on abortion that has popular support and that could represent a defensible consensus GOP position.

For this, he’s being portrayed as a political incompetent who has needlessly endangered his party’s prospects in the midterms.

It’s certainly true that any hope of rallying Republicans was quickly dashed as they, once again, scattered in panic and confusion like a herd of antelope after a big cat shows up at the watering hole. But that reaction is another sign of how badly the party needs to find an incrementalist position on abortion where it can plant its flag, and then focus its fire on the vulnerabilities of the other side.

Law & the Courts

Nature Attacks SCOTUS as Anti-Science

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The sun sets on the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., January 26, 2022. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Last month I criticized the prestigious journal Science for pushing ideological progressivism and attacking the Supreme Court’s conservative rulings — as if its authors’ and editors’ subjective beliefs and policy preferences are the same thing as supporting objective science.

Not to be outdone in conflating leftism with “science,” the British journal Nature — perhaps the world’s most respected “scientific” publication — has similarly attacked SCOTUS based on the wrongheaded idea that progressive policy preferences are somehow synonymous with good science. From “Inside the Supreme Court’s War on Science,” by Nature’s U. S. correspondent Jeff Tollefson:

In late June, the US Supreme Court issued a trio of landmark decisions that repealed the right to abortion, loosened gun restrictions and curtailed climate regulations. Although the decisions differed in rationale, they share a distinct trait: all three dismissed substantial evidence about how the court’s rulings would affect public health and safety. It is a troubling trend that many scientists fear could undermine the role of scientific evidence in shaping public policy. Now, as the court prepares to consider a landmark case on electoral policies, many worry about the future of American democracy itself.

Issues such as abortion, gun regulations, and yes, even what to do about climate change are not matters that can be determined objectively by science but involve many different disciplines and possible approaches that policy-makers have to balance. For example, whether abortion should be permitted through the ninth month of pregnancy, as much of the pro-choice Left wants, or strictly curtailed, as many on the pro-life side want, or something in between, is a question based primarily on issues of morality, ideology, philosophy, ethics, and religion. Science per se cannot answer the question.

Tollefson seems particularly troubled by the Supreme Court’s recent rulings impeding the growth of the administrative state:

In September 2021, the court tossed out a moratorium on housing evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic that had been issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in January, the justices rejected a mask mandate for major employers issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But the conservative majority went one step further in West Virginia v. EPA, and laid out a new legal test: the ‘major questions’ doctrine, which posits that agencies need explicit permission from Congress when implementing major rules.

Please. The regulation imposed to prevent evictions was not a scientific question and, moreover, was clearly beyond the CDC’s jurisdiction. Neither was the West Virginia ruling, which in my subjective opinion — which is as valid as any scientist’s on a nonscientific question — upholds democracy by requiring Congress to explicitly delegate policy-making power to executive-branch bureaucrats.

But that kind of democratic oversight is precisely what Tollefson objects to. He — and presumably Nature‘s editors — want a system of rule by experts, e.g., technocracy:

The problem, says Blake Emerson, who studies administrative law at the University of California, Los Angeles, is that the civil service is precisely where science enters government. That’s by design: Congress does not have the expertise or the political capacity to craft detailed regulations, so lawmakers pass broadly worded laws that are often intentionally vague, leaving the details up to the experts. Now, those experts are at risk of getting squeezed from both sides — being stripped of authority and becoming more vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

Yes, heaven forbid that elected officials interfere with the policy preferences that unelected “experts” want to impose on society. Good grief.

Tollefson then wanders into the question of state gerrymandering, again not an issue of scientific concern. And like the Science article referenced above, he voices support for stacking the Court to increase the likelihood that SCOTUS will issue decisions more to the Left’s political liking.

If anything is a “war on science,” it is publishing ideological articles like this in what is supposed to be a science journal — a trend that seems particularly infectious among establishment medical and scientific outlets. By pushing rank political advocacy that would have been perfectly appropriate in the Nation or Politico — as if the issues discussed were scientific matters — Nature undermined trust in its objectivity as an important institution furthering the dispassionate search for truth.

Education

Transparent Discrimination

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A student and parent pass Widener Library’s banners before Harvard University’s Class Day Exercises in Cambridge, Mass., May 27, 2015. (Dominick Reuter/Reuters )

The evidence adduced in SFFA v. Harvard, presently before the Supreme Court, shows that significant numbers of Asian-American applicants whose objective qualifications merit admission to Harvard are nonetheless rejected in favor of black and Hispanic applicants with markedly inferior qualifications. This phenomenon prevails not just at Harvard but at most schools. Asian and white students seeking admission to “elite” schools typically send out a multitude of applications to improve their odds of admission to at least one.

Although there’s a fairly good probability the Court will hold Harvard’s racially discriminatory admissions policy unlawful, it would be naïve to believe that will be the end of racially discriminatory admissions practices. The imperative to discriminate is profound, and colleges already are preparing for the admissions landscape post-SFFA. For example, to cloak their discrimination, schools increasingly are abandoning use of objective admissions qualifications such as the SAT and are making their admissions processes even more opaque.

Republican opponents of racial discrimination should also prepare in advance of the Court’s decision by requiring college-admissions criteria to be transparent and understandable. Students and parents spend millions of dollars annually on college application fees and the ancillary costs of applying to colleges and graduate schools without having the slightest idea of the particular student’s chances of admission or even how a given school evaluates applicants. Moreover, students and parents spend billions annually on college tuition completely ignorant of the students’ probabilities upon matriculation of graduating or getting jobs as a result of attending their respective colleges. Consumers arguably get more useful information about the effectiveness of a product from the back of a tube of toothpaste than from a college brochure.

Nearly two decades ago, Republicans introduced a bill designed to change that. Titled the “Racial and Ethnic Preference Disclosure Act,” the bill would’ve required institutions of higher learning that receive federal funds to disclose to the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice various items of information related to the use of race, color, and national origin in the admissions process.

Among the items to be disclosed were (1) how much weight its admissions process gives to an applicant’s race, ethnicity, etc.; (2) the probability that a student given preferred consideration on the basis of race or ethnicity will need to enroll in a remediation program; (3) graduation rates for preferred students vs. those of non-preferred students; and (4) the probability that a preferred student will default on student loans.

The bill was, of course, defeated. The opponents of the bill argued that it was unnecessary, asserting that institutions of higher learning would happily provide such information without a government mandate to do so.

That assertion was, to put it politely, wholly unsupported by the facts. The information that would’ve been required by the Disclosure Act is closely guarded by every institution that employs preferences. Indeed, shortly after the Supreme Court decided Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, my counsel sent a survey to 40 colleges requesting much of the same information that would’ve been required under the Disclosure Act. We received no responses whatsoever. Indeed, the general counsels of some of the institutions became apoplectic, contacting the Civil Rights Commission to excoriate my impertinence and ask for an exemption. The Center for Equal Opportunity and the National Association of Scholars also found that getting such information was about as easy as getting the New York Times to print a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

The information required to be disclosed would be valuable to students regardless of race. Non-preferred applicants would know whether their chances of admission at particular schools approach futility; preferred but underqualified applicants could gauge their probabilities of graduating.

As demonstrated by the testimony of UCLA law professor Richard Sander before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in June 2006, this could greatly improve the graduation rates of black law students in particular. Sander identified a profound disconnect between the actual operation of law schools’ preferential admissions policies and how black law students perceive them. Whereas in reality, black law-school applicants are up to 100 times more likely to be admitted than their similarly situated white comparatives, Sander testified,

blacks tend to assume that they are more qualified than their white classmates, because they are so assiduously courted by the schools that admit them. Data from the [Law School Admissions Council Bar Passage Study] show clearly that blacks entering law school had higher expectations for their first-year grades than did whites. [Emphasis added.]

These misconceptions have disastrous effects. They contribute to the tendency of many black students to enroll at schools at which they can’t compete. The result is that, for years, half of black law students have been in the bottom 10 percent of their respective classes and have been more than twice as likely as whites never to graduate. Additionally, evidence then adduced by the Civil Rights Commission showed that more than 50 percent of black law-school matriculants never become lawyers. Even if there’s been some improvement in these figures since the commission’s hearings, they nonetheless signal lots of wasted tuition fees and disrupted career paths.

Disclosure of racial preferences would simply require colleges to do what financial institutions have been required to do for years under provisions such as the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. Law-school applicants would also benefit from knowing bar passage rates and correlations between bar passage rates and GPAs.

Obviously, there’s little chance that a Disclosure Act would pass during a Biden administration. But the ground should be prepped right now. Overwhelming evidence shows that the racial-preference shell game hurts the preferred and the non-preferred, not to mention society at large. Time for some transparency.

Politics & Policy

Remember That Distant Time, Long Ago, When Republicans Supported a Federal Ban on Abortion . . .

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. . . like last year?

Here is a press release from January 27 last year on a 20-week abortion ban.

It wasn’t exactly a controversial measure in the GOP conference:

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), James Risch (R-Idaho), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), and Todd Young (R-Indiana).

Andy, Charlie, and Phil have made various sincere, principled objections to the latest version of the Graham legislation, which he has offered the last four Congresses. Those arguments aren’t available to all the Republicans who were on board with the proposal until the debate got a little more real.

World

The De-Population Bomb

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The sleepy and deserted village of Sanxay, France. (Tim Starke/Getty Images)

 

In 1970, Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich published a famous book, The Population Bomb, in which he predicted a disastrous future for humanity: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” That prediction turned out to be very wrong, and in this interview American Enterprise Institute scholar Nicholas Eberstadt tells how we are in fact heading toward the opposite problem: not enough people. For decades now, many countries have been unable to sustain a population-replacement birth rate, including in Western Europe, South Korea, Japan, and, most ominously, China. The societal and social impacts of this phenomenon are vast. We discuss those with Eberstadt as well as some strategies to avoid them.

Recorded on June 14 at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

Law & the Courts

Addendum to My Dissent: On Equal Protection

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Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., November 10, 2020. (Susan Walsh/Pool via Reuters)

In response to Dissent from NR’s Editorial Favoring Federal Abortion Ban

It has been pointed out to me that, in contending that the only conceivable sources of 14th Amendment federal power to ban abortion were the privileges-or-immunities clause or substantive due process, my post last night omitted the equal-protection clause as a possibility. While others have made this argument, I confess to never having put much stock in it.

Here, I admit my bias: I believe a great deal of mischief has been done by claiming, purportedly based on equal-protection principles, that it is a constitutional wrong to discriminate between categories that can be distinguished on completely rational grounds.

The equal-protection clause requires the state to afford equal protection of the laws to persons. As already noted in my post, our law has always drawn distinctions between born persons and unborn persons — as laid out in some detail in Jonathan Adler’s analysis, to which I linked in my post.

For what it’s worth, I believe Justice Scalia was right in contending that strict scrutiny — the top level of judicial review for state distinctions claimed to violate equal protection — should be reserved only for “fundamental rights” that qualify as “interests traditionally protected by our society.” (That, of course, is beside distinctions based on race and national origin, to which the Court applies 14th Amendment equal protection.) Scalia lamented that the Court preferred a more freewheeling notion of what a “fundamental right” is; that is a big part of why equal protection can be a promiscuous doctrine, as the Left is encouraged to use it to eradicate distinctions based on American tradition.

In any event, I meant no disrespect to the equal-protection argument. I simply have not given it much credence. I may be wrong about its force, but that would mean it had greater potential to be used against constitutional conservatives if we stretch it to categories it has never been understood to cover, in order to justify federal preemption in an area of law traditionally and prudently left to state control.

I would happily support a constitutional amendment protecting the unborn from the moment of conception. I can’t support contorting the Constitution into saying something it doesn’t say. That is something constitutional conservatives spend most of their time fighting against.

Politics & Policy

In Favor of Abortion Federalism

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Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., December 10, 2021. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)

I am with Charlie and Andy, and at odds with our editorial, on Senator Lindsey Graham’s 15-week national abortion ban. Both of them make a strong constitutional case against legislating abortion nationally even if we agree with the underlying policy. But it’s also important to emphasize that leaving matters to the states is a good idea in and of itself, not merely because it’s what the framers of the Constitution outlined.

For decades, in arguing against Roe, conservatives rightly argued not only that it was legally suspect, but that contentious issues such as abortion should be resolved at the state level. The problem with Roe wasn’t merely that it was a gross act of judicial overreach — which it was — but also that it created a one-size-fits-all standard on abortion, rather than a policy that allowed for significant cultural and regional differences.  The general assumption post-Roe was that there would be much looser abortion laws in, say, Massachusetts and New York than in Alabama or Mississippi. The overturning of Roe was, as I put it, the greatest victory in the history of the conservative movement, which involved decades of work. While having a baseline standard of banning abortion at 15 weeks is perfectly sensible and broadly in line with public opinion, the only way to implement any sort of policy and make it last is to do the hard work of making the moral case against abortion and doing so even in the most hostile places — demonstrating the sheer barbarism of what’s happening in, say, Maryland, home to an “all-trimester” clinic that offers abortions up to 34 weeks of gestation.

One of the reasons our politics has become more divisive is that the federal government has usurped too much control over policy matters that are best left to state and local governments, raising the stakes of national politics. Whenever conservatives abandon their commitment to federalism because doing so would advance a preferred policy outcome, they erode their credibility in arguing against federal intervention in other areas, in which they are opposed to the outcome. Should conservatives embrace a 15-week abortion ban, they won’t be able to make federalism arguments against a Democratic standard of abortion on demand throughout pregnancy — or on a host of other national laws that would be better off as state issues.

Any such argument often triggers a response of: Liberals do what they want at the national level, and so conservatives shouldn’t unilaterally disarm when it comes to our priorities. But history has told us that there is always room for the other side to become more extreme. There were many conservatives during the Trump era — as well as Donald Trump himself — arguing for Republicans to blow up the filibuster to pass their agenda when they had unified control. One of the core arguments was that Democrats wouldn’t hesitate to do so the second they took over. But Republicans avoided blowing up the filibuster and Democrats were unable to do so when they took over. Had Republicans pursued an outcome-based approach then, we’d be much worse off now.

Conservatives would be much better served by firmly adhering to federalist principles, even when it means they don’t always get the outcome they want.

Elections

Upside-Down Gubernatorial Election in Illinois

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Left: Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker in 2020. Right: Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters; Campaign ad image via YouTube)

One Midwestern state’s gubernatorial race is starting to look like Bizarro World

During the past few decades in politics, we’ve come to expect Republicans to be more pro-Israel, and often more philosemitic, than their Democratic counterparts. Yet Darren Bailey, the incendiary Republican nominee for governor in Illinois, seems intent on breaking with this.

Last weekend, Bailey met with representatives of the Palestinian community and indicated that he dislikes the state’s first-of-its-kind 2015 law that punishes those who boycott Israel in the manner favored by the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Opposing anti-BDS legislation as a matter of policy or on constitutional grounds is a legitimate position to hold. While I would contend that anti-BDS statutes are by and large constitutional and don’t run afoul of First Amendment speech protections, there is further reason to worry. Bailey made his comments about anti-BDS legislation from a lectern in front of a map of the Levant in which the entirety of Israel’s borders has been erased, with Palestine in their stead.

Moreover, Bailey’s remarks come on the heels of another scandal in which it emerged that he once claimed the Holocaust “doesn’t even compare” to abortion. Everyone, especially pro-lifers, should be appalled by this sort of hyperbolic rhetoric. As Illinois house Republican leader Jim Durkin put it, “the Holocaust was one of the worst atrocities in the history of humankind, and any comments that minimize it have no place in our political discourse.” Also noteworthy: Bailey’s sole congressional endorsement is Mary Miller, the ignominious Illinois congresswoman who claimed Adolf Hitler “was right on one thing”: that “he who has the youth has the future.” (She later apologized for the reference.) 

Even if one attributes these decisions and comments to poor judgment rather than malicious antisemitism, they highlight that Bailey is not the best candidate Republicans could have put forth to unseat an atrocious governor, J. B. Pritzker, in deep-blue Illinois, especially considering the incumbent’s genuine, albeit limited, pro-Israel track record

Bailey’s candidacy is yet another example of a Trump endorsee to which the former president was drawn because of fealty to him rather than general-election viability. Democrats’ incredibly cynical intervention in the Republican primary likely helped Bailey, but 45’s endorsement did more than anything else to put him over the edge. Trump’s prioritization of himself over the interests of the GOP has been a constant theme this primary season, a trend that dates back to the early days of his candidacy. His self-serving primary picks only underscore Republicans’ deal with the devil. If the Party of Lincoln wants to win in places like the Land of Lincoln again, it must dispense with the Donald as its de facto leader.

With MAGA Candidates, the Democrats Embrace High-Stakes Risk

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Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano speaks at a protest against the state’s extended stay-at-home order in Harrisburg, Pa., April 20, 2020. (Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters)

In my perfect world, the Overton window would run from about . . . Ted Cruz to Amy Klobuchar — from pretty darn conservative to the center-left, steering the country in a center-right direction. Oh, Congress could have some hard lefties, preferably of the Russ Feingold wonky variety and less of the AOC celebrity variety, and I’m fine with idiosyncratic figures who don’t always fit an easy mold like Justin Amash or Rand Paul or Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. People with different life experiences see the world differently, and sometimes they’ll see something that you just miss. There are

Law & the Courts

Another Dissent from NR’s Editorial Favoring Federal Abortion Ban

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(zimmytws/iStock/Getty Images)

I’m with Andy, not the editors, on the constitutionality of the federal regulation of abortion. Andy writes:

The editors proclaim, “We are persuaded that the undoubted federal power to defend basic civil rights under the 14th Amendment” does the trick. Count me out of the “we,” for I harbor significant doubts.

The “who would dare doubt this” appeal is surprising to find in our pages. Until about five minutes ago, the protection of abortion itself was “undoubted” because progressives were haughtily confident that no one would call them on their dearth of constitutional mooring. I fear my colleagues go with “undoubted” because they don’t want to say aloud what this implicitly means: They believe the supposed federal power to regulate abortion is a matter of substantive due process. It’s just that, unlike progressives, they undertake to accomplish a limited ban rather than make it available on demand.

I hope that we are not going to see conservatives replace one fringe theory about the connection between abortion and the Constitution with another. I opposed Roe because it was built atop precisely the sort of inchoate, results-driven sophistry that renders constitutions mere political enabling acts. The idea that — actually! — the 14th Amendment permits Congress to pass a federal ban strikes me as being cut from precisely the same cloth as was Roe. That I would personally favor the outcome were such an interpretation to be adopted does not change that one bit.

For the reasons Andy explains well, the originalist argument for the editors’ 14th Amendment claim is so weak as to render the maneuver a veritable bait-and-switch. For 50 years, Roe’s critics argued publicly (and correctly) that the Constitution is silent on the matter of abortion, and that the issue was therefore reserved to the states. And suddenly, with next to no debate on the matter, and with little attempt to build any sort of case, we’re insisting that we are “persuaded” about “undoubted federal power”?

I am not.

Economy & Business

Today in Capital Matters: Shipping Protectionism

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Colin Grabow of the Cato Institute writes against shipping protectionism:

American commercial shipbuilding is in a wretched state. Plagued by high costs and inefficiencies, there is little appetite for the industry’s offerings beyond a diminutive, captive domestic market. Taking note of the industry’s decline, Jerry Hendrix recommends an ambitious agenda of government-funded shipyard construction and subsidies to restore U.S. shipbuilding to its former glory. But we should be skeptical of the rationale for such industrial policy and of its potential to elevate the United States above shipbuilding mediocrity. Doubling down on policies that have not succeeded in the past would be unwise.

Read the whole thing here.