“Russian missile strike hits crowded shopping mall in Ukraine.” What kind of monsters do this? Putin’s monsters do, that’s who. The report from the Associated Press reads,
Russian long-range bombers struck a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine’s central city of Kremenchuk with a missile on Monday, raising fears of what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called an “unimaginable” number of victims in “one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history.”
Zelenskky said that many of the more than 1,000 civilians inside the mall managed to escape. Giant plumes of black smoke, dust and orange flames emanated from the wreckage, with emergency crews rushing in to search broken metal and concrete for victims and put out fires. Onlookers watched in distress at the sight of how an everyday activity such as shopping could turn into a horror.
James Longman of ABC News was at the scene. “Hell on earth,” he said. He also said,
The recovery won’t be of bodies. It is of body parts. This is horrific. I’ve just seen a torso with one arm attached brought out on a piece of canvas. The dazed look of the recovery teams wondering which way to go with it.
Here is some more from the AP report:
Zelenskyy said the mall presented “no threat to the Russian army” and had “no strategic value.” He accused Russia of sabotaging “people’s attempts to live a normal life, which make the occupiers so angry.”
That is exactly right. Exactly right.
“War is hell,” people say, and it surely is. And I know that what is taking place in Ukraine is a war, in that two militaries are contesting. But, to many of us, the word “war” does not quite suffice. We are looking at a murderous assault by a dictatorship — Russia’s — on a people — Ukraine’s. Consider: Not a single hair on a civilian head in Russia is threatened. Not one. But every Ukrainian, apparently, is a target. This is stark asymmetry.
What kind of people murder innocents as they shop in a mall? Or stand in a bread line, waiting to get food? Or try to evacuate? Putin’s forces do these things, repeatedly.
Last March, President Biden gave a speech in Warsaw, blurting out at the end, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Biden was widely chastised for this — probably rightly. But can’t you understand him? How many more innocents must be blown to bits?
Putin and his regime will live in infamy, and, if there is justice, his many, many apologists and excusers and perfumers in the West will live in the same. Putin is a fitting heir to the Soviet monsters he admired so, and served.
The Senate moved closer to rubber-stamping a controversial Biden nominee as a key committee voted to advance the president’s pick to run the agency that oversees Voice of America and other U.S.-funded media with a global audience in the hundreds of millions.
During a closed-door business session on Thursday, the committee approved Amanda Bennett’s nomination to the CEO post at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, teeing up what could become a controversial fight on the Senate floor. The scandal-plagued agency is sometimes the subject of some of Washington’s fiercest bureaucratic battles.
Bennett, a former director of Voice of America, is seen by some USAGM employees and conservative activists as a staunch champion for liberal causes with a record of mismanagement. Among other things, conservatives were expected to take aim at security lapses she presided over during her tenure at VOA and bizarre editorial decisions that benefitted authoritarian regimes.
Yet, for all the controversy that Biden’s decision to nominate her was expected to cause, Bennett fielded softball questions from senators during her confirmation hearing earlier this month, prompting a House lawmaker, Michael McCaul (R., Texas), to urge Senate Republicans to take a tougher approach.
Although few senators have spoken publicly about her nomination yet, four GOP lawmakers ultimately voted no on Bennett’s nomination last week, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee minority spokesperson told National Review.
The office of one of the four Bennett opponents, Ted Cruz, explained his rationale, saying that the Texas Republican is particularly concerned by Bennett’s “partisanship” and reports that she used “VOA resources to advance her views on illegal immigration.”
“When Senator Cruz asked about some particularly troubling incidents, Bennett either declined to answer or even said she wasn’t clear what was being asked,” the spokesman said, adding, “Senator Cruz does not believe Bennett is appropriate to be Chief Executive Officer of the USAGM.”
During her confirmation hearing last month, Bennett defended her record, saying that she had promoted unbiased editorial standards throughout her career.
In addition to Cruz, Marco Rubio (Florida), Bill Hagerty (Tennesse), and Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) voted no.
Earlier on Thursday, the watchdog group America First Legal addressed a letter to President Biden asking him to withdraw his nomination of Bennett for CEO for presiding over the misuse of the J-1 visa program, failing to stand up for VOA Persian Service journalists targeted by the Iranian regime, and enabling security-clearance processing failures.
“A thorough and fully transparent accounting of Ms. Bennett’s tenure as VOA Director, and of her family’s business ties to the CCP, is needed to answer very serious questions regarding her past conduct and her present fitness to serve as USAGM’s CEO,” wrote America First Legal deputy director of investigations John Zadrozny.
The letter also took aim at Bennett’s handling of issues related to China, noting that she fired the then-VOA Mandarin Service chief over a live interview with Chinese dissident Guo Wengui in 2017, alleging that Bennett did so at the behest of Chinese officials.
Rubio reportedly homed in on the controversy surrounding the 2017 firing, telling Voice of America that he “had some questions” about Bennett’s conduct in that situation. In a statement to NR, he elaborated on that concern: “As Beijing continues its sophisticated influence operations, we need someone at USAGM’s helm who will stand up for the truth and refuse to bend to totalitarian pressure. Amanda Bennett is not that person.”
Editor’s note: This post was updated after publication to add Rubio’s comment.
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end,” Winston Churchill said in a speech to the Lord Mayor’s luncheon after the British victory at El Alamein in November 1942.
“But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Churchill knew that, though the tide had turned, it would take years of work before there was final victory in the Second World War. He preached encouragement — without a slackening of effort.
Now that the Dobbs decision has come down, we must ask the question: What does final victory look like in a post-Roe country? It means an America in which abortion is not merely illegal — it’s unthinkable. It’s an America in which every pregnant woman gets all the help that she might need to bring a child into the world. It’s an America in which men know what it means to be a father, and accept the responsibility gladly. It’s a world in which the helpless are not shunted aside. It’s a world full of generosity, mercy, and forgiveness, all around — because we all need it.
The challenge that faces us is to truly, in Lincoln’s words, “bind up the nation’s wounds.”
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”
The road before us is, in many ways, even more challenging than the 49-year-long journey to Justice Alito’s ruling in Dobbs. Americans will need to work state by state — citizen by citizen — to change laws and minds and hearts.
For five decades, National Review has been working on this project. And for 49 years, we have said that, while Roe may be bad law — made up from whole cloth — the law is the least of our worries. That’s because a nation that didn’t want abortion wouldn’t have it. Now is the chance, indeed, the duty, to bring American hearts around.
I’m very proud of our special “End Roe” issue last year. It put forth a devastating argument that demolished the legal foundations of the abortion regime in America and it laid out practical post-Roe conservative political and policy visions. But, by far most importantly, in my opinion, it addressed the moral arguments — the arguments of the heart. And those arguments are unanswerable.
What comes next will take years, if not decades. With hope in our hearts, we’re in it for the long haul — until the conscience- and nation-warping practice of elective abortion is simply unthinkable in America. Will you join us by supporting NR’s journalism and advocacy on this crucial campaign?
If you do choose to join us, this summer, a friend has offered to generously double every donation up to $100,000. From the bottom of our hearts, we’re profoundly grateful.
There is much work to do. There are many battles that still must be waged. And that work must go on armed with wit, good humor, critical thought, fearlessness, and mercy. We must bind the nation’s wounds.
California has announced that 23 million residents will be getting checks for up to $1,050 for the purpose of “inflation relief” as part of the state’s budget deal for the upcoming fiscal year.
Politicians are pulling these funds out of the state’s $97.5 billion surplus. California’s surplus this year was larger than most states’ entire budget.
The checks will be sent in late October. The elections for governor, lieutenant governor, half the state senate, and all the state assembly will occur on November 8. How convenient.
Ultimately, inflation is for the Fed to solve, and Newsom doesn’t control the FOMC (thank goodness). There’s no such thing as “inflation relief” at the state level. We must see this scheme for what it is: bribing voters with their own money in an election year.
Implicit in the policy is an admission that California takes too much of its residents’ money to begin with. California has the highest sales-tax rate, the highest gasoline-tax rate, the fourth-highest income-tax collections per capita, and the fifth-highest overall state-and-local tax burden of any state. Plenty of Californians could move to a lower-tax state and effectively see their incomes increase by hundreds of dollars every year, not just in an election year when Gavin Newsom is feeling generous. (And plenty have: As Dan McLaughlin noted earlier this year, U-Haul ran out of trucks leaving California.)
Instead of taking this massive surplus as an opportunity for sensible tax reform, Newsom and the state legislature are content to pretend to solve inflation with it. That likely means that next year — when there isn’t an election on the horizon — Californians will have the same anti-growth, big-government policies they have right now, minus these checks.
Giving people more money to buy the same quantity of goods can’t help to reduce inflation. These checks will have negligible effects on inflation nationwide; the total package amounts to $17 billion, which is small potatoes in an economy worth about $25 trillion.
But there’s plenty that California could do to increase its economic competitiveness. Instead of gimmicky, one-time policies, it could permanently lower its gas tax to a level more on par with other states. California’s gas tax is 68.15 cents per gallon, far higher than the median rate of 31.61 cents per gallon.
The state should also reduce its hostility to energy production and transportation. Newsom signed a law in 2019 prohibiting the construction of pipelines on state property. The difficulty in building pipelines is one reason for California’s high energy costs, as petroleum products must be shipped in through other, less efficient means.
Newsom also took executive action in 2021 to “phase out oil extraction in California.” That included ending all fracking permits by 2024 and ending all oil extraction by any means by 2045. It should be no surprise that oil companies don’t want to invest in California now, given those promises from the state government. Two of the state’s oil refineries are currently being converted into renewable-fuel facilities, which means they aren’t producing gasoline and diesel right now.
Then, there’s the California environmental regulations that contribute to port congestion. BNSF Railway has wanted to build a massive intermodal yard near the Port of Long Beach since 2005 — using $500 million of its own money, not begging for public funds — but California’s environmental regulators have stood in the way. That’s capacity we could use right now, but it doesn’t exist because of California’s regulatory regime.
Instead of addressing those real problems or reducing California’s tax burden, politicians in Sacramento will instead be refunding the taxpayers some of the money they took from them, just this one time. If their goal is to reduce inflation, it will not work. But given the electoral calendar, that’s probably not their true goal anyway.
A political shift is beginning to take hold across the U.S. as tens of thousands of suburban swing voters who helped fuel the Democratic Party’s gains in recent years are becoming Republicans.
More than 1 million voters across 43 states have switched to the Republican Party over the last year, according to voter registration data analyzed by The Associated Press. The previously unreported number reflects a phenomenon that is playing out in virtually every region of the country — Democratic and Republican states along with cities and small towns — in the period since President Joe Biden replaced former President Donald Trump.
But nowhere is the shift more pronounced — and dangerous for Democrats — than in the suburbs, where well-educated swing voters who turned against Trump’s Republican Party in recent years appear to be swinging back. Over the last year, far more people are switching to the GOP across suburban counties from Denver to Atlanta and Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Republicans also gained ground in counties around medium-size cities such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Raleigh, North Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Des Moines, Iowa.
How many of those voters — particularly the suburban women who delivered pivotal races for Democrats in 2018 and 2020 — will switch back to the Democratic Party in the wake of Dobbs? More than zero, probably. Others may stay home. But at least in the House of Representatives, it won’t be enough. A red wave is coming — that much is more or less baked into the cake. At this point, the only question is: How big?
We can describe the Supreme Court’s Friday decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health in several ways: monumental, transcendent, momentous. This decision was 50 years in the making, and it seems that the heavens were rooting for Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion. There were many holidays and other significant events that fell on June 24, 2022. Here is a rundown of them.
Early Friday morning, Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter all lined up in order, making for a spectacular view for denizens of planet Earth. The peak of the show was Friday, but it continued throughout the weekend.
Those planets will not align in the same way until 2040. When those planets do re-align, perhaps some great triumph will follow once more.
March for Life Founder’s Birthday
In October 1973, months after the court handed down Roe v. Wade, pro-life leaders gathered at the home of Nellie Gray, who had dedicated her life to fighting abortion after the initial decision. The result was the annual March for Life, which has been held in Washington, D.C., every year since 1974, calling for an end to the practice.
Gray died in 2012, but the ruling came out on what would have been her 98th birthday. Though she could not be here to see the result of her hard work, she still received the best birthday present one could ask for.
Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist
June 24 also commemorates the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. In the Gospel of Luke, when the Virgin Mary came to visit her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, John leapt for joy in Elizabeth’s womb because he knew that Mary was bearing Jesus.
The first person (other than his mother) to recognize Jesus after he was conceived was an unborn baby, and it is quite fitting for a decision that will help protect children in utero to be adjudicated on his feast day. Now, each year when we celebrate the Dobbs decision, we will do so on that feast.
While the decision occurred on many happy feasts, it also occurred on one unhappy holiday. Every June 24, Peruvians celebrate Inti Raymi, the festival of the Incan sun god for whom the feast is named. While the holiday is generally a happy occasion with dances and celebrations, it has a dark history. The Incans would offer child sacrifices to Inti.
Whenever there were times of serious turbulence, such as during famines or after the death of the emperor, whom they believed to be the son of the sun god, the Incans would sacrifice children who were specially bred to be offerings. On the festival of a sun god for whom an ancient culture would kill its most vulnerable members, America offered more protections for its innocent. That is poetic.
Clearly, Newsom has ambitions that go beyond the governor’s mansion in Sacramento, and he will be term-limited if he is reelected this November — which is extremely likely.
As Blake Hounshell wrote in the New York Times, “Gavin Newsom keeps picking exactly the kinds of fights that presidential candidates like to pick.”
The speculation about an unlikely Hillary Clinton comeback, discussed below, illuminates the odd state of the Democratic Party, theoretically in a position of strength at the moment, but a party increasingly gripped by a sense of desperation and despair over the coming midterms and beyond.
Van Jones summarized Democrats’ concerns succinctly on CNN: “I think people just looking, honestly, I think a lot of Democrats are like, if this guy is ready to go we’re behind him but if he’s not ready to go, you should let us know. I think that’s what’s going on.”
Despite the high hopes of Pete Buttigieg fans, the Democratic Party is unlikely to quickly unify behind the secretary of transportation; what would Buttigieg do, run on his record of tackling the supply-chain crisis? (The news a few days ago: “Port bottlenecks that have tied up U.S. supply chains are spreading from the docks to the country’s freight rail networks, raising costs and adding new shipping complications for importers trying to manage the flow of goods.”) The Biden cabinet does not have any other unifying heir apparent.
If you’re a Democratic governor with a well-developed, wealthy donor base and with national ambitions . . . why not hang around, keep your name in the news nationwide, and see what happens?
A few days ago, Politico noticed that “Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker trekked to New Hampshire last weekend to rally Democrats for abortion rights. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s allies launched a federal super PAC and a nonprofit, which have aired $2 million in TV ads about Murphy’s inflation-fighting efforts.”
The odds of Biden either not running for another term or being incapable of running for another term are better than for a normal president. The odds of Harris either not running for another term or being incapable of winning the nomination are better than for a normal vice president. Democratic governors may say they intend to fully support Biden and Harris in 2024. But their actions suggest otherwise.
The top diplomat from the tiny island nation of Tuvalu withdrew from the U.N. Ocean Conference after China blocked three Taiwanese experts who served as part of Tuvalu’s delegation from attending the meeting. The boycott has implications for China’s malign influence at the U.N., as well as the ongoing geopolitical contest in the South Pacific.
The Pacific branch of New Zealand’s public-radio service broke the news that Tuvalu would boycott the conference rather than give in to Beijing’s pressure campaign.
Tuvalu foreign minister Simon Kofe canceled his trek to Lisbon, Portugal, mid-trip, after he learned of China’s barring the Taiwanese members of his delegation, RNZ Pacific reported.
Although some Pacific island countries are pivoting toward Beijing, Tuvalu is one of 14 that officially recognize Taiwan.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, thanked Tuvalu for its support and condemned China’s malicious behavior at the U.N., according to the Taipei Times.
The U.N. Ocean Conference will convene delegates from across the world to discuss oceanic conservation and sustainability efforts.
Tuvalu’s decision to skip the conference is especially significant given the intensity with which the country has focused on fighting climate change. Citing rising sea levels, Kofe delivered a video address to the COP26 global climate summit in November while standing in water up to his knees.
By declining to attend the conference, Kofe placed his country’s solidarity with Taiwan above its climate-diplomacy aims.
China is engaged in a campaign to prohibit Taiwan’s participation in any form throughout the U.N. system. Under Chinese pressure, the U.N. has prohibited people with Taiwanese passports from accessing U.N. facilities, even for tours. In at least a few instances, the organization has gone as far as editing historical documents to reflect Beijing’s preferred nomenclature on Taiwan.
U.N. leadership has declined to push back against the Chinese pressure campaign. The U.N. secretary-general, António Guterres, rebuffed a request by Taiwan’s allies last fall to ask that the country be permitted to participate in certain U.N. functions, and in his response used one of China’s preferred names for Taiwan.
Beijing did not deny that it intervened to prohibit the Taiwanese experts from attending the conference. Instead, Chinese foreign-ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao accused Taipei of attempting to “squeeze into” the conference “by engaging in petty maneuvers in the international arena.”
Although Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken out forcefully against Taiwan’s exclusion at the U.N., climate envoy John Kerry is still poised to attend the conference.
In their Dobbs dissent, Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan write: “Perhaps, in the wake of today’s decision, a state law will criminalize the woman’s conduct too, incarcerating or fining her for daring to seek or obtain an abortion.”
The dissenters fail to mention two important facts. First, as Clarke Forsythe of Americans United for Life once wrote for an NRO symposium, states prosecuted abortionists, not women seeking or undergoing abortions, under pre-Roe abortion laws (emphasis added):
Contrary to the pervasive myth that women were prosecuted for abortion before Roe, consistent state abortion policy for a century before Roe was not to prosecute women. Abortionists were the exclusive target of the law. That was based on three policy judgments: the point of abortion law is effective enforcement against abortionists, the woman is the second victim of abortion, and prosecuting women is counterproductive to the goal of effective enforcement of the law against abortionists.
In fact, the irony is that in nearly all of the reported court cases explicitly addressing the issue of whether a woman was an accomplice to her abortion, it was the abortionist (not the prosecutor) who pushed the courts to treat the woman as an accomplice, for the obvious purpose of undermining the state’s criminal case against the abortionist (including the abortionist Ruth Barnett when Oregon last prosecuted her in 1968).
Leslie Reagan, in her 1997 book When Abortion Was a Crime, admits that states did not prosecute women for their abortions and concedes that the purpose behind that law was not to degrade women but to protect them.
The wisdom of not prosecuting women was based on extensive practical law enforcement experience in many states, over many years. It will certainly be influential with prosecutors and state policy makers when Roe is overturned, and that should be the policy of legislators who are interested in the effectiveenforcement of abortion law.
Second, all major pro-life groups today oppose laws that would apply civil or criminal penalties to women seeking or obtaining abortions. On May 12, after the leak of the Dobbs opinion, the leaders of 70 pro-life groups — including the National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, and the March for Life — published the following letter to state legislators:
As national and state pro-life organizations, representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women, and children across the country, let us be clear: We state unequivocally that any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women is not pro-life and we stand firmly opposed to such efforts.
It is true that a small number of extremists want abortion laws that would punish women, and it is important for pro-life leaders and elected officials to remain vigilant about opposing such efforts for both prudential and principled reasons. There was some confusion back in May about whether a proposed law in Louisiana could be used to punish women, but, as the AP reported, the Louisiana House voted “65–26 to totally revamp the legislation, eliminating the criminal penalties,” and the sponsor of the bill pulled it from consideration.
This post has been emended since its initial publication.
Last week, the Saudi prince, Mohammed bin Salman, visited Turkey to meet with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as part of a tour of Middle Eastern nations. The meeting comes nearly four years after the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal leadership, who was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on orders from the Saudi government. The Saudi visit to Turkey presents an opportunity for the two countries to form a peace agreement that would better serve stability in the region.
Currently, there is a coalition in the Middle East consisting of Israel and Sunni Arab nations in opposition to an antagonistic Iran. The Iranian regime is deeply hostile to Israel, which views Tehran as the primary threat in the region. Israel is particularly concerned about Tehran’s sponsorship of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah that create ongoing security concerns. For Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries, the conflict with Iran is rooted in religious differences — Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States follow Sunni Islam, while Iran subscribes to Shia Islam — as well as in political ideologies, as Iran holds a more revolutionary worldview of the Middle East, while Saudi Arabia seeks to preserve the status quo in the region.
Historically, Turkey and Iran have been rivals, but there has been increasing cooperation between them because of Turkish energy needs and Iran’s vast oil reserves. Now, however, the meeting between the Saudi prince and the Turkish president could potentially spur Turkey’s interest in joining the new Middle East coalition. Although the immediate inclusion of Turkey in the anti-Iran coalition seems unlikely, burgeoning Saudi–Turkish relations may signal a new direction for Turkey.
Last week, I wrote a post arguing that we should not listen to European leaders when they try to give America advice on regulating online free speech. Many of our wonderful National Reviewreaders added on to my piece in the comments section, saying that we should not listen to Europe on anything. Over the weekend, their argument became stronger.
After the Supreme Court’s momentous overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, several European leaders spouted off to denounce the decision. Even President Joe Biden played into the discourse, lamenting that the United States is “an outlier among developed nations in the world.”
But here’s the thing: We should not care about what they have to say on abortion, either. In addition to their advice being bad, it is also hypocritical. Many of the leaders who criticized the United States for the decision have laws that are either comparable to the Mississippi law at the center of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which outlawed abortion past the 15th week of pregnancy.
U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson called the court’s ruling a “big step backwards.” Apparently, about nine weeks backwards, because that is the limit on abortion in Britain. Sure, nine weeks is not an insignificant amount of time, but a country is not so much more progressive and civilized than another because it allows women to kill their babies for nine more weeks into pregnancy.
Even so, I believe we have an upcoming holiday that commemorates our Founding Fathers’ saying that they do not care about the opinions of people who take tea time every day. The upcoming Fourth of July is a good opportunity to put Johnson’s comments where they belong — in Boston Harbor with the tea.
French president Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to claim, “Abortion is a fundamental right for all women. It must be protected. I wish to express my solidarity with the women whose liberties are being undermined by the Supreme Court of the United States.”
Perhaps he should have said that abortion is a fundamental right for all women. . . who have been pregnant for 16 weeks or fewer, which is the limit for abortion in France. That one week surely makes a big difference.
“Gravely disappointed and heartbroken to see the US Supreme Court overturning #RoeVsWade. We should be expanding women’s rights, not restricting them,” tweeted Icelandic prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir. Yes, we should expand “women’s rights” by seven weeks since Icelandic women cannot receive elective abortions past 22 weeks.
In addition to the hypocrisy, there is a more severe reason why we should not listen to Icelandic opinions on abortion, in particular: the country’s attitude toward Down syndrome. OB/GYNs in Iceland are required by law to inform expectant mothers of tests that check if their babies have Down syndrome. Surrounding this policy is what some in the country criticize as “heavy-handed genetic counseling,” which goes beyond merely informing women of their babies’ health.
As a result of this culture, there are hardly any babies born with Down syndrome in the country. Unfortunately, this is not due to some magic cure for the condition; nearly 100 percent of women carrying babies with it turn to abortion.
Just like in the issue of free speech, there is a massive disconnect in the ways Americans and Europeans view disabilities. Americans believe, by and large, that life with suffering is better than no life at all, a value that extends to our views on abortion.
With the differences between our ideals and the hypocrisy of Europeans denouncing American abortion law while engaging in much the same practices, Americans should be very skeptical of the opinions of leaders across the pond.
Just 39% said they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court; 58% said they have not very much or no confidence at all in the institution. That’s a low in the poll.
Few want to change the size of the court in the wake of the decision. Only a third of respondents said they were in favor of expanding the Supreme Court; 54% percent said they oppose that move.
This juxtaposition matters. The Supreme Court is a court, not a legislature, and courts are supposed to uphold the law as it is written, irrespective of what opinion polls might or might not say.
One can overstate the case, but a public that is split this strongly between the question “Do you like the Court at the moment?” and “Do you wish to alter or destroy the Court?” is a public that ultimately believes the Court to be legitimate, even as it dislikes some of the recent calls it has made.
Psychologically, it makes sense that women who have had abortions don’t want to entertain the idea that this was anything other than completely necessary. The alternative would be opening oneself up to the possibility of a grave mistake, one that has no immediate material solution. Of course, people can learn to forgive themselves, and they can receive forgiveness from God (if they believe in God). But failures in parenting are among the most guilt-inducing and painful, and post-abortion defensiveness finds its context therein.
However, the argument that a woman somehow knows with certainty that having the child would be life-ruining before she has an abortion is absurd. It’s one thing to claim that women can be trusted to make their own decisions. It’s something else to claim that they can know the future.
In her statement on Dobbs, Michelle Obama wrote that she is “heartbroken for the teenage girl, full of zest and promise, who won’t be able to finish school or live the life she wants,” as well as for the “parents watching their child’s future evaporate before their very eyes.”
Watching the future evaporate before your very eyes is waking up from a daydream. All parents have to do this sooner or later. As they develop, children disappoint, turn out differently from what parents desired, make choices that their parents don’t agree with, and fail to meet expectations (reasonable or otherwise). Maturity and growth mean rolling with the punches. So does love.
Such anguish is not caused by the actual future — unknown and unknowable — but rather by its anticipation. What if having the baby turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me? Women who have had abortions don’t dare ask themselves that. Abortion advocates and activists don’t either. In doing so, they spit on hope.
Washington’s talks with Tehran are set to resume, as Robert Malley, the top U.S. negotiator assigned to the negotiations, travels to Doha, Qatar, to meet indirectly with the Iranian team this week. That’s noteworthy because it follows Tehran’s retreat from a key demand that froze the talks for months.
Qatar will host indirect talks between Iran and the United States in coming days, Iranian media reported on Monday, amid a push by the European Union to break a months-long impasse in negotiations to reinstate a 2015 nuclear pact.
“Iran has chosen Qatar to host the talks because of Doha’s friendly ties with Tehran,” Mohammad Marandi, a media adviser to Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, told the ISNA news agency.
A source briefed on the visit said that U.S. Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, was expected to arrive in Doha on Monday and meet with the Qatari foreign minister. An Iranian official told Reuters that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, would be in Doha for the talks on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The decision to pick up the talks, the most recent round of which took place in Vienna in March, followed reports that Iran will no longer demand that the U.S. drop its designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.
Although U.S. and European officials told Politicothis morning that their expectations remain low, the very fact that Iran dropped its terror-designation demand should augur well for the prospects of reaching a final agreement.
Other sticking points remain, as Politico reported, but Tehran seems intent on clinching this deal. Washington, meanwhile, has refused to walk away, even as Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued to point to an ongoing Iranian terrorism threat targeting top U.S. officials and as Iran removed internationally mandated cameras from its nuclear-enrichment sites.
Earlier this month, Blinken said the administration “remains committed” to a return to the deal as long as Iran drops its “extraneous” demands.
Some might remember a much-derided White House tweet from 2021, boasting that Americans would save a whopping 16 cents on their families’ Fourth of July cookouts compared with 2020. The source for that tweet was the American Farm Bureau, which does an annual survey of how the costs of the cookout change from year to year.
The bureau released its 2022 report today, and the cost of an Independence Day cookout rose more than ten dollars from last year. Americans’ parties will cost them $69.68 this year, rather than the 2021 total of $59.50, a 17 percent increase.
In addition to the total cost of the barbecue, the bureau lists the price changes of individual items. Last year, the White House listed the bureau’s estimates for half of the items, whose costs fell from 2021 (it left out the other half because their costs increased). Almost all the items the White House listed as cheaper last year became more expensive this year. Here are their price increases: pork and beans rose 33 percent, ground beef rose 36 percent, vanilla ice cream rose 10 percent, center-cut pork chops rose 31 percent, and lemonade rose 22 percent.
Planning a cookout this year? Ketchup on the news. According to the Farm Bureau, the cost of a 4th of July BBQ is down from last year. It’s a fact you must-hear(d). Hot dog, the Biden economic plan is working. And that’s something we can all relish. pic.twitter.com/7h9qLauIbC
The only items in the White House’s tweet whose price decreased from last year were sliced cheese and potato chips, the prices of which decreased 13 percent and 4 percent, respectively. Because their cost rose in 2021 compared with the year before, strawberries were left out of last year’s tweet, but their cost is 16 percent lower in 2022, the only item to decrease other than the two aforementioned.
If we were to put a positive spin on the bureau’s report, we could say that the low savings of 2021 mitigated the high increase of 2022. Instead of losing $10.18 from 2020 to now, we only lost $10.02. Maybe those 16 cents will help at the gas pump.
Steve Hanke and Matt Sekerke write about the Lummis-Gillibrand Responsible Financial Innovation Act:
The draft Lummis-Gillibrand Responsible Financial Innovation Act was unveiled on June 7 to much fanfare. The names of Senators Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) on the bill suggest a bipartisan solution bridging the world of finance as it currently exists and the Wild West of cryptocurrencies, digital tokens, “smart” contracts, and decentralized, autonomous organizations.
Lummis and Gillibrand have put together a Rorschach test of a bill. As far as we can tell, the only thing animating it is the belief that innovative digital currencies already exist, or soon will. But if you take away that belief, the bill does very little. As art, satire, or a mirror for the mass delusion of crypto, it may be perfect; but as legislation, it is deeply unsatisfying.
Justice Thomas dissented this morning from the Supreme Court declining to hear a defamation case against the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling a Christian organization a “hate group” (a designation that has led, in the past, to violence against an SPLC target). Coral Ridge, the Christian group in question, was barred as a result from AmazonSmile, Amazon’s charitable-giving platform. Thomas wants the Court to reconsider its decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, which imposed a First Amendment rule requiring a heightened standard of “actual malice” to prove a defamation case brought by a public figure — i.e., that the defamer knew or recklessly disregarded the truth. Thomas:
New York Times and the Court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law. . . . Those decisions have no relation to the text, history, or structure of the Constitution. . . . We have never even inquired whether the First or Fourteenth Amendment, as originally understood, encompasses an actual-malice standard . . . I would grant certiorari in this case to revisit the “actual malice” standard. This case is one of many showing how New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity . . . SPLC’s “hate group” designation lumped Coral Ridge’s Christian ministry with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis. It placed Coral Ridge on an interactive, online “Hate Map” and caused Coral Ridge concrete financial injury by excluding it from the AmazonSmile donation program. Nonetheless, unable to satisfy the almost impossible actual-malice standard this Court has imposed, Coral Ridge could not hold SPLC to account for what it maintains is a blatant falsehood. . . . Because the Court should not insulate those who perpetrate lies from traditional remedies like libel suits unless the First Amendment requires us to do so, I respectfully dissent from the denial of certiorari. (Quotations and citations omitted).
Thomas is right that the constitutional foundations of New York Times v. Sullivanare dubious and ought to be considered more closely. This is not only an argument from the right: If the Court were to follow Democrats’ demand to overrule Citizens United and reject the notion of corporations having First Amendment rights, it would have to overturn New York Times v.Sullivan, which deals explicitly with how to prove the actual-malice state of mind of a corporate defendant. That being said, there would be some significant stare decisis arguments for retaining New York Times v. Sullivan, given that the standard has proven workable in practice, and it is far from clear what would replace it. This is likely to remain a constitutional windmill that is impervious to Thomas’s jousting.
“Russia strikes Kyiv as Western leaders meet in Europe,” reads a headline from the Associated Press. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the report:
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the missiles hit at least two residential buildings, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a 37-year-old man was killed and his 7-year-old daughter and wife injured. Associated Press journalists saw emergency workers battling flames and rescuing civilians.
The strikes also damaged a nearby kindergarten, where a crater pocked the courtyard. U.S. President Joe Biden called the attacks “barbarism” after he arrived in Germany for a Group of Seven summit.
Yes, barbarism. That’s what the Ukrainians are up against, immediately. And that’s what the rest of us are up against, ultimately. For the Dispatch, Klon Kitchen wrote an article subheaded “We should give the Ukrainians what they need to win, for their sake and ours.”
• Another headline from the AP: “Biden urges Western unity on Ukraine amid war fatigue.” (Article here.) That heading is entirely apt. But “war fatigue” can be odd. This fatigue is often felt by people who are doing no fighting or dying in the war whatsoever. They are simply, for example, sick of reading about it. They are ready to “move on.”
• Ukrainians can’t afford fatigue for they are fighting for their very right to exist. That is the heading of an article by Natalia Melnyk: “Ukrainians Are Fighting For Their Right To Exist.” The closing paragraph reads,
Russia is not our liberator; it is our tormenter. Its authoritarian rulers have no respect for human rights. Our choice is to fight for our freedom — or live under Putin’s oppressive rule. We choose to fight.
This ought to earn the admiration of people who value freedom.
• The Ukrainians are doing extraordinary things to save their country, and their countrymen. Here is an article on “Ukraine’s secret, deadly rescue missions.” People are willing to risk their lives to rescue their fellow man, in peril. There’s great hatred in the world — savagery, barbarism — but there is also great love, and courage.
• Many people shrink from the idea of good and evil. They think it is simplistic. Many, many situations are gray. Nonetheless, there are situations that present the black and white of good and evil. People try to muddy these situations. Don’t let them get away with it, if at all possible.
• Individuals, as well as nations and peoples, ought to be known. Here is Andrii Verkhohliad. As Anton Gerashchenko explains, Verkhohliad had been fighting since 2014, when Russia initially invaded. Now he is dead. “We have one purpose,” Verkhohliad said in a video: “the independence of our Ukraine.” He spoke of “freedom for our children, freedom for our parents, and freedom for our country.” Pretty basic. But pretty important, too. Not to be spat on, I wouldn’t think.
• Here is a woman named Tetiana Antoniuk, a journalist, 70 years old. “Badly beaten up,” says Gerashchenko. “They broke her spine because she refused to give away her [Ukrainian] passport when evacuating.” There are many, many such stories. Such facts and barbarities. To know a few is to know the many.
• Myroslava Gongadze introduces us to a man named Volodymyr, 70, from Moshchun. He sheltered 27 of his neighbors during a Russian occupation. “When they were able to escape,” says Gongadze, “the Russian forces took over his home and then destroyed it completely.”
• “Bucolic Ukraine forest is site of mass grave exhumation,” reads another headline from the AP. These articles are hard to bear. But all that we foreigners have to do is read (or not). The Ukrainians themselves have to live the articles, so to speak.
This one says,
The hands of several victims were tied behind their backs. . . .
Workers wearing white hazmat suits and masks used shovels to exhume bodies from the soil of the forest, marking each section with small yellow numbered signs on the ground. The bodies, covered in cloth and dirt, attracted flies.
“Shots to the knees tell us that people were tortured,” Andriy Nebytov, head of the Kyiv regional police, said at the scene. “The hands tied behind the back with tape say that people had been held (hostage) for a long time . . .”
• An article by Mark Krutov, of RFE/RL, if you can bear it. (Those initials stand for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.) “Dungeon Of Death: Survivor Recounts Dire Conditions For Captives Of Russian Soldiers In Ukraine Basement.” The article begins, “The elderly and sick died quietly.”
• Pundits in the Western media like to decide what the future of Ukraine will be. I hope that Ukrainians themselves will have some say. “Just give up territories!” say our pundits. “End the war!” The thing is: The Ukrainians aren’t fighting for mere territories — mere dirt. They are fighting for the people in those territories — endeavoring to save them from murder, rape, deportation, subjugation.
That is very, very hard for some people to understand, strangely.
Ukraine is not a mere game, a tussle between powers: Putin vs. Biden and all that. No, real flesh-and-blood lives are at stake, every day.
And anyone who thinks that Putin will be sated with territories has never met him. Or never listened to him.
• For years, our Putin apologists have said, “He’s spooked by NATO, you know. He’s encircled. Russia has legitimate security concerns. People in the east of Ukraine want to be with Russia. A State Department official named Victoria Nuland keeps pulling the strings in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is a Nazi junta.” Blah blah blah. They’re still at it. The thing is, Putin keeps pulling the rug out from under them. Because he is blunt about his imperial ambitions.
I recommend an article by the Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov: “How Far Do Putin’s Imperial Ambitions Go?” The subheading reads, “The Russian president and his inner circle speak openly about retaking the vast lands that Moscow once controlled. As the war continues in Ukraine, Russia’s neighbors are taking the threats seriously.”
Here are the first three paragraphs of Trofimov’s article:
“At the Bering Strait with the United States,” the 9-year-old boy ventured hesitantly. Mr. Putin, who chairs the board of the Russian Geographic Society, contradicted the boy to triumphant applause. “The borders of Russia,” he pronounced, “never end.”
The scene, years before Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine unleashed the biggest war in Europe since World War II and triggered a breakdown between Russia and the West, illuminates a conviction deeply held by many in Moscow’s establishment: that Russia has the natural right, and the existential need, for territorial expansion.
Until recently, this imperial belief was often couched in language that is more acceptable in the 21st century, such as security concerns about NATO’s expansion or apprehension about alleged discrimination against Russian-speaking minorities. Since the war began, however, calls for seizing new lands have become much more explicit.
In this article, Trofimov quotes Kaja Kallas, the prime minister of Estonia. Putin, she says, “is also after the Baltic countries if he succeeds in Ukraine, and this is why we have to do everything so that he doesn’t succeed in Ukraine, because otherwise his appetite will only grow. If he gets away with this, nobody can feel safe.”
Those words ought to be repeated: “If he gets away with this, nobody can feel safe.”
• In the West, and the United States in particular, I have noticed the usual amount of pro-Putin sentiment. He is the great nationalist (even as he slaughters to rebuild the Russian and Soviet empire). He is the guardian of Christendom. He is our champion against the woke. He’s stickin’ it to the homos and the neocons. All that.
Even more — as usual? — there is anti-anti-Putin sentiment. A resentment of Ukraine. An instinct and itch to defend Putin. An allergic reaction to anything involving freedom or a freedom struggle. Anything touching on freedom, democracy, and human rights. I get this reaction all the time. A furious reaction. I used to get it from the left, pretty much exclusively — especially when I wrote about Cuba — but now I get it from the other direction, too.
A state GOP official told me, in some pain, that many of his troops were anti-Ukraine. Why? Because they associate Ukraine and its struggle with Biden and the Democrats. Simple tribalism is always at work. Always.
Would the Democrats be less supportive of Ukraine if the U.S. had a Republican administration? A Reaganite administration? A GOP administration in the freedom-loving, democracy-supporting vein? I have no doubt.
Then there is the factor of Russian propaganda. The reach of the Kremlin’s propagandists is long. It was thus in Soviet days and it is thus now. Indeed, the Kremlin has many veterans of the USSR — starting with the KGB colonel in charge. I hear Russian propaganda repeated to me by good red-blooded Americans, and I am almost — almost — impressed, with the skill of Putin’s guys.
Finally, there are people who simply want peace and quiet. I can understand them (and I am among them, of course). I wrote a whole book on the subject. A Ukrainian defeat, and a Russian victory, would not bring the Ukrainians peace and quiet — the peace and quiet of the grave, maybe. (I am echoing Margaret Thatcher here.) And it would not bring the rest of us peace and quiet either.
This would seem to be a particularly odd and unusual time to hear people talking up the prospects of a Hillary Clinton comeback. And yet, here we are. Juan Williams, writing in the Hill:
Democrats need a strong voice ready to fight to restore women’s rights, now that the Supreme Court has struck down Roe v. Wade.
There’s only one Hillary Clinton.
. . . Clinton is exactly the right person to put steel in the Democrats’ spine and bring attention to the reality that “Ultra-MAGA” Republicans, as President Biden calls them, are tearing apart the nation.
Now is her moment. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade creates the opening for Hillary Clinton to get out of stealth mode and start down the path toward declaring her candidacy for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.
Ellis does lay out the legitimate points that Biden is too old, few Democrats have any faith in Kamala Harris, and the Democratic bench is weak. But those problems do not naturally lead to the conclusion that it is time for Hillary Clinton to come out of retirement.
Hillary Clinton is 74 years old, and will be 77 years old on Election Day 2024, numbers that look young only compared to Joe Biden. (She is one year, four months, and twelve days younger than Donald Trump.) She is the only person on earth who has lost a general election to Donald Trump. The last time she won a general election was her Senate reelection campaign in 2006, which was before the iPhone was invented. The last time Hillary Clinton won a general election, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was a graduate student at Oxford, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was an undergraduate at Boston University, and senator Jon Ossoff was an undergraduate at Georgetown University.
“We are standing on the precipice of losing our democracy, and everything that everybody else cares about then goes out the window,” she says. “Look, the most important thing is to win the next election. The alternative is so frightening that whatever does not help you win should not be a priority.”
Another instance is the “defund the police” campaign, she adds. “You need accountable measures. But you also need policing. It doesn’t even pass the common-sense politics test not to believe that. Some positions are so extreme on both the right and the left that they retreat to their corners . . . Politics should be the art of addition not subtraction.”
Not only are most Americans not looking to Hillary Clinton to guide them out of our current political and social divisions; most Democrats aren’t looking to her, either.
None of this suggests that she is a strong choice to be the face of Democrats in the midterms, nor a good choice to be the Democratic Party’s nominee in 2024. But you know who’d probably love to see Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee next time?
Today is the last day you can pre-order Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing by Ryan T. Anderson and NR’s own Alexandra DeSanctis. You can meet them in person at 11 a.m. this morning if you are in D.C. and want and come to be together on this first Monday after Roe. And you can watch from anywhere on livestream by RSVPing here.
I’ll post the video as soon as I have it after the fact.
And buy the book. The title says it all. It’s a help in moving forward.
“There is a classic paradox in economics: Water is cheap, but diamonds are expensive, though one is essential for life and the other is not.”
But what happens when water becomes scarce? In the cover story for the new issue of National Review, “Running Dry in the American West,” Shawn Regan, vice president of research at the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Mont., surveys the effects that a record drought will have on America west of the Mississippi.
“There are more water rights on paper,” Regan writes, “than there is actual water to go around, and everyone is lawyered up with arguments for why cuts should fall on others instead of themselves.”
The problem is a combination of drought, bad luck, NIMBYism, and, yes, governmental regulation that prevents water from being distributed efficiently through market mechanisms.
As usual, however, Americans are learning to shoulder a sclerotic government aside and get on with it by attempting to “adapt to scarcity without sacrificing economic growth.”
The biggest opportunity to continue this progress is in the agricultural sector, which uses more than 80 percent of the water consumed in the West. Farmers also have found ways to increase yields and earnings in the face of shrinking water supplies, sometimes by switching to less water-intensive crops or installing more-efficient irrigation systems.
Technology combined with a freer markets, adaptive farmers, and deregulation may prove to be the way out of this. But recycling treated wastewater, building desalination plants, and advanced farming and irrigation methods are all great — until government gets in the way:
“In May . . . the California Coastal Commission” — a state agency — “rejected a large-scale desalination project in Orange County that would have supplied residents with 50 million gallons of drinking water a day.”
In “Scorched Earth in Arizona,” John McCormack takes a look at the broiling Republican Senate primary in the Grand Canyon State, which pits attorney general Mark Brnovich against wealthy businessmen Jim Lamon and Blake Masters, the latter of whom is backed by Peter Thiel.
Andrew Follett examines how much damage woke ideology is having on scientific rigor in “Too-Political Science.”
If you want a digital-only NRPlus subscription, you can get it for just 40 bucks — 60 percent off the standard 12-month price. That’s one year of complete access to NationalReview.com and the digital (paywalled) magazine for less than $1.33 per week.
College and university presidents have in recent years often made spectacles of themselves by choosing to side with the leftist campus mobs rather than doing justice. Currying favor with the “woke” forces is evidently far more important.
In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Richard Vedder ruminates about two such instances, namely the travesty at Duke over the accusations made against members of the lacrosse team and the treatment of Princeton’s Professor Joshua Katz over his criticisms of the BLM movement.
Back in 2006, Duke’s president, Richard Brodhead, went ballistic against the entire lacrosse team and its coach when the campus mob demanded vengeance. It turned out later that the accusations were false, but Brodhead didn’t have the guts to withhold judgment until the facts were known.
And just recently, Princeton’s president, Christopher Eisgruber, has similarly covered himself in shame for demanding that Professor Joshua Katz, a tenured and highly esteemed member of the faculty, be terminated.
Vedder writes, “For those unfamiliar with the case, Prof. Katz was fired over alleged improprieties related to an offense—having consensual sexual relations with a 21-year-old girl—that took place over 15 years ago (!). Only after Katz started saying things that the Princeton administration did not like did it punish him for that incident. Fully a dozen years after the 2006 transgression, it suspended Katz without pay for one year. Then, in 2020, Katz expressed his disapproval of so-called anti-racist demands made by some members of the Princeton community after the George Floyd killing. That led to a story in The Daily Princetonian about the 2006 incident, prompting the school to reopen the case, accuse Katz of new improprieties related to the incident, and fire him.”
So, a professor has been fired because his views upset a vocal part of the campus community. Freedom of speech? Not if you say “offensive” things.
Vedder proceeds to explain in detail what is so revolting about Princeton’s action against Katz. He also observes that Princeton has adopted the “Chicago Principles” for free speech — but chose to ignore them when faced with a controversy.
He concludes, “Because of government subsidies, the potency of market forces is weakened in the case of universities, but it still exists. Ignoring widely accepted values like free expression and due process has consequences that will weaken the public support that is critical to colleges’ success.”
Leading my Impromptus today is the subject of Roe v. Wade, and the question of abortion generally. I begin, “Roe v. Wade was a bad decision, unmoored from the Constitution.” It was amazing to write “was”: was a bad decision. We have been writing “is” all of our lives, or most of our lives. I also discuss wokeness in the workplace, voting with one’s feet, etc. In the mix are two athletes: one famous (Shohei Ohtani) and one less so (Sydney McLaughlin, a hurdler). Both are must-sees.
I would like to publish some reader mail, in response to my column last Friday. That one was headed “The American experience, &c.” A Chicagoan writes,
I love to talk to taxi drivers. They are usually immigrants, and they often have great stories about their journey to America. For a few years, I had a regular guy I would call for early-morning trips to O’Hare. (I could count on him not to be late and liked to start his day at O’Hare with a nice fare already earned.) We got to know each other a bit. He was an Algerian who came to America by way of Paris, where he had been in business with his brother. (After-market auto parts, I think.) One day I asked him why, if his Algerian citizenship entitled him to remain permanently in France, he had come to the U.S. He turned to me with a look that said, “I thought you were smart. How can you ask such a dumb question?” And he said, “In France, we could never be French. But here, my son is an all-American boy.” Such pride in his voice and on his face. Almost moved me to tears. Still does.
In my column on Friday, I included a picture of a sweet little house in Ann Arbor, Mich. (my hometown). A reader writes,
I enjoyed that little house in Ann Arbor. I just finished reading your column while sitting on my little screened-in porch, as the cardinals, the finches, and the chickadees flocked around the feeders just beyond the screen.
My wife and I are just shy of 70, and we had planned to take a number of hiking journeys in our retirement. But she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago, and while she is still at home, our ambitions are very changed. Now it is enough to get her dressed and breakfasted, and enjoy some time on the porch in the morning air, and to attempt nothing much grander than keeping the birds content with sunflower seed, which is pretty grand itself, especially since four or five of those seeds have taken root below the feeder and are blossoming as I write. We learn to settle for less; and there are times, as the cliché has it, when less can be more.
Hard to follow that letter — but follow it I will, with a quick note on language. In a post, I said a little about how we talk in Michigan, or at least southeastern Michigan. We tend to apostrophe-ess things. What I mean is: We shop at Meijer’s, or Kroger’s, or Hudson’s. (Not sure whether Hudson’s still exists.) We work at Ford’s (or “out to Ford’s,” if you’re really down-home). And so on and so forth. A reader writes,
Hello, Mr. Nordlinger,
Yes, it’s the Buckeye mom again. . . . My first job was in Michigan, working at Ford’s. Seemed odd to me at the time, but that’s how locals perceived it. I always heard, “I work at Ford’s” — as though the company were not a huge corporation but simply Mr. Ford’s place. . . .
Another turn of phrase I never heard growing up in a steel town full of immigrants (most of us kids were first-generation), and which was omnipresent at Ford’s, was “ink pen.” Is there any other kind?
Again, thank you for Impromptus and the light you shine on freedom.
Ah, yes, “ink pen.” But we had so many southerners in Michigan — migrants — you mainly heard “ink pin.” “Can you get me a ink pin?” The soundtrack of my youth. I’m about to tear up . . . (Also, you had a “vanella shake,” and sometimes you even drank “melk.”)
Great thanks to all readers and correspondents. Again, for today’s Impromptus, go here.
Charles Hilu’s “The Port Huron Statement at 60: Still Not As Good As Its Counterpart” offers a welcome moment for reflection on the state of our politics since the 1960s, contrasting the New Left’s famous 1962 “Port Huron Statement” with its immediate conservative predecessor, the Young Americans for Freedom’s founding “Sharon Statement,” penned by the legendary M. Stanton Evans in 1960. In the historic context of Roe v. Wade’s demise — what Philip Klein aptly dubbed “the greatest victory in the history of the conservative movement” — it’s helpful to reflect on the beginnings of the two ideological projects that, to one degree or another, define our central political debates today: The conservative movement on the one hand, and the post-1960s New Left on the other. (As an aside, I do think Hilu is too dismissive in his conviction that “today, the Port Huron statement appears to be dead” — in many ways, its ethos defines the orthodoxy in our elite institutions today).
In contrasting the Port Huron and Sharon Statements, Hilu writes:
While Port Huron was created in despair, Sharon was drafted in hope. YAF members meeting at William F. Buckley Jr.’s home in Sharon, Conn., in September 1960 gathered there to “to affirm certain eternal truths,” including the individual’s “right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force,” and “that the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role.” In contrast to SDS longing for a more regulated economy, the Sharon Statement vaunted the market economy as “the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government,” stressing its abundance and the harm to the nation that comes from the market’s over-restriction. Most importantly, in contrast to SDS’s foreign-policy equivocation, the Sharon Statement emphasized “that the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with” communism. Even Buckley’s column in National Review announcing the creation of the group was full of optimism. He predicted that the new group would “influence the political future of this country, as why should it not, considering that its membership is young, intelligent, articulate and determined, its principles enduring.”
That all seems right to me — but one thing that Hilu omits is the similarities between the two youthful movements, as embodied in their founding documents. We rightly think of the 1960s as a time of radicalism and upheaval; but we tend to only attribute that radicalism to the student radicals of the New Left. It’s worth remembering that, in their time, William F. Buckley and the other young conservatives who were involved in the Sharon Statement were radicals, too. Tom Hayden, the author of the Port Huron Statement, noticed as much: In an essay published a year after the Sharon Statement — and a year prior to Port Huron — Hayden noted that “during the past year, conservative students have come to life.”
These were not the staid patricians of the Old Right: “What is new about the new conservatives is their militant mood, their appearance on picket lines,” Hayden wrote. “The new conservatives are not disinterested kids who maintain the status quo by political immobility, nor are they politically concerned but completely inactive sideliners. They form a bloc. They are unashamed, bold, and articulately enamored of certain doctrines: the sovereignty of individual self-interest; extremely limited government; a free-market economy; victory over, rather than coexistence with, the Communists.”
Indeed, Buckley explicitly identified with the “radical conservatives — “who are ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity” — in National Review’s 1955 mission statement. He described his political project as a “counter-revolution”; not a moderate, incrementalist accommodation to the existing state of things, but an “overturning” of “the revised view of society” brought about by the progressive revolution.
Nowhere has that progressive revolution been more potent than the courts — and nowhere was the judicial revolution more potent and corrosive than Roe. In a 1974 column calling for an overturning of Roe, Buckley described how the ruling, and the underlying philosophy that drove it, were corroding republican self-government: “The public, under the tutelage of its moral and intellectual leaders — is being trained, as regards the Supreme Court of the United States when it is interpreting the Constitution, to accept its rulings as if rendered ex cathedra, on questions of faith and morals,” he wrote. Thus, he argued, an end to Roe “would deliver the republic from a presumptuous ethical-political tribunal which has come to treat the Constitution with something like an author’s possessiveness.”
That, in the final analysis, is the significance of Friday’s decision: It is nothing less than a counter-revolution, the seeds of which were planted by our predecessors. It is, in a fundamental sense, a kind of radicalism. But it is a welcome radicalism — a radicalism that seeks to restore, rather than to destroy; to renew rather than begin anew. It is rooted in the ethos of the Sharon Statement, and in a belief in the “capability,” as Lincoln put it, “of a people to govern themselves.”
Today’s Bloomberg Opinion column* asks whether a federal ban on abortion should be on the pro-life legislative agenda now that Roe is gone–and if so, how high on that agenda it should be.
For opponents of abortion, there are weighty considerations on both sides.
Let’s start with the case for federal action. The 14th Amendment says that states must extend the equal protection of the laws to all persons and gives Congress the power of enforcement. The pro-life movement has argued that allowing states to deny unborn children protection against homicide breaks that promise. (The Republican platform has long said that the amendment’s protections should apply to the unborn.) Our country has for many decades acted on the conviction that basic human rights require federal protection. . . .
* (Not to be confused with yesterday’s post-Dobbs column.)
The Dobbs decision is enormously consequential, and it seems like a very big political deal right at the moment—but will it matter much as an election issue in November?
I have my doubts about that.
Let’s make like McKinsey nerds and put it in a two-by-two matrix.
Scenario A: Red city, red state: These voters will be largely satisfied with Dobbs and in many cases positively ecstatic about it, as they should be. But they were probably already going to be pretty energized in November: Democratic president, Democrat-controlled Congress, high inflation and high gasoline prices, failed “return to normalcy,” etc. They don’t need another reason to turn out, but that probably isn’t going to make much difference in any House or Senate race, thanks in part to the very successful Republican gerrymandering that so often deprives Republican voters of the opportunity to crush a Democrat with any real hope.
Scenario B: Blue city, blue state: They’re going to rage like Jeremiah on Twitter, but there isn’t going to be any change, or even any real prospect of change, to their state abortion laws—if anything, those laws may be even more liberal in the post-Roe era—and they may be a little depressed by losing on the abortion issue, which is an offputtingly quasi-spiritual . . . thing . . . for Democrats. If there were any Republicans around for these blue-state urbanites to take out their frustrations on, they might, but most of the voters in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc., would have to drive an hour to find a Republican to kick in the shins. I’m sure they’d love to go to Idaho to vote against Mike Crapo, but they’ll have to take out their anger on Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, if anybody. And they might do that.
Scenario C: Red city, blue state: These do not exist. Not really. The largest U.S. cities with Republican mayors right now are in red states: Jacksonville, Fort Worth, and Oklahoma City. The biggest blue-state city with a Republican mayor is Fresno. (No, mayors don’t tell the whole story, but this is a quick-and-dirty indicator.) I suppose Colorado Springs might just about qualify. In any case, beleaguered Republicans in Fresno probably are not going to be more beleaguered this November than they were last November, or any less.
Scenario D: Blue city, red state: This is the possibly interesting case. Blue cities in red states are some of the nicest places in the country to live: Austin, Salt Lake City, etc. The Democrats who live in them feel a little like Republican college professors—as though they are operating in occupied territory. (I know that Republican college professors think this way because I have heard so from both of them.) They get excited, write checks, etc.—they are the only reason anybody has ever heard of Robert Francis O’Rourke. Red-state Republican incumbents or Republican contenders in districts that have a substantial piece of some of the bluer cities or suburbs might actually have to think about how they are going to talk about this issue a little bit. That might conceivably matter in races such as Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, which includes a big piece of Cincinnati (where Democrats swept eight of nine city council seats in 2021), a seat currently held by Steve Chabot (R.). That race currently is rated as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report, which gives the district a Partisan Voting Index of D+2. Chabot, a longtime incumbent, won only 51.8 percent of the vote in 2020. Some of the other Cook toss-ups are similar, e.g., Cassy Garcia will need some help from exurban San Antonio and the Democrat-leaning city of Laredo in her bid to unseat incumbent Henry Cuellar in Texas’s 28th (D+5).
So, my sense is that the voters most likely to be motivated in some meaningful way by Dobbs are Democrats in Republican states, which might make a difference in a few races in closely divided electorates.
Democrats will try to make the midterms a national referendum on abortion rights—because they sure as hell don’t want to talk about the price of a gallon of gas—but I do not think that is likely to succeed. One of the weirder aspects of the clabbered, sour partisanship of our time is that the most hardcore partisans are more inclined to punish their own party for losing than to punish the other party for winning. And Democrats are going to go into the November election feeling like losers because of the economy and because of Dobbs.
That being the case, if Dobbs is to have any real near-term political impact, it may be in encouraging dissatisfied Democrats to push out Joe Biden in 2024, assuming he lasts that long. That’s where simmering blue-state Democrat rage could have some real effect.
The Dobbs dissent coauthored by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan is so laden with appeals to emotion that extracting the legal arguments can be challenging. For example, the introduction is mostly about abortion-related policy outcomes that the dissenting justices fear and detest. Rather than simply outline their argument, the dissenters invite the reader to fear and detest those policies along with them.
Nevertheless, the dissent’s bottom line is clear: “Roe and Casey were correct.” This is a bit surprising, since the reasoning in Roe has a poor reputation even among some progressives, including the late Justice Ginsburg. I expected the dissenters to focus mainly on the importance of following precedent, perhaps with their own justifications for the right to an abortion mixed in. In attempting to directly defend Roe, however, they re-affirm for me not only how indefensible that particular decision was, but also how imperious the whole “living Constitution” project continues to be.
The dissenters first say that Roe “struck a balance” between women’s autonomy and the protection of fetal life. Leave aside that this “balance” allowed abortions in almost all cases in which women desired them. The more important question is why there should be any balance imposed by judges at all. The alleged virtue of Roe’s “balance” is question-begging — it pre-supposes a Constitutional right to abortion when that is the whole issue under debate.
As for where that right comes from, the dissent acknowledges that the ratifiers in 1868 did not understand the Fourteenth Amendment to confer any right to abortion. But that’s okay, the dissent says, because there are “new societal understandings” that have developed since then, and the ratifiers would have wanted the judiciary to recognize new rights based on these new understandings.
That sounds like a conveniently broad license for judges! Now, it is one thing to say, as the Kavanaugh concurrence appropriately does, that original principles should be applied to new situations – for example, the Fourth Amendment protects computer files from unreasonable searches and seizures, even though computer files did not exist at the founding. It is quite another thing to claim that judges may interpret Constitutional provisions in a way that directly conflicts with the understanding of the ratifiers — who were, after all, well aware of abortion yet never made any intimation that the Fourteenth Amendment speaks to it.
Since their interpretive method seems awfully subjective, the dissenters try to assure us it “does not mean anything goes.” They proceed to cite further platitudes about “fundamental commitments” and “the long sweep of our history” that are supposedly constraining, but it’s obvious that those sentiments mean whatever judges want them to mean. They are little more than the vehicle by which judges insert the values of the lawyer class into the Constitution.
Of course, I did not expect any of the three dissenters to sign on to an opinion that fully returns the abortion issue to the states. I did hope, however, that their dissent would repudiate some of the excesses of their activist predecessors. They could have grounded their dissent primarily in stare decisis, allowing that Roe was not the decision they would have written. Instead, they double down on the purest living constitutionalism, affirming that judges need only incant phrases such as “sphere of liberty” in order to create new Constitutional principles. Sadly, that is what we must expect from the Court’s progressive justices going forward. May they remain in the minority as long as possible.
I very much enjoyed Nate Hochman’s ISI speech to young conservatives. As a much older conservative (born the same year as National Review itself), I was thinking the other day about whether things are worse now than when I was growing up. I’m not sure that the world is a worse place now than it was 60 years ago, or that the country is. There were bad world actors (starting with the Soviet Union) back then, too, and we had our domestic challenges (like Jim Crow and the Weather Underground) then and now as well.
But it seems to me that what is most disheartening is that our elites have gotten so much worse. They weren’t perfect then either, of course, and our universities and media have always been liberal, but still: They — and not just universities and the mainstream media but also one of our major political parties and more and more corporate executives — have become more uniformly and extremely Left.
So thank goodness for counter-institutions like ISI and National Review, and all the young conservatives there and elsewhere, that are fighting to resist and change that.
Neutrally applying the Constitution, as its provisions were originally understood, will tend to produce conservative rather than liberal results. That’s my claim over at Bloomberg Opinion, and it’s one that explains, I argue, a lot about our constitutional politics.
What I mean is not that the Constitution requires the implementation of every sentence of the latest Republican platform or blocks everything in the Democratic one. The Constitution, on any reasonable reading, is clearly compatible with a lot of liberal political victories. But it also, much of the time, pushes in a direction that contemporary conservatives find more congenial than liberals. . . .
There have been reports on and off about Trump announcing early, and you have to wonder if the strength that DeSantis is showing might be pushing him further in that direction.
The advantage for Trump of an early announcement is that it would presumably cause almost all the candidates who have said they won’t run if he does to say they are out, an immediate show of strength. And it might solidify his polling some and get fence-sitting Republicans who now say they don’t want him to run to throw up their hands: “Well, I wish he didn’t do it, but now that he has, I’m with him.”
But there’s a risk of getting in early and just sitting out there and not generating the accustomed excitement and interest. Indeed, if there’s a growing sense of Trump exhaustion in the party, having him a declared presidential candidate for basically a year and half before the primaries begin might enhance it, not diminish it. An early Trump endorsement might also help the candidates who could run regardless — DeSantis, Cotton, Pence, et al. — calculate their moves. If you’re DeSantis, say, you can see what Trump’s strength as a declared candidate appears to be well before having to make the momentous call about jumping in yourself.
So, I think on net an early announcement might be bad for Trump’s interests. But at the end of the day, timing probably won’t matter much — the party will either be ready to move on in 2024, or not.
What, to the 24-year-old, is the death of Roe v. Wade? My colleagues have described the momentousness of yesterday’s ruling from almost every angle imaginable: Its significance for pro-lifers, for the conservative movement, for a proper and just understanding of the Constitution, and — of course — for the unborn. I shared the transcript of a speech I gave last night to my fellow young conservatives on The Corner earlier today, where I tried to speak to what it should mean to those of us who share our elders’ commitment to the sanctity of unborn life, and their joy at the Supreme Court’s decision, but who have only just recently come of political age:
In this specific political context, we should also be considering the momentousness of today as conservatives; and for many of the young people here, as those who will—in one way or another—be inheriting the levers of power in the institutional conservative movement…this is a moment to be proud of our history. To be proud to be in this room—not because we, as young people here, have contributed all that much to the cause of life or the defense of the Constitution, but because we are lucky enough to have the chance to carry on the work begun by our forefathers. The ones who toiled, often thanklessly; often in silence; often in the face of ridicule and censure in mainstream institutions; for nearly half a century, and for decades and decades when the possibility of overturning Roe was unthinkable.
I just want to add a couple quick thoughts to this sentiment. It’s a difficult question that I’ve been reckoning with over the past 24 hours: How should young conservatives think about Roe’s demise? Can we really feel “proud” of the fruit of a labor that was not, primarily, ours? Certainly, we can and should feel joy — joy for the millions of unborn lives who will see the light of day, and for a nation whose “fundamental law,” as the editors wrote yesterday, “will no longer effectively treat unborn children as categorically excluded from the most basic protection that law can provide.”
But in the headiness of victory, I also can’t help but feel a certain amount of imposter’s syndrome. For me, this is particularly potent, given that I was not raised conservative, and only recently arrived in the movement. This is the conservative movement’s victory, yes, but it does not feel like it is mine. I wasn’t there for the decades of grassroots organizing, letter-writing, door-knocking, and prayer. I did not share in the many heartbreaks and losses that were sustained and endured on the uneven path to yesterday’s victory.
The conclusion that I’ve arrived at, then, is that there is one appropriate emotion for a young conservative to feel in this moment: gratitude. With gratitude, comes humility; with humility, comes a moment for reflection. Today, I reflect on the nameless generations who toiled in silence before me, in the darkness of the decades when overturning Roe seemed a Sisyphean task — beyond the reach of any rational political imagination. I cannot ever hope to understand what yesterday’s decision means to them. But in acknowledging my own limited capacity to understand this moment, I can begin to recognize the magnitude of the debt they are owed.
Williamson’s Second Law: “When Democrats are in power, they act like they’ll never be out of power, and when Republicans are out of power, they act like they’ll never be in.”
I wonder whether it has occurred to Democrats hysterically demanding that Congress “codify” a national right to abortion through legislation are simply pre-establishing congressional authority over the issue — about seven months before a Republican majority is likely to be sworn in.
If a Democratic Congress has the authority to mandate abortion rights in every state (and I do not believe that it legitimately does) in June of 2022, then the same legal theory that establishes that power surely must invest in a Republican Congress the power to enact a national prohibition of abortion in January 2023.
The following is transcribed from a speech I delivered to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s class of Collegiate Network Journalism Fellows. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I don’t know if any of you heard yet, but there was a pretty significant decision over at the Supreme Court today.
It’s a big deal. I don’t have to tell any of you that. But I think it’s worth pausing and taking a moment to think about why today’s decision matters.
Obviously, it matters first and foremost, because it’s the first step in building an America where abortion is unthinkable. And that matters because abortion matters — not just because it is the taking of the most vulnerable and defenseless kind of innocent human life, but because, as one prominent conservative thinker wrote in 1997, “abortion is today the bloody crossroads of American politics.”
This is what that conservative thinker wrote at the time:
It is where judicial liberation (from the Constitution), sexual liberation (from traditional mores) and women’s liberation (from natural distinctions) come together. It is the focal point for liberalism’s simultaneous assault on self-government, morals and nature. So, challenging the judicially imposed regime of abortion-on-demand is key to a conservative reformation in politics, in morals, and in beliefs.
The man who wrote that was Bill Kristol. The Bill Kristol of 1997 was very different from the Bill Kristol we know today.
But Kristol, circa 1997, was right. And I’m not here, primarily, to talk to you about abortion, or even jurisprudence and the courts in general. But I think today’s ruling is important for our purposes insofar as it allows us to take a moment to reflect on our position in this particular moment in history, as Americans, and as people who love this country. We are, in this room, occupants of the small sliver of the nation’s ruling class—and especially the elite media—who still see something beautiful and noble and redeeming in our history, our traditions and our founding principles.
In this specific political context, we should also be considering the momentousness of today as conservatives; and for many of the young people here, as those who will—in one way or another—be inheriting the levers of power in the institutional conservative movement.
There have been any number of criticisms of the conservative movement in recent years, some of which I’m personally sympathetic to. But this is a moment to be proud of our history. To be proud to be in this room—not because we, as young people here, have contributed all that much to the cause of life or the defense of the Constitution, but because we are lucky enough to have the chance to carry on the work begun by our forefathers. The ones who toiled, often thanklessly; often in silence; often in the face of ridicule and censure in mainstream institutions; for nearly half a century, and for decades and decades when the possibility of overturning Roe was unthinkable.
And they did so not just because they believed in the sanctity of unborn life—although they did—but because they loved this country. And they understood what an insult it was to the Constitution—and to the men who wrote it—to say that it condoned, let alone mandated, such a profound moral evil as abortion.
All that is to say: We stand on the shoulders of giants. Particularly at storied institutions like ISI.
The luminaries of the conservative intellectual tradition in America, many of whom were writers or journalists or essayists of some kind or another, were all young people once, too. Many of them sat at conferences like these, although they were probably listening to much better speeches. But remember, ISI was one of the original institutions in movement conservatism. And pretty much every single one of your intellectual heroes has probably been associated with it, in one way or another.
Now, I’m young, too — probably not much older than you all. I graduated college in May of last year. And young people have a tendency to think they know better than their elders. I’m certainly guilty of this. Young conservatives have traditionally been slightly less prone to this impulse than our progressive counterparts, because naturally, we are seeking to conserve something. It’s a fundamental tenet of the conservative disposition to be deferential to the wisdom of the past. And insofar as that wisdom is embodied in and passed down by previous generations, we’re generally a little less likely to be partial to the “don’t trust anyone under 30” impulse than many of our peers.
But all of you have probably experienced that there’s a certain kind of radical ethos in our generation of conservatives, particularly in the intellectual circles that we all, to one degree or another, are a part of. You’ve all heard of “Conservatism, Inc.” There’s a tendency to look around us—to see how bad things are in so many areas—and to dismiss the work of our predecessors, and the institutions they built.
I get it. Sometimes, I feel it too.
But I want to caution against taking that impulse too far—particularly for those of us in this room, who will be part of the class of writers, thinkers, reporters, and journalists who really set the tone for what it means to be a conservative in the 21st century. Elite conservatism has always had an insular, familial feel. Everyone here knows each other: We tend to come up through the same pipeline from campus chapters of the College Republicans or ISI to the right wing of the beltway political establishment. We’re mentored by the same group of figures in the same handful of conservative institutions.
What that means is that you all are in a position to be far more powerful than our counterparts on the left side of the aisle.
The average left-wing writer, or journalist, or intellectual swims in a gigantic sea of mainstream elite American life. Being left-wing doesn’t make you special at a university or at the New York Times or the Washington Post. It doesn’t make you special in the federal bureaucracy, or Silicon Valley, or corporate HR departments, or the military brass, for that matter. They’re the norm.
We are the exception to the norm. The kind of young conservative who wants to go into writing, or reporting, or policy work, or any other kind of intellectual pursuit, is a very small and specific demographic. But the conservative movement infrastructure that our predecessors built is very powerful. And what that means is that we are situated to be in positions of unusual influence at a very early age.
We should take that seriously. It’s a cliché to say that great power comes with great responsibility, but it’s also true.
Take my example. I just turned 24—on my 24th birthday, I wrote a 4500-word cover story for the New York Times. Next week, I’m writing a piece for The Atlantic. Next year, I’m probably writing a book.
Some of my left-wing critics—and I seem to have more of them every day—would say that that’s because I’m a product of the so-called “conservative welfare state.” In other words, they’d argue that conservative writers and intellectuals, by virtue of their scarceness, but also because of the enormous amount of resources that they have access to, are a kind of affirmative action story.
Now, in one sense, that’s ridiculous. I don’t have to recite to you all of the mediocre writers and thinkers on the Left who were elevated to positions of influence and power because they had the right opinions, or to point out that the echo chamber in mainstream progressive institutions means that many of our public intellectuals rarely have to actually substantively defend their positions, which often leads to weak and lazy arguments.
But in another sense, there’s something to this point. I’m happy to admit that I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the fact that I believe things that are unusual in elite intellectual life, and that I wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for the generosity and support of institutions like ISI.
So all of us here are, in the real sense of the word, privileged. Not because of skin color or gender identity or any of the other ways that term is wielded today, but because we are participants in something important and unique. We’re inheritors of a noble tradition, built by some of the most brilliant and passionate men and women that our country has known.
Don’t just burn it all down. Be part of building something. Not “building a new world,” like the utopians on the Left claim to want to do, but rebuilding and renewing the America that the men and women who came before us fought for.
What does that mean for our specific wing of the conservative movement? As writers and journalists, I actually think we are uniquely situated to do the kind of work I’m talking about. Maybe some of that is self-flattery, but with the exception of the universities, I can’t think of an institution in American life where there is more of a need for conservative voices than the media.
Now of course, there is a sprawling ecosystem of conservative media already. We’re all in it. But the problem is that we are speaking, almost exclusively, to an audience that already agrees with us. That’s important, too, in and of itself. As I said earlier, one of the most significant roles we play as conservative writers is engaging with, and ultimately helping to define, the conversation about what it means to be a conservative today. And that question is more uncertain than it has been in decades. So the debates that we’re all involved in are important.
But we have yet to really break what people describe as “the New York Times effect.” The New York Times effect, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, describes the power that major left-wing papers like the Times wield in defining the terms of our national political discourse. It’s sort of like the Pareto principle—a small fraction of the population controlling a large portion of the wealth, in which 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of causes. A good example of this came last year, when powerful payment processors like Visa and Mastercard barred pornography platforms from using their services. Conservative faith-based groups had been working to go after platforms like PornHub, which were complicit in sex trafficking and child porn, for years. But it wasn’t until a big piece from Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, and then another long, critical piece in the BBC, that corporations actually felt pressured to move.
All of that is to say: So much of conservative media—and conservative politics in general—is reactive. We spend our time reacting or responding to the Left. But that’s an inherently defensive posture. It makes it very difficult to win when you’re playing on the other side’s terms.
Part of all this is simply a question of power. The constellation of mainstream, credentialed, “reputable” news outlets is very powerful. In the short term, there isn’t much we can do about that.
But part of it is a choice. Conservatives have adopted this defensive crouch by spending our time writing op-ed after op-ed about how biased the media is, about what this or that progressive pundit or Democratic politician said, and so on. And all of that is important, to a degree. I certainly do plenty of it myself. Part of our job is to hold people accountable—especially the ones that the mainstream media doesn’t.
But if we do that at the exclusion of other kinds of writing and journalism, we’ll never actually be able to set the terms of debate. And we’ll always be playing on a field where the referees work for our opponents.
The good news is, we don’t have to do that. The thing about the mainstream media’s bias is that they’re only really interested in uncovering half of the stories that are worth telling—and frankly, a lot of the stories they do tell aren’t particularly interesting or worthwhile.
What that means is that there is a cornucopia of stories for all of you to go out and find. Stories that matter, but that aren’t being told. All you have to do is go find them.
Let me give you a couple of examples—one from me, and one from a young friend of mine who I think exemplifies what young conservative journalists should be aiming to do better than almost anyone I know.
The first story: This January, Georgetown Law suspended their new professor, Ilya Shapiro, for an innocuous tweet he posted criticizing the Biden administration’s use of race and gender to select their new Supreme Court justice. It was an absurd, cowardly move, done not because Shapiro actually violated any of the school’s anti-discrimination policies—actually, he was defending the principle of colorblind equality under the law—but because the administration was scared of the student activists who were calling for his head.
When it happened, everyone on our side of the aisle—and even a couple principled progressive voices—called it a miscarriage of justice. But the story was Shapiro’s tweet. That, of course, was how it was reported in the mainstream media, and as such, that was the subject of debate. Even conservatives were backed into the defensive crouch of having to defend the content of the tweet, rather than being able to shift the conversation towards the Georgetown Law administration’s misconduct.
But I found out, via social media and some friends at Georgetown Law, that the Georgetown Black Law Students Association, which was the group leading the charge against Shapiro, was planning to hold a sit-in at the school, demanding all of the things that activists like this usually demand—not just that Shapiro be fired, but that there be more funding for diversity, equity and inclusion, more departments with teachers who shared their ideological commitments, and so on. So I went to Georgetown Law to see it for myself. I ended up getting foiled by security, but I found an Instagram livestream of the event and screen-recorded it on my iPhone while sitting in a nearby coffee shop.
And it was—and I put this mildly—insane. The activists weren’t just demanding that Shapiro be fired, but that Georgetown Law’s entire originalism institute be shut down. On top of that, they were demanding reparations in the form of “free food” and a designated “place to cry” to remedy the emotional trauma inflicted on them by the tweet. But the most damning thing of all was the fact that Bill Treanor, the dean of Georgetown Law who showed up to personally address the students, was completely deferential to them. No pushback, not a word of criticism. Just “yes, of course, you’re absolutely right.” Even when they demanded free food—“we’ll get that for you right away.”
When I broke this story, it went viral. But more importantly, it completely changed the terms of the debate. Not because of anything particularly special about me or my coverage of the story, but because it allowed people to see the actual dynamic that had led to Shapiro’s ouster. The conversation shifted from debating Shapiro’s tweet to debating the school’s response. And in the face of what everyone could see about the dynamic between Dean Treanor and these student radicals, it became very, very difficult to defend what happened. The school dragged its feet, but it eventually felt the need to offer Shapiro his job back. (He didn’t accept, but that’s another story).
Now the other example, which I actually think is far more impressive than my coverage of the Shapiro story, is my friend Aaron Sibarium. Aaron is 26 years old — not much older than you or me. But what I did with the Shapiro story, he has done many times over, and to far greater effect. Most recently, he was there covering Princeton’s persecution of their conservative professor, Joshua Katz. Before that, he broke the story about the CDC, and a number of state governments, using racial preferences in the dispensation of life-saving Covid treatments — a scoop that none other than Donald Trump has taken to talking about at his rallies. Before that, he was covering how critical race theory has infiltrated everything from the medical bureaucracy to the American Bar Association. He’s been a tireless chronicler of how left-wing cultural ideology, particularly as it pertains to race, gender and sexuality, is corrupting American institutions. He recently started a podcast, called Institutionalized, with a friend. It’s excellent. You should all be listening to it.
These stories are defining the narrative. They shift the terms of the conversation. All of a sudden, the conversation about “wokeness” isn’t just old Boomer hosts on right-wing talk radio complaining about some college kid using weird pronouns or something; it’s actually about material, substantive examples of how this ideology, and the power structure that’s driving it, is affecting Americans and America. It’s not just rhetorical anymore; we’re not just talking about politically correct speech-policing. When the Small Business Association is denying restaurants pandemic relief based on their skin color and gender, or when the CDC is denying at-risk white men life-saving antivirals, that’s real. It’s much more difficult to wave away as “right-wing hysteria.” And a whole lot of that is because of Aaron.
That’s all at the age of 26, for him. That’s what I’m trying to hammer home. You all can be doing that. And you should be. Because it’s important. There’s a massive opportunity here. It just takes a little bit of creativity, and a willingness to actually go out and find the stories that no one else is paying attention to.
The last thing I should just say on this topic is to those of you who came into this world hoping to mostly do opinion, like I initially did. First of all, the best journalism advice that I ever received, from one of the movement’s elder statesmen, is, “No one actually really cares what you have to say.” At least at first, why should anyone listen to kids like us? Why should they take our opinions seriously? Before you give your take on the news of the day, or on some big philosophical debate within conservatism, you have to prove that you’re worth listening to. And the best way to do that—and to make your mark—is to actually find the stories that no one else is paying attention to. So the best way in is to actually tell other people’s stories, or at the very least, to incorporate them into the stories that you want to tell.
The best way to learn how to write is to actually do real reporting. To write about real people, and real situations, rather than just to pontificate. And a lot of times, as I mentioned, that doesn’t have to be straight reporting. The best pieces I’ve ever written are “reported opinion,” where I’m making the case for something specifically, but using and relaying real stories rather than merely relying on my own thoughts. And that’s made me immeasurably better as a writer, even when I am writing something that could be described as mostly opinion.
To take an example—this long New York Times essay I just wrote. It was very much an opinion piece. But I wrote it very differently than I probably would have if they had asked me to write it two years ago. I was making the case that the decline of organized religion has substantially altered the priorities and worldview of the conservative movement—that’s an opinion. But I was describing it in the same way that I would report on the Ilya Shapiro situation at Georgetown. I was making an opinionated case, on the one hand, but was reporting, in a very real sense, on the other. And all of the best opinion pieces—the ones that really drive at something important—are, in a very real sense, reporting.
So whatever you’re actually interested in, from straight reporting and journalism to policy writing and work to anything else in this profession, look for good stories to tell.
It’s an odd time to be a young person in America. And it’s doubly as odd a time to be a young conservative. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of young conservatives are entering politics with a sense that America is under siege. Even as we log major wins at the Supreme Court—gun rights yesterday, abortion today—it can feel like the country is slipping away from us. The kind of work that Aaron does, for example, chronicling the Left’s march through our institutions—that’s happening. And those of us who have spent time on college campuses recently, in particular, know exactly how serious it is.
That’s disturbing, to me. No amount of tax cuts, or gun-rights expansions, or even Supreme Court victories seem to have been able to stem that tide. In a sense, I think, that’s because conservatives have been too narrow in our conception of politics. We thought that if we elected Republican majorities enough times, in enough places, they would save us from all of this.
Well, they haven’t.
And none of that is to contradict what I said at the outset of this speech, about a deep and abiding gratitude for the conservative movement. The only reason we’re here at all is because of the work of past generations. And today, of all days—just hours after the reversal of one of the greatest affronts to justice and human dignity in Supreme Court history—we should remember that.
But just as it fell to our predecessors to answer the great challenge of Communism abroad, it falls to us today to answer the great challenge of a militant and profoundly anti-American progressivism at home. And since the defining battle lines today are in the culture, it will be in the cultural institutions where this fight is won or lost. That’s not to say debates about government or economics aren’t important—of course they are. But the work we’re doing, in the media and the intellectual sphere, has taken on a particular importance in the contemporary context.
As I said earlier, all of us in this room, even those of us in the earliest stages of our careers, are in a unique position to actually have an effect in American politics and culture. It’s one of the greatest gifts that we’ve been given by those who came before us—including the men and women who built ISI. Our obligation, to them, is to fight for our way of life today, as they fought for it in generations past.
On the day after Roe was overturned, in Maine — the only place in America where Republican Senator Susan Collins actually represents anyone — lo and behold that abortion remains legal and widely available.
Under state law, there are generally no restrictions on it to the point of “viability,” which Maine deems to be about 24 weeks, well into the second trimester (and beyond the point at which many Americans, who disfavor abortion yet believe it should be safe, legal, and rare, would permit it in most cases). Even beyond viability, the law provides exceptions, particularly, of course, if the mother’s life is in danger. There is a parental-consent restriction for minors, but it is riven with exceptions that make it more like a speed bump. And Maine requires private insurance and Medicaid to cover abortions.
Contrary to what Senator Collins would have you believe, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have not outlawed abortion. To the contrary, they joined a ruling (in Dobbs) that gives the senator’s constituents complete control over what kind of abortion regulations they wish to adopt democratically.
Now that we are better positioned to notice such things, how curious that Collins is having a tantrum over Roe when the people she represents actually want abortion restrictions of the kind the Dobbs makes accessible. The Roe regime was so barbaric that it gave Democrats cover to oppose any restriction on abortion, up until the moment of delivery; most people in Maine, however, do not favor abortion-on-demand, at any gestational point and for any reason.
Democrats are lying about Roe, and Collins is helping them. Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and rest of the Dobbs majority have not outlawed abortion. They have re-empowered the people of Maine to control abortion. Ironic that the Court has more faith in the people who elected Susan Collins than Susan Collins does.
Statists are demanding that the government impose price controls, now that reckless spending and money creation have brought on rapidly increasing prices. One of the claims we’re hearing is that we should ignore all that stuff about economic theory and look at history for instances when price controls “worked.”
Don’t buy it. Economics professor William Anderson has a sharp refutation here.
Referring to Harold Meyerson’s hymn to price controls during World War II, Anderson writes, “Yet that tells us absolutely nothing, for he fails to mention the shortages, official rationing of goods, and the general economic misery that Americans faced during those conflicts, when the economy, geared to total war, vacuumed up vast numbers of resources, leaving Americans on the home front to scramble for the leftovers and, with much difficulty, scratch out a living.”
To that, I’d add the economic waste of having to hire a small army of price-control officials to enforce the system. Leftists never see the opportunity cost of creating “jobs” that produce no value.
My latest column in the New York Post on how Roe made our current political moment:
Roe was a legal mistake that played a large role in driving our national politics crazy. Now the democratic process gets to decide what happens to abortion. Before Roe, nearly every state in the Union banned or restricted abortion, but the trend was toward allowing abortion in more situations. That trend, here and abroad, tracked the liberalizing of divorce laws and other features of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Roe stopped all that in its tracks, high-handedly sweeping off the books the laws of nearly every state at once. (New York’s law, the nation’s most permissive, allowed abortions up to 24 weeks.) The Supreme Court’s job is to read the law, not write it. Nothing in the Constitution mentions abortion even indirectly, and nobody before the 1970s thought the Constitution made abortion legal. . . .
All the energy that usually goes into politics and lawmaking in Congress and state legislatures was forced into an all-or-nothing national battle for the Supreme Court that lasted decades. When presidential candidates such as Donald Trump or Bill Clinton misbehaved, their supporters insisted that the stakes of every presidential election were too high for dissent, because Roe was always on the national ballot. That isn’t healthy. In America, the people are supposed to make the law. Now they can.
The revision is an attack on freedom of speech that opens the door for campus administrators to bring complaints against anyone who says things that upset the militants.
Bader observes that the language is based on a concept of “harassment” that one appeals court has already declared unconstitutional.
Bader writes, “The Biden administration’s proposed definition of sexual harassment disregards the Supreme Court’s Davis decision. It adopts a definition of harassment that is even broader in some respects than the broad harassment definition used in workplaces, which the Supreme Court rejected as impractical for schools, because of the fact that ‘schools are unlike’ the workplace, and because students ‘regularly interact in a manner that would be unacceptable’ among adult workers.”
It sounds as though these rules wouldn’t survive a legal challenge, but that’s true of most of what Biden has been up to.
In a historic ruling, the Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe and Casey. Rich and the other Editors hosts discuss this momentous day and the various legal and political angles of the decision.
Rich reminds listeners of just how many people were involved over the last almost-five decades in bringing about this victory. From voters to activists to Donald Trump, the editors make the point that this victory would not have been possible without the continued perseverance — in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds — of those fighting to bring about a culture of life in the United States.
There has been major Democratic outcry over the decision, and the editors consider how the decision will affect November’s midterm elections. MBD brings up some important points concerning what cultural shifts we may see moving forward, specifically from the emerging populist class. In terms of individual states, Phil discusses what actions governors and legislators might take.
Come for the Dobbs discussion, but make sure to stay for the gun-case decision talk at the end of the show. Listen below or on your podcast player of choice.