Politics & Policy

Kamala Harris Is Farther Left Than Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders

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Sen. Kamala Harris reaches out to Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential candidates debate in Westerville, Ohio October 15, 2019. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

How extreme is Kamala Harris? Pretty extreme. There are various measures for these things, but according to Progressive Punch (“Leading with the Left”), Kamala Harris is the fourth farthest-left of any senator with a score of 96.76 percent out of 100 on “crucial votes,” despite moderating very slightly in the period when she was running for president. Elizabeth Warren is fifth, Kirsten Gillibrand is sixth, and Bernie Sanders is tenth. Here is a portion of the chart:

Elections

On Kamala Harris

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Senator Kamala Harris is interviewed after the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. November 20, 2019. (Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters)

Joe Biden has named his 2020 running mate: authoritarianism.

American prosecutors wield awesome and terrible powers that lend themselves easily to abuse, and Senator Kamala Harris, formerly the attorney general of California, is an enthusiastic abuser of them.

Harris was a leader in the junta of Democratic state attorneys general that attempted to criminalize dissent in the matter of global warming, using her office’s investigatory powers to target and harass non-profit policy groups while she and her counterpart in New York attempted to shake down Exxon on phony fraud cases.

Until she was stopped by a federal court, Harris was laying subpoenas on organizations such as the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative-leaning group that is critical of Democratic global-warming proposals. She demanded private information that the organizations were not legally obliged to disclose, including financial information and donor lists, in order to be able to subject the supporters of right-leaning groups to legal and financial harassment. This was, as a federal judge confirmed, an obvious and unquestionable violation of the First Amendment.

It was also a serious abuse of power. Harris’s actions were coordinated with those of then attorney general Eric Schneiderman in New York, who argued — preposterously — that Exxon’s taking a different view of global warming was a form of securities fraud. This isn’t a conspiracy theory: They held a press conference and organized their effort into a committee, which they called AGs United for Clean Power.

This was not happening in a political vacuum. At approximately the same time, the IRS was being weaponized to harass and disadvantage right-leaning nonprofits and policy organizations, for example, leaking the confidential tax information of the National Organization for Marriage as an act of political retaliation, an offense for which the IRS was obliged to pay a settlement. (The IRS’s other abuses, as in the Lois Lerner matter, remain largely unpunished.) A lawyer with connections to Barack Obama and Andrew Cuomo attempted to extort billions of dollars from Chevron in a mammoth racketeering project that involved falsifying evidence and bribing judges, a project that was cheered on by green activists such as musician Roger Waters and Democratic operatives such as former Cuomo aide Karen Hinton, both of whom had negotiated for themselves a percentage of the settlement. That went on until a federal judge intervened on RICO grounds. Democratic voices in the media were calling for the authorities to — this part is even less subtle —“arrest climate change deniers,” a project to which activists such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. lent their voices.

And this was not idle talk: As with Harris’s abusive investigation in California, a legal pretext was offered, albeit a patently ridiculous one.

Harris’s self-serving prosecutorial abuses have been directed at political enemies, but they also put hundreds — maybe thousands — of people in jail or at risk of prosecution on wrongful grounds when it suited her agenda. As Lara Bazelon of the Loyola law school wrote in the New York Times:

Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.

Consider her record as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011. Ms. Harris was criticized in 2010 for withholding information about a police laboratory technician who had been accused of “intentionally sabotaging” her work and stealing drugs from the lab. After a memo surfaced showing that Ms. Harris’s deputies knew about the technician’s wrongdoing and recent conviction, but failed to alert defense lawyers, a judge condemned Ms. Harris’s indifference to the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.

Ms. Harris contested the ruling by arguing that the judge, whose husband was a defense attorney and had spoken publicly about the importance of disclosing evidence, had a conflict of interest. Ms. Harris lost. More than 600 cases handled by the corrupt technician were dismissed.

In the context of Harris’s political vendettas, that eagerness to engage in “systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights” is particularly terrifying.

In choosing this corrupt prosecutor as his vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden has made a serious error, one that highlights his already substantial deficiencies in judgment.

Politics & Policy

Kamala Harris Backs Publicly Funded Health Care for Illegal Immigrants

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Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake, Iowa, August 9, 2019. (Gage Skidmore)

In May of 2019, Kamala Harris unequivocally told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she would make no distinction between American citizens and illegal immigrants on a broad array of measures. When Tapper referred to benefits for “people who are in this country illegally,” Harris replied: “Let me just be very clear about this. I am opposed to any policy that would deny in our country any human being from access to public safety, public education or public health, period.” Joe Biden’s position on the same matter has been murky: Like all of the other Democrats on stage he raised his hand when Savannah Guthrie asked, “Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.” His campaign later claimed that Biden meant only that undocumented immigrants could purchase health insurance via Obamacare. But Biden was specifically asked about Medicare and Medicaid last June, and he said, “Look, I think that anyone who is in a situation where they are in need of health care, regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented, we have an obligation to see that they are cared for.”

Harris’s campaign got off to a terrible start last January when she blithely said, also on CNN, that she would eliminate private health insurance, though she later walked back that position.

“The idea is that everyone gets access to medical care and you don’t have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through all the paperwork, all of the delay that may require,” Harris initially said. “Who of all us have not had that situation where you have to wait for approval and the doctor says, ‘I don’t know if your insurance company is going to cover this.’ Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.” She later clarified that by saying she was talking about eliminating bureaucracy and waste, not private health insurance, but as late as June 27 of last year, she was one of only two candidates at a Democratic debate who raised their hands when asked whether anyone would eliminate private health insurance. The next day she claimed she had misunderstood the question, which was “Many people watching at home have health insurance through their employer. Who here would abolish their health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?” Only Harris and Bernie Sanders raised their hands.

The Democratic Party position is usually slightly more nuanced: It involves not eliminating private health insurance directly but putting it out of business indirectly, so as to maintain plausible deniability with the aid of the media. First step: Set up a public option, or “Biden plan.” This would, of course, wipe out all private health insurers, as Joe Biden frankly admitted in his New York Times editorial board interview, because no private company would be able to compete with the federal system. Here was his exchange with Jeneen Interlandi of the Times:

JI: O.K. You can keep your doctors. What happens if employers curb their own offerings as the public option takes hold? There’s a lot of incentive ——

Bingo. They can automatically go get a public option.

JI: But they would lose their ——

Sure they would.

JI: An employer could take away, if someone likes their private insurance ——

No, no, here’s the deal. If you like your private insurance and your employer keeps it with you, you can keep it.

JI: But what happens if your employer cancels it?

If you can’t, you come on the Biden plan. You provide that option. You can get a gold plan where you do have nobody — you do not have to pay more than a $1,000 deductible. We significantly reduce drug prices, which, by the way, Republicans are looking to get done, O.K.? What you do is you provide that option. But if you like your plan, if you really like it, I don’t think we should come along and say, “You must give it up.”

JI: But if your employer cancels that plan, then you don’t get it, you don’t have that choice.

No, you don’t have the choice, but you had the choice to — that’s why — I’m not saying, I said, if you like your plan, you can keep it, assuming — I should add the obvious — if your employer doesn’t take it away from you. O.K.?

If you like your plan, you can keep it . . . unless it’s no longer available. Which it won’t be. But Democrats will blame the private insurers they drive out of business for going out of business.

Elections

Wait, Joe Biden Picked That Kamala Harris?

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Senator Kamala Harris laughs during the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. November 20, 2019. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Kamala Harris? Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris?

Out of all of Biden’s options, he chose the rival whose presidential campaign is best remembered for her attack on him, contending he opposed busing? The rival who said the way he described his relationship with old segregationists was “hurtful”!

The woman who insisted on busing in a subsequent debate, “on that issue, we could not be more apart”? That Kamala Harris? The one who accused Biden of “revisionist history”?

The Kamala Harris who attacked his record of support for the Hyde Amendment, and suggested he had only changed his mind out of political expediency?

The same woman that shocked Biden’s friend Chris Dodd by showing “no remorse” months later?

This is the rival who said she believed women who accused Biden of touching them inappropriately!

The same Kamala Harris that “high-ranking Democratic Party officials and elected officials have expressed concerns about to the vetting committee in recent weeks”? That Kamala Harris?

Is there some other Kamala Harris out there? A different one than the one that Biden allies worried wouldn’t be loyal, would be “too ambitious and that she will be solely focused on becoming president herself”?

The woman who laughed at Biden when he said her gun-control proposals violated the Constitution?

DAVID MUIR: In recent days former Vice President Biden has said about executive orders, “Some really talented people are seeking the nomination. They said ‘I’m going to issue an executive order.'” Biden saying, “There’s no constitutional authority to issue that executive order when they say ‘I’m going to eliminate assault weapons,'” saying, “you can’t do it by executive order any more than Trump can do things when he says he can do it by executive order.”

HARRIS: Well, I mean, I would just say, hey, Joe, instead of saying, no, we can’t, let’s say yes, we can.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: Let’s be constitutional. We’ve got a Constitution.

HARRIS: And yes, we can, because I’ll tell you something. The way that I think about this is, I’ve seen more autopsy photographs than I care to tell you. I have attended more police officer funerals than I care to tell you. I have hugged more mothers of homicide victims than I care to tell you.

And the idea that we would wait for this Congress, which has just done nothing, to act, is just — it is overlooking the fact that every day in America, our babies are going to school to have drills, elementary, middle and high school students, where they are learning about how they have to hide in a closet or crouch in a corner if there is a mass shooter roaming the hallways of their school.

As the sportscaster in Dodgeball says, “that’s a bold strategy, Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for him.”

Elections

Kamala Harris’s Anti-Catholic Bigotry

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Sen. Kamala Harris speaks during the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, August 10, 2019. (Scott Morgan/Reuters)

Someone might want to remind Joe Biden, who’s just picked progressive California senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, that his vice-president-to-be believes Catholics are unfit to serve in our nation’s courts. (Biden, of course, as I considered at length on the homepage today, has spent his entire political career invoking his Catholic faith.)

In late 2018, while evaluating the nomination of Brian Buescher to serve as a district judge in Nebraska, Harris posed a series of questions insinuating that his involvement in the Knights of Columbus — a charitable Catholic fraternal organization — disqualified him from serving on the bench. Here’s one of her written questions:

Since 1993, you have been a member of the Knights of Columbus, an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men. In 2016, Carl Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus, described abortion as “a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths.” Mr. Anderson went on to say that “abortion is the killing of the innocent on a massive scale.” Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?

She went on to ask Buescher whether he was “aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed marriage equality when [he] joined the organization” and whether he had “ever, in any way, assisted with or contributed to advocacy against women’s reproductive rights.”

Harris’s colleague, Democratic senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, went a bit further, asking Buescher whether he intended to “end [his] membership with this organization to avoid any appearance of bias” — in other words, intimating that she would withhold her vote at least until he had left the Knights of Columbus.

These two Democrats were, in short, suggesting that belonging to a Catholic group with millions of members, which has been an important charity in the U.S. for more than a century, renders an individual unfit to serve as a judge.

More sinister even than that, Harris used Buescher’s membership in the Knights of Columbus as a pretext to insinuate that opposition to abortion, a core component of Catholic teaching on the dignity and value of human life, disqualifies an individual from the bench.

Buescher eventually was confirmed, and at the behest of Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, the Senate later voted unanimously to reaffirm the constitutional clause forbidding religious tests for public officeholders. But the fact remains that Harris was guilty of reprehensible anti-Catholic bigotry, and there’s no reason to believe her views have changed.

Law & the Courts

No, the Solicitor General Did Not Say AG Barr Had ‘Secret Information’ That Led to Flynn Dismissal

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Attorney General William Barr testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., July 28, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Reuters)

I just spent nearly four hours of my life that I can never get back listening to oral arguments in the Flynn case. At issue was D.C. Circuit federal appeals court’s en banc reconsideration — i.e., review by the full court, ten judges in this instance (one having recused) — of the ruling by a divided three-judge panel of the court, which issued a writ of mandamus ordering Judge Emmet Sullivan to grant the Justice Department’s dismissal of the case. (I wrote about the case over the weekend, here.)

In truth, the hearing (by teleconference) was quite interesting. For now, though, I just want to address a media account about it, because it goes to show why people have become skeptical of news reporting. In scanning some of the coverage, I noticed this loaded headline at CNBC: “Government lawyer suggests Attorney General Barr had secret reasons for dropping Flynn criminal case.”

No, that is not what the government lawyer said.

One of the major aspects in the case is a provision in Rule 48(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which requires the prosecutor to obtain “leave of court” in order to dismiss a criminal case. This provision is in tension with constitutional law, under which the decision to commence or persist in a prosecution is vested solely in the executive branch. So the core questions are: Does the “leave of court” requirement permit the judge to conduct some inquiry into the Justice Department’s reasons for dropping a case? And, if so, how much inquiry is tolerable before the court crosses the line, violating separation of powers by intruding on the executive’s discretion?

As you might imagine, there was a good deal of back-and-forth on this, particularly between the judges and Jeffrey Wall, the acting solicitor general, who argued the case for the Justice Department. This discussion shifted from (a) hypotheticals about how little the government could theoretically get away with disclosing about its reasoning, to (b) how much it had actually disclosed in the Flynn case. Wall made it clear that, whatever might in the abstract be the base level of required disclosure, the Justice Department had gone well above it in Flynn’s case. Here, Judge Sullivan was given a submission arguing that the case should not have been brought in the first place; it posited a legal theory that there was no crime, supported by factual disclosures that were, in turn, backed up by witness statements and other evidence.

As the discussion between Wall and the judges unfolded, a question arose about whether the prosecutor is obliged to tell the court all of its reasons for dropping a case, or if it is sufficient to impart just enough information to satisfy the court that the dismissal is not sought for an improper purpose. (The Justice Department argues that the court’s inquiry into improper purpose is limited to ensuring that the defendant agrees with the dismissal.) In explaining why there is no requirement to tell the court everything the prosecutor knows, Wall pointed out that very often the prosecutor will be aware of information from the investigation that might inform the decision to dismiss but that, for a host of good reasons, should not be disclosed.

In this vein, Wall added, it was entirely possible that Attorney General Barr might be aware of non-public information from the Flynn investigation and related investigations that should not be publicized, and that there would be no need to reveal it because the court had already been given more than enough information to be satisfied that the dismissal motion was proper.

In context, Wall seemed to be speaking theoretically, not based on personal knowledge of the investigations and what the attorney general knows about them. That’s not just the way I heard it; the judges plainly heard it the same way because there was no follow-up. It was a point worthy of making, but not one that called for probing.

Wall was not saying that Barr was in possession of or had relied on “secret information” that is being withheld from Judge Sullivan. Nor was he saying Barr had no such information, as it would be normal to have it. In fact, Wall did not seem to have the Flynn case in mind at all. He was in the position of the Justice Department’s lawyer looking out for the institutional interests of prosecutors. It is commonplace for prosecutors to be aware of non-public information that is not disclosed in relevant court proceedings — maybe it’s grand-jury material, maybe disclosure would compromise an informant, maybe revealing it would hurt investigators’ ability to conduct effective interviews of witnesses, etc.

None of this is similar. There are well-known rules of the road. Prosecutors must disclose exculpatory information. And there is a duty of candor toward the tribunal. If a prosecutor makes a statement that could be misleading if other information is not disclosed, then that information must be disclosed. If a judge asks a question, the prosecutor must either answer it or inform the judge that the government declines to answer it — the court must not be placed under a misimpression. But all that said, the prosecutor simply needs to show that his reasoning satisfied any legal requirement, not to disclose every fact that informed his reasoning.

All the acting solicitor general was saying is that there is no legal obligation to inform the court of everything the prosecutor knows. He was not signaling that there is some explosive secret information somehow bearing on the Flynn dismissal motion that has been withheld from Judge Sullivan.

Culture

Another Look at New York City in the Pandemic

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New York City’s Central Park seen from the air ( Ingus Kruklitis/Getty Images)

Living as I do on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, next to the projects behind the Metropolitan Opera, I wanted to temper some of the sentiments expressed by the estimable Kyle Smith and VDH on the decline of New York.

To me, the Upper West Side is not quite as bad as it seems to Kyle. Maybe I’ve gotten used to it, but I don’t sense a “palpable” fear when going out to eat on Amsterdam or Columbus Ave.—and the outdoor dining is actually quite nice, even in the heat and humidity. Nor is there fear among the sunbathers at Sheep Meadow on Central Park’s west side, or in the parks along the Hudson.

New York is not dead. Go to Greenwich Village on a weekend, and the streets are filled with people at outdoor cafes and grabbing a drink along with their Cuomo chips. Many of the city’s restaurants, thank goodness, are surviving.

Neither has the city returned entirely to the dysfunction of the late ’60s and ’70s. During the looting and riots in late May it really did seem like a good idea to bring in federal troops to restore order, but the rioting died down relatively quickly, and there was no need for a federal response on the level of L.A.’s Rodney King riots. Seeing stores and restaurants with plywood on their windows was a shock, but that plywood has come down in most places and been repurposed for barriers for outdoor dining. There is currently nothing close to the persistent and violent Antifa presence that exists in Portland. At most, Black Lives Matter protesters will get on bicycles and ride around Manhattan in groups; annoying and stupid, but nothing New York’s finest can’t handle.

None of this is intended to discount the suffering New Yorkers experienced at the height of the pandemic, including the 23,500 who died and the additional tens of thousands who fell ill. The eerie emptiness of midtown and downtown Manhattan is staggering for anyone to behold. And of course, it would be better for the NYPD if they could focus on rising murders in certain precincts rather than chaperoning BLM protesters.

One day, however, the coronavirus mitigation efforts will end. Whether New York will fully recover is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime, I feel compelled to report that, in my day-to-day experience, the city is not yet in the midst of the apocalypse.

NR Webathon

You Want Sanity? We Got Sanity

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. on Firing Line

We prefer our Marx to be of the Groucho and Chico persuasion, and though they were a source of confusion about the contractual validity of a sanity clause, there is no confusion — say so many of the donors to our ongoing Cancel-Culture webathon — about the fact that NR is worth their financial support because it indeed is an oasis of sanity in this maelstrom of ideology and madness and Leftism amok-running. Some examples:

  • John affords us a generous $200 and this sentiment: “NR has been a safe harbor of sanity for decades. During these times of reckless stupidity, we need NR more than ever. Thank you all for your thoughtful and intelligent articles and commentaries.” It’s us who need to do the thanking, and we do. And yeah — we find your assessment to be spot-on, John.
  • Ditto from Christopher, who spots us 50 bucks and says what we all know to be true: “National Review is nearly the only sanity out there. After my morning (leftist) local paper, NR online is the first place I go. Keep up the great work.” You keep passing the ammo and we’ll keep the guns ablaze. Thanks, Christopher.
  • Jacob drops $500 into the till and says it short and sweet: “Nowhere else is there such a high concentration of great thinker-writers.” I like that job description, and yeah, it fits a goodly amount of my colleagues — who are in the fight because of your selflessness. Thanks Jacob.
  • Alex is good for a $100 contribution and specific praise: “Thanks to Rich (our voice), Jim (our funny bone), MBD (our conscience), Maddy K. (our common sense), Charlie (our trigger finger), and so many others. You’ve helped me make better sense of the world. I don’t have much, but I hope this helps you keep up the fight.” It sure does. Many many thanks, Alex.
  • Now Matthew, who sends $100, is my first pick for foxhole companion: “I wish I could meet these bastards in the street but I am too old for that now. And my better angels tell me Mr. Cooke is right — duke it out with ideas and words. You folks have both in truths the NR expresses every single day.” Never too old Matthew, but thanks terribly for the kind words and kind deed.
  • Joseph, source of a $50 contribution, is actually fighting: “Currently deployed and National Review gives me hope I’ll still recognize our country when we return home. Keep fighting the good fight.” We do because you do. Typing with one hand and saluting with the other, Joseph!
  • Let’s end with this from the once-parched Richard, donor of a C Note: “Reading your articles is like a drink of fresh water in a drought. You are a good part of my moral compass.” Well, well, well, we are here to serve. Drink up! And thanks so much, Richard!

Sane journalism was a rarity to start with — after the intense madness of 2020, it might as well be on the Endangered Species List. But sane, meaningful, conservative journalism — one that is a bold and powerful two-by-four upside the head of Leftist elites and the 1619 brigadiers who detest the More-Perfecting Union of the Declaration and Constitution — is the DNA and vital organs and gray matter of NR. This magazine and website deserve to persist in the fight, because without it . . . well, do you picture the world being be a worse place sans NR? If you think so, and if you’re like Richard, who quenches his intellectual thirst at the NR Bar, then buy a round. Your generosity will keep the joint open and jumping. Minus that, well . . . let’s not think about the darkness.

So: How much to give? The answer is what your wallet and means dictate. But be assured of this: There is no contribution too small or too large — and never one that is not deeply appreciated by all here. Help us to stay in the fight, to preserve that rare source of conservative sanity, through your generous donation of $10 or $20 or $50 or $100. What the heck: Think about $250 or $500 or $1,000, and if more is possible, you’ll get no complaints here! Whatever you can donate, do so here. To give by check, make one payable to “National Review” and mail it to National Review, ATTN: Summer 2020 Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036.

One last thing: Morrie Ryskind was one of the screenwriters for A Night at the Opera, famous for its “sanity clause” line and dozens more. He was also one of the founding editors of National Review. Morrie was a Hollywood lefty-turned-conservative who befriended a young Bill Buckley when he was launching this journal. He was an avowed foe of that other Marx, the one named Karl. Many believe he was also blackballed because he appeared as a friendly witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. That would make Ryskind an original victim of the cancel culture. Your contribution would be a nice bit of payback for that.

Elections

Reportedly, the Biden Pick Is In

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“The pick is in!” Now-commissioner Roger Goodell will stride out upon the stage and announce that with the first pick in the 2020 Democratic running-mate draft, Joe Biden’s campaign selects . . . okay, wait, that’s not really how it works.

For cable-news and political junkies, this is one of the most dramatic moments of the cycle. Likely one Democrat among Kamala Harris, Susan Rice, Karen Bass, Tammy Duckworth, or Gretchen Whitmer has just been given an excellent chance of becoming the 47th president of the United States — and obviously the first woman to become commander in chief. For the others, there’s likely a promise of strong consideration for some other key position in Biden’s cabinet.

But looking back at recent history, some of the figures on the short list don’t join the cabinet and end up not playing much of a role in the party’s future. Chris Christie never formally joined the Trump administration; reportedly, Jared Kushner played a role in that decision. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana made the short list for Obama, but didn’t seek reelection in 2010 and lost a bid to return to the Senate in 2016. Oklahoma governor Frank Keating was considered a top contender in 2000, but never joined the Bush administration. And in 1992, Bill Clinton’s finalists included “Senators Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, John D. Rockefeller 4th of West Virginia, Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania, Bob Graham of Florida and Representative Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana.”

In the sales competition in Glengarry Glen Ross, “first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. . . . Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired.” Biden’s selection gets to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, several others will probably get some sort of position in the executive branch . . . and some others may well get obscurity.

Elections

The Pick Matters

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While we wait to hear the name of Joe Biden’s running mate, I just want to reiterate the point.

Biden’s basement-style campaign means that every word he says in public, and every decision he makes has more weight. It’s the exact opposite of Trump’s 2016 approach, in which a motormouth campaign that seemed to be streaming 24/7 on cable news made everything he said weightless.

It’s an important choice. You can’t see a video of Biden these days without thinking: “His veep pick really matters!” One poll shows that more than half the public believes Biden will not serve the full length of his first term.

And I think this means it’s impossible to make a “correct” pick. Someone who has too large a profile will look too much like a president-in-waiting and overshadow Biden. Someone without a large profile, or too far to his left, will make Biden look like he’s taking the risk of marooning the country with a president who doesn’t have legitimacy.

The pick matters so much because Biden’s age, energy level, and health matters.

Law & the Courts

When Should the Government Dissolve Nonprofits?

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National Rifle Association executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the NRA annual meeting in Indianapolis, Ind., April 26, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

At Lawfare, Alan Z. Rozenshtein argues that the National Rifle Association should be reformed, not dissolved. But as he notes, there are serious allegations of financial impropriety against the organization’s leadership — and in such cases, the state of New York (where the NRA is registered) grants its attorney general wide discretion to seek dissolution rather than other remedies, such as replacing the board or placing the organization into receivership.

As a result, his argument rests on norms, not laws:

The law under which [the state attorney general] is operating is immensely broad, and permits the attorney general to seek to dissolve a nonprofit if it “has exceeded the authority conferred upon it by law, or has violated any provision of law whereby it has forfeited its charter, or carried on, conducted or transacted its business in a persistently fraudulent or illegal manner, or by the abuse of its powers contrary to public policy of the state has become liable to be dissolved.”

But the very breadth of the law is what underscores the need for the norm — which is, after all, an unwritten rule of conduct for government officials — of prosecutorial discretion. As written, the statute permits the attorney general to seek dissolution any time a nonprofit’s leaders engage in serious fraud. But seeking such a radical remedy every time that occurs would clearly go beyond what the legislature intended, and what good public policy countenances. The breadth of the law only makes sense if paired with discretion on the part of those who enforce it.

I’m not sure the breadth of the law makes sense at all. If there’s one thing that the past five years or so have taught us, it’s that mere norms erode in the face of political incentives. The only thing that matters is what the law actually allows officials to do. New York and other states should spell out more specific criteria for when a nonprofit must be dissolved rather than reformed.

U.S.

Closed Schools Are a National Emergency — Where Is the Audacity?

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Supporters of the Cherokee County School District’s decision to reopen schools outside the district’s headquarters in Canton, Ga., August 11, 2020. (Dustin Chambers/Reuters)

Closed schools are a national emergency that will damage an entire generation of children. Many districts seem to be defaulting to a plan of waiting for a vaccine before reopening schools. This represents a tragic lack of urgency and creative thinking.

Where is the audacity? Restaurants can figure out outdoor dining. Why can’t schools manage outdoor learning? In my latest Bloomberg column, I offer some ideas to keep kids in classrooms while also addressing the legitimate health concerns held by many teachers and parents:

Classes should be held outdoors wherever possible. Football, baseball and soccer fields can be converted to outdoor classrooms; for many weeks, students and teachers wouldn’t need to spend much time indoors. Tents can keep children dry if it is raining. Heat lamps can keep them warm during a fall chill. Restaurants have figured out how to do this. Schools can, too.

Children should be kept in small, assigned groups, and groups should mingle as little as possible. If local officials decide that all students can’t attend in person five days a week to keep density low, the school week should be extended, and some classes should be held on weekends and evenings. And districts that go virtual this fall should begin planning immediately to keep schools open in the summer of 2021 to make up for lost classroom instruction.

High school students are more equipped to benefit from virtual learning than 1st graders. So if some schools must be closed, then close the high schools, keep the K-8 schools open, and use the high-school buildings for socially distanced elementary- and middle-school students. Better yet, districts should keep all schools open and work with local officials to commandeer public parks for outdoor instruction — or even vacant shopping malls for socially distanced indoor instruction — during the week.

There is an implicit assumption in many states that the school year needs to begin in late August or early September, as previously scheduled, or not at all. But state officials could directly link the goals of reducing the virus’s spread and reopening schools, telling their residents that once the spread reaches a specified low level, schools will reopen. This would encourage greater use of masks and social distancing measures. And if a state hits its target in, say, mid-October, why not begin the school year then? The choice shouldn’t be to open on September 3 or not at all.

Check out my column for my full argument. Your comments, as always, are very welcome.

Politics & Policy

Introducing the Philadelphia Statement on Free Speech

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The Philadelphia Statement on free speech and civil discourse makes its public debut today. The Philadelphia Statement counters social-media mobs, cancel culture, and campus-speech policing by clearly articulating and affirming the principles of free speech and the need for civil discourse. By collecting signatories, supporters of the Philadelphia Statement hope to start a movement that will restore and strengthen the culture of free expression in America.

You can read the Philadelphia Statement here. If you agree, you can become a signatory of the Philadelphia Statement at the same link. I am one of the initial signatories, as is NR’s Kevin Williamson. You can read the list of initial signatories here.

Two of the initial signatories, Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, and Pete Peterson, dean at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, have a thoughtful op-ed about the Philadelphia Statement out today.

White House

Executive Overreach: The Difference between Trump and Obama

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That’s the subject of my new Bloomberg Opinion column. I leave it to the reader to judge which president looks worse based on the difference.

Elections

A Real Race in Michigan?

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Is the presidential race in Michigan close or a Biden blowout? The polls point in opposite directions.

The most recent poll, conducted July 26 to August 6 by YouGov for the University of Wisconsin, shows Biden leading Trump 47 percent to 43 percent among registered voters. A July 24-26 poll of likely voters by the Democratic pollster Change Research also found Biden leading by just four points. 

On the other hand, a CNN poll showed Biden up 12 points in mid-July, and a late July poll conducted by EPIC-MRA showed Biden up 11 points.

One possible sign that the Biden campaign believes the race is actually close in Michigan: The state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, found herself in recent weeks back on Biden’s VP shortlist.

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