Politics & Policy

Why Do Some Biden Supporters Want No Debates This Autumn?

Loading...
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden departs after speaking about his plans to combat racial inequality at a campaign event in Wilmington, Del., July 28, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Why is there this sudden enthusiasm for canceling the presidential debates?

Tom Friedman, back on July 7: “Biden should declare that he will take part in a debate only if Trump releases his tax returns for 2016 through 2018. . . . Second, Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates — and that 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered.”

Elizabeth Drew, in an op-ed in the New York Times, yesterday: “Let’s scrap the presidential debates. They’ve become unrevealing quip contests.”

Alex Shephard, writing in The New Republic: “The truth is that the debates have long since stopped serving the needs of voters and instead only exist to benefit television networks and cable news, in particular. Perhaps it’s time to consign them to the dustbin of history.”

Former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart, writing at CNN: “Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump. . . . It’s a fool’s errand to enter the ring with someone who can’t follow the rules or the truth.”

Bill Kristol tweeted yesterday, “If early voting is underway before the scheduled debates, then it seems unfair to early voters to have those debates as scheduled. But so much work went in to the schedule that it seems unfair to change it. So I guess the fairest thing might be to skip the debates this year.”

All of these figures are pulling for Joe Biden to win in November. All of them are suddenly and surprisingly insistent that the incumbent and challenger arguing about who could do a better job for three 90-minute sessions on national television would be very, very bad for the country.

They’re sure acting like they fear Biden could lose the election because of bad debate performances, aren’t they?

Biden had some pretty lousy performances in this cycle’s Democratic presidential primary debates, but he soldiered on and won anyway. Biden also had some pretty good nights. He held his own in the one-on-one debate against Bernie Sanders as the pandemic started shutting down America.

It’s weird to see so many prominent Democrats seemingly intimidated by the thought of their nominee debating the president. Donald Trump isn’t exactly Cicero or Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill when it comes to oratorical persuasion. He goes off-message or creates new controversies with metronomic regularity.

But Trump is lively and aggressive, and it is easy to picture him going for the jugular at any point in the debates, with some series of attacks along the lines of, “Your son was corrupt and you helped cover it up, you were a miserable failure as vice president, you’re going senile and you’ll be a puppet for the Communists who control your party, and your running mate plans on taking over your job within a year!” And it’s equally easy to see Biden just not looking sharp or forceful in his rebuttal.

Could that cost Biden the election? Some prominent Democrats and Trump critics seem to think so.

World

The U.S. Is ‘Reconsidering’ the Death Penalty for ISIS Terrorists

Loading...

Last week, I wrote about Alexanda Kotey and El-Shafee Elsheikh, two British-born ISIS terrorists who have admitted involvement in the torture and murder of American hostages and are currently being held by U.S. forces in Iraq. Their victims’ families want them brought to the United States to face trial in a federal court, but the U.K. Supreme Court blocked its government from sharing intelligence unless the Trump administration agrees to waive the death penalty. As reported first by the Washington Post, the Department of Justice has since indicated that it is reconsidering whether to do exactly that.

World

Fifteen Things that Caught My Eye Today: Orphaned by COVID, Uyghur Women & More (August 3, 2020)

Loading...

1.

 

2. Nicaragua Catholic cathedral attacked with firebomb

3. Three NYC child welfare workers still on job, against watchdog recommendations after Bronx baby death

4. Before talking about abortion, it helps to listen to people’s stories

An important reason why our interviewees were willing to talk about a topic that most won’t engage is that we prioritized listening. We came in not as activists or apologists, but as really good listeners. We didn’t hold our breath awaiting the chance to share our own feelings, expose their lack of knowledge, or prove them wrong.

5. Catholic school superintendent: ‘Our kids need to go back to school’

“COVID is not the only dangerous thing in our society. Lack of community, loneliness, and all those kinds of things affect kids. And I think it’s important for our kids to be back in school.”

6. Murad Ismael and Nadine Maenza: Agony of Yazidis extends to sixth anniversary of their genocide                     

Yazidis will not have the chance to consider how to protect themselves from a future genocide. Instead, they will be haunted and reminded by the genocide they still endure. And they should not be the only ones commemorating their tragedy — we all must.

7. We are failing with Covid, let’s not fail with mental health

8. Wall Street Journal: A Toll of Coronavirus in New York Is A New Group of Orphans 

 

9.

10.

11. Ryan T. Anderson: ‘Transitioning’ Procedures Don’t Help Mental Health, Largest Dataset Shows

The largest dataset on sex-reassignment procedures—both hormonal and surgical—reveals that such procedures do not bring the promised mental health benefits. In fact, in their correction to the original study, the authors point out that on one score—treatment for anxiety disorders—patients who had sex-reassignment surgeries did worse than those who did not. 

12. Sen. Marco Rubio & Jeanne Mancini: Planned Parenthood Must Return Paycheck Protection Program Money to Taxpayers  

Planned Parenthood officials knew they were ineligible to receive PPP loans, given the organization’s roughly 16,000 employees and its organizational structure by which management can unilaterally impose policies and practices upon affiliates. Its political arm effectively admitted it was aware of this, but that didn’t stop them from applying.

13. Coleman Hughes: The nonconformist

On William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, Sowell summed it up in a sentence: “I haven’t been able to find a single country in the world where the policies that are being advocated for blacks in the United States have lifted any people out of poverty.” Maybe American race relations are so unique that all historical and international comparisons are useless. But it’s far more likely that we have something important to learn from patterns that have held true around the world and throughout history.

14. Answered prayers for priest in need of liver transplant 

15. Congratulations to our friend Phil DeVoe and his new bride — they got married in a Church narthex in California this weekend

 

Elections

Democrats Spend $5.3 Million Trying to Pick GOP Senate Candidate in Kansas

Loading...
Supporters of President Donald Trump cheer during his speech at a campaign rally in Topeka, Kan., October 6, 2018. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Can Republicans really blow a Senate race in Kansas, a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the upper chamber since 1932?

Top Republicans and Democrats in Washington say the answer is yes. And their actions reveal they really mean it.

A shadowy Democratic super PAC has spent $5.3 million attacking GOP candidate Roger Marshall in order to boost Republican Kris Kobach ahead of Tuesday’s Kansas Senate primary. A super PAC aligned with Mitch McConnell has spent at least $1.2 million doing the opposite.

Democrats want Kobach to be the nominee because he lost the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly 48 percent to 43 percent in 2018, when other Republicans still coasted to victory statewide (the state’s Republican attorney general, for example, won re-election by 19 points on the same ballot).

Although Donald Trump carried Kansas 56 percent to 36 percent against Hillary Clinton in 2016, his margin of victory could be much smaller in 2020. Internal Senate GOP polling “showed Mr. Trump leading only narrowly in the state and found that nearly 30 percent of Republican primary voters indicated they would support the Democrat in the Senate race, state Senator Barbara Bollier, if Mr. Kobach were the nominee, according to two Republicans familiar with the data,” the New York Times reported last week.

Some Senate Republicans have urged President Trump to endorse Marshall, but Trump let it be known last week that he was going to sit it out.

Trump hasn’t offered an official reason for declining to endorse a candidate in Kansas, but he announced his decision, according to multiple reports, after Texas senator Ted Cruz reminded Trump in a conversation aboard Air Force One last Wednesday that Marshall endorsed John Kasich in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.

Culture

My Dear Wormwood, on the Matter of ‘Social Justice’

Loading...
People hold signs at a protest in Chicago, Ill., July 24, 2020. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

I was unsurprised to learn of the patient’s struggles in comprehending the precise meaning of “social justice.” The difficulty proceeds from his default to reason, presuming that the term is meant to have a commonly held meaning.

Kindly instruct the patient that social justice is a remarkably flexible tool for the acquisition of power, assertion of moral superiority, and enforcement of ideological conformity. It means whatever he wants it to mean; but in any case, it is always good and right. Thus, it renders him the sovereign arbiter of what is “good” and “just,” an irresistible flattery that suggests that no one — from Aristotle to Aquinas to the Founders — had properly considered the correct brand of justice. Accordingly, the patient will rationalize repudiating these figures as well as eternal verities in furtherance of his newly minted principles of enlightenment.

Cultivate in the patient an image of himself as a savior of the oppressed. He will quickly comprehend that most individuals and institutions will yield to nearly anything in the pursuit of “social justice,” for only the most deplorable would oppose justice. This will incline him to deploy the term promiscuously. Do not restrain him, for the term is most effective when used confidently, even arrogantly, before the public can discern that it is a Trojan horse designed to promote, through shame and coercion, false and absurd propositions that otherwise could not gain purchase. After all, few have the confidence or temerity to question, let alone oppose, “justice,” even if they do not know precisely what such “justice” is!

Be assured that, in the end, the patient will be convinced, as were all of our most celebrated patients throughout history, that anything is permissible in pursuit of justice — even tyranny. Broken eggs, omelets, and all that.

In my next letter, dear nephew, I shall address use of the delightfully insidious term “implicit bias.”

(Apologies to Mr. Lewis.)

Monetary Policy

Jeet Heer’s Fed Jeer

Loading...

As Congress debates the next coronavirus-relief package, Senate Republicans have emerged as a voice for fiscal restraint, while Democrats call for an extension of enhanced-unemployment benefits and for $1 trillion in assistance to states and localities. It’s a puzzling political choice on the part of the GOP, since a more generous bill would likely bolster the president’s reelection prospects.

Could it be that Senate Republicans are acting on … principle? “No!” says Nation columnist Jeet Heer. Heer peered into the Republican mind and figured out why the GOP isn’t pushing a more generous spending package: Republicans care only about Wall Street, and Wall Street is already taken care of.

Because the Fed has lent more than $7 trillion to businesses, “no strings attached,” corporate America has survived the crisis, and Republicans are no longer worried, says Heer.

One minor inconvenience: The Fed’s entire balance sheet is worth $7 trillion. The vast majority of those holdings are in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities. The Fed has thus far lent $12.2 billion to corporations. Payments to households, on the other hand, have totaled $600 billion.

Look, it’s an honest mistake. Heer only overstated the Fed’s corporate lending by 570,000 percent. Not to worry — the inaccuracy has been removed from the column, with a note stating that the article “has been updated.”

Politics & Policy

IG Report Shows State Governments Sitting on CARES Funds

Loading...
New Jersey governor Phil Murphy arrives to speak at a news conference in Trenton, N.J., September 12, 2019. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

States and local governments always complain about needing more funds from the federal government. Congress has already provided a substantial amount of debt-financed state and local aid as part of the CARES Act and other relief: $150 billion for a Coronavirus Relief Fund, $30 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund, $45 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund, $25 billion for public-transit systems, an increase in the federal government’s share of Medicaid spending, and billions more for a slew of programs, including the Community Development Block Grant Program and the Economic Development Administration. The Federal Reserve has also set up a $500 billion program to facilitate short-term state and local borrowing needs.

States and local governments now want an additional $500 billion federal bailout. The speaker of the House wants to give them $1 trillion. My colleague Tad DeHaven and I have written about why we should not bail out the states. David Henderson at Hoover has written about it too, as have others. I recently wrote a column about it here. But there is another argument against bailing out state and local governments. And it won’t come as a surprise to those of us who have studied relief to state and local governments during the last recession.

The Department of the Treasury Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently released a report that looks at how much the state and local governments have spent of their CARES Act funds as of June 30. It is much less than you think. Some states have spent virtually none of the money allocated by the California, such as South Carolina, which hadn’t yet touched its $2 billion in relief. The most a state has spent is California, which had spent 74.5 percent of the $15 billion allocated up to that point.

Writing about the report, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee noted the following:

In Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer has demanded more federal funding this week, only 3 percent of the more than $3 billion the state received has been spent thus far.

And in New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy has levied complaints against the new Senate Republican proposal, the Treasury Department reports that only 2.1 percent of the funds they received have been spent.

It seems some states are sitting on their funds while asking for more. Back in May, a report from the National League of Cities showed that the states themselves weren’t great at sending the money to local government either. And finally, based on the information I received during a Senate hearing on Tuesday, states often aren’t very forthcoming with Congress when asked about how much money they have left and what the have done with the funds.

These are all good reasons not to bail out state and local governments.

UPDATE: It occurred to me that states may look at this report and argue that they need more flexibility to be able to use federal funds to address their revenue shortfalls. As it is right now, they have to use the money on COVID-related expenditures. If those expenditures are lower than the funds allocated, then all they can do is sit on the federal funds.

I think this is a ludicrous argument. It is one thing for state and local governments to ask the federal government for help for expenditures they couldn’t foresee, such as COVID-related expenditures. But they shouldn’t be asking federal taxpayers for money to pay for their routine state and local expenditures, especially when they have failed to plan appropriately for a fall in these revenues. After all, emergencies happen on a regular basis and governments should prepare for them. As such, these governments should turn to their states’ taxpayers for non-COVID expenditures if they don’t want to cut spending.

Education

Maryland Governor Reverses Order Shutting All Private Schools in State’s Largest County

Loading...
Maryland governor Larry Hogan speaks at the National Governors Association summer meeting in Providence, R.I., in 2017. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

On Friday night, a local health official in Montgomery County, Md., issued an order prohibiting all private schools from offering in-person instruction until at least October 1. The mandate in Maryland’s largest county, home to one million residents, sparked a strong backlash over the weekend from parents and others concerned privately funded schools would permanently shutter because of the order.

On Saturday, Maryland GOP governor Larry Hogan criticized the local official’s decision, and on Monday Hogan issued an emergency order prohibiting local officials from shutting down all schools.

Hogan said in statement: 

Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines. The blanket closure mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer.

To be clear, Maryland’s recovery continues to be based on a flexible, community-based approach that follows science, not politics. As long as schools develop safe and detailed plans that follow CDC and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community.

Under an order issued April 5, local health departments continue to have the authority to close any individual facility deemed to be unsafe,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Politics & Policy

Our Unexpectedly Abbreviated Campaign Season

Loading...

If Joe Biden announces his running mate in the second week of August, as the Washington Post is reporting, he will be a bit on the later side, considering recent history.

  • Donald Trump announced the selection of Mike Pence on July 15, 2016.
  • Hillary Clinton announced the selection of Tim Kaine July 22, 2016.
  • Mitt Romney announced the selection of Paul Ryan August 11, 2012.
  • Barack Obama announced the selection of Joe Biden August 23, 2008.
  • John McCain announced the selection of Sarah Palin on August 29, 2008.
  • John Kerry announced the selection of John Edwards on July 6, 2004.
  • George W. Bush announced the selection of Dick Cheney on July 26, 2000.
  • Al Gore announced the selection of Joe Lieberman on August 7, 2000.
  • Bob Dole announced the selection of Jack Kemp on August 10, 1996.
  • Bill Clinton announced the selection of Al Gore on July 10, 1992.

If a nominee sees his running mate as a key asset — enabling twice as many appearances in twice as many states — then it makes sense to make the pick as early as possible. If a nominee sees his running mate as a potential liability — twice as many potential gaffes or off-message incidents on the trail, twice as many past political stances, votes, or scandals to explain away — then it makes sense to hold off until the last possible moment. (The closer the announcement is to the convention, the more it fuels interest in the vice-presidential nominee’s speech at the convention. The Democrats will be having a “virtual convention” in Milwaukee August 17 to 20.)

If Biden announces his selection sometime between August 10 and 14, his running mate will probably only campaign for a month or five weeks before ballots start getting cast in the 2020 election, as some states permit early voting to start as early as September 18. The early start for voting is prompting presidential-debate organizers to ask whether the first debate is being held too late. The first presidential debate is scheduled for September 29 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

This assumes the debates occur. Today in the New York Times, Elizabeth Drew calls for the presidential debates to be canceled — not for health reasons, but because “they reward precisely the opposite of what we want in a president.” (Many Trump fans will interpret the Times choosing to run this op-ed as an indication that fans of Joe Biden fear he will do badly in a debate against the president.)

Film & TV

Million-Dollar Guy

Loading...
Regis Philbin waves goodbye during the final episode of Live with Regis and Kelly in 2011. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

I’ll get to Regis Philbin in a minute. On the homepage today, I don’t have an Impromptus column, but I do have a piece: “America in the World: On the burden of it all.” I poured a number of thoughts into this piece, for readers’ consideration. Let me quote the final paragraph:

In a tradition of many decades now, foreigners and Americans alike have complained about the U.S. role in the world (not always unjustly, far from it). I often quote something John Bolton once said, about the foreigners: “They’ll miss us when we’re gone.” I’m afraid that we might miss us, too, when we’re gone — if we’re gone.

Care for some music? Here’s a post on an extraordinary soprano, Latonia Moore, of Texas. She did some singing — “remotely” — last week, and some (impassioned) talking, too.

Okay, now Regis. The final item in my Impromptus last Friday went,

As you may have seen, Regis Philbin, the television host, has died at 88. For the New York Times’s obituary, go here. He worked in my neighborhood, and had a home in it too. I would see him on the street from time to time. He always seemed happy and friendly: the kind of happy person who wants everyone else to be happy too.

When I said this on Twitter, someone replied, “Yeah, anyone would be happy and friendly with all that money and success.” No. A look around at life will dispel that notion.

Anyway, I wish I’d known Regis. Of course, we all did, in a way, because we saw him on television for decades. . . .

I got a note from Don Gould, a veteran newsman and sportscaster. He wrote,

. . . you judged him correctly. He and I were friendly, starting in 1983 when we passed each other in the hallway leading to Studio 8-H at NBC. It was the 50th anniversary of the Rockefeller Center page program. As I was going back downstairs to prepare for the 11 o’clock news, I said, “Regis Philbin.” He said, “Don Gould.” I was surprised and pleased he recognized me. He was always kind and supportive — had me on his show twice and treated everyone the same way.

And here’s a note from my old friend and correspondent Dave Taggart:

In 2000 my wife was on Who Wants to Meet a Millionaire? and we got to meet Regis. Upbeat and happy covers it. He was on stage and mic’ed up for over two hours for the taping — all live and unscripted — and he was “on” the whole time. Funny, too.

Marvelous. Have a good one, everyone.

U.S.

D.C. Police Arrest Pro-Life Activists for Writing on Public Sidewalk

Loading...
A member of the New York Police Department stands outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in N.Y., November 28, 2015. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Early on Saturday morning, D.C. police arrested two pro-life demonstrators who were in the process of chalking the message “Black preborn lives matter” on the public sidewalk in front of a D.C. Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.

The two individuals — Warner DePriest, a Students for Life of America employee and frequent sidewalk counselor outside the clinic, and Erica Caporaletti, a student at Towson University — were arrested for “defacing public or private property.”

DePriest said afterward that the police did not inform either him or Caporaletti of their Miranda rights and did not charge them for about 40 minutes. They were later released with a citation.

According to a spokesperson from Students for Life of America (SFLA), which helped to organize the demonstration, the city had issued a permit allowing them to paint the message. As of Saturday evening, D.C.’s Department of Transportation, which issues such permits, had not responded to a Washington Post inquiry about whether that permit had indeed been issued.

The controversy is especially interesting in light of the protests and rioting that have taken place across the country in recent months, with no small share taking place in D.C. In June, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser herself commissioned a large painting of the slogan “Black Lives Matter” on the 16th Street NW block just outside the White House. Shortly thereafter, city officials permitted protesters to paint the slogan “Defund the police” right beside Bowser’s initial painting.

In an open letter to Bowser last month, Kristan Hawkins, president of SFLA, and Dean Nelson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation (FDF), announced their intention to paint the “Black preborn lives matter” message and noted that they had applied for the appropriate permit.

“You must allow SFLA and FDF to paint its ‘Black Pre-born Lives Matter’ message,” they wrote. “Your original decision to paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the street is government speech. However, your decision to allow protestors to paint ‘Defund the Police’ opened the streets up as a public forum. You are not permitted to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint in making determinations relating to public assemblies in public fora.”

If the permit was indeed issued as these pro-life groups attest, the arrests were an egregious abuse of police authority. If the city didn’t issue the permit, its failure to do so was a blatant example of viewpoint discrimination. Either way, someone must be held accountable for the apparent mistreatment these pro-lifers faced — especially after city officials spent months allowing rioters to get away with defacing and destroying private property throughout D.C. in the name of social justice.

Education

College Applicants Have More to Worry about Than Ever

Loading...

There was always some anxiety for young people contemplating the beginning of college, but our current health crisis has raised the level greatly. In today’s Martin Center article, Anthony Hennen explains that they are turning more and more to counselors for supposedly expert help.

He writes, “Counselors disagree about the extent of the change and why students are more anxious. The type and causes of anxiety also differ depending on what type of college students attend. But higher education is devoting more time and money to student anxiety than in the recent past.”

College counseling has become a growth industry, one that often assists wealthy families.

Hennen quotes Jake Rosen, a college counselor located in Philadelphia:

“Living on social media has not necessarily been good for mental health,” Rosen said. The pressure and competition students feel to get into the best school weighs them down. Even when students are out of school, social pressure follows them home.

“There’s a lot more anxiety and depression and pressure and school avoidance or concerns about bullying and the effects of social media, and it’s changed a lot, even since I was a high school student,” Rosen said. “The kids who are in school now are in a different world. They do seem, in a broader sense, to be struggling with it and dealing with more mental health issues than students were, you know, when I was in high school.”

Increasing number of students report “overwhelming anxiety” about college. I suspect that’s because we have so terribly oversold the idea that their futures depend on getting into the “best school.”

Politics & Policy

Nancy Pelosi, Always Finding Ways to Make a Bad Situation Worse

Loading...
Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 28, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

You would like to think that everybody, Left, Right, and center, would recognize that public-health officials such as Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx have a really difficult job right now.

We’re dealing with a novel coronavirus, and medical researchers are still not sure why people react so differently, how long post-recovery immunity lasts, or where it came from. There’s not yet consensus, but growing suspicion, that the virus is airborne or virtually airborne because of how light it is. The difficulty of getting people to use precautions is illuminated every time we see people wearing masks below their noses so that they can breathe more easily.

It’s easy to forget Fauci and Birx don’t set the rules. America’s quarantine policies are set by states and localities, and they vary enormously depending upon local circumstances and the assessment and mentality of state officials. South Dakota never implemented a stay-at-home order and is well along its reopening plan. In Arlington, Va., cops are now authorized to write you a $100 ticket if you go out in a group of more than three people. (Good thing that at this moment, the general public has such overwhelming faith in the good judgment of police officers!)

Fauci and Birx can only make recommendations and hope that the people they advise follow their advice. As noted last month, Fauci has made some mistakes that have undermined his wise-man image.

Birx isn’t perfect, either. In April, she contended America’s experience “was likely to resemble Italy, where virus cases declined steadily from frightening heights.” But mistaken assessments are not deliberate lies, and insisting that every wrong appraisal is a revelation of hidden malevolence eats away at needed public trust like acid.

Last week, Politico reported that Pelosi said to Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, “Deborah Birx is the worst. Wow, what horrible hands you’re in.” Politico reported that Pelosi accused Birx of “spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.”

Yesterday on ABC News’ This Week, Pelosi doubled down:

RADDATZ: Madam Speaker, I want to ask you — we just have a couple of more minutes here — Politico reported that in a closed meeting on Friday, you accused Dr. Deborah Birx of the Coronavirus Task Force of spreading disinformation about the pandemic.

Is that true? And do you have confidence in her?

PELOSI: I — I think the president is spending — spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his — she is his appointee. So, I don’t have confidence there, no.

Instead of asking Pelosi to give examples of Birx spreading disinformation, anchor Martha Raddatz immediately shifts to the topic of election security.

I suspect Pelosi didn’t give any examples of Birx spreading disinformation because she can’t find any. Pelosi is openly proclaiming that Birx’s assessments are unreliable simply because she works for the president.

(This is the same Nancy Pelosi who toured Chinatown in San Francisco on February 24 to demonstrate the threat of catching the coronavirus was overstated, and declared, “It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s not just Asian-owned now. You see in Italy where the shows — the fashion shows and all of that were done without an audience because people — they just didn’t — because people were not coming. So, again, this fear is — I think — unwarranted in light of the precautions that are being taken here in the United States.” By that date, Milan was the epicenter of cases in Europe.)

Birx and every other public-health officials have difficult enough jobs as is with this pandemic. But Nancy Pelosi will make sure the job is even tougher with vague accusations of “disinformation.”

Markets

ESG and Its Contradictions

Loading...
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink takes part in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York in 2017. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

From the New York Times:

Laurence D. Fink presents himself as the vanguard of a progressive form of capitalism in which profits are not everything: The enlightened money is supposed to press for environmental and social protection.

As the chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment management company, Mr. Fink oversees more than $7 trillion. He has steered some of that fortune to the crisis-wracked nation of Argentina, purchasing government bonds.

But as Argentina — in default since May — seeks forgiveness on $66 billion worth of bonds, Mr. Fink’s oft-espoused faith in “stakeholder capitalism” is colliding with traditional bottom line imperatives. Though poverty is soaring in Argentina as the pandemic worsens a punishing economic downturn, BlackRock is opposing a settlement proposed by the government and rallying other creditors to reject it, while holding out for a marginally improved deal. . . .

Two years ago, Mr. Fink — who has been mentioned in news reports as a potential Treasury secretary in a Biden administration — wrote an open letter to the chief executives of major corporations urging them to focus on social, labor and environmental concerns.

“To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society,” he wrote.

Last year, Mr. Fink signed the Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation crafted by the Business Roundtable, an association of American chief executives. It pledged “a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders.”

In January, Mr. Fink wrote another letter to C.E.O.s warning that companies that fail to address climate change would be punished in the marketplace. . . .

In a statement, BlackRock said it has been working diligently to achieve a settlement, while recouping as much as possible for its clients. Roughly two-thirds of the investments it manages comprise the retirement savings of workers around the world.

“In this restructuring process, our fund managers are balancing a fiduciary obligation to make decisions in the best interest of these savers, while at the same time recognizing the difficult circumstances facing the Argentine government, including the challenges posed by Covid-19,” the statement said.

BlackRock’s statement on the Argentine situation is reasonable enough, and the company is quite right to stress the importance that it attaches to its fiduciary obligation to its clients.

At the same time, it is not hard to detect the outline of a potential conflict of interest. On the one hand, BlackRock is marketing itself as “making a positive contribution to society,” an image which is now very much part of its brand. On the other, holding out for the best financial deal with Argentina that it can for its clients could see the company attacked, fairly or unfairly, for hypocrisy, something that could damage its reputation even if this is a matter of utter indifference to those of its clients with exposure to Argentinian bonds.

International investing — and not just when it comes to Argentina — can, under certain circumstances, be tricky for those marketing the ethical approach baked into their investment process.

Here’s a report from Bloomberg from just six weeks ago:

BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink said China remains one of the firm’s top regions for growth despite uncertainties brought on by trade tensions with the U.S. and the virus outbreak.

“We are here to work with China,” Fink said via video conference at the Lujiazui Forum in Shanghai on Thursday. “We firmly believe China will be one of the biggest opportunities for BlackRock.”

The world’s biggest money manager is expanding in China to tap one of the fastest-growing markets. China’s trillion dollar wealth industry opened further in April, luring investment from companies including BlackRock, Vanguard Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. While the further liberalization of the sector in China has been overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis, firms are nonetheless laying out plans for a market in which retail funds alone could reach $3.4 trillion in three years, says Deloitte LLP.

To put this in context, this concerns BlackRock looking to establish itself as an asset manager in China.

But the company also invests its clients’ money in the stock of Chinese companies.

It may be unfair, but I cannot help wondering how those companies measure up against the ESG (environmental, social, governance) criteria that are an increasing part of BlackRock’s investment process.

Most Popular

The New George Floyd Video Should Not Surprise You

This week, the Daily Mail managed to get its hands on some previously unreleased body-camera footage of George Floyd’s arrest. Some found that it changed their perception of the incident. Most notably, my former American Conservative colleague Rod Dreher wrote a lightning-rod blog post in which he contended ... Read More

The New George Floyd Video Should Not Surprise You

This week, the Daily Mail managed to get its hands on some previously unreleased body-camera footage of George Floyd’s arrest. Some found that it changed their perception of the incident. Most notably, my former American Conservative colleague Rod Dreher wrote a lightning-rod blog post in which he contended ... Read More

Why Trump’s Losing

President Trump pulled an inside straight to win in 2016, and now he needs another one. The good news for Trump is that his approval rating has stopped falling recently. The bad news is that it has stabilized in the low 40s. Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won ... Read More

Why Trump’s Losing

President Trump pulled an inside straight to win in 2016, and now he needs another one. The good news for Trump is that his approval rating has stopped falling recently. The bad news is that it has stabilized in the low 40s. Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won ... Read More

A Stay-at-Home Mom on Her Reasons for Leaving Portland

While covering events (see here and here) in Portland, Ore., National Review writer Luther Abel sat down with Joanna -- a college-educated, stay-at-home mom and now Trump voter -- who feels it is no longer safe or healthy to live there. They discussed the change that has happened in the city politically, the ... Read More

A Stay-at-Home Mom on Her Reasons for Leaving Portland

While covering events (see here and here) in Portland, Ore., National Review writer Luther Abel sat down with Joanna -- a college-educated, stay-at-home mom and now Trump voter -- who feels it is no longer safe or healthy to live there. They discussed the change that has happened in the city politically, the ... Read More

Baby Please Come Back, Says Andrew Cuomo

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg famously described New York City in 2003 as a “luxury product,” and therefore priced accordingly. The price hasn’t changed, except to go up slightly — taxes, rents, everything. But few would argue that the product New York offers remains first-rate. The theaters are closed. The ... Read More

Baby Please Come Back, Says Andrew Cuomo

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg famously described New York City in 2003 as a “luxury product,” and therefore priced accordingly. The price hasn’t changed, except to go up slightly — taxes, rents, everything. But few would argue that the product New York offers remains first-rate. The theaters are closed. The ... Read More

Republicans Could Hold the Senate Even If Trump Loses

Republican fears of an electoral disaster for the Senate GOP are well-founded. They could narrowly lose control of the upper chamber. They could suffer a Chernobyl-like meltdown. But the conventional wisdom seems to have grown too bearish on the GOP odds of holding the Senate. The defeat of the deeply ... Read More

Republicans Could Hold the Senate Even If Trump Loses

Republican fears of an electoral disaster for the Senate GOP are well-founded. They could narrowly lose control of the upper chamber. They could suffer a Chernobyl-like meltdown. But the conventional wisdom seems to have grown too bearish on the GOP odds of holding the Senate. The defeat of the deeply ... Read More

New York’s Lawless NRA Lawsuit

The latest bananas news from the banana republic that is the State of New York: The attorney general, a political enemy of the National Rifle Association, is seeking to have the advocacy organization legally dissolved. The pretext is financial corruption and self-dealing on the part of the NRA’s ... Read More

New York’s Lawless NRA Lawsuit

The latest bananas news from the banana republic that is the State of New York: The attorney general, a political enemy of the National Rifle Association, is seeking to have the advocacy organization legally dissolved. The pretext is financial corruption and self-dealing on the part of the NRA’s ... Read More