‐ Why is Wisconsin like Eric Holder testifying before Congress? They both said, “I don’t recall.”
‐ The May job numbers were even worse than April’s, and came with a downward revision of those (and March’s). The political implications were immediately obvious: The Obama administration cannot run on its record. The economic implications are alarming, unless you believe that the worst has already happened in Europe or that the U.S. will be unaffected by it. Perhaps it is time to try lower tax rates, lower spending, less regulation, and a predictable monetary policy.
‐ Mitt Romney played to an empty house in California’s Bay Area — in front of one, actually: the headquarters of Solyndra, the solar-energy company that got half a billion dollars in federal money, then went bankrupt. He hit it as an instance of waste, “the Taj Mahal of corporate headquarters.” He hit it as an instance of corruption, Obama having funneled “taxpayer money . . . to an enterprise that was owned in large measure by his campaign contributors.” But these were secondary defects, consequences of Solyndra’s fatal flaw, and Romney hit that head-on. “I’m afraid the reason . . . that the recovery has been so tepid is that the president fails to understand the basic nature of free enterprise in America. He thinks that government-dominated decisions like this make America stronger. They make us weaker.” Romney identified the guiding philosophy of the Obama administration, from bailouts to stimulus to health care. And that guiding philosophy points toward a bankruptcy more painful than Solyndra’s.
‐ “Obama longs for GOP rival like McCain,” read the headline over an Associated Press report. The president told a group of his donors, “John McCain believed in climate change. John believed in campaign-finance reform. He believed in immigration reform. I mean, there were some areas where you saw some overlap. In this election, the Republican party has moved in a fundamentally different direction.” Toward victory, let’s hope.
‐ Ann Davies was born into a wealthy family. She married Mitt Romney, who came from another wealthy family, and who became wealthier still over the course of their life together. She rides horses, especially in the sport known as dressage (which highlights precise, almost balletic movements, emphasizing the rider’s control). Expect to hear more about it as the campaign unfolds. The New York Times is on the story (“In Rarefied Sport, a View of the Romneys’ World” — not yours, sucker). Americans have had conflicted feelings about presidential wealth since George Washington. On the one hand, as John Adams wrote, “there is nothing . . . to which mankind bow down with more reverence than to great fortune.” On the other hand, mankind (including Adams) resents great fortunes. Thanks to the royalties from his memoirs, Barack Obama is by now a millionaire. Mitt Romney could buy and sell him. Could the Kennedys, in their prime, have bought and sold Mitt Romney? Leave such considerations to the gimlet eye of envy, and ask, rather, What can these men do for their country?
‐ In the summertime when the weather is high / You can stretch right up and touch the sky . . .The weather wasn’t the only thing that was high at Punahou School in the Seventies, according to Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss. Young Obama hung with a set called the Choom Gang, “choom” meaning to smoke marijuana — and that they did, in cars with the windows rolled up (so as not to waste any smoke), and in the Choom Wagon, a VW bus. Writes Maraniss: “When a joint was making the rounds, [Obama] often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!’ and took an extra hit.” If you were there it was funny, if you were high. We have no doubt that as Obama matured he put away childish things. But, in memory of those days, and to console poor David Axelrod, who has had a rough spring, cue that tinkly music one more time. Sing along with us, dee dee dee dee dee . . .
#page#‐ According to Haaretz, the New York Times of Israel, President Obama told a group of American Jewish leaders some interesting things. He “stressed he probably knows about Judaism more than any other president, because he read about it.” He also said “he had so many Jewish friends in Chicago at the beginning of his political career that he was accused of being a puppet of the Israel lobby.” He has also been accused of having a self-regard that knows no bounds. One of those charges has proven more enduring than the other.
‐ Liberals — Senator Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), assorted scribblers — are trying to exert pressure on Chief Justice John Roberts in the Obamacare case, warning him that he will be seen as a partisan if the Court strikes down its individual mandate. He will, they say, be labeled a right-wing activist who is threatening to undo the New Deal from the federal bench. He will know better: The issue in Obamacare is unprecedented, the federal government never having tried to make the purchase of a product compulsory without specific constitutional warrant, and therefore the Court has no need to overturn any precedents to rule that the legislation exceeds the legitimate powers of Congress. In any event, public confidence in the Court has survived previous fits of liberal rage at alleged conservative activism, and seems likely to do so in a case where all polls suggest that the public wants the Court to side with conservatives. We’re sure that the chief justice is touched by liberals’ newfound concern for his reputation. We’re also pretty sure he will give their advice the brush-off it deserves.
‐ Forty-three Catholic institutions filed twelve lawsuits against the Obama administration’s attempt to force them, and nearly all other employers, to provide insurance that covers contraception, surgical sterilization, and abortion drugs. The editors of the New York Times describe the suits as a “dramatic stunt” and a “partisan play.” This is not, needless to say, the Times’s usual reaction when groups that believe their rights have been violated seek a judicial determination of the question. Evidently we are to believe that the administrators of the University of Notre Dame, one of the plaintiffs, went from giving President Obama an honorary degree and a chance to address its students at commencement to being a willing cog in Karl Rove’s machine. In the real world, there is a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and it requires the federal government, when it infringes on religious conscience, to act in the “least restrictive” manner needed to pursue a “compelling interest.” Forcing employers to violate their consciences in order to effect a marginal increase in access to contraception cannot meet any fair reading of that test. Expect more hyperventilation from the Times as courts, and voters, reject the administration’s diktat.
‐ A federal court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, in part by invoking an opportunistic and incoherent theory of federalism increasingly favored by proponents of same-sex marriage. The act defines marriage, for purposes of federal law, as the union of a man and a woman. A state may choose to recognize other types of union as marriages in its own law. But a state may not force taxpayers everywhere else to give the parties to same-sex unions the Social Security benefits federal law reserves to spouses. The court claims that the act “intrudes extensively” into a state domain. But all the federal government is doing is defining the terms of its own laws. The absurd result of the court’s argument would be that the Constitution grants states a right to determine the flow of federal benefits to their citizens. Nobody can seriously believe that, and nobody will once this claim has finished being useful to the cause of redefining marriage.
#page#‐ If sleaziness, dishonesty, and egomania were criminal offenses, John Edwards would deserve a life sentence. But they are not. Neither is giving a lot of money to your mistress. Edwards walked in a trial that never should have happened. Prosecutors relied on a creative interpretation of campaign-finance law to argue that the woman with whom he had a daughter, the star-struck hanger-on Rielle Hunter, was a campaign expense, and therefore the Edwards donors who paid to keep her happy had, in effect, made donations to his campaign above the legal limit. But the money didn’t go to his campaign and wasn’t spent by his campaign. Edwards would have had an incentive to keep Hunter on board even if he hadn’t been running for president — to avoid the obloquy of public exposure. The jury acquitted Edwards on one charge and deadlocked on the rest. “Not a criminal” is about the best thing anyone can say of John Edwards.
‐ Florida governor Rick Scott has launched an effort to identify and remove ineligible voters from the state’s voter rolls. But Janet Napolitano’s Homeland Security Department has refused to provide Florida access to federal databases that would aid its efforts — ignoring nine months of petitions — and Eric Holder’s Justice Department has ordered the initiative halted, contending that it violates federal law, which prohibits voter-roll maintenance within 90 days of an election (Florida’s primary is August 14), and discriminates against Hispanic voters. The Florida department of state’s initial search, conducted in 2011, indicated that more than 180,000 registered voters may not be U.S. citizens. Since April, Florida officials have flagged 2,700 voters for removal. In addition to accusations of racism (58 percent of the flagged voters are Hispanic), state Democrats have toted out bathetic examples of “flaws” in the program, including the flagging of a 91-year-old World War II veteran. But those who receive letters need only supply valid proof of citizenship within 30 days — which several hundred people, including the veteran, have done. Some Floridians have even admitted to being ineligible or have requested removal from the rolls. So the program is working, though perhaps not to the advantage of the administration.
‐ When Gallup began asking Americans in 1995 whether they identified as “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” respondents called themselves “pro-choice” by a margin of 56 percent to 33 percent. Since then, despite handwringing from some quarters over the futility of the “culture wars,” the country has been moving in a decidedly pro-life direction. According to the latest results released in late May, only 41 percent of Americans now identify as “pro-choice” — a record low — while 50 percent call themselves “pro-life.” Just 25 percent believe that abortion should be “legal under any circumstances,” which is the position held by President Obama and the Nancy Pelosi wing of the Democratic party. Obama might want to keep this number in mind the next time he’s tempted to decry legislative attempts to restrict abortion as “extremism.”
‐ The House voted on a bill to prohibit abortionists from knowingly performing abortions to select for sex. The vast majority of Republicans voted for the bill, while the vast majority of Democrats voted against it. The White House weighed in with Obama’s disapproval, on the specious ground that abortionists (“doctors,” to use the White House term) would be subject to prosecution for not determining the motive behind an abortion. Even if successful, the bill would save few unborn children, but the administration’s open opposition to it is nonetheless clarifying — as, in a different way, is its dissembling about its motives.
‐ The Commerce Department is considering a petition to name Arab Americans a “minority group that is socially or economically disadvantaged” and thus eligible for special assistance from the Minority Business Development Agency. The petition is the handiwork of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which has previously supported such causes as the Palestinian “right of return,” the divestment movement against Israel, a boycott against Lowe’s for canceling an ad on the show All-American Muslim, and censorship of the film Aladdin. The preferential treatment it seeks is unjustified: Arab Americans are quite successful in small business, and their incomes are, on average, 10 to 20 percent higher than the national median. According to data from the Arab American Institute, 45 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 28 percent of Americans at large. Unless not being designated as a “disadvantaged group” constitutes a disadvantage in modern America, Arab Americans do not count as one.
#page#New Class Dismissed
Wisconsinites have gone to the polls and decided the political fate of Governor Scott Walker and perhaps, one could say with only modest exaggeration, the fate of the country as well. Walker’s retention means that his reforms will be kept on the books, which in turn means that the stranglehold of public-sector unions will be broken. No one knows all of the national repercussions that will flow from Walker’s win, but few doubt that they will be profound.
In all of the punditry about the aftermath of the Wisconsin recall, it’s unlikely you’ll hear much about Joseph Schumpeter. So let me remedy that here.
Schumpeter is most famous for updating and popularizing the concept of “creative destruction” found in Marx’s writing. The basic idea of this version of creative destruction, also known as Schumpeter’s Gale, is that capitalism is constantly breaking down inefficient means of production and creating new and better ones. Creative destruction describes how candlemakers got replaced by light-bulb manufacturers. Creative destruction is why there’s so much churn in the list of the top 50 companies. Firms grow big, are challenged by more innovative and nimble firms, and eventually die (or adapt). Schumpeter (and Marx) recognized that creative destruction generated enormous amounts of productivity and wealth.
So far, so good. But Schumpeter also had a gloomy side. He predicted that capitalism was doomed in the long run because the very wealth it created would produce a new class of workers who would undermine it from within. This new class of managers, lawyers, social workers, and intellectuals, despite benefiting enormously from the prosperity capitalism makes possible, would personify values hostile to capitalism. It would advocate policies of social democracy and technocracy, policies that would further empower the new class and enfeeble capitalism. Like a parasitic infection that wears down the host over time, the new class would ensure the demise of capitalism and the birth of corporatism (not socialism, as Marx had predicted).
Anyone looking at what has happened to Europe and the United States over the last few decades can acknowledge that Schumpeter was at least on to something. Just look at the role public-sector unions are playing in California. A diverse coalition of new-class activists has driven that state to the brink of oblivion. Or look at the relationship between Obama and Wall Street, GE, the insurance companies, and the auto industry.
What Schumpeter didn’t fully appreciate was the capacity for democratic societies to self-correct. In Wisconsin, the first state to legalize public-sector unions and the intellectual birthplace of the corporatist-progressive project, the election results dealt the new class a terrible blow.
That’s the great flaw in Schumpeter’s theory. While the new class may be perfectly happy to feed parasitically off the host until it dies, the host has a say in things, too. The tea parties represent an antibody counterstrike to the new-class infection. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this immune response will succeed. One doesn’t get the sense that the Europeans have as strong an immune system (which points to the huge importance of culture). Democracy has merely a capacity for self-correction. It also has a capacity to fail.
Still, the self-correcting is blowing strong in the Badger State, and that is cause for hope.
#page#‐ Ted Cruz, the conservative running for the U.S. Senate in Texas, has just finished second in a nine-way primary. Finishing first was the lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, with 45 percent of the vote. Cruz received 34 percent. Because the top man received less than 50 percent, the two leading candidates will compete in a run-off election, to be held on July 31. Dewhurst is running a campaign devoid of ideas, but he is the front-runner and is rich enough to finance his own ads. Cruz has the time and talent to catch him. If Texas Republicans choose Cruz, they will be promoting an advocate of conservative principles who could help their cause for many years to come.
‐ Democrats have been crossing over to the Republican party for many years; traffic goes the other way less often. But Artur Davis is a particularly nice catch for the Republicans. Like Barack Obama, he is black, savvy, and a graduate of Harvard Law. (He is also a graduate of Harvard College.) He represented Alabama in the U.S. House for four terms. He was the first congressman outside Illinois, Obama’s home state, to endorse Obama for president. Davis lost in a gubernatorial primary two years ago. Is there opportunism in his party switch? If so, that would be typical. But there also is principle: Davis has become increasingly disenchanted with the Democrats and their non-solutions to serious problems. There is bravery, too: Black Democrats, and white ones, can be very unkind to black Republicans. Probably the most famous Democrat-turned-Republican was a charter subscriber to National Review and the 40th president of the United States. Davis, who has written for National Review Online, may not go that far. But he has much to say and offer, and we look forward to this new chapter in his career.
‐ Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest initiative is to ban big sugary drinks, because he thinks New Yorkers are too big. “Obesity is a nationwide problem,” said the mayor, “and all over the United States, public-health officials are wringing their hands, saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible.’ New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something.” Under federalism, states and localities have latitude to do something about all manner of behavior (there are still dry counties here and there). But what regulations are sensible — especially in a city-state like New York? As he so often does, Bloomberg seeks to impose his personal notion of the good life, this time not even effectively (citizens with sweet teeth can buy multiple small drinks or doughnuts). The zeal of the busybody can be its own form of gluttony.
‐ In January 2010, after the Fort Hood murders and the too-close-for-comfort failure of the Underwear Bomber, the Obama administration inaugurated a new procedure — drone strikes on al-Qaeda terrorists, approved by the president after he consults a “kill list” of potential targets. Drones have picked off terrorists (including al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen) in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Obama approves each strike because “he’s determined to keep the tether pretty short,” as Thomas Donilon, his national-security adviser, put it. Good for him. After years of banging on the Bush administration for its cowboy policies, Obama has retained and expanded a vital tactic in a dark conflict. Is he micromanaging? Do drone strikes create enemies on the ground? Time will tell. But the commander-in-chief does not always have time to wait. President Obama has shouldered the responsibilities that Candidate Obama and his party could not, or would not, understand.
#page#‐ Things sure are different when they’re trying to get their guy reelected. Remember the media outrage over Scooter Libby’s leaking of information from a National Intelligence Estimate to journalist Judith Miller — which was not a leak of classified material, since President Bush authorized its disclosure? Libby turns out to be a piker compared with the Obama administration, which has thrown the NSA vault open for the New York Times. Times reporter David Sanger has thus obligingly written a book on the boss’s brilliant, daring cyber war against the Iranians. (We refer to the Obama administration’s boss, not Sanger’s — although any confusion is understandable.) The Gray Lady published a mammoth account of Obama’s authorization of the “Stuxnet” computer “worm,” which may have set the Iranian nuclear program back by more than a year. The most interesting aspect of the account is that the cyber strike is yet another Bush national-security program that Obama maintained (even as he publicly criticized Bush’s handling of Iran). Bush officials never leaked it. That was left to Obama, whose minions have compromised operational details. We wish we could be sure that the administration has given as much thought to its Iran strategy as to its campaign strategy.
‐ After Egypt’s parliamentary elections gave the Muslim Brothers and other Islamic extremists a majority, moderates hoped a presidential election would provide some checks and balances, however imperfect. When the votes were counted, though, Mohammed Morsi, the Brothers’ candidate, and Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister and general from Hosni Mubarak’s inner circle, had about a quarter of the vote apiece. Next week’s run-off between them will decide what kind of country Egypt is going to be. For 30 years, Mubarak was an arbitrary ruler imposing a stultifying hand on his people, but his politics were at least stable and predictable. The revolution his misrule did so much to foster has wrecked the economy, blighted tourism, and led to such widespread crime that the police no longer try to contain it. Now there are frightening uncertainties of the kind that carry seeds of violence: The military can call out the tanks; the Muslim Brothers can call out the street. The Brothers also dominate a parliamentary committee set up to draft the a constitution. The strange situation arises that Egypt is almost sure to choose a president before his powers have been defined. Conditions look ripe for an imminent test of strength, and the electoral process offers flimsy protection.
‐ In Abbottabad, the town where Osama bin Laden hid out, one of bin Laden’s neighbors was Shakil Afridi. A doctor with a surgical practice, Afridi ran a vaccination program that he used as a cover to establish the identity of bin Laden and his family by means of swabs and DNA. Three weeks after Navy SEALs had shot bin Laden dead, Afridi was arrested by Pakistani intelligence. Officials at all levels felt humiliated by the discovery that bin Laden had found shelter in Abbottabad, almost certainly with some connivance. Their intention could only have been to punish Afridi for presumed connections to the CIA. After a year’s delay, Afridi was brought to trial before a four-man council of tribal elders who could obviously be relied on to pass whatever judgment the Pakistani authorities wanted. Afridi was thought to be facing charges of treason, but instead he was accused of links to an Islamist warlord. For this fiction, he was sentenced to 33 years in prison. Rumors about his supposed bad character then blackened him. The outraged U.S. Senate has voted to cut the symbolic sum of $33 million from aid to Pakistan. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta points out that Afridi was working against al-Qaeda, not Pakistan. The one very clear aspect of this murky case is that a monstrous injustice has been done — is being done — to Afridi.
‐ In late May, a video surfaced on YouTube showing a Saudi Arabian woman refusing to leave a mall in Riyadh. “I’m staying and I want to know what you’re going to do about it,” she told an officer who had instructed her to go home. Her crime? Wearing nail polish. Although its grip has been slightly lightened in recent months, the law in Saudi Arabia still commands women to cover themselves with a full abaya and hide their hair when in public. This woman was having none of it: “It’s none of your business if I wear nail polish,” she shouted, adding, “You are not in charge of me.” Unfortunately, the authorities in Riyadh are still very much in charge of her.
#page#‐ Greece will hold a second round of national elections in late June, in essence a referendum on whether to remain in the European Monetary Union or attempt an exit from the euro zone and a return to the drachma. If the election were being held in Germany, the Greek exit would stand an excellent chance of winning: Half of Germans want Greece gone. Since the first, inconclusive election on May 6, Greece’s stock market has declined by 27 percent, its banks have suffered credit downgrades, and speculation has increased that it will leave the euro — voluntarily or otherwise. But there is no easy way out: With its government finances in disarray and its banking system on the verge of collapse, Greece is in no position to start from scratch with a new currency. At the same time, export-driven Germany is in no position to weather the economic disintegration of southern Europe and the bankruptcy of its trading partners there. A northern bailout of Europe’s south would probably entail the loss of the last vestiges of national sovereignty in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and possibly Italy — an outcome not entirely abhorrent to the powers that be in Brussels. Come what may, the Greek tragedy has shown the dream of a semi-federal Europe to be a folly, and an expensive one.
‐ Queen Elizabeth has spent 60 years on the throne, and the British partied for four days to celebrate it. Who says they’re reserved? The country treated this Diamond Jubilee as a carnival of patriotism. Thousands of street parties were held. There were balloons, fireworks, bell-ringing, and beacons set on fire throughout England and the 16 other countries of which the Queen is head of state. Picked at random out of an immense and enthusiastic crowd for an interview on television, an unidentified woman with a Union Jack in her hand said, “This is who we are, this is what we do”; she spoke for millions. History was acknowledged by a flotilla of a thousand small boats on the Thames, led by the Queen, a person and a figurehead all in one, as she stood in the prow of an ornate and stately barge. Then, in acknowledgement of the present, with the entire royal family in attendance and Buckingham Palace as a backdrop, pop stars and other celebrities staged a huge concert. Addressing his mother at the end of it, Prince Charles thanked her “for making us proud to be British.” Britain may have changed almost beyond recognition during the Queen’s reign, but the Diamond Jubilee seems to show that the British remain the people they always were.
‐ Awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Jan Karski, a hero of the Polish resistance in World War II who later became a professor at Georgetown, was meant to honor a great man, show respect for a NATO ally, and woo Polish-American voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio. It all blew up when President Obama referred, in his remarks, to Karski’s having been smuggled into a “Polish death camp.” The death camps in Poland were built and run by Nazis; Polish Catholics joined Polish Jews among their victims. This was no impromptu blunder: Obama was reading off a teleprompter, so numerous sets of eyes had seen his words. After matters were made worse by a mere expression of regret from a White House spokesman, Obama himself wrote a letter to the Polish government. It’s either the jitters of an administration that fears its time is short, or the tone-deafness of one that is little interested in European affairs. Take your pick, and may we soon be spared the choice.
‐ Why do women’s haircuts cost more than men’s? Well, women’s hair tends to be longer, and is more likely to have been dyed, making it fragile; also, women actually care how it looks, and they know what things like conditioner are for. That’s why, according to one stylist, it takes twice as long to cut a woman’s hair as a man’s. These simple truths are lost on New York City’s gender police, who recently fined 200-odd barbershops and salons for charging women more than men. Such raids have been occurring sporadically since the mid-1990s, yet the pricing differential stubbornly persists. If forced to charge men and women the same, most shops would have to boost the men’s price — which is why the law is enforced only now and then, when the relevant bureaucrats are feeling neglected. So barbershops and salons will continue to charge sensible prices, and to pay the occasional fine for violating liberal pieties.
#page#‐ An anthology of fiction and other writing by Middle Eastern women was to be published by the University of Texas. Of the 29 authors who signed on, 13 refused to participate when they learned that two of the contributors were Israeli. Kamran Scot Aghaie, the director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UT, was now faced with a choice: Drop the two, or lose the 13 and with them the whole project. He refused to drop the two, and the book has been canceled. “As an academic institution, we cannot censor people for the country they are from,” he said. “To do so is simply discrimination, and it’s wrong.” For those who worry that tolerance is honored at our universities more in the breach than the observance, this is good news.
‐ An Atlantic blogger points to poll results showing that the average adult thinks 25 percent of America’s population is gay. This is a considerable overestimate, perhaps by an order of magnitude; while definitions can be a bit fuzzy, most informed estimates of the gay population are somewhere in the low single digits. What accounts for the discrepancy? After all, the poll was not taken in San Francisco, or at a Judy Garland retrospective, or among frustrated Internet daters, but of a random sample of American adults. Some attribute it to television and movies; between gay characters in series and films and gay issues in the news, gay people do seem to be everywhere (especially if you believe the Hollywood convention that every opponent of the gay agenda is secretly gay himself). Yet there may be a simpler explanation. The Atlantic blogger and others have noted that Americans tend to overestimate the size of just about every minority population group — blacks, Hispanics, foreign-born, illegal aliens, and so forth. Perhaps what the poll results show is that we just aren’t very good at math.
‐ The unveiling of Green Lantern, a comic-book superhero, as gay is less path-breaking than it seems. There are about half a dozen different Green Lanterns, each with his own name and separate universe (though they occasionally get together in the fourth dimension). Each Green Lantern wears a magic ring that is the source of his power. So let’s see: He wears a form-fitting suit with tights and fancy boots, plus a cape, and a fabulous piece of jewelry is the centerpiece of his outfit . . . you know, in retrospect, all the signs were there.
‐ Which is more improbable, a no-hitter or a team that has played 8,019 games without ever pitching one? We’ll leave it to the statisticians at Baseball Prospectus to answer that. Suffice it to say that under a waxing gibbous moon at Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, on the first day of June, the two improbabilities coincided as Johan Santana threw nine hitless innings, the first time in the half century of New York Mets baseball that the Amazins found themselves on the winning side of such a feat. True, the 33-year-old southpaw had help, most notably from batterymate Josh Thole, who called a good game, and from third-base umpire Adrian Johnson, who called a fair ball foul. Outfielder Mike Baxter kept a monster fly to left from dropping in. Meet the Mets, whose streak of no no-hitters, which began during the Kennedy administration, is finally broken. New York 8, St. Louis 0. Ya gotta believe.
‐ The Nicaraguan contras, much lauded in the 1980s by this magazine and American conservatives for their struggle against Marxists, were habitually derided by the Left as fascists and authoritarians. Adolfo Calero Portocarrero’s example belied such slander. He was the epitome of the men President Reagan called “the moral equal of our Founding Fathers” — a graduate of Notre Dame and Syracuse; a Coca-Cola executive who stood up to the Somoza dictatorship; then a contra military leader; then a politician and lawyer in a more democratic Nicaragua. Calero was one of the few contras well-known in the U.S., making him a favorite target for Lenin-loving liberals. At a speech Calero gave about Sandinista censorship at Northwestern, a professor charged on stage to assert that “fascists have no right to speak.” National Review noted that these incidents evinced the “zeitgeist” of a time when men like Calero were castigated by much of this country because they fought and died for others’ freedoms. But Calero was a true democrat, and a hero. R.I.P.
‐ Paul Fussell was a distinguished historian, best known for his National Book Award–winning 1975 work The Great War and Modern Memory. He was renowned as a literary critic, and was elected, in 1977, a fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Literature. But he was also one of the most insightful — and caustic — critics of American culture. His portrayal of the different strata of American society in his 1983 book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System was wince-inducingly accurate, but rather unsparing; his 1991 book BAD: The Dumbing of America was less penetrating, but more passionately argued. He had evidently come to relish the role of national curmudgeon. Dead at 88. R.I.P.
The year-long saga of the Wisconsin recall is, at long last, over, and Scott Walker is still standing. The low-key Republican governor has withstood a sustained (and expensive) onslaught from the forces of Big Labor and its allies on the left, an onslaught that featured everything from the coordinated cross-border retreat of intransigent Democratic lawmakers, to the occupation of the statehouse by a band of radicals, bongo drummers, and high-school truants, to ill-fated attempts to nullify Republican legislative majorities and pick off uncooperative judges. Walker’s enemies did everything but release the kraken.
Yet he won. Throughout, Walker has stayed even-keeled, evincing, if not exactly cockiness, then something like the fatalism and serenity of an innocent man in the middle of a trial for his life. An equanimity, and a faith that his reforms would be embraced by Wisconsin voters, that turns out to have been fully warranted.
Walker won because his reform program is popular, and because it is working. The governor’s approval numbers in Wisconsin hover around 50 percent — not bad for a man onto whom most Wisconsinites have at least once in the last year seen a Hitler mustache and Nazi regalia photoshopped. But more telling is the popularity of Walker’s reforms. According to one recent Reason-Rupe poll, 72 percent of Wisconsinites favor the requirement that public-sector workers increase their pension contributions to 6 percent of their salaries. And 71 percent favor making government employees pay 12 percent instead of 6 percent of their health-care premiums.
Such commonsense measures, which put public-sector employees on a more even footing with the taxpayers who pay their salaries, have already led to over $1 billion in savings across the state, sparing public-sector workers from layoffs in the bargain. The reforms’ success has also neutralized them as campaign issues for Walker’s opponents, who were forced to turn away from the very raison d’être of the recall and emphasize instead a grab bag of non-issues (Walker’s record on women’s rights) and non-controversies (vague and discredited whispers about a pending Walker indictment and a secret college love child) in the final weeks of the race.
Walker won because he represented the taxpayer, while his opponent represented the groups whose livelihoods depend on bilking the taxpayer. Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett served less as an alternative than as a vessel for Big Labor’s unmoored wrath. He raised a mere $4 million on his own, while outside PACs did the heavy lifting — We Are Wisconsin raised more than $5.5 million in the last month alone, including seven-figure donations from AFSCME and the AFL-CIO, six-figure donations from the NEA and the AFT, and a mere $720 from its three (that’s three) individual donors. The Left will complain that Walker outspent Barrett handily, but this is no sin, considering Walker also handily outraised Barrett in individual donations, about three-quarters of which were of less than $50. It was Walker’s strength, after all, that convinced national Democrats to stop spending on a race they didn’t think they could win.
Scott Walker saved his job by, above all, being the adult in the room. While Democrats in Washington seem to be relying on their belief that the U.S. government is “too big to fail” to justify a program of taxing and spending our way out of debt, the states have no such luxury. And so, across the country, in states red, blue, and purple, they have turned to men such as Scott Walker — and Chris Christie, and Mitch Daniels, and others — to close structural deficits, stabilize out-of-control spending, and break the death embrace between Big Labor and Big Government. In taking this toxic partnership on, in a state with a rich progressive history, no less, Walker became its biggest target. His enemies spent a year and $100 million, give or take, preparing to take their best shot at him. Then they missed. They missed because voters are starting to understand that governing through crisis requires someone willing to make unpopular choices, stand up to entrenched interests, and hold the line against loud and determined opposition.
Quite simply, Wisconsin voters realized that if they no longer had Scott Walker, they would have to invent him