Magazine | September 7, 2015, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

‐ Hillary has been wearing orange pantsuits. Someone’s been planning ahead.

‐ In a speech at American University defending his Iran deal, President Obama accused its Republican opponents of making “common cause” with Iranian hard-liners. The GOP–hard-liner axis was soon joined by the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, Charles Schumer. “The very real risk that Iran will . . . use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great,” Schumer said. Bucking Obama on such a major issue was a bold move. White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested that Democratic senators keep Schumer out of their top spot after Harry Reid retires, while MoveOn compared Schumer to Joseph Lieberman (that being, in their view, a bad thing). Yet Schumer was not bold enough. If Iran’s goals are nefarious and the deal really risky, then he should want other senators to join him. Yet he has said that he will not try to persuade others — suggesting that he opposes the deal only to please constituents and donors. Emerson was no politician, but he said it best: When you strike at a king, you must kill him.

‐ Another disturbing Planned Parenthood video came out, this time showing a former employee claiming that the organization sometimes took fetal organs without getting the mothers’ consent. It’s more evidence that the group should be investigated and its taxpayer subsidies eliminated; more evidence as well that abortion coarsens the sensibilities of those involved in the trade. The videos came at an awkward time for Donald Trump, who is simultaneously adjusting to being a conservative and being a presidential candidate. First he said he would keep government funding going for only the “good” things Planned Parenthood does rather than for abortion — apparently unaware that current law makes that distinction already. Eventually, though, he said that he would cut off the nation’s largest abortion provider entirely. There wasn’t always a consensus among Republicans on this issue. There is now.

‐ The FBI seized the server that Hillary Clinton maintained in her Chappaqua home while she was secretary of state. But, of course, it is now blank — after stepping down, she hired a Colorado firm, Platte River Networks, to upgrade her system, retaining (presumably) only what she wished to retain. End of her troubles? No corpse, no crime? Not so fast. Handing highly classified information over to third parties, even to destroy it, is itself a crime. And we are still left wondering how insecure her highly classified information was when she had it. (Michael Flynn, former director of Obama’s Defense Intelligence Agency, said it was “likely” that her system was hacked: “I just know how our adversaries work.”) And why did she want — why did she need — a private system anyway? We may find out only if the FBI broadens its inquiry to include her tech-support firm, lawyers, and other partners.

‐ In the first debate, Marco Rubio said he thought abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape — a view he reiterated on other occasions. Fellow candidate Ted Cruz takes the same view. Scott Walker went even further, saying that abortion should be banned with no exception to save the mother’s life. A strong argument for the Rubio/Cruz position can be made, in theory. But does it need to be made by a presidential candidate? Roughly three-quarters of Americans consistently say when polled that abortion should be legal in cases of rape. Cruz and Rubio could serve 16 consecutive years in the White House and abortion would still be legal everywhere in the country in this circumstance. By contrast, Democrats are out of step with public opinion on abortion in a much more pressing way: Late-term abortion is effectively legal everywhere with their support. Rubio should point out how otherworldly the campaign discussion has been, and bring the conversation back to the other 99 percent of abortions.

‐ Two Republican presidential candidates, Rubio and Chris Christie, have made a point of saying that they oppose legal marijuana and would enforce federal laws against it — even in states that have chosen to relax or eliminate their bans. Rubio reiterated that view just the other day. We think these Republicans are wrong about marijuana and wrong about federalism. They say that federal law should be enforced. But the federal government has long taken a back seat to the states in enforcing marijuana laws; a serious federal effort now would require an enormous redirection of resources for which neither candidate is or should be calling. What they seem to want is the ability to use federal law enforcement to arrest and prosecute a few marijuana vendors so as to scare the others. A federal law that nobody really wants to enforce is a law that should be changed.

‐ Walker put forward a solid plan to replace Obamacare. It would restore the states’ role as the lead regulators of health insurance. The feds would no longer impose the employer or individual mandates, define “essential benefits,” or push people into exchanges. Instead people would get tax credits that would enable them to buy catastrophic coverage if they chose — or more extensive coverage, if they chose to spend extra. Medicaid would be reformed so that states no longer had an incentive to spend more money. The tax break for employer-provided coverage would be capped, so that the most expensive plans would no longer get a bigger subsidy for being the most expensive plans. Health-savings accounts would be expanded. One of the best things about the plan is that it is not original: Walker is drawing on ideas that already have broad support among Republicans, including the chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Budget Committee — and, for that matter, Walker’s presidential rival Marco Rubio. Republicans have long been knocked, with some fairness, for not being serious about replacing Obamacare. The party may finally be figuring out how to proceed.

‐ The shooting of 18-year-old Tyrone Harris in Ferguson, Mo., on August 9, 2015 — one year, to the day, after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson — was grim but apposite. Brown, after robbing a convenience store, refused to heed Wilson’s instructions to walk on the sidewalk rather than down the middle of a local street, attacked the officer in his vehicle, then charged him on a Ferguson street, where Brown was fatally shot. Harris and two friends were trying to sell a looted flat-screen television; an argument with a prospective buyer escalated into a gunfight, during which Harris proceeded to fire (with a stolen weapon) on a carload of undercover police officers. (Harris was wounded in the exchange.) It is no surprise that members of the Black Lives Matter movement — which propagated the lie of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” — refused to acknowledge Harris’s wrongdoing, despite video footage of his drawing a gun. Whatever victories have been achieved (a “demilitarization” of local law enforcement, an increase in the use of body cameras, greater attention to policing practices in general), the wages of Ferguson, one year on, have been primarily civil disorder (at its nadir in Baltimore), increased racial tension, and more-hesitant policing, mostly fomented by a group of itinerant protesters largely impervious to reasoned, dispassionate argument and devoted to eradicating that nebulous, ever-shifting leviathan, “white supremacy.” Watching Ferguson burn — again — this August, we find it hard to believe that those so dedicated to racial justice have brought us any closer to achieving it.

‐ One place where black lives do not seem to matter is in utero. Black women are five times likelier than white women to have an abortion. As Ben Carson rightly noted during a recent Fox Business interview, that has much to do with the foundress of the birth-control movement (and Planned Parenthood), Margaret Sanger. While Sanger spent her 50-year birth-control crusade touting “reproductive freedom” and women’s “liberation,” those goals were inextricable, to her mind, from stopping the “reckless breeding” of the “inferior classes,” the “mentally defective,” the “poverty-stricken,” et al. Thus in 1939, Sanger commenced her “Negro Project” to promote birth control among blacks, who, her Birth Control Federation reported, “still breed carelessly and disastrously.” The abortion industry, intentionally or not, has carried on Sanger’s troubling legacy. As of 2011, abortion and abortion-referral clinics were overwhelmingly located in zip codes with minority populations well above the state average, according to a study by the pro-life organization Life Dynamics. And “when the American family planning industry places multiple facilities in a ZIP code,” the study noted, “that ZIP code is more than two-and-a-half times as likely to be disproportionately minority as not.” Furthermore, despite increased access to abortion and contraception, studies have shown abortion rates rising among low-income women. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has suggested that there are “populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” If you want to know which populations she’s thinking of, look for the local Planned Parenthood clinic.

‐ “Immigration without assimilation is invasion,” Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has been repeating on the campaign trail. The line is pure poetry, which W. H. Auden defined as memorable speech. Note that the pattern of accented and unaccented syllables is perfectly symmetrical. The triple rhyme on the key words is ear candy in the service of a strong, principled message. While other Republicans running for president argue, as they should, about the problem of illegal immigration and what to do about it, Jindal is making a unique contribution by stressing that successful immigration policy is about culture as well as law. Succinctly channeling the Left’s error on the relationship between assimilation and diversity, Al Gore once said that E pluribus unum means “Out of one, many,” getting it exactly backward. Now the Left is chiding Jindal for getting the motto right.

The Trump Market

Financial-market prices should, according to efficient-market theory, be as good a signal of the underlying value of an asset as anything else. Prices are not perfect, but they cannot be regularly outsmarted. When people are putting their money on the line, they tend to consider their options carefully, so prices don’t move on whims.

As Donald Trump has surged to the top of the polls, economists have also been keeping their eyes on prediction and betting markets. It’s one thing to know what Mr. Zogby thinks, but another thing altogether to see the mind of Mr. Market. This instinct is backed up by a voluminous academic literature. Early work by economists found that prediction markets generated better forecasts of election outcomes than polls did. Some more recent work has found that polls can sometimes do as well, which confirms the view that market prices are as good as it gets even if they are not perfect.

Mr. Trump currently leads the polls for the GOP nomination. And yet Trump’s field sits silent and fallow on the GOP landscape, according to political-futures markets.

The failure of prediction markets to price in the “Trump surge” raises the question whether his rise in the polls is merely a bubble, poised to burst and fade as quickly as it formed and expanded. On the other hand, Trump supporters could argue that the futures markets are simply underpricing their candidate’s prospects. Asking the question now on the minds of many, the Washington Post recently ran a column titled “Will the Donald Trump Bubble Ever Pop?”

If history is any guide, the answer is yes. In the 2012 nomination cycle, a number of candidates surpassed Mitt Romney in the polls, grabbing a lead similar to that experienced by Trump. First, there was the Rick Perry bubble around September 2011 (about as far off from the end of the 2012 nomination process as we are now from the end of the 2016 nomination process). Then came the meteoric rise of Herman Cain in the polls that October. In the wake of the Cain bubble’s bursting, though, by December the polls were in love with Newt Gingrich. In the end, of course, the brain from Bain rose to the top.

Few remember what the prediction markets did during this span. But we compiled historical prediction-market data on the 2012 GOP nomination from Iowa Electronic Markets, an exchange where users can buy political-futures contracts that pay out $1 or $0 depending on whether the trader’s bet pans out. It is possible to infer the market’s estimate of how likely an outcome is from the price it puts on the associated contract. For instance, if a “Mitt Romney wins the GOP nomination” contract is trading for $0.60, one can infer that futures markets are pricing in a 60 percent probability of a Romney victory. We also compiled polling data on the candidates from RealClearPolitics, which aggregates polls, and used the data to calculate monthly averages.

Looking at the period from August 2011 to April 2012, we divided the market’s estimate of a candidate’s likelihood of winning the nomination (using data from Iowa Electronic Markets) by his performance in the polls. The chart below shows this ratio of betting odds to voter support for every month for which data are available. (Certain candidates have only limited samples of this metric. And we have only one point for Cain, since his surge was very brief and the futures market barely noticed. He is accordingly omitted from the chart.)

As one can see from the rapid gyrations in this ratio for many of the candidates, polling data and futures markets do not always march in tandem; many a false hope would have been avoided if people had interpreted the prediction market as the signal and the poll as the noise.

Though many are quick to lament the fickle character of financial markets, they saw through all the faddish surges. As the broader literature suggests, the prediction market was the best guide to the future during this uncertain span. For Donald Trump, who is at 22 percent in an average of the August polls compiled by RealClearPolitics but hovers around 9 percent in the futures market according to betting-market aggregator PredictWise, this is not a good sign.

‐ For 13 years, David Wells, an ordained Christian minister, served as a volunteer chaplain to underage inmates at a juvenile-detention center in Warren County, Ky. The state’s department of juvenile justice revoked his credentials after he refused to promise that he would comply with a new regulation: Volunteers “shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.” No orthodox Christian chaplain could agree to that wording, because everyone is sinful, including members of the LGBTQI community. As for changing “sexual orientation or gender identity,” Christians believe in the unity of body and soul and oppose physical mutilation, and therefore tend to favor the adjustment of one’s gender identity to match the physical fact of one’s sexual identity. Those convictions will inform a minister’s response when tending to inmates, particularly those who already share them. Kentucky has imposed on its chaplains what amounts to a religious test. If the intent behind the regulation is to ensure that inmates will be treated with respect regardless of their sexual orientation, the lawmakers should rewrite it and just say that — and just that.

‐ The Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, held that the Voting Rights Act’s “preclearance” protocol — which creates a list of guilty-until-proven-innocent jurisdictions that must obtain federal permission every time they so much as move a polling place — is unconstitutional, because the data used to sift out suspect jurisdictions is of 1975 vintage and therefore bears little relation to current conditions. The act’s very robust protections against discriminatory electoral practices remain in place; the only thing that has changed is that complaints against the former preclearance jurisdictions (mainly in the South, but also in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx) will have to be proved in court like any other legal challenges. The Democrats very much want to keep electoral practices in Texas and Virginia under direct federal discipline as a way to head off voter-ID laws and other anti-fraud measures they find both offensive and inconvenient. The Voting Rights Act is fine as it is.

‐ The Democrats like to describe themselves as the “party of science” — but the dismal one remains an eternal stepchild. Consider Hillary Clinton’s predictably over-egged student-debt agenda, which adamantly refuses to address the reality that subsidies, whatever their stated intent, drive up prices rather than lower them. Never mind that a substantial body of research, including a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has found that federal subsidies (mainly in the form of discounted loans) are an important driver of the mind-bending rise in college costs. Mrs. Clinton has an answer: More subsidies and, added bonus, more regulations, which would treat colleges roughly the way Obamacare treats insurance companies. That’s what happens when you’re trying to pay off both sides of a transaction with a third party’s money. Mrs. Clinton proposes retroactively lowering already discounted interest rates even further for some graduates, which would be simply a large wealth transfer to a group that already has above-average incomes. Colleges will be financially rewarded if they offer “no-loan” tuition rates — confirmed as such by Washington, of course — at four-year colleges and two years of “free” (presumably, somebody’s going to pay the professors) community college. I.e., we will be paying the colleges more to charge less. Swelling administrative budgets — and the campus waterpark at Texas Tech — suggest that colleges will find creative ways to absorb whatever money is thrown their way, which suggests one obvious reform: Stop doing that.

‐ The — ahem — Environmental Protection Agency managed to set a new standard for governmental incompetence when it accidentally released millions of gallons of toxic sludge from the abandoned Gold King Mine into the Animas River in southwestern Colorado. The wastewater plume quickly flowed downstream into New Mexico and Utah — along with its massive concentrations of arsenic and lead and other heavy metals, turning the river a bright shade of orange. “Imagine what would happen if a private company caused this waste spill,” says New Mexico governor Susana Martinez. When little people mishandle important financial documents, the IRS nails them. When nobodies run guns to the drug cartels, the ATF is on the case. When a private company creates an “ecological catastrophe” in the Gulf, the EPA levies a $13.7 billion fine. When government does these things and adds a serving of cover-ups and lies? “Mistakes were made.”

‐ Decades of leaving the seriously mentally ill in our prisons and on the streets seem, finally, to have pricked the conscience of Congress. Several bills currently under consideration would move public dollars toward treating serious mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.) and away from trying to diagnose and treat mental-health problems across the whole population, a much-needed change. The best bill, from Representative Tim Murphy (R., Pa.), a psychologist, would change federal privacy law to give family members of the seriously mentally ill access to crucial patient information; use federal mental-health grants to encourage the use of assisted outpatient treatment; reassess whether Medicaid should fund long-term hospitalization for the mentally ill; and reform the bloated federal mental-health bureaucracy. A companion Senate bill, introduced by Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R., La.), includes weakened versions of many of the same reforms. A still-narrower effort is on offer from Senators Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.). And Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) has a sound bill that would boost evidence-based treatment and improve the coverage of mental-health history in the national firearms background-check system. The more sweeping the better, but any of these would be improvements on current mental-health policy, which, partly because of the mental-health industry, has been well funded but woefully ineffective for decades. Some states have done admirable work reforming their mental-health laws; it’s time Washington did, too.

‐ Jeb Bush gave a speech on Iraq that outraged Democrats who apparently believe that no one named Bush should ever dare speak of Iraq again. But Bush’s address was sober and persuasive. It correctly excoriated the Obama administration — and Hillary Clinton — for the complete withdrawal from Iraq that created the vacuum for the rise of ISIS, and set out a better policy for combating the terror group than the Obama administration’s half-hearted formula for stalemate. In Iraq, Bush would do more to aid the Iraqi security forces, Sunni tribes, and the Kurds, as well as deploying forward air controllers to coordinate American air strikes — with more troops, if necessary. In Syria, he would do more to build up so-called moderate forces and establish safe zones for them, together with a no-fly zone over the country. (We are skeptical of the latter until we can be assured that we have a force on the ground we can rely on.) The Obama administration seems content to hand the problem of ISIS off to the next administration, so it behooves all Republican candidates to think through their policy as seriously as Bush has.

‐ Josh Hawley is a conservative intellectual and lawyer who has written for this magazine and defended religious freedom in court. One of his clients was Hobby Lobby, which won an important victory for that cause against the Obama administration in the Supreme Court. Now Hawley is running for attorney general of Missouri. His opponent, Kurt Schaefer, has been a liberal Republican state senator. When the Republican legislature sent the Democratic governor a conscience-protection bill, he was the only Republican senator to vote against it and back the veto. His record on tort reform is dismal: Earlier this year he led a filibuster against a bill that would merely have brought the state’s rules for expert testimony into line with standard practices. Schaefer, as the senate appropriations-committee chairman, will be well-funded. For conservatives, though, Hawley should be an easy choice.

‐ The opening of an Associated Press report said a great deal: “Cuban dissidents, so long the center of U.S. policy toward the island, won’t be invited to Secretary of State John Kerry’s historic flag-raising at the U.S. Embassy in Havana on Friday, vividly illustrating how U.S. policy is shifting focus to its single-party government.” Before the ceremony, approximately 100 Cubans were arrested, some of them badly beaten. They had been protesting America’s new warmth toward the dictatorship that rules them. At the ceremony, Kerry said, “Our leaders — President Obama and President Castro — made a courageous decision to stop being the prisoners of history and to focus on the opportunities of today and tomorrow.” After the flag-raising ceremony, Kerry did meet with some leading dissidents, privately. Less than two days after that, 200 dissidents were arrested (and state security performed the usual beatings). Many of these dissidents had been protesting the imprisonment of three of their number — who were arrested after, not before, Obama normalized relations with the dictatorship. They are prisoners not of history but of the Castros.

‐ Yazidis follow an ancient religion, gnostic and syncretic. Unfortunately for them, their homeland in northern Iraq has been taken over by ISIS, which has treated them to a campaign of rape. A harrowing story in the New York Times, based on ISIS’s boasts and the testimony of victims, describes sex slavery as a religious perk of the conquerors and a lure for recruits. A twelve-year-old survivor quoted her brutalizer: “He said that by raping me he is drawing closer to God.” Have Muslim scholars and clerics in the West, or in relatively moderate countries such as Egypt and Turkey, condemned this? Is there no way to devise a psy-war campaign to shame or disgust those who are drawn to such perversions? Can our Special Forces kill more members of ISIS? In the meantime, religions and philosophies struggle in vain with man’s dark heart.

‐ Kean University is a state-funded institution in New Jersey. It has a satellite in China, in partnership with a Chinese university. Wenzhou-Kean University is hiring now — and in its advertisements saying, “Membership in the Chinese Communist Party is preferred.” Of course it is. And that is a neat illustration of what’s wrong with these U.S.–Chinese partnerships.

‐ Funny thing about Asian economic supermen: They always find their kryptonite. In the 1980s, we were informed that the unstoppable Japanese, now fading, soon would run the world, and now the Chinese, who have dominated our imagination for years, are desperately trying to sort the beef from the phony baloney in their oddball economy. China has made the characteristic mistake of state-dominated economic systems, pouring untold amounts of money into empty housing developments and propping up factories and market segments that are not viable. The predictable results: non-performing debt on a scale that threatens their weak financial system, slower growth, rising unemployment — a politically destabilizing force in China — and imploding markets across the construction and building-supply sectors, which had been sustaining much of China’s growth. Beijing has responded by devaluing the renminbi — China’s version of a Fed intervention — with the hope that it can export its troubles away. But devaluation is a limited tool for a country that imports not only a great deal of its food but also many of the components necessary to the goods it exports, everything from crude oil to LCD screens. Instability in China is in no one’s interests, economic or otherwise, and the United States, still economically anemic after what has passed for a recovery, remains especially vulnerable to global shocks. We cannot set Beijing’s house in order, and we are worse off for having spent these years spurning so many opportunities to fortify our own position.

‐ All dictators and thugs have their supporters and apologists in free countries, and Hugo Chávez was no exception. When he died, American “liberals,” in the Washington Post, on MSNBC, and elsewhere, mourned him. They said he stood for “equality” and “social justice.” Today, we have reports that one of his daughters is the richest woman in Venezuela — a multi-billionairess. Meanwhile, ordinary Venezuelans are in desperate shape. Is this the vision of social justice that chavistas, wherever they may live, have in mind?

‐ A small but growing pack of bloodthirsty wolves in rural northern Sweden threatens to disrupt that nation’s famed social cohesion. The predatory beasts attack farmers’ livestock, reduce the supply of game for hunters (sometimes attacking their dogs as well), and make residents fear for their children’s lives; yet EU regulations protect the wolves, and Brussels is threatening reprisals against Sweden after it allowed a few dozen to be culled. What makes the situation particularly vexing is that wolves are not native to the area; a few have trickled in from Finland and Russia over the years, and the colony they started now numbers more than 400. Their isolation and lack of genetic diversity (all the members trace their ancestry back to the same original five) give them endangered status, which means the locals must erect cumbersome electric fences, install security cameras, and abandon their hunting traditions as wolves brazenly roam the woods, seeming to sense their impunity. It just goes to show what happens when you lack an effective enforcement mechanism to deal with illegal immigrants . . .

‐ Target Corporation, which operates about 2,000 stores in the United States, has announced that it will no longer identify children’s toys by gender. In a tweet that went viral earlier this summer, a mother in Akron, Ohio, criticized the retail chain for signs identifying “building sets” and “girls’ building sets.” The brittle logic of social-justice warriors may cause them to see an analogy to drinking fountains labeled “white” and “colored,” but sexual difference runs deep where racial difference does not. Lego’s version of Princess Elsa’s sparkling ice castle, which comes in a package with a lot of pink on it, is more likely to delight your eight-year-old niece than your eight-year-old nephew, and more likely to disappoint or disturb your nephew than your niece. Grouping girls’ toys and boys’ toys separately was a simple convenience for the adult shopper. That’s gone now, in a small victory for advocates of gender fluidity. What can’t be eradicated is the enthusiasm with which boys and girls tend to insist that they’re different from each other.

‐ Writing in Newsweek, leftist writer Rick Perlstein has used our current cultural obsession with flags to re-litigate cultural and political battles over the Vietnam War. Calling the POW/MIA flag “racist” (a claim he later apologized for), he says it’s “past time to pull it down.” Why? Because it “smothers” the alleged “reality” of Vietnam — a reality he claims is dominated by political propaganda and American war crimes. While it’s not terribly unusual to find a liberal whitewashing the Viet Cong and the NVA, it is unusual to see one do so at the explicit expense of Americans missing in action. Judging from Perlstein’s abject apology for hurting those who “selflessly served their country,” it’s safe to say that the POW/MIA flag is one “controversial” symbol that’s in no real danger of removal.

‐ DNA tests of the relevant descendants show that Warren Harding had a love child by Nan Britton, a woman 31 years his junior. Britton made the claim herself in the 1920s, though her obvious hunger for publicity caused some historians to doubt it. Equally interesting, the tests showed that Harding had no black blood (a stubborn rumor in his youth, used by Democrats in a whispering campaign against him). Harding put a couple of crooks in his cabinet, and he died in 1923, a little more than halfway through his term. As it was, he rode out a post-war depression without taking any steps that might have made the economy worse, and he pardoned Socialist Eugene Debs and other political prisoners of the Wilson years. He said America needed “normalcy” — a grotesque word, but a valuable thing, and he did his not-negligible best to provide it.

‐ When Peter W. Schramm was a boy, his father said, “We were born Americans, but in the wrong place.” That wrong place was Hungary, the scene of Communist oppression in 1956. His family fled to the United States, where Peter became one of the best kinds of American — the kind who falls in love with his new country the way only an immigrant can. Peter ultimately became a student of Harry V. Jaffa at the Claremont Graduate School in California. While there, he helped found the Claremont Institute and served as its first president. He went on to lead the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio, where he influenced a generation of students he knew personally and, by way of the center’s programs for high-school instructors, even more whom he never met. He devoted his life to teaching Americans about America and displayed a special talent for criticizing those who loved their country insufficiently or unwisely. At an event honoring him in July, as death drew near, he called himself the happiest man alive. Dead at 68. R.I.P.

‐ Whitney L. Ball was one of the conservative movement’s great innovators. In 1999, she recognized that philanthropists needed a new vehicle for gift-giving — one that both channeled financial support to liberty-loving organizations and protected donor intent (the neglect of which has bedeviled so many right-of-center benefactors). So she co-founded DonorsTrust and led it for the next 16 years. In that time, DonorsTrust gave away nearly $750 million to groups that promoted limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. To her friends and allies, she was a constant source of good advice and great cheer — she was the quintessential happy warrior, who brought an infectious enthusiasm to her freedom-fighting work as well as to her long battle with cancer. Behind it all lay her deep faith, and the conviction that death is not an end but a beginning. Dead at 52. R.I.P.

‐ Julian Bond, born in 1940, was perhaps the last of a type: the striving black bourgeoisie in an era of segregation. Bond’s grandfather was a minister, his father was president of Lincoln University; Bond himself went to Morehouse College. But he dropped out in 1961 to join the civil-rights movement, first in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), then in Georgia politics, finally in the NAACP. Along the way he resisted certain temptations — he quit SNCC when it was taken over by black-power radicals — but succumbed to others: He helped found the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has long been a machine for raising money using ideological scare stories (it branded the Family Research Council a hate group). Bond was a lifelong board member. The civil-rights movement, of which he was an ornament, having killed Jim Crow, could have declared victory, addressed black social pathologies, or descended to wheel-spinning and politicking. It, and he, chose the third option. Dead at 75. R.I.P.


The Early Rounds

Donald Trump has sat atop the Republican polls for several weeks. He has provided some entertainment, some boorishness, and one big idea: getting control of immigration. The boorishness is no mere stylistic failing. Some observers, and not only Trump supporters, thought the moderators questioned him too harshly during the Fox News presidential debate; but nothing said there justified, or could justify, Trump’s post-debate remark that Megyn Kelly is a “bimbo.” That’s a moral failure on Trump’s part, as is his unwillingness to apologize — to say nothing of other remarks about her that he has made.

It’s also true, though, that no other major candidate has spoken up for lowering immigration levels or building a wall on our southern border. Both of those are reasonable ideas on which most Republican voters agree. (More on that below.) Look past both the ideas and the outrages, though, and the handicapper runs up against this brute fact: Trump has never been elected to anything, and parties do not nominate presidents who haven’t. The last exception was Dwight Eisenhower, and telling people they’re fired on reality shows isn’t exactly winning World War II.

Trump is a serious threat to some of the other candidates, especially the second-tier ones whom he is squeezing out. Other Republicans, even if they fear he would be a terrible nominee, need not panic. They should, indeed, take comfort in his strength in the polls: His consistent fifth of the vote is enough to make him stay in the Republican primaries, where he is likely to lose fair and square, rather than leave early to enjoy making third-party mischief. The longer he stays in the primaries, the less of a third-party threat he will be.

The other candidates did well in that first debate, even if none of them were as dramatically interesting as Trump. Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina, in particular, shone. A media boomlet for John Kasich seems to be under way. The press’s liberalism appears to be distorting its judgment of a candidate who advertises how little he cares about same-sex marriage and how enthusiastic he is about expanding Medicaid. But he could nonetheless have a real impact: There are plenty of liberal Republicans, and nobody else is trying as hard to win their votes.

The polls show that few Republican voters are committed to particular candidates. They have not yet decided which of these candidates would make the best opponent for Hillary Clinton and then the best president. They are giving several of them a hearing. That’s the right attitude to take in a wide-open race with a talented field.


The Trump Plan

Trump’s immigration hawkishness has until now consisted of bravado rather than substance. His newly released immigration platform, although flawed, is a marked improvement: It is sensible in its basic outline and better in many respects than the ideas presented by his rivals.

Trump’s “three core principles” — that a nation should control its border, enforce its immigration laws, and put its own workers first — should be the starting point of any reasonable immigration policy. Likewise, several of the enforcement policies that follow should be widely adopted: increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, encouraging greater cooperation between ICE and local gang task forces, implementing E-Verify nationwide, deporting criminal aliens, ending catch-and-release policies, defunding sanctuary cities, and increasing penalties for visa overstays. These are all important elements of any meaningful effort to enforce America’s immigration laws.

The plan doesn’t address what to do with illegal immigrants already here, which is defensible because enforcement should be the first priority. Alas, Trump continues to talk up his intention to deport, then re-import, current illegal immigrants — a de facto amnesty that is more costly, time-consuming, and logistically fraught than any currently on the table. Additionally, Trump’s stated intention to avoid separating families by sending American-born children away with their parents is obviously illegal; the United States government has no authority to deport American citizens.

Trump’s written plan also includes his famous, but absurd, pledge to make Mexico pay for our border wall. America’s border is America’s responsibility. One of Trump’s ideas for funding the structure is to “impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages,” an impossibility.

On legal immigration, Trump’s plan sketches out an immigration “pause” with reduced immigration levels that resemble “more moderate historical averages.” That would be welcome, but he offers no details about how to achieve this. Likewise, Trump’s desire to end abuse of the H-1B visa program, which enables IT employers to lay off American workers and import foreign workers to perform the same jobs at significantly lower cost, is laudable, but his proposal — simply to increase the “prevailing wage” — is likely just to invite more meddling from the same lawyers and bureaucrats who already exercise outsized importance in H-1B decisions.

Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship is sure to be the most controversial element of the plan, but it is also sure to be a nonstarter. Birthright citizenship is abused, but ending it would be a Herculean task politically, and the Supreme Court is unlikely to be cooperative.

All that said, the rest of the Republican field would do well to take up Trump’s principles and supplement them with a fuller range of sensible policies. The best of Trump’s enforcement proposals should be the lowest common denominator in the GOP, and to them can be added better proposals for barriers at the border and for illegal aliens in the country — all to be articulated with the seriousness that Trump too often lacks. Immigration is too important to be left to the Donald.

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Found Wanting

In a country in which fewer and fewer people serve in an ever-shrinking all-volunteer military, it can be difficult to make a comprehensive case to the civilian public about the ...
Politics & Policy

Cruising Speed

It’s striking that the five Mission: Impossible films, made across two decades in an ever-changing Hollywood, have all starred Tom Cruise. Even in this age of franchises and costumed stars, ...


Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Hillary has been wearing orange pantsuits. Someone’s been planning ahead. ‐ In a speech at American University defending his Iran deal, President Obama accused its Republican opponents of making “common ...
Politics & Policy


ORPHAN What was I looking for in that room Crowded with old books, shelves so full, It seemed they could not hold another title, Except where in places a weary volume Leaned upon its neighbor’s ...
Politics & Policy


Is Puerto Rico Back from the Brink? Writing in the Week (July 20), National Review’s editors incorrectly characterize Puerto Rico governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla. Their unfair portrayal of his efforts to ...

Most Popular

White House

More Evidence the Guardrails Are Gone

At the end of last month, just as the news of the Ukraine scandal started dominating the news cycle, I argued that we're seeing evidence that the guardrails that staff had placed around Donald Trump's worst instincts were in the process of breaking down. When Trump's staff was at its best, it was possible to draw ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More

Is America Becoming Sinicized?

A little over 40 years ago, Chinese Communist strongman and reformer Deng Xiaoping began 15 years of sweeping economic reforms. They were designed to end the disastrous, even murderous planned economy of Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The results of Deng’s revolution astonished the world. In four decades, ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More