‐ The New York City Council honored Ethel Rosenberg. One hundred million people were unavailable for comment.
‐ If Donald Trump stopped insulting people, he would practically be rendered mute, but he has a bully’s inability to take what he dishes out. Trump threw an epic temper tantrum on Twitter after Rich Lowry said on Fox News that in the last debate, Carly Fiorina had “cut Donald Trump’s balls off with the precision of a surgeon.” Trump demanded that Lowry be banned from television and fined by the FCC. (Isn’t he supposed to be the anti-PC candidate?) Trump followed this up in TV interviews with a string of his typically witless put-downs, calling Lowry a “loser,” “a total fool,” and — this was particularly clever — “a bad guy.” To say Trump has an unpresidential temperament is to put it mildly. One imagines the mogul sitting in silk pajamas plotting his revenge late at night in the White House residence over displeasing tweets and unwelcome TV commentary. As for Lowry’s salty expression, maybe he should have said “cojones” instead — but we know Trump insists on English.
‐ Declining poll numbers led to declining fundraising, and then to the end of Scott Walker’s presidential campaign. He had been consumed by the task of surviving as governor in Wisconsin — he was elected in 2010, faced a recall in 2012, and won reelection just last year — and was unprepared for a national race. He flip-flopped aggressively, with aides constantly explaining his strategic calculations in the papers. Walker has advertised himself as prudent, solid, no-nonsense. Dropping out was a decision that fit that description.
‐ During the CNN debate in mid September, Carly Fiorina challenged President Obama and Hillary Clinton to watch the videos exposing Planned Parenthood: “Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” Critics have been making Fiorina out as a fantasist non-stop ever since. The details of their case have varied. One media “fact-checker” claimed that the kicking baby was the result of stillbirth, not abortion; but it was Fiorina who was right about that. The video shows a technician who used to work with Planned Parenthood describing how she was instructed to take the brain of a fetus, intercut with stock footage of a different kicking fetus. Fiorina misled, surely inadvertently, in suggesting it was the same fetus. But her critics are evading the basic point of the scene: It offers vivid testimony that Planned Parenthood sometimes takes organs from living fetuses and arranges its abortion procedures to that end. They have generally charged her with having made up the scene altogether. In this case it’s the accusation of lying that is a willful untruth.
‐ Ben Carson told NBC that a president could espouse any faith “consistent with the Constitution,” but that he would not “put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” Days later he elaborated to CNN: “I’ve worked with Muslims. I’ve trained Muslims. I’ve operated on Muslims. There are a lot of Muslims who are very patriotic.” But “they don’t accept sharia.” Carson distinguishes Muslims who don’t accept the Constitution from Muslims who do; polls do show that many American Muslims hold beliefs that are incompatible with the Constitution (e.g., about what fate should befall converts away from Islam). How many are enough to cause concern? America once had a problem with another religion beginning with “M.” In the mid 19th century, Mormons ran a polygamous nation-state in the west; they had been murdered, and they had committed murders. It was reasonable to be wary of them (the 1856 GOP platform called polygamy and slavery “twin relics of barbarism”). Time and reform moderated the faith until George and Mitt Romney ran for president without serious religious opposition. Islam should undergo similar probation, without barring the door to any qualified individual.
‐ Donald Trump stunned the political world yet again, this time by being boring. After months of saying he wanted to raise taxes on the rich, he delivered a fairly conventional Republican tax plan that cuts their taxes quite a lot. It is open to objections similar to those that have been raised against plans from his Republican rivals. His tax cuts are ludicrously large — $12 trillion over ten years — given the deficits we face and his unwillingness to see entitlements reformed. They are an extremely good deal for the rich but do nothing to relieve the burden of the payroll tax. His proposal to tax businesses on their foreign earnings, even when those earnings stay overseas, seems wrongheaded but, given the low tax rates he would apply to business, unimportant. We’re happy to welcome Trump to supply-side conservatism, and we’ll leave it to him to explain to his supporters why his plan is so similar to Jeb Bush’s.
‐ Hillary Clinton came out against the Keystone pipeline at a campaign stop in Iowa. The move casts light on the state of the Democrats, and of her campaign. Stopping Keystone is a touchstone for green groups, who want to slow the development of Alberta’s tar sands. Bernie Sanders (who threatens Mrs. Clinton) and Martin O’Malley (who doesn’t) both oppose the pipeline. The Obama administration has executed a seven-year straddle on the issue, unwilling to disappoint either greens or labor unions and the oil and construction industries. That Mrs. Clinton feels the need to run to her former boss’s left shows the heat she is feeling from that side (the only remaining side?) of her party. Unanswered by her or Keystone’s other enemies: why America should spurn the oil of a free and friendly neighbor. Maybe the State Department knows; somebody check the server.
‐ Speaking of the server: The words “Clinton” and “perjury” were back in the headlines again in September after the Department of Defense reported that it had found a series of e-mails on Mrs. Clinton’s private server that she had not handed over as promised. Under oath, Clinton had assured the Obama administration that she and her team had provided all “work-related” correspondence. The DoD’s discovery of a conversation with General David Petraeus indicates that this was not in fact true. In addition to casting yet more doubts on Clinton’s honesty and reliability, this latest development neatly underscored why the FBI is so interested in Clinton’s server: because, by keeping her correspondence outside the State Department’s IT system, Clinton rendered it impossible for the government to know with any certainty what was sent and received while she was secretary of state. Drip, drip, drip . . .
‐ Mrs. Clinton gave a speech in which she declared, due process and all that be damned, that women making allegations of sexual assault have “the right to be believed.” We suspect that she’s slipping an executive-privilege exemption in there, somewhere.
‐ Answering a questioner at an Iowa event, Jeb Bush praised America’s powers of assimilation but warned that multiculturalism can thwart them. “When you create pockets of isolation, and in some cases, the assimilation process has been retarded, it’s wrong. It limits people’s aspirations.” Seeing an opportunity to weaponize a word, Talking Points Memo put up a post headlined “Jeb: A ‘Multicultural’ Society May Lead to ‘Retarded’ Assimilation” — as if Bush had somehow been trash-talking the developmentally arrested. Josh Marshall, Wonkette, and other canaries retweeted the slur. But when even liberals — Chris Hayes, Vox — objected, since “retard” is after all in the dictionary (“v. — tr. To impede or delay; cause to proceed slowly”), the story withered. Marshall et al. are not developmentally arrested — just lazy hacks.
‐ Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), representing the whitest constituency in these United States, told a group of college students that the United States was founded, “from way back, on racist principles.” Add this to the list of things about Sanders that are not quite right. It may seem like a matter of semantics, but there is an important distinction to be made: The United States of America was not founded on racist principles — it was founded on the most noble and humane principles ever to shape a nation-state. What was present, abominably, at the American founding was racist practice. The tension between American principle and American practice was not lost on the founding generation, even (sometimes especially) on the slave-holding among them. Senator Sanders is, as anyone who has heard him speak knows, a man with simplistic views and a cartoonish understanding of — well, almost everything. But it takes a special kind of civic illiteracy to miss that our great national sin was not in our principles but in our failure to live up to them, and by them.
‐ The Obama administration has announced plans to welcome 10,000 refugees from war-torn Syria over the next fiscal year and to increase the United States’ annual total refugee cap from 70,000 to 100,000 by 2017, to accommodate more. That’s too little for Hillary Clinton and her Democratic opponent Martin O’Malley, who have called on the administration to take 65,000 Syrian refugees right away. The plight of Syria’s millions of displaced is heart-rending. But there are questions to ask. Given that an overwhelming number of migrants are men from the Middle East and North Africa looking for work, can we distinguish between genuine refugees and economic migrants? Can we adequately investigate Syrian refugees to make sure none have ties to the Islamic State, which has already demonstrated an interest in exporting its activities? Can we prioritize refugees in actual danger, rather than those taking advantage of the current situation to leave safe havens in Turkey, Lebanon, and elsewhere? With state and local governments across the country struggling to afford the thousands of unaccompanied minors who crossed America’s southern border last year, can Syrian refugees be hosted in a way that does not further overburden local communities? And can Syrian-refugee communities prevent the rise of Islamism in the second and third generations — the problem plaguing America’s Somali-refugee community? Compassion is no substitute for a careful consideration of these and a host of other serious concerns.
‐ By the mid 1990s, the Democratic party had become nearly uniformly supportive of abortion. It denied Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey a speaking slot at its 1992 convention because he remained pro-life, refusing to flip-flop as Dick Gephardt and Jesse Jackson had. Even then, however, many Democrats were sufficiently appalled by partial-birth abortion to vote against it. Gephardt couldn’t stick with the abortion lobby on that issue; neither could Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Now Congress is debating a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, a ban with public support. This time, though, only four Democrats in the House and three in the Senate are willing to break ranks. The party’s moral descent continues.
‐ President Obama erected giant screens in the Rose Garden, so that Party boss Xi Jinping would not have to see democracy protesters outside the White House gates. How thoughtful. But Xi and other Party officials are shielded from protesters at home. (In fact, protesters are in prison cells.) Why should he have to be shielded during his short time in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave? Sometimes a host can be too thoughtful.
‐ Forsaking his base, Obama delivered a denunciation of “coddled” campus liberals at American colleges. Really, he did, and he almost sounded like he was serious about it, criticizing school administrations for keeping books at arm’s length because they might offend this or that minority group, criticizing student protesters who prevent conservatives from speaking on campuses, and generally instructing the kid from his Pajama Boy ad to buck up and act like an adult. Well, more joy in heaven and all that — now time for Obama to deliver that message to his Education Department, which is busy prodding colleges to adopt speech codes.
‐ In August, two women graduated from the Army’s grueling Ranger School. There was much fanfare, and in some circles their accomplishment was taken as proof that women can hang with men in ground combat. But was the fix in? An explosive, well-sourced report in People Magazine alleges that the women were granted a number of advantages over their male counterparts, and that a general officer declared, “A woman will graduate Ranger School.” The military vigorously disputed the report, but the reporter, Susan Keating, doubled down, demanding to know why she’d been denied on-the-record access to key personnel. Greater transparency could resolve the dispute, but greater transparency will also show the politically incorrect reality: Putting women in the infantry is a terrible idea.
‐ The new, improved First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), released in September by Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah), is an essential piece of legislation that seeks to protect religious liberty in an increasingly hostile environment. Among FADA’s modest aims: protect the tax-exempt status of entities that adhere to the belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman; protect individuals who hold the same belief about marriage that President Obama professed when he was elected from being deprived of eligibility for federal grants, licenses, and employment; and prevent colleges and schools from losing their accreditation because of their position on marriage. FADA is so important because it would provide a safe harbor from the real threats to conscience that the progressive juggernaut on same-sex marriage poses. Critics of any particular provisions in FADA ought to clarify whether they support its overarching goals. The real objections of those who do not are to the American traditions of religious liberty and pluralism.
‐ In 1983, Congress renamed the area outside the Soviet embassy in Washington “Andrei Sakharov Plaza.” Sakharov was the great physicist who became a dissident and won the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize. After Congress passed its law, Soviet officials had to open mail addressed not to 1125 16th Street, but to No. 1 Andrei Sakharov Plaza. Now Senator Ted Cruz wants to do some renaming himself: He has introduced a bill to rename the area outside the Chinese embassy “Liu Xiaobo Plaza,” in honor of another great dissident and Nobel peace laureate, who is a prisoner of the Chinese Communist Party right now. Cruz asked for unanimous consent, but Senator Dianne Feinstein blocked him, saying that the renaming would be undiplomatic. If Feinstein or President Obama can whisper into the CCP’s ear and spring Liu, great. But not even the award of the Nobel Peace Prize could spring him. Cruz’s idea accords with American values. So does a related idea of his: to rename the street outside the new Cuban embassy after Oswaldo Payá, the brave and noble democracy leader who was killed three years ago, almost certainly by the dictatorship that ruled him and that continues to rule all of Cuba.
‐ Volkswagen has canned its Vorstandsvorsitzender, Martin Winterkorn, after revelations that the company’s engineers had conspired to write control software for its diesel engines that would detect when an emissions test was being conducted and put the car into a special beat-the-test mode. German prosecutors have, with great justification, opened a criminal case, and the hand-in-the-cookie-jar posture of Volkswagen suggests that the company does not expect to mount much of a defense, its actions having been indefensible. Expect epic fines at the very least. That corruption is part of the general condition by no means excuses it in the particular, but we wonder, as the Obama administration prepares to negotiate a much larger, more complex, and more expensive set of carbon-emission controls with the intention of combating global warming: Does anybody expect the Chinese politburo to be more trustworthy than German automotive executives? Trust, but verify, somebody once said. In the case of global-warming accords, we suspect this advice is going to prove only half applicable.
‐ Parents in one of the more prosperous corners of Brooklyn are in an uproar. Until very recently, families in Dumbo, a relatively new neighborhood that is essentially a forest of condominiums catering to financiers, techies, and “creative professionals,” sent their children to Public School 8 in ultra-affluent Brooklyn Heights. But now, according to a report in the New York Times, the city’s education department has proposed sending Dumbo students to nearby P.S. 307, an elementary school that serves the Farragut Houses, a sprawling public-housing complex that borders the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Not surprisingly, the student body at P.S. 307 is much poorer and less white than the student body at P.S. 8. Given that this corner of Brooklyn is full of committed liberals, you’d think that Dumbo parents would be delighted by the prospect of sending their children to a more socioeconomically diverse school. But in fact many local parents are fighting the rezoning tooth and nail. What would these enlightened Brooklynites think if this exact same scenario were playing out in the Deep South, or in some less enlightened middle-class suburb? We suspect that they’d consider those fighting against integration terribly retrograde.
‐ The presumption that the state has a role to play in contriving and ossifying the truth is one that is more commonly entertained by dictators than by scientists. But, as the debate over climate change heats up, this distinction is beginning, disgracefully, to blur. Heretofore, calls for the imprisonment of climate skeptics have come mostly from outside the academy — from politicians such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Sheldon Whitehouse, and from titillation writers such as Adam Weinstein, formerly of Gawker. In September, alas, these would-be tyrants were joined in their campaign by some supposedly more serious figures. Justifying their proposition with a dramatic appeal to urgency, a collection of 20 high-profile academics penned an open letter to President Obama, beseeching him to use the United States’ RICO laws to punish those who disagree with their conclusions. America’s “deniers,” the group claimed, “have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.” In consequence, they should be punished. If we are now to begin calling conspirators against the American way to the attention of the government, we can think of 20 people who belong on the list.
‐ The U.S. Department of the Interior is ruffling feathers out west. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the greater sage grouse — the subject of the largest landscape-level conservation effort in U.S. history — doesn’t need to be listed as an endangered species. This announcement should have been good news for ranchers, industries, and businesses: These private entities won’t have to change their practices to accommodate Endangered Species Act regulations. But there’s more to the story. In order to maintain sage-grouse population growth, the Interior Department instead added 15 amendments to its land-use plan. This plan and its new amendments apply to the eleven western states where the sage grouse lives. Endangered species sometimes get delisted, relaxing the regulations surrounding them. No such prospect awaits these rules. Evidently it’s regulations that this administration is most determined to protect from extinction.
‐ In August, the Associated Press reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency “will allow Iran to use its own experts to inspect a site [Parchin] allegedly used to develop nuclear arms.” Left-wing media jumped to dismiss the report. Vox called the report “badly flawed,” and MSNBC.com’s “TheMaddowBlog” called it a “dud,” both pouncing on the fact that the AP had published multiple versions of the story over the course of 24 hours (the final version of the story included everything originally reported). In late September, the IAEA confirmed that Iranian scientists had collected samples from Parchin, with no IAEA oversight. Apologies should be sent to the AP.
‐ There are legitimate reasons for the military to tread lightly on foreign cultures. But do they justify requiring our soldiers to ignore systematic child rape? A New York Times story revealed what American soldiers have known for 14 years: Afghan men — including our “allies” — routinely sexually abuse young boys, and not only does the military refrain from interfering, it has disciplined soldiers who have intervened. While no one thinks that the military can unilaterally end centuries-long cultural practices, it can impose American justice where there are American boots. There is no good answer for the culture of rape, abuse, and jihad that pollutes so much of the Muslim world. But we do know that cowardly permissiveness in the name of cultural sensitivity alienates potential friends and broadcasts moral and cultural weakness to enemies and allies alike.
‐ When Pope Francis came to Cuba, the Castros were ready for him. The dictatorship arrested between 250 and 300 dissidents, or potential dissidents, who might cause a disturbance. They arrested them violently, too. Berta Soler, for example, was dragged away by the hair and neck when she tried to attend the papal Mass. Soler is the leader of the Ladies in White, a group of faithful Catholics who campaign for the release of political prisoners. Later, Pope Francis said he was not aware of any arrests. That was a little odd, since state security tackled a man, Zaqueo Báez, right in front of him, and dragged him away violently. Báez is a dissident. The pope did not meet with any of them, though he had a happy meeting with Fidel Castro: News photos show the pope beaming with delight at the old monster. Not only did the pope refuse to meet with any dissidents, he refused to speak for them, or encourage them. As one democracy group on the island put it, “The pope did not utter a phrase of solidarity with the victims of repression.” Forget phrases, the pope hardly uttered a word. John Paul II, when he gave a homily in Cuba, mentioned the word “freedom” 17 times and the word “justice” 13 times. Francis did not say “freedom” or “justice” at all. José Daniel Ferrer, a democracy leader, said that the pope discussed “the glory of God in heaven” but said “nothing about the hell for us on earth.” Politely, you could say that the pope’s four-day visit to Cuba was a missed opportunity. Less politely, you could say that his behavior was disgraceful.
‐ The hits keep coming for Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the British Labour party. In September, the Daily Telegraph uncovered a newspaper column Corbyn had penned in 2003, in which he appeared to suggest that Osama bin Laden had been framed. The accusation against bin Laden came suspiciously swiftly, Corbyn contended, and was then used to justify “an attack on the Taliban and then, subtly, [the move toward] regime change in Afghanistan”; it should therefore be treated with skepticism and contempt. In an earlier set of columns that were offered up in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, Corbyn showcased his considerable talent for conspiracy theory. The expulsion of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, he claimed in a 1991 Labour-party briefing paper, most likely served as a “curtain raiser” for a “New World Order” in which “white and western” people would claim the “free use of all the weapons.” “The aim of the war machine of the United States,” he proposed, “is to maintain a world order dominated by the banks and multinational companies of Europe and North America.” George Galloway, step aside. The British Left has no need for you now.
‐ In August, wildlife photographer Kerstin Langenberger spotted an emaciated polar bear traipsing across the ice floes in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. She snapped a photo and posted it to her Facebook page with an impassioned plea for — you guessed it — action on climate change. Predictably, the photo went viral. Then the outlet Live Science consulted some actual experts: “There has been no study that I know of that said more bears starve specifically as a result of climate change,” Karyn Rode, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, reported. “We know that animals in the wild don’t live forever,” said Polar Bears International chief scientist Steven Armstrup. “Polar bears, they don’t have natural enemies, so when they die it’s of starvation.” So, in other words: Sometimes in the wild . . . there are skinny polar bears.
‐ Ahmed Mohamed, 14 years old, took a small briefcase packed with wires and a circuit board to his school in Irving, Texas, and was arrested when teachers thought it was a bomb. He claimed the device was a clock he had invented; Silicon Valley and the White House praised him (“Cool clock, Ahmed,” President Obama tweeted); and his family claimed the arrest was discriminatory. Schools react swiftly and sometimes excessively to anything that smacks of violence (recall the seven-year-old Maryland boy who was suspended for chewing a Pop-Tart into the shape of a pistol). But Ahmed’s gizmo was odd-seeming (the alarm went off in one class). His family does not shun the limelight: His father has run twice for president of Sudan. And Ahmed is not a young Edison: His “clock” was the innards of a 30-year-old Radio Shack model, which he had simply disassembled. It was no great technological development, but another leap forward for the grievance industry.
‐ Every women’s-studies major has read Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (1975), an encyclopedic history of the subject written by Susan Brownmiller. So there was great consternation in feminist circles when Brownmiller, now 80, told New York magazine that today’s college women “are not the chief targets of rapists,” that they “think they are the first people to discover rape, and the problem of consent, and they are not,” and that modern campus feminism “is a very limited movement that doesn’t accept reality. . . . Culture may tell you, ‘You can drink as much as men,’ but you can’t.” From the outrage on the left, you’d think someone had given Ani DiFranco’s latest album a bad review. Amanda Marcotte called Brownmiller “downright victim-blame-y” and said she should instead “talk about how our culture valorizes male domination”; fellow rapeologist Kate Harding said Brownmiller had produced a “bunch of crap that sounds hopelessly outdated to anyone pre-menopausal” and made her sound like “a stereotypical 1950s dad, not a feminist rape expert.” This was meant as an insult.
‐ A student at Wesleyan University in September wrote an op-ed for the campus newspaper expressing mild criticism of some aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement. In response, a group of students, faculty, and alumni signed a petition urging a boycott of the paper and an end to its funding for “failing to provide a safe space for the voices of students of color.” The group issued demands, including mandatory diversity training for newspaper staff and dedicated front-page space for opinions from “marginalized groups/voices.” Administrators responded with a refreshingly robust statement explaining to students that they have no right to demand ideological conformity on campus or be shielded from viewpoints that discomfit them. Sanity did not prevail: The paper’s editors issued a groveling apology and a litany of penitential steps they planned to take, including production of a special issue written exclusively by non-white students. They expressed sorrow that these actions would be insufficient to “heal the wounds” created by publication of the op-ed. One can only imagine the irreparable harm Wesleyan students might suffer if they were someday exposed to full-throated criticism of Black Lives Matter.
‐ Karen Gaffney, 38, a competitive athlete, has swum across Lake Tahoe and Boston Harbor and 16 times across San Francisco Bay. In 2001 she completed a relay swim across the English Channel. A graduate of Portland Community College, she holds a teacher’s certificate; the University of Portland awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2013. As president of the Karen Gaffney Foundation, which is funded in part by honorariums she receives for speaking engagements, she advocates for people with Down syndrome. At a TEDx talk in Portland in May, she noted that prenatal testing for unborn children who “rock the extra chromosome” means that most of them are aborted, a loss for the world they were prevented from being born into. Gaffney herself has Down syndrome. She joins a growing movement; not long ago in this space we noted the recent entry of people with Down syndrome into the modeling industry. In an age when moral standards on many fronts are in retreat, here’s a step forward, some cause for hope.
‐ “Adult” is one of those words that can have two opposite meanings: “mature” or, alternatively, “as sex-obsessed as a 13-year-old boy.” The new adult-oriented Muppets series dabbles a bit in both. Kermit is now the producer of Miss Piggy’s television show, which is a bit awkward since he has just abruptly dumped her for a (slightly) sexier sow who happens to be an executive at the network. Not since Aristophanes has the frog world seen so much drama.
‐ The forces of political correctness have not yet killed art; but year after year, they are doing their best. The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players have announced the cancellation of their production of The Mikado. The Pirates of Penzance will be substituted. Somebody, somewhere, objected to The Mikado on grounds of ethnic stereotyping. “NYGASP never intended to give offense,” said the organization, pathetically. “Thanks to all for the constructive criticism.” Yeah, sure. Lucky for NYGASP, pirates aren’t organized.
‐ “What a nice man,” thought Peter Hannaford in 1965, after meeting Ronald Reagan for the first time. “Too bad he can’t get elected.” Two years later, Reagan was governor of California. “I thus joined the army of those who underestimated Ronald Reagan — an army that was to grow much larger in the years ahead.” Hannaford signed up for a different force, becoming a lieutenant in the one that launched the Reagan revolution. A public-affairs professional, he initially served in Sacramento. As Reagan’s second term expired, he started a firm with Mike Deaver. They devoted most of their time to Reagan, keeping his schedule and arranging his radio commentaries and columns. During the presidential campaigns of 1976 and 1980, he was one of Reagan’s frequent companions on the road. Unlike Deaver, Hannaford never took a job in the White House, but he remained an occasional adviser who suggested lines for speeches. From his home in California, he worked with clients, wrote books, and oversaw the editorial page of his local newspaper. He remained active to the end, writing columns on Donald Trump and the renaming of Mt. McKinley. Hannaford filed his last piece the day before he died, on September 5. It appeared posthumously on the website of The American Spectator. The topic: good grammar. Dead at 82. R.I.P.
‐ Everyone called him “the Baron,” but his proper name was John Von Kannon and he was one of the conservative movement’s top fundraisers. He got his start at Indiana University, where fellow student R. Emmett (Bob) Tyrrell Jr. was starting the magazine that would become The American Spectator. Von Kannon served as its publisher. In 1980, he joined the staff of the Heritage Foundation, when the think tank’s budget was less than $4 million. By finding donors who wanted to support its mission, he helped build one of conservatism’s most formidable institutions, a sprawling organization that spent more than $90 million last year. The Spectator kept him on its masthead, listing him as “Kapellmeister,” which is, among Germans, the name for a person who makes music: a fitting appellation for a man whose main legacy may be the infectious laughter of a boon companion. Dead at 66. R.I.P.
‐ Most of the teams that Yogi Berra played for in his 18 seasons with the New York Yankees won the World Series. All but four appeared in it. He helped make them a powerhouse, and they helped make him a household name; both parties benefited from the relationship. Berra’s personal career statistics — batting average, home runs, wins above replacement value — were strong but not world-beating; in most categories, Johnny Bench and a few others ended up ranking higher. But Berra’s knowledge of opposing hitters was renowned. He called a tight game, a skill that no one has yet figured out how to capture in numbers. He caught Whitey Ford and Don Larsen, including Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. In the seven seasons he managed the Yankees, the Mets, and then the Yankees again, his team usually won. Joe Garagiola, Berra’s childhood friend and a former big-league catcher himself, popularized the legend of Yogi Berra as a fount of malapropisms and non sequiturs that shade into deep-sounding paradoxes. Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium must now go on without him. The future isn’t what it used to be. Dead at 90. R.I.P.
‐ Fred DeLuca was the founder of the Subway sandwich chain. The son of a factory worker, he opened his first shop at the age of 17 in Bridgeport, Conn. Today, there are some 44,300 independently owned Subway franchises in 110 countries. (By comparison, there are 36,000 McDonald’s outlets.) DeLuca did a world of good: He provided fresh and affordable food for consumers; he made a lot of people well off as franchisees; and those franchises have provided a great deal of employment, especially for youngsters getting their start. In New York, for example, Subway outlets are manned primarily by immigrant kids — kids whose families have come from all corners of the earth. It’s a perversity of our capitalist society that businessmen seldom get credit for the good they perform. In an interview two years ago, DeLuca said that, if he had to start out in today’s environment, “Subway would not exist.” Obamacare and other regulations would strangle it in the cradle. It’s a great and good thing that Fred DeLuca existed, when he did. This exemplary businessman has died at 67. R.I.P.
The election of a Republican House in 2010 put an end to the march of liberal legislation through Congress. Obama would get no signing ceremony for carbon caps, for pro-union laws, for new gun controls, or even, as it turned out, for the “comprehensive immigration reform” so favored by all the great and good. Republicans in Congress also imposed some spending cuts, albeit ones that fell too heavily on defense. When George W. Bush’s tax cuts expired, they got President Obama to agree to put many of them into law indefinitely.
Those are accomplishments for which Speaker John Boehner, who has announced that he will retire at the end of October, deserves some credit. (While he seems to have favored something like the misbegotten immigration bill that the Senate passed in 2013, for example, he wisely chose to avoid letting it go through over his party’s objections.) But overall his record is one that conservatives find, and should find, disappointing. To be sure, there are real limits, as Boehner and his allies always insisted, on what Republican congressmen can achieve when an implacably liberal president has a unified Democratic party behind him; but what is most dismaying is how little Republican congressmen have even tried to achieve. The House has never voted on a conservative replacement for Obamacare, or a tax reform, or even a bill to unwind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the few conservative policy victories in the last few years — the end, for now, of federal authorization of the Export-Import Bank — was accomplished over Boehner’s objections.
The Republican leadership in Congress constantly complains that conservative groups are demanding that it fight the Obama administration in ways it considers counterproductive. But it does not suggest that instead Republicans fight against the administration, or for conservative causes, in some superior way. Its alternative to losing fights consists of “regular order” and advancing bipartisan legislation that appeals to business groups. That is a recipe for demoralization among conservatives, loss of Republican popularity among swing voters, further strife within the party caucus, and a further weakening of Congress as an institution. Boehner has conservative views on most issues and sought to advance those views as best he could. But he has allowed a destructive dynamic to take hold among Republicans in which realism is forever pitted against vision. We wish him well in retirement, and wish for a successor who will transcend that division.
The Pope in America
Pope Francis gave two rather different speeches, one to Congress and one to the United Nations. The pontiff seemed to believe that the latter was the oratorical apex of his visit to the United States, while the Washington-minded media seemed to believe that it was the former.
This pope is not shy about talking politics, and his politics aren’t ours. In the prepared text of his speech to Congress, he was to bemoan making politics “a slave to the economy and finance,” intemperate language that he apparently thought better of and omitted. But standing in front of a group that includes a large number of professing Catholics — the Democratic portion of which had just stood adamantly against modest abortion restrictions rather less invasive than those operative in Sweden — the pope was gingerly about what we’ve been taught to call the “social issues.” His references to abortion and gay marriage were oblique, but he took a much stronger stand on several issues about which the church he leads does not take similarly absolute views: global warming, for this is a voguish pope; the arms trade (presumably not the fellows who arm his Swiss Guard); and, notably, capital punishment. Predictably, those on the culture-war left who are unfamiliar with the way in which Catholic dogma is in fact developed and propounded twittered excitedly about what that might have signaled.
We hope that they were listening to the United Nations speech, too, during which the pope reiterated with more vigor the familiar and humane Catholic teaching on marriage, abortion, and family life, with strong words on sex trafficking and religious liberty making a welcome appearance, too. The pope being the pope, there was a firm denunciation of “declarationist nominalism,” which is Vaticanese for the fact that a fetus isn’t an eggplant and Bruce Jenner isn’t a woman. Even better, a surprise visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor gave them some succor as the Obama administration continues to try to coerce them.
We reiterate our standing criticism of Pope Francis’s economic views, which are at best shallow and at worst potentially destructive, though he did manage a lukewarm moment of praise for American enterprise when addressing Congress. There simply is no substitute for capitalist abundance if we are at all serious about feeding the Lord’s sheep. Francis’s famous love of Franciscan simplicity tips too easily into oversimplification. Popes do politics, but to farther ends, and that the current pope sometimes puts a Peronist spin on certain eternal truths — that men are neither widgets nor livestock, that they are made in the image of the Almighty and bound for a kingdom not of this world — does not diminish those truths, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.