Magazine July 11, 2016, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

‐ Now that Garrison Keillor is retired, he will probably spend most of his time propounding cranky political opinions and telling long, dreary stories.

‐ Since clinching the GOP nomination, Donald Trump has pivoted to . . . chaos. After the Orlando shooting, he said President Obama might be an ISIS sympathizer (“He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands”), then suggested that people on the terror watch list not be able to buy guns (how is your buyer’s remorse, NRA?). Innuendo and lack of principle are par for Trump. New is the confusion engulfing his campaign. With every week until November precious, he held a rally in deep-red Texas and announced a trip to Scotland and Ireland to tour his golf courses. He has spent nothing on ads and done little fundraising. Responding to pleas from his family, he fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski: his best recent move, but also one that adds to the impression of haplessness. Trump’s floundering has revived talk of a convention revolt. Such a scenario would require a rules change and defy the wishes of Republican primary voters. They knew of, and presumably discounted, his inexperience, ignorance, and instability. But did they reckon on flat-out incompetence?

‐ After the jihadist mass-murder attack in Orlando, Trump — in familiar Trumpian fashion — broached the explosive subject of “profiling” Muslims by not exactly calling for it (it’s something he “hates the concept of” and would not necessarily do, but that “we’re going to have to start thinking about” and looking at “seriously”) and suggested that, if applied, profiling would be done incoherently (maybe yes for surveillance of mosques, maybe no for gun sales). Properly understood, profiling is elementary police work. It would single out no one for investigation based solely on religious affiliation or racial or ethnic heritage, but it would pay attention to these attributes when they are an unvarying offender characteristic: Most Muslims are not jihadists, but all jihadists are Muslims, just as all Mafia dons are of Italian descent. Counterterrorism that aims to prevent terrorist attacks rather than investigate them post-carnage requires an intelligence-based approach that profiles for radicals. This is yet another issue where the Democrats are wrong and Trump has engaged in no serious thought.

‐ Trump’s most valuable ally might not be so loyal after all. In December, Vladimir Putin was thought to have called Trump a “really brilliant and talented person.” The adjective he used — the Russian word yarkii — literally means bright, but can also mean colorful or flamboyant or gaudy. Journalists mistranslated the word: From its literal meaning, they assumed Putin had praised Trump’s presumably formidable intellect. Trump was flattered. In June, Putin used the same word to describe Trump as he had in December but carefully delineated its meaning. “Trump’s a colorful person,” Putin told an interviewer. “And, well, isn’t he colorful? Colorful. I didn’t mean any other kind of characterization about him.” It’s still a warmer endorsement than many Republicans are giving him.

‐ Hillary Clinton continues to be dogged by the FBI’s criminal investigation into the mishandling of classified information on her unauthorized “homebrew” e-mail server. The probe reportedly extends into possible “pay to play” corruption at the Clinton Foundation, some donors of which may have received preferential government treatment while Clinton was secretary of state. Concurrently, in an unusual development, the anti-corruption watchdog Judicial Watch has been granted the right to depose such top Clinton confidants as Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits involving the State Department’s knowing failure to disclose government-business e-mails stored on the private Clinton server system. Naturally, the press is focused on Clinton’s mishandling of classified information; that is the likeliest grist for criminal charges. But in assessing Clinton’s suitability for the Oval Office, it is worth remembering that the objective of the private e-mail arrangement was to defeat accountability laws — the statutes that require government officials to keep and disclose records of their communications and activities. The investigation of criminality continues; the matter of Clinton’s unfitness for office should be settled.

‐ If the public did require further proof of Clinton’s duplicitous corruption, it received it in June with the release of State Department e-mails detailing how one Rajiv Fernando came to be appointed to the International Security Advisory Board. Fernando, a Chicago securities trader, was named to the State Department panel in 2011 and given high-level security clearance, even though he had no background whatsoever in the national-security or nuclear matters on which the board advises. He did, however, have plenty of experience funneling money to the Clintons — raising hundreds of thousands for Hillary’s PAC and donating at least $1 million to the Clinton Foundation. When ABC News inquired in 2011 about his qualifications, State Department aides scrambled to conceal the political nature of the pick, the internal e-mails revealed. Fernando resigned immediately, mention of his tenure was scrubbed from the State Department website, and the e-mails were released only after two years of litigation in response to a suit brought by the conservative group Citizens United. This summer, Fernando will serve as a superdelegate at the Democratic National Convention. He is pledged to support Hillary Clinton.

‐ How do you follow up putting a black man in the White House? By putting two women on a ticket, which would happen if Clinton tapped Elizabeth Warren as her running mate. Warren may well have prior experience of diversity typecasting. The facts, unearthed by the Boston Globe when she first ran for Senate in 2012, are that Warren listed herself as a minority “in an Association of American Law Schools directory used to make diversity-friendly hires beginning in the 1986–87 school year.” (According to family tradition, she is 1/32 Cherokee.) She was subsequently hired by Penn, then by Harvard, and dropped the listing in 1995, after getting tenure. She says she never mentioned her heritage in interviews, and former colleagues say they do not remember her doing so. On the other hand, would an ambitious young academic be unaware of the advantages of outsider status, however slight? A feminist who rose on her husband’s coattails and a 1/32 minority: identity politics, 2016.

‐ Marco Rubio is running for the Senate from Florida again, after vowing repeatedly to leave politics at the end of his current term. He may be the candidate best suited for holding the seat, and certainly the Senate is a better launching pad for another presidential run in 2020 than the private sector is, but his reversal is part of a pattern. He championed the misbegotten Gang of Eight bill before dumping it. Then he vowed to oppose Donald Trump with every ounce of his being before clambering aboard the Trump Train. He had better hope his reelection campaign isn’t a referendum on reliability.

‐ Announcing that the 9-1-1 transcripts from the terror attack in Orlando would be released to the general public, Attorney General Lynch added a pernicious caveat: So as not to “aid” ISIS in its recruitment efforts, certain key words would be redacted from the record. The result was farcical, and sinister. Most references to ISIS and the Islamic State were replaced with “[omitted],” and any language that would betray the depths of the attacker’s inspirations was cut. Reassuringly, the move was met with such widespread criticism and mockery that Lynch was forced to reverse course in a matter of hours. Scrambling, the FBI issued a press release explaining nonsensically that it had hoped to spare the feelings of the victims, but that the attempt had served only as an unfortunate distraction. Somewhere, Orwell smiled wryly.

‐ The Senate voted 85–13 to make young women register for the draft when they turn 18, just like men. The move follows the military’s opening of all combat positions to women. Never mind that the Marine Corps has found that mixed-sex units are less accurate with weapons, more prone to injury, and less capable of evacuating the wounded. According to senators in both parties, what matters more is equal treatment — which in this case entails attempting to teach young men in uniform to feel no greater impulse to protect and no greater reluctance to hurt women than they do men. House Republicans should make sure that this provision does not survive the conference committee on the military-spending bill that includes it. In doing so they will be striking a blow for civilization, which is part of what our military exists to protect.

‐ According to a new report from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the percentage of illegal immigrants who are actually being deported after their court appearances has fallen to an all-time low of 42 percent. Between October 2015 and May 2016, just over 57,000 illegal immigrants were deported, while 78,000 were allowed to stay; the report projects that by the end of the current fiscal year, about 117,000 people will have been permitted to stay. The hard Left once called Obama “deporter-in-chief”; for once, the criticism of him was undeserved.

‐ Remember how the Left scoffed at the notion that the reaction to police shootings in Ferguson, Mo., and Chicago was leading to crime spikes in large American cities? It should scoff no more. A Department of Justice–funded study has now found that the so-called Ferguson effect is probably the most plausible explanation for a statistically significant surge in violent crime. The study’s author speculated that the tension between the police and inner-city communities was leading to a breakdown in trust: “Predatory violence increases because offenders believe victims and witnesses will not contact the police.” Political opportunism created the opening, criminals are taking advantage, and black Americans suffer most of all.

‐ The House Judiciary Committee is considering the impeachment of IRS commissioner John A. Koskinen, on whose watch the agency was permitted to destroy vast amounts of evidence under congressional subpoena as part of the investigation into the agency’s unethical and potentially criminal misuse of power in targeting conservative organizations for harassment and abuse in the run-up to the 2012 elections. At issue were communications between IRS official Lois Lerner, who is at the center of the controversy, and IRS managers as well as political figures outside the agency: Democrats such as senators Chuck Schumer and Max Baucus had demanded IRS investigations of tea-party groups. In what only the most credulous could see as anything other than the calculated obstruction of justice, a cascade of computer failures and “accidentally” destroyed devices suddenly began to plague the IRS when Congress began investigating it. These mishaps culminated with the improper and illegal destruction of back-up tapes by the agency while those tapes were under subpoena. Koskinen was not IRS commissioner during the entirety of the targeting scandal, but he was commissioner while the agency was permitted to destroy evidence necessary to the investigation of its wrongdoing. House Republicans want him impeached and his pension taken — and so should Americans at large. Senate Democrats will resist, and should be given many opportunities to explain to voters this year why they are doing so.

‐ A liberal-dominated appeals court in Washington, D.C., approved new administration regulations of Internet-service providers. Congress had refused to authorize these regulations explicitly, and President Obama’s appointee as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, developed a less dirigiste alternative. The White House forced Wheeler to go ahead with liberals’ preferred policy. That course involved multiple contradictions, as Judge Stephen Williams’s dissent demonstrated. The commission is justifying new regulations under a 1996 law that Congress said it was enacting to reduce regulations. That law also aims at promoting competition, but the commission is not alleging any current or impending failure of competition that requires a regulatory remedy. Along with liberal activists, Netflix is a big winner: It sought the new regulations to protect itself from the threat that Internet providers would charge extra for its heavy use of bandwidth. It’s a big winner, that is, until the regulators, less and less constrained by law, decide to turn their attention to it.

‐ Speaking at Yosemite National Park, President Obama waxed apocalyptic, as is his wont, about climate change, calling it “the biggest challenge we’re going to face in protecting” America’s national parks. But at least one of his predictions may be accurate. According to the president, “rising temperatures could mean no more glaciers at Glacier National Park.” And, indeed, glacial melting is what defines an “interglacial period” such as the one we’re in now. In fact, the earth’s glaciers have been melting for nearly 11,700 years, and the rate of melting changes in accordance with long climate cycles. It’s unlikely that the Paris climate agreement will stop that. Liberals’ approach to the environment is ironic: They are wildly concerned about preserving nature, but they hate when it behaves . . . naturally.

‐ The Kansas Board of Education voted unanimously to defy the Obama administration’s demand that schools receiving public funding allow students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. “Just as every child is unique, so too is every school community,” the board said in a statement. “With that understanding, we are firm in our belief that decisions about the care, safety and well-being of all students are best made by the local school district based on the needs and desires of the students, parents and communities they serve.” Once upon a time, this sort of thinking was common sense. Now, it’s near to an act of rebellion.

‐ A hostage-taker and gunman was killed by SWAT police at a Walmart in Amarillo, Texas. He was Mohammad Moghaddam, an immigrant from Iran by way of the Bronx. The local immigration-services agencies refused to say whether they had assisted in the resettlement of the Moghaddam family, but the Texas city is home to a very large group of Muslim refugees, mainly Somali, Burmese, and Iraqi, a population that when compared with the relatively small local population (196,000) gives Amarillo one of the largest refugee ratios, if not the largest, in the country. To say that these refugees have not been seamlessly assimilated into the local population would be an understatement. Resentments seethed, and residents began to resist. The city’s mayor complained of costs to the city’s emergency services and police, who are more than capable of handling calls in Spanish but aren’t prepared for Arabic and Persian. There were questions about how the refugees are screened and in what numbers they will continue to arrive. The Moghaddam incident was greeted in some quarters as evidence against taking more refugees, in others as just an example of an immigrant snapping over his job the way some native-born Americans do. The reality is that the more Middle Eastern refugees cities such as Amarillo are obliged to take in, the more we will have a socially corrosive debate.

‐ In the same week when ISIS scored perhaps its greatest victory over America — inspiring a lone-wolf jihadist to launch the deadliest terror attack on American soil since 9/11 — it also suffered a long-overdue defeat. Iraqi forces, assisted by American air strikes, seized the center of Fallujah, retaking the city after ISIS had held it for more than two years. Fallujah was never central to ISIS strategy (Mosul and Raqqa are far more important). ISIS remains secure in its considerable safe havens, and from there is able to plot and inspire new attacks on America and its allies. Slow-motion war has its successes, but it is costing American civilian lives. The Obama administration needs to pick up the pace.

‐ The Chinese Communist Party does everything it can to erase the memory of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. And to prevent young people from learning about it. The CCP has done a pretty good job of this in China. They are vigilant about Tiananmen abroad, too. In Washington, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation staged events in commemoration of the massacre. Hackers shut down VOC’s website, and those of associated organizations. A teleconference, which was to have participants from all over the world, was unable to take place. A candlelight vigil went forward as planned: CCP agents did not show up to blow out the candles. Beijing will do everything possible to convince the world that it is a normal government, presiding over a normal country. Lots of people in the free world cooperate with Beijing. But it is a lie: China is not a country like any other but a one-party dictatorship with a gulag. The lengths that the Party will go to to prevent the world from knowing the truth indicate its nature.

‐ Something rare happened: an outbreak of truth at the U.N. Secretariat. A Saudi-led coalition in Yemen had been put on a list of groups found to have violated the rights of children. (These rights include not being killed or maimed.) Then the House of Saud went to work: threatening to cut off funds to U.N. humanitarian agencies and have clerics issue fatwas against the U.N. (as anti-Muslim). The Secretariat caved, removing the Saudis from the list — and Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, actually said as much. In public. He said that the decision to remove the Saudis was “one of the most painful and difficult” of his career. He said that it was for the greater good — the good of keeping the humanitarian agencies up and running. “There are so many, so many much more serious issues” than the Yemen list, he said. “You cannot burn down the whole house.” What else can the secretary general tell us about the way the U.N. works?

‐ When school-based condom-distribution programs became common in the 1990s, the rationale was straightforward: Teenagers, it was said, will be sexually active no matter what, so we may as well help them reduce the risk of pregnancy or disease. When skeptics pointed out that condoms can easily be bought at a drugstore, proponents explained that getting schools involved created an opportunity to counsel the students. Now, two decades later, Notre Dame researchers have found that birth rates and sexually transmitted diseases actually increased in schools that instituted condom-giveaway programs. While they carefully avoid drawing any conclusions about why this happened, the researchers note: “One possibility is that it was the ‘mixed-message’ of both introducing condoms while focusing education efforts on abstinence that led to the increase in teen pregnancy that we find.” A lot of teens seem to have heard the part of that message they were primed to hear.

‐ One of the Left’s sillier pet projects is its attempt to pathologize conservatism: You may have thought that you, having considered the arguments and evidence, simply prefer free markets and the rule of law, but you really are suffering from a personality disorder known as “right-wing authoritarianism,” according to certain progressive psychologists. (There is, in this analysis, no “left-wing authoritarianism,” which would have come as news to the victims of Pol Pot.) The most recent example was a paper in the prestigious American Journal of Political Science linking conservatism with “psychoticism,” which produced an erratum update that surely is destined for the history books: After much harrumphing about those antisocial right-wingers, it was pointed out to the authors that they had made an elementary error in coding their data, resulting in political correlations that were, as the subsequent correction put it, “exactly reversed.” Which is to say, the “psychoticism” that was attributed to conservatives was in fact linked with liberals, whereas the “social desirability” attributed to liberals was matched with conservatives. Oopsie. Where there once had been a great deal of mirth about nutty right-wingers, suddenly we heard much serious talk about the need not to make too much of such findings. Setting to one side the long and ugly history of using psychiatry as a tool of political repression (in the Soviet Union, especially — are we sure about that left-wing authoritarianism?), we agree that these arguments should be treated with skepticism. We thought so before, too.

‐ In the eyes of one activist, a Black Lives Matter rally at Kean University in New Jersey was not well enough attended. Being an activist, she decided to do something about it. She ducked into the library, created a Twitter account, and began tweeting: “i will kill every black male and female at kean university”; “theres a bomb on your campus”; etc. Nothing too creative. She then returned to the rally and said, in essence, Great news, everybody! They’re threatening our lives! It worked, for a while. The university and law-enforcement agencies increased security to the tune of $82,000. A coalition of ministers called for the university president to resign, of course: because he obviously hadn’t done enough to protect black lives on campus. Eventually, the young lady was found out, and she has now been sentenced to 90 days in jail plus five years’ probation plus community service. Doubtless she will organize a demonstration about all this once she again has the opportunity.

‐ Last year, two Stanford graduate students came upon a man sexually assaulting an intoxicated unconscious woman behind a dumpster. They chased him down when he fled, tackled him, and called the police, who found the woman half naked and unresponsive. Her assailant, Brock Turner, a (now former) student at the university, will serve at most six months in county jail with a few years’ probation for three felony counts. The leniency of the sentence — the DA had sought six years in state prison — paired with the publication of an eloquent statement of protest from the victim sparked national media attention and outrage in June. It was compounded by the failure of Turner and his family to own up to his crimes: He admitted to erring only in drinking too much and engaging in “promiscuity,” and his father suggested that the blighting of his athletic and collegiate career had been punishment enough. The judge seemed to agree, fearing that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on Turner. Perhaps so, but the crime was severe enough to merit it.

‐ A student at the University of Virginia is, with the assistance of the indispensable Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, suing the Justice Department over new regulations it imposes on colleges investigating allegations of sexual assault. The rules were adopted without the usual public-input period required by federal law. Critics of the new rules argue that they encourage colleges to adopt lower standards of evidence and less rigorous protections for the rights of the accused. This is, undoubtedly, the case. More to the point is that campus administrators are not police detectives and universities have no competence in the field of conducting criminal investigations, especially ones, such as those of sexual assault, that can involve highly technical forensic issues. Which is why universities should not be in the business of investigating sexual-assault allegations at all, and why their copious handbooks should be replaced by three-word policies: “Call the police.” If universities want to adopt policies of suspending or ejecting students who have been charged with or convicted of certain crimes, they are free to do so, and it is an excellent policy. But the investigation of the crimes should be left to criminal investigators, not to the dean of students. That this should come up at the University of Virginia, the site of the recent infamous campus-rape hoax, is a reminder of why standards of evidence matter.

‐ In 2012, Karen King presented a papyrus fragment covered in Coptic script to a conference of scholars in Rome. The fragment, which King dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” contained the suggestive words “Jesus said to them, My wife.” While the scholars greeted it with skepticism as a probable forgery, media outlets trumpeted it as an explosive revelation upending traditional Christian belief. For the past few years, King, a Harvard Divinity School professor, has refused to accept the mounting evidence that it was a modern fake — until an investigation published in The Atlantic in June forced her to reconsider. It turned out that the man who had given King the fragment, whose identity she had concealed at his request, had lied to her about its provenance. “I had no idea about this guy, obviously,” King commented. Aren’t traditional religious believers supposed to be the credulous ones?

‐ After turning the matter over in her mind for more than a year, Courtney Baker of Sanford, Fla., sent a letter to the prenatal specialist who had recommended that she abort her child who had been diagnosed with Down syndrome. “The most difficult time in my life was made nearly unbearable because you never told me the truth. My child was perfect,” she wrote, referring to her daughter Emersyn, now 16 months old, whose condition has impressed her as a feature, not a defect. Baker recalled his warning about “how low our quality of life would be.” A doctor could deliver the same message, perhaps more truthfully, to parents who already lived near the poverty line. If he wouldn’t, because he appreciates that the value of a child’s life cannot be reduced to material terms, he should be made to see the double standard that he applies in the case of children with trisomy 21. Baker shared her letter on social media, and it went viral. Beneath the rebuke to her doctor was a love letter to her daughter and an affirmation of life itself.

‐ It was a real-life cross between The Bicycle Thief and a spaghetti western, set in southern Oregon. A vagrant grabbed a woman’s bicycle in a Walmart parking lot, and when Robert Borba, a rancher and former rodeo competitor who was in town buying dog food, heard the commotion, he jumped on his horse, rode toward the miscreant (who had abandoned the bike and was fleeing on foot), expertly lassoed him, and kept him tied up until the police arrived. Borba was appropriately aw-shucks afterwards, explaining that riding to the rescue was his only option (“I wasn’t going to catch him on foot. I just don’t run very fast”) and that he knew he could always trust his lasso (“If it catches cattle pretty good, it catches a bandit pretty good”). Well done, cowboy.

‐ The award of “public honours” in Britain is a mysterious process hidden from the public. One old boy in a backroom in Whitehall presumably remarks to another, Isn’t it about time so-and-so is given a gong? A huge list of those receiving titles, decorations, and medals is then published in the queen’s name, and life goes on as before. Usually, there is no point searching that list for disturbers of the peace. This year, however, celebrating her 90th birthday, the queen gave a knighthood to Roger Scruton. Nothing could have been more unlikely. A philosopher concentrating on politics, aesthetics, and ethics, also a novelist and composer of operas, Scruton has spent the past three or four decades exposing socialist ideals as so many damaging fantasies. Profound and rational, he has been compared to Edmund Burke. Unsurprisingly, the Left has done its utmost to discredit or marginalize him. He once described what he has had to live through: “Three lawsuits, two interrogations, one expulsion, the loss of a university career in Britain, unendingly contemptuous reviews, Tory suspicion and the hatred of decent liberals everywhere,” ending with a typical flourish, “And it was worth it.” Arise, Sir Roger, the field is yours!

‐ No other team had come back from a 3–1 deficit in the NBA Finals to win it all. On the evening of June 19, the Cleveland Cavaliers, behind a triple-double from LeBron James — 27 points, eleven rebounds, eleven assists — beat the Warriors in Game 7, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy passed from the Golden State to Cleveland, “city of light, city of magic,” as Randy Newman memorialized it in song almost 30 years ago. Thus comes to an end Cleveland’s impressive run of 52 years without a major-league sports championship, although every local fan knows in his bones that the drought that counts is measured in baseball seasons. Down the street, the Indians, who haven’t been world champions since 1948, are hovering around first place in their division; FiveThirtyEight gives them an 8 percent chance to win the World Series. That, some may say, would be just too much a shock to local sensibilities, following so soon after the basketball team’s parade down St. Clair Avenue. No, the people would adjust. Congratulations, Cavs. Go Tribe.

‐ When fans heard that Vin Scully, the veteran sportscaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers, interjected politics into his play-by-play during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, they had reason to feel let down. Unlike Bob Costas, who once speechified about gun control during Monday Night Football, or Keith Olbermann, who conflated sports and political commentary consistently, Scully has earned a reputation for impeccable professionalism and sound judgment. Listen to the broadcast, though, or at least read the transcript: Scully wove his crisp, 30-second critique of socialism seamlessly into his narration of the action on the diamond. At bat was Hernán Perez, who “lives in Venezuela. Boy, can you imagine, you’re a young kid playing in the United States, you’re from Venezuela, and every time you look at the news it’s a nightmare. . . . Socialism failing to work, as it always does. . . . And who do you think is the richest person in Venezuela? The daughter of Hugo Chávez. Hello! Anyway, 0 and 2.” Graceful as always, Scully knew when to stop. Agree or disagree with the content of his aside, he played it nicely.

‐ When Gordie Howe retired from professional hockey in 1980, the longtime forward for the Detroit Red Wings held most of the records worth owning, including goals, assists, and total points. Although Wayne Gretzky eventually passed him in these categories, nobody has matched Howe’s remarkable durability. He played 1,767 regular-season games across 26 seasons in the NHL. Even at the age of 51, his hair turning white, he came back for a final season, netting 15 goals in 80 games in what would have been a good performance for a man half his age. Strong, fast, and ambidextrous, he gave his name to a unique single-game achievement: the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick,” which involves scoring a goal, assisting on a goal, and getting in a fight. For all of his grit on the ice, he was a humble and quiet man off the ice who became well known for his enduring sobriquet: “Mr. Hockey.” Dead at 88. R.I.P.


After Orlando

The attack on the Orlando nightclub Pulse that killed 49 people and injured 53 was an attack on gays. Pulse was a gay club packed with Saturday-night revelers, and gays are among the categories of people deemed especially offensive by the ideology of shooter Omar Mateen (who was killed by police). But it was also an attack on America. Mateen had scouted nearby Disney World as another potential target. Both our international presence and our liberty, running at times to license, qualify us as Enemy Number One of violent jihad.

For this was the work of an Islamist terrorist. Mateen, son of Afghan immigrants, called 9-1-1 in the midst of his bloodbath and pledged allegiance to ISIS. ISIS returned the favor the day after his deed by hailing him as an “Islamic State fighter.” It does not matter whether Mateen was instructed by ISIS (probably not) or acting as a freelance volunteer; his goal and theirs — to sow chaos and fear in the West — are the same. That Mateen had a history of instability (he threatened classmates as a teenager) and self-hatred (he used gay-sex apps and went to Pulse himself) does not diminish his Islamist motivation. Mass murder pulls for unusual personality types, whether the venue is ISIS, the gulag, or the Holocaust.

In the long war on terror, we have been instructed to be on the lookout for bad actors. Several people who knew Mateen thought he was a bad actor indeed. A former co-worker at the security firm that employed him quit because “everything he said was toxic and the company wouldn’t do anything.” The FBI interviewed Mateen three times — twice because of complaints about his incendiary remarks and once more when a fellow worshiper at Mateen’s Orlando mosque died in a suicide bombing in Syria. Yet nothing came of these tips or inquiries. We are told, “See something, say something.” Then the government should do something.

The great obstacle to action is political correctness. It is as if the anti-blasphemy laws of old had been resurrected to build a protective wall around Muslims and Islam. George W. Bush pioneered this touch-not sensitivity, but President Obama greatly outdoes him. His post-Orlando remarks condemned terror in general and urged Americans to purge themselves of homophobia. He thinks the world, and bigotry-prone Americans, need polite fictions to describe our enemy; he cannot step up his rhetoric because that would be an admission that his Middle East strategy has flaws. So we bumble along, like a man fighting in a dark room.

How do we stop the next attack? Tougher gun control is not the way. Mateen had passed background checks. Jihadists employ box cutters, pressure cookers, whatever comes to hand. Better is to dim the allure of jihad by degrading and destroying ISIS; even suicidal warriors want the dark reward of success. President Bush recognized that we either fight them there or fight them here. He was right about that.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


Politics & Policy


Accentuate the Negative Ramesh Ponnuru addresses a question that is probably not going to go away after this election, namely: What do you do when you decide you have to vote ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Now that Garrison Keillor is retired, he will probably spend most of his time propounding cranky political opinions and telling long, dreary stories. ‐ Since clinching the GOP nomination, Donald ...
Politics & Policy


FIREBIRD The Phan Rang fields first heard about my autumn birth from helicopters hovering over Vietnam. My father, nicely hidden from a hostile bomb, was told through rasping speakers, on a crisping earth. That news, ...

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COVID’s Comeback

We’re living in Groundhog Day. For the second time this year, COVID-19 is sweeping the country and we don’t have any great options for dealing with it. We didn’t squander the past four months, exactly, but we demonstrably failed to get to a place where we can enjoy an open society without the virus taking ... Read More

COVID’s Comeback

We’re living in Groundhog Day. For the second time this year, COVID-19 is sweeping the country and we don’t have any great options for dealing with it. We didn’t squander the past four months, exactly, but we demonstrably failed to get to a place where we can enjoy an open society without the virus taking ... Read More

On the Letter

I thought it right to congratulate John MacArthur and Harper’s magazine on putting together an open letter in defense of intellectual liberty — including the liberty to make mistakes -- as a necessary component of social justice. And further congrats on assembling its broad church of signatories. MacArthur ... Read More

On the Letter

I thought it right to congratulate John MacArthur and Harper’s magazine on putting together an open letter in defense of intellectual liberty — including the liberty to make mistakes -- as a necessary component of social justice. And further congrats on assembling its broad church of signatories. MacArthur ... Read More