Magazine August 1, 2016, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

‐ If the FBI had been serious about finding Hillary’s missing e-mails, it would have subpoenaed Putin.

‐ FBI director James Comey’s recommendations concerning Hillary Clinton’s illegal servers (there was more than one, it turns out) were damning, in two ways: They damned both her competence and her honesty. Clinton and her colleagues were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” “Any reasonable person . . . should have known” that her servers were not secure; indeed, they were less secure than Gmail. Some of her e-mails, contrary to her denials, were marked “classified,” and she was “obligated to protect” even those that weren’t. As a result of her heedlessness, “hostile actors” probably hacked her: small wonder, since she worked “in the territory of sophisticated adversaries” (e.g., Russians, Chinese). Comey nevertheless concluded that since Clinton did not intend to break the law, “no reasonable prosecutor” would indict her. But this rewrites the law, which penalizes gross negligence in the handling of national-security secrets as well as willful misconduct. Comey thus damned himself, all but admitting that he recommended no prosecution for political reasons. Mrs. Clinton went campaigning with Obama mere hours after Comey wrapped up. Forget it Jake, it’s Clintontown.

‐ The House committee’s report on the Benghazi debacle revealed staggering dereliction of duty and deception by the president and his top subordinates — and Clinton was front and center in every phase of this disgraceful episode. On the eve of the 2012 presidential election, jihadist strongholds flourished in post-Qaddafi Libya, Benghazi most prominent among them. The U.N., Great Britain, and other nations pulled their people out, but Mrs. Clinton left ours there and turned a deaf ear to pleas for better security. When, inevitably, the facility was attacked, politics controlled the response — to the pitiful extent that there was one. The world’s most powerful military was entirely unprepared to deploy its assets to rescue the dozens of Americans fighting for their lives; Obama and his subordinates never even tried. The spin, though, began immediately: During the attack, Clinton and Obama issued a statement depicting the violence as an overwrought response to an anti-Muslim Internet video. Clinton knew this was untrue: As she told the Egyptian prime minister in a phone call, “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film.” We now know, too, that she should have nothing to do with the presidency.

‐ Donald Trump went to Washington to meet with congressional Republicans in his role as party leader, but he still hasn’t quite learned his lines. Trump jabbed at Senator Ben Sasse, saying that he must want Clinton as president; told Senator Jeff Flake that he would lose his reelection bid (Flake replied that he was not up until 2018); and mocked Senator Mark Kirk, who wasn’t there, as “dishonest” and a “loser.” None of these men is a Trump fan: Sasse is #NeverTrump, Flake has criticized him, and Kirk rescinded his endorsement of him. But the big dog should show magnanimity, or humor, or true forcefulness. Trump whines, pouts, and, if he feels safe enough, tries to act the bully. Just what we want in the Situation Room. Nice work, Party of Lincoln.

‐ Trump has a habit of defending Saddam Hussein: not as a good man or a good leader, but as a killer of terrorists, and therefore a force for stability. In truth, Saddam was a funder and shelterer of terrorists. Abu Nidal was sheltered in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. So was Abu Abbas (the chief terrorist in the Achille Lauro hijacking). So was Zarqawi, of al-Qaeda. So was at least one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. And so on. A variety of terror training camps operated under Saddam’s gaze. And he paid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers $10,000 — until he was feeling more generous and upped the ante to $25,000. There are reasons to oppose, or to have opposed, the Iraq War. But Saddam’s relation to terror is not one of them. Saddam supported terrorists for about as long as Trump supported Hillary Clinton and other liberal Democrats.

‐ It must be exciting to be Donald Trump, to be in his 71st year while retaining so much childlike wonder about the world and its workings. In late June, Trump gave a speech about trade during which he promised to appoint trade negotiators to press cases against our trading partners when they violate the terms of trade pacts. He apparently was entirely unaware that we already employ many such people, and that, even as he spoke, a trade complaint was being lodged against Beijing over the question of subsidies for certain heavy-duty tires. He has promised to “bring back” factory jobs that have been lost largely to automation; imagine the joy on his face when he learns that robots are real! His babe-in-the-woods approach to complex world problems is a little less charming when applied to questions such as his plan to launch a trade war with China over currency-devaluation concerns that are years out of date. Some of us remember Sun Up and Magic Afternoon from our Reagan-era elementary-school reading. Those were innocent times, and we recall them fondly, but we hope Trump stops dawdling in childhood and gets to The Wealth of Nations soon.

‐ The Supreme Court, striking down a Texas law, again arrogated to itself the authority to set abortion policy, taking up the role that Justice Byron White warned against in 1976: “the country’s ex officio medical board with powers to disapprove medical and operative practices and standards throughout the United States.” In 2015, abortion clinic Whole Woman’s Health successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to stay, then hear its case against, Texas’s requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital and that abortion clinics meet the minimum health and safety standards that obtain for “ambulatory surgical centers.” Whole Woman’s Health, a limited-liability company, has no constitutional right to abortion even within the Court’s jurisprudence, and in normal circumstances the Court does not allow a third party to sue to vindicate someone else’s constitutional rights. But, to quote Justice Thomas’s dissent, “the Court employs a different approach to rights that it favors.” And it favors abortion a lot more than rights that are actually spelled out in the Constitution.

‐ After seeing its race-based admissions policies swatted down three times — in 1950, 1996, and 2013 — the Lone Star State’s flagship university finally managed to win the Supreme Court’s approval. In 2008, Abigail Fisher applied for admission to UT and was denied while non-white applicants with lower grades were admitted. In 2013, the Supreme Court remanded her lawsuit to the Fifth Circuit on the ground that the lower court had granted the university too much deference. Neither the university’s policies nor any relevant provision of law changed between 2013 and 2016, but what the Court rejected three years ago it has now blithely affirmed. The Court should have ruled that this admissions policy violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that no person “shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Instead, it has helped to perpetuate a regime that weighs the color of a student’s skin more heavily than the content of her report cards.

‐ A 4–4 split on the Supreme Court resulted in a legal defeat for President Obama’s big executive amnesty for illegal immigrants. Obama declared that the Court’s ruling “takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.” The president is exactly wrong. What we ought to aspire to be is a country of laws (with a rational immigration policy), and the Supreme Court’s ruling struck a blow toward that end. Some of the issues now go back to the lower courts. But the decision effectively rebukes the administration’s unilateral rule. If the president wants a new policy, he should get it the old-fashioned way: through Congress.

‐ When Robert McDonnell was governor of Virginia, he and his wife accepted many gifts from a businessman — clothes, loans, vacations, a Rolex — and in return did things such as host events and set up meetings for him. These “official acts” constituted corruption, according to federal prosecutors, who won convictions of the couple. The Supreme Court has unanimously thrown out the former governor’s corruption convictions on the ground that only the “formal exercise of government power” can count as an official act. The Republican’s conduct may have been “tawdry,” but prosecutors had not shown it to have violated federal law. The Court seems to us to have gotten the law right without giving the governor’s partial vindication more moral force than it deserves.

‐ Occasionally, the mask slips off completely. For years, constitutional originalists have charged that too many American judges believe that their role is to invent, rather than to uphold, the law. In June, Judge Richard Posner came straight out and confirmed their fears. Writing in Slate, Posner confessed that he sees “absolutely no value” in studying the U.S. Constitution. There is, he wrote, “no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, day[s], hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation,” for “18th-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc., of the 21st century.” They certainly didn’t foresee the nerve of some 21st-century judges.

‐ Democratic frustrations boiled over in June. Having watched their attempts to pass stricter gun control fail in the Senate, a group of progressive lawmakers staged a petulant “sit-in” in the House. Chanting “No bill, no break” and singing a mess of boomer-generation protest songs, around 100 representatives vowed that they would stay in place until Speaker Ryan relented and met their demands. Instead, Ryan gaveled Congress out of session and went home for the evening, vowing that he would not be intimidated by “political stunts.” After 13 hours of milling around, the protesters went home too, their promises of longevity giving way to irritated muttering and the vague threat of a rerun. The Democrats’ gun legislation is a series of pointless gestures, so their tactics may as well consist of the same.

‐ Clinton has adopted a lite version of Bernie Sanders’s promise of “free college.” She proposes to enact a three-month repayment holiday for student loans, which would be of no use either to those who are current on their obligations or to those in default (who would still be in default at the end of the three months). Clinton says that this holiday will help debtors access refinancing and restructuring programs, but those have long been available to them. She also proposes reducing student-loan interest rates below their already artificially low levels while doing nothing at all to ensure the creditworthiness of borrowers — a recipe for higher default rates produced by larger debt burdens and rising tuitions as university administrators discover new ways to soak up that cheap federal money. Finally, she proposes “free” educations for families making up to $125,000 a year as part of a scheme that entails transforming our state-university systems into a federal subsidiary. Three proposals, three kinds of horrible.

‐ Puerto Rico’s debt crisis intensified to the point that even Washington, D.C., acted. Congress passed, and President Obama signed, legislation that would see to it both that the unpayable debts of the island government and its subdivisions are settled in an orderly manner and that a fiscal-control board will rein in the accumulation of further debts. The new law also lets the island set a new training wage below the federal minimum wage. None of this will be sufficient to revive Puerto Rico’s economy; it does not even eliminate the federal impediments to that revival. (The Jones Act, a piece of shipping protectionism, has long hindered Puerto Rican commerce.) The law does, however, reduce the likelihood that the federal government will have to appropriate billions of dollars to bail out the Puerto Rican government and its creditors, and by current standards that’s a pretty good day’s work in the nation’s capital.

A Season of Uncertainty

On Friday, July 8, the stock market celebrated the release of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data showing that, in seasonally adjusted terms, 287,000 net jobs had been added in the month of June. Recovering almost immediately from Brexit anxieties, the market closed about 1.5 percent higher than it had the previous day.

In these very pages, I wrote only last month that presidential elections tend to be harbingers of recession, a conclusion that was consistent with the paltry 11,000 net new jobs indicated by May’s BLS report. But have the July data now contradicted my conclusion and put recession fears to rest?

One important factor is the extreme swing in seasonal employment that happens every summer. The arrival of the June beach weather coincides with the arrival home of millions of college students. Many of them seek employment. This upswing in employment happens every year, so data mavens have wisely decided to create a “seasonally adjusted” figure that removes it. Seasonal adjustment is the statistical safeguard against lifeguards.

The labor market in June looks much better without that seasonal adjustment: That 287,000-job gain becomes a whopping 682,000 one. The adjustment is actually bigger than the adjusted — or, as economists say, the final “headline” — number. The size of the difference certainly gives one pause.

But June is not the only month that requires adjustment. Job creation in January tends to plummet as the surge in holiday retail employment reverses. July tends to see large job losses as employers anticipate lower production in August. Teachers head back to school in September.

To put this all in perspective, my colleagues and I went back to December 2010 and calculated the average seasonal adjustment for each calendar month through June 2016. Then we compared that adjustment with the average headline job-creation number for the same month. As the chart shows, for ten of the calendar year’s twelve months, the adjustment is on average bigger than the headline number itself. For some months, then, a tiny proportional error in seasonal adjustment would change the headline number’s order of magnitude.

The chart suggests that July and January headline job-creation numbers are likely to be almost meaningless barometers of monthly changes in labor-market conditions. When considering those and other months, one should remember that seasonal adjustments, by design, average out over the year — so the change relative to a year ago is far more revealing than the change relative to last month. Viewed in that yearlong perspective, the economy is, sadly, barely inching along.

‐ Sanctuary cities across the country got some overdue news from the Department of Justice, which seems to have briefly recalled its purpose: Such cities will no longer receive certain grants from the department if they continue to defy federal law openly. With sometimes tragic results, sanctuary cities routinely withhold information from federal authorities about illegal immigrants who have been detained or incarcerated. Democrats have defended sanctuary cities for years, finding a misguided strain of localism to strike their fancy when it serves progressive ends. But the Justice Department, prompted by Representative John Culberson (R., Texas), is issuing a rebuke to these cities’ illegal conduct. Expect the Left to respond with a rousing defense of nullification, Calhoun-style.

‐ For years, leftists have said that only paranoiacs think that they want to regulate churches. Leave the secular spaces to them, they argue, and they’ll leave the sanctuary to the believers. Apparently, however, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission didn’t get the memo: It actually promulgated guidelines claiming that prohibitions of discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” applied to any “church service open to the public.” Use the correct pronouns, pastor, or face the consequences. Under pressure of litigation, the commission has backed down, at least for now. But for social-justice warriors, religious freedom is nothing sacred.

‐ As ludicrous as it was for the Obama administration to obscure the Islamist origins of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at least it annoyed the jihadists. From now on, al-Qaeda wrote in a supplement to its magazine, Inspire, Islamists should “avoid targeting places and crowds where minorities are generally found,” for that way they can avoid having their attacks buried or labeled as “hate crimes.” Instead, would-be martyrs should focus on “areas where the Anglo-Saxon community is generally concentrated.” Terrorists adapt to our security measures, and also to our weird politics.

‐ The president who pledged to end America’s wars is continuing them — all of them. The Obama administration has announced that it will keep up to 8,400 troops in Afghanistan at the end of his term, an increase of almost 3,000 over original projections. Just as in Iraq, where American forces have been reinforced once again, this decision reflects realities on the ground. It turns out that wars don’t end just because one side wants peace. Jihadists have taken advantage of American withdrawals and have surged to the extent that even the Obama administration recognizes the danger. And so the president leaves his successor with enough troops to stave off defeat but not enough to win. America’s longest war will grind on.

‐ Tony Blair has a haggard look about him these days. And well he might be distressed: A whole pack of critics is after him for his part in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. According to them, intelligence was “sexed up” to create a nonexistent danger to Britain. Even worse, there were no plans for the post-Saddam stage: Iraqis have been left to kill one another in large numbers. Sir John Chilcot is a civil servant of irreproachable character who accepted the job — the tricky job — of looking into the issue. Seven years and two and a half million words later, the Chilcot Report is out. Blair is let off the hook, except that he is caught in the backwash of prejudice against his coalition partner, President George W. Bush. Blair promised Bush in a secret letter, “I will be with you, whatever.” In tones more fitting for confession in church, Blair accepted full responsibility for everything to do with Iraq and the “sorrow, regret, and apology” that he believes goes with it. The Chilcot Report is the equivalent of putting an unpopular fellow in the stocks and pelting him with rotten tomatoes.

‐ Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson seems to be in some sort of competition to prove that he is the dumbest smart person on the Internet. Tyson took the lead recently with his call for a “virtual country” to be called “Rationalia,” a polity “with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence.” The foolishness here is on a scale that an astrophysicist can appreciate, especially if that astrophysicist hasn’t read much history, such as that of the attempts to establish something very much like “Rationalia” in revolutionary France. (Short version: It ends with the Reign of Terror.) The idea that societies can be managed scientifically, and hence liberated from politics, is an old one, and one without a very happy pedigree: The so-called scientific socialism of the 20th century produced horrors that were, at least in terms of gross body counts, the worst in the human record, with 100 million dead. Progressives in the United States and Europe mutilated and sterilized untold numbers of men and women in the pursuit of “scientific” eugenics. And there is the small problem that ethics, and decision-making in general, is not reducible to empirical facts, since it must decide what to do about those facts. This turns out to matter a great deal in the public sphere, which is largely occupied with the question of what should be done. As a self-aggrandizing pose, to proclaim oneself a citizen of Rationalia must be very satisfying. But it has little to do with rationality.

‐ For a brief, shining second, there was hope in America. Justin Timberlake issued a tweet praising a speech given at the BET Awards. (Timberlake is a pop star. “BET” stands for “Black Entertainment Television.”) Someone else tweeted, “Does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture?” Timberlake replied, “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation.” Thus did Timberlake advance something like Americanism. E pluribus unum. Thus did he rise above the identity politics, the Balkanization, that is killing our country. And then — he apologized. Of course.

‐ In Washington, D.C., the Fourth of July was cloudy and rainy. PBS showed the fireworks, as usual. But they spliced in footage from previous broadcasts. One minute, you were seeing the present fireworks, dimmed by the weather; the next minute, there was no dimming — or scaffolding on the Capitol. People grumbled. They charged deception. PBS was defiant, saying, “We showed a combination of the best fireworks from this year and previous years. It was the patriotic thing to do.” The good news is that PBS is patriotic; the bad news is that some of the patriotism is faked.

‐ Lunchtime patrons of McSeagull’s in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, may find themselves served by their governor’s wife this summer. First lady Ann LePage has picked up some part-time work waiting tables at the seafood restaurant to supplement her husband’s $70,000 salary (a modest income for a governor and the lowest in the country). She took the job in order to save up enough to buy a new SUV, a Toyota RAV 4: “Oh honey, it’s all about the money,” she told a local news outlet. We are glad to see a first lady acquiring it honorably.

‐ At a third-grade end-of-school party in Collingswood, N.J., a student made a remark about the brownies being served; a classmate objected that the remark was racist. It’s unclear what the student said, or whether the term “brownies” was considered objectionable in itself, but there’s no dispute about what happened next: Instead of letting the teacher sort it out, the school not only called the police, who proceeded to question the accused boy with guns hanging from their belts, but also notified New Jersey’s child-protection agency. It turns out that school authorities in the quiet town had been summoning the police several times a day, ever since receiving a state directive to notify authorities whenever there was the slightest possibility that a crime might have been committed. Under Governor Chris Christie, New Jersey has taken the lead in opposing school bullying, apparently doing it in the most bullying way imaginable.

‐ The ingenuous college student, writing to an online advice board, seemed genuinely puzzled. She and her fellow interns at an unnamed major company felt its corporate dress code was too stuffy: Even employees’ shoes were restricted to certain styles, and to make matters worse, one worker conspicuously violated the shoe guidelines with impunity. (We will assume the writer is “she,” since a guy would not be so obsessed with shoes.) So they reacted the way any group of 21st-century undergraduates would: They drew up a petition and presented it to the boss — who responded by summarily firing them all, after explaining that the worker with nonconforming footwear was a former soldier who had lost a leg. The intern was baffled: “The proposal was written professionally like examples I have learned about in school, and our arguments were thought out and well-reasoned.” Yet there they were, handing in their IDs, having learned that not every lesson is taught in school.

‐ A report in Pediatrics finds that thumb-suckers and nail-biters have stronger immune systems — news that must have come as a relief to think-tank scholars and highly specialized academics around the world. The study tracked a group of children in New Zealand and provides evidence for the “hygiene hypothesis,” the idea that conditions including eczema, asthma, and certain allergies are in part the product of abnormalities in the immune system related to a lack of exposure to germs in early childhood. Such are the diseases of the affluent society: We have too much to eat, too little physical exertion demanded of us, and nurseries that are too clean. Our ancestors escaped Mongol hordes and bubonic plague only to have their progeny done in by the occasional stray peanut. God is not mocked, nor are anaphylatoxins.

‐ Now that it is closing after 57 years, they are calling the Four Seasons the most important American restaurant of the end of the millennium. Why? It looked the part — a Philip Johnson room in a Mies van der Rohe building, it was sleek, spacious, light, right-angled, sumptuous. If high modernism had always looked like that, we would have liked it. The menu, first developed by James Beard and tweaked over the years, was patriotic: high-end American cuisine, beginning at a time when all other good restaurants were French, and marching on through the food riot of fusion. Most important, it symbolized New York City as the hub, the capital of everything except politics. Even in the days when the city outside was crime-ridden and grungy, the Four Seasons maintained the ideal. The lease is up for renewal, a new owner of the building has different ideas. So into the dark backward and abysm of time it falls, with Babe Ruth, Edwin Booth, Nathan Hale, and Peter Minuit buying the island for $24 worth of beads. So long!

‐ The Battle of the Somme opened in July 1916, and the memory of it is still painful. The British were supposed to create a diversion in order to relieve their French allies then under pressure at Verdun. The strategy of unprotected frontal assault put into operation by General Sir Douglas Haig, the British commander, has remained controversial. “The nation must be taught to bear losses” is a giveaway comment in his diaries. The hope that a preliminary artillery barrage of over a million and a half shells would pulverize the German lines proved a delusion. “Going over the top,” as the idiom put it, the British infantry out in the open was at the mercy of German machine guns, and 19,240 of them were killed on the first day alone. By the time the battle was over, the British had taken virtually no territory, at the cost of 419,655 killed and wounded, including Raymond Asquith, son of then–prime minister H. H. Asquith. The British Army had never experienced such a disaster in its long history.

‐ Bill Armstrong bought his first radio station in Denver at the age of 22, launching a career in mountain-states media that also included the ownership of a newspaper in Colorado Springs and television stations in Idaho and Wyoming. Yet he would make his biggest mark in politics, serving as a conservative Republican first in Colorado’s state legislature and later in Congress. His election to the Senate in 1978 anticipated Ronald Reagan’s presidential victory two years later. Known for his pleasing demeanor — he once described it as “saying hard things in a soft way” — he championed balanced budgets and called for preserving Social Security through sensible reforms such as raising the retirement age. After leaving the Senate in 1991, he remained active in business. In 2006, he became president of Colorado Christian University, more than doubling its enrollment in an office he held until cancer took him on July 5. Dead at 79. R.I.P.

‐ Born in Sighet, a small town in Transylvania that is now Romanian, Elie Wiesel was 15 when he was deported to Auschwitz and then Buchenwald. Surviving, he made it his mission to bear witness to man’s inhumanity to man. Night, published in 1956, is an evocation of his concentration-camp ordeal that has become a classic. Humane yet passionate, he had a gift for finding the right words in speeches and in his many books. International conferences, symposiums, and lecture halls were his natural habitat. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Aged 87, he died in his home in Manhattan. R.I.P.

‐ Sydney Schanberg, a New York Times reporter, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his coverage of the Khmer Rouge’s takeover in Cambodia. His widely praised book The Death and Life of Dith Pran became the basis for the 1984 film The Killing Fields, winner of three Academy Awards and starring Sam Waterston as Schanberg. Schanberg wasn’t always right — his prediction that Cambodians’ lives would improve after the fall of Phnom Penh and the departure of the Americans was proved wrong by the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime. His work, and the film it inspired, played an integral role in drawing the world’s attention to the plight of the Cambodian people. Schanberg also worked as metropolitan editor and op-ed columnist for the Times and later reported for New York Newsday. But his services to the cause of truth during the Cambodian genocide will stand as his enduring accomplishment. Dead at 82. R.I.P.

‐ Alvin Toffler, born in Brooklyn to Jewish immigrants, became successively a factory worker, a labor reporter, and a general-interest reporter (he interviewed Ayn Rand and Vladimir Nabokov for Playboy). Then in 1970 he published Future Shock, which coined a phrase, sold millions of copies, and spawned, for a while anyway, a legion of imitators: futurists. Toffler’s work was an amalgam of observation, insight, and horse pucky. (Newt Gingrich is a great admirer: verb. sap.) His central insight was that post-industrial technological change is ongoing and accelerating; the rate of change has become the change itself, the thing we all struggle to process. There is a lot of truth to this (how is your Blackberry these days?), though not enough to alter the passions, or right and wrong. He had a sharp mind with a wide angle and a journalist’s gifts. Dead at 87. R.I.P.


After Dallas

Weren’t we here a year and a half ago? In December 2014, two New York City police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were murdered by a black man enraged by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Early in July, two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge and a suburb of St. Paul, respectively. Videos of both shootings went viral, protests mushroomed. At a Black Lives Matter march in Dallas, a sniper opened fire on police, killing Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa. The murderer, Micah Johnson, was cornered and, after fruitless talks in which he spoke of detonating bombs, killed.

The videos are troubling, but early reports are always partial. Sterling had a record and was carrying a gun, though one eyewitness said he was not brandishing it. Castile was a licensed gun-owner, and his companion can be heard telling the cops who had stopped him for a broken tail light that he had a firearm. Both shootings will go under the microscope, before juries if necessary. The iron rules of all police stops: Put your hands up or on the steering wheel; declare any firearm you have; try to be polite.

The Dallas cop-killer — one should not repeat his name — seems to have been a sicko, eased out of the Army for stealing panties, then drawn to black nationalism. He told cops in his final face-off that he wanted to kill them, and white people. He belonged to that species of killer that lives at the intersection of ideology and lunacy.

The larger Black Lives Matter movement is a careening hot mess of anguish, demagogy, and rent-a-mob. National leaders condemned the Dallas massacre. For their words to ring true, local chapters and assorted marchers will have to stop chanting slogans such as “Pigs in blankets, fry them like bacon.” This civil-rights movement is reaching its SNCC/Panther phase without passing through a Martin Luther King Jr. phase first.

What of the underlying perception that blacks regularly get shortchanged by cops? A new study by Harvard economics professor Roland Fryer Jr. concluded that police were more likely to push, cuff, pepper-spray, or even draw firearms on blacks than they were to do the same things to members of other racial groups. These findings raise concerns, and the federal government should invest in getting more data. But Fryer also found that the police were no more likely, or even less so, to shoot at black people. Fryer called this last finding “the most surprising result of my career.” Maybe he underestimated cops. The lurid idea that police wantonly kill black men is a lie.

Try getting this through the din of social media and the hum of platitudes. President Obama soberly speaks of “racial disparities that exist in our criminal-justice system.” They may, but Bull Connor no longer walks the earth. In the poisonous climate cops suffer: After Dallas, an officer was shot and wounded in a St. Louis suburb, while several were hit by fireworks and concrete at protests in St. Paul. Blacks suffer too, and especially, when crime goes up, as is happening in some places.

It is not 1968 yet, but it is still only July.


Britain Departs

All the signs of a “Brexit” victory were there in the weeks leading up to the U.K.’s stunning vote to leave the European Union, but there was a strong tendency to disbelieve that it could happen. Bookies were offering good odds on a Remain victory several hours after vote-counting showed Leave ahead. When it finally became clear that indeed Britain would depart the EU, there was a shock throughout not only politics, not only the U.K., not only Europe, but the whole world.

It’s becoming clear that Brexit is one of those events, like the decision of the Hungarian Communists to let East Germans escape to the West via their country in 1989, that tell us our world is changing in important ways. Hungary’s cutting of the wires on the border was only a modest liberal gesture in itself, but it signified the end of Communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall only months later. What does the shock of Brexit signify?

Many liberal journalists, representing elites throughout the advanced world, have reacted with indignation to the fact that 52 percent of U.K. voters (many without degrees) have rejected the EU system of supranational government. Naturally, these journalistic spokesmen argue, the common people could not possibly have good reasons for such an act of multinational vandalism. So they must have been inspired by fear of globalization, along with xenophobia and racism.

That account doubtless condenses and oversimplifies the elites’ response to the Brexit shock, which is just one small skirmish in a new class war in advanced societies between geographically mobile, liberal, skilled, high-earning professionals and more rooted, communitarian, particularist, and patriotic citizens (or what British journalist David Goodhart calls “nowhere” people and “somewhere” people). Nowhere people simply didn’t grasp the outlook of somewhere people in the referendum, not seeing that many decent people who voted for Brexit were moved by such respectable anxieties as loss of community or, up a level, the transformation of their country. So the elites assumed the worst.

In the U.K. and abroad, opinion leaders never seemed to recognize that among the central arguments of those favoring Brexit was that the Brussels system was dangerously undemocratic and that British voters and members of Parliament had lost the power to propose, amend, or repeal failed or oppressive laws. This was a passionate concern among English people who had grown up in a self-governing democracy, who may have fought for it in wars, and who simply couldn’t understand why the loss of their democracy didn’t worry their opponents. Yet again and again liberal journalists treated this concern as either abstract or a cover for more primitive emotions and bigotries. Democracy as such was rarely given weight in cost-benefit analyses by those who supported Remain and who regard multinational political institutions as unalloyed goods. Have nowhere people developed not only an intellectual snobbery toward the rest of society but also an impatient, dismissive contempt for democracy itself that cannot be openly avowed but does influence their other political attitudes?

This is not an entirely theoretical problem. Disgruntled Remainers have suggested holding a second referendum or imposing some dilution of the decision to leave the EU, and one can imagine their seeking to achieve either or both of these things once interest in and enthusiasm for Brexit have declined. But there can be no question that the referendum was decisive. As the Scottish-American political theorist Richard Rose observed, “turnout was 72.2 percent, higher than at any general election since 1992. The total vote cast for exit, almost 52 percent, is higher than that won by any British governing party since 1931.” Leave won by 1.2 million votes. In other words, this is a verdict that parliamentarians or ideologues will not be able to challenge at some later date. It has ironclad political legitimacy.

But whether that result bears fruit will depend a great deal on Britain’s next slate of leaders. Nigel Farage has stepped down as the head of the U.K. Independence party, leaving its future in flux, and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is facing down a mutiny from within his ranks. Meanwhile, heading the government will be Theresa May, the last woman standing in a topsy-turvy contest for the leadership of the Conservative party. May, who has served the last six years as home secretary and who has raised concerns about the EU, opposed Brexit but largely stayed silent throughout the referendum campaign. She will now face the task of smoothing Britain’s exit. The European Commission, doubtless anxious to halt the contagion of Euroskepticism before it spreads further, has already invited the Brits to submit their application and plans for withdrawal, and there looks to be a possibility of amicable cooperation between the divorcing partners. Bringing such an outcome about should be one of May’s primary goals.

Brexit marks a turning point in Europe’s post-war history. After several decades of enervation at the hands of Brussels, the British people have voted to remain a self-governing democracy — that is, to remain true to their noblest traditions.

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

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


Politics & Policy


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