Magazine August 29, 2016, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

‐ If only the State Department were as focused on its mission as the Clinton Foundation.

‐ Hillary Rodham Clinton does not like to do press conferences, but she may change her mind after her last one. Breaking her eight-month run of evading the press, Mrs. Clinton took questions from the National Associations of Black Journalists and Hispanic Journalists, during which she basked in applause from the reporters. They clapped lustily after her praise of Barack Obama’s economic agenda and, perhaps worse, when she boasted about her approval numbers at the end of her tenure at the State Department. Prominent NABJ members include NBC anchor Lester Holt and Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times. When the media cover Clinton with kid gloves, we don’t need to imagine them applauding her — we’ve already seen it.

‐ On Fox News Sunday in late July, host Chris Wallace pointed out to Clinton that FBI director James Comey had said none of her various assurances about how she hadn’t sent or received classified material on her private e-mail were true. Clinton responded: “Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the e-mails.” Comey had not in fact vouched for Clinton’s truthfulness when speaking publicly; he only said she hadn’t lied to the FBI. After a berating from the fact checkers at the Washington Post, which gave her statement “four Pinocchios,” its worst rating, Clinton tried to walk her comment back at the aforementioned press conference by explaining, “I may have short-circuited it, and I will try to clarify.” But Clinton didn’t “short-circuit”; she lied. The proper response is not a clarification; it’s an apology.

‐ Those are my principles, Groucho Marx said, and if you don’t like them, I have others. It could be Tim Kaine’s motto. Throughout his career, he has been a supporter of the Hyde amendment — which forbids taxpayer funding of abortion — and in the past he has cited his Catholic faith as grounds for his “personal” opposition to abortion. But after his selection as Clinton’s running-mate, the Clinton campaign claimed Kaine had embraced Hillary’s extreme pro-abortion position, including the Democratic-party platform’s promise to repeal the Hyde amendment. Then, a Clinton-Kaine spokesman further explained that Kaine was not “personally for repeal of the Hyde amendment” but remained “committed to carrying out Secretary Clinton’s agenda.” But Kaine subsequently told CNN that he had always supported the amendment and hadn’t changed his position. Less than a week later, though, he didn’t respond to an audience question asking how he would cast a tie-breaking vote on the Hyde amendment in the Senate. Tim Kaine appears to be wrestling with his conscience on this issue, and winning.

‐ Donald Trump gave a speech on his economic agenda to the Economic Club of Detroit. The best of Trump’s economic agenda has little or nothing to do with taxes, trade, or spending, but with energy production. He vowed to seek regulatory reform that would “unleash an energy revolution.” Some of the promised benefits of that revolution are wildly optimistic, though he is correct that unshackling U.S. energy producers is critical for wider economic success. But while energy is an important driver of the U.S. economy, so is trade, and on trade, Trump promises nothing less than chaos. He threatens to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has contributed both to employment and to economic growth. On taxes, Trump offers an incoherent program obviously engineered with an eye to nickel-and-diming his way to victory. For example, his proposal for a 100 percent deduction against taxes for money spent on child care will be a boon to Manhattanites with expensive nannies and to baby-sitters from coast to coast, but it is terrible policy. His proposed simplification and reduction of the federal income-tax brackets is welcome, but it would be much better if that proposal were accompanied by a serious plan for reducing spending proportionately. A simplified tax code and an energized energy sector are indeed needed, but that Trump has the seriousness or the political capacity to get from here to there is far from obvious.

‐ At the Democratic convention, Khizr Khan, an immigrant from Pakistan, paid tribute to his son, Captain Humayun Khan, killed in 2004 in Iraq, and flayed Donald Trump for calling for a pause in immigration from Muslim, or terror-infested, countries. The thrust of Trump’s policy makes sense: America has a right to control its immigrant inflow, and we should not import problems. Bereaved survivors are not untouchable oracles; Democrats agree when it suits them, as in their response to Patricia Smith, who, at the Republican convention, blamed her son’s death in Benghazi on Hillary Clinton. Trump should have thanked Khan for his son’s service and stuck to his guns. Instead he punched back, whined, and maligned Khan’s religion, suggesting that Captain Khan’s mother, Ghazala, stood silently by her husband because she “wasn’t allowed to have anything to say” (Trump had previously made insulting insinuations about the faiths of Ben Carson and Ted Cruz). The fracas damaged Trump and may contribute to making Muslims a rhetorically untouchable class (like blacks, gays, and other liberal totems). Prescribed deference is inherently un-American; deference to Islam is dangerous in a world of fanaticism and religious strife.

‐ As an exercise in political pique, it’s hard to top Donald Trump’s quickly reversed non-endorsements of Paul Ryan, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte. Trump said he was withholding his endorsements of the trio in what was obviously meant as petty revenge for their criticism of his mishandling of the Khan family. After generating days of pointlessly damaging stories about a GOP crack-up, Trump endorsed Ryan et al. after all, reading dutifully from a script provided by his handlers. His supporters hopefully declared, once again, that Trump had “pivoted,” when the episode was simply more of the same from the chronically ill-disciplined candidate.

The Nation rose in defense of Donald Trump. It denounced commentators, many of them liberal journalists, who have expressed alarm at Trump’s warm embrace of Putin and at the signs that Putin in turn is rooting for Trump’s election. The overwhelming evidence that Russian intelligence groups were behind the recent hack and leaking of Democratic-party e-mails was dismissed as more “cheap neo-McCarthyism.” Credit where it’s due: The publication has proven remarkably consistent across the decades in turning a blind eye to Russian malevolence.

‐ Toward the end of a year during which, in highbrow and popular media alike, the insinuations and the outright assertions that the Republican nominee for president was mentally ill had begun to pile up, a magazine blared from its cover that “1,189 psychiatrists say Goldwater is psychologically unfit to be president!” To its credit, the American Psychiatric Association — not, one would think, a hotbed of Goldwater conservatism — finally put its foot down and issued “the Goldwater rule,” as it became known: “It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer [to media] a professional opinion [of a public figure’s mental health] unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.” The APA recently reminded its members that the Goldwater rule still stands: Psychiatrists tempted to use the name “Donald Trump” and the phrase “narcissistic-personality disorder” in the same sentence should exercise restraint. The candidates give us enough purely political wrongheadedness to keep their critics busy through Election Day.

‐ Is it too much to ask for a libertarian presidential candidate who is thoughtful about liberty? Gary Johnson, interviewed by the Washington Examiner, opined that giving Christian cake bakers or the Little Sisters of the Poor protection under the religious-liberty provision of the First Amendment would be a “black hole.” “I mean under the guise of religious freedom, anybody can do anything,” Johnson said. “Back to Mormonism. Why shouldn’t somebody be able to shoot somebody else because their freedom of religion says that God has spoken to them?” So, in an election in which Mormons dislike Hillary Clinton for her social views and distrust Donald Trump for his bullying of minority religions, and in which Libertarians strive, yet again, to become America’s second-and-a-half party, their nominee rakes up the muck of the mid-19th century. (Mormons did shoot people, and were also shot.) In addition, William Weld, Johnson’s running mate, thinks Stephen Breyer and Merrick Garland are model jurists.

‐ Evan McMullin, a 40-year old former CIA operative and House Republican staffer, is mounting an independent presidential run as an anti-Trump conservative. McMullin is a patriot and constitutionalist, but he is not remotely qualified for the presidency and his protest bid will struggle to get traction. Just because the campaign is already full of candidates not particularly suited to the presidency is not reason to add another.

‐ Representative Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas conservative from one of the reddest areas in the country, lost badly in a primary to a business-backed opponent. Congressman Huelskamp had spent his three terms in Washington agitating against the GOP leadership, which got him kicked off the Agriculture Committee. That was strike one in his heavily agricultural district. Strikes two and three were voting against a farm bill that had the support of other conservatives. No matter what your ideological hue, losing touch with the concerns of your district always carries a price, and Tim Huelskamp has paid it.

‐ In January, the Obama administration delivered $400 million in cash — ostensibly the principal in a $1.7 billion settlement to a decades-long arms dispute — to Tehran on the very same day that Iran released four Americans being held as enemies of the state. Administration officials deny that this was a “ransom” payment, but if not, someone forgot to tell Tehran. Iranian general Mohammad Reza Naghdi informed state media in January: “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.” The cash — delivered in wooden crates, flown into Tehran on an unmarked cargo plane — was in euros, Swiss francs, and other currencies, “because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions,” President Obama explained. (Actually, sanctions laws prohibit Americans from engaging in financial transactions with Iran using any currency.) It is almost certain that a sizable portion of that $400 million will end up in the hands of terrorists. And there is now a precedent encouraging the kidnapping of American citizens, which Iran is already exploiting. Two Iranian Americans have been detained since the January payment. Is anyone surprised? It used to be a federal crime to provide material support to terrorists. Now it’s apparently federal policy.

Thinking about the Unthinkable

This has been a terrible summer filled with a stream of terror attacks. Terrorists have attacked with bombs, knives, guns, hatchets, and even a truck. The damage from these attacks has been horrible.

But the magnitude of the damage that terrorists have inflicted does not approach the catastrophic scale threatened by the possible high-tech attacks that an incipient policy community has begun to study and quantify.

In a recent paper on emerging security threats, Brookings Institution scholar Benjamin Wittes reminds readers that research in the public domain could give scientifically qualified terrorists information that would allow them to carry out severe attacks. He highlights a number of recent developments that illustrate the severity of the problem. Australian scientists synthesized a mousepox virus that was lethal to mice and impervious to vaccination, raising the specter of a vaccine-resistant smallpox virus. Other scientists have developed strains of the polio and Ebola viruses in the laboratory, along with the 1918 version of the influenza virus, which infected as much as a third of the world’s population and may have killed as many as 100 million people.

Bioterror isn’t the only threat of catastrophe. A recent paper in the American Economic Review by London School of Economics economist Ian Martin and MIT economist Robert Pindyck set out to collect information across a number of scientific fields about a wide array of threats of catastrophic magnitude. These include man-made disasters, such as nuclear attacks and climate change, and natural disasters, such as a massive earthquake or the evolution of a deadly new virus. Sifting through the data, they estimate the probabilities that certain catastrophic events will occur within a given year.

While even a data-grounded prognostication cannot avoid speculation, assessments of the probability of, for example, a mega-virus at least have the history of pandemics to ground their analysis. Likewise, assessments of the probability of severe weather events can be formed on the basis of the frequency with which they have occurred in the past. While even the most rigorous probabilistic assessments of biological or nuclear terrorism cannot avoid significant uncertainty, Martin and Pindyck make their best effort to synthesize the most reliable estimates offered by experts in the field. The results of some of their work is plotted in the chart.

The chart shows the odds, based on the Martin and Pindyck probabilities, that at least one realization of a given type of catastrophic event will occur by the date given. For example, the odds that a mega-virus, which the authors define as a major pandemic that affects a significant portion of the world’s population, will emerge by 2025 are about 18 percent, climbing to 50 percent by 2050. Martin and Pindyck predict that the likelihood of at least one catastrophic earthquake by 2025 is 26 percent, while the likelihood of one by 2050 is 66 percent. However, both nuclear terrorism, defined as the detonation of one or more nuclear weapons, and bioterrorism, defined as the deliberate release of harmful biological agents, are according to Martin and Pindyck much more likely to occur than either of the foregoing disasters. For each of these types of terrorist attack, the odds of at least one by 2025 are estimated to be 34 percent, and the estimate rises to 76 percent by 2050.

If these admittedly speculative odds are even close to correct, then we are all thinking far too little about catastrophe. It seems essential that planning for possible catastrophes be prioritized, the interactions between them be explored, and worst-case scenarios prepared for. A large increase in research on infectious diseases, for example, could help avoid both the bioterror and mega-virus scenarios. Scholars could accelerate efforts to identify the possible costs and benefits of various steps to secure food supplies in the event of volcanic activity or nuclear attacks. The alternative is to remain unprepared and hope for the best, which is a poor strategy.

‐ The Obama administration is engaging in a stealth escalation of the war against ISIS. American forces have now intervened directly in Libya’s ongoing civil war, launching air strikes in support of Libyan forces seeking to seize the city of Sirte from ISIS. This escalation is welcome. ISIS has been working to establish Libya as a secondary geographic stronghold to which it can retreat in the event that it loses its Iraqi and Syrian heartland — and Libya’s close proximity to Europe makes an ISIS presence especially dangerous to European and American interests. But while the escalation is welcome, it is still not enough. Obama continues to wage a version of slow-motion war that allows ISIS to recruit fighters and spread its influence. The administration is content to try to win slowly, and its threat demands a more urgent response.

‐ President Obama is reportedly considering pledging America to a nuclear “no first use” policy — essentially promising to use America’s most powerful weapons only in retaliation for a nuclear strike. The policy is useless at best, dangerous at worst. It’s useless because his successor can abandon it with the stroke of a pen, and a responsible president would do so with the utmost haste in the event of looming strategic disaster. It’s dangerous because its mere existence could encourage the kind of aggression that would make a nuclear exchange more likely. America’s current strategic approach — which forces potential adversaries to consider the possibility that aggression could provoke a nuclear response — has helped keep the global peace for more than 60 years. There is no reason to abandon it, except to engage in anti-nuclear moral posturing.

‐ The policymaking entity of Black Lives Matter has released a 40,000-word manifesto that is a grab bag of racially tinged Occupy Wall Street–ism: America is “an empire that uses war to expand territory and power”; it is founded upon “white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy”; etc. But tucked away between calls for reparations and the end of private education is a bizarre attack on Israel, which Black Lives Matter calls an “apartheid state” and says is perpetrating “genocide” against Palestinians. This is false and slanderous and has no apparent connection with the problems of black Americans.

‐ The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made a preliminary ruling in a complaint, filed by a black employee, that a co-worker wore a cap bearing the don’t tread on me rattlesnake of the Revolution-era Gadsden flag. The complainant called the design “racially offensive” because Christopher Gadsden, the patriot who created it, owned and traded slaves. The EEOC, while admitting that the flag has “express[ed] various non-racial sentiments,” called for further investigation. We would gladly provide the EEOC a Gadsden flag to fly outside its headquarters.

‐ In 2013, North Carolina passed a law requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID, ending same-day registration, and shortening the length of early voting from 17 days to ten. The Left rent its garments — Hillary Clinton called it an “assault on voting rights” — and foretold mass disfranchisement. It never happened. In 2010, before North Carolina’s law, 38.5 percent of blacks in North Carolina voted in the year’s midterms; in 2014, with the law in effect, it was 41.1 percent. Nonetheless, the Fourth Circuit has swatted down the law, going out of its way to ignore evidence, impugn the motives of North Carolina’s legislature, and concoct specious legal rationales to reach its verdict. The Left’s ultimate quarry is Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 Supreme Court decision that made North Carolina’s law possible by striking down part of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. That section required jurisdictions that had a history of voter suppression as of the early 1970s to receive federal permission for any changes to election procedures. Given the strong provisions that remain in place to protect voting rights, pretending that the decision began a downhill march back to literacy tests and poll taxes is sheer demagoguery. Voter-ID laws have longstanding legal precedent, broad popular support, and ample justification. That is why the Left is turning to the courts, the self-appointed legislatures of last resort, to quash them.

‐ William Bratton announced that he will leave policing for the private sector in September. He served stints in Boston and Los Angeles, but his mark on American crime-fighting was made in New York City. As chief of the transit police in 1990–91, he pioneered the strategy of broken-windows policing — nabbing the small offenders who corrode public space and confidence and who are often wanted for more serious offenses. As police commissioner in 1994–96, he implemented this policy city-wide. Gotham’s long recovery began. In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio brought him back; Bratton held the line against left-wing race agitation encouraged, in part, by de Blasio himself. Bratton is not the only hero of this tale: Jack Maple, chief of detectives, pioneered CompStat, the daily tracking of crime’s ebb and flow. Ray Kelly was a worthy successor, and mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg led from City Hall. But a great city owes Bratton a great debt, and thousands of New Yorkers owe him their lives. Well done.

‐ Mayor Charlie Hales has reversed the “safe sleep” policy under which police in Portland, Ore., could not disturb “houseless” people who slept on sidewalks and in other public spaces. Business owners and neighborhood groups complained. The idea had been that the law against camping on the streets should remain on the books but not be enforced for groups of six or fewer people between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Hales said that “outreach workers and law enforcement struggled to educate people about the difference between a safe night’s sleep and unsanctioned camping.” The road to urban hell is littered with good intentions.

‐ “You read about someone who’s killed his girlfriend or his mother-in-law, and these are violent baptized Catholics,” Pope Francis said to a reporter who pointed out that it was in the name of Islam that Father Jacques Hamel of Rouen, France, was publicly murdered in July. “If I talk about ‘Islamic’ violence, should I speak about ‘Catholic’ violence too?” Francis continued. “Not all Muslims are violent.” Francis was confusing two arguments. One of them is cogent: Most Muslims are not jihadists, and many are friends to Christians, as they demonstrated that very day by flocking to Sunday Mass in churches across France and Italy to honor the Catholic priest whom their co-religionists had brutally martyred. In the same breath, however, Francis attempted to draw a moral equivalence between a murderer who happens to be Christian and a murderer who, by his own account, kills because he’s Muslim. Francis glossed over a distinction that it is crucial for Christians to maintain if they are ever to achieve clarity of purpose in fighting jihad: Most Muslims are not jihadists, many Muslims are victims of jihadists, and many Muslims are allies or potential allies of Christians; but all jihadists are Muslims.

‐ Things at the Rio Olympics are going about as well as you would expect of a large, complex international event in a poor, dysfunctional South American country run by a corrupt socialist party. The Games’ security chief got mugged after the opening ceremony, as did the Portuguese education minister. Another robber targeted the Russian vice consul; that robber is dead now, after a shooting that the authorities insist never happened. Ordering concessions requires a ridiculous two-part process: Stand in line for an hour to order from a cashier, then stand in line for another hour or more to trade the receipt the cashier gives you for your order, all of which turns out to be beside the point, since the concessions have run out of food and drink. There’s a Zika epidemic under way, the yachting competitions are taking place in a sea of sewage (Guanabara Bay was supposed to have been cleaned up, but Brazil ran out of money), the Australians were burgled in the Olympic village, and the government just arrested a dozen or so local Islamic State sympathizers who allegedly were planning an attack. Brazil is expected to suffer serious financial losses. The real winner here is Chicago, which would have hosted this year’s games if Barack Obama were a better negotiator.

‐ Admirers of Bernie Sanders insist that there’s a difference between “democratic socialism” and what goes on in places such as Cuba and North Korea. For years, Hollywood leftists and Democratic grandees celebrated the democratically elected Hugo Chávez and his so-called Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela as an exemplar of this. The revolution is going as expected — which is to say, as F. A. Hayek expected when he wrote The Road to Serfdom: As central planning fails, the Venezuelan government has not loosened political control of economic activity but rather tightened it, citing, in language that would have been familiar to V. I. Lenin, economic “saboteurs.” (No kulaks were available for scapegoating.) Most recently, the Venezuelan government has instituted a new edict putting the country’s ports and food-distribution network under the management of — inevitably — the military. “This is a question of national security and defense of the fatherland,” says Vladimir Padrino, the Venezuelan defense minister. When the military isn’t busy running the grocery stores, it has dozens of food riots a day to try to control. Several Venezuelans have been killed in the civil unrest. In order to staff up that new food program, the government is conscripting labor. Empty shelves and well-stocked labor camps: Democratic socialism is still socialism.

‐ As elections near, parties often get more aggressive in their messaging, and in Palestine this means comparing body counts of Israelis. Sympathetic outsiders like to describe Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party as “moderate,” but it still used an official Facebook page to boast that “the Fatah movement has killed 11,000 Israelis.” After negative media attention, a party official blamed “hot-blooded youths” for the post, which was not the first of its kind. The party cannot, in fact, take credit for that many deaths — it is an election-time embellishment used to fight off Hamas’s claims of superior Jew-killing — but the boast shows that “moderate” hatred of Israel is still plain old hatred.

‐ The African National Congress likes to take all the credit for ridding South Africa of apartheid. Leaders of the ANC, Nelson Mandela included, had their roots in Communism, and since 1994 they have accordingly been running a pretty tight one-party state with the attendant self-dealing. President Jacob Zuma, for example, has just spent $20 million of public money on his private palace. Upwardly mobile blacks accuse the ANC of corruption, arrogance, and incompetence, and they have expressed their resentment in the municipal elections just held by voting for the opposition Democratic Alliance. The ANC vote fell dramatically, and it lost control of some black-majority cities, including Pretoria, the capital. General elections are due in 2019, and should they follow this trend, it might be that the country’s racial politics will have finally run their course.

‐ Finland has a birthday coming up: Next year it celebrates the centennial of its declaration of independence from Russia. To mark the occasion, Nordic neighbor Norway is thinking about giving the Finns a peak called Halti that sits along the border between the two nations and was assigned to Norway decades ago by a careless cartographer. Halti would become the new highest point in Finland, while Norway, which has hundreds of taller ones, would hardly miss it. So the idea seems agreeable to everyone in both countries except the indigenous Sami people, who live on both sides of the border and claim the area surrounding Halti as their homeland. Whatever gift Norway decides upon, it will be much more welcome than anything that neighboring Russia is likely to send.

‐ Halloween is becoming too much to bear on college campuses. NR’s old friend Jillian Kay Melchior, writing at Heat Street, has revealed the latest madness. Last Halloween, a trio of University of Wisconsin–Platteville co-eds posted on Facebook a photo of themselves dressed as the Three Blind Mice. The college’s Bias Incident Team swung into action right away over the alleged mocking of a disability. For re-enacting a nursery song, the miscreants were visited in person by Bias Incident Team members; their jobs as dormitory staffers were put under review; and the college decided to draw up rules governing “appropriate” costume choices. We can remember when Halloween was scary because of the ghosts and goblins.

‐ Steph Yin, writing in the New York Times, has regretted the discovery of fire. Sure, fire brought some benefits in the form of creature comforts — cooked food, warmth, light — but “there were downsides, too.” Proximity to smoke, Yin argues, probably led to the discovery of smoking. (This seems likely.) Meanwhile, the ability to cook food encouraged hunting and, therefore, patriarchy. One day, you’re just a happy Homo erectus living in a sexually egalitarian state of nature, and the next thing you know, everybody is Stanley Kowalski.

‐ Give Alex Rodriguez his due. Over 22 seasons, he hit almost 700 home runs, enough to rank fourth all-time. By almost every statistical measure, he was a better player than his teammate Derek Jeter, with whom Yankee fans fell into the habit of comparing him unfavorably. To a ruthless, round-the-clock sports-media industry on steroids, Rodriguez showed himself to be vain and venal, like many of his forerunners and contemporaries, on the field and off. For having been on literal steroids, Major League Baseball suspended him for the 2014 season. In 2004, the players’ union had legally but wrongly overruled his agreement to a trade, from Texas to Boston, because it entailed a pay cut. He found little love in New York, where he landed, though he contributed to the Yanks’ 2009 world championship. The Yankees were profligate to agree to his bloated contract, despite his prodigious talent, conspicuous since his rookie days in Seattle. He announced his retirement on August 7 and played his last game later that week. His potential was off the charts. No one could have lived up to it, but he came close.


The Democrats Unite

Democrats may not be able to run the VA or the State of California, but they can do a good political convention, as Philadelphia, with one exception, proved.

The party was united. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was defenestrated from the Democratic National Committee to appease Sandersistas enraged at proof, via hacked e-mails, that she had tilted the primary process to Hillary Clinton’s benefit. Sanders himself endorsed his old foe, and Senator Elizabeth Warren further mollified the hard Left. Bill Clinton spun a Horatio Alger biography of his wife ever overcoming obstacles (discreetly omitting her greatest obstacle, which has been living with him). Michelle and Barack Obama delivered encomia, he even going so far as to say that there has never been a “more qualified” candidate than Hillary Clinton. Michael Bloomberg eviscerated Donald Trump, a real self-made billionaire dissing a blowhard poseur.

Donald Trump’s vision of a battered America, and his bromantic remarks about assorted dictators from Putin to Erdogan, allowed the Democrats to corner the market on the rhetoric of patriotic uplift. President Obama praised America’s “courage and optimism and ingenuity” and quoted Ronald Reagan in calling America “a shining city on a hill.” “We are America — second to none!” shouted Vice President Joe Biden. “Never, ever bet against America.” Conservative tweeters tried to make hay out of the fact that there were few flags visible in the Wells Fargo Center. There didn’t need to be; the rhetoric was red, white, and blue.

Democrats hunting for votes in the middle called themselves born-again nationalists (false) and Donald Trump erratic (true). They did not, however, make any policy moves toward the center. The platform echoed Black Lives Matter concerns about the incarceration state. It backed card check (an express lane to union organizing) and a $15 national minimum wage. Democrats in power want to clip the First Amendment by overturning the Citizens United decision and gut the Second by pushing for tighter gun laws and for overturning the Heller decision. They want to institute taxpayer funding of abortions and funnel money specifically to Planned Parenthood. Two illegal immigrants spoke from the podium at the Democratic convention; others served on various convention committees.

The off-note was the star. Hillary Clinton is not made for this line of work. She delivered a dull text (which, in fairness, most acceptance speeches are), flashing a forced smile and banging out the sentences like a midwestern jackhammer. With smooth candidates — Bill Clinton, Barack Obama — Democrats have won recent presidential elections rather handily. With stiffs — Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry — they struggle. Mrs. Clinton belongs to the second category. Happily for her, she is running against a catastrophically weak opponent.

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

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

God’s Plenty

"If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” ...


Politics & Policy


The Disability Trap David French’s article on the VA’s overmedication of veterans (“Casualties of the VA,” July 11) was most insightful; your candor is especially noteworthy. You failed to mention what ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ If only the State Department were as focused on its mission as the Clinton Foundation. ‐ Hillary Rodham Clinton does not like to do press conferences, but she may change ...
Politics & Policy


A PAINTING IN THE NATIONAL GALLERY Flowers and weeds together spill, Careless and drizzly, down the hill In a long back garden that’s anywhere Outside London. I am living there Beside the window, no longer ...

Most Popular

Film & TV

Laughing at Beyoncé’s Absolute Monarchy

Back in the Nineties, when hip-hop zealots questioned the intelligence of Beyoncé songs like Destiny’s Child’s careerist anthem “Survivor” and the sex-as-junk-food hit “Bootylicious,” there was little regard for the female agency that she now channels into an intersectional act, trading on gender and ... Read More
Film & TV

Laughing at Beyoncé’s Absolute Monarchy

Back in the Nineties, when hip-hop zealots questioned the intelligence of Beyoncé songs like Destiny’s Child’s careerist anthem “Survivor” and the sex-as-junk-food hit “Bootylicious,” there was little regard for the female agency that she now channels into an intersectional act, trading on gender and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The World’s Worst Idea

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The World’s Worst Idea

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be ... Read More