‐ Bob Dylan is to literature as Barack Obama is to peace.
‐ “How is that not classified?” That was the stunned reaction of Clinton confidante Huma Abedin upon learning that her boss’s e-mails over a private e-mail system included exchanges with the president of the United States, who was using an alias. Abedin knew an insurance policy when she saw one: She quickly asked the agents whether she could have a copy, doubtless realizing that if Obama was recklessly communicating about sensitive matters through a non-secure channel, no one was going to be prosecuted for doing so. And, of course, no one was. Subsequent disclosures of FBI reports and the hacked e-mails of Clinton-Obama operative John Podesta prove that the White House and the Clinton campaign fretted over the Obama–Clinton communications from the moment Clinton’s “private” e-mails were subpoenaed by the House Benghazi committee. Nevertheless, Obama first falsely denied even knowing about the Clinton e-mail address, then invoked executive privilege to shield his e-mails with Clinton from Congress and the public. A post hoc acknowledgment that they were classified would have made it embarrassingly clear that he’d engaged in the same criminal conduct she had. Indeed, his e-mails would have been admissible evidence at her trial. That’s why, in short, there was never going to be such a trial.
‐ Trumpian DNA requires taking even the best point too far. Thus the mogul’s declaration that Hillary Clinton should not merely be prosecuted but in jail — and that, were he president, the hoosegow is where she’d be. On cue, the commentariat groused that Trump was vowing a dictatorial criminalization of politics. Let’s take a breath. Trump, who said he’d appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the case, was not threatening to prosecute Clinton for being an enemy of his regime. Clinton appears to have committed crimes that have nothing to do with opposing Donald Trump and that endangered national security. As usual, Trump chose his words poorly, but Clinton’s offenses merit a credible inquiry. There is no impropriety in saying so.
‐ WikiLeaks, Julian Assange’s clearing house for purloined documents and e-mails, has been divulging a raft of Clinton-campaign and Democratic-party materials, which show Hillary Clinton and her supporters in a variety of unflattering, sometimes arguably illegal, postures. No one has denied the authenticity of Assange’s stuff — which would be easy to do if it were in fact bogus. But it has been clear for quite a while that Assange is a de facto Russian ally, if not an outright agent. Now that the material is in the public domain, it is legitimately subject to examination and discussion (see below), but foreign powers shouldn’t be driving the American political debate.
‐ “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty” was the arresting charge made by Donald Trump. The reference is to a paid speech she gave in 2013 to a Brazilian bank in which she said, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, sometime in the future, with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.” The Clinton campaign says she was talking only about integrating energy markets. Trump has said this means she favors unlimited immigration from anywhere in the world, “free trade for everybody,” and “global governance.” These accusations are wild. Even if the U.S. enacted “free trade for everybody,” abolishing all import tariffs and quotas, it would remain as sovereign as it had been the day before, with the power to set whatever trade policy it chooses. Nothing in Clinton’s remark is suggestive of global governance, either. It is true that Clinton has too rosy a view of supranational organizations such as the United Nations and a much too liberal immigration policy. But we need not ferret out any shadowy cabal to know this: We learn more about it from reading her public record, including her website and her speeches during this campaign.
‐ WikiLeaks exposed an e-mail exchange between Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri and the Center for American Progress’s John Halpin (Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was copied) in which Palmieri claimed to have uncovered the true motivations for conservative Catholicism. Halpin mused that powerful conservatives were Catholic in part because they were attracted to “severely backwards gender relations.” Palmieri said, “Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became Evangelicals.” The presumption that Christians are insincere and motivated by professional expedience and the desire to dominate is, of course, itself a form of prejudice. Many secular progressives really do believe that Christians are nothing but bigots in disguise. That’s how they justify their own intolerance.
‐ An illustrative exchange from the John Podesta e-mails, purloined and revealed by WikiLeaks: After MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted the name of one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists, Clinton spokeswoman Karen Finney forwarded the tweet to Podesta, remarking: “Damn.” Podesta replied: “Better if a guy named Sayeed Farouk [sic] was reporting that a guy named Christopher Hayes was the shooter.” The progressive mind, in one sentence.
‐ Campaign memos obtained by DC Leaks revealed that Hillary Clinton’s appearance on the Steve Harvey show in February was entirely scripted, from a lady in the audience asking Clinton for advice about being a grandmother to Clinton discussing the country’s racial divide. Every question and answer was crafted between Harvey and Clinton’s staff — even Clinton’s photographs shown on the program were prearranged, but she still managed to exclaim “Oh my goodness” when the photo of her at twelve years old appeared. Clinton knew Harvey wouldn’t question her political positions: “The tone of the show is generally light so even on policy questions, Steve won’t go too deep into details,” the memo noted. So, even on a talk show with virtually no political risks, she still didn’t want to hazard just being herself.
‐ Donald Trump made one of his many careers as a promoter of beauty pageants. But the pageant now swirling about him is of women, some of them former contestants, who say that he ogled, groped, or French-kissed them without their consent. The onslaught has all the look of a prepared trap, into which Trump walked, telling Anderson Cooper that, whatever cringe-making things he might have said to people such as former Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, he had never enacted them. Then, the deluge. As with Bill Clinton or Bill Cosby, some of the accusations may be embroidered, but the number is dismaying, as is their consistency: with each other, and with Trump’s laughing admission — on an old Howard Stern show — that he is indeed a “sexual predator.” Trump meanwhile called his accusers liars and promised to refute their charges. One Anthony Gilberthorpe claims to have been on a plane flight with Trump and one of his alleged victims and seen nothing untoward, though his testimony suffers from his being a self-confessed former procurer of rent boys to English politicians. The Nineties have called, and they want to give us their sexcapades.
‐ Trump trotted out Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, and Juanita Broaddrick, Bill Clinton’s three most public accusers from the 1990s, at a press conference hours before the season’s second debate. His theatrics smacked of desperation, but on the substance, he was not wrong. As the New York Times and the Washington Post recently reminded their readers in long features, Hillary was instrumental in silencing Bill’s accusers. When Little Rock-music groupie Connie Hamzy claimed that Bill Clinton had propositioned her, Hillary responded: “We have to destroy her story.” In his memoir, All Too Human, George Stephanopoulos wrote that, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Hillary “had to do what she had always done before: swallow her doubts, stand by her man, and savage his enemies.” Bill Clinton was a lech, or worse, and Hillary Clinton concealed it to protect her political future. This is America’s great “champion” of women.
‐ As birds sing at nightfall, so the Trump campaign is shouting that the election is rigged. “The election is absolutely being rigged,” Trump tweeted. Rigged in the sense of stolen at the polls? Yes, according to Trump, but also rigged by “dishonest and distorted media.” Ballot fraud exists. But the scope of a national election, and the division of the states’ political machinery between the parties, make it vanishingly unlikely that a modern presidential race could be filched. As for media bias, it has existed for decades, but smart Republicans learn how to overcome it (Trump’s most loyal surrogate, Rudy Giuliani, won two elections in deepest-blue New York City). The charge of a rigged election, three weeks before most Americans vote, is a salve for the ego of a candidate who fears being branded a loser, and for the self-esteem of those who mortgaged their reputations to support him.
‐ What do politicians who have endorsed Trump do when under pressure? The hokey pokey: Now you put your right foot in / Your right foot out / Right foot in / Then you shake it all about . . . The parade of women who said that Trump had groped or assaulted them began the first week of October. Panic time, as Republicans who had once backed him blasted him, or even called on him to drop out. Then Trump turned in an okay performance in the second presidential debate (and Hillary Clinton failed to make a kill). Back came many of the dis-endorsers. Typical was Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska, who said on October 8 that it would be “wise” for Trump “to step aside,” then said on October 11 that she backed the “Trump-Pence ticket.” N.B. Her colleague from Nebraska is Senator Ben Sasse, who has been no-Trump all along. Profile in courage, meet profile in . . . something else.
‐ Bucking many of its Evangelical colleagues, World magazine called for Trump to drop out of the presidential contest following the revelation of his 2005 Access Hollywood comments: “A Trump step-aside would be good for America’s moral standards in 2016. It’s still not too late to turn the current race between two unfit major party candidates into a contest fit for a great country.” Christianity Today editor Andy Crouch also editorialized against Trump, chastising the latter’s Christian apologists: “Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord.” These publications might well have taken their cue from the Apostle Paul: “Proclaim the word,” he writes; “be persistent, whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” The present moment is nothing if not inconvenient.
‐ The Arizona Republic has been conservative and Republican throughout its 125-year history. They had never endorsed a Democrat for president until this year. They decided that the Republican nominee was unfit, and un-conservative, in too many ways. So, they published their opinion. Then came an avalanche of hate and death threats: highly specific threats, which the staff, together with the police, had to deal with. The paper’s publisher, Mi-Ai Parrish, has now written a statement, which is a model of thoughtfulness and principle. She stands up for the right to practice journalism. She stands up for the separation of journalism from party politics. She speaks kindly of those Trump supporters who have sent her thoughtful criticisms. She also includes what she calls a “personal word”: “To those of you who have said Jesus will judge me, that you hope I burn in hell, that non-Christians should be kept out of our country, I give you my pastor grandfather. He was imprisoned and tortured for being a Christian, and suffered the murder of his best friend for also refusing to deny Christ.” This was in Korea. Mi-Ai Parrish is in America, demonstrating what an American is.
‐ On the morning of October 16, the Orange County, N.C., Republican-party headquarters was firebombed, and an adjacent building was spray-painted with a swastika and the words “Nazi Republicans leave town or else.” Donald Trump immediately blamed “animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina,” but the still-at-large culprit or culprits have not been identified. Trump is correct about one thing: If someone had firebombed a Democratic-party headquarters, as he told a radio host two days later, “it would be worldwide news.”
‐ Evan McMullin is the 40-year-old former CIA agent and Capitol Hill aide who is running as a conservative alternative in the presidential race. By any normal reckoning he is not qualified, and his chances of winning are nil. But two recent polls show him in a statistical tie with Trump and Clinton in his home state, Utah (others show Trump ahead). McMullin is a Mormon, and Trump’s alleged (and admitted) lechery, along with his mockery of his opponents’ religions, make Mormons leery of him. And if McMullin took Utah — becoming the first third-party candidate to win a state since George Wallace in 1968 — and if neither Clinton nor Trump won a majority in the Electoral College, then the House would choose among the top three finishers — Clinton, Trump, McMullin . . . It’s a fantasy; this election will be decided in a dump, if not a landslide. But the fact that such fantasies spring up shows what a weak ticket the GOP has fielded.
No Coattails for Hillary?
With the election right around the corner, polls and betting markets agree that there will likely be a big victory for Hillary Clinton. As of mid October, betting markets posted an 83 percent chance that she would defeat Donald Trump, with the margin of victory in polls then averaging about seven percentage points. Granted, false predictions of Brexit taught us that polls may be less reliable in this strange new world. But assuming Clinton does win by margins as wide as the data suggest, what happens next?
The answer, it would seem, depends on what happens to the House and the Senate. A scenario in which President Clinton comes to power in a landslide seems like a scenario that could, at least in theory, deliver her both houses of Congress. At that point we would discover whether she is a Bill Clinton–style moderate Democrat or the Bernie Sanders–like capitalism-hater she has at times portrayed on the campaign stage. But if Republicans maintain a grasp on Congress, there will be more pressure on the deal-making Clintons, who helped give us welfare reform and capital-gains tax cuts, to make a reappearance.
To tether this conjecture to reality, we collected data concerning the 1944 to 2012 elections from the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, which reports the political divisions of the U.S. Senate and the House going back to the 40th Congress. These data detail the number of seats held by Democrats and Republicans after each bi-yearly election. We also collected data from the American Presidency Project on the percentage of the popular vote won by each Democratic and Republican presidential nominee.
To understand the relationship between the presidential-election outcome and the number of seats held in Congress by the incoming president’s party, we took the difference in the popular vote between the winner and runner-up and compared that with the change in the number of seats that the president’s party held in both the House and the Senate.
For example, in 1996, Bill Clinton ran against the Republican nominee, Robert Dole, and won with an 8.5-point margin in the popular vote. In that election, the Democrats gained three seats in the House but lost three seats in the Senate.
So how does the percentage by which a president wins affect the number of seats held by the president’s party? The graph shows very little relationship between how much a president wins by and how many seats are gained (or lost). In fact, when running a simple regression analysis of the president’s percentage win of the popular vote on the change of seats held by the president’s party, we find that there is no relationship. This result may appear counterintuitive, but the data we gathered do not tell any other story. Indeed, while one should not get too excited speculating about statistically insignificant results, the patterns in the data suggest that voters may well be wary of both political parties and favor ticket-splitting when the presidential outcome seems certain.
There is, then, no statistical evidence that the presidential victory margin drives pickup of seats in the House or the Senate. So if Donald Trump is trounced in the election but Republican candidates for the House or Senate “surprise” on the upside, it should be considered no surprise at all.
‐ Attacking Hillary Clinton’s foreign-policy record, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson drew a moral equivalence between U.S. and Syrian military actions, sarcastically telling the New York Times, “We’re so much better when in Afghanistan, we bomb the hospital and 60 people are killed in the hospital.” Given the scores of thousands of their countrymen whom Syrian forces have slaughtered, this demonstrates colossal ignorance about the facts on the ground. Yet ignorance about Syria has become something of a hobgoblin for Johnson, as he has repeatedly courted controversy by demonstrating and even reveling in a lack of knowledge about it. First, he famously asked, “What is Aleppo?” on live TV, which was embarrassing but also forgivable as a momentary mistake. He made it worse later by trying to make the case that this sort of foreign-policy ignorance actually indicates that he would be a better president, since knowing about Syria is a necessary precondition to military adventures there. This is the logic of blind non-interventionism. After he appeared to break with Libertarian ideas on such issues as religious freedom and gun control, it is comforting to see that Johnson does retain some of his party’s principles, even if the worse ones.
‐ David Clarke is the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis. He is a bold and interesting man who has graced our cover. Recently, he tweeted as follows: “It’s incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch. Pitchforks and torches time.” He accompanied his tweet with a picture of an angry mob. We favor constitutional order and law enforcement, not pitchforks, torches, and mobs. So should sheriffs.
‐ Speaking of pitchforks, the University of New Haven bowed to Black Lives Matter protesters and disinvited Sheriff David Clarke from speaking on campus about the use of forensic science in law enforcement. Of course, the school didn’t admit that. It simply said, “Circumstances did not permit Sheriff Clarke’s attendance.” And here we thought that Yale was New Haven’s most craven university.
‐ Media “fact-checkers” have risen to defend Clinton from Republican charges that she believes that unborn children should have no legal protections from abortion up until the moment of birth. They note that she has occasionally said that she favors restrictions on abortions late in pregnancy so long as exceptions are made to protect the mother’s health. But the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion, which she supports, have made such restrictions unenforceable because they include a very broad definition of health that includes, among other things, emotional health. The leading Democratic proposal on partial-birth abortion, which Clinton supported, included a health exception that similarly vitiated its purported ban. Republicans are justified in clearing away her obfuscation, and fact-checkers worthy of the term would assist them rather than add to the confusion.
‐ Clinton said that the child tax credit, now worth $1,000 per child, should be doubled for parents of children under five. She also wants to increase its availability for poor families with little income-tax liability. This idea is far superior to Obama’s proposal to expand subsidies for child care, because it would leave parents with the choice of how to use the money rather than direct them to commercial day care. As we have long argued, tax relief for parents is justified because federal law currently overtaxes them: Raising children is a financial sacrifice that contributes to the health of old-age entitlement programs; taxing parents the same as non-parents ignores that sacrifice. Republicans have resisted giving tax credits to people who pay no income tax. But payroll taxes also pay for entitlements, and so should also be reduced for parents — and so Republicans ought to be willing to meet Clinton halfway on the treatment of low-income parents. Which is more than they will be able to do on the vast run of issues should she become president.
‐ “Ailing Obama Health Care Act May Have to Change to Survive,” reports the New York Times. Neither insurers nor individuals are participating in Obamacare’s health exchanges at the expected levels, and the exchanges have proven especially unattractive to people who would have to pay their own way rather than use subsidies. The main Democratic solution is to introduce a public option whereby the government would provide insurance directly. Without any need to make a profit, goes the theory, they could keep premiums down and so enroll more customers. But insurers are not making a profit on the exchanges as it is, and the nonprofit co-ops Obamacare created have closed in droves. The article ends with a health-care expert calling for giving people more money to help buy insurance and steeper fines on people who do not buy it. The law needs more and more money and more and more coercion to survive — which is why it needs to go.
‐ The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has always been an odd duck, and now it has been revealed as an unconstitutional one. The CFPB is like one of those high-school clubs started by some ambitious but undistinguished student for the sole purpose of giving himself something to be in charge of, for résumé-building purposes. In this case, the ambitious Tracy Flick was Elizabeth Warren, a largely unknown academic who desired to enter public office and who had written a couple of financial self-help books (All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan, etc.). Warren ultimately was denied directorship of the agency, but her role in establishing it was enough to launch her Senate career, so the organization’s mission is, in effect, complete. But it remains useful for hassling dissident banks and disagreeable financiers, so it has survived long enough for the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to discover its patently unconstitutional design and portfolio: It acts in effect as an independent miniature legislature, with open-ended power to regulate financial products and to define “financial products” in any way it sees fit. It can declare business practices “abusive,” and therefore forbidden, with no particular statutory justification from Congress. It does not even have the bipartisan board of directors characteristic of so-called independent federal agencies, concentrating its considerable power in the person of one mighty administrator. It is, as currently constituted, a law unto itself. The court demands that it be restructured; the more sensible course is dismantling it.
‐ The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a California law requiring crisis-pregnancy centers to advertise public programs that provide abortions. The bill had been challenged by the pro-life centers as a violation of the free-speech and free-exercise clauses of the First Amendment. Once again we learn that the “pro-choice” agenda has nothing to do with respecting conscience.
‐ New York’s city hall was temporarily converted into a Planned Parenthood facility at the behest of local and national Democrats, the building festooned in pink lights to celebrate a century’s worth of massacring unwanted children. New York is one of the nation’s worst offenders when it comes to using public facilities for narrow, partisan political purposes — a few years back, a Shakespeare in the Park production supported by the city was turned into a Democratic political rally, with speeches from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Chuck Schumer, who wandered out onto the stage during the second half of The Winter’s Tale, bellowing “Vote Democratic!” (Seriously, that happened.) Schumer was on hand for the Planned Parenthood festivities, promising that Planned Parenthood “will never be defunded when the Democrats get to political office.” We believe him, and hope Americans will therefore vote against them. It is always an ugly and distasteful thing to use what is after all the common municipal property of the city for partisan political shenanigans, but it is especially nasty to do so in celebrating the ugliest aspect of American life.
‐ An admirable organization in Washington, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, has released its first “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Towards Socialism.” The marquee finding is this: Thirty-two percent of Millennials believe that George W. Bush killed more people than Stalin. There was a hippie song: “Teach your children well.” It applies, in ways that the singers of that song may not have intended.
‐ What’s happening in Yemen resembles the Syria situation and has the potential of turning out as disastrously. It began as a struggle for power between presidential thugs, whereupon Saudi Arabia sponsored one of the thugs on the grounds that he was a Sunni Muslim, like them. Iran responded in kind, sponsoring the Shiite minority in Yemen, known as Houthis. In September 2014, the Houthis suddenly overran Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, in much the same way that Islamists in Iraq had unexpectedly overrun Mosul. Saudi Arabia’s sustained bombing has done damage and promises to do more: Sixty-eight hundred civilians are said to have been killed, 35,000 injured, and over 3 million are displaced. Neither side has the capacity to defeat the other, so fighting may well last indefinitely while Saudi Arabia and Iran bid to be the undisputed regional power. In Geneva, our hapless secretary of state, John Kerry, attended a conference to try to put in place a cease-fire in Syria. Nothing doing. At another conference in London immediately afterward, he emerged only to say, “This is the time to implement a cease-fire unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table.” He might consider having this mantra engraved on cards to hand out to whomever he meets.
‐ Over the course of four years, Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, negotiated with the FARC, the Communist guerrillas. The guerrillas have waged war on Colombian society for more than 50 years. In August, Santos and his FARC counterpart, who goes by the nickname “Timochenko,” reached a peace agreement. On October 2, the agreement went to the people, in a referendum. By an extremely narrow margin, the people rejected it — as too generous to the FARC. The negotiators would have to go back to the drawing board. On October 7, the committee in Oslo announced that the Nobel Peace Prize would go to Santos — alone, i.e., without Timochenko, which was a relief. (There is so much blood on FARC hands.) The committee said that it wanted to reward the president’s “resolute efforts.” Also “to encourage all those who are striving to achieve peace, reconciliation, and justice in Colombia.” One of those is Álvaro Uribe, Santos’s predecessor as president, and now a senator. As president, he weakened and dispirited the FARC, bringing them to the negotiating table. He would be our Colombian peace laureate, with an honorable mention to his indispensable partner in the White House, George W. Bush.
‐ Hong Kong’s Legco (Legislative Council) has limited powers, and since enough of its members are chosen by Beijing-controlled professional groups to give the ruling Communists a permanent majority, it does what the party wants. Still, the chamber’s reformist factions tirelessly, if futilely, argue the case for universal suffrage, free expression, and even independence — and sometimes find other ways to protest. After September’s Legco election, one newly chosen delegate wore an anti-China flag over his shoulders and kept his fingers crossed as he repeated the oath of office. He was denied his seat, as were two others who altered the oath’s wording to make clear their commitment to universal suffrage. Hong Kong may never escape from China’s iron grip, but, as with the territory’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement of two years ago, Legco’s rebels show how determined Hong Kong’s people are to keep every bit of freedom they still have have — and how determined China is to eliminate it.
‐ UNESCO, the U.N.’s educational, scientific, and cultural organization, has — to exactly no one’s surprise — privileged Muslim claims to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. In a resolution that otherwise noted the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, it referred to the Temple Mount itself exclusively by its Muslim name — ignoring Judaism’s ancient claim on the site — and aired Palestinian grievances about Israel’s treatment of the Mount. This is nothing new for the U.N. Its various bodies have raised anti-Israeli rhetoric and anti-Semitism to a perverse diplomatic art form. In this circumstance, familiarity should in fact breed contempt. Bias is business as usual at the U.N.
‐ In England, the kids at the University of Bristol have forced the cancellation of the musical Aida. This is Elton John and Tim Rice’s version of Verdi’s opera. The musical, like the opera, is about an Ethiopian princess enslaved in Egypt. The Bristol students cried, “Cultural appropriation.” Also, they feared that white students would play the parts of Egyptians and Ethiopians. (By the way, tell an Egyptian he isn’t white.) As is standard these days, the show could not go on. Wait till these kids find out that Denyce Graves is one of the foremost Carmens of our time. Graves is a black American, and Carmen is . . . not.
‐ NFL ratings are in decline, serious decline. After a ratings year in 2015 that left the league as the cornerstone of live broadcast television, double-digit ratings losses aren’t just shaking the NFL front offices, they’re rattling entire TV networks. The NFL claims that it’s losing viewers to the presidential race, to cord-cutting (which causes consumers to drop channels they rarely watch), and to bad matchups. No doubt these are all factors, but the league seems to be in denial about the very real backlash against player National Anthem protests. It claims that its “data” show that its players are still popular, but how long can this regard last? Americans don’t tend to look to the gridiron for political lectures, so as leftists weaponize sports, they risk the very popularity that they now seek to exploit.
‐ Who can withstand the mighty social-justice warrior? Not Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Days after criticizing NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem as “really dumb,” she backtracked. After receiving blistering criticism even from longtime allies, she said that her comments were “inappropriately dismissive and harsh” and that she should have declined to comment. The entire incident represents an interesting window into the Left’s ruthless discipline in enforcing the party line. There is no grace in modern political correctness, not even for its most revered ideological heroes.
‐ The Smithsonian has a new museum it is calling the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is in reality no such thing, inasmuch as its curators labor mightily to ignore out of existence major figures in African-American history and culture, notably Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Anita Hill, the obscure federal functionary who made a series of unsubstantiated allegations against Thomas as part of Democrats’ efforts to derail his Supreme Court confirmation — Democrats hate a black conservative above all things — is presented as a major figure in black history. Thomas exists only as her purported victimizer. This is preposterous for any number of reasons. Even if Thomas had done everything Hill accused him of (we do not believe that, and several people testified in contradiction of Hill), he would nonetheless be a major figure of his time, unless it is the view of the Smithsonian that African Americans can exist only as victims. Thomas, who grew up in direst poverty in a Gullah-speaking coastal-Georgia community, represents a different aspect of the black experience: triumph over adversity. Edward Brooke, the first black man popularly elected to the Senate, represented another kind of triumph — and Brooke, a Republican, also has been sent down the memory hole. Thomas Sowell? Alveda King? Tim Scott? Shelby Steele? Invisible men, one and all. The Smithsonian seems to have forgotten what a museum is and needs reminding.
‐ What pronouns would Jesus use? That question may soon have more than ecclesiastical importance, in Massachusetts at least. A new state law governing “places of public accommodation” forbids them to maintain single-sex bathrooms and requires everyone in them to, among other things, use whatever pronouns any individual prefers. The law applies even to churches. Official state guidelines cite “a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public” as the sort of occasion when a church would be subject to the law, but since most church services are open to the public, it seems inevitable that pastors’ sermons and even parishioners’ conversations will soon be fair game for the pronoun policy. This busybody law shows that the Puritan spirit remains alive and well in Massachusetts, if in a manner that would have confounded John Winthrop.
‐ It is good to see an American win the Nobel Prize for literature, especially one who rejected the reflexive anti-Americanism of the milieu in which he began (Bob Dylan’s shift from protest songs to songs was at least as drastic as his shift from acoustic to electric guitar). American popular song, from Stephen Foster on, has been one of our great gifts to the world; it is doubly good to see a practitioner of that genre recognized. If only Dylan’s poetry were better. Apart from a few anthems and (many fewer) love lyrics, he served up a stew of allusion and portent at the level of a high-school literary magazine. Blame it on Walt Whitman and his many bastard children, from Carl Sandburg to Allen Ginsberg, who emulated not Whitman’s real though intermittent genius, but his narcissism and his loose joints. Dylan will take it all in stride. On to the next gig.
‐ Hours before the Indians met the Blue Jays in the playoffs in Toronto, a Canadian judge dismissed a case filed by an activist demanding that the Cleveland team stop using its name and one of its trademarks, Chief Wahoo, a 1950s-era cartoon figure that appears on its uniforms. The Cleveland Indians have withstood such complaints since 1972, when the Cleveland American Indian Center, led by Russell Means, sued the club over its logo, though not its name. The Cleveland Indians are a longstanding American institution. They predate the rise of the Boomer version of social-justice-warrior sanctimony and show every sign of outlasting its Millennial iteration. Reputable polls consistently show that most American Indians have no quarrel with sports teams that adopt Indian motifs. Deferring to the minority who do object, the Cleveland Indians two years ago substituted a block “C” as their primary logo, retaining traces of Wahoo for purposes of historical preservation. It remains a classic specimen of a golden age of American commercial art and is woven deeply into the popular culture of northeastern Ohio. Its critics think their grievance is moral, but it’s ultimately aesthetic. Go Tribe.
‐ Starbucks’s pumpkin-spice latte, a popular seasonal indulgence, has been exposed by two academics as a sinister totem of white privilege in a peer-reviewed paper titled “The Perilous Whiteness of Pumpkins.” Its authors, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia and a professor of southern studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, pose the question, “Why did PSLs [pumpkin-spice lattes] become the symbol of basic white girlness?” They trace the answer to pumpkins themselves, which they concede “are real, material food plants in addition to being cultural symbols.” Given the existence of a “veritable pumpkin entertainment complex, whose multiple manifestations continue the entanglements of pumpkins, social capital, race, and place,” the role of the pumpkin is difficult to pinpoint. But, in short, pumpkins have a history of being associated with white people and idyllic “rural spaces” in the popular imagination; lattes are luxury items; so combining the two yields a perfect recipe for white privilege. If you thought the calorie count was sufficiently guilt-inducing, think again.
‐ Bhumibol Adulyadej ruled Thailand for 70 years, the right man in the right place at the right time. Born in Cambridge, Mass., and educated in Switzerland, this citizen of the world had been a jazz musician as well as a Buddhist monk. The Thailand that he took over at the age of 19 was in theory a constitutional monarchy. Communism was sweeping away other dynastic rulers in neighboring countries, and the firmness with which he met this standing threat brought him popularity. Throughout his reign, he displayed particular political skills in bringing to heel the succession of military strongmen who wanted power and fortunes for themselves. Imperceptibly taking on the role of a traditional absolute ruler before whom people prostrated themselves, he proved the guarantee of stability. When he died at the age of 88, people cried in the streets. The grief was genuine; they fear they will not see his like again. R.I.P.
Donald Trump is burning through every one of his nine political lives.
The Access Hollywood tape that broke in early October sent GOP elected officials fleeing from the Republican nominee in a truly historic rupture (although some quickly crab-walked back to him). Trump’s odds of winning the presidency were already long. With the airing of the tape, and the damaging fallout, they are longer still.
The weekend that the tape broke, various Republicans called for Trump to step aside — an understandable, if unrealistic, sentiment. Almost any other Republican would have a better chance of defeating Hillary Clinton, a dreary and corrupt statist who is the Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis of our time yet is beating her desperately flawed opponent. But this would have required that Trump act the statesman; or that Mike Pence, House speaker Paul Ryan, and RNC chairman Reince Priebus mount a hardball pressure campaign to force him off the ticket. Neither was going to happen. Even if Trump had wanted to step aside, the process of choosing a new nominee and negotiating ballot access for the party’s designee this late in the campaign would have been unprecedented and perilous in the best-case scenario.
Still, the GOP is rightly taking steps to limit the damage from the top of the ticket. Ryan has made it clear that preserving the House majority is his sole mission (he would have been wiser to simply execute this strategy rather than declare it on a conference call that made him the target of Trump’s ire). Many congressional Republicans have separated themselves from Trump, and surely more will follow. The party should make saving its congressional wing — an indispensable check on a potential Hillary Clinton presidency, and a Trump presidency as well, should it come to pass — its highest financial and organizational priority.
It may seem odd that, after so many Trump controversies, the Access Hollywood tape provoked such a reaction. It is true that it doesn’t reveal anything very new about Trump. And surely if hot mics had caught off-color banter from JFK we would have heard similar talk. But that doesn’t make it any less appalling. Here was a nearly 60-year-old man boasting about his attempted adultery and groping, and probably not idly. No presidential candidate has ever been heard by the public to utter such things before. Shortly after Trump went on the record at the second debate saying he hadn’t engaged in the behavior he described, an array of women emerged to recount their experiences of his unwanted sexual advances.
The rejoinder from Trump’s campaign is that Bill Clinton is a lecherous creep, and Hillary Clinton has been his enabler. True enough. It may be satisfying to see Trump make this case so forcefully, but it has very little political upside; swing voters aren’t going to be drawn to him — or repelled from Hillary — on the basis of Bill Clinton’s transgressions.
It is no secret that we are not fans of Donald Trump, who is not a conservative or an honorable man. He has shown no interest in the Constitution or liberty; has openly threatened to use state power to punish critics and companies that make business decisions he doesn’t like; is thin-skinned, conspiracy-minded, immature, and thoroughly dishonest. The only thing to recommend him is that he’s not Hillary Clinton, but even this quality has to be weighed against the fact that his recklessly selfish campaign is very likely to make her president of the United States. In this circumstance, Republicans need to do exactly what Trump always does: ruthlessly look after their own interests.