Magazine March 6, 2017, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

‐ Honestly, we do kind of wonder whether he told Flynn, “You’re fired!”

‐ National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was ousted. He had told Vice President Mike Pence that he hadn’t discussed anti-Russian sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016, when President Obama imposed them. Pence had defended him based on that assurance. Then unnamed members of the intelligence community reported that Flynn had indeed discussed the sanctions. Flynn apologized to Pence and to President Trump before leaving his job after less than a month. Should Flynn have talked to Kislyak? Democrats invoked the Logan Act, which forbids private citizens to negotiate with foreign powers, but how can an incoming administration signal its intentions except by the use of intermediaries? Why did the American intelligence community leak on Flynn? Because they hated him, evidently; but who will say anything to anyone if our own spooks routinely leak it? Should Flynn have misled the vice president? No (Flynn claims a faulty memory). It was the public revelation of the erroneous account that brought him down. With Congress promising investigations of Russia’s role in the election and Democrats, the media, and bureaucrats ready to form a hanging party, we are closer to the beginning of this story than the end.

‐ Interviewed before the Super Bowl by Bill O’Reilly, President Trump yet again equated modern America and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. “I do respect him,” Trump said of Putin, whereupon O’Reilly said, “Putin is a killer.” “There are a lot of killers,” Trump responded. “We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?” The only effect of an American president speaking this way could be to make people cynical about republican government and indifferent to thuggery. Intellectually, such remarks are at the level of Twitter trolls; morally, they are worse than many Twitter trolls. The president and his colleagues should be ashamed of them.

‐ Left-wingers have been mining Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s record and coming up empty. Nancy Pelosi claimed that Judge Gorsuch is “hostile” to schoolchildren with autism. In the relevant case, Gorsuch found that the law did not entitle the family in question to the specific assistance they wanted. But he expressed sympathy for them, and two other judges, including a Bill Clinton appointee, joined the decision. Senator Ron Wyden said that “Gorsuch represents a breathtaking retreat from the notion that Americans have fundamental constitutional rights” but supplied no evidence to support that outlandish claim. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand accused him of being “out of the mainstream” because he ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that a corporation could be treated as a person with the right to invoke a religious-freedom law. Only two justices of the Supreme Court took the same view as the senator in that case. It’s Gorsuch’s critics, in other words, who are out of the mainstream — and, worse, dishonest.

‐ Vice President Mike Pence cast a tiebreaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as the nation’s secretary of education after two Republican senators — Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins — joined Democrats in acquiescing to the demands of teachers’ unions. Since DeVos’s nomination in November, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the rest have demonstrated to what extent they control the present-day Democratic party, coordinating the extraordinary antagonism to DeVos that defined her confirmation process. NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia said that DeVos is “dangerously unqualified” and that she has designs to “harm our students”; the president of the Michigan Education Association said that DeVos is beholden to a “disastrous ideology.” The New York Times and other publications sought to bolster these accusations by declaring DeVos’s charter-school program in Detroit a failure, misrepresenting the data to make their case. Days after her confirmation, protesters attempted to block DeVos from entering a D.C. public school. DeVos has spent nearly a quarter century promoting a multifaceted school-choice agenda that has helped states and municipalities free parents and students of failing public-school monopolies. She now has an opportunity to advance that work by rolling back the federal government’s aggressive insinuation of itself into the day-to-day workings of school districts and classrooms. If that has teachers’ unions and their Democratic allies worried — good.

‐ Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) seems to be suffering a case of amnesia. In January, Booker made a show of breaking with Senate precedent to testify against the nomination of Alabama senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general — just eleven months after Booker declared himself “blessed and honored to have partnered with Senator Sessions” to award the Congressional Gold Medal to participants in the 1965 Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. Then, in February, Booker cast a vote against Betsy DeVos — just nine months after giving a supportive address to the American Federation for Children, the school-reform group founded and long chaired by DeVos. In fact, Booker has long been a school-choice advocate. During his two-term mayoralty in Newark, he expanded the city’s charter-school system, which currently serves 14,000 students, even earning the opprobrium of the local teachers’ union, which backed his opponent during his 2010 reelection campaign. In 2012, again at an AFC conference, Booker said that he “cannot ever stand up and stand against parents’ having options” and that he would “fight for the freedom and the liberty and the choice and the options of my people.” With 2020 in his sights, it seems America’s schoolchildren are no longer Senator Booker’s people.

‐ Passion can run high on the floor of the Senate: In 1850, Henry Foote pulled a pistol on Thomas Hart Benton, and in 1856 Charles Sumner was beaten with a cane. Rule 19, adopted in 1902, forbids senators to impute unworthy conduct or motives to one another in debate. It was invoked against Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) when, in speaking against Jeff Sessions’s confirmation as attorney general, she quoted 31-year-old comments by Coretta Scott King and Teddy Kennedy opposing Sessions’s nomination as a federal judge (Kennedy had called him “a disgrace”; King had said he had “chill[ed]” black voting rights). Rule 19 makes it marginally harder for senators to debate the merits of nominees who are their colleagues. Yet Senate decorum is a good thing. Add incivility to the list of Senator Warren’s peccadillos — or speaking with crooked tongue.

‐ It seems that all too many journalists are reaching a point of maximum anti-Trump credulity. Take, for example, the kerfuffle over an allegedly “botched” Special Forces raid in Yemen. General James Mattis recommended and President Trump approved a dangerous raid in Yemen that the Obama administration had planned but handed over to the new administration because of operational concerns. When the raid actually happened, American forces lost the element of surprise, and in the ensuing firefight a SEAL lost his life, al-Qaeda forces used human shields, and civilians died. In the immediate aftermath of the battle, Reuters reported about unnamed defense sources who claimed that Trump had approved the raid “without sufficient intelligence.” Journalists forwarded the story enthusiastically, and a narrative was born. Never mind that the New York Times contradicted Reuters with a far more comprehensive report. Never mind that operational planning isn’t a presidential responsibility. This raid, to some, was “Trump’s Benghazi.” But the raid wasn’t an outrage; it was war. It was also a reminder that not every Trump scandal is real and not every anonymous source is right. When it comes to separating truth from lies, a little investigation goes a long way.

‐ Never one to miss an opportunity for a hit job, Sidney Blumenthal — yes, that Sidney Blumenthal — used his essay “A Short History of the Trump Family” in a recent issue of the London Review of Books to explain how Donald Trump’s father, Fred, created two test television commercials while weighing a run for New York City mayor in 1969: “One of them, called ‘Dope Man,’ featured a drug-addled black youth wandering the streets. ‘With four more years of John Lindsay,’ the narrator intoned, ‘he will be coming to your neighbourhood soon.’ The ad flashed to the anxious faces of two well-dressed white women. ‘Vote for Fred Trump. He’s for us.’ The other commercial, ‘Real New Yorkers,’ showed scenes of ‘real’ people from across the city, all of them white. Fred Trump, the narrator said, ‘is a real New Yorker too.’ In the end he didn’t run, but his campaign themes were bequeathed to his son.” It made for a good story. The only problem was, it never happened. Trump seems never to have weighed a mayoral run; the videos were created last year by “Historical Paroxysm,” a video-art project that creates “found footage from alternate realities.” The LRB removed the misleading paragraph from the essay (adding, sniffily, that it still “accurately reflected Trump’s racial attitudes”), but the smear will no doubt live on, having been widely circulated among credulous readers. Or, as Blumenthal would surely say: Mission accomplished.

‐ Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wanted foreign-policy eminence Elliott Abrams as his deputy. A meeting with President Trump appeared to go well. Then Trump learned that Abrams had criticized him during the 2016 campaign. (The criticisms were fairly mild, but Abrams’s critics have made them spicier in the retelling.) He vetoed the nomination. Some of Abrams’s fans are grousing about Trump’s “thin skin,” but any president would prefer to staff his administration with people who supported him in the election. Trump has not adopted an ironclad no-past-critics rule, though, selecting Nikki Haley, Betsy DeVos, and Rick Perry for top jobs. These exceptions reflected that Trump isn’t like any previous president: A lot of Republicans criticized him; he is short-staffed, particularly in key foreign-policy posts; and the people he has do not have much government experience. And Trump has just hurt the credibility of one of those people, Tillerson, who was unable to get the deputy he wanted. The last-minute nixing of Abrams is not a disaster. It does seem like bad management, and bad judgment.

‐ Nordstrom, the department-store chain, announced that it will not carry Ivanka Trump’s products. Then Kellyanne Conway imprudently urged those listening to her interview on Fox News to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”From Ivanka’s couture to diplomats’ booking themselves into the Trump International Hotel in Washington to the Trump sons’ not-so-arm’s-length management of their father’s empire, there is an odor of favor-seeking and self-promotion about this presidency. The most important thing Trump could do to dispel it and defang his critics is to release his tax returns. Never before has such a wealthy man, active around the world and new to public service, occupied the White House. Who his partners, creditors, and debtors are is of interest to the public. The law does not require transparency, but republican seemliness does. Then let people buy whatever shmattas they like.

Mother Jones thinks Keith Ellison — congressman for Minnesota’s fifth congressional district and front-runner to head the Democratic National Committee — may be “just what Democrats need” to rally after a year of crushing defeats. But the long essay touting him may not be quite the favor the magazine intended. Reporter Tim Murphy uncovers examples of the anti-Semitism for which Ellison was well known as a Minneapolis activist but which he has long denied, and demonstrates that, while claiming never to have been a member of Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, Ellison was in fact deeply involved in its Twin Cities activities, attending meetings, speaking in the local leadership’s stead, and even showing up to community events flanked by members of the Fruit of Islam, the organization’s security wing. Murphy notes: “It was only in 2006, as his run for Congress floundered, that Ellison repudiated Farrakhan.” Ellison, who was elected the first Muslim member of Congress in 2006, has long suggested that criticisms of his past associations were simply thinly veiled attacks on his faith. But Mother Jones shows that assertions of Ellison’s radicalism are no smear campaign. They are simple fact.

‐ In 2011, Democrats in Wisconsin were upset at the reforms proposed by Governor Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans. Gaudy protests took place in the capitol building. And some of the protesters took that act to the homes of Republican legislators, scaring and intimidating their families. In 2013, protesters used this same tactic on Kris Kobach, the secretary of state in Kansas. He said he would defend his family by force, if necessary. Now protesters have gone to the homes of the two party leaders in the Senate: Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. In each case, the protesters were upset at President Trump’s cabinet nominations. (Protesters were damning the Democrat, Schumer, for voting for some of them.) This is mobocracy, not democracy. Politicians’ homes should be out of bounds. As Kobach said four years ago, there are public offices and other public spaces. Protesters can take their act there, and leave it there.

The Road Back from France?

Back in 2007, I wrote an article for Bloomberg that argued that U.S. growth was likely to slow because our economic policy was on the “road to France.” The U.S. had posted a significantly better track record than most of Europe through 2006, and the academic consensus was that a major driver of our higher growth was our smaller government. But the expiration of the Bush tax cuts created a surge in revenue that would give the Democrats who controlled Congress at the time an excuse to spend more money. That, plus the impending upswing in entitlement spending, meant that the small-government U.S. was going to look like big-government Europe. How could growth fail to look more European?

Looking back on that piece a decade later, we see that many unexpected things occurred. A financial crisis knocked the stuffing out of the economy, and President Obama’s prferred approach to digging out, a Keynesian stimulus, accelerated the upswing in government spending. Regulations surged much more than one might have expected in 2007, as did entitlements, because of the Affordable Care Act. It is well known that recoveries from financial crises are slow, but as the dust settled it became clear that, after a rocket-powered trip down the road to France, we settled in at a growth rate that just about matched the European one that was so concerning back in 2007.

The nearby graph shows the average annual GDP-growth rates across different periods of time for both the U.S. and the EU. These rates come from the OECD database, which includes past growth figures as well as future projections. The most current projections were published this past November. Since the EU has changed composition over the past 30 years, the 15 countries included in the chart are the EU countries prior to May 1, 2004.

As seen in the graph, the average annual growth rate of the EU was more than three-quarters of a percentage point lower than that of the U.S. between 1985 and 2006. The U.S. average over the past few years of the Obama administration was even a bit lower than that. European growth (not shown) dropped even more. But, as mentioned in this space in December, the OECD expects major policy reforms in the U.S. that, when fully in effect, will take growth almost back to the old normal.

The OECD staff, it seems, buys into an analysis that is consistent with that Bloomberg piece from a decade ago. The U.S. copied the policies of Europe and began to grow like Europe. If policies head in the other direction, then growth will too.

There is a respectable opposing view, that the financial crisis created a collapse in global demand from which we still have not recovered. According to that view, we were doomed to slow growth no matter what. Perhaps — but if it is hope you are looking for, be grateful that we are on the road back.

‐ In search of an inspiring quote from Lincoln to include in its tweet honoring the 16th president on his birthday, the Republican National Committee hit on this one: “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” The trouble was that Lincoln did not, in fact, utter this banal bit of uplift. It comes from an advertisement for a 1947 self-help book by Edward J. Stieglitz. Alerted to its mistake, the RNC quickly deleted the tweet, but not before it had earned a round of well-deserved mockery. If GOP staffers want to honor Lincoln’s legacy, they might start by reading him. They’ll find he doesn’t sound much like Oprah.

‐ The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, introduced by Republican senators Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.), is a carefully crafted, albeit limited, bill that would change America’s immigration system to better serve the American economy. It would restrict family-based chain migration — a key source of the large-scale immigration of low-skilled and unskilled workers that is pulling down wages in low-skill occupations — to the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. (It makes an exception for elderly parents in need of caretaking, who would receive a temporary visa on the condition that their children demonstrate that they will provide completely for their parents’ health-care needs.) It would end the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which makes 50,000 visas available annually to entrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. That program serves no clear economic or humanitarian aims and promotes diversity only questionably. And it would cap the number of green cards available for refugees at 50,000 per year, in line with the average of the Bush and Obama eras. The bill is not a fix-all, but its proposals ought to be key elements of any conservative immigration agenda. The senators’ Republican colleagues should follow their lead on this issue.

‐ In 1954, a conservative nonprofit group campaigned against Lyndon Johnson, then a senator, in the Democratic primary. The result was what is called the “Johnson amendment”: a law forbidding tax-exempt organizations, including churches, to support or oppose political candidates, whether through contributions or statements. It has never been consistently enforced, and religious-conservative groups have long sought its abolition. President Trump agrees. So do we: Churches and nonprofits ought to be able to make endorsements in the course of their usual activities without threatening their tax status. (If any of them spent most of their time and money on politics, it would be a different story.) Pastors, priests, imams, and rabbis have many good reasons to refrain from overt political involvement, but fear of the legal consequences should not be among them.

‐ A new video from the pro-life group Live Action has revealed that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has long imposed abortion quotas on its affiliates, rewarding clinics that meet their target numbers with pizza parties and extra paid time off. In an interview with Live Action, a former clinic manager and a former Planned Parenthood nurse explain that upper management vigorously enforced these quotas for financial gain, incentivizing workers to manipulate vulnerable women into choosing abortion. “I felt like I was more of a salesman sometimes, to sell abortions,” said former nurse Marianne Anderson in the interview. But we are told there’s nothing to see here but “women’s health.”

‐ It is a rare day on which the ACLU, the NRA, and a host of America’s mental-health and disability advocates agree upon a cause, but that day came in January. The aim of this motley crew was a noble one: to reverse an Obama-era rule that labeled Americans on disability who are unable to manage their finances as too dangerous to own a gun. The target of the coalition was the Republican Congress, which, under the Congressional Review Act, has the power to identify bad rules and to remove them from the books. The reasons given were varied — some noted that the medical reasoning was shamefully bad; others that the rule should have been explicitly authorized by Congress; yet more that there were no due-process protections — but the argument was clear and unanimous: This wasn’t a partisan matter, and its resolution was of the utmost urgency. Happily, the House agreed, passing the reversal without fuss and sending it on to the Senate. We wish it a speedy journey to the president’s desk.

‐ Remember the dramatic announcement, not long before the 2015 Paris climate conference, that the purported 20-year hiatus in global warming had been based on a miscalculation, and in fact the world’s temperature was rising fast? Now John Bates, a climatologist who just retired from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has cast doubt on those results. According to Bates, the scientists behind the revision used incomplete, unverified data; processed it with unfinished, buggy software; ignored contrary evidence; and relied on unsound assumptions. (For example, ocean-temperature readings taken from ships are higher than those taken from buoys, since ships generate heat. The researchers increased the buoy readings to make them comparable to the ship readings, even though decreasing the ship readings to match the buoys would have given a more accurate result.) In any event, says Bates, the researchers did not back up their research with proper records, so it can’t be duplicated. To be sure, scientists often disagree, and nobody is accusing the researchers of anything worse than using debatable methodology. But Bates’s caveats are a reminder that the projections and averages on which climatology — and, more to the point, climate policy — depends are inherently approximate. We should avoid making expensive, large-scale changes on the basis of anything but the most precise data.

‐ At the risk of having you suspect we’re engaged in a cheap and transparent ploy to sell magazines with titillating headlines, a few words about the fiduciary rule, which the Trump administration is reviewing with an eye to its reform or repeal. Formulated by the Department of Labor under the Obama administration, and originally scheduled to take effect this April, the rule would oblige certain salesmen of financial products to act in a “fiduciary” capacity, meaning they would be legally bound to act in their clients’ best interest irrespective of their own interest in fees, commissions, or other sources of income. Registered investment advisers have long been required to act as fiduciaries, but the DOL rule would also apply that to “registered representatives,” who are essentially salesmen for brokerages rather than investment advisers. The effect of the rule would be to give federal regulators a whip hand over fees and commissions charged to those who are investing for retirement. The problems with the rule are several: For one thing, there will be implicit conflicts as long as there are fees and commissions, and the fiduciary rule does not eliminate those. For another thing, what is good financial advice depends heavily on what happens in the market. What seemed like excellent advice for someone retiring in June 2007 might have worked out poorly after the housing crash, whereas what might have looked like self-interested advice (buy an annuity and pay me a large commission!) might have turned out better. This is a case in which disclosure — about who is getting paid what by whom — is a better strategy than prohibition.

‐ Overshadowed by liberal behemoths Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, Rhode Island seems determined to show that it can be just as loony-left as its bigger neighbors: City Journal calls Little Rhody “the bluest state”; in last year’s primary, it gave Bernie Sanders 55 percent; the entire state has declared itself a sanctuary for illegal aliens; and its idea of a Republican was Lincoln Chafee. Now a Rhode Island legislator has introduced a bill regarding judicial vacancies, under which any departing trial judge who is a “person of color” must be replaced by another “person of color.” Here, as so often happens, life imitates television; yet even if this were not a silly idea for all the obvious reasons, it clearly violates the U.S. Constitution as well as that of Rhode Island.

‐ Vladimir Kara-Murza is a democracy activist in Russia. He worked closely with Boris Nemtsov, the democratic politician. Nemtsov was murdered within sight of the Kremlin in February 2015. Three months later, Kara-Murza fell into a coma, the victim of poisoning. He recovered. In early February, he was again in a coma — again the victim of poisoning. The latest news is that he has regained consciousness. A long time ago, he sent his family out of Russia, for safekeeping. But he himself remained. He is an extraordinarily brave man. In other news — and related news — Alexei Navalny has been effectively disqualified from running for president in 2018. He is one of Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics. Therefore, the Kremlin has bedeviled him with phony charges. Putin controls the media, business, and much else. We are told that he is terribly popular in Russia. Why, then, should he fear such a man as Navalny? Dictators and strongmen are not as secure as they sometimes appear.

‐ The Swedish government proclaims with a swagger that it is “feminist.” Equality of men and women is a stated objective of Swedish foreign policy. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven led a delegation to Tehran 15 strong, eleven of them women. A law in Iran obliges women to wear the hijab or headscarf, and the visiting Swedish eleven duly wore it “almost all of the time.” At a reception with President Hassan Rouhani, they might just as well have been Iranian. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, tweeted his satisfaction. Under their hijabs and side by side at a signing session, Ann Linde, a Swedish cabinet minister, and her Iranian counterpart looked indistinguishable. When she was criticized for complying with compulsory discrimination, Linde’s apologia was “One can hardly come here and break the laws.” Diplomats and scholars have long been saying that reform in Muslim societies will come from women demanding their rights. They just won’t be Swedes, evidently.

‐ “You should see that any question about slavery is very complicated,” says Jonathan A. C. Brown, a professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown, sliding from scholarly nuance to sophistry in the service of Muslim apologetics. In a paper published online and delivered at a small gathering in early February, Brown, a Muslim convert, discussed slavery in Islam, comparing it to serfdom in Christian Europe and to the bond that ties an employee to his employer. Serfdom? Good riddance. And, no, an employee is not like a slave. He’s a free agent: He doesn’t have to pay his boss for the right to quit. Historians share no single, precise definition of slavery, Brown argues: “Ownership, freedom and exploitation come in shades of gray.” But in medieval Islamic societies they often came in some of the same stark colors that, looking back, Americans recognize in “the peculiar institution” that our forefathers died to abolish. Clear-eyed acknowledgment of past sins increases one’s honor. The attempt to excuse them diminishes it. In whitewashing the historical record, Professor Brown only does a disservice to his faith.

‐ Milo Yiannopoulos was prevented from delivering a talk at the University of California at Berkeley when rioters began attacking police and bystanders, destroying property (a half-million dollars’ worth, according to the local business association) and finally firebombing a campus building. Yiannopoulos is a right-wing performance artist who thrives on this sort of thing; indeed, we wonder whether he even bothers writing speeches anymore or simply allows rioters to relieve him of the necessity. He is a distasteful character, but the villains in this story are those who engaged in political violence — what happened at Berkeley is plain terrorism — and the Berkeley authorities who indulged it. The black-bloc rioters know that they are not going to face any sanction at Berkeley: One of them, an undergraduate by the name of Neil Lawrence, even went so far as to give an interview to Newsweek describing the thrill of violence. The student newspaper had published his threats before the event. The so-called peaceful protesters had as their explicit aim suppressing Yiannopoulos’s speech — at the home of the “Free Speech Movement.” Berkeley police should prosecute the rioters, and the university should expel those engaged in violence and vandalism. If they do not, President Trump should follow through on his threat to seek to restrict federal funds to the institution.

‐ Yale University announced that it would un-name one of its residential colleges for John C. Calhoun (class of 1804). The college’s new eponym will be Grace Murray Hopper (Ph.D., 1934), who helped develop the UNIVAC computer and the early computer language COBOL. Calhoun (1782–1850), congressman, senator, secretary of state, and vice president, was a smart, principled, public-spirited man who did immeasurable damage, maintaining that slavery was a positive good and devising constitutional arguments for bolstering the rights of slave states. No doubt the tide of history and the pull of self-interest would have led the South to secede if Calhoun had never lived, but he gave it a good conscience. The best argument for Yale’s keeping his name was memory: We cannot fix the past by closing our eyes. The stronger argument, for removing it, is that we should honor mankind’s benefactors, not those who have led it astray.

‐ Some residents of Henryetta, Okla., had a nice idea: a Valentine’s Day dance for adult sweethearts. Then the city attorney told the organizers about an obscure municipal ordinance that bans dancing within 500 feet of a church. Hardly anyone in town had heard of it. One might think that, in a state whose very nickname celebrates lawbreaking, the occasional forbidden shindig would be indulged. But a rule’s a rule, so the event had to be canceled. The law in question, it turns out, was passed in 1979, not because any preachers considered dancing the road to perdition, but to preserve public order: The previous fall, a miscreant had set up a dance floor on Main Street and (according to a contemporary newspaper account) invited Henryettans to get their groove on to “Disco Duck.” That by itself might not get you sent to hell, but it should at least put you on the watch list. Happily, with the disco threat at last starting to subside, Henryetta is set to consider repealing the ordinance at a February 22 city-council meeting.

‐ It’s the funniest thing she has done in years. Comedienne Sarah Silverman indignantly tweeted a photograph of the pavement near her hotel, which bore a spray-painted marking that resembled the x of algebra textbooks. It’s a common symbol, used to show the location of underground utility lines, but the sight of it made Silverman frantic. Math anxiety? No, just leftist paranoia: She suggested that the symbol was a swastika, though it was at best perhaps a swastika’s second cousin. Critics corrected her in the usual robust Twitter fashion, and Miss Silverman responded as graciously as you’d expect, calling her interlocutors “condescending c***s” and explaining that lately she’s been getting lots of Nazi messages and it’s all Trump’s fault. We have found today’s equivalent of the 1950s John Birchers who saw “Reds under the bed.”

‐ It was the best of games, it was the worst of games, it was the height of pluck, it was the abyss of choke. The New England Patriots scored 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to tie the game and send it to overtime. On second and goal, Tom Brady tossed the ball to running back James White for the first walk-off touchdown in 51 years of Super Bowl history. Final score: Patriots 34, Falcons 28. Glory in Boston, gloom over Atlanta.

‐ When John McCain ran for president in 2008, some thought him too old. His mother has just turned 105. Roberta McCain was born when William Howard Taft was president. Woodrow Wilson was gearing up to challenge him. A few days after she was born, Arizona became a state. Her son now represents that state in the Senate. She has seen a lot and weathered a lot — personally, nationally, and globally. She is a beautiful lady. And we wish her many happy returns.


Judicial Overreach

The Ninth Circuit’s decision against President Trump’s immigration order is worse than wrong. It is dangerous.

In January, Donald Trump issued an executive order temporarily blocking entry by refugees and aliens from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan — chosen not for reasons of bigotry but because they have governments that are either non-functional or implacably hostile to the U.S., rendering any efforts to screen their citizens uniquely difficult, as was made clear in a statute enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama. This was insufficient for Seattle-area federal judge James Robart, who issued a temporary restraining order against the travel ban, and now the Ninth Circuit has upheld his usurpation of the power to make American national-security policy.

According to the three-judge panel, perhaps even illegal aliens have due-process rights against government actions to protect Americans from foreign threats. Therefore, the president and Congress (i.e., the branches of government constitutionally responsible for national security) may not take such actions unless and until the judiciary (the branch with no such responsibility) has approved those actions.

That aliens are not citizens and have no constitutional right to come to the United States is apparently superseded by their newfangled “right” to be welcomed into the United States’ courts. And if they are not here already, even if they remain in the far reaches of the globe, this alien “right” may be asserted by state governments, whose interest in having foreign students and scholars at their public universities outweighs the public’s interest in excluding aliens who may be terrorists, law-breakers, public charges, or individuals hostile to our Constitution and culture.

The unanimous ruling is the type of lunacy with which the Ninth Circuit has become synonymous. It is also the inevitable result of an earlier judicial power grab (2008’s Boumediene v. Bush) in the realm of national security, in which the Supreme Court radically altered the doctrine of separation of powers, effectively arrogating to itself the plenary power of the political branches to conduct foreign relations, repel foreign invasions, and prescribe the conditions under which aliens may be admitted to and remain in the United States. Writing for the liberal majority in Boumediene, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that, henceforth, the courts would have the last word on these subjects.

The political branches’ constitutional power, and the heightened deference owed by courts to their national-security judgments, is precisely at stake in the matter of President Trump’s executive order. In the interest of preserving both, it may be best at this point for the White House to consider a tactical retreat. A new, more narrowly tailored order, implemented with the thoughtfulness that was manifestly lacking in January, would be easier to defend in public and in court.

Even in a post-Boumediene world, the high court might recognize the wisdom of judicial self-restraint. Because if not, we’re all living in the Ninth Circuit now.

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

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


Politics & Policy


The Importance of NATO To the paragraph about President Trump’s getting NATO mostly wrong (the Week, February 6), I would add the following: Yes, Article 5 has been invoked by NATO ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Honestly, we do kind of wonder whether he told Flynn, “You’re fired!” ‐ National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was ousted. He had told Vice President Mike Pence that he hadn’t ...
Politics & Policy


IMAGE Between the sunset and the window shade, The maple leaves were quaking in the wind. I saw the shaken shadows that they made As if in fear — as if they were afraid That ...

Most Popular


A Data Double Take: Police Shootings

In a recent article, social scientist Patrick Ball revisited his and Kristian Lum’s 2015 study, which made a compelling argument for the underreporting of lethal police shootings by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Lum and Ball’s study may be old, but it bears revisiting amid debates over the American ... Read More

A Data Double Take: Police Shootings

In a recent article, social scientist Patrick Ball revisited his and Kristian Lum’s 2015 study, which made a compelling argument for the underreporting of lethal police shootings by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Lum and Ball’s study may be old, but it bears revisiting amid debates over the American ... Read More

How Many Jeffrey Epsteins Are There?

Goodman Brown was a young, pious man, from a family of “honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs,” when he first discovered that the society around him was full of evil hiding in plain sight. Brown, the main character of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1835 short story “Young Goodman Brown,” ... Read More

How Many Jeffrey Epsteins Are There?

Goodman Brown was a young, pious man, from a family of “honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs,” when he first discovered that the society around him was full of evil hiding in plain sight. Brown, the main character of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1835 short story “Young Goodman Brown,” ... Read More

How Long Will Margaret Sanger Last?

Much of the radical Left is at present consumed by a feverish desire to erase from U.S. history anyone whom they’ve deemed in some way insufficiently loyal to the progressive creed of 2020. The statue-toppling brigades have exercised little discretion in determining which of our leaders are no longer fit for ... Read More

How Long Will Margaret Sanger Last?

Much of the radical Left is at present consumed by a feverish desire to erase from U.S. history anyone whom they’ve deemed in some way insufficiently loyal to the progressive creed of 2020. The statue-toppling brigades have exercised little discretion in determining which of our leaders are no longer fit for ... Read More