Magazine | April 17, 2017, Issue

The Week

‐ Carlos the Jackal, the notorious Marxist terrorist, has just received his third life sentence in France. If he is getting bored with those, the United States does offer an exciting alternative.

‐ The chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, FBI director James Comey, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, and House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes are all in agreement: Donald Trump’s accusation that his predecessor ordered the “wiretapping” of Trump Tower in the final weeks of the presidential campaign was baseless. Nunes provided a twist in this convoluted saga, though, when he informed reporters that there is reason to believe that the intelligence community “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition”; that some of that information was “widely disseminated” inside the executive branch even though it had no foreign-intelligence value; and that certain individuals’ identities were revealed (“unmasked”), potentially in violation of intelligence protocols. If Nunes’s information is accurate, it is deeply troubling. Unfortunately, its importance has been overshadowed by Nunes’s foolish decision to disclose his news to the White House before he disclosed it to his own committee, and by his evasiveness about where he is getting his information. We have repeatedly encouraged the congressional intelligence committees to conduct a thorough and, to the extent possible, transparent investigation of the various allegations tying the Trump campaign to Russia, and into the leaks that have fueled those allegations. If those committees are not up to the task, Congress ought to form a select committee. The president’s reckless accusation may have been discredited, but important questions clearly remain, and there’s no excuse for not getting to the bottom of them.

‐ The Associated Press reports that, a decade before becoming the short-lived manager of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Paul Manafort was paid $10 million for lobbying work on behalf of aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Vladimir Putin. In a 2005 proposal, Manafort suggested that his work could “greatly benefit the Putin Government” and “re-focus, both internally and externally, [its] policies.” There is no indication that Manafort did anything illegal, and his work on behalf of shady regimes has long been known on K Street. But with Congress pursuing investigations related to potential Russian influence in last year’s presidential election, these latest revelations have raised eyebrows. The White House, clearly uncomfortable with the news, has tried to distance itself from Manafort; spokesman Sean Spicer risibly claimed that Manafort was a “volunteer” who played a “limited role [in the campaign] for a very limited amount of time.” Few people who have worked with him would suggest that Paul Manafort is the “volunteering” type, so some hard questions are clearly in order.

‐ The White House’s proposed budget has the usual suspects enraged. The president would, among other things, end funding of liberal favorites such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and impose deep cuts on the Environmental Protection Agency. Unable to accuse the president of wanting to kill Big Bird, whose nest is currently being feathered by HBO, left-wing pundits pounced on news that the president’s budget would also end community-development block grants, which are sometimes used to supplement other federal funds to the charity Meals on Wheels, and accused him of wanting to kill the elderly. (In fact, much of the organization’s funding comes from private donations, and the budget does not cut the main source of federal funding to the program: the Older Americans Act.) Theatrical outrage surrounding discretionary-spending cuts has become a ritual of American public life not because these programs depend on federal spending or because there is much money at stake (the NEA’s budget is a microscopic $148 million), but because the real sources of our fiscal discontent — the entitlements and interest on the debt that together constitute 70 percent of the federal budget — are considered sacrosanct. Until the parties address that problem, we’re doomed to furious fights over pocket change.

‐ Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced that to be eligible for Department of Justice grant money, local jurisdictions will have to certify that they are in compliance with federal immigration law. The announcement reiterates an element of President Trump’s executive order aimed at “enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States,” signed on January 25. The new administration is right to use its powers to push back on sanctuary cities. The more than 300 sanctuary jurisdictions across the country release thousands of illegal immigrants subject to deportation back onto the streets every year, at a risk to public safety; but, more to the point, it is impossible to have a truly effective regime of interior enforcement if localities aren’t willing to cooperate with the federal government even when it comes to illegal immigrants who have been arrested for committing crimes. The Justice Department has not issued a blanket prohibition on all policies associated with sanctuary cities. But localities that specifically forbid their officials to provide information to federal immigration authorities are deliberately making one of the federal government’s basic jobs harder. It is not too much for the federal government to refuse to subsidize this behavior.

‐ The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan already was on the rocks — with half the nation’s attorneys general suing to stop it, enforcement had been suspended by the Supreme Court until the case could be heard. President Trump has put it out of our misery, and it is well done. The Clean Power Plan was an outgrowth of misguided efforts to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as air pollution under the Clean Air Act in a bid to curb climate change. Even those who prefer a more aggressive approach to climate change agree that the Clean Air Act is the wrong legislative tool for the job (it is designed for local rather than global issues), and the EPA has long argued that the law does not give it the tools to execute a wide-ranging climate-change agenda. If the Democrats want a climate-change law, then let them enact one in Congress — or at least try. As someone once said, “Elections have consequences.”

‐ Michael Scherer of Time magazine interviewed President Trump about the many claims he has made without a shred of evidence to support them. Trump stood by all of them. That Senator Ted Cruz’s father had a hand in the assassination of President Kennedy? Trump said he was just repeating “a newspaper” (the National Enquirer, to be precise). Three million illegal votes in the last election? I’ll be “proven right,” he says, citing no reason to believe him. His claims that President Obama had him wiretapped? He had put “wiretapped” in quotes, he said, not meaning to be taken literally. (He had not used quotation marks in all his accusations, and in any case he had no basis for attributing personal responsibility to Obama for whatever it is he meant to say had been done.) When Scherer noted that the editors of the Wall Street Journal had criticized Trump for sticking with this baseless accusation, Trump called the criticism part of the “fake media” but offered no rebuttal. Trump finished the interview by telling Scherer, “I can’t be doing too badly because I’m president, and you’re not.” That wasn’t a real defense of a stubborn indifference to truth. But it was at least factually accurate.

‐ It’s becoming increasingly clear that multiple federal courts are fundamentally hostile to gun rights. In March, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals let stand a ruling that held that there was no right to sue a police officer who killed an innocent man in his own home, even though the officer was at the wrong house, did not have a warrant, pounded on the door late at night, failed to identify himself as an officer, failed to turn on his car’s emergency lights, and misunderstood a neighbor’s directions pointing him to a different door entirely. Why did the court hold that the police officer was immune? Because the homeowner answered the door holding a gun, which he unquestionably had the constitutional right to do. The Eleventh Circuit is now the second federal court of appeals (the Fourth Circuit was the first) that has held that lawful gun ownership can actually diminish your other constitutional rights, such as your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Yet exercising one constitutional right should not limit the exercise of other constitutional rights. It’s time for the Supreme Court to step in.

‐ The Mid-Atlantic Liberty Festival was to be one of those familiar libertarian gatherings: Austin Petersen and various Libertarian-party candidates were speaking, with former vice-presidential candidate Will Coley debating a former U.S. Senate candidate from Florida called Augustus Sol Invictus, who on Election Day was not, in fact, invictus. (He lost the primary.) Mr. Invictus is the kind of fruitcake one runs into on the fringes of politics: His stated aim is to start a civil war, he once advocated a eugenic approach to social issues but has repented, and he denies that the pagan goat sacrifice he once performed after returning from a Thelemite pilgrimage was “sadistic.” He is supported by some white supremacists, though he himself disavows that view. On an ordinary day, this would be no more than a reminder of why libertarians find it hard to get dates, but the so-called Antifa — the leftist terrorists who justify their violence by insisting that they are battling something like the Third Reich — threatened to bomb the event, which was canceled after the Harrisburg Hilton denied the organizers use of its conference rooms. There is a measure of juvenile play-acting here, but shutting down free speech, even dopey free speech, with terroristic threats is a troubling business. It is also the Left’s current operating model, from the Berkeley campus to the Harrisburg Hilton.

‐ U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley demanded that the U.N. Secretariat withdraw a report, issued by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), accusing Israel of being “guilty of the crime of apartheid.” After Haley asserted her authority, U.N. secretary general António Guterres agreed to withdraw the report; his decision resulted in the resignation of Rima Khalaf, the executive secretary of the ESCWA. If Haley keeps this up, the population of Turtle Bay could plummet.

‐ It was the non-handshake heard round the world. The president of the United States and the chancellor of Germany sat in the Oval Office, as photographers snapped pictures. The photogs started to ask, loudly and repeatedly, for a handshake. Trump did not respond, staring straight ahead. Merkel turned to him and said, “Do you want to have a handshake?” The president continued to stare straight ahead, not responding. Merkel sort of shrugged. Did the president snub her? Or had he not heard? There is a debate about that. Later, he tweeted that “Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!” We agree that our European allies should spend more on their own defense, although they do not owe us any money. Perhaps Merkel can work on it, Trump can offer our allies more respect, and the two can shake on it.

‐ On March 22, Khalid Masood drove an SUV at more than 70 mph across Westminster Bridge on the sidewalk, crashed it past Big Ben, and stabbed a policeman to death, before being shot. Masood’s vehicular rampage killed four, including Kurt Cochran, an American tourist, and injured 50. “There is a possibility we will never understand why he did this,” said one London top cop. Time for some sleuthing, sir. Masood, born Adrian Elms, converted to Islam in prison and lived for several years in Saudi Arabia. Neighbors reported that he was a fan of drugs and hookers, but no doubt he expected to be purged of such sins in his final act of devotion. His deed was embraced by ISIS. It was symbolically fitting that an acolyte of DIY theocracy should attack the Mother of Parliaments. When will Parliament’s servants understand?

‐ The likelihood that Geert Wilders would come out the winner in the Dutch general election had the great and the good throughout Europe in a complete panic. The man has been making the life of Mark Rutte, the respectable but dull Dutch prime minister, absolute hell. Neither respectable nor dull, Wilders says loud and clear what he thinks, namely that Islam is a totalitarian ideology, the Koran is the equivalent of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, the borders ought to be closed and there should be fewer Muslims in the country, and the Turks can forget about ever joining the European Union. Voters evidently did not mind Islamization as much as he did. In a parliament of 150 seats, Rutte’s party obtained 33 (eight fewer than in the previous parliament) and Wilders’s party 20 (fewer than anticipated). The two parties refuse all ideas of mutual coalition, which gives Wilders the chance to throw down the gauntlet again: “Rutte is far from rid of me.” The great and the good have had more of a narrow squeak than a significant victory.

‐ The battle to retake Mosul has entered a new and deadlier phase. American forces are closer to the front, ISIS is making its last stand, and the fighting is taking place in the streets of one of Iraq’s largest cities. In such circumstances, civilian casualties are inevitable, and in March came the sad news that a single American air strike may have inadvertently killed as many as 200 Iraqi civilians. While reports vary, it appears that many of the civilians had taken shelter in a basement of a building that ISIS forces were using as cover for attacks on coalition forces. By using human shields, fighting from civilian positions, and concealing themselves within the civilian population, ISIS is in clear violation of the laws of war. Iraqi and American forces have the legal right and strategic responsibility to expel ISIS from Iraq, and human shields do not grant ISIS immunity from the laws of armed conflict. When those human shields tragically die, ISIS is to blame.

‐ Polls in France are consistently predicting that Marine Le Pen and the National Front will win the first round in the forthcoming presidential election but lose the second and decisive round to Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old who broke away from the ruling party to stand as an independent. In the right corner, then, a classic nationalist, in the left corner a classic progressive. Invited to Moscow by Russian lawmakers, Le Pen enjoyed a moment of mutual admiration with Vladimir Putin, seen everywhere as the nationalist figurehead of the moment. With a straight face Putin said, “We do not want to influence events in any way,” though a Russian bank happens to have loaned 9 million euros to the National Front. If elected, Le Pen holds out the prospect of lifting sanctions on Russia, cooperating against terrorism, and bidding farewell to NATO and the European Union. “A new world has emerged in these past years,” she says, and it appears to be one very much to the FSB’s liking.

‐ Alexei Navalny is in the heroic line of Russian dissidents who protest against injustice, no matter what the cost to them. United Russia is the party of Vladimir Putin, and Navalny calls it “the party of crooks and thieves.” He has published a report that turns the corruption of Putin and his crony Dmitry Medvedev into a weapon against them. In March he organized a protest involving an estimated 60,000 demonstrators, with processions and gatherings planned for no fewer than 99 Russian cities from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. “It is all a provocation and a lie,” according to an official spokesman. Moving in without restraint, the riot police arrested an unknown number, about a thousand in Moscow alone. First manhandled, then detained and brought to court, Navalny was fined and sentenced to 15 days in prison. He commented on the court, “Even the slightest semblance of justice is totally absent here.” The purpose of the presidential elections due in 2018 is to extend the 17 years Putin and Medvedev have already been in power, but Navalny hopes to run against them. The last dissident with that objective was Boris Nemtsov, shot dead in 2015 walking home at night past the Kremlin.

‐ In a television interview, John McCain said that “China is the only one that can control Kim Jong-un, this crazy, fat kid that’s running North Korea.” Someday, Senator McCain’s bluntness ought to be in the Smithsonian.

‐ Charles Murray is the author of 13 books, one of which, The Bell Curve, provoked an authentic national controversy, maybe the last time a high-minded book has done so in the English-speaking world. The Bell Curve, which deals with the role of intelligence in society and questions of its heritability, produced an effect that will be immediately familiar to anyone who has dealt with genuinely complex issues: The strength of people’s opinions about the subject is inversely proportional to their knowledge of it. Murray is to this day hounded by protests, most recently having been chased — literally chased — off the campus of Middlebury College, much to the shame of that institution and its students. We strongly doubt that the protesters have read The Bell Curve, much less the well-informed criticisms of it and the responses to those criticisms, which could fill — and have filled — volumes. Mainly what they have read is the Southern Poverty Law Center’s webpage about Murray, in which it libels him as a racist, a white nationalist, and more. If Murray were a student at Middlebury, he might have responded by blocking the entrance to the SPLC’s offices. If he were a different sort of man, he might make a good legal case against the SPLC. But he is an intellectual and has responded like one: He copy-edited the SPLC’s entry on him to hilarious effect, with the result being published on the American Enterprise Institute’s website. It is worth taking the time to read it — and The Bell Curve, too, if you haven’t.

‐ For purportedly flirting with a white woman, Emmett Till, age 14, was killed in Mississippi in 1955. He was black. His murderers were white. They mutilated his body, which was found in the Tallahatchie River days later. His mother arranged for an open-casket funeral as a statement against the wrong not just to him but to all who lived under Jim Crow. Tens of thousands showed up to pay their respects. Last year, working from an iconic photo of Till’s funeral, Dana Schutz, a Brooklyn artist, painted Open Casket, which is on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City through June 11. Schutz is white. Critics on the left accuse her of “cultural appropriation” and demand that the museum remove the work from view. No, say curators there, to their credit: It’s staying. Schutz explains that she was inspired by empathy for Till’s mother. Those who rail that she has no right to express that emotion because of her race are lashed to a belief in identity politics. Its logic is akin to that of the white supremacism they think they’re decrying.

‐ New York has a Havana Film Festival, which is devoted to Latin American cinema. The festival includes a competition, in which a film by Carlos Lechuga was entered. The Cuban government does not like this film. Called “Santa y Andrés,” it has to do with the treatment of homosexuals under the Castros. In a move that distressed human-rights activists, and true lovers of movies, the Havana Film Festival yanked Santa y Andrés from the competition. For almost 60 years, many in the free world have chosen to comfort the Castro regime rather than give a fair hearing to its victims.

‐ In a trailer for a forthcoming feature film about Wonder Woman, the DC Comics character, Israeli actress Gal Gadot is shown as the titular character, raising a car above her head and tossing it down a crowded street. Some Internet commentators complained that the shot was unrealistic: Gadot’s armpits, visible for a moment, appeared implausibly free of any vestige of hair. After all, they asked, would Wonder Woman, who was supposed to have been raised as an Amazonian warrior princess, really shave her pits? Worse, it was a missed opportunity for a feminist statement. “With Wonder Woman standing in as an example of female strength,” wrote one blogger, “it would have been exciting to see her with a little hair under her arms.” Luckily the vital question of whether Wonder Woman would, or would not, have armpit hair were she a true feminist was settled by the response of a plurality of respondents to a New York Times/Women in the World online poll: “Who cares? She’s not real.”

‐ What is reality? Good question. Nowadays the answer seems to be that reality is what is created by a reality show. But if a reality cast spends a year building a new society in the forest and no one watches it on television, did the society really exist? That was the question confronting participants in Eden, a British reality series, when they recently emerged from the Scottish island they had inhabited for a year, growing their own food and endlessly squabbling and swatting gnats and trying to work out a set of laws, all in the belief that their doings were being broadcast — only to be told that the show had been canceled last August, after viewers unexpectedly tired of watching people shiver on windswept moors. The only thing missing was a cameo by Rick Astley. Even though a special is being prepared with highlights of the participants’ unbroadcast months, their disappointment at not being watched is justified. As our reality-show president well knows, Esse est percipi is as true today as it was three centuries ago.

‐ Loraine Maurer, 94, has been working behind the counter at a McDonald’s near her home in Evansville, Ind., for 44 years. She first took the job in 1973 after her husband retired and she was in search of something to do. Currently, she works the breakfast shift on Fridays and Saturdays, beginning at 5 a.m. At a party in March honoring her for her years of service, she told local media that she’s thought about retiring recently (several of her children have done so) but would miss it too much. She regards her coworkers and regular customers as friends: “That’s why I work, because I love them all.” Here’s to a job well done.

‐ David Rockefeller was the last surviving grandchild of John D. He spent his life in banking and philanthropy. He did many good works for New York City in particular. He was also something relatively rare, for an inheritor of wealth: a man who understood and defended capitalism. “American capitalism has brought more benefits to more people than any other system in any part of the world at any time in history,” he said. Yes. He earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago. Elsewhere, he studied with Schumpeter and Hayek. David Rockefeller had many privileges — but that was certainly one. He has died at 101. R.I.P.

‐ Tom Wolfe compared Jimmy Breslin, his partner in the New Journalism, to Charles Dickens. Breslin’s vices were Dickens’s: cheap outrage, cheap sentiment. Breslin’s virtues were the oldest in journalism: getting out and talking to people. His knowledge of New York City was encyclopedic; he met hundreds — thousands? — of New Yorkers, of every stripe, and let them speak in his columns. When the ’70s serial killer David Berkowitz, a.k.a. the Son of Sam, decided to write a letter to a journalist, it was naturally Breslin to whom he wrote. Breslin’s most famous column was about JFK’s funeral. He interviewed the gravedigger at Arlington Cemetery. It was obvious (except that no one else had thought of it), corny as a WPA mural, and indelible. Dead at 86. R.I.P.

‐ In 1963, a newspaper strike shut down New York City’s daily newspapers, thus silencing the New York Times Book Review. It was a crisis for the authorial class; who (that counted) would review their books? To plug the gap, Robert Silvers, a veteran of The Paris Review and Harper’s, and Barbara Epstein launched the New York Review of Books. With feline caricatures by David Levine, it was an instant hit. Its politics were often shameful: On one notorious Sixties cover it published a diagram showing how to make a Molotov cocktail. It was of course fiercely critical of the Vietnam War, and of Ronald Reagan. And yet, it covered Eastern European dissidents, and published the work of Robert Conquest. So although the Review was for Communism on the way up, it criticized it on the way down. Politics apart, every issue had at least one piece on some arcane subject that was surprising and fascinating. Epstein died at 2006, and Silvers, age 87, has now followed. R.I.P.

‐ The recipient of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature, Derek Walcott was a native of the island of Saint Lucia, and his was a self-conscious poetry of the sea. “The sea is always present. It’s always visible,” he told The Economist once. “All the roads lead to it. I consider the sound of the sea to be part of my body. And if you say in patois, ‘The boats are coming back,’ the beat of that line, its metrical space, has to do with the sound and rhythm of the sea itself.” He gloried in tropical sunshine, but he was also acutely aware of the sea’s fearsome power. His most ambitious work, the 300-page poem Omeros, recast Homer’s epic poetry in the Caribbean. Here, the sea’s power is as much social as natural; the sea is the medium for the great movements of history that have shaped the region, such as colonialism and the African slave trade. Because of his attention to these issues, Walcott is often considered a “political” poet, and in certain respects he was. But he was more than that. He was, finally, writing about love — for a people and a place. “The fate of poetry,” he wrote, “is to fall in love with the world.” Joseph Brodsky said of Derek Walcott, “He is the man by whom the English language lives.” Dead at 87. R.I.P.

‐ “So let’s a-rock and roll till the break of day,” sings Chuck Berry on “Big Boys,” a song that will appear on Chuck, a posthumous album scheduled for release in June — and also a three-minute ditty that captures the spirit of his best work, with lyrics about love, ambition, and “the school dance.” Rockers like to say it’s better to burn out than to fade away. Berry did both. He burned brightly in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he wrote and recorded a series of classic songs with signature guitar licks and creative lines: “Maybellene,” his first hit; “Roll Over Beethoven,” covered by the Beatles; and “Johnny B. Goode,” the song that just about everyone knows. Then he faded away, remaining active with tours and performances but not new music. Legal trouble dogged Berry for much of his life, but he benefited from a loyal wife, Themetta, who survives him. They married in 1948, before Berry learned to “play a guitar just like a-ringing a bell.” Dead at 90. R.I.P.

HEALTH-CARE REFORM

Repeal, Replace, Reboot

‘Debacle” does not have to be the last word on Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. They can still improve the health-care system, reduce the power of the federal government, and make good on important campaign promises — but only if they start over on health care.

Republicans more or less fell into a losing strategy. They began by thinking they could quickly repeal Obamacare and then replace it at leisure. To their credit, they substantially modified their plan in response to criticism, attempting to do portions of both repeal and replace in one bill. But this new approach was a bad fit for the old schedule. A viable repeal-and-replace plan could not be slapped together as fast as Republicans wanted to move. The bill that resulted had crippling weaknesses. Compounding the problems were Speaker Ryan’s high-handedness and President Trump’s erratic leadership.

The embarrassment of having to pull the bill from the House floor makes it hard to see the opening that remains for Republicans. But the fact is that Republicans reached a fair degree of consensus during this process. Moderate Republicans largely agreed to restructure Medicaid, even if they wanted to let more people have eligibility for the program than their colleagues did. And while the House Freedom Caucus is being excoriated by Trump as well as by allies of Ryan for its inflexibility, most of its members made their peace, whatever their misgivings, with the idea of providing tax credits to help people who otherwise could not buy health insurance. They insisted only that those tax credits be coupled with deregulation to lower premiums.

House Republican leaders insisted that they would like to see more deregulation, too, but feared that the Senate parliamentarian would rule that any bill with it would be subject to a filibuster. According to multiple sources, however, the parliamentarian has said that she was not consulted about several possible deregulatory steps.

Cutting regulations could be key to finishing the unification of the party. The Congressional Budget Office has previously found that cutting down on Obamacare regulations would increase coverage, since it would make it possible for people to buy low-premium coverage if they prefer. While some specific deregulatory measures make moderate Republicans jittery — even a careful relaxation of the rules governing preexisting conditions would induce some queasiness — improving the coverage numbers would allay their main concern about replacing Obamacare. Expanding the tax credit for people making a little bit too much money to qualify for Medicaid could allay it more.

This basic approach would be compatible with a variety of legislative tactics. House Republicans could try to pass an aggressive bill without much regard for whether it can pass the Senate: At least they would have outlined and stood for a set of health-care policies that make sense, that offer something for conservatives and moderates, and that can serve as the basis for future action. Or they could work with the parliamentarian and with senators to see whether they could get a bill better than the one that just died past the finish line.

If they went this route, Republican leaders would not spring a new bill on their followers and allies and tell them they have to vote for it posthaste. There would have to be more patient cajoling and less last-minute bullying. We know that many Republicans on the Hill and inside the White House feel that they have already spent enough time on this issue. It is a complaint for which we have no sympathy. They have spent seven years saying they were going to replace Obamacare. They didn’t say they were going to spend a few weeks on a half-baked plan and then give up. Back to work, ladies and gentlemen.

THE LAW

The Democrats v. Gorsuch

Judge Neil Gorsuch is a mainstream conservative judge who has earned the respect of liberals in the legal world, and this fact has caused no end of frustration to Democrats who are resolved to block a vote on his nomination to the Supreme Court. Since they do not control the Senate, they could not do what the Republicans did last year and refuse to consider the nomination of a president they oppose. Hearings took place, and Gorsuch acquitted himself well. Democrats are having to invent spurious justifications for their opposition.

They have highlighted, and distorted, three of the judge’s decisions. Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood, says that Gorsuch “believes that actually bosses should be able to decide whether or not women should be able to get birth-control coverage.” We have no evidence that he believes any such thing. He did not rule that businesses should be able to refrain from providing insurance coverage for forms of birth control to which they object; he ruled that under the religious-freedom law Congress enacted, they may refrain. (He did not rule, either, that the law allows employers to stop their employees from buying whatever coverage they like.)

Senator Al Franken (D., Minn.) says that Gorsuch “sided with” a trucking company that fired an employee who disobeyed a company directive by driving his vehicle to escape freezing conditions. But Gorsuch did not say that the company made the right decision or even that the law should have allowed it to fire the driver; he merely said that the law as it stood did allow it to fire him.

Finally, several senators have excoriated a decision in which Gorsuch ruled against the family of an autistic child who sought help beyond what the local schools were willing to provide. The Democrats claim that a Supreme Court ruling that came down during the hearings repudiated the legal standard Gorsuch applied. They neglect to mention that Gorsuch was applying a precedent of his circuit, as he was bound to do; that the Supreme Court itself mentioned that it had left the law in this area confused, something only it could resolve; and that a liberal Democratic appointee had joined in Gorsuch’s decision.

The theme running through all of these criticisms is that Democrats want Gorsuch to reach results that run counter to the law — a point that Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) put with characteristic artlessness in complaining about Gorsuch’s attention to “legalisms.” These criticisms thus testify to the judge’s fitness for the Supreme Court.

When they are not distorting cases, the Democrats have been unable to mount a coherent case. Thus they say that Judge Gorsuch is simultaneously too deferential to President Trump (because he has failed to denounce the man who nominated him) and not deferential enough (because he has said that executive-branch agencies have too much leeway to apply their own interpretations of the law).

And they have complained, oh have they complained, about the Republicans’ refusal to allow President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, to sit on the Supreme Court. The Constitution gave the Republicans the right not to schedule hearings for Garland. It gives the Democrats the right to complain about it, and even to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination in response. It also gives the Senate Republicans the power to end filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. Gorsuch is a good enough nominee, and the cause of getting judges committed to the rule of law is sufficiently important, that Republicans should exercise that power should it prove necessary.

OBITUARY

Linda Bridges

Linda Bridges came to NR in a way that was characteristic both of her and of WFB. The literary critic Hugh Kenner, polymath and archpriest of high modernism, had written Bill criticizing the lede of one of his columns as too rambling. Bill published Kenner’s letter, and a detailed defense of his handiwork. Into this smackdown waded Miss Bridges, a junior at USC, majoring in English and minoring in French, who forthrightly offered her own opinion. Bill knew a good thing when he saw it and offered her a job when she graduated in 1970.

Linda wrote (about the arts, most passionately) and cleaned up other people’s writing, which she did with unerring care. She loved the sheer mechanics of putting out a magazine: She used a manual typewriter to the last (and acquired one in Cyrillic), and sometimes daydreamed about owning her very own linotype machine. But when the computer age bore down like a glacier, she mastered its techniques too. She served John O’Sullivan as managing editor and WFB as his primary late-life amanuensis, deciphering his handwriting and typing, checking the details of his multitudinous books. Along the way she co-wrote two of her own, with NR vets: The Art of Persuasion: A National Review Rhetoric for Writers, with William F. Rickenbacker, a guide to usage that was, like its co-authors, learned, eccentric, and delightful; and Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement, with John Coyne Jr., informed by her unmatched knowledge (and love) of its subject.

Linda was a devout parishioner of St. Mary the Virgin, that highest of Anglo-Catholic churches (her church would have to be beautiful, and detailed). In her free time she traveled, often with her long-time roommate Alice Manning, from Cortina, Italy, for skiing, to the Orient Express. On her office door and around her desktop she pinned cut-out cartoons she found particularly amusing; there were many. Her smile lit up a room, her laugh filled it.

She died, a month before her 68th birthday. R.I.P. And, –30–.

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

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

Faster and Faster Health care is a deeply complicated subject, and the same goes for economics, and when the two collide, the results can get pretty technical. Despite all this, in ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Carlos the Jackal, the notorious Marxist terrorist, has just received his third life sentence in France. If he is getting bored with those, the United States does offer an ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

‘PREFERRING THESE BRIEF, TEMPERATE WINTER SESSIONS . . . ’ Preferring these brief, temperate winter sessions Beyond the dawn to any in the seasons, But realizing they will leave impressions, Not memories, for temperamental ...

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Elections

The 2020 Battle Begins

The 2020 campaign begins in earnest next week in Florida, when Donald Trump officially launches his reelection bid. On June 26, 20 Democratic candidates and five moderators hold the first of two nights of debates. Where do things stand? According to the polls, President Trump starts at a disadvantage. He has ... Read More