Magazine | June 26, 2017, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

‐ This issue of National Review covfefe

‐ The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest jurisdiction to join the legal war against President Trump. It ruled that Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel from certain countries was unconstitutional mainly because of his campaign rhetoric about Muslims. Never mind that he backed away from that campaign talk. Never mind that his executive order doesn’t even touch the vast majority of the Muslim world. Past remarks were enough to poison the policy of the present. Thus, an executive order that would be lawful under any other president is unlawful under Trump. This is politically motivated judicial malpractice, and one hopes that the Supreme Court will restore legal rationality. Trump, however, is determined to be his own worst enemy. In a series of tweets that the justices may consider, he contradicted his own lawyers’ arguments and signaled that tougher policies may be on the way. Trump should restrain himself and let his lawyers do their job. National security and constitutional jurisprudence are too important to risk through online bluster.

‐ Hillary Clinton is a font of fresh ideas, at least about reasons for her loss that have nothing to do with her own flaws. In a recent interview, she mentioned Jim Comey, Vladimir Putin, Wisconsin’s requirement that voters present ID. And, of course, sexism: Sheryl Sandberg allegedly told her that her high approval ratings as secretary of state would vanish once she started running for president herself instead of working for a man, and Clinton saw fit to repeat this insight. The more obvious explanation is that Clinton was leaving a job Americans have traditionally viewed as above the fray for a more partisan role. Whiny, paranoid, and lacking self-awareness, Clinton illustrated, even if she did not recognize, why she lost.

‐ “Russian Ambassador Told Moscow That Kushner Wanted Secret Communications Channel with Kremlin,” ran the headline in the Washington Post. Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner allegedly made the request at a December meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The story was leaked to the Post by American officials who read of it in intelligence reports — although the New York Times’ leakers could not confirm it, and Fox’s leakers say Kislyak made the proposal to Kushner. Back channels have been used before, even by transition teams (Obama’s with Iran, Nixon’s and Kennedy’s with the Soviet Union), although this channel — via the Russian embassy — would have been off-the-wall imprudent (Russia could have used the info any way it wanted). The interlocutors are not well matched. Kislyak is an old fox. Kushner is . . . the president’s 36-year-old son-in-law.

‐ President Trump is blaming Democratic obstruction for his failure to staff his administration. But Democrats don’t control the Senate and don’t have the power to filibuster his nominees. In all too many cases, there are no nominees to block. A Trump tweet specifically complained about delays in getting ambassadors approved. As of early June, though, he had submitted only nine to the Senate. Four of them have been confirmed. Trump is running well behind the pace of previous presidents. One reason he is having trouble filling his positions is that a lot of qualified people are watching how he runs his administration and deciding they would rather stay outside. The more slowly he acts, the longer career bureaucrats and Obama appointees keep office.

‐ Republican Greg Gianforte won the special election for Montana’s at-large congressional seat, beating Democrat Rob Quist 50.2 percent to 44.1 percent (a Libertarian got 5.7 percent). Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault for roughing up a pertinacious reporter from the Guardian (a Fox News team confirmed the set-to; Gianforte first lied about it, then apologized for the incident in his victory speech). Press groups have asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate. Heaven knows reporters can be obnoxious, but if Representative Gianforte is so sensitive to heat, why did he volunteer to be a cook? He should step down, and let the GOP put the whole thing behind it.

‐ Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney trundled down to Congress to defend President Trump’s rather optimistic budget proposal, which calls for balancing a big tax cut and a large hike in defense spending with cuts to discretionary programs and Medicaid — and includes a great deal of wishful thinking about near-term economic growth. Asked about cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which used to fund Sesame Street, Mulvaney pointed out that the show’s mascot, Big Bird, probably was wealthier than any person in the room. Representative Brendan Boyle (D., Pa.) shot back that as a billionaire, Big Bird would enjoy the generous tax cut the Trump budget proposes. “Big Bird does get a fairly large tax cut, and we want him to,” Mulvaney answered. Mr. Snuffleupagus later chimed in, saying that he is confident this budget will balance by 2027.

‐ As Senate Republicans consider what to do with the health-care bill passed by the House, the Congressional Budget Office has released a report on that bill’s effects. The CBO claims that it would cause 23 million fewer Americans to have health coverage in 2026 than otherwise would. There are many reasons to think that the CBO is vastly overestimating that number. It assumes that if Republicans stand down, Obamacare’s exchanges will see implausibly large increases in enrollment; it counts millions of people as “uninsured” because it expects them to buy insurance that does not comply with Obamacare’s regulations; it assumes millions of people will reject free Medicaid coverage unless threatened with fines for not taking it. But the CBO at least has the direction of change right: The bill would be likely to cause a significant reduction in the number of people with insurance, in premiums, and in federal spending. Senators can and should improve the legislation. Providing more assistance to the near-poor and the near-elderly, for example, makes sense as part of a transition to a less regulated health-care market. After they pass a better version of their legislation, perhaps they can turn to reforming the CBO.

‐ In 1983, President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, because he wanted “a shield, not a sword,” or rather, a shield to go with our arsenal of swords. On May 30 of this year, the New York Times reported as follows: “A re-engineered American interceptor rocket collided with a mock intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday afternoon in the skies over the Pacific Ocean, the Pentagon said, in the first successful test of whether it could shoot down a warhead from North Korea racing toward the continental United States at speeds approaching true battle conditions.” Slowly, slowly: step by step, test by test.

‐ You can get GPS on a $30 smartphone these days, but the nation’s air-traffic controllers still aren’t using it to keep planes from crashing into one another. Instead they rely on a mix of radar, radio, and even paper to keep track of which planes are headed where. Put simply, the Federal Aviation Administration has done a terrible job of implementing new technology — and the private sector has a much stronger incentive to get things moving, because better air-traffic control translates to a more efficient flow of airplanes filled with paying customers. President Trump’s recent reform proposal gets it right. Air-traffic control would be put in the hands of a nonprofit corporation funded by airline-user fees, much as happens in numerous other countries, including Canada, Germany, and Australia. Flying may never be a pleasant experience, but a lot less time would be wasted if air-traffic control could progress beyond its horse-and-buggy era.

‐ In May, a comedienne named Kathy Griffin attempted to resuscitate her flagging career by shocking the world into talking about her. On Twitter, Griffin posted a photograph that appeared to show her holding up the bloodied, severed head of President Trump. She was, she made clear, taking the #Resistance to a new level. Sadly for her, Griffin had misjudged the moment. Condemnation was swift, broad, and, ultimately, overblown. Despite a groveling apology, she was fired from her occasional job with CNN, and — most disappointingly for her, one suspects — criticized by her ideological allies. Some of the reaction against her was overwrought, particularly the claim that the move reflected a decline in the quality of our discourse. From the days of the Stamp Act, Americans have always been boisterous and unruly, and they have enjoyed even gruesome iconoclasm when directed against those in power. That Griffin’s contribution was singularly unimaginative does not alter this fact. Any sympathy that her firing might have engendered was swiftly swept away by a press conference she held with Gloria Allred’s daughter, at which she proclaimed herself a historically unique victim and implied that the president had summarily targeted her for no reason. Obscurity suits her better. Into its clutches she should go.

‐ George Will wrote a column of praise for Alvin S. Felzenberg’s new book, A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr., which looks at WFB’s career as reflected in his opinions of post-war presidents: hostile (Eisenhower), mixed (Nixon, the Bushes), admiring (Reagan). Will praised author and subject, rightly. But along the way he took an odd shot at Whittaker Chambers, tagging him as the distant source of Trump-era populism. Chambers, a beleaguered man, expressed gratitude for ordinary people’s support during his struggle to set the record straight about Soviet spy Alger Hiss. But populism was hardly Chambers’s thing. Poet, revolutionary, spy, anti-Communist, Quaker convert, pessimist, pragmatist, Chambers was sui generis. WFB admired his counsel and his mournful voice all his life. Homer nodded, he is still Homer; the same with Will.

‐ Three strangers on a Portland, Ore., light-rail train intervened to protect two teenage girls, a headscarf-wearing Muslim and her friend, from a man who was verbally abusing them. Their assailant attacked the men with a knife, killing two and severely injuring the third. The girls escaped unharmed. A media narrative quickly emerged that the murderer was a right-wing white supremacist enabled by a climate of hate stoked by President Trump. He had been recorded performing a Nazi salute at a pro-free-speech rally the month before. The killer’s political beliefs, however, seem murky, to say the least. In various posts on social media and statements to friends, he professed himself a pagan nihilist who was adamantly opposed to circumcision, all forms of monotheism, and Hillary Clinton — he had been a Bernie Sanders supporter. Whatever the killer’s motivations, it is the Good Samaritans who deserve to be remembered. Americans should honor their basic decency and unassuming heroism — and remember that these qualities are, fortunately, more widespread in this country than current political debates sometimes suggest.

‐ Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist, was released from prison in May, his sentence having been commuted by President Obama. In 1981, López Rivera was convicted on several charges, including conspiracy to transport explosives for the purpose of destroying government property. He became a hero to his movement, the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional), a paramilitary organization dedicated to Puerto Rican independence, in the pursuit of which it bombed more than 120 targets in the United States in the 1970s and ’80s. The organizers of this year’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City designated López Rivera their “National Freedom Hero,” provoking a predictable firestorm of reasonable protest from politicians, corporate sponsors, and the public. Ten days before the event, López Rivera stepped down, writing in the Daily News that he would “be on” Fifth Avenue “not as your honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather.” In this instance, at least, his judgment was at least minimally sound. Would that the parade organizers had exercised as much prudence as the terrorist.

‐ The New York Times appears to have outed the CIA’s top spy in Iran — and no one much cares. In an article published on June 2, the Times reported that Michael D’Andrea is taking over the CIA’s operations in Iran. The story acknowledged that D’Andrea remains undercover, but “the New York Times is naming Mr. D’Andrea because his identity was previously published in news reports, and he is leading an important new administration initiative against Iran.” Those previous reports were also in the New York Times: in April 2015, when the Times outed D’Andrea as the agent then in charge of the CIA’s drone programs in Yemen and Pakistan. Readers of long memory will recall that, in 2003, the apparent “outing” of CIA operative Valerie Plame by Washington Post columnist Bob Novak launched a firestorm that lasted for years. D’Andrea is a far more consequential figure than Plame ever was, but his story will not be.

‐ The New York Times has permanently eliminated its public-editor position. Created in the aftermath of the 2003 Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal, the Times’ ombudsman had regularly taken the newspaper’s reporters, editors, and management to task for shoddy work or (less often) ideological blind spots. But now, Liz Spayd, a former managing editor of the Washington Post and the sixth public editor of the Times, will leave halfway through her contract amid reports of internal grumbling over her work, including a column she penned earlier this year that accused the Times of withholding information its reporters had learned about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia (Dean Baquet, the Times’ executive editor, publicly disagreed with that assessment). Spayd had also burned bridges by calling out reporters’ excessive use of Twitter, the sports page’s overemphasis on minor sports and human-interest stories over game recaps and analysis, and her charge that the newsroom was “too distant from the people it serves.” Perhaps this is nothing more than office politics. But one wonders: If the Times won’t listen to criticism from one of its own, to whom will it listen?

‐ The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) recently released brand-new, appalling footage from its investigations of the National Abortion Federation’s annual conventions. Posing as fetal-tissue buyers at the conventions, CMP investigators recorded panel presentations and conversations, many of which revealed illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood officials and clinics. Planned Parenthood abortionists and executives admitted on camera to performing banned abortion procedures, partnering with biotech firms to receive compensation for providing intact fetal tissue, and altering abortion procedures to obtain more-valuable organs to sell at higher prices. The footage is damning, so expect liberals to look away.

‐ Now London. The jihadist fifth column struck again, mowing down and stabbing ordinary passers-by on London Bridge and in Borough Market, a popular shopping and night spot, killing eight and gravely wounding 21. The three murderers, shot by cops at the scene, are now plastered over British media — not a new experience for one of them, Khuram Butt, who was featured in a Channel 4 documentary, The Jihadis Next Door. The war against homegrown wolf packs must rely on the tips of neighbors and non-treacherous family members. But what good is intel if it is not acted upon? President Trump, meanwhile, managed to make this too about himself, as he got into a war of tweets with London mayor Sadiq Khan, whom he accused of minimizing the deed. (N.B. Khan slammed Trump last summer.) Britons fulminating at Trump now have one more excuse — not that they need it — for ignoring their own peril.

‐ The Senate passed an act in 1995 to move the American embassy in Israel from its present location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A straightforward step, it might be thought, since Jerusalem is the capital of the country, not to mention that the city has been central to Judaism these past 3,000 years. But no. To move the embassy there might grant Israel rights other nations would not recognize and harm Arab rights in the process. On top of that, Arab spokesmen have been hard at work attempting to persuade the world that Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem, the famous Wailing Wall among them, are really Islamic holy sites. This particular Gordian knot is more fanciful than real, but one president after another has backed away and signed waivers of the 1995 act. In his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to relocate the embassy. Once in office, though, he followed the example of his predecessors and signed a waiver. He went back on his promise, he explained, in order to maximize his chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. At the same time, highly Trump-like, he spoke of his desire to make “the deal that can’t be made.” The Israelis shrug; they’ve been through all this before.

‐ Sabir Mahfouz Lahmar, a native of Algeria, was arrested in Bosnia in 2001 on suspicion of plotting to blow up the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo and sent to Guantanamo Bay. Released in 2009, he has now been arrested in France on suspicion of working with a terrorist-recruiting network linked to the Islamic State. Lahmar is only the latest in a series. According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 18 percent of the approximately 700 released Guantanamo Bay detainees are known to have returned to the jihad; another 12 percent are suspected of doing so. Perhaps that much-maligned detention center isn’t such a bad idea after all.

‐ In November, the Egyptian parliament, a rubber-stamp body, passed a draconian law. It effectively banned independent groups. In Washington, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham issued a warning: If the law went through, they would attach conditions to American aid to Egypt. The strongman, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, did not sign the law. In April, he met President Trump in Washington. The president praised him effusively. They met again in Saudi Arabia, where, along with their host country’s King Salman, they touched a glowing orb. On his return to Cairo, Sisi shut down more than 20 news sites. He also arrested dozens of secular liberals, including Khaled Ali, a human-rights lawyer, who had talked about running against Sisi in the 2018 presidential election. While arresting liberals and increasing dictatorship, the Egyptian government says that it is cracking down on Muslim extremists. This falsity should not fool the U.S. Congress — which should indeed attach conditions to aid.

‐ The persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt has recently escalated. In May, south of Cairo, gunmen stopped a bus full of Christian pilgrims and shot to death 28 men who refused to recite the Islamic declaration of faith. President Sisi declared that the attack would “not go unanswered,” while Egyptian fighter planes struck militants’ strongholds in Libya. The esteem in which many Egyptian Muslims hold the Christian minority, about 10 percent of the country’s population, is genuine and unforced. Consider the widow of a Christian killed in an attack on St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria on Palm Sunday: She astonished the nation when in a TV interview she said of the suicide bomber who murdered her husband, “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’” Bishop Anba Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom later issued a similar statement, demonstrating again the soft power of his people’s faith to win admiration and support even among non-Christians. “The Copts of Egypt are made of steel,” declared Amr Adeeb, a national TV talk-show host and a Muslim. “These people are made of a different substance.”

‐ Hippie-friendly Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Wash., combines innovative teaching (students spend the whole semester studying a single broad topic, e.g. the classical world) with the latest in social-justice ostentation (every official event begins with a mention of the Indians from whom Evergreen’s land was “stolen”). Somewhere in between these two is ESC’s annual “Day of Absence,” on which, starting this year, white people are expected to stay away from the campus and attend official “community-building” meetings while non-whites get separate indoctrination on campus. Biology professor Bret Weinstein called this practice out for the nonsense that it is and circulated an open letter encouraging whites to come to the college as usual on the Day of Absence. You can guess what happened next. Student mobs drove Weinstein from campus (he held class in a public park); the police said they couldn’t protect him; and the college’s president trotted out all the standard responses: Give in to students’ demands, establish a new Center for the Study of Whatever, require yet more diversity training, excuse protesters from homework. Even so, the violence caused three days of canceled classes. Today’s campuses are the Sixties all over again — and in this case, it’s 1963 in Tuscaloosa.

‐ Yale University has honored two graduating seniors, Alexandra Zina Barlowe and Abdul-Razak Mohammed Zachariah, with the Nakanishi Prize at its Class Day ceremonies for their “exemplary leadership in enhancing race and/or ethnic relations at Yale College.” Barlowe and Zachariah are interesting choices in that the two were prominently involved in the silencing of Erika and Nicholas Christakis. Ms. Christakis was, as you may remember, the Yale lecturer who had the temerity to advise her students via e-mail in 2015 that they had the freedom to wear the Halloween costumes of their choice. Nicholas, a sociologist and the then-master of the university’s Silliman College, was later surrounded by a howling mob of Yalies and shouted down, all of which was caught on video. So in case you were wondering what “enhancing race and/or ethnic relations” means at Yale, now you know.

‐ In 2014, a Columbia student named Emma Sulkowicz landed on the cover of New York magazine under the headline “A Very Different Kind of Sexual Revolution on Campus.” Sulkowicz was then dragging a mattress around school in what she said was a performance-art project meant to call attention to her status as the victim of a student rapist who went unpunished. It turned out that both the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and Columbia had investigated Sulkowicz’s allegations and found no basis to proceed with charges; as evidence became public, it appeared likely that Sulkowicz had used spurious claims to retaliate against an ex-lover who had spurned her. Now a Columbia graduate, Sulkowicz continues her antics: She starred in a pornographic video and, last month, in a performance piece called “The Ship Is Sinking”: Stripped down to a bikini, she allowed a man in a business suit to tie her up, hoist her above the floor on a beam, and then whip her with a belt. All of this is billed, naturally, as commentary on President Trump. What it is really a commentary on is the desperate lengths to which some people will go for attention.

‐ Harvard’s commencement this year was accompanied by supplementary ceremonies for black graduate and undergraduate students. Who can quarrel with celebrations of small-group pride and solidarity? Yet modern versions all too often express fear and defensiveness. “It’s not easy being a student . . . especially at a place like Harvard,” observed Ward Connerly, longtime foe of racial preferences. “[But] think about it. These kids went to Harvard, and they less than anyone in our society should worry about feeling welcome and finding comfort zones. They don’t need that.” They need it only in a society that lives by myths of oppression and grievance, and that encourages collective action to extort communal favors. Harvard may in fact understand modern America, though it’s not a place we should want to live in.

‐ Maddi Runkles became pregnant during her senior year at Heritage Academy, a private Christian high school in Maryland. The school’s administrators would not allow her to participate in her graduation ceremony because she had violated the code of conduct, which prohibits premarital sex. Runkles thought the punishment, which came on top of a two-day suspension and her being stripped of a student leadership position, was unduly harsh; other students had been treated more leniently for violating the code in other ways. She appealed to Students for Life, a national pro-life group, which took up her cause and asked the school to consider the message its stance would send to similarly situated students considering abortion. The school principal wouldn’t budge. He should have: It is neither just nor consistent with a pro-life ethic to ostracize a teenage girl for a sin of which some of her (male and female) peers are surely also guilty, simply because in her case it resulted in a baby that she chose not to kill.

‐ WeRateDogs™ (@dog_rates) is one of the most popular accounts on Twitter. Run by a man named Matt Nelson, its purpose is simple: to shower uninhibited praise on adorable canines. On May 31, WeRateDogs put up for sale on its associated website a black baseball cap that read “COVFEFE AF,” poking fun at President Trump’s Twitter typo from earlier that morning. Nelson also announced that half of the profits from covfefe-cap sales would be donated to Planned Parenthood. After a backlash from conservatives, who lamented the politicization of the previously apolitical account, Nelson apologized but reiterated his plan to donate the designated proceeds to Planned Parenthood. He was then attacked by his left-wing supporters for knuckling under to his “followers who hate women.” Nelson is free to do with his site and his money as he pleases. But it’s a shame that the yapping and snarling of politics has invaded yet another space.

‐ Clashes between secretaries of state and national-security advisers are famous, or infamous, in administrations. In the Carter administration, there was a big one between Cyrus Vance (the secretary of state) and Zbigniew Brzezinski (the national-security adviser). The former was dovish, the latter hawkish, toward the Soviet Union. We were obviously inclined to side with the latter. Over the years, we disagreed with Brzezinski about many things. But this Polish-born intellectual and statesman was right about one big thing — about two big things, actually: the evil of Communism, and the necessity of American leadership in the world. “Zbig” has died at 89. R.I.P.

‐ Alistair Horne had one of those British lives, the kind whose outline was once rather common but is now unimaginable: Coldstream Guards, intelligence, Cambridge, journalism, knighthood. Along the way he became a top historian, writing most devotedly about all things French, from the Paris Commune to the Algerian Revolution, though he took time off to study Salvador Allende and Henry Kissinger. Horne wrote clearly without simplifying, wittily without jokiness, seriously without dullness. When he was a boy he was a bundle from Britain, sent to the United States in the early days of World War II. At the Millbrook School in eastern New York he befriended fellow student WFB. Their bond would be lifelong, strengthened by Bill’s appreciation of Horne’s gifts as a researcher, stylist, conversationalist, and friend. Dead at 91. R.I.P.

‐ Panama’s Manuel Noriega was a horrid dictator, whom the first President Bush found it prudent to overthrow in 1989. Noriega was in league with the drug cartels. He had his fake congress declare war on the United States. His troops killed an unarmed American soldier and wounded and menaced others. “That was enough,” as President Bush said. The American invasion was code-named “Operation Just Cause.” It was. Noriega found refuge in the Vatican embassy. U.S. forces tormented him with loud rock music. Soon, he emerged, and spent the rest of his life in prison: in America, in France, and back in Panama. Toward the end of his life, he expressed a bit of contrition. Adiós, cara de piña. Noriega has died at 83. R.I.P.

‐ No one ever lived a more American life than Jim Bunning, and it unfolded in two acts, each of them American to the core. Act I, baseball star. As a right-handed sidearm pitcher over 17 seasons in major-league ball, he won 224 games, most of them for Detroit and Philadelphia. He managed in the minor leagues in the Phillies’ organization for five seasons after hanging up his cleats in 1971. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996. Speaking of elections . . . Act II, U.S. senator. A Republican, he began running for, and winning, local and state offices in 1977. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986 and won a close race for the Senate twelve years later. Kentucky voters reelected him in 2004. His ranking as one of the upper chamber’s most conservative members cast a new light on his earlier, successful effort to grow and strengthen the Major League Baseball players’ union — he complicated a political stereotype. Dead at 85. R.I.P.


Out of Paris

President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. The United States never should have been in it in the first place. In choosing American interests over Davos pieties — in the face of resistance from some within his own administration — the president here has made good on his promise to put America first.

Even if one accepts, for the sake of argument, the alarmist interpretation of climate-change data, the Paris agreement is unlikely to produce the desired result — and might not produce any result at all. Two countries that are responsible for a large share of greenhouse-gas emissions — China and India, the world’s largest and fourth-largest carbon dioxide emitters, respectively — have made only modest commitments under the agreement, which puts most of the onus on the more developed nations of North America and Western Europe. Both China and India would continue to emit more carbon dioxide through at least 2030, and both have chosen, as their major commitment, not reductions in total emissions but reductions in “carbon intensity” — meaning emissions per unit of GDP. But these improvements are likely to happen anyway, irrespective of treaties or public policy, due to ordinary economic changes, such as the growth of the low-impact services sector relative to heavy industry, the aging-out of high-emissions vehicles, and the replacement of antiquated infrastructure. What the Paris agreement does add is a large and unnecessary wealth transfer from the developed countries to subsidize this organic economic process.

The Paris agreement fails to take economic reality into account, and it does so in ways that could end up making emissions worse rather than improving them. For example, limiting the amount of coal consumed by North American power plants would not necessarily reduce the amount of coal consumed on Earth — and climate change is, famously, a planetary issue — but would instead most likely result in shifting coal consumption from relatively clean North American facilities to relatively dirty ones in China (the U.S. already is a net exporter of coal, and China is the world’s largest importer of it). Global energy markets are no great respecters of idealism, and the gentlemen in Beijing and New Delhi (and elsewhere) cannot reasonably be expected to adopt policies that will materially lower the standards of living of their respective peoples in order to satisfy the moral longings of Western elites. We don’t expect the powers that be in Washington to do so, either, and Trump has chosen the right course.

Climate change is best viewed not as a moral crusade but as a question of risk assessment and cost–benefit trade-offs, in which case planning for future adaptation programs is the more intelligent course of action. As the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates the bill (and NRDC is not exactly the Heritage Foundation), the total costs of climate change to the United States — expansively defined to include everything from hurricane damage to higher food prices — would run less than 2 percent of GDP a century from now. Other studies have produced similar findings. Taking radical and expensive action in the present to avoid the possibility of a 1.8 percent hit to a GDP that will be much larger in the year 2100 than it is today is a losing proposition — especially given that the Paris agreement is far from guaranteed to produce any meaningful results.

Climate change presents the world with genuine risks, and there is of course room for international action in addressing them. If the need to coordinate that action produces a treaty, it should be submitted to the Senate for ratification, which the Paris agreement was not.

The Paris agreement secures neither our national interests nor global environmental interests. It is part of the Obama administration’s legacy of putting sentiment over substance, and, despite the relentless criticism, President Trump has done well to abandon it.

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

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners




Finding Dalí Kudos to Roman Genn for his depiction of Salvador Dalí (“Master of the Surreal,” June 12). I have discovered that if turned upside down and viewed at a distance ...
The Week

The Week

‐ This issue of National Review covfefe ‐ The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest jurisdiction to join the legal war against President Trump. It ruled that Trump’s executive ...

A Thought for Your Penneys

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NIGHT TRAVELING Fine grass, slight wind, Tall mast, night boat; Stars hang, vast plain, Moon bobs in trout’s mouth. Great name, small man, Body bent, resigned. Drift I, black hull, Earth, sky, lone gull. Tu Fu (712–770) translated by Richard ...

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