Magazine | July 10, 2017, Issue

The Week

‐ Can it be mere coincidence that Ossoff is a Russian name?

‐ In spite of the total lack of available information, a host of figures in the media were convinced at the first report of the Alexandria shooting (see editorial below) that the story was about gun control. Among the positions that were articulated almost instantly were that Virginia was in need of more laws; that “assault weapons” were to blame; and that the open carry of long guns — legal in 40-plus states — was proving to be a menace. That the shooter turned out be from Illinois; that he used a standard rifle that has never been included in a ban; and that open carry is prohibited in Alexandria were all evidently irrelevant. Others took a different tack: “Now that Republicans have been shot at,” they asked, “will they finally agree with us on firearms?” One would hope not. Indeed, it was encouraging that one of the lawmakers who found himself in the midst of the maelstrom, Mo Brooks of Alabama, gave an impassioned defense of individual liberty just hours after the news broke. In the same spirit we will refrain from calling for journalist control.

‐ James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee largely confirmed what we knew already. The legal case that Democrats are trying to mount against the president remains far-fetched. Earlier this year, and after clearing the Oval Office, President Trump reportedly told the then FBI director that he “hoped” the bureau could “let go” of its investigation into former NSA director Michael Flynn. But, according to Comey, the president never followed up on his comment; Trump did not object to investigations into other members of his team, even suggesting it would be “good to find out” if his subordinates were engaged in wrongdoing; and the only explicit request Trump made of Comey regarding the Russia probe was to state publicly that Trump himself was not under investigation. As for the question of “collusion,” Comey offered no evidence that Trump or anyone in his inner circle had conspired with the Russian government during last year’s election. All in all, then, Comey’s testimony largely backed up what has seemed to be the case for a while: The president, hypersensitive to unfriendly press coverage, behaved irresponsibly by badgering his FBI director about an ongoing investigation. This may have been improper, but it’s a far cry from criminal obstruction of justice.

‐ Word that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the finances of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner confirms ex officio suspicions of special counsels: that they drag ever-larger nets until something turns up. The object of Mueller’s assignment is to find evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia’s pre-election meddling. None has emerged. Is Kushner supposed to have been a conduit for it? He allegedly suggested a back-door line of communication between Russia and the Trump transition — but that was in December, after the election. N.B. One of Mueller’s hires is Andrew Weissman, whose scorched-earth 2002 prosecution of Enron’s accountants was overturned by the Supreme Court; one hopes he is not now setting the tone. Mueller is an honorable man — and we mean that in other than the sense used by Mark Antony — but he needs to focus on his mandate if he is not to become a legal perpetual-motion machine.

‐ Democrats again came up short in a special election to the U.S. House. When Tom Price left a suburban Atlanta district for President Trump’s cabinet, Democrats thought they had an opportunity: Trump had barely carried the district last year, even though Mitt Romney had won it going away four years previously. Karen Handel, the Republican nominee, had lost previous races for governor and senator, and Democrats outspent her. In the end, though, Handel won. Democrats continue to expect an anti-Trump backlash to help them, and it may yet do so. For the moment, though, a lot of people who have reservations about him dislike them even more.

‐ Megyn Kelly, now of NBC, interviewed conspiracy nut Alex Jones to a chorus of criticism, the loudest of it coming from the parents of the children murdered in the Sandy Hook school massacre, which Jones has suggested was either a hoax or — the inevitable conspiracy-theory term — a “false flag” operation concocted as a pretext to assault Americans’ Second Amendment rights. The criticism was not unfounded, but it was unfair: Alex Jones is a kook, but he is not an insignificant one. His organization enjoys White House press credentials, and the president himself has appeared on Jones’s show, praising the conspiracy-monger for his efforts at . . . whatever it is Trump imagines him to be doing. Kelly may not be William F. Buckley Jr., but she had Jones on her show for the same reason WFB had cranks such as Noam Chomsky and Huey Newton on Firing Line: Jones is part of the national political discourse, whether we like it or not. Buckley’s cool on-air dissection of George Wallace was more effective than any mere denunciation of the man and his ideas could have been. Jones, who recently was obliged to admit during a custody case that he plays a character on television for entertainment purposes, wilted under Kelly’s courteous but sharp questioning. Some people who did not know who or what Alex Jones is now know. And, the times being what they are, it is worth knowing.

‐ When Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) grilled Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she went into full prosecutorial mode (she is a former DA), rapid-firing questions and follow-ups. Twice John McCain and committee chairman Richard Burr admonished her to let witnesses finish their answers. This became (vide a New York Times headline) “The Universal Phenomenon of Men Interrupting Women.” In fact it was the Two-Hundred-Year-Old Phenomenon of Senators Upholding Their (Often Fusty) Notions of Decorum — especially when one of the witnesses (Sessions) is a former colleague. But keep an eye on Harris: borderline incivility, plus grievance (nasty women will not be silenced!), may equal a winning political profile in 21st-century America.

‐ Someone needs to send Bernie Sanders a copy of the Constitution. During an otherwise routine confirmation hearing of Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Sanders quoted a column Vought wrote that stated a traditional Christian position on salvation. Contrasting Muslim and Christian religious beliefs, Vought had argued that “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.” Sanders then launched an extended attack on Vought’s beliefs and didn’t even attempt to tie his Christian theology to his specific job duties in the OMB. We don’t know the senator’s theology, but his understanding of religious pluralism is certainly deficient.

‐ President Trump has railed against the failure of the Justice Department and intelligence-agency chiefs to identify and prosecute leakers. His administration has now nabbed its first, a 25-year-old Air Force veteran with the unlikely name “Reality Winner.” A linguist whose social-media presence displayed a loathing of the president, she was working as a National Security Agency contractor — one of a staggering 5 million people who have been granted security clearances by the U.S. government, and thus access to the nation’s defense secrets. She pilfered a top-secret document describing Russian-government efforts to target and ensnare local election officials during the 2016 campaign. She leaked the document to the Intercept, which encourages national-security leaks and serves as a platform for the infamous Edward Snowden. Ironically, the Intercept’s contacting of the NSA to authenticate the document inadvertently helped identify Winner as the leaker. She is said to have confessed immediately. The potentially heavy jail time she faces will serve as a warning to other officials. That the administration was determined to bring the case, apparently unconcerned about the unsupported “Trump collusion with Russia” narrative, is a welcome sign.

‐ In late 2015, Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was traveling in China. He signed up with some other students for a four-day trip to North Korea. They returned but he did not. He was detained by the regime and, this June, was returned to us in a coma. He had obviously been tortured into it, as the Kim dictatorship has been doing to its own people since the 1940s. A week after his return, Warmbier died. In other circumstances, this might be a cause of war. A great power such as the United States cannot allow its citizens to be tortured and murdered. Other governments — not just North Korea’s — will get the wrong idea. But when a government is nuclear-armed, as North Korea’s is, one’s options are severely limited. This is the point, incidentally, of preemption. Once a dictatorship acquires WMD, nuclear or not, almost all bets are off. But Warmbier’s death does not have to go unanswered. The Trump administration has a range of robust sanctions measures at its disposal, which it could use to apply significant economic and political pressure on Pyongyang and those who abet it. In the wake of this brazen murder, it should not hesitate to do so.

‐ The Senate has voted almost unanimously to codify a Russia-sanctions package into law, preventing President Trump, who has expressed warmth for the authoritarian regime in Moscow, from undoing them at will. In addition to the sanctions imposed by President Obama in December, which targeted two Russian intelligence agencies (the GRU and the FSB), a handful of affiliated companies, and four GRU officers, new sanctions will be extended to Russia’s all-important energy sector. Under the proposed bill (S.722, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017), any energy project involving a Russian company, as well as any foreign firm that makes a sizeable investment in Russia’s attempt to develop next-generation oil-procurement capacities, is liable to sanctions, and discretionary sanctions also apply to investment in the construction of Russian energy-export pipelines. The bill also mandates sanctions on any person or entity that does business with affiliates of Russia’s defense and intelligence establishments. The bill, which now heads to the House, is an important, bipartisan reassertion of tough-mindedness toward Moscow at a time when America’s policy toward a geopolitical adversary seems up for grabs.

‐ President Trump is rolling back parts of his predecessor’s Cuba policy. At the center of the president’s plan, announced with a speech in Miami, is a prohibition on commerce with any businesses owned by Cuban military or intelligence services. Such enterprises account for more than half of the Cuban economy. Trump is exactly right about the economic effects of Barack Obama’s policies: “They only enrich the Cuban regime,” not the Cuban people. The president also called on the regime to “put an end to the abuse of dissidents, release the political prisoners, stop jailing innocent people, open yourselves to political and economic freedoms, return the fugitives from American justice,” among them cop-killer Assata Shakur, who has been shielded from extradition by the Castros since 1984. There is more that the Trump administration can do, publicly and behind the scenes. Nonetheless, the Trump administration has made an important reversal. The Castro dictatorship was not, never has been, and never will be America’s friend, and Donald Trump’s course is a better route to a true Cuba libre.

‐ Word is that the forthcoming Senate Republican health bill will seek to make it easier for people to attain coverage than did the House version, which President Trump recently called “mean” (even though he celebrated its passage). Conservatives on the Hill seem to be willing to trade short-term spending increases for long-term reform of Medicaid and for deregulation that makes it possible for people to buy catastrophic health insurance. Those are the right priorities. We’ll have to reserve judgment on the bill until we see it. Senate Republicans have been working in secret, which is fine, and planning to vote soon after finishing the bill, which is not. Complex legislation affecting tens of millions of Americans ought to be debated. Obamacare went through committee hearings and floor debate and still had unforeseen consequences. Do Republicans want to be responsible for rushing through their own bill with even less open debate?

‐ The Trump administration has officially rescinded President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, and rightly so. The 2014 executive order extended de facto amnesty to 4 million illegal immigrants in the United States on laughable pretenses of “congressional inaction” and “prosecutorial discretion.” In reality, this was an unlawful attempt to waive immigration statutes for a broad category of people. The courts have so far agreed, making Trump’s action somewhat symbolic. The courts have not, however, acted against Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which performed the same function for more than 2 million young illegal immigrants. But the administration apparently has no plans to end that program or even to curtail it. Candidate Donald Trump, though, opposed both unlawful amnesties. The president should wind down the remaining one by withholding new permits and only granting renewals. An amnesty for those who came here as minors should pass Congress before taking effect, and even then only if coupled with new measures to block the hiring of illegal immigrants.

‐ In finance as in health insurance, Republicans are busy trying to reform the reform, in this case with the Financial CHOICE Act, legislation that would significantly alter the Dodd-Frank banking-reform law passed in the wake of the 2008–09 financial crisis. CHOICE is a step in the right direction: Many of the new rules adopted under Dodd-Frank did little or nothing to address the actual causes of the financial crisis — indeed, the “too big to fail” institutions are bigger today than they were before Dodd-Frank was adopted, thanks in no small part to Dodd-Frank, which, it should be noted, the big banks support. That’s no surprise: Heavy regulatory burdens give a competitive advantage to large institutions, which are better positioned to endure them. Rather than deal forthrightly with the causes of the crisis, Dodd-Frank was mainly an exercise in regulatory adventurism and progressive wish fulfillment, among other things creating the wide-ranging (and unconstitutional) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a quasi-independent agency dreamed up by Elizabeth Warren. CHOICE would relieve financial institutions of many of Dodd-Frank’s burdens in exchange for their holding larger capital reserves, a model that does not favor the kingpin firms. The House has passed CHOICE, and the Senate should take it up. Meaningful financial reform is a project that is too big to fail.

‐ Brian Sandoval, the governor of Nevada and a Republican, vetoed legislation that would have jacked up the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 an hour. Why? Just across the border in California, radical increases in the minimum wage (it will rise to $15 an hour in some cities) have had exactly the predictable effect. In the affluent Bay Area, at least 60 restaurants have closed since the wage hike, and San Diego, another rich coastal city, is preparing for a restaurant “die off” of its own — and the minimum hasn’t yet hit the $15 mark. California’s crass class politics is at work here: “The impact of the minimum wage varies with the rating of the business,” according to a Harvard Business School study. “Our point estimates suggest that a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to an approximate 14 percent increase in the likelihood of exit for the median 3.5-star restaurant but the impact falls to zero for five-star restaurants.” That’s California in 2017: Life is good for those dining at the French Laundry, but it’s a little tougher for those running a small, low-margin business in the Central Valley.

‐ U.K. prime minister Theresa May and her allies in the Tory leadership — a very small group — have inflicted a serious blow to their party, their government, and their country. Yet they seem disposed to treat their failure as something that can be set aside in the greater interest of remaining in office. May was a poor candidate — stilted, stiff, dull, and unspontaneous, rather like Hillary Clinton — and she ran an inept and self-destructive campaign that assumed the Tories were bound to win, even with a manifesto full of proposals for regulatory intervention. In the context of Brexit, this amounted to arguing that Britain should break free of the controls and regulations of Brussels in order to impose its own, better controls and regulations — a self-conscious rejection of the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. Furthermore, May was unable to mount an effective attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s crankish economics — something very much needed now that a wild and erratic spirit of socialism is again loose in the world. May’s speech after visiting Buckingham Palace to be reappointed prime minister was an exercise in dignified unrealism. She promises stable government, yet she cannot deliver it: Under minority governments, a second election is an everyday possibility, and she cannot fight another election because she is now unelectable. It’s time for the Conservative backbenchers’ 1922 Committee to propose an expedited leadership election to begin the resistance to the Corbynite socialism that the Tory election campaign inadvertently revived.

‐ Tim Farron, the leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, will resign because, he explained, media and the political class have grown obsessed with his Christian faith. It distracted from his party’s business. During the spring campaign, reporters interrogated him relentlessly about his views on sexual morality, a topic he never raised. To one journalist who would not stop harping on the question, Farron eventually mumbled that he did not think homosexual conduct was a sin. To think otherwise would have been no crime. To his critics, however, it would have been heresy. In his resignation speech, Farron said that to lead “a progressive, liberal party in 2017 and to live as a committed Christian” should not be incompatible, but they have become so. He chose his faith over his party. It’s his party’s loss.

‐ Elections are due next year in Russia, and statisticians in the Kremlin may well be calculating that Putin has already won them with a solid 67 percent — or maybe a few points lower or higher to be more convincing. Alexei Navalny, a popular dissident in his forties, is positioning himself to run against Putin. His Anti-Corruption Foundation documents illegal transactions involving Putin and his sidekick, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. On Russia Day, a national holiday, Navalny’s supporters took to the streets in every major city across the nation’s eleven time zones. An estimated 65,000 were shouting “Putin out” and “Russia without thieves.” For the authorities, Tass, as reliable as ever when it comes to agitprop, estimated that 270,000 people were participating in “festive events” marking Russia Day. The police moved in, and in the course of scuffles arrested some 1,500. Twice previously, someone almost killed Navalny by means of poisoning, so this time his sentence of 30 days in prison is light.

‐ Was it inevitable? In any case, it has happened. Outside Finsbury Park Mosque in London, a man drove a van into a group of worshipers. Apparently, he yelled, “I’m going to kill all Muslims.” As of this writing, one person has died. Prime Minister May said the attack was “every bit as sickening” as attacks by Muslim extremists. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “Terrorism is terrorism.” Rightly said, by both politicians. It is to the West’s credit that such incidents have been rare, but they are never rare enough.

‐ Days ago, there were 21. Now there are 20. Taiwan has 20 diplomatic allies in the world. The PRC will not allow a nation to recognize both it and Taiwan. It has to be one or the other. And the PRC is very good at buying off nations and otherwise applying leverage. The latest ally to drop Taiwan is Panama. (The United States did its dropping way back in 1979, though of course we have unofficial ties.) The PRC cannot abide a Chinese democratic nation on an island to its southeast. Taiwan sets a bad example to other Chinese: It gives them the idea that it’s possible to be both Chinese and democratic. It is Taiwan’s fate to have more admirers than it does allies.

‐ “Antifas” attacked conservative columnist Andrew Bolt in Melbourne. They got a bit more than they bargained for as the suit-and-tie-clad columnist boxed the black-hooded terrorists on their ears until they fled in disgrace. Bolt was of course well within his rights defending himself. That he needed to is yet more evidence that these “anti-fascist” activists have horribly mislabeled themselves.

Rolling Stone magazine has settled a defamation lawsuit with the University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi for $1.65 million. In the fall of 2014, the magazine published a 9,000-word article accusing members of the fraternity of brutally gang-raping “Jackie,” a UVA student. Within days, however, Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s sensational exposé, “A Rape on Campus,” began to unravel as skeptical journalists began looking into the details. Erdely had gone looking for the perfect example of how campus “rape culture” was terrorizing young women — Rolling Stone trotted out the thoroughly debunked claim that one in five college women will suffer sexual assault while in school, a claim that would mean the leafy campuses of Brown or Yale or Ohio State are as dangerous as the war-torn Congo. The reporting was so bad that the Columbia Journalism School’s report on the matter stated that the magazine had failed to employ “basic, even routine journalistic practice,” such as, e.g., independently verifying Jackie’s story, identifying the attacker, or cross-checking facts with purported witnesses. Journalists sometimes joke that certain stories are “too good to check”; this one, apparently, was too bad.

‐ Imagine explaining this in 1960: Whole Foods Market, a high-end grocery specializing in “organic” food and other rarefied tastes, has been acquired by the online clearinghouse Amazon, a ruthlessly efficient deliverer of goods that also offers a discounted service for people who use food stamps. Whole Foods is a favorite of a certain species of well-heeled urban progressive, but its founder and chief executive, John Mackey, is equal parts hippie and Ayn Rand character, a libertarian crusader who famously took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to denounce the so-called Affordable Care Act. Mackey describes himself as a practitioner of “conscious capitalism.” Amazon’s Jeff Bezos leans in a libertarian-ish direction as well. But the real testament to the philosophy of Mackey and Bezos isn’t their public statements — it is the businesses they have built, both of which have made the world a better place, one with many more possibilities. Call it “conscious capitalism” — or just call it capitalism.

‐ An international committee within the World Intellectual Property Organization of the United Nations is seeking to make governments “create effective criminal and civil enforcement procedures to recognize and prevent the non-consensual taking and illegitimate possession, sale and export of traditional cultural expressions,” according to James Anaya, an advocate for the cause. Anaya, dean of the University of Colorado law school, cites as an example Urban Outfitters, whose “Navajo” line (including a “peace treaty feather necklace”) is, we would agree, in bad taste, which is hard to define, hence the paucity of laws against it. Anaya and his friends do well to promote respect for what they hold to be the authentic version of any culture they mean to honor. Sharing their sensibility, however, should not be legally mandated.

‐ John Lennon co-founded the Beatles at age 15, gave a gloriously ragged vocal performance on “Twist and Shout,” inspired thousands of listeners to start bands of their own, and created timeless masterpieces of musical art too numerous to list. Unfortunately, he also wrote “Imagine.” This dirge-like solo effort, in which utopia is envisioned through the abolition of religion, nations, and private property, might seem derived from The Communist Manifesto, but in fact John once said it was based on a book by his wife, Yoko Ono, called Grapefruit. Based on this statement, an industry group has decreed that from now on, Yoko will be officially credited (or blamed) as the song’s co-composer. With a piano part that a second-grader could handle and political sophistication to match, “Imagine” was always an embarrassment — especially coming from down-to-earth John, who wrote the 1960s’ most clear-eyed political song, “Revolution.” In the end, it’s somehow reassuring to know that it wasn’t entirely John’s fault.

‐ The Golden State Warriors are so good that they just might be bad for basketball. Earlier this month they completed a historic 16–1 romp through the NBA playoffs, losing only one game to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that just last year came back from a 3–1 deficit to shock the Warriors in Game Seven. The difference? The Warriors added Kevin Durant to a team that last year went 73–9. The Warriors were so dominant that, barring injury, one wonders when the league will be competitive again. Durant is in his prime. The Warriors’ original core of Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson are all at the beginning of their primes. To consider the greatness of this team, imagine the Showtime-era Lakers, then imagine them adding, say, Dominique Wilkins. There’s a dark side to such a concentration of talent, however. The NBA doesn’t want its playoffs to double as coronations, but unless LeBron James can craft his own superteam, the league might enter a competitive drought. Yes, there will still be good basketball. There will still be intriguing storylines. But no one is ever captivated by a race for second place.

‐ Helmut Kohl was a genial, easygoing character who held the office of chancellor in Germany from 1982 to 1998. In that time, he had the unexpected chance to reunite West and East Germany, and his success in doing so made him seem the father figure of his nation. His was a leading voice in persuading Mikhail Gorbachev to bring the Cold War to its peaceful ending. Born in 1930, he had experienced enough of the Hitler era to resolve that the accretion of strength that came with unity must avoid alarming the neighbors. To this end, he persuaded his compatriots to drop the deutschmark for the euro on the grounds that they are Europeans before they are Germans. If this succeeds too, he will seem a man of destiny. He died at the age of 87. R.I.P.

‐ Vic Gold was a legend in conservative and Republican politics. He worked for Goldwater in ’64. For Vice President Agnew. For Bush the Elder. He also wrote prolifically. Introducing him once, the historian of conservatism Lee Edwards said, “Vic Gold is the wizard of wordsmiths, the prince of press secretaries, the man with the shortest temper in Washington . . .” Indeed, Gold was known as “Old Faithful,” because he blew up at regular intervals. He had no use for Bush the Younger, no use for the Religious Right, and definitely no use for Donald Trump. Indeed, he quit the Republican party last year. He wrote a blog, which was headed “The Wayward Lemming.” Perfect. An adornment to our era and our cause, Vic Gold has died at 88. R.I.P.


Do Not Descend into the Maelstrom

Earlier this year, James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., left his wife and his (defunct) business to live out of a van in Alexandria, Va., and hang out at a local YMCA. One fine June morning he went to a park where congressional Republicans were warming up for an annual charity baseball game against Democrats and opened fire with a rifle. Capitol Hill police officers returned fire and eventually shot the would-be murderer, fatally. Four innocents had meanwhile been injured; Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana is still in serious condition as of this writing.

Like most mass shooters, Hodgkinson was a troubled soul. He had minor run-ins with the police over the years, and a major one a decade ago when a foster daughter accused him of beating her (the case lapsed after she failed to testify). But he also had a clear political motive. He was a passionate left-wing Democrat who had volunteered for Bernie Sanders, and he belonged to several anti-Trump Facebook groups. “Trump Is a Traitor. . . . It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.” he wrote on a petition. Before his fusillade, he made sure to ask the baseball players whether they were Republicans; he reportedly was carrying a list of members of the Freedom Caucus.

Democratic politicians denounced his deed. Sanders said he was “sickened by this despicable act,” which he “condemn[ed] in the strongest possible terms.” After the rescheduled baseball game was played, the victorious Democrats loaned their trophy to Representative Scalise.

Liberal media did not all behave so well. Searching for context, the New York Times compared Hodgkinson’s attack to Jared Loughner’s slaughter of six at Representative Gabby Giffords’s 2011 meet-and-greet in Tucson. The Times repeated the canard, debunked years earlier by its own reporting, that Loughner had been inspired by the campaign literature of Sarah Palin (in fact Loughner was a paranoid schizophrenic). The Times, evidently fearing legal action, tacked a non sequitur of a disclaimer onto its libel.

Yet Hodgkinson’s crime occurred in a context, and the evolution of this context is not encouraging. Bill Clinton’s serial shadiness stimulated bloodhound critics. The endgame of the 2000 election, followed by the Iraq War, made partisanship lunatic. Barack Obama inspired outlandish conspiracy theories about his birth, spread most prominently by Donald Trump. Trump’s campaign and victory brought rancor to new heights. Some of this was Trump’s fault: Boorish, childish, crude, he campaigned as if he were still chasing reality-show ratings. But, funny thing, violence, when it happened, was more frequently visited on his supporters, not by them. Left-wingers rioted at Trump events in Chicago and San Diego. The absurd post-election trope of “resistance” keeps the fires stoked.

Decent Americans must not give in to the madness. The swamp frogs croaking that we are in a new civil war should be mocked, then ignored. We had a real civil war, once upon a time. Seven hundred and fifty thousand men died in it. Pretending we are in another one does nothing to help us get through the trials of our own time.


Alex Batey, R.I.P.

For a quarter of a century, Alexander Batey ran NR’s busy, unglamorous mailroom. The most punctual and reliable of staffers, he was a loner of sorts (never married, no kids, a strange mix of shy and nosy) and smart (sharing facts useful and sometimes decidedly not). He fit right in with NR’s cast of quirky characters.

Alex was habitual. Lunch was always at noon, on the dot; he linked vacations to federal holidays (Montreal ever beckoned to him); and he never played sick. Alex came in early, got his coffee, made his rounds every morning to say hello, was gone at 5 (had that bus to catch), attended office functions, and on any given day did all sorts of grimy tasks that would have had anyone else kvetching.

But Al never kvetched. Maybe that’s because there was permissive downtime at NR, which he filled by reading travel guides to all countries, by wandering the office offering commentary and unsolicited two cents (a.k.a. “Al Wisdom”), and, as the years wore on, by watching YouTube videos of bygone wrestling matches starring ancient heroes (Bruno! Chief Jay! Ric Flair!). Al knew everything about professional wrestling.

He was a man of many passions (sci-fi novels, H. P. Lovecraft, crime histories, R&B, anime), but none as beloved as his trains. The beautiful scale models came to NR, where he would open them with care and offer gratis lectures on the features of this vintage engine or that caboose. His hobby took over his home basement, and he shared many videos of his layouts.

Al belonged to one category: Al. A police officer’s son, Alex had a social awkwardness offset by an itch to engage; he was exceptionally bright, decidedly uncool, and talked no differently to Bill Buckley than to the NR receptionist. He defied physics: You could spot Al a block off, bouncing down Lexington Avenue, his body moving somehow in every direction at once. He could take and give a joke. His politics were elusive; still, he was one of us. Unfittable, Alex Batey fit in here.

One recent Tuesday, he complained of ailments and went to a walk-in clinic. The next two days he was out ill. And he was. Very. He was counseled: Get yourself to an emergency room. And: Don’t. Come. In.

Al being Al, on the following Friday, defiant, he came in. For the last time. At 10:00 a.m., delivering the new issue of NR, he collapsed. The ambulance came and took him to the local hospital. By mid afternoon, he was dead — a massive infection had swamped his system. Why did he come in? Alone in the world, Alex Batey knew that he had arrived at the hour that will arrive for all of us. But he didn’t want to die alone. And he didn’t.

Over its 62 years, National Review’s three editors — Bill Buckley, John O’Sullivan, and Rich Lowry — were called friends and colleagues by Alexander Batey. And they said the same of him. As do all his shocked colleagues. Rest in peace.

– Jack Fowler

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

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


Politics & Policy


LOST PRAYER A prayer well known and repeated, and repeated, the mind focused on the words, on the words, becomes an internal ceremony, with little room, and then no room for another thought; sooner or ...


Obergefell and Forced Labor With respect to Alexandra DeSanctis’s article “Religious Liberty after Obergefell” (June 12), it is surprising to me that no defendant has cited the 13th Amendment to the ...
The Week

The Week

‐ Can it be mere coincidence that Ossoff is a Russian name? ‐ In spite of the total lack of available information, a host of figures in the media were convinced ...

Most Popular


In Defense of Coleman Hughes

Picture the scene: A young man walks into a congressional hearing to offer witness testimony. His grandfather was barbarically brutalized by people who are now long dead. The nation in which he resides built its wealth of his grandfather’s brutalization. The question: Should his fellow citizens pay the young ... Read More

College Leaders Should Learn from Oberlin

Thanks to their social-justice warrior mindset, the leaders of Oberlin College have caused an Ohio jury to hit it with $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a case where the school couldn't resist the urge to side with its “woke” students against a local business. College leaders should learn ... Read More
Film & TV

Toy Story 4: A National Anthem

The Toy Story franchise is the closest thing we have to an undisputed national anthem, a popular belief that celebrates what we think we all stand for — cooperation, ingenuity, and simple values, such as perpetual hope. This fact of our infantile, desensitized culture became apparent back in 2010 when I took a ... Read More

Joe and the Segs

Joe Biden has stepped in it, good and deep. Biden, if he has any hope of ever being elected president, will be dependent on residual goodwill among African Americans from his time as Barack Obama’s loyal and deferential vice president — so deferential, in fact, that he stood aside for Herself in 2016 even ... Read More

Have a Good Day

Years ago, there was a movie, The Longest Day, about the Normandy landings. Today, June 21, is, I believe, the longest day of the year. Is it the best day of the year? Well, I like “fall back,” when we gain an hour. I begin my latest episode of Music for a While with “A Soft Day,” one of my favorite ... Read More