Magazine | November 13, 2017, Issue

The Week

‐ So it took only 20 percent of the U.S. uranium supply to make Hillary radioactive.

‐ Former president George W. Bush gave an address in New York on “the Spirit of Liberty.” Journalists highlighted apparent shots at Trump (“Bullying . . . in our public life sets a national tone”). The vectors of the speech outlined an America determined to uphold order and liberty throughout the world, a contrast to the vectors of Trump’s emphasis on national self-interest. The ex- and the current president share wide areas of agreement: Neither man disputes the value of alliances, or the world’s (and America’s) need for a strong America. Bush’s rhetoric about America’s ideals ignored the land hunger, and the religious and racial feeling, that animated it during centuries of our colonial and post-independence history. At the same time, Trumpism, in its bluster and occasional outreach to crackpots of the alt-right, shows a dismaying ignorance of aspirations that have long been ours. Nationalism that values the specificity of American culture must also value its ideals. Politicians, and Americans, have work ahead of them to get the balance right.

‐ Asked by a reporter to comment on the deaths of four Special Forces soldiers in Niger, President Trump said he had called the grieving families and added that his predecessors seldom did or sometimes failed to. Then Representative Frederica Wilson (D., Fla.), who was with Gold Star widow Myeshia Johnson at the time of Trump’s call, said he had made Mrs. Johnson cry, and eagerly soaked up every bit of media attention that she could. Chief of Staff John Kelly, himself a Gold Star father, lamented, in a moving press conference, the erosion of any sense of the sacred from American life. (In the course of it, he took shots at Representative Wilson.) Obviously, we shouldn’t be squabbling about condolence calls. If the call to Mrs. Johnson went awry, the president should be the big guy, reinforcing his message of respect if it didn’t get through and shrugging off barbs. This has been the most dispiriting controversy of the year.

‐ Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump patched things up over lunch. This isn’t a marriage of convenience so much as an assignation that suits both parties for now — McConnell desperately wants to get a tax bill through the Senate and knows a feud with Trump doesn’t help; the president has the same legislative goal, and probably relishes occupying the middle ground between the establishment and the populist insurgents in the GOP, tilting one way or the other as it suits his moods and interests. It’s all very awkward, but the alternative — a total breakdown in the relationship — is worse.

‐ Senator Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) announced that he’s not running for reelection, and blasted Trump in a scorching Senate speech. What Flake has said about the president’s character is true — both in his speech and in a book published earlier this year — but he effectively had to choose between fully airing his views and winning a tough contested primary against a flawed insurgent, Kelli Ward. He chose the former, and now the GOP has to hope that other candidates will get in the race who can beat Ward and hold the Arizona seat for the party.

‐ To date, notwithstanding a torrent of leaks, evidence that the Trump campaign colluded in Russia’s influence operation against the 2016 election appears minimal, if it exists at all. In contrast, evidence of Obama-administration collusion in Russia’s 2010 acquisition of 20 percent of U.S. uranium reserves is incontestable. It has long been known that a government committee headed by top Obama-administration officials greenlighted a prodigious uranium-asset transfer to Rosatom, a Kremlin-controlled energy conglomerate. Recently it has come to light that, at the time, the Obama Justice Department had a strong racketeering and extortion case against Rosatom’s American subsidiary. With congressional opposition rising, a timely prosecution would have killed the uranium transfer. Wedded to its vainglorious “Russian reset,” the Obama administration instead waited four years — i.e., until after Putin annexed Crimea — to bring and to quietly plead out the case. The committee that approved the transfer in contravention of national security included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose family foundation reaped tens of millions in donations related to the transaction, and Attorney General Eric Holder, to whom the FBI reported while it was gathering proof of Russian felonies. Congress, finally, has launched a probe.

‐ President Trump has taken executive action to weaken the policy regime of Obamacare, and congressional Republicans should follow by reforming the law. The steps taken by the president are sensible and, in one case, obligatory. Trump decided that the government would stop making illegal “cost-sharing reduction” payments to health insurers, liberate association health plans, and ease the regulations on short-term insurance. These actions all underscore a weakness of Obamacare, which limits choices and raises premiums but makes it impossible to address these problems without threatening other parts of the law. Senators Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.) crafted a health-care deal traveling under the banner of bipartisanship. The deal would appropriate funds for the cost-sharing payments and give Republicans nothing much in exchange. The funds could go to insurance plans that cover abortions, and the bill barely reforms the process by which states can obtain relief from Obamacare’s onerous regulations. Republicans should reject the Alexander-Murray deal, which props up the law they have rightly pledged to repeal, and continue to try to pass more-substantial reforms.

‐ The Senate has passed a budget resolution, and the House appears likely to follow suit. This is the first step toward tax reform, an issue whose details Republicans are still struggling to work out, as evidenced by the recent uproar over potential cuts to the tax break for 401(k)s. In general, the GOP’s mistake thus far has been to assure corporations and wealthy taxpayers that they will receive rate cuts — which, to be clear, promote economic growth and are a necessary element of tax reform — while offering middle-class families with children little more than a “We’ll get back to you.” Indeed, though the Republicans’ existing plan lacks many details, credible estimates suggest that it could lead to tax increases on many far-from-wealthy households. Senators Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) are correct to insist that the child tax credit must be doubled to shield these families from tax hikes, and Republicans also must avoid a large increase in the budget deficit. If that means scaling back their other tax cuts, so be it.

‐ Trump attacked NBC, threatening to have the Federal Communications Commission revoke its broadcast license as punishment for publishing news stories discomfiting to the administration. That’s pure Trump: There is no license to revoke, because the FCC does not license broadcast networks or cable channels. (It does license individual stations.) Piling on, Trump loyalist Bill Mitchell suggested that print publications such as the Washington Post should lose their licenses, too. (Such licenses do not exist.) The chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, rebuked the president in public, noting that even if there were a license to revoke, the FCC is not empowered to do so in response to the political content of news broadcasts. “The FCC will stand for the First Amendment,” Pai said. Thanks for that.

‐ God help us, Scott Pruitt has had an “epiphany.” The very able EPA chief has been going from success to success, rolling back Obama-era overreach at the agency and trying to drag it — kicking, screaming, and litigating — back into its proper statutory limits. And then he ran up against the corn mafia. Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Whatever — those are nothing compared to Big Elmer. Pruitt’s EPA had quietly been considering some changes to the ethanol program, one of the most grotesque and indefensible of our corporate-welfare handouts, under which a handful of businesses and corn producers — many in the politically important state of Iowa — enjoy billions of dollars in de facto subsidies in the form of an alternative-fuel mandate, i.e., a federal law that requires the purchase of ethanol with one hand and subsidizes it with the other. (U.S. consumers also subsidize ethanol through higher food prices, an inevitable product of turning chicken feed into ersatz gasoline.) Pruitt’s exploration of ethanol reform brought swift action from Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), who reminded the EPA chief that Ted Cruz, who had taken a principled stand against ethanol welfare in Iowa, had not won the election and that the guy who did win is an ethanol-panderer, big league. The ethanol mob put out a statement boasting of Pruitt’s course-reversing “epiphany.” And that, apparently, is to be the end of any attempt at even half-hearted reform to the ethanol program. More epiphanies like that, we can do without.

‐ Linda Greenhouse wrote a New York Times column denouncing the Trump administration’s expansion of a conscience exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate as a radical victory for the “forces of reaction against modernity.” (She apparently dates modernity from the passage of the ACA.) The column contained a remarkably nasty little barb: “Conservatives, even the publicly pious ones, don’t seem to have a problem with limiting the size of their families. (Vice President Mike Pence has two children, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has three. Need I say more?)” She concluded that conservatives must therefore really object not to birth control but to the empowerment of women. Perhaps Greenhouse did not know that Pence’s wife has spoken publicly about her family’s years-long struggle with infertility. She certainly was not aware that the Pences in fact have three children. She also seems not to have considered an alternative explanation for her opponents’ motives: that it is possible (a) not to object to contraception and (b) to respect the right of those who do object to it, or some forms of it, not to be compelled to provide it to their employees. No, Greenhouse need not say more. She has revealed plenty.

‐ Virginians should elect Ed Gillespie as their governor. Despite the drag of President Trump’s unpopularity in the state, Gillespie has made the race competitive, a sign of the weakness of his Democratic opponent, Ralph Northam, and of Gillespie’s sure-footedness as a candidate. In the past, Gillespie supported “comprehensive” immigration reform, although his enthusiasm for it has, we are glad to say, markedly diminished. In the gubernatorial race, he has emphasized immigration enforcement and criticized Northam for his vote against a measure that would prevent the creation of sanctuary cities in Virginia. Gillespie is running on a serious, forward-looking agenda: His signature policy is broad-based tax reform, and he also wants to reform the regulations that make it difficult to open new charter schools in the state. He is an experienced, practical-minded conservative who is a good fit for the increasingly purple state. We have no doubt he would be a good governor, and this is not even a close call: Vote Gillespie.

‐ Jerry Brown, the governor of California, has a veto pen, and he is not afraid to use it. In recent days, he has decided on a string of excellent vetoes. He vetoed a bill that would have infringed on the conscience rights of religious institutions. He vetoed a bill that would have infringed on the due-process rights of college students accused of sex crimes. He vetoed a bill that would have required presidential candidates to release their tax returns. (“I recognize the political attractiveness — even the merits — of getting President Trump’s tax returns,” he said, but the bill would create a “slippery slope.”) He vetoed a bill that would have banned smoking on state beaches and in state parks. (“If people can’t smoke even on a deserted beach, where can they?”) Jerry Brown is a liberal Democrat, and often wrongheaded. But there is a reason that WFB respected him, even to the point of including him on his team in Firing Line debates.

‐ Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama, set up a charity with a wonderful name: the Foundation for Moral Law. According to a report in the Washington Post, he said that he would not take a “regular salary,” not wanting to be a burden on the foundation. In truth, he took more than $1 million over five years, undisclosed on tax forms. Sometimes his salary amounted to a third of all contributions to the foundation. At least two of his children and his wife were on the payroll too. We’d say that members of the Moore family were doing well by doing good, except that it isn’t clear what the positive contribution of the foundation was besides lining their pockets.

‐ Technology ruined the taxicab business in New York City and then saved it. A perverse unintended outcome of GPS routing technology is that the quality of cab drivers plummeted; New York cabbies had never been anything like their London counterparts with their command of “the Knowledge,” but GPS allowed many of them to be replaced with fresh immigrants managing just enough English to plug an address into Google Maps — and no idea where City Hall or Lincoln Center is. But New York’s yellow dinosaurs are increasingly beside the point: For the first time since the service’s inception, Uber is carrying more passengers daily than taxis — about 10,000 more. Half of Uber’s rides originate outside of Manhattan (not even counting the airports) and the app is especially helpful in lower-income and minority neighborhoods ill served by the city’s taxi cartel. With the subway system in meltdown and few other options, residents from the outer boroughs have come to rely on the ride-hailing app for many essential transportation needs. New York and other Democrat-dominated cities have long made war on Uber at the behest of the taxicab mafia, which does not like competition. The Reverend W. Franklyn Richardson of Grace Baptist Church tells the New York Times that Uber eschews the infamous racial discrimination of NYC taxi drivers. As the youngsters put it: Capitalism FTW.

‐ It’s easy to see why liberals love using “sin taxes” to reduce the public’s consumption of tobacco or sugar: You get to take a hand in running people’s lives and take their money at the same time. When Illinois’s Cook County, which includes Chicago, enacted a tax on soda pop at the beginning of this year, the government expected the fiscal equivalent of a sugar rush, along with the vague prospect of better health outcomes in the indefinite future. The tax proved distinctly less popular, though, with just about every segment of Chicagoland’s population: tax-weary consumers, who did not like paying an extra 33 cents per liter (on top of the sales tax); vending-machine operators; and owners of bars, restaurants, and stores, for whom soft drinks provide some of the biggest profit margins. Moreover, the behavior-modifying aspect of the tax was vitiated by its application to artificially sweetened sodas and by a provision waiving the tax for purchases made with food stamps. No surprise, then, that in October the hated tax was repealed, to general rejoicing. Students of American history could have told Cook County what happens when you put a punitive tax on the people’s favorite beverage.

‐ Marking the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, the New York Times Book Review included an essay by the British novelist Martin Amis, with a lede that could be chiseled in stone: “It was not a good idea that somehow went wrong or withered away. It was a very bad idea from the outset, and one forced into life — or the life of the undead — with barely imaginable self-righteousness, pedantry, dynamism, and horror. The chief demerit of the Marxist program was its point-by-point defiance of human nature. Bolshevik leaders subliminally grasped the contradiction almost at once; and their rankly Procrustean answer was to leave the program untouched and change human nature.” So Communism, not by accident but necessarily, stretched, cut, and killed. Amis has dedicated himself to telling this truth, not only in the Times but in books (Koba the Dread, House of Meetings). Thanks to him and the Times; all honor to Communism’s victims. Never forget.

‐ The United States announced its withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a welcome divorce. In 2011, the U.S. substantially cut funding to UNESCO after the organization granted the Palestinian Authority full membership. While Barack Obama asked Congress to restore funding, the Trump administration has taken the appropriate next step. The nakedly political organization is a dependable opponent of Israel. In 2013, the organization’s executive board issued six condemnations of Israel (and honored Che Guevara, the Communist mercenary). In 2016, it announced that the Temple Mount had no connection to Judaism, referring to it only as the “Al-Aqsa Mosque.” UNESCO’s director general called the U.S. withdrawal a loss for the “fight against violent extremism.” The organization, not the United States, is on the wrong side of that fight.

‐ Bill Browder is a hero of our times. He was a big financier in Russia. But then his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was taken prisoner and tortured to death by the Russian state. Browder decided to dedicate his life to human rights in Russia. He is a driver of “Magnitsky acts.” These are laws that freeze the assets of Russian human-rights abusers and deny them visas. So far, four governments, including that of the United States, have Magnitsky acts. The latest to pass one is Canada. This infuriated Vladimir Putin, who denounced Browder personally. He also placed Browder on Interpol’s wanted list. Briefly, the United States revoked Browder’s visa waiver. (He is a British citizen.) But this mistake was quickly reversed. Browder is still on the Interpol list, however, and the Kremlin has done something diabolical — something else, that is. It has charged Browder himself with Sergei Magnitsky’s murder. The old Soviets would grin at this trick. The murderers have charged the champion of the victim with the murder. You see what Putin’s government is.

‐ Steve Wynn is the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and a casino tycoon. He operates an empire in Macau, requiring a license from the Chinese government. At a private dinner, Wynn handed President Trump a letter from that government — urging the extradition of Guo Wengui, a Chinese whistleblower who has called out the Chinese Communist Party’s mammoth corruption. Sources told the Wall Street Journal that the president said, “We need to get this criminal out of the country.” Fortunately, Guo is a member of Mar-a-Lago, the president’s resort in Palm Beach. Aides pointed this out to him. So Guo appears safe. It doesn’t make Steve Wynn’s water-carrying for a Communist dictatorship any less loathsome.

‐ Here’s the Middle East in a nutshell: As one war winds down, another one starts to spool up. And so it is in Iraq, where ISIS is on the run but the Iraqi government is squaring off against Kurdistan. Acting against the Trump administration’s wishes, the Kurdish government held an independence referendum, and Kurds voted overwhelmingly for their own national state. At this point there should be little doubt that the Kurds should have their own nation. They’ve built one of the Middle East’s most functional societies, they’ve been our stalwart allies for a generation, and they stand as a firewall against both Sunni and Shiite extremism. Yet none of their neighbors agree. The Iraqi government doesn’t consent to the split, the Turks are vigorously opposed, and the Iranians don’t want an enemy on their flank. And so violence threatens. Iraqi-army units took parts of Kirkuk, a mainly Kurdish city, in a mostly bloodless operation, but further conflict beckons. Sooner than it wanted — and before ISIS is finally defeated — the Trump administration faces a diplomatic crisis. The Kurds have offered to freeze the results of their referendum, but it will take a deft hand indeed to negotiate a settlement that keeps our obligations to the Kurds, maintains momentum against Sunni terrorists, and also prevents a wider conflict.

‐ The undeclared civil war that the Palestinians have been fighting supposedly has reached reconciliation. Instead of trying to subvert and kill one another, leaders from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have met to discuss reforming the political structure that seemed designed to keep them divided. Both parties are aware of the impasse they have reached, their rising unpopularity, and the gathering humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The United States, Egypt, and Iran are, as usual, putting on pressure to bring about their versions of a peace process. Mahmoud Abbas, now in his eighties and in the twelfth year of a four-year mandate to be president of the PA, so far has shown only evidence of weakness. The PA is willing to take over the disastrous financing of Gaza. Hamas is not willing to disarm, and therefore will be in the position of Hezbollah in Lebanon, a militia that holds the balance of power with no responsibility for good governance. Reconciliation looks like more of the same old plight.

‐ Ksenia Sobchak is qualified to run for the Russian presidency because her father, Anatoly Sobchak, the mayor of St. Petersburg when it was still Leningrad, picked and promoted a young KGB officer by the name of Vladimir Putin. The rest is history. Putin has the presidency sewn up until well into the 2020s, but, if only pro forma, there has to be an election. Campaigning kicks off in December. A fetching blonde aged 35, Ksenia is widely known as “Russia’s Paris Hilton.” Putin opened a space for her as his supposed opponent by charging Alexei Navalny, the real leader of a real opposition, with corruption: That’s enough to disqualify him. To add injury to insult, Putin arranged for him to receive a prison sentence of 20 days for organizing “unsanctioned” protests. Navalny tells everyone that Ksenia is being used to lend legitimacy to a sham vote, but he can’t stop Putin from repaying favors.

‐ Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, and his Liberal Democratic party won a resounding victory in an October 22 general election. Abe’s decision to call a snap election and his victory, which was not always assured, might lead to a landmark attempt to amend Japan’s 1947 pacifist constitution. The “peace constitution,” drafted under the guidance of General Douglas MacArthur during the American occupation, renounces “war as a sovereign right of the nation” and forbids the maintenance of land, sea, or air forces. Since the war, the United States has been the guarantor of Japanese security, but now Abe’s Liberal Democrats seek to reassert — slowly and cautiously — Japan’s role in geopolitical security matters by regularizing the country’s de facto military, the Japan Self-Defense Forces. That the Japanese would seek this is understandable given a rising, aggressive China, a megalomaniacal and nuclear-armed dictatorship in Pyongyang, and an American public — and administration — that can be seen as ambivalent about its role in the Far East. It’s been more than 70 years since V-J Day, and it is time for Japan to become a “normal” country again. The United States, a friend to the Japanese people for all these years, should welcome its longtime ally as it embraces a new, more vigorous role in the American-led liberal order.

‐ In October, news broke that Bill O’Reilly had settled yet another sexual-misconduct complaint, this time for a whopping $32 million. The New York Times reported that a former Fox News legal analyst named Lis Wiehl had claimed that she’d been forced into a “nonconsensual” sexual relationship with O’Reilly. Her settlement brought the total reported amount of O’Reilly’s sexual-misconduct settlements to $45 million. O’Reilly is unrepentant, and his defenses are increasingly pathetic. He trotted out an affidavit by Wiehl, claiming that it “repudiated” the claims against him. It did no such thing. Then, after his defense was widely panned in the media and online, he declared himself “mad at God” for allowing the scandal to happen. O’Reilly is of course now out at Fox News, but prominent conservatives continue to appear on his new program, and leading conservative hosts continue to bring him on their shows. Moreover, there is evidence that O’Reilly’s Fox News bosses were aware of the settlement with Wiehl before they signed his last contract extension. Conservatives are rightly alarmed and angry at the sexual-misconduct scandals that are swamping sanctimonious, liberal Hollywood following revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. They should take care to reserve some outrage for the predators on the right side of the political aisle.

‐ Why is America so divided? In part, because so many have noticed that there is big money in being partisan. A case in point is the late-night ABC comic Jimmy Kimmel, who was not strongly identified with any particular political stance, nor with any especial critical acclaim, in the days when he was hosting a laddish variety program called The Man Show. These days, though, Kimmel is rebranding himself the Conscience of America™. To our surprise, and perhaps even to his own, the public is playing along, with his ratings going up. Kimmel notes that his favorability has tumbled among Republicans, which is fine with him: “If they’re so turned off by my opinion on health care and gun violence then I don’t know, I probably wouldn’t want to have a conversation with them anyway,” he said. “Not good riddance, but riddance.” In the Trump era, the market appears to be rewarding political polarization more than usual. Expect more of it, not least from those lords of the airwaves who keep tut-tutting about our fractured public discourse even as their profits pile up.

‐ Colin Kaepernick has filed a labor grievance against the National Football League, seeking to exploit President Trump’s salvos in the kulturkampf over the offensive protest exhibition he launched — players’ kneeling during the pregame observance of the national anthem. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback contends he has been blackballed, with team owners colluding against him because of Trump’s demagogic insistence that the league “fire” protesters. It is a spurious claim. Kaepernick would have been cut in 2016 had he not exercised a contractual option to become a free agent. For months before Trump said a word, as rosters were set for the current season, no team signed Kaepernick. The reason is plain: After a promising start to his career, he performed unimpressively his last several seasons. The physical toll taken by run-first quarterbacks who are not great passers has markedly diminished his skills, to the point that he is now a mediocre player. Only stars get away with controversy. Kaepernick may still be better than many other second-stringers, but marginal players cannot afford baggage in an entertainment industry. No one needs to collude against them. If you’re going to do Muhammad Ali–style activism, you’d better have Muhammad Ali–level talent.

‐ In the world of academic journals, retractions are rare, usually resorted to only in cases of fraud or blatant error. Now the editor of Third World Quarterly has added another reason to withdraw an article: Someone threatened to kill him if he didn’t. The article in question was known to be controversial: Bruce Gilley of Portland State University argued that having been a colony can be good for a country if it maintains ties with the colonial power. Counterexamples exist, to be sure, and rebuttals can be made; in fact, several vigorous ones appeared online in the days after publication of Gilley’s article. But as the protests piled up, the publisher steadfastly refused calls to withdraw the peer-reviewed article — until “the journal editor . . . received serious and credible threats of personal violence . . . linked to the publication of this essay.” Now nobody can read the article online and decide the question for himself. To a certain type of leftist, that’s progress.

‐ Halloween used to be strictly for kids, plus college students who needed an excuse for a party. But in a familiar campus progression, the holiday was taken over by grown-ups, institutionalized, and finally regulated to death. At many of today’s universities, you literally need to attend a seminar — or, worse, a “conversation” — to know whether your costume is ideologically permissible. This year, one of the most elaborate such training sessions took place at the University of Southern Indiana, where authorities had prepared guidelines, videos, diagrams, and sample costumes (a cat, a ghost, a superhero) for the dozen people who showed up. To avoid the sin of “cultural appropriation,” they explained, sombreros were out, as were headscarves, American Indian outfits, and many other things. Judging from the handouts, Italian-American caricatures are okay as long as they are borrowed from ancient TV shows (Fonzie) or video games (e.g., Mario Bros.; Grand Theft Auto might be pushing it). A similar pre-Halloween event at Goucher College was advertised with the tag line “The scariest thing about your costume isn’t what you think . . .” And they’re right — the scariest thing is that wearing the wrong hat could get you kicked out of school.

To Kill a Mockingbird has been removed from yet another curriculum, this time that of eighth-grade students in the public schools of Biloxi, Miss. The vice president of the local school board cited complaints about “language in the book that makes people uncomfortable.” According to one news report, the decision was made “mid-lesson plan . . . due to the use of the ‘N’ word.” That is, students had already been assigned the novel and begun reading it when administrators pulled the plug. No doubt one of Harper Lee’s purposes in putting racist language on the lips of her fictional characters was to depict the repulsiveness of Jim Crow. Granted, some adolescent readers might fail to appreciate what’s going on. That’s why they have teachers.

‐ Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas had stood on the line of scrimmage for every one of the team’s offensive plays since 2007. That’s 10,363 consecutive snaps, believed to be an NFL record. He played through injuries to keep the streak alive. It was finally broken when he left the game after collapsing with a torn left triceps in the third quarter of the Browns’ loss (of course) to the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on October 22. A Pro Bowl perennial and a bright spot on a beleaguered team in a city whose professional sports franchises have been almost without exception either dismal, frustrating, or tragic since the Eisenhower administration, Thomas left Browns fans feeling deprived of a rare, reliable source of pride and joy. Well, streaks end. On the bright side, the Browns’ already-excellent chance of getting the first-round draft pick just improved.

‐ Helen DeVos and her husband, Rich, the co-founder of Amway, and their five children (her son Dick, husband of Betsy DeVos, is a trustee of National Review Institute), and their children, constitute a singular American family, in love with God, country, freedom, and their hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich. Mrs. DeVos’s 90 years were marked by an extraordinary philanthropic spirit, passion, and energy. She proved a bulwark of support for liberty, for Christian schools at all levels, including the King’s College in Manhattan, for many youth-centered charities and hospitals, and for various conservative institutions (including a very appreciative fortnightly magazine). A dear friend of conservatism and a beacon of goodness, Helen DeVos, ill with leukemia and its complications, passed away at her home in Ada, Mich., Rich and her family at her side, her welcoming Savior ready with an eternal reward. R.I.P.

‐ Serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Richard Wilbur saw the world “get out of hand,” as he later reflected, explaining his urge to use poetry to create order. The Beautiful Changes and Other Poems (1947), his first collection, was followed by ten more, spanning 60 years. He penned a few children’s books, translated Molière and Racine, and wrote the lyrics to some of the songs for Leonard Bernstein’s operetta Candide. He served as the U.S. poet laureate (1987–88) and won many awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes. His poetry is metrical, formal, and often witty, given to cleverness and wordplay. The delicate style when applied to heavy subject matter packs a lot of punch. “That saddest day of all, / I shall not weep, but with a proper awe / For the great force impending, I shall say, / Lay on, just destiny. Let the white wall / Impose on me its uncapricious law.” Dead at 96. R.I.P.

IRAN

Backing Off from a Bad Deal

Donald Trump is decertifying the Iran deal, and he gave a tough-minded speech announcing his decision.

Building on the North Korean model of negotiations, Tehran engaged in a years-long dialogue with the West over the question of whether it would have a nuclear program, all the while developing its nuclear program. The upshot of the agreement was that we accepted Iran’s becoming a threshold nuclear power and showered it with sanctions relief — including, literally, a plane-full of cash — for the privilege.

Since the deal left the rest of Iran’s objectionable and threatening behavior untouched, the regime was free to invest proceeds from its economic windfall in its ballistic-missile program and its agenda of military expansion across the region.

We would prefer that the U.S. pull out of the deal, reimpose the sanctions that had begun to bite the regime prior to the agreement, and force Europeans eager to do business with Iran to choose between us and them. The goal would be to bring the regime to its knees and, short of that, force it to rip up its nuclear program.

The Trump administration isn’t willing to go that far, at least not yet. President Trump will refuse to certify every 90 days that the deal is in the vital security interests of the U.S. — an obvious fiction — and seek to get Congress to pass a series of “triggers” further sanctioning Iran if it doesn’t meet various new standards under the deal. This is a halfway approach that reflects the White House’s divisions (Trump wants to get all the way out of the deal, but most of his national-security principals don’t), the enormous diplomatic task that pulling out would represent (Iran would join North Korea as an urgent, dominating foreign-policy issue), and perhaps internal doubts about what the administration is capable of pulling off (sometimes it has merely been struggling for coherence on foreign policy).

If Congress did indeed pass additional Iran sanctions, it might be a way, in effect, to toughen the Iran deal unilaterally. The Europeans could well be willing to go along in the interests of saving the overall agreement, and Iran probably prefers to be inside the deal rather than out. But it will take 60 votes for the Senate to pass anything, and President Trump may soon confront the decision whether he really wants to stay in or not.

Trump’s speech, appropriately, addressed much more than the nuclear deal, making the case against the terroristic theocracy in Tehran and outlining a strategy to pressure the regime on all fronts. If nothing else, we have a president who doesn’t see the regime through a film of delusion — finally.

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Poetry

Poetry

IN PLATO’S CAVE As lights in some cheap movie lit Reveal the filth in which we sit; And eyes around recoil in fright: In Plato’s cave we hate the light. But dream of being in ...
Letters

Letters

Kindergarten Controversy We at Catherine Cook School are shocked and disappointed that National Review would allow Frederick Hess and Grant Addison’s article, “Classes of Kindergarteners” (October 15), to be printed without ...
The Week

The Week

‐ So it took only 20 percent of the U.S. uranium supply to make Hillary radioactive. ‐ Former president George W. Bush gave an address in New York on “the Spirit ...

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Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

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Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More