Magazine | May 14, 2018, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

• Through the haze, we can already see the signs: John Boehner/Gary Johnson 2020.

• James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty had a print run of 850,000 copies. Obviously so: In July 2016, the then–FBI director changed from a faceless Beltway eminence to the nemesis first of Hillary Clinton, then of Donald Trump. Pre-election, Comey twice highlighted Clinton’s home-brew server, first in an ill-judged effort to make the story go away, then thanks to the home-stretch discovery of Clinton emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Post-election, Comey became entangled in the hunt for Trump–Russian collusion (an exasperated Trump finally fired him). Comey was a lifer loyal to his career; by his own account, he told Trump, after much prodding, that he could give him “honest loyalty.” His higher loyalty was to the reputation of the FBI. It should not have been his highest. Comey’s original sin, from which so much else flowed, was tailoring his first statement about Clinton’s server to make the bureau seem both zealous and fair to her, the (presumed) next president. But that was not his job; rather, it was to follow the law, wherever it led. In that light, Comey’s career can be an exemplum.

• The FBI executed search warrants at the office and residences of Michael Cohen, the president’s sometime lawyer and self-professed “fixer.” Trump blew a gasket, railing about shredding of the attorney–client privilege and fueling talk that he would fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But Mueller had referred Cohen to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, which he would not have done if Cohen were important to the Russia investigation; and Rosenstein reportedly told Trump he is not the focus of the Cohen probe. It is unlikely there were many attorney–client communications: Cohen’s law practice is negligible, and he denies telling Trump about paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels to conceal a 2006 sexual encounter she claims to have had with Trump. (His denial is implausible, but Trump has parroted it.) In any event, even an unsavory nondisclosure arrangement is not a crime, and Cohen has other business dealings that are said to be of interest to prosecutors. Obviously, the court would not have issued warrants absent evidence of crimes, but that doesn’t make them Trump crimes.

• Cohen also negotiated a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model who says she was impregnated last year by Elliot Broidy, deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, who paid for an abortion. Broidy resigned his post after acknowledging his relationship with the woman, who is barred from speaking about the relationship after accepting the payment. This is another bleak reminder that our political class is infected with low-character people. Broidy’s ouster from the RNC is a necessary act of public hygiene.

• Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz referred the FBI’s former deputy director, Andrew McCabe, for a possible false-statements prosecution. McCabe had been fired on the eve of his retirement, and the IG’s 35-page report convincingly portrays him as a mendacious operator who leaked investigative information to cast himself in a favorable light; covered his tracks by blaming fellow agents when the leak was published; then lied to his boss (then-director James Comey), to the bureau’s internal investigators, and to the IG — repeatedly and under oath. Lost in the coverage was the context of the leak: The Obama Justice Department had pressured the FBI to drop an investigation of the Clinton Foundation. There ought to be room in our minds for one more scandal.

• NR gets results, although sometimes delayed by a decade or more. We supported the pardon of Scooter Libby, caught up in a textbook overzealous special-counsel investigation, back in 2007. Now, President Trump has pardoned Libby, perhaps as a nod to his lawyer Michael Cohen, or as a statement of disregard for the work of myopic special counsels. It’s hard to say what it means exactly, except that a good man has rightly had his record wiped clean.

• The Democratic National Committee is suing the Trump campaign, Russia, and WikiLeaks in a Manhattan federal court, claiming millions of dollars in damages for Russia’s “all-out assault on our democracy” during the 2016 election and alleging that the Trump campaign was a “willing and active partner” in “an act of unprecedented treachery.” The lawsuit asserts that Trump associates conspired with Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks to hack the party’s email system, disseminate damaging information about Hillary Clinton, and “promote Donald Trump’s candidacy through illegal means.” The DNC, among other things, demands access to Trump-campaign records, in order to establish its communication with Russians, and a formal acknowledgment of wrongdoing on the part of Trump’s team. Even setting aside the fact that Russia, as a sovereign nation, is generally immune to lawsuits filed in U.S. courts, the effort is a stunt, and a poorly conceived one at that. DNC chairman Tom Perez should concentrate on the coming midterms. Leave the sleuthing to Robert Mueller’s investigators.

• We learn in New York Times reporter Amy Chozick’s new book, Chasing Hillary, that at 9:17 p.m. Eastern time on Election Day of 2016, Chelsea Clinton popped the cork on a bottle of champagne at the Peninsula Hotel, where the Clinton family was watching election returns and Chelsea was having her hair and makeup done for the inevitable victory speech. At 9:47, Chozick realized Hillary Clinton was going to lose. Campaign manager Robby Mook was saddled with the task of telling the candidate. “I knew it. I knew this would happen to me,” Hillary said, getting within a couple of inches of his face, Chozick reports. “They were never going to let me be president.” If “they” meant the American people, Clinton was perhaps correct: The voters simply couldn’t abide her, and it was obvious even to her supporters. A common joke on Team Hillary was to say, “I’m With Her . . . I Guess,” Chozick writes. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed her approval rating hitting an all-time low of 27 percent, an astonishing figure for a private citizen who isn’t taking a daily beating from the news media, and lower than President Trump’s 35 percent in the same survey. Clinton is said to be thinking about campaigning for Democrats in the midterms. Trump should hope that she does.

• Mike Pompeo is obviously qualified to be secretary of state. He has performed ably at the CIA, has Washington experience (as a congressman before he joined the administration), and, if you care about credentials, graduated top of his class at West Point and edited the Harvard Law Review. He is now barely squeaking through Senate confirmation because Democrats are increasingly determined to try to block any and all Trump appointees. Their reasons for opposing Pompeo are transparently absurd, including that he is a social conservative. Pompeo’s travails are a sign of things to come if Democrats somehow manage to take the Senate later this year.

• That Trump exaggerates his net worth is well known. Jonathan Greenberg, who worked as a reporter at Forbes in the ’80s, used to take pride in investigating the real-estate developer’s claims so that Trump could be placed in the correct slot on the Forbes 400. But even Greenberg was being duped, he later discovered: In a recent piece for the Washington Post, Greenberg reveals a misinformation campaign in which Trump provided fake sources (including, naturally, scenes in which Trump called the journalist under an assumed name), inflated the number of buildings he owned, and took credit for much of a real-estate empire that in fact still belonged to his father. In reality, Trump shouldn’t have been on the first three Forbes 400 lists at all. In Greenberg’s telling, the president comes off as both pathetic and impressive: pathetic, for undertaking such elaborate efforts to get his name in a magazine; impressive, because one can’t help but grin a little at the fact that he got away with it.

• In the time since she was confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley has distinguished herself as one of the stars of the young Trump administration. She’s been tough and articulate, taking on all comers at a U.N. that’s overrun with anti-Americanism. She’s confronted the nation’s enemies and demonstrated that she doesn’t suffer international fools lightly. And now we know that Haley’s toughness extends to battles within the administration. In an embarrassing and needless diplomatic hiccup, Haley announced new sanctions against the Kremlin, only to watch Trump walk them back the next day. Then, new Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow publicly blamed Haley, declaring that she “got ahead of the curve” and might have suffered from “momentary confusion.” Haley fired back, declaring, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” Kudlow apologized for his statement, and Haley delivered her message. When it comes to her office and her responsibilities, she will stand her ground.

• To ensure that the tax bill could not be filibustered, Republicans made the corporate tax cut permanent but the individual tax cuts temporary. The doubling of the standard deduction, the expansion of the child tax credit, and the lower individual-rate structure all expire after 2025. Republicans should bring legislation to the floor that would make these provisions permanent. If it passes, the GOP will have shepherded through permanent tax relief for most Americans. If it doesn’t, Republicans will have forced Democrats to vote down middle-class tax cuts that they say they favor. We would obviously prefer to see the former, but Republicans staring at the prospect of a bloodbath in the midterms should be happy with either outcome — and those worried that such legislation would add to the national debt should take another look at reining in the growth of entitlements.

• President Trump briefly signaled openness to rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yes, that TPP, the multilateral trade deal that Trump savaged during his presidential campaign and withdrew the United States from in the early days of his administration. Rejoining the TPP is a good idea. It would boost the American economy: The signatories of the agreement account for roughly 40 percent of American trade. It would strengthen relations with key allies: Japan’s Shinzo Abe, who risked his political capital in championing the deal, urged Trump to consider rejoining in a recent meeting. And it is the best way for Trump to begin counteracting Chinese mercantilism without setting off a trade war. If the U.S. doesn’t set the terms of global trade, someone else will.

• Meanwhile, countries in the European Union are proposing a revival of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a U.S.–EU trade agreement that was drawn up during the Obama administration but never completed. The deal likely would lower trade barriers on American cars, machinery, and agricultural products in exchange for allowing EU companies access to federal-government procurement. The TTIP has its virtues, especially in the economic-growth department. But the real incentive to complete it is that it would put pressure on China. German officials told the Wall Street Journal that an agreement “could include a commitment” for both parties to bring “action against China at the World Trade Organization,” as well as “a pledge for leading European governments to apply more pressure on Beijing.” A successful negotiation would counteract Chinese misbehavior and lead to freer trade — both worthy causes.

• Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) announced — on April 20, a day beloved of pot smokers — his support for decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level. “It’s time we allow states, once and for all, to have the power to decide what works best for them,” he tweeted. The senator deserves credit for taking the right stance, and will deserve even more if he extends this federalist philosophy to letting states do things that inspire less enthusiasm from Democratic voters.

• The “farm bill” is notorious for its corporate welfare, but about 80 percent of its funding actually goes to the food-stamp program. This time around, Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee have taken the opportunity to push for serious reforms, including stronger work requirements for able-bodied adults, as well as increased funding for training programs so that everyone who wants to join the work programs is able to. As Robert VerBruggen details elsewhere in this issue (p. 29), there are some reasonable objections to the committee’s bill — but that’s no reason to abandon the project entirely. House Republicans must improve the legislation and sell it to the public, the simple message being that those on public assistance have a duty to help support themselves if they can, whether by working or by preparing to work. The message about the dignity of work should be broadcast as well to Senate Republicans, who do not seem inclined to do any heavy lifting on this issue.

• EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has announced that his agency will reevaluate the national fuel-efficiency standards for passenger cars that the Obama-era EPA rushed through just days before Trump took office. The regulations arbitrarily mandated a fleet-wide average of 36 miles per gallon by 2018 and 54.5 mpg by 2025. The view from American roads is decidedly different: The current real-world average hovers around 25 mpg, as drivers have moved into larger, heavier vehicles in response to years of lower fuel prices. In accordance with the proper notice-and-comment rulemaking process, Pruitt is right to revisit both this matter and the related issue of the waiver President Obama granted California from the Clean Air Act, a waiver that gave the state the power to implement stricter emissions standards than those mandated nationally. Anyone who wishes to purchase a vehicle that emphasizes fuel efficiency has that right. But then, those who value an SUV — with three full rows of seats to tote the kids to soccer practice — without the feds or Sacramento making that choice artificially expensive also have the right to do that. If we are to have a national fuel-efficiency standard, it would be better that it were simple to understand — and national. Moreover, we expect the market, and the Elon Musks of the world, to progressively develop more fuel-efficient options without the government’s Five Year Plan–style interference.

• Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) wants to start a pilot program to explore the idea of a federal jobs guarantee. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) and, naturally, Bernie Sanders (Socialist, Vt.) are supportive. Booker’s version of the guarantee would let all who want it be paid $15 an hour plus benefits. As centrist economist Adam Ozimek points out, more than 50 million Americans make less than that. So that works out to — actually, the math isn’t worth doing. We don’t need a pilot program to see that this is an unworkable, unserious idea.

• In California, sponsors of Assembly Bill 2943 describe it as an act to amend sections of the civil code “relating to unlawful business practices.” Buried in the list of dozens of prohibited goods and services are “sexual orientation change efforts.” Those are defined broadly, to include “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions.” That is, not only therapy to change a person’s sexual orientation would be criminalized — so would counseling to help individuals live chastely, whether they were heterosexual or homosexual, and even if they sought counseling for that purpose. The bill would have a chilling effect on counselors, ministers, and booksellers, who might hesitate to recommend or stock titles that, no matter how well researched and reasoned, could be construed as consumer fraud under the terms of the bill. It should be voted down or revised to respect the free-speech rights of all Californians, even those who hew to traditional views of marriage and sexual morality.

• Rattled by an unexpectedly vigorous celebrity challenger from his left, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has turned even daffier than usual. On April 12, during a signing ceremony, the native-born New Yorker skidded off topic to claim, “I’m undocumented.” Advancing a theory that “unless you are a Native American, Apache, Sioux, Comanche, you are an immigrant,” he noted, “I’m an Italian American, I came from poor Italian Americans who came here. You know what they called Italian Americans back in the day? They called them wops. You know what ‘wop’ stood for? Without papers. I’m undocumented.” In a single breath, Cuomo elided the critical distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, repeated a debunked urban legend about “wop” (in fact it is derived from the Italian word guappo, slang for thug), and mischaracterized how immigration worked in the days when his Italian grandparents arrived at Ellis Island. At the time, there was no such thing as “undocumented” immigration at Ellis Island because arrivals weren’t required to produce papers. Cuomo, as every New Yorker knows, ascended to the state’s highest office largely because of his famous surname, and his attempt to claim kinship with the downtrodden classes looked ridiculous. The latest Cuomo blunder is a clear indicator that the two-term incumbent fears the identity-politics appeal of the unabashedly leftist Cynthia Nixon, his perky new rival for the Democratic party’s nomination, who would be both the first woman and the first openly gay person to occupy the governor’s chair. Polling shows Nixon has already shaved 16 points off Cuomo’s still-substantial lead and is proving to be an engaging presence on the talk-show circuit. It would take considerable ineptitude on Cuomo’s part to lose to Nixon, which is why we’re not counting her out.

• Twenty years ago, as Bill Clinton’s housing secretary, Cuomo led an effort to bankrupt gun makers with frivolous lawsuits blaming them for the illegal misuse of their products. Now, as New York governor, he’s shifted tactics in his attempts to undermine gun rights: In the words of an official press release, he’s instructed the state’s Department of Financial Services “to urge insurance companies, New York State–chartered banks, and other financial services companies licensed in New York to review any relationships they may have with the National Rifle Association and other similar organizations. Upon this review, the companies are encouraged to consider whether such ties harm their corporate reputations and jeopardize public safety.” That this is a thuggish abuse of a regulatory agency, and one that raises serious First Amendment concerns, should go without saying. If only we could say we found this behavior surprising.

• Mitch Daniels fought for fiscal sanity as governor of Indiana — and he took that same attitude to Purdue University, of which he became president in 2013. The 2019–20 school year will mark the seventh year of a tuition freeze, capping off a time period in which other Big Ten schools have hiked prices about 10 to 20 percent. If Purdue’s tuition had continued rising at its previous rate, in-state tuition would be $1,400 higher; out-of-state tuition, up $5,560. Daniels and the university’s trustees pulled this off not only through traditional belt-tightening but also by expanding enrollment. It’s a formula other college administrators should be looking at very carefully.

• If Donald Trump’s talks with Kim Jong-un lead to a ban of nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula, he will deserve the next ten or 20 Nobel Peace Prizes. The odds favor something worse, though satisfying to all parties, at least initially. Trump would get a North Korean agreement to freeze/suspend/hide-away-in-a-shoebox its nuclear program; North Korea would get a pat on the back and a lifting of sanctions; South Korea would heave a sigh of relief. Dennis Rodman might become America’s chargé d’affaires in Pyongyang. And the Norks’ nukes would remain a threat to East Asia and potentially our West Coast for future administrations to deal with. Through a combination of talking loudly, carrying a big stick, and as-yet-unexplained maneuvers with China, Trump seems to have gotten Kim to the point of possibly productive talks. North Korea, however, is determined and wily; high-level talks can be like high-wire acts without a net. It will be good to have new national-security adviser John Bolton in the mix.

• In a famous scene in Heart of Darkness, a French man-of-war shells the African coastline, seemingly pointlessly. This is not exactly the Trump policy in Syria, but launching occasional missile strikes in retaliation for the regime’s chemical-weapons attacks while watching the country get barrel-bombed into oblivion is not a compelling strategy. Trump didn’t have much of an alternative to hitting Assad after the president established a de facto red line against chemical weapons with his first retaliatory strike last year. But it doesn’t make sense to police against the use of a certain kind of weapon while otherwise washing our hands of Syria, as Trump would prefer. We need to stay engaged, buttressing our proxies and at the very least making the Russian and Iranian takeover of Syria as costly as possible. The missile strikes should be an element of our strategy, not a substitute for one.

• Since 1959, Cuba has been ruled by a dictator named Castro. Fidel picked his brother Raúl to succeed him. Now Raúl has picked a man named Miguel Díaz-Canel to succeed him. Cubans themselves do no picking, no electing. We are almost two decades into the 21st century. Cubans have had to wait a cruelly long time for rights that hundreds of millions take for granted.

• Alfie Evans, 23 months old and suffering a neurodegenerative disorder, was receiving artificial ventilation and hydration at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool until doctors removed him from life support on April 23. They judged that further treatment would be futile. Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in Rome has agreed to treat the boy, but the doctors in Liverpool won’t let his parents remove him from their watch. The parents took their case to the court of appeals. It ruled in the hospital’s favor. So did the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the European Court of Human Rights. As we went to press, Alfie was breathing unassisted and confounding doctors’ expectations, according to his father, and lawyers for the family were appealing their case in court once more. The Italian government has granted Alfie citizenship and prepared a plane to take him to Rome on short notice. Mariella Enoc, chief of Bambino Gesù, which is affiliated with the Holy See, flew to Liverpool to intercede. The similarities to the Charlie Gard case in London last year are glaring. However this one turns out, Godspeed to Alfie, his parents, and the band of supporters demonstrating on his behalf in Liverpool.

• Russian journalists, investigating the truth, keep meeting with strange accidents. Maksim Borodin fell from the window of his fifth-floor apartment. He had been investigating the role of Russian mercenaries in Syria. Then there is Valeri Pshenichny, an inventor and entrepreneur known as “the Elon Musk of Russia.” He got crossways with the Kremlin. A headline in the London Times was to the point: “Valeri Pshenichny raped and tortured to death in Russian jail.” Deal with Putin’s government if you have to — but have no illusions about what it is.

• These days the talk in Germany is that it is not safe for Jews to walk in the street. A 21-year-old student of veterinary medicine by the name of Adam Armush felt that this threat of violence ought to be tested. Wearing a kippah, the skullcap of Orthodox Jews, Armush set out from his home in the residential Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin. A friend accompanied him. Happening to pass them, three young Muslims saw the kippah and started shouting “Yahudi,” Arabic for Jew, cursing with an accent that in Armush’s opinion identifies them as Syrian refugees. He had the presence of mind to film with his mobile phone the one who was repeatedly and viciously slashing him with the buckle of his belt. After the attack, “I am not Jewish” was the bombshell Armush dropped in interviews in German and Hebrew: “I am an Israeli and I grew up in Israel in an Arab family.” For large numbers of Germans, anti-Semites in a return to the bad old days are once again openly beating those they believe to be Jews. Evidently shocked, Chancellor Angela Merkel put this incident in perspective, saying: “The reputation of our state is at stake.”

• Shawki Allam, the grand mufti of Egypt, that nation’s supreme legal authority on all things Muslim, has turned his attention to Facebook. In a fatwa with the full force of sharia law, he ruled that buying fake “likes” for your page is dishonest, and therefore un-Islamic. We agree, and would add that it is also really lame. The mufti clarified that Allah has no objection to legit online marketing: “Boosting content is permissible in Sharia law as long as it’s in a manner to promote an account, a product, a page or a publication in order for the content to reach a certain number of users targeted in exchange of money.” No problem there either; it’s nice to hear that the Prophet was so forward-looking. And finally, the mufti directed that websites “should not contain fake, misleading or deceiving content.” Hmmm, good luck with that . . .

• The Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Journalism went, deservedly, to Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker and Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey of the New York Times for their exposés of Harvey Weinstein and the Hollywood sex market (lay to play). Their reporting on the shameful way we live now generated the #MeToo moment. Meanwhile the Pulitzer Prize for Music went to rapper Kendrick Lamar’s latest album, Damn. According to the arcane rules of intersectionality, Lamar was given a pass on rap’s customary litanies about “bitches,” that is, the all-purpose term for women, the supposed beneficiaries of #MeToo. Yet Damn. also references the Bible (James 4:4 — “Friend of the world is enemy of the Lord”), so there may be hope after all.

• In 2005, the Supreme Court issued its infamous Kelo ruling — which basically made a mockery of the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause. What got taken was Susette Kelo’s little pink house, in New London, Conn. Her case sparked national outrage over “eminent domain” and takings. Was anyone’s property safe from the designs of others? Susette Kelo’s fight was chronicled in a 2009 book, Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage. The book has now been made into a movie, also called “Little Pink House.” George F. Will writes that this film “will win the Oscar for Best Picture if Hollywood’s political preening contains even a scintilla of sincerity about speaking truth to power.”

• Twenty minutes after take-off from New York, a Southwest Airlines plane lost its left engine, which caused a passenger to be sucked halfway out a broken window and killed and the plane to drop over 20,000 feet in ten minutes. The pilot, Tammi Jo Shults, a Navy veteran, calmly made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Afterwards she greeted every passenger and posted an online statement with her first officer saying, “We all feel we were simply doing our jobs.” James Shaw Jr. was simply a customer at a Nashville Waffle House when a semi-nude gunman opened fire with AR-15, killing four. Shaw, concealed in a restroom, heard him pause, then rushed out and wrested the weapon from him, sustaining minor injuries. “I was completely doing it just to save myself,” Shaw said later. “I don’t want people to think that I was the Terminator or Superman or anybody like that.” Whatever they say about themselves, we say: cool heads, brave hearts, well done.

• Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, 23-year-old black men, were arrested when a Philadelphia Starbucks called police after they had sat down, without ordering, to wait for a friend. Outrage ensued and Starbucks will close its stores nationwide for one afternoon in May for racial-bias training. Without question, black people get hustled and moved along more often than white people. An afternoon seminar at Starbucks will be a PR stunt, at best a Band-Aid. Maintaining the good order of public space is the foundation of broken-windows policing, and the police must have the discretion to maintain it. But with that discretion comes the risk of abuse. Firmness when needed, patience and common sense otherwise: So often wise policy is hard to codify and enforce simply.

• Chick-fil-A “plans to open as many as a dozen storefronts in the city,” writes Dan Piepenbring in a recent issue of The New Yorker. Gotham “has taken to” the fast-food chain, and yet its “arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.” It’s “creepy,” according to the headline. Stores close on Sunday, Piepenbring notes. The company’s mission statement “still begins with the words ‘to glorify God.’ ” That’s enough. Cue up the Jaws theme. He feigns concern that “proselytism thrums below the surface of the Fulton Street restaurant” in Manhattan, but we don’t know about that. What people who flock to it see, and taste, are largely its sandwiches. Chick-fil-A’s founder, S. Truett Cathy, was a Southern Baptist and sought to imprint his moral values on his business, because he considered them to be true. What business owner acts differently? The real beef that Piepenbring has with Chick-fil-A is that it contributes to efforts to defend the traditional definition of marriage. Other, bigger companies contribute to liberal social causes. Social conservatives buy their coffee and computers all the same. Some advice to our friends at The New Yorker: Calm down.

• An old showbiz maxim advises performers: “Never work with animals or children.” New York mayor Bill de Blasio should take this precept to heart. In 2014, on his first Groundhog Day as mayor, de Blasio held and then dropped a squirming Staten Island Chuck, who perished shortly afterwards of internal injuries after predicting six more weeks of winter that he would never see. Since that day, the mayor has sworn off groundhogs, but recently he could not resist appearing at a Bushwick housing project to show off a new rat-killing technology. No, he does not pick up the rats and try to hold onto them; the method involves dumping dry ice into their holes, where it turns into carbon dioxide and suffocates the pests. Unfortunately, this was a Brooklyn rat, so the street-smart rodent escaped the dry ice, emerged insolently from the mist, dodged sanitation workers who tried to stomp on him, and ran off down the block to scare some kids at a playground. If the mayor knows what’s good for him, from now on he’ll stick to making public appearances with New York politicians, who at least know how to follow a script.

• Writing in the Crimson, a Harvard undergrad complained of beautiful buildings — of old architecture that “signals backward-looking priorities and values” and “perpetuates an aura of elitism.” Perhaps other students could make a deal with her: They will put up with the ugly buildings, many of them designed in the mid 20th century, and she can put up with the good ones.

• Patrick Reed, an American golfer, won the Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga., and the green jacket that goes with victory. Days later, he was home in Houston, getting some Chick-fil-A. He was wearing a big smile and his green jacket. Someone snapped a photo, seen around the world. Hardly ever has there been a photo more American.

• A Singapore firm has developed a robot that can assemble furniture from IKEA. The technology is far from perfect; the robot takes even longer to complete the job than a human (though with considerably less cursing), and since it’s no better than we are at interpreting the hieroglyphics in the company’s assembly instructions, minutely detailed step-by-step directions are required: “Arm 2: Grab a dowel. Arm 1: Rotate side piece so that hole is pointing up,” etc. But don’t worry — engineers say the robot can figure out how to assemble furniture by watching humans and imitating them. Sure, we can see it now: “Arm 1: Pick up instruction sheet and stare at it for 5 minutes. Arm 2: Turn sheet right side up and stare at it for 5 more minutes. Arm 1: Pick up random part; rotate it; find that from no angle does it resemble anything in the diagram; drop random part. Arm 2: Toss empty box across room. Arm 1: Remove bourbon bottle from cabinet . . .”

• She was 16, he was 17. They were at a holiday dance at a country club in Greenwich, Conn. The James P. Marquand meet-cute led to the proper sequel. They married on the eve of his volunteering to be a Navy pilot in WWII. Come peace, they moved to Texas. She had six children (a daughter died, age three, of leukemia), he made money in the oil business. The life of Barbara and George Bush then veered into the ubiquity of politics. She maintained WASP-y norms — she would not darken her prematurely white hair, nor lose weight — and occasionally WASP-y rough edges: She was not at all polite about Geraldine Ferraro, her husband’s 1984 rival for veep. She joined Abigail Adams as the only wives and mothers of presidents. Her final honor was to be yapped at by Roger Stone. America will produce other exemplars of class, but not of this particular class: trained, rich, cool, well bred, a touch insular. Dead at 92. R.I.P.

 

LIFE
Save the Eighth

There are many things to admire in Ireland’s written constitution. Most especially, the text includes, since a popular referendum in 1983, the Eighth Amendment: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” This is the most advanced law protecting the life of unborn children in the Western world. It is also, in its way, beautiful. In the controlling Irish language, it protects “na mbeo gan breith,” or “the living without birth.” We urge the Irish people to retain it when a referendum aimed at its repeal is presented to them this May.

Ireland’s government and most of its media class are campaigning to erase the Eighth and allow the Dail to legislate to make abortion available. They are proposing, as in the United Kingdom, an unlimited right to terminate a pregnancy in the first twelve weeks of gestation, and then an expansive health exception that would effectively allow the termination of any pregnancy at any time. The choice before the Irish people is not just to make abortion legal in Ireland, but to make it common there.

Ireland’s law against abortion has not produced the dystopia that pro-abortion activists conjure. Ireland has one of the lowest gender-income gaps on earth, and it has outstanding statistics in maternal health. Although some Irish women who are determined to get an abortion do cross the Irish Sea to get one, the Eighth Amendment clearly lowers the rate of abortion overall, and Ireland stands in contrast to the rest of Western Europe, having consistently maintained a higher-than-replacement fertility rate.

The text of the Eighth only makes explicit a truth we all have a duty to recognize: that every society has an obligation to respect and nurture the bond between parents and their children, not to furnish the means of its destruction. This is why the text says that the state acknowledges the right to life; it does not claim that the state, or popular will, provides it. This being the case, the state cannot legitimately take it away. Ireland’s people should retain the Eighth Amendment in order that they may fulfill the promise of the Easter Proclamation of national independence to “cherish the children of the nation equally” and remain a witness to all the other nations on earth that they have a duty to do the same.

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

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Books

Redeeming the Miracle

Yuval Levin reviews Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy, by Jonah Goldberg.

Sections

Letters

Letters

Richard Rustad responds to Yuval Levin & Ramesh Ponnuru’s article “A New Health-Care Debate.”

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Ten Questions for the ‘Squad’

Democratic infighting reached a fever pitch last week with bickering and personal attacks between members of the “Squad” and other House Democrats. During that period, Squad members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley mostly avoided doing interviews. However, that all ... Read More
World

Who Is Boris Johnson?

By next week at this time, Boris Johnson will be prime minister of the United Kingdom. Not since Margaret Thatcher has such an outsized personality resided in Number 10 Downing Street. Not since Winston Churchill has such a wit presided over Her Majesty’s Government. Wit is actually the chief reason for ... Read More
Health Care

For Planned Parenthood, No Doctors Need Apply

Poor Leana Wen. She took Planned Parenthood’s propaganda a little too seriously. And now she’s out of a job. For the longest time, Planned Parenthood has insisted that it’s a health-care organization, and it only cares about abortion — supposedly a tiny share of its business — insofar as it’s a ... Read More