Magazine | July 30, 2018, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

• The Chinese cat that accurately predicted World Cup matches died suddenly. But are they sure it isn’t just flopping?

• Max Boot, historian and columnist, joins George Will, columnist extraordinaire, in the ranks of those whose disdain for President Trump attaches to the party he leads. “Like postwar Germany and Japan,” Boot writes, “the Republican Party must be destroyed before it can be rebuilt.” This view is ahistorical, in that major parties are here to stay (the last one to disappear was the Whigs, 160-plus years ago). So what Boot wants practically is an eclipse, initiated by a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2018. With what result? The furtherance of goals Boot deplores, or once did. WFB and his most important mentor, Whittaker Chambers, corresponded about this temptation early in NR’s history. “Those who remain in the world,” Chambers wrote, “if they will not surrender on its terms, must maneuver within its terms. . . . That results in a dance along a precipice.” “We cliff-dancers,” WFB added, “. . . must do what maneuvering we can.” Rooting for a Democratic Congress is jumping off.

• It’s the newest innovation in restaurants: takeout guests. If you find yourself at a restaurant with guests you dislike, take them out. All the guests harassed or refused service so far have been Republicans: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mitch McConnell, Kirstjen Nielsen, Scott Pruitt. And the nastiness has spread: Steve Bannon was heckled while browsing in a Richmond bookstore. Offstage kibitzers applauded: “You get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them,” said Representative Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), though she was hardly alone. Liberals and Democrats will not like being on the receiving end. Nor should they be: We are taught as children not to be rude, and an atmosphere of shouting and confrontation will inevitably degenerate into scuffling, and worse. After one of the nastiest elections in American history, Thomas Jefferson, the winner, said that without “harmony and affection, . . . liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.” Stay sane, people.

• Scott Pruitt resigned as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency after the White House determined that he was embroiled in one scandal too many. Pruitt said that he had become a distraction to the administration’s agenda, which is true. His defenders said that many of his opponents were out to get him because he is a staunch deregulator, which is also true. But some of his opponents were former supporters who had worked for him and then racked up legal bills because of his unethical behavior. Their testimony — about, for example, his use of EPA employees to find a lucrative job for his wife — was what finally brought Pruitt down. We had high hopes for Pruitt, and we’re sorry he dashed them.

• Joseph Crowley, ten-term congressman from Queens, lost a Democratic primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old political activist and waitress. (One of her regular customers was NR’s Richard Brookhiser.) Since her district is midnight blue, she is all but guaranteed a victory. Ocasio-Cortez benefited from hard work, low turnout, and the support of immigrants and woke white gentrifiers. She is a proud socialist who favors a universal jobs guarantee, Medicare for all, free college, and the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): positions that please both a hard Left eager to see her as the face of a new Democratic party and Republican spitballers equally eager to make her so. Is she? Incumbent overconfidence is a political perennial (cf. Eric Cantor). Also perennial is the passion of an out-party’s most radical partisans when culturally ubiquitous figures such as Obama or Trump occupy the White House. So look for more of the same, for two or six years.

• Following the lead of Ocasio-Cortez, prominent Democrats have endorsed abolishing ICE. Formed in the 2003 reshuffling of the executive branch’s national-security apparatus, the agency is responsible, among other things, for enforcing immigration laws within the borders, identifying illegal aliens, and conducting  deportations. A significant chunk of illegal immigrants are people who overstayed their visas; abolishing our internal-enforcement agency would mean they were de facto free to stay in the country. And though ICE does not police the border, illegal border-crossing would be incentivized in a world without it. The “Abolish ICE” slogan is a useful shorthand for the emerging Democratic position on immigration enforcement: as little as possible. 

• Showing the same deft strategic sense that led them to abolish the filibuster for lower-court nominees a year before Republicans took the Senate, many Democrats are now talking about enlarging the Supreme Court if they take power again. By statute, the Court has had room for nine justices since 1869. Congress and the president could change that size, but the attempt to do so to achieve partisan objectives has been considered anti-constitutional in spirit. FDR’s failed attempt to get a Democratic Congress to agree to it reinforced that norm. If Democrats explode it, of course, Republicans will be very nearly obliged to do the same thing when they get a chance. They could, if they wanted it badly enough, do it now — which is why the Democrats’ talk makes no sense except as a coping mechanism.

• President Trump wanted a trade war and, well, he got it: In response to U.S. tariffs on European goods, the European Union hiked tariffs on U.S. goods — enough to push the cost of an exported American motorcycle up $2,200. One consequence was that Harley-Davidson announced a plan to start manufacturing bikes for European customers right in Europe. The president fired back with a multi-day Twitter storm, vowing that “we won’t forget” and that Harley “won’t be able to sell back into U.S. without paying a big tax!” The president’s tariffs were ill advised; it was even worse to threaten a private company for responding rationally to the predictable consequences.

• Drafts of a potential bill called the “U.S. Fair and Reciprocal Trade Act” leaked. The legislation — commissioned by President Trump and drawn up by his administration — would allow the president to impose tariffs on foreign goods as he saw fit, effectively withdrawing the U.S. from the World Trade Organization. It is hard to imagine Congress passing a bill that completely cedes this authority to the executive, let alone this executive. Congressional Republicans still believe in low taxes, including on imports, and understand that there are better ways to punish abusive trade practices than by retreating into autarky. The WTO may have its faults: Plenty about global trade has changed since the Uruguay round of negotiations concluded in 1994, and WTO countries have not managed to adapt to China’s misbehavior since its 2001 entry into the organization. But that indicates a need for a unified, multilateral approach to taking on China through existing channels — including the WTO. The U.S. ought to take a hard line against China’s brazen mercantilism, but this poorly conceived bill is not the way to go about it.

• Between 2011 and 2016, the Obama White House issued several “guidance” documents to colleges, urging them to use racial preferences in the admissions process. President Trump rescinded those documents in one fell swoop, in effect returning the executive branch to the Bush-era practice of encouraging the use of race-blind admissions. We’re under no illusions that colleges will simply drop their current practices — that will take a court decision, possibly in the pending discrimination suit against Harvard by a group of Asian-American students — but it is a step in the right direction. Schools now have the government’s blessing to do what our civil-rights laws require them to do: admit students without regard to race.

• In sustaining President Trump’s so-called travel ban, the Supreme Court has vindicated “the authority of the Presidency itself,” not the sometimes overheated campaign rhetoric of the incumbent president, as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for a narrow majority. On the merits, Trump v. Hawaii was a straightforward case. The proclamation issued by the president in September 2017 (a refinement of earlier iterations) was not actually a “ban” on travel. It placed restrictions on the nationals of eight countries that present extraordinary challenges for visa-vetting because their governments are either dysfunctional or hostile to the United States. Aliens have no constitutional right to enter the United States and, as the Court’s majority observed, the admission and exclusion of foreign nationals is a “fundamental sovereign attribute exercised by the Government’s political departments largely immune from judicial control.” The restrictions imposed were not based on nationality per se, much less religion, but on the selected countries’ inadequacies in addressing risks. As the majority correctly assessed, the judiciary’s role in a democratic society is not to police political bombast or substitute its judgment for that of the voters and the political branches.

• In Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court held that government workers may not be compelled to pay “agency fees” to unions they don’t want to join. The decision was a major loss for public-sector unions but a win for the First Amendment: Workers should not be forced, via government contract, to contribute to a private political organization whose views they do not support. And no, it doesn’t work to let dissenting workers opt out of funding explicit political activism while still making them pony up for unions’ labor activities — as happened under the previous system, in place starting with a 1977 Supreme Court decision. For one thing, the distinction between the two is blurry (non–union members in Janus had been charged for lobbying and litigation, for example); for another, in the public sector, even basic labor activities such as contract negotiations are inherently political, as the pension crisis attests. It took the Court 41 years to see the error of its ways, but at last it got it right.

• In South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Supreme Court overturned precedent to allow states to force out-of-state companies to collect and remit sales taxes when their residents buy from them. We think the five justices in the majority got it wrong — but even worse was that two of our favorite justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, were influenced by their hostility to the “dormant commerce clause.” The Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate commerce among the states. For nearly 150 years, the Court has inferred that states therefore do not have the power to regulate such commerce. It is the same kind of limited inference that the Court rightly draws when it rules, with conservative support, that the federal government cannot commandeer state governments. For that matter, it’s the same kind of inference that the Court draws in exercising the power of judicial review in the first place. The Constitution sometimes requires the Supreme Court to limit the power of the federal government. Conservatives should remember that it also sometimes requires that it limit the rapacity of the states.

• Federal judge Leon Preska in New York ruled that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional. The CFPB was created by the Dodd-Frank Act in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to regulate such institutions as banks and credit unions. The problem is that the bureau is an independent agency led by a director with considerable executive power and almost no oversight, with funding from the Federal Reserve rather than from Congress. Preska cited, as it happens, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who in 2016, in a separate case, had found the CFPB’s structure unconstitutional only to have his decision overturned by the full D.C. Circuit. Given the split between the New York and D.C. tribunals, this case could well end up before the Supreme Court, a newly minted Justice Kavanaugh included.

• For all its flaws, the American Civil Liberties Union has long been reliable on the question of free speech. That the ACLU was happy to defend neo-Nazis or Klansmen in the name of the First Amendment’s integrity was a feature of its admirable consistency, not a bug to be eliminated. Free speech, the group insisted, was for everyone, and to permit censorship for one was to permit censorship for all. But times are changing, and with them the role of the ACLU. Since 2001, when Anthony D. Romero took over as executive director, the outfit has become more partisan, more political, and more general in its interests. It has also become more susceptible to pressure from other progressive interest groups. In June, a leaked internal memo suggested that the ACLU would be weighing its defense of free speech against other concerns — specifically, against “factors such as the (present and historical) context of the proposed speech; the potential effect on marginalized communities; the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values; and the structural and power inequalities in the community in which the speech will occur.” Translation: The ACLU may drop one of its key missions. The end of an era is upon us. This loss will be keenly felt.

• The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that makes its living indiscriminately tarring non-leftists as bigots, agreed to pay nearly $3.4 million to the Quilliam Foundation, a Britain-based group of Muslim reformers it had branded “anti-Muslim extremists” in a 2016 report. We love watching the SPLC squirm, but there are legitimate free-speech concerns about the settlement as well: Opinions, including spectacularly offensive name-calling, cannot be libelous. What seemed to tip the scales in this case (presented in a U.S. court before being settled) was that the report was full of out-of-context statements and dubious assertions that the SPLC refused to correct when asked. If the threat of non-frivolous lawsuits forces the group to think twice and check its facts before smearing everyone it disagrees with as part of a hate movement, we have no complaints; but every allegation of “extremism,” “racism,” and the like cannot become an actionable offense.

• Wisconsin’s supreme court has sent America’s private universities a powerful message. The court ruled in favor of a professor’s request to restore his job at Marquette University, a private Catholic college in Wisconsin. Professor John McAdams was suspended after criticizing by name a graduate instructor who prohibited debate about gay marriage in her class. Rather than disciplining the instructor for squelching debate and dialogue in the classroom, the university disciplined Professor McAdams for exposing the instructor to public ridicule. When the university suspended McAdams, it did so in clear violation of its promises in the faculty handbook that professors would not face punishment for exercising their right to academic freedom. In court, the university claimed — incredibly enough — that it had the institutional academic freedom to ignore its own promises to its own professors that they would enjoy individual academic freedom. The court was rightly unimpressed with this argument. While the ruling is binding only in Wisconsin, it will serve as persuasive authority from coast to coast. Academic freedom is a fine principle, as is truth in advertising.

• President Trump has been browbeating the Europeans, especially the Germans, over their defense spending. He hasn’t been subtle — personally taunting German chancellor Angela Merkel and misstating how NATO works by talking as if European countries had failed to pay annual dues to the alliance. NATO is a key institution of the West, buttressed by the U.S. for decades for good reason, and Trump is wrong to talk about it as if it were a rip-off. But the Europeans should be spending more than an average of 1.46 percent of GDP on defense. The Germans are particularly anemic, spending just 1.2 percent. Their military is notoriously short on equipment and its tanks and fighter jets often aren’t battleworthy. Still, they plan to get to only 1.5 percent by 2024, short of the commitment the Europeans made to get to 2 percent of GDP by then. The grand compromise here is obvious: The Europeans should spend more and Trump browbeat less.

• President Trump, headlining a rally for Montana GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, addressed his upcoming summit with Vladimir Putin: “Do you know what? Putin’s fine, he’s fine, we’re all fine, we’re people.” Do you know what, Mr. President? Putin’s not fine, we’re not all fine, he is a person who murders critics and invades neighbors, while you don’t. Trump’s loose talk is a personal and regional tic: blustery Gotham schmooze. But it disheartens Russian democrats and desensitizes Trump’s American admirers.

• North Korea is still North Korea. It has emerged since the Trump–Kim confab in Singapore that Pyongyang is continuing to upgrade its nuclear and missile infrastructure, and the North Koreans accused the U.S. of making “gangster-like” demands in follow-up talks. The bait-and-switch is a classic North Korean negotiating tactic. But in this case there wasn’t much bait, just the usual vague promises, which it appears to be following up with the usual obfuscation and recalcitrance. 

• Any French leader seeking to liberalize the economy runs into a daunting problem: entrenched unions. For generations, the rail unions have been among the most entrenched. When previous leaders have tried to reform the system, the unions have reacted with crippling strikes, defeating proposed changes. Emmanuel Macron, elected president last year, vowed to liberalize the economy, with the railways high on his agenda. The unions reacted with three months of rolling strikes. But Macron hung tough and brought the public with him, and the Assembly voted overwhelmingly to reform the system. For example, the state company will lose its domestic-passenger monopoly in 2020. In The Spectator, the conservative magazine in Britain, Jonathan Miller wrote an article under the heading “Macron’s defeat of the railway unions is as historic as Thatcher’s victory over Scargill” (i.e., Arthur Scargill, the boss of the British mineworkers). We hope that Macron’s victory in the rail sector, so early in his tenure, will embolden him and his allies to more such victories.  

• Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley are true victims of fate. When they went for a walk in the Wiltshire town of Salisbury, they could have had no idea that they would shortly be taken unconscious to the hospital. They were found to have come into contact with Novichok, a deadly nerve agent. They had fallen close to the spot where three months ago the Russian defector Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia had been attacked with Novichok. The likelihood is that the two out walking were somehow contaminated by discarded paraphernalia used in the Skripals attack. Dawn Sturgess has died, Charlie Rowley remains severely ill, and Vladimir Putin is not reported to be spending sleepless nights. 

• As if Iran didn’t already have enough enemies, it now must cope with the International Jewish Cloud Conspiracy. General Gholam Reza Jalali told reporters that Iran’s current water shortage is caused by the Israelis, who steal moisture from clouds before they can reach Iran. The country’s chief meteorologist carefully suggested that the general “probably has documents of which I am not aware, but on the basis of meteorological knowledge, it is not possible for a country to steal snow or clouds.” The general’s theory goes back at least as far as 2011, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made similar accusations during a drought, and that’s just the beginning; over the years the Israelis have also been accused, by Iran and others, of weaponizing animals ranging from sharks to vultures to lizards to flies. The resourcefulness of the Jews is a wonder to behold.

• Farmers in central Nigeria fled their village when about 300 gunmen attacked it, firing rounds into the air and burning down houses. Most of the farmers were Christians. They sought refuge in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood nearby. The local imam took charge, leading 262 men, women, and children into safety in his house and mosque. When the gunmen caught up with him, he refused to let them enter the buildings and said no to their demand that he hand over the people inside. The gunmen threatened to set the mosque on fire. The imam prostrated himself, wailed, and pleaded with them to leave. They did, surprising him, although they set a couple of churches on fire on their way out. Before moving to a camp for displaced people, the refugees stayed with the imam for five days. “Not once did they ask us to leave,” one of them said, “not even for them to pray” in the mosque. For his own security, the imam asked the BBC, which reported the story, to preserve his anonymity. “Who is my neighbor?” someone once asked Jesus. The Good Samaritan has many faces. One of them belongs to the Good Imam.

• Mexico is beset with problems. Corruption in government is rife. Murder is routine. In the latest campaign season, which lasted from September till July, 132 politicians were murdered. This shocking number gives a hint of the overall situation. In the end, Mexicans elected Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a veteran politician, as their president. They elected him in a landslide. Their vote can be seen as an act of desperation. AMLO, as the president-elect is known, is a left-wing populist and nationalist. He has vowed to attack Mexico’s desperate problems. AMLO is certainly not the type of leader to whom National Review would have turned. But we can understand why Mexicans did, and we can only wish him and them the best. 

• Established in 1983, the Thomas Reuters Foundation aims to “promote the highest standards in journalism.” This year the foundation conducted a global survey of more than 500 “experts in women’s issues” to determine which countries are most dangerous for women on a range of metrics. The United States ranked tenth most dangerous overall, and tied with Syria for the No. 3 spot on the list of countries where women are most at risk of sexual violence. The respondents, who included academics, policymakers, and social commentators, claim to believe that women are more free from sexual coercion and abuse in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Congo, and Somalia than in the United States. In other words, the poll revealed not much about the condition of women in the U.S., but a great deal about the views of the sort of experts on whom the media credulously rely.

• The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award was created in 1954 to honor the contribution Wilder had made to children’s literature with her classic, semi-autobiographical Little House series. In June, the Association for Library Services to Children stripped her name from the award, saying that her work violated the group’s “core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness.” (The award will now be called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.) The organization had found, “after much consideration and fact-finding,” that her books contained “anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments.” Some characters in Little House on the Prairie do express fear, distrust, or hatred of the Indians they are displacing as they settle in Kansas in the late 19th century, and another book has a squirm-inducing description of a blackface minstrel show. But the books on the whole are nuanced and sensitive accounts of the period, and Wilder did not deserve to have her name and work maligned in the service of a vacuous political statement. Her many readers know better.

• The French Federation of Butchers has sought help from the interior minister after a surge of vegan violence. Fueled by social-media hype, the federation claims, vegan activists have been vandalizing their premises with stones, fake blood, and graffiti. The federation’s chief wrote: “It’s terror that these people are seeking to sow, in their aim of making a whole section of French culture disappear.” It’s not just butchers. Last year, a cheese shop in Lyon was defaced with the words “Milk is murder” and “Milk is rape.” And to think that some people consider veganism a strange, sad cult.

• During the debate over the Compromise of 1850, Daniel Webster decried those who “deal with morals as with mathematics and . . . think what is right may be distinguished from what is wrong with the precision of an algebraic equation.” Webster would find a kindred spirit today in Professor Paul Ernest of England’s University of Exeter, who asserts that “there is significant collateral damage caused by learning mathematics” because “the nature of pure mathematics itself leads to styles of thinking that can be damaging when applied beyond mathematics to social and human issues.” He points out that mathematics is sometimes applied for bad purposes, and it creates inequality between those who have access to it and those who don’t — points that apply as well to language or water or just about anything else. To avoid these problems, Ernest calls for “inclusion of the philosophy and ethics of mathematics alongside its teaching [at] all stages from school to university,” which certainly won’t make trigonometry any easier to learn.

• One hundred years ago, Irving Berlin (né Israel Beilin in the Russian Empire) composed a rousing number for Yip! Yip! Yaphank!, a musical hailing America’s World War I army, in which Berlin was then serving. He cut “God Bless America” from the show but gave it 20 years later to Kate Smith to mark a celebration of Armistice Day. So it began its phenomenal career. Of all American patriotic songs it is perhaps the simplest and most direct: no bombs bursting in air, no grapes of wrath, no stern impassioned stress. It is a paean of affection, and gratitude. A man blessed in a new, good home returned his thanks. And yet there is a hint of darkness even here: “through the night . . .” What was that? One world war, when it was written. A still-lingering depression, and a coming world war, when it premiered. Home sweet home will always need our care, as well as our love. Thank you, Mr. Berlin.

• Steve Ditko passed away in his New York apartment, at the age of 90. Ditko is most famous for co-creating Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. The former showcased Ditko’s naturalistic side, given that the character is fundamentally an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, whereas the latter reflected the otherworldly and evocative imagery of the best science fiction. He managed this with the flat colors and limited range of 1960s comic art, and his style remains highly influential to this day. His Strange Comics were especially popular with the counterculture, though Ditko himself was a man of the Right. Much of his later writing is grounded in Ayn Rand’s Objectivism; this did not reach quite as wide an audience as his other work, but fundamentally it was what he wanted to do. This philosophy guided Ditko throughout his life; he remained reclusive, declining interviews and continuing to work out of his Midtown studio until his death. A film starring Ditko’s most famous characters passed $2 billion at the box office this year, leading a new generation to take a look at what he put to the page so many years ago. His work will continue to speak for itself. R.I.P.

Trading Up

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, would be a vast improvement on the Supreme Court. That judgment rests not only on Kavanaugh’s evident legal acumen and conservatism, but on Kennedy’s long-demonstrated inability or unwillingness to engage in anything close to the proper enterprise of judging.

Again and again, Kennedy made rulings that aggrandized the power of the Court and of himself as its swing justice. No justice, right or left, was more willing to substitute his judgment for that of elected officials and voters. No justice was less willing to tie himself down to clear rules or a legal philosophy that would constrain him in future cases, let alone rules or a philosophy that bore a plausible relation to the Constitution. We moved toward a system of government no Founder intended, in which his whim determined policy on a vast range of issues. We were lucky when, as sometimes happened, his whim coincided with the right legal outcome.

The trademark of a Kennedy opinion was a verbal effusion that gestured toward profundity without overcoming confusion. Most notoriously, he used an abortion case to opine that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Nobody who ratified the Constitution or its relevant amendments thought in such terms. Nor would any of it be a legal defense against a parking ticket.

Kavanaugh, as a judge in the highest-profile appeals court in the nation, has by contrast shown an exemplary dedication to the rule of law. He has defended the separation of powers against threats coming from multiple directions. He has repeatedly cautioned his colleagues on the bench not to attempt to play a legislative role. He has insisted on enforcing constitutional structures of accountability on government agencies. He has vindicated the right to free speech (against certain campaign-finance regulations), to bear arms (against the D.C. government’s attempts to implement sweeping bans), and to religious liberty (against a version of the Obama administration’s “contraceptive mandate”). And he has followed Supreme Court precedents even when gently suggesting they should be rethought.

His decisions have also been influential, with the Supreme Court repeatedly adopting his analysis and in one case running several block quotes from his opinion. Some conservatives have faulted the reasoning of a few of his opinions but even in these cases have usually agreed with his decisions. His ruling on a challenge to Obamacare’s individual mandate is an exception to this rule — some conservatives do fault his decision — but even it has an asterisk. He would have dismissed the case on the ground that the courts did not yet have jurisdiction over it, in keeping with views he has long advocated. He did not bless the idea that the federal government could order people to buy a product, as the four most liberal members of the Supreme Court later would have done. Nor did he rewrite the text of Obamacare to uphold it, as Chief Justice John Roberts did.

It would be utterly implausible, indeed laughable, for Senate Democrats to try to portray Kavanaugh as unqualified. They will instead try to present him as a right-wing monster. They will try to make him pledge to keep the Supreme Court rather than legislatures in charge of abortion policy, even though the Constitution requires no such thing; then they will condemn him for refusing to take the pledge. They will portray his concern for the structural limits on government power as a blanket hostility to government, which it is not. And they will cherry-pick decisions in which he ruled against a sympathetic cause or litigant, as is sometimes a judge’s duty.

They will call him every name in the book. But before too long, they will, as they should, be calling him “Justice.”

Losing at Chequers

In the seven days from the significant date of the Fourth of July, British political observers witnessed a series of events strangely reminiscent of the statecraft of Prime Minister Lord North in 1776 and later.

His latest successor, Theresa May, told the House of Commons that she would be taking Britain “out” of the single market, the customs union, and most other institutions of the European Union in fulfillment of her pledge to implement Brexit. Two days later, she hosted her entire cabinet in a meeting at her country home of Chequers, where their cell phones were confiscated, they were confronted for the first time with a complex document allegedly disentangling Britain from the EU, and they were told that if they objected they would lose their official cars and have to walk home.

After they all bowed to these threats, they rode home comfortably only to discover that millions of their constituents thought their agreement a straightforward betrayal of Brexit and their democratic vote for it, insofar as Britain was opting out of the single market and customs union only to opt in shortly afterward via clever fixes and bureaucratic bafflegab. Over the weekend, MPs visited their constituencies, where angry Leave voters and disillusioned Tory activists tore up their party cards and addressed their representatives in what is known as “unparliamentary language.”

Things heated up. On Sunday night, David Davis resigned as secretary of state for exiting the European Union on the grounds that he would not feel “enthusiastic” about implementing a policy of staying in the European Union. He also expressed polite distress that, while his ministry had been pursuing one policy, another one was being cooked up by civil servants in Downing Street behind his back. His deputy minister, the redoubtable Steve Baker, resigned early on Monday, saying much the same thing. Midafternoon on Monday, Boris Johnson told Downing Street that he would be resigning as foreign and commonwealth secretary, and in his resignation letter he demolished the fiction that May’s Brexit meant anything like Brexit, and most of the arguments sustaining it. Two senior conservative MPs resigned as vice chairmen of the Tory party on Tuesday. And there is a distinct change in the tone of press coverage, the early admiring stories of May’s ruthlessness at Chequers now being seen as signs of hubris and folly — Chicago politics without the machine gun.

Theresa May has remained obdurate throughout in the face of this rebellion and in defense of her definition of Brexit. She will have to be removed by a vote of no confidence, as Lord North was in 1782 after Yorktown, if Britain is to celebrate its own Independence Day. We trust a military defeat will not be required to secure liberty on this occasion.

Charles Krauthammer, R.I.P.

It’s not often that the loss of an opinion writer can be said to be a loss for the country, but that is true of the great Charles Krauthammer.

In a fractured media environment in which almost no one commands universal respect, crudity of expression and thought are increasingly the norm, and most commentators feel compelled to cater to their base, Krauthammer was admired across the political spectrum, unfailingly elegant and civil, and stubbornly independent-minded.

He was, in particular, a jewel in American conservatism. He wasn’t always one of us. He started his career as a moderate Democrat, a speechwriter for Walter Mondale and then a writer for The New Republic in the 1980s. As a resolute Cold Warrior, he was on the right flank of that magazine’s internal fight over the future of liberalism. He became detached from the increasingly McGovernite Democratic party and moved steadily right over the years.

He believed in American power and the international order it had created, and had no patience for apologists for our enemies or for the gauzy clichés of supporters of “the international community.” A baseline of realism undergirded his thought, and he was equally willing to puncture the fantasies of the Left and, as necessary, the irrational enthusiasms of the Right.

Everything he wrote was characterized by his uncommon intelligence. His style matched an unsparing logic with an economy of expression that routinely produced masterpieces of lucidity and persuasion. He gave us phrases that entered the political vocabulary, e.g., “the unipolar moment” after the end of the Cold War, and his big essays on the Reagan and Bush (43) doctrines helped define the foreign policies of those two presidents.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist was already highly influential before he ever entered a Fox News studio (he’d appeared on TV for years, on the program Inside Washington), but his regular appearances on Fox took his fame to a higher level. He was a TV personality like no other — soft-spoken, sober, learned, and incisive, with a wicked, if very dry, wit. He was always polite, but pity was usually warranted for anyone disagreeing with him on air.

Krauthammer accomplished all of this despite a terrible injury that left him paralyzed as a young man. He handled his hardship with awe-inspiring grace, dignity, and courage. He didn’t want to be defined by his injury and, through his boundless determination, he never was.

Conservatism has lost a giant, a man who not only defended our civilization but represented what’s best in it. He will be missed, and never replaced. R.I.P.

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

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


Wisconsin Spring

Charles J. Sykes reviews The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics, by Dan Kaufman.


The Week

The Week

The Chinese cat that accurately predicted World Cup matches died suddenly. But are they sure it isn’t just flopping?

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Politics & Policy

CNN: Everything but the News

For a while, we thought MSNBC had temporarily usurped CNN as the font of fake news — although both networks had tied for the most negative coverage (93 percent of all their news reports) of President Trump’s first 100 days in office. A cynic would argue that CNN had deliberately given Trump undue coverage ... Read More