Magazine October 15, 2018, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

We think what Senator Hirono is trying to say is that she prefers the strong, silent type.

Under pressure from Congress several weeks ago, the Justice Department released in highly redacted form 412 pages of documents pertaining to classified warrants issued by a secret federal court under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which permitted the FBI to spy on former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page. Investigators from three House committees have pushed for additional disclosure, claiming that some redacted sections conceal misrepresentations made to the FISA court by the FBI and the Justice Department — particularly in the last of the four 90-day warrants, which was approved by Trump deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein in June 2017. On September 21, President Trump ordered the declassification and release of redacted sections, in addition to text messages exchanged by top FBI officials, including former director James Comey and deputy director Andrew McCabe. Within days, however, the president reversed himself, curtly explaining that he had been beseeched to withhold disclosure by Justice Department investigators who are probing FISA abuse and by intelligence-community officials concerned about breaching confidentiality agreements with foreign governments. Trump urged the inspector general to review the documents on an expedited basis. The IG probe is important, but disclosure and accountability for possible abuses of power are paramount.

Are secret forces shaping American elections? That is the burden of The Creepy Line, a documentary reflecting the research of Robert Epstein, a former editor of Psychology Today, who argues that Google’s ranking of searches can affect the popular vote, and did indeed affect it in 2016 in Hillary Clinton’s favor. Meanwhile, Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President, a book by University of Pennsylvania professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, argues that evil online Russkies pushed the 2016 race the other way. Fears of a deluded electorate go back to the Constitutional Convention: “Give the votes to people who have no property,” said Gouverneur Morris, “and they will sell them to the rich who will be able to buy them.” But small-d democrats, from Jefferson to Reagan, trust that enough people will have enough sense enough of the time to judge well and vote accordingly. Make your case to your fellow citizens, and hope. The alternative is George III — or Putin.

The New York Times’ Gardiner Harris had a bombshell: U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley spent $52,701 on curtains for her luxurious Manhattan residence on the taxpayers’ dime. Moreover, the 6,000-square-foot, full-floor-penthouse, fit-for-a-sultan First Avenue apartment, just blocks from the U.N. headquarters on Turtle Bay, leased for 58 grand per month. (The government has an option to buy.) It was a journalistic triumph, reporting on Trump-era government waste and boondoggles. Except that, well, Haley didn’t have anything to do with the lease of the new ambassador’s residence, which was signed under the Obama administration. Nor did Haley have anything to do with the purchase or installation of the custom curtains ($29,900) or the mechanized operating devices and hardware ($22,801). Oh. Memo to the Times: “Too good to check” isn’t an actual journalistic rule.

Keith Ellison — deputy chairman of the DNC, congressman, and nominee for attorney general of Minnesota — has been accused of emotional and physical abuse by two former girlfriends. Medical records corroborate one of the accusations. Ellison is deflecting questions by noting that an “independent investigation” is under way. It’s actually an investigation by the state Democratic party. Voters in the state should weigh the evidence, and note the insult to their intelligence.

Parkland shooting survivor Cameron Kasky rose to fame when, at a CNN town hall following the tragedy, he told Marco Rubio that “it’s hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15 and not look at [the shooter who attacked the school].” Now he regrets what he said: “I went into that wanting less conversation and more to embarrass Rubio and that was my biggest flaw,” he told Fox News Radio. He has also decided to leave March for Our Lives, the gun-control organization he helped found; met with a lot of people around the country whose opinions differ from his; and decided to work to cultivate a better bipartisan conversation. Of course, the original fault here lies not so much with Kasky’s initial posture as with those who decided to parade teenage shooting survivors before a national audience to advance a political narrative. Yet we commend Kasky on admitting his mistakes: It’s more than most adults have done.

Canada and the U.S. have reached an impasse in trade talks. Tariffs between the EU and the U.S. remain in force. And the Trump administration has imposed a new 10 percent tariff — which will rise to 25 percent — on a broad range of Chinese products. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the cost to consumers will be small, although the tariffs are supposed simultaneously to be large enough to force concessions from the Chinese. Subsidies have begun to flow to farmers hit by retaliatory Chinese tariffs. Meanwhile President Trump signed a slightly modified version of an old trade agreement with South Korea, which he presented as wholly new. The good news, given the economic damage his tariffs are already inflicting and the absence of any apparent strategy in their deployment, is that Trump is willing to accept cosmetic victories in his misbegotten trade war.

On a Saturday night, the Trump administration finally revealed its proposal to restrict visas and green cards for immigrants who use welfare benefits, including food stamps and Medicaid. The rule is on strong legal footing (federal law instructs the executive branch to keep out those likely to become a “public charge”), and it has been narrowed substantially since earlier leaked drafts (to exclude, for example, benefits earmarked for immigrants’ children rather than the immigrants themselves). More to the point, it’s sound policy: The U.S. shouldn’t grant visas and green cards to those who are unable to support themselves without government help. Some tweaks are still in order — such as ensuring that the rule applies only to immigrants who come in the future, not those already here, though the rule is already limited to benefits received after it goes into effect. But overall this is the right move. We take only a fraction of those who want to come here, so we ought to be selective.

We have no objection in principle to banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. But the most recent public data show that few teenagers are vaping regularly and that most of those teens are former smokers who have made a healthful switch. Scott Gottlieb, head of the FDA, says he has preliminary data that show teen-use rates rising rapidly. He is therefore considering restrictions on the sale and marketing of flavored e-cigarettes — to anyone, not just minors. Even ignoring the question of freedom, the trade-off looks perverse. Our best indicator: Tobacco stocks rose on the news.

Our friend and colleague Ed Whelan briefly became part of the Kavanaugh story when he tweeted his theory that Christine Blasey Ford may have mistaken Kavanaugh for someone else, and named a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s. Whelan quickly realized his mistake in airing this speculation and apologized fully and sincerely. He’s taking a leave from the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which he heads. Everyone who knows Whelan knows the misjudgment wasn’t born of maliciousness. He is an exceptionally gifted and humane man who has contributed much to the legal debate in this country, and to the effort to tether our jurisprudence to the law and the Constitution. We look forward to his being suited up and back on the playing field soon.

Last year Hurricane Maria devastated the Lesser Antilles, including Puerto Rico. Death tolls rose in the hurricane’s aftermath, because the island’s blasted infrastructure could not serve the remote and the vulnerable. A George Washington University study, commissioned by the Puerto Rican government, put the final toll at 2,975. President Trump tweeted: “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible. . . . If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” Incompetent local government, in Puerto Rico as in Louisiana during and after Katrina, exacerbates any shortfalls in the federal effort and the inherent perils of the situation. If government at every level could do its job and shut up, that would be a good thing. But that is as likely to happen as a year without hurricanes. 

When Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina, a good Samaritan named Tammie Hedges set about rescuing as many cats and dogs as she could. Hedges, who runs a nonprofit called “Crazy’s Claws N’ Paws,” took the animals to her warehouse, which, mercifully, was unaffected by the flooding, and gave them the aid they needed. For these efforts she was arrested and charged with a host of regulatory violations, including keeping animals in a building that is not registered as a shelter and obtaining and administering drugs without a veterinary license. Hedges has insisted that the drugs she used were available over the counter and are thus not covered by the rules. But the bigger question is whether an American citizen should be prosecuted for providing services that nobody else could in a time of crisis. And the answer should be simple.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo beat celebrity-Left challenger Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, 65 percent to 34 percent. The size of his win belied his anxiety. Cuomo turned his race into a campaign against Donald Trump (one Cuomo pledge: to erect a statue to the Puerto Rican victims of Hurricane Maria, the designated Katrina of this administration). He also promised to stay in Albany for four years. Circumstances may keep him there. A week after the primary, Joseph Percoco, a longtime Cuomo intimate, was sentenced to six years in prison for taking bribes from companies doing state business. The sentencing judge took care to mention Cuomo, saying that Percoco “spoke for the governor, whether Andrew Cuomo knew what he was doing at any given point in time or not.” Cuomo pledged early on to clean up Albany, but he quickly became a mere caretaker. This will hobble his national ambitions, regardless of his promise. 

In Dallas, a police officer named Amber Guyger returned home from a long shift. Or at least she says she believes she was returning home. Instead, however, she went to the apartment directly above hers. It belonged to a young black man named Botham Shem Jean, a risk-assurance associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers. She claims she pushed the door open, saw his silhouette, and fired at him after he refused to obey her verbal commands. At least one witness, however, has contradicted that story, claiming that she yelled “Let me in! Let me in!” before firing the fatal shots. When Guyger killed a man in his own home, she was not clothed with the authority of the state. She was a trespasser. Jean had the right to fire, not her, and her claim that she gave him “verbal commands” only shows that she intentionally killed him. She deserves no special treatment. Sadly, however, it appears she’s already benefited from her police status. The Texas Rangers waited days to arrest her, the initial charge was for mere manslaughter, and odd leaks to the media have disclosed that Jean had marijuana in his apartment — a fact that is precisely irrelevant to Guyger’s presence there. Eventually, though, the Dallas police department fired Guyger. Now perhaps she’ll be treated as what she is: a private citizen who committed a grievous harm.

• There are townships named after Casimir Pulaski in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and a county named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko in Indiana. Returning the favor, Polish president Andrzej Duda offered to build a permanent American military base in Poland and name it “Fort Trump.” Since the purpose of such an installation would be to deter a Russian attack, this complicates the narrative that Trump appeals only to European Putinists. “The first thing we have to do” about the Polish proposal, said Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, “is look at what [land] are they offering, because then you size up what it can actually hold and sustain. So we are in the exploratory phase of doing just that.” Good bases make good neighbors.

Since news broke that Google is building a censored search engine for the Chinese market, the company has faced withering criticism from American officials and human-rights groups. Now the criticism is coming from inside the house. Google engineer Jack Poulson announced his resignation from the company, saying on an internal message board that the China project violated his “conviction that dissent is fundamental to functioning democracies.” If only those circulating the controversial memos at Google were running the company rather than leaving it.

Religious freedom in China, never robust, is on the wane. Coming amid international condemnation of the Chinese government’s repression of the Muslim Uyghur minority, reports indicate that Chinese authorities are increasingly persecuting Christians. Churches are being shuttered, their property destroyed, believers forced to sign documents renouncing their faith. Watchdog group ChinaAid publicized a video of Communist Party officials confiscating and burning Bibles and crosses at a church in Henan Province; officials said the church had not been registered as required by law. It is a sad regression in a country that has not seen this level of intimidation since the Cultural Revolution.

A few weeks ago the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China signed an agreement on the protocol for appointing Catholic bishops in the PRC. Neither party published the text of the agreement or even described in any detail what it stipulates. Informed speculation, based on years of reporting leading up to the event, is that Rome conceded to Beijing a large say in the selection process, with the government deciding who should lead which diocese, leaving the pope with the power to exercise a veto. Or would it be a rubber stamp, whose purpose is to enable the Catholic Church to save face? Many Chinese Catholics shrug and accept government “supervision” of their churches, but many do not. Those who have dug in and defied the government have established — it’s the work of generations — an “underground” network that today is too vast and too respected for Chinese authorities to dismantle by themselves, so Rome has stepped in to help them try. Let China’s underground Catholics take to heart the words of the Psalmist: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes — including those of the Church.

The poisoning of Kremlin critics by Kremlin agents is routine. Vladimir Kara-Murza, the democracy leader, has twice been poisoned. Amazingly, he has twice survived. The Skripals, father and daughter, in Britain, have survived too. And Pyotr Verzilov is surviving. But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t survive shooting, torture, or defenestration either. Verzilov is the latest poisoning victim. He is a journalist and activist, associated with Pussy Riot, the art-protest group. When poisoned, Verzilov lost his sight and speech and soon became unconscious. After being hospitalized in Moscow, he was flown to Berlin, where he has stabilized. Yes, these attacks, by poison and other means, are routine — but that does not mean we should fail to notice them or to be appalled by them.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been holed up in London since 2012. He resides in the Ecuadorian embassy, not the Russian embassy — yet he and Putin’s Kremlin seem inseparable. According to the latest reports, the Kremlin planned to spirit him away to Russia on Christmas Eve 2017. But those plans went awry. Ecuador tried to make him a diplomat in Russia, but the British thwarted those plans. (Incidentally, the president of Ecuador has a poetic name: Lenín Moreno.) The partnership between Assange and Putin is undeniable. Neither man is a friend of the United States, democracy, or truth.

France’s justice system has ordered Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally (formerly the National Front), to undergo psychiatric evaluation, according to court documents that she received and later published on Twitter. The court is investigating her tweets, in December 2015, of graphic images of victims sadistically executed — beheaded, burned in a cage, run over by a tank — at the hands of ISIS. At the request of the family of the American journalist James Foley, she removed the photo of his beheading. In March of this year, Le Pen was charged with violating a French law against “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity.” In such cases, the law requires psychiatric evaluation. Applied to Le Pen, it supports her populist, anti-establishment message and enables her to claim victim status, as her far-left political rival Jean-Luc Mélenchon has recognized. This law that both Le Pen and Mélenchon object to is a cousin of the old Soviet method for marginalizing political dissidents. France should revoke it.

In his first months in charge at Foggy Bottom, Mike Pompeo has repeatedly issued guidance insisting that State Department personnel employ consistent comma usage, including the omission of commas in single-subject, compound-predicate sentences and always using the venerable Oxford comma after the penultimate item in a list. A muscular foreign policy should also be a smart one. Prudence would argue against introducing ambiguity in the chancelleries of the world by calling for peace talks between our allies, Iran and North Korea.

Bowing to activist pressure, the American Academy of Pediatrics released an official policy statement on how to ensure “comprehensive care and support for transgender and gender diverse children and adolescents” that involves affirming “transgender” identity in any young person who declares one, then setting him along the path to transition. The AAP is composed of 67,000 pediatricians, but in reality only around 36 voted on this policy. Though the radicals may be a minority, some pediatricians are afraid to voice their opposition for fear of reputational destruction (e.g., “Transphobe!”). One member told National Review that the AAP is in continual danger of politicization from the far Left. In 2010, for instance, the AAP released a policy statement endorsing certain types of female genital cutting and stating that, “above all,” pediatricians should be culturally sensitive to Islamic customs. After backlash from feminists and human-rights groups, however, the AAP was forced to rescind this policy. The struggle for a consistent position on mutilation continues.

Feminism consists of 50 percent insisting there’s no difference between men and women when there clearly is and 50 percent insisting there is a difference when there clearly isn’t. A current campaign to make school dress codes gender-neutral, led by the National Organization for Women, falls into the first category: NOW insists that any distinction between the genders in defining appropriate attire is sexist. Most recently, California’s Alameda High School has repealed its former regulations on such things as the length of girls’ skirts and shorts, the amount of décolletage, and the width of tank-top straps. Now virtually anything goes, including pajamas. Students, of course, support the new policy; as one explains, “If someone is wearing a short shirt and you can see her stomach, it’s not her fault that she’s distracting other people.” Actually, it kind of is her fault. Getting teenagers to look at the blackboard instead of each other may be a losing battle, but requiring modesty in their attire is an entirely reasonable step in making school a place for learning. Anyone who abdicates this responsibility on the ground that boys are no different from girls needs to go back to school.

The film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer will hit theaters soon, telling the story of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who is serving life in prison for performing illegal late-term abortions and conducting botched abortion procedures that killed several women at his hazardous clinic in Philadelphia. But the film’s production team has run into some trouble with National Public Radio, which refused to place an advertisement stating, in part, “The film is the true story of abortionist Kermit Gosnell.” NPR’s representative instructed filmmakers that “the word ‘abortionist’ will . . . need to be changed to the neutral word ‘doctor.’” John Sullivan, executive producer, suggested that the ad refer to Gosnell as an “abortion doctor,” but that, too, was deemed inappropriate. The only language acceptable to NPR was “Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell.” An NPR spokesperson said the ad needed to be “value-neutral” and should “avoid suggesting bias.” Bad news for any upstanding, and life-saving, Philadelphia doctors.

Ian Buruma, the Dutch-born intellectual, had been writing for the New York Review of Books for 22 years when he was picked to succeed founding editor Robert Silvers in 2017. Now barely a year later he is out. His mistake: publishing an essay by Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian broadcaster acquitted of sexual assault in 2016. Ghomeshi’s piece was slick and more than a little evasive — he admitted to bad behavior without specifying what he had actually done — but it conveyed what it was like to have become a deplatformed pariah, verdict or no verdict. Buruma thought his job as editor was to present provocative and timely material to his readers — that is, to edit. But the Twitterverse, and the academic presses whose ads provide a chunk of the New York Review’s income, decided that his job was to be a cultural politician. Ten years from now there will be a published dissertation on l’affaire Ghomeshi, with a chapter on Buruma. NYR, if it is still around, will review it — forthrightly, one hopes.

Old Volkswagen Beetles may roam the roads for years to come, but production of new ones will cease next year, the U.S. unit of the German automaker announced last month. Since the first Käfer rolled off the assembly line in 1938, it has inspired both VW itself to design adaptations and competitors to come up with imitations, which depressed sales of the original, iconic Bug, as Americans affectionately called it. Was it ugly? It was . . . cheap, and small, and got the job done. Tapping into the spirit of the Sixties counterculture, advertisers sold the idea of the Beetle as a puckish alternative to your father’s stodgy four-door sedan. The Bug became the preferred car of flower children. When sales began to plummet here in the 1970s, they began to skyrocket in Mexico, before they splashed down: A mariachi band serenaded the last Beetle manufactured there, in 2003. Will its U.S. counterpart be treated to its own fitting ceremony when the time comes, next July? Somewhere Herbie the Love Bug sheds a tear.

Are Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie gay? The question arose when a longtime writer for the children’s television series told an interviewer that he had modeled the pair on his own relationship with his male partner. He later explained that this was just a writing method, not an actual trait of the characters, and Sesame Street released a statement explaining that the two Muppets “do not have a sexual orientation.” This infuriated gay activists, many of whom have long seen Bert and Ernie as role models. Vox explained that “queer fans are used to being erased, and have been trained by decades of media to extrapolate queer subtext from canonical narratives.” Meanwhile “ace” (asexual) activists vigorously protested the assumption that the pair had to be either straight or gay (“Amatonormativity is dead. Asexuality is okay”). It’s unclear how important any of this might be to a five-year-old, but as long as everyone is attributing human characteristics to bits of cloth, we suspect that Bert and Ernie would be mystified at having their erotic history probed and analyzed as minutely as if they were Supreme Court nominees. No sex please, we’re puppets.

Naomi Osaka, age 20, is a tennis champion, the winner of the latest U.S. Open. She is half Japanese and half Haitian. Naturally, she is asked about her identity — her race and ethnicity and all that: What is she? Recently, she said, “I don’t know. I just think of myself as me.” A very fine thing to be.

Tiger Woods was the greatest junior golfer and the greatest amateur golfer who ever lived, by a long shot. Then he turned pro. Up to the autumn of 2009, he won 71 tournaments, including 14 majors. Then his personal life crashed around him, and his golf game followed suit. In 2012 and 2013, he had a comeback, winning eight tournaments. His total stood at 79, bettered only by Sam Snead, who won 82. (Jack Nicklaus is third, with 73.) Woods went south again, with injury after injury, and surgery after surgery. He could barely walk. Many thought he would never play again, even casually, with his kids or friends. But he has played again — and now won his 80th tournament, the Tour Championship. Some experts are calling this the greatest comeback in the history of sports. Woods is now 42, and is unlikely to stop winning. Nicklaus won his last tournament — the Masters — at 46. Snead won his last tournament at 52. The next years of Tiger Woods promise to be interesting, like the whole, improbable career.

Karen Tumulty, the political reporter for the Washington Post, is researching a biography of Nancy Reagan. She came upon a remarkable letter from President Reagan, dated August 7, 1982, the second year of his presidency. It is to Nancy’s father, Dr. Loyal Davis — who was dying. Reagan was concerned about his soul, as Dr. Davis was an atheist. “Dear Loyal,” he wrote. “I hope you’ll forgive me for this” — the “this” being a letter about spiritual matters, unasked for. “I am aware of the strain you are under and believe with all my heart there is help for that.” Reagan then discussed his own experience with Christianity. About Jesus, he said, “For two thousand years he has had more impact on the world than all the teachers, scientists, emperors, generals and admirals who ever lived, all put together.” The letter ends, “Love, Ronnie.” The more you learn about Reagan, the more extraordinary he seems.

When a major fire broke out in a senior citizens’ apartment building in southeast Washington, D.C., the Marines came running. As firefighters were called to the scene, a group of Marines were caught on video sprinting the 200 yards from their barracks to help carry elderly residents down four flights of stairs to safety. “These were our neighbors. They needed help,” Marine captain Trey Gregory said afterwards. “We had to act.” Thank God they did. Semper Fi, Marines.

Judy B. Cochran, the mayor of Livingston, Texas, had a miniature horse that she loved, but one day it disappeared, and she strongly suspected the perp was an alligator that lived in a pond on her ranch. The evidence, she admits, was circumstantial: “The gator was large enough it could have eaten the mini-horse, and the other gators are much smaller. The horse just came up missing and it was in the same pasture where the gator had been. To say for sure it’s the same gator, I can’t say for sure but I highly suspect.” That might not stand up in a court of law, or even a Senate hearing, but frontier justice is plenty good enough for an alligator, so she shot the offending reptile with a Winchester .22 Magnum, after first trapping it using roadkill raccoon as bait. Ideally the other gators will learn from their unfortunate colleague’s mistake. And Mayor Cochran didn’t do it just to be ornery; wasting little, she and her family will eat, tan, and mount on the wall the beast’s various parts. She has just become a great grandmother, and we hope she will pass along the Texas pioneer spirit to all her descendants.

#*# The mid 20th century saw movements that favored an often severe austerity in the fine arts: serialism in music, abstract impressionism in painting, minimalism in literature. In architecture, this impulse found expression in the International Style and Brutalism, which gave the world a handful of interesting buildings but many more dreary boxes of steel and concrete. Robert Venturi knew that things didn’t have to be this way. With his wife and architectural partner Denise Scott Brown, he designed buildings that reveled in ornamentation, asymmetry, broken space, and big, bold labels above the doorway. Examples of his work range from a whimsical firehouse in the architectural mecca of Columbus, Ind., to the spirited yet unostentatious library building at Bard College to the energetic and welcoming Seattle Art Museum. The title of Venturi’s most successful book, Learning from Las Vegas, exemplifies the wide-ranging influences from which he drew inspiration, and the book continues to be read today by virtually every architecture student. Dead at 93, R.I.P.

Few could be blamed for fearing that the fortunes of the Ashbrook Center, beaming out conservative wisdom from its home at Ohio’s Ashland Uni­versity, would wane when its great leader, the late Peter Schramm, retired in 2013. But Roger Beckett proved up to that challenge. A cheerful conservative and alumnus, and a determined patriot, he simply had Ashbrook in his DNA, and with his talent for leadership and his disposition as the happiest of warriors Roger took the center to new levels of influence. In particular, his “Rediscovering America” program, conceived with Jim Buchwald, is an exceptional undertaking: Using primary-source documents, it is determined to transform how American history, government, and civics are taught and has reintroduced our Republic’s founding principles to tens of thousands of history and civics teachers in a few short years. That too describes our friend’s life: too short. Earlier this year, Roger contracted an aggressive infection that he fought with resolve, but it proved too resilient. His death at the age of 44 — he leaves his wife, Danielle, and two daughters — came quickly, to the shock of his many admirers, and to a movement that was honored to know this warm soul as a man of consequence and a fierce friend of America’s principles. R.I.P.

If there is a particularly inspiring “American way” — of doing business, of loving nation and community, of sheer gratitude and deep devotion to the Creator, of commitment to charity — it was embodied, brilliantly and uniquely, by Richard Marvin DeVos, the Michigan entrepreneur who, a youthful 92, left us September 6. Paralleling the rise of the conservative movement that his philanthropy and counsel helped grow and sustain, in the early 1950s the young veteran and Calvin College graduate co-founded, with Jay Van Andel, a small vitamin company that they grew into the global giant, Amway (the name a mash-up of . . . “American way”). Their business success was immense, and was shared with others in profound ways: If there is a worthwhile conservative or education-reform group that was not touched by prolonged DeVos kindness and inspiration, it is much more the exception than the rule. Richard DeVos was a friend of WFB, a generous donor to the magazine, an original governor of the National Review Institute at its founding in 1991, and, along with his late wife, Helen, and their family of like-minded, committed philanthropists, the recipient of the Institute’s initial Buckley Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty in 2014. The American way was embodied by the paterfamilias, who was not only a great conservative but a great man. R.I.P.

Trial by Ordeal

‘Kavanaugh’ is becoming a verb, and it makes Borking look aboveboard and responsible by comparison.

As we went to press the day before prospective new Senate hearings, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was under a frenzied attack by the media and the Democrats over allegations of teenage sexual misconduct. We suspect the matter will be settled one way or the other — we obviously hope favorably to Kavanaugh — before many of you read this editorial.

The first charge came from a psychologist in California named Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges that a drunken Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a party when they were both high-school students in the early 1980s. The charge is serious, but Ford’s account is shaky. She doesn’t know in what year the incident took place, or where, or how she got to the party or left it. Since there is no other evidence and there are no witnesses, her decades-old memory is all there is to go on.

She named four other people supposedly present at the party, all of whom deny it. Kavanaugh categorically says the incident didn’t take place, as does his friend Mark Judge, who, according to Ford, egged on the attack and then prevented it. Another man, P. J. Smyth, also denies being there. Finally, a longtime friend of Ford’s, Leland Keyser, says she wasn’t there and didn’t know Kavanaugh.

The Democrats handled the matter shamefully. They sat on Ford’s accusation throughout an extensive process of vetting and questioning Kavanaugh, then declared it dispositive evidence against his confirmation when it leaked at the eleventh hour. Then they delayed a hearing with Ford long enough to allow time for a second accuser to be persuaded to come forward.

She talked to The New Yorker, which abandoned its standards to publish her account of Kavanaugh’s allegedly exposing himself to her at a drunken party at Yale. The woman, a fellow Yale student named Deborah Ramirez, admitted that she hesitated to come forward because there were such large gaps in her memory.

As the magazine put it: “In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty.” She only decided to talk, it says, “after six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney.” There are no witnesses who corroborate the story.

All of this — and especially the last-minute entry of hack Democratic lawyer Michael Avenatti, with an allegation that Kavanaugh was a party to gang rapes — was garbage-pail politics. If Democrats manage to take down Kavanaugh on the basis of these charges, they will have achieved the miraculous by stopping a Supreme Court nominee with unproven and probably unprovable charges. 

Brett Kavanaugh is an excellent jurist who has earned his sterling reputation over decades of public service. One thing we feel confident saying, as his fate hangs in the balance, is that his confirmation process will live in infamy.

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

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners




A reader sympathizes with Rael Jean Isaac’s frustration in reporting on Frank Fuster’s plight (“The Last Victim,” September 10).

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