Magazine | February 11, 2019, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

Maybe “But there’s no one on the job at the IRS!” isn’t the best anti-shutdown messaging.

The clip seen round the world showed an elderly Native American man, banging a drum, surrounded by boys from Covington (Ky.) Catholic High School, who were in D.C. for the annual March for Life, seemingly smirking or drowning him out with chants. The reality, as other, longer clips showed, was that the Covington boys had been harangued for an hour by black-nationalist crackpots (who called them “faggots,” among other things); that the drum banger, Nathan Phillips, got in the boys’ faces with his pandemonium; that the boys were trying to defuse the situation with high-school chants and stoical smiles. The boys were assailed by a left-wing social-media mob, and even some on the right too quickly assumed that the initial version was correct. Our own Nick Frankovich, writing as a Catholic and pro-lifer with high expectations of his compatriots, posted on our website a strongly worded condemnation of their conduct, which we retracted with apologies as the full story became clear. The lessons, even for regular media consumers: Pictures and clips can distort as much as they reveal; first reactions come almost always too soon. Meanwhile, the Left continues to hold up the boys as specimens of the new all-purpose hate figure: the white male.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that President Trump cancel the State of the Union address on the (apparently spurious) grounds that security could not be guaranteed during the government shutdown. In response, Trump denied her the use of an Air Force plane for a trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan. The back-and-forth was juvenile. But the spat raises the issue of SOTU itself. George Washington began the tradition of giving annual messages to Congress in person. Thomas Jefferson, who felt the ceremony smacked of monarchy, and who disliked public speaking, submitted written statements, a custom that prevailed until Woodrow Wilson restored the first format. SOTU thus has both early and recent precedent behind it. Some of its modern accompaniments are unseemly, however: congressmen scrambling for seats on the aisle so that they may be photographed shaking the president’s hand; the Soviet-like standing ovations. One unintended consequence of the Trump presidency may be a diminution of the aura of the office, which might be no bad thing.

William P. Barr, President Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, won’t be confirmed by acclamation, as he was when he was appointed AG under President George H. W. Bush. But after his strong testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he is likely to sail to confirmation with bipartisan support, which is saying something in today’s Washington. Barr deftly handled questions about a memorandum he had sent to the Justice Department criticizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s reported theory that a president can obstruct justice through lawful exercises of his constitutional prerogatives (e.g., firing the FBI director). Barr’s points were entirely reasonable, and he made clear in testimony that he had not attacked the Mueller probe’s legitimacy, that Mueller must be permitted to conclude his investigation, and that presidents may be cited for obstruction based on corrupt acts (e.g., the witness tampering seen in the Nixon and Clinton administrations). Moreover, Barr rightly refused to promise that he would recuse himself in response to hypothetical ethics-office recommendations, pointing out that an attorney general should respectfully listen to advisers but must make key decisions himself. The sooner Barr is running DOJ, the better.

That was quick. On January 17, BuzzFeed reported that President Trump had told his then-attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. This would have been subornation of perjury — next stop, impeachment. But within 24 hours, Mueller’s office issued a blunt denial: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.” The number of Trump-is-falling stories that turn out to be baseless has grown so great that they could almost be Trump-team false-flag operations. Trump’s enemies want him out so badly that they snatch at any straw; the broken straws diminish them and leave Trump in statu quo. Don’t expect any lessons to be learned, though.

Cohen, the president’s erstwhile lawyer, was scheduled to testify before Congress. The president then started talking about Cohen’s father-in-law. On Fox News, Jeanine Pirro asked Trump whether he was worried about Cohen’s forthcoming testimony. No, he said. “But he should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at.” Curious, Pirro asked for the man’s name. “I don’t know,” said Trump, “but you’ll find out and you’ll look into it because nobody knows what’s going on over there.” Days later on Twitter, Trump wrote, “Watch father-in-law!” Cohen’s father-in-law is Fima Shusterman, who in the 1990s, according to the New York Times, “pleaded guilty to evading federal reporting requirements for large cash transactions.” Entertaining as Trump can be, the president should not be making law-enforcement threats against a private citizen.

Four more Democrats announced presidential bids: Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.), Representative Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), and former HUD secretary Julián Castro. Gabbard has broken from her party to denounce Harris, among others, for intolerance of traditional religious believers, and has broken from both parties to pretend that there is doubt about whether the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons. The others are less interesting, which will probably be to their advantage. Gillibrand went in record time from pro-gun immigration hawk to standard-issue progressive. Harris is getting flak for her record of prosecutorial abuse; it’s a poor fit for the party’s new orientation on criminal justice but a perfect fit for its contemporary attitude toward government power in general. Castro appears to be hoping that good looks and Hispanic ancestry can fill the space on his résumé where accomplishments should be. Democrats think that President Trump is vulnerable and that traditional standards of qualification are dead, so the field is getting crowded early.

Representative Steve King (R., Iowa) has made a habit of flirting with the noxious fringe in matters pertaining to culture, race, and immigration, but he crossed over the line in an interview with the New York Times. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King asked. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” We doubt King paid much attention in those classes if he doesn’t realize that, from Lincoln to MLK, one of the glories of American history has been our efforts to overcome slavery and the legacy of slavery. King’s comments were odious and, as his strained attempt to offer an exculpatory interpretation of them shows, indefensible. The GOP has stripped him of his committee assignments, and the National Republican Congressional Committee says it won’t support him in any primary challenge. These are acts of moral hygiene.

Our nation has reached the sad point where it is now a days-long national scandal that the vice president’s Christian wife is teaching at a Christian ministry that upholds traditional Christian teaching on sexuality and marriage. The moment she announced that she was teaching part-time at Immanuel Christian School, the nation’s largest and most prestigious news outlets pounced, calling the school “anti-gay” and accusing it of being hostile to transgender students. Accusa­tions of bigotry filled the airwaves. The school, however, isn’t bigoted. It is biblically Christian, up­holding the standard doctrine of nearly every mainstream, ortho­dox Christian church in the United States — including the biggest churches, such as the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Con­vention. The doctrine is simple: A person’s sex is defined by biology, not “gender identity,” and sex should be exclusively reserved for the union of a man and wo­man in marriage. Is it now the Left’s position that doing any work for Christian ministries that hold these positions is bigoted? That certainly appears to be the trend. In the meantime, there’s an obvious better way — true tolerance. Let Christian schools be Christian, Jewish schools be Jewish, Muslim schools be Muslim, and secular schools be secular — and then let’s not condemn any person for seeking to teach the fundamentals of what he believes, even if we explain why we disagree.

But in a positive development, the Senate, by unanimous consent, on January 16 agreed to a resolution, introduced by Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), “that disqualifying a nominee to federal office on the basis of membership in the Knights of Columbus violates the Constitution of the United States.” The action was prompted by a line of questioning that Senators Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) had recently taken during the confirmation hearing of Brian Buescher, whom President Trump has nominated to the federal bench. Noting Buescher’s membership in the Knights, Harris and Hirono characterized the world’s largest Catholic fraternal and charitable organization, headquartered in New Haven, Conn., as extremist and un-American. On the Senate floor, Hirono accused Sasse of embracing “the alt-right’s position” — a mindless accusation, given his emphatic opposition to bigotry on the right as well as on the left. The next time Senator Hirono attempts to impose a religious test, supporters of American principles can cite this resolution as well as the Constitution in response.

After Clemson won the NCAA football championship, Trump extended the customary invitation to the Tigers, but the government shutdown made the White House catering staff unavailable. So President Trump sent out for burgers, fries, and pizza, laid them out in the State Dining Room, and boasted to the press that the food was piled up “a mile high.” The Wash­ington Post responded by calculating that the burgers fell well short of a mile. Fast food remains a cherished American tradition, while the media makes itself ever less of one.

The Women’s March, which since 2016 has been perhaps the most high-profile embodiment of the “Resistance” to Donald Trump, continues its slow decline. Though the group held its annual “March on Washington” this month, with corresponding events in several major cities, it has continued to bleed support in the wake of allegations of anti-Semitism against a handful of its leaders. In January alone, Women’s March co-president Tamika Mallory appeared on The View and refused to disavow prominent anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, whom Mallory had described as the “greatest of all time,” and in a PBS interview she refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. The march lost several top sponsors, including the Democratic National Committee, and Demo­cratic politicians such as New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand and former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz openly criticized the organization for tolerating anti-Semitic statements from its leaders. This moral alertness is welcome, however belated.

Elections have consequences, even if gross incompetence does not. That should be the takeaway from the welcome news that newly minted governor of Florida Ron DeSantis has removed Broward County sheriff Scott Israel from his post. After the massacre in Parkland in February of last year, Israel summoned the cameras and blamed everybody but himself for the debacle that had unfolded on his watch while insisting that he was doing an excellent job. At first, his deflection worked. Indeed, within the gun-control movement, he became a champion of sorts. But as more details began to trickle out, his position became untenable. According to a report commissioned by the state of Florida, Israel’s department repeatedly failed to follow up on tips about the shooter. It also changed the engagement rules governing his deputies, which led to officers’ refusing to enter the school while it was under attack. Subsequently, the report’s indictments were echoed by the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, which took a vote of no confidence against Israel and urged then-governor Rick Scott to remove him. Scott demurred. DeSantis did not. It has taken almost a year, but a small measure of justice has finally been served.

If a bill working its way through the state senate makes it into law, New York will have effectively nullified the Second Amendment with­in its borders. The bill in question, introduced by Brooklyn’s Kevin Parker, would require prospective gun owners to hand over their social-media and other computer passwords so that the police can evaluate them for suitability. Specifically, the bill empowers the police to examine three years of an applicant’s social-media activity (on Face­book, Insta­gram, Twitter, and Snapchat) and one year of past searches on Bing, Google, and Yahoo, the better to look for threats of violence and racist or discriminatory language of any kind. In any context, such a measure would represent an unacceptable violation of privacy that no free society should tolerate. But as part of an obstacle to the enjoyment of the Bill of Rights, it is unconscionable.

We aren’t normally inclined to support Oregon and California Democrats, but there have been cases of blind squirrels finding nuts. Two proposals to relax local land-use regulations — one floated by Oregon state representative Tina Kotek, the other by California governor Gavin Newsom — deserve a close look. Kotek’s plan would require the state’s larger cities to relax zoning laws, while Newsom’s would withhold state money from localities that fail to reach housing-construction targets. The goal is to allow developers to create more housing supply, which would help bring down rents. It would be better if local governments would relax land-use regulations on their own without state intervention, but the country has a problem with restrictive zoning laws that Kotek and Newsom are — to their credit — offering intelligent proposals to solve.

Philadelphia entrepreneur Jeff Brown won the praise and admiration of, among others, President Barack Obama, who noted Brown’s efforts to operate grocery stores in the so-called food deserts of his city, neighborhoods in which there were few if any grocery stores. Now he is closing at least one of them, thanks to Mayor Jim Kenney and his knockoff Michael Bloomberg agenda. “This store is closing because of Jim Kenney’s beverage tax,” Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer. The public-minded entrepreneur plans to offer free Lyft rides to another location for residents of the neighborhood who have nowhere else to shop. (Who says there’s no brotherly love left in Philadelphia?) Shoppers aren’t the only ones affected: Brown has reduced his work force by about 200 positions since the tax took effect. The soda tax is a beast of a familiar kind: Happily ignoring the fungibility of dollars, it is alleged to support pre-kindergarten education, community schools, park improvements, public libraries, and everything else short of unicorns and puppies. In reality, it is simply one more revenue stream shunting money into the ravening maw of Philadelphia’s notoriously corrupt and incompetent government, to the benefit of the political bosses who control it. The economy is not made up of abstractions and ideas; it is made up of real people and real businesses trying to operate in the real world, which Philadelphia, for whatever reason, insists on making more difficult.

A ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals may clear the way for Texas to exclude Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program. The state based its funding decision in large part on undercover footage showing Planned Parenthood officials admitting to profiting illegally from selling the tissue of aborted fetuses. The court dismantled a key talking point of Planned Parenthood’s defenders, noting that an independent forensic firm’s review of the footage found “that the video was authentic and not deceptively edited.” Around the same time as the decision came down, Marist College released polling that found three-quarters of respondents in favor of limiting abortion to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy. A majority of pro-choice respondents and a majority of Democratic ones agreed with this view. Let’s hope that courts allow states to act on it, and soon.

In other courts, the judicial resistance to President Trump continued. This time the targeted policy was the Trump administration’s religious and conscience exemptions from the Obama-era HHS contraception mandate. The reasoning is specious. Obamacare required employers to cover preventative care but left regulators to define it. The Obama administration used that provision to fight its culture war. By blocking Trump’s regulators from modifying the edicts of Obama’s executive branch, the judge is privileging one president over the other when the statute itself is notoriously vague. The judge’s ruling isn’t the final word, but given how slowly the wheels of justice turn, there is a very good chance that the case won’t be decided until the final year of Trump’s first term.

Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the creators of OxyContin, have been the targets of several lawsuits claiming that the company knew about the drug’s addictive properties but swept that information under the rug. Now the Sackler family, which ran Purdue for decades, is dealing with a lawsuit of its own. Documents released in the course of the suit show that Richard Sackler was, to put it generously, cavalier about developing and marketing the drug. When a Purdue doctor expressed reservations about Sackler’s desire to sell Oxy­Contin as an uncontrolled substance, he responded: “How substantially would it improve your sales?” He foresaw a “blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.” In 2007, in response to news that 59 people had died of OxyContin overdoses in a state, Sackler wrote: “This is not too bad. It could have been far worse.” That remark proved all too prescient.

The ISIS terror attack that killed four Americans was a terrible reminder that, contrary to the Trump administration’s fondest hopes, ISIS has not been defeated in Syria. The American military mission is not over. And if we persist with the plan to leave precipitately, we may well allow a deadly enemy to rebuild its strength and strike us again. The prudent course for the Trump administration is clear — seek congressional approval for a continued mission in Syria that has three objectives. First, defeat ISIS. Continue pursuing it in allied-controlled areas until the terrorist organization has lost any meaningful combat power. Second, we should stand with our Kurdish allies, blocking both Turkey and the Assad regime from destroying them while we work toward the third objective, negotiating a peace agreement that guarantees the security of the Kurds and prevents the reemergence of our terrorist foes. These objectives are reasonable. They are attainable. But they are impossible if the Trump administration continues the withdrawal.

Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29. But the House of Commons has now killed Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU-approved Brexit plan. There is at press time no majority in the House for any alternative plan. EU negotiators are making it as hard as possible for Britain to leave. So Britain may in the end have to leave without a deal, which would mean trading with the EU under World Trade Organization terms. Supporters of the EU are trying to frighten the public, warning of the dangers of “crashing out” without a deal and claiming that there will be shortages of everything from candy bars to medicine. Resolute leadership does not appear likely to deliver Britain the exit that voters backed in 2016, but inertia just might.

In Hong Kong, a bill before the legislative council would impose fines up to $6,375 and jail sentences up to three years for insulting the Chinese national anthem. The proposed law is virtually identical to one that has been in place on the mainland since November 2017. In the past decade, hostility toward the Chinese government has been growing in Hong Kong. Fewer than one-third of residents there now identify as Chinese, according to a survey from the University of Hong Kong, even though Beijing has claimed qualified sovereignty over the small, densely populated region since 1997. In recent years, soccer games have provided high-profile occasions for Hong Kongese to express their opinion of the mainland, by booing during the anthem. Political leaders in Hong Kong maintain that the law against dissing the Chinese anthem would be enforced sparingly. File that under “reassurances that do not reassure.”

“Say it ain’t so, Joe!” is an old American cry. We say it today, about Joe Lieberman, the ex-senator from Connecticut (and onetime vice-presidential nominee of the Democratic party). He has registered as a lobbyist for ZTE. This is the Chinese telecommunications giant that is effectively an organ of the Chinese Communist Party. So it is with all such companies in China. ZTE has repeatedly been fined, sanctioned, and banned by the U.S. government for its illegal dealings with Iran. Lieberman himself, once upon a time, called ZTE a national-security threat. And he is not the only one at the company’s trough. Another ex-senator, Norm Cole­man, got there before him. Surely there are more honorable ways of making money.

A team of Associated Press reporters — Dake Kang, Martha Mendoza, and Yanan Wang — investigated slave labor in China. They carried out their investigation in Xinjiang Province, or East Turkestan, where Communist authorities have rounded up something like a million Uyghurs. These people have been thrown into an archipelago of camps. Many of the inmates are forced to perform labor, in various factories. The AP team found that one of the factories was sending products to a company in North Carolina. The company, Badger Sportswear, subsequently announced that it would no longer accept products from this source. Good on the company, and on AP.

 New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, like his China-fanboy colleague Thomas Friedman, has a soft spot for a Communist regime. In a bizarre column, Kristof admitted that Cuba is “poor and repressive” and that its economy is “dysfunctional.” He also admitted there’s no reason to trust Cuba when it claims its infant-mortality rate is lower than the United States’; there is credible evidence that Cuban doctors classify many infant deaths as fetal deaths instead. And yet he credited the country’s health-care system for its allegedly low infant mortality anyway, calculating that if the U.S. had as low a rate as Cuba claims to have, thousands of babies’ lives would be saved each year. Left unmentioned was that U.S. infant-mortality rates vary drastically by race and ethnicity for reasons that go far beyond health care — and that Cubans in the U.S. have the same rate that Cuba claims to have domestically. The Times has been coming up with inventive excuses for this brutal Communist regime for decades. Never let it be said that it is an enemy of tradition.

Your academic outrage of the fortnight: Students at Oxford University have put together a petition — and published a piece in the Guardian — trying to stop Professor John Finnis from teaching there. The allegations? Finnis published an article in the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy nearly a quarter century ago defending traditional morality regarding homosexuality; also, in the words of the petitioners, in a 2011 article he “laments restrictions on the discussion of ‘the reversibility of sexual orientation or the relation if any between sexual orientation and child-abuse.’” Yes, advancing controversial ideas and lamenting restrictions on such ideas are cause for dismissal from the academy these days, or at least will be if these overgrown toddlers have their way. The university should simply ignore the complaints.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, in Alabama, was going to honor Angela Davis with a human-rights award. (Davis is a native of the city.) But, under pressure from supporters of Israel, the institute reversed that decision. The lady herself said she was “stunned.” So are we. Rarely are the likes of Davis dishonored, as they should be. She is a BDS-er, yes — a fierce opponent of Israel. But she was also twice the vice-presidential nominee of the Communist party. Angela Davis and human rights do not go together.

When Starbucks began, it conceived of itself as the “third place” — not home, not work, but a semi-public social space. And that is what it has become — to mixed results. In some parts of the country, Starbucks is a nice, clean, convenient chain coffeeshop; in some parts, it is that and a part-time homeless shelter and mental ward. It is also America’s franchise public toilet, which has led to some problems in the third space, prominent among them the presence of used hypodermic needles left behind by the intravenous drug users who use Starbucks restrooms as a shooting gallery. Em­ployees complained about the health hazards they endured in cleaning up their needle-strewn restrooms, especially in the parts of the country where heroin use is most prevalent, and the management has intelligently responded by deciding to add disposal bins for needles and other biohazards. The strategy has the obvious drawback of counting too much on the public-mindedness and fastidiousness of junkies, who are not famous for their intense regard for the well-being of others. Starbucks went from having 17 stores in the late 1980s to making a high-profile IPO in the early 1990s — which is emblematic of those times. The dope-fiend conveniences in its public bathrooms are unhappily emblematic of our times.

In its eternal quest to sell more blades and shaving cream, Gillette has filmed a commercial that, in the course of an endless minute and a half, hammers home like John Henry the message that being male does not require you to act like a jerk. Men of assorted ages are first shown staring ahead introspectively; then others are seen harassing and mocking various men and harassing and patronizing various women; then there’s more staring ahead introspectively; and finally men are seen giving each other lessons in not being a creep. Just in case you missed the point, the mini-epic ends with a bunch of young boys (little shavers, if you will) watching everything with rapt attention. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with the message that bullying and caddishness are reprehensible. Yet most men have managed to learn that on their own in their journey through life — and for those who haven’t, we’re not sure a preachy razor commercial will do the trick.

Casting is under way for yet another film about Cleopatra, the dozenth or so in English. The front-runners for the starring role are said to be Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga. A normal person’s reaction to this news: “Well, neither one is exactly Elizabeth Taylor, but they’ll do just fine.” And the leftist reaction: “Hey, they’re both white. No fair!” For the record, Cleopatra was Greek, but progressives have countered that (a) she was the queen of Egypt, which is in Africa, (b) she may have had an African ancestor, and (c) she has usually been played by white actresses in the past, so it’s time to even things out. None of which matters, of course, because the producers will decide based on (d) which actress will make the most money for them, and the notion that this makes a statement about history, racism, diversity, or privilege will be nonsense.

Arthur Brooks is a tough act to follow, but the American Enterprise Institute has found a worthy successor to him for its presidency. Robert Doar, who will take over this summer, has spent much of his career studying and implementing conservative policies to lift people out of poverty. He was a bright spot in Michael Bloomberg’s mayoralty, overseeing efforts to move people from welfare to work. Since then he has been a scholar at AEI himself, working to keep compassion and realism conjoined. The institute has a reputation for being thoughtful and serious, which this selection reinforces.

Nathan Glazer had what was in some respects an archetypal life: born in East Harlem to Yiddish-speaking immigrants, educated at City College, wrote for Commentary, worked in academia. He was one of the first of the neoconservatives, liberals with second thoughts about the programs of the Great Society. His unique contribution was highlighted by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, with whom he co-authored Beyond the Melting Pot, their analysis of Negroes (as they were then called), Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish in New York City. With only a dash of hyperbole, Moynihan said that Glazer had refuted Karl Marx. Marx thought the fault lines of society were economic; Glazer argued that they were ethnic. He did not endorse the tribal world we inhabit, certainly not its brutal manifestations, but he anticipated it. Dead at 95, R.I.P. 

John C. Bogle, the founder of Vanguard Group, made investing accessible and affordable for the masses. Bogle’s central insight — once heretical and now hard to contest — was that over the long term most actively managed mutual funds will not outperform the market. By cutting out brokers and slashing fees, he revolutionized the industry and allowed millions of Americans to amass wealth through investing in low-cost mutual funds tied to stock-market indexes. Born in 1929, six months before the crash that wiped out his family’s fortune, Bogle delivered papers and worked as a waiter before attending Princeton on a scholarship and launching himself in the financial world. “Press on regardless,” he liked to say. He did so, through half a dozen heart attacks and a transplant. Famously frugal, he gave half of his salary to charitable causes. Dead at 89, R.I.P.

Trump’s Offer

President Trump offered Democrats an immigration deal to end the government shutdown.

It was a reasonable proposal to exchange a temporary amnesty for beneficiaries of DACA (the so-called Dreamers) and TPS (illegal immigrants who supposedly couldn’t go home because of war or natural disaster) for $5.7 billion for border barriers, $800 million for humanitarian programs at the border, some changes in asylum rules, and more border agents and immigration judges.

Nancy Pelosi rejected it out of hand, even before hearing his formal televised offer. The progressive case against the deal is that it trades something temporary, the amnesty, which would theoretically last only three years, for something permanent: the fencing at the border.

We look at the equities of the Trump offer differently. What our colleague Mark Krikorian says about guest workers (“There’s nothing more permanent than a temporary guest worker”) applies equally to temporary amnesties. Consider TPS, which denotes Temporary Protected Status. Immigrants have been here under this supposedly temporary status for decades.

As for the fence, yes, it is built to be permanent. But getting it up in a timely manner isn’t easy given the logistical and legal challenges. So the amnesty portion of the Trump deal would almost certainly never go away, but if Democrats win back control of Washington in 2020, they could easily turn off the funding for whatever sections of the fence haven’t yet been built.

All of this is why in the past we have called for a deal ex­changing a full amnesty for Dreamers — they are going to get one eventually anyway — for a mandatory E-Verify system to get employers to confirm that employees are legal. This would do much to turn off the jobs magnet for illegal immigration. But the debate is now in a different place.

Trump is right to try to shake something loose in the shutdown showdown. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was set to take up his package, forcing the Democrats to filibuster a compromise package that would reopen the government. This puts Republicans on a less defensive footing, but it won’t change the fundamental fact that Democrats hate the idea of giving Trump any kind of victory on the border barriers and believe that they have the upper hand in the political fight over the shutdown. At the moment, Trump wants a negotiation and Pelosi wants a humiliation, a clear and convincing defeat for the president.

There isn’t any downside for her, because her base fully backs her maximalist position and the media never call her out for her recalcitrance. If she were the head of the Republican caucus in a confrontation with a Democratic president, obviously the coverage would be very different.

Maybe the political dynamic somehow changes. Trump, as he did in his Oval Office address, should definitely keep making his case. But we fear any prospective deal only gets weaker from here.

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

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


The Week

The Week

Maybe “But there’s no one on the job at the IRS!” isn’t the best anti-shutdown messaging.

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Trump and the Black Vote

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The Age of Miscalculation

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