• We are surprised that no one has hit upon the obvious solution to the Jussie Smollett mystery: Brett Kavanaugh did it.
• Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar is running for the Democratic nomination for president. She is a relative moderate — relative, that is, to the very recent trend in her party, which means that she would have counted as a down-the-line liberal only a few years ago. She does not favor free four-year college for all, she explained regretfully a few days after her campaign began, because the money has to come from somewhere. Reporters have been unearthing stories of her abusive treatment of her aides. If she continues to dismiss left-wing pipe dreams, a lot of Democratic primary voters may start yelling back.
• Elizabeth Warren plans to make it cheaper for American parents to use “high quality” child care, with taxpayers picking up the tab. It would be a mistake to believe that her plan would expand parents’ options. What the senator proposes would instead stack the deck, encouraging parents to choose the child-care arrangement, commercial day care, that they currently favor least, and penalizing parents who choose differently. The latter group includes families with stay-at-home moms, families that hire nannies, and families that rely on informal arrangements, often involving relatives. The Warren-for-president campaign is shaping up to be an expensive way for Americans to get something they don’t want.
• William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts and Libertarian nominee for vice president, said he will run against President Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. Many of the voters who selected Trump in November 2016 had to overcome serious reservations to do it. Republicans who remain anti-Trump would also have to overcome serious reservations to vote for Weld. They would have to stomach a Republican who favors abortion, is unconcerned about threats to religious liberty, approves regulations on guns even when they cannot possibly have a significant effect on homicide rates, and endorsed Barack Obama. The future of the Republican party may be unclear at the moment, but surely this isn’t it.
• Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, continues to insist that he will serve out his term after first admitting and then denying that he appeared in a photo of a white man in blackface and a man in a KKK costume that graced his medical-school-yearbook page. He will devote his remaining time to racial reconciliation, he says. He has reportedly been reading left-wing tracts on race, and says his controversy highlights “ongoing inequities to access to things like education, health care, mortgages, capital, entrepreneurship.” It doesn’t, of course, but the meaning is clear enough: Most Virginians have never worn blackface, but they can all pay higher taxes to expiate Ralph Northam’s sins.
• Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, wants to be perfectly clear about something: She doesn’t hate Jews on a case-by-case basis but only despises Jews corporately in the form of the Jewish state. On the matter of Israel, she checks each of Natan Sharansky’s 3-D boxes: delegitimization, demonization, and double standards. She also has a penchant for engaging in Protocols of the Elders of Zion–style libel and conspiracy theories regarding Jews and in particular Jewish Americans, whom she accuses of bribing Congress to act in Israel’s interests. Nefarious Jews, she has claimed in the past, have “hypnotized” the world in order to further the Jewish state’s wicked agenda. To which she added: “May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Like fellow freshman Representative Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), who accuses Jewish Americans of having dual loyalties, she apparently falls naturally into the darkly conspiratorial Jew-hating mode of political thought, though she finds herself obliged to apologize for it from time to time. Anti-Semitism is ascendant on the left: Representative Tlaib recently was discovered to have written a column for Final Call, the newspaper published by Jew-hating weirdo par excellence Louis Farrakhan. He remains a favorite among such progressive leaders as Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour. But Sarsour is not a member of the House of Representatives, although if she were she would fit right in with the Democratic caucus.
• Omar had a nutty first month in Congress. One of the things she did was tear into Elliott Abrams as a war criminal. Abrams is the State Department’s special representative for Venezuela. During the Reagan administration, he held foreign-policy posts concerning human rights and Latin America. Omar peddled the old leftist line — remember the Christic Institute? remember CISPES? — that the Reagan administration enabled right-wing death squads in Central America. In truth, the Reaganites steered Central America toward a democratic path and away from both right-wing militias and left-wing totalitarians. In 1988, Reagan was able to say, “The growth of democracy has become one of the most powerful political movements of our age. In Latin America in the 1970s, only a third of the population lived under democratic government; today over 90 percent does.” Ilhan Omar should learn this, and much else.
• If you would like to see the Green New Deal in miniature, turn your eyes to California, where ill-advised plans for a high-speed train connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco have been abandoned after tens of billions of dollars were wasted. A round-trip flight between the cities takes 90 minutes and can be had for as little as $149, so the importance of a bullet train as a means of conveyance was always mysterious. But it was never about travel: It was to be a symbol of high-tech, green progressivism instantiated through big, expensive infrastructure projects. And so it is. Newly elected Democratic governor Gavin Newsom, noting that the project had never been on schedule and already had doubled in price to $77 billion and rising, announced that the plan was to be abandoned. Hilariously, he says he intends to finish the first stage of the project, meaning that California will have spent billions of dollars on a high-speed train connecting Bakersfield to Merced — by 2027, in the unlikely event this happens on schedule.
• The Senate is set to vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill that would require doctors to provide medical care to infants born alive in the course of attempted abortions. Republicans in the House and Senate are pushing the legislation in the wake of Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s apparent endorsement of letting infants die, at least in some circumstances. Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), the bill’s sponsor, asked for unanimous consent on the measure in early February but was blocked by Senate Democrats, who say the legislation is anti-abortion and, given existing homicide laws, redundant. Neither of these claims is accurate. Federal law does not do much to protect infants born alive in abortions, and Democrats are worried that if it did it would undermine the logic of unlimited abortion rights. So it would. In voting on this legislation, Democrats must choose between incoherence and infanticide.
• Numerous media outlets lit up in February with stories about taxpayers’ receiving smaller refunds than they did last year, the ludicrous implication being that the recent tax reform had hurt them. Think tanks across the political spectrum are unanimous in finding that the overwhelming majority of Americans will see a tax cut. As for the refunds, it is not clear that they will be smaller, on average, when tax season ends. If they are, it will mean only that tax withholding has become more accurate. A large refund means that a taxpayer has been sending too much money to Washington over the course of a year. Smaller refunds would be a cause for celebration in a financially literate country, something that much of our press is helping ensure we do not become.
• American birth rates hit a 30-year low. While popular explanations for the trend often posit that Americans want fewer children than in the past, surveys of women have suggested for five decades that they want more children than they have. As economist Lyman Stone points out in a recent paper for the American Enterprise Institute, what’s really behind the collapse is that Americans spend a lower and lower proportion of their fertile years married. Children and marriage are not as tightly connected as they used to be, and more’s the pity, but the link is still there. A society that ignores it is undermining its future.
• Amazon canceled its plans to site a new co-headquarters in Queens after local politicians objected to its wages and to the tax breaks the city and state were planning to give the company. Huge, successful companies such as Amazon increasingly want to be located in places with a lot of ambitious and highly schooled potential workers. But as the Queens debacle showed, those places need and therefore want those companies less. Amazon erred. So did the politicians. Targeted tax breaks have a poor track record at spurring development for cities and states, which are better off creating a welcoming climate for business across the board. As with the breaking off of many engagements, this one was probably for the best.
• Ryan Morgan is a quiet 17-year-old from West Bend, Wis., who likes the Green Bay Packers and hanging out with his girlfriend and aspires to work at the local water-utility plant after he graduates. Esquire featured him on the cover of its March issue under the cover line “An American Boy: What it’s like to grow up white, middle class, and male in the era of social media, school shootings, toxic masculinity, #MeToo, and a divided country.” The cover story shed some interesting light on this question. So too did the reaction to it. Outrage erupted on Twitter and spilled over onto editorial pages. Critics (who by and large had not read the piece) complained that it was published during black-history month, an obvious affront to blacks; that it presented a member of a privileged class as a victim; that it gave an undeserved “platform” to a white male, a breed from which we’ve heard enough. Ryan Morgan no doubt got the message: Sit down and shut up, because of who you are.
• In November, President Trump was asked who should be held accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist. He answered, “Maybe the world should be held accountable, because the world is a vicious place.” But the world did not kill Khashoggi, individuals did — and someone ordered them to do it. In October, a bipartisan group of senators triggered the Global Magnitsky Act, giving the president 120 days to investigate who killed Khashoggi and what the consequences should be. The deadline has expired, with no credible response. There’s a line between being realistic about the Saudis and participating in a cover-up, and the administration doesn’t seem to be mindful of it.
• The U.S. is trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela. Nicolás Maduro is blocking it. C-17s carrying hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of food and supplies have landed in Cúcuta, a Colombian city on the border, but Maduro had the military close the road between the two countries. Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country thanks to the lack of food, while those who remain struggle to fend off starvation. What stands in the way of relief are a few shipping containers, and Maduro’s stubborn grip on power.
• U.S. officials have been warning European countries that allowing Huawei, the Chinese telecom company, to do business uninhibited could mean a downgrade in relations. A U.K. intelligence agency found, however, that it poses only a “manageable” national-security risk, according to a report in the Financial Times. The U.S. has it right: Last month a Huawei employee in Poland was arrested for espionage, and any data gathered by Huawei could easily become the property of Beijing thanks to a suite of recently passed Chinese laws. New Zealand and Australia have already banned Huawei from building their 5G networks, and Canada is seriously considering it. Time to listen to the former colonies.
• Raise a glass to Igor Lipsits. He is an economics professor in Moscow. His textbook was recently banned from Russian schools. A panel asked him to add lines that would “promote love for the Motherland.” Lipsits declined. “I’ve become unused to writing such things” since the fall of the Soviet Union, he said, “and I’m not keen to revive my skills at windbaggery.” He also said, “My conception of patriotism was formed way back in my youth. And it assumes work toward the development of the country and its people, and not praise toward those who are ruling it at the present moment. . . . I can’t change myself — I’m too old now for such ideological somersaults.” An honorable man is a valuable thing in any country.
• In December, Time magazine named a group of journalists its collective “Person of the Year.” Some of these journalists had been murdered; some had been imprisoned; and one was still at large, so to speak. That journalist was Maria Ressa, a Filipina who co-founded a news website called “Rappler.” It has been a thorn in the side of Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’ strongman, and a boastful killer of journalists. His government has not killed Ressa, but it has arrested her, on trumped-up charges of cyber libel and tax evasion. Fame — in the form of Time-magazine covers, for example — is not a guarantee against murder. But it does help. May Ressa and her brave colleagues keep up their important work.
• The actor Jussie Smollett’s description of his alleged assault in the small hours of January 29 in Chicago was what P. G. Wodehouse would have called a rummy affair. Smollett, a gay black actor-singer who appears on the television show Empire, said two men suddenly jumped him shouting racist and anti-gay slurs, beat him (lightly, it seemed), and put a rope around his neck, then ran away as suddenly as they had appeared. In his initial account to police, Smollett left out a crucial detail that he or his representatives later supplied to the celebrity-gossip site TMZ: The men had shouted, “This is MAGA country!” as they carried out their fell scheme. Reasonable people had many questions about this supposed attack, which Smollett later attributed to his outspoken opposition to President Trump. Why didn’t he call the police on the cell phone he had in his possession? Why did he keep the rope around his neck for 40 minutes? Why did two men bother to attack him if they weren’t going to inflict serious injury or rob him? How did the two Trump-loving attackers know that their ideological foe would be in that place at that time, anyway? Sensible observers were anything but shocked when, on February 16, after an exhaustive investigation, police sources told CNN and several other news outlets they believed the attack had been staged with the aid of two brothers from Nigeria who were friends of Smollett and had accepted some $3,500 in advance payment. The same sources said they could prove that the brothers had purchased the rope. The previously voluble Smollett lawyered up and declined repeated police invitations to clarify matters in a follow-up interview. Hate-crime hoaxes do considerable damage to America’s social and cultural fabric and tie up police resources better spent on other matters. Should Smollett be found guilty of perpetrating a hoax, may he receive punishment in keeping with a serious offense.
• “Mr. McCarrick” is how the New York Times refers to him now. Pope Francis has laicized, or defrocked, Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C. After the Archdiocese of New York deemed credible an allegation that McCarrick had sexually abused a minor in the 1970s, the Vatican removed him from public ministry last summer, and he resigned from the College of Cardinals a few weeks later. McCarrick’s reputation for sexually harassing seminarians was longstanding in the hierarchy. His case is a dreary illustration of separate but related concerns — sexual crimes under the law, and a range of sexual sins under Church teaching — that weigh on the faithful as bishops from around the world convene in Rome to discuss sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Although by all accounts the incidence of abuse has plummeted since the turn of the century, the business of coming clean about past scandals remains unfinished. McCarrick has become an emblem of the crisis. Expect more examples to emerge in the years ahead.
• The Southern Baptist Convention has now had its Me Too moment. A comprehensive Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News investigation found that hundreds of Baptist leaders and volunteers committed acts of sexual misconduct against roughly 700 victims. Misconduct included heinous acts of rape and child molestation. The allegations are deeply disturbing but, sadly, not surprising. There was never any reason to believe that sex scandals would be predominantly confined to the Catholic Church, and there was never any reason to believe that any church is free of evil people. It’s the church’s responsibility, however, to understand that fact and respond with alacrity to allegations of abuse. On that count, all too many Baptist churches failed. In response to the report, Baptist leaders showed entirely appropriate sadness and humility. Actions matter more than words, however, and every church must take very seriously the possibility that even trusted leaders and congregants can commit terrible acts of abuse.
• At long last, the Mars rover known as Opportunity has sent its final report back to Earth. After 15 years, it succumbed to a dust storm that kept it from charging its batteries with the sun’s rays. Since landing in 2003, it had roamed the red planet’s surface, sending home data; most notably, along with its partner, Spirit (d. 2010), it had conclusively established the onetime presence of water, which raises the tantalizing possibility of life on Mars. In the half century since Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, space travel has come to seem routine, but the fact that Opportunity survived 15 years (more than 50 times its expected lifespan) in the harsh and unforgiving Martian environment, without even an oil change, shows that the can-do spirit of the lunar-landing program is still going strong.
• A Florida couple (we can tell you’re interested already) locked their keys inside their SUV at a shopping center. Their baby was also locked inside, which left the couple frantic but at a loss for what to do. Then a crew of work-release convicts, laboring nearby in their striped uniforms, noticed what was happening and offered to lend their expertise at breaking into locked cars to help the worried pair. A wire coat-hanger was procured, the convicts set to work, and in a few minutes the parents and child were reunited. A happy ending for all — except the convicts, who had to go back to prison at the end of the day. We’re not sure whether demonstrating that you’ve kept up your car-theft skills while incarcerated is something that will impress the parole board, but in this case we think it should.
• What should you do when confronted by a mountain lion who seems ready to pounce like a Republican on a Democratic gaffe? You probably can’t outrun it, but the other options are not much better: One source unhelpfully advises you to “stand firm and make an effort to look larger,” and when that doesn’t work, “fight back using any weapon at hand.” A man named Travis Kauffman, running on a trail near Fort Collins, Colo., took this last bit of advice literally when he was attacked by a mountain lion (admittedly a juvenile one, but still) and strangled it with his bare hands. He suffered serious wounds to his face, limbs, and torso, requiring 16 stitches, but as the saying goes: You should have seen the other guy. Oh, and after polishing off the mountain lion, he ran three more miles before someone gave him a ride to the hospital. Parks officials emphasize that attacks by mountain lions are exceedingly rare, and with badass opponents like Kauffman, perhaps it’s no wonder.
• When we put our colleague Reihan Salam on the cover of National Review a couple of months ago, a few outcomes seemed likely: 1) he’d take up modeling on the side; 2) he’d go into seclusion to escape the attention of his adoring fans; 3) he’d become the president of a major think tank. We are delighted that — so far! — it’s option 3. We are absolutely thrilled that he’s becoming the president of the Manhattan Institute. This is a perfect match: Reihan cares deeply about public policy in general and urban policy in particular. Anyone who encounters him knows he’s brilliant and creative, with a matchless knack for identifying talent and a passion for developing it. He has been an immensely productive colleague and dear friend, and we look forward to fruitful collaborations to come.
• “I’m not paid to be a nice guy,” John Dingell said. “I’m paid to look after the public interest.” From his perch on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he subpoenaed federal officials, investigated government fraud, and exposed it, although his critics complained that in his zeal he sometimes misfired and defamed the innocent. An old-school northern Democrat, Dingell represented a swathe of southeast Michigan, where the automotive industry appreciated his allergy to over-regulation. Labor unions counted him a reliable ally. On social issues he was moderately conservative earlier on. He tacked leftward later but in any case never showed much relish for culture wars. When he arrived in Congress in 1955, taking the seat his father had held for more than 20 years, he picked up Dingell Sr.’s baton and began making the case for national health insurance, decades ahead of his time. His wife, Debbie, has held the seat since his retirement in 2015. No one has served in the House longer than he did, just months shy of 60 years. A senior senior statesman, dead at 92. R.I.P.
• Lyndon LaRouche began crazy and died redundant. The perennial presidential candidate — he didn’t miss an election from 1976 to 2004, even when he was in prison — began his political career as a member of the Socialist Workers party but also ran for office as a Democrat and an independent. Early in his career he authored a book of socialist political theory (Dialectical Economics: An Introduction to Marxist Political Economy) and remained throughout his life committed to the notion of an impending “crisis of capitalism,” which he proposed to address with policies ranging from the familiar (he was a Glass-Steagall man to the end) to the eccentric. He believed that British interests were at the heart of most of America’s problems, and the world’s, too. He was a trafficker in conspiracy theories ranging from the vile (he was a Holocaust denier and lifelong anti-Semite) to the absurd (that the Queen of England is a kingpin in the global narcotics trade). He was a figure of fun and a target of derision, as were his cult-like followers distributing his pamphlets in airport terminals and other public places. But his life’s great themes are ascendant in left-wing politics in 2019: socialism, anti-Semitism, paranoia directed at international financial institutions, and, of course, the conspiratorial view of worldwide political and economic affairs. Dead at 96. R.I.P.
• Pleading with his manager to write him into the lineup, journeyman Duane Kuiper needled him: And what about that brawl you lost to Eddie Mathews in 1960? The manager smiled. “You had to deal with Frank that way,” Kuiper later remarked. “He could not tolerate guys that weren’t tough.” No one disputed Frank Robinson’s toughness: After Mathews punched him out, Robinson came back in game two of the doubleheader and, ignoring his swollen eye, hit a home run and a double. He made a diving catch in the outfield to rob Mathews of a base hit. Robinson broke through with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956 and led the Baltimore Orioles to the world championship in 1966. When he hung up his spikes in 1976, he had amassed more awards than we can list here. In 1975 he became the first black manager in Major League Baseball, for the Cleveland Indians. A managerial and coaching career of decades followed, interspersed with stints in the Orioles’ front office and capped by service in various positions with MLB. No man in the history of the game had greater range. Number 20, dead at 83. R.I.P.
• The outsider theme loomed large for Patrick Caddell, the burly, unvarnished, often grumpy political guru and pollster whose wisdom was central to electing a one-term southern governor president in 1976. Years of consulting Democratic presidential hopefuls followed, but the party man came to believe his party — increasingly ruled by coastal elites, fixated on green extremism, intolerant of its former base — had hollowed out. He was also confident a populist volcano was set to erupt, and sought to prove it: His extensive 2015 “Candidate Smith” survey exposed enormous disaffection with both major parties and overwhelming support for independent political leadership. Few believed his analysis. Events quickly proved him right. Pat Caddell will be remembered by many for his analyzing on Fox: abrupt, a temper ever on the verge, but relentlessly perceptive. His passions were not limited to politics: He deeply loved his daughter and grandchildren, America, Americans. The patriot was felled by a massive stroke. Dead at 68. R.I.P.
• When the Giants left the Polo Grounds for San Francisco in the late 1950s, the passions of many New Yorkers followed them west, and so soon did a fan. Local boy Peter Magowan grew up in Manhattan, where he rooted for Willie Mays and his teammates. As a young executive, he found himself eventually near the Golden Gate (helping run Safeway Corporation — he was its CEO for 14 years), where he could once again root, root, root for the old/new home team. And then, in 1992, the Giants’ owners hinted of moving to Florida. Once being enough, Magowan assembled a posse of investors and bought the storied franchise to keep it in the City by the Bay (he served as managing general partner until 2008). Then he orchestrated the construction of a new stadium, one of Major League Baseball’s finest, built without any public funds, to replace windswept and rundown Candlestick Park. Recent years found the welcoming supporter of this magazine and National Review Institute, and other conservative causes, in a relentless battle with cancer. Of that he never complained. In January, Peter Magowan succumbed, age 76, his final missives to us still showing all the signs of a most happy warrior. R.I.P.
• When he was in college, Ray Price helped WFB research God and Man at Yale. Naturally, we like to think that this was the high point of Price’s career. In any event, he graduated from Yale in 1951, the year the book came out. Price was a moderate Republican, going so far as to choose Johnson over Goldwater in 1964. In the next presidential cycle, Nixon asked him to write speeches for him — which he did. In the White House, Price was part of a famous, formidable triumvirate of speechwriters: Price, Safire, and Buchanan. Price was known for the graceful, high-minded stuff. He was a Nixon loyalist, perhaps to a fault. In Nixon’s post-presidential years, Price helped him with several books. Ray Price was a thoughtful gent, and a patriotic one, caring deeply about the United States, democracy, and a free world. Dead at 88. R.I.P.
The Same Old Deal
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was supposed to be the Democratic party’s fresh new face but has chosen to launch her congressional career with some of the worst ideas from the 1930s.
Her “Green New Deal” is less a substantive legislative agenda than a marketing campaign for a utopian enviro-socialist sensibility that already was outmoded back when Barack Obama was pushing it years ago, and when Thomas Friedman was pushing it before him, and when the Communist Party USA was pushing it before him. Van Jones, quondam Maoist adviser to President Obama, wrote a book on the subject, The Green Collar Economy, in which he made the case for conjoining “our two biggest problems,” which we are to take to be climate change and the fact that some people make a lot more money than others. His program, which is now Ocasio-Cortez’s, will be familiar to any student of the history of socialism: a takeover of the “commanding heights” of the economy in the service of a romantic political agenda.
True to the socialist creed she professes, Representative Ocasio-Cortez calls for a series of ten-year plans aimed at putting the entirety of the U.S. economy under political discipline: The government will decide how goods are produced and how they will get to market, how automobiles and airplanes function, how agriculture is conducted. The 29-year-old congresswoman, who has no relevant experience, presumes to tell farmers and autoworkers how to do their jobs while in a state of pristine ignorance about what that work actually involves.
Setting aside the unpleasant history of socialist attempts to forcibly reorganize agriculture, there is much that is familiar — and wrongheaded — in this iteration of the Green New Deal, though we do appreciate its honesty in promising to look after the financial interests of “those unwilling to work.” That phrase appeared in a support document released by Ocasio-Cortez’s office — by mistake, she now says. But she may as well tell the truth about her program: It contains promises that no serious environmentalist believes to be practical (or likely even possible), such as cutting carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2030; giving every American a government-guaranteed job “with a family-sustaining wage, family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security”; ending the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation while simultaneously eliminating nuclear energy, the most environmentally friendly source of such power; overhauling all manufacturing; retrofitting every building in the United States with . . . something; building a new electrical grid; replacing all the cars and trucks on the road; and much more.
Paying for that? A question for lesser minds, apparently.
One of the great weaknesses of progressive thought at the moment is the philosophy of “everything is everything,” the inane insistence that, e.g., climate change and abortion rights are intrinsically linked, that carbon dioxide emissions are a racial-justice question, etc. It is an affectation that reveals deficient thinking. There are things that need to be done to protect the environment, and there are things that need to be done in the interests of the poor and the marginally employed. Reforming the welfare system is a project probably best undertaken independently of any ten-year plans involving fine-tuning the methane-producing digestive systems of America’s livestock.
Trump’s End Run
President Trump may be right in his legal analysis of his declaration of emergency — lose, lose, then win, maybe.
He’ll certainly be blocked by the lower courts and then have some chance to prevail in the Supreme Court, which may well be reluctant to adjudicate a conflict between the two branches of government or to second-guess the commander-in-chief’s determination about what constitutes an emergency or spending for a military purpose. (He will also access other pots of money that don’t require a declaration of emergency, and here he may be on much firmer ground legally.)
We oppose the president’s decision to declare an emergency and repurpose billions of dollars of defense spending to the border, purportedly to support the military, not because we are confident it will be ultimately blocked by the courts, but regardless of whether it will ultimately be blocked by the courts. Even if the president technically has this authority, using it explicitly to bypass the congressional spending power is an abuse of it.
The laws that the president will use were clearly written with some dire national-security event in mind that would make it impossible for the president to go to Congress with the necessary dispatch. We believe there is a crisis at the border, but obviously nothing of this nature, as witnessed by the years-long attempt by the president to get Congress to fund his border wall, including the latest drawn-out political confrontation and negotiation. The president isn’t acting unilaterally because he can’t go to Congress, but because he has done so and he did not fully get what he wanted.
There is much angst about the precedent that Trump is creating. We share it, even if it is rich coming from Democrats who didn’t raise any objection to Barack Obama’s “pen and phone” governance. Obama rewrote our immigration laws on his own to impose his unilateral amnesties. At least Trump has colorable statutory authority for his move; Obama had none.
Ultimately, if Congress wants to reassert its prerogatives, it can’t leave statutes on the table that can easily be exploited by the executive, and it must object to executive overreach even when that overreach suits its partisan purposes. Harry Reid didn’t care when Obama went around Congress, and it pains us to say that Mitch McConnell, ordinarily the Senate’s most rigorous institutionalist, is now publicly following Reid’s example.
This is no way to run a railroad, or to preserve what are supposed to be the guardrails around our constitutional structure.
Jeffrey Hart, R.I.P.
Was there a better teacher? Most of Jeff Hart’s colleagues had not matriculated at Dartmouth, where he taught 18th-century English and his beloved moderns, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. But we all learned from him, about these subjects and so much else, via his articles, his reviews, and the flow of his casual talk. Learned, witty, spiced at times with an eyewitness touch (his story of W. H. Auden dropping his three-by-five cards before a lecture at Dartmouth, and being too many sheets to the wind to reorder them, was priceless: Auden made some interesting points, Jeff’s colleagues said, but wasn’t he a bit — disjointed?). Jeff also knew everything about tennis — he had played Don Budge — and college sports.
Like all great teachers, he was a great encourager of others. The conservative movement is filled with his protégés — Paul Gigot, Peter Robinson, James Panero, Laura Ingraham, Dinesh D’Souza. But he took an interest in all who came through NR’s doors, however fleetingly. We were always welcome speaking guests at Dartmouth, and houseguests of his.
At NR he was WFB’s indispensable right hand, ready to put together a magazine or run an editorial conference on the not-infrequent occasions when No. 1 had some other unbreakable engagement. Sparks could fly — Jeff was a bonny fighter, and his editorial prose showed it — but he guaranteed that the wheels would spin.
Ideologically, Jeff was a fan of Richard Nixon and his attempts to broaden the Republican and conservative coalitions along what Nixon called “new majority lines.” Watergate derailed that strategy, but Jeff was always alert for opportunities to resurrect it. Checking the boxes on intellectual litmus tests was never his thing.
It is only fair to him to say that he became disaffected from many of his former commitments during the tenure of George W. Bush. Part of it was cultural: Old Ivy League loyalties die hard, and though W. went to Yale, his Texas-Evangelical manners turned Jeff off. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars also struck him as costly debacles.
Jeff would no doubt have recalled a witticism of one of his favorite Tories, Dr. Johnson: When a butcher tells you that his heart bleeds for his country, he has in fact no uneasy feeling. Cynical? Perhaps — but also realistic, about men, politics, and the vanity of presuming that one can figure everything out.
What Jeff’s friends may remember most is his laugh. He laughed at your jokes, and he laughed at his own — in such a way, always, that you were welcomed to join in. Our thoughts go to his family, and his many, many former students. Dead at 88, R.I.P.
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