Magazine | April 8, 2019, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

Bernie, Biden, and Beto? Intersectionality is the future of the Democratic party, and perhaps it always will be. 

Former congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke announced he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, and raised $6.1 million in a day. No moderate, he supports late-term abortion and wants to move toward a government-run health-insurance system. Now that he is running against other Democrats, and not, as he was last year, Ted Cruz, he is nevertheless drawing criticism from the left. His sins include being a white male, talking about working with Republicans, and calling himself a capitalist. (He subsequently clarified that today’s capitalism is racist.) But he is running on good looks and a studied vagueness more than on any policy agenda. So far he has responded to left-wing criticisms with concessions and apologies and applauded the other candidates. Our guess is that, to win the nomination, at some point he will have to demonstrate that he is made of firmer stuff.

An astonishing thing just happened in the Democratic-controlled House. One of its members, freshman Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar, has repeatedly indulged in anti-Semitic clichés — including accusing supporters of Israel of dual loyalty and claiming they essentially buy support for Israel. These remarks led some Democrats to criticize her, and then others rallied to her side. Democratic leaders in the House had to water down a resolution originally intended to condemn her and anti-Semitism into a general statement against hate. Omar’s race and religion (she is a Muslim immigrant from Somalia) played a role. To contemporary progressives, belonging to an oppressed identity group grants you credibility, her experience grants her a degree of authority, and the responsibility of her progressive friends is to act as her allies. In other words, she becomes too important to fail or to face honest critique. And so she has emerged from the controversy largely unscathed, protected even from meaningful rebuke. That’s hardly a good start for a House majority that claims it’s an instrument of tolerance in the face of GOP hate.

Jeanine Pirro, the Fox News host known as “Judge Jeanine,” had something to say about Ilhan Omar. Pirro said, “Think about it: Omar wears a hijab. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?” That got her in hot water. A producer at Fox, Hufsa Kamal, a Muslim woman, chided her on Twitter, with casual eloquence. The network itself issued a statement condemning Pirro. The network seems to have suspended her. In the middle of all this, the Fox-watcher in chief, Donald Trump, weighed in, tweeting, “Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro. The Radical Left Democrats, working closely with their beloved partner, the Fake News Media, is using every trick in the book to SILENCE a majority of our Country.” Pirro herself has tried to walk away from her remarks, claiming that she understands that “of course” a Muslim can be loyal to the Constitution. She got it right the second time, however disingenuously.

We will not say his name. But a 28-year-old Australian attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 49 worshipers (a 50th died later from wounds). The white-nationalist shooter filmed his deed and streamed it online. We must be clear about his motivation: In a long manifesto, he touched eco themes and criticized mainstream conservatives as useless in the struggle against “degeneration.” But he, like the perpetrator of the 2011 Norwegian mass murder, is a creature of the Right. A bastard, but related nonetheless. As it is the special responsibility of Muslims to combat al-Qaeda and ISIS, so it is ours to denounce killer sickos of this stripe and their enablers. President Trump responded as any normal person should: “It’s a horrible, disgraceful thing, horrible act.” He also called violent white nationalists “a small group of people.” However small, this group is worldwide (the New Zealand killer hoped to provoke a civil war, via gun confiscation, in the U.S.); small groups can cause a lot of mayhem. How to stop them? One answer is to borrow from our battle against our home-grown terrorists in the Klan, who were defeated through persistent and massive infiltration.

Chelsea Clinton, attending a vigil at NYU for the victims of the mosques massacre, was berated by an NYU student for . . . causing it. The massacre, senior Leen Dweik told her, was “stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world.” And what were Clinton’s allegedly murderous words? A tweet she had directed at Representative Omar: “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in antisemitism.” Intersectional radicals want to shut down all criticism of Muslims, however measured. Interestingly, the social-media comment sections, which are usually sacs of bile, mostly sided with Clinton. But where were the Democratic pols? Only Gotham mayor Bill de Blasio stuck up for her. Crazies in the base and cowards in the leadership: not a good combination.

Tucker Carlson is in the Left’s crosshairs, again. This time it’s for old, offensive comments he made as an MSNBC employee. Carlson, it turns out, used to regularly call in to a radio show hosted by a shock jock called Bubba the Love Sponge. Some of Carlson’s comments were indeed terrible. He called Iraqis “primitive semiliterate monkeys,” for example. But the comments were unnoticed at the time, and the effort to dredge them up now represented yet another example of the fake outrage that so often dominates American political discourse. By now, the process is familiar. The instant a conservative obtains any real prominence, left-wing organizations will hunt through that conservative’s past in the effort to find something — anything — to discredit him in the present. And if they do encounter offensive past conduct, they stampede directly to an effort to fire the conservative or damage his employer. The intention is clear: to drive political opponents from the public square. Carlson and Fox have so far held firm, but a disturbing number of advertisers have responded to calls for a boycott. One suspects that if Carlson were not one of the top-rated hosts in cable news, he’d already be gone, and the Twitter mob would have claimed yet another scalp.

Just a few months after taking office, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has gotten very well known: Only 29 percent of respondents to a Gallup poll said they hadn’t heard of her. Left-wingers have been ecstatic to see her draw attention to their ideas. They should be careful what they wish for. Gallup also found that 41 percent of Americans had an unfavorable impression of her, and 31 percent a favorable one. A Siena College poll found slightly worse numbers for her in New York. One refrain from the left has been that “conservatives are obsessed with AOC,” which supposedly demonstrates how much of a threat she is and plays into her hands. Judging from the numbers, though, it’s not conservatives who ought to fear her.

There were more than 76,000 border apprehensions in February, the highest month of the Trump administration and the highest February in more than ten years. Migrants are largely coming from Central American countries instead of Mexico, and a majority are now families and children, whereas only 10 percent were in 2012. Our rules for dealing with migrants from noncontiguous countries and with family units tie our hands. We can’t swiftly return them home, hold them once we catch them (they usually surrender), or remove them even if their asylum claims fail, which they almost always do. (Not to mention that our overwhelmed physical facilities were built with single adults in mind.) All of this has created an even bigger magnet to come here. Increasingly, migrants travel to the border by bus, and in large groups. The cliché is that we have a broken immigration system. There’s no better indication of it than the ongoing crisis at the border.

Last year, President Trump was so insistent on cutting legal-immigration levels that he let it get in the way of a deal to build a border wall. Now he is on the verge of making the opposite mistake. In his State of the Union address, he ad-libbed that he wanted higher levels of legal immigration. Since then he has said that “the only way” American companies can “grow is if we give them the workers.” This would be an economic and political mistake. Tight labor markets are finally raising wages, especially for blue-collar workers. Inviting more low-skilled workers here would undermine that progress. Polls show that only a minority want more immigration. If Trump does a full flip-flop, he may find that some members of his coalition decide they want to emigrate from it.

The White House’s federal-budget proposal contains some good ideas, such as cutting unnecessary discretionary spending, extending the 2017 income-tax cuts, tightening work requirements for federal welfare programs, and modestly reducing the future rate of spending growth on health-care entitlements. It contains other ideas that are well conceived but would be badly implemented, such as bypassing defense-spending caps by spending more on so-called overseas contingency operations, a gimmick. What the budget proposal does not contain is a realistic plan to meaningfully rein in our increasingly profligate government. Only by relying on unrealistic forecasts of future economic growth is the administration able to claim its plan would balance the budget within 15 years. Far more likely is that it would entail trillion-dollar deficits for years to come. This seems to be one of the few subjects that inspire bipartisan harmony these days.

Rarely has the House of Representatives passed a more thoroughly unconstitutional bill than the Democrats’ misnamed “For the People Act.” Presented by Democrats and much of the media as an “election reform” bill, it is in reality a massive federal power grab over American elections. Its worst features include complex new regulations governing political speech, mandatory-disclosure rules that could expose the names and addresses of donors to nonprofits even when those donors have no knowledge of the nonprofit’s political activity, new laws that would limit states’ ability to manage their voter rules, and mandatory voting rights for felons (in direct violation of constitutional provisions that leave felons’ voting rights to states). All this is to be regulated by a revamped Federal Election Commission that, unlike today’s, could act over the unanimous objection of commission members of the minority party. This is authoritarianism disguised as good-government reform, and it also happens to be the Democrats’ most prominent legislation for the new House. A party that governs unconstitutionally does not deserve to govern.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is concerned about the state of the American technology market, and she has recruited the finest ideas of the 19th century into her attempt at a fix. Warren’s objection is twofold. First, she believes that the largest players in Silicon Valley are strangling their competition by acquiring them and then snuffing them out. Second, she objects that companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft use the third-party app stores they own and operate in order to promote their own products. In both cases, Warren fears the establishment of a monopoly like Standard Oil. But the acquisitions that giants such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google have made are typical of conglomerates, not monopolies. Amazon bought Whole Foods, not Walmart; Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp, not MySpace; Google bought Nest, not Bing. Fifteen years ago, Windows dominated the PC market, Blackberry and Nokia dominated the mobile market, and Internet Explorer dominated the browser wars (in spite of a federal lawsuit that was intended to reverse its dominance but arguably had the opposite effect). To today’s teenagers, that landscape would look quaint and unrecognizable. Warren’s desire for a government-led restructuring of these industries is similarly outdated.

Republican senators Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Mike Lee (Utah) teamed up on a bill to expand paid leave. Under their legislation, new parents could, for example, receive two months of benefits in return for taking retirement benefits from Social Security four months later than they otherwise would. The idea is controversial. Many conservatives argue that future politicians won’t make beneficiaries honor the deal and that the plan will therefore simply expand government. Progressives claim it’s barbaric to make people choose between their kids and their retirements, even on the margin. Both groups of critics could stand to gain some perspective by looking at our actual experience with Social Security. For nearly 50 years, the program has allowed disabled widows to take earlier benefits in return for lower monthly checks. The deal has been honored, and no one’s conscience has been shocked. Social Security requires a thorough reform. In the meantime, it is a good idea to make it a bit more flexible, to better serve household needs.

Representative David Cicilline (D., R.I.) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) introduced the Equality Act in the House and Senate. The legislation would redefine sex-based discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of gender identity and would mandate that all federally funded entities, from schools to trains, comply. Already we are seeing the effects of gender-identity laws nationwide. In Connecticut, two biologically male students who identify as female finished first and second in an event at the state high-school track championships. Women at a federal detention center in Texas filed a lawsuit complaining that being housed with male inmates who identify as women puts them at risk of sexual abuse. And the Equality Act would effectively outlaw mainstream therapies for helping gender-confused children in all 50 states, making affirmation of trans identity the only therapeutic pathway. Funny how often sexual liberation seems to require heavy-handed regulation.

Gavin Newsom, the newly inaugurated governor of California, confirmed in March that no executions will be performed while he remains in office. There are 737 people on death row in California. Should their execution dates coincide with his tenure, Newsom will automatically grant a commutation. “I cannot,” he insisted, “sign off on executing hundreds and hundreds of human beings.” If that is the case, then Newsom should not have run for governor of California, nor sworn an oath to “see that the law is faithfully executed.” Newsom intends to use his reprieve power to effect the change. But the reprieve power is for use on a case-by-case basis, as a last-ditch check against egregious error. It is not intended to be invoked indiscriminately as a means by which to nullify laws that the executive dislikes, nor as means by which to repeatedly overrule the majority. As recently as 2016, Californians were asked whether they wished to abolish capital punishment. Not only did they answer no, they voted to speed up the appeals process, too. Those voters might reasonably ask why they bother engaging in a system of legally binding propositions, or electing a legislature, or participating in a system of jury sentencing, if the executive branch can reverse their wishes on a whim.

The Federal Aviation Administration made the right call in grounding Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX 8 airplanes, two of which have crashed overseas owing to problems with an automated-flight system. Indeed, the agency may have been mistaken in approving the plane to begin with; reports indicate that the FAA let Boeing’s own engineer clear the equipment at issue, and that the FAA was warned back in 2012 that Boeing had too much sway over aircraft approvals. Air travel in the U.S. is incredibly safe, far safer than car travel — a death last year ended a nine-year fatality-free streak — so don’t let this discourage you from flying. But both this plane and the FAA’s process need to be fixed.

A federal court of appeals has ruled that Ohio may remove Planned Parenthood’s public-health funding based on its performance of elective abortions. The decision overturns a lower-court ruling that blocked Ohio from removing around $1.5 million from Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state. The judges in the majority stated that Ohio’s law “does not violate the Constitution because the affiliates do not have a due process right to perform abortions.” Planned Parenthood will still receive Medicaid funds. Even so, this ruling is a win for states’ right to divert health-care funding from groups that profit from ending unborn lives.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, won his case at the U.S. Supreme Court last year — but not because a majority of justices decided that his religious freedom trumped state anti-discrimination laws. In its action against Phillips, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission itself had demonstrated that it was motivated by “religious hostility,” which violated the state’s “obligation of religious neutrality” under the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment, the Court ruled. The story didn’t end there. Last year the Colorado Civil Rights Division (of which the Civil Rights Commission is a unit) went after Masterpiece Cakeshop for declining to make a cake to celebrate a prospective customer’s gender transition, which Phillips couldn’t countenance while still honoring his Christian beliefs. Phillips countersued. The Civil Rights Division then decided that the case at hand wasn’t quite right for its purposes and withdrew its suit. Phillips withdrew his. So he can go back to baking, at least for now.

Put us down as unsurprised to learn of untoward deeds going on in the halls of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which fired its 82-year-old co-founder, Morris Dees, on the same day that employees sent a letter to management alleging the place was rife with racism, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and other abuse. We have been saying for years that Dees was nothing like the anti-racism crusader he pretended to be; dubbed a “con man and a fraud” by Stephen Bright, a long-time director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, in 2007, the former junk-mail king simply appropriated the halo of the civil-rights era, to the immense benefit of the SPLC, which has amassed a nearly half-billion-dollar endowment. Dees’s SPLC betrayed its history fighting the likes of the Klan as it morphed from a watchdog into an attack dog given to barking that diverse conservative individuals and organizations were guilty of “hate.” News organizations that ought to have known better continued soberly to credit the SPLC’s ever-expanding definition of extremism even as it tarred such figures as the distinguished surgeon–turned–HUD secretary Ben Carson, public intellectuals Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz, and authors Helen Smith and Christina Hoff Sommers, those last two being dubbed “anti-feminist female voices.” These attacks had nothing to do with monitoring extremism and everything with opening checkbooks among the many on the left who, unable to win arguments with conservatives, instead applaud all efforts to lock us out of debate fora. May the fall of Dees nudge the mainstream media into finally taking some interest in the disgraceful workings of the SPLC, which is still being cited as an authoritative source of information. 

President Trump calls it “cost plus 50.” He has directed his administration to draw up plans demanding that American allies — Germany, Japan, South Korea, others — pay the full cost of American troops deployed in their countries, plus 50 percent. Dick Cheney, the former vice president, was quoted as saying it sounded like “a New York real-estate deal” to him. What it does not sound like is credible policy. Our allies should pay more for their own defense, and Trump is rightly prodding them to do so. But the deployment of our troops should not be a money-making venture. They are not mercenaries. Nor should their deployment be primarily a budgetary consideration. We should deploy troops when it is in the American interest to do so, or not at all. 

The British parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal in January by historic margins. In March, the deal was defeated again, albeit by a slimmer majority. At this writing, May hopes to have a third vote on her deal as soon as possible. But she faces three major problems. First, she must convince the holdouts. Northern Irish Democratic Unionists object to the deal’s keeping Northern Ireland more closely tied than the rest of the U.K. to the EU, and Tory Brexiteers object to the deal’s indefinite customs arrangement with the EU (a.k.a. “the backstop”). Second, the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has cited a law dating to 1604 to warn the government that it may not bring back the deal for another vote unless material changes have been made to it. Third, the EU says it is unwilling to make any changes to the deal. So what can May do? Leave with no deal? The day after Parliament rejected the deal for the second time, it voted on whether “no deal” should remain the default course (Britain is currently scheduled to leave the EU on March 29). It decided that it should not. Next, Parliament voted on whether to ask the EU for an extension of the exit date. It decided to do so. Theresa May’s subsequent decision to write the EU to request an extension nonetheless caused uproar in her cabinet, partly because, as she knows only too well, an extension cannot solve the root problem, which is how, not when, Britain will leave the EU. Even a general election, which looks likelier than ever, would not necessarily break the current stalemate. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it’s always winter and never Christmas. In the United Kingdom, it’s constant strife and no Brexit.  

Gaza is a small, unsettled rump of former Palestine, and nobody knows quite what to do about it. Yahya Sinwar rules in the name of Hamas, the Palestinian version of the Muslim Brothers, and he ordered a parade of his security squads in a celebration of the 30 or so years since Hamas was founded. Protesters met them in the streets with banners proclaiming, “We want to live!” Nothing of this kind had ever occurred, and the Hamas forces beat and arrested dozens of demonstrators, among them 17 journalists. One man is said to have set fire to himself. Two missiles were then fired at Tel Aviv, and nine more into the south of Israel. Hamas and other rival Islamist groups swore that they were not responsible and the missiles must have been fired by accident. In disbelief, Israel sent aircraft to bomb a hundred Hamas targets. Egyptian negotiators already in Gaza on a mission to calm the situation put out a statement, also without precedent, that if Israel were to end Hamas rule in Gaza by assassinating every single one of them, Egypt and its allies would not lift a finger to stop it. All this, and elections in Israel and President Trump’s peace plan in the offing too.

Jessikka Aro is an exceptionally brave journalist. A Finn, she reported on an online-troll factory, operating in St. Petersburg and sowing chaos throughout the world. For this, she received the usual harassment, including death threats. The U.S. State Department decided to honor her with an International Women of Courage Award. She filled out the requisite forms and canceled prior engagements, in order to attend the March 7 ceremony. The State Department also arranged a U.S. tour for her, so that she could speak to people at newspapers and universities. But then the department rescinded the award. Officially, the word was that the original notification had been in error: Aro was not to receive the award at all. Unofficially, it was crystal clear that someone had gone through Aro’s Twitter feed and found remarks critical of President Trump — particularly his attacks on the press. The department, wary of presidential backlash, welshed on the award. The United States is bigger than the president, and bigger than that. At some point in the future, and not too distant — preferably during the Trump administration — the State Department should accord Jessikka Aro the honor she is due.

When the Soviet Union melted into Russia, historians and others rushed to the archives, suddenly and amazingly available. They found many of the ghastly details. But, in the reign of Vladimir Putin, Russia is tightening up, and becoming very defensive of the Soviet past. A prominent Gulag historian, Sergei Prudovsky, wanted to find out about the three-judge panels that formalized the execution of untold thousands. No: Those files are sealed. Another historian, Nikita Petrov, described this as “a sad sign of the times.” We are more worried about the Russian present than the Soviet past. But the sealing of the archives says a lot about the present.

“‘It’s the one place where money makes no difference,’ said Stover, with a flash — ‘where you stand for what you are.’” That was the eponymous hero of Stover at Yale, Owen Johnson’s 1912 YA classic, talking about his alma mater. Or, your parents could give big bucks to William Singer, a college-prep guru, who bribed coaches at elite schools, including Yale, to gain athletic admissions. Parents also paid Singer to alter their children’s standardized-test scores, and even to fake their ethnicities in order to benefit from affirmative action. So says a federal racketeering indictment targeting 50 people (Singer is singing for the prosecution). Singer and his clients were not scheming to give their charges a chance to learn anything; they were treating college purely as a status marker and a networking site. Their scam belongs in a satire of a society based wholly on caste.  

At press time, Warner Brothers was wrapping up a deal for a biopic about Venus and Serena Williams’s father/coach, Richard, who molded them into two of the greatest tennis players of all time. A role like that demands the best talent available, so Warner Brothers recruited Will Smith, one of a handful of actors whose name alone attracts huge crowds. That casting decision inspired outrage on the left. Why? Because Richard Williams is a dark-skinned man and Will Smith is only medium dark. “Colorism matters . . . Love Will Smith but there are other black actors for this role,” tweeted a sportswriter in one of the less inflammatory comments. A screenwriter summed it up concisely: “Colorism at work.” An entertainment journalist complained: “Will should not play Richard . . . Skin color matters in how folk were treated and navigated spaces.” There has got to be a way to advance the careers of dark-skinned actors without insisting on a rigid rule that assigns people to roles based not only on skin color but on ever-finer gradations thereof.

In most urban parks, wild animals and humans coexist uneasily, each considering the other an intruder. Yet some members of the latter group find it pleasant to advance interspecies understanding by feeding bread and nuts to pigeons and squirrels. Soon, however, this pastime may join the ever-lengthening list of Things That Will Get You Ticketed in New York City. The city’s parks department worries that leftover scraps may be eaten by rats (okay, but try emptying the trash cans once in a while, guys), and that if animals are given food, their wilderness-survival skills will atrophy (though as that viral video of a rat dragging a slice of pizza shows, animals become citified surprisingly fast). To be sure, these objections have some merit, which is why pigeons and squirrels are the only animals it’s legal to feed. Still, we hope the accommodation for park-bench benefactors can be preserved, not only for the pigeons’ and squirrels’ sake but because it’s one of the few ways to have fun in New York City that don’t cost $100 plus parking.

For centuries, Catholics and other Christians have been fasting (or practicing other forms of self-discipline) for the 40 days of Lent, to put themselves in a properly solemn spiritual state for the Easter celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Spending all day half-buzzed may seem to be the exact opposite, but in Cincinnati a hipster of faith is doing just that. Since Ash Wednesday, Del Hall, the sales manager of a brewery, has subsisted on nothing but beer, water, and vitamins. The beer is an especially intense brew packed with nutrients (and alcohol), and he drinks two to five glasses of it per day. A doctor monitoring his physical condition has recorded some weight loss but finds no cause for alarm. We expect that Mr. Hall’s spiritual state will remain similarly healthy, that the experience will reinforce his faith, and that he will have an especially joyful Easter. Next year, though, maybe he can just give up Netflix for Lent.

“Truth told, I have to,” Alex Trebek said, explaining his “plan to beat the low survival-rate statistics” for pancreatic cancer. “Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years.” He made the public announcement shortly after his diagnosis, on a video posted to social media. In a follow-up video he saluted the “hundreds of thousands of people” who had sent him their good wishes in “tweets, texts, emails, cards, and letters.” He thanked them for “the kind words, the prayers, and the advice you have offered me.” He has more TV gigs to his credit than we can list, the most famous, of course, and the most impressive, being his 35-year stint with Jeopardy!. The Vin Scully of game-show hosts, he’s been doing it almost forever. In all that time in front of the camera he has communicated only kindness, character, tact, and warm intelligence. We’ll take “Guys Who Deserve to Beat the Odds” for $2,000, Alex.

In 1964, Birch Bayh, freshman Democratic senator from Indiana, heroically pulled Senator Edward Kennedy from the wreck of a small plane in which they had both crashed. His political legacy was more mixed. He briefly sought the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination, finishing third in Iowa, behind Uncommitted and Jimmy Carter. He was the chief sponsor of the 25th Amendment, which regulates succession when the president is incapacitated (a useful clarification in principle, though poorly drafted and lately the source of fever dreams); the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18, a bit of needless populism; and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, the codicils to which have spawned campus-rape witch hunts and transgender activism. He also sought to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote. Dead at 91, R.I.P.

 Dan Jenkins was one of the most popular writers in the country, for good reason: He wrote tasty, smart, funny, and often ribald prose. He was a sportswriter, both a journalist and a novelist. He was a standout at Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest. A son of Fort Worth, he went to Texas Christian University, playing on the golf team. He knew the most famous son of Fort Worth, Ben Hogan. His first novel was his most popular, Semi-Tough, made into a movie. There were also Dead Solid Perfect, Baja Oklahoma, Life Its Ownself, and You Gotta Play Hurt. He introduced the non-Texas part of the country to the concept of chicken-fried steak. He gave great pleasure to millions of readers. His daughter, Sally, is a sports columnist for the Washington Post. Dan Jenkins was a jewel of American life, and a tonic, too. He has died at 90 — in Fort Worth, of course. R.I.P.

IMMIGRATION
No Emergency

A dozen Senate Republicans, from conservatives such as Mike Lee of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to more establishment figures such as Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Roy Blunt of Missouri, voted to disapprove of President Trump’s declaration of emergency at the border.

The problem with the emergency declaration is that, even if it’s technically legal (a matter of debate that will go up to the Supreme Court), it is clearly pretextual and a way to do an end run around the congressional spending power. The president himself in his press conference announcing the emergency said that he didn’t have to do it, but he wanted to build new fencing more quickly than he could without the declaration.

If anyone shouldn’t be okay with this, it’s Congress. Under the National Emergencies Act, it can vote to disapprove of an emergency declaration by a president, who can, in turn, veto the disapproval, which Trump promptly did.

He put Republicans opposed to the declaration in an awkward position. Almost all of them supported the president’s policy goal at the border; they just couldn’t support his means. The vast majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate went along with the declaration, including North Carolina senator Thom Tillis, who embarrassingly wrote an op-ed opposing it before backing down, and Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, who has otherwise done so much to advertise his independence and constitutional conservatism.

One reason that Congress has ceded so much power to the executive branch and the courts over the decades is that it’s so often unwilling to take political responsibility and to protect its own prerogatives. Congressional Democrats didn’t utter a peep of disapproval when President Obama rewrote immigration law on his own, without even a whisper of statutory warrant.

The emergency vote accorded with this long-term trend. But it showed that at least a fraction of one of the political parties is willing to stand up for the way our constitutional system is supposed to work — even when the underlying policy objective is a worthy one, even when it means crossing a president of its own party, even when it is politically inconvenient.

They took a tough vote, out of principle and institutional self-respect.

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

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The Week

The Week

Bernie, Biden, and Beto? Intersectionality is the future of the Democratic party, and perhaps it always will be. 

Most Popular

White House

Another Warning Sign

The Mueller report is of course about Russian interference in the 2016 election and about the White House's interference in the resulting investigation. But I couldn’t help also reading the report as a window into the manner of administration that characterizes the Trump era, and therefore as another warning ... Read More
U.S.

Supreme Court Mulls Citizenship Question for Census

Washington -- The oral arguments the Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday will be more decorous than the gusts of judicial testiness that blew the case up to the nation’s highest tribunal. The case, which raises arcane questions of administrative law but could have widely radiating political and policy ... Read More
Film & TV

It’s the Deep Breath before the Plunge

Warning. SPOILERS are ahead. If you don’t want to know anything about episode two of the final season of Game of Thrones, stop reading. Now. One of my favorite moments in Peter Jackson's outstanding adaptation of Lord of the Rings happened in the final movie, The Return of the King. On the eve of Mordor's ... Read More