Magazine September 9, 2019, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

• Chris Cuomo should have just said, “No, Andrew is Fredo.”

• The Democrats know who is to blame for the horrors in El Paso and Ohio: President Trump, of course. Partly this is an inevitable outgrowth of the imperial presidential cult, which holds as an article of faith that the man in the Oval Office must bear at least partial moral responsibility for every scraped knee across these fruited plains, but mainly this is rank partisanship. President Trump has done himself — and the quality of the nation’s discourse — no favors with his Twitter theatrics and his rhetorical excesses, which have included the half-serious embrace of political violence, for instance his offering to pay the bail of partisans who assault hecklers at his rallies. But it is foolish and reckless to insist, as the Democrats currently insist, that calls for the rule of law at our southern border amount to a campaign of freelance homicide against immigrants and people of Mexican ancestry. Nor is ordinary hyperbole culpable for the actions of terrorists who use similar language. (Have you read al-Qaeda on global warming, capitalism, etc.?) There are things that can and should be done to address these crimes and more ordinary criminal violence in the United States, from mental-health reform to better law-enforcement practices. But cheap partisan theatrics aren’t one of them. 

• In a great many mass shootings, the killers gave copious warning signs that the people around them, including law enforcement, were not able to act on. Recently, though, several tragedies may have been averted: A man in Florida was arrested for graphic threats he made by text message; a man in Ohio was arrested for posting a video taking credit for a shooting at a Jewish community center that hadn’t happened yet; and a man in Connecticut was charged with possessing high-capacity magazines that are banned in the state after posting on Facebook about his intent to commit a mass shooting. We all must remain vigilant in preventing violence among those closest to us, and those who acted in these cases deserve our praise and appreciation.

• Dukakis, Kerry, Romney, and . . . Warren? There is a proud modern — and bipartisan — tradition in which the party out of power nominates a Massachusetts politician for president. And Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren is on the move in the 2020 Democratic primary. As we went to press, she had risen to second place in several national polls. In the latest Monmouth poll of Iowa, Warren had also jumped to second place: She trailed Joe Biden 28 percent to 19 percent, with Kamala Harris (at 11 percent) and Bernie Sanders (at 9 percent) vying for third place. If the race comes down to Biden and Warren (a big “if”), Democrats will choose between her promise of “big, structural change” and Biden’s offer of a return to the supposed normalcy of the Obama years. With the economy holding up for now and Biden polling better in head-to-head match-ups against President Trump, the former vice president still seems to have the upper hand. But Warren hasn’t even had the chance to debate Biden on the national stage. She’ll get her first shot in September, and any number of events — a late Bernie Sanders endorsement? an economic downturn? — could give the progressive radical the edge.

• On the fifth anniversary of the police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., that claimed the life of Michael Brown, Warren and Kamala Harris lied. They claimed that Brown was “murdered” by police. This is an inflammatory falsehood, and they should know better. The Obama Department of Justice thoroughly investigated the shooting and issued a comprehensive report finding that there was “no credible evidence” that the Ferguson police officer murdered Brown. In fact, the investigation revealed that Brown attacked the officer, attempted to wrestle his gun away, and then later ignored warnings to surrender and instead charged directly at the officer, apparently to assault him again. Harris and Brown’s version is especially inexcusable given that they hardly need to tell falsehoods to make the case for police reform. In fact, a second Obama DOJ investigation found systemic problems with the Ferguson police force that had a disproportionate impact on the city’s black citizens. Police shootings are one of the most complex issues of our time, and those who seek to lead have an obligation to tell the truth. Harris and Warren failed that test.

• The authorities mishandled the Epstein case from beginning to end. The federal prosecutor who initially handled it a decade ago, Alex Acosta (more recently Trump’s labor secretary), afforded Epstein every benefit of the doubt because his office was intimidated by Epstein’s aggressive, first-rate defense counsel. When the Miami Herald’s reporting brought new attention to Epstein’s hideous crimes, the feds came at him again but couldn’t manage to keep him from killing himself while in custody. Attorney General William Barr is rightly furious, and has been, refreshingly, imposing accountability on the officials and workers responsible for this debacle.

• Well-off lefty Millennials are in a political pickle: Many of their favorite high-end brands, ranging from Momofuku to Soul Cycle, are backed in part by the money of billionaire investor Stephan A. Ross, who has the bad taste and moral temerity to maintain political beliefs of his own, having recently held a fundraiser for President Trump. Trump donors are, as a class, political targets: U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat, recently published a list of Trump donors in his district — along with their employers — for the purpose of encouraging boycotts and other forms of harassment. Democrats argue, in the words of Jordan Weissmann of Slate, that there should be a “potential price to pay if a company’s values don’t mesh with its customers’ in some way.” And boycotts have long been a part of ordinary democratic politics: The Montgomery bus boycott was an important political act. But how common do we want to make that sort of thing? There is a difference between reacting to a clear evil and insisting that the board and investors of every company either be politically progressive or face economic sanctions; having your own congressman try to ruin your family financially because you donated to the presidential candidate of the other party is not healthy or normal. What is lacking here, as is unfortunately so often the case, is a sense of proportion and a willingness to believe that one does not possess all truth.

• In a showdown truly worthy of August’s silly season, Trump’s very briefly tenured communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, and the president and his allies have been involved in a fierce insult-fest. Scaramucci says he can no longer support the president because he’s unhinged; the president’s team calls Scaramucci an attention-seeking opportunist. If you mixed all the positive things Scaramucci has said about Trump prior to this point with all the negative things he’s saying now and sprinkled them evenly throughout the last three years, you might get a reasonable take on Trump. But drinking the Kool-Aid isn’t a formula for keeping your head, either when you’re imbibing or when you’re regretting it afterward.

• As the global economy slows down, support for free trade is picking up. Sixty-four percent of Americans said in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that free trade is “good for America,” a high since that survey began including the question four years ago. With warning signs in financial markets and key trading partners (such as Germany) seeing their economy slow down, Trump’s trade war with China may soon become a serious problem — in both economic and political terms. But those Trump supporters who argued he would be good for free trade may have been more right than they knew.

• As it does with too many issues, Congress has delegated to the executive branch the question of when an immigrant should be denied a green card or other visa on the grounds that he’s likely to become a “public charge.” For too long this aspect of the law was enforced rather lightly; now, the Trump administration has stepped up to change that. Immigrants who use various welfare programs — including non-cash assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid — will have a harder time getting visas. It is simple common sense, and in keeping with centuries’ worth of American immigration policy, to insist that those who come here be able to support themselves. We’re glad that the administration will do so, and hope it prevails over a frivolous legal challenge to the rule recently filed by several blue states.

• The Trump White House is reportedly preparing an executive order that will attempt to expand federal authority over social-media speech policies. It should stand down. One does not need to believe that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have optimal free-speech policies or that their enforcement has been unbiased to understand that putting government bureaucrats in charge of private speech policies is fraught with constitutional, ideological, and practical challenges. If Trump loses in 2020, would conservatives like to see a Sanders or Biden or Warren administration control online speech? Moreover, much of the argument for government control is based on a falsehood — that social-media companies have been granted “special” rights or a “subsidy” under federal law in exchange for an implied obligation of neutrality. That is fundamentally wrong. In reality, federal law was specifically designed to allow for content moderation, and its provisions have enabled the extraordinary growth of speech online. If the Trump administration limits those protections, it will end up restricting more speech than it frees. 

• Illinois has been unlucky in its governors. George Ryan, a Republican, got out of prison in 2013. His successor, Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, is still in. “Blago” was spectacularly corrupt. His offenses are many, but his most famous is his attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. “I’ve got this thing, and it’s f***ing golden,” the governor was recorded as saying. “I’m just not giving it up for f***ing nothing.” In the end, Blagojevich was convicted and sentenced to 14 years — but not before appearing on The Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump. Now president, Trump has long wanted to pardon Blagojevich or commute his sentence. He was recently on the cusp of doing so, until Republican lawmakers, especially those from Illinois, intervened. Best to continue to heed their counsel.

• Under Obamacare, states have the option of expanding Medicaid to cover residents who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, with federal taxpayers overwhelmingly picking up the tab: For every dollar spent expanding Medicaid, at least 90 cents comes from the feds. It is probably not shocking, then, that many states are not policing the program very aggressively. A new study finds that in just nine states (chosen for methodological reasons), the expansion led to the enrollment of about 800,000 people above the income threshold in 2017. Overall working-age Medicaid enrollment in these states grew by only about 1.6 million between 2012 and 2017, which suggests that the ineligible represent a substantial fraction of the expansion. There are some limits to the study, and further research to flesh out the findings would be helpful. But this pattern is roughly what you would expect to see given the incentives federal policy has created.

• The Endangered Species Act has a noble goal but is often enforced in bizarre ways — as when bureaucrats declare someone’s land to be “critical habitat” for a species that doesn’t even live there. The Trump administration recently notched another deregulatory success with a rule bringing the act in line with common sense. The rule makes it harder to classify unoccupied land as critical habitat; makes it easier to remove a species from the endangered list (by clarifying that the criteria for removal are the same as the criteria for adding a species to begin with); allows the government to calculate and publicize the economic costs of designating a species as endangered (though not to consider those costs in making a decision); ends the practice of treating “threatened” species the same as “endangered” ones; and makes it harder to list species as threatened based on speculation that they will be killed off by climate change decades from now. Massachusetts’s attorney general and the New York Times think this is like “a plan from a cartoon villain” and hope it will be struck down in court. We call it a good move that still protects the environment while rolling back regulation.

• Lurid photos of, inter alia, neck tumors, diseased lungs, and feet from which toes have been amputated will appear on the top half of cigarette packs by the end of next year if a new proposal from the Food and Drug Administration stands. Judge Richard A. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that a similar FDA proposal in 2012 was unconstitutional. Tobacco companies had argued that the requirement to disfigure their packaging with disturbing imagery amounted to government-compelled speech. “At first blush, they appear to be more about shocking and repelling than warning,” Leon wrote in 2011, referring to the earlier set of illustrations of medical devastation that the FDA wanted tobacco companies to display on their product. Tobacco-related health risks are of course serious. Let public-health advocates make their case for banning cigarettes altogether if they like. Meanwhile, the sale of tobacco remains legal, and the First Amendment remains in effect. “You may sell your commodity but only if you make it look horrifying according to our specifications” is not a government stipulation that passes constitutional muster.

• Senators Bill Cassidy (R., La.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) have proposed the first bipartisan plan to create a federal paid-parental-leave program. Their bill would allow new parents to obtain an advance of up to $5,000 on their child tax credit to help with their costs during the first year of having a child, including adopting one. The policy would offset the expense by reducing parents’ credit for the following ten years. This is the fourth paid-parental-leave plan on offer in this Congress, along with two bills sponsored by Republican lawmakers and a much more expansive paid-leave entitlement program championed by Democratic senators. Unlike the progressive plan, the Republican and bipartisan ones are creative ways to repurpose existing funds to make it easier for parents to support new arrivals. The choice the bills pose to Democrats: Is facilitating family leave their priority, or raising taxes?

• Long-time Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe has been peddling a cherished myth of abortion-rights supporters: that white supremacists oppose abortion, and that, as a result, there is a sinister link between racists and the pro-life movement. In fact, the opposite is true. White supremacists have, in general, long favored legal abortion precisely because minority women tend to abort their children at disproportionate rates. Tribe ignores, too, the historic connections between the eugenics movement, population-control enthusiasts who wished to target minority and low-income populations, and influential proponents of legalized abortion. Either Tribe has difficulty ascertaining the facts or, like too many defenders of the right to kill the unborn, he disregards them as needed to suit his agenda. 

• Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., has left the Title X family-planning program after the Health and Human Services Department enacted a rule prohibiting participants from performing or referring for abortions. As a result, Planned Parenthood will lose about $60 million in federal funding, the largest reduction in its subsidies since it first began to receive them several decades ago. Most of the group’s funding comes from Medicaid reimbursements rather than Title X, but even so, the decision to leave Title X is revealing. If Planned Parenthood executives were sincere in their insistence that holistic women’s health care, and not abortion, is the organization’s priority, they would have chosen to financially separate the abortion business in order to maintain funding. But abortion is simply too important to it.

• The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into a complaint made by three female athletes earlier this year. The complainants, all in high school, maintain that the State of Connecticut’s policy for transgender student athletes — allowing biologically male athletes to compete with girls if they identify as female — constitutes illegal discrimination on the basis of sex. Since the policy was enacted in 2017, two such athletes have won 15 women’s championships in the state, titles that were held by ten young women the year before. It wasn’t long ago that no one would have believed it necessary to create a federal case over the contention that girls’ sports are for girls.

• The New York Times is marking the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves’ arriving in the Americas with its “1619 Project.” The concept is worthy, but the execution is wrongheaded, with essays on such subjects as corporate-management practices (plantation owners used quantitative tools to track worker productivity, modern corporations use quantitative tools to track worker productivity, ergo . . .), “yacht rock,” universal health care (many whites in the South opposed federal health-care programs for former slaves), the strange conspiracy theory involving a secret John C. Calhoun cult among modern Republicans, inequality in measures of wealth and income, etc. It is all very on-message for 2020 Democrats. “This country,” Beto O’Rourke recently stated, “was founded on racism, has persisted through racism, and is racist today.” O’Rourke, a ten-watt bulb in the 20-watt 2020 firmament, omits the necessary question: Compared with what? With 1830? With 1930? With Japan? With Cuba? That lamentable ship that arrived with its human cargo in 1619 was a Portuguese vessel bound for what is now Mexico. The experience of slavery was not limited to the United States, nor was the American experience limited to slavery. To subordinate the entirety of American history — including the history of slavery and those who suffered unspeakably under it — to contemporary partisan political obsessions is malpractice as history and journalism both.

• Max Boot denounced this publication as “white supremacist” after taking exception to something our Buckley Fellow John Hirschauer wrote, then spiraling down from there. Boot, the erstwhile conservative, wrote a Washington Post op-ed telling white people that they need to get a grip. Hirschauer pointed out that using such sweeping racial language is careless and inflammatory, and argued that Boot in effect set up a false choice for whites: embrace white nationalism, or “self-loathing.” Boot objected to the phrase “self-loathing,” which is used by the alt-right, although Hirschauer repeatedly denounced white nationalism. This didn’t stop Boot from going on CNN to slander NR and — desperate for evidence to back up his charge that we are all white supremacists — cast a measured Dan McLaughlin piece on the topic of immigration as an alt-right screed in a follow-up op-ed. That McLaughlin had explicitly denounced the views that Boot was ascribing to him was irrelevant (Boot apparently read no farther than the subhead, the only thing he quoted). If anyone doubted that Max Boot is now officially “woke,” his ready resort to the racism charge based on zero evidence should remove it. 

• In Kabul, a suicide bomber walked into a large wedding party in a Shiite-minority neighborhood last month, killing 63 and wounding nearly 200. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. Although the massacre served as one more exclamation point to Afghanistan’s longstanding instability, it did not derail talks between the U.S. government and the Taliban, a rival of ISIS. The Taliban refuses to negotiate with the Afghan government, which it calls an American puppet. “We’re looking for a peace agreement,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan. The U.S. is demanding that the Taliban renounce al-Qaeda, negotiate with Kabul, and agree to a cease-fire. What the Taliban wants from the U.S. is a timeline for the withdrawal of our 14,000 troops, but “we are not cutting and running,” Khalilzad insisted. “We are not looking for a withdrawal agreement.” Nor should we. First the Taliban needs to demonstrate, over months or even years, its willingness to hold up its end of any agreement. The U.S. should persist in the negotiations as a peace process — and in communicating its lack of interest in “cutting and running.”

• Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made headlines when he reversed a previous decision and blocked Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who support the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel, from visiting that nation (he later re-reversed the decision for Tlaib, to permit her to visit her grandmother, but she declined to go). That’s a news story, certainly. Here’s another. Omar and Tlaib planned their trip in cooperation with a group called “Miftah,” a Palestinian organization with a record of publishing vicious anti-Semitic screeds. It has published blood libel — the claim that Jews use the blood of gentiles in Passover celebrations. It has published American neo-Nazi propaganda. It has celebrated and honored Palestinian terrorists, including a notorious woman who helped lead a massacre that claimed the lives of 38 Israeli civilians, of whom 13 were children. Pundits and activists thunderously denounced Netanyahu for blocking Omar and Tlaib’s visit. Most have not denounced Omar and Tlaib’s vile anti-Semitic alliances. They would not be so forgiving if a Republican had partnered with white nationalists. 

• The last time the Chinese party-state faced opposition similar to what it now faces in Hong Kong was in 1989, when protests in the mainland garnered widespread support before the People’s Liberation Army cleared Tiananmen Square with deadly force and ended the movement. The American response was shamefully muted, with the U.S. hosting Chinese premier Li Peng in a show of normalized relations only three years later. As the Hong Kong protests risk going down a familiar route, Trump, who in 1990 said the Chinese government’s response had illustrated “the power of strength,” risks repeating that mistake. He has been too quiet on the issue amid reports that he told Xi Jinping in June that he regarded the protests as an internal affair. His recent remarks have been more encouraging. Just because we are engaged in a contentious trade negotiation with China is no reason to give it a pass on human rights — indeed, the opposite. 

• In one recent incident in Indian-controlled Kashmir, a car bomb presumably set by Pakistani Islamists killed 40 Indian paramilitary policemen and wounded a lot more, and in another recent incident two Indian fighters said to have been in Pakistan’s airspace were shot down. Accordingly, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, suspended the autonomy hitherto granted to Indian-controlled Kashmir, or in plain language took it over. Modi’s opposite number, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, said, “Hitler had arrogance, and Modi’s arrogance is no different.” He downgraded diplomatic ties and stopped trade agreements. Islamist mullahs are calling for jihad. Disturbances at varying levels of anger in most of the towns in the disputed region have led the Indian authorities to restrict public assembly to no more than four people and to block most forms of communication. The best case is that the situation remains merely dangerous, rather than becoming a catastrophe. 

• Jo Goldenberg ran a well-known restaurant in the Rue des Rosiers, a street in what is considered the Jewish quarter of Paris. In August 1982, Palestinian terrorists shot and killed six Jews in the restaurant, and wounded 22. It was the worst atrocity in what was already a Palestinian campaign on French soil. Successive French presidents Georges Pompidou and François Mitterand decided that appeasement would be the appropriate subterfuge and struck a so-called gentleman’s agreement that the French would leave the terrorists unharmed so long as they themselves were left unharmed. Since 2014, in spite of the long delay, judicial proceedings have been underway on three of the Rue des Rosiers terrorists who still survive. Giving evidence before a judge, Yves Bonnet, the onetime head of the French security forces, broke new ground with a confession. “We entered a sort of verbal deal which tells them: I want no more attacks on French soil, but I will allow you to come to France and guarantee that nothing will happen to you.” French cynicism at its worst. 

• Three years ago, the French government paved a one-kilometer stretch of highway in Normandy with photovoltaic cells. The “solar road” was expected to generate enough electricity to power a town of 5,000, at least during daytime hours in sunny weather. It all sounded magnifique — until engineers discovered that (a) cloudy or rainy weather is not uncommon in Normandy and (b) there’s a reason roads are generally paved with reinforced concrete or asphalt instead of resin-coated rectangles. Under the stress of numerous heavy trucks, the roadbed has cracked and splintered, and even where it’s intact, vehicles make so much noise on the unyielding surface that the speed limit has been reduced to a risible 70 kph (43 mph), which is not universally observed. So the French goal of building another 1,000 kilometers of power-generating highways seems a distant prospect. As the president of the company that built the road admitted to Popular Mechanics: “Our system is not mature for inter-urban traffic.” The road to wasteful energy policy is paved with good intentions.

• The NFL and the rapper-mogul Jay-Z announced a partnership: The latter’s company, Roc Nation, will provide consulting services about Super Bowl halftime entertainment and about the league’s social-justice initiatives. The deal was denounced as insufficiently woke: Former ESPN host Jemele Hill called Jay-Z “an accomplice” who “chose to collaborate” with the NFL. A writer at The Root compared him to Judas. The Christlike figure here is Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback who used to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and hasn’t played since 2016. (His lawsuit accusing the league of blackballing him was settled earlier this year.) “I think we’re past kneeling,” Jay-Z said. He obviously doesn’t speak for everyone. 

• CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, the son and brother of New York governors, reacted with anger after someone mockingly called him “Fredo” at a Long Island bar. The reference was to The Godfather’s Fredo Corleone, the Corleone crime family’s least capable brother, who was generally dim and lacked self-control, making him prone to overreaction. Cuomo responded to his fellow barfly’s taunt with: “I’ll f***ing throw you down these stairs like a f***ing punk. You’re gonna call me ‘Fredo,’ take a f***ing swing? I’ll f***ing wreck your sh**,” which is pretty much Q.E.D. To be sure, the resemblance between the Corleone family and the Cuomo family is not all that close: One of them viciously harasses and controls their fellow New Yorkers, grabs large amounts of their money, and maintains a climate of fear and retribution, while the other is just a bunch of gangsters. 

• Bernie Sanders, European in outlook as always, has been known to criticize the American economy for offering too many varieties of deodorant. With this distaste for consumer choice in mind, one wonders what he would make of Hormel Foods’ latest innovation: Pumpkin Spice Spam. Somewhat disappointingly, the new product, due on grocery shelves this fall, won’t actually contain any pumpkin, only spices and some sugar. Cutting-edge researchers in Hormel’s test kitchens have discovered that Pumpkin Spice Spam can safely be used as a waffle topping, an addition to vegetable hash (why not? it isn’t exactly meat), or a bonus ingredient in corn muffins. We can hear Bernie now: “Millions of children in this country are hungry — but they’re not that hungry.”

• Prince Harry and his American wife, after greenly speeding away from their wedding in a $500,000 bespoke electric car, have been pounding away on the global-warming circuit, with the prince appearing before a Google climate conference barefooted like the penitent Henry II before the tomb of Saint Thomas à Becket; unlike earlier pilgrims, he arrived as part of an armada of 114 private jets and a detachment of gigantic yachts. The couple has promised to have no more than two children, owing to the “terrifying” realities of climate change. Well. Prince Harry’s parents had two children; his aunt, Princess Anne, and his uncles, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex, all have two children each, as do his cousins the Tindalls and the Phillipses — these royals were woke a generation ahead of time! Oh, but his selfish older brother, the duke of Cambridge and presumptive future king, has three already. On one hand, we endorse the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, but, on the other hand, some of us republicans think there are quite enough of these royals as it is, and that this soap opera does not need to expand its cast.

• Down and out in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi still clung to his dream of playing in the NFL. “A friend of a friend” told him about a workout that the Cleveland Browns were holding in North Miami. So the erstwhile return specialist for Phoenix College went online and learned about Alonzo Highsmith, the Browns’ vice president of player personnel. Sheehy flew to Miami and slept outdoors once he got there. He was that broke. When he showed up, uninvited, at the Browns’ facility, he dropped Highsmith’s name, which turned out to be good for admission. Sheehy found Highsmith and persuaded him that they were vague acquaintances. One thing led to another, and before long Highsmith clocked Sheehy running 40 yards in 4.38 seconds. Impressed, the Browns invited Sheehy to a workout at their training camp in Berea, outside Cleveland. They gave him a preseason roster spot. In a game against the Washington Redskins, he returned a punt for 86 yards to score a touchdown. Now the Browns have signed him to a contract, as a wide receiver, the position he long aspired to. You can find his picture in the dictionary, under “grit.”

• Carol Buckley was a lovely woman in every way. Charming, kind, and cheerful, she was equipped with a high-wattage smile — and those big, gorgeous eyes — that could outshine the famous twinkle of her more famous brother, this magazine’s founder. The caboose in William and Aloïse Buckley’s family of ten — the sole survivor now being her older brother James, the retired federal judge and former senator — she wrote an acclaimed memoir, At the Still Point (“luminous, tightly disciplined, deeply moving . . . a remarkable book,” according to an NR review), about growing up in her large and celebrated family, with so many siblings so much older. Carol was de facto an only child, and life — with a string of heartaches — proved, too frequently, crippling. Her story, though, had a happy ending, and middle: She was a loving mother of five. With any and all she shared God’s graces. And laughter. What a laugh. “The problem with the Buckleys,” our former publisher Ed Capano often said, “is that each one is nicer than the next.” Last week, after a brief illness, the baby, now 80, left her beloved Newburyport, Mass., for an even happier place, we pray joining her son, William, who predeceased her, and all those smiling and twinkling Buckley siblings, a remarkable family that has embraced so many of us over the years. R.I.P. 

Aim First

Mitch McConnell has said that when the Senate reconvenes in September to discuss new federal gun-control measures, “universal background checks” will “lead the discussion.” If that is the case — and President Trump has cooled on the idea after initially flirting with it — the Senate should listen carefully to the proposals on offer and then politely decline to assent. The idea is unconstitutional. It would considerably inconvenience law-abiding gun owners while doing nothing to prevent the problem, mass shootings, to which it is being touted as a response. And, as even friendly studies from Washington and Colorado have shown, it doesn’t work.

Upholding the Constitution is a task that falls to all of government’s branches, and the Senate cannot uphold the Constitution and pass “universal background checks.” The federal government is prohibited from acting outside of the limited set of powers that the Constitution has granted to it. None of those powers permit it to superintend private firearms transactions that take place between two residents of a single state. Because it limits its remit to the regulation of federally licensed businesses and of commerce between the states, the existing background-check system is legitimate. Because they explode that remit, universal background checks are not. Republicans talk a good game about keeping Leviathan at bay. This is a chance for them to prove it.

Also problematic is that universal background checks require the creation of a national gun registry. Without such a registry, the system is useless because there is no way for the government to prove whether a transaction is in compliance with the law. As they have in the past, Americans should resist this development robustly, for the history of gun registries in America is the history of private citizens’ handing over great gobs of information to the government for no reward. A government that knows where all the guns are is a government that can stage a confiscation drive — or, in the Orwellian parlance of modern gun controllers, a “mandatory buyback” drive. Those who doubt this need look no farther than to Venezuela.

And then there is the fact that universal background checks do not work. After Washington, Colorado, and Delaware passed laws mandating that all intrastate transfers involve a background check, boosters of the idea hoped to see results they could pitch nationally. But, per research conducted by self-professed gun-control advocate Garen Wintemute (and others), such laws didn’t even result in more background checks being conducted in two of the three states (Washington and Colorado), while Delaware had a small rise. “These aren’t the results I hoped to see,” Wintemute conceded. “I hoped to see an effect. But it’s much more important to see what’s actually happened.” Indeed so. Which raises a question: Why would we extend the federal government beyond its established legal role, institute an invasive national gun registry, and make it more difficult for peaceful Americans to avoid arcane malum prohibitum infractions, all in pursuit of a policy that doesn’t help?

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

In This Issue

What We Love About America


American Men

American men — with few exceptions — treat you like a human being, in a free, natural way, because they’ve done it from the nation’s youth.

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Bernie’s Huge Victory

Bernie had a massive night in Nevada, with a diverse nomination-winning-type coalition. According to the entrance poll, he won whites and Hispanics and did well among blacks. He won men and women. He won college graduates and did particularly well with non-college graduates. He won Democrats and independents. ... Read More

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