• Unsurprisingly, Jeremy Corbyn also believes in the public ownership of blame.
• As we went to press, the House was about to pass two articles of impeachment against President Trump. The impeachment is historic, since only two other presidents have been impeached, yet it is likely to have very little practical consequence. Absent an earth-shattering development, the Senate will vote to acquit, probably with no Republican defectors. The fight in the Senate will focus on whether or not to call witnesses. There aren’t enough votes to call the ones the president would like to see — Hunter Biden and the whistleblower — while Republicans feel no obligation to fight to get witnesses such as Mick Mulvaney or Rudy Giuliani whom House Democrats didn’t make any serious effort to secure before voting to impeach. At the end of the day, almost all Republicans believe that Trump’s conduct in the Ukraine matter does not meet the threshold for removing a president, a judgment it doesn’t require new witnesses or facts to make. What Trump did was wrong, and Republicans should be more forthright in saying so, but the episode doesn’t justify removing a president for the first time in our history, within a year of a reelection campaign, over a scheme that came to nothing.
• The inspector general for the Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, released his long-awaited report on the FBI’s conduct at the outset of the Russia investigation, and it’s devastating. Horowitz says that the opening of the investigation was properly predicated — in large part because the standard for predication is so low — and that he didn’t find evidence of political bias, although in his congressional testimony he didn’t rule out intentional misconduct either. The most damning part of the report relates how the FBI relied on the Steele dossier to get FISA warrants against former Trump adviser Carter Page, without doing any due diligence about the dossier and without alerting the FISA court to emerging information that undercut the dossier’s credibility. In one astonishing instance, an FBI attorney doctored a document to obscure the fact that Page had a cooperative relationship with the CIA for years, which would tend to suggest that he wasn’t a Russian spy. In the wake of the report, the FISA court issued a stinging order demanding that the FBI immediately tell the court how it’s going to improve its procedures. Carter Page, who was smeared in the media and improperly surveilled by his own government, is owed an apology.
• On December 10, two gunmen attacked a kosher market in Jersey City, killing three, then fought a three-hour gun battle with police before being themselves killed. They had begun their spree by killing a detective who approached their van, which was wanted in connection with the murder of a livery driver days earlier. The murderers, David Anderson and Francine Graham, were both communicants — he, long-time; she, recent, under his influence — of the Black Hebrew Israelites. The cult, which dissociated itself from the bloodshed, specializes in street-corner rants against the objects of its hatred: whites, Jews (the only true Jews are black), cops, gays, and any blacks deemed to resemble any of the foregoing. They previously appeared in the news for taunting the Covington Catholic schoolboys at the Lincoln Memorial, before Chief Drum-in-Face got in on the act. When the Jersey City horror was new, Representative Rashida Tlaib tweeted, “White Supremacy Kills.” So it can, so it has. And so can its black brother.
• Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani shot up a Navy airbase in Pensacola, Fla., killing three and injuring eight. Alshamrani, a lieutenant in the Saudi air force, was in Pensacola for training. Because military bases are gun-free zones, his terror attack was stopped only when local police arrived on the scene and picked him off. Days after the deed, the Saudi government revealed that Alshamrani may have been radicalized as early as 2015. Before his attack, he reportedly held a dinner party at which he screened jihadi snuff films. Three fellow students who attended the dinner, all Saudis, watched from a distance as his rampage unfolded. So two of the underlying causes of the Fort Hood massacre five years ago — unarmed warriors, and unidentified human time bombs — are still with us. Can we ask for better intelligence work from our Saudi allies? And can we ask for more intelligence from our military, in detecting terrorists in our midst, and in allowing patriotic young men to defend themselves?
• When Kamala Harris dropped out of the presidential race, some Democrats bemoaned that there was no longer “diversity” in their field. Cory Booker was one of the loudest bemoaners. A black senator from New Jersey, he remains in the field. Along with a gay, married mayor. A Chinese-American businessman. A Jewish senator from Vermont, via Brooklyn. A black ex-governor from Massachusetts. A female senator from Massachusetts, who used to claim to be Cherokee. And so on. What the field could use, actually, is greater diversity of views.
• Let the record show that on December 10, 2019, the president of the United States, before a crowd of ten thousand people, repeated or perhaps invented a rumor that an FBI agent who had schemed with an FBI lawyer, who was also his (the agent’s) adulterous lover, to remove him (the president) from office subsequently had a restraining order issued against him (the agent), so besotted with passion was he. “Did I hear he needed a restraining order after this whole thing to keep him away from [his lover]? That’s what I heard. I don’t know if it’s true. The fake news will never report it, but it could be true.” And let us have no jokes about Eastern Europe or Latin America or any other sh**hole countries ever again.
• As if in some showdown in a Marvel franchise movie, Donald Trump mixed it up with Greta Thunberg — Captain Twitter vs. Joan of Gaia. Trump said . . . and she responded . . . oh, the hell with it. Miss Thunberg is a handy totem who will be dropped by the movement she leads the minute her novelty fades. Only a president addicted to publicity would mix it up with her, but that is what we have now, and perhaps what American politics requires at this moment.
• China and the Trump administration reached what is being called a “phase one” deal on trade, although whether there will be future phases is very much in doubt. For that matter, the terms of the deal aren’t entirely clear either: The two parties have put out differing statements about how much China will increase its purchasing of American agricultural products. In return for these additional purchases and for China’s reiteration of commitments it has made in the past about protecting Americans’ intellectual property, the U.S. will cut some of our tariffs on Chinese products and refrain from imposing new ones the administration had been threatening. This is nothing like the breakthrough some China hawks have hoped for, which is not surprising considering the administration’s vague objectives and flawed strategy. Both the U.S. and China will end this phase with higher tariffs on each other than we had before. The good news is that the trade war has inflicted only mild damage on our economy overall (albeit acute damage for some), and the better news is that it is a phase we might be outgrowing.
• Senator Sherrod Brown, the Ohio Democrat, has never voted for a trade agreement in his 26 years in Congress — but now he has announced his support for the U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is going to succeed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The AFL-CIO has endorsed the USMCA, too, after having fought NAFTA and almost every trade agreement. What accounts for this bipartisan cooperation is that the president is more aligned with labor and Democrats on trade than he is with Republicans. Senator Brown and the AFL-CIO got more out of this deal than they got even from previous Democratic presidents: more protectionism, more labor regulation. Congressional Republicans are acquiescing because of party loyalty and fear that Trump will try to withdraw from NAFTA altogether if the USMCA goes down. Untraditional as Trump is, he has found a tried-and-true method for Republican presidents to rack up bipartisan wins: give the Democrats what they want on policy.
• Senators Mitt Romney (R., Utah) and Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) have teamed up to support a large expansion of the tax credit for children. They would keep it from increasing the deficit by tightening the rules on the taxation of gains from inherited capital. The concept of cutting taxes on parents is a good one: Social Security and Medicare place a disproportionate burden on taxpaying parents. We would change some of the details of the duo’s plan, which reduces tax burdens below zero for some parents while not reducing it enough for others. Coupling pro-family tax relief with new restrictions on vaping is misguided. The goal ought to be to let parents keep more of their resources to spend on their families, not to reduce their freedom.
• The Trump administration has issued what should be a mostly unremarkable executive order. Mirroring the analysis of the previous administration, the order states that anti-Semitism can violate Title VI, a federal law banning discrimination at federally funded entities, including colleges. Title VI applies to discrimination based on race and nationality, but not to religious discrimination, so this conclusion requires pointing out that Jews are often discriminated against for their nationality or perceived racial characteristics, not just their religion. Some of the administration’s critics, including the New York Times, went ballistic, claiming the administration had redefined Judaism as a nationality; several critics, on that basis, even claimed the order itself was anti-Semitic. In pursuing their false argument, the critics ignored an aspect of the order that is legitimately dubious: It suggests that bigoted criticisms of Israel can support a claim of anti-Semitic discrimination, which will require careful line-drawing going forward if it is not to impinge on free speech.
• The president called for a review of bathroom water-efficiency rules recently: “People are flushing toilets ten times, 15 times as opposed to once. They end up using more water.” We appreciate the man’s zeal for killing annoying regulations that limit the potential of our household fixtures, but we’re afraid he overstated his case here. As Josh Barro fleshed out (or is it flushed out?) in a piece for New York, the first generation of low-flow toilets were terrible a couple of decades ago, but technological improvements since have made it possible to get the job done in a single flush, with allowances for the occasional misfortunes of diet or illness. The government should have kept out and let the market develop these technologies on its own, but now that we can flush once and forget while using less water, there’s not much to complain about.
• Former Kentucky governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, issued more than 400 pardons and commutations in the waning days of his administration, and he’s faced intense criticism from across the political spectrum ever since. Those given leniency included some individuals convicted of minor charges — and others found guilty of far graver offenses, from murder to rape to child abuse. One man pardoned of reckless homicide and other charges was the brother of a Bevin fundraiser. Bevin says he reviewed all of these cases personally and found flaws in them; he also points out that most of the convicts had already served their time and been released; and of course as governor he had the power to issue pardons at will. But this is undeniably a broad and troubling use of that power. The pardons cannot be rescinded, but a federal investigation is warranted, whether it ends up indicting Bevin or, as he vows will be the case, the authorities who handled the original prosecutions.
• Tessa Majors, a freshman at Barnard, was stabbed to death in a robbery-gone-wrong in Morningside Park, near the campus of the prestigious New York City college. Cops arrested a boy, age 13, and are looking as we go to press for two others similarly young. Majors herself was 18. Could the crime become a wake-up call? Even New York’s left-wing mayor, Bill de Blasio, knew he had to keep crime down after the heroic reductions effected by his predecessors, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, and for a few years, the police, led by veteran commissioner Bill Bratton, did so. But murder is up almost 9 percent this year, and there has been an even more dramatic fraying of the social fabric, with a return of the homeless. A modern metropolis can be run well, as recent New York history shows. But it takes correct policies, attention to detail, and unremitting effort. The local Republican and Conservative parties are inconsequential, the local Democrats are dwarves and cranks. Can anyone step up?
• Tucker Carlson launched a broadside against investor Paul Singer and his firm, Elliott Management, for their role in the merger of sporting-goods companies Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops. Carlson heaped scorn on Elliott for encouraging the sale of Cabela’s to Bass, which resulted in job losses in Sidney, Neb. This result, Carlson argued, was a typical example of vulture capitalists’ raiding great American businesses and eviscerating small towns in the heartland. Carlson was sloppy at best: Cabela’s was a cratering business that already had lost more than half of its market value, the jobs in Nebraska were largely transferred to another small town in the heartland (Springfield, Mo.), the new post-merger firm continues to employ thousands of Americans and is now better positioned to employ even more, Elliott held only an 11 percent stake in the company and never even had a seat on the board or a direct role in decision-making, etc. Senator Warren and other left-wing critics abominate private-equity investors more or less out of habit, one that Republicans shouldn’t acquire themselves.
• A state court has thrown out New York’s case against Exxon, which Walter Olson in National Review Online rightly described as “a social-media campaign posing as a legal case,” launched by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, since driven from office by allegations of sexual misconduct. The persecution of Exxon on the pretext of securities fraud was part of an effort by Democratic attorneys general to harass and prosecute energy companies, free-market think tanks such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, academics, and critics of Democratic policies and positions on climate change. It represents a Democratic effort to criminalize political disagreement. In a scathing opinion, Judge Barry Ostrager bluntly described the investigation as “politically motivated” while USA Today and the Washington Post raised First Amendment concerns. We should appreciate exactly what has taken place here: Leftists have argued for years that critics of their views and preferred climate-change policies should be prosecuted as criminals; “Arrest climate-change deniers” was the headline over an Adam Weinstein column in Gawker, and this was not a one-off proposal. Progressives have been laying the foundations for such efforts for years, and prominent figures such as Robert Kennedy Jr. have argued that those with unapproved views on climate change “should be in jail.” The attorney general of New York tried to make that happen. So did a former attorney general of California, who was until recently a Democratic presidential candidate. If you needed evidence that the American Left is illiberal and authoritarian, it is here.
• The Washington Post published a blockbuster report: “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War.” Through the Freedom of Information Act, the Post had obtained more than 2,000 pages of SIGAR interviews. That acronym is shorthand for the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The papers revealed that U.S. officials had often been dishonest about the war, presenting a rosier picture than was warranted. This can only, and understandably, dampen public support of the war. Yet either a continuation of the war — America’s longest — is in the U.S. interest or it is not. We think it is, regarding the Taliban’s return to power as too risky to our security. Still, we applaud the Post for its report and note how lucky we Americans are to live in an open society, where we can see what our officials are doing and hold them to account.
• From the Associated Press, an unwelcome report: “North Korea said it successfully performed another ‘crucial test’ at its long-range rocket launch site that will further strengthen its nuclear deterrent.” The report went on to say that the test “possibly involved technologies to improve intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the continental United States.” North Korea is a Communist dictatorship determined to keep its grip on power and use nuclear weapons to intimidate other countries: primarily the United States and South Korea. What is needed in U.S. policy, first and foremost, is cold realism.
• The Kremlin is not shy about picking off its critics and opponents on foreign soil — that is, killing them. They got a Georgian in Berlin last August. In response, the German government has now expelled two Russian diplomats. Relatedly, NBC News reports that “a group of elite Russian military intelligence officers, including some of those who planned the poisoning of a defector in Britain, have been operating out of picturesque villages in the French Alps.” This information comes from “Western intelligence officials” — who say that European and U.S. agencies have been tracking up to 15 GRU agents who have been living in France for a long while now. It is encouraging to know that our guys are on the case — that Russian operatives are “under Western eyes,” so to speak. The Cold War has been over for 30 years now. But there is little rest in this dangerous world.
• Yegor Zhukov is a remarkable young man of 21 who has caught the imagination of many Russians. He is a student at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. He made pro-democracy videos. Last August, he was arrested. Before his sentencing on December 4, he made a heartfelt, moving statement, widely circulated. “I want to see two qualities in my compatriots,” he said: “accountability and love.” This became a kind of slogan, chanted by Zhukov’s supporters outside the courtroom later: “accountability and love.” In the end, he was given a three-year suspended sentence. He was also barred from managing websites for two years, and from running for office for six years. (Zhukov has expressed a desire to run for political office.) He got off lightly, owing to the relative fame of his case. Similar activists whose cases are less well known go to prison. When people say “Russia” and “Russians,” they usually mean the Kremlin and Putin. Remember that Yegor Zhukov, too, is Russian — and he does his country proud.
• Russia will be barred from international athletic competition for four years if a court in Switzerland ratifies a recent recommendation by the World Anti-Doping Association. The scope of the longstanding state-sponsored doping scheme came to light after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, thanks in part to whistleblowers in Russia’s athletics program. WADA barred Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics and then, last year, cleared the way for it to return to international competition — a move that one of the whistleblowers, Grigory Rodchenkov, now in witness protection in the United States, called “a catastrophe for clean sport.” Russian officials have now been caught fabricating messages in a ham-handed effort to portray Rodchenkov as corrupt, and so WADA reverses course and tightens the screws again, but only so far. It would allow Russian athletes not implicated in the scandal to compete wearing neutral uniforms under a neutral flag, as they did in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The half measure won’t do. “The Russians are asserting their athletes that may be clean deserve the opportunity to compete,” explained Edwin Moses, chairman of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “They destroyed all the evidence that could have exonerated them.”
• The World Bank was requiring its Taiwanese employees to get a PRC passport. Staffers grumbled about this. A news organization, Axios, found out and asked the bank about the matter. Embarrassed, the bank backed down. Kudos to Axios and shame on the World Bank for its prior policy. It’s bad enough that the Chinese Communist Party controls vast, great China. It should not control international organizations as well.
• Mesut Ozil is a Turkish-German soccer player and a Muslim. He plays for the Arsenal team, in Britain. He wrote a tweet in support of the persecuted Uyghurs in northwest China. He wondered why other Muslims were not speaking out in their behalf. This caused outrage in China, of course, and Arsenal itself acted quickly: The club distanced itself from Ozil’s comments. China Central Television removed a match between Arsenal and Manchester City from its schedule. More reprisals are likely to come. It can be costly to speak the truth and to help the persecuted. Bless the name of Mesut Ozil.
• The Segres are a distinguished family from Milan, and many if not most Italians will have heard of Liliana Segre. A sprightly 89, she is a lifetime senator, an honorary appointment that is in the gift of the president of Italy. She proposed the creation of a parliamentary committee to investigate racism and to deal with it. Her own experience molded her. As a child, she had lived under the Racial Law of the pre-war Fascist regime. In 1943, at the age of 13, she was deported to Auschwitz. Seven hundred seventy-six Jewish children under the age of 14 were deported there, and just 35 of them survived, one of these being Liliana. Deported with her, her father and one set of grandparents were murdered. In the Italian parliament, a coalition of the League party (led by then–prime minister Matteo Salvini), Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, and a splinter group known as the Brothers of Italy abstained from voting on her motion. “It’s not a good day,” Salvini eventually conceded. The scandal grew when Liliana stated that on social media she has been receiving up to 200 death threats every day. It is evidence of what the world has come to that the prefect of Milan has given her a bodyguard of armed carabinieri.
• Lucy Ellmann is a British-American novelist whose book Ducks, Newburyport, a single stream-of-consciousness sentence that goes on for 1,000 pages, was shortlisted this year for the Booker Prize. The book is narrated by an Ohio mother of four: too many, the author thinks. In an interview, Ellmann said that because of the “climate emergency” humans should be aiming for close to “zero births.” And women with children are bores who are wasting their time: “You watch people get pregnant and know they’ll be emotionally and intellectually absent for 20 years. Thought, knowledge, adult conversation, and vital political action are all put on hold while this needless perpetuation of the species is prioritized.” (She allows that the desire to have babies is “strong” and “forgivable.”) More than a few mothers were intellectually present enough to take issue with this characterization. In the same interview, Ellmann observed that “the power and meaning of motherhood are largely overlooked” in our society. The culprit? “Patriarchy.”
• Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women should be considered a great American novel. Or so says A. N. Devers, author of an Elle piece entitled “Little Women Is a Big, Important American Masterpiece. Let’s Treat It Like One.” Devers claims that “the absence of Little Women in classrooms could suggest that a story about female ambition and adventure should be treated as dangerous,” as well as that the book has been relegated to home consumption by girls only, displaced by “boy-centric” books such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in schools. While some of Devers’s points are thoughtful, and while Alcott’s achievement is great, the Elle article is mistaken about the purpose of placing specific books in school curriculums for young students. Certain books are worth studying because they broaden our understanding of the shared human experience, regardless of whether the readers or the protagonists happen to be male or female.
• Jennifer Finney Boylan, a Columbia University English professor, declared in the New York Times that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is “the queerest holiday special ever.” Considering that the special’s most dramatic moment comes when a pretty young doe tells Rudolph he’s “cute,” and in sheer ecstasy he takes off and starts flying like an F-22, that’s a tough thesis to support. So how, exactly, is he “queer”? The op-ed’s author, a male-to-female transsexual, explains that the show’s “central conflict is the way people who are different are constantly shunned and humiliated” — which is true, and a major concern for anyone interested in fairness, but it doesn’t make the show “queer” unless the LGBTQ are the only “different” group in existence. With equally shaky logic, Hermey, the malcontent elf, is declared to be gay because he is “beautiful and blond” and wants to be a dentist. Convinced? If “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” can persuade schoolchildren not to exclude or make fun of their peers, that’s all to the good, but Professor Boylan weakens the message when she restricts its application to a single group.
• Last summer’s wildly successful chicken-sandwich Twitter wars seem to have inspired every snack-food maker in the country to start its own online campaign and pick a food fight with a rival. Even Santa Claus has gotten in the act, tweeting out peremptory demands for Oreos as his Christmas Eve snack and airily dismissing homemade sweets: “No sugar cookies, no chocolate-chip mumbo jumbo, or your Nana’s special recipe.” This seems unlike him. Sure, Santa has endorsed plenty of products over the years, but he usually isn’t such a jerk about it. Has the Grinch hacked into his account?
• Sports Illustrated has named Megan Rapinoe its Sportsperson of the Year, “not because of her newfound fame but because of how she’s handled it,” SI writer Jenny Vrentas explains, without irony. A winger for the U.S. women’s national soccer team, Rapinoe led it to the FIFA Women’s World Cup championship last summer. She won the Golden Ball, awarded to the best player of the World Cup final. FIFA named her Best Women’s World Player of the Year. The case for Rapinoe as the best female American athlete of 2019 is solid. Her abrasive manners on the world stage elicit strong responses, ranging from “You go, girl!” to embarrassment for her. The U.S. win over France in the Women’s World Cup in June was marked, or marred, by the “Pose,” Rapinoe’s outstretched arms and uplifted chin — a spiking of the ball, as it were. “I deserve this!” she said days later, as she clutched the World Cup trophy. So much for old-school sportsmanship. Megan Rapinoe may well be the athlete of the year, but sportsperson? She shows no sign of even wanting to be one.
• Major League Baseball is neck-deep in negotiations with Minor League Baseball over the details of the future union between the two entities — or their total parting of ways. Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred and the Major Leagues have reportedly threatened to withdraw from their affiliation with the current crop of Minor League franchises, many of which are located in smaller metros and more-rural areas that have buttressed professional baseball for generations. Surely there is a third way, and we hope the two sides can find it, for the sake of baseball fans everywhere — even those in Altoona.
• When Fats Waller sang “Your Feet’s Too Big,” he probably did not have surveying in mind. Yet until recently, the profession once pursued by George Washington and Henry David Thoreau suffered from that exact problem. In 1893, the foot (i.e., 12 inches) was defined with a formula that came out to .3048006 meters. Forty years later, most of the world rounded off the final 006 and adopted the “international foot,” an even .3048 meters. The U.S. also switched to this definition in 1959 but has allowed surveyors to keep using the old “survey foot” because it is the basis of many old records. Just to make things even more complicated, some states have adopted the international foot while others stick to the survey foot (federalism forever!), and with the use of increasingly precise high-tech surveying tools, the difference between the two, however tiny, has caused no end of trouble in engineering projects. But now the relevant U.S. government agencies have decreed that everyone must use the international foot. Normally we are suspicious of government decrees, but in this case we are proud to see America put its best foot forward.
• “I’m Chiquita Banana and I’ve come to say / If you tape me to the wall, I’m worth 120K . . .” That was the theme of this year’s Art Basel Miami exhibition, where the most popular artwork by far was Comedian, by the artist Maurizio Cattelan, which consisted of a banana attached to the wall with duct tape in a vaguely hammer-and-sickleish design. This piece could be had for $120,000, and the original one plus a replacement were bought for that much before the price was jacked up to $150,000, whereupon another replacement was sold. That might seem a lot of money for an artwork that is destined to lose its value in a week or two as the banana decays, but fear not: The artist explicitly specified that the banana can be removed and replaced at will without harming the integrity of the work. Indeed, when one fairgoer grabbed the banana from the wall and ate it, declaring his action to be “performance art,” someone got another banana and taped it in place, and the show went on as before. This replaceability means that while it may sound like buyers are paying $120,000 for a banana, they are actually paying $120,000 (minus 25 cents for the banana) for a ten-inch strip of duct tape. We’re sure that makes a lot more sense, somehow.
• With seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Newtown High School tied the game before quarterback Jack Street connected with wide receiver Riley Ward for a 36-yard touchdown on the final play. The Newtown Nighthawks won the game, 13–7, and the Class LL state championship in Connecticut. It was the first football championship for Newtown in 27 years. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Ward told the Hartford Courant. “I love this town, I love everybody. I’m at a loss for words.” It was December 14, 2019, the seventh anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, just down the road from the high school. Linebacker Ben Pinto lost his younger brother Jack in the massacre. “It’s always so difficult to explain what it feels like to hold grief in your heart while celebrating these precious moments,” their mother, Tricia Pinto, told the New York Times. “Our grief sometimes gets lost in this story of survival. That’s not our story. Our story is of loss and of love.”
• Paul Volcker became chairman of the Federal Reserve after a decade of rising and variable inflation. It was forcing Americans into higher and higher tax brackets and had become the economic problem they hated most. Intellectuals were increasingly of the view that inflation was a disease endemic to modern democracy and that it resulted from trends beyond government control. Volcker had a different view: The central bank had responsibility for the currency, and high inflation was an indictment of it. Stopping inflation meant enduring two brutal recessions but set the stage for relatively steady economic growth and monetary stability in the following decades. Volcker was a moderate Democrat and we frequently disagreed with the economic-policy prescriptions he offered after his chairmanship. He deserves great credit for his central contribution to the country. R.I.P.
Next Stop Brexit
In the end, it wasn’t close at all. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party met a fate to which it has been accustomed for most of the last half century. Once again, the British roundly rejected socialism. Boris Johnson and his Conservatives will form the next British government.
This was no slight rejection. Labour lost 60 seats, putting the party in its worst position since 1935. The Tories won a majority of 80, making this their biggest victory since 1987. Every seat that the Conservatives contested swung towards them. Labour was abandoned by its traditional voting base.
There are a host of reasons that the election turned out this way. For many, it represented a second referendum on Brexit: a chance to say, “We really meant it the first time.” For others, many of whom were not enthusiastic about Brexit in 2016, it represented a chance to move on. One does not need to have been an ardent Leaver to have been appalled at the way in which the will of the people has been thwarted. Boris Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” resonated.
Then there was Corbyn himself. It should have come as no surprise that Corbyn was most unpopular with Britons who remember the dark days of the 1970s. Britain has tried Corbyn’s ideas before, and they resulted in disastrous inflation, economic stagnation, high unemployment, routine power cuts, industrial strife, a reduction in national prestige, and a penchant for nationalization that led to scarcity, abysmal customer service, and a virtual end to innovation. In his resignation speech, Jeremy Corbyn insisted that his policies had been popular. If they were, the British have a funny way of showing it.
Corbyn himself did not help matters. For all of his ideological lunacy, Michael Foot was an intelligent and thoughtful man with an admirable record of standing up to fascism. Jeremy Corbyn, by contrast, reminded voters of George Orwell’s wearers of sandals and pistachio-colored shirts, carrying with him “the smell of crankishness.” Notably, Corbyn failed to deal with the kooks, bigots, and anti-Semites who had flooded into his party, and he failed to apologize for his abdication. He equivocated on terrorism, had a history of sympathizing with dictators, and never met a radical he disliked. Put simply, he was not a man that a majority of the British people could imagine making their first minister. Boris Johnson, for all his flaws, was.
We must not overstate the appeal of Boris Johnson’s Conservative party, for Margaret Thatcher he is not. As he was obliged to do, Boris struck an ingenious bargain with the electorate: Trust me to deliver Brexit, and I will act as a centrist elsewhere. It is this bargain that explains how the Conservatives won over so many voters who, in any other circumstance, would never dream of voting Conservative. It is this bargain that explains why it was so difficult for Labour to convince its rank-and-file to stay loyal.
Once Brexit is done and dusted, the Tories will face a challenge: how to govern the country more generally in the name of an electorate that sent them there to achieve Brexit. How they answer that question will define British politics for a generation, maybe more. For now, however, the party should bask in its victory. Brexit is saved. Corbyn is gone. The Tories have a large majority for at least the next five years.