Often, a politician will find himself supporting a position that he knows to be wrong. Such are the expediencies of the business. But sometimes an expedient politician can go too far, offending moral reason and losing his credibility. Which brings us to Rahm Emanuel. The former congressman, and former Obama chief of staff, is running for mayor of Chicago. In a debate, he embraced reparations to today’s black Americans for the enslavement of blacks before the 1860s. He had a caveat, though: Chicago, like most of America, labors under a budget deficit, and there may be other budgetary priorities at the moment. Reparations, as Emanuel and others conceive them, are morally indefensible: Those who were wronged cannot be paid back; all that remains is hustling, to be resisted. Maybe someone should ask President Obama what he thinks of his former chief of staff’s position.
Chris Lee had represented the 26th congressional district of New York for one term plus change when he sent a photo of himself, en déshabille, to a woman he had met on Craigslist, describing himself as a divorced lobbyist. The woman checked his name online, found that he was in fact a married Republican congressman, and forwarded their exchange to the website Gawker. The news here is that Lee resigned in a matter of hours, with only a feeble attempt to avoid his fate. John Boehner, then minority leader, had reportedly given Lee a warning last year when the freshman was partying with comely lobbyists. Either Boehner, now speaker, told him he had used up his chances, or Lee knew that he would be so told. It is sad that pols succumb to folly, good that it be gotten off the table briskly.
Wisconsin has long been a citadel of organized labor, and is paying the price with a wobbly state economy and a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall over the next two years. Republicans won control of the legislature and the governorship in November’s elections, so the problem belongs to the new governor, Scott Walker, and the new Republican majority in the legislature. Republicans have brought forward a sensible proposal that would see government workers contributing more toward their own health-care and retirement costs — which is to say, it would treat government workers more like workers and less like entitled gentry collecting lifelong revenue from the peasantry. To get a feel for Governor Walker’s radicalism, note that his proposal calls for government workers to pay a grand total of 12.6 percent of their own insurance premiums. In exchange, he promises no furloughs or layoffs. Republicans have also proposed curtailing the collective-bargaining power of government unions other than those representing law enforcement and firefighters, limiting their bargaining authority to the issue of base pay and excluding the corollary issues of benefits and pensions, which threaten to bankrupt states across the fruited plain. Led by the AFL-CIO, the same unions protesting that their members cannot afford to contribute one penny more toward their own retirements are rallying to raise millions of dollars to fight these changes in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
New York City is a place where people visit their old neighborhood and complain that it has improved. Laments of this type over today’s “sterile” Times Square ring false for anyone who actually experienced the old, endlessly fermenting one; yet if you expunge every bit of raffishness from an urban environment, the result is Singapore. New York’s municipal busybodies have taken another step toward this goal by banning smoking in city-owned parks, beaches, and plazas — including Times Square. (A similar measure has been proposed in Boston, which, ever since it stopped banning racy books and plays, needs new ways to feed its addiction to Comstockery.) None of the usual arguments for smoking bans apply here; any amount a passer-by inhales will be trivial, and if someone is smoking near you, it’s easy to walk away. So let the tourists and hustlers light up! New York is a happy city when the biggest problem in Times Square is smoking, but an unhappy one when the government decides it must solve it.