Mike Bloomberg may want to sit down with Bob Filner and explain what ‘stop and frisk’ means.
According to conventional wisdom, the Gang of Eight immigration bill went from inevitable to dead in all of 60 seconds. Its prospects were exaggerated, though, as are current reports of its demise. While Speaker Boehner says the House won’t take the bill up, his caucus is divided on immigration and has yet to settle on a tack. We believe it should pass incremental reforms — enforcement measures, perhaps packaged with a carefully crafted version of the DREAM Act — but worry about what would happen in a conference committee with the Senate. The pressure to adopt a version of the Gang of Eight bill and then send it to the House to pass with the support of Democrats and some Republicans would be enormous. Boehner should make an ironclad assurance to his caucus never to go to conference. This pledge will enhance Boehner’s ability to pass incremental measures, since House conservatives won’t feel compelled to try to block them for fear of an eventual conference. More important, it will truly kill the Gang of Eight bill, which deserves a place in the congressional dustbin.
Edward Snowden, the world’s most famous fugitive interruptus, was still, as of this writing, bargaining for his future from the Moscow airport. Snowden is seeking asylum from that paragon of transparency, Vladimir Putin. Various Chavezite countries in Latin America have offered to take him in. Meanwhile the United States has revoked his passport and wants him returned to be prosecuted. His journalistic collaborator Glenn Greenwald says Snowden has a trove of documents describing “exactly how the NSA does what it does.” True, or bluff? Besides which, two more questions: How did a flighty creep like Snowden get to have access to such info? And do we conceal too much? Every war, including the war on terror, requires secret ops. How wide-ranging are our secrets? When we spy, when must it be secret that we do spy? A responsible Congress and a responsible executive should weigh these matters. In the meantime, keep him on the run.
Texas state senator Wendy Davis became a media star and a national hero to the Left for filibustering a bill to protect unborn children. Many states have been passing such laws. But her filibuster, combined with disorder created by a large group of her supporters, kept the legislature from passing the bill during its special session. It also got her in front of the likes of Anderson Cooper of CNN, who asked her such tough questions as, “What was it like standing for that long?” Governor Rick Perry promptly called another special session, which passed the bill. Abortion will now generally be banned after 20 weeks, and clinics will have to adhere to new safety standards. Davis’s allies say that the standards will close down all but five clinics in the state — we’ll believe that when we see it — and were designed solely for that purpose. Actually, the standards follow the recommendations of the Philadelphia grand jury that indicted Kermit Gosnell. During the special session, protesters on Davis’s side brought tampons and jars of excrement to make some sort of point. As though by instinct, they chose tactics perfectly suited to the ugliness of their cause.
For years he has been a lightning rod for liberal criticism: the archconservative governor of a deep red state, an evangelistic free marketeer, a man of vocal faith, a tea partier. But when his term ends in 2014, Rick Perry will step down as governor of Texas, leaving behind him a state that is the envy, at least economically, of most others in the union. Over his 13 years in office (the longest tenure of any Texas governor), Perry’s conservative policies have helped make Texas the nation’s second-fastest-growing economy (behind only North Dakota, which is in the midst of an unprecedented oil boom), with eight of the country’s 15 fastest-growing cities. Perry likes to point out that Texas has been responsible for a full third of the net jobs created in the entire country over the past ten years. Perry’s tort-reform victories, his pro-life advocacy, and his devotion to the Tenth Amendment will be part of a strong legacy, one that will overshadow memories of his disastrous presidential run. And his policies are not likely to fade if he is succeeded by his attorney general, Greg Abbott, as many expect.
As secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano has been the paradigmatic Obama appointee: a lawyer long on partisan politics, short on subject-matter expertise, and even shorter on effectiveness. After assuming control of the sprawling, largely redundant behemoth created in Washington’s post-9/11 frenzy to “do something,” she exhibited stunning ignorance about the law governing her department’s principal task, falsely claiming that it was not a crime to enter the U.S. illegally. Napolitano also consulted with Islamists in crafting a counterterrorism policy that denies the nexus between Islamic-supremacist ideology and violent jihad. Concurrently, DHS issued guidance instructing agents that terrorist “radicalization and recruitment” were likely products of “rightwing extremism” on the part of Christian sects, military veterans, pro–Second Amendment activists, and those opposed to illegal immigration or abortion. She departs to take over the University of California. Sadly, it seems an ideal match.
So determined are House Democrats to derail the investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea-party groups that they are now calling for an investigation of the investigator. Maryland representative Elijah Cummings is leading the charge, accusing the Treasury Department inspector general, whose May report found that the IRS had been inappropriately targeting conservative organizations, of concealing evidence that progressive groups were targeted and of misleading Congress on the matter. The congressman, who has called his committee’s investigation a Republican “witch hunt,” pointed to “Be On the Lookout” lists containing the terms “Progressive” and “Occupy.” It is Cummings, however, who is on a partisan expedition. Elizabeth Hofacre is the Cincinnati agent who led the group that Cummings claims pored over the applications of liberal groups. Yet she told congressional investigators that when she received them, “I just sent those back to the specialists or the general inventory.” “I was tasked with tea parties and overwhelmed with those,” she said, adding that she “never” processed an application from a left-leaning organization. House Republicans have acceded to Cummings’s demand and called the inspector general before the Oversight Committee to answer questions. If an investigation into his investigation ensues, it will be a scandal of a different kind.
Farm subsidies have long been packaged together with food stamps to form a bill that urban and rural legislators could all support. But after failing to pass such a bill in June, the House separated farming from food stamps, and now, for the first time since 1973, the House has the opportunity to consider food stamps on their own merits. A record 47 million Americans — one in seven — receive food stamps, at a cost to the federal government of $85 billion a year. House Republicans are trying to introduce a modest work requirement (like that added by the 1996 welfare-reform law to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program). They also want to change the rule that lets people qualify for food stamps when they have merely received a brochure from a welfare office. And they want more efforts to fight fraud. Outraged Democrats are accusing Republicans of snatching food from the hungry. Actually, they’re trying to help struggling Americans get back on their feet.
After Senate Democrats threatened to abolish the filibuster for executive-branch nominees, the parties reached a deal over the nominees Republicans had been blocking. Obama had made recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board even though the Senate was not, in fact, in recess. An appeals court ruled that the move was unconstitutional, which is why Republicans were refusing to confirm the nominees to full terms. As part of the deal, the administration will submit new nominees, as Senate Republicans have been urging. Other nominees — to the Consumer Financial Protection Board, the Labor Department, and the EPA — will go through without filibusters. We don’t know how much of a Republican concession their confirmations represent, since it is not clear that Republicans had the votes to filibuster them successfully. Harry Reid may try again to weaken the filibuster, and Republicans have not yet agreed on any credible retaliation they can threaten. Reid will be less of a nuisance if Republicans take the Senate in the next election.
Senators Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.) have introduced a bill that would make the two-headed monster that is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into a one-headed monster, on the theory that this will render it easier to decapitate. Senator Corker, to his credit, introduced a bill in the last Congress that would have ended these agencies’ public guarantee; to his colleagues’ discredit, it attracted very little support. Corker-Warner has been put forward as a second-best measure. Eight years into the one-headed monster’s life, Congress would be able to decide whether the corporation should be maintained as is or dissolved. This reform would make some progress, but not enough, in ensuring that government support of homeownership doesn’t encourage risky lending and financial instability. The problem with reforming Fannie and Freddie is that when the economy is down, politicians are rightly reluctant to undermine the housing industry, but when the outlook is improving, the agencies generate substantial federal revenue, as they are doing right now. Given that Congress has failed to make any serious move toward reforming Fannie and Freddie, and given that Senator Corker’s earlier efforts to simply end the public guarantee went nowhere, this plan may be the best of the politically plausible options at hand. Properly understood as a transition to a fully private system of mortgage insurance, Corker-Warner represents a step in the right direction. But it is not and cannot be the last step.
The Mean Reaction
If you ask the average person what the most deservedly maligned attitude is, “hate” would almost certainly come out on top of the list. The funny thing is, people don’t really hate hate. In fact, if they did hate hate, wouldn’t that make them hypocrites? We use “hate” as a deliberate misnomer for bigotry, be it real, imagined, or contrived. If I were to declare, “I hate racism,” few of the usual suspects would say to me: “Don’t be a hater.”
Besides, hatred is really popular in America, because Americans love passion. And hatred is an essential part of the anatomy of passion. The sincere lover of the poor hates poverty. The committed lover of animals no doubt hates animal cruelty. Hatred is particularly popular among young people, which should not surprise anyone, since the principal currency of youth is passion and commitment.
“I have seen young people, and older people too, who are good democratic liberals, lovers of peace and gentleness, struck dumb with admiration for individuals threatening or using the most terrible violence for the slightest and tawdriest reasons,” Allan Bloom wrote in The Closing of the American Mind. Why? Because, according to Bloom, “they have a sneaking suspicion that they are face to face with men of real commitment, which they themselves lack. And commitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts.”
Which brings me to my contender for the most unfairly maligned emotional state: apathy. It gets all the grief hate does, but none of the respect. No one says of the apathetic, “At least he cares” — because the whole point of being apathetic is that you don’t, in fact, care. Worse, more often than not, the people raging against apathy are actually enraged by disagreement with their position. Not one college president, provost, or professor in a thousand who routinely rages against apathy would be delighted to discover his students had, en masse, been converted into passionate Republicans. The real agenda behind jeremiads against hate and apathy alike is conformity. Most of the kids who are labeled apathetic are actually quite passionate, just about the wrong things.
If I don’t care about global warming, my true transgression isn’t apathy, it’s failure to lend support to one side of the argument. As I say in Liberal Fascism, the most fascistic thing said every day on college campuses is “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
What brings all this to mind is that I never much cared about the George Zimmerman trial. I felt real and sincere sympathy for Trayvon Martin’s parents. I disapproved of Zimmerman’s decisions, but didn’t think they were murderous, and certainly didn’t think they were provably so. Racism never seemed like a relevant issue to me, and the effort to coin a new label, “white Hispanic,” in order to make it one seemed truly pathetic. And so I didn’t care about this story any more than I care about the countless other tragedies that dash across the headlines and the screens in a given day. Moreover, I resented efforts by the media to make me care more than the facts warranted.
Does that make me apathetic? Hardly. Does it make me a hater? I don’t think so. It makes me noncompliant, which is the only true sin under liberalism.
Four years ago, when the Obamans were ascendant and Democrats ruled both congressional chambers, Republicans were weary and searching for champions. In November 2009, they found two: Bob McDonnell won a gubernatorial race in Virginia and Chris Christie did the same in New Jersey — both states Obama had carried. McDonnell quickly became one of the most popular governors in the country. He had sky-high approval ratings, a booming state economy, and the respect of Beltway insiders, who touted him as a future presidential contender. But McDonnell is now embroiled in a troubling scandal, and there is talk in Richmond that he may resign. According to the Washington Post, McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, accepted more than $120,000 in unreported gifts from Johnnie Williams, an executive at a dietary-supplement company. Williams even helped pay for McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding. McDonnell later paid back his friend’s generosity by opening the governor’s mansion to him to tout his products, which have debatable medical benefits; Mrs. McDonnell flew to Florida to serve as a saleswoman of sorts for Williams’s “naturally occurring alkaloids.” McDonnell has denied any wrongdoing, but a federal grand jury is investigating the relationship. Behind the scenes, Virginia Republicans, who hope to keep the governorship in November’s election, say he may step down. Regardless, his national political career is finished. These days, the square-jawed McDonnell, who not so long ago lifted the spirits of his party, is hiring lawyers, not strategists.
We struggle not to choke on the words “Michael Bloomberg is right,” but right is what the New York mayor is in the kerfuffle over the city’s stop-and-frisk program. The police tactic is controversial because most of those stopped (87 percent) are black or Latino. That is less surprising than it may sound: Most New Yorkers are black or Latino. Moreover, it is unsurprising that these minorities are stopped at rates higher than would be expected if the program were random; it is administered most robustly in high-crime areas, which are disproportionately black and Latino. Noting this, Bloomberg argued that the cops might be stopping those races too infrequently: More than 90 percent of those sought in NYPD murder cases are described as black or Latino. Democrats vying to succeed the mayor have variously described his remarks as “outrageous” (Bill de Blasio) and “incredibly insulting” (Bill Thompson). Yet there is little or no evidence that the police have been unprofessional or ill intentioned in their execution of stop-and-frisk, and there is ample evidence that it has made a real impact on crime. If the last testament of Bloombergism is a Central Park that you may not smoke in but can walk through safely, that is not the worst possible outcome. Within living memory, New York City had over 2,200 murders a year, and vast stretches of the city were unlivable. If the mayor’s critics have their way, Big Gulps may be the smallest of New York’s worries.
Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace as governor of New York when it was revealed that he regularly used prostitutes, is running for comptroller of New York City. How many ways is this wrong? Prostitution is a debasing traffic that stunts its clients and degrades its purveyors. Spitzer was a hypocrite since, as attorney general of New York, he had prosecuted prostitution rings. He makes a fool of his wife, Silda, who, like Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin, stands by her man. He makes a travesty of the concept of regret: Spitzer did penance for his misdeeds by hosting TV talk shows. Like Anthony Weiner, Spitzer is a damaged being, a Brobdingnagian ego attached to a fetal personality without conscience, emotion, or depth. Spitzer’s fall was so precipitous because none of his fellow politicians would stick up for him: Even they could not stand his ill-tempered arrogance. Just the man we should want in government.
Bob Filner is mayor of San Diego. A Democrat, and a former congressman, he is what the Associated Press describes as a “feisty liberal.” One of the things he has been doing feistily is harassing women. At this writing, his job is in jeopardy. In order to save that job, he made a statement that is a classic of the genre. He was “humbled to admit that I need help.” He had “begun to work with professionals to make changes in my behavior and approach.” Moreover, “my staff and I will participate in sexual-harassment training provided by the city.” Why should the staff be dragged into this? In a crowning sentence, Filner said, “If my behavior doesn’t change, I cannot succeed in leading our city.” First, San Diegans should be a self-governing people, going about their lives without need of a Dear Leader. Second, is there no one else in San Diego who can be mayor? Bob Filner is not indispensable. By all appearances, he’s just creepy.
Hundreds of thousands of people, in their homes and in all sorts of health-care facilities, across the country and across the globe, are surviving on nasogastric feeding tubes. But that fact seems to have escaped Capitol Hill legislators, myriad human-rights organizations, and celebrities who are calling on the Obama administration to stop force-feeding 45 Guantanamo Bay detainees who are conducting a hunger strike. The five-month strike, reportedly a response to guards’ allegedly mishandling detainees’ Korans during a routine cell search, has garnered international attention, particularly in the wake of President Obama’s recent promise to shut down the facility. We’re sure the activists would be quite pleased if we just let the detainees starve to death.
For many years now, Walmart has been a bogeyman of the Left. The company employs millions, and offers good products at low prices to many millions more — but the very name “Walmart” is still anathema to some. There are people who would rather there were no jobs, and no products, than that Walmart existed. Take the District of Columbia. Its city council has essentially voted to keep Walmart out of D.C. The company had wanted to open six stores — including in “underserved” areas. It promised to fund transportation projects, create a job-training program, and so on. But the city council said, “Your minimum wage must be $12.50” — 50 percent higher than the District’s regular minimum wage. In the District, unemployment among blacks is 20.3 percent. Among black teenagers it is 37.8 percent. Among black male teenagers it is 43.3 percent. At least they won’t have to suffer the ignominy of working at Walmart. Nor will the “underserved” have to suffer the ignominy of shopping there. Mona Charen pointed out the worst part of this whole anti-Walmart effort: Its leading group calls itself “Respect DC.”
The Egyptian military’s overthrow of the elected but lawless Muslim Brotherhood government in early July seems to have been a marginal improvement, and the Obama administration has recognized it as such, providing the strongest support by its reticence: It hasn’t called the coup a coup. By law the U.S. is not supposed to provide foreign assistance to a country where the military has seized power; aid to Egypt would have to be frozen and cooperative military programs and equipment sales ceased. Our support for the military is a lever we would temporarily lose and permanently weaken if we cut off all support until elections occurred and aid could legally resume. The military is crucial to maintaining free passage through the Suez Canal and, via the Camp David accords, the safety of Israel and the security of Sinai. Further, it stepped in at a crucial point, when the despotism and abject mismanagement of the Muslim Brotherhood had driven millions of Egyptians into the streets to demand a new government. The right course is for the State Department to take some time to make its decision, monitoring the military government’s deportment. Eventually, Congress should grant a waiver to the pertinent law and provide aid even after the coup, contingent on the military’s progress toward establishing a constitution that protects minority rights and freedom of speech and conscience.
Christianity in the Middle East is under threat as never before. The fate of François Murad is a sinister omen. A Syrian Franciscan aged 49, he was in the monastery of St. Anthony of Padua in Ghassanieh, a Christian village in northern Syria. Islamists thought to be from the extremist group Jabhat al-Nusra broke into the monastery to loot it, and shot Father Murad dead. A memorial Mass was held for him in Rome, and another Syrian Franciscan, Father Ibrahim Alsabagh, spoke there about his colleague and friend, singling out that he had been gentle and docile. Franciscans of the Holy Land, he said, are always called to testify to their faith: The death of Father Murad “made me realize how close martyrdom is.” This has not stopped him from returning to a Franciscan monastery in Damascus in order, as this moving witness of his faith puts it, “to be with my brothers and to live the testimony.”
There are no words adequate to the horrific attack on a group of schoolchildren in Nigeria carried out by the jihadist Boko Haram outfit — a partner to the Algeria-based al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — which claimed the lives of about 40 children and teachers in early July. The jihadists set fire to the school and then shot children as they tried to escape; many were burned alive. It was the third attack by the group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” on a school this summer. Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, released a video after the attacks promising that they would continue. “We are going to burn down the schools if they are not Islamic religious schools for Allah,” he warned. “The Koran teaches that we must shun democracy, we must shun Western education, we must shun the constitution.” President Bush was relentlessly mocked for saying, of al-Qaeda et al., “They hate our freedoms.” But he was right.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving bomber of the Boston Marathon, appeared in court to be charged, and he was greeted by supporters and fans. They may be classified as dumb, mad, and besotted. The dumb ones assert there is no evidence of his guilt (except video footage of Dzhokhar and his brother, backpacked at the scene of the crime; except Dzhokhar’s message in the boat that was his last hiding place, “When you attack one Muslim you attack all Muslims”). The mad go even further, arguing in the manner of 9/11 truthers that the bombing was an inside job. The besotted are hot for the little terrorist (Dzhokhar does look like the young Bob Dylan, if the young Bob Dylan had been good-looking). In a country of 300 million there will be many thousands who are self-hating or incapable of rational thought. High-profile crimes bring them out like worms after a thunderstorm.
While nobody much was looking, there was a coup in Qatar, one of the tiny sheikhdoms in the Gulf, population just 250,000. It’s the property of the al-Thani family, and they want to keep it that way. The 33-year-old Tamim al-Thani replaces his father, Hamad al-Thani, who 18 years ago had replaced his father. That’s how they do things there these days: behind the palace doors and no violence. It matters because Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, and uses its money to gain disproportionate influence, or (as some of the neighbors think) make inter-Arab mischief. Sunnis themselves, the al-Thanis are nonetheless stepping on Saudi toes by subsidizing the wrong sort of Islamists in Syria, and upsetting secular or liberal elements by subsidizing the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. The al-Thani family exclusively owns Al Jazeera, banned in some Arab countries, popular and opinion-forming in others. The U.S. maintains a huge military base in the sheikhdom, so some anti-Americanism is obligatory, pro forma. In common with new absolute rulers elsewhere, the new Sheikh Tamim has been greeted as a reformer with an interest in constitutionalism. More likely is that he’ll try to emulate his father’s craftiness in playing both sides of every street.
While Europe suffers a harsh demographic winter bearing down on the economies of nations with aging populations, the United States merely copes with an autumn chill — but it’s not getting any warmer here either, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control. The U.S. birth rate in 2011, 1.89 lifetime births per female, was the lowest since reliable records began to be kept in 1920. One reason for the decline is that people are less likely to have children during periods of economic downturn and uncertainty such as we’ve lived through for the past five years. But U.S. birth rates have been below replacement level since 1971. Our failure to supply, in adequate numbers, a generation to support us in old age and to continue to be productive when we’re gone greatly darkens long-term economic forecasts and our general outlook on the future. Raising the child tax credit might not raise the birth rate much, but it would be helpful if only for its symbolic value. Government can do little to encourage people to have children. It can do a lot, though, to stop discouraging them.
A magician who uses a rabbit in his act got an eight-page letter from the USDA (with the folksy salutation “Dear Members of Our Regulated Community”) demanding, as the magician told blogger Bob McCarty, “a written disaster plan, detailing all the steps I would take to help get my rabbit through a disaster, such as a tornado, fire, flood, etc. . . . [and] what I will do after the disaster, to make sure my rabbit gets cared for properly.” It turns out the USDA has a full-time “rabbit police” division, with licenses and inspectors and rules governing work hours for animal performers. There’s no insurance mandate yet, but they’re probably working on one.
We mentioned here previously Jared Marcum, the West Virginia eighth-grader facing a $500 fine or up to a year in jail for “obstructing a police officer” after refusing to take off a T-shirt bearing the NRA’s logo and a hunting rifle. Late last month, the judge dropped the charges against Jared, in what the young man’s attorney, Ben White, called “a victory for common sense.” Indeed. But while Jared is free to enjoy his summer, Justin Carter, the 19-year-old Texan jailed since March for joking in an online video game about shooting up a school, still faces charges of making “terroristic threats.” In a bit of good news, though, he is finally out from behind bars: In mid July an “anonymous good Samaritan” paid Justin’s staggering $500,000 bail. Taking these two cases together, that’s a victory and a half for common sense.
Doris Kearns Goodwin has had a checkered career — marred by plagiarism, brightened by an insightful book on the Lincoln administration, Team of Rivals. Her address at Gettysburg, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the battle, fell on the minus side of the ledger. She rambled about presidents she had known, and made a pitch for gay marriage, linking Selma with Stonewall, and both with the Civil War. Selma, yes; Stonewall, huh? Abraham Lincoln’s call for “a new birth of freedom” in the Gettysburg Address has been used by liberals to justify every project du jour. Lincoln was a radical in the lengths to which he would go to defend his principles; a conservative in the care with which he chose them. They were, he argued, the principles of the American Revolution (the “definitions and axioms of free society,” as he put it on another occasion). If Americans wish to change the institution of marriage, that is because they wish to do it, not because the Founders, or Lincoln — or the men who died at Gettysburg — would have it.
Orson Scott Card’s 1985 science-fiction novel Ender’s Game depicts a young earthling, Andrew Ender Wiggin, battling a race of aliens known as the Formics. This fall Lionsgate will release a movie version, with Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford, which is battling a boycott campaign by gay groups. Card, it turns out, has been critical of same-sex marriage. Lionsgate is sticking by its movie, but has declared that it is a “proud longtime supporter . . . of the LGBT community” (if they hadn’t already finished the picture, they would have dropped Card like a hot rock). It’s a free country, and anyone can boycott anyone he likes. But observe the vectors: Gays and their allies will not rest until opponents of gay marriage are treated like Mennonites — tolerated oddball fanatics. Coming soon, to a life near yours.
Since 1979, Henry Doctor, also known as the Phantom Planter, has secretly planted over 40,000 unauthorized flowers in public places worldwide, and until recently he had never run into problems. Doctor thought the Dupont Circle metro station in Washington, D.C., which had 176 empty flower boxes lining the escalators, could use some flowers. Last October, he planted 150 daffodils and tulips in the flower boxes, while removing cigarette butts, trash, and weeds, without Metro’s even noticing. In June, Doctor covertly planted 1,000 morning glories and several other plants, which would bloom from August to October in beautiful, patriotic colors of red, white, and blue. Fearing that Metro would think the flowers were weeds and pull them out, Doctor sent a letter to Metro confessing his crime and offered to work for $1 per year so he could continue to care for the plants. That was the wrong move. Metro immediately issued a “cease and desist” order with a threat of imprisonment and fines if he came anywhere near the flowers. It sent workers to the station and tore up all the flowers. Even Mao said to let 100 flowers bloom.
“I know there’s a lot of controversy about whether guys over 13 years old should bring a mitt to the game,” Gregory Van Niel said afterward, but he and every baseball fan capable of enjoying his feat vicariously would say he made the right decision. With the glove he carried to Progressive Field in Cleveland on a Sunday afternoon in mid July, he caught four foul balls, which may be a record. He questions reports that the odds were one in a trillion, noting that the attendance, 15,432, was fairly light, reducing his competition, and that section 160, where he sat, on the third-base side of home plate, is a sweet spot for foul balls off right-handed hitters. He gave one ball each to his daughter and his two nephews, who were with him, and the fourth ball he tossed to his neighbors in the stands, balancing his boyish exploits at the ballpark with those fine fatherly gestures. The Indians won, 6–4.
Soledad O’Brien recently left her post at CNN to join Al Jazeera America, a new English-language affiliate of the Qatari-owned broadcaster that will focus on the United States. O’Brien made her name at CNN by sparring with politicians and their surrogates, especially those of the McCain and Romney campaigns. She enjoyed doing so under the mantle of “keeping them honest,” despite her obvious penchant for relying on dubious Democratic talking points. John Sununu suggested during the 2012 campaign that she ought to “put an Obama bumper sticker on her forehead” to reveal that her work was an aggressive defense of the campaign. Perhaps her move to a self-consciously “progressive,” Global South–oriented (read: anti-American) network will mean she admits her biases a bit more openly. Though “Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani” probably wouldn’t fit on a bumper sticker.
The history of the Founding period has been well taught and well studied in American universities for the last four decades, thanks in great part to Edmund S. Morgan. Morgan began as a student of the Puritans but shifted his attention to the American Revolution. He and his peers — Douglass Adair, Bernard Bailyn — overturned the debunking economic determinism of Charles Beard (which survives in the pop history of Howard Zinn) and turned their attention to what 18th-century Americans were saying and thinking. In his nineties, Morgan summarized his credo thus: “The American Revolution was really what the revolutionaries said it was” — a struggle for and about liberty. Thus a generation of scholars was spared the storms of Marxism and cultural studies that flattened so much of the humanities. Morgan has died, age 97. The academy and the nation are in his debt. R.I.P.
Duty and Spectacle
The George Zimmerman case was a wretched spectacle from the beginning, but for this we are glad: People in America are still tried in the courts rather than by left-wing protesters or by the media. To their credit, the jurors appear to have decided the case strictly on the facts, which gave them no choice other than to acquit Zimmerman, despite the long campaign of defamation against him outside the courtroom.
You don’t have to endorse Zimmerman’s poor judgment that night to realize that he didn’t commit a crime and isn’t a bullying white racist circa 1955. He isn’t even white, so the media had to resort to the “white Hispanic” label to save their racial storyline. If Zimmerman had set out to assassinate Trayvon Martin, he never would have called the police to alert them to Martin’s whereabouts.
This call is the act of so-called profiling that is supposed to prove Zimmerman’s dark, racist motivation. But he may have singled out Martin for his youth, his dress, or his behavior; he might have been just as suspicious of a white teenager dressed and acting the same way. (Zimmerman told the police on the call that Martin seemed like he was “up to no good.”) He didn’t volunteer Martin’s race, but in response to the operator’s question said that he “looks black.”
What ensued was a tragedy that would have been avoided had Zimmerman never fastened on Martin and never gotten out of his car to trail him. What Zimmerman’s haters never acknowledge is that it also would have been avoided had Martin never, as the evidence indicates, hit Zimmerman. It was a prosecution eyewitness who said that he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman beating him “ground-and-pound” style.
This made the case a simple matter of self-defense, which is what police initially concluded when they declined to arrest Zimmerman. After an enormous firestorm and campaign of race-hustling political intimidation — loosely joined by President Obama when he said that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon — authorities charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder. With this, they lashed themselves to the most malign interpretation of Zimmerman’s intent from MSNBC and the left-wing blogs. They never came close to proving their case and, in desperation at the end of the trial, tried to get the judge to allow the jury to consider a child-abuse charge (the jury was allowed to consider manslaughter).
Now that the jury has rendered the only verdict it reasonably could, the same characters who have spent more than a year smearing Zimmerman are indicting the American justice system. The NAACP and Al Sharpton want the feds to pursue Zimmerman on civil-rights charges; Eric Holder says he is considering it. Jesse Jackson wants the U.N. Human Rights Council to take up the matter. A focus of particular ire is Florida’s “stand your ground” law, even though Zimmerman’s lawyers didn’t invoke that law and instead made a strict self-defense argument.
We wish the purveyors of perpetual outrage would pause from saying stupid and inflammatory things about the Zimmerman case long enough to consider how wrong they were about it all along. But we are realists.
Delay and Dismantle
Defenders of Obamacare have taken to complaining about Republican “sabotage” of the program, and of good governance generally. The program’s apparent flaws are, they would have you believe, the result of Republican obstruction. It would be working just fine if only all of us had unified behind its greatness.
This excuse-making has intensified since the Obama administration announced, first, that it would delay the law’s employer mandate — the fine on companies that do not provide health insurance — for a year, and second, that it would take applicants’ say-so on whether they qualify to get insurance from the law’s subsidized exchanges. Yet these delays were plainly the result of the administration’s own difficulty in implementing the law and its fear that doing so would yield disappointing results. The only subversion of the law has been undertaken by the administration itself, which does not at first glance have the authority to get rid of the inconvenient portions of its favorite legislation.
The delay of the employer mandate gives Republicans an opportunity to advance the day that Obamacare is repealed.
House Republicans should, as they are considering, call two successive votes, to put the employer-mandate delay into law and then to delay the individual mandate as well. Democrats will be unlikely to break with the administration on the first vote, and, having voted to delay a mandate on businesses, they will find themselves hard-pressed to explain why they did not support one for individuals and families. If, on the other hand, they vote to delay the individual mandate, they will be showing that there is substantial bipartisan opposition to major features of Obamacare. From there, House Republicans can move on to voting for a delay of the entire law. For Republicans, it’s all upside — so long as they make it clear that these votes are a way of pursuing the replacement of Obamacare and not a substitute for it.
Some Republicans may be tempted to think that instead the entire law should be implemented on schedule, on the theory that voters will feel the pain and move right. But Obamacare is not going to be implemented on schedule: It is going to be implemented however the administration believes will be most advantageous to its goals, regardless of the letter of the law. And Republicans’ goal should be to keep the country from suffering through Obamacare, not to exploit the suffering.
House Republicans have rightly voted on multiple occasions to register their opposition to Obamacare and their support for its repeal, but votes for repeal cannot be the only tactic they employ in pursuit of the goal. The administration’s move shows that the law is running into serious difficulties, that its difficulties are not the result of Republican obstruction, and that even Democrats do not treat it as a fait accompli. Republicans have a chance to weaken the political coalition behind Obamacare while highlighting some of its most obnoxious provisions.