Detroit is dead and al-Qaeda is alive.
A group of conservative senators, most prominently including Ted Cruz, hopes to defund Obamacare by forcing a government-shutdown fight over a so-called continuing resolution this fall. They always explain (accurately enough) the imperative of defunding Obamacare, but never get around to explaining how their tactic would actually accomplish it. The public would have to blame President Obama and Democrats for any shutdown so overwhelmingly that they would buckle and abandon their most cherished legislative achievement. This is unlikely to happen, especially since some Republicans are already on record saying that they themselves are the ones who want to force the shutdown. We look forward to the day that Obamacare is defunded (and entirely repealed, for that matter), but a shutdown confrontation is not a magic bullet, or even a plausible weapon.
The United States closed 19 embassies and consulates in Africa and the Middle East for a week in response to threats of an al-Qaeda strike, and the impulse to contemn is understandable. Obama’s claim to have decimated al-Qaeda’s core leadership looks fatuous (unless he was using “decimated” in its correct sense — reduced by one in ten, not wiped out). The closings seem to be a tacit admission that security at Benghazi was bungled (there has been no other sort of admission). In the dark early days of World War II, Churchill instructed British embassies in neutral countries to show high spirits and bright lights — all very stirring. But the Nazis, though worse than al-Qaeda, were not terrorists in the same way. The administration was right to show reasonable caution. Meanwhile, on to the next decile.
On November 5, 2009, Major Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 adults and an unborn child, wounding 32 others. In carnage, the Fort Hood rampage is surpassed only by 9/11 among Islamic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, with twice as many Americans killed as in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Yet, in the spectacle that is the ongoing court-martial, which took longer to convene than it took for the U.S. to defeat imperial Japan, the defendant is the only participant willing to say what Hasan is: an anti-American jihadist. Hasan, who carried a “Soldier of Allah” business card, consulted frequently with al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki. He screamed “Allahu Akbar” as he mowed down U.S. soldiers, and started the trial by telling the jury, “The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter.” For government officials and the media, though, “Allahu Akbar” is — as Mark Steyn has observed — Arabic for “Nothing to see here.”
Another entry from the annals of ad-hocracy: The federal government has conjured into existence a new health-care subsidy for congressional staffers, who are wailing about being forced into Obamacare exchanges and losing their cherished federal benefits. The Office of Personnel Management has ruled — on no obvious legal authority — that the 75 percent insurance-premium subsidies Hill staffers currently enjoy will be paid out through the exchanges. This is probably illegal: OPM is authorized to make payments only for services that are contracted through it. Insurance plans bought through the exchanges would not meet that criterion, and there is no guarantee that they would meet OPM contracting requirements. Meanwhile, the union bosses who put Barack Obama in the White House are looking for a way out of Obamacare, and in an especially vexing development, the union that represents IRS employees — the very people who will be seizing your assets if you refuse to comply with the Obamacare mandate — have made it known that its members want a waiver for themselves. That employees of the government should be allowed to abide by one set of rules while everyone else is remanded to another, more stringent set of rules is incompatible with self-government in a democratic republic under the Constitution — as is Obamacare itself.
The “phony scandal” at the Internal Revenue Service continues to grow. E-mails unearthed by congressional investigators now suggest that, even before the IRS began targeting tea-party groups, at least one agency official was colluding with the Federal Election Commission to discriminate against conservative organizations. The 2009 correspondence was made public by Republican congressman Dave Camp (Mich.), and shows an FEC investigator asking former IRS official Lois Lerner for information about two conservative groups. On a previous occasion, Lerner appears to have been quite useful: The investigator wrote to Lerner, “When we spoke last July, you had told us that the American Future Fund had not received an exemption letter from the IRS.” An IRS agent tells our Eliana Johnson that disclosing that information is, within the agency, considered a violation of federal law. The latest disclosures show that the targeting dates back at least to July 2008, before President Obama took office. Investigators may yet discover a White House link to the scandal; right now, we know with certainty that a bias against conservatives is an endemic feature of the federal bureaucracy.
At an American Bar Association meeting in August, Attorney General Eric Holder proposed that federal prosecutors stop charging nonviolent drug offenders who lack connections to more serious wrongdoing with crimes that will incur mandatory minimum sentences. NR has long been a skeptic of the federal war on drugs, and the practical consequences of such a (relatively minor, since such prosecutions are rare) policy shift are therefore welcome. But this is yet another example of this administration’s misuse of prosecutorial discretion, as the new guidelines effectively repeal, in a certain set of cases, the mandatory minima passed by Congress. Such policies, as well as much else about the federal government’s role in drug-law enforcement, should certainly be reexamined, but by the legislature, not the executive. In his proposal — and in his support for other criminal-justice reform efforts undertaken by Republican governors in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, and Texas — Holder is on the right track. If only he understood how lawmaking is supposed to work in our republic.
On C-SPAN in early August, Vermont senator Patrick Leahy (D.) chastised New York mayor Michael Bloomberg for his gun-control advocacy. Bloomberg’s group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, complained Leahy, has been more of a hindrance than a help. The outfit’s involvement not only contributed to the demise of the Toomey-Manchin bill, it also made it unlikely that any new legislation will pass. “Unfortunately,” he explained, “you have some on the left, like the mayor of New York City, who actually didn’t help a bit with his ads. He actually turned off some people that we might have gotten for supporters.” Mayors Against Illegal Guns has not quite been the knight in shining armor that many on the left hoped it would be. Fifty mayors have left the group since February, many of them explaining bluntly that they had discovered since joining that it was full of extremists hiding in the soft cloth of moderation. Who knew?
In a recent interview, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) was asked whom he would like to be the chairman of the Federal Reserve. One of his ideal candidates was Milton Friedman. This was odd, since Friedman had views counter to Paul’s on monetary policy. Paul later argued, in a piece on National Review Online, that he believes Friedman was “famous for monetary restraint,” so he’d oppose the Federal Reserve’s current expansion of the monetary base. In fact, Friedman was an advocate of consistent growth in the money supply, which would sometimes require expansionary policies. His most famous work on monetary policy, which contained some of the most important macroeconomic insights of the 20th century, blamed the Great Depression on the Federal Reserve — for its inaction and overly restrained policies. Senator Paul either misunderstands Friedman’s lessons or knows nothing about them.
An implicit message of Paul’s inchoate presidential campaign is that he has his father’s principles without his baggage. The revelation that Jack Hunter, the co-author of his book and his social-media director, had a prior career as a pro-Confederate radio host (“the Southern Avenger”) called that into question, given Ron Paul’s long association with kooky apologists for the Confederacy. Hunter has resigned, and we hope Senator Paul will steer clear of his ilk forevermore.
In a particularly ludicrous rhetorical gambit, President Obama has attempted to pooh-pooh the economic importance of the Keystone pipeline project, saying that it will create only about 50 permanent jobs. That’s 50 more than can be attributed to the president’s feckless jobs czars, but that figure is dishonest. Much of the economic impact of Keystone will be in construction work, and those jobs are “temporary” inasmuch as construction projects end — at least those not managed by government agencies. By President Obama’s standard, practically every construction worker in the country — and every contractor of any sort — is a temp, which obviously is not the case. The energy industry does not just “create jobs,” in the unfortunate Washingtonian phrase; it puts people to work producing real goods, such as natural gas, and real services, such as the engineering and construction work related to extraction. Unlike the president’s fanciful forays into solar power and Terry McAuliffe’s phantom car company, natural gas is a real business, one that makes the country, on net, better off than it was before.
According to a recent federal audit, student loans, of which there are $1.2 trillion worth outstanding, are in serious trouble: One-third of them are either behind in repayment or in outright default. On top of that, some 1.6 million borrowers have enrolled in the federal government’s stealth bailout, which caps payments and forgives unpaid debt under certain conditions. For perspective, those student loans exceed all outstanding credit-card debt, and the total amount of student-loan debt has doubled since Barack Obama became president. The Pew Research Center finds far-reaching consequences resulting from the nearly $35,000 in student-loan debt the typical college graduate acquires: defaulting on or delaying repayment of other debts, delaying the purchase of a home or being unable to buy one at all, and putting off marriage and children. Many acquire the debt but not the degree, and many more acquire the degree but no useful skills or worthy knowledge. Student loans are in the main a racket, the Democrat-dominated education establishment’s version of the used-car salesman’s buy-now-pay-later pitch. Reform is in order, but asking Congress to do something about irresponsible borrowing is difficult to do without laughing and crying at the same time.
The federal government’s Lifeline program is supposed to provide subsidized phone service to the truly needy. The program’s costs rose to $2.189 billion in 2012 — a 166 percent increase in the past five years. Much of that is fraud and abuse, as we recently discovered firsthand. NRO reporter Jillian Kay Melchior visited many of New York City’s welfare offices in pursuit of Lifeline phones. Her income is reasonably high, and she doesn’t receive welfare, rendering her ineligible. She truthfully answered questions asked by wireless-company reps. And in the end, she received three subsidized phones in the mail, even though the Lifeline program allows only one mobile per qualifying household. Lifeline is fatally flawed, in part because big wireless providers that participate have perverse incentives to pass out as many subsidized phones as possible. If you doubt it, give Melchior a call — on any of her government phones.
It’s Always 1963
At the 2012 Democratic Convention, Representative John Lewis (Ga.), a heroic veteran of the civil-rights movement, gave a stirring speech. He recounted the story of how a man from Rock Hill, S.C., came to his office on Capitol Hill and said, “I am one of the people who beat you. I want to apologize. Will you forgive me?” Lewis responded, “I accept your apology.” He recounts what happened next: “He started crying. He gave me a hug. I hugged him back, and we both started crying. This man and I don’t want to go back; we want to move forward.”
Lewis used this emotional tale as an extended theme for his remarks. The Republicans want to “go back” to the world of Jim Crow. The proof? Voter-ID laws and the like. It wasn’t subtle. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t remotely accurate. The mainstream press didn’t care, but if you find that shocking you probably picked up this magazine by accident at your dentist’s office.
Also, it was hardly unique. Countless speakers at the convention played similar rhetorical games, about not just race but gender too. From Sandra Fluke in primetime to obscure feminist activists in the 2 p.m. slot, the Democrats assiduously pounded the table with vows that they would not surrender to the Republican war on women.
Meanwhile, at the Republican convention, an objective observer would have had a hard time finding any evidence that the GOP was hostile to minorities. That’s probably why so many commentators had to use their imagination, as when MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell insisted that Senator Mitch McConnell’s joke about Barack Obama’s playing too much golf was in fact a nakedly racist effort to link the president’s lifestyle with famed dark-skinned sex addict Tiger Woods. As for the Republican war on women, even O’Donnell found it hard to find misogynist bellicosity in Ann Romney’s primetime declaration of “I love you, women!”
What’s the point of this trip down memory lane? Simply this: For all of the talk about how the GOP is racially polarizing, the simple, obvious fact is that it is the Democrats who are cavalierly and cynically fueling and then exploiting racial divisions.
In an excellent post for his moonlighting gig at the New York Times, National Review film critic Ross Douthat notes that the rationale for the Obama coalition in 2012 was to forgo trying to win over working-class whites, as the Clinton machine had, and instead simply limit their losses in that demographic while running up huge totals elsewhere. They’ve opted for what Douthat and others ironically call “positive polarization.” The key to the strategy is to try to convince upscale educated whites that the GOP is the racist and sexist party.
Not surprisingly, the mainstream press makes up the core of that constituency; which is why, in discussions of immigration, gun control, etc., so many leading white liberal pundits glibly and uncritically accept the notion that a GOP strategy of winning over working-class whites is racist. Funny how trying to attract precisely the voters who made up the core of the Democratic party under FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton is now cynical and racist.
I don’t want to go back to Jim Crow any more than John Lewis does. But I’ll be damned if I will let the Democrats be the guides on how to avoid going down that path.
The news that NBC is planning a Hillary Clinton miniseries, and CNN a Hillary Clinton documentary, brought a threat from RNC chairman Reince Priebus to boycott debates conducted by shills for Democratic candidates. NBC News political director Chuck Todd called the miniseries a “total nightmare,” hoping to distinguish between the network’s news and entertainment divisions. Then came a report that the miniseries might be produced by Fox’s entertainment division, which caught Priebus off balance. The Hillary-fest seemed like a good hook for a legitimate gripe, but it is too small. The problem with the debates is that the networks have too much say over them, and that network news and entertainment divisions are equally liberal (except at Fox). The GOP should have been demanding a more seemly process long ago. Suggestion: The parties agree on their own rules and their own moderators, and let whoever will film the debates (C-SPAN would, if no one else).
Tom Cotton has announced that he will challenge incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor for his Senate seat from Arkansas in next year’s midterm election. Pryor, who provided a key swing vote for Obamacare, is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country. A farm boy from Yell County, Cotton emerged on the national stage in 2006 as the author of a scathing letter to the New York Times criticizing the paper’s exposure of the Bush administration’s top-secret program intended to cut off terrorist financing — a letter that was published not by the Times, but by the conservative blog Powerline. Some on the left immediately questioned his existence, refusing to believe a Harvard-educated lawyer was serving as an infantry officer in Iraq. Unfortunately for Democrats, Cotton has proved not only real, but a real political threat. He was elected to Congress last year after serving a second tour of duty — this one in Afghanistan — and has in his short time in office become a leading conservative in the House. May he do the same in the Senate.
Cory Booker is a man with a stellar reputation and an empty record — another of this generation’s Rorschach tests onto whom the hopes and desires of young people are projected. It should go without saying, then, that the discovery that Booker had been receiving “confidential” payouts from his old law firm while mayor of Newark is no help to his image as an incorruptible man of the people. Booker, the New York Post reported in August, “received five checks from the Trenk DiPasquale law firm” over a four-year period during which “the firm raked in more than $2 million in fees from local agencies over which Booker has influence.” Upon his election in 2006, Booker parted company with Trenk DiPasquale in order to avoid exactly this sort of thing. He wanted to escape “the appearance of impropriety,” he claimed at the time. Someone should have told Booker that one isn’t supposed to avoid only the appearance of impropriety, but real impropriety also.
The spectacle of San Diego’s mashing mayor may be coming to an end, as Democratic woman politicians, including Senator Barbara Boxer, call on Bob Filner to step down. The narrative of a Republican war on women becomes a bit forced when the high-profile warriors are Dems. (The tipping point for Boxer was when a retired master sergeant testifying about rape in the Air Force and a nurse inquiring about an injured Marine’s care claimed to be Filner’s victims.) Liberals are not immune from temptation and hubris even when they mouth correct sentiments. The Filner mess exposes another fat target: quickie therapies. Filner grandly announced he was checking himself into a program for sex addicts that lasts — drum roll — two weeks. That’s right: Years of compulsion can be undone in less time than it takes to learn conversational French. Comment dit-on scam? A pox on dodgy pols and their helpers.
Even as Filner crumbles to ash, Eliot Spitzer, running for comptroller of New York City, thrives. Polls show him ahead of his primary rival, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer. Stringer is a hack, one of a legion of tiny Gotham Democrats. But he never committed crimes that he professed to deplore, unlike Spitzer, the prosecutor of pimps and patron of prostitutes. Spitzer is significant because he hopes to rebuild his career in politics, perhaps one day as mayor of New York. He is wealthy enough to self-finance; his offense is less risible than Anthony Weiner’s, though more serious; and his iron-faced focus on winning shows, if possible, even less contrition than Weiner’s grotesque help-me theatrics. Neither New Yorkers, Democrats, nor ordinary liberals should be saddled with such a repellent character.
In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously defended himself against charges that he had sent a Navy destroyer to Alaska to pick up his Scotch terrier, Fala. Now reports say President Obama, who models himself after FDR, used a Marine Corps Osprey aircraft to bring Bo, his Portuguese water dog, to a family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. (Was SEAL Team Six busy looking for Michelle’s lost earrings?) To be sure, Bo did not fly alone; presidential personnel and equipment went with him. Yet while the spiffy and expensive vertical-takeoff, tilt-rotor Osprey can do many things, dog transport should not be among them, particularly when Obama keeps telling the common folk how tight money is for the government since the sequester. Marines should be out fighting terrorists, not holding umbrellas for the president and looking after his pets. Why can’t the Obamas just strap their dog to the top of the car like everyone else?
On the day of President Obama’s visit as part of his latest jobs tour, the editors of a Chattanooga newspaper told the president what they thought of his most recent proposals: “Take Your Jobs Plan and Shove It, Mr. President,” the Times Free Press titled the editorial. The headline made plenty of headlines, and cost its author his job the next day. “I just became the first person in the history of newspapers to be fired for writing a paper’s most-read article,” former Times Free Press editorial writer Drew Johnson Tweeted the day of his termination. The newspaper claims Johnson broke its policy for approving headlines; Johnson said no such policy existed and he followed everyday protocol. While Johnson’s future employment may still be up in the air, he should feel some sense of validation: He’s living proof of job loss associated with the President Obama’s economic policies.
An Orlando abortion clinic is offering discounts on abortion services to low-income women. The Orlando Women’s Center, which specializes in late-term abortions, recently posted a coupon on its website for $50 off abortion services and free deep IV sedation, valid for use “on Sundays only.” The center is run by the squalid Dr. James Pendergraft, a Gosnell-like figure who has had his medical license revoked five times, the last time for performing a third-trimester abortion. In June, the State of Florida closed Pendergraft’s clinic and his equipment was confiscated in a $36 million medical-malpractice suit. In July, he reopened the clinic with borrowed equipment. Maybe business is slow on Sundays. It deserves to be nonexistent, every day of the week.
Jimmy Hoffa is the best thing that ever happened to the Teamsters. His pulp-novel disappearance, and all the subsequent jokes about where and how his body was disposed of, placed the union forever in the comic-gangster mold, when it is really just a bunch of greedy, shady thugs. That could change, though, if the public learns about the latest target of the Teamsters’ unique brand of intimidation: grieving families who have lost a loved one. In the Chicago area, striking Teamsters loudly and aggressively picketed non-union funeral homes — laughing at the bereaved, shouting obscenities and threats at them through bullhorns, and blocking their cars — until a judge ordered them to stop. The practice of letting picketers menace customers, employees, and associates of a business simply because its employees are not members of their union is bad enough. By personally confronting and bullying shattered survivors at a time of extreme stress, the Teamsters make themselves as reprehensible as the Westboro Baptist Church’s crazies.
Anyone who still thinks that elections certify democracy should study how Robert Mugabe operates in Zimbabwe. Eighty-nine now, he came to power 33 years ago on the back of mercenaries from North Korea who killed an estimated 20,000 — the victims’ fault was belonging to a different tribe from Mugabe. He and his cronies have robbed the country blind. His hatred of the West has been constant. In the latest instance, the London Sunday Telegraph reveals that he has a contract to sell uranium to Iran. Power-crazed and money-grubbing as ever, he sprang an election suddenly on his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change. Up to a million out of 6.4 million registered voters were disenfranchised. Hundreds of thousands were turned away on Election Day. Voter rolls contained at least 870,000 duplicated names. Two million extra voting cards were printed. The election, Tsvangirai says, has been “a huge farce.” An appeal to the courts has no chance, because Mugabe has made sure the judges are his cronies. Elections are supposed to be fair and free; a number of highly placed African politicians have devised a novel formula by which elections are free but not fair. As for critics, “If they cannot stomach it,” in Mugabe’s words, “they can go and hang.” Luckily, it’s a boast, not an order.
Probably killed in a general persecution of Catholics by Communists in 1949, when the regime of Kim Il Sung was inaugurating the North Korean version of the Reign of Terror, Francis Hong Yong-ho was, on paper, the bishop of Pyongyang until August. The Vatican finally removed his name from the Pontifical Yearbook, where it had remained on the theory that Hong could still be living in a work camp somewhere. Preserving the memory of him in that fashion was “a gesture by the Holy See to mark the drama that was and still is lived by the Church in Korea,” according to Nicholas Cardinal Cheong Jin-suk, archbishop emeritus of Seoul. The Korean bishops are seeking sainthood for Hong and the 80 companions who are believed to have been martyred with him. Hence the acknowledgment of the death of the man who, at a putative 106 years of age, was officially the oldest living Catholic bishop. Although North Korea is one of the few countries with which the Holy See has no diplomatic relations, we trust that, when the time comes, the curial officials in charge of protocol will invite the Kim family to the canonization ceremony in Rome.
A new law in Russia bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” It is now illegal even to speak about homosexuality to children. A parliamentary committee is deciding whether the next step is to remove children from same-sex couples. Officials maintain that the legislation is intended only to protect minors. The old Soviet criminalization of homosexuality still conditions public opinion in Russia. More often than not, permission to hold gay-pride rallies is refused, and police mostly stand by when gays are attacked in the street. A poll shows that 88 percent of Russians support the gay-propaganda ban. But next year Russia is due to hold the Winter Olympics at Sochi, and where does this law leave competitors or visitors who are gay? The Cold War led to boycotts of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and gay rights could bedevil the Sochi Olympics. Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) calls for another boycott, while Senator Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) wants everyone to wave the rainbow flag at Opening Ceremonies. Contrary to his famous “reset” of relations with Russia, President Obama weighs in, feeling “offended” by the anti-gay law. The International Olympic Committee is urging the Russians to ensure that there will be no discrimination against anyone. But Vladimir Putin is no more likely to be swayed by it than by anyone else in the West appalled by the thuggishness of his Russia.
August was the cruelest month for old media, as the Graham family sold the Washington Post to Amazon nouveau Jeff Bezos, and the New York Times off-loaded the Boston Globe at a huge loss. Print newspapers will probably not disappear, but will shrink to maybe four national brands, half of them high end, half low. All will be the vanity projects of moguls. Printed local news will slip to penny-savers. There will be no substitute in the blogiverse, except in scattered niches, because the problem of payment (and therefore of salaries) has still not been solved. Newspapers had a great run, from John Wilkes to HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR. Next up: the afterlife.
Everyone thinks his own job is vitally important, even copy editors. The comma jockeys at Slate’s hard-hitting sports section have informed the world that they will no longer use the nickname “Redskins” to refer to Washington’s NFL team because, while “only a bit offensive,” the term is “extremely tacky and dated,” and “if Slate can do a small part to change the way people talk about the team, that will be enough.” Other gridiron bibles such as The New Republic and Mother Jones have adopted similar policies, opting for such circumlocutions as “the Washington team.” If progressives get seriously into the business of renaming NFL teams, we will soon hear of the New England Bitter Clingers and the Houston Ignorant Swaggering Racist Rednecks.
“They had come by the hundreds,” writes Samuel Freedman in a recent New York Times article characterizing an event as an “invasion.” He wasn’t describing a swarm of locusts, but rather a group of Evangelical Christians in Portland, Ore. For the past four summers, they have volunteered to clean, weed, paint, and repair the public Roosevelt High School. Freedman writes in disbelief that the Evangelicals were only there to help. This is the usual attitude of the Times toward Christians. In 2011, Nicholas Kristof wrote a backhanded-complimentary article that was headlined “Evangelicals without Blowhards.” That same year saw an op-ed titled “The Evangelical Rejection of Reason,” which said that “when the faith of so many Americans [meaning Evangelicals] becomes an occasion to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas, we must not be afraid to speak out.” And a recent Times article by scholar/author T. M. Luhrmann worries about the danger that people could become “addicted to prayer.” The Times examines Evangelicals like an anthropologist studying a newly discovered culture.
A Kenyan lawyer has asked the International Court of Justice to overturn Jesus Christ’s death sentence. This effort seems nearly as unnecessary as the ICJ itself. To begin with, there is the question of standing: Since Christ’s death enabled the salvation of all mankind, it is unclear who was harmed by his conviction, however unjust it may have been. Moreover, the Gospels agree that Pontius Pilate thought Christ was innocent, and only reluctantly delivered him up to the mob. If God’s revealed truth says Christ was railroaded, not even Harold Koh could think an ICJ decision will make it any truer. So it seems unlikely that the ICJ will find this case within its jurisdiction — although, since doing so would provide another chance to blame the Jewish state for a human-rights violation, you never know.
Alex Rodriguez is truly an athlete for our age — a puffed-up, self-involved cheater for whom honor means nothing so long as he is racking up impressive statistics and contracts. Major League Baseball believes it has caught the Yankee third baseman using performance-enhancing drugs again, even though he became a celebrity spokesman for an anti-steroids organization after he got caught once before. A-Rod is appealing his 211-game suspension. Given his prodigious natural talent, he was destined to be remembered among the game’s greats without help from drugs. Now, he takes his place as first among equals of the great abusers of the steroid era.
Of all the Reagan advisers who went back to his days as governor of California — Lyn Nofziger, hirsute spokesman; Ed Meese, policy warrior — William Clark was perhaps the quietest. He was also the one Reagan would call first in a crisis. Clark was Reagan’s cabinet secretary and executive secretary in Sacramento, before being appointed to a variety of state judicial posts (whence his title, “Judge”). In Reagan’s first presidential term he served as deputy secretary of state, national-security adviser, and secretary of the interior. He acted in all these positions as an all-purpose backstop: “Judge,” in his case, also stood for “judgment.” Clark, a devout Catholic, was most concerned with rolling back the Evil Empire and abortion. He and his boss batted .500. “He finished neither college nor law school,” said his son Paul, “but be that as it may he did just fine.” Indeed he did. Dead at 81. R.I.P.
Peter Flanigan, a longtime friend of WFB and this magazine, had the youth of an older American upper class — Navy pilot, Princeton. So the Irish Catholic elite blended into the WASPocracy. There followed three careers. On Wall Street, he was a pillar of Dillon, Read. From 1969 to 1974, he served the Nixon administration as an adviser on commerce and economics. But perhaps his most considerable achievement was offering educational opportunity to poor children, as a patron of Catholic inner-city schools and one-on-one mentoring programs for students. A book and a hand given to an isolated mind is water in a desert. Dead at 90. R.I.P.
At the University of Chicago, the home base of an academic career that included visiting professorships at Yale, Oberlin, and Harvard, Jean Bethke Elshtain held joint appointments in political science and at the divinity school, a combination emblematic of her work at the crossroads of religion and politics. Disregarding intellectual fashion, she won the respect of peers who were predisposed to despise her ideas but could not help admiring the case she made for them. “Judging has been in bad odor for quite some time in American culture,” she noted in the middle of an essay in defense of judging — taking care to dodge not her Lord’s injunction to “judge not,” which she explained, persuasively, as hyperbole for the wisdom of not judging before thinking twice. Elshtain thought twice, and more than twice. She leaves behind — in addition to loved ones, and for them, and for the rest of us — more than 600 articles and 21 books. Dead at 72. R.I.P.
Stop-and-Frisk Is Fair
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin has ruled that New York City’s so-called stop-and-frisk approach to crime-fighting is unconstitutional, a form of “indirect racial profiling.” Judge Scheindlin bases this in part on the fact that blacks and Hispanics, who form the majority of New York City’s population, are stopped at rates higher than their share of the general population. If the NYPD were applying stop-and-frisk in a random, race-blind fashion, then one would expect more whites and Asians to be stopped, and fewer blacks and Hispanics. But of course the NYPD is not applying stop-and-frisk in a random or race-blind fashion: The measure is applied more commonly in high-crime areas, which tend to be more heavily black and Hispanic, and it takes into account crime victims’ descriptions of their assailants.
That latter practice is what really is at issue here. Blacks and Hispanics make up 87 percent of stop-and-frisk targets, which is in fact lower than the share of crime suspects who are black and Hispanic, and significantly lower than the share of violent-crime suspects who are black and Hispanic. Heather Mac Donald points to the case of the high-crime neighborhood of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where 93 percent of criminal suspects are black or Hispanic and 99 percent of violent-crime suspects are black and Hispanic. More than 90 percent of those being sought in New York City murder cases are black or Hispanic. Police officers incorporating victim reports into their policing practices are in the great majority of cases looking for black and Hispanic suspects. They are also looking mostly for young men — so far, nobody has suggested that 50 percent of stop-and-frisk targets be female.
The caricature of stop-and-frisk has NYPD officers randomly scooping up young black and Hispanic men based on nothing more than their race and turning their pockets out in the hopes of finding something incriminating. Two points must be kept in mind: One, the police are looking for suspects in reported crimes and working from victim descriptions. Two, there is something that comes between the stop and the frisk, namely questioning. If a police officer sees behavior that he believes is suspicious, he may initiate a conversation with the target, especially if that target fits the description of a suspect in a criminal investigation. If, after questioning, the officer believes that he has probable cause to frisk, he may do so. That is a long way from randomly hassling every non-white person within eyesight of a police officer.
There are many reasons that young black and Hispanic men are disproportionately represented among New York City’s crime suspects and criminals. But the NYPD is not planting memories in the heads of crime victims. It is possible that the standards for conducting stops are too loose, but there is no standard that takes into account reality that will not see blacks and Hispanics stopped at rates disproportionate to their share of the population. Judge Scheindlin can declare reality unconstitutional, but that does not change the facts of the case.
New York City has, through intelligent police work and heroic effort, reversed what seemed 20 years ago to be an inescapable descent into lawlessness, indecency, and chaos. For all its troubles, the NYPD is the best-managed big-city police department in the country, and there is little in Judge Scheindlin’s ruling to justify putting it under minders appointed by the same liberal establishment that allowed the city to fall into disorder in the first place. We have our complaints about Mayor Bloomberg, but he is right to back this policy, and he is right to appeal Judge Scheindlin’s ruling, as he has promised to do.