I’ve recorded a Q&A with Rami Khouri. Mainly, we talk about Saudi Arabia, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi (whom he knew), and U.S.-Saudi relations. How important is Saudi Arabia to the United States? What is the role of oil? What is the nature of the Saudi government today?
Sometimes, monarchy and dictatorship blend.
Khouri is a veteran journalist. An American, he stems from an old family in Nazareth (yes, that one). He is also a proud Orangeman, i.e., a graduate of Syracuse University. In college, he reviewed a book of WFB’s, and received a nice letter from him (of course). Today, Khouri is affiliated with the American University of Beirut, the Kennedy School at Harvard, and other institutions.
In our Q&A, we talk about Turkey and Egypt, in addition to Saudi Arabia. We also talk about the Muslim Brotherhood, which is region-wide. And we address such questions as, What’s it like to be a journalist in the Middle East?
Rami Khouri has a lot of experience, and a lot to impart. Again, here.
P.S. For the latest Need to Know, with Mona Charen and me, go here. (She has broken her wrist, but plays hurt, and very well.) If you’re itching for some music — a review, at least — here is my account of Juan Diego Flórez, the Peruvian tenor, in recital at Carnegie Hall.
Former national-security adviser H. R. McMaster and former Afghan ambassador to China Janan Mosazai analyze the state of affairs in Afghanistan today. They discuss the role that terrorist groups al-Qaeda and the Taliban have had in the formation of the country, the U.S.’s military action in the country, and where Afghanistan is headed.
In the new Fall 2018 edition of one of our favorite magazines, Claremont Review of Books, I am proud to have a review of a couple of interesting new books on the subject of impeachment, Cass Sunstein’s Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide; and a joint effort by Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz called To End a Presidency — The Power of Impeachment. I begin with something of a lament about my own impeachment book, published four years ago:
Collusion! Obstruction! And what about the Emoluments Clause!
Donald J. Trump’s antagonists began talking about impeaching him within days of his 2016 election victory. But on what grounds? Since “collusion with Russia” is not a crime, can the president “obstruct justice” by carrying out an undeniably constitutional act, such as firing the director of the FBI—the agency investigating the, er, collusion? Even if we assume, for argument’s sake, that the president could be criminally charged for such an act, isn’t there some Justice Department rule against indicting a sitting president? If he may not be indicted at all, why is a special prosecutor investigating him? And if he may not be indicted for lawful exercises of his Article II prerogatives—dismissing subordinates, criticizing investigations’ merits and investigators’ motives, pardoning political allies—could he still be impeached over them?
These are difficult, important questions. In deliberating over the Constitution, nothing bedeviled the framers more than the new office they were creating, the presidency of the United States. If the nation were to survive and thrive, the chief executive would have to possess powers so awesome they could, if abused, destroy the nation, eviscerating its founding ideals of liberty and self-determination. With Americans having just thrown off one monarch, an essential objective of the Constitution was to forestall the rise of another. The president would have to be checked by powers commensurate with his own. Today, we metaphorically refer to the ultimate check, impeachment, as a “nuclear option.” To James Madison it was, in a word, “indispensable.”
No American president has ever been removed from office by the Constitution’s impeachment process, though Richard Nixon surely would have been convicted by the Senate and evicted from the White House had he not resigned. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by the House, but the Senate could not muster the two-thirds supermajority to convict and remove them. Since Clinton kept his job in 1998, the prospect of impeaching presidents hangs more heavily than before in a coarsened culture, a fractious body politic, and a 24/7 media age that conflates news reporting with opinion journalism and fiery partisanship.
Yet, like fascism and the infield-fly rule, impeachment is a concept often invoked but poorly understood. There is excellent scholarship on the subject, Raoul Berger’s Impeachment: The Constitutional Problems (1973) being the modern standard. Still, there remains enough misinformation that a popular guide, attuned to modern conditions, would be welcome.
My own modest effort, Faithless Execution, was published in 2014. Alas, if the year does not explain why I was too early to the party, the subtitle will: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment. It was verboten to speak of impeaching President Barack Obama—which is why a political case for doing so was needed. (I’ll come back to that.) In today’s terrain, of course, even a well-reasoned polemical book is destined to be rejected out of hand by at least half the intended audience.
We still need that popular guide in the contentious circumstances of 2018.
The rest of the review can be read here. As I elaborate, Sunstein comes closer to hitting the sweet spot — an engaging book that teaches and is not an anti-Trump diatribe. Tribe and Matz, by contrast, do not conceal their contempt for Trump; but their polemical book is learned, and I believe they may be more realistic about the political nature of impeachment, and thus the Congress’s prerogative to weigh the politics even when high crimes and misdemeanors have arguably been committed. I hope you’ll check out the review . . . and the rest of what is an excellent issue of CRB.
Margaret Spellings has stepped down from her post as president of the UNC system. Now, the Board of Governors must choose a new president. Going back many decades, the UNC presidency has been in the hands of people who were at best centrists and more often leftists, meaning that no president has clashed with the dominant “progressive” mindset of the faculty and administration.
In today’s Martin Center article, Jay Schalin argues that it is time to select a president who isn’t content to let the left have its way with the UNC system. Like higher education across America, UNC’s schools are saturated with the divisive and destructive theories of postmodernism, multiculturalism and instrumentalism.
North Carolina is a largely conservative state, but the UNC system has been run by people of a very different philosophy. Schalin writes, “The time may never be better to give this important constituency their due. The UNC Board of Governors is the most conservative it has ever been. If balance is to be restored—and it is imperative that it is—it is likely to happen now. Just adding another centrist to run the system does not address its extreme imbalances.”
The problem is that there are very few men or women in the country who have “the right stuff” for the job. Schalin continues: “Nobody expects the next UNC system president to be a full-fledged culture warrior eager to leap into the ideological fray. But he or she should at least acknowledge that a major problem exists beyond the needs to cut costs or boost graduation rates. There is an intellectual battle that needs to be fought, no matter how much it upsets entrenched interests and the permanently aggrieved. A one-sided university system does not serve the state well.”
If we hear wailing from Chapel Hill sometime next year, you will know that the Board of Governors has chosen a new president who will fight the intellectual battles that need to be fought.
An astonishing 17 pupils at a single British school are in the process of changing gender, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Most of the youngsters undergoing the transformation are autistic, according to a teacher there, who said vulnerable children with mental health problems were being ‘tricked’ into believing they are the wrong sex.
The whistleblower says few of the transgender children are suffering from gender dysphoria – the medical term for someone who feels they were born in the wrong body – but are just easily influenced, latching on to the mistaken belief they are the wrong sex as a way of coping with the problems caused by autism.
This isn’t the only indication that something may be amiss:
The Mail on Sunday revealed that a third of youngsters referred to the NHS’s only gender identity clinic for children showed ‘moderate to severe autistic traits’.
It means that 150 autistic teenagers were given puberty blocker drugs which stop the body maturing.
What are the odds of that?
As to the larger question: Many, but certainly not all, pediatric medical associations support blocking puberty in kids with gender dysphoria to prevent the development of secondary sex characteristics. It’s hard to debate or seriously question this approach when those opposed are castigated with the usual epithets and ad hominem denigrations that inhibit any public discussion of controversial cultural issues these days.
Still, I can’t understand why blocking puberty isn’t considered unethical medical experimentation. What testing was done as to efficacy, safety, and necessity? What about the children who cease being gender dysphoric after they mature, as sometimes happens? Are their needs taken into account? This is all being implemented so quickly, how can we know whether there will be long-term deleterious health and emotional impacts on children whose natural puberty is artificially inhibited?
The whistleblower sure believes children are being harmed.
The teacher says she felt compelled to speak out to protect pupils, many of whom she believes could already be taking the powerful drugs and may go on to have life-changing surgery.
She believes schools and some politicians have swallowed ‘hook, line and sinker’ a politically-correct ‘fallacy’ peddled by a powerful transgender lobby.
She has asked The Mail on Sunday to conceal her identity for fear of dismissal after almost 20 years as a teacher, But in a shocking interview, the woman, who we shall call Carol, tells how:
She was advised to keep parents and other teachers in the dark if a pupil claimed to be transgender; Older pupils at her school who changed gender ‘groomed’ younger, mainly autistic students to do the same;
One autistic teenager is soon to have a double mastectomy;
Keeping parents in the dark about a crucial issue affecting their child? Outrageous.
This whole issue has the earmarks of a panic. It has come upon us so fast and furiously–and seems steeped in ideology as well as science–that I find it very hard to trust the newly minted conventional wisdoms.
I also believe that most of the people desperately trying to sound the alarm, like this teacher, are not motivated by hate for transgendered people–as is so often alleged–but love and the desire to protect the vulnerable.
The linked story is quite lengthy and alarming, and given the current atmosphere, courageous to publish. I hope y’all will take the time to read it.
This whole field needs to be examined with greater deliberation and care. The futures of children are at stake.
The National Review Institute’s Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society will be hosting a conversation tomorrow in New York City on adoption and foster care, at the Tikvah Fund (56th Street and Third Avenue). Please join us for my discussion with Malka Groden and Naomi Riley. (Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and we begin at 7.)
Details are here — please RSVP if you will be joining us. And please pass this link along to someone who might be interested. Most of us could afford to learn more about the children in need of families.
This is National Adoption Month. In the audience, I know we’ll have a mix of people coming to learn, as well as others coming who have experience with this topic, hoping to share and meet others who have stepped up to be foster or adoptive parents in the New York metropolitan area. I hope to see you there. Do consider joining us. This is a pro-life priority, a human-rights issue, and an opportunity for tremendous common ground in hyper-political times.
(Read my pre-interview with Malka about her adoption experience here.)
A mere three years ago, Regnery published then–Fox News commentator Kirsten Powers’s book The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech. In that tome, she denounced what she called “the illiberal Left” who “routinely demonize those who hold the ‘wrong’ views.” Powers warned that they “work to delegitimize the person making the argument through character assassination, demonization, and dehumanizing tactics. These are the self-appointed overlords — activists, university administrators, journalists and politicians — who have determined what views are acceptable to express.”
In the first chapter, Powers wrote, “Dissent from liberal orthodoxy is cast as racism.”
With no sense of irony or shame, the illiberal left will engage in racist, sexist, misogynist and homophobic attacks of their own in an effort to delegitimize people who dissent from the “already decided” worldview. Non-white conservatives are called sellouts and race traitors. Conservative women are treated as dim-witted, self-loathing puppets of the patriarchy, or nefarious gender traitors.
Fast forward to Friday night, when Powers, now a CNN contributor appeared on Don Lemon’s program:
“People will say that they support [Donald Trump] for reasons other than his racist language,” Powers said. “The way he demonized people trying to come to our country on the caravan, and they’ll say, well, I’m not racist, I just voted for him because I didn’t like Hillary Clinton. I just want to say that doesn’t make you not racist. It actually makes you racist. If you support somebody who does racist things, that makes you racist. I just want to establish that.” [My emphasis.]
Powers went on to explain the voting habits of white women: “I think we have to remember that the white patriarchal system actually benefits white women in a lot of the ways and they’re attached to white men who are benefiting from the system that was created by them, for them, and their fathers and their husbands and their brothers are benefiting from the system and so they are also benefiting.” (How far is that characterization from“dim-witted, self-loathing puppets of the patriarchy, or nefarious gender traitors”?)
A debate between the Kirsten Powers of 2015 and the Powers of 2018 would be fascinating to watch.
Theresa May’s precarious premiership is looking more precarious than ever. Last week, in response to May’s latest Brexit plan, two cabinet ministers resigned, along with multiple junior ministers. In addition, the European Research Group — an army of Tory rebels led by Jacob Rees-Mogg — have waged war by inciting the 48 letters needed from MPs in order to trigger a “no confidence” vote.
However, May still has a few loyal (though perhaps strategically loyal) supporters. One such supporter is Michael Gove, the Tory environment secretary. Gove is the adopted son of a Scottish fishmonger who lost his business as a result of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.
Throughout the unfolding Brexit drama, Gove has been something of a dark horse. The former prime minister David Cameron was surprised when Gove, who had served as education secretary, decided to herald the Vote Leave campaign. Boris Johnson, Gove’s ally at the time, was also surprised when Gove thwarted his leadership bid by withdrawing his support and announcing a bid of his own. (This was widely considered to be Gove’s “Brutus” moment; a grave betrayal.)
In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, however, Gove has been a defender of May; tempering his commitment to leaving the EU with pragmatism.
When Dominic Raab, the latest Brexit secretary, resigned last week, it is perhaps unsurprising that May offered Gove the role. He refused. However, now Gove and a handful of other MPs on the brink of resigning are considered to hold Theresa May’s fate in his hand.
Along with Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling, and Andrea Leadsom, Gove believes that May might be able to renegotiate – securing a better deal for the country. This seems unduly optimistic. But in any case, Michael Gove — the kingmaker — is one to watch.
Is Florida wave-proof? Or, at least, wave-indifferent? It’s an interesting question, certainly. We’ve just seen an election in which the Democratic party did really well nationally, and yet Florida, which is supposed to be a “swing state,” seems not to have noticed. This year Floridians elected a Republican governor once again, and, more impressively, they replaced a long-serving Democratic senator with his Republican challenger. Meanwhile, the state legislature remains safely in Republican hands, by 73 to 47 in the House and by 23 to 16 in the Senate, as does every single statewide office except for one. It’s odd.
But it’s not new. Despite the massive Republican wave in 1994 — a wave during which Republican Connie Mack III won every single Florida county in his Senate reelection campaign — the Republican candidate for governor managed somehow to lose. But then, in 1998, which was a good year for the Democrats, including in Florida, the same Republican candidate cruised to an eleven-point victory. In 2006, the last “blue wave” year before this one, the Republican candidate won by seven points. By contrast, in 2010 and 2014, which were both big Republican years, the Republican won by 1.2 percent and 1 percent respectively.
Thing have been slightly more “normal” in the Senate. But not entirely normal. Bill Nelson won his election by five points in 2000, despite George W. Bush carrying the state. Nelson then prevailed during two good Democratic years in 2006 and 2012 — as one would expect — but eventually lost his seat during yet another good Democratic year.
It’s extremely hard to predict what’s going to happen here. On to 2020 . . .
Late last week, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill prohibiting abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which usually becomes possible about six weeks into pregnancy. The state’s General Assembly passed similar legislation in 2016, but it was vetoed by Ohio governor John Kasich, who said it violated Supreme Court rulings on abortion and would not survive a legal challenge.
If this new iteration of the bill makes it through the Ohio Senate, as it is expected to do, it will likely be vetoed by Kasich once again. But Ohio’s incoming Republican governor, Mike DeWine, who just defeated Democrat Richard Cordray in the race to succeed Kasich, is expected to support heartbeat legislation in the future.
DeWine served several terms as a U.S. senator and is currently Ohio’s attorney general. He’s well known for his support of pro-life legislation. In the Senate in the 1990s, he was a key proponent of the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. Most recently, as attorney general, he elected to defend against a legal challenge the state’s ban on abortion of fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Unlike what some of the bill’s opponents claim, the new legislation would not punish women who seek or obtain abortions. Instead, it would make it a fifth-degree felony to perform an abortion, with a penalty of up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. This model is in keeping with the long-standing view of most in the pro-life movement that women are victims of abortion, too.
Although a handful of states have attempted to pass similar heartbeat bills, Iowa is currently the only state to have such legislation on the books, and that bill has been placed under an injunction while it faces a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. Opponents of heartbeat bills say that they necessarily violate abortion jurisprudence, but many in the pro-life movement believe that’s exactly the point.
Many state-level limits on abortion — including heartbeat bills — have been expressly designed by pro-life policymakers in order to invite a legal challenge, creating a case that could return to the Supreme Court and result in the overturning or loosening of decisions such as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which provide a framework that allows lower courts to routinely strike down regulation of abortion.
There are currently a number of cases pending in federal courts considering state-level abortion restrictions, including both heartbeat bills and late-term restrictions such as Mississippi’s 15-week ban passed this spring.
Maybe instead of Republicans drooling over every minute of footage of me in slow-mo, waiting to chop up word slips that I correct in real-tomd, they actually step up enough to make the argument they want to make:
If you look at some of the replies, you can see that a lot of people don’t like the question. Quite a few folks don’t get what I’m getting at, so let me explain. It’s been reported that the staffers who sometimes handle Trump’s Twitter feed intentionally include typos and weird capitalization not just to make them seem more authentic, but because they think it’s a form of trolling “elitists” who obsess about grammar and usage.
Presidential speechwriters have always sought to channel their bosses’ style and cadence, but Trump’s team is blazing new ground with its approach to his favorite means of instant communication. Some staff members even relish the scoldings Trump gets from elites shocked by the Trumpian language they strive to imitate, believing that debates over presidential typos fortify the belief within his base that he has the common touch.
I’ve written about how I suspect other politicians are getting in on the act, though not necessarily with typos. During the Kavanaugh hearings, Hillary Clinton tweeted a proven falsehood about Kavanaugh, inviting a terrific backlash from conservatives. My theory was that she — or her advisers — knew what she was doing. In an era of intense negative partisanship, partisans forgive their own “team” members for almost anything while cheering attacks from “them.” The most valuable thing in this political climate is to invite the wrath and attention of the right enemies.
It’s early yet, but it seems to me Ocasio-Cortez has figured this out, either deliberately or subconsciously. For instance, until further evidence is provided, I simply don’t believe this tweet:
People keep giving me directions to the spouse and intern events instead of the ones for members of Congress 🤦🏽♀️
Maybe — maybe — something like this happened once. But the idea that it kept happening, i.e., multiple times? I just don’t believe it. I’m open to being proven wrong. And it’s not the biggest deal in the world if I’m right. My point is that she has an excellent instinct for playing the media (that tweet got enormous friendly coverage) and trolling her enemies. So it’s entirely possible that her tweet decrying pedants for criticizing small mistakes contained an honest, well-tomd typo that invites critics to make a big deal about a small thing (and in the process make her more egregious and much more serious errors seem trivial).
Democrat Max Rose ran as a moderate in his successful bid for the 11th District of New York, which includes Staten Island and went for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Rose emphasized his military service—the 31-year-old is a veteran of Afghanistan—and distanced himself from national Democratic leadership, going as far as saying he wouldn’t support Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House. He rejected Medicare for all.
But his “centrism” reflects a Democratic Party that has moved to the left since it last held the House of Representatives. Rose’s “top priorities” for health care include a “public option” for insurance and a Medicare expansion that lowers the eligibility age to 55. Had he served in the 111th Congress, which passed the Affordable Care Act, this position would have put him to the left of the median Democrat and in line with the views of the House Progressive Caucus. While progressive candidates may have lost races on Election Day, Democratic voters have clearly moved to the left, and they expect their candidates to do the same.
Considering the curious case of Sarah Jeong — the incoming New York Times columnist who turned out upon her hiring to have tweeted a series of blatantly racist remarks about the awfulness of white people but managed to retain her gig by claiming that she was merely imitating the forms of unidentified racist people — William Voegeli does yeoman’s work in teasing out the various ways the Left has redefined racism to mean something other than the dictionary meaning. “‘Racism,’ then turns out to be opposition to, or merely skepticism about, the entire social justice project. Social justice leftists doubt their ability, for the foreseeable future, to win assent to that project by advocating its merits.” So they resort to calumny instead.
Voegeli is writing in the new issue of the essential quarterly the Claremont Review of Books, whose arrival each season is cause for huzzahs. As is always the case, the issue is full of great stuff. Among other highlights this issue is a piece by our own Andy McCarthy about impeachment, a stellar essay by Christopher Caldwell on populism’s uphill fight against elites in Europe, and a look back at H.L. Mencken by Joseph Epstein. Jonah Goldberg fans will find a thoughtful review by James W. Ceaser of Suicide of the West, and Michael Anton continues to make a philosophical case for Trumpism that I continue to regard skeptically, yet Anton is worth the reading, if only because he is so unlike other Trump defenders. In short, CRB is a buffet. Dig in.
Editor’s Note: The following is the fourth in a series of articles in which Mr. Yoo and Mr. Phillips will lay out a course of constitutional restoration, pointing out areas where the Supreme Court has driven the Constitution off its rails and the ways the current Court can put it back on track. The first entry ...
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After what seem like years of a phony war, British and European Union negotiators finally agreed on the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU earlier this week, and Theresa May announced it in the House of Commons. The deal covers more than 500 pages of legal and bureaucratic prose, and few but the ...
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