Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren’s False Claim about the Assault Weapons Ban

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during the Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, September 12, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Elizabeth Warren falsely claimed during Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate that the federal Assault Weapons Ban wasn’t reinstated in 2013 because of the Senate’s 60-vote requirement to advance most legislation.

That ban and other gun-control measures haven’t passed because of “corruption, pure and simple,” Warren claimed. “We have a Congress that is beholden to the gun industry. And unless we’re willing to address that head-on and roll back the filibuster, we’re not going to get anything done on guns. I was in the United States Senate when 54 senators said let’s do background checks, let’s get rid of assault weapons, and with 54 senators, it failed because of the filibuster.”

Warren is correct that the Manchin-Toomey background-check bill got 54 votes in 2013, but the Assault Weapons Ban fell far short of a majority. Democrats controlled the Senate 55–45, but the ban received just 40 votes. Sixteen Democrats joined 44 Republicans to vote it down.

From 2004 to 2012, Democrats intentionally retreated on gun control because they believed it was necessary to win elections. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Democrats still do not have the votes to pass the Assault Weapons Ban in the House of Representatives, where Democrats currently hold 235 seats.


Thin the Herd Further, DNC

From left: Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, September 12, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

There’s an old joke often expressed well into banquets and conferences, where a speaker says, “We’re at the point where everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everyone has said it.” We’re already at that point with the Democratic primary debates. Tonight was a three-hour ordeal, and candidates largely repeated the arguments they made in the previous two debates. There’s not much reason to expect tonight will generate any dramatic swings in the polling in the coming days or weeks. The conventional wisdom will remain that this is a three-person race, with Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders having far and away the best shots at the nomination.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment came when Julian Castro “went there” on Biden’s age. Discussing the government-based health insurance he envisioned, Biden’s verbiage was typically garbled, declaring, “If you lose the job from your insurance company, from your employer, you automatically can buy into this.” So is it a form of health insurance that you choose to buy into, or something you’re automatically enrolled in? Earlier Biden had said, “Anyone who can’t afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have.”

Castro jabbed, “You just two minutes ago said they would have to buy in. Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Everyone knew what Castro was hinting at – forgetfulness, age, maybe even Alzheimer’s – and just in case anyone missed it, as the crowd either went “oooh” or booed, Castro repeated the “are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” line. Whether or not you think Biden’s mental state and health are fair game for the public to consider, Castro’s attack will be seen by many as personal and over the line for a candidate to bring up. For what it’s worth, ABC News’s Matthew Dowd said he was hearing from other Democrats who thought the attack was a “disqualifier,” “mean,” and “vindictive.”

It was another just-good-enough night from Biden. He came out with vigor, and he seemed to be enjoying himself early on. But his answers got sloppy, choppy, and verbally messier as the night wore on. It wasn’t that his mind wasn’t working; it was that he would start a sentence, he would think of another point, and then try to jump to explain that other thought without clearly finishing the first one. A lot of his later answers devolved into “word salad.” There’s good reason to wonder if he’s going to really falter in one of these debates some night. But Biden closed well by discussing resilience and discussing the tragedies in his life. Almost nobody’s backing Biden because they think he’s got the best policies, or that he’s the most articulate advocate for them. They’re backing him because he’s the person they connect with the most.

Warren is playing it safe; she may not be throwing haymakers against anyone for a while. Almost all of the candidates seemed to have gotten a memo about speaking more positively about President Obama. Someone must have told Warren to avoid any tone or comment that could be labeled “shrill”; this was the softer, kinder, more uplifting Warren. This is probably exactly what you want to do when you’re in second place, there are still a lot of debates to go, and the guy in third is closer to you on policy. When pushed about her plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan, Warren answered that she traveled to that country with John McCain, she’s talked to a lot of experts, and three of her brothers served in the military. This is three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust debating.

Poor Bernie Sanders. He desperately needed a throat lozenge tonight. He still shouts almost every answer, he still rattles off statistics, he’s still insisting that the United States has the highest rate of child poverty in the world. (We don’t. It’s higher than it ought to be, but we’re not the highest.) But this style, tiresome as it can be over three hours, got Sanders to this point, and he’s unlikely to ever change.

A lot of these candidates have strengths on paper but just don’t shine on the stage, or they get lost in the crowd. Harris’s demeanor was a little different tonight, as if she had been coached to be warmer or funnier. She didn’t really go after Biden like she did in the first debate, and no one really went after her, either, now that she’s back in single digits.

Klobuchar had some slightly better-than-usual moments, arguing that Sanders’s health-care proposals are simply unaffordable, but it’s the same story as the previous two debates. She’s soft-spoken, pleasant, a little corny with her jokes . . . and completely forgettable.

The big news before the debate was Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes candidate Andrew Yang’s pledge to give $1,000 a month to ten families for a year. It’s gimmicky, but maybe Yang needed to do something like that. When Yang gets a chance to speak – which isn’t often – he seems like a normal and relatable guy for a tech multimillionaire.

Buttigieg was fine, in the sense that no matter what was asked, he was able to pivot and maneuver to the anecdotes and points he wanted to make. Sometimes this got a little glaring, when he worked in a complaint about members of the military staying at Trump’s hotels in Scotland when asked about his policy proposals for Afghanistan. Trump-bashing is a really convenient crunch for all of these candidates when they’re in a jam, and they use it when their proposals about what to do after Trump are fuzzy, excessively optimistic, or implausible.

Remember when so many analysts said Cory Booker was one of the big winners of the last debate? Here we are, a month later, and nothing has changed for Booker in the polls. He was good again tonight. A month from now, will anything change?

Reports of the dramatic reinvention or relaunch of Beto O’Rourke are greatly exaggerated. Everything he says sounds like a pander, including “good evening.” He is still clumsily answering in Spanish. His pledge, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15s” ensures he’ll never get elected statewide in Texas. For almost every issue, he shares an all-too-perfect anecdote about someone he met on the trail. This was the sort of rhetorical maneuver that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did smoothly and convincingly. With O’Rourke, you can always see the strings.

For anyone who actually knows a thing or two about these issues, these debates are pretty painful, watching ten candidates offer variations of bumper-sticker slogans, pretending that we can withdraw our way to world peace, regulate our way to good health, release our way to no crime, and spend our way to prosperity.

At one point, Yang asked, “Why do we lose to the fossil-fuel companies? Why do we lose to the gun lobbyists? We all know why. Our government has been overrun by money and corporate interests.” Really? That’s the only reason Democrats lose? Because there’s a lot of money that comes from Steyer, and Bloomberg, and Soros, and Hollywood, and trial lawyers, and academia, and so on. Corporate America’s hardly a lockstep right-wing force in American politics, particularly on social issues. The idea that the only reason Democrats lose in elections or policy battles is the influence of sinister wealthy conservatives is a fairy tale that liberals tell themselves so they can sleep comfortably at night, secure in their self-righteousness.

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Politics & Policy

1984 and Today

President Ronald Reagan in a 1984 debate with the Democratic nominee, former vice president Walter Mondale (via C-SPAN)

This morning, I had a couple of thoughts about 1984 — not Orwell’s novel but the presidential year in America. Yesterday, Sam Stein of The Daily Beast tweeted, “Andrew Yang’s campaign manager just called to tell me that at tomorrow night’s debate, Yang will be doing ‘something no presidential candidate has ever done before in history.’ He declined to go further than that.” Our Alexandra DeSanctis responded, “Finish answering a question with time to spare?”

I flashed back to 1984 — not one of the presidential debates but the vice-presidential one. After Ferraro gave an answer on U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union, the moderator, Sander Vanocur, said, “Vice President Bush, your rebuttal?” Bush answered, “No rebuttal.” That surprised me. I have never seen that done, apart from that moment.

I also thought about one of the (two) presidential debates — the first one. Reagan did not perform well. Not at all. Many people thought he looked tired and, frankly, out of it. The question would surely arise in the second debate, and it did, delivered gently by Henry Trewhitt (of the Baltimore Sun). He said,

“Mr. President, I want to raise an issue that I think has been lurking out there for two or three weeks and cast it specifically in national security terms. You already are the oldest president in history, and some of your staff say you were tired after your most recent encounter with Mr. Mondale. I recall that President Kennedy had to go for days on end with very little sleep during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances?”

The Gipper was well prepared for this. “Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt,” he said, “and I want you to know that, also, I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Now, Mondale was in his mid-50s and had been attorney general of Minnesota, a U.S. senator for two terms, and vice president — but it was a great line. The crowd in the hall roared, as did people across the country, and Trewhitt knew a home run when he saw one: “Mr. President, I’d like to head for the fence and try to catch that one before it goes over, but I’ll go on to another question.”

Why do I bring up all this? Joe Biden has looked shaky, out of it, not quite up to it — policy positions aside. He will have to put this to rest, as Reagan did — whether in a debate or elsewhere. This is a big burden to bear, a big problem to solve.

Reagan was reelected in 1984. Right after his second inauguration, The New Republic ran a cover, showing Reagan throwing his head back in laughter, as I recall. The tagline was, “Is He All There?” (The article was by Carl Bernstein.) My collegiate self burned at this. (I was a big Reaganite by that point.) But people had, and have, a right to ask.

Politics & Policy

The Heavy-Handed Political Tomes on Your Child’s Bookshelf

A young gils looks over a children’s book at a rally by former President Bill Clinton on behalf of Hillary Clinton during a stop in San Diego, Calif., May 4, 2016. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Responding to a sighting of The ABCs of AOC: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from A to Z, Noah Rothman predicts, “Children’s sections in libraries have not yet become a cultural crusade of the right, but it seems a matter of time. Hagiographic portraits of Democratic politicians and appointees from wall to wall.”

Perhaps your child’s school library has Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, which is different from Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless, She Persisted. Or maybe your child’s bedroom bookshelf has I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, or Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx. (Poor Elena Kagan. How come she doesn’t get a children’s book about her?) Don’t worry, Representative Ilhan Omar pops up in the forthcoming Muslim Girls Rise.

Back in 2016, I took a look at HarperCollins Children’s Books Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead, and found that (surprise!) the book got some pretty basic facts wrong in its desire to tell an inspiring story about Clinton — perhaps most glaringly declaring “the odds were against her” in her 2000 Senate race in New York. If other politically themed children’s offerings are similarly heavy-handed and rewrite history for the sake of a better story, conservatives will have good reason to complain.

It’s not hard to see why publishers churn out children’s books focused on popular political figures. Selling books is hard. (Ahem.) Writing a book about a political figure with a well-established fanbase is a safe bet; these books are probably bought by every diehard lefty with a young niece, convinced that the lavishly illustrated Brave Hillary and the Bad Orange Monster will inspire the toddler to dream of being secretary of state someday. It’s certainly easier than writing an original or good children’s book.

Politics & Policy

‘A Dirty, Filthy, Disgusting Word’

President George W. Bush greets Marines during a visit to Al-Asad Air Base in Anbar Province, Iraq, September 3, 2007. (Jason Reed / Reuters)

When John Bolton left his job as national security adviser — President Trump says he fired him, Bolton says he quit — the secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, weighed in. “The president’s view on the Iraq War and Ambassador Bolton’s was very different,” he said. Yes, they were very different.

Trump’s view has long been that George W. Bush & Co. lied the country into war. He said so in one of the Republican primary debates, during the 2016 cycle: “I want to tell you, they lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none.”

This is a charge of high treason, of course. It is hard to think of anything more damnable than lying your country into war.

Trump made the same charge in 2008, talking with Wolf Blitzer on television:

Blitzer: “Nancy Pelosi, the speaker?”

Trump: “Well, you know, when she first got in and was named speaker, I met her. And I’m very impressed by her. I think she’s a very impressive person. I like her a lot. But I was surprised that she didn’t do more in terms of Bush and going after Bush. It was almost — it just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which, personally, I think would have been a wonderful thing.”

Blitzer: “Impeaching him?”

Trump: “Absolutely, for the war, for the war.”

Blitzer: “Because of the conduct of the war.”

Trump: “Well, he lied. He got us into the war with lies. And, I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant. And they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense. [N.B. “They” did impeach him.] And yet, Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying, by saying they had weapons of mass destruction, by saying all sorts of things that turned out not to be true.”

Blitzer: “Their argument is, they weren’t lying, that that was the intelligence that he was presented, and it was not as if he was just lying about it.”

Trump: “I don’t believe that.”

Strange as it may be to hear, the current president of the United States — a hero of the Republican party and the conservative movement — has the same view of the Bush administration and the Iraq War as the hard Left. As Code Pink, for example. George W. Bush has virtually no defenders among Republicans and conservatives today (and therefore no defenders). If they exist, they are very quiet. It may not always be this way, however. And the argument over the Iraq War — the interpretation of the Iraq War: its beginnings, its fighting, its end — is very important.

Trump was very hot for the impeachment of Bush. Indeed, it was the one thing he faulted Pelosi for (not impeaching). He speaks about impeachment in a different way now. Earlier this year, he was asked about the prospect that Pelosi & Co. would impeach him. He answered, “I don’t see how they can because they’re possibly allowed, although I can’t imagine the courts allowing it. I’ve never gone into it. I never thought that would even be possible to be using that word. To me, it’s a dirty word — the word ‘impeach.’ It’s a dirty, filthy, disgusting word.”

Politicians are nothing if not flexible, even an outsider like Donald J. Trump.


It’s Not Just the Press That’s Skeptical of Biden

Joe Biden walks with supporters at a pre-Wing Ding march from Molly McGowan Park in Clear Lake, Iowa, August 9, 2019.

Ryan Lizza of Politico reports that the Biden camp is frustrated by its media coverage. The former vice president’s advisers attribute this mix of ambivalence and hostility to the generation gap. A “well-known Democrat backing Biden” tells Lizza, “You have a press corps in which most of them were in college when Barack Obama ran for president and they have fundamentally no understanding and experience in how politics works.” Lizza adds: “To Biden world, it’s the media’s cultural affinity for this New New Left that explains why the Biden-will-soon-collapse storyline has such staying power.”

It’s not just the cool kids who are unenthused about Biden, however. Plenty of the un-woke Democratic establishment is, too. They worry, in private conversation and occasional public comment, that at some point the Democratic frontrunner’s many liabilities, on display for close to half a century, will crash his candidacy. Just the other day, David Axelrod groused that Biden is “creating a more damaging meme” by “serially” distorting his record. Recently a veteran pollster told me of his skepticism that Biden would even make it to Iowa.

Biden might not care about the media narrative. What matter more are the anxieties of Democratic elites, many of whom will be super-delegates — excuse me, “automatic delegates” — to next year’s convention. It will be they who, in a closely divided three-way race, may ultimately decide the party’s nominee.


The Problem with Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg greets supporters before the New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention in Manchester, September 7, 2019. (Gretchen Ertl/Reuters)

In a 2018 midterm election that didn’t give Republicans a lot to laugh about, one development that no doubt left them smiling was watching progressives across the country donate $80 million to Beto O’Rourke, in a Texas Senate race that was always going to be a steep uphill climb. Democratic party leaders can fairly grumble that if even a fraction of that money gone to, say, Stacey Abrams or Andrew Gillum or Bill Nelson, 2018 would have gone even better for them.

The grassroots donors are always going fall in love with the candidates they want to fall in love with, whether or not it represents the best way to spend finite resources.

Today Bill Scher raises the fair question of whether Pete Buttigieg is this cycle’s Beto O’Rourke — a walking charm machine who thrills the donors but is running in a race he can’t win, amounting to a waste of resources.

Buttigieg has raised $32 million since the start of the cycle, an off-the-charts sum for a guy who started the race as an obscure mid-sized city mayor. The New York Times notes he’s the rare candidate who has simultaneously impressed both the elite big donors and the online left grassroots donors. For obvious reasons, gays and lesbians are thrilled to see an openly gay Democratic presidential candidate. He’s a Midwestern veteran who can get donors to write checks in Silicon Valley, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

And yet . . . he’s at 4.8 percent in the RCP average nationally, 7.5 percent in Iowa, 7.6 percent in New Hampshire, 5 percent in Nevada, 4.7 percent in South Carolina. A solid fifth place in a 24-person race isn’t bad, but it’s still fifth place. After making a big splash, Buttigieg is sliding into “noteworthy also-ran” status.

Playing off Ron Brownstein’s classification of “beer Democrats” and “wine Democrats,” Scher mocks Buttigieg as “the IPA of Campaign 2020, a hipster nerd flavor” and laments, “even though the Democratic donor community has been expanded with the rise of easy-click online giving, it remains a small, disproportionately white, disproportionately wealthy faction of the total Democratic electorate.”

But the issue isn’t really that they’re white (the United States is still 76.5 percent white, according to the Census Bureau), and we shouldn’t be surprised that big political donors tend to be wealthier than average because they’re the ones who are likely to have the money to donate to a political candidates. No, the issue of which kind of candidate attracts swooning donors relates a bit to Amanda Hess’ essay in today’s New York Times, observing that the most important political figures in American life no longer have constituents, they have fans, complete with merchandising. The South Bend mayor personifies, crafted, and sculpted an image and “brand” that intensely appeals to some Democratic party demographics but not others. He is exactly the guy you want if you need to wow a group of big Democratic donors in the Hamptons. He is not the guy you want speaking from the pulpit of an African-American church in Charleston.

David Brooks called Buttigieg “an older person’s idea of what a young person should be” — Harvard, Oxford, McKinsey Consulting, time in uniform, married, talks a lot about his faith in a way that soothes secular progressives, opposes the designated hitter in baseball. It’s like he was engineered in a laboratory to be the subject of a a gushing New York Times magazine cover piece.

Part of the problem is that Buttigieg more or less came out of nowhere, and voters haven’t “traveled” with him yet. Even Obama had been on the national scene for two years when the 2008 campaign cycle started in January 2006. He’s 37, but looks young enough to get carded if he tries to buy beer. He’s polished and prepared and good in his debate performances — maybe a little too good. It’s a fine line between polished and slick. You can almost hear his past presentations in corporate conference rooms: “At McKinsey, we believe your company’s greatest problem is also your company’s greatest opportunity . . .”

Democratic primary voters can be forgiven if they like Buttigieg but aren’t sure they want to trust him with the nomination yet.


Copping onto Labour’s Brexit Madness

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the House of Commons in London, England, September 3, 2019. (©UK Parliament/Roger Harris/Handout via Reuters)

New prime minister Boris Johnson is re-shaping (possibly shrinking) the Tory party while dedicating it to the mission of accomplishing Brexit very soon. The Liberal Democrats have revived themselves by promising to revoke Article 50 and pretend the whole thing was a giant mistake. 

Labour has tried to have it both ways on Brexit for some time now, but the commitments it has made to keep everyone on board make their position ludicrous. And finally, European politicians are realizing that whatever Johnson intends, at least it will end uncertainty. What Labour wants to do is even worse. 

Essentially the Labour party’s position is that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is not good enough, and so they will negotiate a much better one. But their position is also that once the details of their Brexit are hammered out, the people deserve another vote on it. In other words, Labour will delay that bloc from moving on to new business, get them to agree to another deal, one that very well may be rejected. And perhaps a considerable number of Labour MPs would campaign against the deal their party leadership has just negotiated. If the first years of Brexit negotiations were already a farce, what would Brexit 2 Electric Bugaloo and Referendum 2: Remainer’s Revenge be? 

According to Bruno Waterfield of The Times, EU officials are realizing they screwed up by playing footsie with the opposition: 

One Brussels source close to negotiations said the EU had “made mistakes” with Labour and was now horrified at the party’s convoluted position as political chaos in Westminster raises the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn taking the keys to Downing Street.

“They want us to negotiate a ‘credible’ deal and then they will campaign against it in a referendum? That is mad.


Sorry and Not Sorry

Left: Bianca Andreescu during her match against Serena Williams at the U.S. Open. Right: Then-Oakland Raider wide receiver Antonio Brown during a pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers. (Robert Deutsch, Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports)

Got a sportscast for you, with two experts, two gurus: our own David French and Vivek Dave, of Chicago (originally of Greater Detroit, like me). If those two guys don’t know it, it’s not known or worth knowing. We open with college football: Nick Saban and an army of others, including Army, the football team (which is attached to a service academy, I understand). We talk a little Major League Baseball, and especially the Boston Red Sox — who fired their general manager, Dave Dombrowski. Last season, the Red Sox had one of the greatest teams in history — in all of baseball history — winning 108 games and virtually sweeping the World Series. But “What have you done for me lately?” applies.

Then we get into the NFL — particularly the stories of Andrew Luck, Antonio Brown, and Tom Brady. Luck is out of the game (he turns 30 today) and Brady keeps on trucking (42). “He’s an alien,” remarks Vivek, admiringly.

In due course, we get to tennis, and to Bianca Andreescu, the Romanian-Canadian winner of the U.S. Open. After beating Serena Williams in the final, she apologized to the crowd in New York. MCTE (Most Canadian Thing Ever).

Finally, what if LeBron James (for example) had dedicated himself to tennis, from an early age? This is the sort of question that can absorb the sports mind.

Again, find our gurus here.

P.S. I forgot about the music. “We Are Fam-i-ly.” “Another One Bites the Dust.” “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” The music of sports, one way or another, which we recall and, to a degree, celebrate.


Who’s Ready for a Three Hour Debate?

Former Vice President Joe Biden gestures during the second night of the first Democratic presidential candidates debate in Miami, Fla., June 27, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Over at Politico, the great Jeff Greenfield observes Joe Biden “has actually not had that much experience in televised debates with multiple candidates. Indeed, his best performances have come in his two vice presidential debates; one-on-one contests with a single adversary whose arguments were familiar, and with plenty of speaking time to flex his storytelling muscles. Until this year, he has never found himself in a crowded debate as a front-runner, where he is the clear target of opportunity. Thus far, he has seemed unprepared for the challenge.”

There’s one more factor working against Biden tonight. The geniuses at the Democratic National Committee and ABC decided that tonight’s ten-candidate debate will be three hours. The high-pressure circumstances of a live nationally-televised debate are mentally and physically taxing to many candidates. The previous debates were two hours and change. It is not difficult to imagine Biden (or any of the septuagenarian candidates) fading a bit in that third hour. Only a limited number of people will be interested in watching all three hours; millions of people see what happened the day after in short segments shared on social media. Biden could have a pretty good night for the first two hours or so, and then a bad gaffe or lapse at the end, and that would become the big story.


Wine, Beer, and Democrats

Biden’s coalition, writes Ron Brownstein, looks a lot like the coalition that won most Democratic presidential primaries in the late 20th century: blue-collar whites and African Americans, the so-called “beer track” voters who gave the nomination to Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore. That coalition broke up in 2008 and 2016, with African Americans aligning with college-educated white liberals instead of with blue-collar whites to deliver the nomination to Barack Obama and later Hillary Clinton. But it appears to have re-emerged, for now.

Warren, on the other hand, is a “wine track” candidate whose appeal is concentrated among college-educated whites: the kind of Democratic voters who backed Gary Hart and Bill Bradley. To win the nomination, she’s going to have to start showing more appeal either to African Americans or to white voters without college degrees. Does she have “a plan for that”?


John Relyea, Man of Parts

John Relyea, right, with Peter Seiffert during a rehearsal of Weber’s opera Der Freischütz at the Salzburg Festival in 2007 (Calle Toernstroem / Reuters)

I have a Q&A with John Relyea, live from the Salzburg Festival. (Or “live to tape,” as I believe they say.) He is a wonderful singer, a wonderful guy — and it turns out, a wonderful conversationalist. Relyea is a Canadian bass-baritone. He is the son of two singers. (It often works that way — in all fields, actually.) (I once wrote a piece about that.) (At my stage, you can say “I once wrote a piece about that” about virtually anything.) Relyea studied with Jerome Hines, the famous American bass. He talks about Hines and teaching generally. And about roles. And about national anthems (the singing of them). And about many interesting things. “Mozart is always a balance of mind and heart,” he says — and don’t forget the heart. He also touches on the Seattle grunge scene. And rock. He once played the guitar. He is a man of parts, John Relyea, and not just opera-and-oratorio parts.

You will enjoy him a lot. As a bonus, he has a great voice — speaking voice, I mean, in addition to the other one. Again, here.

Health Care

On (and about) ‘Study Drugs’

Over at the Spectator (U.K.), I have a piece about study drugs (i.e. amphetamines) on American college campuses. It’s entitled “American universities are fueled by amphetamines — so I tried them.”

I discovered that serious review of the literature, as well as the late father of the Attention Hyperactivity Attention Disorder diagnosis, psychologist Keith Conners, make clear that the population of affected children lies between 2 to 3 percent:

But in the 1990s, the combined effect of loosening the diagnostic criteria (so that exuberance, eccentricity and the ordinary struggles of day-to-day life were all potentially pathological) and allowing American drug companies to have another go at marketing amphetamines (which had been curtailed by regulation in the 1970s) created a perfect storm of supply and demand.

In addition, I spoke to around ten student users who detailed a range of experiences, including one young man who, after a head injury, ended up snorting ten times the standard daily dose and going to rehab.

And I also detail my own experience . . . After being diagnosed with ADHD, I was prescribed Adderall in what became an unblinded n-of-1 trial.

Read the piece and listen to the podcast with Dr. Barbara Sahakian to learn how it all turned out . . .

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