White House

Thiessen’s Defense of Trump: Incompetent, Not Impeachable


Marc Thiessen:

What we saw on display Wednesday were two dedicated, experienced career foreign policy officials who had been desperately trying to figure out what the president wanted — and inferring his intentions based on snippets of information from others. But their efforts to divine Trump’s desires presume that the president knew what he wanted. It’s not clear he did. His handling of Ukraine seemed less the execution of an intelligible plan than a chaotic mishmash of constantly changing urges and demands. According to Sondland, “President Trump changes his mind on what he wants on a daily basis.”

Trump surrounded himself with a toxic brew of individuals whispering into his ear and appealing to his worst instincts. . . .

Four more years!

Related thoughts here, from Eli Lake.

Health Care

Ohio Suicide Crisis as State Nurses Support Assisted Suicide


Talk about missing the forest for the trees!

The Ohio Nurses Association, a union with 11,000 members, has endorsed legalizing assisted suicide. From the Cincinnati Enquirer story:

ONA President Deborah Arms said the proposal recommends “educating the public about medical aid in dying, supporting legislation to protect the rights of dying patients to control the circumstances and conditions of their death and providing resources and education to nurses about the nurse’s role in caring for patients regarding MAID or any form of treatment limitation.”

Meanwhile, in other news: Ohio is in the midst of a suicide crisis, with such deaths increasing by 45 percent since 2007. From the Ohio Department of Health press release:

In Ohio, five people die by suicide every day, and one youth dies by suicide every 33 hours, according to a new report released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). In 2018, there were 1,836 suicides in Ohio and the highest suicide rate – the number of suicide deaths per 100,000 population – was among adults 45-64 years old. Males are disproportionately burdened by suicide across the lifespan, and their suicide rate is nearly four times the rate among females.

“One of the goals of my RecoveryOhio initiative is to address mental illness and other issues that contribute to suicide,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.  “If you know someone is struggling, you may be able to help save someone’s life by recognizing the warning signs and steps to take.”

“Suicide in Ohio and nationally is a growing public health epidemic, particularly among young people,” said ODH Director Amy Acton, MD, MPH. “Suicide is the leading cause of death among Ohioans ages 10‐14 and the second leading cause of death among Ohioans ages 15‐34.”

Suicide contagion is real. Thus, when a nursing association supports some suicides — because that is what the ONA did despite the use of the euphemistic term, MAID (medical aid in dying) — when it gave its moral imprimatur to doctors helping people kill themselves, that makes the overall job of suicide prevention much more difficult. After all, nurses are telling us that suicide can be peachy keen and a proper response to suffering.

Shame on the ONA. They have abdicated their nurses’ calling.

Law & the Courts

16-Year-Olds Are Not Allowed Guns in California

A sheriff puts on tactical gear after a shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., November 14, 2019 in this image from social media video. (KHTS Radio/Reuters)

Per the New York Times:

A suspect described as a 16-year-old male student was in custody and being treated at the hospital, the police said. Today was his birthday, and, according to the authorities, he pulled a handgun from a backpack and shot five people before turning the gun on himself.

Gun-control activists and Democratic presidential candidates have seized upon this news in order to advance the idea that it is time to pass whatever proposals they were already peddling, and, in concert, to blame those who disagree with them. In response, advocates of the right to keep and bear arms have pointed out that the shooting happened in California, which already has all the laws that Democrats in Congress tell us are necessary. This response is correct, of course, but it is also irrelevant given that the perpetrator was 16-years-old and that this case therefore doesn’t fit within our gun-control debate at all. In California, 16-year-olds are ineligible to buy handguns, to possess handguns, to carry handguns, and to take handguns onto school property. Nothing that was done here was legal at any point. No “loophole” was exploited. No liberty was abused. This was illegal from start to finish. Unless one is making a case for the forcible confiscation of every gun in America, there’s not a great deal to debate here.

Politics & Policy

Hate Crimes: A Reality Check

President Donald Trump delivers remarks in Lexington, Ky., November 4, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, of which I’m a member, released a report yesterday entitled “In the Name of Hate: Examining the Federal Government’s Role in Response to Hate Crimes.” The report appears to lend credence to the Left’s narrative that the U.S. is enduring a wave of white supremacist hate crimes spurred by the election of Donald Trump. The practical effect of the report is to malign supporters of the president as violent extremists and portray the nation as a whole as intrinsically racist. The proposed solution, unsurprisingly, is greater federal involvement in local law enforcement, increased classification of crimes as “hate crimes” subject to federal prosecution, and curtailment of First Amendment freedoms.

The report is grievously flawed.

As I noted earlier this year when Jussie Smollett captivated the nation with his valiant tale of fighting two Nigerian white supremacists without losing hold of his Subway sandwich, the actual statistics about hate crimes in this country confound the Left’s narrative. Last year we were told that an increase of 1,000 reported hate crimes in 2017 versus 2016 was evidence of a “wave of hate” sweeping the country. But as journalist Robby Soave pointed out at the Commission’s hearing, the increase is likely due to the fact that 1,000 more law enforcement agencies began reporting hate crimes to the FBI in 2017. If each new agency reported just one hate crime, that alone would account for the increase. Furthermore, even the 1,000 year-over-year increase brought the number of hate crimes to 7,175 — fewer than in 2006, when there were 7,624 hate crimes. In fact, earlier this week the FBI released the 2018 hate crimes statistics, revealing that there were 7,120 hate crimes — 55 fewer than in 2017, and (despite far more law enforcement agencies now reporting) approximately 500 fewer than in 2006.

Perhaps more importantly, the report fails to answer one simple question: Will designating a crime a “hate crime” prevent or reduce the incidence of such crimes? I asked that question of the witnesses at the Commission’s briefing on the topic, and was greeted with silence.

This, however, wasn’t quite as revealing as when I asked the witnesses what they made of the fact that blacks are far more likely to commit hate crimes than are whites. According to FBI statistics, in 2018, blacks, who are 13.4 percent of the overall population, accounted for 18.8 percent of hate-crime perpetrators. Whites, who are 76.5 percent of the population, accounted for 41.3 percent of hate-crime perpetrators. When I asked the witnesses whether we should, therefore, direct greater hate-crime-prevention efforts toward the black community, many of them stared at me with expressions ranging from confusion to hostility, reemphasizing that the real problem is that white males feel threatened, and that’s the real reason for the (phantom) increase in hate crimes.

Without diminishing hate (or any other) crimes, perspective is in order. Hate crimes are a vanishingly small portion of total crime. For example, a total of 1,231,566 murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, and robberies were committed in 2015. 821, or .00067 percent, were classified as hate crimes. That’s for an entire year. An average of 550 Americans are struck by lightning per year, most of which strikes occur during a 6–7 month period. Americans are about as likely to be a victim of a violent hate crime as being struck by the proverbial bolt of lightning.

To sum up: There’s no wave of hate crimes in “Trump’s America,” whites are disproportionately less likely to commit hate crimes, and there’s no evidence that adopting every single recommendation in the Commission report would do anything to prevent even one hate crime.

Other than that, it’s a great report.

Politics & Policy

Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and ‘Gutsy Women’

Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton arrive for an event for their new book The Book of Gutsy Women in New York City, October 3, 2019. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton have released a new book entitled The Book of Gutsy Women. You can probably buy it on Amazon, but you shouldn’t.

The two-headed hydra went on Emma Barnett’s BBC radio program to discuss their new book. Barnett asked the two women why, in a book ostensibly about powerful women, they don’t include Margaret Thatcher, who, by any objective measure, was a “gutsy woman.”

Hillary told Barnett that Thatcher was not “trying to make a positive difference” for women, and said Thatcher “doesn’t fit the other part of the definition in our opinion, which really is knocking down other barriers for others and trying to make a positive difference.”

All of which is nonsense– Thatcher presided over a period of massive economic growth that helped men and women alike; average earnings rose 181 percent during her time in office, compared to a mere 63 percent in the 11 years after– but it shows that the Clintons and their ilk care more about factional rhetoric than tangible improvements in the lives of women.

They talked plenty about the word “gutsy” in the interview, but not a lot about “women.” What, exactly, is a woman? And how do Hillary and Chelsea know?

Be careful with your answers, ladies.

National Review

Ivanka, Ramesh, KLO: Watch Them This Afternoon


At 2 p.m. (Eastern), National Review Institute Senior Fellow Ramesh Ponnuru and Ivanka Trump will be having an hour-long NRI-sponsored conversation on the importance of exploring conservative policies that encourage strong family structures. Kathryn Jean Lopez, who oversees NRIs’ Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society, will perform the introductions, and the ensuing conversation will discuss the importance of paid family leave and expanded child-care options as issues conservative and pro-life communities propose in order to help working families and those families seeking assistance when they engage in adoptions.

The actual event is invitation-only, but that doesn’t mean you can’t watch it. Here’s the livestream link.


See, Deval Patrick’s Work at Bain Was Different


“Wealth is not the problem, greed is the problem,” explained Deval Patrick, who resigned yesterday as Bain Capital’s managing director for “Double Impact,” investments that bring a “environmental and social capital return” as well as a financial return.

Back in 2006, the Boston Globe reviewed Patrick’s finances:

Income: ACC Capital Holdings $360,070; The Coca Cola Company $3,129,126; Coca $33,799; Reebok International $295,266; Ford Foundation $10,000; Texaco Group $1,880; Abt Associates $449

Securities: Holds stock in more than 250 companies

Real estate: Primary residence in Milton assessed value more than $100,000; residence on 77 acres in Richmond, Mass., more than $100,000; cottage on 14 acres in Richmond, more than $100,000; apartment in Atlanta, Ga. (sold May 2006) more than $100,000

Back in 2006, Patrick refused to disclose his tax returns, but the disclosure of tax returns didn’t become the ultimate test of a presidential candidate’s character and honesty until late 2015 or so.

Over at Axios, Dan Primack helpfully explains, “Patrick’s Bain Capital experience is much different than Mitt Romney’s, in terms of both type and tenure.” See, Patrick’s work at Bain was different, it couldn’t possibly be a political liability the way Democrats insisted Mitt Romney’s work was in 2016.

Either way, it’s reassuring to know that we can all aspire to be as wealthy as Deval Patrick and know that it’s not greedy.

Politics & Policy

Overturning DACA Would Be a Win for the Constitution

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., November 13, 2018 (Al Drago/Reuters)

The notion that a Democratic president should be able to unilaterally implement a policy like DACA but that it should be unlawful for a Republican president to undo the same policy in the same way really reflects the contemporary progressive view of American governance. Democrats these days seem to believe the use of power is justified by the strength of intentions and outcomes. Process is an afterthought.

Whether most voters are concerned with constitutional norms or not (and I tend to think very few are) the fear of political retribution had long induced political leaders parties to show some minimal restraint. You never know when you’ll be in the minority. While this was always been a rickety truce, Barack Obama and Harry Reid blew it up after 2010. And today Democrats act as if history began in 2016.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday on the administration’s decision to end DACA. Democrat AGs maintained that the asserted rationale of the Trump administration wasn’t good enough. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had argued that the program had exceeded the president’s statutory authority, which is the most persuasive argument there is for rolling back a program that, even by Obama’s admission, was implemented to circumvent Congress. The deadlock over immigration reform — or any other issue, for that matter — reflects the position of the elected legislative branch; it’s not a signal for the president to act like a monarch. After all, we still have a deadlock on immigration, and Democrats surely don’t believe Trump should be dictating policy by pen and phone.

The executive branch doesn’t exist to be tie-breaker in tough national debates, and it doesn’t exist to craft laws in perpetuity. Even Obama called DACA “a temporary stopgap measure” — even after he had said over and over again that doing it was illegal. As a matter of politics, a DACA rollback might well be a problem for Republicans because somewhere around 70 percent of the American public supports it. I certainly support any comprehensive reform effort that also deals with illegal immigrants who were brought here as children. In the matter of reasserting the proper limits of power, however, an administration win on DACA is a win for the Constitution. Because in this instance, for his own reasons, Trump is on the side of restraint.

Politics & Policy

Join Ramesh Ponnuru and Ivanka Trump Thursday at 2 Talking Paid Family Leave

White House adviser Ivanka Trump listens to remarks during the official launch of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs in Bogota, Colombia, September 3, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

For a long time now, all I want to do is get people to focus on issues where we might be able to agree and get something done. That’s why today on impeachment-inquiry day, I was grateful that the National Review Institute got to team up with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Heritage Foundation to talk about adoption and foster care (you can watch it here).

And, well, tomorrow, I hope many of you will join the National Review Institute virtually for an afternoon conversation we’ll be having with Ivanka Trump about paid family leave.

A few months ago, I was at a small White House meeting with her talking about this issue. She well-versed on it and passionate. Her concern for families seems authentic, born of a lot of study and listening. You judge for yourself.

I know that people reading this have a variety of views about the president and even on paid family leave. But for the sake of families and frankly the soul of America, we need to sit down and seriously consider how better to help families. I think this is an issue whose time has long come, and where there can be a lot of agreement (polling certainly suggests this is overwhelmingly so) and I want smart people like Ramesh Ponnuru, who has been writing about proposing policy helps for families for the better part of his career, guiding the direction of policy. Tomorrow’s program will be a conversation between Ramesh and Ivanka Trump, with a short introduction by me, as director of the Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society at the National Review Institute.

So please join us by livestream at 2 p.m. D.C. time tomorrow (Thursday, November 14). I look forward to your feedback. Here’s the link, which will also be featured prominently on our homepage as it is going on:




Ten Things That Caught My Eye (November 13, 2019)





4. Kay Warren talks with Kelly Rosati for Christianity Today about children and mental illness and what families need (both women have intimate experience on the matter).

5. Denver Adoption Day brings stability and love to teenager

6. My friend Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles (born in Mexico), who just wanted to be a priest and is now the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

7. Miss USA 2020: Madeline Delp Is Out to Become the First Wheelchair Contestant 

8. American Girl Catalog Features Girl with Down Syndrome 

9. Michael Wear on why we’re not supposed to talk about religion and politics at the dinner table:

10. Dolly Parton: My life purpose is to ‘do something for God;’ ‘until He says stop, I’ll keep going’

Plus: Today’s conversation on Adopting a Culture of Life and Love: Protecting and Defending Vulnerable Children and Families Against the Cruelties of Indifference and Ideology:



Also, here, a conversation I was part of last night about the late Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete:


Are Republican Views Really That Unpopular?

President Trump talks to reporters as he stands with Republican Senate leaders on Capitol Hill, January 9, 2019. (Jim Young/Reuters)

In the New York Times, Nicole Hemmer argues that Republicans have been able to succeed politically even as they take one unpopular position after another, thanks to undemocratic features of our political system and to undemocratic policies and attitudes they have added to that system: “Not every policy that parties pursue is popular. But for the modern Republican Party, almost all of its major policies and political strategies have failed to attain popular support.”

This is at best an exaggeration. Hemmer mentions eight policies. Five of them are based on “Republican policy during the Obama administration”: “From debt-ceiling crises to Obamacare repeal to Medicare cuts to government shutdowns to tax cuts for the wealthy, the Republican Party chose the unpopular side of most major policy fights.” Elsewhere she mentions policies on guns, abortion, and the estate tax. On that last issue, she says that a “savvy” choice to use the term “death tax” overcame the unpopularity of the party’s position.

There are polls that back Hemmer on some of this—but also polls that undermine her. Start with Obamacare. The Kaiser Foundation’s surveys generally had more favorable findings on that law than other pollsters. But take a look at the top chart here for the years through the end of 2016 and see if you think it’s Republicans who chose the unpopular side of the fight. (Or ask a politician in either party who was active during those years.) The other major policy initiative of the early Obama years, the stimulus bill, was also unpopular, by the way.

It’s not clear that Republicans are on the unpopular side of abortion, either. On some important questions related to abortion, the public sides with Democrats; on others, with Republicans. (Compare the polls on Roe and abortion bans, on the one hand, to those on third-trimester abortion and public funding on the other.) And while most polling on guns favors the Democrats, there are crucial respects in which it doesn’t. After mass shootings, Republicans have generally taken the line that we should focus on improving school safety and the treatment of severe mental illness rather than changing the gun laws, while Democrats have attacked that position as a distraction from what matters. Gallup found a 56-41 percent split in favor of the former position in 2018.

Tax cuts for the wealthy are indeed unpopular. But that’s a loaded characterization of Republican policies. Favoring lower taxes generally is often a majority position. In April 2015, for example, 51 percent of Americans in a Gallup poll said their taxes were too high. Some polls have also found that the estate tax, even when labeled as such, is unpopular. A 2017 NPR poll found that 65 percent of people want to abolish “the estate tax” while 76 percent want to abolish “the death tax.”

Hemmer’s conclusion depends, I think, on the selection of major issues, the framing of those issues, and the polls used to measure opinion on them. One reason Republicans win a lot of elections is that there is a lot of support around the country for their views.


Trump Has Some . . . Not-So-Encouraging Numbers in Georgia

President Donald Trump in Pittsburgh, Pa., October 23, 2019 (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Is it time for Republicans to freak out about Trump losing Georgia in 2020?

This morning, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution unveiled a new survey that showed Trump losing Georgia against all the Democratic candidates polled, trailing Joe Biden by eight percentage points, Bernie Sanders by four points, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg by three points, and Kamala Harris by one point. This appears to be the first survey in the state to ask voters about a head-to-head matchup.

You can throw out all the usual caveats — it’s only one poll, it is of registered voters and not likely voters, we’re a year away from Election Day, in the sample 43.3 percent said they voted for Clinton in 2016 and only 41.7 percent said they voted for Trump, and so on.

But there are reasons to think that Georgia may be uncomfortably close for Trump in 2020. Recall that Trump won Georgia by just five percentage points in 2016, which is a smaller margin of victory than Ohio (eight percentage points) and Iowa (9.4 points).

There are other signs Georgia may not be as reliably red as it once was. As much as Republicans enjoy mocking Stacey Abrams’ refusal to concede and Democrats’ insistence that she was somehow robbed of 50,000 votes in 2018, Abrams still won 48.8 percent, nothing to sneeze at considering how Democrats struggled in statewide races in the Peach State for many years. Also last year, Republicans lost the House seat in the eighth district, in the Atlanta suburbs. In the seventh district, GOP representative Rob Woodall hung on by the skin of his teeth. And as the Virginia elections of this month demonstrated, Trump is still toxic in the suburbs — and Georgia’s got a lot of voters in the Atlanta suburbs. The Democratic nominee will be the underdog in Georgia in 2020 . . . but not a giant underdog.

Separately, note 54 percent of registered voters have a favorable impression of Brian Kemp, and 52.5 percent of women in Georgia; just 36.5 percent of women in Georgia disapprove. Among African-American respondents, 33.5 percent approve, 54.5 percent disapprove. Even 24.2 percent of self-identified Democrats approve of Kemp. Pretty good numbers for a guy who supposedly stole an election.


Biden’s Shameful Record on Title IX


Emily Yoffe has chapter and verse on how Biden has trafficked in fake statistics, undermined due process, and refused to acknowledge any downsides to his crusade.

Politics & Policy

Fumbling for Clarity, At Last

Senator Marco Rubio speaks at a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing Jan. 9, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

We live in a confusing political moment. There are a lot of obvious reasons for that. Just turn on your television and you’ll see. But I think that underlying many of those is the exhaustion of a particular mode of understanding the nature of America’s challenges.

You might say that in a number of key policy arenas—from foreign policy to economics, social policy to welfare and health care—we are living both with ways of thinking and with policy arrangements that were conceived and constructed around the circumstances of the latter part of the 20th century. That was not so long ago, and not everything has changed since then. But some important things have, and public policy has not done a good job of adapting.

Adapting would not mean abandoning old principles but rather applying them to new circumstances. Principles applied to circumstances are what public policy consists of, and when policy fails to change as circumstances do it tends to get overstretched, and therefore to grow rigid and brittle, as much of our policy infrastructure has lately. Applying enduring principles to changing circumstances is what’s required of our policymakers, but they’ve too often fallen short of it lately. Saying “again” or “for all” at the end of what you’ve said for half a century doesn’t amount to modernization.

The Trump era has made this task of applying enduring principles to new circumstances all the more difficult. The president’s thinking is often just horrendously disordered, and when it is a little better ordered it tends to be ordered by the structure of cable-news debates rather than national and global challenges. His narcissism almost always explains his pronouncements better than anything else, and his narcissism is not a durable foundation for policy thinking. So it seems increasingly likely that what people in our political and policy spheres will walk away with from the Trump years will just be more intense versions of whatever they came in with.

To do better than that, we’ll have to see some policymakers offering different ways to structure our thinking about contemporary problems—giving some order to the relevant questions, before we can even begin to make judgments about answers—and there just hasn’t been much of that lately.

But that’s why it’s worth noticing some exceptions to that depressing rule when they arise. And we have seen two important ones this month.

Last week, Florida senator Marco Rubio delivered a thoughtful and provocative speech at Catholic University, laying out what he called a “common-good capitalism.” My colleague Michael Strain offers a good overview here.

Rubio begins by laying out some crucial principles—especially about the need to balance rights with obligations in our economic life—and by framing his economic thinking in the context of Catholic social teaching, which puts the dignity of the human person at the center of our approach to social life, and therefore also to political economy. He describes himself as a defender of markets, but of markets as means to a dignified life, and then suggests some ways that our economy has failed to advance that broader purpose for some Americans in recent decades, and some things that might be done about it.

More important than the policy proposals he puts forward, at least for the time being, is the attempt to offer a vision of the contemporary American situation in context: Rubio articulates some enduring principles, diagnoses some contemporary problems, and offers a framework for how the former might help us address the latter.

I have some quibbles with the vision he puts forward: Above all, I think he describes what is at its essence a social and cultural problem in terms that suggest it is an economic problem, and so makes it harder for himself to put his finger on the challenge. Materialism tends to mislead us at times like these. The hinge of his speech is the suggestion that today’s economy is failing to provide dignified work for too many Americans, and it doesn’t seem to me like that’s actually the deepest essence of the social crisis we confront. But he may be right, and in any case he has offered a compelling coherent vision to consider and to work with even if you don’t agree with all its elements.

Then yesterday, in a speech at the Center for a New American Security, Missouri senator Josh Hawley sought to provide a similar service on the foreign-policy front. Hawley’s speech takes up the confusing character of this moment even more explicitly than Rubio’s. Hawley takes that confusion as his starting point—as, in a sense, the problem to be solved. He suggests that, in the wake of the Cold War, the left and right both sought a foreign policy that might facilitate the transformation of various non-democratic foreign regimes into democracies, whether through the work of international organizations (for the left) or of direct American engagement and deployment (for the right). But that aim, he says, was rooted in misguided expectations, and although we have gradually come to understand those expectations were misguided, we have not really thought our way to a different organizing principle for American foreign policy.

Hawley proposes such a principle:

We seek an international system that is free from hegemonic rule, free from suzerainty or control by any one state. We seek an international system where nations can make their own choices, where they can meet on a level field, where they can control their own destinies.

This is a general principle, of course, and it can point toward a variety of forms of engagement. Hawley suggests some, and says this principle would also rule out some forms of engagement—particularly those that would seek to remake foreign regimes. And above all, such a principle at this point would tend to focus American foreign policy on China and its ambitions.

Here, too, I could offer some objections. I think Hawley’s emphasis on combatting foreign hegemony makes a lot of sense but that his effort to ground that vision in what he describes as America’s middle-class republicanism makes less sense. But before even endorsing or rejecting or quibbling with his proposed framework, I think it’s worth first appreciating his effort to propose one, and the perceptive and ambitious way he does so.

As with Rubio, the fact that Hawley tries to take up concrete problems and understand them in context leads him to moderate his rhetorical flourishes and turn down the temperature a little. Rubio criticizes some capitalist excesses, but he is ultimately a defender of the market economy—indeed, a stronger defender precisely because he is also a friendly critic. Hawley is critical of open-ended American military engagements abroad, but he is no isolationist; he is critical of Chinese abuses but defends a free and open trade regime more broadly. Both are arguing for a modernized conservatism rooted in reality. They’re not just throwing rhetorical bombs.

Both Hawley and Rubio, in this sense, are trying to address one of the problems that have debilitated our politics. The exhaustion of the conceptual frameworks underlying our contemporary policy debates has to be answered by creative, principled statesmanship rooted in reality. That is no easy feat in the Trump era. But it essential to try, and it’s good to see two younger Republican officeholders ably taking up the challenge.


Would Any NFL Team Want to Sign Kaepernick Now?

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick prepares to take the field before an NFL game. October 23, 2016. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

The NFL has invited Colin Kaepernick to work out, and invited all 32 NFL team to watch the workout, attempting to help midwife an end to Kaepernick’s absence from the league. But the middle of the season is an odd and less than ideal time for teams and Kaepernick to be engaged in mutual courtship.

Keep in mind, Kaepernick is now 32 and hasn’t played since 2016, and in his last full season, he lost his job as starting quarterback to Blane Gabbert twice. (Since that season, Gabbert has gone on to be the third-string quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals and a benched backup for the Tennessee Titans; he is currently on injured reserve the backup-quarterback job for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.) A few NFL quarterbacks can play well into their thirties — Tom Brady is 41 — but it is likely that Kaepernick’s best years are behind him. While Kaepernick’s probably in still prime physical health (and he certainly hasn’t had much wear and tear in recent years!) it’s fair to wonder if any NFL team will choose to build around him instead of a highly drafted rookie next year.

Victor Mather of the New York Times speculates that teams that could have a use for Kaepernick include the Detroit Lions, the Indianapolis Colts, the New York Jets, the Chicago Bears, the Miami Dolphins, the Carolina Panthers, and the Cincinnati Bengals. (If you really hate Kaepernick, you may want to see him playing in Cincinnati.)

Most of these imagined pairings make little sense, unless Kaepernick is satisfied sitting on the bench as a backup. (Keep in mind, teams can find plenty of inexpensive quarterbacks who are capable of standing on the sideline and holding a clipboard who don’t bring any controversy with them.)

At this point in the NFL season, teams are either competing for a playoff spot or they’re just seeing whom they’ve got who are worthwhile parts of the roster for next season. For a team like the Washington Redskins, Kaepernick may give them a better shot at winning games, but their primary objective for the rest of the season is to see if Dwayne Haskins is the guy they hoped he would be when they picked him this spring.

For the Lions, it all depends upon whether Matthew Stafford’s back injury is serious or minor, but either way, they’re not likely to give up on Stafford for the long-term. Stafford is 31, but played very well until his recent injury, is the face of the franchise, and is under contract until 2022.

No, the Jets aren’t giving up on Sam Darnold. In Chicago, Mitch Trubisky went through a really rough patch until last week, but they probably don’t want to give up on him completely halfway through his third season. Besides the obvious reasons the Miami Dolphins wouldn’t be eager to sign an outspoken fan of Fidel Castro, they’re likely to want to find their next quarterback in next spring’s draft, which goes for the Bengals as well. In Carolina, Kyle Allen is playing lights out and appears to be the heir apparent to Cam Newton.

Maybe the Indianapolis Colts make the most sense, as they’re still in the playoff hunt but are now starting third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer, who’s playing for his eighth different team this decade. But like Miami and Cincinnati, the Colts’ long-term plans probably include picking a quarterback in next year’s draft and building around the rookie.

In other words, it’s possible that no team comes away from Kaepernick’s workout convinced that signing him makes sense for their roster in the long term, based entirely upon the team’s needs at quarterback. Unfortunately, if that scenario comes to pass, a lot of Kaepernick’s fans will insist that it reflects a continued effort by NFL owners to punish him for his outspoken political beliefs.

Politics & Policy

Trump, Impeachment, and the Bureaucracy

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Atlanta, Ga., November 8, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Andy McCarthy is of course correct in his latest article when he says that the foreign-policy bureaucracy was not elected and is supposed to follow the policies of the president. (I made the same point in my own latest column, adding some thoughts about the difficulty of applying that principle while serving in a chaotic administration.)

Others arguing in the same vein have made much of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony that he was troubled after becoming “aware of outside influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency.” They go on to argue that the president has a right to set a policy inconsistent with an interagency consensus, and even to lean on outside advisers in setting it.

That is also obviously true. But Andy doesn’t argue (and most other like-minded commentators don’t argue) that the president is therefore acting properly if, in consultation with outside advisers, he decides to set a policy of cajoling a foreign government to kneecap one of his political opponents. A government official who gets evidence that leads him to think that’s what the president is doing might reasonably think it worth calling attention to it. And one sign that something is afoot might be that the president is running one policy through his bureaucrats while seeming to run another through outside advisers.

Andy concludes that the impeachment effort is “driven by policy differences” (emphasis his). I don’t think that thesis can be maintained if the policy differences concern our support for Ukraine against Russia (a matter on which I don’t think that Democratic convictions on Russia and Ukraine run very deep) or concern whether the president or the bureaucracy should be in charge. But I think it holds up well if we think of the policy difference as whether it is proper for the president to use levers of foreign policy, including congressionally-mandated aid, to strike against a political rival.

That question involves a policy dispute, but is better understood as a dispute about the character of our system of government and the appropriate uses of presidential power—in other words, the sorts of questions Congress can legitimately consider when weighing an impeachment of the president.

Politics & Policy

The Not-So-Persuasive Sales Pitch for Impeachment

The committee room where the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump are scheduled to take place in Washington, U.S. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

There’s a certain “heads I win, tails you lose” mentality to the way Democrats are attempting to sell impeachment to Trump-weary Republicans.

Democrat: President Trump tried to withhold congressionally approved military aid in order to strong-arm the Ukrainian government into investigating the Bidens!

Trump-skeptical conservative: Yeah, that’s pretty bad. The president just can’t secretly refuse to send out funding that Congress authorized and appropriated, and he can’t use foreign aid as leverage to push a foreign government to investigate a potential rival. But let’s not act like Burisma Holdings appointing Hunter Biden to the board wasn’t an attempt to ensure they had a powerful friend in Washington.

Democrat: That doesn’t really matter right now. The only moral course of action is for twenty Republican senators to join 47 Democratic senators to achieve the required 67 votes to remove Trump from office!

Trump-skeptical conservative: Yeah, but if that happens, most of those twenty will be ending their Senate careers. They’ll get beaten in their next primary, or they’ll lose their next general election as their home state Trump fans stay home to punish them for their impeachment vote.

Democrat: Well, you’ll just have to accept a Democratic Senate majority, maybe a sizable one, as the consequence of doing the right thing. Either way, Pence would become president, so this can’t really be called a coup.

Trump-skeptical conservative: That’s true enough as far as it goes, but we all know that President Pence would have a really rough road ahead after a successful impeachment — he would probably get a bunch of last-minute primary challengers, the GOP would be furiously divided, and a lot of MAGA Trump fans would probably stay home or go third party in 2020.

Democrat: Well, you’ll just have to accept a deeply divided party and higher odds of a Democratic victory in 2020 as the consequence of doing the right thing. Either way, if impeachment falls short, you’ll have to vote against Trump, it’s just the right thing to do.

Trump-skeptical conservative: Well, he’s given me a lot of reasons to not vote for him — abandoning the Kurds, tariffs and trade wars everywhere, the Twitter rants and the incendiary rhetoric, doesn’t give a hoot about the deficit and national debt. He constantly overpromises and under-delivers on stuff like securing the border. But he’s also passed tax cuts, ended the Obamacare mandate, and appointed judges I like. If I’m willing to vote for the Democrats, what kind of policy concessions are they willing to make?

Democrat: Oh, absolutely none.

Trump-skeptical conservative: Really? If you guys get control of the House, Senate, and presidency, what do you want to do?

Democrat: Repeal the Trump tax cuts, end private insurance and make everyone get their health care through the government in Medicare for All, provide taxpayer-funded health care for illegal immigrants, decriminalize crossing the border, abolish ICE, guarantee taxpayer funding of abortions, at least begin the discussion on reparations for slavery, ban “assault weapons’ and maybe institute a nationwide mandatory buyback for AR-15. Oh yeah, and maybe add more Supreme Court justices to the nine we already heave.

Trump-skeptical conservative: So in your view, “doing the right thing” just happens to end up with your side getting everything you want, and I get nothing I want.

Democrat: Why yes, but that’s just coincidental. Hey, where are you going?

Politics & Policy

NR Tweets Day One of the Impeachment Hearings



Hillary Clinton Should Definitely Run for President

Hillary Clinton speaks at the annual Hillary Rodham Clinton awards ceremony at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., February 5, 2018. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters )

Hillary Clinton contends she is “under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about” running for the presidency. It’s almost certain that Hillary is just whipping up attention to promote her new book on “gutsy women.” But the inescapable fact is that Clinton is just as formidable as any of the Democratic party’s frontrunners right now. If she were serious, there would probably be few political barriers to stop her from winning the nomination.

For one thing, she has helped convince a bunch of Americans that 2016 was stolen from her by a toxic confluence of Russian sleeper agents, pushy misogynists, Bernie Bros, Wikileaks, Barack Obama, the FBI, the First Amendment, white grievance, the Electoral College, and low-information voters, among many other factors. A rematch, as her case would go, might rectify this historic wrong, healing our nation’s psychic wounds.

Most polls find Hillary running neck and neck with front-runners such as Joe Biden, whose argument for the candidacy, now that he’s abandoned 40 years of policy positions, is predicated upon the successes of the Obama administration. Well, the same Barack Obama who reportedly dissuaded the former vice president from running on numerous occasions has also argued that Hillary was “the most qualified person” in the entire country to be president. Surely his assessment of the former First Lady, senator, and secretary of state hasn’t changed over the past three years. Hillary would immediately undercut Biden’s support, and probably support for many of the “moderates.”

Hillary (72) is younger than either front-runner Joe Biden (76) or Bernie Sanders (78); younger than Michael Bloomberg (77) or Donald Trump (73). She is less than two years older than Elizabeth Warren. Hillary, whose fundraising efforts netted a record $1.4 billion in 2016, shouldn’t have much trouble raising money.

Of course, many of the same obstacles remain. Clinton’s career is a 30-year excursion into corruption and soulless political triangulations. But as Philippe Reines, one-time Hillary advisor, recently told Tucker Carlson, Hillary, “if she thought she had the best odds of beating Donald Trump, I think she would think about it long and hard . . .” I’m sorry, there’s simply no way that Hillary doesn’t already view herself as a more potent political force than the gaggle of Democrats now running. And maybe she has a point.

Politics & Policy

College Enrollment Crash ahead — Which Schools Will Survive?


The trends look very bad for colleges. An enrollment crash is coming that will thin the herd. Which beasts will be left breathing?

Professor Rob Jenkins looks at that question in today’s Martin Center article. Twenty colleges, he points out, have closed since 2016 and once the big enrollment decline hits in a few years, many more will find themselves in desperate trouble. Leaders worth their salt had better start planning now, he argues. Those plans ought to include downsizing, deflating, discounting, dot-connecting, and depoliticizing. In short, offer more educational value for less money. Read his piece for the details.

Jenkins concludes, “Those institutions that make this adjustment will likely survive. The rest may very well find themselves joining the ranks of the newly defunct, wondering what went wrong and blaming people like me for being unwilling to enable their excesses with unlimited tax dollars.”

Yup. American higher ed has had its seven fat years and seven lean years (at least) are ahead. Governments won’t have the money to bail schools out. Rejoice.

Politics & Policy

Warren and Her Chances, Etc.

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at an event in Claremont, N.H., January 18, 2019. (Brian Snyder / Reuters)

Yesterday morning, I had a post here saying that Ahmet Altan, the Turkish journalist and novelist, had been released from prison after three years. Turkey, as you know, is the world’s No. 1 jailer of journalists, “ahead” of Iran and even China. Later in the day, news came that Altan had been rearrested.

The Erdogan government looks increasingly like a dictatorship. And Erdogan is meeting President Trump in Washington today. I explored some of the issues in “Turkey, NATO, and a Shifting World.”

In that piece, I mentioned “an Ottoman slap.” The phrase had been used by Erdogan in a speech to his parliament last year. He was responding to an American general, Paul Funk — who had warned Turkey not to tangle with U.S. troops in Syria. “You hit us,” said General Funk, “we will respond aggressively. We will defend ourselves.”

To the parliament, Erdogan said, “It’s obvious that those who say, ‘You hit us, we will respond aggressively,’ have never received an Ottoman slap.”

My friend Bill Walsh, an expert on Turkey and Central Asia, e-mails to say,

So that’s an actual thing. Originally called the “janissary slap” (yeniçeri tokadı), it was an element of unarmed combat in the Ottoman military. Allegedly, the janissaries (elite troops) would train by striking a marble pillar until they could deliver an openhanded blow that could stun or even kill an opponent. So what Tayyip is getting at is delivering a stunning blow to his enemies. Typically macho rhetoric.

On the homepage today, I have an Impromptus column, here. It begins with Elizabeth Warren and ends with Peter Collier, the late writer and editor. (Wonderful guy.) For some weeks, I have been saying that a Warren nomination would be a gift to Trump and the GOP. Others say, Not so fast.

A longtime reader in California writes to me, “Something in me always rebels against that kind of thinking” — the thinking that says, Candidate X could not possibly win. He is too outside the mainstream. “I think of President Carter, who thought that Reagan would be the easiest candidate to beat in 1980.”

Our reader continues, “Being really old, I can remember 1966, when Reagan first ran for governor. The incumbent, Pat Brown, wanted to run against him instead of the other Republican, George Christopher, who had been mayor of San Francisco.”

Yes, “Be careful what you wish for” is always, or often, sage advice.

Let me end this post on the light side. In an Impromptus last week, I had an item on redheads and their (alleged) temper. (I am treading in hate-speech territory here, I realize.) I quoted Tip O’Neill, who said of his successor as Speaker of the House, Jim Wright, “He’s a redhead — he’s apt to flare.”

A longtime reader says,

I can speak only for myself, but, as a lifelong redhead, I believe that I am no more disposed to flaring than the next guy.

That all goes out the window, though, if my beloved Villanova Wildcats are trailing by double digits with less than ten minutes to play. It’s full-on flare, then.

Today’s column, again, is here.  There are no redheads in it, that I can recall.  The issue of hair is kept well out of sight.


Why Can’t University Administrators Enforce Rules Fairly?


University administrators ought to enforce rules even-handedly, not concerning themselves with the political content of the infraction. Moreover, public universities have a legal obligation to do so. Nevertheless, administrators are prone to letting their personal views interfere with fairness, as a recent incident at the University of North Carolina — Charlotte shows.

In today’s Martin Center article, Emma Schambach, a student who founded the YAF chapter at UNCC, writes about her experience. The YAF group had set up a display that made the case against socialism, specifically its history of killing people. Schambach states, “To publicly oppose socialism and show other students they weren’t alone in preferring capitalism, our club created a display of 21 cardboard tombstones, each representing a country with the number of lives lost in that country due to socialist ideologies. We spent a Wednesday afternoon creating the display, drawing, cutting, painting, and writing the statistics on each stone. This process took us over four hours, but we happily worked, knowing we were going to be educating our peers on an incredibly important issue.”

Naturally, some leftist students took umbrage. The YAF students were hurting their feelings by pointing out an inconvenient fact about socialist regimes!

The following day, the YAF display was gone. Did some school official have it removed? Or did “woke” students do it? When they complained, the YAF students discovered that university officials wouldn’t be bothered to investigate the matter.

Schambach concludes, “This failure to identify or reprimand the vandal sets a dangerous precedent: It may indicate that the university, though not officially stifling free speech, will allow students to compromise the free speech of others. Our display can be replaced, but a weak response to protecting free speech can have a chilling effect on unpopular opinions—whether of the political left or the political right.”

If some leftist display had been stolen or destroyed, I suspect that school officials would have been relentless in trying to track down the person or persons responsible.


State ‘Disinvestment’ in Higher Education Is a Myth


The education establishment and “progressives” keep wailing that the states (or at least many of them) have been reducing their spending on higher education. (They term it “disinvestment” but little of the appropriations for state higher ed systems can accurately be regarded as “investment.”) Say it often enough and loudly enough and people will believe it.

One scholar who wanted to look at the evidence about this matter is Andrew Gillen. He wrote a paper recently for the Texas Public Policy Foundation in which he argued that it just isn’t true that there has been any “disinvestment.” About the same time, another paper was published by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities that pushes the leftist line.

In a Martin Center article, Gillen explains why his approach is sound, whereas that of the competing study is flawed.

I think that Gillen is right, but it wouldn’t bother me in the least if states in fact were “disinvesting” from their higher ed systems. They have been absorbing too many scarce dollars for decades and some fiscal discipline is very much in order. Administrative bloat fed by big budgets needs to be lopped off.


Schools of Architecture Serve Their Students Poorly


Like so many other fields, the teaching of architecture has come to be dominated by theorists whose ideas often serve their students poorly. In a Martin Center article, Professor Nikos Salingaros, winner of the 2019 Stockholm Culture Award for Architecture, reflects on the teaching and practice of architecture.

He writes, “It is remarkable that no other profession institutionalizes hero-worship like architecture. Students across the world are mainly taught narrow 20th-century architectural histories and theories, and upon graduation are ill-prepared to adapt this knowledge where they practice and respect locality.”

The big problem is that students are taught that they must follow their passions and let their creativity blossom. Sounds lovely, but the world doesn’t work that way, as the students later find out.

Architecture schools could and should teach students how to design buildings that are best designed to make people comfortable (physically and psychologically), but that will require them to do something that most academics dislike — change.


Happy Trails, Mark Sanford

Representative Mark Sanford (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

The responses to the news that Mark Sanford is ending his short-lived presidential bid practically write themselves. “Take a hike” comes to mind.

Few political careers end in glory. Mark Sanford once enjoyed one of the most improbable comebacks in American political history, winning a U.S. house seat after his time as governor ended in a notorious adultery scandal. He asked voters to judge him not by his worst day or his best day, but by “the totality” of his public life, and enough voters in South Carolina’s first Congressional District remembered the pork-fighting governor who memorably brought live pigs to the state House floor to emphasize his points.

But the Republican party’s concern about high deficits and mounting debt was a mile wide and an inch deep; when presented with a presidential candidate who rarely even pretended to care about the national debt and who had no interest in even attempting to reform entitlement programs, most Republicans signed on. Sanford made the unforgivable mistake of believing his party had meant everything it had said in the Tea Party era.

Sanford was ill suited to being a team player in any era, but particularly during the presidency of Donald Trump. In the 2018 primary in Sanford’s district, Katie Arrington turned the primary fight into almost a referendum on loyalty to the president, and narrowly beat Sanford, 50.6 percent to 46.5 percent. No doubt that loss was surprising and deeply disappointing to the incumbent, and he couldn’t bring himself to accept the primary voters’ verdict. Sanford chose not to endorse her in the general election, and it is believed that a considerable number of Sanford donors and allies sat out the general election.

This left short-lived presidential candidate Sanford particularly short on potential allies. Some voters were always going to mentally associate him with “hiking on the Appalachian trail;” his signature fiscal issues were de-prioritized in an era of high-stakes fights over immigration, trade, and judicial nominations; and he had alienated a chunk of his state and district parties. Who was left?

Sure, state Republican parties looked scared and silly when they canceled presidential primaries, and local GOP organizations refusing to let Sanford even speak to their members look silly and petty. But that obscures the fact that Republicans weren’t all that interested in what Sanford was offering. His message that Americans ignore the mounting debt at our peril is a fiscally, economically, and morally correct one. But even the best message has a tough time overcoming such a flawed messenger.

White House

Coup Talk

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R, Calif.) speaks with reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 9, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

When asked how salvaging items from the Titanic was different from grave-robbing, Bill Buckley answered, “Well, in the first place, you’re not robbing graves, you begin with that difference.” I thought of that exchange on reading that Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, is calling the impeachment inquiry “a calculated coup” (which actually sounds better than an accidental one).

This is the same rhetoric that Democrats used during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, together with accusations that the Republicans were trying to undo an election, ignore the people’s will, accomplish what they couldn’t at the ballot box, etc. It is no more apt now. The Constitution lays out a way for presidents to be removed from office by Congress, just as it lays out a way that presidents can take office without a popular majority or even plurality. This procedure cannot successfully be invoked without the support of a supermajority of the public larger than what is necessary to elect a president in the first place.

For that reason, Trump is highly likely to be in power at 11 am on January 20, 2021. If it is Mike Pence instead, though, it won’t be because of a coup.

Economy & Business

Connecting Some Dots on Taxes

Microsoft founder Bill Gates in Omaha, Neb., May 6, 2018 (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Michael Tomasky’s column (“Bill Gates, I Implore You To Connect Some Dots”) Monday in the New York Times is the sort of thing that tempts me to shout at the writer about intellectual dishonesty and astounding stupidity, but I do not want to do that. Instead, I would like to ask a few relatively simple questions, because I genuinely am perplexed by his assumptions and his arguments. Assuming that he is arguing in good faith and assuming, as I do, that he is not just bone ignorant:

Tomasky writes: “Multibillion-dollar fortunes are often called excessive and decadent. But here’s something they’re rarely called but ought to be: anti-democratic. These fortunes will destroy our democracy. . . . Any democracy needs a robust and thriving middle class, and we have spent the last 30 or so years transferring trillions of dollars from the middle class to the people at the very top. Just one set of numbers, from the University of California, Berkeley, economist Gabriel Zucman: The 400 richest Americans — the top .00025 percent of the population — now own more of the country’s riches than the 150 million adults in the bottom 60 percent of wealth distribution. The 400’s share has tripled since the 1980s.”

Question: Can Tomasky or anybody else describe the actual mode of “transfer” at work here? In what sense has money been transferred from the middle class to billionaires such as Bill Gates? And who did the transferring?

As is the case with most American billionaires, Gates’s vast fortune has its origin in the launching of a new business. When Microsoft made its initial public offering of stock, it created three billionaires and about 12,000 millionaires. That money came from stock investors, who traded their cash for equity in Microsoft. That was an excellent decision: An investment of $1,000 in Microsoft shares at the IPO would be worth more than $1.6 million today (assuming the reinvestment of dividends, etc.). The American middle class could stand some more victimization of that kind. If that is what getting ripped off looks like, then let’s have some more of the same.

The other way money is “transferred” to Microsoft and its shareholders is in the form of corporate income, which is used to pay both salaries to employees and dividends to shareholders. When it makes a sale, Microsoft gets cash, and consumers get copies of Office or Windows or whatever. If that is what is meant by “transfer,” then “transfer” is just a fancy word for “business.”

In reality, there has been a “transfer” only in the counterfactual sense, i.e. that things would be different if there had been transfers (in the form of higher taxes) in excess of what actually took place.

That’s a funny and backward way of talking about things. But it gets worse.

Indulging in the most sophomoric kind of zero-sum analysis, Tomasky insists that the middle class is worse off because Gates is better off. But there is not really any evidence that that is the case. It is entirely possible to imagine a world in which Microsoft products did not exist and Microsoft profits did not exist, and Bill Gates was just another guy working in tech or finance or insurance. But the middle class would be worse off in that scenario, not better off: It would be deprived of Microsoft’s products, which consumers value (that is what makes Microsoft profitable) and also deprived of the jobs, tax payments, and secondary economic activity associated with Microsoft. Tomasky’s argument really does not stand up to a second’s scrutiny here.

The idea that there is some big national slop bucket marked “income” and that Gates et al. are grabbing up more than their fair share is breathtakingly primitive. A relatively small number of high-growth firms has accounted for a very large share of economic growth in the United States in the past several decades. That represents wealth creation, not a wealth transfer.

What makes this even more irksome is the fact that there has been a gigantic wealth transfer from the middle class and we know to whom it is that so much middle-class wealth has been transferred. And it isn’t Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

Question: What actually is the variable at the heart of the American middle class’s relatively low levels of savings and wealth formation? This has been studied fairly extensively, and it isn’t the fact that the founders of tech companies become very wealthy in IPOs or the fact that a few thousand people in finance make a lot of money in bonuses. According to the Federal Reserve, the main culprit is student loans. Which is to say: The money wasn’t transferred to Bill Gates — it was transferred to the associate dean of students for diversity and inclusion at Oberlin. Tuition rates and university administrative payrolls have soared roughly in tandem with the amount of money that Washington makes available for student loans. From the Motley Fool: “The Fed found that among households with the greatest negative net worth, the majority of debt comes in the form of student loans. And the more student debt a household has, the greater its negative net worth is likely to be. In fact, among households whose net worth measures negative-$12,500 to negative-$46,300, student loans represent 40 percent of total debt, compared with less than 10 percent for households that don’t have negative net worth.”

This is not a great secret. It even has been mentioned in the very newspaper that publishes Michael Tomasky’s column!

Subsidized loans are a splendid way for politicians to spend money on favored constituencies (here meaning university employees, not students) without having to put it down on the books as an expenditure. Because governments almost never put a meaningful price on the risk associated with loans they make, spending money on favored constituencies through subsidized lending shows up on the books as an asset rather than as a liability. This actually is a transfer — of a particularly sneaky kind: The political constituency (government employees) gets income, and the expense is transferred to a third party (student borrowers) without the politicians having to impose an actual tax and account for it. It’s a nice little scam, if you are into that sort of thing.

So there is a story to be told about a politically powerful interest group financially burdening the American middle class in order to line its own pockets, but it is not the one Tomasky wants to tell. Again, the fact that we can dream up an alternative scenario in which billionaires were taxed more aggressively to make college tuition-free does not change the facts of what actually has happened and is happening. And, at some level, Times columnists have an intellectual obligation to deal with that reality.

Question: How meaningful are comparisons to multiples of $0.00?

Tomasky and others frequently write that the top 1 percent or, in this case, the top 0.00025 percent, has more wealth than the bottom 60 percent or the bottom half or some other population share that looks shocking until you learn that almost 70 percent of U.S. adults have less than $1,000 in savings and that a third of them have no savings at all, and that 20 percent of Americans have a net worth that is zero or negative and a considerably larger share has a net worth that is trivial. Think of it this way: It is not only Bill Gates, but also those of you with a net worth of $1 who have more wealth than the bottom fifth of Americans combined. Those of you with $1,001 in savings worth have more in the bank than the great majority of all Americans. That is not because Bill Gates and you hoovered all the money up — it is because a great many Americans do not save very much.

That is not always bad. (There is no “ideal” savings rate.) If you have just finished up at Harvard Law and you have $200,000 in student loans and other personal debt, plus a $400,000 mortgage on a $500,000 house, you aren’t in a terrible position in life, most likely. On the other hand, if you make $27,000 a year and you have $50,000 in debt, you have a problem. The numbers need to be chopped a little more fine to be meaningful. There are a lot of people with negative net worth who are young and high-earning — and a lot who aren’t. The two situations are not very much alike. And, for that matter, there are a lot of Americans who have relatively high net worths who are not in very good financial shape at all: Being up $100,000 or so isn’t really all that great if you are a year away from retirement.

That gets complicated. But in any case, you could send men with bayonets to Bill Gates’s secret Scrooge McDuck vault to seize 100 percent of his assets without making any of those negative-net-worth households any better off. Michael Tomasky must know this, at some level.

Question: Does Michael Tomasky really not know the difference between tax rates and tax revenue? He writes: “In my lifetime, the top marginal tax rate has gone (roughly speaking) from 91 percent to 77 percent to 50 percent to 35 percent to today’s 37 percent.”

That is true. But taxes are higher today than they were when the top rate was 91 percent — not lower.

In 1950 and 1951, when the top tax rate indeed was, as Tomasky writes, 91 percent, federal tax receipts as a share of GDP amounted to 13.2 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively. In 2018, they were 16.2 percent — lower rates but higher taxes in toto. In fact, federal tax receipts hit their highest postwar level — 19.8 percent of GDP — in 2000, when the top tax rate was a heck of a lot lower than 91 percent. Here are the data; see for yourself.

(Naive supply-siders take note: That millennial tax revenue spike and the notional surplus that accompanied it followed a modest tax hike, not a large tax cut.)

What about progressivity? The share of taxes paid by high earners has increased over recent decades rather than diminishing, and that increase has not been proportional to their share of total income. In 1980, the top 10 percent paid just slightly less than half of all federal income tax; today, the top 10 percent pays about 70 percent, which is substantially more than its share of total income. Put another way: In 1980, the top 10 percent paid a tax burden that was 17 percentage points in excess of its income share; in 2016, the top 10 percent paid a tax burden that was 23 points in excess of its income share. (That’s 32 percent of the income and 49 percent of the taxes in 1980 vs. 47 percent of the income and 70 percent of the taxes in 2016.)

Tomasky might be correct that taxes should be higher on high earners — that is a value judgment — but his empirical analysis is both shallow and misleading.

Is it the case that both he and his editors at the New York Times are incapable of understanding the relevant facts? Or are they so used to repeating these banal and embarrassingly shoddy talking points that they have forgotten how to actually think about these questions?

This kind of journalism is a genuine disservice to the public, irrespective of one’s political beliefs. Tomasky should be ashamed of writing it, and the Times should be ashamed of publishing it.

White House

A Secret Ballot for Impeachment Would Be a Terrible Idea

A state legislator casts a secret ballot for secretary of state in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., December 5, 2018. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Over at Politico, Juleanna Glover, a former adviser for several Republican politicians, floats the idea that President Trump could be removed from office if three Republican senators insist upon a secret ballot for the vote on removal, and stand with Democrats to block any rules for impeachment that would involve on-the-record votes.

It is hard to describe just how terrible an idea this is. It would represent senators trying to avoid accountability for their votes, during an exercise that is supposed to be a legislative effort to hold the president accountable for his actions. This country has never forcibly removed a president from office. For such a consequential and historically important vote, the idea of senators being able to not tell the public how they voted — or to publicly claim they voted one way when they secretly voted the other — is unthinkable.

We all know why some senators would want a secret ballot; plenty of Republican senators who privately can’t stand Trump and who would strongly prefer a President Pence would vote to remove Trump from office if they knew they wouldn’t face punishment in a subsequent GOP primary. In a 75-25 vote in favor of removal, all 53 Republican senators could insist they were among the “no” votes, with no official record to contradict them. (This might apply to relatively Trump-friendly red state Democratic senators like Joe Manchin, too.)

If Trump really is an unconstitutional menace who is abusing the power of the presidency for his personal interests, stopping him ought to be worth losing a Senate seat. And if this action isn’t worth losing a Senate seat over, then it’s hard to see how it is worth removing a president. In 1998, this country established the precedent that a president suborning perjury did not warrant removal from office. The bar is set high, and it ought to be set high. If a senator wants to say, “we’re less than a year from a presidential election, let the people decide if this justifies ending Trump’s presidency,” they’ve got that option, too.

President Trump stands accused of concluding the ends justified the means — that he really wanted an investigation of the Bidens, and he was willing to withhold Congressionally appropriated military aid from another country in order to strong-arm the foreign government into announcing an investigation into one of his potential rivals. Trump knew the outcome he wanted, and he didn’t care how he got there. A secret ballot is just continuing the same philosophy — people want Trump out of office, and they don’t really care how they get there. And they’re even willing to sacrifice basic fundamental concepts of government — such as informing the public of which senators voted for impeachment — to get what they want. This would represent an attempt to remedy a cynical act done for personal political advantage in secret . . . with another cynical act done for personal political advantage in secret.

PC Culture

Canada Shouldn’t Let Manufactured Outrage Dictate Discourse

Hockey commentator and former coach Don Cherry looks on during the 2011 CHL/NHL top prospects skills competition in Toronto, January 18, 2011. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Jim Geraghty makes an excellent point about Canada’s selective culture of forgiveness: If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can be forgiven for his habit of wearing blackface, why can’t Don Cherry be forgiven for a ham-fisted rant on patriotism? I think there is a similar point to be made about speech in general. As a huge fan of the NHL, I’ve been watching Cherry on and off for probably 30 years or more. When I was a young sports-journalism intern, I was thrilled to have a couple of short but memorable conversations with the broadcaster. Since then, he’s turned into an even bigger cartoon character, often donning gaudy, bright floral suits to match his loud persona.

The immensely popular Cherry, now 85, has long been known as champion of traditional “Canadian” hockey, by which he means hockey that features hitting and fighting. Cherry, who does a tremendous amount of charity work for kids and veterans, has spent years deliberately tweaking the sensibilities of the habitually offended. He’s the kind of old-timer who still calls liberals “left-wing pinkos” and environmentalists “cuckaloos.”

And all of that finally caught up to him this week when he was fired by Sportsnet, Canada’s leading sports network, for singling out immigrants as “you people” in a rant about the lack of red poppy pins, which Canadians — or, at least, a dwindling number thereof — wear on Remembrance Day to symbolize the sacrifices of their armed forces.  At one point, Cherry says:

“You people . . . you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

The network quickly apologized on air for Cherry’s “hurtful” comments — “hurtful” being a modern euphemism for “offensive.” “You people” is an undeniably crude way to refer to your fellow citizens. But immigrants aren’t brittle creatures who have to be shielded from open discourse. Cherry’s rant was a plea for patriotic participation and communality, not a plea to keep immigrants out of Canada. As far as I can tell, he wasn’t even exclusively singling out immigrants. He began by grousing about his neighbors in Mississauga. His point was that rural Canadians show far more patriotism than urban Canadians, which may or may not be true.

Even if viewers were hurt, though, rather than terminate a 40-year career over a single boorish phrase, wouldn’t it have been more productive and entertaining to bring on a Canadian immigrant — maybe even a player — to debate Cherry on the meaning of patriotism, and perhaps the significance of the declining support for veterans?

I don’t mean to overstate the importance of Cherry’s firing — we’re talking about an octogenarian ranting about pins, after all — but every time we bury someone who offends a few thousand people on social media we set a new destructive precedent. (And I mean that even when we do it to people I find utterly despicable, such as Helen Thomas.) None of these personalities has a right to be on TV, of course, and there are limits, but allowing manufactured outrage to dictate the contours of debate is dangerous trend.

Energy & Environment

Should the Public Have Access to the Science Used to Regulate It?

An empty podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., July 11, 2018 (Ting Shen/Reuters)

The New York Times has a story on a rule the Environmental Protection Agency is working on, complete with a leaked draft. The gist is that, under the rule, the EPA would not rely on scientific studies to support regulations unless the “data and models” underlying the findings were released to the public.

There is an enormous upside to this. When scientists are completely transparent about their methods and openly provide their data, other researchers and skeptics can point out errors and otherwise refine the analysis. That’s a boon to science — and a check on researchers who massage their analyses until they get the output they want. Under the regulation, we’d never again hear the words, “Our data prove that we need massive new environmental regulations, but no, you can’t see them.”

As the Times unsurprisingly focuses on, however, there are also big downsides. The studies the EPA relies on often involve personal health information collected with a guarantee of confidentiality, or proprietary business data. The rule would apply retroactively, so it could eliminate studies the agency has been relying on for decades, including when longstanding regulations come up for renewal. (Apparently the biggie is the “Six Cities Study,” which showed higher deaths from lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disease in places with more air pollution, especially “fine particulates.” The data were not made public, though there was a reanalysis by a research group jointly funded by the EPA and the car industry.)

Further, it can be difficult and expensive to truly anonymize data so that they’re suitable for public release. It’s not just a matter of stripping off the names; you also have to make it hard for nosy neighbors to identify people based on other details. And there’s no consensus on how anonymized is anonymized enough: The Census Bureau has whipped up a controversy over a proposal to anonymize data far more aggressively than it has in the past, which would make the information a lot less useful to researchers.

I’m not convinced the leaked rule is the right course, but the document also spells out two highly promising alternatives. In one, the EPA wouldn’t necessarily ignore studies without public data, but could give them less weight. A variation on this alternative would apply only to data and models created after the rule went into effect, so researchers would be on notice that if they wanted the EPA to give their work a lot of weight, they’d need to design their studies with transparency in mind. This seems entirely fair.

In another, the EPA would develop a “tiered” system in which access to data could be restricted to various degrees depending on the privacy concerns at issue. This could include limiting access to qualified researchers who work with it at “secure data enclaves.” That could create a lot of expense and headaches — but given that even your tax records have been made available to researchers, it’s certainly workable.

National Review

National Review v. Mann Update, a Final Appeal, and Admitting We Owe Our Independence to Bold Speech


The Supreme Court announced today a bunch of denials for cert petitions. Ours, first submitted in May in our National Review v. Mann battle to protect free speech, was not on that list. That’s good news. The next date for such SCOTUS announcements in this Friday. This case’s fate may be known then.

We delayed Sunday’s formal end of our Fall 2019 Webathon because the possible announcement was just 48 hours away. We’ll end our appealing today on this note: No bad news is good news, we are still in the game, and the prospect of NR having its day — in the proper court — seems a little brighter. Costly, but brighter.

The stamp pictured here — from 1973, issued as the Bicentennial approached: it’s known as the “Pamphleteer” — seems a fitting image as to what NR’s case represents at its core. The very thing to which we Americans owe our nationhood is free speech, and its exercise through profound words spoken boldly and written powerfully and disseminated broadly. That is what is under concerted attack in this legal matter, brought against us by Penn State professor Michael Mann.

National Review is fighting back, aggressively, thanks to the help of some dedicated conservative readers. And we will never stop fighting, especially with you alongside us on the front lines, atop the ramparts, at the barricades.

Will you join us there? We appeal for your camaraderie this one final time.

Why should you? Because this case should be of immense concern. National Review v. Mann has lingered in a D.C. court that is ready to allow free speech to be determined by a dozen jurors from this very liberal, strategically selected location. A dozen people empowered to decide whether NR was wrong to express this or that particular opinion. Today, NR. Tomorrow? Tomorrow is when another jury sits in judgment over your opinion. And you actually believed that free speech is a right that’s unalienable!

So, we are thrilled that we persist in the Supreme Court mix, and are prayerful that the Justices will accept our cert petition. And we expect to prevail and put an end to this assault on liberty. But it will be a costly endeavor. True, much will be paid by our insurer, but much will be “out of pocket.” We could use help there.

Prior to this final day of the Fall 2019 Webathon, 2,345 good people donated $296,920.26 to NR, for its legal case and for broader needs. We hope to raise an additional $28,080 by midnight tonight (our webathon goal being $325,000).

Folks, this case is well into its seventh year. Michael Mann’s undertaking is a bald assault on the First Amendment, on NR’s right to speak boldly about things which require bold talk, and on your right, yes, your right, to fully enjoy the blessing of liberty, the one that entitles you to free speech, even if that speech angers a multiculturalist, offends a social justice warrior, or triggers a college snowflake.

Imagine if these types had been around in 1776! They would have harassed and fought the Founders for declaring some rights to be unalienable. Let’s face it: America owes its independence to the written word, printed on paper, distributed to the populace, and making the powerful case for what Abraham Lincoln would one day call “a new nation, conceived in liberty.”

Our cause is just. Our needs are real. Your obligation is nil. But we ask anyway, this one last time, knowing that many of you are eager to be counted among the happy few members of a conservative band of brothers and sisters dedicated to seeing National Review survive and thrive. To see it prevail in this case. To see our First Amendment emerge robust and intact.

Help us reach our goal. We are asking for $28,080 by midnight. If you have already helped, many thanks. If you have not, please do give here. And if that beautiful 8-cent stamp has you thinking postal, make a check payable to “National Review” and send it to National Review, ATTN: 2019 Fall Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036. Whatever you decide, may God’s blessings be on you and yours and on the freedoms we enjoy, which we will enjoy as long as the determined enemies of liberty are kept from prevailing. Today, this year, in a decade, in our jubilee (2056!) – with your continued help, NR will be around to keep them from that.

Politics & Policy

Rubio Charts a Path Forward for the Right

Senator Marco Rubio in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Marco Rubio gave a speech last week at Catholic University in which he outlined a vision for the future of the Republican party. He thinks, correctly, that the right’s economic policy agenda should focus more on workers and “the opportunity to attain the dignity that comes from hard work.”

The specifics of his agenda could use some work, but what made the speech stand out was its focus on this broader goal, and its attempt to create a framework for thinking about the future of conservatism.

Senator Rubio has long been a leader in exactly this kind of effort: updating and adapting the conservative policy agenda from its Reagan-era vintage to meet the needs of 21st-century America.

On the specifics, he leans too heavily into today’s populist frustration. For example, he argues for industrial policy and criticizes stock buybacks.

I discuss the speech in my latest Bloomberg column, and argue that the senator:

should stick closer to the right’s longstanding commitments to markets, advancing opportunity and insistence on individual responsibility, and further away from populism.

Doing so would not need to divert him from his worthy focus on workers. Much the opposite. For example, Rubio could push to break down barriers in the labor market, help ex-offenders get jobs by regulating how employers ask job-seekers about criminal records, back an agenda to increase the skills of workers so that they can command higher wages in competitive markets, and expand federal earnings subsidies to low-income households, both to draw them into the workforce and to help lift them out of poverty.

Check out my column for my full argument. Your comments, as always, are very welcome.


When SCOTUS Rules on DACA, Then What?

Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices were scheduled to hear oral arguments regarding the Trump administration’s bid to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Washington, U.S., November 12, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the DACA case today, with a ruling expected next summer. At issue isn’t really the legality of Obama’s grant of work permits and Social Security numbers to some 700,000 illegal aliens, but rather whether President Trump is legally permitted to reverse a policy decreed by his predecessor.

Even if you think the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was legal (it wasn’t), it was not enacted through the notice-and-comment process mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act for issuing regulations — it was just a memo from then-DHS secretary Janet Napolitano ostensibly outlining prosecutorial-discretion guidelines to her three subordinates who handled immigration matters. The idea that a subsequent administration can’t issue a superseding memo without going through notice-and-comment is ludicrous. As Robert wrote here last month, “the executive had no right to enact DACA on its own, and the courts have no right to stop the Trump administration from correcting course.”

This should be a no-brainer even for the Democrat justices though, as has become customary, it may come down to Roberts. But assuming the Court rules in favor of the administration in, say, June 2020 — what then? Terminate the whole program immediately, and possibly turn off enough voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to lose the election? Or work with Congress to immediately pass an amnesty with no strings attached, and possibly turn off enough voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to lose the election?

One possibility might be to stop issuing renewals immediately but let existing work permits continue until they expire, at an average rate of about 1,000 a day. Then call on Congress to finally pass a targeted package that gives DACAs green cards in exchange for, say, mandatory E-Verify (to make it less likely we’ll have DACA situations in the future) and ending the visa lottery (to partly offset the extra legal immigration represented by the amnesty).

Alternatively, the White House could punt until after the election: announce that renewals will continue to be processed, but only through the end of 2020, after which work permits will begin expiring, leaving it to the new Congress and the new (or incumbent) president to work out a deal. Then one of the subjects of the election could be what the shape of such a deal should be. The Democrats will argue for a very expansive amnesty with no trade-offs — not just DACAs, but other people who came here illegally before age 18 but didn’t qualify for DACA, plus all the illegals with Temporary Protected Status. The Republicans could make the case for a balanced deal, one that acknowledges the prudence of legalizing the DACAs but also recognizes the need to limit the fallout of such a measure.

Could the Republicans pull off either approach successfully? The Stupid party’s track record suggests skepticism, but maybe they’re learning.


Broadway’s Casual Racism


“For as long as I’ve been attending theater in the city, my name and brown skin have made me the target of bullies and racists,” writes critic Jose Solis of Broadway News. Solis has penned a detailed indictment of the theater scene, which is pleased to think of itself as maybe the most progressive corner of an aggressively liberal industry. “Theater clearly has a people of color problem,” Solis says. “When I see a show with a white friend, people often ask the friend if they brought me to the show and ask me if it’s my first time at the theater.” 

Solis adds:

I’ve been asked if I’m with the catering staff at theater critics events, been chastised by angry ushers to turn my cell phone off, even if I have never taken my device out of my pocket during a performance, and often been asked if I’m sure I belong in the orchestra, as ushers point me to the mezzanine. My skin has become so thickened by the mistreatment and rudeness of theater employees that I might as well be a walking callus.

Remember all this the next time a theater person with a shiny trophy in his hands denounces all the haters, xenophobes, and racists out there, humiliates Mike Pence for attending a show, or brags about how loving and inclusive the theater world is.


Salt the Daily Northwestern

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington, U.S., June 13, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Northwestern University’s student newspaper is a national embarrassment:

On Sunday, Northwestern University’s student newspaper published an editorial apologizing for “mistakes” the staff said it had made while covering two protests during former attorney general Jeff Sessions’s visit to campus on Nov. 5.

Those errors?

Tweeting out photos of students protesting Sessions and later using a campus directory to call some of those demonstrators for interviews.

“We recognize that we contributed to the harm students experienced, and we wanted to apologize for and address the mistakes that we made that night,” the Daily Northwestern’s editorial board wrote. “Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatizing and invasive. Those photos have since been taken down.”

The apology contains all the usual buzzwords that mark out your average capitulation to the insane and the brittle: “harm”; “retraumatizing”; “safety”; “invasion”; “marginalized”; along with the customary promise that everyone implicated will visit the nearest re-education camp tout suite. It’s dreck from start to finish, and everyone involved with it should be severely ashamed.

Are they? Presumably not, given that they’re still making their case.

It is beyond my comprehension that anyone who participated was able keep a straight face while writing it, let alone that they consented to have their name glued to the thing for eternity. Just look at it. “One area of our reporting that harmed many students was our photo coverage of the event.” What? “Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatizing and invasive.” How? “We feel that covering traumatic events requires a different response than many other stories.” It was a milquetoast speech, not D-Day. “Some students also voiced concern about the methods that Daily staffers used to reach out to them.” They used the bloody phone book. ” We understand that this will not be easy, but we are ready to undertake the reform and reflection necessary to become a better paper.” Impossible. The only way to improve the paper is to fire everyone involved and bomb the building from the upper atmosphere.

Satire is dead.

The aim of a newspaper — and of its employees — should be to report the news without fear or favor. In practice, this will never be done perfectly. Writers have biases, both conscious and unconscious; the information at hand is not always complete; limited space mandates subjective editorial decision-making; and so on. But if those involved are so craven and so obsequious that they happily beat themselves with birch twigs at the first sign of irritation or dissent, then they have no chance at getting close to performing their roles. The Northwestern Daily is no longer a newspaper; it’s a parable.


Canada’s Highly Selective Culture of Forgiveness

Don Cherry (Matt Smith/Reuters)

Don Cherry is an 85-year-old former National Hockey League player and coach who became an icon of sports broadcasting in Canada, known for wildly colored sports jackets and commentary that is almost as colorful. He’s already stirred the ire of progressives by complaining about European players taking over his beloved sport, being a self-described nationalist and Donald Trump supporter, and his career as a sportscaster appears to have come to a crashing end, as his employer, Canadian broadcaster Sportsnet, dismissed him Monday.

Cherry’s full remarks, transcribed:

“You know, I was talking to a veteran, I said, ‘I’m not going to run the poppy thing anymore,’” Cherry began, referencing his annual Remembrance Day segment. “Because what’s the sense? I live in Mississauga, nobody wears, uh, very few people wear a poppy. Downtown Toronto, forget it. Downtown Toronto, nobody wears the poppy. And I’m not going to – and he says, ‘wait a minute. How about running it for the people that buy them?’ Now you go to the small cities. You know, those – the rows and rows – you people love – they come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life. You love our milk and honey. At least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the, the biggest price for that. Anyhow, I’m going to run it again, for you great people, and good Canadians, that bought a poppy, I’m still gonna run it, anyhow.”

Many Canadians and others in U.K. Commonwealth countries wear red poppies on their lapels to mark Remembrance Day, honoring members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.  The majority of the objections focused upon Cherry’s comment, “they come here” — presumably meaning immigrants — and the contention that immigrants don’t wear poppies.

I was in Toronto from Thursday afternoon until yesterday midday. While you see more poppies on jackets and lapels in some neighborhoods than others — more in the downtown business district than in the hipster neighborhood Kensington — it’s ludicrous to contend “downtown Toronto, nobody wears the poppy.” (Back in 2017, a Toronto Sun columnist lamented that almost no one was wearing a poppy . . . five days before Remembrance Day.)

The American equivalent would be if John Madden said one day, “nobody in New York City stands for the National Anthem.”

Toronto residents have every reason to be irked at Cherry’s comments, contending that those in the city have little or no patriotism. And whether or not a sufficient number of Canadian immigrants wear poppies, it’s another unfair smear to suggest that none of them do. But the question is what would constitute an appropriate response to Cherry’s off-the-cuff, not-terribly-coherent comments. Nobody should be the least bit surprised that an 85-year-old hockey commentator would express himself in a way that isn’t politically correct or that would offend some people. A saner and more graceful culture would require Cherry to apologize to offended viewers, pick his words more carefully or stay out of controversial waters entirely, and let him end his career as a sports commentator gracefully. In addition to his hockey and broadcasting accomplishments, Cherry helped build and establish a pediatric hospice care facility to honor his late wife and her fight against liver cancer. This is not a man consumed with hate, just a man who said something inaccurate and stupid that offended people.

The driving spirit of most current criminal justice reform is that we’re all more than the worst thing that we have done. And earlier this fall, the Canadian public decided that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s multiple occasions of wearing blackface can be forgiven. But apparently that mercy is only available if you’re on a particular side of the political divide.

Politics & Policy

Nikki Haley vs. John Kelly and Rex Tillerson


My Bloomberg Opinion column is on what her recent comments tell us about the challenges of working for President Trump.

Nikki Haley, President Donald Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, has made news twice during her book tour. She has said that Trump should not be impeached “for asking for a favor that didn’t happen” and for holding up aid that was eventually delivered to Ukraine. And she has said that former administration officials Rex Tillerson and John Kelly asked her to join them in resisting the president from within. She says she rejected the idea because it would have meant subverting the Constitution.

In both cases, Haley disappointed opponents of Trump who had hoped, or imagined, that she was one of them. Her remarks show that she has thrown in her lot with the president. But there is a tension between her comments, and it mirrors the tension of working in this administration. . . .


The Problem of Turkey

Turkish writers (from left to right) Orhan Pamuk, Ahmet Altan, and Yashar Kemal at a news conference in Istanbul, October 11, 1999 (Fatih Saribas / Reuters)

Some freedom-loving Turks got a lift last week when Ahmet Altan was released from prison. He had been incarcerated for three years. He is a journalist and novelist. Do you know that Turkey is the world’s No. 1 jailer of journalists? Outdoing Iran and even great, vast China? Yes.

A couple of years ago, a joke made the rounds. A prisoner goes to the prison library and asks for a particular book. The librarian says, “Oh, we don’t have the book — but we have its author.”

Altan has written a beautiful column, here. He expresses a little guilt that he was able to leave prison while innocent others are left behind. This is a very, very common feeling. Former political prisoners have told me about it for many years.

Today, I have a piece about Turkey, and, more particularly, its place in NATO. That piece is called “Turkey, NATO, and a Shifting World.” The strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is visiting Washington tomorrow, to meet with President Trump. Do you remember what happened last time? Erdogan’s men beat protesters to a pulp. They seem to have forgotten they were in America, not at home.

Senator McCain tweeted, “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior.”

If Erdogan’s men act this way in America’s capital — in broad daylight — imagine what they do at home, when no one — no foreigner — is looking.

I had a chance to question Erdogan many years ago, as I relate in my piece. He said all the right things about democracy at the time. But it did not take him long to develop a nasty authoritarian regime.

Hundreds of Turkish military officers have requested asylum in an array of foreign countries, including the United States. How did they get there? They were assigned to the NATO command structure. Erdogan called them all back home. Some went — and were promptly arrested. Others, perhaps with a healthier sense of fear, had hung back.

Should Turkey be in NATO? Yes and no. I explore this question, and that ambivalent answer, in my piece. Regardless, there is no mechanism for the expulsion of a member from NATO, or even the suspension of a member. But perhaps a member will leave on its own, or be effectively expelled, thanks to cold shoulders from the others?

On October 21, Mark Esper, the American defense secretary, said, “We had no obligation, if you will, to defend the Kurds from a longstanding NATO ally.” In my piece, I ask, “Does this kind of thinking make sense in today’s world? Does it comport with the realities on the ground? Does it jibe with conscience?”

I think of the Palmerstonian adage — enunciated by Lord Palmerston in the middle of the 19th century — which goes, in a simple version, “A nation does not have permanent allies but permanent interests.”

When our guys got Baghdadi, the ISIS chief, we told the Turks nothing. We did not use Incirlik Air Base, in southern Turkey, which is close to the target. Instead, we used a base in Iraqi Kurdistan, much farther away. This entailed a long, dangerous flight over the expanse of Syria. Our aircraft took gunfire from the ground. But we did not want to tip off the Turks.

Speaking of tipping off: You know who gave us the intelligence concerning Baghdadi’s location? According to a variety of sources, including U.S. officials, the intelligence came from the Kurds.

Anyway, this is a big, important question, Turkey and NATO — not to mention the “substantial realignment” of the world, as Hungary’s Orban put it — and my piece, again, is here.

Politics & Policy

GOP Senator Kennedy: Quid Pro Quo ‘Probably’ Impeachable if Trump’s Motive Was Political


While President Trump is sticking with the “no quid pro quo” defense of his “perfect” phone call with Ukraine’s president, Republicans in Congress continue to be all over the map.

Louisiana Republican senator John Kennedy argued on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday that assessing President Trump’s motive will be the decisive factor in any Senate impeachment trial:

The quid pro quo, in my judgment, is a red herring. Here are the two possible scenarios. Number one, the president asked for an investigation of a political rival. Number two, the president asked for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival. The latter would be in the national interest. The former would be in the president’s parochial interests and would be over the line. I think this case is going to come down to the president’s intent — his motive. Did he have a culpable state of mind? For me … there are only two relevant questions that need to be answered. Why did the president ask for an investigation? And number two, and this is inextricably linked to the first question, what did Mr. Hunter Biden do for the money?

Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan asked: “So, over the line, does that mean impeachable?”

“Yeah, probably,” Kennedy replied.

South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, on the other hand, still insists there was no quid pro quo between President Trump and Ukraine. But both Graham and Kennedy agree that a quid pro quo motivated by electoral politics would be deeply problematic, and possibly impeachable. “Senator, if there was a quid pro quo, would that be an impeachable offense in your opinion?” a reporter in the Capitol asked Graham last week. “You know, I don’t know,” Graham replied. “We put conditions on aid all the time. But if you said, ‘I’m not going to give you money unless you investigate my political opponent to help me politically,’ that would be completely out of bounds.”


Quinnipiac: Kamala Harris Polling at 1 Percent in New Hampshire

Senator Kamala Harris speaks to reporters after the fourth U.S. Democratic presidential candidates 2020 election debate in Ohio, October 15, 2019. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

The latest Quinnipiac poll of New Hampshire shows Joe Biden with a narrow lead in a close four-way race:

Biden 20

Warren 16

Buttigieg 15

Sanders 14

The RealClearPolitics average of New Hampshire polls similarly shows a tight race: Biden and Warren are tied at 19.7 percent, Sanders is at 19.0 percent, and Buttigieg is at 11.3 percent.

As for the bottom-tier, Quinnipiac finds Kamala Harris posting her worst polling result of 2019 in New Hampshire a couple weeks after the California senator fired her campaign staff and closed campaign offices in the state in order to redirect her diminishing resources to Iowa.

Meanwhile, Tulsi Gabbard is showing a pulse at 6 percent in the Quinnipiac poll (the Hawaii congresswoman has the support of 10 percent of independents but only 1 percent of Democrats who intend to vote in the primary):

Gabbard 6

Yang 4

Klobuchar 3 

Steyer 3

Bennet 1 

Booker 1 

Harris 1

After Gabbard attacked Harris’s record on criminal justice at the July Democratic debate, Harris memorably boasted that she was, unlike Gabbard, a “top-tier candidate.”