Re: A Couple of Lefty Law Professors . . .

Naturally, I agree with the argument against the constitutionality of Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax that Kevin links below — except for this bit:

Certainly, it would have been bad advice to tell President Franklin Roosevelt not to pursue the New Deal because a conservative court would fight back. But this is not an instance of ideologically motivated jurists pulling a rabbit out of a hat. A good-faith reading of history and precedent would suggest that the Warren and Sanders wealth taxes are unconstitutional.

I’m not sure why this is set up in contrast. A good-faith reading of history and precedent would suggest that most of the New Deal was unconstitutional, too.


A Couple of Lefty Law Professors . . .

. . . . offer a pretty good explanation of why Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax is unconstitutional.

The framers of the 16th Amendment thought about scrapping the direct tax clauses entirely, but they decided instead to limit the amendment to “incomes.” An income tax is a tax on wages and money received from property, while a wealth tax is a tax on the value of property itself. The amendment applies to taxes on income, not to taxes on wealth.

Wealth tax proponents might argue that progressives ought not trim their sails simply because they fear that hostile justices will strike down their policies. Certainly, it would have been bad advice to tell President Franklin Roosevelt not to pursue the New Deal because a conservative court would fight back. But this is not an instance of ideologically motivated jurists pulling a rabbit out of a hat. A good-faith reading of history and precedent would suggest that the Warren and Sanders wealth taxes are unconstitutional.

I forget — what is it Senator Warren teaches at Harvard?

If the obstacle is a “good faith” reading of the Constitution, then Warren is unlikely to be hindered. Good faith is not her business.


There’s Big Money in Democratic Socialist Pronoun Buttons

An image of German philosopher Karl Marx is seen in a traffic light for passengers in his hometown in Trier, Germany, April 13, 2018. (Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters)

Great news, everyone. You can get your Karl Marx “Sharing Is Caring” sweatshirt for just $45, a Democratic Socialists for America dress for just under $50, a Democratic Socialists of America canvas print for $48, and Democratic Socialists of America leggings for just under $44. A Socialist party flag will cost you about $40 on Ebay, the Democratic Socialist premium T-shirts will set you back a bit more than $30.

You can also get Socialism Before Sanders: The 1930s Moment from Romance to Revisionism for just $93 at Walmart, or Towards a New Socialism for just under $90.

Over at the Democratic Socialists for America store, you can get a set of pronoun buttons for $10, the same price as a rose lapel pin. Or maybe the best value is the anti-capitalism T-shirt for just $20.

Man, being a socialist is expensive these days. Forget capitalism; if you really want to make money in the market, you’ve got to embrace the socialism brand and figure out how to market and sell socialist stuff.

Various Soviet leaders are said to have declared “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them” — although it’s far from clear whether any of them actually said it. But it’s understandable if today’s socialists aren’t all that interested in buying the rope, when there are so many great choices to buy socialist-branded consumer merchandise!

Health Care

Medicare-for-All Fiction Seems to Be Hurting Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren during the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, August 10, 2019. (Scott Morgan/Reuters)

Axios is reporting this morning that, according to NewsWhip data, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has faced scrutiny on social media after announcing her Medicare for All plan — in particular for falsely claiming that her policy won’t require raising taxes on the middle class to finance it.

A whopping seventy percent of the 50 most-engaging articles on social media — judging by likes, shares, and comments — about Warren’s Medicare for All plan were negative. It’s not terribly surprising, considering that Warren optimistically estimates it will cost somewhere in the ballpark of $2 trillion a year, and yet she insists she’s discovered a magical way to underwrite this program without jacking up taxes on anyone but the richest Americans.

As Kevin Williamson points out in a piece on the homepage this morning, there’s no realistic way to square this math:

Even if the federal government were able to successfully double the revenue it gets from personal and corporate income taxes, the additional revenue would not pay for Warren’s health-care plan.

In fiscal year 2019, all federal tax revenue from all sources combined amounted to $3.4 trillion. If a Warren administration and a Democratic Congress were successful in raising Americans’ taxes by 50 percent, the extra revenue still wouldn’t be enough to fund Warren’s health-care program.

In the wake of her rollout, Warren also has suffered a loss in the polls. On October 8, Warren managed for the first time to overtake former vice president Joe Biden in the RealClearPolitics polling average, making her the first candidate to do so all race.

But ever since, her support has dropped, leaving her more than seven points behind Biden in the RCP average at last count. And there have been other signs of weakness: In the most recent poll of likely voters in the Democratic caucus in Iowa, Warren led by just one point at 20 percent, followed closely by South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had 19-percent support.

Before this dip in the polls, Warren was considered to be in close contention with Biden for frontrunner status, and as he continues to bleed support, she’ll likely stay afloat in the top tier. She could very well end up being the nominee, if only because she appears to be the most electable alternative to Biden. But her decision to make the obscenely expensive Medicare-for-All plan a fixture of her campaign — while obfuscating about its actual costs — may make the road bumpier than her supporters would like.

It’s reasonable to think some voters might’ve noticed how ridiculous this scheme is, that it’s a lie designed to bolster Warren’s reputation for having a plan for everything. And she very well might — but that doesn’t mean she has a plan that works.


Iowa Poll: Warren and Buttigieg in a Dead Heat

The latest Quinnipiac poll of Iowa:

Warren 20

Buttigieg 19

Sanders 17

Biden 15

Klobuchar 5

Harris 4

Buttigieg’s attack on Warren at the October 15 Democratic debate has clearly paid off for him. Since then, the RealClearPolitics average of Iowa polls has shown Buttigieg gaining about six points, Biden losing about six points, and Warren holding flat.


Keep Bioethics out of Elementary and High Schools

(Mike Blake/Reuters)

Bioethicist Jacob M. Appel wants the bioethics movement to educate your children about the policy and personal conundrums that involve medical care and health public policy. He claims that “most of us give little thought” to issues that may arise, such as end-of-life care and prenatal screening. Then, when an issue arises, people are unprepared to make wise and informed decisions. From, “The Silent Crisis of Bioethics Illiteracy,” published in Scientific American:

Change will only occur when bioethics is broadly incorporated into school curricula [at an early age] and when our nation’s thought leaders begin to place emphasis on the importance of reflecting meaningfully in advance upon these issues…

Often merely recognizing such issues in advance is winning the greater part of the battle. Just as we teach calculus and poetry while recognizing that most students are unlikely to become mathematicians or bards, bioethics education offers a versatile skill set that can be applied to issues well outside the scientific arena. At present, bioethics is taught sporadically at various levels, but not with frequency, and even obtaining comprehensive data on its prevalence is daunting.

Is this really an appropriate field for children? Consider the issues with which bioethics grapples and whether elementary-, middle-, and high-school children have the maturity to grapple with them in a meaningful and deliberative way (not to mention, the acute potential that teachers will push their students in particular ideological directions):

  • Abortion, including because the baby is unwanted, of an undesirable sex, or diagnosed with a disability.
  • Killing the sick via assisted suicide/euthanasia.
  • Whether human life has moral value simply and merely because it is human or whether being a “person” based on cognitive abilities matters morally.
  • Advocacy that the moral value of some animals is greater than that of some humans based on respective cognitive capacities.
  • Whether embryonic stem cell research should be federally funded and human therapeutic or reproductive cloning allowed.
  • Transgender surgeries and blocking of puberty in children and other issues involving LGBT controversies.
  • Whether to harvest the organs of patients deemed to be persistently unconscious or otherwise profoundly cognitively disabled.
  • Genetic engineering and the ethical propriety of making human/animal chimeras.
  • Healthcare rationing and refusing wanted life-sustaining treatment based on quality of life (“futile care).
  • When and under what circumstances people should decide for themselves to cease life-sustaining treatment.

Even if some students are mature enough to grapple with these issues thoughtfully, the next problem is that bioethics is extremely contentious and wholly subjective. It’s not science, but focuses on questions of philosophy, morality, ideology, religion, etc.. Moreover, there is a dominant point-of-view among the most prominent voices in the field — e.g., those who teach at leading universities and would presumably be tasked with writing the educational texts. These perspectives would unquestionably often stand in opposition to the moral values taught young students by their parents.

Appel is typical of the genus (if you will). He has called for paying women who plan to abort to gestate longer in their pregnancy so that more dead fetuses will be available sufficiently developed to be harvested for organs and used in experiments. He advocates mandatory termination of care for patients who are diagnosed as persistently unconscious to save resources for what he considers more important uses. He has also supported assisted suicide for the mentally ill.

Appel’s perspectives are not unique in bioethics. The movement went semi-berserk when President George W. Bush appointed the conservative bioethicist Leon Kass to head the President’s Council on Bioethics — one even called him an “assassin” for opposing human cloning research — as many worked overtime to discredit the Council’s work in the media.

Indeed, activists without a modifier like “Catholic” or “pro-life” before the term “bioethicist”–are overwhelmingly very liberal politically and intensely secular in their approach. Most support an almost unlimited right to abortion, the legalization of assisted suicide, genetic engineering (once safe), and accept distinguishing between human beings and persons, that is, they deny universal human equality.

Some wish to repeal the dead donor rule that requires organ donors to be dead before their body parts are extracted — an idea that admittedly remains somewhat controversial in the field. Most mainstream bioethicists deny the sanctity of human life and many think that an animal with a greater cognitive capacity has greater value than a human being with lower cognition. Add in the sector’s general utilitarianish approach to health-care issues, such as supporting rationing, and the potential for propagandizing becomes clear.

With such opinions, often passionately held, how long would it be before early bioethics education devolved into rank proselytizing? “But Wesley,” Appel might say. “the classes would be objective! Every side would be given equal and a respectful and accurate presentation.”

Sure. If you believe that, you must think current sex education curricula and high school classes in “social justice” present all sides of those issues dispassionately and without attempt to persuade the students to particular points of view and cultural perspectives.

I have a deal for Appel: In-depth courses in bioethics should not be taught before college — unless I get to write the textbooks! I promise to be objective and fairly present all sides. Honest!

Do you think he and his mainstream colleagues would approve of that deal?

Neither do I. And we shouldn’t go along with his idea for the very same reason.


More Is More: Caplan and ‘Open Borders’

Migrants, en route to the United States, make their way to San Pedro Tapanatepec from Mexico, October 27, 2018. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

“Open borders” is a phrase that is thrown around as an accusation — anybody who is marginally less restrictive on immigration than the speaker would like him to be is described as advocating “open borders.” In reality, there are very few open-borders voices in our political discourse. Some people are more restrictive (Mark Krikorian et al.), some people are less restrictive (a preference frequently voiced in the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal), and a few take a mixed view (e.g., my own preference would be to make it relatively easy for wealthy and high-earning people to immigrate to the United States and much more difficult for poor and unskilled people). There are precedents for open borders: Victorian England, for one, and the United States, once upon a time, but few people are for that in the current context.

Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University, is one of those who do advocate open borders, and he makes a case for the policy in his new, straightforwardly titled book, Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration. Professor Caplan is an intelligent and provocative thinker and writer, and I have never failed to find something valuable in his books and essays, especially when I disagree with him.

Professor Caplan’s book is probably not what you are expecting. He is an economist and writes with an economist’s eye. Those of us who are engaged in the business of publishing opinions are used to having our views caricatured and presented in cartoon form (Ahem!) but Professor Caplan has here beaten the critics to the punch, in a sense: Open Borders is a comic book, produced in partnership with “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal” artist Zach Weinersmith. Professor Caplan himself appears as a cartoon character, looking a little bit like a bespectacled Waldo in a grey suit. We also get cartoon versions of Donald Trump, J. S. Mill,  John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Voltaire, Richard Posner, Harriet Tubman, Carl Gauss, Milton Friedman, Lee Kuan Yew, Immanuel Kant, Amy Chua, V. I. Lenin, and Jesus.

It may be churlish to describe a comic book as being oversimplified, but there are many instances in which Professor Caplan’s arguments do not even address fairly obvious counterarguments. For example, he notes that unskilled workers who migrate from poor countries to rich countries make ten times as much money for the same work, but does not make a very persuasive argument that with immigration on the scale he is here considering (hundreds of millions to the United States alone) the labor markets of the rich world still will produce comparable results. He describes immigration controls as “global apartheid” and argues that immigration controls are the moral equivalent of Nazi laws restricting where Jews could live and work, a variation on the Berlin Wall, etc.,  which is rhetorically incontinent in the familiar High Libertarian mode. Estimates that open borders would double world economic output are, let us say, highly theoretical.

So, I’m not sold. But Professor Caplan’s argument is multifaceted, energetically presented, fun to read, and worth giving some real attention to if only as an exercise in clarifying one’s own thinking about the question.

Professor Caplan also is the author of several other interesting books, among them Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. So when it comes to people, he is a more-is-more kind of a guy.


A Brexit Blackmail

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside Downing Street in London, England, September 25, 2019. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

When asked about Brexit, Donald Trump recently called Boris Johnson the “right man for the time” and added “what I would like to see is for Nigel [Farage] and Boris to come together. I think that’s a possibility.”

Is it?

Nigel Farage has urged Boris Johnson to “change course” after the PM dismissed the idea of a pact with the Brexit Party leader. While wearing boxing gloves and pretending to punch cameras, he said that the Brexit party would “stand for Brexit if [Boris Johnson] doesn’t really want to.”

“If Boris Johnson was going for a genuine Brexit,” Farage told the BBC, expressing his disapproval for Johnson’s Brexit deal, “we wouldn’t need to fight against him in this election.” Though he does not intend to run himself, Farage has said he will campaign on behalf of the Brexit party’s other candidates.

Johnson has responded by saying: “I will be very, very clear that voting for any other party than this government, this Conservative government, this One Nation Conservative government is basically tantamount to putting Jeremy Corbyn in.”

For millions, not least Britain’s Jews, that is a troublesome thought. But will it be enough to overcome Farage’s Brexit blackmail?

Ironically, Farage’s messaging about Johnson is very similar to Johnson’s messaging about Theresa May. He is effectively saying pick Boris and a bad deal or my party and a clean break. Even if this doesn’t lead to Corbyn, splitting the Tory vote might very well lead to yet another hung parliament and no clear way out of the Brexit mess.

For a deeper exploration of the problems associated with this, I highly recommended reading John O’Sullivan’s latest.

White House

Don’t Remove the Tyrant!

President Donald Trump participates in a formal signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., October 7, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Mairead notes that John Yarmuth, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is opposed to the impeachment and removal of President Trump. Specifically, Yarmuth has argued that:

“As much as I believe that President Trump should be removed from office and represents an imminent threat to our Democracy and our national security and many other things, politically — it’s probably not a good thing to get rid of him.”

This is a self-refuting statement. If Yarmuth believes that Trump “represents an imminent threat to our Democracy and our national security,” then he cannot also believe that “it’s probably not a good thing to get rid of him” — “politically” or otherwise. As Yarmuth knows, if Trump really does represent those things, then he has no choice but to help get rid of him.

Impressively, Yarmuth’s reasoning then proceeds to get worse:

Yarmuth predicted that if Trump was ultimately impeached and removed from office, the GOP would replace him with an even more formidable general election opponent like former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who has repeatedly been floated as a potential Republican presidential candidate.

“I don’t think the Republicans would nominate [Vice President] Mike Pence. I think they would nominate somebody like Nikki Haley. Somebody who would be very, very tough for a Democrat to beat,” he said.

Where does one start with this? Yarmuth’s calculation seems to be that Trump is less likely to win the imminent election than is another Republican candidate. But how, if Trump poses an unusual threat to “Democracy”? Perhaps Trump is one of those faulty Threats to Democracy who can’t even usefully undermine a plebiscite?

There is one more option, I suppose: That Yarmuth believes that Trump will steal next year’s election, whereas Haley would win it fairly, and that he’d rather fight against a usurper than against a victor. But if that’s the case, Yarmuth should resign now on the grounds that he is unwilling to uphold his oath of office.

It couldn’t be, could it, that our political rhetoric has moved just a little bit ahead of the evidence?


Kamala Harris Proposes More School

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris arrives in the Spin Room to talk to reporters after the conclusion of the fourth Democratic U.S. 2020 presidential election debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio October 15, 2019. (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

The headline at Mother Jones reads: “The School Day Is Two Hours Shorter Than the Work Day. Kamala Harris Wants to Change That.”

The author, Kara Voght, gives a sympathetic look to a pilot program that Kamala Harris wants to introduce to encourage schools to fill in the gap between the end of the academic day and the time when parents can pick their kids up after work. Schools that accept the funding would remain open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on all days, even on most school holidays, and provide “enrichment activities” during non-class time. The pilot schools would be studied for the best practices, to enable a results-driven expansion of the program. We’re told that Harris is “framing” the proposal as one that encourages economic growth (i.e., encourages more women to stay in the workforce) and child development.

Here’s how Voght frames the story:

The school day and calendar is a bad deal for children: In the absence of a better alternative, 3 percent of elementary-school students and 19 percent of middle-school students look after themselves from 3 to 6 p.m. on school nights. But it’s an equally bad deal for working parents—and the economy as a whole. A family paying out of pocket to cover child care for those two hours between the end of the school and workday costs an average of $6,600 dollars per year, or nearly 10 percent of an average family’s income. Almost 40 percent of all workers lack access to any paid vacation time, which means parents will often have to scale back their workday to accommodate child care duties.

That burden typically falls to women, a million of whom work less than full-time in order to keep up with caregiving responsibilities for elementary school-aged children. This hardship is particularly pronounced for low-income mothers and mothers of color, who are the most likely to have unpredictable or inflexible work schedules.

She promoted it with a tweet saying that Harris wanted to stretch the school day. This got a furious reaction from many quarters on social, including from me. The author seems to think that people who react negatively to this are just “White men—unfamiliar with parenthood’s demands?—mocking it.”

I’m not sure if having three children and using my flexible work schedule to accommodate them counts as familiarity. I had a single working mother who rarely if ever was able to pick me up, or be available for extra events imposed by the school. I remember “the gap” quite well. It would have been strange for us even to think of using pay-for child care. The institutions of our world filled the gap: neighbors, friends, and family. I remember the phrase “it takes a village” made some sense to me at the time.

My grandmother looked after me during my gap in primary school. Mostly this meant that I was able to go outside and engage in free play with other children in the neighborhood before dinner. If my grandmother was out at the store when I arrived home from school, I could call on a variety of neighbors. My friends’ parents might pick me up from school in special circumstances. I would have been in the smaller percentage of children in the mid 1990s who looked after themselves. By the time I was in middle school and the first years of high school one could say I was looking after myself and my grandmother.

Perhaps my mother would have liked an after-school program such as the one Harris is promoting. It might have made her feel like she was drawing down less from the treasury of her social life.

But I instinctively recoil at the idea of using schools for after-school work. My own childhood experience taught me a great deal of independence and responsibility. It gave me confidence to call on neighbors and friends for help. This is good practice for offering it back in the future. Also, schools are already an unusual hothouse environment. Socializing with the exact same children who are the exact same age, day after day, makes every social faux pas feel like life and death to children going through it. There’s an intensity of regimentation and social extremism already in our school system. A proposal like this would only intensify that existing problem.

And worse, because the proposal gives more opportunity and responsibility to the state to socialize and “enrich” the lives of children, it becomes a target for activism by those on every side who think they know precisely how to socially engineer our children.

Law & the Courts

Judge Blocks Trump Administration’s Conscience Protections on Abortion

Signs at the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., in 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

A federal judge in New York has struck down a Trump-administration rule that would have protected the First Amendment rights of health-care workers with moral or religious objections to abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and elective sterilization. The rule, put in place by the Department of Health and Human Services, was scheduled to take effect later this month.

Judge Paul A. Engelmayer issued a 147-page decision blocking the rule, which had been challenged by 19 states and a number of abortion-advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood. “The Court has found that HHS’s stated justification for undertaking rulemaking in the first place—a purported ‘significant increase’ in civilian complaints relating to the conscience provisions—was factually untrue,” Engelmayer wrote.

The judge also deemed the provision improperly coercive, criticizing HHS for enforcing the policy with the threat to withhold federal funding from health-care providers that compelled their workers to perform procedures in violation of their beliefs. “Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it,” he wrote.

The rule would have required clinics and research institutions that receive federal funding from programs including Medicare and Medicaid to “submit written assurances and certifications of compliance” with federal religious-freedom and conscience-protection laws.

In a statement today, New York attorney general Letitia James called the HHS rule “an unlawful attempt to allow health-care providers to openly discriminate and refuse to provide necessary health care to patients based on providers’ ‘religious beliefs or moral objections.’”

The scare quotes James implements here underscore precisely why the Trump administration policy was so necessary, and why today’s ruling is another example of harmful legislating from the bench. For those who have deemed certain procedures — abortion chief among them — an essential human right, there can be no protest or resistance from Americans who refuse to take part on the grounds that it kills a human being.

Such objections are, to the progressive zealot, mere “religious beliefs” that can be mocked in scare quotes and that must be tossed aside when duty calls. Blocking conscience protections such as those implemented by HHS not only allows health-care providers to get away with coercing employees into violating their consciences, but it increases the odds that plenty of Americans — religious ones, in particular — will be driven out of the health-care field entirely.


Striving to Be Special

Actress Emma Watson (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Emma Watson is nearly 30 years old, which is making her slightly anxious. In an interview with British Vogue — a magazine with a real knack for getting celebrities to say stupid things — the activist actress said that she prefers to call herself “self-partnered” than single.

Got that? Not “whole.” Not “complete.” Not “doing fine, thank you very much.” Self-partnered. Of course, Watson is not the first one to coin a new-age BS phrase like this. Gwyneth Paltrow described her divorce as “conscious uncoupling.” James Franco — whom, coincidentally, I recently passed on the street — interviewed his “female self” for Vice magazine.

When are such celebrities going to realize that they’re dull, not special?


Immigration Enforcement Is More Popular Than President Trump

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at a agricultural facility in Miss., U.S. August 7, 2019 (Enforcement/Reuters)

An election result from yesterday that I forgot to include in today’s Morning Jolt: Voters in Tucson, Arizona overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to become a “sanctuary city.” I did mention that in Sussex County, N.J. — a fairly Republican-leaning corner of a deep blue state — voters approved a referendum calling on local officials to cooperate with ICE by a 2-to-1 margin.

Something odd happens when voters are asked to vote on immigration enforcement when the issue is separated from major party candidates.

Last year, Don Barnes won the race for sheriff in Orange County, Calif., in a contest that was largely seen as a referendum on sanctuary cities and local law enforcement cooperation with ICE; Barnes opposes sanctuary city laws.

Harford County sheriff Jeff Gahler won reelection with 68 percent of the vote, in another local election that was seen as a referendum on local police’s cooperation with ICE. Elsewhere in Maryland, Montgomery County executive Marc Elrich is partially reversing an order he enacted in July barring Montgomery County police from cooperating with ICE. (Also in 2018 in Maryland, Frederick County sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who is sometimes touted as “the next Joe Arpaio,” won reelection with 53 percent of the vote, but that’s somewhat less surprising, as Trump won this county by 2.4 percent in 2016.)

The 2018 elections did see victories for some sheriffs who pledged less cooperation with ICE in Mecklenburg County and Wake County, N.C., Anne Arundel County in Maryland, and Ulster County in New York.

And for what it’s worth, one study of voter attitudes in the the 2018 midterms concluded, “Democrats made their biggest gains with economically liberal immigration skeptics.”

A lot of Americans in quite a few not-so-red jurisdictions are wary at best of sanctuary city policies and want to see immigration laws enforced. And yet, President Trump’s approval rating on how he’s handling immigration never budges out of the high 30s, low 40s range.

Trump fans won’t like hearing this, but how likely is it that this is a country that wants its immigration laws enforced but doesn’t like how Trump talks about it — “an invasion of our country,” “predators,” “animals” — and so on?

Alternately, how many voters want to see immigration laws enforced but can’t approve of an administration that seems so chaotic in attempting to enforce the policies it wants? In less than three years since taking office, Trump has had four secretaries and acting secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, three acting directors of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and three acting directors of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

This is an administration that has had so much turnover in positions dealing with immigration enforcement that Trump’s choice to be the acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security can’t take the job because he’s only acting in his current job of undersecretary for strategy, policy, and plans, and he needs to get confirmed in that job in order to be appointed acting secretary.


Honor and Practicality

Soldiers walk past an image of Saddam Hussein in Tikrit, Iraq, on December 27, 2003. (Zohra Bensemra / Reuters)

My Impromptus column today begins with a very grave item — the crisis of the Uyghurs in China — and does not get all that cheerier. But there is a little comic relief. (In the form of my Detroit Lions?) I wanted to expand on a couple of items, here in the Corner.

In 2015, I wrote a piece called “A Question of Honor: As the wolves circle, Iraqis who helped us are pleading for visas.” We abandoned many who had helped us in Vietnam; we are repeating this travesty. In 2015, I wondered whether Obama & Co. simply wanted to wash their hands of the Iraq War and were turning their backs on people for whom we had some responsibility. Today, the situation is worse.

On Monday, the New York Times published a report that began,

The Trump administration is refusing to take in thousands of Iraqis who risked their lives helping American forces during the Iraq war, cutting the number of high-priority refugees allowed into the United States this year and drastically slowing background checks they must undergo.

The report continued,

Only 153 Iraqi refugees whose applications were given high priority were admitted in the fiscal year that ended in September — down from a high of 9,829 in the 2014 fiscal year . . .

One more paragraph:

An estimated 110,000 Iraqis are waiting to be approved as refugees based on their wartime assistance. But on Friday, the Trump administration capped the number eligible this year at 4,000.

To some of us, this is a question of honor, as I said in 2015. But say you don’t think so. Honor, shmonor, you say. They knew what they were getting into. Screw ’em. This is a tougher America now, and “Our country is full,” as the president says. This is Trump-Bannon-Miller time, not Reagan-Bush-Bush time. Wake up and smell the coffee, man. Don’t give me any of this neocon globalism. Okay. What about stark realism? Cold practicality?

In September, I talked with Ryan Crocker, who for decades was a leading U.S. diplomat in the Middle East. He was ambassador to six countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the issues we discussed was this issue of visas. “Here again,” said Crocker, “our interests and our values intersect.” He continued,

Those who have helped us in certain situations at the risk of their own lives — they deserve to be treated well by us. The Vietnamese weren’t. People throughout the world — especially in the Middle East — look at Iraq, look at Afghanistan, and shake their heads. They say, in essence, “Not only can’t you count on the Americans to stay in the game and protect you on the ground. You can’t even count on them to do the right thing and get you to safety.”

And here comes the “practical” part:

This is going to make it harder in the next fight we get into — wherever it’s going to be, and it will be somewhere — to get the local support that we so urgently need. You can’t fight these wars by yourself. You need people who know the territory, who speak the language, etc. Who will be willing to step forward, given how we have treated allies in the past?

That is something for all of us to consider.

One more word, on another issue, before I go. In Impromptus today, I touch on last week’s congressional resolution on Armenia. The House declared the mass killings of the Armenians by Ottoman forces in 1915 a genocide. For many years, Bernard Lewis, the great historian of the Middle East, was tagged a “holocaust denier.” He did not regard the mass killings of the Armenians as a holocaust on a par with the Nazi holocaust of the Jews.

The issue came up at a press conference in 2002 (when Lewis was 86). To see how he handled it, watch this clip.

The word “genocide” — one of the most charged of all words — can be a tricky one. Strictly speaking, a genocide is the attempted extermination of a people. Most of the time, we use it to mean killings on a mass scale. “The Cambodian genocide,” for example, or “the Chinese genocide.” Did the Khmer Rouge intend to wipe out the Cambodians? (They went a long way toward doing so, murdering some 2 million people, which is to say, between a fifth and a quarter of the population.) Did Mao and his fellow Chinese Communists intend to wipe out the Chinese? (They got about 70 million of them.)

This is a ghoulish game, as you can see, and I am going to stop now. Again, my column is here. And if you would like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — who wouldn’t, after the fun of all this mass-murder talk! — let me know at jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.

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How States Like Virginia Go Blue

So this is what it feels like to live in a lab experiment. As a native Virginian, I’ve watched my state come full circle. The last time Democrats enjoyed the amount of power in the Old Dominion that they won on Tuesday, I was entering middle school in Fairfax County. In 1993 the governor was a Democrat, one ... Read More

Democratic Denial

One point I'd draw out from David Harsanyi's post below: It has been more than thirty years since a Democratic presidential nominee failed to make it to the White House and thought the loss was legitimate. Read More

Religious-Freedom Voters Will Vote Trump

The late Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy wrote, "Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion all have a double aspect — freedom of thought and freedom of action.” To which one should be able to add, freedom of inaction -- meaning that absent a compelling state interest, people should ... Read More
Books, Arts & Manners

Why Study Latin?

Oxford professor Nicola Gardini urges people to read and study Latin. He believes that Latin is the antidote for the modern age, which seems transfixed by the spontaneous, the easy, and the ephemeral. His new book, Long Live Latin: The Pleasures of a Useless Language, argues that Latin combines truth and ... Read More