Elections

Democratic Debates Leave Much to Be Desired

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former vice president Joe Biden during the Democratic primary debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif., December 19, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

This is the last Morning Jolt until December 30. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all, I hope you have a good one. As for today’s topics, there was a Democratic debate last night and the articles of impeachment are in limbo, but . . . come on, today everybody’s going to be talking about Star Wars.

These Aren’t Debates, These Are Public Recitations of Competing Wish Lists

I don’t like these debates, and I don’t think it’s merely because I’m a right-of-center guy and these are left-of-center candidates. Our old friend Tim Alberta asked some really good questions last night, on whether climate change warranted relocating Americans’ homes, nuclear power, special-needs education, and President Obama’s recent contention that “if women were in charge, you’d see a significant improvement on just about everything.” But most of the time, the candidates ignored what was asked and simply responded with a bite-sized version of their stump speech. And their stump speeches are full of, “we must do this, and we will do this” with almost no, “this is how we’re going to do this.”

For example, Alberta asked Bernie Sanders what he would do if Medicare for All couldn’t pass the Senate. “Are there smaller, specific measures that you would take immediately to expand coverage and decrease costs as president?” Sanders simply rejected the premise: “I think we will pass a Medicare for All single-payer system, and I will introduce that legislation in my first week in office . . . We’re going to have the American people behind us. We will have Congress behind us.” These candidates are convinced that somewhere in the Oval Office, there’s a magic wand that takes away all political opposition and skeptics, and they intend to use it.

Schrödinger’s Impeachment: Trump Is Impeached and Not Yet Impeached Simultaneously

It is as if House Democrats just now suddenly realized that Trump’s impeachment trial will be held in a GOP-controlled Senate, full of lawmakers who have no interest in removing the president or spending one more minute on the process than necessary. As of this writing, the articles of impeachment are going into the freezer to be preserved until the House comes back on January 7. Democrats seem to think that eventually, Mitch McConnell will feel a need to hold a trial on terms more amenable to the desires of House Democrats. Good luck with that.

“I admit, I am not sure what leverage there is in refraining from sending us something we do not want,” Mr. McConnell said with a wry smile from the Senate floor. “But alas, if they can figure that out, they can explain it. Meanwhile, other House Democrats say they would prefer never to transmit the articles. Fine with me!”

Has President Trump been impeached? Legally . . . not yet! That’s the assessment of Noah Feldman was one of the law professor experts who testified during the impeachment hearings, an invited witness of the Democrats. “Impeachment as contemplated by the Constitution does not consist merely of the vote by the House, but of the process of sending the articles to the Senate for trial. Both parts are necessary to make an impeachment under the Constitution: The House must actually send the articles and send managers to the Senate to prosecute the impeachment. And the Senate must actually hold a trial.”

Trump would love the argument, “legally and under the Constitution, I was never impeached.” Why does Nancy Pelosi think McConnell is going to fold on this?

The State of the ‘Star Wars’ Union

There are no spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker ahead, just the previous films.

Back in December 2015, a friend invited me to an early screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The mood in the theater was actually sort of tense and nervous, as this was the first new Star Wars film made by the new owners and creative team at Disney. Fan reaction to the prequels had been intensely divided, and some fans argued that the last non-disappointing Star Wars film had been The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980. If the new sequel was a dud, Star Wars fans would have to conclude that the first movies were lightning in a bottle, never to be replicated again and that the beloved films of their childhood had turned into just another piece of “intellectual property” used by Hollywood as an ATM.

The good news was, audiences largely loved The Force Awakens; unadjusted for inflation, it’s the fourth highest-grossing film of all time. The mood in the audience for the early screening of the sequel, The Last Jedi, was enthusiasm and excitement. And for what it’s worth, people came out of that screening in good spirits, convinced they had seen something bold and groundbreaking and daring.

But Star Wars fans were deeply divided in their response to The Last Jedi. Two years ago, I was something of a defender of the film, admiring how it went in some really unexpected directions. I liked it the first time I saw it, but the second time, months later, the flaws became tougher to ignore. Those unexpected directions don’t make a lot of sense in retrospect.

Why does the main plot revolve around a slow-motion chase? Why does one of the main subplots revolve around an admiral refusing to reveal her plan to the rest of her leadership team? Why do characters veer off into a subplot to make a heavy-handed argument that wealthy war profiteers are the real villains? Why does Rose’s love interest in Finn seem to come out of nowhere? Director Rian Johnson seemed to have no interest in the ideas or plotlines set up in the previous film, and simply ignored or downplayed them. He left the heroic Resistance whittled down to only about two dozen remaining combatants, we learned the rest of the galaxy ignored their distress calls — suggesting the galaxy didn’t seem to care that the evil First Order was taking over. The implication was that nothing our heroes had done had mattered at all.

Luke casually tossing away his old lightsaber generates a laugh in that initial scene, but . . . it’s not earned. When a director chooses the story direction and tells an audience, “hey, remember your favorite character from your childhood, who appeared to have grown to embody all of the good and heroic and noble traits? Well, since you last saw him, he’s become a bitter old man who abandoned his friends and family and who doesn’t care about anyone or anything anymore” . . . you cannot begrudge fans for responding negatively. Actor Mark Hamill revealed a lot when he said his relationship with writer and director Rian Johnson was initially strained. “I, at one point had to say to Rian, ‘I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realize your vision.’”

But a funny thing happened on the road to The Rise of Skywalker: it became okay for the other actors to admit they weren’t thrilled with the previous movie, either.

The Force Awakens I think was the beginning of something quite solid, The Last Jedi if I’m being honest I’d say that was feeling a bit iffy for me,” John Boyega declared in a magazine interview. 

“I didn’t necessarily agree with a lot of the choices in that and that’s something that I spoke to Mark [Hamill] a lot about and we had conversations about it. And it was hard for all of us, because we were separated.”

Daisy Ridley said she cried with relief at the news that the director of The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams, would come back for the next one. And Abrams offered his own subtle criticism of Johnson’s film:

Abrams praised “The Last Jedi” for being “full of surprises and subversion and all sorts of bold choices.”

“On the other hand,” he added, “it’s a bit of a meta approach to the story. I don’t think that people go to ‘Star Wars’ to be told, ‘This doesn’t matter.’”

Winner, winner, chicken dinner, delivered to Abrams in one of his beloved “mystery boxes.” Maybe Star Wars . . . didn’t need to be subverted or deconstructed. A lot of folks decreed that criticism of The Last Jedi reflected “toxic fandom” or anti-feminism, or some sort of delayed-reaction hostility to the cast’s ethnic diversity that somehow hadn’t bothered anyone in the first film. I’m sure if you looked hard enough, you could find examples fitting that description. But maybe, just maybe . . . it was just an uneven movie that left a lot of fans disappointed! You can love Ridley as an actress and still think the character of Rey seems a little too perfect or think the same of Kelly Marie Tran but find her character of Rose Tico underwritten and unappealing. (Never punish an actor for a screenwriter or director’s bad decisions.)

The Force Awakens showed our old heroes from the original trilogy in a dark place, but they had appeared to have found some new hope for the future. The Last Jedi ended with our heroes in a really grim spot. Han and Luke are gone, and the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher limited what this film could do with Princess Leia.

We’ve seen a lot of movies and television shows that check in with once-beloved heroes decades after we last saw them, and a lot of those creators chose to show that the later years of our heroes had turned out badly. Blade Runner 2047. Rambo: Last Blood. Twin Peaks. You could argue Logan, closing out the X-Men films. The last Terminator movie that brought back Sarah Connor. Maybe throw in that awful Die Hard sequel set in Russia. Star Trek: Picard, Top Gun: Maverick, Bill and Ted Face the Music and Matrix 4 are coming.

Newsflash, creators: we don’t like seeing that the favorite heroes of our childhood turned into bitter and defeated old men. Yes, these kinds of stories have to acknowledge that time passed, and the story usually requires our hero to not be on top of the world; they have to face some great challenge that drives them to go out on one last adventure. But these trendy “dark reboots” inherently state that the previous story’s victory was either short-lived or inconsequential.

Six months after The Last Jedi, Disney released Solo: A Star Wars Story, which pretty much amounted to “The Young Han Solo Chronicles.” I enjoyed that movie a great deal but apparently I was in the minority. This was the lowest-grossing Star Wars movie and apparently the smaller audience represented some sort of backlash to the previous film — never mind that it was a different screenwriter and director, and a different story about different characters. One of the lessons Disney took from Solo’s disappointing numbers was that Star Wars movies shouldn’t come out so frequently; fans need time to build up their hunger so that each movie feels like an event.

Or maybe Star Wars is actually better suited for a different medium. This fall, Disney unveiled The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars show, which is so far terrific. “This is the way” to tell a great Star Wars story. In fact, one wonders if there’s a little surprise in Disney offices at how much the terse tough guy Mando and the unstoppably cute Baby Yoda stole the spotlight from The Rise of Skywalker this autumn.

Maybe this Star Wars movie, which wraps up “the Skywalker saga,” will disappoint. But we know other films will follow, and Disney Plus will follow The Mandalorian with a series that brings back Ewan Macgregor as Obi Wan Kenobi, and a Rogue One prequel series featuring Rebellion spy Cassian Andor and his delightfully snarky droid partner K2S0. Throw enough darts and, eventually, some creative endeavor will hit the target.

Some people might think, “why is Jim writing about Star Wars in his morning newsletter, which is usually about politics?” First, there’s more to life than politics; in fact, William F. Buckley envisioned National Review as being as much about the state of our culture as the state of our politics. You could argue that nothing in our popular culture is bigger than Star Wars. (Maybe the Marvel movies have the strongest claim to the title.) And despite being dismissed as children’s fairy tales with science-fiction trappings and lots of special effects, Star Wars movies had something to say, even if a lot of it was drawn from mythology and myth and Akira Kurosawa samurai films and the works of Joseph Campbell. Star Wars may have debuted during the Carter years and been created by a dyed-in-the-wool man of the left, but they resonated enormously with the Reagan era, a band of underdogs who believed in freedom standing up to an evil empire. Star Wars emphasized that important people can come from humble and unexpected beginnings. Heck, you could argue one of the most influential philosophers in modern society is Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.” “Size matters not.” “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

ADDENDUM: Over on The Editors, we talk impeachment and the British elections. In the coming days, we’re scheduled to talk about Christmas memories and the year in review.

White House

The Fallout from Trump’s Impeachment

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks to the media with (from left) House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler after voting on two articles of impeachment against President Trump in Washington, D.C., December 18, 2019. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: wondering whether there was ever an alternative for both parties to rebuke Trump’s conduct with Ukraine; Nancy Pelosi tries to force Mitch McConnell’s hand; the speaker shuts up her caucus with a glare; and a pair of promised podcasts are now available.

In Hindsight, a Censure Vote Could Have Been Bipartisan

Was there ever a chance that the House, instead of impeaching President Trump, could have mustered a broad bipartisan majority for a resolution censuring the president’s actions?

Back in September 2018, the House passed an appropriations bill that included a Department of Defense spending bill providing $250 million in Ukrainian military-assistance funding. The House passed the original bill 359–49; the Senate passed its version 85–7, and the conference bill — the compromise between the House and Senate versions passed the House 361 to 61. President Trump signed it into law on September 28, 2018. Subsequent appropriations bills added funding to the U.S. program to help Ukraine.

At that point, the president still had a few options if he didn’t want to spend the money on the assistance to Ukraine. Under the Impoundment Control Act, the president can say he doesn’t want to spend a particular amount of money on a particular program and notify Congress, explaining why. Congress then can re-vote on that spending; if they enact legislation authorizing the cut, the money must be released as the law originally required. The administration did not use the Impoundment Control Act.

(Nor has the bipartisan support for Ukraine changed much. This September, the House passed a continuing resolution that included language extending funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative for another year. The vote was 301–123.)

In other words, there are a lot of House Republicans who voted to appropriate the funds that the president and his administration held up. If simply asked whether they believed the president had the authority to withhold Congressionally appropriated funds in secret, it is likely that the vast majority of House Republicans would answer, “no, he does not.”

When we first heard about the president’s conversations with the Ukrainian president, some House Republicans were willing to publicly criticize him.

Republican House Intelligence Committee member Michael Turner of Ohio said, “I’ve read the complaint and I’ve read the transcript of the conversation with the president and the president of Ukraine. Concerning that conversation, I want to say to the president: This is not okay. That conversation is not okay. And I think it’s disappointing to the American public when they read the transcript.”

Will Hurd of Texas said invoking Biden and asking for a favor on the call with Zelensky was “inappropriate, misguided foreign policy, and it certainly is not how an executive currently or in the future should handle such a call.” He also said early on, “There is a lot in the whistleblower complaint that is concerning. We need to fully investigate all of the allegations addressed in the letter.”

Back in November, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler said, “there should be an investigation into the events and the circumstances surrounding the president’s call to the Ukrainian president. The allegations that President Trump coerced Ukraine to influence the 2020 elections are very serious, and they deserve a full, impartial investigation that is totally transparent to the American people. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening right now.”

That same month, representative Mac Thornberry of Texas, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee declared, “I believe that it is inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. I believe it was inappropriate. I do not believe it was impeachable.”

Very recently, representative Chip Roy of Texas wrote right here at National Review: “It was foreseeable that mentioning a potential political opponent on a call with a foreign head of state would, at a minimum, give the appearance of mixing domestic politics with foreign policy . . .  I also do not believe so much effort should be spent advancing the argument that there was ‘no quid pro quo.’ It’s legally debatable, but it’s difficult to argue there wasn’t a ‘this for that’ desired outcome, based on the totality of the phone call and the testimony.”

In October, representative Don Bacon of Nebraska said to the Associated Press, “it showed poor judgment to make these contacts to Ukraine.” Representative Fred Upton of Michigan said, “There are legitimate questions that have to be asked, and people are going to be required to answer them.” Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, a former FBI Agent who worked in Ukraine, also said President Trump demonstrated “poor judgment.”

Then there is Francis Rooney of Florida:

Initially in one-on-one conversations, and then in larger group settings, Rooney cautioned his colleagues that there could be no turning a blind eye to the fact pattern emerging from Trump’s relationship with Ukraine. It seemed possible, if not probable, that congressionally approved military aid to the embattled country — long a cause dear to Democrats and Republicans alike — had been held up contingent on investigations into Trump’s domestic political rivals.

Notice none of those lawmakers voted to impeach the president last night. There may well have been more House Republicans who would have been willing to publicly criticize the president for his decisions and actions, if that was widely understood as being distinct from supporting Trump’s impeachment.

Whether impeachment advocates want to face this fact or not, few if any House Republicans were ever going to be willing to vote for impeachment. Members of Congress are almost never willing to impeach a president of their own party; we saw the same phenomenon at work among House Democrats in 1998. Members of the opposition party will always be more inclined to see high crimes and misdemeanors, and members of the president’s party will always be more inclined to see bad decisions that simply aren’t serious enough to prematurely end a presidency. Your approval or disapproval of how the world works does not change how the world works.

You can argue with House Republicans that they ought to support removing the president until you’re blue in the face, and maybe some Democrats feel like they did just that. When House Democrats ask why all the independent-minded House GOP members have disappeared, they should remember that the House members most likely to defy the White House got wiped out in the 2018 midterms — Republicans like Barbara Comstock, Mia Love, Carlos Curbelo, Peter Roskam, Erik Paulsen. That’s also why you didn’t see many swing-district Republicans sweating the impeachment vote. There just aren’t as many swing-district Republicans around anymore!

What would President Trump find more stinging: last night’s impeachment vote, where only Democrats voted to impeach? Or broader, bipartisan support for a resolution declaring that his actions violated the law and his Constitutional duties? Democrats were never going to get any GOP votes for the former, but they might have gotten some voters for the latter.

Theoretically, they could still go back and go for a resolution of censure or other condemnation, but I suspect most House Republicans would have little interest in revisiting the topic a second time after an impeachment vote. Fairly or not, a censure vote now would be seen as an admission that the impeachment did not have the impact that Democrats expected.

Welcome to Impeachment Limbo

Last night, House speaker Nancy Pelosi surprised some observers by declaring that the House would not name impeachment managers — roughly the equivalent of prosecutors for the Senate trial — until January, in hopes that the delay would  “put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider bipartisan.” This is a baffling approach that amounts to taking oneself hostage. Few Senate Republicans are itching to deal with the political stink-bomb that is impeachment, and they are in no rush. Remember, nothing else gets done in the Senate during impeachment — no other votes, no other hearings, no other committee meetings. Oh, and are we absolutely certain that Senators Sanders, Warren, Booker, Klobuchar, and Bennet would all join the bloc of senators seeking a longer Senate trial with more witnesses, dragging through January and February?

In some ways, it would be the perfectly ridiculous end to this if the House majority convinced itself it didn’t need to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial, because Trump’s acquittals would be more harmful to the country than this probably unconstitutional perpetual delay. This would be the equivalent of the prosecutors announcing an indictment and then never getting around to actually holding the trial.

You Don’t Get Good Behavior Points If You Only Clapped a Little

I know we’re all supposed to be impressed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shut down the post-vote applause with an angry glare . . . but she already told her caucus not to applaud earlier in the day, and they started to applaud anyway. Some Democratic members either have short memories or little impulse control.

ADDENDUM: Okay, now we have links to the podcasts mentioned yesterday! Here’s my chat with Jonah on The Remnant, and here’s my chat with Scott Mason and Mickey about the state of the Jets and the Steelers — I start off with a lengthy diatribe about why the Steelers organization excels and the Jets organization flounders because of completely different expectations at every level, from the owner to the groundskeepers. As Mickey put it, “we’re Steelers fans. We don’t really do moral victories.” If you’ve ever wanted to hear me lose my mind in front of a microphone, look for my rant about Adam Gase towards the tail end.

White House

What the Impeachment Vote Means to Voters

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the White House in Washington, D.C., November 15, 2019. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: how today’s impeachment is just the latest chapter in an ongoing four-year fight about Donald Trump and the American presidency; a quote from Nancy Pelosi she probably regrets; wondering what the most unpredictable Hawaii congresswoman wants to do next; and a busy schedule for podcasts.

Today Is Just Another Chapter in a Four-Year Argument: Should Donald Trump Be President?

Over in his newsletter for Axios, Mike Allen writes, “Today is a day we’ll always remember — one that will be studied as long as people study politics.”

Will it?

Whatever your view on impeachment, wasn’t it more or less guaranteed, once Democrats won the House, that an impeachment effort would eventually gain traction and reach 218 votes? Impeachment wasn’t just Rashida Tlaib’s infamous pledge. President Trump and a Democratic House majority were never going to settle into comfortable odd-couple squabbling, like Barack Obama and John Boehner’s House GOP, or George W. Bush and Nancy Pelosi’s first House majority. They were always on a collision course on the biggest issue of our era, a furious national argument that started in 2015 and never stopped: Should Donald Trump be president?

As I’ve written before, three weeks into Trump’s presidency, Public Policy Polling found 83 percent of Clinton voters believed Trump needed to be impeached. Three weeks! Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling declared, “voters who didn’t like Trump but were willing to give him a chance have quickly decided he’s not fit to hold the office.” At that point, Trump hadn’t committed any high crimes or misdemeanors. Trump had simply been himself; in the eyes of quite a few Democrats, Trump’s presence in the office of the presidency was an ipso facto high crime or misdemeanor. Impeachment became a way of expressing the belief that the 2016 election shouldn’t have ended the way it did. To quote comedian John Mulaney, “you go to brunch with people, and they say, ‘I don’t think there should be a horse in the hospital!’ We’re well past that!’”

A lot of people thought Trump would get impeached over Russia and the 2016 campaign. Mueller didn’t come up with the goods on collusion, but along the way, Trump took actions that could be construed, at minimum, as a desire to obstruct the Mueller probe. Back in April, after the Mueller report was released, I wrote Democrats pursue impeachment and get their rage over Trump’s continued presence in the Oval Office out of their system.

The most likely outcome is two mostly party-line votes in the House and Senate. It would eat up six months or so of the nation’s time and, I suspect, increase the odds of President Trump’s reelection. If it started soon, it would probably conclude at the end of 2019 and then the country would begin the 2020 presidential campaign in earnest with the first primaries. The country would probably be exhausted from the arguments, and probably grow increasingly irritated with a Democratic party that has denied Trump’s legitimacy as president from day one.

They moved a little faster than I predicted. I also warned that Democrats could return to the impeachment well whenever they wanted.

Keep in mind, there’s no statute of limitations on any of this. If Democrats choose to not impeach Trump this year, they can keep it in their back pocket and, at any time during his presidency if he’s elected to a second term, take it up later. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see 67 Democrats in the Senate, but this represents a stink-bomb that the Democrats can throw at the president at any time, as long as they hold a majority in the House.

As we’ve seen since then, some House Democrats are thinking about impeaching Trump a second time if he wins reelection. Impeachment has become a form of super-censure, a way for a House majority to express vehement disapproval of the president’s actions.

The specifics about today’s impeachment focus on Ukraine, but this is just the latest chapter in a multi-year dispute about the president’s legitimacy. Why do you think the polling numbers on impeachment never moved much? Every day when you check the news, the most common argument is, this man should not be president.

President Trump certainly did nothing to avoid this fate. A lot of his fans love his relentless combativeness, his constant stream of bile towards his political foes, his daily venting of his spleen about whatever he saw on television and irked him that morning. The decision to behave like that has consequences. Do you think that so many red and purple-district House Democrats are lining up behind impeachment just because of Pelosi’s arm-twisting? Or could it possibly be that they are genuinely repulsed by how Trump does his job and see no reason to let his presidency continue? Why would any Democrat stick their neck out to help Trump, considering how he publicly mocks members of his own cabinet on Twitter?

We are often told that Trump never apologizes. He’s free to have that attitude towards life, but many people are more forgiving of those who express and demonstrate contrition. Trump could have contended that interest in the Bidens and Burisma was legitimate, but that he should have handled the issue through proper law enforcement and diplomatic channels; instead, we are repeatedly told of the immaculately conceived “perfect call.” Trump voluntarily forsake most of the traditional options to deescalate heated political fights.

Trump clearly does not see Congress as a coequal branch of government. His administration simply ignores subpoenas, bars witnesses from testifying, claims executive privilege more frequently and covering more than any other president before. Trump doesn’t see the decisions of Congress as legitimate, either. Congress appropriated funding to Ukraine; the administration simply held it up and didn’t tell anyone. This is not Constitutional government.

What we have here is a complete breakdown in the agreement of what elected lawmakers of different branches owe each other, and each side can point to some action of the opposition to justify their own defiance of established rules. The Democratic grassroots did not respond to their shocking defeat in 2016 by thinking, “wow, we completely misjudged what the electorate wanted, we have to reevaluate how we’ve been doing things.” They responded, “this man does not deserve to be president, he is not worthy of the office,” and many of them added, “as far as we are concerned, he is not the president.”

When you started to see once-conservative commentators opposing the Trump administration making policy changes they had previously endorsed, Tom Nichols argued that the Trump administration simply couldn’t be trusted to carry out any policy change and had to be opposed in whatever policy choices it made, regardless of the merits: “We don’t want this administration trying to do important and complicated things it doesn’t understand.” When he said this, Rex Tillerson was Secretary of State, John Kelly was White House chief of staff, and James Mattis was Secretary of Defense. The policy choice at issue was moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Notice that moving the embassy did not turn into the violent catastrophe that some people predicted it would become.

You can argue that a process as important and rarely-invoked as impeachment should be more than simply a cathartic expression of the furious condemnation of a House majority. But that’s what it has become. When it comes to ending the Trump presidency, the only real game in town is the 2020 election — which feels strangely under-covered compared to the wall-to-wall daily coverage of an impeachment process where the only unknown factors are the decisions of a handful of lawmakers.

Pelosi, Less Than a Year Ago: Impeachment Must Be Bipartisan

Nancy Pelosi, back in March: “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”

The polling is evenly split, and not a single Republican in the House is expected to vote for impeachment.

No, Really, What Is Tulsi Gabbard Doing?

Tulsi Gabbard isn’t running for reelection to Congress, and she’s not going to be the Democratic nominee. She’s introducing a resolution of censure as an alternative to impeachment, and says she’s undecided on impeachment. She’s appearing on Mike Huckabee’s show on the Christian-themed Trinity Broadcasting Network.

What does she want to do next? Because she certainly doesn’t seem to want to follow the traditional path of a Democratic lawmaker.

ADDENDA: Oh, no. Kyle Smith didn’t like The Rise of Skywalker. His review might have a minor spoiler or two. If Episode Nine disappoints, at least we’ll always have The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda.

Speaking of Baby Yoda, I stopped over to Jonah’s podcast The Remnant and one chunk of our chat was about the Democrats 2020 primary, one chunk was about impeachment, and probably the last third was just pop culture — Star Wars, Six Underground on Netflix.

And at some point soon, Mickey and I will pop up on Scott Mason’s Play Like a Jet podcast, previewing Sunday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets. Busy week before the holidays!

White House

A National Poll Shows Trump Beating Every Potential Democrat in 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference and expo in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 28, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: An eye-opening poll from USA Today that should have the president’s reelection campaign team smiling; a spectacularly unwise suggestion for House Democrats from Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe; Stacey Abrams’s organization objects to another routine purge of inactive voters in Georgia; and galactically-powerful counter-programming for the next Democratic debate.

Despite Impeachment Hearings, Voters Want Trump for a Second Term

Holy smokes. Maybe this USA Today poll is an outlier, or maybe a combination of impeachment, the far-from-centrist tone of most Democratic candidates, and recent good economic news have turned President Trump into a much tougher opponent to beat in 2020:

President Donald Trump, the first modern president to face impeachment during his first term in the White House, now leads his top Democratic rivals in his bid for a second, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds.

The national survey, taken as the House of Representatives planned an impeachment vote and the Senate a trial, showed Trump defeating former Vice President Joe Biden by 3 percentage points, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 5 points, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren by 8 points.

In hypothetical head-to-head contests, Trump also led South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg by 10 points and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg by 9.

Notice this poll is registered voters, not likely voters. I wonder if the topsy-turvy nature of the Trump era means that the president now has a chunk of supporters who would get filtered out with the usual screen for likely voters; traditionally, Republicans did a little bit better in surveys of likely voters than ones of registered voters.

This poll is an outlier . . . except for the Investor’s Business Daily poll from earlier this week, which had Trump enjoying small leads over Sanders, Warren, Buttigeig and Bloomberg, and trailing Biden by 5 percentage points. Also note that the Marquette poll of voters in Wisconsin had Trump with narrow leads on Sanders by 2, Warren, Buttigeig and Cory Booker by one point, (who’s polling Booker as the nominee?) and Trump trailing Biden by one point. And last week’s Emerson poll had Trump beating all opponents in Iowa.

Democrats: If Mitch Won’t Play Fair, Maybe We’ll Never Send Him Impeachment Articles

Notice that impeachment morphs from “a political process, not a legal one” to “the equivalent of a trial” depending upon who’s speaking and the circumstances. There was no need for Trump or Republicans to call witnesses during the House impeachment hearings because it wasn’t a criminal trial; there was no Constitutional right to cross-examination or confronting the accuser involved. But now that Mitch McConnell said, “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this,” the Senate Majority Leader is somehow breaking the rules of impeachment. It’s not a political process anymore; McConnell is a tainted juror. “McConnell should recuse himself!” House Democrats cry.

Back when she was a candidate, Kamala Harris said that if she was elected president, her Department of Justice would prosecute Trump for obstruction of justice. Does it look like she’s approaching impeachment as an impartial juror?

Law professor Lawrence Tribe is mad as heck that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not approaching impeachment as an impartial juror, and he’s so mad, he wants to take the articles of impeachment hostage, so to speak. He writes in the Washington Post:

Now that President Trump’s impeachment is inevitable, and now that failing to formally impeach him would invite foreign intervention in the 2020 election and set a dangerous precedent, another option seems vital to consider: voting for articles of impeachment but holding off for the time being on transmitting them to the Senate.

If you listen carefully, you can hear just about every Republican senator — and maybe Democrats like Joe Manchin and Doug Jones — yelling, “please, please, don’t throw us into that briar patch!”

Tribe argues that it wouldn’t be unconstitutional because the Constitution doesn’t specify when or how the articles of impeachment should be sent from the House to the Senate. He’s correct that the Constitution doesn’t go into much detail. All it says in Article One, Section Two is “the House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment,” In Article One, Section Three, it says, “the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.”

House Democrats could probably take this course . . . but what if McConnell never agrees to rules that House Democrats deem fair? What incentive does he have? Under this scenario, the articles of impeachment are sort of suspended in limbo somewhere between the House and the Senate. Theoretically, a group of four Republicans could join with the 47 Democrats to force McConnell to adopt rules more to the liking of Pelosi, House Democrats, and Tribe, but . . . what if they don’t? How eager are they to get started on an impeachment trial instead of other business?

The Tribe strategy is like Cleavon Little putting the gun to his own head and taking himself hostage in Blazing Saddles. “Dear GOP senators, if you do not agree to rules that we believe are fair, we will NOT ALLOW you take a vote on an impeachment that many of you clearly don’t want to make in the first place!” Tribe and other Democrats seem convinced that the country is ravenously hungry to watch a Senate trial and resolve the impeachment dispute. But polling continues to show the country about evenly split on removing the president. Is time on the side of the forces pushing for removal or against it?

Think about the Democratic messaging here: The president is such a dire threat to the Constitutional order that he must be removed from office as quickly as possible . . . also, we’re going to wait until the Senate agrees to rules we think are fair.

You know that under this scenario, Trump would be gloating and endlessly mocking Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats, jeering that they’re withholding the articles of impeachment because they know their case is weak and they would lose. But perhaps the House impeaching a president and then never sending articles to the Senate for a trial is exactly the anti-Constitutional farcical spectacle this country deserves.

Another Standard Removal of Inactive Voters Is Painted as a Sinister Purge

Once again, down in Georgia, the state is moving forward with a legally-required purge of inactive voters, and Stacey Abrams’ organization insists that it represents a sinister effort at voter suppression:

A voting rights group, Fair Fight Action, said in federal court Monday that the registration cancellations target roughly 120,000 inactive voters who would otherwise be eligible to participate in elections but are being removed because they haven’t cast a ballot since at least 2012. The rest of the people on the cancellation list either moved from Georgia or mail sent to them by election officials was undeliverable.

To quote the last lines of Dale Cooper, “what year is this?” If you haven’t voted since 2012, you’ve missed three straight congressional elections, two gubernatorial elections, a presidential election, and who knows how many local elections and referenda. Georgia “election officials notified voters by mail before canceling their registrations, a step that didn’t exist two years ago. Voters had 30 days to save their registrations by returning enclosed postage-paid postcards.”

It honestly sounds like some of these activists are on some sort of rote autopilot, using preplanned rhetoric whether or not it fits the circumstances: Fair Fight CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Georgians should not lose their right to vote simply because they have not expressed that right in recent elections. Georgia’s practice of removing voters who have declined to participate in recent elections violates the United States Constitution.”

No, it doesn’t. Every state removes inactive voters. Otherwise, all of us would forever remain on the rolls in every jurisdiction we’ve ever lived.

No one is “losing their right to vote”; anyone taken off who wants to start voting again simply has to re-register. The state says any voter registration that is canceled can be restored within 24 to 48 hours. Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, notes that the state has registered nearly a half-million voters since the last election, “clear proof that we are doing things to make it easy for people to vote.”

At the heart of this debate is the question of what responsibility the state can ask of a citizen to exercise that right to vote. By every measure, state governments have tried to make it easier for people to vote. Under the 1993 “Motor Voter Act,” states provide individuals with the opportunity to register to vote at the same time that they apply for a driver’s license or seek to renew a driver’s license, and requires the state to forward the completed application to the appropriate state or local election official. The law also requires states to offer voter registration opportunities at all offices that provide public assistance and all offices that provide state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities.

Just about every state has enacted longer voting hours and more options for early and absentee voting. In Minnesota, residents can start casting absentee ballots 46 days before Election Day!

All the state of Georgia is asking citizens to do either A) vote once every seven years or B) respond to a notification that they’re going to be taken off the rolls or C) check themselves to make sure they’re properly registered. Anyone can check online if they’re registered to vote within about 30 seconds. This is not an undue burden on any citizen. Yes, voting is a right, but citizens also have the responsibility of making sure they are properly registered.

ADDENDUM: Only the Democratic National Committee would be dumb enough to schedule their once-a-month presidential primary debate — the first one to have less than ten candidates — on Thursday night, the night that most movie theaters are having their early screenings of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

That’s assuming they have a debate, because the venue is having a labor dispute and all seven participating Democratic candidates have pledged they won’t cross a picket line.

White House

Echoes of the Clinton Legacy in Trump’s Impeachment

Bill and Hillary Clinton arrive for the inauguration ceremonies of Donald Trump in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2017. (Rick Wilking/Reuters )

Making the click-through worthwhile: How the Clinton Foundation casts a shadow over impeachment and helps explain why Republicans feel so little pressure to turn against Trump; House Republicans gain a new member with a really unexpected voting record, speculating on the final vote in the House and an examination of the grand reversal of the parties from twenty years ago.

Republicans Look to Clinton When Evaluating Trump

Why do so many grassroots Republicans shrug at President Trump’s efforts to strongarm Ukraine into investigating the Bidens? Because they believe, with some compelling evidence, that this is how the game is played — that powerful figures in government blur their personal interest and the national interest all the time, with no consequence. The stories about the Clinton Foundation percolated and bubbled up for years — but only at the height of the 2016 presidential campaign did most of official Washington notice, or even begin to object. The Clintons never believed the rules applied to them, and they shamelessly defied of previously agreed transparency and disclosure rules.

January 4, 2012, an email from Doug Band to John Podesta: “The investigation into [Chelsea Clinton] getting paid for campaigning, using foundation resources for her wedding and life for a decade, taxes on money from her parents . . . I hope that you will speak to her and end this.”

December 2012: Huma Abedin is simultaneously employed in four different jobs — official State Department employee, adviser to Teneo consulting, contractor to the Clinton Foundation, and privately-paid personal secretary to Hillary Clinton. This made it impossible for subsequent investigations and reviews to determine and verify what purpose and in what role Abedin was in when she met with associates relating to Clinton.

February 18, 2015: “Many of the [Clinton Foundation’s] biggest donors are foreigners who are legally barred from giving to U.S. political candidates. A third of foundation donors who have given more than $1 million are foreign governments or other entities based outside the United States, and foreign donors make up more than half of those who have given more than $5 million.”

February 25, 2015: “The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration. Foundation officials acknowledged they should have sought approval in 2010 from the State Department ethics office, as required by the agreement for new government donors, before accepting a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government.”

April 23, 2015: “As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors.”

April 30, 2015: “The foundation also acknowledged this week it did not disclose 1,100 mostly foreign donors to the Clinton-Giustra Enterprise Partnership.”

August 17, 2016: “Hillary and Bill Clinton’s ties to two influential Lebanese-Nigerian businessmen are raising fresh questions about whether the State Department showed favoritism to Clinton Foundation donors.”

August 20, 2016: “The Clinton Foundation has accepted tens of millions of dollars from countries that the State Department — before, during and after Mrs. Clinton’s time as secretary — criticized for their records on sex discrimination and other human-rights issues. The countries include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Brunei and Algeria. Saudi Arabia has been a particularly generous benefactor. The kingdom gave between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation.”

September 6, 2016: “State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave the Clinton Foundation a pass on identifying foreign donors in its charitable filings — making it impossible to know if it got any special favors while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, according to a report Tuesday.”

October 26, 2016: “Bill Clinton is enjoying the private residence above his presidential library in Arkansas at the expense of taxpayers and his charity foundation — a potential violation of nonprofit regulations. The 5,000-square-foot penthouse which sits atop the William J. Clinton Library in Little Rock is largely funded by the National Archives in Washington, which pours nearly $6 million into program and maintenance costs for the entire institution every year . . . Costs are also offset by a $7 million endowment from the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.”

November 4, 2016: “The Clinton Foundation has confirmed it accepted a $1 million gift from Qatar while Hillary Clinton was U.S. secretary of state without informing the State Department, even though she had promised to let the agency review new or significantly increased support from foreign governments.”

The Clintons insisted that the large donations from foreign governments and donors had nothing to do with influencing U.S. policy. However, once Hillary Clinton was defeated, donations dropped like a stone: “The Clinton Foundation’s $30.7 million revenue last year is less than half the $62.9 million it raised in 2016 as Clinton was at the height of her presidential campaign. Each of the two years since Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election has seen the organization’s revenue drop to record lows, raising less than any fiscal year in more than a decade — a sharp contrast to the $249 million raised during Clinton’s first year as secretary of state.”

Perhaps you think that losing the presidency is sufficient “punishment” for Hillary Clinton.

But many Americans believe the evidence indicates that the Clinton Foundation offered the world’s wealthy a secret way to buy access to the Secretary of State and potential future president, in hopes of influencing current or future U.S. foreign policy, and that sleazy deep-pocketed power brokers from all across the globe homed in on it like moths to a flame. What’s more, just about all Democratic legislators, the rest of the Obama administration, the foreign policy professionals and think-tank types and a big chunk of the media pretty much just accepted it. Maybe they didn’t like it; maybe they occasionally offered on or off-the-record quotes about how “the optics looked bad” or some other wet-noodle tsk-tsk. But almost no one in official Washington looked at the Clinton Foundation and saw it as an unacceptable form of corruption.

All of it was legal, or legal enough, or in a gray area, and not something any prosecutor wanted to waste time on. (How many juries would convict Hillary Clinton?) No one got arrested, no one got charged with crimes, and Bill and Hillary Clinton got away with it, other than the admittedly significant consequence of losing the presidency that she wanted so badly.

In this light, Trump fans find it easy to shrug off all kinds of allegations — from trying to bring the G7 to his own resort, to foreign governments staying in Trump hotels and then gushing on Twitter to suck up to the president, to big checks to Stormy Daniels, to having a bunch of shady felons working on the campaign, campaigns and party committees spending millions at Trump businesses, to allegations of using his personal foundation to promote his own interests . . . all the way to everything with Ukraine. Every Trump fan can easily fall back on, “hey, it’s no worse than what the Clintons were doing, and nobody even bothered to investigate them. Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Biden, while the Clintons just wanted cash.”

Do two wrongs make a right? No, not at all, and I would prefer a world with institutions that rebuked conflicts of interest wherever they found them — in the Republican Party and in the Democratic Party, in Chappaqua and Mar-a-Lago, in the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Organization. But as long as grassroots activists feel like one side has gotten off scot-free for unethical behavior, they will convince themselves what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

There’s just that lingering problem of what’s actually good for the country.

‘Huge Supporter of Socialist Policies’ Switches Sides

Rep. Jeff Van Drew endorsed Cory Booker to be president, and he votes with the Trump administration’s position a whopping seven percent of the time. He voted to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration for border wall funding, to condemn Trump’s statements about “the Squad” as racist, to create a path to citizenship for those who came to the U.S. illegally as children, to block the Trump administration from granting waivers to states regarding the Affordable Care Act, to restore “Net Neutrality” regulations, against a ban on transgenders serving in the military, to require the president to disclose his tax returns and for government funding bills that did not include wall funding. A month ago, the National Republican Congressional Committee called Van Drew “a huge supporter of socialist policies.”

And now he’s a Republican, apparently almost entirely because he doesn’t want to vote for impeachment. No doubt the president loves the symbolism of a Democrat switching sides and the NRCC loves the fact that they don’t have to spend money to win back a top-tier swing district in 2020, but . . . how much did the GOP get with this flip?

How Many House Democrats Will Defect on the Impeachment Votes?

The impeachment vote is Wednesday; obviously Van Drew remains opposed and the other House Democrat who voted against starting the inquiry, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, told reporters Saturday “he will vote against impeaching President Donald Trump.” Peterson said he expects four or five other Democrats will do the same.

As of this writing, 60 House Democrats and one House Republican — Tom Rooney — have not stated publicly whether they will vote for the articles of impeachment.

If that comes to pass, it will be a small victory for President Trump and opponents of impeachment, but you’ll hear a lot about it. From the Democrats’ perspective, the impeachment hearings went about as well as they could have hoped — but it will leave them with probably 228 or 227 votes to impeach, after 232 Democrats voted to start the inquiry. (Note that Elijah Cummings’ death and Katie Hill’s resignation leave two previously-Democratic seats open.) That handful of Democrats who voted for the inquiry but against impeachment think they’re saving their careers, but it’s easy to imagine that on Election Day 2020, the Republicans in their district are still mad as heck about the vote to start impeachment and at least a handful of Democrats will be still irked about letting the president off the hook.

As noted last week, if one of the aims of the impeachment hearings was to strengthen public support of impeachment, they failed. This morning, the FiveThirtyEight aggregation of public polling finds 47.6 percent support removal of the president, 46.2 percent do not — about where it’s been, or perhaps a little tighter, for the past several weeks.

ADDENDUM: Over in the Article, I note that the parties have really switched sides on impeachment from 1998.

World

A Smashing Victory for Conservatives in the U.K.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Andrew Yates/Reuters)

Let’s end this week with a bang: The Conservative party enjoys a gargantuan win over in the United Kingdom, ensuring the passage of Brexit and utterly crushing the hopes of the Left that socialism would be a big winner at the ballot box; a new revelation about Joe Biden and his son Hunter might shake up the Democratic primary; Politico offers a bizarre assessment about Congress; and a Democratic House member is caught watching golf during the impeachment markup.

The Sun Rises on a Whole New World for Conservatives

Holy smokes, what an absolute drubbing from beginning to end — and I’m not just talking about last night’s Jets game. In yesterday’s elections in the United Kingdom, the Conservative party needed 326 seats to have a majority, and they have, as of this writing, 364 with one seat still being counted. That’s a pickup of 47 seats and the biggest win since Margaret Thatcher won her third term in 1987.

Yesterday I laid out why Johnson’s top opponent, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, would be so bad for his country and particularly bad for the United States. Thankfully, the voters in the U.K. rejected the prospect of him as prime minister unequivocally and thoroughly: the Labour party lost 59 seats, in its worst showing since 1935. Corbyn announced last night that he will eventually step down as head of the Labour party.

Last night, Alastair Campbell, a longtime aide to Tony Blair, splashed a bucket of cold water into his party’s face: “It’s so obvious what has to happen . . . They’re delusional if they think the public is going to support their politics. If Boris Johnson gets a full term, it will have been 50 years since any Labour leader other than Tony Blair won a general election. Can they let that sink into their heads and possibly start to reroute their politics back to where people live their lives?”

Brexit is going forward. Skeptics wanted a second referendum; they more or less got one. Last night Johnson declared, “We will get Brexit done on time on the 31st of January — no ifs, no buts, no maybes.”

And while the United Kingdom is not the same as the United States, Boris Johnson is not the same as Donald Trump, and the Labour party is not the same as the U.S. Democratic party . . . if you’re a Democrat, you really should be at least mildly freaked out this morning. Some of the same political and populist currents are running through both countries, and if an old socialist tried to close the deal with British voters in December 2019 and fell flat on his face, there’s good reason to think that an old socialist who tries to close the deal with American voters in 2020 will also fall flat on his face. Bernie Sanders had nothing to do with what happened in the U.K. last night, but he may be one of the figures most damaged by the results.

Last night Joe Biden started making this argument. Speaking at a San Francisco fundraiser, Biden said, “Boris Johnson is winning in a walk . . . Look what happens when the Labour party moves so, so far to the left. It comes up with ideas that are not able to be contained within a rational basis quickly.”

Where there are parallels is that both the U.S. and the U.K. have a media world that is dominated by figures who subscribe to a center-left to harder-left ideology, and who reflexively dismiss conservatives as racist, xenophobic, selfish, greedy, and backward, and who neither understand voters in the suburbs and exurbs nor want to understand them. They have their own heroic narrative about their own enlightenment and superiority over those backward and intolerant hicks, and they’re not interested in anything that interferes with that happy fantasy.

Most of the British media fully expected a close race and perhaps even a “hung parliament,” meaning no party had a majority. In that scenario, it was possible that Corbyn’s party could have won enough seats and created enough alliances with other parties to form a working coalition with a majority, leaving Johnson and the conservatives out in the cold. (Last night, 82 seats went to the Scottish National party, the Liberal Democrats, and other parties.) It is safe to say that most of the people covering the election and informing the public about the election were blindsided — just as they were blindsided by the results of the Brexit referendum in summer of 2016 and many of us stateside were shocked by the election of Donald Trump later that year.

The British media, the governing party of the center-Left, many leaders of the business community . . . many of them all come from the same group and have little interaction with people of dramatically different views. If they are not in the “Davos class,” then they are Davos-class-adjacent. Almost all of them saw Johnson as a bumbling buffoon. Almost all of them see Brexit as economic suicide and subscribed to the idea that it should be stopped by any means necessary — including members of parliament who had campaigned on supporting the idea suddenly changing their minds when asked to enact it.

How many times do western countries have to go through this for urban progressive elites to recognize that they live in a bubble and are offering a vision that is unappealing to so many of their countrymen?

Joe Biden’s Campaign Has Withstood a Lot, but This Scandal Looks Different

For most of 2019, I’ve been bullish — as in the stock market, not as in the droppings — about the chances of Joe Biden to win the Democratic nomination, despite his age, frequent gaffes, and other glaring flaws. He’s been the steady front-runner in national polling since the beginning, he’s still got the most support among African-Americans, and he’s the only major candidate not competing for the Woke Twitter vote, which is wildly overrepresented in our national conversation.

But last night, the Washington Examiner reported a story that hits the Biden campaign hard:

Joe Biden’s son Hunter was arrested on Jersey Shore drug charges in 1988 and had his record expunged at a time when his father was pushing for the incarceration of drug offenders drawn disproportionately from minority groups.

Congressional records reveal that Hunter Biden, now 49, was arrested in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, where the Biden family has often holidayed over the years, in June 1988. Hunter Biden, then 18, had just graduated from the prestigious Archmere Academy prep school, which his father had also attended.

A year after the arrest, Joe Biden gave a speech in which he said the federal government needed to “hold every drug user accountable” because, “If there were no drug users, there would be no appetite for drugs, there would be no market for them.” He neglected to mention the drug use in his own family.

You notice Biden’s old positions on the War on Drugs hadn’t really done much damage to him so far. Voters, particularly those who are old enough to remember the 1980s and the height of the drug war, understand that back then, almost everybody in the political world was eager to demonstrate that they could be the toughest. High crime rates scared people. Back then, very few voters wanted to hear about how they could forgive criminals involved in the drug trade, or how addiction was a disease. We view the issues of drug addiction, crime, and anti-recidivism differently now, and probably for the better.

Nor have you seen many voters recoil from Joe Biden simply because his son has fought a battle against drug addiction and failed many times. Lots of Americans have seen someone in their family battle addiction of one form or another.

But put these two factors together, in a politician who wants to lock up drug users but who makes sure his son is spared the consequences he demands for others? That could be fatal for the campaign. Biden’s family is a huge part of his story, and Hunter Biden’s mixing of business with family connections was already a liability. Now throw in the sense that Biden ensured his son got special treatment? At prep school, no less? (By the way, Archmere Academy tuition for next year is $28,800. Let’s knock it off the talk about “Middle Class Joe.”) In this light, Joe Biden starts to look like every other shamelessly hypocritical politician who thinks the rules and laws apply to everyone else, but not to his family.

Wait, Who ‘Focuses Their Energy on People as Emblematic of Perceived Ills’ Again?

By the way, over in Politico’s newsletter, they offer this assessment:

THE MODERN-DAY CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICAN PARTY has tended to focus its energy on people as emblematic of perceived ills — HILLARY CLINTON and ERIC HOLDER, for example. And, at the moment, they have their eyes transfixed on BIDEN.

That may be accurate, but it’s not like the modern-day Congressional Republican party invented this. Good heavens, go back to the way Congressional Democrats focused upon Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and now Donald Trump. Think about how Congressional Democrats “focused their energy” on Ed Meese, Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzalez, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh . . . Democratic members of the House introduced two articles of impeachment against Reagan, two against George H.W. Bush, two against George W. Bush, and eight against Trump. Clinton was impeached by the House, but Republicans did not introduce articles of impeachment against Barack Obama.

ADDENDUM: Tell us again how historic, solemn and important impeachment is, Democrats. Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana was caught watching golf on his laptop during the markup.

World

Today, the United Kingdom Decides Its Future

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the Conservative party’s manifesto launch in Telford, England, November 24, 2019. (Phil Noble/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: The United Kingdom votes today, and makes a key decision about its future; Eric Holder warns us about the dangers of an attorney general who sees himself as a president’s wingman; a blunt, direct assessment about anti-Semitism in American life and why so many people only want to see part of the problem; and a question about an odd and grim fact of life in the National Football League.

How Will Brexit End?

Earlier this week, when we taped The Editors podcast*, I was the relative optimist of the group. While I haven’t followed today’s British election obsessively, the people of the United Kingdom appear exhausted by the endless delays and haggling over Brexit, and I think a sufficient majority wants it to get resolved so that the country can move on to other issues.

The polling looks good for the Conservative party:

The Ipsos MORI survey for the Evening Standard puts Boris Johnson on course to make history with the biggest Conservative vote share since Maggie Thatcher’s first victory in 1979. The headline estimates of voting are Conservative 44 percent (unchanged from a week ago), Labour 33 percent (up one point) and the Liberal Democrats 12 percent (down one point). If voters do as they say, it would imply a solid Tory majority and vindicate Mr Johnson’s decision to gamble all on a Brexit election.

Keep in mind, polling in British elections usually is off enough to provide at least one big surprise. And this year’s final poll comes with a glaring caveat: “However, Ipsos MORI’s researchers found that nearly one in four people who have picked a party they intend to support admitted they may still change their mind, adding an unusually high element of uncertainty.”

But here’s the good news for Conservatives: “The Conservative vote share looked firmest, with 83 percent of supporters saying they had definitely decided. For Labour, 74 percent said they were definite.”

John O’Sullivan declares, “Those who want Brexit should vote Tory. A majority Tory government is alone capable of delivering it. Will it be an imperfect Brexit? Maybe but it’s an essential first step to a full one.”

Daniel Hannan sees the choice as stark: “Boris and Brexit or Corbyn and Communism?”

The stakes for the Conservatives and pro-Brexit forces may be win big or go home. There are 650 seats in the U.K. Parliament, meaning to win a majority and control of the government, a party needs 326. The YouGov poll estimates that Conservatives could win anywhere from 367 seats to 311. Ordinarily, in parliamentary systems, the party that gets the largest share of the vote but falls short of a majority starts assembling a coalition with other parties where there are at least some areas of policy agreement. But under this scenario, Boris Johnson may not have many willing partners.

Daniel Johnson, who founded Standpoint and who’s now created the website The Article, warns that falling even a little bit short could set up the dominoes for a disastrous scenario:

Even if he still leads the largest party, as seems almost certain, Boris Johnson will be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Either he sticks to his pledge to “get Brexit done”, in which case the combined Opposition parties would probably defeat him in a vote of confidence, or he agrees to put his deal to a second referendum, thereby disappointing all those Leave voters who had just backed him in the election. Such an unpalatable choice risks reopening divisions within the Tories. The spectacle of Boris Johnson clinging to office while ditching his main policy would surely alienate the public.

It is much more likely that a hung Parliament would result in a minority Labour or a caretaker government. Either way, it is hard to see how Jeremy Corbyn would not be Prime Minister.

I don’t think the allies of Great Britain are really psychologically prepared for life with Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn. He makes Bernie Sanders look like a sensible moderate, and he’s essentially on the other side of the traditional Western alliance. The Washington Post editorial board summarized:

Mr. Corbyn espouses a foreign policy whose guiding principle is to oppose the United States and Israel by all means. It has led him to label as “friends” such disparate political forces as Hamas, Hezbollah and the populist government of Venezuela and to accept funding from organizations designated by the U.S. government as terrorist groups. Mr. Corbyn endorsed the Iraqi insurgents who fought U.S. troops and equated the Islamic State’s overrunning of Iraqi cities with the 2004 U.S. offensive in Fallujah. He said that Washington, rather than Moscow, is to blame for the civil war in Ukraine. In an interview with Iran’s state television channel, he called the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden a “tragedy.”

After the recent London Bridge terror attack, Corbyn blamed the war in Iraq and British military interventions. He is the embodiment of Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s “they always blame America first,” distilled essence of everything I detest in foreign policy, a reflexive scapegoating of Western countries as the root of all evil that excuses the world’s most bloodthirsty terrorists. Corbyn is the arrogant, empathetically-defective contrarian who insists the civilian victims of the world’s worst violence really had it coming because of some foreign policy decision from decades ago. You wouldn’t trust this man to operate heavy machinery, nevermind the government of our closest ally.

*The other guys are up in New York and I’m here at National Review Northern Virginia Bureau in Authenticity Woods. Everyone in our house traipses through my home office, and about five minutes in, my wife’s boots make an auditory cameo that turns our podcast into an old-style radio drama. I don’t understand how my voice can sound like I’m on a phone inside a tin can but her footsteps come through crystal-clear.

Eric Holder: I Can’t Stand a Political Attorney General Who’s Loyal to the President

Eric Holder, the former attorney general who was found in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal and who declared in an interview, “I’m still the President’s wing-man, so I’m there with my boy,” declares in today’s Washington Post that Attorney General William Barr is too partisan and blindly loyal to the president to continue serving in his position: “The American people deserve an attorney general who serves their interests, leads the Justice Department with integrity and can be entrusted to pursue the facts and the law, even — and especially — when they are politically inconvenient and inconsistent with the personal interests of the president who appointed him.”

Holder began his tenure by calling America “a nation of cowards” when it came to race, shortly after the country had elected the first African-American president. Under Holder, the Justice Department seized of Associated Press phone records resulting from an AP article in May 2012, characterized Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in an investigation of a leak of classified information.

We Love to Denounce Hate When It Is Politically Convenient

Earlier this week, President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to withhold federal money from schools that fail to counter discrimination against Jews. Somehow the New York Times initially reported it as the administration changing Judaism from a religious category to a national identity, and somehow suggesting that Jews weren’t really American.

In Tablet, Liel Liebowitz offers a bracing, blunt, forceful rebuke to everyone who saw the executivev order as a menace to America’s Jews, but found nothing worth discussing in Jersey City this week:

Jews make up about 2 percent of the American population, yet were the victims of a whopping 57.8 percent of all religious bias crimes last year, according to the FBI. Rather than vocally and unequivocally demanding that their Jewish constituents be protected, the politicians representing those targeted—from de Blasio to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer—have been largely silent on this issue, while at the same time loudly and vigorously accusing the right of racism. Videos like this one, shot at the scene shortly after the Jersey City attack and featuring local neighbors blaming the Jews for Jews being murdered, are not likely to make any politician on the left take action, especially not someone like de Blasio, who has for years been kissing the ring of Al Sharpton, an anti-Semite best remembered for inciting an actual pogrom against the Jews of Brooklyn.

Enough.

What American Jews need right now is clear and concrete action that protects them from anyone who wishes them harm. Whether you like it or not, the fact is that yesterday New York’s senator and mayor took no such steps. The president did.

In related news, I notice Louis Farrakhan hasn’t tweeted since July. But his account and tweets are still up there, with statements like, “Jews want to silence my voice,” and “The FBI has been the worst enemy of Black advancement. The Jews have control over those agencies of government,” and “The Satanic Jews that control everything and mostly everybody: If they are your enemy, then you must be somebody.” I guess Twitter just doesn’t have much of a problem with comments like that.

To hell with the hateful and anti-Semitic on the Left, and to hell with the hateful and anti-Semitic on the Right. Really, hell is big enough for all of them.

ADDENDUM: You hear it from a lot of losing coaches with disappointing seasons: “Injuries really hurt our chances this year, we just had really bad luck.”

What are the odds that one head coach in the National Football League would have either the team with the most injuries or one of the teams with the most injuries . . . four years in a row? What are the odds that he could achieve this ignoble status after changing franchises? Can it be merely astonishingly bad luck for four consecutive years, or does it point to some sort of systemic problem in how the coach is doing his job? If you’re a Jet fan, these are the sorts of things you look at instead of playoff scenarios.

Elections

Will Biden Promise to Be a One-Term President?

Joe Biden participates in a televised townhall on dedicated to LGBTQ issues in Los Angeles, Calif., October 10, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: A report of Joe Biden contemplating a pledge to serve only one term and a deep dive into the ramifications; wondering which potential running mates would reinforce his strengths; a reminder that Bob Dole wasn’t that old in 1996 when seen through the lens of today; and an epic edition of the pop-culture podcast.

Would a One-Term Pledge Help Joe Biden or Hurt Him?

Ryan Lizza: “Former Vice President Joe Biden’s top advisers and prominent Democrats outside the Biden campaign have recently revived a long-running debate whether Biden should publicly pledge to serve only one term, with Biden himself signaling to aides that he will serve only a single term.”

Lizza reports: “according to four people who regularly talk to Biden, all of whom asked for anonymity to discuss internal campaign matters, it is virtually inconceivable that he will run for re-election in 2024, when he would be the first octogenarian president.”

“Joe Biden 2020: Worst-Case Scenario, He’s a Short-Term Problem.”

Would people be more likely to vote for Biden if they knew he wouldn’t run for reelection in 2024? This is not a small question or one of fleeting relevance. Three new national Democratic presidential primary polls came out Tuesday. Monmouth has Joe Biden ahead by 5 percentage points, Politico/Morning Consult has him ahead by 8 percentage points, and Quinnipiac has him ahead by 12 points. The only thing moving slower and shakier than Biden these days is that Biden polling collapse that so many other Democrats are expecting. Sure, Biden could well flop with a fourth-place finish in Iowa and then we might see his national numbers take a sudden tumble, but for all of his flaws, he remains a remarkably durable frontrunner. Some of my colleagues think I’m nuts, but I still think he’s the man most likely to be the Democratic nominee next year.

There are a lot of Americans who have endured ups and downs the past few decades, particularly the past few years, and they don’t want a revolution; they just want things to settle down for a while. There are masses of older Americans out there who might be romanticizing the past, but they can think of a time in America before white nationalists marched through college campuses with tiki torches, before Wal-Marts started getting shot up by young men with rage-filled manifestos, before every movie, television show and celebrity had to be checked for thoughtcrimes by angry woke social media mobs, before Americans started getting social media memes created by Russia’s Internet Research Agency, before members of Congress started shouting “impeach the mother******” to cheers at parties, before the President of the United States regularly denounced his critics as “scum” and before the days before Thanksgiving were filled with advice columns of how to deal with relatives with intolerable political viewpoints. They remember — perhaps not entirely accurately — a time when public life was less divided and politicized, when people weren’t so angry all the time, when they didn’t greet the morning news with a little trepidation wondering what the heck the government was doing wrong now. They remember slow news days. Note that Monday brought genuinely shocking revelations about the U.S. war in Afghanistan and it simply never registered with most of the public.

Joe Biden genuinely believes that if he beats Donald Trump, the thinking of most of America’s Republicans will change. “The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke,” Biden told reporters at a diner in Concord, New Hampshire in May. “You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.”

It’s easy to forget, but during the Obama years, Republicans said they preferred negotiating with Biden. Then-House majority leader Eric Cantor described him:

He is able to size up where the opposition is. He’s firmly rooted in his direction, what he needs to accomplish in the negotiations, and then understands how far you can push and not lose a result or a deal. If one does not agree with the President’s view of what you want, there’s very little prospect for a result. Joe Biden has a real sensitivity, not only to human reaction, but also partisan and political sensitivities. He understands how far you can push before you just blow up the prospects for a deal.

One Congressional Republican said to me that negotiating with President Obama meant spending a lot of time listening to him explain that he understood your interests better than you did.

Biden is old enough to remember the days of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill and a time when the minority party’s strategy was more than just “block everything you can at all costs and hope that the public gets frustrated that the majority party hasn’t accomplished enough.” It is easy to forget O’Neill publicly lambasted Reagan’s policies but also didn’t block them from passing the House; he let Reagan enjoy legislative victory after legislative victory . . . and then take the blame for a recession in 1982. Reagan couldn’t claim Democrats had blocked his agenda; the responsibility was his. In 1982, Democrats picked up 26 House seats.

Biden also remembers a time when Democratic and Republican leaders didn’t detest each other down to the bone marrow, either out of genuine animosity or because they’ve determined that’s the public stance most likely to generate grassroots enthusiasm and donations.

Most progressives think Biden’s view of Republicans and Washington is laughably naïve, and contradicted as we speak by the way Republicans are treating him and his son Hunter. No doubt, both sides of the aisle have built their own communications infrastructure telling you why the opposition is the worst group of people in human history and threaten everything you hold dear. (This is one of the reasons why appeals to moderation and bipartisan compromise may not be as effective anymore. Grassroots Republicans see the treatment of George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney and concluded any GOP figure will be demonized, so they might as well get the competitive advantages of being led by a demon, so to speak. Many grassroots Democrats genuinely believe Obama was a moderate or even conservative figure — a mostly soft-spoken family man, scolding at times to the African-American community, increasingly publicly irritated with woke culture. Progressives believe the conservative response to Obama demonstrates the futility of any outreach or good-faith efforts at compromise.)

If Biden does make a one-term pledge, it will make his selection of running mate of extraordinary, perhaps even race-deciding importance. (Let’s face it, many voters will wonder if Biden will be healthy enough to serve a whole term.) Lizza says one Biden adviser “argued that public acknowledgment of that reality could help Biden assuage younger voters, especially on the left, who are unexcited by his candidacy and fear that his nomination would serve as an eight-year roadblock to the next generation of Democrats.”

But if Democrats had a, say, Joe Biden-Stacey Abrams ticket, a younger and more progressive running mate partially nullifies the advantages of electing a relatively-centrist, old-school, non-revolutionary president. Anyone who wanted Biden’s relative centrism and doesn’t want a harder shift further to the left would be rolling the dice that Biden’s health would hold out.

The idea of balancing a ticket in this manner doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense. This is essentially declaring, “here are my traits, which I believe make me the best choice to be president, and here’s someone really different from me to take over in case I die.” I’m not sure who best represents a reassuring younger-but-not-too-young moderate figure in today’s Democratic party; if that figure existed, he or she would be running for president and winning by now. Maybe Virginia Sen. Mark Warner? Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf or Sen. Bob Casey?

(You know who might make a great pick for Biden, even though it might cost Democrats a Senate seat if they win? Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Once an outspoken grassroots progressive but serving like a Blue Dog Democrat in the House and Senate, openly bisexual, the kind of Democrat who the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can support, probably carries Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. She’s 43 but looks younger.)

Either way, Biden is probably going to have to address his age and health at some point in some degree of length and detail. Back in 1996, I thought Bob Dole had a terrific speech accepting the nomination, where he confronted the idea that he was too old directly: “Age has its advantages. Let me be the bridge to an America than only the unknowing call myth. Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith and confidence in action. And to those who say it was never so, that America’s not been better, I say you’re wrong. And I know because I was there. And I have seen it. And I remember.”

(In 1996, Bob Dole was 73 years old and was endlessly mocked for being ancient. On Election Day in 2020, Bernie Sanders will be 79, Mike Bloomberg will be 78 years, Biden will be 77 years, 11 months, President Trump wil be 74, and Elizabeth Warren will be 71.)

It’s possible the Biden brain trust hasn’t thought all of this through. Right now, they’re effectively arguing, “it’s time to end the era of wild gaffes, offensive statements from the Oval Office and embarrassing presidential offspring . . . next year, vote Joe Biden.”

ADDENDUM: One of the longest editions of the pop-culture podcast ever is here. Mickey and I cover The Irishman, Martin Scorsese’s complaints about the Marvel movies; the podcast Broken Harts and a disturbing tale of true crime that the national media may have ignored for ideological reasons; an utterly bizarre paranormal investigation series called Hellier; new trailers for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Marvel’s Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984, and the Bond film No Time to Die; we discuss why the Charlie’s Angels reboot failed (hint, many women can enjoy silly cheesecake too); the inexplicably enduring appeal of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and whether her market crosses over into that of the Peloton Wife, and of course, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Hallmark Christmas movies.

White House

U.S. Attorney John Durham Scrutinizes How the Trump-Campaign Probe Began

Former FBI director James Comey speaks about his book during an onstage interview with Axios Executive Editor Mike Allen at George Washington University. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Horowitz report isn’t quite the vindication of the FBI that James Comey wants you to think it is, the president is on the verge of two big policy wins, and some easily overlooked developments in the world of politics.

Don’t Let Anyone Fool You. Horowitz Painted an Ugly Picture of the FBI.

As those of you who read last month’s gargantuan profile know, U.S. attorney John Durham, the man Attorney General William Barr appointed to probe the start of the investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016, almost never issues public statements. He never does interviews. He never writes op-eds. He has given one public speech in his career. He does just about all of his talking in the courtroom.

Thus, people sit up and take notice when the notoriously tight-lipped Durham issues a written statement like this, immediately after the release of a report from Department of Justice’s inspector general about the FBI’s earliest moves investigating the Trump campaign:

I have the utmost respect for the mission of the Office of Inspector General and the comprehensive work that went into the report prepared by Mr. Horowitz and his staff.  However, our investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department.  Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.  Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.

Some people may read the above and say, “Ah-ha! He’s going to indict some people who Inspector General Michael Horowitz let off the hook!” That’s not certain, but Durham certainly appears to be leaving that door open.

Horowitz seemed to want to split the baby like King Solomon yesterday, declaring that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had had an “authorized purpose” for launching the investigation known as “Operation Crossfire Hurricane” ahead of the 2016 election; Trump’s claim that the investigation was a partisan “witch hunt” was a wild exaggeration at best and an unfair smear of law enforcement at worst. But Horowitz faulted the agency for including “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in its application to the FISA court to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. (I think you can tell a great deal about someone about how quickly they can hand-wave away a law-enforcement official putting wrong information in the equivalent of a warrant for wiretapping.)

FBI Director Christopher Wray also seemed eager to embrace the “we didn’t engage in any conspiracy or a partisan witch hunt, but mistakes were made, and we’re eager to take our slap on the wrist and showcase how we’ll never do it again” attitude:

The report concludes that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation and related investigations of certain individuals were opened in 2016 for an authorized purpose and with adequate factual predication. The report also details instances in which certain FBI personnel, at times during the 2016-2017 period reviewed by the OIG, did not comply with existing policies, neglected to exercise appropriate diligence, or otherwise failed to meet the standard of conduct that the FBI expects of its employees — and that our country expects of the FBI. We are vested with significant authorities, and it is our obligation as public servants to ensure that these authorities are exercised with objectivity and integrity. Anything less falls short of the FBI’s duty to the American people.

The Horowitz report instantly turned into another Rorschach test of the Trump era. If you’re on the left side of the spectrum, you’re concurring with former FBI Director James Comey who declared, “There was no illegal wiretapping, there were no informants inserted into the campaign, there was no ‘spying’ on the Trump campaign. Although it took two years, the truth is finally out.”

If you’re on the right side of the spectrum, you’re probably concurring with law professor Jonathan Turley, who concludes, “Horowitz finds a litany of false and even falsified representations used to continue the secret investigation targeting the Trump campaign and its associates.”

It would be nice if those who worried about politicization of the Department of Justice by any party could recognize the trouble indicated by the Horowitz report. Assume that the FBI hears the rumors of Trump working with Russia, determines they’re credible enough to start an investigation, and all of that is on the up-and-up, as the IG report indicates. What makes that investigation stop? What would they need to see to conclude, “Okay, this is a false trail. We’re going down a rabbit hole here. We need to stop this so that we don’t look like an extension of the incumbent party digging for dirt on the opposition party.”?

(As I note on NR’s homepage today, one of the reasons those with authority and power are supposed to avoid situations that create the appearance of a conflict of interest is that it helps prevent actual conflicts of interest! President Trump will ask, with some justification, why it’s a problem for his children to work out deals with foreign governments and entities if Hunter Biden was allowed to serve on the Burisma board and strike deals with Chinese investors.)

Those of us with long memories will recall that on January 29, 2018, Adam Schiff and the minority members of the House Intelligence Committee issued an official memo that purportedly “corrected the record” and declared, “FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”

The Horowitz report concluded, “We identified at least 17 significant errors or omissions in the Carter Page FISA applications, and many additional errors in the Woods Procedures. These errors and omissions resulted from case agents providing wrong or incomplete information to OI and failing to flag important issues for discussion. While we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct on the part of the case agents who assisted OI in preparing the applications, or the agents and supervisors who performed the Woods Procedures, we also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or problems we identified.”

Schiff’s memo also concluded that “the FBI viewed Steele’s reporting and sources as reliable and verifiable.” The Horowitz investigation lays out quite a bit of evidence that the Bureau had good reasons to be more skeptical:

We determined that prior to and during the pendency of the FISAs the FBI was unable to corroborate any of the specific substantive allegations against Carter Page contained in the election reporting and relied on in the FISA applications, and was only able to confirm the accuracy of a limited number of circumstantial facts, most of which were in the public domain, such as the dates that Page traveled to Russia, the timing of events, and the occupational positions of individuals referenced in the reports.

. . . We found that the FBI’s interviews of Steele, the Primary Sub-source, and a second sub-source, and other investigative activity, revealed potentially serious problems with Steele’s description of information in his election reports.

According to the Supervisory Intel Analyst, the FBI ultimately determined that some of the allegations contained in Steele’s election reporting were inaccurate, such as the allegation that [Paul] Manafort used Page as an intermediary and that Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague for meetings with representatives of the Kremlin.

As we described earlier in our analysis, the FBI failed to notify 01, which was working on the Carter Page FISA applications, of the potentially serious problems identified with Steele’s election reporting that arose as early as January 2017 through the efforts described above. As previously stated, we believe it was the obligation of the agents who were aware of this information to ensure that 01 and the decision-makers had the opportunity to consider it, both for their own assessment of probable cause and for consideration of whether to include the information in the applications so that the FISC received a complete and accurate recitation of the relevant facts.

So perhaps the investigation was opened “for an authorized purpose and with adequate factual predication,” but once it was opened, the FBI personnel working the case didn’t seem all that worried about an inability to verify what they were being told and didn’t feel any need to tell the FISA judges that they couldn’t verify it. In any other circumstance, civil libertarians would be throwing a fit. Because it involves Trump and his associates, a lot of people who ought to know better are shrugging and concluding they had it coming.

And as you see above, congressional Democrats who are usually watching like hawks for signs of law enforcement abusing their powers or not respecting the rights of the accused turned into spin doctors for the FBI in this case. Gripe about Devin Nunes all you want, Adam Schiff is every bit the partisan and shades the truth just as much. He just does so in a calmer and smoother manner.

Finally, Some Good News

This is going to be a weird day for the Trump presidency, with the unveiling of two formal articles of impeachment, but also a big win on one of the president’s most contentious issues: President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are on the verge of announcing a deal on the new North American trade pact, handing the president a major political victory amid impeachment proceedings and giving moderate Democrats a legislative accomplishment they can sell back home.

The deal remains unofficial until Tuesday, when the top trade officials from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are expected to meet in Mexico City for an afternoon ceremony. Pelosi is also holding off on making a public announcement until she has briefed her caucus on the policy details of the pact, which replaces the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

But wait, that’s not all . . .

Finally, Some Good News, Part Two

Score one for Ivanka Trump’s signature issue:

The Trump administration and congressional Democrats reached a tentative deal late last week to provide all federal employees with paid family leave, marking a culmination of years of advocacy on the issue.

According to a congressional source familiar with negotiations, the White House agreed to support the provision as part of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, in exchange for Democrats’ acquiescence on the establishment of the U.S. Space Force as an independent branch of the armed services.

ADDENDA: In case you missed it yesterday, Emma Thompson has no choice but to fly; two House seats in North Carolina that the GOP now has to worry about; and a spotlight on one of the big advantages of National Review being a relatively small, independent media company.

National Security & Defense

Unveiling the ‘Pentagon Papers’ of the War in Afghanistan

Sgt. William Olas Bee, a U.S. Marine from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, has a close call after Taliban fighters opened fire near Garmser in Helmand Province of Afghanistan May 18, 2008 (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

Hey, did you enjoy last week’s burst of good news? Well, sorry, today brings none of that. Instead, we’ve got grim revelations about the effectiveness of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan; the country’s still evenly divided on impeachment; Chairman Nadler just tosses out his old views on impeachment from 1998; and a question of whether contempt is a side-dish or the main course in what political parties serve up these days.

Off the Record, U.S. Officials Acknowledge our Strategy in Afghanistan Is “Fatally flawed”

For the past few years, I’ve periodically checked in with the office of the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, as several times a year they unveil a massive, in-depth review or study that generally uncovers bad news: major problems in the Afghan government’s ability to pay for basic services, the Afghan military’s ability to operate and maintain U.S.-provided equipment, efforts to control opium production and the drug trade, and any ability to utilize the country’s natural resources. Over in that faraway, deeply troubled country, the American taxpayer has paid for soybeans that won’t growweapons that Afghan military forces lost, a $2.9 million farming-storage facility that was never used, and a $456,000 training center that “disintegrated” within four months. An Afghan power plant that the U.S. helped build was operating at just 2.2 percent of power production capacity. The SIGAR office round that significant portion of the U.S.-built buildings for the Afghan military are more flammable than international building codes permit. (Hey, why would you need to worry about burning buildings in a country at war, right?)

Inspector General John Sopko and his staff operate separately from the Pentagon and have the authority to review and audit any Afghan reconstruction activity performed by the U.S. government — the Department of Defense, the U.S. State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development and its contractors. Whenever possible, SIGAR staff go into Afghanistan, but because of the security situation, they can’t always get access to all the sites they want. But year after year, they’ve uncovered waste, mismanagement, corruption, and all kinds of problems that no one wants to see, whatever their view of the war in Afghanistan.

Sopko has been attempting to sound the alarm on these problems for years. In 2016, he gave a largely-ignored speech, declaring, “Afghanistan has had the lead responsibility for its own security for more than a year now, and is struggling with a four-season insurgency, high attrition, and capability challenges. Heavy losses in the poppy-growing province of Helmand have required rebuilding an Afghan army corps and replacing its commander and some other officers as a result, a U.S. general said, of ‘a combination of incompetence, corruption, and ineffectiveness.’”

Today, the Washington Post unveils the “Pentagon Papers” of our era, unveiling confidential SIGAR reports that show, “with most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would not become public, U.S. officials acknowledged that their warfighting strategies were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted enormous sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern nation.” The Post had to go through a lengthy legal battle with the SIGAR office to get the documents released, as the inspector general’s office contended they were privileged and that those who spoke freely about the shortcomings and failures of U.S. policy were entitled to whistleblower protections.

Judging from the report, the more the United States tried to fix Afghanistan, the more they complicated and worsened existing problems.

During the peak of the fighting, from 2009 to 2012, U.S. lawmakers and military commanders believed the more they spent on schools, bridges, canals and other civil-works projects, the faster security would improve. Aid workers told government interviewers it was a colossal misjudgment, akin to pumping kerosene on a dying campfire just to keep the flame alive . . .

In public, U.S. officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But in the Lessons Learned interviews, they admitted the U.S. government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers — allies of Washington — plundered with impunity.

This is the odd sort of bombshell scoop that tells us something we already knew, or likely suspected. The people running our military efforts in Afghanistan are not stupid. They see what we see, and a whole lot more. Each year, we hoped that this would be the year that our efforts in that misbegotten country would “turn the corner,” and every year ended with the country in more or less the same mostly-bad situation it started. The expectations got ratcheted down a little more, hoping that the Afghan government would get a little closer to something resembling a functioning state that would not collapse the moment we left.

It is not for lack of trying or lack of studying and attempting to adapt our efforts to be effective within the local culture. In 2010, the Pentagon started assembling Cultural Support Teams, a secret pilot program to insert women alongside Special Operations soldiers battling in Afghanistan. The Army reasoned that women could play a unique role on Special Ops teams: accompanying their male colleagues on raids and, while those soldiers were searching for insurgents, questioning the mothers, sisters, daughters and wives living at the compound.

The United States has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan — more than it spent, adjusted for inflation, to revive the whole of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II. Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action, according to Defense Department figures.

To the extent these SIGAR reports get noticed, they will be cited as a piece of evidence in the isolationist-interventionist policy battle. Those who want to withdraw from Afghanistan will point to this report and say that not only have our efforts not worked, but advocates in multiple administrations have lied to the public about how well the efforts were working. Interventionists will need to grapple with these difficult truths. Maybe we will witness the end to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan in the coming years. But we had better be ready for what follows us; based upon the history of Afghanistan, it will be ugly, and it could well end up trading one threat to Americans for another.

The stakes are high, and our leaders tend to debate these life-or-death decisions like morons. You’re not going to find good discussion of our options in Afghanistan in a Democratic presidential primary debate. In the October debate, Pete Buttigieg declared, “if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Afghanistan, from Afghanistan, it’s that the best way not to be caught up in endless war is to avoid starting one in the first place.” Did the U.S. start the war in Afghanistan? Or did al-Qaeda and the Taliban start it with 9/11?

Impeachment, the new Super-Censure

Imagine, for a moment, that the Democrats held 65 seats in the U.S. Senate, and would only need to persuade two GOP senators to remove President Trump from office. In those circumstances, we would all be riveted by every minor twist and turn in the impeachment process. All other news developments would take a metaphorical backseat, even the Democratic presidential primary. Television ratings would be higher. You would probably see loud and passionate protests for and against impeachment on Capitol Hill. Everyone in Congress and the administration would know that, to quote “Hamilton,” history had its eyes on them.

Right now, in the FiveThirtyEight aggregation of polling on impeachment, 46.8 percent support removing the president, and 44.1 percent oppose removal.* That suggests that in most polls, about nine or ten percent don’t have an opinion, or don’t know what they think. If removing President Trump from office was a realistic possibility, do you think so many people would have no opinion? Would the White House’s strategy still be “insist the whole process is illegitimate and refuse to cooperate in any fashion”?

Because almost no one believes that 20 Senate Republicans will join 47 Senate Democrats to vote for removal, the current impeachment is going through the motions. It’s supposed to be historic and dramatic but at this point the biggest question is whether removal gets 50 votes or more. (Most Senate Democrats, but maybe not Joe Manchin of West Virginia; maybe they get Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, so . . . 48 votes?) This is all about imposing a historically rare (but slowly getting less rare) symbolic rebuke to the president.

After having one attempt to impeach a president in the first 184 years of its existence, the United States has had three in 45 years. Perhaps starting with Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the process stopped being primarily an effort to remove the president and started becoming primarily a way to demonstrate the House’s vehement disapproval of a president’s actions. It’s a super-censure. It’s a small miracle that the Democratic House elected in 2006 did not attempt to impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and that the GOP House elected in 2010 did not try to impeach President Obama and Vice President Biden. Someday, there will be another Republican-controlled House and a Democratic president, and that GOP House will strongly disapprove of some presidential action, contending it qualifies as a “high crime or misdemeanor.” And impeachment will become just another tool in the toolbox of partisan warfare.

*You’ll notice impeachment advocates will often say “the public favors removal,” or “public support for removing Trump from office has never been higher” or some other careful wording. “Support for impeachment is below 50 percent” is not quite as persuasive.

Chairman Nadler’s Convenient New View on the Need for Consensus

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd’s guest was House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Todd pointed out that 21 years ago this month, when Bill Clinton was being impeached, Nadler said:

“Impeaching a president, when you have not got a broad consensus of the American people, a broad agreement of almost everybody that this fellow has got to go, because he’s a clear and present danger to our liberty and to our constitution, without that, you cannot and should not impeach a president. Because to do so is to call into question the legitimacy of all of our political institutions.”

Obviously, Nadler no longer feels that impeaching a president without a broad agreement of almost everybody” “calls into question the legitimacy of all of our political institutions.” Confronted with the fact that he’s not meeting his old standard for impeachment, Nadler invents a new one, telling Todd “the polling now shows that 70 percent of the American people are convinced that the president has done something very wrong.”

See? Impeachment is now just a super-censure with a lot of live television coverage.

ADDENDA: Those Christmas shopping days are disappearing fast! Buy those presents while you’re still sure they’ll get delivered in time!

. . . Tulsi Gabbard, last week: “You’re never going to be able to have a dialogue . . . win support from people who you treat like garbage, who you disrespect, who you call names, who you call deplorables. But how do you expect to lead as the president of every single American in this country when you’ve thrown half of them away?”

Treating half of the country like garbage, with disrespect and name-calling, is pretty much what each party stands for right now. The Democrats’ utter contempt for “deplorables” is well-demonstrated, and it’s not like the Republican Party is brimming with good cheer for people who live in cities regardless of their views, everyone involved in colleges and universities regardless of their views, trial lawyers regardless of their views, federal government employees regardless of their views, people who make a living in the arts regardless of their views, and arguably even legal immigrants, as increasing numbers of Republicans tell pollsters that “if the United States is too open to people from around the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

White House

Our Bipartisan Obsession with President Trump

President Donald Trump attends the NATO summit in Watford, near London, England, December 4, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: the dangerous habit of interpreting every development and bit of news through the lens of your opinion of the president; saluting some good reporting and a reminder that every fleeting news story reflects something happening in the lives of real, flesh-and-blood human beings; data that prove one of the bigest worries about our refugee policy simply isn’t based on the facts and history; and one more new bit of good news.

He’s Not a God or the Devil

I’m glad everyone enjoyed yesterday’s dose of underreported good news. Yesterday brought the lesson that you can tweet out figures from the Census Bureau about a change in the poverty rate and some people will insist it has to be a lie. A lot of people will respond “but what about inflation?” when given data on “real median earnings” — the real means that is already adjusted for inflation.

I pointed out that these good things were happening and deliberately didn’t mention the president, and in most cases, I didn’t mention any government policy at all. While the president can affect policy, he’s not directing medical researchers. The president’s policies don’t single-handedly fuel the economy, and no White House or Congressional policy or directive is fueling the rise in the number of independent bookstores. The improvement in the environment is occurring in many places, including far beyond our shores, and U.S. policies probably had only a marginal effect on the flourishing population of humpback whales to the South Atlantic. No U.S. policy can single-handedly make lithium-ion batteries 87 percent cheaper over a decade.

Quite a few people insisted that they were happening because of President Trump or that they couldn’t possibly be true because he’s the current president. This is a form of obsessive insanity. I would argue we have an obligation to push back against this. If you see the president as a Munificent Sun-God or the living embodiment and personification of a “dark spiritual force” who single-handedly controls the condition of the country, you are a cultist and exactly the kind of person the Founding Fathers feared.

Real Human Beings Are at the Heart of Every Fleeting News Story

We all seem to agree that which news you watch, hear and read greatly affects how you see the world and what you believe about the world, particularly in the realm of politics. You’ve probably seen those tweets that compare the chyrons on Fox News and MSNBC, covering the same event and offering two contradictory assessments.

But I think this goes well beyond politics. The first ten items of yesterday’s list were about breakthroughs in medicine and treatment of serious diseases — and one or two readers pointed out that sometimes these breakthroughs just don’t pan out because they can’t be independently replicated by other researchers. (I tried to find the most reliable and reputable sources covering those developments.) If you were hearing about these every day, do you think you would have a little more spring in your step and smile more often? Do you think news helps shape whether we see strangers as part of the problem or part of the solution?

The news audience hungers for those stories, but the more visible and probably larger hunger is for stories that amount to, “here is new evidence that everything you thought yesterday is right.”

The Washington Post, like many publications, lists on its web site its most-read stories of the day. On any given day, the top five articles are variations of “isn’t Trump the worst?” or “thank goodness we have Democratic lawmakers standing up to him.” Today’s top five includes two exceptions: “Phone logs in impeachment report renew concern about security of Trump communications,” “Heil Trump and an anti-gay slur scrawled on a church lead to an unlikely suspect — and a hoax” a column entitled “This moment was made for Nancy Pelosi,” “Armed robbers hijack a UPS truck and lead police on a chase that ends in a deadly shootout,” and “Unruly, pouty, and boastful: A field guide for Trump’s journeys abroad.”

Notice the Post’s Peter Jameson did a deeply-researched, deeply reported in-depth report of a hoax hate-crime that tried to frame Trump supporters as Nazis that the average reader had probably long forgotten about. It features video of the perpetrator, the church’s organist, confessing in a conversation with the local sheriff’s deputy; the deputy had noticed that the graffiti included an anti-homosexual slur, and let only a few people in the community knew the church performed gay weddings, leading him to turn his attention towards those who knew the church well. The article lays out that even the people who choose to fake hate crimes are human beings — and the church organist was left to live with the consequences of his actions and the long path of contrition; “Although Stang avoided 30 days in jail, he would spend many months trying to atone for what he had done. Some of that work was court-ordered, some voluntary. He collected trash, cleaned toilets and did other maintenance jobs for 150 hours in Brown County State Park. He wrote a letter of apology, published in the Bloomington Herald-Times, and volunteered at a Jewish community center on campus. He traveled twice to Puerto Rico to provide hurricane relief on trips organized by Canterbury House, IU’s Episcopal ministry, where he also volunteered and would eventually become the chapel’s keyboard player.”

In fact, a quote in that story is particularly relevant to our discussion of how the media shapes public perceptions:

[County Prosecutor Ted] Adams, a Republican, still thinks Stang should have served time for an act that “turned 65 percent of the county against 35 percent of the county for no need.” He also believes Stang’s crime was abetted, in a sense, by reporters too ready to embrace a caricature of Trump voters. The prosecutor ultimately called or emailed 92 news organizations that initially covered the vandalism as a hate crime, asking that they update their stories.

“Our media outlets — I don’t care what side you’re on — they actually pump people up with fear,” Adams said. “That’s why this case frustrates me. It just shows where we are at in this society.”

Keep that in mind the next time you hear “the mainstream media never reports this stuff.” Every once in a while they do, and they do an impressive job in the process.

Our Policies on Refugees Make No Sense

When you hear the word “refugee,” what do you envision?

Under the current administration policy, the United States is likely to admit a record-low number of refugees next year. The cap is set at 18,000, and most years the United States admits significantly fewer refugees than the cap allows. For most of the Obama years, the cap was around 70,000; in his final year in office, President Obama pushed it up to 110,000. Once in office, Trump quickly lowered it to 45,000.

President Trump administration is allowing states to opt in or opt out of the refugee resettlement program. Republicans in the state of Utah are asking the president to send more. “I have to be honest: I don’t have any idea why it’s a partisan issue nationally. It’s never been one here,” said Brad Wilson, the state’s Republican speaker of the House, told the Washington Post. “Regardless of political party, we value these people.”

For obvious reasons, Americans worry that foreign terrorists could sneak into the United States by posing as refugees. Two Iraqi terrorists who were caught before launching an attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky were admitted to the U.S. as refugees.

It is not accurate to say that refugees never commit terrorist attacks in the United States. But it is accurate to say that refugee terrorists are exceptionally rare — so rare that no refugee has committed a deadly terrorist attack on American soil since Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

Alex Nowrasteh ran the numbers; your chances of the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack by a refugee is about 1 in 3.86 billion per year, By contrast, the chance of being murdered by a tourist on a B visa, the most common tourist visa, is about 1 in 4.1 million per year. The United States does have a threat of foreign terrorists attempting to sneak into the country to commit attacks. But so far, by and large, the terrorists have attempted to enter the United States through tourist visas or other legal forms of entry.

According to Nowrastreh’s data and calculations, the United States admitted 3.39 million refugees over a 42-year-span from 1975 to the end of 2017. Out of those millions, 25 were or became terrorists; the death toll from these particular terrorist attacks was three people. In fact, it is accurate to say that no refugee has committed a deadly terrorist attack on American soil since Jimmy Carter was president: “Two of the three refugee terrorists were Cubans who committed attacks in the 1970s; the other was Croatian. All three were admitted before the Refugee Act of 1980 created the current rigorous refugee-screening procedures.”

My suspicion is that many Americans see all immigration programs and systems as pretty much the same; it all amounts to “they’re coming over here and they want to kill us.” But not all forms of entry into the United States are the same. Refugees have to prove they have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear that they will be harmed in the future. Any evidence that a person “ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of their race, religion, nationality” or any other group, automatically disqualifies them. So far, terrorists are not finding ways to manufacture that evidence or find this process too long and arduous to gain entry to the United States.

For those wondering, foreign terrorists are, by and large, not entering the country illegally either. Nowrastreh identified 192 foreign-born terrorists in the United States who killed 3,037 people in attacks on U.S. soil from 1975 through the end of 2017. Nine were illegal immigrants, although it’s worth noting he counts those who entered on a legal temporary visa and overstayed are counted under their legal visa of entry. Probably the most high-profile recent case of illegal immigrant terrorists was the “Fort Dix Six,” where three of the perpetrators entered the country from the former Yugoslavia illegally . . . as children.

(It should also be noted that there is a distinction under U.S. law between refugees and asylum seekers. The brothers who bombed the Boston marathon were admitted as political asylum seekers in 2002; the older brother was 16 years old at the time and the younger brother was nine.)

In fact, the one proven example of someone who entered the country as a refugee and then committed an attack that injured many people, his radicalization had to happen long after he entered the United States. The terrorist who committed a mass stabbing in St. Cloud, Minnesota in 2016 immigrated to the U.S. as a refugee at the age of two.

Even if five percent of the refugees admitted had malevolent intentions or Islamist sympathies, that would leave ninety-five percent not being terrorists, just scared, desperate people who have been driven from their homes and who have few other options. The data tells us that the percentage of refugees who are potential terrorists is much smaller than one percent, something along the lines of one-ten-thousandth of one percent.

You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to see that a lot of refugees would be grateful and productive legal permanent residents or citizens if given the chance. (Exhibit A: Albert Einstein.) Past American refugees include Henry Kissinger, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, actress Mila Kunis, singers Gloria Estefan and Rita Ora, novelist Gary Shteyngart. (God doesn’t waste any material.) Of course, we need to continue our existing systems of background checks and tracking any potential links or ties to terrorist groups or extremist beliefs, but so far, that seems to be working well, at least among refugees.

Why would we keep out good and desperate people, based upon a one-in-135,648 chance that the person could attempt a terrorist attack at some point in their lifetime?

ADDENDA: Right as I’m about to send this off to the editors, one more bit of good news: “The jobs market turned in a stellar performance in November, with nonfarm payrolls surging by 266,000 and the unemployment rate falling to 3.5 percent, according to Labor Department numbers released Friday . . . Average hourly earnings rose by 3.1 percent from a year ago, while the average workweek held steady at 34.4 hours.”

Science & Tech

The World Is Getting Better. It’s Just That No One Tells You About It.

(Thomas Peter/Reuters)

A special Morning Jolt today, as I try to run through a long but by no means complete list of good news from the past year that was astoundingly under-reported and discussed, particularly when compared to presidential tweets, discussions of which pop culture offerings weren’t woke enough, glowing profiles of the eighth or ninth-most popular Democratic presidential candidate, and so on . . .

We’ve Made Some Breathtaking Advances

You will be stunned when you realize how many dramatic breakthroughs have been made against some of the most common and deadly diseases and ailments out there.

One: A new blood test could detect breast cancer five years before other clinical signs manifest. This could be available to patients in four to five years. Separately, a new treatment for early-stage breast cancer could wipe out a growth in just one treatment.

Two: A new three-drug combination therapy could provide significant help to up to 90 percent of those suffering from cystic fibrosis.

Three: We could soon see a pill that can prevent heart attacks in high-risk patients: “Drugmaker Amarin “shocked the world last year when a long-running clinical trial showed that its medicine derived from purified fish oil, Vascepa, substantially reduced the risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks in high-risk patients . . . In November, a panel of experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration reviewed Amarin’s data. They voted 16 to 0 that Vascepa was safe and cuts cardiovascular events.”

Four: Israeli researchers think they’ve discovered that a molecule designed to help stroke victims may be a new way to wipe out pancreatic cancer, which is one of the toughest cancers to treat.

Five: The Mayo Clinic injected stem cells derived from fat cells into a paralyzed patient’s spine and the patient is now walking again. This treatment may not work as well for every patient, but it provides new hope for everyone facing paralysis.

You can get stem cells from fat cells? Good heavens, I think I’ve found my calling.

Six: A new vaccine could eliminate allergies to cats.

Seven: Earlier this year, UC San Francisco researchers managed to transform human stem cells into mature insulin-producing cells, a major breakthrough in the effort to develop a cure for type 1 diabetes.

Eight: In July, researchers “successfully eliminated HIV from the DNA of infected mice for the first time, bringing them one step closer to curing the virus in humans.”

Nine: Two new treatments for the deadly Ebola virus “saved roughly 90 percent of the patients who were newly infected.”

Ten: Gene therapy developed at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has cured infants born with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency, more commonly known as “bubble boy” disease. “The children are producing functional immune cells, including T cells, B cells and natural killer (NK) cells, for the first time.”

Keep headlines like the ones above in mind the next time you hear some politician denouncing “those greedy pharmaceutical companies.”

Turning our attention to the American economy, you’ve heard about the low unemployment rate. What you may not have heard is that the workforce participation rate for those between 25 and 54 years old is up to 80.1 percent — the highest since early 2007.

If that’s eleven, then twelve would be the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report on income and poverty, which came out in October. That report found real median family income up 1.2 percent from 2017 to 2018, real median earnings up 3.4 percent, the number of full-time, year-round workers increased by 2.3 million, and the poverty rate declined from 12.3 percent to 11.8 percent, with 1.4 million people leaving poverty.

Thirteen: Despite predictions that Amazon was going to put bookstores out of business, the number of independent bookstores keeps rising each year — the most recent figures are 1,887 independent bookselling companies running 2,524 stores.

Fourteen: The cost of lithium-ion batteries is down about 87 percent over the past decade — which makes electric vehicles a more cost-effective option for transporting goods and people.

Fifteen: There’s a lot of ugly trade wars and tariffs going on, but there is progress on some fronts. Japan just approved a deal that will lower or remove tariffs on $7.2 billion in U.S. farm goods, including a gradual reduction of its 38.5 percent duty on American beef to 9 percent. Other U.S. products including pork, wine and cheese will also get greater market access, putting the United States on a level playing field with TPP members such as Australia and Canada. The European Parliament voted last month to approve a plan that “grants the U.S. a country-specific share of the European Union’s duty-free, high-quality beef quota.”

Sixteen: In September, for the first time in 70 years, the United States exported more crude oil and petroleum products than it imported per day. Back in 2006, we were importing 13 million barrels a day. Around that time, America set out to reduce its dependence on foreign oil. Thanks to fracking and innovation, we did it.

Turning our attention to the environment, bald eagles, once on the endangered species list, are now so plentiful that San Bernardino National Forest officials are ending their annual count.

That’s seventeen. Number eighteen would arrive from over in the United Kingdom, a new study of endangered carnivorous mammals finds “two of the three ‘rarer carnivores’ (pine marten and polecat) have staged remarkable recoveries, while the third (wildcat) continues to be threatened by hybridisation. Meanwhile, akin to pine martens and polecats, the formerly rare and restricted otter has recovered much of its former range and is increasing in density.”

Nineteen: The world is literally a greener place than it was 20 years ago, and data from NASA satellites has revealed a counterintuitive source for much of this new foliage: China and India. A new study shows that the two emerging countries with the world’s biggest populations are leading the increase in greening on land. The effect stems mainly from ambitious tree planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries.

Twenty: NASA also found that “abnormal weather patterns in the upper atmosphere over Antarctica dramatically limited ozone depletion in September and October, resulting in the smallest ozone hole observed since 1982.”

Twenty-one: A study unveiled in November estimates that humpbacks in the western South Atlantic region now number 24,900 — nearly 93 percent of their population size before they were hunted to the brink of extinction. Good news, crew of the Enterprise, you may not need to use a stolen Klingon ship to find two humpbacks to save the future.

Twenty-two: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spotted and recorded video of a kraken — okay, a giant squid that was at least 10 feet long — only about 100 miles southeast of New Orleans, shortly before their vessel was struck by lightning. Okay, technically this could be bad news.

Turning our attention overseas, you heard about the raid against al-Baghdadi and the collapse of the Islamic State. You probably didn’t hear that the number of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan is “now reduced to around 300 fighters in Afghanistan, from an estimated 3,000 earlier this year.”

That’s twenty-three; twenty-four would be the impact of terrorism. We won’t know 2019’s numbers until the year ends, but deaths from terrorism fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2018, after peaking in 2014. The number of deaths has now decreased by 52 percent since 2014, falling from 33,555 to 15,952, says the 2019 Global Terrorism Index.

Twenty-five: The number of malaria infections recorded globally has fallen for the first time in several years.  In 2018, Cambodia reported zero malaria-related deaths for the first time in the country’s history. India also reported a huge reduction in infections, with 2.6 million fewer cases in 2018 than in 2017.

Twenty-six: Tensions between India and Pakistan got worse overall this year over Kashmir, but India and Pakistan managed to cooperate on breaking ground on a new peace corridor that will allow more than 5,000 Sikh pilgrims to travel back and forth across the normally impassable border visa-free for the first time in 72 years.

Twenty-seven: Israeli scientists have genetically engineered an E. Coli bacteria that eat carbon dioxide.

Twenty-eight through thirty-one come from the realm of remarkable discoveries about our past. Archeologists made amazing discoveries in the past year. A 1,300-year-old ‘rook” found in the Jordanian desert may be the world’s oldest chess piece. They discovered a new humanoid Nazca line in Peru. Sometime fourth century B.C. and sixth century A.D., in what is today Iran, some civilization built a big beautiful wall running about 71 miles; it appears Mexico didn’t pay for that one, either. And in Jerusalem, archeologists found that a grand street running from the Siloam Pool to the Temple Mount was built by some guy named . . . er, Pontius Pilate.

You hear about this stuff a lot less because articles and television segments about these developments don’t make you more likely to respond in the comments section, more likely to share on social media, more likely to call into a talk radio program, or more likely to vote for a particular candidate. It doesn’t make you believe that the world is full of people who are being unfair to you, that you’re a victim, or that other people are responsible for your problems.

ADDENDUM: Whatever your day holds, it probably doesn’t include chaperoning an elementary school field trip with fourth graders that includes long bus rides to and from our educational destination. Here’s hoping not too many kids barf today.

Elections

The Lily-White Democratic Primary

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Democratic presidential primary debate in Atlanta, Ga., November 20, 2019. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: why the surprisingly pallid tone of the remaining top Democratic candidates ought to bother us a little, all across the political spectrum; a little historical perspective on presidential misdeeds and misconduct; a near-unanimous vote in the House to support the Uyghurs in China; and I risk making actor Mark Ruffalo angry.

Is It Okay to Get Tired of Old, White, Wealthy Presidential Candidates?

Late yesterday I pointed out that one of the reasons that the non-white Democratic presidential candidates aren’t qualifying for the December debate is that non-white Democratic primary likely voters aren’t very supportive of Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, and the now-former candidate Kamala Harris.

Right now, the Democratic debate stage will feature Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar.

To qualify, candidates need to hit either 4 percent in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee or 6 percent in two polls in early nominating states and get contributions from 200,000 donors. Kamala Harris had met those thresholds, but she departed the race Tuesday. Yang is close and Gabbard still has a shot at qualifying, but we’re probably not going to see Booker on the stage later this month.

Right now, there’s a pretty good chance that the Democratic nominee will be an older white male who is at least a multimillionaire and who owns multiple houses. (Biden owns two and rents a 12,000-square-foot McLean mansion.) This is not how a lot of Democrats like to envision themselves and what they represent. Your Democratic friends may be a little grumpy about Harris’ departure, even if she wasn’t their first choice. They want to believe that their party is about fighting to ensure a fair shot for everybody, and minimizing any inherent advantages that whites, males, or the wealthy enjoy because of previous societal beliefs or structures. And now . . . the evidence is mounting that they can’t even mitigate this intrinsic unfair edge within their own ranks, never mind overcome it in American society as a whole.

But after we’re done laughing at the Democrats upset with how their field has narrowed, we can sympathize a little. If you count Mike Bloomberg, their final seven includes four septuagenarians and two billionaires. Just how different do you think the 2024 GOP presidential field is going to look? The 2016 Republican field was, on paper, the party’s most diverse, but most of the 17 barely got a second look, and the party nominated another wealthy older white male — like Mitt Romney, like John McCain, like George W. Bush, like Bob Dole (don’t tell me Dole wasn’t wealthy by the standards of most Americans), like George H.W. Bush, like Ronald Reagan . . .

You don’t have to buy into every last bit of the Democratic party’s embrace of identity politics to feel that the country would be better served by a menu of presidential candidates from every race, creed, color and hue, and with a wide variety of life experiences. There are a lot of candidate traits that are not necessary but nice to have. Military experience probably gives a unique insight into what the men and women in uniform on the ground will be facing in a crisis. Experience running a business, or at least working in the private sector, probably offers a clearer view of the unexpected consequences of regulations and the challenges of making payroll each month. No presidential candidate is poor, but it might be nice to know that a candidate faced a time in life where he had no idea how he would pay next month’s bills. Almost all of us have either faced a serious health issue or watched a love one deal with it and felt absolutely helpless and terrified. And almost every American has, at one point or another in life, felt like an outsider who was unfairly treated because they were different from the people around them in some way — because of their race, because of their religious or political beliefs, their sexuality, or some other factor.

A good candidate can go to a wide range of Americans and say, “I know what you’re going through, because I’ve been there, too.”

No matter how the parties tweak the rules, candidates who are celebrities and wealthy self-funders continue to enjoy significant advantages. As noted earlier, the billionaires who are most attracted to national politics brim with arrogance, entitlement, insufferable narcissism, and knee-jerk dismissal of even the fairest criticism. All candidates can get trapped in a bubble and have a hard time seeing themselves as the average voter sees them; billionaires have usually spent years in an airtight environment of sycophancy.

A senator in Washington will get a lot more television opportunities in his pre-campaigning career than a governor in Baton Rouge or Austin or any of the “flyover states.” The media can still play favorites; as we’ve seen this cycle, if MSNBC anchors don’t feel like asking you a question, thirty to forty minutes will pass between your answers.

A lot of Democrats would insist to high heaven that they’re not the least bit sexist or racist — but then echo Michael Avenatti and contend that because of other people’s sexism and racism, the Democrats had to nominate a white male. This is a spectacularly self-destructive bit of circular logic that, at its heart, contends that our system of free elections is actually bad, because we’re entrusting the decision of picking a leader to a group of people so reflexively closed-minded that they won’t even consider 70 percent of the population (all women and all non-white men).

How do we fix it? For starters, as the self-help gurus say, “ya gotta wanna.” Voters have to want different and better options than what they’re getting. They have to stop telling pollsters that the candidate they support is the one whose name they recognize — this is why so many of the leading candidates have been in the national spotlight for decades, and the billionaires like Steyer and Bloomberg can create mid-single-digit poll support quickly just by running a couple zillion in television ads in early states.

I Guess American History Began in 2017, Huh?

“The president’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president,” Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor will say, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by Politico.

Dude. Dude. Eight of our presidents owned slaves while serving in the White House. Franklin Roosevelt forcibly imprisoned tens of thousands of law-abiding American citizens for four years because of their ancestry. Woodrow Wilson re-segregated the federal government, wrote that the races were unequal, and threw a black civil rights leader out of the Oval Office. If we want to expand it to vice presidents, Aaron Burr straight-up murdered the old Treasury Secretary by shooting him in the chest.

Worse than Lyndon Johnson telling America that that we were winning the Vietnam War when we weren’t? That one proved a lot more consequential in the lives of Americans.

How much better or worse is the effort to strongarm the Ukrainian government than Jimmy Carter’s irritated pledge, “if I get back in, I’m going to f*** the Jews”?

Almost All of Congress Is United on Behalf of the Uighurs

Good job, House: “The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes the UIGHUR Act, a bill to condemn the Chinese government for its mass internment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, with a vote of 406-1.”

ADDENDA: I like actor Mark Ruffalo’s performances. I certainly wouldn’t want to make him angry. We wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. But a few days ago, he wrote, “It’s time for an economic revolution. Capitalism today is failing us, killing us, and robbing from our children’s future.”

Ruffalo’s net worth is about $30 million and he made about $6 million for the last Avengers movie. For a guy who hates capitalism and the profit motive, he sure is good at it.

He reminds me of the Patagonia founder who insists he became a billionaire by accident

White House

Impeachment Is a Drag

President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Sunrise, Fla., November 26, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Congress is in the middle of only the fourth impeachment process against a president in American history, and yet the general public is generally tuned out or bored by it all; New York slides back towards its pre-Giuliani status, showcasing how violent crime can decline but the public can still feel less safe; an ugly spat gets all too public; and some of the weirder and surprisingly enjoyable offerings from Christmas television offerings.

For Something Allegedly Momentous, Americans Sure Seem Bored by Impeachment

This ongoing impeachment process is weird. We all have a good sense of the outcome, and just about all of the intermediate steps. There’s little to no dispute about what the president did, said, or intended. If the Democrats believed they would reap a great political benefit from this, it hasn’t happened yet. It could well force senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bennet (yes, he’s still running) to spend weeks or months away from the presidential campaign trail. Former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter may well be called as witnesses in the Senate. (Pete Buttigieg must have been born under a lucky star.) President Trump may get a fundraising boost out of it, but the Trump 2020 campaign was never going to rise or fall based upon fundraising. (Ask the president or his supporters: would you rather have the money, or would you rather not have this ongoing impeachment process?)

Everyone involved in impeachment is going to come out of this with less than they expected. Support for removal is now at 47.7 percent support in the FiveThirtyEight aggregation, and 44.1 percent oppose Trump’s removal from office. The Washington Post notes that support for impeachment is the minority view in most of the swing states and that Trump’s approval rating hasn’t changed much since the process started.

CNN’s Harry Enten writes a sentence that says a great deal about our current era: “Voters feel impeachment is not all that important in the grand scheme of things.” He notes that a poll conducted by the network found that out of eight issues, respondents ranked impeachment last in importance. Just 42 percent of independents said the impeachment inquiry would be extremely or very important to their 2020 vote.

It’s not hard to find analysts, usually Trump-leaning, scoffing and confidently predicting that the Democrats will not pass a single article of impeachment. That scenario is hard to envision. The House not impeaching Trump after all of this would set off a civil war within the Democratic party. That scenario would require 15 House Democrats to quietly and privately go to Nancy Pelosi and tell her they can’t vote for impeachment. Only two House Democrats voted against starting the inquiry. Recall that about ten years ago, a lot of House Democrats voted for Obamacare, knowing it would probably cost them their seats; back then, support for Obamacare was lower than the current support for impeachment, around 40 percent in most polls. When the Democratic party really wants to pass legislation, its leaders can make legislators take votes that will end their careers in order to get something passed.

Also note that if the Democrats bring multiple articles of impeachment up for a vote, some House Democrats may split the difference: “A few moderates have actually encouraged leadership to let them vote against some articles of impeachment on the House floor while backing others, a move that would allow centrists taking heat back home to show a degree of independence from their party’s left flank and their leadership.”

To a lot of Trump supporters, not only is all of impeachment a joke and a partisan witch hunt, the notion that the president did anything wrong at all is unthinkable nonsense. The call was, as Trump insists, perfect. Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma while he was the vice president’s son was corruption, and if the Ukrainian government would just look into it, they would find proof of crimes. Trump’s previous bad experiences with the Federal Bureau of Investigation meant he couldn’t trust Christopher Wray or the rest of the Department of Justice, and he had no choice but to have his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, run it all from outside the government. Trump’s “I want you to do me a favor” comment to President Volodymyr Zelensky was nothing more than the routine give-and-take between heads of state.

To a lot of Democrats and Trump critics in either party, this is clearest slam dunk in the history of presidential misbehavior. And because it involves an effort to find dirt on a potential rival candidate, this decision cannot be left to the voters in November 2020. The fact that there’s never been a snowball’s chance in heck of 20 Republican senators joining 47 Democratic senators in support of removal is hand-waved away as immaterial or irrelevant to the decision. Do the right thing in the name of justice, and don’t worry about the consequences. Over at The Bulwark, they speculate about “twelve Senate Republicans who might vote to remove Trump from office.” That list includes the two most plausible rebels — Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski — and Richard Burr, because he’s run the Senate Intelligence Committee in a fairly amiable manner with Democrat senator Mark Warner. They include the retiring senators who wouldn’t fear a backlash at the ballot box — Lamar Alexander, Mike Enzi, and Pat Roberts. That gets removal to 53 — and then The Bulwark imagines Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Martha McSally, Joni Ernst, Thom Tillis and John Cornyn deciding they would prefer to be admired by historians than winning reelection. You might as well imagine scenarios where senators get secretly replaced by ideologically reversed lookalikes like the president in the movie Dave.

Chad Pergram, a Fox News reporter on Capitol Hill, reported, “a member of Pelosi’s leadership team today told Fox that the backlog of bills up this month in the House ‘works against’ a December impeachment vote. And the Democrat noted that impeachment ‘doesn’t fit the holiday spirit.’ That means impeachment could wait until 2020.”

First, if Trump is this law-breaking menace to the Constitution, who is such a clear and proven threat to American values and the processes of our government that this cannot be left to voters . . . why is he getting a reprieve for Christmas?

The House pushed back its holiday vacation from December 12 to December 20. Right now, it isn’t scheduled to reconvene until January 7, 2020.

Petty Crime Can Create More Than Petty Fear

Last week I mentioned that we perceive crime to be getting worse, even as national statistics indicate it is declining. Over in the New York Post, Karol Marcowicz observes that New Yorkers are witnessing minor, usually nonviolent crimes occurring in broad daylight: subway turnstile jumping, public urination, gangs of teens harassing passersby. If you’re seeing minor or petty crime occurring in broad daylight, you start to feel less safe, even if you’re not being assaulted.

It’s hard not to notice crimes being committed in plain sight, and no one seems to care. The smell of marijuana isn’t new in the Big Apple, but now it’s prevalent everywhere, including on playgrounds on Saturday afternoons — and even when police ­officers are around.

Mentally ill people behaving violently on the subway, or urinating on the streets in broad daylight, are common. Instead of doing anything about it, the mayor issued an edict telling police not to call them “emotionally disturbed persons.” Thanks, Mr. Mayor, that bit of language policing is sure to fix the underlying problem.

Will Someone Please Take the Phones Away from the Conways?

A few people seem to be enjoying the public spat on Twitter between Kellyanne Conway and George Conway. I’d just like to see them work it out someplace beyond the public spotlight and social media. Just about every couple fights, or at least has vigorous disagreements, but as James Gagliano and I noted yesterday, there’s something really troubling about watching a couple attempt to undermine and humiliate each other publicly. For most people, when a stranger criticizes your spouse, you reflexively want to register your objection across the bridge of their nose. Even if you think your spouse is nuts sometimes, that’s your call to make; nobody else gets to speak badly of the one you love, at least not in your presence. In this case, the husband is publicly concurring with people denouncing his wife. I’ve pulled three muscles from cringing so hard.

It’s like the entire country got invited to a dinner party, and right as we took off our coats, the hosting couple started fighting. Now we’re stuck sitting through a long, awkward dinner as they snipe at each other, avoiding eye contact and trying to figure out a good excuse to get out of there.

“Um, maybe we should go…”

“No! I insist you stay! You have to hear about the latest lunatic thing she did!”

“Only if he tells you about how he nearly wrecked the car!”

“If you hadn’t distracted me while I was driving

ADDENDA: The end of the year is usually a good time for oddities outside the realm of politics. A hearty congratulations to the ad agency for Peloton exercise bikes, for creating a commercial that makes an already-fit wife look like she’s making a hostage tape. “Ma’am, if you’re under duress, blink twice.”

. . . Last night brought the annual airing of the stop-motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special, giving me another chance to point out that the Santa in that story behaves like Kim Jong-un, complete with compulsory community sing-alongs about how everyone loves their work; that Rudolph quickly forgives years of mockery and ostracization that literally drives him out of society over a genetic defect, and that the Island of Misfit Toys is a refugee camp for those deemed genetically impure. The spectacular weirdness of this story, and the sense that it was written by somebody who was never allowed to apply to dental school by their parents and who never got over it, is probably what makes it so enduring . . .

You know what was a really good Christmas movie for the family? I mean, besides Die Hard. And besides National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which my family inevitably unintentionally emulates every time we put up the Christmas lights. Netflix’s Klaus, which came out a few weeks ago and features a real old-school Disney vibe. It’s about a lazy, bumbling mailman who is exiled to a remote Nordic village, “the unhappiest place on earth.” He accidentally starts the story of Santa Claus with his friendship with an old hermit who lives in the wintry woods. The hand-drawn animation and great voice work by Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, and Joan Cusack make this feel like a Christmas movie that could have come out a half-century ago, in the best way.

Books

The National Review Shopping List You Need for the Holidays

National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

Making the click-through worthwhile: Kick off Cyber Monday with all the books from NR editors and staff; an Iowa farmer’s obliviousness to Joe Biden is funny but revealing; an important lesson about evaluating talent, brought to us by Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew; and a bit of post-Thanksgiving gratitude.

Cyber Monday Shopping Guide!

Thanks to Thanksgiving arriving later in the calendar, Cyber Monday comes later this year, and we’re down to three weeks until Hanukkah and 23 days until Christmas! Do not dilly-dally on that shopping list! Order all your gifts now, have them delivered, and you’ll be chuckling as your friends are worrying in mid-December.

Andy McCarthy’s Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency was the hit of the late summer. The Chicago Tribune called it, “A critically important read for thoughtful people,” and Powerline called it “The best book of its kind since Woodward and Bernstein’s All the President’s Men.”

The religiously attuned but busy folks on your shopping list will love Kathryn Jean Lopez’s new book A Year With the Mystics, a day-by-day journey of reconnection with God and faith in a noisy world full of distractions. Everything Kathryn writes is with great spiritual insight, and this book has yet to get anything less than five stars on Amazon!

What was the most controversial book of the autumn? Perhaps Rich Lowry’s The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free, denounced by everyone you would expect, and praised in The Federalist and the Washington Examiner. Senator Tom Cotton raves, “Rich Lowry’s learned and brisk The Case for Nationalism defends these unfashionable truths against transnational assault from both the left and the right while reminding us that nationalist sentiments are essential to self-government.” And if you’re not in the mood for nationalism in your stocking, you can check out the boss’ Lincoln Unbound, Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years, and Banquo’s Ghosts, arguably the second-best spy thriller from a National Review editor in recent years.

Arriving in bookstores the same day was Richard Brookhiser’s Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea. Joseph Ellis writes, “In his signature style, [Brookhiser] wastes no words, defies the conventional political categories, and invites us to join him in recovering a series of inspirational moments when we all felt the same future in our hearts and minds.” Last year Richard debuted John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court to rave reviews. But all of his biographies are good — and Right Time, Right Place offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of National Review beyond the founding years.

Earlier this year Michael Brendan Dougherty unveiled My Father Left Me Ireland, a little book that packs a big punch — one part memoir, one part history, one part exploration of what gives us our identity in the modern world. J. D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, called it, “a heartbreaking and redemptive book, written with courage and grace. It is fascinating reading for anyone who has ever wondered about the pain caused by that increasingly common American problem: sons growing up without their fathers. For those who have endured that pain, it is essential.”

On a cruise more than a year ago, Kevin Williamson described the idea for The Smallest Minority to me, and I was instantly wowed — and he had been contemplating these ideas before his infamously short-lived time writing for The Atlantic. The Washington Free Beacon called it, “stylish, unrestrained, and straight from the mind of a pissed-off genius.” Or you may prefer Kevin’s previous books, from the Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism to The Case Against Trump.

Our old friend Reihan Salam’s Melting Pot or Civil War?: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders is one of the rare books that might change the dynamics of a national debate and has something new to say about a highly charged, long-debated topic.

David Bahnsen wrote Crisis of Responsibility: Our Cultural Addiction to Blame and How You Can Cure It.

Also looking back to the American Founding, last year Jay Cost wrote The Price of Greatness: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the Creation of American Oligarchy, discussing the two men and their the trade-off that “made the United States the richest nation in human history, and that continues to fracture our politics to this day.”

Those yearning for libertarians and conservatives to finally stop fighting each other and unite against progressive statism will want to pick up a copy of Charles C. W. Cooke’s The Conservatarian Manifesto.

My colleagues past and present write about realms far from politics and history — last year our old friend Ericka Andersen wrote Leaving Cloud 9: The True Story of a Life Resurrected from the Ashes of Poverty, Trauma, and Mental Illness. Or John J. Miller’s fiction and true tales. Or James Lileks’s hilarious strolls through the awful choices of food, fashion, and interior décor that most would prefer to erase from history.

Yuval Levin’s A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream looks good, but it doesn’t come out until January.

You knew I would be nagging you about Between Two Scorpions, right? $12.99, $3.99 on Kindle. The 156 Amazon reviews are mostly rave, and Brad Taylor, author of the New York Times-bestselling Pike Logan series called it, “A thoroughly researched thriller with a threat vector I wish I’d come up with — and a bite of humor rarely seen in the genre.” Readers keep coming back with three observations: 1) Hey, this thing didn’t drag at all, and I like the characters. 2) Holy [expletive], this idea would actually work, I hope real-life terrorists never try something like this. 3) This is hilarious, it’s as if they cast a Tom Clancy novel with acerbic ’90s comedians.

The first draft of Book Two is getting feedback from friends, and they’re spotting those little details like when I wrote five characters enter a particular location, but then I only write about four of them leaving, and people start to wonder if that fifth character just got left behind there and no one noticed.

Over on Amazon, you can find Heavy LiftingThe Weed Agency, and 2006’s Voting to Kill. (Used copies are now available for 83 cents!)

And of course, you could always gift a subscription to NRPlus.

You Don’t Need to Know Who Joe Biden Is, but . . . Shouldn’t You?

Natasha Korecki, a correspondent for Politico, was on the trail with Joe Biden in Iowa, and noticed a gentleman in the Corn Stalk Cafe with no interest in the hubbub surrounding the former vice president. When she asked him moments later if he just wasn’t a fan of Biden’s, the man, who said he was a farmer in the Missouri Valley, said he had never heard of Biden.

This man may be a terrific farmer and a swell guy — or he may have just wanted to keep watching the game and wasn’t interested in talking to a reporter — and most people are just enjoying this as a funny anecdote about the indignities of running for president. But Biden’s been, on and off, one of the most prominent figures in American politics for about four decades now — probably the entirety of this farmer’s life. On the one hand, freedom must include the freedom to not care about what’s going on in your country’s government. But on the other, self-government presupposes that the people know what they want and care about what they get.

Remember those “Jay-walking” segments when Jay Leno hosted the Tonight Show, where he regularly found people on the street or in line at Universal Studios who couldn’t name which country we fought in the Revolutionary War, or what the Emancipation Proclamation was, what month Election Day was in, what the three branches of the government were, and so on? Some of these people were accomplished in other fields; they simply saw no need to know any of this.

What happens to the government being accountable to the people if the people just aren’t interested?

And it goes beyond recognizing politicians who have been on TV and radio and in newspapers and magazines for decades. Americans score poorly on survey tests about using the Internet securely and safely. We’re okay on some basic science concepts, shaky on others. We know the basics of Christianity, but struggle with basic questions about other religions. (Just 20 percent knew that Protestantism, not Catholicism, traditionally teaches that salvation comes from faith alone.) One of the reasons that Medicare for All is polling poorly in recent months is that a segment of the public just now realized that the proposal wouldn’t let people keep their private insurance if they like it — suggesting a lot of folks missed the “for all” part.

Every November, federal, state, and local governments come to the people and essentially ask them what they think: about who should represent them, about referendums, about school budgets, even who should be a judge or a sheriff. And a lot of people respond with a metaphorical, “uh, I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it.” We’re free to tune out, but that decision amounts to wasting a great gift that is still pretty rare in this world. Right now, only about 57 percent of the world’s countries are considered fully Democratic with free and fair elections. Freedom House’s annual reports have assessed the world moving in a less democratic direction every year for the past thirteen years — more countries with elections that aren’t really free or fair, with coercion, fraud, or gerrymandering.

Because if you can tune out the existence of Joe Biden, you can tune out a lot more.

In the most recent nationwide Morning Consult poll, about 6 percent of registered voters said they had never heard of Elizabeth Warren, 11 percent said they had never heard of Kamala Harris, 19 percent had never heard of Pete Buttigieg, and 30 percent had never heard of Tulsi Gabbard.

Poor Deval Patrick; 47 percent of registered voters in the survey have never heard of him.

This Week’s Non-Jets Football Observation

Sunday the Jacksonville Jaguars finally listened to superfan Charlie Cooke and replaced faltering quarterback Nick Foles with the backup, Gardner Minshew, and while the Jaguars lost the game, Minshew gave the team a bit of a spark in the second half. (Charlie reveres the mustached demigod, who went in for the previously injured Foles earlier in the year and tore up the league for a few games before returning to mortal status.)

A cliché in sports writing is that the backup quarterback is always the most popular player with fans, because they overestimate and idealize how well he would play while he’s sitting on the bench. But I disagree with that assessment, because fanbases are rarely stubbornly in favor of one particular player. The fans rarely get to see the practices, aren’t in the huddle, and have little idea of what these guys are like off the field. Fans don’t care who the owner likes better, or whose reputation is riding on a particular draft pick or free-agent signing. All we have to judge them on is what they’re doing on the field — and that can often be clarifying. For the most part, fans just want to see their team win — and if they think the backup gives them a better shot, they don’t worry as much about previous decisions, contracts, locker room chemistry, or other factors. Perhaps this reflects being a fan of the Jets and living in Redskins territory, but I keep seeing coaches and teams making a particular decision and then insisting, week after week, that the decision is going to pay off in the face of overwhelming counterevidence. Sometimes the sixth-round draft pick rookie will just play better than the superstar free agent with the four-year, $88 million contract.

ADDENDA: Hope your Thanksgiving was great; Giancarlo Sopo kindly listed me among many great conservative writers and thinkers worth our gratitude this year.

Sunday afternoon brought my own out-of-nowhere moment for gratitude: My sons and I went to our usual restaurant where we watch football games, there was a table available with no wait that had a clear view of the television that had our game on, the place was full and boisterous with lively fans but not too crowded and not too much audible profanity, good food was on the way, Christmas commercials were starting, the restaurant was warm with miserable wet weather outside . . . and everything was just perfect. It was one of those moments where you realized you had everything you really needed close at hand.

And then the Jets got blown out, of course.

Most Popular

The Hole in the Impeachment Case

Thought experiment No. 1: Suppose Bob Mueller’s probe actually proves that Donald Trump is under Vladimir Putin’s thumb. Fill in the rest of the blanks with your favorite corruption fantasy: The Kremlin has video of the mogul-turned-president debauching himself in a Moscow hotel; the Kremlin has a bulging ... Read More

The Hole in the Impeachment Case

Thought experiment No. 1: Suppose Bob Mueller’s probe actually proves that Donald Trump is under Vladimir Putin’s thumb. Fill in the rest of the blanks with your favorite corruption fantasy: The Kremlin has video of the mogul-turned-president debauching himself in a Moscow hotel; the Kremlin has a bulging ... Read More

Iran Could Still Strike Back at the U.S.

How might Iran respond to the death of Qasem Soleimani? Ever since the Trump administration’s January 3 killing of Soleimani, the Islamic Republic’s top military commander, that question has been on the mind of policymakers in Washington and the American public at large. Iran’s January 8 rocket attack on ... Read More

Iran Could Still Strike Back at the U.S.

How might Iran respond to the death of Qasem Soleimani? Ever since the Trump administration’s January 3 killing of Soleimani, the Islamic Republic’s top military commander, that question has been on the mind of policymakers in Washington and the American public at large. Iran’s January 8 rocket attack on ... Read More

‘Reconsidering Fetal Pain’

Two researchers with “divergent views regarding the morality of abortion” have published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics concluding that unborn human beings likely are able to feel pain at an earlier point than previous research has suggested. The authors state that they “came together to write ... Read More

‘Reconsidering Fetal Pain’

Two researchers with “divergent views regarding the morality of abortion” have published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics concluding that unborn human beings likely are able to feel pain at an earlier point than previous research has suggested. The authors state that they “came together to write ... Read More

Martha McSally’s Blasphemy

As I note in my New York Post piece today, I don’t believe that Martha McSally, who is serving her first term in the Senate after being appointed to take John McCain’s seat, is going to be helped much by accusing CNN’s Manu Raju of being a “hack.” Attacking the press might be an effective way to excite ... Read More

Martha McSally’s Blasphemy

As I note in my New York Post piece today, I don’t believe that Martha McSally, who is serving her first term in the Senate after being appointed to take John McCain’s seat, is going to be helped much by accusing CNN’s Manu Raju of being a “hack.” Attacking the press might be an effective way to excite ... Read More

How the Clinton Foundation Got Rich off Poor Haitians

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article is excerpted from Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party. In January 2015 a group of Haitians surrounded the New York offices of the Clinton Foundation. They chanted slogans, accusing Bill and Hillary Clinton of ... Read More

How the Clinton Foundation Got Rich off Poor Haitians

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article is excerpted from Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party. In January 2015 a group of Haitians surrounded the New York offices of the Clinton Foundation. They chanted slogans, accusing Bill and Hillary Clinton of ... Read More

Trump Rounds Third with Enviable Big-League Record

Wednesday was momentous for President Donald J. Trump. House Democrats voted, with zero Republican support, to send the Senate two anti-Trump articles of impeachment. He and Vice Premier Liu He signed a curtain-raising trade pact between America and China. Financial markets rejoiced as the Dow Jones Industrial ... Read More

Trump Rounds Third with Enviable Big-League Record

Wednesday was momentous for President Donald J. Trump. House Democrats voted, with zero Republican support, to send the Senate two anti-Trump articles of impeachment. He and Vice Premier Liu He signed a curtain-raising trade pact between America and China. Financial markets rejoiced as the Dow Jones Industrial ... Read More