Film & TV

Progressive, Pompous Pete Davidson

(Image via Twitter)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Pete Davidson, the icon of insufferably smug urban progressives; the challenge of predicting what you actually see, as opposed to what you want to see; and the question of whether Beto O’Rourke has been setting himself up for a presidential bid in 2020 all along.

Predicting What You See, Not What You Want to See

Here’s a classic example of a sentence in campaign coverage that strikes me as wrong, from Politico: “The indictments of Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Chris Collins (N.Y.) have unexpectedly brought their seats on the map, even though Trump carried both districts easily.”

I wouldn’t mind if these two GOP members of Congress lose, but the goal here is not to predict what we want to see, but what we actually see. I don’t particularly like Duncan Hunter Jr., but he’s led every poll, even after the indictment. One in September had him up by 13 points. Every independent poll has put Collins ahead. If these guys are still ahead in polls after getting indicted, just how vulnerable are they?

Over at the Inquisitr — clearly, no one reads that site for the spelling — an article begins, “The final Tennessee Senate polls show a race that is deadlocked and the potential that the ‘Taylor Swift effect’ could help Democrat Phil Bredesen pull off an upset victory.”

First, we saw no movement towards Bredesen in the polls after Swift’s endorsement.

Second, the polls don’t show a race that is deadlocked. Emerson puts Blackburn up by 8, Fox News puts Blackburn up by 9, East Tennessee State University shows a tie, CNN puts Blackburn up by 4, Marist puts Blackburn up by 5. That’s not deadlocked! You don’t get to pick the poll you like and ignore the other four most recent ones!

Over on the homepage, I have my final House race preview. It’s probably not what National Review readers would prefer to hear, but I don’t predict a big Democratic House majority — in fact, I think that Democrats will just barely eke past the 23-seat threshold for control of the chamber.

I could end up being terribly wrong; every election cycle brings some surprises. But you can rest assured that this is what I see, not what I want to see, because I’m predicting a bunch of my favorite House Republicans losing. I really want to see Barbara Comstock hang on in northern Virginia, Mia Love hang on in Utah, and Maria Elvira Salazar beat Donna Shalala in Florida. But I picked the Democrats in those races because right now, the polling and various other factors — including the demographics of the districts and past margins of victory — point to the seats flipping.

And there are a bunch of jump-ball races I may well have been too pessimistic about. Bruce Poliquin could hang on in Maine. The demographics in Minnesota’s first district are perfect for a GOP pickup, but the candidate isn’t; maybe if the race is sufficiently nationalized, the GOP wins that one.

If you’re a Republican who wants a good day tomorrow, get out there and vote . . . and find some friends to go, too.

Was a 2020 Presidential Bid Beto’s Backup Plan All Along?

You might have thought that everything needed to be said about the Texas Senate race has already been said, but our old friend Tim Alberta writes a long piece in Politico asking a question that might haunt some Texas Democrats in two days: What if Beto O’Rourke had run as a centrist?

The problem for O’Rourke is that his further-left positions — ban AR-15s, impeach the president, consider abolishing ICE — were a big part of what drove all of that national Democratic fundraising excitement, combined with animosity towards Ted Cruz and the significance of a Democratic win in the Lone Star State.

For contrast, do you recognize the name Jayne Raybould? She’s the Democratic nominee in Nebraska running against GOP senator Deb Fischer. She’s running against the tax cuts and school vouchers, endorses “common sense gun measures,” and refuses to take PAC money . . . in other words, her positions are not all that distinguishable than O’Rourke’s. She actually out-raised Fischer in the third quarter!

But you’ve heard almost nothing about Raybould because national Democrats don’t dream of winning Nebraska and its five electoral votes the way that they dream of winning Texas and its 38 electoral votes. Democrats have been telling themselves that demography would make Texas competitive for at least two decades now. And yet in 2014, the party had one of its worst cycles ever.

Since at least 2008, Democrats have put enormous faith in the notion of the “Coalition of the Ascendant”: young voters, Latinos and African-Americans, and single women, who Democrats believed would be ever-expanding parts of the electorate, while older voters, white men and married women would be an ever-shrinking part. It is hard to overstate how much the mentality of The Emerging Democratic Majority influenced Democrats’ approaches to campaigning and governing. If the more conservative demographics in the electorate were destined to die off, Democrats could ignore them and/or demonize them as “deplorable.”

Of course, the elections of the past decade have not turned out the way Democrats hoped. It turns out that the demographics in the “Coalition of the Ascendant” don’t always turn out in the number the party needs, and some Republicans run better among Latinos than Democrats expected. In Texas, Greg Abbott won 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2014, and he’s aiming for a bigger share this year.

For Democrats, getting demolished up and down the ballot in a majority-minority state — Texas was nearly 40 percent Latino and 11 percent African American in 2014 — suggests that everything they thought about the “emerging Democratic majority” was wrong.

Meanwhile, votes for Democrats have collapsed among the demographics in the Coalition of the Allegedly Not Ascendant, and those demographics include the groups most likely to vote, particularly in non-presidential elections.

What Democrats crave is someone who can emulate Obama’s message and agenda without conceding such a large chunk of white-male voters. (Remember Obama won 41 percent of white males in 2008, the best any Democrat has done since Jimmy Carter.)

Some observers of the Texas Senate race have a cynical theory that O’Rourke always knew that beating Cruz was a longshot, but that by running as the 2018 version of Barack Obama, he could catapult himself into the top tier of the 2020 Democratic presidential discussion. After all, a guy who could “almost” win Texas could surely put other purple and red states in play, right?

Pete Davidson, Millennial Icon

I could scream and yell about the classless Pete Davidson, but . . . in the end, isn’t it just sad? There was a time when Saturday Night Live wasn’t just funny, not just less partisan . . . it genuinely brought joy to audiences.

The whole joke in that Weekend Update bit was basically, “Look, this guy has an eyepatch.” That’s a mean thing to say even if the person isn’t a retired Navy SEAL who lost his eye in Afghanistan on his fifth deployment. A room full of well-paid writers, and this is what they came up with? No one around Davidson thought that was a dumb, mean joke? No one objected?

You could even have done an eyepatch joke that wasn’t mean, something such as, “If he doesn’t get elected to Congress, his backup plan is to run SHIELD in the Marvel movies” or something similar. But instead they went with the sneer that he looked like a porn actor, and Davidson — who seems to giggle and snicker his way through most sketches — added, “He lost it in the war or whatever.”

“The war or whatever.” Dear God, you will never hear a more perfect encapsulation of the smug, sneering, impudent, self-satisfied sense of unearned superiority in an insufferable Millennial hipster. Save that video and put it in a museum somewhere, so future generations can witness and appreciate the ultimate vivid example of the disconnect between the urban-progressive entertainment-industry employee and the rest of the country, who, no matter what they think of the wars in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Syria, or anywhere else, understands that there’s no “or whatever” to a veteran’s injuries. People who roared in laughter at Mort Sahl, and George Carlin, and Richard Pryor, and Eddie Murphy, and Don Rickles, and who relished every joke that pushed a boundary of good taste or jabbed at a sensitive topic or nerve . . . understood you just don’t make fun of a war veteran’s injuries. You just don’t.

Unless you’re Pete Davidson and the writers of Saturday Night Live.

ADDENDUM: Michael Graham writes about Democratic expectations for tomorrow: “If Democrats take the House, and all of your liberal friends are in a lousier mood about it than your Republican ones — don’t be surprised.”

Elections

Election Results Will Be a Reflection of President Trump

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in Washington, D.C., October 9, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why the results of this election will be a reflection of Trump’s presidency — for good or for ill — and will provide real data on whether Republicans can win in the suburbs; some fantastic new jobs numbers right before Election Day; why you never know which way the polls will be wrong; and the long-dormant pop-culture podcast returns.

Like It or Not, the 2018 Midterms Are a Referendum on Trump

Back at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in 2016, I heard Chuck Schumer argue that parties were trading groups of voters in that election cycle and that Democrats were getting the better deal. “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” Either his assessment was wrong (GOP Senator Pat Toomey nearly tied the Democrat in the Philadelphia suburbs, while Trump took about 43 percent) or his math was wrong.

But as you look at the map in 2018, Schumer’s assessment of the demographic trade may be more accurate. If you look at the House districts where GOP incumbents look like they’re in serious trouble, or an open seat looks particularly difficult to retain, you see America’s suburbs.

You see races like Barbara Comstock up against Jennifer Wexton in Virginia’s tenth district, the state’s northern suburbs west of Washington, D.C.; Leonard Lance against Tom Malinowski in New Jersey’s seventh district, covering Scotch Plains, Westfield, South Plainfield, and other suburbs of New York City; Brian Fitzpatrick against Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania’s first district, which covers much of Bucks County; Dave Brat against Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s seventh district, which includes much of Richmond’s western suburbs; John Faso against Antonio Delgado in New York’s 19th district, covering the Catskills and Hudson Valley; and the open seat race in Florida’s 15th district in the eastern suburbs of Tampa, pitting Ross Spano against Kristen Carlson.

Even suburbs in some pretty red states look shaky. Mia Love’s reelection is not guaranteed in Utah’s fourth congressional district, encompassing the suburbs of Salt Lake City. Keven Yoder looks like he’s in real trouble in Kansas’s third congressional district, which includes the western suburbs of Kansas City, Mo. Andy Barr is hanging on by his fingernails in Kentucky’s sixth district, which includes Lexington and its suburbs.

Trump supporters might scoff, “Fine, suburban women are drifting towards the left and those voters were always destined to fall away eventually.” But it’s extremely difficult to build a House majority if your party can’t compete in the suburbs. And before anyone scoffs that these must be a bunch of weak candidates, Comstock, Fitzpatrick, Brat, Faso, Love, Yoder, and Barr were good enough to win these districts in past cycles. What changed?

One theory is be that the Trump presidency came to town, and it repelled usually winnable voters in these purple-to-light-red districts.

The president’s preferred focus in the closing week of the campaign is crystal clear: immigration, in particular the caravan coming up through Mexico; sending U.S. troops to help secure the southern border; eliminating birthright citizenship through an executive order; discussing the possibility of U.S. troops firing on migrants who throw rocks; and crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

Will that work? We’ll know in a couple of days. Trump may be betting on a ricochet effect, where he expresses some uncontroversial views — migrants should not be allowed to enter the country illegally, violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants should be taken seriously, the trend of “birth tourism” violates the spirit of U.S. immigration law, if not the letter — in a hyperbolic and incendiary way, triggering a furious reaction from Democrats. That furious reaction could reinforce voter doubts about whether Democrats are willing to stop illegal immigration, whether they avert their eyes from violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants, and whether they really believe in U.S. immigration laws at all. After all, progressive grassroots activists were chanting to “abolish ICE” not too long ago, a position most elected Democrats realized was political suicide.

That could work. Or those suburban moms and white-collar, college-educated whites could see Trump’s drumbeat as confirmation of their worst suspicions about him — that he really is a xenophobe, that he really does see caravans of desperate migrants as malevolent monsters, and that he really does see today’s world as a preview of Camp of the Saints, where the good, majority-white democracies are overrun by hordes of Third World migrants that are barely above zombies or some other sub-human being.

One other thought about the midterms: The biggest change to the Electoral College map in 2016 is that Donald Trump succeeded in upper Midwest states where Mitt Romney, John McCain, and to a lesser extent, George W. Bush, failed — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin in particular, and Iowa, and Ohio. (Trump’s margin in the Buckeye State was double that of Bush’s in 2000.) Trump came within 55,000 votes of winning Minnesota, too. There was a down-ticket effect for the GOP — Toomey won, Ron Johnson won in Wisconsin, and Rob Portman crushed his Senate race in Ohio.

But the outlook for the GOP in the region looks pretty grim, in both the Senate and gubernatorial races and a bunch of the House races. (The new district lines are just going to slaughter GOP members of the House in Pennsylvania.) That swing region may have rolled the dice on Trump and the Republicans in 2016 . . . and fairly or not, they may not be all that impressed with the results in 2018.

The Polls Will Probably Be Wrong . . . But in Which Direction?

Right now, the polls point to the GOP picking up a few seats in the Senate, the House being very close but probably a Democratic majority, and a really bad night for Republican governors.

It is possible that the results will be much better for Republicans than the polls indicate. In 2014, “the average Senate poll conducted in the final three weeks of this year’s campaign overestimated the Democrat’s performance by 4 percentage points. The average gubernatorial poll was nearly as bad, overestimating the Democrat’s performance by 3.4 points.”

It is possible that the results will be much worse for Republicans than the polls indicate — in 2017, the RealClearPolitics average of polling in Virginia indicated that GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie would lose to Democrat Ralph Northam by about three points. Northam won by almost nine points, and the GOP got slaughtered in suburban districts all across the state. (Weirdly, the RCP average was almost right on the button for the New Jersey gubernatorial race, which was always projected to be landslide.)

Hey, Guys, Maybe You Want to Run on the Economy This Year 

You can tell that there are some who would like the closing Republican message to be about the economy. In fact, if President Trump and congressional Republicans don’t tout the economy for the next five days after today’s phenomenal jobs report, they’re insane and can’t be saved. This is the kind of monthly jobs report that should be unveiled with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

Booyah, America:

Job growth blew past expectations in October and year-over-year wage gains jumped past 3 percent for the first time since the Great Recession, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Nonfarm payrolls powered up by 250,000 for the month, well ahead of Refinitiv estimates of 190,000. The unemployment rate stayed at 3.7 percent, the lowest since December 1969.

The ranks of the employed rose to a fresh record 156.6 million and the employment-to-population ratio increased to 60.6 percent, the highest level since December 2008, according to the department’s household survey. That headline jobless number stayed level even amid a two-tenths of a percentage point rise in the labor force participation rate to 62.9 percent.

Neil Irwin, senior economics correspondent for the New York Times: “Man, this is a really great jobs report. The job market is firing on all cylinders: Strong job growth (esp for this stage of expansion), wages rising faster, more people in labor force.”

This economic news, less than a week before the midterm election, is as good as the president possibly could hope for, which means later today we’ll probably get tweets such as “I HAVE HEARD FROM RELIABLE SOURCES THAT ELIZABETH WARREN IS A WEREWOLF.”

ADDENDUM: Hey, after a long hiatus, Mickey and I found time to record a show yesterday! We talked Kanye-exit, things we can’t say anymore, Nathan Fillion’s new television series “The Rookie,” how the new “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” reboot is apparently straight-up pro-Satanism, and why allergies are the worst. We’re still on iTunes, and the newest show is up there, too.

U.S.

The Truth about George Soros Is Damning Enough

Making the click-through worthwhile: a deep dive into separating fact from fiction when it comes to George Soros, and finding that the truth is bad enough without any of the exaggerations; the Washington Post offers another round of white-knuckle polls for control of the House; and a prominent force in past election cycles has been a little quieter in 2018.

The Bad-Enough Truth About George Soros

This morning, the New York Times writes about George Soros and declares . . .

On both sides of the Atlantic, a loose network of activists and political figures on the right have spent years seeking to cast Mr. Soros not just as a well-heeled political opponent but also as the personification of all they detest. Employing barely coded anti-Semitism, they have built a warped portrayal of him as the mastermind of a “globalist” movement, a left-wing radical who would undermine the established order and a proponent of diluting the white, Christian nature of their societies through immigration.

This is a good moment to sort out the nonsense claims and Internet rumors about Soros and the verified truth, which is bad enough.

Soros was born in 1930, making him nine when the war broke out and 15 when it ended. There’s no evidence that he played any role in the atrocities of the Nazi regime in World War II.

What is true is that to survive in that time and place, Tivadar Soros had his son George assume a non-Jewish identity — “Sandor Kiss” — and pose as the godson of a Hungarian agriculture ministry bureaucrat named Baumbach, whose job was taking inventory of Jewish properties confiscated by the Nazi occupiers. Soros accompanied Baumbach on one job, traveling to the estate of a wealthy Jewish aristocrat named Moric Kornfeld. What’s not disputed is that Soros hung around the estate while Baumbach did his work for the Nazi-occupying regime; what is disputed is what, if anything, Soros did while Baumbach took inventory.

That isn’t embracing the Nazi cause, and it’s difficult to argue that cooperating with taking inventory once in order to maintain a non-Jewish disguise constitutes an unforgivable sin while sitting in a country that ran Operation Paperclip to win the Space Race.

For what it’s worth, Soros did make his role sound more active in a 1998 interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes.

Kroft: “My understanding is that you went . . . went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews.”

Soros: “Yes, that’s right. Yes.”

Kroft: “I mean, that’s — that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?”

Soros: “Not, not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don’t . . . you don’t see the connection. But it was — it created no — no problem at all.”

Kroft: “No feeling of guilt?”

Soros: “No.”

Kroft: “For example, that, ‘I’m Jewish, and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be these, I should be there.’ None of that?”

Soros: “Well, of course . . . I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because that was — well, actually, in a funny way, it’s just like in the markets — that if I weren’t there — of course, I wasn’t doing it, but somebody else would — would — would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the — whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the — I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.”

There’s one other wrinkle: Tivadar Soros offered a similar account of the trip in his 1965 autobiography titled Masquerade: Dancing Around Death in Nazi Occupied Hungary, except he described Baumbach as “Baufluss” and made his son’s role sound more active:

The following week the kind-hearted Baufluss, in an effort to cheer the unhappy lad up, took him off with him to the provinces. At the time he was working in Transdanubia, west of Budapest, on the model estate of a Jewish aristocrat, Baron Moric Kornfeld. There they were wined and dined by what was left of the staff. George also met several other ministry officials, who immediately took a liking to the young man, the alleged godson of Mr Baufluss. He even helped with the inventory. Surrounded by good company, he quickly regained his spirits. On Saturday he returned to Budapest.

Did young George Soros help with taking inventory of property seized from Jews? His father’s autobiography says yes, Soros himself says no, aside from that initial answer in the 60 Minutes interview. At the very least, he was hanging around while inventory was being taken; he has, in subsequent interviews and writings, said he “accompanied an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, posing as his godson, when he was taking the inventory of a Jewish estate.”

By the way, Kornfeld “was taken to the infamous Mauthausen concentration camp. In return for permitting the Nazis to assume administration of his family’s vast industrial enterprises, he and his family were allowed to leave for Portugal. Following the war his holdings were nationalized and he never returned to Hungary.”

Whatever Soros’s worldview and philosophies as a boy during World War II were, he’s a committed, outspoken, extraordinarily deep-pocketed liberal progressive now. It is not an exaggeration to characterize Soros’s views as radical, particularly compared to the American mainstream.

Because Soros grew to prominence on the U.S. political scene when he spent more than $25 million trying to defeat President Bush in the 2004 election, most members of the media think of him as just another liberal billionaire — Tom Steyer or Michael Bloomberg with a different accent. But his views are genuinely shocking to middle America when they hear them.

Soros was flatly opposed to the War on Terror after 9/11 and declared the U.S. response to al Qaeda to be morally equivalent to the terrorist attacks: “We abhor terrorists, because they kill innocent people for political goals. But by waging war on terror we are doing the same thing.”

In 2006, Soros said that “the main obstacle to a stable and just world is the United States.” Not Iran, not Russia, not China, not Islamist terrorist groups, not transnational crime . . . the United States.

In 2010, he declared that China has “a better functioning government than the United States.”

He has generously donated to groups that call on governments the world over to sever or downgrade their diplomatic relations with Israel and calls for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. He’s made several comments that some interpreted as blaming Jews for anti-Semitism, such as, “I don’t think that you can ever overcome anti-Semitism if you behave as a tribe . . . the only way you can overcome it is if you give up the tribalness.”

He wrote in 2007, “I do believe that attitudes toward Israel are influenced by Israel’s policies, and attitudes toward the Jewish community are influenced by the pro-Israel lobby’s success in suppressing divergent views.”

Soros’s comments either deliberately or inadvertently feed into the notion of Jewish control of American politics:

The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism. Politicians challenge it at their peril because of the lobby’s ability to influence political contributions. . . . Academics had their advancement blocked and think-tank experts their funding withdrawn when they stepped too far out of line. Anybody who dares to dissent may be subjected to a campaign of personal vilification… Some leaders of the Democratic Party have promised to bring about a change of direction but they cannot deliver on that promise until they are able to resist the dictates of AIPAC.

Soros is not a fan of national borders or border enforcement. When criticizing Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban in 2017, Soros said, “[Orban’s] plan treats the protection of national borders as the objective and the refugees as an obstacle. Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle.” In many interviews, Soros has decried nationalism and national identity as a menace.

He contended that withdrawing from the Iran deal is “effectively destroying the transatlantic alliance.”

None of the above quotes are from the rumor mill or secret recordings or secondhand claims. Soros openly lays out his beliefs in interviews, speeches, and articles. His viewpoints are not a secret. And it is completely understandable that those who believe in military responses to terror attacks, secure borders, who support Israel, who don’t believe that anti-Semitism is driven in any part by the actions of Jews, who oppose the Iran deal, and who are wary of the notion that China’s government “functions better,” would see Soros as a malevolent force in politics at home and abroad.

The irony is that the Right’s beliefs about Soros aren’t that different from the Left’s beliefs about the Koch brothers, and before that, Richard Mellon Scaife. The grassroots of each party always loathe the biggest donors of the other side and always sees them as shadowy and nefarious. (Of course, the demonization of the Koch brothers usually involves some fudging of their actual philosophies — they’re civil-society building libertarians, not traditional conservatives.)

The false “Soros was a Nazi” accusation helps out Soros by giving him a glaringly implausible charge that makes his critics sound like paranoid loons. The truth about George Soros today, and the agenda he seeks to enact, is bad enough.

Washington Post: Hey, Those Competitive Districts Look Pretty . . . Competitive

I’ve long wondered why news organizations think nationwide “generic ballot” surveys tell their audiences anything useful about which party will have a majority in the House of Representatives after Election Day. If you win all of your seats 90 percent to 10 percent, and the other guy wins all of his seats 52 percent to 48 percent, you can win the national popular vote by a lot and still have considerably fewer than 218 seats.

Credit the Washington Post for narrowing its survey to competitive districts and finding a result that should generate a lot of white knuckles:

Across 69 congressional districts identified by the Cook Political Report and The Post as competitive in late August, the Post-Schar School poll finds 50 percent of likely voters support the Democratic candidate, while 46 percent support the Republican. The Democrats’ four-point edge represents a superficial advantage with Republicans, given the poll’s 3.5-point margin of error.

Of those 69 districts, 63 are held by Republicans. The GOP is going to lose a bunch of seats, but the question is whether they lose 22 or less, or whether they lose 23 or more.

One other important detail: “Voters who did not turn out in the 2014 midterms favor Democrats by 55 percent to 42 percent, while those who did vote split 49 percent to 48 percent in Republicans’ favor.” If all of those who say they’re intending to vote keep their word, Democrats will do well. If, as usual, some people are telling the pollster that they’ll vote but don’t, the Republicans might do better than the conventional wisdom suggests.

That ‘Gun Lobby’ Isn’t Spending As Much As It Used to Spend

The Virginia Democratic party really has to stretch to make it sound as if extraordinarily secure incumbent Gerry Connolly is in danger of being unseated by “the gun lobby” that has spent a whole . . . $32,500 against him. That’s less than the Connolly campaign spent on payroll and administrative costs, polling and consulting, or renting a space for a fundraiser.

The NRA’s Political Victory Fund has been quieter and focused on fewer races this cycle. If the election goes badly for Second Amendment advocates, some may wonder if the group was a little too focused.

ADDENDUM: October was a phenomenal month for Jolt subscriptions, click-throughs, web traffic, Three Martini Lunch listeners, and even some book sales in there. Once again, thank you for your support. If you find election season exhausting, we’re almost done . . .

. . . I mean, unless Georgia goes to a runoff, which would be held December 4, and the Louisiana elections would be held December 8.

U.S.

Trick or Treat Yo’ Self Tonight

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump hand out Halloween candy to trick or treaters at the White House, October 28, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

We’ve seen some awful headlines in recent days — bombs in the mail, shootings in synagogues, angry mobs in the streets. But the odds are good that despite all the troubles in the world, you’re surrounded by a lot of good, decent people in your community. Tonight is Halloween, otherwise known as one of the few nights that people actually knock on the front door.

There’s a good chance that in the after-school hours and into the evening, your doorbell will ring and you’ll be visited by little ghosts and goblins and Iron Men and about a million Elsas from Frozen. The littlest ones will try to remember what they’re supposed to say; the slightly-bigger-than-the-littlest ones will try to remember to say thank you. There’s a good chance that mom or dad will be standing at the end of the driveway; they’ll appreciate a wave. (God bless the guy in my neighborhood who hands out beers to parents escorting the kids around the neighborhood.)

As usual, leave your porch or outdoor light on if you’re home and giving out candy. Drive slowly. And enjoy it. Halloween gets people to walk around in their neighborhoods and interact with the people who live down the street and around the corner, something we probably ought to do more often.

Are Republicans Falling Short in the Final Week Before the Midterm Elections?

As I mentioned to Glenn Beck yesterday, I don’t know if the past week being dominated by news of the Florida mail-bomber and this week being dominated by news of the synagogue shooter is necessarily hurting Republicans’ chances in the midterms. But it’s not helping.

If nothing else, it gets in the way of the closing message. The White House’s closing ad for the cycle is deliberately reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection commercial “Morning in America” — families moving into new homes, businesses breaking ground on new projects, parents beaming at elementary-school concerts. “Things are getting better. We can’t go back. November 6, 2018, Vote Republican.” The actions of two hateful nut jobs shouldn’t make us feel like things aren’t getting better anymore. But some voters might look at the headlines and feel like the country’s in a bad place and that Washington needs a change.

The polls should make Republicans nervous; the early vote numbers should soothe them a little (to the extent that one can draw conclusions from the early vote). Remember, there’s no guarantee that a registered Republican will vote Republican or that a registered Democrat will vote Democrat.

Republican governor and U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott just can’t seem to get over the hump in most Florida polls. I fear that Sunshine State voters are about to teach their elected officials an awful lesson: If you focus on your duties as governor in the aftermath of a hurricane instead of campaigning, you will lose ground against your opponent.

As of this morning, 1,431,655 registered Republicans in Florida have either voted by mail or voted early. That’s a little ahead of the 1,368,718 registered Democrats who have done so, and 592,136 Floridians with no party affiliation have voted early, and another 22,000 or so in other parties.

In Arizona, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has enjoyed leads in the past two polls over Republican Martha McSally. But the early vote looks pretty good for the GOP:

As of Tuesday morning, Arizonans have cast 1,098,280 ballots – of those, 475,798 are by Republicans, while 365,642 Democrats have voted, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s arizona.vote website. Potential swing votes from unaffiliated and minor parties make up the remaining 256,840 votes. The median voting age for the state is 64, and slightly more females than males have voted, at 50.6 percent.

A lot of Democrats are excited by a private firm’s analysis of the early vote that reports that “voters under the age of 30 in Texas have increased their turnout by 508 percent” compared to 2014, while “voters over the age of 65 in TX increased their turnout by 96 percent.” But I’ll bet the total number of young Texans who voted early in 2014 was really low. Voters under 30 years old were 13 percent of the total electorate in the 2014 exit poll; by comparison, those 65 and older were 19 percent. In 2014, young voters had a slight preference for incumbent GOP senator Jon Cornyn; those 65 and older preferred him by a three-to-one margin.

In this year’s Texas primaries, Democratic-primary early voting increased by 98 percent, while the Republican early vote increased only by 16 percent. But when both primaries were done — both early and primary day voting — about a million people voted in the Democratic primary, while 1.5 million voted in the Republican primary. It’s very easy for Texas Democrats to show phenomenal improvement upon the 2014 numbers, because the 2014 numbers were abysmal.

(Notice the arrogance of Democrats in believing that all young voters are their voters.) A CBS News poll found that O’Rourke is winning voters under 30 by a margin of 57 percent to 35 percent. That’s nice, but the same poll found O’Rourke tied Cruz among voters under 44 and Cruz was clobbering O’Rourke among older voters, who are likely to be more than half of the electorate. In 2016, voters over 45 years of age made up 54 percent of the electorate; 65 percent in 2014; and 65 percent in 2006.

In Nevada, Jon Ralston’s back-of-the-envelope math suggests that Senator Dean Heller is slightly trailing Democrat challenger Jacky Rosen. Yes, it’s possible that Heller is winning more Democrats or Rosen more Republicans, but the assumptions are logical and in line with historical patterns.

In Colorado, the early vote is evenly split, with registered Republicans enjoying a roughly 1,000 vote lead out of 801,385 votes cast already. In 2014, Republicans enjoyed a consistent and sizable lead.

You Kanye Have It Both Ways

Apparently just a week or so after meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, Kanye West announces he’s distancing himself from politics, declaring, “My eyes are now wide open and now realize I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in.”

I leave the intense analysis of Kanye-world to Mickey; I’ll just observe we’re not supposed to care that much about what a celebrity thinks about politics. In fact, I know everyone is capable of ignoring the political thoughts of celebrities, because there are far too many celebrities to keep track of and most people tune out their manifestos, declarations, and diatribes.

In fact, the popular perception that celebrities and pop stars help the Democrats might be wrong. If celebrity endorsements really persuaded voters, Republicans would never win a race.

I left one Senate race out above; in Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn looks like she’s in good shape. You may recall that in early October, Taylor Swift announced her endorsement of Democrat Phil Bredesen. People thought this might carry more weight than the usual endorsement; until recently, Swift was relatively apolitical, she has an adoring fan base, and she’s involved in a lot of Tennessee charities. And yet polling showed no clear sign of a bump for Bredesen; Blackburn appears to have gained strength throughout autumn.

This probably doesn’t represent an anti–Taylor Swift backlash, just a red state reverting to form as Election Day approached. (Unless the percentage of the electorate that self-identifies as “one of Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriends” has now grown large enough to become a key polling demographic.)

Most celebrities in the worlds of music, television, and movies are going to end up on the left. This really shouldn’t bother conservatives that much. It isn’t really unfair. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says that musicians, actors, comedians, and television personalities are supposed to split 50-50 or represent the popular vote.

Why are pop stars, actors, directors, and the rest more likely to be liberal Democrats? By and large, artists think of themselves as rebels and Bohemians, defying closed-minded conventions and customs and daring to challenge a hidebound culturally conservative establishment. That establishment died off sometime in the 1950s, but they still believe in it. To the extent that those in the entertainment industries are associated with libertine lifestyles, entertainers may believe their lives embody true freedom.

Hollywood is nothing like small-town America because the capital of the entertainment industry is largely populated by people who couldn’t wait to leave small-town America. Someone once theorized that The Simpsons offers such a cynical view of American suburbia, full of bumbling fathers, incompetent cops, power-mad principals, hapless teachers, and insufferable Christian neighbors because each writer came from his or her own personal Springfield and arrived in Hollywood eager to mock the communities that shaped them.

Entertainment’s movers and shakers think of themselves as anti-establishment, even though they became the establishment decades ago. The industries of music and acting have always pursued the youth audience and celebrated young performers; some might argue they’ve always exploited young talent.

The culture in the entertainment industry is self-sustaining and self-reinforcing; we hear how strongly those movie stars and pop stars feel about liberal causes during their speeches at the Oscars and Grammys. In interviews, celebrities sound indistinguishable from a liberal blog’s comment section. It takes a lot of courage and willingness for working performers to dissent from such orthodoxy — and risk repercussions to their careers. Many ideas that conservatives perceive as part of the liberal policy agenda — gay rights, environmentalism, the right to an abortion — are seen by a lot of Hollywood figures as merely commonsense good causes.

Celebrities are generally wealthy and have their wealth managed by others, so taxation isn’t really a high concern. The vast majority are members of unions that they genuinely believe protects them from exploitation — or, after Me Too, even worse exploitation. Hollywood’s casting always seems kind of random, and perhaps some stars feel a sense of guilt. They’re living a life of luxury, while the guy who was almost as good as them gets stuck in an endless series of minor roles in schlocky B-movies. The stories about Harvey Weinstein’s vendetta against certain actresses suggest that actors and actresses were rarely cast on merit.

I recall Andrew Breitbart’s declaration that politics is downstream from culture. It would be nice to have more conservative celebrities, but it’s hardly a priority. The Right looks silly when it throws hosannas at long-forgotten performers such as Scott Baio or Stephen Baldwin. There’s nothing wrong with being a fan, but the reason you pay any attention to those guys are the fond memories you have of their work in Happy Days, or The Usual Suspects, or other television and films. God bless them for standing up for what they believe in, but we shouldn’t be turning to actors and singers for guidance on how to handle Iran, set tax rates, or develop a competitive workforce.

ADDENDA: Senator Joe Donnelly, Democrat of Indiana: “Our state director is Indian-American, but he does an amazing job. Our director of all constituent services, she’s African-American. But she does an even more incredible job than you could ever imagine.”

Man, it must be nice to be a Democrat, knowing that any awful-sounding slip of the tongue won’t be misconstrued as a racist insult and a major issue dominating the final week of the campaign.

U.S.

Eliminating Birthright Citizenship: A Dramatic New Step

President Trump at a White House event, August 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: President Trump wants to eliminate birthright citizenship through an executive order, a move that is certain to face a legal challenge; Julia Ioffe says something awful, continuing a long pattern; and the Energy Information Administration unveils some new data that should have environmentalists cheering . . . but probably won’t.

A Week Before Election Day, a Birthright-Citizenship Debate Rises

Axios reports: “President Trump plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens born on U.S. soil, he said yesterday in an exclusive interview for ‘Axios on HBO,’ a new four-part documentary news series debuting on HBO.”

Here’s the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

At first glance, the amendment’s language appears straightforward: All persons born in the United States are citizens — leading to the conclusion that if Trump and his allies want to change birthright citizenship, they’re going to have to amend the Constitution.

(We haven’t changed the Constitution since 1992, when the country barred Congress from granting pay raises to themselves in the current session; all raises must take effect in the following session. We on the right get justifiably angry when gun-control advocates choose to ignore the Second Amendment instead of trying to repeal or edit it. Why not set the proper example and make a national effort to amend the Constitution to limit birthright citizenship? Just think of how much this would educate the country. Yes, amending the Constitution is difficult and it’s supposed to be: It requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then it has to be ratified by three-quarters of the states — 38 out of 50. But if we don’t demonstrate that the plain text of the Constitution must be respected, who will?)

But some constitutional scholars argue that the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” would exclude illegal immigrants. After all, they’re not subject to our jurisdiction, because they’re not in the country legally. At the time of the adoption and since, there has been broad legal and political consensus that the 14th Amendment excluded some small groups in particular circumstances. Peter H. Schuck and Rogers M. Smith write, “Everyone agrees that ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ was intended to exclude the children of foreign diplomats, occupying enemy armies, and children born to foreigners while on foreign vessels in U.S. waters — even though they are then literally subject to our jurisdiction. Everyone also agrees that the 14th Amendment’s framers intended to exclude tribal Native Americans” who were classified as “domestic dependent nations” by the Supreme Court in 1831.

Michael Anton, the most outspoken advocate for ending birthright citizenship, argued that the birthright-citizenship policy in place since the 1860s is based on a misreading of the amendment, and that it was never meant to apply to the children of those in the country illegally. He contends that any fair-minded judge would have to concede that U.S. policy has been misinterpreting and misapplying the amendment all along.

He may get that assessment from the Supremes soon. An effort to overturn more than a century of precedent with an executive order is going to face an instant legal challenge — some group is probably writing up the request for a preliminary injunction as we speak. But who knows if this Supreme Court, even with Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on it, will approve of a sweeping change to longstanding policy done by executive order. The Supreme Court has upheld the executive branch having wide latitude on who to allow into the country, but denying citizenship to children born here would be a dramatic new step.

This Isn’t Ioffe’s First Gaffe

GQ correspondent Julia Ioffe on CNN yesterday: “I think this president, one of the things that he really launched his presidential run on is talking about Islamic radicalization. And this president has radicalized so many more people than ISIS ever did.”

(For perspective, estimates of ISIS forces at their apex ranged from 9,000 to 200,000.)

Ioffe later apologized.

After the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Ioffe claimed “this president makes this possible” and contended that Jews who voted for Trump “have some thinking to do.” (In 2009, an 88-year-old white supremacist shot at the U.S. Holocaust museum, killing one person and injuring another. In 2014, there were two shootings at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and Village Shalom, a Jewish retirement community in Overland Park, Kan., leaving three dead. Did the president at that time “make those possible”?)

Previously, Ioffe contended that a “silent majority” of Trump supporters are “okay with racism and anti-Semitism.”

She once asked the Trump organization in a list of written inquiries, “Was there ever a time when Donald Trump Jr. felt any oedipal impulses?”

After the appointment of three retired generals, Ioffe said the Trump administration should be called a “junta.”

She contended that Republican animosity towards Susan Rice is driven by racism.

She suggested that President Trump was having sexual relations with his daughter, leading to her dismissal from Politico.

She refers to the attorney general as “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.” While this is indeed the attorney general’s middle name, use of all three names is an attempt to play into negative stereotypes of the South. The press was rightly wary about those who consistently referred to the previous president with all three names — “Barack Hussein Obama.”

Some of us remember back in 2013, when Ioffe, then writing for The New Republic, suggested President Obama should deal with congressional Republicans the way Boris Yeltsin did, by dissolving parliament and then using military forces to shell the Russian parliament building when they refused to leave.

In other words . . . how many awful things do you have to say before the CNN bookers say, “Hey, let’s leave Julia off the panel?”

Who Has Eliminated Carbon Emissions by 28 Percent Since 2005? You Did!

News from the U.S. Energy Information Agency that the environmentalists should celebrate . . . but will probably ignore:

U.S. electric power sector carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) have declined 28% since 2005 because of slower electricity demand growth and changes in the mix of fuels used to generate electricity. EIA has calculated that CO2 emissions from the electric power sector totaled 1,744 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2017, the lowest level since 1987.

Increases in electricity generation from noncarbon power sources since 2005 also had an effect on emissions from power generation. This growth has been driven largely by state policies and federal tax incentives that encouraged adoption of renewables. In 2005, noncarbon sources accounted for 28% of the U.S. electricity mix. By 2017, that share had grown to 38%. Almost all of this growth was in renewables, including wind and solar, as shares for other noncarbon sources such as nuclear and hydroelectricity remained relatively flat.

The EIA also reports that “U.S. electricity demand has decreased in 6 of the past 10 years, as industrial demand has declined and residential and commercial demand has remained relatively flat.” This has happened as the U.S. population has increased by 21 million people in the past decade.

So why won’t the environmentalists be touting this news? Because they want policy changes, and it’s hard to build momentum for policy changes if the news is good. If carbon emissions are going down because of market forces, consumer choices, and technological development, then there’s no need to force additional changes in people’s behavior through the law. The environmental movement needs you to be worried about your children’s future, because otherwise, you’ll turn your attention to other, more pressing problems.

ADDENDA: Thanks to all who have donated to the current webathon. One of my favorite readers wrote in, pointing out that when she discusses National Review, her friends think that we’re an institution rolling in money. The magazine always looks nice and glossy on the newsstand or in the bookstore, our staff is dressed in suits when you see us on television, and of course, William F. Buckley was debonair sophistication personified.

The suits can run through the numbers in more detail than I can, but you don’t create a political magazine to make a fortune. A lot of traditional magazine advertisers are scared of being associated with anything too controversial. Companies’ interest in web advertising is growing, but slowly. Subscriptions help but are never enough. NR makes some money on the cruises. But we’ve always run on donations from readers — from the beginning. We’ve never been part of a larger conglomerate, never had a billionaire backing us as a hobby. It’s always been the slow accumulation of all of those small donations from readers who are simply the best.

I’m blessed to do what I do, and I thank you for helping make that possible.

U.S.

You Aren’t Important Enough to Be Conspired Against

Police guard the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., October 28, 2018. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

Happy Monday. We’re eight days away from Election Day. Making the click-through worthwhile: why we need to push back against conspiracy theories; anti-individualism, and the troubled minds attracted to those ideas; the youth aren’t interested in voting early so far this year; and why the GOP could have a good Election Day but not quite live up to the “red wave” claims.

Take This Conspiracy Theory and Shove It

What do the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, the Florida mail-bomber, the angry young man who drove a van into a crowd on a Toronto street in April, and last year’s shooter at the congressional baseball field have in common?

Based on what we know at this time, they all subscribed to a worldview where the problems in the world stemmed from a particular group of people they deemed sinister and powerful. The Pittsburgh synagogue shooter believed it was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. The Florida mail-bomber believed that it was George Soros and prominent Democrats. The Toronto van driver believed that it was a vast, coordinated effort of the world’s women to keep him and other “incels” from relationships and happiness. The shooter at the congressional baseball field believed that President Trump and Republicans had “destroyed our democracy” and that they were the “Taliban of the USA.”

At some point, all of these men became fixated on “them” — some sort of group that they could blame for all of the problems in their lives. The baseball-field shooter was married and had his own business once, but he had been arrested for domestic battery towards a foster daughter; another foster daughter killed herself. The baseball-field shooter eventually dissolved his business and became increasingly obsessed with politics. The Florida mail-bomber had declared bankruptcy, had been arrested nine times, and was living in his van. The Toronto van driver was nearly friendless, awkward, technically proficient, but had difficulty with social skills.

We’re still learning details about the synagogue shooter, but by Sunday, the familiar portrait was coming into focus: “an isolated, awkward man who lived alone and struggled with basic human interactions, neighbors and others who knew him said on Sunday.”

It’s almost always the same, isn’t it? Few or no friends, no relationships, estranged from family, difficulty holding down a job, and a lot of time spent online on chat boards and sites that reinforce growing paranoia, scapegoating, and hatred. It’s safe to assume this shooter’s life, like the others, did not turn out the way that he had hoped.

All of these men shared an inability to face the possibility that the problems in their life were a result of their own decisions and actions. They retreated to the flattering conclusion that only a vast conspiracy of powerful forces could possibly have brought them to this state of perpetual disappointment.

The good news is that very few of us walk around thinking like this. If all it took to turn someone into a homicidal maniac was a Donald Trump speech, or a Bernie Sanders speech, or an anti-Semitic website, or a rant against women, then the world would be nonstop massacres.

To blame Trump or Sanders or anyone else in our political realm for the actions of the homicidal is as arbitrary as blaming video games, heavy-metal music, rap music, violent movies, or Dungeons and Dragons for youth crime.

But if one of the preeminent arguments in our society about the power of the individual — whether we are the captains of our fate and masters of our soul, or whether the quality of our lives is heavily determined by broader societal factors outside of our individual ability to control, influence, or overcome — then the conspiracy theorists are just a more extreme form of a pretty widespread anti-individualist philosophy.

The average progressive activist may or may not be much of a conspiracy theorist in terms of chemtrails, Area 51, the Roswell crash, the JFK assassination, and so on. But they’re likely to believe that the Kochs; Sheldon Adelson; big businesses; top-level Republicans; some of the Supreme Court justices; and variously, “the military-industrial complex;” Diebold voting machines; the Saudis; the Russians; and various other malevolent forces are working in concert to take America towards a dark future.

And Trump-era conservative activists may buy into farfetched notions of secret sinister plots uniting George Soros, illegal immigrants, Silicon Valley moguls, climate-change scientists working together to con the public, “crisis actors,” the Clinton “Arkancide” list, the killing of Seth Rich, Pizzagate, the “deep state,” and so on.

A 2012 poll found that roughly one-third of Democrats believed that the 2004 election was stolen, and one-third of Republicans believed that the 2012 election was stolen, and research in 2009 found that about 40 percent of Republicans believed that President Obama was born abroad, and about 40 percent of Democrats thought that 9/11 was an inside job.

At least all of these folks can come together and unite by refusing to vaccinate their children.

What we need is a broad, society-wide push to hammer hard truths into people’s heads.

If you’re having problems with your career, it’s your own damn fault. If you’re having problems in your relationships, it’s your own damn fault. It’s not because of the Illuminati, or the Trilateral Commission, or the Bilderbergers, or the Stonecutters.

If your life has not turned out the way you wanted it to, do something about it — stop sitting in front of a computer screen, reading a site that is assuring you that it’s because of government false-flag operations, or that the elections are rigged, or they’re putting stuff in the water, or that natural-cause deaths of famous figures were disguised assassinations, or that the weather is being controlled, and that secret government agencies are behind every major news event. You’re not important enough for the world’s rich, powerful, and/or sinister to get together and seek to undermine you. They don’t need to hold you back; you’re doing that job just fine on your own.

(You’ll notice that shooters and bombers don’t get named in my columns. If part of their motivation is the appetite for fame and recognition, let their names be forgotten.)

Maybe Young People Just Aren’t Interested in Voting Early

Young voters may still turn out in big numbers in 2018, but so far they’re not voting early. In Nevada, only 12 percent of early voters are under age 40, as of Saturday. A full half of the early voters are between the ages of 59 and 80 years old.

Politico looks at the numbers in Florida, where one-fifth of all the active registered voters have voted already:

Voters between the ages of 18-29 are 17 percent of the registered voters in Florida but have only cast 5 percent of the ballots so far. They tend to vote more Democratic. Meanwhile, voters 65 and older are 18.4 percent of the electorate but have cast 51.4 percent of the ballots. And older voters tend to vote more Republican.

Republicans Might Have an Okay 2018, But It’s Not a ‘Red Wave’

While I’m mildly bullish on Republican chances in the midterms, the “red wave” talk was always unrealistic. The Democratic base is fired up, and there’s not much that President Trump or the GOP can do about that. They can fire up their own base, and they have. The president has maintained a marathon schedule of rallies in corners of key states where he can do the most good. They can mitigate and attempt to equal the “blue wave,” but they can’t get Democrats to lose interest in voting in the midterms.

Trump and Republicans could take a certain pride in Democratic enthusiasm; the opposition gets fired up when the party in power actually does something consequential. But we saw the consequence of that highly motivated Democratic base in Virginia in 2017, and a whole bunch of states are tough for a Republican to win if the Democratic base shows up in force.

In Michigan, John James is a great candidate who’s closed the gap against Debbie Stabenow by a lot. But she’s still the favorite, and in the governor’s race, Republican Bill Schuette has consistently trailed Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. In Ohio, Jim Renacci never really put incumbent Democratic senator Sherrod Brown in danger, and in the governor’s race, Mike DeWine is no better than neck-and-neck with Richard Cordray. In Wisconsin, Leah Vukmir is a good candidate running in a tough year, and while Governor Scott Walker has overcome doubters many times before, this year looks particularly tough. In Pennsylvania, Congressman Lou Barletta represents a blue-collar district in the northeastern corner of the state, and he looked like the perfect challenger against incumbent Senator Bob Casey, but so far the race looks like a blowout. And Scott Wagner has failed to make his bid against incumbent Democratic governor Tom Wolf competitive.

There are nine big statewide gubernatorial or Senate races in those five Rust Belt/Upper Midwest states that were key to the 2016 election — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Democrats are on pace to win about six of those nine races, which should make the GOP at least a little nervous about Trump’s ability to keep them red in 2020.

ADDENDUM: (Sigh) Well, congratulations to Greg Corombos and Chicago Bears fans everywhere. After the game, New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles said he was “very proud of the way they fought and stayed together.” When you’re praising your team for not retiring or running away from the stadium before the final whistle, you’ve really set the bar low.

Politics & Policy

Avenatti’s Swan Song: Democrats’ 2020 Nominee Should Be ‘A White Male’

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, on CBS This Morning. (CBS via YouTube)

Making the click-through worthwhile: a series of scandals and gaffes that hopefully represent the last we’ll ever hear from Michael Avenatti, the latest on the suspicious devices being sent in the mail to prominent Democrats, and a historical perspective on the media hyping a young Democrat in Texas.

Lawyer, Liar, Pants on Fire

What is the legal consequence of providing false evidence to a congressional committee? Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels who has been talking about a 2020 presidential campaign, is probably about to find out. You may recall that his client Julie Swetnick walked back a lot of the allegations in her sworn statement about Brett Kavanaugh and a wild accusation of a three-year reign of terror as high schooler organizing group predation of college girls. Now a second woman is saying that Avenatti did not accurately describe what she told him.

NBC News also found other apparent inconsistencies in a second sworn statement from another woman whose statement Avenatti provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a bid to bolster Swetnick’s claims.

In the second statement, the unidentified woman said she witnessed Kavanaugh “spike” the punch at high school parties in order to sexually take advantage of girls. But less than 48 hours before Avenatti released her sworn statement on Twitter, the same woman told NBC News a different story.

Referring to Kavanaugh spiking the punch, “I didn’t ever think it was Brett,” the woman said to reporters in a phone interview arranged by Avenatti on Sept. 30 after repeated requests to speak with other witnesses who might corroborate Swetnick’s claims. As soon as the call began, the woman said she never met Swetnick in high school and never saw her at parties and had only become friends with her when they were both in their 30s.

When asked in the phone interview if she ever witnessed Kavanaugh act inappropriately towards girls, the woman replied, “no.” She did describe a culture of heavy drinking in high school that she took part in and said Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were part of that group.

But reached by phone independently from Avenatti on Oct. 3, the woman said she only “skimmed” the declaration. After reviewing the statement, she wrote in a text on Oct. 4 to NBC News: “It is incorrect that I saw Brett spike the punch. I didn’t see anyone spike the punch…I was very clear with Michael Avenatti from day one.”

NBC then described Avenatti trying to get the woman to change her story again, in response to the network’s questioning. After several days, she texted NBC News, “I will definitely talk to you again and no longer Avenatti. I do not like that he twisted my words.”

“Sworn statements” are supposed to be considered more reliable because the person making the statement is declaring them “under penalty of perjury that the forgoing is true and correct.” They are not press releases or advertising. This is why you should do more than “skim” a legal document being sent to Congress in your name.

(An odd contrast: Donald Trump and his companies have been involved in 3,500 legal actions in the past three decades. He estimates that he’s given about 100 depositions and testified in court about 100 times. He’s got a reputation as a notorious, even pathological liar or at best a serial exaggerator . . . and yet somehow Trump’s never been charged with or convicted of perjury. He backs down from implausible claims, and a lot of the bluster disappears. For a man who loves taking risks, Trump sure knows how to get cautious when the consequences are high enough.)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley referred all of the contradictions to the sworn statements to the Department of Justice, and noted that the committee spoke with “45 individuals, obtained 25 written statements and reviewed numerous other materials” but could not find “any information to corroborate Ms. Swetnick’s claims.”

It’s good that NBC News did this story. But it raises tough questions about how the media will treat Avenatti from now on. Swetnick’s sworn statement does not match her account of the events told to NBC. This other woman’s sworn statement does not match her account of the events told to NBC. And Avenatti pursued a longshot “defamation” lawsuit on behalf of Stormy Daniels against President Trump and now Daniels has to pay Trump’s legal fees — which, with four lawyers working for six months, is probably going to be a hefty sum. (Avenatti insists that he’ll win bigger damages for Daniels against Trump in a separate lawsuit.)

Does . . . Michael Avenatti really operate in the best interests of his clients? Are these women better off now than before they met him?

The irony is that might not even be Thursday’s most damaging news story for Avenatti. He sat down for an interview with Time magazine, and basically said the Democratic party shouldn’t nominate a woman or a minority for president in 2020.

“I think it better be a white male,” Avenatti said of the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. “When you have a white male making the arguments, they carry more weight. Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes.”

Besides shameless and self-serving — par for the course for Avenatti — his argument is historically illiterate. We just had a two-term African-American president! Women have been elected to statewide offices in 49 out of the 50 states. The holdout is that notorious bastion of right-wing misogyny . . . er, Vermont. Forty states have elected minorities to statewide office. The electorate didn’t have a problem with a woman president. The electorate had a problem with that particular woman as president.

Then Avenatti told the Daily Caller that he never made such a statement. The Time interview describes him “leaning back in an easy chair in his well-appointed New Hampshire hotel suite” and the article begins with describing Avenatti at a mid-August event in New Hampshire.

And the other irony is that this might not even be the most embarrassing Avenatti news story of the week! Monday was pretty bad, too:

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels, was hit with a personal judgment of $4.85 million Monday for his failure to pay a debt to a former colleague at his longtime Newport Beach firm.

Less than an hour after his defeat in the Los Angeles lawsuit, Avenatti suffered another setback at a trial in Orange County: The Irvine Co. won a court order evicting him and his staff from their offices because the firm, Eagan Avenatti, skipped the last four months of rent.

That trial described checks bouncing. If Avenatti’s spending way more than he can afford, maybe he’s more suited for government work than we thought.

The Latest on the Suspicious Package Deliveries

We’re up to twelve suspicious packages, as of this writing: George Soros, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Eric Holder (addressed to him incorrectly, returned to the office of Debbie Wasserman Schultz), two to Maxine Waters, one to John Brennan care of CNN, two packages to Joe Biden, Robert DeNiro, and just breaking this morning, a package addressed to Cory Booker, and a package addressed to James Clapper, care of CNN again.

You’re going to hear a lot of people arguing whether the devices were meant to merely look like bombs, or whether they could function as bombs. We shouldn’t expect authorities to shed too much light on this until the perpetrator is caught, because the inability to detonate could be accidental. The police can’t say, “yeah, it wouldn’t have gone off because he’s using the wrong kind of wires” or anything like that, to tip him off or any potential copycats out there.

You can see the thinking on the Right: “These are non-functioning bombs because the bomber didn’t really want to hurt anyone. It’s a Leftist who wants to make Trump supporters and Republicans look bad. This is designed to take over the news cycle two weeks before Election Day, and feed the narrative that Trump supporters are violent and dangerous.”

And that could be the case! Or it may not. We just don’t have enough information to rule anything out at this point. It could also be what many of the Left suspect: “This is a dangerous and deranged individual who loves the president and hates all of his critics.”

The sender could be building them to not function, because as angry as he is, he only wants to scare his targets, not kill them. Or he may just not be all that skilled at building bombs.

But a lot of people out there have skipped straight to casting blame, offering some variation of, “We don’t know who’s responsible, but we know who’s really ultimately responsible.” They’re much less interested in determining criminal culpability than establishing political culpability.

Texas Political History Repeats Itself

My article about the media’s passionate love affair with Beto O’Rourke and his campaign in the latest issue of NR is out from behind the paywall. Way back in 1996, I was a hapless and intimidated intern in the Washington Bureau of the Dallas Morning News, just thrilled to get the occasional assignment to cover stories like the National Spelling Bee. I was working in the office after little-known schoolteacher Victor Morales won the Democratic Senate primary, and I remember how most of the reporters and editors at the bureau reacted like it was an earthquake story. Morales’s win was a huge surprise, and marked history as the first Latino Senate candidate of either party, but even back then as a right-leaning polywog I remember thinking, “Okay, slow down, this is a feel-good story, but he’s not going to beat Phil Gramm.” The incumbent Republican senator who had just ended his presidential campaign went on to win by 11 points, but you would never be able to tell from the national ,media coverage of 1996 that Morales had no real shot.

Twenty-two years have passed, and the national media is still getting wildly excited about a young, photogenic Democratic candidate running statewide in Texas.

As Detective Rust Cohle told us, “Time is a flat circle.” 

ADDENDUM: All right: “The economy looks like it will expand above a 3% rate in 2018. That hasn’t happened since 2005.”

U.S.

Who Mailed the Bombs?

A member of the NYPD bomb squad outside the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, N.Y. after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN Headquarters (Kevin Coombs/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: What we know about the Mail Bomber at this hour, the New York Times offers readers a presidential-assassination fantasy, and selected highlights from the NRPlus elections briefing that you probably missed.

What We Know about the Mail Bomber

Suspicious packages featuring “potentially explosive devices,” in the words of the FBI, have now been sent to addresses associated with George Soros; Bill and Hillary Clinton; Congresswoman Maxine Waters (two packages, to two offices); former President Barack Obama; former CIA Director John Brennan, care of CNN; former Attorney General Eric Holder; and this morning, Robert De Niro’s film and production company. Authorities believe a similar package was sent to former Vice President Joe Biden, but the address was incorrect and returned to sender; authorities are attempting to track it.

The package to Holder was addressed to the former attorney general but sent to the Florida office of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose return address was on the package.

The package sent to Brennan (with his name misspelled) at CNN had U.S. postage stamps on it but appeared to be sent by courier. The Time Warner building in Manhattan has considerable security; guests’ bags are screened before they can proceed through the lobby. It is almost certain that the courier who delivered the package was caught on video; the NYPD is already reviewing the video.

The good news is, authorities will have a lot to work with, and their forensics abilities are remarkable. They’ll dust the package for fingerprints and test the envelope to see if he licked the seal and left DNA. Many of the components used in the device can usually be traced back to the source. The suspects usually have some sort of formal engineering experience in the military, law enforcement, or from other sources. Bomb-makers often have a “signature” that indicates how and where they were taught.

It’s easy to forget, but the city of Austin, Texas, suffered from a serial bomber’s attacks earlier this year. One of the bombs went off inside a FedEx facility in San Antonio, addressed to a location in Austin. Mail bombs are difficult to build; they need to be stable enough to not go off during all the movements involved in the shipping process but to work once the package is opened.

A loud contingent of conservatives on Twitter really want to believe that the perpetrator is someone on the left, who is trying to make Trump supporters look bad. Based upon how little we know, that cannot be ruled out. But it’s rather bizarre to hear the absolute, adamant insistence that this could not possibly be a bomber who identifies himself as being on the right or as a supporter of the president. There are idiots and nut jobs all across the political spectrum, and quite a few who don’t fit neatly on it. The Tucson shooter was a paranoid schizophrenic, and he only became competent to stand trial after being forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs for more than a year.

Some folks thought that a series of marks on the device resembled the ISIS flag. Closer examination suggests it’s not quite what it seems:

An image on the explosive device sent to former CIA Director John Brennan on Tuesday appears to be a parody of an ISIS flag taken from a meme that has been circulating on right-wing corners of the internet since 2014.

The print-out appears to show a parody flag that replaces Arabic characters with the silhouette of three women in high heels, and a middle inscription reading “Get ‘Er Done” — which is the catchphrase of standup comedian Larry the Cable Guy.

It’s like we’re living in some sort of absurdist parody of 24.

Once again, very little can be ruled out at this point. One would think that an ISIS follower would be able to distinguish the actual ISIS flag from a parody, but you may recall that a protest in support of al Qaeda in October 2001 featured a poster that included many pictures of Osama bin Laden, and the protest organizers included an image that Photoshopped OBL next to Bert from Sesame Street. (One can only imagine U.S. intelligence attempting to make sense of that image and trying to figure out if it was some sort of bizarre al-Qaeda coded signal.)

But in all likelihood, this is not ISIS. From what we know and what we’ve seen of ISIS, are they or their inspired followers the type of guys who mail nonfunctional bombs to high-profile figures? And high-profile Democrats in particular? Isn’t their M.O. more to put bombs in places where they’ll kill at random? And don’t ISIS bombs . . . generally work?

The bomber’s choice of target is always a statement in one way or another. You may recall that in the immediate hours of the Boston Marathon bombing, some speculated that the attack must have been tied to militias in some way. The bombing occurred on April 15, 2013; it was close to tax day, the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Waco siege. But that explanation didn’t really fit the choice of target — if you’re a militia-type, mad at the government, convinced they’re coming for your guns, on the watch for black helicopters, etcetera . . . would you choose to blow up the Boston Marathon?

There are some who grumble that we shouldn’t speculate about who’s behind something like this, that we shouldn’t look at the photos of the packages and devices and try to figure out what we can determine. Amateurs playing detective may not make much difference, and their guesses and theories may not turn out to be accurate, but I think that this is a very human act. We live in a world that is unpredictable, scary, and often doesn’t make much sense.

History suggests that serial bombers have certain traits:

Male, detail-oriented, motivated by spectacle through destruction as opposed to merely destructiveness. He takes pride in abilities and planning, is socially isolated and quiet, and feels himself as unsuccessful in intimacy. He has a keen awareness of media and its tendencies in reporting.

This Is a Really Bad Week to Showcase Assassination Fantasies

If we really do want to calm passions and anger in society instead of stirring them up, perhaps the New York Times could refrain from offering assassination fantasies in its pages. This coming Sunday, the book-review section will feature “some of today’s most talented spy and crime novelists — Joseph Finder, Laura Lippman, Jason Matthews, Zoë Sharp and Scott Turow — to conjure possible outcomes” to Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin.

Zoë Sharp chose to imagine the Secret Service, so embarrassed by Trump’s presidency, that they choose to assist a Russian assassin:

The Makarov misfired.

The Secret Service agent at the president’s shoulder heard the click, spun into a crouch.

He registered the scene instantly, drawing his own weapon with razor-edge reflexes.

The Russian tasted failure. He closed his eyes and waited to pay the cost.

It did not come.

He opened his eyes. The Secret Service agent stood before him, presenting his Glock, butt first.

“Here,” the agent said politely. “Use mine. . . . ”

Good timing, guys.

The Election Update You (Probably) Missed

If you missed today’s NRPlus conference call with Rich and myself . . . well, shame on you! You’ll only get the short version of my conversations with various GOP campaign staffers, strategists, and fundraisers. (So if you haven’t already, join NRPlus!)

I laid out what I had been hearing from a variety of Republicans working on campaigns this cycle. In the Senate races, Blackburn looks good in Tennessee. Among Missourians who approved of the president, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill had the support of 13 percent before the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight; now she’s down to 5 percent. We can separately check and see that Trump’s approval in Missouri is 51 percent. That gives her about 2.5 percent, and throw in the 45 percent of respondents who disapprove . . . and that leaves her at 47.5 percent. Tough spot for an incumbent.

Texas is locked up; as one guy who’s worked on campaigns for a long time put it, he never wants to hear about the evils of “money in politics” from Democrats again, speculating that if Beto O’Rourke didn’t have a huge fundraising advantage over Ted Cruz, the Democrat would be consistently trailing by double digits.

I like this metaphor from one veteran strategist about the House races, urging people to picture that we’re on a bicycle, and the midterms are a giant chasm with a ramp in front of it. The GOP is like Evel Knievel, trying to jump over the chasm. He said we’re pedaling in the right direction, and we’re building momentum. It’s not easy, and if we make it, we’re just going to barely make it: “But if we don’t keep pedaling as hard as we can, we’re going to fall short and lose and fall into the chasm.” There was quite a bit of frustration that so many House Republicans were taking on enormously well-funded challengers.

ADDENDUM: As Tevi Troy observes, if you haven’t listened to the Three Martini Lunch this week, you’ve missed some awful attack ads against the Bears and Jets. This weekend brings the matchup between the city that wrongly prosecuted Dr. Richard Kimble against the city that doesn’t actually host the team that plays in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Politics & Policy

The 2018 Democratic ‘Blue Wave’ May Be a Dud

Voter at a polling place in Wrightstown, Wisc., in 2008 (Reuters photo: John Gress)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Some big media voices sound the alarm that the 2018 “blue wave” of Democratic victories is dissipating; Democratic candidates suddenly lose their voices when the conversation focuses on the caravan in Mexico; an upcoming conference call; and the debate on the Three Martini Lunch podcast turns ugly.

Democrats Start to Fear that They Took the 2018 ‘Blue Wave’ for Granted

I was assured that there was a “blue wave” coming this year. Now the Associated Press is telling us that the conventional wisdom has changed so suddenly that we can all sue somebody for whiplash:

In the closing stretch of the 2018 campaign, the question is no longer the size of the Democratic wave. It’s whether there will be a wave at all.

Top operatives in both political parties concede that Democrats’ narrow path to the Senate majority has essentially disappeared, a casualty of surging Republican enthusiasm across GOP strongholds. At the same time, leading Democrats now fear the battle for the House majority will be decided by just a handful of seats…

There are signs that the Democrats’ position in the expanding House battlefield may actually be improving. Yet Republican candidates locked in tight races from New York to Nevada find themselves in stronger-than-expected positions because of a bump in President Donald Trump’s popularity, the aftermath of a divisive Supreme Court fight and the sudden focus on a caravan of Latin American immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border.

Democrats say they never assumed it would be easy.

Sure, sure. I’m just thinking back to Peter Hamby’s assessment in Vanity Fair way back on . . . er, September 12:

The blue wave is real, and it’s a monster . . . What’s staring us in the face is a big blue Democratic takeover in Washington. Not only will it buoy Democrats to retake the House, but it will also propel Democratic Senate candidates in red states and power down-ballot Democrats into state legislative seats in every corner of the country. That’s exactly what happened in Virginia’s elections last year, right? That’s how it feels right now, a total wipeout for Republicans, even ones we assumed were safe.

But then Kavanaugh’s nomination fight happened, and a lot of voters who don’t pay much attention to politics in spring and summer started to tune in. Senate Democrats who insisted that they were moderates — such as Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, and Claire McCaskill — suddenly didn’t sound so moderate. Some Republican campaigns held their fire until it mattered — such as the opposition research showing all of the times that Kyrsten Sinema called Arizona the “meth lab of democracy” and other snide criticisms of her home state where she’s running for Senate. And once again, we learned that national polling isn’t all that useful for measuring who’s ahead in a swing House district. The big question may be whether the blue wave dissipated or whether its size was exaggerated from the start.

The New York Times coverage is striking the same notes:

With two weeks until the election, Republican leaders and President Trump are increasingly bullish about Republican voters and moderate independents rallying behind the party’s candidates rather than taking a chance on a Democratic challenger or a Democratic-controlled House. A healthy economy, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation fight and, most recently, Mr. Trump’s ominous warnings and baseless charges about a migrant caravan threatening the border have energized supporters at rallies and candidate forums.

. . . In many neighborhoods with key House races, daily life is pretty good. Unemployment is at a five-decade low. Confidence is spilling over among consumers and businesses. The economy is on track to grow at its fastest pace in years.

Those developments benefit people whom Democrats have targeted, too: Women in upscale, right-of-center, white suburbs where Hillary Clinton edged out a victory; Trump voters in struggling rural and industrial areas with deep Democratic roots; and minorities in racially diverse metro areas.

While the president looms large over this election, drawing out both opponents and supporters, local issues like school funding or mining are in the forefront of some races. In others, Republican incumbents’ blend of personality and policy positions has won over independents and moderates.

Some Democrats hitting the panic button are no doubt attempting to dispel complacency, such as Jon Lovett on the Colbert show last night:

“How many times are we going to do this?” Lovett exclaimed. “All right?  It doesn’t matter what the early votes look like. It doesn’t matter what the polls look like. We can lose everything! We lost everything two years ago! We can lose everything again! Oh my God! Stop reading polls!”

Lots of Republicans don’t like hearing this, but this is how liberal media bias actually helps the GOP. Folks on the right get used to hearing that they’re going to lose, how the Democrats have all the advantages, and they develop the ability to just keep plugging away in a tough environment. GOP grassroots activists are used to bad news, critical coverage, and ominous poll results. They’ve seen their candidates give amazing debate performances and then watch the coverage declare the Democrat the big winner. They’re used to having their attack ads denounced as vicious and unfair while the Democratic candidate’s ads are merely “hard-hitting” or “tough.” They’re used to seeing unflattering photos of candidates on the front page, comments taken out of context, fact-checkers that get the facts wrong, headlines that leave the wrong impression, and glowing editorial-page endorsements of the opposition. They’re used to having their yard signs stolen.

And they get up every morning and knock on doors and make the calls and participate in get-out-the-vote efforts anyway.

That may or may not be enough to give Republicans a “good” midterm election this year. But it’s preventing the Democratic tsunami that people were talking about just two months ago.

Republicans Drive a Dodge Caravan; Democrats Offer a Caravan Dodge

To govern is to choose, and there’s a certain type of politician who hates to choose. Because making a choice inevitably means upsetting someone, and they have the natural human instinct of not wanting to upset people. Exhibit A, most Democrats and that caravan making its way north through Mexico towards our border.

The Washington Post:

Democrats are struggling to respond to President Trump and his Republican allies, who are casting the caravan of thousands of migrants headed toward the U.S.-Mexico border as a failure of Democrats to help enact immigration policy in the GOP-controlled Congress.

Some Democrats said Trump is vulnerable to a counterattack on his core campaign issue given that his policies failed to reduce the number of unauthorized immigrants. Yet party leaders and Democratic candidates have largely been silent ahead of the midterm elections, refusing to engage with Trump.

David Leonhardt, writing in the New York Times:

For the most part, Democrats have tried to avoid the issue. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leaders in Congress, have essentially urged their colleagues to ignore it. “The president is desperate to change the subject from health care to immigration because he knows that health care is the number one issue Americans care about,” they said in a statement over the weekend. “Democrats are focused like a laser on health care and will not be diverted.”

How would a Democratic president and a Democratic congress respond to the caravan? They don’t want to say. Reassuring, huh?

Leonhardt concludes, “It makes it sound as if Democrats aren’t really sure whether they believe that this country should have immigration laws.”

They sound like that, because some Democrats — not all, but some — genuinely don’t believe that this country should have immigration laws. Some Democrats would attempt to prevent the caravan from entering. Some wouldn’t. Some would want to prevent them from entering but would feel very guilty about it. And I suspect quite a few would rather not think or talk about the caravan at all and would prefer to talk about health care.

We all know what the Trump administration will do regarding the caravan: Keep them out.

Noted crazed arch-conservative right-wing xenophobe . . . (squints, checks notes) . . .  er, David Frum points out the consequences of this caravan:

The theory behind the caravans — this latest, and its smaller predecessors over the past 15 years — is that Central Americans have valid asylum claims in the United States because of the pervasive underemployment and gang-violence problems in their countries. If that claim is true, that is a claim shared not only among the thousands in the current caravan, but the millions back home.

ADDENDA: If you’re an NRPlus member, I hope you’ll join Rich Lowry and me for an election preview via conference call at 11 a.m. Eastern this morning. If you’re not a member . . . well, you probably should consider becoming one! It’s just five bucks a month, you get access to these conference calls with the likes of Andy McCarthy and other NR editors, full access to the magazine archives, way fewer ads on the site, the members-only Facebook group, and early access and discounts to NR events.

If you haven’t listened to the Three Martini Lunch podcast lately, well . . . there’s been an unfortunate turn of events. Greg Corombos and I usually get along like peanut butter and jelly, but with his Chicago Bears and my New York Jets playing each other this week, tensions are rising. Even worse, some new team-affiliated super-PACs chose to advertise on our show: Ground The Jets PAC is running ads contending that the Jets Super Bowl victory in 1968 is tainted by a crossdressing quarterback, hippie hairstyles, and 1960s rebellion and the ultimate disappointment of the Nixon presidency; while “Americans United Against Chicago” points out that the Windy City has brought us Barack Obama, Al Capone, Rod Blagojevich, John Wayne Gacy, and the city elected Rahm Emanuel as mayor twice. On purpose.

Law & the Courts

Another Case of Political Violence: Bomb Discovered at George Soros’s Home

Making the click-through worthwhile: a serious scare at George Soros’s house; a rollercoaster of new polls for Republicans, with good news in Indiana, mixed news in the House, and some ominous news in Florida; and a trio of Democrats had a really lousy Monday.

Who Planted a Bomb at George Soros’s House?

There is one effective solution to political violence: Treat it like violence — that is, investigate, identify, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate.

We should do this when the target is someone on the Left . . .

An explosive device was found on Monday in a mailbox at a home of George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who is a favorite target of right-wing groups, in a suburb north of New York City, the authorities said.

A law enforcement official confirmed that the device was found near Mr. Soros’s home. It did not explode on its own, and bomb squad technicians “proactively detonated” it, the official said.

Federal and state law enforcement officials responded to the scene in Katonah, N.Y., a hamlet in the upscale town of Bedford in northern Westchester County, after the Bedford Police Department received a call about a suspicious package at about 3:45 p.m.

“An employee of the residence opened the package, revealing what appeared to be an explosive device,” the police said in a statement. “The employee placed the package in a wooded area and called the Bedford police.”

And we should do this when the target is someone on the right.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office in California was vandalized and equipment was stolen Monday evening, the Republican congressman said.

In a post on his Instagram account, McCarthy published pictures of the two men he claims “threw a boulder“” through the window of his Bakersfield office and a picture of the resulting damage.

“Does anyone know these two guys? They threw a boulder thru our office window and took office equipment,” McCarthy wrote Monday.

You’ll recall that I have a longstanding position that politically motivated violence should be blamed on the perpetrators, and more or less only the perpetrators. No one’s rant about George Soros being a sinister force behind leftist politics made somebody place a bomb in his mailbox; somebody made the conscious decision to build that device, place it in that particular place, and commit that crime.

Brace Yourself for a Polling Rollercoaster, Keep Your Hands and Legs Inside the Vehicle

Ready for a polling rollercoaster for the GOP?

Going up high! For the first time in what seems like forever, Mike Braun has a lead in a poll over incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly! I had been hearing a little bit of grumbling, that Braun had been gift-wrapped a perfect set of circumstances: going up against a Democrat who won with 50 percent in a presidential year; running in a midterm in Indiana, a state Donald Trump won by 19 points, and then the incumbent voted against Brett Kavanaugh about a month before Election Day. In the other Senate race that’s comparable to this one, in North Dakota, Kevin Cramer is beating Heidi Heitkamp by 16 points.

But wait, SurveyUSA had Donnelly ahead by a point yesterday!

The latest Washington Post poll has the vote even in the swing districts that Republicans need to hold!

The latest survey shows only a marginal change in the race during October, with 50 percent currently supporting the Democratic candidate in their district and 47 percent backing the Republican. Candidates from the two parties collectively are running almost even in 48 contested congressional districts won by President Trump in 2016, while Democrats hold the advantage in 21 competitive districts won by Hillary Clinton. The Democrats’ lead in those Clinton districts has narrowed a bit since the beginning of the month.

The overwhelming majority of the districts surveyed — 63 of the 69 — are currently represented by a Republican in the House.

But hold on, if they split those 48 congressional districts evenly, Democrats would win 24 — which is exactly what they need for 218-seat majority. If they fall short anywhere, they end up falling just short of a majority, barring some huge upset in some race currently considered safe for Republicans. And this calculation doesn’t include those six House seats held by Democrats. For what it’s worth, Republicans feel pretty good about their odds in Minnesota’s first district, Minnesota’s eighth district, and maybe Nevada’s third district. So Democrats probably want to win 27 or 28 out of those most competitive 48 to ensure that they win the majority.

As Alexandra DeSanctis observes, three polls of Florida’s statewide races came out, and two of them are bad for Republicans, and one of them is good. It would seem odd for Scott to slide in the polls as he’s spending his days primarily focused on directing the state’s response to Hurricane Michael; these are usually the sorts of moments where governors look their best. I also wonder if turnout in Florida’s panhandle will be affected by the aftermath of the hurricane.

“Rick Scott has twice won elections for governor by a single percentage point, and in 2014 the 64,000-vote margin he had over Democrat Charlie Crist, half of it was accumulated in the counties now reeling from Michael,” said John Kennedy, a veteran Florida political reporter who runs the Tallahassee bureau for GateHouse Media, which owns a group of state newspapers.

“These eight counties that were devastated by Michael, they’re home to 220,000 voters, and with the exception of really Democratic-heavy Gadsden County, these counties are overwhelmingly Republican-leaning,” Kennedy said on “Inside Florida Politics,” a GateHouse podcast.

Some right-leaning readers in Florida are absolutely convinced that Senate candidate Rick Scott and gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis will be just fine.

Three Democrats Who Had a Bad Monday

Lawyer, potential presidential candidate, and walking caricature Michael Avenatti:

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels, was hit with a personal judgment of $4.85 million Monday for his failure to pay a debt to a former colleague at his longtime Newport Beach firm.

Less than an hour after his defeat in the Los Angeles lawsuit, Avenatti suffered another setback at a trial in Orange County: The Irvine Co. won a court order evicting him and his staff from their offices because the firm, Eagan Avenatti, skipped the last four months of rent.

Democratic congressional candidate Scott Wallace:

As the political climate continues to heat up, challenger Scott Wallace lost his cool during a debate with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick. Sunday night at the Congregation Tifereth Israel in Bensalem, Wallace used an expletive and “dropped an f-bomb” in front of those attending.

“Ironically, there was a later question about the need for civility in politics,” Fitzpatrick told WBCB. “Well, a good start is to not use vulgarities in the sanctuary of a synagogue in the middle of a congressional debate.”

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams:

The Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Georgia, Stacey Abrams, helped light a state flag on fire on the steps of the state’s Capitol in June 1992, as part of a protest that her campaign on Monday night characterized as an effort to “overcome racially divisive issues.”

The flag at the time incorporated designs from the Confederate battle flag, and Abrams, then a freshman at  Atlanta’s Spelman College, was one of about a dozen demonstrators involved, according to contemporaneous newspaper accounts and several social media posts that surfaced the issue late Monday.

ADDENDUM: Do the early voting numbers look good for Republicans everywhere except Nevada? Yes. But it’s still really early, and the proportion of early votes that have been turned in so far will constitute a small fraction of the overall vote. So, don’t take anything for granted!

World

Turkey vs. Saudi Arabia: The Pot Is Calling the Kettle Black

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Reuters phoot: Umit Bektas)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Turkey continues its campaign of strategic leaks to destroy Saudi Arabia, while few bother to look at Turkey’s own treatment of journalists; a Minnesota senator ducks a debate; Democratic hopes for winning the Senate fade and control of the House comes down to a roll of the dice — or maybe just one six-sided die.

What Is Turkey Getting Out of All of This?

The Saudis went through the trouble of having one of their operatives exit their consulate wearing Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes . . . but they didn’t think that anyone would notice that the faux Jamal Khashoggi had grown a full head of dark hair and put on about twenty pounds? What is this, a disguise aiming to fool observers with cataracts?

CNN reports about the not-so-convincing body double, citing “a senior Turkish official,” and showing images from “law enforcement surveillance footage, part of the Turkish government’s investigation, that appears to show the man leaving the consulate by the back door, wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, a fake beard, and glasses.”

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pledging to reveal many details of the Saudi operation in a speech to the Turkish parliament on Tuesday.

Turkey is bringing a surprising amount of glee to its efforts to torch Saudi Arabia’s reputation in these past weeks. These two countries have never been the best of buddies — the Turks remember that they used to rule Arabia during the Ottoman Empire days, and one of my lessons from my time in Turkey way back in Bush’s second term was that the Turks almost always believe that almost everyone else is out to get them. In the Saudi-Qatar fight of last year, the Turks took the Qatari side.

But this is something from Ankara: new, bolder, more aggressive, almost reckless. There’s no way that Turkish-Saudi relations can be fixed while Muhammad bin Sultan has a high-level position in Saudi affairs.

It’s not as if Erdogan has a moral objection to mistreating journalists; Turkey jails more journalists than any other country in the world. That’s right — more than Saudi Arabia, more than China, more than Russia. As of October 7, “Of those in prison, 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.”

Is Turkey beating the drums about the Khashoggi murder to distract from Turkey’s record? Probably not, although it is remarkable how little Turkey’s record is getting discussed among the furious denunciations in U.S. media circles. Erdogan is probably motivated by old grudges, opportunism, and a strange alignment of allies of convenience who want to see the U.S.-Saudi relationship broken. Think about it, Erdogan’s got an abysmal record on press freedom and human rights, he’s cozying up with Russia and China, trying to work around sanctions on Iran, and somehow he’s convincing the American press that Saudi Arabia is the most malevolent menace in the region.

Congressman Peter King is now calling the Saudi government “the most immoral government that we’ve ever had to deal with.” Really? Ever? Worse than Stalin during World War II? The Shah? Ferdinand Marcos? Pinochet? Nixon met and had grand summits with Mao. We reached out to Nicolae Ceausescu. We worked with Hafez al-Assad during the Gulf War.

Are today’s Saudis really that much worse than the Iranians that the previous administration wanted to embrace so badly? That much worse than today’s nuclear-armed, double-dealing Pakistanis?

I expect this kind of historical illiteracy from some schmuck on Twitter, not from a congressman! Who has Peter King been hanging around with to have such a morally topsy-turvy view . . .

Oh, the Irish Republican Army. Okay, that explains a few things. I do remember that Congressman King spent much of the 1980s telling people to put their money into an IRA — just not the IRA most people expected.

On the other side of the aisle, we’ve marveled as Democrats became Cold Warriors again. Liberals who yawned at the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014, and Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war in 2015 suddenly rage against Moscow because they’ve chosen to believe that Russia helped Trump steal a presidential election. Now it’s Saudi Arabia’s turn. Domestic politics can now redefine our perception of foreign countries on a dime.

Media and political voices that never paid more than intermittent attention to Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human-rights record have spent weeks furiously denouncing the kingdom, both over Khashoggi’s murder, but also for the sin of being on good terms with the Trump administration.

Congressman Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, revealed his hand Friday when he suggested that the key co-conspirator in Khashoggi’s murder is a name and face much more familiar to American news audiences. During an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow, Castro said:

The reporting that Jared Kushner may have with U.S. intelligence delivered a hit list — an enemies list — to the crown prince, to [Mohammed bin Salman], in Saudi Arabia and that the prince then may have acted on that, and one of the people that he took action against is Mr. Khashoggi.

Now, you know that you’ve gone way out on a limb when the CNN anchor has to declare, right then and there, that their network hasn’t reported that accusation, hasn’t heard that accusation, and can’t verify that accusation. But Castro was undeterred, declaring, “I’ve seen reporting to that effect. That needs to be investigated.”

Castro knows exactly what the right response to Saudi Arabia is: an investigation of Jared Kushner. Which just happens to be what he wants to do if Democrats take control of the House, anyway.

Maybe Joaquin Castro can blame his unverified accusations on an evil twin.

(I seriously would like to see a poll of Texas voters to see how many know that Joaquin Castro and Julian Castro are not the same guy.)

Minnesota Senator Tina Smith Is Just Too Busy to Debate Opponents

Minnesota has two U.S. Senate elections this year. Incumbent Democrat Amy Klobuchar is running for reelection against Republican Jim Newberger, and Senator Tina Smith, who was appointed to replace Al Franken, is running for the remainder of Franken’s term (two years) against Republican Karin Housley.

It’s Minnesota, so Republicans probably shouldn’t get their hopes up too high. But a new poll does have Housley within six points. I mean, it’s not as if an unelected senator is going to just skip out on debates . . .

Wait, Senator Tina Smith really did skip out on the debate.

This debate has been months in the making. From the start, it’s been our goal to bring the candidates together to help you make an informed decision in November. Unfortunately, one of the candidates will not be present. Democrat Tina Smith declined our invitation to participate due to a “complicated schedule.” We will still feature a 15-minute interview with her opponent, Republican Karin Housley.

Five Eyewitness News understands having a single candidate in a debate may give the impression of unfairness to a candidate who does not participate. We believe it would be unfair to Minnesota voters to allow one candidate not appearing on the only statewide, primetime debate to silence his or her opponent in this important race. We will always put Minnesota citizens first.

They kept the empty podium; it’s a nice visual for the Housley campaign.

Smith refused to debate anyone in the Democratic primary, too. That’s not “Minnesota nice”!

‘Democrat Hopes of Winning the Senate Have Faded’

If we’re being honest, two of the questions that drove much of the 2018 elections coverage are now almost resolved.

No, there’s no sign that Beto O’Rourke is going to beat Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race.

No, Democrats are not going to win control of the Senate. Politico this morning:

Democratic hopes of winning the Senate have faded in the final weeks of the 2018 election, with the party now needing to win every one of more than a half-dozen competitive races in order to capture control of the chamber.

It’s a far cry from a month ago, when Democrats saw a path to the majority opening wider as several battleground races trended in their direction. But in recent weeks, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s (D-N.D.) seat has slipped away and looks likely to be a Republican pickup, and Democrats have not opened advantages in any of the three GOP-held seats where they’re on offense, instead trailing in public polling in Nevada and Tennessee.

You know what that means, right? A lot more confirmations for President Trump’s judicial nominations.

ADDENDUM: Michael Graham points out that if the chances of the GOP keeping control of the House are indeed one in seven, as Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight calculate, that’s not all that far from rolling a one on a six-sided die — i.e, the sort of thing that is rarer than other outcomes but still happens pretty regularly.

Elections

The Race for Control of the House Narrows . . . Narrowly

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election, won by Barack Obama, in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol, January 8, 2009. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Making the click-through worthwhile: The range of outcomes for the 2018 House elections starts to get a little narrower; the one way Hillary Clinton could return to the political stage and not be completely irrelevant; expectations for Robert Mueller’s final report are quietly being lowered; and some NR housekeeping.

The Outlook for the House GOP Is Not So Good . . . But It’s Not So Terrible, Either

Politico offers a good roundup that has bad news and good news for Republican hopes of keeping control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

First, the bad news:

Republicans admit that Democrats have already closed out about 15 races, well over halfway to the 23 seats they need to win the majority. Democrats are competing in more than 75 districts currently represented by Republicans, giving them ample room to secure the final dozen seats needed to take the majority.

Then the good news:

Democrats have retreated from an open seat in Minnesota where Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan is retiring and GOP recruit Pete Stauber is ahead in internal GOP polling.

Democrats are also taking money from the race to unseat GOP Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who, Republicans say, has a healthy lead. That came just days after Democrats pulled out of Hispanic-populated districts represented by Rep. David Valadao in central California and Rep. Will Hurd along the Texas border. And they’ve withdrawn $800,000 in planned ads from Rep. Vern Buchanan’s Florida district, where the Democratic challenger, David Shapiro, trails the incumbent.

That’s one GOP pickup and four incumbents that are looking safer. The unnamed Republican sources say their internal polls show leads for Representatives Andy Barr of Kentucky, Steve Chabot of Ohio, Mike Bost and Rodney Davis of Illinois, John Katko of New York, and Brian Mast of Florida.

I have one quibble with the Politico gang’s analysis, which comes in their morning newsletter, and declares, “there are 41 GOP retirements. Seventeen Democrats retired in 2010, when Republicans won 63 seats.”

Yes, there are a lot of GOP retirements this cycle, but as I laid out yesterday afternoon, only about ten of the Republican retirements are in purple or swing-y districts, and I suspect those make up about half of the “those seats are already lost for the GOP” pile. A couple of those open seats look a little worse than expected — Arizona’s second district, Kansas’ second district, and New Jersey’s eleventh.

A whole bunch of seats have absolutely no public polls, and I suspect that’s because they’re just not that competitive. In New Jersey’s second district, which covers the southern part of the state, Frank LoBiondo was hanging on a nominally Republican district. This year, Democrat Jeff Van Drew is running against a gadfly candidate who called diversity “un-American.” Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley-based sixth district hasn’t voted for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson; Republican Ben Cline is expected to win handily.

In places like Arizona’s eighth and Ohio’s twelfth district, Debbie Lesko and Troy Balderson won special elections earlier this year and are now running with the (modest) advantage of short-term incumbency.

And a handful look better than expected. California’s 39th district was one that looked like a goner, but State Assemblywoman Young Kim is probably as good a candidate as Republicans can hope for in that district. Florida’s 27th district was another one where Hillary Clinton had won by a large margin in 2016, but Democrats nominated Donna Shalala, who was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Health and Human Services back in the Mesozoic Era the 1990s, and again, Maria Salazar is about as good a candidate as Republicans could get. You may remember the name Dino Rossi from some heartbreakingly close races in the state of Washington; he’s now giving the GOP a really good shot in Washington’s eighth district, one of the few “dead even” districts in the Cook Partisan Voting Index. A ten-point lead in early October is a really good sign.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that Republicans keep the House. But remember that if the Democrats pick up 20 seats — usually a good year! — there’s a small GOP majority. If Democrats pick up 30 seats, again a good year by most criteria, they have to govern with a margin of just 7 seats. The next Speaker of the House is going to have a lot of headaches over the next two years.

Yes, We’re All Sick of Hillary Clinton. But . . .

Ordinarily, the most lame and unrealistic topic imaginable for a political columnist is some variation of “Hillary Clinton should run for president again in 2020.” But Matthew Walther offers an argument that is so different from usual, it almost ends up being compelling.

Hillary Clinton had plenty of flaws, but high among them was her clumsy inauthenticity. Her 2016 campaign in particular embraced that constant implausible effort to make her seem not all that ambitious, not all that vindictive, touting all of those allegedly humanizing details that painted her as your “abuelita” with “hot sauce in her purse.” The contrived repackaging of her insulted the intelligence of voters who had been watching her for a quarter century.

Walther says she should say, forget all of that, and let out her inner rhymes-with-witch: “the woman who ran a vicious race-baiting primary campaign against Barack Obama, the unwavering supporter of the Iraq war, the architect of our ill-fated Libyan excursion, the Osama-hunter, the would-be Assad-destroyer, the welfare queen shamer, the tough-on-crime denouncer of ‘superpredators.’” Walther imagines Clinton ripping the #MeToo sexual predators, bashing Barack Obama for leaving the country defenseless against Russia’s election shenanigans, and doubling down on her “deplorable” comments by painting Trump’s base voters as whiners and irresponsible blame-shifters.

In other words, she could let out her inner Trump.

This would be more interesting and more authentic than the latest effort to reinvent a well-established career to appeal to the sensibilities of a woke progressive Brooklyn hipster. She would have to denounce Bill to use the #MeToo rallying cry, instead of insisting that Bill Clinton wasn’t abusing his power during his affair with Monica Lewinsky because the White House intern was an adult. Hillary Clinton would have to call for longtime supporter Harvey Weinstein to face the guillotine or something and call out a “long-festering moral decay” in the ranks of powerful Democratic men who claimed to be feminists — Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, John Conyers, Al Franken, Eric Schneiderman, Keith Ellison. She would make a lot of enemies, but she also might win some long-lost respect for finally not taking the route most expedient to her political ambitions.

Hillary probably won’t run, and precisely for this reason. Some Democrats wanted her to run against Bush in 2004, but she wisely calculated the odds were better when no incumbent president were running. She could have challenged Obama in 2012 but made the same calculation. She only knows how to run with all the advantages as a frontrunner . . . and yet that’s never worked out for her.

Don’t ‘Expect a Comprehensive and Presidency-Wrecking Account’ from Mueller

You notice that ever since the Brett Kavanaugh fight, we’ve heard a lot less than usual about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report?

We’re starting to hear the hints that we shouldn’t expect any bombshells.

That’s the word POLITICO got from defense lawyers working on the Russia probe and more than 15 former government officials with investigation experience spanning Watergate to the 2016 election case. The public, they say, shouldn’t expect a comprehensive and presidency-wrecking account of Kremlin meddling and alleged obstruction of justice by Trump — not to mention an explanation of the myriad subplots that have bedeviled lawmakers, journalists and amateur Mueller sleuths.

Could you imagine a Mueller report concluding “no collusion” after midterms that disappoint Democrats? They’ll be beyond apoplectic . . .

ADDENDA: A little housekeeping here and there: First, thanks to everyone who came to the Leadership Institute’s Conservative Podcasting School. I had a lot of fun, and everyone seemed to find it really interesting. The two nights covered a lot of topics, from the technical side to marketing to booking guests to finding donors and patrons, and I understand that they may do more of these sorts of events, so stay tuned. I saw some old friends of NR and some longtime readers who really lifted my spirits. So thanks, everyone.

Speaking of podcasting, can you believe Greg Corombus and I have been recording the Three Martini Lunch podcast for almost eight years now? I went through the many generous comments on our iTunes page and found everyone seems to love the fact that we’re . . . well, short. Thirteen minutes to half an hour, usually around 15 to 20 minutes. Your time is valuable, and we try not to waste it.

You’ve thought about joining NRPlus, right? If not, you’re missing out on the members-only Facebook page featuring debates and discussion about whether Trump is getting better at the job of being president; the forgotten sides of Hollywood, Communism, and McCarthyism; when the immoral ought to become illegal and when it shouldn’t; and all of the classic works of literature that high school English class ruined for us.

World

How Should We Respond to Saudi Arabia?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 16, 2018. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: the hunt for a proportional response to the Saudis over Jamal Khashoggi’s death that sends a clear message but doesn’t blow up the relationship between Washington and Riyadh; why some of Bernie Sanders’s team from 2016 doesn’t want to see a Bernie Sanders 2020 bid; why the conventional wisdom about the Senate elections is changing so rapidly; and South Dakota’s gubernatorial race becomes a family affair.

The Saudi Question

If people want to argue that Jamal Khashoggi’s death is being treated differently because he was a member of the news media, wrote for the Washington Post, and had a lot of friends in the U.S. foreign-policy media establishment, well . . . welcome to the real world. If you kill somebody who wrote for the Post, then the Post is going to write about that murder a lot. This is personal to them. You would react more strongly if a friend or co-worker was killed than if it happened to some guy who lived on the other side of town.

President Trump emphasized that Khashoggi was not a U.S. citizen but he was a lawful permanent residenta “green card” holder, who under U.S. law may “accept an offer of employment without special restrictions, own property, receive financial assistance at public colleges and universities, and join the Armed Forces. They also may apply to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain eligibility requirements.” About 18,000 lawful permanent residents currently serve in the U.S. armed forces. If we don’t consider Khashoggi “one of us,” then what would we say to those folks in uniform?

Look, Saudi Arabia, you can’t just tell a U.S. permanent resident that he needs documents for his marriage and then kill and dismember him because he wrote some columns and made some speeches criticizing your leader. We expect this kind of behavior from the North Koreans or Iranians or Syrians or Russians. We give your kingdom a lot of slack about how you handle internal dissent. You guys don’t have religious freedom, and we look the other way on that. We look the other way as your justice system institutes punishments such as amputations and flogging. We look the other way as your justice system punishes women for having been raped. We look the other way as you institute the death penalty for crimes ranging from murder, apostasy, adultery, and witchcraft. You still crucify people, which is the sort of thing that really gets under the skin of a Christian country.

In a world where a lot of countries treat guest workers like crap, you stand out as among the worst. Your record on human trafficking is getting a little better but is still pretty bad. Many American feminists may be too committed to multiculturalism to acknowledge this loudly in public, but in your country, The Handmaid’s Tale could be a documentary.

We prefer you guys to the Iranians in your proxy war in Yemen, but reports on the ground say you guys are hitting “residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, jails, boats and medical facilities.” Are you guys monsters, or do you just have terrible aim? How do you hit a school bus by accident?

We give you guys minimal grief over all of that because you sell the world oil, you help us with some counterterrorism issues and intelligence-sharing, you hate the Iranian regime as much as we do, and you’re probably better than what would emerge if there was ever a popular uprising against you.

But if this is supposed to be an alliance of convenience, you guys are getting awfully inconvenient.

Presuming the accusations about the Saudi government murdering and dismembering are true, the question then becomes what the appropriate consequence is. Senator Lindsey Graham said while appearing on Fox & Friends that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman “has got to go.” That seems like the most unrealistic demand that the United States could make of the Saudis.

We don’t want to blow up the whole relationship; we just need to send a signal that they’ve done something unacceptable, that they need to make restitution and need to resist the temptation to take similar actions in the future.

Ordinarily, the United States could declare the current Saudi ambassador persona non grata and tell him to leave the country, but the current ambassador already went back to his home country and isn’t expected to return. There’s already buzz that the Saudis might name Princess Reema bint Bandar as his replacement.

Cancel arms sales to Saudi Arabia? We might be cutting off our nose to spite our face. We might not like what Saudi Arabia is doing in Yemen, but we want them as well-armed as the Iranians to deter any further aggression in their direction in the Middle East. Why did Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait in 1990? Because the Kuwaitis didn’t have the military forces to stop him — and neither did Saudi Arabia, really, until U.S. forces started arriving in Operation Desert Shield.

A few ideas:

  • Obviously, identify and indict anyone involved in Khashoggi’s murder and make it impossible for them to ever travel to the United States or its allies. We may have no jurisdiction when it’s a Saudi-on-Saudi crime, but we do when it’s a Saudi-on-U.S.-permanent-resident crime.
  • Tout Khashoggi as a martyr for freedom. The Saudis killed him to silence him and send a message; maximize how much this backfires for them. Cite his reporting in State Department reports. Quote him in speeches. Lots of regimes have resisted murdering their critics because they realize killing them is a form of validation and promotes their message more powerfully and widely than ever before.
  • Khashoggi called for the equivalent of a Radio Free Europe in the Arab World. The United States government may not need to actually do this; even reports that the State Department is contemplating a move like this would sting the Saudi royal family.
  • Lots of wealthy Saudis like to travel to the United States. We don’t necessarily need to bar them from entry, just . . . delay their visas. Require more paperwork. Lose their paperwork and make them resubmit it. Use every lever of bureaucratic incompetence and aggravation. When the Saudis complain, shrug and say, “Look, we all know it’s very easy to accidentally tear something to pieces and leave it scattered around a consulate garden. These things happen, you know?”

Bernie Burnout?

Politico notes that not everybody who loved Bernie Sanders in 2016 is so eager to see a sequel in 2020:

With the Vermont senator kicking off a nine-state tour on Friday with stops in Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and California, a sizable contingent of the people who helped build his insurgent 2016 campaign is ambivalent about a second run, according to interviews with more than a dozen former staffers. Many of them are looking for a different progressive champion to finish what Sanders started.

“I think that if a younger candidate can pick up the mantle and have Bernie’s support, I think that would be a better option for 2020. I feel like 60 to 70 percent of former staffers are looking around for another Bernie-esque candidate this time around, even if it’s not him,” said Daniel Deriso, a field organizer for Sanders’ 2016 campaign who went on to help run a successful insurgent mayoral campaign in Birmingham, Ala., last year. “But if Bernie called me to have me work on the campaign then I’d do it.”

At the beginning of the year, I noted that the Bernie Sanders post-campaign activist group, Our Revolution, had hit a lot of bumps in the road.

It’s not hard to figure out why Sanders fans yearn for a younger version of the guy they loved in 2016. Sanders himself is 77 years old now, would be 79 on Election Day 2020, and would be 83 years old at the end of his first term if elected in 2020.

President Trump was the oldest president to be inaugurated, at 70 years and 220 days old. Ronald Reagan was 73 years, 274 days old at the time of his election to a second term.

Why Mitch McConnell Is Smiling So Much Lately

For what it’s worth, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com now puts Democratic chances of winning control of the Senate at 19 percent, a 15 percent chance of a 50-50 (in which case Vice President Pence would break ties), a 17 percent chance that things stay as they are with 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, a 16.5 percent chance that the GOP picks up a seat, a 12.7 percent chance that the GOP picks up two seats, an almost 9 percent chance that the GOP picks up three seats, and a 5 percent chance that the GOP picks up four seats.

ADDENDA: You know you’re having a good election cycle when your opponent’s in-laws are donating to you. The grandmother and great aunt of South Dakota Democratic gubernatorial candidate Billie Sutton have donated to Republican Kristi Noem’s campaign. These aren’t small donations, either; the total donations for the cycle could add up to nearly $20,000. Noem is favored; the state hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since the 1970s and has never had a woman governor.

Credit the Sutton campaign for a good spin: “Sutton marrying into a well-known conservative family shows how truly bipartisan Billie is and how he has never put politics before personal relationships.” Hey, good for him.

This year’s Thanksgiving at the Sutton house could be awkward, though.

“Could you pass the gravy?”

“Why don’t you ask your friend the governor to pass the gravy?”

Elections

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up about Voter Turnout

Voters at a polling place at John Jay College in New York, November 6, 2012. (Chip East/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: why we shouldn’t put much faith in those polls showing an extremely high percentage of the electorate is certain to vote in November; Beto O’Rourke’s most desperate line in his debate; a long-forgotten figure hints he’ll throw his hat in the ring in 2020; and some dramatic new survey numbers in Florida.

Lots of People Who Tell Pollsters That They’ll Vote . . . End Up Not Voting

Every year, we get told that we’ve never seen young people so fired up to vote.

Back in 2014, the Pew Research Center went back and looked to see if the people they polled actually went and voted. Unsurprisingly, a good chunk of respondents did not vote.

While changed minds contributed to some of the difference between the September poll result and the final outcome, this factor was less important than the turnout differential between Republicans and Democrats. Fully 73 percent of pre-election registered voters who supported a Republican candidate in the pre-election survey ultimately turned out to vote on Election Day, based on verified vote from the voter file. By comparison, only 61 percent of registered voters who supported a Democratic candidate were verified to have voted.

Wait, there’s more! They asked respondents to rate their likelihood of voting on a scale of zero to seven, with zero being the least likely to vote and seven being the most likely. Nearly half of all registered voter respondents characterized themselves as a seven. Out of that group . . . 83 percent voted. In other words, almost one in five people who told the pollster that they are absolutely, positively, definitely going to vote did not vote. What’s more, among the group that answered zero — which was only 4 percent of the whole sample — about one in ten actually went out and voted!

Some people lie to pollsters — or at least they do not keep their word, particularly when it comes to questions of whether they will vote. I suspect there’s a segment of the population that either never votes or votes infrequently but knows that they’re supposed to vote out of civic duty. This group of respondents doesn’t like admitting to some stranger on the phone that they don’t expect to be sufficiently motivated on the first Tuesday of November.

In 2014, 56 percent of respondents told the PRRI survey that they were certain to vote in the midterm elections. The actual turnout of registered voters that year was 36.4 percent, the lowest since 1942. This year, 55 percent of respondents told the same pollster that they were certain to vote.

What has Democrats worried — and ought to worry them! — is that the PRRI survey found just 35 percent of voters from age 18 to 29 saying they’re certain to vote, which is actually a little lower than four years ago. You know what percentage of this demographic turned out back in 2014? Under 20 percent.

It’s a similar story in the latest Washington Post poll, which touted the headline, “Voters say they are more likely to cast ballots in this year’s midterm elections,” and declared that 77 percent of respondents said that they were “absolutely certain to vote” or had already voted early.

Except . . . four years ago, the same survey found 65 percent saying they were “absolutely certain to vote” or had already voted early. And total turnout was only 36 percent!

I can hear the arguments already. “Jim, this time it’s different. Back then, young voters were complacent because of President Obama, and now President Trump has outraged young people. Just look at the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, The March for Our Lives, younger Democratic candidates, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, Taylor Swift’s endorsement of Phil Bredesen, and all the rest.”

And yes, that could happen. Over at FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley makes a better-than-usual argument for expectations of higher youth turnout, pointing to the higher turnout among young voters in the Alabama special Senate election and Virginia’s statewide elections last year. (Of course, there’s the distinction between “higher turnout” and “high-enough turnout.” The youth vote in Alabama’s special election was about twice the state’s average and Democrat Doug Jones won by about two percentage points against Roy Moore. In Virginia, the youth turnout was 50 percent higher than four years earlier, and while that added up to a Democratic landslide in the governor’s race, it wasn’t quite enough to give Democrats a majority in the House of Delegates.)

Voter registration among young people is up in some places such as Connecticut. Texas now has slightly more registered voters between the ages of 18 and 29 than ages 65 and older.

But Robert Griffin, associate director of research at PRRI, told USA Today that he doesn’t expect to see a dramatic change from the 2014 turnout. In his autobiography Principles, Ray Dalio describes a phenomenon he calls “another one of those” — those moments where you suddenly recognize what’s happening from past experience and history. His point is that the more you study history, the more you recognize similar situations from the past and can apply useful lessons from that past.

Past history teaches us that when 77 percent of respondents tell pollsters that they are “absolutely certain to vote,” turnout is going to be significantly lower than 77 percent.

Beto O’Rourke: Hey, Look What Donald Trump Said about Cruz!

Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke cited Donald Trump as a supporting witness in his debate with incumbent Ted Cruz last night.

“He’s dishonest,” O’Rourke said. “That’s why the president called him Lyin’ Ted and it’s why the nickname stuck because it’s true.”

This would be the president that O’Rourke wants to impeach, right? The president who O’Rourke called racist? Now he wants everyone to trust Trump’s opinion in his assessment of Cruz?

Julian Castro: Hey, Remember Me? I’m Gonna Run for President . . . 

Speaking of overhyped Texas Democrats, Julian Castro — the former mayor of San Antonio, former secretary of the Department of Housing and former Democratic-party Flavor of the Month — tells Rolling Stone he’s likely to run for president in 2020.

On the subject of his presidential aspirations, he gave the clearest indication yet about his plans for 2020. “I’m likely to do it,” he tells Rolling Stone. “I’ll make a final decision after November, but I’m inclined to do it.”

It’s understandable if you don’t remember this guy, but from 2012 to about 2014, he was the “Next Big Thing” in Democratic politics. He’s the political equivalent of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” “Oh, that song! Man, I haven’t heard it in forever! Wow, back then, that song was everywhere.”

If you need a refresher on what Castro did as mayor — honestly, not all that much — look here. The limits of the power of the mayor of San Antonio are discussed here. If you want to remember how the gushing Castro profiles echoed today’s gushing O’Rourke profiles, look here.

But Castro’s interview with Rolling Stone had this exchange:

RS: Polls show right now a lack of energy among Hispanic voters. It could make a big difference in the midterms in states like Nevada and Texas. You’ve got a racist in the White House with Trump, and the pitch to Latino voters shouldn’t be that difficult. But it doesn’t seem to be landing.

Castro: The party needs to invest more resources more consistently in Latino voter registration and turnout. It’s not enough to just invest a few months before the big election. Whether it’s the Democracy Alliance [liberal donor network] or other individual big donors or organizations, they need to scale up efforts like the Texas Organizing Project, Voto Latino [of which Castro is a board member], and Jolt out of Austin. There needs to be a massive and sustained effort that’s well-funded and well-scaled to create a generation of Latino voters. And until that’s done, Latinos are not going to vote at the rate that they ought to vote at.

We’re constantly told that President Trump is anti-Latino xenophobia personified. If Latinos aren’t registering to vote in this circumstance, then one of two things is wrong. Either Latinos simply don’t care that the personification of anti-Latino xenophobia is now in the Oval Office, or more likely, they reject the characterization of him and don’t find him all that menacing. (Not choosing is a choice; choosing to not register to vote is an endorsement of the status quo.) In all likelihood, quite a few Latinos like some of Trump’s policies. Liberals are now lamenting, “last week’s NPR/PBS/Marist poll, 41 percent of Hispanics approved of Trump’s performance. Another recent poll put Trump’s approval among Latinos at 35 percent.” That’s not great, but that’s really good if you’re supposed to be el diablo.

ADDENDA: Man, is Florida going to be dramatic this year:

The race for Florida governor is essentially tied according to the first public poll conducted after Hurricane Michael devastated the Panhandle — and changed the course of state politics.

Twenty days before Election Day, Democrat Andrew Gillum is at 47 percent, while Republican Ron DeSantis is at 46. However, among those who say they have already voted, DeSantis is at 49 percent, while Gillum is at 45 percent.

A similar scenario is setting up for Florida’s U.S. Senate race: heading into the stretch in dead-heat fashion, according to the new survey by St. Pete Polls. Republican Gov. Rick Scott has a two-point lead over Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The poll comes with a definitive asterisk as respondents in portions of the Panhandle, specifically the Panama City the media market, where Michael delivered his lethal blow, are under-sampled. A slight plurality of these voters typically support Republican candidates. end

Gillum led nine polls conducted in September.

Elections

Will Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Woman of Color’ Sham Come Back to Haunt Her?

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during an event to introduce the “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 13, 2017. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why Elizabeth Warren really fears the “woman of color” controversy, President Trump gets a win in the courtroom and some long-overdue questions about whether a self-promoting lawyer is really helping his clients, and an eye-opening article about American mercenaries operating in Yemen.

The Pallid Excuses of Harvard Law’s First ‘Woman of Color’

As I noted yesterday afternoon, back in 1997, Harvard Law School was touting Elizabeth Warren as their first “woman of color” law professor. A year earlier, the law school had told the Harvard Crimson, in response to claims that the faculty wasn’t diverse enough, that “although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, [Mike] Chmura [spokesperson for the Law School] said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American.” A year later, a Harvard Crimson editorial declared, “Harvard Law School currently has only one tenured minority woman, Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, who is Native American.”

This was consistent throughout Warren’s career. As Benny Johnson noted, “Warren self-identified as a ‘Native American’ in the Association of American Law Schools Directory of law professors in every edition printed between 1986 -1995.”

A 2005 report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Minority Equity Committee referred to Warren as a minority award winner.

Back in 2012, Warren initially claimed she didn’t know the schools were referring to her that way, which is extremely unlikely. This would mean that Warren wasn’t following the debate about minority representation at the law school back in the 1990s and that she didn’t realize the law school was citing her as an example of minority representation.

But then a few weeks later she said she “provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.” As we now know, Warren is anywhere from 1/64 to 1/1024 Native American, and does not meet the criteria of “Native American” under anyone’s definition but her own.

She certainly doesn’t meet the Cherokee Tribe’s criteria. Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr. issued a blistering statement yesterday:

A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America. Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, who ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is prove. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.

What’s more, the story Warren has been telling about her family history for years doesn’t make much sense now:

My mom and dad were very much in love and they wanted to get married. And my father’s parents said, ‘Absolutely not, you can’t marry her, because she’s part Cherokee and part Delaware.’ After fighting it as long as they could, my parents went off, and they eloped. It was an issue in our family the whole time I grew up about these two families. It was an issue still raised at my mother’s funeral.

Warren describes her family being torn apart by racial animosity . . . when everybody in the family is white. The Boston Globe wrote a long article attempting to dispel the notion that minority status played any role in any of Warren’s job opportunities, promotions, or tenure, but it included this quote from David Wilkins, one of the only black law professors on Harvard’s staff who voted for hiring Warren: “Let’s be blunt. Elizabeth Warren is a white woman. She may have some Native American roots, but so do most people.”

Elizabeth Warren is, by just about anybody’s definition, white. At the very least, she was comfortable with Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania describing her as a “person of color” or a racial “minority.”

The “person of color” characterization is what really worries Warren, I suspect. It’s easy to imagine some future presidential debate stage, and Kamala Harris, or Cory Booker, or Deval Patrick turning to Warren and asking, “Did you really think you deserved to be called a ‘woman of color’ in American society?”

Stormy Daniels Defense-Fund Donors Watch Their Money Go to the President

How likely is it that Michael Avenatti is a better self-promoter than a lawyer?

A federal judge on Monday dismissed the defamation lawsuit that Stormy Daniels filed against President Trump, saying his tweet attacking the porn star’s credibility was free speech protected by the Constitution.

“If this court were to prevent Mr. Trump from engaging in this type of ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ against a political adversary, it would significantly hamper the office of the president,” Judge S. James Otero of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles wrote in a 14-page ruling. “Any strongly-worded response by a president to another politician or public figure could constitute an action for defamation. This would deprive the country of the ‘discourse’ common to the political process.”

As some have noted, if you donated to Stormy Daniels’s defense fund, a portion of your donations will now be going to Donald Trump to cover attorney’s fees. Attorneys familiar with the high bar for defamation would note that Daniels almost certainly qualified as a public figure, and that the case would have to demonstrate “actual malice” on Trump’s part.

Trump threatens to sue people for libel and slander frequently, but rarely goes through and files the lawsuit. Either Trump eventually learned that threatening to sue and getting the headline and then forgetting about it is cheaper and more satisfying, or his lawyers persuade him that his chances of winning the lawsuit are extremely low.

Is Stormy Daniels better off now than when she met Avenatti? Maybe, but if she is, that’s probably more because of her own, er, entrepreneurship and self-promotion than because of Avenatti.

Is Julie Swetnick better off now than when she met Avenatti? Remember her?

How Comfortable Are We with the Idea of American Mercenaries?

BuzzFeed offers a dramatic story this morning about former American solders working for private contractors and killing what the United Arab Emirates government believed were high-value targets in Yemen:

On that night, December 29, 2015, their job was to carry out an assassination.

Their armed attack, described to BuzzFeed News by two of its participants and corroborated by drone surveillance footage, was the first operation in a startling for-profit venture. For months in war-torn Yemen, some of America’s most highly trained soldiers worked on a mercenary mission of murky legality to kill prominent clerics and Islamist political figures.

Their target that night: Anssaf Ali Mayo, the local leader of the Islamist political party Al-Islah. The UAE considers Al-Islah to be the Yemeni branch of the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE calls a terrorist organization. Many experts insist that Al-Islah, one of whose members won the Nobel Peace Prize, is no terror group. They say it’s a legitimate political party that threatens the UAE not through violence but by speaking out against its ambitions in Yemen.

BuzzFeed characterizes it as “militarized contract killing.”

You probably have one of two reactions to a story like this.

One: “This is awesome. I want every anti-American extremist in the world looking over his shoulder and hiding in fear, and if this is the sort of thing that gets a person afraid to join an Islamist group, or that will cut down the next Osama bin Laden early in his career instead of late in it, God bless them.”

Two: “Dear God, this is horrifying. This is an assassination program that is staffed by Americans, targeting and executing foreign political leaders without any charges or trial, and our government is, if not explicitly endorsing these actions, giving these actions a tacit blessing.”

One complicating wrinkle for those who have the second reaction: The BuzzFeed story begins by describing an attempted assassination on December 29, 2015, and discusses the campaign of covert strikes in Yemen progressing throughout 2016. In other words, this isn’t some horrific, brutal Trump-administration policy that enables these actions; all of this started on the Obama administration’s watch.

ADDENDUM: Hope to see you tonight for the second night of Conservative Podcasting School!

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