U.S.

The Thanksgiving Rhythm

A Charlie Brown balloon hovers above the crowd during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan,New York, U.S., November 22, 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: What Thanksgiving is probably going to bring tomorrow; two cases of epic triumphs in political opposition research; and the year America had two Thanksgivings, a week apart.

What’s Going to Happen at Your Thanksgiving Tomorrow

I hope your travels today are mild and manageable and your Thanksgiving is joyous. This might be my favorite holiday, because there’s minimal aggravation and shopping, no worrying about getting the right gift for someone, and only a few decorations here and there. It’s about family, eating a lot of food, and watching television.

Every year, the day follows a particular rhythm. In the morning, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature too many Broadway singers and too few shots of the balloons. We’ll be treated to syrupy lip-synced versions of allegedly popular songs from country-pop crossover artists with names like “Dakota Leggings” and bands like “Basement Flooding Damage” singing with Grover from Sesame Street. Depending upon the weather in New York City, many of the young stars and starlets will appear to be having the time of their lives while battling hypothermia.

The adults will sit around and wonder which NBC host will resign in disgrace the coming year. NBC will “just happen” to stumble upon stars of its prime-time lineup in the crowd, and we’ll waste a few minutes watching costars of Law and Order: Parking Enforcement or the legal drama Admissible Hearsay telling us what Thanksgiving means to them.

It appears the wind might ground the balloons this year; it’s going to be a “game day decision.” If we’re lucky, the winds will be in that window where it’s safe enough to have the balloons, but high enough for a particularly powerful gust making the balloons go rogue, and Manhattan will be momentarily menaced by a giant runaway SpongeBob or Pikachu. I loved the sight of the NYPD beating down the Barney the Dinosaur balloon in 1997.

During the commercial breaks, some implausibly cheerful millennial will tell us that the holidays are a great time to switch our phone carrier to AT&T or Sprint or Verizon or one of the others. Right, because there’s nothing like the Christmas shopping season to head into the mall, get the attention of a salesperson, and then decide from among a menu of incomprehensible offerings and calculate how many gigs of data I need to share among the family. (Okay, maybe Milana Vayntrub comes closest to pulling off this advertising version of Mission: Impossible.)

The parade ends at noon, which means you’ve got a half-hour of pregame before the 3-7-1 Detroit Lions host the 5-6 Chicago Bears, and Terry Bradshaw, Curt Menefee, Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson, and Michael Strahan get the challenging assignment of building up anticipation and excitement for a matchup between two teams with losing records. For some of us on the East Coast, this is the only Detroit Lions game we see all year, and for all of the Lions’ flaws, many years they’ve offered us somebody really exciting to watch — Barry Sanders, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, Matthew Stafford. The fans in Detroit always seem pretty happy to be there; I guess when you’ve been going to a pro football game on Thanksgiving your whole life, it doesn’t seem odd at all.

By mid-afternoon, you can smell the food cooking in the kitchen. Those doing the cooking tend to shoo family members who are lurking about and tempted to steal a nibble of the work in progress.

The Dallas Cowboys are the other NFL team that traditionally hosts a game on Thanksgiving, and usually they have the better matchup. That’s true again this year, as they’re 6-5 and hosting the 8-3 Buffalo Bills at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. But the second game is in the prime Thanksgiving dinner window, and I suspect that every year, many fans surreptitiously sneak away during the big meal to check on the score.

It’s fascinating that every year brings some playful debates about what Thanksgiving foods are best, because almost every house goes with at least some of the traditional ones: a big roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams or sweet potatoes, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, glazed carrots, and rolls. God help America’s family chefs as they begin to account for vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, the gluten-intolerant, those doing Atkins or avoiding carbs entirely, kids with fatal peanut allergies, those keeping Kosher, and picky eaters at the kids’ table. Who knew that the Thanksgiving tradition of having a lot of different dishes was so farsighted?

This is also probably one of the most prayerful days of the year, and despite all of our troubles and problems, the overwhelming majority of Americans can find something in their lives to be thankful about.

The evening news might feature stories on people camping out overnight near some big box store in preparation for Black Friday, although I think this trend is waning. Cyber Monday offers all the stuff and none of the crowds — unless you yearn for the days of Cabbage Patch Doll-related violence and haven’t truly felt alive since the day you elbowed somebody in the ribs for that last Tickle-Me-Elmo.

You’re probably too stuffed to eat by the end of the day, but there are still plenty of leftovers. As I noted on The Editors podcast, this is the hour many belts get unbuckled and people settle into recliners and couches. Growing up we were stuck with reruns on the big networks, but the National Football League, in its infinite wisdom, decided to give us a third game in prime time! This year it’s a pretty good one, the 9-2 New Orleans Saints visiting the 3-8 Atlanta Falcons. You might think watching part of a third game is a bit excessive, but having one more serving than you should have is another Thanksgiving tradition.

Someone will ask whether it’s too early to hang mistletoe, and someone will respond that it won’t hang itself, much like Jeffrey Epstein.

Great Moments in Opposition Research History

Man, did somebody do their homework on “how to destroy Cenk Unger’s congressional campaign.” Cenk Unger was an outspoken leftist commentator who hosted a program on MSNBC from 2011 to 2013, and then moved to Current TV. He’s now running for Congress to replace Katie Hill, and this morning he probably regrets the decision, as every inane and insane thing he’s ever said is now compiled and makes him not only unfit for Congress and unfit for polite society, he probably needs to be institutionalized.

Speaking of destroying campaigns, let’s give Arkansas senator Tom Cotton credit for bringing his A-game to next year’s Senate campaign. He’s effectively already won, as the only Democrat who filed to run suddenly and mysteriously withdrew, hours after the deadline passed: “In a memo from Cotton’s campaign obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette earlier this month, campaign staff touted how it identified ‘significant vulnerabilities’ in Mahony’s background, which it held off publicizing until after the deadline had passed for another Democrat to join the race.”

No Democrat is likely to appear on the ballot next year against Republican U.S. senator Tom Cotton, Arkansas’ Democratic party leader said Monday after reviewing the state laws applicable to replacing the aborted candidacy of Josh Mahony.

Mahony, who unexpectedly quit the race a few hours after Arkansas’ candidate filing period closed Nov. 12, has since ceased communication with party leaders, Chairman Michael John Gray said Monday, frustrating the party’s efforts find a legal avenue to replace Mahony.

“Barring further information provided that satisfies the statutory language in the state of Arkansas to replace a candidate, the Democratic Party will not field a candidate for the U.S. Senate,” Gray said in a news conference at Democratic Party headquarters in Little Rock.

In the two weeks since Mahony announced his decision to exit the race with a tweet citing “family health concerns,” talks between the Democratic Party and its former candidate appear to have broken down. Mahony has hired an attorney to represent him in future discussions. 

Patience is a deeply underrated virtue.

ADDENDA: You think the country is divided now? Eighty years ago, we couldn’t even agree on what day Thanksgiving was. I found this bit of American history strangely hilarious:

In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared November 23rd, the next-to-last Thursday of the month, to be Thanksgiving Day. This break with tradition was prompted by requests from the National Retail Dry Goods Association to extend the Christmas shopping season by one week. Roosevelt had rejected the association’s similar request in 1933 on the grounds that such change might cause confusion. The President’s 1939 proclamation proved him more right than he probably would have liked.

As always, the president’s 1939 proclamation only directly applied to the District of Columbia and federal employees. While governors usually followed the president’s lead with state proclamations for the same day, on this year, twenty-three states observed Thanksgiving Day on November 23rd, twenty-three states celebrated on November 30th, and Texas and Colorado declared both Thursdays to be holidays. Football coaches scrambled to reschedule games set for November 30th, families didn’t know when to have their holiday meals, calendars were inaccurate in half of the country, and people weren’t sure when to start their Christmas shopping. The nation was again divided over the date of Thanksgiving Day in 1940. 

God bless Texas and Colorado. “Hey, boss, what are we supposed to do if there are two Thanksgivings on the calendar?” “Eh, you know what, give everybody both days off.”

White House

Impeachment Won’t Help Win Back Votes for Democrats

David Holmes, political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, takes the oath before testifying to a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, November 21, 2019. (Andrew Harrer/Pool via Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Two weeks of heavily hyped, nationally televised impeachment hearings appear to have had . . . zero impact on public opinion; Joe Biden gets some behind-the-scenes criticism from an unexpected source; Ralph Northam disappoints Virginia Democrats; and Saturday Night Live brings the “A” game for the Democratic debate.

Independents Just Aren’t Interested in Impeachment

You probably didn’t expect the impeachment hearings to move the needle much, but . . . did you expect them to not change public opinion at all? CNN finds, “half of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 43 percent say he should not. Neither figure has changed since October, with support for impeachment remaining at its highest level thus far in CNN polling.”

The FiveThirtyEight aggregation of all public polls moved a little bit more in favor of removal in the past few days, it’s now 48 percent support, 44.2 percent opposed.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank blames Fox News and a cult-like attitude among Republicans for the president’s continued support, but let’s take a look at the numbers among independents in these surveys. In the latest YouGov poll, 35 percent of independents support removal. In SurveyUSA, it’s up to 48 percent. In Emerson college, it’s down to 34 percent. In Morning Consult, it’s 40 percent. For some reason, independents, who theoretically should have no particular loyalty to Trump, aren’t interested in seeing him removed from office.

It could be a sense that they believe that decision should be made at the ballot box in 2020. Or it could be that they perceive impeachment as just another chapter in Trump-centered partisan warfare that has dominated Washington since January 20, 2017. They’re not particularly tuned in to the news from the nation’s capital, but when they have tuned it, it’s seemed like Groundhog Day, or Erick Erickson’s “turning point” montage.

Most progressives dismiss Democratic strategist Doug Schoen as Fox News’ ideal voice on the left, always warning that his party is making some terrible misstep. Schoen seems adamant that impeachment is not going to help his party in 2020: “And given that states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida — ones the Democrats have to win in some combination to win the presidential election, it’s hard for me to see that impeachment is anything but a very problematic issue for the party.”

The argument from Schoen is that impeachment doesn’t resonate with the voters that Democrats want to win back: “I also think that we Democrats are losing a huge opportunity because on issues like gun violence prevention, climate change, health care, we have an advantage. We won the midterm elections in 2018 because of the utilization and in part of those issues. And to not take advantage of what people care about, which is real-world day to day problems of our quality of life, and instead, just keep focusing on impeachment. If I were recommending to the Democrats what to do. I’d say vote for censure, get it and move on.”

At the beginning of the month, that Siena/New York Times poll found support for impeachment among independents in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona from 35 percent to 43 percent — mirroring the national numbers. Separately, that Marquette University poll found just 36 percent of Wisconsin independents supporting removal.

Finally, our Mairead McArdle notices a House Democrat in the safest of deep blue districts suddenly backing away from removing the president.

“You can censure, you don’t have to remove the president,” Lawrence said Sunday on No BS News Hour with Charlie LeDuff. “Sitting here, knowing how divided this country is, I don’t see the value of kicking him out of office, but I do see the value of putting down a marker saying his behavior is not acceptable.”

There’s no way House Democrats fail to get 218 votes; just about every one of the 232 Democrats who voted to start the inquiry will vote for at least one of the counts of impeachment. But maybe Democrats are starting to sense that this is making their task in 2020 more difficult instead of easier.

With Old Friends Like These, Joe Biden Doesn’t Need Enemies

This morning, Ryan Lizza unveils a fascinating, deeply-reported story on Barack Obama’s role behind the scenes in the 2020 primary, and it includes this eyebrow-raising quote:

Sometimes he offers candid advice about his visitors’ strengths and weaknesses. With several lesser-known candidates, according to people who have talked to him or been briefed on his meetings, he was blunt about the challenges of breaking out of a large field. His advice is not always heeded. He told Patrick earlier this year that it was likely “too late” for him to secure “money and talent” if he jumped in the race. Occasionally, he can be cutting. With one candidate, he pointed out that during his own 2008 campaign, he had an intimate bond with the electorate, especially in Iowa, that he no longer has. Then he added, “And you know who really doesn’t have it? Joe Biden.”

If Biden doesn’t get the nomination, a big factor will be Barack Obama’s surprising insistence that he remain neutral, and not even give even a veiled or implicit endorsement of his old running mate.

Ralph Northam: Sorry, Democrats, We Won’t Repeal Right-to-Work

In Virginia, Democrats win . . . and then, like with Justin Trudeau up north (second item), reality sets in:

Gov. Ralph Northam made clear to his revenue advisory council on Monday that he does not support repeal of Virginia’s right-to-work law that forbids compulsory union membership.

With Democrats preparing to take complete control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than 25 years, Northam sought to reassure Virginia business leaders that the state won’t take a sharp leftward turn on an issue that has long been a political fire alarm in a pro-business state.

The AFL-CIO and certain Democratic state lawmakers declared their disappointment with his stance. Hey, guys, earlier this year we were ready to help you get rid of Governor Blackface, and you guys didn’t take it.

ADDENDUM: Is it just me, or does Saturday Night Live do a much better job when it comes to mocking the Democratic presidential candidate debates? This weekend, the sketch was nearly a reunion show of old cast members: Maya Rudolph as senator Kamala Harris, Rachel Dratch as senator Amy Klobuchar and Fred Armisen as former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg — barging in holding two large drink cups, and boasting he got into the stage “by tipping the doorman $30 million.” You may think there’s nothing particularly funny, or even memorable, about billionaire presidential candidate Tom Steyer. Will Ferrell, the episode’s host, played Steyer as a sad, lonely, slightly deranged and clingy billionaire who is incapable of blinking. Suddenly I want Steyer in future debates, just so we get more of Ferrell’s nutty version on him.

The sketch brought back Woody Harrelson as the gleefully inadvertently offensive Joe Biden — touting his support among “Blafrican-Americans, even the Mexitinos, and the Chorientals” — and Larry David as Bernie Sanders, playing the Vermont senator as the prototypical cranky old man obsessed with trivia. If anything, the regular cast members got lost in the shuffle — Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren, Colin Jost as Pete Buttigieg, Bowen Yang as Andrew Yang, Chris Redd as Cory Booker. One exception was Cecily Strong’s Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, “the designated villain of the night.” “I smell your fear and it makes me stronger,” would make a perfectly fine Gabbard campaign slogan.

Elections

Bloomberg’s Ad Blitzkrieg

Michael Bloomberg listens as he is introduced to speak in Manchester, N.H, January 29, 2019. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Mike Bloomberg takes over the nation’s commercial breaks; the people of Hong Kong send a strong message to Beijing in local elections; a television show touted as the centerpiece of an entirely new streaming service lives up to the hype; and an attempt to explain the ongoing impeachment to a British audience.

Bloomberg Launches Ambitious Plan to Purchase Democratic Nomination

Brace yourselves, America. This week you’re getting $30 million in television ads touting former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg to be the Democratic nomination. And don’t think that you’ll be missing out if you live in some small television market — Bloomberg’s campaign is spending $52,000 in Fargo, N.D., and $59,000 in Biloxi, Miss.

The most enthusiastic supporters of Bloomberg’s bid appear to be television-station-ad sales reps, Bloomberg employees, and the Republican National Committee. Don’t think of it as an election, America; think of it as an acquisition by Bloomberg LP. Don’t listen to the people who say Bloomberg is trying to buy the nomination and the presidency; think of it as buying hearts and souls.

Democrats complain a great deal about how terrible money in politics is, while secretly accepting the assistance of $140 million in “dark money” in the 2018 midterm elections. Bloomberg is going to be a great test of whether Democrats think and make decisions the way they want to believe that they do. On paper, Bloomberg is a terrible candidate. But if he gets traction in this race, it means Democratic primary voters are as easily persuaded by slick television ads as much as any other demographic. Note that Tom Steyer, a diminutive billionaire who is a walking vortex that no charisma can escape from, qualified for the last two debates and is at 2.5 percent in Iowa, 3 percent in New Hampshire, 3.5 percent in Nevada and 4 percent in South Carolina. But the most recent poll in New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina all put Steyer at 5 percent. TV ads build name recognition.

Bloomberg does not seem like the most natural choice for a party that is hell-bent on beating an incumbent president they see as an egomaniacal billionaire from New York with authoritarian impulses. You don’t have to be a conservative to recoil from Bloomberg (although it helps); you just have to dislike any smug billionaire who believes the rules don’t apply to him and that he knows what’s best for everyone.

He bought elections by spending $183 per vote and pushed through the repeal of term limitsturned away food from the needy because he deemed it insufficiently nutritious, and referred to the New York Police Department as his “own army.” Bloomberg’s approach to critics was as combative as his recommended approach to young African-American men in high-crime neighborhoods, “throw them up against the wall and frisk them.” Bloomberg is the former pot-smoker who cracked down on marijuana users as mayor.

By the way, even on the healthy eating, Bloomberg’s an epic hypocrite: “He dumps salt on almost everything, even saltine crackers. He devours burnt bacon and peanut butter sandwiches. He has a weakness for hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and fried chicken, washing them down with a glass of merlot.”

This is the relentless gun-control advocate who is always surrounded by armed security, the large-soda-banning face of the nanny state, and the man who declared, “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven, I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” Oh, and he’s got a #MeToo problem.

A lot of Democrats seem to believe Trump “bought” the Republican nomination, but that’s not the case. During the primary, Trump spent less than all of his competitors, other than John Kasich. He also didn’t have a supporting SuperPAC. (What Trump did have was cable news networks willing to live broadcast his speeches in their entirety, and cable shows willing to conduct interviews live, on-air, by phone. During the GOP primaries, many non-conservative news institutions grew obsessed with Trump, convinced the Republican party would nominate someone utterly unelectable.)

On paper, Bloomberg should flop; he’s apparently not planning to put much effort into Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina. He’s probably going to flop. But if he doesn’t, expect a lot more worried talk about the United States starting to resemble some third-world plutocracy, where we choose which billionaire we want to rule us for the next four years.

The People of Hong Kong Send a Clear Message in Local Elections

For once, there’s fantastic news out of Hong Kong: The city held its district council elections Sunday and out of 452 seats, pro-democracy candidates won 347; just 60 candidates classified as “pro-establishment” won.

From the South China Morning Post: “Although the district councils handle local matters and have no direct say over the chief executive’s programme, the elections were seen as a barometer of support either for the anti-government protest movement or for the embattled leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her handling of the roiling unrest. With the thrashing suffered by the pro-Beijing camp, the government’s allies, it would appear Lam’s position was becoming increasingly untenable, even as she herself on Sunday tried to frame the elections as being about district-level matters.”

Now the big question is, how does Beijing react?

The Mandalorian: This Is the Way . . . to Make a Great TV Series

I mentioned it on The Editors podcast, but can I take another moment to rave about The Mandalorian? We’ve seen some really hit-and-miss storytelling from Star Wars since Disney purchased it in 2012, but three episodes in, the first live-action Star Wars television show is hitting it out of the park. And it could have gone wrong so easily; we’re on the edge of our seats for a protagonist who always wears a mask — it doesn’t even resemble a human face, the Mandalorians apparently all prefer a visage of a dark letter “T” — and who doesn’t say much. The first ten minutes of the second episode barely had any dialogue at all.

What we’re getting is the classic tough-guy hero who lives by a strict code suddenly having that code challenged by his own conscience. We in the audience strongly suspect he will do the right thing eventually — his own painful past makes him empathize with the endangered innocent too much — but everything in his environment will tell him to keep his head down and turn his back.

(SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD) Last episode gave us a lot of backstory in a short time without chunks of clunky expository dialogue. The Mandalorians are a proud warrior culture, renowned for their skill and weaponsmiths, that were nearly wiped out by the Trade Federation during the Clone Wars. Those that survived are in hiding; perhaps because of their fierce reputation, they’ve always been seen as a potential threat to whomever is in power. At one point when asked to trade his rifle the protagonist declares, “I’m a Mandalorian, weapons are part of my religion.” The Mandalorians developed a particular rare alloy that makes strong armor, but their access to that is now gone, seized in what they call “the Great Purge.” Those that remain are doing whatever it takes to survive in secret, protecting a group of orphans on some remote world whom they call the Foundlings. “The Foundlings are the future,” the leader declares ominously. The Mandalorians fear extinction, and thus the stakes of every decision are exceptionally high. The third episode lets us see the tensions within this remnant of Mandalorian society, and the leader — female, as far as we can tell behind that mask — settles a violent dispute with the declaration, “this is the way.” All the rest of the Mandalorian respond, “this is the way” — like an “Amen.”

“This is the way.” What a terrific mantra. We can read into it “this is the way it has to be,” “this is the way we survive,” “this is the way we’ve always done it,” or “this is the way that I have decided.” But once it’s invoked, the debate is over.  It’s a bit like “Roma locuta est, causa finita est” —  “Rome has spoken, the matter is closed.”

Keep in mind, one of the creative minds behind The Mandalorian is Jon Favreau, who directed Iron Man and kicked off juggernaut that became the Marvel movies. As Vince Vaughn would tell him, “he’s so money, and he doesn’t even know it.”

ADDENDUM: Over in the U.K. web publication The Article, I’ve written up an assessment at where impeachment is going and what it says about the state of the country in 2019.

White House

The Road That Brought Conservatives and Republicans to This Point

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

At some point in your development, probably in your younger years, you stepped into the world of politics out of curiosity and it lit something within you. While lots of your peers found it boring, you started to feel like it was a grand crusade in the best sense. You had a set of values you believed in, ideas you wanted to defend, and policies you wanted to enact — you grew to believe that in some way, nothing less than the fate of the country is at stake. We’re lucky to be born or to become Americans, but this country can be greater. We can solve our problems. And you — little, humble, never expected to amount to much, you — can be a part in this grand effort to make the country a better place. You found something bigger than yourself to believe in, and suddenly, everything had a clear purpose. You have a mission.

And you had heroes! Depending upon your age, they likely included William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, John Paul II, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, maybe Newt Gingrich or Jack Kemp, or plenty of others. You found leaders you thought were smart, wise, and farsighted. When they spoke, they filled you to the brim with confidence and optimism and determination.

And as you started to become some sort of activist — even if it was just as a listener to talk radio, or reader of political magazines or columns in the newspaper — you learned that engaging in politics meant you would have enemies or at least an opposition. And you noticed that in addition to being wrong politically — blithely dismissive of the consequences of tax increases, blindly faithful that new federal programs solve problems, swooning over whatever decadent trend strikes them as transgressive and daring that week, naive about foreign threats — quite a few big names on the other side also seemed like terrible people. The Kennedys used people and discarded them like tissue paper. Bill Clinton was a predatory horndog who didn’t mind destroying other people’s reputations to protect his. An astounding 450 House members wrote bounced checks and were never penalized. Dan Rostenkowski, the guy on the Ways and Means Committee shaping tax policy, had no-show jobs, used office funds to buy gifts and pay for personal transportation, and traded in officially purchased stamps for cash at the House Post Office. You grew to realize that a lot of powerful folks believed the rules didn’t apply to them.

You also noticed a lot of the folks on the other side didn’t merely disagree with you, they demonized you. They also demonized a lot of institutions you thought everybody liked — the men and women in uniform, the police, churches and religious institutions, Western literature. Meanwhile, they ignored their own glaring flaws. You watched John Kerry and John Edwards and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden vote to invade Iraq and then turn against the war the moment it became unpopular. In both Bush administrations, Democrats insisted every problem could be easily solved. Once Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were in office, they started lecturing others about their impatience about complicated problems and unrealistic expectations.

Your side had its share of creeps too — Nixon and the Watergate crew, everybody involved with Iran-Contra, Bob Packwood — but you noticed those guys always got chased out of town by the opposition and a media that touted its own fairness. When it came to the Democrats, a lot of folks in media seemed to bend over backward to make excuses. James Carville said of Gennifer Flowers, “If you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find,” and everyone in the smart set seemed to laugh and agree. At the height of the Lewinsky scandal, Gloria Steinem insisted the president’s affair with an intern merely demonstrated that Bill Clinton needed sex-addiction therapy and did not warrant an official rebuke. You began to conclude that the other side’s operating principle was, “no matter what we have said before in any other situation, our guy always has to win.”

You really start to dislike the opposition, maybe even hate them. You don’t think of yourself as a hateful person, but it’s abundantly clear that they hate you. You think abortion is wrong, and they accuse you of wanting to impose a theocracy. You don’t want to pay more in taxes, and they accuse you of being greedy. You remember all the times a new government program was supposed to solve a problem and didn’t, and they contend you hate government. They blame you for mass shootings and the Oklahoma City bombing and anti-American extremism overseas and melting polar ice caps. You start to notice they seem to enjoy sticking the thumb in your eye; they sue the Little Sisters of the Poor over providing birth control. You realize they won’t allow anyone to deviate from their vision of how things ought to be.

But at least you had your allies. Throughout the Bush and Obama years, you found writers who make strong arguments, who jabbed at the opposition forcefully, who called out their hypocrisies, who made you laugh, and who, metaphorically, are right there in the trenches with you, fighting the good fight. Writers like David French and Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes and Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger and Bill Kristol and Max Boot and Jen Rubin and Rick Wilson and David Frum and John Podhoretz and a bunch of others. No matter how bad it got, you always had them to read, lifting your spirits and reassuring you.

And then one day in 2015, this outlandish celebrity came along who seems to agree with you most of the time. He’s a bit of a jerk, but you kind of like that; he treats everybody who disagrees with him with contempt, the same way the other side treats you with contempt. As time goes by, you realize he’s perhaps more than a bit of a jerk, he’s a raging narcissist and maybe a maniac, but you still like the way he responds to everyone you don’t like — the mainstream media, Democratic politicians — with this constantly erupting volcano of scorn. You feel like you’ve been mistreated for decades; now turnabout is fair play.

But much to your shock, a bunch of your favorite writers don’t like him at all. They see him as almost as bad as the opposition. You’re stunned; life has finally given you a guy who treats the other side as bad as they treat you, but guys like David French are insisting the goal all along was to get everyone to treat each other better. Fox News turns itself into a mirror image of MSNBC, but guys like Jonah don’t seem to like it; he’s saying righty agitprop is as bad as lefty agitprop. Swaths of the Republican Party’s leaders want nothing to do with this guy. You conclude that guys like John McCain and Mitt Romney must be wrong when they recoil from this new guy, too. After all, they lost their presidential campaigns, what do they really know?

For a long time, you saw these writers and GOP officials as staunch allies; now they see Trump so differently than you do that you feel betrayed by them. They must have some secret, hidden motive to drive this otherwise inexplicable antipathy to Trump — they must have secretly craved a gig on MSNBC, or the approval of Democratic officials, or to attend those Georgetown cocktail parties. That’s the only way this makes sense, right? It couldn’t possibly be that they genuinely don’t believe that Trump’s presidency will pay off for conservatives and Americans in the long run.

If American society has taught you anything in the past few decades, it’s that when somebody wins, it means they were right. Ask anybody in Hollywood who’s had the biggest hit movie. Studies indicate the richest and most successful CEOs often treat people badly, often unnecessarily so. Steve Jobs was a colossal jerk, but people loved him with a cult-like passion anyway. Nobody remembers Bill Belichick’s “Spygate” and inflation scandals. Barry Bonds still has the Major League Baseball career home run record. Michael Jordan reportedly had a serious gambling habit during his playing days, and some people wonder if his sudden, short-lived retirement was a deal to avoid a suspension. Few remember; all they remember is every young man in America wanting to “be like Mike.” Winning cures everything.

None of these guys seem to “get it.” You’re convinced this is how the Left won throughout the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s. They stuck with their leader, no matter what happened. They changed their positions overnight if that’s what it took to weather the storm. They ignored every allegation of wrongful behavior and scandal and attacked the accusers. Ben Franklin told his compatriots, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” If the other side gets power, they’ll tear this country apart and target everyone who opposed them for retribution. That means we all just have to accept whatever Trump does in any given day. It’s never that bad, anyway.

So now when you see somebody like David French, you’re convinced he was never on your side all along. Sure, he was there, and he was saying all the right things, and in fact, he was fighting in courtrooms for all of the right causes. But clearly, he defined “winning” very differently than you do. David doesn’t even seem to enjoy it when Trump unleashes against somebody on Twitter. You’re cheering, but David seems to think it doesn’t have any point, that each little daily news cycle about a tirade comes and goes, leaving no lasting impact, other than coarsening our discourse even further. You point out that Trump’s given us tax cuts and judges, but David seems to think any Republican president could have delivered that.

Doesn’t he see the importance of defending Trump now? The Democrats have the House, the Senate’s hanging by a thread, the GOP keeps getting wiped out in suburbs, House Republicans are retiring in droves, and young people are more enthusiastic about socialism than ever before!

Beyond that, alt-right nuts are shooting up Wal-Marts and synagogues and Jewish centers. People with significant public platforms are insisting National Security Council officials aren’t really Americans because they were born overseas. Schools are grappling with a surge of hateful slurs and bullying, the number of swastika graffiti incidents in the New York City area is up 76 percent in two years, anti-Semitic attacks are soaring, and members of all kinds of American citizens are hearing “go back to your country” with disturbing frequency.

A wave of hateful bigots just coincidentally happened to emerge from under rocks during the past three years, as if they perceived some sort of national green light, some sort of giant signal that it was okay to express these views and behave this way. God only knows what could have given them that idea. Either way, the country is coming apart at the seams, so this is no time to abandon the president!

You want to ask David if he’s tired of all the winning yet. But you know how he would respond, and it sticks in your craw. David would probably ask, “what have we really won?”

Because you’re certain you’re winning, in all kinds of ways you’ve never won before. Because if David was right, that would mean you were a fool, somebody who traded a whole lot for a crazy bet that paid off in 2016 but has had diminishing returns since then. And you couldn’t ever, ever possibly be a fool.

ADDENDA: Sorry for the big long one today. A lot of people who loved the first half will probably hate the second half, and a lot of people who hated the first half will probably love the second half . . .

Over on The Editors’ podcast, Rich, Charlie, Michael, and I discuss Gordon Sondland’s Wednesday testimony, conservative disagreements over capitalism, and this week’s Democratic debate . . .

A new episode of Star Wars’ The Mandalorian arrives tonight. I discuss it, as well as lots of NFL news and other non-political oddities like chicken sandwich-related violence, on the pop culture podcast with Mickey . . .

Elections

If You Didn’t Watch the Debate Last Night, You Were the Winner

Candidates in a Democratic presidential debate, Atlanta, Ga., November 20, 2019 (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Last night’s Democratic debate was so boring and tepid it probably won’t change anything; reform-minded Republicans drift towards having a little too much faith in the federal government; an odd comment from one of the current creative voices behind Star Wars; and a vivid demonstration of how the media has hyperventilated through much of Trump’s presidency.

You Probably Missed a Really Inconsequential Debate

This isn’t just the complaint of a right-of-center guy watching a bunch of left-of-center —  some way left-of-center — candidates talk for two hours and twenty minutes. My policy and philosophical disagreements with the candidates are my smallest gripe; I don’t go into these debates expecting to agree with anyone. Nope, the problem is that last night’s debate was boring, with all the energy of a mandatory human-resources-managed seminar on new paperwork requirements held on a Friday afternoon, when everybody’s already mentally checked out and thinking about the weekend. You would never know that last night was, on paper, do-or-die for a bunch of these candidates. If a power outage had canceled last night’s debate, almost nothing would be different this morning.

The problems all start with having ten candidates on that stage.

The Democratic National Committee was so determined to have debates where every candidate would have the opportunity to shine, that they set up a format where no one really gets the opportunity to shine. Driven by fear of being accused of unfairness, they have created a structure that serves no candidate well, meaning that the candidates who walk in with polling leads almost always walk out with the same polling leads. The networks like to promote these debates as if the fate of the country is at stake, but they get dull and repetitive before the first commercial break.

If you have ten candidates, then one of two problems arise. Oftentimes, the moderators will not-so-subtly scrap the idea that everyone should get equal time and ask the most questions of the leading candidates. Last night, Elizabeth Warren spoke for more than thirteen minutes; Andrew Yang spoke for less than seven. Pete Buttigieg spoke for just under thirteen minutes; Tom Steyer spoke for eight and Tulsi Gabbard spoke for nine. The only reason the DNC has so many candidates on stage and enforces this poll-number-and-donor-number threshold, is “fairness.” But then the network moderators say, “nah, never mind.”

The other problem that arises is that as the moderators do work their way around to give the non-frontrunners a shot, candidates disappear from the screen for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. (Yang wasn’t asked a question in the first half-hour and Gabbard got one question and exchange in the entire first hour.) The trailing candidates appear so intermittently, that it practically amounts to a cameo appearance. This means that a candidate’s good answers and exchanges come so infrequently, they barely register with viewers. Cory Booker has had good performances in every debate in the eyes of most observers, but his poll numbers haven’t moved at all.

The early two-night, 20-candidate debates required voters to commit to watching about five hours on consecutive weeknights and distinguishing among Michael Bennet, Tim Ryan, John Hickenlooper, Steve Bullock, Jay Inslee, and John Delany. As noted yesterday, there aren’t many glaring policy differences among these candidates on most issues, so viewers were treated to a series of officials largely unknown outside their home states, making variations of the same arguments.

Ninety seconds is a short period of time to discuss something complicated, like how the United States would completely eliminate the existing system of private health insurance and push all 327 million Americans into a system currently serving 44 million people. Nobody has time to get into the details, so Warren just reiterates what she wants to do, instead of how she will be able to do it: “Let’s bring as many people in and get as much help to the American people as we can as fast as we can. On day one as president, I will do — bring down the cost of prescription drugs on things like insulin and EpiPens.” You have to go online to see Warren is promising to issue an executive order that would have the federal government hire drug manufacturers to produce those medications and sell provide them to patients at prices the federal government deems fair; she has separately introduced legislation to have the federal government to start producing these and other medications itself. Warren would resolve her ongoing frustration with the pharmaceutical industry by turning the federal government into a new market competitor. This is the same federal government that approved and paid for the creation of healthcare.gov and insisted to the American public that it worked when it did not.

If Warren said, “if elected, I will turn the United States government into a new and giant pharmaceutical manufacturer,” do you think some viewers at home might be less enthusiastic and more skeptical of how well the idea would work? Do you think they might recognize that attempting a sweeping change like that might not really generate results “on day one as president”? But we never get into this, because then it’s on to the next question for the next candidate.

The debate audiences are shrinking, and it’s not difficult to see why. Primary voters would be better served by a two-hour debate, with longer lengths of time for answers, featuring just Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg. Those are the top four candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and nationally. The next-highest candidate outside of those four in those states is Kamala Harris in South Carolina, at 6.3 percent in the RealClearPolitics average.

Meanwhile, Over in the GOP

Michael Brendan Dougherty carefully considers a Josh Hawley speech and notes how unusual it is to see a GOP senator offer a “searing piece of cultural criticism, an indictment of America’s economic and social arrangements” when a Republican president is preparing to run for reelection on record of prosperity.

Marco Rubio’s “Common Good Conservatism” and other conservatives expressing more skepticism of the free market are all fascinating, but I remain unconvinced that you’ll have a lot of success trying to fix cultural problems with federal government policy solutions. We’ve got serious and worsening troubles: addiction, suicide, cycles of despair, forgotten communities, isolation, and alienation. But if your plan is to turn to government to fix it, you’re ultimately trusting the same institution we trusted to provide medical care to veterans. The federal government has a lot of good people working for it, but they’re mostly stuck in structures and cultures that incentivize the status quo, punish risk-takers, minimize accountability and disregard efficiency. Could we change that? Maybe, but it won’t be easy, and it won’t happen quickly. The problems we face weren’t created in a small office in a federal building Washington, and they won’t be fixed there.

Do the People Currently Running the Star Wars Franchise Understand What They Have?

Can you stand something a little lighter?

First, as discussed on the recent slightly-delayed edition of the pop culture podcast, so far I’m really enjoying the new Star Wars live-action television show, The Mandalorian. It’s basically a Clint Eastwood Man with No Name-style Western set in the Star Wars universe: a quick-drawing, tight-lipped lone man trying to make an honest living in a rough and remote corner of the universe.

Back when a lot of Star Wars fans were reacting with great disappointment to The Last Jedi — and in some cases, apoplexy — I remember reading furious screeds denouncing Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and getting the sense that she had turned into a convenient scapegoat. After all, the problems with The Last Jedi are probably primarily the fault of writer and director Rian Johnson. Kennedy’s biggest mistake appeared to be letting J.J. Abrams go in one story direction for the seventh Star Wars film and then letting Johnson go in a dramatically different direction for the eighth and hoping the differences would work themselves out. (They didn’t.)

But now in a new interview with Rolling Stone, Kennedy made a comment that seems oddly uninformed about the gargantuan pop culture mythos she’s supposed to be running:

Every one of these movies is a particularly hard nut to crack. There’s no source material. We don’t have comic books. We don’t have 800-page novels. We don’t have anything other than passionate storytellers who get together and talk about what the next iteration might be.

I suppose her point is to draw a contrast with something like Marvel, where most of the characters have at least a cult following from fans reading the comic books in their younger days.

Maybe it was just a momentarily lapse of memory on Kennedy’s part, but Star Wars has a ton of source material in the form of comic books and novels. In 1991, Bantam commissioned Timothy Zahn to continue the story of the original trilogy and he published Heir to the Empire. By the mid-1990s, fans were offered about ten to twelve new Star Wars novels a year. (Almost all of the early novels featured some awesome Drew Struzan art on the cover.) Around this time, Dark Horse Comics launched a number of comic book series set after the original trilogy. A few years earlier, West End Games had launched the old role-playing game, allowing players to create their own rebels running around the galaxy fighting the Empire and exploring the world.

I’m not going to lie; the quality of these stories varies a lot. Zahn’s trilogy was perhaps the most highly regarded, and a lot of novels recycled “what’s left of the Empire has designed another superweapon” storylines. But the novels, comic books, video games, and other stories created what fans started to call the “Expanded Universe.”

When Disney bought Star Wars, they declared that future films and television series and projects would not be bound by what was written before, that that the old novels and comics were no longer considered ‘canon’ — that is, if a future screenwriter or director under Disney wanted to contradict something that had happened in the previously-written non-film materials, Disney would give them the green light. The “Expanded Universe” was erased, and this irked fans of those works. But it was understandable that Disney would want to allow its own creative teams to go in any direction they liked. You might think that the new teams might want to peruse the old materials, just for inspiration, and a few characters, like Grand Admiral Thrawn, have indeed popped up in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels and ships and characters from Star Wars: Rebels were spotted in the background of Rogue One.

But this comment from Kennedy seems a little weird; it suggests that she either doesn’t know about all the earlier expanded material or they’ve become so non-canon that she sees them as unusable in any form, even as story elements. Marvel isn’t recreating the old comics with precision; their movies take bits and pieces and concepts from various well-liked issues and storylines and blends them all together.

ADDENDUM: Erick Erickson is right; we’ve seen so many “bombshells” and “tipping points” in coverage of Trump’s presidency that people are immune to this stuff. Gordon Sondland — Trump donor, Trump appointee, part of the Trump team up until very recently — declaring “Was there a quid pro quo? . . . The answer is yes” should be seen as a big deal. The White House has been insisting for weeks that there was no quid pro quo, and their explanation is no longer operative, as they used to say in the Watergate days. But a significant chunk of the public probably sees it all as the Mueller investigation in reruns.

Elections

It’s Debate Night Again. Try to Control Your Excitement.

The audience listens during the. Democratic presidential candidates debate in Westerville, Ohio, October 15, 2019. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Democrats hold another debate tonight, showcasing a colossally mismanaged process that has done little to serve viewers at home, undecided primary voters, or the candidates themselves; taking bets on whether Tulsi Gabbard rips Hillary Clinton a new one this evening; why so many presidential candidates seem like hapless “nice guys” looking for a date; and why this allegedly dramatic and historical impeachment process is changing zero minds.

It’s Safe to Say Some Candidates Will Drop Out Soon, but the Rest Still Have the Same Issues

Brace yourselves, America: There’s another Democratic presidential debate tonight.

This is the seventh night that Democratic candidates have gathered for a nationally televised debate, and that stage still has ten people running for president on it. If you’ve watched them all, you’ve watched 15 hours of arguments about whether critics of Medicare for All were too timid, which candidate was most upset about the president’s latest outrage, preplanned one-liners from Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden trying to finish a sentence with the same thought that he began with moments earlier.

Candidates who didn’t qualify for tonight’s debate, I’m sorry to be the one break it to you, but it’s just not happening for you this cycle. You can keep running, but I imagine at this point these candidates must feel like ethereal ghosts — they can see everything happening around them, but no one seems to hear them, almost no one seems to see them, they cannot tangibly alter what’s going on around them, and they rarely show up in photographs or on video.

Maryland representative John Delaney, you showed a bit of common sense by urging Democrats to not take away health insurance from people who are currently happy with what they’ve got. Montana governor Steve Bullock, Democrats would be wise to listen to you about the value in treating red-state voters with respect instead of contempt. HUD Secretary Julian Castro, you almost seem to have been mistreated, to be so built up as the candidate of tomorrow in past cycles and then so largely ignored in this one. Retired admiral Joe Sestak, a better Democratic Party would at least have given you a serious look. Marianne Williamson, you were always riveting, and many of us share your worries about the soul of the country. May the Force be with you.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet . . . you were there, too.

The two new candidates — Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick — also won’t be on stage tonight. Bloomberg is probably walking around with a checkbook, ready to ask Tom Steyer who he has to pay to buy a space on the next debate stage. Steyer’s run spent about $47 million through September 30, mostly on television ads in the early states, which has been just good enough to meet the DNC’s debate thresholds in early polls.

To get on stage in December — a debate held six days before Christmas, because the Democratic National Committee is run by morons — the new guys will need to hit four percent in at least four national or early-state polls and have 200,000 unique donors. These guys shouldn’t be so convinced that if they qualify for that next debate stage, they’ll take off like a rocket. Does anybody think we’re one breakout moment away from Amy Klobuchar turning this whole race upside down? Cory Booker’s been fine in all of his debate performances, but none of them have moved the needle.

Who are these debates for, and what are they intended to do? If you’re an undecided Democratic primary voter who’s watching at home, you probably want to know what makes each candidate distinct. Viewers need to see how the candidates differ, and that inevitably means arguing — you know, a debate. The moment Booker jumps in with his usual, “why are we fighting amongst ourselves, that’s just what the Republicans want!” everyone should turn in unison and tell him to grow up. If you want the status quo, let everyone hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” If you’re one of the trailing candidates, you have to say, “I am a better choice than the frontrunner, and here’s why.”

Except . . . who is the frontrunner? I’d argue it’s still Joe Biden. A lot of rival campaigns and other Democrats are acting like Biden’s campaign has collapsed, except it hasn’t collapsed. He’s still doing okay in Iowa and New Hampshire. He’s still got a lead in Nevada, and a big lead in South Carolina.

It’s not difficult to picture to Biden hanging on and ending with the most delegates, because the rest of the field prematurely turned their attacks towards Elizabeth Warren or even Pete Buttigieg, as he appears to be leading in Iowa now. Earlier this week, this newsletter noted that the 15 to 20 percent of Democrats who are still with Bernie Sanders are probably not jumping off the bandwagon anytime soon; they stuck with him through a heart attack. Those 20 to 25 percent of Democrats currently sticking with Biden have endured lousy debate performances, a parade of his usual gaffes, minimal interviews, and campaign events, really “meh” fundraising numbers. If those folks were inclined to jump off the bandwagon, they probably would have done it by now. They’re not looking for a reason to bail. They’re convinced he’s the safest bet and they’re going to ride that horse as far as it can take them.

Could Biden have some moment where he seems so out of it that even his diehard supporters jump ship? Sure. To the extent these nights have any drama, that’s a big part of it.

At Least We Still Have Tulsi Gabbard to Make Tonight Interesting

One of the late surprises — and from where I sit, a pleasant one — is that Tulsi Gabbard qualified for tonight’s debate. The Hawaii congresswoman is understandably livid about Hillary Clinton’s contention that she’s being groomed by either the Russians or the Republican Party and that she’s prepping for a third-party presidential campaign. None of the other candidates will want to go anywhere near this fight, but it’s quite possible that on prime-time television, Gabbard will drag out an uncomfortable truth: since her brutally disappointing defeat in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton has more or less gone nuts. She’s contended white husbands pressure their wives to vote for Republicans, white sons pressure their mothers, and white male bosses pressure their employees to vote for the GOP. She claims “voter suppression” is the single-biggest reason she lost. She’s theorized that “if President Obama had made a televised address to the nation in the fall of 2016 warning that our democracy was under attack, maybe more Americans would have woken up to the threat in time.” She’s also blamed the media, James Comey, Bernie Sanders, Russia, Jill Stein, sexism, and racism.

We can all laugh at this epic-scale blame-throwing, but there’s a consequence to Clinton’s periodic scapegoating outbursts. All around the world, authoritarians like Putin and Xi Jinping are arguing that democracies and free societies don’t really work as well as they think they do. Free societies get paralyzed by division, because squabbling factions refuse to accept the legitimacy of any election they lose. They choose to believe farfetched conspiracy theories to explain away any loss, sow anger and resentment, demonize their domestic political opponents, and reject any compromise with an obviously malevolent opposition. The Putins of the world contend that only strong leaders, with far-reaching powers and unquestioned authorities, can build stable societies.

The great irony is that Hillary Clinton has become exactly what she warned about on the campaign trail in 2016, and a lot of Democrats are not as far away from Trump’s worst habits as they like to believe. They have their own conspiracy theories, their own angry demonization of opponents, and their own contentions that the opposition’s election victories aren’t really legitimate.

The Troubled Candidacies of ‘Nice Guys’

Back in 2012, Cracked writer David Wong offered a bit of relationship advice to young men who found it difficult to find a girlfriend, despite the empirically-verified self-assessment that they are “nice guys.”

Don’t complain about how girls fall for jerks; they fall for those jerks because those jerks have other things they can offer. “But I’m a great listener!” Are you? Because you’re willing to sit quietly in exchange for the chance to be in the proximity of a pretty girl (and spend every second imagining how soft her skin must be)? Well, guess what, there’s another guy in her life who also knows how to do that, and he can play the guitar. Saying that you’re a nice guy is like a restaurant whose only selling point is that the food doesn’t make you sick. You’re like a new movie whose title is This Movie Is in English, and its tagline is “The actors are clearly visible.”

Both the 2016 Republican presidential primary and the 2020 Democratic presidential primary offer a wide selection of candidates who are the equivalent of “nice guys.” They were perfectly fine senators, governors, members of the House. (You could make a case that some of my favorite options from four years ago were in this category — Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio.) But running for president is different, particularly in a crowded field of other perfectly fine senators, governors, members of the House.

You’ve got an ambitious plan for urban housing? Terrific, so does everybody else. (Notice Democrats aren’t nearly as focused on helping small towns and rural America.)

Every Democratic candidate is outraged by the actions of President Trump, supportive of abortion rights; deeply concerned about climate change and promising bold action to address it; determined to rebuild our alliances while simultaneously avoiding war and bringing our troops home; eager to raise taxes on the rich; ready to have the government take a much bigger role in providing health care while promising no delays, quality care, and no premiums, copays, or deductibles; deeply alarmed about white privilege; and planning to completely overhaul a criminal justice system they’ve deemed racist and prejudiced. Almost all of them want to offer taxpayer-funded health care to those in the country illegally, decriminalize crossing the border, and want to at minimum, completely reform how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operates, if not abolish it entirely. All of them want to enact sweeping gun control proposals in one form or another. All of them think Trump’s tariffs are a terrible idea but that they will somehow enact a completely different form of “fair trade.” All of them lament “our crumbling roads and bridges” that were supposed to be fixed by the stimulus and the past few big transportation bills and promise a vast new infrastructure spending initiative.

All of the above makes a Democratic candidate the equivalent of a “nice guy” on the dating scene. That’s nice, what else do you have?

ADDENDA: Why I’m not riveted by the impeachment hearings, as summarized by two quotes that other morning newsletter run by Politico:

Quote one: “As of right now, every single Republican would vote against impeachment in the House, multiple senior-level GOP lawmakers and aides told us.”

Quote two: “Despite what Speaker Nancy Pelosi says publicly, every single Democrat we speak to is completely certain that they will impeach Trump. No more facts are needed, they say.”

Whatever impeachment is supposed to be, it has turned into just another partisan battle — just like our Supreme Court confirmation hearings, almost all of our legislation, most of our national security discussions, most of our efforts regarding the economy . . .

White House

The Impeachment Testimony’s Revelations about Biden and Burisma

George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 13, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: What George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch said about Burisma and the Bidens; the DNC fears a widely respected journalist as a debate moderator; and a columnist who never saw partisanship in Eric Holder runs to the fainting couch over a speech from William Barr.

Did Hunter Biden’s Dealings with Bursima Affect Obama’s Ukraine Policy?

George Kent is the career diplomat who has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs since September 2018. In his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last week, he described the president’s actions as “wrong for the rule of law,” and for most news organizations, that was the big, and perhaps the only headline of note.

I’m not interested in defending the president using his personal lawyer to create a back channel to a foreign government about investigating a political rival, because that’s not how we investigate crimes in this country. We have well-trained, well-funded, professional, experienced, nonpartisan, and legitimate law-enforcement agencies to handle those investigations. (Don’t object to the term “nonpartisan” in there. The president nominates the FBI director; if Trump doesn’t trust the Bureau, it’s his own darn fault for not nominating someone he does trust.) I am interested in whether Hunter Biden’s role with Burisma ever influenced Obama administration or U.S. foreign policy, because if it did, 1) Biden shouldn’t be president and his family should be disgraced, and 2) it reveals that foreign interests are attempting to corruptly influence U.S. policy in ways well beyond a bunch of heavy-handed Facebook ads.

A section of the testimony of Kent that has received almost no public scrutiny and discussion:

REPUBLICAN COUNSEL STEVE CASTOR: And the — the company Burisma, its — its leader, [Mykola Vladislavovich] Zlochevsky, he has a — a little bit of a storied history of corruption, doesn’t he?

KENT: Mr. Zlochevsky was minister of energy from 2010 to 2012 under the pro-Russian government, and he used his regulatory authority to award gas exploration licenses to companies that he himself controlled. That would be considered an act of corruption in my view, yes.

CASTOR: Certainly self-dealing.

KENT: Certainly self-dealing and self-enriching.

CASTOR: And — and how did the Ukrainian government ultimately pursue that?

KENT: In the spring of 2014, the Ukrainian government, the new government after the Revolution of Dignity, turned to partners, particularly the U.S. and the U.K., to try to recover tens of billions of dollars of stolen assets. The first case that we tried to recover that money came from Mr. Zlochevsky. Serious Crimes Office in the U.K. had already opened up an investigation. They worked with us and the Ukrainian authorities to develop more information. The — the $23 million was frozen until somebody in the General Prosecutors Office of Ukraine shut the case, issued a letter to his lawyer and that money went ‘poof.’

CASTOR: So essentially paid a bribe to make the case go away.

KENT: That is our strong assumption, yes, sir.

CASTOR: OK. Now, at any point in time has — has any — anyone in the Ukrainian government tried to reinvestigate that, or did that — did those crimes just go unpunished, and was he free to go?

KENT: Mr. Zlochevsky spent time, as far as I understand, in — in Moscow and Monaco after he fled Ukraine. We continue to raise, as a point of order, that because U.S. taxpayer dollars had been used to try to recover frozen assets, that we have a fiduciary responsibility, and we continue to press Ukrainian officials to answer for why alleged corrupt prosecutors had closed a case, and we have ’til now not gotten a satisfactory answer. So to summarize, we thought that Mykola Zlochevsky had stolen money. We thought a prosecutor had taken a bribe to shut the case, and those were our main concerns.

CASTOR: And are you in favor of that matter being fully investigated and prosecuted?

KENT: I think, since U.S. taxpayer dollars were wasted, I would love to see the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office find who the corrupt prosecutor was that took the bribe and how much that was paid, and that’s what I said to the deputy prosecutor general on February 3, 2015.

CASTOR: But over the years it’s been involved in — in a number of questionable dealings, correct?

KENT: I would say that it’s the largest private gas producer in the country, and its business reputation is mixed.

CASTOR: OK. Now, this — the — the bribe was paid in what year?

KENT: To the best of my knowledge, the case against Zlochevsky, the former minister, was shut down December of 2014.

Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma in April 2014. Joe Biden visited Ukraine three times in 2014: April 21-22; June 6; Nov. 20-21. The meeting that Biden famously discussed at the Council on Foreign Relations was actually from December 2015.

Castor asked Kent several questions about Hunter Biden’s qualifications for the board, and Kent answered that he had no idea why Hunter Biden was named to the board of Burisma.

CASTOR: Do you know if he possesses any other elements other than the fact that he is the son of, at the time, the sitting vice president?

KENT: I do not.

Kent testified that he communicated with the vice president’s office about Hunter Biden joining the Burisma board: “My concern was that there was the possibility of a perception of a conflict of interest.”

CASTOR: OK, but you know Hunter Biden’s role in Burisma’s board of directors. At some point you testified in your deposition that you expressed some concern to the Vice President’s Office. Is that correct?

KENT: That is correct.

CASTOR: And what did they do about that concern that you expressed?

KENT: I have no idea. I reported my concern to the Office of the Vice President.

Now let’s move on to a less-discussed section of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony, discussing the May 2016 appointment of Yuriy Vitaliyovych Lutsenko to become the prosecutor general of Ukraine, a position he held until August 2019. Remember, the United States provided money to the Ukranian government to fight corruption, but instead, the Ukrainian government had unfrozen assets of Burisma and the head of Burisma, Zlochevsky, fled the country.

YOVANOVITCH: The U.S. was welcoming of Mr. Lutsenko’s nomination to the position of prosecutor general because we were hoping he would clean that up. That, in fact, is not what happened.

In fact, the new prosecutor that the Obama administration seemed so initially pleased with didn’t do much different: “Lutsenko initially took a hard line against Burisma, within 10 months after he took office, Burisma announced that Mr. Lutsenko and the courts had ‘fully closed all ‘legal proceedings and pending criminal allegations’ against Zlochevsky and his companies.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration knew that it had, at minimum the appearance of a conflict of interest, and their strategy appeared to be to simply hope no one noticed.

STEFANIK: But let’s take a first — a step back. The first time you personally became aware of Burisma was actually when you were being prepared by the Obama State Department for your Senate confirmation hearings. And this was in the form of practiced questions and answers, this was your deposition. And you testified that in this particular practice Q&A with the Obama State Department, it wasn’t just generally about Burisma and corruption, it was specifically about Hunter Biden and Burisma. Is that correct?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes, it is.

She later added that she was instructed, if members of Congress asked about Burisma, to refer the question to the vice president’s office — the same office that heard the concerns of Kent and, as far as we can tell, ignored them. (She was not asked about Hunter Biden or Burisma at her confirmation hearing.)

In 2013, Ukraine received a total of $74 million in U.S. foreign aid. By 2014, after the Euromaidan revolution changed control of the government, U.S. aid jumped to $113 million, increased slightly the following year, and by 2016 it was up to $145 million — and this is just in direct aid and grants, separate from the loan guarantees; between May 2014 — the month after Hunter Biden joins the Burisma board — and June 2016 — the U.S. gave Ukraine three separate $1 billion loan guarantees.

Can anyone imagine any reason why a Ukrainian government that had received so much aid from the U.S. government, at the direction of the Obama administration, would be reluctant to complete an investigation into a company that had the U.S vice president’s son on its corporate board?

DNC: We Can’t Have Any Moderators Who May Have Been Exposed to Conservative Cooties

The Democratic National Committee keeps finding new ways to make the presidential primary debates worse; now they’re afraid of Tim Alberta, because he worked at National Review for a year.

Washington Post Columnist Suddenly Discovers Partisanship in the Attorney General’s Office

Ruth Marcus warns us about the “partisan tone” of a recent speech by Attorney General William Barr. She writes:

As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, however, the attorney general also stands separate from and above the ordinary Cabinet secretary, able to impartially administer justice, without regard to political considerations. While other Cabinet secretaries may campaign for political candidates, it has been the practice of attorneys general to refrain from such partisan activity.

Oddly, I can find no indication of her objecting in 2013, then-Attorney General Eric Holder declared, “I’m still the President’s wing-man, so I’m there with my boy.”

No, the only time her column mentions Holder is in reference to the House holding him in contempt for not turning over documents relating to the “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling operation.

ADDENDUM: And you thought you were tough on Elizabeth Warren! Janice Williamson is a 67-year-old voter in Wakefield, Mass., who attended a Pete Buttigieg event in Manchester, N.H. She told BuzzFeed of Warren, “When I hear her talk, I want to slap her, even if I agree with her.”

White House

Democrats Are Finding the Road to 2020 to Be Much Bumpier Than Expected

Sen. Bernie Sanders listens as former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic presidential candidates debate in Westerville, Ohio, October 15, 2019. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Democrats brace themselves for a hard-fought primary that lasts all the way into the summer; the British Royal family embarrasses themselves on two continents; more violence in Hong Kong; and finding a silver lining in a frustrating autumn.

Democrats Are Caught in Impeachment Hearings, and without a Good Candidate

Some days politics can be dreadfully boring, and other days it has all the sensory overload of crowd-surfing during a rave in a minefield under a fireworks display.

First, Democrats realized that they arranged for the likely Senate impeachment trial to begin in January — right before the pivotal weeks of the Iowa caucuses Feb. 3 — and that it could run anywhere from five to eight weeks. (All for the predictable outcome of a vote to convict that falls well short of the two-thirds required.) Bad news for senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Michael Bennet. Some of them will probably drop out of the race before then, but you have to wonder if any would be sufficiently consumed by ambition to blow off the impeachment trial in order to campaign in those early states.

But here’s the second painful realization for Democrats: The odds that any candidate will quickly unify the party are shrinking rapidly:

“I have never seen a situation where the likelihood that this thing will go to a convention without a candidate having a majority of the delegates is higher than it is today,” said one of the strategists, who assumes Bloomberg will formally enter the race and win some delegates. “You will have multiple winners at the front end, none of whom will match the resources of a person at the end of the process.”

. . . They also point to Senator Bernie Sanders’s medical and political rebound from a heart attack, which suggests he could battle Senator Elizabeth Warren for liberal voters for months. One delegate counter admitted to concluding it is now “more likely than not” that no one gets a majority of pledged delegates, largely because of Sanders’s continued strength and the likelihood that he will continue to campaign even if he is trailing late in the primary contest.

Bernie Sanders won 13.2 million votes in the Democratic primary, good for 43 percent overall. He’s polling in the high teens in most early states and nationally. This means he’s lost most of his fair-weather supporters; the 15 to 20 percent left are the die-hards, who already saw a reasonable opportunity to jump off the bandwagon with the heart attack. Those 15 to 20 percent are probably not changing to another candidate until Sanders departs the race.

Republicans shouldn’t get too confident; on Election Day 2020, the vast majority of self-identified Democrats are going to vote for the Democratic nominee. From the Bernie-loving self-proclaimed socialists to the limousine liberals who prefer Bloomberg or wished Howard Schultz had run, all of these factions more or less loathe Donald Trump with the passion of a thousand suns going supernova and are willing to run across broken glass barefoot like John McClane to vote to ensure Trump’s defeat.

The catch is that it doesn’t take that many Democratic defectors to shift the outcome on Election Day. In 2016, according to the exit polls, among the demographic of self-identified Democratic men, 15 percent voted for Trump in Pennsylvania, and among this group Trump won 14 percent in Ohio, 13 percent in Iowa, 11 percent in Florida, 10 percent in North Carolina, and 9 percent in Michigan. Among self-identified Democratic women, Trump’s numbers were smaller but still a bit surprising: Trump won 10 percent in Michigan and Ohio, 9 percent in Pennsylvania, and 7 percent in Florida, Iowa, and North Carolina. Couple that with lower-than-expected turnout among key Democratic groups like African Americans, and Trump had just enough votes in just enough places to win the presidency.

A rerun of that scenario is pretty plausible. If Democratic leaders still had a smoke-filled room to select the nominee, they would calculate that the Democratic voters who are most likely to drift off to Trump are blue-collar, white-working class voters in the upper Midwest. (I would add working-class women who own guns as another key demographic, as that’s where the NRA focused the vast majority of their get-out-the-vote efforts in 2016. One other demographic to keep an eye on: African-American gun owners. There are roughly 30,000 members of the National African American Gun Association, and roughly 24 percent of African-American households have a member who owns a gun.)

If Democrats want to win, they would nominate an upper-Midwesterner who is most popular with these demographics, and throttle back on the gun control talk and promise that any union member who was enjoying good health benefits through their contract could keep them. Maybe Biden could win back those voters who drifted from Obama to Trump in 2016. Pete Buttigieg doesn’t have quite the right resume and background, but at least he’s more or less from the right part of the country and can point to his military service.

Elizabeth Warren, arguably the frontrunner or near-frontrunner, is a Harvard Law professor who wants to quintuple the federal tax on ammunition, triple the tax on firearms purchases, create a federal licensing system in addition to existing state ones, and limiting the number of guns a person can purchase; meanwhile, the AFL-CIO says it can’t support Medicare for All unless it carves out exceptions for existing union contracts. Warren does not seem like the most natural fit to win back those voters, nor the candidate most likely to boost African-American or Latino turnout.

For a bunch of collectivists, Democrats have a really hard time getting all of their oars rowing in the same direction.

Royal Embarrassments

I know we’ve already had a revolution against the British crown, but can we do it again, just to re-emphasize the point?

When Prince Andrew set out to explain his friendship with the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in a BBC interview broadcast Saturday night, it backfired predictably.

Viewers were left shaking their heads at the wisdom of consenting to a polite-but-relentless grilling by the journalist Emily Maitlis in the first place. Many said they found his statements alternately defensive, unpersuasive, or just plain strange.

Prince Andrew, also known as the Duke of York, repeatedly denied accusations by Virginia Roberts Giuffre that he had sex with her when she was 17 years old and had been offered to him by Mr. Epstein. Under insistent questioning by Ms. Maitlis, the duke insisted he had “no recollection” of meeting Ms. Giuffre.

But he could not explain the photograph taken in a London house that appeared to show him with his arm around the girl’s bare waist, and with Mr. Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, smiling in the background.

The whole interview comes across as almost a parody of an oblivious royal, protected by layers of entitlement and tradition and unearned respect, and barely able to understand the severity of the crimes being discussed.

When asked whether he regretted his relationship with Mr. Epstein, which continued after the financier served time for soliciting a minor for prostitution, Prince Andrew said: “Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.”

“Unbecoming?” the BBC interviewer, Ms. Maitlis, replied with a tone of incredulity. “He was a sex offender.”

If he’s not lying — and he probably is — Prince Andrew’s galactic-level naiveite makes Bertie Wooster look Harvey Keitel’s “the Wolf” from Pulp Fiction.

Meanwhile, another royal visited another kingdom, and created an embarrassment almost as bad as the one above:

Sarah Ferguson, Britain’s Duchess of York, said that she was moved by the warm welcome she has received from the people of Saudi Arabia. She added that it was a reflection of the good example set by the country’s rulers.

“I love the feeling of kindness that I’m getting from the people of Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News on Wednesday which, appropriately, was International Kindness Day.

“Everyone has been so nice here in Riyadh; I think that comes from good leadership.”

She compared this wonderful reception to her experiences in other places “where people are judgmental of you,” adding: “I don’t feel that here. I feel people are embracing me as ‘Sarah’ and that is such a beautiful feeling.”

Because that’s the first thought that comes to mind regarding Saudi Arabia: They’re not judgmental! Certainly not in a country with a public square used for ritual beheading punishments nicknamed “Crop Chop Square!” I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t even known that the Duchess of York felt judged when she traveled to so many places. What a tragedy. Thank goodness she’s found that visitors are nice to royalty in Riyadh!

Firebombs and Bows and Arrows in Hong Kong

Hey, remember when we cared about Hong Kong? All that controversy about the NBA and all that?

Just because American news media stops paying attention, doesn’t mean the conflict stops:

Hundreds of Hong Kong activists armed with firebombs and bows-and-arrows on Monday battled riot police who have laid a days-long siege to a university, the most violent confrontation yet in a half-year of protests.

Early Monday, the police tried storming the campus at the main entrance and made some arrests. But the occupiers fought back with dozens of firebombs and set barricades ablaze, forcing the police to retreat.

Sure, the NBA is embarrassing itself by continuing to play footsie with a brutal regime that is attempting a crackdown of pro-democracy protesters. But it sure would be nice to get the president to offer a statement of support, too!

ADDENDUM: How do you define a silver lining? I would say it’s watching your favorite football team have an egregiously disappointing season but still being able to give flak to fans of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins.

Back when I was a kid and we went to Jets games regularly, during those long, blustery halftimes we would usually watch some local college or high school marching band. Yesterday at the Jets-Redskins game, we fans were treated to watching the U.S. Army’s Silver Wings Parachute Team. No offense to the marching bands, but watching guys parachute into the stadium is better!

Elections

These New Candidates Come with Heavy Baggage

Michael Bloomberg speaks in the Manhattan borough of New York, N.Y, May 30, 2019. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Let’s close out this week with a quartet of surprises . . . that may not be quite so surprising, depending upon your level of cynicism: Michael Bloomberg was apparently a raging sexist before running for mayor; Deval Patrick made an egregious decision about a convicted sex offender while governor; Rashida Tlaib has run afoul of Federal Election Commission rules about payments to candidates; and Ivanka Trump has turned out to be a lot wonkier than I expected.

Michael Bloomberg, Notorious Creep

The New York Times reminds us that Michael Bloomberg, the divorced and never-remarried 14th-richest man in the world who has declared he’s automatically going to heaven, was once notoriously crude in his public comments about women:

It was a cheeky birthday gift for a hard-charging boss, a 32-page book of one-liners compiled by colleagues at his company. “The Portable Bloomberg: The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg,” presented in 1990 to the future mayor of New York City, even featured drawings of its namesake in gladiatorial garb.

One remark attributed to Mr. Bloomberg went like this: “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale’s.” Another line, purportedly Mr. Bloomberg’s sales pitch for his eponymous computer terminal, said the machine will “do everything,” including oral sex, although a cruder term was used.

“I guess,” Mr. Bloomberg was quoted as saying, “that puts a lot of you girls out of business.”

This is separate from other allegations that portray Bloomberg as a shockingly obnoxious to women who worked for him:

From 1996 to 1997, four women filed sexual-harassment or discrimination suits against Bloomberg the company. One of the suits included the following allegation: When Sekiko Sakai Garrison, a sales representative at the company, told Mike Bloomberg she was pregnant, he replied, “Kill it!” (Bloomberg went on, she alleged, to mutter, “Great, No. 16”—a reference, her complaint said, to the 16 women at the company who were then pregnant.) To these allegations, Garrison added another one: Even prior to her pregnancy, she claimed, Bloomberg had antagonized her by making disparaging comments about her appearance and sexual desirability. “What, is the guy dumb and blind?” he is alleged to have said upon seeing her wearing an engagement ring. “What the hell is he marrying you for?”

If he spoke to your girlfriend, wife, mother, sister or daughter that way, you’d want to reach down and punch him.

Bloomberg is the former pot-smoker who cracked down on marijuana users as mayor, the notoriously unhealthy eater who tried to ban large sodas, and the guy who travels with armed guards who is vehemently opposed to private gun ownership. His proposal to prevent African-American victims of gun violence was declaring police should seize guns from male minorities between ages 15 and 25, telling an audience that police should “throw them up against the wall and frisk them . . . We put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do you do it? Because that’s where all the crime is.”

He is here to turn your rights into privileges, America. If Michael Bloomberg didn’t exist, conservatives and libertarians would have to invent him as their ultimate villain.

Deval Patrick’s ‘Family Values’

Meanwhile, a revelation like this should end Deval Patrick’s presidential campaign before it starts. Let’s go back to Patrick’s time as governor:

In 1993, [Bernard Sigh] pleaded guilty of spousal rape in a case involving his wife, who is [Deval] Patrick’s sister. Controversy that followed the case during Patrick’s run for governor intensified in 2014 after a lawsuit over Patrick’s decision to fire the head of the Sex Offender Registry Board, Saundra Edwards. Edwards accused Patrick of retaliating against her efforts to get Sigh to register as a sex offender. Patrick has said he believed Edwards sought to influence the case “inappropriately.”

Let’s make one thing clear: governors should not be intervening in legal decisions that involve their brothers-in-law, and they should not be firing people who made decisions against their brothers-in-law. It is just about the most glaring conflict-of-interest imaginable.

Edwards sued Patrick for defamation, but a court ruled that she could not prove actual malice. Her lawsuit against the state for wrongful termination is ongoing.

Then, in 2017, Bernard Sigh was again arrested on charges of assault to rape, as well as assault and battery on a household member, in a case prosecutors said was “very similar” to the 1993 circumstances. Prosecutors indicted Sigh on additional charges later, and in June of this year, Sigh was convicted on two counts of rape, kidnapping, stalking, witness intimidation and violating a restraining order, and sentenced to six to eight years in prison.

Again, this is the man who Deval Patrick insisted did not need to be registered as a sex offender and intervened to keep off the sex offender list.

You Can’t Get Paid That Way, Congresswoman Tlaib

The House of Representatives Office of Congressional Ethics approved an investigation and review of Rashida Tlaib and her congressional committee, declaring there is “substantial reason to believe that Rep. Tlaib converted campaign funds from Rashida Tlaib for Congress to personal use or Rep. Tlaib’s campaign committee expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes” and that she “may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.” The vote was 5-0.

In case you’re wondering about that federal law, a candidate can be paid a salary by a campaign under certain circumstances, but the Federal Election Commission specifically states, “salary payments may continue until the date when the candidate is no longer considered a candidate for office or until the date of the general election or general election runoff.” Tlaib’s campaign paid her $45,500.00 between May 7, 2018 and December 1, 2018, but $17,500 of that amount was paid to her after Election Day.  The OCE noted that the December 1, 2018 check — for $15,500 — “includes a notation with the dates ‘11/16 – 12/31.’” Election Day was November 6 that year.

Tlaib insists she’s done nothing wrong and is cooperating fully with the inquiry, but the committee notes she declined an interview and her staff did as well.

For obvious reasons, the FEC doesn’t want candidates using campaign donations for personal use and puts strict rules on how a candidate can be paid by a campaign. Donors are giving money to elect the candidate, not help the candidate cover the regular expenses of life. Incumbents can’t collect salaries from campaigns at all, the salary can’t exceed the income from the previous year, and payments can’t start before the candidate formally files to run for office.

Ivanka Trump Knows What She’s Talking About on Family Leave Policy.

I was able to catch Ramesh’s conversation with Ivanka Trump about family leave policy, an event organized by the National Review Institute at the Washington offices of Google.  You can watch the conversation here.

I’m not a huge fan of having presidential relatives heading up policy initiatives in a White House; when your brother is attorney general or your wife is putting together your health care plan, it’s really hard to overrule them or dismiss them if they do a bad job. But I was pleasantly surprised — Ivanka Trump knows this issue backwards and forwards. Ramesh is one of the smartest guys I know, and Ivanka was well-versed in the details of policy, the competing policy proposals on Capitol Hill, and the currents and dynamics that have to be managed to put together a majority to pass legislation on this issue. If I had to describe her from watching her in person, I’d use the term “extraordinarily poised.”

On paper, there’s room for a bipartisan consensus here; social conservatives are increasingly comfortable requiring employers to give a little more help to new parents, and Democrats always want to regulate everything — er, I mean they’re open to enacting new rules to make businesses more responsive to the needs of working parents. Trump kept emphasizing that parents who have access to paid leave after giving birth or adopting a child are significantly less likely to go on public assistance, so this policy can be justified on fiscal grounds. If you can keep people off of welfare, you never face the challenge of getting them off of it and back into the workforce.

ADDENDUM: Life as a conservative on social media: “Wow, I lost about 1,000 Twitter followers overnight . . . Did Twitter just clear out some bots? Or are they somehow automatically having people unfollow me? Or is it just that a surprising number of my followers are loyal to Adam Gase? The Facebook work page is reaching way fewer Facebook users than it usually does . . . is it the algorithm? Am I being shadow-banned? Am I just not as share-able as I used to be?”

White House

Everyone’s Already Decided If They Want Trump to Be Impeached

U.S. President Donald Trump on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, November 2, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: slogging through the predictable arguments of impeachment; speculation about a coming epic betrayal in the Democratic primary; and some long-delayed auditory fun.

Impeachment Moves Along Like a Kidney Stone

I realize those of us in the news business aren’t supposed to admit this, but impeachment bores me. We know the basic facts; we all decided whether we thought the president’s acts were worthy of impeachment and removal a long while ago; we know almost all the Democrats are going to vote for impeachment and remove; we know almost all the Republicans will vote against impeaching and removal. The only question is how slowly and painfully this process moves towards a resolution. Right now, it’s got all the momentum of a kidney stone.

As suggested in yesterday’s Corner post, I think Trump’s actions are pretty darn shady and an abuse of his powers, and there needs to be some consequence to deter him and future presidents from using the powers of the office to encourage foreign governments from getting into partisan American politics. But the established precedent is that the bar to remove a president from office is high — much higher than I thought it ought to be, back in 1998 — and there’s no getting around the fact that many of the president’s foes have sought to impeach him since he took office, on any reason they can find. On February 10, about three weeks into Trump’s presidency, the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling offered a survey, finding that 46 percent of all respondents supported the impeachment of President Trump, and 80 percent of all self-identified Democrats did. Representative Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) tweeted, “get ready for impeachment” on March 21, 2017, and Ted Lieu announced he was reading up on it. Way back on May 21, 2017, Ben Domenech predicted, “Democrats will impeach Trump if they win the House regardless of what the investigation finds” — and the investigation he was referring to was one about collusion with the Russians. I hope he bet a lot of money on that outcome.

The House voted on resolutions that included articles of impeachment on December 6, 2017; January 19, 2018; July 16, 2019, and finally voted to begin the current inquiry on October 31. The “coup” rhetoric from Trump and his defenders is hyperbolic and overwrought — there are no tanks in the streets, no martial law, no suspension of the Constitution — but it’s not difficult to see their point: Large swaths of the Democratic opposition never accepted Trump’s election, never recognized him as a legitimate president, and have sought to un-do Election Night 2016 with all the obsessive determination of a Terminator trying to prevent the birth of John Connor. Some Democrats want to impeach Trump, also impeach Pence, impeach Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, and impeach Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch. Kamala Harris pledged that if elected, her Department of Justice would pursue criminal charges against Trump. We heard the “lock him up” chant at the Washington Nationals game. It is not hyperbolic to state that many Democrats have started with their preferred verdict and are now working backwards to find the justification for it.

Andy McCarthy is correct that the impeachment process can be unpredictable once it gets started. But barring some new revelation, this thing is going to end in a few months with Trump getting impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate — probably the appropriate ignoble legacy the president deserves, putting him alongside Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson.

Judging from the morning headlines, I’m not the only one who’s noticed that the live gavel-to-gavel coverage is mostly bringing us information we already know.

NBC News: Plenty of substance but little drama on first day of impeachment hearings

Reuters: Consequential, but dull: Trump impeachment hearings begin without a bang.

New York magazine: “The Impeachment Hearings Get Off to a Subdued Start.”

One other note: last night, Chris Hayes tweeted, “Just to be clear: Hunter Biden in no way, shape or form should have accepted that board appointment. I don’t even really think that’s in dispute.” The Biden campaign sure has heck disputes this! In the October debate, Biden said, “my son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine . . . My son made a judgment. I’m proud of the judgment he made.”

Based upon what we know now — and don’t tell me I don’t know about this, I’m the one who put together that gargantuan timeline — Hunter Biden and Joe Biden accepted a situation that was a glaring conflict of interest, but as far as we can tell, did not violate any U.S. or Ukrainian laws. There’s no law in Ukraine that bars putting an American official’s idiot son on your board and paying him gobs of money so that you have a highly placed friend in Washington if you need it. And U.S. bribery laws do not bar presidential relatives from working on corporate boards, even corporations that have business before the American government. (We should have a law barring that.)

CNN reports routinely include statements like, “There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden in Ukraine” — which is technically true in the legal sense but represents something of a whitewash. Again, Hunter Biden’s gig with Burisma was a conflict of interest that unnerved other officials in the Obama administration and received criticism from the day his board appointment was announced.

But if we can point to an action by Vice President Biden regarding Ukraine that was provably and specifically taken in order to protect Burisma . . . this whole thing looks completely different. A lot of Trump fans believe the pressure to fire state prosecutor Viktor Shokin was brought by Biden in order to protect Burisma. If someone can prove that — and keep in mind, Shokin isn’t the most reliable witness — then this isn’t merely Trump looking for dirt on a political opponent, but a genuine case of exactly what Trump is accused of — manipulation of U.S. foreign policy for personal benefit. Of course, this should have been handled through more appropriate avenues like the Department of Justice, and not the president’s personal lawyer. But if Burisma’s appointment of Hunter Biden was a bribe to affect U.S. policy, then Trump’s repeated desire to investigate this is much more legitimate.

In this light, Hunter Biden absolutely should be a witness in this proceeding; he’s at the heart of what motivated Trump and Giuliani. If Hunter hadn’t been on that board, none of this would have happened. Unsurprisingly, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has made clear he has no interest in calling Hunter Biden as a witness, telling panel Republicans, “the impeachment inquiry will not serve as vehicles for any member to carry out the same sham investigations into the Bidens or debunked conspiracies.”

Over in Politico’s newsletter this morning, Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman write, “One surprising thing we heard a few times from people of both parties: that the American public simply believes politics and government are dirty and is not surprised that the president held up military aid to force an investigation into a political rival. In fact, there’s a theory that this is seen as business as usual.” Is this surprising? Joe Biden insists his son getting an $80,000-per-month gig on a foreign company’s board is perfectly fine, Schiff refuses to even look into it, and CNN writes there’s nothing wrong with it, and anyone is surprised that American public simply believes politics and government are dirty?

A Shakespearean Betrayal in the Works?

Deval Patrick, a longtime friend of Barack Obama, is running for president. Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit predicts a scenario that would be jaw-dropping: Obama publicly endorsing his longtime buddy Patrick over his vice president, Joe Biden. Pick your comparison: Benedict Arnold, Brutus, Judas. Biden played the loyal good soldier for eight years. Alone in the Democratic field, Biden has defended Obama’s record against criticism from the left. Sure, the relationship between Obama and Biden was a little less rosy and more complicated than either man wanted to portray it. But right now, Biden is still the safest bet to be the nominee. He’s held his lead in most polls despite a lot of bumps along the road. All the alternatives have other glaring flaws, and Biden can still plausibly argue he’s the candidate most likely to beat Trump.

And now Obama could torpedo his chances, just to roll the dice with Deval Patrick? This is the sort of decision that would spur a bit of a reevaluation of Obama by historians. He’s the man who ran on hope and change, and who showed far too much loyalty to stumblebum cabinet appointees below him like Kathleen Sebelius and Eric Shinseki. Obama never fired anybody.

ADDENDA: A much-delayed edition of the pop culture podcast is coming today! We discuss the launch of Disney Plus and the new Star Wars television series, The Mandalorian, the absolute insanity of the Jets announcing head coach Adam Gase is safe through 2020, the allegedly stabbing-worthy Popeye’s chicken sandwich and how it compares to Chik-fil-A, visiting film locations, and a particular figure who didn’t kill himself. Watch this space.

Jon Huntsman is running for governor again. Say, when a guy retires as U.S. ambassador to Russia, wouldn’t you think he would take some time to write a book? You just wonder if he might have A Warning or something he would like to share.

Politics & Policy

Grab Some Popcorn; Political Infighting Has Begun

The Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Mid November brings a cavalcade of nasty fights among former allies, from the conservative grassroots to Republicans on Capitol Hill, to the Democratic primary, to leftists in the media world.

Your Scorecard for Today’s Ugliest Internal Political Slugfests

Often on the Three Martini Lunch podcast, the day’s news cycle will bring news that one person or faction that Greg Corombus and I don’t particularly like is fighting with another person or faction that we don’t particularly like, and we have to decide whether we want to label it “good news.”

These days, the news is all disagreeable factions trying to tear each other apart. It’s the Iran-Iraq War, Aliens vs. Predator, referees vs. Antonio Brown. Pull up a chair, pop some popcorn, brew some coffee or grab an alcoholic beverage of your choice, but don’t sit too close. All of these fights are going to get messier than the front row of a Gallagher stand-up act.

The New Alt-Right vs. Turning Point USA

You may have seen some brewing discussions about white nationalist Nick Fuentes and his movement of “Groypers,” itching for a fight with Turning Point USA and various GOP officials and conservative campus speakers.

Turning Point USA is a pro-Trump group that tries to organize campus activism but that periodically steps in it.

You may recall Candace Owens’s infamous assessment of the Third Reich: “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay fine. The problem is he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize. He wanted everybody to be German.” Or you may recall the protest that encouraged students to wear diapers in public to protest “safe spaces” on campus, the comparison of Hillary Clinton to herpes, a rhetorical excess that was too much even for Fox News, or complaints from other conservative student groups that TPUSA was taking credit for their events.

Still, whatever Turning Point USA’s flaws are, they pale in comparison to the “Groypers,” who are basically the answer to the question, “what if the alt-Right wasn’t so open-minded and cuddly?” This crowd is fans of the usual “jokes” about the Holocaust and accusations of people being “Shabbos goy race traitors.” They’ve disrupted speeches by representative Dan Crenshaw and Ben Shapiro, as well as Donald Trump Jr. (Notice these guys act like disrupting somebody else’s speech is some sort of grand victory — a trait they share with the angry campus leftists. These are forces that can spoil and destroy but cannot create and build.)

You have to feel for Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens, and the rest; there’s always somebody behind you who’s younger and angrier and itching to accuse you of selling out to “the Establishment.” Welcome to “the Establishment,” guys, you’re probably going to find it way less opulent than you expected.

Kamala Harris vs. Democratic Primary Voters

Kamala Harris has concluded that the combination of racism and sexism is what’s holding back her presidential campaign . . . from getting support from Democratic primary voters.

HARRIS: Electability. You know, essentially, is America ready for a woman and a woman of color to be president of the United States?

REPORTER: America was ready for a black man to be president of the United States.

HARRIS: And this conversation happened for him. There is a lack of ability or a difficulty in imagining that someone who we have never seen can do a job that has been done 45 times by someone that is not that person.

Now you know, Democratic primary voters, if you weren’t so racist and sexist, you would be supporting Kamala Harris. The rest of us are appalled and horrified by your bigotry. Because that’s the only possible explanation for preferring another candidate, right? It’s not like Kamala Harris could possibly have any flaws as a candidate that would make you prefer someone else.

Amy Klobuchar vs. Pete Buttigieg and Sexism

Senator Amy Klobuchar, discussing Buttigieg on Sunday: “Of the women on the stage — I’m focusing here on my fellow women senators, Sen. (Kamala) Harris, Sen. (Elizabeth) Warren and myself — do I think that we would be standing on that stage if we had the experience that he had? No, I don’t.”

Look, I know this year’s Democratic primary debate stages have been crowded with all kinds of longshots, no-hopers, and assorted weirdos, but surely at some point Klobuchar noticed Marianne Williamson conducting her séance onstage.

No,“two-term mayor of South Bend” is not a particularly impressive stint in elected office, but how different from that is a four-term congresswoman from a safe district (Tulsi Gabbard) or former mayor and Secretary of HUD (Julian Castro). Andrew Yang’s never been elected to anything in his life, nor has Tom Steyer. And Joe Sestak’s resume has titles like “three-star vice admiral,” “commander, U.S.S. George Washington carrier strike group,” “Congressman,” and “guy who ended Arlen Specter’s political career,” and he’s never even smelled the debate stage.

What the comments from Klobuchar and Harris demonstrate is that Democrats, obsessed with identity politics, have now reached the point where they don’t know how to argue with each other without resorting to accusations of racism or sexism. While every presidential campaign is an exercise in self-delusion — “I alone can fix it!” — Harris and Klobuchar are so deeply in denial about their own shortcomings as presidential candidates that they’ve chosen to recast the party’s primary voters as the villain in their narrative. They could have saved this country, if only those stupid, racist, sexist voters hadn’t gotten in the way.

The Mainstream Media vs. the Overtly Progressive Press

Jack Crosbie, recently laid off from Splinter, wonders why progressive political publications are struggling in a time of an energized “Resistance”:

Salonstruggling for years, was forced in May to sell its assets to undisclosed owners for just $5 million. In September, ThinkProgress, one of the longest-running sources for progressive news online, was abruptly shut down by the liberal think tank behind it, Center for American Progress, as the Democratic machinery circled its wagons for the 2020 election. That was that: no more lefty blogging. Splinter followed the next month, ceasing publication in the middle of a Democratic presidential primary pitting two of the most progressive presidential candidates ever, including one democratic socialist, against the poster child for outdated centrism. Deadspin, which had for years incorporated irreverent, left-wing takes on politics, pop culture, and anything else its deranged writing staff chose to write about, was told to “stick to sports,” which promptly collapsed the site.

Traditionally, publications aligned with a particular political side tend to thrive when their side is out of power. Victory breeds complacency; defeat makes partisans want to know what those jerks in power are trying to get away with now that they’re in office. Readership increases, advertisers are impressed by the circulation numbers and web traffic and buy more ads, etc.

Allow me to spitball an explanation: At a time when the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and many other “mainstream” media institutions are consistently, fervently, and relentlessly focused on Trump and almost entirely opposed to him, maybe progressives feel like they’re getting their fill from those sources and are less interested in those overtly progressive media sources. Crosbie sees a world of difference between Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post and those struggling progressive media institutions, but that distinction just isn’t as clear to most readers. He also warns that the media is responding to the Trump era with a “retreat into a shell of flavorless, craven impartiality,” which will leave everyone from MAGA hat-wearers to just about every major newspaper columnist and network commentator gasping . . . where?

The Democratic Party’s Centrists vs. Leftists

Damon Linker is a usually interesting left-of-center writer over at The Week. I say usually because Linker speculated back in 2014 that National Review was doomed because of Michael Mann’s lawsuit. (The latest update on that seemingly eternal lawsuit is here.)

Today Linker spotlights something that seems obvious but was strangely unspoken until now: A Democratic party big enough to include the philosophies of both Michael Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders is a party that is so broad it can’t easily stand for much of anything.

The Democrats need, all at once, to get white Midwestern conservatives to return to the party after they either switched to Trump or stayed home in 2016, and inspire a level of enthusiasm among black voters that approaches what they felt when Obama was running, and keep white urban and suburban liberals engaged enough that they both show up to vote for the party’s nominee a year from now and refuse to back a third-party candidate from the socialist left if Biden gets the nomination or one from the plutocratic center if Sanders or Warren do.

Given a choice, those not-so-centrist centrists are preferable; they at least recognize that businesses need to exist, that employment is better for people than nonemployment, that there’s a limit to how much the government can tax people before an intense backlash at the ballot box, and that lots of people hate the scapegoating that inherently comes along with identity politics. But there’s a lot of insufferable preening that comes with the Democratic party’s establishment donor class, a group of fabulously wealthy people who act like they simply inadvertently stumbled into their fortunes while intending to build a better world and who are never sullied by anything so gauche as the desire to make more money and keep more of what they earn. With these folks, you see a lot of slogans like, “we’re investing in a movement, not in a company.” (That one’s for a venture capital firm investing in cannabis.) They invest in an environmentally friendly “cutting-edge regenerative grazing operation” that works great as long as you accept that it always costs more money than it generates. They work in tall office towers with security guards and wonder why anyone would need to own a gun. They live in gated communities and find the idea of border fencing inherently xenophobic; San Jose residents saw no problem with chanting “build a wall” to keep the homeless out of their neighborhood, and in Ingleside in San Francisco County, they’ve actually started building walls to keep the homeless out. (Trump received less than 10 percent of the vote in that county.) Democratic centrists live with a certain set of advantages that they can only perceive in registered Republicans.

Hillary Clinton vs. Reality

Oh, why not, if the Democratic argument for 2020 is going to be “2016 never should have happened,” let’s literally rerun history and see if it turns out any differently a second time around: “Hillary Clinton on Tuesday declined to rule out launching a future presidential campaign after her two failed bids, saying “many, many, many people” were pressuring her to enter the race.”

There is exactly one person in the world who we know, with absolute certainty, is capable of losing a presidential election to Donald Trump.

House Republicans vs. Rudy Giuliani

Look out for that bus, Rudy! “Top House Republican sources tell Axios that one impeachment survival strategy will be to try to distance President Trump from any Ukraine quid pro quo, with Rudy Giuliani potentially going under the bus.”

Gee, isn’t it terrible that Giuliani went rogue like that, giving the president such bad information and communicating a quid pro quo that the president never intended! Oh, how unfortunate. This is the worst freelancing misbehavior by rogue low-level employees since that IRS office in Cincinnati.

ADDENDUM: One last fight, which is GOP complaints about the impeachment fight, against the data. House Republicans and their committee staff were able to ask a lot of questions of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the member of the National Security Council who’d participated on the July 25 call. They may not have liked the answers, but they were given plenty of time to question the witness: ‘About 44 percent of the transcript is made up of questions or answers from Democratic members or staff. About 41 percent is from the Republicans. The remaining 15 percent was discussion and objections.”

National Security & Defense

Should America Have a National Museum of the Post-9/11 Wars?

U.S. troops patrol at an Afghan National Army base in Logar Province, Afghanistan, August 7, 2018. (Omar Sobhani / Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: asking whether it’s time for America to start designing and building a national war museum focused upon our post-9/11 wars; Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s energy policy is disappointing his liberal allies; former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick wants to run for president, but it’s probably too late; and a familiar name is running for Congress in Baltimore.

If Building a Museum Is a Good Idea, It Shouldn’t Matter if There Still Are Troops Deployed

Yesterday America honored those who served and those still serving on Veterans Day.

While getting away this past weekend in Toronto, the Mrs. and I visited Casa Loma. Yes, it’s the old castle-like mansion where they filmed the X-Men films — a fascinating early 20th-century display of ostentatious wealth and fairy-tale architecture by Sir Henry Pellatt.

Pellatt was a member and lifelong supporter of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, and most of the third floor of the mansion is the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum. Formed on April 26, 1860, the Queen’s Own is Canada’s longest continuously serving infantry regiment and has contributed soldiers to every major conflict in which Canada has participated from the Fenian Raids of 1866 to Afghanistan.

The museum display on Afghanistan is just a small corner of a room covering the regiment’s more recent deployments, which included Kosovo and Sudan. But the display got me wondering: is it time to start thinking about a National Museum of the Afghanistan War? And should the U.S. have a separate or conjoined museum for the Iraq War? (Would the name “National Museum of Post-9/11 Wars” be too awkward?)

Perhaps a permanent museum about our military deployments in those countries would be superfluous. The National Museum of the U.S. Army is currently under construction in Arlington, Virginia, scheduled to be completed next year; the National Museum of the U.S. Navy is in the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of the Marine Corps is just outside Quantico, Virginia, the National Museum of the United States Air Force is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio. The United States has a lot of fine military museums that might include a part of the story of U.S. combat operations since 9/11 — the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus, Georgia; the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.

But Americans have gradually concluded that most wars in American history warrant their own museum. The Museum of the American Revolution is in Philadelphia, the National Civil War Museum is in Harrisburg, Pa., the National World War One Museum is in Kansas City, and the National World War Two Museum is in New Orleans. In 2017, the National Korean War Museum in Springfield, Illinois abruptly closed and transferred most of its collection to the Harry S. Truman Library. The National Vietnam War Museum is under construction in Weatherford, Texas.

Inevitably, someone out there is going to cluck about the irony of building a museum for a military operation that is still ongoing, and while U.S. troops are still deployed in those operations. But if you wait until the operation is completely done to begin even thinking about preserving a record to tell the story to future generations . . . you’ll be waiting probably, at minimum, another half-decade.

The U.S. still has about 5,000 troops in Iraq, and militias are still firing rockets at the air base where our troops are stationed. The U.S. still has 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, 3,000 in Saudi Arabia (where Iran is firing rockets, remember), and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley said Sunday that 500 to 600 U.S. troops will remain in Syria indefinitely to prevent a resurgence of ISIS. Milley said of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan:

In order for that mission to be successful, the government of Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces, are going to have to be able to sustain their own internal security to prevent terrorists from using their territory to attack other countries, especially the United States. That effort is ongoing. It’s been ongoing for 18 consecutive years. I suspect it will be ongoing into the future for several more years.

If building a national museum about our post-9/11 wars is a good idea, then it is a good idea whether or not we still have troops deployed in these countries. And if it’s not a good idea, then it’s not a good idea regardless of the circumstances of the ongoing deployment.

A strange thing happened in our national life as the Vietnam War receded into the rear-view mirror. One of the most bitterly divisive issues in our country’s history calmed, and gradually — some might say, far too gradually — shifted into a broad-based respect and appreciation for the men who fought in it and women who tried to keep them in one piece in the Army Nurse Corps. Even the most fervent war opponents could recognize that this country treated its returning veterans terribly back in the 1960s and 1970s, and I wonder if our current much broader cultural appreciation of veterans stems from a sense of guilt over that dishonorable not-so-distant history. You can think the war was a terrible mistake and still feel a sense of gratitude, awe, and appreciation for those who served in it — and a determination to see that those who served are treated right, in areas ranging from veterans benefits to health care options to post-military careers to naturalization for those born overseas.

And perhaps the creation of a national museum telling that story, as seen by the men and women on the ground, would slightly accelerate us towards that consensus. On September 10, 2001, few if any Americans wanted to send U.S. military forces to Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban, and if the U.S. had known the true limits of the Iraqi WMD program — long-abandoned programs with roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, including sarin, nerve and mustard agents — few Americans would have perceived a pressing need to depose Saddam Hussein in March 2003. Few Americans wanted to intervene in Syria’s bloody and messy civil war, but the Islamic State gradually became a threat too dire to ignore. Americans didn’t ask for these responsibilities; fate and geopolitics dumped them in our laps.

Justin Trudeau, Notorious Right-Winger

You would never know it from reading the American press, but the reality of governing increasingly requires the frequently-face-painted, one-time progressive heartthrob, newly reelected Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau to disappoint his allies on the Left.

One of Toronto’s liberal columnists is upset with Trudeau, accusing him of being “Washington’s shill in the Americas,” for opposing Bolivian President Evo Morales’ attempt to snare a fourth term.

Last week, Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met with U.S. Congressional Democrats, trying to nudge them closer to ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, a key Trump administration priority.

The Canadian government’s current agreement with the United States for handling refugees is currently being challenged by advocates who argue that the United States is no longer a safe country for refugees. Under an agreement signed in 2005, Canada can make refugees wait in the United States while evaluating their claims. “To defend the agreement, government lawyers need to stand up, in court, for the U.S. asylum system under Donald Trump. For a party and a prime minister whose progressive bona fides have taken a battering over the past year, that’s a nightmare scenario.”

Trudeau irked environmentalists by supporting a large expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline running from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia, which would nearly triple the capacity of oil running through the pipeline. Apparently, some greens thought Trudeau would abandon his promise in the negotiations to form a majority government, but he hasn’t yet and doesn’t appear likely to anytime soon.

Finally, on Monday the environmental group Climate Transparency found that the per capita greenhouse gas emissions are slightly lower in the United States (18.1 metric tons) than in Canada (18.9). From 1990 to 2016, Canadian greenhouse gas emissions increased by 17 percent; in the United States, by just one percent. While 4.6 percent of the Canadian energy supply comes from solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, 6.1 percent of U.S. energy comes from those sources.

Often — not always, but often — idealistic progressives get elected and step into office, get a look at the balance sheets and projected consequences of their policies . . . and then shriek in terror and hastily retreat. Barack Obama helped create a worldwide system of stealthy lethal drone strikes and unparalleled domestic surveillance methods. The state of Vermont abandoned single-payer. In California, Gavin Newsome drastically scaled down the state’s high-speed rail project and vetoed a bill to “lock in” the state’s air and labor laws that existed on Jan. 19, 2017, the day before President Donald Trump took office.

This is the sort of lesson that Democratic presidential candidates would be wise to heed, but they’re still in the free-ice-cream-for-everyone-forever mode of campaign promises.

Finally, a Candidate for Those of Us in the Procrastinating-American Community

Sure, why not one more? Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is thinking of belatedly launching a presidential bid.

Way back before the 2020 Democratic presidential primary started, I noted that former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick was the kind of candidate Democrats would be wise to consider. Two-term governor, progressive on a bunch of issues but not the kind who will scare Wall Street, had actually been through a crisis with the Boston Marathon bombing, and African-American, when the Democratic Party would like to see African-American turnout get a little higher than it was in places like Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit, Charlotte, Miami Gardens and so on.

But as former DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Flores points out, all of this is moot if Patrick doesn’t have a plan to get himself on the ballot in a whole bunch of states — and it is really difficult to get on the ballots in all the places you need if you don’t have A) high name recognition or B) about $7 million handy or ideally, both.

ADDENDA: Of course, one of the days I’m away, Michael Bloomberg flirts again with a campaign to become America’s strict new high school principal. Do you realize we’ve been doing this dance with Bloomberg since 2006?

. . . In keeping with royal tradition, the U.S. House seat of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings will be inherited by his wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings; her inheritance will become official with the routine formality of the special House election Democratic primary February 4, followed by an even more routine formality called a “general election” April 28. Several figures who mistakenly believe that who occupies a seat in Congress is determined by elections, and not inherited through marriage or family connection, are insisting upon their name appearing on the ballot, such as Fox News commentator Kim Klacik.

World

A Dangerous Escalation in the Hong Kong Protests

Office workers run away from tear gas as they attend a flash mob anti-government protest at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China, November 11, 2019. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Protests in Hong Kong have turned violent as police shot a pro-democracy demonstrator over the weekend; Nikki Haley details efforts inside the Trump administration to thwart the president’s policy aims; and New York congressman Peter King becomes latest of about 20 House Republicans to announce he won’t run for reelection.

Hong Kong Protests Turn Violent

In Hong Kong over the weekend, violent incidents resulted in one of the bloodiest days so far in the city’s ongoing pro-democracy protests. Several people were injured, including one protestor shot by police and a man who was reportedly set on fire for confronting the protestors.

Here’s some detail from the Wall Street Journal report:

In footage circulating on social media, a police officer was seen Monday morning firing three shots toward protesters—hitting at least one at close range—at an intersection in eastern Hong Kong island. A 21-year-old man underwent an operation at a nearby hospital, according to the Hospital Authority, which said he was in a critical condition. . . .

Around midday, crowds of office workers were seen fleeing clouds of tear gas filling the streets. Some rushed into the lobbies of buildings to seek shelter and poured water over their eyes to relieve the pain. Police made a number of arrests as people chanted abuse at them.

Other graphic scenes circulated online during the day. In one unverified video, a man in a green T-shirt was seen being doused in flammable liquid and set on fire after he confronted protesters who had been vandalizing a subway station. A separate photo showed him shirtless with burns to his torso. The man was in critical condition in a hospital, according to city health officials.

In another incident, the Hong Kong Police Force said Monday afternoon it had suspended an officer from front-line duties and put him on leave after he was seen in a video posted on social media driving his motorcycle repeatedly into a group of protesters.

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam suggested in response that if the protestors were hoping to obtain their political demands by escalating violence, that would be “wishful thinking.” “I am making the statement clear and loud here, that will not happen,” she said at a news conference. She also reported that about 60 people had been injured.

The protests in Hong Kong have been unfolding for several months, sparked by a bill that would allow individuals to be extradited to mainland China. Those protesting the bill say that it would endanger critics of the Chinese government and make them vulnerable to a legal system known for human-rights abuses. The violence this morning marks the third time that a protestor has been confirmed injured by police gunshots.

After protests intensified this summer, the bill was put on hold, and on early September, Lam announced that she would formally withdraw it in October. But protestors insisted this move was “too little, too late,” and demonstrations have since continued — including marches by protestors to U.S. consulate in support of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would require a number of executive departments to determine whether the U.S. should continue to treat Hong Kong as a trading entity separate from mainland China, in light of the extradition bill and the government’s treatment of pro-democracy efforts.

Nikki Haley’s New Book Sheds Light on Administration Turmoil

Former United Nations secretary Nikki Haley has just released a new memoir, With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace, in which she claims that she refused to assist top Trump staffers in undermining the president’s policies.

The New York Times has more from the book and from a CBS interview Haley did as part of her rollout:

Ms. Haley writes in her new memoir that John F. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff, and Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, tried to recruit her to join them in circumventing policy decisions by the president that they viewed as dangerous and reckless, an outreach she said she rebuffed.

“Instead of saying that to me, they should have been saying that to the president, not asking me to join them on their sidebar plan,” Ms. Haley told Norah O’Donnell of CBS News. “It should have been, go tell the president what your differences are and quit if you don’t like what he’s doing. But to undermine a president is really a very dangerous thing, and it goes against the Constitution and it goes against what the American people want. And it was offensive.” . . .

In the interview with CBS and another with The Washington Post, Ms. Haley spoke out against impeaching Mr. Trump for using the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to provide damaging information about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats at the same time he was withholding $391 million in security aid to resist Russian aggression.

In his analysis this morning at the Washington Post, Aaron Blake writes on the subject that “the big takeaway here is that two of the most important Cabinet officials in the Trump administration were apparently alarmed enough by the president’s actions that they were willing to go to this length.”

That’s certainly a big takeaway from Haley’s claim, but it isn’t the only one. As concerning as some of Trump’s decisions might be, whether to progressives who criticize everything he does or to conservatives worried about some of Trump’s policies or his fitness for office, it isn’t a good idea to excuse or become used to administrative officials secretly undermining or thwarting the president’s will.

While the outcome might’ve been better for the U.S. in some cases as a result of interference from Kelly and Tillerson, Haley is right that it takes the country down a dangerous path. It isn’t difficult to imagine scenarios in which that kind of abuse would result in worse outcomes for the country — and as a matter of principle, it’s a problem either way.

The Continuing Trickle of House Republicans Leaving Office

New York representative Peter King announced this morning that he won’t seek reelection, becoming one of about two dozen Republican lawmakers to resign from the House before their 2020 reelection bids.

“The prime reason for my decision was that after 28 years of spending 4 days a week in Washington, D.C., it is time to end the weekly commute and be home in Seaford,” King said in a Facebook statement announcing his decision. “I intend to still be a presence, still be a voice in New York and on Long Island, and again, I’m looking forward to it. Life has been very good to me, I never expected I’d be in Congress in the first place.”

Had he run again next election cycle, it would’ve been his 15th term in the House. As it is, it seems likely that there was more at play in King’s decision than simply a desire to be home; Democrats had already floated King’s district as a possible seat to flip in next year’s election. But King insists that he wasn’t worried about his prospects, citing GOP success in local elections in his district last week.

“If we had had real defeats on last Tuesday, it would have been tough walking out and leaving the party in bad shape. Right now, despite what is happening in suburbs around the country, the Republican Party did exceptionally well on Long Island, certainly in my part of Long Island that’s in my district, so I think Republicans should be the favorites in next year’s election on Long Island,” King said.

The congressman might be right about that, but there’s no question that his decision to step down is part of a concerning trend for the GOP in the House. According to Washington Post analysis, since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, almost 40 percent of Republicans in office at the time have left office or are planning to do so, whether as a result of losing elections, retiring, or resigning.

ADDENDUM: Glad to be filling in for Jim again today, and happy Veterans Day to all those who have served us at home and abroad. Thank you for your service.

Elections

Bloomberg Expected to Enter Democratic Presidential Primary

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg approaches the microphones to speak to reporters in Washington February 27, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly is prepping to enter the Democratic presidential race; Kentucky’s Republican governor calls for a recanvassing of votes after apparently being defeated by his Democratic challenger; and a judge in Manhattan gives us the latest example of outrageous legislating from the bench, striking down a Trump-administration rule that would’ve protected the First Amendment rights of health-care workers.

Bloomberg Mulls a Bid in the 2020 Democratic Field

According to multiple reports, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is laying the groundwork to jump into the fray of the Democratic presidential primary. In fact, it seems he’s on the verge of filing official paperwork to declare himself a candidate. Although some of his advisers insist he’s still on the fence, Bloomberg has staff on the ground in Alabama attempting to gather enough signatures to qualify for the state’s primary.

Here’s more from the New York Times report:

Mr. Bloomberg and his advisers called a number of prominent Democrats on Thursday to tell them he was seriously considering the race, including former Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the retired majority leader who remains a dominant power broker in the early caucus state. Aides to Mr. Bloomberg also reached out to Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, the chair of the Democratic Governors Association.

Mr. Reid said in a brief interview that Mr. Bloomberg had not explicitly said he was running for president but that the implication of the call had been clear. . . . Should Mr. Bloomberg proceed with a campaign, it could cause a seismic disruption in the Democratic race. With his immense personal wealth, centrist views and close ties to the political establishment, he would present an instantaneous threat to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has been struggling to raise money and is already defending his ideologically moderate base on multiple fronts.

Mr. Bloomberg, 77, initially bowed out of the 2020 race because of Mr. Biden’s apparent strength, but he has since grown skeptical that Mr. Biden is on track to win the Democratic nomination and he does not see the two leading liberals in the race, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as strong candidates for the general election.

This isn’t the first time that Bloomberg has toyed with the possibility of hopping into a presidential contest. He made the same tentative overtures in 2016, and reports indicated earlier this year that he was once again considering running. But he hasn’t yet taken the final steps to appear on a state ballot.

Joe Trippi, a longtime Democratic strategist, told the Wall Street Journal that, if Bloomberg does enter the race, it would constitute a “big disruption.” “There’s plenty of obstacles, but the fact is, he’s got the resources to compete,” Trippi added, saying Bloomberg and his advisers likely wouldn’t think seriously about joining the contest unless they saw a realistic path to victory.

Some might view his candidacy as a response to the fact that, aside from Biden, the race’s frontrunners are actively pushing the party leftward at a rapid clip, endorsing policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, regardless of their exorbitant cost. And as the Times report notes, Bloomberg might face a particular struggle going head to head against these candidates, who rail against income inequality, as his wealth would make him an easy target for the argument that our political system allows the rich to have too much influence.

Bloomberg’s advisers suggest that he’s planning to make a final decision within days, and that makes sense — to be in real contention, he’ll have to make it onto the ballot in several states besides Alabama that have early filing deadlines, including New Hampshire, which also has one of the earliest primary contests. On top of that, it’d be tough for him to make it on stage for the upcoming Democratic debate later this month, as he would need to obtain 165,000 unique donors and several polls with at least 3-percent national support before the qualifying deadline next week.

After several months of suffering through a primary slog with upwards of 15 presidential hopefuls, the Democratic field clearly stands in need of a shakeup. It’s less clear that Bloomberg is the right man for the job.

Kentucky’s Defeated Governor Refuses to Concede

In perhaps the biggest news of Tuesday night’s elections, Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general Andy Beshear unseated incumbent Republican governor Matt Bevin. The only trouble? As of this writing, Bevin still has refused to concede the race. In his most recent statement on the matter, Bevin cited “a number of irregularities” in Tuesday night’s voting and noted that “there’s more than a little bit of history of vote fraud in our state.”

Bevin hasn’t presented any evidence of vote fraud, but his protestations aren’t entirely off-base. With 100 percent of precincts counted, the Republican governor trailed Beshear by only a little more than 5,000 votes, a narrow margin of about .4 percent. Based on both the close tally and Bevin’s refusal to concede, the Associated Press still has declined to call the race.

In a statement on Wednesday, Bevin said he plans to ask for an official recanvassing of votes. Here’s what Politico reported about his remarks:

Without providing details, Bevin cited “thousands of absentee ballots that were illegally counted,” reports of voters being “incorrectly turned away” from polling places and “a number of machines that didn’t work properly.” He said his campaign would provide more information as it is gathered, and he did not take questions from reporters.

“We simply want to ensure that there is integrity in the process,” Bevin said at the close of his statement. “We owe this to the people of Kentucky.”

According to the New York Times, candidates in Kentucky are permitted to request a recanvassing for any reason — which requires counties to re-tabulate the results on voting machines — but the state does not hold actual recounts for gubernatorial elections, meaning that there will be no reexamination of ballots.

A University of Kentucky law professor told the Times that, if the recanvassing doesn’t flip the race and Bevin wishes to further challenge the results, the sitting governor could formally contest the election before the state legislature. Then, a group of eleven randomly selected members (eight from the House and three from the Senate) would hear arguments and forward a recommendation to the entire legislature for a vote. The Kentucky legislature is predominantly Republican.

Given that, aside from the gubernatorial race, every Republican running statewide in Kentucky won his or her race by at least 15 points, Bevin’s loss came as a bit of a surprise. But even so, the Republican was ranked by Morning Consult data as the least popular governor in the country, and it’s easier to believe that his loss was the result of his highly controversial first-term policies than it is to buy his tenuous argument about irregularities.

No More Conscience Protections for Pro-Life Health-Care Workers

A federal judge in New York has reminded us once again of how, in the Trump era, courts are quick to strike down rules that, under any other circumstances, likely would be deemed perfectly acceptable.

This time, it was Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, who issued a 147-page decision striking down a Trump-administration rule that would have protected the First Amendment rights of health-care workers with moral or religious objections to abortion, physician-assisted suicide, or elective sterilization.

The rule was scheduled to take effect on November 22 after having been announced by the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year. But the policy faced an immediate legal challenge from the attorneys general in 19 Democratic states, along with a number of abortion-advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood.

And those challengers won the day. Engelmayer deemed the HHS rule improperly coercive and in particular said the department could not enforce such a policy by leveraging federal funding against violating organizations. The rule would have required federally funded clinics and research institutions to “submit written assurances and certifications of compliance” with federal religious-freedom and conscience-protection laws.

“Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it,” Engelmayer wrote in his decision.

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

Notice those scare quotes. They’re a common tactic not only from progressive lawmakers and officials when it comes to describing religious freedom and morality, but they also crop up routinely in media coverage of these issues. Our own David Harsanyi hit the nail on the head on this point in a Corner post yesterday:

One of the ways journalists like to intimate bad faith is by placing quotation marks around perfectly factual phrases like “religious freedom” or “conscience.”

Now, it’d be another story if there were comparable journalistic standards for the usage of “gun safety” or “pro-choice,” or any of the thousands of debatable labels that have been appropriated for partisan purposes, but there aren’t. It is a standard almost exclusively deployed for “controversial” topics — which, loosely translated, means “conservative positions.” . . .

CNN does us a favor and skips any pretense of impartiality altogether, informing readers that a federal judge in New York had scrapped the “so-called conscience rule, which lets health care workers who cite moral or religious reasons opt out of providing certain medical procedures, such as abortion, sterilization and assisted suicide.” (Incensed italics mine.) The insertion of “so-called” is, of course, a loaded term that implies, without any evidence, that people with moral objections to abortion might be faking it for some unknown reason.

And now a federal judge has decided — in an insult to the First Amendment — that Americans, religious or not, who prefer to remove themselves from procedures that end a human life can receive no relief from administrative policy.

Elections

Jeff Sessions Is Running for His Former Senate Seat

Attorney General Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee, June 13, 2017. (Reuters photo: Jonathan Ernst)

This is the last Jim-written Morning Jolt until Tuesday. To all our veterans, thank you in advance.

Making the click-through worthwhile: Jeff Sessions is running for Senate again, in a move that makes sense for him but not for anyone else; Republicans had a pretty good night in western Pennsylvania, but that may not quite offset their losses in the Philadelphia suburbs; and NR’s John McCormack interviews senators and finds evidence that the Assault Weapons Ban, the Green New Deal and Medicare for All will never pass the Senate, even if Democrats win control of the chamber in 2020; and Elizabeth Warren finds an innovative new way to be dishonest about her background.

Why Are You Running for Senate, Jeff Sessions?

I can understand why he wants to run. Sessions was the lone senator to endorse Trump early in the 2016 cycle, became Trump’s closest ally among Washington Republicans, was nominated as attorney general, won a tough confirmation fight . . . and then quickly turned into the president’s punching bag. Six months into the job, Trump was publicly complaining he shouldn’t have appointed him, and went on to call Sessions “beleaguered,” “VERY weak” and “DISGRACEFUL.” Instead of being a capstone to a long career in Washington, Session’s last job in the nation’s capital was a long exercise in perpetual public humiliation.

But while the bid makes sense for Sessions, it doesn’t make much sense for anyone else. Sessions is going to become one of the president’s favorite targets and distractions in this cycle. Sessions’ entry further splits an already crowded GOP Senate primary field, slightly increasing the odds of Roy Moore making it to a runoff and getting the nomination. A lot of Trump supporters see Sessions as a turncoat or incompetent, so they may well adopt an anybody-but-Sessions stance, either in a runoff or a general election. (In case you’re wondering, Democratic senator Doug Jones is voting with the administration’s position 35 percent of the time. Alabama’s Republican senator Richard Shelby, is voting with the administration 93.7 percent of the time.)

Sessions turns 73 on Christmas Eve. Is it unreasonable to want some new blood? Alabama must have some scandal-free conservative Republican out there who would make a fine senator. Sessions has had four terms.

Was Pennsylvania Not Quite So Bad for Republicans This Year?

Dave Wasserman notices that because of less-covered races in western Pennsylvania counties, Republicans picked up control of six new county commissions, while Democrats picked up five.

Kurt wonders if the Republican gains in the western part of the state will offset those GOP losses in the Philadelphia suburbs. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility, and Trump certainly could still win Pennsylvania in 2020; those Siena/New York Times polls showed a close race among likely voters no matter who the Democrats nominate.

But I would be extremely wary of any strategy that deliberately traded support in much more populous suburban counties for a higher level of support in much less-populated rural counties. On Tuesday Republicans gained control of commissions in Armstrong (Census-estimated population 65,623), Cameron (4,492), Greene (36,506), Luzerne (316,646), Washington (207,346), and Westmoreland counties (350,611).

That adds up to a population of (not registered or likely voters) 981,224 people.

Democrats flipped Bucks (628,195), Chester (522,046), Delaware (564,751), Lehigh (368,100), and Monroe (169,507) counties. That adds up to a population of (not registered or likely voters) of 2,252,599 people. So yes, Republicans won control of more county commissions on Tuesday, but a lot more Pennsylvanians will live in counties with Democratically controlled county commissions.

Winning or losing the state all comes down to the margins. Republicans don’t need to win suburban counties to win statewide races in Pennsylvania or many other states; they need to keep them reasonably close and then run up their margins in rural and exurban counties, while hoping Democrats don’t have huge turnout in the cities. In 2016, both Trump and Senator Pat Toomey won Pennsylvania, but they took different paths, so to speak; Toomey ran much better in the suburbs but didn’t have as large a margin in the rural counties.

Perhaps one of the most important statements of the 2020 cycle came from Chuck Schumer (and as far as I can tell, I’m the only reporter at that event who spotlighted it): “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.” Schumer’s math didn’t work out correctly, but he correctly diagnosed the change in the party’s demographics. In 2018, that shift obliterated most of the GOP House members representing suburban districts, and it’s worth remembering that Trump won Pennsylvania by about 68,000 votes and Wisconsin by about 28,000 votes. Schumer’s calculation was wrong, but it wasn’t wildly wrong.

We’re starting to hear more about how the Trump campaign believes it hasn’t reached its ceiling of potential supporters, that they can identify and find like-minded potential voters who didn’t cast a ballot in 2016 and turn them out. That could indeed help win the state — but no campaign that wants to win can just shrug off losing the suburbs by a wide margin. (Note that Republican congressman Brian Fitzpatrick won reelection in 2018, 51 percent to 48 percent, and his district includes Bucks County and a bit of Montgomery County. Republicans can win in the suburbs, but the first step is wanting to win there.)

Democratic Senators: the Filibuster Is Here to Stay

Our John McCormack quietly snares a big scoop that means that most of the policy dreams of progressives will never happen, even if they elect Elizabeth Warren president, Democrats win control of the Senate, and keep control of the House of Representatives. Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, have all declared, on the record, that they do not support “nuking the filibuster” for legislation, meaning the Senate will continue to require 60 senators to agree to bring legislation to a vote. Both Manchin and Tester told McCormack that they cannot imagine any circumstances where they would change their mind.

But wait, there’s more: two more blue-state Democrats don’t want to change the rules, either:

“I think we should keep the filibuster. It’s one of the few things that we have left in order to let all of the voices be heard here in the Senate,” Nevada freshman Jacky Rosen, the only Democrat to unseat a Senate GOP incumbent in 2018, tells National Review. “I’m a yes” on keeping the legislative filibuster, Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey says.

And a slew of other Democrats, from Chris Coons to Mark Warner to Ben Cardin to Michael Bennet all sound reluctant. From the comments of these senators, it sounds like a half-dozen think it’s a bad idea and at least another half-dozen have the wherewithal to realize eliminating the filibuster would bite them in the tush the moment the GOP gets control of the Senate again.

As John notes, “Keeping the filibuster would ensure Democrats could not enact a variety of laws, from the Assault Weapons Ban to the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, if they take control of Washington in 2020.”

Of course, politicians lie. It would only require 51 votes (or 50 votes and the vice president) to change the rules of the Senate, and eliminate the filibuster; if Democrats get to, say, 48 votes and these three are the last obstacle, the amount of political pressure upon them will be enormous. But Sinema, Tester, and Manchin all represent red or reddish states and campaign each year on being different from other liberal Democrats. Folding on the filibuster and enabling a lot of hard-left ideas that wouldn’t be popular in Arizona, Montana, or West Virginia would probably spell the end of their senatorial careers.

ADDENDUM: Today, Kevin Williamson’s column is titled, “Elizabeth Warren thinks voters are stupid. There isn’t any obvious reason to doubt that she’s right.” Kevin is writing about her alleged plan to pay for all of her ideas, which would require raising federal tax revenue by around 80 percent.

As if on cue, Politico reports:

[Warren] checks to see if there are any fellow “Okies” in the crowd. She describes herself as a “teacher,” the job she yearned for as a young girl when she lined up her “dollies” for instruction (“I had a reputation for being tough but fair,” she quips.)

She doesn’t poll her audience for people from Massachusetts, where she is the senior senator and where she has lived for over 20 years. Nor does she refer to herself as a “professor,” instead saying that after a brief public school teaching stint she “traded littles ones for big ones and taught in law school for most of my life.” At times on the trail, she wears a Berkshire Community College cap — from the small school in western Massachusetts where she gave the commencement address in 2015.

What, does she think people will just forget she’s been teaching at Harvard for two decades and that she was paid $429,981 over two years to teach two classes?

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