Politics & Policy

The New Democratic Party

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during an event to introduce the “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill, September 13, 2017. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

It’s a strange news day today to cap off an intense week. Jim Geraghty will be back on Monday. Today we look at the political future of the Democratic party and read from Nicholas Eberstadt’s diagnosis of the North Korea summit.

Democratic Candidates Are Marching Left

Are the Democrats moving leftward? Mike Konczal, a writer and fellow at the progressive Roosevelt Institute, says the answer is yes. In response to a column in The Week by Ryan Cooper, who lamented that Democrats do not “put forward a consistent party line on economic issues,” Konczal perused the campaign websites of a smattering of Democrats. He found large-scale agreement on a set of key economic issues: “Every candidate but one has expanding Medicare on their website, either as a public option or as single-payer. All but one has a living wage, with the majority explicitly stating $15 an hour as the goal. Some version of free college, most notably the ‘debt-free’ model, was represented across the board.”

That Democrats are increasingly embracing radical policies might seem obvious to conservatives who take for granted the party’s leftward orientation. But this is in fact a meaningful shift for the party, which during the Clinton era was defined by marrying social liberalism to center-left, neoliberal economics. A Democratic party whose lodestar is economic populism might be a potent electoral force. A shift in this direction is certainly something to attend to.

But there are obstacles in the way of the Democrats, who increasingly rely on the votes and dollars of upper-middle class whites, from implementing mass redistribution to fund these social programs. Konczal is aware of the uncomfortable fact that raising taxes is simply an unpopular thing to do, hence his admission that “the work is going to get harder.” It’s easy to run on something; much harder to actually pass these laws when you are in power.

Konczal points out another problem: prioritization. Party rhetoric increasingly casts all of these economic policies as matters of basic justice: It simply ought to be the case that people are guaranteed free college, free health care, and a living wage, by the state. But how to prioritize among these policies when you take control of the government? The pressure from progressive interest groups will be immense, and voters might feel bitterly disappointed if something they were told is a basic human right is put on the back-burner.

So there are problems with the new Democratic agenda that make it something other than an inevitability. But the Left has plenty of intelligent people working to solve them. Conservatives should think about what a world where that work pays off will look like. Maybe then the calls for a slight relaxation of GOP orthodoxy — pass some kind of universal catastrophic health insurance, offer larger tax credits refundable against more liabilities, open up the college system to expand online education and loosen accreditation rules — will begin to seem more attractive. For now, recalcitrance is what we’re getting, no matter how risky it might be.

Kim Wins in Singapore

The new print issue of National Review features a must-read cover story by Nicholas Eberstadt on the North Korean summit. Eberstadt, one of the world’s leading DPRK experts, is the bearer of bad news:

Given the hopes that President Trump’s North Korea policy had generated in the roughly 18 months leading up to Singapore, the results were little short of shocking. There is no way to sugarcoat it: Kim Jong-un and the North Korean side ran the table. After one-on-one talks with their most dangerous American adversary in decades and high-level deliberations with the “hard-line” Trump team, the North walked away with a joint communiqué that read almost as if it had been drafted by the DPRK ministry of foreign affairs. . . .

Kim Jong-un’s first and most obvious victory was the legitimation the summit’s pageantry accorded him and his regime. The Dear Respected Leader was treated as if he were the head of a legitimate state and indeed of a world power rather than the boss of a state-run crime cartel that a U.N. Commission of Inquiry wants to charge with crimes against humanity. In addition to the intrinsic photo-op benefit of a face-to-face with an American president who had traveled halfway across the globe to meet him, the Dear Respected Leader bathed in praise from the leader of the free world: Kim Jong-un was “a talented man who loves his country very much,” “a worthy negotiator,” and a person with whom Trump had “developed a very special bond.” Kim even garnered an invitation to the White House. These incalculably valuable gifts went entirely unreciprocated.

Second: Kim was handed a major victory in terms of what went missing from the summit agenda. For the Kim regime’s security infractions are by no means limited to its domestic nuke and missile projects. . . .

. . . Third: Regarding the key issues that were mentioned in the joint statement, the U.S. ended up adopting North Korean code language.

Until (let’s say) yesterday, the U.S. objective in the North Korean nuclear crisis was to induce the DPRK to dismantle its nuclear armaments and the industrial infrastructure for them. Likewise with long-range missiles. Thus the long-standing U.S. formulation of “CVID”: “complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization.”  But because the nuclear quest is central to DPRK strategy and security, the real, existing North Korean state cannot be expected to acquiesce in CVID — ever. Thus its own alternative formulation, with which America concurred in Singapore: “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

In this sly formulation, South Korea would also have to “denuclearize” — even though it possesses no nukes and allows none on its soil. How? By cutting its military ties to its nuclear-armed ally, the U.S. And if one probes the meaning of this formulation further with North Korean interlocutors, one finds that even in this unlikely scenario, the DPRK would treat its “denuclearization” as a question of arms control — as in, if America agrees to drawing down to just 40 nukes, Pyongyang could think about doing the same. The language of “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” ensured that no tangible progress on CVID was promised in the joint statement.

One hopes there is nonpublic information mitigating our losses from the summit. But it is hard to place too much confidence in the administration. Read the whole cover story here.

ADDENDA: Your weekend reading: “Tribal World,” Amy Chua, Foreign Affairs; “The Campus Intersectionality Craze,” Elliot Kaufmann, Commentary; “Send Anarchists, Guns, and Money,” Jacob Siegel, Baffler

Biggest winners from last night’s NBA Draft: Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets. The Mavs were able to trade the rights of Trae Young — who, despite the Steph Curry comparisons, can’t finish at the rim or play defense — and a future first-round pick for perhaps the best prospect in the draft, European guard Luka Doncic. Doncic succeeded at the second-toughest level of competition in the world, the Euroleague, and is a guy Dallas can build around for the next ten years. Meanwhile, the Nuggets, at the 14 spot, picked Michael Porter Jr: a top-three talent who due to injuries slid down teams’ draft boards. But Denver is a budding team that can afford to bring him along slowly. And if he’s ready to play within the next couple of years, he’ll add dynamism and talent to an already-solid core.

Thanks for bearing with me this week. See you around.


Will Democrats Catch a November Wave?

Anti-Trump protesters hold a rally outside Amsoil Arena during a visit by President Donald Trump in Duluth, Minn., June 20, 2018. (Adam Bettcher/Reuters)

Today, we take a look at recent polls in the upcoming midterm elections, the possible effect of rising home values on birth rates, and the administration separating itself from its own policy.

Midterm Update

For all the talk of a “blue wave” this November, the outcome of the midterm elections seems entirely in doubt. The Senate map is extremely favorable to Republicans; the Democratic lead in the “generic ballot” is nowhere near its double-digit highs from winter; Democrats did not do as well as they would have hoped in the recent California primary elections.

The widely followed Cook Political Report has downgraded two competitive House races in the Democratic direction. The seat of Barbara Comstock (R., Va.), representing the state’s tenth congressional district, is now considered a Democratic lean rather than a toss-up. Comstock faces Democratic state senator Jennifer Wexton. In Kentucky, the race between three-term incumbent Andy Barr, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, is now considered a toss-up.

Some interesting polls have emerged in key Senate races. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) seems poised to fend off challenger Lou Barletta, whom I profiled last September. A Franklin and Marshall poll has Casey up 17 percentage points. Meanwhile, a Mason-Dixon poll suggests incumbent Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) is vulnerable: She trails Republican challenger Kevin Cramer 48–44. Two recent polls from Wisconsin show Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin with a solid lead (eleven and nine percentage points), while a Monmouth poll puts Joe Manchin up 50–39 over Republican Patrick Morrisey.

Plenty, however, depends on turnout, and none of these pollsters can see the future. The story of the midterm elections will be the story of two parties trying to turn out two countervailing groups of people: Democrats want to capitalize on their gains in white, upper-middle-class suburbia (especially among women), while Republicans want to tighten their hold on the white working class. The first group could turn the election into a blue wave; the second group could form a countervailing red wave. Trump has had a catalyzing effect on the Democratic base in most high-profile special elections since taking office, leading to the blue-wave chatter. Time will tell whether the GOP can muster a reciprocal wave of its own.

Home Values and Birth Rates

We know that the U.S. birth rate has broadly declined since 2008. For Millennial women, Zillow Research finds, that trend has been strongest in counties where home values have risen.

This is no proof that rising home values cause a decline in birth rates, but if that were the case, we’d expect to see data like this: “Birth records from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics show a strong negative relationship between home value growth and birth rate change across large counties in the U.S. for 25- to 29-year-old women, from 2010 to 2016,” Zillow writes. The effect they identify is significant: “On average, if a county’s home value increase was 10 percentage points higher than another county’s, its fertility rate fell 1.5 percentage points further.”

The trend doesn’t hold for some localities. Many of these are in the South, such as Miami-Dade County and Dallas County. Utah County, where Provo is located, saw its birth rate rise. For localities where the trend is unusually strong, look along the coasts: Los Angeles County, Orange County, Kings County, and Philadelphia County.

Zillow’s write-up of the research suggests there could be several causes for the trend. “One alternative explanation could be the possibility that there is clustering into certain counties of people with careers that pay well enough for expensive homes but make it difficult to have children before 30.” That is, people living in more-expensive houses might be the type to put off having kids, leading to a decline in birth rates that will even out as they age; it is well known that affluent Millennials are likelier to have kids later in life than were their elders.

But the more worrisome hypothesis is that higher housing prices will discourage people who might not be able to afford the rising costs of homeownership from deciding to settle down and have kids at all. This is an intuitively plausible explanation that researchers have set forth before. Though homeowners benefit from a bull market in real estate, those gains don’t flow to people who don’t own homes. In many cases, rising home prices might make it more difficult to attain financial stability. And contrary to cheap headlines that portray young people as a collection of irrational reprobates, plenty of us make decisions on a perfectly reasonable cost–benefit basis.

More research will be needed to confirm the trend. But for those of us with a strong prior in favor of market solutions to make housing cheaper, this would just mark another reason.

The Administration Separates Itself from Family Separation

The president signed an executive order yesterday purporting to end his administration’s practice of separating migrant children from their parents when families are found illegally crossing the border. But the crisis is far from over. More than 2,000 kids were detained before the order was signed, and Trump included no language to account for their situations. Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether the government has the resources to detain family units together as the order stipulates — much less the ability to do it legally, given the Flores consent decree prohibiting children from being held for more than 20 days. David French doubts the order is workable, while Dara Lind thinks the text is operative. The parade of incompetence marches on.

ADDENDA: I didn’t know Mike Potemra, NR’s late literary editor, personally, but the remembrances posted to NRO in the wake of his death were touching, and Mike’s writing was that of a deeply human, obviously intelligent man. Today the staff of National Review attends his memorial mass.

The NBA draft is tonight. Stay tuned for my thoughts in this space tomorrow. What I’m watching for tonight: Will Kawhi Leonard be dealt? Will the Kings go with Luka Doncic at No. 2? And who will be willing to take a flier on Michael Porter Jr.?

Music critics have had a difficult time dealing with the string of new Kanye West-associated albums. DAYTONA, the Pusha T album for which he was executive producer, was unimpeachable; critics swallowed their tongues and gave it high marks. If Yeezy’s solo project, ye, was uneven, it also featured some of his most personal work and interesting production. The album polarized critics, sometimes within their own reviews: Pitchfork’s Meaghen Garvey tore album and artist to shreds as her editors gave the album a respectable 7.1. But the next project, Kids See Ghosts by West and Kid Cudi, is Kanye’s best work in five years. Trendy outfits such as Pitchfork and The Ringer couldn’t bear to admit that Ye had returned to glory. Only Anthony Fantano was willing to admit the obvious.

Economy & Business

Should We Worry about the Flattening Yield Curve?

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at his news conference after the two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on interest rate policy in Washington, June 13, 2018. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

In today’s Jolt, we’ll take a look at the bond markets and what they could mean for continued economic growth; how other countries are handling migration issues of their own; and Chuck Schumer’s resistance to legislative fixes to the family-separation crisis at the border.

It’s Time to Pay Attention to the Bond Markets

“Should we worry about the flattening yield curve?” That’s the question everyone was asking after last week’s Federal Reserve meeting and the subsequent market action. (“Everyone” might be a generous word.) The “yield curve” is simply the difference between treasury-bond yields of different maturities. Take the spread between the two-year yield, which is hovering around 2.5 percent, and the ten-year yield, which is hovering around 2.9 percent. The two–ten curve is the difference between those two numbers, and it currently sits at 37 basis points, or 0.37 percent: flatter than at any point since 2007.

Financial writers and investors often cite the two–ten curve as a relevant piece of information. Because the two-year yield is a rough signal of the bond market’s expectations for monetary policy over the next two years, and the ten-year yield is a rough signal of market expectations for growth and inflation over the next ten years, the difference between the two provides a clue as to how much room the market thinks might be left in an economic expansion.

If the spread between the two treasury yields is large — if the curve is steep — that suggests markets think the central bank has room to raise rates over the next two years without affecting prospects for future economic growth. A flatter curve, such as the one we have today, reflects, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, “investors’ confidence that the Federal Reserve will maintain its current pace of interest-rate increases despite continuing skepticism about the longer-term outlook for economic growth and inflation.” An inverted two–ten curve, meanwhile, is conventionally seen as a harbinger of a recession.

The Jay Powell–led Fed raised rates last week in an altogether expected move. It also included language that suggests it will take a moderately more hawkish stance to monetary policy than it did when the bank was led by Janet Yellen. With the economy ten years into its expansion and the yield curve flattening, should we worry about a recession? Is the business cycle about to turn?

Maybe not. External factors, such as large-scale bond purchases by central banks, pension funds, and foreign countries, can push down long-term interest rates; several commentators have argued that asset purchases by these entities are keeping the spread between short and long rates narrow. But former Bloomberg editor Robert Burgess points out that yield curves already have inverted overseas, and economist David Beckworth observes that the Fed itself seems to be willing to bring about an inverted yield curve. (Its estimate of the long-term federal-funds rate is 2.9 percent; it sees itself raising the short-term rate to 3 percent by 2019.) The yield curve is a wholly artificial metric, and the state of the underlying economy is what really matters. But it’s probably right to sound a note of concern.

Restrictive Migrant Policy Isn’t Just for the U.S.

It’s not just the United States that is flirting with a tougher policy toward migrants seeking to claim asylum. Several European countries are dealing with the issue as well. German chancellor Angela Merkel is facing political turmoil after Horst Seehofer, an interior official from the Christian Social Union party — a coalition partner of her Christian Democratic Union party — claimed the unilateral authority to turn back migrants coming from elsewhere in Europe. Merkel, who has consistently stressed the humanitarian importance of a permissive policy admitting migrants, has rejected the idea and called for an EU meeting to resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, the new interior minister in Italy’s populist coalition government, Matteo Salvini from the right-wing Northern League, made waves last week by denying a ship with more than 600 migrants harbor at an Italian port. The move coincides with the Northern League taking the lead in polls for the first time. (Seehofer reportedly congratulated Salvini over the phone — restrictionist interior ministers stick together.)

Walter Russell Mead makes a necessary point about all of this in the Wall Street Journal. He writes:

Africa’s population, currently estimated at about 1.26 billion, is projected to double by 2050. Many of those additional people will be poor, but smartphones and the internet will keep them informed of the enormous gap between European and African living standards. It’s likely that for the next several decades many countries in Africa (as well as the Middle East and Central Asia) will remain underdeveloped, torn by civil and religious violence, and producing large numbers of desperate young men.

Europe simply cannot deal with these pressures unless it develops much stronger tools to control migration. Today, such ideas remain unthinkable among respectable European politicians, but that equilibrium is fragile. Almost two-thirds of Europeans cite either migration (38 percent) or terrorism (29 percent) as one of the European Union’s two most important problems, according to the most recent Eurobarometer poll. Addressing climate change and strengthening Europe’s place in the world, causes much closer to the heart of the European establishment, were each cited as important by only 11 percent of those surveyed.

This issue is not going away. It is likely to intensify over the coming decades as hotter temperatures and droughts in sub-Saharan Africa and across the Middle East propel more migrants to Europe. As these domestic disputes and the fierce debate they have provoked in the European press reveal, the continent still has not figured out what its approach to migrants ought to be.

One major theme of Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe is that Europe blundered into its current stance on immigration by accident. The postwar necessity for migrant labor quickly elided into a lasting ideology of large-scale immigration whose justifications shifted depending on the interlocutor. Such an approach will not suffice; its political downsides are becoming clear as the “responsible” architects of Europe’s permissive immigration policy yield to populists. If these responsible actors want to prevent demagogues from exploiting the immigration issue, then they need to respond to the concerns of their voters with something beyond vague bromides about the value of inclusion.

Yes, more family separation

The front pages of the U.S.’s newspapers remain focused on family separation. Last night, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer announced that he opposes congressional action to end the practice because, “when the president can do it with his own pen, it makes no sense.” This rationale seems even more ridiculous when one considers that Republicans have drafted narrowly tailored legislation that would address the family-separation issue head-on. The administration, rather grotesquely, said it would block any legislation that did not also resolve surrounding immigration-policy questions. But if Democrats and Republicans were to agree on a bill, they could form a supermajority and render these negotiating tactics moot. I want to believe that our congressional leaders would put the best interests of the country before their own political interests and find a quick resolution to this problem. But Democrats might want to use this issue against Republicans for the midterm elections. There’s a reason Americans are deeply cynical when it comes to the legislative branch, and this is it.

ADDENDA: I’d like to plug “Taiwan’s Challenge,” my first print article for National Review, which appears in the June 25, 2018, issue. I’d like to mention that the NBA Draft is tomorrow, and Friday’s edition of the Jolt will feature plenty of words breaking down the fallout from that glorious occasion. And I’d like to stipulate that the Beach Boys’ album Sunflower is superior to the Beatles’ Abbey Road. See you all tomorrow.

Politics & Policy

The Con Woman of Silicon Valley

Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos, attends a panel discussion during the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York, September 29, 2015. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Yesterday’s Jolt dealt with family separation and a growing trade dispute with China. Much of the big news of the day again pertains to none other than family separation and a growing trade dispute with China. President Trump has announced 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods; China has vowed to retaliate; Trump has vowed to retaliate if they retaliate. Look for equity markets to slide today. Later, we’ll take a look at Theranos’s Elizabeth Holmes and her fall from grace in Silicon Valley.

Will Congress Put an End to Family Separation?

Some background, in case you haven’t been following the story: The Trump administration has been prosecuting all who are found illegally crossing the border. Many of these people are Central American asylum seekers who enter the country as family units. Because of a Bush-era consent decree, when they claim asylum the parents are detained separately from their children, who are being taken into the custody of HHS in makeshift shelters. Right now, thousands of kids, separated from their parents, are being held in such facilities. It’s grim.

Enter Congress. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) took a first pass at an anti-family-separation bill that would generally cripple the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward those crossing the border illegally. It won the support of all Democrats, but no Republicans have signed onto it. Last night, Ted Cruz (R., Texas) proposed a bill that looks as if it has a real chance at passing. The bill is narrowly tailored to solve the family separation problem, directing that the resources currently going toward child shelters go toward family shelters, doubling the number of immigration-court judges and ordering them to handle the asylum claims expeditiously, and forbidding the practice of family separation. Rumblings out of D.C. indicate that a House bill could be on the way as well.

Elizabeth Holmes’s Fall from Grace

Theranos was among the hottest startups just three years ago. Now its founder Elizabeth Holmes and former COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani have been charged with felony counts of wire fraud. It’s a precipitous fall from grace for the woman who had been hailed as the next Steve Jobs — she had a habit of wearing black turtlenecks and insisting she would change the world — and once had a net worth of $4.5 billion. But the charges are no surprise to anyone who has been following the story.

Dogged work by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou cast light on Theranos’s issues with its blood-testing technology in October 2015. The company had said it was using groundbreaking, proprietary technology to test people’s blood with just a pinprick — marking a revolution in the medical-device world. But, Carreyrou reported, it had been struggling with its proprietary devices. Put simply, they didn’t work. Theranos had resorted to using other companies’ devices to test patients’ blood samples, but since those devices required a larger amount of blood to conduct the tests, it had to dilute the samples. All of this led to accuracy problems, and Theranos, then under contract with Walgreens, was conducting unreliable tests on the pharmacy’s behalf.

Is it fair to extrapolate the case of Theranos to the rest of Silicon Valley? Certainly the negative consequences of the move-fast-and-break-things ethos have become clear over the last few months, and dispatches from within Theranos’s doors evoke other Silicon Valley horror stories. But Matt Levine — to my mind the best morning-newsletter writer in the business outside of Brother Geraghty — identifies the salient distinction between Theranos and, say, a certain “disruptive” juicer company that wound up not having the goods:

It seems right to me that, of all the startups to charge with wire fraud, prosecutors went with the one whose allegedly fake blood tests allegedly endangered patient lives. You really can’t prosecute every little startup exaggeration as wire fraud. A lot of those exaggerations — quite possibly even a lot of Theranos’s — are motivated by CEO overconfidence and delusion, and it is hard to distinguish among the CEO who promises the impossible because she is committing fraud, the CEO who promises the impossible because she is deluded, and the CEO who promises the impossible and then goes and does it. All three types flourish in Silicon Valley.

And Silicon Valley is basically a good ecosystem. It produces a lot of good stuff and makes a lot of venture capitalists rich. And sometimes startups fail, and sometimes it turns out that they were lying to their investors, but the investors — in aggregate, in expectation — are okay with that. The investors want to be lied to! They want to look into the eyes of entrepreneurs, and see the abyss staring back at them, and say “well okay this is weird, let’s see where this goes.” Move fast and break etc. etc. etc., you know the drill; you put your money on weird rebels pursuing high-variance outcomes, and when the variance is high—in either direction—you congratulate yourself for your boldness.

Not everyone in Silicon Valley is a delusional con woman hell-bent on making herself rich off the diluted blood of patients who just wanted to find out if they had a disease; it’s just Elizabeth Holmes.

The Harvard Admissions-Discrimination Case

Harvard University almost certainly discriminates against Asian Americans in its admissions process. Documents were released last week in the course of a lawsuit by Students for Fair Admissions against the university that shed light on the process. The National Review editorial explains:

Evidence shows the discrimination happens along two lines. First, Harvard evaluates applicants according to a “holistic” process that considers, in addition to their academic, extracurricular, and athletic achievements, “personal” qualities: whether they have demonstrated “humor, sensitivity, grit, leadership,” etc. Asian Americans consistently rank below others on the personality metric, despite the fact that admissions officials never meet most applicants. The internal review showed that Asian Americans were the only demographic group to suffer negative effects from the subjective portion of the evaluation. Second, even after the subjective criteria are taken into account, the university tips the scales further by adjusting for “demographics.” The specifics of this adjustment have been redacted by the university, but the review found that the share of admitted Asian students fell from 26 percent to 18 percent after it was made.

Having skimmed over the relevant documents, I’m struck first by how overtly the university trafficked in racial stereotypes against Asian Americans. It frequently referred to them as “busy but bright” and was significantly more likely to give them “standard strong” ratings in the personality portion of the admissions evaluation, a rating that denotes a strong academic profile with little else to round it out. Yet Asian American students consistently piled up better-than-average ratings on the extracurricular portion of the evaluation. It was the personality metric on which they faltered. Harvard admissions officials were guilty of trafficking in some of the most well-trod stereotypes against Asian Americans without ever having met them: According to Harvard, they are undifferentiated drones who don’t have social skills, aren’t natural leaders, and can’t contribute to a vibrant community in meaningful ways. It is despicable that Harvard has been getting away with this for so long. One silver lining is that the political damage the university has been taking might encourage it to reform its admissions system, win or lose in court.

One issue that didn’t make it into the editorial that deserves some consideration was raised by Michael Brendan Dougherty in a Corner post last Friday. A better college-admissions system, he suggests, might allow universities to choose what their mission is and tailor their admissions criteria from there. This follows from the general principle that civil society ought to allow institutions to choose what type of institution they want to be. If Harvard thinks it is better off balancing its demographic in a certain way to cultivate a racially representative group of people for membership in the American elite, then it ought to make that case (though this would probably be illegal). We might benefit from a frank conversation about the potentially manifold roles that universities ought to play in our country. But Harvard’s deception certainly doesn’t help. Nor does its blatant racist stereotyping.

ADDENDA: Vladimir Putin will be hosting former FIFA president Sepp Blatter at the World Cup, a meeting between two of the worst people on the planet. Here are three essays you should try and read this week:

1) “David Lynch Keeps His Head,” by David Foster Wallace, Premiere, 1996

2) “The Face of Seung-Hui Cho,” by Wesley Yang, n+1, 2008

3) “The Killa in Manila,” by Christopher Caldwell, The Weekly Standard, 2018


Family Separation at the Border Is Set to Dominate the Week’s News

A demonstrator carries a Mexican flag while climbing the border fence between Mexico and the U.S., during a protest against the immigration policies of U.S. President Donald Trump’s government, in Tijuana, Mexico, May 10, 2018. (Jorge Duenes/Reuters)

Your humble correspondent will be filling in for Jim Geraghty this week.

Family Separation

The Trump-administration practice of separating families when they are detained for crossing the border illegally is coming under fire. The administration had been taking heat from the left, but over the weekend, several Republicans broke ranks. Senators Susan Collins and Jeff Flake penned a letter to Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (who is currently getting dragged on Twitter over the controversy) asking her to end the practice. Laura Bush wrote an op-ed for the New York Times calling it “cruel” and “immoral.” Melania Trump’s office issued a rare statement that concluded: “We need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.” The issue is all over the major newspapers and, I’m told, cable news.

Family separation has been happening for a while, but the criticism is approaching a crescendo. This is the story of the week, so it’s important to define our terms. The administration doesn’t exactly have a policy of separating children from their parents once family units are detained for crossing the border. The relevant policy is its zero-tolerance approach to illegal border crossings: Prosecute all adults who are found to be illegally entering (in contrast to the Obama-era policy of “catch and release,” which allowed family units entry into the U.S. interior while their cases were being adjudicated and was a major contributor to the current crisis). Rich Lowry explains:

When a migrant is prosecuted for illegal entry, he or she is taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals. . . . The child is taken into the custody of HHS, who cares for them at temporary shelters.

The criminal proceedings are exceptionally short, assuming there is no aggravating factor such as a prior illegal entity or another crime. The migrants generally plead guilty, and they are then sentenced to time served, typically all in the same day, although practices vary along the border. After this, they are returned to the custody of ICE.

If the adult then wants to go home, in keeping with the expedited order of removal that is issued as a matter of course, it’s relatively simple. The adult should be reunited quickly with his or her child, and the family returned home as a unit. In this scenario, there’s only a very brief separation.

Where it becomes much more of an issue is if the adult files an asylum claim. In that scenario, the adults are almost certainly going to be detained longer than the government is allowed to hold their children. That’s because of something called the Flores Consent Decree from 1997. It says that unaccompanied children can be held only 20 days.

The combination of the administration’s zero-tolerance policy, a scarcity of detention facilities, asylum claims by parents facing illegal-entry charges, and the Flores Consent Decree adds up to scores of children being held in converted Wal-Marts.

It’s a ghastly spectacle that is hard to defend. And the Trump administration has not exerted much effort in defending it. On Friday, Trump tried to lay blame at the foot of congressional Democrats, a talking point that has gotten little traction among even his most committed defenders. While some officials have privately defended the policy as a gruesome-but-necessary measure to deter future Central American asylum-seekers from crossing the border illegally, on-the-record defenses of the practice are conspicuously rare. The New York Times reports that the administration is internally divided over the measure. And the well-crafted first-person narratives in the media of young mothers who entered the United States only for their kids to be wrested away will only worsen the PR nightmare. I’d bet something changes sometime soon.

What are the available alternatives? It seems logical that the resources required to build these temporary shelters for children could instead go to building temporary shelters for family units. Then the families would be kept together as the gears of the law slowly turn, and the debate would shift to the zero-tolerance policy itself. The problem of the Flores Consent Decree could be solved by Congress, though as of now the anti-family-separation bills have been too broad to secure a consensus. And over a longer time frame, restrictionists could focus their energy not on cracking down on border crossings but on internal enforcement: a robust E-Verify policy that punishes businesses who hire illegal immigrants and causes many to leave on their own accord. (Maddeningly, the administration has been reported to oppose E-Verify.)

Trump succeeded as a candidate largely because he treated immigration as a contested issue. There are plenty of restrictionists in the United States whose concerns, for years, were ignored by Washington. But building a policy regime of tighter borders that lasts beyond the Trump administration means more than just returning the issue to the political map or taking provocative executive action against illegal border crossers — it means crafting legislation that can get through both houses of Congress and building a coalition for immigration restriction that extends beyond committed Trump supporters. There is plenty of misinformation in the family separation debate, to be sure. And on the margin, the practice indeed might deter some Central American asylum seekers from crossing the border. But over the long term, it will make the cause of immigration restriction ever harder to defend.

China Tariffs

China announced it will impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of U.S. goods in the latest retaliatory round of the ongoing trade war. The ball is now in Trump’s court, and it’s easy to see the president, who had vowed to retaliate if China retaliated, retaliating. The standoff appears to be weighing on global markets and generally increasing risk, and in a recent editorial, the Wall Street Journal explained that Trump’s steel tariff is hurting ordinary American businesses, including a locker-manufacturing company that happens to employ 400 factory workers in the Midwest. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell threw cold water on a bill that would have helped reassert congressional authority over the imposition of tariffs. Tariff mania won’t end anytime soon.

Addenda: I went to Heterodox Academy’s inaugural Open Mind Conference last Friday, along with fellow NR colleagues Christian Gonzalez and Madeleine Kearns. It was fascinating. Stay tuned for some more thoughts on a slower news day.

Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open for the second year in a row at Shinnecock Hills. The tournament was notable for being a standard U.S. Open: impossible course conditions, rowdy fans, and complaining Europeans.

Kawhi Leonard wants out of San Antonio and into Los Angeles. I could do without Kawhi’s weak excuses — the Spurs are a model franchise and everyone knows it — but the possibility of him teaming up with another superstar (or two) on the Lakers is a fascinating one.

Politics & Policy

Cancel the Monday Meetings for the Pakistani Taliban Leaders — And Everything Beyond That, Too

(Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

This is the last Jim-written Jolt for a week. Buckley Fellow Theodore Kupfer will pinch hit while I’m out; I’ll be back Monday, June 25.

Happy Friday! Whatever kind of a week you’ve had, you’ve had a better one than Mullah Fazlullah Khorasani.

The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was killed by a U.S. drone strike, an Afghan official said Friday.

Mullah Fazlullah Khorasani was Pakistan’s most-wanted militant and blamed for attacks including a 2014 school massacre that killed 132 children and the 2012 shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In March, the U.S. offered a $5 million reward for information on Fazlullah.

. . . Pakistan is considered key to persuading Afghan Taliban leaders, who Washington believes shelter on Pakistani soil, to open negotiations to end the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Prior to the Afghan Defense Ministry stating that Fazlullah had been killed, several members of the Pakistani Taliban told NBC News they had been unable to make contact with him and other senior commanders since receiving word of the strike.

They said they feared four other top commanders may also have been killed.

I’m starting to read Steve Coll’s S Directorate, which is about the U.S. War on Terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 9/11 to the end of the Obama years.

In the United States, a lot of the public and some of the foreign-policy wonks have a mentality that suggests if the U.S. government applies the right combination of attention, resources, military force, diplomatic pressure, and finesse, we can get the outcome we want in foreign policy. You see it in questions such as, “How can we bring peace to the Middle East?” or “How can we stop North Korea?” We don’t like to spend a lot of time thinking, “What if managing the problem — keeping the status quo in place — is as good an outcome as we can produce?”

We may find that the status quo in Afghanistan — a rickety, corrupt, pro-U.S. government that controls the cities and not much else — is about as good as it gets. The Pakistani intelligence service has always had close ties to the Taliban. I think it was Bing West who said on one of the NR cruises that, to a young man growing up in a poor village in the remote provinces of Afghanistan, joining the Taliban and playing mujahedeen warrior is a lot more glamorous and exciting than being a farmer or goat herder. While not all Afghans supported the Taliban’s brutal rule, the population is largely deeply religious.

If 9/11 had never happened, both Republican and Democratic administrations probably would have been content to continue the pre-9/11 policy towards the Taliban — nonrecognition, denunciation, and small-scale aid to their nominally pro-Western enemies. The world has a lot of oppressive regimes; what set the Taliban apart was its hosting of al-Qaeda, a group that explicitly endorsed and promoted attacks against Americans. If Mullah Omar had agreed to our demands that he turn over bin Laden and shut down the al-Qaeda training camps, the U.S. might have been content to leave the Taliban in charge in 2001.

You haven’t heard much about Afghanistan in the news or in our foreign-policy discussions in recent years. Every once in a while we hear further whispers that President Trump would like to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country. You might have missed that the Afghan government and Taliban announced a brief holiday cease-fire. But if you had to guess what Afghanistan will look like five years from now . . . doesn’t it seem likely that it will look more or less the way it does today?

The Partisan FBI

As mentioned yesterday, the FBI inspector general’s report is bad for the FBI. Bad for Jim Comey — he used his private email for official business! — bad for former attorney general Loretta Lynch, and really bad for lead agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. It’s also bad for any of us who would like to trust the judgment of the nation’s preeminent law-enforcement agency.

What’s interesting is that everyone who wants to poo-poo Trump’s “deep state” talk is pointing to all of the times the IG report concludes it did not find evidence that bias influenced or altered the decision-making of FBI employees. But the inspector general can’t put a charge like that in there unless it’s airtight — and even then, it makes that assessment for one of Strzok’s decisions.

The inspector general concluded that Strzok’s text of “we will stop him” along with others disparaging Trump, “is not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.”

That’s about as harsh as an inspector general is going to get. That’s “burn him at the stake” in federal bureaucrat-ese.

Anyone who reads through the complete report will find that the IG didn’t exonerate the bureau at all, and it was more just than a handful of bad apples. One identified agent working on the Clinton case — separate from Strzok and Page — texted to another, “I find anyone who enjoys [this job] an absolute f***ing idiot. If you dont think so, ask them one more question. Who are you voting for? I guarantee you it will be Donald Drumpf.” In a different exchange on September 9, 2016, the agent said, “i would rather have brunch with trump and a bunch of his supporters like the ones from ohio that are retarded.”

The agents later told the IG they did not think their political and personal views affected the integrity of the investigation. It’s one thing to contend that your political views didn’t affect your decision-making; it’s another to contend that your bristling charge that anyone who disagrees with your political preference is “retarded” never affected your judgment or decision-making.

You’ll recall that when I reviewed Comey’s book, I called attention to one passage that everyone else seemed to gloss over, describing the October 27, 2016, meeting where he and his top staff concluded that they had to inform Congress that the investigation into Clinton’s emails had been reopened:

As we were arriving at this decision, one of the lawyers on the team asked a searing question. She was a brilliant and quiet person, whom I sometimes had to invite into the conversation. “Should you consider that what you are about to do may help elect Donald Trump president?” she asked.

I paused for several seconds. It was of course the question on everyone’s mind, whether they expressed it out loud or not.

“It is a great question,” I said, “but not for a moment can I consider it. Because down that path lies the death of the FBI as an independent force in American life. If we start making decisions based on whose political fortunes will be affected, we are lost.”

Comey makes the right choice . . . but clearly at least one FBI lawyer felt comfortable suggesting that the FBI should not inform Congress about new developments in the investigation, as promised, because it could help elect Trump.

Is it a great question? Or is it arguing that the primary national law-enforcement organization in the United States should alter its decision-making process because it might hurt their preferred candidate?

How many other people in the room were thinking the way this unnamed lawyer did?

Uh, Director Comey, Were You in a Coma for a Few Years There, or What?

The most implausible claim in the 500-page report:

Comey said that he recalled first learning about the additional emails on the Weiner laptop at some point in early October 2016, although he said it was possible this could have occurred in late September 2016. Comey told the OIG that this information “didn’t index” with him, which he attributed to the way the information was presented to him and the fact that, “I don’t know that I knew that [Weiner] was married to Huma Abedin at the time.”

Really? Really?

Because the Anthony Weiner sexting scandals — er, both rounds of them, both 2011 and 2013 — were not exactly obscure news. Huma Abedin wasn’t exactly an obscure figure, either. All kinds of media wrote variations of “Why the heck is she still married to him?” columns.

You’re in charge of investigating things, and you somehow missed one of the biggest, most salacious, and heavily covered political scandals of the past decade?

ADDENDA: A new poll finds Maryland governor Larry Hogan ahead by double digits in his reelection bid against all rivals. I profiled Hogan’s record as governor in NR a few months ago.

Politics & Policy

Pop Some Popcorn: The FBI Inspector-General Report Gets Released Today

FBI Director James Comey attends a news conference on terrorism after speaking at the NYPD Shield Conference in the Manhattan borough of New York, December 16, 2015. (Darren Ornitz/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: It’s likely to be a very uncomfortable day for James Comey and perhaps the entire FBI; Hollywood and Broadway rage at Trump and forget that they’re supposed to be master storytellers who can change people’s minds; and congressional Republicans begin to get a little irritated with the pace of Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Buckle Up for the IG Report

This afternoon, FBI inspector general Michael Horowitz is expected to release his report about how the bureau handed the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server in the run-up to the 2016 election . . . and it is not expected to be pretty.

The report is expected to blast Comey for straying from Justice Department guidelines when he held a July 5, 2016, news conference to announce that there would be no criminal charges brought against Clinton and also to accuse her of carelessness in her use of the private email server. Typically, the FBI’s role would be limited to referring its findings to the attorney general. It would then be up to prosecutors to decide whether to bring criminal charges. The Justice Department — not the FBI — would typically make any public announcements about the case.

Comey is not the only high-profile Obama administration official whose actions are expected to draw criticism Thursday. Comey has said he was prompted to take extraordinary action in the Clinton case, in part, because he believed then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch showed poor judgment when she met privately in June 2016 with former President Bill Clinton when their planes were parked on the tarmac in Phoenix.

This morning, CBS News said the report would call Comey “insubordinate.”

But there’s more. Observers expect the report to address whether Andrew McCabe should have recused himself from investigating the Clintons, and whether he intentionally delayed looking at emails discovered on Anthony Weiner’s laptop; he was informed in late September or early October 2016, but nothing happened for three weeks. It’s hard to believe the IG report will offer a flattering portrait of Peter Strzok, who helped oversee the Clinton inquiry, or Lisa Page — for either their affair or their comments in their text messages. Recall that both Strzok and Page went on to work for Robert Mueller’s investigation for a period of time before resigning. And the report is likely to at least discuss reports of FBI leaks to the press.

‘When They Go Low . . .’ Eh, the Democrats Go Just as Low in Response

Does it mean something that Frank Bruni, the left-of-center New York Times columnist, sounds like he’s getting fed up with some corners of #TheResistance? He’s openly worrying that the Democrats will louse up their efforts in the midterms and 2020 because of all the rage, the profanity, the conspiracy theories, the doomsday predictions:

The more noise, the less discernment. The more fury, the less focus. Proportion and triage are in order, and that means an end, please, to the Melania madness. Floating the idea that she’s a victim of domestic abuse merely supports Trump’s contention that his critics are reflexive and unfettered in their contempt for him and that all of their complaints should be viewed through that lens.

“When they go low, we go high,” said another first lady, Michelle Obama, at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. It’s a fine set of marching orders, disobeyed ever since. It was definitely ignored by those of you in the Manhattan theater where the Tony Awards were held on Sunday. You answered [Robert] De Niro’s expletives with a standing ovation.

No one will change their rhetoric or behavior because of a Frank Bruni column, of course. This is because very few Trump critics — or advocates, for that matter — believe they’re in a public debate to persuade some undecided middle. We’re approaching the middle of Trump’s second year in office. Saturday will mark the three-year anniversary of Trump descending from the escalator in Trump Tower and launching his campaign. Just about everybody already knows what they think of him, and I suspect at least 35 to 40 percent of Americans on either side of the partisan divide are pretty much “locked in” on their opinion, and the rest are pretty firmly in place. Only Trump’s actual actions, and actual changes in circumstances — the economy, war, terror attacks — are likely to change those views.

De Niro wasn’t aiming to persuade anyone; he was preaching to the choir — not all that differently than most cable-news hosts, talk-radio hosts, columnists, or bloggers. And sometimes the choir needs to hear some preaching.

But as I mentioned on CNN earlier this week, the irony is that the Tony Awards celebrates and honors . . . great storytellers and performers. The wealthy, talented, inspired, gifted people in that room are supposed to be really good at catching our attention, telling us a story about people in a compelling and unforgettable way, getting us to feel emotions, taking us on a moving journey, and leading us to think about subjects in a new way.

De Niro could have shared the story of the illegal immigrant from Honduras who was caught, detained, and allegedly separated from her daughter immediately after breastfeeding. He could have asked whether we, as Americans, really want an immigration policy that separates children from parents if they are caught entering the country illegally, and whether we feel this sort of action makes us any safer. I’ll bet there are a lot of immigration hawks who would say, “You know, I’m not comfortable with that.”

But instead De Niro dropped the F-bomb. Hope it was worth it, Taxi Driver.

Earlier this week, Politico reported that the Democratic National Committee and members of Congress are “turning to Hollywood for help with voter turnout and messaging ahead of the midterm elections and 2020 presidential campaign, quietly consulting with a group of actors, writers and producers.”

Right now, a lot of people are scoffing, thinking of all the times they’ve watched some insufferable video or commercial featuring ill-informed celebrities lecture them, or creepily “pledging to serve” a particular politician.

Still . . . if you want Americans to sympathize with a gay man suffering from HIV, you cast Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. If you want Americans to remember that 18 members of the armed forces were killed and another 73 wounded in Somalia, in what could be seen as a key precursor to the war on terror, you make Black Hawk Down. You could even argue that if you want audiences to hate South Africa’s government, you make them the villains in a Lethal Weapon 2.

The Mueller Investigation Approaches Its 14th Month

We’re now approaching the 14th month of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — and it’s starting to test the patience of previously sympathetic GOP lawmakers: “A growing number of Republicans in senior leadership positions, who all profess that Mueller should have no artificial deadline for his Russia influence probe, have also begun to sprinkle in another suggestion: It’s time to wrap it up.”

Look, it’s possible that sometime soon, Robert Muller starts popping out indictments like a Pez dispenser, not merely for lying to investigators or for financial shenanigans unrelated to the Trump 2016 campaign, but over a concerted effort to coordinate with Russia to influence the election. But that’s been a possibility for quite a while now. And each morning we wake up and learn that Paul Manafort is in deeper hot water about his shady consulting, or that some Russian political consultant we’ve never heard of and who’s far from American soil is being indicted for obstruction of justice . . .

. . . but on the question of collusion, we must wait. Month after month.

And no matter how much Mueller wants to be seen as a straight shooter, above politics, and not interested in influencing the upcoming midterm elections, if the final report comes out in the fall, a lot of people will perceive it as a deliberate October surprise.

A lot of folks point out that Mueller’s moving fast by the standards of an independent counsel; recall Lawrence Walsh was named in 1986 and issued an indictment of Caspar Weinberger in 1992.

But the scale of the crime alleged is epic, and if proven, the crime would require rectification as soon as possible. The cloud of suspicion has hung over this president since before he was sworn in. If Donald Trump and his staff really did cooperate with Russia in an effort to determine the outcome of the presidential election, he would have to be removed from office as quickly as possible.

But if Mueller comes back with a report that makes that conclusion, with sufficient supporting evidence, a lot of people will ask, “Why are you telling us this in the latter half of 2018?” or even later.

ADDENDA: The editors have had it with Scott Priutt.

Politics & Policy

‘We Didn’t Put It in the Agreement because We Didn’t Have Time’

President Donald Trump walks off the stage after a news conference after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Some folks think I was too hard on President Trump, his comments, and the overall gist of the potential agreements at the Singapore summit. I wonder if those folks saw the comments from the president such as, “You have things that weren’t included that we got after the deal was signed. I’ve done that before in my life. And we didn’t put it in the agreement because we didn’t have time.”

Didn’t have time?

What, was there some other place these guys needed to be? Was either leader worried about missing a flight or something? Trust me, Air Force One isn’t going to take off without the president. This isn’t the SAT, and there is no proctor declaring “pencils down” when the hour is complete.

I suppose you could argue that it didn’t matter if the North Korean pledges were written down or not . . .

. . . because this regime has violated its own written pledges again and again.

North Korea signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985 and promised not to develop nuclear weapons and to allow full access to any international inspectors. They broke that pledge.

In 1992, they signed a joint declaration with South Korea committing to “denuclearization.” They broke that pledge. Later that year, they signed an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency agreeing to full inspections. They broke that pledge.

In 1993, the North Koreans signed an agreement with the United States that included, “assurances against the threat and use of force, including nuclear weapons.” They broke that pledge.

Then in the 1994, North Korea signed the “Agreed Framework” freezing their nuclear program . . . that they continued in secret.

In 2000, North Korea signed an agreement to “not launch long-range missiles of any kind” and “greater transparency.” They didn’t honor that one, either.

On September 19, 2005, North Korea signed the agreement at the six-party talks “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.” On October 9, 2006, North Korea tested its first nuclear device.

In 2007, North Korea agreed to disable its key plutonium production facilities at Yongbyon and to provide a “complete and correct” declaration of its nuclear program by the end of the year. North Korea slowed down the destruction of the Yongbyon facility, provided an incomplete accounting of its nuclear program, and refused on-site inspections, making it impossible to verify its claims.

Since then, North Korea has tested five more nuclear devices.

I keep hearing from Trump fans, “Why can’t you show a little optimism?”

Well, because optimism requires us to believe that these latest promises are completely different from all of the previous promises from this regime. The skepticism I have about this latest round of promises from North Korea is the exact same skepticism I bring to the Iran deal, which every Trump fan is thrilled to see scrapped. History teaches us that hostile regimes lie a lot. It’s not a matter of the United States not reaching out to them in the right way. If they have the opportunity to cheat, they will cheat. One might argue that duplicity is intrinsic to the nature of any regime that is unwilling to subject itself to the limit of free and fair elections. No one’s ever looked at a dictator, tyrant, despot, or ayatollah and said, “Wow, that guy’s a really honest leader.”

Trump’s fans are convinced he’s got some unique “don’t mess with him” mojo that will intimidate the North Koreans into keeping their promises. I hope they’re right. Maybe Trump has communicated that breaking a promise to his administration will indeed bring “fire and fury.” If it works out, give him the Nobel.

But I think any U.S. leader hoping to successfully negotiate a deal with the North Koreans has to keep all of this history of broken promises in the back of his mind.

Judging from Trump’s comments, he wants to approach Kim Jong-un with a clean slate: “Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done, if you look at it. But I really have to go by today and yesterday and a couple of weeks ago because that’s really when this whole thing started.”

Meanwhile, Down in the Palmetto State . . .

John Warren made the gubernatorial runoff in South Carolina!

Incumbent governor Henry McMaster has been involved in South Carolina politics and government for a long time, starting with staff work for Strom Thurmond in the mid 1970s. Ronald Reagan chose him to be a U.S. attorney back in 1981. He served on the state’s Commission on Higher Education in the early 1990s and was chairman of the South Carolina Republican party from 1993 to 2002. He was elected state attorney general in 2002, reelected in 2006, ran for governor in 2010, and elected lieutenant governor in 2014. No doubt most South Carolina Republicans would concur he’s gotten more things right than wrong over the course of his career, but he basically is the personification of the state’s political establishment. McMaster endorsed Trump early; Trump endorsed McMaster — in fact, some speculate that one reason Trump was eager to have Nikki Haley work in his administration was because her departure would make McMaster the governor.

The runoff is in two weeks. This is the first time a sitting governor has been forced into a runoff in South Carolina. While McMaster will no doubt enjoy the political advantages of incumbency, don’t underestimate the restlessness of South Carolina Republicans. Warren is emphasizing his status as a self-funded outsider who doesn’t owe any special interest any favors. (Sound familiar?)

In the southern coastal counties of South Carolina, Katie Arrington beat incumbent Representative Mark Sanford, 50.5 percent to 46.6 percent.

In a monumental upset fueled by a Donald Trump tweet, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford lost his Republican primary to Katie Arrington, a one-term state lawmaker who made loyalty to the president the centerpiece of her campaign.

The defeat, which carries national implications, marks the first time Sanford has lost an election, which began with his first congressional bid in this very district in 1994.

Yesterday afternoon, after Trump tweeted his endorsement of Arrington, I wrote, “Arrington probably would have preferred this endorsement more than three hours before polls close.” As much as that sounds like a shot at Trump, that’s really a shot at his staff. No doubt the president was occupied with the summit in Singapore and other presidential priorities; it’s the job of somebody on his staff to keep an eye on the primaries in the states, keep track of where the president has a rooting interest and when a presidential endorsement would be useful.

(Sanford, who Trump described as “MIA and nothing but trouble,” votes with the president 73 percent of the time.)

Reason magazine laments his departure as a figure in Congress who was “a consistently principled voice for liberty and limited government.”

Democrats will probably try to talk themselves into believing that this district is in play, but it’s worth recalling that back in May 2013, when Elizabeth Colbert Busch against Mark Sanford in his comeback bid in a special election, Democratic-leaning groups dumped about a million dollars in television advertising into this district . . . and lost by nine points.

Trump won this district 53 percent to 40 percent in 2016.

Contemplating Anthony Bourdain’s Legacy

Before we proceed, some key prefaces: Anthony Bourdain was insightful breath of fresh air, wickedly funny, and he encouraged a massive audience to nurture their curiosity and sense of wonder about the world around them. He will be dearly missed.

I agree in part and disagree in part with this Kyle Smith column about Bourdain — I think his fans were attracted by a lot more than his arm tattoos — but I’m glad someone else observed the strange contradiction in Bourdain’s beliefs. He embraced, and endorsed, a philosophy of recognizing and appreciating the wide range of not-easily-detected differences in the world of food — the “foodie culture” — but he could then turn around and roll his eyes at beer snobs, “people sitting there with five small glasses in front of them, filled with different beers, taking notes.”

There was one other aspect of Bourdain’s life that looks a little more odd and troubling in the aftermath of his suicide. On both No Reservations and Parts Unknown, at least once a season — usually with his buddy Zamir Gotta, sometimes not — Bourdain would go to some establishment and, surrounded by friends and laughter, get drunk.

Not slightly tipsy drunk, but falling-down drunk, on camera, in Romania, Sicily, and a few other episodes. This didn’t happen every episode, but it clearly was more than a one-time excess. One wonders if that was a sign that he was struggling with problems that were otherwise hidden by his largely jovial, sarcastic personality.

ADDENDA: This morning, FIFA announced the United States, Mexico, and Canada will jointly host the 2026 World Cup. I can only imagine how many bribes this deal required. Maybe we really will be competitive in the World Corruption Games!

My co-host Greg Corombos lets Virginia Republican primary voters know what they’ve signed on for with Corey Stewart.

National Security & Defense

North Korea Wins Suspension of U.S. Military Exercise in Exchange for Promises, Magic Beans

President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during the signing of a document after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. (Anthony Wallace/Pool via Reuters)

I wanted to give the president and the administration the benefit of the doubt on the North Korean summit. After all, as Winston Churchill said, “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”

Let’s start with the positive. If Trump is right, then indeed the North Koreans have made the largest concession we wanted: “They’re going to get rid of their nuclear weapons. . . . Now, we’re going to see. I mean, they’re going to start working on it immediately. We’re going to work with South Korea. We’re going to work with Japan. We’re going to work with China.”

The problem is that the North Korean regime has broken its word in the past, many, many times. And denuclearization is extremely tough to verify unless you have far-reaching access within the country:

Analysts agree that the only way to confirm whatever nuclear promises North Korea’s might make over time would be “an intrusive monitoring and inspection system,” as Frank Aum, a former Department of Defense senior advisor on North Korea, puts it. But Aum notes that any successes from the summit would more likely be broad verbal and written commitments, with specific details still months or years away. …

The crucial difficulty in holding North Korea accountable for anything is that no one knows exact inventories of what facilities and materials North Korea has where. Even if the country were to agree to admit foreign inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency or another body, the examiners would only know to ask to see certain sites.

In other words, we don’t know what we don’t know — meaning that even with our advanced intelligence-gathering resources and amazing technical abilities, we won’t be able to know, 100 percent, if North Korea is keeping its denuclearization promises.

The road to the summit yielded a few permanent concessions, in the form of returning detained Americans, and several reversible concessions: The missile test launches have stopped, the nuclear testing has stopped.

But America just agreed to North Korea’s top demand.

Trump says, “We will be stopping the war games.”

Are we stopping all joint drills and exercises with the South Korean and Japanese military forces?

Trump sounds like he thinks giving up joint exercises with our allies is some sort of win for American interests.

We stopped playing those war games that cost us a fortune. You know, we’re spending a fortune, every couple of months we’re doing war games with South Korea, and I said, “What’s this costing?” We’re flying planes in from Guam, we’re bombing empty mountains for practice. I said “I want to stop that and I will stop that,” and I think it’s very provocative.

For a long time, the American national-security philosophy was, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Preparation for a conflict was the most effective way to ensure that no rival was too eager to start a conflict. Trump appears eager to end that tradition in the name of saving money, despite the many painful lessons of history.

The silver lining here is that if the United States or its allies determined North Korea was not living up to its promises, the war games could re-start. This morning, when I appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s program, he reminded me that the next joint exercise isn’t scheduled to start until next spring — so we’ve got nearly a year to see if North Korea intends to keep its promises.

Trump said, “They blew up a [nuclear] site, which was the real deal site that was their big site, they’ve blown it up.”

Experts who reviewed the available footage and satellite images think the nuclear-test site tunnels were only partly destroyed, and could be rebuilt if the regime wanted.

Analysis of ground photos and video taken at North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site (courtesy of Sky News) from the recent site closing event can confirm only that the test tunnel entrances were sealed. At most, two other point detonations were carried out (as was claimed) in each of the three tunnels, while the tunnel branches probably remain intact. While the procedures carried out by the North Koreans will make reusing the site difficult in the future, regaining access to the completed test tunnels at the South and West Portals may still be possible. However, enough demolition has been done that, if North Korea chose to reopen the test site, major excavation as well as construction of at least some support structures would be needed, and such activity would almost certainly be detectable via satellite imagery.

Trump appears eager to give the North Koreans full-credit for half-measures — which is exactly what they wanted.

Trump declares, “I trust him.” He also says, “I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”

I suppose we should give the president some credit for unintended honesty. He isn’t certain he should trust Kim but feels obligated to say so for the sake of diplomacy. This is why Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust but verify.” But it’s hard to feel celebratory about a slate of new promises from a regime you can’t trust.

Trump said, “His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.”

Remember when we fumed about the international media swooning over the North Korean cheerleaders at the Winter Olympics? Now the president of the United States is buying into their propaganda and repeating it on the world stage. Kim Jong-un runs a prison camp of a country and Trump is gushing about how much the prisoners love the warden.

Trump said that embassies between the two countries could open “hopefully soon,” although it’s “a little bit early for that,” and that he will go to Pyongyang “at a certain time” and that at some point, Kim Jong-un would be invited to the White House.

We’re well on the road to “normalizing” relations with arguably the world’s most reckless, hostile, and dangerous regime. (I wonder how Otto Warmbier’s family feels this morning.) If you can hold smiling, hand-shaking, praise-flowing summits with Kim Jong-un, why not with Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran?

Politically, Trump has an advantage here. In Obama’s second term, Republicans objected to Obama’s Cuba and Iran policies, but there simply weren’t enough Democratic lawmakers who were skeptical of outreach. Today, Democrats may loathe Trump but they probably don’t mind the outreach to Kim; in their minds, this beats nuclear brinksmanship. Republican lawmakers may have their doubts about this outreach, but not many want to air their disagreements publicly.

It Just Wouldn’t Feel Like a Real International Summit without This Guy . . .

This morning in Singapore, former NBA star and general all-around oddball Dennis Rodman, who has worked with both Trump and Kim Jong-un in the past, met with former presidential adviser on homeland security Tom Bossert. Last night, while wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, Rodman gave a tearful interview live on CNN, discussing the death threats he received after one of his previous visits to North Korea.

In other developments, judging from the sentences above, I appear to have taken LSD.

Pity the Deficit Hawks in a Party That No Longer Cares about Deficits

It’s primary day in several states, including Virginia and South Carolina.

Two of the GOP primaries that’s gotten more buzz in recent days are in my home away from home, the Palmetto State. There are five candidates for the Republican nomination: Governor Henry McMaster — the lieutenant governor who became governor in January of last year when Nikki Haley became U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — and Lt. Governor Kevin Bryant of Anderson, former Lt. Governor Yancey McGill of Kingstree, Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton, and Greenville businessman John Warren.

I saw Warren speak the last time I was down in Hilton Head, and he seemed like an impressive man with principled conservative stands. If I voted in South Carolina, I would vote for him. Unfortunately for him, I live in Virginia.

There’s some talk that incumbent Republican Mark Sanford could lose his primary to state Representative Katie Arrington; one poll had him ahead by less than a full percentage point. Some folks are chalking this up to Sanford’s intermittent deviations from Trump-ism, and while that’s no doubt a factor, I would throw in a few other points to keep in mind.

Sanford was part of the GOP class of 1994, and pledged to serve only three terms in the House, in keeping with his belief in term limits. He ran for governor and won in 2002; you probably remember the infamous “Appalachian Trail” business. He returned in 2013 for a special House election and out-hustled a crowded GOP primary field and then the much-hyped Democratic candidate, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert.

Back in March, Sanford voted against the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, declaring that “it spends more than the country can afford. Instead of trying to offset the increases in military spending with cuts elsewhere in the budget, the bill went the easier route of simply increasing spending on all too many areas of government.” But the bill also included $1.6 in funding for the border wall, and Arrington is hitting him as “one of only five Republicans to vote against President Trump’s border wall.”

Sanford’s style of fiscal conservatism — even his plywood-and-spray-paint campaign signs look cheap — is out of style in the Trump-era Republican party. The district elected him in 2013, reelected him in 2014, and again in 2016. (That term limit pledge of 1994 feels like ancient history.) Sanford may hang on tonight, or he may not; if he doesn’t, it’s a sign that the ground of South Carolina Republicans shifted underneath his feet.

ADDENDA: Have you checked out NRPLUS? It offers a lot more than just a digital subscription. A membership has exclusive content that isn’t available on the website or in the magazine, invitations to exclusive NR events, full podcast archives, way fewer ads, a members-only Facebook group, live interviews and conversations with NR writers, editors, and thought leaders across our community, and early access and discounts to select events. It’s worth clicking through and checking out.

Economy & Business

Giving Canada Something to Cry A-Boot

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a G7 and Gender Equality Advisory Council meeting as part of a G7 summit in the Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

A busy and feisty Monday morning! Making the click-through worthwhile: Trump gets tough with a bunch of longtime American allies, but it’s not clear what the next step will be; a doctor asks about NIH funding and the suicide rate, but creates a dilemma for public discourse; the shining example of Charles Krauthammer and the inevitability of being hated for speaking your mind; and the never-quite-explicit calls for amnesty in the illegal-immigration debate.

Is there a Plan to Confront the Great Canadian Menace?

Donald Trump’s complaints about America’s allies and trade partners are usually down the street and around the corner from a legitimate point. Only four members of NATO spent 2 percent of their GDP on defense in 2017, the extremely reasonable request the alliance has made of its members. (The U.S. spent 3.5 percent.)

Through multiple presidencies of both parties, the United States government has complained that the Canadian lumber industry is unfairly subsidized by Canada’s national and provincial governments.

U.S. companies have a longstanding, well-founded objection to China stealing intellectual property from companies that do business there.

Of course, when Trump articulates these complaints, he rarely leaves a sense that these are moderate but resolvable problems in an otherwise healthy relationship. There’s a long tradition of countries cutting their allies slack that they wouldn’t cut to neutral countries or hostile states, but this carries no weight in Trump’s mind. From his perspective, the other country’s misdeed defines the relationship, and anything else is window-dressing.

Trump and his fans believe he’s demonstrating “toughness” in ways that previous presidents couldn’t. Perhaps. The question is, what happens after you’ve demonstrated your toughness? Does the other side capitulate, or does the other side dig in? No doubt it’s cathartic to visibly rage at the other side, but does it get you where you want to go?

Trump now interacts with the prime minister of Canada the same way he lashes out at Rosie O’Donnell, Mika Brzezinski, or Attorney General Jeff Sessions, by ripping into him on Twitter: “PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @g7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!”

Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, raged on Fox News Sunday: “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door . . . that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference.”

Talk about turning it up to eleven. When U.S. policymakers tell a foreign leader that there’s a special place in hell waiting for him, it’s usually a brutal dictator who’s committed atrocities and human-rights abuses.

I guess the thinking is that U.S. tariffs will hurt Canadian workers worse than Canadian tariffs will hurt U.S. workers, and Trudeau will come back to the table, begging for relief. Of course, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative — Trump’s own administration — in 2017, the U.S. exported about $8 billion more to Canada in 2017 than it imported. (The figures are a little muddied by goods that Canada exports to places such as Mexico by shipping them through the United States.)

When Trump and his team denounce Trudeau in such strong and personal terms, do you think they weaken or strengthen his resolve? Do you think they made it more likely or less likely that Trudeau will return to the negotiating table, ready to make concessions?

What is it that the president and the administration really want? My suspicion is that for Trump, the tough stance is the end, not the means to the end. Getting others to perceive you as “tough” and not easily swindled is the actual desired outcome, not the particular policy concessions. If the concessions come, great. If it turns into a prolonged, standoff, that’s fine; that’s just another opportunity to demonstrate “toughness” in a test of wills.

Do We Need More Federal Studies on Suicide?

Dr. David Friedman, writing in the New York Times, observes, “Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Yet last year, the National Institutes of Health spent more money researching dietary supplements than it did suicide and suicide prevention.”

Okay, except . . . 68 percent of Americans take dietary supplements, as of 2015, and that figure has remained pretty stable over the years. That calculates out to about 220 million people. I don’t mind NIH doing a lot of research into pills that 220 million Americans are taking.

Roughly 45,000 Americans commit suicide in a year; NIH studies calculate that roughly 10 million Americans have “serious thoughts” about suicide in a year.

Friedman means well, and perhaps increased funding and clinical research will indeed lead to reductions in the suicide rate. He’s probably correct when he writes, “we need to talk more openly about suicide, to help people see it as the treatable medical scourge that it is.” Except . . . we also know that media coverage of celebrity suicides can add to a copycat effect:

Nevertheless, there is some convincing evidence for a direct copycat effect. For example, in the book, Final Exit, a guide to suicide for terminally ill persons, asphyxiation is the recommended means of suicide. In the year that Final Exit was published, the number of suicides by asphyxiation in New York City rose by 313% from eight to 33. Furthermore, a copy of Final Exit was found at the scene of 27% of these suicides. A study of Quebec by Tousignant and his colleagues of 71 coroners reports determined that at least 14% of the suicides in the month following a widely publicized suicide of a popular Quebec journalist were at least partially linked to the story. Ninety percent of the suicides used the same method (hanging) as the role model in the story.

We need talk more openly about suicide, and talk more about suicide, but at the same time not inadvertently contribute to the ideation process among those who are depressed, struggling, or troubled. That’s not impossible to do, but not easy, either.

The Lessons of Charles Krauthammer

Friday afternoon, we received the gut-punch news that columnist, essayist, and television commentator Charles Krauthammer will not be with us much longer.

There’s not a lot that can be added to the tributes and appreciations that arrived almost immediately. Fay Vincent writes “he goes out like Lou Gehrig.” Chris Wallace offered an emotional salute to “a great man.” Jonah writes, “Charles is one of the most impressive and decent people I have ever known. He is a mensch in every sense.” What could unify Fox News’ Sean Hannity and CNN’s Brian Stelter these days? Not much beyond a tribute to Krauthammer.

The only silver lining to all this is that he (hopefully) gets to hear how much we appreciated him before he passes.

Every once in a while, I tell the story of applying to be his personal assistant back in the late 1990s. I was in utter awe of him as a writer, and I didn’t know he was in a wheelchair until the first time I saw him in the interview; I must have been a stammering mess. Somehow, I was among the finalists and Krauthammer kindly told me in a phone call that told me I came in second out of a massive pool of applicants, and the one he had picked had been absurdly over-qualified. He was exceptionally nice when he didn’t need to be.

One other point worth keeping in mind, though. Soft-spoken, clear-thinking, clear-writing, ever-polite, never-shouting, never-table-pounding Charles Krauthammer — Charles Krauthammer! — was hated. Throughout his career, left-of-center writers wrote what they perceived as devastating take-downs of Krauthammer on a fairly regular basis. After a throwaway sentence along the lines of “while smarter than the average knuckle-dragging conservative,” the writers would usually denounce Krauthammer with such fury that you could almost see the flecks of spittle on the computer screen. The gist was always the same: “Don’t let your lying eyes and ears deceive you, even though Krauthammer seems smart and eloquent and thoughtful and nuanced and well-informed and all of these traits we’ve assured you are missing from the Right, he’s still every bit as bad as all the rest.

Over at the Huffington Post, Ben Cohen called him a “neo hawk megalomaniac.” In Esquire, Barrett Brown wrote that he perspectives on Afghanistan and Iraq reflected “a haze of amnesia and inexplicable self-regard.”

Joe Klein rather infamously suggested that his analytical abilities were limited because of his handicap.

“There’s something tragic about him, too,” Klein said, referring to Krauthammer’s confinement to a wheelchair, the result of a diving accident during his first year of medical school. “His work would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he’s writing about.” After getting grief for it, Klein insisted “didn’t mean to imply second-class status for disabled people.” A few sentences later, he accused Krauthammer of starting wars and killing people: “Given his influence with the Bush Administration, his unflinching support for American unilateralism — his invention of the notion of a unipolar world — did extensive damage to our nation’s security and reputation overseas, and caused the unnecessary loss of life.”

News of Krauthammer’s imminent passing brought sneers and cheers from the usual low-life detritus of the political world.

No matter how polite you are, how smart you are, how refined and dignified you are, some people will hate you in the most vociferous terms. The lesson of this is not “never be polite,” but to recognize that being hated does not necessarily reflect that you’ve done something wrong. It is an unpleasant and unfair fact of life about political discourse, not necessarily new but perhaps worsening. If you live a life, and engage in public discourse in as high-minded a manner as Krauthammer did, and you still get denounced as a megalomaniac — has there ever been a less maniacal person than Krauthammer? — and you receive so little positive reinforcement or appreciation for it, why should we be surprised that we see so few following his example?

ADDENDA: A federal judge instituted a one-month delay on the deportation order for Pablo Villavicencio, that Brooklyn pizza-delivery guy who had been in the country illegally for eight years.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo, facing a surprisingly tough Democratic primary fight in his reelection bid, now is arguing, “His arrest and detention appears to be a result of ethnic profiling and does nothing to make our communities safer.” Cuomo doesn’t specify how the arrest stemmed from “ethnic profiling”; he was arrested when the outstanding warrant was discovered after Villavicencio couldn’t show a military-recognized identification to get onto a military base in Brooklyn.

Cuomo also calls Villavicencio “law-abiding,” which is an interesting adjective for someone who promises a judge he will leave the country within two months and instead chooses to stay for eight years.

Villavicencio’s defenders insist his deportation is fundamentally unjust. What they never quite get around to saying is what the consequence should be if you promise a judge you will leave the country, are explicitly warned that the penalty of not keeping your word is automatic deportation, and then break that promise. Their silence on this point suggests that they believe the consequence should be . . . nothing.


Anthony Bourdain, RIP

Chef Anthony Bourdain at the 2015 Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., September 12, 2015. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Ye gods! How could he do something like this?

Anthony Bourdain, a gifted storyteller and writer who took CNN viewers around the world, has died. He was 61.

CNN confirmed Bourdain’s death on Friday and said the cause of death was suicide.

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said in a statement Friday morning. “His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”

You hear how suicidal thoughts can overwhelm the most unlikely people, defying logic, reason, faith, love, and everything else that makes life worth living. You hear it, and perhaps you believe it, perhaps you have some doubts.

And then one morning you wake up and see that the guy who made a good living traveling around the world to the most unlikely places, eating amazing food, who seemed to have friends in every city, and who appeared to be in a happy relationship with a beautiful actress and activist . . . has decided to end it all with no warning.

Was something about Kate Spade’s suicide a trigger? Do people having suicidal thoughts become more likely to act upon them if they hear about someone else doing it?

If you’re not doing okay, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

Hopefully you’re doing okay. If you’re not, talk to someone.

A Particularly Sordid Scandal and Crime on Capitol Hill

This . . . does not make anyone involved look good.

James A. Wolfe, 57, was charged with lying repeatedly to investigators about his contacts with three reporters. According to the authorities, Mr. Wolfe made false statements to the F.B.I. about providing two of them with sensitive information related to the committee’s work. He denied to investigators that he ever gave classified material to journalists, the indictment said.

Mr. Wolfe, the Intelligence Committee’s director of security, was slated to appear before a federal judge on Friday in Washington.

The seizure was disclosed in a letter to the Times reporter, Ali Watkins, who had been in a three-year relationship with Mr. Wolfe. The seizure suggested that prosecutors under the Trump administration will continue the aggressive tactics employed under President Barack Obama.

Wolfe is 57 and married. Watkins was 22 in 2014, making her about 26 today. According to the indictment, Wolfe and “reporter number two” began a personal relationship in December 2013.

Watkins’s first big scoop, about the CIA Inspector General’s Office asking the Justice Department to investigate allegations stemming from a not-yet-released Senate Intelligence Committee report, came in early 2014. As the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote at the time, “Ali Watkins, currently a 22-year-old freelancer for McClatchy in Washington, D.C., received a tip from sources who came to trust her while making herself a presence on Capitol Hill, according to a posting by Temple’s School of Media and Communication.”

I don’t have perfect clairvoyance into the private lives of every reporter I know, but my sense is reporters sleeping with sources is the sort of thing that happens a lot in movies and television but rarely in real life. But because of situations like this, a lot of women reporters are going to deal with more “she’s sleeping with a source” rumors.

Watkins’s beat was intelligence and national security, and a look at her work at BuzzFeed shows a lot of stories about the Senate Intelligence Committee, what Carter Page was telling the committee, and quoting unnamed sources such as “a high-level US intelligence official.” Suddenly it’s not so difficult to guess who at least one of her sources was.

Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr and vice chairman Mark Warner issued a joint statement:

We are troubled to hear of the charges filed against a former member of the Committee staff. While the charges do not appear to include anything related to the mishandling of classified information, the Committee takes this matter extremely seriously. We were made aware of the investigation late last year, and have fully cooperated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice since then. Working through Senate Legal Counsel, and as noted in a Senate Resolution, the Committee has made certain official records available to the Justice Department.

This news is disappointing, as the former staffer in question served on the Committee for more than three decades, and in the Armed Forces with distinction. However, we trust the justice system to act appropriately and ensure due process as this case unfolds. This will in no way interfere with our ongoing investigation, and the Committee remains committed to carrying out our important work on behalf of the American people.

Greetings from Washington: A Champion’s City for the First Time Since 1992

It’s the best of mornings for Washington Capitals fans, and there will be a lot of groggy but happy people showing up a little later than usual in workplaces around Washington this morning.

Not long ago, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon repeated one of his recurring lines, that Washington, D.C., is a “minor-league sports town.” (Wilbon wrote for the Washington Post for many years, but he’s from Chicago.) More than a few local fans and sports-talk hosts bristled at the statements, and it’s not quite accurate. Yes, the Washington area is full of transplants, and the new residents usually retain their loyalties to their team. (I remember Ed Gillespie once saying that he realized he had “gone native” when he started feeling more enthusiasm for the Nationals than his childhood favorite, the Philadelphia Phillies.)

And for a long time, local sports media was obsessed with the Redskins and significantly less interested in the other franchises. This made little sense, since the Redskins have been a dysfunctional dumpster fire for most of the time Daniel Snyder has owned the team, and the other three teams have been much better.

But even being “pretty good” brings its own frustrations. The Washington Wizards have been “a team on the rise” since John Wall arrived in 2010. They indeed rose . . . and then sort of plateaued as one of those teams good enough to make the playoffs, not good enough to make much noise once they’re in. Since 2012, the Washington Nationals collected and developed jaw-dropping talent — Stephan Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer — and tore through the regular season like a tornado . . . and then kept falling apart in the postseason. And then there were the Capitals, blessed with arguably the best player in the game in Alexander Ovechkin since 2005, and similarly crushing opponents in the regular season . . . and then usually running into the Pittsburgh Penguins and suffering a heartbreaking defeat.

Three of Washington’s teams seemed to have the unofficial slogan, “Regular Season Greatness . . . and Forgetting How to Play the Game Once the Postseason Starts.” And yet local sports radio would give you regular updates on how they were using sod on the practice fields at Redskins Park and fans calling in and talking about Kirk Cousins like a jilted girlfriend.

But no more.

It’s worth noting that being “a great sports town” is distinct from being a great city. I’d argue that most of the cities that struggle with consistent fan support and enthusiasm have the challenge of competing against good weather and lots of other fun things to do: Miami, San Diego, arguably Los Angeles. Meanwhile, some of the country’s most hard-luck, economically challenged cities have passionate fan bases: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo. Detroit might be turning into that decrepit future that Robocop envisioned, but the Red Wings and Pistons still sell out.

ADDENDA: Kevin Williamson, on fire:

Mass democracy has no intellectual content. It is, as David French and others have noted, simply an extension of high-school cafeteria-table politics: status-jockeying and status-monkeying 24/7/365.25 and not much else. It doesn’t do much for the country, but it beats working for a living. Keep that in mind the next time you find yourself muttering “Hell, yeah!” when your favorite multimillionaire cable-news rodeo clown lays the rhetorical smackdown on one of his multimillionaire Central Park West neighbors two buildings over while you’re stuck in traffic commuting home to the suburbs from downtown wherever.

Politics & Policy

Why Should Politicians Push Hard for Reforms that the Electorate Keeps Rejecting?

President Donald Trump speaks during the signing ceremony for the “VA (Veterans Affairs) Mission Act of 2018” in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 6, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why promoting entitlement reform is a sucker’s game; an obscured point in the tale of the Brooklyn pizza deliveryman detained by ICE; the real appeal of Sex and the City, and the lessons of Bill Clinton, much clearer after two decades.

Choosing the Path of Least Resistance

Yesterday’s Three Martini Lunch podcast got more animated than usual, as my co-host Greg Corombos lamented that the Medicare Board of Trustees announced that the trust fund that pays for hospital care is expected to run out of money by 2026, three years earlier than projected last year, and that this was considered mid-level news at best.

Of course, neither of us was surprised by the news — we’re both Generation X-ers, who never figured we would see any Social Security benefits — and I found myself feeling that if the country holds the intractable position that it will not seriously address the problem until there are no other options and the trust funds run out of money . . . maybe it’s better to get to the reckoning sooner rather than later.

Sure, Republicans are egregious hypocrites for focusing on the annual deficit and the overall total national debt — driven largely by entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security — during the Tea Party era and then shrugging as the Trump era brings back trillion-dollar deficits.

But I noted to Greg that the argument that the country needs to sit down and have a serious reckoning about the impending problems of its entitlement programs is a bit like the post-shooting argument that “it’s time for a real national conversation on guns.” We actually have had those serious conversations, or at least as serious as we’re likely to have until the programs start running out of money.

The conversation almost always boils down to two sides, with one side saying, “This is a serious problem, and it will only be addressed by some combination of cutting benefits, raising taxes significantly, or allowing young workers to divert their current payments into an individual retirement account and hoping the markets rise steadily over the decades. None of these changes will be easy or popular, but they are necessary to avert even worse problems down the road.”

And there’s another side that says, “this is not a serious problem, the other side is trying to scare you, the system won’t run out of money for years and years, and we can solve it by just raising taxes on ‘the rich’ or by ‘eliminating waste,’ so let’s talk about something else.” And the latter side always wins the argument. The public always prefers “this is not really a problem” to “this is a serious problem that can only be solved by some sort of painful sacrifice.” This argument is often found among Democrats, but that’s more or less President Trump’s position. As he said on March 10, 2016, “it’s my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is. Not increase the age and to leave it as is.”

This broad-based bipartisan preference for denying the problem is not the way things ought to be, but this is the way things are. Fiscal hawks, conservatives, Republicans, and even a few Democrats have made these arguments for decades. They’ve brought data, demographic projections, historical performance, information about the good news of Americans living longer and the financial consequences, data about the number of America’s elderly who could live comfortably without Social Security payments, and so on. And despite their mountains of evidence, they lose the argument every single time.

The long-term health of America’s entitlement programs is not a particularly sexy or exciting topic. There are no great visuals for television. There are just a lot of big numbers. If the national debt were a Godzilla-like monster rampaging through the landscape, we would probably unite and mobilize and quickly respond to the threat it presented. But it’s just a line of numbers on a page or screen.

Our national motto should not be “out of many, one.” It should be Chevy Chase’s line as Gerald Ford in a national debate in 1976: “It was my understanding that there would be no math.”

We can blame the politicians — from Richard Nixon and a Democratic Congress expanding Social Security benefits in 1972, to Ronald Reagan being unwilling and unable to tackle this portion of government spending while being courageous on so many other fronts, to Bill Clinton saying “save Social Security first” once there was a surplus and then not making any changes, to Al Gore’s nonsensical claims of a “lockbox,” to congressional Republicans having no appetite for the reforms proposed by George W. Bush and former senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to Bush and congressional majorities adding a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare without knowing how to pay for it, to Obama and congressional Democrats expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

But in the end, the politicians were always responding to the preferences of a clear majority of the public. They wanted the government to give us these benefits, assure us that our payments over our lifetime are enough to cover the costs of our future benefits (they’re not), and figure out how to pay for it later. I can’t get that mad at Republicans or anyone else for no longer trying to drag the American people, kicking and screaming, towards a path of fiscal responsibility that they have actively rejected over and over again.

Now Democrats want “Medicare for All.” Tell them that the program is approaching the point of collapse and their answer is to make even more people dependent upon it.

Entitlement-reform advocates are like the Jeff Goldblum character in a sci-fi movie. We’ve figured out that something’s terribly wrong and a crisis is approaching, but no one wants to listen to us because we’re nerds and what we’re proposing is uncomfortable and there’s some other guy assuring everyone that everything will be alright. The mayor of Amity will always want to believe the guy telling him that the shark is a rumor and that it’s safe for the tourists to swim off the shore.

If only we could get the Jaws theme to play every time the news discusses Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.

An Easily Obscured Fact about that Brooklyn Pizza Guy Detained by ICE

Have you heard about that pizza guy in Brooklyn who’s been detained by ICE?

Pablo Villavicencio-Calderon, an Ecuadorean citizen, entered the United States in 2008 seeking asylum. He was not granted asylum, and in March 2010, he was granted voluntary departure by an immigration judge. There’s an advantage to voluntary departure for those who are in the country illegally; even though they have to leave, they’re not automatically barred from legally returning later. But they need to qualify and apply for a new visa or green card in order to return. Once granted, the illegal immigrant is given a deadline — in Villavicencio-Calderon’s case, July 2010.

Everyone involved in this process should know that if you tell a judge you are going to voluntarily leave the country, and you don’t keep your promise, there will be serious consequences: “If a non-citizen fails to voluntarily depart, the voluntary departure order automatically becomes an order of removal. This occurs without the immigration judge needing to issue a new order, and without the non-citizen appearing in court. At this point, you are subject to removal from the United States, one consequence of which is that upon any encounter with immigration authorities, you can be removed from the U.S. without first seeing a judge.”

He promised a judge that he would leave the country within two months, and instead he chose to stay for eight years. He might be a swell guy with adorable daughters, but . . . what should be the consequence of not keeping a promise to a judge and defying a legal order for nearly a decade?

What Did Women See When They Watched Sex and the City?

Everyone seems to be writing a Sex and the City retrospective this week, the 20th anniversary of the show’s debut on HBO. I agree in part and disagree in part with the brilliant Kyle Smith’s assessment, and it’s worth noting he lived in New York City when it ran and I didn’t.

I could be wrong, but I suspect that women who loved Sex and the City were drawn less by the show’s portrayal of glamorous cosmopolitan promiscuity than the portrait of female friendship, and how it can serve as a surrogate family that allows a little more openness about embarrassments and relationship problems than traditional family connections. (Some reviewer noted how rarely any of the characters mentioned any family.) Gentlemen, if your girlfriend or wife loved the show, it was probably less that she wanted to live the life of the characters than she recognized some of her own dynamics with her friends with the featured quartet.

In fact, many fans of the show seemed to pick one protagonist as the one that represented their type — “I’m a Charlotte” — and could match their friends to the traits of the other three characters — with one semi-exception.

I’d bet that if you asked female fans of the show which character they related to the most, the answers, in order of descending popularity, would be Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha. Samantha was a funny character, but she was a composite fantasy — the male fantasy of the hot woman who’s a shameless nymphomaniac, and the female fantasy of a completely self-assured woman with no doubts, guilt, or fear — a gender-reversed James Bond with none of the shootouts or car chases but twice the bedroom scenes.

The other odd social dynamic that the show accurately portrayed is how close women friends often have dramatically different romantic preferences. There’s an episode near the end of the series where the quartet brings together their boyfriends for the first time. Carrie’s dating an insufferably pretentious modern artist, Charlotte’s happy with her nebbish lawyer, Miranda’s married and had a child with a low-key bartender, and Samantha’s found lasting satisfaction with an empty-headed model. The four men sit at the table, size each other up, and quickly realize they have absolutely nothing in common. (At least the latter three seem to be, in their own ways, decent, good-hearted guys.)

It resonates for every man who’s been stuck in an awkward conversation with another guy, with nothing in common other than that our wives are connected in some way.

ADDENDA: Over on the NRO home page, an argument worth emphasizing during Bill Clinton’s apology tour over #MeToo: If Democrats had pressured Bill Clinton to resign in early 1998 and he had left office, they would have lost . . . nothing. Nothing in policy, nothing in principle, and Al Gore probably would have won in 2000.

Politics & Policy

This Midterm Cycle . . . Doesn’t Look Nearly as Bad for the GOP as It Once Did

U.S. President Donald Trump is applauded by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring former Senate majority leader Bob Dole on Capitol Hill, January 17, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: The 2018 midterms are starting to look not-so-bad for Republicans; Facebook finds itself apologizing to users yet again; another Obama-administration lie about the Iran deal is exposed, and a brilliant observation about how we don’t want to acknowledge the possibility that the circumstances for today’s immigrants have changed.

Improving Prospects for Republicans?

There had been some worries that because of California’s “top two finishers of any party advance to the general” primary system, Republicans would get left out of the state’s governor’s race. By that measure, last night was a win for the GOP.

Gavin Newsom, the favorite of the California Democratic Party’s core liberal base, coasted to a first-place finish in Tuesday’s primary election for governor and faces a November showdown with John Cox, a multimillionaire Republican hitched to the far-right policies of President Trump.

The results mark a stunning defeat for former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, representing the fall of a politician who embodied the growing power of the Latino electorate when he was elected mayor in 2005. Villaraigosa conceded late in the evening, urging those who voted for him to give their support to his opponent.

That’s a surprising defeat for Villaraigosa, who brought “being in bed with the media” to a new level back in 2007. No doubt he’ll console himself over this defeat by spending more time with his Telemundo correspondent.

No one has any illusions about Cox winning in November, but Golden State Republicans had performed so poorly, and made up such a small share of the state’s registered voters, some feared the GOP simply wouldn’t have many candidates on the general-election ballot. There may not be many competitive statewide elections in California this year, but there are competitive U.S. House district elections, and a November ballot where the GOP simply wasn’t represented on the ballot for the big offices would not be good for Republican turnout.

Meanwhile, looking across the country at the 2018 Senate elections, the latest “deserves reelection” numbers for incumbent senators are terrible. That’s bad news for endangered incumbent Republican Dean Heller in Nevada . . . and bad news for Democrats Bill Nelson in Florida, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Jon Tester in Montana, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, and Joe Manchin in West Virginia . . . and maybe even Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.

Oh, and in case you missed it, the buzz that “Beto O’Rourke is going to pull off a miracle for Texas Democrats!” died down after Quinnipiac showed Ted Cruz up by eleven points.

The polls for Republicans continue to look “eh, not so bad.” Unsurprisingly, two of the most popular governors in the country, Massachusetts’s Charlie Baker and Maryland’s Larry Hogan, are in strong position as summer begins. In Pennsylvania, with the newly redrawn U.S. House district lines, Republican incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick is hanging on in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Yes, polls can be wrong, there’s a lot of road ahead, etcetera, etcetera.

Facebook: Oh, Hey, Sorry We Let the Chinese Government Get Your Personal Data

Oh, Facebook. What are we going to do with you?

Facebook has data-sharing partnerships with at least four Chinese electronics companies, including a manufacturing giant that has a close relationship with China’s government, the social media company said on Tuesday.

The agreements, which date to at least 2010, gave private access to some user data to Huawei, a telecommunications equipment company that has been flagged by American intelligence officials as a national security threat, as well as to Lenovo, Oppo and TCL.

The four partnerships remain in effect, but Facebook officials said in an interview that the company would wind down the Huawei deal by the end of the week.

“Relax, American consumers, Chinese intelligence has to finish collecting all of your personal data by Friday.” I suppose that once the Chinese had obtained 30 years’ worth of information about federal-government workers, including fingerprints, in the hack of the Office of Personnel Management, the only thing left was to start collecting data on the American citizenry.

What does the Chinese government know about Facebook users?

Facebook officials said the agreements with the Chinese companies allowed them access similar to what was offered to BlackBerry, which could retrieve detailed information on both device users and all of their friends — including religious and political leanings, work and education history and relationship status.

This is the sort of thing that ought to generate as much heat for Facebook as Cambridge Analytica; we will see if the media coverage reflects this. My cynical suspicion is that the nation’s cable-news producers and headline writers and clickbait-chasers find the 2016 Trump campaign way more sinister and menacing than the Chinese government.

Facebook is still running apology ads about the previous scandals and misuse of personal data. “That’s going to change,” the ad declared. “From now on, Facebook is going to do more to keep you safe and protect your privacy.”

No, they’re not! Someone who’s dedicated to keeping us safe and protecting our privacy would stay far, far away from any institution even remotely connected to the Chinese government!

Yet Another Obama-Administration Lie About the Iran Deal

Everything the Obama administration said about the Iran deal was a lie, including the punctuation.

The Obama administration secretly sought to give Iran access — albeit briefly — to the U.S. financial system by sidestepping sanctions kept in place after the 2015 nuclear deal, despite repeatedly telling Congress and the public it had no plans to do so.

An investigation by Senate Republicans released Wednesday sheds light on the delicate balance the Obama administration sought to strike after the deal, as it worked to ensure Iran received its promised benefits without playing into the hands of the deal’s opponents. Amid a tense political climate, Iran hawks in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere argued that the United States was giving far too much to Tehran and that the windfall would be used to fund extremism and other troubling Iranian activity.

The report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed that under President Barack Obama, the Treasury Department issued a license in February 2016, never previously disclosed, that would have allowed Iran to convert $5.7 billion it held at a bank in Oman from Omani rials into euros by exchanging them first into U.S. dollars. If the Omani bank had allowed the exchange without such a license, it would have violated sanctions that bar Iran from transactions that touch the U.S. financial system.

The effort was unsuccessful because American banks — themselves afraid of running  afoul of U.S. sanctions — declined to participate. The Obama administration approached two U.S. banks to facilitate the conversion, the report said, but both refused, citing the reputational risk of doing business with or for Iran.

“The Obama administration misled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the subcommittee’s chairman.

The administration also lied when it said the Iranians had disclosed all their previous work on its nuclear program.

Despite the administration’s claims that the deal ensured the most extensive monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program ever, nonpartisan experts concluded Iran “did not provide the kind of transparency and cooperation required for the International Atomic Energy Agency to conclude its investigation.”

The administration also lied when it said sanctions would not be lifted until Iran had fully complied.

If you have to constantly lie to the public about what the deal does, maybe it’s a pretty lousy one.

ADDENDA: This observation, from Reihan Salam, is brilliant and cuts to the core of how we debate immigration today:

To allow for the possibility that low-skill immigration has different implications today, when the prospects for upward mobility among low-skill workers are almost universally acknowledged to be bleaker than in years past, before a cavalcade of social and technological changes greatly reduced their power, seems almost sacrilegious. It smacks of dishonoring one’s parents or grandparents. And so piety wins out. We badly want to believe that we still live in a non-zero-sum nation, in which good-paying jobs for low-skill workers are abundant, and opportunities for advancement are always just around the corner. Instead we have taxi drivers who are being driven to suicide because they can’t bear the competition from slightly more desperate people who want the little that they now have. And all this is unfolding at a moment when the labor market is the tightest it has been since the turn of the century, and before the potential of labor-displacing automation is close to being fully realized.

Politics & Policy

Why Democrats Won’t Embrace Starbucks’s Howard Schultz

Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Howard Schultz, pictured with images from the company’s new “Race Together” project behind him, speaks during the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting in Seattle, Washington, March 18, 2015. (David Ryder/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: All the reasons why retiring Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shouldn’t run for president in 2020; the Trump-NFL fight enters its 16th minute of fame; and a sharp mind explains why you shouldn’t worry about the Obama-Netflix deal.

Howard’s End

I hope soon-to-retire Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz chooses to run for president, because I really want to measure the appeal of a “woke corporate executive” in the Democratic primary.

Schultz’s decision to retire, a plan he said he privately outlined to the board a year ago, will most likely stoke speculation that he is considering a run for president in 2020. He is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for the Democratic Party and has become increasingly vocal on political issues, including criticizing President Trump last year as “a president that is creating episodic chaos every day.”

While Mr. Schultz, 64, typically bats away speculation about his political ambitions with an eye roll or a pithy answer, on Monday he acknowledged for the first time that it is something he may consider.

“I want to be truthful with you without creating more speculative headlines,” he told The New York Times. “For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country — the growing division at home and our standing in the world.”

My guess is the appetite for a leftist culture warrior with experience in corporate boardrooms is extremely limited, even among Democrats.

What we’re seeing in Schultz — in his hints about his future plans — is not all that different from the mentality that drove Trump in 2016. Here comes another wealthy, cover-of-a-magazine corporate titan, having done everything in business that he wants to do, and concluding that, in his golden years, he wants to “serve his country” . . . except, after having been in charge of everyone around him for many years, the only way he can conceive of “serving his country” is by running the place.

A lot of accomplished businessmen have chosen to run for president over the decades and ended up spending a fortune — H. Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, Herman Cain, Carly Fiorina. Heck, you might even throw in Mitt Romney, although he had been a governor.

Trump is the grand exception, and he’s a different breed of cat for at least two reasons: Trump was a genuine pop-culture celebrity, well-known far beyond the business world. I suspect that many of America’s corporate chief executives walk around believing they’re famous because everyone they run into has heard of them, they’ve been interviewed on CNBC several times, and they’ve had their pictures in Forbes, BusinessWeek, and the Wall Street Journal. But our balkanized culture generates many different kinds of fame, and “business famous” is not the same as “political famous.” If you want to be famous among Republican primary voters, you had better get your face on Fox News a lot. If you want to be famous among Democratic primary voters, you probably need to get your face on MSNBC a lot.

Howard Schultz is famous . . . but he’s not Mark Cuban famous (Cuban’s got his own reality-TV show and is well-known, if not particularly well-liked, among NBA fans). Schultz’s name isn’t a synonym for wealth like Bill Gates, and he isn’t associated with technology and innovation the way Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are, or perhaps in the way Elon Musk is becoming. He’s not denounced by the president the way Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is. His name hasn’t become shorthand for wise investing like Warren Buffett, and he’s not larger than life like Richard Branson. I’m willing to bet that right now, most of the people who will be voting in the 2020 Democratic primary have no idea who Howard Schultz is, and very few could tell you much more than “he’s the guy who runs Starbucks.”

Secondly, Trump ran against everyone who was in charge, not just during the Obama years but before: corporate America, Establishment Republicans, the Bushes, “the hedge fund guys.” Trump wasn’t impressed with Silicon Valley and had little interest in it beyond Peter Thiel and enjoying Twitter. Trump served as a blank slate and a protest vote for everyone who was dissatisfied with the status quo of 2016. Do you foresee Howard Schultz tapping into that at all? He is the establishment. He endorsed Obama and Hillary Clinton. He was apparently Hillary Clinton’s choice to be secretary of labor if she had won. His job titles since 1987 have been “chief executive officer,” “chief global strategist,” “executive chairman,” and “owner of the Seattle Supersonics.” He’s been among the 500 wealthiest Americans for a decade. Whether Howard Schultz recognizes it or not, his message will be, “Let’s go back to the status quo of 2016, but without the African-American president.”

Forty-two percent of Democrats have a favorable view of socialism. You think Howard Schultz is going to be their guy?

But Schultz is going to run into a lot of people who will encourage him to run — both former employees and friends who don’t want to hurt his feelings, and opportunistic political consultants who see a giant pile of money when he talks.

Beyond that, let’s note that after that incident of a Starbucks store manager calling the cops on young African-American men in the store in Philadelphia, Schultz sent his whole workforce to racial-bias training. He could have argued that the Philadelphia incident wasn’t representative of the company as a whole, and that his employees were good people who didn’t deserve knee-jerk accusations of racism. Instead, everybody got sent to training that included a video in which Schultz “talked about his vision for a more inclusive company and country.”

Picture this comment from Schultz on that day as a preview of him on the campaign trail: “Trying to, as a white person, fully understand as much as possible the fact that a person of color never quite feels comfortable in a public space in America, and hearing it from them, because it’s not something we think about . . . how can we be better people?” Schultz said. “How can we be better citizens? What else can we do to try and advance a feeling of equality in the country?”

We have no idea what the political environment of 2020 will look like. If we have a few more incidents like Charlottesville, perhaps a significant demographic will be groups of white people appalled by the racial views of other white people and looking for a way to demonstrate that opposition at the ballot box. Perhaps a key theme of the cycle will revolve around white guilt. But right now, it’s hard to picture white voters in those heavily white swing states falling in love with a corporate CEO telling them that they don’t understand the experiences of people of color and that they need to be better people.

Trump Loves Fighting with the NFL

President Trump hits the NFL hard for not sufficiently punishing players who kneel during the National Anthem . . . by refusing to meet with a team that didn’t have any players kneel during the National Anthem.

Trump declared on Twitter, “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!”

This fight is now clearly well beyond any argument of what is and what is not appropriate behavior during the National Anthem. This is now about cultural resentment against mostly African-American, well-paid professional athletes. Trump thinks he’s got a good villain, and he’s going to keep fighting his perceived villain until it stops getting him good headlines.

More than a few folks are grumbling this morning about a decision by Fox News to use an image of an Eagles player kneeling . . . during a prayer.

Why the Obama Deal with Netflix Isn’t Worth Your Worry

Christian Toto with an astute assessment of the Obamas’ lucrative deal with Netflix:

We’re already inundated with liberal storytelling — with or without the Obama Netflix deal. Small screen fare (“Supergirl,” “Designated Survivor,” any late night comedy show). Movies (“Truth,” “Miss Sloane”). And the flow shows little sign of stopping . . .

Everything the former First Couple does for Netflix will arrive with a loud and proud label.

The press will offer each new Obama offering all the press coverage possible. That cold truth will be inescapable.

Audiences, in turn, will react accordingly. Those who miss Obama’s two terms will flock to the programming. Their minds won’t be changed by what they see. They’re already on board with the former president’s vision.

Everyone else? Conservatives will mostly avoid the product. Independents may give it a try, but they’ll know going into the experience that it comes with partisan packaging. That instantly lowers the chance of it influencing their points of view.

I don’t particularly like these sorts of liberal prestige projects at premium cable networks, but I also don’t spend much time thinking about them. As I wrote when I saw the promotions for that short-lived Bill Simmons sports-talk series, political correctness has virtually killed “edginess.” Barring some really unexpected turn of events, almost nothing produced by the Obamas will ever surprise us. Quick, imagine the first project from the Obamas on Netflix . . .

A single mom in the inner city, beset by crime and lack of opportunity, is tempted by the opportunity to buy an illegal gun, until a lesbian friend convinces her that she would just become part of the problem that way. The neighborhood minister, who ensures safe access to Planned Parenthood clinics, tells the single mom about a government job-training program that gives her a job in graphic design for a solar-panel manufacturer. The wacky neighbor describes how Obamacare helped him get a new kidney, the abused girl down the street gets an abortion, and the Muslim family on the corner is the victim of hateful graffiti until our lead character unites the neighborhood for a “tolerance rally.” The local cop contemplates busting the troubled teenage son who’s running with the wrong crowd, until he tells the kid, “If I bust you to juvie, I’m setting you on the wrong path for life, and this just isn’t who we are,” and they embrace.

Right? You can picture it all already. Heartwarming in all the wrong ways.

ADDENDA: Breaking last night, the Mueller investigation has confirmed that Russians and Americans in Washington, D.C., have colluded to influence the outcome of . . . the Stanley Cup Finals.

Politics & Policy

Bill Clinton: ‘I Like the MeToo Movement; It’s Way Overdue.’ No Kidding.

Former President Bill Clinton (YouTube screengrab via Today Show)

Bill Clinton assures us that he was the hero during the impeachment and scandal relating to his affair with Monica Lewinsky: “Former President Bill Clinton spoke out about the MeToo movement and the Monica Lewinsky scandal as NBC’s Craig Melvin sat down with him and author James Patterson, saying, “If the facts were the same, I wouldn’t” act differently today than he did at the time. “A lot of the facts have been conveniently omitted,” he says. “I defended the Constitution.”

Rarely do you see such a symphony of hypocrisy and not-so-suppressed rage.

“I think partly they’re frustrated that they’ve got all of these serious allegations against the current occupant of the Oval Office, and his voters don’t seem to care,” Clinton says in the interview.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. There are a lot of people in this world who can complain about Donald Trump and the numerous allegations of gross sexual harassment and abuse surrounding him, and the fact that a significant portion of the presidents’ supporters either refuse to believe the allegations or dismiss them as unimportant. But Bill Clinton doesn’t get to make the complaint about the public not taking allegations of presidential sexual misconduct seriously enough. Dear God, have some self-awareness, man.

Clinton also has the audacity to declare, “I like the MeToo movement; it’s way overdue.”

Clinton gets surprisingly combative with NBC’s Melvin: “You, typically, have ignored gaping facts in describing this, and I’ll bet you don’t even know them. This was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me. They were not interested in that. I had a sexual-harassment policy when I was governor in the Eighties. I had two women chiefs of staff when I was governor. Women were over-represented in the attorney general’s office in the Seventies. You are giving one side and omitting facts.”

Do facts gape?

Clinton really fumes about being asked about this. “You think President Kennedy should have resigned? Do you believe President Johnson should have resigned? Someone should ask you these questions, because of the way you formulate the questions. I dealt with this 20 years ago, plus, and two-thirds of the American people stayed with me.”

I don’t know, do you think that if the American people had learned in 1962 that 45-year-old John F. Kennedy had sex with a 19-year-old White House intern on her fourth day on the job in the bed where he slept with Jackie? You think the public would have shrugged at that?

Clinton was on The Today Show to promote his new book, a thriller co-written with one-man-publishing-machine James Patterson, entitled “The President Is Missing.” The New York Times finds some . . . odd plot choices:

Readers may wonder why the authors decide early on to kill off the first lady, who was a brilliant law student when she first dazzled Duncan, and why some of her last words were: “Promise me you’ll meet someone else, Jonathan. Promise me.”

Wonder how Hillary Clinton felt about that passage.

‘Pardon Me, Jerry!’ ‘Dick, I Already Did!’

Trump, this morning: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!”

Isn’t pardoning yourself kind of like telling a genie you want to use one of your wishes to wish for more wishes?

I trust the assessment of John Yoo — because the Constitution doesn’t say the president doesn’t explicitly say he doesn’t have the authority to pardon himself, a president does theoretically have the power to do this. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

President Trump has tweeted that he has the “complete power to pardon.” As someone who supported the broadest reading of executive power as a deputy assistant attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, I think that Mr. Trump has the Constitution about right. Article II declares that the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” President Trump can clearly pardon anyone — even himself — subject to the Mueller investigation.

But unless Mr. Trump wants to meet the same end as Richard Nixon, he should resort only to pardons that promote the central purpose of the power. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist 74, the Constitution creates a pardon power out of “humanity and good policy” to allow for “mitigation from the rigor of the law.”

Everything in our Constitution is built to ensure that everyone in government has at least some level of accountability to someone else: elections, majorities, veto power, the ability to override a veto, advice and consent, judicial appointments, the ability to impeach presidents and judges. No one is able to abuse their power indefinitely, because sooner or later some other part of the system will catch on to them and hold them accountable. Even presidents have to obey the law. (Perhaps it’s appropriate that we mentioned Bill Clinton above. The argument in his defense was essentially that he was entitled to lie under oath to avoid embarrassment because he was the president, but no one else was entitled to that right.)

A president pardoning himself — as opposed to resigning, and his successor pardoning him the way President Ford pardoned Nixon — is basically writing himself a get-out-of-jail free card. It may be constitutional, it may be legal, but it’s so at odds with this concept of government accountability that it would probably require a consequence as severe as impeachment, or at least an attempted impeachment. (Trump’s tweet demonstrates he grasps this on some level; a pardon is inherently an admission that a crime was committed.)

The headline above is a reference to an old joke from the mid 1970s. Nixon and Ford meet, and because President Ford is so clumsy, he bumps into Nixon. “Pardon me, Jerry,” Nixon says, and Ford responds, “Dick, I already did!”

A Detailed Portrait of the Most Hated Retired Police Officer in America

Scot Peterson, the school resource officer in Parkland, Fla., who as on duty on campus the day of the shooting, cooperates with a Eli Saslow for a profile by the Washington Post. I don’t think it will generate much sympathy.

“How can they keep saying I did nothing?” he asked Rodriguez one morning, looking again through the documents on his kitchen table. “I’m getting on the radio to call in the shooting. I’m locking down the school. I’m clearing kids out of the courtyard. They have the video and the call logs. The evidence is sitting right there.”

“It’s easy to second-guess when you’re in some conference room, spending months thinking about what you would have done,” Rodriguez said.

“There wasn’t even time to think,” Peterson said. “It just happened, and I started reacting.”

His memory of the shooting:

But now he stood against the wall, holding his radio in one hand and his gun in the other. He remembered wondering why he could not locate the shots. Trees, roof, windows, courtyard. The fire alarm was still blaring. Police sirens were closing in from all directions. From Peterson’s position, he could see only the east side entrance to the 1200 building. Meanwhile, on the west side, at least one victim was already down.

Students inside the 1200 building were at that very moment flooding 911 with calls describing the exact location and description of the shooter, but it turned out that those calls were being routed not to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office but instead to the bordering Coral Springs Police Department. Coral Springs officers were not yet on the scene, and even once they arrived, they communicated on a separate radio system from Peterson and the rest of Broward County. The only information being relayed to him was coming out of his Broward County radio, a soundtrack first of silence and then of mounting confusion as the shooting continued into its fourth minute.

“I hear shots fired by the football field!” shouted the second Broward County deputy to arrive. “Shots by the football field.”

“Some thought it was firecrackers. We’re not sure,” said the next deputy on site. “By the football field.”

“We also heard it over by, inside the 1200 building,” Peterson said, still standing in place. “We are locking down the school right now.”

“I got more students running west toward the football field,” another officer said.

“I hear shots fired,” Peterson said. “Shots — ”

“I have a gunshot victim,” said another deputy. “He is by the entrance to West Glades, on the west side of the school.”

“Does he know where the shooter is?” Peterson shouted, but now it was already six minutes into the massacre, and the last victim had already been shot on the third floor. The gunman was dropping his AR-15 near the stairwell and then heading out of the building, blending in with the crowd of frantic students. The shooting Peterson was supposed to stop was already over.

One thing that stands out from the account: Is it always wise for schools to automatically go into “lockdown” in the event of a shooter? Doesn’t that keep everyone close to the danger? Yes, I’m sure an attempt to evacuate the school could lead to more students coming across the path of the shooter. But the “lockdown” approach keeps everyone inside with the shooter, hoping he turns his attention somewhere else.

ADDENDA: First lesson of the weekend: Broomball — hockey without skates, using broom-like sticks to knock a ball into a net — is a heck of a lot of fun when you’re a grown-up and most of your team is a group of eight-year-olds.

Second lesson of the weekend: Shoes on ice may not be much more stable than skates, and ice is really hard when you fall on it. Oh, and grown-ups have a much higher center of gravity.

Most Popular

PC Culture

When PC Comes Back to Bite You

Political correctness run amok is a popular topic on the right these days. Indeed, the conservative bookshelf is chock full of best-sellers devoted to the topic. Subject matters vary. One may focus on the hypocrisy of campus speech codes, another on the revisionist attempt to indict our founding fathers, yet ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Charles Krauthammer, R.I.P.

It’s not often that the loss of an opinion writer can be said to be a loss for the country, but that is true of Charles Krauthammer, the Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist who died yesterday. In a fractured media environment where almost no one commands universal respect, where crudity of expression and ... Read More