White House

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

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

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

Impeachment Moves Along Like a Kidney Stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Shakespearean Betrayal in the Works?

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

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

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

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

Politics & Policy

Grab Some Popcorn; Political Infighting Has Begun

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

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

Your Scorecard for Today’s Ugliest Internal Political Slugfests

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

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

The New Alt-Right vs. Turning Point USA

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

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

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

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

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

Kamala Harris vs. Democratic Primary Voters

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Klobuchar vs. Pete Buttigieg and Sexism

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

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

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

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

The Mainstream Media vs. the Overtly Progressive Press

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

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

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

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

The Democratic Party’s Centrists vs. Leftists

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

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

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

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

Hillary Clinton vs. Reality

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

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

House Republicans vs. Rudy Giuliani

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

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

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

National Security & Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Trudeau, Notorious Right-Winger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World

A Dangerous Escalation in the Hong Kong Protests

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

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

Hong Kong Protests Turn Violent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikki Haley’s New Book Sheds Light on Administration Turmoil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Continuing Trickle of House Republicans Leaving Office

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elections

Bloomberg Expected to Enter Democratic Presidential Primary

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

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

Bloomberg Mulls a Bid in the 2020 Democratic Field

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

Here’s more from the New York Times report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kentucky’s Defeated Governor Refuses to Concede

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elections

Jeff Sessions Is Running for His Former Senate Seat

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

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

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

Why Are You Running for Senate, Jeff Sessions?

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

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

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

Was Pennsylvania Not Quite So Bad for Republicans This Year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps one of the most important statements of the 2020 cycle came from Chuck Schumer (and as far as I can tell, I’m the only reporter at that event who spotlighted it): “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” Schumer’s math didn’t work out correctly, but he correctly diagnosed the change in the party’s demographics. In 2018, that shift obliterated most of the GOP House members representing suburban districts, and it’s worth remembering that Trump won Pennsylvania by about 68,000 votes and Wisconsin by about 28,000 votes. Schumer’s calculation was wrong, but it wasn’t wildly wrong.

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

Democratic Senators: the Filibuster Is Here to Stay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As if on cue, Politico reports:

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

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

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

Elections

Last Night Wasn’t Great for Republicans

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill, March 26, 2019. (Brendan McDermid /Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Tallying the score from another election night that disappointed Republicans, how the GOP traded working-class whites for suburbanites in 2016 and continues to live with the consequences of that trade, an ABC News anchor blurts out the shocking truth about the network’s coverage of Jeffrey Epstein, and network news divisions once again are revealed as seas of sexually predatory sharks.

It Sure Would Be Nice If Republicans Could Compete in the Suburbs Again

For the third straight year, Republicans had a mostly disappointing Election Day.

In Kentucky, Republicans romped in almost all the statewide races, but Governor Matt Bevin appears to have lost his race by about 5,000 votes. (As of this writing, he has not conceded; there may be a recanvass and, if Bevin is willing to shoulder the costs, a recount.) When an incumbent runs ten or more points behind the rest of the ticket, it usually points to a candidate having unique problems, and Bevin undoubtedly had those, enraging Democrats but never really unifying or winning over all the state’s Republicans. But in the closing weeks, Bevin tried to effectively nationalize the race, and when Trump appeared at a rally for Bevin on Monday night, he declared, “If you lose, the [media] will say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can’t let that happen to me, and you can’t let that happen to your incredible state.” What should we conclude from the fact that the lesser-known GOP candidates in Kentucky who weren’t running on national issues romped?

In Virginia, the state Republican party has been effectively nuked; Democrats now control the entire state legislature and are poised to pass a slew of new liberal ideas into law, including new gun-control provisions and an expansion of Medicaid. Last night brought plenty of comments on Twitter that the GOP losses were because the “swamp” of D.C. had turned northern Virginia blue. But yesterday saw just one incumbent GOP official lose in Fairfax County — the last one standing. No, yesterday’s decisive losses came in places like the suburbs of Richmond and Virginia Beach. Future redistricting is going to give the battered state party an even tougher climb.

In Mississippi, Republican Tate Reeves won the gubernatorial election by about six percentage points, and the GOP swept the other statewide offices by fairly wide margins. That’s good news for the right, but . . . it is Mississippi; the GOP should be winning there by big margins.

One of the pleasant surprises for the GOP came in New Jersey, where a 54-26 Democratic majority in the state assembly was trimmed to 48-32 across the state.

(Louisiana will resolve its gubernatorial and Secretary of State elections on November 16. Polling is sparse, but Governor John Bel Edwards appears a narrow favorite to win reelection.)

Once again conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions. Separately, in a non-binding referendum, voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea of applying retail sales taxes to online retailers. In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.) Texans overwhelmingly passed a measure making it more difficult for the state to ever enact an income tax, by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.

Three straight mostly bad elections are not entirely the fault of President Trump, but it’s also implausible to argue he has nothing to do with it. He, more than any other figure in the country, sets the national political argument, energizing some demographics, thrilling some voters, but antagonizing and enraging others. When Trump stepped into office, the GOP had 1,124 state senators and 3,055 state representatives across the country. Today, the GOP has 1,081 state senators and 2,770 state representatives. When Trump took office, Democrats controlled just 14 state legislative chambers across the country; starting next year, Democrats will control 20 state legislative chambers. That’s not as severe as the Democratic party’s drop-off during the Obama era, but the trend is moving in the same direction.

Some of this may well reflect a new reality in our politics: A winning presidential candidate attracts a lot of voters who just aren’t that motivated when their guy isn’t on the ticket, and the president inevitably stirs up a lot of anger, motivation, and enthusiasm in the opposition. Barack Obama knows exactly how that feels.

The nomination of Trump represented the Republican party trading certain demographics — more working-class whites for fewer suburban white-collar workers and soccer moms. In 2016, that trade-off worked well for the GOP, but since then they’ve been paying the price. (Notice that in Pennsylvania, with no major statewide races, Republicans continued to get crushed in suburban local races like county commissioners.) Recall that Republicans just barely hung on in the special election in North Carolina’s ninth district, which includes some of the suburbs of Charlotte, and in 2018 the GOP barely hung on Georgia’s seventh district in the Atlanta suburbs, Nebraska’s second district which includes Omaha and its suburbs. Trump is the walking, talking Democratic get-out-the-vote operation in America’s suburbs. As those New York Times numbers from earlier this week indicated, he’s still got a path to 270 votes in the Electoral College. But he’s going to have to do it without a slew of suburban voters who were once in play for the GOP.

Network News, the Sea of Predators

Name a network news division that hasn’t been found averting its eyes, scuttling stories, or otherwise covering for a famous sexual predator. On Tuesday Project Veritas dropped their biggest scoop in a long time:

Amy Robach, ‘Good Morning America’ Co-Host and Breaking News Anchor at ABC, explains how a witness came forward years ago with information pertaining to Epstein, but Disney-owned ABC News refused to air the material for years. Robach vents her anger in a “hot mic” moment with an off-camera producer, explaining that ABC quashed the story in its early stages.  “I’ve had this interview with Virginia Roberts (Now Virginia Guiffre) [alleged Epstein victim]. We would not put it on the air. Um, first of all, I was told “Who’s Jeffrey Epstein.  No one knows who that is.  This is a stupid story.”

“The Palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways.”

Robach goes on to express she believes that Epstein was killed in prison saying, “So do I think he was killed? 100 percent, yes, I do . . . He made his whole living blackmailing people . . . Yup, there were a lot of men in those planes. A lot of men who visited that Island, a lot of powerful men who came into that apartment.”

Robach repeats a prophetic statement purportedly made by Attorney Brad Edwards “ . . . [T]here will come a day when we will realize Jeffrey Epstein was the most prolific pedophile this country has ever known,” and Disgustedly Robach states “I had it all three years ago.”

That’s at ABC News. You know, the organization where Mark Halperin was the political director for a long time.

Then there’s NBC News and how they handled Ronan Farrow:

The top guns at the network and its news division (news division chairman Andy Lack, president Noah Oppenheim and corporate CEO Steve Burke) have decided, by all accounts, to ride out the storm over the NBC’s botched handling of Ronan Farrow’s reporting about movie producer Harvey Weinstein in 2017.

Farrow and others credibly claim that the network suppressed his reporting on sexual assault allegations against Weinstein and covered up harassment and assault accusations against NBC’s former star, Matt Lauer.

NBC’s brass has no intention of hiring an outside firm to lead a new investigation of what happened, relying instead on an internally led investigation that concluded last year and found little cause for concern about management’s role.

Then there’s CBS, where “three powerful men at the company — Leslie Moonves, its chief executive; Charlie Rose, its morning show anchor; and Jeff Fager, the executive producer of “60 Minutes” — have all lost their jobs because of workplace conduct.”

Remember when everyone wanted to pretend that this was just a problem at Fox News?

ADDENDUM: America’s entire intelligence community, speaking as one about the 2020 election: “Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment and affect government policies. Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions.”

Boy, it sure would be nice if the President of the United States would publicly concur with that.

Elections

It’s Never a Happy Election Day

People walk in Times Square on midterm election day in Manhattan, N.Y, U.S., November 6, 2018. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why the vast majority of politicians wants you to be unhappy, depressed, angry, and frightened; the political earthquake that occurred 25 years ago this month; the real state of America; and a “Crazy Eddie” level offer.

Happy Election Day. If your neck of the woods is voting on something, go out there and make your voice heard . . . presuming you care. If you don’t care and haven’t bothered to look at what or who is on the ballot, stay home. I went through the biggest races yesterday, and you can find an extensive list of races in all jurisdictions here.

Politicians Need You to Be Anxious

If you follow politics, you probably get a lot of emails from campaigns. To follow what the Democratic presidential campaigns are saying, I’m on all of their fundraising email lists, and thus several times a day I receive messages with subject lines that are about one step short of suicidal: “not good news.” “I’m personally asking . . .” “This is what we feared.” “we fell behind last night.” “Kamala has not qualified for the sixth debate yet.” “If everyone who reads this gives one dollar . . .” “Setbacks.” “We are JUST short.” “This is important.”

I won’t donate money, but I may ask someone to do a wellness check on those campaign staffers.

You don’t have to be a marketing genius or psychologist to figure out what they’re doing. Clearly, messages that sound ominous or troubled spur more donations than messages that say, “we’re doing fine.” If people think you’re doing okay, they’re less likely to send money. The Biden campaign could truthfully send an email declaring, “despite some not-so-great debate performances, we still have a big national lead, we still enjoy the best match-ups against Trump of any Democrat, and we’re looking okay, other than a slide in Iowa lately. Please send money.” But then most people would ignore it. Under this approach to campaigning, the ideal campaign needs its staff, supporters, and volunteers to be in a constant state of anxiety and agitation, constantly intensely motivated because they believe that doom is imminent unless they’re always giving 100 percent effort.

(Speaking of asking for money, did I mention the NR Webathon? Did I mention that fighting a free speech case all the way to the Supreme Court is real and not cheap?)

I should take a moment to salute those who care about a presidential campaign; a bit like rooting for a sports team, it is voluntarily becoming emotionally invested in a process that you have little or no direct control over, and one that is likely to end in disappointment. There is only one champion in each contest, and there’s only one winner in each campaign. Each day may bring ups and downs, but each cycle, every campaign except one ends with a concession speech.

You see the same relentlessly negative tone in campaign ads. Our state legislative elections are today, and last night the local news breaks warned me that candidates were soft on the abuse of foster kids, wanted to deny basic rights to rape victims, and didn’t want to stop mass shootings in our schools. I saw more grim black-and-white footage than an Ingmar Bergman film festival. Casual viewers would never realize that this is a contest between ideologically-opposed dweeby lawyers for state legislative seats; the stakes of the election were painted as repelling a demonic invasion.

Politics is now so saturated with appeals to fear and anger that you have to wonder if it’s psychologically healthy. The moment you feel like things are going okay, the less likely you are to donate or volunteer your time and effort. If you’re happy with the status quo, you’re less likely to vote. And of particular concern for the party of bigger government, the more you think your life is going well, the less you need government to do things for you.

Thus, almost everyone involved in the political process has an incentive to make you feel bad about something, that the stakes have never been higher, that we’re hanging by a thread, that your vote, your donation, your individual decision could make all the difference. If we’re a country with a fairly strong economy, generally secure in a dangerous world, generally tolerant and agreeable, generally helpful to the less fortunate, and a country with problems but none so bad that we would want to trade places with any other country . . . then you don’t have to be so active in politics. You can go enjoy your life and think about other things.

This is why clickbait articles declare “things have never been worse” when we know that isn’t true. You particularly find the “we’re going to hell in a handbasket” arguments from those who are attracting attention by denouncing “David French-ism,” which is never all that well-defined but is inevitably cited as the root of all of our troubles; one moment it’s an adherence to viewpoint neutrality in laws about public expression, the next a generally secular culture, the next, opposition to or criticism of Donald Trump. (A lot of these debates boil down to rehashing the arguments of the 2016 primary.) I am unconvinced that the missing key step to a cultural renaissance is “a hearing held on what’s happening in our libraries, in which, you know, Senators Cruz, Hawley, and Cotton make the head of the Modern Library Association, or whatever, sweat.”

In a clickbait-dominated political culture, whatever is new, shocking, and unusual attracts the most attention and often defines perceptions, even if it is wildly unrepresentative. We on the Right complain when some no-name GOP state lawmaker says or does something stupid and is suddenly used by the national media as a symbol of the moral failings of the entire party. We complain when the media finds a handful of nuts on Twitter reacting a certain way to describe a broad reacting. (The term “nut-picking” is used to describe this phenomenon.)

But we on the Right can fall into the same habit sometimes.

A couple years back, a firebrand self-proclaimed Christian declared that Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair was the perfect symbol of America’s moral decline. “If you want one snapshot of just how corrupt — how morally corrupt, how morally bent, how morally twisted, how morally confused, how morally bankrupt — we have become,” Fischer said, “all you’ve got to do is take a look at the cover of Vanity Fair magazine.” I asked at the time, why is the cover of Vanity Fair our measure of our moral health? You didn’t pick it. I didn’t pick it. Probably neither one of us bought it or are subscribers. And as I laid out, the cover of Vanity Fair has been the spotlight of choice for celebrities who want to do sexually provocative or controversial things, since at least Demi Moore’s naked pregnant cover. Vanity Fair’s circulation in 2015 was about 1.2 million — really good for a magazine, but in a country with more than 321 million people then.

If you seek out signs of moral decline, you will find moral decline. If you seek out signs of moral renewal and the country becoming a better place to live, you will find those, too. How you feel about the state of your life, your community, your state, your country and the world will be largely determined by what you look for and choose to focus upon. As a wise warrior once said, “your focus determines your reality.”

(Okay, that was Qui Gon Jinn in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and he was killed shortly after he said that, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong.)

Then what should we focus upon?

Twenty-Five Years ago This Month…

We’re approaching the 25th anniversary of the 1994 midterms, the “Republican Revolution” and the Contract with America. In the speech announcing it, Newt Gingrich laid out the goals of a balanced budget amendment and line-item veto, “stopping violent criminals,” welfare reform, tax cuts for families, strong national defense, removing the limit on senior citizen earnings, rolling back government regulations, commonsense legal reform and congressional term limits.

Some conservatives will look at that list and groan that the Contract was a failure; the Supreme Court found the line-time veto and term limits unconstitutional, at least as the Constitution currently stands, and a balanced budget amendment has not yet been enacted. (A balanced budget amendment just says the government must balance the budget; it does not actually enact the spending cuts or tax increases needed to balance it.)

But then again, the Republican Revolution did lead to spending cuts and tax cuts, short-lived surpluses (driven largely by the gargantuan tax revenues from the dot-com boom), the enactment of welfare reform, arguably the most important domestic policy achievement of the past 25 years; a continued revolution in military technology.

By a lot of measures, the conservatives of 1994 would be impressed by the state of the country in 2019. If you had asked them their biggest worry back then, quite a few would answer violent crime. In 1994, the United States had 713 reported violent crimes for every 100,000 citizens; the rate had peaked a few years earlier at 716. In 2018, it was just under 369 violent crimes per 100,000 citizens, a mostly steady two-and-a-half-decade decline. A lot of factors went into that decline; it is worth noting that the ideas in criminal justice reform — trying to ensure that a felon’s first trip to prison is also their last, and that they have the tools to succeed in life as law-abiding citizens — could only be enacted in a country that was no longer so worried about getting mugged, having their homes and cars broken into, or being murdered during a robbery gone wrong.

In 1993, about 10 out of every 1,000 people filed tort lawsuits — inattentive motorists, medical malpractice, faulty products and other civil wrongs. By 2017, that rate was down to just 2 out of every 1,000 people. Thirty states enacted limits to the damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

If you had asked them what their top priority in changing the country was, quite a few would mention abortion, even though it wasn’t mentioned in the Contract with America. In 1994, the Centers for Disease Control tallied 1.26 million abortions in the United States — down a bit from the 1990 peak of 1.42 million. By 2017, the most recent year statistics are available, it was 862,320. The most recent abortion rate is the lowest rate ever observed in the United States and is now roughly half of what it was in the year after Roe v. Wade.

While I understand the cautionary notes from Alan Hawkins and Betsy VanDenBerghe, I still think the divorce rate hitting a 40-year low is good news. Teenage pregnancy and birth rates are down significantly. Despite the perception that the Trump administration doesn’t care about the environment, America’s air quality is getting better — emissions decreasing, declining concentrations of pollutants, unhealthy air quality days trending down (although they’ve leveled off in recent years). Our unemployment rate is below four percent for 17 of the past 18 months!

But how many political messages will you get in the next year that tell you, “hey, America’s doing pretty well by a lot of measurements?”

ADDENDUM: Whoa. For $75, you can get a year’s subscription to the print magazine, full access to NR Plus, and Rich’s new book, The Case for Nationalism. The listed price for Rich’s book is $26.99, so this is like getting all of that for $48, which is like getting all of the rest for thirteen cents a day . . .

White House

John Durham Steps in to Investigate the Trump–Russia Probe’s Origins

(NRO Illustration: Elijah Smith; Jason Reed, Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: A lengthy, detailed, drama-filled profile you must read; the big 2019 election preview, with signs that the stakes are higher for Republicans than they first appear; a new survey that should send Elizabeth Warren supporters into a panic; and several news books from National Review authors.

The Bull Who Takes No Bull in the Courtroom

Before I go any further, check out my especially lengthy and detailed profile of John Durham, the legendary federal prosecutor that U.S. attorney general William Barr selected to investigate the origins of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and whether it was properly predicated. I believe this is the longest, most detailed, and most thorough profile of Durham ever written — and he is a man who does not like to be the subject of profiles.

Durham’s career has it all — prosecuting mobsters with colorful nicknames, Ku Klux Klan, Whitey Bulger, corrupt FBI agents, ruthless street gangs, threatening the Central Intelligence Agency with an FBI raid, and coming as close as anyone has to cracking the biggest art theft in American history. We have no idea what Durham will find in his investigation of what prompted America’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies to start sniffing around the Trump campaign. But based upon everything I’ve learned while researching his career, reading court records, and interviewing his colleagues and former opposing counsel if Durham comes back with an indictment, he’s extremely likely to get and sustain a conviction. And if he chooses not to press charges, it probably means that no prosecutor could sustain a conviction based upon the available evidence. 

The Pretty Big 2019 Election Preview

Tomorrow is Election Day. For an off-year election, the stakes are surprisingly high for the Republican party; this year’s handful of races could end up being the canary in the coal mine.

Permit me to start closest to home here in Virginia. Hans Bader is deeply worried about a second blue wave hitting Virginia’s state legislature, and last week I laid out all the headwinds facing Virginia Republicans this cycle. Democrats made their peace with the scandals of Governor Ralph “Blackface” Northam, allegations of sexual assault against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and another blackface scandal involving Mark Herring, the state’s attorney general. The GOP had a couple of inconvenient retirements, left a quarter of the state house races unopposed, the district lines were redrawn in a way that makes reelection tougher for a handful of Republicans, and one GOP incumbent didn’t file his papers in time and has to run as a write-in candidate.

There are some Virginia Republicans who think that the redistricting is only enough to reduce the margin of GOP victory in these seats, not flip them. Tim Hugo, the last Republican state delegate in the Virginia suburbs closest to Washington, is still hanging on, although his win is far from assured. 

There are a few opportunities for GOP pickups in the tenth district, where incumbent Democrat Wendy Gooditis (D) is seeking her second term against former state Deligate Randy Minchew, and in the 85th, where Rocky Holcomb is running for his old seat in an open seat race against Alex Askew; Holcomb lost by just a few hundred votes in 2017.

Republicans find it easy to believe that gloomy polls are wrong and that there is a segment of the electorate that intends to vote for GOP candidates but doesn’t want to tell a pollster. It’s easy to believe that “shy Republicans” like the old “shy Tories” exist, but the question is how many there are and how many will actually show up to vote — one percent of the total vote? Two or three? Enough to swing these competitive races?

One more note about absentee ballots: So far, as of Sunday, 175,554 Virginians have requested absentee ballots, and 135,728 have been returned. There are nearly 40,000 absentee ballots floating around out there. If a Virginian who requested an absentee ballot shows up to vote on Election Day, they are required to bring in the unused absentee ballot and return that. If they don’t, they can only cast a provisional ballot after presenting to the officer of election a signed statement declaring that he did not receive the ballot or has lost the ballot, subject to felony penalties for making false statements.

The victory of Kentucky governor Matt Bevin in 2015 was a pleasant surprise for the GOP, and perhaps an early indicator of Trump’s strength. Whether you included the independent candidate or not, Democrat Jack Conway almost always led. Bevin won by 8 percentage points; Republicans have to hope for the same this year — although polling has been surprisingly sparse this cycle. Mike Pence campaigned with Bevin Friday, and Trump is holding a rally tonight in Lexington, Ky.    

Louisiana governor’s race matches up the last pro-life Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, against Republican Eddie Rispone. The campaign didn’t seem to be generating as much interest as usual, but then early voting hit a new record.

John Couvillon, a Baton Rouge pollster with JMC Analytics & Polling, says the early vote is probably a wash for the two contenders: “Because while the black share of the electorate increased 6 percent relative to the primary, the Republican share only decreased 3 percent. The remainder of the decrease came from lower turnout (percentage-wise) from white Democrats and white Independents. And since Governor Edwards has been running strongly among white Democrats (60-37% in the last poll JMC conducted and publicly released) and relatively well among white Independents (he trails 38 percent to 56 percent in the last poll), the incremental benefit to his campaign isn’t as much as it would seem, because the Republican percentage of the electorate remained relatively high, and among this group, Governor Edwards trails 17-79 percent.”

In Mississippi, term limits mean the state will be electing a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer. Republican lieutenant governor Tate Reeves and Democratic attorney general Jim Hood are competing to succeed Bryant in the Governor’s Mansion. Polls in this race are surprisingly close.

Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi are all perceived as heavily Republican states, even though southern Democrats who run for state offices are usually significantly more competitive than those who run for U.S. Senate or statewide. Democrats are convinced that their strategy in Virginia — contend that Trump represents a xenophobic, racist, backwards approach to governance that alienates all of those soccer moms and white-collar workers — will work in other traditionally Republican-leaning states like North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and perhaps even Texas. Any big statewide wins tomorrow will convince Democrats that they’re on the right track and that Trump is a unique albatross in the party, even in once-deep-red places. (In the case of Louisiana, Edwards’ social conservatism — signing a fetal heartbeat law into effect — scrambles the usual political calculus.)

Tomorrow New Jersey will hold elections for all 80 state assembly seats, but no one is expecting a dramatic change. Democrats hold a 54-26 majority and are all but guaranteed to keep their majority. Correspondents for the New York Times contend that President Trump and impeachment are major issues in the races, which doesn’t make a lot of sense because the New Jersey state assembly doesn’t vote on impeachment. Apparently, Tip O’Neill has now been entirely reversed; no politics are local anymore. 

In Washington State, voters will consider a state referendum that would restore affirmative action policies in the state for government contracts and admission to state universities. Back in 1998, 58 percent of Washington voters voted to end the state’s use of affirmative action.

In Pennsylvania, voters will consider a referendum on victim’s rights that would allow crime victims to sue the state if their rights, like being notified of a perpetrator’s release from prison — are violated. The ACLU opposes the referendum, contending that it is vaguely written and superfluous.

Voters in Texas will consider ten referendums tomorrow. Proposition Four would enact a constitutional amendment banning legislators from enacting an income tax; Governor Greg Abbott is encouraging Texans to vote yes. “Yes” means no income tax, “no” means yes to a possible future income tax. 

Proposition 8 would create a fund for flooding projects such as drainage, mitigation and Proposition 9 would allow precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum held in depositories to be exempt from property taxation.

A ‘Wow’ Poll That Should Freak Out Elizabeth Warren Supporters

Yikes. It’s easy to put too much faith in polls, but a result like this probably ought to get Democrats to contemplate their upcoming decision with great care. The New York Times finds that among likely voters, Elizabeth Warren is tied in Arizona, trails President Trump by 2 percentage points in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and trails Trump by 4 points in Michigan, Florida, and North Carolina. That’s the sort of thing that will probably leave a lot of Democrats breathing into paper bags. Maybe Warren resembles Hillary Clinton a lot more than her supporters want to admit. 

ADDENDUM: Tomorrow is publication day for two big books from National Review editors — The Case for Nationalism, from Rich Lowry, and Richard Brookhiser’s newest work of history, Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea. Pre-order them, hunt for them at your nearest bookstore, add them to your holiday wish list. And while you’re at it, throw in Kathryn Lopez’s A Year with the Mystics, which is not about the Washington WBNA team, but in fact a tour through the mystical writings of the Church and finding Christ in a world that is often filled with noise, distractions, and “the constant busy-ness of life.” Get all three of these and you’re covered on country, history, and faith.

Elections

Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare for All Fantasy

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks with supporters at a town hall in Tempe, Ariz., August 1, 2019. (Gage Skidmore)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Elizabeth Warren unveils how she’ll pay for Medicare for All, and makes some wildly unrealistic assumptions; a particularly implausible narrative of Katie Hill’s victimhood is constructed before our eyes; a kind word for the also-ran Democrats of this cycle who at least had something new and interesting to say; and an offer you won’t want to miss.

Warren: Just Assume I Can Get All the Medication for 30 Cents on the Dollar

Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that . . . and her plan runs on rainbows and unicorns. Warren unveiled how she would pay for Medicare for All without raising middle-class taxes this morning, and it basically relies on everyone involved in health care and medicine agreeing to do the same or more work for a lot less money than they do now.

Her plan is to save money by reducing payments to physicians to Medicare rates, which tend to be significantly lower than private insurance, and to 110 percent of Medicare rates for hospitals and instituting a variety of payment reforms to encourage health providers to generate more savings.

The plan sets an ambitious goal of cutting Medicare drug prices by 70 percent for brand-name drugs and 30 percent for generics through a series of reforms. It would also require the new Medicare system to run with much less administrative overhead than the Urban Institute predicted would be necessary — 2.3 percent of total costs instead of 6 percent.

She wants to get the same medicine that we do now, paying only 30 percent that we do now. When you assume you can do that, sure, making the numbers add up gets a heck of a lot easier! Imagine working out your household budget by assuming you could keep your home for only 30 percent of your current rent or mortgage payments. You’re lucky if you can find a “70 percent off” deal in stores that are going out of business; Warren’s convinced she can get it for every band name medication required for every American in the country. Yes, she’s exactly the person we need to replace that guy in the Oval Office who’s in denial about reality and who keeps telling us he’s the greatest dealmaker of all time.

A key test of the seriousness of Warren’s rivals, and future interviewers and debate moderators will be how seriously they press her on these wildly unrealistic assumptions.

Narratives Get Crafted by Ideologues Who Aren’t as Clever as They Think They Are

You probably remember when Ben Rhodes famously told the New York Times in 2016 that most people who cover the White House “know nothing” and are easily spun.

“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

As you get older, you start to see the strings, and you begin to realize that the people who are trying to spin you are not that bright, or at least nowhere near as bright as they think they are. They make arguments that are contradictory and implausible.

We witnessed another vivid example this week in the sudden formation of a narrative that Rep. Katie Hill is a victim of sexist forces. The Los Angeles Times “reports” today, “GOP enemies wanted to beat Katie Hill. Then they got her nude photos.”

Before the revelations over on Red State, the odds that you had heard of Hill are pretty low. The only thing I knew about her was that she was the vice chair of the House Oversight Committee and was, on paper, the person who was slated to take over after Elijah Cummings passed away (although Speaker Pelosi could put someone else more experienced in charge if she wished). As a California Democrat from the Los Angeles area, we could probably guess her positions on most issues, but she had just been sworn into office for her first term in January. Did she have “enemies” or merely opponents in the other party who wanted to see her defeated in the next election?

Many people in the media — likely those young and underinformed correspondents that Rhodes described — seem to have decided that because Hill was A) a Democrat B) a woman and C) bisexual, that she had to be the hero or victim in this story.

The argument from Hill is that she did have an affair with a campaign staffer, but did not have a separate affair with a congressional staffer, despite screenshots of text messages and other evidence assembled and posted by Jennifer Van Laar at RedState. While it is theoretically possible that all of that could be an elaborate hoax, Hill is asking everyone to believe that while she slept with a subordinate, dependent upon Hill for a paycheck in one situation, she would never do it in that other situation, which is against House rules.

There is an established procedure to handle allegations like this, and it involves the House Ethics Committee. That panel began an inquiry and Hill announced her intention to resign the next day. If, indeed, Hill had never violated House rules about sexual relationships with employees, why did she suddenly resign? She had good reason to think the House Ethics Committee would clear her.

Democrats like Kamala Harris want the discussion to be entirely about the release of nude photos of Hill; the California senator and presidential candidate says that the lesson of the Hill story is one of “cyber exploitation” and that “there’s so much that people do about women and their sexuality that’s about shaming them.”

Releasing nude photos of other people without their consent is wrong, malevolent, and oftentimes criminal. If someone did indeed violate California law on “revenge porn,” we should prosecute that person to the fullest extent the law allows. But the wrongdoing of another person does not magically make Hill’s alleged relationship with the staffer disappear. And about a year ago, the #MeToo movement had convincingly argued that almost every sexual relationship between a boss and a subordinate involves a morally-troubling imbalance of power. Sure, it’s consensual, but how honest can a person be with their partner when that person can fire them at will? And doesn’t that circumstance almost always create an unfair situation for the rest of the employees?

Now a significant number of left-leaning media voices are asserting, “no, wait, in this case, a member of Congress having sex with a staffer is okay.” We know many of them would be screaming bloody murder if a male or Republican member of Congress did the same thing. We know this because we’ve seen similar cases far too often: Vance McAllister of Louisiana, Chris Lee of New York, Mark Souder of Indiana, Chip Pickering of Mississippi, John Ensign of Nevada, Vito Fossella of New York. Yes, some stick around and manage to get reelected, having convinced their constituents that it doesn’t matter — Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee is a notorious example.

One last point on Harris’ statement that “there’s so much that people do about women and their sexuality that’s about shaming them.” If you write or Tweet about Kamala Harris, someone will almost always quickly bring up her extramarital affair with Willie Brown in the early 1990s (he was married, she wasn’t; see number 16 here). It is easy to understand why Harris would resent so many people defining her by those actions so long ago. Harris may well believe her past relationships are no one else’s business, and that she did nothing wrong. But during their relationship, Brown appointed Harris to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, a job that paid $97,088 a year, and six months later, he named her to the California Medical Assistance Commission, a post which paid $72,000 a year. No doubt other people wanted to get appointed to those positions, and no doubt they resented the fact that Harris’ special relationship with Brown gave her such a significant advantage in his selection process.

There are plenty of reasons to vote against Harris based upon her record in office — see the other 19 reasons above. Maybe some people bring up the Brown affair simply because they want to embarrass Harris. But there’s a genuine issue of her getting preferential treatment from Brown and career assistance from the relationship — and many of the same people who don’t want to acknowledge that Hill did anything wrong in this case won’t want to acknowledge that Harris did anything wrong in that case.

Hail to the Victors over Low Expectations

A flip side of yesterday’s Corner post about the overhyped Democrats who are sputtering in this year’s presidential campaign — Kirsten Gillibrand, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, and Harris — face it, at the beginning of this cycle, almost none of us had heard of Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, Amy Klobuchar and maybe we had heard of Tulsi Gabbard as the surfing congresswoman who had met with Bashir Assad. In a cycle where most of the candidates have chased after the same Twitter Woke crowd and sounded indistinguishable from one another, each one of those four has at least brought something surprising and interesting to the table.

ADDENDUM: If you haven’t joined NRPlus yet, hear me out. It’s great value (about 77 cents a day) and gives you everything associated with National Review: full access to everything in the magazine, both through the website and the app, access to the full NR archives, fewer ads, invitations to exclusive events with National Review writers and editors as well as lawmakers and newsmakers from across the conservative spectrum. My favorite part is the members-only Facebook page, hosting Internet debates and discussions without the trolls.

Energy & Environment

Policymakers Played a Role in California’s Wildfire Issues

A firefighting helicopter flies over the Getty Fire as it burns in the hills west of the 405 freeway in the hills of West Los Angeles, Calif., October 28, 2019. (Gene Blevins/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: California burns, but the state’s politicians don’t want to look at the policy choices that led to this point; Kamala Harris starts to see that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train; the U.S. Army feels compelled to respond to a presidential tweet; and Twitter announces a ban on political advertising that includes at least one glaring loophole.

Watching California Burn

It’s an overstatement to declare that progressivism or the Democrats ruined California — at least by themselves. But as the state burns from gargantuan wildfires, California Democrats are going to have to confront the fact that their state’s serious troubles reflect more than just bad luck. Policy decisions have consequences, and the full consequences are rarely seen clearly by advocates of particular policies.

New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo is in an apocalyptic mood about his home state, blaming the state’s worsening problems on “a failure to live sustainably.”

I’m starting to suspect we’re over. It’s the end of California as we know it. I don’t feel fine.

It isn’t just the fires — although, my God, the fires. Is this what life in America’s most populous, most prosperous state is going to be like from now on? Every year, hundreds of thousands evacuating, millions losing power, hundreds losing property and lives? Last year, the air near where I live in Northern California — within driving distance of some of the largest and most powerful and advanced corporations in the history of the world — was more hazardous than the air in Beijing and New Delhi. There’s a good chance that will happen again this month, and that it will keep happening every year from now on. Is this really the best America can do?

Probably, because it’s only going to get worse. The fires and the blackouts aren’t like the earthquakes, a natural threat we’ve all chosen to ignore. They are more like California’s other problems, like housing affordability and homelessness and traffic — human-made catastrophes we’ve all chosen to ignore, connected to the larger dysfunction at the heart of our state’s rot: a failure to live sustainably.

Eh, that’s part of it, but it’s not just the usual suspects of not enough environmental regulations and greedy rich people. But don’t knock Manjoo too much, and not just because his state is burning down. He’s among the few left-of-center writers willing to point out that a lot of progressive ideas get blocked by wealthy progressives who don’t want them enacted near their neighborhoods. They embrace grand schemes in theory but turn into vehement activists touting local control as soon as affordable housing proposals get too close to their posh neighborhoods. (He’s also pointed out that America’s biggest and most prestigious universities swoon when any billionaire comes along, even Jeffrey Epstein, and that economic engagement with China has corrupted our values, as demonstrated by the NBA. Are you noticing a theme here?)

You don’t hear as much about Calexit these days, do you? There are currently ten fires burning.

The boss recalled that “In 2016, then-governor Jerry Brown actually vetoed a bill that had unanimously passed the state legislature to promote the clearing of trees dangerously close to power lines. Brown’s team says this legislation was no big deal, but one progressive watchdog called the bill ‘neither insignificant or small.’” How often do you see a bill that passed unanimously get vetoed?

Most progressives blame the wildfires as an inevitable side effect of climate change, which gets their public policy decisions off the hook. Noah Rothman writes, “While utility providers make a convenient scapegoat, public policy is more to blame for California’s conundrum. Most wildfires are not caused by faulty electrical equipment but natural factors and human error. The state’s utilities are required by law to extend their networks to housing developed in high-risk areas, and, in a state with an acute housing shortage, more and more residences are built inside danger zones. What’s more, the patchwork of federal, state, local, tribal, and private interests that are responsible for forestry management have run up against the state’s onerous regulatory environment.” If you can’t clear out underbrush or clear out any trees, you end up with a ton of underbrush that burns quickly and hotter.

If you want to find a surprising development in all of this, it’s that this disaster is bad enough to interrupt the usual partisan passions: “His team is performing above and beyond expectation,’’ [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom said of Trump, following a visit to meet with the senior residents of Las Casitas Mobile Home Park in American Canyon, which has been without power since Saturday. “Every single request we’ve had to the administration has been met.’’

Many parts of California look like paradise — nice weather year-round, a beautiful coast, redwood forests, gorgeous mountain ranges. This leads to many, many people wanting to live there, probably more than the region could reasonably manage, in terms of effective governance, the economy, and ecologically. The progressive response to this is schizophrenic. California’s Democratic political establishment believes that efforts to find and deport illegal immigrants are xenophobic and wrong. They offer driver’s licenses and Medicaid coverage to those who enter the country illegally. Then they lament strained state services, overcrowded schools, sprawl, and unmanageable population growth.

As Kevin observed, “California is great if you are too rich or too poor to care about the marginal costs of living there, but if you have a more average income (and are looking to raise a family on it) then hopping across the border to Nevada must look attractive.” Earlier this year, the New York Times noted the growing philosophy that California was a place for young, bright, ambitious people to make their fortune, which they would then enjoy spending somewhere else.

Despite some folks missing the point, earlier this year I observed that California’s cities earning the worst grades on air quality despite the toughest emissions laws in the country revealed the limits of regulation. Few rules can overcome geography: California’s cities have a lot of people, a lot of cars and traffic, and a lot of sunny days. When you live in a valley surrounded by high mountains, the smog doesn’t disperse easily. And that’s before accounting for the wildfires.

When I was in Silicon Valley in 2015, I remember a pre-apocalyptic mood from strict water use restrictions from a serious drought. This is not the California of a generation ago; as recently as Steve Martin’s L.A. Story in 1991, a filmmaker could plausibly tout California and specifically Los Angeles as a sort of quirky libertarian paradise, where everyone is free to pursue his American dream as he sees fit. In an era when California cities are attempting to ban fireplaces, plastic bags are banned, when Fresno banned permanent markersSan Francisco makes armed self-defense legally impossible, and campus speech codes, could a character plausibly describe the state that way today?

Kamala Harris in Uphill Battle Against Biden, Warren, Sanders, and Reality

For those of us who are conservatives, the best part of the 2020 cycle so far is watching the slow-motion implosion of so many wildly overhyped “rising stars” of the Democratic Party. First Kirsten Gillibrand, then Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro, and now, Kamala Harris: “Kamala Harris is dramatically restructuring her campaign by redeploying staffers to Iowa and laying off dozens of aides at her Baltimore headquarters, according to campaign sources and a memo obtained Wednesday by POLITICO, as she struggles to resuscitate her beleaguered presidential bid.”

Your Counter-Argument Can’t Just Be Rage and Name-Calling

The president could have countered Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, National Security Council staffer, by arguing with something like, “while I appreciate Lt. Col. Vindman’s service, he and I had fundamental disagreements about what our priority should be in our dealings with the government of Ukraine. I believe Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma Holdings, while his father was vice president, is a legitimate priority for U.S. and Ukrainian anti-corruption investigations, and I refuse to let any of this ge swept under the rug because of who it might embarrass. Vindman saw it differently. He is free to disagree, but in the end I am the commander-in-chief, and the buck stops with me – meaning the decision and the responsibility are entirely mine.”

Instead, Trump tweeted about him being a “Never Trumper witness” joining a “witch hunt.”

This was bad enough to get the U.S. Army to issue a statement:

“Lt. Col. Vindman, who has served this country honorably for 20+ years, is fully supported by the Army like every Soldier, having earned a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq in 2004,” Matt Leonard, an Army spokesperson, told Task & Purpose.

“As his career assignments reflect, Lt. Col. Vindman has a long history of selfless service to his country, including combat. Lt. Col. Vindman is afforded all protections anyone would be provided in his circumstances.”

ADDENDUM: Twitter announced that they will soon ban all political advertising.

What happens if someone involved in a political cause hires people with many followers to retweet their preferred messages?

They never think these sorts of proposals through, do they?

White House

Criticism Comes with the Job, Mr. President

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House, June 18, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: A president is rarely loved in office, and thus anyone who steps into the Oval Office has to be ready to endure relentless criticism; the White House could have a more coherent argument against impeachment but is so far choosing to simply denounce critics; the House passes a resolution against the Armenian Genocide, raising the question of which reality-show star has the most influence over U.S. policy.

Presidents Are Rarely Loved While in Office

Back when Donald Trump started his presidency, a once-controversial figure who had hosted and interviewed him quite a few times offered a trenchant observation about the new president’s personality and the job he had sought and won.

“I personally wish that he had never run, I told him that, because I actually think this is something that is gonna be detrimental to his mental health too, because, he wants to be liked, he wants to be loved,” said infamous radio talk show host Howard Stern. “He wants people to cheer for him.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be a healthy experience. And by the way, he’s now on this anti-Hollywood kick. He loves Hollywood. First of all, he loves the press. He lives for it. He loves people in Hollywood. He only wants to hobnob with them. All of this hatred and stuff directed towards him. It’s not good for him. It’s not good. There’s a reason every president who leaves the office has grey hair.”

Stern was right. Presidents are rarely widely beloved while in office. Their approval ratings may go up and down with events, but the criticism rarely stops. There are always problems, and the decisions a president makes to address those problems inevitably irk someone. Entire American mass media structures exist to tell people how wrong the president is. Today, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, NPR the Washington Post and others greet their audiences with daily updates that amount to, “here is what the president did wrong today.” The late-night comedians, Saturday Night Live and the rest amplify that message. When there is another Democratic president, their coverage will get softer and less critical; the criticism will come from Fox News, talk radio, blogs, and other media will begin telling you, “here is what the president did wrong today.”

Some of us might argue that the largest problems facing the country stem from political leaders who fear or hate the idea of being disliked, and who do not acknowledge difficult truths. The safest message for any American politician is to assure the public that the answers are obvious and easy and could be quickly enacted if it wasn’t for that dastardly opposition party. The national debt will matter someday, interest payments on the debt will eat up more and more of the federal budget, and we would be better off dealing with it now instead of later. The lesson of health care systems around the world is that they can feature two of three important qualities but not the third: fast, good, cheap. We can withdraw our military forces from around the world, reducing the risk to our men and women in uniform, but the cost is a more violent, chaotic globe that features massacres, invasions, and genocide. It is impossible to build an economy that is dynamic and creates lots of new jobs while never endangering the old industries and the old jobs.

A president has to accept criticism as part of the job, and he has to accept that his advisors will often disagree, both with him and each other, and seek to correct him.

A few days ago, former White House chief of staff John Kelly discussed his departure from the administration and said he had offered a prescient warning. During an interview, Kelly recalled, “I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached,” Kelly said he does not believe the president would be facing impeachment right now if he had stayed as chief of staff.

The reaction from the White House to Kelly’s comment was appropriate for North Korea: White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement: “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.”

Trump hired John Bolton to be his national security adviser, presumably because he had some faith in Bolton’s judgment in handling foreign affairs. Bolton reportedly thought Rudy Giuliani’s off-the-books efforts to influence the decisions of the Ukrainian government were outrageous, calling Giuliani “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” and comparing their efforts to get an investigation of the Bidens a “drug deal.” Trump had the option of listening to Bolton. He chose not to, and pursued a different path . . . and now, here we are: facing a near-certain impeachment by the House, and a trial in the Senate that will probably end with somewhere around 50 votes to remove — not enough to end Trump’s presidency, but an embarrassment nonetheless.

How to Respond to an Increasingly Inevitable Impeachment by the House

Trump is convinced he has magic instincts, and no amount of counterevidence ever seems to persuade him otherwise. Trump has one card he plays against criticism: counterattacks. This wins applause from the president’s supporters but that’s not going to work much here. Further contentions that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council staffer and key witness in the House’s impeachment inquiry, has dual loyalties because he was born in Ukraine is only going to alienate Republicans who ought to be his allies, like Rep. Liz Cheney and Sens. Joni Ernst and John Thune. Not only is the charge not persuasive — how many dual loyalists earned a Purple Heart in Iraq? —  it is so weighted with ignorant xenophobia that many Republican lawmakers will feel compelled to defend the administration critic under attack. Like the president, declaration that the Kurdish terrorist group PKK is more dangerous than ISIS, this administration often picks the weakest arguments in support of its positions.

Andy McCarthy is right (as usual) when he declares that this White House desperately needs a coherent strategy to deal with the coming impeachment, instead of complaining about the process — complaints that will become moot once the House formally votes to begin the inquiry and starts holding open hearings.

Andy laid out a much more coherent series of arguments in favor of the president: The aid to Ukraine was delayed but not withheld; no harm, no foul. Most of this criticism is political opportunism; most Democratic lawmakers care little about Ukraine and only started paying attention after the outcome of the 2016 election. Had the request for assistance in anti-corruption investigations gone through official channels, no one would have any legitimate complaint. The deal to put Hunter Biden on the Burisma board was indeed an effort to ensure the company had a well-placed ally in the Obama administration, and it is a legitimate avenue for criminal investigation for bribery. Even if Trump blurred his personal and political interest with the national interests, it does not rise to the level of removal from office, particularly in a country that decided, 21 years ago, that perjury and suborning perjury are not sufficient to remove a president from office.

Finally, I think Republicans have one counter-argument that gets stronger with time. If the Senate trial begins in January and stretches into February, as many increasingly suspect, does it make sense to remove the president about ten months before the country decides whether he deserves another term?

The U.S. Recognizes the Armenian Genocide

Yesterday, the House passed a resolution denouncing the Armenian Genocide, accomplishing a long-sought goal of the Armenian-American community and its allies like Nancy Pelosi. Two factors made this year different: Turkey’s blatant military aggression against our previous Kurdish allies in northern Syria, and . . . I am not making this up: Kim Kardashian.

For years, Kardashian West has evoked the memory of her Armenian-American father, the late Robert Kardashian, to publicly press for the United States to recognize as genocide the massacre of more than 1 million mostly Christian Armenians. But that advocacy has taken on a new dimension in recent months, with Kardashian West discussing the issue in one-on-one meetings with top officials in Armenia, personal chats with members of Congress and text messages to senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner.

Kim Kardashian is pushing U.S. policy in a direction that is tougher against an increasingly Islamist ally, and Kanye West is making gospel music. (Mickey was right all along; who knew watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians counted as political research?)

Back when I lived in Turkey and shortly thereafter, I didn’t think passing the resolution was worth the cost to U.S.-Turkish relations. The Iraq War was still being fought next door, the U.S. needed Incirlik Air Base for resupply and flights, and Turkey was still a vital ally in the fight against al-Qaeda. And while U.S. policymakers never would have made Erdogan their first choice, the Bush administration believed they could do business with him in certain key areas.

By 2010, the calculus of U.S. interests — and the tone of Turkish leadership — had changed. I wrote then, “Staying on good terms with the Turks is still important, but it is not quite as supremely vital as it was in previous years. The decisions of the current Turkish government, headed by Erdogan, are increasingly irksome, pushing the country in a more Islamist direction. The Turks don’t have to make decisions that we like, but they ought to recognize that when they do, there are consequences, including a waning interest in discouraging developments that irk them, like the Armenian Genocide resolution.”

ADDENDUM: Be careful out there tonight; it’s Devil’s Night, or if you grew up in New Jersey, Mischief Night. Apparently Vermonters call it “Cabbage Night,” which doesn’t sound quite so menacing.

White House

Don’t Panic about the Voter Rolls

(Brendan McDermid/REUTERS)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Claims of a voter-roll purge in Georgia use ridiculously generous criteria; a member of the National Security Council paints an ugly picture of the president’s desired goals in Ukraine; Democrats finally agree to have a full vote on an impeachment inquiry and pledge to begin the public portion of impeachment soon; and a note on what separates garden-variety Trump critics from those with full-blown Trump Derangement Syndrome.

This Georgia Voter-Roll Purge Isn’t the Scandal Its Critics Think

When should a voter be removed from the rolls in the United States?

If you’ve moved in recent years, are you still registered to vote at your old address? If you are, isn’t that a bad thing that election authorities ought to fix? In a country where roughly 35 million people move each year, do we want lots of people registered to vote in two different places? If one election authority doesn’t check with another election authority, doesn’t that open the door to people voting twice in the same election in different jurisdictions? Put aside whether it ever happens frequently enough to swing an election — and recall that Virginia state legislative election came down to a tie back in 2017 — don’t election authorities have a duty to make sure that people aren’t registered to vote in two different locations?

The first sentence of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article creating a stir about so-called voter suppression: “About 330,000 voter registrations in Georgia could soon be canceled because registrants haven’t participated in elections for several years.”

Down in the 26th paragraph, the last one in the story: “That means for most of the 330,000 Georgia voters who could be canceled, the last time they voted or registered to vote was at least six years ago. Voters who participated in elections more recently could also be canceled if mail from county election offices was returned as undeliverable.”

Is the state being unreasonable or unfair by expecting those who have not voted in six years to affirm that they’re still living at their address and want to stay registered?

Cases of people voting twice are not common, but they happen:

North Carolina: “A Haywood County man has been sentenced to probation and community service for voting twice in the March 2016 primary election.”

Iowa: “An Iowa woman charged with voting twice for Donald Trump last fall has pleaded guilty to election misconduct.

New York: “Spiro Colaitis, 57, of Manhasset, New York, was arrested and charged Friday with casting more than one ballot in an election.”

The Heritage Foundation tracks cases and convictions of voter fraud.

Georgia has provisional ballot laws that allow people to vote and straighten out any confusion about where they’re registered after Election Day. Georgia even gives voters who show up in the wrong precinct “partial credit” of sorts: “If you were eligible to vote but voted in the wrong precinct, only the votes for candidates for which you were entitled to vote will be counted, and you will be notified in writing that your ballot was partially counted for your correct precinct.” Let’s say you moved from one congressional district to another but didn’t update your voter registration. They would count your ballot for the statewide races, but not the congressional one.

It will probably not surprise you that Stacey Abrams’ organization objects to the move. What are we to think when one party objects, so regularly and angrily, to actions as mundane as sending a notice to those who haven’t voted in six years?

Another One of Those Left-Wing Deep State Wounded Veteran Army Trump Staffers

I know, I know, this must be another left-wing deep state bureaucrat who could only be motivated by personal animosity to the president; it couldn’t possibly be that he genuinely believes that the United States government is not supposed to communicate a request to a foreign government to announce an investigation of a potential rival candidate through the president’s personal lawyer. Or so we’re likely to be told by the usual suspects:

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a “sense of duty,” he plans to tell the inquiry, according to a draft of his opening statement obtained by The New York Times.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Colonel Vindman said in his statement. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”

The colonel, a Ukrainian-American immigrant who received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq by a roadside bomb and whose statement is full of references to duty and patriotism, could be a more difficult witness to dismiss than his civilian counterparts.

Vindman plans to say that he is not the whistle-blower who initially reported Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine.

For everyone who will contend that Vindman is another left-wing deep state bureaucrat, just as they contend the same label applies to acting Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor, the question will remain why the Trump White House and administration keeps getting staffed by so many left-wing deep state bureaucrats in key positions. Even if you buy into the narrative that all of these objecting officials are the villains in this story, that narrative means this president is constantly hiring and appointing the worst possible people for the job. (Then again, Omarosa, Michael Cohen, Anthony Scaramucci . . . maybe that is the most plausible defense. Of course, the argument, “it’s not the president’s fault, he keeps hiring the worst person for the job” is not really the most compelling defense of this administration.)

Pelosi: Fine, Fine, We’ll Have an on-the-record Vote and Start Public Hearings

Clearly, Thursday’s Morning Jolt was the straw that broke the camel’s back. If you’re going to hold an impeachment, you want to vote to formally start it, and you’re going to want to start the public part as quickly as possible.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi added to that sense of urgency, announcing that after weeks of private fact-finding, the full House would vote on Thursday to initiate a public phase of the inquiry. That vote would establish rules for the public presentation of evidence and outline due process rights for Mr. Trump.

It will be the first time all House lawmakers will be asked to go on record on the investigation since it began in September, something Democrats had so far resisted.

Democrats say they have the votes to formally begin the inquiry, and based upon public statements, they have the votes. But for a nervous Democrat in a swing district, there’s a little wiggle room between publicly saying you’ll support an impeachment effort and actually voting for it.

ADDENDUM: Gail Collins, inadvertently summarizing how a lot of Democrats see the world during Trump’s presidency: “Truly the bottom line rule of this administration is that no news is ever going to be really good. DJT will always find a way to make it awful.”

That’s what separates those of us deeply frustrated with Trump from those who have full-blown Trump Derangement Syndrome. When you cannot take any satisfaction, joy, or other positive feelings in a dead ISIS leader, the end of the Islamic State, low unemployment, a booming stock market, criminal justice reform, Right to Try, or any other development in any realm of social policy, economic policy, or foreign policy, then we are no longer discussing a particular presidency but what criteria you use to see the world. Your lens is permanently darkened and cannot let in light, no matter how brightly it shines. The continued presence of a president you deeply dislike ruins everything for you, and that says a great deal more about you than him.

National Security & Defense

Jihadist Terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Is Dead

A man believed to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Reuters/Al Furqan Media Network)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why the U.S. raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi demonstrates that we’re winning the war on terror; why the president’s flaws don’t always impede good outcomes; the sad story of represetative Katie Hill; and farewell to a friend of National Review.

With Al-Baghdadi Killed, Our Islamist Enemies Are Shadows of Their Former Selves

The world is a safer place today than it was just a few days ago. On Saturday night, U.S. special forces killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a night raid in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib. Take a moment to appreciate not only this spectacular mission, but how severe the threat of Baghdadi and ISIS was, and how our military and our allies managed to shut down a kingdom of horrors and smash an army of cruelty.

Back in March 2014, Graeme Wood wrote a lengthy article in The Atlantic that, at the time, was one of the most detailed and extensively researched portraits of ISIS, what fueled its rise, what attracted its members, and what its leadership wanted. A key part of Wood’s profile was laying out how this particular group of Islamists differed from the group of Islamists Americans were already most familiar with, al-Qaeda. After the U.S. Navy SEALS took out Osama bin Laden in 2011, al-Qaeda gradually faded from the list of prominent worries of the average American. The last major al-Qaeda attack on western targets was the Charlie Hebdo shooting on January 7, 2015.

One of the surprising conclusions from Wood — and perhaps one that other terrorism experts might dispute — was that ISIS was less focused on the West than al-Qaeda.

. . . its threat to the United States is smaller than its all too frequent conflation with al-Qaeda would suggest. Al-Qaeda’s core is rare among jihadist groups for its focus on the “far enemy” (the West); most jihadist groups’ main concerns lie closer to home. That’s especially true of the Islamic State, precisely because of its ideology. It sees enemies everywhere around it, and while its leadership wishes ill on the United States, the application of Sharia in the caliphate and the expansion to contiguous lands are paramount. Baghdadi has said as much directly: in November he told his Saudi agents to “deal with the rafida [Shia] first . . . then al-Sulul [Sunni supporters of the Saudi monarchy] . . . before the crusaders and their bases.”

Nonetheless, ISIS repeatedly demonstrated an ability inspire jihadist-minded Muslims to attempt deadly attacks wherever they lived, and this inspiration created a pervasive threat to civilian targets around the world. The list of targets is stunning, even after living through it: the Canadian parliament, the train from Paris to Amsterdam, the Bataclan theater, San Bernardino, a Starbucks in Jakarta, a tourist intersection in Istanbul, Brussels metro stations and airports, Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Bastille Day in Nice, France, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a church in Normandy . . . ISIS never launched any attack as deadly as the 9/11 attacks, but it set its sights lower and was arguably more effective: it created a sense that it could hit anywhere, not just prominent landmarks. (Many would argue this approach to terrorism inspires even more fear. You can choose to avoid airplanes or the tallest skyscrapers and government buildings; it’s much more difficult to avoid any public space or public transportation.)

Unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS could point to a territory and a spectacularly cruel and brutal government, expanding its territory and conquering new peoples. ISIS argued it was the fulfillment of an ancient promise to Muslims, and that history and the divine were on its side. It represented a threat unlike any other in American history: a hostile state that was comparably technologically primitive but repeatedly demonstrated an ability to kill our civilians in unpredictable ways, often by turning our own legal immigrants and citizens against ourselves. (In a reflection of how our political divisions were starting to consume us, a significant portion of the public refused to believe that an ISIS attack was an ISIS attack, and that it simply had to be primarily driven by homophobia.)

Wood wrote:

If [ISIS] loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding. Former pledges could of course continue to attack the West and behead their enemies, as freelancers. But the propaganda value of the caliphate would disappear, and with it the supposed religious duty to immigrate and serve it. If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might never recover.

The United States did not invade but put together a coalition of most of our NATO allies, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey (although there’s a lot to unpack there) — and perhaps most importantly, the Iraqi Army and the Syrian Democratic Forces who had to do most of the fighting on the ground. (On paper, Russia, Iran, Iraq, and the Syrian government formed their own coalition against ISIS, but somehow their bombs kept landing on rebels fighting against Assad’s regime.)

ISIS isn’t dead and gone, but it’s a shadow of its former self.  Jacob Olidort, special adviser on Middle East policy and Syria country director at the Defense Department in 2016 and 2017, wrote earlier this year that the president and his critics were talking past each other, that while ISIS will have members and followers for a long time to come, it no longer functions as a coherent organization:

New fissures within the group have opened over the past two years, with grievances ranging from issues of authenticity and ideological purity to organizational and bureaucratic failures. The Islamic State’s ideologues have acknowledged its changed circumstances and offered explanations for the defeats and loss of territory since the fall of Mosul. But these defenses haven’t been persuasive for some of the organization’s adepts, who have begun questioning why the Islamic State is experiencing a decline.

Similarly, Al-Qaeda isn’t dead and gone, but it’s a shadow of its former self as well. Ayman al-Zawahiri called for new attacks against Americans last month around the anniversary of 9/11. If any al-Qaeda adherents tried, we didn’t notice, and we live in a world where the tools of terror are not difficult to find: vans and steak knives and propane tanks. (By the way, if you ever worry that you’re not aging well, take a look at Zawahiri. He looks older than Si Robertson from Duck Dynasty lately.) These days Zawahiri is complaining about “backtrackers” not being sufficiently committed to jihad. This is the terrorist equivalent of becoming a grumpy old man.

Depending upon how you want to define the term “major,” the last major jihadist terrorist attack on American soil was the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, June 12, 2016. (Others might point to the Minnesota mall stabbing attacks in September of that year, and the concurrent bombings in New York City and New Jersey that thankfully had no fatalities; the following month a Somali refugee tried to run down people on the campus of Ohio State University, injuring 13, but again, thankfully no fatalities.)

The good news — maybe some of the best news for America in a long time — is that the fear of jihadist terrorism on American soil has gradually faded from our cultural landscape and collective consciousness. We no longer feel terrorized by them, and that is the ultimate failure in terrorism.

The bad news is that mass shooters and domestic terrorists appear eager to fill the void.

While This Isn’t the Most Important Angle, Yes, This Is Good News for President Trump

Readers of this newsletter know what I think of the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria  — and, er, then send tanks to protect the oil fields. Readers of this newsletter know what I think of the president’s erratic decision-making, blithe overruling of his top advisors, statements that are only distant cousins from the truth if related at all and tendency to blindside his own staff by announcing decisions on Twitter.

This president gets a lot of grief, and almost all of it is deserved. But it is worth noting that his flaws did not stop this operation from going forward. When push came to shove, Trump gave the “go” signal on the operation. Whenever a president authorizes an operation like this, he accepts the risk of failure.

I don’t like having a reality show host as president — but that doesn’t mean that good things aren’t happening on his watch. The withdrawal of our troops still sounds ad hoc, with contradictory messages and abandoning alienating longtime allies who stood with us in a tough fight. But as laid out above, the Trump presidency and his appointees have managed to defeat the preeminent terrorist threat that loomed large on the world stage the day he was sworn in. That’s a real accomplishment to take to the American people when making the argument for another term.

Down Hill, All the Way

To give the sad, sordid tale of soon-to-be former representative Katie Hill the amount of attention it deserves, members of Congress are not supposed to have affairs or romantic relationships with members of their staff. House rules recognize the inherent imbalance of power and possible legal complications in that circumstance. Most private companies are uncomfortable with bosses having relationships with their employees; there’s just too much potential for abuse, favoritism, and future lawsuits. Back on October 18, RedState’s Jennifer Van Laar wrote an article that contended Representative Hill had done this twice — first with a campaign staffer and her husband, and then a separate relationship with another former campaign staffer who joined her office staff. RedState did not name the first campaign staffer and obscured that staffer’s face in photos. They also obtained “intimate photos” of Hill with the female staffer, but chose not to publish them. Text messages obtained by Red State suggested that Hill had moved on to an affair with a legislative staffer who had also worked on her campaign.

A few days ago, Hill admitted to a relationship with a campaign staffer but insisted she had not had a relationship with a congressional office staffer. The House Ethics Committee had no choice but to investigate; there was simply too much photographic evidence and screenshots of texts and such to dismiss the whole thing as crazy rumors.

Katie Hill is resigning, and no doubt she feels the entire situation is terribly unfair; she blames an “abusive husband” and “hateful political operatives.” The sudden resignation after the Ethics Committee announced its investigation does not strengthen her claim that the allegation of a relationship with a congressional employee is a falsehood. If you are a member of Congress and choose to get romantically involved with a staffer, you have an obligation to attempt to remove that conflict of interest. If you don’t, you have to live with the consequences.

ADDENDUM: Rest in peace, Allen Sidor. He was a longtime friend of National Review and one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. He will be missed at our gatherings and cruises.

White House

Tim Ryan Dropping Out Shows the Woke Left’s Control over Democrats

Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) speaks in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: While Tim Ryan’s presidential campaign proved to be not all that consequential, the reaction of Democrats to what he was saying is extremely consequential; why John Durham is now the most interesting man in the world; and a big name hopes to drop in for the fifth game of this year’s World Series.

Tim Ryan Mattered After All, Just Not the Way He Intended

I’m going to attempt the impossible: I’m going to try to make Tim Ryan’s departure from the presidential race interesting. You probably forgot about him; he certainly wasn’t a whirling dervish of raw political charisma, and his arguments rarely stood out in the teeming crowd of candidates. But even if Ryan’s candidacy fades to the insignificance of a footnote in the story of the 2020 presidential election, the fact that Ryan was so thoroughly ignored and dismissed by the rest of his party is indeed significant.

Here’s a guy who doesn’t just represent the demographic that Democrats lost to Trump in 2016, he embodies it: a 40-something white guy from the Youngstown area who hunts, hates China’s guts because he thinks it steals jobs, and supports natural gas plants because they create union jobs. He wanted a gradual approach to Medicare for All, thinks you can’t pay for health care for illegal immigrants while Americans pay for their own, and when people started complaining about tax breaks to lure Amazon’s headquarters, he declared, “I would love to have Amazon’s HQ2 in northeast Ohio. We need the jobs . . . We need the free enterprise system. If we’re going to try to compete with China, if we’re going to try to innovate our way to reduce carbon in the United States, we need the innovation and entrepreneurship of the free market, we can’t be hostile to business.”

Trumble County, Ohio, voted for Trump, 51 percent to 45 percent, over Hillary Clinton. When reporters want to talk to blue-collar union members who voted for Obama twice and then voted for Trump, they go to Trumble County. About 45,000 people in Ryan’s congressional district voted for both him and Trump in 2016.

Tim Ryan was probably the least wealthy Democrat running for president; according to financial disclosure forms required of members of Congress, his net worth ranged from just under $65,000 to $48,998. He’s a populist who’s done his research, noting in speeches that eighty percent of venture capital goes to three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. (The most recent figures I can find suggest 82 percent goes to four, which includes Texas.) He could echo Trump’s rhetoric sometimes — “We collectively should be helping the people who have gotten screwed for the last 30 years, and not apologize for it.”

To the extent Ryan got any attention in this race, it was as an ambassador from the rural Midwest, trying to explain his strange and alien culture to the rest of the party: “I think Donald Trump is a complete slimeball, but he doesn’t want to take my job, or take my health insurance. My friends work at GM, in the building and construction trade. These are the guys I drink beer with. I know ‘em. These positions [the rest of the Democrats] are taking are untenable with the vast majority of them.”

Around here, the usual suspects who read the headline but not the rest of the article will scoff that Ryan sounds like a Republican and should run in that primary. Never mind that Ryan is completely pro-choice, denounced the Trump administration’s treatment of children crossing the border, and changed his mind on universal background checks and lost his ‘A’ rating from the NRA. He wanted to ban states from enacting Right-to-Work laws and Janus v. AFSCME. (There goes any hope of a National Review endorsement.) His September 24 statement on impeachment consisted of two sentences: “President Trump is a mobster. We must impeach.” Heck, the guy wrote a book on yoga. He’s voted with the Trump administration position 18 percent of the time. If Tim Ryan isn’t considered a “real” Democrat, it means the criteria for being a Democrat is now set entirely by the Woke Twitter crowd.

Some of Ryan’s ideas don’t fit neatly into any ideological category. He wants a mental health counselor in every American school. He’s a big fan of the Department of Veterans Affairs Whole Health Program, which evaluates a veteran’s work environment, relationships, diet, sleep patterns, etc. and wants it made available to every veteran. He noted that 60 percent of federal agricultural subsidies go to farms growing corn and other grain, but less than half of one percent goes toward fruits and vegetables, a factor that helps shape American dietary habits.

Oddly enough, the more the race wore on, the more Ryan had to argue that where he was from and who he represented should matter to the Democratic party: “I don’t think there’s anybody running in this race who understands people in this region better than I do. They are going to be essential to compete against Donald Trump.”

The strategic value of nominating a candidate like this was clear: If a guy with this kind of background could win back a bunch of votes in Ohio, what are the odds he could do the same in Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and Iowa? Maybe even move the numbers a bit in Florida and North Carolina? Ryan could win back the guys in the union halls without alienating the white-collar suburban soccer moms.

By the strict criteria of “to win back voters who we lost the last cycle,” Tim Ryan was one of the candidates who made the most sense for the Democrats, not the least. And this guy just barely qualified for the first debate with that threshold of one percent. In that debate, he argued, “we have got to change the center of gravity of the Democratic Party from being coastal and elitist and Ivy League, which is the perception, to somebody from the forgotten communities that have been left behind for the last 30 years, to get those workers back on our side.”

The Democratic party as a whole was just not interested in what Ryan had to say. And maybe the rest of the 2020 cycle will demonstrate that they didn’t need to listen. Trump has plenty of his own problems.

But if Trump is reelected with an electoral college map that looks similar to 2016, will the Democrats whack their foreheads and think, “we should have listened to Tim Ryan?”

Get John Durham a Dos Equis, Because He’s Becoming the Most Interesting Man in the World

This may be huge news, or it may not live up to the hype and expectations. For now, just see it as one more step on a long path: “Justice Department officials have shifted an administrative review of the Russia investigation closely overseen by Attorney General William P. Barr to a criminal inquiry, according to two people familiar with the matter. The move gives the prosecutor running it, John H. Durham, the power to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, to convene a grand jury and to file criminal charges.”

The idea from a lot of Trump fans is that the entire 2016 investigation into his campaign was driven by a bunch of partisans who wanted to smear Trump with false charges of being a Russian stooge. The notion of a vast left-wing conspiracy targeting a president is a huge accusation, and not to be made or taken lightly.

Shortly after leaving his positions, former CIA director John Brennan declared that Trump committed “treason.” Former National Director of Intelligence James Clapper declared that Putin “knows how to handle an asset, and that’s what he’s doing with the president.” Former FBI director James Comey declared, “I liken President Trump in the book to a forest fire. Going to do tremendous damage” and explained his decisions during the campaign by saying, “I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump.”

This year, many Democrats and Trump critics were surprised when Robert Mueller’s extensive, lengthy and thorough investigation couldn’t find the evidence to back up the accusations about collusion with Russia. It’s easy to believe that, at minimum, a dangerous partisan groupthink was at work at the highest levels of our government. Everybody in charge of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies figured Trump just had to be a foreign agent or a crook, that if they looked hard enough, they would find the evidence, that his nomination by the GOP was a historical accident and that he would never end up president.

Our justice system is not perfect. As the old saying goes, a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. Until a conviction, this is all just someone’s accusation of what happened. But the fact that Durham thinks crimes were committed does indeed matter.

You’re inevitably going to hear somebody arguing that John Durham has some sort of partisan axe to grind. Funny, no one made these accusations when Durham was uncovering and prosecuting cops who were on the take for Whitey Bulger, nailing a GOP Connecticut governor on corruption charges, or investigating the destruction of waterboarding tapes at the Central Intelligence Agency. Durham is extraordinarily respected among his peers, has a sterling record as a prosecutor, and almost never speaks to the press. He’s exactly the kind of guy you would want investigating something as delicate and consequential as this.

Meanwhile, on the Baseball Diamond . . .

The White House announced President Trump plans to attend Game Five of the World Series at Nationals Park in the nation’s capital. Today, every Democrat started rooting for a sweep so the series ends in Game Four. Then again, they’re always rooting for Washington to prevail over a bunch of opposing Texans.

For some of us, this series is a win-win. Washington has a great and inspiring comeback story this season, but if the Astros win, viewers at home will at least get lots of happy reaction shots of Kate Upton.

ADDENDUM: This week’s The Editors podcast is not a rerun — even though we are discussing three topics that never seem to change — an effort to impeach President Trump, Joe Biden hanging onto a lead in the Democratic primary despite stumbles, and a British Parliament that can’t seem to decide on Brexit.

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