White House

Echoes of the Clinton Legacy in Trump’s Impeachment

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

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

Republicans Look to Clinton When Evaluating Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Huge Supporter of Socialist Policies’ Switches Sides

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

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

How Many House Democrats Will Defect on the Impeachment Votes?

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

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

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

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

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

World

A Smashing Victory for Conservatives in the U.K.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Andrew Yates/Reuters)

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

The Sun Rises on a Whole New World for Conservatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World

Today, the United Kingdom Decides Its Future

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

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

How Will Brexit End?

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

The polling looks good for the Conservative party:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Love to Denounce Hate When It Is Politically Convenient

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

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

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

Enough.

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

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

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

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

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

Elections

Will Biden Promise to Be a One-Term President?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, Some Good News

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

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

But wait, that’s not all . . .

Finally, Some Good News, Part Two

Score one for Ivanka Trump’s signature issue:

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

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

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

National Security & Defense

Unveiling the ‘Pentagon Papers’ of the War in Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impeachment, the new Super-Censure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White House

Our Bipartisan Obsession with President Trump

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

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

He’s Not a God or the Devil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Policies on Refugees Make No Sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science & Tech

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

(Thomas Peter/Reuters)

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

We’ve Made Some Breathtaking Advances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six: A new vaccine could eliminate allergies to cats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elections

The Lily-White Democratic Primary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Guess American History Began in 2017, Huh?

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

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

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

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

Almost All of Congress Is United on Behalf of the Uighurs

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

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

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

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

White House

Impeachment Is a Drag

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

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

For Something Allegedly Momentous, Americans Sure Seem Bored by Impeachment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petty Crime Can Create More Than Petty Fear

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

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

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

Will Someone Please Take the Phones Away from the Conways?

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

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

“Um, maybe we should go…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books

The National Review Shopping List You Need for the Holidays

National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

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

Cyber Monday Shopping Guide!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week’s Non-Jets Football Observation

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

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

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

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

And then the Jets got blown out, of course.

U.S.

The Thanksgiving Rhythm

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

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

What’s Going to Happen at Your Thanksgiving Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Moments in Opposition Research History

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patience is a deeply underrated virtue.

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

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

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

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

White House

Impeachment Won’t Help Win Back Votes for Democrats

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

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

Independents Just Aren’t Interested in Impeachment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elections

Bloomberg’s Ad Blitzkrieg

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

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

Bloomberg Launches Ambitious Plan to Purchase Democratic Nomination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the big question is, how does Beijing react?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White House

The Road That Brought Conservatives and Republicans to This Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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