The Morning Jolt

Elections

The 2020 Democratic Candidates and Their Redefinition of American Citizenship

New citizens stand during a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) naturalization ceremony at the New York Public Library, July 3, 2018. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: How the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates want to make being an American citizen simply a matter of location and desire, instead of law; another allegation of hideous behavior from Donald Trump from the mid 1990s; the promised big roundup of thriller novels; and a heartfelt “thank you” to you, the readers.

The 2020 Democrats Want to Redefine Citizenship

Sometimes our political debates are furious and deeply divided because of demagogues, clickbait media, and hype. But sometimes our political debates are furious because they reflect a conflict of fundamentally opposed worldviews, where no compromise is feasible.

Many of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates want to fundamentally redefine who is American — that is, if you show up from another country and want to be here, you ought to enjoy the full rights of citizenship and all of the benefits provided to American citizens.

Bernie Sanders put it clearly: “We’re going to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and open that to the undocumented.” In other words, if are a citizen of another country and you want a free college education, all you have to do is show up in the United States and get accepted at any one of the 1,626 public colleges in the United States.

Needless to say, if enacted, this would bring a flood of people from all around the world, eager to enjoy the benefits of a college degree, paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. (In case you’re wondering, there are a handful of other countries in Europe that offer very low or nominal tuition rates to American students, but at most of those schools, competition for the limited slots is high.)

It is not only Sanders. Beto O’Rourke says that the United States should contemplate eliminating the citizenship exam because it is a structural barrier to immigrants. Indeed, it is meant to be a structural barrier to those who lack English proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing, and civics knowledge. There was once a broad consensus that English proficiency and civics knowledge were required to be a good American citizen. The 2020 Democrats no longer believe this to be true.

Ten candidates, including Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren believe that crossing the border or entering the country without permission should no longer be a crime. On May 7, 2018, the Department of Justice announced they would prosecute all adult aliens apprehended crossing the border illegally, with no exception for asylum seekers or those with minor children. (If that policy was repealed, border crossers would still go through a civil legal process that could lead to their deportation.)

Booker, Steve Bullock, Bill de Blasio, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang believe the federal government should NOT require the use of E-Verify to check the legal status of all hires by private employers. Another nine candidates said they only support that idea as part of a “compromise” on immigration reform.

Sanders contends that adding the question “Are you a U.S. citizen?” to the 2020 census would constitute “absolutely bigoted language.” Amy Klobuchar contends that if the question is included, she would, as president, require a “recount” and O’Rourke threatens that if it is included, he will re-do the entire census a second time without the question. Even John Hickenlooper, allegedly one of the centrists in the swarm of candidates, contends that asking the question on the census for is “ corrupt and illegal.”

We all have our notions of what constitutes an injustice. To many Democrats, the longstanding practice of enforcement of immigration law — policies in place throughout the Obama administration — is an inherent injustice. In their minds, being an American citizen is simply a matter of wanting to be here.

Yet Another Ugly Accusation against Donald Trump

I have no idea whether or not to believe E. Jean Carroll’s claim that President Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990’s.

No doubt, Trump’s history with women is sordid and scandalous and full of crass, crude, and objectifying behavior. On the other hand, we just went through a Supreme Court nomination fight that illustrated the limited options for a man who is accused of sexual assault with no evidence. We also know how conditional the “believe all women” rallying cry is.

In Carroll’s account, sometime in “the fall of 1995 or the spring of 1996” she ran into Trump in the early evening at Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store based on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. After some small talk, she agreed to try on lingerie in front of Trump for fun. She said there were no other customers or sales attendants in the Bergdorf Goodman lingerie department, and no other potential witnesses. She writes that she has checked and that the department store did not keep security tapes from that time. She describes herself as laughing through much of the experience. “I don’t remember if any person or attendant is now in the lingerie department. I don’t remember if I run for the elevator or if I take the slow ride down on the escalator. As soon as I land on the main floor, I run through the store and out the door — I don’t recall which door — and find myself outside on Fifth Avenue.” Carroll says did not report it to the police but told it to two friends. The two friends, contacted by New York magazine and not identified, confirmed Carroll described an experience like this.

Carroll is not seeking a police investigation or criminal charges. She insists this is not just a ploy to sell books; if it were, the book would be all about the president instead of the variety of creeps she’s encountered in her life. She appears to believe that the country should know about her experience and act accordingly.

Her comments to Anderson Cooper last night were . . . odd:

“You don’t feel like a victim?” Cooper asked.

“I was not thrown on the ground and ravished which the word rape carries so many sexual connotations. This was not sexual. It hurt. It just — it just — you know,” Carroll responded.

“But I think most people think of rape as — it is a violent assault. It is not — ,” Cooper began.

“I think most people think of rape as being sexy,” Carroll said.

“Let’s take a short break,” Cooper said.

“Think of the fantasies,” Carroll interjected.

“We will take a quick break if you can stick around. We’ll talk more on the other side,” Cooper continued.

“You’re fascinating to talk to,” Carroll said.

Do most people think of rape as being sexy?

In her account, Carroll wrote, “the struggle might simply have read as ‘sexy.’”

The Big Thriller Roundup

Last week on vacation, I finished Mark Greaney’s Agent in Place, the 2018 addition to his wildly popular series about Court Gentry, the CIA-trained “Gray Man” who can blend in just about anywhere and who has the skills and instincts to survive just about any situation. I had heard good things about the Gray Man Series, but until recently I was a bit wary: the strong, silent, brooding loner assassin protagonist can be a little tough to warm up to and enjoy. But what Agent in Place does particularly well — besides terrific research about the horrific situation in Syria as its civil war winds down, the Syrian exile community in France, and the glamorous halls of the high life in Paris – is set up a situation where the hero goes against his better judgment and agrees to pursue a mission that is one step short of suicidal. Greaney puts Gentry into a circumstance where any rational person would say, “Nope, sorry, I can’t help you, I’d like to, but doing this will almost certainly get me killed.” It’s the most desperate situation imaginable, the risks are just a Dagwood sandwich of various dangers and menaces and precarious gambles, his few allies are unreliable, and it requires sneaking into probably the single most dangerous location on earth. But the life of an innocent child hangs in the balance . . .  and Gentry would have to look at himself in the mirror if he choose to not try to save the child.

Back in May, I reviewed Matthew Betley’s Overwatch, which established his recovering-alcoholic Marine officer Logan West and an ever-changing realm of national-security threats that he and his out-of-retirement comrades must chase. That’s the first in his series; the fourth book in the series, Rules of Warhits stores and ships in mid-July. With a ripped-from-the headlines relevancy, much of Rules of War is set in a rapidly-deteriorating Venezuela. Betley told me, “I wanted to set it in a crumbling third-world country, and there’s no better example of that today than Venezuela.” Last week on Dana Perino’s program on Fox News, he talked a bit about the book, and a class action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs and his recent experiences with the VA, attempting to get coverage for lung problems stemming from the burn pits in Iraq.

Also last week, I finished John A. Daly’s Blood TradeSet shortly after 9/11, Sean Coleman is another protagonist who’s overcoming his battles with the bottle, looking for a second chance and redemption for past mistakes. Blood Trade has a lot of atmosphere, high in the Colorado mountains, with a mood of foreboding hanging over much of the action. (Those who know my favorite television series will know I’m inclined to like stories of rural small towns with secrets behind every door.) Daly takes what looks like a mundane missing-persons stories and gradually reveals a chillingly plausible plot with, a deeply relatable motive for the story’s villains, and a vivid illustration of just how far some people will go to safe a life. This book is accurately titled. Daly’s next is Safeguardcoming in October, featuring Coleman guarding a defunct nuclear silo . . . and apparently attracting the attention of a local cult.

Then there’s arguably the most anticipated thriller of the summer, Brad Thor’s Backlash featuring Scot Harvath, who’s ended up working for the U.S. Secret Service, Navy SEALs, and as a CIA contractor over the course of 18 novels. As mentioned yesterday, not only does it live up to the hype, it’s really striking for how different a story this is from the previous books in this series. The last few Harvath novels have featured him and usually a small team investigating or uncovering some sinister plot by jihadists, or China, or the Russians. Backlash blows up that familiar rhythm and is reminiscent of that Liam Nesson movie The Grey, and the classic The Fugitive, and some of Jack London’s classic survival-in-the-most-hostile-wilds stories. Almost the entire story takes place in a remote corner of the world that I suspect has never been featured in a thriller before, and the story focuses as much on Harvath’s challenge to survive psychologically intact as physically. Thor is to be saluted for willing to experiment and move away from familiar territory, both literally and figuratively.

And these are just the thriller novels I’ve gotten my hands on recently. Daniel Silva’s The New Girl comes out July 16, with Israeli spymaster Gabriel Allon crossing paths with a ruthless Saudi prince who is likely to be compared to the real-life Mohammed bin Salman.

ADDENDA: You guys really are the best readers in the world. Yesterday I mentioned that reviews on Amazon help a book find an audience, and this morning I find 27 reviews on the page, each one kind and offering some sort of insightful observation. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Someone said to me recently that I shouldn’t have said the book isn’t that political, because it covers some big topics adjacent to our modern politics — “questions of heroism, of identity, and of faith” as one reviewer put it, and “the fragile line between chaos and sanity in a society” as another described it. This is what happens when you start the creation of your villains with, “what frightens me?”

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