The Morning Jolt

White House

Are You Tired of All of the Winning Yet?

President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally in El Paso, Texas, February 11, 2019. (Leah Millis/REUTERS)

Making the click-through worthwhile: It’s all good news, all the way down. Just get a cup of coffee and enjoy everything falling into place.

Good Heavens, We Might Really Be Getting Tired of All the Winning

You thought Sunday was good for this administration? Check out this morning’s headlines. It’s like Christmas for the president and his allies.

The Washington Post: “Democrats largely give up on impeachment in wake of Mueller report.”

An effort to impeach President Trump was never likely to each 67 votes in the Senate, but there was always a good chance that House Democrats would more or less uniformly vote to impeach the president just to satisfy the furiously anti-Trump grassroots of the party — a symbolic rejection of the results of the 2016 election. Clearly, that’s not happening now. You’ll hear a lot about emoluments and foreign governments staying at the Trump hotel, and how failing to report the payments to Stormy Daniels constitutes a violation of campaign-finance law. But we’ve already established in 1998 that perjury and suborning perjury are not sufficient reason to remove a president from office. Some of us argued differently at the time, but we lost that argument, and the precedent is set.

A lot of progressive activists are always furious; what are they like this week, when they’ve actually got something to be angry about?

The New York Times: “Disappointed Fans of Mueller Rethink the Pedestal They Built for Him”

Ahem. This newsletter, July 30, 2018: “Does anyone want to argue that Mueller is rushing the job, or leaving stones unturned? De Niro is playing Mueller as U.S. Marshall Samuel Gerard right now; I don’t want to see arguments that Mueller is really Inspector Clouseau or Mister Magoo if he disappoints liberals.”

The Washington Times: “Ex-CIA chief offers mea culpa on Trump: ‘I don’t know if I received bad information’”

For a long time, former CIA directors were like former FBI directors — they would retire, and then generally not be heard from too frequently again. They would form a consulting firm, or go teach somewhere, or write their memoirs. When they gave speeches or appeared on television, they would generally stay away from partisan politics. While there were a few exceptions here and there, most retired directors grasped that they came from institutions that needed to be respected and trusted by as many Americans as possible in order to function, and as a result, they couldn’t be seen as having a political axe to grind.

And then there’s John Brennan, who ran around tweeting things to the president like, “Your cabal of unprincipled, unethical, dishonest, and sycophantic cronies is being methodically brought to justice. We all know where this trail leads. If your utter incompetence is not enough to run you out of office, your increasingly obvious political corruption surely will.” A lot of folks believed Brennan knew something about Trump and Russia that the rest of us didn’t because of his position. Sure, Trump behaves in a way that is unpresidential, undignified, and beneath the office. But a lot of folks interpreted Trump’s behavior as a green light to indulge their own worst impulses.

Speaking of which . . . former FBI director Jim Comey is getting widely mocked for his oh-so-pensive dramatic photographs and terse, cryptic statements on social media.

Bit by bit, the evidence accumulated that during Obama’s second term, the FBI and CIA were led by two men with strong political views and deep-rooted animus against Donald Trump, an animus that skewed their judgment. American history is full of directors who disagreed with presidents, but we’ve rarely seen former directors of these institutions sign up to become the face of #TheResistance.

Wait, we haven’t even gotten to the delicious news!

CNBC: “Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti was arrested Monday in New York City on charges of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to publicize claims that company employees authorized payments to the families of top high school basketball players.”

Remember when Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic groups invited Avenatti to speak to their members and set up all of that 2020 presidential buzz?

Dear media: We don’t have to treat every schmo who’s on cable news as a serious presidential candidate. In October, Vogue sent Annie Leibovitz to photograph Avenatti, seated, leaning forward, staring at the camera in grim determination. Time magazine ran a mostly positive profileNew York magazine wrote “The Case for Michael Avenatti 2020.”

The argument for Avenatti was the familiar self-flattering one Democrats tell themselves whenever they lose, that their defeats are because they’re too nice and too respectful of their foes and decorum and tradition, and that the best way to bring about progressive utopia is to really get nasty and rough with their opponents. No one ever wants to hear that politics is nasty and rough enough, and that the nastiness and roughness that is always allegedly to serve the greater good keeps a lot of smart, accomplished, competent, decent, and ethical people with good judgment far away from the process of governing.

Could the day get any better? Yes, the day can get even better!

Former president Barack Obama gently warned a group of freshman House Democrats Monday evening about the costs associated with some liberal ideas popular in their ranks, encouraging members to look at price tags, according to people in the room . . .

“He said we [as Democrats] shouldn’t be afraid of big, bold ideas — but also need to think in the nitty-gritty about how those big, bold ideas will work and how you pay for them,” said one person summarizing the former president’s remarks.

When Barack Obama is warning you about spending too much, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

Wait, we haven’t even gotten to the really good news!

CNN:

A Pentagon budget reprogramming notification sent to Capitol Hill on Monday and obtained by CNN indicates that up to $1 billion will go toward building 57 miles of fencing, improving roads and other measures on the southern border. The Department of Defense authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and construction for the project Monday night. The department will direct the funds toward 18-foot-high fencing along the Yuma and El Paso sections of the border, according to a letter acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan sent to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

That’s separate from the wall funding in the last appropriations deal, and separate from the replacement fencing that’s been put up already. While it may not be the “big beautiful wall” Trump touted on the campaign trail in 2016, the president will be able to say “The border is being secured, and the fencing is being built” on the stump in 2020, and his boast will be accurate.

Captain Marvel and the Difficulties of a Stoic Protagonist

Jonah assesses Captain Marvel, with spoilers.

Regarding Brie Larson’s mid-level charisma, some of that may reflect the actress — although she certainly seemed to have plenty of charisma in those mid-2000s music videos — some of that may reflect the script, but I suspect a lot of it reflects how the character of Carol Danvers is different than most of the other Marvel heroes.

Imagine you’ve got all of the heroes from the Marvel movies gathered together for a group photo. Which one is the funny one? Tony Stark is the master of snarky sarcasm. But we also saw from three movies that Thor can be pretty funny and goofy. Spider-Man is always offering quick-witted quips during his fights. Doctor Strange often shows a dry sense of humor. And almost all of the Guardians of the Galaxy are hilarious in some offbeat way at one point or another. Bruce Banner’s difficulties with living with the Hulk are often played for laughs. Even Hawkeye and Black Widow have this sardonic tone when they refer to their unseen past adventures.

In other words, most of Marvel’s heroes have larger-than-life, quick-quipping personalities, and usually go on some sort of hero’s journey that requires growth from being reckless and irresponsible to noble and responsible. (The Marvel heroes who have more “serious” personalities are probably Captain America, Black Panther, Vision, and the Scarlet Witch.)

In Captain Marvel, the creative team attempted to have a protagonist who was a little less quippy, with a personality that was little less larger-than-life and a bit more laconic or that illustrates the saying, “Still waters run deep.” Carol Danvers is supposed to have had a not-so-great family life growing up and have faced a lot of adversity in the U.S. Air Force; it makes sense she would have a more stoic personality than a playboy billionaire or a Norse god.

This is a tougher type of personality to make into a hero; it’s easier to make audiences root for a character like Teddy Roosevelt than one like Calvin Coolidge. We can argue about how well Carol Danvers’s almost-aloof personality worked, but I don’t begrudge Marvel for attempting to tell one of their stories with a heroine who had a different persona than usual.

Regarding the Skrull aliens, I think Marvel left the door open for other groups of Skrulls being more villainous than the crew depicted in the movie. Just because this group of Skrulls turned out to be a fairly sympathetic group of refugees, it doesn’t mean that other groups of the shapeshifting aliens aren’t up to no good. (For those not familiar with the comics, the Kree and Skrulls were two distant alien empires at war, and the Marvel heroes usually were fighting to keep Earth out of the line of fire. Neither side is supposed to be particularly sympathetic to humanity.)

ADDENDUM: Whew! With all of this good news, I expect the mood at this week’s National Review Institute Ideas Summit will be downright giddy. Registration for that has closed, but if you’re itching to hang out with the National Review crew and distinguished guests, there’s always the cruise in August, sailing around New England . . .

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