Today’s a rare day when I implore you to read to the end, for a whole bunch of reasons. We’ve got ominous news at a U.S. embassy overseas; a funny yet frighteningly revealing moment about how America’s progressive class thinks about numbers and mathematics; Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and the giant; painful ongoing lesson about when to compromise in politics; and a way to metaphorically spend time with some very special people.
The Islamist Terror Groups Aren’t Dead Yet
Two suicide bombers blew themselves up near the United States Embassy in Tunis on Friday, injuring five police officers and one civilian, according to officials . . .
The Tunisian Interior Ministry said in a statement that two men had approached a security patrol across the street from the embassy and detonated explosives around 11 a.m. local time. No group had yet claimed responsibility.
As of this writing, there is no indication of U.S. casualties. This could have been worse, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t bad. Islamist terror groups have taken it on the chin in recent years; the fact that they’re able to launch an attack such as this suggests that they still have some life in them and a capacity to at least attempt to kill Americans overseas.
No, Really, Prominent People on the Left Cannot Do Basic Math
This is pretty astounding. Both Brian Williams and his guest Mara Gay seem to believe that if you split the $500 million that Mike Bloomberg spent on television advertising among 327 million Americans, every American would receive a million dollars. This isn’t an offhand, doing-the-math-in-their head comment; they do a whole segment around this argument.
Five hundred million dollars, divided by 327 million people, comes out to roughly $1.52. To make everyone in America a millionaire, you would need $320 trillion (with a “tr”). The total world gross domestic product — that means the total value of every good and service generated by every human being on the planet for an entire year — is about $92 trillion.
Meaning for the statement of Williams and Gay to be true, Bloomberg would have to spend the value of absolutely everything created, built, grown, mined, assembled, programmed, served, constructed, printed, drilled, and pumped, everywhere on the planet, since late 2016. As Frank J. observes, “No wonder so many idiots rant about billionaires; they basically think they have magic superpowers.”
Charlie makes a really good point, that innumeracy is at the core of the worldview of the Democratic Party and progressives. The moment you comprehend the scale of these numbers, the more you realize what they’re proposing cannot work — at least not the way they claim it will:
This, right here, is why so many left-leaning Americans think that “the billionaires” can pay for everything. It’s why Elizabeth Warren was enthusiastically boosted by the media despite her ridiculous pretense that she could pay for a series of gargantuan initiatives without raising taxes on anyone but the extremely rich. It’s why Democrat after Democrat promises not to raise “middle class taxes” while promising programs that require the raising of middle-class taxes. How did this bad tweet make it onto TV to be endorsed? Why did Mara Gay agree with it? Why didn’t Brian Williams notice? Because the people involved in this clip thought it was true. This is how they see the world.
The current edition of the Republican Party is no better.
The Deadly Art of Not Compromising
Donald Trump is a more compromising person than his persona suggests. Trump used to describe himself as “very pro-choice.” Running for the Republican nomination, he told a story of how he had been converted to the pro-life cause: “What happened is friends of mine, years ago, were going to have a child, and it was going to be aborted. And it wasn’t aborted. And that child today is a total superstar, a great, great child.” You may or may not find his story believable. But he pledged to support the pro-life causes, and the selection of Mike Pence reassured many pro-lifers, and as Ramesh observes, “since becoming president, Trump has done nearly everything that the pro-life movement has asked of him.”
In his heart of hearts, does Trump really believe that life begins at conception, or at some point before birth? It almost doesn’t matter. Trump makes the decisions that a pro-life president would make; ergo, he is a pro-life president.
It’s a similar story with the National Rifle Association and gun owners, and the Federalist Society and the conservative legal community. Whatever Trump used to believe, he figured out that support from these groups could make or break his candidacy and presidency. Whatever else he did, he couldn’t betray or disappoint these factions of the GOP. If Trump had declared he was still pro-choice and pro-gun control, he would not have won the nomination or presidency.
After the Nevada caucus, Bernie Sanders was in the driver’s seat in the Democratic presidential primary. Sanders won 26.3 percent in Iowa (first in votes, second in delegates) 25.6 percent in New Hampshire (first place), and 40.5 percent in Nevada (first place). Notice that was a comparable start to Trump four years ago. The current president won 24.3 percent in Iowa (second place), 35.2 percent in New Hampshire (first place), and 45.7 percent in Nevada (first place; note that Nevada went after South Carolina in the GOP calendar last year).
After Nevada, Sanders could and should have begun reaching out to the establishment Democrats who were freaking out about the prospect of nominating him. This was the moment for Sanders to start uniting the party behind him. This might have meant moderating his message here and there. When Anderson Cooper asked Sanders about his past comments about Fidel Castro, the Vermont senator had two winning moves. The first would have been to surprise everyone by ripping into Castro’s human-rights record and arguing that authoritarian socialism is a betrayal of socialism’s values. (We may or may not have believed Sanders, but at least he would get out of the role of being Castro’s defense attorney.) Or Sanders could have said:
I know that I’ve said many things in my past that created controversy, rubbed people the wrong way, or even angered them. For almost all of my life, I was an outsider, and believed I could change things by being a provocateur. But the president of the United States has a different role. A president has to unite people, to bring them together to find solutions that work for the whole country. I don’t want to spend any more time talking about Fidel Castro. He’s dead. He’s part of history now; I want to focus on America’s future, and what we need to do now.
Have you ever run into someone who was too stubborn for his own good? Who kept making an argument long after it had been won or lost, and who simply alienated people by being unwilling to drop the issue?
Sanders is that kind of guy. Even after other Democrats started screaming that praise for Castro amounted to conceding the state of Florida, Sanders doubled down: “When Fidel Castro first came into power . . . you know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program. It was a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate and he formed the Literacy Brigade . . . and they went out and they helped people learn to read and write You know what? I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing.” Even when it came to a dead dictator, Sanders couldn’t concede an inch.
I suspect that was a big factor in the Democratic establishment pulling the trigger on the “unite everyone behind Joe Biden” plan. Sanders wasn’t interested in the “uniter, not a divider” role.
He wasn’t willing to throw the establishment a bone or two. This is the Bernie Sanders that prompted Hillary Clinton to say, “Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done.” This is the Sanders who said that the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement was a “modest improvement” on NAFTA but that he would vote against it anyway. Barney Frank, who once endorsed Sanders, turned into one of his toughest critics. “Bernie alienates his natural allies. His holier-than-thou attitude — saying in a very loud voice he is smarter than everyone else and purer than everyone else — really undercuts his effectiveness.”
Sanders kept insisting he didn’t have to compromise with the rest of the party, because there was a giant mass of previously unmotivated nonvoters who had just been waiting for someone such as Bernie Sanders to come along. After 15 Democratic contests this year, there is no evidence that those people are willing to come out and vote.
Another example: Bernie Sanders did not ask for Jim Clyburn’s endorsement. Sanders told MSNBC that “there was no way on God’s earth he was going to be endorsing me.” Hey, Bernie, sometimes people like to be asked anyway! The process of asking is a sign of respect, even if everyone knows what the answer is going to be. Not asking sends the signal, “I don’t think I need you.”
Two weeks ago, Sanders was in the driver’s seat. This coming Tuesday, Democrats will vote in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington, with Michigan being the biggest prize with 125 delegates. Biden is going to do well, he might sweep all of those states, and this thing might be close to being over. Sanders is going to find himself where he was last year — heading into a convention with an impressive but insufficient second place and furious supporters.
All because he couldn’t compromise when he needed to the most.
ADDENDUM: Every now and then you’ll see me retweet an update from Cam and Miss E., who are dealing with a fight against cancer and simultaneously trying to keep living their lives. If you want to get a sense of how the Edwards household can be full of joyous chaos even in the toughest of times, Miss E. demonstrates how she makes her fermented hot pepper sauce here.