The Morning Jolt

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Gina Haspel Is a Competent Nominee. We Need More of Them.

Gina Haspel speaks at the 2017 William J. Donovan Award dinner. (YouTube Screengrab via OSS Society)

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day Eve!

Don’t Bork Competent Nominees.

The boss, writing about the administration’s nominee to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Haspel:

No one doubts her professionalism, and she’s been endorsed by Obama intelligence officials. Yet Gina Haspel’s long career at the agency, including extensive work undercover in the field, is getting blotted out by her reported involvement in the CIA’s black-site interrogation program, which has become a warrant to say anything about her.

Her critics assert she should be in jail, and the New York Times editorial page wrote about her nomination under the headline “Having a Torturer Lead the C.I.A.”

Not to be outdone in demagogic attacks on anyone associated with our national-security apparatus, Senator Rand Paul calls Haspel “the head cheerleader for waterboarding,” and claims she mocked a detainee for his drooling. The only problem is that this anecdote comes from a book by a contractor who worked with the CIA, James Mitchell, and it describes a man, not a woman, making the comment…

To punish Gina Haspel more than 15 years later for doing what her country asked her to do, and in response to what she was told were lawful orders, would be a travesty and a disgrace.

But so were the confirmation hearings of Robert Bork.

Meanwhile, ProPublica is retracting one of its big stories about Haspel:

The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.

Remember back in January, when New Jersey senator Cory Booker berated Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen in that Senate hearing?

Booker wanted Nielsen to contradict the White House claim that Trump had never used the term “sh**-hole countries” in a meeting with lawmakers. We could all see what Booker wanted; if Nielsen said the White House denial was false, and Trump saw coverage of it, there’s a good chance he would have immediately fired her.

Booker would have claimed a scalp, but the country would need a new DHS secretary, the third in a year.

We’ve seen some not-so-great nominations from this administration. Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Pudzer withdrew after the revelation he had hired an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper — a familiar scandal among the wealthy, but a particularly groan-inducing one for a man whose duty would be to oversee labor law. Daniel Craig, the nominee to be second-in-command at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, withdrew after the revelation that he had “falsified government travel and timekeeping records when he served in the Bush administration in 2005.” Robert Weaver withdrew from consideration to director of the Indian Health Service after questions about the accuracy of his resume. This morning the Washington Post reports that one of Trump’s personal aides was dismissed last week after a background check found a serious gambling habit.

Whenever President Trump nominates someone qualified and competent for a position, lawmakers of both parties would be wise to confirm that nominee and do their best to work with that person, come what may. After all, considering Trump’s unpredictable and arbitrary criteria for personnel decisions, there’s no guarantee that the replacement nominee will be an improvement. Jeff Sessions, Steven Mnuchin — you know what? This might be as good as it gets, senators. There’s a good chance you’ll dislike the next nominee even more than the current one.

What’s more, if Democratic senators believe their criticism of the president — that he’s a bumbling, ignorant oaf with reckless instincts, who doesn’t understand even the most basic facts about how the American government works, that he’s easily swayed by television coverage, et cetera — then they should want as many competent, clear-thinking, experienced people around the president as possible. This would go doubly for a position such as CIA director.

It’s unlikely that senators will find any new reasons to vote against Haspel; she’s been working at the CIA her whole life and people in her position are regularly polygraphed and subject to updated background checks. If a senator had a reason to doubt whether she would be good in the position, that would be one thing. But “we’re still really mad about a policy from two administrations ago” is a dumb reason to vote against a good nominee.

Family and Social Bonds Deter Assaults, Not HR Departments

A great point in a fantastic NR magazine essay from Sebastian Junger: “[Some] communities do a very good job of policing themselves, in part because men are highly incentivized to both act well and to confront those who don’t. If Hollywood or Congress were healthy communities made up of a rich matrix of family and social bonds, predators simply couldn’t get away with the kinds of assaults that occur regularly in modern society.”

Back in November, I wrote a thought about the sexual harassment scandals that I figured would have brought an objection or two . . .

Modern society tells us that there’s no need for such Neanderthal notions of chivalry. Instead of women relying on other males for protection, today’s working women have . . . the human resources department. If a young woman’s boss demands she sit on his lap as he’s aroused, she’s supposed to go to the human resources department. If the boss sticks his tongue in her mouth, she’s supposed to go to the human resources department. If he threatens that she will never work in her profession again if she speaks about his repulsive behavior, she’s supposed to ignore the threat and go to the human resources department, because the HR department is supposed to protect her from the threatened retaliation. It’s increasingly obvious that the human resources departments of America have, in far too many cases, done jack squat about continued patterns of harassment. The Weinstein Group’s HR department didn’t stop the guy whose name was on the door. Apparently no one at ABC News could stop Mark Halperin. No one at Fox News could stop Roger Ailes or Bill O’Reilly. Apparently the existing human resources authorities have utterly failed to deter “a culture of rampant sexual misconduct in and around the state government in Sacramento.”

It is painfully clear that the most shameless sexual predators do not fear the human resources department. In many cases, the human resources department may report to them. The powerful predators have the financial resources to offer settlements, and they have enough powerful allies to smear or blacklist any accuser. They have the lawyers to threaten libel or slander suits to prevent any reports of their behavior. There is really nothing that the modern corporate structure or culture can throw at them that they fear. . .

All that money and all that power and all those lawyers might not count for all that much when a father, brother, husband, or boyfriend is coming at you with rage in his eyes. Sure, you can press charges after you’ve found all of your teeth that were knocked out, and you’ll have a lot to tell the police once your jaw is unwired. It only takes seven to nine pounds of pressure to break a nose. Any significant blow to your head can cause your brain to bounce within your skull and cause a momentary “knockout.” Hopefully in the melee, nothing you really need like a kidney, spleen, or lung will get all that banged up. (Sufficient blunt trauma upon your kidneys will cause them to fail.) The odds of a fatal cerebral hemorrhage from your head hitting the ground or a wall or something else hard are small, but not quite nonexistent.

Much to my surprise, no one objected, “Jim, you raging maniac, you’re endorsing violent vigilante justice against accused harassers and abusers!” Either that says something about the kinds of people who read the Morning Jolt, or maybe there’s a much broader consensus that the established methods of deterring abusive behavior are so ineffective, they might as well be nonexistent.

Maybe a lot of people are inherently good, but I suspect a decent percentage of us find it easier to resist temptation because we fear the consequences of bad decisions.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in 2012:

The project of a civil society is to curb this desire for violent domination. It is to recognize that there is an animal in us, and that, if we are left to our own devices, the animal will rule.

I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I’ve never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that’s not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put it. I don’t believe in getting “in the moment” and then exercising will-power. I believe in avoiding “the moment.”

There are probably a lot of men who have felt tempted to make some other uninvited gesture of desire — say, a sudden kiss on the lips to a co-worker — but they restrain themselves because they fear the consequences — embarrassment at rejection, the woman screaming, a formal complaint, gossip, getting fired. We may have the occasional creepy impulse, but thankfully for most of us, our fear of being perceived as a creep is stronger.

The recently revealed predators didn’t fear any of those modern consequences. As we shifted from a chivalrous society to a litigious society, we were assured that it was better. From an interesting essay on feminism and super-toxic masculinity from professor Justin Murphy:

If you’re overzealous or immodest or you cheat or you ignore your standing in one local hierarchy to dominate another—all of these things tend to get constrained by other males of equal will and ability, who are also sometimes dangerous and who have an interest in knocking all wiley characters down a few notches. What’s happened in recent decades is that a non-trivial portion of the West’s most intelligent and ambitious males pursue cultural careers predicated very specifically on the strategic under-display of their will to power.

Societies need empowered good men to keep bad men in check.

ADDENDUM: I think the editorial board of the New York Post speaks for all of us when they write, “Hillary, please: Just let it go.”

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