The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

What You’re Missing at the National Review Ideas Summit

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, America. On behalf of Irish Americans everywhere, I invite all of you to share our cultural tradition of soda bread, corned beef, and drinking way too much, just as our Mexican-American brethren have watched Cinco De Mayo become de facto Drink Too Many Margaritas Day, our German-American friends have seen Oktoberfest become Drink Beer Outdoors Week, and our French-American brethren have seen Mardi Gras turn into Remove Your Top for Beads While Inebriated Week. Don’t let anyone tell you America is xenophobic; we’ve always been a big-hearted, joyous people willing to reach out and fully embrace any other culture’s annual excuse to drink.

What You’re Missing at the National Review Ideas Summit

Good news! You can watch some portions of the National Review Institute Ideas Summit on C-SPAN. My interview with Kellyanne Conway went well from where I sit. She seems fairly confident that they’ll get some version of the House bill to the president’s desk, that Tom Price can enact all of “Phase Two” at the Department of Health and Human Services, and that “Phase Three” isn’t a faraway dream; once Obamacare is repealed, Democrats may want to have a say in what replaces it, and thus offer some support for the second round of replacement legislation. To get to all the good stuff in Phase Three, like selling insurance across state lines and tort reform, you need 60 votes in the Senate.

One fascinating story from Conway about Election Night:

We had agreed the night before, [Clinton campaign manager] Robby Mook had agreed the night before through an e-mail to me, that within 15 minutes of the [Associated Press] calling the race for Secretary Clinton they would wait 15 minutes, and then she would go to the podium and declare victory. So he was basically saying that you have 15 minutes for Trump to get out there [and concede]. And then he said, “in the event that Mr. Trump wins –” Conway offered a wink, indicating Mook was convinced this would never happen — “Secretary Clinton will call him within 15 minutes of the AP [calling the race].” Jason Miller tells me that the AP has called it, and I ask, “What state?” He says, “The whole thing!” And I look down, literally, (to my phone) and it says, “Huma Abedin.” And I say, “Hey, Huma, what’s up?” And she’s absolutely lovely, she really is. And she said, “Hey, Kellyanne, Secretary Clinton would like to speak to Mr. Trump.” And I said, “Now?” And she says, “Is he available?” And I said, “We are very available!” And my husband took a shot of that moment, handing Trump the phone . . . And the rest is history. That was a really remarkable moment.

Stop Shoving Our Political Debates into Childhood

It was an offhand comment from Jeff Blehar (who tweets as @EsotericCD), but the sentiment is important enough to deserve underlining in red: “Of all the literary subgenres out there, can we all agree none is more grotesque than ‘political children’s book?’”

He was responding to the news that Chelsea Clinton is about to unveil a children’s book. This is separate from her 2015 book for young adults, It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired and Get Going. The new book:

Clinton, the daughter of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, is writing a new children’s picture book showcasing inspirational women in American history, EW can exclusively announce. The book is titled She Persisted — a callback to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s defense after the Senate silenced Warren.

Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (Max and Marla), She Persisted will tell the stories of 13 women who overcame immense opposition to achieve their goals. The 13 women include Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Nellie Bly, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Clara Lemlich, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, and Sonia Sotomayor. The picture book will also feature a cameo by another important female figure.

Oh, I see. Hillary Clinton. Some of us are going to roll our eyes at the idea that Clinton ranks right up there with Harriet Tubman, who risked her life, over and over again, for others’ freedom. It’s a not-too-subtle sleight-of-hand, attempting to connect the genuinely extraordinary like Keller and Ride with the Democratic flavors of the month. Last year I noticed that another Hillary Clinton picture book for children, Some Girls Are Born to Lead, threw Clinton (as well as Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan, but not Sandra Day O’Connor) in with history’s most indisputably accomplished women leaders. Oh, and Madonna.

There’s an entire subgenre of Hillary Clinton books for children: Hillary Clinton: The Life of a Leader, Who Is Hillary Clinton?, Hillary, Dreams Taking Flight. I haven’t yet found any copy of Encyclopedia Brown and the Missing Whitewater Records or Caillou Visits Benghazi.

How you raise your children is your business. But I figure that if most grownups find the world of politics intermittently maddening, aggravating, exhausting, infuriating, intelligence-insulting, and exasperating, there’s really no need to rush children into it. American history? Sure, you’ve got to teach them that. How our government works or how it’s supposed to work? Sure. (“I’m just a bill, I’m only a bill, and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill…”)

But the world of modern politics? Eh, let kids develop an interest in that messy world at their own pace.

For obvious reasons, you can’t easily translate today’s political fights into simple lesson-teaching fables without heavily editing and rewriting reality. I noted that Some Girls Are Born to Lead just gets some stuff completely wrong, like depicting the Troopergate story being written before Bill Clinton’s election, a William Safire column headline being depicted as a New York Times front-page banner headline, or contending that “the odds were against her” in her Senate campaign 2000. That’s simply not the way it happened, and rearranging not-so-distant history to set up a simple story of people being mean to Hillary for no good reason is a disservice to the kids who read it (or, more likely, have it read to them).

What do you want to teach your children about the political world? Some people are really comfortable telling their kids that certain political figures are heroic, practically flawless, and that everyone who opposes them are as bad as The Grinch and Cruella de Vil, and Captain Hook. That’s not how the world works, and it’s bad enough when partisan children’s book authors do it. Why would anyone applaud when the likes of Chelsea Clinton do it?

Beware the Easily Remembered Budgetary Anecdote

The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal on the president’s budget proposal:

Mr. Trump is also picking fights with some of his political opponents by proposing to zero out such long-time untouchables as public broadcasting and the national endowments for the arts and humanities. The programs are small relative to the $4 trillion budget, but it’s fair to ask if taxpayers should still have to subsidize PBS in an age with hundreds of cable channels and social-media networks. Every program should have to defend itself against, say, grants for Alzheimer’s research.

A good political rule for conservatives is if you’re going to propose cutting a program, you might as well try to eliminate it. The political pain is as great and if you succeed the payoff is greater. The mistake to avoid is cutting some popular program that critics can make a political focus that defines your entire budget. The White House is probably going to learn that lesson with its proposal to cut Meals on Wheels for the elderly.

I’ll be honest, I don’t quite understand the extraordinary excitement and drama that surrounds Budget Day. (I forgot to decorate my Budget Tree this year.) It’s a presidential priority list — some would say, “wish list” — but the actual allocation of funds is done through the appropriations process, or in far too many years, this giant omnibus bill. But now Trump critics have their easy storyline that the mean, nasty president is going to cut Meals on Wheels.

The sort of detail that really ought to be more widely known today:

According to the Meals on Wheels annual IRS filing for 2015 (it isn’t a government program), approximately 3.3 percent of its funding comes from government sources. Most is from corporate and foundation grants, with individual contributions the second largest source. Government grants are actually the fifth largest source of revenue.

ADDENDA: In case you missed it, a quick write-up of the remarks of Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Arizona governor Doug Ducey at the summit yesterday. You can follow the proceedings on Twitter with the hashtag #NRISummit17.


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