Chicago’s Bloody Christmas

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Chicago’s Bloody Christmas

You’ve read a lot of “terrible violence in Chicago” stories, and maybe you’re feeling numb to them. But this Christmas weekend in the city was appalling:

Seventeen people have been wounded in shootings since Monday morning, including a 14-year-old girl in critical condition after a shooting in Gresham.

She was among 61 people shot since Christmas weekend began on Friday afternoon, according to data kept by the Tribune…

Eleven of the 60 people shot over the weekend died from their wounds. More than a dozen others were listed in serious or critical condition. 

The city has seen eight multiple-victim shootings, including two double homicides. One was an attack in the East Chatham neighborhood that left two dead and five others wounded, and an attack in the Austin neighborhood left two dead. 

Much of the violence happened in areas “with historical gang conflicts on the south and west side of Chicago,” said Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department. He also referenced the department’s “strategic subject list,” which is generated daily from a computerized algorithm and assigns a score from 1 to 500 based on such factors as a person’s arrests and the activities of his associates. Those people with a score in the upper 200s or higher are considered in danger of being shot or of shooting someone else.

“Ninety percent of those fatally wounded had gang affiliations, criminal histories and were pre-identified by the department’s strategic subject algorithm as being a potential suspect or victim of gun violence,” Guglielmi said Monday.

An algorithm to predict shooting victims and shooters – how innovative, right out of Person of Interest! Of course, it’s hard to ignore that the algorithm hasn’t done much to reduce the rate of shootings. This site with an off-color name counts 785 homicides in Chicago last year, 705 fatally shot, 4,330 people shot. All of them are up considerably from last year: 509 homicides, 447 fatally shot, 2,996 shot.

For all of our complaining, every now and then the national media notices. The New York Times did a lengthy, in-depth piece in June – albeit one that mentioned Mayor Rahm Emanuel exactly once. Maybe there’s a hesitation to spotlight the ugly side of Chicago, or Emanuel’s tenure, or the city’s legendarily heavily Democratic leadership over the past century, or Obama’s hometown. Maybe it’s the glaring evidence that having really strict gun-control laws has had little effect on gang violence. In August, the state passed a law toughening penalties on anyone without a gun-owner identification card who brings a gun into the state of Illinois to sell. So far, there’s not much sign that that new law is having much effect, either.

The problems of Chicago’s violent neighborhoods – poverty, lack of education, lack of opportunity, family breakdown, drug abuse and addiction – exist to varying degrees in every other big city in America as well. So why is the gang violence in Chicago so much worse?

What We Collectively Remember and What We Collectively Forget

I wondered if the notion of collective false memories was too silly a topic to write about, but then Allahpundit at Hot Air wrote about it…

Over at The New Statesman, Amelia Tait explores the phenomenon of people completely convinced that they saw an early 1990s movie featuring the comedian Sinbad as a genie, a movie that appears to have left no tangible proof of its existence.

On the subreddit, discussions about the film went into great detail. Unlike other false memories on r/MandelaEffect, the issue wasn’t a simple misspelling or logo-change, but an entire film’s disappearance. Many Redditors revealed they had distinct memories of the cover art of the movie. “It said ‘Sinbad’ in big letters that dwarfed the other print,” says Don, who goes by EpicJourneyMan on Reddit, and also remembers how Sinbad posed on the cover – facing left, with his arms crossed and an eyebrow raised. Jessica*, a 27-year-old office worker from Canada, also remembers the cover. “[It had] a purple background, featuring Sinbad dressed as a genie, back to back with a boy who looks about 11 or 12 years old. Sinbad has an annoyed expression on his face,” she says.

At this point I should mention something I have neglected to mention so far. In 1996, the basketball player Shaquille O’Neal played a genie who helped a young boy find his estranged father in a commercially unsuccessful film. The cover art of the film features Shaq with his arms folded, laughing, in front of a purple background. His name, “Shaq”, dominates the top half of the cover. The movie’s name is Kazaam.

Memories of a mythical movie that never existed are part of a phenomenon named the “Mandela effect,” named for the surprisingly high number of people convinced that they remember watching news reports that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s. (Small-scale examples of this phenomenon are commonly misremembered movie lines. Humphrey Bogart never says, “Play it again, Sam,” and Darth Vader never says, “Luke, I am your father.”) Many people insist they remember watching the man standing before the tanks in Tiananmen Square get run over; this past year many people insisted they, like Donald Trump, remember watching television coverage of thousands of American Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in cities in New Jersey. (So far, all the evidence points to them mis-remembering footage of Muslims celebrating in East Jerusalem.)

The rational explanation is that true facts get mixed up and misremembered on a widespread scale; a more farfetched theory is that these groups of people remembering different facts are evidence of alternate realities and different historical timelines.

We live in a topsy-turvy world where things that didn’t happen are widely remembered and some consequential events that did happen are largely forgotten.

A blurred line between reality and misremembered history is fun for storytellers.

There is no Agency of Invasive Species in the Department of Agriculture, although there is an inter-agency working group that deals with the topic. There was no cheatgrass infestation in California wine country caused wine prices to increase in 2006.

I’ve got another novel in the works, and in the course of research for the book, I was struck by chapters of not-so-distant American history that were completely unknown to me. Fiction writers don’t have to make up much; look hard enough and you can find a variation of whatever you can imagine — even a series of stunning terror attacks. We live in an era defined by the fear of terrorism on American soil, yet many terrifying incidents are almost completely forgotten by the public at large.

For example, did you know that a terrorist group blew up a LaGuardia Airport terminal in 1975, killing 11 people and injuring 74? It is the deadliest unsolved terror attack in American history. One theory points to a radical Croatian group that was later arrested and jailed over another bomb, one planted in Grand Central Station. In 1980, radical Croatians detonated a bomb in the museum at the base of the Statue of Liberty; thankfully no one was hurt.

In 1982, a man drove a white van up to the entrance of the Washington Monument and threatened to detonate 1,000 pounds of explosives and kill hostages trapped atop the monument unless his demands were made. The surrounding buildings were evacuated, and the man made the demand that banning nuclear weapons be “the first order of business on every agenda of every organization” in the nation. He claimed to have an accomplice who would detonate the bomb if he was slain. The nation was riveted and television networks began live coverage of the crisis. After ten hours, the perpetrator tried to drive away, and he was shot dead by police. It turned out there were no explosives in the van and no accomplice. You can watch the television coverage of the aftermath here.

Large-scale terrorism using biological weapons on American soil? It already happened, in 1984:

In the fall of 1984, members of the Rajneeshee, a Buddhist cult devoted to beauty, love and guiltless sex, brewed a “salsa” of salmonella and sprinkled it on fruits and veggies in the salad bar at Shakey’s Pizza in The Dalles, Ore. They put it in blue-cheese dressing, table-top coffee creamers and potato salads at 10 local restaurants and a supermarket. They poured it into a glass of water and handed it to a judge. They fed it to the district attorney, the doctor, the dentist. Their plan: to seize control of the county government by packing polling booths with imported homeless people while making local residents too sick to vote.

It was the first large-scale bioterrorism attack on American soil, but it didn’t get much attention at the time. Nobody died–although at least 751 people got very sick.

Also in my research, I found the line between the criminally insane and politically powerful has always been a much thinner membrane than we would believe. For a while, California Governor Jerry Brown was a big fan of Jim Jones of Jonestown Kool-Aid fame. The Beach Boys hung out with Charles Manson. William Ayers helped spring Timothy Leary out of prison. This was before Ayers got tenure; within six years, Leary was writing pieces critical of 60s radicalism in (uncomfortable cough) National Review.

Those who do not learn history may not be doomed to repeat it; they may just walk through life remembering fiction as reality.

ADDENDA: Thomas Sowell hangs up his pen/keyboard after a long and illustrious career. Bravo, good sir. At age 86, you’ve earned a little rest. Among his wise words:

We cannot return to the past, even if we wanted to, but let us hope that we can learn something from the past to make for a better present and future.

This week on the Three Martini Lunch podcast, Greg and I offer our year-end award winners in categories like the most overrated, underrated, and most honest persons of the year.

Thanks to everyone who gave one of these books for Christmas or Hannukah – I understand Amazon has only two copies of The Weed Agency left!

Politics & Policy

Happy Hoax-idays!

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From all of us to all of you, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a joyful anything else you may celebrate at this time of year.

Happy Hoax-idays!

We constantly argue that the national news media has to be more discerning and wary about stories that crop up on social media and seem a little too perfect. It is increasingly clear that day will not come anytime soon. The coming years will be filled with lurid, even farfetched tales of horrific abuse in public places, and a slow trickle of retractions when the details of the accounts don’t add up.

For starters, history has taught us to be wary of “you won’t believe the offensive message written on this restaurant receipt” stories. The one in New Jersey was a hoax, the one in California was a hoax, and the one in Tennessee is sketchy, with a handwriting expert saying the writing on the receipt doesn’t match the customer’s. The gay slur on the cake from Whole Foods was a hoax. How many openly racist, sexist or homophobic wait staff feel the need to offer a perfectly offensive written statement to someone they’re hoping will tip them?

Surely, the world has genuine hate crimes. But a lot of the most covered ones in recent weeks have turned out to be hoaxes. A Jewish family is not fleeing Lancaster County after a backlash to their complaint about their school’s Christmas play. A drunken man did not threaten to set a Michigan woman’s hijab on fire. The November burning of an African-American church and spray-painting of “Vote Trump” was committed by an African-American parishioner. That Manhattan Muslim teen who claimed she was attacked by three drunks who called her a “terrorist” on the subway while lots of New Yorkers stood and watched? Hoax. (The hoaxer’s sister later went on Facebook and criticized the police for being excessively skeptical: “It became super clear to me these past two weeks that the police’s first instinct is to doubt your story and try to disprove it.”)

That “YouTube prankster” who claimed he was thrown off the plane for speaking Arabic? Other passengers say he was being disruptive and was only thrown off for repeatedly shouting.

There are lesser-covered cases, too:

Vincent Palmer, 27, told detectives he taped a note with racial slurs and the words “KKK” and “Trump” written on it to his ex-girlfriend’s mailbox early Saturday before throwing a brick through her car window and dousing the back seat in gasoline because they were having problems over the custody of their children, according to an arrest report.

In South Philadelphia, a group residents found racist, Nazi and pro-Trump graffiti spray-painted on their homes and cars the morning after the election. The perpetrator was a 58-year-old African-American man.

It’s not just the Left, of course; a New York City firefighter said his house was set aflame because he had a “Blue Lives Matter” flag outside. Earlier this month, he was charged with arson, setting his own house on fire.

Note for all future discussions of hate crimes: Did the victim file a police report? If a victim is strangely resistant to the idea of filing a police report, turn your wariness up a notch. If they say they don’t want to make too big a deal out of it, while simultaneously making a big deal out of it on social media, turn it up another notch. Of course, filing a false police report is a crime, and that makes the stunt a lot more dangerous and potentially consequential for the hoaxer.

It’s not just the political realm; social media is full of hoaxes, fueled by credulous people. U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota will not be open to the homeless on cold nights. Cee Lo Green’s phone did not explode in his hand. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are not posing as being from the gas company and robbing people’s houses during the Christmas season.

We can complain about the media’s eagerness to share and spread implausible tales – completely different from that Macedonian-generated “fake news” on Facebook, right? – but ultimately we need a warier news-consuming public. I fear we’re unlikely to get one.

A Spoiler-Heavy Evaluation of Rogue One

Back in the late 1980s, a small publishing company called West End Games created Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, emulating Dungeons and Dragons and letting creative super-nerds create their own Star Wars characters and play their own adventures, exploring that vast space opera universe. One of the very best parts of the original trilogy was the sense that you were peering into a world with almost limitless opportunities for excitement and action. What would happen if you walked down a different street in Mos Eisley spaceport, turned down another corridor in Cloud City, or found some other ancient structure on Dagobah?

Game-players were discouraged from playing the characters from the movies, and encouraged to imagine their own motley assembly of heroic Rebels, aliens, and droids, blasting away at Stormtroopers and making their own razor-thin escapes.

Rogue One feels a lot like an old roleplaying game story brought to the big screen. I think it’s the most “mixed bag” of all the Star Wars movies so far, a bold experiment that comes close to being a major disappointment halfway through and then salvages itself with a thrilling, dramatically risky conclusion. Spoilers ahead. . .

Something about the opening scene feels really different and off for a Star Wars film. The ominous score cues us that something bad is about to happen, but it seems to take forever to get there. Krennic’s personal guard of sleek, black “Deathtroopers” look enormously menacing but basically turn out to be Stormtroopers with better fashion sense.

The creative team tried to make some of the main protagonists complicated and nuanced, but they ended up giving them a lot of murky and confusing motivations. Why does Jyn initially have no interest in striking back against the Empire that murdered her mother and took her father away? Does the Rebel spy Andor shoot all of his best sources in the back? If he doesn’t trust Jyn, why did he send his loyal droid and a Rebel team to break her out of jail? Perhaps the movie is most confused about breakaway Rebel leader Saw Gerrera, who’s willing to use an alien brain-probe fitting the Dune novels and yet is still supposedly one of the good guys.

Finally, the main villain Krennic seems almost too “normal” and relatable: He’s trying to finish up a giant project at work to get that big promotion and deal with backstabbing rivals in the office and unresponsive bosses.

As usual, the most interesting characters are the supporting ones: a blind warrior monk who gives us our first sense of just how the Force shaped religion and belief in this universe; his gruff partner, fiercely loyal for never-to-be-mentioned reasons, and Alan Tudyk’s fantastic K2SO. I had heard the rumors of a computer-generated version of Grand Moff Tarkin, which exceeded my expectations. (You realize what this means, right? No actor in Star Wars will ever really die; their computer-generated alter-egos will just keep on making movies forever. In the meantime, give British actor Guy Henry an award for the greatest performance that no audience will ever actually see.)

I described the first third of the movie as Star Wars: Zero Dark Thirty, and the “Holy City of Jedha” setting leaned really heavily on the “exotic Middle Eastern city” tropes. I actually liked all of this part; the movie’s most troublesome portion was just around the corner.

In that old Star Wars role-playing game rulebook, the creators offered some tips about how to write a good adventure in this fictional world. One key point was that you could write some fascinating stories about moral dilemmas, exploring “What is right and wrong?”. . .  but that wasn’t really what Star Wars stories were about. In Star Wars, the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and anybody who’s initially unaligned doesn’t stay that way for long: think Boba Fett or Lando Calrissian.

By the time Jyn and Andor were arguing whether the Rebellion was really morally better than the Empire, I cringed, and was ready to chalk up the film as an interesting experiment that failed. The “you might as well be a Stormtrooper” scene is a giant tone change from the films we know and love. As many wonks and writers have observed, Han shoots Greedo first, Obi-Wan literally disarms some punk who tries to pull a gun on him in the bar, Luke blows up the entire Death Star. . . the original trilogy is full of the good guys mowing down bad guys with nary a thought, because they’re bad guys. Arguing about collateral damage from Rebel strike missions takes our fantasy fictional warfare and brings it too close to today’s real-life debates.

And then the “rogue” mission to steal the Death Star plans begins, and the movie kicks into higher gear, with genuine momentum and the suspense of a classic heist film. (We know something will go wrong, the question is what and when and how our heroes will adapt.) (LAST SPOILER WARNING!)

Killing off all of the major characters is the boldest decision by any major studio in ages; there will not be a Rogue Two. It’s the opposite of a narrative cheat, a decision that neatly explains why these characters aren’t mentioned in any subsequent films. This wasn’t just a “big” mission; it was the biggest imaginable, one where the MacGuffin (the Death Star plans) was so important, everyone was willing to die to ensure other Rebels got it.

I’m contemplating whether everything that has gone wrong with Star Wars began in the middle of Return of the Jedi, with the decision to make Darth Vader more than just the main villain. In Rogue One, he’s back to being the relentless, merciless, ruthless enforcer that we remember from the first two films. His two brief scenes create the impression he can barely stand anybody else in the Empire, either. Forget insulting the Force or failing your mission; Darth Vader will Force-choke you just for whining in his presence. Lord Vader, I’ve never admired you more; let me introduce you to some Millennials.

Finally, we all knew the movie would end with something leading into the opening scene from Episode IV, but there was something thrilling about how they led to that final scene. We get that last line of dialogue, the music swells, and we smile inside because we know exactly what happens next. We know that as downbeat as this film seems, the happy ending is just two hours away in the original Star Wars.

ADDENDA: Enjoy the holidays; the next Jolt I write will be Tuesday, December 27. Enjoy any vacation you take; Tevi Troy notes that for presidents, there isn’t much of a real vacation:

President James K. Polk frowned upon vacations. “No President who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously,” he wrote in his diary in 1848, “can have any leisure.” Consequently, he expected “to remain constantly in Washington.” In four years as president he was away from the White House for only six weeks. And workweeks for Polk typically lasted a full seven days. All that took its toll: He died only four months after leaving the White House. Many historians surmise he was killed by exhaustion.

National Security & Defense

Heck of a Job, Germany

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Heck of a Job, Germany

Just what does a guy have to do to get deported by Germany?

The prime suspect sought in the deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market – a 24-year-old Tunisian migrant – was the subject of a terrorism probe in Germany earlier this year and was not deported even though his asylum bid was rejected, a senior German official said Wednesday.

The suspect – who went by numerous aliases but was identified by German authorities as Anis Amri – became the subject of a national manhunt after investigators discovered a wallet with his identity documents in the truck used in Monday’s attack that left 12 dead, two law enforcement officials told The Washington Post. 

Meanwhile, a clearer portrait took shape of the suspect, including accusations that he had contact with a prominent Islamic State recruiter in Germany.

The Daily Mail reports, “He was put on a danger list shortly after arriving in Germany in June last year, which meant authorities considered him prone to extreme violence. Yet just how much surveillance he was under remains unclear.” Wait, somebody can be on a “danger list, prone to extreme violence” and not under surveillance?

The Wall Street Journal paints a thoroughly unnerving and depressing portrait of Germany internal counter-terrorism operations:

Successive mishaps in a separate case suggest the flaws in Germany’s antiterror effort run through the entire length of its security apparatus, from its long underfunded domestic intelligence to its police work and prison system.

In October, a police SWAT team stormed a flat in the eastern German city of Chemnitz in search of Jaber Albakr, a man suspected of planning a suicide bomb attack on a Berlin airport. He managed to flee on foot, partly because the officers’ tactical equipment was too heavy for them to catch up, security officials said at the time. Inside the flat, officers discovered large quantities of homemade TATP explosive.

Mr. Albakr was later caught in Leipzig–not by police but by Syrian refugees who restrained him and handed him over. Once he was detained, the Leipzig prison staff couldn’t immediately locate an interpreter to question him. When the prison’s psychologist finally interviewed him, she decided Mr. Albakr wasn’t a suicide risk. Two days after he was detained, Mr. Albakr’s lifeless body was found hanged in his cell.

Compared with France and the U.S., Germany is newer to facing the terror threat, a U.S. official said, adding more needs to be done in the country to overcome privacy concerns and allow deeper coordination among authorities on cases of interest.

Wait, how can any Western country be caught off guard by the “terror threat”? The 9/11 attacks were fifteen years ago! In the interim we’ve had the London bombings, the Madrid bombings, the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Paris attacks including the Bataclan theater, the Brussels airport bombing, the Nice truck attack, the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults all over Germany and the Normandy Church attack. You’re telling me the land of the Munich Olympics, the Baader-Meinhof gang, and the Red Army Faction attacks in the 1970s has forgotten about the threat of terrorism?

The VA Inspector General, Still Digging Into Reports of Falsified Records

For all the flaws at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the department’s Inspector General continues to periodically update the public on its investigations into reports of lengthy wait times and falsification of official records to hide those lengthy wait times. They have completed more than 90 investigations related to the VA scandal, and last night they released five more investigation reports in four states.

The good news is that in quite a few VA facilities, the inspectors couldn’t find evidence of falsified records or substantiate complaints. In Los Angeles, investigators found “no indication that any manager or employee was actively engaged in malicious behavior to alter, destroy, or manipulate records associated with patient appointments.”

The bad news comes in Canton, Ohio, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

In Canton, the inspector general found:

The investigation substantiated the allegation that clinic supervisor 2 directed medical support assistants to alter patient appointment records to meet goals established by VA. During the investigation, the supervisor took a voluntary downgrade to a subordinate position but this action was unrelated to the investigation. Emails, interviews, and other records showed numerous attempts by current VA management to properly train and enforce patient scheduling per VA regulations. Several VA employees indicated that, in the past under the former Cleveland director, the numbers were a game, with little communication or guidance, but since the current director took over, communication and guidance had improved and numbers were accurately reported.

VA OIG referred the Report of Investigation to VA’s Office of Accountability Review on February 27, 2016.

In Las Vegas, the inspector general’s report concluded:

The investigation determined that some medical support assistants were not scheduling appointments correctly because of confusion over the scheduling directive, incorrect information from coworkers, and incorrect information received during previous training. Several of the medical support assistants interviewed indicated that they were directed by supervisors to manipulate scheduling data.

VA OIG referred the Report of Investigation to VA’s Office of Accountability Review on February 29, 2016.

The President Will Be Safe and Secure, Anytime, Anywhere

One early mystery of the Trump era, solved:

A military airplane and two huge helicopters doing loops over Midtown Manhattan last week were conducting an “emergency relocation” planning mission in case they needed to extract President-elect Donald Trump during an emergency or attack, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The sight of the C-130 search-and-rescue aircraft and two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters making passes over the heart of “no-fly” Manhattan for 40 minutes Tuesday, without warning or explanation, unnerved countless New Yorkers and tourists, many of whom took to Twitter and Facebook expressing post-9/11 concerns.

Sources told “On the Inside” that the flyovers were part of an “emergency relocation drill” designed to identify locations, primarily in Central Park, where a chopper could touch down near Trump’s home inside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, and safely evacuate Trump and others from the city.

“It was the military doing their homework,” one source said.

“They were making plans how to remove him, mapping plans and strategizing,” another source said.

Hear that, terrorists? No point in even trying now. Cancel the London Has Fallen scenario!

ADDENDA: You’ve been warned; the spoiler-filled Rogue One review comes tomorrow.

The Morning Jolt will be written by Jack Fowler (I think) on December 26 and 30.

Next week Greg Corombus and I begin our end of the year awards on the Three Martini Lunch podcast.

And in case you missed them, the preceding three episodes of the pop culture podcast feature the disturbing implications of Frosty the Snowman, why “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is more flirty than creepy and why Hallmark desperately needs to try something new with their cookie-cutter Christmas movies.

Politics & Policy

The Culinary Cult

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The Culinary Cult

We’re all opposed to animal cruelty. . . until the definition of “animal cruelty” becomes so broad and far-reaching that it includes ordering McNuggets.

Matt Scully wrote on NRO earlier this week a defense of animal rights that included a de facto call for veganism — “you don’t really know your fellow man until you’ve pondered the fact that most people say they love animals, professing admiration and sympathy, and most people eat them” and a pretty harsh assessment of the world’s hunters, characterizing them as “the 5 or 6 percent of our population who still think it is normal, and indeed praiseworthy, to stalk, sneak up on, and dispatch animals for no better reason than the malicious thrill of it, memorializing these moments with their ‘trophies.’”

(I notice Scully never mentioned fish in his piece. Is it because fish just look more like food to us than cows or pigs? Is it because the fish on our plate can look more like a fish in the sea than a steak looks like a cow? Or is it that when fish is literally the main course on Jesus’ catering extravaganza, it’s harder to argue that eating a fish is inconsistent with Christian values?)

My friend Cam Edwards objects.

Scully’s moral argument against meat eating sounds great, as long as you don’t think about the mice, rabbits, squirrels, moles, groundhogs, and other creatures great and small killed by the combines in the cornfields and green spaces where our vegetables are grown. Anybody who lives in the country has seen turkey vultures circling and swooping down on the fields where the cornstalks have been reduced to stubble, or the murders of crows that gather to slowly hop and pick their way across the earth, taking sustenance in the animals killed in the raising of vegetables. There’s a hard truth in life that many of us either don’t think about or choose to ignore: We all eat to survive, and that means that something had to die in order for you to live. Chances are, even if you’re the most committed vegan you know, animals died in the making of your last, and next, meal.

Knowing this and recognizing this doesn’t make you a monster. It makes you mature. It gives you a greater understanding of your place in the world, and the responsibilities we all have to treat the creatures we eat with care and concern. Yes, we should be concerned about wanton cruelty to animals. We should actively work to stop it where we find it. But we shouldn’t define animal cruelty down to the point that eating free-range chicken is comparable to mass murder, nor should we casually condemn millions of Americans for being “trophy hunters” without considering the benefit that their hunting provides.

My friend Trent Marsh, who lives, hunts, farms, and writes in rural Indiana, thinks that Scully’s argument may make sense from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, or among those Americans who only view animals as a commodity, but it’s different for those raising and hunting these animals. To those Americans, these creatures aren’t abstract ideas or data points. “To the farmer the hog is a partner, both in life and death,” Marsh told me. “For the hunter, the hunted is the embodiment of the wild they seek to protect. These aren’t lives that can be read about in books. They can’t be studied, or made into role-player games for the masses to enjoy. These lives are earned through nights spent tending a laboring sow, or moving a herd of cattle into safer pastures ahead of a blizzard. Because for the farmer, large or small, reliance is a two-way street.”

Modern American society features many, many Americans choosing to embrace all kinds of dietary restrictions. Millions more have dietary restrictions imposed upon them by their health. Just contemplating holiday meals in the coming days, I’m realizing that at our house we’ll have at least two pescataraians (no meat, but eat fish), several lactose-intolerant folks, at least one gluten-free attendee and several kids who are picky eaters. Oh, and every once in a while I try to avoid carbs. (God bless my wife preparing Christmas dinner with this set of Byzantine culinary expectations. Also, I notice everybody drinks.) Everybody’s chosen the diet that makes the most sense for them. If everyone around the extended family dinner table tried to persuade everyone else to change what they choose to eat, we would have. . . well, an even more chaotic Christmas day than usual.

Why is it so hard to choose a dietary set of ethics that’s right for you. . . and just stop there? Why must everyone turn into an evangelist for the One True Dietary Faith? You’ve heard the joke: “A vegan, an atheist, and a cross-fitter walked into a bar… we all knew because they all chose to announce it to everyone else within the first two minutes.” Yes, we know, you’ve figured out which combination of super-foods will give you a better memory at age 98. I congratulate you on enjoying what will be, probably literally, the last laugh.

When it’s Lent, and I remember I’m not supposed to eat meat – which is usually 50-50 odds by dinnertime – I don’t run around the restaurant haranguing the other Catholics to order fish. If your set of food ethics satisfies you, go right ahead and enjoy that. . . and let everybody else eat in peace.

Tillerson’s Got a Surprisingly Wide-Ranging Fanbase

Secretary of State John Kerry, on Donald Trump’s pick to be his successor, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson:

He praised as thoughtful some of Trump’s nominees, including defense secretary nominee James Mattis and Rex Tillerson, who Trump has selected to be Kerry’s successor.

Former vice president Dick Cheney’s assessment of Tillerson:

“He has the vast experience, ability and judgment to deal with the very dangerous world we find confronting us,” he said. “His extensive knowledge of the global situation will be an asset in representing our nation.”. . .

“As the chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, he has operated in nations all over the world and managed one of our largest corporations,” Cheney added. “I’m confident that he will do a superb job promoting our national interests in dealing with the complex and difficult choices that are on the agenda for the next administration.”

Between John Kerry and Dick Cheney, somebody’s going to be disappointed.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas met with Tillerson Monday:

“Rex Tillerson is one of the most distinguished business leaders in the world and he will bring a remarkable set of skills and experiences to the role of Secretary of State. Rex and I enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation about Russia, the Middle East, human rights, and many other geopolitical challenges and opportunities. Like Dick Cheney and Bob Gates, I’m confident that Rex will bring the same clear-eyed, hard-nosed approach to the interests of the American people as Secretary of State that he brought to the interests of ExxonMobil shareholders. I look forward to supporting his nomination.”

I Guess ‘Fake News’ Only Comes on Facebook and Is Written in Macedonia

A lot of professional journalists griped about this post, contending that quoting a Harvard professor making an unlikely prediction – that 20 Republican electors were ready to flip to another candidate — doesn’t qualify as “fake news.”

Oh, okay, fellas. That perspective may pervade in the newsroom, but I’m not sure the average news consumer draws that much of a distinction between a made-up news story and one that credulously transmits an implausible claim.

Who did you hear more about in the past few weeks? Texas elector Chris Suprun, who announced in the New York Times that he wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump? Or Robert Satiacum, the Washington state Democratic elector who announced months ago that he wouldn’t support Hillary Clinton? (As Jolt readers, you heard about him on November 23 and the morning of December 19.) Did the coverage in the mainstream media leave you with the impression that there would be more faithless Republican electors or more faithless Democratic electors?

Call me crazy, but I think the mainstream media was much more interested in Suprun’s preening and Larry Lessig’s implausible claims of significant GOP defections than any reports of dissention in the ranks among Democrats. They overhyped one side of the story and largely ignored another, because one story made them feel good and the other made them feel bad. And when your reporting creates an impression that is the precise opposite of what actually happens, I don’t see a huge difference from those nonsensical reports on Facebook, made up by Macedonian teenagers. In fact, the nonsensical reports on Facebook made up by Macedonian teenagers are easier to see as implausible and farfetched. If you place your faith in them, you get what you deserve.

It’s the mainstream media reporters who are supposed to be more reliable, more discerning, and have a better understanding of what’s actually happening in the world. We count on them to separate the likely from what they want to see happen – i.e. “wishcasting.”

ADDENDA: For those not riveted to Jeopardy!, last night the program aired the sixth-straight victory of our departed friend, Cindy Stowell. She won $100,000 and counting; that money will be going to cancer research. We knew she had been just well enough to tape her Jeopardy appearance, but had no idea how well she did – and how many more episodes she’ll continue.

Her longtime boyfriend Jason got a chance to talk about her on CNN yesterday.

World

All the Troubles in the World

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All the Troubles in the World

Hell of a Monday.

Let’s begin in the Turkish capital of Ankara, where all ambassadors and visiting dignitaries are now going to look at their local police security assistance with a new wariness:

Turkey identified the killer as 22-year-old Mevlut Mert Altintas, who had worked for the Ankara riot police for 2-1/2 years. Altintas, who also shouted slogans associated with Islamist militancy after shooting ambassador Andrey Karlov, was killed minutes later by members of Turkey’s special forces.

His mother, father, sister and two other relatives were held in the western province of Aydin, while his flatmate in Ankara was also detained, the state-run Anadolu agency said.

One senior Turkish security official said investigators were focusing on whether Altintas had links to the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for a failed July coup. Gulen has denied responsibility for the coup and Monday’s attack and has condemned both events.

The slogans that Altintas shouted, which were captured on video and circulated widely on social media, suggested he was aligned to a radical Islamist ideology, rather than that of Gulen, who preaches a message of interfaith dialogue.

“Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria. You will not be able to feel safe for as long as our districts are not safe. Only death can take me from here,” he shouted in Turkish.

In the eyes of Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, everything that goes wrong in Turkey from here on out is the fault of Fethullah Gulen, surely making him the world’s first global conspiratorial mastermind to operate out of the Poconos.

Sean McMeekin, a professor of history at Bard College writing over at The American Interest, argues it’s time for the United States government to turn over Gulen, even if he had nothing to do with this attack or any others:

It may or may not be true that Fethullah Gülen is behind the thwarted coup, or the downing of the Russian warplane last November, or the murder of the Russian Ambassador in Ankara this week. So long as the U.S. continues protecting him, however, the cancer of anti-Americanism in Turkey will continue to metastasize, enabling Putin to turn NATO’s most strategically placed member country into a Russian satellite, albeit a reluctant and resentful one. Whatever strategic logic may once have explained the bizarre American romance with the controversial Imam of the Poconos has surely past its sell-by date by now. It is time for Gülen to face the music, whether in Washington, Ankara, or Moscow.

But the Gulen movement was allied with Turkey’s ruling AKP Party until 2012 or so, and there was no shortage of anti-Americanism in Turkey before then. Trust me. Back in 2006, when I was living in Ankara, I wrote:

The biggest would be the release of the widely-hyped new movie, “Kurtlar Vadisi Irak,” or “Valley of the Wolves Iraq.” The movie is a spin-off of “Valley of the Wolves,” a cheesy television show about gangsters in which Sharon Stone taped a cameo a little while back, playing an American gangster. The movie itself is a bouillabaisse of conspiracy theories about the American military doing nefarious deeds to Turks and Iraqis; imagine “Rambo” as written by Jane Fonda, Michael Moore, al-Jazeera, and former Iraqi minister of propaganda “Comical Ali.”

In the film, American soldiers in Iraq attack a wedding and pump a little boy full of lead in front of his mother, slaughter dozens of innocent people, shoot the groom in the head, and assist a Jewish doctor in an organ-harvesting scheme in which he strip-mines the organs of Iraqis and sells them to wealthy clients in New York, London, and Tel Aviv.

The film format for this propaganda is new, but the sentiment isn’t; last year’s hit novel “Metal Storm” depicted an American invasion of Turkey. The “Metal Storm” authors have begun creating spinoffs and copycats multiplying more rapidly than the “Left Behind” series.

If it’s not Gulen, it’s the Iraq War; if it’s not the Iraq War, it’s global Jewish banker conspiracies (Mein Kampf was a big seller in Turkey last decade). Paranoia is embedded deeply in the Turkish DNA. Deporting Gulen might buy the U.S. some short-lived goodwill, but there’s not much reason to expect it to last. (The Iranian revolutionaries didn’t warm up to America once the Shah left the United States.) You can’t stop Turkish paranoia, you can only redirect it to more useful courses.

Meanwhile over in Berlin…

A temporary accommodation center for migrants was stormed by police in Berlin early Tuesday after a suspected terrorist deliberately rammed a truck into a crowded Christmas market, killing 12 people and wounding nearly 50.

Special operations police raided a hangar at the decommissioned Tempelhof airport, where thousands of new arrivals from abroad have been sheltering.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she feared the suspect may have been a migrant.

It would be “hard for us all to bear” if the perpetrator “was someone who sought protection and asylum,” she told reporters Tuesday morning.

Sorry, Germany, you’re just not capable of sorting through 2.1 million new immigrants in a year. Some bad guys are going to slip through – which is why sane countries don’t take in 2 million in a year.

Pray for Peace, People Everywhere

I’d like to believe that a more right-of-center presidency could bring stability to a world that former Obama defense secretary Chuck Hagel described as “exploding all over.”

But there’s only so much the American government can do. They can’t sort out Islamist sleepers from the Turkish police forces. They can try to help Germany vet those million refugees they’ve imported, but the recently-radicalized don’t leave much of a paper trail and those refugees are already there. Unless the refugees start outing the extremists among them, you know this is headed towards a violent crackdown. (The world does change, in some ways. Imagine telling our grandparents that oppressed religious minorities are fleeing into Germany, and they don’t seem to be all that worried about violent suppression from the government.)

Around this time of year, you might hear the Christmas carol, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” It’s now thought of as sweet and traditional. Not many people know it was written in 1962, in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the palpable fear that civilization itself was one tense miscalculation away from being wiped out in a series of nuclear blasts.

Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker wrote “Do You Hear What I Hear” in 1962, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in response to the existential dread they felt because of the Cold War. “In the studio, the producer was listening to the radio to see if we had been obliterated,” Regney once explained. “En route to my home, I saw two mothers with their babies in strollers. The little angels were looking at each other and smiling.” This inspired the first line of the song: “Said the night wind to the little lamb. . . ”

That “star dancing in the night, with a tail as big as a kite” might be the Star of Bethlehem. Or it might be a mushroom cloud.

“Pray for peace, people, everywhere.”

Faithless, Senseless Electors

Back on December 8, I called the faithless electors who had come forward “preening narcissistic idiots who want to be rewarded for refusing to keep a promise.” Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe objected.

Monday, they made it official:

Of the 306 electoral votes Trump won Nov. 8, 304 voted for him Monday. Of Hillary Clinton’s 228, 224 cast a ballot for her.

All four who defected from Clinton are from Washington state. Three of them voted for Colin Powell and one for Faith Spotted Eagle — all symbolic votes. The two who defected on Trump were from Texas — and went for Ron Paul and John Kasich.

The six defecting votes are the most since 1808.

Faith Spotted Eagle is a Yankton Sioux Nation protester of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Without ever running for president, she is now one of two women in American history to win an Electoral College vote for president. (In 1972, Tonie Nathan won one vote for vice president, and Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin received plenty in their respective years.)

My view on Hillary Clinton is pretty clear, but she went out and earned 228 electoral votes this year. She got shortchanged, and so did Trump.

Neither Kasich nor Ron Paul qualified as write-in candidates in Texas this year, meaning they received no votes. Powell, Spotted Eagle, and Paul didn’t even run for president this year; Kasich explicitly said he didn’t want faithless electors to vote for him. Please explain to me what’s good and noble and inspiring about these faithless electors making a big show about how they just can’t go along with everyone else’s decision and their previous pledges, and how different and special they are compared to everyone else.

In theory, faithless electors could be a valuable tool in elections. In practice, they’re drama queens.

Speaking of fake news…

Continuing years of long-shot efforts to reform the American electoral system, Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig said Tuesday that at least 20 Republican members of the Electoral College may not cast their votes for President-elect Donald Trump.

Since Donald Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 presidential election, Lessig, who briefly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his anti-Trump group, “Electors Trust,” have been working to offer legal advice to members of the Electoral College who are considering voting for a candidate that did not win the popular vote in their state. The group also promises to inform interested electors of how many others are planning to flip their votes.

Why did more Democratic electors flip than Republican ones? Either they’re more narcissistic and inclined to public preening about how special they are. . . or they put a lot of misplaced faith in Lessig’s predictions. Michael Tracey reports, “Protesters told me they sincerely thought upwards of 30 GOP electors were set to defect from Trump, based on rumors spread by Lessig.”

ADDENDA: If you’re wondering why we at National Review are asking for donations, Charlie Cooke offers an update:

Rather, we’re going to rebuild NRO from the ground up. And when I say “from the ground up,” I mean that literally. As I type, we are rethinking how the website works (and doesn’t); working hard on how best to present new types of content; and, at every stage, factoring in the reams of feedback we’ve had from our readers (please keep it coming). 

You can contribute on NRO here. If you prefer PayPal, you can donate here. Or if you like to do things the old-fashioned way, mail a check, payable to “National Review,” to 215 Lexington Avenue, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10016.

Politics & Policy

It Is a Beautiful Day: The 2016 Election Ends

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It Is a Beautiful Day: The 2016 Election Ends.

We’re all settled then, right? In all future elections, when the winning candidate is a Democratic candidate that Republicans intensely dislike and believe is unqualified, GOP voters can launch a public pressure campaign against members of the Electoral College not to vote for that candidate, right?

When a Republican loses in the Electoral College, we can write threatening letters to Democratic electors demanding they vote for the GOP candidate, right?

“Dear Electors, There will be no peace on earth unless you refuse the one accused of treason and vote for Hillary Clinton instead,” said a holiday letter sent to Oklahoma Republican elector Charles Potts, which he posted on his Facebook page over the weekend.

But Potts and most other electors have said for weeks that they plan to cast votes reflecting the will of their home states…

(Hey, pal, I don’t know if you noticed, but there wouldn’t be peace on earth if Hillary Clinton was elected either.)

Robert Asher, a Republican elector from Pennsylvania, said that Trump’s most ardent detractors will continue seeking ways to undermine him.

“If it’s not his business interests it’ll be whether he has his dog groomed on Fridays or Saturdays,” he said in a recent interview.

The election, Asher added, “is over. Donald Trump is president. The same as when President Obama was elected, he was elected and whether we liked it or not; it was over.”

Asher said he had received just a handful of messages from concerned voters.

“Ninety percent of it is anti-Trump and ‘Vote for Clinton,’” he said. “But look, she didn’t win Pennsylvania. If she had, I wouldn’t be going to Harrisburg on the 19th of December. And I would honor what the people in this commonwealth want. They wanted Donald Trump, so that’s who I will support with my vote.”

Now all of a sudden, this traditional ceremony requires more security.

When Pennsylvania’s 58th Electoral College meets Monday to cast votes for president, it will do so at a time when many more people are paying attention to the obscure process. In a normal presidential election year, the ceremonies take place with little fanfare or public attention. But this year, state officials are providing extra security and bracing for larger crowds and demonstrations after Republican Donald Trump won Pennsylvania, a key statewide victory in an election that saw him behind in the national popular vote but winning the projected electoral vote.

Are definitions of words supposed to be this malleable?

If an elector chooses someone besides Hillary Clinton, they face the possibility of fines and the label of a faithless elector. “I don’t care for the term faithless electors because I think how they decide is faith in itself, so there is no faithlessness to it,” Deirdra Hahn explained.

An even larger gathering is planned on the Capitol steps for Monday. Organizers are hoping for a large turnout at state capitols across the country.

No, see, when you pledge, ‘I will do X,” and then turn around and say, ‘on second thought, now that it’s too late to replace me, I have decided I will not do X,’ then most people define that as being faithless, or a betrayal of other’s faith placed in you.

The seriously under-covered aspect of today is how many foolhardy Democratic electors may decide to not vote for Hillary Clinton in a long-shot hope that lots of Republicans will prefer some other GOP candidate.

Bret Chiafalo is one of Washington’s 12 electors, and the nation’s 538 members of the Electoral College, who on Monday will be choosing the next United States president. The 38-year-old Democrat pledged months ago to cast his vote for his party’s nominee should they win in this state, which means he should vote for Hillary Clinton.

Chiafalo says he is not planning to keep his pledge when electors gather at noon, an act of defiance that could cost him money but he hopes contributes to keeping Republican president-elect Donald Trump out of the White House.

He and at least one other Washington elector, Levi Guerra of Eastern Washington, may vote for a Republican who they consider a consensus alternative to Trump. Under state law, such a political jaywalking violation would subject each of them to a potential $1,000 fine as a “faithless elector”, though they could possibly be let off with a warning.

I notice that in New Jersey, the Electoral College meeting and voting ceremony will feature Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. Chris Christie has no public schedule today.

Brace Yourselves: More Elections Are Coming

It’s always election year. As Trump fills up his cabinet, he creates openings in Congress and governor’s mansions across the country.

Already there will be at least five, maybe six special elections for the U.S. House, probably within the next six months.

In California’s 34th congressional district, Xavier Becerra will resign to become the Attorney General of California.

In Georgia’s 6th congressional district, Tom Price will resign to become the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.

In Kansas’s 4th congressional district, Mike Pompeo will resign to become the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In Montana’s at-large district: Ryan Zinke will resign to become the United States Secretary of the Interior.

In South Carolina’s 5th congressional district, Mick Mulvaney will resign to become the director of the Office of Management and Budget. (I hear at least one more South Carolina lawmaker may resign in the near future to accept an appointed position.)

When governors resign their office, the lieutenant governor usually becomes governor.

In Iowa, Governor Terry Branstad will resign to become U.S. Ambassador to China, but there will not be a special election; his lieutenant governor of the past six years, Kim Reynolds, becomes governor. She is expected to run for a full term in 2018.

In South Carolina, Nikki Haley will become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Henry McMaster will become governor.

If Alabama senator Jeff Sessions resigns to become attorney general, then-governor Robert Bentley selects his replacement until 2018. This may get complicated, as Alabama attorney general Luther Strange publicly announced he intends to run for the seat in 2018.

Strange is also investigating the governor.

Bentley is under investigation by the Alabama House Judiciary Committee over impeachment articles approved by the House. The articles accuse the governor of neglect of duty and corruption in office. The charges appear to stem from allegations that Bentley used his office and state resources to further an extramarital relationship with his former top political adviser Rebekah Mason.

The judiciary committee halted its probe of Bentley – at least for now – after it received a letter from Strange in early November. The attorney general’s letter said it would be “prudent and beneficial” for the House committee to delay its work.

Strange asked the committee to cease interviews and the active investigation, “until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed.”

In Oklahoma, if state attorney general Scott Pruitt resigns, Governor Mary Fallin would appoint a replacement:

Pollard told KOCO that four people are emerging as possible replacements for Attorney General Scott Pruitt – Secretary of State Mike Hunter, former state senator Clark Jolley, former candidate for attorney general Ryan Leonard, and Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Aj Ferate.

ADDENDA: It’s the holidays, and there are people in need, so if you have a generous heart, head to the nearest Salvation Army kettle and donate your best running back.

Politics & Policy

That Faithless GOP Elector in Texas Has a Lot of Explaining to Do. . .

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Today’s Jolt comes to you late; I took Larry O’Connor’s place for the day, co-hosting Mornings on the Mall with Brian Wilson of WMAL.

That Faithless GOP Elector in Texas Has a Lot of Explaining to Do . . . 

Chris Suprun, Texas GOP faithless elector, snookered almost everyone…

Chris Suprun, 42, portrays himself as a heroic firefighter who was among the first on the scene after the third plane flew into the Pentagon on 9/11.

In a heavily-publicized editorial this month for the New York Times, Suprun stated that as a member of the Electoral College he will not cast his ballot for Trump because the president-elect “shows daily he is not qualified for the office.”

Suprun, a Dallas resident for more than a decade, even used his résumé to establish credibility in the Times piece, writing in the second paragraph: “Fifteen years ago, as a firefighter, I was part of the response to the September 11 attacks against our nation.”

He has founded a nonprofit called Never Forget and state records show he is a licensed paramedic — but much of the rest of résumé, publicly available on LinkedIn, is questionable.

In addition, on at least two occasions over the last couple years at crowded Major League Baseball games, Suprun has been introduced as a 9/11 veteran before throwing out first pitches. . .

The City of Manassas Park confirmed to WFAA that it hired Suprun on October 10, 2001, one month after the 9/11 attacks.

The fire chief there added that his department never even responded to the Pentagon or any of the 9/11 sites.

That’s the worst, but there are other glaring discrepancies:

 . . . Suprun’s résumé raises even more questions.

It shows he was, at the time this story aired on WFAA, a paramedic with Air Methods air ambulance service. But Christina Brodsly, a spokeswoman for that company, said he is not an employee there.

Suprun also claims to currently be a paramedic with Freedom EMS in Dallas.

But records from the Texas Department of State Health Services indicate there’s no such company. A firm with that name used to exist in Houston, but it went out of business in 2008, according to DSHS.

Turns out, federal court records show Suprun has spent the last five years in bankruptcy while his résumé says he was working. He even collected unemployment during part of it, court records show. Suprun was just released from bankruptcy supervision this month.

He never responded to multiple emails from WFAA and calls to his telephone go to a recording which says his voicemail is full.

The True Obama Doctrine: ‘We Will Not Help People Who Deserve Our Help.’

Two golden paragraphs from Leon Wieseltier, discussing Obama’s legacy regarding Syria:

It would be incorrect to analyze our delinquency in Syria in the dichotomously simple terms of action and inaction. The administration creatively pioneered a third option, which it pursued not only in Syria but also in Ukraine and elsewhere: Between action and inaction, it chose inconsequential action. There is the Obama doctrine! We backed moderate Syrian rebels, but not as seriously or as generously as the immoderate Syrian rebels were backed. We sent in small numbers of special operators. The CIA ran a few programs. We acted, in sum, only in ways certain not to affect the outcome. We were strategically feckless. I suspect that the president believes that the United States has no moral right to affect an outcome in another country. I suspect that he regards such decisive action as imperialism, or at least as Iraq-like. What this means in practice is that we will not help people who deserve our help. In the spirit of respecting other societies, we will idly gaze at their destruction. How would disrespecting them be worse?

As a direct or indirect consequence of our refusal to respond forcefully to the Syrian crisis, we have beheld secular tyranny, religious tyranny, genocide, chemical warfare, barrel bombs and cluster bombs, the torture and murder of children, the displacement of 11 million people, the destabilization of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, the ascendancy of Iran in the region, the emergence of Russia as a global power, the diminishment of the American position in the world, the refugee crisis in Europe, the resurgence of fascism in Europe and a significant new threat to the security of the United States. It is amazing how much doing nothing can do, especially when it is we who do nothing.

Yet Another Implausible Rumor, Debunked

Fake news doesn’t always come from Facebook, you know:

If, as reports suggest, President-elect Trump will nominate Carly Fiorina to be the next director of national intelligence, some Democratic senators contemplating her confirmation may feel tempted to claim that she leaked classified information in one of the Republican presidential debates. But they would be foolish decision to repeat that baseless charge, which is still rocketing around liberal blogs. 

The dubious accusation stems from Fiorina’s statement in a November 2015 debate on Fox News that “We have more IRS agents than we have FBI and CIA. Does that strike you as a misallocation of resources? Of course it is.” 

I know it will stun you, but no, that comment did not constitute leaking classified information.

ADDENDA: Some how, some way, fighting stage-four cancer and full of painkillers and running a fever… Cindy Stowell kept winning on Jeopardy! Those of us who knew her personally knew she had taped an appearance, but weren’t told how she had done. I don’t know if she loses tonight, her fourth episode, or she just kept on winning. Her appearance on the program, which began the week as surreal and oddly flattening, has become a way for the world to see her shine her brightest in her last days.

This week’s pop culture podcast features dramatically underrated Christmas songs,

the question of just why Disney feels the need to relentlessly advertise Rogue One;  a look at how Amazon has transformed holiday shopping and why service continues to die in America, and a discussion of why the Hallmark Channel keeps re-using the same clichés in their Christmas movies.

I saw Rogue One last night. I wouldn’t dare try to sneak in a spoiler; some other moviegoer last night tried and the crowd waiting for the next show beat him to death with their plastic light-sabers. Sticking only to themes and emotions, I was struck by how different this Star Wars film felt from all the preceding ones. It was like watching a chef take your favorite ingredients and cook something completely different from what you’re used to eating. The first third of this movie feels like the Star Wars version of Zero Dark Thirty. The middle third had some preachy notes, and I almost was ready to write off Rogue One as an interesting but ultimately unsuccessful experiment. And then in the third act climax, the slow burn really ignited. The stakes get higher and higher, the connections to events in other movies crystalize, and the closing scene left the audience roaring at the screening last night. Rarely have I seen a movie’s climax overcome the flaws of the preceding hour or so the way Rogue One’s big finale does.

National Security & Defense

The Post-Cyber-Security Era

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The Post-Cyber-Security Era

I didn’t write a lot of pieces praising President Obama over the last eight years, but way back in June 2009, I wrote that he was correct to want to establish a new position “cyber-security coordinator,” often nicknamed the “cyber czar.” As luck would have it, right before Obama announced the position, I had attended a gathering of some of the corporate world’s top cyber-security experts and wonks, and they had shared the familiar potential horror stories about our insecure infrastructure: attacks and shutdowns of electricity grids, air traffic control, finance and banking, telecommunications, etcetera.

At the heart of the discussion at that conference was the question of whether deterrence could work in the era of cyber-warfare:

A country that fires a missile at a U.S. military base has effectively declared war and can expect severe consequences; but a country that causes intermittent communications disruptions at that base is in a murkier area. Would the U.S. make a non-cyber response to a strictly cyber intrusion? Do you drop a bomb on a target if they’ve only broken into your computer?

The idea of a political campaign being a target for cyber-intrusion and mischief was familiar eight years ago. When announcing the formation of the “cyber czar” position, Obama said:

It’s no secret that my presidential campaign harnessed the Internet and technology to transform our politics. What isn’t widely known is that during the general election hackers managed to penetrate our computer systems. To all of you who donated to our campaign, I want you to all rest assured, our fundraising website was untouched. (Laughter.) So your confidential personal and financial information was protected.

But between August and October, hackers gained access to e-mails and a range of campaign files, from policy position papers to travel plans. And we worked closely with the CIA – with the FBI and the Secret Service and hired security consultants to restore the security of our systems. It was a powerful reminder: In this Information Age, one of your greatest strengths – in our case, our ability to communicate to a wide range of supporters through the Internet – could also be one of your greatest vulnerabilities.

(A lot of people wondered whether Obama was supposed to mention the CIA’s role. A CIA role would suggest foreign involvement in the hack.)

One of the lessons of the Obama era is that despite all the talk of cyber-security, no one in charge took it seriously enough. It took Obama seven months to name his first cyber czar.

It was in Obama’s second term that the cyber-intrusions, believed to be directed by foreign governments, really piled up.

In 2014, the U.S. Postal Service “suspended telecommuting for employees while it works to remediate a network intrusion that has exposed data on some 800,000 postal workers and an additional 2.9 million customers.”

Also in 2014, a private firm that performs background checks for U.S. government employees suffered a hack that “compromised data of at least 25,000 workers, including some undercover investigators.”

Also that year, China hacked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service, requiring the agencies to seal off data vital to disaster planning. A review determined that the agency did not notify the proper authorities when it learned of the attack.

In 2015, the IRS “disclosed a massive security breach that allowed hackers to obtain detailed tax-return information on 104,000 taxpayers.” In 2011, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General found the IRS did not have an adequate “screening process” nor adequate “minimum requirements” to ensure security and privacy.

The biggest hack of them all, at the Office of Personnel Management, involving the personnel records and security clearance files of 21.5 million federal employees. In March 2014, OPM became aware of a partially successful Chinese hack into its systems. In July, after a New York Times report, OPM director Katherine Archuleta publicly denied that any hack had occurred: “We did not have a breach in security. There was no information that was lost. We were confident as we worked through this that we would be able to protect the data.”

That was not only a lie, it represented blind denial of just how bad the consequences were. The information stolen basically amounts to a “how-to” guide for blackmailing federal employees with security clearances, with the confidential records including the intimate personal details of federal workers’ infidelity, drug abuse, and personal debts uncovered during the background-check process.

In February, an unknown hacker published contact information for about 20,000 FBI employees and threatened to publish information on another 9,000 Department of Homeland Security employees

While all of this hacking was going on, much of it believed to be directed by foreign-governments, the Obama administration mostly dithered on options for retaliation – or what could have been a form of deterrence.

“We’d have all these circular meetings,” one senior State Department official said, “in which everyone agreed you had to push back at the Russians and push back hard. But it didn’t happen.”

So the Russians escalated again — breaking into systems not just for espionage, but to publish or broadcast what they found, known as “doxing” in the cyberworld.

In other words, hackers managed to breach the federal government, an entity that enjoys way more resources, power, expertise, and incentive to have secure systems than the average Joe. And the federal government offered no significant retaliation or consequence.

And now we’re supposed to be surprised that the e-mails of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta weren’t secure enough?

Now we’re supposed to delay the vote of the Electoral College so that the electors can hear the CIA assessment that Russian hackers got into the e-mails of the DNC and Podesta? Why would this information be surprising to anyone in the Electoral College who has paid any attention to the world of cyber-security in recent years?

Despite this gruesome record of incompetence, we now have elected officials who claim the election results are “illegitimate” because of the Russian hacking. (Wasn’t there broad consensus in October that this precise argument was the worst possible thing Donald Trump could do?)

Don Beyer, the Virginia congressman calling for the delay in the Electoral College vote, declared, “If we don’t act early, and soon, we run the risk of having an illegitimate president.” What makes Trump illegitimate? The implied contention is that without the DNC and Podesta hacks, Hillary Clinton would have won – which is not proven at all. It’s impossible to prove, and also supremely implausible knowing what we know. The Beyer theory assumes that the electorate is hapless automatons, mentally enslaved by media coverage that is critical of Hillary, while somehow psychologically immune to media coverage that was critical of Trump. Still, I suppose we shouldn’t dismiss his theory of unthinking masses of voters; after all, they reelected Beyer.

In February – about six and a half years after he named his first “cyber czar” – Obama announced the creation of the nonpartisan Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, They presented their report to the president. . . December 1. Enacting their recommendations will be almost entirely up to the Trump administration. During his remarks after meeting with his Commission, Obama announced, “I have consistently made cybersecurity a top national security and economic security priority.” Mm-hmmm.

Man Bites Dog: Federal Funds Left Unspent!

Speaking of President Obama not following through…

Obama the candidate ran on allowing bankruptcy judges to cut balances on primary mortgages; Obama’s administration actively whipped against the policy. Obama’s transition team earmarked up to $100 billion in funds appropriated through Bush’s bank bailout to mitigate foreclosures; eight years later only around $21 billion has been spent. Obama the president promised 4 million mortgage modifications; to date less than a million have been successfully achieved.

No Republican sign-off was necessary for Obama’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). The Treasury Department alone decided to run it through mortgage companies that had financial incentives to foreclose rather than modify loans. Treasury never saw the program as a relief vehicle, but a way to “foam the runway” for the banks, allowing them to absorb inevitable foreclosures more slowly. Homeowners were the foam being crushed by a jumbo jet in that scenario, squeezed for as many payments as possible before ultimately losing their homes.

He’s just not that into governing.

ADDENDA: She won again on last night’s episode. She’s turning into a legend.

Politics & Policy

The War in Syria Finds a Way to Get Even Worse

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The War in Syria Finds a Way to Get Even Worse

Look, we get it. There doesn’t seem to be many good guys in Syria. The American people are exhausted from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and feel like enormous sums of blood and treasure were wasted. We don’t do nation-building well. The countries we save never seem particularly grateful. When we descend into the world’s hellholes with the best of intentions, we mostly make ourselves a target for asymmetrical warfare. Most of the rest of the world has grown lazy, waiting for Americans to show up and pay the price for stopping the globe’s horrors and restoring order.

But how many people have to die before we as a country think, “We should have done something about that?”

We may never get a firm number on the death toll from the war in Syria. In February, one group estimated it at 470,000 people. ISIS has used chemical weapons at least 52 times in Iraq and Syria.

Our government is full of some really harsh words for those engaged in slaughter.

Syrian regime forces were on the brink of taking eastern Aleppo on Tuesday as the U.N. said pro-regime forces had reportedly carried out executions of at least 82 civilians.

The U.N. said it had received reports that some civilians had been shot in their homes and on sight.

Speaking at a U.N. Security Council Emergency Briefing on Syria on Tuesday, US ambassador Samantha Power had some scathing words for her Syrian, Iranian and Russian counterparts.

“You bear responsibility for these atrocities,” she said of the plight of eastern Aleppo residents amid reports of widespread summary executions, including of women and children, by Syrian forces in formerly rebel-held areas.

“When one day there is a full accounting of the horrors committed in this assault of Aleppo — and that day will come, sooner or later — you will not be able to say you did not know what was happening.”

She said the actions of the three players “should shame” them.

“Three Member States of the U.N. contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you. . . Are you truly incapable of shame?”

No, they aren’t. She literally wrote the book on genocide. Why does she seemed so surprised that the Syrian, Iranian, and Russian regimes have absolutely no concerns about civilian casualties?

We keep saying “Never again.” And then Cambodia happens, and Rwanda happens, and the Balkans happen, and North Korea continues to be a giant maniacal homicidal prison camp.

The world can have messy American military interventions, or the world can have massacres. Those are the options.

A Failed President, Continued

Another unforeseen consequence of the Syrian conflict: the insane belief that at some point, Russia would be a cooperative partner in negotiations about Syria was reportedly enough to get the Obama White House to be quiet about Russian hacking.

CNN discussions with multiple administration, law enforcement and intelligence officials tell a different story.

By July, law enforcement and intelligence agencies were sure that Russian intelligence hackers had breached the Democratic National Committee. A debate began inside the administration about what to do next.

A month earlier, the hackers had released an opposition file on Trump that had been stolen from the Democrats.

The U.S. and many other nations use cyberhacking to spy on each other. The Russian actions, administration officials determined, had crossed the line because they were releasing documents the administration believed were intended to undermine the U.S. elections.

Over the next three months, during a series of meetings at the White House and on conference calls, national security officials at the White House and other government agencies debated over how to calibrate an appropriate response.

Some officials in the U.S. intelligence agencies warned that the U.S. risked starting a wider cyber-conflict with Russia in which the U.S. had a lot more to lose because more of the U.S. infrastructure and economy is dependent on the Internet, and much of it is vulnerable to attack.

Some State Department officials also worried about the risk to ongoing efforts to make a deal with Russia over Syria. The on-again, off-again talks continued during the summer as the U.S. wrestled with what to do about the hacks.

If Trump’s really a Russian stooge, how much of a change is that from an administration that is painfully naïve about Putin and Moscow’s interests?

It’s not hard to walk away with the impression that Obama’s own national security team found him insufferably indecisive and passive when it came to looming threats.

Mr. Obama was briefed regularly on all this, but he made a decision that many in the White House now regret: He did not name Russians publicly, or issue sanctions. There was always a reason: fear of escalating a cyberwar, and concern that the United States needed Russia’s cooperation in negotiations over Syria.

“We’d have all these circular meetings,” one senior State Department official said, “in which everyone agreed you had to push back at the Russians and push back hard. But it didn’t happen.”

So the Russians escalated again — breaking into systems not just for espionage, but to publish or broadcast what they found, known as “doxing” in the cyberworld.

Kudos to Adam Schiff, who points out that these Russian hacks aren’t the first time a hostile power launched a cyber-attack on American interests.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that the Obama administration didn’t act soon enough.

“I do think it was a mistake,” he said. “I think it was a mistake earlier frankly not to react more forcefully when North Korea hacked us. I think those kind of — that lack of deterrence invited the Russians to meddle and consider they could do this with impunity.”

Clinton Campaign: Don’t You Dare Help Us Out in Michigan!

According to Politico, Hillary Clinton’s campaign were so confident about her chances in Michigan, she wouldn’t allow her allies to put any resources there.

Everybody could see Hillary Clinton was cooked in Iowa. So when, a week-and-a-half out, the Service Employees International Union started hearing anxiety out of Michigan, union officials decided to reroute their volunteers, giving a desperate team on the ground around Detroit some hope.

They started prepping meals and organizing hotel rooms.

SEIU — which had wanted to go to Michigan from the beginning, but been ordered not to — dialed Clinton’s top campaign aides to tell them about the new plan.

According to several people familiar with the call, Brooklyn was furious.

Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.

Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on-the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end.

Trump won, 47.5 percent to Hillary’s 47.3 percent. With judgment like his, a Russian hack was superfluous, wasn’t it?

ADDENDA: She did it. Those of us who knew Cindy Stowell knew she had taped a Jeopardy! appearance, but didn’t get any details about how it went. Considering how she was in the late stages of cancer, fighting a fever and blood infection, and filled with painkillers that day, we thought her victory was simply being well enough to appear on the show and compete.

Nope. We should have known Cindy had one last trick up her sleeve: She went out there and won, ensuring more than $22,000 would go to cancer research, and must have taped at least two shows.  Watching it last night with our family and friends, watching my boys jump up and down and cheer, like they had just watched the winning play in the Super Bowl, was this wonderfully bittersweet moment. Maybe the best moment of the night was that half-second of wanting to call and congratulate her before remembering we can’t. Still, her appearance went from this surreal postmortem brush with fame to a bizarrely appropriate final act: a quiz show Viking funeral, sending her into Jeopardy! Valhalla.

Politics & Policy

Life, Death, and the Media, or Farewell to a Friend

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Life, Death, and the Media, or Farewell to a Friend

It’s always sad and shocking when a friend passes away, worse when that friend is your age, passing far before her time. It’s positively surreal to see her life and death become a social media phenomenon.

You may have seen the coverage of Cindy Stowell, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 41 Monday of last week. She didn’t live long enough to see her appearance on the quiz show Jeopardy!, and that sad, bizarre facet of pre-taped game show dynamics turned her passing into a viral social media spectacle, with articles about her popping up in People, Us Weekly, CNN, Cosmopolitan, USA Today, and too many others to count. I don’t mind the coverage, although almost all of it reduced her 41 years on this earth to just her cancer and her Jeopardy appearance. A Google News search finds 51,000 references to her in the past week, almost all of them slightly-tweaked variations of the initial story.

If this didn’t distort her, it certainly flattened her. Hundreds of of thousands of people who never met her will feel sad that she died, without knowing much about the real her, other than her dream to appear on Jeopardy! someday. For a “human interest” story, the endless coverage of her everywhere seemed strangely lacking in any interest in her as a human being.

(My words won’t really do her justice, either. God bless the obituary writers who can somehow write something fitting and complete, on deadline.)

Cindy was a good friend of my wife’s from high school and a friend of ours throughout the years. When you meet that special someone, you always want her friends to like you; if they don’t, it’s guaranteed to be sand in the gears. I shouldn’t have worried about Cindy, who was one of the most easygoing souls to walk the earth. If she ever clashed with anyone, I never saw it.  She was a bridesmaid at our wedding, one of the goofy, laughter-stirring souls in our wedding party who surprised us by showing up to our rehearsal in Jets jerseys.

She didn’t just march to the beat of her own drummer, she danced. She was the super-smart PhD who could understand things like “colloidal nanocrystals,” but who was far too laid back to ever show off. Some brilliant people feel the need to demonstrate their brilliance, to remind you of it, to not-so-subtly nudge you to declare it and affirm it, but Cindy had nothing to prove to anyone. She was the freest of free spirits.

Forty-one years is far too little time to have on this Earth. Cindy packed about as much as she could into those years – particularly considering the unjust misfortunes and health challenges thrown at her along the way.

Her passing is one of those twists of fate that leaves me trying to make sense of the senseless. The only discernable lesson so far is to let your loved ones know they’re loved, even if they probably know already. The option of that next phone call, letter, or visit can slip away without much warning.

Her episode of Jeopardy! airs tonight. A charity that was important to her was the Cancer Research Institute.

Rex Tillerson, Carbon-Tax-Backing Climate Change Believer

In further “this is why people don’t trust the media” coverage. . .

What do you know about secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson based upon the coverage of him so far? Probably just that he’s head of Exxon and he’s close to Vladimir Putin, right? He once was given the Order of Friendship decoration by Putin.

Would you have expected for Tillerson to first be recommended to Trump by… former Defense Secretary Robert Gates?

Would you have expected for the recommendation to be strongly endorsed by… former Secretary of State Condi Rice?

Rice, speaking out on Facebook this morning:

Rex Tillerson is an excellent choice for Secretary of State. He will bring to the post remarkable and broad international experience; a deep understanding of the global economy; and a belief in America’s special role in the world.

I know Rex as a successful business man and a patriot. He will represent the interests and the values of the United States with resolve and commitment. And he will lead the exceptional men and women of the State Department with respect and dedication.

I look forward to supporting Rex through the confirmation process and then welcoming him to the family of Secretaries of State.

Would you have expected former Vice President Dick Cheney to support the selection?

Kind of an unusual fan base for a guy who’s supposed to be a puppet of Putin, isn’t it?

Has any of the coverage so far pointed out that Tillerson believes in climate change and supports a carbon tax?

From a Tillerson speech in October:

At ExxonMobil, we share the view that the risks of climate change are serious and warrant thoughtful action. Addressing these risks requires broad-based, practical solutions around the world. Importantly, as a result of the Paris agreement, both developed and developing countries are now working together to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, while recognizing differing national responsibilities, capacities and circumstances. In our industry, the best hope for the future is to enable and encourage long-term investments in both proven and new technologies, while supporting effective policies.

Which is what we are doing. We have long supported a carbon tax as the best policy of those being considered. Replacing the hodge-podge of current, largely ineffective regulations with a revenue-neutral carbon tax would ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy. It would allow market forces to drive solutions. It would maximize transparency, reduce administrative complexity, promote global participation and easily adjust to future developments in our understanding of climate science as well as the policy consequences of these actions.

At some point, some Democrat will inevitably demonize him for heading up one of those evil greedy oil companies, one who villainously caters to the world’s ravenous hunger for fossil fuels. From the text of this speech in May, it sounds like Tillerson will be prepared to smack down those Greens who forget that human life itself requires energy:

According to the latest figures from the International Energy Agency, about one in six human beings still has no access to electricity. And about two out of five people must rely on biomass such as wood, charcoal, or animal waste for basic cooking needs.

In other words, over a billion people in the developing world still live in a state of “energy poverty.”

The costs of this energy poverty are steep – especially in terms of lives lost. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2012 alone, more than 4 million people around the world died from household air pollution resulting from the use of solid fuels – like wood and biomass – in their homes.

Such sobering statistics remind us that there is a moral imperative to expanding energy supplies. And that the millions of people working in the energy industry are playing a critical role in transforming the world for the better.

Never Take Investment Advice From Jill Stein

To sum up: Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein fleeced her gullible donors for $3.5 million to pay for a recount in Wisconsin, which expanded Donald Trump’s margin of victory by 131 votes… which comes out to $26,717.55 per marginal vote.

It doesn’t sound like anyone is too pleased with Stein up in Wisconsin…

Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s victory in Wisconsin was reaffirmed Monday following a presidential recount that showed him defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 22,000 votes.

Clerks around Wisconsin rushed to recount nearly 3 million ballots ahead of a federal deadline on Tuesday, but in the end little changed, with Trump adding just 131 votes to his margin.

“We all knew from the beginning that the outcome wouldn’t change. We said that from day one,” said Wisconsin Election Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen, a Democrat.

The commission finishes with a day to spare before a federal deadline for the state to finish and ensure that Wisconsin’s 10 votes will be counted in the Electoral College, which decides the presidency.

Green party presidential nominee Jill Stein paid $3.5 million to force the Wisconsin recount and has tried unsuccessfully to get statewide recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where courts have stopped them. Wisconsin’s recount uncovered no massive problems and no hacking of any Wisconsin election device or computer as Stein and her supporters had suggested, without evidence, that there might have been.

There are a lot of reasons to criticize Stein right now. Perhaps the most significant one is that calling for recounts in noncompetitive races delegitimizes recounts in the eyes of the public. They stop being a tool to ensure the correct winner and start becoming a tool for sore losers to live in denial for an extra couple of weeks. They start becoming a cynical fundraising tool instead of an emergency tool in rare cases of extremely close results.

Which is more frightening, that no one around Stein thought of this, or they did and she just doesn’t care?

ADDENDA: Quite a few people liked this piece, pointing out that the Right’s alleged “Patriotic Correctness” isn’t “stifling” anyone, and that comparisons to the Left’s “Political Correctness” cannot hold water.

Politics & Policy

Assuming These Allegations About Russia Check Out… What Do We Do?

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It’s December 12. You probably want to get those orders in for you Christmas and Hannukah gifts. The Cyber Monday gift guide can be found down the page here.

Assuming These Allegations About Russia Check Out . . . What Do We Do?

So, the Russian government didn’t just want to undermine public faith in the U.S. electoral process, it outright wanted to elect Trump, huh?

If the country as a whole is going to move forward from that conclusion, we’re going to have to see at least some of the evidence declassified. While many people (including myself) will find it quite plausible that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton and were willing to make mischief and unleash limited cyber-warfare to help out the candidate they preferred, this is a big, consequential charge that should have far-reaching consequences for U.S. foreign policy. We can’t just take it on faith from some anonymous sources leaking to the Washington Post.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

Presuming this all checks out, the next big question is, “What do we want to do about it?”

It will not surprise you that some Democrats have concluded that the only fair recourse is for their preferred candidate to win.

Robert Reich:

So far this weekend, I’ve received phone calls from three electors who say they have doubts that Donald Trump should be chosen by the Electoral College next week (December 19). They tell me they’ve been in contact with other electors who feel the same way.

I don’t want to get your hopes up about this. Chances are, the Electoral College will still give Trump the 270 votes he needs to become President of the United States. But I find it interesting that several electors are at least raising this question.

In my view, electors have a constitutional duty not to vote for Donald Trump. The framers of the Constitution established the Electoral College to guard against two possibilities: either that a demagogue might be elected, or that a foreign power might influence the outcome of a presidential election. Trump epitomizes both of these concerns.

Is Robert Reich speaking to Democratic electors or Republican ones? If he’s hearing from Democratic electors that they think the Republican electors ought to flip… well, duh. Of course they think there’s only one moral course of action for the electors.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill…

“To the extent that foreign interference in the United States presidential elections may have influenced the final result, I believe the electors have the right to consider that,” Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.) said in a statement to Politico on Saturday.

Mark Sumner declares at Daily Kos, “Even if they never touched a voting machine, there’s absolutely no doubt: Russia hacked the election,” revealing that the word “hacking” doesn’t mean anything anymore.

If Russia hawks want everyone to take this accusation seriously, then it has to sound different from the usual partisan whining that the other side cheated.

We’re witnessing the odd phenomenon of Democrats insisting that the election was hacked and the Democratic administration insisting it wasn’t. Back on November 26:

The Obama administration said it has seen no evidence of hackers tampering with the 2016 presidential election, even as recount proceedings began in Wisconsin.

“We stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” a senior administration official told Politico late Friday.

“The federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyber activity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on Election Day,” the official added. “We believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.”…

The senior Obama administration official reiterated the government’s accusation that Russia had directed its hackers to go after U.S. political organizations and political operatives’ email accounts with the goal of interfering in the election.

In other words, the Russians hacked the DNC’s e-mails and John Podesta’s e-mails, but that, by itself, is not reason to question the election results. (Quick, find a voter who originally planned to vote for Clinton but shifted to Trump specifically because of either of those leaks.) Democrats who are furious about the election results are deliberately blurring the lines – suggesting that the Russian role in the cyber-break-ins amounts to a Russian role in the election results.

Assuming the evidence is as clear as the Post’s sources suggest it is, does anyone find it odd that President Obama has been so quiet about the topic? It’s been more than a month since Election Day. Yes, the president ordered a review, and he wants it done before he leaves office. But White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco told reporters not to jump to conclusions: “We’ll see what comes out of the report. There will be a report to a range of stakeholders, including Congress.” If an argument against interest is treated as more likely to be true, what are we to make about hesitation against interest?

Do you take that tone if you think the Electoral College is about to certify the wrong winner?

Man, I Had Forgotten What Actual Economic Optimism Felt Like

Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, writing at MarketWatch, November 1: “A big adverse surprise — like the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. — would likely cause the stock market to crash and plunge the world into recession.”

Look, we all make bad predictions, professor. And there’s still plenty of time for Trump to mess things up. But this morning’s New York Times points out that there’s enormous optimism about the U.S. economy right now:

The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index is up 5.6 percent since the election map turned more red than blue; all the major stock indexes hit records yet again on Friday. Consumer confidence levels released on Friday showed they had jumped to a two-year high.

Much of the swelling confidence, to be sure, is markedly one-sided. A new national survey by the Pew Research Center found that the leap in Republicans’ optimism about the economy’s direction has far outpaced Democrats’ sagging outlook.

The recent heart-pumping stock rally, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, said at an investment conference this week, is “based upon the hope, which I hope is accurate, that the Trump administration will be very good for unleashed business per se,” and may improve overall growth.

Remember economic optimism? It’s been a long while!

The Democrats Still Aren’t Welcoming to the Wrong Kind of Trump Critics

Conservative blogger and horseradish mogul Jazz Shaw wondered what those who subscribed to the “NeverTrump” philosophy think they’ll be doing four years down the road. A few of us weighed in, and he particularly focused on whether there was a Democrat who could plausibly compete for our support, a scenario I have an exceptionally difficult time picturing:

I don’t think we NeverTrump-ers should spend the next four years fuming relentlessly and start thinking already about who could replace him. We ought to applaud him when we think he’s right and argue against him when we think he’s wrong, as we would do for any other president. As a traditional conservative, I don’t see a lot of signs that the modern Democratic party could generate a nominee that would be much of an improvement than Trump, warts and all. It would have to be a figure who’s astonishingly different from most of what the party has stood for since the millennium.

The Democratic party has experienced a lot of changes since the Bill Clinton years. It’s bizarrely simultaneously both more hostile to the world of business and more intertwined with its favorite business entities. It will denounce corporate greed one day and subsidize Solyndra the next; they’ll denounce Mitt Romney as a greedy, corrupt plutocrat one year and embrace Terry McAuliffe the next. It is functionally willing to accept quiet war on the cheap with drones in far-off places like Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya, and yet the grassroots has deep pacifist and isolationist streaks. They’ll shrug at Russia invading Crimea but go to DefCon One over hacking the DNC’s e-mails. They only feel the national interest is threatened when their partisan interest is threatened. They don’t merely “stand for” ideas like gay marriage, transsexual rights, abortion rights, gun rights, etcetera, they seethe with contempt for anyone who thinks differently.

If you’re free-market, strong defense, traditional values, then there just isn’t much of an entry point. I suppose the first step for the Democrats would be to find a potential nominee who doesn’t embody or project this seething contempt for non-progressives. Out of the names you mentioned, Cory Booker probably does that best.

ADDENDA: Just what you wanted for the holidays: a video of me discussing the fatherhood book Heavy Lifting, entitled, “The Sexiest Man Alive.” Thanks to the good folks at Prager University for inviting me to put that together. It will probably not surprise you that the comments section is on fire, with one fellow complaining, “it summarises with how we are expected to raise children and work hard… Like these are the epitome of mens achievements. Not his creativity and free time to do what really fulfills him.” Because marriage, parenthood and work can’t possibly be fulfilling, right?

Thanks to everyone who listened to the pop culture podcast last week. It appears there is genuine, far-reaching, bipartisan consensus: “Santa Baby,” “Happy X-mas (War Is Over) and “Wonderful Christmastime” are among the most abominable and insufferable Christmas songs in recent memory and should be purged from shopping mall Christmas Muzak immediately.

Politics & Policy

‘Godspeed, John Glenn’

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“Godspeed, John Glenn.”

In a couple of days, when the full assessments of John Glenn’s life are being discussed, we can bring up the disappointing and worse aspects of Glenn’s career in the Senate. But for now, with his friends and family mourning, we celebrate the best of him, which may very well have been the best of us all. Our David French:

He fought in World War II. He fought in the Korean war, shooting down Soviet-built MiG jets. He was a test pilot. He was the first American to orbit the earth. Later, he was also the oldest man to orbit the earth. When his country faced deep and profound challenges, he volunteered to serve again and again. He laid down his life too many times to count — in aerial combat, testing our nation’s newest and most advanced aircraft, and taking on the indescribably risky challenge of hurtling into space on top of a rocket that was prone to explode… 

But his nation needed him to take that risk. I was born in 1969 and can’t truly identify with the level of national fear and concern inherent in the “space race” with the Soviet Union. This was more than a test of technologies, it was a test of civilizations, with national extinction the perceived cost of failure. It’s hard to imagine the astronaut as celebrity now, but in the early 1960s, the astronaut was almost a mythic hero, and John Glenn was the astronaut-in-chief.

Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, says it well: “You had to have been alive at that time to comprehend the reaction of the nation, practically all of it,” author Tom Wolfe, who coined the phrase “the right stuff” to describe Mr. Glenn and the other Mercury astronauts, wrote in a 2009 essay. “John Glenn, in 1962, was the last true national hero America has ever had.”

He was a hero not just because of his considerable bravery, but because of the impact his bravery had on a nation beset by deep fear: In his political history of the space age, …The Heavens and the Earth, the author Walter A. McDougall described Mr. Glenn’s space mission as a “national catharsis unparalleled.”

This morning, NRO debuts a new video about the heroism of John Glenn.

The next ambassador to the U.K. could be a name quite familiar to some football fans:

The Big Worry Will Be if He Renames the Team the New York Concordes

Jets owner Woody Johnson has emerged as a leading contender for a key ambassadorship under Donald Trump — sources exclusively tell Page Six — with other Trump backers lining up for prestigious diplomatic posts, including former MTA chief Peter Kalikow, Duke Buchan III, Georgette Mosbacher, and Wilbur Ross Jr.’s wife, Hilary Geary Ross.

Johnson is under consideration for ambassador to the U.K., multiple sources say. He was vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee and hosted pricey fundraisers in the Hamptons for donors including treasury secretary pick Steven Mnuchin, Carl Icahn, and Anthony Scaramucci. He’s also on Trump’s presidential inaugural committee.

Keep in mind, under Woody Johnson, it is entirely possible that the U.S. Embassy in London will sign a lot of really expensive free-agent diplomatic staff who will perform well for a year and then decline in production rapidly.

As you can guess, I’m quite comfortable with this selection. Sending Woody Johnson to London may or may not be in the national interest, but it’s probably in the New York Jets’ interest.

History’s Most Recent Faithless Electors Were Glaringly Stupid

Trimmed from yesterday’s piece about faithless electors…

Past faithless electors have been forgotten by history, and they deserve to be forgotten, because their explanations for their stances are stupid. In 2004, one of Minnesota’s electors voted for “John Ewards” [sic] for president and John Kerry for vice president. Because it was a secret ballot, the rogue elector was never identified, and it was never revealed whether this was a bizarre protest in favor of Edwards or whether one elector was literally too dumb to know which one was running for president and how to spell the candidate’s name.

In 1988, Margarette Leach of West Virginia voted for Lloyd Bentsen for president and Michael Dukakis for vice president. She explained to the New York Times:

“I wanted to make a statement about the Electoral College. We’ve outgrown it. And I wanted to point up what I perceive as a weakness in the system – that 270 people can get together in this country and elect a President, whether he’s on the ballot or not. In most states electors can do whatever they want, if you’re over 35 and a citizen.”

Ms. Leach added: “When I got home I said to myself I should have voted for Kitty. If 270 women got together on the Electoral College we could have had a woman President.”

Thus, in order to demonstrate how unreliable and undemocratic an elector could be, Leach sought the job of elector and did precisely what she claimed to oppose and fear. It is perhaps appropriate that she has a mental-health facility named after her.

It’s not too much to ask that those participating as electors in the Electoral College know how it works and desire for it to work as it is designed. The best recourse is to ensure faithless electors don’t get the applause and fame they seek, and to teach future electors that this maneuver will get them only derision and mockery.

ADDENDA: Yup, it’s fundraising time at National Review again. We hate asking for money and you hate being asked for money, but this is necessary to keep the lights on and this particular request is to cover the costs of a site overhaul to finally work out the glitches and bugs and parts that don’t work the way you want. This is spurred by an extensive reader survey asking what changes people wanted to see, beyond “don’t write that piece I disagreed with ever again.” As our Jack Fowler puts it:

Yes, the content is superior and voluminous, but the experience . . .  that can be, what is the word, ah yes — frustrating. We went through a redesign a few years back, and, truth be told, we didn’t “redesign” it enough. So we’re going to embark upon a guts-and-all reboot, from the inside where the coding is thick and the platforms heavy, to the outside, where you need to search for the search function which . . . won’t. Search.

If you have questions about NRO, your donation, the redesign, or math problems, contact him at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

This week’s pop culture podcast is certain to cause a stir. Mickey and I contemplate whether “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” veers from suggestive to creepy, and in response to the overwrought calls for banning the song, I offer a spectacularly inappropriate rewrite. We ask whether raucous office Christmas parties are an urban legend or just a dying breed, why Hollywood keeps making more movies about the Kennedys, and list the sports phenomena that Millennials take for granted, like computer-generated first down lines, free agency-driven roster overhauls, multiple uniforms, and social-media coverage of a game.

Speaking of pop culture, Ericka Andersen Sylvester is the digital director at National Review and she contributes to what is easily the second or third-best morning newsletter out there, Bright, and lately she’s written about raging YouTube stars who are convinced the video platform is giving them a bad deal.

Tevi Troy reminds me of the Washington Post’s review of arguably the greatest Christmas movie of all time… Die Hard. Hal Hinson wrote, “it’s not a movie to like. It gets your heart pounding, then makes you hate yourself for it.”

And they wonder why people don’t trust the media!

Politics & Policy

The Surge of Migrants at the Border Never Stopped

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The Surge of Migrants at the Border Never Stopped

Remember the surge of often-unaccompanied children that came across America’s southern border in the summer of 2014?

More than 52,000 unaccompanied children were caught trying to cross the southern U.S. border in the first five months of this year. Between 60,000 to 90,000 such children are expected to have crossed by the end of 2014, and more than 140,000 are expected next year, according to the White House. That’s more than double the 24,668 that flowed across last year and triple the 13,625 children that came in 2012.

Because of the national media’s intermittent-at-best interest in our southern border, it was easy to think the problem had died down or dwindled a bit. Apparently, the numbers never really went down.

The surge of Central American families seeking asylum at U.S. borders is not letting up, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday after touring a temporary holding facility in the Rio Grande Valley set up to manage the influx.

The number of apprehensions along the southwestern border can be close to 2,000 a day — with most people turning themselves in, Kerlikowske said in a phone interview. The November influx was as high as what was seen in October: 46,195, he said.

The precise monthly number is to be announced next week.

Now, the 2014 figures were for children, and the recent figures were for all ages, but you get the picture. The people kept coming — often driven by the rumor that the United States government was providing “permisos” to those who made the journey. The Department of Homeland Security ran an op-ed in Spanish-language outlets in 2014 declaring that there are no “permisos” for unattended children. The announcement apparently had little to no effect.

Hundreds of immigrant families caught illegally crossing the Mexican border between July and September told U.S. immigration agents they made the dangerous trip in part because they believed they would be permitted to stay in the United States and collect public benefits.

So now the U.S. government, at considerable taxpayer expense, is constructing new facilities to process and care for these people coming across the border. It is the compassionate thing to do — but it is also not fair to expect America to underwrite the costs of caring for and educating the impoverished of Central American countries.

The new one in Donna is set to open Friday. It’s located adjacent to the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge.

“Our ports of entry are not equipped to hold people. So, we really do need these kinds of facilities,” Kerlikowske said.

Children and families will be transferred at the facility, after they are processed at the Border Patrol station or at a port of entry.

“They have to be processed and they have to be questioned. We have to find out who they are, and why they’re coming, is there the potential that someone would want to do harm to the country. And then we have to process them biometrically. Records about their height and their weight and their fingerprints, this process here helps us after they’re gone through all that,” he said.

When immigrants arrive at the facility, they will be able to take a shower. Their clothes will be washed and they’ll be provided with a new set of clothes. They’ll remain at the facility for about 72 hours.

Cots will fill some of the rooms. There will be televisions and DVD players to keep children occupied while they wait.

Contracted vendors will service three hot meals a day. And contracted medical staff will also be available around the clock.

Then, the people will go with either Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Many of them will end up in downtown McAllen at the bus station and Sacred Heart Respite Center.

They’ll head to meet families in cities across the country with a notice to appear in immigration court.

CBP said they’ll keep that facility open as long as it’s needed. They said they operated a similar one for a while in Weslaco back in 2014. They stopped when the numbers slowed down.

This does not just impact communities along the southern border. In the 2014 fiscal year, Fairfax County, Virginia accepted 1,373 undocumented minors who have been placed with sponsors; the following year, 560; the most recent fiscal year, 150.

An End to Rewarding Those Who Refuse to Abide by the Law

Noah Rothman, pointing out how the protest of Native Americans and affiliated leftist groups at Standing Rock illuminates a method of public decision-making that will probably cease once Obama leaves office:

On November 20, as demonstrators made an organized effort to cross a local bridge to block another highway, police resisted. What followed was what the sheriff’s office called a “riot” in which 400 protesters clashed with police. Water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets were used to disperse “very aggressive” protesters when they “attempted to flank and attack the law enforcement line from the west,” police said. At least one officer was struck in the head during the skirmish. According to demonstrators, 200 were injured in the attack and 12 hospitalized.

So this was a political decision made by political appointees and, as such, it can be reversed by the next administration’s political appointees…

Worse, however, is the Army’s decision to convey to America’s most disruptive elements that violence and disorder works. We can expect to see more of these kinds of disruptive and violent protests. The next round of uncivil demonstrations will, however, occur in a different political culture. They might face an administration more inclined to clear out encampments and round up hundreds on buses. Moreover, for the Trump administration, the threat of politically inconvenient optics arising from such events is no threat at all.

The Sad, Desperate Effort to Ensure the 2016 Election Never Ends

Checking in on those spectacular wastes of time and money in the Great Lakes states, a.k.a. “the recounts”…

In Michigan, a federal judge has had enough, and concurred with a state court ruling that Stein had no standing to request the recount.

In his eight-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said “there is no basis” for him to ignore a state court ruling that said the recount should never had started. He was referring to the Michigan Court of Appeals 3-0 ruling, which said that Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, who requested the recount, never had a shot at winning with her fourth-place finish and 1% of the vote, and therefore was not an aggrieved candidate.

Goldsmith’s ruling also bolstered some arguments that were repeatedly made by the Michigan Republican Party: that there was never any evidence that hacking or fraud occurred at the polls, and that  Michigan’s voting system is so secure that not even the “Gremlins, Martians or Russian hackers” could tamper with it. That argument appeared to carry some weight with the judge.

“To date, plaintiffs have not presented evidence of tampering or mistake. Instead, they present speculative claims going to the vulnerability of the voting machinery — but not actual injury,”  Goldsmith wrote, adding the potential for fraud is not enough to continue to allow the recount to proceed.

The Republican Party also apparently convinced Goldsmith that the recount would have cost taxpayers too much money – $5 million by one count — if his comments are any indication.

God bless you, Judge Goldsmith. Finally, somebody’s standing up for the taxpayers in this farce.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, it’s full speed ahead, which will change… almost nothing.

Wisconsin’s presidential recount is 70% done but the effort has resulted in almost no change to President-elect Donald Trump’s winning margin in the state, election officials said.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission said Democrat Hillary Clinton has gained 82 votes so far on Trump, a Republican who won the Nov. 8 election in the state by more than 22,000 votes.

The recount is on schedule to finish by the Monday deadline for local officials and the Tuesday deadline for the state, with 34 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties and the city of Milwaukee already finished, according to the state commission and Milwaukee Election Commission executive director Neil Albrecht. Some of the state’s biggest counties, including Dane and Brown, are still counting by hand or machine, however.

Clinton has picked up 492 votes so far in the recount, but has gained almost no ground since Trump himself gained 410 votes in this new tally and led by 22,177 votes going into the recount.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein, whose campaign paid $3.5 million to ensure Wisconsin did a recount, has gained only 60 votes. That works out to more than $58,000 for each vote that Stein has gained in the recount up to now.

Money well spent, huh, Stein donors?

ADDENDA: I’ll be on Cam Edwards’ show from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern on NRATV.

Politics & Policy

Don’t Look Now, But Here Comes Another Reassuring Pick From Trump

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Seventy-five years ago today:

Time magazine did the obvious and necessary today, naming Donald Trump their Man of the Year. Not choosing him would have been odd and unusual; the newly-elected or first-year president was the magazine’s choice for the most influential figure in the news in 2008, 2000, 1992, 1980 and 1976. Lyndon Johnson won it in 1964 after winning his first election as president, and John Kennedy won it in 1961 after his first year in office.

Don’t Look Now, But Here Comes Another Reassuring Pick From Trump.

Hey remember on Friday evening, when lots of people on Twitter freaked out that Trump was going to stir up a war with China by taking the phone call from the Taiwanese president? Remember how Trump had ruined U.S.-China relations, and he was this blundering oaf who was likely to accidentally start World War III? Remember all of those awful “Bull in a China Shop” puns and headlines?

Yeah, this morning, Beijing seems pretty happy with the new ambassador.

China said on Wednesday the governor of the U.S. state of Iowa, Terry Branstad, was an “old friend” after a report that he had accepted an offer from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to become the next U.S. ambassador to China.

“We welcome him to play a greater role in advancing the development of China-U.S. relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily press briefing when asked about the Bloomberg report.

Lu did not confirm the story and said China would work with whoever became ambassador.

Branstad called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “long-time friend” when Xi visited Iowa in February 2012, only nine months before he became the Chinese leader.

It suggests that Trump may be ready to take a less combative stance towards the world’s second-largest economy than many expected, trade experts and diplomats said.

From a 2013 article on Branstad:

Xi assumed the presidency in November, but he and Branstad go back to 1985, when Branstad was serving his first term as governor and Xi visited as part of a sister-state exchange program.

The two have taken to calling one another “old friends” and renewed their relationship in September 2011, when Branstad visited China; again in February, 2012, when Xi returned to Iowa; and yet again just two months ago when Branstad led another trade mission to China with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The Chinese leader has some really long-standing ties to Iowa. From the New York Times’ account of his visit in 2012:

Twenty-seven years ago, a young man named Xi Jinping, on an agricultural research trip from his home in China, came to rural eastern Iowa and slept in Eleanor and Thomas Dvorchak’s sons’ room. The boys had just gone off to college — their room still stuffed with the things of childhood — and Ms. Dvorchak said she felt bad. She had grown up reading Pearl S. Buck novels about the travails in rural China, and now here was a visitor, perhaps from that same hard place, and they had put him in there with the Star Trek action figures.

“He did not complain,” said Ms. Dvorchak, 72, who is now retired and living in Florida. “Everything, no matter what, was very acceptable to him — he was humble.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Xi returned to Muscatine — triumphantly this time, with an entourage and a room of his own — as China’s vice president and heir apparent to the leadership of a rapidly rising world power. Seventeen people he met here in 1985, including the Dvorchaks, were invited to tea.

This means it’s time to stop the cries that the incoming Trump administration is blundering his way into a war with China and start up the cries that the incoming Trump administration sold out to China!

The Democrats’ New Cockamamie Idea for Leverage: Mass Tax Evasion!

Over in Time magazine, Mark Weston writes:

The approximately 65 million Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton should pledge that in the future if a Republican wins the presidency with fewer votes than a Democrat for the third time in our era, we won’t pay taxes to the federal government. No taxation without representation!

Is that how it works? If the candidate you don’t like wins the presidency, under the rules set out under the constitution, you don’t have to pay taxes?

He argues that the Constitution itself is unfair and it’s not fair that Republicans won’t help Democrats change it to a national popular vote. He points out that pledging to not pay taxes in the future is perfectly legal. Yes, the real question is when you actually choose to not pay taxes; then the Internal Revenue Service comes knocking at the door.

Here’s how Weston envisions this working:

Third, if a Republican wins the election without winning the popular vote again, we should still pay what we owe in federal taxes–just not to the IRS. Instead, people would compute their federal taxes, file a Form 1040 and write a check to a national escrow account, preferably in a well-established Canadian or British bank that is beyond the reach of the U.S. Justice Department, because whoever opens this account probably will be in violation of U.S. law. In the check’s memo line, people should write, “Funds to be transferred to the IRS as soon as America resumes being a democracy.”

See, fellas, tax evasion has never been recognized by the government as a protected form of free speech or political protest. If that’s the case, maybe the world has had a lot more impassioned political activists than we thought: Al Capone, Wesley Snipes, Martha Stewart, Willie Nelson…

By the way, wasn’t it just a few months ago when we were told that Donald Trump ranked among history’s greatest monsters because he may have not paid taxes he owed? And now Democrats are supposed to do the same thing, en masse?

If members of the party that loves government, wants to expand government, and has seemingly endless faith in government don’t want to pay taxes, why should anyone else?

Since the election, we’ve heard Democrats calling for abolishing the electoral college, the restoration of the filibuster they eliminated, confirmation of Supreme Court justice nominee Merrick Garland in the minutes before the new Senate takes the oath of office, “general resistance” and assassination threats, and now, mass tax evasion.

They insist that because the system has not given them the outcome they wanted, the system is broken and must be blown up and replaced. They steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that they could have any responsibility for this outcome.

Just How Broadly Will We Define ‘Fake News’?

Will the “War on Fake News” go after sites that use hyperbolic headlines?

One of the motes in this cloud, or at least drifting nearby, is run out of a house in Seattle’s Denny Blaine neighborhood. The founder of a site called Bipartisan Report — self-proclaimed as “the Internet’s largest newspaper” — agreed to talk to me about how click-bait news sites are changing media and American politics.

“We’re a legitimate news-media company,” says Justin Brotman, 34, son of the Costco co-founder Jeff Brotman. “We’re being attacked as ‘fake’ because traditional media is freaked out we can make more money than you, out of our basements.”

Bipartisan Report runs two or three dozen stories a day, most with truth-stretching headlines crafted to feed red meat to a liberal audience. Examples just from the past few days:

“BREAKING: 41 Attorney Generals Across America Move To SHUT DOWN Trump Foundation.”

“JUST IN: Republicans Announce ‘Muslim Burqa Ban’, The Insanity Has Begun.”

“BREAKING: Famous Lawyer Gloria Allred Drops MAJOR Trump Sexual Assault Announcement.”

All of these stories are tethered to something true, but exaggerate it or misconstrue it to the point of unrecognizability. Yes, there are questions about the Trump Foundation’s future, but no, 41 AGs did not move to shut it down. Yes, there is a legislator in the state of Georgia who did propose a bill to bar veils in public, but he was the only one (and he pulled the bill). As for Gloria Allred, she is a lawyer who represents some women who say they were groped by Donald Trump, but there was no breaking announcement about that month-old story this week.

Call me crazy, but I think the First Amendment protects your right to create a bad web site with anything that won’t lose you a libel suit in a courtroom. A lot of people interpret that stance as a full-throated defense of “fake news.” No, it’s just the common sense observation that not everything bad in life needs to be banned.

Once people in authority take it upon themselves to ban, restrict, remove, block or eliminate “fake news,” when do they stop?

ADDENDA: Thanks to everyone who joined for yesterday’s Facebook Live, discussing fake news, censorship, and the media.

Politics & Policy

Ah, the Spirit of the Season… Whining Atheists With Double Standards!

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Ah, the Spirit of the Season… Whining Atheists With Double Standards!

I see the American Atheists are at it again, convinced they’re so edgy and brave:

This year’s American Atheists holiday campaign depicts a mother reading her daughter’s text messages to a friend.

In the exchange, the daughter says she’s not going to church because she “doesn’t believe in that stuff anymore” and her parents “will get over it”.

Hey, fellas, try putting those sorts of billboards, telling people not to go to their mosque or believe in Allah in Dearborn, Michigan, and see how that goes.

What, no campaign urging people to skip Eid celebrations? No ads telling people it’s okay to eat during the day during Ramadan? What’s the matter, guys, you suddenly lose your nerve?

I notice the group’s past and ongoing legal cases focus on crosses on public lands, references to God in public documents, etcetera. They’ve never had a disagreement with any mosque anywhere in the country? No interest in noise ordinances and minarets? Nothing to say about prayer rooms in public buildings or headscarves on driver’s license photos?

Gee, why might atheist organizations, which allegedly oppose all religious beliefs, be strangely reticent to take on one faith community and oddly pugnacious when it comes to taking on another one? One almost wonders if there’s a transference here – like they’re afraid of the consequences of taking on one faith community, so they take it out on one they don’t find so menacing.

Every once in a while, atheists say it out loud:

“I know what keeps me from critiquing Islam on my blog is just fear,” Phil Zuckerman said at a discussion on religious liberty at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. “I’ve got three kids.

“So I know I can say anything about Christianity or Mormonism, and I’m not living in fear, which is a testament to Christianity and Mormonism, and that’s wonderful. Thank you,” said Zuckerman, who is a self-described atheist and professor of secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.

So he spends his time criticizing the faith that he knows is no threat to him, and avoids saying anything about the faith that actually scares him.

Yeah, yeah, everybody’s so tough when it comes to taking on nuns, like the Obama administration taking them to court to make them buy birth control.

The Wrong Kind of Fake News

As I noted yesterday, it’s a little rich to hear the sudden media-wide panic over “fake news.”

Just ask Dan Rather about those memos. Or ask Brian Williams about his war stories. Or ask Rolling Stone about those ritualistic gang rapes on the University of Virginia’s campus.

We haven’t seen anything like this “fake news” on social media since… Katie Couric’s blatantly misleading editing in her documentary, Under the Gun.

Or Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke’s fictional 8-year-old heroin addict.

Or the tall tales of Jayson Blair at the New York Times.

Or USA Today’s Jack Kelley’s wild tales from abroad.

Or Stephen Glass’s New Republic reporting on the hacking of “Jukt Microtics.”

Or Jonah Lehrer’s made-up quotes from Bob Dylan.

Or those Research 2000 polls that may or may not have been conducted.

Or the trucks rigged to explode on NBC’s Dateline.

The false accusations against the pizzeria are abominable but not unprecedented: just ask the Duke lacrosse team, Richard Jewell, Ted Stevens, and the Central Park Five.

Our Kevin Williamson points out that as much as the media fumes that Aunt Edna believes what she read on Facebook that President Obama sold the state of Nebraska to the Chinese, plenty of other false beliefs permeate the comfortable class in the blue states: Chevron is up to no good in Ecuador, that vaccines cause autism, and so on.

The Country’s Most Unpopular Governor Is…

Yeesh. I knew New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wasn’t popular in his home state, but come on, man, get it together.

New Jersey voters disapprove 77 – 19 percent of the job Gov. Christopher Christie is doing, the lowest approval rating for any governor in any state in more than 20 years of the Quinnipiac University Poll, according to results released today. 

Voters say 48 – 43 percent that Gov. Christie personally ordered the “Bridgegate” traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge in 2013, the independent Quinnipiac University Poll finds. 

Voters also say 71 – 22 percent that Gov. Christie knew his aides were causing “Bridgegate.” His potential involvement in the scandal should be investigated further, 56 percent of voters say, while 41 percent say it has been investigated enough. 

Christie gets negative ratings from every party, gender, racial and age group measured, ranging from a negative 39 – 53 percent among Republicans to 9 – 90 percent among Democrats.

By comparison, President-elect Donald Trump remains somewhat more popular in New Jersey, with a 38 percent feeling favorable to him and 51 percent feeling unfavorable. 

ADDENDA: Here’s how yesterday’s CNN hit went.

I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert on Australian politics, but I’m rapidly becoming a fan of Matthew Canavan, the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, and a Senator for Queensland. If nothing else, the man has extraordinarily good taste in reading material.

As politicians escape from Canberra, their holiday reading lists are not far from mind. A survey of 30 frontbench government and opposition MPs on what books they have enjoyed this year and what they plan to read over summer is, as always, reassuring and revealing.

Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester is keen to read Turia Pitt’s Everything to Live For and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. Resources Minister Matt Canavan has at the ready John Judis’s The Populist Explosion and Jim Geraghty and Cam Edwards’s Heavy Lifting: Grow Up, Get a Job, Raise a Family and Other Manly Advice.

Politics & Policy

‘You Will Give Us Merrick Garland Or You May Go Die in a Fire.’

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‘You Will Give Us Merrick Garland Or You May Go Die in a Fire.’

Professor David Faris, writing in The Week, seems to think the minority party in the Senate is in a position to dictate terms and in fact make threats:

Democrats must comprehend, at long last, what is being done to them by the Republican Party. The Democratic negotiating position on all issues put before them while they are in the House and Senate minority for at least the next two years should be very simple: You will give us Merrick Garland or you may go die in a fire.

Yeah, you go sell that strategy to Democratic senators in red states up for reelection in 2018 — I mean, the ones who haven’t already sent their resumes to Trump Tower.

Faris’s piece, already rocketing around Facebook, is entitled, “It’s time for Democrats to fight dirty.”

There is nothing more reassuring to a political party that just lost an election than telling themselves they lost because they were “too nice.” A close second is their message is too high-minded and sophisticated for those knuckle-dragging voters; the opposition speaks in bumper stickers, we speak in complicated and nuanced position papers. (This after “Hope and Change” and “Yes, We Can.”) I recall Republicans believing this after 2008 and 2012. I recall Democrats believing this after 2004, 2010 and 2014. Strangely, I don’t think polling, focus groups or other instruments of measuring voter decision-making or intent has ever found a person who said, “No, I voted for the other guys, because that party is too nice.”

It’s time for Democrats to “fight dirty”? Really? You think Hillary Clinton’s campaign against Trump was too nice? Not negative enough? You think the reason Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election was because he wasn’t attacked enough times? Not enough scandals, accusations of bad behavior — personally, sexually, financially, claims of sinister connections to foreign governments? You think having half of Hollywood come out to make propaganda music videos touting the joys of your candidate isn’t “fighting dirty,” huh? You think transforming colleges and universities into giant bases of ideological warfare isn’t fighting dirty? You think using the dues of union members with all kinds of political views to fund a partisan political campaign isn’t fighting dirty?

Faris’s piece is a fantastic example of the sputtering rage of the Left at this moment, convinced that Obama’s presidency was a phenomenal success, that no Republican opposition to his agenda was ever legitimate, and that the electorate that was so wise and clear-headed in 2008 and 2012 has suddenly become easily-fooled sheep again.

He gives the game away here:

 . . . our political system as currently constituted has turned into a fiefdom for a permanent right-wing minority wielding power through the Constitution’s bizarre quirks, including the Electoral College. 

This is what really infuriates the raging Left right now: They aren’t get what they want because of the Constitution, and provisions of that founding document that never bothered them before, like the separation of powers, rules for confirmation of judges, and the electoral college, are now “bizarre quirks.” For the past year, every high-society progressive in Manhattan gushed about Alexander Hamilton as the greatest and most unsung Founding Father — clearly, the best rapper among them. Suddenly the architect of the Electoral College ranks as one of great monsters of American history.

Some Senate Democrats now say their plan is to hold up Trump’s nominees as long as possible.

Any individual senator can force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold procedural votes on nominees. Senior Democrats said a series of such votes are likely for many of Trump’s picks.

Democrats could conceivably force up to 30 hours of debate for each Cabinet nominee, which would be highly disruptive for a GOP Senate that usually works limited hours but has big ambitions for next year. The minority could also stymie lower-level nominees and potentially keep the Senate focused on executive confirmations for weeks as Trump assumes the presidency and congressional Republicans try to capitalize on their political momentum.

Hold hearings? Absolutely. Tough questioning? Perfectly fair. Recorded votes? Please do.

But weren’t the Democrats just telling us that Trump is an unhinged, dangerous, demagogic narcissistic maniac who could wake up one morning and nuke Belgium because he’s in a bad mood? Wouldn’t you want as many experienced, reliable, level-headed voices around Trump as possible? Remember, Mike Flynn and Steven Bannon don’t require Senate confirmation. If I were a Democrat and believed my own rhetoric, I would want someone like James Mattis in the chain-of-command and officially advising Trump as soon as possible.

Democrats tell themselves that they’re the noble victims of a one-sided partisan war. They’re completely oblivious to how they escalate these fights:

Eight years ago, when the roles were reversed, with Barack Obama taking office and an all-Democratic Congress, Republicans were mostly deferential to the incoming president. On Obama’s first day in office, the Senate confirmed seven of Obama’s Cabinet nominees. By the end of that week, it had cleared more than a dozen senior-level positions, all without dissent except for Hillary Clinton’s nomination to be secretary of state, for which the GOP demanded a roll call.

Far too many Democrats can only see the world in terms of what they politically need in this particular moment. They can’t see too far down the road, or how an issue will look when they’re in a different circumstances. Here’s Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, basically begging Senate Republicans to reinstate the filibuster for nominations:

BOLDUAN: But Senator, also a rules change the Democrats put in place could also come back to bite you. I mean, I don’t get into the weeds, but Democrats made it much easier than a simple majority can push through presidential nominees. Democrats did it for themselves and now Republicans can do it as well.

COONS: That’s exactly right. The filibuster no longer acts as emergency brake on the nomination –

BOLDUAN: So do you regret that?

COONS: I do regret that. I frankly think many of us will regret that in this Congress because it would have been a terrific speed bump, potential emergency brake, to have in our system to slow down the confirmation of extreme nominees. We’re instead going to have to depend on the American people, on thorough hearings and/or persuading a number of Republicans in those cases where President-elect Trump might nominate someone, who is just too extreme to the American people.

“Dear opponents who I have consistently demonized as the root of all evil for the past few years: please give up a power we gave you to save us from the consequences of our own decisions.”

Get Ready for a Week of ‘Fake News’ Hysteria

Brace yourselves. In the coming days, we’re going to hear a lot about how “fake news” is now a mortal threat to all Americans.

A North Carolina man who sent customers and employees scrambling when he fired a gun inside a northwest Washington pizzeria Sunday told police he went there to investigate a fictitious online conspiracy theory involving the restaurant and high-ranking Democrats.

After his arrest, Welch told police he was there to investigate a fake news conspiracy theory known as “pizza gate” involving the pizzeria in the 5000 block of Connecticut Avenue NW. Posts to Facebook and Reddit claim Comet was the home base of a child sex abuse ring run by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign chair, John Podesta.

“What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories does come with consequences,” Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis said.

No two ways about it, a guy who goes into a restaurant and starts firing his gun all willy-nilly is a bad dude, and he ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

But now there’s going to be an eager effort to shift responsibility from him to whoever wrote about this restaurant. This guy sounds like he graduated from the Yosemite Sam School of Forensic Investigation, and if he hadn’t shown up at the doorstep of this restaurant, he would have shown up at the gate of Edwards Air Force Base asking about the aliens at Area 51 or stomped around the Pacific Northwest hunting Bigfoot. Blaming “fake news” implies a warning to everyone, “don’t write or say something that could set off some nut-job.” That argument assumes that there’s a rationality to the nut-job, and it’s our responsibility to not offer anything that could cause an irrational mind to lash out.

Unless, of course, you think the Southern Poverty Law Center is responsible for the guy who tried to shoot up the Family Research Center in Washington D.C. in 2012. That would-be-gunman “had stopped by Chick-fil-A to pick up 15 sandwiches, which he planned to smear in the dying faces of staffers.” He said he chose the FRC as a target because the Southern Poverty Law Center called the organization “a hate group.”

Rumors and false news reports can lead to violence, huh? You mean like the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative that came out of Ferguson, Missouri?

What DOJ found made me ill. [Officer Darren] Wilson knew about the theft of the cigarillos from the convenience store and had a description of the suspects. [The late Michael] Brown fought with the officer and tried to take his gun. And the popular hands-up storyline, which isn’t corroborated by ballistic and DNA evidence and multiple witness statements, was perpetuated by Witness 101. In fact, just about everything said to the media by Witness 101, whom we all know as Dorian Johnson, the friend with Brown that day, was not supported by the evidence and other witness statements.

ADDENDA: I’m up to New York City for an appearance on CNN today. I’ll be on CNN International’s “State of America” at 2:30 p.m. Eastern and possibly a late morning or late afternoon appearance, depending upon breaking news and whether the producers think I look lonely in the green room.

Politics & Policy

Keith Ellison’s Bad Week

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Keith Ellison’s Bad Week

You know Keith Ellison, Minnesota congressman and aspiring DNC Chair, has had a bad week when yesterday’s news about his imam’s views on homosexuality is the third or fourth worst bit of news for him in the past day.

Admittedly, they’re tough to rank. Probably atop the list is the Anti-Defamation League statement declaring Ellison unacceptable as the head of the Democratic party:

When Rep. Ellison’s candidacy to be chair of the Democratic National Committee was first reported, ADL did not rush to judgment. Instead, we took a hard look at the totality of his record on key issues on our agenda. We spoke to numerous leaders in the community and to Mr. Ellison himself. ADL’s subsequent statement on his candidacy appreciated his contrition on some matters, acknowledged areas of commonality but clearly expressed real concern where Rep. Ellison held divergent policy views, particularly related to Israel’s security.

New information recently has come to light that raises serious concerns about whether Rep. Ellison faithfully could represent the Democratic Party’s traditional support for a strong and secure Israel. In a speech recorded in 2010 to a group of supporters, Rep. Ellison is heard suggesting that American foreign policy in the Middle East is driven by Israel, saying: “The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people. A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes.”

Rep. Ellison’s remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying. His words imply that U.S. foreign policy is based on religiously or national origin-based special interests rather than simply on America’s best interests. Additionally, whether intentional or not, his words raise the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government, a poisonous myth that may persist in parts of the world where intolerance thrives, but that has no place in open societies like the U.S.

Ellison says his remarks were “selectively edited and taken out of context.”

Then there’s the Free Beacon, finding unsavory details of Ellison’s 2008 trip to Saudi Arabia:

Ellison, now a leading candidate to head the Democratic National Committee, was brought to Saudi Arabia for a two-week trip by the Muslim American Society (MAS), a group founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood to act as its “overt arm” in the United States.

Details of Ellison’s religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia are scarce, but photographs discovered by the Washington Free Beacon show that Ellison met with controversial figures during the trip.

A photo album of Ellison’s hajj trip posted by MAS’s Minnesota chapter includes a picture of the congressman meeting with Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, who was vice president of a Muslim Brotherhood-created group that in 2004 issued a fatwa urging “jihad” against U.S. troops in Iraq and supported the Palestinians’ Second Intifada against Israel.

Then there’s Tim Ryan, unsuccessful challenger to Nancy Pelosi, declaring that the next Democratic National Committee chair has to treat the job as a full-time job, a fairly commonsense perspective that would either eliminate Ellison as an option or require him to resign from the House.

Ellison is also sure to face questions about his younger years as a member of the Nation of Islam and defender of Louis Farrakhan for a decade. Ellison renounced his membership in 2006. Ellison’s imam, Makram El-Amin, is also a former member of the Nation of Islam. El-Amin’s father was a minister in the Nation of Islam and a bodyguard for Elijah Mohammad, the founder.

What America Could Purchase With That Money, ‘Instead of a Recount’

It’s a neat rhetorical trick. Whenever Republicans want to do something, the Democrats claim the expense will be unreasonable, and the money would be better spent no any one of many other noble causes instead. You’ve heard it before: “For the cost of the Benghazi investigation, America could have fed X number of malnourished children…” etcetera.

Strangely, they never ask how many hot meals, medical treatments, or homes could be built with the money spent on presidential vacations, U.S. government lawsuits against the Little Sisters of the Poor, lawsuits against state governments for passing voter ID laws, or Healthcare.gov.

Last night, a few like-minded friends and I started the hashtag #insteadofarecount, using the same rhetorical method against the giant wasteful exercise in denial going on in three states. If Jill Stein had simply conceded she was running a giant scam and taken the money and run, you almost could respect the sheer shameless deviousness and greed. But no, they’re really going through with this, and Wisconsin will need $3.5 million. Michigan’s localities and state government will need another $4 million.

Just think, instead of being wasted on a recount that won’t change anything, that money could have helped the victims of the Tennessee fires, gifts under the tree for needy families this year, helped veterans get the health care they need when the VA leaves them waiting, gone towards researching a cure for any one of the world’s horrible diseases…

This and That…

Senate Republicans would like to reintroduce you to their 2014 class, as they’re just a month away from not being the rookies anymore: Steve Daines taking selfies with U.S. Capitol Police officers, Joni Ernst running, Ben Sasse balancing on a skateboard on the phone, Bill Cassidy doing television interviews in his jeans, Thom Tillis doing push-ups, Cory Gardner playing with a Millennium Falcon drone, David Purdue tossing old reports in the recycling bin, Dan Sullivan doing pull-ups, and others.

The editors point out that the incoming Trump administration’s deal with air conditioning manufacturer Carrier is fantastic optics and not particularly good policy:

Although it is a very good deal if it is your job being saved, it does not look like such a good deal if you pay the taxes that are making the deal happen. But nobody ever takes into account the poor taxpayer, whose resources are treated as though they were inexhaustible. This is a case of Frédéric Bastiat’s contest between the seen and the unseen: Every dollar spent subsidizing Carrier in Indiana is a dollar that could have been invested in a more productive enterprise that does not require government support, that could have put food on a family’s table or helped to fill up its retirement account. The benefits of the deal are easy to account for, but the costs are dispersed and diffused and difficult to account for, which is what makes these sorts of deals seem attractive: It is an exercise in one-sided accounting.

The Trump administration will no doubt get political juice out of the Carrier deal, whose symbolism will be particularly welcome in the Rust Belt that just delivered Trump the presidency. In the long run, though, corporatism is no substitute for a healthy overall economy and a subsequently strong labor market, which we hope the Trump White House and Congress will encourage with a new policy direction beginning in January.

 

Tim Alberta on the folly of the Democrats:

Pelosi’s comment implies that the Democratic party should only be led (and represented) by someone hailing from liberal America. It’s a convenient argument for her to make: Pelosi’s district, California’s 12th, covers the city of San Francisco and has a Cook PVI rating of D+34 — making it the seventh-most liberal district in the country. But this area isn’t representative of the nation on the whole, nor is it critical to winning 270 electoral votes. The presidency isn’t decided in San Francisco or Manhattan or other ultra-liberal enclaves in dark-blue states; it’s decided in places like Trumbull County, Ohio, which Obama won by 22 points in 2012 and Clinton lost by 6 points to Trump even as Ryan, who represents almost the entire county, carried it by 36 points.

Back in 2013, Military Times offered a detailed summary of the career of James Mattis, expected to be Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Defense. Wow. The country is probably going to love this man the way the Marines did.

ADDENDA: After a long absence and travels, the pop culture podcast returns, with a lament of how the entire week after Thanksgiving has turned into some sort of giant Retail Hannukah: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, Whatever’s Left Wednesday and Stop Creating New Faux-lidays Thursday. We return to the relentless big-budget ominousness of HBO’s Westworld, mock the friendship-wrecking holiday gift ideas from Goop, the lifestyle site run by Gwyneth Paltrow — more or less the official piñata of The Jim and Mickey Show — and conclude with a detailed dissection of the unnerving theological implications of Frosty the Snowman.

Politics & Policy

Representative Keith Ellison’s Imam: Homosexuality Is ‘Not What God Intended’

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Welcome to December. Order those holiday gifts in the coming days, and give yourself some leeway with the shipping time!

Representative Keith Ellison’s Imam: Homosexuality Is ‘Not What God Intended’

BuzzFeed has decided that the world needed an expose of the religious views of the pastor of Chip and Joanna Gaines, host of the Fixer Upper series on HGTV. And because the editorial team at Buzzfeed deems those mainstream traditional Christian views controversial, they concluded that the hosts must be hounded until they publicly express their views on the topic.

So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s House Hunters and Property Brothers? Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. Nor were emails and calls to HGTV’s PR department.

If this social-media-mob-stirring, guilt-by-association, drive-out-the-heretics philosophy is how the game is going to be played now… I’d like the folks at BuzzFeed to turn their attention to Imam Makram El-Amin, leader of Masjid Al-Nur mosque in Minneapolis.

Choudhury’s thoughts about creating safe spaces for LGBTQ members aren’t welcomed by all Muslims, especially religious leaders. Munhazim says mosques in Minnesota don’t accept openly gay people and he’s been kicked out of mosques in the past. Imams say they take issue with those promoting homosexuality.

“It’s not within our paradigm, really, to change the word of God,” said Imam Makram El-Amin, leader of Masjid Al-Nur in Minneapolis.

“Our religion is clear about this matter. It’s not a lifestyle that we accept as being part of the natural way of things for human beings. When it comes to that, that’s my position, and that’s Islam’s position. And this incident as tragic and terrible as it is that does not change that,” he said.

El-Amin was one of several local religious leaders who came out after the shooting to say they stand in solidarity with LGBTQ members. But that doesn’t mean it’s an endorsement.

“We know that there are certain things that come up to the level of human rights that supersede even the differences that we have,” he said.

Lest you think that was a one-time comment from the imam…

The Qur’an is “pretty explicit in the fact that it is saying that this is not a lifestyle, or life choice, that is recognized as legitimate for Muslims,” said Imam Makram El-Amin of Minneapolis’s Masjid An-Nur. “It is not recognized as being what God intended for humans in terms of their relationships with one another.”

You know who worships at the Masjid Al-Nur in Minneapolis, right? Congressman Keith Ellison, now considered a leading candidate to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And from news accounts, the two men are pretty close: “Imam El-Amin has counseled Ellison on religious issues and accompanied him on international trade trips.”

For what it’s worth, Congressman Ellison supports gay marriage and gays serving in the military. No word on whether he’s ever thought of homosexuality as “what God intended for humans in terms of their relationships.”

Now, from where I sit, everybody’s free to think whatever the heck they want about homosexuality, and everybody deserves equal protection under the law. There’s no point or good purpose served by haranguing Chip and Joanna Gaines about their pastor’s views, or any average Catholic about the Pope’s views, or Ellison about his imam’s views. There’s a strong argument to be made that trying to stir up furious public outcry over someone’s views about God and His teachings comes uncomfortably close to religious bigotry and discrimination.

But if we’re going to pick out some little-known Texas pastor and turn him into public enemy No. 1 over his traditional religious views on homosexuality, it doesn’t seem unfair to apply the same standard to other figures advising elected officials who make the country’s laws. In other words, BuzzFeed chose to take this tool out of the shed; they can’t complain when someone else starts using it.

Was it just eight years ago we were assured that the controversial and incendiary ranting and raving of Jeremiah Wright had absolutely no influence on the thinking of then-senator Barack Obama?

The Always-Convenient Gerrymandering Excuse

On Twitter, radio host and periodic CNN guest Roland Martin insists gerrymandering is why Democrats “are missing in the deep south.” (I would describe his views in more detail, but he’s blocked me.)

Gerrymandering, which involves redrawing U.S. House district lines to maximize partisan advantage, doesn’t really explain why there are so few Democratic senators and governors in the South. Florida has one Democratic senator and Virginia has two. There’s a Democratic governor in Louisiana and Virginia, and they appear to have narrowly won the North Carolina race this year. At the presidential level, Obama won Virginia and Florida twice and narrowly won North Carolina in 2008.

If gerrymandering was the primary reason for the GOP advantage, you would think Democrats would be able to win the occasional statewide race in places like Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, or Texas. Last year, Democrats held just one statewide office in the ten states below a line from Oklahoma to South Carolina: the Mississippi Attorney General’s office.

Blaming gerrymandering helps Democrats believe that their problems aren’t really their own fault, and that the elections are… well, “rigged.”

 

There’s a report that the Trump team has narrowed the options for Secretary of Veterans Affairs to former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown (R.) and Pete Hegseth, an Army veteran and former CEO of Concerned Veterans for America. There’s also a report from NBC News that Sarah Palin is in the mix.

Like Dan McLaughlin, I think overhauling and fixing the VA is one of the most important litmus tests for a successful Trump presidency. This was perhaps Obama’s most shameful, unforgivable failure, the colossal foul-up that generated the most bipartisan cries of outrage. Obama talked a good game on the campaign trail about a national commitment to taking care of our veterans, and then he and Eric Shinseki obliviously acted like everything was fine as problems grew worse. If Trump fixes this, and there’s broad satisfaction among veterans with the speed and quality of care, he will have gone a long way towards making America great again.

Brown and Palin are well-known. Hegseth is less-well-known, but there probably aren’t too many people who have thought longer or more deeply about how to give veterans better care. He’s already laid out a detailed, extensive, 100-page plan, working with experts like Senator Bill Frist, Representative Jim Marshall, and the king of all health-care policy wonks, Avik Roy.

No doubt Palin cares, but she brings the circus with her everywhere she goes. Brown would be a solid choice. But Hegseth would be bold — perhaps even revolutionary. It might be going a bit too far to declare that if Hegseth can’t fix the VA, it can’t be fixed. But he would probably be antimatter to the department’s complacency.  

ADDENDA: Our friends at National Review Institute are seeking applications for (paid!) interns at their NYC offices.

The suits at NR are nudging us to ask for money again.

Politics & Policy

Let’s Not Jinx It, But This Incoming Cabinet Looks Pretty Darn Good So Far

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Let’s Not Jinx It, But This Incoming Cabinet Looks Pretty Darn Good So Far

Let’s take a look at this Trump administration cabinet so far:

Attorney General: Senator Jeff Sessions.

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Representative Tom Price.

Secretary of Transportation: Former secretary of labor Elaine Chao.

Secretary of Education: Philanthropist Betsy DeVos.

Ambassador to the United Nations: Governor Nikki Haley.

White House Chief of Staff: RNC chair Reince Priebus.

National Security Adviser: Former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn.

CIA Director: Representative Mike Pompeo.

Treasury Secretary: Banker Steven Mnunchin.

Secretary of Commerce: Financier Wilbur Ross.

Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Indiana health-policy consultant Seema Verma.

We may quibble with a few here and there, but overall it’s a really good group, particularly considering the perceived limited circle of connections and talent around Trump during the campaign. By and large, this is a pretty darn conservative cabinet, and one that’s sufficiently experienced, professional, knowledgeable, and prepared for the massive tasks before them. In fact, if any of the other 16 Republican presidential candidates had won, it’s easy to picture some of these same names appearing in those alternative Republican cabinets.

What’s more, there’s still quite a bit of experienced managerial and legislative talent walking through the lobby of Trump Tower these days: Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Rick Perry, retired general James Mattis, Representative Marsha Blackburn, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin.

Perhaps most surprising is that some of the figures most loyal and visible during the campaign haven’t been named to any cabinet positions yet: Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Chris Christie. (There’s the rumor, not yet officially announced, that Ben Carson will run the Department of Housing and Urban Development.)

During the campaign, quite a few conservatives uncomfortable with Trump noted that they would feel better if Mike Pence was the guy really handling the details. We might be getting something akin to that scenario:

Trump’s choices so far have reflected Pence’s politics — potentially proving helpful on Capitol Hill, where the Indiana governor and former House Republican leader has long been expected to help Trump most. Pence’s devotion to conservative principles — and his relationships with powerful groups, including the Heritage Foundation — have allowed him to help Trump navigate a Washington terrain that is unfamiliar to the billionaire business mogul who just ran his first campaign for any office.

A top Pence aide said Tuesday that Trump and Pence consult on all Cabinet picks — Pence even got a close friend, Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) into the mix for Treasury secretary, though that nod ultimately went to Steven Mnuchin — and that they communicate throughout the transition.

As for the relationship, the aide said they can look like something of an “odd couple” — but the balancing works. Pence, the aide said, was the only person who would have had the discipline to make it through a gauntlet like that campaign and not lose faith.

Do you recall the Obama administration’s “stray voltage” theory? The gist was, “the president purposefully overstates his case knowing that it will create controversy… Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness.” Part of it was a cynical calculation to let an argument about a presidential statement ensure a topic stayed front and center in the public’s mind; there’s also the side effect of ensuring that a brouhaha about a presidential statement overshadowed actual policy decisions – decisions that may be more consequential, but are less dramatic and interesting to the news media.

Almost like, say, a president-elect declaring he wants to strip away the citizenship of those burning the flag.

If the incoming Trump administration really is using a variation of the “stray voltage” approach, and Democrats really have an uncontrollable impulse to focus on the controversial statement du jour, the Trump administration could end up being stunningly effective in policymaking. A lot of seemingly dry and boring regulations can be repealed, executive orders withdrawn, rewritten, and issued, legislation passed by GOP majorities in Congress and signed, all while the political world froths at the mouth about the president’s latest Tweet or denunciation of the media, or theater performers, or anything else that comes to mind.

You can enact sweeping, dramatic changes to Americans’ lives under the radar. As our friends at the Weekly Standard noted, the charter school movement grew enormously over the past 25 years, in large part because it wasn’t a big, Washington-focused political battle. Today, “43 states have charter-school laws, and approximately 3 million kids attend almost 7,000 charters across the country.” This happened without any giant federal legislation or heated governmental clashes in the national spotlight.

Could this really happen? Could the next four (eight?) years really turn out to be a golden era for conservative policy?

KSM: Hey, How Was I Supposed to Know George W. Bush Was a Cowboy?

A stunning anecdote that suggests President George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks was exactly what was needed at that time, and saved countless lives:

James E. Mitchell knows.

In his gripping new memoir, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” Mitchell describes the day he was questioning Khalid Sheik Mohammed, when the 9/11 mastermind announced he had something important to say. “KSM then launched into a gory and detailed description of how he beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl,” Mitchell writes. Up to that moment, the CIA did not know KSM had personally carried out the murder. When asked whether it was “hard to do” (meaning emotionally difficult), KSM misunderstood the question. “Oh, no, no problem,” KSM said, “I had very sharp knives. Just like slaughtering sheep.”

To confirm his story, the CIA had KSM reenact the beheading so that it could compare the features of his hands and forearms to those in the video of Pearl’s murder. “Throughout the reenactment, KSM smiled and mugged for the cameras. Sometimes he preened,” Mitchell writes. When informed that the CIA had confirmed that he was telling the truth, KSM smiled…

But perhaps the most riveting part of the book is what KSM told Mitchell about what inspired al-Qaeda to attack the United States — and the U.S. response he expected. Today, some on both the left and the right argue that al-Qaeda wanted to draw us into a quagmire in Afghanistan — and now the Islamic State wants to do the same in Iraq and Syria. KSM said this is dead wrong. Far from trying to draw us in, KSM said that al-Qaeda expected the United States to respond to 9/11 as we had the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut — when, KSM told Mitchell, the United States “turned tail and ran.” He also said he thought we would treat 9/11 as a law enforcement matter, just as we had the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole in Yemen — arresting some operatives and firing a few missiles into empty tents, but otherwise leaving him free to plan the next attack.

“Then he looked at me and said, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy George Bush would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’” Mitchell writes. “KSM explained that if the United States had treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.” He was not able to do so because al-Qaeda was stunned “by the ferocity and swiftness of George W. Bush’s response.”

But KSM said something else that was prophetic. In the end, he told Mitchell, “We will win because Americans don’t realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.”

Leftist Activists Furiously Attempt to Steal ‘the Stupid Party’ Mantle from GOP

What I wrote at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday:

The big question in the coming days and weeks will be whether anti-Trump protesters have the self-control and self-awareness to realize that burning any American flags will play directly into Trump’s hands. As Charles pointed out, a ban on flag-burning is extremely popular, and most Americans instinctively detest the sight of the flag being burned. That’s the sort of provocation that raging anti-American mobs in foreign countries embrace. Of course, it’s likely that the most passionate – some would say unhinged – activists opposed to Trump are more interested in their own emotional catharsis than persuading the public about policy decisions.

Regardless of how they would justify their incendiary actions, any flag-burning anti-Trump protesters might as well hold up signs saying “we hate America,” because it will have the same effect on public opinion.

News from Reuters, 10 p.m. Tuesday:

A small group of hard-left activists burned foot-long U.S. flags outside the Trump International Hotel in New York on Tuesday, in an angry response to a tweet by President-elect Donald Trump that flag-burners should face legal consequences.

These people are stupid. I mean, really, really stupid.

ADDENDA: David French with an important observation: “We don’t have as many terrorist immigrants from Indonesia, India, or Malaysia as we do from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, or from the conflict zones in the Middle East. It’s much less risky to bring into the country a cardiologist from Jakarta than a refugee from Kandahar.”

Politics & Policy

The Victim Mentality Kills

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The Victim Mentality Kills

Take a good look at the Facebook post of the Ohio State University attacker.

Sure, there’s plenty of that familiar jihadist rhetoric. “America, stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah. We are not weak… By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday.”

But what comes through most is this whining sense of victimhood, that he’s forced to commit these atrocious, barbaric attacks on innocent people out of a righteous sense of self-defense to protect his feelings.

“I am sick and tired of seeing my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters being killed and tortured EVERYWHERE. Seeing my fellow Muslims being tortured, raped and killed in Burma led to a boiling point.”

See, Muslims aren’t being killed and tortured everywhere. It would be nice if someone close to him had told him that, and if fewer people helped fuel that rage-inducing falsehood. If he ever bothered to read a book or the news about places like Syria and Iraq, he would have learned that Muslims are mostly being killed and tortured by fellow Muslims. Who does he think are the majority of ISIS victims? Who does he think are blowing up mosques from Iraq to Yemen? Who does he think blew up those Muslims in the hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, or the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, or set off the car bombs in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, or the minivan filled with explosives in central Baghdad? It’s not Westerners! You don’t see American communities churning out waves and waves of gleeful suicide bombers!

Burma? Burma? If you’re so mad about that, buy a plane ticket and go on a rampage over there. What, you think the students at OSU secretly control the levers of power in Naypyidaw? (That’s the Myanmar capital, and don’t feel bad, I had to look it up, too.)

He’s convinced he and his fellow members of his faith are victims of an aggressive, malevolent West.

He believes this while attending class at Ohio State University. Nobody’s oppressing him. No one’s imprisoning him without charges, trial, or appeal. Nobody’s trying to kill him. No one’s closing his mosque, or banning his faith. He’s got a better life with more opportunities, freedom, and material abundance than probably 90-some percent of his fellow Muslims around the world. And he still thinks he’s a victim of a malevolent America, and that everyone around him is a legitimate target for retribution.

He’s convinced that every Muslim around him privately agrees with him, but hides their true views from the non-Muslim world around them. He acknowledges that his fellow believers are carrying out “lone wolf attacks” and even taunts, “every single Muslim who disapproves of my actions is a sleeper cell, waiting for a signal. I am warning you, Oh America.”

Is this guy a jihadist? Sure. Even worse, he’s a whiny Millennial jihadist, who thinks that everything in life is so uniquely unfair to him, and that he’s unjustly victimized everywhere he goes. In an interview with the campus newspaper this summer, he said, “If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But I don’t blame them, it’s the media that put the picture in their heads.”

What, the unfair picture that any pious Muslim could be sympathetic to terrorists, a ticking time bomb, and full of murderous rage against everyone around him? Yeah, you sure showed us, pal! Allow me to float the theory that some people around this guy warily treated him like he was a nascent jihadist because he acted like a nascent jihadist.

Accounts from the scene:

Witnesses said they and dozens of others initially ran toward the car, thinking the driver might be injured in the crash. Student Armand Ghazi had heard the initial screams, so he was one of those who ran to help. But then he saw Artan – whom he described as dazed – jump from the Civic.

“He seemed like a crazed animal,” said Ghazi, a 20-year-old material-sciences engineering major from Cincinnati. “He seemed like he was determined. He seemed like he was there for one reason – to do as much damage as he could.”

Tanner Sereno, a junior studying welding engineering, also saw Artan jump from the car, swinging and slashing wildly with the knife. When another student walked to the car to help, Sereno said, “the attacker tried to grab his backpack and slash the kid from behind.”

Artan took off straight down 19th Avenue, still wielding his blade, but he didn’t get far. OSU Police Officer Alan Horujko – a 28-year-old who has been with the department since January 2015 – confronted Artan and shot and killed him there, west of College Road and near an alley, just a minute later at 9:53 a.m.

You may hear, “well, he didn’t kill anyone.” Not for lack of trying.

Of the 11 people who were hurt, two were not transported by paramedics but sought medical care on their own later.

Of five transported to Wexner, two had stab wounds, two were hit by the car and one had a laceration, Thomas said.

Two more went to OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, both hit by the car. One had orthopedic injuries and the other had a skull fracture and appeared to be in stable condition, Thomas said. At OhioHealth Grant Medical Center, two people were treated for lacerations, and another went later with injuries from the car. All are expected to survive.

It’s nice to know we can skip over the “was this workplace violence?” or “what on earth could be his true motive?” questions. One of the most maddening factors of life in the Obama era was that as soon as something like this happened, we were forced to argue that we had just seen an actual jihadist attack, instead of having to rule out every other conceivable motive.

Meet Your New Health and Human Services Secretary…

President-elect Donald Trump will nominate of Dr. Tom Price, congressman from Georgia, as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Price has written on NRO about his vision for replacing Obamacare several times.

Two big elements of his plan are purchasing insurance across state lines and tort reform.

The Empowering Patients First Act would allow the interstate purchase of insurance – a practice that is currently illegal. When companies compete across state lines, consumers have more and better options for coverage. As in all markets, this competition drives down costs and empowers families with more choices.

But a lack of competition is not the only obstacle to lowering costs. Lawsuits are another. In a recent study commissioned by Jackson Healthcare, “physicians estimate[d] the cost of defensive medicine to be in the $650 to $850 billion range, or between 26 and 35 percent of annual health care costs in the U.S.”

The practice of defensive medicine, which squanders hundreds of billions of dollars annually, is a response to an increasingly litigious society in which one in 14 physicians faces a malpractice suit every year. This creates a strong incentive to perform additional and perhaps unnecessary tests to exhaust every potential diagnosis — no matter how improbable — to buttress a defense in court. These costs are passed on to patients or to “the system.” Through creative, meaningful lawsuit-abuse reforms, our solution reduces the need for defensive medicine, resulting in lower medical bills for American families while still honoring patients’ rights.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Leader Who Will Never Go Away

This week House Democrats are expected to pick Nancy Pelosi as their leader… again.

Poor communication skills are only part of Pelosi’s problem. She’s also grown old and very rich during her time in government, slowly becoming a populist’s paranoiac fantasy before our eyes. She literally lives on “Billionaire’s Row” in San Francisco. She was a big fan of earmarks, and has been accused of steering subsidies to donors and engaging in insider trading. And voters know it, too. She’s now such an effective stand-in for out-of-control, big-spending, out-of-touch progressivism that the National Republican Congressional Committee uses her in swing-district television ads every cycle.

Which brings us back to the question at hand: Why are House Democrats keeping Pelosi in power?

In some ways, she is benefiting from her own incompetence; a smaller, more liberal House caucus is more amenable to her staying in place than a larger, more ideologically diverse one would be. The sizable Democratic majority that made her the first female Speaker of the House was built with Blue Dog Democrats such as Heath Shuler, Jason Altmire, and Brad Ellsworth, who periodically deviated from the party line on guns and abortion. Those moderate voices are gone now, wiped out in a succession of Republican waves, and the result is a more homogenous caucus with greater ideological affinity for Pelosi.

ADDENDA: Lee Habib, on Castro’s real legacy:

[Armando] Valladares would spend time in different prison camps for the next 22 years. The first, La Cabaña, forged some of the very worst memories. “Each night, the firing squad executed scores of men in its trenches,” he told the Becket Fund, which last year honored him with its Canterbury Prize, given annually to a person who embodies an unfailing commitment to religious freedom. “We could hear each phase of the executions, and during this time, these young men — patriots — would die shouting ‘Long live Christ, the King. Down with Communism!’ And then you would hear the gunshots. Every night there were shootings. Every night. Every night. Every night.”

Years passed, and the communists fixated on enrolling prisoners in reeducation programs. Valladares, still early in his sentence, was offered the chance at “political rehabilitation” but refused to comply. He was sent to an even more brutal prison, and the government ramped up its efforts to break his spirit.

“I spent eight years locked in a blackout cell, without sunlight or even artificial light. I never left. I was stuck in a cell, ten feet long, four feet wide, with a hole in the corner to take care of my bodily needs. No running water. Naked. Eight years,” Valladares recalled. “All of the torture, all of the violations of human rights, had one goal: break the prisoner’s resistance and make them accept political rehabilitation. That was their only objective.”

After nearly a decade, prison officials adjusted their terms. If Armando would simply sign a document renouncing his beliefs and embracing Communism, he could return to his family. The choice was simple: physical freedom or spiritual liberty.

“For many people, it wasn’t practical to resist. Better to sign the paper and leave,” Valladares said. “But for me, signing that paper would have been spiritual suicide.”

I suspect for some, the truth is too difficult and painful, so they cling to the narrative that’s in vogue.

Politics & Policy

Hillary Clinton 2020: Because America Hasn’t Suffered Enough

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Hillary Clinton 2020: Because America Hasn’t Suffered Enough.

Hillary Clinton declared Saturday, through her campaign, that she supported the recount process in Wisconsin started by Green Party candidate Jill Stein and would support potential recounts in two other closely contested states, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

The margin in these states is small in terms of percentage, but still pretty darn large in terms of actual votes.

In Michigan, the first count found Trump leading by 10,704 votes.

Michigan’s Board of Canvassers is scheduled to certify the state’s election results at 2 p.m. Monday. After those results are certified, Stein has until Wednesday to request a recount through the Secretary of State. If that happens, a tedious and expensive process will begin to hand count the 4,799,284 ballots cast in the presidential race in the state.

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office said Saturday it is researching how federal law affects the timeline to complete a recount, but it anticipates that a recount would have to be done before Dec. 19 when the electoral college, including the 16 people who make up Michigan’s, meets to cast its votes for president, said spokesman Fred Woodhams.

To cover the cost, Stein, as the person requesting the recount, will have to pay $125 per precinct – 6,300 in Michigan – for a cost of $787,500. 

In Wisconsin, Trump leads by 22,525 votes. In Pennsylvania, he’s ahead by 68,030 votes.

In 2011, a recount in a Wisconsin State Supreme Court race found an additional 310 votes for the Democratic challenger – with a remaining margin of 7,006 votes.

The explanation from the Clinton camp is that they don’t expect the results to be reversed – they’re just going along with Stein’s effort to reassure the public!

Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides. If Jill Stein follows through as she has promised and pursues recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan, we will take the same approach in those states as well. We do so fully aware that the number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states – Michigan – well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount. But regardless of the potential to change the outcome in any of the states, we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself.

This morning Ron Fournier, who’s been covering the Clintons since the 1980s, offers an intensely groan-inducing report: “Raising doubts about legitimacy of election, even w/out overturning result, is part of Clinton’s plans to keep her options open for 2020… Make some calls. You’ll hear the same from her confidants.”

Yes, we may not be as finished with Hillary Rodham Clinton as we thought we were.

If you think you’re depressed about the thought of Hillary Clinton 2020, imagine how Democrats feel! If you’re any Democrat with presidential ambitions, you might end up sidelined for yet another cycle as the woman who managed to blow a presidential race with more advantages than any other candidate ever gives it one more shot! Sorry, Corey Booker, Kamala Harris, and every other rising star: the 73-year-old Clinton, who’s only won two general elections in her life against a pair of tomato can Republicans, is entitled to the nomination for one more chance against an incumbent!

You know who’s thrilled about the idea of Hillary Clinton 2020? Anyone involved with fundraising for the Clinton Foundation. They can finally tell those angry foreign governments that they might get some belated return on their investment!

As noted this weekend, the recount fundraising effort by Jill Stein is proving wildly lucrative, with more than $6.2 million now in her account for “election integrity efforts and to promote voting system reform.”

Suckers.

Keeping Perspective on the Allegations of Voter Fraud in Virginia

I’m surprised to see Virginia on the list of states Trump is complaining about, since it has fairly stringent voter ID laws. I’ve seen people declaring, “poll workers don’t check signatures or ID,” which is odd, because I’ve had to show ID and tell the worker my home address on file every time I’ve voted, whether voting early in-person absentee or on Election Day. In order to cast a ballot that counted, an illegal immigrant would have to obtain government-issued ID listing their address in the state.

Even if you’re a mischief-minded voter registration group who manages to register someone under a false name, you would then have to obtain false photo identification under that name for that person. Shortly before Election Day, one man was charged with filing false documents:

A Virginia man was also charged with submitting falsified forms while working for a voter-registration campaign, state prosecutors said.

Vafalay Massaquoi, 30, was arraigned on two felony counts of forging a public record and two counts of voter registration fraud.

“There is no allegation that any illegal vote was actually cast in this case,” said Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter. “Furthermore, since the fraudulent applications involved fictitious people, had the fraud not been uncovered, the risk of actual fraudulent votes being cast was low.”

In late September, the Virginia Voters Alliance found 1,046 noncitizens registered to vote in eight counties. It’s worth noting that most of those eight counties are in the top 20 in terms of population. Topping the list was Prince William County with 433; that county is the third most-populated in the state, with about 430,000 residents.

Not every county had gobs and gobs of people illegally registered to vote. The City of Fairfax (a separate entity from Fairfax County) has about 23,000 residents; the VVA report found 20 nonresident aliens registered to vote. Roanoke County, home to 92,000 people, found 22; Hanover County, home to about 100,000 people, found 28. This is the sort of thing that responsible elections officials and prosecutors should examine closely, but those of us concerned about voter fraud have a responsibility to not overhype this, lest we sound like Chicken Little.

For perspective, Hillary Clinton’s margin in Virginia was 212,030 votes.  Did some illegal immigrants or noncitizens cast ballots in Virginia in 2016? Considering the number of people registered to vote who are not eligible to vote, it is likely. Did they do it in numbers large enough to swing a race, even at the local level? We’re a long way from proving that. In case you’re wondering, the closest race on the ballot in Virginia in 2016 was a special election for the House of Delegates’s 93rd district, which includes parts of Williamsburg, James City, and Newport News, where Democrat Michael Mullin beat Republican Heather Cordasco by 2,783 votes.

What Your Loved Ones Need to Unwrap This Holiday Season

It’s Cyber Monday, which is what you turn to after sustaining serious injuries while shopping on Black-and-Blue Friday. Start with National Review caps and t-shirts, Jay Nordlinger’s latest books, treasuries for children, Roman Genn’s original art from the magazine.

This is the time of year where I ingratiate myself with my coworkers by touting their books. My colleagues are a creative bunch, with works stretching far beyond the realm of daily politics.

There must be someone on your gift list who needs one of Jonah Goldberg’s books, Liberal Fascism and The Tyranny of Clichés. Or Kevin Williamson’s books. The boss’s books, from Abe Lincoln to a spy thriller to the Clinton legacy. Or Victor Davis Hanson’s works of history. Or Charles C.W. Cooke’s The Conservatarian Manifesto. Or Yuval Levin’s varied works. Or Richard Brookheiser’s biographies of the Founding Fathers. Or Andrew McCarthy’s works on the jihad and law enforcement. Or John J. Miller’s fiction and true tales stranger than fiction. Or James Lileks’ hilarious strolls through the awful choices of food, fashion, interior décor that most would prefer to erase from history. Or Kathryn Jean Lopez’s How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot Button Issues. Or David French’s Rise of ISIS.

Over on Amazon, you can find Heavy Lifting, The Weed Agency, and 2006’s Voting to Kill (available for resale for a penny, hard to beat that price).

ADDENDA: The editors, summing up the life of Fidel Castro, remind us that he “banned Christmas from 1969 to 1998.”

Here’s some footage of Fidel Castro tripping and falling flat on his face, to start the week off just right:

Nikki Haley Is Named Ambassador to the United Nations

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Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! The next new Morning Jolt will appear Monday, November 28. If you’re going to be driving on Interstate 95 North this afternoon, please stay out of the left lane.

Meet Your New Ambassador to the United Nations, America!

There you have it, magnanimous President-elect Trump:

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the first woman tapped for a top-level administration post during his transition to the White House.

Two sources familiar with the decision, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss it by name ahead of the announcement, also said that the ambassadorship will be a Cabinet-level position.

You aren’t misremembering; she was indeed a Trump critic during the primary. She initially preferred Marco Rubio and when he departed the race, she switched to Ted Cruz. And in several public remarks, Haley went right up to the line of suggesting that Trump’s rhetoric was dangerous:

Haley said divisive rhetoric — like that seen in the presidential campaign — drives violence like the Charleston mass slaying.

Hearing that rhetoric from Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, was “the reason I was vocal about it. I know what that rhetoric can do. I saw it happen” in Charleston, she said.

“Bad things can happen when you have rhetoric like that, and people can get hurt.”

Haley said she endorsed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the GOP presidential contest “to show that that’s not all of who we are.”

“I don’t think that people who support Trump are haters. I don’t think that people who support Trump are racists. I think that’s a different kind of anger in that they’re upset with Washington, D.C. They’re upset that nothing got done. And that’s what this is about.”

But, Haley added, “the way that he (Trump) communicates that, I wish were different.”

Isaac Bailey, longtime political columnist in South Carolina, wrote on CNN’s website how Haley won him over — and how those scoffing that she doesn’t fit in the world of international diplomacy shouldn’t be so certain she can’t adapt to a new role:

It’s clear to me that those who dismiss Haley are making a serious mistake. I was there when Haley came through Myrtle Beach during her first run for governor and was being mocked then, too, by experts who said she had no shot in a state who had only elected white men for its highest office. Anyone paying attention to how she handled questions during press conferences way back then could see how clear it was that she was a force to be reckoned with. She was then dismissed again during her first term as she traded elbows with a Republican-controlled General Assembly not always allied with her — until she got the job done, again and again.

If you’re a Haley fan, there are a few lingering questions. How smoothly will she actually work with Trump and the not-yet-named secretary of state? How much will the public even see her in this role?

Here are the last nine non-acting U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations: Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Zalmay Khalizad, John Bolton, John Danforth, John Negroponte (the era of Johns), Richard Holbrooke, Bill Richardson, Madeline Albright . . . if you go further back, you can find some real stars and voices of influence, long after their tenure ended: Jeane Kirkpatrick, Andrew Young, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, George H. W. Bush. But you also see names largely forgotten to history. Is this a stepping stone for Haley, or the equivalent of putting her up on a shelf to get her out of the way?

Meet Your Next Governor, South Carolina!

A cabinet pick sets off a lot of falling dominoes. Pretty soon, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley will head to Capitol Hill for some — presumably smooth — confirmation hearings, and depart the governor’s mansion in Columbia. That would mean Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster would become governor.

The 69-year-old lieutenant governor has a famous name in South Carolina politics; his father was attorney and former state representative John Gregg McMaster. He has pretty impeccable conservative credentials: U.S. Army JAG from 1969 to 1975, worked as a legislative assistant to Senator Strom Thurmond from 1973 to 1974, worked in private practice, and in 1981 he was the first U.S. attorney appointed by President Reagan. He served in this position until 1985. After four years as U.S. attorney for South Carolina. McMaster served eight years as attorney general of South Carolina.

McMaster ran for governor in 2010, and competed with Haley in the primary, and came in third. The two campaigns never got that heated against each other, and he endorsed her after the primary. In office since then, the pair were rarely at odds until this year, when they publicly disagreed about endorsing three longtime Republican state senators.

For a while, it appeared McMaster was interviewing for a role in the Trump administration as well:

McMaster said he has been speaking with the Trump transition team about becoming attorney general. McMaster was a U.S. attorney and the elected state attorney general before becoming lieutenant governor.

With the announcement of Sessions, McMaster won’t be getting that role. If McMaster also leaves his position to work in some other role in the Trump administration, there would be genuine uncertainty about who would become the next governor:

Senate President Pro Tempore Leatherman would rise to the governor’s office. If Leatherman took the post, there would be a Senate election for a new president pro tempore, who then would rise to lieutenant governor.

However, many say Leatherman holds more power now than he would as governor so he could resign to avoid becoming governor. That means senators would elect a new pro tempore to become governor and another to become lieutenant governor.

If McMaster stays, the next big question is who becomes the next lieutenant governor, a position that doesn’t seem to be all that appealing, unless you see it as a stepping stone to being governor:

Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman is next in line, but the 85-year-old Florence Republican could step down from the leadership role to remain the state’s most powerful lawmaker as chair of several finance panels.

The lieutenant governor has much less influence in a state where power lies in the Legislature.

State Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, stepped down as Senate president pro tempore in 2014 to avoid becoming lieutenant governor after Glenn McConnell was hired as president of the College of Charleston. Leatherman took the Senate’s top spot after then-Sen. Yancey McGill, D-Kingstree, agreed to become lieutenant governor.

The 2018 South Carolina Republican gubernatorial primary could be a real free-for-all, with about a dozen lawmakers and public figures mentioned as possible candidates.

Oh, Hey, Refusing to Accept Election Results Is Totally Cool Now

Hey, remember this Huffington Post headline from October?

Yeah, never mind! Apparently it’s now totally fine to refuse to accept election results, and even harangue people to the point of harassment in an effort to overturn the outcome!

Though electors in several states report that they’re getting thousands of emails, letters and even telephone calls to ask them to switch their votes, they’re among the Republican Party’s most loyal members.

More than 4.5 million supporters have signed a Change.org petition advocating electors’ change of heart, but the desire is little more than a pipe dream, election experts said. Two Democratic electors in Colorado and Washington state, where Clinton won the electoral votes and electors are obligated under state law to vote for her, have launched their own movement that they’ve dubbed “Moral Electors” to achieve the same result — or more likely throw the decision to the House of Representatives as happened in 1824.

“This is a long shot. It’s a Hail Mary,” P. Bret Chiafalo of Everett, Wash., told Politico. “However, I do see situations where — when we’ve already had two or three (Republican) electors state publicly they didn’t want to vote for Trump. How many of them have real issues with Donald Trump in private?”

Where Chiafalo sees a Hail Mary play, some Trump electors consider the drama more as harassment.

“Hillary’s got a great campaign going,” said Sharon Geise, an elector from Mesa, Ariz., who estimates 8,000 emails have flooded her inbox. “It’s the same thing, pretty much. Basically: Vote for Hillary Clinton. It’s bizarre. I don’t dare answer my phone.”

How is it nobody has checked in with that Washington state elector who said he wouldn’t cast his vote for Hillary Clinton?

ADDENDA: Over on NRO’s home page, I point out that you don’t need the New York Times, or Vox, or The Atlantic, or anyone else to give you talking points to deal with your relatives at the Thanksgiving dinner table. You just need to appreciate them for who they are and what they bring into your life, warts and all.

I wish you a happy Thanksgiving, a safe and altercation-free Black Friday, a prosperous Small Business Saturday, and a good Whatever It Is We Call Sunday.

Politics & Policy

The Press Suddenly Realizes a President’s Life Is Opulent and Expensive

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The Press Suddenly Realizes a President’s Life Is Opulent and Expensive

Wait, now there are complaints about the expenses surrounding the security bubble around the president-elect?

Protecting President-elect Donald Trump and his family is costing New York City more than $1 million a day, according to three city officials.

Adding to the expense is the cost of police assigned to Trump’s adult children and his grandchildren, who are also receiving Secret Service protection, John Miller, NYPD’s deputy commissioner of intelligence & counterterrorism, told WCBS Monday. All of them live in the city, and all are entitled to receive Secret Service protection.

“The number one imperative here is safety and security. We owe that to the president elect, his family and his team,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference on Friday. But he added the city will need help with those costs, particularly police overtime.

“This is a very substantial undertaking. It will take substantial resources,” he said. “We will begin the conversation with the federal government shortly on reimbursement for the NYPD for some of the costs that we are incurring.”

Yes, we did go through a variation of this when Obama was elected. Except the local papers had to file a FOIA request, and the complaints from the Chicago city government seemed pretty muted.

The Chicago Police Department has spent at least $2.2 million to secure President Barack Obama’s Kenwood residence since he was elected in November, according to documents released Monday by the city.

The department will be reimbursed by the federal government for more than $1.5 million of those costs. But the expense of protecting the president’s home since his January inauguration — nearly $650,000 through the end of April — is not currently scheduled to be paid back, according to the city’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Tribune.

“There is no reimbursement mechanism currently in place for this [post-inauguration] money,” the city’s Office of Legal Affairs said in the written response.

According to the city, the cost to secure Obama’s home between Nov. 5, 2008, and Jan. 18 was more than $1.5 million — most of which the city “expects” to be reimbursed because of his status as president-elect.

Everything’s more expensive in New York!

Meanwhile, Jack Shafer calls for abolishing the office and small budget allotted for the First Lady

Now is as good a time as any to eliminate the ceremonial office of the “first lady,” that abhorrent honorific we apply to the president’s wife, and encourage the first spouse to live like an ordinary citizen. All we need is for Melania to agree.

Yes, defund the ridiculously large staff that currently earns upward of $1.5 million a year serving Michelle Obama; abolish the federally funded bully pulpit from which the presidential spouses have historically advocated for healthy eating, literacy, child welfare, anti-drug programs, mental health issues and beautification of highways. The president’s spouse isn’t a specimen of American royalty. By giving her a federal budget and nonstop press coverage, we endorse a pernicious kind of neo-nepotism that says, pay special attention to the person not because she’s earned it or is inherently worthy of our notice but because of who she’s related to by marriage.

Shafer insists he would say the same for a Democrat, and Bill Clinton’s post-presidential pension and staff would make the First Husband’s office and budget even more unnecessary.

He concludes, “The office of the first spouse is a rancid barrel of presidential pork that has outlived its usefulness.” We can have that argument, but to resuscitate an old phrase from liberal blogs during the Bush years, I question the timing. 

Virginia’s Gubernatorial Candidates Are Awakening From Their Slumber

Yes, it’s far too early to think about another election. But a year from now, here in Virginia, the reign of Terry McAwful—er, McAuliffe—will come to an end, and voters will select a new governor. Ed Gillespie, the man who came within a percentage point or two of an epic upset in the 2014 Senate race, appears to be the GOP frontrunner and the early favorite in the general election. He made his bid official Monday.

One of Gillespie’s primary rivals, Corey Stewart, thinks he’ll gain traction by arguing that Gillespie wasn’t sufficiently supportive of Trump during this past general election: “Ed Gillespie treated Donald Trump like he had typhoid. He would not appear with him on stage. He would not mention his name unless he was condemning him.”

That’s not quite accurate; it is safe to say Gillespie’s support of Trump was minimal and pro forma.

•A May 4 article in The Washington Post that noted Gillespie issued a one-sentence, prepared statement of support for Trump. The statement said, “Republican voters have nominated Donald Trump for president, and I will vote for him against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in an election that will not only affect control of the White House but the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation or more.”

•A May podcast interview with Bearing Drift, a conservative blog. Gillespie said, “It’s very important that we help Donald Trump carry the commonwealth against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders because we play a critically important role in the Electoral College.”

•An Aug. 23 interview with the Loudoun Times that was recorded by Gillespie’s campaign. “I’m voting for Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton,” Gillespie said. “That is our choice in this election. It’s not just about the control of the executive branch for the next four years, but control of the judiciary for the next 30 years.”

Stewart was chairman of the Trump campaign’s efforts in Virginia, until he led a protest outside the Republican National Committee offices, contending that “establishment pukes” were not doing enough to help Trump win. The Trump campaign fired him, contending his actions were “not helpful.”

Back in 2014, Gillespie taped some short videos with me, discussing his agenda in that race and then a funnier chat about the personal knickknacks in his office, including his daughter’s letter to George W. Bush in 2000 and a windbreaker from his days as a parking lot attendant in the U.S. Senate in college.

Wait, Maybe We Won’t ‘Lock Her Up’ After All?

Maybe Mika Brzezinski’s sources are completely wrong. But considering how we seemed to be on the verge of finding quid pro quo arrangements between the Clintons, their foundation, and foreign governments, this isn’t a reassuring thing to hear from the young administration:

Morning Joe is reporting today that president-elect Donald Trump will not be pursuing any criminal investigations into his former political rival Hillary Clinton.

The report, first announced by Mika Brzezinski, comes just a week after a 60 Minutes interview where Trump indicated that he may not launch a full investigation into the Democratic nominee. “I’m gonna think about it,” he said at the time to Leslie Stahl. “I don’t wanna hurt them. They’re good people,” he continued of the Clintons.

Tuesday’s report from Brzezinski said that Trump feels as if Clinton has “been through enough.”

Brzezinski noted that Trump will refrain from seeking further action against Clinton for her use of a private email server, as well as any investigation into the controversial Clinton Foundation. The report comes from a source familiar with Trump’s plans, according to the MSNBC morning show.

Isn’t this the sort of thing that career law-enforcement professionals should decide?

ADDENDA: Coming later this week: Why you should just love your family and not even bring up politics this Thanksgiving. On the Wednesday Three Martini Lunch, Greg and I will say what we’re thankful for in this past year. On the Friday edition, we reveal our holiday gift shopping lists for the biggest names in politics. I’m thinking of getting the Clintons one-way tickets to a non-extradition country. 

Politics & Policy

The Joy of Quiet, Busy, Out-of-the-Spotlight Trump

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The Joy of Quiet, Busy, Out-of-the-Spotlight Trump

One of the most surprising, pleasant, and reassuring parts of the infant Trump presidency is how little we’re seeing the President-elect. That sounds like a joke at his expense, but I mean it as a genuine compliment. The parade of GOP officials and prominent figures hustling through the Trump Tower lobby indicates that Trump and his top advisers are actually hard at work on the transition. They’re taking the gargantuan, complicated task before them seriously. No victory lap, no early reveling in the role of celebrity-in-chief, just the occasional tweet. So far, this looks like a nascent administration that intends to govern, and not just continue the era of the Permanent Campaign.

Thanksgiving approaches, and with it the memory of Thanksgiving 2009, when President Obama completed his second straight year of full-spectrum media dominance, popping up relentlessly in every corner of the news and pop culture. It was about midway through the early NFL game — the Detroit Lions were undoubtedly losing to somebody — when television screens across the country showed us this

… slow-motion video of President Obama intercepting Drew Brees’ pass to a kid on the White House lawn. (In some ways, this was a perfect unintended metaphor.) Yes, yes, Thanksgiving is a time of generosity, and United We Serve is this wonderful idea, kids should run around and get exercise, yadda yadda yadda. But once again, the visage of Dear Leader just had to pop up in an apolitical setting to remind us hapless unwashed to be good to each other.  Any grumbling from those of us not so enamored with the Munificent Sun-King were rebuked with the accusation that we inaccurately saw politics in a strictly apolitical message. (Strictly apolitical messages don’t require political figures. Unless you think New Jersey’s “Stronger than the Storm” tourism ads campaign absolutely, positively required Gov. Chris Christie, then running for reelection, and his family to be the ones saying into the camera, “stronger than the storm.”)

Trump is already proving he’s capable of surprises. His willingness to meet, and perhaps hire, formerly critical voices like Mitt Romney, Nikki Haley, and Rick Perry suggests a magnanimous spirit and mission-focused philosophy that was almost entirely missing from his persona on the campaign trail. If you had said to me months ago, that a Trump presidency would have Romney, Haley, and Perry in top positions, perhaps Ted Cruz on the Supreme Court, Bobby Jindal in the mix for Health and Human Services, Michelle Rhee as Secretary of Education, David Petraeus coming back into government service, perhaps John Bolton as Secretary of State, James N. Mattis as Secretary of Defense… and Reince Preibus keeping the plates spinning and running the daily schedule… man, that’s a lot more appealing than just the man himself.

On Second Thought, Maybe the 2016 Polls Weren’t That Far Off After All

My last message to you, the Wednesday morning after the election, asked how the polls could be so wrong. After further review, one of the ironies of this shocking election was that the polls weren’t really wildly off at all.

The final RealClearPolitics average of national polls showed Hillary Clinton ahead by 3.3 points. She led by 4 points in the surveys commissioned by The Economist, ABC News/Washington Post, Gravis, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, and CBS News. Hillary’s currently ahead by… 1.3 percent in the national popular vote. When all is said and done, and those last absentees in California get added up, it could be close to 2 percent. Not that far off!

The final RCP average in Pennsylvania was Clinton by 1.9 percentage points. Trump is on course to win by 1.1 percentage points. Wrong winner, but only off by 3 percentage points. One of the persistent patterns of 2016 was polls showing Hillary Clinton narrowly ahead in a close race… and in the final results, Trump was narrowly ahead in a close race.

The final RCP average in New Hampshire had Hillary Clinton head by six-tenths of a percentage point. She appears to have won with two-tenths of a percentage point!

The final RCP average in North Carolina had Trump ahead by one percentage point. He won by 3.8 points.

The final RCP average in Florida was Trump ahead by two-tenths of a percentage point. He won by 1.2 percent!

The final RCP average in Ohio was Trump ahead by 3.5 percentage points. He won by 8.5 percent—a bigger margin, but almost all of the final polls had Trump ahead here.

Michigan was one of the biggest surprises. The final RCP average in Michigan was Clinton ahead by 3.5 percentage points—but that was the smallest margin in the average for the entirety of the general election. The polls didn’t project Trump’s two-tenths of a percentage point margin of victory, but they did tell the story of late Trump momentum.

The final RCP average in Minnesota… actually, there was no RealClearPolitics average in Minnesota. Don’t blame the RCP crew; only two major public polls were conducted up there in October. There were so few public polls in the same time period that RCP didn’t even calculate one! Both showed solid Clinton leads, so her 1.5 percent margin of victory blindsided everyone.

Wisconsin is the swing state where the polls were furthest from the final results, and you would have figured after two hard-fought gubernatorial races, a hard-fought gubernatorial recall and persistent status as a presidential swing state, pollsters would have a better handle on the land of cheese. Then again, after a victory by Trump, two victories by Ron Johnson, three victories by Scott Walker, a persistent 5-3 split in favor of the GOP in the state’s Congressional delegation, and consistent GOP majorities in the state House and Senate since 2010, it seems fair to ask: Is Wisconsin now a red state?

Notes from the Post-Election Cruise…

This was a strangely happy National Review cruise. I foresaw three scenarios for the election and the trip, two of them really bad. The first would be that Hillary Clinton would win the election by a lot, and the mood on the ship would feel like 2008 and 2012, but even worse, despair and a growing fear that Republicans would never win the White House again. The second scenario would be that Clinton won narrowly, and everyone would conclude that the lack of a formal National Review endorsement cost Trump the election.

There were one or two persnickety voices among our mostly delightful cruise-goers, men who could not simply take pleasure and celebrate a victory so long as there was an opportunity to lash out at someone over past perceived sins. (Then again, maybe bitter snarling is how they celebrate.) But among the hundreds of others, the reactions ran from delighted surprise to cautious optimism, particularly driven by the rumors of cabinet picks. 

Heather Higgins contended, “the Left is an inherently condescending enterprise.” You can’t pick out your own light bulbs, fuel cells, cars, what to eat…

Andy McCarthy reminded us that imprisoned jihadist leaders are not necessarily chess pieces taken off the board, pointing out that the Blind Sheik issued a fatwa authorizing the 9/11 attacks from prison. I thought, “Dead men tell no tales… and issue no fatwas.”

Kevin D. Williamson offered a staggering statistic: About 2.5 million couples want to adopt children, and about 200,000 children are available for adoption. You would think matching the couples to the children would be easily achievable. Government bureaucracy and regulations ensure this is not the case.

Bing West does not expect Trump administration to increase the defense budget that much.

The grandmother of Daniel in Greensboro, North Carolina asked me to say “hi” in the Morning Jolt. So, “Hi, Daniel!”

ADDENDA: I see while I was away, the Washington Post ran a column about the “rude, racist, sexist or plain ridiculous attacks” against Michelle Obama, and pointed to me calling her “strikingly ungracious.” No context to when and where and why I wrote that, and the article’s link to my piece from February 2008 conveniently doesn’t work.

My comment was in response to her declaring during her husband’s campaign that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.” There does not seem to be a working link back to my old Campaign Spot blog, but this is the offending passage:

Michelle Obama, who suggests that her husband’s success is her first reason to feel pride in America in her adult life. Others have addressed the numerous and obvious reasons for pride that easily fit the time period of “her adult life.”

America hasn’t been good to her? What, opportunities to go to Princeton, Harvard Law, working for top-shelf law firms and hospitals, sitting on the board of directors for a major Wal-Mart supplier — that’s not enough?

Kaus wonders if it’s an expression of jealousy of her husband. Either way, it’s a strikingly ungracious remark, and she’s certain to be asked about it in the near future.

Why, I was practically frothing at the mouth, wasn’t I?

Politics & Policy

Congratulations, President-Elect Donald Trump

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Congratulations, President-Elect Donald Trump.

Let’s begin with the obvious: I did not see that coming. Heading into last night, I said yes, Trump had a path, but he needed the ball to bounce his way in a bunch of states simultaneously, and the ball never bounces the right way for a Republican candidate in state after state. That assessment was completely wrong; Trump was in much stronger position than he seemed all along.

Everything I wrote yesterday about the polls generally being right most of the time is now inoperative. Pollsters have had off years before, but there has never been a colossal ten-car pile-up like this in the polling industry. The entire industry needs to scrap everything they know about the electorate and start over. One of the giant questions they must address is whether we now live in an atmosphere of such far-reaching and stifling social disapproval of politically incorrect positions that a significant portion of respondents no longer feel comfortable expressing their actual beliefs to a pollster.

There really was a silent majority.

It turns out the Republican National Committee really can run a get-out-the-vote operation. Reince Priebus, who appeared to be on the verge of being the chairman who presided over the Republicans’ worst defeats ever, is the man who ran the shop as the party enjoyed one of its biggest and most consequential comeback in history.

Hillary Clinton’s multitudes of state offices didn’t amount to a hill of beans. Clearly, her team was as blindsided as anyone else. All those data metrics, all those surveys, all that technology… In the end, all of that didn’t help her win a race where she was the frontrunner all along. What’s more, none of that stuff gave her a clue that she was losing it. There has been a real Cult of Data built in the world of political campaigns, and I’ve genuflected a time or two to the idea that everything can be quantified, measured and calculated. Maybe gut feelings matter.

Heck, maybe crowd size is a more meaningful measurement of a candidate’s momentum than we thought. Heck, maybe yard signs are significant.

Like Jonah and Charles, I stand by my past assessment and criticism of Trump, but acknowledge he has pulled off a stunning victory, the biggest upset in American political history. He’s earned a fresh assessment, a reevaluation. He’s the president-elect now. He’s stepping into an awesome responsibility, and now all of us have to root for his ability to tackle the country’s problems and, yes, make America great again.

My friend Cam is a lot more Trump-friendly than I am. We talked before yesterday’s show and we concurred that a Trump victory would be a genuine shock to the system that might just spur changes in the right direction. All of the groups and forces allied with the Left and largely thriving in Obama’s America – Silicon Valley, the media, academia, would have to stop and look hard at the rest of the country and its problems. And they wouldn’t be able to ignore it or sneer at the rest of the country as being uneducated, unwashed, racist, sexist, backward, and destined to wither away. Identity politics turns America’s e pluribus unum into the Balkans. If you want to build a better America, you have to see everybody as part of it, not just the parts that agree with you politically.

Give Trump credit, in the wee early hours of Wednesday morning, he hit all the right notes. He was gracious to Hillary Clinton in defeat, generous and magnanimous. He offered an agenda that should appeal across the aisle:

It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.

(APPLAUSE)

For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people. . .

(LAUGHTER)

. . . I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.

Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

(APPLAUSE)

We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.

We will also finally take care of our great veterans.

Back in August, I offered the counter-intuitive theory that the Right was winning the culture wars in 2016, that the hard Left had bitten off way more than it can chew and was crumbling before a backlash: transgender bathrooms, celebrating Catilyn Jenner and policing the pronouns people use, college alumni donations down, the end of Gawker… now we can add in a giant, sweeping victory for Republicans of all stripes to the list.

The Fantastic News Down-Ballot

Whatever the flaws of Trump, he drove conservative Republicans to big wins.

Senator Pat Toomey won in Pennsylvania, a huge win for Republicans in a state that usually breaks their hearts in presidential years. Our Eliana Johnson points out how he did it:

Toomey’s was the story of most Republicans this campaign season. He needed to carry voters such as those in Luzerne County while also winning enough of the moderate, Democratic-leaning voters in the Philadelphia area to carry the state. He touted his work on bipartisan gun-control legislation and advertised the praise he had garnered for it from Obama. And he got help from Clinton and McGinty, who underperformed Obama’s 2012 campaign in the urban areas where they needed to rack up votes. While Obama won 85 percent of the vote in the majority African-American county of Philadelphia, Clinton and McGinty managed just 82.4 and 81.7 percent respectively. The drop-off proved decisive in their respective losses — and in Toomey’s victory. 

The GOP class of 2010 is largely returning intact: Marco Rubio in Florida, Mike Lee in Utah, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Rob Portman in Ohio, Roy Blunt in Missouri, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin…  Throw in Richard Burr in North Carolina – man, Democrats were so certain they were going to knock him off, for two straight cycles now! – and, depending how that final vote total comes out in New Hampshire, Republicans won just about every winnable Senate race for two straight cycles now.

There are no permanent victories in American politics, but last night will have far-reaching consequences. If the Republican advantage in midterm elections continues, two-term incumbent Toomey will look pretty good in 2022.

Republicans not only keep the Senate with at least 51 seats (probably 53 if Ayotte keeps her lead and John Kennedy wins the runoff in Louisiana as expected), they’re likely to keep control of the Senate in 2018. A lot more Democrats are up for reelection next cycle than Republicans, and these are all of the Democrats carried along by the Obama wave in 2012. Presuming the Republican-leaning states stay Republican leaning, how would you like to be a Democrat incumbent running in Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia? How about in Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin? That was once the Democrats’ Blue Wall. This is now the Republicans’ Red Wall.

As of this writing, Democrats have picked up… seven seats in the House. The GOP holds 235 seats with the votes for nine seats still being counted. If the Democrats couldn’t win the House in a year of presidential turnout like this… they’re not likely to win in 2018.

The Democratic Collapse

I wrote back in May about the seemingly-unlikely scenario of a Trump victory. Democrats are living out their nightmares this morning.

A Trump victory in November would destroy the legacies of Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

A Trump victory in November would affirm every criticism lobbed her way since she appeared on the national scene in 1992: too dishonest, too arrogant, too cold, too calculating, too out of touch, too vindictive for the American people. Democrats would suspect, with justification, that they dodged a bullet in 2008: If Clinton can’t beat Trump, how would she have fared against John McCain and Sarah Palin, even amid the economic meltdown?

If Trump wins, the recriminations against Clinton and her team will be brutal. The idea that she could be the first woman president will be seen as a mass delusion, a grand, party-wide exercise in willful denial. Democrats are now given to softly worrying that “she’s just not as good a retail politician as her husband was.” The more honest truth would come out after a November loss: Her instincts are terrible. She plays it safe with focus-grouped pabulum and offers implausible lies when people call her on it. Her record as secretary of state offered no reason for inspiration or confidence. When faced with a garish, absurd opponent who generated broad, bipartisan fear, she offered only the soggy mush of the status quo. Democrats are trying to make themselves love her now; they’ll hate her if she loses.

Now contemplate Obama’s legacy if, on January 20, 2017, he’s looking on in barely suppressed disdain as the unlikeliest of figures places his (not at all too small, he insists) hand on a Bible and declares, “I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.”

After a Trump win, Democratic recriminations about Obama would flourish as well. His presidency would have been the story of the party’s slow, steady, painful fall from the heights of power to the depths of defeat. 

In short, if Clinton fumbles this race, her defeat could leave the Democrats with nothing — no presidency, no Senate majority, a House minority that doesn’t appear likely to grow until after the 2020 redistricting at the earliest, no replacement for Scalia, and a minority of governors and seats in state legislatures. The bench and farm teams would look pretty thin; the 74-year-old Sanders, 78-year-old Jerry Brown, and the 73-year-old Joe Biden aren’t coming back in 2020 to save the party. Who would step in and lead the Democrats? Julian Castro? Andrew Cuomo?

ADDENDA: I’m off for a post-election vacation and then the National Review cruise.

Politics & Policy

When It Comes to Polls, We Need Something Between Absolute Faith and Absolute Denial

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Tomorrow, the morning after Election Day, will be the last Jim-written Morning Jolt until Monday, November 21.

When It Comes to Polls, We Need Something Between Absolute Faith and Absolute Denial

Republicans, conservatives, and all assorted political junkies need to have a discussion about polling after this election.

Yes, the polls in 2012 were off, with the average pollster underestimating Obama’s lead and largely unprepared for how effectively the Obama campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort would change the electorate. But most of the polls were off by one, two, or three percentage points.

Yes, the polls in 2014 were off, with the average pollster overestimating Senate Democratic candidates’ performance by 4 percentage points and overestimating gubernatorial Democratic candidates’ performance by 3 percentage points. But quite a few elections that year were outside that margin.

Yes, every once in a while, you get a race where the election day winner didn’t lead any poll – like Republican Larry Hogan’s victory in Maryland in 2014 and Matt Bevin’s victory in Kentucky in 2015.

Yes, sometimes you’ll get very contradictory results from different pollsters surveying the same state at the same time. In New Hampshire yesterday, Emerson released its final poll of the presidential race, finding Hillary Clinton ahead by a point. WMUR/UNH released their final poll, finding Clinton ahead by 11 points.

But by and large, polls give you a ballpark sense of how a candidate is doing and how a race is shaping up. If a candidate is down ten points going into Election Day, they’re not likely to pull off a miraculous comeback. If a candidate has a small lead in the final polls, the final result is probably going to be close.

They’re not all “rigged.” (Every once in a great while, you will find a pollster whose results are so implausible – and so impossible to duplicate through random sampling – that analysis suggests they didn’t actually do the work and fabricated or manipulated the numbers.)

We can question whether a poll’s sample is precisely what the electorate is going to look like on Election Day – how the demographics stack up in terms of age, gender, race, and yes, party affiliation. Every pollster has to make their best educated guess of what the total electorate is going to look like. But history tells us that most of the polls will be in the ballpark. And when multiple pollsters surveying at the same time find a similar lopsided result, the outcome is pretty likely. In Ohio, Rob Portman’s lead has been in double-digits in every poll since late September. That one’s pretty clear.

We cannot just hope that the pollster who’s telling us what we want to hear the most is the one who is right. When one tracking poll is consistently giving us good news and the rest are consistently giving us bad news, maybe that one tracking poll is right and everyone else is wrong… or maybe it’s just an outlier. It is irresponsible for a campaign and a party to take a leap of faith that the best-case scenario is about to occur.

Absorbing bad news and negative feedback and learning from it is how campaigns get better. Blind denial of evidence suggesting that what they’re offering isn’t appealing to the largest slice of the electorate is how they go careening off the cliff.

If You Think Republicans Had a Rough Year…

Here are Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s percentage points in the last 11 national polls: 4, 8, 5, 4, 3, 4, 3, 6, 6, 4, 5.

Here is Johnson’s total in the last three polls in New Mexico, his home state, all conducted in November: 11, 11, 6.

For contrast, here’s how independent conservative Evan McMullin is performing in the last five polls in his home state – and noting that Trump has led every poll: 21, 24, 24, 28, 28.

Can we just put away any talk of a “Libertarian Future” for a while? I’d love to live in it, but there’s no sign it’s coming, in either a capital-L Libertarian Party way or a small-L philosophical way. This was the year that the Democrats nominated a corrupt, longtime-insider, big-government, scandal-ridden statist, and the Republicans nominated a guy who wants government to get bigger – more infrastructure spending, mandated maternity leave, opposes entitlement reform, cheers eminent domain, and a new 35 percent tax on companies that fire workers. Trump’s focus was never freedom or liberty. It was about empowering government, run by him, to address grievances of working-class whites and return America to a golden past, un-doing decades of changes to the country and the world.

This year was the golden opportunity libertarians – capital L and little L – had dreamed of for decades… and they fumbled it away.

The gang at Reason is looking at the bright side:

As of 10 pm ET last night, the poll averages of both FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics had Johnson at 4.8 percent of the vote, tantalizingly close to the mythical 5 percent level that would trigger federal classification as a “minor party,” thus making the L.P. eligible for an estimated $10 million in public matching funds in 2020. (Whether the party would accept that money is another story.) 

We’ll see if Johnson hits 5 percent. I remember a lot of buzz in 2000 that Ralph Nader was going to reach 5 percent and get the Green Party matching funds in the following election cycle; he won 2.74 percent.

Some of the shots Gary Johnson took this cycle were unfair. If you’re asked, out of the blue, “What are you going to do about Aleppo?” a lot of Americans would stumble, and perhaps think it was an unfamiliar acronym. His inability to name any world leader when asked for his favorite is harder to justify.

Some people will find his goofy sense of humor, like talking with his tongue out, charming; others will find it weird and un-presidential. Every once in a while, he would lose his temper with a reporter – he really, really, really doesn’t like calling an illegal immigrant an “illegal immigrant.”

Then again, Johnson chose William Weld as his running mate, and Weld will go down in history as the first running mate to basically switch sides in the campaign’s final weeks, going out of his way to defend Hillary Clinton over and over again.

Maybe Weld wants another President Clinton to name him to be Ambassador to Mexico. If so, the first season of True Detective was right all along:

 

It’s an Early Voting World; the Campaigns Need to Adjust to It.

Last night the total early vote of this year passed the total early vote of 2012: about 46.2 million last cycle; we’re at 46.4 million and that number will go up as completed absentee ballots arrive.

We can argue about whether early voting is a good idea; I find casting ballots in September ridiculous but a two-week window or so pretty reasonable. Casting a ballot early should be seen a calculated risk; if you choose to do so, you can’t take it back. If you’re preferred candidate is discovered to be running Satanic orgies in his basement, you’re stuck with that vote.

But whether a campaign likes early voting or not, they need to be ready to start mobilizing their voters as soon as they’re legally eligible. Evidence suggests the most diehard partisans are the easiest to mobilize:

In deep-red Oklahoma, more than 234,000 voted early, doubling the 2008 record of 114,300 votes. In Kansas, the sum of early votes topped the previous record by 20,000 votes on Friday. In West Virginia, the early-voting period ended Saturday with more than 179,000 ballots cast, breaking the previous record by 22,000 votes.

Some deep-blue corners of the map are seeing surges in early voting, too. In the District of Columbia, the most heavily Democratic jurisdiction in the country, early voting increased from 68,641 in 2012 to 101,077 this year. In Illinois, Chicagoans surpassed the record set in 2008 — when their favorite son, Barack Obama, was set to become the nation’s first African-American president — by 9 percent, with one more day of early voting remaining to be tabulated. In Maryland, 860,000 people have already cast ballots, doubling the sum total of early votes from 2012.

ADDENDA: I’ll be joining my friend Cam Edwards in studio at 2 p.m on NRA-TV. I’m also slated to phone in to his program tonight, sometime after midnight.

I talked about writing fiction and novels with Lisa De Pasquale:

I love data and charts, but nobody turns to their friends or significant other and says, ‘Hey, do you want to go out to the Multiplex and watch some data and charts?’ People crave stories. They’ve done so since the first people gathered around a campfire and told myths and legends and tales of their ancestors. A lot of our fictional stories are meant to offer a lesson, consciously or not, about what kind of person you’re supposed to be. You see a lot of stories celebrating courage, and not so many celebrating cowardice. Detective stories are about solving a crime and righting a wrong. Comedies aim to make us laugh but also spotlight the foibles and foolishness inherent in the human condition.

My pop culture podcast co-host Mickey is wondering when anything resembling “conservatism” required inquiries into the nationality of one’s grandparents. Doesn’t that relentless focus on bloodlines seem less American and more reminiscent of some not-so-forgotten regimes obsessed with genetic purity?

Finally, as usual, every weekday, Greg Corombus and I serve up the Three Martini Lunch podcast around midday.

Comey: After Further Review, the Ruling on the Play Stands, No Prosecution.

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Okay, everyone, switch your positions on FBI director James Comey again.

FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Sunday the agency hasn’t changed its opinion that Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges after a review of new emails.

“Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July,” Comey wrote in the new letter to congressional committee chairmen.

Every Democrat who thought Comey was a “mad bomber,” compare him to Jesus-meets–Eliot Ness again. Republicans, declare the whole investigation “rigged” again — even though an FBI director who wanted to “rig” an investigation to ensure Clinton won the presidency wouldn’t let the world know he was investigating her e-mails again for nine days during the early-voting period.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus responded by pointing out she’s not cleared on every allegation of criminal behavior yet:

The FBI found evidence Clinton broke the law, that she placed highly classified national security information at risk and repeatedly lied to the American people about her reckless conduct. None of this changes the fact that the FBI continues to investigate the Clinton Foundation for corruption involving her tenure as secretary of state. Hillary Clinton should never be president.

Has Hillary Clinton Already Built Up an Insurmountable Lead in Nevada?

Legendary political reporter Jon Ralston seems adamant that Nevada is unwinnable for Trump — and with that swing state firmly in Hillary Clinton’s column, the presidency is all but lost already. How firm is that assessment?

(For the sake of simplicity and readability, I’m rounding all numbers to the nearest thousand.)

Let’s go over some basics: Last cycle, about 1 million voters cast ballots in Nevada. Obama won 531,000 and Romney won 464,000 — a 52 percent to 46 percent split, a difference of 67,000 votes. Of those 1 million votes, a bit over 700,000 voted early.

Four years ago, 308,000 registered Democrats voted early, absentee or by mail.

Four years ago, 260,000 registered Republicans voted early, absentee or by mail.

Democratic advantage: 48,000 votes.

Assuming the same proportion of registered Democrats voted for Obama as registered Republicans voted for Romney, then Romney went into Election Day needing to make up a deficit of more than 48,000 votes — with just 300,000 people voting. If absolutely no one voted third party, Romney needed to win those remaining votes by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin. Obviously, he didn’t, and he lost the votes cast on Election Day by about 19,000 votes.

This year, 324,000 registered Democrats voted early, absentee or by mail.

This year, 278,000 registered Republicans voted early, absentee or by mail.

Democratic advantage: 46,000 votes.

Assuming the same proportion of registered Democrats voted for Clinton as registered Republicans voted for Trump, then Trump goes into Election Day needing to make up a deficit of more than 46,000 votes.

(Yes, some will argue that more Democrats voted for Trump than Republicans voted for Clinton. Okay, say Trump is getting 16 percent of Democrats and Clinton is getting 11 percent of Republicans, as the 8 News Now poll shows. This means 52,000 registered Democrats voted for Trump, and 31,000 registered Republicans voted for Clinton. We can take 21,000 out of the Democrats’ margin . . .and Democrats still head into Election Day with an advantage of 25,000 votes.)

“Ah, but what about the independent or unaffiliated voters?!” Trump fans will cry. Well, in that 8 News Now poll that has him doing so well among Democrats, he’s still barely winning voters in the “other” category, 40 percent to 39 percent. The NBC News/Marist poll has him winning independents, 45 percent to 38 percent — but that poll shows just 7 percent of Democrats defecting to Trump, and 4 percent of Republicans defecting to Clinton. This year, 167,000 Nevadans who aren’t registered Republicans or Democrats voted early. Assuming Trump is ahead by seven percentage points among that group, he gains . . . 12,000 votes.

Let’s assume a really rosy scenario for Trump: 16 percent of Democrats vote for him and 11 percent of Republicans vote for Hillary, and he wins the independent/other voters, 45 percent to 38 percent. This means Democrats walk into Election Day with “just” a 13,000-vote margin.

In 2016, Nevada has 1.4 million registered voters; 694,821 haven’t voted yet. Trump would need to overcome that 13,000-vote margin out of the people who come out Tuesday.

In other words, the broad contours of Ralston’s argument are hard to dispute. Democrats walk into Election Day with roughly the same advantage in registered turnout in the early vote that they had in 2012, and that year they won overall by about 6 percentage points. Trump needs an unbelievable performance among Election Day voters and a lot of crossovers and to win among independents by a solid margin. It’s a tall, tall order.

What the Early-Vote Numbers in North Carolina and Florida Tell Us

The early voting numbers in the two key east-coast swing states look better for Trump than the numbers in Nevada, but they still point to a really close result.

In North Carolina, 3.1 million voted early. In that group, 41.7 percent were registered Democrats, 31.9 percent were registered Republicans, and 26.1 percent were independent.

The 2012 split was 47.4 percent Democrats, 31.5 percent Republicans, 20.9 percent other or independent — and Romney won by 2 percentage points overall, about 92,000 votes.

Who are all of those new independent or unaffiliated voters casting ballots for? Pick your theory:

Some analysts speculate that unaffiliated voters, who are younger than the general voting population, are more likely to vote for liberal candidates. At least one has noted that about half of North Carolina’s unaffiliated voters cast ballots in the primaries, and the majority of those chose to vote on Republican ballots, suggesting that may be their true party preference.

Is there a drop-off among African Americans? Yes, but it shouldn’t be overstated. Statewide, African-Americans make up 22 percent of the early vote; four years ago, they made up 27 percent.

There are some corners of the state where African-American turnout is probably going to increase. Bertie County is the most heavily-African-American county in the state, and last cycle Obama won the county with 66 percent of the vote. In 2012, 4,420 ballots were cast in early voting. This year, 5,356 voters cast ballots early.

In 2012, Obama won Wake County, which includes Raleigh, 54 percent to 44 percent — a 54,000 vote margin. This year, “Wake County surpassed all of its prior early voting turnouts, with more than 302,000 residents casting their ballots in the 2016 general election; the previous early voting turnout record was 260,743 in the 2012 general election.”

In Florida, more than 6.4 million people have voted already. About 2.55 million are registered Democrats, 2.46 million are registered Republicans. Democrats have an advantage of about 87,000 votes. The good news for Trump is that the CBS News/YouGov poll released Sunday has him winning independents 47 percent to 34 percent.

Don’t sleep on Georgia, where the state’s overall early vote is 23 percent higher than in 2012. Fulton County is the most populous county in the state and includes the city of Atlanta. Sunday Fulton election officials announced a record early vote — 260,934 residents voted early in the 2016 general election — two-thirds of last cycle’s total vote. The early vote is 109,000 more than four years ago. Four years ago, Obama won the district, 64 percent to 34 percent, a nearly 115,000-vote margin.

This morning, Quinnipiac released their last polls of these two key states:

Florida: Clinton gets 46 percent to Trump’s 45 percent, with 3 percent for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and 1 percent for Green party candidate Jill Stein.

North Carolina: Clinton at 47 percent to Trump’s 45 percent, with 3 percent for Johnson. Clinton had 47 percent to Trump’s 44 percent November 2.

ADDENDA: There are a lot of states that no one focuses upon too much, because the state’s electorate skews so heavily to one party that we already know who’s going to win. It doesn’t matter if Trump wins Kansas by 5 points, 10 points, or 50 points, he still gets the same 6 electoral votes.

But we know the national popular vote has a big psychological effect, and it’s conceivable that Trump will run up his totals in his best states.

One Morning Jolt reader in Kansas noticed a huge turnout in this deep-red state:

I thought I would share what happened to me last night when I went to early vote. I went, on a Friday night, at about 6 p.m., and it was jammed. I have gone past the facility several times this week in the evening, and the police have blocked off a lane to allow traffic to enter and exit the parking lot. When I left last night, I stopped and chatted with the cops who were guarding it, and asked if they had ever done this before. No, nothing like it had ever been done before; early voting was insane. They actually suggested that we might see record turnout in Kansas this year, as they had heard similar stories from other locations, and one of them hypothesized that we may not know the results on Tuesday night, as there will be more votes to count then there have been in any previous election.

Obviously, this is speculation from a couple of cops in a suburb in Kansas, but nevertheless, this place has been processing them like crazy. For days.

And I thought I’d share one other tidbit. A coworker has a son who is a junior in high school this year. His history teacher, a rampant Democrat, asked the kids whom they would vote for. He expected one answer. 96 percent said they would vote for Trump. This is an upscale high school in suburban Kansas City, and one of the wealthier counties around, but nevertheless, that’s a rather astounding response from high school kids. I was a senior in 1972, and I know my class would’ve been 96 percent for McGovern.

The data confirm my reader’s assessment:

As of Friday afternoon, according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, more than 375,000 ballots in Kansas had already been cast, either at advance polling locations or mailed in to county election offices.

That’s already 20,000 more advance ballots than the total number cast in the 2012 presidential race. And there were still another 60,000 mail-in ballots that had been sent to voters requesting them but not yet returned Friday afternoon, with three and a half days left before Election Day.

Examining the Early Vote, With All Appropriate Grains of Salt

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Do you hear that? That silence is the sound of the other shoe not dropping. If Hillary Clinton’s campaign had one last bomb of opposition research to drop, they would have released it by now. As of Thursday, Americans have cast more than 35 million votes.

Sean Trende makes the argument that the early vote is overrated as an indicator of the final results.

The real problem with this, however — and this is true with a lot of early voting analysis — is that for any of this to work we have to assume that the early vote is somehow representative of the Election Day vote in order to fill in the second half of the equation. The problem is, it isn’t. Research suggests that the early vote tends to be comprised of more partisan, higher propensity voters. In the most recent elections, they have often skewed Democratic, most likely as a side effect of increased Democratic emphasis on early voting (compare this with Donald Trump, who has been telling his supporters to vote on Election Day).

So basically, we’re left without really knowing how the early voting electorate is voting, without knowing how the Election Day electorate is likely to vote, and without knowing the size of the Election Day electorate. More importantly, we don’t know the effect to which campaign strategy is creating the appearance of a participation surge by merely cannibalizing Election Day voters by mobilizing voters who would have voted on Election Day anyway. This is a problem.

He’s right. But one thing that’s nice is about studying the early vote numbers is that they’re actual votes. We don’t have to guess how many of these people will show up or whether they’re truly motivated.

We’re at roughly 76 percent of the early vote total from 2012 nationally, but in some states, they have passed their 2012 totals. Arizona’s at 99 percent; registered Republicans make up 40 percent of the sample, registered Democrats make up 34 percent. According to the 2012 exit poll, self-identified (not necessarily registered) Republicans made up 35 percent of the electorate, and Democrats were 26 percent.

Democrats are cheering, pointing out that 13 percent of the state’s early ballots are from Latinos, compared to 11 percent compared to last cycle. (This is an estimate based on Latino surnames.) In 2012 Latinos made up 18 percent of the voters in Arizona.

Recall that Romney won the state by ten points last time around. Unless Trump is getting absolutely walloped among independents, he should win Arizona. Yes, Latinos will make up a larger share of the vote this time around.

Florida’s already past their early vote total from 2012; more than 5.2 million Floridians have voted! Republicans enjoy a very narrow lead, 2,093,586 to 2,091,753. Democrats had a three-point lead in the total early vote four years ago, which comes out to about 134,000 votes. President Obama won the state by less than one percentage point, a margin of just under 75,000 votes.

If you’re the Democrats, you should be really worried about Florida — but the Trump campaign shouldn’t feel enormously confident either. This was the closest state in 2000 and 2012, and it could very well be the closest state in 2016, as well.

In polling news, another round of polls in Virginia have Hillary ahead by 4 to 8 points, so we can put that back in the “likely Hillary” pile with some confidence.

In 2012, Mitt Romney, arguably the hometown boy, lost Michigan, 44 percent to 54 percent. Trump is currently down in the RealClearPolitics average, 46 percent to 40 percent, and the two most recent polls have him down by only three. I wouldn’t bet on Trump winning Michigan, but he looks like he’ll improve on Romney’s margin in that state by a pretty noticeable margin.

It’s a similar story in Pennsylvania. Romney lost by about six points, 52 percent to 46 percent. The last four polls in the Keystone State have Clinton ahead by 2, ahead by 1, ahead by 4, and ahead by 2. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but the evidence is building for the argument that Trump-ism is more appealing in the Rust Belt than traditional conservatism. Or it could be that the voters are really repelled by Hillary in light of the news of the FBI investigations.

The last four polls in New Hampshire have a tie, Trump by 5, another tie, and Trump by one. New Hampshire has no early voting, so Clinton couldn’t bank some votes before the FBI news broke. Time to put this one in the “likely narrowly Trump” pile, for now.

Score One for Bret Baier!

CBS News does its own digging and confirms one aspect of Bret Baier’s earth-shaking Wednesday night report.

The FBI has found emails related to Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state on the laptop belonging to the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner, according to a U.S. official.

These emails, CBS News’ Andres Triay reports, are not duplicates of emails found on Secretary Clinton’s private server. At this point, however, it remains to be seen whether these emails are significant to the FBI’s investigation into Clinton. It is also not known how many relevant emails there are.

So much for the “they could all be duplicates!” spin.

The Democrats, Increasingly Only Capable of Partisan Outrages

On the NRO homepage, I point out that the WikiLeaks revelations about the DNC and John Podesta’s e-mails represent the first time the average Democrat has really been angry with Vladimir Putin and Russia.

The likely possibility of foreign spies hacking Hillary Clinton’s server — long suspected, now apparently confirmed — outrages most Republicans and a certain portion of independents, but very few Democrats.

Why isn’t the average Democratic member of Congress bothered, much less outraged, by the possibility that Clinton used an insecure server, allowing her e-mails and the classified information in them to be hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies?

Why isn’t President Obama bothered by it? At the same time most Democrats are finding ways to excuse or hand-wave away Clinton’s actions, they are genuinely outraged by another act of hacking: Someone — presumably hackers directed by or affiliated with the Russian government — found thousands of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and from John Podesta, chairman of Clinton’s campaign.

Russia’s military occupation of Crimea didn’t stir this sort of anger from Democratic leaders, nor their continuing military intervention in Ukraine. Russian jets buzzing U.S. Navy ships didn’t generate much outrage. Unsafe interceptions of U.S. aircraft generate yawns. Russia financed and supported the Ukrainian separatists that shot down a Malaysian Airlines plane in 2014, killing nearly 300 innocent civilians. That outrage generated little response from the Obama administration.

But embarrassing Hillary’s allies like John Podesta and Neera Tanden? Among the Democrats, them’s fighting words, Moscow.

ADDENDA: At some point in the near future, the latest edition of the pop-culture podcast will be posted, featuring hard lessons about barfing grade-schoolers from chaperoning a fourth-grade field trip to Jamestown, Virginia; J.K. Rowling’s attempt to branch out into new genres; late-night baseball and how bad weather makes for great sports cities; Lindsey Lohan either tries a new accent or suffers a terrible head injury, and songs that sound completely different once you understand the lyrics.

The Clintons, Forever Demanding Their Party Defend the Indefensible

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Happy Halloween!

Ah, now I remember that feeling — the combination of incredulity, disgust and embarrassment for another person that comes watching seemingly bright people tie themselves into knots in order to defend the indefensible and justify the unjustifiable in order to defend the Clintons.

This was a fine vintage of that feeling, from 1998:

Some Clinton defenders have stopped pretending he was truthful in favor of portraying dishonesty as not just a forgivable flaw but a positive virtue: a mark, in fact, of his noble character. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who knows something about presidential sex from working in the Kennedy White House, wrote in The New York Times this week, “Gentlemen always lie about their sex lives. Only a cad will tell the truth about his sexual affairs.”

Oh, really? I didn’t remember that part in the federal perjury statute. Wait, let me double check . . . “any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true . . .” Yeah, I don’t see any footnotes declaring that lying under oath is okay as long as it’s a “gentleman” discussing sex. The oath is traditionally, “Do you solemnly (swear/affirm) that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, (so help you God/under pains and penalties of perjury)?” Have you ever heard any “as long as the topic isn’t sex”? I must have missed that episode of Law & Order.

We’re talking about perjury, as in the sort of charge a person faces usually faces when she signs an official U.S. State Department document saying she has been briefed on the rules and laws for classified material and then tells the FBI that she cannot recall “any briefing or training by State related to the retention of federal records of handling of classified information.” Either she lied on the form or lied to the FBI, pick one.

We don’t know what’s in the 650,000 emails on a laptop used by former representative Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife Huma Abedin, It could be not much beyond the standard e-mails one would expect to find. Or one or some of the messages could contain classified information. The Wall Street Journal reports “underlying metadata suggests thousands of those messages could have been sent to or from the private server that Mrs. Clinton used while she was secretary of state, according to people familiar with the matter.”

As usual, almost every Democrat who hailed FBI Director James Comey as fair-minded paragon of integrity back in the summer now insists he’s a crazed partisan trying to throw the election to Trump. (If he really wanted to do that, wouldn’t it have been easier to recommend charges to the Department of Justice? Even if Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused to press the charges, the political damage would be done.) The New York Daily News is literally calling him a mad bomber.

What, exactly, did these furious critics want Comey to do? He finds out that there’s a new avenue of investigation, a giant trove of e-mails that were not turned over as required, and he’s supposed to just . . . avert his eyes and pretend his agents didn’t find it? He’s supposed to just not tell Congress, even though he pledged to them, under oath, he would keep them updated? Right now, the vast majority of Democrats are furiously angry that Comey did not withhold information from Congress, because it would be politically embarrassing to Hillary Clinton. That’s not supposed to be a priority of the FBI director.

When Comey does what Democrats want him to do, they praise him as Eliot Ness, King Solomon, Frank Serpico, and Jesus all rolled into one. But the moment he follows procedure and brings up topics the Clinton campaign doesn’t want in the news, he’s Torquemada, Captain Queeg, Javert, and Ahab rolled into one. Look, we get it, Democrats, you have absolute faith in Comey’s judgment as long as he’s ruling in your favor. If you guys were less invested in an emotionally convienient narrative where all wisdom and virtue aligns with your political interests of the moment, you would have praised Comey’s summer decision but not put him up on a pedestal.

Instead, they had to insist that no reasonable person could question his summer decision. I mean, it was just in July that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was telling us how independent, thorough, respected, and honest Comey was.

Throughout his long career in law enforcement, the independence of FBI chief James Comey has rarely been questioned. Comey is a well-respected Republican who served as George W. Bush’s Deputy Attorney General. And when President Obama tapped him to serve as Director of the FBI, he was confirmed by a 93-1 vote.

Donna Brazile — now the Democratic National Committee chair — said that attacking James Comey’s decision was attacking the rule of law itself.

Since Donna Brazile blocked me last night when I pointed out her former words, here’s a screenshot of her Tweet.

Evan McMullin, the Man of Amazing Stories That Cannot Be Told

How did Evan McMullin spend the Bush years? Working clandestine missions for the CIA.

After graduating in 2001, McMullin joined the CIA’s directorate of operations, which runs clandestine missions abroad. He was in a computer training class at Langley headquarters when the 9/11 attacks occurred. After that, McMullin’s 18-month training to be an undercover operative was sped up, and he soon found himself in a southwest Asian country where the U.S. military was deeply engaged in the new war on terror. The specific country remains classified to protect his contacts there.

A “southwest Asian country where the U.S. military was deeply engaged in the new war on terror”? No offense to the fine people running our intelligence community, but just how many countries fit that description? I can think of one starting with an ‘A’ and another starting with a ‘P.’

The CIA station chief who supervised McMullin in his first overseas assignment told me that McMullin stood out among all the new case officers because of his insistence on going outside the safe confines of the embassy to meet and develop human- intelligence assets. As a Mormon, McMullin could not indulge in the vices that often help to build such bonds, so he used his piousness and his experience before college as a missionary in Brazil to his advantage.

McMullin served his later years as an undercover officer in Iraq while the U.S. military was battling a brutal Sunni insurgency and collecting intelligence on what was then called al-Qaeda in Iraq but is now the Islamic State. McMullin worked in Iraq until 2010, when the country achieved a degree of stability and the terrorist threat was temporarily minimized.

Indisputably, McMullin is one tough cookie, the sort of American you can point to and wish your kids grow up to emulate. And his on-the-ground experience in the War on Terror will give him perspective and understanding that no briefing book or foreign congressional delegation trip can equal.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the perfect experience for being president. The job of commander-in-chief involves a lot that’s far removed from the world of spies. And not everyone who’s shown courage under fire is cut out to be the leader of the free world. Having said that, it’s pretty fascinating to imagine some turncoat former jihadist sitting somewhere in Iraq, watching CNN international on some television in the corner of a café, and the news of McMullin winning Utah comes on. He looks up and thinks to himself, “Man, that guy looks just like my old handler!”

Maybe Florida Doesn’t Look So Bad for the GOP This Year

As of this morning, 1,427,314 registered Democrats have voted in Florida, 40.1 percent of the total. But 1,450,760 registered Republicans have voted, or 40.7 percent. About 17 percent of the voters are with no party, and another 2.5 percent are with other parties.

In the Siena poll of Florida, Donald Trump’s leading among independents 45 percent to 33 percent and Marco Rubio is leading among them 54 percent to 35 percent.

Our Tim Alberta, with a key point for everyone who argues that America’s changing demographics mean the Republican party and political conservatism are doomed:

Texas became majority-minority in 2004, and whites today are just 43 percent of its population. Yet Democrats haven’t carried the state since 1976. This speaks not only to the conservative worldview of the state’s white electorate but also to the relative independence of its Hispanics. Romney won 27 percent of Hispanics nationally in 2012; there was no exit poll of Texas, but multiple private surveys showed him taking nearly 40 percent of Hispanics there. It’s a similar story in Florida, the nation’s biggest battleground. After it spent 60 years teetering between parties, Democrats hoped its bulging Hispanic population would tip the scales. But it hasn’t, thanks to the conservative Cuban vote. Romney won 39 percent of Florida Hispanics, exit polls showed.

Imagine if the Republicans had nominated someone like Texas governor Greg Abbott this year . . .

ADDENDA: No, there isn’t going to be a violent insurrection after Election Day.

I’m tentatively scheduled to appear on CNN’s Berman and Bolduan tomorrow morning, and CNN International’s State of the Race tomorrow afternoon.

The Pessimistic Outlook for Trump

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Happy Friday. So far, more than 16 million votes have been cast in this year’s election.

Yesterday you got the optimistic outlook for Trump. Now for the pessimistic outlook . . .

The early-voting numbers look ominous for Republicans in a lot of states. Let’s make all appropriate caveats — we don’t know for certain that a registered Republican will vote for the Republican, and that a registered Democrat will vote for the Democrat. And yes, there’s always the question of whether a high early-vote total is a genuine surge or just an early-vote operation cannibalizing party regulars who would otherwise vote on Election Day. But every voter who votes early is one less for the campaign to worry about on that Tuesday. Generally speaking, a Republican candidate would want to see his party having a nice, solid lead in early voting.

Let’s start in Arizona, where Hillary Clinton led two of the last three polls.

Four years ago yesterday, registered Republicans had a 21,179 vote advantage over registered Democrats in early voting. This year, registered Democrats are ahead by 4,116 votes. This doesn’t mean the state is lost; the early vote is roughly 440,000 so far, and last time Romney won the state by about 200,000 votes, out of 2.3 million cast. But clearly the Clinton campaign thinks the state is in play and is willing to spend money there.

Quinnipiac puts Trump ahead in Georgia by one point. That’s a shocker, but the previous three polls had Trump only ahead by 2 or 4 points. Early voting is up 40 percent from 2012. The state doesn’t register voters by party but keeps demographic information about them; 28.3 percent of the early voters are African American and 56 percent are women. In 2008, the last cycle we have exit-poll election results for, African Americans were 30 percent of the electorate in the Peach State and women were 54 percent. McCain won the state by 5 points that year. Right now you would expect a narrow Trump win, but when a state is this close, a loss is not out of the question.

In Iowa, registered Democrats continue to outpace registered Republicans in returned absentee ballots, but it’s a smaller margin than last time. Quinnipiac and Loras have shown the state tied, although the most recent Des Moines Register poll puts Trump up by four points. Based upon how Trump has led here for most of the year, you would expect a win . . . but if the Democrats get-out-the-vote effort works well and the GOP one stumbles . . .

It’s not certain that Trump will win one of Maine’s two congressional districts. Registered Democrats continue to outpace registered Republicans in returned absentee ballots in both districts. Trump plans to campaign there again, so obviously the campaign feels it is winnable but not yet locked down.

Mike Pence was in Omaha, Nebraska yesterday. You don’t send the vice-presidential candidate to Nebraska less than two weeks before Election Day if you’re not worried about the Second Congressional District, which Barack Obama won in 2008.

For the rest of the map, just give Hillary Clinton the states where she leads in the polls. As noted yesterday, Trump has never led any independent general-election poll in Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, or Wisconsin. She’s led most of the recent polls in Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina.

Right now, you would expect Trump to narrowly win Ohio, but there have been much more surprising outcomes than Hillary Clinton winning in a state where she has 36 offices and Trump has 16.

Assume Evan McMullin wins Utah. Again, the campaign schedule reveals the perceptions within the campaign; the Trump camp sent Pence there recently.

Assume Hillary Clinton wins everywhere on this list and you have the true worst-case scenario: 375 electoral votes for Clinton, 157 for Trump, and 6 for Evan McMullin. (Under that outcome, Trump would have the fewest electoral votes by a major party candidate since Michael Dukakis.)

The best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario are both unlikely; the most likely outcome is somewhere in between.

It’s a Cliché, but an Accurate One: Which Side Can Bring Out More of Their Voters?

At the heart of this question is whether Trump needed a major investment in a data-driven get-out-the-vote system with more professionals than volunteers, lots of field offices across swing states, and whether he could afford to concede television advertising for long stretches during the year.

Yes, the Romney campaign’s Project ORCA had major glitches and management problems on the morning of Election Day 2012. But by the end of the day, the campaign had reports from about 90 percent of the counties they were targeting. Ultimately, it wasn’t a crashing web site that cost Romney the 5 million vote margin.

In 2011, the Obama campaign saw that they could very well lose, and went out and targeted unregistered voters who were likely to support their candidate and got them registered. The Trump campaign thinks they’re going to bring out new voters, but the data — at least in Ohio — suggest that it isn’t happening, or at least not in the areas of the state you would expect to be most Trump-friendly. The theory of finding disaffected or unregistered blue-collar whites and adding them to the voter pool might actually work. But you need to do the work, not follow the Field of Dreams strategy, of building it (or putting forth a candidate who appeals to them) and waiting for them to come.

Most Voting Machines Will Work Fine . . . But Check Anyway.

For those who suspect the machines will flip their votes from their preferred candidate to the other candidate . . .

A voter who experienced a problem while early voting contacted the AJC, saying it took three tries Tuesday on a machine at the county’s administration complex in Richmond Hill before it correctly recorded his choice of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

He said on the first two tries, he initially selected Clinton but the touchscreen on the machine then changed to show his selection as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — which he canceled before trying again. He said his wife had a similar experience on the same machine.

The voter requested that the AJC not publish his name.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office has opened an investigation into what state officials said was isolated incident.

“We are confident that machines are not ‘flipping’ voters,” said David B. Dove, the office’s chief of staff and legal counsel. “It appears with this particular machine that the county did not properly conduct logic and accuracy testing on this unit. That test ensures the geographic areas on the unit’s screen corresponds to the underlying ballot format. This testing is required by state law.”

Bryan County Election Supervisor Cindy Reynolds told the AJC that the machine was one of eight in operation for early voting. At least 20 people had previously used the machine that day; no one reported any problems to poll workers but, she said, “I went ahead and took it down just to be sure.”

ADDENDA: In lieu of the pop culture podcast this week, a slice of suburban dad life. In Authenticity Woods, Fairfax County, we don’t have a Halloween parade at the highly ranked public elementary school, because some students don’t celebrate Halloween. No, we have a “Fall Spirit” parade. Fine.

No toy guns, knives or other weapons in costumes? Fine. We live in tense times, and if you give a child nunchucks, they will inevitably start whacking each other with them.

But now the theme of this year’s parade for my older son’s class is Virginia industries, and he wanted to be Newport News Shipbuilding. I think the kid down the street has to be a bale of tobacco or something. “Hey, Daddy thinks you should be a giant bottle of whiskey, that’s a Virginia product!”

My younger son had to be a storybook character, and he chose the Duckling from The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?, part of Mo Willems’ painfully insightful series about a misbehaving pigeon who has no impulse control and emulates every toddler trick for emotional manipulation in the book. The Duckling is actually a next-level manipulator, teaching children the valuable lesson that you need to at least appear to be behaving well in order to get what you really want.

Doesn’t any kid want to be a ghost anymore?

The Optimistic Outlook for Trump

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I’m accused of being a pessimist about Donald Trump’s chances on Election Day — accurately. But let’s take the optimistic outlook for once, and see how things look for the GOP nominee if he catches a lucky break and the ball bounces his way.

Give Trump all of the traditionally Republican Mountain West states, the Midwest, Texas, and everywhere in the South except North Carolina and Florida, which we’ll return to later. Trump’s lead in Georgia has been small but consistent. Assume Evan McMullin doesn’t win Utah. Assume Hillary doesn’t steal an electoral vote in Nebraska. Trump’s only led one of the three polls in Arizona this month, but let’s assume that state sticks with its traditional support for the GOP nominee.

With most of the traditional Republican states, Trump starts at 191 electoral votes, and needs another 79.

Most of the polling has him ahead in Iowa, although one had him tied with Clinton. Give him Iowa’s six. The only poll that puts Trump ahead in Maine’s Second Congressional District — the larger, more rural one — is from a Democratic firm. Give Trump another electoral vote from Maine.

Now he’s at 198, needing another 72.

Let’s start with Ohio, a state where Trump has consistently performed better than he has in other swing states. The last four independent pollsters found a tie, a tie, Trump ahead by four points, and Trump ahead by one point. A new poll by Remington Research, a GOP firm, puts Trump ahead by four points. USA Today compares Trump to the legendary Youngstown Democratic congressman Jim Traficant, and there’s some fascinating parallels: populism, denunciation of trade deals, outrageous quotes and a sense of humor, and an odd haircut.

I’ve got real worries about Trump’s get-out-the-vote operation in this state — or perhaps more accurately, I think Hillary Clinton’s will be much better. But let’s assume Trump cleans up among those blue-collar, working-class white voters and puts Ohio in the Trump pile. That puts him at 216.

Florida? A lot of recent polls have Hillary a small lead, but the new Bloomberg survey has Trump ahead by 2 points.

More than 2 million Floridians have cast ballots already. Registered Republicans traditionally are more likely to vote early, and we’re seeing the same trend this year: the latest numbers show nearly 876,000 Republicans have cast ballots compared to more than 862,000 Democrats. More than 336,000 voters with no party affiliation have voted. This is another one of those states where you would really like to see a presidential campaign with a perfectly-tuned, cooking-with-all-four-burners get-out-the-vote program. That is not quite the case this year:

At one point last week, Democrats briefly overtook Republicans in absentee ballots cast, marking the first time Democrats have ever caught Republicans in pre-Election Day ballots before in-person early voting begins.

But the lead didn’t last. By that point, the Trump campaign had realized it wasn’t actively calling and mailing absentee ballot voters to get them to mail their votes in. The campaign quickly instituted what’s called a “chase” program to pressure voters to fill out their ballots and send them in.

But let’s assume the Bloomberg poll accurately predicts the result on Election Day, and Trump narrowly wins Florida. That gives him two of the biggest crown jewel swing states, and he’s at 245, just 35 electoral votes away.

The bad news is that none of the remaining states that are even remotely in play give him that alone; he’s going to need two.

And a bunch of traditional “swing” or competitive states don’t look all that competitive this year: Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia or Wisconsin. Trump has never led any independent general election poll in any of those states. He hasn’t led any poll in Pennsylvania since July.

If we put all of those in Hillary Clinton’s pile, along with the traditional Democratic states, she’s at 263 electoral votes. She’s knocking at the door.

Trump polled well in Nevada for a stretch, then Clinton led several in a row, and the last two independent polls have a tie and Clinton ahead by 7 points. The most recent Remington Research poll — again, a GOP firm, so take that into account if you feel necessary — has Trump ahead. But let’s put this in the Trump pile, and conclude he carries the state as a beloved employer.

A couple of polls in late September put Trump ahead in Colorado, but it’s been a consistent lead for Clinton since. Mike Pence and Eric Trump are campaigning there this week. Give Colorado and it’s nine electoral votes to Trump, and he’s at 260. 

It’s been a long time since Trump led a poll in North Carolina, except for the latest Remington Research poll. But Clinton’s lead had been from one to three points, until the latest New York Times/Siena poll. The Trump campaign is clearly focusing on North Carolina all the way to the end; I fully expect this will be one of his last visits of the 2016 campaign.

If Trump wins North Carolina and all of the other states outlined above, he finishes with 275 electoral votes, and becomes the 45th President of the United States.

As noted, that’s the optimistic scenario. Right now, I wouldn’t want to bet any significant amount of money on him carrying most of these states. A giant question is whether the get-out-the-vote operations of independent right-leaning groups and the GOP senators in those states — Portman in Ohio, Rubio in Florida, Burr in North Carolina, Heck in Nevada — can make up for the late-starting, under-funded Trump volunteer get-out-the-vote operations. If so, we shouldn’t expect Trump to underperform his final polls. 

Bloomberg: ‘Trump’s Staff Knows He’s Losing’

Bloomberg offers a fascinating look inside the Trump operation: more data-driven than you might expect, and no, not quite as skeptical of the public polls as his fans insist:

Despite Trump’s claim that he doesn’t believe the polls, his San Antonio research team spends $100,000 a week on surveys (apart from polls commissioned out of Trump Tower) and has sophisticated models that run daily simulations of the election. The results mirror those of the more reliable public forecasters—in other words, Trump’s staff knows he’s losing. Badly. “Nate Silver’s results have been similar to ours,” says Parscale, referring to the polling analyst and his predictions at FiveThirtyEight, “except they lag by a week or two because he’s relying on public polls.” The campaign knows who it must reach and is still executing its strategy despite the public turmoil: It’s identified 13.5 million voters in 16 battleground states whom it considers persuadable, although the number of voters shrinks daily as they make up their minds.

Trump’s team also knows where its fate will be decided. It’s built a model, the “Battleground Optimizer Path to Victory,” to weight and rank the states that the data team believes are most critical to amassing the 270 electoral votes Trump needs to win the White House. On Oct. 18 they rank as follows: Florida (“If we don’t win, we’re cooked,” says an official), Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia.

This morning, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight says Hillary Clinton has an 85 percent chance of winning the presidency, sweeping all of the swing states, winning Arizona, and finishing with about 338 electoral votes. Heading into the first debate, Silver’s formula gave Trump a 45 percent chance of winning the presidency.

ADDENDA: A question I’m still wrestling with: Is WikiLeaks’s hacking — and likely work with Russian intelligence — partially justified if it exposes criminal behavior by American politicians, such as bribery?

I see some arguments that WikiLeaks “is doing the work that American journalists should be doing!” But how is American journalist supposed to learn about Hillary Clinton soliciting a $12 million donation from the Morocco government in exchange for an appearance? The Clinton meetings with the Moroccan leaders are private; no journalist is inside the room. The Clinton Foundation’s disclosure forms don’t mention what they promised in exchange for their lucrative donations from foreign governments. The Clintons lie, obviously.

In other words, short of breaking and entering into the Clinton Foundation’s offices, or spending years undercover in the Clinton Foundation — the sort of work an intelligence agency does, not a journalism institution with deadlines and a publication schedule — how was anyone supposed to know about a secret deal like this? That’s why it’s secret! 

Of course, here’s the bigger problem. What are the American people supposed to do when the only way they can learn the actual agenda and priorities of their aspiring president is through the leaks from a foreign intelligence service?

‘Her Instincts Can Be Terrible’

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An assessment of Hillary Clinton from the people who know her best:

“Speaking of transparency, our friends Kendall, Cheryl and Phillipe sure weren’t forthcoming on the facts here,” John Podesta complained in the March 2015 note, referring to Clinton’s personal lawyer, David Kendall, as well as former State Department staffers Cheryl Mills and Philippe Reines.

“Why didn’t they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy,” replied Neera Tanden, a longtime Podesta friend who also has worked for Clinton. Then, answering her own question, Tanden wrote again: “I guess I know the answer. They wanted to get away with it.” . . .

“We’ve taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat,” Podesta wrote to Tanden in September 2015, at a time when Clinton’s campaign feared that Vice President Biden was about to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. “Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts.”

Tanden responded, “Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible.”

Speaking of endorsements, Colin Powell is endorsing Hillary Clinton — not that surprising, as he endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008 and over Mitt Romney in 2012.

We know from leaked e-mails that Powell’s not such a big fan of her, either:

“I would rather not have to vote for her, although she is a friend I respect,” the former secretary of state wrote Democratic donor Jeffrey Leeds on July 26, 2014.

“A 70-year person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational, with a husband still d–kng bimbos at home (according to the NYP),” reads the explosive e-mail obtained by the Web site DCLeaks. Hillary is actually 68.

“Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris. I told you about the gig I lost at a University because she so overcharged them they came under heat and couldn’t [pay] any fees for awhile. I should send her a bill,” Powell griped.

“Wanted to get away with it.” “Her instincts can be terrible.” “Unbridled ambition.” “Greedy.” “Everything she touches she screws up with hubris.” All of these assessments from people who are on her side would make for one heck of a devastating ad.

Are the WikiLeaks Revelations Starting to Become a Genuine Public Service?

I recall during the revelations about Edward Snowden and the extent of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs, a lot of the national media coverage was in the tone of, “Ed Snowden: Hero or Traitor?” As if he could only be one or the other, as if his actions had to be completely good or completely bad, as if the National Security Agency could only be sinister and Orwellian or a critical line of defense against threats and terrorism around the globe.

Grown-ups can realize that sometimes stories don’t have heroes. Snowden indisputably violated his oath, violated the law, and gave every enemy of the United States new knowledge and insight in how the NSA attempts to track and monitor them. The talk that he deserves a presidential pardon is nonsense. At least seventeen of the major disclosures from Snowden have nothing to do with the U.S. government collecting information on American citizens but involve the U.S. and its allies monitoring foreign citizens overseas, which is completely legal. Not only is the NSA’s successful interceptions of communications of Russian President Dimitri Medvedev not a scandal; it is literally the NSA’s job, and now the Russians have a better idea of what messages were intercepted and when.

But the NSA and the Obama administration were clearly violating the spirit of the Fourth Amendment with their far-reaching data collection. Your metadata says a lot about you, and if the federal government can collect as much as it wants without a warrant, the term “unreasonable search and seizure” means nothing. President Obama went out and told the public that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is “transparent“ when it is nothing of the sort. The FISA court is an effective rubber stamp; in 33 years, the government made 33,900 surveillance requests to the court; the FISA court declined 11 and modified several dozen. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper claimed he “misunderstood” a yes-or-no question while under oath before Congress and “accidentally” denied the U.S. was collecting data on millions of Americans.

None of this would have come to light without Snowden’s actions, and the public good of revealing an unconstitutional, far-reaching, intrusive surveillance program monitoring law-abiding American citizens. Whether or not that justifies his obvious crimes is in the eye of the beholder.

Julian Assange’s claim to have the American public’s best interest at heart is even more implausible. But even a bad guy’s actions can have good consequences. And perhaps at some point, we will reach the point about whether the WikiLeaks hacking of Podesta’s e-mails has revealed enough genuine scandals, exchanges and actions that the American public deserves to know, to mitigate their reputation.

For example, what should Americans call it when a future presidential candidate promises a foreign leader a public appearance for a donation of $12 million? Bob Woodward called it “corrupt.” How should Americans feel knowing the Qatari government offered a $1 million check to Bill Clinton for his birthday?

We now know Bill Clinton “is personally paid by 3 cgi [Clinton Global Initiative] sponsors, gets many expensive gifts from them, some that are at home etc.”

What should Americans think when Huma Abedin writes in spring 2015, “She’s going to stick to notes a little closer this am, still not perfect in her head.” Trouble memorizing a particular message? Or some lingering problems from a concussion years earlier? Or telling her staff she didn’t remember calling herself a “moderate Democrat” in an interview a few days earlier?

And while Julian Assange’s past actions, rhetoric and worldview is indisputably anti-American . . . at what point does this leak do a genuine service to the American people?

As our old friend Mark Hemingway pointed out, John Podesta’s e-mails offer a vivid, unflattering portrait of how our government, the hangers-on, the high-powered lobbyists and lawyers and the media interact.

Over a period of weeks, the shadowy WikiLeaks organization has been releasing hacked copies of Podesta’s emails dating back years. WikiLeaks almost certainly has ties to Russian intelligence and is obviously up to no good. The requisite caveat lector thus applies. But so far, every email under scrutiny appears to be genuine.

And what a story they tell. America’s greatest novelists could not have concocted a tale that so perfectly confirms dark suspicions about how the liberal elites running America really operate. Taken in total, the picture Podesta’s emails present is of a man whose tentacles are adroitly moving all the levers of power. In retrospect, Podesta’s casual attitude toward Clinton’s email problems doesn’t look oblivious—it looks prescient. Why should he worry about disgrace for Hillary Clinton when he and his friends in politics, business, and the media dictate what becomes a scandal?

In this respect, Podesta’s emails help explain why the FBI ignored basic procedure, destroyed the computers of Clinton aides in “side agreements” to their immunity deals, and then refused to charge Clinton for egregious violations of laws governing classified information.

The Trump-Pence Campaign Scheduler Isn’t Even Trying Anymore

Yesterday, Donald Trump held a campaign event at his golf course in National Doral Golf Club in Miami. Today, he attends the ribbon-cutting ceremony for his new hotel in Washington, D.C. and on Friday he’s holding a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, a state he has never led.

Meanwhile, Mike Pence is in Salt Lake City, Utah, today, trying to hold off Evan McMullin, spending Thursday in Omaha, Nebraska — presumably to keep Hillary from winning any one of the congressional districts and stealing an Electoral Vote, the way Obama did in 2008 — and then spending Friday in Pennsylvania, a state Trump has not led any poll in since July.

ADDENDA: Freedom Partners unveils a new map tracking the largest health-insurance premium increases under the Affordable Care Act. 

Remember, Democrats Lied to You About Lowering Your Insurance Premiums.

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In a normal year, this news would doom the Democrats:

Insurers are raising the 2017 premiums for a popular and significant group of health plans sold through HealthCare.gov by an average of 25 percent, more than triple the increase for this year, according to new government figures.

The spike in average rates for the 38 states that rely on the federal marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act was announced by federal health officials on Monday. The figures serve broadly to confirm what has become evident piecemeal in recent months: Prompted by a burden of unexpectedly sick ACA customers, some insurers are dropping out while many remaining companies are struggling to cover their costs.

President Obama, June 6, 2009:

If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold.

And here he is in 2012, when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate:

If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance — this law will only make it more secure and more affordable. Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive. They can no longer discriminate against children with preexisting conditions. They can no longer drop your coverage if you get sick. They can no longer jack up your premiums without reason. 

Lie, lie, lie. If he had been honest — you can’t keep your plan, you can’t keep your doctor, and your premiums, deductibles, and copays will go up, way up in some cases — that bill never would have passed. And if he had been honest on the campaign trail in 2012 — that by the end of his presidency, your premiums will be way higher than they were before the took office — he probably wouldn’t have been reelected, either.

The average premium for a family in an employer-sponsored plan in 2008 was $12,680. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, for 2016, annual premiums for an average family are now beyond $17,500.

“The president recently compared Obamacare to a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and he’s right: this disastrous law is blowing up,” declared House Speaker Paul Ryan in a statement, offering the zinger of the week. “But at least you can return the phone. Families are stuck paying these higher premiums, and Democrats only want to double down on Obamacare. There is a better way. Republicans are offering a plan to repeal Obamacare, and replace it with real, patient-centered solutions that fit your needs and your budget. We don’t have to accept this kind of sticker shock.”

Great Time to Focus on a New Hotel, Huh?

Tomorrow is Wednesday, October 26, just 13 days to Election Day. The pressure is on. No doubt that at this point, money and manpower are important, but the most valuable resource a campaign has in these final days is time — particularly the candidate’s time. He can only be in one place at one time, addressing one concern at a time. Where will the Republican presidential nominee be, less than two weeks from the day that selects the commander-in-chief?

Donald Trump will be in Washington, D.C. for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Trump International Hotel. (Later in the day, Trump will hold a rally in Kinston, North Carolina.)

Why should anyone take his campaign seriously when the candidate obviously doesn’t?

It’s much less important than the question of the presidency, but there’s some evidence that the campaign may bring about the end of Trump hotels — or at least Trump’s name hanging above the door.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has promoted his namesake business, holding events at Trump-branded hotels and golf courses from Scotland to Florida. As the race approaches its conclusion amid a torrent of controversy, his company is launching a new brand that won’t carry his name.

Scion, a line of hotels that will target younger clients, was unveiled last month in a press release that quoted three different Trump Organization executives, but not the candidate.

Since entering the race last year, Trump has offended groups including Mexicans, Muslims, the disabled and veterans. A video from 2005 that showed him bragging about making lewd advances on women prompted almost a dozen to say he’d harassed them — claims that he strongly denies. Those associations will make corporate clients less likely to book Trump-branded properties, said Bruce Himelstein, a former chief marketing officer for Loews and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

 “He’s now a polarizing figure. When he was putting his hotels together, he wasn’t,” said Mr. Himelstein, now a consultant. “There’s definitely an impact.”

The Trump hotel chain insists that the Scion brand won’t replace the Trump brand, emphasizing that Trump Hotels are luxury properties, a tier above where Scion is aimed.

It’s also worth remembering that a lot of buildings that have “Trump” in their name aren’t actually owned by him. He either owns a minority share, owns a portion of the retail space, or simply sold the rights to use his name.

For Once, We Need Some New Polls in Idaho

We have almost no polling of the presidential race in Idaho, and most years, that wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s a deep red, heavily-Republican state. But this year, there’s at least an outside chance that the Gem State could be competitive.

Independent conservative Evan McMullin is in the hunt in Utah — either narrowly behind Donald Trump or narrowly ahead, depending on the poll. McMullin’s appeal isn’t merely religious, but he’s Mormon, and 60 percent of Utah residents are Mormon.

About 24 percent of Idaho residents are Mormon. McMullin has made multiple visits to the state, and he’s on the ballot in Idaho. And Donald Trump got only 28 percent in the Idaho GOP presidential primary. Ted Cruz won with a bit more than 45 percent. 

A poll in early September had Trump ahead, 44 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 25 percent, with Gary Johnson at 19 percent and Jill Stein at 7 percent. McMullin wasn’t even listed as an option.

Maybe he’s still in single digits. Or maybe he’s seeing a surge like in Utah. Could somebody call up a couple hundred likely voters and check?

ADDENDA: I’ll be appearing on NR’s Facebook page live, at the traditional time and place, Tuesdays at 2.

The ‘Toss Up’ States That Don’t Really Look Like Toss-Ups Anymore

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USA Today’s projection of the Electoral College map currently has Hillary Clinton winning 263 electoral votes, Donald Trump winning 180, and 95 in the “toss up” category.

Much to the frustration of everyone hoping to see Hillary Clinton defeated, this map is probably too skeptical about her chances in some key states. The map lists Wisconsin as “toss up” but Clinton has never trailed there, or even been tied with Trump. The map lists North Carolina as “toss up,” but Clinton has led the last 13 polls. Florida is also listed as a toss up; Clinton has led the last eight polls there. The last eight polls in Nevada show Clinton leading in seven and a tie in the eighth; that state is listed as a “toss up.”

Utah is in the Trump pile, even though the last three surveys in that state show Evan McMullin down by one point, ahead by 4 points, and down by one point.

In short, the map is just about as bad as it can get for a Republican nominee. Even in the worst moments of the McCain campaign in 2008, the GOP never feared losing Texas. A new CBS poll puts Trump up by 3 points in the Lone Star State. Only two polls have been conducted of Arizona this month; one puts Clinton ahead by 5 points, the other by 2 points.

Trump fans can insist that every poll by every pollster is rigged; that every poll is failing to sample all of those notoriously shy Trump voters, and that Alex Jones has the real scoop on what’s really going on:

Jones repeated his mantra that Trump’s internal polls show him winning in a landslide and that all those public polls you read about that show Clinton ahead were disinformation to make a Democratic theft of the election look plausible.

Maybe all of those women voters are partaking in early voting because they concur with Trump’s assessment that “nobody has more respect for women than I do.”

In three crucial battlegrounds — North Carolina, Florida and Georgia — women are casting early ballots in disproportionate numbers. And in North Carolina, a must-win state for Trump with detailed early voting data available, it’s clear that Democratic women have been particularly motivated to turn out or turn ballots in.

Nearly 6 million people have voted in the 2016 election already.

Spouses of Politicians Should Not Investigate Political Corruption Allegations

Well, this stinks to high heaven.

The political organization of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an influential Democrat with longstanding ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave nearly $500,000 to the election campaign of the wife of an official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation who later helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email use.

Campaign finance records show Mr. McAuliffe’s political-action committee donated $467,500 to the 2015 state Senate campaign of Dr. Jill McCabe, who is married to Andrew McCabe, now the deputy director of the FBI.

The Virginia Democratic Party, over which Mr. McAuliffe exerts considerable control, donated an additional $207,788 worth of support to Dr. McCabe’s campaign in the form of mailers, according to the records. That adds up to slightly more than $675,000 to her candidacy from entities either directly under Mr. McAuliffe’s control or strongly influenced by him. The figure represents more than a third of all the campaign funds Dr. McCabe raised in the effort.

Mr. McAuliffe and other state party leaders recruited Dr. McCabe to run, according to party officials. She lost the election to incumbent Republican Dick Black.

Andrew McCabe might be the straightest arrow in the entire quiver of the Bureau, and Mrs. McCabe might have never even discussed the Clinton prosecution with him. But if your spouse is going to be involved in politics, you should not oversee criminal investigations of political figures. It will always present the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Is everybody at the FBI married to a partisan political figure?

Time for ‘America’s Dad’ to Send Some People to Their Room

This weekend on Saturday Night Live, Tom Hanks, recently called “America’s Dad” by some magazine, gave a tongue-in-cheek fatherly pep talk to the nation.

I think he could have offered a sterner tone. CNN’s Sara Murray details what she’s seen on the campaign trail with Trump, from both his grassroots supporters and his grassroots opponents:

When we arrived in San Jose in June, I wanted to see the Trump event from the other side. I was roaming the streets on protest duty — an assignment that was largely quiet until Trump’s rally started to disperse.

Anti-Trump protesters started hunting for people in the signature “Make America Great Again” hats and t-shirts.

A flash caught my eye. It was a teenager in Trump gear, sprinting with a mob in pursuit. The kid didn’t stop running until he was safely ensconced behind a wall of police officers wearing riot gear.

I interviewed him and his father afterward. They held up a pile of Trump campaign signs they hoped to bring home from the rally that night; each one had been ripped out of their hands, shredded by protesters who reviled Trump.

Over the course of a year and a half, I’ve seen Trump supporters who have spit in protesters’ faces. I’ve seen them hurl racial slurs with abandon.

I’ve also watched protesters cold-cock Trump supporters — and vice versa — in fits of rage. And I’ve watched Trump opponents harass a woman and pelt her with eggs.

This behavior is a national scandal and embarrassment. This kind of violence, intolerance, and free-floating rage is the sort of thing we associate with the anarchic corners of the third world, not the leader of the free world, a constitutional republic that has seen spirited debates all the way back to the founding.

It would be great if both candidates could give an impassioned denunciation of any acts of violence or bullying of the opposition, and it would be even better if either candidate had the moral authority to actually shame their supporters.

ADDENDA: The New York Times observes that the Middle East is a flaming disaster, and the next president will have limited options:

The 45th president will inherit problems associated with the region that are vastly more challenging than any in a generation as the old order has given way to a kaleidoscopic mix of alliances, rivalries and overlapping crises. In the past, presidents have viewed the region through the prism of the Cold War, terrorism or Israel, but those paradigms have shifted dramatically.

Today there is no single overarching issue but multiple ones. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are caught up in war. Turkey and Jordan are inundated by refugees. Russia has reasserted itself as a major player in the region. Libya is searching for stability after the fall of its longtime dictator. The Kurds are on the march. Egypt is fighting off a terrorist threat at home. And Saudi Arabia and Iran are waging a profound struggle for the future of the region.

Gee, that almost sounds like the results of a failed foreign-policy from a failed president, doesn’t it?

That Debate Was Going So Well, Until . . .

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Observations of the third and final presidential debate from my colleagues that I genuinely found insightful:

Tim Alberta and Eliana Johnson:

With his poll numbers plummeting and Republicans jumping ship to save themselves from the collateral damage, the GOP nominee needed a virtuoso performance on Wednesday to stop the bleeding and challenge the conventional wisdom of his imminent defeat. He couldn’t have asked for a better start, either. In fact, the opening 45 minutes Wednesday night were arguably his strongest of the entire campaign . . .

But any points Trump might have scored down the debate’s home stretch were negated when Wallace broached the topic Trump has hammered in recent days: a “rigged election.” The Republican nominee refused to say he would accept the results on November 8, promising only that he would examine them “at the time.” When Wallace reminded Trump of America’s tradition of peaceful transitions of power, and pressed for a more specific answer, Trump replied: ”I’ll keep you in suspense.” At that point, Clinton chimed in to underline the moment: “That’s horrifying.”

It was a fitting end to a debate season — and a campaign — in which the Republican nominee repeatedly distracted from his own potential strengths with the needless deployment of hyperbole and provocative rhetoric.

Jonah Goldberg, on Trump’s reflexive verbal habits when discussing Vladimir Putin:

The tipping point was his refusal to turn on Vladimir Putin. “He said nice things about me!” is a line he always has to get in. It’s so strange, because he honestly seems to think that repeating this helps him. It doesn’t. After months of criticism that Trump is easily swayed by flattery, when he points out that Putin flattered him and suggests that’s a valid reason for not overly antagonizing Putin it only reinforces the critique. More to the point, few are impressed that Putin complimented him, and those who are undoubtedly are voting for Trump already. Meanwhile, the few persuadable voters left are probably less likely to vote for him when he says things like that.

David French on how Trump may have felt he was asserting authority in his answer about accepting the results of the election.

The very instant that Chris Wallace explained to Trump that both his running mate and his daughter had said they’d accept the results of the election, I knew that Trump was going to dive into the deep end. He simply can’t resist looking like the toughest man in the room, and if he can do it by showing Mike Pence who’s boss, then all the better. So he says the one thing guaranteed not just to send the media into a frenzy, he says something that everyone but his most die-hard supporters knows is absolutely cartoon-level crazy — that he’s going to keep us “in suspense.” Yet here’s the thing — you can be tough on vote fraud without jolting the American people. You can say, “Chris, I believe in upholding and protecting the laws of this nation, and that means respecting the integrity of the ballot box and the peaceful transition of power.” It’s that simple.

Ramesh Ponnuru, on how this sort of message doesn’t help him at any level:

Once again, his message will be the one driving the debate. And once again, his message is not a good one for winning a general election. If his claims that the election is being rigged have any effect on the vote, it will be to depress turnout among supporters of his who believe him.

The boss, on Trump’s inability to modulate his personality for 90-minute stretch:

The problem for Trump is that maintaining disciple is so foreign to him he simply can’t turn in a complete debate performance. If he loses on November 8, these three debates will be a big reason why.

No, Trump Didn’t Do What He Needed to Do.

Part of my skepticism about the third debate stems from my assessment of the second debate. In the Sunday night debate in Saint Louis, I expected a complete meltdown after the “grab them by the” revelations. By the end of the night, I thought Trump did much better than in the first, and had a good night “by his standards.” But we saw little to no improvement in the polls for him — probably partially because the audience for the second debate was smaller, and partially because the viewers at home don’t judge Trump “by his standards.” They judge him by their own internal standard of what a president should say, think, and do, and they found Trump insufficient in the second debate as well. If a majority of voters didn’t like him in the first two debates, they’re not going to like him in the third one.

It’s a cliché of debate coverage to declare, “This was no game-changer, there were no knockout punches” but . . . tonight, in the third and final presidential debate, this was no game changer, and there were no knockout punches.

Well, maybe there was one self-inflicted knockout punch. Trump declared he won’t commit to accepting the election results. He contradicted Mike Pence’s answers on this question in the past few days, but that’s not surprising.

The implication is that on Election Night, Hillary Clinton could surpass 270 electoral votes and Trump doesn’t concede and declares the election has been stolen from him. To a lot of voters, that sounds like a sore loser refusing to acknowledge his own defeat.

Is there a legitimate concern about fraudulent votes? Sure. But most of the states are going to have margins beyond 100,000 votes. Based on past elections, some may have margins “only” in the tens of thousands. States like California, Texas, and New York could well have a margin of more than a million votes.

He had two particularly bad moments between his refusal to say that he will accept the election results on Election Night — “I’m going to keep you in suspense” — and his insistence that the accusations of groping and other sexual misconduct have been disproven and debunked. He had some better answers in policy, particularly on guns, abortion, Supreme Court justices, and Hillary Clinton’s scandals.

A fair question is how many voters are still watching. Debate viewership dropped between the first and second debate; we would expect it to drop even further for the third debate.

Trump has to hope that enough voters are still open to voting for him, that those voters were watching tonight, and that they preferred his answers on policy more than his flat denials of behavior he previously boasted about and the implication that he’ll deny the legitimacy of the election results if he loses.

The meltdown continues.

‘Not My President’ Has Always Been Around. But Not from the Defeated Candidate.

I think Twitter has become a giant machine for expanding the range of bad-faith arguments, confusion, misinterpretation and nasty attacks.

There are always those on the losing side who say they refuse to accept the results of the election, and that the person taking the oath is not legitimate or was not fairly elected.

This was/is generally limited to the fringe, or those outside of the political world.

We will see what happens on November 8. If the polls are anywhere close to accurate, this will not be a close election, and Hillary Clinton will win by a bigger margin than Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012. A new poll puts Hillary Clinton up by 5 in Arizona. A new poll puts Evan McMullin up by 4 in Utah. Trump hasn’t led a poll in Florida since October 2. He hasn’t led a poll in North Carolina or Nevada since September 20, and he hasn’t led a poll in Pennsylvania since July. He’s never led in New Hampshire or Virginia.

In other words, any Trump claim of a stolen election will not require alleging a couple hundred fraudulent votes in one key swing state, the way the 2000 election came down to Florida. It will require alleging tens of thousands of fraudulent votes, perhaps hundreds of thousands, in each of four or five key swing states, most of whom have Republican secretaries of state who are overseeing the elections process and sworn to protect the integrity of the ballot. In other words, Trump will argue that our voting system was flooded with close to a million or perhaps more than a million illegitimate votes for Hillary Clinton across several states. Arguing that the 2016 election was stolen will require believing in vote fraud on a massive scale, going on underneath the noses of hundreds of poll watchers, polling place workers — or with the complicity of all of these officials.

It will be a vast conspiracy theory for the ages.

Has Project Veritas proven that there are malevolent Democratic groups and individuals who would love to pull something like this off? Yes. Should every one of those individuals and groups get investigated and prosecuted for wrongdoing? Absolutely. Do the videos prove that they can pull it off on a scale large enough to swing a presidential election? No.

Yes, it’s unnerving to watch NYC Democratic Commissioner of the Board of Elections Alan Schulkin caught on hidden camera at a United Federation of Teachers holiday party declaring . . .

 He gave out ID cards. De Blasio. That’s in lieu of a driver’s license, but you can use it for anything. But, they didn’t vet people to see who they really are. Anybody can go in there and say I am Joe Smith, I want an ID card. It’s absurd. There’s a lot of fraud. Not just voter fraud, all kinds of fraud.

It’s also worth noting that in 2012, Obama beat Romney in the Empire State by almost 2 million votes. Whatever shenanigans are going on in New York City, the presidential election in New York state was not stolen in 2012 — unless you want to argue that 2 out of every 7 ballots cast in the entire state was fraudulent.

ADDENDA: I’ll be doing a Facebook Live appearance on NR’s Facebook page at 2:30 today.