The Morning Jolt


The Weekly Standard, RIP

Bill Kristol at CPAC 2011 (Gage Skidmore)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Robert Mueller apparently isn’t interested in fighting in the court of public opinion, and that might be a major advantage to President Trump; some thoughts on who’s hurt most by the end of The Weekly Standard; debating the folks who are angered or upset by discussions about the contributions of minorities throughout American history; and some quick comments on Fox News yesterday.

Trump’s Scoring Points against Mueller in One Venue

Special counsel Robert Mueller hasn’t spoken on camera, hasn’t done any press conferences, and is, as far as we can tell, focusing his energies entirely on winning his battles in the courtroom. President Trump is focusing on winning in the court of public opinion.

At some point, the national guessing game ends and Mueller issues his final report, and perhaps that will change everything. But so far, Trump and his allies are slowly gaining ground in their effort to chip away at the public’s trust in the former FBI director.

CNN’s most recent poll found that only 29 percent of Americans approve of how President Trump is handling the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. (This number has never been higher than 34 percent.) But when asked what they think of how Mueller is handling the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, 43 percent approve and 40 percent disapprove. That’s down from 48 percent approval and 36 percent disapproval in October. 

Using a different but related question to measure public opinion, Mueller’s approval rating is also down in that same poll: 43 percent approve and 40 percent disapprove. That compares to a 48 percent approval and 36 percent disapproval in early October. CNN concludes, “The dip in Mueller’s numbers comes almost entirely among independents, among whom approval has fallen 10 points to 36 percent.”

That same poll finds Trump’s job rating as president at 39 percent approval and 52 percent disapproval.

Are independents getting a little tired of what they deem to be “process crimes”? Do they not buy the idea that Michael Cohen was a dishonest jerk when he worked for Trump but is a reliable witness now that he’s cooperating with prosecutors? Or are they just impatient and feel like this investigation has been going on long enough and want to get some answers?

The same poll found 50 percent think that it is “likely” that the Mueller investigation will implicate Donald Trump personally in wrongdoing, while 43 percent said that they thought it was “not likely.”

Whatever Mueller finds and unveils, the decision about the consequences to President Trump will be hashed out in the public debate and, in all likelihood, in Congress — where a Democratic House is extremely likely to impeach the president no matter what Mueller finds, and a Republican Senate is extremely unlikely to convict the president no matter what Mueller finds.

When Mueller’s report is unveiled, presumably he and his staff and allies will fully engage in the public debate. But will Trump and his team have already inflicted irreparable damage to Mueller’s reputation by then?

Missing a Standard

If you want to gripe about William Kristol, fine; I have major beefs with folks who jump from anti-Trumpism to full-blown cheerleading for Democrats and abandoning their past views and positions on a wide variety of issues because of the rise of one particular political figure. But Kristol stopped editing The Weekly Standard back in December 2016, and he was always only one of many voices over there. If you’re cheering the demise of The Weekly Standard as a way of “getting” Kristol . . . one way or another, Kristol is going to be fine. Shutting down the Standard doesn’t punish Kristol. It punishes the John McCormacks, the Mark Hemingways, the Haley Byrds, the Rachel Larimores, all the folks in the art department, running the website, copy editors, the fresh-faced editorial assistants, ad-sales folks, and so on.

For those who argue that the Standard’s demise represents a triumph of the free market, note that almost no political magazine makes money. (My understanding is that National Review has done this twice. This is why it feels like we’re always asking for money. A broad base of small donors is more secure than being dependent upon one big one.) Advertisers are and probably always will be frightened of political magazines. If you want to run a profitable magazine, you probably make it look like Vogue, with lots of glossy pictures of models, showcasing the products of a luxury industry inclined to buy many pages of ads.

The Weekly Standard wasn’t much more or less profitable now than in previous years. If the money had simply run out, the story would be sad enough but common, for those of us who remember The American Enterprise, Policy Review, The Public Interest, the print version of Human Events and National Journal and when CQ and Roll Call were separate.

But in this case, there are claims that the owners of The Weekly Standard rebuffed inquiries from those interested in buying the magazine. They didn’t just want the financial loss taken off their hands; they allegedly wanted to eliminate a potential competitor for the relaunched Washington Examiner magazine. They closed it and laid off the entire staff, with little warning but plenty of ominous rumors, about a week before Christmas.

(Gee, it’s so hard to understand why employees are showing so little loyalty and respect to their employers, huh?)

The urge to see publications you disagree with fail is one step removed from censoriousness.

Why Are Some People So Insistent that Certain Chapters of History Not Be Discussed?

Friday’s article about the contribution of minority groups throughout American history brought some fascinating reactions. First, quite a few folks who aren’t usually fans of me or of National Review actually reached out and said, “Thank you for writing this.” No doubt a lot of people hunger for the message, “Your ancestors helped build this country, too” and perhaps with it an alternative to a well-established and not-all-that-accurate narrative that minority groups’ role in America was almost entirely that of the helpless victims.

But it was perhaps even more amazing to see the (admittedly mostly anonymous, possibly bot-like) responses on Twitter — who appeared deeply upset by a list of how minority groups shaped America from the beginning.

One declared: “The goal is to repeat it enough to make people think whites barely had a hand in building the nation.”

Really? You think people are going to forget or overlook the first 43 presidents, the Pilgrims, John Smith, Paul Revere, Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin, Henry Knox, Thomas Edison, Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill, Butch Cassidy, Wild Bill Hickock, Wild Bill Donovan, Wyatt Earp, Eliot Ness, General George S. Patton, Neil Armstrong, Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, Elvis Presley, the Wright Brothers, Chuck Yeager, Will Rogers, Douglas MacArthur, Charles Lindbergh, J. Edgar Hoover, Ernest Hemingway, John D. Rockefeller, Charlie Chaplin, Babe Ruth, Billy Graham, Henry Ford, T. S. Eliot, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Upton Sinclair, General John J. Pershing, Robert F. Kennedy, Earl Warren, Andy Warhol, Allen Dulles, Frank Lloyd Wright, Norman Rockwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, the Minutemen, the Green Mountain Boys, the Texas Rangers . . . Is there anyone who’s even remotely historically literate who believes that “whites barely had a hand in building the nation”?

I completely understand the fear that kids today are learning too little American history and that they’re getting an airbrushed version that overcompensates for any past hagiography of the Founding Fathers by embracing a relentless demonization of them for owning slaves and failing to live up to today’s visions of equality and justice. But why must it be all or nothing? Why does acknowledging the Founders’ flaws and hypocrisy mean that we can’t marvel at how they defied amazing odds to make a giant step forward in the cause of human liberty? And why does saluting their groundbreaking accomplishments mean we can’t or shouldn’t acknowledge their moral failings?

You don’t make people less informed by giving them more information about their country’s history. History is not a zero-sum game where paying attention to the contributions and efforts of one group means you automatically lessen or downplay the contributions and efforts of another group.

(Separately, it takes a real gift to make kids bored when learning about American history. Battles, assassinations, heroes, bravery, duels, discoveries, long journeys through dangerous terrain, spies, affairs, secret alliances, treachery and betrayals — kids, our history is a combination of Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and the Marvel movies, all rolled into one.)

Question: “Sir, who has appointed YOU the nation’s history teacher?”

Who do I have to be? Friday’s article was full of links — don’t take my word for it, read historians and the direct sources.

Another responded, “The theme is you are being paid to push a orchestrated narrative [sic]. Who is paying you?”

What “orchestrated narrative”? I moderated a panel discussion on identity politics on the NR cruise and started wondering whether we would be a more unified country if we stopped thinking about separate African-American history or Native-American history (as showcased in excellent Smithsonian museums) and started thinking about it all as one giant story of America as a whole.

Nobody’s orchestrating anything; this is history — much less-covered and -discussed history. Why do the stories of Revolutionary War spy James Armistead and independence ally General Bernardo de Gálvez and Chinese-born Gettysburg soldier Joseph Pierce threaten people so much? Why would someone get so invested in the idea that these stories can’t or shouldn’t be told or heard? As for who’s paying me, it’s the usual — National Review.

Another responded, “Wow, we should let unlimited meso Americans into our country with free everything now.”

That’s . . . not what was said in the article; it’s revealing that someone would instantly believe that the statement “Minorities have been shaping America from the beginning” must automatically be an argument for open borders, or that the reverse is true — that a secure border and orderly legal-immigration process requires us to downplay or ignore the contributions of past generations of immigrants and minority groups.

ADDENDUM: Here’s segment one and segment two of my appearance on Howard Kurtz’s MediaBuzz on Fox News Channel Sunday morning.

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