The Morning Jolt


There Is Hope for Notre-Dame de Paris

Sparks fill the air as Paris Fire brigade members spray water to extinguish flames as the Notre Dame Cathedral burns in Paris, France, April 15, 2019. (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: The world suffers a historic loss with the fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, Bernie Sanders leads the Democratic pack as he takes on tough questions at a Fox News town hall, and libertarian Bill Weld thinks he has a shot to run for president as a Republican.

A Tragedy Strikes the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris

Yesterday, the world suffered a catastrophic loss, as a fire ravaged one of the oldest, most historic cathedrals in the world. More of Notre-Dame still stands this morning than many expected as the fire was burning — the famous façade on the front of the building seems to have survived intact, and much of the lower structure of the church appears to be largely untouched by the blaze, including the remarkable rose window.

But it’s a loss nonetheless. We all stared, eyes glued to the video stream as the historic spire of the Cathedral plummeted and slid into flames. We watched as centuries of history burned to ash, never to be seen the same way again.

As I wrote yesterday while Notre-Dame still burned, this is a loss for art, for architecture, and for the history of Western civilization. But it is a particular loss for Catholics around the world, who knew this cathedral not only as a place of particular beauty, but as a place of transcendence, a house dedicated to God and built to glorify Him, not its creators. Its beauty told a story of something greater, something not of this world. The fire was a painful reminder that everything in the earthly city is, in the end, only dust.

Already, French president Emmanuel Macron has said the cathedral will be rebuilt, as it should be. “It’s part of the fate, the destiny of France, and our common project over the coming years,” he announced Monday evening. But it can never again be what it was. Those stones, that wood, those centuries of history cannot be recovered.

Here’s some of what art historian Elizabeth Lev wrote about the tragedy this morning in the New York Post:

In the early days the cathedral was dubbed “the forest” since it took 50 acres of forest to build the enormous roof. Timbers and beams hidden under the high ribbed vaults continued the effect of loftiness in the church. Hidden, until today. The forest fire that ravaged the cathedral of Notre Dame burnt away dense layers of history, good, bad, ugly and beautiful piled up as ashes on the ground.

It took 200 years to build Notre Dame, but its story continued through the centuries. The stone carvers who had defied gravity with their vertical designs, then tamed the stone into myriad shapes and sizes; the portals, densely carved with stories of the Blessed Virgin leading to the Last Judgment, set a new standard in decoration.

Some reports indicate that heroic firefighters, priests, and locals were able to rescue the relic of the Crown of Thorns and other precious art and relics from the church even as it burned, which is a mercy to celebrate, even as we weep for what has been lost.

Bernie Sanders Meets Capitalism

A new national poll released yesterday by Emerson indicates that support for Vermont senator Bernie Sanders continues to rise as the Democratic primary heats up. The poll showed Sanders leading with 29 percent support, followed closely by Joe Biden at 24 percent. Both are trailed by South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, who comes in third at 9 percent.

The way the numbers have shifted over the last couple of months is telling. In a February Emerson poll, Biden led the pack with 27 percent to Sanders’s 17, while in March they were tied at 26 percent. And though he’s far from a frontrunner, Buttigieg is gaining ground. In mid February, Emerson found he had almost no support whatsoever among respondents, he rose a bit to 3 percent in March, and now ranks third at 9 percent.

Yesterday’s Emerson numbers show, too, that if Biden decided not to enter the race, Sanders would pick up most of his support (31 percent), while Buttigieg would take 17 percent and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke would nab 13.

Sanders took the stage yesterday evening for a Fox News town-hall event, moderated by Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier, where one of the highlights was the socialist senator’s eagerness to defend the money he earned writing a best-selling book. Sanders disclosed ten years of his tax returns yesterday, which indicated that he has the third-highest adjusted gross income among the Democratic candidates.

“If anybody thinks I should apologize for writing a best-selling book, I’m not going to do it,” Sanders said in response to an audience question. But he ignored the heart of the question, which addressed whether he should pay higher taxes now that he is a member of the “1 percent.”

But Baier pressed the point, asking Sanders, “When you wrote the book and you made the money, isn’t that the definition of capitalism and the American dream?” Here’s what the senator had to say in response:

No. I mean, you know, what we want is a country where everybody has opportunity. You know, I have a college degree. I’m a United States senator. But a lot of people don’t have a college degree. A lot of people are not United States senators. I want everybody in this country to be able to have health care, to have education, to, when they turn on the water, have drinkable water, not toxic water.

Sanders shouldn’t have to apologize for his best-seller, and his unwillingness to do so is a refreshing change from the general self-flagellating urge this year’s Democrats have displayed. But he has no explanation for why his story isn’t an example of the American dream and, more important, why it isn’t a success story for the free-market system he and his supporters denigrate.

Bill Weld to the Rescue

Amid the chaos of Notre-Dame’s crumbling, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld announced his intention to challenge President Trump for the Republican nomination and said he doesn’t intend to run as an Independent if he doesn’t win.

“It is time to return to the principles of Lincoln — equality, dignity, and opportunity for all,” Weld said in a statement. “There is no greater cause on earth than to preserve what truly makes America great. I am ready to lead that fight.”

The last time Weld ran for office, it was as a libertarian, not a Republican; he was the vice-presidential nominee on the Libertarian Party ticket with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

Given the fact that President Trump retains a nearly 90 percent job-approval rating among Republicans, Weld’s candidacy feels highly unnecessary. And he’s perhaps uniquely unsuited for the task. To take just one issue, what social conservative disenchanted with the president will be attracted to a pro-choice candidate like Weld? If you talk to some on the right, there could be a tiny window for a GOP primary challenge, but Weld isn’t the man for the job.

ADDENDUM: I’ve got a piece on the NRO homepage today outlining the four arguments Republican politicians should start making more effectively if they’re serious about defunding Planned Parenthood. For too long, the GOP hasn’t prioritized this issue because they fear it’ll be unpopular, but there’s a laundry list of reasons why removing federal funding from the abortion provider would be better for American women, not to mention the unborn. Republicans need to learn how to articulate those reasons.

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