Politics & Policy

Odd Man . . . In?

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The Odd Man to whom this missive’s title refers is not James Mason but a Brooklyn-born Vermont-based socialist senator. He’s also the subject of Big Jim Geraghty’s recent attempt to answer the question, “Is Bernie a Candidate of Destiny or an Incredibly Lucky Oddball?” From the piece:

Sanders shouldn’t, by rights, even be here. His critics like to point out that he “didn’t collect his first steady paycheck until he was an elected official pushing 40 years old.” In his early 20s, he lived in a “shack-like structure” with a dirt floor and no electricity or running water. At age 32, he was writing bizarre and lurid rants about sex in an alternative newspaper that are shocking even by today’s standards.

He became a candidate for office in late 1971 because he volunteered and no one else did. The far-left Liberty Union party, touting “nonviolent revolutionary socialism,” needed a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and Sanders agreed to do it. (Up in Vermont, the party is a venerable, if never successful, institution.) Sanders’s message in that campaign should sound eerily familiar: He lamented that “some people in this country have billions of dollars when other people have nothing.” He received 1 percent of the vote.

For much of his early political career, Sanders no doubt struck people as a kook. Perhaps no city other than tiny Burlington, Vt., would have given him a chance. In 1980, when he first ran for mayor of the town, in 1980, he won by ten votes over a wildly overconfident five-term incumbent who “hardly bothered to campaign.” Sanders broke almost every traditional rule in politics. He started to go bald early, what’s left of his hair always seemed disheveled, his suits were always wrinkled and rarely fit well, and he wore thick glasses, spoke with an even thicker Brooklyn accent, shouted most of his speeches, and went on at length about dry topics.

Jim, the answer is Lucky Oddball!

Now, to involve the magnificent Carol Reed film, Odd Man Out, in any association with the Lenin-loving POTUS wannabe is downright criminal and horse-whipping-worthy. The offended should accept this establishment’s apologies but know that the Small Brain behind this epistle has been waiting for years to use the poster image shown. And to encourage those who love movies to see this 1947 classic. It is one of the most beautifully shot films, ever. Gorgeous. Exquisite.

Everything Bernie ain’t! OK, let us get on with the Weekend Jolt!

Editorials

1. We honor the late Roger Scruton. From the editorial:

He found much in Burke and (mild surprise) Hegel to inform his political philosophy, which was downstream of culture, as we say, but that’s not exactly how Scruton said it. “Culture and religion are in the last analysis indissoluble,” he argued, drawing on T. S. Eliot. In traditional religion, with all its serious appeal to manners and morals, Scruton found culture’s “life-blood”:

The future of mankind, for the socialist, is simple: pull down the existing order, and allow the future to emerge. But it will not emerge, as we know. These philosophies of the “new world” are lies and delusions, products of a sentimentality which has veiled the facts of human nature.

We can do nothing unless we first amend ourselves.

“Such is the conservative message for our time,” he maintained. “It is a message beyond politics, a message of liturgical weight and authority. But it is a message which must be received, if humane and moderate politics is to remain a possibility.”

Related: Jay Nordlinger knew Roger Scruton quite well. His remembrance is a thing of beauty. We provide other such below, but here at the WJ get-go we highlight Jay’s. From the reflection:

Norman Podhoretz told me that he judged Anna Karenina the best novel — ever. I mentioned this to Roger — who agreed. “There are competitors,” he said, including Middlemarch. “But there are weaknesses in the Eliot, and there are no weaknesses in the Tolstoy. Every character is absolutely real, and engaged from the depth of his being in the story. All the details are absolutely right.”

He also named The Brothers Karamazov, Emma, Madame Bovary, and Ulysses. “Those are all books that I read again and again.”

Coincidentally, he had just read — or re-read — War and Peace. It is “wonderful,” he said, but not perfect, like Anna Karenina. The problem is, “it’s got a kind of thesis that impedes the forward movement of the drama,” and “a thesis is an artificial thing that the novelist is imposing on the world, not a thing that grows from the world.”

More than once, naturally — how could we not? — Scruton and I talked about conservatism. He said in 2017, “My life’s work, in a way, has been an attempt to define the word ‘conservatism’ and to rescue it from being a term of abuse.” He wanted it instead to describe “a coherent political philosophy and social outlook.”

2. A mixed review of the China trade deal. From the editorial:

There are two major problems with the new Washington–Beijing trade accord announced by the Trump administration: First, it isn’t much of a trade deal; second, the principal problem in the U.S.–China relationship is not trade.

There are some benefits to the deal. These are important and should not be overlooked. For one thing, signing even a partial and preliminary deal (which is what “phase one” means) may relieve some of the uncertainty that currently imposes heavy costs on businesses in the United States and abroad. A higher degree of certainty will encourage investment and long-term economic growth.

And while it has imposed heavy costs on U.S. businesses ranging from soybean farms to steel mills, the trade war has credibly demonstrated to Xi Jinping and his cronies that the United States has the ability to inflict real economic pain on China, and that the subsequent disruption will be borne with far more strength and flexibility by the U.S. economy — which enjoys the dynamism associated with genuinely free enterprise rather than the nationalistic neo-mercantilism practiced by Beijing. The trade war has put the Chinese back on their heels if not quite down on their knees. In that, President Trump has accomplished precisely what he intended.

And, in a sense, that is part of the trouble with the trade deal: Beijing is hurting, and hurting enough that Xi Jinping et al. almost certainly have done here what they have done so many times in the past: assuage Washington by making promises that they have no intention whatsoever of keeping. Among other things, China has promised to increase its imports of U.S. goods by about 50 percent — in only two years. The deal obliges China to increase its imports of U.S. goods by $200 billion over two years from a baseline of about $185 billion a year.

A Pretty Box of 15 Tasty Conservative Nougats and Sweets, All Certain to Provide Intellectual Pep, Awaiting Your Engorging and Enjoyment

1. Cases are things that get tried, says Andy McCarthy. They are not open-ended investigations. He has advice for a Senate being pressured by a politicized House. From the beginning of the piece:

The Democrats’ strategy is coming clear.

The House provided the Senate with two half-baked impeachment articles. House Democrats rushed through the investigation, forgoing salient witnesses and evidence, because of the political calendar. The charges are weak and the inquiry was needlessly short-circuited, so Democrats have continued investigating the premature allegations. Now they are publicly disclosing newly acquired evidence, with the promise of more to come. Transparently, their goal is to pressure the Senate not merely to conduct a trial but to complete the investigation that the House failed to complete — calling witnesses and gathering evidence, as if a trial were nothing more than an extension of an open-ended grand-jury probe.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans should not let them get away with it. No trial court would allow itself to be whipsawed this way. A federal judge would tell prosecutors to go back to the grand jury, finish the investigation, and come back to the trial court when they have a case ready to be tried, not investigated.

2. Victor Davis Hanson enumerates the new normal. From the commentary:

5) The Washington top echelon of the CIA, FBI, and NSA will be largely immune from oversight. If they wish to spy on a presidential candidate or curtail the options of a sitting president, they will easily use their powers of surveillance, leaking, and spying for political purposes — purposes mostly defined as protecting the status quo of the permanent government. Upon retirement, such intelligence heads will retain their security clearances and use this inside access to obtain lucrative analyst billets on cable news channels deemed hostile to the incumbent administration. No one will care much when an FBI or CIA director lies under oath to Congress. There will be no indictments when high intelligence officials deliberately mislead federal courts, lie to federal investigators and the public, and conspire to derail political campaigns.

6) Reverse targeting of political opponents will be the normal behavior of intelligence agencies working closely with an incumbent lame-duck administration. Political rivals and opponents can be surveilled by warrants that are aimed nominally at third-party targets. The names of surveilled political opponents then can be unmasked when presidential appointees request it — the more unmaskings, and the more extraneous they are, the better. And the ensuing information will be leaked to the popular press with impunity.

3. The curtain rising on the impeachment show means it’s time, says Kevin Williamson, for the liberal media to begin intimidating the Chief Justice. From the piece:

Oddly, but not unexpectedly, that is not made at all clear by Adam Liptak’s report in the Times, which is not exactly a report. Liptak warns the chief justice against making displays of partisanship without ever establishing that Roberts is in need of any such admonition from the august pages of the New York Times. His quotations from Roberts are the definition of anodyne. “We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability,” Roberts said in his annual report on the state of the judiciary. Liptak detects in this a coded message to Trump. Well. What else? “As the new year begins, and we turn to the tasks before us,” Roberts said, “we should each resolve to do our best to maintain the public’s trust that we are faithfully discharging our solemn obligation to equal justice under law.” So much for that.

Liptak quotes law professor Frank Bowman, who is the author of a book about impeachment, warning that even by the standard of presidential impeachments, “This one in particular is so poisonous.” About that very interesting claim, we might charitably note that the data set is very small.

4. Some major Wall Street honchos proclaim that climate change — and not investment returns — is to become the new priority. David Bahnsen calls the hooey . . . hooey. From the piece:

Larry Fink has taken flak in Manhattan charitable-board circles for being a little too much of a CEO and not enough of a social activist. But the time has come for corporate America to stop rank virtue-signaling, transcend marketing messages and feel-good platitudes, and devise some substance behind their bold proclamations. As they fly on their private jets into Davos next week, it may be a good time to think about the positive impact fossil fuels have had in reducing starvation, or in providing either heat or coolant to the world when desperately needed. It is perhaps past the time to consider more thoughtfully the tradeoffs at stake, the quality-of-life ramifications, and the brute facts of some of the more extreme efforts to reduce fossil-fuel usage.

I have no doubt that investors worldwide are concerned with sustainability and earnest about stewardship. I have no doubt that CEOs such as Fink mean well. But until the rhetoric evolves to engage actual policy discussions with transparent admissions about what costs will be incurred, it is impossible not to see such posturing as virtue-signaling. Carbon emissions can come down (they are coming down), but at the cost of decimating lower-income households or causing large parts of the population either to starve or to freeze to death. The binary logic according to which one must either be an environmental villain or support extremist measures such as the Green New Deal must end.

No such “fundamental reshaping of finance” is coming. Capital will continue its relentless pursuit of its most efficient and productive use. Perhaps what we need instead is a fundamental reshaping of how to publicly engage major social issues. We need to change the political climate, which currently underrates substance.

5. Intent on putting the stink on possible POTUS nominees, Slate published a hit piece by Mark Joseph Stern on federal judge Amy Coney Barrett. At Bench Memos, Ed Whelan tore it to shreds. In two parts! From the initial piece:

Let’s start with the cases in which Stern makes glaring errors:

Schmidt v. Foster: Stern complains that Barrett “wrote (again in dissent) that a criminal defendant did not have a right to counsel when a judge grilled him on the details of his crime.” In fact, Barrett never reached the question whether the defendant, Schmidt, had a right to counsel, and expressly left open that, if that question were actually teed up for decision, he might: “Perhaps the right to counsel should extend to a hearing like the one the judge conducted in Schmidt’s case.” (Slip op. at 44.)

What Stern completely misses is that Schmidt’s case involved his application for a writ of habeas corpus—a challenge, that is, to his state-law conviction for murder—not a direct appeal of a federal conviction. The relevant question in addressing Schmidt’s habeas application was whether the judge’s decision to question Schmidt without counsel in a pretrial hearing involved an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent. Barrett explains at length that “[n]o Supreme Court precedent addresses the question presented by this case: whether a defendant has the right to counsel when testifying before a judge in a nonadversarial proceeding.” Schmidt’s habeas petition therefore failed.

6. Says Rich Lowry, what Bernie Sanders ain’t . . . is normal. And what he is . . . is socialist. From the column:

His domestic program, according to Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute, would cost nearly $100 trillion over the next decade. It would more than double federal spending and blow past Western European social democracies in government profligacy. What would ordinarily be considered ambitious spending plans — his proposed increased expenditure expansion on Social Security, infrastructure, housing, education, and paid family leave — are dwarfed by his gargantuan commitments to his “Medicare for All” proposal, his federal job guarantee, and his climate plan.

He’d fundamentally transform the relationship of the individual to the state, which, among other things, would ban people from owning their own health insurance.

Sanders pitches his health-care proposal as “what every other major country on Earth is doing,” but no other place is as sweeping or as generous. “There is not a single country in the world,” health-care analyst Chris Pope writes, “that offers comprehensive coverage with an unlimited choice of providers, fully paid for by taxpayers, without insurer gatekeeping, service rationing or out-of-pocket payments.”

7. Kat Timpf pegs Little Mike Bloomberg for being the authoritarian he . . . is. From the article:

While discussing the Texas church shooting last week, Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg said that we “just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place.”

“It may be true — I wasn’t there; I don’t know the facts — that somebody in the congregation had their own gun and killed the person who murdered two other people, but it’s the job of law enforcement to have guns and to decide when to shoot,” Bloomberg said in Montgomery, Ala., on December 30, as reported by Conservative Review. “You just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place.”

Bloomberg is, of course, correct. Although the shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement tragically took two lives, it could have been much worse had an armed, trained volunteer security guard not been there to shoot the gunman dead before he could do even greater damage.

This incident was about as clear an example as you could get for how maintaining our Second Amendment rights can save lives — and, therefore, it might seem like a pretty odd thing to reference when you’re arguing against gun rights. The Second Amendment, after all, worked in this case; people are alive because of it, and Bloomberg is going to say that he wished the situation had been different?

8. John Hirschauer has strong doubts about California Governor Gavin Newsome’s desire to seriously address the homelessness plaguing his state. From the analysis:

Major cities in California are awash in familiar pathologies: A sea of used heroin needles, piles of human waste, and a precipitous spike in crime and disorder. The homeless, while more likely to be victimized by one another than to victimize the broader community, have wrought considerable violence on their non-vagrant peers. Anthony Miele Jr., a 35-year-old from Ventura County, was sitting across from his wife at a steakhouse with his five-year-old daughter on his lap when a homeless man with paranoid-schizophrenia wandered in off the street and stabbed him to death in April 2018. Last November, a mentally ill homeless man dumped a bucket of scalding fecal matter on a passerby in Los Angeles. The victim, hauled immediately off to a nearby hospital, later told reporters that she “was soaked,” by the content of the bucket, which “was coming off my eyelashes and into my eyes.” Angeleno Albert Davtyan nearly died in December 2018 after being attacked at random by a homeless man, who pushed him into oncoming traffic. Davtyan was hit by a truck and suffered severe pulmonary and skeletal injuries.

There’s no denying the dire consequences of the status quo for both the unsheltered homeless and society at large. Californians are not only forced to trek through mounds of human waste interspersed with sidewalk-encampments as they walk city streets, but must also live with a reasonable, if remote, fear that the untreated mentally ill living on the street will lash out violently.

9. Sam Sweeney finds the idea of freedom is an elusive one in the Middle East. From the essay:

Early in the 20th century, freedom in the Middle East was primarily thought of as freedom from colonization — e.g. the freedom of the Turkish people from being divided up by Greece, Russia, France, etc., and the freedom of the Arabs from the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and then from European colonialism, and so on and so forth. The success in gaining freedom from colonialism led directly to the nationalist era in Middle Eastern politics, which in many ways has lasted to today, though it is arguably weaker than it has been since its inception, at least in the Arab countries of the region. Nationalism in its modern form is mostly a foreign concept to the Middle East, existing seriously only since the mid-19th century or so. It is an attempt to import a model that worked in Europe — the nation-state — into a region with a fundamentally different national and social history.

More so than Europe, the Middle East is a patchwork of ethnicities (nations) living on top of, rather than next to, one another. While the European nation-state often subjected those at the periphery to adopt the national identity of the center — as the culture and language of Paris and Madrid, for example, were imposed on Basques and Catalans — in the Middle East such various groups often live within the same city and overlap in ways that make it impossible to draw a map separating people along ethnic lines. The creation of the nation-state in the Middle East led to a zero-sum game of winners and losers, with competing groups fighting for absolute control over the same territory. After a successful military campaign against Greece, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, Turkey won its independence and created a state of, by, and for the Turkish people. Through genocide, they eliminated other populations living in the same geographical space — the Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean Christian communities that formed a demographic threat to the Turkishness of Turkey. The Kurdish population, which became demographically dominant over areas once mixed with Christians, has been suffering the same fate as Turkey’s attempt to Turkify every corner of the country continues.

10. It’s a Small Mind After All: Naomi Schaefer explains the realities of conservative philanthropy, against the sanctimonious and malicious views mouthed by a scion made wealthy courtesy of a cartoon mouse, Abigail Disney. From the piece:

I don’t know whether Disney’s description is accurate, but if she believes that conservative people by definition do not care about the poor, she could use a serious lesson in American philanthropy. As The Chronicle of Philanthropy noted in 2012, “the eight states that ranked highest voted for John McCain in the last presidential contest while the seven lowest-ranking states supported Barack Obama.” Disney would no doubt be shocked and horrified to find that Utah’s residents top the list of givers, donating about 6.6 percent of their adjusted gross income, with Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia rounding out the top five.

Which is not surprising, given how closely tied religion is to philanthropic giving. According to the World Economic Forum, “religious Americans volunteer more, give more and give more often, not only to religious but secular causes as well. Among Americans who give to any cause, 55 percent claim religious values as an important motivator for giving.”

Disney doesn’t mention being raised with any kind of faith, but some of the country’s most generous millionaires and billionaires credit their religious beliefs when asked about their giving. Take the late William E. Simon, whose Catholic faith led him to give money not only to Catholic organizations but also to shelters for abused women and children and to athletic facilities for children.

11. Jussie Smollett had a bad year. Kyle Smith says it looks like he is about to have another one. From his piece:

So lots of things Smollett said privately before and after the most notorious fake attack by nonexistent evildoers since The War of the Worlds radio show are about to become public. Smollett’s career appears to be on pause. His income must be minimal after Fox fired him from Empire. His legal bills are piling up. Oh, and Dave Chappelle openly mocked him and rechristened him “Juicy Smollée.” Will the humiliation never end?

Smollett is not the only one on the hook. Foxx, Smollett’s apparent ally who let him skate, seems to be feeling the heat and has retained outside legal counsel. Foxx hired a lawyer to represent her personal interests and also brought in a former chief judge to respond to Webb’s inquiries about the state’s attorney’s office. This latter problem is costing taxpayers a significant amount: the lawyer is being paid (at a rate of $250 to $375 an hour) with public funds. Foxx is running for reelection but faces three Democratic opponents in a March primary.

12. More Kyle: He recommends do not Doolittle. From the review:

The picture is a throwback to the pre–Star Wars era of children’s entertainment. The thinking back in those glum Johnson/Nixon-era days was that kids were like adults, only dumber. Why waste money making the script smart? It would only go over children’s heads. Instead, spend the money dazzling the wee things with famous actors, elaborate sets (today displaced by elaborate CGI), and extravagant scenes of wonder that are splashy but clunky, like a load of bricks dumped in a swimming pool. The original Doctor Dolittle (1967) was all of this, plus terrible songs.

A notorious flop, it’ll go down as more successful than the new one. After the Avengers saga, watching Robert Downey Jr. wade through this claptrap is like watching your favorite bright young college graduate accept a job emptying bedpans.

Or worse. In an especially excruciating scene, Dolittle, the Victorian vet who talks to animals, relieves a dragon of its misery by pulling large objects out of its rectum: thighbones, a suit of armor, bagpipes. The following scenes were a blur. All I could think about was when Dolittle would wash his hands, which turned out to be never. Exiting the theater, I headed straight for the Purel aisle of Walgreens.

13. It’s awards seasons, so the PC agitators are hopped up and hash-tagging. Armond White is having none of it. From the piece:

Fact is: This annual, unnatural occurrence is essentially political manipulation. Awards season’s monitors emulate the combined dictates of authoritarian ministries. For example, the Los Angeles Times published protests from at least four of its in-house pundits on the same day, merely demonstrating collective PC whimsies. It recalls Orwell’s prophetic Ministry of Truth overseeing media, Ministry of Peace controlling war, Ministry of Plenty controlling distribution of resources, and Ministry of Love torturing political dissidents. This predetermined consensus — backing up one another’s middlebrow fantasies about gender and ethnic equality — is what makes mainstream-media workers feel that they’re always, inarguably right.

It’s really another form of social engineering, isn’t it? The leftist media’s love of race and sex quotas prevails over any concern with quality. (I will never stop believing that Julián Hernández’s Tattoo of Revenge is superior to Little Women, or that Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell is deeper and truer than The Irishman.)

14. Brian Allen finds himself in a hip Manhattan neighborhood where an exhibit on pastels catches the eye. From the piece:

In the same Chelsea neighborhood, far from Museum Mile, are the FLAG Foundation and museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Both are free art spaces, smartly and elegantly programmed, and both promote contemplation and learning. FLAG is a privately funded, experimental art space on 25th Street and Tenth Avenue, amid the high-end contemporary art dealers. It’s open to the public and a welcoming place. The FIT museum belongs to the school. It’s got a great fashion collection — fashion is indeed art — and considers the body as a canvas for the best design and materials from the exotic to the synthetic to the prosaic.

“Nicolas Party: Pastel” is the unassuming title of the new show at FLAG. Party (b. 1981) is Swiss but ubiquitous and endlessly clever. Party curated the show and was given much leeway, but that’s FLAG’s mission. It empowers artists, writers, and offbeat art historians to curate.

The space is copious. The building is modern, but it’s got the spirit of the many old warehouses and factories in the neighborhood. Big spaces and high ceilings make for a dramatic stage. Set in spaces with so sleekly utilitarian a vibe is a celebration of soft pastel, the warmest and fuzziest of media. It’s an exhibition with layers of juxtaposition and surprise.

Pastel is pure, powdered pigment in the form of a crayon or stick, like colored chalk. It looks soft and buttery on the surface — paper with a surface textured enough to hold the powder. “Pastel” might imply a pale palette, but pastel color can be bright or intensely saturated. It’s natural, dried pigment that runs the color gamut.

15. The outcome of Taiwan’s elections, writes Mike Watson, is a blow to the Commies across the Strait of Formosa. From the analysis:

Incumbent Tsai Ing-wen’s lopsided drubbing of challenger Han Kuo-yu in Saturday’s Taiwanese presidential election had been widely expected in recent weeks, but it was not always such a sure thing. At this time last year, Ms. Tsai had resigned as the chairperson of her party after catastrophic electoral losses, and her political future looked bleak.

Riding to the rescue was Chairman Xi, who gave a speech demanding that Taiwan accept the “one country, two systems” framework that governs China’s relations with Hong Kong and warning that “we make no promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures” to absorb Taiwan into China. For Tsai, whose Democratic Progressive party is skeptical of reunification with China, rejecting Xi’s demands was a layup. China’s subsequent attempt to undermine civil liberties in Hong Kong, and the ensuing protests and violence, made Tsai look prescient and mightily contributed to her reelection, which was in doubt as late as August. Bringing Taiwan under Chinese control, a longstanding goal of the CCP, now looks highly unlikely absent an invasion.

Though Tsai’s victory is a major setback that hurts the CCP’s prestige, its consequences are unlikely to reverberate too far across the region. Hong Kong’s protests and the improved fortunes of China skeptics in Taiwan make China look less effective, but many of China’s neighbors are themselves de facto or de jure one-party states, and their rulers are not the sort to cheer on mass protest movements that demand freedom.

RIP Roger Scruton

We present a selection of worthwhile things to read, watch, and listen to concerning the late conservative thinker, a man of enormous influence.

1. Michael Brendan Dougherty explains the importance of the great scholar and author — and anti-Communist activist. From the essay:

I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Roger Scruton a few times in this life and had a brief correspondence with him. But I’ve had the joy of reading him and learning from him all my adult life. Most formative was his book The Meaning of Conservatism, which tried to preserve the social, cultural, and institutional aspects of conservatism during the period of Margaret Thatcher’s years as prime minister; Scruton understood her limitations long before others appreciated her virtues. I particularly recommend The Uses of Pessimism; The West and the Rest; Fools, Firebrands, and Frauds; Beauty; The Face of God; and The Soul of the World.

From him most of all I took my own idea of what conservatism is, the attempt to preserve or recover a home in this world — a place of consolation, a sanctified somewhere that connects us to the dead, the unborn, and our neighbors through love, memory, and sacrifice. A place that belongs to us and implants in us a longing for the true home that can never be destroyed by storms, war, neglect, or the encroachment of speculative exurban developers who want to replace our homes with parking lots and Panera Bread. We put in our labors to preserve freedom, decency, and culture, so that our children receive this somewhere as a place prepared for me by my father.

Scruton may be the only conservative of this generation whose work will be read 100 years hence. And while we pray for the repose of his soul, and for comfort for his family and close friends, we should also pray that then, unlike now, his work and his courage receive the recognition they deserve. Scruton has labored and sacrificed. He is not becoming “nothing” but the gentle, sweet, and courageous Knight who saved his home from the destroyers.

2. “Professor Roger Scruton was the greatest conservative of our age.” So says Daniel Hannan in his latest Ici Londres video, which you can watch here.

3. Dan was a lifelong friend of the great scholar. He discusses his late friend, for the Quillette Podcast, with Toby Young. Listen here.

4. From May 2019: Douglas Murray had a talk, sponsored by The Spectator, with Roger Scruton. A sterling experience. Watch it here.

5. Rod Dreher visited his friend this past Summer. A lovely reflection.

6. David Burton sings his praises at The Daily Signal. Read it here.

7. A long obituary was published in The Guardian. Read it here.

8. Roger Kimball is publishing a terrific remembrance in the next issue of The New Criterion. He shared the page galleys, and in turn we share a slice (a link will be provided, when available, in a looming WJ):

Sir Roger was also something of an intellectual entrepreneur. For the first eighteen years of its life, he edited The Salisbury Review, a small but potent conservative journal named for the Third Marquess of Salisbury (1830–1903), who had pointedly observed that good government consisted in doing as little as possible.

Sir Roger wrote several times about his political maturation, most fully, perhaps, in “Why I became a conservative,” in The New Criterion in 2003. There were two answers, one negative, one positive. The negative answer was the visceral repudiation of civilization he witnessed in Paris in 1968: slogans defacing walls, shattered shop windows, and spoiled radicals. The positive element was the philosophy of Edmund Burke, that apostle of tradition, authority, and prejudice. Prejudice? How awful that word sounds to enlightened ears. But Sir Roger reminds us that prejudice, far from being synonymous with bigotry, can be a prime resource in freedom’s armory. “Our most necessary beliefs,” he wrote, “may be both unjustified and unjustifiable from our own perspective, and . . . the attempt to justify them will lead merely to their loss.” Burke saw with penetrating insight that freedom was not the antonym of authority or the repudiation of obedience. “Real freedom,” Sir Roger observed, “concrete freedom, the freedom that can actually be defined, claimed, and granted, was not the opposite of obedience but its other side. The abstract, unreal freedom of the liberal intellect was really nothing more than childish disobedience, amplified into anarchy.”

9. The New Criterion republishes Scruton’s 2003 essay on why he became a conservative. From the piece:

To my rescue came Burke. Although not widely read at the time in our universities, he had not been dismissed as stupid, reactionary, or absurd. He was simply irrelevant, of interest largely because he got everything wrong about the French Revolution and therefore could be studied as illustrating an episode in intellectual pathology. Students were still permitted to read him, usually in conjunction with the immeasurably less interesting Tom Paine, and from time to time you heard tell of a “Burkean” philosophy, which was one strand within nineteenth-century British conservatism.

Burke was of additional interest to me on account of the intellectual path that he had trod. His first work, like mine, was in aesthetics. And although I didn’t find much of philosophical significance in his Essay on the Sublime and the Beautiful, I could see that, in the right cultural climate, it would convey a powerful sense of the meaning of aesthetic judgment and of its indispensable place in our lives. I suppose that, in so far as I had received any intimations of my future career as an intellectual pariah, it was through my early reactions to modern architecture, and to the desecration of my childhood landscape by the faceless boxes of suburbia. I learned as a teenager that aesthetic judgment matters, that it is not merely a subjective opinion, unargued because unarguable, and of no significance to anyone besides oneself. I saw—though I did not have the philosophy to justify this—that aesthetic judgment lays a claim upon the world, that it issues from a deep social imperative, and that it matters to us in just the way that other people matter to us, when we strive to live with them in a community. And, so it seemed to me, the aesthetics of modernism, with its denial of the past, its vandalization of the landscape and townscape, and its attempt to purge the world of history, was also a denial of community, home, and settlement. Modernism in architecture was an attempt to remake the world as though it contained nothing save atomic individuals, disinfected of the past, and living like ants within their metallic and functional shells.

Like Burke, therefore, I made the passage from aesthetics to conservative politics with no sense of intellectual incongruity, believing that, in each case, I was in search of a lost experience of home. And I suppose that, underlying that sense of loss is the permanent belief that what has been lost can also be recaptured—not necessarily as it was when it first slipped from our grasp, but as it will be when consciously regained and remodelled, to reward us for all the toil of separation through which we are condemned by our original transgression. That belief is the romantic core of conservatism, as you find it—very differently expressed—in Burke and Hegel, and also in T. S. Eliot, whose poetry was the greatest influence on me during my teenage years.

10. John O’Sullivan shares this wonderful 2016 Budapest lecture on art and the cultural scene. Watch it here.

11. Bradley Birzer explains in The American Conservative why Sir Roger was traditionalism’s most articulate spokesman. From the reflection:

Not surprisingly, Scruton had no love for or faith in the European Union. In dismay, he wrote, “I doubt very much that the ordinary British subject in 1945, having lived through a war in which we had risked everything and suffered much, could have believed that, half a century later, most of our laws would be imposed on us by unelected bureaucrats in Belgium—the country that had done the least to defend itself against Hitler.”

As a critical side note, Scruton explained that conservatives hate the welfare state not because it helps the poor, but because it makes the poor dependent. And once dependent, the population is no longer free. And once no longer free, it cannot readily lead a humane life, governed by decency and habit. In a welfare-oriented society, “responsibilities are drowned by rights.”

One of the greatest dangers of the modern world—beginning with the Enlightenment and exploding with the French Revolution—was the imperialism of the political sphere. For nearly three centuries now, the West has seen the political sphere expand so rapidly that it has subsumed almost every aspect of our lives, and with globalization, uncontrollable forces of consumerism and selfishness have “broken free of the forces—religious, moral and national—which used to limit it,” while decimating “the old local pieties, the old customs, and the local attachments.”

Once we politicize everything, Scruton feared, there will be nothing left but power, the struggle for power, and, consequently, only the nihilism of the abyss. To his consternation, he saw nihilism, widespread by 2007, “as the addictive drumbeats and soundbytes that form the background of popular culture.” Corporations, owing nothing to loyalty and attempting only to satiate the appetites, would never defend the good, the true, or the beautiful. “Nobody in the corporatist society will wish to fight for his neighbor’s rights, to devote his life to a cause, or to lay down his life for his country,” he lamented. “Indeed, he is unlikely to know which country is his.”

12. At The Wall Street Journal, Dominic Green remembers beautifully. From the piece:

He enlivened English empiricism with the grandeur of German idealism and the linguistic intricacies of Wittgenstein. He lived his beliefs, whether working for the anti-Communist “Underground University” behind the Iron Curtain, playing the organ in his local church, flying back to England on weekends while teaching at Boston University to ride in the local hunt, or recording his impressions in the seconds between falling off his horse and hitting the ground.

When I visited his farm in 2017 for the annual Apple Day—a village get-together with philosophical lecture and locavore lamb chops—the attendees included a Syrian refugee, Czech philosophy students and a phalanx of local jam makers. Scruton shambled about in his old tweeds, observer and participant. “Having fun?” he asked. He educated us all and fought for truth without forfeiting humor. He leaves a generous and lasting bounty of honest words and brave deeds.

Wither America

Cal Thomas is a friend, personal and institutional, joining NR for many a time on our sea-faring voyages, delighting passengers with his wisdom and camaraderie. He has a new book out next week, America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers . . . and The Future of the United States. Have to admit, Your Humble Correspondent has not read it but for flipping through the pages (it arrived yesterday), and can’t say I am eager to dive in, if only because of the troubling premise and the troubling History (yep, capital H) that shows the sell-by date of great powers has proven to be 250 years.

Cal does the sniff test as we approach that anniversary and investigates parallels between historical failed empires and present-day America. The premise of the book, per the statement sent along with the galley copy, is “to reveal the future of our country if we fail to heed the warning signs and course-correct.”

Per Cal:

“If America doesn’t learn from history – our own and the world’s – we are likely to suffer the fate of other great nations, rotting from within before either being conquered from without by an invading army or collapsing under the weight of self-indulgence, decadence, debt, a sense of entitlement, greed and envy,” wrote Thomas. “It’s up to those now living and the next and perhaps last American generation . . . to turn things around.”

More:

Drawing from the discoveries of renowned author and scholar Sir John Glubb, Thomas’ book describes the six stages experienced by once-great empires before their eventual decline, which include: The Age of Pioneers, The Age of Conquests, The Age of Commerce, The Age of Affluence, The Age of Intellect and The Age of Decadence.

Thomas’ thorough scrutiny of past nations throughout the book forms a formidable theory that the United States is presently experiencing the final phase most seen before an empire’s ending and could crumble as soon as July 4, 2026.

“Given the history of other empires and great nations, the decadence that is now tightening its grip on America almost guarantees our demise, or at the very least a radical decline that will leave the country devoid of the liberties we now enjoy but are rapidly exchanging for a license to do whatever we wish,” Thomas warned.

This is a book worth reading. No judgments in advance, but whether its conclusions are or are not persuasive, the gut says Cal will raise issues that must be addressed intelligently and directly. So order your copy here.

The Six.

1. Gatestone Institute’s Burak Bekdil finds Erdogan’s campaign to make Turkey more Islamic is flopping. From the piece:

In 2012, Erdoğan described his political mission as “raising devout generations”, a remark for which Turkey’s main opposition called him “a merchant of religion”. In November 2019, Erdoğan repeated his quest for “devout generations” so that “we will not see alcoholics on the streets”. He boasts that since he came to power in 2002, the number of imam school students has risen from 60,000 to 1.3 million. No doubt, that is an impressive record for an Islamist strongman. But too premature to cheer about.

A survey, part of OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, has revealed that 54% of imam school students do not feel they belong to their school, compared to 27.5% to 29.1% of students at other types of schools. It seems a greater number of families have forced their children to enroll at imam schools but, at least at the high school level, these students are unhappy.

There are empirical studies that theism is on the rise in Turkey, especially among imam school students. The pollster Optimar found that in 2017, 99% of Turks identified themselves as Muslims, but in 2019, only 89.5% said they were Muslim. An unexpected 4.5% said they were theist, 2.7% agnostic and 1.7% atheist, and 1.6% did not answer.

2. At The American Conservative, Grayson Quay explores the ways in which the splintering United Methodist Church is placing its African members in an organizational ghetto — not the first time a mainline Protestant sect has dealt harshly with its black congregants. It’s “woke white cultural imperialism” at its finest. From the piece:

My anecdotal example is one among many. In 1998, when the African bishops led the charge to defend Christian sexual ethics at the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference, Bishop John Shelby Spong of Newark, New Jersey, who is not in any meaningful sense a Christian or even a theist, made the shockingly racist claim that African Christians had “moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity.” Others found even more creative ways to infantilize black people, suggesting that if African Christians oppose gay marriage and clergy, they must have been brainwashed into doing so by American right-wingers. As global Christianity becomes less white and more conservative, progressive Christians will need to choose between listening to people of color and upholding their own woke agenda. So far, they’ve chosen the second option.

Liberal American Christians seem to have adopted the same attitude toward the developing world that American foreign policy czars have. If the United Methodists and the Episcopalians agree that Africans aren’t enlightened enough for true Christianity, then the Trump administration certainly believes that Iraq isn’t enlightened enough for true democracy. There are striking similarities between the African Methodists voting for traditional Christianity and the Iraqi parliament voting to expel U.S. troops. In both cases, non-Westerners attempt to apply a belief system that was imposed upon them by the West only to be told that they were never really worthy of that system, be it Christianity or democratic self-determination.

The same liberals who accuse conservative Christians of denying “the image of God in … people of color and LGBTQ people” have chosen to intentionally sever themselves from a thriving Christian community of color. This is woke white cultural imperialism at its most naked. Dr. Danker sees a silver lining, predicting that “a robust [conservative] evangelical Methodism will arise out of all this.” Hopefully. Still, it’s heartbreaking. In the first heady days of the Methodist movement, John Wesley’s enthusiasm for the gospel inspired William Wilberforce to abolish the Atlantic slave trade. With this decision to split, Wesley’s misguided followers have disgraced his memory by eagerly abandoning their African brothers and sisters.

3. At The Catholic World Herald, Amy Welborn targets the lie of “gender self-identity.” From the piece:

What a moment. What a time, in which simple biology is wildly controversial. How did we get here? Well, one way to answer that question is to look back for a moment, and try to figure out where we were, just a few decades ago.

I consider some old photographs. In 1964, at the age of four, there I was, surrounded by my gifts: a pedal-driven fire truck, a baby doll carriage—and a punching bag. My third birthday, a year before, I’m looking down at the cake, a small stack of books next to it, and then, apparently, my main present: a big, chunky, red-and-yellow Tonka dump truck.

Do you think she might be trans?

Not even thinking such a thing could be, not even worrying about it, we kept on truckin’ through the 70s, pedaling those cars, Barbies in hand; then getting older, eschewing makeup and maybe bras, our jeans’ cuffs trailing on the ground, determined to reject cultural and social stereotypes. And if that’s you, maybe you’re with here with me, wondering how in the world we’ve transitioned from that world in which expressions of “gender” were downplayed or even discouraged as stereotypical and limiting, to a landscape in which “feminine” and “masculine” stereotypical preferences and expressions have become straight-up pathologized.

4. At The College Fix, Alexander Pease finds an interesting way for faculty leftists to conspire to effectively block a conservative campus group. From the story:

A common hurdle for controversial student organizations is finding a faculty advisor, as required for recognition by their universities.

At the University of Maine, the College Republicans chapter has not had trouble finding faculty advisors. Rather, it keeps losing them.

The conservative group is once again shopping around after its latest advisor, a progressive newspaper columnist, quit after less than a week, objecting to the CRs’ views on immigration and arguably inflammatory social media posts.

The possibility that the club may have to keep seeking re-recognition by the student government is an unacceptable restriction on its freedom of expression, a civil liberties group told The College Fix.

In the event that a student organization can’t find a required faculty advisor, “the university must provide them one or waive the requirement,” Adam Steinbaugh of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote in an email Thursday.

5. Law & Liberty’s Michael Munger ponders the question – “Is There a Technology Trap?” From the essay:

The most interesting prediction Keynes made was about the shape of the work life of the future. He combines two insights, neither of which are yet visible, at least not to the extent Keynes expected. The first was the elimination of scarcity on a wide scale; the second is the reaction of workers in seeking to “buy” more leisure with the increased income they receive from working. He did recognize that the process might be slow, slow enough that it might be happening before we fully recognize it.

The key elements of Keynes’ argument must be that either (1) labor displaced by technology in one area, such as agriculture or manufacturing, will find well-paid applications in other sectors, or (2) people will simply work less, and substitute paid work for leisure, or construct communities of meaning around voluntary group activities. And that’s a useful way of briefly summarizing the argument in C. B. Frey’s timely book, The Technology Trap. Frey argues that there is no evidence of effect #2. In fact, the work hours of the most highly paid members of society are going up, not down. And the evidence on effect #1 is even less promising, with wages rapidly declining or jobs simply disappearing in sector after sector. It’s not just that Keynes was wrong, but that we are on the verge of a job crisis, according to Frey.

6. Chris DeMuth’s masterpiece in National Affairs highlights the role the late Michael Uhlmann played in saving the republic by intellectually manhandling — through a Senate Judiciary Committee report known as the “Uhlmann Essay” — the powerful and plentiful forces trying to obliterate the Electoral College. From the piece:

The minority report was signed by Democratic senators James Eastland of Mississippi (the committee chairman), John McClellan of Arkansas, and Sam Ervin, Jr., of North Carolina, along with Republicans Hruska, Hiram Fong of Hawaii, and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Formally captioned “Minority Views,” it is better known to history as the Uhlmann Essay on the Electoral College. Legislative staffers are supposed to toil in anonymity and let their bosses take the credit, and Mike heartily supported that custom, but in this case the authorship was widely known and gratefully acknowledged by the senators themselves. It was more than twice the length of the majority report, and in style and substance could not have been more different; it stands apart from all other legislative reports I know of.

First of all, it is a rhetorical masterpiece. It is written in a clear, single voice, with none of the weasel words and internal contradictions that characterize many committee-written documents. It has classical structure: opening with a forthright itemization of arguments against direct election; then developing, extending, and combining those arguments; then diverting to a brief cadenza on “specious arguments” about the Electoral College; then drawing everything together in a ringing conclusion. Meticulous exposition is undergirded by a basso continuo — direct election would be “the most deeply radical amendment which has ever entered the Constitution of the United States.” Eminent advocates of the Electoral College make pointed arguments in their own words — John F. Kennedy, Richard Goodwin, Theodore White, Harry Jaffa (of course), Alexander Bickel, and Charles Black (the source of the “deeply radical” line). The author’s own formulations are frequently deep and aphoristic, as in, “The genius of our present method of election may be said to consist precisely in its ability to reveal what men have in common and to conceal what they do not.”

Boldly — given the minority’s cornered circumstances — the report begins by placing the burden of proof on the proponents of direct election, which immediately highlights the thinness of the majority report. The Electoral College is imperfect, as are all electoral systems, but it has been with us for more than two centuries. It has adapted to changing circumstances, provided legitimacy and stability in tumultuous times, produced many distinguished presidents, and been part and parcel of the most successful and durable structure of government in history. In the face of this long and admirable experience, the majority proposed not to correct any particular defects but rather to throw away the entire apparatus, based on nothing more than abstract mathematical simulations, and to substitute a radically different one, without even pausing to consider what the practical consequences of the new system might be.

BONUS: Also in National Affairs, Nick Eberstadt frets, and with good reason, over the “collapse of work for adult men, and the retreat from the world of work of growing numbers of men of conventional working age.” From the piece:

Second, there is the pronounced and increasing disparity in labor-force participation rates among different sub-regions of the country. Modern America has witnessed increasing dispersion in state-level prime-age male labor-force participation rates since at least 1980. Moreover, major, enduring, and sometimes even widening gaps in prime-age male labor-force participation rates are evident for geographically adjoining states (compare, for example, Maine to New Hampshire, or West Virginia to Virginia or Maryland). If declining participation rates were a consequence of demand shocks to the labor force, economic theory would suggest the national labor market would move toward equilibrium over time, implying, among other things, eventual convergence in participation rates among states. Just the opposite, however, has been taking place in America for most of the period in which the decline in male labor-force participation rates has been underway.

Third, there is America’s curiously poor prime-age male labor-force participation-rate performance in comparison with other affluent never-communist democracies. Between 1965 and 2015, U.S. levels fell faster and sank lower than in any comparable country, with the exception of Italy (where official employment figures notoriously neglect “unofficial” work income). Yet America’s race to the bottom in prime-age male labor-force participation is not readily explained by lackluster economic growth (which could also be called sluggish demand). It is true that the U.S. is believed to have grown more slowly than most of these countries over that half century, but this should be unsurprising given that most of these countries were enjoying “latecomer” or catch-up growth over this period in relation to the longtime U.S. “frontrunner.” Even so, U.S. labor-force participation-rate trends were also distinctly poorer than those of countries whose pace of growth lagged behind America’s over that half century: for example, Denmark and Sweden, to say nothing of Greece.

Baseballery

This is a story about a mediocre career, a final at bat, a lousy team, and an interesting guy. And the Sugar Bowl. The career belongs to Steve Filipowicz, and we will get to the other distinctions shortly, but first — he was the man in the spotlight in one of those rare and unappreciated baseball events, the Negative Pennant.

The date is October 3, 1948, and battling for last place in the National League are the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds. A rainout in Cincinnati the day prior — on which the Cubs got shellacked by the Cardinals, 9–0 — had broken a tie for 7th, and placed Chicago in sole possession of last place by half a game. Come the season’s final day, the Cubs would need to win, and the Reds lose, in order to flip positions. Or else — basement ignominy.

And the Cubs did win, a 4–3 nail-biter in St. Louis, the Cardinals’ three-run 8th-inning rally not enough to undo Chicago’s two-run rally in the top of the frame. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati . . .

The Reds were facing the 83–70 Pirates at home, ace Johnny Vander Meer on the mound, throwing one after another shut-out innings, granting two measly singles; but so was Pittsburgh southpaw Vic Lombardi, who held the Reds scoreless into the Ninth.

The score deadlocked at goose eggs, and with two on and one out, to the plate came Filipowicz. He’d been called up from the minors in late September and had gone an impressive 8 for 22 in seven games, but was hitless in this contest. He would remedy that: His walk-off single to left field drove in the sole and winning run, ending the season for the Reds in 7th place, and ensuring last-place status for the Cubs.

It proved to be Flip’s last MLB appearance. A nice way to exit. The so-long wasn’t known at the time: For the next two seasons he bounced around the minors. What became of him after that seems beyond the knowledge of Google (other than that he died in 1975, age 53).

But what came before that October day was of great interest. Filipowicz attended Fordham University (as did Yours Truly for one academic year in the late 70s) and was a star fullback on its great football team: Forgotten to many and most is the fact that in the 1930s and early 1940s, the Rams were, after Alabama, considered the nation’s premier football team, known for the Seven Blocks of Granite (which included the young Vince Lombardi). Filipowicz played for the 1941 team that went to win the lowest-scoring (non 0–0 tie) major college bowl ever: A 2–0 blowout of the Missouri Tigers in the monsoon-drenched 1942 Sugar Bowl. Flip ran for 58 yards. In the previous year, he scored a touchdown in Fordham’s 13–12 Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M (two blocked extra-point attempts nailed the Rams’ fate).

Filipowicz also played for the New York Giants, of both variations. The sixth overall pick of the 1943 College draft(!), he played the 1945 and 46 seasons for the gridiron Giants (he caught a touchdown in the team’s 24–14 championship game loss to the Chicago Bears) and for the baseball Giants in 1944 and 45. The record there was not so impressive: Flip played in 50 games and compiled a weak .203 batting average. But we will end here by noting that he did have one great game in that span: At Ebbets Field on April 27, 1945 he went 4 for 5 with a homer and two doubles and 3 RBIs, leading the Giants to a 5–0 victory.

That alone is dream enough for millions of men old and young who would have given an eye, tooth, and a big toe for the chance to stand at the plate, even to strike out on three pitches, while wearing a Major League uniform.

Announcement: For those of you who enjoy this section, the admission must be made that “Baseballery” is 1. not a word, and 2. has nothing to do with William F. Buckley Jr. journalism. It has been a lark, and a fun one at that. But it will now become occasional, given other demands on Your Humble and Dimwitted Correspondent, whose capacity to multi-task — walking and chewing bubblegum simultaneously — is limited.

A Dios

The Usual Suspects will be private-jetting to and from Davos. Telling us to live off the grid will be their agenda. Stay tuned.

This Astros scandal is so dispiriting: Videos, garbage can banging, buzzers . . . hard to accept that the National Pastime continues to be sullied, and in ways that far transcend the spitball. Is this the Beginning of the End? Maybe we’re already in the 5th inning.

That said, please pray for good souls — Christians in the Middle East, Jews in France, Uyghurs in Red China, democracy lovers in Hong Kong — who embrace unalienable rights in places where doing such can mean persecution and death.

And that said . . . Iowa, here we come!

With Hopes that the Creator Bestows His Graces on You,

Jack Fowler, who is ready to withstand your contempt and tirades about poor grammar and dumb reflections at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

It Seems to Me I’ve Heard that Song Before . . .

Dear Weekend Jolter,

. . . It’s from an old familiar score.

Admittedly, when Helen Forrest and Harry James worked their magic, the ditty spoke of happy memories. But when it comes to presidential impeachments, there are no happy memories: These things are bona fide clunkers, even when the deck is stacked, as it was against President Andrew Johnson, an antagonizing chief executive if there ever was one. Armed with a temper and a personality steeped in vinegar, the former tailor knew how to make enemies. The political theatrics of Congress’s 1868 effort to impeach the Tennessee Democrat make the current ten-thumbed attempts to erase President Trump look gentle and sweet. One of the 11 articles filed against Johnson charged him with attempting to:

Excite the odium and resentment of all good people of the United States against Congress and the laws by it duly and constitutionally enacted; and in pursuance of his said design and intent, openly and publicly and before divers assemblages of citizens of the United States, convened in divers parts thereof, to meet and receive said Andrew Johnson as the Chief Magistrate of the United States, did, on the 18th day of August, in the year of our Lord 1866, and on divers other days and times, as well before as afterward, make and declare, with a loud voice certain intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces, as well against Congress as the laws of the United States duly enacted thereby, amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled in hearing . . .

True, mother always cautioned never to excite the odium, but still, is that impeachable? In the end, it all flopped — a close call for Andy on the four votes the Senate actually took, but a victory (if you look at it that way) for him nonetheless.

In the end, he ended up gracing a U.S postage stamp. As someday, likely, will President Trump.

We have much to offer this week past from NRO about matters of impeachment, and Iran, and so much more. Get the mouse ready because we have got the links that you need to click.

Editorials

1. Iran blinks. Sometimes that happens after your eye has been poked. From the editorial:

World War III is off.

The killing of Qasem Soleimani stoked a round of hysteria in the media over the consequences, with serious people on cable TV invoking August 1914.

The formal Iranian military retaliation makes all this look even sillier than it already seemed. The Iranians hit two bases in Iraq in a missile strike carefully calibrated to limit the damage, and indeed, there were no U.S. casualties. Tehran clearly wanted to be able to say it had directly struck at the Americans, while limiting the risk of further confrontation with the U.S.

This suggests that Trump won the first round of this stage of the contest with Iran. He took a key enemy player off the board in Qasem Soleimani and affirmed a red line against killing Americans. In announcing new sanctions against Iran in a White House address, he also made it clear that Iran isn’t escaping from the stringent sanctions box that it is desperate to get out of (hence its series of provocations the past few months).

A Dozen Links, and Then Some, of Essential, Top-Notch Conservative Brilliance from the Stop-Yelling Institution that Stands Athwart

1. The great John Yoo declares that the claims that the president’s action against Soleimani was illegal are full of baloney. POTUS has the Constitution and precedent on his side. From the piece:

But even if opponents of the Trump administration based their criticisms on constitutional principle, and not political expediency, they would still fail. Killing an individual, of course, is not generally legal. Nor is it always illegal. Killing an individual can be legal when it is carried out by the state as criminal punishment for first-degree murder. It can be legal when a police officer shoots an attacker armed with a weapon. It can be illegal when it is murder.

No American law prohibits the targeting of specific enemy leaders. Neither the Constitution nor federal statutes prevent the direct targeting of individual members of the enemy. Only Executive Order 12,333, issued by President Reagan in 1981, states that “no person employed or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” This was a continuation of a similar ban first issued by President Gerald Ford in 1976, which was subsequently reaffirmed by President Carter, and has been followed by every president since.

But while he banned assassinations, Reagan did not define them. Ever since Reagan’s executive order, administrations of both parties have generally defined assassination as the murder of a public figure for political purposes. The killings of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln were assassinations. By contrast, the killing of the enemy in combat is protected by the laws of war. As Hugo Grotius, the father of modern international law, observed in 1646, “it is permissible to kill an enemy.” Legitimate military targets include not just foot soldiers, but the command-and-control structure of an enemy’s military, leading up to its commander in chief. Assassination is different from killing an enemy general, such as Soleimani.

2. Andy McCarthy seconds the motion: Terrorists who are “commanders” are very fair game for a drone visit. From the analysis:

It is interesting to contrast the mid Nineties to today.

Back then, most Democrats were committed to the law-enforcement approach to counterterrorism. While you can debate the wisdom of that, those Democrats were at least serious about making sure that court prosecution was as effective as it could possibly be. In the 1996 overhaul of counterterrorism law, the Clinton White House and Justice Department worked closely with a Republican-controlled Congress. They not only addressed the flaws that made uncompleted bombing plots so challenging to prosecute. They also defined new crimes tailored to how modern international terrorism actually works. These improvements enabled investigators to thwart plots in their infancy; we were also empowered to starve jihadist organizations of funding, personnel, and materiel.

The bipartisan message was loud and clear: We want terrorists aggressively prosecuted but, even more, we want our agents to have the tools to prevent plots and attacks from taking shape in the first place.

Where is that message today?

In neutralizing terrorists and their state sponsors, the venerable law of war is, to my mind, a necessary complement, if not a preferable alternative, to the criminal law. One of many reasons is that, when an enemy is making war on the United States, there is no need to wait for an attack to be imminent in order to justify a defensive, preemptive strike. General Soleimani was an enemy combatant commander for the Iranian regime and the jihadist terror networks it uses in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere. For more than 40 years, Iran has unabashedly pronounced itself as at war with the United States. It has conducted major attacks that have killed hundreds of Americans. In just the past few weeks, Iran’s jihadist militias attacked American bases in and around Baghdad eleven times.

3. Jim Talent says it plain and simple: Iran crossed a line. From the analysis:

So what are the takeaways?

The United States has a clear strategy in dealing with the threat from Iran. It is to strangle the regime until it either comes seriously to the bargaining table or is overthrown by its own people. Whether the strategy will succeed remains to be seen, but the Trump administration has pursued it with consistency and purpose and is achieving demonstrable progress towards the goal.

President Trump has narrowed America’s commitments in the Middle Eastern theater but has restored the credibility of those that remain. The move against Soleimani was an ingenious stroke in that regard; it was bold but surgical, and the effect of it as a demonstration of American resolve will be comprehensive and long-lasting — and not just in the Middle East.

It would be a mistake for the administration or its supporters to adopt a triumphalist attitude regarding this episode. The Iranians used the sanctions relief from the JCPOA to upgrade their arsenal of precision ballistic and cruise missiles and to spread more of those missiles to their proxies in the region. They have greater capacity now to damage American assets in the region, though they would exhaust that capacity quickly — and the administration has just sent a powerful message that the response to any conventional attack would be certain and overwhelming.

All of that is a reason why the president’s sanctions policy is so necessary. It starves the Iranian regime of the resources it needs to grow stronger. It’s also a reason why the move against Soleimani was well chosen and well timed.

4. There’s another President Andrew to whom the current POTUS has timely similarities — Jackson. So assesses Rich Lowry. From the piece:

Suddenly, the neocons had cachet again (Vox warned that “the Iraq War hawks are back”), and we were about to launch yet another endless war. Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani, New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote, repeating a common refrain, “has brought the United States to the brink of a devastating new conflict in the Middle East.”

There’s no doubt that the operation against Soleimani carried risks, but it didn’t transform Trump into a conventional interventionist. In fact, taking out Soleimani was wholly consistent with the president’s approach to the world that can’t be plotted on a simple hawk/dove or neocon/isolationist axis. As a Jacksonian, Trump is none of the above, combining a willingness to whack our enemies with a distaste for ambitious foreign interventions.

The Jacksonian label is the famous construction of foreign-policy analyst Walter Russell Mead, who traces the tradition back to Andrew Jackson and the cultural influence of the American backwoods. Jacksonians are content to let the world sort itself out, except if they perceive a threat, in which case they react with great ferocity.

5. The Leftist tears over the death of Soleimani are captured by A.J. Cashetta. From the piece:

Meanwhile, exaggerations of Soleimani’s greatness and the depth of his intellect are common. Time magazine compared him to Cardinal Richelieu and Machiavelli. Prompted by Fareed Zakaria’s claim that Soleimani was “regarded in Iran as a completely heroic figure, personally very brave,” Anderson Cooper compared him to Charles de Gaulle. Rosanna Arquette compared Trump to Hitler for killing the great Soleimani.

Clichés about the killing abound. Wag the Dog charges are popular, as are parallels to Bill Clinton’s firing missiles at al-Qaeda targets during his impeachment. Squad members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib tweeted, respectively, that “Trump wants war“ and “we cannot stay silent as this lawless President recklessly moves us closer to yet another unnecessary war.”

Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University, writes on his Facebook page that “the targeted assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Iraq is the first major salvo of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.” Lest anyone miss his subtlety, Dabashi announces “this is Wag the Dog galore.” His advice — “do not trust a word coming out of US or Iranian officials’ — being at least 50 percent accurate should improve his average. But like most of his Facebook rants, this one quickly devolves into bizarre conspiracy theories, such as his assertion that “the New York Times etc just like the state media in Iran are now the official mouthpiece of US and Iran propaganda.”

Also popular is the stability cliché, which claims that killing Soleimani destabilized the Middle East. One less prone to groupthink might ask, When was the Middle East stable? Was it in the good old days before the Trump administration, or perhaps before 9/11? Or was it before the Iranian Revolution, or the Balfour Declaration, or the Ottoman Empire?

6. More Rich: What Nike whiner and racism-charger Colin Kaepernick declared about Soleimani wasn’t just a lie, says Our Esteemed Editor — it was a stupid lie. From the beginning of the column:

In the torrent of idiotic commentary unleashed by the killing of Qasem Soleimani, Colin Kaepernick’s deserves a place of honor.

The NFL washout and Nike persona who makes sure the company doesn’t produce any overly patriotic sneakers tweeted, “There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism.”

For Kaepernick, Soleimani is just another dark-skinned man brutalized by the United States. The Iranian terror master was, in effect, driving while nonwhite and paid the ultimate price. For all we know, the operator of the MQ-9 Reaper drone that took him out was making a white-supremacy hand signal while unleashing this racist attack.

This interpretation of events takes identity politics to a whole new level, defining the blood-drenched hit man for a terrorist, profoundly anti-Semitic, deeply intolerant theocracy as a victim, based on his skin color alone.

Obviously, no one will mistake Colin Kaepernick for an original thinker; he’s only repeating things he’s read or been told, in a slightly more lurid form. His worldview is disproportionately represented in academia and on the left, which objects to calling Soleimani a monster (hence, Elizabeth Warren’s pathetic backtracking after forthrightly condemning Soleimani in her initial statement).

7. Victor Davis Hanson catalogues the infecting powers of the corrupt Steele Dossier. From the article:

James Clapper and John Brennan. James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence under Barack Obama, and John Brennan, the former CIA director, both previously had been caught lying under oath to Congress. Both then apologized, and their illegal behaviors were excused without legal consequences. But both once again have not told the full truth about their own knowledge of the Steele dossier, its unverified and mostly false information, and the role they both played in circulating and promulgating the dossier to the media and high government officials. That both directors were deeply involved in spreading the dossier around Washington, leaking its comments, and then denying their roles while they worked as paid television commentators on CNN and MSNBC only ensured the rapid erosion of their beltway careers and reputations. And both still may have a rendezvous with federal prosecutors in regard to the dossier.

The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A number of federal judges approved FBI and DOJ requests to surveille Carter Page both before and after the 2016 presidential election, supposedly as a way to learn of Trump-Russia collusion.

None of the judges seriously probed government lawyers about the dossier before their court. Although they were told in a footnote that it was a product of opposition research, apparently none asked the nature of such sponsorship.

Yet if a judge is apprised that the evidence before him to support a federal surveillance warrant is based on political opposition research, and the dossier was related to candidate and then president Donald Trump, would it not be prudent to ask attorneys to name who had paid the dossier’s author? Worse still, in winter and late spring 2018, Representative Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) had twice warned the eleven-justice FISA court that the Steele dossier was unreliable and had not been a sound basis to authorize surveilling an American citizen. Nunes and his House colleagues were essentially ignored and dismissed by the court.

8. Bummed out: John Hirschauer decries the Supreme Court’s failure to take up Martin v. City of Boise. From the beginning of the piece:

The Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Martin v. City of Boise. The plaintiffs in Martin were six homeless residents of the city of Boise, Idaho, each of whom was cited for violating municipal statutes banning “camping” and sleeping on public property. Five of the plaintiffs were sentenced to time-served for their violation of the city ordinances. In making its decision, the Ninth Circuit weighed, in the majority’s words, “whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment bars a city from prosecuting people criminally for sleeping outside on public property when those people have no home or other shelter to go to.”

The merits of the laws are certainly debatable. What seems clear is that no reasonable person alive at the Founding would have considered them to violate the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.” For one thing, it’s unclear that the Framers meant for the Eighth Amendment to impose substantive limits on what states can criminalize, rather than restrictions on the types of punishments they can impose. For another, vagrancy laws were unremarkable features of most state legislatures at the time of the Founding. Maine and Massachusetts both enacted laws in the spring of 1788 that called for “suppressing and punishing . . . Rogues, Vagabonds, common Beggars, and other idle, disorderly, and lewd Persons,” and for the subsequent commitment of such persons to a “convenient house or houses of correction . . . for the keeping, correcting, and setting to work of” them.

Even if one were to ignore the historical evidence, however, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling is just as puzzling in its interpretation of relevant case law and its application of precedent, making the Court’s denial of certiorari all the more bizarre.

9. Conservatives are making the case that the Constitution’s “nondelegation doctrine” needs revival. Robert VerBruggen sizes up arguments for and against. From the analysis:

But back to the Supreme Court’s history of nondelegation jurisprudence. Until the New Deal era, the administrative state was relatively small, and while the Court rearticulated the nondelegation doctrine several times after Wayman, it never actually struck down any laws as running afoul of it. Two laws did bite the dust in 1935, but then activity mysteriously ceased again, despite the explosive growth of the administrative state. So what happened to that “fill up the details” standard?

Essentially, in the wake of the 1937 “switch in time“ that prevented FDR’s court-packing scheme, the Court ignored the old nondelegation doctrine in favor of a line from a 1928 decision that might have been intended to restate the usual rule rather than rewrite it: “If Congress shall lay down by legislative act an intelligible principle to which the person or body authorized to [act] is directed to conform, such legislative action is not a forbidden delegation of legislative power.” Providing an “intelligible principle” is a much lower bar to clear than is providing everything except the “details” on subjects of “less interest,” and a Court eager to sign off on sweeping legislation liked the former test better.

Thus did we lose sight of an important constitutional principle that is fundamental to the very design of our government, has roots in the philosophy that guided the Founders, and was endorsed by the Supreme Court in our country’s first half-century of existence — or so Gorsuch’s argument goes.

10. Michael Brendan Dougherty says that five years after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the West has failed to grapple with its implications. From the analysis:

But Western politics has been being transformed by this act, and the year it ushered in, 2015, was the year that the Tories won a surprise majority in Parliament, setting in motion the Brexit referendum of 2016. It was the year of Angela Merkel’s statement “We can do it” — when she offered to welcome 1 million refugees in defiance of the Dublin accords. It was the year Donald Trump took his ride down the escalator and into the presidential race. It was the year in which Abdelhamid Abaaoud used the flow of refugees to travel between Syria and Europe while he masterminded the Bataclan-theater massacre that claimed 131 victims that November. It was after the Bataclan that Ann Coulter said, “They can wait if they like until next November for the actual balloting, but Donald Trump was elected president tonight.” People laughed. But she was right.

Some reacted to the Charlie Hebdo massacre by asking for more restrictions on speech that “punches down” or criticizes groups of people who are on the margins of society. But for a larger set of people, the event joined the cause of free speech with open and hostile criticism of Islam and Islamic immigration. It linked free speech with criticism of a dunderheaded and naïve elite. Without a robust culture of free speech and offense-giving, terrorists would dictate the limits of permissible debate and speech. Without free speech, a mandarin political class would continue to impose the open borders agenda that they deemed “good” even if all the consequences of it were intolerable.

There were, I think, two distinct manifestations of this new politics. Most substantially, there was the rise of populist nationalism and the center bending toward it. Hungary’s Viktor Orban was already steering in this direction from the start of the migration crisis, and his stature in Europe rose as a result. European political parties such as Poland’s Law and Justice or Italy’s Lega rose as well. If one word could be used to describe their political project it is “custodianship”: custodianship of a nation-state, a culture, or a people. For nationalists, the nation matters because it is theirs. Putatively liberal leaders including Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have responded to this challenge by making a show of becoming hawkish about borders. Macron engaged in practically staged confrontations on the issue, and Merkel made a deal with Turkey to keep refugees from continuing to flood into Europe.

11. Department of Acceptable Satire: David Harsanyi stings CNN for its attacks on the Babylon Bee. From the beginning of the piece:

Did you know that CNN has a reporter on the “disinformation” beat?

I’ll skip the cheap joke about his never having to leave the office, and note that the network is now grousing about the Christian conservative satire site the Babylon Bee, which has earned the ire of a number of liberals for making jokes at their expense.

The story drawing CNN’s outrage — “Democrats Call For Flags To Be Flown At Half-Mast To Grieve Death Of Soleimani“ — is good satire. It slightly exaggerates the reaction many on the left have had to the killing of the Iranian mass murderer. Anyone who read the Washington Post’s headline calling Soleimani a “most revered military leader,” watched ABC’s Martha Raddatz offering adulatory treatment of the terrorist from Iran, or listened to Elizabeth Warren struggle to call him a murderer after her initial statement is in on the joke.

That some people believe the Babylon Bee piece is also a sign that it is good satire. How many Americans, after all, still believe that Sarah Palin, rather than Tina Fey, said, “I can see Russia from my house?” Satire relies on a level of plausibility. If the only brand of political humor permitted is vapid enough for even the dumbest or most humorless person to comprehend, we’re going to end up in a world with a lot more Andy Borowitzes.

12. More Harsanyi: Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment game-playing has been a blunderfest. From the article:

A new piece in Time magazine does shed some light on the thought process behind Pelosi’s decision to refuse to hand over articles of impeachment to a Senate whose majority doesn’t want them. One of the most interesting nuggets in the piece isn’t that Pelosi — portrayed as courageous risk-taker — had gotten the bright idea from CNN; it’s that she specifically got it from noted felon John Dean, Nixon’s former White House lawyer. Now, Dean is often portrayed as a patriotic, whistleblowing impeachment expert — which is true insofar as he planned the Watergate coverup, and then informed on everyone whom he conspired with after they were caught. His real expertise is cashing in on criminality for the past 50 years (I wrote about Dean’s slimy past here).

Surely Pelosi, blessed with preternatural political instincts, wouldn’t rely on Dean’s advice? Surely Pelosi wasn’t browbeaten into doing this by podcast bros and talking heads on America’s least popular major cable-news network?

Because whatever you make of the case against Donald Trump, it’s getting increasingly difficult to argue that this amateurish, constantly shifting effort by the House has been effective. After two dramatic emergency impeachment hearings, a pretend standoff, and massive cooperative coverage from the media, poll numbers haven’t budged. They may even have ticked back toward Donald Trump.

13. Goodness Glaciers: Kyle Smith mocks the deadline-obsessed climate alarmists. From the piece:

The glaciers in Glacier National Park have been shrinking for more than 100 years (as the USGS points out, since 1900 “the mean annual temperature for GNP and the surrounding region has increased [by] 1.8 times the global mean increase”), so on current trends they’ll be gone someday “in the next few decades.” Who knows how long current trends will last, though? A 1923 Associated Press report said the glaciers would “almost disappear” in 25 years. So, gone by 1948. In 1936, the Arizona Republic reported that the glaciers would “vanish within 25 years.” So, 1961. A 1952 AP report alluded to “naturalists” who said the glaciers would be gone in 50 years. So, 2002. In 2009, National Geographic News asked, “No More Glaciers in Glacier National Park by 2020?” A New York Times report a few years ago pushed the date back to 2044.

Other predictions have proven sillier. The Boogeyman is a capricious fellow, so you never want to promise that he will do any specific harm on any specific date. What if he decides to go bowling that day? What if he complains of lumbar throbbing and calls in sick? Then you might embarrass yourself the way ABC News did in 2008, when it produced a special about a Boogeyman-ruled future, hosted by Chris Cuomo, in which we were asked to believe that on June 8, 2015, milk would be $12.99 a carton (not $12.76 or $13.09?), gas would be $9 a gallon, and large parts of Manhattan (seen in a snazzy graphic) would be underwater. The map suggested that my apartment on the West Side would currently be occupied by Aquaman, but nearly five years later I can report that I am still here and that I am able to type these words without any snorkeling gear. The term “fake news” did not yet exist in 2008, but you can see why it had to be invented. What is the purpose of the brand “ABC News” if it can’t be distinguished from sci-fi?

14. Robert Zubrin is seeing red, and thinks: Onward, Mars, and Damn the Microbes! From the piece:

It is even possible, though by no means certain, that the first photosynthetic organisms did come from Mars, since there is natural transport of material from Mars to Earth, as meteoric impacts on the Red Planet scatter fragments that land here. In fact, we still get about 500 kilograms of Martian rocks landing on Earth every year, with a lot more imports coming in annually back in the solar system’s early days when the impact rate was far greater. Careful examination of these rocks has shown that large portions of their material were never raised above 40 degrees Centigrade during their entire career of ejection from Mars, transit through space, and reentry and landing on Earth. So any microbes contained in such rocks would have survived the trip and arrived on Earth in large numbers long ago.

It is this reality, the natural transport between planets, that underscores the irrationality of all back-contamination alarmism, regardless of whether it comes in Simon’s hysteria over the possible arrival of alien photoautotrophs or in the desire of NASA’s Planetary Protection office to take extreme cautionary measures to prevent the return of Martian pathogens. Essentially, government efforts to stop robotic or human Mars explorers from transporting dangerous microbes back from Mars fall into the same category as a campaign by the border patrol to stop tourists from bringing migratory Canada geese into the United States in their cars.

A broader point also eludes the planetary protectionists: that every biological resource on Earth (be it water, organic materials, or actual living organisms) has always been a target for exploitation by millions of species of animals, plants, and microbes already here, actively and constantly evolving and perfecting themselves for that very purpose. There might be water-consuming photosynthetic organisms on Mars, because there is some water and sunlight there. But there is a lot more of both here, and far greater opportunity to evolve life forms to maximize their exploitation. How threatening is the Jamaican bobsled team to the prospects of the northern countries in the winter Olympics? The best water-eaters in the solar system — and the most dangerous pathogens for terrestrial macroflora and macroflora — will always come from Earth.

15. Armond White shares his top twenty films from the last decade. Here are two selections from the list:

Man of Steel (2013) Because Zack Snyder’s attempted epic of D.C. Comics films turned Hollywood’s worst commercial tendencies into astonishing reconsiderations of myth and beauty, I’ve dubbed him ZSnyder (in memory of the 2016 passing of Vilmos Zsigmond, groundbreaking cinematographer of the ‘70s). ZSnyder’s first Superman film holds up over repeated viewings as the decade’s most daring and unparalleled expression of our moral and aesthetic needs.

Wild Grass (2010) Alain Resnais surpassed his French New Wave legacy, an Old Master attaining fresh relevance. He unexpectedly discovered the common touch. Who knew his modern moral tale was also summing up pop culture itself?

The First NR Issue of 2020 Is Available, and Baby, This One Is Fertile with Conservative Wisdom

The January 27, 2020 issue of your favorite conservative magazine is hot off the presses, into the ether, and ready for your eyeballs (especially for NRPLUS subscribers, who face no “behind-the-paywall” contentions). Totally subjective, here are four selections from the feast:

1. In 2016, David Harsanyi found himself among the large Never Trump brigade. He reflects on his writings and thinking then, and now, on the silliness in its conservative remnants, and on the increasing derangement of the Left. From the article:

So while I don’t like Trump any better today than I did when writing those critical pieces, I do live in the world that exists, not the one I wish existed. And that world has changed. What I didn’t foresee when writing about Trump’s candidacy was the American Left’s extraordinary four-year descent into insanity.

My own political disposition during the past four years has hardened into something approaching universal contempt. When I defend the president—as far as I do—it is typically in reaction to some toxic hysteria or the attacks on constitutional order that Democrats now regularly make in their efforts to supposedly save the nation from Donald Trump—whether they’re calling for the end of the Electoral College or for packing the Supreme Court, or they’re embracing shifting “norms” that are wholly tethered to a single overriding principle: get Trump.

Recently, for example, New Yorker editor David Remnick, the kind of high-minded, sane person we’re expected to take seriously, argued that removing President Trump from office was not merely a political imperative but a necessity for the “future of the Earth.” Four years ago, we might have found such a panic-stricken warning absurd. Today, such apocalyptic rhetoric is the norm in media and academia.

As the Democrats’ allies in the media stumble from one frenzy to the next, it has become increasingly difficult to believe any of it is really precipitated by genuine concern over Russian interference or improper calls with a Ukrainian president or dishonesty or rudeness. The president has become a convenient straw man for all the political anxieties on the left, which have manifested in an un healthy obsession and antagonism toward the constitutional system that allowed Trump to win.

2. In the cover essay, Lyman Stone explores the reasons behind the global, and American, baby bust, and the problems facing policies which might try to encourage people to have more children. From the essay:

It turns out, parents aren’t stupid. They know that by having a baby they will incur material and emotional costs for decades to come. They won’t choose to do so just because they landed a job or the Christmas bonus was bigger this year, and indeed, rising wages could discourage fertility by encouraging parents to spend more time at work. Lifetime fertility is better predicted by lifetime experience of things such as economic volatility (large swings in boom-and-bust cycles) than by lifetime experience of economic growth—greater economic uncertainty yields lower fertility.

In fact, the key economic determiner of fertility isn’t income at all. Rather, at both the macroeconomic and the individual level, the economic variables most predictive of childbearing are asset value, net worth, and homeownership. When the price of rental housing rises, fertility falls. Reductions in mortgage payments owing to interest-rate shocks boost fertility in indebted households. When the price to buy a new home rises, fertility falls for younger people but rises for older ones. Birth rates have just begun to increase in the second quarter of 2019, which is to say about two years after the homeownership rate for Americans under 35 stopped falling and began rising again. In 2016, according to the Federal Reserve, the net worth of households headed by 20- to 35-year-olds had not risen from its post-recessionary lows at all. The best economic predictor of childbearing in a society where fertility has already fallen to around two kids per woman is permanent income.

In short, it’s not just what people earn and how much it costs to live today, but what people expect to earn and spend in the future. Thus, personal experience of economic volatility reduces birth rates by reducing the optimism people feel about their economic futures. Lack of savings, delayed homeownership, or excessive student debt can reduce fertility even if debt-service costs are low, because young people correctly recognize that their long-run disposable income will be lower. The economic problem of childbearing is primarily a problem not of near-term liquidity but of long-run viability. As a result, things that worsen young people’s prospects of lifetime disposable income can be expected to reduce fertility: things including insolvent pensions leading to expectations of higher future taxes, strict land-use rules, occupational-licensing rules, many long years spent accruing debt while in school, delayed promotion as Baby Boomers stay at their desks well past normal retirement age, etc.

3. “Happy Warrior” duties are happily performed by Kyle Smith, who recounts the Left’s meltdown over Ricky Gervais’s Hollywood hypocrite-callout while hosting the recent Golden Globe Awards ceremony. From the column:

The funniest comics are the ones who sound like they get their inspiration paging through all the nonsense we keep bringing up here at NR. The Left is starting to get very nervous about where comedy is headed, issuing prickly warnings that making fun of those who command the cover of Vanity Fair or get called Person of the Year by Time constitutes “punching down” and is hence not allowed. What if you’re making fun of people like Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Jennifer Aniston, though? Is it “punching down” to crack wise at a centimillionaire celebrity? Jennifer Aniston has been a goddess of the screen for 25 freaking years and still commands a salary of $1 million per week for her Apple TV drama The Morning Show. At the Golden Globes earlier this month, host Ricky Gervais reminded the audience (as Aniston waited to present an award) that Apple “runs sweatshops in China” and added, “You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for, unbelievable. . . . If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d all call your agent, wouldn’t you?” You could almost hear Meryl Streep and every other aggressive progressive in the room saying, “How dare Ricky Gervais inject politics into Hollywood’s annual Trump-bashing dinner?”

As the assembled pretty people prepared their lectures on global warming (Russell Crowe), abortion (Michelle Williams), and Iran policy (Patricia Arquette), Gervais pleaded with them to do otherwise: “If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech, right? You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So, if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God, and f*** off. Okay?”

That was a conservative thing to say only if conservatism is the same thing as common sense.

4. Michael Doran has high praise for Rich Lowry’s acclaimed book new book, The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free, which he calls “engaging and timely.” From the review:

Lowry reminds us just how deep the American reverence for the flag runs. Symbolizing the union of the states and the personal freedoms that the union safeguards, it played a starring role in one of our defining conflicts. During the Civil War, he writes, “northerners sometimes referred to the conflict as the ‘War Against the Flag,’” a reference to the firing by the Confederate forces on the flag at Fort Sumter. Lowry’s understanding of the flag as a symbol of the highest ideals of the American nation recently received tacit support from none other than James McPherson, a Princeton professor and the leading historian of the Civil War. In December, McPherson joined with four other prominent historians to critique the 1619 Project of the New York Times Magazine. The project contends that the racism on which slavery was based is a defining element of the American experience, one that shaped our institutions and the most significant events in our history.

In a long interview about his critique of the Project, McPherson discussed, among other topics, the motivation of American soldiers who fought for the North in the Civil War. “The initial motivation,” McPherson explained, “was revenge for the attack on the flag.” Over time, “that broadened into an idea . . . of taking revenge against what they were increasingly calling ‘the Slave Power.’” In other words, to a significant portion of Americans the flag represented not just the unity of the nation but its aspiration to ensure liberty and justice for all, regardless of race. In the intervening 160 years, that portion has only increased. Today it undoubtedly encompasses the vast majority of Americans.

When we debate the flag and what it symbolizes, Lowry argues, we are discussing the nature of citizenship. “The criterion for citizenship in the United States is not attachment to a set of ideas but birth within our borders,” he writes. “This standard . . . speaks to a deep belief in the specialness of the land such that it confers extraordinary privileges to those born here.” Privileges, but also obligations—in the form of responsible citizenship.

BONUS: Amity Shlaes’s Great-Society: A New History receives a humdinger of praise from Fred Siegel. From the beginning of the review:

Amity Schales has written a powerful book. It is the most interesting and substantive account of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon’s “war on poverty” to date—and just in time. In Great Society: A New History, she notes that “just as the 1960s forgot the failures of the 1930s, we today forget the failures of the 1960s.” Shlaes has written 510 pages of argumentation, with detailed description and telling digression that traces the arc from the unbridled hopes of the early Sixties to the enormous administrative expansion of the “second New Deal” to the missteps in implementing it that became all too apparent in the Seventies.

The book opens with the roles played by socialist author Michael Harrington, famed for writing The Other America, a book on Appalachian poverty, and Tom Hayden of Students for a Democratic Society in forming the ethos of the ‘60s. And then, by way of largely but not entirely biographical accounts, it shows how figures such as United Automobile Workers president Walter Reuther, Los Angeles mayor and Great Society critic Sam Yorty, Johnson-administration antipoverty czar Sargent Shriver, policy intellectual Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and economist Arthur Burns shaped the Great Society and its aftermath. The advantage of such an approach is that it doesn’t neglect the “great men” of the time, while adding depth. Shlaes tells us that LBJ and Nixon conducted themselves as if they were “domestic commanders in chief.” But the book also incorporates the broader social and economic currents that centralized American life.

The Six

1. At The College Fix, editor Jennifer Kabbany interviews two Venezuelan students on a US speaking tour, determined to educate woke American college students about the evils of Socialism. From the beginning of the piece:

When Jorge Galicia and Andrés Guilarte tell college students socialism is no utopia, they speak from experience.

The two young intellectuals were born and raised in Venezuela and over the last decade saw their country transformed into a place they barely recognize.

As exiles seeking asylum in America today, they’re telling any young person who will listen: the virus is socialism.

“No one else can know what happened in Venezuela but a Venezuelan, and we are experts on that,” said Guilarte, 25.

Galicia, 24, adds “I definitely see America committing a lot of the same mistakes Venezuela committed.”

Galicia and Guilarte are currently visiting college campuses nationwide warning young people against socialism, and told The College Fix in a joint telephone interview on Wednesday their message could not be coming at a more critical time.

2. At The Imaginative Conservative, Benedict Kiely heralds Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as a defender of Christianity. From the reflection:

The curious marriage between radical Islam and the secular liberalism of the elites in Europe is, at least on the surface, difficult to comprehend, but if Mr. Orbán is correct and it is essentially an attack on European culture and civilization, the ugly union becomes more obvious. On a spiritual level, secularism and radical Islam hate the cross and the victory it signifies. European civilization and culture is—or was—inescapably a Christian culture, and the hatred for that culture and history is almost a hallmark of the left. Academia and the media place all the ills of the world at the door of Western colonialism, oppression, and the evangelization of the Church. The recent Amazon Synod at the Vatican was a perfect example of how that mindset has entered the highest levels of the Church. The naïve glorification of “native cultures,” resplendent in a prelapsarian world in union with nature, then destroyed by the proclamation of the Gospel, was symbolized perfectly by the presence of the pagan fertility statue of Pachamama in the Vatican itself.

Europe, said Mr. Orbán, is “in deep trouble.” The cause he identifies is its deliberate and organized desire to forget or eradicate its Christian identity. The liberals are using what the Hungarian Prime Minister called the “muzzle of political correctness” to accomplish their death wish, which, coupled with the advancement of radical Islam, will eventually produce, if this self-loathing continues, a Europe that will be cut off from its roots. Any horticulturalist knows that a tree will die when it is rootless.

Hungary has no intention of allowing that to happen. This is obviously the reason why the policies of the Orbán government to promote the family, Christianity, and authentic Hungarian culture are so relentlessly condemned by the empty vessels who direct the European Union, which is the most hostile agency in Europe towards orthodox Christianity.

Hungary’s Christian revival is a small sign of hope in an otherwise bleak European landscape. Christians, said Mr. Orbán, have the “right to defend our culture and the way of life that has grown from it.” It is precisely this language which so antagonizes both the liberal intelligentsia and the forces who wish to radically change Europe itself. Hearing about the persecution of Christians in other cultures, the “greatest mistake Europeans can ever make,” Mr. Orbán warned, is “to say this could never happen to them—it is much closer to us than many people think.”

3. At Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti discusses the latest slaying of Christians by Islamic terrorists in Nigeria — and the public indifference by Europeans who cannot do enough to weep over injustices to Muslim immigrants. From the article:

Martha Bulus, a Nigerian Catholic woman, was going to her bridal party when she was abducted by Islamic extremists of Boko Haram. Martha and her companions were beheaded and their execution filmed. The video of the brutal murders of these 11 Christians was released on December 26 to coincide with Christmas celebrations. It is reminiscent of the images of other Christians dressed in orange jumpsuits bent on their knees on a beach, each being held by a masked, black-clad jihadist holding a knife at their throats. Their bodies were discovered in a mass grave in Libya.

On the scale of Nigeria’s anti-Christian persecution, Martha was less fortunate than another abducted girl, Leah Sharibu, who has now been in captivity nearly two years and just spent her second Christmas in the hands of Boko Haram. The reason? Leah refused to convert to Islam and deny her Christianity. Nigerian Christian leaders are also protesting the “continuous abduction of under-aged Christian girls by Muslim youths…”. These girls “are forcefully converted to Islam and taken in for marriage without the consent of their parents.”

Nigeria is experiencing an Islamist war of the extermination of Christians. So far, 900 churches in northern Nigeria have been destroyed by Boko Haram. U.S. President Donald J. Trump was informed that at least 16,000 Christians have been killed there since 2015. In one single Nigerian Catholic diocese, Maiduguri, 5,000 Christians were murdered. How much bigger and more extended must this war on Christians become before the West considers it a “genocide” and acts to prevent it?

The day after Christians were beheaded in Nigeria, Pope Francis admonished Western society. About beheaded Christians? No. “Put down your phones, talk during meals”, the Pope said. He did not speak a single word about the horrific execution of his Christian brothers and sisters. A few days before that, Pope Francis hung a cross encircled by a life jacket in memory of migrants who lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea. Last September, the Pope unveiled a monument to migrants in St. Peter’s Square, but he did not commemorate the lives of Christians killed by Islamic extremists with even a mention.

4. More Meotti, More Gatestone: Is France a budding Islamic Republic? From the piece:

While French prisons have become a breeding ground for jihadists, the Islamization of the cities’ suburbs, the banlieues, is proceeding full tilt. The weekly Le Point recently devoted a cover story to the “territories conquered by the Islamists.” In many of these areas, violence rages; 1,500 cars were torched there on New Year’s Eve. In recently published book, “Les territoires conquis de l’islamisme” (“The Territories Conquered by Islamism”), by Bernard Rougier, a professor at the University Sorbonne-Nouvelle and director of the Center for Arab and Oriental Studies, he explains that Islamism is an “hegemonic project”, splintering working-class neighborhoods. These “ecosystems“, he states, work on a “logic of rupture” of the French society, its values and institutions, and are built on mosques, bookstores, sport clubs and halal restaurants.

Hugo Micheron, a researcher at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, suggested that jihadists are comfortable in “territorial and community isolation”. “Today,” said the president of the Ministry of Education’s Conseil supérieur des programmes, Souâd Ayada, “the visibility of Islam in France is saturated by the veil and the jihad.”

While Islamist preachers and recruiters are out on the streets, seeking out the weak minds that will form the first line of their holy war, political Islam also forms electoral lists in France’s suburbs. French President Emmanuel Macron opposed banning these political groups. “France is a budding Islamic republic,” noted the Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal. In those “territories”, he said, live many of the terrorists who attack France, from the Kouachi brothers of Charlie Hebdo to the jihadists who murdered scores of people at the Bataclan Theater.

Two populations who live “side by side” would soon find themselves “face to face”, said Gérard Collomb, a former Minister of the Interior. He was right. Islamists are also housed inside public institutions.

Islamists have, in addition, recruited dozens of French soldiers and ex-servicemen who have converted to Islam. Many have come from commando units with expertise in handling weapons and explosives. France is turning into a “society of vigilance” in its fight against the “Hydra” of Islamist militancy, as Macron said.

5. At City Journal, Boston University prof Matthew Stewart says lefty kvetchers must pick one or the other: multiculturalism or “cultural appropriation.” From the piece:

In Salem, Massachusetts, the Peabody Essex Museum offers a case study in the mainstreaming of cultural appropriation. Cross-cultural appreciation has sustained the museum for centuries. America’s oldest continuously operating museum, PEM has long displayed exotic artifacts associated with the maritime trade—but patrons must now read a guilt-ridden disclaimer when visiting the museum’s exhibits. “Cultural appreciation and exchange are vital parts of any society, but appropriation is complicated and tied up with complex power dynamics and histories of oppression,” the message reads. “Cultural appropriation occurs when ‘appreciation’ becomes theft, when ‘exchange’ is one-sided, or when marginalized cultures are reduced to stereotypes.”

As with other definitions of cultural appropriation, the PEM statement does not offer any guidelines on how to know when “appreciation becomes theft” or when “exchange is one-sided.” The best it can offer is a statement from Jezebel founder Anna Holmes: “You can’t always prove appropriation. But you usually know it when you see it.”

No well-intentioned person favors “marginalized cultures” being “reduced to stereotypes,” but cultural-appropriation watchdogs see these offenses everywhere, even in instances where harm was clearly not intended. Consider the case of high school senior Keziah Daum, who wore a cheongsam to her prom, setting off a Twitterstorm of condemnation. Daum chose the dress because she thought that it was beautiful and would set her apart on a special night. But activists admonished Daum, who is white, for wearing a traditional Chinese garment. Her defenders, including some Chinese-Americans and native Chinese, argued that her selection complimented Chinese culture. Critics attacked them in turn as inauthentic, or—in the case of Chinese nationals—lacking the social authority to speak about American minorities. To Daum’s woke critics, every ethnic group must stay in its own lane.

6. At The American Mind, “Peachy Keen” checked out the recent gathering of the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops and finds obtuseness prevailing in the face of emptying pews. From the reflection:

When I decided to join up with the Caths, I knew the eyesore church in which I would serve out my RCIA sentence was a pink 1970s atrocity. But what did I expect, a bunch of masons in Van Nuys to recreate Chartres just for me? It’s not about the aesthetics, Peachy. You have to look beyond the linoleum, you snob, I was told by the lifers—like prison inmates telling the fresh meat that the Friday mystery loaf is actually pretty tasty if you put enough Tabasco on it.

I knew I was not going to get Sistine ceilings and Gregorian chants. I knew I would be baptized by a tanned, white-haired gentlemen who resembled Liberace’s younger brother and spent weekends in Palm Springs with a close male friend.

I knew all this going in.

When Mount Pedophilia erupted, I was assured, it’s ever been thus, the priests are human and sadly all too fallible, just worry about yourself and your own sins, Peachy. There is a wonderful Word on Fire video you should watch that will really help put it in context.

When priests offered pandering, meandering homilies about racism and immigration and excuses for molesters that included phrases like “a few bad apples,” things that made me want to convert on the spot to something else, anything else, I was admonished, the homilies are never good, didn’t you know that? Why are you even paying attention to such petty details? Even bad priests still give communion, it’s about the consecrated body of Christ, not what the priest says. Stop being so shallow, Peachy!

BONUS: At the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, chief economist Ray Keating analyzes the latest data about inter-state migration, and repeats the obvious finding: Big Government suffocates entrepreneurship. From the piece:

The top states with net domestic migration loss were California (-203,414), New York (-180,649), Illinois (-104,986), New Jersey (-48,946), Massachusetts (-30,274) and Louisiana (-26,045).”

Let’s see where these states landed on SBE Council’s “Small Business Policy Index 2019: Ranking the States on Policy Measures and Costs Impacting Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth,” which ranks the 50 states according to 62 different policy measures, including assorted tax, regulatory and government spending measures.

As for the worst states in terms of net domestic migration losses in 2019 vs. 2018, all six ranked in the lower half of the 50 states on the Index – with three coming in among the four worst states. Louisiana came in at 29, Massachusetts at 38, New Jersey was dead last at 50, Illinois registered 35th, New York came in at 47, and California was second worst at 49.

As for states losing population in 2019, 8 out of these 10 losers again ranked in the lower half of the Index – and five falling among the worst seven states.

Baseballery

Forfeits are a modern baseball rarity, and when such does happen, it’s likely the result of fan idiocy. And sometimes a result of ownership idiocy, as evidenced in 1974, when the Cleveland Indians held a 10-cent “Beer Night” that has become the stuff of legend.

On a Tuesday night in early June, over 25,000 suds enthusiasts showed up for a game against the Texas Rangers. As the beer flowed, the mischief increased, and both teams struggled to deal with boozed-up fans who began to invade the field between innings. Down 5–1 in the sixth, the Indians scratched their way back to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth — and that’s when things went (beer) nuts. A fan jumped the fence and tried to swipe the hat off Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs (that season’s AL MVP), who clocked the would-be thief. That prompted a flood: Hundreds of drunken Indian fans stormed the field to attack the Rangers. Also besieged: the umps. They called the game and declared a forfeit win for the Rangers.

Of related interest: Four men who played that night were involved in a previous forfeit, the infamous final game of the Washington Senators. Played on Thursday night, September 30, 1971, against the Yankees before a home crowd of 14,460, the Senators were leading 7–5 in the top of the ninth. But when the great Bobby Murcer grounded the ball to Senators reliever Joe Grzenda to register the second out, a mob of base-stealing souvenir hunters stormed the field. The umps had no choice but to hand the Yankees a forfeit win.

On 10-cent beer night, Ranger Toby Harrah was at short (and recorded two hits). He also recorded a hit during the 1971 forfeit as a Senator (the Rangers’ former identity). He was also the last man to take the batter’s box for the Senators, but as Tommy McCraw was caught stealing second base to close out the Eighth inning, Harrah’s at-bat was not even registered as a plate appearance.

Also playing in 1974: Yankee right-fielder Rusty Torres, who in 1971 hit a homer and single off Senator starter Dick Bosman. Both were Indian teammates in 1974, and made the Beer Night brew-ha-ha box score, with Torres getting a clutch (but pointless) pinch-hit single in the ninth, and Bosman relieving starter Fritz Peterson in the fourth (he gave up five hits — including a double and triple by Harrah — and three runs).

Oh yeah: A few weeks later, on Friday, July 19, at the same beer-besotted Cleveland Stadium field, Bosman would no-hit the World Champion Oakland As, a 79-pitch four-Ks jewel that was nearly perfect but for a throwing error made by Bosman himself.

A Dios

Stumbling through his usual online haunts, Your Humble Correspondents discovered that it is the (Catholic) feast day of a most unusual 7th-century hermit saint: Vitalis of Gaza. Get this:

When Vitalis was about 60 years old, after many years in the desert, he gave up the hermit thing and went to Alexandria. There he became a day laborer. He would work all day at back-breaking tasks to earn a wage and then proceed to the local brothel to spend it.

Every night, this former hermit found himself with a different prostitute. You can imagine what the local Christians thought! Vitalis was ridiculed and harassed. People even approached the Patriarch to try to have him excommunicated, but the Patriarch refused to act on hearsay. Vitalis’ life became rather miserable until one day he was attacked in the street and killed. When he was found, he was clutching a paper with 1 Corinthians 4:5 written on it: “Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts.”

But the Christians of Alexandria had already judged. “Good riddance,” they thought, until his funeral. Dozens (if not hundreds) or former prostitutes attended his funeral, and each testified that she owed her soul to Vitalis.

Some sources allege he was killed by a pimp, others by a righteous fool punishing the monk for a presumed hooker addiction. Whatever the reason, he is a martyr, and an inspiration of sorts — if people are capable of such holiness, we might be capable of at least a measly daily prayer for some worthwhile cause. Such as, possibly, God instilling humility on public figures who could stand a dose of shut-upedness.

Until our next encounter . . .

God’s Graces on You and Your Family and Friends and Even Enemies,

Jack Fowler, who can be charged with intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: If you want to come on the NR 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise, chop chop: Just three lovely staterooms remain. Find out all sorts of information at nrcruise.com.

National Review

Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Iranians

Dear Weekend Jolters,

Two things come to mind over the late-breaking news that the President has offed this Iranian terrorist, this murderer and maimer of Americans, and the Trump Hate elitariat and Twitterati have responded with immediate caustic-ness, getting all chummy with the enemy of my enemy (even if it happens to be a corpse).

This is the way of the Left. Remember all the cooing over Yuri Andropov — he liked jazz! Some seventy-five years ago, the great Noel Coward — who wrote and produced one of the West’s greatest war-time films, In Which We Serve (“This is the story. . . of a ship.”) — penned a powerful and sarcastic song, “Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans,” the literal-ness of which is being echoed today all over the interwebs and social media by liberal misfits. Do listen to it, but here’s a taste of the tune’s lyrics:

For many years

They’ve been in floods of tears

Because the poor little dears

Have been so wronged and only longed

To cheat the world,

Deplete the world

And beat

The world to blazes.

This is the moment when we ought to sing their praises.

The song is about befriending Nazis. . . but who can’t see these same sentiments being mouthed about the Tehran Gang Bangers who regard us as the Devil’s spawn?

Then there is the wonderful 1951 Howard Hawks film, The Thing (here’s a worthwhile clip), in which Dr. Carrington wants to make nice-nice with the galactic vegetable / vampire who intends to, well, kill him (and everyone else, and everything else — even the dogs) and savor his blood.

Spoiler alert: Let’s just say the conversation didn’t end well for Dr. Carrington, whose cinematic Nobel Prize-winning dim-wittery is being channeled by numerous Twitter numbskullls these past 24 hours.

This edition of WJ has the usual plentiful fare of NR-constructed conservative brilliance, and we’ll get to it, but not before Your Humble Correspondent quotes our Esteemed Leader, Mr. Lowry, who in this Corner post urged us to “congratulate all involved in this successful operation to rid the world of a cunning and ruthless killer.”

Amen! Now, to the Jolt.

Editorials

1. Iran loses its Terror Master, and we shed no tears for his death and rotting. From the editorial:

The U.S. killed the Iranian terror-master at the Baghdad airport where he reportedly had just arrived from Syria. The head of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, Soleimani was the instrument of Iranian imperialism around the region, building up proxy forces, overseeing operations, and executing a geopolitical vision. He existed at the very center of the Iranian regime, and was uniquely skilled at his role, honed over decades of ruthlessness and cunning.

He was also a cold-blooded killer of Americans, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of our servicemen during the Iraq war. He deserved to die for that alone. According to a Pentagon statement, Soleimani was developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and around the region, which isn’t hard to believe, since that was his job.

The Trump administration and Tehran have been involved in a cat-and-mouse game for months now, with Iran engaged in provocations designed to elicit an American response. Trump had been hyper-cautious, only setting out a warning against harming Americans. After an attack by an Iranian-supported militia, Kataib Hezbollah, on a base in Iraq killed an American contractor, the U.S. retaliated with airstrikes against the group. That led to the Iranian-organized storming of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The killing of Soleimani, a legal act against an enemy combatant under the rules of war, is a stunning counter-move by President Trump.

If You Seek 15 Examples of Conservative Geniosity, You Have Come to the Right Place

1. President Trump called the Ayatollah’s bluff, said Matthew Continetti, and scored a victory against terrorism. From the analysis:

Reciprocity has been the key to understanding Donald Trump. Whether you are a media figure or a mullah, a prime minister or a pope, he will be good to you if you are good to him. Say something mean, though, or work against his interests, and he will respond in force. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be polite. There will be fallout. But you may think twice before crossing him again.

That has been the case with Iran. President Trump has conditioned his policies on Iranian behavior. When Iran spread its malign influence, Trump acted to check it. When Iran struck, Trump hit back: never disproportionately, never definitively. He left open the possibility of negotiations. He doesn’t want to have the greater Middle East — whether Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, or Afghanistan — dominate his presidency the way it dominated those of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. America no longer needs Middle Eastern oil. Best to keep the region on the back burner and watch it so it doesn’t boil over. Do not overcommit resources to this underdeveloped, war-torn, sectarian land.

The result was reciprocal antagonism. In 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated by his predecessor. He began jacking up sanctions. The Iranian economy turned to a shambles. This “maximum pressure” campaign of economic warfare deprived the Iranian war machine of revenue and drove a wedge between the Iranian public and the Iranian government. Trump offered the opportunity to negotiate a new agreement. Iran refused.

RELATED: Victor Davis Hanson says that if there is a problem to be had, Iran has it. From his Corner post:

In sum, a weaker Iran foolishly positioned itself into the role of aggressor, at a time of a shot economy, eroding military strength, waning terrorist appendages abroad, and little political leverage or wider support. China and Russia are confined to hoping the U.S. is somehow, somewhere bogged down. Europe will still lecture on the fallout from canceling the Iran Deal, but quietly welcomes the fact that Iran is weaker than in 2015 and weaker for them is far better. China wants access to Middle East oil. Russia has never objected to a major producer having its oil taken off the world market. Moscow’s Iranian policies are reductionist anti-American more than pro-Iranian.

The current Iranian crisis is complex and dangerous. And by all means retaliation must be designed to prevent more Iranian violence and aggression rather than aimed at a grandiose agenda of regime change or national liberation. But so far the Iranians, not the U.S., are making all the blunders.

2. John O’Sullivan hits Vladimir Putin for defending the WW2-launching Nazi–Soviet Pact. From the commentary:

The pact was also the most flagrant breach of international law imaginable. It contained secret protocols in which the two countries agreed to invade Poland jointly and to divide Poland and the Baltic states between them in a sharing of the spoils of aggressive war.

Not least, it was the real start of World War II. Military hostilities began a week later on September 1 when Germany invaded Poland. Hitler has generally been assigned the near-total responsibility for starting WWII because Stalin was shrewd enough to delay his invasion of Poland until September 17. In reality, both men were equally guilty. And the plans laid out by both in the pact were faithfully adhered to in every other respect. In addition, for the almost two years in which the pact held, Soviet Russia supplied munitions, oil, and the other sinews of war to help Germany in its struggle against the British. The SS and the NKVD even exchanged the political refugees who had fled to them from persecution in each other’s jurisdiction so that Jews were returned to die in the Holocaust and anti-Communists to labor in the Gulag. And there were attempts by both regimes to suggest a mutual accommodation of ideologies to replace their pre-pact mutual hostility. Ironically that was the only honest thing about the pact, and so it had to be sent down the memory hole in later years.

That macabre cooperation continued right up to the day before Germany launched Operation Barbarossa in July 1941. It was the apex of the totalitarian age — described by Evelyn Waugh in his great wartime trilogy, The Sword of Honour, as “the modern age in arms.” And yet there seemed to be little appetite to revisit that history and to look at its lessons for today. So we at the Danube Institute in Budapest arranged a conference on it at which five distinguished historians delivered their verdict on the Pact and its various consequences: Geza Jeszenszky, the first foreign minister of a free post-communist Hungary, set the scene of events leading to the pact; Andrew Roberts, the biographer most recently of Churchill, gave a broad overall account of how it was negotiated and agreed; Danish historian David Gress described its impact on Western politics; Polish political consultant Marek Matraszek discussed its impact on Poland; and former Hungarian MEP and distinguished political theorist, George Schopflin, described its impact on Central Europe. (A video of the conference is available here; Geza starts his remarks at 3:56, Andrew Roberts at 21:39, and the other three speakers follow Andrew in succession.) It was an effective and well-received exercise in historical truth-telling. But there should have been more such events and more attention paid to a pact that started the greatest war in human history.

3. More VDH: In which our esteemed colleague reviews the political fallout from the Democrats’ impeach dud. From the commentary:

The past three years of Trump mania did not induce a recession, despite last summer’s sudden hysteria that “recession” was on the horizon. It is hard to envision a looming recession when real wages of workers continue to rise, unemployment is at historic lows, U.S. energy production is at record highs, inflation is low, interest rates are manageable, and growth is moderate but steady. We collectively have an appointment with the staggering national debt and stock-market exuberance, but probably not until after 2020. And the Left has completely nullified that issue by proposing trillions of dollars in new spending.

For now, the Democrats in extremis have redefined impeachment for the first time in American history as a Sword of Damocles, now permanently hanging by a horse’s hair over Trump’s head. Impeachment is being reinvented as way of presidential life that will supposedly impale Trump one day or at least constrain him, as occasional additional writs are added on, as the polls, media, and Democratic fancy dictate. Nancy Pelosi has rewritten the U.S. Constitution after reading a few op-eds by Trump-hating academics. Most Americans accept that if the Republican Congress had tried the same with Barack Obama (at a time when just wearing an Obama mask got a rodeo clown fired for life from a state fair), we would have had a revolution.

Most presidents need 50 percent approval ratings in the lead-up to a reelection bid to win another four years. But Trump, who won the election without 50 percent approval, may not. He is polling now not far from where Obama was while on his trajectory to reelection in 2012, and his approval is about what it was at the time of his own election victory in 2016.

4. Andy McCarthy describes the Democrats’ second impeachment article — for obstruction of Congress — as frivolous. From the analysis:

Let’s focus, though, on the second impeachment article, obstruction of Congress.

The president directed his underlings and executive branch components not to comply with congressional demands for information. To be clear, Congress has undeniable constitutional authority, broad in scope, to conduct oversight of the executive branch. The president, with all the authority of a peer branch of government, has extensive privileges of confidentiality, rooted in Article II, particularly when it comes to communications with his staff and high executive officials. Congress, however, is empowered to probe, especially when its concern is presidential malfeasance, or the activities of executive branch agencies Congress has created — such agencies, after all, are led by officers subject to Senate confirmation, and Congress both underwrites them with taxpayer funds and limits their operations by statute.

Consequently, President Trump has legitimate authority to defy congressional demands for information, but that authority is not limitless.

Notice that, to this point, we have not mentioned the courts. Squabbles between the political branches are, naturally, political in nature. The Framers did not intend that they be resolved by the courts. They are resolved by compromise, accommodation, and reprisals by the elected officials who answer to the public and thus have a powerful motivation to act reasonably.

5. Alabama AG Steve Marshall takes on the effort to revive the ERA. From the analysis:

Now the Left has developed a new strategy to “revive” the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. That strategy is to (a) ignore the deadline set by Congress and (b) treat the amendment process like the Hotel California: States can ratify, but they can never rescind.

Legally speaking, this effort is unserious, like trying to sign a contract 40 years too late. Nonetheless, two states have recently purported to “ratify” the expired proposed amendment, and Virginia has announced that it plans to become the “38th” and final state to ratify it as soon as the commonwealth’s legislature convenes in January. If that effort is successful, the rule of law will be undermined as the Constitution’s amendment process is ignored. If the ERA is worth ratifying, surely it is worth ratifying in a legitimate manner.

One can only imagine what the true goals of ERA proponents are today, given the great progress that has been made to protect women against discrimination over the decades since the amendment was proposed. Whether in 1972 or 2019, the ERA attempts to use broad language to take the hatchet, rather than the scalpel, to state laws in the name of protecting women. If the ERA were ratified today, activists would use it to attack legitimate regulations on abortion and argue that states must fund them, as has already happened in states with their own equal-rights amendments. Also on the chopping block? Girls-only sports teams and women’s shelters that won’t admit men.

6. Cam Edwards is all over the Second Amendment–sanctuary communities’ fight in Virginia. He says it is one formerly-blackfaced Governor Ralph Northam is going to lose. From the article:

Anti-gun Democrats hoping to force compliance with the impending gun-control laws frequently argue that, because Virginia is a “Dillon’s Rule” state, county supervisors have no ability to decide which laws will be enforced or not. That’s true, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s not the county board of supervisors that enforces the law, any more than legislators in Richmond or Ralph Northam do. Law enforcement in these Second Amendment sanctuaries is largely the role of the county sheriff and the commonwealth’s attorney, and Democratic commonwealth’s attorneys have demonstrated in recent months that it’s possible to not enforce a state law, as long as you’ve got the judges to go along with you.

Norfolk and Portsmouth commonwealth’s attorneys Greg Underwood and Stephanie Morales, respectively, announced earlier this year that their offices will not prosecute low-level drug offenses. Morales has apparently persuaded judges in Portsmouth to go along, while in Norfolk, Underwood has had to deal with judges who have refused in some cases to dismiss the charges.

Meanwhile, although Governor Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring, and various and sundry Virginia Democrats have railed against the Second Amendment–sanctuary communities for turning the rule of law upside down, sowing chaos, and making mischief, they’ve not said a word when these fellow Democrats have decided that certain laws won’t be enforced. They seem to simply believe it’s different when Democrats do it.

7. Kevin Williamson catalogues and analyzes the political craze for victim hoaxery. From the piece:

The politically motivated rape hoax is a particularly heinous subgenre of outrage-theater hoax. Much more common is the phony hate crime: Jussie Smollett encountering a couple of Trump-loving gay-hating white supremacists who just happened to be big enough Empire fans that they recognized him on the streets of Chicago in the middle of the night and who just happened to have a noose and a gallon of bleach handy, who turned out to be a couple of Nigerians who worked with the actor; the anti-gay and “Heil Trump!” graffiti painted at an Indiana church by the church’s organist, a gay Democrat fixated on Trump; former NFL player Edawn Coughman painting racist slurs, swastikas, and MAGA on a business he owned; dozens and dozens of episodes at universities, etc. A few months ago, the media were atwitter and tut-tutting as hard as they could over a racist attack on a black girl at a school where the vice president’s wife teaches, with figures such as U.S. representative Rashida Tlaib doing their best to politicize the episode — which, as it turns out, never happened.

Wilfred Reilly, a professor of political science at Kentucky State, found that fewer than a third of the hate crimes he studied were legitimate.

What, exactly, is at work here?

One factor is that conservatives who warned about the “cult of victimhood” in the Eighties and Nineties were right. The mantle of victimhood has many uses: There are careers to be made out of professional victimhood, from cat’s-paw op-ed columnists to associate deans of this and that and whole vast swathes of human-resources departments. Underperforming employees worried about their prospects of advancement or continuing employment wrap themselves in protective victimhood. Grifters such as Elizabeth Warren cynically exploit the genuine suffering of grievously wronged people to advance their own careers and interests, which is how the milky complexioned lady from Oklahoma became a “woman of color” at Harvard Law.

8. More Kevin: He checks out celebrity climate-change activists and finds what they’re really concerned about is . . . power. The political kind. From the piece:

But nobody really believes in the apocalyptic story that celebrity activists such as Emma Thompson and Greta Thunberg tell. Emma Thompson does not have to travel. Greta Thunberg does not have to sail in a boat made from petroleum to perform a publicity stunt and then fly crew around the world on a big-ass jet to fetch the silly thing. We have the Internet. We have TikTok. Got something to say? Twitter is ready when you are.

If you want to know how deeply people really believe in this stuff, look at the real estate. New York is a national and world leader in building energy-efficient “net zero” office buildings — and, as of summer, it had . . . four of them. The celebrities keep promising us rising seas, but real-estate prices remain quite high in Malibu, Miami Beach, and the Hamptons. Jane Fonda recently lectured readers of the New York Times: “We have to live like we’re in a climate emergency.” Apparently, “live like we’re in a climate emergency” means living in a 7,100-square-foot mansion with an elevator, pool, fountains, motorized blinds, etc.

“Alarmism and catastrophic thinking are valuable,” writes David Wallace-Wells, also in the Times. He has a book on climate change he’d very much like to sell you. Available in both hardcover and paperback. Don’t ask what it is printed on.

He should send a copy to Jane Fonda, at one of her expansive, energy-hogging homes.

9. It’s time to stop blaming Jews for anti-Semitism, says David Harsanyi. From the Corner post:

Don’t get me wrong, there is clearly resentment against Jews in places like Rockland County. You may remember recent political ads by a local Republican group arguing that an Orthodox Jewish county legislator was “plotting a takeover” and threatening “our way of life.” Haredi communities — ultra-Orthodox — are recognizably Jewish, so they are always more likely to feel the brunt of anti-Semitism, even when they are fighting over zoning ordinances.

Yet, even if we concede that religious Jews in the suburbs north of New York City are making some people uncomfortable, there’s no proof that a machete-wielding anti-Semite who tried to massacre a houseful of Hanukkah celebrants was disturbed about zoning fights over regulations in Monsey. Nor is there any proof that the murderer who walked into the kosher grocery store in Jersey City, perhaps part of a plot to kill Yeshiva students, was upset about tax allocation to Kiryas Joel.

Even if they were, of course, it wouldn’t make it any more rational or any less odious. But it’s clear that most of the spike in anti-Semitism has occurred in New York City proper, where ultra-Orthodox Jews have lived for many decades.

Another problem with framing the anti-Semitism as an outgrowth of “civil sparring” is that it insinuates that Jews are somehow equal participants in this conflict, when all the violence flows in one direction. You may have noticed that these “sparring” ultra-orthodox Jews restrain themselves from attacking walkers-by on the streets of Williamsburg or massacring their neighbors in grocery stores.

10. The Uppance Cometh: Armond White manhandles Little Women. From the review:

Of all the unwoke standard American literature, Louisa May Alcott’s sentimental story of the females in New England’s March family bravely preserving the domestic institution and its customs, despite the Civil War raging outside their hearth, seems to have sneaked past progressive gatekeepers. The 1868 Little Women didn’t make it to D. H. Lawrence’s survey Studies in Classic American Literature, yet it may be the ultimate story of blood sisterhood (rivaled only by Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple). And this social-group concept exempts it from being politically corrected. Alcott’s Little Women remains “feminist” in exactly the sense that Camille Paglia has condemned for indulging upper-middle-class white female privilege.

That Greta Gerwig, It Girl of the Mumblecore movement, chose Little Women as a follow-up to her celebrated Lady Bird reveals the political naivete and arrogance of indie filmmaking.

It seems Triple G, as a reader mocked Great Greta Gerwig, longed to graduate to the Hollywood big time of prestigious, Merchant-Ivory swank. She identifies with Alcott’s protagonist Jo (Saoirse Ronan repeating her Vanessa Redgrave debutante act), who aspires to literary creativity and artist status, a heroine who tramples down the obstacles set by men who dominate the culture. (“What women are allowed into the club of genius?” asks authoress Jo.)

But California-born Gerwig, unlike her angry, pussyhat-wearing East Coast peers, openly appreciates her ethnic, gender, and class privilege. Like the Whit Stillman character Gerwig played in Damsels in Distress, she embraces the secret that other select Millennials hide: They are not above reaping their elitist benefits. (The best part of Lady Bird exposed how Millennials betrayed their parochial roots.)

11. More Armond, who zeroes in on ex-POTUS / Netflix baron Barack Obama’s “Top 10” Flick List. From the commentary:

The alphabetical catalogue begins with Obama’s own Netflix project American Factory, followed by Amazing Grace, Apollo 11, Ash Is Purest White, Atlantics, Birds of Passage, Booksmart, Diane, The Farewell, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Just Mercy, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Little Women, Marriage Story, Parasite, The Souvenir, and Transit.

Such an eclectic inventory makes one wonder whether Obama actually watched these films himself — it’s not an idiosyncratic moviegoer’s list but a media maven’s catalogue. These cagey choices conform to a certain group-think mindset: Each pick represents progressive values, even though some seem to go beneath the political radar and just coincide with what seems like popular taste. The Irishman? Why of course. Plus, it’s Netflix; employee loyalty matters.

But The Irishman is also consistent with ruthless, unabashed Democratic-party politics — and that love of criminal figures confessed when the Clintons performed a campaign spot that fondly imitated The Sopranos crime family.

Accented with foreign-language titles (Ash Is Purest White, Birds of Passage, Transit, Parasite) for middlebrow chic, the list also conveys class-related cynicism about social history and modern cynicism: Parasite being a pro-Communist (“Property Is Theft”), pro-Antifa comedy while Birds of Passage nods to the border crisis.

12. Daniel Payne calls baloney on Tom Nichols’ castigating conservative “gun worship” in reaction to praise of Jack Wilson, who shot a Texas church gunman stone-cold dead. From the article:

Among Nichols’s beliefs is that, as he put it this week, conservatives now “measure freedom by how many of us walk around with guns.” He also believes that concealed carry culture is really just “conservative virtue-signaling” as a stand-in for real patriotism, that gun owners “measure [their] sense of worth” by whether or not they are carrying firearms, and that gun “worship” has become a “litmus test” for conservatives, to the detriment of conservatism itself.

It is safe to say that none of this is true. What Nichols advances is a grossly distorted view of American gun culture, one that suggests he either has spoken to zero gun owners about guns or didn’t listen to them when they did speak.

In fact, the people whom Tom is clumsily describing — those of us who carry guns, who take a keen interest in gun policy, and who believe that it is fine for responsible and well-trained gun owners to carry their firearms in public places — do not actually “worship” guns. Nor do we tie these interests and habits into our sense of self-worth and patriotism.

RELATED: Charlie Cooke takes to Twitter to make mincemeat of Mr. Nichols. Grab the popcorn and enjoy.

13. Useless Eaters Beware: Wesley Smith on how a New York Times writer thinks aging Baby Boomers should cozy up to a “healthier attitude” toward assisted suicide. From the Corner post:

We can always count on the New York Times to promote destructive public policies and social agendas. In the latest example, the “paper of record” published a piece that pushes assisted suicide as a solution to the significant challenges we will face from Baby Boomers getting old.

First, Susan Jacoby recounts the familiar costs and predicted problems associated with increasing numbers of elderly people. But when the time comes to suggest solutions, the piece is very weak. Her inner feminist rails at “A Place for Mom” ads because it implies women will be taking care of “dad.” That just will not do. She also suggests that the elderly who want to work be accommodated by companies and policies to stay productive. A-okay with me.

14. Rich Lowry focuses on the hard reaction of some top-notch historians to the New York Times’s fact-flimsying 1619 Project. From the column:

All of the above quotations come from the website’s interviews with highly accomplished and respected historians — the Princeton professor James McPherson, author of the magisterial history of the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom; the formidable historian of the Revolutionary War period, Gordon Wood; the CUNY professor James Oakes, who specializes in the Civil War period; and the Lincoln scholar Richard Carwardine of Oxford University.

At the end of the year, the Times published an extraordinary letter from McPherson, Oakes, and Wood, as well as Sean Wilentz of Princeton and Victoria Bynum of Texas State University, demanding “prominent corrections of all the errors and distortions presented in the 1619 Project.”

“These errors, which concern major events, cannot be described as interpretation or ‘framing,’” the historians wrote. “They are matters of verifiable fact, which are the foundation of both honest scholarship and honest journalism. They suggest a displacement of historical understanding by ideology. Dismissal of objections on racial grounds — that they are the objections of only ‘white historians’ — has affirmed that displacement.”

The Times, in a response from the editor in chief of the magazine, Jake Silverstein, countered, “Historical understanding is not fixed; it is constantly being adjusted by new scholarship and new voices.” In other words, just wait, and the supporters of the 1619 Project will enshrine it as a new orthodoxy.

15. Scott Cullinane and Ryan Meilak hope 2020 will not be a year in which the US and EU cement a relationship of being strategic economic competitors. From the analysis:

In Brussels a new European Commission, led by President Ursula von der Leyen, is beginning to hit its stride. In Washington, attention is turning toward the elections coming in the fall. Amid all this, officials on both sides of the Atlantic should take the time to make one key resolution for the year ahead: The U.S. and Europe will not make each other into strategic competitors.

The United States and Europe are longtime allies and friends, but today, as global economies realign and adjust to the business, security, and moral challenges posed by the Chinese government, leaders must guard against gaps and divisions that threaten to separate the United States from Europe.

Over the past three years, the U.S. government has affirmed that the world is once again in a period of sustained big-power competition. In the words of the U.S. National Security Strategy, this requires “the United States to rethink the policies of the past two decades,” especially regarding international actors such as China. While an increasing number of officials in Washington have articulated the view that Europe is becoming a battlefield in this competition, one on which Europeans themselves should lead, too many European leaders have responded with hedges and half statements. Equally unfortunate, within the U.S., too many politicians continue to view Europe as a post-historical region for which Brussels can manage lingering trouble spots without active American diplomacy.

Book Notes

1. Last year we published a much-acclaimed double special issue (actually, two full issues of your favorite magazine) on Socialism (against) and Free Markets (for). Urged to publish these 24 essays making the case for our principles, and against the determined enemy (i.e., socialism) of them, we discussed the book prospect with our friends at Post Hill Press. They agreed (excellent idea), and acted, and here it is, sweetly and simply titled: Against Socialism. It’s filled with the wisdom of Rich Lowry, Charles C. W. Cooke, Kevin D. Williamson, John O’Sullivan, Yuval Levin, David L. Bahnsen, Timothy P. Carney, and many more. Get your quality softcover, or Kindle edition, copy of this so important tome. Order at Amazon, right here.

OK, as to the question Will it make an excellent Christmas gift? the answer is “Yes. Indeed!”

2. The senior senator and presidential wannabe from Massachusetts is in for it, courtesy of our pal David Bahnsen’s important new book assessing a (thought-perishing) POTUS Warren — it’s titled Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream, and right now it is available in audio format: You can get it at Amazon, Audible, or iTunes.

Listen and you will discover a smartly written takedown of what the subtitle claims: How the leftist senator’s trillions-upon-trillions agenda, if implemented, are going to sucker punch America’s Middle Class.

Here’s a taste of some praise about EWHHPWDTMCATAD, from Steve Forbes: “The choices in the 2020 election couldn’t be more stark: Socialism or Capitalism. A buoyant, opportunity-rich economy. Or economic stagnation and evermore social strife. This well-written, lucid, always-interesting book convincingly makes the case for freedom over tyranny. Essential reading!”

If you thought Steve had nice things to say, get this from Andy McCarthy: “What a great political and economic anomaly: The populist Left, championed by Elizabeth Warren, is determined to vanquish wealth—the thing most essential to the investment, productivity, and growth desperately needed to underwrite the evermore ambitious progressive agenda. Here, David Bahnsen, a brilliant financial analyst with a keen political eye, provides the antidote to Senator Warren’s nostrums, and a Hazlitt-esque Capital in One Lesson for the rest of us.”

3. Another great book smacking socialism upside its thick skull is Amity Shlaes’ Great Society: A New History. Get the down-lo right now by listening to two podcast interviews: John J. Miller interviews Amity on The Bookmonger, and at The Power Line Show, Amity and Steven Hayward chat up on Great Society.

Want more? Michael Barone provides an excellent review in the Wall Street Journal. Kudos to Amity. Order your copies here.

And Do You Know Where You Can Discuss the Book with Amity, Face to Face?

Yes, on the National Review 2020 Rhine River Conservative Cruise. She’s one of our speakers! Do check out this cool ad about the sojourn (it takes place April 19–26 on AmaWaterways’ luxurious AmaMora). Of course, you can visit nrcruise.com (it lacks that très cool ad) for complete information.

The Six

1. No one but no one has a more consistently clear voice about America’s refusal to deal institutionally with the severely mentally ill than does D.J. Jaffe, who takes to the New York Daily News to look at the Monsey, NY, stabbings and describe the ugly fact that partial responsibility for the attack is found in resistant public policy. From his piece:

After Grafton Thomas attacked five Hasidic Jews in Monsey, N.Y., Gov. Cuomo called it an act of “domestic terrorism,” and feds have charged Thomas with hate crimes, citing web searches about Hitler and anti-Semitic comments in his journal. Those closest to Thomas say he was neither a terrorist nor a hater. They blame his actions on untreated schizophrenia, a horrific brain disorder that scatters the mind and disconnects it from reality.

The truth, of course, is that a crime such as this one could be motivated both by anti-Semitism and by mental illness. The motives aren’t mutually exclusive.

The Daily News reports that Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations. Law enforcement said he was “rambling nonsense” when police took him into custody. His long-time pastor couldn’t understand why he wasn’t institutionalized, telling one reporter, “There hasn’t been anyone who has given a real solution to deal with a grown man who is dealing with schizophrenia, other than ‘Go home and call us if something happens.’”

2. Amy Klobuchar, channeling Ko-Ko from The Mikado, has a little list. Of judges. But she’s keeping it to herself until America makes her POTUS. At the Wall Street Journal, the great Bill McGurn has a problem with the Minnesota senator’s dirty little secret. From the column:

Mr. Trump said he’d only been joking when he brought up his sister. But plainly Mr. Cruz had identified a vulnerability. On May 18, Mr. Trump responded by releasing a list of names (to which he later added) of men and women from whom he would pick a Supreme Court nominee. The list had been compiled with the help of the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo.

It worked. A CNN exit poll found that of voters who ranked the Supreme Court as the “most important factor” in their decision, 56% pulled the lever for Mr. Trump.

Why couldn’t Democrats do the same in 2020? Certainly the party has been energized by the reshaping of the federal bench Mr. Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have achieved with the confirmation of record numbers of judicial nominees. Today two progressive outfits—Demand Justice, co-founded by Brian Fallon, press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and Building the Bench, an offshoot of the Alliance for Justice—are compiling their own lists of judicial nominees so that a Democratic president can hit the ground running. But as for the Democratic candidates themselves? Crickets.

Why? The obvious answer is that making public a list of Supreme Court nominees might not work for Democrats the way it did for Republicans.

Take Ms. Klobuchar. She campaigns as the party’s moderate voice. On the issue of judges, that probably hurts her within her party. Notwithstanding her clash with Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing and declaring President Trump’s judges “horrific,” she’s voted yea for 56% of the president’s nominees, according to Think Progress. The other Democratic senators running for president have voted for fewer than half.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Con Coughlin reveals that the days of Iran’s denying ownership of the actions of its Shia-militia stooges are over. From the piece:

Ever since the ayatollahs came to power more than 40 years ago, they have sought to distract attention away from their domestic unpopularity by getting Iran-backed Shia militias to carry out high profile attacks.

From the devastating car bomb attacks the Iranian-backed Hizbollah militia carried out against American bases in Beirut in the 1980s to the more recent attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil facilities in October 2019, the Iranian regime has repeatedly used its proxy Shia militias to great effect to distract attention away from its domestic travails.

The beauty of this arrangement, so far as the ayatollahs are concerned, is that, by relying on Shia militias to do their dirty work, whether it is firing missiles at Israel or carrying out assassinations in Europe, Tehran is able to deny any involvement in wrongdoing.

No longer. By launching a series of air strikes against Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria on Sunday night, the Trump administration has made it abundantly clear that it will no longer tolerate Tehran’s denials of its involvement in attacks against the US and its allies.

4. At Modern Age, Lee Edwards makes the case for conservative fusionism, with a key requisite — prudence. From the beginning of his essay:

As our political leaders rail at one another and rational discourse is routinely abandoned, Washington politics seems ready to explode: Are things falling apart? Is the center collapsing, unable to hold? Has anarchy been loosed on our world?

The apocalyptic language is taken from “The Second Coming,” a famous poem written by a despairing William Butler Yeats following World War I, in which nearly 700,000 British soldiers died and another 1.6 million were wounded, many of them grievously. In an unholy twist, Yeats conjures up not Jesus Christ but a monstrous Sphinx-like shape with a lion’s body and the head of a man and asks, “What rough beast, its hour come around at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”

The progressives have a predictable answer—President Trump. Conservatives respond that the beast’s head resembles Karl Marx, who has eclipsed John Maynard Keynes as the Democrats’ favorite philosopher.

No one would deny that our country is sorely troubled and almost as divided as it was in the ’60s, when tens of thousands of antiwar protesters filled the Washington streets and surrounded our institutions. Then the conduct of the Vietnam War split us; today we come to blows about the conduct of a president whose election has never been accepted by the opposition. So bland a slogan as “Make America Great Again” enrages the left. But we on the right can also lose our cool and resort to the ad hominem argument as we resist the progressives’ campaign to build a socialist America.

5. Mangia! At The College Fix, reporter Mukil Pari provides the skinny on two professors advocating “Fat Studies.” From the beginning of the article:

Two professors at a midwestern university are working to develop and legitimize the field of “fat studies,” a discipline that examines the cultural and sociological phenomenon of overweight and obese human beings.

Laurie Cooper Stoll, a professor of sociology, and Darci Thoune, an associate professor of English, are both leading scholarly research in this field from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. Their website, “Two Fat Professors,” declares that the academics are “fighting fatphobia with education, community-building and a lot of sass.”

The College Fix reached out to both professors numerous times seeking comment; the pair did not respond to requests through their website, through email, or through messages left on their university phones. Their website and publications, however, offer an illuminating look at their burgeoning research.

Broadly speaking, the two scholars are working off a thesis that postulates the voices of obese individuals are absent or sidelined in contemporary research on obesity and health. To remedy this, the professors have argued for the incorporation of “standpoint theory” into fat studies. “Standpoint theory,” according to the two, stresses “the importance of situated-knowledge and the epistemic advantage of marginalized groups.”

6. Does anyone remember the virtues? At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley Birzer does, and seeks to give them the attention so sorely needed. From his essay:

As I look over social media, I see anger, emotion, more anger, sentimentality, victimhood, and even more anger. If social media is an accurate register, we have one very scary, atomized culture.

The same is true when I look at Washington, D.C. There, I also see anger, emotion, more anger, sentimentality, victimhood, and even more anger. But, I also see manipulation—manipulation of truth, manipulation of persons, and manipulation of the society. Imagine a group of people who have divided into two warring, Manichaean camps, each claiming to represent best the American Republic, all the while diabolically pushing us into outrageous debt and social engineering.

And, the Church of the first quarter of the twenty-first century . . . well, let’s not even go near there. Enough said.

Where do we see the pursuit of virtue, or even the pursuit of the individual virtues, in any of this? Can most American politicos or academics even define virtue or name the virtues?

Most likely, the sad answer is no. Indeed, one must wonder when the word virtue—as a physical thing formed by the lips or as a concept flittering through the soul—has even arisen in the last several decades in our nation’s imperial city or in one of our ivy league schools.

BONUS: At Law & Liberty, John McGinnis worries about the fate of Classical Liberalism, come the next crisis. From the essay:

And in Great Britain, the nation besides America that has historically been the best home of liberty, the similar drift of the Labour Party and the waning of Thatcherism in the Conservative Party show that we are dealing with a decline in classical liberalism that far exceeds any one leader’s power to cause or correct. The Labour Party has moved farther left than the Democrats, combining massive spending plans with a new plan for nationalization, including the telecom industry. To be sure, because of the utter incompetence of its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the party lost this December’s election badly, but no one thinks that the party will reinvent itself again in the manner of New Labour, the avatar of a left party that had made its peace with the market economy.

The Conservative Party has also drifted away from classical liberalism, with plans to grow the state through a blizzard of new spending largely paid for by the kind of borrowing the conservatives condemned in the years of the previous Labour government. Boris Johnson’s victory speech had not a word about limited government or competitive reforms of public services. Instead, it was all about plans for what he proudly terms record spending. Johnson has been a great champion of Brexit, but he seems content to move Britain closer to the model of a continental European economy, all on his own—without any help from the EU.

And that continent—never very friendly to classical liberalism—is certainly not embracing it either. The best parts of French President Emmanuel Macron’s reform agenda—on pensions and taxes—is stymied by huge protests in the streets of French cities. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who moved her party away from free market economics and openly calls for more restrictions on speech, has left the Christian Democratic Party in bad electoral shape. Italy has a government of the left with a wholly populist opposition on the right that has no plan for market reforms that the nation desperately needs to rid itself of a corrupt political and patronage system.

YET ANOTHER BONUS: At Claremont Review of Books, Charles Horner believes the democratic spirit in China is “deathless.” From the essay:

The survival of the communist dictatorship in 1989 was a near-run thing, and the party knew it. To begin with, the economic reforms that Deng had already instituted in 1979—though they would enable China to rise to worldwide prominence—were beset with contradictions. The administration’s reforms thereafter, which Deng himself called “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” created a state-directed market economy subservient to objectives established by the political leadership. This bargain looked stable for a time—until the Soviet Union unexpectedly collapsed in 1991. After that, the Communists began to fear that their rule could not survive deeper market reforms and more intimate international involvements.

After Deng transformed the People’s Republic into a quasi-capitalist setup, many of the party’s elite members became multi-millionaires or even billionaires. But the same political system that made them powerful and rich was also a perpetual threat: there was always the possibility that a loyal party man could find himself on the wrong side of party infighting and lose his fortune. This is precisely what happened to many thousands of loyal party men when Xi Jinping, the new general secretary, took power in 2013 and launched a so-called “anti-corruption” campaign. With due allowance for exaggeration, the accusations involved staggering amounts of money—$6 billion here, $14 billion there. But this was not a good-government initiative. Xi was going after those who, in his mind, had even the most remote connection to the rivals he had defeated in his rise to power.

Xi was not warring against corruption as such. Mind-boggling corruption was and is the inevitable, because necessary, product of a system in which the Chinese Communist Party reserves to itself the most privileged and influential position in the marketplace. Since 1979, this has been the party’s standard operating procedure. Under Xi, corruption remains instrumental—not only in steering the economy in the direction the party wants it to go, but also in ensuring that high-level civilian and military officials have a stake in preserving the system. It is not a matter of one audacious embezzler here or there. Rather, it is the entire Mafia-like system itself, wherein each of the lower-downs kicks up to his boss until the money finally reaches the most powerful body in the system—the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China. Its seven members sit atop a network of huge state-owned enterprises, especially banks, which generate and disperse enormous amounts of cash. They also sit atop a massive internal security apparatus, thus bringing together in one place tools for coercion and slush funds for cooptation. For the party’s leaders, the daily dialectic is a tension between fear and greed: though they trust their ability to survive intra-party conflict, they also hedge their bets—not least by smuggling billions abroad for safekeeping.

RIP Gertrude Himmelfarb

1. Jay Nordlinger remembers the great historian, who passed away on December 30, age 97. A small slice of his remembrance:

These days, “neocon” is an epithet, on both the left and the right. But Irving and Bea and their gang? (Gertrude Himmelfarb, in private life, was known as “Bea Kristol.”) They were giants. And I am forever grateful to them for their influence on me, and the world. You know who else was grateful? Bill Buckley. He expressed this in many ways, on many occasions.

In one of the very first issues of The Weekly Standard — 1995 — WFB reviewed Irving Kristol’s Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea. Well worth your time, of course (both the review and the book).

I’ll always remember what Bill said about Jeane Kirkpatrick: “She ought to be woven into the flag as the 51st star.” When I remembered this line to Kirkpatrick, she said, “That’s the nicest thing anyone ever said about me.” I said, “That’s the nicest thing anyone ever said about anyone.”

Mona Charen has written about Gertrude Himmelfarb today — here. Marvelous column, of course. Mona knew her well. Gertrude Himmelfarb passed away on December 30. Here is Mona at the end of her column: “On a personal note, I report with a heavy heart that this is the first time in two decades that I will not be e-mailing her a copy of my column.” Mona’s friend Bea had requested that she do so.

2. And here is Mona Charen. From the beginning of her remembrance:

When I emailed Mary Ellen Bork that our mutual friend, Gertrude Himmelfarb, a.k.a. Bea Kristol, had passed away at 97, she replied, after expressions of sadness, “Now she and Irving can resume their conversation.”

Irving was Irving Kristol, Bea’s husband of 67 years. It was one of the great marriages of our time — two towering intellects who were also devoted to one another and to their family and friends. Irving would not have been the giant he was without Bea, and vice versa. They were also completely down to Earth.

Born into an immigrant Jewish family in 1922, Bea attended Brooklyn College where she managed a triple major in history, economics, and philosophy while simultaneously studying Jewish literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary, more than an hour-long subway ride away. Like many young Jewish intellectuals of the day, she was briefly drawn to communism (in its Trotskyite variety). It was at a Trotskyite meeting that she met Irving, who had the good sense to propose marriage after just a few dates. I once asked her whether there was a Bohemian atmosphere among leftists at the time, and she allowed that there might have been, but it skipped her.

It would, because one of Bea’s insights was that the “bourgeois virtues,” which very much included marriage, were key to human happiness. She brought this focus to her in-depth study of the Victorian thinkers.

2. And then there is Myron Magnet’s tribute, in City Journal. From his piece:

Gertrude Himmelfarb, our foremost historian of ideas and one of the nation’s greatest historians of any stamp, died Monday at 97. Though a Washingtonian for the last decades of her long and productive life, the Brooklyn-born Himmelfarb was among the last of a storied band of New York Jewish intellectuals—the “Family,” they called themselves—who joined scholarly erudition to wide-ranging social, political, cultural, and ethical concerns far transcending the merely academic. They wrote for an educated general audience eager for the acuity with which they brought the wisdom and experience of the past to bear on the problems of present-day life. Through much reflection and debate, they’d mostly thought their way through the Trotskyist political correctness that prevailed in their student days to arrive at a liberal Americanism that, in time, metamorphosed into their own brand of conservativism. Now, with wonks and pundits, pedants and ideologues, taking their places, and with the “educated general reader” going extinct, today’s intellectuals seem shallow and dull by contrast.

Acerbic in her impatience with foolishness, Himmelfarb particularly scorned the Marxoid view that people’s beliefs and ideals have no independent reality but are just reflections of the material conditions around them. She rejected social-policy theories that give short shrift to cultural life, ignoring what goes on in people’s minds and hearts as a mere reflection of the real reality—the economic reality that should be the focus of our attention. According to this viewpoint, what people think can’t possibly alter the large forces that shape their lives. What determines individual behavior is the environment, not the content of the mind and spirit of the individual—as in, for example, the belief that crime springs from a lack of opportunity. She wasn’t much more sympathetic to social-policy thinkers who consider individuals the authors of their own actions and fates only to the extent that they choose rationally among various economic incentives—a welfare check versus a minimum-wage job, say. To her, this was just another way of saying that individuals merely respond mechanically to the environment: they don’t shape it.

Baseballery

Rest in Peace Don Larsen, he of the famous 1956 World Series perfect game. Ever considered a Yankee, the fact is, the right-hander known as “Goony Bird” pitched (and batted — Larsen was a .242 lifetime hitter) for the Browns, Orioles (same team!), Athletics, White Sox, Giants, and Colt 45s before ending his Major League career in 1967 with the Cubs (he was the last former St. Louis Brown to play in the Big Leagues). His lifetime record of 81–91 was marred by two particularly disastrous seasons: In 1954 he was 3–21 for the Orioles (the first year the franchise played there), and in 1960 he went 1–10 with Kansas City. Ouch and ouch.

But in addition to all that, he could boast a 4–2 World Series record. Of the four wins, the strangest (thinnest? flakiest?) came in 1962, when, wearing the uniform of the San Francisco Giants, Larsen entered Game Four at Yankee Stadium in the bottom of the 6th inning, with two on and two out, to relieve Bobby Bolin. With the score locked at 2–2, he walked the man who had caught his perfect game, Yogi Berra, to load the bases, and then induced former teammate Tony Kubek to ground out to end the inning. The stat sheet shows: 1/3 of an inning pitched, two batters faced, no runs allowed. In the top of the 7th, Giants second baseman Chuck Hiller clobbered a grand slam to give his team a lead it never lost, and that in turn give Larsen the victory.

Almost comparable: A few days earlier, in the best-of-three playoff between the Giants and Dodgers (both teams had ended the regular season tied at 101–61), Larsen was the victor of the rubber match, pitching one inning of scoreless relief in the bottom of the eighth, with the Giants trailing, 4–2. But in the top of the ninth, San Francisco torched a trio of Dodger pitchers for four runs, and an NL pennant. And a Larsen win.

Of interest: Larsen’s final career start came at Yankee Stadium against Whitey Ford on May 1, 1965. Pitching once again for the Orioles, he lasted 4 1/3 innings, serving up five earned runs and taking the loss. Who came in to relieve him? Harvey Haddix, the man who pitched baseball’s greatest unofficial perfect game, taking his no-runners-allowed gem into the bottom of the 13th inning against the Milwaukee Braves on May 26, 1959 before a crowd of 19,194 at County Stadium. Well, we know the tragic ending, although the Braves’ Lew Burdette surely felt otherwise: He won the game, pitching 13 scoreless innings and scattering a dozen Pirate hits.

By the way, Haddix, like Larsen, earned a screwy World Series win, in what many hold to be the greatest October Classic game ever played (especially for Yankee Haters): Game Seven of the 1960 World Series. With the Pirates leading 9–7 in the top of the Ninth, Haddix, in relief, allowed two Yankees to score, which knotted the game at 9–9. When Bill Mazeroski smashed his lead-off homer over the left-field fence to win the game and the series for Pittsburgh, Haddix, despite the blown save, picked up the victory.

A Dios

Pray for those in harm’s way on our behalf, and by “our” Your Humble Correspondent includes even those ungrateful dolts who are obtuse to when their unalienable rights and their blessings of liberty — which include citizenship and living in this glorious place called America — are under threat and in need of defense that can be more rigorous than, say, a petulant tweet.

God Bless All, Especially You and Yours

Jack Fowler, who will take suggestions for karaoke night on the NR Rhine Cruise sent to jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Nothing Yet Is What You Ain’t Seen

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Nearly all of 2019 is in the rear-view mirror, and up ahead, 2020’s road conditions have that look of treacherousness. The Leap Year is gonna be a looloo, a humdinger, guaranteeing that all flabbers will be thoroughly gasted. Fer sure: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride will be catatonic in comparison. But . . .

Let’s hold off on the anxiety-anticipating for just a brief moment. Let’s linger in the Holiday glow, and when the brand-spanking-new year’s first day becomes official on Wednesday, find time to celebrate, to maybe watch a little football or a parade while you recover from the prior evening’s excesses.

(And Shraga, my dear and kind friend, you and I know what can happen on New Year’s Eve.)

This edition of the WJ will be shorter than the usual fare, and is filed early (Coming clean: Santa hasn’t descended the chimney!), thanks to the nerve of Christmas falling midweek. Which means Editor Phil is traveling hither and yon while Your Humble and Bloated Correspondent guzzles fortified eggnog and makes all the Santa cookies disappear.

Other than a reminder to reserve one of the last remaining staterooms on NR’s 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise, let’s do what we do here . . . let’s get on with the Weekend Jolt!

Lords Will Be A-Leapin’ with Joy, Maids A-Milkin’ with Rapture, to Be A-Readin’ these Bakers-Dozen NRO Gems, One for Every Day of Christmas, and One for The Leap Year

1. First Things First: Our Esteemed Editor, Rich FalalalaLowry, pens a timely ode to the golden era of Christmas music. From the column:

Christmas songs from much earlier were dusted off and made into standards. None is more iconic than “Jingle Bells,” which has done much to define our image of Christmas. Written by James Pierpont in the mid-19th century for Thanksgiving, it became associated with Christmas despite making no references to the holiday.

Bing Crosby had another holiday sensation when he recorded it with the Andrews Sisters in 1943. Benny Goodman did a hit version in 1935, Glenn Miller in 1941 and Les Paul in 1951. Not to mention recordings by Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington and Perry Como, or more recently, Barry Manilow, Gwen Stefani and Barbra Streisand, among many others. The Gemini 6 astronauts performed it in space.

Not all the numbers from this time were particularly serious. A bunch of singers passed on “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” until Gene Autry recorded the instant classic in 1949. Autry also gave us “Frosty the Snowman” (1950) and “Here Comes Santa Claus” (1947).

What, besides the quality of the songs, accounts for the dominance of this era? It was a time prior to the onset of cynicism and irony. So heartfelt sentiments could be expressed unembarrassedly, and they still touch us today. Christmas loomed large in the culture, and the songs reflected it and defined it.

The Christmas of this music is less explicitly religious and more markedly American, a holiday of snowy vistas, of hearth and home, of cheerful sounds and merrymaking, of Santa and his sleigh, and of fond memories.

RELATED: Peter Tonguette praises the Great American Christmas Album. From the piece:

Perhaps the Christmas album, then, has remained a fixture on the American music scene because it can embody the contradictions of Christmas itself. Other holidays give rise to more uncomplicated emotions — say, the patriotism of the Fourth of July or the contented feasting of Thanksgiving. By contrast, Christmas can provoke a strange brew of emotions; it’s capable of inciting high spirits one minute and a sense of loneliness or loss the next. The best Christmas albums, like Crosby’s Merry Christmas, are made up of songs that illustrate both the frivolity and the melancholy, helping us enunciate the swirl of inner thoughts we have this time of year.

Indeed, Crosby’s seeming commitment to the sentiments in his songs was modeled by the artists who caught the Christmas-album bug in his wake. In the album A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957), the crooner found new ways to express the forward-looking longing at the heart of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” a song that had its debut courtesy of Judy Garland in the 1944 film musical Meet Me in St. Louis. The mandate to look to happier Christmases that might lie ahead was sung with a kind of girlish hopefulness by Garland, but — with the help of some revamped lyrics — it was given a fresh sheen of toughness and resoluteness by Sinatra. Coming from Ol’ Blue Eyes, the line “From now on, our troubles will be miles away” is an order, not a wish. The singer brought to mind an old pal or best buddy empathetically inclining his ear to the listener’s problems and doing his best to lift his spirits.

2. Michael Brendan Dougherty, responding to Ramesh Ponnuru, makes the “prudent case” against impeachment. From the rebuttal:

Modern presidents have routinely launched the United States into belligerency with other nations without congressional approval. Barack Obama had already put special forces into Syria before he asked Congress to approve of a more wide-ranging mission there. Congress refused to vote on it, given its unpopularity. The mission crept on anyway. If you want to go back much further, every American president who is connected to the Vietnam War must answer for grave lies to the American public, relating both to the cause of the war, its conclusion, and its scope.

You may dismiss all this as “whataboutism” – a recently coined term meant to name an evasive rhetorical technique. But I think Socrates was the first whataboutist philosopher, and he brought up his counterexamples in order to probe our standards for real coherence.

Would it be good for the country to impeach Trump for his Ukraine phone call, having not impeached his recent predecessors for graver offenses? If raising the standards means the standards would be kept there, perhaps yes. I believe Ramesh Ponnuru would keep the standards there. Would others? I also suspect that while Ponnuru might quibble with some of my examples of presidential abuses before, he generally agrees that modern presidents have been getting away with impeachable offenses.

My next question: Why isn’t Trump getting away with his? I suspect the reason is similar to the reason that Andrew Johnson was impeached. Clinton too. Offenses to the Constitution are routinely tolerated in presidents, but Trump’s Democratic opponents and Republican critics find themselves literally disgusted by him. I cannot prove, but I suspect, that it is this more visceral disgust — one that predated the release of the rough transcript of the Ukraine phone call — that is driving impeachment. Finding a tax-evasion charge on Al Capone may be expedient for imprisoning him. But finding a technically abusive request that was not carried out in order to effect the already desired impeachment is something less than constitutional hygiene.

3. The author of Faithless Execution — Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment, one Andrew McCarthy, revisits its theme in the light of current contentions. From the piece:

In retrospect, maybe my subtitle should have been “Why Obama Is Impeachable, But Not Impeachable” — though I doubt that would have been much better.

In any event, Faithless Execution addressed a deep flaw in modern American governance: the erosion of restraints on executive power.

The Framers decided, after some hesitation and with reluctance, to include impeachment in the Constitution because it was “indispensable” (Madison’s word). The presidency needed to be powerful, but that gave it a unique potential to damage, or even destroy, the republic and its new constitutional order. That aside, the sophisticated men who designed our system knew there would be plenty of executive overreach and error. This “maladministration” would be bad, but not bad enough to warrant removal. The Framers thus assumed that Congress’s principal check on the president would be the power of the purse: Control of funding could gut a president’s dubious initiatives and incentivize a president to behave lawfully. The Senate would also have the power to deny confirmation of officials the president would need to carry out programs.

The problem, after a century of progressive governance, is that these checks do not work anymore. The federal government and its administrative state have grown monstrously big. Federal money is now as much tied to social welfare as to traditional government functions. Budgeting is slap-dash and dysfunctional. To threaten to deny funds or leave agencies leaderless is to be seen, not as reining in executive excess, but as heartlessly harming this or that interest group. Lawmakers would rather run up tens of trillions in debt than be portrayed that way.

The only real check left is impeachment. It is rarely invoked and (until very recently) has atrophied as a credible threat. But that doesn’t make it any less indispensable.

4. It’s been a big year for movies, and Kyle Smith — who’s seen most of them — shares his Top Ten. In descending order, here are Numbers 5 and 4 from the piece:

Hustlers. Writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s surprising and funny movie, based on a real case, explores the culture of Manhattan strip bars, where the girls are barely scraping by and the guys are Wall Streeters with immense amounts of cultural and financial resources. Sex proves to be a great leveler, though, and the girls restage Robin Hood around stripper poles. The influence of Martin Scorsese is all over this film, in its unerring musical cues, its fluid camera work, and most of all its sly but cynical sense of humor.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1969 in Quentin Tarantino’s wonderfully detailed study of the last days of Southern California as paradise, before the Manson Family attacks. Though the movie is a bit self-indulgent and could have been tightened up in the middle, its knockout third act delivers some of the most satisfying imagery of Tarantino’s career. Along with Forrest Gump, it amounts to one of the most glorious works of anti-hippie propaganda in the history of motion pictures.

5. More Kyle: He declares anathema on the new Netflix Oscar-hunting fib-based film, The Two Popes. From the infallible review:

If you don’t write about movies for a living, you may be under the impression that filmmakers telling stories about real people make at least some vague gestures in the direction of truth. You would be wrong. The movie is about Bergoglio contemplating retirement but instead being summoned to see Pope Benedict in the Vatican. The two then spend days together becoming friends and Benedict tells Bergoglio he is going to resign and anoint Bergoglio as his successor.

None of this happened. The whole movie is fiction.

6. More Movies: Armond White catches A Hidden Life and finds moral confusion. From the beginning of the review:

Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life is the wrong film for this moment in social history. The steadfast Christian goodness that Malick observes in the prelapsarian life of Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), a German pacifist caught between world wars, is mocked by today’s ruthless public figures who assert false righteousness, claiming to “pray” for individuals they assail, and professing religious belief even as they offend the tenets of that doctrine and support fashionable forms of sacrilege.

It would be ideal to announce that Malick’s movie transports us to a different era before these treacheries occurred — or that the period story of Franz’s travails showed his/our suffering in a clarifying light and gave hope. Franz, his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner), and their towhead daughters are simple, devout people, close to the earth until the Third Reich jolts their peace and the film becomes All Quiet on the Western Front 2.0. Franz is jailed, then executed for refusing to fight another war.

But how can A Hidden Life instruct us when it shares the culture’s current confusions? (Is this ode to pacifism left over from Malick’s Vietnam-era ideas?) Malick demonstrates the same interplay of banal citizenship and banal spirituality that blurs straight thinking and stymies good faith today. No wonder secular critics love it.

7. Jesse Merriam makes the constitutional and moral case for instituting regulations and restrictions on pornography. From the analysis:

As a matter of Supreme Court doctrine, the regulation of 21st-century Internet pornography is not a constitutional issue. This is because the type of material found on American porn websites clearly constitutes obscene material, which has never been treated as constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment.

It is noteworthy that, when the Warren Court was struggling to determine the extent to which the First Amendment protects sexually explicit material, the cases involved concepts and images less scandalous than what we now find in magazines written for teenage girls. In Roth v. United States (1957), for example, the case that inaugurated the Supreme Court’s foray into abandoning the common-law view of obscenity, the Court was dealing with Samuel Roth’s distribution of this erotic book. (Read the editorial review, and the book’s selection from Dante’s Divine Comedy, for a sense of just how spicy the material was.)

Consider also Miller v. California (1973), in which the Burger Court overruled Roth and established the controlling doctrine as to what constitutes obscenity. In the Miller case the Court considered whether California could convict Marvin Miller, the Covina-based “King of Smut,” of a misdemeanor under state obscenity law for distributing unsolicited brochures featuring sexual content. What kind of sexual content was Miller distributing? The Court explained that the brochures contained “some descriptive printed material” but also — this is the naughty part — “pictures and drawings very explicitly depicting men and women in groups of two or more engaging in a variety of sexual activities, with genitals often prominently displayed.”

And what did the Court say about these naughty pictures and drawings, which would make the average American in 2019 yawn? That California had the constitutional authority to criminalize their distribution because obscenity is such a broad concept, and the disparate regions of the nation differ so much in terms of moral propriety and sexual norms, that states must have the constitutional authority to adopt their own obscenity standards. As the Court put it, “it is neither realistic nor constitutionally sound to read the First Amendment as requiring that the people of Maine or Mississippi accept public depiction of conduct found tolerable in Las Vegas, or New York City.” (Apparently, in 1973, California was more like Maine and Mississippi than like New York City.)

8. Rebeccah Heinrichs and John Lee make the case for “maximum pressure,” counseling President Trump to tell North Korean madman Kim Jong-un to pound rockets. From the piece:

Regionally, accepting North Korea as a nuclear-weapons state would squander an opportunity to work with willing allies, such as Shinzo Abe’s Japan, to maintain the pressure on North Korea. Given that North Korea views Japan as an enemy, any U.S. walk-back would create new doubts about the reliability of American resolve and its commitment to its partners and allies in Northeast Asia. Meanwhile, Beijing would be freed up to offer Pyongyang as much diplomatic, economic, and military support as it deems desirable.

Trump should instead take steps to make the “maximum pressure” campaign live up to its name.

The U.S. should first focus on instilling a real sense of strategic rationality in Seoul. President Moon Jae-in continues to focus his ire toward Japan — today, its only benign neighbor — while downplaying the threat that North Korea and China pose to its security and interests. Moon remains committed to the “Three Nos” he promised China in return for Beijing ending its informal trade boycott against South Korea: no more U.S. missile-defense systems, no South Korean integration into a regional U.S. missile-defense system, and no trilateral military alliance with the U.S. and Japan. Trump should take steps to encourage Seoul to properly identify its true friends and enemies and reverse the Three Nos.

Trump should also increase the pressure on China on as many fronts as possible: trade and economic issues; the systematic abuse of ethnic and religious minorities; its failure to respect its commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy; and the worsening repression and censorship of its own people. These are worthy issues to press in and of themselves, but the strategic logic is equally sound. Pressuring Beijing on all fronts will make it less willing to absorb further criticism for enabling North Korea’s illegal weapons programs.

9. In a year of lunacies, we are blessed to have the great Kat Timpf compile a list highlighting what may be the most looney. From the article, two made-the-cuts:

A self-described “Fat Sex Therapist” compared fitness instructors to Nazis during a speech at St. Olaf College.

She also called any science suggesting that obesity is bad for you “fatphobic science,” and compared putting children on diets to rape.

The word “but” was declared a “trigger” at a Michigan State University training.

Apparently, the word “but” should be replaced with “and” — even though, you know, that’s a different word with a different meaning

10. Victor Davis Hanson explains why America’s foreign policy requires a transition and recalibration. From the piece, here’s one reason:

Three, U.S. strategy will focus on economic growth, full employment, and an all-powerful military that is used sparingly and thus far more lethally. If, in the past, asymmetrical trade and non-reciprocal commercial treaties were considered necessary to subsidize our allies, now they will be redefined as weakening the U.S. and thus in no one’s interests. The fairer the trade, the stronger the U.S., and the more America is able to help its small circle of friends. It was George H. W. Bush, not Donald Trump, who most prominently calibrated American interventions in terms of shared costs and the need for burden sharing among allies and beneficiaries, most notably during the first Gulf War.

If we were once to be the “arsenal of democracy,” we are apparently now the “arsenal of American democracy.” That is, the U.S. will seek to become so powerful economically and militarily that our enemies would likely be foolish to prompt an attack, which would manifest as focused, narrowly defined, and overwhelmingly lethal. The less we use our military, the more powerfully it can be used.

It is hard to envision where, when, how, or why the U.S. would intervene on the ground with hundreds of thousands of troops. Retaliation for Iranian or North Korean aggression would largely consist of air power and naval blockades. In the post–Middle East period, it is also difficult to believe that any U.S. president would enter a Middle Eastern country with sizable ground forces to change governments and rebuild the nation along liberal auspices.

Nothing is static in war and diplomacy other than human nature. But we are entering a period in which U.S. strength is calibrated by both economic and military power, a rough match between ends and means, and predicated on using force for U.S., rather than supposed international, interests.

11. Impeachment, Imshmeachment: Matthew Continetti finds Trump’s 2019 to be not all that bad. The economy is booming, and POTUS has weathered numerous failed and contrived attacks. From the piece:

For one thing, impeachment has focused Trump’s attention. In between the end of the Mueller investigation and the beginning of the impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in a series of incendiary battles with left-wing Democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and the late Elijah Cummings. While Ocasio-Cortez and Omar are unpopular, the controversies nevertheless stirred up issues of race and gender that make suburbanites extremely uncomfortable.

Absent impeachment, these last few months might have been spent in endless social media flame wars with celebrities, progressives, wayward Republicans, and whoever else wandered into the crossfire. Instead, President Trump and the GOP have been “on message” against the whistleblower, Adam Schiff, and Nancy Pelosi to a degree that is nothing short of remarkable. Think about what they might accomplish if Republicans were similarly focused on the state of the economy.

Impeachment crowded out all else. This made freshmen Democrats from districts Trump won in 2016 anxious. Pelosi had to give them something in return for impeachment that they could take back to their districts. That something was the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — which just happens to be a top priority of the president’s. At the end of this process, Trump will have kept his job through at least January 2021 and pocketed a significant diplomatic accomplishment and campaign promise. No small feat.

Impeachment also distracted from the Democratic primary. There are six weeks until the Iowa caucuses and hardly anybody besides the candidates and their immediate families seem to care. The Ukraine scandal involves the Democratic frontrunner but in an unusual way. Trump’s desire that President Zelensky look into the energy company Burisma, where Hunter Biden sat on the board, confirmed Joe Biden’s status as the preeminent threat to Trump. But it also reminded people that over the years members of the Biden family have benefited from Joe’s high office. And Biden’s clumsy response to allegations of unseemly profit-seeking was another reminder of his weaknesses as a candidate. This flawed frontrunner, already defined by his son’s influence peddling, maintains his lead in the polls because Democratic primary voters see his 14 rivals as too radical or unelectable.

12. Jack Crowe and Tobias Hoonhout tag-team to provide the smarmiest of the Left’s racism-charging attack on West Point cadets. From the beginning of the report:

A collection of conspiratorial cable pundits, news outlets, progressive activists, and a celebrity actress spent last weekend accusing cadets and midshipmen of flashing white nationalist symbols during the Army-Navy game while live on television.

Their evidence for the charge? The young men were seen making the “OK” sign with their hands in a manner that has become associated with online racists who construe the gesture as signifying the first initials of “white power.”

The cadets and midshipmen pictured during the broadcast were actually engaged in the so-called “circle game,” according to a statement released Friday by the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy, which includes a description of the game that anyone with a brother will recognize.

“The evidence strongly supports a finding that the cadets were playing the ‘circle game,’ an internationally recognized game in which people attempt to trick someone else into looking at an okay-like hand gesture below the waist,” the service academies said in a report released Friday. “Sworn statements from all three cadets convey that their intention was to play the ‘circle game’ in order to garner attention from a national audience as well as surrounding cadets.”

“We are confident the hand gestures used were not intended to be racist in any way,” Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Sean Buck said in a statement.

13. God as . . . meat. Mom’s drunken boyfriend. Happy holidays . . . this Kevin Williamson reflection on Christmases past and the child who endured them and the Other Child whose birth we celebrate makes for an epic reflection. From the essay:

Children who have not been taught any better think only of themselves. But we can be taught. As it turns out, we can learn to think, and learn to be human. As it turns out, you can get there from here, here being Bethlehem, its filth and its indifference.

He shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Happiness, like much else, is learned. For a long time, I thought that this time of year would always be for me a time of bitterness and regret, mourning for things that were not lost because they were never in my possession to begin with. But there is not any reason for that. No good one, anyway. I have a different kind of family now and blessings beyond counting. I know that my Redeemer liveth. The effort necessary to be happy does not always produce exactly the desired results, and so I spend the last part of the year vacillating between my Clark Griswold mode and my bargain-basement Henry Miller imitation: “We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things.” Treacly, sentimental Christmas stuff sometimes makes me angry, and it is hard to explain to people who care about me why that is. Children who have not been taught any better think only of themselves. But we do not have to remain in that state. We can, eventually, put away childish things. It is never too late for that. It certainly is not too early here in the waning days of Anno Domini 2019.

A people prepared — for what? Gold for a king, frankincense for a priest, myrrh for a dead man. Nails, in time. The cross. Thomas Harris, the culinary-minded horror novelist, once described the Uffizi museum in Florence as a “great meathouse of hanging Christs.” We derive “incarnation” from the Latin caro, meaning “flesh,” as in the English “carnal” and the Latin carnifex, which means both “butcher” and “executioner.”

(“You Christians must find your faith so comforting!” Oh, Sunshine, have you read the Bible?)

Baseballery

A bit of the frivolity in this seasonal quickie of a WJ: We wonder / daydream as to what great ballplayers were born on Christmas Day. Here are two: Hall of Famers Nellie Fox and Ricky Henderson. (There was also Hall-of-Famer Pud Galvin, but he last threw a ball in 1892). Fox was a mainstay of the 1950s, the 15-time All-Star second baseman who anchored an always-solid White Sox squad that finally broke the Yankees’ pennant lock in 1959, the year the “Mighty Mite” was vote the AL’s MVP and led Chicago to its first pennant in three decades. His career spanned from 1947 (he broke in with the Athletics) to 1965 with the Houston Colt 45s, where he lost his starting second-base gig to future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. As for Ricky H, he was a gift to nine teams over a 25-year career (his career-total four separate terms with the Oakland As was just shy of Bobo Newsom’s five distinct forays with the Washington Senators), which ended with him as MLB’s all-time leader in runs scored (2,295) and bases stolen (1,406). He had 79 lead-off home runs too.

One MLBer who died on Christmas was permanent bad boy Billy Martin, the victim of a car accident (icy roads and a night of drinking conspired) in upstate New York. Also a second baseman, Martin was a contemporary of Fox (both played for the AL in the 1956 All Star game) and in his later years he managed Henderson — who was exceptional at playing “Billy Ball” — on both the As and Yankees.

As for baseball’s primo New Year’s Day birthday boy — that distinction has got to go to Bronx slugger Hank Greenberg.

A Dios

Please resolve to remember that the left lane is for passing. Because you are “going the speed limit” confers no entitlement to plant your jalopy there. Or does it thrill you to instruct the rest of us on the naughtiness of speeding? Just stop it. If you do, 2020 will be a great year for all!

What else? OK: Pray for the dead — some of them can be sprung from Purgatory courtesy of your charity.

Before this thing concludes: We thank those who read WJ faithfully, or unfaithfully, for doing so, for clicking the links, for writing to say thanks, or even to mock the ever-present poor prose. The author of this weekly weekend weakmindedness thanks Editor Phil for ruining his Friday nights and Saturday mornings to work his magic. Editor Phil is a good man. Lucky the woman who claims him!

God’s blessings on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, who will provide you with a shipping address if you want to send any leftover baccala.

National Review

Have Yourself A-Meri-Ca Christmas

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Yours Truly loves the fact — and it is a fact — that Santa Claus is a bona fide American, an Old Glory-loving patriot, a jingle-belling holly-jolly jingoist who hails from Indiana (his home town is named after him!). And get this: Nick is a conservative (we kid you not, he’s an NR charter subscriber).

And talk about a work ethic: So much to deliver, so many promises to keep, so many chimneys to descend, and he does it all in one night, defying the laws of physics and (despite the fake news about “clatter”) without noise.

So inspiring, no? It should be. Take note prayerful Democrat leaders, unable to deliver their crumbling figgy-pudding impeachment articles — how heavy can they be? — a few hundred yards on the other side of the Capitol Building. Heck Nancy, you don’t even have to go up or down a chimney! Speaking of which . . . given the likelihood of these articles (if ever delivered) mustering even a majority, they might themselves go up the Senate chimney, in smoke. (Before you send the correction email: Your Humble Correspondent has confirmed the nonexistence of a Senate chimney for smoke to go up.)

My colleague Andy McCarthy has penned an as-ever smart-as-heck piece on this non-delivery nonsense, which evokes the old line about the auditory realities of a tree falling in the forest, from which a slice is shared:

It’s hard to believe the Speaker’s latest stunt will go on for very long. In the Senate this morning, the Democrats’ minority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, renewed his demands about trial procedures, discovery, and witness testimony. There was no discernible hint of doubt that the House would soon deliver its impeachment articles, such as they are.

But since we’ll be playing trivial pursuit for a more few hours (days?), we might as well ask: As long as the House withholds the impeachment articles from the Senate, has Trump been impeached?

In the law, there are many situations in which an outcome is known, but it is not a formal outcome until some ministerial act is taken. A grand jury can vote an indictment, for example, but the defendant is not considered indicted until the charges are filed with the clerk of the court. A defendant can be found guilty by a jury, but there is technically no conviction until the judgment is “entered” by the trial court, usually months later when sentence is imposed. An appellate court can issue a ruling that orders a lower court to take some action, but the lower court has no jurisdiction to act in the case until issuance of the appellate court’s “mandate” — the document that formally transfers jurisdiction.

Plainly, Congress has similar ministerial acts of transference that must occur in order for legislation to pass. Were that not the case, Speaker Pelosi would not be talking about delaying the transfer of impeachment articles.

So it’s all well and good for the Speaker to hold up the works that Democrats, five minutes ago, were breathlessly telling us had to be carried out with all due haste. But many scholars take the position that the Constitution requires a trial if there has been an impeachment. If such a trial cannot properly occur unless and until articles of impeachment have been transferred from the House to the Senate, and Speaker Pelosi won’t transfer them, has President Trump actually been impeached?

Sure, it’s a stupid question . . . but we’re living in stupid times.

Oh, but those Democrats, they’re not stupid. Neither was Fredo.

OK, it’s time to get on with this overstuffed Christmas Goose of a WJ, but first let me share some helpful advice: You can lighten Nick’s load this coming Tuesday night by sending those special someones on your Nice List a gift subscription to NRPLUS.

Editorials

1. And so the Impeachment Process has reached either the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning. And on this lunacy we have an opinion. From the editorial:

Ukraine is not a hoax, as the president is wont to call it. He shouldn’t have mentioned the Bidens in a call with another head of state, and clearly was withholding a White House meeting and defense aid to get the Ukrainians to commit to the investigations he wanted. This speaks poorly of the president’s judgment — not to mention that of his Svengali in this escapade, Rudy Giuliani — and was an improper use of his power.

But not every presidential abuse is worthy of impeachment and removal. Democrats have been casting around for a rationale to justify this extreme step. First, they called the president’s conduct a quid pro quo. Then, they ramped up the charges to alleged bribery and extortion, before abandoning these supposed crimes, which were talking points masquerading as legal arguments (although, strangely, they make a reappearance in the Judiciary Committee impeachment report despite not being in the articles). Finally, Democrats have been arguing lately that, by welcoming foreign interference, Trump represents a clear and present danger to the integrity of the next election. But if the Ukrainians had actually announced an investigation of Burisma, a shady company that had previously been under investigation, it’s not clear how it would have tanked Joe Biden, or even hurt him anymore than the fact of Hunter Biden’s lucrative arrangement with Burisma already has.

2. Where’s the fiscal reform? The Trump Administration proves its lack of interest. From the editorial:

Because the U.S. government cannot be bothered to follow its own procedures, there is no budget and no “regular order” in which congressional committees pass the major spending bills one at a time; instead, Washington lurches from crisis to crisis and from one ad hoc spending deal to the next. Responsibility for that lies with Congress, not with the Trump administration. But the president likes to boast about his skill as a negotiator, which is, in this instance, nowhere to be seen. The president enjoys mean-mugging on Twitter, but in the real world, he’s willing to sign off on $1.4 trillion for lopsidedly Democratic priorities in order to avoid a confrontation with Nancy Pelosi.

In addition to the gun-control activism, the spending bill will entrench other aspects of the ACA, provide a 3.1 percent pay raise for federal workers, and shunt money into such ineffective programs as Head Start. It includes more money for bailouts for farmers, many of whom have seen their businesses gutted by the ill-considered trade war; more funding for state-level infrastructure projects that often act effectively as slush funds; subsidies for rural Internet connections; more money for the Export-Import Bank and other corporate-welfare boondoggles; and a great deal of ordinary welfare spending on everything from food stamps to utility-bill subsidies.

Dance Aside, Sugarplums: There Are NR Pieces Galore — Enough for 12 Days of Christmas and then Some — to Provide Visions to Intelligent Conservatives!

1. On Impeachment Day, David Harsanyi had at the Democrats’ faux Constitutional guardians. From the Corner post:

“The Republic is why we are here today. We are custodians of the Constitution. A Republic by the people for the people,” writes one Eric Swalwall, a man who once pondered the possibility of nuking Americans who demanded to practice their Second Amendment rights. Trump-era liberals had argued for the abolition of the Electoral College long before they were pretending to care about Ukrainian autonomy. Democrats were talking about stacking the Supreme Court long before any whistleblower showed up. If your contention is that the Constitution protects abortion on demand through the ninth month but are fine with undermining property rights, gun rights, religious freedom, and any meaningful separation of power, you’re not a custodian of the Constitution, you’re partisan with an agenda. So do what you must. But it’s been insufferable watching you playact sentinel of the American Republic — whose presumptions, institutions, documents, and Founders you don’t really seem to like very much.

2. Victor Davis Hanson ain’t forgetting Obama’s Russia “reset,” and its amnesiac enablers. From the column:

Reset, remember, was a ridiculous assumption, beginning with its symbolic origins in Geneva with a pilfered red hotel Jacuzzi button emblazoned with the wrong Russian word, “overcharge.” American magnanimity supposedly would be appreciated by a liberalizing Russia. Putin’s hierarchy would reciprocate with domestic reforms, thus lessening tensions between Moscow and Washington. No doubt the more Putin saw the munificence of Western liberality, the more he too would adopt progressive policies.

In truth, as is the way of all appeasement, it was a one-way street in which generosity was seen as weakness to be exploited. Obama lifted prior sanctions. He refused to send lethal aid to Ukraine. He abandoned missile-defense efforts in Eastern Europe on promises that Putin would not discredit his controversial reset policy during Obama’s 2012 reelection. Both sides kept their quid pro quo promises. Under today’s new Democratic House standards, Obama would have been impeached in 2012 for that quid pro quo by the Republican-controlled Congress.

Obama ignored various Russian cyberattacks on the U.S. and its allies, and its interference in U.S. elections. The nadir of reset came with Moscow’s promise to help out in Syria if Secretary of State John Kerry would invite it into the Middle East to enforce U.N. efforts to stop Bashar Assad’s use of weapons of mass destruction.

The results were disastrous. A resuscitated Assad liquidated his opposition while his partner Hezbollah was given free rein in large swaths of Syria.

3. The Romney-Bennett plan to provide umph to the child tax credit has gotten a lot of attention, and Robert VerBruggen corrals the conservative responses into four general areas. From the analysis, here’s Response Three:

Make it fully refundable, but pay for this by consolidating other welfare spending.

In this view, which happens to be my own, we could make the tax credit more logically coherent and improve poverty policy by making the credit fully refundable while simultaneously making the rest of the safety net less sensitive to how many children one has. Each child would count as a tax payment of the exact same amount, and benefits such as food stamps would increase less with each additional child.

One of the big problems with welfare spending is that different benefits phase in and out at different thresholds, creating situations where the poor can face high marginal tax rates — in some cases, they can even lose money when they earn more because they hit a “benefit cliff” and lose access to a program all at once. Giving the poor the exact same tax credit as the middle class, with no phase-in, while making the phase-outs of other programs less dramatic, ameliorates this problem.

4. More on Romney-Bennett: Kevin Williamson follows up on RVB and says “how about cutting the crap . . . just cut the checks.” From the response:

That’s why we like vouchers for education, but also for other benefits: Food stamps, for example, are a voucher program for food. Vouchers tend to work better for many applications because sending poor people vouchers is almost the same thing as sending them checks: Vouchers are money that you can spend only on approved things, and they help us to avoid the pitfalls of central planning because they act more or less like money in the marketplace. But we also have moralistic reasons for that preference: If we’re going to help you out in life, then we’re going to condescend to you, too, and boss you around a little! It makes us feel better about the whole sordid business. And you don’t really get to do that if you just . . .

. . . send them checks.

5. Now that a week has passed since Boris Johnson’s blowout win, the one thing we yearn for — John O’Sullivan’s take — has arrived. From the analysis:

This was a realignment election — and because of Brexit. There’s been a debate in the Tory party between those (e.g., Tim Montgomerie) who believe that the Tory party could and should win a larger share of working class votes and those who thought (e.g., Matthew Parris) that this was mistaken since the working class is shrinking and there were more voters to be had from moderate conservatives in the well-educated classes. The election has decided that question in favor of those who wanted to go the blue-collar route. The Tories won in all social groups, but the swing to them in Northern working-class constituencies was larger than elsewhere and gave them a near-landslide. And that was for two Brexit-related reasons. First, Brexit was essentially a patriotic cause that appealed to both Tories and blue-collar workers; second, the contempt for Brexit and its supporters shown by the Labour Party and the left intelligentsia drove home the realization in the working class that they were despised by the very people who claimed to lead them. A realignment of British politics bringing the workers into a new Toryism would probably have happened anyway. Indeed, it has been happening slowly and gradually. But Brexit and this election have accelerated it.

Another factor in this is that the pro-Brexit vote in U.K. politics turned out to be as steady as the guards at Waterloo. This contradicts the view of the Remain establishment after June 2016 that the referendum result had been an irrational spasm that could be corrected by a public campaign of explanation-cum-bullying. The voters would see sense — indeed, they would have to. But the performance of the U.K. economy after 2016 undermined what the Remainers had predicted before the referendum and made the Brexit voters skeptical of their later arguments — and still more of their condescending attitudes to the Brexit voters (with whom they never really engaged in serious political conversation. Anyway, the Brexit vote stood firm — and Boris won.

6. Greg Weiner scores lawmakers for embracing the forgone and disregarding an obligation to see impeachment through the lens of prudence. From the commentary:

Edmund Burke, the great modern theorist of prudence, famously refused to consider any proposition “in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances . . . give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour, and discriminating effect.” Burke meant that most of politics operates in the realm of choice, not necessity. While choices should be principled, they must also be prudent, which means political actors must consider their consequences in addition to their rigid justice.

Presidents are not monarchs, but what Burke wrote about dethroning kings nonetheless applies to impeachment: It is “a question (like all other questions of state) of dispositions, and of means, and of probable consequences, rather than of positive rights.”

By contrast, an overly legalistic account of impeachment that places the evidence on autopilot — similar, ironically, to the style of argument that opponents of impeachment such as Alan Dershowitz and Jonathan Turley have used to shift attention from political offenses and toward criminal ones — leaves little room for consideration of consequences.

A prudential judgment as to the consequences of impeachment must consider several factors in addition to presidential innocence or guilt. One is the danger of a president’s being allowed to abuse his office with impunity. Another is the hazard of a partisan impeachment that would harden divisions in an already polarized nation. And there are more, from the fact that an election looms in which these questions can be litigated to the evidence that Trump attempted to use the nation’s foreign policy to manipulate that election.

7. New York’s climate-change jihad again Exxon collapses, and Walter Olsen believes the case should be a staple of future law-school studies. From the analysis:

It was a hashtag prosecution, a social-media campaign posing as a legal case: #ExxonKnew. And like yesterday’s media balloon become today’s litter, its deflated remains floated back down to earth last week in a New York courtroom.

Whatever you think of them otherwise, ExxonMobil’s communications on climate change had neither the intent nor the effect of wronging the company’s investors. New York’s since-disgraced attorney general Eric Schneiderman had no business bringing a securities-fraud case on that basis, and there was nothing his successor, Letitia James, could have done to rescue the case.

In a 2003 case called Nike v. Kasky, no less a liberal authority than Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer warned that it was dangerous to freedom of speech to arm ideological adversaries with legal power to bring fraud charges against businesses based on those businesses’ public statements about contentious issues. (The full Court in Nike did not reach that issue, instead dismissing the case on other grounds.)

The Nike case involved claims by the apparel maker about the treatment of its workforce, but the climate issue offered a similar line of attack. Since at least 2012 activists had been looking for ways to gin up lawsuits or even prosecutions over what they termed climate denial — or, to use a more neutral phrase, advocacy on the wrong side of climate debates. Win or lose, and First Amendment or no, gaining access to the internal files of energy companies and their ideological allies could be politically valuable. The ambitious Schneiderman, widely spoken of as a future New York governor, was willing to go first.

8. Matthew Prillman tells the tale of Nicaragua and its persistent strongman, Daniel Ortega, who has led the country toward chaos. From the piece:

Faced with pushback from the democratic opposition, Ortega has dusted off the authoritarian playbook from the 1980s. Security forces have arbitrarily arrested thousands of civilians. Human Rights Watch and local NGOs report that security forces have physically abused many of them. Outspoken priests routinely receive death threats while their churches have been vandalized or even burned. An independent press is on life support. Reporters Without Borders, a respected watchdog NGO, ranks Nicaragua 114th worldwide for media freedom.

The Trump administration has wisely ramped up pressure on Ortega’s Sandinista regime. In 2018, Trump signed the NICA Act, which commits the U.S. to voting against loans to Nicaragua in the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and IMF. Washington has placed sanctions on Ortega’s inner circle, including his wife. In April, the administration sanctioned a prominent Nicaraguan bank that had served as Ortega’s personal slush fund.

The international community is slowly, if belatedly, following suit.

The Organization of American States has successfully pressed Ortega to release some political prisoners. The European Union, following the lead of Washington, is inching closer to sanctions on regime officials and their assets abroad. Sanctions alone will not force Ortega’s hand, but they constrain at least some of his worst impulses and signal to the democratic opposition that the international community remains committed to tightening the pressure on Ortega.

9. David Beckworth remembers the late Paul Volker and his deserved legacy as the man who helped save America’s economy and defeat the “Great Inflation” that tortured it in the 1970s. From the piece:

Which brings us to the last reason the Great Inflation mattered: It changed the economic and political landscape of the United States. Jimmy Carter appointed Volcker in 1979 to head the Fed in large part owing to his vow to tackle the inflation problem, which is what the body politic wanted at the time. The malaise of the Great Inflation period and the Fed’s painful fight against it starting in late 1979 also helped elect Ronald Reagan in late 1980. And, of course, the Reagan presidency was an inflection point in U.S. political history. The Great Inflation, in short, had a major influence on the trajectory of the country.

Volcker had been a long-time proponent of restoring price stability to the country and was willing to wage a painful war on inflation to achieve that outcome. He did so by pushing short-term interest rates up near 20 percent and slowing down the growth of money. These efforts caused two recessions in the early 1980s that, collectively, were about as deep as the recent Great Recession of 2007–2009 in terms of unemployment but had a much faster recovery. His fight against inflation was unpopular with some, yet he prevailed because of the broader public support for this efforts. Remember, most Americans saw inflation as the top problem through 1983.

To be sure, Volcker’s fight against inflation in the early 1980s probably could not have endured without Reagan’s support. Robert Samuelson argues in his book that both men were necessary to win the war on inflation and that neither by himself could have done it. What’s more, the fight against inflation did not end with Volcker, who left the Fed in 1987. Alan Greenspan continued the fight afterward, bringing trend inflation further down during his two decades at the Federal Reserve. Still, it was Volcker who dealt with the worst of it, and administered the painful but necessary medicine.

10. Brian Allen checks out an important new show at the Jewish Museum. From the beginning of the review:

Edith Halpert and the Rise of American Art is now at the Jewish Museum. If there’s a show to see in New York, it’s this one. It’s beautifully done, as are all the Jewish Museum’s shows, with great art and a majestic personality at its center. Halpert (1900–1970) was self-made, tough, kind, focused on the next buck, a charming woman with a canny sense for under-the-radar art. She took trompe l’oeil gun paintings, old weather vanes, American cubism, and Georgia O’Keeffe and made an American whole. As a young woman, at the start of the Depression, she opened the cutting-edge Downtown Gallery, which represented Stuart Davis, Charles Sheeler, and Jacob Lawrence through thick and thin.

Through thick and thin. That’s the life of an art dealer. The best are tastemakers and connoisseurs. In supporting living artists, they’re philanthropists invested in the riskiest propositions. They’ve built careers and collections, and until the 1970s, dealers pumped the blood through the living and breathing American art corpus.

The Halpert show builds an intellectual, biographical, and aesthetic storyline. It starts with a voyage and with romance. Edith was born in Odessa, coming to America in 1906 with her family after a pogrom but with backup cash. Never poor, Edith took art lessons and married Samuel Halpert, a not-so-bad artist who situated his young wife in a jostling art ambiance she grew to love — the New York world of the Ashcan artists, the Eight, Stieglitz, but also the dregs of American impressionism, massive social disruption, and the chance for artists to say something new. Edith, as she said, “married American art.”

11. Jay Nordlinger expands on his recent magazine profile of Purdue University president Mitch Daniels. From the first of a three-part series:

Okay, another subject: political correctness. Is it a problem here at Purdue, as it is on so many other campuses, notoriously? “It is a phenomenon,” says the president, but not the problem it is elsewhere. “We have every stripe of opinion here — thank goodness.” Some of the opinions are extreme and strident. “But the center of gravity here is just incontrovertibly different than it is at many of the places we all hear and read about.”

Purdue is STEM-centric — either the second- or third-most STEM-centric university in the country, says Daniels. Can political correctness and ideology sneak into those fields? Sure, but it’s harder than in the humanities. “Many of our faculty and students are working very, very hard at the academic essence of what they’re doing,” says Daniels. “Students at Purdue, I think I can reliably tell you, are studying harder than many of their counterparts at other places.”

In any event, no one is allowed to shut anyone else up, according to the president. Free speech is emphasized, along with civil disagreement. In fact, these things are stressed during freshman orientation. The orientation includes skits in which students and faculty participate, “demonstrating how one expresses disagreement,” the president says.

In January 2015, the University of Chicago adopted its famous statement — the Chicago Statement — on freedom of expression. The ideas or rules therein are known as the “Chicago Principles.” They say, in a nutshell, that academic freedom will not be impeded, and that members of the community will carry out their work in a spirit of toleration and pluralism. Princeton adopted the Chicago Principles for itself. Then came Purdue. Daniels says he “xeroxed” the principles as fast as he could. Since then, almost 70 universities have followed suit.

RELATED: Here is Part III of the series, and here is Part II.

12. Heather Wilhelm gets her Mom on and finds smartphones in the hands of kids to be . . . dumb. From the piece:

Over the past few weeks, a series of terrifying articles has illustrated in startling relief what should be perfectly obvious: Children should not have the Internet in their pockets. Writing in the Dallas Morning News on December 12, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa described in horrifying detail how her sixth-grade daughter was exposed to rape porn at a birthday party. Yes, you read that correctly: Rape porn. It was shared via Snapchat, by a cadre of sixth-grade boys who laughed as they watched.

Think about it: They were laughing. In sixth grade, they were already desensitized. Moreover, thanks to their parents, they had the Internet in their pockets, ready to serve up something even more brutal the next time around.

“Our children are growing up in a very different world than the one we knew as kids,” Herndon-De La Rosa writes. “Gone are the days of your grandfather’s Playboy. Today, children have access to explicit, violent and degrading sexual content in the palm of their hands at all times.”

On December 13, over at Medium, Sloane Ryan reported on her experience posing as an eleven-year-old girl on Instagram — and the sexual predators that targeted her at an “unnervingly fast” pace. After nine months of tracking countless online abuses, Ryan writes, “we still continue to be stunned by the breadth of cruelty and perversion we see.” Meanwhile, on December 15, the writer Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry published an in-depth look at the scientific research surrounding Internet porn and its nightmarish impact on the human brain.

13. Kyle Smith says the force is not with J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. From the review:

Plot developments depend heavily on coincidence and dumb luck, as our heroes keep bumping into clues that lead them ever closer to a tracking device that will point the way to the emperor’s secret lair. At one point they just fall into a cave where they come across a dagger whose edge is covered with runes that describe where the tracking gizmo is hidden. Later when we get a glimpse of the ruins of the Death Star (which is kind of cool), another clue turns out to depend on randomly stumbling across this sight from exactly the right angle. One major plot twist is essentially a rehash; another is just dumb.

I’m not sure whether it’s panic or an adolescent attention span that makes Abrams do this, but he has an uncontrollable need to throw in random meaningless action scenes every ten minutes to make sure we’re entertained — fights and chases of no consequence whatsoever. Stormtroopers come after the rebel fighters, this time with a new skill: “They can fly?” someone marvels. Yes, they can fly. Like clay pigeons. They remain the most inept and killable group of soldiers since the Austro-Hungarian army. The armor they wear protects them from nothing, not even arrows. If they were trying to get shot by blasters, they wouldn’t have to do much of anything differently. After eleven movies of watching them serve as so many blades of grass to the weed-whackers, there’s not a lot of suspense in watching them shuffle around ineffectually a few more times. Moreover, Rey’s powers in channeling the Force are now so vast they’re a little absurd. She can blow up flying ships now? Really?

14. More on Star Wars: Armond White takes out the light saber and whacks away. From the beginning of the review:

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker fulfills the prophecy of Jean-Luc Godard’s 2014 Goodbye to Language. The fealty of moviegoing fans (including their indoctrinated offspring) has not only been sustained, it has grown. But this is not because the Star Wars films are so excellent that they inspire an intergalactic coming-together of diverse groups (descended from the Mos Eisley Cantina). Quite the opposite; the annual production of Star Wars films since Disney purchased the franchise from originator George Lucas in 2012 merely proves chronic consumerism.

The inclination — or addiction — that Star Wars represents was what Godard, creator of the most singularly thrilling and intellectually stimulating movies, always feared: the movie-watching habit being indulged without reflection or feeling. As cinema’s reigning, film-loving, left-leaning skeptic, Godard expressed his lament knowingly, while moving into his late, politically transcendent, spiritual phase (Nouvelle Vague, JLG by JLG, Forever Mozart, In Praise of Love).

Fanboys who don’t know Godard’s work feel free to greet each new Star Wars episode as a chapter in their commercialized lives, not knowing what they’re missing. And the media perpetuate this ignorant enthusiasm, supporting Disney’s politically correct replacement of male Luke Skywalker with female Jedi warrior Rey (petulant Daisy Ridley) as if it meant cultural and social progress.

Fact is, as Rey fights with the Resistance against the First Order, it all stems from Boomer George Lucas’s shame-faced response to Pauline Kael’s astute observation in 1977: “Is it because the picture is synthesized from the mythology of old serials and comic books that it didn’t occur to anybody that she [Princess Leia] could get The Force?” Lucas and Disney have been making up that for lapse at light speed. Rey’s ascension to the central role in Star Wars (replete with the late Carrie Fisher’s zombie-like yet domineering Leia and Laura Dern’s stern Vice Admiral Holdo) proves that everyone now feels The Force and its contagion: non-binary marketing.

15. Madeleine Kearns, on the trans lunacy beat, explains why liberal author J. K. Rowling is facing the wrath of the Gender Police. From the piece:

Twitter has exploded in outrage because J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, is an alleged “TERF.” That’s right, a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” This ridiculous slur was invented by people who insist on denying the science of sex and who want to take out their rage on nonbelievers, and on dissenting women in particular.

Prominent male transgender activists such as Charlotte Clymer have gone full hysterical. “For several years, there has been substantial concern that J.K. Rowling is transphobic,” Clymer tweeted, referring, I presume, to the time Rowling followed the women’s rights campaigner Magdalen Berns on Twitter. “I admit that I held out that one of my childhood heroes was simply being misunderstood. This morning, that was dashed when she defended a researcher who was fired for transphobic tweets.”

“As a gay man that found safety in Hogwarts throughout my childhood,” tweeted Shamir Sanni. “Knowing that Trans people wouldn’t be able to have that safety breaks my heart.” Does Mr. Sanni realize that Hogwarts isn’t real?

The New December 31, 2019 Issue of National Review Kicks CNN in the CaNN.

As is our custom, here are four random recommendations from the new issue. If you subscribe to NR, great. If you don’t, well, how about getting NRPLUS? Do that here. And while we’re sorta on the subject, think about sending that special conservative someone a Christmas gift subscription to NR. Accomplish that here. The marketing chores done with, let’s get on to the quartet of wisdomitry. Or is it wisdomatry? Anyway . . .

1. Brexit, at long last, will happen, writes Douglas Murray, assessing the ramifications of Boris Johnson’s blowout win.

Panjandrums such as Tony Blair’s loathed former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, pretended that what was needed was a second vote. They named this the campaign for a “People’s Vote” (as though we could not possibly see what they were doing there), all so that the public could “correct” their earlier obvious mistake. These and a hundred other tricks were tried on the British public. And there was worse.

Tony Blair, John Major, Michael Heseltine, and others might have spent the last three years helping their country. They might have helped secure the best possible deal between the U.K. and the EU when the two parted ways. Such men, along with our former EU commissioners, such as Blair’s former right-hand man Peter Mandelson, might have been exceedingly useful during this process. Instead they did something else. Like a whole slew of the Remain establishment in the U.K., most of them actually worked with Brussels to conspire against Britain: to thwart Britain’s attempts to exit the EU. They warned Brussels of what the Brits would do. They told Brussels how to outmaneuver us. And much more. Some even asked them to punish us. All to ensure that what the British public had asked for at the ballot box in 2016 was not acted on.

Like the Brussels negotiators, they kept this up right until December 12, 2019. Just before this election, Michael Heseltine joined that group of Conservatives and former Conservatives who had become so infuriated by Brexit that they urged supporters to vote Liberal Democrat (the only party that said it would keep the U.K. in the EU even if the public reiterated in a further vote that they wanted out). In television appearances throughout the post-referendum years, Heseltine gave interviews so increasingly vitriolic, bulging-eyed, and spittle-flecked that he seemed at times to resemble a leftist impersonator doing crass impressions of an especially virulent and hate-filled Tory.

2. Charlie Cooke performs an autopsy on a dead news channel, finds the CNN corpse corrupted throughout. From the cover essay:

This has been typical of the network’s monomania. On August 14, the New York Times ran with the news that protesters had taken over Hong Kong’s airport; that Nicolás Maduro was torturing his foes in the Venezuelan military—sometimes to death; and that the White House was delaying its proposed tariffs on China. More prominent than any of these stories on CNN.com were an “analysis” titled “Trump’s talking more than ever about men’s looks”; an “analysis” of “Donald Trump, plastic pusher”; an “analysis” under the headline “This one word is a telltale sign Trump is being dishonest”; and a piece providing “proof Obama was better for the stock market than Trump.” Pick any day, and you’ll find the same disconnect. Were CNN to change its website address to “TrumpImpeachmentWatch.com,” would anyone notice the difference?

In 2017, the network adopted a new slogan, “Facts First,” which it promoted via a widely run advertising campaign that explained that, unlike President Trump, its employees were able to distinguish between an apple and a banana. “Lies,” the ubiquitous spot insisted, “can become truth, if we let them.”

Which, of course, is absolutely true—just as it is absolutely true that President Trump, the clear target of the drive, is a habitual liar and an unreconstructed narcissist. The trouble is . . . so is CNN. With the possible exception of the hallucinatory MSNBC, no other institution in American life spent more time and effort indulging the false idea that President Trump was quite obviously guilty of treason, collusion, and bribery, and insisting that the impending Mueller report would not only reveal this guilt, but would prompt Trump’s removal from office and, possibly, his arrest. For two long years, the network was breathless. The walls were always “closing in,” the hours were perpetually “ticking down,” and the end never stopped beginning. Wars have been fought with less relentless effort than Jeff Zucker and co. put into starting with their conclusion. Anything with the word “Russia” glued to it—however minor or tenuous or self-evidently silly it was—warranted a “BREAKING” chyron, and a grave, dramatic, eschatological tone. Nothing gave rise to skepticism or pause— not even the publication of the Mueller report itself, the details of which, when revealed, were all but rejected in favor of yet more conspiracy theories. Friedrich Nietzsche’s warning that “he who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster” has never been more assiduously ignored.

3. As for a lasting roll-back of overregulation, Philip Wallach says the Trump Administration has fallen short. From the piece:

There have been some real bright spots for deregulators. Many of the Obama administration’s aggressive and legally dubious environmental rules have been stalled or rolled back, including the Waters of the United States rule, Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for tailpipe emissions, and the Clean Power Plan, which regulated greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants. The Endangered Species Act will be interpreted so as to make it less burdensome. Promises to scrap Obamacare may have gone unfulfilled, but the administration has quietly and constructively made the program more flexible for states and individuals. The FDA has sped up its drug-approval process, especially for generics. Agencies’ abuse of regulatory guidance will be better policed, thanks to two recent executive orders.

These triumphs notwithstanding, three years in, hopes of a thoroughgoing overhaul have been dashed. Not because the Trump administration has manifested any unexpected taste for its own regulating—to an unprecedented degree, it has abstained, issuing far fewer new regulations than any of its predecessors. But hitting the pause button, however unusual, does not a revolution make. The hoped-for transformation of the administrative state is nowhere to be found. The administration has continued to speak of its deregulatory efforts as revolutionary, but it has never really pushed a positive vision of what a reformed regulatory system should look like.

The regulatory-budget system coming out of Executive Order 13771 represents the administration’s best try. Certainly, in its own reckoning, OIRA has accomplished a great deal, “unleashing economic freedom” (as a White House press release puts it) by cutting $51 billion in regulatory costs over the program’s first three years. That sounds impressive, until you remember that U.S. gross domestic product is now over $20 trillion annually. Nor does the $51 billion represent cost savings realized annually—it is “net savings” calculated over an indefinite time horizon, with annual savings amounting to a few billion dollars. In 2018, the administration sought to show its relative merit by noting that, through its first two years, the Obama administration had imposed $245 billion in regulatory costs. The Trump administration’s negative $33 billion in costs imposed at that point certainly was a lot less than $245 billion. But the comparison cuts harder in the other direction: The administration is admitting that it is coming nowhere close to reversing the costs imposed even by the Obama administration—let alone the decades of regulatory burdens built up previously.

And the situation is even worse than that, because the administration’s math allows it to take credit for deregulatory policies as soon as they are promulgated, without paying any attention to whether they are carried through. In a great many cases they will not be, since Trump-administration agencies have seen their actions reversed in court at unheard-of levels—by one count, they have prevailed in just four out of 59 cases. Too much winning? Not so much.

4. Before the Democrats do it even worse, some Republican senators, reports Alexandra DeSanctis, are trying to create a federal paid-leave program that truly helps new parents. From the essay:

A growing number of conservative policymakers, meanwhile, argue that Republicans ought to offer their own proposals, so as not to cede the debate entirely to progressives. Americans tend to favor a federal paid-leave policy of some kind, and if conservatives remain silent, the thinking goes, voters will be inclined to accept the Democratic plan as the only option.

The public seems open to a family-leave program less expensive than what progressives favor. A poll conducted by the Cato Institute in December 2018 found that almost three-quarters of respondents (74 percent) supported a federal program to provide twelve weeks of paid leave—but only until costs were mentioned. A little more than half of respondents (54 percent) said they’d be willing to pay as much as $200 annually in higher taxes to fund a twelve-week paid-leave program like the FAMILY Act.

But if such a program required taxpayers to pay $450 annually in higher taxes, more than half (52 percent) would oppose it, and the percentage would rise to 56 percent if the annual tax increase amounted to $1,200 per taxpayer. Those figures are low-, mid-, and high-cost estimates for the FAMILY Act that Cato tabulated using a cost calculator from the American Enterprise Institute–Brookings Institution working group on paid family leave.

So far, the chief proposals from Republican politicians deal only with parental leave, or paid time off for new parents, which conservative supporters of the idea view as an answer to the charge that pro-lifers care about the unborn but not about families or young children. For his part, and in an effort to make good on his campaign rhetoric, President Trump has included paid maternity leave as a line item in his proposed budget every year since he took office, making himself the only president, Republican or Democrat, ever to do so.

The Six

1. At Gatestone Institute, Ben Weingarten wonders how the U.S. can transact with China in any strategically significant area given the communist regime’s aims and the security threat posed by the ChiComs. From the piece:

As the world awaits the details of the Trump Administration’s reported “phase one” trade deal with China — U.S. officials expect it to be executed in January 2020 — a more fundamental question arises: Should America be doing business with China in strategically significant areas, or even beyond?

In a December 15th interview with Director of the United States National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo indirectly touched on this question. Bartiromo asked Kudlow if the proposed deal accounted for new Chinese regulations that would seemingly threaten the intellectual property (IP) of American firms transacting with Chinese ones. She was likely alluding to China’s new Encryption Law, set to take effect on January 1, 2020. Some have suggested that the law would enable the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to collect all information that traffics on Chinese networks. To the extent the trade deal does not account for this law, the implication is that its provisions relating to IP protections could be rendered moot. Here is the relevant portion of the exchange:

MARIA BARTIROMO: What I really want to know about is the intellectual property [IP] part of this. You say that you’ve got some promises from the Chinese to actually protect intellectual promises — property, rather, but isn’t it true that they’ve just instituted their own new cyber security rules that are in place that say that no foreign company may encrypt data so it can’t be read by the Chinese central government and the communist party of China? In other words, businesses are required to turn over the encryption keys. Are these new rules that China just put in place basically negating any opportunity for the U.S. to protect its IP?

 LARRY KUDLOW: Well, look. We will see. There’s a large IP chapter in this deal and there’s also a large forced technology transfer chapter in this deal. I don’t think we know enough about these new Chinese rules and we’ll have to look at that and by the way if they do violate then of course we will take action.

Bartiromo’s concern is well-founded, not only given the CCP’s historical cheating on such deals, but because of the nature of its rule. Consider, for example, China’s 2015 National Security Law, which says that all citizens, firms and organizations have “the responsibility and obligation to maintain state security.” Its 2017 National Intelligence Law also obligates such individuals and entities to “support, provide assistance, and cooperate in national intelligence work…” It is not hard to see how China could apply rules even beyond the Encryption Law to justify violations of a deal with the U.S. under the guise of “national security concerns,” and the “rule of law.”

2. The great social scientist DJ Jaffe takes to the New York Post to batter the de Blasio administration for its municipal hypocrisy on caring for the mentally ill. From the column:

Lack of money isn’t the problem. Lack of leadership is. It is cruel and heartless to deny treatment to the seriously ill. It puts patients, the public and ­police at risk.

The New York City Council has given Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray almost $1 billion for their Thrive mental-health programs over five years. But Thrive spends less than 12 percent of that whopping amount on getting treatment to those who need it most — the seriously ill.

Instead, the money is going to educational campaigns, anti-stigma campaigns, brochures and p.r. campaigns designed to convince the public that officials are doing a swell job, while services for the seriously ill atrophy.

Some of the programming is downright ludicrous. As The Post’s Susan Edelman revealed over the weekend, Thrive has splurged $10.5 million a year on school mental-health consultants who put on workshops but don’t, you know, actually treat kids in crisis. Consultants make up to $80,000 a year for this heroic work; supervisors up to $96,000.

This is deliberate. It was McCray who insisted on placing mental-health-education units in libraries and these consultants in schools. But by design, neither the education units nor the consultants are allowed to directly help people with mental illness. Say what?

3. More from the Post: This time it’s former NR colleague Jacob Sullum, who hones in on the FBI’s propensity to BS the FISA Court. From the (sarcastic) end of the column:

It would be reassuring if the FBI’s misfeasance could be explained by anti-Trump bias. But as Horowitz noted in his report, the fact that “so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations,” one that “was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI” and “FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny,” suggests a much deeper problem involving overzealousness, confirmation bias and tunnel vision — tendencies that threaten all Americans who value their privacy and reputations.

Even Comey, who claims the dishonesty described by Horowitz “does not reflect the FBI culture of compliance and candor,” wonders if the failure might be “systemic,” meaning there could be “problems with other cases.” Too bad he was never in a position to explore that issue.

RELATED: Andy McCarthy bangs that drum at The Hill.

4. At The Imaginative Conservative, Bradley Birzer gives a welcome lesson on Edmund Burke and a timely castigation of conservative bellyaching that offers no solutions. From the piece:

Though we correctly remember Edmund Burke as the father of modern conservatism, we too often forget that he was also a pure and unadulterated radical when it came to promoting the dignity of the human person. In his own writings, speeches, and legislation, he never ceased to promote the rights of Irish, Americans, Roman Catholics, Hindus, and Africans (against the slave trade). One could only impossibly describe Burke’s life and purpose by ignoring the oppressed he sought to liberate and strengthen.

Contrary to much modern conservative and traditionalist misunderstandings, Burke embraced completely the concept of natural rights, though he feared that any attempt to define such rights as this or that would end in a disaster of abstractions. “I flatter myself that I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty as well as any gentleman of that society,” Burke wrote in 1790. “I think I envy liberty as little as they do, to any other nation. But I cannot stand forward, and give praise or blame to any thing which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction.” Properly understood, rights come from the laws of nature, Burke wrote, but they did so not as a direct line, but rather as refracted light. Rights must always and everywhere take into account the complex nature not only of man but, especially, of men. “The rights of men are in a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned.”

Thus, when he challenged the French Revolutionaries, he shocked the contemporaries of his generation. What made the French so different from the Americans, the Irish, the Indians, or the Africans? The French and their allies—even those in England—”are so taken up with their theories about the rights of man, that they have totally forgot his nature.” They desire a gift without the giving, an advantage without a corresponding duty. “A cheap, bloodless reformation, a guiltless liberty, appear flat and vapid to their taste,” he charged.

Perhaps, most tellingly, however, the French Revolutionaries and their allies denied not just the complexity but the romance of human nature. Famously, Burke rallied against the supposed gentlemen of France who did not defend the queen. “Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honour and cavaliers,” he wrote. “I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.” Yet, Burke had to admit, such an age of honor had passed, and that of the utilitarians—those who would use man and men to their own advantage and, horrifically, as a means to an end—had arrived.

5. The College Fix’s Troy Sargent has the story on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s annual update on how due process is treated at major colleges, and if you thought things are getting worse, well, you’d be right. From the report:

The third annual review of due process on U.S. News & World Report’s top 53 “national universities,” conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, reported an increase in lackluster grades compared to previous years.

In fact, the number of colleges receiving “D” or “F” grades increased from 47 in 2018 to 49 in 2019, according to FIRE.

“Disappointingly, we did not see a significant change overall in the safeguards the rated universities guarantee students from 2017 through this year,” the group said.

Seven in 10 reviewed colleges “do not explicitly guarantee students that they will be presumed innocent until proven guilty,” two in five “do not explicitly require that fact-finders […] be impartial,” and fewer than a third “guarantee a meaningful hearing.”

The study reviewed policies for both sexual misconduct and non-sexual misconduct. None received an “A” grade, while four schools – the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Georgia Institute of Technology, Cornell and Stanford – earned one “B” and one “C” grade.

Some of the most elite schools in the country earned “F” for both policies, including Harvard, MIT, Caltech and the University of Notre Dame. Washington University in St. Louis is the only school that offers none of the 10 “fundamental elements of due process” in at least one policy.

6. It has been a long and challenging year for Roger Scruton, who recounts its highs and lows in The Spectator. From the piece:

My publisher, Bloomsbury, has agreed to an interview in the New Statesman, a magazine for which I retain a certain fondness, having served as its wine critic for several years. Unfortunately Bloomsbury’s publicity officer cannot make it to the interview, and I am alone with an eager young man who has come not to learn about my views but to reinforce his own. I think nothing of it, since the presence of a young and enquiring mind switches me to teacher mode, assuming knowledge in order to induce it. The fact that this person may be not just ignorant of the issues that crop up but interested only in the ways they can be used to damage me does not cross my mind.

Readers of The Spectator do not need reminding of the sequel. The interview is duly published — a mendacious concoction of out-of-context remarks and downright fabrications. We are able to obtain the tapes of the interview, and on the strength of this, and thanks to all the support that is offered to me, not least by this magazine and its brave associate editor Douglas Murray, I obtain an apology from the New Statesman.

By that time the damage has been done. I have been dismissed from the Commission, by a party which seems entirely unacquainted with the many thousands of quite well-argued words that I have offered in support of it, and the architects queue up to pour their ritual denunciations on my head.

At my lowest point, fearing that all the work conducted by the Commission would be lost, I communicate to James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, that he should stick with it, and to his credit he does. It has been a hard time for Mr Brokenshire, but his apology leads to my re-instatement, and even the architectural press, apart from the adolescent Dezeen, ceases to repeat the fantastic and fabricated charges against me.

BORIS BONUS: A couple of months back at Quillette, Toby Young profiled the man (his former boss at The Spectator) whose hour had come. It’s a very interesting read. From the profile:

Boris is often described as a “Marmite figure,” a reference to a salty, brown, waxy substance that some British people like to smear on their toast. You either love Marmite or you hate it and the same goes for Boris. Just as some sections of America’s coastal elites suffer from Trump derangement syndrome, large swathes of the UK’s intelligentsia are afflicted by Boris derangement syndrome.

He has certainly engaged in some pretty egregious behavior during his climb up Britain’s greasy pole—a litany of sins that would be enough to end the careers of less gifted politicians. He was sacked from his first job as a news trainee on the Times of London in 1988 when he was caught making up a quote. He went on to become the Brussels correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, where many of his stories about the EU’s harebrained bureaucratic directives—new regulations governing the curvature of bananas, for instance—fell under the heading of “too good to check.” He landed the editorship of the Spectator in 1999 at the age of 35 and tried to combine that with embarking on a political career, becoming the Member of Parliament for Henley in 2001—a twin-track approach that the magazine’s proprietor, Conrad Black, described as trying to ride two horses at once. (“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it,” Boris responded.) This eventually came to a head when stories began to circulate that he was having an affair with Petronella Wyatt, the Spectator’s deputy editor. Boris was on to his second marriage at this point and had been appointed the Conservative’s shadow arts spokesman, so this was a potential scandal. When asked by Michael Howard, the leader of the Party, whether the rumors were true, Boris described them as “an inverted pyramid of piffle.” In fact, they were true—it turned out Petronella had become pregnant and had then had an abortion—and Boris was fired by Howard for being less than forthright about it.

AND HOW ABOUT A FISA BONUS: At The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald excoriates a historic scandal – not only of the FBI, but of the American media. From the essay:

Over and over, the IG Report makes clear that, contrary to these denials, the Steele Dossier was indeed crucial to the Page eavesdropping warrant. “We determined that the Crossfire Hurricane team’s receipt of Steele’s election reporting on September 19, 2016 played a central and essential role in the FBI’s and Department’s decision to seek the FISA order,” the IG Report explained. A central and essential role.

It added: “in support of the fourth element in the FISA application-Carter Page’s alleged coordination with the Russian government on 2016 U.S. presidential election activities, the application relied entirely on the following information from Steele Reports 80, 94, 95, and 102.”

Just compare the pompous denials from so many U.S. national security reporters at the nation’s leading news outlets – that the Page warrant was not based on the Steele Dossier – to the actual truth that we now know: “in support of the fourth element in the FISA application-Carter Page’s alleged coordination with the Russian government on 2016 U.S. presidential election activities, the application relied entirely on the following information from Steele Reports 80, 94, 95, and 102″ (emphasis added).

Indeed, it was the Steele Dossier that led FBI leadership, including Director James Comey and Deputy Diretor Andrew McCabe, to approve the warrant application in the first place despite concerns raised by other agents that the information was unreliable. Explains the IG Report:

FBI leadership supported relying on Steele’s reporting to seek a FISA order on Page after being advised of, and giving consideration to, concerns expressed by Stuart Evans, then NSD’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General with oversight responsibility over QI, that Steele may have been hired by someone associated with presidential candidate Clinton or the DNC, and that the foreign intelligence to be collected through the FISA order would probably not be worth the ‘risk’ of being criticized later for collecting communications of someone (Carter Page) who was “politically sensitive.”

Baseballery

As the omniscience-potence of the (idiotic!) pitch count has taken its stranglehold on the beauty of the game, the shutout has become that rare thing (along with the complete game, the triple, and bunt). Once upon a century, it was not. The great Walter Johnson threw an MLB-record 110 in his career, and in his impossibly wonderful season of 1913, when he racked up a 36–7 record and a 1.14 ERA, he pitched shutouts in four consecutive starts (and in between them, in three relief appearances, he won two games and earned a save — he gave up nary a run).

Good ol’ occasionally likkered-up Grover Cleveland Alexander, The Big Train’s NL contemporary, second on the all-time shutout lists, holds the single-season record of 16, accomplished in his phenomenal 1916 campaign, when he went 33–12, with a 1.55 ERA, for the second-place Phillies. One of those shutouts came on September 1 at the old Baker Bowl, as Alexander aced the visiting Brooklyn Robins (the eventual NL champs that year) 3–0, besting John “Colby Jack” Coombs.

About Jack Coombs: He holds the AL single-season shutout record, accomplished in 1910 when he went a staggering 31–9, with a microscopic 1.30 ERA, for the World Champion Philadelphia Athletics. In that year’s World Series, Coombs won three games against the Chicago Cubs, and in the following year’s World Series, he beat Christy Mathewson 3–2 in an 11-inning thriller. Coombs found World Series’ greatness one more time: In 1916, he won Brooklyn’s sole victory, a 4–3 complete game at Ebbets Field against the Boston Red Sox.

But back to Colby Jack’s 1910 season: Between August 16 and September 25, Coombs took the mound 12 times for the Athletics, twice in relief, ten as a starter. The two relief appearances were victories, as were all the others but for one 11-inning game, called for darkness, against the Cleveland Indians that ended as a 0–0 tie. Still, it was a shutout, as were four other games during that span, in which he gave up a total of a measly five runs. In late July, over a nine-game span, Coombs registered six shutouts, seven wins, one loss, and one no decision — that was a staggering 16-inning three-hit 0–0 tie game in Chicago against the White Sox, against its ace Big Ed Walsh, the Hall of Famer who also went the distance (giving up six hits), and who that year led the league in losses (20) but also in ERA (1.27), a shade better than Coombs.

Along with Ron Guidry in 1978 (the year Your Humble Servant was selling ice cream on cold nights at Yankee Stadium), Catfish Hunter in 1974, Sandy Koufax in 1963, Whitey Ford in 1961, Dizzy Dean in 1934, Lefty Grove in 1930, or Christy Mathewson in 1905, Jack Coombs in 1910 achieved one of baseball’s best-ever regular- and post-season combined performances. He deserves to be remembered in between pitch-counting.

A Dios

God spelled backwards is dog, and ours, Mickey — known to the Missus and kids as “Mickey Mo Mo” and “Mr. Mo Mo” (after a head-scratching sticks-in-your-head song from the Teenage Robot cartoon) — is with Him now. Begging your forgiveness of the personal privilege taken here, but Your Humble Correspondent wanted to reaffirm that Man’s Best Friend is indeed that. Mrs. F thinks we might be jinxed — in this decade three of our pups (Martha and Sally along with the Mickster) have gone before us. Each was broken and abandoned, found love in a humble home, and then left too soon, admittedly by our standards of time, not God’s. Mickey was here less than a year, but he was tormented by seizures, violent, that no medicine (he had a pharmacy’s worth) could cure. But was there ever such love as this dog’s love (again, God aside)?! When it vanishes, we weep, but maybe we should take the time to thank the Creator for giving His creation a canine upgrade, for giving us this creature — the dog! — that can make itself truly one of the family. Yes, let’s.

And let us also seek of our Creator this: That He calm our thoughts and afford us the grace to be at one with whatever it is about this time of year (most wonderful, so says an authority such as Andy Williams). We pray for comfort and joy because He wants us to have it. So, again, let’s.

To those who will celebrate a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, who prayerfully yearn for the Divine Graces particular to the season, and to those who celebrate nothing spiritually in late December but who nevertheless want for good will, who feel its tug: On behalf of all my colleagues at National Review, may God’s true blessings be upon you and all those you love.

Merry Christmas,

Jack Falalalala, who reminds you that, like Noëlco, even my name says Merry Christmas, and who can accept your criticisms of this profaning at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: Kyle Smith profanes “dog,” using it as a term to describes Cats. We’ll forgive him if only because, admittedly, of the several Biblical references to dog, none seem to have a positive connotation. Anyway, read the review here.

National Review

Nuts.

Dear Weekend Jolter,

This coming Monday marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge, a ferocious last gasp for Corporal Schicklgruber and German forces that included scoundrel SS units who massacred American prisoners. The battle was not a triumph of American military history: Spread-thin front-line Allied forces were caught terribly off-guard, and the poor intelligence of the German troop build-up resulted in massive casualties (19,000 Americans were killed) before the “bulge” was contained and the Nazis pushed back by the end of January, 1945.

But bravery was rampant nonetheless, particularly of the forces, mostly of 101st Airborne Division, besieged at Bastogne and led by General Anthony McAuliffe.

Consider watching the terrific film, Battleground (sometimes referred to as Bastogne), which looks to be on TCM some time in February. Yes, it’s a movie, but it is widely considered to give as good a take as Hollywood might provide (of course, there is a love angle added to water down all the Y Chromosomery) about this epic battle. And if you have the time right now, here is a clip from the film featuring the famous response of General McAuliffe to the German’s surrender-or-die ultimatum: “Nuts.”

You gotta love George Murphy’s talent in blowing smoke rings. Begging your further indulgence, Your Humble Correspondent is particular to this scene, where the great Leon Ames, in a small role as a Lutheran chaplain, holds a field service while shells are falling.

Anyway, this Bulge remembrance is in particular prompted by a reminder of the anniversary from NRI’s Chairman Peter Travers, and by a gag-inducing tweet written this ween by a “conservative blogger” who says the Democrat lawyers who contrived the — keeping with the theme, nutty — impeachment articles “will go down as heroic patriots.”

They will go down, alright, but like castor oil. But the Weekend Jolt . . . that my friends will go down like sweet sambuca! Fill ’er up and down the hatch — and pour me another!

Editorials

1. As a replacement to NAFTA, the USMCA is better than a sharp stick in the eye. From the editorial:

On the campaign trail, Trump excoriated NAFTA as an economic disaster for the United States. But the USMCA mostly replicates NAFTA. And it’s a good thing, too, since Trump was never persuasive in his denunciations of an agreement that has had a positive effect on the economies of all three member countries.

The changes that USMCA would wreak fall mostly into two categories. There are updates to NAFTA, so that it now covers such topics as digital trade. On these issues, USMCA largely borrows from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which included more countries but which Trump junked for no very well-explained reason at the start of his presidency. And there are moves toward greater regulation and protectionism, especially for the auto industry. Even the International Trade Commission, which put out an optimistic projection of USMCA’s effects, expects these provisions to reduce American employment in auto assembly.

Senator Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) has concluded that on balance, the changes to NAFTA are negative and that the USMCA should therefore be rejected. He is right, especially, to reject the auto provisions as a model for future agreements. Members of Congress should also look askance at the rushed timetable for House passage, especially given that some provisions are still being finalized.

2. Boris stomps Labour / Socialism. And, viva Brexit. From the editorial:

There are a host of reasons that the election turned out this way. For many, last night represented a second referendum on Brexit — a chance to say, “we really meant it the first time.” For others, many of whom were not enthusiastic about Brexit in 2016, last night represented a chance to move on. One does not have to have been an ardent Leaver to have been appalled at the way in which the will of the people has been thwarted. Boris Johnson’s promise to ”get Brexit done” resonated.

Then there was Corbyn himself. It should have come as no surprise that Corbyn was most unpopular with Britons who remember the dark days of the 1970s. Britain has tried Corbyn’s ideas before, and they resulted in disastrous inflation, economic stagnation, high unemployment, routine power-cuts, industrial strife, a reduction in national prestige, and a penchant for nationalization that led to scarcity, abysmal customer service, and a virtual end to innovation. In his resignation speech, Jeremy Corbyn insisted that his policies had been popular. If they were, the British have a funny way of showing it.

Corbyn himself did not help matters. For all of his ideological lunacy, Michael Foot was an intelligent and thoughtful man with an admirable record of standing up to fascism. Jeremy Corbyn, by contrast, reminded voters of George Orwell’s sandal-and-pistachio-colored-shirt wearers, carrying with him “the smell of crankishness.” Notably, Corbyn failed to deal with the kooks, bigots, and anti-Semites that had flooded into his party, and he failed to apologize for his abdication. He equivocated on terrorism, had a history of sympathizing with dictators, and never met a radical he disliked. Put simply, he was not a man that a majority of the British people could imagine making their first minister. Boris Johnson, for all his flaws, was

Hot Delicious Conservative Chestnuts (17!) Roasting on an Open NRO Fire

1. The title of David Harsanyi’s article — “The Obama Administration’s FISA Abuse Is a Massive Scandal” — just about sums it all up. From the piece:

What the case has done is create an array of dangerous precedents. What, for instance, stops Republicans from cobbling together their own salacious “dossier,” sending it to friends in the executive branch and law enforcement, using it to obtain FISA warrants, leaking it to a compliant media, all while propelling an investigation that smears a bunch of their adversaries for political reasons?

Faith in the FBI?

Obama administration defenders such as Michael McFaul tell us that “Americans, not just Democrats, should be thankful that partisanship does not influence the FBI’s work.” Pardon my skepticism, but this was a case that featured FBI lawyers manufacturing evidence to spy on a political campaign. It featured FBI agents promising to “stop” the president. It featured top FBI leadership, the same people who have been lecturing us about patriotism and loyalty, lying to the American people.

Why didn’t CNN contributor Andrew McCabe — who “handpicked” the agents involved in crafting the FISA warrants before being fired from the FBI for misconduct — ever speak up about these abuses? In 2018, the former head of the FBI James Comey, said: “I have total confidence that the FISA process was followed and that the entire case was handled in a thoughtful, responsible way. . . . I think the notion that FISA was abused here is nonsense.” Was he lying?

Now if your argument is that FISA abuse such as this goes on all the time . . . well, that too is a huge scandal for the Obama administration and the FBI. Hopefully the Republicans will change their position on surveillance powers. Whether they do or do not, however, does not mitigate the harm of this scandal.

2. Kevin Williamson calls out the FBI’s corruption. From the piece:

The FBI’s actions in the Trump matter were outrageous, with agents going so far as to alter documents included as part of the FISA warrant process.

Focus in on that for a moment: The Federal Bureau of Investigation under the Obama administration sought to launch an investigation of the rival party’s presidential campaign in order to spy on it under powers reserved for national-security purposes. (FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.) In order to activate those powers, the FBI had to go to a federal court for permission, which it did — with falsified documents in hand. If the FBI attorney who altered that document avoids seeing the inside of a federal prison cell, it will be a grave disservice to justice.

What makes this even worse is not that there was no good reason to be suspicious of the relationships between Trump’s circle and the Russians but that there was. In that sense, Obama’s investigation of the Trump campaign is a mirror image of Trump’s efforts to strong-arm the Ukrainians into investigating Hunter Biden: The underlying issue was very much worth looking into, and that makes the fact that the process was distorted by petty, corrupt opportunism even more offensive. Trump & Co. may be as crooked as a barrel of snakes, but that does not mean that those who investigated them weren’t crooked, too. Nor does it absolve the FBI and the Obama administration from their wrongdoing.

In a free society, there is very little that is as dangerous as a corrupt cop. The FBI under the Obama administration falsified documents in order to get legal permission to spy on a Republican presidential campaign. But there was no “bias.”

Only corruption.

3. The Horowitz IG report is anything but an exoneration of anyone. Indeed, says Conrad Black, it’s pretty damn damning. From the column’s get-go:

It is hard to believe that the run-up to the presidential-election year has plumbed such a depth of farcical degradation. It must be that Trump’s influence has contributed to unserious responses, but he can’t be blamed for the unutterable nonsense of his opponents and the straight men of the political class that has absorbed the shock of the Trump phenomenon. Monday, December 9, had been much anticipated. Congressman Jerry Nadler, who has not been able to utter a sentence in the last three years that did not contain the word “impeachment,” gaveled to order his asinine Judiciary Committee hearings to consider the partisan recommendation of Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee that the president had abused his powers by asking about what must concern the endangered minority that takes former vice president Joe Biden’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination seriously. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to find out whether Biden and his son were influence-peddling in Ukraine. Trump didn’t try to write the verdict of his inquiry; he asked a reasonable question. The Democrats, if any of them retain their sanity despite the simulation of a lunatic asylum their party is conducting, would be at least as curious as the Republicans to hear the answer. Last week Nadler had four constitutional experts before the committee, including three rabid Trump haters, one so overwrought that she couldn’t walk on the sidewalk in front of Washington’s Trump Hotel.

4. The impeachment articles could use a Charles Atlas course. Andy McCarthy looks at the very weak, and even inane, charges. From the analysis:

Just as frivolously, Democrats maintain that Trump’s “abuse of power” includes endangering American national security. Here is the theory: Our noble (if pervasively corrupt) ally Ukraine is in a border war with Russia, a hostile foreign power, so we supply defense aid to Kyiv so they can fight Moscow’s mercenaries over there, lest we have to fight the Russian army over here. Yes, Jerry Nadler would have us believe that Ukraine — its armed forces threaded with neo-Nazis and jihadists — is the only thing preventing Putin from laying waste to everything from the Upper West Side down to Greenwich Village.

This, from the same Democrats who yawned when Russia annexed Crimea, and when Obama denied Kyiv the lethal defense aid Trump has provided. This, from the same Democrats who swooned when Obama mocked Mitt Romney for observing that Russia remains our most worrisome geopolitical foe. This, from the same Democrats who cheered when Obama struck a deal, including cash ransom payments, to give Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of anti-American terrorism, an industrial-strength nuclear program that, in the absence of meaningful monitoring, could be converted to a nuclear-arms program in nothing flat.

It is perfectly reasonable to contend that arming Ukraine against Russian aggression is in American interests — especially after prior U.S. administrations of both parties encouraged Ukraine to disarm on the loopy theory that post-Soviet Russia posed no threat. But the claim that Trump’s dealings with Ukraine have put our national security at risk is fatuous.

5. More Impeachment: It’s historical hooey, says Rich Lowry. From the beginning of the column:

Never has history felt less consequential.

The impending impeachment of President Donald Trump is, as news accounts and blaring newspaper headlines tell us, historic. This is true by definition, since a president has been impeached only twice before in 230 years.

But everyone knows that this history isn’t going to matter much. In fact, the day after the Senate trial ends in inevitable acquittal, everything goes on exactly the same as before (except for vulnerable House Democrats from Trump districts, who will have to defend their votes until November).

Impeachment won’t occasion any significant new jurisprudence on executive privilege or the line between executive or legislative prerogatives.

It hasn’t produced any particularly memorable TV. The witnesses before Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee were damaging, but not nearly as compelling as any of the true insiders that it would have taken time and litigation to try to get, such as Mick Mulvaney or Rudy Giuliani. By the last round of witnesses before the Judiciary Committee, staff lawyers were testifying and questioning one another in a strange and pointless exercise.

6. Boris wins, and Brexit’s long pregnancy seems to be coming to end, sovereignty ready to be born. Michael Brendan Dougherty reviews the Tory triumph. From the piece:

The election is a massive national repudiation of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. It was often said that Jeremy Corbyn was a “throwback” Labour leader, that he reminded people of the days before Tony Blair took the party in a less socialist and more Clintonite direction. Blair’s transformation of the Labour party in the 1990s was an ideological development that weakened the importance the party’s attachment to the working class. But the truth is that Corbyn’s ideological cohort in the 1980s had done the same, but in a different direction and to different ends.

His was the hard edge of the party that defined itself by its support for Third-Worldist socialist movements, and every challenge to the imperialism of the United Kingdom. He was no Clement Attlee or Harold Wilson. In the end, Corbyn appealed neither to the upwardly mobile metropole voters of the Blair coalition nor to the actual working class in northern England and in Scotland. In this election, the most decisive factor was that Labour finally lost the Labour vote to the Tories in England, and to the Scottish Nationalists in Scotland.

Under Corbyn’s watch, Labour became a party in which anti-Semitism started to have free rein. At first this seemed simply baffling. Surely, in a party committed to diversity, anti-Semitism would be an easily fixable programming error. But the problem has only persisted and grew under Corbyn’s leadership. Former London mayor and Corbynite Ken Livingstone seemed to blame the “Jewish vote” for Corbyn’s defeat last night, despite the fact that Jews are less than 1 percent of the population of the United Kingdom.

7. David Bahnsen whammies Elizabeth Warren’s free-college lunacy. From the Corner post:

In my new book on Elizabeth Warren’s policy portfolio, I dedicate an entire chapter to the idea of forgiving debt for college graduates. It is a highly regressive idea that, if put into effect, would reward those of statistically higher income-generation potential more than those whose life circumstances may prohibit college entirely. Offering “free” college in the form of a federal subsidy to states would invite a frightening statist intervention into higher education. This would be a true example of something that theoretically can’t get worse that actually gets worse. Warren’s ideas are unaffordable (why let that bother anyone now?), unfair, immoral, impractical, and counterproductive.

But if you can’t beat something with nothing, and Warren has something, then President Trump may not win on this issue by saying nothing. The fundamental reason for the explosive amount of student debt over the past ten years is — wait for it — the explosive costs of college education. And the explosive costs of college education are a direct by-product of — wait for it — the access to unlimited federal loans. In other words, the easiest way to deal with “explosive student debt” is — follow me here – to stop giving it out.

I will lose far too many of you if I end there, as the instinctive response of “well, that then cuts off the entire next generation from accessing college!” is fair enough. But of course, the determination that the federal government will no longer serve as enabler-in-chief to university administrators who have absolutely no decency or sense in controlling costs would not end people’s access to college. The president has the opportunity to present two ideas that would shock the nation in their obvious sensibility.

RELATED: David’s book is titled Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream — it is available in audio format and can be found at Amazon, Audible, or iTunes.

8. And now Marco Rubio has an industrial policy pitch to add to his “Common-Good Capitalism.” Kevin Williamson ain’t buying it. From the essay:

You couldn’t have planned Detroit’s success. But you could have avoided its catastrophic failure. Detroit was not done in by lack of clever industrial policy or by shortage of some other species of cleverness. It was done in by corrupt and ineffective government and a local political culture that went from bad to worse to much worse to Coleman Young. They tried to save Detroit with tariffs and failed. They could have saved it with safe streets and functional schools and the hundred thousand other tiny needful things that good governments do well.

Good government — including a steady, stable, predictable policy environment — multiplies the value of labor, just as training and capital do. That is why investment capital around the world for years has flowed largely to well-governed countries, most of them liberal democracies, with the largest recipients of foreign direct investment being the United States and the European Union. (China, the important exception to that rule, is not well-governed; it is governed brutally but predictably, an ugly but useful reminder that stability has economic value, too.) There are many places that businesses could go in search of low wages and a loose regulatory environment, but you aren’t driving a car made in Haiti or using a computer built in Burundi. Investors aren’t putting a lot of money into factories in Yemen or Afghanistan.

And that is what is so irritating about Senator Rubio’s new push for “industrial policy.” Is the U.S. government really performing its core duties so well, so ably, so competently that we need to add to them with additional duties that demand a kind of competence it does not have and cannot acquire?

9. But Fred Bauer says Rubio’s plan is well within the American tradition. From the beginning of the analysis:

One of the important subtexts of Marco Rubio’s industrial-policy speech earlier this week is the intersection of economic structures and geopolitical strategy. In current debates on the Right, proponents of neoliberal economics (especially on trade) have often joined forces with those who want to defend the “liberal international order” (or who wish, in any case, to maintain a proactive American foreign-policy). In some ways, this alliance makes sense. Many view President Trump as the central question in American politics, and he has trumpeted his criticism of the post-1989 consensus on both foreign and economic policy. Moreover, American policymakers pivoted to international “free trade” agreements as a key element of geopolitical strategy in the aftermath of the Second World War.

However, in some other ways, there might be some tensions in this alliance. In many respects, the economic trends of 2001 to 2016 undermined the ability of the United States to continue as a ballast of the post-1945 geopolitical order. The extended slowdown in economic growth since Y2K has shrunk the size of the American economy relative to the rest of the world, and the social turmoil accelerated by the disruptions of the neoliberal economy makes it harder for the United States to realize long-term geopolitical goals.

Increased trade with the People’s Republic of China, which is not a conventional market economy, is clearly a major part of this story. It has delivered a shock to the industrial core of the United States. It has made many sectors of the American economy more dependent upon the Communist Party of China. In the postwar era, the United States championed trade agreements with its market-economy allies. Post-2000, we’ve seen a reversal of this, with China absorbing a growing portion of the U.S.’s foreign commerce to eventually become its top trading partner. (The current administration’s efforts to renegotiate our trading arrangements with China — often called a “trade war” — have somewhat reversed this trend; China is now only America’s third-largest trading partner, behind Canada and Mexico.)

10. Oh those Kooky Bidens! Well, Big Jim Geraghty has their number. From the end of the piece:

Joe Biden is an old-school politician in a lot of ways — and there are few features in politics more old-school than friends of a powerful officeholder creating a lucrative minimal-responsibility job for the officeholder’s idiot son. No one ever has to outright request a favor down the road; there’s an unspoken understanding that hiring the offspring will ensure a powerful friend in Washington, the kind of friend who answers the phone quickly. For a long time, this kind of nepotism was widespread, bipartisan, and so common among Washington elites that it was considered rude to notice, much less publicly criticize. Getting lucrative gigs in large part because he was Joe Biden’s son is pretty much what Hunter Biden has done with his adult life after law school — at the biggest bank in Delaware, at a D.C. lobbying firm, at a New York hedge fund he purchased with his uncle, and so on. A bit of extra money going to the family, and not covered by the officeholder’s public financial-disclosure forms, helped grease the wheels.

It’s easy to understand why powerful Democrats and powerful Republicans would agree to a truce to avoid calling attention to the other side’s idiot sons; in their eyes, this is all a grand system of benevolent nepotism, to ensure that those shouldering the responsibilities of government never have to worry too much about Junior, who barely made it through all those expensive prep schools and the finest higher education that a lot of money and a famous name can buy. (It is odd how many of our elected leaders who publicly boast of their spectacular IQs have offspring that seem . . . deficient in certain important traits.)

But the rest of us never signed on to any truce to avoid calling attention to anyone’s idiot sons. And we didn’t sign on to believe the implausible claim that no one warned Joe Biden about any of this, either.

11. John Hirschauer better put his soul in Witness Protection Program as he takes on Conservative Scold Pete Wehner. From the piece:

Needless to say, he doesn’t agree that Christian Trump supporters are making a tragic choice between an admittedly imperfect vessel and a party that means their faith harm. He believes they are linking fates with a “demagogue” in order to fight perceived threats “to their core beliefs” that “hardly qualify as existential.”

While Christian readers are to take ostensible solace in the fact that Peter Wehner of the New York Times does not deem any of the threats to their “core beliefs” to be “existential,” it’s an awfully tough claim to support in a country where participation in organized religion has seen precipitous declines, where the leading Democratic presidential candidate has indicated that his top legislative priority would be passing the conscience-rights boondoggle that is the “Equality Act,” and where every major candidate for the Democratic nomination has pledged to fund an international abortion regime with taxpayer dollars. At very least, the suggestion that Christians are misapprehending the threats posed by progressives seems like one for which Wehner would have to proffer evidence, and he offers little beyond insinuation.

Instead, after stating his thesis, Wehner loses the plot. He skewers a few Christian pundits who he feels have been hasty or hyperbolic in their support of Trump before shifting the ground again, insisting that religious voters ought to be grateful for improvements in various social indicators. “Just how bad are things, really?” he asks, which is the sort of question that assumes Christians are more concerned about the almost accidental decadence of the culture today than they are about the very intentional decadence the current crop of Democrats mean to install as part of their platform. Wehner points out that the number of abortions performed annually, while still well over 800,000, has gone down, which is true enough, though as he himself admits, losing 800,000 unborn children to abortion each year is hardly something upon which to hang one’s hat. He notes that rates of teen pregnancy and violent crime have fallen, too, and teenagers are using less alcohol than they did 40 years ago. What’s his point? Since these statistical declines have occurred under both Republican and Democratic administrations, he asserts, the argument that a Democratic president poses an extraordinary threat to Christianity — a threat so great as to justify supporting an “unethical, unscrupulous, and morally dissolute” figure such as Trump — is without basis in fact.

12. The Jacobin-channeling SOP of the Democratic Party, says Victor Davis Hanson, means today’s leaders will be in tomorrow’s guillotine. From the essay:

The weekly Jacobin rhetoric made the prior progressive talk seem counterrevolutionary — until we finally reached the crux of the matter with admissions by various Democrats such as Representatives Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Al Green, and Nancy Pelosi that impeachment was likely the only means to stop Trump in 2020.

The Democrats in their impeachment frenzy have now established that a president can be impeached for thinking about withholding foreign aid to a country that he suspects is mired in corruption, including foreign malfeasance that might have affected him personally in the past and may in the future.

But criminalization of such a hypothetical quid pro quo has all but condemned both Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the court of public opinion. By that logic the Republican House should have impeached Obama in 2012 right before his reelection bid, for dismantling missile-defense plans in Europe in exchange for Putin’s putting off his annexations of Crimea and eastern Ukraine until after Obama’s reelection — in effect bestowing upon candidate Obama a private quid pro quo benefit of assuring voters that Obama’s “Russian reset” was sound foreign policy.

Candidate Biden stands accused of no thought crime, but of actually leveraging foreign aid to force the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who, by his own admission, later claimed he was looking into Biden’s mysterious activities with regard to the board of a corrupt Ukrainian energy company.

Obama had refused to provide needed lethal aid to Ukraine. He sent Biden to Ukraine, who used the stick of threatening to cancel all nonlethal aid in return for the carrot of not embarrassing Biden, Obama, and the Democratic party with a messy investigation of Burisma — and by extension Biden’s son — with obvious importance to the 2016 campaign cycle.

If Trump can be impeached for delaying lethal aid to Ukraine for a few weeks, then surely Obama and Biden should have been impeached for doing something worse. In other words, once presidential prerogatives are criminalized and impeachment is used for short-term political gain, then the revolutionary process takes on a life of its own and will eventually devour its own creators. In such a downward spiral, impeachment has become no big deal, but a simple way of discrediting a president the opposition hates.

13. George Leef finds another example of academic lefties preferring to impugn rather than discuss. From the commentary:

Remember Duke historian Nancy MacLean’s odious book Democracy in Chains, a disreputable hatchet job on James Buchanan and public choice theory generally. Rather than trying to come to grips with Buchanan’s thinking and its implications — chiefly that if you believe government will solve problems, you’d better think again because government officials have their own self-interested agendas — MacLean manufactured a sleazy case that he was a racist who just wanted to create an excuse for opposing government action. That resonated with most leftists, who have been taught that exposing the supposed hidden motives of people who don’t want omnipotent government is all that’s necessary to win an argument.

Here’s another instance of that same style of writing. Professor Janek Wasserman of the University of Alabama has penned a book about the Austrian School of Economics. Professor Richard Ebeling finds that the book is a “twisted tale” in a lengthy review published by the American Institute for Economic Research. Wasserman can’t just give an explication of Austrian thinking and then offer arguments as to why he disagrees. He poisons his book with all sorts of motive impugning barbs.

Ebeling writes, for instance:

But rather than deal with Mises’s arguments in these terms, Professor Wasserman insists that, ‘Men like Wieser, [Joseph] Schumpeter and Mises had much to lose during the heady days of 1918 and 1919, and they engaged in public affairs with urgency. Self-identifying with German culture, hailing from prosperous, well-connected families, and holding coveted jobs within the academic and bureaucratic establishments, these men were deeply invested in the status quo. They spoke out to defend their state and values . . .’

14. Rather than reform NYC’s infamous Rikers Island prison, Mayor Bill de Blasio, under the sway of “No New Jails” activists, is going to close the facility writes William Nardi. From the article:

In capping the number of suspects the city can detain, de Blasio has bought into an argument that trades inmate safety for public safety. This is a false choice: There’s no reason we can’t have both. Rikers should be reformed, not closed. Neither City Hall nor No New Jails, NYC’s resident anti-prison group, has a good explanation for rejecting such a compromise.

When de Blasio first proposed closing Rikers, he met fierce backlash — not because advocates didn’t want Rikers closed, but because they opposed his plan to spend $11 billion to build a new jail in the Bronx while renovating four existing jails in the city. This would have reduced the maximum capacity of the city’s jails from 20,000 to 5,000, in accord with projections that the daily jail population would reduce from 7,000 to 5,000 by 2026. But when Bronx congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met publicly with No New Jails and condemned de Blasio’s plan, his office changed tack, reducing the expected daily jail population to 3,300.

De Blasio, then, seems to be taking cues from a group that advances an idea of justice that privileges the interests of the incarcerated at the expense of the rest of society. Its manifesto downplays criminals’ responsibility to pay restitution and denies the endless news reports of suspected criminals breaking bail: “It is easy to pretend that jails exist because the people held there are too dangerous to be released. That idea is a myth.”

No New Jails may think incarcerating violent criminals is somehow unjust — whether or not they regret their crimes, and whether or not they’ve paid appropriate restitution. By refusing to draw such distinctions, though, No New Jails ignores the hard reality that some detainees genuinely do pose a threat to society.

15. Armond White finds Richard Jewell to be much more than a portrayal of an injustice. From the review:

Jewell’s story continues Eastwood’s winning streak that began with American Sniper, Sully, The 15:17 to Paris, and The Mule.

These fact-based chronicles are out of step with the wish fulfillment of Hollywood’s current social-justice trend. Movies such as Spotlight, Moonlight, The Shape of Water, and Green Book sentimentalize victim groups; they’re a perversion of the social-consciousness genre, turning it into an exercise of self-righteous showing-off that prevents our understanding of political polarization. Eastwood shrewdly chooses average, unlikely individuals and then narrates the unique, harrowing experiences that set them apart. He uncovers aspects of our national life that might otherwise go misunderstood or unappreciated. Avoiding George Clooney, Matt Damon, Sean Penn, Edward Norton crusader-rabbit pomposity, Eastwood’s movies are not so much political as they are morally conscious.

By going to the past, Eastwood finds, with succinct brilliance, what is troubling and confounding in our contemporary government and media: the story of a wronged man told against the story of how terrible people can be as they deliberately do him harm.

Eastwood never gets partisan, yet he doesn’t make things easy; Jewell is shown as annoying, even aggravating. Hauser, a little-known character actor (he was memorably aggravating in I, Tonya), gives an amazingly disciplined, not-obvious performance. Hauser’s overweight Jewell looks like a human balloon — he stands and sways on drumstick legs with a swollen belly and a puffy, red-cheeked face with Santa Claus eyes. People feel superior to him, with his low-caste and seeming lack of self-control. They misunderstand his intelligence because he is just irritatingly transparent. Guilelessness makes him look suspicious to a society that prizes arrogant aggression.

16. Kyle Smith thinks highly of A Hidden Life. From the review:

It’s a slow, stately film but a marvelous one, steeped in faith and emotionally replete. Catholics and other Christians sometimes complain that there is little offered to them at the movies; what is offered tends to be second-rate. A Hidden Life, though, is a deeply considered and in the end staggering argument for a life lived according to Christ’s teaching by one of cinema’s great American artists, writer-director Terrence Malick. Church groups and other members of Christ’s flock, especially Catholics, should make it a point to see this adaptation of the life of Franz Jägerstätter, a Catholic Austrian farmer who refused to serve the cause of Adolf Hitler during World War II. Jägerstätter was beatified in 2007.

Malick begins his beautiful, impassioned, three-hour film in the Austrian Alps, where Franz, played with a stringent minimalism by August Diehl, tends to a farm with his wife Franziska (Valerie Pachner) and three daughters. After a brief stint in the Wehrmacht, he returns home in 1940 and begins to think seriously about what it means to be complicit in evil. Villagers warn him that his opposition to the regime is foolhardy and dangerous. A racist mayor berates him. Even a local priest tells him, “Your sacrifice will benefit no one.” A bishop goes even further: “You have a duty to the Fatherland. The church tells you so.” Franz wonders whether the clergymen mean what they say or whether they’re covering for themselves in case he is a spy.

Malick has found an unusually oblique angle from which to approach Nazism, and there is no war footage in the film. Hitler (seen in newsreels) has polluted every corner of life, rendered privacy impossible. Yet such is the logic of power that who in Austria or Germany would even bother to oppose him? Even the strongest men might understandably bow when the question is life or death. Evil refreshes itself on cowardice, but is it even cowardice to value one’s life over principle? A horrible reckoning must take place, and finally does in 1943, when Franz is conscripted back into the military. At a training camp near home, he refuses to swear an oath and is jailed. At first he is treated humanely, but things grow worse after he is transferred to a larger prison, hundreds of miles from home in Berlin.

17. More Kyle: He finds the grim and grime of Uncut Gems a piece of watchable scuzzy New York. From the review:

If you’re from some normal place, such as Sarasota, Fla., or Sacramento, Calif., or Dallas, I probably can’t explain the perverse pride we New Yorkers take in tales of filthy people doing horrible things in our wicked little metropolis. “I love this dirty town!” exclaims the sinister gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker, pausing to enjoy a brawl on West 52nd Street in Sweet Smell of Success. New York must be the only city on earth where it’s common to hear people gripe that things are too sanitized, too safe. “Ah, remember when 42nd Street was a string of sleaze emporia and human-trafficking markets,” people say, nostalgia glimmering in their eyes. “Now there’s a—” (shudder) “Disney theater there.” (Expression of deep sorrow.)

Good news, friends. There’s a new offering in this critical micro-genre, the  Scumbags of New York flick. Adam Sandler plays a lying degenerate gambler in Uncut Gems, which in its sordid candor turns out to be one of the grabbiest films of the year. The New York writer-directors Josh and Benny Safdie — following their labyrinthine bank-robbery-gone-wrong odyssey Good Time two years ago, which was a better film — have crafted another crazed, flavorful, cinematic slug of hooch. At the end of the movie, I felt a slight hangover rather than satisfaction — a dazed sense of, “Wow, what was the point of all that?” Still, I enjoyed the binge.

If Good Time, which you can view on Amazon Prime, had something of the feel of Dog Day Afternoon, Uncut Gems made me think of Bad Lieutenant, the pugnacious 1992 Abel Ferrara film about a not-nice police officer, memorably played by Harvey Keitel, and his attempts to survive his gambling addiction during a New York Mets playoff run. In Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler is the antihero, one of the many Jewish retailers on West 47th Street in midtown Manhattan (a three-iron from National Review’s offices) buying and selling precious stones in  tightly secured offices. Sandler’s Howard Ratner is cheating on his wife (an amusing Idina Menzel) with his shopgirl (Julia Fox, who is even better than Menzel) while fending off loan sharks and taking delivery of a hunk of precious stones from Africa that he hopes to auction off for a huge payday. Also, Passover is coming up, and there’s a kids’ play he can’t get out of; Howard is like a Jewish Henry Hill during the climax of Goodfellas.

Making the Case for Higher Ed

My NR paisan John Hillen has an excellent podcast discussion on expansive influence of the liberal arts tradition with Ryan Pemberton from historic Hampden-Sydney College — it’s well worth the listen, which you and your ears can do right here.

The Six

1. At The American Spectator, Anne Hendershott wonders aloud if the realities of Commie SOP make it into the thick noggin of the Pope. From the piece:

Suggesting that “China is developing well,” Sorondo dismissed any concerns about China — claiming that “you cannot think that the China of today is the China of the time of John Paul II, or Cold War Russia.” Sorondo concluded that China now has “many points of agreement” with the Vatican.

At least one Vatican official, concerned about what he called Sorondo’s “adulation” of Chinese culture, published an editorial with the headline “Sánchez Sorondo in Wonderland.” Claiming that Sorondo’s praise of the totalitarian dictatorship in China “makes a laughingstock of the Church,” Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, head of the Asia News Agency, called the archbishop naïve.

But, Sorondo is not alone in his naïveté. Pope Francis himself has gone out of his way to accommodate China’s demands to regularize the communist state-sponsored Catholic Church (the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association) that is beholden to the state and not to Rome. For decades, there was a schism in China between the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the underground Church that was in full communion with Rome. Pope Francis developed a way to unify the two ecclesiastic communities, although the details of the “unification” remain unclear.

Refusing to acknowledge concerns about the continued marginalization and imprisonment of underground Catholics — including priests and bishops — Pope Francis claimed that the Sino-Vatican agreement he signed in September 2018 with representatives of the communist government “united” Catholics. In the agreement, Pope Francis regularized the status of seven of China’s “Patriotic Association” bishops who had been ordained by the communist government, marking the first time since the 1950s that all Catholic bishops in China were in “full communion” with the pope.

2. More from TAS: Rabbi Dov Fischer feels the pain of traditional Papists who called BS on Speaker Nancy Pelosi “as a Catholic” grandstanding. From the piece:

I feel bad for truly devout Catholics who go to mass on Sundays, worship throughout the week, adhere to the doctrines of their faith, know and honor their catechism, look to the Vatican for the traditional theological guidance that came from Rome during the papacies of the likes of popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. Even under the current pope, the much more liberal Pope Francis, an abortion even of a sick fetus is inhuman eugenics, akin to hiring a “hitman” to perpetrate a murder. Even he is unalterably opposed to gay marriage. On homosexuality, he has said, “In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life.”

What it must feel like to be a devout Catholic in America, yet to be subjected 24/7/365 on the mainstream media to a long line of leading American liberal Democrat opinion makers who cloak their support for government-imposed contraceptive coverage, transgenderism, gay marriage, abortion, and so much else of that nature in their Catholicism. One after another: Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, John Kerry, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Tim Kaine, Robert O’Rourke, the Castro Brothers, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Sen. Dick Durbin, the Kennedy family of Massachusetts, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Ed Markey, Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Bob Menendez, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, dozens of pro-abortion House members like Ted Lieu of California, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and just so many others among American leftist celebrities, entertainers, and media personalities. In terms of overall numbers, Catholics tend to vote for Democrats over Republicans regularly. Many of these Catholics furthermore even are deeply allied politically with outright anti-Catholic and bigoted non-Catholics in the Senate — like Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, a Buddhist and anti-Catholic bigot; Kamala Harris, a Baptist; and Dianne Feinstein, supposedly a Jew but actually the child of a Russian Orthodox Church maternal line and a graduate of Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco — all of whom viciously have attacked federal judicial nominees for following Catholic teachings in their personal lives, with some attacking even having such Catholic social affiliations as being members of the Catholic fraternal order, Knights of Columbus.

And, yet, reasonable and fair-minded non-Catholics do not stereotype all Catholics in the way that, in a dark American era, the Ku Klux Klan did. We see through the “as a Catholic” gambit and charade because there are the others who not only follow the dogma and teachings of Catholicism but who actually do live it as it is theologically constructed, and they promote their faith prominently and proudly. Our own views are impacted not only by Catholics on the left but also by those on the right, such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito, Rick Santorum, Jon Voight, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Sen. James Risch, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. John Hoeven, Sen. Pat Toomey, Rep. Peter King, Rep. Devin Nunes, Rep. Steve Scalise, Newt Gingrich, and so many others.

3. Gatestone Institute’s Alain Destexhe reports on Europe’s growing hostility towards Israel. From the piece:

The European Union, in fact, seems proud to be “the biggest donor of external assistance to the Palestinians”. Since February 2008, more than €2.5 billion ($2.8 billion) have been disbursed. The EU provides core financial support to the Palestinian Authority (PA), even though part of the PA budget is earmarked for terrorists and terrorists’ families, thereby actually incentivizing terrorism.

The EU is also a major contributor to helping the PA pay the salaries of civil servants, which could not be accomplished without its support, thereby not only making the PA the world biggest welfare state, but also disincentivizing the PA from becoming more self-sufficient. With the EU’s funds, the PA pays the families of imprisoned terrorists in Israel as well as families of terrorists who have been killed, including kamikazes. When the PA had to make cuts in its budget, it stressed that reductions would not apply to salaries “paid to pensioners and families of martyrs, wounded or prisoners.” Many Palestinians view these prisoners and those killed while carrying out terror attacks as heroes in their conflict with Israel and venerate them as martyrs. According to the Israeli press, the PA’s stipends to imprisoned terrorists each year come to some $138 million.

In other words, the EU, which is officially committed to fighting terrorism, supports the Palestinian Authority, which supports terrorists and their families. Just try making sense of that.

The Dutch parliament passed a motion on November 19, objecting to providing funding to the Palestinian Authority when some of its budget is earmarked for Palestinian terrorists imprisoned by Israel. By doing so, it not only saved some of Europe’s honor, it also sets an example for other European countries.

4. Did Western liberalism start with Martin Luther? At Law & Liberty, James R. Rogers argues, no. From the essay:

Although Luther provides a convenient dividing point in telling the story of liberalism in Western history, the temptation exists to mistake a convenient focal point for causation—the old post hoc (ergo propter hoc) fallacy.

If anything, Luther was a catalyst rather than a cause. Both fans and detractors treat Luther as introducing something truly de novo. Truth is, Luther was very much a man of his times. His theology was, if anything, a reaction to long existing and deepening individualistic (and, hence, liberalizing) currents in the religion and society of his day. It was because of the individualistic turn in Medieval piety prior to Luther that his theology struck the nerve that it did while earlier proto-protestant movements did not. Even the groundwork for the unintended political consequences had been set prior to Luther in the Schism and “papal revolution” (Harold Berman’s phrase in Law and Revolution for Pope Gregory VII’s reforms) of the 12th century.

My point is not to deny that Luther is an important figure in the history of the West. The question is whether he is—for better or for worse—the causal figure of so much liberal historiography. Luther may be better understood as a man more reflecting his time than creating it. Or, perhaps, a figure who served as a catalyst rather than as a causal agent.

Several significant, already long-existing currents made Luther possible. These currents were both religious and social.

First and foremost there was a signal change in Christian piety and self-understanding in the centuries prior to Luther. Modern Christians and modern non-Christians largely miss the signal aspect of this change. We miss it because we think as modern Christians that this was always true of Christianity.

A signal turn in the history of Western Christianity occurred when the central question of the tradition became, “Will I go to heaven or hell when I die?”

5. If you thought icons had transcendent beauty, you’d be agreeing with The Imaginative Conservative’s Michael De Sapio, who has a wonderful profile of artist Christina Kokosari. From the commentary:

We live in an era in which words are routinely diluted of their meaning. One feels the need, especially around Christmas, to go back to the root senses of things, to their primitive origins. Consider the words “icon” and “iconic.” They have been so trivialized and commercialized that one can easily forget their original, concrete meaning in the Christian church—a meaning that becomes clear the minute you walk in a church of the Eastern tradition, where the glow of sacred images dispels the vulgar world outside.

For a long time I have admired icons—their objectivity, simplicity, calm, and timelessness. I wish they were more frequently seen in our churches. While much Western art immerses us in the richness of this world with its spacial and emotional realism, icons function as “windows into heaven,” with stylized forms that convey a Platonic ideal of beauty and truth.

To gain deeper insight into the aesthetics of icons, I spoke with Christina Kokosari, a young artist in New York City who makes some fine examples. Born in Albania and trained in Greece, Christina now runs a home art studio in Astoria, Queens. While some of her work is secular (including some lovely impressionist landscapes), a good portion is devoted to sacred icons on wood panel or canvas. These grow directly out of her intense Eastern Orthodox faith, which she learned as a child during the waning days of Communism.

6. At The American Conservative, Rod Dreher spotlights the widening fault lines in Evangelical churches. From the commentary:

I don’t want to re-argue these events of 2016, but I do want to say that this was the first time I realized how powerfully racial identity politics were manifesting themselves among middle-class white Evangelicals of the Millennial and Zoomer generations. My previous work criticizing LGBT rights and Obergefell — I had been unambiguously clear about this for years — did not make me unwelcome among those white Evangelicals, but criticizing Black Lives Matter did. Most of the students there when I was present will have graduated by now, and I would not be surprised to learn that my orthodox Christian beliefs on homosexuality are now problematic there.

But it was race that did it. With that group of young white conservative (conservative-ish?) Evangelicals, Black Lives Matter was not an issue that Christians could agree to disagree on; it was absolute. (“Next comes judgment, usually quick and severe, using a single measure: relative power among the various ethnic, racial, gender, or ideological groups.”)

As we know, it became impossible for Mainline Protestant churches to agree to disagree over homosexuality. And I understand why not: if you believe that there is nothing morally wrong about homosexuality, Christians who adhere to traditional Biblical teaching are upholding unjust discrimination. On the other hand, if you hold to tradition, then there can be no compromise. It’s either right, or it’s wrong, and though it makes the vast middle uncomfortable, activists on both sides of the gay rights in churches argument saw things more clearly than the others: there really is no middle ground. Eventually, the orthodox were driven out of most Mainline churches, and now it looks like the Methodists are going to schism over it.

Will things go this way in Evangelicalism over race? It seems to me that the moral lines from a doctrinal Christian point of view are not remotely as clear as they were in the homosexuality debate. Every Christian believes, or should believe, that racism is wrong. As I see it, the conflict is over what constitutes racism, and what to do about it?

Is it racist not to support Black Lives Matter? Is resisting the standard progressive model of race and inequality a sign of racism? If so, well, then you cannot argue with a racist, because his bigotry is irrational. You can only separate yourself from him.

It’s a minefield. If I were Evangelical, I would hope my church was sensitive to the painful, even shameful, history of the church’s complicity with racial oppression. (Michelle Higgins speaks truthfully and winsomely of some of them here; believe me, here in south Louisiana, there are also shameful historical examples of white supremacist bigotry within Catholicism. White Christians of my generation and younger are in many cases simply ignorant of this history — and that is wrong. These things happened, and they were terrible, and they need to be acknowledged and repented of.) And I would expect us to be doing something concrete to overcome that legacy. If my pastor, or the leadership of the church, in any way preached or defended racism, I would be gone.

RELATED: A reader responds to Rod to educate him on how postmodernism wokeness broke his “conservative” church. Read it here.

BONUS: Give me time to think up an excuse for missing this gem from two weeks back, but it’s still worth investing your eyeballs: The College Fix heads to Macalester College in Minnesota to ask students if Thanksgiving merits a celebration. As you might imagine, there were plenty of snowflakes who proved un-copacetic with the holiday. Watch the video here.

Merry Bookmas

Our friends at Law & Liberty share a host of holiday book recommendations, and the great Dan Mahoney is among the contributors, of whose wisdom we serve a slice:

Frank Dikötter is the author of a monumental trilogy on Maoist tyranny and terror, addressing The Tragedy of Liberation, Mao’s Great Famine, and The Cultural Revolution, respectively. Works of exquisite scholarship and archival research, they explode any claims made on behalf of the moral legitimacy (or historical “necessity”) of Mao’s brutal tyranny. Dikötter has followed up this remarkable achievement with How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century (Bloomsbury, 2019). One might quarrel with the author’s account of the relative weight of ideology and ‘the cult of personality’ in many 20th century tyrannies. That said, the book consists of eight lucid, succinct, and revealing sketches, addressing Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Duvalier, Ceaușescu, and Mengistu (of Ethiopia). Dikötter allows us to see demonic ambition, ideological fanaticism, and personal cruelty at their feverish worst. The chapter on Kim Il-Sung is worth the price of admission. It is must reading for everyone who wants to understand the phantasmagoric Hermit Kingdom. These monstrous regimes and tyrants were too often praised by “distinguished intellectuals and eminent politicians” who should have known better. In societies that “destroyed common sense, enforced obedience, and crushed” human dignity, they saw socialist liberation or national grandeur at work. Required reading for anyone who wants to come to terms with the totalitarian temptation that haunted modern man in the 20th century, and may continue to do so for the indefinite future.

Who better sketched the connection between moral character and political destiny than the moral biographer par excellence, Plutarch, a Greek thinker and writer prominent in a Roman world? The Circe Institute, admirably dedicated to promoting and preserving classical and classical Christian education, has published a superbly translated, annotated, and illustrated edition of the lives of Numa Pompilius and Lycurgus, the semi-mythological founders of Rome and Sparta. These deftly drawn and suggestive portraits allow us to better understand political founding, and the moral foundations of civic order, as perceived by the best wisdom of antiquity. The book, called The Lawgivers, is ably translated by C. Scott Hicks, and David V. Hicks, and is available on Amazon and from the Circe Institute. It is highly recommended.

Baseballery

Mort Cooper, the booze-guzzling sore-elbowed righthander who led the NL in wins in 1942 (when he also won the MVP award) and 1943, and who helped pitch the Cardinals to two World Championships, had the distinction of being part of one of baseball’s historic fraternal batteries — his brother Walker was one of the game’s great backstops (and an eight-time All Star). Together, they anchored the Birds’ acclaimed early-40s teams.

Walker was one of baseball’s great journeymen, playing over 18 seasons, wearing the uniforms of the Cubs, Giants, Braves, Reds, and Pirates before ending his career in 1957, once again playing alongside his old teammate, Stan Musial, for his beloved Cardinals. Mort’s career ended much sooner — a last-gasp disastrous one-game performance for the Cubs in 1949. He needed the gig — he was broke. But so was his arm.

It hadn’t been all that much better two years earlier, when Mort had what was really his last round in the big time, pitching for the New York Giants, for whom he racked up a rocky 1–5 record, with a 7.12 ERA.

That one win came on June 28, 1947 at the Polo Grounds, a complete-game 14–6 beating of the Phillies. Mort’s catcher that day was none other than his brother Walker, who went 2-for-4, including a home run, with two RBIs, which was matched by Mort, who went 3-for-4 with a double and two ribbies. It was a rare distinction: two brothers, one a pitcher, one a catcher, performing fraternal battery duties for two different Major League teams. Their last team-up came in early August at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, with Mort starting but hurling only three frames in a non-decision loss for the Giants.

By the way: Only once did the brothers face each other as opponents. That came September 2, 1946 in Boston, Mort pitching then for the Braves, and registering a 6-2 complete game win over the Giants. Brother Walker went 1-for-4, his sole hit a double that knocked in both of the Giants’ runs.

A Dios

Thank the Lord for sanity prevailing in Great Britain. The election results will, pray, make our two nations even closer and enhance global prosperity, which in turn will further eliminate far-flung poverty. Hey, that’s how this stuff works!

God’s blessings and graces on you and those you cherish,

Jack Fowler, who can be the power to your spoken truth if communicated via jfowler@nationalreview.com.

P.S.: Nuts as seen in Best in Show: Watch it here.

P.P.S.: Hey we have 5 cabins left on the NR 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise and no kidding, it is the best present you can give that deserving spouse this Christmas. Find out more at nrcruise.com.

National Review

A Day of Infamy, A Week of Madness

Dear Weekend Jolter,

If you are reading this on Saturday, it is December 7, which by sad happenstance is the 78th anniversary of the dastardly attack on America at Pearl Harbor. Never forget, they say. So let us not forget. An idea: Watch and listen to President Roosevelt’s address the following day asking Congress for a declaration of war.

“But always,” said the President, midway through his speech, “will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.” Always. We do our part here, to honor those men, few and aged, who were at Pearl Harbor and those who still live on — such as Lou Conter, one of three surviving crew members of the USS Arizona — and for those souls who perished that sunny Sunday morning at the hands of Japanese imperialism, many of them entombed in that noble ship.

We remember the brave and the dead at the end of a week that may not be one of comparable infamy, but one of political madness, if Your Bumbling Correspondent might share an opinion he considers unimpeachable.

And now, let us proceed on to the Weekend Jolt. But first . . .

There Are Just 17 Shopping Days Left Until Christmas

The anxiety is mounting, but you can vanquish it, right now, by sending those you love a gift subscription to National Review. A brilliant idea, yes? Yes! Do it here.

Editorials

1. Kudos to the Trump Administration for closing loopholes in the federal government’s bloated food stamp program. From the editorial:

Many on the left complain about the rule simply because it will reduce the number of people on food stamps — by about 700,000, roughly 2 percent of total food-stamp enrollment, by the administration’s own estimate. But increasing benefit receipt is not an end in itself, especially when it comes at the expense of an incentive for childless, able-bodied adults to find work; and given the massive growth the program has seen these past two decades, there is clearly room for cuts. (Despite the recovery, total enrollment is about double what it was in 2000.) Perhaps more to the point, whatever one’s ideal level of food-stamp enrollment, there is no good reason to gut work requirements for entire areas with low unemployment while enforcing those requirements elsewhere — or to let states play games with their maps to boost eligibility.

The economy is in a good place, making now a good time to get those on welfare into the labor market by enforcing work requirements and time limits. The 1996 welfare reform proved the effectiveness of this approach. And if Congress disagrees, it’s welcome to write some new rules into the law rather than leaving these decisions to the executive branch.

2. NATO remains essential. From the editorial:

In short, the whole of peaceful modern Europe is a NATO — and especially an American — achievement.

That vast geopolitical success has been tarnished in recent years by the failure of European members of the alliance to spend more than a very modest portion, 2 percent, of their GDP on their own defense. That failure is the real source of NATO’s current weakness. Successive American presidents have complained about it with little success. When President Trump raised the rhetorical level three years ago, he was loudly denounced for weakening the Alliance. (American liberals now blame Macron’s stronger criticisms on Trump!) In fact, Trump was waking NATO up, if only into a light doze. Several countries now spend more — Poland and the Baltics spend more than the NATO target of 2 percent — and the rest must now follow their example.

If that is to happen, however, several leading European countries, notably France and Germany, have to overcome their ambivalence about NATO’s role. Germany’s outlook is confused. It is no use for Angela Merkel to sing songs of praise to NATO if her government continues to spend half of its promised defense spending. The underlying problem is that Germany’s political establishment and public opinion are tempted by a foreign policy rooted in pacifism, commercialism, anti-Americanism — and a complacent doubt that NATO is any longer necessary. NATO, however, is working today. No one should doubt that the Baltics would now be at the very least “Finlandized” states in a Russian sphere of influence, or that Poland would be experiencing border incidents, if they were not now in NATO. That’s why they pay their defense bills. A demilitarized Germany in an America-free Europe would not long remain a truly independent power.

France is a different and more creditable case. France has always wanted to exert an independence from the U.S., which has made its relations with NATO an off-and-on alliance. Macron seems to be saying today that NATO belongs to the past. Well and good. France spends money on serious military power. Paris is an ally worth having. But its recurrent vision of making the European Union into an independent military power is a delusion exposed as soon as its advocates ask: Which countries will be France’s allies in this quixotic enterprise? Not Germany. Brexit Britain? Who else?

Get Your Vitamin Sea

Yes, we are once again recycling that lame pun, and for a riverboat trip too, so there’s not even sea water involved. But involved is what you will want to be this April 19–26 on AmaWaterways’ luxurious (and chartered!) AmaMora as we travel the historic “Rhone” on the National Review 2020 Rhine River Charter Cruise.

We have a few cabins remaining, and . . . hey, why don’t you face this: You’ve always wanted to go on an NR cruise.

And face this too: You’ve always wanted to go on a European riverboat cruise.

Friend, what you want, we’ve got. Grab one of those few staterooms – make it a Christmas gift to the one you love! Get complete information at nrcruise.com.

Before the Sugarplum Visions Take Hold, Let These 15 NR Treats Dance in Your Head

1. The answer is “never.” Certainly then the question must be the title of Madeline Kearns’s new article, “When Will Transgender Clinical Activists Acknowledge Detransitioners?” From the piece:

Another detransitioner I spoke to recently was 21-year-old Helena from Chicago. She and three other young women have started a network, called the Pique Resilience Project, to help other detransitioners. Helena told me she is worried that voices like hers are being “silenced” and shut out of the transgender debate. She also worries that there is a lack of therapeutic and medical support for detransitioners. “Nobody seems educated,” she says. “A lot of practitioners don’t want to touch this with a ten-foot pole. . . . They’ll just refer you to a gender-affirmative practice.”

Helena has struggled with an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms since her early teens. At 18, she decided she wanted to socially transition and begin cross-sex hormones. She decided that after spending a lot of time online, especially on Tumblr. She believed that being transgender would help boost her social status, since previously she had struggled to make friends and be accepted by her peers.

“I saw that [you] were listened to more if [you] had an opinion and you said you were trans,” she says. “It incentivized me to want to identify as trans because it was hard to just be like a cis girl.” After talking for 20 to 30 minutes to an LGBT social worker, who asked about ten questions, she was granted testosterone.

From her social worker’s initial notes:

Patient states that since he has been able to make this appointment, his depression has already started to improve. Patient expects that his whole life will be quite different and he will be very happy when he starts to change. 

Patient states that he is 100% confident that he will get top surgery [full double mastectomy] in the future. 

Patient states that he would consider bottom surgery [genital modification] if the options that he would like for a penis became available, but he is not interested with the current options.

“It’s actually pretty ridiculous, the answers that I gave, and she like accepted those answers without questioning them,” Helena tells me. As well as making her more aggressive and permanently lowering her voice, she endured unwanted clitoral growth. Which, she notes, was “the one thing that I really didn’t want,” but she spoke of “having to sacrifice in order to get other changes.” Incidentally, this was not listed as a potential side effect on her informed-consent form.

About four months in she told her therapist she was confused and having doubts. However, the therapist, who worked at an LGBT resource center, was concerned that she might be experiencing “internalized transphobia” or familial pressure.

2. The headline of Andy McCarthy’s piece says it all: “Schiff’s Report Will Not Attract New Impeachment Supporters.” From the analysis:

Schiff ignores the ongoing Justice Department investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. Democrats despise this probe and want the public to see it as a politicized extension of the Trump 2020 campaign. It is, however, every bit as legitimate as was the Mueller probe (also approved by DOJ, and despised as political by Trump supporters). It is routine and proper for governments to seek each other’s help in investigations — especially when the obligation to assist is codified in a treaty, such as the one Washington and Kyiv have had for 20 years.

Schiff’s report obscures this fact by continuing to pretend (as Democrats did throughout Schiff’s hearings) that there is only one narrative of Ukraine’s 2016 collusion: a conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked the DNC email accounts. Regrettably, Trump has bought into this discredited notion, and he mentioned it to Zelensky during their discussion. This enables Democrats to say that Trump seeks to undermine the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was the cyber culprit. But even though the president is wrong to dabble in debunked narratives, his focus was on establishing culpability for 2016 campaign wrongdoing, not political positioning for 2020 campaign purposes.

More to the point, Schiff continues to ignore significant evidence that Ukrainian government officials meddled in the 2016 election to promote Clinton and hurt Trump — including a Ukrainian court decision that so held. Coordination among the Obama administration, the Ukrainian government, and Democratic operatives is a legitimate area of inquiry for the ongoing investigation of the Trump-Russia investigation’s genesis. Contrary to the Democrats’ story, regurgitated in Schiff’s report, there is no contradiction in believing both that Russia hacked to harm Democrats and that Ukraine meddled to harm Trump.

3. More Andy: Aren’t Democrats exploiting Constitutional powers for political purpose? Andy catches the Nadler & Co. Pot Calling the Trump Kettle Black. From the piece:

After all, the lack of due process has been one of the president’s major complaints since late October, when the House belatedly voted to endorse the impeachment inquiry that Democrats have been conducting for months. Among the fundamental elements of due process is the opportunity to be heard. Having denied this opportunity to the president in Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff’s faux grand-jury phase of the proceedings, Democrats are now inviting the president to participate in the Judiciary Committee phase, where articles of impeachment are soon to be drafted and voted on. The president’s complaints are apt to ring hollow if he carps about the witnesses from the Twitter sidelines while forfeiting the right to question them at the formal hearings.

Abstaining now could also be problematic down the road. Eventually, there will be a Senate impeachment trial. Because the House is now giving the president an opportunity to examine witnesses, Senate Democrats will have a good argument that transcripts from Nadler’s hearings should be admitted as trial evidence — i.e., the president should not be heard to complain since he will have passed up his chance to confront his accusers.

All that said, though, the White House’s position makes sense, at least for the moment.

4. Adam Schiff has put the First Amendment on his Schiff List. David Harsanyi wonders as to the whereabouts of all the self-styled champions of the free press. From the piece:

With the release of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report Tuesday came the revelation that Giuliani and his Ukrainian affiliate Lev Parnas, whom Schiff apparently subpoenaed, had exchanged calls with former The Hill columnist John Solomon, ranking Intelligence Republican Devin Nunes, and attorney Jay Sekulow. Even if we allow that the California congressman had genuine national-security concerns when he subpoenaed metadata from AT&T so he could snoop on his political opponents, what possible national-security concerns would justify unmasking them?

This was an impeachment inquiry, not a criminal investigation. If Nunes had conducted himself similarly with Hillary Clinton’s personal lawyers, the D.C. press corps would have exploded into a raging panic. Rest assured, if Schiff had unearthed anything meaningful — and the subpoenas reportedly went out before the impeachment inquiry even began — he would have shared the evidence during the inquiry rather than using it as partisan chum in a post-inquiry report.

None of those unmasked by Schiff were the target of the inquiry, and, as far as we know, none of their conversations he exposed were unlawful. Nor were any of these conversations relevant in making a case for the impeachment of Donald Trump, especially without information beyond the time, dates, and lengths of the phone calls.

Schiff’s decision to unmask a journalist, though, was especially disconcerting. It meets none of law enforcement’s typical standards.

5. Steve Emerson attends the American Muslims for Palestine convention. Zionism hate was the theme. From the beginning of the report.

Its leaders won’t condemn terrorist groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah, but the co-founder and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad, says his organization fights “Zionism on [a] daily basis.”

Awad co-founded CAIR in 1994, and is the only person to run it. In a speech to the anti-Israel group American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) last Friday, he cast Zionism as inherently hateful.

“For me, at CAIR, as the executive director of CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil-rights and advocacy organization, we deal with racism, Islamophobia, and Zionism on [a] daily basis,” he said.

AMP is a radical group that opposes Israel’s existence. It is suspected of having grown from the ashes of a now-defunct American propaganda arm of Hamas called the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). Osama Abuirshaid, now AMP’s national policy director, has said the organization seeks “to challenge the legitimacy of the State of Israel.”

Awad and others who spoke at AMP’s national convention, held in Chicago over Thanksgiving weekend, share that mission, though some of them are more circumspect than others about saying so. None of the AMP speakers criticized Israeli policies. Each took issue with Zionism, the ideology that calls for a Jewish state in Jews’ ancestral homeland. Anti-Zionism of the sort heard in Chicago ignores the political and demographic realities of life in Israel, where Israeli Arabs serve on courts, as military leaders, and in the Knesset. Such rhetoric is also routinely described as anti-Semitic by Jewish and other groups. “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is included in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of anti-Semitism, which has been adopted by 20 countries, including the United States.

6. Only four? John McCormack posits a quartet of fatal flaws that kyboshed Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign. From the analysis, here’s Point 2:

Choosing the Wrong Ground on which to Fight Harris’s breakout performance came in the June Democratic debate, when she attacked Joe Biden for opposing mandatory-busing policies in the 1970s. The move worked in the short term: Harris surged in the polls, and Biden dropped. But the senator had painted herself into a corner: Logically, to build on the attack, she would’ve had to make mandatory busing, which remains deeply unpopular, central to her message. So she dropped the issue after initially calling for new federal busing policies. It was an entirely foreseeable own goal, and the high-water mark of her campaign.

7. Rich Lowry finds the Left’s campaign against the Salvation Army a disgraceful thing. From the column:

The Salvation Army would seem a bridge too far. Its red kettles are iconic, as much a part of Christmas as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or “Miracle on 34th Street.” During the heavily commercial Christmas season, the red kettles are a token of charity and fellow feeling. It takes a perverse worldview not to have fond feelings about this tradition, which is spectacularly successful on its own terms, raising almost $150 million a year.

But the commissars of political correctness aren’t amused, and don’t let sentimentality interfere with their dictates.

They’ve already accomplished what would a few years ago have been considered impossible — bullying the explicitly Christian restaurant chain Chick-fil-A out of its donations to the Salvation Army. The army is now so radioactive that the pop singer Ellie Goulding threatened to cancel a halftime performance at the Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving, kicking off the red-kettle campaign, over the group’s alleged anti-gay bigotry.

The first thing to know about the Salvation Army is that it is a church, founded by the Methodist preacher William Booth. He started his Salvation Army, with military ranks for its clergy, to reach the hungry and the needy through service. With more than 1.5 million members and a presence in roughly 130 countries, it is a spectacular example of, as Billy Graham once put it, “Christianity in action.”

8. Jonathan Tobin finds the EU’s persistent wooing and appeasement of Iran to be threat to the West. From the piece:

The same week that Europe was celebrating NATO, six more Western European nations — Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden (all but the last one members of NATO) — announced that they would participate in the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX). INSTEX, whose founding members are Great Britain, France, and Germany, is an attempt to create a pathway to trade with Iran based on the barter of goods and services. In theory, it will allow member countries to do business in the Islamic republic without violating U.S. sanctions.

That six more countries joined INSTEX right as reports emerged that the Iranian government had met ongoing protests against price increases with unprecedented force — fatally shooting anywhere from 180 to 450 people, wounding at least 2,000, and arresting 7,000 — was shocking. It highlighted the obtuseness of INSTEX itself — the stupidity of Europe’s determination to undermine the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal Iran struck with President Barack Obama and other Western nations in 2015.

The Europeans believe that Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from what he rightly terms a disastrous deal was a betrayal of a Western alliance that was unanimous in applauding Obama’s appeasement of Iran. INSTEX participants say they are motivated by a desire to preserve a pact that was sold to the world as a way to prevent Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon. But since the deal merely postponed an Iranian bomb while ensuring its inevitability, these arguments don’t pass muster.

9. A weakened China, writes Matthew Continetti, is a cause for increased American vigilance. From the piece:

Hong Kong is the most visible reminder of the tenuous nature of Communist rule. The city has become a postmodern battleground where masked protesters wield social media and lasers to avoid armor-clad police and facial-recognition technology powered by artificial intelligence. When one looks at Hong Kong one sees a possible future where champions of freedom the world over employ desperate measures against the overwhelming resources of a mechanized Leviathan. One also sees the brittleness, confusion, and embarrassment of despotism when challenged by subjects assumed to be grateful for growth and security and immune to the will to freedom.

What is happening in Hong Kong is not isolated. The China model of authoritarian development is damaged and scarred. What seemed as sturdy and invulnerable as a Borg Cube looks more like a fragile and wobbly mobile by Alexander Calder. The regime of Xi Jinping is under economic and political and diplomatic pressure that it is not handling well. This beleaguered combatant in an era of great-power competition is more dangerous to the United States than before.

What legitimacy the Communist party possessed was based on the decades of economic growth inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. But growth has slowed to its lowest level in decades as the Chinese workforce ages, low-hanging investment opportunities disappear, and the trade war with the United States reduces manufacturing output and sends supply lines to Vietnam and Mexico. Capital is fleeing China at a record pace as the bourgeoisie hedge against stagnation and turmoil.

10. Alexandra DeSanctis checks out the divisions and fractures in the pro-choice movement. From the piece:

In other words, although abortion rates are steadily dropping, those decreases have been much higher among rich, white women than among low-income, minority women. From this perspective, McGill Johnson’s quote sounds almost eerie. The abortion-rights movement is, increasingly, an activist class of privileged women who don’t need abortion campaigning for women who often fall back on abortion out of a feeling of necessity.

But perhaps the most telling aspect of the piece is the fear gripping the pro-choice movement, riven as it is by factional conflict. “For years, abortion rights supporters like Ms. Wood believed the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling had delivered their ultimate goal, the right to reproductive choice,” the Times article says. “Now, they are grappling with a new reality: Nationwide access to abortion is more vulnerable than it has been in decades.”

Whether or not this panicked tone is merited given the state of play, the disarray on display in the article illustrates a significant point. The Left is frightened about the future of abortion rights because its entire policy framework depends on the courts.

This is what a movement looks like when its preferences are cemented in place by a judicial decision rather than by legislative action informed by the will of the people. Despite what the justices hoped, Roe didn’t settle the abortion question, and now pro-choice advocates are wrestling with the consequences of having gotten their way without putting in the work.

11. When applying for prestigious scholarships, Christian Schneider says conservatives would do best to keep their yaps shut. From the beginning of his commentary:

When British businessman Cecil Rhodes passed away in 1902, he couldn’t possibly have imagined what the world would be like in 2019. Over 117 years ago, his brain couldn’t have conceived of commercial air travel or the Internet or how great Jennifer Aniston would still look.

Further, Rhodes also would not recognize what has become of the prestigious scholarship he founded in the year of his death. For one, he would be confused that the Rhodes Scholarship was being granted to women and minorities — he was an avowed white supremacist and specifically excluded women from winning the award. (Women didn’t become eligible until 1977.)

But Rhodes would also be perplexed about the academic paths chosen by Rhodes winners and by the criteria applied to the applicants.

Last week, the Rhodes Foundation announced its 32 American scholarship recipients. The third paragraph of the statement accompanying the selections reveals the foundation’s true goals:

For the third consecutive year, the class overall is majority-minority, and approximately half are first-generation Americans. One is the first transgender woman elected to a Rhodes Scholarship; two other Scholars-elect are non-binary.

If Rhodes were to rise from the grave in 2019, he might die all over again.

Once the ultimate academic award for American students, the Rhodes Scholarship has morphed into an identity contest, where racial and sexual classifications appear to have trumped academic rigor.

12. What is it about welding, college, and income, that all combine to make a strange political stew? Erin Valdez has a very interesting piece about the need for a nexus when it comes to trade jobs. From the piece:

It’s a fair point that welding has in some ways become a trope that is trotted out by politicians and others in a debate over value of public investment in higher education. Marco Rubio’s recent “Case for Common-Good Capitalism” builds on themes the senator has previously emphasized, including the importance of vocational education. Mr. Rubio’s support for vocational education in a 2015 presidential debate was overshadowed by his claim, “Welders make more money than philosophers,” a statement which was extensively fact-checked and which he later clarified. Mr. Tough is quite right that welders do not typically make $150,000 per year. The median wage for welders, according to the BLS, is $41,380. Like most jobs, you don’t start out at the top of the income range. As you gain more experience, you get paid more.

But wages for welders, even less experienced ones, are better in some places than others, as Mr. Tough points out. Texas is a pretty good place to be a welder (or just about anything else) these days. The Houston Chronicle has a useful primer on the process of becoming a journeyman pipefitter, which describes apprenticeship (no college required) in this specialized welding field. But Orry was unwilling to move, a disinclination that is unfortunately widespread in our current moment, but one that may contribute to less-than-optimal employment outcomes.

13. Andrew Biggs says it’s nuts to expand Social Security, and he has the reasons why. From the analysis:

The shift in sentiment on Social Security reflects a shift in priorities. In the 1990s, policymakers largely saw Social Security as a budgetary challenge, with rising retirement costs pushing up taxes or squeezing out other government programs. Today, Americans are increasingly concerned that Social Security will fail to provide income stability for retirees. Seventy-five percent of Americans agree that the nation faces a “retirement crisis,” according to a National Institute for Retirement Security survey. Politicians have responded to these fears, with President Trump pledging to maintain full Social Security benefits despite the program’s looming insolvency. Progressives such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders promise benefit increases to rich and poor alike, financed by dramatically higher taxes on high earners.

Almost no one is asking whether these fears of a retirement crisis are justified and whether expanding Social Security benefits outweighs all the other competing uses for federal dollars. But new data from three trusted government agencies say that the answer to both questions is almost certainly no. While Social Security requires changes to ensure solvency and to better protect against poverty in old age, Americans’ retirement incomes and retirement savings have never been stronger.

Last summer, the Congressional Budget Office released new data based on IRS tax returns that provide a more accurate view of changing household incomes. From 1979 through 2016, the salaries of working-age households grew by 39 percent above inflation. But over that same period, incomes for households whose members are 65 and older grew by 90 percent, over twice as fast. Over the past three decades, seniors have gone from being a disproportionately poor segment of the population to a rich one. By itself, this undercuts the case for across-the-board Social Security benefit increases.

14. Armond White has a thing or three to say about the E.T.-based Xfinity commercial, A Holiday Reunion. He sees a cultural violation. From the piece:

E.T.’s story might be largely unknown to Parkland–Greta Thunberg activists. Born after E.T.’s social phenomenon, the generation made pessimistic and dystopic by Wall-E and The Dark Knight never learned Spielberg’s lesson about the ultimate ecumenical empathy. E.T.’s annunciation and resurrection imagery was so replete with Judeo-Christian resonances that, as with Spielberg’s greatest film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it was more than what Disney’s family-movie fodder could ever be.

Instead, “A Holiday Reunion” presents false nostalgia. Its appeal to Boomers encourages them to forget that E.T. was, above all, a spiritual touchstone.

In the advertisement for this advertisement, the spot’s plot is described as “37 years in the making.” So it is a shock when 47-year-old Henry Thomas himself appears as a married father of two children who embraces his old extra-terrestrial friend, returning to Earth for no apparent reason except to sell Comcast. (Adult Elliott’s couch-potato family watch cable TV with E.T., and Elliott’s son even introduces the once technologically advanced visitor to the wonders of WiFi, tablets, and virtual-reality gadgets.)

In “A Holiday Reunion,” Xfinity’s four-minute promise of media revolution, some precious part of our cultural past has been violated. E.T.’s storybook moral, the truly great moment of the alien and children bicycling across the luminous orb of the moon, as well as God’s rainbow sign to Noah, are traduced.

15. If you have a thing for Gershwin, you’re going to dig this Daniel Gelernter piece on the 1933 sequel to the composer’s hit musical, “Of Thee I Sing” – the floperoo “Let Them Eat Cake.” From the article:

Unfortunately, the writers seem to have accepted the Pulitzer Prize Committee’s interpretation. They teamed up again in 1933 to produce a sequel, and this time they actually did write a political satire. The result was Let ’Em Eat Cake — a tremendous flop. The show ran just 89 performances (compared to Of Thee I Sing’s 441) and is largely forgotten today.

It would be tempting to blame the failure on George Gershwin’s being in a sulk. Understandable as this would have been, it wasn’t the case. It may contain only one timeless masterpiece hit (“Mine”), compared with Of Thee I Sing’s two (the title song and “Who Cares”). But the score is lively and vivacious and rippling with little musical jokes drawn out of everything from Schubert to Sousa to The Pirates of Penzance. The overture makes clear just how much all subsequent musicals owe to Gershwin, who invented the gestures and orchestrational techniques that modern composers copy, perhaps unawares, when trying to conjure up the “Broadway sound.” At the same time, the construction is more intricate and deeply contrapuntal than any of Gershwin’s previous endeavors, and it was this work, rather than his next — Porgy and Bess — that Gershwin called his “claim to legitimacy.”

The problem with the show was that there was too much real and impending disaster in the topic the authors chose to satirize. In Let ’Em Eat Cake, the American president loses reelection, goes into the shirt business, and then — when his shirts aren’t selling — decides to found a revolutionary army called the “Blue Shirts” and stage a coup. The show is still very funny: The now-dictator paints the White House blue and turns the Supreme Court into a baseball team. But even though Mussolini’s Blackshirts and Hitler’s Brownshirts were still little-understood foreign curiosities in ’33, American audiences simply didn’t like a story about America being taken over by fascists. The jokes were funny, but the idea wasn’t — it made Americans uneasy.

The New Issue of National Review Magazine Is Out and Has a Rollicking Good Time Taking On Some Little Dudes

The long and short of it is, the December 22, 2019 issue comes up short . . . but in a good way. An appropriate way! Let’s keep this short: Here are four pieces — not a tall tale among them — offered to satisfy your . . . longing.

1. In the cover piece, Kyle Smith does his thing to presidential wannabe Pete Buttigieg, sanctimonious mayor of South Bend, Ind., rising in polls as he stands on his political tippy toes. From the piece:

What’s the appeal? the way Pete Buttigieg talks. He gets the juices—the sap?—of idealism flowing through liberal veins. He speaks in the language that they don’t merely respect, they revere—the language that hushes them up and makes them knit their eyebrows in sympathy. It’s that Harvard-McKinsey-PowerPoint-problem-solving-speak that sends a thrill up the leg of Kennedy School, good-government Dems. to gentry liberals, this is the new Scripture. Buttigieg connects with his Atlantic-reading, six-figure-earning, Whole Foods–shopping flock as convincingly as Joel Osteen does with his. Asking “Er, what exactly has Pete Buttigieg ever accomplished?” is, to this crowd, wholly irrelevant. Do you ask what your local priest or minister has accomplished? no, you simply revel in their homilies. Buttigieg isn’t really Mayor Pete.

He’s Saint Pete. no one has ever gone directly from being mayor of a large city to the presidency before, much less mayor of a small city. Moreover, Buttigieg faces a singular problem in that it’s easier to pronounce his name than it is to cite anything he’s done. He’s all hat and no cattle. He’s human vaporware. He’s Credential Man. Check out all the brands he’s accumulated: Harvard, Rhodes Scholarship, the navy, McKinsey & Company.

Buttigieg oozes so much Millennial arrogance that he invites the kind of dismissal Joe Biden showed when, sizing up the less-than-half-his-age competitor, he sarcasm-bombed Buttigieg with a greeting of “Mr. President.” Mayor Pete is a walking “OK, Boomer” T-shirt. Recently he suggested on Showtime’s The Circus that the Democratic primary is now a two-person race, those two being himself and Elizabeth Warren. Except Biden has held the lead in national polling virtually nonstop since he got in the race, and he’s still ahead. As of December 3, Biden was still 16 points ahead of Buttigieg in the Real Clear Politics polling average. Buttigieg has never surpassed Biden in national polls. In places like South Carolina and Nevada, Biden is stomping all over Buttigieg. Moreover, to say Buttigieg has thus far failed to make the sale to black voters is like saying Tom Brady isn’t so well liked in Buffalo. At this point Mayor Pete seems about as likely to capture South Carolina as Donald Trump is to be asked to host the Academy Awards. So far, his plan to achieve support from the black community is to pretend he already has support from the black community. To promote his alleged “comprehensive investment in the empowerment of black America,” Buttigieg rolled out a list of 400 black supporters, many of whom were either not black or not supporters. He promoted it with a photograph of someone who isn’t even American—a Kenyan resident who was surprised to find she had turned up in a stock photo that whiz kid Buttigieg was using to tout his bona fides among people of color. Buttigieg, a son of two professors, has begun gingerly hinting that being gay is kinda sorta like being black. Do blacks feel that way?

2. Another guy who got into the race a . . . short . . . time ago is former NYC Mayor and global scold Michael Bloomberg, the subject of Kevin Williamson’s analysis. From the article:

Bloomberg is a Washington outsider in genuine sense: He served three terms as mayor of New York City and has generally regarded Washington and its denizens as something somewhere between necessary evil and evil. But whereas Trump’s outsider status endeared him to Republicans, who are nearly uniform in their rhetorical detestation of Washington, Bloomberg’s outsider status does nothing for him among Democrats who are interested in centralizing power in Washington and believe, not without reason, that this ambition would best be served by the leadership of a veteran of the national legislature. Republicans in 2016 wanted a frothing rage-monster who would put Washington’s elites in their place; Democrats in 2020 want a cool insider who will rally Washington’s elites to their cause.

Which is to say, most Democrats want a variation on the theme of Barack Obama: Joe Biden was Obama’s vice president; Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg both are products of Harvard (the law school and the undergraduate college, respectively) and both would represent a first in the White House: first woman, first gay man. (You get an asterisk, James Buchanan.) Buttigieg’s smug corporate style, bred at McKinsey & Company, has more than a little Obama in it. (A little bit also of Bill Clinton, another Rhodes scholar.) Senator Warren represents to some Democrats the missed opportunity of the Obama years, an alternative storyline in which President Obama went after Wall Street hammer-and-tongs. That appeals to many Democrats, while a sizeable minority of them, between 15 percent and 25 percent, prefer the outright socialist Bernie Sanders—and Michael Bloomberg does nothing to satisfy either tendency.

And that raises Michael Bloomberg’s biggest cultural challenge in the Democratic primary: Democratic voters in 2020 are a mirror image of Republican voters in 2016 in that they do not desire mere electoral victory but also a cultural repudiation of the incumbent president—they want political antimatter, much as Republicans in 2016 found in Trump, who is as different a man from Barack Obama as the national stage had to offer. Michael Bloomberg may despise Donald Trump and hold him in contempt, but he is in affect and cultural temperament a man more similar to than dissimilar from the president, at least from the point of view of a teachers’-union-local president in Milwaukee, which is the point of view that matters most in Democratic circles.

3. Jay Nordlinger heads to Indiana and visits with an old conservative friend and man of much accomplishment, Purdue University president Mitch Daniels. From the profile:

Mitch Daniels is remarkably unchanging, both in his looks and in his views. You would recognize him at 100 paces. He looks basically the way he did when he was a Reagan aide. He thinks basically the same way too—one of the last of the Reaganite Mohicans. Today, he is president of Purdue University, and I’ve arrived at his office for a conversation.

Daniels has had a busy, multifaceted life. He was born in 1949, making him 70 today. He went to Princeton University and later to Georgetown Law. He worked as an aide to Richard Lugar, the longtime Indiana senator. Then he was in the White House, with Reagan. Leaving the White House, he headed up a think tank, the Hudson Institute. Then he worked as an executive for Eli Lilly, the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company. In the first two and a half years of the George W. Bush presidency, he was budget director. In 2004, he was elected governor of Indiana. In 2008, he was reelected. A lot of people wanted him to run for president in 2012, but he declined. In January 2013, the day his second term expired, he became president of Purdue. Moreover, he started writing a column for the Washington Post two years ago.

“You must never be bored,” I remark to him. “I never have been,” he says, adding, “I’m gonna run out the string of jobs here sometime, and I hope to finish never having been bored.”

I imagine he likes being around young people. He does indeed. “That’s why I’m here,” he says, “as much as for any other reason.” He has long had a test of whether he will like or appreciate someone: Does the person in question like kids, and, specifically, other people’s kids? “Here I am,” says Daniels, “surrounded by 30-some thousand of other people’s kids. It’s certainly one of the top two or three joys of the job.” I have read that he eats with them, in dorms, Greek houses, and other places. “I had dinner last night at a fraternity house.”

I have read that he works out with them. “I’ll be headed to the gym after we talk.” And that he attends football games with them. “Football for me is a full-contact sport. I go around the stadium and thank people for coming. I always stop to see the band, and see the other team’s cheerleaders, and see what’s going on in the student section.”

4. Nothing short or tall about David Harsanyi’s “Happy Warrior” contribution, which in part recalls the wars against litter, and the failure of current Big City libs to keep us from stepping in stuff. From the column:

One of the greatest accomplishments of the urban liberal do-gooder was cleaning up these cities. At some point in the early 1980s, citizens, not merely the wealthy but also the middle and working classes (in those days they could still afford to live in our big cities), got sick of wading through rubbish and began browbeating their neighbors into decency.

It still took decades to fix the litter problem—and, obviously, it would never be completely corrected—but the city streets were no longer complete dumps. Not Switzerland or Tokyo clean, for sure, but bearable. And though laws certainly helped with the cleaning up, it was a dramatic shift in social norms that really did the trick. Signs told people to curb their mutts. Signs told people to throw out their trash. PSAs began inundating the airwaves in the ’70s. How long could we ignore Iron Eyes Cody, the fake Indian in one of those PSAs imploring us to “keep America beautiful,” after he saw some savage throw trash from a speeding car? “People start pollution; people can stop it.” They could. Mostly by shaming those who trashed the city.

I bring up all this unpleasantness because it seems to me that many of the children and grandchildren of these heroic litter-fighters, people who haven’t had to step over broken bottles daily, are allowing our cities to backslide. I have no way of quantifying the relapse, but whenever I go back to my hometown it sure feels a bit more like the 1970s, and I don’t write those words nostalgically. “All of us have to deal with the filth that collects on the side of the road, making our community look uninviting and run down,” a spokesperson for one of the few current anti-litter campaigns in the city, Staten Island’s “Operation Clean Sweep,” recently complained. “The more litter we have on our streets, the more it becomes an accepted part of life.”

Rich and Yuval Talk Nationalism

Our Esteemed Leader and Yuval Levin discussed Rich’s new book, The Case for Nationalism, on C-Span’s “Book TV” recently. Do watch it: Here’s the link.

The Six

1. At The UnHerd, Anne-Elisabeth Moutet explains how French President Emmanuel Macron’s ambition is very real . . . and very alienating. From the analysis:

Yet on Macron proudly strides — with Europe in his sights. Even though he is struggling at home, the President, a petit-bourgeois liberal, imbued with his own undeniable but narrow intelligence, considers himself to be Europe’s natural leader. Since Germany will be preoccupied with its difficult political transition, facing signs of an early recession, and with the UK gone (the UK will be gone, won’t it?), who else is there, after all?

Some of his arrogance comes naturally, but some is theorised: why would he go against the tactics defined by de Gaulle, and followed by Giscard, Mitterrand and Chirac? The assumption that nuisance value gives you more clout in international politics has always been a mainstay of French power projection. Macron is simply continuing the tradition.

But alienating friends and not influencing people is all too often coupled with a lack of effort to understand how France’s partners think. And given that many decisions have to be taken unanimously by the EU27, it’s hard to see how he’d make a success of European leadership.

Macron does have a unique way of ruffling feathers — from his Nato remarks to his recent veto against EU membership application for both Albania and North Macedonia and his rudeness to Mrs Merkel. It will trip him again and again: the President will never be a team player. So as the country literally grinds to a halt, Macron stands alone with only his ambition and acolytes for company.

2. At the Daily Mail, Andrew Roberts body-slams Labour commissar Jeremy Corbyn. From the piece:

This ingrained hatred towards America led him to describe the 2011 killing of Osama Bin Laden by US special forces as ‘a tragedy’, saying the Al Qaeda leader should instead have been brought to trial.

In a rant on Iranian State TV – that bastion of human rights and fair judicial process – Corbyn continued: ‘The World Trade Center [terrorist attack] was a tragedy, the [UN-authorised] attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war on Iraq was a tragedy.’

And it has resurfaced most recently in the ludicrous conspiracy theory that Boris Johnson is ‘selling off our NHS to the Americans’. Basing his so-called ‘revelations’ on documents relating to preliminary trade talks where no politicians and only low-level officials were present, shows how he is prepared to shoehorn anything into his rigid world view.

And this is why he is totally unfit for public office – because his deep commitment to a socialist future rides roughshod over the facts.

Similarly, Corbyn’s hatred of Nato – which has underpinned our national security for 70 years – has led him to blame it for ‘provoking’ Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine.

He claims to support human rights but is never heard denouncing Venezuela, Cuba and Iran – all serial offenders. Why? Because these countries support his totalitarian vision, and above all Corbyn is primarily concerned with pursuing his single-minded ideology, no matter the human cost.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern explains how the Islamic State is alive, well, and festering in Europe. From the article:

At least 1,200 Islamic State fighters, including many from Western countries, are being held in Turkish prisons. Another 287 jihadis from at least 20 different countries have been captured by Turkish forces since the start of an offensive that began on October 9 against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeastern Syria.

Approximately 100 German Islamic State supporters are believed to be in custody in Turkey, according to the German news agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur. The German Interior Ministry said that although the identity of the jihadis being held by Turkey was not known, they could not be denied entry to Germany if they indeed were German citizens.

A German government spokesman, Armin Schuster, insisted that the German returnees were not “serious cases” and warned against “media-fueled hysteria.” He explained: “They did not take part in the fighting. They won’t be sent to prison, but they must be kept under surveillance.”

On November 11, Turkey officially began repatriating Islamic State detainees to the West by deporting a German, an American and a Dane.

On November 14, Turkey repatriated another eight Islamic State fighters: seven Germans and one Briton. One man, a German-Iraqi father of a family of seven named Kanan B., was accused by Turkey of being a member of the Islamic State. German authorities allowed the man and his family to return to their home in Lower Saxony. They said that although he is a member of the Islamist Salafist movement, they do not believe that he ever joined the Islamic State.

4. At Law & Liberty, Theodore Dalrymple takes on the ethicists who are confounded by trans lunacy. From the analysis:

The Journal of Medical Ethics recently had a paper with the title “Transwomen in elite sport: scientific and ethical considerations.” Interestingly, my computer, which underlines in red words that I misspell, did not do so when I entered transwomen, which I suppose means that the word is as bona fide a word of the English language as, say, goldfinch or skylark.

Of course, the flexibility and adaptability of the English language is one of its glories. The ethical (and no doubt soon to be legal) problems referred to in the title of this paper arise when men who have had themselves changed into simulacra of women compete in women’s sport and benefit from residual male strength, such that they are able to win matches or tournaments in an unfair fashion.

The problem of the definition of womanhood in sport is not entirely new. I remember from my youth the problem of the Press sisters, the champion Soviet women athletes who won Olympic medals but were strongly suspected of not being women at all. To win medals at the Olympics and other world championships was regarded at the time as evidence of the superiority of one ideological system over another, surely one of the most fatuous notions ever to strike Mankind; but so it was, and totalitarian regimes were particularly ruthless and unscrupulous in the production of champions at all costs. In the days preceding the Moscow Olympics in 1980, the now-defunct magazine, Punch, ran a cartoon showing the sex-test of an athlete in Moscow. An inspector is looking at a female athlete trying to change a tractor-tire. “You’re not a woman,” he says. “A real woman would have changed that tire by now.” Such a joke would now probably arouse protests worldwide, because people so enjoy their outrage.

The problem alluded to in this paper is, of course, the consequence of a fiction, namely that a man who claims to have changed sex actually has changed sex, and is now what used to be called the opposite sex. But when a man who claims to have become a woman competes in women’s athletic competitions, he often retains an advantage derived from the sex of his birth. Women competitors complain that this is unfair, and it is difficult not to agree with them.

When it deals with the science of the question—for example, the effect of testosterone levels on athletic performance—the paper is measured and fair. But as soon as it comes to purely ethical problems, the authors give the impression of being frightened of being declared heretics by an unseen but clearly present Inquisition. They begin to write in a new langue de bois, that special kind of language utilised in totalitarian dictatorships (we seem to live increasingly in a world of various micro-totalitarianisms).

5. Springtime for Kleagle: Campus liberals shut down a play because it has KKK characters. Daniel Payne covers the absurdity at The College Fix. From the report:

How bad can campus liberal activism get? This bad: At Washington College in Maryland, students there succeeded in getting the school to shut down a play—one day before opening night—because some of the play’s characters were members of the Ku Klux Klan. You’re not reading that wrong: Students were aggrieved simply because some fictional characters in the production were members of an evil terrorist organization, and so the play had to go.

Even by the cracked and useless standards of campus activism, this is rather astonishing. One of the basic markers of a sound and cognizant mind is the ability to adequately discern between reality and fiction—to recognize when something is real and when it is contrived for the purpose of entertainment. It may come as a shock to the students at Washington College, but: Those weren’t real Klansmen. They weren’t going to hurt you. They were actors portraying fictional characters. Nobody was in any danger, at any time, at all, in any way. It was not necessary to cancel this play.

Then again, the standards of campus progressivism are lower than you might expect. The play in question, The Foreigner, was a comedy, and the Klan elements in it are addressed partly through the lens of satire. Yet as one activist put it: “[P]utting the KKK on stage in a satirical way is not appropriate because nothing about the historical and present day ramifications of the KKK is funny.”

More from The College Fix: Greg Piper gives a thorough accounting of Mann v. National Review. Read it here.

6. At City Journal, Brian Patrick Eha counsels that men’s magazines offer no guidance to men adrift. From the beginning of the essay:

When Jay Fielden, late of Esquire, announced his departure as editor-in-chief this past May, he did it in foppish style. An Instagram post showed him leaving Hearst Tower dressed in a safari jacket and dark sunglasses, designer bags in hand. The photo, which fastidiously aped a famous shot of Jack Nicholson, was roundly mocked on social media. But it served as a fitting, if unwitting, symbol of how the Esquire of today stands in comparison with the Esquire of an earlier era—as a self-conscious echo, a superficial imitation of its former self. Nicholson, after all, was merely living his life; Fielden was playing pretend. The door, closing behind him, closed not only on a three-year run in which the magazine he helmed won not a single National Magazine Award—this after a 19-year span in which his immediate predecessor won 17—but also, it was felt in some quarters, on the cultural moment when such a thing as a men’s magazine had any remaining relevance.

Esquire, Details, Men’s Journal, Maxim, Playboy—it would be easier to list the men’s titles that haven’t shut down, cut issues, changed owners, blown up their editorial strategies, or become all but unrecognizable since 2015. In a tough media environment, men’s magazines are suffering more than most. Some—notably, Playboy and Esquire—appear to have decided that appealing primarily to men is no longer the best way forward. Their recent issues serve as signposts toward the future that, we are told over and over these days, is female—or, better yet, divorced from the gender binary altogether. What we stand to lose from their cultural eclipse is a certain ballast and guidance just as men need it most.

In 2017, more than twice as many men died of opioid overdoses in the United States as women—32,337 to 15,263. The national suicide rate stands at its highest level in 50 years, and while it has increased for both sexes, men are nearly four times as likely to take their own lives. More women than men now attend—and graduate from—four-year colleges. At the very moment that large numbers of American men are adrift, in the very midst of their hunger for meaning, men’s magazines are leaving them behind.

Books, Books, Books! And Books!

1. Earlier this year we published a much-acclaimed double special issue (actually, two full issues of your favorite magazine) on Socialism (against) and Free Markets (for). Urged to publish these 24 essays making the case for our principles, and against the determined enemy (i.e., socialism) of them, we discussed the book prospect with our friends at Post Hill Press. They agreed (excellent idea), and acted, and here it is, sweetly and simply titled: Against Socialism, and filled with the wisdom of Rich Lowry, Charles C. W. Cooke, Kevin D. Williamson, John O’Sullivan, Yuval Levin, David L. Bahnsen, Timothy P. Carney, and many more. Get yours in quality softcover, or the Kindle edition. Order at Amazon, right here.

OK, as to the question Will it make an excellent Christmas gift? the answer is Yes. Indeed!

2. Another great book smacking Socialism upside its thick skull is Amity Shlaes’ Great Society: A New History. Get the down-lo right now by listening to two podcast interviews: John J. Miller interviews Amity on NR’s The Bookmonger, and at The Power Line Show, the Amity and Steven Hayward chat up Great Society.

Want more? Michael Barone provides an excellent review in the Wall Street Journal. Kudos to Amity. Order your copies here.

3. The senior senator and presidential wannabe from Massachusetts is in for it, courtesy of our pal David Bahnsen’s important new book assessing a (thought-perishing) POTUS Warren — it’s titled Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream, and right now it is available in audio format: You can get it at Amazon, Audible, or iTunes.

Listen and you will discover a smartly written takedown of what the subtitle claims: How the leftist senator’s trillions-upon-trillions agenda, if implemented, is going to sucker punch America’s Middle Class.

Here’s a taste of some praise about EWHHPWDTMCATAD, from Steve Forbes: “The choices in the 2020 election couldn’t be more stark: Socialism or Capitalism. A buoyant, opportunity-rich economy or economic stagnation and evermore social strife. This well-written, lucid, always-interesting book convincingly makes the case for freedom over tyranny. Essential reading!”

If you thought Steve had nice things to say, get this from Andy McCarthy: “What a great political and economic anomaly: The populist Left, championed by Elizabeth Warren, is determined to vanquish wealth — the thing most essential to the investment, productivity, and growth desperately needed to underwrite the evermore ambitious progressive agenda. Here, David Bahnsen, a brilliant financial analyst with a keen political eye, provides the antidote to Senator Warren’s nostrums, and a Hazlitt-esque Capital in One Lesson for the rest of us.”

4. Oft-mentioned in this weekly screed is Bradley Birzer, king of The Imaginative Conservative and professor of history at Hillsdale College. He has an important new book out, which we recommend: Beyond Tenebrae: Christian Humanism in the Twilight of the West. What’s it all about? We’ll tell you, Alfie:

Beyond Tenebrae is about Christian humanism in all its breadth and depth, and the persons and groups best embodying it (quite apart from any particular social or political stance) in the last century and a half. Modern readers who sense the greatness of the “Republic of Letters” that commenced with the wisdom of the ancient Greeks and has endured for over two millennia will benefit from being introduced to the great men and women presented in these pages, ranging from lesser-known figures (T.E. Hulme, Canon Bell, Clyde Kilby, Theodore Haecker) to the more famous (Irving Babbitt, Christopher Dawson, Russell Kirk, Alexander Solzhenitsyn). Nor does the author, Bradley Birzer, a keen student of literature and poetry, neglect literary figures with strong humanist motivations, again ranging from the celebrated (Willa Cather, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Flannery O’Connor) to those who are forgotten or controversial (Shirley Jackson, Walter Miller, Margaret Atwood). We are treated as well to vignettes of those who influenced Birzer’s own life as a conservative and a humanist. By an interweaving of philosophical reflections with vivid biographical portraits, a vision emerges of a broad, responsible, humble, self-aware Christian humanism that can be a light shining in the darkness of the postmodern West.

Professor Double B is upstream, at the barricades, fighting the culture wars — his vital voice can be heard loud and clear in Beyond Tenebrae. Order your copy.

Baseballery

First, let us note the passing of Seymour Siwoff, the former owner of the Elias Sports Bureau, the statistical mothership for the MLB and so many other sports. Your humble correspondent had the privilege of working there long ago and far away. Rest in Peace. The same to Val Heim, the MLB’s oldest living player, who passed away last month, age 99. He played in 13 games for the White Sox in 1942, and if there was anything to note about Heim’s brief career (like that of many, cut short by WW2), it would be that on September 20 he played both games of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns, and drove in a total of four runs that day, on just one hit.

That leaves the great Eddie Robinson as the National Pastime’s oldest living player. As Yours Truly wrote in a particularly baseball-intensive WJ a few months back, Robinson . . . “a four-time All Star first baseman, played for seven of the AL’s eight franchises from 1942 to 1957. He never got to take the field for the Red Sox. And Robinson is still kicking: The former general manager for the Texas Rangers will celebrate his 99th birthday in December.” That happens on the 15th. Enjoy that, and many more.

A Dios

On that fateful day in 1941, 2,335 military personnel and 68 civilians died at Pearl Harbor. One who dodged death and fought back was Army Air Corps second Lieutenant Phil Rasmussen, the pajama-clad pilot who got his Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighter up into the air with guns blazing — he shot down one of Hirohito’s Zeros. He lived to fight throughout the war, and to defeat the enemies of freedom (listen to this lecture he gave on the 50th anniversary of the attack).

Did he do it so that American lawmakers could engage in its current liberal lunacies to undo legitimate elections? The question is rhetorical. This request — would you pray for the souls of those who died that day? — is not.

God Bless and Protect You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, who remains open to your attacks, if necessary, and words of encouragement, if such can be imagined, at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

ZZzzzzupreme Court

Dear Weekend Jolter,

We do hope that you enjoyed Thanksgiving Day and its aftermath, and maybe are still in the glow of that annual turkey-induced coma/nap. By the way, even though the turkey causa est old-wives-talery is a load of gastronomic stuffing, that’s one party we will not officially poop.

But the week did begin, for NR, with a sizeable and official party-poopage: On Monday, the United States Supreme Court, guardian of the First Amendment and defender against all those who wish to curtail, limit, gag, hinder, abuse, muffle, and duct-tape it, was napping while on duty. It formally denied this institution’s request (officially, our Petition for a Writ of Certiorari) that it take up National Review v. Mann, the case which many believe, correctly, is the current major threat to the right we thought so unalienable.

Alas, it seems to be quite . . . alienable.

This grimacing by Your Humble Correspondent should not distract you from the dissent (a rare thing accompanying cert petition denials) filed by Justice Samuel Alito, who believed his Supreme colleagues should have taken up the case given the risk Professor Mann’s claim poses to free speech. In the Justice’s words:

The petition in this case presents questions that go to the very heart of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press: the protection afforded to journalists and others who use harsh language in criticizing opposing advocacy on one of the most important public issues of the day. If the Court is serious about protecting freedom of expression, we should grant review.

You can read the Alito dissent here (it starts on page 19). More on all this below. Thank you Mr. Justice — you deserved an extra serving of cranberry sauce, and the drumstick, for your wisdom. And one last word on this: The cert denial was not a decision on the merits of the arguments made in our petition. Nor was it a decision on the merits of Mann’s initial lawsuit (filed back in . . . 2012!). Nor does it preclude SCOTUS from reviewing NR’s claim at a later point.

We will have our day in court — for the time being, not the Supreme one. We resume the fight to protect this right — it’s ours and yours — in the District of Columbia court system. It’s about as liberal as they come. But we are confident that we will prevail.

Now, as mentioned in last week’s edition of this missive, what is before your eyes is a truncated, filed-early version of the usual. You’ll find no Baseballery, The Six, etc. Editor Phil has been freed from his galley-slave duties and is traveling, so we have kept the offerings to editorials and a dozen or so NRO pieces that should tide you over.

Glad tidings we hope, especially now that Advent is upon us this weekend.

Editorials

1. You blew it, SCOTUS. From the editorial:

At stake in this case are nothing less than two of the core guarantees that undergird American life. The first is the promise that all people may engage in robust political debate without fear of retribution from the sensitive and the malicious. The second is the promise that when legal disputes do arise, they will be resolved in a timely manner — before, not after, the targeted party has been bled of precious time and resources. Thus far in National Review Inc. v. Michael E. Mann, neither of these guarantees has been upheld. We are now seven years into this saga, and there remains no end in sight. On the case rolls — a Jarndyce and Jarndyce for the 21st century.

Justice Alito notes that “in recent years, the Court has made a point of vigilantly enforcing the Free Speech Clause even when the speech at issue made no great contribution to public debate.” And so it should. But one would expect that a Court that takes the time to superintend the marginal cases would have time for the foundational cases, too. And make no mistake: This is a foundational case. Aware of what is at risk here, a host of media organizations from across the entire political spectrum have filed amicus curiae briefs in support of National Review. We may not agree with the Washington Post, Time Inc., the ACLU, and the Cato Institute on everything — or, often, on much — but on this we all speak as one.

In response, we have heard little more than radio static. We appealed to the Supreme Court because no other institution seemed willing to bring this case to the close that it so richly deserves. Washington, D.C., in which city the suit was brought, operates under a well-written “anti-SLAPP” law, the sole intent of which is to prevent and cut short precisely this sort of litigiousness and harassment and thereby to protect free speech in America. And yet, for all the good it has done, that statute may as well be written on clouds. Seven years in, it has done nothing to convince the lingering D.C. Court of Appeals that it should do anything more than issue footnotes, and it has done nothing to convince the Supreme Court that this is a problem worthy of its attention. What, we can only wonder, would a non-expedited process look like?

2. The ChiComs are a twisted bunch. If you don’t believe that, ask any Uyghur. From the editorial:

The government has rounded up more than a million Uyghurs and other minorities, throwing them into concentration camps, or “reeducation” camps. These camps constitute a Chinese gulag archipelago.

Among the Uyghurs, there are a relative handful of militants, as there are among the Rohingyas (the minority people whom the Burmese government has brutalized). This gives the government an excuse to go after everyone — think of Lidice, multiplied untold times.

Some Uyghur inmates have been tortured to death; many have been driven to suicide. The Chinese government aims to stamp out Uyghur culture, religion, language — all of it.

The government has moved ethnic Chinese men into Uyghur homes, to act as substitute fathers and husbands. The real fathers and husbands are away in the camps (if they are indeed still alive).

Also, the government gets them young. The government rounds up young Uyghurs, before they have committed any “crime,” even in the Communist Party’s eyes. In Cuba, the government has done the same thing, for decades. The Cuban government commonly arrests people on the charge of “pre-criminal social dangerousness.”

On Monday, the Associated Press had a staggering report. It talks of “the Chinese government’s deliberate strategy to lock up ethnic minorities even before they commit a crime, to rewire their thoughts and the language they speak.” The report also cites a slogan — a mission statement, if you will — from the Ministry of Justice: to “wash brains, cleanse hearts, support the right, remove the wrong.”

Come Back for Seconds, Thirds, and Twelfths . . . the Weekly NRO Feast Awaits You and Your Insatiable Appetite

1. John McCormack has a great interview with Congresswoman Elise Stefanick. From the piece:

Even before she grabbed the national spotlight during the public impeachment hearings, Stefanik had risen rapidly in politics.

After graduating from Harvard in 2006, she held a variety of Washington staff jobs — in the Bush White House, at the Foreign Policy Initiative think tank, and in the presidential campaigns of Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney (where she was in charge of Paul Ryan’s debate prep) — before returning home to upstate New York to run for Congress in the 2014 midterm elections. In three consecutive elections before Stefanik ran, a Democrat won the historically Republican district, due in large part to the fact that moderate Republicans and conservatives were divided. Stefanik defeated a pro-choice Republican in the primary and went on to win the general election by 37 points, becoming, at the time, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress (a record now held by another member from New York, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).

What’s next for the young, talented, and ambitious congresswoman? As a representative in New York, a Republican has virtually no chance of winning statewide office. But maybe Stefanik could see herself serving in House leadership someday? “No,” Stefanik tells me, “I thrive on focusing on my district, focusing on the substance of my committees. I’m a really active member of the three committees that I sit on: the House Armed Services Committee, Education and Workforce, and Intelligence.”

What about a post in the Trump administration? Would Stefanik serve as secretary of state if Mike Pompeo steps down to run for Senate and President Trump asks her to join his cabinet? She does not say no. “I am focused on my district,” Stefanik replies. “We will see; that’s a lot of hypotheticals. But I’m focused on my district.”

In the short term, Stefanik is focused on fighting impeachment in the House.

2. Victor Davis Hanson enjoys Adam Schiff’s comeuppance. From his piece:

Schiff’s overweening ambition and ego drove him into a full-fledged, prime-daytime soap opera. Previously washed and rinsed witnesses returned for televised cross-examinations with Schiff in the star inquisitor role. He apparently thought he could outperform his own Republican colleagues on camera — people he had blatantly misrepresented for weeks.

But television allowed the country to conclude that seeing and hearing Schiff all day long was a different experience from catching minute- or two-minute glimpses of him. The TV version was entirely toxic.

In person, some of the House civil-servant witnesses were haughty. They were certainly obsessed with their positions, titles, and résumés, and eager to talk down to others while talking themselves up. But mostly they sounded incoherent in decrying a brief hold on military assistance to Ukraine by a president who in fact has armed Ukrainians in a way his predecessor never dared. Most of the public came away with several general takeaways — all harmful to the Democrats.

One, the more viewers learned of the corrupt, wily Ukrainians (who were constantly shifting alliances to bet on the anticipated 2016 front-runner), the more they thought that Trump might have been circumspect to have held up, if only for a few weeks, U.S. military assistance in the first place, at least until he learned the nature of the new Ukrainian president. The more one learned about the baffling array of freelancing and often duplicitous Ukrainian ambassadors, prosecutors, foreign ministers, presidents, and gas directors, the more one concluded it might be better to let them get their house in order first.

Two, why blast a president who armed the Ukrainians while staying silent about a prior president who refused military aid and even used non-military aid as a lever to adjudicate Ukraine prosecutions?

Three, the House Republican interrogators, previously mostly unknown, turned out to be far more effective cross-examiners than their Democratic counterparts, in part because the latter were trying to remove a president on the basis of hearsay.

3. If the answer is yes, the question must be the one posed by David Harsanyi: Is impeachment backfiring on the Democrats? From the piece:

It’s highly probable, in fact, that a Senate trial run by Republicans, with new witnesses and evidence, would further corrode the Democrats’ case. Liberals, of course, will pretend that Senate Republicans are members of a reactionary Trump cult, putting party above country, but if there had been incontrovertible proof of “bribery,” a number of them would be compelled to act differently. No such evidence was provided. Adding an obstruction article, based on the Mueller Report, would only make the proceedings even more intractably partisan — yet the recent push to force Don McGahn to testify suggests Democrats could be headed in that direction.

In any case, what we can look forward to in a Senate trial is more Ukrainian drama. Far from weakening Trump in 2020, the story might end up dragging Joe Biden into a defensive posture. Journalists perfunctorily refer to anything related to Ukrainians or the Bidens as a “conspiracy theory,” but it’s clear that Hunter Biden was cashing in on his father’s influence and still unclear what Joe Biden did about it. Republicans have already requested transcripts of conversations between Biden and then–Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko over the vice president’s requests to fire Viktor Shokin. It’s going to become a difficult story to ignore. (How long before the hard-left contingent vying for the Dem nomination starts asking questions about Biden’s cronyism?)

So what is the upside? At first, Democrats claimed that polls were irrelevant because impeachment was a moral and patriotic imperative. Once national support spiked, numbers suddenly mattered very much, and the usual suspects couldn’t stop talking about them. What most polls now confirm is that while Americans were paying attention to the breathless media coverage, public support for the inquiry is at best stagnant and probably declining.

RELATED: Rich Lowry takes on the Democrats’ “Check-the-Box Impeachment” process. From his column:

The minimum requirement of a historic impeachment case, only the fourth in our history, would seem to be a complete account of the facts. Schiff used to say as much: “We have to flesh out all of the facts for the American people. The seriousness of the matter and the danger to our country demands nothing less.” Now, the seriousness and the danger are demanding that Democrats rush things along so the president can be impeached by the end of the year.

No matter how often Democrats say, “Let’s honor the Constitution,” their actions say, “Let’s check the box.”

Democrats have had the difficulty from the beginning of trying to build an edifice of impeachment and removal atop the narrow foundation of the Ukraine episode, and now they aren’t even going to finish the edifice, content with what they could complete in a two-month investigation largely reliant on the testimony of people who weren’t around for the main events (former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch) or were out of the loop (former Trump Russia adviser Fiona Hill).

It’s not as though getting firsthand witnesses will weaken the Democratic case; it will in all likelihood make it stronger. But with every day that passes, it becomes a little more absurd to say Trump should be impeached and removed when the public can make its own verdict in the election. Besides, Democrats know that impeachment is going nowhere in the Senate, so why bother locking down the case to make it worthy of the gravity of the process?

4. Thank you, Ryan Berg, for the exceptional analysis of on-the-run Bolivian jefe Evo Morales, BFF of socialism, thief of votes, and destroyer of economies. From the beginning of the piece:

When President Evo Morales of Bolivia was caught by election observers in an artless attempt to steal an illegal fourth term, the police withdrew their support for the president. Realizing that they were next in the chain of command, the military preemptively warned Morales that they would refuse to fire on innocent protesters, who had turned out in great numbers demanding his resignation, and suggested he resign as a means of ending the crisis. Since then, debate has raged, as Morales claims he is another victim in a long line of Latin American leaders toppled by a U.S.-backed coup.

As an asylee in Mexico City, Morales continues to foment violence and plot a return to power. Deadly confrontations have broken out between his supporters and those of the new interim government, leading to the deaths of more than 30 Bolivians. At this point, however, with a political comeback highly unlikely, it is best to turn away from the merits of the coup debate and instead address Morales’s legacy after almost 14 years in power. Many in the region have shed a tear for Morales, defending his legacy as one of firsts and pointing to his poverty reduction as proof that his brand of “socialism can work,” as one Washington Post columnist put it recently.

The question of Morales’s legacy is more than an academic exercise. In fact, it has implications well beyond Bolivia. Recently, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, yet nearly 50 percent of Americans now embrace some form of socialism. This is somewhat understandable: Younger Americans did not live the Cold War experience or encounter the grim reality of life behind the Iron Curtain. When they are confronted with this reality through history books and video evidence, the most common refrain remains commitment to the tenets of socialism while arguing that the regimes of Eastern Europe erred in their “poor application” of the principles. And for Morales’s supporters, Bolivia was engaged in a “good application” of socialism. Yet the truth is messier and far less convenient than Morales’s defenders would like to admit.

5. Chester Finn and Frederick Hess sound the alarm that Wokeness is threating education reform. From the piece:

The damage inflicted on our educational institutions by the onrushing tsunami of wokeness is starting to worry even a few prominent progressives. Former president Obama himself recently fretted about young activists who are “as judgmental as possible about other people,” cautioning that they’re “not bringing about change.”

As a hyper-judgmental, hyper-sensitive mindset washes from colleges into our nation’s schools, however, change is indeed being brought about: The wokeness wave is destroying unblemished reputations, driving admirable people from the field, and undermining sorely needed efforts at school improvement.

Today, we’re a nation still at risk, due to the faltering achievement of far too many children — a problem vividly on display in student performance that has been flat for a decade. Addressing that challenge requires a broad and durable coalition. This is only possible if reformers work with those who have different views and values and then have the courage to stand by their allies.

School reformers have long seen themselves as plucky champions of change. Today, however, as funders and advocacy groups chant from a common hymnal of wokeness, the rules have changed and courage is hard to find. In its place we see cravenness and appeasement from reformers desperate to avoid the all-seeing eye of the progressive mob.

Acclaimed Columbia professor John McWhorter recently decried the “tribalist, inquisitional excommunication” that caused a biology professor at Evergreen State College to be “hounded out of his post for refusing to heed a demand that whites vacate the campus for a day.” McWhorter’s focus, however, was mostly on the charter-school sector, which has lately seen successful school leaders forced out because of complaints that they are racist, sexist, misogynist, or opinionated in ways that critics don’t like.

6. Rebeccah Heinrichs has a sit-down with OSO Mike Pompeo. The subject: Red China. From the piece:

In addition to the Hong Kong elections, there was more breaking news over the weekend related to the CCP: An alleged Chinese spy defected to Australia and shared a trove of details about the pervasiveness of the party’s disinformation campaigns, its kidnapping of journalists and efforts to bully and intimidate journalists, and its astonishing efforts to infiltrate foreign universities and subvert governments disinclined to support its totalitarian vision.

Understandably, Pompeo couldn’t go into any detail about the case beyond acknowledging that he’s seen the reports of the defection. “The Trump Administration is keenly aware of the risks of Chinese efforts to influence and to conduct espionage campaigns, and so we’re taking all the appropriate measures,” he said. “We talk about them in lots of different contexts: protecting our elections, protecting American intellectual property. All of the things that President Trump has talked about in the context of trade often have a true national-security component to them as well.”

That’s a realization U.S. officials would be wise to take to heart. It is impossible to compartmentalize trade and national security. For too long, the United States acted as though they were separate, and as though economic incentives would be enough to transform adversaries into allies. That has proven over and over again to be false. It is increasingly difficult to argue that entire business sectors aren’t directly enabling the CCP’s gross abuses of Chinese religious minorities. Countries still holding on to the hope that deep economic ties will keep them out of the CCP’s military sights should be disabused of that notion sooner rather than later.

7. Boola Boola S***: Ivy League brats occupy the 50-yard line to lament on climate change. Jonathan Tobin blocks the kick. From the article:

Are environmental activists changing the hearts and minds of Americans about global warming, inspiring them to treat it as a pressing crisis? So far, the results are mixed, as we saw last Saturday when climate protesters stormed the field to disrupt the annual Harvard–Yale football game. The stunt earned more boos than cheers from the crowd at the Yale Bowl in New Haven.

Polls have shown that more Americans than ever before are aware of climate change as an issue, but they are mixed about whether it is a “crisis” or just a “problem” that won’t require major sacrifices to fix, as a recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found.

That survey showed that Americans were split down the middle on how to define climate change, with 38 percent saying it is a crisis and an equal number calling it merely a problem. But the results were far more one-sided when it came to the question of what to do about climate change, with 62 percent of the public saying that any solution will require only “minor sacrifices” or “not much sacrifice.” Only 37 percent believe it will require “major sacrifices.”

The public’s disinclination to see climate change as a pressing global catastrophe is fueling the rage of activists. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has become an international celebrity for her angry warnings that we’re on the brink of “mass extinction,” is widely applauded by the media, but there’s little indication that Americans are ready to heed her advice. Indeed, some environmental activists think her emphasis on pushing people to change their personal behavior — to give up meat, cheese, plastic, and air travel — is bound to undermine their cause. They have little hope that people living in the 21st century will be content to live as if they were in the 19th because Thunberg and other activists tells them it will save the planet. These advocates want the sole focus to be on governments, not individuals.

8. Madeleine Kearns provides the much-needed update on the upcoming British elections and Boris Johnson’s “extraordinary manifesto.” From the report:

Get Brexit Done. Unleash Britain’s Potential. This is the Tory party’s election manifesto, a 59-page document promising a swift Brexit, big spending, tax freezes, an improved National Health Service, and more funding for law enforcement.

In ordinary times, the document would be a letdown to fiscal conservatives. But these are not ordinary times. On December 12, Britons will go to the ballot box and decide whether the occupant of No. 10 Downing Street should be Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn, a Marxist and — some believe — a maniac.

With regards to Brexit, Johnson is promising a swift and moderate delivery to his Brexit deal and a short transition period. Corbyn is promising a renegotiation followed by a second referendum. Labour has not indicated whether it will be backing Brexit in the referendum.

With regards to the economy, Johnson is promising an end to austerity (without tax hikes). He is also pursuing free-trade agreements with the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. His government intends to borrow £100 billion for infrastructure investment. Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, has called the infrastructure plan “the biggest increase in the size of the state under a Conservative Prime Minister since Harold Macmillan.”

Naturally, however, Corbyn is promising more. Much more. For every $1.30 of spending that the Tories are offering in their manifesto, Labour is offering $36.

For starters, Corbyn plans the biggest increase in newly constructed “council” (i.e., welfare) housing since World War II, which would cost $96 billion. Corbyn also wants to reduce the working week to 32 hours (with no decrease in pay); provide free TV licenses for people older than 75, at $961 million (all British residents must buy an annual license to watch TV); create a new social-security system costing $10.8 billion; provide free dental treatment and prescription drugs; free college tuition, for $9.3 billion a year; free “personal care” for people older than 65 and 30 hours of free child care a week for children under four — only $7.2 billion a year for the state to raise your children!

9. And before you can say Bob’s your uncle, John O’Sullivan provides his own analysis of the forthcoming election and its promise of Brexit Ho! From the article:

The net effect is that support for Remain is divided almost two-to-one between these two parties (in England, that is, since Scotland, with the pro-Remain Scottish National party in the game, requires a different calculation). In sharp contrast, Leave support is divided about twelve-to-one between the Tories and Nigel Farage’s insurgent Brexit party. It was always likely that a Tory party led by Boris Johnson and proposing some form of Brexit would scoop the great majority of Leave voters from the Brexit party, but Farage might perhaps have held onto, say, 8 percent of voters, or one-sixth of the total Leave vote, if he had kept all his 600 candidates in the race. But Leave voters in both parties pressured him to withdraw, and after a public struggle with himself, he agreed to stand down Brexit-party candidates in all 318 Tory seats. As a result, the Brexit party is now at about 3 percent in the polls, reflecting the broad decision of Leave voters to consolidate around the Tories. Since a badly divided Remain coalition now faces a united Leave one, that points to a substantial Tory victory but one short of a landslide.

Could that change? Of course. Events are unpredictable and have unpredictable effects. No one expected the Manchester bombing in 2017, still less its undermining impact on the Tory campaign of strong and stable government. But there is one decision by Boris that has so far strengthened the Tory lead but could perhaps turn sour.

Two weeks ago the Tories were quietly negotiating with Farage over a possible deal (that, as it happens, bore some resemblance to the electoral logic I sketched out in my last Brexit article). If the reports are accurate, Farage wanted the Tories to withdraw from about 40 northern seats where he believed the Brexit party had the better chance of defeating the Labour incumbent. In return, he would not put up candidates anywhere else. The Tories saw this logic but proposed a half-hearted version of it: Namely, they would not withdraw their own candidates in the Labour seats Farage sought, but they wouldn’t campaign for them either. That deal fell apart, and recriminations are following. The Tories probably now think they got most of what they wanted — the Brexit party giving them a free run in 318 of 630 constituencies — and they’re probably right. But in rejecting the Farage deal, they rejected the near-certainty of a landslide for themselves, even if they also think they avoided the future difficulties that would be caused by having a party to their right in Parliament and the country.

10. There goes the neighborhood: Cloying Tom Hanks playing cloying Mr. Rogers. What’s not to not like? Kyle Smith’s take on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood finds Mr. Rogers’s sneakers are untied. From the review:

Perhaps I’m not the target audience for this slow-moving, punitively earnest movie. I’m not sure who is. People with more patience that I’ve got, maybe. Still, the movie does have a character someone like me can identify with: a fictitious writer named Lloyd Vogel, who is loosely based on a profiler for slick magazines. Vogel opens the movie by saluting “my fellow misfits” — which sounds a bit odd coming at a posh, exclusive, absurdly expensive black-tie awards ceremony in Manhattan. Why do elites think of themselves as “misfits”? He moves on to this thought: “So why do we write for magazines for a living? Honestly, because doing anything else doesn’t seem quite like living at all . . . sometimes, just sometimes, we get to change a broken world with our words.”

Hang on, this guy finds the apex of human existence to be . . . writing articles for fashion magazines nobody reads? I worked at People (which at least people actually did read) for eight years, and one thing I can tell you about our crew is that nobody confused himself with Jonas Salk. “Change a broken world with our words”? We were lucky if we could get through the day without being screamed at by Renée Zellweger’s publicist. On our to-do list, “fixing the world” was about 500 spots lower on the list than “get Carrot Top for Sexiest Man Alive.” Moreover, our editors, trained in the somewhat WASPy and phlegmatic Time Inc. register, were at least resistant to hyperbole. “Doing anything else doesn’t seem quite like living” is exactly the kind of hysterically overwrought balderdash that editors stomped all over, even when our subjects would say things like this. Anyone who would apply this description to being a magazine writer, a person whose profession it is to ask interesting people about stuff they’ve done, is so obtuse that he shouldn’t be allowed near a media outlet in the first place. People who put out forest fires, or deliver babies, or kill terrorists: They are doing stuff that matters. Magazine writers do things like writing bitchy, trying-to-be-clever Esquire cover stories suggesting Kevin Spacey was gay. Which is what the guy whose life this movie is based on did.

11. Edward Conrad finds a lot of hooey in Thomas Philippon’s new book, The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets. From the review:

Many scholars dispute Philippon’s claim that rising monopoly rents are diminishing America’s competitiveness. To refute his argument, they point to America’s market-share leaders, which have invested more, produced more innovation, achieved greater productivity, and gained market share relative to their competitors — the opposite of rising cronyism. Philippon answers his critics with evidence that investment has been lower than expected since 2000, given the high market value of America’s leading companies relative to the replacement cost of their assets. He points to Europe for comparison. His arguments are fraught with complications that he leaves out of his book.

Unmentioned is the importance of earning returns in excess of the cost of capital to incentivize risk-taking necessary to produce innovation and increase prosperity. If competitors can easily copy innovation and compete away excess returns, everyone will wait for others to innovate, and the pace of innovation and investment will slow. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened.

Aside from the slow-growing automotive sector, America’s 200 largest companies are investing twice as much in research and development as their European counterparts. The U.S. economy is investing nearly 25 percent more in intangible assets, such as software and training, than Europe. America is investing about eight times more venture capital per dollar of gross domestic product. And America has produced about six times as many billion-dollar startups as Europe — an indicator of innovativeness more broadly. Rising cronyism isn’t evident in any of these revealing comparisons. Instead of confronting this evidence, Philippon diverts the reader’s attention to the consolidation of capital-intensive cellphone networks and airlines, where marginal competitors have struggled to survive, and to other industries where consolidation has increased but is still below antitrust standards of concern.

12. The intersection of Dallas, Madrid, opera, and art — yes, there is such a nexus — is the stuff of Brian Allen’s latest. From the review:

To Sevillian barbers, Carmen, and all those Spanish Dons — Don Carlos, Don Giovanni, Don Rodrigo — you’re adding art to your repertoire. I’m writing this week about a new collaboration among the Meadows Museum in Dallas, the Dallas Opera, and the Teatro Real, the opera house in Madrid facing the Royal Palace. I was in Madrid last week and attended the launch.

The Meadows, which is the art museum at Southern Methodist University, focuses on the best art from the Hispanic world. It’s an imaginative, entrepreneurial place. I’ve seen lots of good exhibitions there over the years. Now, it’s bringing opera into its gallery and returning art to two great opera houses. The Meadows will license its great collection to the Dallas Opera, which will design its stage sets around it. The Dallas Opera will send its singers to the museum for performances. They’ll collaborate on marketing, too.

Over time, the Meadows will plan shows with a music subtext. This is smart and ambitious. The museum spaces are elegant, spacious, and suited to sound. I’d suggest Picasso and the stage. He designed dozens of sets. John Singer Sargent loved Spanish music and dance. Spain is a musical melting pot. Jewish, Visigothic, Moorish, Italian, and French styles ooze into one another, jolted by castanets and tambourines. Goya, alas, was deaf.

Verdi’s Don Carlos and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville are the two anchor shows at the Dallas Opera next year, both using Meadows art. Carlos (1545–1568) was a very bad dude. He looked like James Dean but had a touch of Charles Manson in him. He was Philip II’s oldest son and heir. His father poisoned him in an act of patriotism. This most ascetic king liked clean breaks. His younger son, Philip III, was sensible and pious.

A Dios

In my own immediate world, we are thankful to Uncle Tom and Aunt Marsha for another wonderful feast. A little more broadly, we are thankful for the blessings of liberty. A little more prayerfully, we hope the forthcoming season in which God’s sons and daughters celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah brings with it graces of comfort, joy, happiness, and peace. Would that be the case for you and all those you love.

Sincerely,

Jack Fowler

who can be admonished for his boolah vulgarities at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

‘Elizabeth Barada Nikto!”

Dear Weekend Jolters,

Say it . . . That’s the only way we can keep from destroying the planet!

With apologies to Patricia Neal. And to the late Zsa Zsa. This confused thought from the fevered-brain-swamp of your Humble Correspondent was instigated in part by Mr. Kyle Smith, who is more than just a pretty-faced movie critic, but an astute observer of Elizabeth Warren, who he too finds may have some beyond-our-stratosphere home . . . because sure as Venus smells like rotten eggs her ideas are way out there, and stinky. More on that below.

Before we get there . . .

Let me remind you that there is a National Review Rhine River Charter Cruise taking place April 19–26, 2020, on AmaWaterways’ glorious AmaMora, commencing in Basil, Switzerland (there is a pre-cruise stay in Lucerne), and visiting wonderful cities and towns (including Strasbourg and Cologne) before arriving at its destination, Amsterdam.

This will be a true once-in-a-lifetime experience, so do come. And know that you will be in the company of terrific conservative speakers (who, as we sail up the Rhine, through its fascinating locks and past vistas of vineyards and castles and abbeys and charming hamlets, will engage in scintillating discussions of the day’s most important topics) including Rich Lowry, Daniel Hannan, John O’Sullivan, Amity Shlaes, Seth Lipsky, Charles Kesler, Sally Pipes, Jay Nordlinger, Kevin Williamson, David Pryce-Jones, Nina Shea, and Adam Meyerson.

The sailing offers tours galore, and the fact that this is a just-us-conservatives NR charter means that there will be a very special camaraderie. So how to get complete information? You can visit www.nrcruise.com to find all the information you will need. If you prefer to speak to an actual living breathing someone, do call the good folks at The Cruise and Vacation Authority (M–F, 9AM–5PM, Eastern) at 1-844-754-4566.

And about one of those speakers — this week, my dear pal Amity Shlaes, author of bestsellers like The Forgotten Man and Coolidge: This week her new work of genius, Great Society: A New History, hit the bookstores. Alan Greenspan (yes, that Alan Greenspan) sad that the book “is an accurate history that reads like a novel, covering the high hopes and catastrophic missteps of our well-meaning leaders.”

I’d argue with his meaning of “well-meaning,” but he is right — the book is an important work of history that tells the truth of a moment when our LBJ’d government grew in size and dreamed socialist dreams. Do get a copy (we’re going to discuss it on the Rhine!).

If You Were Hungering for Links to 19 Terrific National Review Articles, You Are in Luck!

1. The promised Kyle Smith reflection on Candidate Warren’s latest plan and cause — eradicating traffic violence — might be something that only a figure not of this planet or galaxy might conjure up (the result of a poll conducted by an extra-asteroidal James Carville?). From the piece:

“Traffic violence” is quite a phrase. In the end, it may be all that anyone remembers of Warren’s decreasingly persuasive but increasingly eccentric campaign. In this bold new framing, cars are not the principal way Americans get around, with fatalities being an unfortunate but blessedly rare occurrence (one per 100,000,000 vehicle miles traveled, a rate that is down more than 80 percent in my lifetime). No, to Warren, cars are instruments of violence like, I don’t know, nunchucks or fuel-injected guillotines, and so she issues her clarion tweet to #EndTrafficViolence. So, right now, November 18, 2019, “it’s time” for us to zero out deaths from cars? How? On what planet?

I ask because I think there is a reason Warren keeps proposing ideas that are so obviously misconceived, impractical, or downright bonkers on planet Earth. She is from some other. An extraterrestrial species from the Nebulon-631 star cluster sent her down to mess with us, to see how far a barely disguised alien life form could rise to power on earth, but here’s the fun detail: The Nebulonians are not a superior life form. In fact, they’re a bit thick. Nebulon’s visionaries and seers, its éminences grises and starchy mandarins, mostly attended Nebulese community colleges on volleyball scholarships but dropped out in the first semester grousing about undue homework burdens.

This is why it’s so amusing watching the Harvard-stamped youth at a place such as Vox write stories like “Elizabeth Warren’s Reasonable and Well-Thought Plan to Raise Taxes by Eleventy Bajillion Dollars but Totally Without Taxing Any Vox Readers, Explained.” You have to do some microdosing or practice rhetorical yoga to convince yourself that an obvious case of interplanetary trolling actually holds together on any level.

2. More on Liz Lunacy: economist Michael Strain nails her wealth-tax scheme for being drastic and unethical. From the Corner post:

Senator Warren would impose a 2 percent annual tax on wealth above $50 million, and a 6 percent annual tax on wealth above $1 billion.

These numbers may seem small, but remember that they would be applied every year. With wealth taxes, small numbers have large effects. Applied to an asset yielding a steady return of 1.8 percent (roughly what you’d get from a 10-year Treasury note), a 6 percent wealth tax is the equivalent of a 333 percent income tax.

If Senator Warren’s wealth tax had been in effect since 1982, Warren Buffett’s 2018 net worth would have been $14.5 billion, rather than the $88.3 billion it actually was. Jeff Bezos would have had about one-third of his current wealth. Bill Gates’s wealth would have been 81 percent less.

3. Kevin Williamson pounces on Marco Rubio’s advocacy of common-good capitalism and Elizabeth Warren’s call for “accountable capitalism” as immoral. From the critique:

This is a time of great forgetting, and one of the things that has been forgotten is why we have a federal government and what it is there to do.

From Senator Marco Rubio and his “common-good capitalism” to Senator Elizabeth Warren and her “accountable capitalism,” politicians right and left who want politicians to have more power over private economic decisions assume a dilemma in which something called “capitalism” must be balanced against or made subordinate to something called the “common good.” This is the great forgetful stupidity of our time.

Capitalism is not a rival to the common good. Capitalism, meaning security in one’s own property and in the right to work and to trade, is the common good that governments exist to secure.

The U.S. government exists to see to the liberty of the American people. That is it. That is its only reason for being. It is an instrument and a convenience, the purpose of which is to ensure that Americans are able to enjoy their liberty and property — liberty and property being overlapping concepts.

What is contemplated by Senator Rubio and Senator Warren — along with a few batty adherents of the primitive nonidea known in Catholic circles as “integralism” and everywhere else more forthrightly as “totalitarianism” — is to invert the purpose of the U.S. government. Protecting Americans against those who would use force to curtail their liberty and take control of their property for their own ends is the duty of government; Rubio, Warren, et al. would have the government become the party that curtails Americans’ liberty and takes control of their property for its own ends. Which is to say, in the name of the “common good,” they would organize an assault on the actual common good the U.S. government was in fact constituted to protect. This account isn’t fringe libertarianism — it’s right there in the founding documents.

Related: As referenced in the last episode of The Weekend Jolt, David Harsanyi leveled the first critique of the Rubio speech, which you can find here.

4. Declan Leary decides to have Rubio’s back and take to task the Senator’s critics. From his piece:

The statistics Harsanyi cites to support capitalism’s progress in quality of life show only that we are better off than we were at the end of the 19th century. It is true that more companies are now offering paid parental leave than ever before, but the very concept of “parental leave” is necessitated only by the two-job households and the separation of productive work from the home and family that have resulted from largely unbridled capitalism. He writes that American workers have more free time than they once did, without recognizing that the 19th century (his point of comparison) was a time of extraordinarily grueling work trends when compared with earlier periods, as Boston College sociologist Juliet Schor has shown. That capitalism at the present moment is doing better than capitalism at its very worst is not a very good argument against attempts to rein in capitalism’s excesses.

Coarse-grained economic statistics do not resolve the debate. Of course the economy responds to different policies in different ways. But one could certainly dispute the importance of GDP growth against falling leisure time, disintegrating families, and rotting culture — as Rubio rightly does. That we might introduce policies to support family life and other areas of concern, even if they come at the expense of certain economic indicators, should not be unthinkable to conservatives.

5. Oh yeah?! David Harsanyi hits back. From his rebuttal:

I don’t think it’s worth cataloging the scores of strawmen wandering around Declan Leary’s piece defending Marco Rubio’s illiberal turn. (I’ve written extensively elsewhere on the array of improvements markets have afforded Americans over the past 40 years, if anyone is interested.) But some thoughts hit me while reading it:

1. Though the anti-capitalists have near-religious certitude that consumerism, open markets, and new technologies are corroding the nation’s soul, they don’t really have a coherent policy agenda to combat the scourge that is modernity — at least not one they’re willing to share. My naïve position is clear: economic policy should maximize economic freedom, so that most Americans can compete and thrive in an open marketplace that provides them with goods and services that allow them to live freer, healthier, more meaningful lives. How they define meaning is up to them.

The unanswered question is: What kind of policy does Rubio believe will bring back the halcyon days of the 18th century, when men spent their 40-odd years on Earth as models of probity, engaging in the dignified and productive work of tilling the land? What menu of economic reforms does Rubio propose will heal the frayed family? What laws will we pass to impel women to stay home and have more children? How will inhibiting international trade and forcing companies to invest in unproductive manufacturing jobs, as Rubio suggests, stop men from watching their cheap televisions and attending mass again? I submit it would take a New Deal–type effort in social engineering to “reimagine” the entire economy. Is that what Rubio wants?

6. Then Kevin Williamson wonders loudly about Declan’s knowledge of farming. From his Corner post:

One of the few truly general laws of human behavior is that subsistence farmers given the choice will choose almost any other occupation. The farmers were not driven off their land in the United States. They left as quickly as they could. They have done the same in India, China, Mexico, and practically every other place in the world in which economic development liberated people from the privation and misery of low-capital farming. My parents and grandparents picked cotton, and I can inform you that “dignity” was not among their leading motivations — desperation and the specter of hunger were.

7. But then Michael Brendan Dougherty weighs in, thematically, against KDW’s Rubio-et-al. criticisms. From the piece:

On matters of Church and state, Williamson puts Thomas Jefferson, President John Adams, and liberty on one side, and the abyss of Josef Ratzinger, Ahmari, Il Duce, and the common good on the other. Government, Williamson informs us, is “not a fitting instrument of moral instruction,” and we should not invest “mere political functionaries with the power of moral compulsion.” Williamson implies that such ambitions are pharaonic — they had to be humbled by ten plagues for the lesson to settle in that we should not put our trust in princes.

Williamson believes the only proper object of government is securing liberty. Liberty to do what is presumably the next question. But I presume he would object if some enthusiastic God-botherer like Ahmari tried to write into an American constitution a directive about “the duty of all men in society, publicly and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe.” Or even worse, if such a constitution said that “the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality” and made provision for the government to intervene when people don’t set up “the institution of public worship of God” voluntarily. This is precisely what the President Adams put near the top of the constitution that he wrote for Massachusetts.

Does Williamson believe that the Massachusetts of 1780 was a fascist state? Does he think Adams’s provision that the institution of public worship be made by the government (where it wasn’t volunteered) led to jackboots? I seriously doubt it. On the other hand, the current Massachusetts Supreme Court believes that Adams hid the concept of same sex-marriage within the same constitution. People claim to believe anything when expedient. But if Massachusetts wasn’t a prison house in 1780, then maybe just maybe we’re exaggerating the enmity between the Founders and concepts like “the common good.”

8. To quote the great Billy Mays, “But I’m not done yet:” Daniel Tenreiro looks East towards Japan and realizes there is something to learn in its industrial policy that applies to L’Affaire Rubio. From the beginning of the commentary:

Industrial policy is back in vogue. On November 5, Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) gave a speech at the Catholic University of America decrying the decline of American manufacturing. Rubio argued that shareholder primacy — whereby a corporation’s primary goal is to maximize value for its owners — caused the decline, and that American capitalism should instead focus on the “common good.” By this he meant that the federal government should promote high-paying, stable employment by investing in manufacturing.

Over the weekend, Sridhar Kota and Tom Mahoney sounded a similar tune in the Wall Street Journal. Kota and Mahoney, researchers at MForesight, a think tank dedicated to the study of advanced manufacturing, argued that outsourcing manufacturing jobs has led to a decline in innovation. “Once manufacturing departs from a country’s shores, engineering and production know-how leaves as well, and innovation ultimately follows,” they argue, citing increases in the foreign share of manufacturing research and development (R&D).

In concurrence with Rubio, Kota and Mahoney call for an “Industrial Policy 2.0,” which would boost domestic R&D and mandate that innovative hardware be manufactured domestically. This proposal echoes that of the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass, who has spent the past two years advocating a renewal of American manufacturing.

9. As John Fund observes, leftward-bound Michael Bloomberg was stopped and frisked on the way to entering the Democratic presidential primaries. The Soda Hater has lost his fizz. From the piece:

We now know Michael Bloomberg is going to run for president. He’s turning himself into a pander bear.

During his three terms as New York City’s mayor, Bloomberg was famous for dismissing politically correct criticism and refusing to apologize for it.

But there he was on Sunday at an African-American megachurch in Brooklyn saying he was sorry for the stop-and-frisk policy he used so successfully to break the back of crime and reduce the murder rate in New York City by 50 percent.

Under stop-and-frisk, police officers were authorized to search people if they were suspected of illegal activity while carrying a weapon. Critics said the practice was disproportionately used against blacks and Hispanics. After Bloomberg left office in 2013, a judge ruled that the tactic had been used unconstitutionally. Bloomberg denounced the decision of Bill de Blasio, his successor as mayor, to dramatically reduce stop-and-frisk.

10. Victor Davis Hanson says Adam Schiff doesn’t have enough tics to toc in his impeachment clock. From the piece:

From the day Schiff reemerged after his licking his wounds in hibernation, following the Mueller implosion, his efforts have insidiously gone downhill. Once Trump released the transcript of his July 25th call with Ukrainian president Zelensky, the nation learned that the Schiff’s gold-standard whistleblower was no such thing. Instead, he seems a rank partisan and sloppy leaker whose machinations and background are already boomeranging back on those who put him up to this present circus.

Schiff never expected that Trump would release a classified transcript of his own presidential call — Democrats expected secrecy and coverup, much as the deep-state intelligence-agency miscreants acted unethically and illegally on the presumption that Hillary Clinton would be easily elected and their dishonest efforts would be rewarded and kept quiet.

One of the strangest developments of the opening inquiry was Schiff’s own doubling-down admission that he didn’t know the name of the whistleblower. After previously lying that neither he nor his staff had contact with the whistleblower (“We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower”) — he now ups the ante, apparently assuming that neither his staff nor the whistleblower will testify under oath.

Schiff’s astounding assertion that he doesn’t know the whistleblower’s name is as hard to believe as Robert Mueller’s own congressional testimony that he was not familiar with Fusion GPS — the font of the entire Steele dossier that itself fueled the collusion fantasy that led to Mueller’s own appointment.

11. More Schiff: Andy McCarthy says that the Impeachment Czar needs to learn a thing or three about “bribery.” From the analysis:

The Framers made “Treason, Bribery, and other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” the triggers for impeachment. Obviously, they were referring to bribery of a high order, on the scale of treason. The latter offense involves making war on the U.S., including giving the enemy aid and comfort. Enemies are foreign powers with which we are at war. The Framers, however, were worried that other foreign powers — even ones with which we are at peace — could corrupt an American president. Bribery was meant to fill that gap. It made impeachment available if a president was bribed by a foreign power to put the might of the United States in the service of the foreign power at the expense of the American people.

Schiff and the Democrats would reject this construction of bribery in the Constitution. Their position is that if it’s bribery under the federal statute, that’s good enough to impeach a president.

But is that really what they think?

On Wednesday, Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified about the two afore-described “official acts” that the Ukrainians sought from President Trump. Sondland said he could only be sure about one of them: the White House visit. As for the second, Sondland could only “deduce” that Trump was holding back on the defense aid to nudge Ukraine into announcing the investigations. Over time, Sondland inferred that the aid was being delayed and worried that it might not be transferred. He directly asked President Trump, who exclaimed that there was “no quid pro quo” — though this was less than convincing: Trump continued to insist that he wanted to Zelensky to do what was “right,” and Sondland understood that the aid was caught in a “stalemate” that could be undone only if it announced it would do the investigations.

Democrats spent most of Sondland’s hours of testimony pushing him very hard on this second official act, the provision of defense aid. Schiff and majority counsel, Daniel Goldman, repeatedly walked Sondland through the timeline and got him to agree that he’d “put two and two together.” Why the vigorous effort to induce an admission (which Sondland could not give) that the aid was absolutely conditional on the investigations?

12. More VDH: Once upon a Reset . . . the Good Professor watches the hearings and compares the Democrats’ Obama-Years sheepishness toward Putin to their current fierceness over the Trump Administration’s antithesis. From the analysis:

But Trump’s 2017–19 record stands in stark contrast to all of the above: Pulling out of an asymmetrical anti-missile deal, arming the Ukrainians with lethal aid, defeating and killing Russian mercenaries in Syria, beefing up U.S. defense, jawboning NATO to rearm, opposing energy deals between Germany and Russia, and pushing for more U.S. gas and oil production and exports that stabilized or lowered global export prices. Are these witnesses going to criticize Trump’s “unfair” dismantling of Obama’s Russian reset on grounds that he knew Putin had tried to sabotage his campaign via having Russian operatives seeding Christopher Steele’s phony dossier? . . .

Many of the witnesses are fine public servants, but their current and frequently expressed discontent over Trump’s Ukraine policy would find a more credible audience had they shown the prior courage to disagree with a past president popular within the ranks of the Washington bureaucracy who nonetheless did a lot of damage to Ukraine, by empowering Vladimir Putin and failing to adopt the measures that Trump rather quickly embraced and implemented.

There are two constants in these entire hearings: presumptions, assumptions, and conjectures from civil servant A about what civil servant B said or thought, and outrage at a temporary delay in lethal military juxtaposed by past silence over its prior nonexistence — which explains why what was born with a bang is ending with a whimper.

13. Michael Brendan Dougherty took in Senator Josh Hawley’s speech critiquing what life has become for too many Americas. He finds much that is persuasive. From the analysis:

Missouri senator Josh Hawley might be the most interesting thinker the U.S. Senate has seen since Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Or at least, he’s the senator today who most resembles Moynihan as a sweeping and adventurous social critic.

Last night, at a dinner held by the American Principles Project Foundation, Hawley gave a remarkable speech. Like most good political speeches, it was straightforward and accessible. But unlike most good political speeches, it was also a searing piece of cultural criticism, an indictment of America’s economic and social arrangements. This is notable because at the moment, the president of the United States — a man who happens to belong to Hawley’s party — is touting the unparalleled success of the American economy.

14. Pete Buttigieg is having problems relating to black Democrat voters. Jim Geraghty looks at the prexy wannabe’s flubs. From the analysis:

Buttigieg’s recent outreach to African Americans was painfully awkward. His campaign sought out Democratic figures to sign on in support of his “Douglass Plan for Black America” and then put out a release that left the impression they were endorsing Buttigieg’s presidential bid. Of the 297 names of figures registered to vote in South Carolina, at least 42 percent were white. Then the media determined that the photo of a black woman smiling at a young black boy that had been splashed for weeks across the web page detailing Buttigieg’s plan to combat racial inequality . . . depicted a woman and boy from Kenya. Buttigieg himself didn’t pick out the photo, but it reinforced an existing tone-deaf image.

Think of the sorts of Democratic voters who are wowed by Buttigieg so far — gays, the donor class, the meritocratic elites in Manhattan or California — and now compare them with African Americans living in the South Carolina cities of Marion (median income $31,725), Orangeburg ($27,564), or Dillon ($38,344). Do you think Buttigieg’s résumé of Harvard University, Oxford, and McKinsey Consulting is automatically going to impress them? Or do you think they might see his life experience as quite different from theirs? Note that in the Quinnipiac poll, 32 percent of black likely primary voters said “someone who cares about people like you” is the most important quality they seek in a candidate.

At 37, Buttigieg is the youngest candidate, and whether or not you concur with President Trump’s assessment that he looks like Alfred E. Neuman, he looks young, and it doesn’t help that he’s roughly five feet, eight inches tall. Buttigieg is seeking the support of voters older than him. In 2016, almost two-thirds of the people who voted in the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina were over age 45.

15. James Knight says that we need to refamiliarize ourselves with, and embrace, the Ninth Amendment. From the piece:

The inclusion of an amendment dictating constitutional interpretation is a result of serious worries among the founding generation that a Bill of Rights would actually lead to less liberty, not more. James Wilson, one of the Constitution’s drafters, argued that a Bill of Rights would endanger liberty by implying that any rights left off the list were unprotected. Because it would be impossible to list all the rights that a person holds, it was better not to have a Bill of Rights at all. Instead, he argued, the Constitution protected liberty by carefully limiting the powers held by the government.

The Ninth Amendment was the compromise measure. By clarifying that listing certain rights did not mean that other rights were less protected, the drafters thought that they had covered all of their bases. The rights listed in the first ten amendments would be protected, but so would those that were not listed. That was important, because the rights listed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights amendments are hardly comprehensive. Notably left off the list is the principal right asserted in the Declaration of Independence: the right to “alter or abolish” an unjust and abusive government. This and other rights were included in the Bills of Rights of many state constitutions, but they were not explicitly listed in the Bill of Rights amendments to the national Constitution. The Ninth Amendment ensured that these rights would not be demoted to second-class status, as people like James Wilson had feared.

The Ninth Amendment has grown only more important over time. Though the protections of the Bill of Rights amendments originally applied only to the federal government, the 14th Amendment has been interpreted to apply those protections against state governments as well (although which part of the 14th Amendment does this remains the subject of considerable debate). The Ninth Amendment’s interpretive rule applies here too, foreclosing the argument that only the rights specifically listed in the Bill of Rights are enforceable against the states.

16. Armond White checks out Scott Burns’ The Report and finds it to be an effort in moral superiority. From the review:

As a movie, The Report repeats the same snide perspective as Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure, but it’s less showy. Burns lacks a sense of urgency, so the movie feels like something that sat on a shelf since 2004. (Only Obama’s detached voice on a speaker phone seems fresh — his detachment is hilarious.) Its ancient history seems especially untimely given how recent events have forced the public to be perhaps even more cynical than Vice Media about the CIA and the deep state. (A subplot about Obama’s CIA head John Brennan — played by Ted Levine who was Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs — is a surprising inclusion made even more baffling when its revelation of obstreperous Brennan defending his agency’s covert actions goes nowhere. This view of Brennan seems stuck in a time warp.)

Filmed in nearly monochrome drabness as if Burns chose a cliché documentary visual style, The Report looks like nostalgia for that period after George W. Bush won the election when the media felt American guilt was to blame for 9/11 and so could comfortably — brazenly — call Bush stupid as if it was a matter of fact, not vitriol, and without getting clapped back.

17. Safe, Uber-Legal, and Frequent: Alexandra DeSanctis watches the Dem prexy debate and sees a cabal of unfettered-abortion worshippers. From the commentary:

Neither has it occurred to the many Democratic politicians who now promise to “codify Roe” that, aside from being outside the purview of the president and perhaps even Congress, doing so would implement a more-restrictive abortion policy than the one currently in place. Unlike the Supreme Court’s 1992 “undue burden” ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which now sets the judicial standard for challenges to state abortion laws, Roe granted that states had a compelling interest in protecting fetal life later in pregnancy.

That is a premise that few Democratic politicians remain willing to concede, and they proved it again in Wednesday evening’s debate. After Klobuchar insisted that “the women of America” will support Democrats in 2020 because Trump is wrong on abortion — ignoring that American women, including Democratic women, tend to support abortion restrictions at a higher rate than men do — Maddow went on to ask a more interesting question.

“Just this weekend, Louisiana reelected a Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards. He has signed one of the country’s toughest laws restricting abortion,” Maddow said, referring to Louisiana’s heartbeat bill, which would prohibit abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually between six and eight weeks’ gestation. “Is there room in the Democratic party for someone like him, someone who can win in a deep-red state but who does not support abortion rights?” she asked Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.

“I believe that abortion rights are human rights,” Warren replied. “And protecting the right of a woman to be able to make decisions about her own body is fundamentally what we do and what we stand for as a Democratic party.”

But neither Warren nor Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who dealt with the same question after her, was willing to directly answer the question, despite Maddow’s posing it a second time and asking Warren to be specific. Perhaps that’s because they know they don’t need to give a real answer.

18. More on this: Josh J. Cradock sees a historic precursor to the new love for abortion. From his piece:

The Democratic party’s new defense of abortion on grounds of morality rather than necessity is eerily reminiscent of the transformation in Southern views on slavery between the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Founding generation tolerated slavery as a “necessary evil,” mindful of the tension between chattel slavery and the Declaration of Independence, with its assertion of equal human dignity and God-given rights. Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote in 1774 that “the abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire in those colonies, where it was unhappily introduced in their infant state.” The Founders supposed slavery to be on the path toward extinction and employed circumlocution to avoid mentioning that “peculiar institution” in the Constitution itself.

The Spirit of ’76 quickly began to fade, however, as southerners argued that, “instead of an evil,” slavery was, in the words of as John C. Calhoun, “a good — a positive good.” Over the next several decades, culminating in the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, the “positive good” school of thought became predominant. William Harper, who drafted South Carolina’s Nullification Ordinance of 1832, argued that slavery benefited both slave and master and that it constituted the essential basis for the formation of civilization. George Fitzhugh, a sociologist and lawyer, claimed that slavery was not only justifiable but actually economically superior to the Northern free-labor market. He predicted that slavery would eventually spread throughout the country. Responding to such facile defenses of slavery, Abraham Lincoln observed that “although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself!” (Perhaps President Ronald Reagan had these words in mind when he quipped, “I’ve noticed that everybody who is for abortion has already been born.”)

19. More Armond: He puts the pedal to the metal and revs up the praise for Ford v Ferrari. From the beginning of the review:

There’s a MAGA moment in Ford v Ferrari when the British-immigrant auto mechanic and race-car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) stops being a loner and decides to be a team player. He slows down on the track to let the other American drivers on his team join him so they can cruise across the finish line together. This “bringing them in” scene turns out to be Miles’s undoing, relegating him to forgotten history, but it’s one of the few scenes in Ford v Ferrari that audiences unapologetically enjoy; they respond to it as part of their natural, national, car-culture heritage.

Conservatives should pay attention to any element in a Hollywood film that supports their political and moral beliefs. Ford v Ferrari provides that sustenance. Director James Mangold dramatizes the 1964 competition in the 24-hour race at Le Mans, distilled to a three-man alliance of Miles; his mentor, the veteran driver Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), who had previously raced Le Mans in 1957; and entrepreneur Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts). They bring the Ford Racing Team up to the level of its faster, sleekly engineered European contenders.

The America First implications of Ford v Ferrari can’t be ignored. After the big-screen spectacle and vibrant sound design of revved-up motors and cheering crowds, Mangold swerves into quasi-political points about character. His best scenes show the way ambitious men commit themselves. It’s not about “toxic masculinity,” as producer Jane Rosenthal described Scorsese’s The Irishman (to make it seem progressive). Instead, he revels in high-speed, high-pressure contexts where egotism, expertise, and privilege vie for domination.

Carroll had retired from racing for health reasons but comes alive when he challenges Ford for sponsorship. In turn, the industrialist commands the gladiator: “Go ahead, Carroll. Go to war!” Their jingoistic vernacular is personal.

There’s a New Issue of NR Hot Off the Presses, and You Really Need to Read the Cover Story

The December 9, 2019, issue is now available on NRO, and if you A) are not yet an NRPLUS subscriber who has B) already blown through the limited number of magazine-article freebies we permit each month, then you can C) have a crack at the new edition. And here are four selections you might want to check out, but I have to tell you: The first one is a must-read.

1. There is this insane Texas case of a seven-year-old boy, James Younger, who is, per mom, “trans,” and who is being victimized by Progressives hell-bent on making scalpel-wielding doctors and lawyers and judges and bureaucrats conform to their ordained experiments and fantasies. Madeleine Kearns’s cover story is a masterful investigation of not only this case, but the ideological insanity running amok and victimizing kids just this side of being toddlers. From the beginning of the report:

His mother pulling him by the left arm, his father pulling him by the right, seven-year-old James Younger, dressed in a skirt, looks distressed and confused. His mom, Anne Georgulas, wins the struggle and rests him on her hip. His dad, Jeffrey Younger, calls 911. “Why?” asks James. “She was supposed to give me custody,” his father replies. A video recording of this incident, which occurred on March 8, 2018, at James’s elementary-school open house, was played before a jury in Texas last month. It is a larger symbol of how children such as James Younger have become pawns in the transgender debate.

The Younger case has gained much media attention, in the U.S. and beyond. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the BBC all seem to cast the father as the villain, in particular for his refusal to agree that his child is transgender. Rolling Stone opines that the Younger story has become a “terrifying right-wing talking point.” Vox is worried about Republican state legislators’ trying to introduce bills prohibiting chemical and surgical interference with the sexual development of children who say they’re transgender, and “what [this] could mean for families nationwide” when “legislators want to have a say in whether Luna Younger should be allowed to socially transition.” For the Left, the Younger story is a tale of backwards attitudes victimizing a child.

In truth, it’s progressive attitudes that are victimizing the child, and James Younger is not an outlier. There are many more just like him, and some in even more dire straits. For years, the medical and legal establishments have been ignoring evidence and bending their standards to please transgender activists, some of whom are clinicians. There are three clinical approaches to helping children who exhibit symptoms of gender confusion. One involves a range of talk therapies and psychotherapies to address suspected underlying causes. A second, called “watchful waiting,” allows the child’s development to unfold as it will, which may mean that he chooses to transition later or not at all.

Then there is a third option—informed by an ideology according to which it is possible for a child to be “born in the wrong body.” In this option, clinical activists recommend a drastic response when a child expresses confusion about gender. First, parents should tell the child, however young, that he truly is the sex he identifies with. Second, parents should consider delaying his puberty through off-label uses of drugs that can have serious (and largely unstudied) side effects. Third, parents should consider giving their child the puberty experience of the opposite sex, through cross-sex hormonal injections and gels (which result in sterility). Finally, parents should consider goodnighting the surgical removal of their child’s reproductive organs.

Since there are no objective tests to confirm a transgender diagnosis, all of this is arbitrary and dependent on a child’s changeable feelings. To make aggressive treatment more acceptable, its advocates have come up with a media-friendly euphemism, “gender affirmation.” If it’s affirming, activists say, it’s also kindness, love, acceptance, and support. The opposite, trying to help a child feel more comfortable with his body, is a rejection: abuse, hatred, “transphobia,” or “conversion therapy” likely to lead to child suicide. This is a lie—a lie designed to obscure a critical truth: that neither a child, nor his parents on his behalf, can truly consent to experimental, life-altering, and irreversible treatments for which there is no evidentiary support.

2. Andy McCarthy explains yet again that impeachment is a decidedly political act. From the essay:

Bear in mind, too, the historical context. At the time the Constitution was adopted, there was no federal penal code as we know it today, much less a Justice Department and an FBI teeming with federal prosecutors and investigators. There was no notion that potential grounds for impeachment would be scrutinized by special counsels and grand juries, or that an impeached president would be treated as the equivalent of an accused and entitled to something like a fair trial before an impartial jury, with all the due-process protections mandated by the Sixth Amendment.

Impeachment and removal were, instead, assigned to the political branches of government. The power to impeach—i.e., to formally allege articles of impeachment—was given exclusively to the House. There is no judicial oversight; no court may instruct the people’s representatives on what qualifies as an impeachable offense or how to conduct the process of alleging one.

The Framers gave some thought to vesting the Supreme Court—or some similarly high-ranking judicial body drawn from state courts—with the power to try impeachments. Yet the idea was quickly dismissed, again because of impeachment’s political nature.

As Hamilton explains in Federalist No. 65, those making the fraught decision of whether to oust an official from public office should “never be tied down by such strict rules, either in the delineation of the offense by the prosecutor, or in the construction of it by judges, as in the common cases serve to limit the discretion of courts.” The Senate, to be composed of distinguished Americans whose six-year terms rendered them less vulnerable to the whims of popular sentiment than House members (who face voters every two years), was deemed the best forum for impeachment trials. Senators would be better suited to exercise the “awful discretion” of deciding whether “to doom to honor or to infamy” presidents and other high officials accused of disqualifying misconduct. The Senate was preferable to a judicial court also because it would bring numerous perspectives to a decision that, in its momentousness, must not be committed to “the trust” of “a small number of persons.”

3. Venice is flooding, and we all know why that is happening, and so does James Lileks, who in his latest “Athwart” fingers the guilty. From the column:

Start with the most obvious cause for the Venice floods: your hamburger. As totally moderate non-crazy right–down–the–middle–of–Main Street Pete Buttigieg said, if you’re eating a hamburger, you’re “part of the problem” when it comes to climate change.

Of course, no one is talking about hamburger confiscation; that’s wacko talk. We just want sensible regulation— a ban on private hamburger transfers (previously known as inviting friends over for a weekend BBQ), an end to the drive-through loophole, and restrictions on a hamburger’s diameter and thickness. Does anyone really need a ¾lb. patty for personal use? Are you telling me that your “right” to a hamburger somehow trumps the right of schoolchildren in Venice to get an education without fear of drowning? Are you aware that there weren’t even hamburgers when the Constitution was written?

As for the gas stove, it’s the next target for elimination, because it uses gas. The Left, if they get control of everything, would ban it from new manufacture nationwide and then ban its replacement and ownership. (Also, Trump is an authoritarian.) If someone in Montana or Florida or Seattle says, “But I prefer gas,” you can only roll your eyes: The citizens of Venice would prefer not to be rescued by helicopter from the roof of the Campanile, but here we are, pal.

4. In his book, The Fire Is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America, author Nicholas Buccola takes it to our founder. In his review, Alvin Felzenberg takes it to Buccola. From the review:

Buccola delivers a highly readable and accurate account of what Baldwin and Buckley said at Cambridge, as well as a succinct summary of the two men’s philosophies—at least up to the time of their exchange. While he does quote Buckley later expressing regret that he did not endorse civil-rights and voting-rights legislation in 1964 and 1965 (“I once believed that we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow. I was wrong. Federal intervention was necessary.”), he does not believe that Buckley ever in his heart recanted his earlier views supporting racial segregation and the racial superiority of whites, as voiced in editorials he penned during National Review’s early years. Buccola fails to cite other of Buckley’s expressed regrets over his earlier stated views: his wish that NR “had taken a more transcendent position, which might have been done by advocating civil rights with appropriate safeguards” or his lamentation that conservatives had not been “more forceful in their advocacy of civil rights in the 1960s.”

“Racist,” “liar,” and “coward,” Buccola tells us, are words that came to Baldwin’s mind when he thought of Buckley. Obviously, Buccola thinks of Buckley the same way. In his acknowledgments, he informs readers that he came from a conservative family and, in his younger days, participated in Cato Institute summer camps and held an internship at the Heritage Foundation. Buccola assures his readers that his “study of history and political science” led him to “grow up from conservatism.”

So much for breaking new ground, let alone objectivity. Were Buckley able to read this admission, he might question the efficacy of conservative-oriented leadership-training programs. He might also recant advice he gave young admirers to read the introduction to his God and Man at Yale and skip the rest. Buckley might even pick up where he left off in that book, extending his examination of the teaching of economics and religion to include that of history and political science.

Buccola is more familiar with Baldwin’s total body of work than with Buckley’s. His book suffers from his failure to compensate for that weakness. In the course of 482 pages, readers discern that Buckley’s role in the book is to act as a foil against which Baldwin’s brilliance is allowed to shine.

The Six

1. At Gatestone Institute, Soeren Kern profiles the fast growth of the Vox populist party in Spain. From the piece:

Spain’s populist party, Vox, more than doubled its seats in parliament after winning 3.6 million votes in general elections held on November 10. The fast-rising conservative party, which entered parliament for the first time only eight months ago, is now the third-largest party in Spain.

Vox leaders campaigned on a “traditional values” platform of law and order, love of country and a hardline approach to anti-constitutional separatists in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia.

Vox’s meteoric rise is a direct result of the political vacuum created by the mainstream center-right Popular Party, which in recent years has drifted to the left on a raft of domestic and foreign policy issues, including that of uncontrolled mass migration.

The Socialist Party won the election with 28% of the vote — far short of an outright majority. The Popular Party won 20.8% and Vox won 15.1%. The rest of the votes went to a dozen other parties ranging from the far-left party Podemos (9.8%), the centrist libertarian party Ciudadanos (6.8%), Basque and Catalan nationalist parties and a hodge-podge of regional parties from Aragón, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Galicia, Melilla and Navarra. In all, more than a dozen political parties are now represented in parliament.

Spain has had a multi-party system since the country emerged from dictatorship in 1975, but two parties, the Socialist Party and the Popular Party, predominated until the financial crisis in 2008. After it, both parties underwent ideological splits that resulted in the establishment of breakaway parties.

The fragmentation of Spanish politics has made it difficult to form a coalition government: the November election was the fourth in four years. In the election held in April 2019, Vox won 2.6 million votes, or 10.3%, and entered Parliament for the first time with 24 seats. In the November vote, Vox won nearly a million additional votes and will now have 52 seats in Parliament.

2. At Media Research Center’s Newsbusters, Rich Noyes reports on the MSM’s overwhelming anti-Trump tone in its impeachment coverage. From the piece:

Secret Sources: With most of the developments behind closed doors, the majority of the networks’ impeachment coverage has been based on secret leaks from anonymous sources. Out of 172 news reports, a large majority (59%) relied on unnamed sources for their facts about the impeachment probe. This is slightly higher than when we first checked in late October, when 57 percent of impeachment stories used anonymous sources.

Even Negative Spin on Baghdadi Death: Only two other Trump administration topics have been granted much airtime since the inquiry began: the successful U.S. mission that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (45 minutes before it faded from the newscasts), and the earlier decision of the President to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria (121 minutes).

The withdrawal of U.S. forces was given witheringly (98%) negative coverage on all three networks, whose journalists routinely framed it as “abandoning” an ally (the Syrian Kurds) in the fight against ISIS.

But while media coverage of the U.S. mission against al-Baghdadi was mostly positive, the President’s role in it was not. Out of nine evaluative statements about the President himself, two-thirds (67%) were negative. These focused on his refusal to brief congressional leaders, as well as his belittling description of the cruel ISIS leader’s last moments (“He died like a dog….He died like a coward….Whimpering, screaming and crying.”)

“It’s possible that President Trump’s bellicose language about the manner in which he died could actually inspire some ISIS fighters to retaliate,” NBC’s Courtney Kube speculated on the October 27 Nightly News.

3. At the Wall Street Journal, the Manhattan Institute’s Jonathan Lesser takes on the climate-change crusade to ban natural gas hookups in new construction (there goes your stove). From his argument:

Those seeking to ban natural-gas hookups in new buildings say it will reduce local pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions, while saving end users money. Some also point to safety benefits: Fewer natural-gas lines means less potential damage during earthquakes.

When you compare the benefits and costs of such policies, however, you will find that their claims have little or no merit.

For starters, if consumers had an economic incentive to use electricity instead of natural gas, there would be no need for bans in the first place. With these kinds of analyses the devil is in the details, and one small detail is that in areas where natural gas is available, it is generally less costly to burn natural gas directly in homes and buildings for things like heating and cooking than to rely on electricity to provide equivalent end-use service.

Consider California, the state at the forefront of natural-gas-hookup bans. Last year, the average price of natural gas in California was about $12.30 per million British thermal units (a measure of the heat content of the fuel), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. For a homeowner with a new, 95% efficiency natural-gas furnace or water heater, that translates into a cost of just under $13 per million BTUs.

Compare that with the cost of electricity, which averaged 18.84 cents a kilowatt-hour in California in 2018, about 50% higher than the national average. That works out to $55 per million BTUs, more than four times the cost of natural gas. Even heat pumps for space and water heating can’t bridge that gap.

4. More WSJ: Bill McGurn blasts the Left’s attacks on Asian-Americans. From the column:

Asian-Americans have finally made it in America. How do we know? Not from their wealth or educational achievements, but from the way progressives now target those in the community who believe people shouldn’t be judged by skin color. For in so doing, these Asian-Americans have exposed a growing fault line in affirmative-action orthodoxy.

The most recent occasion for progressive grievance comes courtesy of the state of Washington. There, Asian-Americans proved instrumental in killing a law that would have overturned a two-decade-old ban on racial preferences in public education, employment and contracting. To do this, Asian-Americans successfully rallied to force the law onto the ballot—and then defeated it. It’s a staggering achievement in a state that ranks among America’s bluest, and in a contest where the pro-affirmative-action side enjoyed more resources plus the support of the political establishment, including an Asian-American former governor.

The ballot referendum in Washington isn’t the first time Asian-Americans have rebelled against an attempt to sneak racial discrimination back into the law. Five years ago, when California considered a law that would have reversed its own ban on racial preferences, a backlash by the Asian-American community forced three Asian-American Democrats who had voted yes in the state Senate to switch sides—dooming the measure. In New York, Asian-Americans are now battling Mayor Bill de Blasio’s bid to increase the number of African-American and Latino kids at the city’s specialized high schools—at the expense of Asian-American children. Meanwhile, a high-profile lawsuit brought against Harvard for its race-based admissions preferences is likely to end up before the Supreme Court.

5. At Law & Liberty, Theodore Dalrymple has the duty of reviewing David Cameron’s massive new memoir. It’s one of the best hit jobs (and a deserved one) since Sonny got stuck on the causeway. From the review:

No one could read David Cameron’s memoir in a single sitting. Once put down, the reader resumes only with reluctance and a sinking heart. I suspect that reviewers alone will – or could – read it through, and perhaps not even all of them. I found it difficult to stand more than 50 pages at a time, and whenever I restarted I recalled Thomas Babington Macaulay’s words in his review of a two-volume biography of Lord Cecil Burghley: “Compared with the labour of reading through these volumes, all other labour, the labour of thieves on the treadmill, of children in factories, of negroes in sugar plantations, is an agreeable recreation.”

For a man to have been at the peak of political power for six years and to have written a 700-page memoir without a single arresting thought or amusing anecdote, without giving any insight into the important people he has met, and without displaying any interest in, let alone knowledge of, history, philosophy or higher culture, is an achievement of a kind. If banality can startle, Mr. Cameron’s banality startles — because of the position he once occupied. The average barroom bore is Doctor Johnson by comparison. It is only in its vacuity that David Cameron’s memoir achieves significance. It thereby tells us something about both modern politics and the state of education in Britain: for in the latter respect, Mr. Cameron is the product of the elite of the elite. This in itself is reason for the profoundest pessimism.

Only at one point in the book does he come across as a man rather than as a shadow or ghost of a man. His first son was born severely handicapped, of a rare genetic disorder, and died at age six. Here Mr. Cameron writes with feeling, and there is a genuinely touching photograph of him cradling his son in his arms with evident and unaffected tenderness. Such a man, one feels, cannot be truly bad, however much his ascent to the top of the greasy pole must have entailed the exercise of considerable ruthlessness.

He writes in clichés, thinks in clichés, and leaves no cliché unused. The achievement of which he is most proud is the legalization of homosexual marriage in Britain, but the justification that he gives for this measure is worthy of greetings-card poetry: love is love, he says.

6. In the recent issue of Commentary, Naomi Schaffer Riley dives into a new report on stay-at-home moms. From the piece:

When they opt back in, they do not want to return to their former employers. A national study found that only 5 percent of women sought to be rehired. Perhaps, as Stone and Lovejoy argue, it is because their former employers were so unyielding as to drive them out of the workplace to begin with. Or perhaps it’s because something about being at home with kids has changed their orientation. Romano tells them, “I felt like Sybil; you know I’m like trying to twist my head around to go from being, ‘I’ll scratch your eyes out over an eighth of a point’ to, you know, nurturing good mommy.”

Many of them instead decide to retool and launch themselves into professions that are entirely new or only tangentially related to what they did before. They go to work for nonprofits, schools, or philanthropies. Some have to go back to school but others are able to spin volunteer work into connections to new fields. Still more decide to consult part time in their previous fields. Generally speaking, they have little trouble relaunching their careers. A booming economy with low rates of unemployment probably helps.

And here’s the kicker. The women actually like these new jobs better. As the authors write: “While objectively, especially with regard to pay, security and benefits, their new jobs compared invidiously to their former ones, women were much more satisfied with work the second time around.” When the authors first interviewed them about their careers, “women most often indicated mixed feelings or moderate satisfaction, and fully two-thirds reported either low or moderate levels of satisfaction. Rating their current jobs, however, women are highly satisfied, two-thirds giving them the thumbs up.”

Which is great news. Right? Stone and Lovejoy have finally found the answer to the age-old question of what women want. Oh, not so fast, the authors claim. These women may have found some kind of individual happiness. But what about the sisterhood?

BONUS: In The New Criterion, Daniel Mahoney reviews the new English publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s March 1927: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 2. To say he praises it would be a rather massive understatement. From the review:

In a series of wonderfully crafted “Street Scenes” or “Fragments” throughout the book, Solzhenitsyn conveys a kind of demonic lawlessness that had possessed the revolutionary crowds. Ruffians shot at apartment buildings, responding to nonexistent police snipers. Police stations were burned with impunity. Good men—Colonel Balakshin, the head of a “wheeled Battalion,” and Captain Fergen, a courageous officer on leave from the front—were killed for no good reason. People with German-sounding names were targeted. Young, and not so young, nihilists, caught up in violence for its own sake, specialized in “picking off coppers” in the most brutal and mindless manner imaginable. Civilized characters, such as the monarchist historian Olda Andozerskaya, have no idea how to respond to this madness. When a revolutionary mob comes to her apartment, insanely looking for nonexistent snipers once more, she expresses her indignation. “You have no right!” she exclaims. An ensign who has gone over to the revolution revealingly replies “The revolution doesn’t ask for the right!” This is a portent of more terrible horrors to come down the line when Russia will succumb to full-fledged totalitarianism.

The insane are “liberated” from asylums and mix with the crowds. Two thousand criminals, among them murderers, are released from Butriki prison in Moscow, where revolution has also taken hold. Amid this collective (literal!) madness, the revolutionary Soviet issues Order No. 1 and sends it to all army units by telegram. The army is democratized overnight, and soldiers are effectively told not to obey orders from officers. And all of this in the midst of war, as more than a few responsible souls opine in the course of the work. Even the saluting of officers is forbidden in this display of anarchistic reveries which will soon give way to the iron discipline of totalitarian “order.”

Meanwhile, those working to save the revolution from a dramatic leap to the left are ineffectual at best. Alexander Guchkov, the old Octobrist and monarchist who is at odds with the Tsar and who tried for months to organize a coup to save the monarchy, attempts to restore order in military units without real effect. Miliukov, the Kadet leader who becomes Foreign Minister in the Provisional Government, is shouted down by a revolutionary mob which wants to know “who elected you?” A rather good question, one might add. In a series of chapters Solzhenitsyn paints a devastating portrait of Alexander Kerensky, a revolutionary windbag overcome by limitless vanity—a man of the Left with a Napoleon Complex, and one whose hatred of the Tsar and the Old Regime prevents him from really resisting the new totalitarianism emerging on the left. Prince Georgi Lvov, the head of the local zemstvo council movement, will become the first Prime Minister of the powerless and unbelievably ineffective Provisional Government. He is a lightweight of the first order, and is utterly unable to rule or move souls from the first hours of his time at the Tauride Palace. A more ineffectual and pathetic leader could not be imagined.

Baseballery

When Joe Nuxhall took the mound for the Reds on a June Saturday in 1944, he would be setting a record, if you will, as the youngest player in baseball history: He was, famously, 15 — not old enough to have a drivers license, and mere weeks from having pitched to local little leaguers. Little known is the bloodbath Nuxhall was part of in the Reds’ staggering 18–0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals: Brought in to end the game in the top of the ninth, his Reds already behind 13–0, Nuxhall got two outs . . . and then the wheels came off the bus. He served up five walks, threw a wild pitch, and two singles, allowing five more Cardinal runs.

For another eight years, Nuxhall’s career ERA was 67.50, and he bounced around the minors. And then in 1952, an old man at the age of 23, Nuxhall found himself called up to the Big Time. But his first game back in the Majors was another 18-run blowout loss: Against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field on May 21, 1952, the Reds gave up 15 runs in the first inning (Pee Wee Reese got up three times, walking twice and hitting a single, driving in two runs). By the eighth, the Reds now trailing 19–1, Nuxhall came in to end the madness. He did: The Dodgers went down one-two-three.

In 1966, some 22 years after he first threw his first Major League pitch, Nuxhall was still slinging his curve for the Reds (he had returned to Cincinnati after brief turns in Kansas City and Los Angeles). The two-time All Star (he held the AL scoreless over three innings in the 1955 contest) had his last great performance on August 29 against the Cardinals. It was a complete-game, three-hit shutout, and the final victory of Nuxhall’s storied, 135–117 career.

A Dios

This was completed (mostly) a day earlier than usual as Your Incompetent Correspondent was to be in transit. Still, it is copious, abundant, a horn of conservative plenty, given the slim pickings ahead: Next week’s WJ will likely be a small affair, completed and filed even sooner than usual, so that Editor Phil can have time to travel, visit, and digest his turkey. Some day he will leave this behind — no doubt one day he will be a Supreme Court justice — and when that happens, well, Yours Truly will weep. But for now, the obligation is to be thankful. For Phil and for so many other things. This coming Thursday, please do what you can — it might take ignoring your dim-witted leftist niece or lowering the volume when you respond to your tipsy Bernie-loving Cousin Lenny — to ensure a special day of prayerful appreciation (literally, prayerful) for the blessings of liberty we enjoy in this place named after an Italian cartographer. Enjoy it while you can, because the vandals are trying to storm the gates.

God’s Blessings on You and Your Family and These United States of America,

Jack Fowler, who can be sent cures for turkey-related gastrological events at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Coup Coup Kachoo

Dear WJ Aficionado,

Lots of folks, colleagues included, are commenting on the language being used to describe the ongoing impeachment circus (see – there’s one!). God bless them all. Now, admitting that the opinion of this Dimwitted Epistolarian shouldn’t matter to you a wit or what, Your Humble Servant shares that he is cool with “coup.” This being a harsh political process — sure, one that is constitutional, but that doesn’t make it sacred, or the First Amendment’s co-equal — it can tolerate the lingo that comes with politics. That lingo can be savage, influencing, bold, distracting, etc. If that induces the vapors, well, sorry. Maybe you should consider relocating to Utopia.

On this coup topic, my friend, Professor Hanson, has a thing or 10 to say. See below.

Now, this Tuesday, November 19, 2019, marks the 64th birthday of National Review, and if the gods and my ukulele cooperate, I may have a ditty — to the tune of Mr. McCartney’s appropriate and famous song — to share (hold not thy breath).

And now this to share, from National Review’s premier issue: From on page 8, in its own special box, attending the first rendition of “The Liberal Line,” a column by the great Willmoore Kendall, one of our founding editors (pictured here with WFB and from the left, Priscilla Buckley, Suzanne La Follette, and James Burnham; also with a donkey named “Arthur”). Although written in the first Eisenhower administration, you may find this statement timeless and applicable to the current bald-faced practices of what another friend, Mr. Limbaugh, refers to as the “drive-by media:”

The Editors of National Review Believe:

1. That there is a Liberal point of view on national and world affairs, for which the word “Liberal” has been appropriated;

2 That the point of view consists, on the one hand, of a distinctly Liberal way of looking at and grasping political reality, and on the other hand of a distinctly Liberal set of values and goals;

3. That the nation’s leading opinion-makers for the most part share the Liberal point of view, try indefatigably to inculcate it in their readers’ minds, and to that end employee the techniques of propaganda;

4. That we may properly speak of them as a huge propaganda machine, engaged in a major, sustained assault upon the sanity, and upon the prudence and the morality of the American people — its sanity, because the political reality of which they speak is a dream world that nowhere exists, its prudence and morality because their values and goals are in the sharpest conflict with the goals and values appropriate to the American tradition;

5. That National Review must keep a watchful eye on the day-to-day operations of the Liberal propaganda machine: the theses it puts forward the arguments (if any) it advances in their support, and the (implicit or explicit) policy recommendations it urges on us — in a word on the Liberal Line.

Good enough for Bill Buckley is good enough for me. You too? For those who need to, go ahead and untwist your knickers, sniff the smelling salts, unclutch the pearls, and arise from the fainting couch. Let us now get to the Weekend Jolt!

But first: SCOTUS has deferred again on deciding to grant or deny the cert petition for National Review v. Mann. Maybe a verdict next week? We will keep you posted.

Now . . . the Jolt!

Editorials

1. SCOTUS considers DACA. We opine. From the beginning of the editorial:

When President Obama unilaterally changed immigration policy after repeatedly and correctly insisting that he lacked the constitutional power to do it, he said that congressional inaction had forced his hand. In the case of his first major unilateral move — “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” which gave quasi-legal status to illegal immigrants who came or were brought here as minors — the truth is closer to the reverse. Obama acted to head off the possibility of a bipartisan solution to the issue; he wanted to sharpen the distinction between the parties on this issue in the run-up to the 2012 election. The gambit succeeded. Even Republicans who approved of granting legal status to this group balked at the president’s effective rewriting of law to achieve it, and so it was possible to cast them as the callous enemies of nonwhite children.

That was more or less the same play being followed Tuesday as the Supreme Court considered whether the Trump administration may rescind the Obama policy. As sympathetic as most of the beneficiaries of the Obama policy are, the Court should not hesitate to allow the change. If Obama was abusing his discretion over law enforcement to subvert the laws, as we believe, then Trump is merely bringing executive practice back into conformity with them, which has to be within his power. But the case for allowing Trump to make this change holds even if we are wrong and the Obama policy is constitutionally permissible. In that case, the executive branch can exercise its broad discretion over enforcement to make this group of illegal immigrants effectively exempt from deportation, and thus has to be able to use that discretion to make them subject to it. Enforcement priorities aren’t for the courts to second-guess.

Anatomy of a Leftist Egghead Smear

The subhead of Sumantra Maitra’s article in The Federalist puts its squarely:

The editor of National Review wrote a book praising a benevolent, liberal, unifying form of nationalism. The vitriolic reaction was eye-opening.

And so the freakout has been with and over Rich Lowry’s The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free. Imagine a disingenuous lefty reviewer, which describes Georgetown University prof Charles King, who penned an attack-review in in Foreign Affairs. Yummy . . . Tripe!

The Left’s flying monkeys have shared and reshared the hit piece over social media. Our Esteemed Leader, not one to shy from a fight, swiftly and ably counterattacked. From the Lowry rebuttal:

Next, let’s turn to his distortions, which are numerous and shockingly blatant, in fact, dripping with self-discrediting malice.

King says that, in my view, “even slavery was not so much a foundational sin as a regrettable example of anti-nationalism: the slaveholding South, with its emphasis on states’ rights, had to be defeated to allow ‘national institutions and the enhancement of national authority’ to flourish.”

This is flatly wrong. As I write in a passage about the end of the Civil War that King must have read, there was “an effort to extend rights to blacks, whose racist repression was the country’s great original sin” (emphasis added).

By the way, the power and ambit of national authority was indeed an enormously important issue in the run-up to the Civil War (and its aftermath) because the South feared a stronger national government would move against slavery.

According to King, my book has an invidious anti-woman bias: “Women are almost entirely absent from Lowry’s national past and present. By my count, fewer than a dozen or so women merit a mention in his book: Queen Elizabeth I and Joan of Arc are among them, along with a bevy of current-day intellectuals such as Amy Gutmann and Martha Nussbaum, who are there to be argued against.”

This is ridiculous. It’s not my fault that the leaders and generals of the past were largely men, or that U.S. presidents have all been male. Nonetheless, I don’t just “mention” Joan of Arc and Queen Elizabeth I, I devote extensive and admiring passages of the book to them. As for attacking female intellectuals, I plead guilty to citing and disagreeing with female writers I disagree with. If we are going to play this stupid bean-counting game, King should have noted that I cite Liah Greenfeld of Boston University repeatedly and always favorably.

Read the entire piece. And for the sake of your intellect, or just to spite King, purchase The Case for Nationalism here.

All that Lip-Smacking Was Appropriate, Given the Tasty, 19-Course Feast of NR Brilliance that Awaits

1. As promised, Victor Davis Hanson finds 10 reasons why the Democrats’ impeachment crusade — an “ongoing coup attempt” in his apt words — is illegitimate. Here are two reasons from the piece:

Impeachment without High Crimes or Misdemeanors. There is no proof of any actual Trump crime.

No longer is Nancy Pelosi describing the whistleblower as central to the impeachment inquiry. Asking a corrupt foreign head of state to look into past corruption is pro forma. That Joe Biden is now a candidate for president and Trump’s potential rival does not ensure him exemption from his possible wrongdoing in the past as vice president when his son used the Biden name for lucrative advantage in leveraging Ukrainian money for assumed preferential Obama-administration treatment.

In other words, it is certainly not a crime for a president to adopt his own foreign policy to fit particular countries nor to request of a foreign government seeking U.S. aid, with a long history of corruption, that it ensure it has not in the past colluded with prior U.S. officials in suspicious activity. A president can appoint or fire any ambassador he chooses, all the more so when one has a known record of partisanship. It is not a crime to disagree with House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff when he says that White House officials must testify when he so summons them.

The irony is that while the House politicizes impeachment, the IG of the Justice Department, Michael Horowitz, and lifelong civil servant and federal attorney John Durham are likely to show concrete evidence that the now-exempt Obama administration used the powers of the FBI, CIA, and DOJ, unethically if not illegally, to attempt to destroy the candidacy, transition, and presidency of Donald Trump — still the current object of yet another political coup.

Thought Crimes? Even if there were ever a quid, there is no quo: Unlike the case of the Obama administration, the Trump administration did supply arms to Ukraine, and the Ukrainians apparently did not reinvestigate the Bidens. As a matter of general policy, Trump has been far harder on Russia and far more concretely supportive of Ukraine than was the Obama administration. That stubborn fact is ipso facto evidence that if there was any quid pro quo, it was more likely a matter of Biden rather than Trump pressuring the Ukrainians, given the actual quite different results: Again, the Trump administration armed the Ukrainians; Obama and his administration did not. Thought crimes are still not impeachable offenses.

2. Andy McCarthy explains where he and America’s haughty policy community part over impeachment. From the beginning of his analysis:

When it comes to Russia, I am with what Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman calls the American “policy community.”

Vindman, of course, is one of the House Democrats’ star impeachment witnesses. His haughtiness in proclaiming the policy community and his membership in it grates, throughout his 340-page House deposition transcript. I couldn’t agree more, though, with our experts’ apparent consensus that Moscow is bad, should be challenged on various fronts, and would best be seen as the incorrigible rival it is, not the potential strategic partner some wish it to be — the “some” here known to include the president. Ukraine, for all its deep flaws, is valuable to us as a check on Russia’s aggression, another conclusion about which the president is skeptical.

That is, on the critical matter of America’s interests in the Russia/Ukraine dynamic, I think the policy community is right, and President Trump is wrong. If I were president, while I would resist gratuitous provocations, I would not publicly associate myself with the delusion that stable friendship is possible (or, frankly, desirable) with Putin’s anti-American dictatorship, which runs its country like a Mafia family and is acting on its revanchist ambitions.

But you see, much like the policy community, I am not president. Donald Trump is.

And that’s where the policy community and I part company. It is the president, not the bureaucracy, who was elected by the American people. That puts him — not the National Security Council, the State Department, the intelligence community, the military, and their assorted subject-matter experts — in charge of making policy. If we’re to remain a constitutional republic, that’s how it has to stay.

3. Kyle Smith . . . yawn . . . elaborates on America’zzzzzzz boredom with impeachment politics. Ask any Tom, Dick, or Alfie what’s it all about and expect a shoulder shrug. Good! From the piece:

Politico, whose relationship to impeachment might be expected to resemble a German Shepherd’s to a pound of raw sirloin, picked listlessly at its meal: “One surprising thing we heard a few times from people of both parties,” read the Politico Playbook, is “that the American public simply believes politics and government are dirty, and is not surprised that the president held up military aid to force an investigation into a political rival. In fact, there’s a theory that this is seen as business as usual.” So an outlet whose brand is being fantastically plugged in to the Washington scene is surprised that the American people are not surprised that politics is dirty? I doubt Politico is actually that naïve. What it is, is disappointed. The Democrats’ “blockbuster” turned out about as well as Terminator: Dark Fate.

Schiff’s trolling game isn’t working, but even so, two sides can join the fun. When (if) this thing lumbers over to the Senate for a trial, the president’s backers will stage their own trolling show. They could call Hunter Biden as a witness. Hell, why not call Joe Biden as a witness? The GOP is already thinking about how to pull a “We’re not locked in here with you — you’re locked in here with us!” moment. Republican senator Richard Burr of North Carolina let slip this prophecy the other day: “The day the [Senate] takes it up, we go into session six days a week from 12:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m.,” with the trial to last six to eight weeks, which would certainly disrupt Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s winter plans to lock up their party’s presidential nomination even as their Senate colleagues are hammering away at all things Biden. “These witnesses that they’re calling are politically motivated,” groused Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) of the GOP. “Republicans are turning this into a partisan issue.” Ya think? AOC may be new in town, but even so, she learns remarkably slowly.

4. Hard to be more definitive than Charlie Cooke here: “Northwestern University’s student newspaper is a national embarrassment.” It grovels in apology for . . . reporting the news. From the post:

The apology contains all the usual buzzwords that mark out your average capitulation to the insane and the brittle: “harm”; “retraumatizing”; “safety”; “invasion”; “marginalized”; along with the customary promise that everyone implicated will visit the nearest re-education camp tout suite. It’s dreck from start to finish, and everyone involved with it should be severely ashamed.

Are they? Presumably not, given that they’re still making their case.

It is beyond my comprehension that anyone who participated was able keep a straight face while writing it, let alone that they consented to have their name glued to the thing for eternity. Just look at it. “One area of our reporting that harmed many students was our photo coverage of the event.” What? “Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatizing and invasive.” How? “We feel that covering traumatic events requires a different response than many other stories.” It was a milquetoast speech, not D-Day. “Some students also voiced concern about the methods that Daily staffers used to reach out to them.” They used the bloody phone book. ” We understand that this will not be easy, but we are ready to undertake the reform and reflection necessary to become a better paper.” Impossible. The only way to improve the paper is to fire everyone involved and bomb the building from the upper atmosphere.

RELATED: Kat Timpf weighs in on the Daily Northwestern’s “insane editorial.”

5. Rubio One: The senator makes the case for “Common-Good Capitalism.” From the essay:

We must start by rejecting the false choice our politics has offered us for almost three decades. First, our financialized economy is the result of policy choices lawmakers have made in the past. And restoring a balance between the obligations and rights of the private sector and working Americans will require the attention of lawmakers today.

What we need to do is restore common-good capitalism: a system of free enterprise wherein workers fulfill their obligation to work and enjoy the resultant benefits, and businesses enjoy their right to make a profit and reinvest enough to create high-productivity jobs, which is what I mean by dignified work for Americans.

Common-good capitalism also means recognizing that what the market determines is most efficient may not be best for America. For example, we’ve allowed ourselves to become almost completely dependent on China for rare-earth minerals and done nothing to further our ability to provide them for ourselves. That’s why I have filed legislation to support investment in this critical sector.

It is also possible to reform the Small Business Administration to reinvigorate the legacy of business innovation that delivered Americans to the Moon 50 years ago.

Common-good capitalism also means recognizing fundamental shifts in our culture.

The market may not account for the benefits our country receives from parental engagement. But common-good capitalism does. That is why I’ve worked to expand the federal per-child tax credit, as well as proposed creating an option for paid parental leave.

6. Rubio Two: Nope, says David Harsanyi. Marco’s common-good stuff is . . . bizarre. From the response:

Rubio begins his lament by quoting Pope Leo XIII, a late-19th-century critic of socialism and laissez-faire economics, intimating that both systems are comparably problematic. Leo argued that the ultimate goal of society should be to “make men better” by providing opportunity to attain the “dignity” that comes from work, ownership, and raising a family.

Neither the market nor the state, I’m afraid, can make you a better man. Still, Pope Leo might have been quite happy with the results of the Industrial Revolution, by far the greatest poverty-destroying, dignity-creating turning point in human history.

In 1907, the year Leo died, around 60 percent of the American work force toiled in factories and farms, with few options. Today that number is under 10 percent. There’s certainly nothing undignified about factory or agricultural work — today those jobs can be quite high-tech, in fact — but for most of our existence it meant menial, monotonous, and dangerous work for little pay.

7. Saint Greta, pray for us (and for the Ice Shelf): John Hirschauer finds the ’Frisco icon of the Swedish climate carper hearkens to a new faithful. (Personally, I wonder if the paint was made with toxic materials.) From the piece:

Mass literacy is a very modern miracle.

Clerics in the medieval Church did not have the luxury of literate pew-sitters. They, rather creatively, used the architecture, sculpture, and paintings in cathedrals to convey the biblical narrative to the unlettered faithful. Gothic architecture so arrests the modern eye not only for its structural and formalistic brilliance but also because the ornature itself narrates the story of salvation.

The climate clerics have erected their own Biblia pauperum for the unwashed masses in San Francisco. One Atmosphere, an area non-profit, dedicated a mammoth mural yesterday of the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. The Putinesque mural, painted on the street-facing side of an urban mid-rise, took an estimated 700 cans of aerosol spray paint to complete. Hypocrisy? No, says the non-profit: syncretism. “The finishing details can only be done with spray paint, but we are using spray cans without CFCs,” the organization said in a statement. “We are using low pressure cans with a minimal footprint.”

The mural’s financiers seem intent on pushing a sort of potted theology with the display. The executive director of the non-profit, Paul Scott, said that Greta Thunberg “is a bright light in a dark time and we hope people will follow her lead and make some changes.” Not only is Scott a voice crying out in the wilderness, heralding the virtues of the Thunbergian project, but he is an outright evangelist for the faith: “We’re hoping to have other building owners who like this idea and support our objectives and want to have something similar on their buildings.” Scott hopes the mural will “open up their hearts and minds to the unbridled conviction of Greta’s message.”

8. The Constitution State is a place of departure: Kevin Williamson recounts the rich and famous and not so famous fleeing the tax insanity that is Connecticut. From his piece:

My colleague Charles C. W. Cooke, who made the move from Fairfield County to Florida a few years ago, tells a familiar story: “I can afford a house that fits my growing family and a swimming pool,” he says. “I don’t pay any income or personal property taxes. The weather is better. And I’m not at the mercy of the Metro North or of the roads that make it necessary.” Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough is another Connecticut refugee in Florida. “I wish I could still be in New Canaan,” he says, but life is simply too much more difficult there. “Traffic going to kids’ birthday parties a few miles up the Merritt could take 45 minutes.” And in Florida? “It’s easier, cheaper, and the state government (with no income taxes) is far more efficient. Everything from getting a driver’s license to getting to your kid’s baseball game is so much easier.”

The allure of Fairfield County used to be that it is close to Manhattan. But it is not as close to Manhattan as Manhattan is. So, what else ya got? The tax advantages of being in Connecticut vs. being in Westchester County, N.Y., or in New York City have narrowed. So have the quality-of-life advantages.

Low taxes, safe streets, and good governance? Connecticut has moved the wrong way on some of those metrics, and New York City has moved the right way on one important one with the dramatic decrease in crime from the Giuliani years onward. With the general decline in the quality of the Metro North railroad (and the parallel decline in New York City subway service) getting to and from the suburbs to offices in the Financial District has become a much bigger chore, while living in the Financial District itself (as I did for some years) has become a much more attractive option. Living in the city makes more sense for more people than it once did.

Economists and social critics used to talk about competitiveness almost exclusively in terms of the business environment. (Paul Krugman, back when he was a first-rate economist instead of a third-rate rage-monkey, wrote insightful criticism of the excesses of that orientation.) But experience has led social observers to a wider view of the question. When Amazon goes looking for a place to park a bunch of highly paid and intellectually sophisticated Amazonians, low taxes and a gentle regulatory environment aren’t going to be enough to put Muleshoe, Texas on the list of potentials. There is more to value than price alone. New York City is probably the most attractive place in the United States for people who desire urban lives of a certain character. Other places have charms of other kinds: Philbin is not relocating to some low-tax farm state but to California, which is terribly governed and has high taxes (mostly on income rather than on property, which may be attractive to him as a rich retired man) but remains an awfully nice place to live, especially for show-business types who enjoy being around their peers.

9. In the first part of a “valedictory” essay on modern literature, the great, retiring, scholar M. D. Aeschliman reflects on literature as a form of praise, resistance, and consolation. You will want to hunker down with this. From the essay:

Chesterton knew through experience the fin-de-siècle pessimism of the aesthetes, the braggart jingoism of the imperialists, the cynicism of the capitalists (think of Andrew Undershaft in the play Major Barbara (1905), by Chesterton’s longtime friend George Bernard Shaw), the collectivism of the Marxists. Yet some intuitive genius turned him against these “heresies” (the title of one of his early books is Heretics (1908)), without succumbing to the “peter pan-theism” of the nostalgic longing for childhood, nature, and the past — or to the “Whig interpretation of history,” which envisioned the future as a gradual or rapid arrival in utopia. Long before 1914 he realized that the 20th century was more likely to be catastrophe than utopia. The philosopher Sidney Hook was to say that 1914 commenced “the Second Fall of Man,” due its spectacular disappointment of Whig-liberal and Marxist hopes. We still live in the shadow of that Fall.

Chesterton’s early career has been carefully considered and charted in a fine scholarly book by William Oddie, Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy: The Making of GKC, 1874–1908 (Oxford, 2008). What Chesterton recovered on his own was a philosophy of life that resisted both pessimistic and optimistic simplifications, literary subjectivism and scientific materialism, desperate or arrogant Nietzschean immoralism and fanatical Marxist moral inversion. He felt that the modernist “heretics” evaded certain basic facts of life — first of all, perhaps, that being itself was good — the being of the world, the beings of others, and the being of the self. Initially he probably identified this insight most with Charles Dickens, on whom he wrote two great books (1906, 1911) at a time when Dickens’s literary reputation (though not his popularity) was at a low ebb. Gradually Chesterton was to credit this profound metaphysical intuition to earlier classic English writers — Chaucer and Shakespeare — and to William Blake and Robert Browning, but his intuitive philosophical wisdom ultimately saw it in those great medieval Italian, pan-European figures St. Francis and St. Thomas Aquinas, on each of whom he wrote a brilliant, classic book (1923, 1933), as he did on Chaucer, Blake, and Browning. “Bonus et ens convertuntur” — Goodness and being are convertible, as St. Thomas put it. Being itself is real and good.

10. Marvin Olasky wants to reform journalism. In fact, he’s written a book, Reforming Journalism, and Russell Pulliam has read it. From the review:

Olasky shows how Sam Adams offered a faith-based journalism as an influential commentator before the War for Independence. Again, the traditional journalism-history textbooks seldom note that Adams freely quoted from the scriptures to make his case for freedom.

Some key numbers help Olasky set the context for this era. The number of newspapers in circulation went from 359 in 1810 to 1,265 in 1834 — similar to the explosion of news websites in our time.

With alertness to worldview and broader philosophical commitments, Olasky identifies a turning point in American journalism history, a shift away from a general conservative Christian consensus in many newspapers, such as the Boston Recorder. Editor Nathaniel Willis loved the spirit of the French Revolution until he heard the Christian gospel and committed his life to Christ. He went on to edit the Recorder with a scriptural emphasis, showing sowing and reaping in some stories and gospel opportunity in others. George Wisner of the New York Sun offered similar culturally conservative commentary when the Sun had the largest circulation in the nation in the early 1830s. William Leggett of the New York Evening Post (now owned by Rupert Murdoch) argued for limited government in this era, on grounds that problems were bound to arise whenever “government assumes the functions which belong alone to an overruling Providence, and affects to become the universal dispenser of good and evil.”

The turning point was gradual, occurring around the mid 1800s, as influential editors moved toward an Enlightenment idea that people could figure out their own ways to live without considering the Bible.

Horace Greeley was the most famous figure in this shift. He’s remembered for saying, “Go West, young man.” He stayed east as editor of the New York Tribune, eventually running for president in 1872. In story presentation and vision for news, Greeley was brilliant. Unfortunately he had an almost utopian view of mankind. One of the most interesting parts of Olasky’s story is the theological debate between Greeley and Henry Raymond of the New York Courier and Enquirer. Raymond argued for a more traditional Christian view of the sinfulness of people, and Greeley contended for a more optimistic set of assumptions.

11. Conrad Black asks, quo vadis, NATO? From the beginning of the column:

It is a bit rich to hear French president Emmanuel Macron announce that NATO is suffering “a brain death” because of “a lack of American commitment.” France has allowed her armed forces to dwindle down to an aircraft carrier,six nuclear submarines with nuclear-tipped missiles, a modest but well-armed air force, and an army of about 100,000, a fifth of Turkey’s. This is the army that in other times was the greatest in Europe prior to the unification of Germany in 1871, was the silent force in French political history, and produced that nation’s greatest leaders, particularly Napoleon and Charles de Gaulle. This was the army that, with the Royal (British) Navy, was the shield defending Western Europe and North America from the dangers of Central and Eastern Europe between the founding of the Alliance Cordiale, ending eight centuries of Anglo–French animosity, in 1904, to the fall of France under the hob-nailed jackboot of Nazi Germany in 1940.

The United States, the country in NATO least likely to be attacked by any other country (except possibly for Canada), or by any terrorist outrage directly traceable to another country, has brought its military capabilities up to their highest point since the end of the Cold War nearly 30 years ago. Of course, the United States is the only country with legitimate strategic interests around the world and it is the only country that can correctly determine the level of force that is necessary to protect those interests adequately and provide the level of deterrence that meets the counsel of Publius Fabius Vegetius Renatus in the late fourth century: “If you wish peace, prepare for war.” Rome had practiced that for seven centuries when Vegetius wrote it, but had reached a state of such political and moral dissolution that it was about to be overthrown in the west and comprehensively defeated and subjugated by barbarians. Though commentators who don’t know better (they are numerous) frequently claim that the United States is in sight of such a fate, it is very far from it.

12. Brian Allen reports on how American art is being taught in Red China. From the piece:

The ISAAC program operates in Pearl Buck’s old house on the campus of Nanjing University, where Buck lived when the school was a Presbyterian college run by missionaries. Buck (1892–1973) isn’t a name we hear often, though she was, in her day, as famous and revered as a living writer could be. She wrote The Good Earth in 1931, among many other things, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938. She and her parents were missionaries, but Buck wasn’t cloistered as a child — she spoke Chinese and went to school with Chinese children. Her parents were hell-bent on Christianizing the Chinese but never considered them inferior. During the Boxer Rebellion and in the turbulent years afterwards, they stayed in China.

Buck is now considered old-fashioned and out-of-date. She was both unique and turbulent, but what great artist is a sweetie-pie? She hated Chinese Communism, but her opinions on everything were hard to predict. She can’t be boxed, and, unfortunately, in English departments these days and among many critics, if a writer can’t fit in a nice, tidy box, they can’t be bothered. And, worse still, if they can’t wrap the box in PC cant with a flouncy “Happy Victim Day” ribbon, the writer tends to disappear. So, in the 1960s, where did she live? Of course, in Vermont, the Land of Cows, Fall Color, and Vinegary Personas. She lived in Danby, not far from me. The old-timers there adored her. They still remember her male companion, 50 years on, as a sulky, irascible scourge.

I reread The Good Earth last week. It’s a fine novel. It’s old-fashioned in its vastness — it’s the first book of a trilogy. Together, the three books are long and rambling, but that’s the nature of the project. In tone, theme, and characters, it reminds me of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Walker must know it well.

Set in rural China, The Good Earth crafts the lives of a farmer, Wang Lung, his wife, O-Lan, and an extended family, concubines included, in the glass hive of village life. Many current issues — sexism, inequality, fundamentalism, poverty, exploitation, disability . . . okay, no one changes gender — are there, but it’s certainly not contemporary. Victimhood, blame, and even individual agency aren’t factors. Interiority isn’t as much of a driver as it is in fiction today. Characters bob on a sea of habits and templates made over generations, mostly driven by family worship and fixed expectations for men and women.

13. Son of a . . . Armond White goes all Armond White on Motherless Brooklyn. There are few if any survivors. From the review:

Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn is an embarrassment to white liberalism. Yet the film’s shameless conceit is also a monument to white liberal narcissism. As director and star, Norton adapts the 1999 novel by Jonathan Lethem and vies with the book’s preening cleverness. Lethem’s detective-novel pastiche, about a white gumshoe with Tourette’s syndrome, flaunted contemporary social and race consciousness when the sleuth exposes a municipal plot to disenfranchise black New Yorkers through urban planning and infrastructure redistricting: Think Humphrey Bogart in Jane Jacobs drag.

Norton outdoes Lethem’s show-offy progressivism by making the story retro. The film’s 1950s setting syncs fashionably with the New York Times’ 1619 Project, evoking America’s racist past (when blacks were called Negroes) to encourage Millennial self-righteousness — a white liberal ploy that presses black victimization. And, oh yeah, the neurologically afflicted protagonist Lionel Essrog (played by Norton) proves irresistible to the beautiful, endlessly grateful biracial heroine Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). “Funny how things turn out,” she says, falling into his arms.

It’s hard to recall another detective movie with so little tension. The good-versus-evil, power-versus-powerless dynamics are too blatant to raise dramatic tension; its film-noir cynicism is a version of the anti-American ethic taught in “enlightened” school curricula — a fancy, over-obvious lecture on equality that shifts between Fort Greene, in Brooklyn, and Harlem, in Manhattan. Norton then compounds Lethem’s literary conceit with his own cinematic arrogance through narrative and character developments that copy Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (and some of Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress). Adding the cliché of Edward Hopper desolate romanticism as a visual style doesn’t help. Norton bastardizes movies that are better than he himself can make.

14. Kyle Smith turns to Amazon and catches the streaming documentary One Child Nation. He finds the massive slaughter to be a holocaust. From the review:

When the adoption market started to boom in the 1990s, the calculus changed. Enterprising folks who were motivated by profit but were also heroes on a scale that dwarfs the 1,200 lives saved by Oskar Schindler began visiting the known baby-dumping areas and scooping up living infants. One man from Shenzhen estimates he collected 10,000 babies this way, building a network of tipsters such as trash collectors and taxi drivers whose jobs involved lots of roaming around the city. Orphanages were paying $200 for babies, no questions asked. Many Americans are parents of these adoptees today, and for those who have questions, a Utah company called Research China has been gathering data about the Chinese backgrounds of such children. The man interviewed in the film who saved so many lives in Shenzhen was charged with being a “human trafficker” and spent years in prison for the crime of not letting babies perish.

Chinese authorities decided to get in on the act. Why abort babies and throw them in the trash when you can wait till they’re born, then kidnap them? Propaganda promised citizens rewards for informing authorities of families that had more than one child. Orphanages were pleased to take the abducted babies, too. (An expert walks us through how orphanage officials would simply make up a fictitious backstory for each otherwise unexplained child and present the lies to eager prospective parents.) In 2015, China switched to a two-child policy, and the crisis ended. Or did it? Chinese parents have been conditioned to have only one child since 1980, and the number of births fell 5 million short of projections last year. An editorial in the Communist Party paper People’s Daily scolded couples with these words: “Not wanting to have kids is just a lifestyle of passively giving in to society’s pressures.” What’s Mandarin for chutzpah?

15. More Kyle: He’s liking Ford v. Ferrari. From the review:

There used to be a lot of overlap between what we think of as a Hollywood studio picture (designed to earn money) and an awards movie (designed to fill the trophy case, usually with an accompanying loss of money). Ford v Ferrari is a glorious throwback to the era when big stars did quality movies about actual people with real-life problems, but the scripts nevertheless adhered to basic Hollywood formulae such as “Have an exciting climax.” Today, the “awards-season” pictures tend to be allergic to entertainment, and they often trickle out rather than conclude. They seem more interested in making us feel guilty than inspiring us. Ford v Ferrari, though, is delightful old-school entertainment.

Christian Bale may be the leading actor of his generation. Not only is he a master of the technical stuff — the shapeshifting, the mimicry — but he also radiates the great intangible of star magnetism. In Ford v Ferrari, as in so many other parts, Bale simply owns the screen, this time as a skinny, snarly English mechanic named Ken Miles who drives in California car races on the side. It turns out Bale can even do a British accent. The man is a wonder.

When a fellow racer, the Texan Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon, nowhere near as effective as Bale but at least passable as a Southerner), retires from competition due to nerve damage and gets into car design, the two men join up to try to help Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) build a new model, the GT, designed to win the intense 24-hour race at Le Mans, a contest usually dominated by the designs of Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone). Ford tries to buy Ferrari’s company in 1963 but gets rebuffed as Enzo sells to Fiat instead. Mr. Ford wants revenge and respect for his grandfather’s brand, and he wants it in 90 days.

16. Diane Scharper praises Prof. Nicola Gardini’s new book, in which Gardini makes the case for Latin. Ex articulum:

Calling his book both an ode and an essay, Gardini defends Latin from those who consider the subject superfluous. He is especially drawn to Latin’s poetic qualities and frequently comments on the musicality of the language with its figures of sound as well as its metaphors, which he says have an almost magical effect.

Studying Latin, Gardini says, taught him the importance of discrete sounds and syllables. It showed him “the importance of musical language, the soul of poetry.” Words he used every day began “disassembling in my mind and swirling around like petals in the air,” Gardini writes in a nod to poetry.

Gardini suggests that his book is for a general reader—especially for young students. But it’s hard to imagine many young students from the U.S. responding well to the “critical and aesthetic genius” of a writer like Horace (65 B.C.E.–8 C.E.) or to his Ars Poetica, excerpts of which Gardini translates and discusses. As Gardini observes, “There’s nothing easy about Horace’s Latin, even when it’s dictated to by occasion.”  Yet Horace’s advice for poets would resonate in today’s university writing courses: “Poetry is like painting: some things catch you / more if you stand in front of them, other things from a distance.”

The book is somewhat hard to follow because Gardini doesn’t present his material in chronological order. The authors don’t appear as they would in a history of Latin literature. Instead, he shows them in media res, in what he calls, “linguistic instances, . . . as examples of what Latin has gained at a certain moment . . . and handed down to its long—and still living—tradition.” But this is a quibble with an important and informative book.

17. Michael Hendrix recommends house sharing as a partial solution to housing-affordability issues whammying metropolitan areas. From the analysis:

Figuring out how to use America’s existing housing stock more efficiently seems like the next logical step. There are 33.6 million more bedrooms in America than there are people—and since some share a room, there are surely more such “spare” bedrooms. By PadSplit’s accounting, some 54 million bedrooms go unused every night in the United States. Converting a quarter of these rooms into rentals would alone house the 14 million people in America making less than $35,000 a year who are singles or couples that rent. Turning 10 percent of Atlanta’s current stock of five-bedroom homes into multi-family dwellings could yield nearly 9,000 new affordable units over the next decade.

There’s also more space in these rooms — newly built homes in America offer 971 square feet of living space per person, up 90 percent from the 1970s. Even accounting for older homes and apartments, Atlanta still has 590 square feet per person. And while home sizes in America are growing, household size is decreasing. As a report by the Urban Land Institute found, “A 4.1 person household in 1930 would consist of slightly more than 1,000 square feet, while the same home in 2017, consisting of a 2.5 person household, is built to over 2,500 square feet.” All that space in all these spaces.

While PadSplit focuses on renting out entire homes, the potential of simply renting out rooms to grown children, relatives, or even strangers is surely an even larger market for affordable housing. Airbnb’s $35 billion valuation showed this potential for short-term, hotel-like stays. And in the suburban stretches of Los Angeles, the 30-fold increase overnight in permit applications to build accessory dwelling units (also known as “granny flats”) following statewide regulatory reform also shows the potential for housing space in underutilized garages and backyards. Simply looking at empty-nester Boomer households headed by those over the age of 64, Trulia found 3.6 million vacant bedrooms in the 100 largest metro areas, with New York (177,734) and Atlanta (141,462) leading the way.

18. As John Fund explains, the Berlin Wall may be kaput, but its lessons should never be forgotten. From the beginning of the column:

The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years until in 1989 a wave of citizen protest forced the East German Communist government to open its gates. We’ve now gone longer without the Berlin Wall than it existed.

As we marked the anniversary, on November 9, of its demise, I couldn’t help but recall with wonder how astonishingly quickly the ugly scar of the wall along with its guards, dogs, and mines were all swept away in a wave of euphoria.

I visited the Berlin Wall and crossed into East Germany several times during the 1980s while I worked at the Wall Street Journal. I will never forget the brave dissidents I met on the Eastern side who never accepted the wall, or the bureaucrats who ran the state machinery that sustained it.

While it now appears easy to simply divide the East German population into oppressors and the people they oppressed, I learned that the truth was a bit more complicated even for someone like me who grew up with anti-Communism in his bloodstream.

19. No you’re not a man of the people, says Tamara Berens about Jeremy Corbyn, shifty and shifting and deceptive and anti-Semitic leader of Labour. From the piece:

Deceit is a central component of Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy in the upcoming U.K. general election. Corbyn repeats the outlandish claim that Johnson intends to sell out the National Health Service (NHS), Britain’s single-payer health-care system, to the United States. Corbyn says that Johnson has created a “Trump alliance” that will divert £500 million (around $643 million) to American companies per week as part of a trade deal between Britain and the U.S. This has no basis in reality. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg — by no means a friend to Johnson — hinted at the manipulative intent of Corbyn’s statements. The aim is to paint Johnson as an enemy of British public services such as the NHS, which many Brits view as the pride of their country. In fact, bolstering the NHS has been at the center of Johnson’s campaign: He pledged to build 40 new hospitals and to fund 6,000 more doctors to deliver millions of extra patient appointments.

That Corbyn has received little criticism for his lies — which form a central part of every major campaign speech and of Labour’s social-media advertising — reveals the extent to which he is shielded from scrutiny.

Corbyn is afforded this same protection when it comes to his shifting stance on Brexit. In a recent speech in the north of England, Corbyn said he will not be the kind of prime minister who “thinks politics is a game.” Yet on the question of leaving the European Union — the key issue facing Britain this election — Corbyn has played almost every possible move. His brand of socialism puts him in opposition to European integration. Indeed, for most of his career, Corbyn opposed the EU on the grounds that it is too militaristic and repressive of workers’ rights. In 1976 he voted to leave the European Economic Community, the precursor to the EU. He campaigned against the integrationist Lisbon Treaty in 2009, arguing that he did not want to live “in a European empire of the 21st century.” During the 2016 EU referendum in Britain, Corbyn outwardly supported Remain but was accused of lukewarm campaigning. A few weeks before the vote, he rated the EU “seven or seven and a half out of ten.”

A Sincere Thank You

Concerning the recently ended Fall 2019 Webathon, some 2,500 kind readers donated $315,000. Each and every one of you rock.

The Six

1. At the California Policy Center, the renowned Edward Ring sees the states’ fires sparked by the state and federal forest mismanagement, and proposes solutions. From the analysis:

In order to rapidly address the challenge of thinning California’s forests, there are several steps that may be taken simultaneously. For starters, many environmental regulations need to be rewritten. The state is already beginning to grant CEQA exemptions to property owners that want to engage in thinning operations. But half of California’s forests are on federal land. At the federal level, the EPA’s “no action” restrictions, usually based on the “single species management“ practice, have led to more than half of California’s national forests being off limits to tree thinning, brush removal, or any other sort of active management.

Another required change is the U.S. Forest Service guidelines which only permit active forest management, even in the areas that are not off limits, for as little as six weeks per year. While restrictions on when and where forests can be thinned may have sound ecological justifications in some ways, they are making it impossible to thin the forests. The ecological cost/benefits need to be reassessed. To be effective, thinning operations need to be allowed to run for several months each year, instead of several weeks each year.

The EPA needs to streamline the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) application process so it is less expensive and time consuming for qualified companies to get permits to extract timber from federal lands. They can also grant waivers to allow thinning projects to bypass NEPA, or at the least, broaden the allowable exemptions.

The federal government can accelerate granting of long term stewardship contracts whereby qualified companies acquire a minimum 20 year right to extract wood products from federal lands. This will guarantee a steady supply of wood products which, in turn, will make new investment viable in logging equipment, mills, and biomass energy facilities.

2. Stalin? Sto Stalin? At The Daily Signal, Jarett Stepman checks out the rise in Soviet Revisionism. From the piece:

This is the latest in a growing genre of Soviet and communist apologia. The New York Times, after all, dedicated a section of its website to a series of articles about the 1917 communist revolution in Russia, including a puff piece about Vladimir Lenin as an environmentalist and another touting women’s sex lives under socialism.

Yet there was no mention of the mass cover-up of Soviet crimes in the 1930s by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Walter Duranty.

The Daily Beast article was penned by Brian T. Brown, author of the new book “Someone Is Out to Get Us: A Not So Brief History of Cold War Paranoia and Madness.”

Brown tries to convince the reader that, despite what you may have heard, the Soviet Union wasn’t really that bad after all, and if it was bad, America is to blame.

An absurd and obnoxious Soviet apologetic might be worth dismissing out of hand. Yet, as a recent poll demonstrated, a growing number of young Americans say they prefer socialism or communism to capitalism.

The poll, conducted by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, found that “15% of millennials think the world would be better off if the Soviet Union still existed.” A staggering 75% were unaware of the Soviet alliance with Nazi Germany at the start of World War II. And “57% of millennials (compared to 94% of the Silent Generation) believe the Declaration of Independence better guarantees freedom and equality over the Communist Manifesto.”

At one time, Americans would have almost universally mocked pro-Soviet propaganda as an embarrassing attempt to whitewash a murderous regime. Not so today.

3. At Gatestone Institute, Uzay Bulut finds the persecution of Christians ramping up in Algeria. From the report:

Although Christians make up a mere one percent of Algeria’s Muslim-majority population, they continue to be persecuted by the government in Algiers. The most recent example is the closure in mid-October of three churches and the forced eviction of their congregants by police.

William Stark, regional manager of International Christian Concern (ICC), told Gatestone that shuttering the churches is just part of a broader campaign that began two years ago to target places of Christian worship.

Stark said his organization’s sources in Algeria report that 12 churches have been closed by Algerian authorities since the beginning of 2019 alone:

“The closing of the latest three churches is most concerning, as it came only days after members of the l’Eglise Protestante d’Algerie (EPA) — an umbrella organization for Protestant churches — staged a peaceful sit-in against earlier church closures, and therefore suggests that it was an act of retaliation by Algerian authorities against those Christians willing to protest.

“One impetus for the protests is a 2006 law stating that any non-Muslim worship be conducted in specific, designated buildings. But since this law came into effect, no Christian places of worship have been designated by the government of Algeria.”

4. At The College Fix, boss editor Jennifer Kabbany gives a primer on one of conservatism’s best on-campus organizations, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and interviews its president Charlie Copeland. From the piece:

What is your take on the snowflake generation?

You are starting to see this play out in the corporate environment, organizations where their employees are literally signing petitions or threatening to go on strike because the company is providing services that they disagree with, and they are unable to balance their own sense of outrage with the fact that different people hold different opinions and we ought to respect those differences. It’s a small percentage of people that carry this forward, but have an outsized influence. Everybody is going to be offended at some point during their life and part of being an adult is to recognize that it’s not that big of a deal.

But universities don’t teach students how to be adults. Do they coddle them?

They absolutely coddle them. When they go through freshman orientation, and they all get to fill out what their personal pronoun is rather than he or she — everybody has the right to avoid being upset over anything, which by the way doesn’t work, because at the end of the day people have always had to deal with things they disagree with. But yes, they are absolutely coddled, which is why you see grade inflation, bias response teams, and the anti-free speech movement, and it’s driven almost exclusively by the left.

5. At The New Atlantis, Robert Zubrin proposes a new vision for NASA, which risks irrelevance minus a reboot. From the essay:

NASA deserves a lot of credit. A space agency funded by 4 percent of the world’s population, it is responsible for launching 100 percent of the rovers that have ever wheeled on Mars; all the probes that have visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto; nearly all the major space telescopes; and all the people who have ever walked on the Moon. But while its robotic planetary exploration and space astronomy programs continue to produce epic results, for nearly half a century its human spaceflight effort has been stuck in low Earth orbit.

The reason for this is simple: NASA’s space science programs accomplish a lot because they are mission-driven. In contrast, the human spaceflight program has allowed itself to become constituency-driven (or, to put it less charitably, vendor-driven). In consequence, the space science programs spend money in order to do things, while the human spaceflight program does things in order to spend money. Thus, the efforts of the science programs are focused and directed, while those of the human spaceflight program are purposeless and entropic.

This was not always so. During the Apollo period, NASA’s human spaceflight program was strongly mission-driven. We did not go to the Moon because there were three random constituency-backed programs to develop Saturn V boosters, command modules, and lunar excursion vehicles, which luckily happened to fit together, and which needed something to do to justify their funding. Rather, we had a clear goal — sending humans to the Moon within a decade — from which we derived a mission plan, which then dictated vehicle designs, which in turn defined necessary technology developments. That’s why the elements of the flight hardware set all fit together. But in the period since, with no clear mission, things have worked the other way.

Neither the space shuttle nor the International Space Station were designed as parts of any well-conceived plan to send humans to the Moon or Mars. Insistence that they be included as part of such programs only served to make them infeasible. More recently, other constituencies in NASA have made demands that any expedition to the Moon or Mars make use of new hobbyhorses, including variously a space station or asteroid fragment in lunar orbit, or high-powered electric propulsion, none of which are necessary, desirable, or arguably even acceptable for near-term human exploration.

NASA’s current plan for the “Lunar Gateway” space station (formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway, and then until a few months ago as the “Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway,” or LOP-G — I am not making this up) is a case in point. If you want to understand the merit of this project, consider a business proposition where you are offered a chance to rent an office in Saskatoon. Under the terms proposed, you will need to pay to build the office building and agree to a thirty-year lease at $100,000 per month rent, with no exit clause. In addition, you will need to spend one month per year in Saskatoon and travel through Saskatoon on your way to anywhere else for the rest of your life.

6. At National Affairs, Andrews Biggs and Jason Richwine expose the size of America’s worsening teacher pay gap . . . wait: There is no teacher pay gap. From the beginning of the analysis:

One of the most common beliefs about American education is that teaching is an “underpaid” profession. Think tanks purport to calculate the “teacher pay gap.” The media run stories about teachers taking second and third jobs to pay the bills. Politicians call for across-the-board raises. They all see raising teacher pay as a matter of simple fairness, as well as a way to attract better teachers and improve educational outcomes.

They are all misguided. The highly publicized “pay gap” that dominates news headlines is the product of a simplistic methodology that, when universally applied, suggests that nurses, firefighters, and other professionals are dramatically overpaid. Furthermore, predictions generated by the underpaid-teacher hypothesis — such as that teachers must have high quit rates, or that a large percentage of their income flows from second jobs — are not supported by the data. Teachers as a group are generally well compensated, and teacher pay and benefits have risen faster over time than compensation in private-sector jobs. Failure to recognize these facts can lead education reform down a blind alley.

Across-the-board raises, the usual solution to closing the teacher pay gap, come with high price tags. West Virginia’s teacher walkout ended with the state legislature passing an across-the-board 5% salary increase. Arizona’s teacher protests culminated in Governor Doug Ducey agreeing to a 20% salary increase over two years, a policy that will cost the state and schools over $450 million per year, in addition to higher pension costs based on the increased salaries. Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris has proposed to close the “gap” using federal funds, at an estimated 10-year cost of $315 billion. These are not costs that are incidental to government budgets.

Moreover, focusing on across-the-board raises distracts from less costly but more useful reforms, such as differential pay for hard-to-staff subjects, increased teacher mobility through experience credits and portable pensions, loosened tenure protections, and a reduction in non-teaching staff.

Ivanka, Ramesh, KLO, plus . . .

This week the dynamic NRI duo and the First Daughter met to discuss paid family leave and childcare in an event sponsored by National Review Institute. You can watch it here.

By the way, you can watch the video about the then-and-now history of NRI shown at last month’s Buckley Prize gala in Palm Beach here.

Baseballery

Everyone with an iota of interest in Old Baseball knows about Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder who played for the St. Louis Browns in 1945. Gray had lost his vital appendage as a child in an accident, but was determined to play baseball, and contrived a system — catch ball, roll ball out onto chest, tuck glove under stump, grab ball with bare hand, throw — that allowed him to perform, and he was so darned diligent that kept up with the big boys. Gray became a bit renowned on the semi-pro circuit, and was eventually signed by the Browns, playing for a couple of years in the minors. American League champs in the previous year, the team — desperate for attendance — brought him up to the Big Leagues in 1945, hoping he would prove a draw for curious fans.

And he was a draw. But as a player, well, Gray saw action in just 77 games, all as an outfielder (or pinch hitter/pinch runner). He amassed a weak .218 batting average. Some contend his defensive play, a little slower than most given the ball juggling, cost the third-place Browns several games, and maybe a second pennant. It’s quite debatable.

Gray was introverted, which was accompanied by a sour disposition. His teammates were not fond of him. Especially Mike Kreevich, the aging former White Sox All Star who was the Browns’ centerfielder: He was not thrilled that on several occasions manager Luke Sewell had started Gray in center. Kreevich wanted out, and late in the season the Browns sold him to the Senators. Within days Kreevich found himself playing against his former team. In the first game of an August 12 doubleheader at Sportsman Park in St. Louis, the Senators battered the Browns, 9-5, with Kreevich smashing four hits, the last one a bases-loaded double in the top of the ninth that drove in two runs. He showed them all right!

And Gray showed them, too. It was one of baseball’s little-known acts of karma. With one out, George “Foghorn” Myatt, the Senators’ second baseman, smacked a fly ball to center field, which was caught by Gray, who performed his transfer / glove / stick motion, grabbed the ball, threw it to Browns shortstop Vern Stephens, who stepped on second base and . . . Mike Kreevich was out. Doubled off second. It was the sole defensive double play of Pete Gray’s career. He couldn’t clap – Yours Truly is doing it for him now.

A Dios

Take no delight in the misery of others. That said, enjoy what remains of this weekend, spent fortunately for most of you in this place that our Creator ordained to be truly special. Warts and all, it is that.

God’s Blessings and Bounty, His Succor and Graces, on You and Yours,

Jack Fowler, who can accept plans for takeover coups of this Weekly Missive at jfowler@nationalreview.com.

National Review

Up a Lazy River, How Happy We Will Be

Dear Weekend Jolters,

Not too far down, this missive is aburst with intellectual links and stimulating goodies that will leave your conservative heart-cockles warmed and aglow.

Interested in getting that same result, but greatly intensified, and prolonged? In a setting of luxury and camaraderie? Surround by a contingent of wonderful people, smart and fun and friendly? Wine and beer included?!

Yes, you say? Tremendous! And then there are also castles and cathedrals and walled cities and locks and vineyards and a boatload (literally!) of intellectual discussion.

OK, you already said yes. This is all very real, and all going to happen in April 2020 on the National Review Rhine River Conservative Cruise. There are still a few cabins available on the glorious AMA Waterways AmaMora, chartered for an NR-only experience and sailing April 19–26 from Basel to Amsterdam. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for 140 lucky few — why shouldn’t that include you? It should! How happy you will be!! Contemplate the thrill of sailing up that glorious, historic, and lazy river while listening to the Mills Brothers and Dean croon, and find out how to make that happen at nrcruise.com.

Now, let’s get a-jolting!

Editorials

1. The president’s impeachment defense isn’t working. From the editorial:

True to his smash-mouth style, honed in years of litigation and tabloid wars in New York City, Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong, in fact that his call with Ukrainian president Zelensky was “perfect.” His most loyal allies have taken up this line, and supporters wearing “read the transcript” T-shirts have been arrayed behind Trump at his rallies.

The problem with this defense on the merits is that the call wasn’t perfect. It was so clearly inappropriate that most of the professionals listening in real time were alarmed. The problem as a practical political matter is that maintaining the “perfect” line allows the president’s critics to score easy points every time another insider emerges to say he was disturbed by the call.

Meanwhile, Republicans have leaned heavily on the “no quid pro quo” argument that quickly emerged after the rough transcript of the call was released. The call doesn’t include an explicit quid pro quo, but it is suggestive of one, certainly combined with the unexplained withholding of defense aid to Ukraine. Here, too, more and more evidence has emerged — EU ambassador Gordon Sondland’s revised testimony is the latest example — that the aid package was conditioned on Ukraine’s committing to investigations that Trump wanted.

Overall, the White House and Republicans have been violating the first rule of a good defense counsel, which is not to deny things that are undeniable. It erodes your credibility and makes it harder to mount a better defense on other grounds.

Celebrate Rick Brookhiser’s Give Me Liberty . . .

. . . by listening to the amazing, 13-part podcast series, featuring Rick and Luke Thompson (and in one episode, the great Jay Nordlinger), that NRO has created. You’ll find a description of it all here. You’ll find the series’ home page here. And click on the following link if you have been a bad boy or girl who has yet to purchase a copy of Rick’s acclaimed new book, Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea.

If You Don’t Check Out These Fourteen Exceptional Pieces, I Will Be Sent to Bed without Supper. So Please Click and Read.

1. Rick isn’t the only one celebrating a new book this week: So is Rich Lowry, whose The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free is getting much and deserved attention. He shares one of its themes: that America’s national book is The Bible. From the piece:

The English became a Bible-soaked people. The availability of the Bible and the emphasis on it for direct access to the word of God put a premium on literacy, and England became a highly literate society by the standards of the day. The act of reading the Bible impressed on people their own dignity, a revolutionary spark that wouldn’t be extinguished. They were also exposed to the Old Testament notions of nationality and a chosen people, which came to have such a central role in English and American history.

On our shores, the Geneva Bible favored by Calvinists initially dominated (a version of it is sometimes referred to as the “breeches” Bible for its strikingly modest version of the story of Adam and Eve, who, having discovered their nakedness, “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves breeches”).

The first copy of the King James Bible may have been brought over by the ship’s carpenter on the Mayflower. This translation won out and came to occupy an unparalleled place in the culture. Families often didn’t own any other book. It would be passed down in wills.

As the historian David D. Hall writes, “no book was read more often or in so many different ways: privately in silence, aloud in households where reading may sometimes have proceeded ‘in course’ through the Old and New Testaments, and in church services as the text for Sunday sermons.”

It wasn’t until the Revolution that the Bible could be legally published in America, and the floodgates opened to an insatiable market. By around 1800, the traveling Bible salesman and author Parson Weems (he gave us the story of George Washington and the cherry tree) could boast to his publisher of all the editions he was moving: “I tell you, this is the very season and age of the Bible. Bible Dictionaries, Bible tales, Bible stories — Bibles plain or paraphrased, Carey’s Bibles, Collins’ Bibles, Clarke’s Bibles, Kimptor’s Bibles, no matter what or whose, all, all will go down, so wide is the crater of public appetite at this time.”

2. More Nationalism: Michael Auslin reviews Colin Dueck’s Age of Iron: On Conservative Nationalism, and finds it a serious attempt to explain America’s post-9/11, Trump-saturated foreign policy. From the review:

Conservative nationalism, on Dueck’s view, can be traced back to the founding of the Republic. Far from a quixotic attempt to isolate America from the world around it, conservative nationalism aimed at protecting the infant country’s sovereignty while encouraging republicanism abroad, in line with American ideology. In this approach, Dueck modifies Robert Kagan’s thesis in Dangerous Nation, which argued that the ideological mission trumped a prudent focus on limitations to the American role abroad. Yet Dueck also differs from Walter McDougall, who in Promised Land, Crusader State argues that 1898 and the beginning of the American imperial moment marked the definitive break with traditional U.S. foreign policy. Dueck rather sees the change coming two decades later, with our entry into World War I and the emergence of a Wilsonian liberal internationalism that soon became the dominant foreign-policy orientation of 20th- and early-21st-century America.

There has been, however, no single Republican response to liberal internationalism. Dueck identifies three strands of the larger GOP foreign-policy tradition: noninterventionists, conservative internationalists, and hardline unilateralists. Mapping these varieties onto today’s conservatives would roughly equate the noninterventionists with the isolationist “paleocons” of the John Mearsheimer variety; conservative internationalists with the free-trade, nation-building “neocons” that ostensibly dominated the George W. Bush administration; and the hardline unilateralists with Trump. Age of Iron therefore contextualizes Trump’s differences not merely from Democrats, but from much of the Republican party, as well.

The core chapters of Age of Iron trace the history of Republican foreign policy from Teddy Roosevelt through Trump. Most of these decades Dueck characterizes as the “global versus national” approach, as successive Republican presidents and party leaders reacted to Democratic policies, especially those of FDR and Truman, and also to America’s dramatically changed position in the world after 1917 and especially 1945.

3. For all the know-it-alls, a true know-it-all, Andy McCarthy, reminds us that impeachment is unpredictable. From the article:

At this juncture, articles of impeachment based on the Ukraine scenario appear certain. There will be at least one charge of abusing the president’s foreign-relations power by encouraging a foreign government to investigate American citizens (the Bidens) for violations of the foreign government’s laws. A second article will likely allege that the president engaged in that abuse of power to further another one — specifically, to have the 2020 election influenced by the foreign power. Perhaps there will be an allegation that the president “extorted“ Ukraine, or in effect sought a “bribe,” by withholding vital defense aid to squeeze Kyiv into probing the Bidens. Almost certainly, there will be a charge of obstructing Congress’s investigation — for Democrats, it will be more effective to impeach Trump for failing to turn the over scads of information they will demand than to fight the president’s privilege claims in court, where Democrats could lose.

If the articles of impeachment are as just outlined, they would not move Senate Republicans toward removal. This is big wind, no rain. No matter what the president may have contemplated, nothing terrible actually happened. The Ukrainians got their aid. They did not have to commit to investigating the Bidens. And if this escapade has any discernible effect on the 2020 election, it will likely be to Trump’s detriment, not the Democrats’. Sure, Joe Biden’s candidacy takes a hit, but that was going to happen anyway — which is why Democrats have not shied from an impeachment push in which, inevitably, the former vice president becomes collateral damage.

But then again, we don’t know if this is all there is.

Democrats had their whistleblower held in reserve for a while before they decided it was time to pounce. Are they holding anything else? And whether they’re holding it or not, is there anything else? As we’ve seen, Trump is unorthodox (how’s that for euphemism?). His irregular behavior does not have to be materially damaging for Democrats and the press to portray it as the end of the Republic as we know it (see, e.g., Collusion, Russia).

4. David Harsanyi mocks the liberal media’s convenient love of things so-called. From the Corner post:

Not long after federal court in Manhattan blocked an HHS rule allowing doctors to refuse to perform abortions, assisted suicides, and other procedures for religious reasons, reporters began engaging in deft-defying acts of rhetorical deception.

It’s been long insinuated that concerns over religious freedom are merely elaborate schemes cooked up by bigots and misogynists. One of the ways journalists like to intimate bad faith is by placing quotation marks around perfectly factual phrases like “religious freedom” or “conscience.”

Now, it’d be another story if there were comparable journalistic standards for the usage of “gun safety” or “pro-choice,” or any of the thousands of debatable labels that have been appropriated for partisan purposes, but there aren’t. It is a standard almost exclusively deployed for “controversial” topics — which, loosely translated, means “conservative positions.”

Take, for example, this NPR headline: “Judge Scraps ‘Conscience’ Rule Protecting Doctors Who Deny Care For Religious Reasons.” If we’re handing out quotation marks why doesn’t the word “care” get them, as well? One, after all, could convincingly argue that a doctor whose “conscience” tells him to avoid harming other human beings is engaging in the very definition of the Hippocratic ideal.

RELATED: Charlie Cooke weighs in.

5. More Harsanyi: He goes after the bogus religious tolerance of Pete Buttigieg, alleged saint and POTUS wannabe. From the piece:

Take this recent interview with Adam Wren, in which Buttigieg was asked how “he would approach religious freedom broadly.”

“The touchstone has to be the idea that religious freedom, like other freedom, is constrained when it becomes a rationale for doing harm,” Buttigieg begins. “So when we talk about freedom of speech, that does not mean you can yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”

Let’s just stop here and note for the record that you can shout “fire” in a crowded theater. This infuriating analogy — issued by Oliver Wendell Holmes in Schenck v. United States and subsequently repeated by untold thousands of censorship apologists — was at the heart of one of the most egregious violations of free expression in our history.

The unanimous Schenck decision allowed the Wilson administration to throw a bunch of socialists, some of whom had fled czarist oppression, into prison for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. The alleged “harm” of these anti-war activists — who were, in every sense, exercising legitimate political expression — was undermining recruitment efforts for World War I.

Even if, like me, you believe that most socialists would gladly throw you in prison if they got the chance, you may also realize that a truly free society doesn’t “constrain” dissent as a matter of ideological preference.

Does Buttigieg? He wants you to know that, like freedom of speech, religious freedom is really about protecting the minorities he likes. Buttigieg went on to inform Wren that “the original doctrines and federal legislative law go back to, I think, substances in rituals among Native Americans says [sic] about freedom to undertake religious practice.”

6. Robert VerBruggen looks at the data on low-skilled / unmarried men and sees important causes, but concludes that society isn’t going to rectify them. From the analysis:

We’re nearly a year out from That One Tucker Carlson Rant: the one where he talked at length about how the American economy had left behind low-skilled men and how that was ruining their chances at marriage. There was a lot of truth in this theory, as evidenced by the decline of the manufacturing sector, slow wage growth for the less educated, and growing numbers of men opting out of the labor force entirely, not to mention studies showing that women really do prize breadwinning in their mates.

But a new academic paper, from University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Ariel J. Binder, asks us to remember that causation can run in the opposite direction too: The decline of low-skilled men’s marriage prospects could cause them to stop pursuing work. Binder shows this by looking at two major social changes that made low-skilled men less important as breadwinners. Combined, these shifts could explain 28 percent of the ten-point decline in the labor-force participation of young, non-college-educated men between 1965 and 2015.

Carlson said that “male wages declined” and added that “when men make less than women, women generally don’t want to marry them.” Binder adds that even when men have a decent job, many women aren’t interested in them. And “when work is less likely to win a desirable marriage contract, why bother?”

7. Don’t let the door hit you in the . . . Jim Geraghty says gedowdaheer to Beto. From the analysis:

Last year I wrote that “the endless glowing profiles of O’Rourke in every publication from Vanity Fair to Spin to Rolling Stone to Town & Country represent the national media’s worsening challenge in differentiating between what it wants to see happen and what is actually happening.” Left-leaning writers and editors and producers across the country desperately wanted to see a Democrat who could win in Texas and convinced themselves that O’Rourke was that guy. To his credit, he came closer than any other Democrat has in a generation. That is still about 215,000 votes short.

What was striking about all of those 2018 profiles was how . . . surface-oriented they were, regularly mentioning O’Rourke’s old punk rock band, the skateboarding, the casual profanity which was inevitably interpreted as some sort of authenticity, the descriptions of his sweat, the inevitable reference to his Kennedy-esque looks and absence of any mention of his Kennedy-esque driving record. The tone and style of the profiles of O’Rourke weren’t all that different from the profiles of actors, musicians, and directors in Vanity Fair, GQ, and other celebrity magazines — a lot of personality and anecdotes and perfectly cinematic photo shoots. You could read for pages with little mention of anything O’Rourke had done in Congress, because as a member of the minority party, he hadn’t done much. The one race Barack Obama ever lost in his life, a congressional bid against Representative Bobby Rush, the incumbent dismantled the young and ambitious Obama with one devastating question: “Just what’s he done? I mean, what’s he done?” One could fairly put the same question to O’Rourke.

8. More Geraghty: He profiles special prosecutor John Durham, Washington’s least-known / most-important figure. From the article:

By 1991, Durham was leading the prosecution of the New England Family of La Cosa Nostra. One of the most notorious gangsters of the era, William “The Wild Guy” Grasso, had been murdered, shot in the back of the neck and his body dumped in a patch of poison ivy by the side of the Connecticut River in Wethersfield. Around the same time, Grasso’s right-hand man, “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, had been shot outside an International House of Pancakes but survived. The FBI and Durham rolled in, convicting seven high-profile mobsters, including boss Nicholas Bianco for 11 years and 5 months in prison for racketeering. The Hartford Courant called Durham “an avenging angel” who had put one third of Connecticut’s mafia in jail and never lost a case. In a six-year period, Durham racked up 119 organized-crime convictions.

Durham’s foes in the courtroom weren’t just the mafia. He won a conviction of William Dodge, leader of the Ku Klux Klan in southern New England, on charges of illegal possession of firearms, silencers, and explosives. During the trial of one of Dodge’s fellow Klansmen, Scott E. Palmer, Durham had a dramatic confrontation with a Roman Catholic priest, the Reverend Mark R. Jette, who had testified that Palmer had reformed his hateful ways. “He is confident Scott Palmer has seen the error of his ways?” Durham asked, according to press accounts. He then presented two drawings Palmer had made in prison. The first was a skull and crossbones with the words, “White Power,” and a note saying, “Kill all the n*****s for Santa Claus.” The other “appeared to be an oval-shaped insignia. At the top was ‘LYNCH MOB’ and at the bottom was ‘WALLINGFORD CT.’ In the middle was a noose and a fiery cross.” The judge found Durham’s presentation of the sketches more compelling than the reverend and sentenced Palmer to the maximum 63 months on federal weapons charges.

Durham and law enforcement rounded up 42 members of the Puerto Rican street gang Los Solidos and put them all away for long sentences with convictions and guilty pleas. The Solidos’ crimes were the kind that could make hard men lay awake at night: In a case of mistaken identity, a group of Solidos mistook a gray Toyota driven a Hartford mechanic for the similar car of a rival gang member in Charter Oak Terrace housing project and opened fire. They shot the mechanic’s seven-year-old daughter, Marcelina Delgado, in the head. Every gang member charged in the murder was sentenced to life in prison.

9. John O’Sullivan says that on Brexit, Boris Johnson really must reach a deal with Nigel Farage. From the analysis:

Boris is enjoying leads in national opinion polls that range from 5 to 12 percent over Labour. That must tempt him to recklessness. But this will not be an election decided by a uniform national “swing” from left to right. Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, our premier psephologist (you’re reading Bill Buckley’s National Review — look it up), predicts that an unprecedented number of voters will cast ballots for neither of the two main parties. That alone will change the outcome in seats that might otherwise fall to a national swing. In addition, dedicated Remainers will be voting tactically in order to defeat the local Tory candidates. Already, an early poll of individual constituencies by Survation shows one Plymouth seat vulnerable to such voting where the Tory candidate, a strong Leaver, has accordingly made overtures to the Brexit party not to put up anyone against her. There will be more such cases in the next six weeks. All of this is playing out before the campaign, with its inevitable thrills and spills, has scarcely started. Boris’s deal, only now getting detailed scrutiny, is plainly open to serious attack as Howe’s article demonstrates. Nigel Farage, who is an effective campaigner, will subject it to merciless criticism around the country.

Vilifying him will not work, since voters know that he is not Jeremy Corbyn but has instead played a massive role in advancing Brexit from the periphery to the center of politics. Propaganda has to have some slight resemblance to the truth. And Farage is popular with the grassroots in both parties. In short, Boris and the Tories cannot take victory for granted. And if they fail to win this election, they will have the Brexit party on their tail more or less indefinitely and not necessarily as a minor party.

The way for Boris to handle both challenges is, oddly enough, by the same policy: reaching an electoral deal with Nigel. To remove one inevitable objection, neither man can be expected to compromise on his central Brexit platform. But that isn’t necessary since what is required is not a common policy platform but an electoral deal. Put simply, the Tories would not put up candidates in the 44 Labour-held seats in which UKIP (the Brexit Party’s predecessor) came second to Labour in the 2015 election. The Brexit party in return would not run candidates against the Tories in a specified number of seats — ranging from the 75 seats where UKIP came second to the Tories in 2015 to — more plausibly — every U.K. seat apart from the agreed 44. The practical advantages of this deal are obvious; the moral justification would be that both parties want to secure Brexit above all but accept also that conservative divisions over the best kind of Brexit should be represented in the House of Commons (and perhaps even on the government benches).

10. Daniel Tenreiro believes Twitter’s case for restrictions on political advertising make no sense. From the analysis:

Even if Twitter enacts its policy neutrally, barring political ads favors incumbents over newcomers and grassroots organizations. Lesser-known politicians and advocacy groups must now turn to television or print advertisements, which are more expensive, or try their luck gaining traction organically. President Trump, whose 66 million followers far outnumber those of any other current politician, will have a perennial messaging advantage over opponents. So will other celebrities with large followings, rendering fame a more potent force in American politics.

Not only does Twitter’s policy increase the premium on celebrity and incumbency, it incentivizes sensationalism. In Trump’s most retweeted post last year, he threatened a nuclear attack against North Korea; naturally, it drew a lot of eyeballs. Without the option to advertise, politicians and advocacy groups are forced into an arms race wherein the most shocking tweets win them followers. This might be why the American Civil Liberties Union has resorted to tweeting bold statements in all caps, repeated as many times as spatial constraints allow (see, e.g., “ABORTION IS HEALTH CARE. ABORTION IS A RIGHT”). For an organization with 100 attorneys on staff, it’s a decidedly reductive messaging tactic. On the other hand, why bother making a nuanced pro-choice argument that will be lost in a sea of similarly boring tweets?

In a New York Times op-ed supporting Twitter’s decision, tech journalist Kara Swisher wrote that “social media platforms have become hostage to all forms of abuse and manipulation, not just via political ads, and they’ve dragged us all with them into the cesspool.” Swisher takes for granted that political advertisements feed into this “cesspool,” but it’s hardly obvious. Before this policy change, Twitter maintained a public list of certified political-candidate and issue advertisers. Users knew which content was sponsored, and who was paying for it. In the case of false or misleading advertisements, watchdogs and fact-checkers could hold the sponsors responsible. The “abuse and manipulation” that Swisher speaks of is largely the result of bots built by foreign actors and unscrupulous news sites that use social media to drive traffic — as well as, let’s face it, well-meaning American citizens unaffiliated with political-action committees. In contrast to the cesspool of anonymous accounts sharing fake news, political advertisements are an oasis of transparency. At a time when shady elements have allegedly hijacked social media, should we really be targeting the Gates Foundation, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the National Parks Action Fund?

11. Michael Brendan Dougherty mocks the centrist elite and their contrived obituary-writing about the old liberal order. From the piece:

When I’m done ruminating on the depredations of the “deep state,” sometimes I wonder if there’s a dark room somewhere in which graduates from the Kennedy School of Government and the PPE programs of Oxford and Cambridge are programming bots and producing viral news sites to spread their messages across social media. From this den they amplify the voices of their resolutely centrist, establishment-oriented collaborators, creating an alternate reality.

In this reality, Brexit is already a disaster. Hungary and Poland are places of severe political repression. Donald Trump is subverting the Constitution and running a pro-Russia foreign policy. America has withdrawn from the world stage, having given up on global leadership. Angela Merkel is the “leader of the free world and the only one trying to save the seven-decade-long liberal world order that is rapidly collapsing. The message is that there’s too much change and it’s terrifying.

Commentators have been building this picture for a long time. Bret Stephens wrote a book in 2014 titled America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder. Stephens was mostly concerned with the rhetorical momentum that advocates of foreign-policy restraint had made in recent years. He could not really cite anywhere on earth that the United States military had actually stopped occupying. The great sin of the time wasn’t that President Obama had refused to intervene in Syria — U.S. Special Forces had been supporting various Sunni militias there since 2012 — but that he hadn’t intervened forcefully enough. The war in Afghanistan was only 13 years old, rather than 18, then. Simpler times.

12. Pointless! Wasteful! Sexist! Madeline Kearns flushes away the idiocy of gender-neutral bathrooms. From the article:

Polling consistently shows that most Americans care most about bread and peace. They do not generally give much thought to potty policies. And so, making such a policy a priority in a political campaign is likely to come across as out of touch and self-regarding — a fact the Democrats learned a little too late in 2016.

Nevertheless, many in the metropolitan elites like to accuse the Trump administration of having targeted transgender people. By reversing Obama-era policies, they say, Trump & Co. have robbed trans people of safe and pleasant bathroom experiences. But isn’t anyone curious how it all worked before Obama? And why is no one complaining about the various presidents before Trump who held the same approach to sex-segregated bathrooms?

What’s more, it’s not like presenting as the opposite sex is particularly new human behavior. Since the 1960s, a tiny number of individuals have even made a serious surgical commitment in more closely resembling the opposite sex. Life was, and no doubt is, difficult for such people. But how might this ideally play out? That is context-dependent, naturally. But if, for argument’s sake, we presume such a person to be sincere and well-meaning — as opposed to, say, a predator — then a natural relationship of trust might ensue. One where a woman washing her hands at the bathroom sink might do a double-take, realizing that she is in the presence of a man, but after carrying out an instinctual and internal risk assessment, decide all is fine. She might even smile and say hello.

But that is her prerogative, surely. The man in this rare hypothetical ought not to have a legal right to be there.

Moreover, if his legal right to be there trumps her right to privacy, then no allowance is made for the fact that, while some men presenting as women are benign and sincere, others are malign and predatorial. Wouldn’t the woman, then, be justified in feeling unsafe?

Many accept that she would. Which is why “gender-neutral” restrooms were introduced as an attempt at a compromise. Instead of people using whichever restroom they felt corresponded with their “gender identity,” it seemed more reasonable to have all gender-neutral bathrooms for everyone (including “non-binary” people). But is this reasonable?

13. Armond White sees the woke making a joke of slavery in Kasi Lemmon’s Harriet, starring Cynthia Erivo as the famous fugitive. From the review:

These sentimental, actorly ploys recall the fact that Lemmons switched from a career as an actress (Silence of the Lambs) to indie director, for a better chance at success. Her films — Eve’s Bayou, The Caveman’s Valentine, Talk to Me, and now Harriet — exemplify black striver’s syndrome. They are not culturally grounded so much as they show a hustler’s desperation, using race anxiety for success — the commercial and electoral formula that Obama made popular.

Actress Lemmons’s best performance was in Rusty Cundieff’s brilliant 1993 satire Fear of a Black Hat, in which she played a clueless journalist bent on exploiting hip-hop for nominal black triumph and, above all, her own egotistic ends. As in that tirade against Douglass, Harriet adds #MeToo feminism to Tubman’s puzzlement about her mission in life.

This Tubman bio-pic, with its trite, fashionable historical revision (bits of Hamilton, including actor Leslie Odom Jr.), is part of the plan to propel the tiny dynamo Erivo into movie stardom. Erivo’s eager-beaver energy and wild-eyed intensity epitomize unpleasant aggression rather than the strength of character that Cicely Tyson conveyed when she portrayed Tubman in the 1978 TV movie A Woman Called Moses.

In Harriet, Millennial hindsight and historical revision come off as pompous and patronizing.

14. Victor Davis Hanson finds the parameters of the Trump Doctrine as deterrence without intervention. From the essay:

But the problem with American policy after the Cold War and the end of the Soviet nuclear threat was that the U.S. was not really comfortable as an imperial global watchdog, we no longer had a near monopoly on the world economy that subsidized these expensive interventions, and many of these thugs did not necessarily pose a direct threat to American interests — perhaps ISIS, an oil-rich Middle East dictator, and radical Islamists excepted. What started as a quick, successful take-out of a monster sometimes ended up as a long-drawn out “occupation” in which all U.S. assets of firepower, mobility, and air support were nullified in the dismal street fighting of a Fallujah or a Mogadishu.

The bad guys were bothersome and even on occasion genocidal, and their removal sometimes improved the lot of those of the ground — but not always. When things got messy — such as in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, or Somalia — it was not clear whether the American use of force resulted in tactical success leading to strategic advantage. Often preemptive insertion of troops either did not further U.S. deterrence or actually undermined it — as in the case of the “Arab Spring” bombing in Libya.

At home, in a consistent pattern, the most vociferous advocates of preemptory war usually claimed prescient brilliance, as when the American military rapidly dislodged the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. But then came the occupation and post-war anarchy. As American dead mounted, the mission mysteriously creeped into nation-building. Sometimes, in the post-invasion chaos, the once noble liberated victims became the opportunistic victimizers. Depressed, some of the original architects of preemption blamed those who had listened to them. The establishment’s calling card became, “My weeks-long brilliant theoretical preemption was ruined by your actual botched decade-long occupation.” In extremis, few kept their support; most abandoned it.

Last Call! The Webathon Shuts Down on Sunday

This is not akin to Abraham badgering God over the fate of Sodom. No, not at all. But still, not all badgering is bad. Maybe it should sometimes be called goodgering? OK, that was dumb, but when the cause is just, the need real, the case plausible, there is a need to be, shall we say, repetitious.

And so we have, and we are again, this one last time: Since October 8 we have encouraged our readers — so many hundreds of thousands who eat, drink, sleep NRO, day in and out, year in and out, walking down the hallways clenching their FREE pass, piling on the edibles in the no-charge cafeteria — to help out, just a bit. We have bills big and relentless to pay here, and we have that damned National Review v. Mann case we are fighting on behalf of the First Amendment. The piggy bank isn’t even empty, because it was cracked open and plundered of its few coins years ago (how many years ago . . . let’s just say the then-president had the nickname “Ike”), so we ask and hope for reader assistance. Somewhere in the ballpark of 2,500 (a lot of good people, God bless them each and every one . . . but on a percentage basis, geeesh, that’s tiny) have responded, and somewhere in the ballpark of $295,000 has been donated.

Our goal is to raise $325,000. Our goal could, legitimately, be $500,000, or more, given our needs. But the one we have, a stretch, yep, is the matter at hand. Reaching it between today and tomorrow is feasible. If you are part of the feasery. Would you be?

If the answer is yes, then please donate here. It earns you our love and affection (which you have, regardless . . . even if you root for the Red Sox).

The “Education” Issue of NR Is Upon Us, Off the Presses, Hot (the Piping Kind), and Awaiting Your Eyeballs

Shall we share four pieces from the November 25, 2019, issue, two from the special section on education, and two other gems? We shall!

1. How about the cover essay? Kevin Williamson pens a brilliant analysis of Kanye West and his Jesus turn. From the beginning of the essay:

Kanye West is going to embarrass the Christians who have recklessly embraced him as a mascot. That much seems inevitable. But that’s okay: There are worse things than embarrassment, and Kanye West is an embarrassing guy — needy, arrogant, compulsive. His insecurity is as epic as it is perplexing in a man who by all appearances has everything. He is fabulously rich (though not quite as much so as his wife’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, a billionaire at 22), and he is married to a woman who is widely considered (de gustibus, etc.) the great sex symbol of her generation. They seem reasonably happy, and they have four children with goofy celebrity names — North, Chicago, Psalm, and Saint. He sells truckloads of expensive sneakers in collaboration with Adidas and has designed clothes for Louis Vuitton. All that and a measure of artistic respect, too — his musicianship and his verse both are deft and accomplished, widely admired even among those of his peers not well disposed to him. And the people line up behind the critics: Kanye has had four No. 1 hits, 17 in the top ten, and 96 songs on the Billboard Hot 100. He is 42 years old.

And he is kind of a mess.

Until West’s recent foray into MAGA politics and evangelism, what people who are, let us say, outside of the rap-music–reality-show–sneakerhead demographic knew him best for was being married to Kim Kardashian and having been rude to Taylor Swift at an award presentation, making “Imma let you finish” a meme and a catchphrase and leading Barack Obama, who apparently had a lot of spare time on his hands as president, to dismiss West as “a jackass.” It was not the first time West had done something like that, in fact. After losing out at an earlier awards ceremony, he threw a fit, concluding: “If I don’t win, the award show loses credibility.” He is not shy about asserting his importance: He titled one album Yeezus (another one, Yandhi, didn’t make it out) and has declared: “I’m unquestionably, undoubtedly, the greatest human artist of all time.” Some readers of this magazine will know him mainly for his having stood next to a very uncomfortable-looking Mike Myers at a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina and announcing: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Some of that nonsense is self-conscious marketing, a kind of grandly inflated version of the clickbait economy that keeps the gurgle churning, assembling a hectomillionaire’s fortune a fraction of a penny at a time. And that works: Kanye West’s Life of Pablo went platinum in the United States and gold in the United Kingdom on the strength of streaming alone, the first album to do so.

Maybe it is all part of a grand plan. Or maybe he just says the first thing to come into his head — which, lately, has been: “Jesus Is King.”

2. China expert Chris O’Dea hung with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and shares his views on the ChiComs. From the piece:

Signing a defense agreement between the United States and Greece during a brief ceremony at the Greek foreign ministry on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Athens, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo initiated a new American strategy of contesting China’s mercantilist commercial expansion. While the agreement did not mention China, in geopolitical terms it marks a fundamental challenge to China’s ambitions in Greece, the Mediterranean, and the European Union.

The signing took place just a few miles from the port of Piraeus, which abuts the Greek capital and is the major symbol of China’s mercantile ambitions in the West. Chinese premier Li Keqiang hailed Piraeus as China’s “gateway to Europe” during a visit in 2014. By 2016, COSCO Shipping, owned by the Chinese state, had achieved majority control of the company that operates Piraeus’s port under a concession contract from the Greek government. Under the new accord, the previous requirement for annual renewal of U.S.–Greek defense cooperation is replaced by a commitment to ongoing cooperation, setting the stage for increased utilization of the Souda Bay naval facility on the island of Crete, formalizing operational cooperation and technology transfer related to drones, and, most important, committing the U.S. to participate in developing new naval and air-force facilities at Alexandroupoli, a strategically located port in northeastern Greece.

Pompeo discussed the U.S. strategy to confront Chinese commercial expansion in an exclusive interview with National Review in Athens, shortly after signing the defense pact and delivering a speech to an audience of Greek officials and business leaders in which he criticized China’s “coercive” economic practices.

3. Leading off the education section, Sarah Schutte reflects on the way technology is affecting home-schooling, and the one thing it should never replace (parental involvement!). From the piece:

If you’d like a dictionary definition, Merriam-Webster says that to homeschool is “to teach school subjects to one’s children at home.” But this definition is being challenged, in large part because of new technologies that are making it increasingly simple to create virtual classrooms with endless possibilities.

Connections Academy is one such example. Its virtual programs “are tuition-free online public schools for students in grades K–12,” and its services are available in 29 out of 50 states. It is focused on bringing the classroom to children, giving them access to high-level education while also enabling one-on-one attention between students and their instructors. Because it is a public-school program, it comes at no cost, and it offers ease of use, facilitates parental invo