The Weekend Jolt

NR Webathon

Both Sides Matter

President Joe Biden speaks to reporters before boarding Air Force One to depart Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Mich., October 5, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

This is J-school 101: You get the five W’s, maybe the H if you’re feeling dogged; avoid libeling anyone; favor inverted-pyramid style; and present both sides.

“Did you reach out for comment?” It’s a question this recovering newsie has been asked countless times by editors and anxious in-house lawyers. The answer damn well better be yes.

But the media’s task of covering both sides is one that’s being progressively abandoned in some influential quarters, on issues as genuinely contested as congressional spending and voting laws. Some would reduce coverage — not commentary, but coverage — of these issues to battles of right versus wrong. That’s not how this is supposed to work.

Earlier this week, NR’s Brittany Bernstein and Isaac Schorr highlighted the latest out-in-the-open push to advocate journalism elevating one side over the other. A Los Angeles Times column, cheered on in the Twittersphere, voiced concern that journalists and pundits would “focus critically on President Biden and Democrats” without highlighting “Republicans’ obstructions.” (Obstruction magically becomes less of a crisis when power changes hands.)

Jackie Calmes wrote: “Democrats can’t be expected to deal with these guys like they’re on the level. Nor should journalists cover them as if they are.”

Well, then. It was one of those quiet-part-out-loud moments. Another came when House speaker Nancy Pelosi openly scolded the media for not doing a good-enough job “selling” the reconciliation bill.

Here at National Review, we’re comfortable saying the loud part loud: We’re an ideological organization. You know that. But we don’t let it blind us as we go about our coverage or our commentary. We’ll call balls and strikes on the Republican side (see here and here), and we’ll do the same when news outlets start asserting opinion and sometimes just-plain falsities as fact, in service of one side. See here.

That watchdog component is just part of NR’s mission, and it’s one we hope you’ll consider supporting by way of our fall 2021 webathon. Hundreds of readers already have donated as part of this drive, which reached a milestone this past week thanks to you.

The one and only David Harsanyi recently chronicled NR’s work on this issue, while also noting how, funny thing, the press cranked up their criticism of moderate Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin following Pelosi’s admonishment. David’s elevator pitch:

Whether it’s ignoring the radicalism of Biden nominees such as David Chipman or Kristen Clarke or Saule Omarova, quickly moving on from the disastrous abandonment of Americans in Afghanistan, or actively participating in the scandalous cover-up of the Hunter Biden emails and the subsequent evidence that Joe Biden might have been involved, media malfeasance will be called for what it is by National Review. . . .

It’s not just our opinion writers. “Forgotten Fact Checks” is a weekly column produced by National Review’s News Desk that examines mainstream-media bias and misinformation. Recently, the news team has covered issues like the New York Times’ massive exaggeration of children hospitalized by COVID-19 and the newspaper’s false claim that New York City’s gifted classes are “racially segregated.”

Just this week, media reporter Ryan Mills picked apart a San Francisco Chronicle story that questioned Walgreens’s store closures in the face of a retail crime wave. Ryan found a glaring problem with the paper’s approach (you’ll have to click to find out what; we’re such a tease).

In short, we believe a free and vibrant press is vital to the functioning of American democracy. We endeavor to act in good faith, and we expect others to do the same. In the parlance of our times, watch this space.

As an aside, we appreciate your forbearance in reading through what is likely more than several of these fundraising appeals this month. (Michael Brendan Dougherty posted earlier this week on NR’s work in the culture sphere.) Regularly scheduled programming will resume, we promise, but it also hasn’t stopped during the webathon — which, by the way, you can participate in here.

Catch up on all of NR’s non-webathon content from this past week, immediately following this period.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Turns out NIH had funded “gain of function” research in Wuhan on coronaviruses found in bats. Taxpayers deserve answers: The Wuhan Lab Cover-Up

The author of the Declaration of Independence was far from perfect. But the campaign to erase him, most recently in New York, is profoundly wrong: Canceling Thomas Jefferson

China has fired a series of warning shots and wake-up calls. It’s time to heed them: China’s Nuclear Challenge

Inflexible labor practices have worsened the supply-chain crisis: Unions Have Made Supply-Chain Problems Worse

Colin Powell’s life embodied service: Colin Powell, R.I.P.

ARTICLES

Dan McLaughlin: The Democrats’ Prophets of Doom

Adam J. MacLeod: Justice Thomas at 30: Principle over Precedent

John McCormack: John Eastman Pulls Back on January 6 Memo: Not a ‘Viable Strategy’

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Is Europe Wrong? Or Are We?

Jay Nordlinger: Leopoldo and His Purpose

Rich Lowry: Superman Jettisons the American Way

Philip Klein: What If Colin Powell Ran for President in 1996?

Philip Klein: Liberals’ Defense-Spending Misdirection

Dominic Pino: Everything Wrong with American Infrastructure in One Tunnel

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden in Wonderland

Kevin D. Williamson: The Rich Kids of Instagram of Politics

Bing West: A General Who Failed in War Assesses Risk

Kyle Smith: Why Netflix’s Apology Is a Bad Idea

Isaac Schorr: How Glenn Youngkin Won — and Terry McAuliffe Lost — This Grassroots Black Group’s Endorsement

Caroline Downey: Parents Sue AG Garland for Violating Free Speech Rights with FBI School-Board Memo

Caroline Downey: NIH Admits to Funding Gain-of-Function Research in Wuhan, Says EcoHealth Violated Reporting Requirements

Jack Crowe: What Else Is EcoHealth Alliance Hiding?

CAPITAL MATTERS

Chicago’s getting billions in federal aid but still isn’t solving its looming and long-term fiscal problems. Adam Schuster has the story: Federal Bailouts Won’t Save Lightfoot’s Sinking Chicago

Ben Murrey charts a course for Colorado to zap its income tax, eventually: Colorado the Next Zero-Income Tax State?

Casey Mulligan calls out the disincentives for work and marriage in the Build Back Better bill: Hefty Hidden Subsidies for Idleness and Desertion

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White writes in defense of the 1965 Othello: Laurence Olivier’s Othello and the 1619 Hoax

Kyle Smith pays tribute to Thomas Sowell, the subject of a recent biography (and look out for more on Sowell this weekend on NRO): Thomas Sowell vs. Critical Race Theory

And ICYMI, Brian Allen’s got a bone to pick with museum rules & regs: The Mindless Theater of Museum Mandates 

WE HAVE TO READ THE EXCERPTS TO FIND OUT WHAT’S IN THEM

Charlie Cooke endeavors to provide a guide of sorts to the unique world the Biden administration has created and now inhabits, while the rest of us live in this one:

“If I had a world of my own,” said Alice, “everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Rumor has it that Alice is preparing to apply for a job in the White House press office.

And not a moment too soon, either, for, having offered himself up as the savior of the American way, President Biden now finds himself in something of a pickle. The jobs reports are lackluster. The border is a mess. Gas prices are sky-high. Our supply chains are broken. Inflation, which was supposed to be “transitory,” looks more persistent by the day. Americans remain stranded in Afghanistan. China’s testing space-nukes. COVID is not only still with us; it’s making its way into the Good States. And, despite its having been given a jolly, catchy name — the “Build Back Better agenda” — all the public seems to know about the president’s gargantuan spending plan is that it will cost trillions upon trillions of dollars.

Down the rabbit hole, though, everything is still peachy. Indeed, insofar as America has any problems to speak of, they’re held to be either non-existent, inconsequential, or somehow your fault. You may think you watched in horror a few months ago as a generational debacle unfolded in Kabul, but what you actually saw was “the largest U.S. airlift in history.” Hurrah! You may believe that the southern border has been in a perpetual state of crisis from the moment President Biden took office, but this is merely the sort of quotidian “circumstance” that could have happened under any president and is only happening now due to the inexplicable vagaries of climate change. How unfair! On first glance, you might think it more than a little startling that the Chinese Communist Party has managed to contrive a cache of hypersonic nuclear weapons that, if deployed correctly, would zip right past our defenses, but what you’re for some reason missing is that when it comes to the prospect of a nuclear apocalypse, “stiff competition” between nations is “welcome.” Natch.

China’s hypersonic-missile test should rouse America to enhance its own defenses. From the editorial:

The Financial Times broke the story last weekend, citing five officials who revealed that Beijing’s August test of the new weapon system surprised U.S. intelligence. The concern is that by combining two technologies — a missile that briefly orbits the earth with a glide vehicle that extends its range — this weapon, unlike intercontinental ballistic missiles, can change its trajectory to avoid U.S. missile-defense systems.

In short, China has just tested a space missile that can potentially hit any target on earth.

Some arms-control experts have argued that this isn’t a significant development, since Chinese ICBMs can already hit the continental United States. But an ICBM can potentially be defeated by our defenses, whereas we don’t currently have the means to shoot down a hypersonic missile, which will require, at the very least, better sensors and perhaps the advent of a laser defense. . . .

There’s no denying the gathering danger and the fact that Washington is currently ill-equipped to meet the Chinese nuclear challenge. At the moment, though, we don’t have the national resolve to match the talk of a “Sputnik moment” that the Chinese test has occasioned.

John McCormack has a must-read on his interviews with Trump legal adviser John Eastman, who now says the fiercely disputed memo arguing that Pence could reject Biden electors doesn’t reflect his views:

Eastman says he disagrees with some major points in the two-page memo. That version says that Trump would be reelected if Pence invalidated enough electoral votes to send the election to the House of Representatives: “Republicans currently control 26 of the state delegations, the bare majority needed to win that vote. President Trump is reelected there as well.”

Eastman’s final six-page memo says Trump would be reelected by the House “IF the Republicans in the State Delegations stand firm.” But Eastman says he told Trump at the January 4 meeting in the White House: “Look, I don’t think they would hold firm on this.” (There were actually 27 delegations under GOP control, but Liz Cheney is the sole representative for Wyoming, Wisconsin’s decisive vote would have been Mike Gallagher, and both Cheney and Gallagher strongly opposed overturning the results of the election.)

“So anybody who thinks that that’s a viable strategy is crazy,” Eastman tells National Review.

When it comes to the legal argument that the vice president is the only person with authority to count the electoral votes, Eastman says: “This is where I disagree. I don’t think that’s true.”

Lastly, check out Dan McLaughlin’s extensive piece flagging internal Democratic warnings that the party is in danger of turning off voters:

A rising chorus of voices within the Democratic Party is beginning to warn in earnest that Democrats face a real risk of losing ground with crucial voters over the next several years. This goes beyond the usual concern of a presidential party about impending midterms or worries about the dysfunction of the Biden administration and the Democratic caucus. Nor is it just left-leaning commentators’ customary paranoia (real or feigned) about Republicans’ finding illegitimate ways to subvert the will of the supposed permanent Democratic majority.

The doomsayers are, instead, warning that Democrats are in the process of losing voters that they cannot afford to lose, and that the people running the party are too out of touch with those voters to even see what the problem is. Two of the leading voices ringing alarm bells from within the commentariat are Ruy Teixeira and David Shor. They are not longtime contrarians; quite the opposite.

Honorable Mention

A word from our friends at National Review Institute, on the next round of Burke to Buckley Programs:

NRI is seeking applicants for the Burke to Buckley Programs in Miami (NEW in ’22!), New York, and Philadelphia.

The primary goal of the Burke to Buckley Program is to prepare Fellows to better communicate first principles and other foundational ideas in their workplace, community, and family. Over eight dinner sessions that are led by notable conservative thinkers and National Review writers, each class of 20 to 25 Fellows gathers to learn and engage in spirited and respectful debate.

The ideal candidate will be a mid-career professional with at least ten years of professional experience in medicine, finance, the military, arts, education, law enforcement, or the law, among other fields. He/she will have an interest in exploring key texts in the canon of conservative thought and American ideals. This program is not for recent graduates or people working in the fields of public policy or politics.

Post-program, Fellows stay engaged with NRI and each other by attending alumni events, forming reading clubs, or, in one case, starting a think tank!

Are you qualified or do you know someone else who is? Applications are open now through November 15 and can be accessed on NRI’s website here. Please note that there is a $500 fee for accepted fellows, which partially offsets the cost of the eight dinners and the program. Please contact program manager Lynn Gibson at lynn@nrinstitute.org if you have questions or would like additional information. Thank you for your interest and support.

And speaking of our friends at NRI, check out these photos from their event in Dallas: William F. Buckley Prize Dinner

Shout-Outs

Saeed Shah, at the Wall Street Journal: As Afghanistan Sinks Into Destitution, Some Sell Children to Survive

Ophelie Jacobson, at Campus Reform: WATCH – Students support diversity quotas … until it comes to football

Quin Hillyer, at the Washington Examiner: ‘Untethered’ judge causes pain for pharmacies

Peter H. Schuck, at Quillette: Cancel Culture Has a Lot to Answer For

CODA

This inbox clutterer lately has been digging The Bad Plus, primarily a result of having discovered some digital tracks collecting dust in his Amazon Music account. The jazz trio/quartet (the lineup has changed over time) is known for its relentlessly dissonant music, some of it original compositions and some of it covers. The band’s first major-label album contained a reimagining of Nirvana’s biggest anthem. But Googling about led to another discovery: their take on Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Classical music’s Russian rebel as performed by the masters of jazz chaos? Somehow, it works, kind of like Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite,” though it doesn’t overshadow the original and nobody is trying to make Stravinsky swing. Nobody could.

The Bad Plus version of Igor’s iconic introduction is here, and the rest builds on it, to provide a taste. There’s more out there, on the interwebs, if interested.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

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