The Weekend Jolt

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.

Most Popular

Elections

How Can Bernie Sanders Happen in America?

A number of pundits have recently argued that younger voters, especially those under 30, are less inclined to be bothered when they hear the word “socialism,” since they have no firsthand memory of the Cold War. To some extent, this must be true. Those who weren’t alive during socialism’s cruelest ... Read More
Elections

How Can Bernie Sanders Happen in America?

A number of pundits have recently argued that younger voters, especially those under 30, are less inclined to be bothered when they hear the word “socialism,” since they have no firsthand memory of the Cold War. To some extent, this must be true. Those who weren’t alive during socialism’s cruelest ... Read More
Elections

The Highest-Stakes Moment Brings the Worst Debate

Tonight’s debate would have been only marginally less incoherent, noisy, and grating to the ears if CBS had broadcast two hours of static. The last debate before the South Carolina primary featured so much shouting, you would think that the candidates had just been told their microphones weren’t working. ... Read More
Elections

The Highest-Stakes Moment Brings the Worst Debate

Tonight’s debate would have been only marginally less incoherent, noisy, and grating to the ears if CBS had broadcast two hours of static. The last debate before the South Carolina primary featured so much shouting, you would think that the candidates had just been told their microphones weren’t working. ... Read More