The Weekend Jolt

White House

In Strange Turn of Events, Spotlight Shifts to the President of the United States

President Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 20, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Even while pushing $6 trillion in spending and mass-producing executive orders, Joe Biden has run the country much as he ran his campaign — quietly. The less said, the less can go wrong. And aside from the restive press corps, few wanted to hear from him anyway (see viewership figures for Biden’s joint-session-of-Congress address for evidence of this).

So long to that luxury. Things are starting to go wrong, and the president’s presence is requested.

It’s been the kinda stretch that evokes this feeling:

What a week, huh?

Lemon, it’s Wednesday.

In fairness, the Biden comms team would have been within their rights to call time and head to Old Ebbitt midweek, for a round of plums in perfume-filled man hats or whatever it is they drink in Connecticut, never to return. Still reeling from last week’s confirmation that millions of jobs are available but only a fraction are being filled, the new-ish administration now faces the added — and scarier — prospect of inflation. On Wednesday, it was reported that the Consumer Price Index rose 4.2 percent from a year ago, higher than expected and the biggest yearly jump since late 2008.

On another front, border apprehensions hit a two-decade high in April. Just don’t call it a crisis.

Bit by bit, the stats from the administration’s own agencies are starting to crack its protective layer of very-confident assertions. Statements like “nothing has changed” at the border (Biden); “I don’t believe that inflation will be an issue” (Janet Yellen); and there’s not “much evidence” of people staying home rather than working due to generous unemployment benefits (also Biden, who in the same series of breaths warned would-be loafers, not that they exist, that they must accept any “suitable job” offered or lose benefits).

Jim Geraghty, incidentally, did a suitable job summing up this clash with reality earlier this week.

Something is different in the Washington air. It’s not just the eye-welding pollen or the tingling sense of childlike wonder-terror that accompanies one’s first spotting of a cicada molt knowing that, like a lone White Walker, it is a mere portent of the eschaton. As Phil Klein noted Thursday, the Biden presidency’s honeymoon, it seems, is over:

When Biden became president, he in many ways was set up for success. The economy had experienced two consecutive quarters of robust growth, and unemployment was less than half of what it was during the peak of the coronavirus downturn. COVID-19, while still raging, had peaked weeks before he was sworn in, and he inherited two highly effective vaccines that had already started being administered to more than a million people a day. Going purely on autopilot, the economy was primed for success as the vaccines became more widespread and more parts of the country reopened.

This past week’s events were a reminder that Biden can’t simply ride this wave to a successful presidency. Events — such as the cyberattack on the pipeline — happen that may not be directly in the president’s control but, nonetheless, have major implications on the country and end up requiring a response. . . .

It’s still early, but this week demonstrated that there’s more to a successful presidency than simply slapping on a mask and avoiding late-night tweeting.

Add in that hacked-pipeline fiasco and the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas/Islamic Jihad, and we see a period in which the president contrived a sense of crisis to justify historic levels of spending giving way to a moment in which the president must respond to those actually occurring. Biden sought to assure the nation on the pipeline disruption, in remarks from the Roosevelt Room. And he initially took heat for not showing ample support for Israel’s right to defend itself, eventually leading to a (you guessed it, Wednesday) call with Benjamin Netanyahu doing just that.

Probably not how his team saw the week going. It was supposed to be all popcorn and Sour Patch Kids watching the House GOP meltdown from afar, as Liz Cheney got the leadership boot. For the record, that also happened Wednesday.

At least we can all ditch our masks.

Now, before commencing with the links . . . two final mentions.

1) If you haven’t already seen Charles C. W. Cooke’s exposé on Rebekah Jones — the Florida dashboard manager who alleged a vast, yet bogus, COVID-data conspiracy — in the latest issue of NR, please do take the time. It’s an eye-opener. More on that later.

2) A humble plug: It is not too late to pick up tickets to National Review Institute’s (virtual) 2021 Ideas Summit, Part II, coming up May 20–21. Live from the Greenbrier, participants will be streaming to a national audience panel discussions and remarks on everything from energy independence to cancel culture. Check out the agenda and more here.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The signals emanating from the Biden White House probably didn’t help in the chaos we’ve witnessed this week in Israel and Gaza: Biden Has Emboldened Israel’s Enemies

California’s state government announced a massive surplus. It’s also set to reap $27B in federal aid from the American Rescue Plan. What’s wrong with this picture? The Pointless, Meddling State-and-Local Bailout

Where’s Admiral Ackbar when you need him? The infrastructure compromise is a trap! Don’t Compromise on Infrastructure

From Idaho to Texas, communities are casting a critical eye on critical race theory: A Welcome Backlash Against Critical Race Theory

ARTICLES

David Harsanyi: Biden Is Off to a Disastrous Start

Jimmy Quinn: Science Letter Breaks ‘Chokehold’ on COVID-Origin Narrative, Says Lab-Leak Theory ‘Viable’

John McCormack: The Evolution of Elise Stefanik

Stanley Kurtz: Noem Pledges to Bar Action Civics and Critical Race Theory

Charles C. W. Cooke: Five Magic Words to Fix the Economy: Go and Get a Job

Rich Lowry: Biden’s Child-Care Folly

John Hillen: Internal Memo to Beijing: China’s Competitive Advantage against America

Elliott Abrams: Israel Erupts: Cutting through the Misinformation

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Tim Cook Is Not a Hypocrite

Frederick Hess & Hannah Warren: The Right Should Own Education

Robert VerBruggen: End All COVID Restrictions

John McCormack: House Republicans Boot Liz Cheney from Leadership, Then Give Her a Standing Ovation

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Joe Biden Leaves God Out of the National Day of Prayer

Jimmy Quinn: Democrats’ Glaring Absence from Wuhan Lab-Leak Investigations

Dan McLaughlin: What Buckley’s Fight with the Birchers Tells Us about Movement Purges

Kevin Williamson: The Truth about U.S. Aid to Israel

Caroline Downey: U.S. Publishers Refuse to Carry Book Exposing Anti-Semitism in Europe

CAPITAL MATTERS

Alexander Salter says not to worry too much about the inflation news: There’s No Need to Panic over Inflation

Stephen Moore writes about the double whammy inherent in the Biden administration’s oil-and-gas-industry plans: Kneecapping the Oil Industry Won’t Help the Economy or the Environment

Joel Zinberg warns against waiving IP protections for COVID vaccines: Punishing Success: The Biden Administration, Vaccines, and Intellectual Property

Here’s Robert Krol on what happens if the masses leave mass transit: The Uncertain Outlook for Public Transit after COVID-19

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith looks at life in the ‘Fass’ lane: The Filthy, Furious Life of Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Mr. Smith also breaks open the new Andrew McCarthy memoir. (No, Kevin, not that Andrew McCarthy): The Secret Misery of a Gen-X Heartthrob

Armond White scorches The Underground Railroad series. His unsparing conclusion: “It’s white exploitation that teaches blacks to distrust and hate whites, and whites to distrust and hate themselves.”

And Armond hammers Zack Snyder’s zombie apocalypse: Army of the Dead — Zack Snyder’s Political Nightmare

FROM THE NEW JUNE 1, 2021 ISSUE OF NR

Jerry Hendrix: Why America Must Be a Sea Power

John Bolton: How Biden Can Turn the Tables on Putin

Alvin Felzenberg: The Magnificent Nancy Reagan

Cooke: Rebekah Jones, the COVID Whistleblower Who Wasn’t

THE FINEST HACKERS IN ALL OF EASTERN EUROPE HAVE CONSPIRED TO BUST THROUGH OUR PAYWALL AND EXTRACT THESE EXCERPTS. WE ARE SO MAD AT THEM

David Harsanyi pulls no punches in providing a roadmap of the things that aren’t Biden’s responsibility, and the things that are:

Nationalizing elections isn’t the president’s job. Controlling the southern border is. Yet, when Biden isn’t blaming Donald Trump or seasonal migration patterns for the crisis on the border, he’s pretending nothing is wrong.

There were 178,622 apprehensions on the border in April, according to Customs and Border Protection — the highest total in more than two decades. To put the number in context, last April there were 17,106 apprehensions. . . .

Demanding we wear masks isn’t the president’s job. Conducting foreign policy is. And since Biden took the reins, the Middle East has dramatically destabilized.

More on that latter point from NR’s editorial:

For four years, Israel had a reliable ally in the White House. Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, made it clear that the U.S. supported Israel’s right to self-defense, and cut aid to the Palestinians that has been traditionally used to incite terrorism. . . .

Biden has sent the actual opposite signals. He restored the incitement money to the Palestinians to signal closer ties and at the same time has shown a desperation to return to the disastrous Iran deal. His administration has signaled a willingness to even lift sanctions aimed at its sponsorship of terrorism.

Against this backdrop, it is no surprise that Palestinians have felt emboldened to step up attacks against Israel, and that Iran has been so ready to call on its proxies to carry out these attacks.

The Elise Stefanik who’s ascending to Cheney’s former leadership post is not exactly the same Elise Stefanik who rose up in politics during the Obama era. John McCormack tracks her evolution:

When it comes to Trump, a significant turning point in Stefanik’s career came with the first impeachment trial, in November 2019. On the first day of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearing, Stefanik was widely praised across the political spectrum as the Republicans’ most effective questioner.

Stefanik’s opposition to impeachment didn’t make her unusual — not a single House Republican voted to impeach Trump the first time around — and her defenses of Trump were usually (but not always) based on factually sound arguments. But the episode did make Stefanik “a new Republican star,” according to a tweet at the time from Donald Trump. She raised half a million dollars in two hours after an appearance on Hannity.

If the first impeachment trial was a turning point for Stefanik, January 6 was more like a point of no return.

Here’s a taste of that Rebekah Jones story:

This is a story about Rebekah Jones, a former dashboard manager at the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), who has single-handedly managed to convince millions of Americans that Governor Ron DeSantis has been fudging the state’s COVID-19 data.

When I write “single-handedly,” I mean it, for Jones is not one of the people who have advanced this conspiracy theory but rather is the person who has advanced this conspiracy theory. It has been repeated by others, sure: by partisans across the Internet, by unscrupulous Florida Democrats such as Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist, and on television, by MSNBC in particular. But it flows from a single place: Rebekah Jones. To understand that is to understand the whole game. This is about Jones, and Jones alone. If she falls, it falls.

And boy does it deserve to fall.

Jones’s central claim is nothing less dramatic than that she has uncovered a massive conspiracy in the third most populous state in the nation, and that, having done so, she has been ruthlessly persecuted by the governor and his “Gestapo.” Specifically, Jones claims that, while she was working at the FDOH last year, she was instructed by her superiors to alter the “raw” data so that Florida’s COVID response would look better, and that, having refused, she was fired. Were this charge true, it would reflect one of the most breathtaking political scandals in all of American history.

But it’s not true. Indeed, it’s nonsense from start to finish.

Jimmy Quinn flags this big development on the COVID lab-leak-theory front:

For well over a year, a certain clique of researchers tarred the idea that COVID-19 initially escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan as a conspiracy theory. Now, their grip on that narrative within the scientific community is loosening, as a growing chorus of experts calls for a closer look at this lab-leak hypothesis.

In a letter published this afternoon at Science, 18 scientists call for an investigation into the pandemic’s origins that does not discount the possibility of a lab leak. “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” they write. “Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical from informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.”

The Hess & Warren duo make a compelling case for why the Right needs to step up and reclaim education from the Left:

Aside from the invaluable, successful campaign to expand school choice, conservatives have spent most of the past couple decades either saying “no” (to campus cancel culture and federal overreach) or championing putatively bipartisan proposals (such as No Child Left Behind). . . .

Yet, education is an issue that the Right should own. After all, where the Left is hemmed in by its relationships with unions, education bureaucracies, and the academy, the right is unburdened by such entanglements. Where Biden’s proposals are all about subsidizing the status quo — making community college “free” or funneling dollars into slow-footed K–12 systems — the Right is free to reimagine institutions and arrangements. And, as the Left increasingly takes its cultural lead from its woke fringe, only the Right is positioned to defend shared American values such as hard work and personal responsibility that resonate broadly across the political spectrum.

Sir Charles has figured out the formula for bringing the economy back to life:

The dismal jobs report issued Friday paints the picture. Millions unemployed. Millions of jobs available. And, for now at least, never the twain shall meet. The National Federation of Independent Businesses reports that over four in ten business owners have positions that have not been filled, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics had 7.4 million job openings at the end of February. And still the Help Wanted signs proliferate.

Why? In part, the problem is political. Inexplicably, the federal government has decided to hand out a seemingly endless supply of no-strings-attached “stimulus” checks and massively enhanced unemployment benefits to Americans no longer in need of either, and then to affect surprise when those people sit at home. For a brief period during the pandemic, it made sense to encourage people to stay at home. Now, though, it most certainly does not. Then, we needed to relax our preference for work a little. Now, we should be repeating the magical five words that have done so much to build this country into what it is: “Go and get a job.”

Shout-Outs

Noah Rothman, at Commentary: The Left Tries to Talk Itself Out of Reality

Jerry Dunleavy, at the Washington Examiner: Feinstein’s former staffer helped funnel millions to Steele and Fusion GPS after 2016

Charles Hilu, at The College Fix: Public university in NYC plans to require masks through the end of 2022

Myron Magnet, at The New Criterion: Defounding America

Salena Zito, at the Washington Examiner: How Eric Holder failed

CODA

Yes, yes, this is the kind of “check this out!” clip that your extended family would send around, but seriously . . . check this out. Tommy Emmanuel is at his best — which is a unique kind of stratospheric best considering the Everest heights at which his mediocre resides — here, kicking off a Beatles medley with a version of “Day Tripper” that sees him seemingly, inexplicably playing the parts of nearly all Fab Four. At once. Now forward this to your parents/kids/uncle/au pair/in-laws/college roomies.

It is more than possible this author is kvelling over the Australian guitar hero due to unbridled excitement about seeing him in the coming week in the swampy Beltway burbs, presuming COVID doesn’t ruin the occasion as it’s ruined everything else. But as noted in last week’s column, don’t let one person’s objectionable tastes crowd out the CODA. If you’ve got a tune to share with this subscriber list, send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

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