The Weekend Jolt

No Country for Liz Cheney

Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) waits for the arrival of President Joe Biden before he addresses a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2021. (Melina Mara/Pool via Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Before commencing with the bountiful buffet of brainfood (to be injected via link), a word about the authorship.

Rumors that Jack Fowler was removed in a bloodless coup are, to quote multiple sources close to developments, “untrue to the extent that there were two injuries.” But, as the inimitable force a.k.a. Kaj Relwof indicated in last week’s column, he has left the virtual building — with quite the legacy in his wake. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him in NR’s orbit from time to time, so the fresh-faced custodian of this weekendly column — moi — will have to refrain from any brash declarations about sheriffs and towns. That said, from this averted trope extends the question . . . of whether things might start to change ‘round here. Meh. Here at NR, we’re still using standard-issue iPhone 4s. So to answer in evolutionary terms, there’s yet time on this plateau before the laws of punctuated equilibrium require any rapid upgrades.

Still, the new author (who will honor his predecessor’s tradition of shunning first-person, unless I forget) acknowledges this baton pass — or is it a torch? — is itself a change, and so humbly seeks your indulgence for any tweaks, tucks, trims, and the trouble they might cause. Rest assured, the purpose of this column remains the same: to deliver you the best, the most incisive, at times the most derisive, commentary and reporting the Interwebs have to offer. We do hope you visit NationalReview.com often, but the Jolt and its Jolterificness exist to collate the week’s coverage in one convenient place. Do enjoy.

Without further jabbering, may we present to you, the news:

For House GOP Conference chairwoman Liz Cheney’s ouster and replacement, it’s increasingly looking more a matter of when than if. Kevin McCarthy was caught trashing her, and predicting a vote to remove her from leadership, on a hot mic early in the week. The House GOP No. 2, Steve Scalise, then came out in favor of bumping aside No. 3, Cheney, in favor of Elise Stefanik of New York. Trump, afterward, joined in.

As John McCormack reports, Cheney is not intending to go quietly, so a vote next week to force it is likely. So . . . what happened, when just a few months ago, she survived a similar push for removal over her vote to impeach Trump?

MBD does an admirable job laying out the landscape, noting how the always-unruly and forever-fractious congressional GOP offers no true base of support for Cheney in her decision to continue to call out Trump’s stolen-election claims and condemn the January 6 Capitol riot:

A House caucus that had a larger, visible, and organized faction of Republicans who relied on the kinds of suburban voters who held their nose and voted for Trump but were repulsed by January 6 could protect a figure like Cheney and even demand that leadership include someone like her. No such thing exists. . . .

Right now, Donald Trump’s political power makes for an unstable GOP. Even in defeat, he still has the unstinting loyalty of a large share of the Republican electorate. But his promotion of election conspiracy theories divides Republicans. He forced two viable Senate candidates to repeat these theories in Georgia, and they lost. Rejecting the same theory very likely will make Cheney electorally unviable in Wyoming. . . .

And so, for now the only thing that can unite the Republican conference is to stop litigating Trump and square up against the Biden White House and the Democratic Congress that empowers him. As Peter Spiliakos points out, Mitch McConnell condemned President Trump’s actions on January 6. But now that Biden is president, McConnell has been focused on opposing Democrats. In this environment, any Republicans who seem genuinely more passionate about opposing other Republicans than Democrats — Mitt Romney also comes to mind — will find themselves in jeopardy.

Cheney, including in a Washington Post op-ed, is demanding Republicans make a choice they’d rather not — an isolating decision. Like No Country for Old Men’s Sheriff Bell, this western lawmaker surveys a landscape she doesn’t quite recognize, her place in it uncertain. “Any time you quit hearin Sir and Mam the end is pretty much in sight,” a retiring Bell observes of changing times, as he accounts for the “breakdown in mercantile ethics” (specifically, in the drug trade, whose transactional and amoral nature is its common bond with Cheney’s line of work). Her spurs could soon join his.

Yet more perspective from the NR editorial on the matter:

Of course, at the end of the day, the problem isn’t that Cheney is making controversial statements; the problem is that Republicans consider her obviously true statements to be controversial. . . .

It isn’t Cheney who is preventing Republicans from moving on and repairing the wounds from the 2020 election. It is Trump himself.

Buckle up for the coming week . . .

One other item deserves mention here. See this quote, flagged by Mr. VerBruggen, embedded within the California Department of Education’s K–12 draft framework: “We reject ideas of natural gifts and talents

Let that sink in. It reminds one of that old Vonnegut story, “Harrison Bergeron,” only classrooms are acting it out, instead of reading it.

Meanwhile, in between scanning the articles below, if you haven’t checked out a couple (relatively) new regular columns from the NR team, you really should. They include Forgotten Fact Checks, produced by the News Desk, and The Vitruvian Life — a spicy advice column “for the young conservative in the modern world” from that dispenser of wisdom, Mark Antonio Wright.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The unfortunate lessons from the Liz Cheney saga: Liz Cheney Is Not the Problem

What was that about “science” again? Biden Believes in Science — So Long as the Teachers’ Unions Approve

Regarding the buck-passing and can-kicking surrounding Facebook’s Trump ban, the verdict is . . . a pox on all houses: The Ridiculous Facebook Affair

Given historically low birth rates, we need to have The Talk about the birds and the bees and government incentives: Going Bust

ARTICLES

Charles C. W. Cooke: Enough with the COVID Zealots

Ryan Mills: Classrooms Bulge with ‘Traumatized’ Migrants as Border Surge Hits the Schools

Michael Brendan Dougherty: COVID-19 Rewired Our Brains

Kyle Smith: How the Boycott-Georgia Movement Flopped

Madeleine Kearns: Caitlyn Jenner Is Right About Transgender Athletes

Rich Lowry: There Is No Biden Moment

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Next Reality Candidate

Dan McLaughlin: House Republicans Should Have the Leaders They Deserve

Robert VerBruggen: Joe Biden Comes Down against Stay-at-Home Parenting

Philip Klein: People Have Gotten ‘Institutionalized’ by COVID

Andrew McCarthy: The Biden DOJ’s Targeting of Rudy Giuliani Could Backfire Spectacularly

Jim Geraghty: The Nonsense Claim from NBC News That Biden Has Met His School Goal

Jimmy Quinn: China Prepares to Exploit an Opportunity at the U.N.

And here’s something you don’t see every week. A point, and counterpoint, on the Texas push for permitless carry, by Kevin D. Williamson and Charles C. W. Cooke, respectively.

CAPITAL MATTERS

Steven E. Koonin, a former Obama administration scientist, is making waves with his new and iconoclastic book on climate change: Questioning the Climate-Change Narrative

Iain Murray translates Labor secretary Marty Walsh’s comments on the gig economy: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh Wants More Servants in the Workforce

Veronique de Rugy offers a lesson in how to Washington: How the Cronyism Sausage Is Made

Marc Joffe hopes the call for banking at post offices is one idea that gets lost in the mail: Progressive ‘Postal Banking’ Proposal Is a Solution in Search of a Problem

Robert J. Smullen and Jonathan Williams discuss the fallout from New York’s tax culture: The Fallout from ‘Progressive’ Budgets in New York

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Armond White heaps praise upon Roy Andersson’s latest film: Movies Are Back: About Endlessness 

Kyle Smith does the opposite in his take-down of the Billy Crystal-Tiffany Haddish flick: When Oldie Met Sally

And he assesses the latest Guy Ritchie-Jason Statham team-up: Jason Statham, Lean and Mean, Returns in Wrath of Man

A SAMPLING OF THE INTELLECTUAL SUCCOR THAT AWAITS IN THE LAND BEYOND THE LINKS (AND IN SOME CASES THE PAYWALL)

Andy McCarthy gives a thorough and even-handed history of the Rudy Giuliani-Ukraine-Biden-Trump saga, and offers a warning to the Biden DOJ regarding the Rudy raid:

If Giuliani were charged, there’s a good chance he would be acquitted. That would undercut the political claims about Russian disinformation and Ukrainian corruption that the Biden administration would otherwise be in a position to make.

Worst of all, a Giuliani prosecution would convince Trump supporters, along with other Republicans and conservatives, that for all his malarkey about unifying the country, President Biden is committed to fortifying the two-tiered justice system: The earth is scorched to prosecute Republicans, while Democrats get a pass. This will further fuel our combustible politics and ensure that the next Republican administration is pressured to exploit the Justice Department as a political weapon against Democrats.

Word that the AFT was influencing CDC guidance for schools is, shall we say, instructive. From the editorial:

Now, a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust, reported by the New York Post, reveals the depth of political interference in the school-reopening guidance. The powerful American Federation of Teachers, which spent nearly $20 million to elect Democrats in 2020, was deeply involved in crafting the CDC guidance. One AFT email to officials in the Biden White House said: “We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document.” This and other AFT emails to the White House were then forwarded to Walensky by the White House, lest she miss the point of who was calling the shots. The AFT also leaned on Walensky directly, and AFT president Randi Weingarten lobbied her by phone. As a result, the Post noted at least two instances of AFT-drafted language being inserted verbatim into the CDC guidelines, in each case to limit in-person instruction.

Many Americans have had their eyes opened during the past year to the lengths to which the teachers’ unions will go in placing the interests of their members ahead of the interests of children. Now, they can see the Biden administration bending the CDC itself to the union’s will. Whatever this is, it is not science.

Charlie has had it with COVID culture. Really, just, he’s done:

I have never been of the view that our responses to the pandemic were all unnecessary or illegitimate. Certainly, I never bought that it was a “hoax.” Yes, yes, COVID wasn’t the Second World War; but it also wasn’t just “the flu.” And so, to mitigate the risk to myself and others, I’ve played along with a good deal: I’ve been happy to wear a mask when asked to by businesses or the law; I have been happy to get vaccinated, having waited in line for my turn; and, unusually for me, I have happily supported at least some of the government’s spending, on the grounds that a state that is willing to deprive people of their liberty and livelihood should do at least something to mitigate the damage. All in all, I have agreed to eschew my usual absolutism in favor of the sort of balanced, scientific, and ultimately moderate approach that was adopted from the start here in Florida. Now, though, the time for such acquiescence has passed, and in its place we need something different: mockery, vehemence, resistance, dudgeon, exasperation, and, if it comes to it, a thorough raising of the middle finger. Enough!

Madeleine Kearns writes insightfully about Caitlyn Jenner’s comments last weekend, and coins a new term — old-school transsexualism:

On Saturday, an interviewer for TMZ asked Jenner about female-identifying transgender persons — males — competing in girls’ and women’s sports. Jenner replied, “I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It just isn’t fair. And we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.”

. . . The fact that Jenner refers to transgender-identifying females as “biological boys” suggests that Jenner’s conceptualization of transsexualism is of the old-school variety. Jenner’s claim to femaleness is metaphysical, not material. Jenner acknowledges that, despite looking like a Barbie doll, a transgender woman is still — biologically — a man.

More from Michael on Jenner’s campaign:

One of the reasons Jenner’s candidacy and campaign make for compelling television is just the sheer, brazen weirdness of it all. For Jenner the decline of California is told in a parable of a rich man leaving for Sedona in disgust at the homeless. Morally it should be off-putting, but it does get at a truth. The story Jenner tells about personal gender transformation is not the usual one of throwing off the burdensome expectations of society and religion. Instead, Jenner tells it as a conversion story, as God’s reward for being a good dad who completed his work. It begins with the counsel of a Christian pastor and ends with the hope of the “Pearly Gates,” and enjoying God’s affirmation for “being myself.”

To a small-o orthodox Christian, or maybe any non-Californian, Jenner’s testimony comes across as an inferno of narcissism and schmaltzy daytime-talk-show sentimentality. You hear it and think, “Is Jenner going to get away with this?” Will Republicans, Californians, or God stand for it?

Stay tuned and find out.

Lastly, Ryan Mills provides a raw and startling and deeply reported account of the real-world impact the migrant surge is having on our schools, and of what the children who make the dangerous journey must endure. From the piece:

The kids tend to show up in Garrett Reed’s classroom in shock.

Many have never been to a big city like Houston before. But now they’re here, in the United States, in Reed’s Wisdom High School classroom, with its smart boards and online learning hub. A school administrator hands each kid a laptop. Many haven’t used a computer before.

None of them speak English. Many don’t even speak Spanish, but rather K’iche’ or maybe Mam, indigenous Mayan languages from the Guatemalan hinterlands.

Many of the kids have just made the dangerous journey to the U.S. through Mexico, enduring a gauntlet of crime filled with thugs, thieves, and predators of a variety of stripes – gangbangers who recruit the boys, sex traffickers who prey on the young girls.

“They’re traumatized. I mean, not all of them, but most of them,” Reed said. “A lot of them just put their head on the desk and cry. That’s what happens. That’s fine. Just cry.”

CODA

With your aforementioned (and hoped for) indulgence, we’ll attempt a small retooling of this missive’s bitter end, to close with a song. It’s the weekend, after all, and politics ain’t the only thing in life that matters.

So please do savor, from an album chock-full of stellar tracks, Duke Ellington’s incomparable “Mount Harissa.” It’s named for a hilltop in Lebanon, one visited on his band’s 1963 world tour — which the album commemorates (and which also was cut short by JFK’s assassination). Have a listen here, and let Paul Gonsalves guide you.

This newsletter-er has his own, often insufferable, musical predilections, but is an open-minded sonic traveler. So by all means, if you’ve got a tune to share with the world (or, rather, this subscriber list), send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

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