Dear Weekend Jolter,
The silk/paper poppy flowers sold at this time of year, as we approach Memorial Day, always seemed . . . holy. Hallowed in their simplicity, beautiful in their symbolization, conveying the message: We honor, we revere, we do not forget. Moina Belle Michael initiated this tradition soon after World War One, and over the decades the sales of poppy flowers have raised massive amounts to support disabled war veterans and related programs. Michael, a Georgia teacher, was inspired by Canadian field surgeon John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields, which famously begins:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row. . .
Miss Michael was so moved by the words that she wrote a poem in reply, We Shall Keep the Faith, which ends:
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
Let us pray that we do.
Now, as it does every year, Turner Classic Movies will be hosting a Memorial Day Marathon, from May 23 through May 25, showcasing 31 movies. The marathon commences with John Ford’s 1939 flick, Drums Along the Mohawk. Once upon a time, Hollywood paid fitting tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Kudos to TCM for doing this every year.
Well, the Jolt awaits, but before we get cracking, it’s a fact that if you are reading this, you are receiving the daily missive by our Jolt Eminence, Big Jim Geraghty. So you likely have read his May 21 filing titled, “Quarantine for Thee, But Not for Me.” On the off chance you have not, you are encouraged to do so, and will find it here.
1. The ACLU figures that the time has come to turn on due process. Disdain needs to be expressed. And is. From the beginning of the editorial:
That the ACLU is suing the federal government in the hope of altering its due-process standards is not headline news. That the ACLU is suing the federal government in the hope of weakening its due-process standards is headline news for the ages. Once more, the line between parody and reality has been blurred.
The targets of the ACLU’s suit are the Department of Education; its secretary, Betsy DeVos; and its assistant secretary for civil rights, Kenneth Marcus. Their offense? To have made it easier for the accused to defend themselves. As NBC News explains, the changes that Secretary DeVos has spearheaded “effectively bolster the rights of due process for those accused of sexual assault and harassment, allowing for live hearings and cross-examinations” — two elementary provisions that, as NBC notes, were “lacking during the Obama administration to protect all students under Title IX.”
Which, per the ACLU, is a problem. DeVos’s changes, the group claims, will make “it more difficult for victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault to continue their educations and needlessly comes amid a global pandemic.”
Remind us again what the C and the L stand for?
2. That America is fixated on hydrowhatevertheheck is idiotic. From the editorial:
Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, is a well-established medicine for other purposes, and its potential has been worth exploring. Some promising early results led Democratic governors such as Andrew Cuomo and Gretchen Whitmer to join the White House task force’s cautious optimism. Too many of the president’s critics instead dug themselves into actively rooting for the treatment to fail.
The responsible thing to do with a clinically untested treatment is go where the evidence follows. The president, however, has responded to the barrage of criticism with his trademark relish for a fight. He now has publicly declared that he is taking hydroxychloroquine himself, as if his personal confidence in the drug is all that matters.
This marks a new chapter in a stupid sideshow that no one needs. It will embroil the White House and the Republican Party in defending hydroxychloroquine for the same reason his critics loathe a drug they hadn’t heard of before a few months ago — simply because it is a thing Trump favors. The vice president has already felt it necessary to state that he is not taking it.
3. America needs to stand with the people of Hong Kong. From the editorial:
China’s move against Hong Kong is likely dictated by propitious circumstances. Democracy protesters in Hong Kong may be fatigued. And while the rest of the world deals with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is little appetite to expend the diplomatic energy or engage in the trade actions that could protect Hong Kong.
At the time of the treaty, little Hong Kong accounted for nearly 20 percent of China’s overall economy, and it was a crucial engine of China’s economic growth. Companies that wanted to do business in a liberalizing China headquartered in Hong Kong. Financial markets still prefer it. Why? Because it has inherited a property-rights regime and a judicial system from the Anglo tradition. One could make a case in a Hong Kong court and expect a fair hearing, rather than a political judgment dictated by a party boss.
Abrogating the two-systems settlement is an injustice, and a foreseeable one. Hong Kong now represents less than 3 percent of China’s economy. And so Beijing senses it can strike a new bargain, renege on its treaty obligation, and put to death any notion that Hong Kong’s style of government will ever win out by persuasion.
No Sunscreen Needed: Conservative IQ Summer Fun Awaits!
National Review Institute is pleased to announce that registration is now open for a new virtual “Burke to Buckley” Summer Course! While this program is normally designed for mid-career professionals who live within the six cities where programs are offered, the virtual Summer Course will give all individuals around the nation the opportunity to participate in discussions about the foundations of conservative thought.
Participants will meet via Zoom meeting for a series of six weeknight seminars taking place on Wednesdays between May 27 and July 1 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Eastern. Participants are expected to attend all sessions and complete 25 to 30-page reading assignments, which they will discuss with a leading conservative thinker.
There is a suggested contribution of $250 in order to cover program costs and to support the non-profit Institute. Click here for more information.
As Many Links as There Are Stars on the Star-Spangled Banner
1. Rich Lowry profiles good coronavirus-fight news that nevertheless results in MSM Trump-Hate. From the piece:
Any government response to a once-in-a-generation crisis is going to be subject to legitimate criticism, and there’s no question that almost every major government in the Western world, including ours, should have acted sooner. But to read the press, there is basically nothing good that the Trump administration has done over the last three months.
This is manifestly false. In a briefing for reporters last week on FEMA’s work securing PPE, FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor laid out the raw numbers: FEMA, HHS, and the private sector have shipped or are currently shipping 92.7 million N95 respirators, 133 million surgical masks, 10.5 million face shields, 42.4 million surgical gowns, and 989 million gloves.
According to Admiral John Polowczyk, head of the supply-chain task force at FEMA, we manufactured roughly 30 million N95 respirators domestically a month before the COVID-19 crisis. He says we are on a path now to ramp up to 180 million N95 respirators a month.
None of this happened by accident. At a time of unprecedented stress on the supply chain and a yawning gap between supply and demand in the market, it required considerable clever improvisation and determined hustle. This was not your average bureaucratic response. It was a partnership between the public and private sector to get supplies to the United States on an urgent basis and ship them to the places that needed them most, and then begin to ramp up manufacturing here at home.
A team around White House adviser Jared Kushner and the supply-chain task force under Admiral Polowczyk worked to fly supplies from overseas to the U.S. quickly, to vet leads for additional PPE (the work of volunteers from the business world mustered by Kushner’s team), and to build a cooperative relationship with 3M, the country’s most important manufacturer of N95 respirators.
The story of what they’ve done is a key part of the administration’s response, even if it has been obscured by a press that has an allergy to anything that has worked.
2. More Rich: He wants to know where media-mugged Florida governor Ron DeSantis goes to get back his reputation. From the piece:
An irony of the national coverage of the coronavirus crisis is that at the same time DeSantis was being made into a villain, New York governor Andrew Cuomo was being elevated as a hero, even though the DeSantis approach to nursing homes was obviously superior to that of Cuomo. Florida went out of its way to get COVID-19-positive people out of nursing homes, while New York went out of its way to get them in, a policy now widely acknowledged to have been a debacle.
The media didn’t exactly have their eyes on the ball. “The day that the media had their first big freak-out about Florida was March 15th,” DeSantis recalls, “which was, there were people on Clearwater Beach, and it was this big deal. That same day is when we signed the executive order to, one, ban visitation in the nursing homes, and two, ban the reintroduction of a COVID-positive patient back into a nursing home.”
DeSantis is bemused by the obsession with Florida’s beaches. When they opened in Jacksonville, it was a big national story, usually relayed with a dire tone. “Jacksonville has almost no COVID activity outside of a nursing-home context,” he says. “Their hospitalizations are down, ICU down since the beaches opened a month ago. And yet, nobody talks about it. It’s just like, ‘Okay, we just move on to the next target.’”
Perhaps more understandably, The Villages, the iconic senior community, was a focus of media worries. According to DeSantis, as of last weekend there hadn’t been a single resident of The Villages in the hospital for COVID-19 for about a week. At one point, the infection rate in The Villages was so low that state officials were worried that they were missing something. “So I got the University of Florida to do a study,” he says. “They did 1,200 asymptomatic seniors at The Villages, and not one of them came back positive, which was really incredible.”
So how did DeSantis go about responding to the epidemic? It began with the data, and trying to learn the lessons of other countries.
3. Kyle Smith runs down the laundry list of Andrew Cuomo’s deadly choices. From the commentary:
In New York, the public is today the victim of Cuomo’s longstanding, bizarre, petty, counterproductive hostility toward his fellow Democrat de Blasio. Though de Blasio publicly stated on March 17 that a shelter-in-place order might be necessary, and said so gingerly so as not to poke the bear, Cuomo fired back that it wasn’t necessary and that only he had the authority to give such an order. Privately he derided de Blasio as offering a scenario more befitting a nuclear apocalypse, according to ProPublica. Five days later, as the virus roared across the state, things had become so bad that Cuomo finally shut down the state, as usual without acknowledging that de Blasio had been correct.
The state and the city continued to work at cross purposes behind closed doors. “The state Health Department broke off routine sharing of information and strategy with its city counterpart in February,” ProPublica reported, citing both a city official and a city employee. “Radio silence,” said the city official. Even today, according to the city employee quoted by ProPublica, the city has difficulty getting basic data such as nursing-home staff counts from the state “It’s like they have been ordered not to talk to us,” the person said.
4. More Kyle: Some websites can writers, their industry colleagues bemoan, but our guy weeps no tears and reminds us — journalists ain’t heroes, so put away the hankies. From the piece:
It could happen to any of us, of course, myself very much included. I readily concede that many if not most if not all of the people laid off by Buzzfeed, Vice, Condé Nast, and (certainly!) The Economist are more talented, harder-working, and better at television/podcasting/pontificating at conferences than I am. The profession of journalism hangs by a thread, and capricious Fates are awfully snippy with the scissors.
Yet journalists are fundamentally misstating what’s going on. Let’s be honest: We’re not heroes. We’re not firefighters. We’re not selfless public servants. Don’t mistake us for a cross-breed of self-flagellating monks and fired-up paramedics. We’re in this game because it’s fun, because of what it does for us, not because we’re saints who defend the defenseless and give a voice to the voiceless. Those of us who are taking down bad guys, digging through court records, and exposing the nefarious doings of men in suits are not doing so primarily to benefit others but because it pleases us. It’s delightful to expose wrongdoing. It gives you the greatest feeling in the world — the glow of self-righteousness. — It wins you awards, it wins you fame, it wins you money. If the public winds up slightly better off, well, that’s a nice added benefit. But picture a world in which crusading journalists are required to work in total anonymity — no bylines, no prizes, no television appearances, no campus speaking tours — and you’re picturing a world in which interest in doing investigative journalism plummets very nearly to zero.
And the group of journalists I’ve described are the tiny minority who come closest to being public servants. The rest of us? City reporters are in it because they love to tear around town. Entertainment reporters are in it because they are beguiled by celebrities and everything they do. Science reporters are fascinated by science, sports reporters are fascinated by sports, gender reporters are fascinated by pronouns. Washington reporters know they can generate national news for 12 hours just by saying something bitchy in a presidential briefing, and if all else fails, they know that millions will mistake them for important people if they gravely intone clichés while standing in front of the White House.
5. Ramesh Ponnuru has the backs of the Little Sisters of the Poor, once again attacked by New York Times abortion-ballyhooing writer Linda Greenhouse. From the piece:
Linda Greenhouse, a longtime legal correspondent and current columnist for the New York Times, is back with a new article opposing the legal claims of the Little Sisters of the Poor. It’s not the first time she has written such an article. It’s not even the first time she has used a pointless metaphor about storytelling to make her case. That’s alright: The case has been dragging on for years, and we’re all running out of new things to say. What’s less excusable is that it’s not the first time Greenhouse has made a simple, easily-checked mistake about the case in the course of accusing other people of misrepresentations.
Back in 2014, Greenhouse maintained that all the Obama administration was asking the Little Sisters to do was submit a “one-page form” noting that it had religious objections to covering employees’ contraception. She declared herself “baffled” that the nuns considered this requirement a violation of their conscience and that all nine justices of the Supreme Court had taken their complaint seriously. Maybe if she had read on to the second page of the “one-page form,” she would have solved the mystery: Page two proclaimed the form to be the “instrument” that triggered the requirement that a third-party administrator provide the coverage. The nuns didn’t want to be forced to take any action, including signing a form, that caused such coverage.
6. More MSM BS: David Harsanyi slaps around GQ for its bogus history of the pro-life movement. From the beginning of the piece:
According to a new documentary, Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, made a deathbed confession that her pro-life conversion and activism was all an act, funded by anti-abortion organizations. I had a few off-the-record conversations with McCorvey over the years, and nothing in those chats felt scripted to me. You can never really know, I suppose. My guess is that McCorvey was a troubled woman, thrown into the middle of one of the most contentious Supreme Court cases in history, who shifted her positions in search of public approval.
Whatever the case, her later stances have no bearing on the debate over abortion. The fact that pro-life groups paid McCorvey to speak is not a big revelation nor a big deal. Nor do her vacillating claims tells us anything valuable about the constitutional validity of Roe v. Wade or the morality of dispensing with human life for convenience.
Yet Laura Basset at GQ would have her readers believe that McCorvey’s deathbed admission tells us everything Americans need to know about the pro-life movement.
Basset’s baffling and ahistorical central claim is that pre-Reagan Republicans were pro-abortion because they were racists and post-Reagan Republicans were pro-life also because they were racists — which is quite convenient.
7. More Ponnuru: He doubles down on the GQ pummeling. From the analysis:
Bassett tries to suggest that the pro-life movement originated because white Evangelical Christians were upset about racial desegregation. But her own story undermines the indictment. Desegregation upset Jerry Falwell Sr., she writes. But then she quotes someone else noting that white Evangelicals could not be mobilized based on that issue, and she says that Paul Weyrich tried a number of other issues to get them involved. Abortion worked. In other words, a lot more Evangelicals were fired up to fight abortion than were fired up to defend segregation. That’s supposed to reflect badly on them?
Bassett claims that Ronald Reagan did not genuinely oppose abortion, since he signed a liberalization law as governor of California. “Then as president, he said he regretted that move and suddenly opposed all abortions except to save the life of the mother.” Her chronology is wrong — Reagan had switched positions in public by at least four years before his presidency, and reportedly expressed private regrets a dozen years before it — and makes no sense given the rest of her narrative (which treats the pro-life stance as key to his becoming president in the first place, rather than a sudden post-election development). She provides no evidence for thinking that Reagan was lying when he said he had changed his mind.
8. Australia is taking on Red China. Therese Shaheen says it is critical that the U.S. stand lockstep with its Down Under ally. From the reflection:
China’s bullying and threats toward Australia go deeper than the trading relationship. Just behind beef, barley, and other commodities that Australia exports to China is education. PRC nationals as a percentage of all foreign nationals in Australian universities have doubled to more than 30 percent in the past 20 years. In the Australian Capital Territory of Canberra and surrounding communities, six in ten foreign students are from the PRC.
This influx has created a microcosm of broader tensions within the region in the Xi era on Australian university campuses. Last year during the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Australian universities were venues for both Hong Kong–sympathetic demonstrations and counter-protests by pro-Beijing students. Violence requiring police action occurred at several locations, reflecting, as the New York Times put it, the degree to which “Australian universities have come to depend on Chinese donors, students and organizations that are often loyal to Beijing and intolerant of dissent.”
More worrisome is China’s alleged involvement in Australia’s political system. Late last year, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) — the domestic counter-terror, counter-intelligence agency — acknowledged an investigation into allegations from 2018 by a Melbourne car dealer that a businessman with links to Norinco, a Chinese state-owned defense company, offered him $1 million or more to run for Parliament from the suburban Melbourne community of Chisholm. The car dealer, according to press reports, was heavily in debt and was later found dead in a Melbourne hotel room. The man who made the alleged offer denied it, and the circumstances as well as the details of the investigation remain cloudy. But the pattern is one that Western intelligence agencies, including ASIO, take seriously. Certainly, Beijing attempted to undermine the recent presidential election in Taiwan and remains active in influence operations against the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. A Chinese defector to Australia late last year created a stir with his detailed descriptions of PRC activities in Taiwan and Hong; he had participated in operations in both places.
9. Kevin Williamson believes that the coronavirus lockdown may have infected the cause of socialism. From the essay:
We may not yet have a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, but we are well on our way to extracting from that virus a vaccine against a far deadlier plague: socialism, which in the 20th century alone killed more than three times as many people as HIV did in the same time, which has killed about twice as many people as the Black Death killed in the 14th century, and which continues to afflict victims around the world from Cuba to North Korea to Venezuela.
Every way of organizing community life (and that’s what “the economy” is — one important part of community life) brings with it certain advantages, certain disadvantages, and certain risks, and the disruptions caused by the coronavirus epidemic have exposed some of the weaknesses in our way of doing things. Those weaknesses are, as far as the current evidence will show, pretty modest. The low-inventory “just in time” model of production and distribution that characterizes so much of American business saves businesses and their customers money by reducing such carrying costs as warehousing, but it also means that retailers and distributors typically do not have a great deal of product on hand to see them through an interruption in deliveries.
It was, for a minute there, hard to find toilet paper in some places. Because the epidemic has been especially punishing for workers in meat-processing facilities, there have been some local shortages of meat, accompanied by such Captain Obvious headlines as: “Meat shortage prompts price hike.” A price hike is exactly what you want in a shortage. Before you start whining about “price gouging” (“price gouging” is what happens when the ordinary operation of free markets reflects real-world conditions that politicians wish were other than what they are) consider the alternative: the so-called paradox of gasoline in Venezuela.
Gasoline is very cheap in Venezuela. You could buy all you wanted — if you could buy any at all.
The government sets the price of gasoline at almost $0.00 (on paper, about a penny for 26 gallons) and rigorously controls production and distribution of the stuff — and so, of course, it is virtually impossible for an ordinary Venezuelan to legally purchase gasoline. Instead, Venezuelans buy gasoline, if they can buy it at all, on the black market, where they pay some of the highest prices in the world, well over $10 a gallon in a country in which most people earn less than $10 a month. In local terms, the average monthly salary in Venezuela will not pay for a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef. In the United States, a month’s work at the minimum wage would buy about 300 pounds of beef; in the United Kingdom, a month’s work at minimum wage would buy more than 600 pounds of beef, as Max de Haldevang runs the numbers in Quartz.
As for our brief toilet-paper drought — Venezuela’s has been going on for a decade. Similar shortages have hit everything from rice to medicine to soap.
10. Dan McLaughlin does a thorough deep-dive into the known facts about Tara Read. From the piece:
Reade’s account would be more credible if she could place the alleged assault in an identifiable location. This was a point of contention in Christine Blasey Ford’s story: She never identified an address or whose house the alleged assault occurred in, or how she got home. This is not necessarily decisive, however, so much as it is a reminder that memories in general are untrustworthy at a distance of a quarter century or more.
The Capitol and Senate building complexes are full of twists and turns and alcove-like places that can be secluded, even during business hours. Senators have their own little hideaway offices, which the NewsHour piece conspicuously ignores. If Reade took the direct route described by Biden staffers, she would not have encountered the kind of alcove she describes. But if we consider that she may have misremembered where the incident took place in the complex, her account is no longer implausible; it is just wrong on one detail. That detail is important, but by itself, it does not settle anything.
When: Reade is able to narrow down the timeframe only to a two-month window in April or May of 1993. Reade says that she was removed from her duties supervising interns after that, and two (unnamed) interns told the New York Times that she abruptly stopped supervising them in April. They knew the date because spring internships on the Hill typically ended at the end of April, and she was removed from supervisory duties before they left. This is the part of her story that is most directly corroborated by other witnesses, albeit anonymous ones.
The date range and corroboration are more specific than anything Blasey Ford offered. In that case, we had nothing to go on but a range of years in the early 1980s. Nonetheless, it still puts Biden in a position similar to that of Kavanaugh: He can’t really be expected to provide an alibi without a more specific time period.
What she wore: Reade says that it was a warm spring day, and she was wearing no stockings due to the heat, and crotchless panties because she was meeting her boyfriend later. Young finds the latter detail odd, though it seems broadly consistent with Reade’s recollection that she was sometimes “told to dress more conservatively” after “she later complained to others in the office that Biden would put his hands on her shoulder, neck, and hair during meetings in ways that made her uncomfortable.” She told Megyn Kelly that Marianne Baker, Biden’s assistant for three decades, specifically instructed her to wear longer skirts and button up her blouses more, but Reade also insists today that there was nothing unusual or objectionable about her regular attire.
11. When it comes to the corruption and criminality behind the Obama administration’s contrived case against General Flynn, and so much related to that, Victor Davis Hanson is naming names and creating categories. From the analysis:
Samantha Power testified to Congress that she could not remember her own requests to the NSA for the identities of more than 300 redacted American names swept up in government surveillance. In response, Congressman Trey Gowdy described her as “the largest unmasker of U.S. persons in our history” — a curious obsession with espionage and intelligence for a U.N. ambassador. Did Power have sudden memory loss while testifying under oath, or was her office a de facto clearinghouse for dozens of lower-level operatives who sought her pro forma signature to allow them to request unmaskings of such redactions? Or was the Harvard-trained lawyer simply lying under oath? Did she assume that no one of her stature who lies to Congress — compare the exemptions given congressional prevaricators such as James Clapper and John Brennan — is ever held to account? Apparently not in Power’s mind, when in March 2018 she warned Donald Trump about the reach even then of former CIA director John Brennan: “Not a good idea to piss off John Brennan.”
James Comey on 245 occasions could not remember or did not know the answer when asked factual questions by the House Intelligence Committee. Did the FBI stickler for memorializing presidential conversations and taking notes nonstop simply have an unplugged moment like Power, or is he suffering some of the same cognitive issues that now challenge Joe Biden?
Robert Mueller on 198 occasions told House members while under oath that he could not answer their questions because he didn’t know, he couldn’t remember, he couldn’t speculate, or he couldn’t get into such matters. He seemed oblivious to the role that the Steele dossier and Fusion GPS had played in the entire collusion mythography — as Congress was left to speculate whether Mueller was either lying or non compos mentis, or a figurehead who knew nothing about the basic facts and nomenclature of his own 22-month investigation.
12. Related: Peter Kirsanow has 20 questions for Barack Obama about his buck-stops-here role in the FBI Follies. From the piece:
On August 15, 2016, Strzok texted page, “I want to believe the path you threw out there in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Since the White House was “running this,” and given the recently released House Intelligence transcripts show your administration’s top officials had no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, what, precisely, constituted the “insurance policy?”
On September 2, 2016, Page texted Strzok, “POTUS wants to know everything we’re doing.”
Did you tell Page and/or those directing her you wanted to know everything they were doing?
If so, what were you told?
Did they tell you about the “insurance policy”?
The FISA applications?
The Steele dossier?
13. Joshua Kleinfeld and Rachel Kleinfeld propose a way to have secure elections in November, even with expanded absentee voting. From the proposal:
First, recognize that we risk a Wisconsin-style election debacle if we don’t act. Last month, Wisconsin insisted on going forward with in-person voting in the middle of the pandemic. The result? Turnout in some counties dropped by over 40 percent relative to 2016. Poll workers, who tend to be elderly, stayed home, forcing Milwaukee to close 175 polling locations (leaving just five) and Green Bay to close 29 (leaving just two). That meant absurdly (and dangerously) long lines at the few polling stations that stayed open. Meanwhile, absentee voting spiked by 70 percent compared with the 2016 primary. Since the state wasn’t prepared for the additional million absentee requests it received, thousands of absentee ballots weren’t mailed in time, weren’t counted, or were simply lost in tubs. (One of the illusions in this debate is the notion that absentee versus in-person voting is completely up to politicians. It’s not. Tens of millions of voters already have the legal right to vote absentee at will. Their states just aren’t ready for the numbers they’ll see in November.) Finally, confusing last-minute litigation marred the sense of certainty that elections are supposed to provide.
In the end, Democrats came out ahead, picking up a key state-supreme-court seat. That fact alone should spur Republicans to reconsider whether insisting on in-person voting is good for the party, at least during an election that has liberals fired up and the elderly inclined to stay home. But the larger story in Wisconsin was an election “almost certain to be tarred as illegitimate.” All Wisconsinites lost that day. All Americans will lose if similar dysfunction happens nationwide in November. Legitimacy questions are bad for the country in the best of times. They can be catastrophic during a medical and economic crisis.
Second, realize that this election is a matter of national pride and international power. American elections matter beyond U.S. borders. China and the United States are competing for influence in the world today. Prior phases of the competition were about economic productivity and military might. The present one is about which political system can deal more effectively with a pandemic. The world is watching, and the results could affect the future prospects of democracy itself.
14. C’zar Bernstein defends Constitutional originalism from its new detractors. From the essay:
Correct interpretation, then, consists in discovering what a text originally meant. If this linguistic rule does not suddenly change when legal texts are the object, then one who wishes to interpret them correctly must be open to the possibility that they will not always endorse views with which one morally agrees.
But principled originalism is not merely a thesis about linguistic meaning. It is in addition the view that those charged with interpreting legal texts, including our Constitution, ought to do so in accord with their original meanings, at least in part because the linguistic thesis is true. These two theses are logically distinct. For example, one can consistently acquiesce in the general linguistic theory but for consequentialist reasons believe that judges ought to interpret legal texts to yield good outcomes. So there is a gap between originalism’s linguistic thesis and its moral command, one that originalists must bridge.
One way in which originalists have sought to bridge that gap is called the Oath Theory. Article VI of the Constitution provides that “all . . . judicial Officers . . . shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution” (emphasis added). According to the Oath Theory, the constitutional oath generates a moral obligation for officeholders to give legal effect to, or abide by, the Constitution’s original meaning. That is of course controversial. What ought not be controversial is that at a minimum, the constitutional oath requires judges to make a faithful attempt to correctly interpret the Constitution and to give correct interpretations legal effect. That is, correct legal interpretation is part of faithfully discharging the duties of the judicial office, and to say that some constitutional provision means what one knows it does not mean is to fail to support this Constitution.
15. Andy McCarthy puts on the hiking boots to lead us through Susan Rice’s famous email, unredacted. From the analysis:
Try not to get dizzy. Rice has gone from claiming to have had no knowledge of Obama administration monitoring of Flynn and other Trump associates, to claiming no knowledge of any unmaskings of Trump associates, to admitting she was complicit in the unmaskings, to — now — a call for the recorded conversation between retired general Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to be released because it would purportedly show that the Obama administration had good reason to be concerned about Flynn (y’know, the guy she said she had no idea they were investigating).
Naturally, we have now learned that Rice was deeply involved in the Obama administration’s Trump–Russia investigation, including its sub-investigation of Flynn, a top Trump campaign surrogate who was slated to replace Rice as national-security advisor when President Trump took office. Last night, I did a column for Fox News, analyzing the newly unredacted paragraph from Rice’s previously reported email memorializing a White House meeting on these subjects.
The meeting took place on January 5, 2017, and involved Rice, Obama, and Vice President Biden, the administration’s top political hierarchy on national-security matters, along with Obama’s top law-enforcement and counterintelligence officials, deputy attorney general Sally Yates (soon formally to take the acting AG role she was already performing), and FBI director James Comey. Prior redactions had already demonstrated that the meeting’s central purpose was to discuss the rationale for withholding intelligence about Russia from the incoming Trump national-security team.
Lights. Camera. Action!
1. Armond White takes on two Obama-pandering displays. From the review:
Booksmart, the critically acclaimed girl-power comedy, featured the most egregious high-school commencement speech ever sponsored by mainstream media until former president Barack Obama’s spiel on last weekend’s all-network broadcast Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020.
Both the film and the telecast are products of media indoctrination, the none-too-subtle political programming that eludes notice — and alarm — by posing as cultural remedies. Graduate Together, a one-hour spectacle, pieced together shelter-in-place videos of teens whose high-school commencement exercises were cancelled because of the COVID-19 restrictions. And the teen flick Booksmart pandered to the same adolescent group-think, using comedy tropes familiar from Animal House, Porky’s, American Pie, and Superbad.
This style of coercion results from new marketing cynicism. Pretending to console students for missing out on what Obama listed as “proms, senior nights, graduation ceremonies, and, let’s face it, a whole bunch of parties,” Graduate Together used the media’s stock methods of flattery and condescension, turning isolated web-cam and video-conference teens into temporary celebrities alongside actual showbiz and sports celebrities, going for that uniquely Millennial feeling of solidarity: instant fame.
Trouble is, that false sense of community (you too can be a Jonas Brother or one of Broadway’s lesser-known Platt brothers) is predicated on thinking alike, sharing the same political perspectives that are relentlessly propagated by movies, TV shows, and media events that push a rote liberal agenda.
Graduate Together made this dread fact unavoidable as its faux celebrations led up to Obama’s climactic smiley appearance as the ultimate commencement celebrity speechifier. Obama was billed as if he was still the actual, functioning president of the United States.
2. More Armond: He is liking Josh Trank’s Capone. From the review:
In his extraordinary 2012 debut Chronicle, Trank played out the dangerous extremes of youthful zeal in dreamlike genre tropes from sci-fi to monster flicks. (Hormonal excess and spiritual confusion was the subtext.) His follow-up, Fantastic Four, was awkwardly told and less poetic; its failure was a setback, although its major fault was that the poignant Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) subplot simply came before the Black Panther sensation.
In Capone, Trank takes on the gangster-movie vogue. He forces Capone himself and generations of his admirers entranced by such movies as The Godfather, Scarface, even TV’s The Sopranos, into unexpected moral confrontation. Karma hits the killer-bootlegger with a vengeance: Haunted by regrets, he can’t control his bodily functions, and the family hanging on at his palatial Florida estate live like deposed royalty in exile.
The hip-hop generation, which took gangster movies to heart, channeling their crack- and Reagan-era social frustration, identified with revenge and bravado but was not big on consequences. Scarface’s explosive finale worked aberrantly and was enjoyed for its explosive self-destruction, like Cagney in White Heat, while the increasingly secularized culture rejected the ethnic and ethical reckoning of The Godfather, Part III. TV’s The Sopranos came along to confirm this moral abandonment. Decadent hipster Luca Guadagnino has just announced that Scarface will be his next remake; luckily, Capone is streaming at the same time.
1. Kudos to John J. Miller, who records Episode 300 of The Bookmonger, interviewing Saikrishna Bangalore Prakash to discuss his book, The Living Presidency. Listen here.
2. More JJM: On The Great Books, Dedra “Mrs. BB” Birzer joins John to discuss J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Listen here.
3. The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast may have a nitwit cohost, but the show’s star overcame the prattle this week and discussed how the “best and brightest” have destroyed evidence, altered documents, lied, leaked, and pled amnesia; the inspirational lessons an America emerging from a pandemic lockdown might take from WWII; woke billionaires lecturing; how America cares for the remains of those who made the ultimate sacrifice; and about his dad and his namesake — two WWII warriors who endured hell, one of whom lost his life on Okinawa. Listen here.
4. And in a special Memorial Day Weekend edition of The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, guest co-host Rich Lowry talks warfare, battles, and generals with the esteemed military historian, VDH. Listen here.
5. On The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss Trump’s statement that he’s taking hydroxychloroquine, and who is right when it comes to wearing a mask. You gotta listen, and can do that here.
6. And then on a special edition of The Editors, Rich and David Bahnsen discuss the state of the economy, unemployment, and how he thinks the U.S. will emerge from this crisis. Catch it here.
7. At Radio Free California, Will and David confirm that Elon Musk’s battle with regulators reveals everything about the late, great state of California. Hear here.
8. On the new episode of Political Beats, Scot and Jeff discuss Crowded House with Notre Dame Law prof Jeff Pojanowski. Get in the groove here.
9. On the new episode of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Charlie and Kevin discuss musical genius. Tune in here.
1. At Gatestone Institute, Con Coughlin says that it’s time to ditch and replace WHO. From the piece:
China’s deliberate attempts to obfuscate the origins of the pandemic has provoked an outcry, with a number of nations, such as the U.S. and Australia, calling for a truly independent international inquiry to be held into how the pandemic started, as well as China’s lack of transparency in alerting the rest of the world to the potential impact of Covid-19.
A total of 122 countries, including the U.S. and most European governments, have given their backing to an Australian proposal to set up an impartial, independent and comprehensive investigation into the handling of the Covid-19 outbreak. But the move has been bitterly opposed by Beijing, which claims the initiative is nothing more than a “political manoeuvre”. The Chinese are particularly incensed by the lead role Australia has taken in orchestrating calls for an independent inquiry, and have responded by banning imports of Australian beef.
Mr Xi’s offer, therefore, to support an inquiry by the WHO into the pandemic amounts to little more than yet another attempt by China’s communist rulers to avoid proper scrutiny about Beijing’s culpability for spreading Covid-19 throughout the rest of the globe.
The only problem for Mr Xi and his communist comrades is that the WHO, through its slavish devotion to Beijing, now finds itself hopelessly compromised by its close association with China’s leadership, with the result that no one beyond the confines of Beijing believes the organisation has the credibility to undertake an investigation that is truly independent.
This is certainly the view of the Trump administration, which has responded to the WHO’s total failure to hold Beijing to account for causing the global pandemic by threatening to withdraw its support from the organisation altogether.
2. In the new issue of Modern Age, Daniel McCarthy takes on a society of scolds, and the progeny of Thomas Hobbes. From the beginning of the essay:
Fear was a natural enough response to the arrival of the coronavirus on America’s shores. The novel virus from Wuhan is highly infectious and had already caused thousands of deaths in China and Italy by the time hotspots of infection began to appear here. What was remarkable, however, was not that Americans were alarmed to the point of panic-hoarding toilet paper, or that officials responded with such sweeping policies as “shelter in place” orders, but that activists on social media reacted with fury toward anyone who failed to be fearful enough—anyone who, for example, questioned the wisdom of shutting down the consumer economy virtually overnight, with predictably dire consequences for the millions of cooks, waiters, drivers, bartenders, retail clerks, hotel workers, and others who do not enjoy the luxury of being able to work from home.
A clash over policies and the trade-offs involved would be one thing, and, given the stakes, such a clash would inevitably involve powerful emotions. But even where there were minimal policy differences, those who were deemed by social media activists to be insufficiently affrighted were subjected to vitriolic hostility—standing accused of callousness or rank stupidity, a deficiency in morals or intelligence or both. Being a good person came to mean not just staying indoors and washing your hands and doing everything necessary to minimize your chances of catching the virus or infecting others, but also following self-appointed opinion leaders up to the right pitch of anxiety. Nothing practical depended on doing so, but something of the highest importance for social psychology did.
The professional opinion media played its role in all of this. An illustrative example was the reception that met R. R. Reno’s essay “Say ‘No’ to Death’s Dominion,” published on March 20 in First Things. Reno, the magazine’s editor, asked whether the concern for minimizing the risk to life at the cost of all else was not a form of “disastrous sentimentalism”: “Everything for the sake of physical life? What about justice, beauty, and honor? There are many things more precious than life,” he wrote. And for that he was pilloried by right-thinking persons in the mainstream media and in much of the Christian and conservative press, too. Bare life, and not life in the service of any higher ideal, was the supreme object, and death the greatest evil imaginable.
There was a philosopher once who placed fear and death at the heart of the social order. His name, of course, was Thomas Hobbes. The commentators and activists who police our attitudes toward fear and death today are not his disciples, but they are his children. Their liberalism—including in the case of many who identify as conservatives but identify their conservatism as “classical liberalism”—is conditioned and made possible by his philosophy, rebellious though they may be against the harsh truths of their father. Though liberalism explicitly prizes any number of lovely ideals, from freedom and equality to dignity and self-determination, at root it is an ideology of negation: “freedom from,” whether freedom from political control, from religious authority, or from fear itself. And the sort of character that would disregard death, and is moved by feelings stronger than fear, has to be negated before liberalism becomes possible. Hobbes tried to achieve that negation through a revolutionary philosophical framework, and liberalism today thrives only in his system’s shadow.
3. At The Imaginative Conservative, the inestimable Bradley Birzer looks at the history of the First and Second Banks of the U.S., and their roles in creating America’s political parties. From the analysis:
When President Washington approved the chartering of the Bank for twenty years, it immediately (again, for better or worse) created debt on which private banks could borrow and it also put the United States—at least on paper—on par with other great powers in the world who also relied upon debt and financial manipulation. Of the twenty-five governors, only five would come from the U.S. government, with the rest coming from private industry. The United States enjoyed immense prosperity during the years of the First Bank, but its prosperity—fueled by trade with warring Britain and France—might very well have been in spite of the Bank rather than because of the Bank.
The First Bank, however, influenced much more than mere economics, and many scholars believe that divisions caused by the Bank—whether the constitution should be interpreted broadly or strictly—led to the creation of the first real political divisions in the country.
When the First Bank expired in 1811, interestingly enough, no one seriously considered re-chartering it.
In the overwhelming rush of post-war nationalism, however, President Madison in 1816 wanted a Second Bank of the United States. From its opening moments, the Second Bank of the United States (SUSB) was a disaster for the country, economically and politically. Even Madison’s appointment of William Jones as the first president of the SUSB was pathetic, as Jones had been Madison’s Secretary of the Navy and a failed businessman. The appointment had been a mere political favor, and Jones had absolutely no clue how to run a bank. Worse, Jones was corrupt, and he used his position as president of the Bank to increase the wealth and prestige of his friends. The Bank quickly became an efficient means to shift wealth from the political nobodies to the politically-endowed. Hoping to avoid too much criticism—especially for the obvious political corruption—the Bank offered easy loans on easy credit, and, as a consequence, initiated one of the greatest eras of debt (proportionately) in the U.S. In 1815, for example, a year prior to the Bank’s creation, there was only $3 million in debt on the purchase of public lands. Two years after the creation of the SUSB, public debt on public lands stood at $17 million, and it reached $22 million a year later, in 1819. The number of banks—fueled by easy credit—expanded rapidly as well. In 1816, the year the SUSB came into existence, there were 246 banks in the U.S. Three years later, in 1819, there were 400. A committee of the Pennsylvania legislature reported: “The plenty of money, as it was called, was so profuse, that the managers of banks were fearful that they could not find a demand for all they could fabricate, and it was no infrequent occurrence to hear solicitations urged to individuals to become borrowers, under promises of indulgences the most tempting.”
4. How the vulnerable were hung out to dry, and die. At The Hill, Red Jahnke tells the ugly story. From the piece:
What leaps to mind is that, in trying to protect everyone, we left the highly vulnerable few tragically exposed. A central precept of medicine in the context of scarce resources is triage. God knows, we had scarce resources as the pandemic broke out. When everyone can’t be saved, triage means focusing policy, effort and resources in a manner designed to maximize survivors — in the case of this virus, to protect those most clearly vulnerable.
The economic fallout of the shutdown has been catastrophic: more than 36 million people have filed for unemployment benefits. The unemployment rate has hit 14.7 percent, and is expected to exceed 20 percent. GDP has collapsed, falling by 4.6 percent in the first quarter, which included only two weeks of the shutdown; economists project a 30 percent GDP drop in the second quarter. We have added $3 trillion to our national debt just in the fiscal “stimulus” already dispensed. The Federal Reserve Bank has extended about $2.3 trillion in monetary support, even before launching several planned new programs. Income tax revenues will evaporate as businesses sustain losses and many individuals suffer massive declines in income.
In contrast, a targeted approach would not have required such a costly economic shutdown, quite simply because it would have focused almost exclusively upon people of retirement age.
There’s a pernicious canard circulating that focusing on the economy is “putting money before lives.” Does anyone seriously believe that these apocalyptic numbers do not spell extreme pain and decreased life expectancy for the vast majority of Americans?
5. At The College Fix, Christian Schneider squeals on the memo about school administrators trying to keep their Red China ties on the down low. From the article:
Attorneys for universities under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education are trying to block Congress from obtaining records that detail the schools’ ties with China, according to a May 19 letter exclusively obtained by The College Fix.
The letter, written by the Education Department’s General Counsel Reed Rubinstein, tells lawmakers who requested the documents that the universities’ lawyers “claimed Freedom of Information Act exemptions and legal privileges to block record production to Congress.”
Rubinstein wrote that some schools may be overly aggressive in marking some documents “confidential” or “privileged.”
Nevertheless, he added, staff will contact each school under investigation and let them know which records will be provided to Congress. To block a document being handed over, an objecting school “must provide written specification of the records designated for withholding and specific supporting legal grounds,” the letter states.
The letter does not explicitly state which schools lobbied the department to keep their records confidential.
Rubinstein’s memo is a response to a May 4 letter from several top House Republicans asking the Education Department to turn over documents on all findings or reports detailing gifts from China to U.S. colleges and universities, citing China’s infiltration of the American higher education system and concerns over theft, spying and propaganda.
6. At Law & Liberty, F. H. Buckley says there is more to life than rule-following. From the piece:
Finally, my problem with natural law is a problem with law itself. That’s not to say that laws don’t matter. They’re the first cut at a moral answer, and in many cases that’s all you need. “Thou shalt not kill” doesn’t admit of too many exceptions. But rules are not enough. We might think that we’ve followed all the rules, but still wonder whether something more is wanted of us. The moral life is more than the rule-driven life.
Lawyers understand the limits of rules from their efforts at drafting long-term contracts. The goal in such cases is to assign rights and responsibilities for everything that might happen thereafter, and the problem is that this is impossible. A perfectly specified contract would tell the parties what to do in every conceivable future state of the world, completely covering every possible contingency. But there are just too many things that might happen. A “complete contingent contract” can never be written, and the best one can hope for is that, when the unexpected happens, we’ll find a good judge who’ll interpret the contract the way the parties would have written it had they addressed their minds to the possibility.
A complete contingent set of moral rules isn’t feasible either. Too many things can happen for anyone to prescribe what to do in each of the countless possible future worlds. That’s what Christ taught, in His answer to the rich young man in the Synoptic Gospels. The young man said he had followed all the commandments and wondered if anything more was required of him. Indeed yes, said Christ. If you want to be perfect, sell all you own and give to the poor, then come and follow Me. No wonder the disciples were dismayed. Who then can be saved, they wondered? (The answer is no one, absent grace.)
BONUS L&L: Lee Edwards makes the case for capitalism. From the essay:
Millennials urgently need some remedial history to fill the gaps left in their education. Many young Americans sympathetic to socialism mistakenly believe that capitalism is a relatively modern concept, first seriously examined in Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, published in 1867. However, as the Harvard historian Richard Pipes wrote, private property—an essential ingredient of capitalism—has been an integral part of Western civilization since ancient Athens, which had “a highly developed system of private property.”
In the Politics, Aristotle accepted private property as inevitable and “ultimately a positive force,” asserting that people who hold things in common tend to quarrel more than those who hold them individually. Thomas Aquinas, the most influential theologian of the Middle Ages, emphasized that possession of private property was not just lawful but necessary for peace and order: “Quarrels arise more frequently where there is no division of things possessed.”
In 1776, two documents were published that shaped America and the rest of the world. In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith analyzed how a market system can combine the freedom of individuals to pursue their own objectives with the widespread cooperation needed to produce “our food, our clothing, [and] our housing.” Smith described how an individual who “intends only his own gain” is “led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention….[B]y pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually.”
The Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, states that all men are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among them are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As the political historian Matthew Spalding wrote, the founders understood that life, liberty, and property were closely connected, as expressed in the 1780 Massachusetts Bill of Rights:
All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberty; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.
Back in the day, before the practice was hijacked by the MLB, the august Sporting News gave annual “Comeback Player of the Year” awards to the AL and NL players who had, well, come back. There must be something to come back from — depths, which would have been preceded by heights.
It would be harder to get to deeper depths than had Oakland Athletics righthander Matt Keough in 1979. His early years fated him to be with a dismal As squad, which lost an average 100 games in his first three seasons. In Keough’s rookie 1978 campaign, he was the As sole representative to the AL All-Star team, having put together a 6–4 record, with a 2.16 ERA, come the mid-season break.
That was the height. Then came the plunge: For the remainder of 1978, Keough went 2–11, with a season ERA of 3.24.
But further depths were waiting. In 1979, Keough had one of the worst-ever seasons of any MLB pitcher (since, in fact, the 1916 Athletics duo of Tom Sheehan and Jack Nabors, who — as discussed in our recent Leap Year edition of the WJ — chalked up respective records of 1–16 and 1–20). In Keough’s first 25 sophomore-year appearances — 23 of which were starts — his Win–Loss numbers stood at 0–14, the worst-ever start of any pitcher in modern MLB history. Keough’s first victory came on September 5, 1979, in a complete-game 6–1 triumph over the Milwaukee Brewers. He’d end the season with a gruesome 2–17 record.
With Oakland under new leadership in 1980 — Billy Martin began his post-Yankees term at the helm of Athletics — an inspired Keough went 16–13, with a 2.92 ERA and 20 complete games. It was a legitimate comeback, and the Sporting News award was clearly deserved. Keough would hurl through 1986, pitching for the Yankees, Cardinals, Cubs, and Astros. His career record was 58–84 with a 4.17 ERA.
Rest in Peace: Keough died earlier this month at the age of 64. He is survived by his dad, Marty Keough, an outfielder and first baseman who played for the Red Sox, Indians, Senators, Reds, Braves, and Cubs from 1956–1966.
We Remember this Weekend: Eddie Grant, who was killed in the Argonne Forest while leading his men searching for the Lost Battalion.
At the conclusion of the Memorial Day parade in the old neighborhood, at the monument at the corner of Oneida Avenue and Van Cortland Parkway, an elderly man — sadly, his name is lost in the fog — would sing My Buddy (made famous by Bing Crosby, but this short version by Ray Charles tugs the heartstrings). Some would softly join him, and others tear up. The melancholy was lost on the Little Boy. Lost too: that in the crowd were siblings of a brother who breathed his last in the hills of Korea, a mother whose son had been cut down in the hedgerows of France, that there remained for many a piercing sorrow that had to be endured for decades. We take hope in this: that grief will be dissolved in the Kingdom of Heaven, when the fallen and honorable dead are whole, and will embrace those left behind. Let us pray this weekend for their souls, and if you seek fitting words, this is recommended:
Loving Lord, bless them forever in Your eternal peace.
Let the sounds of strife, the cries of battle, the wounds of war
be calmed for all eternity in Your loving and endless grace.
Let these great warriors find rest at last,
Ever reminded that we who are left behind
Cherish their spirit, honor their commitment,
Send them our love,
And will never forget the service that they gave.
The Ancient of Days’ Enduring Graces Be Upon You and All Those Your Love,