Dear Weekend Jolter,
Who can blame you for focusing on Willie in his moment of greatness? But do shift your eyes to the left of the picture — you’ll spot a monument in deep center. It’s dedicated to “Harvard Eddie” Grant, the Giants’ former third baseman, who was killed in action in France in 1918 as his battalion searched for the famous Lost Battalion. More on Eddie below.
Tomorrow (November 11) marks the 100th anniversary of the end of fighting in The Great War — or, as many see it, the beginning of the two-decade hiatus before it essentially resumed.
The last man killed in that war, from any of the belligerents, was an American: Henry Gunther, a bank clerk from East Baltimore. For whatever twisted, poetic reason, at 10:59 a.m., moments before the Armistice went into effect (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month . . .), Gunther, who seems to have been conflicted about his own bravery (he had recently been demoted from sergeant to private), disobeyed a direct order and charged a German roadblock in the tiny village of Chaumont-devant-Damvillers. The Huns tried to wave him off. But Gunther, bayonet fixed, kept charging and firing — and was shot dead as he neared the German machine gun.
The Armistice was signed at 5:10 a.m. in a train car at Compiègne (Hitler would do his jig at that same spot 22 years later) but did not take effect until 11:00 a.m. . . . and so the armies fought on till the clock struck eleven. Some 10,000 casualties occurred that morning before the last bullet was fired.
As the British doctor succinctly explained in Bridge on the River Kwai, “Madness. Madness.”
Thousands of Americans who died in The Great War are buried overseas in cemeteries in France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. It may do your soul some good to look at these hallowed places, which can be done at the website of the American Battle Monuments Commission.
RELATED: Victor Davis Hanson’s new column discusses the Armistice, “a disaster, at once too harsh and too soft.”
Join NR Institute in Michigan Next Week to Celebrate the Legacy of Russell Kirk
Many are rightly thrilled that Russell Kirk’s centenary is bringing renewed attention to one of the principle founders of the conservative movement. The author of The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot and “From the Academy” columnist for NR’s first 25 years, among so many other things, Kirk is the subject next week of what looks like a terrific panel, The Challenge of Contemporary Conservatism: Russell Kirk and the Populist Moment, at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, on Thursday, November 15.
NRI will be co-hosting this, as well as another Kirk event in NYC, and its fellows Kathryn Jean Lopez and John O’Sullivan will participate as panelists. So will Acton Institute founder Father Robert Sirico and Hope political science Professor Jeffrey Polet. The forum begins at 7 p.m. at the Jack H. Miller Center for the Musical Arts on Hope’s campus. It’s free, but if you wish to attend please register here. (And whether you can or can’t attend, do read up on the Kirk Legacy with John J. Miller’s recent National Review article, “Russell and Annette.”)
1. Did you hear — there were elections this past week? NR’s verdict: a split decision. From the editorial:
The results seem to show that one political bet paid off and another did not. President Trump was widely criticized for raising the issue of immigration again in the closing days of the campaign. And while — as is often the case — the way he did it may not have been ideal, he had solid underlying points: The nation has to enforce its immigration laws, and Democrats have too many hang-ups on the issue to be counted on to do it. At the very least, his tactic does not seem to have backfired in the elections and may have helped bring some of his 2016 voters who were undecided off the fence.
The Democratic campaign against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, on the other hand, appears to have hurt them badly in Senate races in conservative states. Several Democrats who voted against his confirmation lost in states that usually vote for Republican presidential candidates; the one Democrat who voted for his confirmation, Joe Manchin, held on in another such state.
Republicans and conservatives will and should take cheer from these results. But they should not ignore the bad news. The loss of the House forecloses the possibility of enacting conservative legislation over the next two years, and maybe longer; and even in an age of administrative power, there are real limits to what the executive branch can do by itself to deregulate or to reform federal programs. We suspect as well that the House Democrats’ new subpoena powers will not be used solely to enlighten the public.
2. So, the President has canned Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We have a variety of thoughts about the implications of who replaces him, including the temporary (?) choice of Matthew Whitaker. From our editorial:
On spurious grounds, they are calling on Whitaker to recuse himself from supervising Mueller’s probe. Before his appointment to DOJ, Whitaker ran a legal watchdog group and opined about the scope of the Russia investigation, which he felt needed clarification, and the nature of presidential power, which he thinks is wide-ranging. On CNN, he discussed steps the administration could hypothetically take to curtail the probe. But he never advocated limiting the resources of the investigation, and his views on presidential authority are well within the legal mainstream. More to the point, his résumé does not show a conflict of interest of the sort that would necessitate recusal.
Less clear is the issue of whether Whitaker’s appointment passes muster under the Constitution’s appointments clause, which requires that the Senate confirm “principal officers” appointed by the president. In a 2003 memo, the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel laid out its position that temporary positions do not require confirmation, presumably the standard the White House is following. But Justice Clarence Thomas suggested otherwise in a 2016 concurring opinion, and some textualists have weighed in to that effect. The question remains unresolved.
In any case, it’s best that the White House nominate someone else for the permanent post. The notion that Whitaker is simply a Trump lackey is misbegotten, but attorney general is a serious post that requires someone with more stature and experience, especially at such a fraught time.
3. Racism is the handy card Democrats play in a variety of situations — such as the loss of Leftist Andrew Gillum in the Florida gubernatorial contest. From our editorial:
We have no doubt that there are racists who vote for Republicans. We have no doubt that there are racists who vote for Democrats, and we are even more confident that there are some fairly vicious anti-Semites who support the Democratic party, some of whom we see on television from time to time. It’s a big country, and if 2 percent of the population is bananas, then there are 6.5 million or so embarrassing cases to choose from. There are hateful, god-awful elements broadly affiliated with the Right, and hateful, god-awful elements broadly affiliated with the Left. Picking out the worst of them and presenting those specimens as representative is the most sophomoric and cheap kind of politics there is.
The price of bullet-point shares is up dramatically because the new Impromptus has cornered the market. It’s a big ’un! Jay has a lot to say about voting, politics, music, people, people who need people, democracy’s sweetness, and much more. The pie is hot and here is a slice:
Do you want candidates to win? Or (other) candidates to lose? I can’t help thinking of my old friend Herb. He wanted the Pistons to win, yes. But even more, he wanted the Celtics to lose. (All Detroit-area people can understand.)
On Election Day, you win some, you lose some. Me, I was glad that Mike DeWine won. He has been in politics forever — since the early ’80s — and he is now governor of Ohio. My friend and colleague Mike Potemra worked for him and admired him a lot. So do I. DeWine is a champion of family values — not in the cheap sense but in a real one.
This is no common thing in politics, trust me.
In Wisconsin, the voters fired Scott Walker. He was a sterling and brave governor. A nearly historic reformer. Nationally, Republican voters were not interested in him for president. He barely got out of the gates.
In New Jersey, the voters reelected Robert Menendez. Voters elsewhere reelected Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins. There’s no accounting for taste. (One positive side of the Menendez ledger: He is realistic and tough-minded on foreign policy, an anomaly in his party, which is the Democratic party.)
Hit the Floor and Give Me 15 NRO Pieces Right Now, Fat Boy!
1. The electoral sun shined in the Sunshine State, says Charlie Cooke. From his next-day analysis:
I suspect that few in the national press have yet grasped the scale of what happened in Florida last night. This midterm was a disaster for the Florida Democratic party on every conceivable level — a disaster with which Democrats here will be contending for years. In addition to sending Rick Scott to the Senate and Ron DeSantis to the governor’s mansion, to electing the Republican in every other statewide race, and to ensuring that Republicans continue to control both chambers of the legislature, Floridians voted “Yes” on Amendment 5, which inserts into the state constitution a requirement that any increase in taxes or fees must be (a) presented in a standalone bill, and (b) approved by two-thirds of the legislature. Given that the state has no income tax — and, indeed, that it has the lowest overall tax burden of any of the heavily populated states — the combination of these results all but ensures that Florida will remain a low-tax, low-spending place for the foreseeable future.
2. Kevin Williamson has some thoughts about the midterms’ meanings. Here is the piece from which we sample Meaning #3:
Which brings me to my third observation: The Democrats have gone well and truly ’round the bend. I spent a fair part of last night with Democrats in Portland, Ore. — admittedly, a pretty special bunch of Democrats, Portland being Portland and all. The professional political operators are what they always are — by turns cynical and sanctimonious — but the rank and file seem to actually believe the horsepucky they’ve been fed, i.e., that these United States are about two tweets away from cattle cars and concentration camps. The level of paranoia among the people I spoke to was remarkable.
3. Alexandra DeSanctis has the story about white women getting slapped by Beto-fems for being insufficiently woke and causing the Democrats to lose some elections. From her piece:
Exit-poll data from Florida, meanwhile, reveal even further inaccuracies in the left-wing vendetta against white women. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis bested Andrew Gillum among white women by just a four-point margin and also managed to win 40 percent of Hispanic women. Governor Rick Scott, challenging Democratic senator Bill Nelson, won white women by six points and likewise nabbed 40 percent of Hispanic women in the state. Democrats have conveniently ignored the latter part of these statistics; it’s safe to erase minority women, after all, when their voting habits don’t serve the narrative.
This immediate pivot to scolding white women, based on the outcome of a mere two races, exemplifies the progressive tendency to justify every setback with a narrative about unavoidable racial bias and the blinding effect of white privilege. Our political divisions are complicated by race and sex, of course, but these factors don’t themselves explain, for example, why some women, white or otherwise, are conservative. The answer to that riddle — Hint: Women aren’t required by their chromosomes to form a monolithic progressive voting bloc — is one that Democrats appear uninterested in discovering, if they believe an answer other than “self-interested racism” exists at all.
4. David French concludes the results boil down to this: Democratic fears have come to pass. From his analysis:
And when Senate Democrats launched their frontal assault on Brett Kavanaugh, it was hard to think of a strategy better calculated to rouse Republicans in red states to oust their Democratic senators. No amount of professed moderation could compensate for a “No” vote on Kavanaugh. No amount of professed moderation could compensate for the fact that a Democratic Senate would be under progressive Democratic control.
Here is what smart Democrats now know. While the 2018 midterms did swing the House (and did demonstrate that Donald Trump is in real danger in 2020), they also secured a continuing judicial revolution and — critically —raised the specter that the Democrats could win the White House in 2020 and still be stymied legislatively and judicially by a Republican Senate. Republicans elected for the purpose of securing the judicial branch will not be eager to consent to confirming a string of progressive judges nominated by a progressive president. They will not pass single-payer health care. They will not pass gun control.
5. How do you solve a problem like Beto? Kyle Smith explains why the Democrats can’t. From his piece:
That’s the Democrats’ problem: They get so giddy about the next JFK that they don’t see the reality. Why should they? They live in enclaves where everyone is liberal. They get their information from media outlets in which illegal aliens are simply “migrants.” Within the bubble, everyone thought O’Rourke was a great candidate. The magazine profiles! The money pouring in from starstruck admirers! The shredding on a skateboard! The shredding on a guitar! By mid-October O’Rourke had raised an insane $70 million–plus and was outspending Cruz by two to one. Yet as a Politico pre-postmortem put it last weekend, “Democratic minds will want to know, what did he do with that $70 million? Why wasn’t he barraging persuadable Republicans with mail and phone calls and door knocks? . . . Did he consciously avoid playing on their issues, determining it was more profitable for his political future to lose as a liberal than compete as a moderate?”
6. Who had a good night? Who had a bad one? Dan McLaughlin lumps them into cogent categories. From his analysis:
Midwestern Republicans: The political theory of Trumpism as a majority electoral coalition is that Republicans ability to gain strength in the Midwest allows them to write off nearly all of New England (even New Hampshire) and the West Coast and also lose the demographic battle to salvage Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada. Outside of Florida and one of Maine’s two House districts, the states that Trump flipped in 2016 were all Midwestern: Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa. Republicans collectively had won nine of ten governor’s races and five of ten Senate races in those states between 2009 and 2016, and they elected a governor and senator in Illinois, dominating Indiana and narrowing the Democrats’ margins in Minnesota.
While Florida stayed red and Maine went all blue in 2018, the Midwest (once Obama’s “blue wall”) turned almost uniformly blue again. Republicans lost the governorships in Wisconsin, Illinois (behind incumbent Bruce Rauner), and Michigan, and also lost the Senate races in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota (which held two of them), Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, several by large margins. There were also significant House-seat losses across the region. Only the Ohio and Iowa governor’s races and one House pickup in Minnesota’s Iron Range remained bright spots. That said, unlike the progressive flops, the Republican side had few exciting recruits who lost, but one (John James in the Michigan Senate race) has a better argument than O’Rourke or Gillum that he should get a second shot down the road, given the generally bad environment for Republicans in his region.
7. Michael Brendan Dougherty says no one should ignore this election takeaway: “All the big races that excited passion in the national press and from progressive fundraisers ended in the L column.” From his piece:
Governor’s races were also bad for the Left. In the Florida governor’s race, Democrat Andrew Gillum linked his opponent, Ron DeSantis, to racists and white supremacists. Progressives gleefully shared these “dunks” on Twitter. Gillum lost narrowly, as conservative voters passed constitutional amendments making it harder for legislators to raise taxes. Former president Obama poured time and energy into Georgia for Stacey Abrams. She lost, hoping for a runoff, while progressives charged her Republican opponent Brian Kemp with vote suppression. Ben Jealous lost in Maryland, and so did David Garcia in Arizona.
The House was worse. Yes, Dems elected kid-socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But that victory had been assured once the Ds’ primary was over. She ran practically unopposed in a safe district. But lots of the young progressive stars couldn’t pull it off: Kara Eastman in Nebraska, Katie Porter in California, Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania, and Dana Balter in New York all went down.
8. China has big and ambitious plans for dominating global maritime commerce. Chris O’Dea describes the situation in deep and troubling detail. From his piece:
China has benefited more than any other country from the liberal economic order that the U.S. created after World War II. Open sea lanes, guaranteed by the U.S. Navy, were essential to the success of the export-oriented industries that made China the world’s second-largest economy. But having gained admission to the World Trade Organization, China has opted to rebuke the system that made its success possible. It has ignored an International Court of Justice ruling against its claims to geographic features in the South China Sea. Earlier this year, Djibouti — where China has established its first overseas military base — ignored a London court’s jurisdiction after it ejected the Emirati company operating its main port and replaced it with companies backed by Chinese capital and Chinese state-owned shipping and logistics firms.
Back in May, I described the security challenge posed by China’s aggressive development of its maritime commercial network. While Beijing’s maritime expansion often involves large loans funded by state-owned financing agencies, it is not merely aimed at creating “debt bombs” that will allow China to take possession of assets when financially weak countries are unable to repay loans. It is, rather, a new threat: a deliberate, strategic campaign to gain control of critical economic and industrial systems that provide China with sustainable political leverage over both developed and emerging-market countries where it invests, and undermine American power by indirect means while building its military in preparation for a direct conflict with the U.S., the incumbent global maritime power against which it can’t yet hope to prevail in such a conflict.
China is wasting no time in leveraging the potential of its commercial-port network to gain economic influence over U.S. allies and project military power. Earlier this year, EU ambassadors filed a protest with the Chinese government in Beijing, raising concerns that China’s development strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was a program to gain influence and commercial advantages for Chinese companies. But those concerns have not kept EU member nations from cutting deals that will advance the BRI in Western Europe, and help China’s Silk Road Fund find new investments.
9. John Yoo and James C. Phillips serve up the third installment (the first is here and the second here) in their series of articles on Constitutional restoration. Th new essay argues that the newest Justice, Mr. Kavanaugh, may help the High Court return to the rails, of which it careened in its 1965 Griswold decision. From the essay:
But with Justice Kennedy’s retirement, the era of constitutional mysticism has come to a close. Narrowing and ultimately overruling Roe will provide the common ground for the five conservative justices to finally define the Roberts Court. In 1992, Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from Casey v. Planned Parenthood when Kennedy joined Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter (all three appointed by Republican presidents) and voted to defend Roe. Thomas, moreover, has long made clear that he pays no heed to incorrect precedent. Justice Samuel Alito has become a reliable, even stalwart defender of traditional values and conservative jurisprudence. Justice Neil Gorsuch’s writings on natural law, assisted suicide, and euthanasia suggest that he would defend the state’s interest in preserving the life of the fetus. As a young lawyer in the Bush Justice Department, John Roberts drafted briefs asking the justices to overturn Roe. As chief justice, he has voted to uphold most state restrictions on abortion. If Roberts were to vote his beliefs rather than worry about the political standing of the Supreme Court (a big “if” after his vote to uphold Obamacare in 2012), Kavanaugh’s appointment should establish a 5–4 majority to end the regime of Roe.
Kavanaugh does not simply create a majority to overturn Roe. His arrival could trigger a wholesale reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s misguided adventure into the world of unwritten, atextual, judicially created rights. For the last half century, the Left has turned to the Supreme Court to win what it could not in the normal political process. The Court has embedded the sexual revolution into the Constitution and “found” new progressive rights for privacy and dignity, as well as protections against animus, in a document that mentions none of the above. Conservatives should not seek to overturn Roe because they are obsessed with abortion; they should demand its reversal because it represents a politicization of the Supreme Court and an abuse of the Constitution to short-circuit democracy in the service of the latest left-wing ideals of the day.
10. Christopher Summers sings the praises of reelected Republican Governor Larry Hogan, scoring big political wins in deep-blue Maryland. From his piece:
Hogan, a former-real estate CEO, overcame much in his first four years in Annapolis: an aggressively liberal legislature, anti-Trump fervor among base Democrats, and historic riots in Baltimore — not to mention his own successful battle with late-stage cancer six months into the start of his first term.
How did he do it?
First, he spent his political capital on fights he could win. Democrats enjoyed veto-proof majorities in the state legislature, and myriad traps awaited him in the legislative process. He bypassed prolonged legislative battles and instead attacked the administrative state where it most grated on taxpayers. He lowered tolls at Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge and cut fees on commuters’ E-Z Pass devices, saving long-suffering commuters more than $1 billion.
He challenged Democrats in the General Assembly when he knew he could win. His first and arguably most popular legislative victory was repeal of the so-called rain tax, the inexplicable measure championed by former governor Martin O’Malley. The state taxed real-estate owners for pollution in stormwater drainage, to meet EPA standards.
11. As Scrooge said in the end, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” If you hear cheering, that may be from Marlo Safi, NR’s in-house jingle-beller who writes in defense of “premature Christmasing.” From her piece:
As much as I consider eggnog an affront to food — the only time booze and raw eggs should ever be combined is in tiramisu — it’s a staple of Christmas dining, and one that Americans remember to resurrect every year. We can also expect the revival of swing and jazz on the radio, even among people who aren’t my Boomer-aged father, who winces at the sound of music popular among Millenials but who can, for a few weeks of the year, listen to Perry Como or Frank Sinatra with young adults and children. It’s the opportunity to tell children why we celebrate Christmas, and the wonderful Biblical story of the birth of Jesus and of the three kings who visited Him.
12. Philadelphia is desperate for more foster-care homes but denied the local Catholic Social Services from placing children any longer because of CSS’s religious stand on marriage. It’s become a major case being fought by the Becket Fund, and in her latest column, Kathryn Jean Lopez writes about Cecilia Paul, a plaintiff and heroic foster parent. From the column:
When it comes to foster-care, we have too many orphans to be considering places like Catholic Social Services — an arm of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia — anything less than a needed solution to the problem, a gateway to love for children, to homes for children, a connection to people like the late Cecilia Paul. As became clear earlier this year when Walter Olson hosted an event on adoption, we need more rather than fewer people involved in foster care and adoption.
Growing up, Thomas Paul and his brother Drew saw many foster-care children go in and out of his home. As foster parents know, such kids often have a lot of trauma from abuse — including addiction — or abandonment. That, of course, was hard. “I have seen so much in my life that is sad,” Thomas says. But “joy overcomes all of the pain in my life.”
And Catholic Social Services was a conscious part of his home life growing up. They would send presents at Christmas, for example, which made him feel special. Without glossing over the real struggles that foster and adoptive families experience, we can recognize that the difference between being an orphan stuck in a system and knowing you’re loved is everything. It makes all the difference in life. In his testimony for the amicus brief, Thomas explained that the added CSS love helped him keep his mind off “any of the hard times” and that their visits and assessments would work to “get kids out of their darkness.”
RELATED: KLO heads NR Institute’s Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society, which is making foster-care reform a main priority.
13. There are limits to certainty, so shouldn’t our uncertainty maybe make us . . . humbler? An excellent piece from Graham Hilliard awaits. From his essay:
Like many of my fellow binge-watchers, I’ve been busy in recent days with the second season of Making a Murderer, Netflix’s appalling, addictive chronicle of the trials and convictions of Wisconsin’s Steven Avery. That Avery is either a vicious and unrepentant criminal or a beleaguered innocent whose persecution at the hands of the state ranks among the gravest injustices in American legal history is, of course, the source of much of the show’s drama. But it could also be, if we still thought in such terms, an opportunity for humility. Watching the series, it is impossible to shake the notion that Avery may well be guilty of the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach, the young woman whose burned remains were discovered only feet from his door. But it isn’t easy, either, to dismiss the possibility that Manitowoc County police officers planted evidence, or that Ken Kratz, the prosecutor in charge of the case, behaved abominably. (Kratz’s statement to the jury that “reasonable doubt is for innocent people” may be the most despicable thing ever uttered on television.)
Perhaps each of these propositions is true. Perhaps none of them are. It isn’t possible to know. Yet following the 2015 release of the program’s first season, a WhiteHouse.gov petition calling for the pardoning of both Avery and Brendan Dassey, his alleged accomplice, garnered more than 125,000 signatures, and many of the men involved in Avery’s prosecution have reported receiving death threats. What did those who signed (or who threatened, wickedly) really believe? More importantly, what did it cost them to believe it?
14. Armond Whites breaks out the turn table and listens to Barbara Streisand’s new “protest” album, Walls. Can you hear tone-deaf? Because Armond does. From the review:
Before Barbra Streisand got “woke” and fancied herself a political pundit-activist seeking redress for Hillary Clinton’s electoral defeat, she recorded a song called “Don’t Believe What You Read,” on her 1977 Streisand Superman album. Since then, the singer has shown tone-deaf, robotic obedience to what she reads in the mainstream #Resistance press. Her new, politically assertive single release, “Don’t Lie to Me,” is addressed to President Trump, but its reproachful tone reveals the cry of a Fake News junkie.
It’s become boringly predictable to hear pop-music performers reveal their left-leaning politics. The New York Times, however, has praised Streisand’s new album Walls as “the rare instance of her political views entering her music.” This misstatement disregards the many times on past recordings when she sang out her social consciousness, rooted in a kind of theatrical humanism, expressing Love, Brotherhood, and Peace. She has milked such standards as “Somewhere,” “Children Will Listen,” and “One Hand, One Heart” for moralizing effect.
But this flagship single, for her full-length album Walls, primarily exhibits the Trump Derangement Syndrome that afflicts know-it-all showbiz types from Katy Perry to Bruce Springsteen to Pharrell, making them behave moronically. Walls finds Streisand in a privileged position, preaching from the high tower of self-involved, high-minded people who have had their worldview shaken by democracy itself — the will of an electorate that dares to differ from Streisand’s own high-flown preferences.
15. If you’ve been to San Francisco or Seattle, if you don’t want to see America’s vagrancy outrage in full bloom, then shut your eyes tight. It’s a compelling subject for a Rich Lowry column. Here’s how it ends:
But the beginning wisdom is to consider the status quo intolerable, and resist the advocates who want to normalize panhandling and camping, and the associated drug abuse, petty crime, and disorder. Houston has had success with a tough-love policy of more services, coupled with a crackdown on encampments and other public nuisances.
One of the advantages of modern society is that people don’t have to live in public, or in squalor. That it is widely accepted in some of our greatest cities is an outrage of our age. It is deeply harmful to our civic life, and does no favors for the men and women living in parks and highway underpasses.
. . . And Two Hard-Boiled Eggs. (Honk!) Make that Three Hard-Boiled Eggs.
Yes, there are still cabins to be had on the National Review 2018 Buckley Legacy Conservative Cruise. Book yours at www.nrcruise.com.
1. The post-election edition of The Editors has Rich, Charlie, MBD, and Luke breaking down the outcomes for the House and the Senate, discussing future presidential candidates, considering Trump’s role in the election results and his firing of AG Jeff Sessions, and much more. Hear here.
BONUS: Mentioned by Rich and a treat for your ears, Glenn Miller’s St. Louis Blues March.
2. What are the legal implications of the mid-terms? Rich asks and Andy answers on The McCarthy Report. Avail yourself of the new episode, here.
BONUS: Catch the previous episode of TGB, where Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the subject for JJM’s discussion with Daniel Ross Goodman. Right here is where your earbuds need to go.
4. On the new episode of Jaywalking, Mr. Nordlinger puts on his dancing shoes, and then talks about our censorious culture, personal responsibility, peculiarities of language, and more. Waltz over here to listen.
5. There’s a Brown-out in the Golden State, and on the new episode of Radio Free California, David and Will discuss the coming of Governor Gavin Newsom. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. Well, no, you won’t laugh. Listen here.
6. On recent episodes of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg: hanging with Ben Sasse to discuss his new book. Listen here. And the new episode with Morning Jolt auteur Jim Geraghty to dissect the elections. Catch it here.
8. Buh-buh-buh-Benny and the Jets! Scot “Laurel” Bertram and Jeff “Hardy” Blehar talk Elton John with Jamie Kirchick on the new episode of Political Beats. Tiny Dancers, Rocket Men, and all others should listen here.
9. “Everything you wanted to know about the Jury Amendments but were afraid to ask.” It sounds like a sorta naughty Woody Allen movie but is really the hot topic discussed by Luke Thompson and Jay Cost on the new episode of Constitutionally Speaking. We have reached a verdict: Listen here.
10. On the new episode of Reality Check with Jeanne Allen, our illustrious host interviews Washington Post education correspondent Laura Meckler about her personal experiences covering politics, politicians, and education policy, and the ease of finding material to write about, online learning, and other issues. Very interesting stuff, which you can hear here.
Lights. Cameras. Punditry.
1. Orson Welles’ “unfinished” movie, The Other Side of the Wind, is out on Netflix, and long-awaiting film buffs, or at least Kyle Smith, are underwhelmed. From the review:
In the mythical land of FilmNerdistan, it is written that a vanished prince would one day return to rule in beneficence and wisdom. This weekend the prince returned, still bearing traces of his regal looks but aged and frail in a shabby cloak, and after some dutiful bowing by some of the high priests, FilmNerdistan turned its back on him with faint embarrassment.
The vanished prince is Orson Welles’s late passion project The Other Side of the Wind, which has just appeared on Netflix. Among all of the unfinished films of legend it was perhaps the most fabled in the minds of cineastes, who convinced themselves that the unseen work was a lost masterpiece. It isn’t. . . .
Wind, like everything Welles did, contains enough inspiration and beauty to provide fodder for a film-school paper, but like (almost) everything he did it’s undisciplined to the point of exasperation, beset by so-so sound quality, amateurish lighting, ragged editing, and wooden acting, all in the service of a script as flabby as its auteur. The film stock, color, and aspect ratio are variable. Far from being a successor to 8 ½, Wind is mostly hot air, with all the rambling self-pity of a student film. Welles, who was very much in “experimental” mode, may well have wanted the finished version to be as choppy and freewheeling as it is, but just because Orson Welles, Genius (™), wanted it that way doesn’t mean the film works.
2. More meh from Kyle, who catches The Front Runner, the new Hugh Jackman film about Gary Hart’s upended 1984 presidential effort. Here’s how the review begins:
I was transfixed by the Gary Hart movie The Front Runner: It has a lot of levels, and it’s a failure on every one of them. Mistake gets piled atop error atop cliché atop banality. It’s a skyscraper of wrong, an hour-and-53-minute lesson in how not to make a movie.
Vigorously borrowing from The Candidate, Nashville, and The West Wing, The Front Runner covers the three weeks of Colorado Senator Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign, which ended in humiliation shortly after reporters staking out his D.C. apartment discovered a mistress, who turned out to be Donna Rice. Watching the co-writer and director Jason Reitman repeatedly frame reporters as intrusive, presumptuous, and cynical as they take down an arrogant, philandering politician by uncovering true information about him, I marveled at the maladroitness of Reitman’s timing This movie wishes it had been made in 1999. It would have raked in the accolades if it had served as an oblique commentary on the investigation into Bill Clinton’s White House affair. Alas, today is a different era.
3. Armond White catches the same flick and sees plenty of self-pity on the Silver Screen. From his review:
Director Jason Reitman (who, at age 30, directed Juno, the teenage pro-life tease that some conservatives believed represented their values) now confounds partisan expectations with this paean to Hart as an early victim of the wolfpack press. Reitman looks back to the feeding frenzy that exposed Hart as it spread from the Miami Herald to the Washington Post; his dour imagery thereby casts a skeptical light on contemporary media’s seeming partisanship. The media’s hypocrisy matched Hart’s. While making the film, Reitman could not have anticipated the media-facilitated character assassination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but by emphasizing the rapacious, holier-than-thou attitude shown by political journalists, he spotlights an ongoing immoral cultural tendency.
Less intelligent than last spring’s Chappaquiddick, The Front Runner conflates its moral lesson with party sanctimony. It takes the same pandering, political stance as Juno and is similarly sexually jejune, especially about the protagonist’s self-destructive priapic compulsion. The film’s tone of ambiguous, wounded heroism emulates All the President’s Men, congratulating us for being politically sophisticated in order to seduce us with its shameless manipulation.
4. Kyle opts one night for Off Broadway, catches Steven Levenson’s Days of Rage, and digs the Left-petard-hoisting up on the stage. From his review:
It’s sport to watch the Left be hoist with its own petard in Days of Rage, an acutely observed Off Broadway play by Steven Levenson (at the Second Stage Theater’s Tony Kiser Theater in midtown Manhattan through November 25) that amounts to a satiric napalming of the hard Left. The play’s voice of reason, a mild-mannered black 22-year-old named Hal who works at Sears (denounced by the others for selling appliances from the nefarious General Electric), actually has a brother fighting in Vietnam but fails to see how blowing up banks is going to bring him home. Nor does he understand how it’s a great idea for Jenny (Lauren Patten), one of the three radicals in the collective whom he meets when she tries to shove pamphlets in his hand outside his workplace, to continue sleeping with her SDS roommate Spence (Mike Faist) while he’s also sleeping with the third member of their collective, Quinn (Odessa Young). Monogamy is square, we learn, because it’s all tied up with capitalist oppression, or something. Yet each of the three is simmering with sexual jealousy about the others’ hookups, even more so when a third girl, a brainless runaway named Peggy (Tavi Gevinson), moves in and also beds down with Spence. Ordinarily this particular collective is closed to outsiders, but Peggy has $2,000 of unexplained provenance in her suitcase and nobody else has figured out a way to make social agitation pay the rent.
5. Armond checks out Steve McQueen’s cynical action flick, Widows, and sees a movie that’s very much into validating segregation. From his review:
I want to stay inside the proper perimeters of criticism, but Widows adds to the perplexity of much recent race-based pop culture. Films such as Get Out, This Is America, and now Widows all suggest the impossibility of interracial relations — an irony that the filmmakers never personally address. Widows validates the new segregation that has become the fetish of the diversity movement, driving people back into parochial enclaves and tribal distrust. “I couldn’t save him,” philandering Harry tells Veronica of their son sacrificed to Chicago’s mean streets. Her pent-up rage — and subconscious sexual, racial suspicion — is violently released. When McQueen returns to that race-baiting opening tableau, his cynicism is revealed in Veronica’s bitter adieu: “F***ing me won’t make it better.” Widows is not a populist entertainment but something insidious designed to draw audiences together in their enmity.
BONUS: Neither movie nor play, but it’s taped, so it will have to qualify under this section: Professor Daniel Mahoney hosts an enlightening interview of Ignat Solzhenitysn about the American publication of his father’s memoirs, Between Two Millstones, Book 1: Sketches of Exile, 1974–1978. You can watch the interview here. You can order the book here.
1. Kelsey Harkness at The Federalist smacks mom/whiner Lisa Milbrand for Marie Claire article that she regrets adopting two girls and taking them from Big Brother Commie China to the oppressive United States of Trump. From her piece:
China is run by Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, whose regime has centralized authority, ousted internal political enemies, and backed authoritarian policies to tighten control of its citizens. The country’s economy, according to the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, is “mostly unfree.”
The United Nations Human Rights Council recently chastised the country’s government for arbitrarily detaining as many as 1 million Muslims in internment camps, forcing them to undergo political indoctrination. The country’s one-child policy (now a two-child policy) has resulted in 200 million missing girls and women.
Milbrand’s daughters aren’t just lucky to live in one of the freest countries in the world, where the worst type of discrimination they might face is liberal elites rejecting them from Harvard University. Having been conceived in China, these girls are lucky to have made it out of the womb.
2. At City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple pshyrink-wraps American psychiatrists who argue “that it is not only permissible for psychiatrists to diagnose President Trump, but also obligatory for them to do so, and that furthermore they should agitate for his removal from office on psychiatric or psychological grounds.” Lay down on the couch and read it here.
3. I love historian George Nash, and encourage any and all to check out The Imaginative Conservative, which republishes his Modern Age essay on Ronald Reagan’s path from liberal to conservative. Here’s how it begins:
In the autumn of 1948, as Harry Truman campaigned to remain president, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union produced a pro-Truman radio advertisement that aired on stations across the country. The fifteen-minute program had two principal speakers: a liberal Minnesota politician named Hubert Humphrey, on his way to being elected that year to the U.S. Senate, and an equally liberal motion picture actor named Ronald Reagan.
Speaking from Hollywood, Reagan lambasted the bête noire of liberals everywhere in 1948: the “do nothing,” Republican-controlled Eightieth Congress, which he held responsible for the nation’s current economic misery. It was “Republican inflation,” Reagan charged, that was eroding workers’ paychecks while the profits of giant corporations were soaring. In fact, said Reagan, the recent surge in consumer prices had been caused by these “bigger and bigger profits.” “Labor has been handcuffed by the [recently enacted] vicious Taft-Hartley law,” Reagan continued. Social Security benefits had been “snatched away from almost a million workers” by a recent bill in the Republican Congress. Meanwhile the Republicans had enacted tax cuts that benefited “the higher income brackets alone.” “In the false name of economy,” he concluded, “millions of children have been deprived of milk once provided through the federal school lunch program.”
This is not the Ronald Reagan whom most Americans remember today. Far more familiar to us is the movie star who took to the airwaves sixteen years later, in 1964, in support of another presidential candidate: Barry Goldwater. Reagan entitled his nationally televised address “A Time for Choosing,” but the choice he recommended was very different from what he had favored in 1948. The enemy he identified now was not big business or “Republican inflation”; it was Communism abroad and an out-of-control leviathan state at home. In 1948 Reagan had applauded Harry Truman’s attempts to expand the welfare state, including Social Security. In 1964 Reagan peppered his remarks with examples of governmental waste and failure, called for Social Security to have “voluntary features,” and asserted that “outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.” “If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to,” Reagan warned his television viewers. Freedom “has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.”
4. A conservative wonk’s dream would surely be an essay titled “Voegelin and Kendall, Harbingers of Postmodernism,” right? Well guess what: Herman Belz has penned that essay for Law and Liberty. From the piece:
Kendall states that Voegelin gives us no rules to tell us where to begin or what precisely to look for as we seek to understand a political society in terms of its representative symbols. Kendall infers two rules: 1) begin at the beginning, and 2) never lose sight of our people’s action. “Unless we can see a correspondence between the symbols we have at hand and the people’s action in history,” the symbols we have in hand do not in fact represent that people, and we must look a second time for the symbols that do in fact represent them.
The Mayflower Compact marks the beginning of America. It is the first political document ever composed in this hemisphere. Kendall says the Compact forms “a Christian society, which calls God in Witness to its act of founding, to . . . the glorification of God and the advancement, that is, one supposes, the development and propagation, of the Christian faith.”
Mayflower Compact symbolization initiates American political development. Kendall enthuses, “The possibilities . . . are numerous, and the symbolization is compact in the sense that it nails none of them down.” Left to the future are “all the decisions as to what, concretely, the symbols mean, what, concretely, they involve in the way of specific commitments.”
5. College obsession is killing the spirit of entrepreneurship in America’s kids. Let ’em be kids, writes Julian Adorney in The American Conservative. From her piece:
Besides robbing young people of free play, our societal fixation on college leaves them in fear of failure. The competitiveness of the college admissions process encourages students to do what psychologists call “catastrophize”: that is, to make something out to be far worse than it actually is. A “B” in middle school can seem like a disaster that it really isn’t, because it might mean the student can’t take Advanced Placement Calculus as a freshman and won’t get into Stanford. And when parents panic, children do too.
But catastrophizing is dangerous for future entrepreneurs. People who turn every failure into Armageddon are ill-equipped to deal with the bumpy road of starting a company. Indeed, many successful entrepreneurs have failed before. Henry Ford’s first business, the Detroit Automobile Company, went belly-up within a year and a half. Any new venture carries risk, be it an innovative social media platform or a never-before-seen technology. Do we really want the next generation to be terrified of failure?
It might be too late for iGen, whose members are already less entrepreneurial than previous generations. A survey of half a million high school seniors found that only 31 percent of students in 2015 said that they would like to be self-employed—compared to 46 percent of students in 1985.
6. In Plough Quarterly, Roger Scruton writes beautifully about beauty. And belonging. From his essay:
Consider Venice. It is full of grand palaces, and contains the greatest interior of any building anywhere, the golden tent of Saint Mark’s Basilica, encrusted with mosaics and shining with a light that is not of this world. But that is not, I think, what most inspires the visitor. More astonishing than Saint Mark’s, more endearing than the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, more touching than the lace-like finish of the Ducal Palace, are the ordinary doorways on the backwater canals, the marble-lipped bridges across them, the shrines and niches that punctuate the walls, the sense all about you of a meticulous but effortless aesthetic order, in which all the residents have willingly collaborated over centuries, so as to make their city, planted against the odds in the swamps of the Adriatic, the greatest shared space that has ever been made. There is not a wall, a doorway, a window frame, a roof, or a crenellation that has not been furnished in a spirit of love, adjusted not so as to express the power or grandeur of the would-be resident, but so as to embellish the space in which it stands. Things built in Venice have been built for others: the indefinitely many others who have been, are, and will be resident on these islands and conveyed through these canals.
This does not mean that the ordinary buildings of Venice are great works of art. Students of Venetian history will know that this tiny city, scarcely bigger than Greenwich Village, has throughout its history sustained every imaginable form of voluntary association, from the dignified scuole of the guilds and tradesmen to the masked balls of the aristocrats and the tournaments and commedie of the street. The city has existed in a continuous state of peaceful revelry and lawful self-government for a thousand years, and this great fact is written in the architectural palimpsest that shines on the water in every small canal. We should be in no doubt that the strength of Venice, its determination to defend itself right down to that final moment when Napoleon subdued the city to his grim project of a Europe united under French protection, was inseparable from its beauty. It is not brute force or wealth but beauty that inspired the citizens both to stand side by side against external aggression and to live harmoniously together by sharing what they had.
Eddie Grant played for 10 years, from 1905 to 1915, suiting up for the Indians, Phillies, Reds, and Giants. Besides having a reputation for laying down bunts and slapping singles (he led the NL in that category in 1909 and 1910), he was your average infielder. The Harvard-educated bookworm ended his career as a bench coach under the Giants’ John McGraw, retiring after 1915. Come 1917: Grant, now a practicing attorney, enlisted in the Army immediately upon America’s Declaration of War in April. He is considered the first major leaguer to have done so. Eventually he arrived in France, and on October 5, 1918, while advancing with the 77th Division (“New York’s Own”) in the Argonne Forest during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Captain Grant — having just assumed command of his battalion — was struck by a direct hit from a German shell. He died instantly.
A monument to Grant was erected in deep center field at the Polo Grounds, not too far from the spot where Willie Mays would make his famous catch (“The Catch”) off the bat of the Indians’ Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series. Like Wertz’s shoulda-triple, the monument was stolen: Following the Giants last home game there in 1957 (a 9-1 loss to the Pirates on September 29th), stadium-looting souvenir hunters swiped it. Once outside the Polo Grounds, however, it was taken from the vandals by police. And then . . . it vanished (allegedly taken by a member of the NYPD, who hid the plaque in the attic of his home, where it remained untouched for decades). In 2006 the Giants erected a replica of the Grant plaque at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
As a young punk (practicing to be an old punk) I partially offset my many sins by serving as the altar boy at the VA Hospital on Kingsbridge Road in The Bronx. I’d go there every Sunday (Mr. Zemra, a volunteer, drove), prep the altar, do my altar boy thing at Mass (ring those bells!), and then after the congregation dispersed, grab this unique winch device and rotate the altar — it was situated on a large circular podium, divided into three parts, serving Catholics, Protestants, and Jews — for the next service. Afterwards I would wander up to the hospital cafeteria for some buttered toast and milk.
The hospital was a de facto home — every Sunday I would see and sometimes talk to men who had been there for decades. Some, like Mr. Davitt, had served in World War One. It was an honor to know them, and on this Sunday, on the 100th anniversary of the cessation of gunfire, for them and all who served and fought and died in that satanic horror show, I’ll offer prayers and hymns at Mass — where now I am the cantor (the altar boy robes don’t fit!) — and suggest you in your way, prayerful or not, remember them.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for you-know-whats and giggles.