The Weekend Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Veep Went Down to . . . Not the Border

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a press conference at the Sofitel Mexico City Reforma hotel in Mexico City, Mexico, June 8, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

This week I (Isaac Schorr) have been tasked with filling in for the irreplaceable Judson Berger, who has himself only recently taken over for the inimitable Jack Fowler.

It’s a grueling charge, but one I have nevertheless accepted — partially out of a sense of duty and partially out of youthful bravado. Fortunately for you and me, my colleagues brought their A-game during my appointed term, so with any luck I can turn in a replacement-level performance.

One figure not up-to-snuff this week was Vice President Kamala Harris, who, in trying to strike a balance between compassion and common sense on immigration issues, struck neither. In Guatemala, Harris delivered a message to migrants who might consider showing up at the U.S. border:  “If you come to our border, you will be turned back. Do not come.” It’s a good, humane message to send, but as Jim Geraghty observes, it arrives at far too late a date.

Just ask Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei, who has all but explicitly blamed Harris and her boss’s campaign rhetoric for the crisis on the southern border. Jim puts it well: “When Candidate Biden and Candidate Harris promised to cease all border-wall construction, immediately end family separation, suspend all deportations for 100 days, “end prolonged detention,” “end workplace raids,” and create a path to citizenship for everyone currently living in the U.S. illegally, Central American migrants and the coyotes interpreted that as ‘The border is open.’”

Dan McLaughlin also knocked Harris, not only for her misleadingly permissive campaign talk, but also her meandering, nonsensical answers to simple questions about the border now. Questions such as: Why she hasn’t visited it yet? Her explanation is “I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t — I don’t understand the point that you’re making.” No, no she doesn’t.

But just how bad are things? Surely not that ba– . . . oh wait, there’s Jim Geraghty again to point out that over 180,000 migrants were caught trying to cross the border illegally in May. “This is the third straight month to hit a new high in the past two decades,” writes our in-house Good News Correspondent.

As the editors declared on The Editors podcast: ‘The Veep Is In Deep.’

But let’s set her troubles aside for a moment to ponder one of our own in the latest edition of National Review magazine (you may have heard of it): Woke Capitalism! What is it? How much of a problem is it, really? And how do we fight back? We’re asking the right questions and providing the correct answers. More on this later.

Now, enough yammering — on to the good stuff!

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act could have been a meaningful step toward getting serious about competing with Communist China, instead it’s more like a shuffle in what can — we suppose — generously be described as the right direction: The Disappointing Senate China Bill

Texas’s new election bill isn’t the monstrosity its Democratic opponents say it is, but we explain how it could be better: How Texas Could Improve Its Election Bill

ARTICLES

Charles C. W. Cooke: The ‘Anti-Racist’ Who Wasn’t

Andrew McCarthy: The Lab-Leak Theory: Evidence Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Brace Yourselves

Charles C. W. Cooke: What Use Is Chris Cuomo to CNN?

Jimmy Quinn: The White House Leaves Ukraine in the Dark

David Harsanyi: The 1619 Project Comes for the Second Amendment

Kathryn Jean Lopez: That Viral High-School Valedictory Abortion Plea Is a Cry for Help

Kevin D. Williamson: Thinking Honestly about Health Care, Welfare, and Taxes

Kyle Smith: Matt Taibbi and the Liberal Apostates of the Left

Roger Clegg: Take the Harvard Case

Rich Lowry: On the Filibuster, Joe Manchin Holds Firm against the Left

Jay Nordlinger: Attacked by Tyrants

Alexandra DeSanctis: McAuliffe Has the Democratic Primary Locked Up in Virginia’s Gubernatorial Race

Ramesh Ponnuru: The Justices’ Blocked Path

CAPITAL MATTERS

Phil Klein sounds the alarm — inflation isn’t merely on the way, it’s arrived: Not a Drill: Inflation Is Here

Veronique de Rugby blasts the global minimum tax being pushed by the Biden administration and G-7: The G-7’s Tax Cartel Is Bad News

Alden Abbott and Andrew Mercado object to regulation of the Internet on free-speech grounds: The Internet Doesn’t Need Heavy-Handed Regulation

Sean-Michael Pigeon talks woke capitalism, and makes the case for a culturally conservative equivalent: Why Employees — Including Conservatives — Want to Work for Values-Driven Companies

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith calls the big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights “thoroughly enchanting” — and sold!: The Movie Musical Returns with Bouncy Delight

Armond White is unimpressed with Marvel’s Loki, deriding it as having “found ways to make the banal even more banal.”: Loki, Disney’s Latest Nihilist Hero

Brian Allen discusses how some oft-discussed concepts can be integrated smoothly (or more often clumsily) into the world of museums: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity: Museums Go All-In

FROM THE NEW JULY 1, 2021 ISSUE OF NR

Kevin Williamson: Woke Capitalism: A History

David L. Black and Kevin A. Hassett: Can a Woke Company Compete?

Vivek Ramaswamy: Which Woke Capitalism?

Jimmy Quinn: Corporate America with Chinese Characteristics

Andrew Stuttaford: Turning the Corporate Left’s Own Tools against It

JUST A TASTE OF GREATNESS

Do anti-racists fantasize about “unloading a revolver into the head” of all people with a certain skin tone. Charlie Cooke thinks not:

Today’s edition of the Washington Post comes with the comforting news that the psychiatrist who told an audience at Yale’s medical school that “she fantasized about killing White people” was, in fact, simply expressing to the world how deeply she cares. In an April 6 lecture, prosaically titled “Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind,” Aruna Khilanani explained that she dreamed of “unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step, like I did the world a fu**ing favor.” Perhaps because they lacked the tools to interrogate and educate themselves, some observers responded rather negatively to these ideas. But, as Khilanani clarifies today, they have got her completely wrong: What she said was not the product of a demented, bigoted, Charles Manson–esque mind, but of a legitimate “frustration about minority mental health,” a desire to “have more serious conversations about race,” and, ultimately, love. Khilanani does what she does, she told the Post, “because I care.”

Well, that’s a relief.

It does not take an exquisitely trained mind to understand why the oft-trailed and much-coveted “Conversation about Race in America” never actually happens in earnest — and, indeed, why it is unlikely ever to happen in earnest. Thanks to the ever-shifting pseudo-scientific nonsense that underpins almost every contemporary “academic” framework, the plain words a given person uses when discussing race do not tend to matter much these days. What matters, instead, is how our self-appointed arbiters of taste wish those words to be perceived. Thus it is that any self-evidently racist comment made by a favored player is immediately justified in terms that would typically be reserved for an especially pretentious exhibit of modern art — “the intermittently blank canvas explores the tension between sound and electricity in an era of existential dread” — while the jokes, mainstream political opinions, unfortunate coincidences, and childhood indiscretions of the disfavored become crystallized into the permanent mark of the Klan. Who, in his right mind, would consent to talk on the record under these rules?

You didn’t think we were done with the lab leak theory, did you? Andrew McCarthy — lawyerly, thorough, yet always interesting — makes the definitive case for its veracity:

I was a prosecutor for a long time, and prosecutors are in the business of proving stuff. Every good one will tell you that the best case is a strong circumstantial case. It is the most airtight and least problematic kind of proof.

Circumstantial cases are a tapestry of objectively provable facts. No one of those facts, by itself, establishes the ultimate conclusion for which all the interconnected facts collectively stand. Instead, each single fact supports a subordinate proposition that must be true in order for the ultimate conclusion to be valid. Stitch enough of those subordinate propositions together and the ultimate conclusion is inexorable.

We have a natural human reluctance to trust circumstantial evidence. In our own lives, we know what we know — or at least what we think we know — because we have lived it. We don’t need to run down a plethora of clues to grasp our own experiences. We can describe them firsthand. If we worked in a lab that came under scrutiny, we could tell everyone how an accident there happened — or assure them that it didn’t happen. Ergo, we reason, what we really need is direct evidence, someone like ourselves who can narrate the goings-on.

Only then, we tell ourselves, can we really know. Even when all the disparate circumstantial trails lead to the same answer, we instinctively ask how we can trust that answer unless and until it has been confirmed by someone who was there.

But that is not how it works in the real world. Once you get beyond the narrow limits of your own experience, everything else is about what you can trust. And you quickly realize you can trust a constellation of objective facts that fit together (i.e., circumstantial evidence) more reliably than the subjective account of a witness — “direct” evidence — whose entanglement in a controversy may erode his credibility.

The murderer is apt to tell you he didn’t do it. And even the murderer who tells you he did do it is apt to be lying about something significant. Maybe he’s currying favor with the prosecutor, who has demanded testimony against an accomplice in exchange for a reduced sentence; maybe he is settling a score with the accomplice; maybe he has mistakenly assumed that the accomplice was complicit because of what some intermediary told him.

This one’s somehow even more fun to read the second time around. Charlie wonders why CNN has not yet sent Fredo Cuomo to the lake for a quick fishing trip:

Watching Chris Cuomo work is a little like watching a man jump out of an airplane without a parachute and then become irrationally angry at those who tell him he’s going to die. In 2015, in response to a debate over the wisdom of cartoons depicting Mohammed, Cuomo submitted on Twitter that “hate speech is excluded from protection.” “Dont just say you love the constitution,” he added belligerently. “Read it.” Having been told by figures from across the political spectrum that this was nonsense from start to finish, Cuomo dug in his heels. “I will keep saying one word,” he contended: “chaplinsky.” Thus was a misdescription of American law transmuted into a misdescription of American history. Not only has the Chaplinsky ruling been effectively overturned; it did not deal with “hate speech” in the first place. Rarely have confidence and ability been so perfectly mismatched.

Despite his training as a lawyer, the nature of the First Amendment has proven utterly elusive to Cuomo. Commenting last summer on the spate of riots that swept the nation, he wondered aloud why people were objecting to the violence. “Please, show me where it says that protests are supposed to be polite and peaceful,” he asked on air. Before long, he was obliged in this request by a hilarious viral video in which an unkempt man eating noodles points nonchalantly at the part of the First Amendment’s text that reads, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” The message of the spot: Don’t just say you love the Constitution. Read it.

David Harsanyi rebuts an ill-conceived effort at recasting the Second Amendment as a tool of white supremacy:

It was slavery skeptic John Adams, in his 1770 defense of Captain Thomas Preston, one of the soldiers responsible for the Boston Massacre, who argued that even British soldiers had an inherent right to defend themselves from mobs. “Here every private person is authorized to arm himself, and on the strength of this authority, I do not deny the inhabitants had a right to arm themselves,” he noted. When Pennsylvania became the first colony to explicitly guarantee the right to bear arms, it was Benjamin Franklin, by then an abolitionist, who presided over the conference. It was the anti-slavery Samuel Adams who proposed that the Constitution never be used to “authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” In the writings and speeches of nearly all American Founders, the threat of disarmament was a casus belli.

In making her case that the Second Amendment was predominantly an invention of the South, Anderson stresses that most American jurisdictions did not even have their own Second Amendment before the constitutional convention. She’s right. Many anti-Federalists believed that enshrining these rights on paper would lead to future abuses. Of course, Southerners didn’t need permission to suppress black slave revolts, anyway. They had done so on numerous occasions before the nation’s founding.

Yet, by 1791, of the four jurisdictions that had written their own Second Amendments, three of them — Vermont, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania — had already abolished slavery. When Vermont authored its first constitution in 1777, in fact, it protected the right to keep and bear arms in the same document that it banned slavery.

Rich Lowry defends Senator Joe Manchin’s honor, rejecting the smears and false premises of his progressive critics:

Now that the filibuster is an obstacle to passing Joe Biden’s agenda, the long-standing Senate procedure has been deemed a threat to our system of government and to racial justice that only a naïf or cynic can support.

And that means you, Joe Manchin.

The West Virginia senator has been badgered for months by reporters eager to get him to change his mind on the filibuster, or at least show some flexibility. Now the pressure campaign from within his own party has ratcheted up to include over-the-top insults that have an air of desperation about them.

After Manchin reiterated his support for the filibuster and made clear his opposition to H.R.1, a sweeping Democratic voting bill, in an op-ed over the weekend, progressive House Democratic member Mondaire Jones from New York unloaded on Twitter. Per Jones, the headline of Manchin’s piece might as well have been “Why I’ll Vote to Preserve Jim Crow.”

This is a preposterous smear and a transparent attempt to bludgeon Manchin into submission by defining his sincere attachment to Senate tradition and belief in bipartisanship as tantamount to racism.

It’s not a new point, but it is an important one: Tyranny is to be opposed, and those who do the opposing are to be celebrated. Jay Nordlinger does it better than anyone:

Last night, after I had written my column, I got two pieces of news, which I would like to discuss here in the Corner. In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, the longtime dictator, has been sweeping up political rivals. Four of them have been arrested, as you can read in this report. One of them is Felix Maradiaga, who is being represented by Jared Genser, the international human-rights lawyer. According to Jared, Felix has been severely beaten and “disappeared.”

Two years ago, I podcasted with Felix, here. I then wrote a piece: “Nicaragua in Hell: Ortega’s crackdown and people who resist it.” Here is a brief excerpt:

Felix Maradiaga borrows an old line: “Nicaragua produces more history than we can consume.” He is a Nicaraguan political scientist, entrepreneur, and human-rights activist who has been forced into exile. The regime made him a bogeyman. Then a gang of the regime’s supporters beat him to a pulp, knocking his teeth out in the process.

Felix was safe in exile, when I spoke with him. But he returned to Nicaragua, to try to help those struggling for democracy there. He is incredibly brave — and warm and bright and altogether winning. I hope he will get through his present, latest ordeal.

The other piece of news: Orhan Inandi is apparently being held captive in the Turkish embassy in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Inandi is a Turkish exile. There is a large Turkish exile community in Kyrgyzstan. They are opponents of the Erdogan regime back home. Inandi is an educator, the president of a school system.

To read more about his case, go here.

Thanks for bearing with me, folks. Judson will be back next week, so kindly direct any critiques of this week’s iteration of the Jolt to his inbox, please.

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Illegal leaks of classified information should be treated as a serious offense. But they would be easier to prevent if less information were classified.