Dear Weekend Joltarians,
Nearly three years back, Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru co-authored an NR essay, “For Love of Country: A Defense of Nationalism.” Did you read it? If not, you should — you’ll find it here. Consider it an appetizer to the very big main course coming out on November 5 — the official publication date of Rich’s forthcoming The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free. It’s going to spark a huge round of debates within the conservative movement — debates that will engross and engage you — so be prepared.
You can do that by voting early and often for Rich’s book (after all, November 5 is Election Day!): Order The Case for Nationalism right now at Amazon, or, if you prefer, Barnes & Noble, or even that Books-a-Million joint. Of course you can wait until November 5 and drive to the local bookstore — but why not have it shipped to your home to start reading that day?
Speaking of “start reading,” Your Humble Correspondent is probably defying the publishers, but . . . a swiped passage from Rich’s introduction is included below for your enjoyment, and for you to get a small-but-excellent sample as to this book’s clarity and strength.
All that said, let us get on with the Weekend Jolt!
A Dozen and Then Some Marvels of Conservative Wisdom, with Attending Links Deserving of Your Clickage
1. Andy McCarthy asks the Mother of All Questions (this week, anyway): Do Republicans see the strategy to discredit the Barr Investigation? From the analysis:
Of course, the media-Democrat complex became apoplectic at any suggestion of impropriety in Mueller’s appointment. On pain of ostracism, its legitimacy was never to be questioned. Case closed.
Naturally, Trump’s opponents did not want to articulate the actual, nakedly political reason for their defense of Mueller — namely, that he was the best hope for bringing down Trump’s presidency. They thus couched their defense in legal terms. The special-counsel regs make clear that the Justice Department’s failure to adhere to them is not actionable. Consequently, as long as DOJ had a plausible basis to investigate some of their subjects — such as Paul Manafort, who had committed crimes unrelated to Russian “collusion,” and George Papadopoulos, who hadn’t “colluded” but had allegedly lied to investigators — the then–acting attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, undeniably had the power to bring a special counsel in from outside the Justice Department to conduct the investigation.
Regardless of how blatantly politicized the Mueller probe appeared to be, then, it was an official, legitimate federal investigation — one that was commissioned by the Justice Department, which lawfully resorted to the powers of the grand jury, and the obstruction of which (or lying to which) was actionable.
Now the shoe is on the other foot.
2. Well, if there was ever anyone whose employment history would prove especially entertaining and eye-opening, it would be Hunter Biden, and mamma mia does Jim Geraghty lay out the comprehensive details. From the beginning of the report:
Late Summer 2006: Hunter Biden and his uncle, James Biden, purchase the hedge fund Paradigm Global Advisors. According to an unnamed executive quoted in Politico in August, James Biden declared to employees on his first day, “Don’t worry about investors. We’ve got people all around the world who want to invest in Joe Biden.” At this time, Joe Biden is months away from becoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and launching his second bid for president.
The unnamed executive who spoke to Politico charged that the purchase of the fund was designed to work around campaign-finance laws:
According to the executive, James Biden made it clear that he viewed the fund as a way to take money from rich foreigners who could not legally give money to his older brother or his campaign account. “We’ve got investors lined up in a line of 747s filled with cash ready to invest in this company,” the executive remembers James Biden saying.
Both James and Hunter Biden have denied to Politico that James had ever made these comments.
Related: And then Big Jim had a follow-up.
3. Ramesh Ponnuru takes on the conservative critics of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. From the beginning of the commentary:
During the debate over Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, a 1998 law-review article she co-authored came under scrutiny. The Alliance for Justice, a left-wing group, used the article to suggest Barrett’s religious views made her a threat to the rule of law. Senator Dianne Feinstein infamously encapsulated the point by saying, “Dogma lives loudly within you.” Barrett was nevertheless confirmed in 2017. Ever since then, she has been discussed as a potential Supreme Court nominee.
And so the criticism has been revived — but this time it is taking a more extreme form, and is coming from the right. John Zmirak is, like Barrett, a Catholic. But he believes the law-review article demonstrates an understanding of church and state both false and dangerous. He argues that Barrett cannot be trusted to rule in line with the Constitution, might make decisions that instead follow the faddish dictates of a pope, and would render any ruling overturning Roe v. Wade illegitimate. He concludes that unless she renounces her “weirdly theocratic” views, she should not be nominated and senators should vote against her if she is nominated.
Zmirak has drawn several responses (here and here for example). As the respondents note, he ignores comments by her, including comments at her confirmation hearing, that contradict his argument. He ignores her record as an appeals-court judge, which includes none of the lawless imposition of papal views that he warns against. And the article is more than two decades old; she wrote it with a professor while she was a law student.
4. How the hell can we be congratulating these Commies for seven decades of massacre and depravities? John McCormack recounts who high-fived the ChiComs (Trump!) and who didn’t. From his report:
President Donald Trump marked the 70th anniversary of the “People’s Republic” with the following congratulatory tweet: “Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!”
But Senate Republicans have marked the anniversary with condemnation of the regime.
Missouri senator Josh Hawley: “Seventy years ago, the Chinese Community Party seized power from the Chinese people. Since then, its ruthless rule has resulted in the deaths of millions of its own citizens.”
Arkansas senator Tom Cotton: “To see the price of the PRC’s anniversary celebration, look no further than what’s happening in Hong Kong: a ceaseless war against those who wish to live in freedom. From the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution to the camps in Xinjiang today, it has been a ghoulish 70 years of Chinese Communist Party control.”
Nebraska senator Ben Sasse: “Today Chinese tyrants celebrated 70 years of communist oppression with their typically brutal symbolism: by sending a police officer to shoot a pro-democracy protester at point-blank range. The freedom-seekers in Hong Kong mourn this anniversary, and the American people stand with them against those who deny their God-given dignity.”
5. Rich Lowry sees that Russia has immersed itself into America’s political brain. This Ukraine thing . . . it’s really a Russia thing. From the new column:
There will be lots of comparisons to the 1990s as the House moves toward impeachment. Yet the vitriolic politics of the 1790s might be the more apt predicate. Back then, at the outset of the republic, each nascent political party was consumed with the idea that the other was a tool of a foreign power (either France or Britain), and believed that the other was a fundamental threat to American democracy.
Today, the Democrats still haven’t gotten beyond the idea that Trump is somehow a tool of Russia, while Republicans point to Democratic coordination with shadowy foreign forces to get the Russia investigation rolling. Books fly off the shelves about Trump being an alleged fascist, and Republicans are gripped by a Flight 93 mentality that fears if they lose a presidential election, they will never win another one again.
The Russia story contributed to and fed off this feverish atmosphere. For the longest time, it offered Democrats the hope of deliverance from a president whose election they never truly accepted. When Mueller didn’t have the goods, House Democrats were briefly at sea, until Trump’s call and the whistleblower complaint brought impeachment deliciously back into play.
Ukraine is more an epilogue of the Russian investigation than the beginning of a new book.
6. Brexit One: John O’Sullivan gives a brilliant report, woven with exceptional analysis, on the ongoing theatrics in Parliament and Boris’s infuriating the stilton-cheese-eating surrender monkeys. From his piece:
Not that everyone was restrained — or intended to be restrained. Former Tory prime minister John Major, an old Europhile, denounced Boris’s robust rhetoric in, er, extremely robust terms: “Words such as ‘saboteur,’ ‘traitor,’ ‘enemy,’ ‘surrender,’ ‘betrayal’ have no place in our party, our politics, nor in our society.” He also thought they were un-Conservative.
Of course, as now often happens in the age of the Internet and Google, anyone who strikes a noble pose of opposition to lies and obscenity is almost immediately presented with evidence of his own wicked words or bad behavior on tape or film. Major was soon reminded that he had described his former cabinet colleagues who defied him over the Maastricht treaty in the 1990s as “bastards.” Nor did it help that the Sunday Telegraph serialization of the final volume of Charles Moore’s Margaret Thatcher biography, just out, depicts him as scheming to replace her while affecting to support her. A particularly nice touch was that he signed Mrs. Thatcher’s nomination papers for the second leadership ballot on condition that they be given to her campaign team only if she decided not to run. They would then be useless except as evidence of his loyalty.
I would call that low cunning of a high order, but perhaps such words have no place in our elevated and sanitized political life.
The attacks on Boris Johnson’s rhetoric — in particular those that traced the murder of Jo Cox forward to his use of “surrender” and “sabotage” — were meant to make it impossible for the Tories to wage a vigorous and effective campaign against MPs who had promised to support Brexit but had since done all they could to obstruct and prevent it. (A secondary bonus is that Labour MPs will be positioned to blame the Tories if any physical attacks do occur.) Naturally, if you’re secretly aiming to obstruct something, you will loudly condemn the pejorative use of the word “obstruction” as offensive, dangerous, or inflammatory. The solution is to back off from deceptive obstruction, however, rather than to police language
7. Brexit Two: More from Johnny O and his ongoing analysis of the scene Over There, where Boris’s enemies may be just as stymied as he is. From the beginning of the piece:
After delivering a Tory conference speech that knocked off the nation’s socks yesterday and presenting a new U.K.–EU Brexit deal today that might conceivably be endorsed by Parliament, Boris Johnson should perhaps be enjoying a good press. But the message of most media commentary is that Boris is stymied yet again, or still, or maybe forever — the Prisoner of Downing Street kept confined by a slim majority of MPs united on nothing except their opposition to him, to Brexit, and to holding a new election.
So Paul Goodman’s epigram that Boris and the Tories can’t win an election without getting Brexit and they can’t get Brexit without winning an election remains the only significant truth as other events related to Brexit come and go. What is less noticed, however, is that Boris’s enemies in the anti-Brexit coalition (henceforth the ABC coalition) are equally stymied. They can’t win an election if they vote Brexit down and they can’t vote Brexit down without winning an election. That’s because most of the signs are that Boris would win an election in which Brexit was at issue.
Indeed, the longer-term prospects for the ABC coalition are even more discouraging. Even if they manage to halt or reverse Brexit, they would have to hold an election not long afterward, which Boris would be heavily favored to win. If elected, he could then simply cancel their cancellation and bring in whatever kind of Brexit he wanted. He would then have five years in power to make Brexit work.
In these circumstances, the interests of the ABC parties favor keeping Boris in power (i.e., by not passing a vote of no confidence in him) but tying his hands ever more securely so that he can do little or nothing to obtain either Brexit or the election he craves. Their device for doing so is the so-called Benn bill, which instructs the prime minister to request an extension of U.K. membership in the EU to next year, to avert the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
At least their interests did favor that. But in the past few weeks the ABC parties have thoroughly frightened themselves with a new Project Fear: They have convinced themselves that Boris might produce a rabbit from a hat that would finally get Brexit done — or, rather, two rabbits from a hat.
8. At her alma mater, Alexandra DeSanctis finds Notre Dame’s progressive ungrads intimidating fellow students because . . . they believe in their faith. Meanwhile, school administrators clam up. From the Corner post:
All is not well at my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. A couple of weeks ago, anonymous students put up unauthorized posters on campus that read “There’s queer blood on homophobic hands,” suggesting that Notre Dame students, faculty, and alumni were responsible for violence. Here’s more on the signs from Notre Dame’s independent student newspaper the Irish Rover (for which I was once executive editor):
The sign contained many articles from the Irish Rover and the Observer which reflect Catholic doctrine regarding human sexuality, implying that the authors of these were responsible for the deaths of “queer” people nationwide.
Most shockingly, the sign’s message was painted in blood red, and the names of the articles’ writers were all circled in blood-red paint, drawing hostile attention to individual members of the Notre Dame community. Among the names circled in red paint were those of current students, faculty, and alumni of the University.
The signs were taken down by campus police, but that wasn’t the end of it. Next, a student letter to the editor appeared in The Observer student newspaper, bearing the same title as the sign. The poem listed student groups Young Americans for Freedom, [Students for] Child Oriented Policy, and the Irish Rover, along with Catholic alumni group the Sycamore Trust, as being responsible for “homophobic discourse.” Among several violent images, it included suggestions that those groups had “slit my loved ones’ throats” and “lobotomize[d] me with a crowbar.”
9. Daniel Lee considers the propaganda poster girls who over the decades have played the useful idiot for the Left. From the beginning of the piece:
As the world follows the activities of young environmentalist Greta Thunberg, it’s a good time to recall another young activist who was once at the center of the world’s attention — and to give a thought to the role of young people in matters of international concern.
Samantha Smith was a ten-year-old American who in 1982, at her mother’s suggestion, wrote to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov — a former KGB chief and agent who took part in the brutal takedown of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and, later, suppression of dissent in Russia — about her fear of nuclear war between the USSR and the U.S. “I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country,” she wrote.
Of course, Andropov wrote back quickly — and publicly — to let her know that the peace-loving people of the Soviet Union had no such intention. He invited her on a “fact-finding” mission to his country to prove it.
Smith’s trip fit neatly with the Nuclear Freeze and No First Use movements of the time — Andropov explicitly endorsed the latter in his response — and was covered exhaustively by an international press eager to make her the spokeschild of youth desperate to stop adults from destroying the world with nuclear weapons. Today, Greta Thunberg plays that role. She is the new spokeschild for young people who believe that they’re battling to save the earth from the cupidity of grownups.
Samantha was photographed everywhere in Russia: a sweet-faced girl in the regalia of the Soviet Young Pioneer. She smiled out at perhaps puzzled Russians from Soviet TV shows and posed in traditional Russian garb for the cover of the English-language publication Soviet Life.
10. Kevin Williamson reflects on gatekeepers, tribes, majorities, and minorities. From the essay:
Because of the increasingly sacramental character of the American presidency, it is not only American politicians who must endure the ordeal of the quadrennial cycle and the anguish of periodic sojourns in the wilderness. The United States has split into two tribes, and one of them must always feel itself to be subjugated and humiliated while the other’s chief occupies the highest office in the land. The American people are, in this age of politics as personal identity, always running for election, too. And it is not enough for them to win — they want to be popular, too, and to have their positions be popular. Hence the twin fictions on either side of the aisle that the other side really represents only a tiny minority whose voice and power is amplified through illegitimate means.
This is caught up in complicated ways with our national political superstitions. One of the deficiencies of American political culture is our national tendency to decoct moral absolutes out of what are really something closer to “best practices” for self-governing republics. “One man, one vote” is a practical measure, not a guarantee of decent or prudent decision-making, which is why so many important concerns (such as freedom of speech, the right to due process, the prohibition of slavery) have been put beyond the reach of mere plebiscite and the whimsies of transitory majorities. That situation is at the heart of the basic contradiction of American progressivism, which in practice consists of various political, business, and academic elites deputizing themselves to speak on behalf of the masses whose constituents generally do not exhibit especially progressive views on most things. For example, neither the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas (overturning sodomy laws) nor that in Engle v. Vitale (prohibiting mandatory school prayer) enjoyed the support of a majority of Americans at the time of those decisions. (Surprisingly, Brown did.) Progressives put a great deal of stock in Boumediene v. Bush, but two-thirds of the people were against them. Conservative populists are hobbled by a similar situation: They exhibit a shocking degree of arrogance in purporting to speak on behalf of “We the People,” as they like to put it, but only occasionally consult the people about what they actually believe. For example, right-wing populists are very fond of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United — and they are right to be; if the First Amendment means anything at all, it was the right decision — but We the People don’t think much of it. Only 17 percent of the public supported the decision at the time. A majority still opposes it.
11. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., released its report on the clerical sex-abuse scandal. Michael Brendan Dougherty has a thing or two to say about the report, and about the diocese’s late and former leader, Cardinal Edward Egan. From the conclusion:
Still, the rationale is odd. Egan’s own brother cardinals may care about the bottom line when considering appointments to the curia in Rome or to the real big chair in Rome. But Egan was never very well liked. And no American during his career could possibly expect to become pope. Ultimately, the property never belonged to Egan personally. If the number of offending priests was less than 1 in 20, if the worst of the worst were just ten in all, why tolerate them?
I can only speculate that Egan and his predecessors wanted to protect something even more dear to them than property. Perhaps their own secrets were embedded into a network of moral blackmail. The report is unsatisfying because the phenomenon of clergy sexual abuse and its tolerance by bishops can’t be treated separately from the larger moral culture of the clergy. It can’t be separated from other tolerated phenomena: alcoholism, sexual impropriety with parishioners and other priests, financial wrongdoing, a general “bachelor” culture of laxity and indulgence. It can’t be separated from pride, gossip, wrath, and envy. It can’t be separated from loneliness, boredom, and spiritual aridity. In the case of priests it can’t be separated from right belief and worship, either. The report says that Egan feared scandal and financial setbacks for the corporate body of which he was merely a manager. The report cannot say the other truth, that he plainly did not fear the judgment and wrath of God.
12. Kyle Smith finds Joker to be one of filmdom’s creepiest-ever stomach-turning performances. From the review:
More than any comic-book movie to date, Joker, directed with a fierce commitment by Todd Phillips, eschews entertainment and dares to repel a sizable proportion of the potential audience. With an awful foreboding, it drills into the psychic pain of Arthur Fleck — failed clown, failed standup comic, failed human. Joaquin Phoenix gives one of the creepiest performances ever put on film as Arthur, a product of the manifold breakdowns of 1970s New York City, here barely disguised as Gotham City. Phoenix’s rancid torment jangles the nerves and turns the stomach.
Set in a 1981 urban hell piled with garbage and overrun by rats, Joker channels the notorious misfits of the era, including fictional ones: Mark David Chapman, John Hinckley, Bernhard Goetz, Travis Bickle (whose actions inspired Hinckley, the failed assassin of President Reagan), and Rupert Pupkin (an entertainment-industry isotope of Bickle). The presence in Joker of Robert De Niro, as a talk-show host much like the one who obsessed Pupkin in The King of Comedy, signals that Phillips wishes to re-create a bleary vision of urban squalor that inspired a singular period of cinema, perhaps the bleakest and most potent one ever.
Though Phillips has previously specialized in comedies such as The Hangover, he has made the least funny of the DC or Marvel movies. Joker is brilliantly done, searingly filmed, and so drenched in its seamy milieu that you can practically feel the roaches skittering under your feet. The score by Iceland’s Hildur Guonadottir and production design by Mark Friedberg are spectacular. But a word of caution: Many viewers will find it more nauseating than enthralling. Women in particular are likely to find Phoenix and Phillips’s relentless nastiness too much to take. Although the Bruce Wayne family makes several appearances, there is none of the usual comic-book movie catharsis, none of the leavening jokiness of a Marvel movie, no roguish charm, no Joker delightedly sticking his head out the window of a truck like a golden retriever. Phoenix’s Joker is merely a greasy, mentally unbalanced loser of the kind best avoided on trains or a dark urban block, the kind that women in particular want nothing to do with, maybe not even in a movie.
RELATED: Armond White finds Joker to be “a sociopolitical mishmash.” Read the review here.
13. Armond is liking Pedro Almodoar’s Pain and Glory. A lot. From the review:
Salvador Mallo, a middle-aged Spanish filmmaker played by a sensitive, charmingly grizzled and gray-haired Antonio Banderas, is celebrated for his folk-punk audacity. The poster for Mallo’s best-known film, Sabor (Taste), boasts a strawberried tongue sticking out of lubricious lips like the Rolling Stones logo. Mallo is from the counterculture generation, yet he has risen to respectability. Note that in Chinatown, John Huston averred, “I’m old. Politicians, public buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” Almodóvar taunts that truism with Mallo’s rebel tendency toward recreational drugs and lassitude whenever possible.
Not simply autobiographical, this portrait of personal indulgence points toward honesty, benevolence, and forgiveness — virtues missing in most counterculture egoists who look back on the indiscretions of their halcyon past as merit badges. Mallo remembers the people who graced his life and agitated it: old lovers, first desires, a sacrificial mother who becomes judgmental. He also confronts his own vain egotism. (The title must nod to John Boorman’s Hope and Glory. If so, then an Almodóvar version of Boorman’s follow-up, Queen and Country, will be exquisite.)
With Pain and Glory, Almodóvar has made a self-critical film in an era lacking self-awareness. No wonder some critics dismiss it as “soft.” They never understood Almodóvar’s bemused permissiveness. In 1987’s Law of Desire, it was buoyantly humane. In that film, Almodóvar’s perspective on a promiscuous gay filmmaker, his transsexual sibling, and a psychopathic lover made the ingenious mix of sex farce and thriller joyful, not merely shocking. In the era of “soft power,” Almodóvar’s humanity avoids pushing a political agenda. In Pain and Glory, compassion and forgiveness are more important than any radical progressivism for understanding Mallo.
14. David French finds Joe Biden’s gun-control plan to be a Constitutional disaster. From the piece:
Taken together, Biden’s bans on the sales of assault weapons and the magazines that come standard with millions of popular rifles and handguns would create the perverse result of placing law-abiding Americans at a distinct disadvantage in defending themselves from criminals. With hundreds of millions of magazines already in circulation, the foreseeable threat comes from a criminal armed with just such a magazine. That’s one reason why police officers carry equivalent weapons. It’s one reason why bans on standard-capacity magazines tend to contain exceptions for law-enforcement officers. But if police can protect themselves from common domestic threats, why can’t my family?
Biden wants to give existing assault-weapon owners a choice: Sell your weapon to the government or register it with the government. But we know registration is a failed policy, one that’s routinely met with massive public indifference. It’s estimated that as many as 1 million New Yorkers have defied the Empire State’s assault-weapon-registration law, and as many as 85 percent of Connecticut assault-weapon owners have flouted the Nutmeg State’s registration requirement. A California registration requirement has had compliance rates as low as 3.6 percent. If states are the laboratories of democracy, then registration is a lab experiment that’s failed.
Biden’s proposal also contains now-standard calls for universal background checks and his own hobby-horse, so-called smart guns that present enormous technological and practical challenges, including challenges that could hamper their use in self-defense, when innocent lives are on the line. And while I support properly drafted “red flag” laws, I have little confidence in the due-process protections that a Biden administration would endorse.
15. Victor Davis Hanson lays out five principles President Trump should follow in dealing with Iran. Here’s one from the piece:
Fourth, we should remember the fate of the last major U.S. intervention into the Middle East. When Saddam Hussein’s statue fell, 70 percent of America deified George W. Bush for apparently doing to the hated genocidal Baathists what he had just done to the murderous Taliban — destroying such monsters in a matter of weeks.
What followed, however, was not just years of unrest and spiraling costs in blood and treasure, but a strange attitude from many of those who had been the most pro-war, some dating back to the 1990s and the founding of the Project for the New American Century, which had called for a preemptive removal of Saddam Hussein during the Clinton administration.
Summed up best, the Iraq 2.0 take was “my brilliant victory, your screwed-up occupation” — best seen in the 2006 Vanity Fair article “Neo Culpa,” in which many of the architects of the preemptive war blamed the very administration they had once lobbied to go to war.
Critics of the “occupation” forgot that the U.S. Congress, in bipartisan fashion, had voted to authorize the war on 23 writs, few of them having anything to do with WMD, and that thousands of American soldiers were abroad at war while its promoters were blame-gaming one another at home. Nor did the critics see that an impending surge, undertaken against much of their advice, would eventually restore stability to Iraq.
I supported the war to remove Saddam Hussein and went to Iraq twice in 2006 and 2007 to write about U.S. deployments. And what was apparent was that those in the thick of it wanted support back home, not pronouncements from its promoters that all was lost and futile. Apparently, most of those who were fighting thought that the only thing worse than a bad war was losing it.
The idea that Trump is weak and blustering for not bombing Iran is nuts. He took a courageous step in canceling an asymmetrical Iran deal that guaranteed a bellicose enemy would receive billions in cash now and, later, a nuclear weapon. That he does not wish to abort such progress is a sign of strength, not timidity. A strapped Iran hates the sanctions far more than it would hate losing an air base or a refinery as the price of destroying the Trump presidency.
The Right That Dare Not Speak Its Name
This coming week, the Human Life Review bestows its Great Defender of Life award on Rich Lowry, who pens an excellent essay in the new issue of HLR on how critical lying is to the Roe-concocted right. From the piece:
The opposition lacks this clarity, even though abortion is at the heart of contemporary progressivism. Roe v. Wade is liberalism’s Great Writ. Nancy Pelosi considers the supposed right to abortion more sacrosanct than the First Amendment. She would never tamper with or restrict the former, whereas she has sought to amend the latter to permit more campaign-finance regulations.
The evasion of the pro-abortion advocates speaks to a fundamental weakness. The other side knows how difficult it is to say out loud that it considers abortion a positive good that should never be restricted in any circumstance, and that health or any other considerations have nothing to do with it. Consider the “historic” pro-abortion statement signed by nearly 200 CEOs that ran in a full-page ad in the New York Times in June. The CEOs defined abortion as “equality” (“Don’t Ban Equality,” declared the headline) and referred to it as “comprehensive reproductive care,” a term that has the advantage of sounding nothing like what it is describing.
The pro-abortion stylebook demands that abortion be called “health” or, more specifically, “reproductive health,” even though it is the opposite of reproduction and (for one party involved) the opposite of health.
The idea that abortion is necessary for the health of women is one of the most misleading pro-abortion clichés. Comprehensive data from Florida last year shows that three-quarters of abortions were elective, and another one-fifth were for social and economic reasons. A small percentage involve a threat to the mother’s life or health, and pro-life laws account for such cases—even the sweeping Alabama law has a health exception.
Hey New Yorkers!
Kathryn Jean Lopez asks that WJ spread some news — we are happy to do such. National Review Institute has some upcoming events at The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in New York City, and the premier coming on Monday night (October 7), the first in a series on Virtue in America, and specifically, the virtue of hope. A bipartisan panel will consider the problem of looking to politics for things politics can’t give us. A great event is in store — come!
More information on all of NRI’s fall collaborations can be found here.
1. Gordon Chang takes to Gatestone Institute to discuss why telecom giant Huawei hopes to be a trojan horse that benefits the ChiComs. From the analysis:
A refusal to grant a third waiver to the Chinese company, the world’s largest telecom networking equipment manufacturer and second-largest smartphone maker, would be the right move for the United States. After all, why should President Trump allow our companies to help Beijing steal the world’s data and remotely control devices connected to the internet?
In May, the Commerce Department, effective the 16th of that month, added Huawei to its “Entity List.” The designation meant no American company, without prior approval from Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, could sell or license to Huawei products and technology covered by the U.S. Export Administration Regulations.
Beijing has continually demanded the withdrawal of the designation and has made such a climbdown one of its preconditions to a comprehensive trade deal with the U.S.
Since then, the Chinese have, in addition to threats, also tried to get off the Entity List with sugar. This month, in a conversation with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said he was “open to sharing our 5G technologies and techniques with U.S. companies, so that they can build up their own 5G industry.”
2. More Gatestone: Con Coughlin says Iranian bossman Hassan Rouhani’s antics at the UN General Assembly confab has exposed the futility of European diplomacy. From the piece:
The reality of the delusional approach adopted by Mr Macron and other European leaders was, though, brutally exposed the moment Mr Rouhani arrived in New York. Instead of showing any sign of seeking to repair Tehran’s strained relationship with the West and its allies, he instead indulged in an orgy of self-justification in which he sought to portray his country as an innocent victim of Western aggression rather than accepting, as is really the case, that Iran was the primary instigator of the latest escalation in tensions.
Not even the charm offensive applied by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose presence in New York was no doubt a welcome distraction from his domestic political woes, was able to make much impression on Mr Rouhani’s demeanour. Mr Johnson briefly raised a laugh from the Iranian leader when he suggested he make a return visit to Glasgow — a city Mr Rouhani knows well from the time he studied there in the 1990s — while remarking, “As you know, Glasgow is lovely in November” — a reference to the city’s notoriously cold and wet climate at that time of year.
The atmospherics — to use the diplomatic jargon — might have appeared promising during Mr Johnson’s one-to-one with the Iranian leader, but reality soon set in the moment Mr Rouhani took to the UN podium and embarked upon an extraordinary exercise in self-justification, one in which the US and its allies were the villains and Iran was portrayed as a nation wronged.
The prime target of his attack was, unsurprisingly, the US, which he accused of engaging in “merciless economic terrorism” following the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and impose a new round of economic sanctions against Tehran.
3. At Issues & Insights, Tom McArdle argues that the push to release transcripts of presidential communications will cripple every future POTUS. From the piece:
So as Schiff and House Democrats push hard to discover and disclose something more convincing than the Zelensky nothingburger, Trump has the defense of executive privilege within a landmark, unanimous Supreme Court ruling on his side.
And he has something more: a solemn responsibility to preserve for future presidents the ability to conduct candid discussions with foreign allies, friends — even enemies. A president must be able to engage in “persuasion, badgering, flattery, threats, reminders of past favors and future advantages,” as the Washington Post’s Mary McGrory described Lyndon Johnson’s no-holds-barred style of leadership even before becoming president. And it can’t work when it’s in the public eye.
Imagine not being free to discuss coordinating the fight against terrorism, or the details of classified intelligence, with other free countries. Or a president being unable to pick up the phone and personally warn a hostile power of the consequences of its actions against the U.S. or our allies. Trump or any other president allowing Congress to fish around in classified White House computer systems would be a direct threat to future presidents’ ability to use the office to protect the country.
4. At City Journal, Robert Henderson warns about the backlash of “Cancel Culture.” From the piece:
Cancel culture allows people to identify who is loyal to their movement. Highlighting the supposed wrongdoings of others forces people to respond. Targets of cancel culture usually commit acts suddenly deemed out of fashion. This is perfect for social coordination because it creates disagreement about whether the person should be exiled. If everyone agreed that the target should be denigrated, then there’s no way to identify friend from foe. But if some agree while others disagree, committed group members can be distinguished from adversaries. Those who ask for evidence of the alleged wrongdoing, question the severity of the transgression, or debate the propriety of cancel culture risk revealing themselves as unfaithful to the cause. Rallying around a morally ambiguous transgression and seeing how people react permits recruitment of assenters and targeting of dissenters.
Cancel culture is thus likely here to stay. The social rewards are immediate and gratifying and the dangers too distant and abstract. “You could be next” does not register for most people because it’s just a set of words. But the social rewards of status and in-group camaraderie instantly resonate. The desire for instant social rewards over distant and uncertain disaster is not a quirk of any particular group—it’s common to all of us.
The term “cancel culture” may be new, then, but the human impulses propelling it are old. When you see groups target an individual for exile, you’re witnessing a foundational ritual. Without understanding such atavistic impulses, we are more, not less, likely to enact them without consideration.
5. At First Things, Thomas Guarino looks at the U.S. Catholic bishops’ 2002 “Dallas Charter” plan to address sexual abuse by clergy et al. He sees a dark side. From the essay:
A significant problem attending the zero-tolerance policy is that most accused priests have not actually been found “guilty” of abuse—even though that is the word usually invoked. Most often, a priest is found only to have had a “credible accusation” lodged against him. But “credibility” has no clear and distinct definition. It has come to mean “not impossible” or “could have conceivably occurred.” A “credible accusation” offers nothing like the firm standard of clear and convincing evidence, or even preponderance of evidence, which is expected for a guilty verdict in civil society. Priests are declared unfit for ministry on the basis of standards that trade in dangerous generalities.
Under the Dallas Charter, a credible accusation must also be “substantiated.” But by whom? Not by a court, but by a committee, whose members’ identities and professional credentials are often unknown to the priests who are being surreptitiously judged. Who are these faceless judges? Are they, like diocesan lawyers and PR flacks, simply concerned with protecting the reputation of the bishop as “tough on abuse”? And precisely what evidence “counts” in determining that an accusation has been “substantiated”? The vagueness and ambiguity surrounding the entire process ensures that priests do not enjoy justice. And all this occurs in a country that insists an accused person has the right to come face-to-face with both his accuser and his judges. And in a Church in which bishops trumpet their commitment to “transparency.”
Local prosecutors have declined most accusations against priests because they fall well outside the statute of limitations. Such statutes, of course, date back to the ancient world; they were instituted precisely because memories become clouded with time. But on the basis of a single accusation from thirty or forty years ago, priests are suspended from ministry with their reputations destroyed and their lives in tatters. They must forever wear the scarlet letter of abuse pinned to their garb. Do bishops realize that such actions veer closely toward rash judgment, calumny, and slander, all condemned by the eighth commandment? Is it any surprise that we are now treated to the spectacle of priests suing their own dioceses for libel in civil court?
6. At Quillette, Coleman Hughes makes the case for Black Optimism. From the analysis:
Nevertheless, there are reasons to be optimistic. From 2001 to 2017, the incarceration rate for black men declined by 34 percent. Even this statistic, however, understates progress by lumping black Americans of all ages together. When you look at age-specific incarceration outcomes, you find two opposing trends: Older black Americans are doing slightly worse than previous generations, but younger black Americans are doing better—so much better that they more than offset, in statistical terms, the backslide of their elders. To put the speed and size of the trend in perspective, between my first day of Kindergarten in 2001 and my first legal drink in 2017, the incarceration rate for black men aged 25–29, 20–24, and 18–19 declined, respectively, by 56 percent, 60 percent, and 72 percent. For young black women, the story is similar: a 59 percent drop for those aged 25–29, a 43 percent drop for those aged 20–24, and a 69 percent drop for those aged 18–19.
As a result of the divergent generational trendlines, the black prison population is not only shrinking; it’s aging too. In 2017, nearly three in ten black male prisoners were 45 years of age or older, up from one in ten in 2001. That may not seem like good news, but it is. The incarceration trendline for young blacks in the recent past predicts the trendline for all blacks in the near future. So the fact that the post-2001 incarceration decline for blacks in general was entirely caused by the plunging incarceration rate for young blacks in particular suggests that, as generational turnover occurs, the black prison population will not only continue to shrink, but will shrink at an accelerating rate. To paraphrase the economist Rick Nevin, our prison system may be overflowing today, but the “pipeline” to prison is already starting to run dry.
BONUS: At The College Fix, our old pal Jennifer Kabbany reveals the results of a new poll which shows a dearth of America Pride amongst Democratic college students. From the beginning of the analysis:
The vast majority of Republican college students compared to a small number of Democratic college students say they are very proud to be an American, according to the results of a new College Fix survey.
The poll asked 1,000 college students: How proud are you to be an American: very proud, moderately proud, only a little proud, or not at all proud?
The vast majority (74%) of Republican college students, compared to a small number of Democratic college students (8%), and less than one-third of independents (30%), said they are very proud to be an American.
On the flip side, 2 percent of Republican college students, compared to 22 percent of Democratic college students, and 11 percent of independents, say they are not at all proud to be an American.
The Swiped Lowry Passage, Titled “Civic Nationalism Is an Illusion”
Thus spakes our Esteemed Leader in The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free:
Another distinction that anti-nationalists sometimes make is between civic nationalism, which they consider roughly another term for patriotism, and ethnic nationalism. The liberal writer Michael Ignatieff calls the civic nation “a community of equal, rights-bearing citizens, united in patriotic attachment to a shared set of political practices and values.” Ethnic nationalism, in contrast, entails “that an individual’s deepest attachments are inherited, not chosen,” and “it is the national community that defines the individual, not the individuals who define the national community.”
It is certainly true that different forms of nationalism can be more or less inclusive and democratic. But no nation has ever been entirely civic in this sense.
Not France, which is often cited as a leading example of civic nationalism. It undertook an intensive, far-reaching campaign to wipe out distinctive regional cultures and dialects to forge the common national culture that is the basis of its civic nationalism. In 1863, about a quarter of the population spoke no French. As one French observer put it, “France is a deliberate political construction for whose creation the central power has never ceased to fight.”
And certainly not the United States. Our cultural nation was extremely important at the outset, and remains so today. At the time of the Revolution, the colonists were eighty percent British and almost entirely Protestant. As John Jay wrote in Federalist 2, “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people–a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs.”
The fact is that culture is seeded with ideas. Would America be the same if it spoke Russian, the language of a country that has never effectively supported property rights, the rule of law, or limited government, rather than English? Would our political culture as we know it have emerged if practically every home in America a couple two hundred years ago had a Koran on the bedstand rather than a King James Bible? Of course, not.
At the beginning, this was a country not necessarily for Englishmen, but by Englishmen, including their notions of liberty that defined the American experience from the outset. Tocqueville famously wrote that America was the Englishman left alone. If the Eastern seaboard had been settled by Spaniards, you could have “left them alone” for a very long time and marinated them in all the Enlightenment philosophers, and they still never would have come up with the American Founding.
Even today, when America largely fulfills the standard of a civic nation, it still has a cultural basis. The English language remains a pillar of our national identity (language is often considered a foundation of exclusive ethnic nationalist states). Our rituals and holidays reflect the dominant culture. Christmas is a national holiday; Yom Kippur is not. And they reflect our national identity. Independence Day is a holiday; Cinco de Mayo is not.
Our national heroes, our ancestors, are afforded a prized place of honor in our collective life. The ascension of George Washington to a quasi-sacred status in our country began almost immediately. Today, he’s still visible in a fresco inside the U.S. Capitol dome, dressed in purple, and surrounded by the gods of mythology. (Upon the centennial of Washington’s birth in 1832, the statesman Edward Everett was part of a movement to disinter him from Mount Vernon and bury him at the center of the Capitol: “The sacred remains are…a treasure beyond all price, but it is a treasure of which every part of this blood-cemented Union has a right to claim its share.”)
We bear the stamp of our national character wherever we go. “The Americanism of American culture,” Azar Gat writes, “is deeply felt around the world, regarded either with approval or disapproval, and Americans become very conscious of it whenever they encounter the outside world. This common American culture far transcends the political-civic culture that many theorists have posited, naively, as the exclusive binding element of the American nation.”
The devotees of the idea of civic nationalism, at the extreme, make it sound as if a country is a voluntary association of individuals who have decided to live together under a certain set of political institutions and ideas. This is a fantasy. Nations are thicker than that. They are homelands that are felt as such by the people who live there and are connected by a web of associations and memories.
If political institutions were all that mattered, Americans would be just as comfortable living in any major English-speaking country. Canada or Australia don’t have our Constitution, but they are liberal societies with ample protections for the freedom of the individual. Yet, after every election, when famous people on both sides of the political divide threaten to move to Canada if the result goes the wrong way, no one actually moves.
The French intellectual Ernest Renan gave expression to the voluntarist idea of the nation in his oft-quoted 1882 lecture: “A nation’s existence is, if you will pardon the metaphor, a daily plebiscite, just as an individual’s existence is a perpetual affirmation of life.” But Renan also cited the importance of “a rich legacy of memories,” and thought that “the nation, like the individual, is the culmination of a long past of endeavours, sacrifice, and devotion.” Just so.
Oddities enthrall us, such as — the 1936 All-Star Game, played at Braves Field in Boston. The National League won, 4–3. What amuses is that the starting third basemen for both squads were Philadelphia Pinkys (or is it Pinkies?). The Senior Circuit’s hot-corner man was Pinky Whitney, in what would be his sole All-Star appearance in a dozen years playing for the Phillies and the Braves (in six of those seasons, his team lost 100 or more games). He was one of the game’s great fielders, and pretty good with the bat: In four seasons he knocked in over 100 runs. For the Junior Circuit, the starting third baseman was the Athletics’ Pinky Higgins, who was playing in the second of his career’s three All-Star appearances. Higgins was best known for two feats: One was that he tied a record with twelve consecutive hits in 1938 (actually, 12 hits in 2 at bats — there were two walks in the mix), when he was then playing for the Red Sox. The other was a little more ignominious: The Red Sox, under his managerial leadership in the 1950s, were the last baseball team to have a black man on its roster — an outcome that seemed intentional and was covered with Higgins’ fingerprints.
In other Pinky news, Pinky Whitney found himself on the Boston Braves’ roster in 1933 playing with Pinky Hargrave. And back with the Phillies in 1939, Whitney’s teammate was fellow third baseman and future “Pepper Pot” all-star Pinky May.
Next week, we’ll talk about Rollie Fingers and Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown!
Let us remember the scores of millions of Chinese who died — by starvation, deprivation, the bullet, the torture chamber, the abortionist’s scalpel — or were broken (or pilfered, their very organs cut out of them!) at the hands of Chairman Mao and his followers and their insane programs and plots — the Great Leaps Forward and Cultural Revolutions and A Hundred Flowers Blooming insanity — that are the curse of our times, and yet unremarked or even excused by so many who know so much better. Rest in Peace!
May God Have Mercy on Their Souls and on Ours,
Jack Fowler, who can be sent but-you-don’t-understand spins at email@example.com.