Our Dinner With Donald

 

Yes, I did have dinner at Mar-a-Lago, but not exactly with former President Donald Trump. But I will tell you the whole story, and I hope you enjoy it!

We were invited to a very special dinner by Hillsdale College, and when we learned it would be in West Palm Beach, we were very excited. We immediately responded to the invitation in the affirmative and anxiously awaited the date, Jan. 26.

When we arrived precisely at 6 p.m. in our buttons and bows (it was suits and dresses, no tuxedos), we found the location, but at first glance it was just another beautiful Boca Raton business. Mar-a-Lago didn’t appear anywhere on the outside; we wondered if the absence had to do with security. We learned personally the importance of security when we were asked in the driveway by the guard if we had a gun in the car. My husband assured him we had ours properly locked up in a special box in the trunk.

Tell that to the Secret Service.

So we followed another guest who had brought his gun (who wasn’t quite certain where to drive — you know, men and directions and all) and drove to a nearby parking lot. We figured out it was the wrong lot, but oh well, we parked and walked back to the hotel. It was a very busy street with no sidewalks. (Another Secret Service requirement?)

After taking our lives in our hands, the security guard stopped us again, and we reminded him who we were. He was very apologetic, and we were very forgiving. We walked to the lobby to where the reception and dinner were to be held.

Everyone was very friendly and mostly old, and there wasn’t a face mask in sight. I realized that I was among my peers in more ways than one. We had our picture taken with Larry Arnn, Ph.D., the president of Hillsdale, and he asked if we’d been to the campus. I told him we’d shot there. He did a double take until he realized we’d attended one of the shooting workshops. We all smiled at my lame joke.

Later, we were just finishing a delicious dinner when there was a stir in the room. It was him! Donald Trump was standing nearby to greet us — well, I mean to greet the guests! The room rose to give him a standing ovation, and the Secret Service surrounded him and then escorted him to the stage. He spoke to us for a few minutes, and of course the group was thrilled.

Trump is a fan of Hillsdale College; he asked Arnn to co-author the response to the 1619 Project, called the 1776 Project. He was also delighted to know that Arnn has expanded the charter school project, n0w 49 schools around the country, with more being planned.

Just before Trump was about to leave, he told us that the beautiful room we were in (designed to his taste) was added to the hotel to accommodate his wedding to Melania (see just below). As he left, he was again surrounded by Secret Service agents; they must have been very concerned as he slowly left the room, stopping to greet people and shaking hands.

Arnn gave a delightful and moving talk. (Imagine following Donald Trump on the podium!) He reminded us, as he often does, of the importance of classical education, of the demands he makes on students and staff, and of his love of truth and beauty.

As we left and wound our way through the facility, we realized the Secret Service agents were everywhere; they were easy to spot with the small silver disk on their lapels. (I don’t know if they were electronic or not.) Some of them were distant and cool; others smiled and waved. It’s a dark reminder that there is nowhere Trump can go where his life would not be at risk.

Once we were outside, we saw the same security guard in the drive. We tried to talk him into taking us back to our car, but he couldn’t abandon his post. So we hoofed it back.

It was a very special night. To realize that we share a dedication to education, truth, and child and adult learning, and we share that with Donald Trump and thousands of other people, is gratifying.

*     *     *     *

As a final thought, we decided that it would be easier to stay in a nearby town overnight and planned to visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens (where we’ve visited before). We headed over there late morning and parked the car. There were clear signs that masks had to be worn inside, but we wouldn’t need them in the gardens. We shrugged our shoulders and dug out our masks.

But there was a line outside to get in; it must have been caused by the restrictions and mask demands. Jerry and I looked at each other, and I said, “Do you really want to do this?” His simple no sufficed.

We turned around and headed to our car.

We honored our commitment to freedom and against un-American demands.

It was still a lovely trip.

You Never Know …

 

This is making the rounds on Facebook. Luckily, I don’t believe everything I see on the Internet. I mean, that’s nuts, right? I was born in 1968. Which was about 20 years ago. Or so. Give or take.

My dad was born in 1945. He has a picture of himself as a baby, being held by his great-grandmother, who was 85 years old at the time (see picture at end of post). So she was born in 1860. America is a young country.

World leaders in the late 1700s said that representative republics were too unstable. America would never last. Once the citizens realized that they could vote themselves rich, then the game was over. Perhaps they were right.

Or, perhaps they were wrong. Perhaps Americans will recognize that America is the greatest force for good that the world has ever seen and will endeavor to preserve her, warts and all.

Or, perhaps, Democrats will continue to win elections a week after they happen via mail-in ballots. We grow weary of pressing the issue. It would be nice to take a break from it all. Why can’t we all just get along?

In the future, those who read the history of our era — say, from 1950-2050 — will wonder why we actively destroyed the greatest force for good the world had ever seen. But they won’t understand how tired we were. Tired of the daily struggle. Tired of getting fact-checked on Facebook. Tired of the condescension from our masked neighbors at Kroger. Tired of pretending to believe the unbelievable. It’s easier to just go along to get along. Why can’t we all just get along?

Indeed.

You may not care. After enough bourbon, maybe I won’t, either. Although that amount of bourbon continues to increase. I can’t tell if it’s from increased tolerance to ethanol or from decreased tolerance to absurdity. I suppose it doesn’t matter. But as things get increasingly absurd, it’s getting harder to care about daily events. I try to care. I really do. But sometimes, it’s hard to care.

But our great-grandchildren, who have not yet been born, care. Or rather, they will care.

My dad’s great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize America right now. Her generation did a lot to vanquish the Democratic Party of the time — the Jim Crow South and segregation. Her generation recognized the evil of the Democratic Party of her time and did its best to improve on it.

And now, here we are. Will we stand up against the evil of the Democratic Party of our time? Will we stand up for the rights of man? Or will we acquiesce to the rights of government?

Note that I didn’t ask if it would be difficult or not. I just asked where we would draw the line. They may ask who won. They won’t ask about degree of difficulty.

Somewhere, there is a point of no return. I think we passed it some time ago. Others feel that it is close, but not yet upon us.

I don’t think it matters who is right. We should act as if our decisions matter.

For one thing, when one believes that one’s decisions don’t matter, one tends to make bad decisions.

But more importantly, you never know. You may be playing from behind. But you could possibly win. You never know. So you play until the game is over. And our game most certainly is not over. Things may seem difficult. But this is not over. Maybe soon. But not yet. Perhaps.

And if we’ve already lost, then we have nothing to lose, right? So we might as well keep playing as if we have something to play for. You never know.

You never know.

One benefit of losing is that it takes the pressure off. The favorite should win. They have every advantage. But the underdog feels no pressure. They just play. And you never know how things might turn out.

Happy and successful people are often blessed with an ignorance of their own limitations. They should lose. And they usually do.

But not always. Sometimes they win. Even when they really shouldn’t. Sometimes they keep playing against impossible odds, and they win anyway. You just never know.

So you might as well keep playing. You never know.

It’s easy for me to say this, as I was born only about 20 years ago. The idealism of youth, and all that.

On the other hand, my dad’s great-grandmother (pictured at left, holding my father) might find this to be important. Perhaps she has a perspective that some of us young kids lack. Imagine what she went through in her life. Perhaps she worked through difficulties that many of us wouldn’t understand. Perhaps she is less understanding of our fatalistic outlook.

You never know. Perhaps we’ve already lost. Our efforts could be futile. Hard to say, I guess.

But heck — let’s play.

You never know …

Breyer’s Pocket Constitution

 

Justice Breyer pulled out a pocket constitution at his White House appearance today. Turns out it was the copy that Justice Breyer received when he entered Harvard Law School in 1964. The copy is pristine — never opened, never thumbed through. None of the cases he heard at the Supreme Court ever required him to consult it. It will make a great exhibit in his museum display someday.

But to the shock of the audience, it turned out to be a living constitution. It leaped from the frail hands of the justice and went running around the room, nipping at the heels of the guests and reminding some of the dangerous, banished German shepherd Major.

To the relief of everyone and for the protection of the president, the Secret Service quickly removed the constitution from the room and the festivities resumed without further incident. The director of the Secret Service is considering whether the constitution will ever be allowed in the White House again, given the dangers it might pose.

Immigration: Select for Risk Tolerance

 

It has been pointed out that all the brave Scotsmen left to settle the world – from New Zealand to Hudson’s Bay, the intrepid Scots made it all happen. They left behind everyone who let their fears control their lives. Scotsmen have conquered the world, while Scotland today is a wallowing morass of welfare and zero-sum despair.

I think the same pattern repeats itself with most other immigrants: America self-selected immigrants who craved freedom and opportunity and could overlook the insecurity and all the unknowns inherent in boarding a ship for distant shores, never to return. I am not sure if there is a genetic component to this tolerance, but there surely is a cultural one: cultures and religions differ in their belief in the ability of individuals to direct their own fate, and most people are swept along by the prevailing winds of nature and nurture.

If we consider that America was founded by this self-selected crowd, and that risk tolerance seems to be somewhat-inherited, then a few things follow:

1: The founding principles of the United States attract like-minded immigrants, but these same principles do not export very well. There is a reason other countries do not have the American Spirit.

2: If we wish to preserve this ethos, then the United States should continue to welcome hard-working, risk-taking immigrants – and one easy way to change the incentives is to entirely bar all public moneys for immigrants.

?

On Crime, Democrats Become the Party of Limited Government

 

The Democrat Mayor of Chicago blames businesses for the increase in retail theft, telling store owners they should be hiring private security, not depending on the police or the courts to enforce the law. An hour or so north in Milwaukee, Democrats on the city council are blaming automakers for the rash of carjackings and car thefts, saying cars are too easy to steal. In Los Angeles, the local district attorney (a Democrat) is blaming the railroad company for the robbing and looting of trains passing through the city, saying the railroad isn’t employing enough private security.

This is the same Democrat Party that has been, for over a century now, the party of Big Government; the party that insists that all progress must be collective and directed by experts. The Democrat Party that insists “Taxes are what we pay for living in a civilized society.” The Democrat Party that has always mocked rugged individualism and attacked their occasional opposition party as the “You’re on your own” party. They have always insisted that it is large, empowered Government that will solve all of society’s problem.

Over the last decade, Democrats have elected prosecutors in large cities who are averse to putting criminals in jail. The current Democrat Party philosophy toward law and order was perhaps best expressed by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. “We do need some cops, and we do need some jails and we do need prisons. We just need a whole hell of a lot less of each of those things.” Krasner has presided over an 80% increase in murders in his city, which he blames on Republicans while simultaneously denying there’s any spike in violent crime.

Rather than put criminals in jail, Democrat prosecutors much prefer to virtue signal about “ending mass incarcerations,” “restorative justice,” and “addressing poverty as a root cause” out of a prejudiced belief that poor people are innately criminal. The new Manhattan District Attorney (a Democrat, of course) is typical. He made his intentions clear in a memorandum; no more felony prosecutions for armed robbery, and no jail time except for the most violent and heinous crimes, and no more than 20 years in prison for *any* crime. After some criticism, he claimed his memo was only meant for lawyers, and the public was too stupid to understand his nuanced legal position.

Democrats are belatedly discovering that criminals are not as impressed by virtue signaling as the editorial board of the New York Times. Democrats really cannot conceive of a criminal as a person who has chosen to be a criminal; a person who would logically respond to official leniency as an opportunity to get away with more crime.  Democrats perhaps expected criminals to respond to their hug-a-thug policies with a tearful “at last, someone in politics who cares, I will forego my life of crime and from now on will volunteer in my community.” Instead, criminals are pushing the limits of what they can get away with; which turns out to be quite a lot in deep blue jurisdictions run by enlightened progressives.

Democrats cannot admit their policies have failed. Politicians *never* admit when their policies have failed. If a policy fails, it must be the fault of the people. So Democrats have embraced the precise rhetoric they used to denounce. “If you are the victim of a crime, it’s your fault. You had it coming to you. Don’t look to society to help you out, you’re on your own.” They have finally found the one thing that they don’t trust Government to do: Enforce the law.

DMED Is a Game-changer on Vaccine Safety

 

On Monday, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) held a panel discussion on vaccine safety (see Second Opinion).  During this hearing we learned about some DOD whistleblowers that revealed alarming data on vaccine safety.  These protected whistleblowers shared data from the DMED and it is a game-changer.

DMED is the Defense Medical Epidemiology Database.   DMED was created to track every illness of military members from an epidemiological standpoint for the purpose of diagnosing any adverse health trend that could affect military readiness.  It is accurate, complete and designed for early detection of issues in the military population.

Daniel Horowitz has been working with the whistleblowers to get the word out.  From the data (and there is a *lot* of data) it looks 2020 (year 1 of Covid) was like the previous 4 years and 2021 (year 1 of vaccines) shows alarming upticks in medical problems.  The whistleblowers went public, because their commanders ignored the issue.  Here are some findings from Daniel:

In a declaration under penalty of perjury that Renz plans to use in federal court, Drs. Samuel Sigoloff, Peter Chambers, and Theresa Long — three military doctors — revealed that there has been a 300% increase in DMED codes registered for miscarriages in the military in 2021 over the five-year average. The five-year average was 1,499 codes for miscarriages per year. During the first 10 months of 2021, it was 4,182.

Aside from the spike in miscarriage diagnoses (ICD code O03 for spontaneous abortions), there was an almost 300% increase in cancer diagnoses (from a five-year average of 38,700 per year to 114,645 in the first 11 months of 2021). There was also a 1,000% increase in diagnosis codes for neurological issues, which increased from a baseline average of 82,000 to 863,000!

Some other numbers he did not mention at the hearing but gave to me in the interview are the following:

  • myocardial infarction –269% increase
  • Bell’s palsy – 291% increase
  • congenital malformations (for children of military personnel) – 156% increase
  • female infertility – 471% increase
  • pulmonary embolisms – 467% increase

These findings from the best epidemiological database in the world are enough to make me conclude that the Covid Vaccines are unsafe for military age people until Pfizer/Moderna can provide better data.    Given a choice between great data from the US military and redacted data from Big Pharma, I’ll choose the great data.

ChiComs Shivering in the Dark with COVID

 

My glee at seeing the Communist junkhole China being laid low by COVID is greatly tempered by the fact that most Chinese don’t have much to do with Communism and in fact many hate their government.  That would make them natural allies.  I wouldn’t wish wracking illness on any anonymous foe (as opposed to the likes of singular persons such as Kim), and in general Chinese are just folks the same as we are.

Still, China the country is an implacable foe.  Its aggregate problems bring me happiness, despite taking no pleasure in individual hardship over there.  And problems they have!

China is now in the throes of a perfect storm of perfect storms — plague, famine, finance, infrastructure, energy, image, confidence — what’s not to love?

Over the last month, I’ve watched a spate of videos on China, and I’ll just drop links to some of the channels I find informative.  Things are really looking bad for China, which is good.  Yes, we will catch some collateral damage, but there has perhaps never been a better time for China to eat dirt.

Links:

China is in deep doo-doo.  Let’s see if we can resist the urge to bail these communists out.  Their Olympic plans are now menaced by (most recently) what looks like a double-whammy combined Delta and Omicron wave.  I don’t wish it on the Chinese people, but I am happy to see it wreak havoc on China.

Election Fraud: A Massive Civil Rights Violation

 

The United States Constitution is the initial and continuing “contract with America”. Fundamental is citizen control of government. This control is exercised at the ballot box. The alternative is either acceptance of authoritarian rule or violent revolution.

When fraud occurs in submitting or counting ballots it robs all citizens of their franchise to some degree. In effect, our pockets are picked. To extend that analogy, most of us won’t make the effort to complain about pennies, and that is what historic voter fraud has relied on — keeping the perception of finagling to be a low level and not substantial enough for us to care.

But HR 1, the Covid rule changes adopted under “emergency authorities” and the suppression of efforts to actually audit the 2020 election have raised our consciousness about how dangerous even seemingly small fraud is to our republican form of government. It should be uncontroversial to insist that rolls be kept accurate and up to date, that positive identification of ballot casters be verified, that votes not be overtly bought as opposed to candidates arguing how their policies will improve the lives and fortunes of potential voters. And yet it isn’t. The allure of power distorts the needed rectitude for fair, free, and honest elections. And the People need to use the force of the government it controls to detect and deter fraud.

We need to treat voter fraud as the massive civil rights violation it truly is. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida is making news (again) by his insistence that we treat voter fraud like the crime it is:

“We are excited to say that next legislative session we are proposing another package of election integrity reforms that will make Florida the number one state for elections,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am excited that with this legislation, our state will be able to enforce election violations, combat voter fraud and make sure violators are held accountable. If potential violators know they will be held accountable, they will be much less likely to engage in improper conduct in the first place.”

At the event, Governor DeSantis called on the Legislature to take four additional steps to safeguard our elections:

Establish an Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State to investigate election crimes and fraud;
Elevate the crime of ballot harvesting to a third-degree felony, recognizing that this offense is a serious attack on democracy;
Require timelines for supervisors of elections to clean the voter rolls of ineligible voters; and
Prohibit unsecure, haphazard drop box locations in Florida.

Every state governor should take up the same cause. It is estimated that just this past year alone about 2 million illegal aliens were allowed to enter and distributed throughout the country. Totally aside from the drain on our resources as we feed, house, school and provide medical care, if they are also permitted to vote (alongside the dead in certain precincts) they can dramatically change the fortunes of this country. Just seeing what Progressives have done in 12 months with pResident Biden as the front man, should cause us all to tremble should they convert their tenuous hold on power into a death grip.

Yes, our Constitution extends certain protections to non-citizens while resident in this country. It does so because our Constitution is designed as a limit on the power of government over individuals without regard to citizenship status. But that does not mean that non-citizens should hold the reins of government. This is where we must draw a line and insist that our government be beholden to citizens and not “residents”. We must treat election fraud as the massive violation of civil rights that it is.

On Surrendering and Miracles

 

This was dashed off in response to Western Chauvinist’s excellent article entitled: On “Surrendering” without Giving Up, which begins:

A Response to Susan Quinn on her post, If They Try Harder, Do We Roll Over?

“My title sounds oxymoronic, I know. But, perhaps my favorite Catholic convert, G.K. Chesterton, was entranced by the seeming paradoxes of the faith that turn out to be simultaneously true — Christ is fully God and fully man (the hypostatic union). God is One in three Persons (the Holy Trinity as a Communion of Love). My little paradox isn’t anything as profound, but I contend it is possible to both “surrender” and to not give up.”

This makes me think about expertise, specifically the inerrant (read: provable) science of physics and the by-definition logical domain of mathematics.  Some people, I believe, focus so hard on logic and materialism that they can’t bring themselves to accept that some paradoxes and logical impossibilities do exist.

This makes me think of miracles.  Do you believe, can you believe, that Jesus raised the dead girl back to life?  Do you believe Jesus really raised Lazarus from the dead after three days in the tomb?  Do you believe that Jesus raised himself from the dead?  And went on to commune with his disciples for weeks after that?  Thomas wouldn’t believe until he put his hands in Jesus’ wounds, even the wound in his side that went straight to his heart.  But Jesus said blessed are you because you saw and believed, blessed are those who believe without seeing.

And this leads me to thinking about credentialism, and to the even more powerful persuader, expertism.  Elon Musk recently gently scoffed at exactly how Jesus fed 4,000 with a few loaves and fishes; to the effect that, he’d never seen it, and can’t imagine how it’s done.  Well, I’ve only read of one account when this was done in modern times, by a missionary woman in I think South America who had to feed a dozen or so hungry volunteer workers on just a few tortillas.  She prayed that this would be enough to satisfy all the men, and she broke the first tortilla into two and looking over put it on the first man’s plate and when she looked down again the tortilla was whole in her hand.  She did this over and over until all the men were fed and satisfied.  The story doesn’t say that she sneaked her eyes down to watch the reconstitution, and I doubt she did.  But this was recorded for readers to believe, or not to believe.  It’s just a book with an incredible anecdote, but I tend to believe it rather than not.

My point is that God makes the rules that matter has to follow, but He is not bound by any credo not to act outside these physical rules.

Life is magic, or “magic” if you prefer.  Life is a matter of the Spirit, which supersedes the material, which actually brought the material into being in the first place.  Life itself is magic compared to the physical world.  One can try to explain it away as the workings energy and randomness controlled and responding to the laws of physics, as we currently obliquely understand them, and as such is even destined to be.  But Life itself is not restricted to man’s current understanding or philosophy of physics.  But what of the incorporeal?  A materialist explains that consciousness is the result of, is produced by, physical laws and chance over time.  How then does a materialist explain his own consciousness; and moreover, how does he explain his awareness of and acceptance of my consciousness, which he can’t test for apart from his own perceptions?  What does he really believe about the nature of the universe?  But to believe that the modern conceptions of the creation of the universe can be proven by modern experimentation and theorizing, and moreover will likely be understood by human minds some day, is a level of faith comparable to the faith in the non-material, the spiritual, realm of existence.

If you believe only in the material, the provable here and now, then you can’t believe in the Resurrection.  If you can’t believe in that which defies the material world, then you can’t believe in God.  If you don’t believe Jesus can be both fully God and fully man, a logical paradox, how can you believe in anything that isn’t easily parsed and understood?  The human mind is not all-knowing, and never will be in this life.

In short, if you don’t, or can’t, believe in the resurrection of the dead, apart from some completely unknown physical and material means — if you can only believe in that which is possible according to modern thinking, then you can’t believe in God.  And if you don’t believe Jesus is both God and man, then you can’t be believing in God.  For to be saved you must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that God raised him from the dead.

Life is more than bread.

 

 

 

Oppression Olympics: Biden vs. Carter

 

Say what you will about Jimmy Carter, he and his large congressional Democratic Party majorities acted strongly to counter Brezhnev’s doctrinal intervention (invasion) of a peripheral Soviet client state, Afghanistan, while the Biden regime and his bare radical congressional social Democrat Party majorities are doing all they can to empower Xi’s ongoing genocide, to be followed by intervention (invasion) in “Taiwan, China.” The Democrats do so, both directly and by empowering the current Russian czar in his long campaign to reestablish the pre-1990 Russian imperial borders first established by Stalin, the Red Czar. Sadly, there are self-professed republicans, supposed liberty-lovers, who are also enabling the twin towers of 20th Century oppression to advance in the current era. This is especially bitter as the left’s advance in this country now appears to have reached another high water mark, short of forever truly fundamentally transforming America.

President Carter acted quickly against Czar Brezhnev’s Russian invasion of Afghanistan. In 1979, Czar Brezhnev sent Russian elite troops and armored columns south into Afghanistan, a move far beyond that any Russian imperial army made through the entire Great Game between the Russian and British empires. In response, President Carter, with the support of overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, launched an ultimately effective set of countermoves, using the tools of national power other than direct U.S. military power.

In 1980, the Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the Senate by an almost filibuster proof majority, while they continued their complete domination of the House of Representatives, by almost 2 to 1. The Democrats were on the side of the Communists in our own hemisphere, supporting the Sandinistas and their Soviet proxy advisors after the successful 1979 take-over of Nicaragua. Indeed, the Democrats tried to criminalize Reagan’s efforts to effective counter the communists in our own hemisphere, ending in the Iran-Contra gambit.

Then, as now, a Democrat administration and Congress did nothing before the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, worrying about not poking the Russian bear. This weak posture and misunderstanding, at best, of Russian imperial calculations invited the same response we had seen in the 1930s. Yet, Carter and his liberal Democratic Congress did effectively respond, leading to a decade-long struggle ending in complete Russian withdrawal.

Yet, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, later that same year, on the flank of newly radicalized Iran and the oil-rich Middle East, and pointing towards Pakistan, a U.S. Cold War ally, and India, a non-aligned nation, triggered a very different response. Carter, with the support of Congress, launched a diplomatic, economic, and military response. He shocked and angered the farming states with a boycott of grain exports to Russia, threatened all U.S. athletes with loss of their passports if they dared travel to Russia for the 1980 Summer Olympics, and used the CIA to train and equip Afghan tribal forces, making Russian operations far harder. While Stingers, shoulder launched surface-to-air missiles were not seen in Afghanistan until the mid 1980s, this new technology was not available in 1980.

Today, ex-Vice President Biden and the radical bare Democratic majorities in Congress are green-lighting Emperor Xi’s ongoing genocide, while clearing the way for Czar Putin’s next stage of Russian imperial re-expansion. Consider each of the three prongs of Carter’s response in turn.

President Carter led a successful massive multi-national boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

Some governments, like those of Great Britain and Australia, supported the boycott, but allowed the athletes to decide for themselves whether to go to Moscow. No such freedom of choice was allowed U.S. athletes, as Carter threatened to revoke the passport of any athlete who tried to travel to the USSR. In the end, 67 nations did not participate, with 45 to 50 of these nations likely being absent because of the U.S.-led boycott. Eighty nations did participate—the lowest number since 1956.

Today, the Biden regime has green-lit U.S. athletes’ participation and done nothing to pressure any other nation to withdraw from the 2022 Winter Olympics. They have applied no pressure to NBC, busy promoting the games as a cash cow, while carefully avoiding mentioning China in the advance ads, only including the branding badge at the end:

The current Democrat regime publicly disavows any real boycott of Emperor Xi’s games, only checking a token diplomatic box:

The Biden administration insists it never intended to marshal an international diplomatic boycott coalition akin to President JIMMY CARTER’s 65-country alliance that supported a full boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union subsequently rallied 14 countries to join a counter-boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“We were not and are not coordinating a global campaign regarding participation at the Olympics [and] that was not and is not our intention or goal,” a senior administration official told China Watcher via email. “We did consult with allies and partners and informed them of our decision before we made it public, but again, we were not urging anyone to take specific actions [and] we always fully expected other countries to make their own decisions on their own timelines, and that is exactly what is playing out now.”

President Carter shocked American agribusiness and important states with his executive action embargoing grain exports to Russia. Consider the U.S. Wheat Association’s response:

As a new decade and a new future for wheat export market development dawned in January 1980, the urgency facing the wheat-producer boards of both Great Plains Wheat and Western Wheat Associates could not have been much greater.

They were under the strain of discussions and negotiations for months in the effort to merge the two existing regional wheat market development groups into one, single national association. Then, on January 4, these farmer leaders and all U.S. wheat producers sat in disbelief hearing President Jimmy Carter address the nation and summarily cancel 17 million metric tons (MMT) of existing wheat, corn and soybean sales contracts between U.S. exporters and the former USSR. That was 17 MMT of production that had already been grown and harvested and scheduled for movement by truck, barge, rail car and ocean vessels through the U.S. grain export system; 17 MMT of system revenue, margins and farmers’ annual income – all cancelled.

By contrast, the Biden regime has spent the past year downplaying the Chinese threat and reversing President Trump’s prosecution hold on a top Chinese Huawai official, while continuing limited, ineffective targeted sanctions. By weakening the U.S. economy and ending energy independence, even energy dominance, the Biden regime is giving the Chinese empire decisive control, with their current dominance of rare resources needed to make solar panels and batteries.

We cannot compare covert military support between 1980 and 2022, because we acknowledge that Xi is acting within his own borders against non-Han ethnic groups. There is not chance of successfully inserting agents and even small arms with ammunition into China. Any attempt would be catastrophic for the people we were supposed to be helping.

Just as the Biden regime and bare congressional majorities seem determined to make us more dependent on China for our energy and economic future, so to they have aggressively promoted Russian regime wealth by canceling a major U.S. pipeline and attacking coal, oil, and gas development at every turn. This is in the context of earlier, ongoing Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. The Democrat regime has even effectively canceled a new pipeline from Israel to Europe. The one gas pipeline Democrats have supported is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, intended to facilitate Russia’s reconquest of Eastern Europe. Russia limited its invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and then launched the Nord Stream 2 project. The risk Russia and German faced in 2014 was that Ukrainian patriots would destroy the pipelines that fund Czar Putin’s regime and allow Germans to pretend Green climate change virtue, shutting down nuclear power and phasing out coal power generation. By completing Nord Stream 2, Russia and Germany are on the verge of eliminating the ability of Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans to resist.

This disastrous development started with the Biden regime’s assertion of an executive waiver to 2018 bipartisan legislation sanctioning support of Nord Stream 2. Then, the Senate Democrats, in the same week they denounced the filibuster as a Jim Crow relic, used the filibuster to stop passage of legislation stopping Biden’s interpretation of the sanctions law. Indeed, Senators Manchin and Sinema voted with Schumer to kill the Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill. Six of the most vulnerable Democrats got passes to vote for the bill, and the moral idiot Rand Paul claimed muh principles to vote against a bill designed to stop Russian imperial expansion by preventing direct energy delivery and so money transfer between the Russian empire and its wealthy partners in Western Europe.

Six Democratic senators – Mark Kelly of Arizona, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Mastro of Nevada – voted to support the legislation.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) switched their votes from “aye” to “no” while the roll call was in progress.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the only Republican to vote “no.” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) was not present to vote due to a recent COVID-19 diagnosis.

A week after the Senate Democrats and Rand Paul stopped real preventive action, Joe Biden greenlighted some sort of invasion. He revealed, over the course of a press conference where friendly reporters repeatedly tried to save him, a whole series of weaknesses in the facade of after-the-fact sanctions. Judge for yourself:

[Biden:] How about Jen Epstein, Bloomberg?

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you. Your top foreign policy advisors have warned that Russia is now ready to attack Ukraine. But there’s still little unity among European allies about what a package of sanctions against Moscow would look like. If the U.S. and NATO aren’t willing to put troops on the line to defend Ukraine and American allies can’t agree on a sanctions package, hasn’t the U.S. and the West lost nearly all of its leverage over Vladimir Putin?

And given how ineffective sanctions have been in deterring Putin in the past, why should the threat of new sanctions give him pause?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, because he’s never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed if he moves, number one.

Number two, we’re in a situation where Vladimir Putin is about to — we’ve had very frank discussions, Vladimir Putin and I. And the idea that NATO is not going to be united, I don’t buy. I’ve spoken to every major NATO leader. We’ve had the NATO-Russian summit. We’ve had other — the OSCE has met, et cetera.

And so, I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera.

But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further ingra- — invade Ukraine, and that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe costs and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy.

And, you know, we’re going to fortify our NATO Allies, I told him, on the eastern flank — if, in fact, he does invade. We’re going to — I’ve already shipped over $600 million worth of sophisticated equipment, defensive equipment to the Ukrainians.

The cost of going into Ukraine, in terms of physical loss of life, for the Russians, they’ll — they’ll be able to prevail over time, but it’s going to be heavy, it’s going to be real, and it’s going to be consequential.

In addition to that, Putin has — you know, has a stark choice: He — either de-escalation or diplomacy; confrontation or the consequences.

And, look, I think you’re going to see — for example, everybody talks about how Russia has control over the energy supply that Europe absorbs. Well, guess what? That — that money that they earn from that makes about 45 percent of the economy. I don’t see that as a one-way street. They go ahead and cut it off — it’s like my mother used to say: “You bite your nose off to spite your face.” It’s not like they have all these wonderful choices out there.

I spoke with the Prime Minister of Finland. And, you know, we’re talking about concern on the part of Finland and Sweden about what Russia is doing. The last thing that Russia needs is Finland deciding to change its status. They didn’t say they’re going to do that, but they’re talking about what, in fact, is going on and how outrageous Russia is being.

I am sure the Finns really want confrontation with a resurgent Russia. What “status” change could Finland adopt that would have any effect on Russia?

We’re finding ourselves in a position where I believe you will see that there’ll be severe economic consequences. For example, anything that involves dollar denominations, if they make — if they invade, they’re going to pay; they’re not going — their banks will not be able to deal in dollars.

So, they will just wash their billions through London and the European Central Bank, as they already do to a great extent.

So there’s — a lot is going to happen.

But here’s the thing: My conversation with Putin — and we’ve been — how can we say it? We have no problem understanding one another. He has no problem understanding me, nor me him. And the direct conversations where I pointed out — I said, “You know, you’ve occupied, before, other countries. But the price has been extremely high. How long? You can go in and, over time, at great loss and economic loss, go in and occupy Ukraine. But how many years? One? Three? Five? Ten? What is that going to take? What toll does that take?” It’s real. It’s consequential.

The terrain in Ukraine is nothing like Afghanistan, there are far more agents in place, and Russian imperial forces have detailed knowledge of the natural and human geography. Further, the Russians successfully conquered the current territory of Ukraine in 1922, and kept it a subject state within the USSR phase of the Russian empire, only giving up control in 1991. The costs of that long domination were almost entirely paid in the blood and tears of Ukrainians, not Russians, so this is an especially empty claim by Biden.

So, this is not all just a cakewalk for Russia.

Militarily, they have overwhelming superiority, and on — as it relates to Ukraine. But they’ll pay a stiff price — immediately, near term, medium term, and long term — if they do it.

Umm — I’m sorry. Okay. David Sanger, New York Times.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to follow up on your answer there about Russia and Ukraine. When you were in Geneva in June, you said to us, about President Putin, “I think the last thing…he wants now is a Cold War.”

Now, since then, of course, you’ve seen him gather these troops — 100,000 troops — around Ukraine. Your Secretary of State said today he thought he could invade at any moment. You’ve seen the cyberattacks. And you’ve seen the demand that he have a sphere of influence in which you would withdraw all American troops and nuclear weapons from what used to be the Soviet bloc.

So, I’m wondering if you still think that the last thing he wants is a Cold War. And has your view of him changed in the past few months? And if it has and he does invade, would your posture be to really move back to the kind of containment policy that you saw so often when you were still in the Senate?

THE PRESIDENT: The answer is that I think he still does not want any full-blown war, number one.

Number two, do I think he’ll test the West, test the United States and NATO as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will. But I think he’ll pay a serious and dear price for it that he doesn’t think now will cost him what it’s going to cost him. And I think he will regret having done it.

Now, whether or not — I think that — how can I say this in a public forum? I think that he is dealing with what I believe he thinks is the most tragic thing that’s happened to Mother Russia — in that the Berlin Wall came down, the Empire has been lost, the Near Abroad is gone, et cetera. The Soviet Union has been split.

Here Biden acknowledges the fundamental Russian motivation some on the Right studiously ignore. This is not about reestablishing a communist USSR. It is all about reestablishing the greatness of the Russian empire achieved by the Red Czar, Stalin then lost by Gorbachov. It is simultaneously true that Putin has criticized the conduct of the Soviet communists and that he promotes the celebration of Stalin as a national hero. Putin has consistently pointed to the fall of the USSR, with its captive “republics” and puppet East European Warsaw Pact states, as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the twentieth century.

But think about what he has. He has eight time zones, a burning tundra that will not freeze again naturally, a situation where he has a lot of oil and gas, but he is trying to find his place in the world between China and the West.

And so, I’m not so sure that he has — David, I’m not so sure he has — is certain what he’s going to do. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something.

And, by the way, I’ve indicated to him — the two things he said to me that he wants guarantees of it: One is, Ukraine will never be part of NATO. And two, that NATO, or the — there will not be strategic weapons stationed in Ukraine. Well, we could work out something on the second piece (inaudible) what he does along the Russian line as well — or the Russian border, in the European area of Russia.

On the first piece, we have a number of treaties internationally and in Europe that suggest that you get to choose who you want to be with. But the likelihood that Ukraine is going to join NATO in the near term is not very likely, based on much more work they have to do in terms of democracy and a few other things going on there, and whether or not the major allies in the West would vote to bring Ukraine in right now.

So there’s room to work if he wants to do that. But I think, as usual, he’s going to — well, I probably shouldn’t go any further. But I think it will hurt him badly.

Q Mr. President, it sounds like you’re offering some way out here — some off-ramp. And it sounds like what it is, is — at least in the informal assurance — that NATO is not going to take in Ukraine anytime in the next few decades. And it sounds like you’re saying we would never put nuclear weapons there. He also wants us to move all of our nuclear weapons out of Europe and not have troops rotating through the old Soviet Bloc.

Do you think there’s space for there as well?

THE PRESIDENT: No. No, there’s not space for that. We won’t permanently station. But the idea we’re not going to — we’re going to actually increase troop presence in Poland, in Romania, et cetera, if in fact he moves because we have a sacred obligation in Article 5 to defend those countries. They are part of NATO. We don’t have that obligation relative to Ukraine, although we have great concern about what happens in Ukraine.

Thank you.

[…]

Okay. Alex Alper, Reuters.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to follow up briefly on a question asked by Bloomberg. You said that Russia would be “held accountable if it invades” and “it depends on what it does”; “it’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and… we end up having to fight about what to do and what not to do.”

Are you saying that a minor incursion by Russia into Ukrainian territory would not lead to the sanctions that you have threatened? Or are you effectively giving Putin permission to make a small incursion into the country?

THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) Good question. That’s how it did sound like, didn’t it?

The most important thing to do: Big nations can’t bluff, number one.

And number two, the idea that we would do anything to split NATO, which would be a — have a profound impact on one of — I think prominent impact — on one of Putin’s objectives is to weaken NATO — would be a big mistake.

So, the question is: If it’s a — something significantly short of a significant invasion — or not even significant, just major military forces coming across — for example, it’s one thing to determine that if they continue to use cyber efforts, well, we can respond the same way, with cyber.

They have FSB people in Ukraine now trying to undermine the solidarity within Ukraine about Russia and to try to promote Russian interest. But it’s very important that we keep everyone in NATO on the same page. And that’s what I’m spending a lot of time doing. And there are differences. There are differences in NATO as to what countries are willing to do depending on what happens — the degree to which they’re able to go.

And I want to be clear with you: The serious imposition of sanctions relative to dollar transactions and other things are things that are going to have a negative impact on the United States, as well as a negative impact on the economies of Europe as well, and a devastating impact on Russia. And so, I got to make sure everybody is on the same page as we move along.

I think we will, if there’s something that is — that — where there’s Russian forces crossing the border, killing Ukrainian fighters, et cetera — I think that changes everything. But it depends on what he does, as to the exact — to what extent we’re going to be able to get total unity on the Rus- — on the NATO front.

[…]

Okay. Kristen, NBC.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Very quickly on Russia — I do have a number of domestic policy issues, but I’m — on Russia very quickly: It seemed like you said that you have assessed, you feel as though he will move in. Has this administration, have you determined whether President Putin plans to invade or move into Ukraine, as you’ve said?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, the only thing I’m confident of is that decision is totally, solely, completely a Putin decision. Nobody else is going to make that decision; no one else is going to impact that decision. He’s making that decision.

And I suspect it matters which side of the bed he gets up on in the morning as to exactly what he’s going to do. And I think it is not irrational, if he wanted to, to talk about dealing with strategic doctrine and dealing with force structures in Europe and in — in the European parts of Russia.

But I don’t know if he’s decided he wants to do that or not. So far, in the three meetings we’ve had — OSCE and –anyway — have not produced anything because the impression I get from my Secretary of State, my National Security Advisor, and my other senior officials that are doing these meetings is that there’s a question of whether the people they’re talking to know what he’s going to do.

So, the answer is — but based on a number of criteria as to what he could do — for example, for him to move in and occupy the whole country, particularly from the north, from Belarus, it’s — he’s going to have to wait a little bit until the ground is frozen so he can cross.

To move in a direction where he wants to talk about what’s going — we — we have — we’re continuing to provide for defense capacities to the — to the Ukrainians. We’re talking about what’s going on in both the Baltic and the Black Sea, et cetera. There’s a whole range of things that I’m sure he’s trying to calculate how quickly he can do what he wants to do and what does he want to do.

But I — he’s not — he’s an informed individual. And I’m sure — I’m not sure — I believe he’s calculating what the immediate, short-term, and the near-term, and the long-term consequences of Russia will be. And I don’t think he’s made up his mind yet.

Q No, no, I’m — I’m going to take care.

Mr. President, thank you. Sebastian Smith from AFP. Another question on Ukraine. Ukraine borders four NATO member countries. How concerned are you? Are you concerned that a real conflagration in Ukraine — if the Russians really go in there — that it could suck in NATO countries that are on the border and you end up with an actual NATO-Russia confrontation of some kind?

And, secondly, are you entertaining the thought of a summit with Vladimir Putin as a way to perhaps try and put this whole thing to bed, address their concerns, and negotiate a way out of this?

THE PRESIDENT: The last part — to the last question, yes. When we talked about whether or not we’d (inaudible) the three meetings we talked about. And we talked about: We would go from there, if there was reason to, to go to a summit. We talked about a summit as being before the Ukraine item came up in terms of strategic doctrine and what the strategic relationship would be. So, I still think that is a possibility, number one.

Number two, I am very concerned. I’m very concerned that this could end up being — look, the only war that’s worse than one that’s intended is one that’s unintended. And what I’m concerned about is this could get out of hand — very easily get out of hand because of what you said: the borders of the — of Ukraine and what Russia may or may not do.

I am hoping that Vladimir Putin understands that he is — short of a full-blown nuclear war, he’s not in a very good position to dominate the world. And so, I don’t think he thinks that, but it is a concern. And that’s why we have to be very careful about how we move forward and make it clear to him that there are prices to pay that could, in fact, cost his country an awful lot.

But I — of course, you have to be concerned when you have, you know, a nuclear power invade — this has — if he invades — it hasn’t happened since World War Two. This will be the most consequential thing that’s happened in the world, in terms of war and peace, since World War Two.

So, NATO allies are divided, they and the U.S. do not want to engage in open war, Putin is assumed to be able to both conquer and hold Ukraine for many years, and as long as the divided allies and the U.S. can claim the invasion is only a “limited incursion,” or one limited incursion after another, than we will do nothing of any substance, especially if any action might hurt our own wallets and cause domestic re-election problems. Or do you read this otherwise?

If America shows itself ineffective in both unilateral and coordinated deterrence (remember the Cold War) and response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, what is Xi to conclude about Taiwan? If Biden cannot even summon our Winter Olympians to the White House to break the bad news and lay down the law, as Carter did 42 years ago, what real measure with a real effect will Democrats take against the imperial ambitions of Xi or Putin?

On ‘Surrendering’ Without Giving Up

 

A Response to Susan Quinn on Her Post “If They Try Harder, Do We Roll Over?”

My title sounds oxymoronic, I know. But perhaps my favorite Catholic convert, G.K. Chesterton, was entranced by the seeming paradoxes of the faith that turn out to be simultaneously true — Christ is fully God and fully man (the hypostatic union). God is one in three persons (the holy trinity as a communion of love). My little paradox isn’t anything as profound, but I contend it is possible to both “surrender” and to not give up.

Here’s the comment that Susan asked to be clarified:

Western Chauvinist 

@WesternChauvinist

David Foster (View Comment):
Few would have been willing to bet on Britain’s survival

Did it survive, though? Britain is our family’s favorite overseas travel destination. But, it has a museum quality to it. Very pleasant to visit, lots of interesting history, charming villages and pastoral scenes. But, the people are not what they were, I’m fairly certain. And I think the same can be said about Americans. We’re an exhausted civilization. Prosperity, acedia, and godlessness have altered the American character.

I don’t think I’ve “given up.” I prefer to call it acceptance — or even surrender to the will of God. I will continue to tell the truth about the life issues, about the impossibility of same-sex marriage, about the psychosis of gender and race ideology, about the beneficence of the American founding based very much on Judeo-Christian principles and the necessity of a religious people to uphold them. And I expect someday I may end up in the gulag for speaking the truth, but I won’t stop. I can’t. That would be giving up. But, I also think I’m pretty powerless to have much of an effect on the national trajectory. I certainly don’t see same-sex “marriage” being undone even though it is immensely destructive to the family and feeds the gender insanity.

I also can’t waste my life worrying about tomorrow. We’ve learned that through intense trials — take it a little bit at a time. And as Prager says in one of his jingles, if nothing’s horrific, life is terrific. We have it so good. We should appreciate it while it lasts.

I’ve repeated the story of our traumas and trials with our daughters’ past and ongoing serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions often enough that you don’t need to hear them again. But the lessons we’ve taken away might be worth reviewing:

  1. You are not in control. Control is a delusion we practice to make ourselves feel better about our mortality.
  2. Your life is not about you. It’s about the ripples affecting other people’s lives by the choices you make.
  3. Faith is trust in God. Trust that his will is always for the good, even when you’re suffering and can’t explain it or see the ends he intends. Think Job.

In answer to Susan’s question in her post, I refer you to the latest Imprimis article by Larry Arnn, Ph.D., president of Hillsdale College, titled “The Way Out.” The whole read is worth your time, but I will attempt to briefly summarize.

Arnn reviews how it is we’ve gotten to the precipice of tyranny:

  1. Build a massive, complex, unaccountable rule-making bureaucracy with powers over most of the national resources.
  2. Capture the media composed of people educated by the same universities that promoted the creation of No. 1 who will advance the preferred narrative (lies).
  3. Enlist the aid of “big” business, whose executives were also educated as in No. 1 and No. 2 and who benefit by playing along with the regulators and contributing to the campaigns of the “right” people.
  4. Find any excuse (COVID) for the executive within crucial swing states to change the voting rules and practices (contra the Constitution, which requires the state legislatures to do so) during a contentious election cycle to put a thumb on the scales for your preferred ideology candidate.
  5. Nationalize public education such that credentialing and content comes from committees of ideologically approved “experts.”

And on that last point about “experts,” Arnn turns again to his own area of expertise, Winston Churchill:

Any elaborate system of government must have a justification, and the justification of this one cannot simply be that those in the ruling class are entitled on the basis of their superiority. That argument went away with the divine right of kings. No, for the current ruling class, the justification is science. The claim of bureaucratic rule is a claim of expertise—of technical or scientific knowledge about everything. Listen to Fauci on Face the Nation, dismissing his critics in Congress as backward reactionaries. When those critics disagree with him, Fauci said recently, “They’re really criticizing science because I represent science. That’s dangerous.”

The problem with this kind of thinking was pointed out by a young Winston Churchill in a letter to the writer H.G. Wells in 1901. Churchill wrote:

Nothing would be more fatal than for the government of states to get into the hands of the experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge: and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man who knows only what hurts is a safer guide, than any vigorous direction of a specialised character. Why should you assume that all except doctors, engineers, etc. are drones or worse? . . . If the Ruler is to be an expert in anything he should be an expert in everything; and that is plainly impossible.

Churchill goes on to argue that practical judgment is the capacity necessary to making decisions. And practical judgment, he writes in many places, is something that everyone is capable of to varying degrees. Everyone, then, is equipped to guide his own life in the things that concern mainly himself.

In the second half of his article, Arnn addresses how to defeat a rising despotism by telling the story of a multigeneration family-owned restaurant in Jonesville, just north of Hillsdale, and owner Mitch Spangler’s struggles to keep it running during Michigan’s draconian lockdowns. He also discusses the parents of Loudon County, Virginia, who have a conflict with the school board over critical race theory and transgender lunacy leading to the rape of one of their daughters in the high school bathroom by a “gender fluid” repeat offender. And this is where Arnn’s piece and my post overlap.

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once purported to have said (paraphrasing): You can’t save the world, but you can do what’s in front of you. My comment about surrendering to God’s will but not giving up goes directly to this point. No, you can’t always know God’s will or why he allows you to suffer (persecution for your religious, moral, and/or political beliefs in a failing former republic, for example), but you can trust that he has a plan and that you fit into it in the time and place and circumstances you find yourself in. And while you can’t save the republic, you can take care of what’s in front of you, whether it’s your family business, your children’s education, or contributing to your friends’ and neighbors’ well-being. Those are causes we should never give up on, no matter how crazy and upside down the world gets. If we trust God, tell the truth, and do what’s in front of us, we’re doing the best anyone not in the ruling class can do.

Today’s Random Thought

 

A memory struck me today. A memory of a fear I used to have. I don’t have it anymore. Perhaps I have outgrown it? Perhaps I have accepted it? I don’t really know. The me who had this fear would know, but that’s part and parcel of youth.

This was a fear that I carried with me through much of my early to mid 20s. It would recur occasionally through my late 20s, but now, in my mid 40s, I’ve never even thought of or even remembered it until today.

The fear, I had literal nightmares of this fear. Thoughts of this scenario would penetrate my thoughts in idle moments or times of self-reflection. Today, as this memory returned to me unprompted, I could clearly see myself, a younger, heavier version of myself, walking down a tree-lined street in a city I haven’t lived in for 15 years, having to brace myself because of the fear worming its way into my thoughts as I walked from my office to a grocery store to buy snacks to watch that Saturday afternoon’s football games.

The fear was that I would somehow suffer an injury from which I would completely recover physically. However, the injury would take away my intelligence. And still, however, it would leave me with a full memory of having had intelligence.

It’s an odd memory to have today as I think of the figurative fog I feel like I have been living in recently. How I have to force myself to concentrate on all but the most mundane tasks at work. How it is physically tiring to concentrate on anything remotely complex and interconnected these days.

Monoclonal Antibodies and FDA Emergency Use

 

Since again the “news” media do such a terrible job of reporting facts, I’m turning to the knowledgeable people of Ricochet.

Is the monoclonal antibody treatment for which the Food and Drug Administration recently revoked emergency-use authorization the only monoclonal antibody treatment that was available to the public? In other words, did the FDA’s revocation stop all monoclonal antibody treatments for people who get COVID-19 or only some? The news media is interested only in reporting the politicians yelling at each other, not on any underlying facts.

I had been hearing many anecdotal stories about favorable results from monoclonal antibody treatments. Among the anecdotes, two friends of mine who recently (two weeks ago) tested positive for COVID-19 received monoclonal antibody treatments, and their conditions immediately improved significantly. Of course, the experience of two of my friends is not scientific proof of anything, and we can’t even be certain that the treatment caused the improvement of my two friends — though for one in particular, the coincidence of treatment and the magnitude of improvement was remarkable. Nor do I know if their treatments were the same ones for which the FDA revoked emergency-use authorization.

The closing of Florida treatment centers and accompanying yelling by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives the impression that all monoclonal antibody treatments have been stopped. But maybe Florida was using only one version, the version that was the subject of the FDA action.

I admit that I come into this discussion with a bias, as it seems to me that the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are focused on vaccines for COVID-19 and are generally opposed to (or at least uninterested in) finding treatments for those who become infected. That anti-treatment bias may not be true, but abruptly revoking the emergency-use authorization of monoclonal antibodies without much further detailed explanation provides fuel for the speculation that the agencies are anti-treatment. More information on the scope of the FDA’s action would help the not-medically-trained me evaluate what’s going on.

So, did the FDA’s revocation of emergency-use authorization for monoclonal antibody treatments apply to only some treatments or to all of the monoclonal antibody treatments that people had been getting? Do people who have COVID-19 still have an option to receive monoclonal antibody treatment, or are all options to receive monoclonal antibody treatment off the table?

The King of Stuff is back after surviving Omicron. Jon does a news wrap-up chatting about the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, looks at the nomination battle ahead, then covers every other story in the news, including Russia moving in on Ukraine, Neil Young vs. Spotify, the Democrats vs. Themselves. Subscribe to the King of Stuff Spotify playlist featuring picks from the show. This week, Jon recommends “I Found the F” by Broadcast.

You can listen to Jon’s new show on Callin, “The Nightcap,” here.

Quote of the Day: Spreading the Light

 

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” — Edith Wharton

We all probably know people who are the life of the party: they are enormously clever, funny, and bright, bringing everyone to uproarious laughter. They seem to be naturals, able to engage in an intimate yet dramatic way. I am in awe of the way they seem to reach people effortlessly, drawing in all of us with a poignant or silly story.

I had a friend named Jim who was like that. He was satisfied to listen to others, but when he turned on his charm, he seemed to be surrounded by an aura that lit his path and drew everyone to him. We talked about it once, and he said that this particular gift could be a burden and a blessing. It was a blessing when he was in the mood to be the life of the party; but it was a burden when people expected him to turn on his light on their demand. He said, without arrogance, that he was a moth that drew others to his flame.

I am not, and will never be, that kind of person; it is a life that is best suited to extroverts, people who like to engage often with others and be center stage. For people like me, it takes far too much energy to “be the candle”; instead, I prefer to be the mirror that reflects its light.

There are many ways to describe this metaphor of the candle and the mirror. For me, it means being a person for people who “seek out the light,” or a way to clarify their own ideas. I enjoy being a sounding board, sharing what I know when I’m asked, and engaging in discussion when the topic demands deeper investigation. I appreciate the opportunity to not only reflect on others’ ideas, but to hold up the mirror to the ideas they provide for me. The rare times I am the candle is when I think a topic requires a challenge, an exploration of its merits, and then I am willing to take center stage. But I dislike feeling compelled to behave in this way; it saps me of energy and is often unappreciated.

So, when people stand on their soapboxes and demand to be heard, I often walk away. They are uninterested in exploring the subtleties of the light they are trying to shine; they prefer to overwhelm you with their brightness, and there is little room for diving deeply for understanding. Instead, I prefer people who share my goal of reflecting the gentle luminosity for each other, and being the mirror for each other’s ideas.

That is where human flourishing takes place.

Leftists Used to Be Anti-establishment. Now They Are the Establishment.

 

Joe Rogan and Neil Young have a lot in common. Both were born outside the United States: Young in Toronto, Canada, and Rogan in Newark, New Jersey. Both come from broken homes, raised by mothers who moved around a lot under difficult financial circumstances. Neil Young dropped out of high school, and Joe Rogan dropped out of college, but both have shown an interest in philosophy and politics. They’ve both been very successful in the entertainment industry, and are both now very famous and very wealthy. Like nearly everyone else in that industry, they are both life-long leftists. Both of them voted for Bernie Sanders in the last primary.

Despite all their similarities in backgrounds, careers, accomplishments, and politics, Neil Young so despises Joe Rogan that he refuses to allow his music to be distributed on Spotify unless they drop Mr. Rogan’s podcast: “They can have Rogan or Young, but not both” he has declared in a letter to his management team and record label. One wonders how he generates so much hatred for someone with whom he shares so much in common.

As you might have guessed, what angered Mr. Young was related to the most important political phenomenon of the past 20 years or so: COVID-19. It’s not so much that Mr. Rogan took a different approach toward COVID-19 than Mr. Young did – Young probably doesn’t care what medications other people take. But rather it was that Mr. Rogan had the temerity to allow a physician to come on his show and discuss opinions on this matter with which Mr. Young does not agree. It was the open discussion of ideas that enraged him.

Mr. Young seeks to cancel the exchange of ideas which he does not share and to punish any platform that allows for civil debate between differing viewpoints.

Mr. Young agrees with Mr. Rogan’s politics. That is a very important point.

But he cannot tolerate Mr. Rogan’s tendency to engage in independent thought and to allow others to do the same. If Mr. Rogan had kept his independent thoughts to himself, Mr. Young could probably turn the other way. But when Mr. Rogan came out of the closet as an independent thinker (even though he generally agrees with Mr. Young), that is when Mr. Young felt the need to publicly destroy him.

The fact that this does not shock the media and my leftist friends is terrifying to me. Where is the deafening condemnation from his fellow liberals in the entertainment industry – what happened to “Question Authority?” Where are the screaming headlines from CNN and The New York Times?

’60s ICON PROMOTES FREE LOVE BUT NOT FREE THOUGHT
Neil Young was once anti-establishment. Now he IS the establishment.
And he doesn’t like being questioned.
Fellow ’60s liberals scratching heads at recent tyrannical power play.

Any leftist who doesn’t loudly condemn this sort of thing is telling you all you need to know about their true intentions.

Leftists don’t believe in freedom, open debate, or individual liberties.

If you don’t believe me, go ask Neil Young.

Actually, you don’t have to go ask him. He’s already told you.

You should listen to him.

Obvious Symbolisms: Awls in Ears

 

When you acquire a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; in the seventh year he shall go free, without payment. … But if the servant declares, “I love my master, and my wife and children: I do not wish to go free,” his master shall take him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall then remain his servant for life.

When we read this, we first think of piercing an ear, or a permanent change to a person because they choose servitude over freedom. But there is more provocative meaning in just this one verse alone.

For starters, we are talking about someone who chooses servitude over freedom. We used to think such a choice would be rare, or at least unlikely. But we see in the safety-first culture around us a great many people who would rather have a secure life where they are told what to do, rather than have to make their own decisions, suffer their own consequences, and deal with the vagaries of risk. The decision to remain a servant does not seem quite as unusual as it did before Covid.

But think further on the imagery: piercing the ear of the servant says that the servant will listen to his master forevermore. Freedom means choosing what we want to hear, making decisions based on weighing inputs from different sources. Piercing that ear means that the servant no longer has to weigh different options: he listens to his master.

The door or doorpost in use is that of the servant’s master’s home. Impaling the ear into the doorpost tells us that the servant’s blood is being infused into the symbolism of that door: the physical structure of the home as well as the spiritual structure of that particular family. The servant is choosing to become, for the rest of his life, part of what constitutes the structure that protects and houses the family within.

Going further: the word for “doorpost” is the very same one that we marked with the blood of the sheep at the Passover: identifying a Jewish home for the Destroyer so he would not kill the first-born within. Marking the doorpost with blood is a core identifier for the Jewish people: it advertises who we are, and what our mission on this earth is.

So to impale the servant’s ear means that the servant is identifying with that same mission, aligning himself with the sheep whose blood was used to mark the doors in Egypt. This aligns with the mezuzah (the same “doorpost” word) that Jews put on our homes, reminding us of the words of the Torah when we go out and when we come in.  Jews already constrain our lives with the mezuzah, because these scrolls are constant reminders of our shared background, and our aspirations to be G-d’s emissaries in this world.

Bringing it all together, it helps show how a servant who chooses to stay is doing more than merely choosing servitude over freedom. The symbolism tells us that the servant is choosing to be part of something greater than himself, the entire home and family within that structure, along with the mission that comes along with being part of a family dedicated to serving G-d.

[an @iwe, @susanquinn and @blessedblacksmith production]

Quote of the Day: Do the Good End Unluckily? (Great Plays and Philosophy, Part 2)

 

“The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means.” — Chief Actor in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard:

Oscar Wilde had one of his characters say, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.” That’s how Wilde plays with Plato.

And Tom Stoppard? He’s playing with Aristotle! And with Oscar Wilde. It’s a brilliant line!

In Aristotle’s description of how tragedy works in the Poetics, the bad are never allowed to get happier, and the tragic hero is better than ordinary people, but he still has to end badly. His downfall happens, in part, because of his own tragic flaw–some hamartia, some missing of the mark, some character flaw or error in judgment often involving hubris. But his downfall is not entirely his fault. It’s because of his relatively small flaw plus the unfortunate circumstances that cause his doom.

But they do cause it, and it’s not so much a matter of luck as a matter of previously unknown cause-and-effect. But, then again, what else is luck but causes unknown to us? (See Aristotle’s Physics, Book II, on that!)

And how–unnecessary spoiler alert!–do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die?  Do they die unhappily or unluckilyWikipedia calls Stoppard’s version of their story a tragicomedy, and no surprise there: The whole story is contained within the tragedy of Hamlet, and the main characters die, but it’s also pretty hilarious.

Their deaths are sort of unhappy, and sort of unlucky.

And they aren’t exactly serial murderers themselves, but I wouldn’t exactly call them good either!

And what are you supposed to do with this information? The answer is like my interpretation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: I don’t know what to do with it, but I enjoy it.

Executive Privilege: Take It Seriously

 

It has certainly been a bad week for Donald Trump in the legal arena, as his many opponents and detractors have launched multiple criminal investigations and civil lawsuits against him in New York, Georgia, and elsewhere. But his worst moment was the Supreme Court’s eight-to-one drubbing in its short decision in Trump v. Thompson. Over the lone dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas, the court refused to entertain Trump’s claim of executive privilege, relying heavily on a similar decision of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit which deferred to the House’s demand that a thorough investigation of the events that led to the Capitol riots/insurrection of January 6,, 2021, necessitated a refusal of the privilege. I think that both anti-Trump decisions are seriously in error. A visceral dislike for Donald Trump offers no grounds for making sound policy. The Supreme Court should reconsider its brief and hasty decision, which poses a genuine threat to the political stability of the presidency.

I am no Trump partisan. As early as February 2017—to much overt pushback—I asked publicly for Trump to resign for the good of the country. His divisive personality has created intolerable political confrontations, and all too often he put his enormous ego ahead of any decent conception of the public good. The (vain) hope of that exhortation was to make Mike Pence president of the United States. The plea was always tricky because contending with Trump’s multiple gyrations made it necessary to accept or reject his specific decisions under the principle of “Trump à la carte.” A man who can be deeply misguided on foreign trade and immigration nonetheless did very well, in my view, in his environmental responses to global warming and in certain key foreign policy decisions, such as moving the US embassy to the Israeli portion of Jerusalem and orchestrating the complex political deal between Israel and several Arab nations, thereby undermining the major Palestinian roadblock that had stood in the way of improved Arab-Israeli arrangements generally. So by 2020, I endorsed Trump over Joe Biden—a call that I do not regret.

Going forward, however, the nation and the Republican Party will suffer a devastating blow if an aging Donald Trump continues to harbor any pretensions for a second term. Such a nomination quest would block the emergence of younger Republican candidates and tar the party with his senseless confrontational posturing. Right now, Ron DeSantis looks like an obvious Republican front-runner, and Rich Lowry is right to exhort DeSantis to learn from some of Trump’s major shortfalls. These are not-so-subtle hints to Trump that he should gracefully step aside in the next presidential election—a suggestion he seemed to internalize by, thankfully, keeping a low profile during the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election when Republican Glenn Youngkin edged out Terry McAuliffe.

But it is one thing to oppose Trump politically. To take after him legally is quite another. I have long stated my stark opposition to the Steele dossier and the first and second Trump impeachment trials. And I hold no brief for his deeply troublesome behavior on January 6, 2021. But by the same token, it is hard to say any kind word about the January 6 commission, whose own constitutional standing has been challenged and which is accused of being as partisan as Trump himself has been. As Glenn Greenwald has noted, the committee uses its dubious claim that the episode was as dangerous as 9/11 to justify taking procedural liberties with its claims for a vast subpoena power.

When the executive privilege issue came to the Supreme Court, its members should have been on high alert—there is nothing so dangerous as one political party, acting on its own, pursuing the leader of the former political party with criminal investigations. Nonetheless, eight members of the Supreme Court wrote a short one-paragraph opinion whose major premise was to defer to the decision below by concluding that it did not have to investigate the tricky question of whether a former president is entitled to claim executive privilege for his papers that are deposited in the National Archives. Its sole reason was that it was unnecessary to look closely at the case after the Court of Appeals “had concluded that President Trump’s claims would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as a former president necessarily made no difference to the court’s decision.”

Unfortunately, that Circuit Court opinion, written by three Democratic appointees to the Court of Appeals, did not once acknowledge its troublesome political implications. At no point did the appellate judges mention the huge political divide between President Biden, who has harshly criticized Trump, and the Republican Party. Instead they took a deeply deferential approach that treated the president and the Congress as though they were dispassionate guardians of the law, notwithstanding their obvious political agenda. They wrote: “President Biden agrees with Congress that its need for the documents at issue is ‘compelling[,]’ and that it has a ‘sufficient factual predicate’ for requesting them.” There was no elaboration of this key finding, and no pushback against this argument, by asking, for example, that in this high-stakes struggle the district court judge make an independent review of the documents to see which papers should be turned over, and which not. Nor did that court suggest that the committee should keep these papers confidential until the investigation is complete and their relevance is assured.

Nor is the Circuit Court correct to list as one of the predicates for which papers should be released the fact that “President Trump directed his followers to go to the Capitol and ‘fight’ for their country with the aim of preventing Congress’s certification of the electoral vote. . . . ‘[Y]ou’ll never take back our country with weakness. * * * We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count’ certain electors.” The difficulty here is that Trump’s foolish statement is a classic form of protected speech, for as the Supreme Court held in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), even the advocacy of the use of force is punishable only when such advocacy is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” A plain reading of Trump’s full passage indicates it only urges the recount, which is not an express—or even implied—call to storm the capital by force. The exhaustive evidence gathered to date has not shown a sufficient link between Trump and the invasion, rather only a refusal to speak out more forcefully against it, which he surely should have done.

In Trump v. Mazars (2020), the Supreme Court imposed genuine restrictions on Congress’s ability to obtain Trump’s tax records pursuant to its oversight powers, even in a case where executive privilege was not invoked, as it is in Thompson. The most salient difference between Mazars and the current case is that Trump had been a sitting president, whereas today he is a former one. The Supreme Court just skirted the issue of whether the former president could invoke executive privilege to protect his documents now in the hands of the next administration. The Court of Appeals read an opinion of the US Office of Legal Counsel (the part of the Department of Justice that provides legal advice to the president and the executive branch) as giving the sitting president the power to override any claim that the former president made against the release of these documents. But the actual text (which does not seem to have been published in full) appears to suggest a difficult balancing test that could easily end in litigation: “the incumbent president ‘should respect a former president’s claim of executive privilege without judging the validity of the claim[,]’ ” leaving the “judgment regarding such a claim . . . to the judiciary in litigation between the former president and parties seeking disclosure.”

In this case a court could easily find that the balance tips to Trump insofar as the current president has authorized the release of the documents of his chief opponent. Furthermore, the supposed “compromise” between the current president and the January 6 committee over document release is just a collusive effort to expand power for partisan ends.

And the risks here are real. The Circuit Court recognized, as the Supreme Court did in Mazars, that both the congressional power of investigative oversight and the presidential claim of executive privilege are doctrines “implied” from the structure of the Constitution. So, there is surely enough play in the joints of this doctrine to recognize that the incumbent could have strong motivations to embarrass his predecessor in office in order to gain an electoral advantage.

The point of the executive privilege is to encourage candor in office between the president and his chief advisers, which cannot be obtained if the next president can strip the privilege away over these deliberations. The correct rule allows the current president to invoke the privilege on behalf of a predecessor in office, which is what Richard Nixon did when he invoked the privilege to prevent the release of the Pentagon Papers on behalf of all prior presidents. But allowing the sitting president to waive the privilege of his predecessors poses significant political risks that neither court addressed. That power, which should be carefully supervised by courts, applies only to the first tranche of papers.  It is therefore not too late for both courts to fix their earlier decision.

© 2022 by the Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University.

Democrats Oppose Replacing a Justice During an Election Year

 

In September 2020, Democratic Senators were unified: No President should nominate a Supreme Court Justice during an election year. With the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, they now face a similar dilemma. Let’s see their positions just 16 months ago.

Chuck Schumer (D–NY): “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled.”

Bob Menendez (D–NJ): “We owe the American people a voice in a decision that will shape the course of our country for generations.”Elizabeth Warren: ”Mitch McConnell and his henchmen believe that they can ram through a Supreme Court justice only 45 days from the election.”

Richard Blumenthal (D–CT): “The American people must have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice.”

Bernie Sanders (I–VT): “We should let voters decide. Period.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA): “Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave her all to us, and I will give mine to making sure the American people have their next President before her seat is filled.”

Tammy Baldwin (D–IL): “Voters across America should be allowed to cast their ballots first, before a Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process moves forward.”

Joe Manchin (D–WV): “Let the election happen and see where we go from there.”

Patrick Leahy (D–VT): “Apparently the American people do not get a voice when the White House and Senate are under the control of the same party.”

Sherrod Brown (D–OH): “We should not fill this Supreme Court vacancy until the American people have a chance to make their voices heard in this election.”

We can rest assured, Democrats will not be hypocritical and will wait until the new Senate is sworn in January 2023.

Masks on Kids? Be Angry and Enjoy the Video

 

My wife teaches grade school and middle school kids in the District of Columbia. She confides, shockingly enough, kids’ compliance with the mask mandate is not 100% all day despite endless requisite teacher hectoring. Six hours in the same room means full bio-sharing because classroom air circulation/filtration does not meet laboratory of surgical suite standards. The notion that kids’ already tiny risk from COVID is measurably further reduced by masks is untenable.

Masking kids was a grossly impractical and unscientific gesture done in service to a false narrative in which (a) we are directed to pretend that the risks from COVID are equally shared across all demographic groups and (b) that the chosen range of imposed interventions actually reduce spread. Making parents fearful enough to endorse this evil farce is also a crime.

Three and a Half Predictions About Biden’s Supreme Court Pick

 

Prediction 1: To replace retiring Justice Breyer, Biden will nominate a hard-left whackjob in the mold of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Prediction 2: Every Corporate Media outlet will describe the hard-left whackjob as a “solid, centrist, mainstream pick.” (Including Fox News.)

Prediction 3: Republican Senators Murkowski, Collins, and Romney will vote for the hard-left whackjob. Sinema and Manchin, too.

Prediction 3 and a half: The hard-left whackjob may or may not be Kamala Harris. Romney and the other DIABLOs will vote for her.

Do Republicans Need Another ‘Contract With America’ in 2022?

 

Amidst debates among Republicans, such as the extent to which the U.S. should support and defend Ukraine, this has emerged: Do congressional Republicans need a positive, pro-active agenda to run on for the 2022 midterms? You know, like the 1994 Contract With America? Will it help? Is it politically necessary?

Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, flanked by future Speaker John Boehner, outlines progress on keeping their promises from the 1994 “Contract With America.”

In December, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said he and his caucus is rolling out a “Commitment to America” over the year. It has already started with a “Parental Bill of Rights,” queuing off Governor Glenn Youngkin’s success with the issue of education with voters in the 2021 Virginia elections.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell was asked by reporters if his Conference would follow suit with a unifying legislative plan for the 2022 mid-terms as part of a strategy to capture a majority. “I’ll let you know when I take it back,” he said. Some conservatives are not happy.

Axios reported on the leaked details of a private dinner in early December involving Senators up for reelection in 2022 and major donors.

A donor asked a question that could only be answered by McConnell. According to a source in the room, the donor said something to the effect of: We all know what’s wrong with the Democrats, but what are we going to be running on to help us win?

  • McConnell’s response was something to the effect of, With all respect, that’s not what we’re doing, the source said.

McConnell has long held the view that putting out an agenda ahead of midterm elections is a mistake — at least for Senate Republicans, the sources told Axios.

  • He believes his view has been vindicated by recent history. McConnell points, in particular, to when he led Republicans to win back the Senate in the 2014 midterms without proposing an agenda.
  • Some donors and operatives point to a different memory: the “Contract with America.” House Republicans released a governing action plan before the 1994 midterm elections, and their party won back unified control of Congress for the first time in nearly 50 years.

The current House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, is a “Contract with America” guy. He’s told his colleagues he thinks it’s important they tell voters what they support — not just what they oppose.

Both have history on their side. And neither leader is wrong in their strategic approaches, even within the same election year.

It’s happened before.

Senate Republicans did not embrace the House’s “Contract With America” in 1994. There was no such agenda in 2010 or 2014 when House and Senate Republicans enjoyed significant gains and subsequent congressional majorities. In contrast, I can find no such congressional Democratic “agenda” from any of their past elections, including the 2006 and 2008 elections when they recaptured and expanded majorities in the House and Senate towards the end of the George W. Bush presidency. Democrats just ran against Bush.

Yes, Senate Republicans came up with their own agenda in 1994 after they eschewed invitations from House GOP leaders to join them in the Contract With America. Entitled “Seven More in ‘94,” it was a seven-part set of tax, budget, healthcare, and other commitments led by then-National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Phil Gramm (R-TX) and his election team. It’s hard to find, and my copy is in deep storage. It was overshadowed by the House GOP Contract. Ultimately, in retrospect, it didn’t matter much. The GOP had a great political environment and terrific candidates like famous heart-lung transplant surgeon (and future Majority Leader) Dr. Bill Frist (R-TN).

But the environment was set and bears much resemblance to this year’s election. First-term President Bill Clinton’s legislative agenda wasn’t proving very popular, including his crime bill (“midnight basketball”), his (and wife Hillary’s) failed work on their complicated universal health care plan, Clinton’s then opposition to welfare reform (he would change), and Social Security tax increases. While the Contract helped Newt lead and control his GOP Conference once they were in charge, it helped them win in 1994 remains an open question. Clinton smartly co-opted much of the agenda with his 1996 reelection in focus.

Part of the problem was that Republicans didn’t fully agree on the counter-proposals to some of the Clinton agenda, especially health care reform. Senate Republicans devised two competing bills, one led by U.S. Sen. John Chafee (R-RI) and a more market-oriented proposal by conservative U.S. Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), co-sponsored by 24 Republicans, a majority of the Conference. I’ll oversimplify by leaps and bounds, but it would have allowed you to shop for health care the way you shop now for auto insurance, with some obvious exceptions. Imagine, health insurance companies actually competing for your business, with insurance plans tailored to your needs? Radical! It remains very attractive but is now largely ignored by the current crop of congressional Republicans. LiMu Emu, call your office.

It’s a problem that plagues Republicans to this day – the inability to coalesce around a single health care reform bill (among other issues). It plagued President Donald Trump’s efforts to “repeal Obamacare.” That is one of several hurdles in developing a unifying plan by committee. And an unfriendly media will focus on both errors of commission and omission.

The late U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, then a Republican (PA) and presidential candidate, devised an organizational chart to show the complexity of President Clinton’s Health Security Act. Senate Republicans had two competing alternatives.

In 1994, Senate Republicans won 8 seats and captured two more when Democratic Senators Ben Nighthorse Campbell (C.O.) and Richard Shelby (A.L.) switched parties. Meanwhile, House Republicans won 54 seats and its first majority in 40 years. Heady times; a repeat looks likely in November 2022. Maybe including a party switcher.

There are several pros and cons about developing a “Contract With America” type proactive agenda to unify and amplify messages from candidates and incumbents.

Maybe it’s not an “either-or” proposition. Maybe you can do both.

Running on “something” versus “nothing.”

Former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett once described politics as a football game with no timeouts; either you’re on offense with the ball, driving toward the opponent’s goal line, or your opponent has the ball and driving downfield against you. Having a unifying agenda provides you with an offensive game plan.

This approach makes more sense in a House election environment than in the Senate. All House seats are up every biennial election. House candidates, especially around large media markets, have a more challenging time breaking through with messages on media – they garner less media attention in most cases than do statewide gubernatorial or senatorial elections.

However, in the Senate, only a third of the Senate seats are on the ballot every two years, and the election environments and dynamics are different in each state.

This is complicated because more and more incumbents are less worried about challenges from the other party than their own. A “unifying agenda” may be great for a general election, but for an increasing number of candidates, Democratic and Republican, getting through their primaries is the challenge. This is especially true in House races where gerrymandering has created fewer truly “swing” or competitive districts.

There is also the strategy of “nationalizing” an election. Each major party often turns to that strategy when there is an overriding national issue or environment they think will help them win or turnout voters. Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2021, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, tried that approach last year to mobilize Democratic voters. He tried to make the election about Donald Trump. It didn’t work in the face of competing headwinds over education and the economy that drove dramatically higher GOP turnout.

House and Senate leadership roles differ.

Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was a controversial firebrand when he finally won his third attempt at a suburban Atlanta congressional district in 1978. A military historian by training, the former college professor wasted little time crafting a vision, strategy, a set of tactics, and operations to do the unthinkable – lead Republicans to a majority in the House.

It took 16 years, but with help, he did it. The GOP would win a Senate majority the same year after an eight-year hiatus. But a majoritarian House, where individual House members have very little influence or power, is very different than leading a Senate Conference. Any Senator can gum up the works under the rules, either by objecting to “unanimous consent” requests – a fundamental management tool – or leading a filibuster. Neither tool exists in the House, where power is obtained through coalitions or caucuses.

While a House speaker may have more influence over committee chairmanships and agendas, a Senate floor leader is “first among equals” and must rely more heavily on persuasive powers than jamming down an agenda. While a House leader can often whip his or her troops into line, a Senate leader’s job is more akin to herding cats, or sometimes, pushing wet noodles up a wall.

Like the institutions themselves, House and Senate leaders operate very differently. As Nancy Pelosi has done, a House Speaker can jam through any bill on a simple majority. Senate leaders don’t have that luxury. It’s why some house members call the U.S. Senate a “graveyard where bills go to die.” True enough. And thank God.

Framing the attack versus offering a target

Senator McConnell understands the long game – the title of his biography – better than most. First elected in an upset Senate election in 1984 with ads crafted by Larry McCarthy and Roger Ailes, McConnell is a legendary political and legislative strategist. McConnell understands the Senate, its rules, and traditions. He knows how to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em and when to walk away or run from the legislative poker table (with apologies to the late Kenny Rogers). He’s occasionally wrong, but rarely.

And McConnell isn’t just thinking about the 2022 elections. He’s thinking about what happens afterward when he recaptures the title “Majority Leader.” He likely doesn’t want to limit options or tie them to an agenda that may not be achievable in a Senate that requires 60 votes to pass any legislative item other than budget and reconciliation bills. After all, there are elections in 2024, when presidential nominees set the agenda. Hold your horses. And 2026 is just around the corner. Forward-thinking.

House GOP leader McCarthy is also thinking about what happens after the 2022 elections. The “Commitment” will help the new Speaker keep his Conference focused and disciplined after they win a majority. The Senate’s ability to serve as a legislative graveyard (excuse me, the “cooling saucer of democracy”) frustrates both parties, but next time it will be Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer playing the role of Grim Reaper in 2023, rediscovering his lost love, the filibuster. Queue up the 2024 talking points. See how this works? History rhymes, indeed.

Senate leaders constantly talk to their colleagues, take temperatures, and figure out their wants and needs. The smart ones never get too far out front of their Conference. They know the length of their leashes. Joe Biden and Democrats have handed McConnell a target-rich environment for victory this fall. Polling clearly shows that much of the Democratic agenda and Biden’s job performance is unpopular with most Americans, including (especially) independents.

McConnell appears to have calculated that given dismal Democratic poll numbers, he doesn’t need to present a pro-active agenda to win a majority. Why offer Democrats a target? A good offense takes many forms, from advocating an agenda to attacking your opponents for theirs. Both are required and especially helpful in debates and campaign advertising. McConnell is happy to let Senate candidates do so of their own accord.

Some of McConnell’s critics may point to Gov. Youngkin’s proactive agenda in Virginia’s gubernatorial election last fall. And it served him well, drawing salient contrasts after eight years of increasing progressive if not sclerotic Democratic governance. But it wasn’t a “national” agenda – it was homegrown, all Virginia.

Youngkin’s win was as much about him and his style as a first-time outsider candidate with an attractive, optimistic, and energetic demeanor as his robust agenda. And Youngkin’s agenda derived much from Democratic mistakes, especially McAuliffe’s debate gaffe that parents shouldn’t be telling schools what they should teach. An agile Youngkin campaign pounced. References to Biden and his shameful Afghanistan surrender were made, but not emphasized.

With different dynamics, can Republicans have it both ways? Does having a pro-active agenda help them in the House, while Senate Republicans hold incumbent Democrats accountable and hoist their sails, relying on prevailing political winds? The answer, for now, appears to be yes. More from the Axios story:

Between the lines: A top GOP operative, who didn’t attend the dinner but has often heard such conversations involving McConnell, said these kinds of discussions happen regularly with the Republican leader.

  • “It happens all the time,” the source told Axios. “Donors especially are always asking for an agenda of some kind and McConnell pushes back hard. Because he knows that all it does is take the focus off unpopular Dem policies and gives Dems something tangible to tear apart.”
  • “One of the biggest mistakes challengers often make is thinking campaigns are about them and their ideas,” the source continued. “No one gives a (expletive deleted) about that. Elections are referendums on incumbents.”
  • “Challengers need to keep the focus on what incumbents promised and point out how they failed to deliver and how that has negatively impacted voters’ lives,” the source said.

The bottom line: Current polls appear to support McConnell’s political calculation.

  • By almost any measure — from President Biden’s approval rating to the generic ballot — Republicans are enjoying their best political environment for a decade.
  • They’re in this position having barely uttered a word about their plans for the future

Conservatives critical of McConnell’s strategy better channel their energy to help House Republicans develop their plan and abandon circular firing squads around the Senate.

In 2022, House and Senate Republicans may be able to have their ice cream and eat it, too.

(Disclosure: The author was Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, chaired by US Sen. Don Nickles, from 1992-1995. He was the Secretary of the US Senate during the 104th Congress, 1995-96).

ACF Goes to Hillsdale

 

Hello, Ricochet! I’ve been invited to lecture at Hillsdale on film noir this March as part of the upcoming program on the genre and its place in American culture, a program called CCA IV. I’ll be talking about the most beautiful noir ever made, Laura (1944). I know more than a few of you are connected in some way to Hillsdale and many more are admirers, so perhaps I will see some of you, or your children, there! Why should not there be a Ricochet Hillsdale meeting? Or Hillsdale Ricochet meeting, for that matter…

I leave you with the song, famously composed in a hurry by the man who wrote the music for the film, David Raksin, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, but later become a jazz standard. Here’s Sinatra’s recording from ’57.

.