Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Black lives ought to matter; and, in my opinion, they once did. They once mattered a great deal. Not long after he became mayor in New York City, Rudy Giuliani introduced a new method of policing that concentrated resources where there was a plethora of crime. It resulted in a dramatic decline in the murder rate, and Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton took notice and poured federal money into similar policing reforms. African-Americans living in rough neighborhoods were the intended beneficiaries, and they benefited a great deal.
But those days are long gone, and I do not believe that black lives much matter now. They did not matter to Barack Obama, Eric Holder, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the white radical who passed as black and founded Black Lives Matter, and to George Soros who funded the outfit. These folks were perfectly prepared to do a number on America’s African-American community and to put their lives at greater risk for the purpose of mobilizing them as a political force.
To grasp what is going on, one need only look at the data — which Heather Mac Donald did a week ago today in a brief squib posted on the website of City Journal. Here is what she wrote:
The FBI released its official crime tally for 2016 today, and the data flies in the face of the rhetoric that professional athletes rehearsed in revived Black Lives Matter protests over the weekend. Nearly 900 additional blacks were killed in 2016 compared with 2015, bringing the black homicide-victim total to 7,881. Those 7,881 “black bodies,” in the parlance of Ta-Nehisi Coates, are 1,305 more than the number of white victims (which in this case includes most Hispanics) for the same period, though blacks are only 13 percent of the nation’s population. The increase in black homicide deaths last year comes on top of a previous 900-victim increase between 2014 and 2015.
Who is killing these black victims? Not whites, and not the police, but other blacks. In 2016, the police fatally shot 233 blacks, the vast majority armed and dangerous, according to the Washington Post. The Post categorized only 16 black male victims of police shootings as “unarmed.” That classification masks assaults against officers and violent resistance to arrest. Contrary to the Black Lives Matter narrative, the police have much more to fear from black males than black males have to fear from the police. In 2015, a police officer was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was to be killed by a police officer. Black males have made up 42 percent of all cop-killers over the last decade, though they are only 6 percent of the population. That 18.5 ratio undoubtedly worsened in 2016, in light of the 53 percent increase in gun murders of officers—committed vastly and disproportionately by black males. Among all homicide suspects whose race was known, white killers of blacks numbered only 243.
Violent crime has now risen by a significant amount for two consecutive years. The total number of violent crimes rose 4.1 percent in 2016, and estimated homicides rose 8.6 percent. In 2015, violent crime rose by nearly 4 percent and estimated homicides by nearly 11 percent. The last time violence rose two years in a row was 2005–06. The reason for the current increase is what I have called the Ferguson Effect. Cops are backing off of proactive policing in high-crime minority neighborhoods, and criminals are becoming emboldened. Having been told incessantly by politicians, the media, and Black Lives Matter activists that they are bigoted for getting out of their cars and questioning someone loitering on a known drug corner at 2 AM, many officers are instead just driving by. Such stops are discretionary; cops don’t have to make them. And when political elites demonize the police for just such proactive policing, we shouldn’t be surprised when cops get the message and do less of it. Seventy-two percent of the nation’s officers say that they and their colleagues are now less willing to stop and question suspicious persons, according to a Pew Research poll released in January. The reason is the persistent anti-cop climate.
Four studies came out in 2016 alone rebutting the charge that police shootings are racially biased. If there is a bias in police shootings, it works in favor of blacks and against whites. That truth has not stopped the ongoing demonization of the police—including, now, by many of the country’s ignorant professional athletes. The toll will be felt, as always, in the inner city, by the thousands of law-abiding people there who desperately want more police protection.
The facts are clear enough. They always were. Giuliani understood them, and so did Gingrich and Clinton. But the sort of policing initiated by Giuliani and promoted by Gingrich and Clinton did have one drawback. It meant that black neighborhoods were loaded with cops, that they were apt to stop and frisk anyone who seemed as if he might be a bad actor, and that a lot of young thugs ended up in prison. The young men in the gangs hated this. It crimped their style. And many of their elders found the intrusiveness of the police an annoyance.
Obama, Holder, the members of the Black Caucus, Soros, and their minions are not stupid. They and those in the press who promoted the meme knew that the line they were peddling concerning racist policemen murdering innocent African-Americans was a baldfaced lie. But they were also aware that the new method of policing provoked resentment, and they knew that there were many in the black community who had forgotten all the damage that the bad actors had done in the past and who were unhappy with the black incarceration rate. Cynically, they played on this resentment, knowing full well what it would cost the people they were manipulating. They thought and still think as New York Times reporter Walter Duranty did when he was confronted with criticism of Josef Stalin and remarked, “If you want to make an omelet you are going to have to break a few eggs.”
It is perfectly legitimate to criticize Colin Kaepernick and those who have in recent weeks imitated his example. But let’s face it. Professional athletes are not ordinarily the brightest bulbs, and there are a fair number of thugs playing for the National Football League who resent rigorous policing for the same reason that the gang members do.
The real scoundrels are the politicians and the left-liberal moneymen who regard this country’s African-American population as cannon fodder — women and men worth sacrificing for what the former take to be the larger cause. That the black leaders are so beholden to the Democratic Party that they are willing to go along with this ploy — that really is a scandal. To get to the bottom of it, one would have to investigate the following questions: What role do the gangs play today in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore in turning out the vote for the Democratic Party? And why are the Democrats so eager in Virginia and elsewhere to enfranchise convicted felons?
I will say this for Donald Trump. He really knows how to hit a nerve. He has an instinctive understanding of wrongs swept under the carpet and of how to get those who perpetrate those wrongs to rise up and do themselves harm.
I do not personally much like his way of going about things. Schoolboy taunts seem to me childish and unpresidential, and they can be counter-effective. But let’s face it: with this weapon, he made mincemeat of his Republican opponents, and he defeated Hillary Clinton. He knows something that those of us who are more conventional do not quite get.
Every once in a while, however, I get a glimpse of what Trump is up to, and then I really am impressed. His attack on the NFL could not be more timely.
I do not have a television, but I grew up with one, and I long owned one. I have not watched any professional games for some time, but I used to watch — and what struck me about them was the way that the NFL, the NBA, and the baseball franchises wrapped themselves in the flag. Theirs was, they knew, an endeavor that brought Americans of all races, of both sexes, and of every conceivable political orientation together. For a brief moment, we put aside what divided us and celebrated our common love of excellence, and they ably exploited this fact.
In the last few years, however, ESPN and Sports Illustrated have done everything that they could to politicize sports. It is all part of a national crusade in our schools and universities and in every walk of life to demonize those who are conservative and those who are religious and to silence them. This crusade has a quasi-religious, sanctimonious character — and there are a great many Americans who strongly dislike what they are doing.
This crusade has a history, and it has a subtext. It began with Barack Obama’s campaign for the Presidency. In her stump speech, in February and March 2008, Mrs. Obama asserted that Americans are “cynical” and “mean” and have “broken souls” and that the lives “that most people are living” have “gotten progressively worse since I was a little girl.” Towards the end of his campaign in that year, her husband announced that he would “fundamentally change America,” and when he was elected he termed his administration “The New Foundation.”
Nothing about Barack Obama has ever been crystal clear. He is now and always has been a poser and an operator of the first rank. The implication, the subtext of what he said, was nonetheless clear enough. It was that there was something “fundamentally” wrong with America — that we should be assumed of the Founding, ashamed of our history, ashamed of ourselves and that a Messiah had arrived — Nancy Pelosi called him “the One” — to steer us away from our shameful heritage and set us on the right path. In keeping with this, Barack Obama persistently sought to demonize everyone who opposed his program, and the mainstream media and the administrations of our universities soon took up this theme with zest.
Ordinary folk do not much like being demonized, and Donald Trump knew better than any other Republican how to give form to their inchoate resentment. He channeled it. He stoked it — and when Hillary Clinton responded by dismissing millions of her fellow Americans as “a basket of deplorables and irredeemables,” she forfeited the election. Those Americans whom she had in mind recognized the religious tone of this language; they knew that the only proper thing to do with the irredeemable is to cast them into the outer darkness; and Donald Trump showed them the light and a path out of that darkness. Would any other Republican have had the courage? Theirs is the party of surrender, the party of the white flag.
Ronald Reagan had a way of getting his liberal opponents to shoot themselves in the foot — simply by articulating truths that everyone was forbidden to utter — that, for example, the Soviet Union was an “evil empire.” Trump has the same gift in spades. Like Reagan, he is not much liked by the Republican establishment. But that does not stop him.
The political demonstrations that we have seen on the part of players at the professional football games are a part of the crusade initiated by Barack Obama. It all began with Colin Kaepernick a bit more than a year ago. In keeping with the propensity for our professional sports teams to wrap themselves with the flag, the NFL Game Operations Manual stipulates:
The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.
During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.
Colin Kaepernik publicly, ostentatiously defied that rule. Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, has always run a tight ship. In the past, he has been quick to fine or otherwise restrain players who sought to advertise their religious beliefs, their solidarity with those killed on 9/11, and their regret that police officers had been killed in a domestic terrorist attack.
This time, however, he did nothing, and President Obama, in well-honed fashion, waded in to exploit Kaepernick’s insolent gesture: “I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat, and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing … I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody who’s lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.”
It was a clever maneuver, and it worked as intended. Now the door is open. Professional athletes feel entitled to express their scorn for this country on their employers’ time and to make our putting up with this a part of the price we pay for watching them play. None of the employers has displayed any backbone, and Donald Trump, sensing an opportunity, has outed the former as scoundrels unworthy of the honor conferred on them and the latter as cowards.
Attendance at NFL games is dramatically down. ESPN viewership is dramatically down as well — and the President of the United States has shown American patriots that they can make the network, the NFL, and the players pay for their puerile self-indulgence. As in the days of Ronald Reagan, who was always breaking political taboos (albeit in a gentler and less crude way than Donald Trump), liberals, such as Jonathan Chait, are celebrating what they take to be a great faux pas — oblivious to the fact that time and again this man has profited from such faux pas and that they are giving free publicity to remarks that a great many Americans find heartening.
Perhaps, the most intriguing response has been that of the man whose unwillingness to enforce his league’s rules has brought this on. First, Roger Goodell said, “The way we reacted today, and this weekend, made me proud. I’m proud of our league.” Then, he added,
The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.
I have trouble imagining anything that Goodell could have said that would have seemed more lame and been more embarrassing. His players brazenly attack the “sense of unity” that exists “in our country and our culture.” They do so in defiance of the rules of his league. He does not have the backbone to enforce those rules. The President of the United States calls him on it, and he expresses regret for the “lack of respect for the NFL” that this demonstrates. With this as a rallying cry, who could feel any respect for the NFL?
One might, of course, argue that this is a tempest in a teapot — which it is. But from such tempests, as Barack Obama understood, grave changes come. Colin Kaepernick, the players who have followed his example, Barack Obama, and the likes of Nancy Pelosi want to legitimize hatred of the United States and of everything that it stands for and make it a respectable position to espouse in our national discourse.
If they succeed, treason will soon be celebrated as the true patriotism. That we are on this path was made evident a short time ago when the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard conferred its approval on Chelsea Manning by inviting him to become a Fellow at its Institute of Politics. Harvard was forced to back off. It would be a very fine thing if the same thing were to happen to the National Football League.
There is one thing that is guaranteed. If ESPN and the teams in the NFL start to lose money, this nonsense will stop.
When Catholic prelates and popes make idiots of themselves or engage in misconduct, Catholics are inclined to respond to Protestants who are scandalized by saying that the presence of fools and scoundrels in high ecclesiastical offices only goes to show that the Catholic church is the one true church. How could it have survived and flourished otherwise?
Not everyone is persuaded by this argument, but everyone must concede that fools and scoundrels sometimes find their way to high ecclesiastical office — and in this particular, our time does not differ from other times.
In the last few decades, the Roman Catholic Church has been fortunate in those whom it has elected to the Papacy. John Paul II was a great man — perhaps the greatest student of philosophy to have ever occupied the chair of Peter. If you doubt my claim, read his encyclicals. Many a Protestant minister, despite sectarian proclivities, has devoted considerable time to this task.
Benedict XV was also a great man — perhaps the finest theologian to have ever occupied the chair of Peter. Reading his encyclicals is also worth your time, whether you are a Catholic or not.
No one of any intelligence is ever, however, going to call Pope Francis a great man. He puts me in mind of the figures described by Socrates in Plato’s Apology. They had three things in common, Socrates discovered. They were experts in one sphere, they supposed that this made them experts in all other fields as well, and they were utterly oblivious to their ignorance.
Francis is a student of theology — not an especially astute student, but he knows a thing or two. What makes him a very great fool is that he is not a student of economics, climate science, or national security, and that this defect does not in any way discourage him from pontificating (I use the word advisedly) on these subjects and making a great display of his ignorance.
Early in his pontificate, he issued an encyclical that touched at some length on economic matters, and in his denunciation of commercial society he gave us a taste of the economic populism that has so bedeviled Argentina now for nearly a century. It was widely recognized as an embarrassment, and it is an indication of Francis’ arrogance that he is still peddling the bromides that have for so long crippled economic growth in Latin America. There is a reason why the cardinals of the Catholic Church never before elected a Jesuit to the Papacy.
Time and again, Francis has pontificated on anthropogenic global warming — treating a question as closed that, many distinguished scientists believe, is very much open. As an expert on the subject, Pope Francis has no standing whatsoever. He is not even a knowledgeable layman.
On the question of immigration, Francis is arguably even more of a fool. Time and again, he has made statements intimating that no political community has a right to control its own borders and exclude outsiders and that it is a moral obligation that it take in every last refugee on the planet. Missing from his understanding is the fact that political communities — whether states or stateless societies — come into existence to provide for the security of their members and that their security requires the careful policing of borders. A mass influx of foreigners can be as dangerous an invasion as a military attack, and in the age of terrorism it tends to be inseparable from military attacks. The moral posturing of Francis and of his bishops on this subject is a disgrace.
All of this is doubly a disgrace because the Catholic Church teaches that prudential questions lie beyond the purview of prelates. Vatican II was quite specific on this subject, instructing the clergy not to meddle in spheres that lay outside the teaching of religious doctrine and morals. This sphere, Vatican II insisted, was reserved for ordinary citizens and for those expert on the questions in dispute. The Church is authorized to lay out the general considerations that statesmen must attend to but not to dictate or even promote policy in spheres where prudence must govern.
Francis’ response to Donald Trump’s decision to cancel Barack Obama’s initiative Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a case in point. The latter did so in large part because it was his judgment that the President did not have the authority under the Constitution or immigration law to do what he did, and he was surely correct in that judgment. Barack Obama himself acknowledged as much. In effect, as Thomas Farnan has argued cogently in his weekly column on Observer.com, the Pope, followed slavishly by the American bishops, has condemned the President for insisting on the rule of law.
Francis’ response to Trump’s action was, however, especially disgraceful — for he went on to do something that no Pontiff should ever do. He intimated that, in canceling DACA, Trump proved that he was not really pro-life. He pretended to be able to see into the man’s soul.
What makes this worse is that not a single American bishop took the Pope to task for this. But some pro-life American Catholic laymen did — including, according to LifeSiteNews.com, Michael Hichborn, founder and president of the Lepanto Institute. “If Pope Francis is so concerned with the commitment of others to the defense of preborn children, he should consider his own words and actions, as well,” he said. In support of this claim, he pointed out a certain tension between the Pope’s treatment of Trump and Obama:
“One has to ask why Pope Francis, who was silent about President Obama’s full support of the abortion industry, is questioning President Trump’s commitment to the pro-life cause,” Hichborn wondered. “Since ‘the family is the cradle of life and you must defend its unity,’ as Pope Francis says, perhaps he will now clarify that permitting sacrilegious confessions and Communions to divorced and ‘remarried’ Catholics is a direct assault on the unity of the family.”
Hichborn doesn’t stop there. “Pope Francis has caused great confusion and concern for Catholics since he took office. He called Emma Bonino, an Italian abortionist, one of Italy’s ‘lost greats.’ He suggested that contraception might be justifiable in light of the Zika outbreak. He has hosted population control enthusiasts in the Vatican. He is collaborating with population control enthusiast Jeffrey Sachs. He gutted the Pontifical Academy for Life and actually appointed a pro-abortion theologian to the academy.”
Of course, Hichborn is more outspoken than most. But he is by no means alone. As the article at LifeSiteNews.com makes clear, virtually every pro-life leader in the United States has come to the President’s defense. What is dismaying is the fact that not a single bishop has spoken up. The current crop is as silent about the Pope’s propensity to speak when he should be quiet as their predecessors were about the misconduct of pederast priests a generation ago. This Pope deserves a stern rebuke, and there is no one of courage in the hierarchy.
What makes all of this especially bad is that the misconduct of Pope Francis is scandalous in the old sense of the word. He has subordinated preaching the faith to his own political agenda. Insofar as he causes individuals to identify the Catholic Church as a partisan political actor, he brings the church itself into contempt. Is there no one in the Catholic hierarchy courageous enough to tell him this to his face?
First, the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government invites a former intelligence officer for the US army who was convicted of espionage and sentenced to prison for thirty-five years to become a Fellow of the Institute. The man’s qualification? He thinks that he is a she, demands that we accommodate his delusion, and treats our unwillingness to do so as a justification for his misconduct.
Then, after an outbreak of criticism, the resignation from the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs of a former acting director of the CIA, and a scathing letter from the current director, Douglas W. Elmendorf, the hapless dean of the Kennedy School, rescinds the invitation and issues a statement denying what everyone knows — that the school honors someone when it invites that someone to become a Visiting Fellow of its Institute of Politics.
I agree with Elmendorf that inviting someone to speak is not an endorsement of everything that the someone says. But it is a statement that the person is well worth hearing and is likely to have something to teach us. When a student club invites a traitor like Chelsea Manning to speak, it is a disgrace. But the disgrace belongs to the club, and there is a powerful case to be made for the university letting its members disgrace themselves in such a way. But when a university or one of its branches does the like, the disgrace belongs to the institution. It is supposed to have high standards.
Apart from committing treason, having a sex-change operation, and dining out on the combination, Chelsea Manning has no qualifications justifying his receiving such an honor. What happened at Harvard was virtue-signaling. Think what that tells you about what the current leadership of the Institute of Politics thinks is virtuous. Elmendorf should resign his post, and the same can be said for the leadership of the Institute of Politics.
According to Twitter, this is the way Manning sees it:
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) September 15, 2017
Note that Manning understood the role originally intended for him. Visiting Fellows do not just lecture. They have the schools’ imprimatur. As Fellows, they teach — even if only briefly — and that is what he hoped to do at Harvard.
Here is a piece of news that will warm the cockles of your heart. Chelsea Manning, as Bradley Manning now calls himself, will soon be lecturing at the Institute of Politics in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. His qualification? In 2013, after leaking to Wikileaks something like three-quarters of a million classified State Department and military cables, Manning was convicted of espionage in army court-martial proceedings and sentenced to 35 years in prison; and in January 2017, Barack Obama commuted the sentence.
What an opportunity for Harvard students!
Manning will speak on issues of LGBTQ identity in the military, Institute of Politics Fellows co-chairs Emily Hall and Jason Ge wrote in an announcement posted Wednesday.
“We welcome the breadth of thought-provoking viewpoints on race, gender, politics and the media,” Bill Delahunt, IOP acting director, said in the announcement.
Treason has its privileges — if you can pass off your confusion as to what you are as justifying such an act.
Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind is a very strange book. In part an extended reflection on pop culture and in part a critical history of philosophy, it is also in part a personal memoir. Thirty years ago – when, as a favor to Nobel-Prize winner Saul Bellow, Simon and Schuster published his friend’s book – no one, least of all Bloom himself, expected it to attract much attention. But that it did – and more. For it became a phenomenon. In fact, for nearly a year, it was the talk of the land, and it sold like hotcakes. Bloom, who had always lived beyond his means, soon found it almost impossible to do so.
I doubt that a high proportion of those who purchased Bloom’s bestseller managed to get through or even much into its second part. This section of Bloom’s tome – entitled “Nihilism – American Style” – is brilliant, and the writing is quite lively. But to even begin to understand the argument, one must be a Kulturmensch with at least a passing familiarity with writers such as Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Heidegger; and those who got bogged down in the early pages of part two are not likely to have gone on to part three: “The University.” It was the book’s first part, entitled “Students,” that electrified the American public.
Philosophy may have been too abstruse a subject for most of those who purchased the book. But nearly all of them had children or grandchildren; and, thanks to the proverbial “generation gap,” their offspring were for them a puzzle and a source of considerable anxiety. The chapters that Bloom devoted to the character of American college students before the late 1960s, to the role that an encounter with classic literary and philosophical works often then played in the intellectual and moral development of the ablest of these, to the impact that rock music came to have on the next generation of students, and to the larger significance of the sexual revolution – these were for older Americans a real eye-opener. For the first time, they had more than an inkling of what they had on their hands.
The book’s early reviews were almost without exception enthusiastic, and overnight its author became a celebrity – so much so that he was summoned to appear on Oprah. Bloom, who was graced (if that is the word) with a superfluity of vanity, reveled in the fame and fortune that the book’s success had conferred on him. Within academe, even among some of those who thought more or less as he did, his achievement stirred envy. In America – as opposed to, say, France – no professor of political philosophy had ever been so bathed in adulation.
Soon, however, there was a counter-blast as the literary left in the academy stepped in aggressively to make sure that all right-thinking people understood that Bloom’s critique of rock music and the sexual revolution was reactionary and that the same (or worse) could be said concerning his defense of the notion that a modicum of wisdom might be attained through the careful reading of old books. Some even intimated that his analysis was monstrous and that to look to past thinking in search of moral and political guidance was to court sexism, racism, and inequality. Had they looked in the mirror, the most vociferous of his critics might have recognized that their conduct served only to reinforce his larger claim, suggesting that, at least within the academy, a rigid, anti-intellectual orthodoxy was setting in and that American minds really were to an ever increasing degree closed.
There were other, less scholarly sorts who reacted instinctively against what Bloom had to say. In the years immediately following the book’s appearance, I ran a seminar program for freshmen at a small university in the Southwest. For a time, figuring that the book would engage these entering students and stir discussion, I had all those teaching in the program start off the fall semester by assigning to the incoming freshman the first part of Bloom’s book. These chapters had on our students an effect no less electrifying than they had had on their parents and grandparents. These youngsters had grown up on rock music. We were in Oklahoma where the sexual revolution had not yet fully penetrated the high schools, but for these students it beckoned, and now that they were in college many of them were eager to harvest its fruits. Almost to a man my male students hated the book. The attack on rock music threatened something dear to their hearts. The young women did not chime in. They fell silent. They were not prepared to defend Bloom against the furious onslaught launched by their male colleagues, but they seemed to sense that rock and roll was a threat to their well-being, and they were less quick to think the sexual revolution a liberation.
My guess is that, if someone were to resurrect the book (which remains in print) and use it now as I did then, today’s male freshmen would respond in a similar fashion. Among the young women, I suspect, the most vocal would be those who found Bloom’s discussion of relationships an offense. For, while he emphatically denies that there is any great literature that countenances racial prejudice, he suggests – correctly, in my opinion – that almost every great literary work articulates an argument concerning the sexual differentiation of humankind that “progressive” young women would find offensive. We have not yet reached the time when works like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina are consigned to a book-burning in the quad. But, to judge by events that have taken place on our campuses over the last two years, that time will come. On the part of professors who teach history, literature, theater, film studies, philosophy, sociology, and political science, self-censorship is already the norm.
On this subject, there is great more to be said — and, with that in mind, a number of scholars (myself included), spurred on by my colleague Nathan Schlueter, have addressed Bloom’s book in a retrospective symposium just posted on the website Public Discourse. If this subject interest you, you should start with Professor Schlueter’s introduction and then read the posts by Peter Augustine Lawler, Michael Platt, and myself — which deal, respectively, with Parts One, Two, and Three of Bloom’s book. My own contribution regarding “The University” is as much a memoir as an analysis. I was in a seminar on Plato’s Republic that Bloom taught at Cornell University in 1968-69 — the year that the armed building seizure that looms large in Bloom’s book took place.
It is, however, Professor Lawler’s contribution that deserves particular attention. It is the last of the many fine things which that gentleman wrote in the course of his career. He died earlier this week at the age of 65.
These days, my mind is in classical antiquity — focused on the last days of the Archidamian War. And when I am not thinking about Athens’ success at Pylos and Sparta’s at Amphipolis, I am teaching Greek History or a seminar on Plato’s Laws or (horribile dictu!) I am grading papers and exams.
So I did not hear about the firing of James Comey until I read an email this morning — sent by a former student who, having worked for years at the Department of Justice, is now retired. Here is what he told me:
Based on a career spent working with the FBI as a Justice Dep’t lawyer, and on the reasons that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave in this memo, I believe firing James Comey as FBI Director was the right thing to do. A lot of folks would’ve cheered if DAG Sally Yates and President Barack Obama had done this last July or October – as perhaps they should’ve.
If you use history in your analysis, try setting aside Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Go back a bit further, to an equally controversial firing: President Harry S. Truman’s removal of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Both Mr. Comey and Gen. MacArthur sought to usurp powers that our laws give somebody else. Both refused to back away from their improper assertions. Both had to go.
Comey’s firing is just the latest shift in the balance between DOJ and the FBI. Just as our gov’t rests on civilian control of the military, our law enforcement agencies are subject to the prosecution decisions of local, state, and federal gov’t lawyers. All are in turn subject to the courts. And it is long-standing, written DOJ policy that the FBI does not decide who is (or is not) to be prosecuted. Nor is the Bureau to speak to the press about DOJ’s exercise of its prosecutorial discretion, unless authorized by DOJ. Comey repeatedly broke those rules, and has repeatedly refused to admit his mistakes.
The questions of DOJ’s timing and good faith have, I believe, one basic answer: Rod Rosenstein, the new Deputy Attorney General. Over the years, I’d heard from quite a few DOJ lawyers whom I know and trust who believe that there is not a more honest, scrupulous, and dedicated lawyer in the Dep’t. So when the Senate confirmed Mr. Rosenstein as DAG, the DOJ-FBI relationship, as exemplified by Mr. Comey’s recent conduct, had to be on top of his in-box. My guess is that he just did his job and dealt with the problem.
I still respect, and in many ways like, Mr. Comey. He did many good things. In the last year, though, he went astray. Worse, he opened himself up to being removed by Donald Trump, about whom I have the gravest doubts. But those doubts don’t poison my view of Mr. Rosenstein. Not yet, anyway – further developments could show that I’m completely wrong. But I don’t think so. I firmly believe that if an investigation shows that anyone – pro-Clinton, pro-Trump, pro-Russian, you name it – should be charged, convicted, and imprisoned, this guy will do it. If you think you can break rules and get away with it, take another look at his memo. Or at his conviction record.
If my friend and former student is right (and he knows the protocols), the story here is fairly simple. Rosenstein was put in charge. Comey’s conduct was egregious. And after he had conducted a thorough investigation, on his recommendation, the President dumped Comey.
I voted for Donald Trump in November while holding my nose. I am not a partisan who hangs on his every word. But the question to be posed is whether we want a rogue FBI director. The office is now and has always been a problem. The individual holding it is subject to very great temptations. They led J. Edgar Hoover astray. They also led James Comey astray. I am confident that, if Hillary Clinton had been elected President, she would have dumped him, too — and the same argument would have been made. Whatever Trump’s motives may be and whatever Mrs. Clinton’s would have been matters less than the question whether it is proper for someone who is director of the FBI to act as James Comey did.
If you have a moment free, read Steve Hayward’s “Crisis of the Conservative House Divided.” If you have hardly a free moment, read it anyway. Then read it again. It is that important.
Steve has cut through the muck — the list of good things that conservatives favor — and he has focused in on the only thing that really counts: whether elections matter any more.
Back in 1733, Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu published an exquisite little book entitled Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline. In a sly passage directed against the French monarchy, he focused in on an advantage that Rome possessed, which everyone reading it in that year would have recognized that France did not possess: the capacity to correct course. Then, he alluded to England’s ability to do so.
What he had in mind when he mentioned England had two dimensions: freedom of the press, and free elections. They enabled the people of England to force their rulers to alter course.
We can no longer do that. We can elect conservatives. We can elect them in a landslide, giving them more governorships, state houses, and more seats in Congress than Republicans have had at any time since 1928 — and nothing happens. The administrative state continues to grow; the progressives in charge force the states to accept same-sex marriage and men in the ladies room; they persuade all the universities in the land to institute an inquisition to hound and ruin young men who have incurred the pique of a young woman or two by stealing a kiss or (more often) by ceasing to steal kisses; and they promise to censor political dissent by identifying as “hate speech” any statement that breaks from orthodoxy.
In response, what do the conservatives in office do? They cower; they run; when put under pressure, they fold (yes, Mike Pence, it is you I have in mind). And when the Presidential candidate foisted on their party by popular fury aimed, in fact, at them speaks an unpleasant truth, they wring their hands. Theirs is the party of the white flag. They show their talents best in retreat.
The history of modern liberty has always been bound up with one thing: the capacity of the legislative power to elicit from the executive a redress of grievances. That is the role played from the medieval period on by England’s House of Commons, and it used to be the role played by our House of Representatives. The chief thing was not their law-making capacity — though that was important. The chief thing that gave them the leverage they needed if they were to hold the executive accountable and stop it in its tracks if it went astray was, as I argued in a blogpost some months ago, the power of the purse.
I do not know what will happen in November. I fear both possibilities. Neither Clinton nor Trump is, in my opinion, palatable. What I do know, however, is that if Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and their associates do not recover for the legislative branch of our government the power of the purse we might as well not have elections anymore. For the progressives will use their leverage in the courts and in the executive agencies to shove whatever measure elite opinion comes to favor down the throats of everyone else. We are no longer a democracy. We have become a narrow, ideologically-driven, highly partisan oligarchy, and it would take something like a revolution to restore constitutional democracy and democratic control in these United States.
Let me be blunt. Under our Constitution, the House of Representatives has the power to stop anything it really wants to stop. All that it has to do is to zero out the budget allocated for the activity it wants to stop. If it is unwilling or unable to exercise that power, it should close shop. The Republicans are the victims of their own cowardice.
This post was originally published on Oct. 23, 2016.
Elections have consequences — above all, presidential elections, especially presidential elections that produce majorities in the House and the Senate for the party of the President-elect. Donald Trump’s election should have produced a bit of rethinking on the part of the Democrats in Congress. So far, however, there is little evidence for that. Instead, the Democrats appear to be circling the wagons and devoting their attention to what the feminists forty years ago called “consciousness-raising.” In the House, they re-elected as their leader the superannuated woman who drove them into a ditch, and there is a move afoot within the party, supported by the minority leader in the Senate, to select as chairman of the Democratic National Committee the most radical member of the House — an admirer of the Muslim Brotherhood who for a time flirted with Louis Farrakhan and who once compared 9/11 with the Reichstag Fire. In the mainstream press, what one reads from liberal commentators these days is mostly rant; and, on the campuses, there has been a descent into childishness, and temper tantrums seem the norm. With his tweets, Donald Trump seems to be playing the hysterical Left like a piano. Where, one is sorely tempted to ask, is the adult wing of the Democratic Party?
Here and there one finds a hint that there might still be adults in that hoary institution and that they suspect that it might be a good idea to stop demonizing their opponents and to begin examining their thinking. This is not happening anywhere on the campuses of our major universities, as far as I can tell. There, as never before, the wagons are being circled, and consciousness-raising has been mainstreamed. It is easy to demonize those who dissent — Barack Obama legitimized the practice by showing how it is done — and there is next to no one on any of these campuses capable of fighting back. For a very long time, the leading institutions of higher learning have been reluctant to hire, much less tenure, known conservatives. At a conference held at Harvard three years ago, one faculty member remarked to me that what he called “the entire Republican caucus of Harvard College” was in the room. They were three in number. At Yale, these days, there is, I believe, only one conservative on the faculty, and he is a computer scientist. When it comes to opening up minds and considering the arguments articulated by those who strongly disagree with current fashion, our universities will be last in line (if they get in line at all).
Where there is a hint, strangely enough, is in the press. Pravda-on-the-Potomac — which sports 50 columnists, not a single one of whom voted for Trump — is said to be looking for a pro-Trump columnist or two. Don Surber is not impressed:
Being all-in for Hillary is now a problem for a newspaper that wants to be a power in a nation where 62,904,682 voted for Trump — where Trump carried thirty states. But the problem cannot be fixed by hiring me or anyone else as a token Trumpkin.
We saw what happened when the paper hired Kathleen Parker and Jennifer Rubin. They became the go-to conservatives to bash other conservatives for daring to act conservative.
The Washington Post and every other newspaper in the country is in trouble because they DEMANDED readers vote for Hillary, and readers in thirty states flipped them the bird. The credibility of Trump-bashing newspapers is gone for at least a generation.
Nor should Surber be impressed.
In another quarter, however, something more interesting is going on. On December 3, in Pravda-on-the-Hudson, Molly Worthen published a column pointing to something that should have been obvious to liberals long ago: the young conservatives in this country are much better educated than their liberal rivals. As she observes,
A small but growing number of young conservatives see themselves not only as engaged citizens, but as guardians of an ancient intellectual tradition. The members of [one such group] were alumni of a seven-week crash course in political theory offered by the Hertog Foundation, the family foundation of the Wall Street financier Roger Hertog. Attendees discuss authors like Aristotle, James Madison and Leo Strauss and hear lectures by scholars and policy experts. “Our curriculum represents what we think ought to be a high-level introduction to politics, one you rarely find in any political science department,” Peter Berkowitz, the program’s dean, told me.
The Hertog course is one of more than a dozen similar seminars sponsored by conservative and libertarian organizations around the country. Some last for months, others just a few days. Some recruit older participants, but most target college students and 20-somethings.
The syllabuses and faculty range from say, the secular Jewish milieu of Hertog to the libertarian Cato Institute to the Christian traditionalism of the John Jay Institute. But all these programs seek to correct the defects they see in mainstream higher education by stressing principles over pluralism, immersing students in the wisdom of old books and encouraging them to apply that wisdom to contemporary politics.
There is, as Worthen notes, no liberal analogue to any of this, and she rightly thinks ignorance a defect: “Liberals … can’t afford to dismiss Great Books as tools of white supremacy, or to disdain ideological training as the sort of unsavory thing that only conservatives and communists do. These are powerful tools for preparing the next generation of activists to succeed in the bewildering ideological landscape of the country that just elected Mr. Trump.” One example she offers is Brittany Corona. Since, Worthen observes, she:
graduated from Colorado Christian University in 2012, she has enrolled in several conservative study programs — the John Jay Institute’s Fellows Program, the Claremont Institute’s Publius Fellowship and the Young Conservatives Coalition Fellowship — and has attended conferences hosted by the Liberty Fund. All helped her see that “you can engage with the left in an academic way, to understand the roots of philosophical differences,” she told me. “So much of the problem with Fox and MSNBC is that everyone is talking past each other, and they don’t understand their own philosophical positions.”
The only objection that I would make to these observations is to Worthen’s phrase “ideological training.” I have taught off and on for decades at these gatherings, and I can testify that Worthen is wrong to call them “ideological echo chambers.” The great writers of the past agree on the questions; they are at odds with regard to the answers; and the aim of these institutes is nearly always education, not indoctrination. Worthen seems to sense this but not to understand it, and she rightly mourns the fact that, “at most universities, studying political philosophy has become a form of countercultural rebellion, a discipline marginalized by courses in supposedly practical subjects like business and communications. Campus activists may learn organizing strategies and the argot of identity politics, but few study the history of their own ideas.”
Damon Linker — whom I got to know a couple of years ago at a Liberty Fund conference — picks up, in a column for The Week, where Worthen left off. He asks the proper question: “So why don’t liberals follow the lead of their conservative counterparts in reading classic texts?” And he knows the answer:
Though Worthen never says so explicitly, the germ of an explanation can be found in her essay when she writes, somewhat defensively, that liberals “can’t afford to dismiss Great Books as tools of white supremacy.” And why would they be tempted to do that? Because most so-called liberals today aren’t liberals at all. They’re progressives — and progressivism is an ideology that has little if any interest in learning from the greatest books, ideas, and thinkers of the past. And that’s because, as the name implies, progressivism is a theory of historical progress. It doesn’t see itself as an ideological project with premises and goals that had to be established against alternative views. Rather, at any given moment it identifies itself with empiricism, pragmatism, and the supposedly neutral, incontestable examination of facts and data, which it marshals for the sake of building a future that is always self-evidently superior (in a moral sense) to everything that came before.
The past, for a progressive, is something to be sloughed off, jettisoned, moved beyond, transcended. That doesn’t mean progressive-minded scholars don’t study the past. Many do. But when they do, it is often in a spirit of antiquarian curiosity about how the oppressor classes and benighted masses of past ages managed to defend the indefensible — the atavistic prejudices about race, gender, and other forms of identity that permeated the past and that “we” have now come to see as obviously, indisputably repulsive.
Whereas conservatives look to the past in search of wisdom, inclined as they are to presume that the greatest writers of past ages may well have been wiser than we are — and displayed greater understanding about morality and politics than we do — progressives tend to see that same past as a graveyard packed with justly dead ideas.
No wonder they don’t spend time reading Great Books.
Damon does not think that much of anything will happen until his fellow liberals “separate themselves and their ideas from the powerful but pernicious ideology of progressivism,” and he is surely right.
Progressivism is a blind faith. Instead of believing in revelation, one believes in . . . progress. In this regard, progressivism resembles communism, fascism, and national socialism — all of which presumed that they were on the right side of history. Such a conviction relieves one of the need to think prudentially. Indeed, it relieves one from the need to think at all: one need only surrender to the Zeitgeist and go with the flow — which is why today’s liberalism is essentially, as both columnists imply, brain dead. Ask a progressive why he or she believes in progress, and you will get in return an astonished stare. Things are, you see, getting better all the time, and that is all there is to it.
This conviction also explains why liberals sneer at their opponents, demonize them, denounce them as “deplorables” and “irredeemables,” and refuse to engage their arguments. They descend to insults because they have no real idea why they stand where they stand. They have attitudes but they are bereft of ideas. In consequence, when they discover that they have been digging themselves into a hole, they respond by digging deeper, as they are doing right now.
The programs that Molly Worthen identifies were established — some of them decades ago — because conservatives became convinced that our universities were to an ever increasing degree abandoning liberal education, and students were graduating from our leading schools of higher education with virtually no familiarity with the long history of argument in the West concerning justice, institutions of self-government, the dictates of morality, and the like.
I can testify that their concerns were apt. For something like a quarter of a century, I served on the Oklahoma Committee of Selection for the Rhodes Scholarships. I did two stints as its secretary, and I served also a couple of times on the district committee that made the final selections. Early on, we made it a practice to end interviews by asking candidates to identify 20-or-so individuals, institutions, or events from a list we drew up — items such as Isaiah, Odysseus, Xerxes, Themistocles, Caligula, Constantine, Averroes, St. Jerome, Charlemagne, Abelard and Heloise, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Thomas Aquinas, Magna Carta, Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, Louis XIV, Robespierre, Immanuel Kant, Otto von Bismarck, George Marshall, Marlene Dietrich, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, the European Coal and Steel Community. The list was long and varied, and in the 1980s and early 1990s the candidates — especially, those from elite schools — did pretty well. Then, suddenly, it ceased to be worthwhile to ask questions of this sort. For the new crop was almost to a woman and man culturally illiterate. If Molly Worthen and Damon Linker were to dig deeper, I suspect that they would discover that the problem they identify is rooted in curricular decisions made at our great universities.
Forty years ago, when I was in my last year as a graduate student at Yale, I taught in a program called Directed Studies. It was a one-year boot camp for the very best entering freshmen. It consisted of three year-long courses: History and Politics One, Literature One, and Philosophy One. In each class, the students started at the beginning — with, say, Herodotus, the Jewish Bible, and the pre-Socratics — and ended in the 20th century — with, say, Heidegger, T. S. Eliot, and Wittgenstein. Twenty years ago, I returned as a visiting professor to teach History and Politics One in the same program. I was by no means the only visitor. The director could not find in the Yale faculty enough instructors ready and willing to do the job. Teaching the very best students in the college a survey of the tradition of political rumination was beyond the capacity of all but a handful of those on the Yale University teaching staff. The old liberal arts curriculum, which is still intact here at Hillsdale, produced citizens with a broad range of knowledge and a general familiarity with our cultural tradition. Today you cannot assume such knowledge on the part of a distinguished university’s faculty. As Damon acknowledged, progressivism really is pernicious. It is the ideology of the brain dead.
There is, let me add, one more indicator that there are some on the liberal left who are beginning to entertain the possibility that there might be something amiss with our institutions of higher education. This past Wednesday, I had a guest in the seminar I teach here at Hillsdale once every four years on Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville under the rubric Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift (which is the title I gave a book I published shortly after Barack Obama came to power). He had been sent by Pravda-on-the-Hudson to take a look at Hillsdale College. He was an interesting man. He was now retired, but he had done a lengthy stint as that paper’s bureau chief in Beijing, and he knew a thing or two. I had dinner with him on Thursday night. Whether he was sent to do a hit job on the college or to explore an institution which still attempts to instill in its students a close familiarity with the Western tradition I could not discern. Perhaps someone at Pravda is genuinely curious. I certainly hope so. But, of course, it is possible that the editors of that rag merely want to demonize those whom they regard as deplorable and irredeemable.
Stay tuned. I am off on Monday to the National Institutes of Health for another round of bladder cancer surgery. By the time I get back on Wednesday night, the feature article this gentleman was assigned to produce may have appeared. If so, I will write a sequel to this piece. There needs to be an intellectual reawakening on the Left. I doubt that Donald Trump’s election will produce it. But, if he were to succeed and if the Republican Party were to become for a time the natural governing party of the nation, . . . Dream on, you say, dream on — and I do. I do.
I was recently asked to contribute to a series on the website of the Hoover Institution Working Group on Military History. The topic was “The Unraveling of the EU and NATO,” and the precis I provided took the following form:
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union are in disarray. The former has fulfilled its mission. Were it not for Russia’s seizure of the Crimea and invasion of Ukraine and the refugee crisis in Europe spawned by the sectarian Muslim conflict raging in Iraq and Syria, it would be an empty shell without any obvious function. The latter has overreached. A great success as a customs union, it is a disaster as a currency union; and the attempt to turn it into a federation—oligarchic in governance and equipped with an intrusive administrative apparatus—will end in tears.
The full argument can be found here. In the case of NATO, I believe that everything depends on Donald Trump. In the case of the EU, everything will turn on the emergence of a new generation of leaders intent on pulling back from the abyss. There is in my opinion a limit to how far European integration can go.
H.L. Mencken once defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone somewhere is having a good time.” What I know of the real thing suggests to me that Mencken did the Puritans a grave injustice. But there can be no doubt that his quip applies in spades to contemporary liberalism.
Consider the posture of preachiness and horror adopted by pious liberals in the face of the comic call-and-response duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which Frank Loesser and his wife Lynne Garland threw together and first performed for their friends at a housewarming party in the Christmas season in 1944, and which MGM inserted in the movie Neptune’s Daughter in 1948 — where, as you can see, Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams did one rendition and Red Skelton and Betty Garrett did another with the roles reversed.
The piece is playful and mildly naughty. You can see why it won an Oscar. It captures the dialectic of courtship perfectly, and one would have to lack a sense of humor altogether not to recognize as much. But if there is one thing that today’s liberals lack, it is a sense of humor and fun. Witness the rewrite of the lyrics and their rendition by Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski:
In the place of mischief, we are given a sermon on consent. What red-blooded American woman would want to have anything to do with the wimpy guy presented in this version? No wonder the girl is so eager to get out the door.
But, as you would expect, the folks at CNN, Time, People, and The Huffington Post are ecstatic. One of the striking features of our time is the attempt to take the eros and flirtation out of sex. I suppose that this explains why liberals embrace prostitution. When you turn the whole thing into a business proposition, there is an implied contract and there is consent (and nothing else).
Early last week, Michael Barone published a piece analyzing the election returns in which he focused on the manner in which “the double-negatives” — those who thought highly neither of Donald Trump nor of Hillary Clinton — broke at the very end decisively for the former. Here is the way he put it:
One reason polling may have been misleading, or at least misled many of us in the psephology racket, is that this is the first presidential election since random sample polling began in 1935 in which most voters had negative feelings toward both major party candidates.
Election analysts have had experience dealing with elections in which majorities have positive feelings about both nominees; that has usually been the case in contests which turn out to have been seriously contested. “Double positives,” people with positive feelings about both candidates, will usually split along partisan or perhaps ethnic lines, and ordinarily pretty evenly.
But what about “double negatives”? The default assumption most of us have had, I suspect, is that they would split roughly evenly between the candidates. But that didn’t happen this year. According to the exit poll (current figures, which may be slightly revised), 18 percent of voters were “double negatives,” that is, had negative feelings toward both Clinton and Trump. Of these 18 percent, 49 percent voted for Trump and only 29 percent voted for Clinton, with 22 percent saying they picked another candidate or not answering.
The Trump-Clinton split as a percentage of the entire electorate was 9 to 5 percent, a 4 percent margin. Assume that was the split in each target state, rather than the 7 to 7 percent under my default assumption. If you subtract 2 percent from each close state from Trump’s percentage and add it to Clinton’s, you have Clinton carrying Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which have 101 electoral votes. That would give Clinton a 329-209 majority in the Electoral College. As Nate Silver pointed out on FiveThirtyEight.com, that’s a big difference.
Later in the week, Michael came back to the question of Hillary Clinton’s loss and focused on what happened in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the upper Midwest to the Democratic vote outside the major cities. Here he observed:
Iowa, the largest state with no million-plus metro areas was typical: 54 percent Democratic in 2008, 52 in 2012, 41 percent in 2016. The drop is similar in Wisconsin outside Milwaukee and Madison (54 to 50 to 41 percent), Michigan outside Detroit and Grand Rapids (55 to 52 to 41 percent), Ohio outside Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati (48 to 47 to 35 percent), Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (48 to 44 to 36 percent).
Similar outstate drops were not quite enough to carry Minnesota for Trump and were swamped in Illinois by metro Chicago. But they were enough to switch the Midwest electoral vote from 80-38 Democratic in 2012 to 88-30 Republican this year.
These areas aren’t growing demographically, but they’re not tiny either. They cast 100 percent of votes in Iowa, 61 percent in Wisconsin, 47 percent in Michigan and Pennsylvania, 44 percent in Ohio.
And in trying to explain the shift, he pointed to three concerns: economic stagnation and its impact on the population that shifted, the growing conviction among Midwesterners that Mrs. Clinton was deeply dishonest, and the impact on them of her description of Trump voters. It is the last that especially interests me.
There’s also the condescension of Clinton and her campaign headquartered in trendy Brooklyn. “Religious beliefs,” candidate Clinton said in 2015, “have to be changed.” She told a Manhattan audience that half of Trump supporters were “deplorables” and “irredeemables” characterized by “implicit racism.”
Outstate people who voted for Obama, or whose neighbors or friends at church did, probably weren’t attracted by such statements. Decent people don’t like to be called racists and told that their religion needs to be changed (by the government?).
I would go a bit further than Michael did. I live in a small town in the upper Midwest and I did not think highly of either candidate. For a long time I sat on the fence undecided. I was not worried that Trump was a racist or bigot. I did fear that he was irresponsible, and his remarks regarding foreign policy worried me almost as much as it worried John Yoo and Jeremy Rabkin. What caused me to hold me nose, vote for Trump, and urge others to do so was not “the condescension” exhibited by Mrs. Clinton but the outright hatred she voiced. People who are deplorable and irredeemable need to be crushed. They cannot be allowed to rear their own children, and they must be forced into line. What she had to say was nasty and ugly. That it reflected the views of many of her supporters I never doubted. That she would herself express such views in private and then double-down on them in public later in the campaign — that pushed me over the edge. It was already evident to me that the Democrats intended to neutralize the First Amendment via the courts and impose a regime of censorship on the country. When she spoke these words I knew that she was as radical as the rest. My bet is that these remarks weighed heavily in the decisions made in this part of the country by “the double-negatives.”
Naturally enough, given my misgivings about the President-elect, I have been watching carefully as he has begun putting together a cabinet. I entertain two fears. The first is that, like most Republicans, he will — once elected — betray the base and return to the practices of the managerial progressive wing of the party. The second is that he will turn his back on our allies abroad and sidle up to the likes of Vladimir Putin.
So far, I find his choices reassuring. Jeff Sessions is, as Byron York reports today, “the Democrats’ nightmare.” He can be relied on to enforce the laws as written, to purge what Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch turned into a Department of Obstruction of Justice, and to give us again an impartial, nonpartisan administration of justice — above all, with regard to immigration. In choosing him, Trump has signaled that he means business.
The same is evident in his appointment of Reince Priebus as chief of staff and Steve Bannon as his principal advisor. Priebus is as tough as nails. He saw Scott Walker through the political war in Wisconsin, and he managed to hold the Republican Party together in this election — which was no mean feat. Bannon is the perfect war-time consigliere. He is fearless and clear-headed. The abuse being directed in the mainstream press at Sessions and Bannon is a sign of the significance of these appointments.
I also find the appointments and likely appointments on the foreign policy side reassuring. Mike Pompeo, who will take over the CIA, is no amateur. He graduated first in his class at West Point in 1986, did active duty for some years, took a law degree at Harvard, and has done service on the House Intelligence Committee. He knows the terrain.
Trump’s choice for foreign policy advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn had a stellar career on the intelligence side in the Army and served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, when he was pushed out for not being on board with the Obama administration’s assessment of the developments likely in Syria. He is one of the few people in the larger national-security world who does not resort to embarrassing euphemisms when describing the relationship between militant Islam and the terrorist threat we now confront. Next to no one is willing to acknowledge in public the fact that Islam is itself a problem and that a religion of holy law is prone to becoming a radical political movement. In a world of liars, Flynn is a breath of fresh air.
Trump has not yet announced his choice for the Department of Defense. Fox News reports, however, that he has settled on Jim Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general who took over CentCom from David Petraeus in 2010 and ran it until 2014, when he, too, was pushed out after giving Barack Obama advice regarding Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran that the President did not want to hear. Mattis is a genuine warrior who is notoriously blunt and to the point. In the Marines he was affectionately dubbed “Mad Dog Mattis,” and he has good sense. On one occasion, he said, “The international order… is not self sustaining. It demands tending by an America that leads wisely, standing unapologetically… in defense of our values.” On another, he told his Marines: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” Let me add that I know Mattis slightly. I spent a couple of days in his company in October at a small conference held at the Hoover Institution. What struck me at the time was that every time he opened his mouth it was clear that he knew what he was talking about. I cannot think of anyone better equipped to be Secretary of Defense, and I cannot imagine an isolationist picking such a man for the job.
Finally, Mike Pence has intimated that Mitt Romney may be chosen Secretary of State. That, too, would be splendid. It would help bind up the wounds of the party, and it would put a real gentleman in charge of Foggy Bottom. Like Mattis, Romney is no isolationist, and his prescience in foreign affairs was on display in the debates that took place in 2012. He was derided at the time for his insistence that Russia is a rival and should be treated as such, and he turned out to be right. His presence in the administration would go a long ways toward reassuring those of us who fear that Donald Trump is a bit too friendly with Vladimir Putin. My only concern is that he might be too decent a man to conduct the purge that is needed in Foggy Bottom. Everyone in the State Department must have known that Hillary Clinton was violating security protocols, and nobody blew the whistle. If Romney is chosen for the top job, someone with the requisite ruthlessness should be put in charge of the foreign service.
When I look at this as a whole, I am tempted to be sanguine about this administration. It looks as if Donald Trump really means drain the swamp and as if he is canny about foreign affairs. All of the right people are upset about his picks, and all of the right people are inordinately pleased. Perhaps, what we saw on the campaign was Trump the entertainer and what we are about to see is Trump the hard-nosed businessman. Let me add that, where Barack Obama tended to surround himself with yes-men and to get rid of anyone who told him truths he did not want to hear, Donald Trump seems to have a taste for straight-shooters. So far, so good.
It has been obvious to anyone who has paid attention that the Obama administration made use of the Internal Revenue Service to confine and paralyze the Tea Party movement by denying many of the organizations that grew up after 2009 the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status they sought or by delaying until after the 2010, the 2012, and, in some cases, the 2014 elections a decision on their applications. Back in May 2013, the Inspector General for the Department of the Treasury issued a report, revealing that, starting in 2010, the IRS had singled out groups with words such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their titles for intensive scrutiny and that at that time they “began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status (e.g., lists of past and future donors).”
With Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, and their minions in control of the Department of Justice, there was never any chance that there would be a full-scale investigation of these shenanigans and the lodging of criminal charges, and John Koskinen, who took over the agency at the end of 2013, has dragged his feet at every turn, vociferously denying that anything partisan in nature was done.
Judicial Watch, which has doggedly pursued this question through a Freedom of Information lawsuit first brought in October 2013, just discovered a smoking gun — notes taken at an interoffice meeting held in Washington DC, ca. August 2011 — where then IRS Director of the Office of Rulings and Agreements Holly Paz reported on what was going on:
Holly – Cinci paralyzed by letting any issue go unaddressed. They think they know what the org[anization] is really doing, rather than looking at actual activities. Q[uestion]’s were not activity based, but guilt by association questions – like q[uestion]’s asking party affiliations …
They see approval of something that will turn out to be very bad org[anization] – terrified of that – that’s why they personally will need to have power to say yes. Agents felt if they could ask enough questions, they will find a problem. Agents were jumping to negative conclusions and assumptions – particularly where relationship with political groups or affiliations.
In short, what was going on was systematic viewpoint-discrimination, and everyone knew it well before the 2012 election. As long as the fix was in and the Department of Justice was, in effect, functioning as a Department of Obstruction of Justice, nothing much could be done. Now, however, there should be a full-scale investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at getting to the bottom of this, and, when it is all over, there should be heads on pikes.
Perhaps, however, before he departs, Barack Obama will throw a monkey wrench into the works by issuing a pardon for Lois Lerner and John Koskinen. That would be a fitting capstone for his years in office.
If you want a laugh, you should read Jack Shafer’s post on Politico — entitled Will American Now Have a Pravda? It begins with this sentence: “With Breitbart’s Steve Bannon now in a seat of White House power, Donald Trump will have a weapon no president has ever wielded.” Glenn Reynolds’ response on Instapundit is a classic:
- CTRL-F David Rhodes, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F John Dickerson, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F Stephanopoulos, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F Sharpton, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F Andrea Mitchell, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F Tavis Smiley, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F Katie Couric, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F Bill Moyers, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F Gwen Ifill, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F Candy Crowley, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F Martha Raddatz, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F Jeffrey Goldberg, zero mentions.
- CTRL-F JournoList, zero mentions.
A host of other names could easily be added to Glenn’s list.
Someone who works at Pravda-on-the-Internet and who consorts with those employed at Pravda-on-the-Hudson, Pravda-on-the-Potomac, and the various branches of Pravda-on-the-Airwaves should know better. As Wikileaks revealed, there really has been very little difference between most of the journalists who work for the mainstream press and the campaign staff hired by the Democratic National Committee. They even edit one another’s prose.
Self-knowledge seems in short supply among today’s liberals. Or is their defect a lack of shame? Shafer ought to spend some time looking in a mirror. Barack Obama has “wielded” a host of such “weapons” now for more than eight years.
When the news came in that Donald Trump had actually won the election, there were moans and groans and a gnashing of teeth. An economics professor at Yale cancelled a class, thinking that the poor darlings were in deep distress. Students at Cornell University — where I was once a student and later an assistant professor — staged, of all things, a “cry-in.” In Portland, OR, there have been riots; and in many places there have been demonstrations. “Not my President” read the signs.
All of this is to say, that those on the left in this country are either experiencing a meltdown or having a temper tantrum. Nowhere, however, have the caretakers of these brats conducted themselves in a more embarrassing fashion than at the University of Michigan Law School, where this was put up on the website:
Let me see now: “coloring sheets, play dough [misspelled, of course], positive card-making, Legos, and bubbles” for women and men — all of them 22 years old or over. Our institutions of higher learning unthinkingly take openly partisan stands, and they have become kindergartens. They are teaching the millennial generation that immaturity is perfectly respectable.
Someone at the University of Michigan Law School, which is one of the best in the country, had the good sense to take this down. Myself, I would have scheduled an examination on the Friday after the election. What we are witnessing is a display of self-pity on the part of the coddled. The proper response to the moans and groans should have been: “Grow up!”
Back in September, I published a blogpost entitled California’s Condom Conundrum, focused on an initiative referendum calling for the extension to all of California of a restriction passed not so many years ago by the citizens of Los Angeles County which required that actors in pornography films wear condoms while in flagrante delicto.
As I explained at the time,
Behind the proposition stand Michael Weinstein and his AIDS Healthcare Foundation, as well as the American Sexual Health Association, the California Academy of Preventive Medicine, and the California State Association of Occupational Health Nurses. These folks think it a matter of public health. Against it you will find a phalanx of organizations including the state’s Republican and Democratic parties, as well as the Libertarians and the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee. Also opposed are the Free Speech Coalition, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and LGBT-rights groups such as Equality California and the Transgender Law Center. These folks think it a matter of civil liberty. Others worry that it will cost California millions of dollars in tax revenue.
The tax revenues involved are not chicken feed. The industry produces $10 billion annually in revenue. Moreover, it is already illegal under state law for the industry to film actors to having “unprotected” sex, and, as The Mercury News reported back in September, “Federal regulations through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration already require condom use for X-rated actors in the same way health workers must use gloves and other protection when dealing with bodily fluids and other potential biohazards,” and on occasion film companies have been fined. The problem from the perspective of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is that the law is too rarely unenforced. They want anyone to be able to bring a law suit.
Since I know that the Ricochetti have been waiting with bated breath to learn whether, in today’s California, civil liberties and tax revenues trump (so to speak) public health, I am here to report that the initiative went down to defeat by a ration of 53.9% to 46.1% — which means that the porn film industry will not be relocating from California to Reno, Las Vegas, or beautiful downtown Hillsdale. It will remain just across the border from Los Angeles County in the San Fernando Valley. California is intent on playing the nanny when it comes to regulating hanky-panky among undergraduates. But when a loss of tax revenues might be the consequence, the citizens of that province are libertarian. Go figure.
Here are the headlines in The Daily Mail:
Clinton leaves leaderless, rudderless and talentless Democratic Party in crisis – with only pensioners Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to turn to
- Defeated Democrats are in crisis after humiliating defeat of Hillary Clinton and a Republican clean sweep in both houses
- Senior figures admit they have no shining new talent to step into the breach
- Only stars are Elizabeth Warren, 67, and Bernie Sanders, 75, while leaders in Senate and House of Representatives are both pensioners too
- Chairs of the Democratic National Committee have either quit in disgrace or been branded ‘disgusting’ for unethical conduct
- Hawaii senator Brian Schatz warns navel-gazing got party into mess and says: ‘We need to open our minds and expand our Rolodexes.’
Need I say more?
First, if the exit polls can be trust, a majority of white women voted for . . . Donald Trump. Second, Trump got a larger slice of the Hispanic vote in 2016 than Mitt Romney did in 2012. Third, Hillary did not lose. Trump won. If you juxtapose the vote Trump received state-by-state in 2016 with the vote Barack Obama received state-by-state in 2012, as Tim Alberta did yesterday on National Review Online, Trump wins the electoral college. You should read the entire article. Trump in 2016 outpolled Obama in 2016 in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, and Utah. He, in fact, did so in every state that Romney carried in 2012.
What we saw on Tuesday was not just the defeat of a truly terrible Democratic candidate. It was a referendum on the last eight years, and Trump — for all of his faults — was a better candidate than Mitt Romney, who is a better man. What Trump brought to the table was a capacity to connect with ordinary Americans. If he handles himself well — above all, if he and the Republicans deliberately develop ties with African-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Asian-Americans who are patriots — the base of support for the Republicans can be expanded.
We have heard a lot about the divisions within today’s Republican Party. What we have not heard about are the deep, bitter divisions — mainly generational — within the Democratic Party. The latter has become a top-bottom party, bringing together in the same tent the super-rich, the rather rich, the highly educated, and those dependent on Medicaid, Food Stamps, WIC, and the like. As Bernie Sanders showed, the younger adherents of the party are quite radical, and something of the sort can be said for the party’s Congressional delegation. Thanks to Barack Obama, there are no more conservative Democrats, and there are no more moderate Democrats. There are radicals and there are those who are considerably more radical; and, to judge by the attitudes of those in the millennial generation the future belongs to the latter. What has happened to the Labour Party in Britain may happen to the Democrats here.
The more decisive Donald Trump is, the more he does to get rid of Obamacare, to cut back on the administrative state, to increase the number of private-sector jobs, to restore our military strength, the more attractive he and his party will become. Big business abandoned the Republicans this year. They will be back. Many of the neocons jumped ship. They will be back. Hispanics respect manliness. More of them will flock to the Republican standard if the Republicans display strength (not their customary weakness) and reach out to the small businessmen and ordinary working folk in the Hispanic community.
Correction: This was written ca. 10 a.m. this morning. By the time it was posted Tim Alberta had backed off his claims. Apparently, he used the wrong numbers.
One more item: In today’s Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove reports, citing Martha MacCallum of Fox News, that the polling data shows that 14% of the voters thought neither candidate qualified, and they split in the end with 69% of these voting for Trump and 15% for Mrs. Clinton. The same percentage thought neither candidate had the temperament for the job, and 71% of these broke for Trump and 12% for Mrs. Clinton. I was one of these. When the lady claimed that half of the Trump voters were “deplorable” and “irredeemable,” I thought, “Enough of the shilly-shallying. We cannot allow this bigot to become President.”
If you want to get a proper sense of the significance of what happened yesterday, just look at the vote in Washington DC. In our nation’s capital, according to Real Clear Politics, Hillary Clinton won 92.8% of the vote and Donald Trump, 4.1%. Sure, DC is a heavily African-American city, and black Americans are loyal Democratic voters. But there are plenty of non-black Americans in the town, and they now form a majority. What this means is that our political class and their minions were united against the man — and this was, in fact, the stance of our business elite as well. None of the CEOs of the top 100 corporations gave his campaign a dime, and no major newspaper endorsed the man.
I can remember back in 1980 when Ronald Reagan came to DC. His arrival and the formation of a new administration was like the arrival in a country of a foreign army. The Donald’s takeover will be an even more dramatic event. It will be as if William Jennings Bryan had won in 1896. The only analogue that I can think of is the inauguration of Andrew Jackson. But he had already had a long career in public life — most notably, as the general victorious at the Battle of New Orleans and as a United States Senator. Trump has no such pedigree — though, like Jackson, he is a hero to the excluded.
When I wrote a blog post entitled Likelihoods on the eve of the election, I echoed the common wisdom, pointing to Mrs. Clinton’s lead in the polls, but I also noted the IBD/TIPP polls — the most accurate in 2012 — which had her up 1% in a two-way race and Trump up 2% in a four-way race, and I pointed to a number of intangibles — some favoring her, and one, having to do with “shame,” possibly favoring him: “Ronald Reagan, throughout his career, outperformed the polls by ca. 5%. There were lots of people who would not admit that they supported him who nonetheless voted for him in the end.”
It was this last imponderable that decided the election. Here, in Michigan, Barack Obama beat John McCain by 16% in 2008, and he beat native Michigander Mitt Romney by 9% in 2012. This year, if The Detroit News can be trusted, Trump won a plurality, beating out Clinton by 13,255 votes (.3% of the total). There was, as everyone expected, a drop-off in the African-American vote, but there was also a dramatic shift, like that of the so-called Reagan Democrats in 1980, on the part of working stiffs all over the state. Something similar happened in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Although Trump may be wealthier than Romney, there is a warmth to the man and a down-to-earth quality that his predecessor lacked. Trump reminded these people of the folks with whom they worked. Romney reminded them of the snob in the central office who has no sympathy for their concerns. Although technically not a WASP, he exemplified the emotional reticence for which that tribe is infamous. It is a shame because Romney is a thoroughly decent man and would have been a good president.
Some good will almost certainly come out of this election. It does not matter whether Rudy Giuliani or Chris Christie is made Attorney General. There will be a move to clean up that cesspool of irresponsible partisanship. I am confident that there will also be a purge at the Internal Revenue Service and that whoever takes over the State Department will see to the elimination of those who averted their gaze while Hillary Clinton broke the law.
Under Barack Obama, the federal appeals courts have become partisan tools — denying states the right to outlaw party-line voting and to require that voters present photo IDs. Under Donald Trump, I am confident that the courts will be reined in and that a great deal will be done to restore the rule of law. The integrity of the voting process should now be made a major concern.
I am hopeful also that whoever is appointed Secretary of Education will see to it that the practice of running kangaroo courts on our campuses, pressed on our colleges and universities by the Obama administration, will be brought to an end. Rape charges should be referred to the civil authorities, and those accused of lesser forms of sexual misconduct should receive fair hearings and be given due process.
In other spheres, Trump is apt to be a wild card. If he really is an anti-free trade zealot, he will do us some harm — though I suspect that Congress will get in the way if he is intent on abrogating existing agreements. The Chamber of Commerce has not lost its leverage on the Republicans in Congress.
On immigration, all that Trump really has to do is to enforce the existing laws, to beef up the border patrol, and to put pressure on Mexico to stop aiding and abetting the subversion of its neighbor. In effect, that country has been at war with us for some time, and we have the means for making things exceedingly uncomfortable for Mexico. They accept no illegal immigrants, and it is in their power to block transit.
The one area where I think there are real grounds for fear is foreign policy. Trump knows next to nothing about that field, and he is — to say the least — historically ill-informed. The isolationism of the post-World War I period was purchased at a terrible cost, and a turn away from our alliance system now would only strengthen those who would like to see to our decline. Thanks to the deliberate negligence of Barack Obama, the NATO alliance is unraveling, and our system of alliances in the Pacific is similarly coming apart — as the Russians and Chinese become ever more belligerent. If Trump picks John Bolton as Secretary of State, he will put us on the right path. If he picks Newt Gingrich or Bob Corker, as some suppose he may, I do not know where we will end up.
In general, if the speculation linked above is at all correct, Trump seems inclined to hand out posts to loyal supporters. If that is the principle criterion, his administration is almost certain to flounder. People unfamiliar with the Washington bureaucracies often fall captive to the civil servants on their staffs. Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington with a cadre of experienced people who thought as he did. Donald Trump is a far less thoughtful man, and his buddies may turn out to be cut from the same cloth. If one wants to get things done in a city profoundly hostile to one’s Presidency, one will need a troop of like-minded subordinates intent on reorienting the government.
If I were inclined to bet on tomorrow’s results, I would probably roll my eyes and put my money on Hillary Clinton — assuming, that is, that someone gave me equal odds. As I write, at 8:35 p.m. EST on the eve of the election, she is ahead in all but one of the head-to-head polls listed by Real Clear Politics. The only poll that has Donald Trump ahead in a two-way race is the LA Times tracking poll, which has him up by 5%, and the IBD/TIPP tracking poll (which was the most accurate poll in 2012) has Mrs. Clinton up by 1%. If one turns to the four-candidate polls, the IBD/TIPP tracking poll has Trump ahead by 2%, and everyone else has Hillary in the lead.
It may, nonetheless, be considerably closer than this data suggests. In his latest election update, Nate Silver, who called every state correctly in 2012, gives Trump a 31% chance of winning the Presidency, and he breaks it down state by state.
There are a number of obstacles that stand in the way of our being at all certain that the polls are correct. First, the pollsters call people who have landlines. They do not poll cell-phone users. As the number of the former declines and the number of the latter increases, it makes this harder for them to get an accurate read on the electorate. Second, the electorate is in motion. Pollsters take a relatively small sample. Then, they carve it up and weight it in light of past experience. In a relatively stable world, they do wonders with this technique. But our world is unstable. Lots of people are switching parties or voting for the candidate of the party to which they do not belong. In these circumstances, it would be easy to get the weighting wrong. Third, fewer and fewer people actually respond to pollsters. Where, in the past, one-third of those called agreed to answer the questions asked, today only one in ten, if that, is willing to play ball.
Finally, there are intangibles. The Democratic nominee has a well-funded get-out-the-vote operation; the Republican nominee has none. It is perfectly possible that the former will outperform the polls by one, two, or three percent because of this operation. The other intangible has to do with shame. Ronald Reagan, throughout his career, outperformed the polls by ca. 5%. There were lots of people who would not admit that they supported him who nonetheless voted for him in the end.
So, tomorrow, a surprise is possible. But, if I were guessing, I would guess that it is Mrs. Clinton who will outperform the polls. Her GOTV operation is real. The supposition that there are hidden Trump supporters is no more than a guess. Moreover, every major newspaper in the country is behind her, and so are the CEOs of the hundred largest American corporations. And none of the last three Republican presidential nominees has endorsed Trump. Hillary Clinton is the William McKinley of 2016, and Trump does not have as great an appeal as did Andrew Jackson. Had her opponent been able to exercise self-discipline from the time of the Republican Convention on, he might have defeated her. But he shot himself in the foot repeatedly, and his childish boasting over the years about his sexual accomplishments finally caught up with him.
In 1972, the American people had a choice between a putative crook and a fool, and they wisely chose the putative crook — on the presumption that the country had institutions for defending themselves against crooks but none for defending themselves against fools. This time, if my read is correct, they will make the same decision. But we no longer have the institutional safeguards that we had in the 1970s, and we are likely to pay dearly for the choice that we have made.
You can, however, say this for Barack Obama and his anointed successor: they corrupt everything with which they have contact. And you can say this for John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and the Republicans in Congress: by their timidity, they have earned the contempt that President Obama so generously showered on them. It was by earning this contempt that they induced the party base to rally to an irresponsible outsider with an uncanny gift for channeling anger.
It is conceivable that we will bounce back in 2020 and set things right, but I would not bet on it. The name of the game, as John Podesta’s emails reveal, is to flood the country with foreigners and register them to vote. The Democrats intend to rule, and the Republicans? They are at their best when waving a white flag.