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For Once the Vice Presidency Matters

 

kaine-pence-debateBack in late January, 2015, I did a post entitled The Party of the Living Dead. In it, I drew attention to what Barack Obama did to the Democratic Party — which is that he deprived it of a bench and left it in the grips of septuagenarians such as Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and the like. Even that young whippersnapper Elizabeth Warren — with whom I served back in the last millennium on the debate team for Northwest Class High School in Oklahoma City — was slated to be 66 or 67 by now, and Hillary Clinton was slated to be 69 — older than Ronald Reagan was on the eve of his first election. I did not have the wit to mention Bernie Sanders, then and now another septuagenarian; and I took it for granted that the Republicans would nominate someone in his or her forties or fifties. It never crossed my mind that they would nominate someone older than Hillary. But here we are.

I mention this because I believe that Tim Kaine or Mike Pence will be President before long. There is, as Aristotle said with regard to the Spartan gerousia, an old age of the mind as well as one of the body — and Hillary is evidencing both. She is not only ill — probably with Parkinson’s disease — and lacking energy. She is, as Huma Abedin noted some time ago in an email to someone recently hired at the State Department, “often confused.” She may win on Tuesday. My guess — for what it is worth — is that she will. But she will not be with us long. Hell, she is not always with us now.

For all of his defects, Donald Trump does not seem to be lacking in energy — perhaps because he is not, like his opponent, given to imbibing. But let’s face it: he, too, is old, and the campaign must be a terrific strain. Moreover, his incoherence — the fact that he seems to have attitudes and resentments but not well-worked ideas — fits rather well with Aristotle’s observation. It is, of course, conceivable that the man was never able to think through issues. He certainly seems to be stuck in adolescence, and he clearly has a problem with impulse control. But these things get worse as one ages. The ablest people remember their conclusions but forget the line of reasoning that got them there. Trust me: I know.

In any case, given the strains associated with the office, it is unlikely that The Donald will make it through a full term, and the presumption, expressed in some quarters, that, if elected, he will be running for re-election in four years is absurd.

Which brings me to my point. In 2012, no one gave much thought to the Vice Presidency. Did a single American in that year vote for Barack Obama out of admiration for Joe Biden? And, to ask a less absurd question, did anyone vote for Mitt Romney out of admiration for Paul Ryan?

Not even I fell into that category. I was delighted with Romney’s choice, but I would have voted for him anyway. I would even have voted for him had he put the loathsome Chris Christie on the ticket.

This year, however, is different. When you enter the polls on Tuesday, you may really be choosing between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. For once, you might want to give some thought to the vice presidential options.

How I Might Be Wrong

 

On Thursday night, I posted an appeal to Never Trumpers, arguing that they should hold their noses and vote for the slimeball. The heart of my argument was the following claim — which I once again urge you to ponder:

The real issue is whether in the future we will have open discussion of political issues and free elections. Think about what we have now — a federal bureaucracy that is fiercely partisan. An IRS that tries to regulate speech by denying on a partisan basis tax-exempt status to conservative organizations. A Department of State that hides the fact that its head is not observing the rules to which everyone else is held concerning security of communications and that colludes with a Presidential campaign to prevent the release of embarrassing information. A Department of Justice that ought to be renamed as the Department of Injustice, which does its level best to suppress investigations that might embarrass the likely nominee of the Democratic Party. An assistant attorney general that gives a “heads up” to that lady’s campaign. An Attorney General who meets on the sly with her husband shortly before the decision is made whether she is to be indicted. A federal department that promotes racial strife and hostility to the police in the interests of solidifying for the Democrats the African-American vote.

Think about what else we have now — a press corps that colludes with a campaign, allowing figures in the Clinton campaign to edit what they publish. Television reporters who send the questions apt to be asked at the presidential debates to one campaign. A media that is totally in the tank for one party, downplaying or suppressing news that might make trouble for that party, inventing false stories about the candidates nominated by the other party, managing the news, manipulating the public, promoting in the party not favored the nomination of a clown, protecting the utterly corrupt nominee of the other party from scrutiny.

Let’s add to this the fact that the Democratic Party is intent on opening our borders and on signing up illegal aliens to vote. If you do not believe me, read what Wikileaks has revealed about the intentions of Tony Podesta. Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally change America.” He called his administration “The New Foundation.” Well, all that you have to do to achieve this is to alter the population.

To this, I can add something else. Freedom of speech is under attack. Forty-four Senators, all of them Democrats, voted not long ago for an amendment to the Constitution that would hem in the First Amendment. Ostensibly aimed at corporate speech, this would open the doors to the regulation of all speech. The Democratic members of the Federal Election Commission have pressed for regulating the internet — for treating blogposts as political contributions and restricting them. Members of the Civil Rights Commission have argued that freedom of speech and religious freedom must give way to social justice. There is an almost universal move on our college campuses to shut down dissent — among students, who must be afforded “safe spaces,” and, of course, in the classroom as well. There, academic freedom is a dead letter; and, in practice, despite the courts, in our public universities, the First Amendment does not apply.

We entered on a slippery slope some time ago when the legislatures passed and courts accepted laws against so-called “hate crimes” — that punished not only the deed but added further penalties for the thought. Now we are told that “hate speech” cannot be tolerated — which sounds fine until one realizes that what they have in mind rules out any discussion of subjects such as the propriety of same-sex marriage, sluttishness, and abortion; of the damage done African-American communities by irresponsible behavior on the part of fathers; and of the manner in which Islam, insofar as it is a religion of holy law, may be incompatible with liberal democracy. If you do not think that a discussion of these matters is off limits, you are, as the Democratic nominee put it not long ago, “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.” You are “deplorable and irredeemable.” You are, as she said this week, “negative, dark, and divisive with a dangerous vision.” It is a short distance from demonization to suppression. And, let’s face it, the suppression has begun — in our newspapers, on television, on our campuses, on Facebook, on Reddit, in Google searches.

One more point. The courts are now partisan. Thanks to Barack Obama’s appointees, in many parts of the country, the circuit courts have ruled out expecting people to present picture IDs when they vote. Elsewhere — for example, in Michigan — the circuit courts have ruled out eliminating straight-line party voting. All of this is aimed at partisan advantage — at making voter fraud easy and at encouraging straight-line voting on the part of those not literate in English. Who knows what the courts will do if the Democrats can get a commanding majority on the Supreme Court? We have already had all sorts of madness shoved down our throats by those who legislate from the bench. If you think that it has gone about as far as it goes, you do not know today’s Democratic Party. I doubt very much whether the Democrats will really try to shove through a constitutional amendment in effect revoking the protections extended to speech and religion in the First Amendment. That would be too controversial. They will do it, as they have done many other things, through the courts. Can we tolerate “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” speech — speech that is “deplorable and irredeemable,” that is “negative, dark, and divisive with a dangerous vision?” Surely, surely not. And this would be easy. If we can punish the “hate” in “hate crimes,” why not punish it or outlaw it in speech? All that you have to do is to “reinterpret” the First Amendment.

To the best of my knowledge, no one who commented on the piece I wrote challenged this judgment — which seems to me to make it a moral imperative that we vote to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming President. And much as I loathe Donald Trump, it seems to me that he is the only viable alternative.

There is, however, an argument on the other side that long gave me pause and still causes me to wonder whether my prudential calculations concerning the relative damage likely to be done by each of the only two viable candidates are correct. I regard trade policy, immigration, entitlement reform, abortion, kangaroo courts on campus, and a host of other matters of public policy as important. But we can go wrong on any of these matters and later correct course — as long as we can still have an open discussion of political issues and free elections. The reason I focused on the latter is that, if we go wrong on those matters, there is no road back short of revolution. If Hillary Clinton wins on Tuesday, the odds are good that she, her party, and their friends in the judiciary will shut the system down (as they already have in our universities). Whatever defects Donald Trump has (and they are legion), he will not do that; and, even if he wanted to, he would not be able to. Presidents, on their own, are not that powerful, and The Donald will be very much on his own.

But there is another matter of public policy where Trump might well go wrong and a correction of course might well prove impossible. I have in mind foreign policy. Just as I know and like a number of individuals who are over-the-top admirers of The Donald, so I know conservatives who are, I suspect, apt to vote for Hillary on Tuesday. Those within this cohort whom I most respect make the following argument:

Our nation confronts a revanchist Russia; a bellicose, expansionist China; terrorism in Europe; and civil war in the Middle East — in short, a world reeling at  the edge of chaos. The president’s first responsibilities are to maintain national security, advance our national interests in foreign affairs and provide direction for the military. As Alexander Hamilton observed, the framers of the Constitution vested the executive power in one person, the president, to ensure that the United States could conduct its foreign relations with “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch.”

Faced with mounting international instability, Trump’s answer is to promise an unpredictable and unreliable America.  He has proposed breaking U.S. commitments to NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, closing our military bases in Japan and South Korea, repudiating security guarantees to NATO allies, pulling out of the Middle East, and ceding Eastern Europe to Russia and East Asia to China.  A Trump presidency invites a cascade of global crises.  Constitutional order will not thrive at home in a world beset by threats and disorder.

I am quoting from an oped published in The Los Angeles Times on 16 August by Jeremy Rabkin and John Yoo. I would urge that you read the whole thing. It is cogent.

Over the last seventy-five years, the United States spent lives and treasure to construct a world order within which we could live and trade in relative safety. That order, which has contributed mightily to our prosperity, was built by men and women educated by the disaster to which our isolationist policies in the 1920s and 1930s gave rise. They understood what “a cascade of global crises” and “a world beset by threats and disorder” could produce. I grew up in the shadow of the Second World War, and I lived the first forty years of my life during the Cold War. The current generation — well represented by our current President — have forgotten just how fragile the international order is. In Europe right now and in the Pacific — thanks in large part to Barack Obama — that order is rapidly coming apart. The last time this happened it cost us hundreds of thousands of lives and treasure beyond imagination. This time, if this happens, it will be worse.

Donald Trump is not a man of ideas. He has impulses and attitudes — some of them sound, many of them foolish — and he is profoundly ignorant. Over the course of this campaign, he has said a great many things that are dangerous. Jeremy, John, and others fear that his foreign policy would make that of Barack Obama look good. I cannot tell you that I regard their assessment of this likelihood as absurd, but I can say this. If their fears are justified, then — despite everything else that I said in my post on Thursday evening — you would be right in voting for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. For she is a known quantity. In its basic outlines, her foreign policy would be a continuation of the foreign policy we have followed since December, 1941.

I do not mean to say that she will not make mistakes. The lady has never done anything well in her life. Do I need to mention her service on the Watergate investigative staff, her handling of Hillarycare and the Russian reset, not to mention the Benghazi Bungle? I merely mean to say that she would not throw away everything that we have gained in the way of a framework guaranteeing our security and that of our commerce and that there are reasons to fear that he might do that very thing.

Why, then, do I still urge you to set aside the disgust that Donald Trump inspires and to vote for the creep?

One reason — and I very well might be wrong in my judgment. I discount the man’s wilder flailings. He is an entertainer — a reality show dramatist — and he is very good at venting the frustrations that have many of our fellow citizens in their grip. I doubt that he is serious in what he says in these offhand remarks. There are two signs. He has indicated an interest in making John Bolton Secretary of State, and he gave a speech on foreign affairs at Gettysburg not long ago that was positively sane. I have heard it praised to the skies by Trump partisans. That I think ridiculous. All that I am asserting is that it was not off the wall — and that is sufficient for me. But I will readily admit that Jeremy, John, and the others who share their opinion might be right. There is no safe choice this year. Whatever you do on Tuesday you will be rolling the dice.

One final point. On Tuesday, you will not be getting married; you will not be choosing a pastor; you will not be joining a church; and you will not be choosing a hero. You will not be doing anything that might leave you with morally dirty or morally clean hands. You will be doing something much more prosaic — something akin to hiring someone to mow your lawn. You will be hiring someone to do for you what you do not have the time or the other resources to do for yourself. And, just as you customarily do when you hire someone to mow the lawn, you should — in this situation also — prudently calculate which of the candidates for the job will do the least damage and the most good. That is the way Jeremy and John approach the question, and that is the way I approach the question. The fact that we disagree is a sign that this year there are powerful arguments on both sides. Thanks to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the hapless Republicans in the Senate and House, we now live in very dangerous times — times dangerous for our republic, as I argue; and times dangerous for our nation, as Jeremy and John argue.

You can, of course, turn your back on the whole thing — you can stay home or line up with Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or Evan McMullin. That would, however, be a cop-out. It might make you feel good about yourself, but this feeling of self-satisfaction would be false and unjustified. For to throw your vote away in a time of national crisis is to dodge your duty as a citizen — which is to do what you can to make the best of the situation you find yourself in. What that is . . . there lies the rub.

Trump Defended Wholeheartedly Against the Likes of Paul Rahe

 

This morning, I sent a link to my piece to various friends. One, a strong Trump supporter, responded as follows:

Paul is a hold-your-nose Trump supporter. He thinks Trump is a “swine” who has “no knowledge of foreign affairs” and is likely “unfit to be president.”

Three far more accurate and well-informed assessments of Trump can be found at American Greatness, here:

http://amgreatness.com/2016/10/13/trump-the-statesman/

http://amgreatness.com/2016/11/03/reality-show-how-obnoxious-trump-has-paved-the-way-for-truth-telling/

http://amgreatness.com/2016/11/02/the-gops-ungrateful-bastard-caucus/

Feel free to respond as you think fit. Needless to say, I do not in general share the sentiments expressed in these three posts.

Update: Here lies another piece by D. C. McAllister applying Christian apologetics to the question. What she calls “laziness” I would call a mistake.

An Open Letter to the NeverTrumpers from a Sympathizer

 

I am not here to condemn the NeverTrumpers. I share their instincts. Donald Trump is — I will not put a fine point on it — a swine. I followed him in the tabloids haphazardly in the mid-1990s when I was a visiting professor at Yale and took coffee each morning at a Lesbian-operated place in New Haven where the tabloids were always lying around. He was then and is now a man who revels in adultery. I was not surprised about his conversation with Billy Bush. I would even bet that he had similar conversations on the links with Hillary Clinton’s husband. He is seventy years old, and he is still engaged in the kind of banter typical of eighth-grade male hot dogs. Put simply, like Charming Billy, he never really grew up. But, unlike the Big Dawg, he has almost no impulse control. If you attack him for anything, you will set him off, and you will get schoolboy taunts in return. The man is desperately insecure.

He is also no conservative. He has no understanding of the road that we are on fiscally. As a businessman, he borrowed and borrowed and borrowed, and his lawyers arranged things so that, when his enterprises went bankrupt, someone else was left holding the bag. If he becomes President, that someone else is apt to be you and I.

He has no knowledge of foreign affairs, no sense of the fragility of the international order. He has instincts, not ideas. He is understandably annoyed that our allies contribute little to the common defense. But he does not appreciate the degree to which our well-being in the long run is tied up with our alliances. In office, if unrestrained, he could do great damage. He could take us back to the isolationism of the 1920s and the 1930s. Plenty of people on both the left and the right already long for that. The generation that now commands the stage has no memory of World War II and its origins, much less the Cold War.

But, I would suggest to the NeverTrumpers, you should hold your nose and vote for the slimeball anyway. I offer you two reasons: Hillary Clinton & the Democratic Party.

The second may be the more important. For, let’s face it. The lady is not well. Her doctors are lying to us. And she is not apt to last more than eighteen months — which means that, if she is elected, we are apt to have Tim Kaine, an admirer of liberation theology, for our president.

More to the point, however, whether she lives on and on or not, hers will be Barack Obama’s third term. Obamacare will be fully institutionalized and any reforms that are made will put us further on the slippery slope to a single-payer system. Think about it: you can have medical care as good as that which the federal government provides to veterans. To be sure, Trump has blathered nonsense about this at one time or another. But he is running for President today as an opponent of Obamacare.

That is not, however, the most important matter at stake. The real issue is whether in the future we will have open discussion of political issues and free elections. Think about what we have now — a federal bureaucracy that is fiercely partisan. An IRS that tries to regulate speech by denying on a partisan basis tax-exempt status to conservative organizations. A Department of State that hides the fact that its head is not observing the rules to which everyone else is held concerning security of communications and that colludes with a Presidential campaign to prevent the release of embarrassing information. A Department of Justice that ought to be renamed as the Department of Injustice, which does its level best to suppress investigations that might embarrass the likely nominee of the Democratic Party. An assistant attorney general that gives a “heads up” to that lady’s campaign. An Attorney General who meets on the sly with her husband shortly before the decision is made whether she is to be indicted. A federal department that promotes racial strife and hostility to the police in the interests of solidifying for the Democrats the African-American vote.

Think about what else we have now — a press corps that colludes with a campaign, allowing figures in the Clinton campaign to edit what they publish. Television reporters who send the questions apt to be asked at the presidential debates to one campaign. A media that is totally in the tank for one party, downplaying or suppressing news that might make trouble for that party, inventing false stories about the candidates nominated by the other party, managing the news, manipulating the public, promoting in the party not favored the nomination of a clown, protecting the utterly corrupt nominee of the other party from scrutiny.

Let’s add to this the fact that the Democratic Party is intent on opening our borders and on signing up illegal aliens to vote. If you do not believe me, read what Wikileaks has revealed about the intentions of Tony Podesta. Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally change America.” He called his administration “The New Foundation.” Well, all that you have to do to achieve this is to alter the population.

To this, I can add something else. Freedom of speech is under attack. Forty-four Senators, all of them Democrats, voted not long ago for an amendment to the Constitution that would hem in the First Amendment. Ostensibly aimed at corporate speech, this would open the doors to the regulation of all speech. The Democratic members of the Federal Election Commission have pressed for regulating the internet — for treating blogposts as political contributions and restricting them. Members of the Civil Rights Commission have argued that freedom of speech and religious freedom must give way to social justice. There is an almost universal move on our college campuses to shut down dissent — among students, who must be afforded “safe spaces,” and, of course, in the classroom as well. There, academic freedom is a dead letter; and, in practice, despite the courts, in our public universities, the First Amendment does not apply.

We entered on a slippery slope some time ago when the legislatures passed and courts accepted laws against so-called “hate crimes” — that punished not only the deed but added further penalties for the thought. Now we are told that “hate speech” cannot be tolerated — which sounds fine until one realizes that what they have in mind rules out any discussion of subjects such as the propriety of same-sex marriage, sluttishness, and abortion; of the damage done African-American communities by irresponsible behavior on the part of fathers; and of the manner in which Islam, insofar as it is a religion of holy law, may be incompatible with liberal democracy. If you do not think that a discussion of these matters is off limits, you are, as the Democratic nominee put it not long ago, “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic.” You are “deplorable and irredeemable.” You are, as she said this week, “negative, dark, and divisive with a dangerous vision.” It is a short distance from demonization to suppression. And, let’s face it, the suppression has begun — in our newspapers, on television, on our campuses, on Facebook, on Reddit, in Google searches.

One more point. The courts are now partisan. Thanks to Barack Obama’s appointees, in many parts of the country, the circuit courts have ruled out expecting people to present picture IDs when they vote. Elsewhere — for example, in Michigan — the circuit courts have ruled out eliminating straight-line party voting. All of this is aimed at partisan advantage — at making voter fraud easy and at encouraging straight-line voting on the part of those not literate in English. Who knows what the courts will do if the Democrats can get a commanding majority on the Supreme Court? We have already had all sorts of madness shoved down our throats by those who legislate from the bench. If you think that it has gone about as far as it goes, you do not know today’s Democratic Party. I doubt very much whether the Democrats will really try to shove through a constitutional amendment in effect revoking the protections extended to speech and religion in the First Amendment. That would be too controversial. They will do it, as they have done many other things, through the courts. Can we tolerate “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” speech — speech that is “deplorable and irredeemable,” that is “negative, dark, and divisive with a dangerous vision?” Surely, surely not. And this would be easy. If we can punish the “hate” in “hate crimes,” why not punish it or outlaw it in speech? All that you have to do is to “reinterpret” the First Amendment.

We live, moreover, in a world of rampant prosecutorial indiscretion — where a Clinton, guilty of something that would have put anyone else in jail, gets off without an indictment and a Bob McDonnell, who has done nothing illegal, is prosecuted to the hilt. We live in a world in which colleges and universities are pressed to use kangaroo-court procedures in adjudicating the love-life of randy undergraduates and in which only the man can be held responsible for the tomfoolery that both are engaged in.

Need I go on? If Trump is elected President, this is apt to end. The man has been burned. This campaign has been an education for him. If Hillary is elected President, this will not only go on. It will deepen. That is a certainty.

As for Hillary herself, what should I say. She worked for the investigation that nailed Richard Nixon, and she was fired for lying. She put her cronies from Arkansas in charge of the White House Travel Office, driving out nonpartisan folks who had been serving everyone well for thirty years, and to cover her indecent behavior, she sicced the FBI on these hapless folks. At her behest, the head of the office was tried for malfeasance and, of course, ruined financially — though he was found not guilty. Think about what she did: she destroyed the lives of ordinary, innocent folk for her own convenience.

I will not go on about what she did to the women foolish enough to fall prey to the allure of her husband — though that, too, says much about her willingness to damage others for her own convenience.

She is also inept. In her husband’s administration, she pushed single-payer and nearly brought Charming Billy down. In the Obama administration, she pushed an intervention in Libya that soon turned quite sour. And when the ambassador who had begged for more security lost his life, she deflected responsibility from herself by blaming it all on a hapless Egyptian Copt who had made a short film that nobody had hitherto noticed, and she and her colleagues in the Obama administration saw to his imprisonment.

As Secretary of State — in conjunction with the Clinton Global Initiative and what Doug Band calls “Bill Clinton, Inc.” — she ran a shakedown operation aimed at enriching her family and illegally raising money from foreign donors to pay for her Presidential campaign in waiting. To get around the Freedom of Information Act, she did all of her business by email on a server kept in her home that the world’s intelligence agencies could and did hack. In short, she is both corrupt and irresponsible.

Is Donald Trump unfit to be President? I fear so. Is Hillary Clinton unfit to be President? As Nancy Pelosi would say, “Are you kidding? Are you kidding?”

So we must choose. I suggest that we swallow our pride and pick the lesser evil.

Is it not obvious when you think through everything which of the two is the lesser evil? Both will do damage. Both will do serious damage. Neither is admirable. But Donald Trump is apt to do less damage.

I realize that what I have said is not reassuring. But we should not succumb to wishful thinking.

Nonetheless, for all of his failings, Trump will do some very good things. And, in his way, he has already done some good — by forcing Americans to think about issues that we are forbidden to discuss.

We are in for a bad four years. But there is nonetheless bad and there is worse. Unpleasant though it may be, it is better to pick bad. I will not tell you that a vote for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or Egg McMuffin is a vote for Hillary. That it is not. But it might allow her to squeak into office — and, if she wins, there will be hell to pay.

The Poll Perplex Returns

 

shutterstock_463656533If you turn to Real Clear Politics today and look at the latest polls focused on a head-to-head conflict between Trump and Hillary, you will once again be perplexed. IBD/TIPP, which was the most accurate of the polls in 2012, has it all tied up. ABC/Wapo has Hillary ahead by a point. The LA Times has Trump up by six, and NBC/SM has Hillary up by seven. That is a thirteen-point spread. One of these last two polls is way off. Both may be. It could be all tied up.

If you go to the same site and look at the latest polls focused on a four-way race, IBD/Tipp, ABC/Wapo, and Rasmussen have it all tied up, and NBC/SM has Hillary up by six. The LA Times does not do a poll covering the race in this fashion.

This, too, would suggest a very close race. In normal years, the odds would be good that on 8 November we would see results more or less consistent with this. But this is not a normal year, and polling is as much an art as a science. Pollsters adjust what they learn in an attempt to make their sample reflect the public at large. When the public is in motion, when the old rules to do not apply, when Democrats are to an unusual degree apt to vote Republican and vice-versa, when turnout is exceedingly hard to predict, they are apt to stumble, and surprises can very easily present themselves.

Update at 4:13 p.m. EST. Real Clear Politics asserts on the basis of the polls that, if the election were to be held today, Hillary would win 273 electoral college votes and Trump, 265.

There is motion in the numbers that the pollsters are producing. Except in the case of NBC/SM, the motion is in Trump’s direction. In 1980, there was a sudden avalanche in Reagan’s direction at the end as voters pondered just how bad Carter had been and puzzled over the question whether Reagan was really a madman in the manner in which the mainstream media strongly suggested. That could happen this year. The polls show that the vast majority of Americans are aware that the mainstream media is in the tank for Hillary. That suggests that they are apt to discount what they are told by Pravda-on-the-Airwaves. And people do get annoyed when they think that they are being manipulated. So, who knows?

If you are a prognosticator, one thing to look for is signs of panic on the part of one campaign or the other. They all do internal polling, and they spend larger sums on it than do the outfits mentioned above. Knowing what is going on in the electorate is a life-or-death matter for the campaigns. They also poll individual states — especially, the ones that really matter — much more intensively than anyone else.

One final observation. Sean Trende, who is an able prognosticator, has an article out on early voting. He thinks it a poor predictor of final results. So, go figure.

Polling Perplexity Disappears

 

PrintLast week, I drew attention to what I called the poll perplex — the fact that some polls had Trump ever so slightly ahead while others had Hillary up by as much as 12 points. The poll that had Hillary with a commanding lead was done on behalf of ABC and Pravda-on-the-Potomac.

Today, that poll has Hillary ahead by a statistically insignificant one per cent — which suggests that there has in the interim been a dramatic change in the race. But Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge reports that the only thing that has changed is the weighting of the sample. Last week, they were over weighting Democrats by a ridiculous proportion. On Thursday, when the tracking poll showed Mrs. Clinton two points ahead, they were oversampling Democrats by only 8 percent.

What we may have had on Thursday and Friday — before the FBI announced that they had reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails — was a dead heat. The three most recent polls — all taken before that news was released — show the race tied up or Hillary ahead by one or two points. The reopening of the investigation will surely do her some damage.

At this stage, we may have a wide-open race. This has been a year of incredible surprises. We may encounter another one on the 7th of November. You had better put on your seatbelts. We are in for a wild ride.

Update: As of noon on 10/31 EST, the latest LA Times tracking poll has Trump up by four points.

Polling Perplexity

 

shutterstock_433218895Almost every day, I check the Presidential polls at RealClearPolitics, and then I shake my head. Ordinarily, there is some variation. This year, however, the differential is dramatic. Right now, for example, CNN/ORC has Clinton ahead by five points. Rasmussen Reports has Trump ahead by two. IBD/TIPP has it all tied up. The ABC News Tracking Poll has Hillary ahead by a whopping twelve, and the LA Times Tracking Poll (not listed by RealClearPolitics) has her ahead by one point.

There may be some method to this madness. I can think of two alternative explanations. The first is that the pollsters do not know what they are doing; the second is that some fancy footwork is going on.

It is easy to see why the pollsters might be baffled. When they do a poll, they ordinarily take a sample, and then they make adjustments after comparing their sample with the population (i.e., either the general population or the voting population). They want their sample to be representative of women and men; the various ethnic groups; Catholics, Protestants of various stripes, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and the like; Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; and so forth and so on. So they weight the sample in light of these categories to make sure that it is representative. In ordinary circumstances, this is tolerably easy to do. When the world is in flux, a lot of guesswork is involved. This year there will be Republicans voting for Hillary Clinton and Democrats voting for Donald Trump. They all note this, and they try to adjust. Polling is not a science. It is an art. So the differential could be due to the fact that some of the pollsters are — in all honesty — making the wrong assumptions.

The other possibility is that we are on the receiving end of a massive con — and that the polling results are designed to encourage or discourage voting on the part of the supporters of one candidate or the other.

Here, Wikileaks may be of use for, as Tyler Durden at Zerohedge informs us, the recent dump of emails shows that John Podesta received a message some time ago from Atlas Reports, detailing how to produce polls of use to the Clinton campaign by way of oversampling certain groups, and he points out that the recent polls by Reuters, Pravda-on-the-Potomac, and, yes, ABC News have greatly oversampled Democrats.

The name of the game could be to subvert the Republicans and depress voting for their candidates by conveying to the general public that the election is over, that Trump has already lost, and that there is no point in turning out. Would such respected outfits as CNN. Reuters, Pravda-on-the-Hudson, and ABC News be party to such a maneuver?

Would these and other news outlets work closely in tandem with the Clinton campaign to get the Republicans to nominate Donald Trump, to protect Hillary Clinton from interrogation, and to trash Trump after he got the nomination?

Of course, not. That would be unAmerican. Right?

This year, I have no idea where the corruption stops. We can trust the FBI. Right?

Archbishop Chaput Tells It As It Is

 

Last week, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia spoke his mind. Here is a report:

In a speech Thursday at the University of Notre Dame, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton “very bad news for our country.”

Chaput said that since he first voted in 1966, “the major parties have never, at the same time, offered two such deeply flawed candidates.”

He said he believes each candidate is detrimental to the nation in different ways.

“One candidate, in the view of a lot of people, is a belligerent demagogue with an impulse-control problem. And the other, also in the view of a lot of people, is a criminal liar, uniquely rich in stale ideas and bad priorities,” Chaput said.

I cannot think of anything to add.

Dogs That Do Not Bark

 

campaign-signs-president-1In November 2012, I learned that times had changed and that I no longer knew my country. I could not believe that, after what he had done to the US, my compatriots would re-elect Barack Obama — and I was wrong.

This year, I could not believe that Donald Trump would get the Republican Presidential nomination. He was not, to begin with, a Republican at all. He did not embrace the agenda Republicans at least pretend to support. And, let’s face it, he has not lived his life in a manner that anyone with a moral sense and aesthetic taste could approve. Anyone who is surprised at the remarks he made to Billy Bush has been wearing blinders. No one of his stripe, thought I, could get nominated. But, once again I was wrong.

Nor, earlier this year, could I believe that the Democratic Party would nominate Hillary Clinton for President. She was, I knew even then, a corpse. She had no pulse. Had you told me that Bernie Sanders — who is one of the few Democrats who more nearly resembles the living dead than Hillary — would be her only serious opponent, I would have guffawed. Tell me another, I would have said. Yes, I was wrong.

I expected Scott Walker to be a serious contender. I figured that Martin O’Malley — the only Democrat of any consequence who has not already in effect passed on — would emerge. I was wrong again. Neither of them got anywhere.

So there is one thing that I know. I know that I do not know what is going to happen — and when I look at the polls, count bumper stickers, and keep a record of the yard signs that I stumble across, my certainty grows that I do not know.

The polls suggest that Hillary will win — but not Rasmussen and not the LA Times.

I have yet to see a Hillary bumper sticker, but I have seen only one such Trump sticker. I have seen three Hillary yard signs and more than fifty Trump yard signs. And look: I have been all over. Texas, upstate New York, Silicon Valley, and Michigan north of Lansing. And get this: I saw more Bernie Sanders signs than Hillary signs, and I am talking about the last month.

It is positively eerie. It is as if no national election is going on. Let me be clear. I have seen lots of yard signs pertinent to local elections, next to none regarding any Congressional race, and just a few pertaining to the Presidential election. It leaves me wondering whether on the second Tuesday in November anyone will show up.

Let me add this. The Trump tapes are the talk of the news. But this talk has had no effect on the polls. It is as if no one really cares about the old codger’s trash talk.

There is this that may favor Hillary on 8 November. She has a get-out-the-vote operation that ought to be worth a point or two. There is this that may favor Trump on 8 November. Ronald Reagan used to outdo the polls by ca. 5 percent. There were lots of people who voted for him in every election he ran who would not admit it. Could the same be true for Trump?

Add this. There are people who love Trump. Never mind the fact that I think them mildly unhinged. They do exist, and they are numerous. Is there anyone who loves Hillary … apart from embittered feminists (but I repeat myself) of a certain age. It may be hard to get people to turn out for a person as malicious and unpleasant as she is.

If I were a betting man, I would bet on her — which suggests that she might lose.

West Point: Sparta on the Hudson

 
Hugh Liebert

Hugh Liebert

Over the years, I have spent a considerable amount of time in Greece and in the parts of Turkey that once were Greek. I do not know how many times I have taken a bus down to Laconia and Messenia or driven there, but they are numerous. I have visited the site where ancient Lacedaemon was situated over and over again, and I have also hiked on the slopes of Mt. Taygetus and in Messenia on the western side of the mountain with some frequency. But I never had the sense that I was actually in Sparta until the 29th and 30th of September this year — when I visited West Point and gave a lecture there entitled “The Grand Strategy of Sparta.”

At noon on the 29th, I flew from the Detroit Airport to Newburgh, New York — where George Washington once faced down a near-mutiny on the part of the Continental Army. There I was picked up by a driver and taken to Hudson House in Cold Spring on the eastern shore of the Hudson River. From there, I could see West Point looming in the distance on the western bank of that great stream. Had I not known better, I would have taken it for a prison.

Late in the afternoon, I dined at Hudson House with my host Hugh Liebert, the author of a fine, new book on Plutarch; with his wife, Rana; and with various other faculty members from West Point — including Eugenia C. Kiesling (whom I once taught), Patrick Campbell, Major John Chambers, and Major David Miller. The latter two were graduates of West Point who had been eventually been recalled to teach in the Department of Social Sciences. If the past is any predictor, these two gentlemen — who distinguished themselves while students at West Point and in postings after their graduation — will go on to plum assignments as aids to leading figures in Washington and on eventually to important commands. This has been the pattern since, shortly after World War II, Brigadier General George A. Lincoln chose to return to West Point as a colonel and turn the social science faculty into the intellectual powerhouse of the US Army.

Paul Rahe & the Cadets

Paul Rahe & the Cadets

After dinner, I was driven down the Hudson, over a bridge, and back up to West Point — where, from 7-9 pm, I spoke to about 40 cadets and a scattering of faculty members on my chosen subject. This even took place in Taylor Hall — a building with a Gothic feel known colloquially as the Superintendent’s Castle — in the Thayer Room, which was lined with photographs of former Presidents, Secretaries of State, and the like who had spoken there after being awarded the Thayer Prize.

It was quite a room. It was quite large; the ceiling was high; the stone was grey. It reminded me of the great reading rooms in the libraries at Yale and Stanford and of the great meeting rooms in Willard Straight Hall at Cornell. Knowing that there was a program in grand strategy at West Point and that many of the students present were participants in the program, I gave a polemical talk — aimed at showing that what was passed off in the academy as foreign-policy Realism was, in fact, surreal and that, in anticipating the conduct of other powers, one must take into account not only their desire for self-preservation and power-maximization but also the imperatives associated with particular regimes. Sparta was my prime example, but I touched on Persia, Athens, Nazi Germany, Churchill’s Britain, and present-day Iran in suggesting that, in war, what is at stake is the way of life and the political regime of those at odds.

Eugenia Kiesling & Rana Liebert

Eugenia Kiesling & Rana Liebert

The cadets were impressive, and they were not shy about asking questions and pushing back. My aim was to provoke and to give them something to chew on in their classes, and I suspect that I succeeded. One faculty member commented after everyone had dispersed that, in intimating that my larger point about political regimes and their articulation of grand strategies in pursuit of regime-preservation and the achievement of regime imperatives is as applicable to today’s world as it is to the study of strategy in antiquity, I had drawn them in.

On the Stump

On the stump

The next morning I returned to West Point for a brief tour. Then, I attended Major Miller’s class “An Introduction to American Politics,” which was aimed at second-year students. The syllabus was impressive. The students were asked to read all of the right things, and Major Miller drove them through the material in what felt like a forced march. He had to; and, despite considerable sleep deprivation, they were attentive. Mastery of the material was the objective, and their response to his questions suggested to me that they were grimly intent on achieving it.

West Point is not a modern facsimile of ancient Sparta. But the two have this in common. Everyone is dressed in the same fashion. They were all in uniform; and, though the young women are allowed grey skirts, every last damsel that I spied was wearing pants. Hair length is regulated for women as well as for men, and, while in uniform, the former are required to wear their hair up. In practice, they choose to look as much like the young men as possible. The only young women I saw with their hair down were the joggers.

Like the Spartans, the West Pointers eat their meals in common. Like the Spartans, they sleep in barracks. As with the Spartans, their days are strictly regimented. It is a unisex, radically egalitarian world … except where prospective prowess as a warrior is concerned. In the classroom, in drill, on the athletic field, and in every other sphere pertinent to their future employment and deployment, they are ranked. And I was left with the impression that the young women and men of West Point love the challenge. Those who think life in ancient Lacedaemon grim know nothing of the joys associated with life in a military camp.

After sitting in on Major Miller’s class, I attended Patrick Campbell’s fourth-year class in American Political Development. The subject under discussion was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Commonwealth Club Address.” I had been silent in Major Miller’s class. I was there to observe the forced march. Dr. Campbell was familiar with my three-volume study Republics Ancient and Modern, and so he asked me to talk a bit about the larger subject under consideration — which I did. Readers of Ricochet will be familiar with my argument — “The Twenty-Four Year Itch” — concerning the rhythms of American politics and the upheavals that take place within one political party or another roughly once a generation. I laid this out in some detail, and to my delight the students pushed back, forcing me to defend my argument case by case. This confirmed the suspicion that I had formed while listening to the questions after my public talk that the students at West Point get a fine education and that they learn to think and not just to repeat. I doubt very much that, had I given a similar talk in a political science course at Harvard or Yale, I would have gotten a better-informed response.

Outside the Mess Hall

Outside the Mess Hall

At lunch, I joined Cadets Megan Bryn, Mason Conine, Taylor Endres, and Miranda Bass in the mess. The food was plain and simple; the noise level in the vast cavern where we were eating was quite high; and the students — who were that term doing work in political theory, grand strategy, and advanced international relations — were lively and inquisitive. After lunch, I met with Colonel Suzanne Nielsen, who heads the Department of Social Science, and we did a quick tour of the world abroad. She is a worthy successor of General Lincoln. Then I had coffee in the library with some of Dr. Kiesling’s students and later with Lukas Berg, who teaches American Politics, and Hugh Liebert. Again we talked world politics, and at 15:00 a car came to whisk me back to Newburgh, whence I flew back to Detroit.

In the Mess Hall

In the Mess Hall

If you ever get the chance, visit West Point. The only obstacle is the security — which is intense. Virtually every building is locked. Instructors get keys only to the buildings where they teach. Students are not allowed to bring back packs into the mess hall, and ordinary outsiders can only go on official tours. I was lucky. I got to see everything.

What impressed me most, I suppose, is the seriousness of the place. Seriousness is not a word that I would use for what is going on most of the time in the humanities and social sciences in most of our universities. There, the weightiness of life is ignored, and frivolity is the norm. Like the Israelis whom I taught in Jerusalem three years ago, the cadets at West Point are apt to have to put their lives on the line. That brute fact has a sobering and exhilarating effect on them. Would that the same spirit were present at Harvard and Yale! As I have intimated in my recent books, if we were a bit more like the ancient Spartans, we would be a lot better off.

Extreme Sloppiness at the Wall Street Journal

 
Hillsdale College

Hillsdale College.

At noon, while waiting for lunch, I glanced at The Wall Street Journal and noticed that, in the “Personal Journal” section, on pp. R4-R9, that newspaper — with the help of Times Higher Education — had provided its readers with a list of 497 American colleges ranked in light of endowment, likelihood that graduates would get a job, engagement, environment, average salary of graduates, and the like.

Naturally, I looked through the list to see where these publications ranked Hillsdale College. But I could not find it on the list. Figuring that I might have overlooked the entry, after teaching my afternoon seminar and participating in the oral examination of a graduate student, I went to the website, which had a convenient search facility. When I typed in Hillsdale, it did not come up. There was, however, another way to search. One could do so by state, city, and so forth. So I typed in Michigan and learned that, on the website, they ranked many more than 497 institutions.

Here is what it showed for Michigan:

RANK COLLEGE OUTCOMES RESOURCES ENGAGEMENT ENVIRONMENT OVERALL SCORE
#24 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 38.2/40 22.2/30 17.4/20 6/10 83.8/100
#63 Michigan State University 32.9/40 15.5/30 17.7/20 5.7/10 71.8/100
#150 Michigan Technological University 25.8/40 17/30 16.6/20 4.1/10 63.5/100
#172 Kalamazoo College 24.7/40 17.1/30 14.8/20 5.4/10 62/100
#182 Albion College 22/40 20.1/30 16.9/20 2.5/10 61.5/100
#206 Kettering University 23.7/40 16/30 15/20 5.2/10 59.9/100
#235 Hope College 23.8/40 15.3/30 17.2/20 2.5/10 58.7/100
#238 University of Detroit Mercy 20.9/40 17.2/30 15.9/20 4.7/10 58.6/100
#261 College for Creative Studies 20.1/40 17.3/30 15.2/20 4.9/10 57.5/100
#267 Alma College 20.6/40 18.3/30 15.4/20 2.8/10 57.1/100
#281 Calvin College 18.9/40 16.4/30 17.5/20 3.4/10 56.2/100
#315 Andrews University 11.3/40 18.8/30 15.7/20 8.2/10 54/100
#325 Lawrence Technological University 16.4/40 16.6/30 15.1/20 5.5/10 53.7/100
#344 Wayne State University 12/40 17.3/30 15.9/20 7.9/10 53/100
#473 University of Michigan-Dearborn 15.5/40 10.9/30 15/20 6.8/10 48.3/100
#492 Ferris State University 17.6/40 9.1/30 17.3/20 3.7/10 47.7/100
#501-600 Adrian College – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 44.3-47.2/100
#501-600 Western Michigan University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 44.3-47.2/100
#601-800 Grand Valley State University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 39.3-44.1/100
#601-800 Madonna University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 39.3-44.1/100
#601-800 Spring Arbor University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 39.3-44.1/100
#> 800 Aquinas College – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 23.7-39.2/100
#> 800 Central Michigan University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 23.7-39.2/100
#> 800 Cornerstone University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 23.7-39.2/100
#> 800 Eastern Michigan University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 23.7-39.2/100
#> 800 Lake Superior State University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 23.7-39.2/100
#> 800 University of Michigan-Flint – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 23.7-39.2/100
#> 800 Northern Michigan University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 23.7-39.2/100
#> 800 Oakland University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 23.7-39.2/100
#> 800 Rochester College – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 23.7-39.2/100
#> 800 Saginaw Valley State University – /40 – /40 – /40 – /40 23.7-39.2/100

As you can see, the list is long. But Hillsdale is not on it. What makes this especially ridiculous is the fact that, if you were to rank the schools in the state by the average ACT scores of this year’s entering freshman class, we would rank alongside the University of Michigan as the top school in the state.

How did this happen? The slobs at The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education appear to have used a database called “College Scorecard” provided by the US Department of Education. This database lists only college and universities that take federal aid to education, and we avoid taking that money because there are strings attached that allow the authorities to micromanage the institutions which they “aid.”

There is no excuse for The Wall Street Journal missing this. When the College Scorecard was published by the Department of Education last year, our Provost published an op-ed in that newspaper about our omission from the list. It says something about the state of journalism in this country that the writers and news editors at The Wall Street Journal do not even read their own newspaper.

Somebody should give Bill McGurn a call.

California’s Condom Conundrum

 

shutterstock_459629524I am on the road quite a bit now. Texas Tech, last week; West Point, on Thursday and Friday; the Hoover Institution in Silicon Valley late next week.

In anticipating the latter trip, I thought back to the year that the Rahe family spent in that neck of the woods and felt a wave of nostalgia. Where else would one stumble across the Church of Self-Realization? Where else is lunacy the norm? Where else does one find the great issues of the day debated?

You may think I jest. So I will offer you an example: the weighty question whether actors who perform in porn films should be required to wear condoms. Yes, that question is on the ballot; and, according to The Mercury News, the polling data suggests that a ban may be passed. There is already such a law in Los Angeles County, and it has caused the multibillion dollar porn industry to do its filming across the border in nearby places such as Oxnard. If Proposition 60 passes, who knows what will happen? The industry may move to Reno or Las Vegas or to, ahem, beautiful downtown Hillsdale.

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.

As far as I can tell, however, neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has weighed in. The next presidential debate would be a lot more interesting than the snoozer last night if this question was raised by the moderator. After all, it is a national issue. As The Mercury News observes,

[F]ederal 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. OSHA has fined companies for filming without the proper protection, usually in response to a complaint from Weinstein’s organization. Cal-OSHA recently fined one producer $34,400, another $78,000.

I will not be called on to vote for or against Proposition 60. But Peter Robinson and Rob Long live in California, and they need your advice. So step up to the plate. What should be determinative: tax revenues, public health, or civil liberties?

Time, CNBC, and Drudge vs. CNN

 

After last night’s debate, CNN, Time, CNBC, and the Drudge Report conducted online polls on their websites of those who had watched the debate. According to CNN, 62% of the voters who tuned in thought that Hillary had won. Time reports that 55% thought that Trump had won. CNBC informs us that 67% thought that Trump had won. And the Drudge Report found that 82.34% thought that Trump had won.

Go figure.

A Picture Can Be Worth a Thousand Words

 

this-gas-station-will-give-you-your-fill-of-dad-jokes-photos-15

I have been on the road. I have seen one Trump yard sign and no Hillary yard signs. On cars, I have seen nothing. One would not know that a Presidential election is underway. This sign may capture the tone of public opinion.

The Spartan Regime: Its Character, Origins, and Grand Strategy

 

TheSpartanRegimeImageTwo hundred fifty years ago, Jean-Jacques Rousseau set out to compose a history of Sparta. In the introduction that he drafted, he observed:

The greatest inconvenience associated with my endeavor is that here one sees men who resemble us almost in nothing, who seem to us to be outside of nature — perhaps as much because we are in that state ourselves as because they are in fact there. Their crimes inspire in us horror. Sometimes their virtues themselves make us shiver. Because we are weak and pusillanimous in good times and in bad, everything that bears a certain character of force and vigor seems to us impossible. The incredulity that we parade is the work of our cowardice rather than that of our reason.

I quote this passage in part because I used it as the epigraph for my new book — The Spartan Regime: Its Character, Origins, and Grand Strategy, which will be released by Yale University Press on the 27th of September, but which Amazon has been shipping for a week.

I chose this brief passage from Rousseau as the book’s epigraph because it captures our situation. We live in a technologically dynamic, highly commercial liberal democracy. The ancient Spartans lived in a technologically stagnant, thoroughly martial political community based on the subjection of other human beings. They were tough in the extreme; we are soft, and we are unapologetic about the fact. Some of us dream of a world without war, without danger, without borders, without politics. They never imagined that anything of the sort was possible, and their very existence in the past is a challenge to our way of life. Among other things, they serve as a reminder that, if we get sufficiently soft, we will be overwhelmed.

I would not want to argue that we should take the denizens of ancient Lacedaemon as a model. They were brutal — as were the ancient Athenians and Romans. But they did understand something that we need to attend to. They understood that a political community unwilling to sacrifice for its self-defense will soon disappear, and they understood the need for constitutional government. Ancient Lacedaemon was the first political community that we know of that possessed a proper constitution complete with a distribution of powers and an elaborate system of balances and checks. As such, they were the pioneers, and the forms of government found later at Athens, in Thebes, at Corinth, and in Rome owed a great deal to their example.

My latest book is short. It has four chapters, and the text, independent of the notes and appendices in the back  of the book, runs to 123 pages. It is intended as a comprehensive introduction to the Spartan way of life and to Lacedaemon’s political institutions and as a study of the genesis of that way of life, those institutions, and the grand strategy that the Lacedaemonians articulated for their defense.

BookCoverI intend it to serve as a prequel of sorts to the three-volume study of Spartan grand strategy that I am writing. The first of those volumes — The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge — was released in November and is still available from Amazon. I hope to finish the second of these volumes — The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Athenian Challenge — in December or January. Once that manuscript is fully out of my hands I will tackle The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Imperial Venture. The point of the enterprise is to demonstrate by example the folly inherent in what passes as Realism in our time. The point is to show that polities differ quite radically and that the grand strategy which countries embrace is in large part a function of the political regimes that they possess. Put simply, statesmen and the men whom they lead plot, plan, and fight not, as the so-called Realists suppose, for “interest understood as power” but for the way of life and the imperatives inspired by the particular regimes under which they live.

This ought to be obvious, and it was obvious to the likes of Thucydides. Sparta and Athens were not alike. Sure, they both were intent on defending the territories they occupied. But, in each case, there were other imperatives — regime imperatives — that guided policy.

Hitler’s Germany and Churchill’s Britain were also unalike. They had different goals, different aims — and those goals and aims were determined by their opposed political regimes.

Today, thanks to the Realist, our policy-makers live in never-never land. They suppose that one can deal with the revolutionary regime in Iran, with the neo-fascist regime of Vladimir Putin in Russia, and with the neo-communist regime in China in the same manner in which one deals with Britain, Germany, and France. All of this is wishful thinking, and our propensity to succumb to it is a function of the fact that we have gone soft. If we do not learn a little something from ancient Lacedaemon, we are doomed.

An “Old Liberal” Looks at Pravda-on-the-Hudson

 

I have a friend who emigrated from the US decades ago and took up citizenship in Israel. He is a political scientist and has written extensively over the years about American politics. From time to time, he dispatches a letter to his children, who are now all grown up. And, once in a while, he sends a copy to me. My friend is a liberal, but he comes from a different age when liberals regularly had at their own — as conservatives still do today — when they thought their fellow partisans incompetent, obtuse, or wrong-headed. He remembers, as do I, a time when it would have been unjust to call New York’s old gray lady Pravda-on-the-Hudson; a time when that venerable paper would hammer Democrats, as well as Republicans, for their failings. Here is what he wrote his children in late August about the conduct of that newspaper today. I reprint it here with his permission.

Increasingly, American scholars and social critics are discussing mental “silos,” where people chose a discourse and live within it, hearing only from media sources that agree with them, and talking only to friends and neighbors in the same silo. From one silo to another, there is little communication, as if no one aims to combine facts, views, and theories to create a composite of data approaching the truth. Instead, they all pursue only contentions, hypotheses, and partisan revelations that make them happy (or angry) together.[1]

This general trend, relentlessly encouraged by commercial television and social media, especially annoys someone like me, who grew up in an era during which many people at least claimed that they admired objectivity, or standards at all. Professors in the 19th and 20th centuries, for instance, were challenged in the hard and soft sciences with seeking out and promoting the truth (although we did not always succeed), and many universities incorporated that notion into their mottoes, such as when Johns Hopkins proclaimed its ideal (from John, 8:32) of “Veritas Vos Liberabit” (the truth will make you free).

It is not surprising, then, that Fox News supports the Republicans while MSNBC has evolved, this year, into a branch office of the Hillary Clinton campaign, offering the same spins that she and her “surrogates” attach to every twist and turn of this electoral season. It was less expected, however, at least to me, that the New York Times would so thoroughly join the Clinton chorus. That it did so is perhaps a symptom of how the American Establishment has closed ranks against Donald Trump.

Of course, I’m not enthusiastic about Trump. But coming from a country ruled by bigoted and brutal politicians like Bibi Netanyahu, Gilad Erdan, Tzachi Hanegbi, Avigdor Lieberman, Ze’ev Elkin, Miri Regev, Ayelet Shaked, Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel, Danny Danon, Tsip Hatovley, Yehuda Glick, Moshe Feiglin, and more, I am not hysterical about him, either, as many American journalists and politicians are.

The problem with the Times, then, is that if it has joined a silo, what’s left to read if you want to understand what’s going on in the world? Certainly not The Huffington Post or The Drudge Report.

* * * * *

So let me tell you about what the New York Times has been doing in its silo recently. In its editorials it has — repeatedly — thoroughly condemned Trump and passionately endorsed Clinton. I would expect no less on the editorial page of a liberal New York newspaper and, as a private business, the Times certainly has a right to express its opinion. But — ?מה לעשות — the Times still claims on its masthead that it will print “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” in which case it still claims to print what is true, yes? But that principle has gone out the window, and with it, in my opinion, the journalistic excellence that used to characterize much of political reporting in the Times.

Here are recent headlines from the International New York Times, where the original articles (not editorials) come from the New York paper. “Trump Losing Support of G.O.P Women” (August 11); “One Backer Stands Firmly With Trump: The N.R.A.” (August 12); “Trump’s Lapses Hamper Him in Key States” (August 13-14); “Inside the Operation to Save Trump From Himself” (August 15); “Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Trump Aide” (August 16); “Psychiatrists Are Torn Over Weighing in on U.S. Race” (August 17); “Big Break: Trump Casinos’ Tax Debt Cut Under Christie” (August 18).

Every one of these articles started on the front page, except for “Inside the Operation…” which appeared on p. 6. Every one of them projected a negative image of Trump, either for his odious character, his perverse remarks, his deranged supporters, or his incompetent staff. And this happens every day, some of it fed by what Clinton says about her opponent while she offers little beyond opaque platitudes about where she stands. I am still wondering, for example, exactly what she “got done” (encouraging Bill to support NAFTA? advising Obama to bomb Libya?) in order to justify saying that “I am a progressive who gets things done” (as opposed to Bernie Sanders, who was naïve and unrealistic, right?)

Posting articles which blast Trump is a form of editorial promotion on the page where news rather than opinion is supposed to appear. But beyond that, the truth is that — substance-wise — many of these same articles flow from rumors, innuendoes, gossip, libelous accusations, malicious put-downs, partisan contentions, and anonymous sources. Such articles are less like top-notch journalism than they are like character assassinations.

For example, The “Secret Ledger…” claims that Trump’s campaign chief, Paul Manafort, is “linked to illegal payments” of millions of dollars from businessmen and politicians in the Ukraine. The article reports on talk in Kiev and what is being said there by “government investigators,” “criminal prosecutors,” “anticorruption officials, “prosecutors,” “detectives,” and Ukrainian politicians, past and present.

It sounds impressive (and who knows what really happened?), but in truth such articles are analogous to the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland announcing “First the verdict, then the trial.” Nothing has been demonstrated by any of these “sources” (there have been no trials) but their suspicions (or their self-interests), therefore what the Times is actually doing is to say that where there is smoke, there must be fire. This is the same technique used by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his fans like William Buckley, Jr.,[2] when the Senator claimed that there were more than 200 Communists in the State Department. Upon examination, it turned out that McCarthy based his estimate on the voluminous raw data (smoke) in State Department files which had already been judged as insufficiently probative to support charges even in administrative courts. Thus the famous Herblock cartoon of a length of white picket fence, with a scrawled inscription on it (next to “Post No Bills”) saying that “Joe Zilch is a Red,” being carried into a meeting room as evidence for McCarthy’s investigatory committee.

Then there is “Psychiatrists Are Torn…,” which explains that, against their own disciplinary ethic which forbids them from expressing a collective political opinion, “more than 2,200… mental health specialists” have signed a manifesto which, presumably reflecting their scientific expertise, explains that “Trumpism” is a mindset which promotes false history and incites violence. In short, they are saying that the proponent of that mindset, Donald Trump, is psychologically unfit for public office. This even though they have never spoken to him and therefore cannot, by the standards of their profession, make a reputable, in-depth diagnosis of the man’s personality and character.

To say nothing of the latest, entitled “Big Break….” This article explains that while Chris Christie was governor of New Jersey, a state tax claim against Trump (announced in 2004 and resolved in 2011) — contested continually by Trump lawyers — for “almost $30 million” was settled out of court for $5 million. The clear implication of the article is that Christie as governor pulled strings (“tax debt cut under Christie”) to assure that Trump would be granted an enormous discount on his debt. You have to look in this article’s fine print to notice that the original claim against Trump in 2004 was for $8.8 million, which means that it was settled in 2011 for about 65% of the original debt minus automatic interest charges piled on by the state automatically, which is not unusual in contested tax cases.[3] But readers of the article probably won’t pay much attention to such exact figures when they discover in the same article conclusive evidence of wrongdoing revealed by Joseph Rival, who was the husband of New Jersey’s attorney general in some of those years, and who declared, very persuasively “in a Twitter post,” that Trump was a “tax cheat.” So there!

* * * * *

I could go on, but you get the point. It is not that Trump is admirable; it is that he is so unconventional as to terrify the establishment (most of whom don’t shop at Christian bookstores or attend NASCAR races).[4] Accordingly, even the New York Times joined the vigilantes and stopped looking for complex elements of truth. This instead of occasionally noting that, for all his shocking demeanor and verbal insults, Trump sometimes puts on the table for discussion real problems that Clinton won’t address — for example the fact that Moslem immigrants, as a group, are really something of a challenge to America because virtually every suicide bomber against Western countries has been a Moslem. Or the fact that conventional politicians, including Democrats and Republicans, have ruled the country for several decades, during which time African American incarceration and unemployment rates shot up and many black neighborhoods — think Ferguson and Milwaukee — have become more impoverished and violent than before.

In fact, if you are in the New York Times silo, in this season of democratically choosing the next President of the United States, there is, so far, actually no election campaign to speak of, no back and forth between Trump’s proposals and those of Clinton. Instead, there is just a face-off between “the most qualified presidential candidate ever” and a nincompoop, if not a lunatic.

* * * * *

All that may end on September 26 when the first televised presidential debate takes place. On that day, for an hour and a half, the two candidates will appear on the same stage and screen to answer, more or less, the same questions. It will be an exchange of views that no media outlet is presenting today, while the red media people bash Hillary personally and the blue media people maul Trump.

No one knows how either of the candidates will perform. But I suspect that Trump will, implicitly at least, admit that he doesn’t know as much as Clinton does about issues ranging from what to do about Zika mosquitoes to the chaotic fighting in Syria. On the other hand, he might argue that his relative inexperience doesn’t matter, that his heart is in the right place, and that her knowledge has mainly to do with producing more of the same, in which case she is part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Love,

Abba

P.S. I should note here this morning’s front page article (August 19),

“An Advisor to Trump Who ‘Loves the Fight.’” The advisor is identified as Stephen Bannon, the “Executive Chairman” of Breitbart News, who was named Trump’s “campaign chief” on August 17. This news article (not on the editorial page, right?) describes him as “a purveyor of scorched-earth right-wing media who dwells [Bannon, not Breitbart News] in the darker corners of American politics,” and “someone who is prone to profanity-laced tirades at all hours of the night.”

[1] In literary terms, it is as if alternative descriptions of reality coming from silos are turning the world into one, big Rashamon play.

[2] See William Buckley, Jr., and Brent Bozell, McCarthy and His Enemies (1954).

[3] As the article says, “the total, with interest, had grown to almost $30 million.” In other words, while Trump’s lawyers were contending in court after court that Trump owed nothing, the state was automatically adding to its claim for payment, so that “the debt” grew from $8.8 million to “almost $30 million.” Then the article, using the “almost $30 million” figure, reports that the state (now ruled by Governor Christie), “agreed to accept just $5 million, roughly 17 cents on the dollar of what auditors said the casinos owed.”

[4] Maybe some of them like country music, which is featured repeatedly on Fox News. But in a recent White House press release describing President Obama’s favorite music, country music is conspicuously (to me) absent.

The problem that my friend has identified is not limited to The New York Times. He could have been writing about The Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN… the list is long. Ask yourself this, how many liberal outlets blasted Hillary Clinton for vilifying one-quarter of the electorate and her running mate for following suit? Conservatives have let Donald Trump have it for his over-the-top claims. How many Democrats said that Clinton was out of bounds?

Nor is unprofessionalism limited to journalism. The academy is now unashamedly partisan, and the same can be said for many in the learned professions. I am not an admirer of Donald Trump. I think that much of the criticism directed at him by liberals (and conservatives) is on the mark. But today’s liberals are up to something that is ugly. They do not treat those who beg to differ with their views as mistaken and in need of persuasion. They demonize them. They vilify them, and there is no one in their number who has the courage to break ranks, to acknowledge when Trump says something worth listening to, and to subject the Democratic Party’s nominee to close scrutiny.

The logic of the position that today’s liberals take — that their opponents are wicked — leads inexorably to the conclusion that their opponents must be silenced and cowed. Last Friday, when Hillary Clinton denounced those who think her political orientation unwise as “a basket of deplorables,” she made it clear that, if she wins, something will have to be done about such people. And let’s face it. Nearly everyone who strongly backs her agrees.

Trump Seizes a Golden Opportunity

 

Hillary Clinton crossed a line Friday night when she borrowed a line from Barack Obama’s playbook and demonized those who disagree with her, denouncing one-quarter of her fellow Americans as sexists, racists, homophobes, and Islamophobes and castigating them as a “basket of deplorables.” It is one thing to attack a political candidate or even a political party. When one thinks that they have gone astray, they are fair game. It is another to go after their voters; and today, when Donald Trump responded to this vile attempt to set American against American and to sow the seeds of civil strife, he hit a home run:

I was . . . deeply shocked and alarmed this Friday to hear my opponent attack, slander, smear and demean these wonderful, amazing people who are supporting our campaign.

Our support comes from every part of America, and every walk of life. We have the support of cops and soldiers, carpenters and welders, the young and the old, and millions of working class families who just want a better future.

These were the people Hillary Clinton so viciously demonized. These were among the countless Americans that Hillary Clinton called deplorable, irredeemable and un-American. She called these patriotic men and women every vile name in the book – she called them racist, sexist, xenophobic, and Islamaphobic.

She called them a “basket of deplorables” in both a speech and an interview. She divides people into baskets as though they were objects, not human beings.

Hillary Clinton made these comments at one of her high-dollar fundraisers in Wall Street.

She and her wealthy donors all had a good laugh. They were laughing at the very people who pave the roads she drives on, paint the buildings she speaks in, and keep the lights on in her auditorium.

Hillary Clinton is an insider, supported by powerful insiders, attacking Americans who have no political power.

Hillary Clinton spoke with hatred and derision for the people who make this country run.

She spoke with contempt for the people who thanklessly follow the rules, pay their taxes, and scratch out a living for their families.

While Hillary Clinton lives a sequestered life behind gates and walls and guards, she mocks and demeans hardworking Americans who only want their own families to enjoy a fraction of the security enjoyed by our politicians.

After months of hiding from the press, Hillary Clinton has revealed her true thoughts.

She revealed herself to be a person who looks down on the proud citizens of our country as subjects for her to rule over.

Her comments displayed the same sense of arrogance and entitlement that led her to violate federal law as Secretary of State, hide and delete her emails, put classified information in the reach of our enemies, lie to Congress, and sell government favors and access through her Foundation.

It’s the same attitude that explains why Hillary Clinton refuses to take accountability for the deadly disasters she helped to create in Iraq, in Syria and in Libya.

To this day, she still won’t take accountability for her role in unleashing ISIS across the Middle East – or for putting Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon.

Hillary Clinton believes she is above the law, that she is above accountability, and that she is above each and every one of you.

Our campaign is about giving voice to the voiceless. It’s about representing the forgotten men and women of this country.

I’m here to represent everyone, but especially those who are struggling against injustice and unfairness.

I am running so that the powerful can no longer beat up on the powerless. I’m running to take on the special interests, the big donors, and the corrupt political insiders.

I am running to be your voice.

I am not, as most of you know, an admirer of Donald Trump. I greatly regret that he was given the Republican nomination, and I fear that, if elected to the Presidency, he (as well as Hillary Clinton) will make a bad situation worse. But I will say this. In this speech, Mr. Trump said what needed saying. If he says it again and again and again, if he does not get distracted, if he makes this the theme of his campaign, if he relentlessly stays on message, I believe that he will win, and he will have earned that victory.

Hillary Clinton let the mask slip on Friday. She said out loud what she and a majority of her fellow liberals think about the rest of us, and a great many liberal opinion leaders chimed in to indicate their agreement. Every Republican candidate should seize on this, and they should all challenge their Democratic opponents to repudiate the Democratic candidate’s vilification of their fellow Americans.

There are moments when the truth slips out. We cannot rely on Pravda-on-the-Hudson, on Pravda-on-the-Potomac, and on Pravda-on-the-Airways to do anything but deep-six Mrs. Clinton’s remarks. They will be burned into the memories of the American people if and only if the Trump campaign and the Republicans running for office unite in hammering away at this theme. When this electoral season is over, Mrs. Clinton’s remarks should be the one thing that everyone remembers. For her remarks have one great virtue: they crystallize what everyone fears about her and about today’s Democratic Party.

The Academy: Doing Its Thing

 

Here is something to warm the cockles of your heart. If you were a student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, you could enroll in an online digital course entitled “Medical Humanities in the Digital Age.” Taught by Rebecca Laroche, Wendy Haggren, and Eileen Skahill, it has as its subject — you guessed it! — the impact of climate change.

There is only one problem. As Kate Hardiman points out at The College Fix, you have to be a true believer to pass the course. Here is what an email sent out by the professors makes clear,

“Opening up a debate that 98% of climate scientists unequivocally agree to be a non-debate would detract from the central concerns of environment and health addressed in this course,” the professors’ email continued.

“… If you believe this premise to be an issue for you, we respectfully ask that you do not take this course, as there are options within the Humanities program for face to face this semester and online next.”

The professors also note this ban on debate extends to discussion among students in the online forums. Moreover, students who choose to use outside sources for research during their time in the course may select only those that have been peer-reviewed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the email states.

You should read the rest of Kate Hardiman’s report. But you might also want to consider something she missed: Wendy Haggren is an English professor and Eileen Skahill is a sociology professor. The only scientist in the bunch is Rebecca Laroche, who is a chemist and whose research has to do with DNA. None of the three is a meteorologist or a climate scientist. None of the three has any particular expertise pertinent to the question of climate change.

It is no wonder that the professors will not tolerate students raising questions about the validity of their premises. None of them has the wherewithal to give a proper response. This is not a course. It is what used to be called a “consciousness-raising session.” And it says a great deal about the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs that it is being offered this semester.

If you are from Colorado, these are your tax dollars at work.

What Rights Should We Accord Felons?

 

One of the virtues of being the age I am is that I have former students who are out and about in the world, and every once in a while one of them does something that sets me chortling. Here is one such example — a letter that appeared in Pravda-on-the-Potomac on Sunday:

As a retired state and federal prosecutor, I was surprised to read in Gideon Yaffe’s July 28 op-ed, “Let felons and prisoners vote,” that prisoners “should be allowed to vote, no matter their crimes,” apparently because “we cannot hold citizens to account for violating our laws while denying them a say over those laws.”

If so, why stop there? From the rise of Athenian democracy 2,500 years ago, through the enlistment of African Americans in the Union Army, to our 26th Amendment, which in 1971 enfranchised 18-year-olds, the right to vote has been based in part on the ability to bear arms. Many Americans believe that the right to bear arms, as set forth by the Second Amendment, is both fundamental and inextricably linked to the right to vote. If the professor is right, convicted murderers, terrorists and traitors ought to have the same rights that other U.S. voters have.

A reality TV show can’t be far behind. Perhaps it should be named “Gladiators.”

@roblong? There might be an opportunity here. Perhaps this show could be a Ricochet project.

Profiles in Cowardice

 

Back in 1919, William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called “The Second Coming,” which began with the following verses:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The Falcon cannot hear the falconer.
Things fall apart, the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

I think of this poem often. I thought of it when John Roberts turned himself into the legal equivalent of a pretzel in a cowardly attempt to dodge the fact that Obamacare was, on the face of it, unconstitutional. I thought of it later while sitting in a hotel room in Indianapolis as Mike Pence collapsed when Tim Cooke of Apple called him after the Indiana Legislature passed a facsimile of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I thought of it when Nathan Deal vetoed an act passed by the Georgia Legislature specifying that bathrooms be allocated in that state by sex. And I thought of it today when James Comey, Director of the FBI, recommended that Hillary Clinton not be prosecuted for gross negligence for doing all of her business as Secretary of State via an email server lodged in her home, pleading that the poor girl had not intended harm.

We, too, live in a time when the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity. It has been ugly the last eight years, and it is going to be uglier still.

Paul A. Rahe

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@paularahe