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LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: The Mueller Report Beat Goes On and Much, Much More. “I’ve been right all along about this entire special counsel fiasco. The report is a political document, not a legal one. If you did not buy into the false RUSSIA collusion narrative, you will read the second part of the report outlining the ‘obstructive’ behavior of Trump as the actions of an angry man who was unjustly accused. You will see Trump’s behavior as that of someone who was getting absolutely pummled all day and all night in the media and by Democrats who were making it impossible to for him to govern and were undermining his legitimacy as president. Trump wanted to stop the Democrat-media harrassment not cover up a crime. You may remember the #resistence’s plan was to delegitimize Trump and the goal of the Mueller team was to wait until the Democrats took control of the House to turn the report into a political weapon if they couldn’t charge the Trump folks with RUSSIA-related crimes.”

HOW OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY DO YOU HAVE TO BE, TO THINK THAT TRUMP IS “SLAVISHLY SUBORDINATE” TO PUTIN?

Reality: Democrats, Join Trump Against Russian Aggression: His administration has been tough on Moscow’s meddling, both in U.S. elections and abroad.

Mr. Mueller did indict 13 Russian nationals for offenses related to election meddling. We know Moscow spent money on Facebook ads designed to exploit America’s divisions, targeting voters on both sides of the aisle. And Mr. Trump and the Republicans have responded. Under legislation enacted by a Republican Congress, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs and intelligence agencies.

Beyond the meddling, Mr. Trump has slammed Russia with bold moves designed to weaken Mr. Putin on the world’s stage. This administration imposed sanctions on Russia for violating nonproliferation laws by supporting weapons programs in Iran, Syria and North Korea. The Trump administration also issued more sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its continuing occupation of Crimea. In 2017, the administration expelled 60 Russian intelligence officers and ordered multiple Russian consulates to close after Russia used a military-grade chemical weapon in the U.K. Mr. Trump even blocked Mr. Putin’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for Russia if it goes ahead.

These tough actions have had an effect. Between January and July 2018, the Russian ruble declined 9% against the U.S. dollar. Russia’s Economic Development Ministry expects its economy to grow only 1.3% in 2019. The U.S. economy grew 2.9% in 2018 and is headed for another strong year.

In 2017, Mr. Trump supplied Ukraine with weapons so it could defend itself against Russian attacks. Remember, it was President Obama who stood idly as Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has also engaged in hard-fought battles with Russian mercenaries in Syria.

In a sense, Russia succeeded in its mission to stoke division and fear within America. Some top Democrats have played right into Moscow’s hands by pursuing endless partisan investigations. If Democrats care about thwarting Russian meddling and aggression, they will disavow their conspiracy theory that our president is Mr. Putin’s puppet, and stop wasting taxpayer money peddling disproved collusion narratives. Instead, they can support this administration’s efforts to stand tall against the consistent threat Russia poses to America’s national security.

As Walter Russell Mead wrote in 2017:

If Trump were the Manchurian candidate that people keep wanting to believe that he is, here are some of the things he’d be doing:

Limiting fracking as much as he possibly could
Blocking oil and gas pipelines
Opening negotiations for major nuclear arms reductions
Cutting U.S. military spending
Trying to tamp down tensions with Russia’s ally Iran

That Trump is planning to do precisely the opposite of these things may or may not be good policy for the United States, but anybody who thinks this is a Russia appeasement policy has been drinking way too much joy juice.

Obama actually did all of these things, and none of the liberal media now up in arms about Trump ever called Obama a Russian puppet; instead, they preferred to see a brave, farsighted and courageous statesman. Trump does none of these things and has embarked on a course that will inexorably weaken Russia’s position in the world, and the media, suddenly flushing eight years of Russia dovishness down the memory hole, now sounds the warning that Trump’s Russia policy is treasonously soft.

Think of them as Democratic operatives with bylines, and no particular loyalty to the country’s best interests, and you won’t go far wrong.

But remember while America’s political class is focused on Russia, Chinese influence is running wild. That’s not an accident.

I LIKE DAVID FRENCH, BUT THIS IS AHISTORICAL BULLSHIT:

I mean, let’s just look at the presidents of my lifetime: JFK: Adulterer, drug user, made his brother (!) Attorney General, shady mafia connections, stole election. LBJ: Adulterer, much cruder than Trump, started Vietnam War. Nixon: Honestly, better than LBJ but the source of the term “Nixonian.” Ford: Nice guy, failed president. Carter: Nice guy, failed president. Reagan: The GOP gold standard, but a multiply-divorced Hollywood actor whose administration was marked by nearly as much scandal-drama as Trump’s. (Just look up Justice Gorsuch’s mother). George HW: Nice guy, but longtime adulterer and failed president. Bill Clinton: I mean, come on. George W. Bush: Personal rectitude in office, though he’s been a bit of a dick since Trump beat his brother. Iraq War thing didn’t turn out too well. Mediocre judicial appointments and little attention to domestic reforms. Gave us TSA. Obama: Far more scandals, and far more abuse of power, than Trump. And does French forget that Trump was running against Hillary?

But at any rate, the American people had a chance to decide if they wanted a man like Trump in the White House, and they decided that they did. And Trump’s now polling better than Obama did at this point in his presidency, and will almost certainly rise in the polls post Mueller report.

I mean, most of our successful presidents weren’t nice guys — FDR makes LBJ and Nixon look like pikers — and most of the nice guys in that office were failures as president. And Trump’s behavior in office is, by comparison with his predecessor, better, if cruder.

And in terms of his actions, well, Trump’s actual performance in office is looking pretty good. The economy is booming, foreign policy is going better than under his creased-pants predecessor, regulations are being slashed, and the courts are being better-stocked than any Republican president in my lifetime, including Reagan, ever managed.

Against that record, schoolmarmish disapproval pales in importance. But you want an America where a better man than Donald Trump can be a successful president? Then you have to make a better America, not least by crushing the power of the existing, awful, ruling class. And guess what: That’s what Trump’s doing. The NeverTrumpers, meanwhile, have chosen to ally themselves with the problem.

As James Taranto says, NeverTrumpism seems to be primarily an aesthetic phenomenon, and to indulge in it you have to think that our existing ruling class is more attractive than Trump. De gustibus non disputandum est, but I don’t feel that way at all.

Related:

Plus:

OKAY, I WROTE THIS FOR USA TODAY right after the Barr press conference, but they don’t want to run it because it doesn’t incorporate the Mueller Report. Since I don’t have time to read and digest the report this afternoon (I’m teaching two 2-hour classes back to back), I’m just posting it here. Enjoy!

_____

BILL BARR: ADULT IN THE ROOM

Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Bill Barr’s press conference regarding the Mueller Report release was notable for both style and substance.

On style, he reminded us that in an age of shrieking media hysteria and out-of-control twitter-pols, there is still a place for stolid, stodgy, rule-following bureaucrats. Standing at the lectern with his lieutenants behind him, he calmly and carefully explained what was in the report, what had been redacted and why, and what the applicable laws and rules were. He didn’t play to the media, or to the social media. In tone and manner he was, well, boring.

It was refreshing.

On substance, he made clear that, after two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and endless media speculation, the “Russian collusion” story was, as some of us had noted all along, a story about nothing. No member of Trump’s campaign — and in fact, no American anywhere — colluded with the Russians to influence the campaign.

In Barr’s words: “As the Special Counsel’s report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election. But thanks to the Special Counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter. That is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed.”

Nor do fallback claims of “obstruction” hold water: “In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.”

Barr also noted that the White House did not ask for any redactions in the report, and President Trump chose not to exert Executive Privilege, even though, in Barr’s words, “he would have been well within his rights to do so.” What redactions were made in the report were made by the Department of Justice attorneys and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s staff, and were designed to protect ongoing investigations and prosecutions, and some national security matters.

So no collusion, and no obstruction, and no serious grounds for complaining about the redactions. No doubt some politicians, eager to keep their base heated up, will try to pretend otherwise, and some cable news channels and media outlets, desperate for viewers and clicks, will go along.

But normal people should be pleased and relieved that there was no collusion, even as they should be angry that a huge chunk of our political class seriously maintained that the President of the United States was a Russian puppet. That claim, based more on a desire to undo the 2016 election than on any actual evidence, was a poisonous corruption of our political discourse, and those involved should be — but won’t be — ashamed.

They should, however, be ignored in the future.

WORD OF THE WEEK IS “NIMBY”: Forget the Categorical Imperative for a second. If I save a drowning person in hopes of getting a big reward, is she no less saved? It seems to me that the hubbub about Trump’s sanctuary plan is simply “we don’t like his motives.” This is the worst NIMBY I’ve seen since Ted Kennedy blocked wind energy farms off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

It’s more than a masterstroke of trolling by Trump, it’s actually a lesson in “be careful what you ask for.” But NIMBY is old chapeau for the faux-liberals. There is no more solidly Democrat neighborhood than the People’s Republic of the Upper West Side. Yet, when the beloved “diversity” (virtuous!) was proposed for THEIR schools, these Hillarybots went markedly Galt: Said one parent: “You’re talking about telling an 11-year-old, ‘You worked your butt off and you didn’t get that, what you needed and wanted.”

I simply cannot help but be reminded of this Christopher Guest classic:

BY NOT WANTING TO GET IT RIGHT: Bob Kerrey: How did Department of Justice get the Trump-Russia investigation so wrong?

Delusions fascinate me in part because I have so many of my own. Most often delusions are harmless. Sometimes they are not.

At the moment my fellow Democrats are suffering from two that are harmful. The first is that Americans long for a president who will ask us to pay more for the pleasure of increasing the role of the federal government in our lives. That this is a delusion can be seen in the promises made by six successful Democratic candidates in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan: three governors and three senators. Not one of them supported the Green New Deal, a tax on wealth or “Medicare for all.”

The second Democratic delusion is that Americans were robbed of the truth when Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and Attorney General William Barr concluded that President Trump did not collude with Russia in 2016. All evidence indicates that the full report will not change the conclusion that Donald J. Trump did not collude with Vladimir Putin to secure his victory in 2016.

Rather than investigating the president further, Congress needs to investigate how the Department of Justice got this one so wrong. If the president of the United States is vulnerable to prosecutorial abuse, then God help all the rest of us. Members of Congress cannot do this themselves. We do not trust them enough with such a vital mission.

Congress should create a nonpartisan commission to find out what went wrong and to tell us what needs to be done to make certain it never happens again.

Sorry, not crazy enough.

SPENGLER: To Stop the Deep State, Bring Back Mike Flynn!

President Trump should pardon Gen. Flynn right now and summon him back to Washington. Mueller forced Flynn to plead guilty to an invented charge of lying to FBI agents, even though the FBI agents who interviewed him about Russian contacts said that they thought he was telling the truth. Now that the Mueller investigation has come up with nothing, the frame-up of Gen. Flynn appears all the more heinous. The Deep State feared Mike Flynn, with good reason. Trump should reappoint him to a top job, and really terrify his opponents.

Flynn’s Defense Intelligence Agency produced a now-notorious 2012 report warning that CIA backing for Sunni rebels fighting Assad would lead to the rise of a new Caliphate movement, namely ISIS. The Obama administration threw its support behind the “Arab Spring” rebellion in Syria, ignoring the fact that Islamist terrorists led the opposition to Assad. This was reported exhaustively in specialist media, for example, Brad Hoff’s July 2016 essay in Foreign Policy Journal: Flynn humiliated the bungling CIA and exposed the incompetence and deception of the Obama administration, and got fired for it.

If the proper authorities turn over the CIA’s rock and examine its underside, the result will be the exposure of an intelligence failure of galactic proportions. The CIA channeled Saudi money into al-Qaeda fronts in Syria and helped move a large part of the late Col. Qaddafi’s massive arsenal to Syria. The jihadists backed by the CIA eventually formed a good deal of ISIS. Heads would roll at CIA. And when I say “proper authorities,” I mean Gen. Flynn in his capacity as National Security Adviser, a job in which he lasted a month before the Deep State set him up and persuaded President Trump to fire him.

Some of the money went to unfortunate places, and they didn’t want that to come out.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Trump Wants to Release Sketchy FISA Warrant and Much, Much More. “Citing a ‘high-level source,’ Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul charged in a bombshell Twitter post late Wednesday that anti-Trump ex-CIA Director John Brennan ‘insisted that the unverified and fake Steele dossier’ be included in a classified intelligence community report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections — a decision that ultimately lent credibility to the dossier and may have played a key role in fomenting unfounded fears of Russia collusion for two years.”

DROPPING CHARGES AGAINST SMOLLETT IS LIKE SPITTING IN THE FACE OF CHICAGO POLICE: My gentlemen friend is more pessimistic about the world than I am (and that’s saying something). He predicted that the police would be prevented from investigating the possibility that Jussie Smollett’s case was a hoax (wrong), that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel would cheerlead for Smollett no matter how obvious his guilt (wrong), and that Smollett would never be charged with a crime (wrong).   My reasoning in predicting the opposite was this: Why would Chicago’s leaders want people to believe that you can’t go out for a sandwich in one of Chicago’s toniest neighborhoods without being violently attacked by Trump supporting nut cases carrying nooses?

We never dreamed that charges would be suddenly dropped against Smollett, so we never discussed that possibility. Still, score one for my friend’s pessimism.

I take consolation in the fact that Emmanuel is spitting mad, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is spitting mad, the editors of the Chicago Tribune are spitting mad … and even Piers Morgan is unhappy.

TENN. CONGRESSMAN MARK GREEN: Democrats, Join Trump Against Russian Aggression: His administration has been tough on Moscow’s meddling, both in U.S. elections and abroad.

Mr. Mueller did indict 13 Russian nationals for offenses related to election meddling. We know Moscow spent money on Facebook ads designed to exploit America’s divisions, targeting voters on both sides of the aisle. And Mr. Trump and the Republicans have responded. Under legislation enacted by a Republican Congress, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs and intelligence agencies.

Beyond the meddling, Mr. Trump has slammed Russia with bold moves designed to weaken Mr. Putin on the world’s stage. This administration imposed sanctions on Russia for violating nonproliferation laws by supporting weapons programs in Iran, Syria and North Korea. The Trump administration also issued more sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its continuing occupation of Crimea. In 2017, the administration expelled 60 Russian intelligence officers and ordered multiple Russian consulates to close after Russia used a military-grade chemical weapon in the U.K. Mr. Trump even blocked Mr. Putin’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for Russia if it goes ahead.

These tough actions have had an effect. Between January and July 2018, the Russian ruble declined 9% against the U.S. dollar. Russia’s Economic Development Ministry expects its economy to grow only 1.3% in 2019. The U.S. economy grew 2.9% in 2018 and is headed for another strong year.

In 2017, Mr. Trump supplied Ukraine with weapons so it could defend itself against Russian attacks. Remember, it was President Obama who stood idly as Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has also engaged in hard-fought battles with Russian mercenaries in Syria.

In a sense, Russia succeeded in its mission to stoke division and fear within America. Some top Democrats have played right into Moscow’s hands by pursuing endless partisan investigations. If Democrats care about thwarting Russian meddling and aggression, they will disavow their conspiracy theory that our president is Mr. Putin’s puppet, and stop wasting taxpayer money peddling disproved collusion narratives. Instead, they can support this administration’s efforts to stand tall against the consistent threat Russia poses to America’s national security.

As Walter Russell Mead wrote in 2017:

If Trump were the Manchurian candidate that people keep wanting to believe that he is, here are some of the things he’d be doing:

Limiting fracking as much as he possibly could
Blocking oil and gas pipelines
Opening negotiations for major nuclear arms reductions
Cutting U.S. military spending
Trying to tamp down tensions with Russia’s ally Iran

That Trump is planning to do precisely the opposite of these things may or may not be good policy for the United States, but anybody who thinks this is a Russia appeasement policy has been drinking way too much joy juice.

Obama actually did all of these things, and none of the liberal media now up in arms about Trump ever called Obama a Russian puppet; instead, they preferred to see a brave, farsighted and courageous statesman. Trump does none of these things and has embarked on a course that will inexorably weaken Russia’s position in the world, and the media, suddenly flushing eight years of Russia dovishness down the memory hole, now sounds the warning that Trump’s Russia policy is treasonously soft.

Think of them as Democratic operatives with bylines, and no particular loyalty to the country’s best interests, and you won’t go far wrong.

But remember while America’s political class is focused on Russia, Chinese influence is running wild. That’s not an accident.

EVERGREEN HEADLINE: Democrats want to change the rules because they aren’t winning anymore.

BUDGETING: Pentagon finds $12.8 billion for Trump’s border wall.

The Defense Department has identified $12.8 billion in possible funding that it could use to fulfill President Trump’s call for a border wall.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., released the 20-page spreadsheet on Twitter Monday night.

Trump last month declared a national emergency at the border, and said he wants to use $3.6 billion for border wall projects. The Pentagon’s list said it has found possible funding sources that are “in excess of the amount needed.”

But it’s not clear which projects the Defense Department will draw from. Some states that have been allocated big chunks of money that haven’t been spent could see a hit.

California, for example, was identified as having more than $700 million in unused Army and Navy military construction that could be used. Hawaii has more than $400 million that could be used.

Blue states gotta pay their fair share.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: White supremacy alert and much, much more. “CNN/the left wants you to know that Trump did not sufficiently denounce white supremacy following the horrible massacre in New Zealand. I can’t imagine a group of people more ill-suited to address ‘white supremacy’ than the band of jokers who have reduced every person in America to their color, gender and sexual preference while elevating victimhood to the highest virtue. What did they think was going to happen when they insist people are identified primarily by their attributes?”

They thought they’d profit handsomely for it — and they have.

WELL, HE CAN’T DO THAT WITH A DEMOCRATIC HOUSE: Should Trump add six or more seats to the Supreme Court right now? But that’s not the plan:

This is not a Swiftian Modest Proposal-esque satirical suggestion. I’d like to see Trump do it — but not to get those seats added to the Supreme Court. If Trump tries it, Congress would move heaven and earth to block him from succeeding at his court-packing plan, and that would be a bipartisan effort. We’ll have more later on the bipartisan project to curtail the National Emergencies Act after Trump’s border-wall declaration, but this would generation an outrage of an order of multitude higher. Legislation to limit the Supreme Court to nine seats might even pass on unanimous votes, or at least far more than would be needed for a veto override.

That assumes that Trump would veto such a bill. He’d get exactly what he wants — a way to make sure that the current composition of the court endures, plus a strengthening of an institutional norm as his legacy. At the very least, it would expose his potential 2020 challengers as the idiots and blowhards they are for floating this idea in the first place, and that is in itself priceless. Especially for Trump in 2020.

Heh.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Trump’s a white nationalist redux and much, much more. “So predictable. This time, the shooter who I will not name cited Trump in his manifesto giving the left more ammunition for their favorite issue. The gunman wanted the media to go after the individuals he singled out in his rantings and the media has delivered right on cue! They always take the bait.”

It’s “RUSSIA!” all over again.

HMM: Americans Are Divided by Their Views on Race, Not Race Itself: It’s a crucial difference — and grounds for optimism.

We find this pattern across numerous issues. And taken as a whole, it reveals something about the United States in the Trump era: The country is not divided by racial conflict, but by conflict over racial ideology. This is a crucial difference — and it is also grounds for optimism.

Race pertains to communities defined by ancestry and physical appearance. Racial ideology turns instead on race as a political idea. Questions like “Should Northam resign?” or “Is the wall racist?” divide voters today by ideology far more than race. “White” is a description of a person’s race, whereas feelings about whether whites are privileged or whether diversity makes the country stronger are part of a person’s racial ideology.

Liberal whites — not minorities — are setting the tone on these issues.

Since 2012, white liberals have moved considerably left on questions related to race, reflecting both a campus- and online-driven cultural awakening that has accelerated in response to Mr. Trump. On the American National Election Study’s scale measuring how respondents feel about a group — white liberals are warmer toward minorities than their own racial group. . . . For example, support for immigration among Democrats has broadly risen, but that rise is much more pronounced for white Democrats than for black Democrats. . . .

Yet Trump voters rate minorities relatively warmly. Racial ideology rather than race accounts for their differences with white Democrats: White Republicans reject affirmative action, the notion of white privilege and the idea that racial discrimination continues to hold minorities back.

Minorities again rank in between on many of these measures. When it comes to “microaggression” statements such as “America is a colorblind society” or “You are so articulate,” few blacks and Hispanics find these offensive while more liberal whites do.

So basically, most of the racial conflict in today’s America comes from white liberals wanting to feel good about themselves.

MOLLY BALL: Nancy Pelosi Doesn’t Want to Talk About Impeachment. The Democrats May Not Be Able to Resist It.

Democrats control the House, and about three-quarters of their voters favor impeachment. A well-funded grassroots movement is mounting an aggressive campaign to pressure wavering lawmakers. Multiple investigations into the President, his business and his Administration are under way. The one led by special counsel Robert Mueller may conclude any day, but no matter what Mueller finds, many Democrats in Congress believe there’s already ample evidence that Trump has committed crimes and proven himself unfit to serve. These lawmakers see a moral imperative to seek the remedy prescribed by the Constitution.

More than a quarter of the 235 Democrats in the House have already expressed support for Trump’s impeachment. Virtually everyone else is taking a “wait for Mueller” approach. But no one is ruling it out. And to many, the prospect of opening impeachment proceedings against Trump seems inevitable. “It’s not a matter of whether, it’s a matter of when,” as Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky told CNN on March 12.

All they have to do is not act crazy… and you know the rest.

ILHAN OMAR: Obama’s “hope and change” was a mirage:

Recalling the “caging of kids” at the U.S.-Mexico border* and the “droning of countries around the world” on Obama’s watch, she argues that the Democratic president operated within the same fundamentally broken framework as his Republican successor.

“We can’t be only upset with Trump. … His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was,” Omar says. “And that’s not what we should be looking for anymore. We don’t want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished. We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile.”

In 2016, Bernie Sanders campaigned under the premise that the “real unemployment” rate under then-President Obama was 10.5 percent. AOC’s “Green New Deal” is premised on the notion that Obama’s own green-obsessed “New New Deal” (as Time magazine dubbed it) accomplished nothing. Just as Hillary campaigned in 2016 with a paradoxical ‘90s nostalgia while rejecting all of her husband’s policies that made the stable economy of that decade possible, it will be fascinating to watch the left campaign simultaneously rejecting Obama’s policies and/or telling us what a failure they were (because Democrats have to keep moving further and further to the left), while wanting his blessings on the campaign trail.

* Curiously, the DNC-MSM didn’t highlight those stories much until Obama left office.

WHEN LAW PROFESSORS ARE ALARMIST: In Prof. Garrett Epps’ comments about New York Times v. Sullivan, we are told, “Thomas managed to attack the basis of American press freedom.”

The basis of American press freedom is the First Amendment. New York Times v. Sullivan rests on an interpretation of the First Amendment that Thomas thinks is wrong. To believe that New York Times v. Sullivan is the basis of American press freedom, one must believe that the American press was not free for the 175 years or so the country was in existence before Sullivan was decided.

Honestly, and this is very much an admission against interest, I think Thomas has a point.

It is a fair critique of sorts to argue that Thomas often goes his own way, telling the Supreme Court that its jurisprudence is wrong, and sometimes that it’s been wrong for a century or more. He sticks to his own interpretations, making him a sort of anti-William J. Brennan, who was famously flexible in the process of assembling the necessary 5 votes to reach a desired outcome. As with lefties who wish conservatives on the Court followed a “living Constitution” methodology, wishing that Thomas were more like Brennan seems . . . unwise.

But there’s good advice for President Trump here: If you want to maximize your influence on the Court over time, appoint justices who are more collaborative in their approach.

UPDATE: In response to the comments, Brennan was collaborative in approach, but inflexible in his goals. Contrary to, say, John Roberts.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: Apparently, A Fake PAC Is Soaking Up Trump Donations.

There’s been a particularly bad robocalling scheme going on lately, asking people to donate money to President Trump’s 2020 reelection or to help fund the building of the border wall. But wait… you might actually want to help with those things so it’s not so bad, right?

Not in this case. According to CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, these calls are coming from a shady operation that’s claiming to be affiliated with the President, but in reality, have nothing to do with Trump 2020. And the guy in charge of it appears to be pocketing most of the money.

Much more at the link.

We saw similarly shady outfits taking advantage of good-natured Tea Party donors, which might have done nearly as much damage as Obama’s IRS did.

LOCAL CONTROL: Now that the Trump Administration has rolled back the Obama Administration’s effort to control school discipline issues from inside the Beltway, school districts are finally in a position to listen to parents and teachers and establish the policies they think best for their students.  If you want to understand how the Obama Administration managed to wrest control of discipline from local schools, why is was a bad idea and why is was contrary to law, try here.

 

DO YOU WANT MORE TRUMP? BECAUSE THIS IS HOW YOU GET MORE TRUMP. Salena Zito: Bill Maher’s red-state hate will help get Trump re-elected.

MICHAEL BARONE: Democrats getting out on dangerously left-wing limb.

Support for legal abortion has been a Democratic staple for years, but Democrats have recently moved left to pass laws allowing it up to nine months. They did so successfully in New York and unsuccessfully in Virginia, after Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam suggested it would apply even after birth.

That’s an unpopular position, to say the least. Polls for years have shown majority support for legalizing abortion in the first trimester and prohibiting it in the third. But all six Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate voted against the bill introduced by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., requiring medical care for babies actually born alive after failed abortions.

Did this extreme position affect public opinion? A February Marist poll showed equal numbers, 47 percent, calling themselves pro-life and pro-choice, a sharp change from January’s 55 to 38 percent pro-choice advantage. Maybe this poll is an outlier, but maybe the sudden placement of the spotlight on ninth-month abortions has actually changed opinion.

An overwhelmingly pro-choice press has long covered for Democrats, refusing to explain that the “health of the mother” exception to abortion bans means (because “health” includes mental health) abortion on demand. Predictably, CNN and MSNBC ignored the Sasse bill vote and media like Politico provided spectacularly biased accounts.

But liberal media doesn’t have a monopoly on megaphones any more, and Trump has shown himself capable of using invective, ridicule, and also serious argument to attack extreme positions, as he did Hillary Clinton’s on abortion. He has no compunction about raging impolitely against what liberals insist is politically correct.

Democratic presidential candidates, perhaps isolated in liberal cocoons, don’t seem to understand their vulnerability on issues like reparations, ninth-month abortions, and the Green New Deal. They assume their media friends can rescue them. But what if they can’t?

“Safe, legal, and rare” was a good general election stance. “Kill babies after birth if the woman doesn’t want to be a mother” not so much.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: NorK summit cut short and much, much more. “President Trump and Kim Jung Un were unable to reach an agreement and the president has left Vietnam early. The media and pundit class were concerned that Trump would lower our standards for denuclearizing and make a deal because he’s a big dummy who wants to yap about his negotiation skills. Not so much.”

What will be fun is watching the backflips of people who yesterday said Trump shouldn’t have been at that summit in the first place, and who today will criticize him for cutting it short.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Trump As Tragic Hero.

I tried to use as many examples as I could of the classic Western, whether it was “Shane” or “High Noon” or “The Magnificent Seven.” They all are the same—the community doesn’t have the skills or doesn’t have the willpower or doesn’t want to stoop to the corrective method to solve the existential problem, whether it is cattle barons or banditos. So they bring in an outsider, and immediately they start to be uneasy because he is uncouth—his skills, his attitude—and then he solves the problem, and they declare to him, whether it is Gary Cooper in “High Noon” or Alan Ladd in “Shane,” “I think it’s better you leave. We don’t need you anymore. We feel dirty that we ever had to call you in.” I think that is what is awaiting Trump…

Still not tired of winning yet. Plus, Neo comments:

The article is interesting for what it presents of Hanson’s thoughts on the matter. But it’s also interesting because of the subtext, which is a cat-and-mouse game the interview believes he’s playing with Hanson. In the latter game, I’m not sure who wins, but I am pretty sure it depends on the bias of who is reading.

When I read the article, Chotiner’s lead-in descriptions of Hanson leapt out at me as being a debunking of the opinions of the man he is set to interview (supposedly respectfully). He can’t do away with Hanson’s obvious academic achievements and honors, but he distorts Hanson’s record outside of academia in a way that is meant to discredit Hanson in the reader’s mind before even reading any of Hanson’s words in the interview.

Well, think of journalists as Democratic operatives with bylines and you won’t go far wrong.

QUESTIONS ASKED AND ANSWERED: “Chicago police say today that Jussie Smollett concocted the hate hoax because he wanted to get a higher salary from the producers of his TV show Empire:”

Eddie T. Johnson, the visibly angry Chicago police superintendent, said Mr. Smollett had taken advantage of the pain and anger of racism, draining resources that could have been used to investigate other crimes for which people were actually suffering.

“I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention,” he said at a news conference in Chicago.

The superintendent seemed particularly upset by the fact that Mr. Smollett, he said, had arranged a fake assault that featured a noose hung around his neck. The police say the staged assault was carried out by two brothers to whom the actor had paid $3,500.

“Why would anyone — especially an African-American man — use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?” he asked. “How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?

Chicago’s police superintendent isn’t the only person appearing to be vexed by Smollet’s apparent action. As Kyle Smith writes, “‘Why Would Jussie Smollett Do This?’ They Cried:”

[CNN’s Brian] Stelter chimed in again: “This is about why he might — and, so far, we don’t know. But why he might have made this up. It just boggles the mind.”

It boggles the mind! One struggles in vain to think of another profession in which someone could evince or affect as much incompetence as Stelter and Co. and expect to remain employed.

* * * * * * * *

Stelter was a toddler when a black teen named Tawana Brawley made up a story about six white men raping her, smearing her with feces, scrawling “KKK” and “n****r” on her torso with charcoal, and leaving her in a trash bag. He has lived nearly his entire life in the era of hate-crime hoaxes. He surely remembers the Duke-lacrosse gang-rape hoax of 2006, the University of Virginia gang-rape hoax of 2014, the incident just after Trump’s election when a woman on the New York City subway claimed drunken white men had ripped off her hijab. There are lots of other examples. Hey, do you remember as far back as January, when an Indian man tried to portray himself as the victim of a hateful mob of Trump-backing teenage goons? George Will once wrote of campuses, “When they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” When the media can be relied upon to credit hysterics and axe-grinders the way campus administrators do, America effectively becomes a vast campus.

The reasons for Smollett’s hoax didn’t boggle anyone’s mind, assuming that the mind in question was functioning above the level of someone who eats a bowl of lead-paint chips for breakfast. In America, victimhood is currency. It is easily converted into actual currency, and if Smollett had gotten away with his hoax, he had every reason to expect that his vastly increased celebrity would have led to the salary bump Chicago police said he wanted from his show Empire.

As Roger Kimball writes, “The less hate there is in the Untied States, the more hate crimes must be manufactured in order to keep the Fraternal Order of Victims afloat.”

PROFESSOR W. JOSEPH CAMPBELL busts the Salt Lake Tribune for fake news about fake news.

Media myths can be appealing like that: Too good to resist. Too good for media outlets not to revive when they think the occasion is fitting.

So it was the other day when the Salt Lake Tribune editorially condemned President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to add miles of barriers along the country’s southern border.

In its editorial, the Tribune resurrected William Randolph Hearst’s debunked vow to “furnish the war” with Spain in the late 19th century.

“You want fake news?” the Tribune‘s editorial began. “Here’s some fake news about fake news.”

In other words, we’re turning to Hearst’s debunked “furnish the war” vow as seemingly a clever editorial device to impugn Trump’s claims about illegal cross-border immigration.

The Tribune went on, introducing Hearst and “yellow journalism“:

“William Randolph Hearst, impresario of yellow journalism around the end of the 19th century, was described as such a powerful press baron that, it was said, he basically started the Spanish-American War as a stunt to boost newspaper sales.”

Hearst “basically started the Spanish-American War as a stunt to boost newspaper sales”?

Hardly. . . .

The Remington-Hearst exchange supposedly was by cable, but the telegrams presumed to contain their words have never turned up. Had such messages been sent, Spanish authorities surely would have intercepted and denounced them as a clear case of Yankee meddling.

What’s more, the “furnish the war” anecdote is illogical because war — the Cuban rebellion against Spanish colonial rule — was the reason Hearst sent Remington to Cuba in early 1897. Given that context, it would have made no sense for Hearst to vow to “furnish the war.”

The Tribune acknowledges the Remington-Hearst tale is dubious but justifies its use as “too good” not to invoke when “appropriate.”

I guess “when appropriate” means “when it advances the Democrats’ narrative.”

I think the folks at the Salt Lake Tribune should learn to code.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS CONSIDERING CUTTING BACK ON DISPARATE IMPACT LIABILITY: That’s good news. If you want to understand how Title VII got “interpreted” to prohibit disparate impact liability—despite overwhelming evidence that Congress did not intend such a result when it passed Title VII—read this amicus curiae brief. I am working on a more comprehensive article on the subject … but it’s not ready yet.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Derp State Coup, Race Hoax? and Much, Much More. “So ‘Andy’s office’ told Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” that he and some of his derp staters want to nullify the duly elected President Trump via the 25th amendment and claim Trump was unable to fulfill his duties as president because RUSSIA. Of course, this amendment is for a president who is IN A COMA or literally incapacitated, but this is the logic coming from the agenda-driven dummies now populating the FBI and DOJ.”

Once you’ve convinced yourself that your job is to protect the proles from themselves, any foul action you take becomes excusable, or even noble. That’s progressivism in a nutshell.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: A raw deal, crazy train derailed and much, much more. “I don’t think Trump knows how he has been played by ‘our’ party. He could have passed immigration reform and appropriated money for the wall when the GOP held the House and Senate. But the GOPe dragged their feet, made future promises that didn’t pan out and hemmed and hawed because they don’t care why the people elected Trump and they don’t really want immigration reform. Failure theater, business as usual for the GOPe.”

WELL, TWISTING YOUR WORDS TO FIT THEIR WORST FANTASIES IS A HALLMARK OF THE LEFT, BECAUSE THEY’RE AWFUL PEOPLE:

I’m seeing Trump getting trashed — “Twitter Lampoons Trump for Apparent Trail of Tears Joke Aimed at Elizabeth Warren” (Mediaite).

“The joke here is that the Trail of Tears was a genocide. Get it? Get it?”

I’ll just say 4 things:

1. Trump only wrote (yelled) “TRAIL.” He didn’t say “Trail of Tears.” His haters are zeroing in on the Trail of Tears and insisting that’s what he meant to refer to and that’s what he thought was funny to say. It seems to me that “trail” is a more general term and a term that relates to Native Americans. It’s that more general meaning that makes the specification “of Tears” understandable. It’s as if these anti-Trumpsters have never heard of the Great Trail or the Natchez Trace.

2. If Trump’s opponents really do feel empathy toward those who suffered in the Trail of Tears, why are they bringing it up to score political points? They’re taking something weighty and somber and throwing it around gleefully, because they think they got Trump. Is that a smirk I see on their face?

3. Trump got his opponents to repeat his tweet. They are making it viral, because they think they are hurting him, but they are spotlighting Elizabeth Warren’s worst problem and helping to insure that when we think about Elizabeth Warren, we think about her problematic use of the claim that she’s Native American.

4. The Trump antagonists are giving us another example of the harshness of the left’s demands. Whatever you say may be presented in the worst possible light. It seems that if anything can be portrayed as racist/sexist/homophobic, it will be, and you can be ruined in an instant in the America they have created and want to control. It’s scary.

And that, more than anything, is why you should vote for Trump.

But if we’re going to talk Trail-of-Tears genocide, note that it was perpetrated by a Democratic president, as was the internment of Japanese Americans behind barbed wire in World War Two. So if you want to avoid genocide, you should probably avoid Democratic presidents by . . . voting for Trump. Just sayin’ . . .

DISPATCHES FROM THE NATIONAL FISKING LEAGUE: If you loved James Lileks’ classic “Notes from the Olive Garden” 2003 fisking of a leftwing “Grauniad” columnist trying to explain — and mock — the modern American south to his fellow British lefties, you’ll enjoy his latest “Wednesday Review of Modern Thought,” a takedown of an American leftist writing in London’s New Statesman on an even more impenetrable subject to Brits than the 21st century American south — American football. It features this passage:

The Super Bowl should be pure, or as pure as any comically overblown brand extension devise can ever be. This is not a time to squabble over our differences. It should be a time to get together, eat a whole bucket of chicken, and punch your best friend in the stomach – like God intended.

So you know we’re off to a highly authentic, nuanced start, the Internet equivalent of Alistair Cooke’s Letters from America BBC radio series. As Lileks replies:

Okay, let’s look at some more . . . Trump Trump Trump and so on. Kapernick, whose kneeling showed that “America has a persistent problem with racial inequality that we seem to have no interest in reckoning with.” Nope, no discussion on that issue. You’d think it would come up in elections and political discussions, but it’s just not a big thing. Odd.

Despite the cavalcade of horrific news stories about the rise of white supremacy in the US that bolstered Kaepernick’s thesis – from Charlottesville to the latest tragedy involving Empire star Jussie Smollett –

We’ll just leave that one there, and skip ahead a bit.

The build-up to this year’s Super Bowl has been mercifully free of political squabbling and self-righteous posturing. As much as I’d like this to be a sign that we too can move past the last three years of perpetual in-fighting, this detente is guaranteed to be short-lived. Surely, another front will open up in this rhetorical pillow fight. Maybe halftime show performers Maroon 5 will unfurl a Palestinian flag during their set. Could Patriots quarterback Tom Brady remove his jersey to reveal a “Build the Wall” t-shirt? What if the Los Angeles Rams win the game and refuse to visit the White House, then donate their championship bonus to Kamala Harris?

Dave Schilling is a writer and humorist

I’m hardly the “stick to sports” guy conservative Americans are so fond of lashing out at,

Wait a minute. Hold on. Conservatives lash out at the guys who want sports to stick to sports?

but I also would like to enjoy my Bud Light commercials in peace.

And what prevents you from doing so?

Certainly nothing this year, as Anheuser-Busch’s latest round of Super Bowl ads were consistently designed to please elite American leftists and cop Clio awards from the advertising industry (but I repeat myself). This year the ads featured ill-conceived freakouts over corn syrup, a Leonard Nimoy-esque search for both Bob Dylan and wind turbines, and, plugging Anheuser-Busch-imported Stella Artois, an ad that co-starred that legendary blue collar lager lass, Sarah Jessica Parker.

Exit quote:

The one thing right-wing bloviators are correct about is that sport is meant to be an escape. I’ve grown tired of mixing my personal ideological convictions with the simple, binary pleasures of watching two teams compete in an athletic contest.

As Lileks replies, “So don’t. Or do. No one cares. Who politicized it in the first place?”

Read the whole thing.

TO LIVE AND DIE IN ATLA: While many online were joking that, “If I wanted to watch guys failing at scoring for three hours, I would have just taken my buddies to the bar,” I quite enjoyed the on-field portion of the Super Bowl last night. Unlike typical 21st century Super Bowls, in which the scoreboard looks like a pinball game, last night was a titanic defensive struggle reminiscent of the Super Bowls of the early-to-mid-1970s. That was the period best summed up by the January 1976 cover of the since long dead Sport magazine, whose headline implored, “Let’s Have A Super Bowl The Pregame Show Can Be Proud Of.” Certainly, Tony Romo and Jim Nanz, while occasionally getting punchy in the announcers’ booth, did their best to make the action watchable.

If the action on the gridiron was a throwback to the NFL’s past, the commercials and halftime show were a preview of America’s Weimar-esque future. What was Anheuser-Busch thinking, when it paid for ads that believed that light beer drinkers care whether or not their favorite beer has corn syrup in it? And that they wouldn’t get called on the number of beers that Anheuser-Busch brews that contain corn syrup. Or that they’d fail to remember what anybody who drinks light beer actually does care about:

Continue reading ‘TO LIVE AND DIE IN ATLA: While many online were joking that, “If I wanted to watch guys failing at…’ »

AN AMAZING THEORY OF WHY ED GILLESPIE’S “CAMPAIGN” MISSED NORTHAM’S BLACKFACE/KKK PICTURES:

During the 1992 campaign, I was a military aide to an assistant secretary in one of the cabinet departments and all of my counterparts were Bush Schedule C appointees. Through them, I became acquainted with some senior people on the Bush campaign team. There was tons of oppo on Bill Clinton and his horndogging and the fights between Bill and Hillary on the campaign trail and some really salacious stuff on Hillary’s extra-curricular activities but the Bush campaign elected not to use it in large part because Bush was still stinging from the Willie Horton ad. So finding a GOP campaign acting against its own interests for the sake of being a noble loser isn’t new. I would submit the 2008 McCain campaign had as its objective to be a gracious loser to the first viable black presidential candidate. I’ve never really been convinced Mitt Romney wanted anything more than to lose cleanly in 2012.

As to the denials, if you’d had the images and chosen not to use them because you wanted to take the high road and protect “muh principles,” knowing what you know today, would you admit to not using them? My guess is that you would deny knowing anything about them and take the hit for being merely incompetent.

“Democrats sure got it good,” John Nolte likes to say. If you’re on the left, you can tell then-President Obama to “Go for the throat,” and then pose afterwards as an objective Sunday morning talk show moderator. If you’re on the left, you can say the most racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic statements imaginable, and wind up with a sweet gig at NBC. Your “spiritual advisors” can utter racist statements, which are first praised as solemn truths and then airbrushed away when they become inconvenient gaffes.

As Glenn has written, Trump is “a symptom of how rottenly dysfunctional our sorry political class is. Take away Trump and they’re just as awful and destructive. He just brings their awfulness to the fore, where it’s no longer ignorable. Now they’re willing to play with fire, risking the future of the polity over little more than hurt feelings, in a way that would have been unthinkable not long ago.” He’s “not the cause of Washington’s decline. He’s a symptom, the wrecking ball that many Americans think was required.”

ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS NOT BE CRAZY, AND THEY COULDN’T EVEN DO THAT. Matthew Continetti: The Democrats Lose Their Minds.

On Monday, in a townhall organized by CNN, Kamala Harris endorsed a Medicare-for-All plan that would “eliminate”—her word—private insurance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, employer-provided health insurance covers “approximately 152 million nonelderly people in total.” A poll last year by America’s Health Insurance Plan (AHIP) found that 71 percent of Americans were satisfied with their employer’s plan. Most Americans have health insurance, and most Americans are pretty happy with their insurance. Too bad: Kamala Harris says it’s time to “move on.”

Harris’s rival, Elizabeth Warren, has endorsed a tax of 2 percent on assets above $50 million and 3 percent on assets above $1 billion. Now, Warren would like to raise taxes on incomes, capital gains, dividends, and corporations, too. That’s just for starters. A wealth tax of the sort she has proposed—a government claw-back of property in order to make real a subjective standard of equality—would be unique in American history. It might even be unconstitutional. But hey, why worry about that when you can indulge in some light court packing?

The brightest star in the Democratic Party is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, aka AOC. The other week, in conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates, AOC said, “I do think that a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong.” Don’t worry, “It’s not to say someone like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet are immoral people.” AOC’s complaint is with the “system” that “allows” Gates and Buffet—and Schultz and Bezos and George Lucas and Mark Zuckerberg and the rest—”to exist.” Presumably, then, Gates and Buffet are safe, existentially speaking. But the “system” of relatively free enterprise that allowed them to grow rich—and finance or innovate remarkable advances in technology and productivity that have benefited the world—should be altered drastically. Hence AOC’s call for a 70-percent marginal tax rate—backed by the same genius from Berkeley who designed Warren’s expropriation of wealth—to help pay for the “Green New Deal” that will give us “a 100% greenhouse gas neutral power generation system, decarbonizing industry and agriculture and more.” Currently, 17 percent of American energy is renewable. The scale of coercion required for such a transformation would brighten any Jacobin’s day. Don’t think too hard about the details of the proposal, though. AOC says there isn’t time to worry about cost, implementation, and unanticipated consequences. “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,” she told Coates. Nice while it lasted, I suppose.

AOC also has a message for Schultz, who has been the recipient of sustained, ferocious, and panicked attacks from members of his former party outraged that a moderate billionaire might spoil their plans for replacing Trump with an unreconstructed left-winger. “Why don’t people ever tell billionaires who want to run for president that they need to ‘work their way up’ or that ‘maybe they should start with city council first’? ” she Tweeted. Well, plenty of people do tell them that—I seem to recall a lack of government experience being an issue in the most recent presidential election—but if anyone has “worked his way up,” from the poorhouse to being the first in his family to graduate from college to turning a coffee shop at the Pike Place market into the global behemoth that is Starbucks, it’s Howard Schultz. I’d even go as far to say that Schultz’s company has done more for its low-wage workers than the corniest socialist dreams of AOC.

Let’s see … what else happened in the busy world of crazy … excuse me while I flip through my files … Ah yes, there was congresswoman Ilhan Omar, parroting the Kremlin-Havana-Tehran line on the democratic uprising in Venezuela, calling it “a U.S. backed coup.” A few days later, Omar, a supporter of the anti-Semitic Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement whom the Democrats have awarded with a place on the House Foreign Relations Committee, said she “almost chuckles” because “we still uphold” the Jewish State of Israel “as a democracy in the Middle East.” I chuckle—and begin seriously to worry—that someone who cannot distinguish between tyranny in Latin America and democracy in the Middle East commands such acclaim and receives such attention. Omar has former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett in her corner. When Omar dismissed Congressman Lee Zeldin’s criticism of her views by Tweeting, “Don’t mind him, he is just waking up to the reality of having Muslim women as colleagues who know how to stand up to bullies!”, Jarrett replied, “Shake him up!” Zeldin is a Jewish Republican.

Trump has been the Great Clarifier.

SALENA ZITO: Nostalgia and the American dream aren’t airy fantasies.

Nostalgia is a complicated emotion. Initially it raises our endorphins as we flash back and momentarily relive simpler, happier times in our lives or our communities. But it also evokes a deep sense of loss because those times and experiences will likely never return.

We are completely powerless to change that, and we know it.

One of the complications for many professionals who live in larger cities and communities who have made the decision to embrace our current culture of dramatic and rapid change with gusto is their refusal to listen to the people who sometimes want the world to slow down.

Nostalgia to them often simply means racism. Nostalgia to many others, though, means seeking something that was lost.

The more cosmopolitan class, caught up, living and enjoying societal and political upheaval, too often view those who aren’t on board — or who are more nostalgic for a more personally connected society — as less intelligent, too tied to the tenets of their faith, backwards, or bigoted.

These cosmopolitan views are not new to the Trump era. They have been building for years and went largely unnoticed — until their class lost a presidential election in 2016.

Why this rejection? The list of reasons is long. My Washington Examiner editor Tim Carney, in his riveting and important new book “Alienated America,” explores those deeper reasons and unearths the true losses that lie inside that nostalgia.

What cosmopolitan critics got wrong about nostalgia since this populism began was the assumption that it was rooted in racism. They firmly believed then, as they do now, that “Make America Great Again” was code for something nefarious.

To be fair, they believe that everyone who votes against their agenda is motivated by racism. It’s essential to their self image. But it’s not working anymore.

ARE EL CHAPO AND THE DRUG LORDS THE MEXICANS TRUMP MEANT WOULD PAY FOR THE WALL? Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and 14 other House GOPers are pushing a bill entitled the “Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act,” EL CHAPO Act for short.

“It takes the money, the billions that El Chapo made crossing the border illegally, and it takes that $14 billion and uses it to pay for the wall,” according to Cruz. Brooks says “it kills two birds with one stone” by paying for the wall without tax dollars and ends the partial government shutdown.

The idea of some portion of the drug lords’ ill-gotten gains going to fund a wall that helps put their enterprises out of business has its appeal, but there are problems. Go here for more.

And then there’s this from The Daily Caller’s fine investigative reporter, Luke Rosiak. He obtained a copy of an internal report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) that says “President Donald Trump may have the authority to use Department of Defense resources to build a wall without obtaining congressional approval or declaring a state of emergency.” Does Pelosi know about this?

 

AN ONGOING THREAD OF HATE: Covington Catholic Is the Terrible Sequel to the Kavanaugh Case. “But this is America in 2019, and it’s full of rage and hate. And parents of young men know that hostile people would instead want to destroy your child’s life. They would want to destroy your own livelihood. They would wish violence on him and you. They would try to destroy your school, and they would mock your faith. And then, even when their rage is proven to be unfounded, they would spend days hunting through your background and your school’s history to try to find some reason to hate you anyway.”

UPDATE: The High-School Deplorables: MAGA hats, the March for Life, Covington Catholic—and the mob.

Of the most culturally deplorable boxes one can check in progressive America in 2019, the boys of Covington Catholic High School have most of them: white, male, Christian, attendees at the annual March for Life in Washington, and wearers of MAGA hats. What’s not to dislike? So when four minutes of video footage emerged online this weekend showing the students appearing to harass a Native American Vietnam veteran named Nathan Phillips, America’s media and cultural elite leapt to judgment.

A short video clip of student Nick Sandmann supposedly “smirking” as Mr. Phillips banged his drum in the student’s face went viral, and instantly the boys of Covington Catholic in Kentucky were branded racists.

Best-selling author Reza Aslan tweeted that the high school junior had a “punchable face.” Former Democratic Party chief Howard Dean opined that Covington Catholic is “a hate factory.” GQ’s Nathaniel Friedman urged people to “Doxx ‘em all,” i.e., make their personal information public.

Meanwhile, mainstream news outlets published misleading accounts of what happened based on incomplete information. And pundits on the right and left rushed to demonstrate their own virtue by trashing high school students as somehow symptomatic of America’s cultural rot in the Age of Trump.

Only it turns out there was a much longer video, nearly two hours, showing that almost everything first reported about the confrontation was false, or at least much more complicated. The boys had been taunted by a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, who shouted racist and homophobic slurs. Far from the boys confronting Mr. Phillips, he confronted them as they were waiting near the Lincoln Memorial for their bus.

It also turns out that Mr. Phillips is not the Vietnam veteran he was reported to be in most stories. On Tuesday the Washington Post offered a correction, noting that while Mr. Phillips served in the Marines from 1972 to 1976, he was “never deployed to Vietnam.”

Our political-media class is mostly trash, and their “have you no decency” talk is a sham.

Related: “The urge to believe in something can be so great that people can sincerely see things that aren’t there. The social media obsession with racism and toxic masculinity eventually turned the Covington boys’ ‘smirking faces’ into the new Evil Clown sighting of 2019.”

WELL, THAT’S THE TRUTH: Joy Behar: We jumped to conclusions about the Covington Catholic kids because we desperately want Trump out of office.

God love ‘er for betraying no shame in recognizing that the proposition that All MAGA Hat-Wearers Are Bad in this case seems to require the continued pummeling of a bunch of children. And I stress “continued.” I jumped to conclusions too when the first carefully edited clip of the confrontation emerged but it’s one thing to render judgment rashly and regret it and another to double and triple down after evidence to the contrary emerges, as some of the Lords of Tolerance have done over the past 48 hours. . . .

My thought last night was that the last thing this clusterfark needed was Trump weighing in. Every controversy he touches turns more bitter; God knows what he might say about it off the cuff to damage his own side; and it’s a bad look for him to be taking time out for something like this when the government’s shut down and federal workers are looking at another missed payday. The right has done quite well without him over the last few days prosecuting the case in the kids’ defense too, with help from Fox News. The more I think about it, though, the weirder it would be if he *didn’t* weigh in. This sort of cultural brawl is why he was elected, after all. Ann Coulter has convinced herself that it was because of the wall, but no, it’s because Trump is willing to grab the left in a headlock unapologetically whenever a nasty bar fight like this breaks out. Fans will forgive him sooner or later (spoiler: sooner) if he doesn’t get a wall but Trump refusing to throw a chair at SJWs trying to smear a bunch of kids for “the cause” really would be a “Why did we elect this guy?” moment.

Well, when you’re in a bar fight, it’s nice to have a guy at your side who realizes that you’re in a bar fight.

UPDATE: Related:

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: The Letter Heard ‘Round the World and Much, Much More. “Pelosi and the Democrats figured they could just blame Trump for the shut down, but it’s Pelosi and the Democrats who won’t come to the table. Pelosi took off during Christmas for a luxury Hawaiian vacation, her party went on a party trip to Puerto Rico and now she and her harpies were hitting the road for a week on an international trip. Does it sound like the she wants to find an agreeable compromise to open the government up?”

#JOURNALISM: Press Outlets Dunk on Rand Paul for Going to Canada, Land of ‘Socialized Medicine,’ for Surgery. But the Clinic Is Private.

Some media outlets and activists are suggesting that Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) is guilty of hypocrisy because he will travel to Canada for surgery related to his 2017 assault at the hands of a neighbor. Paul, after all, has warned loudly against adopting the Canadian health care system.

“Rand Paul, enemy of socialized medicine, will go to Canada for surgery,” tweeted Talking Points Memo. The tweet includes a link to a Courier-Journal story that reminds readers that “Paul has called universal health care and nationalized options ‘slavery.'” Newsweek went a similar route. . . .

Checkmate, libertarians? Nope.

Those who chuckled at this supposed irony missed a major detail, even though it was noted in the press coverage: Paul’s surgery will take place at the Shouldice Hernia Hospital in Thornhill, Ontario. The clinic is private, and run for profit; The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale, who is from Thornhill, notes that it was “grandfathered in to Ontario’s socialized health system.”

Get beaten nearly to death by a Democrat, go for medical care, get mocked by Democratic Party operatives with bylines. And the press wonders why people hate it.

Related: Rand Paul’s attacker: ‘I lost it and became irate.’

Flashback: Bernie Bro James T. Hodgkinson, Attempted Assassin Of Steve Scalise, Already Being Erased From History.

Plus:

● Hillary: ‘You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.’

● Former Attorney General Eric Holder: “Michelle [Obama] always says, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. No. When they go low, we kick them.”

Politico: After failing to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Democrats wonder if it’s time to be more ruthless.

Democrat Doxxer Threatened To Reveal Senators’ Children’s Health Information.

DC restaurant: We’ve received death threats after Ted Cruz, wife forced out by protesters.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ): We Are Less Than 60 Days From Totally ‘Kicking the S–t Out of the Republicans.’

Networks Silent On Attempted Stabbing of GOP Candidate By Anti-Trump Attacker.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) Jokes About Threatening Trump Supporters ‘All The Time.’

As a sidenote, I was disappointed to see the Knoxville News-Sentinel pushing this bogus story on Facebook.

BYRON YORK: Trump plan would improve current border situation.

The department has already announced where the barriers would go. There would be five miles in the San Diego Sector, 14 miles in the El Centro Sector, 27 miles in the Yuma Sector, nine miles in the El Paso Sector, 55 miles in the Laredo Sector in Texas, and 104 miles in the Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas.

In all, counting work that is done, being done, and planned, the administration would build 330 miles of new barrier, 150 in areas with no barrier today.

All of it is a project that, in a less crazy time, might be the subject of bipartisan approval. Indeed, as the White House is fond of pointing out, bipartisan majorities in Congress voted in favor of an extensive border barrier back in 2006.

Politics aside, the bottom line is that even the relatively short lengths of barrier the Trump administration is building will do good. Just look at some of the fencing made from rusted steel helicopter landing mats from the Vietnam era. The administration is replacing it with imposing barriers that will discourage illegal crossings. That’s a net plus.

And there is no doubt such barriers work. In San Diego, for example, a barrier has made a tremendous difference. “In the 1980s, migrants overran the border and the Border Patrol,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 2017. “Thousands gathered nightly on a small slice of the border … there, men, women, and children waited for nightfall before making their passage.” In 1986, agents apprehended an astonishing 629,656 illegal immigrants in the San Diego area.

When U.S. officials constructed one barrier, and then another, that number fell dramatically; by 2015, apprehensions fell below 30,000.

Now, the flow of migrants presents a new and different problem. While smaller than several years ago, it is largely made up of families and unaccompanied children who have no valid claim to asylum but who cannot, by U.S. law, be returned to their home countries. As long as those migrants can freely cross the border, they can stay in the United States — a situation that will attract more and more illegal immigration.

The president’s proposal, which in addition to a barrier contains provisions for more immigration judges, more Border Patrol agents, more detention beds, more medical resources, and more technology, would improve the situation. If the political debate were not being fought at such an extreme pitch, that might be obvious to all.

The main thing is, the Dems don’t want Trump to have a win on his signature policy, because they figure that will cement his re-election. Everything else is noise.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Trump to Visit NOTACRISIS Border and Much, Much More. “Can you imagine all the things you could get out of Trump if you were willing to negotiate over that wall? If I were a Dreamer, I’d be pissed. If I were any one of the special interest groups that the Democrats claim to represent I would be angry too, here is an opportunity to get some stuff out of Trump and Chuck & Nancy are blowing it. But we all know that the Dems want Trump to lose his wall, more than they want their constituents to win.”

MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA: Kim Jong Un reaffirms denuclearization commitment, vows efforts for second summit with Trump.

Dig:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reaffirmed his commitment to the denuclearization and vowed efforts to produce good results from his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese state media said Thursday.

Kim made the pledge during his summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Tuesday, according to Xinhua News Agency. Kim was in China for a four-day trip, his fourth visit to the neighboring ally in about 10 months.

“The DPRK will continue sticking to the stance of denuclearization and resolving the Korean Peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation, and make efforts for the second summit between DPRK and U.S. leaders to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community,” Xinhua quoted Kim as saying during talks with Xi.

Yeah, Instapundit readers, Kim’s a Commie liar, like Angela Davis. But he’s a scared Commie liar.

So we’re on the same page, check out this column which discusses South Korea’s close encounter (inspection) with North Korea’s utterly abysmal railroad system.

In December…South Korean railroad experts conducted a close inspection of North Korean railroads. Over two weeks, a South Korean train crept along some 2,000 kilometers of North Korean track, gathering highly granular data on North Korean rail infrastructure and verifying its miserable condition.

Pyongyang wants Seoul to help rebuild its railroads. South Korea says it will — after denuclearization. Denuclearization requires inspection and verification within the secretive North Korea. Paranoid North Korea let South Korean railroad experts inspect and verify. Was it a tentative first step toward accepting the nuclear weapons inspection and verification regimen CVID requires? Perhaps 2019 will tell provide a few more clues.

CVID = Complete, Verifiable and Irreversible Denuclearization.

Where can you get more details? Yes, of course. Cocktails from Hell. Go ahead. Do it. Order now. Rejoice. Finally, reality is a sales gimmick.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Trump Wants a Steel Barrier and Much, Much More. “Suspects arrested in murder of 7-year-old girl and it’s…. not who you’d think. This story got a lot of attention, much more than the children that are regularly shot in Chicago. But that was because race-hustlers like Shaun King, aka Talcum X, thought it was a white person who shot and killed little Jazmine Barnes.”

SHOT: ‘It could go either way’: China and the United States ready for trade war talks in Beijing.

US-based Politico reported that US officials were expected to look closely at whether China had carried through on earlier promises. In late 2018, Chinese officials gave the United States proposals to address its government subsidies, market access barriers and intellectual property theft. Those documents, and a more recent US response, are expected to be the focus of this week’s talks.

“If Gerrish hears that the Chinese are really serious about doing some hard things, putting meat on the bones of vague commitments and willing to work with the US on verification and enforcement mechanisms, then I think you’ll see negotiations move forward at an accelerated clip,” a US industry official told Politico.

If not, “it’s going to be more difficult”, the official said.

Inside the US delegation for China trade war talks: Washington’s big guns will be absent

Observers said both sides needed to tackle the problems because the tariffs had taken a bite out of the economy, sending US stocks tumbling and adding to downward risks in China.

The stock market isn’t the “real” economy, which judging by last week’s jobs report, the business and consumers who do the actual hiring and spending are feeling much more confident than Wall Street is.

Which leads us to the…

CHASER: Apple’s stark warning may be ominous news for China.

“China’s economy is definitely slowing quite a bit across a bunch of sectors, and this slowing momentum is likely to continue for another couple of months at least,” said Arthur Kroeber, the founder of Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm in Beijing. “And consumer confidence is definitely down, which is probably part of what’s behind the Apple numbers.”

Months after Starbucks announced a massive China expansion this year, it said that China sales would increase just 1 percent, far below those in the United States. Jaguar Land Rover briefly shut a factory in Britain after September sales in China dropped by a half. LVMH, the luxury giant that owns Louis Vuitton and has often been used as a barometer for consumer spending in China, said the Chinese were spending “a little bit less.”

Although Chinese officials report that GDP have been growing at more than 6 per cent a year for a few years, “it looks truly like some sixth grader got out their ruler and drew a straight line with a slight downward slant,” said Christopher Balding, an expert on the Chinese economy at Fulbright University in Vietnam. “It’s totally unrealistic.”

Car sales have been shrinking for the first time since 1990, when most of the country was peddling bicycles. A key manufacturing survey at the end of the year showed Chinese factory activity actually contracting. And revenue from consumption tax was down 72 per cent in November from a year ago, Balding said.

It won’t be easy going, but I suspect Trump will get most of what he wants out of Beijing, given the real weakness in the Chinese economy, and the brittleness of authoritarian regimes that stop delivering the economic goods.

DESTRUCTIVE PARTISANSHIP: White House warned Dems gunning for ‘anything and everything Trump.’

“Look, bold, new majorities overreach. We did, and they will. This is especially true in wave years like 2018, with 63 — I think it is — new Democrats. They will definitely have this problem, especially with the progressive-socialist wing of their party. They’ll have to satisfy their hardcore base. So what does that mean? It means that they have to take quick action on things like Net Neutrality, the Green New Deal, and Medicare for all, or their base will go into complete meltdown,” Walden explained.

And that, he added, could help Republicans in the next election in 2020.

“The American people will want results. If the Democrats yield too much to their progressive activists, then how will their grand plans ever make it through the Republican Senate or across the president’s desk? You need to legislate and enact laws. To succeed at legislating, one does have to do more than satisfy the most extreme in the crowd,” said Walden.

“If they go too far, 2020 might look a lot like 2010. After all, some 33 Democrats are now in seats that President Trump won. And while the Democrats did a marvelous job at recruiting candidates, most rode the wave named ‘check and balance.’ They’re going to need legislative results — not government shutdowns,” he added.

Well, stay tuned.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Nancy Says No $$ for the Wall and Much, Much More. “WH spokesman Hogan Gidley said about the meeting, ‘What [President Trump] wants on his desk is a bill that opens the government, that funds the government and protects the American people. And right now, the Democrats are not serious about that. And you know they’re not serious because serious people with serious plans and serious proposals don’t negotiate in the press. And that’s all that Democrats have done to this point’.”

CHRISTIAN TOTO: Golden Globes Hosts Vow No Trump Jokes (Right…).

Let’s go through the following quotes, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter, to share what’s spoken between the lines:

SAMBERG … Everyone is depressed [Hollywood liberals haven’t gotten over Hillary Clinton’s loss … yet!], and maybe that’s as good a reason as any that everyone could use a little time to laugh and celebrate. Not to ignore anything [I’m already hedging my bets], but we spend so much time every day wallowing in a lot of things that are happening in our world that are really depressing [like record low unemployment rates?], and with good reason — that stuff needs to be paid attention to — but there’s also power to being positive and celebratory in the tougher times as well.

OH: …I don’t really think that [getting political] is for the hosts necessarily [reciting talking points from the show producers who fear a ratings debacle]. You make it an open and safe place for whoever wants to use that platform to speak. [of course we openly encourage anti-Trump rants despite our ‘no politics’ pledge]

SAMBERG: The most memorable moments from the last two years of the Globes have been the DeMille speeches, Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey. [Remember when I said the show should shy away from politics? Just kidding!]

OH: …And I’m not interested in [talking about Trump] at all. What I’m interested in is pointing to actual real change.

That’s entertainment? Anyway, much more at the link.

WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING, BESIDES EVERYONE WITH A BRAIN? It Sure Looks Like This Obamacare Program Has Led to More People Dying: Under the health law, Medicare started penalizing hospitals for too many readmissions. Now mortality rates are up.

To determine whether a government program is successful, it’s often necessary to look not only at how well it does what it’s supposed to do, but what it’s doing that it isn’t supposed to. For example, killing people.

Take the hospital readmissions program built into Obamacare. The program derived from a simple observation that hospitals were treating lots of people who would then return for more treatment within the month. Unnecessary readmissions cost Medicare an estimated $17.5 billion a year. If hospitals were treating people effectively, the thinking went, those people shouldn’t need to return so soon.

So the health law instituted a Medicare payment penalty for hospitals with too many readmissions for pneumonia, heart failure, and heart attack. Since 2012, Medicare has assessed about $2 billion in penalties on hospitals with too-high readmissions rates.

Hospital groups have argued that these payments are punitive and unfair, particularly to so-called safety net hospitals that serve the poorest, sickest patients. These patients tend to have higher readmissions rates, and the hospitals that treat them were more likely to be hit with payment reductions. (Earlier this year, the Trump administration changed the penalty structure for safety net hospitals.)

But the program has often been labeled a success because it accomplished its primary goal. Readmissions dropped between 2.3 and 3.6 percentage points for the conditions targeted. Readmissions associated with other maladies dropped by 1.4 percent. The authors of one 2016 study suggested that the lower readmission rates “point to how Medicare can improve the care that patients receive through innovative payment models.” It offered proof, and hope, that with the right incentives, Medicare could save money and provide better care.

A new study appears to dash that hope, at least as far as readmissions are concerned.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and conducted by by researchers associated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical and Harvard Medical School, looked at hospitalizations between 2005 and 2015. It found that “30-day post-discharge mortality”—the number of people who died within a month of leaving the hospital—increased for heart failure patients after the readmissions penalty program was implemented.

But remember, if you opposed ObamaCare, it was because you wanted people to die. All the best thought leaders said so.

FLASHBACK: Byron York: When Democrats embraced the ‘Southern Border Fencing Strategy.’ “Name any Democrat who is in the Senate today who was there for that 2013 vote — Schumer, Durbin, Murray, Baldwin, Bennet, Blumenthal, Brown, Cantwell, Cardin, Casey, Coons, Feinstein, Gillibrand, Hirono, Kaine, Klobuchar, Leahy, Manchin, Menendez, Merkley, Murphy, Reed, Sanders, Shaheen, Stabenow, Tester, Warner, Warren, Whitehouse, Wyden — name any, and they voted for the bill that included the Southern Border Fencing Strategy. . . . Today, Democrats will not even support a relatively small amount of money, $5 billion or even less, to build a portion of the barrier Trump wants.”

UPDATE (From Ed): “[B]ack in 2016, the U.S. government gave San Diego a bit more than $1 billion to extend its trolley line,” Jim Geraghty of NRO notes, adding that “President Trump said he would soon travel to the border and showcase what’s been built, and what needs to be built.”

A FRIEND ASKED ME WHY I HAVEN’T POSTED ANYTHING YET ON LAST FRIDAY’S ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION THAT IT IS RESCINDING THE NOTORIOUS OBAMA-ERA SCHOOL DISCIPLINE GUIDANCE: Well … I meant to. But I wanted first to take a moment or two to celebrate.

I suspect many teachers and principals are celebrating too. Polls showed the guidance, which applied disparate impact liability to school discipline, was unpopular with teachers.  Rescinding it will make their classrooms more orderly, and it will also ensure that  students—of all races—will be treated more fairly. When teachers and principals are in control of discipline, the decisions they make will be a lot more sensible than when distant bureaucrats are telling them what they have to do.

Doubtless there will be more pushback in the media about this. Even before the guidance was rescinded, the New York Times was already defending the Obama Administration’s policies by saying they were “adopted after strong evidence emerged that minority students were receiving more suspensions and tougher punishments than white students for the same or lesser offenses ….”

This actual evidence of discrimination is astonishingly thin. It’s true that African American students are disciplined more often than white students (and that white students are disciplined more often than Asian students). But upon thorough examination it turns out that the teachers who refer students for discipline are not flaming racists who make up out of thin air offenses by minority students. Rather, it’s a question of which students are misbehaving.

I have been working on getting this policy reversed for over eight years. (Yes, even before the rescinded guidance went into effect, the Obama Department of Education was going after schools whose policies led them to discipline African American students at disproportionate rates. I had the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigate.)

I’ve posted it before, but if you want to understand the issue, read The Department of Education’s Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline: Wrong For Students and Teachers, Wrong on the Law .

ROLLING STONE: Trump has no idea what he’s doing in the Middle East, but neither does the Establishment in wanting to continue our wars there.

You’ll hear all sorts of arguments today about why the withdrawals are bad. You’ll hear Trump has no plan, which is true. He never does, at least not on policy.

But we don’t exactly have a plan for staying in the Middle East, either, beyond installing a permanent garrison in a dozen countries, spending assloads of money and making ourselves permanently despised in the region as civilian deaths pile up through drone-bombings and other “surgical” actions.

But, you know, maybe Trump does have some idea of what he’s doing:

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent military forces to areas controlled by the Kurdish YPG group in north-east Syria, Turkey’s Yenisafak newspaper reported.

The paper said the forces will be stationed with US-led coalition troops and will support its tasks with huge military enforcements as well as heavy and light weapons.

Quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the newspaper reported that a convoy of troops belonging to an Arab Gulf state recently arrived in the contact area between the Kurdish PKK/YPG and Daesh in the Deir Ez-Zor countryside.

This comes at a time when Ankara is preparing to launch an expanded military operation with the Free Syrian Army against the Kurdish PKK group in the northeast of Syria.

Furthermore, a Jordanian official reports that Russian forces currently in Syria will take action to restrain Hezbollah and Iranian activity there, according to understandings reached by the U.S., Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

How about that?

IT’S LIKE THERE’S NOBODY IN THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE WHO ACTUALLY WANTS TO SEE PEOPLE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR POLITICAL MANEUVERING: John Huber, Justice Dept. Sheriff Who Never Quite Rode Into Town.

John Huber has developed almost mythical status among pro-Trump tweeters since former Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed him to investigate why the FBI spied on Trump’s aides and whether they protected Hillary Clinton and her foundation over alleged misdeeds. They hoped the Salt Lake City-based prosecutor would aggressively expose the malfeasance that has already led to firings and resignations among the bureau’s top brass.

Instead, more than a year since his appointment, Huber’s lack of traction on either front is leading many once hopeful supporters to dismiss his investigation as a “sham.”

RealClearInvestigations has learned from potential witnesses, their lawyers and others close to the investigations, that Huber has not impaneled a federal grand jury to subpoena witnesses or hear evidence.

They are puzzled as to why he has failed to interview key witnesses – such as disgraced FBI officials and Trump advisers targeted by them, as well as Clinton Foundation whistleblowers — who could shed light on whether FBI and Justice Department officials misused their power when they obtained spy warrants to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page; or whether such officials turned a blind eye to millions of dollars in foreign Clinton Foundation donations influencing Clinton’s official decisions as secretary of state. Even when whistleblowers have reached out to Huber, offering reams of evidence, his office has not followed up, they say.

I didn’t used to see the Department of Justice as a politicized cesspit, but I kinda do now.

CONFESSIONS OF A ‘SOULLESS TROGLODYTE’: How My Brooklyn Literary Friendships Fell Apart in the Age of Trump.

Over time, I seized on Jamie’s stories to help explain the chasm between the giant Jamie I idolized in Brooklyn and the shrunken Jamie who stood before me. There was a political undercurrent: The idea of Jamie as a victim of not just the circumstances of his own household, but also systemic racism more generally, seemed very much in keeping with America’s history of persecuting black boys and men.

“Forget them,” I said, referring to the members of Jamie’s unsupportive workshop. “Let’s start our own.” My futile MFA attempt behind me, I imagined the two of us engaging with the books we loved back in our childhood, in an environment free of social friction. Rather than nibble at the edges of style or craft, we could interrogate the moral choices made by enduring characters in history’s great novels: Why was it wrong to kill old women in Crime and Punishment? Who was this Gatz before he became Gatsby, and what was it that really motivated him? Together, we could trace the contours of the divine in Isaac Bashevis Singer and Flannery O’Connor, or the specter of war in John Cheever and Walker Percy; we could expose madness in Chekhov’s placid stories and Santiago’s courage in The Old Man and the Sea. A hopelessly old-fashioned reader, I wanted us to revisit Hamlet, the saddest moral clown of them all, as well as Chaucer’s lustful pranksters, no less juvenile than Jamie and I once had been on Brooklyn’s streets.

“Let’s start with Lolita,” I said.

But Jamie said that Lolita bored him after the first few sentences, so he stopped reading: “Maybe it was a bad translation.”

It brought me no joy to have to tell him that while Vladimir Nabokov was a Russian émigré who wrote his first nine novels in his native tongue, the later Nabokov of Lolita fame was one of the great prose stylists of the English language. What followed was a contentious exchange in which it became clear that Jamie has never read or finished many of the great books that I held dear. When I asked, in all sincerity, how he could teach writing to college students, he shot back by rejecting my beloved texts as artifacts of white, male European hegemony.

It wasn’t long before tirades against the Western canon—against my use of terms such as “Shakespearean” or “Dickensian” in reference to Ralph Ellison and Zora Neale Hurston—spilled over onto Facebook pages, where they turned personal, especially after I critiqued Ta-Nehisi Coates’ politics of nihilism and doom.

“I take offence to that as a man of colour,” Jamie wrote in response.

Identity politics are destroying the left’s ability to reason. Long but well worth a read.

(Via Maggie’s Farm.)

THE JANET COOKE OF HAMBURG. WAPO: A reporter’s dispatch from Trump country featured a ‘Mexicans Keep Out’ sign. But he made it all up.

What motivated [Claas] Relotius to lie? “It was the fear of failure,” he reportedly told editors at Der Spiegel, confessing that the pressure had grown as his career took off. After the 2016 election, his editors suggested that he write about Trump voters in rural America, and made plans for him to rent an apartment in Fergus Falls. But once he got there, the article failed to come together, Der Spiegel editor Ullrich Fichtner wrote:

When asked about the Fergus Falls story, he admitted that he knew perfectly well that the editors wouldn’t have reprimanded him if he had dropped the whole thing. “I think,” Relotius said last week, “a normal person would have said: ‘Listen, this just isn’t working. I’m stuck and we can’t do the story.’” But Relotius is evidently no normal person. “I tend to want to have control,” he said, “and I have this compulsion, this drive, to somehow make it happen. Of course, you don’t make it happen. You make a fabrication.” When he says “you” here, he can only mean himself and no one else.

According to Anderson, however, there was a story to be found in Fergus Falls. It just may not have been the one that Relotius was looking for. What he had overlooked, she wrote on Wednesday, were the community programs supporting local artists, the excellent coffee shop, and all of the residents who traveled to Washington for the Women’s March, planted Black Lives Matter signs in their yards and wept when they realized that Trump had been elected.

“This is just a hunch, but it seems to me that Relotius’ overseas readers might appreciate knowing that small American towns are more complex than they imagine — that die-hard liberals like me can still magically live alongside conservative Republicans — that sometimes we even find some common ground and share a meal together, and take the time to try to understand each other’s viewpoints,” she wrote.

You mean, we’re not all socialists now, as the Washington Post once pretended?

(Classical allusion in headline.)

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): Remember James Lileks’ epic takedown of a foreign report from a Birmingham, Alabama Olive Garden shortly after 9/11? They’ve always got the story pre-written before they talk to anyone.

IT’S A MADHOUSE, A MADHOUSE! Perez nixes ‘undercard’ debates for 2020 primary.

With the prospect of upward of 20 Democrats running for president in 2020, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez announced on Thursday that the party would split up candidates by random selection and host debates on consecutive nights if there were too many candidates.

The decision will allow the DNC to avoid attempting to fit the expected bumper crop of candidates on one stage or sorting debate appearance by polling numbers.

Perez said he didn’t want any voters to feel that the party was toying with the debate or debate schedule to help out certain candidates. “The critical imperative is making sure everyone feels their candidate got a fair shot,” Perez said. He said the logistics of dealing with so many candidates is a “first-class challenge to have.” The committee did not say how many candidates constituted too many for one stage.

Putting the fringe candidates in with the more mainstream contenders (I’m being generous with the word “mainstream”) might exacerbate something I wrote about here yesterday: “Primary election pandering to small groups of niche — and I do mean niche — voters could end up being a real turn-off for the Obama-to-Trump voters who decided the last election.”

SHOWMANSHIP: Wall funding to be State of the Union demand, direct challenge to Pelosi.

Anxious over the image of shutting down the government four days before Christmas, the White House and congressional Republicans shifted the budget fight over border wall funding to February to make it the focus of President Trump’s State of the Union.

With the administration under fire in some conservative quarters for “caving in” after making repeated threats to shut the government down Friday if a deal for more wall funding wasn’t cut, officials Wednesday afternoon pushed back, claiming it is part of a broader plan to heighten the war with Democrats over securing $5 billion for border security.

“It’s not a retreat, it’s actually a bigger attack,” said a Trump adviser.

The shutdown date was pushed back to Feb. 8, after Trump is scheduled to give his State of the Union to a joint sitting of Congress. It is always the biggest speech of the year.

“The date after the State of the Union gives the president the biggest visible platform,” said another source familiar with the agreement cut today. “This positions us to have the fight when we have the most visibility,” added the source.

Yes, but you won’t have a GOP House anymore. Then again the GOP House you have now hasn’t been any good on this either. I suppose this makes sense if you figure Trump wants a victory — or even a defeat — on the wall to be a 2020 presidential campaign issue, not a midterm issue.

VARIOUS TAKES: Trump Courts Catastrophe If He Leaves Syria.

If You Support Democracy and the Rule of Law, You Should Applaud Trump Getting the Hell Out of Syria.

I don’t know what I think, though it’s amusing to see the people who cheered Obama’s disastrous withdrawal from Iraq dragging Trump here. And the two aren’t comparable: Iraq was in good enough shape in 2010 that Obama’s operation was bragging about it, while Syria is still a mess. America had a huge investment in Iraq, and had made a difference, which was squandered on withdrawal. We have no such investment in Syria, and it’s not clear how much of a difference we’ve made, other than killing a few hundred Russian “volunteers,” which was admirable for the message it sent but made no major difference on the ground.

When Obama wanted to send large numbers of troops to Syria, basically no one here at home wanted to do it (except John McCain), and then Putin talked him out of it, so Obama let Russia in. We still wound up with a couple of thousand there, but the mission and strategy are unclear. And the “moderate” Syrians seem to mostly be Al Qaeda. So it looks like a mess, and a fairly low-stakes mess at present compared to other problems; Syria seems more like a quagmire for Putin than a win. This is especially true as the Middle East matters less now that the U.S. is a net oil exporter and the world’s largest oil producer. (Have you hugged a fracker today?)

So I can’t get too excited. Am I missing something? If so, tell me in the comments.

UPDATED: This was in the revered Weekly Standard: “Obama has accommodated leaders hostile to America, like Vladimir Putin in Russia and Bashar al-Assad in Syria.” But now we’re hearing — from people who praised Obama’s foreign policy skills — that it’s Trump who’s a Putin puppet. I’m willing to be convinced that pulling out of Syria is a mistake, but you’re going to have to convince me. You can’t just yell about Putin because that cuts more ways than you think.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s what may be driving a US troop withdrawal from Syria. “A confrontation between the U.S and Turkey, officially NATO allies, would create a geopolitical crisis at the heart of the world’s most powerful military alliance.”

I say, give the Kurds a few nukes to even the odds with Turkey, and say goodbye. We probably have a few of the old Soviet backpack models stashed away somewhere.

BLESS HIS HEART: Andrew Sullivan Still Misses The Anointed One. Bruce Bawer spots Andrew’s latest dalliance with Godwin’s Law:

As he often does in his New York column, Andrew moved on from Trump to other topics. At the end, he mentioned the recent film Darkest Hour, about the five days in May 1940 that ended with Winston Churchill, the newly installed prime minister, refusing any accommodation with Hitler and giving the famous “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” speech in which he vowed to fight the Nazis “by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us.” Andrew says that the film brought him to tears, because it shows “how the people of Britain shook off the moral decadence of the foreign policy of the 1930s, how, beneath the surface, there were depths of feeling and determination that we never saw until an existential crisis hit, and an extraordinary figure seized the moment.” I foolishly thought, for a moment, that Andrew was then going to turn to Britain today, where members of UKIP and Anne Marie Waters’s For Britain and the followers of Tommy Robinson are shaking off the moral decadence of their leaders’ immigration policies and standing up against the Islamization of their country. Of course I was wrong: for Andrew, the film was a tear-jerker because:

I yearn for something like that to reappear in America. The toll of Trump is so deep. In so many ways, he has come close to delegitimizing this country and entire West, aroused the worst instincts within us, fed fear rather than confronting it, and has been rewarded for his depravity in the most depressing way by everything that is foul on the right and nothing that is noble.

I want to believe in America again, its decency and freedom, its hostility, bred in its bones, toward tyranny of any kind, its kindness and generosity. I need what someone once called the audacity of hope. I’ve witnessed this America ever since I arrived — especially its embrace of immigrants — which is why it is hard to see Trump tearing migrant children from their parents. That America is still out there, I tell myself, as the midterms demonstrated. It can build. But who, one wonders, is our Churchill? And when will he or she emerge?

There it is, amid all the familiar calumnies about Trump feeding fear and tearing children from parents: “what someone once called the audacity of hope.” Andrew is referring, of course, to Obama, whose second book carried that title.

But in 2007, Andrew wrote a blog post headlined “The Weimar President,” during the DNC-MSM’s non-stop Reductio ad Hitlerum in the last years of Dubya’s presidency. As I wrote at the time:

I can only guess that Andrew believes that President Bush is an elderly figurehead leading a weakened but relatively benign quasi-socialist administration suffering the ravages of hyper-inflation and that Hillary, Obama or whoever his successor is, is the next Hitler, about to install a terribly malevolent war machine and concurrent massive welfare state?

So from Andrew’s reckoning, isn’t Trump more akin to Konrad Adenauer? Funny how it’s always the second, and now third coming of the Third Reich, whenever there’s a Republican in office, according to the conservative’s conservative.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Flynn, Cohen Sentencing and Much, Much More. “Just to remind you, Mike Flynn was urged (by the fired, anti-Trump Andrew McCabe) not to bring an attorney to his meeting with FBI agents. And this: “McCabe also wrote in the memo that he and other FBI officials decided before the meeting that Flynn would not be warned ahead of the interview about the penalties of lying to the agents. McCabe noted that ‘they wanted Flynn to be relaxed’ and ‘were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.'” HOLY CIVIL LIBERTIES BAT MAN!”

AND TODAY THE ROLE OF PAULINE KAEL WILL BE PLAYED BY ANDREA MITCHELL:

What I undervalued about Donald Trump in the primaries is that I had never watched “The Apprentice.” I had never watched reality TV. I did not know that he had millions and millions of fans out there. I didn’t know that that base existed. I thought he was not a serious candidate. I did not know that the single most important and visited tourist attraction in all of New York City were people taking selfies in front of Trump Tower. I always thought it was the Statue of Liberty, or the Empire State Building, or 30 Rock.

Meanwhile, fellow Chuck Todd, who works alongside Brian Williams and Al Sharpton (and Andrea Mitchell) is complaining of gaslighting:

“I knew the gaslighting was out there. I knew it was every day,” Todd said. “But I think there was part of me in my head assumed people were discerning it out, knew the BS from the non-BS. So, I think what my sort of shock to the system was just sort of how gullible a big chunk of the country was to this and gullible because maybe they want to be gullible.”

Todd, the Democratic operative with a byline, began his career in politics as a Democratic operative for former Sen. Tom Harkin, who also knows a thing or two about gaslighting.

(Classical reference in headline.)

BYRON YORK: Ten Questions For James Comey.

Some Republicans want to ask him more about the Hillary Clinton case, but even some of them acknowledge that the case is over and done with. Others want to focus on the Trump-Russia affair. That includes a lot of material. There will, for example, undoubtedly be some questions about the Trump dossier, the origins of which Republicans have done extensive work to expose.

But one particularly useful area of questioning would be the case of Michael Flynn, the short-term Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI and who this week received a no-jail sentencing recommendation from Trump-Russia special counsel Robert Mueller. Comey spoke privately to Congress about the Flynn case on a few occasions in 2017. But so far, all the public knows about those statements are a few snippets of testimony included in a House Intelligence Committee report and a few others from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley. If Comey were questioned about it in some detail Friday, and if the transcript of that conversation were released, then the public might finally learn more about the case. With that in mind, here are ten questions for Comey on the subject of Michael Flynn.

Read the whole thing.

ANNALS OF LEFTIST AUTOPHAGY: New Oscar Host Kevin Hart Attacked in Record Time.

More importantly, why would anyone want to host the Oscars at this point? The show is consistently awful and preachy. Critics typically savage whoever does the honors. It’s weeks and weeks of work with little payoff beyond, apparently, a “low” six-figure check. The latter is consequential but not to stars who routinely cash those sized checks.

The worst part for Hart? He’ll be slimed for weeks, maybe months, following the announcement. If he survives what’s to come he’ll be forced to abandon his apolitical stance as the Oscars host.

A comic who rigorously avoids partisan humor will have to mock the GOP, President Donald Trump or both on Oscar night. It’s what we’ve seen from previous hosts for the past few years. Virtually every awards show doubles as a DNC ad.

Suddenly, all Harts’ efforts to nurture his bipartisan fan base will be gone. Maybe he’s better off bowing out now. The gig just isn’t worth it.

Star Wars: Rogue One recreated Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher in CGI form. Holographic recreations of dead rock stars such as Roy Orbison are touring in increasing numbers. Perhaps the Oscars should simply task Industrial Light & Magic to create holographic or CGI versions of Bob Hope and Johnny Carson and have them host alternate years — and problem solved.

WE HAVE THE WORST POLITICAL CLASS IN OUR HISTORY: Michael Barone: Who’s to blame? Weak leaders, weak institutions, weak voters?

In the wake of the midterm elections, conservative analyst Yuval Levin saw no winners. “It is the weakness of all sides, and the strength of none, that shapes this moment.”

You can see what he means. President Trump hasn’t gotten everything he wanted — no Obamacare repeal, not even the wall — from the Republican House of Representatives. And on one issue or another he’ll probably get something from Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats he couldn’t get from Paul Ryan’s Republicans.

Now, maybe House Democrats will overplay their hand and help Trump win re-election in 2020. And maybe Democrats, faced with a crowded field of presidential candidates, will choose an unelectable nominee.

But even though Republicans gained Senate seats and are in good shape to confirm conservative judges, Trump is weakened by the results. Republicans lost just about every House seat he carried in 2016 by 5 percent or less. And he got only 46 percent of the popular vote.

Do the math. Forty-six minus five is 41. No way a 41-percent candidate gets 270 electoral votes in a two-way race.

It doesn’t have to be this way. CNN analyst Harry Enten points out that Trump’s job approval on the economy at this point is the second highest of recent presidents. But his overall approval is the second lowest. The obvious advice: Behave in a more dignified manner.

But Trump is not alone among national leaders in behaving in a way that makes him weaker than he might be. It seems to be a common, though not quite universal, ailment.

Yep. Macron, Merkel, and May are all more unpopular, with good reason.

STEVE SCALISE: No forgiveness for shooter, Trump ‘motivated’ recovery.

Rep. Steve Scalise is a good Catholic who won the prayers of many church leaders as he recovered from a bullet fired by an angry liberal while he and his Republican baseball team practiced in June 2017.

“God was there on that ball field and he performed little miracles to save all of our lives,” said the Louisiana lawmaker, who fought death off several times with deep prayer and determination.

“The shooter was dead set on taking everybody out and would have been successful if not for the miracles of God and the acts of heroism on the ball field,” he added.

But while he is a faithful follower of Jesus, there is one Christian teaching that he is not ready to accept when it comes to the shooter, James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill.

“At some point I’ll have to deal with the issue of forgiveness,” he said in an interview, “but for now I’m focused on my recovery.”

Scalise has written in a new book, Back in the Game, about the difficulty of recovering and seeing three others shot.

He said in the interview that knowing that police shot and killed Hodgkinson helped him focus on getting better. “Because he ultimately didn’t make it, it made it easier to close that chapter and to focus on my recovery,” said Scalise, the GOP whip.

And eventually he might consider forgiveness. “It’s something to struggle with. I’m Catholic. I’m probably not there yet. That’s something I’m going to have to work with my priest on,” he said with a laugh.

For now he’s focused on thanking everybody who helped in his comeback, especially President Trump who, with first lady Melania Trump, visited Scalise on the night he was hit with the bullet that would shatter bones and rip through vital organs.

Flashback: Bernie Bro James T. Hodgkinson, Attempted Assassin Of Steve Scalise, Already Being Erased From History.

Plus:

● Hillary: ‘You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.’

● Former Attorney General Eric Holder: “Michelle [Obama] always says, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. No. When they go low, we kick them.”

Politico: After failing to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Democrats wonder if it’s time to be more ruthless.

Democrat Doxxer Threatened To Reveal Senators’ Children’s Health Information.

DC restaurant: We’ve received death threats after Ted Cruz, wife forced out by protesters.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ): We Are Less Than 60 Days From Totally ‘Kicking the S–t Out of the Republicans.’

Networks Silent On Attempted Stabbing of GOP Candidate By Anti-Trump Attacker.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) Jokes About Threatening Trump Supporters ‘All The Time.’

SILLY QUESTION: ‘HOW DID REPUBLICANS LEARN TO HATE THE NEWS MEDIA’? At NewsBusters, Tim Graham writes:

For a healthy dose of how liberals write unintentional humor, see this Columbia Journalism Review article: “How did Republicans learn to hate the news media?” CBS MoneyWatch blogger and former Wall Street Journal investing editor Larry Light claims Republicans have a “prejudice” against the news media, as if there is no evidence….like you’ve never, ever spent a day on NewsBusters.

He wrote: “My father didn’t want to hear any evidence that contradicted his views, and neither do today’s Republican media haters. The hallmark of a prejudice is that you don’t have to prove it: You just know it.”

Light travels through history, from the media exposing Joseph McCarthy and Barry Goldwater, to forcing Richard Nixon from office, and then leaping ahead of George H.W. Bush’s last-minute “Annoy the Media” slogan in 1992. Nowhere in those decades is there any evidence of media favoritism, apparently. Just “prejudice” and hate.

Here are Light’s comments on the media and Goldwater:

[A]t the 1964 Republican National Convention, former president Dwight Eisenhower got a rousing crowd reception when he condemned “sensation-seeking columnists and commentators” who “couldn’t care less about the good of our party.”

His reference was to media coverage of the extremist views held by the Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, who called for making Social Security a voluntary program and proposed deploying nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Though Goldwater came across as much more amiable than the ever-seething Trump does today, and he didn’t lash out at the press publicly, when he lost the election to Lyndon Johnson by a huge margin, his supporters were indignant at how the press had treated him.

Yes, other than Walter Cronkite and Daniel Schorr describing Goldwater as a crypto-Nazi on the CBS Evening News, why would Republicans loathe the media after the 1964 election?

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NO GUARANTEE OF FUTURE RESULTS: CNN’s Kirsten Powers declared all Trump supporters to be racist this past Friday.

Speaking with the chyron “Why Trump Resonates With White Women” below her on “CNN Tonight” with Don Lemon, Powers said Trump’s racist rhetoric from his campaign to the present was too vast to summarize as she assessed white women who support the president.

“They’ll say, ‘Well, I’m not racist. I just voted for him because, you know, I didn’t like Hillary Clinton,'” the former Clinton administration official said. “And I just want to say that’s not—that doesn’t make you not racist. It actually makes you racist. If you support somebody who does racist things, that makes you racist. So, I just want to establish that.

Powers was a bit more nuanced in 2014, when she was a liberal employed by Fox News:

In their latest video, as Noah Rothman writes at Mediaite, RCP’s Carl Cannon takes Kirsten Powers of Fox News out for a spin, which produces this interesting moment:

Cannon began by asking Powers how she is treated by her Fox colleagues. He recalled that New York Times’ conservative columnist David Brooks was not well-received when he first started writing for the Times and asked if Powers had encountered a similar experience.

“People are really nice at Fox,” Powers revealed. “It’s been good for because I – before that, I lived in a real liberal bubble.”

“All my friends were liberals and I grew up in a really liberal family,” she continued. “I had a lot of ideas about conservatives and then I got to Fox and just, I was like, ‘Oh, they’re not all evil and stupid.’”

I realize she’s speaking glibly and off-the-cuff, but the inference is that on some level, Powers actually did believe that all conservatives are evil, thus butting up against fellow Fox News pundit Charles Krauthammer’s law of politics from over a decade ago. “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil,” Krauthammer wrote in 2002.

And Powers is back to believing that all conservatives are evil — at CNN, she’s safely back in the bubble.

Related: A Cold Winter for White Women.

JOEL KOTKIN: Jeff Bezos Is Right at Home in the D.C. Swamp, but Amazon Might Have Bit Off More Than It Can Chew with the Big Apple.

It turns out that tech oligarchs aren’t much better than old dogs at learning new tricks. By splitting his much coveted supposed second headquarters between New York City and greater Washington D.C., Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is repeating what worked for him in Seattle while saying “yes, sir” to power.

Technology firms were once seen as outsiders, mostly located far from the traditional East Coast power centers. Now, as they gradually take control of every industry once coveted by the old establishment—media, finance and retail—firms like Amazon are handing out consolation prices to their new subjects.

The move to Washington amplifies the already clear message that Bezos, passionately against the Trumpian draining of the Washington “swamp,” wants to be a big player there, operating from the 27,000 square foot mansion—the biggest house in Washington—he paid $23 million to buy and another $12 million to renovate. He already controls the dominant local mouthpiece, the Washington Post (which broke the “news” that he was the “anonymous” buyer” of the former Textile Museum he’s made into a one-family house), and has located his key profit-making enterprise, cloud services, in part in a new campus in suburban Fairfax. And Amazon already owns one of the largest lobbying operations in Washington.

Time for some antitrust enforcement?

Plus: “If Amazon had moved to a heartland city, Bezos would have made a statement not only to his employees but to the middle of the country, where the tech industry is often seen as another enforcer of the progressive groupthink. Instead, he genuflected to the preferred locations and conventional wisdom of the overclass.”

ANOTHER PROGRESSIVE MYTH DEBUNKED: What the Prescription Drug Debate Gets Wrong. If we want new drugs for Alzheimer’s and the other ravages of old age, the last thing we need is European-style price controls at the pharmacy. But that’s the dream of Democrats, and the Trump administration is unfortunately threatening to go along with it.

This campaign is based on the same myth that was used to sell Obamacare: Americans are dying because their health-care system is an international disgrace. While it’s true that Canadians’ and western Europeans’ life expectancy is higher than Americans’, it’s not because of their price-controlled drugs and government health services. As I write in City Journal, the gap is due to variables that have nothing to do with health-care systems: the higher rates in America of poverty, obesity, smoking, homicide, fatal accidents and other factors.

The gap would be even larger if it weren’t for the fact that Americans receive better health care, particularly for heart disease and cancer. And the chief reason that American patients fare better than European patients is that they get earlier access to more new drugs. A dollar spent on drugs does more to combat disease and disability than a dollar spent anywhere else.

Yes, Canadians and Europeans pay less at the pharmacy, but they’re getting what they pay for. Why would Trump want to copy them? He should look at the numbers. Americans already get a much better deal.

 

NINA BOOKOUT: Ted Olson Is Wrong, It’s About Acosta’s Behavior NOT The First Amendment.

The press functions as a guild. It’s not defending the First Amendment — and it’s happy to flush your First Amendment rights — it’s defending guild privileges.

In the unlikely event Trump loses this suit, he should move the press room across the street to the New Executive Office Building. There’s no constitutional right to a place in the White House, though I suppose you could probably get Breyer and Sotomayor to hold otherwise. The modern-day White House press conference is just another bad idea dating back to Woodrow Wilson. Just remember what I keep saying about Trump — the Trump era is marked by the renegotiation of all sorts of post-war institutional arrangements. A wiser press corps wouldn’t be bringing their cushy setup up for renegotiation, especially over Acosta’s theatrics, which have nothing to do with journalism.

Related: James Freeman: Acosta Privilege: Does the First Amendment require the President to listen to a partisan and inaccurate lecture?

This is not an accurate rendering of what happened. A video recording of the event shows that after four reporters took their turns asking questions, the President called on Mr. Acosta, who made it clear that he would not simply be asking questions and seeking information as reporters do but intended to provide a rebuttal to recent comments made by the President. “I wanted to challenge you on one of the statements that you made in the tail end of the campaign—in the midterms,” said the CNN commentator.

Mr. Acosta mentioned Mr. Trump’s characterization of the immigrant caravan making its way through Mexico as an “invasion.” At this point Mr. Acosta did not ask a question but simply issued a declaration. “As you know Mr. President, the caravan was not an invasion. It’s a group of migrants moving up from Central America towards the border with the U.S.,” said the CNN correspondent.

So instead of simply serving as a reporter Mr. Acosta chose to offer commentary—and according to standard dictionaries he was wrong. The large group of immigrants had crossed illegally into Mexico and plainly intended to illegally enter the U.S.

Mr. Acosta may think that an invasion must include a military force but Mr. Trump’s use of the word is common. Merriam-Webster defines invade as “to enter for conquest or plunder,” but also “to encroach upon” or “infringe.” Other dictionaries have similar definitions, such as “to intrude” or “violate.”

Having wrongly asserted that the caravan could not be called an invasion and wrongly asserted that Mr. Trump knew he was saying something untrue, Mr. Acosta then asked why Mr. Trump had done so and if he had “demonized” immigrants. Yes, Mr. Acosta was now asking a question, but doing so while demanding that the President accept a false premise.

Mr. Acosta then interrupted the President as he tried to answer. Then Mr. Acosta editorialized again:

“Your campaign had an ad showing migrants climbing over walls and so on. But they’re not going to be doing that.”

Is Mr. Acosta now a spokesman for the caravan? After another interruption, Mr. Acosta insisted on continuing to talk after the President called on a reporter. Then Mr. Acosta fended off a White House intern as she attempted to retrieve the microphone to allow others to ask questions.

The First Amendment prevents the President or anyone else in the federal government from restricting the ability of citizens to report and publish. Does it also require the President to listen to ill-informed lectures for as long as the lecturers choose to speak? Obviously if everyone had the right to refuse to surrender the microphone at press conferences the result would be fewer members of the press corps having an opportunity to ask questions, not more.

But there’s something special about Mr. Acosta and about CNN, at least according to the lawsuit.

And we’re back to the guild thing again.

Plus: Bob Woodward criticizes CNN’s Acosta lawsuit, says media’s ’emotionally unhinged’ about Trump.

MORE: Fox News backs CNN in lawsuit against Trump, wants Acosta reinstated.

In its complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, CNN argued that the revocation of Acosta’s access was “the culmination of years of hostility by President Trump against CNN and Acosta” based on its reporting and “an unabashed attempt to censor the press and exclude reporters from the White House who challenge and dispute the President’s point of view.”

In response, the Justice Department argued in a court filing that Trump has “broad discretion to regulate access to the White House for journalists.”

Wallace said Fox News intended to file an amicus brief in support of CNN with the court ahead of an afternoon hearing.

Fox News is alienating its core audience in support of a deeply flawed lawsuit.

Dumb.

THE DEMOCRATS’ BETO PROBLEM:

O’Rourke made no attempt to disguise his extremism during the campaign.

Like his funding, his ideas seemed to come straight from La-La-Land. He said he was open to the idea of abolishing ICE. He supports Medicare for All. He talked up gun control while opposing armed security officers in schools, an idea that enjoys 87 percent support in Texas. He praised NFL players who knelt during the national anthem. He openly called for impeaching President Trump, a position so tactically deranged that even Nancy Pelosi shies away from it. If he had simply pretended to swing right on such matters these past few months, he might have done what Barack Obama did: won over lots of moderates while liberals remained certain he was one of them. If you find yourself trying to win an election in Texas while swerving well left of Nancy Pelosi, you’ve become high on your own supply.

That’s the Democrats’ problem: They get so giddy about the next JFK that they don’t see the reality. Why should they? They live in enclaves where everyone is liberal. They get their information from media outlets in which illegal aliens are simply “migrants.” Within the bubble, everyone thought O’Rourke was a great candidate. The magazine profiles! The money pouring in from starstruck admirers! The shredding on a skateboard! The shredding on a guitar! By mid-October O’Rourke had raised an insane $70 million–plus and was outspending Cruz by two to one. Yet as a Politico pre-postmortem put it last weekend, “Democratic minds will want to know, what did he do with that $70 million? Why wasn’t he barraging persuadable Republicans with mail and phone calls and door knocks? . . . Did he consciously avoid playing on their issues, determining it was more profitable for his political future to lose as a liberal than compete as a moderate?”

Well, possibly. Could the Democrats really think they would fool the voters by repeating their 2006 pose as right-leaning moderates only to become Nancy Pelosi’s crash-test dummies?

HMM: John Yoo: Whitaker’s appointment as acting Attorney General is unconstitutional.

Well, bring on Janice Rogers Brown then. I haven’t had time to really think about this, but my initial impression is that Yoo is right. On the other hand, we don’t want the Constitution to be a dead letter — it must grow and change with the times, and perhaps the times demand that we be more . . . flexible and pragmatic about appointments. Yeah, that’s it. Flexible and pragmatic. And modern!

UPDATE: Andrew McCarthy says Yoo is wrong: “Matthew Whitaker joined the Trump Justice Department as Sessions’s chief of staff in October 2017. The date is relevant. The president has named him as acting attorney general under the Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (the relevant provisions are codified at Sections 3345 and 3346 of Title 5, U.S. Code). There has been some commentary suggesting that because Whitaker was in a job (chief of staff) that did not require Senate confirmation, he could not become the “acting officer” in a position (AG) that calls for Senate confirmation. Not so. The Vacancies Act enables the president to name an acting officer, who may serve as such for 210 days, as long as the person named has been working at the agency or department for at least 90 days in a fairly high-ranking position. Whitaker qualifies.”

That would be the Clinton-Era Vacancies Reform Act.

ACOSTA: When The BBC Is Calling You Out.

I’m pretty sure Acosta never intended to “mistouch” the young female intern. He was just trying to hold on to the mic. . . .

But make no mistake. The media also does well when they are baiting the bear. The urge to poke can sometimes seem irresistible.

So let’s take a step back. What happened in that room was not the ultimate fight for press freedom. This wasn’t someone risking life and limb against a regime where freedom of speech is forbidden. This was a bloke sitting in a room full of colleagues who were all trying to ask questions too.

This was a man who’d had his turn and had been told he couldn’t hog the whole time.

I’ve been in high-pressure press conferences. And the art is to ask the single most succinct question that will land you the best possible response.

The achievement is not meant to be one of endurance.

There are plenty of things to berate in the behaviour, language or ethics of Donald Trump. But this moment was not one of them. Pull him up for his lies, yes. But not for wanting to widen the conversation.

The president took CNN’s question and then took more. And when he tried to move on, he couldn’t. Once the Acosta incident was over, he went on to take questions from journalists from all over the world – for a total of 90 minutes.

And then he got castigated for freezing out the press.

UPDATE: Roger Kimball: “I have at times wondered whether Jim Acosta pays the president a retainer for making him such a recognizable figure.”

VETERAN ACTRESS SEEKS NEW SCRIPTWRITERS:

● Shot: Jane Fonda Talks Threats to Democracy, Compares Trump to Hitler.

The Hollywood Reporter, yesterday.

● Chaser: “I want to publicly accuse Nixon here of being a new-type Hitler whose crimes are being unveiled.”

—From Fonda’s lengthy profile at Discover the Networks.

● Hangover: “A new biography of Jane Fonda by Patricia Bosworth reveals a lifelong lament by the famous actress: ‘My biggest regret’ Fonda is quoted during a ‘feminist consciousness-raising session,’ according to the book’s account, ‘is I never got to f*** Che Guevara.’”

—“Jane Fonda’s Crush on Che Guevara,” Humberto Fontova, Townhall, September 7, 2011.

UPDATE: “The Grace and Frankie star added that ‘civility’ is also under attack. ‘And we don’t have to take it anymore. Voting is the way to stop it. Everybody has to vote.’ That’s right. The woman who just compared President Trump to Hitler says civility is under attack. You can’t make this stuff up. Nothing says civility like inserting Hitler into a conversation about a person of a different political philosophy, right? Ugh. Irony is dead in 2018.”

ALL THOSE #METOO TORPEDOES THEY PUT IN THE WATER FOR TRUMP KEEP CIRCLING AROUND ON THEM: No One Wants to Campaign With Bill Clinton Anymore. “In an election shaped by the #MeToo movement, where female candidates and voters are likely to drive any Democratic gains, Mr. Clinton finds his legacy tarnished by what some in the party see as his inability to reckon with his sexual indiscretions as president with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, as well as with past allegations of sexual assault. . . . Rebecca Kirszner Katz, a veteran Democratic strategist, says many Democrats have reassessed the party’s support for Clinton’s behavior in light of changing views about women, power and sexual misconduct.”

PHIL BREDESEN IS ENCOUNTERING SOME OF THIS, TOO: Manchin trouble in West Virginia? Some people love him but won’t vote for him.

As the charismatic Democrat walks towards the Martinsburg High School float filled with high-schoolers, hay, and lots of boisterous cheers, Shank admits, despite wanting a photo with the senator and liking him, come Nov. 6, he will vote for Manchin’s Republican opponent, Morrisey.

“Yeah, he’s a good guy. I mean, his politics is … it is what it is. At least he got Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court,” said Shank of Manchin, a vote he added was that really important to him.

Curt Blickenstann says the same, but adds a caveat — switch parties and Manchin could get his vote. “Oh yeah, he’d get the support of West Virginia even more. West Virginia is a hard-working state. It’s middle-class people, and that’s what Trump stands for is the middle-class people,” he says of the president who won all of the state’s 55 counties and earned a whopping 67–26 percent statewide win over Hillary Clinton.

Manchin says he’s not doing that. “Why would I change — I am who I am no matter what party name is after my name, I’ve never changed,” he said.

Voters here haven’t really changed either, except they don’t vote much for Democrats anymore, even Democrats who look like Republicans in any other state but here. Why? Democrats here place faith in their platform and are pro-life and pro-gun.

So do Republicans here.

Well, stay tuned and see how it turns out.

MICHAEL BARONE: Will ‘burly men’ stop the Democrats’ blue wave?

Do they live in two different worlds? White college graduate women favor Democrats over Republicans in House elections, 62 to 35 percent. White noncollege-graduate men favor Republicans over Democrats in House elections, 58 to 38 percent.

Those results are from a Washington Post poll conducted only in 69 seriously contested congressional districts, 63 of them currently held by Republicans. The numbers in other polls are only slightly different for these two groups.

They all tell the same story. These Americans live in the same relatively small slices of America (average population about 750,000), not many miles away from each other. But they take very different — often angrily different — views of where the nation is headed and on sensitive issues. . . .

It’s not that white college women are diehard Keynesians and white noncollege men supply-siders. People tend to tailor their economic theories to partisan preference, not vice versa. But the economic policies of the last two administrations and concurrent trends have had — and were intended to have — very different effects on white college women and white noncollege men.

President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package was heavily tilted toward college women. As my American Enterprise Institute colleague Christina Hoff Summers wrote in The Weekly Standard in June 2009, the Obama economic team’s original idea was to finance infrastructure, construction, and manufacturing, sectors which lost 3 million jobs in 2007-09.

But feminist groups objected. Obama economist Christina Romer, Summers wrote, recalled that her first email “was from a women’s group saying, ‘We don’t want this stimulus package to just create jobs for burly men.’” So Obama ditched his “macho” stimulus plan for one stimulating creation of jobs in government and especially in education and healthcare, which had gained 588,000 jobs during the 2007-09 recession. Forget the bridge-building and electric grid modernization; let’s subsidize more administrators, facilitators, liaisons.

The results were disappointing. Sputtering growth nudged up toward 3 percent and down toward zero, which is what it was during the last quarter of the Obama administration. Administrators outnumbered teachers in higher education but added little value; government payrolls were sheltered from cuts, temporarily. There was little recovery in blue-collar jobs, and millions of men lingered on the disability rolls. Life-expectancy fell among downscale groups amid a rise in opioid dependency and deaths.

The trajectory of the economy — and the beneficiaries — seem different in the Trump presidency so far. Growth is more robust, obviously, though some economists thought this was impossible, and the the biggest gains are, in contrast to the last 30 years, in blue-collar jobs and downscale earnings.

Yep. You know, if Obama had stuck with his instincts on infrastructure, he could have cemented Democratic rule for a generation. But when he caved to the feminists, he planted the seeds for the Trump revolution.

DAVID GELERNTER IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: The Real Reason They Hate Trump: He’s the average American in exaggerated form—blunt, simple, willing to fight, mistrustful of intellectuals.

Every big U.S. election is interesting, but the coming midterms are fascinating for a reason most commentators forget to mention: The Democrats have no issues. The economy is booming and America’s international position is strong. In foreign affairs, the U.S. has remembered in the nick of time what Machiavelli advised princes five centuries ago: Don’t seek to be loved, seek to be feared.

The contrast with the Obama years must be painful for any honest leftist. For future generations, the Kavanaugh fight will stand as a marker of the Democratic Party’s intellectual bankruptcy, the flashing red light on the dashboard that says “Empty.” The left is beaten.

This has happened before, in the 1980s and ’90s and early 2000s, but then the financial crisis arrived to save liberalism from certain destruction. Today leftists pray that Robert Mueller will put on his Superman outfit and save them again.

For now, though, the left’s only issue is “We hate Trump.” This is an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about Donald Trump is precisely what it hates about America. The implications are important, and painful.

To be fair, the average American just wants to be left alone. Trump realizes that’s not really possible anymore.

ROSIE GOES FULL SEVEN DAYS IN MAY: On MSNBC, Rosie O’Donnell Suggests Military Coup Against Trump:

Ultra liberal 9/11 truther Rosie O’Donnell used her platform as a guest on Thursday’s edition of MSNBC’s Deadline: White House to trash the President, whom she described as “evil” and “dark.” O’Donnell suggested orchestrating a military coup against the President in addition to claiming that his “wet dream” involves scaring journalists into “not printing bad news about him, which is also equivalent to the truth about him.”

In August, former comedienne turned far left activist Chelsea Handler called for “a military coup to overthrow Trump,” the New York Post reported.

Glenn’s 2016 paper on military coups in the United States just keeps getting more timely!

HYSTERIA IS EVERYWHERE: I’m trying to read the new Michelle Goldberg column in the NYT, “A Cure for Political Despair/Join the women trying to save America from Trump,” but it’s so hysterical and melodramatic.

Plus: “I’m just imagining one of these women coming to my door. I mean, I don’t answer the door, because I’m picturing all sorts of characters I don’t want to interact with, and now I have one more on my list. It’s a woman who’s been experiencing nonstop panic who believes the way to deal with her raging insanity is to get out and about knocking on doors. I am never answering the door again. Now, it’s not just the kid selling bad peanut brittle and the environmental activist with the clipboard, it’s the freaked out lady who thinks talking to me is some kind of cure for the churning stomach knots.”

UPDATE: From the comments: “Reality doesn’t satisfy their emotional needs, so they make up stories and decide to believe them. But their narcissism requires that the stories be about them, and their boredom requires that the stories be dramatic. This is what you end up with. People in a permanent state of imaginary drama.”

JONATHAN KEILER: Warren’s Clintonian Smoke Signals.

Deliberate or not, Warren’s approach seems to track more closely to another older white woman also lacking in American Indian DNA, but not chutzpah, by the name of Hillary. Maybe Warren ought to check for Ashkenazi DNA.

Like Hillary, Warren is taking the approach that attacking Trump is a no-lose proposition for a Democrat – a rather obvious point, but one she is taking the lead on. And as a woman, much like Hillary, she is willing to cast aside ideas of equality and fall back on her position as a member of the fairer sex when counterattacked.

So when it was leaked that Trump’s chief of staff, General John Kelly, criticized Warren in a private email as rude and obstreperous, she publicly took it as a proof of her toughness and then claimed that Kelly’s comments were sexist. The mainstream media at least pretended to marvel at her political jiu-jitsu, in turning a potential negative into a positive (at least for Democrats) – in other words, claiming Hillary’s harpy badge and wearing it proudly.

The American Indian ridiculousness is part of the same strategy. It simply rekindled a feud with Trump, which is what Warren wants. It doesn’t matter that he’s right and she appears delusional. Democrats don’t care if their leaders are a bit bent. In fact, they might prefer it. What the base wants is to see Democrats fighting Trump. Warren is giving them a fight.

Warren is also protecting herself from future Democratic challengers with another Clintonian move, by quickly putting negatives in the past.

Maybe, but something simultaneously this silly and outrageous is going to be hard to shake.

RUN, CREEPY PORN LAWYER, RUN! Michael Avenatti Is Making Concrete Moves to Run for President in 2020 Against Trump.

In a brief phone interview with The Daily Beast, Avenatti stressed that his expenditures and exploratory travel would only ramp up in the weeks and months ahead, with stops planned for Texas, California, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, along with longer-term plans to visit Iowa, Ohio, and Nevada.

“This idea that this is a superficial thing is ludicrous,” Avenatti said. “It is so ridiculous. I don’t need to engage in a superficial exploration of a potential run. Why would I need to do that? I don’t need any more notoriety. Why would I be wanting to take my time and energy traveling the country to raise money for Democrats if this was superficial?”

Though Fight PAC had raised a relatively small $11,907.98 so far, Avenatti said that fundraising was “coming along pretty well.” He had not hired anyone permanently for his committee. But, he added, “I’m consulting with a number of people.”

Does he have real presidential ambitions, or is he just testing the waters for a bigger effort at fleecing Democrats out of campaign donations?

RAND PAUL REVEALS MEDIA HID KEY DETAIL ABOUT GOP BASEBALL ATTACKER:

“I was there at the ball field when Steven Scalise almost died from a very, very angry violent man who was incited really by rhetoric on the left,” Paul said.

“And this hasn’t been reported enough, when he came on the field with a semi-automatic weapon firing probably close to 200 shots at us, shooting five people and almost killing Steve Scalise, he was yelling ‘this is for healthcare!” Paul said. “He also had a list of conservative legislators, Republicans, in his pocket that he was willing to kill.”

“So what happens is that when Democrats say ‘get up in their face,’ they need to realize that there are a lot of unstable people out there,” Paul continued. “There are people with anger issues, there are people who are prone to violence.”

Flashbacks:

● Hillary: ‘You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.’

● Former Attorney General Eric Holder: “Michelle [Obama] always says, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. No. When they go low, we kick them.”

Politico: After failing to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Democrats wonder if it’s time to be more ruthless.

Democrat Doxxer Threatened To Reveal Senators’ Children’s Health Information.

DC restaurant: We’ve received death threats after Ted Cruz, wife forced out by protesters.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ): We Are Less Than 60 Days From Totally ‘Kicking the S–t Out of the Republicans.’

Networks Silent On Attempted Stabbing of GOP Candidate By Anti-Trump Attacker.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) Jokes About Threatening Trump Supporters ‘All The Time.’

Bernie Bro James T. Hodgkinson, Attempted Assassin Of Steve Scalise, Already Being Erased From History.

But don’t you dare call them a mob.

PLEASE, RUN WITH THAT: Dems’ Midterm Message: White Women Are Rape Apologists.

Nothing can top the unhinged diatribe printed in the New York Times on Saturday night. Someone might want to perform a wellness check on Alexis Grenell, the author of an opinion piece titled, “White Women, Come Get Your People.” The column is a view into the tortured mind of the average American woman on the Left, a piece laced with so much puerile anguish, race-baiting and vulgar imagery that it would be a funny read if it wasn’t so disturbing. And it is another example of how major news organizations are fomenting hate among Americans. The loathsome column does not merit publication on the most angst-ridden teenage blog let alone in the nation’s “newspaper of record.”

Grenell, a Brooklyn-based public affairs consultant and alleged Democratic strategist, started out with a bang, venting about a confirmation process “where women all but slit their wrists, letting their stories of sexual trauma run like rivers of blood through the Capitol.” She referred to her “rage headache” and her “stupid uterus” and claimed there is a “blood pact between white men and white women.”

She babbled some nonsense about how “white women benefit from patriarchy by trading on their whiteness to monopolize resources for mutual gain,” and “support the patriarchy by marrying within their racial group, reproducing whiteness and even minimizing violence against their own bodies.”

We voted for Trump, according to Grenell, to “prop up our whiteness,” whatever that means. She claimed we care the same about men falsely accused of rape as women who are actually raped, but then accused White House advisor Kellyanne Conway of “weaponizing” her own sexual assault “in service to her boss by discouraging women from feeling empathy with Christine Blasey Ford or anger at Judge Kavanaugh.”

It was a grotesque, twisted tirade unfit for public consumption and it wasn’t the first time Grenell has rolled out the “Republicans-for-rape” narrative.

The Democrats have worked hard to lock down the Trigglypuff vote, but at what cost of even slightly more moderate voters?

THE MEDIA & THE MOB: Responding to a Washington Post reporter, who as Twitchy notes, “does the Republicans pounce angle on the out-of-control Kavanaugh mob,” Rod Dreher writes:

Here’s the thing: though there is no question that the GOP, like Democrats, play to the anxieties of its base — this is normal politics — there really were, and are, mobs out to get conservatives. 

Conservatives didn’t just imagine the anti-Kavanaugh protesters filling the halls of Congress, harassing GOP senators. Conservatives aren’t imagining campus mobs shouting down conservatives. Republican political consultants didn’t invent the mob at Middlebury College last year that chased Charles Murray off of campus, and physically injured a (liberal) professor who was his host. Nor did the GOP conjure the Yale mob that abused the Christakises over Halloween costumes in 2016.

And on and on. More to the point, Republicans did not invent the mob-like behavior of the news media in the Kavanaugh affair. In the last 24 hours, I’ve heard from three friends — two Democrats, and one anti-Republican independent — who have written to express profound concern about this political moment, and the behavior of the liberal mob. One of the Democrats — no fan of Trump or Kavanaugh — told me that her party has lost her over all this. The independent told me he hasn’t voted GOP in 30 years, but that may change this November, because of the “malice” (his word) on the left. And the third remains a devoted Democrat, but he is agonizing over the demons now taking over his political side, and worries if they can ever be reined in.

In “After Kavanaugh,” Kevin Williamson adds, “The Democrats have created an environment that will render ordinary political discourse almost impossible for years to come:”

This has been shameful, and there should be a reckoning.

That reckoning will not come from the New York Times or from the faculty of the Yale Law School. And it will not come from mind-killed partisans who will believe — or at least pretend to believe — anything that justifies and facilitates their pursuit of power. “She sounded credible to me!” they say. People who are telling us what we want to hear often do. That isn’t good enough — and this cynical smear campaign cannot be allowed to go unanswered. Everybody likes to think that they would have had the good sense and spine to stand against Senator Joseph McCarthy or the House Un-American Activities Committee.

But as the Democrats in rodential retreat go slinking sideways away from this failed attempt at character assassination, what will we do? Not only in November, but after? They would very much like to make this election about Donald Trump, but this has very little to do with the president. They tried to do the same thing to Mitt Romney that they tried with Brett Kavanaugh, and they would have done the same thing if it had been President Romney naming a new justice.

If you don’t punish a political party for this, what do you punish one for?

Indeed. And how does the media recover from their role in the anti-Kavanaugh debacle? The Washington Free Beacon notes that Joe Scarborough(!) “issued a pointed challenge to editors across the country:”

“I challenge New York Times reporters this morning — not reporters, editors — I challenge Washington Post editors, I challenge Wall Street Journal editors, I challenge editors across America, write that story. What happened with Dr. Ford’s agreement with a congresswoman, with Dianne Feinstein? Why did they leak that story? And more importantly, look at yourself and ask yourself the question, why didn’t we report on this in real time when you sure as hell would have reported on it if [Sen. Chuck] Grassley (R., Iowa) and his office had done the same thing?”

Just think of the media as Democratic operatives with bylines, and it all makes sense — or as “Comfortably Smug” tweets, “Journalists are the most insidious of paid protesters.”

UPDATE: Forget ‘boobs’! CNN’s Brooke Baldwin now clutching her pearls over ‘the M word.’

BREAKING: Nikki Haley resigns as UN Ambassador.

It’s a shame. She’s easily the best one we’ve had since Jeane Kirkpatrick.

More: “Trump tells reporter Haley told him about 6 months ago that at end of two year period she’d want to take a break. ‘She’s done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together.'”

MAYBE TRUMP REALLY IS PLAYING 6-DIMENSIONAL CHESS. So there’s this:

And there’s the strangely assertive Lindsey Graham 2.0:

And it makes me think about what Trump’s game was. I would have rather he picked one of the more libertarian members of his list: Willett, or maybe Kethledge. And because some sort of trumped-up #MeToo thing was almost certain, a lot of people thought he should have picked Amy Coney Barrett. Kavanaugh was a fine, safe pick, but kinda milquetoasty DC Establishment for my taste.

But that was the reason to pick him. Trump knew he’d been vetted enough that there would be no real skeletons, and he no doubt expected that the Democrats would be so desperate they’d invent some. They would have done that with anyone he put up — but, precisely because Kavanaugh was a milquetoasty DC Establishment type, seeing the Democrats go into full batshit assault mode on him galvanized the other milquetoasty DC Establishment types. You could see the lightbulbs go off in their heads: The Democrats don’t hate Trump because he’s Trump. They hate all Republicans and want to ruin them. Even me! And they always will.

The result is that the Kavanaugh affair has welded the Trump and NeverTrump forces (except for a few sad outliers who don’t matter) into a solid force. And it’s simultaneously galvanized GOP voters around the country, closing the “enthusiasm gap,” as the normals become more militant. Plus, it seems that minority voters aren’t as excited about empowering neurotic upper-class white feminists as you might — well, actually, I guess they’re just about exactly as excited about empowering neurotic upper-class white feminists as you might expect, but it seems Dems didn’t give that much thought. So Kavanaugh was, in fact, the perfect pick to trigger this reaction.

I’m reminded of the scene in Absence of Malice where Wilford Brimley asks Paul Newman, who has cleverly set a trap that the press and the rogue DOJ guy fall into, “Are you that smart?”

I mentioned this analysis to the Insta-Wife, a Trump fan who has followed him closely since the 1980s and her comment was, “Of course.”

UPDATE:

MORE: Seen on Facebook: “‘You’ll get tired of winning.’ Yet another failed prediction from Drumpf.”

COLD WAR II: Pence intensifies warnings about China. Venezuela is Exhibit A.

In a speech Thursday to the Hudson Institute, Pence charged Beijing with wanting a new American president and actively interfering in the domestic and foreign affairs of the United States.

“Beijing also aims to extend its reach across the wider world,” Pence said. “Indeed, China is building its own relationships with America’s allies and enemies that contradict any peaceful or productive intentions of Beijing.”

Pence pointed directly at the economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, where he said Beijing has given a “lifeline” to the leaders there through $5 billion in questionable loans. He accused China, Venezuela’s largest creditor, of saddling the Venezuelan people with more than $50 billion in debt that will have to be repaid well after the government of Nicolás Maduro is gone.

And he blamed the Chinese Communist Party for convincing El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Panama to sever ties with Taiwan in an effort to get closer with China, a U.S. trade adversary.

Well, good. What I’d like to see next is President Trump re-announce the Monroe Doctrine, and also the resulting exploding heads.

THE GOALPOSTS HAVE LEFT THE STADIUM BY THIS POINT: Byron York: In Kavanaugh fight, Democrats move goalposts far, far away.

Ask any casual observer what the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation fight is about, and the answer will be the allegation that at a high-school party 36 years ago, when Kavanaugh was 17, he drunkenly forced then-15-year-old Christine Ford onto a bed, tried to undress her, and, when she tried to scream, covered her mouth with his hand.

That is now old news. In the last 48 hours, immediately after Senate Republicans and President Trump agreed to Democratic demands that the FBI investigate the 1982 incident, the Kavanaugh goalposts have moved dramatically. Now, a key issue is Kavanaugh’s teenage drinking, and whether he testified truthfully to Congress about the amount of beer he consumed in high school and college more than three decades ago, and the effect it had on him.

Just look at the headlines:

“Yale Classmate Accuses Kavanaugh of ‘Blatant Mischaracterization’ of His Drinking.” (New York Times)

“Another Yale classmate breaks silence: Kavanaugh lied.” (CNN)

“Brett Kavanaugh’s College Friends Say He Lied Under Oath About Drinking.” (NBC)

And many others. The allegation is that at last Thursday’s hearing, Kavanaugh lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he was asked about his drinking practices both in high school and at Yale University. Kavanaugh was under oath at the time.

“Lying to Congress is a federal crime,” Sen. Bernie Sanders noted in a letter to Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley. “Kavanaugh’s truthfulness with the Senate goes to the very heart of whether he should be confirmed to the court.”

The new developments raised two questions. One, did Kavanaugh actually lie to the Senate about his drinking? And two, why are Democrats, now that they have finally won the FBI investigation they wanted into the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh, suddenly making a bigger deal of his drinking?

They’re making a big deal about the drinking because they know they’ve got nothing.

NETS SKIP RANK HYPOCRISY OF WEINSTEIN PAL MATT DAMON PORTRAYING ‘FRAT BOY’ KAVANAUGH ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

In addition to Damon admitting that he’d fight any accusations these days tooth and nail himself:

In December 2017, Damon appeared on ABC’s “Popcorn” with Peter Travers and explained that in the years before the #MeToo movement, false allegations were often settled monetarily. But after the fall of Harvey Weinstein, all that changed.

“If you make the same claim to me today,” he said, “it would be scorched-earth. I don’t care if it would cost me $10 million in court for 10 years, you are not taking my name from me, you are not taking my name and reputation from me, I’ve worked too hard for it, I’ve earned it, you can’t just blow me up like that.”

Back in July, USA Today columnist Hannah Yasharoff asked, “In the era of #MeToo, is it still OK to laugh at ‘Animal House’?”, which starred SNL’s John Belushi:

National Lampoon’s raunchy frat house comedy “Animal House,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary Saturday, is widely regarded as an all-time great movie. But four decades later, it feels less like a comedy classic and more like a toxic showcase of racism, homophobia and jokes about sexual assault.

While parts of the film are still genuinely funny and enjoyable in 2018, the crueler moments beg the question: In the era of #MeToo, is it still OK to enjoy “Animal House”?

(As Jim Treacher responded at the time, “My goodness. Whatever you do, don’t show this young lady Porky’s.”)

In his column yesterday, Ross Douthat wrote, “The Year of Our Lord 1982, upon whose disputed summertime events a Supreme Court nomination now hinges, was part of the Reagan era but not a particularly conservative year:”

Most contemporary discourse about the social revolutions of the 1960s and ’70s imagines a consistent “left” that created those revolutions and a consistent “right” that opposed them. But glancing back to the debauched world of 1982 suggests a rather different take, one that clarifies what happened to American politics in the age of Bill Clinton and what’s happening now in the age of Donald Trump.

The world of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford’s youth, the world that’s given us this fall’s nightmarish escalation of the culture war, was not a traditionalist world as yet unreformed by an enlightened liberalism. It also wasn’t a post-revolutionary world ruled by social liberalism as we know it today. Rather it was a world where a social revolution had ripped through American culture and radically de-moralized society, tearing down the old structures of suburban bourgeois Christian morality, replacing them with libertinism. With “if it feels good, do it” and the Playboy philosophy. With “Fear of Flying” for women and “Risky Business” and “Porky’s” for the boys. With drunken teenage parties in the suburbs and hard-core pornography in Times Square.

Which means that the culture war as we’ve known it since has not been a simple clash of conservatives who want to repress and liberals who want to emancipate. Rather it’s been an ongoing argument between two forces — feminists and religious conservatives — that both want to remoralize American society, albeit in very different ways.

Additionally, when the Harvey Weinstein story broke right around this time last year, as with NBC News’ efforts to block Ronan Farrow’s reportage, very likely because they knew it could lead to stories about their own Matt Lauer, Tom Brokaw, and Chris Matthews surfacing, Saturday Night Live’s creator-producer Lorne Michaels told reporters that his show also wouldn’t touch the Weinstein story, dismissing it as merely “a New York thing.”

As John Hinderaker wrote last year at Power Line, political reporters and wire services love to recap SNL episodes, because it allows them to get their biases in print while still maintaining a thin veneer of objectivity.“‘Respectable’ news outlets like the AP can’t publish absurd comedy skits ripping President Trump, much as they might like to,” Hinderaker wrote. “But by covering Saturday Night Live, they turn such meaningless attacks into fake ‘news.’”

To borrow from Douthat’s phrase above, reading Jeff Weingrad and Doug Hill’s 1986 book Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, it’s obvious that SNL impresario Michaels also wanted to remoralize American society. He certainly wanted to remoralize NBC’s formerly staid and morally conservative censors, fighting tooth and nail to coarsen the culture at NBC, and ultimately winning that battle, and on the big screen. The histories of SNL and the National Lampoon of the 1970s and early 1980s are heavily intertwined — Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner and original senior writer Michael O’Donoghue were all recruited by Michaels fresh from the Lampoon. After SNL made them superstars, Chase and Belushi would in turn go on to star in the Lampoon’s movies. So it makes sense that SNL would much prefer to have the media generating stories about its host mocking Kavanaugh, rather than risk a look back on its role in shaping the culture of the late ‘70s and ‘80s.

While the Kavanaugh hearings were going on this past Thursday, Dan McLaughlin of NRO tweeted that they “mark a milestone: this is the first true Gen X culture war moment in national politics, relitigating not the Boomers’ Days of Rage or Summer of Love but John Hughes [another Lampoon alumnus – Ed] movie tropes, drinking ages, yearbook quotes & Trapper Keeper day planners.”

If the left is going to take #metoo — let alone their charges against Kavanaugh — seriously, that would require a hard reassessment of SNL’s role in reshaping the culture of the period from 1975 to 1985 or so. I wonder how this aging NBC institution would look, afterwards. SNL’s attack on Kavanaugh was actually more of a defensive head fake, by yet another leftwing institution begging to be devoured by the mob last.

Related: Victor Davis Hanson’s Epitaph for a Dying Culture.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI: Call the Roll on Kavanaugh: It’s time to see where each senator stands.

The Democratic strategy toward Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been apparent since September 4. Within minutes of Chuck Grassley calling the Judiciary Committee to order, Democrats began to interrupt him. They wanted to delay the hearing until their demands for documents had been met. They managed to prolong the hearing for about an hour. Then they retreated.

The objective was clear: Delaying the confirmation would be tantamount to defeating the confirmation. Why? Because if the delay lasted past Election Day, and if Democrats took the Senate, then the empowered minority could pressure two wayward Republicans into voting No. In January the Democratic Senate could block any subsequent Trump nominee—payback for Merrick Garland. . . .

What is clear is that the Senate must vote, up or down, on Kavanaugh’s nomination. One way or another, the roll must be called. Yeas and Nays must be recorded.

For two reasons. The first is political. If Republicans walk away from Kavanaugh now, especially after Lindsey Graham’s philippic, the conservative grassroots will revolt and the midterm election will be an unmitigated disaster. According to polls, the GOP has already lost the middle. It cannot afford to lose the right. The base is the difference between no wave and a blue wave, between a blue wave and a tsunami. Let each senator say what he or she believes, and record that judgment by vote. Even if the nomination fails because no Democrat votes yes and two Republicans vote no, that is a better outcome for the GOP than no vote at all. Conservatives expect to be disappointed by individual Republicans. No vote? Conservatives walk away.

The other reason to call the roll is more abstract. This story is about more than an allegation of sexual assault. It has become a matter of political precedent. The public deserves to know the Senate’s position on the following question: Are uncorroborated allegations, sometimes made anonymously, from high school and college enough to disqualify men and women from appointed office? Are we prepared to establish a standard by which appointees are judged by comments in a high school yearbook, statements from classmates 30 or 35 years ago, and attendance at student parties where alcohol was consumed?

If we are to go down this road, then we should know where each of the 100 men and women elected to the United States Senate, including Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Jeff Flake, stand at the outset. How else will we be able to apportion blame when the three Furies arrive? Because they are on their way.

Read the whole thing.

WORST WARMONGER EVER: Trump Says Two-State Solution ‘More Difficult Because It’s a Real-Estate Deal’ But Better for Peace. “The President says he wants a deal between Israelis and Palestinians before the end of his term so ‘it will start moving pretty soon, pretty rapidly.'”

On the outside chance the Palestinians are willing to sit down for genuine negotiations, it will be because Trump was the first U.S. President willing to disabuse them of their notion that all of Israel could be theirs for the taking.

RICHARD EPSTEIN ON WHAT’S GOING ON:

The Democratic resistance to the Kavanaugh nomination has been an all-out assault on his judicial philosophy and personal integrity from the moment that it was announced. I have no doubt that any senator has the full and complete right to vote whatever way he or she thinks fit on the nomination. And I have no doubt that if the Democrats held a majority of the seats in the Senate, they could have stonedwalled this nomination, just as the Republicans did with Merrick Garland. It is well-established constitutional law that the Senate need not call a hearing, let alone schedule a vote. In retrospect, the decision not to hold any hearings on Garland should be regarded as a wise and humane political decision, because it spared Garland and the nation a similar disgraceful exhibition of intolerance that some conservative opponents of Garland may well have launched to tarnish his confirmation chances.

But this last-ditch decision to sabotage Kavanaugh at the 11th hour is a disgusting piece of political propaganda. Christine Blasey Ford behaved wholly improperly when she decided to write a letter only to “a senior Democratic lawmaker,” in which she made the most serious allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. At the very least, she ought to have handled matters wholly differently. If she wanted to keep matters confidential, she should have sent that letter to President Trump and to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the judiciary committee. She also should have sent it to the FBI for investigation. And she should have done all of these things at the earliest possible moment, in time for a principled and neutral examination to take place before the Senate hearings took place. Then, she should have sat for a cross-examination.

Putting the information exclusively in the hands of key Democrats thus invited the wholly corrupt strategy that has now unfolded. First, the Democrats would try to discredit Kavanaugh by engaging in a set of procedural antics and obnoxious substantive questions during the hearing, without mentioning this letter. When that strategy abjectly failed, they knew they had to go to Plan B, which was to release the letter and the allegation days before the confirmation vote. A perfect sandbag, for the Democrats knew full well that there was no time to respond to them, without causing an enormous delay in the confirmation hearings. Their hope was, and is, to create a huge media circus that would take weeks if not months to sort out. Shipwreck this nomination. Make it impossible for the current Senate to pass on any subsequent nominee before January. Then take control of the Senate and create a stalemate that could run on until the next presidential election.

And for what? Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, maintained a stony silence on these allegations for more than 35 years. At no point did she raise them in connection with the Senate confirmation hearings before Kavanaugh was confirmed in 2006. Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations. Late last week, Mark Judge, his alleged accomplice, denounced the allegations as “absolutely nuts.” No other woman has ever made any allegation of this sort against Kavanaugh. and 65 women have written an explicit letter in his defense. Kavanaugh is right not to respond beyond his categorical denial, knowing full well that further comment would only draw him further into a vortex on which credibility determinations would be unending. And the Senate is right to continue with the confirmation vote. The institutional damage to the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the nation has already been enormous. What is left now is only the sorry task of damage containment. What sane judge would like to be the next Supreme Court nominee?

If the Republicans hold the Senate, Mitch McConnell should use this precedent — together with the nonstop disruption of the hearings — to put Trump’s next nominee directly to a floor vote with no hearings, on three days’ notice.

THE CRAZY ONES: Michael Barone: Democrats’ visions of hand signals from white supremacists.

The meaning of this gesture was not lost on certain alert viewers. “Who is she? What’s up with the white power sign?” tweeted one Keith R. Dumas. Further enlightened tweets streamed in. From TV actor Kelly Mantle: “This neo-nazi is Zina Bash. She’s intentionally throwin [sic] up White Power signs at a Supreme Court Justice hearing. On national TV. She works for Kavanaugh & is also one of the writers for Trump’s immigration policy. This is their new Amerikkka.”

Author Jamie Ford: “Zina Bash, who works for Kavanaugh, quietly flashing the white power sign. Welcome to the dystopia, folks.”

Tommy Christopher, writer for a George Soros-funded website: “The woman sitting behind Kavanaugh giving what appears to be a white supremactist ‘Pepe’ salute has been identified as Zina Bash, member of Trump’s transition, domestic policy, and now SCOTUS team.”

Eugene Gu, MD: “Kavanaugh’s former law clerk Zina Bash is flashing a white power sign behind him during his Senate confirmation hearing. They literally want to bring white supremacy to the Supreme Court. What a national outrage and a disgrace to the rule of law.”

These people and the scores who tweeted in their support were deterred not a bit by the fact that Zina Bash is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, and that her mother is a native of Mexico. Not a likely white supremacist.

They seem not to have wondered why a white supremacist would find it necessary or useful to communicate such beliefs by an obscure hand gesture that isn’t really a white supremacist hand gesture, when so many other forms of communication are readily available and more easily concealed from alert eyes like their own.

They seem to find it inconceivable that everyone doesn’t know that the hand gesture recognized universally and for many years in this country as signifying “OK” now signifies support of white supremacy.

In other words, they have taken leave of their senses.

The more they tell us Trump is crazy, the crazier they themselves act.

BEN SHAPIRO ON THE FAUX BIPARTISAN UNITY AT JOHN MCCAIN’S FUNERAL:

For those of us who have watched politics for the past several decades, pinning the death of a common American ethos on Trump is like blaming gravity for the Hindenburg disaster: It had something to do with the problem, but the bigger problem was the enormous fire ripping through the dirigible. George W. Bush and Barack Obama did not have a common vision for America. Neither did George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. What’s more, the hobnobbing and backslapping of these supposed representatives of sharply varying philosophies — the notion that an elite class of political actors were playacting their conflict in public, but smoking cigars together in private — led to the rise of an outsider such as Trump.

This isn’t a case against civility, of course. Trump has seriously degraded the public discourse; unlike his predecessors, he doesn’t hide his personal animus behind a veneer of niceness. But that wasn’t all that Obama and Bush were calling for. They suggested an ideological unity that no longer exists — and everyone knows it. The day before Barack Obama and George W. Bush at McCain’s funeral were signaling supposed American unity against unpalatable politics, Bill Clinton was sitting next to anti-Semites Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrakhan at Aretha Franklin’s.

We are disunited. Trump is a symptom of that. If political actors want to criticize the specifics of Trump’s philosophy, or if they want to criticize Trump’s character overtly, they should have at it. But presenting a false façade of unity where none has existed for decades only leads Americans to believe that the political elites are united by their elite status. And ironically, that plays directly into Trump’s populist hands.

As PJM’s David P. Goldman, aka “Spengler” put it in the Asia Times, It was “A funeral for a world that never was.”

BYRON YORK: On Trump-Russia, too much secrecy keeps public in dark.

“Secrecy is a mode of regulation,” Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote in 1997, when the congressionally-created board he headed, the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, released a report. “In truth, it is the ultimate mode, for the citizen does not even know that he or she is being regulated.”

Moynihan hoped that a “culture of openness” would develop to balance the culture of secrecy. It didn’t happen. A dozen years later, in 2009, the New York Times editorialized that the federal government’s creation of “107 different categories of restricted information … seems designed not to protect legitimate secrets but to empower bureaucrats.” Still more recently, when the House held hearings on secrecy in 2015, the journalist Terry Anderson testified, “The Moynihan commission recommended some changes in the law, including an office of declassification. Nothing was acted upon.”

Today, the culture of secrecy is keeping the public from learning some basic facts about the Trump-Russia affair, even as newscasts and newspapers are filled with reporting, speculation, and debate about it. When it comes to allegations that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to fix the 2016 election, the Justice Department and other agencies have withheld information from the public because such information is classified, or because it is purportedly critical to an ongoing investigation, or because officials just want to keep the Department’s secrets secret.

P.J. O’Rourke quipped back in the mid-’90s, about that book allegedly authored by Hillary Clinton, that “You’re the child and Washington is the village.” Nothing’s changed since then.