Look What We Can Learn When We Venture Out into Red America!

by Jim Geraghty

Ken Stern, who worked at NPR from 1999 to 2008 and served as the institution’s CEO, chose to spend an entire year living in “red America” and getting to know the Americans who saw issues differently from him: evangelical Christians, gun owners, Tea Party activists, NASCAR fans, etcetera. He’s pleasantly surprised by what he found, and he concludes there’s a strong argument to be made that the country’s largest media institutions poorly serve large swathes of the country, out of a combination of bias, ignorance, and cultural barriers:

Over the course of this past year, I have tried to consume media as they do and understand it as a partisan player. It is not so hard to do. Take guns. Gun control and gun rights is one of our most divisive issues, and there are legitimate points on both sides. But media is obsessed with the gun-control side and gives only scant, mostly negative, recognition to the gun-rights sides.

Take, for instance, the issue of legitimate defensive gun use (DGU), which is often dismissed by the media as myth. But DGUs happen all the time — 200 times a day, according to the Department of Justice, or 5,000 times a day, according to an overly exuberant Florida State University study. But whichever study you choose to believe, DGUs happen frequently and give credence to my hunting friends who see their guns as the last line of defense for themselves and their families.

Describing a storeowner who uses a firearm to drive off a would-be armed robber, Stern writes, “It’s not that media is suppressing stories intentionally. It’s that these stories don’t reflect their interests and beliefs.”

Journalism requires judgment. If you pick up a newspaper (pardon my anachronistic examples) and everything that’s on the front page seems boring, irrelevant, and not that important to you, you probably won’t buy it or read it. Journalists and editors need to have good acumen for what’s important in the lives of their audience and a sense of how to balance what you need to read and what you want to read. We all have a sense of how the world works, and those of us who follow politics tend to develop strong, even intense beliefs of how things are and how they ought to be. Revising those beliefs is a slow and difficult process.

The Washington Post’s health-care correspondent dismissed the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell as a “local crime story.” A Democratic senator is currently on trial in corruption, not far from the media capital of the country, with allegations of private jets ferrying the senator to party with gorgeous supermodels at lush tropical resorts and $100 million stolen from Medicare to pay for the lavish lifestyle and fill campaign coffers . . .  and it’s gotten intermittent coverage at best. A longtime Democratic staffer was arrested by the FBI as he attempted to flee to Pakistan, wiping his phone of all data hours earlier.

Why do reporters in the national news media find these stories . . . not quite as compelling as conservative journalism institutions? A pretty plausible theory is that living and working among so many other like-minded left-of-center people leaves them with an inaccurate perception of how the world actually works. In their minds, abortionists are dedicated medical professionals who risk death threats to provide vital serves to women, not monsters. Democratic senators and their staffers are good people, dedicated, principled, and law-abiding. Cases that contradict these beliefs are inconsequential exceptions, and not worthy of extended public attention.

Orwell described this well: “The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield . . . To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

No doubt, we on the right have these blind spots as well. But we have the advantage of constantly encountering the left-of-center views from dominant institutions, so I think more counter-arguments permeate our “bubble.” I think we’re slightly better at revising our beliefs in the face of contrary data, although I’m sure a lot of progressives will scoff at this. But you’ve seen quite a few prominent conservatives rethink their views on incarceration and various criminal justice issues and whether drug use should be criminalized. Most Republicans are far more wary of military interventions and the promotion of democracy abroad after the Iraq War. There’s far more acceptance of gay marriage than a decade or two ago. No one is perfect, but I think Red America understands Blue America more than Blue America understands Red America.

Hey, Remember Las Vegas? Aren’t We Missing Something?

Speaking of stories that just sort of drop off the national media’s radar screen . . . are we ever going to get a motive for the Las Vegas shooter? It’s been three and a half weeks, and the coverage has largely stopped in outlets outside of Las Vegas. But locals are still demanding answers.

Three weeks after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, investigators continue to ask the same question. Stephen Paddock, 64, left no apparent clues as to his motive, had no ties to political or extremist groups and left no note explaining why he would meticulously plan the worst mass shooting in modern US history.

“Usually within 24, 48 hours after an incident like this, we generally know what the motive is,” said Art Roderick, retired assistant director of the US Marshals Service and a CNN law enforcement analyst. “In my opinion, I think he doesn’t want us to know. He wants us to continue to ask these questions. This is a unique case. This individual is almost in a category by himself.”

The gunman left no note, just calculations scribbled on a notepad measuring the distance from his suite to the people below. The LVMPD says it has discovered no extreme political beliefs or associations to extremist groups.

The Castilla family filed a lawsuit October 17, seeking to force the MGM/Mandalay Bay to make public what they knew about Paddock and what security measures they had or failed to have in place.

“The only thing we hope for is to prevent this from happening again,” said Athena Castilla, saying it would be what her sister would want. “We want to spread the message that (my sister) didn’t deserve what happened that night.”

No doubt the FBI and police are doing their best, but . . . how difficult is it to pull off something like this and leave absolutely no clues to motive?

Why Are We Not Giving This Man Asylum?

Our Jay Nordlinger offers the disturbing tale of Andrés Felipe Arias and how Colombia — a nation that not too long ago appeared to be headed in the right direction — is sliding back into show trials, corruption, human-rights abuses, and outrageous injustice:

Arias was arrested in July 2011. His indictment hearing was a farce and a spectacle. It was held in a theater, rather than the regular, more sober venue. The theater was packed with supporters of the attorney general, Viviane Morales. They cheered as at a soccer game. The hearing was broadcast live on television. And Morales did something very unusual — also cruel and dangerous: She divulged the personal information of the Arias family, including their address and phone number. This despite the fact that they were under the protection of state security, given the threats to Arias from narco-terrorists and the like . . . 

True to its leak, the supreme court convicted Arias — convicted him in absentia. The charges were astounding: embezzlement in favor of third parties (i.e., the scamming farmers) and unlawful contract with the OAS (the kind of contract that had been standard practice). The court admitted that it had no witnesses or documentary evidence — an amazing admission — and that Arias had never profited by as much as a cent. One of the justices voting against Arias had never even heard the case. She became a member of the court after the trial was over.

Five agencies of the Colombian government had looked into the Arias case — five — and determined that there was no wrongdoing.

In recent weeks, Colombia has been treated to a major scandal known as el cartel de la toga, or the gown cartel, or the cartel of the judicial robes: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has caught Colombian judges taking bribes in exchange for favorable rulings. And these judges — wouldn’t you know? — include some of the very supreme-court justices who convicted Arias.

Perhaps most inexplicably, Colombia does not honor its extradition treaties with the United States, but our government canceled Arias’s asylum hearing without warning, never explained why, and is honoring Colombia’s request to send him back.

ADDENDA: Over on the home page, I pick apart a glowing profile of Kirsten Gillibrand in Vogue magazine, one that is clearly meant to elevate her to the top tier of Democrats contemplating a 2020 presidential bid, but that leaves the impression that she’s some sort of wildly popular economically pragmatic iconoclast. She just isn’t, and I lay out the parts of her record that the gushing article preferred to ignore.

When Someone Proposes Taxing People’s Savings, Just Say No!

by Jim Geraghty

A genuine, non-sarcastic, authentic “hurrah” to this Tweeted statement from President Trump: “There will be NO change to your 401(k). This has always been a great and popular middle class tax break that works, and it stays!”

There are three main ways that Americans can save money for retirement. The first is an individual retirement account (IRA), where the money is not taxed when you deposit it or as it grows in value, but you pay income taxes when you withdraw it after retiring. The second is a Roth IRA, where you pay income tax on the money when you put it in, but don’t pay taxes on withdrawals when you retire. The third is the 401(k), which operates like a traditional IRA but your employer offers a matching contribution up to a certain percentage of your salary. Many financial planners will advise you to contribute as much as you can afford to your 401(k), or at least to the matching limit, because if you don’t, you’re effectively turning down free money for retirement from your employer.

The 401(k) account is an incentive for Americans to save for the future and not rely on the government to support them in their golden years. It promotes thrift, long-term planning, and deferred gratification. It adds millions of non-wealthy Americans to the “investor class.” As one financial firm put it, “Uncle Sam doesn’t offer many gifts. This is one. The upside: free money.”

The New York Times reported Friday that House Republicans were considering a plan to sharply reduce the amount of income American workers can save in tax-deferred retirement accounts as part of a broad effort to rewrite the tax code. Right now, you can put up to $18,000 in 401(k) accounts and not pay taxes on that money, $24,000 if you’re over age 50. (The IRS recently announced that the limit will go up to $18,500 next year.)

The Times article reported that one of the ideas under consideration was reducing the annual amount workers can set aside to as low as $2,400. Eliminating the tax break for 401(k)s entirely in 2018 would generate $115 billion in new revenue. Our Andrew Stuttaford rightly labeled this idea “idiocy” and it’s such a bad idea, it’s fair to wonder just how seriously this idea was considered. It’s usually voices on the left that want to eliminate the tax incentives for saving money.

Way back in October 2008, as the financial crisis raged, House Democrats held hearings that contemplated eliminating the tax breaks, hearing a proposal from New School economist Teresa Ghilarducci:

Still, as she sat at the witness table on Oct. 7 at a hearing of the House Committee on Education and Labor, running through the litany of what’s wrong with the 401(k) and other defined-contribution retirement plans — they have high fees, for one — Ghilarducci didn’t think she was courting controversy. “I was saying things that seemed completely milquetoast,” she recalls. Ghilarducci did bring up a bold proposal to replace the 401(k) with a mandatory, government-run pension plan and suggested that Congress immediately allow retirees to swap 401(k)s battered by the stock market’s collapse for monthly payouts from the government. But she had floated both ideas before, to little effect.

President Obama was pretty pro-IRA as far as Democratic presidents go. Back on the campaign trail in 2008, he said he wanted to require employers who do not offer retirement plans to offer their workers access to automatic IRAs and contribute via payroll deduction. Given a choice between mandating employers create IRAs and mandating they provide health insurance, I would have chosen the former. Unfortunately, Obama prioritized the latter, and after Obamacare, neither a Democrat nor Republican-run Congress was willing to force employers to provide another benefit to all employees.

Later in his presidency, Obama shifted to the “MyRA,” a nice enough idea that never really worked. The idea was a “no-fee, no-minimum-investment version of a Roth individual retirement account,” allowing up to $5,500 per year invested in government bonds.

Unfortunately, the idea flopped:

Running the entire program through the federal government, the Obama administration spent $70 million and only got 20,000 Americans to invest — an outrageous cost of $3,500 for each new account. Of that, $10 million went to a single bank — Comerica — to act as custodian for this small number of simple, non-trading accounts.

But President Obama had worse ideas. Back in 2013, he proposed eliminating certain tax advantages on IRAs and other tax-preferred retirement accounts when funds exceed a certain threshold. The threshold was pretty high — $3 million or so — but once again, Congress saw little appetite for punishing people who had saved a lot of money for retirement.

The Obama administration also flirted with the idea of taxing 529 college savings accounts.

What kind of tax hit might that have added up to for families who are just about to start 529 accounts themselves? I asked Vanguard to run some numbers. Parents who deposited $5,000 a year over 18 years and got a 6 percent return each year on their money would eventually end up with $179,140.48 that they could draw on during college.

That’s a lot of tax-free growth, so it’s only natural that it might have become a target. A family in the 25 percent tax bracket would have paid $22,285.12 in income taxes on that growth under the president’s plan if they withdrew it over four years, according to Vanguard. A household earning enough to be in the 35 percent tax bracket would have paid $31,199.17.

The administration abandoned that plan after a week of scathing press coverage.

Eliminating the tax benefits for 401(k)s and retirement savings was a terrible idea when Democrats proposed it, and reducing the tax benefits is an almost as equally terrible idea from Republicans.

Killing Network Reputations

Is there a strong counter-argument to David French’s call for Bill O’Reilly to be “Weinsteined” and “banished from every serious and meaningful conservative outlet just as Weinstein is being stripped of his progressive public platforms”?

(Let’s point out, the jury is still out on whether Harvey Weinstein will really be “Weinsteined” himself. Yes, he’s a pariah in the movie industry now, but what happens when some star desperately wants funding for his passion project, and Harvey Weinstein is knocking at the door with a giant pile of cash? If almost everyone in the industry knew and largely did nothing of consequence, it’s far from a given that everyone in the industry will turn their backs on Weinstein in perpetuity. Weinstein could easily turn into another Woody Allen or Roman Polanski – a figure who is controversial, but not so controversial that big stars and other talent refuse to work with him.)

We’re left wondering just what you have to do to get a company like Fox News to agree to pay out an astonishing $32 million in a settlement. The New York Times article that revealed the settlement mentions “allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her.” The words “nonconsensual sexual relationship” feel like painful corporate jargon designed to obscure.

O’Reilly told the newspaper, “I never mistreated anyone,” but that doesn’t sound plausible. Yes, companies settle nuisance suits, but they don’t pay out $32 million. As one of the Popehat contributors observed, the largest personal injury settlement in New York history was $22 million, paid to a woman who was hit by a bus and “suffered brain damage, blindness and can hardly speak.” Just what did O’Reilly do that made Fox News conclude that paying $10 million more than the largest injury settlement in state history was the better course of action? And how did that action not get him fired?

Imagine costing your employer $45 million in six separate settlements over claims of sexual harassment . . .  and they’re still renewing your contract. Heck, even after O’Reilly was forced to step down, Fox News let him appear on Sean Hannity’s program in September.

If you’re wondering who received the previously-known largest settlement with a company over sexual harassment, that would be Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News anchor who sued Fox News for sexual harassment, claiming her contract was not renewed because she wouldn’t return Roger Ailes’ advances. Fox News settled with her for $20 million.

“I think it’s horrifying and outrageous that any company, after dismissing somebody for allegations such as that,” would “allow that person to come back on the air,” Carlson said.

On CNN, Carlson declared, “This is covering up, this is enablers, this is shutting up the victims. And I think it’s absolutely horrifying that we’ve allowed this to go on for so long in our corporate culture.” What’s really sad is that you can apply that moral indictment to Fox News or The Weinstein Company.

O’Reilly also told the Times, “It’s politically and financially motivated.” Does anything enable a man more than “enemies” he can blame?

ADDENDA: A fun question from Ben Domenech: What’s the conspiracy theory you deep down think might be true?

I suggested that Marilyn Monroe may have become too inconvenient for the Kennedys. Yes, this puts me on the same page as one of my fictional characters.

God Bless the Kellys and Every Family of Those Who Serve

by Jim Geraghty

White House chief of staff John Kelly, addressing reporters yesterday, describing the process of notifying the families of those slain while in uniform:

A casualty officer typically goes to the home very early in the morning and waits for the first lights to come on. And then he knocks on the door; typically a mom and dad will answer, a wife. And if there is a wife, this is happening in two different places; if the parents are divorced, three different places. And the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member and stays with that family until – well, for a long, long time, even after the internment. So that’s what happens.

Who are these young men and women? They are the best 1 percent this country produces. Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any one of them. But they are the very best this country produces, and they volunteer to protect our country when there’s nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required. But that’s all right . . . 

As I walk off the stage, understand there’s tens of thousands of American kids, mostly, doing their nation’s bidding all around the world. They don’t have to be in uniform. You know, when I was a kid, every man in my life was a veteran — World War II, Korea, and there was the draft. These young people today, they don’t do it for any other reason than their selfless — sense of selfless devotion to this great nation.

We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do — not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that.

Do we as a country do enough to appreciate these families? Can we do enough to demonstrate our gratitude to these families?

President Trump Should Visit the DMZ in Korea.

President Donald Trump should visit the Demilitarized Zone during his visit to South Korea in early November. Those contending that a presidential visit would be “provocative” are urging the United States to conduct its foreign policy in a defensive crouch, terrified of causing offense to a regime that doesn’t hesitate to suddenly fire missiles over U.S. allies.

A presidential visit to the Demilitarized Zone is not only legal and protected under treaties, it is traditional: every president since Reagan has made the visit except George H.W. Bush, who visited when he served as vice president. Earlier this year, Vice President Mike Pence visited.

The advocates of scrapping the traditional visit don’t seem to realize what they’re advocating. They want the United States to limit its own activities out of fear of causing offense or angering a regime that A) seems to find everything to be an outrageous provocation, including the continued existence of South Korea, Japan, and the United States, and B) demonstrates no concern about its own actions being perceived as “provocative,” including those usually interpreted as acts of war, such as firing artillery shells into another country’s territory or sinking their naval vessels.

No other regime would seriously object to an American president visiting any location within the territorial borders of an ally. A presidential visit is only provocative because the North Koreans decree it is provocative.

This amounts to terms where the Pyongyang regime can do anything it wants without serious consequence and we meekly decide to rule out certain actions to avoid giving offense.

Not only will we never have peace under this approach, but it actually increases the likelihood of eventual all-out war. If you keep rewarding aggressive and threatening behavior, you only get more of it.

The other objection to a Trump visit is the fear that the president would not be safe there:

However, officials in both the U.S. and South Korean governments have raised concerns that Trump could become a target in the heavily fortified area that separates the two Koreas, according to a source familiar with U.S.-South Korea relations.

If the North Korean regime really is tempted to try to kill President Trump while he’s visiting South Korea . . .  then the situation is even more dangerous than we thought. A regime that is willing to carry out a surprise attack on the commander-in-chief cannot be trusted to live with nuclear weapons.

It is worth remembering that Presidents Bush and Obama visited war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan and also countries with intense terrorist threats like Pakistan, and the U.S. Secret Service rose to the challenge.

William F. Buckley once said, “When the Soviet Union challenged America and our set of loyalties, it did so at gunpoint. It became necessary at a certain point to show them our clenched fist and advise them that we were not going to deal lightly with our primal commitment to preserve those loyalties.”

The North Koreans want to negotiate at gunpoint. The point of these visits is to remind them that we have a gun, too.

The Current Liberal Appreciation of George W. Bush Is Nice and All, But . . . 

Jennifer Sabin echoes many folks on the left this week, expressing a newfound appreciation for former President George W. Bush, as well as John McCain:

However much and often I disagreed with [Bush], thought him misguided, unfit for the job, led by war mongers, etc., etc., I never thought he was insane, or anti-American, or in bed with an oversees enemy and/or white supremacists . . .   I look back at how determined I was that John McCain could not be president. When the worst thing that could happen was to elect a war hero with conservative views, and a moron for vice president.

Excuse me. Most of us are old enough to remember the Bush years. (Some of us are old enough to remember the first Bush presidency.) We remember “Bushitler,” “Chimpy McHalliburton,” “Bush doesn’t care about black people,” the awards for films depicting Bush’s assassination, Howard Dean speculating that the Saudis warned Bush about 9/11 and the president letting it happen, MoveOn.org running ads comparing Bush to Hitler, Keith Ellison comparing the 9/11 attack to the Reichstag fire . . . 

One of the reasons Trump became president is because a sufficient portion of the electorate tuned out or disregarded the criticism of him from the Left. One of the reasons people ignored that criticism is because at least three good men – Bush, McCain, and Mitt Romney — were demonized as the irredeemable epitome of all evil by liberal voices for almost the entirety of their public lives. One could throw Sarah Palin in there as well — whatever else you think of her, she’s not a monster, and she’s done so much for families with children with Down Syndrome – as well as the ads featuring Paul Ryan pushing a grandmother off a cliff. When every single prominent Republican figure is the WORST MONSTER IN HUMAN HISTORY, people stop believing the criticism.

A few voices on the left recognized this. Right before the election, comedian Bill Maher had what appeared to be a painful moment of clarity:

I know liberals made a big mistake because we attacked your boy Bush like he was the end of the world. And he wasn’t. And Mitt Romney we attacked that way. I gave Obama a million dollars because I was so afraid of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wouldn’t have changed my life that much or yours. Or John McCain. They were honorable men who we disagreed with, and we should have kept it that way. So we cried wolf and that was wrong. But this is real. This is going to be way different.

But I don’t want our friends on the left to merely regret the past, I want them to learn from it. (And perhaps we could or should learn something similar. The agenda of Bill Clinton in the 1990s looks pretty centrist these days.)

We don’t fix this by praising retired members of the other party, or wishing that everyone in the other party could be as reasonable as the one who deviates from party orthodoxy the most. We fix this by reasserting the unwritten rule in our political discourse that our opponents are not to be treated like inhuman monsters unless they actually do something monstrous. And mere disagreement on issues does not make one a monster! We think poorly of Harvey Weinstein’s donation of $100,000 to Planned Parenthood because an impassioned disagreement about when human life begins. But it’s his long history of sexual exploitation and cruelty that makes him a monster.

ADDENDA: Jeff Blehar, who hosts our excellent musical podcast Political Beats, reminds Chelsea Handler about the Koch brothers’ $1.5 billion in contributions to charity over the years.

The Post-Election Twist on #NeverTrump

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: wondering just what counts as “Never Trump” anymore; Roy Moore urges everyone else to always obey the law; New Hampshire lays out the flaws of Boston; and we have a special request.

What Counts as #NeverTrump These Days?

Conrad Black: “The Never Trumpers seem to have retreated, more or less in unison, to the last trench before they throw down their arms and run backwards for their lives: They are now invoking the 25th Amendment. This indicates that they realize the impeachment movement has failed.”

Actually, impeachment efforts are not all that related to the thinking and actions of those who describe themselves as “Never-Trump.” Impeachment is extremely unlikely as long as Republicans control the House, but extremely likely if Democrats win the House in 2018. Whether the Senate would vote to remove Trump from office will also likely depend upon the partisan makeup of the chamber; it is worth remembering that removal from office requires a two-thirds majority. Barring some sort of smoking-gun evidence, like videotape of Trump and Putin evilly cackling as they coordinate plans to destroy the country, it is unlikely that many Republican senators will ever vote to remove a Republican president.

Jonah asks where all these Never-Trumpers calling for invocation of the 25th Amendment are. The only source mentioned by Black is “The New Yorker magazine, still feverish with Obama deprivation” which is . . .  not really “Never Trump,” at least as the term was traditionally defined.

You can find discussions of the 25th Amendment in Vanity Fair, the Washington Post, Vogue, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, and so on. So if these traditional lefty media sources and voices count as “Never Trump,” it’s fair to ask . . .  what is “Never Trump” anymore?

Evan McMullin? I didn’t realize that when I voted for him, I was helping pass the “Evan McMullin-Eternal-Presence-in-Media-as-a-Trump-Critic-Who-Never-Sounds-All-That-Conservative Act.” Unsurprisingly, McMullin’s entire Twitter feed since the election has been relentless criticism of Trump, a general credulity of claims of election collusion with Russia, and denunciation of GOP leaders for being insufficiently opposed to Trump. When McMullin appears on television, do you ever hear him arguing for a larger defense budget, tax cuts, originalist judges, or any other conservative priority? Maybe he’s done so and I just haven’t seen it, but it seems like McMullin’s message is, 24-7, “Trump is always wrong and he has to go.” I mean, if I wanted that, I could have voted for Hillary Clinton.

It’s a free country, and McMullin can argue for any priorities he likes, but if that’s going to be his message all the time, I don’t think he’s really representative of conservatives as a whole anymore. Insisting Trump is always wrong is as silly as insisting that Trump is always right. Broken clocks are right twice a day, blind squirrels find acorns, and even Sean Hannity can express dismay over a Trump tweet once in a great while.

There’s a lot for conservatives to like in the new administration: The sudden reduction in illegal immigration, the accelerating defeats of ISIS on the battlefield, the rollback of various regulations, a punitive strike on Syria for chemical weapons use, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinding Obama rules that undermined due process, Nikki Haley kicking tail and taking names at the United Nations, big changes underway at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and, of course, the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and many fine judges in the lower circuits. If you have a 401(k), you’ve probably felt good for most of 2017. We might get tax cuts.

But these accomplishments come at the cost of a president who generates his own daily distraction; who constantly responds to what’s said on cable television; who lashes out at his own cabinet; who is impatient and ill-informed about how his own government works; who is so unfocused he sometimes contradicts himself within a matter of hours; who is apparently unwilling to study the details of policy; and who sometimes throws a bone to the worst of America, as when he insisted “fine people” were among the Charlottesville protesters.

We Must Obey the Law, Moore or Less

Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, discussing NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem:

“I back the President in upholding respect for the patriotism for our country, on two grounds,” he said. “One, it’s respect for the law. If we don’t respect the law, what kind of country are we going to have? Two, it’s respect for those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice. I’m surprised that no one brought this up.”

He added that it’s a matter of the “the rule of law.”

“If they didn’t have it in there, it would just be tradition. But this is law,” he said. “If we disobey this, what else are we going to disobey?

He is correct in the sense that U.S. code does mention appropriate actions during the national anthem:

During a rendition of the national anthem –
(1) When the flag is displayed –

(A) Individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;
(B) Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and
(C) All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

(2) When the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

Of course, anyone who’s been to a ball game knows this law is not really enforced. Thankfully, people are generally respectful, but there’s never been a consequence for those who are sitting, talking, wandering in from getting hot dogs and nachos, etcetera.

If a law is not enforced and does not carry a penalty for disobedience . . . is it really a law?

Moore asks, “If we disobey this, what else are we going to disobey?” I don’t know, maybe a court order to remove a monument depicting the Ten Commandments? Maybe a Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage? Is Roy Moore really the right guy to make the argument that citizens must always obey the law, even when they believe a law is unjust?

New Hampshire: Hey, Amazon, You Know Boston Stinks, Right?

Kind of funny: When the state of New Hampshire wanted to convince Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to locate his new facility there, they trashed nearby Boston like an enraged Yankees fan:

“If Amazon builds its new facility in Massachusetts, every brick, board, drywall, server, and desk would be subject to the 6.25 percent sales and use tax.”
In a Q & A section, the bid document describes Boston as being “known for congested, decaying roads and overcrowded subways.”
“Commuting into downtown Boston has become a congestion nightmare. It has grown beyond capacity to the point where Boston actually had to withdraw from Olympic consideration because of the citizens’ fury over current untenable traffic congestion.”
“Choose Boston and next year when you leave your tiny $4,000-a-month apartment only to sit in two hours of traffic trying to make your way to an overburdened airport, you’ll be wishing you were in New Hampshire.”

I’ve enjoyed my visits to Boston, but no doubt there are some other criticisms worth mentioning.

When I was in Boston Common last summer, the park seemed to be teeming with homeless, people who may or may not have been drug users, the grass was dying, there was trash everywhere, and it felt deeply unsafe for a family’s day at the park.
Pronunciation and spelling are distant cousins, if they’re related at all. If a nearby city is called “Woostah,” then spell it that way, not “Worcester.” Similarly, in most of the country, “khakis” are a style of pants. In Boston, they’re what you use to start your automobile. (If that seems confusing, say ‘khakis’ out loud and slowly.)
Dunkin’ Donuts is nice, but chill out, guys. It’s not Soylent Green.
This is a touchdown, former directors of NFL officiating say so, and the call just happened to go wrong to benefit the team that benefited from the “Tuck Rule,” and get disciplined for Spy-gate and get disciplined for Deflate-gate.

Boston readers, we tease because we love. If you feel a need for equal time, here’s my recent assessment of why living in the D.C. area stinks.

ADDENDA: We at National Review are asking for money. I know, it stinks. You hate being asked and we hate asking, but it is a reality of running a political magazine. If it makes it any easier, we’re being clear about what we’re seeking to fund: a tech guy for our growing stable of podcasts, new video software, a new revenue officer, and expanding our intern program. Give if you can.

Editor’s Note: This article orginally identified Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch as Robert Gorsuch.

American Troops Liberate Raqqa from ISIS Control

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile today: The forces allied against ISIS inflict a stinging defeat to the terror group; the Federal Communications Commission assures Americans that they aren’t going to yank broadcasting licenses because of presidential disapproval of news reports; a stunning allegation against the Clintons that feels like it’s coming to light a year late; and why Virginia voters are right to be concerned about MS-13.

ISIS Is Now Caught Between Raqqa and a Hard Place

Outstanding news as the week progresses:

American-backed forces said on Tuesday that they had seized the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State, a major blow to the militant group, which had long used the city as the de facto capital of its self-declared caliphate.

Celebrations erupted in Raqqa, where residents had lived under the repressive rule of militants who beheaded people for offenses as minor as smoking. Fighters could be seen cheering and firing celebratory gunfire in the streets, according to residents reached by phone and text message.

The United States Central Command stopped short of declaring victory, saying that “more than 90 percent of Raqqa is in S.D.F. control,” a reference to the Syrian Democratic Forces, an American-backed militia group made up of Syrian Kurds and Arabs.

Col. Ryan S. Dillon, a spokesman for the United States military in Baghdad, said Tuesday that Raqqa was on the verge of being liberated, but that there were still pockets of the city controlled by the Islamic State. Syrian Democratic Forces officers, however, were emphatic in phone interviews and public statements that they had finally wrested control of the city from the militants after a monthslong campaign.

“The military operation is over,” said Talal Salo, a commander reached by phone at the group’s headquarters in Hasaka.

Newsweek looks at recent presidential boasting about ISIS and it’s easy to get the sense that the publication would love to rebuke Donald Trump for taking credit for something he did not influence. But the magazine can’t quite dismiss all of the evidence that the momentum of battle has shifted in the past year. Maybe that’s a result of presidential decisions, or perhaps Trump’s decision to defer to his generals on most of the details. Either way, Trump hasn’t loused it up, and he’s in position to reap the accolades.

Perhaps the two most symbolic victories against ISIS have occurred while Trump has been in office: the retaking of the Iraqi city of Mosul in July, and now the liberation of Raqqa. U.S. officials have also claimed that the recapturing of ISIS-held territory has accelerated under Trump. Special Presidential Envoy McGurk — who held the same role in the Obama administration — said that of the 27,000 square miles of territory in Iraq and Syria reclaimed from ISIS since 2014, around 8,000 square miles have been retaken under Trump’s watch.

But some commentators have claimed that Trump is simply reaping the benefits of the hard graft put in by the former administration. The battle for Mosul, for example, commenced in October 2016 and lasted for nine months: Iraqi forces had liberated the whole of eastern Mosul by January 24 — four days into Trump’s presidency — with the remaining six months consisting of a gruelling slog for the Old City.

This is a bit like arguing that Harry S. Truman didn’t preside over the Allied victory in World War Two, because Franklin Roosevelt had done so much before.

It is worth noting that while controlling swaths of territory made ISIS distinct, it was not the only feature that made it dangerous. The New York Times talks to terrorism experts and concludes that the group will probably refocus its efforts on the method that worries us the most, attacks in Western countries:

The group has also developed a powerful social media network that with no physical presence allows it to spew propaganda, claim responsibility for terrorist attacks, and not just inspire attacks but also help plot and execute them remotely.

A large share of its attacks in the West in recent years have been carried out by men who communicated online with ISIS, taking detailed instructions through encrypted messages, but never meeting their terrorist mentors . . . 

And the group has continued to sow chaos even as it has lost territory. In 2017 alone, it has claimed responsibility for three terrorist attacks in Britain that killed 37 people, the Istanbul nightclub bombing on New Year’s Eve that killed 39 people, and strikes in more than seven other countries.

As the group was losing Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in August, it sent a van tearing through crowds in the heart of Barcelona, killing 13 people and loudly declaring its continued relevance.

Our fight against ISIS, and the broader movement of violent Islamist extremism, is far from over. But we have enough bad days; we should take moments to celebrate the victories.

The Good News Is the First Amendment Isn’t in Real Danger . . . 

This is not surprising, but it is worth mentioning:

In his first public appearance since [President] Trump tweeted that Comcast’s NBC and other broadcasters should lose their licenses for reporting “fake news,” Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai instead noted that his agency could not do what the president wanted. Pai has served as a commissioner on the FCC since 2012, before Trump elevated him to chairman this year.

“Look, I will reiterate what I have said for many years at the FCC up to and including last month,” Pai said in an appearance at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. “I believe in the First Amendment. The FCC under my leadership will stand for the First Amendment. And under the law, the FCC does not have the authority to revoke a license of a broadcast station based on the content of a particular newscast.”

Asked a second time more directly if he would block a broadcaster’s license application based on content, Pai said he would “stand with exactly what I’ve said last month and for years at the FCC.” Pai did not mention the president by name.

One of the problems of the Trump administration is that we have a government assigned the duty of protecting the citizenry’s rights under the U.S. Constitution, led by a president who appears to not understand what the government can and cannot do under that constitution.

The president urged the Senate Intelligence Committee to “[look] into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!” Probably because that’s not the jurisdiction of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the First Amendment protects all kinds of unpopular speech, including reports derided as “fake news.”

He’s expressed irritated impatience with the way Congress passes legislation: “Well, I think things generally tend to go a little bit slower than you’d like them to go. It’s just a very, very bureaucratic system. I think the rules in Congress and, in particular, the rules in the Senate, are unbelievably archaic and slow-moving.” Of course, the legislative process is designed to be slow-moving and deliberate. While it’s not clear Thomas Jefferson or George Washington ever made the “cup and saucer” comparison, it is clear that the Senate is designed to prevent the quick passage of bad ideas.

When complaining about the Russian sanctions, Trump declared, “it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate. Congress could not even negotiate a health care bill after seven years of talking . . .  The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President. This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice.” But Congress does indeed get a big role in setting America’s foreign policy! The Senate has to confirm the Secretary of State and all ambassadors, appropriate funds for the State Department budget and foreign aid, and ratify all treaties. This is why so many Republicans were upset by the Iran deal, which was never ratified by the Senate as a treaty.

How Did All of This Alleged Russian Bribery and Extortion Remain Secret for So Long?

Now here’s something for the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate, with great haste and thoroughness:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

But FBI, Energy Department and court documents reviewed by The Hill show the FBI in fact had gathered substantial evidence well before the committee’s decision that Vadim Mikerin — the main Russian overseeing Putin’s nuclear expansion inside the United States — was engaged in wrongdoing starting in 2009.

How does this get uncovered and no charges are filed? How does this not become public knowledge? Some Hillary Clinton fans argued during the 2016 campaign that the FBI had become politicized and was driven by a vendetta against her. If that was the case, how did these allegations remain secret all the time?

These revelations point in the opposite direction, suggesting that while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, no one in law enforcement wanted to press charges against the Clintons, no matter how damning the evidence.

ADDENDA: Guy Benson on Ed Gillespie’s commercials focusing on crime and the MS-13 gang: “The issue clearly has traction, and I’ve been told the GOP possesses some data indicating that it resonates.” Perhaps it’s as simple that the northern Virginia Democratic thinking class believes that any discussion of illegal immigrants and gangs constitutes paranoid xenophobia. Except . . .  northern Virginia really does have an MS-13 problem, committing unspeakably brutal crimes.

Here’s the Washington Post local news section today:

One MS-13 member clicked a cigar cutter open and closed with a metallic ring, while another told the 15-year-old they would cut her fingers off, the prosecutor said. Another gang member asked where the gasoline was so they could burn the girl up.

Ten members and associates of MS-13 lured Damaris A. Reyes Rivas to a Springfield park in January because they wanted revenge. They blamed the Gaithersburg teen for the death of their clique’s leader, Christian Sosa Rivas, whose body had been dumped in the Potomac about a week earlier.

[Prosecutor] Stott then recounted the ruthless slaying of Damaris, whose killing, along with that of Sosa Rivas and the abduction of another teen, has led to the arrests of 18 young people and highlighted the resurgence of MS-13, the region’s largest and most violent gang. Damaris’s killers were remorseless, capturing her final minutes in gruesome cellphone videos.

Do you have to be a paranoid xenophobe to find that horrifying and want state government to do something about it?

Yes, Virginia, You Still Have a Close Race for Governor

by Jim Geraghty

Yesterday, I wrote about why Democrats fear their candidate, Ralph Northam, is in danger of losing the Virginia governor’s race, despite a relatively consistent polling lead: a hangover from the shock of 2016, Northam’s general lack of charisma and cookie-cutter campaign, and memories of late GOP surges in 2013 and 2014 statewide races that completely eluded pollsters. 

This morning, Democrats are probably reaching for the antacids again.

Three weeks before Virginians choose their next governor, current Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam maintains a lead in a tightening race with former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie. Northam’s lead stands at 4% (48 percent to 44 percent), according to a Wason Center survey of likely voters. Libertarian Cliff Hyra polled at 3 percent, with 5 percent undecided. This is the first poll in the Wason Center’s tracking series in which Northam’s lead is within the survey’s margin of error. In the benchmark poll, released September 25, Northam’s lead stood at 6 percent (47 percent to 41 percent), and it grew to 7 percent (49 percent to 42 percent) in the first tracking poll, released October 9.

Yes, you would rather be leading than trailing . . .  but this is an off-year election, with the older, whiter, and more conservative electorate than in a presidential year. Both polling and anecdotal evidence — yard signs, etcetera — suggest that this year’s race is attracting much less attention and enthusiasm than in 2013 and 2009.

It’s Typical Trump, but . . .  Is the President Really to Blame for the GOP’s Senate Woes?

President Trump discussing Republican senators yesterday: “I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest. They are not getting the job done.”

This is where I would usually go on a tear about how I yearn the good old days of Harry S. Truman, and how the buck should stop in the Oval Office, and remind everyone that Trump declared, “I alone can fix it.” When it comes to passing his own agenda, Trump could indeed help things by not labeling legislation he previously wanted “mean,” by studying the details of legislation and understanding what the priorities are to different legislative factions, and by being a better salesman by constructing an actual argument, instead of platitudes that “it will be great, believe me,” etcetera.

But on repealing and replacing health care reform . . .  the president has a fair gripe. As Ramesh points out, Congressional Republicans never really had much of a detailed sales pitch for their own plan. No doubt the president was caught off guard by the fact that there was no real GOP consensus on what a replacement for Obamacare should look like. But a lot of conservatives were surprised by that, too!

The first mission of any Republican replacement proposal is earn the support of 50 out of 52 GOP senators. So far, no plan can do that. Perhaps a better president, a Lyndon Johnson type with well-established relationships with all GOP senators and years of experience, would be able to get fifty senators to sign on to a particular bill. Then again, Mitch McConnell has that experience and those relationships, and he can’t bring together 50 votes either. When John McCain opposes a proposal offered by Lindsey Graham, we’re probably past the point of collegial arm-twisting.

Jerry Brown Concurs with DeVos on Campus Due Process Rules

Conservatives find themselves in the unexpected position of cheering some of California Governor Jerry Brown’s recent vetoes.

Most significantly, the Democrat-dominated state legislature wanted to effectively keep the Obama-era standards on campus sexual assault in place within their state. The Obama administration guidelines, which were never subjected to public notice and comment, triggered some far-reaching changes:

 . . . [they] lowered the burden of proof to a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which meant that accused students could be found responsible for sexual misconduct if administrators were only 51 percent convinced of the charges; it discouraged allowing the accused and accuser to cross-examine each other, reasoning that this could prove traumatizing for survivors of rape; and it stipulated that accusers should have the right to appeal contrary rulings, allowing accused students to be re-tried even after they had been judged innocent.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced in September she was withdrawing those rules and beginning the process of establishing new guidelines.

While vetoing the bill, Brown wrote:

 . . . thoughtful legal minds have increasingly questioned whether federal and state actions to prevent and redress sexual harassment and assault — well-intentioned as they are — have also unintentionally resulted in some colleges’ failure to uphold due process for accused students. Depriving any student of higher education opportunities should not be done lightly, or out of fear of losing state or federal funding.

Given the strong state of our laws already, I am not prepared to codify additional requirements in reaction to a shifting federal landscape, when we haven’t yet ascertained the full impact of what we recently enacted. We have no insight into how many formal investigations result in expulsion, what circumstances lead to expulsion, or whether there is disproportionate impact on race or ethnicity. We may need more statutory requirements than what this bill contemplates. We may need fewer. Or still yet, we may need simply to fine tune what we have.

It is time to pause and survey the land.

Brown also vetoed legislation that would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns for the past five years in order to qualify for the California ballot, legislation obviously designed to pressure President Trump. Brown wrote, “Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?” (Interesting irony: Brown failed to release copies of his tax returns during campaigns for governor in 2010 and 2014.)

Brown also vetoed “a bill that would have required companies with more than 500 employees to report median and mean salary data on male and female exempt employees, which would have been published online by the Secretary of State.”

Of course, conservatives won’t like all of the Democratic governor’s recent decisions. Brown signed a slew of other bills, including one to allow Californians to select “gender-neutral” on their driver’s licenses, and a ban on K-12 teachers carrying firearms in schools.

Perhaps most significantly, he signed a “sanctuary state” bill into law that will “limit communication between California police officers and federal immigration agents about people detained by police or in jail awaiting trial. Exceptions include those who have been convicted of at least one of hundreds of serious crimes within the past 15 years and suspects in serious crimes punishable with prison time for which a judge has found probable cause. It also prohibits California officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status.”

ADDENDA: Our David French makes a heck of an entertaining sportswriter, taking a long look at every team in the National Basketball Association and classifying them in divisions named after current political figures. He puts the San Antonio Spurs in the “Ted Cruz Division: Still around, but no one talks about them anymore” and a slew of teams in the “Cory Booker Division: Talented, but no one quite believes they’re for real.”

The Tired ‘But Pence Might Be Worse’ Argument

by Jim Geraghty

One major advantage that President Trump enjoys is that while he has vehement critics on both the left and on the right, it is unlikely the two groups will ever work in tandem for long. The Trump critics on the right generally want a return to pre-Trump conservatism, emphasizing traditional values, personal responsibility, a rejection of isolationism, and a genuine free market and small government with no corporatism. The Trump critics on the left generally want to get rid of everyone to the right of them.

We saw this in the response to Trump’s selection of Mike Pence. A lot of Trump critics, myself included, thought the Pence pick was about as solid and reassuring a selection as he could possibly make: he was more experienced, more well-versed in policy, more level-headed than Trump and exponentially more consistently conservative. But to a lot of people on the left, Pence’s qualities didn’t matter.

To the Left, despite their belief that Trump is a devilish figure and a major threat to destroy the country, Pence is no real improvement – meaning the Left’s problem with Trump is not that he’s uniquely crude, ill-informed, erratic, narcissistic, misogynist, etcetera; it’s that he’s a Republican.

This week in The New Yorker, Jane Mayer makes the argument explicit: “The Danger of President Pence: Trump’s critics yearn for his exit. But Mike Pence, the corporate right’s inside man, poses his own risks.” If you genuinely believe that a Pence presidency would be every bit as bad for the country as Trump’s . . .  well, I guess you won’t bother putting any effort into impeachment, huh?

Large swaths of the Left seem to believe acknowledging any positive qualities in any living figure on the Right is just too dangerous.

Then again, how is their current approach working out for them?

Is Someone Trying to Blow Up Civil War Reenactors?

A story from outside Washington that deserves more national attention: A reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek of the Civil War was temporarily interrupted as law enforcement dealt with some sort of explosive device.

Local and federal law enforcement officials declined Sunday to describe the “suspicious item” found at the battlefield here about 4 p.m. Saturday, which prompted law enforcement to evacuate the immediate area. Several re-enactors said they were told it looked like a pipe bomb.

In a statement Sunday, the FBI said that “the device was located during an annual re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek. No persons were harmed and the device was rendered safe by the Virginia State Police.”

Dee Rybiski, an FBI spokeswoman, said Sunday that the bureau “was not elaborating on the device.”

The FBI is investigating the incident, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Virginia State Police; the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office; and the Middletown Police Department.

The battle re-enacted Sunday took place on Oct. 19, 1864, and was a Union victory.

Last week, organizers of the Cedar Creek event posted a warning on the group’s website.

“We would like to make everyone aware that the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation has received a letter threatening bodily harm to attendants of this event,” the foundation said in the statement. “With this in mind security has been increased and we ask that everyone work with us for a safe and enjoyable event.”

What’s going on here?

The organizers and law enforcement seem particularly tight-lipped about what the threatening message stated. One reenactor quoted in the story relates that “the letter sent to the foundation threatened that excrement would be thrown or weapons fired at the reenactors.” Why would someone hate a Civil War reenactment so much?

The simplest and most logical explanation is that this is a new, violent extension of the effort to remove Confederate statues. Down in New Orleans, the now-removed Battle of Liberty Place Memorial had the inscription: “United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” One does not have to be a bleeding-heart liberal to believe that public squares should not feature inscriptions touting “white supremacy.”

But to terrorize or threaten a Civil War reenactment is a completely different; this marks an indisputable attack on America’s history. The participants at Cedar Creek bristled with resentment at the suggestion that their passion for studying and re-enacting history is driven by a desire to celebrate the Confederacy or white supremacy. (For starters, it’s a Union victory!)

We live in an era where far too many Americans remain profoundly ignorant of even basic facts about their own country’s history:

A 2012 ACTA survey found that less than 20 [percent] of American college graduates could accurately identify the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation, less than half could identify George Washington as the American general at Yorktown ((Virginia)), and only 42 [percent] knew that the Battle of the Bulge occurred during World War II.

And somebody wants to put a stop to a tradition that gets Americans to travel to Civil War battlefields and actually learn what happened there? Who did this, the Proudly Ignorant Insurgency? The Counter-Education Guerillas? The Anti-History Brigade?

If Civil War reenactments are somehow unacceptable because of people playing the roles of Confederate soldiers, how much further must this effort to erase history go? Museums? Books? Movies or television shows?

(There is also the possibility that someone made the threat and left the device to discredit the effort to remove Confederate statues. If this was an episode of Law & Order, Bones, Castle, or any other police procedural drama, the big twist would be that the would-be bomber’s motive was personal, not political.)

You no doubt have heard the Santayana quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” I can’t help but wonder if those who did worst in history class are determined to destroy it, because it reminds them of their inadequacies.

Meanwhile, We’re Still Looking for the Las Vegas Shooter’s Motive

Speaking of mysteriously unexplained acts of violence . . . 

A few days after the Las Vegas shooting, one of the talking heads on CNN offered a pretty plausible supposition, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation knew a lot more than they had said publicly so far. Police no doubt had searched the shooter’s home, unlocked his phone and computers and any other electronic devices, and were interviewing all known significant associates.

That supposition seemed reasonable . . .  but now we can’t be quite so sure. Maybe the authorities don’t know much more than what they’re saying, and the traditional methods of investigation have come up empty. The massacre occurred two weeks ago, and the public is still waiting for a clear answer on the shooter’s motive. Even worse, the official timeline of events keeps changing, and seems to get weirder each day. Why did he stop shooting after just ten minutes? Why did it take an hour to breach the door? Why did he have explosives in his car? How can a meticulously planned mass murder be perpetrated by a person with no criminal record, no known chemical addictions, no recorded history of mental illness, no religious or political affiliations, and according to the first study of his brain, apparently no tumors, injuries or abnormalities?

No doubt the men and women of law enforcement at all levels are giving their best effort in challenging circumstances, and it’s strangely reassuring to see them frustrated as much as we are. After an event like this, there is a deeply human hunger for answers. If people don’t get them from the proper authorities, there will be no shortage of conspiracy theorists willing to fill the vacuum. There are three explanations for mass shootings in the United States that the public has grown used to: Islamist extremism, alienated teenage rage, or a political extremist. It’s not surprising to see people attempting to shoehorn the Las Vegas shooter into the first or third options; that answer may not be right, based upon the available evidence, but at least it “makes sense,” so to speak.

ADDENDA: The Citizen-Tribune takes a longer look at the sudden interest in unseating Republican senator John Barrasso of Wyoming.

The Weinstein Scandal Undermines Hollywood’s Tradition of Scolding America on Politics

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: Hollywood loses its right to lecture anyone, Susan Collins makes a key decision, and Senate Republicans face the prospect of being a man or two down in the near future.

Hollywood Loses Its Right to Lecture Anyone

For decades, the stars and powerful players of Hollywood instructed us about which political candidates deserved election. They told us which causes were worthy of support and which ones needed to be opposed. In their works and in their speeches, they told us how to be a better person.

Hollywood, you don’t get to lecture us about anything anymore. You’ve had a serial sexual predator operating in your midst as an open secret for decades and no one did anything about it. He appears to have abused his way through a wide swath of the industry’s women with no significant consequence in the film, publishing, and media industries.

When they did respond, their actions were insufficiently consequential. They created an entire sub-genre of jokes, allusions, and villainous portrayals of Harvey Weinstein: a character on Entourage, Tom Cruise’s wildly over-the-top character in Tropic Thunder, jokes on 30 Rock, a joke at the Oscar nominee announcement. But no one could quite bring themselves to actually do something that could stop him.

His behavior didn’t really harm his image within the industry, at least as far as the general public could tell. A 2015 analysis of 1,396 Oscar speeches found that Harvey Weinstein was the second most-thanked individual; he was thanked more frequently than God.

We can’t blame his victims; Weinstein was powerful and they were comparably powerless. But we can blame everyone who worked with him. His contract more or less spelled out that the company expected to have regular complaints of inappropriate sexual conduct and that as long as he paid settlements, the company would take no action:

TMZ is privy to Weinstein’s 2015 employment contract, which says if he gets sued for sexual harassment or any other “misconduct” that results in a settlement or judgment against TWC [The Weinstein Company], all Weinstein has to do is pay what the company’s out, along with a fine, and he’s in the clear.

According to the contract, if Weinstein “treated someone improperly in violation of the company’s Code of Conduct,” he must reimburse TWC for settlements or judgments. Additionally, “You [Weinstein] will pay the company liquidated damages of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance.”

The contract says as long as Weinstein pays, it constitutes a “cure” for the misconduct and no further action can be taken. Translation — Weinstein could be sued over and over and as long as he wrote a check, he keeps his job.

You can find bad people in every industry, and you can find sexual harassment in every industry. But I suspect that most American companies would refuse to set up an arrangement like this for a man with a long and infamous history. A contract like that is just far too risky in terms of litigation and bad publicity if ever revealed. Imagine going to your boss and attempting to negotiate that you can never, ever be fired for sexual harassment of employees.

Yes, Weinstein was powerful, but he was not the only powerful person in Hollywood. No other studio head ever heard these stories and felt a need to address this injustice?

How is it that almost every actress seemed to know, but none of the actors whose careers were built by Weinstein knew? Are we to believe that the biggest-name stars in the industry feared that Weinstein could end their careers?

What are we to make of the claims that Weinstein is just the tip of the iceberg?

“There’s a lot of abuse in this town,” said producer and director Judd Apatow. “Young actresses are mistreated in all sorts of ways by powerful men who can dangle jobs or access to exciting parts of show business. I think a lot of people are mistreated and they don’t realize how badly they’re being mistreated.”

“Everyone knew [about Weinstein’s alleged behavior], just as they know about other high-profile people with power in the industry who get away with the exact same things,” said screenwriter and producer Kelly Marcel (“Saving Mr. Banks” and the upcoming “Venom.”) “This is far-reaching, it is endemic, and we have to believe that the toppling of this mogul will lead to the toppling of others. . . .  This is a bigger issue than taking down one person.”

Hollywood has demonstrated an amazing propensity for believing the problems are “out there” — out in middle America, where the audience lives — instead of within its own industry, actions, and behavior. Back in 2015, after winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Arquette closed her speech with:

To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.

Everyone in the room stood up and applauded, including all the producers and studio heads who negotiate the salaries for actresses. I remember thinking, when she’s discussing “wage equality,” who do they think she’s addressing? Apple? IBM? Exxon? Or is she speaking quite literally to the audience sitting directly in front of her, who apparently pay actresses significantly less than actors? It’s not you, me, or the shoe salesman from Des Moines who decide how much an actress gets paid. It’s a handful of powerful people, who apparently so insulated by thick layers of denial that they can’t even tell when they’re the ones who are getting called out on national television.

The legal and media worlds are close to having their lecture rights revoked as well.

Does Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance’s excuse that the tape of Weinstein admitting groping a woman didn’t prove “criminal intent” sound right to legal experts? Bennett Gershman, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, writes “if Vance allowed the sexual abuse case against Harvey Weinstein to go forward, a jury would have convicted Weinstein in about three minutes.”

Why did the top brass at NBC News give Ronan Farrow so much grief and opposition while he was working on this story? How many thinly-sourced or single-anonymously-sourced reports have we seen over the years — particularly in political journalism! — while Farrow is told that his report, with interviews with eight women, was insufficient.

How much can viewers trust NBC News today?

Sen. Susan Collins (Kind of Republican-Maine) Intends to Stay in the U.S. Senate

Susan Collins will not leave the U.S. Senate to run for governor of Maine.

The current Republican governor of Maine, Paul LePage, is term-limited. The decision is not that surprising, despite the buzz about a potential gubernatorial bid for the past few weeks:

 . . . it’s hard to leave the U.S. Senate after racking up enough seniority after two decades to provide her with growing clout in congressional committees where longevity is the most crucial ingredient of power. Collins has said as much.

The other reason is one she doesn’t mention: that her own party might not want her.

A recent poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found that Collins has the approval of only a third of likely Republican voters. But it was taken at a moment when passions were running especially high after Collins voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act, perhaps not especially indicative of what GOP voters normally think.

Democrats are probably grumbling this morning; open seat races are almost always easier than beating an incumbent.

Speaking of other potential Senate vacancies . . . 

How Is Thad Cochran Feeling?

We keep saying Republicans have 52 votes in the Senate, but they really don’t, and I don’t mean because of ideological straying . . . 

Republicans are worried about Thad Cochran.

The Mississippi senator has been recovering the past several weeks from a urological procedure. And concern is growing on and off Capitol Hill over whether the 79-year-old lawmaker will return to work on Monday when the Senate comes back from recess — not to mention how long he’ll be able to continue leading a high-profile committee or even remain in the Senate.

Cochran’s office maintains that the Mississippi Republican will return next week as planned, and Senate Republican aides said they expect him back as well. But several K Street sources and Cochran allies said he’s unlikely to be back next week. Multiple sources said there’s increasing worry his absence could stretch through the end of the year.

Cochran is slated to oversee an Appropriations Committee markup on Thursday.

Cochran missed the last two weeks that the Senate was in session. Any further absence would cause major problems for Senate Republicans.

John McCain is undergoing cancer treatments. So it’s possible that McConnell will be missing two senators in the coming days; the Senate will be missing three members on the days Sen. Bob Menendez is in court battling corruption charges.

I hate to tell octogenarian senators that they have to hang it up for health reasons, but . . .  there’s a thin margin in the Senate. If you’re not going to be able to show up for work for several weeks at a time, you’re hurting your constituents, your state, and your peers.

ADDENDA: It’s Friday the 13th, so be careful out there.

Tom Nichols and T. Becket Adams team up for a key observation about how the Republican Party and the United States ended up with Trump.

Nichols: “the mindless smearing of people like Romney and others made people tone-deaf to criticisms of someone like Trump.”

Adams: “More than that, I think. It made people desperate. If a remarkably decent boy scout like Romney could be portrayed as Charles Manson . . . ”

The Rap on Trump

by Jim Geraghty

Somewhere in the music industry, recently:

Producer One: This is terrible! Every morning I wake up and hear about our president, an egomaniacal celebrity who is vulgar, obnoxious, rude and disrespectful to everyone, ignorant of anything about policy, says terrible things about women, mocks people’s appearances, encourages violence, and whose long history of provocative behavior suggests he’s out of his mind!

Producer Two: I know exactly what we need to put a stop to this: A denunciation from Eminem!

Look, I’m no connoisseur of rap, and I’m not the target audience, although as a longtime Trump critic, one might think I would be a lot more receptive. But Eminem’s anti-Trump performance at the BET Hip-Hop Awards sounded pretty terrible. If Eminem had focused on any other topic, the buzz this week would have been about how awful his performance was and how he had lost his touch. But because he’s attacking Trump, he’s getting hosannas and glowing non-music mainstream media coverage.

CNN called it “the fiercest and most exhaustive attack” on the president. The Washington Post declared it “delivers more blows than even the most scathing talking-head could on a cable-news hit.”

It reads better than it sounds.

When Eminem says “he’s orange” and “sick tan,” is he giving Trump a taste of his own medicine, or is he simply verifying Trump’s method, that the best way to discredit someone you oppose is to ridicule the way they look? Can you applaud those lines and denounce Trump for his nasty tweets about Mika Bryzynski, his comments about Carly Fiorina, his calling Chuck Todd “sleepy eyes”? Ironically, at one point Eminem declares, “like him in politics, I’m using all of his tricks.” You can choose to do that, but if you’re making that choice because you believe his tricks are effective, that’s a form of endorsement and validation.

Eminem refers to Trump’s mockery of John McCain:

He says, “You’re spittin’ in the face of vets who fought for us you bastards,”

Unless you’re a POW who’s tortured and battered,

’Cause to him, you’re zeros,

’Cause he don’t like his war heroes captured.

Trump made his infamous remark in July 2015, two years and two months ago. Welcome to the party, Eminem.

Eminem delivered his litany of criticism in a tone of near-sputtering frustration, exasperation and outrage . . .  which is how a lot of people across the political spectrum from gays to feminists to cultural conservatives reacted to Eminem’s more incendiary lyrics back in the day.

Trump thrived in the pop culture and media world that Eminem helped create. It’s not like Eminem’s audience wants to hear about the long-term unsustainability of the entitlement system, or how it’s nearly impossible to keep health insurance coverage of preexisting conditions and reduce premiums. The pop culture audience is as allergic to policy details as the president is, so the president rarely if ever talks about them.

Instead he sticks snide nicknames on his foes and critics: “Little Marco”, “Lyin’ Ted,” “Low Energy Jeb.” Trump’s method of returning fire on his rivals is not light-years away from the style of a freestyle rap showdown. Trump’s style on the campaign trail in 2015 and 2016 was a lot more like Eight Mile than the Oxford Debating Society.

Eminem complains about Trump’s obsession with pop culture disputes . . . 

 . . . this is his form of distraction,

Plus, he gets an enormous reaction,

When he attacks the NFL, so we focus on that,

Instead of talking Puerto Rico or gun reform for Nevada,

All these horrible tragedies and he’s bored and would rather,

Cause a Twitter storm with the Packers.

When he says, “he gets an enormous reaction,” Eminem comes right up to the line of recognizing that Trump wasn’t some conquering alien invader but a dark reflection of what Americans really wanted in a president. Why do Trump’s fights with pop cultural figures like professional athletes and late-night hosts and ESPN commentators get so much more attention than, say, his fight with the mayor of San Juan? Because as a whole, the American public cares more about celebrities than the mayor of San Juan. Trump alone among Republican presidential candidates was a figure of the world prime-time television, reality shows, People magazine, TMZ, Page Six. Most of the rest of the candidates wasted their pre-campaign careers working in governor’s mansions and the U.S. Senate and studying government; Trump studied America’s celebrity culture. He was the only presidential candidate who had already hung out with the Kardashians.

Notice Eminem’s form of response, a performance at a music awards show. He’s keeping the fight in the realm of pop culture, right where Trump wants it.

Finally, I notice the one area where Eminem didn’t criticize Trump was his misogyny and treatment of women. Credit Eminem for having the self-awareness to recognize he was a deeply flawed messenger for that argument.

Trump 1, NFL 0

Speaking of presidential fights with pop cultural figures, the boss writes that Trump won his fight with the National Football League.

“Like many of our fans,” [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell wrote, “we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.” Now he tells us.

The climbdown comes only weeks after a clueless bout of self-congratulation by the NFL and the media over widespread protests during the anthem. Wasn’t it marvelous that the owners and players were so united? Hadn’t Donald Trump badly overplayed his hand? Weren’t we possibly on the cusp of a glorious era of activism in sports?

NFL executives and supporters of the protests instead should have been wondering, What the hell is the end game?  . . . 

There were all sorts of unobjectionable means available for players to take a stand of defiance toward Trump, but they allowed themselves to, in effect, get double-dared into disrespecting the flag.

The perils here should have been obvious. The flag is one of our most potent national symbols. The U.S. Code sets out how it should be treated. It drapes the coffins of fallen warriors. It flies at half-staff to mark national tragedies and the loss of the country’s heroes. People can get extremely emotional seeing it displayed the wrong way or touching the ground.

I’d also point out that kneeling during the National Anthem is a gesture that is extremely open to interpretation. Had a player written on his socks, “HOLD BAD COPS ACCOUNTABLE” or something like that, the player would be fined by the league for violating the uniform policy, but there would be no national outrage. The more precise the message, the less likely it is to be misunderstood. But the refusal to stand when everyone else is standing suggests that “I do not feel about this country the way all the rest of you do,” which is very easy to construe as “I do not love this country as much as you do.”

Ben Domenech, who writes that other morning newsletter, declares that “the Left is losing the Culture War for the first time in three decades.”

Eh, did it just start this year? Or did it start in 2016? The forces of progressivism received a lot of humiliating losses even before Election Day: Target backed down on its bathroom policy, the no-holds-barred nastiness of Gawker led to its own demise, the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters flopped . . . 

Same Old Hillary

Even in retirement, Hillary Clinton hasn’t lost a single step; her political instincts are every bit as bad as they were in her prime.

On her donations, Clinton added that it wasn’t possible to give the money back but that she would donate it to charity.

“What other people are saying, what my former colleagues are saying, is they’re going to donate it to charity, and of course I will do that,” she said. “I give 10% of my income to charity every year, this will be part of that. There’s no — there’s no doubt about it.”

Clinton said she had no idea that Weinstein acted that way in private, despite some in Hollywood saying that people close to him had known.

“I certainly didn’t, and I don’t know who did,” she said. “But I can only speak for myself, and I think speak for many others who knew him primarily through politics.”

What, she can’t say, “I’m donating every penny he ever gave me to battered women’s shelters, because as far as I’m concerned, Weinstein’s money is as disgusting as he is”?

The printed word doesn’t do it justice; her tone is the same measured, remembering-my-talking-points, she used in all of her campaign appearances. If you had found out that one of your biggest supporters for decades had been secretly living like Caligula, wouldn’t you be spitting mad? Wouldn’t you be eager to jump in front of cameras and declare, with your hands balled into fists, that you wanted to get your hands on him for all of the awful things he had done?

And finally . . .  she’s Hillary Clinton. She’s got a ton of friends and supporters in Hollywood, and knows plenty of actresses and journalists, just about every high-profile self-identified feminist, every person who was in position to know about Weinstein’s behavior. And she never heard about any of this at all?

Fascinatingly, Anthony Bourdain called Clinton’s response “shameful” and “disingenuous.”

ADDENDA: Thanks to everyone who wrote in about Tuesday’s subway encounter with helpful hints on how, and when to attempt to break up a fight . . .  and when to let discretion be the better part of valor.

Trump Doesn’t Need Different GOP Senators, He Needs More of Them

by Jim Geraghty

Steve Bannon to Sean Hannity this week, discussing efforts to recruit primary challengers to incumbent Republican senators: “Nobody’s safe. We’re coming after all of them.”

If every Republican senator is going to get a primary challenger backed by Bannon, no matter what, then what’s the incentive to vote Bannon’s way between now and Election Day?

“It’s about sending a message!” Yes, it sends the message that there is no amount of loyalty to Trump that is sufficient to placate the Steve Bannons of the world, so you might as well vote the way you and your constituents prefer and let the chips fall where they may.

The problem for the Trump administration is not really one of insufficiently loyal or cooperative Republican senators. Peruse the tables over at Five-Thirty-Eight about how often GOP senators vote the way the Trump administration prefers. Fifteen Republican senators have voted with the White House 95.9 percent of the time. The least “loyal” Republican senator is Susan Collins of Maine, and even she has voted with the White House position 79 percent of the time. The most cooperative Democrat has been Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who votes with the White House position 55 percent of the time.

Apparently the angry populists can’t read a chart. If the Trump administration wants to get more legislation passed by the Senate, it doesn’t need different Republicans; it needs more Republicans. Replacing the most cooperative Democrat with the least cooperative Republican will still get a vote going your way an additional 24 percent of the time. A person who really wanted to see the Trump agenda become law would skip over the primary challenges and focus entirely on unseating the half-dozen or so vulnerable Democratic senators in 2018.

As I noted this weekend, one of Bannon’s targets, John Barrasso of Wyoming, is one of those senators who has voted with the White House’s position 95.9 percent of the time. The two times he didn’t was on Russian sanctions; on one of the votes the tally was 98 to 2. There is no right-of-center ideology or policy argument against Barrasso remaining as a senator. It is entirely stylistic. Ask a Trump supporter why Barrasso has to go – and I have – and you get answers like “they didn’t pass repeal and replace.” But that’s the fault of John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and, in the most recent case, Rand Paul! Barrasso voted for it.

No, the Bannon argument is entirely about style. Barrasso is an even-tempered, soft-spoken statesman and that sort of lawmaker doesn’t hold the interests of the angry populists. This is an argument about aesthetics masquerading as one about ideology and policy. The angry populists want to be entertained. They want drama. They prefer Roy Moore suddenly pulling out a handgun on stage. A good portion of people probably tuned out the paragraph up there because it involves numbers and percentages. Barrasso feels like an establishment squish to them, so he’s got to go.

Steve Bannon wants to send former Congressman Michael Grimm back to the House of Representatives, describing Grimm as “a straight-talking, fire-breathing, conservative populist.” Perhaps, but he’s also a convicted tax felon who served seven months in prison and who admitted in court to hiring illegal immigrants at a restaurant he co-owned. I thought the populist revolution was supposed to go after employers who hire illegal immigrants. But Grimm is an angry guy who once threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony, so I guess he gets a pass. Aesthetics!

How Long Has Hollywood Known about Weinstein’s Alleged Misconduct?

The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal is just getting started.

As more women have come forward, questions have swirled over who in Hollywood might have known something and even directly or indirectly enabled him or protected him. Roughly two dozen former assistants and young actresses have said the powerful and widely feared producer routinely asked them to his hotel room under the pretense of talking about roles or work, and then solicited massages while he was naked or wearing a bathrobe, or sexually forced himself on them.

Ms. Paltrow told The Times that when she was 22, Mr. Weinstein invited her to his hotel bedroom for a work meeting and later proposed a massage. She said she had fled in terror and later relayed the incident to her boyfriend at the time, Brad Pitt. Mr. Pitt confirmed that he later confronted Mr. Weinstein at a theater premiere and told him to never touch her again.

Mr. Affleck later dated Ms. Paltrow, though it is not known whether she relayed news of the incident to him.

George Clooney has also weighed in on the controversy, telling The Daily Beast in an interview that was published Monday night that while he was aware of rumors that young actresses had slept with Mr. Weinstein to get roles, he had been unaware of any misconduct or the settlements Mr. Weinstein had reached with women.

“I didn’t hear anything about that, and I don’t know anyone that did. That’s a whole other level, and there’s no way you can reconcile that,” said Mr. Clooney, who has worked with Mr. Weinstein repeatedly over 20 years. “There’s nothing to say except that it’s indefensible.”

A lot of people will be asking how the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., could not bring charges against Weinstein after the New York City Police Department managed a sting operation and caught Weinstein saying “I’m used to it” and “I won’t do it again” when discussing previous groping of a 22-year-old model.

The evidence that this was an “open secret” in Hollywood is piling up. The NBC sitcom 30 Rock had a character declare, “I’m not afraid of anyone in show business, I turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions.” In 2013, while hosting the Oscars, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane cracked a joke referring to the nominees for best supporting actress: “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”

Were these jokes, or a twisted warning? And what does it say about Hollywood that there could be veiled jokes or allusions to Weinstein’s behavior, but no actual consequence?

Hey, Remember the Dakota Access Pipeline?

Finally, some good news from a reader in the Dakotas:

The Dakota Access Pipeline has boosted North Dakota’s tax revenues by $18 million in its first three months of operation, according to an analysis by the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

Director Justin Kringstad said Tuesday producers have seen a $2 increase in the average price for Bakken crude in June, July and August compared to 2016 figures. He attributes the increase to more competitive transportation costs as a result of Dakota Access going into service in June.

That $2 boost for every barrel equates to $6 million in additional oil tax revenue for the state each month, Kringstad said.

His figures are based on current North Dakota oil production, which increased 3.5 percent in August to an average of 1.08 million barrels per day, the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources reported Tuesday.

Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said the figures he’s seeing in his office are consistent with Kringstad’s estimates.

“It’s helping all the producers and royalty owners regardless of whether those barrels are actually traveling down the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Rauschenberger said. “That has really set the market and made the transportation much more competitive leaving North Dakota.”

If that trend continues, Rauschenberger estimates North Dakota will see a boost in oil tax revenue of $140 million each two-year budget cycle.

Some people think conservatives hate higher tax revenues. No, we hate higher tax revenues when they’re driven by tax increases. When production and economic activity increase, generating more tax revenue, we’re quite happy.

ADDENDA: Odd and tough day yesterday. On the way back from CNN on the New York City subway yesterday afternoon, a fistfight broke out right in front of me. I missed what triggered the altercation, apparently a bald guy thought a long-haired guy had either tripped him or tried to snatch something from him. It was like one of those scenes in a Western when all the townspeople close the shutters and hide before the big gunfight; everyone around me seemed to scatter and disappear; it’s as if the other riders somehow developed the ability to blend into the walls. Being the big idiot that I am, and not having much space to maneuver or back away, I reacted by going into . . .  “Dad mode” and yelling at them. I know this will probably shock you, but yelling “Stop it! That’s enough! Calm down! Separate!” does not work on two enraged grown men. I actually did get the bald guy to stop whaling on the long-haired guy after . . .  oh, probably ten to fifteen punches . . .  and then the long-haired guy decided to kick the bald guy, starting the fight up again. No one else dared to even verbally intervene. (If New Yorkers are redeveloping the ability to avert their eyes from violence perpetrated right in front of them, I guess this means the Giuliani era really is over.)

Eventually the train finally stopped in a station, and the two guys headed to the platform, where they continued to yell at each other. The conductor announced the train was staying in this station — I don’t know if it was because someone managed to report the fight, or because of some other issue — and the two guys blended into the crowd. I stepped off the train, saw two cops descending the stairs, and ran over to them, relaying what had happened.

So how was your Tuesday?

Corker’s Criticism of Trump Isn’t Completely Correct

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: one aspect of Senator Bob Corker’s criticism of President Trump that doesn’t ring true, ESPN suspends anchor Jamele Hill for being Jamele Hill, and why Hillary Clinton’s silence about Harvey Weinstein is not the least bit shocking.

The Flaw in Corker’s Critique

President Trump’s war of words with Senate foreign relations chairman Bob Corker is a giant pile of preventable, self-destructive folly, but there’s one part of Corker’s indictment that doesn’t quite ring true.

Corker says Trump’s “reckless threats toward other countries” could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

Look, if the United States is one hyperbolic presidential Tweet away from all-out war, we’re already doomed. If the world really is just 140 characters away from Armageddon, that’s a stinging indictment of several preceding administrations as well as Trump’s.

What’s more, if all it took to get Kim Jong Un to attempt to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a nuclear weapon was an insult from the president, then we would have seen the missiles flying already.  I refer you to the most recent public words from the Central Intelligence Agency on this:

“There’s a clarity of purpose in what Kim Jong Un has done,” according to Yong Suk Lee, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, who discussed the escalating tensions between North Korea and the US during a conference organized by the agency at George Washington University.

“Waking up one morning and deciding he wants to nuke” Los Angeles is not something Kim Jong Un is likely to do, Lee said. “He wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed.”

“Kim’s long-term goal is to come to some sort of big power agreement with the US and to remove US presence from the peninsula,” Lee said, adding he wants to make North Korea relevant on the global stage again.

(In a great irony, Kim’s long-term goal sounds like the sort of thing that Trump favored as a presidential candidate. Back in January 2016, Trump said, “We have 28,000 soldiers on the line in South Korea between the madman and them. We get practically nothing compared to the cost of this.”)

It’s also worth noting that the Korean peninsula has a lot of potential triggers for conflict beyond what the president says or tweets.

“The South Korean and North Korean Navy’s are going toe-to-toe every day . . .  there is potential for conflict at anytime,” Lee said.

That circumstance existed before the Trump presidency and is likely to exist after the Trump presidency. What do you think is most likely to spur military conflict on the Korean peninsula: North Korean hackers, Pyongyang firing artillery at South Korean islands again, North Korea firing at a South Korean naval vessel again, or a Trump tweet?

Corker suggested that Trump’s comments about North Korea had somehow undermined an ongoing effort at diplomatic outreach:

“A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true,” Mr. Corker said.

Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.

Corker’s got a higher security clearance than you and I do (then again, I don’t know what yours is) but without any specifics, it is difficult to evaluate the validity of this accusation. What is clear is that for all of his inflammatory language, the broad contours of Trump’s view on North Korea is correct: the Clinton administration provided $5 billion in aid in exchange for broken promises. The North Korean regime needs to know that the United States is no longer willing to be suckered into a phony deal, just to enjoy a false sense of security.

The Second Battle of Jamele Hill

The President of the United States, 6:42 a.m.: “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have “tanked,” in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”

In case you’ve lost track . . . 

ESPN suspended anchor Jamele Hill after she wrote on Twitter, “Change happens when advertisers are impacted. If you feel strongly about JJ’s statement, boycott his advertisers.”

Hill appeared to encourage fans to boycott the sponsors of the Dallas Cowboys, after a report that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would bench any player who refused to stand for the national anthem. Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross has also instructed his players to stand, declaring that the president “changed that whole paradigm of what protest is . . .  And I think it’s incumbent upon the players today, because of how the public is looking at it, to really stand and really salute the flag.”

Hill also tweeted, “Cowboys have a huge national following. Lot of black & brown folks are Cowboys fans. What if they turned their backs on them?”

ESPN broadcasts Monday Night Football; the Cowboys do not appear for the remainder of the season but the Dolphins are scheduled to appear twice.

As with the last controversy surrounding Hill about a month ago, I find myself strangely sympathetic that she’s suddenly found herself in hot water for doing what she’s done her entire career. What exactly did ESPN expect when they gave her and co-host Michael Smith the 6 p.m. SportsCenter slot? The network apparently wants her to be controversial but not too controversial, provocative but not too provocative, and to somehow address racial issues, but not offend anyone in the process. They want her to speak her mind, but not speak too critically of a league for whose television rights her employer paid $15 billion.

Our David French emphasizes the painful lesson for ESPN: large profitable corporations can try to co-opt the voracious progressive movement, but it will never be satisfied.

 . . . It’s pretty clear that ESPN is pursuing irreconcilable goals. It obviously wants to be progressive, and it obviously needs to protect its multi-billion dollar investment in the NFL. Yet every day that the sport gets more politicized, there is greater pressure on politicized hosts and athletes to up the stakes. After all, lots of folks are actually hoping to achieve Real Change, not just indulge in a dash of virtue signaling before returning to the discussing the decline and fall of the Patriots’ defense.

ESPN, by contrast, seems to have been hoping a little bit of light politics — with political perspective sprinkled into the coverage like croutons on a salad. You know, polite progressivism for the chattering classes. But you can’t control the Wokening, and if we’ve learned anything from our out-of-control campuses, activists don’t like guardrails, even if the corporate (or academic) bosses are broadly sympathetic.

Progressive sports fans insist that in an era where Vice President Pence walks out of an NFL game to protest the players’ kneeling protest, it’s impossible for a sports media to “stick to sports.” But when a network “sticks to sports,” fans across the spectrum are willing to tune in for . . .  you know, sports, particularly on a network that touts itself “the worldwide leader in sports.”

Do People Really Care About Gross Sexual Misconduct? Consistently?

Hillary Clinton’s silence about Harvey Weinstein is so unsurprising, it’s barely even disappointing.

It’s been five days since the New York Times exposed a long and sordid history of sexual harassment and abuse on the part of the super-connected Hollywood producer and mogul. Hillary Clinton hasn’t even issued a written statement; she was on a book tour, but the interviews suddenly stopped. Some left-of-center voices are now wondering just what their favorite leaders stand for:

Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show: I feel like it happens a lot with women’s issues. I feel really disappointed in both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. If you took money from this person because this person had really good progressive goals that were in line with the politics, great. When you find out that this person is a monster, especially a monster towards women, why wouldn’t you denounce it? Why would you have shame? Come out and denounce it.

But you know, otherwise you will never have credibility when trying to denounce oh, I don’t know, a president who talks about the freedom to sexual assault a woman in a tape we hear on Access Hollywood? You know, you got to wonder, did that incident that just weirdly happened practically to the anniversary of the date we found out about this, go past America and America gave Trump a pass because we didn’t call out this kind of behavior from Democrats?

I suspect that is the case. Diehard partisans appear only truly motivated to denounce piggish and sleazy behavior when reinforces their argument that the other side is full of creeps and enablers. Progressives denounce Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Congressman Tim Murphy, and Trump’s infamous boast of his entitlement to grab; conservatives gleefully denounce Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Bob Filner, etc. We can find many examples of this hypocrisy, but perhaps the gold standard remains Gloria Steinem’s defense of Bill Clinton’s behavior with Kathleen Willey: “Mr. Clinton seems to have made a clumsy sexual pass, then accepted rejection.” (That is not, in fact, what Willey described at all.) Steinem’s standard became nicknamed the “one free grope” rule. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine many conservative Christian leaders shrugging off the “grab them by the you-know-what” comment as mere “locker room talk” if it had come from a prominent liberal Democrat.

How much can we blame voters for concluding that if so many people in politics are willing to give the leaders on their own side a pass, the behavior can’t really be that objectionable?

ADDENDA: If the day runs smoothly, I’ll appear on HLN in the 11 a.m. hour, CNN International at 2:30, and CNN sometime in the 3 p.m. hour. However, experience has taught me that in the world of television news and breaking news events, the day rarely runs smoothly.

On Making a Deal with Democrats

by Philip H. DeVoe

Yesterday, the White House delivered a list of items to Congress, which are what it expects to receive in exchange for preserving DACA and keeping DREAMers in the country.

The White House on Sunday delivered to Congress a long list of hard-line immigration measures that President Trump is demanding in exchange for any deal to protect the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, imperiling a fledgling bipartisan push to reach a legislative solution.

Before agreeing to provide legal status for 800,000 young immigrants brought here illegally as children, Mr. Trump will insist on the construction of a wall across the southern border, the hiring of 10,000 immigration agents, tougher laws for those seeking asylum and denial of federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” officials said.

Trump’s new conditions raise questions — especially in light of the deal the president made with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer three weeks ago, an unlikely alliance for an unlikely cause (protecting DREAMers and preserving DACA). The Left hailed the deal as a way to ensure 800,000 immigrants remain in the country, but many speculated about what exactly Trump was getting out of it. Some suggested it was a slap in the face of Senate Republicans, others wondered if it was just Trump wanting to get something done. If the White House plays hardball on DACA, he will make many conservatives happy.

The Bubbas vs. Uncle Sam

In a column for NRO, Michael Brendan Dougherty answers the claim that no citizens can be effective in a fight against the government, thus rendering the Second Amendment irrelevant. It’s a claim that crops up during every gun-control debate, but, as Michael argues, it’s not a very good one:

They ask something like this: “Do you really think Bubba in camo gear hiding in the forest is going to take on the U.S. military? The U.S. military has nuclear weapons!”

Who exactly do you think has stymied the U.S. in Afghanistan for 16 years? The Taliban is made up of Afghan Bubbas. The Taliban doesn’t need to defeat nuclear weapons, though they are humiliating a nuclear power for the second time in history. They use a mix of Kalashnikovs and WWII-era bolt-action rifles. Determined insurgencies are really difficult to fight, even if they are only armed with Enfield rifles and you can target them with a TOW missiles system that can spot a cat in the dark from two miles away. In Iraq, expensive tanks were destroyed with simple improvised explosives.

The argument that the U.S. military is stronger than the American people is factually true, but functionally illogical. Sheer military power can fall — and has fallen — to the “bubbas” of history. Defending one’s home and family from tyranny is an undervalued measure of militaristic capacity. In 1922, for example, Britain was one of the strongest, most widespread, and most feared empires. It controlled a quarter of global land and global population. And yet:

In that very year, they were forced to make an effective exit from the main part of their oldest colony, Ireland. Why? Because a determined group of Irish men with guns made the country ungovernable.

So don’t underestimate the bubbas.

A Strange History of the anti-Columbus Day Narrative

Every Columbus Day, social progressives employ the same narrative: Because Christopher Columbus was a racist who enslaved indigenous people, it’s racist to set aside a holiday for him. But the roots of the perennial Columbus bashing stretch far deeper, as Jennifer Braceras points out, to Marxism and white supremacy:

Friedrich Engels, who with Marx authored the Communist Manifesto, lambasted Columbus as the godfather of modern capitalism. According to Engels, Columbus’s westward journeys unleashed the era of “big commerce,” the world market, and the birth of the bourgeoisie. “The discovery of America was connected with the advent of machinery,” he wrote in 1847, “and with that the struggle became necessary which we are conducting today, the struggle of the propertyless against the property owners.”

For Marx and Engels — and, therefore, their supporters — Columbus is synonymous with capitalism. The hatred for him may not be as rooted in anti-racism as those who hate him argue; if anything, it is his lust for profit that created the monster of Columbus, not inherent racism.

White supremacists, too, helped promote anti-Columbus rhetoric:

In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan promoted negative characterizations of Columbus in order to vilify Catholics and immigrants, many of whom celebrated Columbus not only as a source of ethnic and religious pridebut also as a symbol of the free and diverse society that resulted from the European presence here. The Klan tried to prevent the erection of monuments to the Great Navigator, burned crosses in opposition to efforts to honor him, and argued that commemorations of his voyage were part of a papal plot. Rather than honor a Catholic explorer from the Mediterranean, Klansmen proposed honoring the Norseman Leif Eriksson as discoverer of the New World and a symbol of white pride.

So, Braceras concludes, it’s with great irony that the party of inclusion adopts a narrative invented to exclude.

ADDENDA: At Florida’s homecoming game against LSU (which they lost), the Florida fans broke into an impromptu rendition of Gainesville native Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” It’s quite a sight:

Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates Debate a Ridiculously Low Top Tax Bracket

by Jim Geraghty

This is the last Jolt until October 10. Happy Columbus Day! Celebrate by going someplace you’ve never been before and calling it “India.”

Forget a Millionaires’ Tax, Virginia Has a Seventeen-Thousand-aires’ Tax

The campaign of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie unveils a new ad today:

GILLESPIE: “Virginia’s top personal income tax rate kicks in at $17,000 a year. Ralph Northam thinks that makes you rich. Maybe that’s why he’s never voted for a tax cut. My plan cuts taxes for all Virginians, increasing take-home pay for the average family by nearly $1,300 and creating 53,000 good-paying jobs. With a stronger economy, we can invest more in our schools and increase teacher pay. I’m Ed Gillespie, candidate for governor, and I sponsored this ad.”

Northam’s accusation that $17,000 in income makes you rich stems from this exchange at their debate September 19:

NORTHAM: This plan, ladies and gentlemen, that you just heard, is a tax cut for the rich at the expense of the working class, and you have to look no further than Kansas to see exactly what a plan such as this would do. It almost bankrupt them. They actually had to turn around and raise taxes. It put schools in jeopardy. They went from a five day week to a four day week. Let me tell you what we need to do in Virginia. We need to invest in Virginia. Because when we invest in Virginia we can beat, as I said earlier, any other state. . . . 

Northam went on to call for more transportation spending and education spending. Gillespie responded:

GILLESPIE: This is really important. This is very important. First of all, Ralph says these are tax cuts for the rich. These are tax cuts for all Virginians. And the fact is, if you paid $7,000 in taxes under current law under my plan, when fully implemented responsibly phased in over three years, you would have $700 less in tax burden, that you could spend as you see fit for your family. Virginians need that tax relief. Tax cut for the rich — the top rate in Virginia, 5.75 percent kicks in at an income level of $17,000 a year. I didn’t say $70,000; I said $17,000. And my opponent thinks you’re rich and that’s just flat wrong.

Virginia’s tax rates can be found here, and the state’s top tax rate does indeed kick in after $17,000 in income. As the state helpfully points out, if your taxable income is $54,000, your tax is $720 + 5.75 percent of the amount over $17,000. This comes out to $2,848.

Northam spent six years in the state Senate and never voted for a tax cut at all?

Unanswered Questions and Another Era of American Paranoia

It’s been five days since the worst mass shooting in American history, and the public still doesn’t know the Las Vegas shooter’s motive.

The investigation into what drove Stephen Paddock to open fire on a music festival in Las Vegas last Sunday is crawling into its fifth day with ever-mounting questions and few answers.

Paddock, the lone suspect according to Las Vegas police, killed himself in the hotel suite he had rented on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino as police closed in on his location. And along with Paddock went any clear answer for why he opened fire on the festival and killed 58 people and wounded 489 others.

Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, the public face of the investigation, has had few answers for why Paddock committed the crime. Authorities did not hold a press conference on Thursday, the first day since Sunday there was none.

Lombardo has said investigators are looking at a computer and multiple electronic devices found in the suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel. Authorities have also removed evidence from homes Paddock owned in Mesquite and Reno, Nevada. There have not been any revelations so far.

Authorities also found a note in Paddock’s hotel room but said it was not a suicide note. The contents are unknown.

A couple of the retired law enforcement talking heads on the network assure us that the FBI knows more than they are saying. I hope the good men and women at the Bureau understand that we’re rapidly approaching a moment where the public could use some reassurance. We’re used to certain explanations for a sudden horror like this: he’s a jihadist (Orlando), he’s an angry, disturbed teenager (Columbine), he’s got some extreme political agenda (the Alexandria Congressional baseball practice shooter).

It’s a new level of troubling to think that someone could spend months planning an elaborate massacre – perhaps an entire year? – hide it from everyone who knew him, and not even have any discernable motive. We have a certain set of behaviors we’ve consciously or subconsciously learned be on alert for – i.e., jihadism, angry disturbed teenagers, or extreme political views.

One of the better discussions of the week came from a fellow on Twitter who felt perplexed about Americans’ attachment to their guns and observed, accurately, I think, “This goes beyond rights, hunting, collectors. People are afraid and preparing. It’s not a sign of a healthy society.”

(Yesterday President Trump said to reporters, without elaborating, “this is the calm before the storm.”)

Trust in government has been declining for a long time, but it hasn’t declined steadily. It declined steeply after Watergate, rebounded healthily during the Reagan and Bush presidencies, took a steep dive a the end of the George H.W. Bush presidency, gradually had a modest recovery during the Clinton presidency, jumped back up after 9/11, and declined from about mid-Bush, throughout the Obama presidency, and into Trump’s.

Republican administrations earned their share of the blame for the erosion of public trust: Iran-Contra, the failure to find the expected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the difficulties in the response to Hurricane Katrina, the bursting of the housing bubble and onset of the Great Recession in 2008…

Now throw in, “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” “jayvee team,” the initial claim that Benghazi was a protest that got out of control, the characterization of the Fort Hood shooting as “workplace violence,” the initial claim that the San Bernardino attack was also “workplace violence,” the claims that the Orlando attack was a result of “Republican hate” and homophobia. The FBI initially redacted all references to ISIS in the transcript of the Orlando shooter’s call.

It is not wildly irrational to believe that there are some people out there who want to kill you, and that the United States government isn’t willing to be honest with you about the situation.

But those who have long memories or who have studied history may dispute that this is the most paranoid, frightening, or dangerous moment in American life.

When you think about times when it felt like American society was coming apart at the seams, I can only imagine how Americans felt in 1974 when the long-lost kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst reappeared, only to have been brainwashed into becoming a bank robber for a cult/terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army. The level of political violence in the early 1970s is jaw-dropping today:

The first actual bombing campaign, the work of a group of New York City radicals led by a militant named Sam Melville, featured attacks on a dozen buildings around Manhattan between August and November 1969, when Melville and most of his pals were arrested.

Weather’s attacks began three months later, and by 1971 protest bombings had spread across the country. In a single eighteen-month period during 1971 and 1972 the FBI counted an amazing 2,500 bombings on American soil, almost five a day. Because they were typically detonated late at night, few caused serious injury, leading to a kind of grudging public acceptance. The deadliest underground attack of the decade, in fact, killed all of four people, in the January 1975 bombing of a Wall Street restaurant. News accounts rarely carried any expression or indication of public outrage.

That’s before my time, but the paranoia of the 1990s wasn’t. Start with the first World Trade Center bombing, then move on to Waco, Ruby Ridge, the Oklahoma City bombing, the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics, TWA Flight 800, John F. Kennedy Jr.’s death in a plane crash, and EgyptAir flight 990 suddenly descending and crashing into the ocean with a seemingly calm pilot at the controls.

It’s not surprising that The X-Files was a hit and Art Bell was a sensation on radio during those years, because the nightly news was turning twisted and weird and disturbing. Jeffrey Dahmer ate people. That old football star who was in wacky comedies was charged with murdering two people. A Long Island teenager shot her married lover’s wife, and turned into some sort of weird celebrity. A rivalry between Olympic figure skating stars turned violent.

When things are bad, and weird, and ominous, it helps to remember . . .  we’ve been though variations of this before, and managed to pull through. We’ll get through this, too.

ADDENDA: A perfectly faux-inspiring slogan from my friend Lisa De Pasquale’s new book, The Social Justice Warrior Handbook: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of good over evil is to tweet about it.”

Please, Democrats, Take Bret Stephens’ Advice

by Jim Geraghty

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens — allegedly one of the right-of-center voices on the newspaper’s editorial page — is going to get a tsunami of grief for today’s column, which is not-too-subtly titled, “Repeal the Second Amendment.”

And if you take all of his arguments at face value, Stephens demonstrates an infuriatingly snobby contempt for his fellow citizens — “gun enthusiasts fantasizing that Red Dawn is the fate that soon awaits us” — and gets basic facts wrong. He declares, “from a personal-safety standpoint, more guns means less safety,” ignoring the fact that crime rates have steadily declined as gun ownership has increased.

But then we come to this section:

In fact, the more closely one looks at what passes for “common sense” gun laws, the more feckless they appear. Americans who claim to be outraged by gun crimes should want to do something more than tinker at the margins of a legal regime that most of the developed world rightly considers nuts. They should want to change it fundamentally and permanently.

There is only one way to do this: Repeal the Second Amendment.

Call me crazy, but I think Stephens’ proposal is a giant bear trap for liberals and Democrats.

We haven’t amended the Constitution since 1992, when we decreed any law affecting Congressional salaries cannot take effect until the next election — i.e., banning members of Congress from voting themselves a pay increase. We’ve never repealed a part of the Bill of Rights. And that’s just what Stephens is urging Democrats to openly embrace, promise, and campaign on.

Can you picture some Democratic candidate supporting the repeal of the Second Amendment? The attack ads would declare: “John Smith thinks the U.S. Constitution gives you have too many rights . . .  and he wants to cut the Bill of Rights by ten percent!”

Or even better: “If John Smith doesn’t think you deserve your Second Amendment rights . . .  how many more of your Constitutional rights does he want to take away?”

If the Democrats made a sustained push for a Constitutional amendment repealing the right to bear arms, Republicans would never have to worry about getting out the vote again. NRA membership would explode. Pro-gun Democrats would switch parties. Portions of key groups within the party could recoil, no pun intended. According to the most recent Pew Research Center survey, 32 percent of African-Americans say either they or someone else in their household owns a gun.

The most incendiary Republican accusation of Democrats — that they don’t really care about the Constitution, that they just want ever-expanding government power and the authority to micro-manage every little decision in your life — would be largely verified in many American minds.

(Democratic congressman Phil Hare of Illinois in 2010, when asked where in the Constitution it authorized Congress to make Americans purchase health insurance: “I don’t worry about the Constitution on this.” When pressed, he said, “I believe that it says we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” When informed that he has just quoted the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, he responded, “it doesn’t matter to me.”)

And when asked by Gallup in October 2016 “whether there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?”, just 23 percent supported it, 76 percent of respondents opposed it.

The Democrats have 48 senators, 194 House members, 15 governors, and 3,114 members of state legislatures, their fewest number of elected offices held in generations. And now Bret Stephens wants them to spend the next few cycles campaigning for the repeal of America’s gun rights? This is some Iago-level manipulation right here.

New Ad Push Will Pressure Democrats to Support Tax Reform

Americans for Prosperity is launching a $4.5 million ad campaign, calling on Democratic senators to unify around the tax reform framework released recently by the “Big 6.” The ads, which will air on cable and local networks over the next three weeks, call on Senators Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), Tammy Baldwin (D., Wisc.) and Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.) to join with lawmakers working to advance tax reform that simplifies the tax code and provides relief to middle-income Americans.

You can watch the McCaskill version here, the Baldwin version here, and the Donnelly version here.

AFP is quick to point out that these three Democratic senators have all said in recent years that they want to overhaul and simplify the tax code:

Tammy Baldwin has said tax reform should level the playing field and bring stability. “At the heart of any comprehensive tax reform package,” Baldwin urged fellow lawmakers, “there needs to be recognition that the biggest gap facing America is the gap between the economic security Americans work so hard to achieve, and the economic uncertainty that they are asked to settle for.”

This year, Joe Donnelly has been calling for some of the same reforms AFP supports. “Hoosiers deserve a tax code that is fair, efficient, and encourages businesses to invest here at home,” his website reads. Donnelly says he will “work with members on both sides of the aisle to develop a tax code that is fair and encourages economic growth.” Now’s his chance to make good on that promise and un-rig the American economy.

In 2014, McCaskill called for an end to special-interest handouts. “We just want to level the playing field,” she said, noting that closing loopholes would allow Congress to cut tax rates for everyone. “I think we all want to lower corporate tax rates,” McCaskill added.

Why do I get the feeling that certain Democratic senators will treat tax reform the way certain Republican senators treated legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare? “Oh, I completely support the idea in theory and share the goal, but I just can’t support this particular legislation because argle-bargle blah blah blah hey look squirrel. I support perfect legislation that exists in theory but that I will never quite getting around to writing down and introducing myself.”

How Nervous Should Virginia Republicans Be Right Now?

Ugh. I thought I was seeing more ads for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in Virginia on my local airwaves, and this new poll from the Washington Post suggests Northam’s ad blitz might be having an effect:

Northam leads [Republican Ed] Gillespie by 53 percent to 40 percent among likely voters, with 4 percent supporting Libertarian Cliff Hyra. The advantage is similar to a Post-Schar School poll this spring but larger than in other public polls of likely voters released over the past month, most of which found Northam up by single digits.

But the race is still fluid, with a sizable number of likely voters — one in four — saying they could change their mind before Nov. 7.

“There’s a lack of intensity right now,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, which co-sponsored the survey. “Many fewer people than typically at this stage are paying close attention, and the candidates at this point have really not excited the electorate. . . .  A lot can change in the next month. If I were the Northam campaign, I would not feel too comfortable right now.”

Then again, the last time the Washington Post surveyed Virginians about this race, way back in May, they had an 11-point margin; most polls in the interim showed a much closer race. Around this time four years ago, the Post poll found Republican Ken Cuccinelli trailing by 8 points; he lost on Election Day by 2.5 points. Maybe the Post’s samples overestimate Democratic turnout by a couple of points.

Four years ago, exit polls showed a Virginia electorate that was 37 percent Democratic, 32 percent Republican, and 47 percent independent or something else. (Keep in mind, Virginia does not register voters by party, so this is entirely self-identified.) The Post survey sample is 34 percent Democrat, 24 percent Republican, 32 percent independent, 6 percent “other,” and 5 percent said “no opinion” when asked “Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a . . . ”

Maybe that last group meant, “none of your business”?

ADDENDA: The New Republic bothers to watch NRATV and is surprised to find my friend Cam Edwards is “mild-mannered.”  He could start a collection of these observations; the Los Angeles Times profiled him in 2016 and was surprised to find him “a calm, steady voice.”

Hey, guys, not every gun owner is Yosemite Sam.

How to Stop the Next Mass Shooter

by Jim Geraghty

When you express skepticism about the value, legality, or effectiveness about gun control proposals after a mass shooting, you’re often asked, “okay, smart guy, how would you prevent the next one?”

When you look at the more infamous mass shootings in recent years, you see a disturbing pattern.

After the Virginia Tech shooting, Lucinda Roy, co-director of the university’s creative writing program, described her meeting with police, attempting to describe her concerns about the shooter:

“The threats seemed to be underneath the surface. They were not explicit,” she recalled. “And that was the difficulty that the police had. I would go to the police and to the counselors and to student affairs and everywhere else, and they would say, ‘There’s nothing explicit here. He’s not actually saying he’s going to kill someone.’ And my argument was he seemed so disturbed anyway that we needed to do something about this.”

In Aurora, Colorado: “When [the Aurora shooter’s] psychiatrist warned campus police at the University of Colorado how dangerous he was, they deactivated his college ID to prevent him passing through any locked doors.”

In Tuscon, Arizona:

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told ABC News that campus police had to get involved at the college where [the shooter] once attended after a number of complaints.

“All I can tell you is that teachers and fellow students were concerned about his bizarre behavior in class to the point where some of him were physically afraid of him,” Dupnik said. “He was acting in very weird fashion to the point where they had several incidents with him to the point where law enforcement at Pima College got involved and they decided to expel him. And they did.”

In Isla Vista, California: “Last month, the 22-year-old wrote, his mother was so concerned about his well-being after seeing some of his videos on YouTube that she contacted mental-health officials, who dispatched sheriff’s deputies to check on him at his apartment in Isla Vista, an enclave near the University of California at Santa Barbara.”

The Sandy Hook shooter made unbelievably bloody and disturbing drawings. In case after case, we see fairly clear signals that the shooter is deeply troubled and in many cases is growing obsessed with violence.

A stunning number of school shooters since Columbine indicated an obsessive interest in that shooting. Fascinating and disturbing research by Mother Jones found that the shooting inspired “at least 74 plots or attacks across 30 states” and “in at least 14 cases, the Columbine copycats aimed to attack on the anniversary of the original massacre. Individuals in 13 cases indicated that their goal was to outdo the Columbine body count. In at least 10 cases, the suspects and attackers referred to the pair.”

We have all heard the slogan, “If you see something, say something.” Lots of people do say something; quite a few of the infamous mass shooters of recent years had already been reported to police for strange, threatening, or troubling behavior. Unfortunately, the police did not see sufficient reason to press charges or have the person placed in a mental institution.

What will stop the next mass shooting? The family, loved ones, peers and psychologists of the next shooter taking their disturbing or threatening behavior seriously, reporting it to the police, and the police taking it seriously.

Were there warning signs or strange behavior in the case of the Las Vegas shooter? Maybe.

Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock encouraged his girlfriend Marilou Danley to leave the country before his attack that left 58 people dead, her sisters told CNN affiliate in Australia 7 News.

The sisters, who spoke to 7 News exclusively, did not want to be identified by name and requested their faces be blurred.

“I know that she don’t know anything as well like us. She was sent away. She was away so that she will be not there to interfere with what he’s planning,” one of Danley’s sisters told 7 News from their home in Australia’s Gold Coast region.

“In that sense, I thank him for sparing my sister’s life,” she said, adding her sister was “really in love with Steve.”

The other sister said Danley, who arrived back in the US from the Philippines on Tuesday, “didn’t even know that she was going to the Philippines, until Steve said, ‘Marilou, I found you a cheap ticket to the Philippines.’”

Do people often urge their significant others to leave the country suddenly and out of the blue?

Reagan’s Argument for Eliminating the State and Local Tax Deduction

You’ll recall that I’m wary about the GOP proposal to eliminate the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes. I argued it amounts to a punishment for a lot of people who voted for Trump in places like New York, New Jersey, and California. I thought one of the reasons Republicans wanted to cut taxes was to let people keep more of their money, so they will then use it to buy things and stimulate the economy. Eliminating the deduction would dramatically reduce the impact of the coming tax cut for millions of Americans.

America Rising reaches out, sharing two clips of President Ronald Reagan calling for this deduction to be eliminated. First, in an address to the nation, May 1985:

REAGAN: “We’re reducing tax rates by simplifying the complex system of special provisions that favor some at the expense of others. Restoring confidence in our tax system means restoring and respecting the principle of fairness for all. This means curtailing some business deductions now being written off; it means ending several personal deductions, including the state and local tax deduction, which actually provides a special subsidy for high-income individuals, especially in a few high-tax states. Two-thirds of Americans don’t even itemize, so they receive no benefit from the state and local tax deduction. But they’re being forced to subsidize the high-tax policies of a handful of states. This is truly taxation without representation.”

Then a month later, speaking to state and local officials at the White House:

REAGAN: “Now, I know that many are concerned about our proposed elimination of the state and local tax deduction. Well, the first point to make here is an argument for fairness — and I have a hunch that maybe somebody here’s already made this argument — but only about one in three itemize their deductions and get the benefit of that deduction. There can be no justification for a preference that gives the wealthiest — one taxpayer in three — a rebate on local taxes while its less fortunate members or neighbors pay a full dollar locally plus higher Federal taxes in order to fund that rebate. Recently, too, I heard some good news from my home state of California. Now, California is generally considered one of the high-tax states and so, according to the prevailing wisdom, would have the most to lose from the loss of deductibility. The Los Angeles Times has reported, however, that the State Franchise Tax Board has completed a study, finding that Californians would dramatically benefit under our new plan. In the end, all America will benefit from this fairer, pro-growth tax plan. In the words of Democratic governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, ‘If my taxpayers are better off, particularly my middle-income taxpayers are better off under this plan, that’s really the issue, isn’t it?’”

First, doesn’t it feel good to hear that voice again?

Second, the Reagan argument is compelling, but it basically contends that those who find their cumulative level of federal, state, and local taxation unbearable should move to different states. That may work as economic theory, but many Americans won’t find that easy to do for a variety of reasons — jobs, families, roots, etc. And if these frustrated taxpayers did move from these blue states to red states, this policy change would basically drain the blue states of the voters most concerned about taxes.

Third, did Republicans tell the voters they wanted to do this on the campaign trail in 2016? It wasn’t mentioned in the party platform at the convention.

Fourth, in the House of Representatives, there are 14 Republicans from California, nine Republicans from New York, and five Republicans from New Jersey. How many of those Republicans get reelected if their constituents feel like they missed out on the tax cut the rest of the country got? Keep in mind, Democrats need to flip 24 seats to take over the House.

Who Wants to Work in Trump’s Cabinet?

This is why presidents don’t usually berate, criticize, or mock members of their own cabinet in public. Your own people stop wanting to work with you.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was on the verge of resigning this past summer amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House, according to multiple senior administration officials who were aware of the situation at the time.

The tensions came to a head around the time President Donald Trump delivered a politicized speech in late July to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization Tillerson once led, the officials said.

Just days earlier, Tillerson had openly disparaged the president, referring to him as a “moron,” after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon with members of Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials, according to three officials familiar with the incident.

While it’s unclear if he was aware of the incident, Vice President Mike Pence counseled Tillerson, who is fourth in line to the presidency, on ways to ease tensions with Trump, and other top administration officials urged him to remain in the job at least until the end of the year, officials said.

In light of Trump’s continuing mocking of Tillerson on Twitter, is it likely Tillerson is out by January? Or perhaps even sooner?

Tillerson must be thinking, “I left Exxon Mobil for this?”

Working in the Trump administration has brought frustration, humiliation, and/or sudden departures to Tom Price, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon, and Sebastian Gorka.

Yesterday in the Corner, we discussed the notion of former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal joining the Trump administration as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services.  His name came up as an option during the transition, and I, super-Jindal-fan, was excited at the thought then. But now that we’ve seen the Trump administration in operation for eight months?

How likely is it that the relationship would run smoothly, or that Trump and the new HHS Secretary will get the results they want? When Trump gets frustrated, he blames his staff, often publicly.

So yes, I concur with Jonah and Yuval Levin that Tevi Troy would be an excellent choice to be the next HHS Secretary, perhaps even the best possible choice. I just don’t know why we would want to punish Tevi that way.

ADDENDA: I’m told listeners to the Three Martini Lunch podcast are reaching amazing rates for completion; that is, people who start listening tend to listen to the end. (Most episodes range from about twelve to twenty minutes.) Either Greg and I are really good, or our show is just quicker than our audience’s attention span.

On Journalism and Speculation after a Tragedy

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why speculation after a horrible event is natural and not all that harmful at all, an update on that report of a mysterious woman seemingly warning about the coming attack, and the outlook for that “common sense gun legislation.”

Who Exactly Is Harmed When People Speculate After a Terrible Event?

Quite a few times on Monday, various scolds on Twitter told us not to speculate about the motivation behind the abominable mass shooting in Las Vegas.

And in the realm of journalism, discussing an unproven theory on camera or in print is, well, bad journalism, because it can easily be misconstrued as reported fact. It assumes facts not in evidence, jumps to conclusions, and can point the finger of blame in a particular direction that could very well be the wrong one.

And yet, when human beings are confronted with something shocking, horrifying, and not easily explained, they speculate. They search for answers based upon what little they know. When the talking heads and experts finish not speculating on camera, they speculate too, floating theories, attempting to examine the few clues and details we know and arrange a narrative that explains them. This is one of those times where Twitter’s role in the journalism realm isn’t quite clear. Does a Tweet from a journalist count as a publication, with all of the weight and responsibility that suggests? Or is it the equivalent of off-the-cuff water-cooler talk? If a journalist says, “I think the shooter did it because X,” is that dangerous baseless speculation, or is it just saying what he thinks?

A few folks flipped out about David French’s Corner post from yesterday, accusing David of feeding conspiracy theories. All he did was point out that based upon what we know of past mass shootings, the Las Vegas shooter is quite incongruous. While many mass shooters use more than one firearm, this shooter had 23 guns (!) in his hotel room.

The shooter’s brother described the shooter as “not an avid gun guy at all”; perhaps that comment is best explained as the siblings simply not knowing each other well or shock. Still, but no one else noticed anything odd about the aspiring mass-murderer in the weeks and days leading to the attack? He left no manifesto, no screed, no litany of grievances?

The killer has no criminal record, and no known mental-health record. As far as we know, no one who knew him saw this coming.

Even more bizarrely, this wasn’t just a sudden burst of rage. Add up the purchase price of the guns, the ammunition, and the cost of the hotel room and you have a sizable sum of money. His brother described him as a multi-millionaire.

The selection of the hotel room provided the shooter with a small, locked, secure location overlooking a large crowd, a location where return fire from the ground was impossible or impossibly dangerous. Yesterday I rubbed some people the wrong way with this observation, so I’ll try to articulate it more clearly now: At this time, the authorities have no evidence that this shooter was connected to any terror group. But this is precisely the sort of thing a terror group would like to do, and we should be on alert for attempts to copy these methods. (How many hotels overlook large gathering spaces like parks, plazas, public squares, stadiums?)

This was no spree; this was a meticulously planned monstrous crime.  And now since David’s post, we’ve learned that the shooter had ammonium nitrate in his car, a substance that can be used to build a bomb.

Returning to the maligned notion of speculation . . .  what exactly are we worried about here? That we’ll smear the name of a mass murderer? That public speculation will lead the police authorities in the wrong direction? Come on, give the authorities credit. The Las Vegas police and FBI are professionals, they’re not going to refocus their investigation on a theory just because it’s popular on social media.

Could speculation inadvertently feed into false rumors and conspiracy theories that flourish after an event like this? Perhaps, and no honorable American should be spreading around nonsense and lies designed to make people more fearful and suspicious of their fellow citizens. That’s Russia’s job. But even there, the problem stems from believing the speculative theory in the face of contrary evidence, not with speculation itself.

Author Thomas Wictor examines what is known about the shooter’s father, an infamous bank robber once on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, and points out some other oddities in the details of the shooter’s life, at least as currently reported.  The shooter allegedly had multiple residences, moved frequently and with little warning, consistent gambling winnings to finance a luxurious lifestyle, took very few photographs (when was the last time you saw the news media use a photo of a person with his eyes closed?) and a large personal arsenal of guns. The shooter may not have had a criminal record, but in light of all this how certain can we be this is the first time he committed a violent crime?

One Mystery, Sort-Of Solved

Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit looks at the strange report that a woman approached concertgoers 45 minutes before the shooting started and told them, “you’re all going to die tonight.” Obviously, that mysterious anecdote stirred questions about whether someone knew what the shooter was planning.

But a subsequent report in the Daily Mail makes the mysterious woman’s comments seem less prophetic and more mentally-unstable.

Hendricks never mentions the detail about the woman acting crazy and playing with people’s hair or babbling about “them” being “all around us” in the interview with the reporter below. That makes it sound like the mystery woman was off her nut, possibly high on God knows what drug (it’s Vegas, after all), and paranoid. If she was annoying people by harassing them and they started yelling for security to kick her out, she might have gotten angry and threatened them. It really might have been nothing more than an amazing coincidence.

According to Hendricks, security officers did come and escort the woman out. Assuming they’ve already been interviewed by police, which is a safe assumption, what are we to make of the fact that Las Vegas police hasn’t issued a BOLO for a Hispanic couple matching Hendricks’s description? They must have concluded it was a coincidence too.

Reality is mysterious enough.

The Chimerical ‘Common Sense Gun-Control Legislation’

You’re going to hear a lot of calls for “common sense gun-control legislation” in the coming days and weeks. Last night, all of the late-night talk show hosts sang from the same songbook.

What “common sense gun-control legislation” would have stopped this? As noted above, the shooter had no criminal record and no history of mental illness, so all of his gun purchases were legal.

Hillary Clinton immediately tweeted about the danger from “silencers” — more accurately called suppressors — that were not used in the shooting. Gun experts doubt the presence of suppressors would have made any difference in Las Vegas, between the sound of the concert, the echoes of the gunshots, and the fact that suppressors usually only work for the initial shots.

You may see more discussion of banning “bump stocks” and other tools that allow a person to fire a semiautomatic weapon at a much faster rate, akin to an automatic weapon. It’s easier to picture this proposal getting some real legislative traction. The ban on automatic weapons is constitutionally sound, and the laws banning the conversion of semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons is also surviving legal challenges, so it seems likely that the courts would look sympathetically upon banning tools designed to work around a constitutionally-approved restriction. Unlike silencers, the Las Vegas gunman reportedly did use at least one bump stock.

Yesterday, talk-show host Andy Cohen asked, “How about we ban machine guns?” Quite a few people pointed out to him that they have been banned since 1986.

After being corrected, Cohen just altered his goal:  “Great news. How bout semi-automatics?”

PolitiFact is reasonably accurate and clear on this:

In simplest terms, “semi-automatic” refers to any firearm designed to fire one bullet with one trigger squeeze, then automatically reload the chamber with a cartridge from a magazine and be ready to fire again.

The term applies to a whole range of modern firearms, from hunting and target rifles all the way up to so-called black rifles that look like what a soldier would carry. Gun control arguments often focus often focus on the black rifles, but the differences between those and any other semi-automatic rifle often are only cosmetic. Semi-automatic guns all largely operate the same way.

Automatic weapons, which are often described as machine guns, are different, in that squeezing the trigger once fires cartridges repeatedly until the shooter releases it.

While semi-automatic rifles are widely available, fully automatic weapons are not. You can still buy an automatic weapon, but their sale and ownership is highly regulated and exceptionally expensive.

Banning semiautomatics would ban the vast majority of guns in private hands today. Enforcement would be quite challenging; the same people who believe that the government could never round up all illegal immigrants seem to believe the government could quickly and peaceably seize millions of firearms from millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans.

Any semiautomatic ban would be challenged in court for violating the Second Amendment, and there is a good chance the Supreme Court, at least as currently constituted, would strike down a semiautomatic ban as unconstitutional.

If Democrats want to campaign on repealing the Second Amendment — and let’s face it, most of them actually believe that the amendment is an outdated menace — no conservative will stand in their way.

ADDENDA: Not all is dark in the world. The Major League Baseball playoffs begin tonight, and the league must be thrilled. The four most-populated cities in the country have a team in the mix: the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs, and the Houston Astros. There’s a classic feel with the presence of legendary franchises like the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Minnesota Twins. And then there are new or relatively new powerhouses like the Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Colorado Rockies.

Awakening to the News of the Most Deadly Shooting in U.S. History

by Jim Geraghty

An awful way to start the week:

At least 50 people are dead and more than 200 wounded after a gunman opened fire on a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in the most deadly shooting in U.S. history.

Police said the suspect, identified as 64-year-old local resident Stephen Paddock, was located on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino when he took aim at the nearby Route 91 Harvest Festival.

Local television news reports showed crowds of people in Las Vegas ducking for cover as the sound of rapid gunshots rang out, while dozens of patrol vehicles descended on the Strip.

Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said the suspect was shot dead by officers and that authorities were confident there was no longer a threat.

He said police found numerous firearms in the room he occupied and that officers were also at his residence.

The death toll may surpass the current total, from the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, when jihadist Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 58 more. The death toll from Virginia Tech was 32; Sandy Hook, 27.

Notice this detail: “The suspect was known to police in Mesquite and had a criminal history, the sources said. Lombardo said authorities believe they had found a traveling companion of the deceased gunman they were seeking, who Lombardo identified as Marilou Danley, 62. Law enforcement sources tell Milton that Danley was Paddock’s wife.”

One can’t help but wonder if she is related to this particular unnerving detail from a survivor’s account:

A woman who was at the concert told a local news station that a “lady pushed her way forward in the concert venue. And she started messing with another lady and told us that we are all going to die tonight. … It was about 45 minutes the shots were actually fired. But then she was escorted out by security.” But police have not confirmed if they believe that was related to the shooting.

Is it possible this was a case of a woman knowing the man in her life was about to do something terrible and rash, but she didn’t have the mental wherewithal to stop him or call the police, so she ran into the crowd and tried to warn people?

One of the most enraging aspects of mass shootings in recent years is the now almost predictable reports of individuals close to the shooter feeling threatened and  warning authorities, only to see either insufficient response or no response at all. Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora — in each case, individuals went to school administrators or campus police, only to have their warnings fall on deaf ears.

Two off-duty police officers attending the concert were killed, according to Clark County sheriff Joseph Lombardo. The Las Vegas Police Department reported that two on-duty officers were injured during the shooting. “One is in stable condition after surgery and the other sustained minor injuries.”

We’re going to hear a lot of questions in the coming days about “why did he do it? Does it matter? Aren’t all of these shooters more or less the same?” In their minds, they’ve been wronged by the world; the world owed them something, and it refused to give it to them. The Isla Vista shooter believed he deserved pretty women; the Alexandria shooter who tried to kill GOP congressmen believed he deserved a world where his party was in charge. The Columbine killers believed they deserved a world where they would never feel ostracized.

After mass shootings, I often find myself referring back to the observations of Willard Gaylin, one of the world’s preeminent psychology professors. Gaylin writes about the dangers of “grievance collecting” in his book Hatred: The Psychological Descent into Violence:

Grievance collecting is a step on the journey to a full-blown paranoid psychosis. A grievance collector will move from the passive assumption of deprivation and low expectancy common to most paranoid personalities to a more aggressive mode. He will not endure passively his deprived state; he will occupy himself with accumulating evidence of his misfortunes and locating the sources. Grievance collectors are distrustful and provocative, convinced that they are always taken advantage of and given less than their fair share.  . . . 

Underlying this philosophy is an undeviating comparative and competitive view of life. Everything is part of a zero-sum game. Deprivation can be felt in another person’s abundance of good fortune.

In this light, a worldview of gratitude, counting one’s blessings, and always keeping in mind that no matter how bad our troubles, there’s someone else out there who’s dealing with worse ones, isn’t just nicer, more optimistic, or more Christian. It’s a tool for warding off self-absorption, bitterness, and madness. A relentless focus on how others have failed you and how the world at large doesn’t live up to your standards could just turn you into a monster.

I Thought Spaniards Were Laid Back . . . 

A NATO ally just violently suppressed a referendum on independence by a region. And surprise! It wasn’t Turkey this time.

Catalonia’s defiant attempt to stage an independence referendum descended into chaos on Sunday, with hundreds injured in clashes with police in one of the gravest tests of Spain’s democracy since the end of the Franco dictatorship in the 1970s.

National police officers in riot gear, sent by the central government in Madrid from other parts of Spain, used rubber bullets and truncheons in some places as they fanned out across Catalonia, the restive northeastern region, to shut down polling stations and seize ballot boxes.

The clashes quickly spoiled what had been a festive, if expectant, atmosphere among voters, many of whom had camped inside polling stations and stayed on into late Sunday night, fearful that officers might seize ballot boxes.

More than 750 people were injured in the crackdown, Catalan officials said, while dozens of Spanish police officers were hurt, according to Spain’s interior ministry.

The Madrid government, with the backing of Spanish courts, had declared the referendum unconstitutional and ordered the vote suspended. But that did not stop Catalans from gathering before sunrise on Sunday, massing on rain-slicked streets across the region.

Catalonian independence may or may not be in the interest of the United States. But it is not in our interest to just shrug when one of our allies engages in heavy-handed political censorship:

The website of the National Catalan Assembly at assemblea.ca was also shut down and for a while displayed a message from the Spanish military police announcing in Spanish and English that the domain has been “seized pursuant to a seizure warrant.” The domain has since been redirected to assemblea.eu, outside the purview of the Spanish authorities.

The Spanish government has not officially admitted it ordered ISPs to prevent people from accessing specific websites, but DNS observers have seen unusual activity, suggesting servers are being blocked by domain name. Meanwhile, the Catalonian government has sent a letter to the European Commission claiming that the Spanish government is in breach of EU law.

“These articles have been violated by the order sent to Spanish telecommunications operators to cut access to web pages that inform about the referendum on self-determination, as well as those internet domains that are publicized or published to the social networks of the . . .  members of the Government,” the Catalonian government complains in the letter.

The Federal Response to the Crisis in Puerto Rico

FEMA has a detailed timeline of their response to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico. As of Friday:

There are more than 10,000 federal staff representing 36 departments and agencies, including more than 800 FEMA personnel on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands engaged in response and recovery operations from hurricanes Maria and Irma.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) made $40 million available to the PR Highways and Transportation Authority (PHRTA) for emergency relief work to impacted roads.

In Puerto Rico, 56 of 68 hospitals are partially operational, and one hospital is fully operational.

The Concordia potable water pump station is online in St. Croix.

FEMA search and rescue teams have accessed 90 percent of Puerto Rico, conducting search and rescue operations and helping to assess hospitals.

All municipalities in Puerto Rico have been reached by FEMA US&R, the Department of Health and Human Services, Commonwealth officials, and/or the National Guard.

17 chainsaw teams (34 individuals) and one Incident Management Team (IMT) (23 individuals) from the Department of Agriculture United States Forest Service arrive in Puerto Rico to conduct emergency road clearance and manage logistics.

To bolster the delivery of fuel throughout Puerto Rico, 100 delivery trucks were dispatched by the Defense Logistics Agency.

Then there’s this stunning bottleneck:

A mountain of food, water and other vital supplies has arrived in Puerto Rico’s main Port of San Juan. But a shortage of truckers and the island’s devastated infrastructure are making it tough to move aid to where it’s needed most, officials say. At least 10,000 containers of supplies — including food, water and medicine — were sitting Thursday at the San Juan port, said Jose Ayala, the Crowley shipping company’s vice president in Puerto Rico.

As of last week, the San Juan port was at capacity. The arguments against the administration are predictable: “Donald Trump Doesn’t Care About Puerto Ricans.”

The San Juan Mayor’s infamous “I am mad as hell” speech was delivered . . .  in front of pallets of food and water.

“We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles.” If the situation is that dire, literally life-and-death, why is the food and water sitting on pallets behind her during the press conference, instead of being distributed right then and there? Who had the time and resources to print up a “Help Us We Are Dying” t-shirt for her in the middle of an ongoing crisis?

Naturally, President Trump responds to the criticism in the most inflammatory and least illuminating way possible: “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

ADDENDA: Hey, look at those AFC East standings . . . 

Raise your hand if you expected, after one quarter of the season, for the Patriots defense to have allowed 36 more points than the Jets’ defense.

Congressional Republicans’ Tax Plan Isn’t Great For Trump Suburbanites

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: How one aspect of the GOP tax plan could accidentally sock it to a group of Trump voters, a reviled figure prepares to return to American society, several NFL teams announce they’ll stand for the anthem going forward, and what 80s sitcoms can teach us about the American founding.

The Tax Hike Coming to Trump Voters in Blue States

Get ready for an epic fight on taxes in Congress that won’t necessarily break along partisan lines, but along state lines.

You’re going to hear a lot of scoffing from Republicans that the places where taxpayers use the state and local tax deduction the most are deep blue places like New York and Westchester counties in New York State and Marin and San Francisco counties in California. Some on the right will ask why they should care about hitting the wealthiest, and often most liberal, places in the country with a giant tax increase. They’ll argue, with some justification, that this amounts to a federal subsidy for high-taxing states, and shields big-spending state and local governments from the full consequences of their appetite for tax increases.

But fans of this move are probably going to want to avoid confronting the fact that it would also hit the suburbs that supported Trump in those blue states hard, too. It’s not just Nancy Pelosi and the folks on Billionaire’s Row in San Francisco who deduct their state and local taxes.

The Tax Foundation calculated which counties’ taxpayers deduct their state and local taxes the most by taking 2014 returns, adding up the total of all of the deductions for state and local taxes, and dividing by the number of returns filed. They created a really cool interactive map with the data. In a lot of ways, it looks like a familiar red/blue map of the presidential vote by county. East coast urban counties take a lot of state and local deductions, and rural parts of the country do not. This is because urban counties usually have high property and local taxes, and more rural red counties usually have lower taxes.

But just because Trump lost states like New York and New Jersey doesn’t mean he didn’t win any places in those states. The county that ranks ninth in the nation in deductions for state and local taxes is Morris County, New Jersey, with $11,440. Trump won that county, 49 percent to 45 percent. Not too far from there is Monmouth County, where Trump won, 52 percent to 43 percent. The average return there deducts $9,105.

Trump lost his home state of New York overall by a wide margin, but won several counties in the suburbs of New York City. He won Suffolk County on Long Island 51 percent to 46 percent; the average taxpayer there deducts $8,096. He won Putnam County, north of the city, 55 percent to 39 percent. The average Putman taxpayer deducts even more, $8,855. Trump narrowly won Frederick County, Maryland; residents there average $5,729.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans from these parts of the country hate this idea.

Congressman Peter King (R., N.Y.), who represents part of Long Island, says he is on board with the GOP’s philosophy of eliminating tax breaks and cutting rates, right up to the point where it thwacks his constituents and their ability to subtract $12,000 annual property-tax bills from their federal income.

“I am a Jack Kemp Republican,” he said in a recent interview. “I believe in supply-side economics. I’m all for that. But again, this has a unique hit on Long Island.”

In the weeks leading up to the White House’s announcement, Mr. King, New York Democrats and business groups had been urging Republican leaders in Congress to back off their proposal to repeal the deduction. Instead, the administration—in which the president and his two top economic advisers are high-income residents of blue states—chose repeal.

Yes, the overall tax rates are going to go down, but a lot of these taxpayers are going to see their level of taxable income go up by a couple thousand dollars, eating up a big chunk of whatever reduction the other cuts give them. Are Republicans sure they want one of the first major legislative accomplishments of the Trump era to be a giant tax hike on suburbanites in coastal states?

Look Who’s Back, at the Worst Possible Time

Ugh. The country is angry, divided, tense, full of suspicion and accusations about racism, police misconduct, lack of accountability, a legal system that is tied in knots by opaque thinking of jurors, and a sense that football players have insufficient respect for the challenging lives of those in law enforcement.

How could this possibly get any worse? Oh, that’s right, O.J. Simpson is getting out of prison.

CBS News has a new poll:

Looking back, most Americans today think that O.J. Simpson is guilty of the 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. 71 percent think so, a slight increase from the 67 percent who thought so in October 1995, when the jury came back with a not guilty verdict.

A large majority of white Americans thought then, and still think today, that O.J. Simpson is guilty of the murders. There has been a shift in the perspective of black Americans however. While 69 percent of blacks said that O.J. Simpson was innocent in 1995, today black Americans are evenly divided.

CBS glides over one of the more fascinating aspects of the poll. When asked whether the 1995 trial was mostly decided on the merits of the case, or mostly decided by factors of race, 41 percent of whites and 39 percent of blacks think it was on the merits. But 37 percent of whites and 44 percent of blacks think it was decided by race. I interpret that as blacks being slightly more willing to say that the jurors let Simpson off the hook because of his race than whites are.

What Does an NFL Player Have to See in Order to Stand Again?

During last night’s Thursday Night Football game, all of the Green Bay Packers and all of the Chicago Bears stood and locked arms. Meanwhile, over in Pittsburgh:

After facing backlash about standing in the tunnel during the national anthem last Sunday, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey says the team will stand this Sunday.

“I promise you one thing, this week we will all be standing out there for the national anthem. Trust me,” Pouncey said Wednesday.

Pouncey says he expects the entire team to be on the field for the anthem.

“As far as I know it’s 100 percent participation,” Pouncey told reporters. “We love this country. It’s America. We know there are injustice in this world, but to me, personally, football is football and that’s what we need to approach it as.”

The Denver Broncos also announced they will stand for the anthem Sunday.

A question I’d like asked of NFL players who continue to choose to kneel for the national anthem: What would you need to see to make you decide to stand again?

If you’re taking a knee because you feel like America has fallen short of living up to the values it proclaims . . .  well, it’s only done that every day since July 4, 1776, and it will probably do that every day until the Second Coming. We’re a flawed nation because we’re full of human beings, and human beings are flawed. We will always have some lawmaker taking bribes, we will always have some cop somewhere abusing his power, some citizen committing a crime against another, someone demonizing another group of people. There is no heaven on this earth, and you cannot measure the quality of your country against heaven.

What Winston Churchill said about democracy feels like a good way of describing the country as a whole: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. . . . ” The United States of America is really flawed, but we’ll choose our flaws against other countries’ flaws any day of the week.

Those of us who stand aren’t saying that the country is perfect. The song doesn’t say that the country is perfect. Oddly, it ends on a question, almost a challenge: “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” In other words, is that flag still flying (yes) and is the country it flies over still the land of the free and the home of the brave? The answer, throughout our history has been, generally yes, although maybe not quite free enough, and perhaps not brave enough.

Everybody who stands for the anthem can probably point to some aspect of American life that really disappoints or angers them. Individuals and groups within this country can be materialistic, shallow, ignorant, lazy, spoiled, selfish, abusive . . .  but those flaws aren’t what define us as a whole. The vast majority of us stand because we love and honor our country despite its flaws.

Is that perspective too much to ask of an NFL player?

ADDENDA:  I know I promised a new edition of our pop culture podcast that hasn’t been posted yet; our production team is dealing with issues that cannot be postponed. The archives are still there, so you can put together your own “best of” show.

In yesterday’s Three Martini Lunch, Greg illustrated a point about the Declaration of Independence by citing an old episode of the NBC sitcom Family Ties. Today we have to see if we can make a point about judicial restraint by citing Night Court.

Long-Awaited Republican Tax Plan is Underwhelming

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: Republicans leave out some consequential details about their plan to cut taxes; President Trump makes the right call on shipping aid to Puerto Rico; why Oprah 2020 isn’t so unthinkable despite the record of celebrity-politicians; and how Trump is, for better or worse, delivering exactly the kind of presidency he promised.

Hey, Did You Guys Forget Some Pieces of this Tax Plan?

My colleagues weigh in on the tax plan unveiled by Congressional Republicans and the White House, and they seem a little underwhelmed, at least until the GOP fills in some of the blanks.

Ramesh Ponnuru observes that there’s a piece missing that could have far-reaching effects: the total amount of the child tax credit — an amount of taxes the government “credits” you with paying just by claiming a child as a dependent.

The relevant parts of the plan 1) increase the standard deduction to $24,000 for married couples, 2) increase the child credit by an unspecified amount, 3) raise the lowest marginal tax rate from 10 to 12, and 4) eliminate the personal and dependent exemptions. How it nets out depends on a particular household’s configuration and the ultimate answer to 2. It’s a pretty big detail to leave out. It determines how much middle-class tax relief the plan offers, and whether the plan has a pro-family element. As I pointed out in recent testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, the child credit would have to increase at least $600 per child to offset the elimination of the dependent exemption.

I would have vastly preferred if the framework had said that the child credit will increase by at least $1,000. And I think Republicans would be having a better rollout today if it had. Republicans have plenty of time to fix this problem. Recognizing it and committing to solving it would be a good start.

Robert Verbruggen points out that for taxpayers without children, some of these changes will offset each other, making the total reduction in tax bills disappointingly minor.

Under current law, someone single and childless gets to knock $10,400 off their income before the bottom rate of 10 percent applies; under the GOP plan, they’d knock $12,000 off but see a rate of 12 percent. The low-income would still get a tax cut, but often a tiny one — at least until you factor in some vaguely worded changes to the child tax credit for parents, as well as “additional tax relief” that is not specified at all. Here’s what this change looks like for those who are single, childless, and making up to $19,725 — where the first bracket ends, after accounting for deductions and exemptions, under current law. It’s a pretty mild cut, especially toward the top of that range. If you make exactly $19,725, you save all of $5.50.

Don’t spend it all in one place!

Kevin Williamson:

The bottom half of income earners pay essentially no federal income tax, though they pay other federal taxes, including the payroll tax. Trump’s tax plan would add to the burden at the top and take even more people off the tax rolls at the bottom. Ronald Reagan used to boast of all the low-income Americans his policies took off the tax rolls entirely. I’m not sure that was all to the good. We have a large, active federal government that redistributes a lot of money. Everybody ought to pay a little something in federal income tax if we are going to have a federal income tax. Surely, nobody’s “fair share” is really $0.00. Everybody likes to sit by the fire, nobody wants to chop the wood.

Of course, the final changes could end up considerably different from this outline.

Trump Makes the Right Call, Waives the Jones Act for Puerto Rico Aid

Credit where it’s due: President Trump made the right call.

The White House has authorized a waiver to loosen shipping rules regarding Puerto Rico that island officials say would be a significant help for recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria.

“At @ricardorossello request, @POTUS has authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico. It will go into effect immediately,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted Thursday morning.

He joined the growing list of officials who argued that lifting the the Jones Act — a federal law designed to protect the financial interests of US shipbuilders by limiting shipping by foreign vessels — would help expedite supplies to the ravaged island. The act has had the unintended consequence of making it twice as expensive to ship things from the US mainland to Puerto Rico as it is to ship from any other foreign port in the world, according to Arizona Republican senator John McCain’s office.

Yesterday, Trump had said, “There are a lot of people who work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted. And we have a lot of ships out there right now.” No doubt the arguments in favor of the Jones Act resonate with Trump’s protectionist instincts – i.e., ‘if aid is going to be shipped out of American ports, it should be done by American ships!’ But even if you think the benefit to American shipbuilders was worth the additional cost to consumers, this is an emergency, and the people of Puerto Rico need every ship available to be mobilized.

Oprah Winfrey, Needs, Wants, and 2020

There was a time when John Podhoretz’s suggestion that the Democratic party should nominate Oprah Winfrey for president in 2020 could be dismissed as a joke, click-bait, or a silly pipe dream.

But Al Franken is a senator, Donald Trump is president, Republicans are hoping Kid Rock runs for Senate in Michigan and Tennessee Republicans hoped Peyton Manning would run for Senate in their state. (Yesterday Manning denied any interest in being a politician; no word on whether he issued the denial in the sing-song-y tone of the Nationwide-Is-On-Your-Side jingle.)


If you think that Trump can be beaten by a two-term governor of a Midwestern state with really good ideas about health care, or by a senator who really attracts young people, think again. The idea that a relatively conventional elected official will differentiate herself from Trump by dint of her seriousness or that an unconventional elected official can out-populist Trump is crazy.

If you need to set a thief to catch a thief, you need a star — a grand, outsized, fearless star whom Trump can neither intimidate nor outshine —  to catch a star. We’re through the looking glass here. America is discarding old approaches in politics. Democrats will have to do the same to match the mood to the moment.

I would argue that outside of Ronald Reagan, who had transitioned to the realm of politics much earlier in his career, the record of celebrity officeholders is a generally depressing one, looking in particular at Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura.

(Fred Thompson is one of those unusual cases where he began in politics (minority counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee, special counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Intelligence Committee), then started acing in the late 80s, then was elected to the Senate in 1994. Sonny Bono was a good and kind man, but I don’t know if anyone would consider him a legislative giant.)

The skills of a movie or television star translate well to campaigning, but not necessarily to governing. No doubt Schwarzenegger meant well and wanted to deliver the best possible results for his state, and his efforts were . . .  er, Herculean? But the Democrat-controlled state legislature was intractable, voters rejected his referendums on reform proposals at the ballot box, and he ended his time as governor taking the centrist path of least resistance. By the time he left office in 2011, as the Great Recession was hitting California hard, his approval rating was just 23 percent.

Voters are demonstrating that they want exciting, charismatic faces that they know from non-political contexts. But I’m not sure that’s what they need. Pick your measurement of good governance at the state level: low unemployment, good environment for business, low crime, good schools. Wherever you find the results that please you the most, the odds are low that you’ll find a celebrity-like figure governing that state.

If our measuring stick is whether people feel like they’re governed well, Americans are most pleased with the governors who are anti-celebrities, largely unknown outside of their states. As of July 2017, the most popular governors in America are Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan of Maryland, Matt Mead of Wyoming, Doug Burgum of North Dakota, and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota. (Also note, the top ten most popular governors in America are all Republican.) The least popular right now is also one of the best known, and who has popped up in celebrity contexts like late-night talk and comedy shows, New Jersey’s Chris Christie.

This isn’t to say Podhoretz is wrong, and that Democrats wouldn’t maximize their likelihood of victory with a celebrity candidate to challenge a celebrity president. We need a lot of things that we don’t necessarily want: exercise, green vegetables, saving for a rainy day, to watch mindless television less and to read more . . . 

But how often do we choose what we need over what we want?

ADDENDA: Over on the home page, I write that no Republican should be particularly surprised that Trump is relishing public fights with professional athletes while his legislative agenda moves slowly. This is the presidency that he promised Republican primary voters, and this is the option they chose.

Moore Wins Alabama Senate Primary

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: GOP Alabama Senate primary winner Roy Moore’s unlikely role as the resistance to DACA, who’s most likely to replace retiring Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, an observation about how our government spending disputes usually turn into cultural disputes, and how conservatives are awfully quiet about one case of wasteful government spending.

An Unlikely Figure to Represent Resistance to DACA

Judge Roy Moore is the man most likely to represent Alabama in the Senate, barring an enormous upset in the general election against Democrat Doug Jones, which will be held December 12.

Breitbart.com this morning, characterizing Moore’s win in the Alabama Senate Republican primary:

Roy Moore’s insurgent victory in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff in Alabama marks a definitive rejection by Donald Trump’s base of his shift toward working with Democrats on issues like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

This is a little ironic, because until mid-summer, Moore apparently had no idea what the DACA program was, judging from this interview with radio host Dale Jackson from July 11:

JACKSON: “Would you support an end to the Dreamer program that President Trump has still continued to push?

MOORE: “Pardon? The Dreamer program?”

JACKSON: “Yes sir. The DACA/DAPA. You’re not aware of what dreamers are?”

MOORE: “No.”

JACKSON: “Dreamers are — this is a big issue in the immigration debate. Dreamers are . . . ”

MOORE: “Why don’t you tell me what it is Dale, and quit beating around, and tell me what it is?”

JACKSON: “I’m in the process of doing that, Judge Moore.”

The controversial DACA program established in 2012 had somehow escaped his attention, but once he was up to speed, Moore concluded he opposed it. The man he defeated, Senator Luther Strange, did a good job of sounding like he opposed DACA for what it does (allowing those who entered the country illegally while children to stay) but if you look closely at his words, his primary objection to the program was President Obama implementing it through an executive order:

Since my tenure as Attorney General, I have been fighting, and winning, against Obama-era experiments with illegal amnesty. Today, the Trump administration rightly affirmed that Congress must lead the way in securing our borders and ending the crisis of illegal immigration.

We actually sued successfully to stop the Obama administration program to allow adults to stay here illegally (DAPA). I think this program is the same category — I think it’s unconstitutional.

The President makes the best point — Congress should address this issue. I’m in the camp, and maybe it’s a small camp, that [believes] we can do more than one thing at a time.

Extraordinary measures [were already taken] in the past administration to benefit noncitizens over citizens of our count country. The last thing we need is the help of foreign nations trying to tell us how to straighten our own immigration system.

Of course, nowhere in his statement does he say, “I believe those who entered the country illegally as children must not be allowed to stay.”

As the man most likely to be the next senator from Alabama, hopefully Moore will continue to study his briefing books and not just wing it when discussing topics he sort-of, kind-of remembers reading about once:

Jeff Stein: Some right-wing conservatives think Sharia law is a danger to America – do you?

Roy Moore: There are communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Up in Illinois. Christian communities; I don’t know if they may be Muslim communities. But Sharia law is a little different from American law. It is founded on religious concepts.

Stein: Which American communities are under Sharia law? When did they fall under Sharia law?

Moore: Well, there’s Sharia law, as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana — up there. I don’t know.

Stein: That seems like an amazing claim for a Senate candidate to make.

Moore: Well, let me just put it this way — if they are, they are; if they’re not, they’re not.

No Corking It Up and Saving It For Later . . . 

Is it fair to wonder whether retiring Tennessee Senator Bob Corker finds it harder to get things done in Washington in the Trump era than he expected?

“After much thought, consideration and family discussion over the past year, Elizabeth and I have decided that I will leave the United States Senate when my term expires at the end of 2018,” Corker said in a statement.

“When I ran for the Senate in 2006, I told people that I couldn’t imagine serving for more than two terms,” said Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Understandably, as we have gained influence, that decision has become more difficult. But I have always been drawn to the citizen legislator model, and while I realize it is not for everyone, I believe with the kind of service I provide, it is the right one for me.

In Tennessee, the big guessing game today is figuring out whether GOP Governor Bill Haslam wants to be a senator. If he doesn’t, and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is interested, she would be the most-likely new frontrunner.

Her House office issued a statement: “Rep. Blackburn appreciates the outpouring of encouragement and support she has received about a possible Senate run. She ran for Congress to advance conservative values and fight for the people of Tennessee. Over the next week she will take a look at the Senate race and decide how, and where, she believes she can best serve her state and her nation.”

Andy Ogles, the head of Americans for Prosperity in Tennessee, already announced a Senate bid.

Americans, Competing With Each Other Instead of With Other Countries

There are a lot of times I disagree with David Frum, but he’s still a heck of a political diagnostician:

As societies become more diverse, political competition among groups intensifies. When you have diversity at a time of steep recession, the competition becomes even more intense still. I made this point in my 2012 book about Mitt Romney: In a multi-ethnic society that is rapidly becoming more multi-ethnic, economic redistribution is inevitably also ethnic redistribution.

The traditional parties of the left thought expected that their voters would look at the redistributionist project and say: “This is still the same thing as I remember from the 1950s, you’re transferring from the rich to the poor. I’m less rich, so I’m in favor.”

What they discovered instead was that a lot of voters who traditionally voted for the left, said: “You’re distributing from the existing inhabitants of the country to the newcomers. I identify not as ‘not rich’, I identify as ‘an existing inhabitant of the country.’”

I think this is a point I stressed to you when we talked previously about Obamacare. Of those who lacked health insurance before the Great Recession of 2008, 27 percent were foreign-born. When you take money out of the existing social insurance programs to fund a new one, the people who get angry are both those who feel that they are economic losers, and those who feel they are ethnic losers.

This is at the heart of a lot of our debates — the sense that the government doesn’t really want to serve everyone equally and that not only does it prioritize certain citizens’ concerns over others, the government doesn’t like even having to pretend to care about the concerns of certain groups.

ADDENDA: If Obama’s Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius had “taken taxpayer-funded flights on private jets in which [she] traveled to places where [she] owns property, and paired official visits with meetings with longtime colleagues and family members,” Congressional Republicans and conservatives in media would be screaming bloody murder about it, with good reason. If she had taken 26 flights on corporate jets at taxpayer expense, we would be raging with fury about it. It would be the lead story throughout Fox News Channel’s prime-time lineup.

But it’s Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, who is doing all this, so we’re cool with it. We just want to our side to enjoy the perks of office, not be frugal with taxpayer’s money.