Check out the latest episode of The Editors, on which Rich Lowry, Reihan Salam, Ian Tuttle, and David French discuss CPAC, Milo Yiannopoulos’s latest flap, General McMaster’s new role as National Security Advisor, and more!
With Trump showing more hostility to the media, Charles Krauthammer discussed the value of that political strategy while affirming that the press should not kowtow to any bullying:
It works on the base. He will get the cheers and the applause all the time. I don’t think it works anywhere else. I think people are rightly somewhat concerned. They may not be alarmed — what happened today was symbolic and minor as a real thing, but nonetheless, the symbolism is alarming. The president uses a phrase from Lenin: enemies of the people. If you were an enemy of the people in Lenin’s day, you were dead. These are serious historical terms that shouldn’t ever be used, and you are sending a message that you are hostile to certain media outlets.
As you say, on the same day, you explicitly, unsubtly exclude them from a gaggle. In the scheme of things, that doesn’t matter, but I am glad to see that Fox joined with all of the others — we being a favored outlet for Trump — remembering that when Obama excluded Fox from access way back when, everyone rallied around us and said, if you don’t include them, we’re not going to be there. It is the only way to do it. The press can’t allow itself to be bullied. And I’m glad it’s not.
Not surprisingly, he owned the place. It’s an amazing turnaround from when he was a sideshow or a controversial presence. It was a characteristic Trump performance–bizarrely mesmerizing, amusingly candid (I’m thinking of the beginning when he said he realized that politics was for him when he first spoke at CPAC and got a big reaction without preparing), at times indefensible, roguishly funny, over the top, overwhelmingly concerned with his signature themes and issues, and quite effective.
He didn’t have to trim or tailor his message to suit CPAC conservatism, because at the moment Trumpism is CPAC conservatism.
I’m not as bothered by his nationalism as some of my colleagues (conservative crowds chanted “USA” prior to the rise of Donald Trump). And it remains to be seen how distinct Trump’s program will end up being.
Already his infrastructure program, which might have been a major declaration of ideological independence at the outset of his administration, has been put off to the second year when often things don’t happen at all. Trade policy will be telling and at this juncture it’s impossible to know how aggressive the administration will be. It could be that we will initiate a trade war that upsets the international trading order as we know it. It could be, on the other hand, that the most important policy departure ends up being a Paul Ryan-crafted border adjustment tax (although its chances of passage in the Senate may be dicey even if Trump gets behind it).
The rest of the agenda in Congress is Obamacare repeal, tax reform, and de-regulation, or what you would expect from any GOP president. Trump certainly sounds different than any other Republican, but we won’t know for a while whether this ends up being a gloss on a relatively conventional GOP program or heralds the radical departure it is sometimes advertised as.
Elizabethtown College was founded in 1899 by a German religious sect, the Anabaptists. It survived quite nicely until leftist politics began to take over in the 1990s. When a hard-nosed president retired in 1996, the floodgates were opened wide and the college has since been overrun by Social Justice Warriors. Most recently, students were proudly wearing white puzzle pieces to announce their hated of “white priviege” and all the oppression it brings to people of color.
Professor Paul Gottfried taught at Elizabethtown for more than 30 years and in this Martin Center article, he laments the way the school (located in Lancaster County, Pa.) has fallen under the spell of progressive politics. He writes about the school following the retirement of that hard-nosed president:
During the next two administrations, the troublemakers got the “hope of change” they thought they wanted. It came in the form of lavishly salaried administrators (certainly by comparison to those who preceded them), rapidly escalating tuition, and a shifting emphasis at the college from a strict Pietist environment to the PC fad du jour, lately “white privilege.” I’ve never seen an institution change so fundamentally within just a few years.
Elizabethtown College has strayed far from its beginnings and is moving further away every year. While it still has some solid liberal-arts education to offer, the P.C. forces are steadily replacing education with indoctrination.
Costs has gone up dramatically (in part to pay for more administrators who fill essentially useless jobs) while educational quality has fallen. Summing up, Gottfried writes, “In a nutshell, the college has become too expensive for what it offers its average student; an erosion of the customer base has started. Since 2009, the student body has declined from 1,866 to 1,707 and the school is encountering increasing difficulty meeting its annual goal of 450 entering freshmen. This year it trimmed $3 million from its budget. Justified fear has set in among the faculty that further savings will be extracted from their salaries and benefits. It’s hard to imagine why one would go to Elizabethtown to partake of a uniqueness that no longer exists.”
American students and their parents are starting to realize that high-priced college degrees that don’t deliver palpable value in terms of knowledge and skill just aren’t worth it. Merely having a degree in something from somewhere is becoming increasingly pointless. For that reason, many small colleges like Elizabethtown are facing serious trouble.
Today administration officials reportedly barred a number of news outlets from joining an informal press briefing. The AP has the details:
News organizations including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Politico were blocked from joining an informal, on the record White House press briefing on Friday.
The Associated Press chose not to participate in the gaggle following the move by White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
“The AP believes the public should have as much access to the president as possible,” Lauren Easton, the AP’s director of media relations, said in a statement.
Several news organizations were allowed in, including the conservative website Breitbart News. The site’s former executive chairman, Steve Bannon, is chief strategist to President Donald Trump.
For its part, the Trump administration is denying any ill intent, claiming instead that it had just invited a few additional reporters to join the pool:
White House Deputy Comms. Dir. Raj Shah denies reports of a gaggle block against CNN, NYT, Politico and others: pic.twitter.com/XzgfQJ25w3— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 24, 2017
I have a few thoughts. First, if the AP report is accurate, then the administration’s move was just silly and wrong. Full stop. The only reason to exclude a news organization from a press briefing should be space available, with space allocated on a viewpoint-neutral basis. Punishing the press by excluding the press (if that’s what happened here) is no way to run a press office.
Second, the White House should know that it’s move is completely unsustainable. Every news organization with any integrity will rightly boycott briefings if the White House excludes disfavored outlets. This is yet another one of the informal but effective checks on White House power. While a portion of Trump’s base may hate the media so much that they’re fine if Sean Spicer ends up only briefing Gateway Pundit, most of the rest of America finds press exclusion ridiculous.
Third, yes I know that the Obama administration’s hands weren’t clean on this point. Indeed, I’d forgotten how unclean they were. This 2009 New York Times report on the conflict between the Obama administration and Fox was a nice walk down memory lane:
Late last month, the senior White House adviser David Axelrod and Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive of Fox News, met in an empty Palm steakhouse before it opened for the day, neutral ground secured for a secret tête-à-tête.
Mr. Ailes, who had reached out to Mr. Axelrod to address rising tensions between the network and the White House, told him that Fox’s reporters were fair, if tough, and should be considered separate from the Fox commentators who were skewering President Obama nightly, according to people briefed on the meeting. Mr. Axelrod said it was the view of the White House that Fox News had blurred the line between news and anti-Obama advocacy.
Why was the administration angry? Fox had been on the offensive. Other networks had confessed they had not been fast enough in covering stories Fox was covering, including Van Jones’s controversial comments and affiliations:
At the same time, Fox News had continued a stream of reports rankling White House officials and liberal groups that monitor its programming for bias.
Those reports included a critical segment on the schools safety official Kevin Jennings, with the on-screen headline “School Czar’s Past May Be Too Radical”; urgent news coverage of a video showing schoolchildren “singing the praises, quite literally, of the president,” which the Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson later called “pure Khmer Rouge stuff”; and the daily anti-Obama salvos from Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.
There followed, beginning in earnest more than two weeks ago, an intensified volley of White House comments describing Fox as “not a news network.”
“Not a news network” sounds a bit like “fake news,” does it not? The president himself waded into the fray:
Speaking privately at the White House on Monday with a group of mostly liberal columnists and commentators, including Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich and Bob Herbert of The New York Times, Mr. Obama himself gave vent to sentiments about the network, according to people briefed on the conversation.
Then, in an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, the president went public. “What our advisers have simply said is that we are going to take media as it comes,” he said. “And if media is operating, basically, as a talk radio format, then that’s one thing. And if it’s operating as a news outlet, then that’s another.”
The Treasury Department reportedly tried to exclude Fox from a “round of interviews” with executive-pay czar Kenneth Feinberg, and — just like today — Fox’s competitors rebelled. Bret Baier hadn’t forgotten the incident and tweeted this:
Some at CNN & NYT stood w/FOX News when the Obama admin attacked us & tried 2 exclude us-a WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs https://t.co/8Vjcs0KCPR— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) February 24, 2017
I share these details not to justify Trump administration actions but to note that we’re not exactly in uncharted territory. Administrations are tempted to take action against “unfriendly” news organizations, and it’s incumbent on news outlets to follow Benjamin Franklin’s admonition (given in far more consequential times), “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”
It’s one thing to bash the press. It’s another thing entirely to take steps to deny access to disfavored outlets. When it comes to access, Trump needs to be better than Obama, not worse.
Basking in his victory in front of an enthusiastic CPAC crowd, President Donald Trump today called his election to the presidency a “win for conservative values” and promised to put American citizens first. On the whole, the president stuck to his campaign themes — even where they conflicted with what used to be the norm in the Republican party — and he spoke in the loose style that listeners have come to expect at this rallies.
Trump opened with an attack on the media, and he affirmed his right to criticize them even as they exercise their own right in covering him:
They say that we can’t criticize their dishonest coverage because of the First Amendment. They always bring up the First Amendment. I love the First Amendment. Nobody loves it better than me. Nobody — who uses it more than I do? But the First Amendment gives all of us — it gives it to me it gives it to you, it gives it to all Americans — the right to speak our minds freely. It gives you the right and me the right to criticize fake news and criticize it strongly.
He also let it be known that he thought his victory benefitted the conservative movement:
Our victory was a win like nobody has ever seen before. And I’m here fighting for you, and I will continue to fight for you. The victory and the win was something that really was dedicated to a country and people that believe in freedom, security and the rule of law. Our victory was a victory and a win for conservative values. And our victory was a win for everyone who believes it’s time to stand up for America, to stand up for the American worker, and to stand up for the American flag.
Later, Trump spoke about trade, and let the crowd know that he has no plans to go back to traditionally conservative free-trade views:
I’ve also followed through on my campaign promise and withdrawn America from the Trans-Pacific Partnership so that we can protect our economic freedom. And we’re going to make trade deals, but we’re going to do one-on-one — one-on-one — and if they misbehave, we terminate the deal, and then they come back and we’ll make a better deal. None of these big quagmire deals that are disaster.
Just take a look at NAFTA, one of the worst deals ever made by any country having to do with economic development. It’s economic undevelopment as far as our country is concerned.
Perhaps most interesting given the current debates in Congress, he reaffirmed major promises on taxes, jobs, and the economy:
Another major promise is tax reform. We are going to massively lower taxes on the middle class, reduce taxes on American business, and make our tax code more simple and much more fair for everyone, including the people and the business. In anticipation of these and other changes, jobs are already starting to pour back into our country. You see that.
In fact, I think I did more than any other president. They say president-elect. President-elect is meeting with Ford, he’s meeting with Chrysler, he’s meeting with General Motors. I just wanted to save a little time because Ford and Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Intel, and so many others are now because of the election result making major investments in the United States, expanding production and hiring more workers. And they’re going back to Michigan and they’re going back to Ohio and they’re going back to Pennsylvania and they’re going back to North Carolina and to Florida.
It’s time for all Americans to get off of welfare and get back to work. You’re going to love it.
In the end, the president didn’t just criticize his opponents and past U.S. policy, he also voiced optimism about America, saying near the end of the speech:
There is no dream too large, no task too great. We are Americans, and the future belongs to us — the future belongs to all of you. And America is coming about, it’s, and it’s coming back and it’s roaring and you can hear it. It’s going to be bigger and better.
This week the Trump administration has said both that states and localities could set their own policies on the access of transgender people to school bathrooms and locker rooms and that the federal government will crack down on the marijuana trade in states that have chosen to legalize it. Noah Rothman argues that this set of decisions reflects a White House that is more solicitous of the concerns of social conservatives than it is devoted to federalism.
Whatever the reasons the administration is taking this line, it seems to me that its decisions are defensible. The Obama administration’s regulation regarding transgender access stretched statutory law, and so did its decision not to enforce (or not to prioritize the enforcement of) federal marijuana laws in some places. On federalist grounds, I’d like to see Congress change the marijuana laws. But given that they are still on the books and not obviously unconstitutional, it seems reasonable for the executive branch to enforce them.
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage spoke at CPAC today. He declared that the U.K.’s Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump both represent a move away from “globalism.” “When, in years to come, the generations that follow us study the history of this period,” he said, “there is one year that will stand out — there is one year that every schoolchild will know — and that year is the year of 2016.”
“In 2016 we witnessed the beginning of a global political revolution, and it’s one that is not going to stop, it’s one that is going to roll out across the rest of the free world,” he said
Farage equated the Brexit victory that he championed with the election of Donald Trump, and he said that, since it happened, he feels “more American” every time he visits America. Trump himself has not shied away from comparing the two elections – in which populists scored major victories — and has called himself “Mr. Brexit.”
Farage defended his decision to campaign for Donald Trump as a foreign political leader, and said that he is “amazed” by Trump’s determination “to put in place the platform on which he was elected — how about that?”
He said that Trump is ultimately “restoring faith in the Democratic process.”
He said, “2016 was the year that the nation-state democracy made a comeback against the globalists, and those who would wish to destroy everything that we have ever been.”
Like Trump, Farage also slammed the media, saying that it is “in deep denial” about Trump. Moreover, Farage predicted that Trump will become more popular over time, just as Brexit has since the vote occurred. “What happened in 2016,” he predicted, “is not the end of this great global revolution, what happened in 2016 is the beginning.”
He said that this will continue, with “very exciting elections coming up, in the Netherlands, in France, in Germany, possibly even in Italy.” Whatever happens, he said, the center of gravity has moved away from “supranational government.”
He finished with a rousing call for nationalism all over the West:
We’re not against anybody based on religion or ethnicity. We’re not against anybody, but we’re for ourselves, we’re for our country, we’re for our communities, we’re for making our people safe and with less risk from global terror! That is what we’re for! And we’re for our country and we’re for our people and we are winning!
At C-PAC, Vice President Mike Pence spoke of “our movement” — as in “We’ve got to march forward as if it’s the most important time in the history of our movement, because it is.” What did he mean by “movement”? Whose?
During the campaign, Donald Trump spoke about his movement — the Trump movement — a lot. Here he is speaking in his final ad — the “closing argument” that candidates traditionally run: “Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people.” And, “I’m doing this for the people and for the movement, and we will take back this country for you, and we will make America great again.”
By the way, when politicians, and others, say “the people,” they usually mean “people who think and feel as I do.”
Back to “the movement.” There was a tribal boast in Trump’s inaugural address, though these addresses are usually pitched to the nation as a whole. The newly sworn-in president said, “You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
So this movement that Trump speaks of, and the movement that Pence speaks of — what are they? Are they the same? Would Ronald Reagan be at home in this movement, or movements?
These questions, I think, are at the heart of debate in RightWorld now.
A recent study says that if all illegal immigrants in the U.S. left or were removed, our economy would be $500 billion smaller every year. I write about why that study doesn’t tell us much about what to do about illegal immigration at Bloomberg View:
If we want to figure out whether deporting illegal immigrants would hurt our economic interests, we might want to know what it would do to the total size of the U.S. economy. That’s relevant to questions about the size of our tax base, for example. But what we most want to know is the effect their removal would have on the incomes of everyone else: that is, of native-born Americans and legal immigrants.The study doesn’t answer that question. Nor does it examine how important subsets of those groups, such as those without college degrees, would fare.
It’s not unusual for research on the economic effects of immigration to have this blind spot. . .
George Borjas, the distinguished scholar of immigration economcis, made a similar point about illegal immigrants in 2013: “[T]heir contribution to overall GDP is substantial, increasing national income by between $395 and $472 billion, but much of this increase (between $386 and $462 billion) is remitted to the illegal immigrants themselves as payment for their services.”
“She has autonomy. She has a strong will. But she can’t move. So in many ways her life is my life. It’s bigger than me, it controls me…” pic.twitter.com/KR7Bt7j15b— Brandon Stanton (@humansofny) February 24, 2017
Your neighborhood church might seem like the wrong place for a political demonstration, but one Christian writer believes that greater politicization is just what “imperialist” houses of worship need. In an article for Sojourners titled “Take the Politics of Disruption to Church,” Mark Van Steenwyk argues that left-wing parishioners should attempt hostile takeovers of local churches on the grounds that “Christian supremacy has been the justification for the deepest of our national sins.”
In Van Steenwyk’s understanding, the election of Donald Trump constitutes a clarion call to all true Christians to finally “take an ax to the root” of America’s problems: the church. “Trumpian neo-fascism is simply the latest fruit from a much older tree,” he writes. “The worst imperial impulses of the United States of America find their root in a form of Christianity that legitimizes militarism, economic exploitation, racism, and sexism.”
As a self-described “Mennonite anarchist,” Van Steenwyk thinks that “disruption” — e.g., the stopping of interstate traffic by Black Lives Matter activists — is the only way to reason with souls that are blinkered not only by conservative Christianity, but by a progressive Christianity that is not strident enough.
“Progressive Christians,” he writes, “out of a sense of politeness, unity, and respectability, have failed to challenge directly those churches that provide the theological justification that gave us Trump.” Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. on the failure of moderate Christians to stand up for civil rights, Van Steenwyk reasons that protesting in the streets is not enough (nor, presumably, is voting, running for office, or the other forms of civic engagement that go unmentioned). Instead, this is his command: “Raise our angry voices in the pews as well as the streets.”
I don’t mean that figuratively. . . .
I literally mean we should disrupt our churches. Just as Black Lives Matter has employed a politics of disruption to raise the national alarm about racist policing. Just as the water protectors at Standing Rock have created a human barrier against pipeline construction. So too, should we disrupt and confound any and every congregation that fuels militarism, economic exploitation, sexism, racism, Islamophobia, or transphobia.
Considering his belief that essentially all American Christianity promotes the above “-isms,” Van Steenwyk’s prescription would lead to the seizing of control in almost every American church for the purpose of promoting a political vision. Moreover, it seems logical that such a call would eventually require church leaders to endorse political candidates — something that is currently prohibited under the Johnson amendment. (Ironically, Donald Trump has proposed overturning that rule, only to be met with hostility from the left.)
Van Steenwyk, like the magazine that published his article, is a vociferous yet isolated voice of leftism posing as a theological authority. Not only is his program ludicrous (there are not enough progressive Christians to conquer “any and every congregation” that disagrees with his program), it also encourages an attitude that is wrong even on a small scale.
Churches should be places where political disagreements are put into context, not magnified. Faith must be welcomed into the public square, but the two ought not be conflated. Just as conservative co-religionists should reflect before turning on those who didn’t support Trump, no church community should allow political disagreements to disrupt worship. When politics ruins sports or movies, America stands to lose the unifying power of a shared leisure activity. When politics ruins worship, our societal foundations are placed in jeopardy.
Activism of the kind Van Steenwyk champions also wrongly places politics above religion — a problem Saint Augustine’s conception of virtue as “rightly ordered love” sought to clarify. The things of this world should be loved in the way they warrant, but not loved above God, the highest good. Van Steenwyk should ruminate on that the next time he considers shouting down biblical preaching in favor of the political kind.
The current narrative on town halls pushed by the Democrats, and finding its way into a lot of media coverage, is that 2017 is the mirror image of 2009, when grassroots Tea Party protests at town halls were a sign of mounting public anger over Obamacare that spilled into a GOP landslide in the 2010 elections. You will notice that this is very different from the old Democratic narrative of what happened in 2009, and you will also recall that Democrats went ahead and passed Obamacare anyway. You will also notice that incidents like left-wing protestors heckling a pastor giving an opening prayer at Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy’s latest town hall suggests that the protests from the Left these days are not exactly apolitical mom-and-pop types who are suddenly worried about their healthcare.
But leave all of that aside for now. Because what’s less noticed in the furor over Republican town halls is that many of the Democratic Senators who face potentially tough re-election bids next year are avoiding holding town halls:
Few of the 10 Democratic senators facing re-election next year in states carried by Trump have scheduled in-person town hall meetings during this week’s congressional recess.
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill declined an invitation to attend a town hall organized by a group called Kansas City Indivisible this weekend, deciding to send a staff member in her place. The two-term senator, up for re-election next year in a state Trump won by nearly 19 percentage points, is scheduled to chat with voters next week on Facebook Live….The political pressure is particularly intense for West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp…Both have avoided formal town halls this week…Few vulnerable Senate Democrats are expected to do so in settings that allow for unscripted questions.
In Montana, where Trump prevailed by 20 percentage points, Sen. Jon Tester made several public appearances this week, but he did not advertise any of them as town halls….In Pennsylvania, a spokeswoman for Sen. Bob Casey said he would host a town hall in early March, but the details hadn’t yet been set. In Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson addressed students at two Thursday appearances focused on education. And in Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown “has participated in several telephone conference calls recently” and his office “emailed surveys out to constituents” to gauge their priorities, said spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue.
Last week House Speaker Paul Ryan used two reporters’ recorders as props for a misguided defense of the border-adjustment tax being pushed by congressional Republicans. Now, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has offered his own confused take on the issue.
Yesterday, while answering a reporter’s question about how the White House would respond to critics who say that a border-adjustment tax would increase the cost of doing business in the U.S. for those importing goods and that the tax would be passed on to consumers (hurting mostly lower- and middle-class Americans), Spicer said that “there is no tax if you’re manufacturing in the United States. So there can be no higher cost.”
It was a very confusing statement to say the least. Now, assuming he was saying that under a border tax, a company could avoid the penalty by moving to the U.S., Spicer shows a lack of understanding of how businesses operate. Does he really believe that under this regime no company will ever again import any goods for the production of their final product? If that’s he what believes, he will be highly disappointed. As I have said before, I certainly think those claiming that the dollar will fully and immediately appreciate to offset higher prices on imports under a border tax are ignoring many reasons to believe that there won’t be a full adjustment, but at least they acknowledge that imports can and will continue to exist. Spicer apparently doesn’t.
The rest of Spicer’s answer borders on incomprehensible, or at least suggests that he doesn’t understand the difference between a tax on outsourcers and the House Republicans’ border-adjustment tax. Contrary to his characterization, the latter isn’t a penalty for moving overseas and selling back into the United States, but rather a tax increase on all imports. In today’s dynamic economy, where supply chains can and often do stretch across the globe, that means not just a tax on consumer goods but on inputs for many manufacturers. Again, even goods made in America require components from overseas, and their higher costs will be passed on to consumers. So suggesting that consumers won’t face higher prices just because a company could manufacture in the U.S. instead of overseas is nonsensical.
Just as outrageous is the suggestion that we should even want everything to be produced domestically. Some things can be made more cheaply elsewhere. Leveraging such competitive advantage through trade to satisfy our needs and wants in the least expensive manner possible is a large part of why we are so wealthy today. Punishing Americans for purchasing those goods that can be made more cheaply elsewhere is not a path to prosperity.
Finally, Spicer repeats a common talking point among supporters of the border-adjustment tax: the idea that there is currently an unfair tax advantage for imports to the U.S. This is the same misguided talking point Speaker Ryan used in his example last week.
First, Spicer conflates our corporate income taxes, which unlike most of our competitors taxes the U.S. companies’ income earned overseas with an exorbitant corporate-income-tax rate, with the value-added taxes common in Europe and elsewhere. VATs are border-adjusted taxes, but no other country border-adjusts their corporate income tax even though most of them have one on top of their VAT.
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn claimed not to have discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador. However, as the press reported, “Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions . . . said Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Flynn was fired because “of an eroding level of trust.”
Those nine senior officials also broke the trust our nation bestowed upon them. They revealed highly sensitive information — the wiretapping of the Russian ambassador — after swearing to protect such secrets. Not one of the nine has had the courage to step forward publicly. No administration, Democrat or Republican, can govern if senior officials act as clandestine insurgents divulging what they choose. Whose phone conversations will these officials next record and selectively publicize?
It is the obligation of a free press to pursue information. It is also the obligation of every administration to prosecute leaks that damage sensitive sources and methods. The odds are high that in this case the FBI will eventually track down some of the leakers. However, the investigation will be politically controversial and take many months to conclude.
In addition, President Trump can issue an executive order, as did President Reagan. On the day of Reagan’s inauguration in January of 1981, Iran announced the released the 52 Americans being held hostage in Tehran. At that time, there were rumors of contacts between Iranian officials and associates of Reagan. A year later, Reagan was beset by his own flurry of leaks and in response ordered tough measures. “I do not believe the Constitution,” he wrote, “entitles Government employees, entrusted with confidential information . . . to disclose such information with impunity. Yet this is precisely the situation we have. It must not be allowed to continue.”
That same month, the Washington Post published a story based on a high-level, classified meeting about the Defense budget. Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci ordered two-dozen senior civilians and generals to take a polygraph. As an assistant secretary of defense at that time, I witnessed the shock in the senior ranks at Defense. Months later, the result of the investigation was very dubious. But Mr. Carlucci had sent a strong message.
A few years later, Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz, threatened to resign if any U.S. diplomats were ordered to take a polygraph. “Those machines,” he argued, “cannot detect lies in a scientifically reliable manner.” He later agreed employees at State could voluntarily submit to a polygraph. On the other hand, President Reagan had to modify his tough regulations due to the back-blast from agencies, the press, and Congress.
The polygraph should be used sparingly and only as one investigative tool. It should not stand alone. In itself, it “proves” nothing. But for decades, the CIA and other intelligence communities have persisted in using the polygraph. In 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, according to CNN, wanted to increase the number “required to take the ‘Counterintelligence Polygraph’ in order to reduce leaks.”
Like President Reagan, President Trump can and should issue an executive order imposing stricter security requirements. This could include imposing non-voluntary submission to polygraphs on a random basis by those holding top security clearances. That would be going too far. But a useful precedent was set at the Pentagon by Secretary Carlucci: In a specific case where sensitive information was leaked, no senior official — regardless of rank, agency, or position — should be exempt from the polygraph.
The fascination of liberal-leaning outlets with a fringe character like Richard Spencer is a cowardly attack on Trump voters. Liberal journalists focus on Spencer not because they want to understand why people voted for Trump but to marginalize and stigmatize people who did vote for him by associating them with a white nationalist they had never heard of.
Let’s look at the key swing state of Pennsylvania. In 2008, Obama won Elk County with 51 percent of the vote. In 2012, Romney won Elk County with 57 percent of the vote (though with lower turnout.) In 2016, Trump won Elks Country with 70 percent of the vote and with a larger turnout than 2in 012.
From the numbers, it looks like quite a few 2008 Obama voters stayed home in 2012 and that a large number of one-time and two-time Obama voters switched to Trump in 2016. How to explain the behavior of these former Obama supporters? The obvious answer is to ask some fool who goes around giving heil-Trump salutes. Who better, right?
Imagine you were trying to understand the appeal of Bernie Sanders to the young. You could interview an African-American 19-year-old who voted for Bernie while her parents voted for Clinton, or you could interview some freak from the fringe Workers World Party who is ranting about North Korea’s resistance to global capital. Which interview would be more representative of Bernie’s appeal?
If the liberal media treated Sanders voters the way they treat Trump voters, we would be seeing profiles of Leninists as the coming thing in Democratic-party politics. It’s all socialism, right?
The attempt by liberal journalists to elevate Spencer (with his cooperation, of course) is a smarmy and passive-aggressive attempt to slur Trump voters under the guise of trying to understand them.
There are many reasons to oppose the destination-based cash-flow tax (DBCFT) — a.k.a. the border-adjustment tax — in the otherwise-good House Republicans’ corporate-tax plan. This excellent piece by a former member of the Senate Banking Committee does an excellent job at summing them up. However, nothing is more puzzling to me than the embrace by Republicans of the notion that they should pay for good pro-growth tax reforms with a tax increase.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of not wanting the tax reform to add too much to the deficit. But the right way to handle the deficit concern is not to focus on “revenue neutrality” but on “deficit neutrality,” i.e., by cutting spending, too.
The good news is that it is not hard to find $100 billion a year in spending cuts, which is roughly what DBCFT would raise in theory. Here are a few suggestions:
Corporate welfare: There is roughly $56 billion in corporate welfare in the budget alone. Get rid of it. Cronyism has a real economic cost not captured in this number — but $56 billion is a good start.
Improper payments: According to GAO, there is about $137 billion in improper payments. About $50 billion of that is real and inadmissible improper payments. Let’s get rid of that.
Unauthorized appropriations: There is close to $310 billion spent on programs and activities each year even though the authorization of appropriations has expired. Now, leaving aside the fact that this is a total breakdown in accountability and oversight, there is no doubt that many of these programs would get reauthorized if Congress bothered to follow the rules. But can we truly justify continuing to fund the Brown Tree Snake Eradication Program in Guam and the United States–Poland Parliamentary Youth Exchange Program, especially since their authorizations have expired? I am sure that even moderate oversight on these unauthorized appropriations will bring outlays down and that lawmakers can find a good 10 percent to cut from this list.
Pell Grants: According to the CBO’s budget options, we could save $6.5 billion a year by limiting Pell Grants to the neediest students.
Medicaid: CBO’s budget options scores a saving of $37 billion to $68 billion when imposing caps on federal spending on Medicaid.
Health care: CBO scores a saving of $126 billion by repealing all insurance-coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a saving of $41 billion after repealing the individual mandate, and a saving of $42 billion to end the tax preferences for employment-based heath insurance.
Others: CBO estimates $36 billion in savings if Congress converts multiple assistance programs for lower-income people into smaller block grants to states; $9 billion if we tighten eligibility rules for food stamps, up to $19 billion to reduce Social Security benefits for new beneficiaries.
There are many more spending-cut suggestions in the CBO’s budget-options report, here.
This small sample of spending cuts shows that there is plenty of options to pay for good tax reforms. Moreover, let’s not overlook the tremendous growth benefits of simply lowering the corporate rate and moving to a territorial system. These are good reforms worth pursuing and fighting for no matter what.
I testified yesterday before the Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee of the Florida State House on the model campus free speech legislation I co-authored with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher of Arizona’s Goldwater Institute. After my initial presentation, fireworks followed. Although my sense is that the majority of the committee is positively inclined toward legislation designed to ensure campus free speech, a few of the Democratic representatives were more skeptical. These skeptics dominated the questioning. One skeptic in particular, Orlando Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith, pressed me repeatedly on the need to limit freedom of speech in order to combat hate speech. If you want to see an open clash on the free speech vs. hate speech controversy, this is it.
You can find video of the hearing here. My initial presentation runs about 17 minutes, from the 35:50—53:27 mark of the video. The fireworks come during the 32 minute question period, particularly (but not exclusively) during the back and forth with Rep. Smith, which begins at the start of the question period (53:30) and returns again at the 1:18:16 mark.
Also note that in my response to questioning by Democratic Representative Robert Asencio (Miami-Dade), (which begins at 1:12:22), I refer to an incident in which leftist students silence a conservative student by way of the rehearsed and coordinated tactic of “clapping her down.” Video of this clap-down can be found here.
From the last Morning Jolt of the week:
Medicaid Reform, Security Sweeps and a Dead Body: CPAC 2017
“Sir, you just walked through a crime scene, I’m going to need to see your ID.”
That’s how my Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference began; how was your day? Apparently someone jumped from the top floor of a parking garage about one block away from the Gaylord convention center. The streets had been blocked off with yellow crime scene tape and perpendicularly parked police cars, so I had walked through the garage of the Wyndam hotel to get around the blocked-off area. Apparently the entire block had been ruled a crime scene, so the polite, professional officers needed everyone to hand over their driver’s licenses and log the information.
Word from the police is that the jumper was an employee of a nearby business, and the act is not believed to be related to the conference. But it was an odd, macabre start to what should be one of the happiest CPACs ever. After all, there’s a Republican president, GOP control of the House and Senate, a terrific Supreme Court nominee in the batter’s box, a slew of GOP governors and state legislatures, giving a leg up in the redistricting after 2020. The weather was unbelievably warm and enjoyable for late February. Literally and figuratively, the sun is shining on the conservative movement.
For all of the thermonuclear reactions in the press, the just-barely-started Trump administration hasn’t really had an un-fixable mistake yet. Yes, the rollout of the executive order on immigration and refugees was a mess from start to finish, but the administration has the option of a mulligan and they’re taking it. (In retrospect, don’t even bother trying to enact a controversial change without your own attorney general in place to defend it legally.)
The markets continue a record run, although that can’t continue forever.
Strategists at Goldman put the mood of the market this way: “We are approaching peak optimism.” They forecast the S&P 500 will hit a high in the next month or so but end the year lower than where it is now as investors push back expectations for the timing of the tax cuts.
I did hear a little bit of grumbling about how slowly the process of repeal and replacing Obamacare is going, and someone assert, “the Republicans just don’t want to do it, they just don’t want to listen to us.” I don’t think it’s so simple as a lack of will.
I had a chance to briefly interview Wisconsin governor Scott Walker yesterday, and he’s leading a small working group of governors trying to help Congressional Republicans figure out how to handle the Medicaid expansion aspect of Obamacare. In the 31 states that chose to expand the eligibility for the health program that is jointly run by the federal and state governments, about 10.7 million people are now covered by Medicaid that otherwise wouldn’t be covered. If you just repeal that, then those 10 million need something new.
Ironically, some states are buying into the Medicaid expansion just as Republicans start talking about replacing it. In Kansas, the state House just voted to expand eligibility, 81-44. It might through the state Senate, but governor Sam Brownback says the idea is akin to “airlifting onto the Titanic.” Maine just decided that in November of this year, they’ll vote on a referendum to expand eligibility.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska already said she won’t vote to repeal the expanded eligibility, citing improved health care for about 27,000 Alaskans.
It’s not surprising that what Walker likes best is the version in Wisconsin – where Medicaid eligibility wasn’t expanded, everyone at or under the poverty line was covered, and everyone above it was moved to private plans.
Wisconsin offers a “Premium Tax Credit” to households with incomes up to 4 times the federal poverty level – this was up to $94,200 for a family of four in 2013 – and who are ineligible for Medicaid or don’t have an affordable employer’s plan. “If the individual or family chooses a less expensive plan, the PTC will cover more of their premium costs. If the individual or family chooses a more expensive plan, the PTC will cover less of their premium costs (but the individual or family will have lower co-pays and deductibles).”
Some might grumble that this is taking away Obamacare-era subsidies for purchasing insurance and replacing them with Trumpcare (or whatever the replacement is called) tax credits for purchasing insurance. But Walker seems pretty convinced that this is better if it is part of an overall emphasis of getting people into the workforce:
“When governors are given the ability to really reform Medicaid and our other assistance programs, when I say it’s the same or better, I mean we help somebody get into the workforce. Now they’ve got an employer-based plan, or they’re making enough to be able to afford the co-pays or the premiums on that. They’re better off than they were before. The government just giving them something, even in the form of a subsidy, isn’t necessarily good for them. We can find a better alterative. It doesn’t mean we’re giving you more money, but rather we’re giving you more ability to earn and live a better life.”
Our neighbor to the north demonstrates vividly how the logic of euthanasia consciousness spreads like a virus.
Once a society generally accepts killing as an acceptable response to human suffering, the killable categories expand exponentially–clearly seen in the Netherlands and Belgium where psychiatrists kill the mentally ill, sometimes coupled with organ harvesting.
Abuses? What abuses?
Canada is driving that same road with the pedal to the metal. Quebec is now actively considering expanding euthanasia to include the mentally incompetent if they asked to be killed in an advance directive. From the Montreal Gazette story:
A consensus is emerging among Quebec parliamentarians to launch a public debate on the appropriateness of legalizing medically assisted suicide for persons unable to give informed consent, such as patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
My mother died of Alzheimer’s, so I know what this disease is like.
I also know that it would have been wrong to allow her worst fears about what her life was going to be like when the illness began to bite, to allow her to order herself poisoned to death when she lost capacity.
Even in my mother’s very difficult final days, there were good moments in which she was able to receive and give love.
To say she would have been killable because she was so ill would have been to say that her loss of capacities rendered less than human. Not on my watch.
And that brings up an ironic point: At the same time in which concerted efforts are being undertaken to reduce the categories of animals killed by euthanasia–a worthy cause–similar efforts are underway where euthanasia is widely accepted to expand the number of people so killed.
That path leads to extreme moral peril.
The same progression we have seen in Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and now Canada, will happen here if assisted suicide ever becomes widely accepted. It’s only logical.
And here’s the worst part: When that happens, people won’t care because society’s adherence to the equality/sanctity of human life will have been fundamentally subverted.
The one and only.