Trump: America First

by Dan McLaughlin

On the whole, that was a solid Inaugural Address by Trump (which he supposedly wrote himself) – not a great speech, not a highly concrete speech (inaugurals are thematic, not programmatic), but a speech that adequately set forth the themes and philosophy that made Trump popular with his loyal supporters. Naturally, he had to close with “Make America Great Again.” I also felt as if his narration of our aspirations in space, medicine and other frontiers deliberately echoed the cadence of the opening narration from Star Trek, but maybe that’s just me.

I suspect the part everyone will remember is his invocation of “America First,” repeatedly and as a theme of his foreign and domestic policy and even as a theme of his calls for unity: ”When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” The implication here is that America is a family: outsiders viewed with suspicion, but everyone within treated with love and respect. Obviously, we’re a long way from the latter goal, and Trump has hardly been innocent of exacerbating that, but it’s at least a worthy aspiration.

Trump Strikes an Anti-Washington Note

by Dan McLaughlin

Trump is opening his Inaugural Address on a decidedly anti-Washington note, in some ways more aggressively so even than Ronald Reagan did in 1981: not just against Big Government, but specifically against the people who run it. He’s cribbing from FDR’s “Forgotten Man,” but his message is decidedly the opposite. It’s an ambitious goal, one that will be very hard to meet. And then – then – he segues immediately into promising law, order and help on the way for the inner cities, in stronger terms than Obama did in either of his inaugurals, and then to denouncing overstretch in foreign affairs.

Meet the new boss. We’ll see soon how different from the old boss.

Hail to the Legitimate Chief

by Jim Geraghty

The last Morning Jolt of the week… and the first of the Trump Presidency:

Hail to the Legitimate Chief

Sen. Ben Sasse explains why we celebrate Inauguration Day: “For over 200 years, this nation has been peacefully transferring power from one president to the next. We don’t reflect enough on how odd that is historically. And if it doesn’t give you goose bumps, you need to pause, and we need to re-learn some history together, because this isn’t the way it used to be done.”

Not everyone is ready to come together. David Frum writes in The Atlantic:

The message will be stated and restated this day: For the 58th time, the system has worked, and power has smoothly transferred from one heir of George Washington to another. The truth is not so happy. With full advance notice, and despite the failure to gain a plurality of the nation’s vote, the United States will soon inaugurate someone who owes his office in some large part to a hostile foreign intelligence operation. Who is, above and beyond that, a person whose character that leaves him unqualified to hold the presidency, and threatens the country with an impending sequence of financial and espionage scandals—a constitutional crisis on two legs.

The real message of today is that the system has failed. The challenge of the morrow is to know what to do to save the remainder.

This is close to concurring with the statements from Rep. John Lewis, Al Sharpton, and Michael Moore that Donald Trump is not a legitimate president. Because Russia was pretty transparently rooting for one side and because the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, John Podesta, was dumb enough to click on a phishing e-mail that gave hackers access to tens of thousands of his past e-mails, the election was a giant scam. The 137 million votes that were cast don’t really count, and we should ignore or discard the results.

(If you’re a member of Congress, and you really think that Trump is not legitimate, you should be introducing Articles of Impeachment immediately. Put your money where your mouth is; anything less is just a pose.)

In this narrative, the American people are really hapless and gullible. A decisive slice makes their decision on the presidential race solely because of the contents of the WikiLeaks revelations, a naïve faith in the good intentions and impeccable honesty of this guy:

“Trust me.”

The idea that the American people were oblivious to Trump’s faults strains credulity. The contention, from Clinton advisor Peter Daou, that “the national media” was “obsessed with taking down Hillary” is so laughably, self-evidently untrue that you want the believers to get counseling. The idea that Americans might have known Trump was guilty of all manner of sins and character flaws and chose to roll the dice on him anyway – because they liked him better than four years of the Democratic alternative — simply cannot compute for the crowd crying “illegitimate.”

I might be more sympathetic to Democrats if I hadn’t lived through the election of 2000. This was another case where a hard-fought race came down to a small margin of votes, another case where the Democrat won the popular vote and the Republican won the Electoral College, another case where Democrats insisted the election wasn’t fair. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Democrats believed that the layout of the butterfly ballot was so unfair, that it invalidated the election results. A lot of Republicans look at relentlessly one-sided media coverage, election after election, and think that isn’t fair.

Were the WikiLeaks revelations significantly more “unfair” than the revelations of the Access Hollywood tape? Or the revelation of George W. Bush’s DUI in 1976 just four days before the election of 2000? Or independent counsel Lawrence Walsh indicting former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger four days before the Presidential election, an indictment that was tossed out a month later for being beyond the statute of limitations? There is always some unexpected outside force in an election that the loser can claim was the decisive factor.

Even after the 2004 election, some Democrats believed that Bush had “stolen” the election in Ohio. According to The New Yorker, this was not merely a belief of the lunatic fringe: “In 2004, when Kerry lost the Presidential race to George W. Bush, who is widely considered the worst President of the modern era, he refused to challenge the results, despite his suspicion that in certain states, particularly Ohio, where the Electoral College count hinged, proxies for Bush had rigged many voting machines.”

In other words, the last presidential election where a Republican won and the Democrat didn’t contend that the winner cheated was 1988. In my adult life, there have been only two possible outcomes to a presidential election: A Democratic win or a Republican win that Democrats believe is illegitimate.

If you believe that the past three Republican presidential victories are the result of cheating, you have a child’s view of the world, where your side is always right and your side should always win. Yes, Trump’s a boor, incapable of brushing off petty insults, and completely unlike any president we’ve had before. But I’ve seen all the “not my president” and “selected, not elected” stuff before, for a much more decent, dignified man. Let’s turn the clock back sixteen years:

George W. Bush’s motorcade lurched through the largest inaugural protests since Richard Nixon on Saturday, enduring thousands of protesters who hurled insults, bottles, tomatoes and an egg. Protesters clashed briefly with police clad in riot gear at a few flash points while Bush remained inside his armored stretch car for most of the parade up a soggy, cold Pennsylvania Avenue. Police ordered the motorcade to slow in anticipation of some protests, and then to speed through others. A couple of protesters threw bottles and tomatoes before the presidential limousine arrived, and one hurled an egg that landed near the motorcade, the Secret Service said.

George W. Bush indisputably had his flaws, but he was a gracious man who tried to treat his opposition with a certain amount of respect and who appreciated the dignity and decorum of the office. He reached out after that bitterly divided election, inviting the Kennedys to the White House for a screening of a film about JFK, and paying tribute to Rep. Joe Moakley in his first address to Congress. Plenty of the same Democrats complaining the loudest now – John Lewis, Al Sharpton, Michael Moore – treated Bush like crap.

I simply don’t believe that Democrats are upset because Trump is uniquely bad as a person or a president. History tells me that they’re upset because a Republican won. 

Friday links

by debbywitt

For Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s birthday, here’s a list of her birthday catastrophes.

Picasso’s Self-Portraits From 15 Years Old To 90 Years Old.

What Are Dogs Really Thinking About?

This weekend is Stonewall Jackson’s birthday – here’s the story of his left arm’s separate grave (bonus: Lord Uxbridge’s leg)

A Brief Compendium of Vintage Recreational Vehicle Brochures.

How A Dead Millionaire Convinced Dozens Of Women To Have As Many Babies As Possible.

ICYMI, Tuesday’s links are here, and include self-medicating animals, a photo of Lincoln’s first inauguration, Al Capone’s investments in miniature golf, and, for Ben Franklin’s birthday, his 200 synonyms for drunk (plus the bodies found in his basement).

A President Meets the Press

by Jay Nordlinger

Many years ago, there was a famous book called “Listening to Prozac.” Today on the homepage, I begin a two-part series called “Listening to Putin.” The first installment is here.

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin gives a year-end press conference. His latest was December 23. A few of his remarks made the international news — as when he opined that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party needed to learn how to lose an election with dignity.

Donald Trump tweeted his agreement with Putin. “So true!” he said.

A pretty rich statement coming from the likes of Putin. In any event, he had a lot more to say at that press conference, and, in this series, I am highlighting some of it. Deeds are more important than words, of course. But you can learn a lot from what someone says — if only you will listen.

I have a memory from the 1980s. Mikhail Gorbachev had written a book, which everyone had read about but which few had read. I can see Jeane Kirkpatrick at a podium, holding up that book. “Have you read this book? I have. It is a very interesting book.”

Putin is an interesting cat, and a capable one. I have listened to him, through the exercise of reading a transcript of his press conference, in English translation. A worthwhile exercise. See what you think.

The Executive Power

by Yuval Levin

Our civic liturgy for this constitutionally significant day should be informed by this observation from James Madison:

The natural province of the executive magistrate is to execute laws, as that of the legislature is to make laws. All his acts therefore, properly executive, must presuppose the existence of the laws to be executed.

These words cannot help but serve as a harsh rebuke of the outgoing president. We should hope, and we should demand, though we would be passing naive to expect, that they might serve as a guide for the incoming one. 

Obama’s ‘Amazing Grace’

by Patrick Brennan

I don’t want to distract from this Friday’s inaugural festivities, but one final thought has come to me about the Obama presidency, and if I don’t share it now, it will be, as they say, overtaken by events.

It occurred to me the night that President Obama gave his farewell address, a week or two ago. I didn’t think too much of that speech per se, but his valedictory got me thinking about moments when I really did appreciate our 44th president, but may not have given due credit.

The main thing that came to mind was the president’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” in Charleston a year and a half ago, at the funeral for South Carolina state senator Clementa Pinckney. Pinckney was one of the nine black Americans murdered by a white supremacist at the end of a Bible study he was leading in the city’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

I remember hearing at the time that Obama broke out in song, and it certainly sounded special. But I don’t even remember watching it at the time — I’m not sure I actually watched it until a couple weeks ago.

It passed without much comment, let alone praise, from the right, best I recall. It bothers me that I was I was either so busy figuring out what was wrong with the president’s next tax proposal or the way he paints crime statistics that I didn’t notice what an amazing thing he did.

Really, it’s amazing:

The president of the United States — the country we worry is losing all touch with religious faith, with Christian values, with any spirituality at all — there he is, going solo in what might as well be a beatitude of the black church, singing a rousing spiritual, with AME clergy, in their purple robes and two centuries of tradition, joining him in heavenly praise.

Yes, it wasn’t exactly impromptu — but it was a cappella, and it was an exceptional spiritual moment on full display to a mass culture that has precious few of them. The words the president continues on with — “Clementa Pinckney found that grace, Cynthia Hurd found that grace . . .” — are no less beautiful. When a Christian says those words — when John Newton wrote them, and Obama sang them — it’s not about some kind of anodyne, humanistic grace. It’s about Grace. It’s the president of the United States proclaiming the beatific vision.

He who sings, Saint Augustine said, prays twice. I didn’t agree with much of what President Obama did in office, but I’m so glad he sang on that day in Charleston, when we needed at least double the prayers.


by NRO Staff


The crosses on the convent roofs

Gleam sharply as the sun comes up.

— Wallace Stevens, “Botanist on Alp (No. 2)”

The March wind blows past the first of April,

Purple finches in the small tree are alert,

Driven to their perches by the equinox

As surely as it swells magnolia buds

Elaborately wrapped for Easter, timed

To bloom this year just at the moment when

March raids April on a cold day in Lent.

I used to see old friends here in their 30s.

Then, only nuns, of no particular age,

Except that they look younger every year.

I understand that happening with baseball

Players or police officers, or streets

Crowded with hundreds, all of whom seem younger

Than I. But the Sisters were a surprise.

The old friends? Gone, moved to Jersey, or just

Praying somewhere else besides this chapel

Halfway between Cathedral and Fairmount

Where the Pink Sisters never cease praying,

Across from the old brewer’s mansion,

Silently, knowing that Green Street has its

Portion of sorrow, and its share of peace.

The postern gate on 22nd Street

Might be from a Scott novel, excepting

That it’s not a fictional entranceway

But leads to a hidden reality

That a votaress on Green Street understands.

– Lawrence Dugan

This poem appears in the February 6 print issue of NR.

Krauthammer’s Take: Trump’s Presidency Will Apparently ‘Be Nothing Like Previous Presidencies’

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer said that Donald Trump appears to be heading to a unique presidency, and that Democrats will do everything they can to create disunity from the inauguration on:

His presidency, if the path is any indication, it is going to be nothing like previous presidencies. The direct communication with the public through Twitter, the lack of political correctness, the idea that he would make new foreign policy off the cuff in a transition period. The transition was the most remarkable I have ever seen. I mean, he became essentially the president and was acting like one. He made the dollar slip just a couple days ago with a single tweet. So he knows what is within his power, but I want to reemphasize: The unity issue is going to be a big one. And here I blame the Democrats. Before he is being sworn in, a third of them are not going to show up to what is supposed to be a glorious moment in our civic life. This is the lowest partisanship — apart from the fact that he’s got the lowest popularity numbers which I’m not sure really matters — he’s got the highest partisanship index coming from the other side that I have ever seen. And they intend to make this rocky so it’s going to be a challenge right from the beginning.

WATCH: NR Interview with Pro-Life Feminist Excluded from Women’s March

by NR Staff

Ericka Andersen interviewed Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, the founder of New Wave Feminists, the organization that was excluded from partnering with the Women’s March on Washington for being pro-life. Here’s Herndon-De La Rosa’s surprisingly unoffended take on being removed from the partnership list: 

Hey, Congress — Enact Right to Work and Repeal the Prevailing Wage

by George Leef

Now that Congress is back at work, leadership should think about two excellent policy moves Kentucky just made and follow suit.

As I explain in my latest Forbes article, Governor Matt Bevin recently signed into law a Right to Work statute and signed out of law the state’s “prevailing wage” statute. Both are sound moves. Right to Work gives employees in unionized operations the freedom to stop paying dues if they no longer think the union is worth it, or because union leaders do things with their money they don’t approve of — and not be fired. In forced-unionism states, if a worker declines to pay the union the money it wants, he or she will usually be fired under the “union security” clause that you find in almost all collective-bargaining contracts. In short, it gives workers the same freedom that other Americans have when dealing with private organizations: Just stop paying. Right to Work seems to have some slight economic impact, since companies are somewhat more apt to invest or expand in RTW states, but I think that’s beside the main point that union membership ought to be a matter of choice, not compulsion.

As for prevailing wage, it’s a law (adopted in quite a few states) that amounts to a legal price-fixing conspiracy. The law fixes the price of labor in government construction contracts at the “prevailing” rate, which means union scale. It protects union construction from being underbid by non-union firms that don’t have to live with inefficient union rules. Now that the law is gone, taxpayers in Kentucky will benefit from lower costs on state construction projects.

Congress could follow Kentucky’s lead. It should pass a national RTW law, and it should repeal the federal prevailing-wage statute, the Davis-Bacon Act. Compulsory unionism, enshrined in the Wagner Act of 1935, and pro-union wage fixing, enshrined in the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, are special-interest provisions that we should get rid of. The sooner the better.

NYT: We Stand by Our Fake News

by Ian Tuttle

Over on the homepage, I have a piece about the New York Times’ hit job on Rick Perry. America’s paper of record claims that Trump’s nominee for Energy secretary “knew almost nothing” about DOE’s responsibility for the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal, a claim for which they have precisely no evidence.

But the Times isn’t backing down: “We stand by our story, which accurately reflected what multiple, high-level sources told our reporters,” a spokesperson for the Times tells Politico.

The only problem with this explanation is that Michael McKenna, a former member of the Trump transition team (he left in mid November), is the only source named in the story — and he has said the Times’ claims “don’t really reflect what I said.”

So the Times’ explanation for its dubious reporting goes something like this: “We stand by calling Rick Perry an ignoramus based on conversations with multiple high-level sources we cannot name, and whose existence we didn’t even bother to allude to in our original reporting.”

Seems credible.

P.S. The Weekly Standard dug up some interesting video from 2014:

Here’s the key exchange, from the forum on energy independence at the Commonwealth Club:

“You served in the Air Force and probably know a big part of the Department of Energy is National Security and nuclear, nuclear arsenal,” said Greg Dalton, founder of the Climate One forum.

“Yep,” said Perry.


Opposing the Excesses of Liberal Academia Doesn’t Make You ‘Anti-Intellectual’

by David French

Response To...

Fiercely Ridiculous

Like Yuval Levin, I object to Washington Post reporter Sarah Kaplan’s description of David Gelernter as “fiercely anti-intellectual.” Gelernter is reportedly being considered for White House science adviser, and Yuval rightly calls him “about the most learned person you can hope to find in the wild.” Indeed, the very article that calls him anti-intellectual lays out a few of his more impressive credentials: 

Gelernter is a pioneer in the field of parallel computation, a type of computing in which many calculations are carried out simultaneously. The programming language he developed in the 1980s, Linda, made it possible to link together several small computers into a supercomputer, significantly increasing the amount and complexity of data that computers can process. Since then he has written extensively about artificial intelligence, critiquing the field’s slow progress and warning of AI’s potential dangers.

So if the man is an pioneer in computer science (In 2016 a Time writer called him an “arch-genius,” but whatever), why is he anti-intellectual? Well, he thinks the academy is too liberal:

Beyond computer science circles, Gelernter has made a name for himself as a vehement critic of modern academia. In his 2013 book, “America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats),” he condemned “belligerent leftists” and blamed intellectualism for the disintegration of patriotism and traditional family values. He attributed the decline in American culture to “an increasing Jewish presence at top colleges.” (Gelernter himself is Jewish.)

Oh, and he offends the bishops in the Cathedral of Climate Change:

But he would be an unusual choice for the role of science adviser. If appointed, he would be the first computer scientist to take the job, and the first adviser who is not a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He has expressed doubt about the reality of man-made climate change — something that 97 percent of active researchers agree is a problem. And his anti-intellectualism makes him an outlier among scientists.

None of this is true “anti-intellectualism.” To decry the modern intellectual elite is to defend and protect intellectual integrity. The modern academy is a narrow place, full of ignorant condescension. To call many members of even the top faculties “intellectuals” is to give them far too much credit. Yes, there are many outstanding and rigorous liberal professors, but all too many of them are ideological radicals first, scholars second. One of their many great cons is persuading gullible reporters and pundits that critiquing their closed and narrow-minded institutions is somehow “anti-intellectual.” 

As if on cue, here comes Andrew Rosenburg from the left-wing Union of Concerned Scientists to be, yes, ignorant and condescending:

Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said he hadn’t heard of Gelernter until Tuesday.

“He’s certainly not mainstream in the science community or particularly well known,” Rosenberg said. “His views even on most of the key science questions aren’t known. Considering the huge range of issues the White House needs to consider, I don’t know if he has that kind of capability.”

Gelernter went from “arch-genius” to “anti-intellectual” at the speed of a potential Trump appointment. And to think, pundits wonder why the public often distrusts mainstream media science reporting. 

On Rick Perry, a Swing and a Miss

by Rich Lowry

The headline and lede of this New York Times story this morning were irresistible for the Left:

‘Learning Curve’ as Rick Perry Pursues a Job He Initially Misunderstood

WASHINGTON — When President-elect Donald Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

This provoked great fun at Rick Perry’s expense. The only problem is that the sole on-the-record source for the claim says he was distorted, and the thrust of the story seems demonstrably false. Becket Adams of the Washington Examiner went back and found Perry’s statement upon getting nominated:

UPDATE: Don’t miss the piece that Ian has on the home page about this episode.

Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (June 19, 2017)

If You Think Trump Won’t Be a Legitimate President. . .

by Ramesh Ponnuru

shouldn’t that affect more than your plans for tomorrow? At Bloomberg View, I ask what Rep. John Lewis and people who say Trump is “not my president” mean.

Mann v. National Review — Our Formal Legal Response to the Latest Ruling

by Jack Fowler

On December 22, a three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued a verdict in Penn State professor Michael Mann’s defamation case against NR, Mark Steyn, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Rand Simberg. Our editorial, published the following day, charged that the ruling was “badly mistaken,” that it was “an unprecedented threat to the freedom of speech,” and that NR would “seek a prompt rehearing from the full D.C. Court of Appeals, followed if necessary by a petition for review in the United States Supreme Court.”

On the former of those two actions: Today our counsel filed that rehearing petition. You can read the petition, here. Among its points, a most important one is that the judges’ ruling was a “curtailment of core First Amendment rights,” thereby raising an issue of “exceptional importance” requiring a rehearing by the full court. The NR petition concludes by emphasizing the ruling’s threat to established free-speech protections:

The importance of this issue is especially acute in the nation’s capital, where vigorous debate over climate change and similar issues is the very lifeblood of deliberative democracy. The panel’s decision strikes at the heart of this process, and it will cut both ways: Dr. Mann himself has blasted his opponents for engaging in “pure scientific fraud,” “knowingly lying about the threat [of] climate change,” and issuing “deceptive . . . report[s]” on the topic. NR Br. 6-7. Under the panel’s reasoning, big oil companies and other well-heeled interests can begin launching their own lawsuits asking juries in Texas or Oklahoma to silence such criticism. The panel thus opens a dangerous new frontier in the strategic use of lawsuits to silence political opponents. This Court should act now and spare the Supreme Court the task of eliminating this extreme outlier in the nation’s First Amendment jurisprudence.

Stay tuned. And in the meanwhile, if you would like to support National Review’s legal defense, of itself and of the First Amendment, please consider making a contribution here.

National Review Job Opening: Associate Editor

by NR Staff

We’re seeking a new associate editor to assist in the editing and production of National Review’s print magazine and its daily Web publication, National Review Online.

Location: New York, N.Y. (but strong applicants for remote work will be considered)

This is a full-time, permanent position with benefits.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

Editing a high volume of blog posts and articles in a fast-paced environment

Following search-engine-optimization best practices and working with a content-management system


Bachelor’s degree and 1–2 years’ relevant experience

Demonstrated ability as a skilled and conscientious editor and writer

Strong knowledge of and interest in national affairs and conservative politics

Ability to work in a deadline-driven, collaborative environment

Comfort working in new mediums and formats, willingness to experiment, and desire to continue to improve  

To apply:

Send us a résumé and cover letter at [email protected]

Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson: Matthew Continetti and Andrew Ferguson

by Peter Robinson

Matthew Continetti and Andrew Ferguson discuss Donald Trump’s nomination and what it means for conservatives in America. They argue that they are encouraged by whom Trump is nominating to different cabinet positions and the Supreme Court but that Trump’s unpredictability and lack of core values are a concern. They discuss the role the media will play with the Trump administration and their relationship with the president-elect.

Does Trump Really Want a State Department That’s This Conventional?

by Rich Lowry

Richard Haas, who has been talked about as deputy secretary of state, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal counseling against “sudden moves,” i.e. discarding the “one China” policy, ripping up the Iran deal, or moving our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Since Tillerson is a novice, his deputy is going to take on added importance. It’s a good idea to have a deputy who is experienced, but ideally Trump should want someone who is willing to challenge the bureaucracy and isn’t a captive of conventional wisdom. I’m a broken record on this, but John Bolton fits the bill.