Peter Breen’s Illinois Campus Free Speech Act

by Stanley Kurtz

Illinois state representative Peter Breen (R., Lombard) has just introduced HB 2939, which would create the Illinois Campus Free Speech Act. Breen’s bill is based on the model campus free-speech legislation I recently co-authored along with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute.

Upon introducing the bill, Breen said:

With everything going on nationally right now, this is a timely bill that will serve as a reminder that the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech and expression. Our public institutions of higher learning have historically embraced a commitment to free speech, but in recent years we have seen colleges and universities abdicate their responsibility to uphold free-speech principles. This initiative will put Illinois in the forefront of ensuring robust, respectful speech on college campuses.

As recently noted, North Carolina lieutenant governor Dan Forest has announced that his state’s General Assembly will soon be considering a bill based on the Goldwater proposal, and I will be testifying before the Florida state house next week on the Goldwater model campus free-speech bill at the invitation of Education Committee chair Michael Bileca.

— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at

To Protect the Interests of Whom?

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

To Protect the Interests of Whom?

Here’s a section in the lead story of this week’s The Economist, about a new report from the National Academy of Sciences that “gives qualified support to research into gene-editing techniques.” See if the sentence that jumped out to me jumps out to you as well.

The first gene editing will eliminate genetic diseases in a way that now requires embryo selection—an advance many would applaud. Adults should be able to clone perfect copies of themselves, as an aspect of self-determination. But breeding babies with new traits and cloning other people raises questions of equality and of whether it is ever right to use other people’s tissues without their consent.

The questions will be legion. Should bereaved parents be able to clone a lost child? Or a widow her departed husband? Should the wealthy be able to pay for their children to be intelligent and diligent, if nobody else can afford to do so?

Commissions of experts will need to search for answers; and courts will need to apply the rules—to protect the interests of the unborn.

You saw it, right? “To protect the interests of the unborn.”

It’s a delightfully glaring phrase in light of today’s abortion-on-demand philosophy and law, a cultural consensus in some powerful corners of the country but deeply controversial within the country as a whole. That sentence prods us: if the unborn have interests… why wouldn’t they have rights, as well?

Back in the 1990s, polling indicated more than half of all Americans considered themselves “pro-choice” and about a third considered themselves “pro-life.” Those percentages are now roughly evenly split; in a few recent years the pro-life percentage has actually been higher. Considering the once-unimaginable potential of modern technology, I’d say that shift arrived just in time.

Something Rare under the Sun

by Jay Nordlinger

Today, I conclude my series on Down Home Ranch, a place for the disabled in Texas. (Go here.) The ranch is for disabled adults — 18 and older. There is no upper limit.

People like to help children, and helping children is good. What could be better? But there are also adults who need help. And adults don’t make the best poster children, so to speak.

Jerry and Judy Horton founded Down Home Ranch shortly after they had a disabled daughter. They were thinking about the future. “Sure, we’ll have her at home, and it will be beautiful. But what about later? What about when she becomes an adult? What about after we’re gone?”

All that. These are pressing concerns for parents.

Before I left Down Home Ranch, Jerry had a statement for me. He wanted me to know something. “We’re not saints,” he said. “We are not comfortable with praise. It’s kind of a burden, to be honest.”

I swear, I almost laughed out loud: because nearly all the great people I interview say this. I could practically set my watch to it.

As I say in my series, the Hortons may not be saints, but their ranch is a saintly act, an act of love, something rare under the sun (and the Texas sun can be pretty hot, as you know). 

Classified Hypocrisy

by Carrie Lukas

While I agree with the overall thrust of Jonathan Tobin’s remarks regarding selective leaks from the U.S. Intelligence community of classified information, with the intent of undermining President Trump, I think Jonathan has missed the mark when he comments that:

Those who point out Trump’s hypocritical response to the leaks are not wrong. On the stump during the campaign, he was positively gleeful in describing the e-mails written by John Podesta and DNC officials and published by WikiLeaks. But liberals have engaged in the same hypocrisy, screaming bloody murder about WikiLeaks while touting each new anonymously sourced revelation about the Trump administration. 

I submit there’s a big difference – a yuuuge difference, even – between a candidate being pleased his opponents were lazy or negligent enough to not secure their private, but unclassified, emails, and deliberate leaks of classified government secrets by people sworn to keep this information secure. Russia, which allegedly got into DNC email accounts, is like a force of nature: If it can steal sensitive U.S. information, it will, and it’s incumbent on the political parties to protect private information they think might be embarrassing. Candidate Donald Trump had every reason to be happy the Democrats fell short in this regard and that, despite efforts by the mainstream press to ignore the emails, the public got more insight into the true nature of Hillary Clinton and her campaign. This was on par with NBC’s release of a hot mic recording of Donald Trump that he never knew existed.

The current situation, by contrast, involves federal employees breaking the law, their oaths, and betraying the public trust by leaking classified information. This is sedition, not lax private email security, and the president is right to be incensed by it. Yet those who were outraged at the mere thought of the Russians releasing private emails now cheer Americans doing much worse. There is indeed hypocrisy here, but it’s not coming from the White House.


by NR Staff


Between the sunset and the window shade,

The maple leaves were quaking in the wind.

I saw the shaken shadows that they made

As if in fear — as if they were afraid

That soon a palling dark was coming on,

And that their shadows, trembling and unpinned,

Cast on translucency, would, in one black,

Fade fast and disappear. Then they were gone

In fact, and, I could see, would not be back,

No matter what the wind did, come the dawn.

Len Krisak

This poem appears in the March 6 issue of NR.

Nondiscrimination Policies Represent the Secular Creed of the Progressive Church

by David French

Over on the homepage I wrote today about the Washington Supreme Court’s dreadful decision imposing personal liability on a florist for refusing to help celebrate a gay wedding. As I wrote, it struck me that the way you think about the case likely depends on how you answer a simple question: Who should control your business? 

If you think that a business fundamentally belongs to a person — and not the state — then you’re more likely to believe that the state can and should restrict your right to operate your business as you see fit only when it has demonstrated concrete, urgent need. Take, for example, the government’s response to the systematic denial of services to black citizens in the South. Confronted with a social, economic, and political system that in a real way re-created the “badges and incidents of slavery,” the government took the serious step of overriding the business-owner’s right to run his store or restaurant to try to rectify the century-old failure of Reconstruction and the imposition of white supremacist rule in the old Confederacy. 

If you think, however, that businesses either ultimately belong to the state — or exist mainly at the pleasure of the state — then government can conscript private businesses in its preferred political crusades, even in the absence of real need or widespread social harm. This is exactly what’s happening with most modern nondiscrimination laws. Rather than argue, for example, that states had to enact sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws because gay people couldn’t find places to eat, drink, or sleep, sexual revolutionaries demand that government take action against “social evil” because businesses must not be permitted to do “wrong” things. 

That, friends, is what you call, “legislating morality.”

The bottom line is that expansive nondiscrimination policies represent something akin to the secular creed of the progressive church. The state is overriding individual liberty to implement a specific world view — without any meaningful evidence that reforms are necessary to address a particular cultural problem. There is no lack of florists, bakers, and photographers eager to help celebrate gay weddings, but it becomes intolerable to the Left that there exists even a single commercially-viable dissenting voice. Churches, after all, won’t let their pulpits be used for heresy. To the modern administrative state every business is a pulpit, and those pulpits must preach the progressive social gospel.

President Trump and Trade

by Michael R. Strain

My latest column, out this morning, is on the flipside of trade. The headline asks the right question: “Why is President Trump attacking foreign investment in the United States?”

You likely haven’t heard Trump criticize international capital flowing into the United States. At least, not directly. But when the president and his administration attack the trade deficit, they are attacking foreign investment in the United States.

I also ask in the column why the president is attacking the liberal order and economic liberty.

Retreating from free trade is a partial retreat from the history shaping idea that free exchange is good, and that two individual parties should be left to their own judgment as to whether a trade of goods, services or income makes both parties better off — replacing their judgment with the judgment of bureaucrats and politicians. Retreating from free trade means embracing industrial policy, reducing long-term growth, pulling back from a position of leadership in the world, increasing the role of government and decreasing political and economic liberty.

Read the column here. As always, your comments are very welcome.


The Self-Funding Border Wall

by Mark Krikorian

I’ve made no secret of my opinion that enhanced efforts at the border are less important than other measures in regaining control over immigration. I think the enforcement benefit of the next dollar we spend would be greater in, say, implementing an exit-tracking system. But the idea that we can’t afford a border wall has never struck me as plausible.

Well, it became even less plausible when my colleague Steven Camarota ran the numbers. It turns out that if a wall reduces the expected illegal flow by just 9-12 percent over the next decade, the wall will pay for itself.

The report is based on data from the National Academies of Sciences, the Institute for Defense Analyses, and the Heritage Foundation. It estimates that each illegal border-crosser represents a net fiscal drain of nearly $75,000. (Including their children would make the drain even larger.) If the border wall prevented 160,000 to 200,000 illegal crossings over the next decade (out of a projected 10-year total of 1.7 million successful infiltrations), it would be enough to cover the estimated $12 to $15 billion in construction costs.

There are caveats and qualifications, though they cut both ways. The NAS based its cost estimates on “net present value,” meaning it discounts future costs; the savings would be even greater using a different accounting method. On the other hand, half of new illegal aliens are visa overstayers, to whom a wall is irrelevant. What’s more, the wall will be built with federal funds, while much of the cost of immigration – and thus the savings from better enforcement – is borne by state and local governments (which will probably just squander the windfall).

But no tweak of the numbers can change the basic fact that letting unskilled people settle in the United States costs taxpayers a pile of money. And letting fewer in will save money. So even without a remittances tax or a hike in visa fees, even a minimally effective wall won’t in the end cost American taxpayers anything. That may not be as sexy as “Mexico will pay for it,” but it’s good enough for government work.

On Travel Order, Trump Will Rescind and Replace

by Andrew C. McCarthy

The Justice Department has informed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that President Trump intends to rescind the executive order that placed substantial restrictions on alien travel to the United States. The order will be “replace[d] . . . with a new, substantially revised executive order.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department disclosed the administration’s plans in a submission that is intended to end litigation in the Ninth Circuit regarding the original executive order. That order, which we’ve extensively covered at National Review, placed a temporary ban on entry into the U.S. by refugees and by aliens from seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan) that were previously cited under an Obama-era statute due to terrorism concerns. The order was suspended by Seattle federal district judge James Robart; the suspension was subsequently upheld by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit.

There were lingering questions about whether the administration would seek a review of the panel ruling by an en banc tribunal (which, because the Ninth Circuit is so large, would have involved 11 of the Circuit’s 28 active judges, rather than all active judges, as is done in other circuits). There was also a slim possibility that the administration would appeal to the Supreme Court. Today’s Justice Department submission should end the case, at least as far as the original executive order is concerned.

Presumably, the administration’s decision to rescind the executive order will also end the litigation in the district court in Seattle. There, Judge Robart was poised to consider whether the temporary restraining order he had issued should be followed with a preliminary injunction. Rescission of the order would leave nothing to enjoin.

The Justice Department’s submission contends that the Ninth Circuit panel’s decision “erroneously” concluded that the original order contained “constitutional errors.” It predicted that President Trump’s new order would be drafted in a manner that “eliminated” these judicial errors – which presumably means it will refashion the directive to avoid issues that the court found problematic.

Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that the president could issue a directive that would impose meaningful restrictions on alien entry yet sidestep the objections raised by the panel and the district judge. In any event, any new executive order is certain to face immediate challenges in the federal district courts, as the first one did.

It will be interesting to see whether the successor order calls for immediate implementation or announces a new policy to take effect after some notice period. The immediate implementation of the original order (issued on a Friday) resulted in chaos at the airports as aliens with lawfully issued visas were prevented from entering the United States. Coupled with the order’s questionable application to lawful permanent resident aliens whose travel involved one or more of the seven cited countries, the implementation created hardships that virtually guaranteed tough sledding for the executive order in the courts.

I would expect the next order to focus more on vetting procedures than categorical bans. To repeat, the original executive order was never meant to be permanent. It was a temporary measure on the path to a hoped-for system of improved screening. As I’ve been urging, getting the vetting right is critical. It is also, of course, bound to be controversial.

A Question for Gorsuch, And an Answer

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Noah Feldman offers a question for Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing: Does the nominee believe that permissive abortion laws are unconstitutional? Gorsuch has argued that some laws permitting assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness might violate the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they provide radically different treatment to people based on their physical health. Does he think that laws permitting abortion violate the clause by treating persons differently on the basis of their age?

To answer yes, though, would be to presuppose that unborn children are “persons” for the purposes of the Constitution. Whether they are was one of the core issues in Roe v. Wade. Justice Blackmun’s majority opinion allowed that if they are persons, permissive abortion laws are unconstitutional. (Like so much else about the decision, the concession was incompetent. Blackmun thought that allowing the killing of persons would violate the due process clause rather than the equal protection clause.)

Judge Gorsuch has said nothing to indicate whether he believes that unborn children should be considered to be included in constitutional references to “persons.” He has said nothing to indicate whether he believes that they are persons in any other sense. If asked about this equal-protection argument, it would be reasonable and not terribly provocative for him to respond that the Supreme Court has held that human embryos and fetuses are not constitutional persons, and that this holding, like all Supreme Court rulings, deserves some deference as a precedent. These are, of course, the standard answers that conservative nominees to the Supreme Court give on questions related to Roe, which is to say that the equal-protection argument does not really create any new difficulties for a nominee.

What’s interesting about Feldman’s article—and also Dylan Matthews’s related one in Vox—is that both of them tacitly dismiss the view that unborn children aren’t really persons. They take arguments that infants deserve legal protection and that all persons have a right to life as threats to the abortion right: quite as if the central argument that has been made for abortion, that children in the womb are not persons, is not a serious argument at all. Hmmm.

What About Whataboutism? Does It Matter If Obama Did It First?

by Dan McLaughlin

We’ve heard a lot of Republicans and conservatives respond to criticism of President Trump by pointing to things President Obama did. And the liberal/progressive-pundit buzzword du jour for this is “whataboutism” – i.e., the idea that it’s illegitimate to cite Obama as a defense to criticisms of Trump, even in arguments with people who defended or praised similar conduct by Obama. Does it matter that Obama did it first?

As a matter of right and wrong, or on a question of constitutional principle, the answer obviously is “no.” If Obama did something first, that doesn’t make it right. Indeed, for those of us who see the Obama presidency as a disaster for national security, small government, religious and economic liberty, separation of powers, and the rule of law, the fact that Obama did something first makes it more likely that it was wrong. For example, Obama claimed the right to effectively legalize millions of illegal immigrants by unilateral executive fiat as a matter of “prosecutorial discretion.” This was a gravely dangerous incursion of presidential power into lawmaking powers that the Constitution properly gave to Congress. President Trump has no similar power – if he has the power to issue things like his executive order on refugees, he needs to identify when and how Congress gave him that authority (which is exactly the argument made for that order, insofar as it is temporary in nature). To pick another example, conservatives rightly blasted Obama for picking economic winners and losers and taking a corporatist view of the economy. Boondoggles like Trump’s Carrier deal can’t be defended on the grounds that they are Obama-like; that’s the problem with them.

But there are a number of other ways in which looking back at the Obama years is quite relevant.

First, some controversies are entirely about what is normal, typical, or unprecedented in the conduct of the president or the federal government. That was especially clear during the transition. For example, there was an enormous hue and cry about Trump taking down sections of the White House website on particular issues; in fact, his team wiped clean all the Obama-era policy content on the site, moving it to an archived site. But that’s exactly the same thing Obama did on taking office. There’s no moral or political principle at stake, just the claim that Trump was doing something unprecedented – and it turned out he wasn’t. What about Obama was the central issue.

Second, there is the question of radicalism. Much of the “Resist” movement among Democrats and liberals (including the view that Trump should not even be entitled to fill a Cabinet) is premised upon the idea that Trump represents a truly unprecedented break with how our government operates. Certainly, this is true of Trump’s biography, his business empire, his use of Twitter, and of a lot of his behavior on the campaign trail. Aspects of his press shop’s contempt for the media and the truth have also broken new ground.

But many of the supposedly radical and dangerous acts by Trump and the Trump Administration turn out not to be such dramatic breaks with the Obama Administration, for good or ill. As I’ve detailed before, critics have overstated how Trump’s refugee order differs from Obama-era refugee policies (all the way down to Obama’s Administration having singled out the same list of seven countries for heightened scrutiny over terrorist risks under the visa waiver program). It’s fair to argue that both have been seriously misguided or that Trump has gone a step too far, but the context of knowing what the existing policy already was is important. Likewise, the argument that Trump is engaging in an unprecedented assault on the independence of the judiciary falls apart when you look at Obama’s record of public attacks on the Supreme Court. In that case, both Trump and Obama are in the wrong, but the Rubicon was crossed under the last Administration.

Third, there’s the matter of who caused a problem. Traditionally, most every president blames his predecessor for nearly everything when he first arrives in the office, and traditionally, the voters have the patience to accept this excuse for roughly the first year. That tendency goes beyond the presidency or government, as illustrated by the old “prepare two envelopes” joke. And presidents typically use “what we inherited” as a bar for measuring accomplishments after that. On the other hand, it becomes a crutch to keep just blaming every failure on the last guy, as Obama tended to do with Bush all the way to the very end. It’s fair and appropriate, for now, to notice which problems are not of Trump’s own making. But eventually, that will become a lame excuse.

Fourth, there’s the question of hypocrisy and media double standards. It is more than fair to note that people outraged at Trump had nothing at all to say about similar actions or statements by Obama, or celebrated them, or mocked his critics (and incumbent on conservatives, as well, to criticize things that we found genuinely troubling about Obama). For example, lots of liberals spent October 2016 lecturing us about how the worst, most un-American thing anyone could do is call into question the result of an election – they should not be able to memory-hole that now when doing precisely that. This is just one of a long list of categorical value statements trotted out by liberal pundits over the years that are forgotten as soon as they become inconvenient, from denouncing anyone who questions the patriotism of political opponents to arguing for compartmentalization. An adversarial system of punditry is necessary in order to remind people how little of this stuff is sincere.

A two-party system ensures that the shoe will often be switched to the other foot. Sometimes, it’s true, switching feet will make you change your mind about what the rules of the road should be, but reminding people where they stood the day before yesterday is a healthy way to encourage long-term consistency and punish nakedly hypocritical opportunism.

An Educational Plague Spreads across the Land

by George Leef

America’s colleges and universities are the perfect petri dishes for cultivating destructive ideas and movements. The people in charge are usually leftists who hate to say “no” to anything proposed by fellow members of the tribe of progressivism. They have lots of money to throw around. They assume that they won’t suffer any adverse consequences from actions that politicize their institutions, so long as it’s the kind of politicization acceptable to the Left. That explains the rise of the New Civics at a great many colleges.

What is the New Civics? That is the term coined by David Randall of the National Association of Scholars for programs meant to turn college students into left-wing activists. Randall explains it in great detail in a recent NAS report entitled “Making Citizens” and I write about his work in this Martin Center article.

At many colleges, it’s difficult for a student to find courses that cover the old civics — factual teaching about our governmental institutions. But it’s hard to avoid New Civics courses that implant leftist notions about the evils of capitalism, America’s supposedly intractable racism, white privilege, and the like, and combine them with activism outside the classroom. The goal is to turn out brigades of young Social Justice Warriors. Taxpayers foot the bill, of course.

Randall’s report covers the rise of New Civics, its Alinskyite tactics, its support system. Then he dives into several case studies: University of Colorado — Boulder, Colorado State, Northern Colorado, and the University of Wyoming. (Only at the last has New Civics failed to spread very far.) In great detail, we learn about the people and programs, such as the International and National Voluntary Service Training program at UC-Boulder. That program amounts to, as Randall puts it, “a major in progressive activism” that pumps out around 200 graduates per year. Those miseducated kids will become foot soldiers in the army dedicated to transforming America into a collectivistic paradise.

Randall has many recommendations, but I’ll sum them up this way: New Civics must be pulled out by the roots. You should read his report and share it widely.

Senator Chris Murphy: Congress Making It Easier for the Mentally Ill to Commit Murder

by Paul Crookston

In opposing Republicans’ decision to rescind a federal rule preventing the mentally handicapped from obtaining a gun, Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) yesterday equated mental illness with a tendency toward violence:

The one thing Congress has done on guns since Sandy Hook is to make it easier for very mentally ill people to get guns. Think about being a parent in Sandy Hook and knowing that the only thing that Congress has done since that massacre is to make it easier for people like Adam Lanza [Sandy Hook shooter] to get their hands on assault weapons. This is outrageous.

Senator Murphy has repeatedly used the Sandy Hook tragedy in the state he represents to push for federal gun laws, but this is an especially disturbing appropriation. The Obama administration’s regulation gave the federal government power to take away a constitutional right without due process, and on the dubious grounds that those who cannot complete financial forms without help are prone to murder. For this reason, the ACLU opposed the rule, contending that:

It advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent. There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence. The rule further demonstrates the damaging phenomenon of “spread,” or the perception that a disabled individual with one area of impairment automatically has additional, negative and unrelated attributes. Here, the rule automatically conflates one disability-related characteristic, that is, difficulty managing money, with the inability to safely possess a firearm.

In addition to the ACLU, the coalition that opposed the rule includes a vast array of mental-health charities, a host of doctors, and a series of disability advocacy groups. In taking the position he has, Senator Murphy is casting them all as irresponsible tools of the NRA.

As Charles Cooke pointed out on the Corner, even President Obama insisted that there was no direct link between mental illness and violence, and his administration was keen to insist that its rule did not imply such a connection. Senator Murphy has taken the opposite approach, choosing instead to equate peaceful and law-abiding Americans with “people like Adam Lanza” — and to so in the interest of naked political posturing. For shame.

Patriotism Is Not Enough

by John J. Miller

My latest Bookmonger podcast is with Steven F. Hayward, author of Patriotism Is Not Enough: Harry Jaffa, Walter Berns, and the Arguments that Redefined American Conservatism. Toward the end of our 10-minute conversation, I give him 30 seconds to define “Straussian.” Listen in to see if he pulls it off. Then listen again to see if he tries to convey an esoteric point.

Do Whites Benefit Disproportionately from Welfare?

by Kevin D. Williamson

The Washington Post today inflicts some weapons-grade stupidity upon the reading public, with its claim that whites benefit disproportionately — not just in higher gross numbers — from federal welfare programs. The question involves a new study from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Tracy Jan of the Post writes:

Government assistance and tax credits lifted 6.2 million working-class whites out of poverty in 2014, more than any other racial or ethnic demographic. Half of all working-age adults without college degrees lifted out of poverty by safety-net programs are white; nearly a quarter are black and a fifth are Hispanic.

You start to see the obvious problem there, i.e., that half of the adults without college degrees lifted out of poverty by federal welfare programs (oddly specific demographic choice — why exclude the college graduates and, probably more significant, the children?) are white, which is true, but whites are more than 60 percent of the population, while blacks make up 13 percent of the population but nearly twice the share of those lifted out of poverty by welfare programs, while Hispanics are 17 percent of the population but a slightly larger share of the beneficiaries.

But there is another way to twist the numbers: What share of the people in each demographic group who would otherwise be in poverty are above the poverty line thanks to welfare programs? Again, it’s a non-obvious way of evaluating the numbers, but even this does not show what the Washington Post purports to show: In fact, the white and black beneficiary rates on this metric are almost exactly the same: forty-four percent for whites and 43 percent for blacks. The outlier — the real headline — is the relatively low (28 percent) rate of benefit among Hispanics.

Well-done, Hispanics! Unless . . . 

If you guessed that the Hispanic rate is relatively low mostly because illegal immigrants are not eligible for most welfare programs, there’s a Ph.D. in Obviousness Studies waiting for you at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box (or in the ninth paragraph of the Post’s story). If you guessed that whites benefit more from federal income-support programs because they are as a group older and earn more money (and hence get higher Social Security payments), then you are on a roll.

In fact, there is almost nothing of real interest in the data here. This is instead an almost purely ideological exercise: It is an article of faith on the Left that poor whites are so gobsmacked by Jesus talk and racial dog-whistling on the part of Republican politicians that they — inevitable cliché — “vote against their own interests.” There is a lot of question-begging in that: I think Social Security and Medicare are stupid and destructive programs, but I might very well benefit from them someday. (Maybe. Maybe not.) Am I “voting against my own interests” if I prioritize my values — what I think would be good for the country — above the possibility of a monthly check? And why do we never hear about rich progressives “voting against their own interests” instead of lining up with Grover Norquist on tax questions? If I am a food-stamp recipient who thinks Larry Kudlow has it right on economic policy, and that Kudlow-nomics might produce the kind of robust economic conditions that would allow me to get off food stamps, am I “voting against my own interests” if I follow Kudlow’s lead on Election Day?

Even if we believed that continued dependency were in the interest of poor people, is that their only interest?

Either Tracy Jan and the Post got snookered on this one or they are playing along with an exercise in political rhetoric masquerading as an exercise in social research. In either case, this is shoddy work of which they should be embarrassed.

Florida Hearing on Goldwater Campus Free Speech Proposal

by Stanley Kurtz

I will be testifying before the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee of the Florida State House next Thursday, February 23, on the model campus free speech legislation I recently co-authored with James Manley and Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute. My testimony comes at the invitation of Representative Michael Bileca, Chair of Florida’s House Education Committee. After the hearing, I will be addressing the same topic at Florida’s James Madison Institute.

As noted last week, North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest has already announced that his state’s General Assembly will soon be considering a bill based on the Goldwater campus free speech proposal.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at

Is the Trump Era Really Off to Such a Slow Start?

by Jim Geraghty

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Is the Trump Era Really Off to Such a Slow Start?

The lead story in the New York Times today: “Congressional Republicans, who craved unified control of the government to secure their aggressive conservative agenda, have instead found themselves on a legislative elliptical trainer, gliding toward nowhere.”

Eh, maybe. Yes, the big items like Obamacare replacement and tax reform are taking time – no one should expect either of those done until the middle of the year – but there’s a lot of little repeals of Obama-era regulations going on, largely ignored by cable news and the big political media…

For example, at the White House:

[President Trump signed] a bill [that] cancels out a Securities and Exchange Commission regulation that would have required oil and gas and mining companies to disclose in detail the payments they make to foreign governments in a bid to boost transparency in resource-rich countries.

Hill Republicans are also seeking to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn regulations that would: prevent coal-mining operations from dumping waste into nearby waterways; restrict methane emissions by oil and gas operations on federal land; require federal contractors to self-certify that they comply with U.S. labor laws; require each state to issue annual ratings for teacher-prep programs; and introduce a planning rule for federal lands.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who attended the signing Tuesday, said it would be “the first of many Congressional Review Act bills to be signed into law by President Trump.” He said they would “provide relief for Americans hurt by regulations rushed through at the last minute by the Obama administration.”

Congress only has 60 legislative days to repeal a last-minute regulation by an outgoing administration, so these sorts of little bills have to take priority; there’s a legal deadline.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate:

Sen. Joe Donnelly was one of four Democrats who voted with all Senate Republicans and one independent Wednesday to overturn a rule barring gun ownership for some who have been deemed mentally impaired, clearing the measure for President Donald Trump’s signature.

The Obama-era rule required the Social Security Administration to send records of some beneficiaries to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System after they’ve been deemed incapable of managing their financial affairs because of a disabling mental disorder, ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia.

The Senate voted 57-43 to rescind the rule, following House passage largely along party lines on Feb. 2.

“However, I am concerned this rule, as written, is overly broad, and I share the concerns expressed by some mental health and disability advocates that the current rule could contribute to unjustified stigma,” Donnelly said.

Our society is sending two contradictory messages. The first is that there’s no stigma to having mental illness, emotional issues, feeling overwhelmed, or other psychological troubles, and no one should feel ashamed about telling others about those problems. The second is that if you admit you have those kinds of problems, some of your Constitutional rights can be taken away by others without an appeal.

Meanwhile, over in the House:

The Email Privacy Act passed the House Monday evening by a unanimous voice vote. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KAN.), is meant to close a loophole in the current Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The ECPA was passed in 1986 and was intended to protect people from government overreach.

The loophole in the ECPA is that old emails (those more than 180 days old) are deemed to have been abandoned. As such, the Department of Justice and other governmental agencies can obtain them without the necessity of obtaining a warrant signed by a judge. Currently, all that is necessary to get these emails is the issuance of a subpoena directed at the tech companies that holds the emails on its servers. Requirements to obtain a subpoena are much less stringent than requiring a judge to issue a warrant.

Is it everything conservatives wanted? No. But the stock markets keep setting new records since the election, suggesting that somebody’s optimistic about the direction of the government in the coming years.

The Way We’ve Talked

by Jay Nordlinger

Today and tomorrow, I’m writing about an unusual and wonderful ranch in Texas: Down Home Ranch, founded by Jerry and Judy Horton. It is a ranch for disabled adults. For today’s installment, go here.

On the Corner, I’d like to make a language note. Jerry grew up in San Jose and, when a child, had polio. (I discuss this in today’s installment.) Fortunately, his dad knew someone in the Shriners, and, thanks to this contact, Jerry was admitted to the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, up the road in San Francisco.

A few years ago, I wrote an essay called “Adventures in Lexical Fashion.” You will find it in my new collection, Digging In. (Plugola!) Let me excerpt a paragraph:

“Retarded” was once a progressive word — a wonderfully progressive word. It implied that the afflicted person was merely delayed. Long before that, there were “homes for idiots.” The people who founded, ran, and staffed them were not hateful. On the contrary, they were among the most loving and humane people on earth — probably more loving and humane than you and I are. Eventually, “retarded” people became “developmentally disabled,” “physically challenged,” “differently able,” “handicapable” … “Special” is a perennial — as in “Special Olympics,” and “special needs.”

How about the people who staffed the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children? I imagine they were pretty loving and humane, too.

Anyway, forget language: Meet the Hortons and their daughter and Down Home Ranch. You won’t be sorry.

P.S. I will sneak in something musical. If a piano recital is your bag, try a post of mine at The New Criterion on Igor Levit, here. Levit is a hot item, and understandably.

Krauthammer’s Take: Trump Calling for No New Settlements Is ‘Doing Netanyahu a Favor’

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer said that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House was a major victory for him, and also opined that Netanyahu is fine with Trump calling for no new settlement expansion:

For Bibi and for the Israelis it was an unbelievably successful event. I thought Bibi was going to break into song at one point. First of all, the two-state solution is no longer the Holy Grail. It is the most likely, it is still the most supported around the world, but it was a good thing to break the taboo of speaking about other possibilities. It only came into effect 17 years ago, and this is a 60-year conflict. It was a long time when people had other ideas. So that’s No. 1: the pressure for a Palestinian state is lessened on Israel, and it’s a way of saying to the Palestinians: “You conduct terror. You teach your children to hate. We are not going to reward you in advance with statehood unless you do it in negotiations.”

I think people misunderstand the settlement issue. That was Trump doing Netanyahu a favor. Netanyahu is under pressure from his right wing to hugely expand settlements. He doesn’t want to do it. He’s never been a settlement fanatic, and what they are going to do — I guarantee you — the administration will end up with an agreement with the Israelis to return to the understanding in a letter that George W. Bush wrote to the Israelis in 2004 in which the settlement issue is dealt with in this way: No new settlements, no expansion of the territory on which settlements are located. However, you can thicken the settlements by adding housing inside. That was the understanding. It was abandoned by Obama unilaterally, in what was a betrayal of the Israelis. And that’s where I think they are going to end up, and that will suit both sides and take the settlement issue off the table.

HP Mandates Quotas

by Roger Clegg

Kim M. Rivera, who is chief legal officer and general counsel of HP Inc., is serious in her insistence that law firms doing work for her company meet the racial, ethnic, and gender quotas she has set for them (she calls it “achieving the metric”). She has sent this letter informing them that the company will withhold up to 10 percent of any amount invoiced by the law firms if they “do not meet or exceed our minimal diverse staffing requirements.”

She helpfully appends a description of the program. It spells out, for example, that the definition of “diverse” attorneys is limited to “race/ethnicity, gender, LGBT status, and disability status” — no use trying to sneak in someone because of his or her religion, impoverished background, or heterodox political views. But the good news is that the “twofer” is alive and well: “An attorney who is both a woman and racially/ethnically diverse” counts double.

In her letter, which bears the frank label “Diversity Mandate to Partner Law Firms,” Ms. Rivera says, “I believe we can all do better” and that she is “counting on your courage and vision” to support HP’s diktat.

Well, of course, it takes no “courage” to be politically correct in corporate America, especially when a client is making it worth your while, moneywise.

Courage would be telling Ms. Rivera that, since law firms really ought to follow the law, this law firm won’t be violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. section 1981 by engaging in workplace discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex (see here and here, appendix B). Courage would be adding that, even if it weren’t illegal, this law firm thinks it is wrong to treat its lawyers differently because of their skin color or what country their ancestors came from or what kind of reproductive organs they have.

Courage would be telling Ms. Rivera to go to hell, and suing her to boot. But I’m not holding my breath.