Donald Trump vs. LaVar Ball

by Jim Geraghty

Happy Thanksgiving Week! Making the click-through worthwhile: A qualified defense of Trump’s tweet about LaVar Ball, how we’re outsourcing our thinking about political figures, and the ugly truth about Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones.

A Ball Goes Out of Bounds

A minute, qualified, half-defense of Trump’s otherwise inexcusable Tweet about the three UCLA players who were arrested in China and ultimately released.

If you don’t watch much sports television or listen to sports radio, you may not know who LaVar Ball is. He had a short, unspectacular career in professional sports, and is the father of at least one, and perhaps two or three potential basketball superstars, his sons Lonzo (currently a highly-touted rookie for the Los Angeles Lakers), LiAngelo (currently a freshman at UCLA), and LaMelo, currently playing at Chino Hills High School. One suspects that if they ever made a gender-reversed basketball-focused reboot of the musical Gypsy, LaVar Ball would be Mama Rose, determined to push his sons to the heights of fame and fortune, no matter the cost.

Since his son Lonzo became a star, LaVar Ball has become an increasingly outspoken and high-profile sports personality, boasting that his son is better than NBA MVP Stephen Curry, contending that he himself could defeat Michael Jordan one-on-one, and that he expects his sons to make a billion dollars in endorsements over the course of their careers. There is, ironically, something Trump-like in his wild bombast that makes the national sports media turn their heads and instantly need to react.*

It’s also worth noting that LaVar Ball is something of an idiot, making his sons’ entry into the realm of professional basketball much more difficult, with the perpetual potential of a camera-hogging, controversy-courting, expectation-raising maniac of a father following them throughout their careers.

The UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team was invited to China for a tournament last week. Chinese police accused LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel in Hangzhou, China. As the Los Angeles Times Bill Plaschke summarized:

The three UCLA freshman basketball players didn’t steal items from just one Chinese store, but three stores. Their loot was discovered only after police searched bags in the team bus and hotel. They were released back to the United States not for lack of evidence, but through the intervention of two presidents.

Yes, the players are young men, and young men do foolish things, but “don’t commit multiple acts of shoplifting in China” does not seem like an excessively harsh rule. A quick refresher: China is not a free country. It may be a wonderful place to visit, with many amazing sights and friendly locals, but it is not a free country. Visitors should not expect that shoplifting will be treated as a minor crime, or that their status as college basketball players will protect them from the legal consequences. The players embarrassed their team, their school, and their country.

During his two-day visit to China, President Trump asked his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to help resolve the situation. (Note that this is a case of the president of the United States not intervening to help a group that is unjustly imprisoned or suffering human rights abuses, but asking for leniency in a case of invited guests who indisputably committed a crime.)

During an interview with ESPN — where LaVar Ball seems to spend roughly half of his waking hours these days — the father examined the burning embers of a potential international incident and promptly poured gasoline on everything:

“Who?” LaVar Ball told ESPN on Friday, when asked about Trump’s involvement in the matter. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

“As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that’s a different thing.”

You can’t begrudge Trump for grumbling that Ball is an ingrate — first denying that Trump had anything to do with the release, and then downplaying the seriousness of the crime. (Try the “I’ve seen a lot worse things happen” defense in a Chinese court and see how far that takes you.)

Out of all the people Trump has denounced in his little rants on Twitter, LaVar Ball probably had it coming a lot more than most. Perhaps it was an uncharacteristic lapse in judgment, but his son just embarrassed the country and created an international incident; a little humility, gratitude, and graciousness would be appropriate right now. And I’d bet a decent number of sports fans are tired of seeing Ball as the ubiquitous hey-look-at-me outrage-generating chatterbox of the basketball world.

Now, should President Trump be tweeting his easily-understandable irritation with Ball? No, and this is why Twitter is dangerous in his hands; his initial, gut-level reaction is instantly broadcast out for all the world to see. Accounts of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton show us that Trump is not the first temperamental, uncouth, or easily-angered figure to sit in the Oval Office. But those presidents weren’t given the technological freedom to vent their feelings to everyone on the globe without editing or preparation.

*None of this is to say that a lot of dads don’t relate to Ball’s irrepressible-to-the-point-of-insufferable pride in his children. Have I mentioned that my older son is already a green senior belt in karate and my younger son is the unstoppable dynamo of the youth soccer Authenticity Woods Blue Clump (when he’s actually paying attention)? Clearly, they’re destined for greatness, let me show you roughly thirty-thousand photos from my phone . . . 

We’re Outsourcing Our Thinking

We’re outsourcing our critical thinking. From a CNN panel this morning:

If Jesus Christ gets down off the cross and told me Trump is with Russia, I would tell him, ‘Hold on a second. I need to check with the President if it’s true.’

Maybe Trump colluded with Russia, maybe he didn’t. But if you don’t consider Jesus Christ to be a reliable witness . . .  if a guy can turn water into wine, heal the sick, walk on water, cater giant crowds with a couple loaves and fishes, and return from the dead, I think He’s likely to also have sufficient dominion over time and space to have clear perspective on an international conspiracy.

From this morning’s Boston Globe:

Over the last week, the Globe called dozens of evangelical pastors in Alabama and elsewhere who had supported Moore before the allegations emerged, gleaning from a list of names posted to the Facebook account of the candidate’s wife.

None of the nearly 10 pastors reached by phone said the allegations of sexual misconduct changed their views about Moore. Several said the allegations made them more proud to vote for the former judge.

Repeatedly, the pastors attempted to discredit Moore’s accusers in personal terms, with some dismissing their emotional stories as “crocodile tears” and “fake news.”

“I don’t know how much these women are getting paid, but I can only believe they’re getting a healthy sum,” said pastor Earl Wise, a Moore supporter from Millbrook, Ala.

Wise said he would support Moore even if the allegations were true and the candidate was proved to have sexually molested teenage girls and women.

“There ought to be a statute of limitations on this stuff,” Wise said. “How these gals came up with this, I don’t know. They must have had some sweet dreams somewhere down the line.

“Plus,” he added, “there are some 14-year-olds, who, the way they look, could pass for 20.”

“You’re asking me to believe them,’’ Raddish said, “when their own mother didn’t have enough red blood in her to . . . go and report this? Come on.”

Yeah, why didn’t those mothers go down to the local district attorney and report that their daughters were being inappropriately sexually pursued by . . . the local assistant district attorney? “Sir, your right-hand-man is pulling a Humbert Humbert, I’m sure you’ll get right on investigating and prosecuting this, even though the successful prosecution will create a giant scandal in your office and make you look like an idiot for hiring him, and I’m certain you will, in no way, shape or form, attack the credibility of my daughter and publicly bring up every embarrassing fact possible to ensure no one believes her, in order to protect yourself, your assistant and public faith in your office, right?”

Now, if those pastors had simply said, “the paramount goal of my political effort is to end the abominable human toll of abortion, and my conscience requires me to vote for the candidate who brings this country closer to that goal . . . ” well, it would be a little easier to understand. We could argue about whether it’s the right choice, but it would at least be more logically consistent.

Our Alexandra DeSanctis points out the ugly truth about Democratic Senate candidate in Alabama Doug Jones – he doesn’t believe in any legal restrictions on abortion:

Jones: I am a firm believer that a woman should have the freedom to choose what happens to her own body, and I’m going to stand up for that, and I’m going to make sure that that continues to happen. I want to make sure that as we go forward, people have access to contraception, they have access to the abortion that they might need, if that’s what they choose to do.

Todd: You wouldn’t be in favor of legislation that said “ban abortion after 20 weeks,” or something like that?

Jones: No, I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose. That’s just the position that I’ve had for many years, it’s the position I continue to have.

May the best man . . .  eh, never mind, just vote already.

ADDENDA: Hey, it was a good weekend. Mugabe stepped down, Charles Manson’s dead, and Hillary Clinton’s back to ranting about the vast right wing conspiracy:

“Our body politic’s immune system has been impaired, because there has been a concerted effort, starting with the creation of the Fox network.”

It’s Like an Instant-Replay Review for One of the Big Decisions of 1998

by Jim Geraghty

The spectacularly convenient shift among Democrats continues, now with Kirsten Gillibrand leading the charge:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who holds Hillary Clinton’s former seat, said on Thursday that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago.

Asked directly if she believed Mr. Clinton should have stepped down at the time, Ms. Gillibrand took a long pause and said, “Yes, I think that is the appropriate response.”

But she also appeared to signal that what is currently considered a fireable offense may have been more often overlooked during the Clinton era.

(As I wrote a few weeks ago, spectacularly convenient shifts are a habit for Gillibrand.)

Still, for those of us who always felt Bill Clinton escaped serious consequence for his long history of sexually pursuing women who worked for him, this long-delayed emerging bipartisan consensus is a bit of a pleasant surprise, the political equivalent of the Missouri Tigers being officially notified that there shouldn’t have been a “fifth down” in that infamous game against Colorado in 1990. Clinton’s critics were right, and his supporters were defending the indefensible. Let’s start revising those history books, folks.

(I know everybody remembers the Clinton presidency for the dot-com boom, welfare reform, and the Macarena, but there’s a need for a serious reconsideration of the Clinton record – most spectacularly in the rise of al-Qaeda, the aid deal with North Korea, and the botching of probably the best opportunity for entitlement reform . . . )

Plus, the thermonuclear reaction from the remaining Clinton enclave is going to be delightful to watch. Philippe Reines, the former adviser to Hillary Clinton, is beside himself: “Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons’ endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.”

Actually, yes, this is an interesting strategy for the 2020 primaries. Reines seems to think that deviating from the Democratic Party’s orthodoxy over an impeachment battle from what will then be 22 years ago will be a make-or-break issue in what is likely to be a crowded primary. By 2020, Bill Clinton’s impeachment will be further back in the past than the Vietnam War was in the 1992 presidential race.

Will the Democratic primary electorate of 2020 be so convinced that a statement like Clinton’s is such blasphemy? We can feel the ground shifting beneath our feet. A lot of behavior that was once unsavory but did not generate serious consequence is now fodder for stories and part of a “trend.” (More on that below.) No doubt within the inner circle of the Clintons, women like Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones are all considered to be terrible liars, and Clinton’s interaction with Monica Lewinsky was an entirely personal indiscretion that warranted no serious public scrutiny or consequence. Never mind the country as a whole, I’m not sure most Democrats believe that anymore. Vox contributor Matt Yglesias is getting a lot of skepticism for his recent essay, but I’m willing to take him at his word:

“My boss took advantage of me,” Lewinsky writes in the same article, a piece in which she correctly argues that the ensuring debate ended up entirely slighting highly relevant issues including “the balance of power and gender inequality in politics and media.”

Had Clinton resigned in disgrace under pressure from his own party, that would have sent a strong, and useful, chilling signal to powerful men throughout the country.

Instead, the ultimate disposition of the case — impunity for the man who did something wrong, embarrassment and disgrace for the woman who didn’t — only served to confirm women’s worst fears about coming forward.

Yes, there is no consequence for Democrats suddenly coming to their senses now and concluding that Clinton deserved to pay a steeper price. That’s why the Clintons should be so terrified. How many Democrats, in the back of their minds, heard a little voice of conscience during the Clinton scandals and knew that they were defending a creep?

(An early indicator: The 2008 Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy-drama Definitely, Maybe features the actor as a political consultant who briefly worked for Bill Clinton, and events of the Clinton presidency are playing in all of the flashback scenes. After Clinton admits the affair with Monica Lewinsky, the Reynolds character grumbles to his friends, “Maybe he should be impeached. Why not? I put my faith in him. We all did. I thought he was gonna be different than the other jokers, but this guy, he can’t even define the word ‘is.’ What happens if they give him one of the hard words, like ‘truth’?” The movie moves on to the romantic plot, but that’s a pretty scathing assessment to hear spoken aloud by the lovable male lead of a romantic comedy, and Hollywood was always one of the places the Clintons were loved the most.)

Maybe a good chunk of Democrats defended Bill Clinton because they felt like they had to, not because they wanted to. And maybe there’s been some resentment over that brewing for the past two decades.

The Hits Just Keep on Coming . . . 

We already know who Time’s Person of the Year is going to be, right? Don’t they have to choose the women who came forward to speak about sexual misconduct in Hollywood studios, cable news networks, state capitols, and so on?

Here are just the latest allegations in the past twenty-four hours . . . 

At NPR . . . 

As NPR’s Board of Directors meet in Washington, D.C., this week, the network finds itself confronted by a series of dispiriting developments: a CEO on medical leave; a chief news executive forced out over sexual harassment allegations; the sudden resignation of a board chairman; fresh complaints over inappropriate behavior by colleagues; and a network roiled by tensions over the treatment of its female workers.

On Wednesday, NPR Board Chairman Roger LaMay announced that he was stepping down at the end of his second one-year term. LaMay, who remains on the board, said he needed to devote more time to running the popular Philadelphia public radio music station WXPN, where he is general manager.

However, according to a knowledgeable source, LaMay is the subject of a complaint filed with NPR alleging past inappropriate behavior. Few additional details are currently known.

Again, out in Hollywood . . . 

Another woman who worked on Transparent has made allegations against star Jeffrey Tambor, claiming the actor became inappropriately physical and made sexual comments while they worked together on the Amazon show.

And on Capitol Hill . . . 

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Michigan Democrat, announced Thursday that she has accepted the resignation of her chief of staff following allegations that he sexually harassed several former office staffers.

Last week, Lawrence placed chief of staff Dwayne Duron Marshall on administrative leave Nov. 7 while she investigated allegations that he sexually harassed multiple former staff members.

And of course, you heard about Al Franken’s crude, unwanted physical advances on that USO trip in 2006.

This world has its share of men on the Right who believe they’re entitled to act this way – either because they’re convinced the world needs them, or because God is on their side, or because they stand for so many good things, and they believe they do so many good things, they don’t have to be a good person in this arena.

But the world also has its share of men on the Left who believe they’re entitled to act this way — because they’re convinced the world needs them, or because they’re Progressive and helping build a better world, or because they stand for so many good things, and they believe they do so many good things, and have donated to so many good causes, they don’t have to be a good person in this arena.

And all these long-held secrets get spoken and all of this dirty laundry gets exposed, nobody knows which side of the ideological divide will be hurt more.

Alabama voters want a candidate who will represent their state with honor — and they think Doug Jones has strong moral character and Roy Moore doesn’t. That gives the Democrat the lead in the U.S. Senate race.

Jones is up by eight points over Moore among Alabama likely voters, 50 percent vs. 42 percent, in a Fox News Poll conducted Monday through Wednesday evenings. His lead is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error (±3.5 percentage points). Nine percent are undecided or plan to vote for someone else.

Candidates who believe they’re on a mission from God are generally quite difficult to persuade to withdraw from a race.

ADDENDA: One other contender for the story of the year, one strangely under-covered in this country: the gradual defeat of the Islamic State. They’re out of business in Iraq…

Iraqi forces have retaken the town of Rawa from ISIS, one of the militant group’s last footholds in the country.

The Iraqi national flag was raised over Rawa around midday Friday, Iraq’s Joint Operation Command (IJOC) said in a statement.

A spokesman for the command told CNN that engineers laid down a pontoon bridge across the Euphrates River around dawn to allow Iraqi forces to cross near the outskirts of the town.

Located in Anbar province in the Euphrates valley, Rawa was the last known Iraqi town still held by ISIS militants. Recapturing it means ISIS has been defeated in all of the country’s towns and cities, though pockets of resistance still exist and the group does control some territory in the deserts of western Iraq.

Hannity Has the Answers He Needs... That He’s Not Willing to Share with You!

by Jim Geraghty

One day after Sean Hannity gave Roy Moore 24 hours to provide clearer answers about his history and any interaction with the women accusing him of sexual misconduct, the television and radio host more or less backed down.

All it took was an open letter and some sort of private communication, apparently: “Without giving away details, I have gotten an answer from the Roy Moore campaign on the questions that I had.”

But those details apparently aren’t worth sharing with listeners or viewers!

Sean Hannity, back on April 17: “We do our own digging, we get our own sources, we get our own information, and frankly, I think we disseminate more real news than a lot of other people out there, and we’re proud of what we do, and I think we play a vital role in this news media landscape.”

The Story of This One Gun Is the Story of a Straw Purchaser

The Washington Post offers a well-reported, detailed odyssey of how one 9mm Glock 17 pistol changed hands several times and was used in multiple shootings and crimes within just a few nights in 2014.

What it reveals is that the gun was purchased in Manassas by Jamal Fletcher Baker, a young man with no criminal record or record of mental illness. But Baker lied on the required paperwork, Federal Form 4473, and declared he was buying the gun for himself when in fact he was purchasing it for an unemployed aspiring rapper nicknamed “Stunna.”

If we want to stop gun crimes, we probably need to stop letting straw purchasers off the hook. As my colleague Kevin Williamson points out, prosecutors may have understandable reasons to be less than fully enthusiastic about pressing charges in some of these cases: “the nature of the people making straw purchases — young relatives, girlfriends who may or may not have been facing the threat of physical violence, grandmothers, etc. — made prosecuting those cases unattractive.” Kevin points out that if you put some gang member’s grandmother in jail for a long time, you may actually deter future use of grandmothers as straw purchasers.

The gun was then used in a shootout at a party; as the Post notes, “suspects, victims and partygoers refused to cooperate with detectives.”

Which factor actually endangers residents of the inner city more, legal gun purchases or the “snitches get stiches” mentality?

After the party shooting, someone gave the gun to a Romeo Hayes, who ends up in a dispute and another series of shootings the following night. The first is with Shaquinta Gaines, an off-duty D.C. police officer, who attempts to pursue Hayes’s vehicle in her car. Then Hayes encounters Thurman Stallings, a D.C. police detective, who attempted to intervene. Hayes shot the detective several times. (Thankfully, Stallings lived to tell the tale, including in court.) The gun disappears for a time, and is then is recovered months later, found “tossed under a car after a police chase by a man whose relatives lived in Poppa’s housing complex.”

The Post story may not have intended this point, but the article illuminates the futility of most of the arguments for gun control we see after mass shootings. The gun was not purchased at a gun show, so there was no “gun show loophole” to exploit and the initial purchaser passed the background check, so the tired cry of “universal background checks!” is meaningless here. The existing “universal background checks” are why these young men with criminal records use straw purchasers. And the straw purchasers either do not know or do not care that they are enabling those who will commit shootings in city streets.

The good news is that Baker was indeed prosecuted for lying on the federal background check form, and sentenced to more than a year in prison. Hayes was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Is ‘The Pence Rule’ Really the Problem Here?

Katelyn Beaty, the editor of Christianity Today, takes to the New York Times op-ed page, examining the stunning revelations of powerful men sexually preying on subordinate women and concluding that one unacceptable response is . . .  Vice President Mike Pence’s rule that he never dines alone or meets alone with a woman that isn’t his wife.

Yes, she can find some examples of men taking the rule to ridiculous lengths:

The Pence rule can manifest in ways that are strangely un-Christian. A former colleague at a Christian nonprofit threw her back out while on a business trip. Lying in pain in her hotel room, she asked her co-worker to carry her suitcase from her room. He refused to enter the room. One wonders what he thought was going to happen. In this and other cases, personal purity seems to take precedence over the command to love your neighbor.

Dude. If Jesus Christ can lift all of us up, you can lift up the suitcase and put it on the little folding luggage rack in the corner.

And many would agree with Beaty’s conclusion that not all meetings of unmarried men and women are the same: “Reasonable people know the difference between a business meeting over breakfast and drinks at a hotel bar at night.”

But I’d argue her interpretation of what the rule aims to prevent is completely wrong:

The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away. Offering the Pence rule as a solution to male predation is like saying, “I can’t meet with you one on one, otherwise I might eventually assault you.” If that’s the case, we have far deeper problems around men and power than any personal conduct rule can solve.

Er, no. Yes, the rule keeps people away from the temptation to stray. But the rule also prevents either party from a false accusation and unfounded rumor-mongering. How many women get accused of sleeping their way to a promotion? If I had a nickel for every time I heard some version of, “well, you know, they left together and somebody saw her going into his hotel room” . . . I could afford one of those fancy Venti Frappuccino drinks at Starbucks. It’s not right and it’s not fair that innocent behavior can be interpreted as a sign of adultery or other bad behavior, but this is the world we live in.

She contends the Pence rule is a significant obstacle to women’s success in the workplace:

Imagine a male boss keeps some variation of the rule but is happy to meet with a male peer over lunch or travel with him for business. The informal and strategic conversations they can have is the stuff of workplace advancement. Unless there are women in senior leadership positions — and in many Christian organizations, there are not — women will never benefit from the kind of advancement available to men.

I’m really struck by how many people are convinced that one-on-one lunches, happy hours, business trips, discussions in hotel rooms, and dinners with alcohol are how promotions are earned. Maybe they are, and perhaps I’m wildly naïve.

 . . . But is that really how you get promoted within Christian organizations?

ADDENDA: I concur with Michael Graham: most of the recent horror stories of sexual harassment we’re hearing from women are not cases of “misunderstandings” or “excessive friendliness” or “mixed signals,” and we’re not doing anyone any favors by lumping, say, awkward flirting in with effectively extorting sex from women.

When U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) tells the story of a female staffer who was asked to bring paperwork to a (no pun intended) member’s home, and he greets her wearing nothing but a smile and a bath towel, I wonder: Do we really need House Speaker Paul Ryan’s new mandated sexual harassment training to figure out this is bad?

Forcing everyone who works at the Massachusetts State House to sign a document declaring they understand the consequences of sexual harassment is fine, but is there anyone signing it who didn’t already know that demanding sex from employees or underlings is wrong?

Hannity to Moore: I Want Answers! I Think I’m Entitled! I Want the Truth!

by Jim Geraghty

Go figure. Even Sean Hannity has his doubts that Roy Moore gave him truthful answers in that interview.

“Here’s where I am tonight,” Hannity continued. “Between this interview that I did and the inconsistent answers, between him saying ‘I never knew this girl’ and then that yearbook comes out. For me, the judge has 24 hours. He must immediately and fully come up with satisfactory explanations for [the] inconsistencies that I just showed. You must remove any doubt. If he can’t do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.”

Hannity went on to say that this country “has way too many issues and problems” and that the American people deserve “100% truth and honesty” and need correct answers “the first time.”

“Judge Moore, you owe that to the people of Alabama, the Republican Party that you represent and to the country which is suffering under so many problems,” he concluded.

Obviously, it is unlikely that Moore will meet Hannity’s demands. The candidate is putting forth an ultimatum of his own. The people of Alabama must accept his imprecisely-worded, occasionally-contradictory denials and endorse his contention that all of his accusers are making it up out of whole cloth in an organized partisan effort to destroy him . . . or vote against him. (Or not vote.)

It’s more difficult to get figures in politics to fall on their sword these days. No one wants to step down for the good of the party. New Jersey senator Bob Menendez won’t do it. These scandals are often brought on in part by ego and narcissism; the perpetrator believes they are irreplaceable and that no one else can do what they do. Recent history has taught these men that they have a chance of surviving the scandal by just waiting it out. Bill Clinton did it. (More on him in a moment.) Gary Condit sort of did it. Larry Craig did it. But it doesn’t work for everyone. Former Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price and Congressman Tim Murphy couldn’t weather the storm.

Another piece of the Clinton scandal survival playbook is to lie and make counter-accusations. As Guy Benson observes, Moore’s wife, Kayla, has shared on Facebook some claims that are false. On November 12, she shared a letter from 50 pastors declaring, “We are ready to join the fight and send a bold message to Washington: dishonesty, fear of man, and immorality are an affront to our convictions and our Savior and we won’t put up with it any longer. We urge you to join us at the polls to cast your vote for Roy Moore.” What she did not make clear is that those pastors signed the letter back in August, before all these revelations. Several pastors said they were not contacted about the letter, and have asked for their names to be removed.

Kayla Moore also shared a post claiming that the restaurant that the latest accuser says was the site of her meeting with Moore did not exist in the late 1970s, that it opened in 2001; thus the accuser’s story cannot be true. That claim is false; the restaurant existed in the late 70s, judging from business records and advertisements in newspapers at the time.

As Guy puts it, “This does not prove that Ms. Young worked there, that Moore was a regular, or that he assaulted her — but it does prove that a foolish, baseless claim repeated by Moore’s wife to undermine Young was complete garbage.”

Some as-yet-undetermined percentage of Alabama voters will not care, of course. They put their faith in Moore a long time ago, and are not willing to entertain the notion that he fooled them all these years. The idea that his wife is telling lies in his defense will strike them as an understandable reaction – not something that undermines the credibility of his denials.

Colonel Jessup was right; we can’t handle the truth. The truth is that it’s very likely that America’s favorite sitcom dad of the 1980s spent many years slipping drugs to unsuspecting women, that Kevin Spacey might as well have never broken character, that much of Hollywood knew one of its most powerful and hailed producers was a serial predator and looked the other way, that Fox News permitted and enabled a frat-house atmosphere of harassment that started at the top, that the Catholic Church covered up horrifying cases of child abuse, and in the 1990s many Americans voted twice to make a rapist the President of the United States. Is it any wonder that given the option of a soothing, reassuring lie — that the leaders they’ve put their faith in are genuinely good people — so many people choose to believe the lie?

As Lefties Used to Say during the Bush Years, ‘I Question the Timing . . . ’

As mentioned above, we’re apparently entering a media “reckoning” about the allegations against Bill Clinton. I’m pleased, but let’s not kid ourselves. As I write today on NRO, this reckoning comes at a convenient time for Democrats, too late to really have any impact on the political fortunes or future of Hillary Clinton or Bill. I find it very comparable to the fascinating-looking, apparently hard-hitting forthcoming film, Chappaquiddick. I prefer a delayed truth to a permanent lie, but let’s remember that the truth wasn’t been locked away in some hidden tomb somewhere. It was visible to many of us, and obscured by those in powerful positions who didn’t want to believe it.

And perhaps some people were quite happy with the way Bill Clinton was rewriting the social rules for men, women, sex and the workplace.

Was Bill Clinton a role model for how men can indulge their worst impulses and get away with it? Since the 1990s, how many men in powerful positions have seen Bill Clinton in that light? After all, all sorts of powerful people — from prominent feminists to powerful lawyers to the leaders of Clinton’s party — came to the consensus that the whole Lewinsky mess was a “private matter.” Perhaps the affair with her was — although Americans are right to expect better from a president — but the claims of Jones, Willey, and Broaddrick were not private matters in the slightest.

 After the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, Lee Smith, writing in The Weekly Standard, asked a difficult question that few Democrats will really want to confront. Would the enormously consequential New York Times article detailing the accusations about the Hollywood producer have been published if the 2016 election had ended differently and Weinstein had the president of the United States on speed-dial?

Biden: ‘I Would Have Banned the Gun Used By the Hero in the Texas Church Shooting’

Wow. This is the sort of comment that should throw some cold water on the “Biden 2020” buzz:

Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared on NBC’s “Today” on Monday where he said the hero who shot the Texas church gunman should not have had the weapon he used to stop the murder spree.

Biden’s remark came as a response to a question from someone in the audience who asked him to justify the Democrat’s call for more gun control – even though the shooter was stopped by a good guy with a gun.

“Well, first of all, the kind of gun being carried he shouldn’t be carrying,” Biden said. “Assault weapons are, uh, I wrote the last serious gun control law that was written and that was law for 10 years, and it outlawed assault weapons and it outlawed weapons with magazines that had a whole lot of bullets and so you can kill a whole lot of people a lot more quickly.”

He added, “The fact that some people with guns are legally able to acquire a gun, and they turn out to be crazy after the fact, that’s life and there’s nothing you can do about that.” Top to bottom, a terrible answer.

ADDENDA: Did you ever notice that things that are obvious to conservative media tend to get picked up, months later, by non-conservative media as sudden revelations?

Democrats are rethinking their future — but doing it with the leadership of old men and women deeply rooted in the past. The top three House Democrats in leadership are all nearly 80 years old.

By the numbers: The average age of Democrats serving under them is 61. Three of the most talked-about 2020 contenders are Sen. Bernie Sanders, 76; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 68; and former Vice President Joe Biden, 74.

Why it matters: Older Democratic leaders are unwilling to give up their seats, even as younger Democrats call for “a new generation of leaders,” as top House Democrat Linda Sanchez said when she asked for Nancy Pelosi to step down. And former DNC Chair Howard Dean told MSNBC: “Our leadership is old and creaky, including me.”

The elderly trend among Democrats: A recent CNN poll found that five of the six people voters view as the leaders of the Dem Party average 71 years old (Sanders, Clinton, Schumer, Warren, Biden).

How many times have I joked that the Democratic leadership looks like the cast of Cocoon? What’s more, beyond Obama, this was true all the way back to 2009. It’s not like Harry Reid, John Kerry, Steny Hoyer, or Dick Durbin were youngsters, either.

By the way, thanks to Tony Katz for having me on his program this morning.

Welcome Back, Senator Rand Paul!

by Jim Geraghty

Finally, some good news: Kentucky senator Rand Paul is on the mend and back at work.

Struggling to breathe and talk, the result of six ribs being broken in the incident, Paul told [Washington Examiner's Washington] Secrets that he knew of no motive that would have sparked his neighbor to hit him from behind.

“From my perspective, I’m not really too concerned about what someone’s motive is. I’m just concerned that I was attacked from the back and somebody broke six of my ribs and gave me a damaged lung where at least for now I have trouble speaking and breathing and now I’ve hurt for 10 days,” the senator said after arriving back in Washington for a week of critical votes.

No official reason has been given for the attack and the lawyer for Boucher, 59, said politics was not the cause. Social media posts from Boucher show that he is aggressively anti-Trump and anti-Republican.

On November 8, Paul retweeted two articles suggesting that the attack was politically motivated, not driven by a landscaping dispute as some news accounts suggested. Perhaps the senator doesn’t want to make accusations until legal proceedings are complete. It will be good to hear his full account.

If, as those articles suggest, Paul was attacked by an enraged partisan, this would mark the third criminal assault on a Republican members of Congress this year. On May 8, a woman tried to run Rep. David Kustoff off the road:

A Tennessee woman hated that her congressman voted for the controversial Republican health-care bill in the House of Representatives, authorities said.

So Wendi L. Wright tried to run Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) off the road after he visited the University of Tennessee at Martin, they said.

The Weakley County Sheriff’s Department said Wright tailed the car carrying Kustoff. At some point, the congressman and his aide became afraid and worried that Wright wanted to force them off the road.

They then turned into a driveway and stopped. That’s where Wright got out, screamed at the congressman and struck the windows of his vehicle, even reaching inside the car, the sheriff’s department said.

And then in June, James Hodgkinson fired at least 70 rounds at Congressional Republicans at baseball practice in Alexandria, leaving GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise critically injured and several others hurt.

Three violent attacks on members of Congress in seven months is the sort of thing that would ordinarily generate long feature pieces in the media about the “culture of hate” and “out-of-control partisan appetite for violence” plaguing the country, with hard questions asked about whether the most incendiary voices are partially responsible for these sorts of attacks.

You might hear some leader say something like . . . 

We hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate. They leave the impression that — by their very words, that — violence is a acceptable. You ought to see — I’m sure you are now seeing the reports of some things that are regularly said over the airwaves in America today. It is time we all stood up and spoke against that kind of (pounding podium) reckless speech and behavior.

That, of course, was President Bill Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombing. But I guess there’s no broader lesson or important theme that can be discerned from three violent attacks on Republican lawmakers in seven months, huh?

How Much Moore of This Can We Stand?

An interesting data point, for those who argue that the opposition to Roy Moore is driven by liberal and media elites, outsiders, and not Alabamans:

Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, on Monday, told a reporter with ABC News that embattled Senate candidate Roy Moore should “seriously consider dropping out” ahead of the Dec. 12 general election.

In addition, according to a reporter with the Huffington Post, Shelby is advocating for a write-in campaign for sitting Senator Luther Strange, the Republican who lost to Moore during the Sept. 26 GOP runoff.

Richard Shelby was reelected with 64 percent of the vote last November. I think he’s got his finger on the pulse of his state.

The allegations are getting worse:

In a brief appearance before reporters in his small Etowah County hometown of Gallant, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore again denied wrongdoing and said that he doesn’t even know his latest accuser, who came forward Monday.

Moore spoke for a couple of minutes with reporters and took no questions. His wife, Kayla, also made a brief statement.

“I can tell you without hesitation this is absolutely false,” Moore told reporters. “I never did what she said I did. I don’t even know the woman. I don’t know anything about her.”

Except . . . 

At a press conference in New York on Monday, Beverly Young Nelson alleged she was sexually assaulted by Moore in December 1977 when she was 16 years old and he was 30.

Nelson produced a high school yearbook that she said Moore signed about a week before she said the assault occurred in Moore’s car in the parking lot of a restaurant where she worked and he frequently visited.

Let’s get handwriting analysts to take a look at that yearbook. Presuming that it is indeed Moore’s handwriting, he’s been caught in a lie. This is what happens when you attempt both the blanket denial and the modified limited hangout simultaneously — the latter invalidates the former.

(Did the local assistant district attorney sign your yearbook, telling you how beautiful and sweet you are? Fairly or not, this is going to be a really big red flashing neon sign of guilt to a lot of people. Grown men just don’t sign many high school yearbooks of teenage girls.)

Remember, in Moore’s interview with Hannity about the four preceding accusers, he contradicted himself several times.

He began, “I’ve never known this woman or anything with regard to the other girls.”

But then he said he does remember at least one of them, and makes a comment suggesting that he may have dated one:

HANNITY: Well let me let me give the details. Debbie Wesson Gibson says she was 17 when you spoke to her high school civics class and asked her out on several dates and it did not progress — her words — beyond kissing, according to the Washington Post. Did that happen?

MOORE: I do not remember speaking to civics class. I don’t remember that. I do not remember when we . . . I seem to know or remember knowing her parents . . . that they were friends. I can’t recall the specific dates because that’s been 40 years but I remember her as a good girl.

HANNITY: But do you remember ever going on a date with her? She said that you asked her out on the first of several dates but nothing progressed beyond kissing.

MOORE: I don’t remember specific dates. I do not and I don’t remember if it was that time or later. But I do not remember that.

HANNITY: But you know hard but you never dated her ever? Is that what you’re saying?

MOORE: No but I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go on dates then we did. But I do not remember that.

HANNITY: At that time in your life. . . . Let me ask you this, you do remember these girls; would it be unusual for you as a 32 year old guy to have dated a woman as young as 17? That would be a 15 year age difference. Do you remember dating girls that young at that time?

MOORE: Not generally, no. If did, you know, I’m not going to dispute anything but I don’t remember anything like that.

But he did in fact dispute that! He began by asserting, “I’ve never known this woman or anything with regard to the other girls.”

HANNITY: But you don’t specifically remember having any girlfriend that was in her late teens even at that time.

MOORE: I don’t remember that and I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother. And I think in her statement she said that her mother actually encouraged her to go out with me.

If he never dated any teenager, why would he want to note and emphasize his regard for parental permission? This is like saying, “I don’t remember ever eating any cookie from the cookie jar and I don’t remember eating the biggest one.”   

He continues, “ . . . It involves a 14 year old girl, which I would have never had any contact with, nothing with her mother or any courthouse or anywhere else would I have done that. In fact, her allegations contradict the whole behavior pattern of the other two young ladies who even witnessed yourself.”

Wait, if he didn’t go on any of these dates, why is he referring to the “behavior pattern” of the other accusers? If they’re lying, why is he pointing to their accounts as contradictory evidence that this particular accuser’s account cannot be true?

ADDENDA: Yesterday’s Jolt mentioned the 1998 op-ed by Gloria Steinem that some later characterized as the “one free grope” rule. I’m not the only one reminded of that in the spate of modern sexual harassment allegations; the great Caitlyn Flanagan observes:

The notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed by Gloria Steinem must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life. It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover (never write an op-ed in a hurry; you’ll accidentally say what you really believe), it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.

Roy Moore and Our Faith in Our Abilities to Assess Others’ Character

by Jim Geraghty

We all like to think we have a good sixth sense about people. Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Blink about the decisions we make instantly, without thinking. We all like to believe we can spot a liar, not be fooled by the con man, resist the siren call of salesmen or advertising. We like to believe that our intuition, Divine guidance, Spidey-sense, or the Force will set off alarm bells if someone we encounter has secret malevolent intentions or overall bad character.

Obviously, a lot of people who think they have this good sense about people don’t, otherwise con men would never succeed. Life has a way of teaching us some humility as it passes. I’ve had tenants rip me off, enjoyed the company of friends who weren’t actually my friends, and I thought former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell had a bright future in Republican politics. The odds are good that we don’t really know people as well as we think we know them, and that is exponentially more accurate for public figures.

If you’re reading this newsletter, the odds are good that if you had ever heard of Harvey Weinstein before the scandal, you didn’t think well of him. He’s the Hollywood elite personified. Let’s face it, he looks like an obese toad, and separate from the sex scandals, he had well-publicized tales of an enormous ego and quick temper. He’s smug and insufferable, once boasting, “Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion.”

Once we learned that Weinstein was a sexual predator, groping and harassing and attacking his way through every actress and model in Hollywood, probably quite a few people who never liked him felt vindicated, thinking something like, “I knew there was something really wrong with that guy.” Perhaps you really are a good judge of character or have a sixth sense about people. But perhaps you simply had other reasons to not like him and drew a full conclusion about his character from that.

If you’re reading this newsletter, the odds are good that if you had ever heard of Roy Moore before the scandal, you thought better of him, or at least better than Harvey Weinstein. (Perhaps the lowest bar to clear.) Perhaps like me, you’re skeptical that a statue of the Ten Commandments in a judicial building represents an unacceptable unification of church and state. (If any particular statue, painting, or other work is an artistic depiction of any culture’s representation of justice, I’d be inclined to let it stay. The U.S. Supreme Court building has friezes featuring Moses, Solomon, Confucius, Justinian, Muhammad (!), Charlemagne, Napoleon, and others.) Rather than seeing Moore’s fight over the Ten Commandments statue as a sign of his appetite for theocratic extremism, as many in the media portrayed it, you saw Moore as a man fighting to keep some semblance of Christian values in an increasingly morally decadent society. You may or may not agree with Moore’s steadfast refusal to enforce a Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.

Thursday the Washington Post reported on the four women describing Moore’s advances upon them in their teenage years. Moore says he never met Leigh Corfman and never had any contact with her. He said he knew two of the other women in the story but never dated them.*

A lot of people’s evaluation of the differing accounts is based upon their preexisting opinion of Moore. If you thought he was a loon or extremist before, it’s a short step to imagine him pursuing women way too young for him, even in violation of the law; if you like him, you believe he deserves the benefit of the doubt until someone presents irrefutable proof that these allegations are true.

Perhaps you really are a good judge of character or have a sixth sense about Roy Moore. But perhaps you simply had other reasons to like him and are drawing an inaccurate conclusion about his character from that.

It should not surprise us that Roy Moore fans are treating the Washington Post story as a personal attack upon themselves; on some level, it is. The article asserts, in effect, “the man you thought of as a good man for all these years was, at least in the late 70s and early 80s, not a good man. Your judgment and ability to assess others’ character is faulty.” This fact is true of all of us, but no one likes being confronted with it.

I would argue the solution for this is simply to stop seeing public figures — whether political figures or celebrities — as role models and stop putting them up on pedestals. The ability to win elections, perform well on camera, perform great athletic feats, or other extraordinary traits is not synonymous with good character. (It is entirely possible that good character is an impediment to ambition.)

Last week I offered a few tweets on this theme with photos of Bill Clinton, Bernard Law, Bill Cosby, Jimmy Swaggart, John Edwards, O.J. Simpson, Jim McGreevey, Kevin Spacey, Dennis Hastert, Eliot Spitzer, and Tiger Woods, and it was fascinating to see how many argued that one figure or the other didn’t belong in the same category with the others. The point is that all of them had a dark side that they hid from their many admirers, one that led to their downfall. It is likely that fame, power, and money do not bring out a person’s best character. An atmosphere of constant adoration and entitlement probably erodes the conscience and that little voice telling us, “I shouldn’t do that.”

Perhaps particular forms of fame present their own enabling influence: If you’re a comedian known for doing blunt sexual routines, describing your id’s desire to take wildly inappropriate actions, and everyone laughs and praises you as a genius for that, it becomes more difficult to resist the impulse to act out those actions in real life.

*Some would argue that Moore is giving contradictory statements in his defense, first stating, “These allegations are completely false, false and misleading,” and then later saying, “I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go out on dates then we did. But I do not remember that.” If they did indeed go on dates and Moore simply doesn’t remember it, then the allegation isn’t “completely false, false and misleading.”

Patient Zero for a Plague of Tolerating Sexual Harassment from Powerful Men

David Brooks asks an extremely important question, one that I suspect many of the most prominent media voices of 1998 will want to avoid confronting.

[T]he uncomfortable thing for a lot of progressives, frankly, is how much did the Clinton thing create this whole environment? How much did tolerance of Bill Clinton create the environment in which the rest of this was given permission?

I think it had an effect. I think the fact that — nobody, like, was approving Bill Clinton and some of the things he was accused of doing, like Kathleen Willey, those sorts of people. But people were not saying, ‘We’re drawing the line here.’ And if you don’t draw lines in these big cases, then you don’t draw lines in the little cases in the workplace. And so, now we’re seeing — you know, we saw Republicans tolerating what Donald Trump was accused of doing, and today, we’re seeing this astounding case where Republicans in Alabama are tolerating what Judge Roy Moore is accused of doing.

Gloria Steinem responded to the allegations against Bill Clinton with a position some characterized as a “one free grope rule”: if a man backs down after making one undesired sexual advance, he has done nothing wrong. It is not surprising that if you institute that social more for a president you like, a lot of powerful men will believe that rule applies to them, as well.

Speaking of Religious Environments of Powerful, Abusive Men . . . 

Every once in a while, the New York Times op-ed page turns its attention to sex scandals within groups that usually enjoy sympathetic coverage from the paper. Sylvie Kauffmann, the editorial director and a former editor in chief of Le Monde, informs readers of shocking — or perhaps not so shocking — allegations about one of the world’s most prominent Islamic theologians:

If you thought it was challenging for women to come forward and accuse Harvey Weinstein of rape, consider accusing the Islamic theologist Tariq Ramadan. Emboldened by the enormous response in France to the #MeToo wave that was born in Hollywood, two Frenchwomen decided last month to sue Mr. Ramadan for rape and sexual abuse. One of the women, Henda Ayari, has gone public. The second has described her ordeal to journalists but has remained anonymous. And for good reason: Henda Ayari has had to appeal for help after becoming the target of a vicious campaign of insults and slander on social networks, mostly from Muslim extremists. Mr. Ramadan, a grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, denies the accusations.

It is not only that the Swiss-born Mr. Ramadan, 55, who has taken a leave of absence from Oxford University, where he has taught contemporary Islamic studies (a chair financed by Qatar), is a prominent figure on the intellectual and religious Islamic scene in France. What makes his accusers particularly brave is that they, like him, are practicing Muslims. By the very fact of having spent time alone with him, they have, in the eyes of rigorist teachings of Islam, violated the rules of modesty that women are required to follow . . . 

[Kaouther] Ben Hania, 40, is one of several Arab women now raising their voices in North Africa and in France. The New Year’s Eve attacks by mostly Arab migrants on German women in Cologne in 2016 shed light on what the Algerian author and columnist Kamel Daoud described as “the sexual misery of the Arab world.” His scathing text, published in Le Monde and The New York Times, shocked a group of French academics, who accused him of indulging in “Orientalist clichés.” But when the video of a young woman sexually assaulted by a group of teenagers on a bus in Casablanca, Morocco, went viral this summer, those academics kept silent.

The Catholic Church deserved the public scorn it received for the abuse scandals in past decades, and evangelicals are going to get a lot of grief for excusing Moore’s behavior. But if we’re handing out public derision for religions mistreating women and excusing sexual abuse, let’s not avert our eyes from a faith that condones punishing rape victims by lashing them and in some cases stoning them to death.

ADDENDA: At a time when so many folks on the right seem angry at everyone else when they disagree, I want to thank Nate Jackson for concluding my assessment on Moore was “worth pondering.” To return the favor, I’ll note that if these women are making up or wildly exaggerating their encounters with Moore, then he is a victim of a great injustice — on par with the late Richard Jewell — and he might very well have a case for libel against the Post.

Moore is Less

by Jack Fowler

Big Jim Geraghty is away today, and what a day for politics he picked, and in what incapable hands his daily missive has been placed, so we’ll keep this short and sweet, to save embarrassments of all kinds, and suggest to you five fresh and smart NRO must-read pieces.

1. Well this one is kind of obvious: the matter-of-fact editorial urging Judge Roy Moore — the controversial GOP candidate for the Alabama senate seat (once Jeff Sessions’) to be decided by special election on December 12 — to drop out, given very credible charges that in his 30s he dabbled with teenage girls, including one who was 14 at the time. Says the editorial:

Moore is not a worthy standard-bearer for the Republican party, and his vulnerabilities are now endangering what should be a completely safe Senate seat.

And then there is:

. . .the second damaging revelation about Moore since he won the Republican nomination in the special election to replace Jeff Sessions. . . . that he took a secret $180,000 annual salary for a part-time gig at a charity, despite his denials. There is no doubt that the media and the Democrats are gunning for Moore; there is also, now, no doubt that there is plenty of material for them to mine, beyond his kooky views and ignorance of the law.

2. But of course, some folks from a movement once known for defending “family values” are hair-splitting on Moore and consent. The old line when I was growing up was “15 will get you 20.” Now 14 can get you a senate seat? Seems not to bother some. Teddy Kupfer reports in this post on The Corner how the Away Explainers at Breitbart, who may have just watched Casablanca, want to issue Moore a political Letter of Transit.

3. More Moore: Jonah Goldberg summarizes the matter and the blatherings of some of Moore’s more shameful defenders. From his Corner post:

Now, if you honestly think all of the people talking to the Washington Post are lying and that the Post somehow got them all to make this up, you have got one of the biggest stories of the century. If you can prove it, Roy Moore will end up owning the Post after his lawsuit.

But the Post has offered an enormous amount of evidence. Moore’s defenders are simply shouting “fake news!” “Soros!” “Narrative!” and other inanities — because that’s all they’ve got.

And for what? To defend a man who was indefensible before the Post story.

4. It was shocking that when the Trump GOP tax plan was rolled out, it did not include the adoption tax credit. I’m not sure what genius was responsible for this — did some knucklehead actually make a nope-we’re-not-keeping-it decision? — but the credit is back. David French raised the issue and now reports the good news that the credit has been restored.

5. Let’s end this non-political: If you’re going to the movies this weekend, Kyle Smith suggests you may want to see something other than Murder on the Orient Express.

Hail to our Veterans: Thanks to those who honorably wore the uniform. Whether or not a veteran, may all of you have a good weekend. Big Jim will be back in living color next week. I’ll bother you tomorrow with the Weekend Jolt.

ADDENDAThere is a Webathon happening.

Getting Some Perspective on Republicans’ Election Woes

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why Democrats will find Virginia is easier to win than lots of other parts of the country; a completely unnecessary Republican primary fight gains momentum; Roy Moore holds on to a lead in the Alabama Senate special election; and Congressional Republicans contemplate a brand-destroying mistake.

The Big Unresolved Question for 2018: Can Democrats Win in Trump Counties?

Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, of University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato’s ”Crystal Ball,” lay out all of the extremely ominous signs for Republicans in Tuesday’s elections, but then add some key caveats:

The silver lining for Republicans in Tuesday night’s results is that Gillespie actually improved on his own showing in his 2014 Senate challenge to Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Cuccinelli’s 2013 performance in western Virginia, a red-trending area (as noted above). Gillespie didn’t quite match Trump there, though, but remember that Democrats have to defend a lot of turf in dark red areas, such as Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D) Senate seat in West Virginia, the only state that is classified 100% Appalachian by the federal government and a state Trump won by 42 points. Manchin will have incumbency in his favor, but it is possible that he and other red state Senate Democrats could fall to Republicans even in a great Democratic national environment because of the way that places like Appalachia are changing. Many parts of the United States look like Appalachian western Virginia — rural, white, blue collar, and supportive of Trump.

Virginia Democrats were able to make huge gains in the state House of Delegates by effectively winning only Clinton-won seats (they only won a single Trump-won seat, and it was a marginal one at that). Democrats cannot get to a House of Representatives majority exclusively through Clinton-won seats. They need to net 24 seats next year to win the House, and there are only 23 Republicans in Clinton-won seats. It’s also impractical to think Democrats could flip all 23 of these seats: Many of them are held by skilled incumbents. So Democrats will need to win some Trump-won territory to capture the House — the median U.S. House seat, the 218th most Democrats and Republican seat by presidential performance, is Rep. Scott Taylor’s (D, VA-2) Hampton Roads-based district, which Trump won by 3.4 points, which makes it more than five points more Democratic than the nation (because Clinton won the national popular vote by about 2.1 points). This is a long way of saying that the national House playing field is more Republican-leaning, at least on paper, than the Virginia House of Delegates slate was. So, as we usually advise, don’t over-interpret and over-project these results, impressive though they are for the Democrats.

Another big question: Are the suburbs in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and other key states different than the ones in Virginia? Sure, Loudon, Prince William, and Fairfax have lots of federal government workers, but is the political culture that different? (I’m getting a little irked hearing people dismiss Virginia’s seven most northeastern counties with comments like, “eh, they’re all federal workers.” Democrat Gerry Connolly’s 11th Congressional District, which includes parts of Fairfax and Prince William Counties, has 74,346 federal employees and retirees as of 2014. That’s a lot! But that’s also just 10 percent of the district’s population as a whole. And in 2010, Connolly survived by less than 1,000 votes.)

If the mood in the suburbs of other states is about the same as it was in Virginia on Tuesday, Republicans are in serious trouble.

Notice that Northam, who few considered to be a particularly exceptional candidate, enjoyed unbelievable Democratic turnout. The Democratic campaign committees and campaigns may not have to worry about funding problems or organizational blunders in 2018. Donald Trump is their get-out-the-vote program.

“You can’t explain what happened without starting with the backdrop that is the long shadow that Donald Trump cast over the election,” Quentin Kidd, a Christopher Newport University political science professor, said. “That explains in my mind probably 300,000 to 325,000 voters that may not have shown up yesterday to vote had it not been by them being energized by the 2016 election.”

That would be about 12 percent of the people who voted Tuesday. As Kidd puts it, “It wasn’t that Republicans didn’t show up, it’s that Democrats showed up in overwhelming numbers.” It is very tough to win when the other side is mobilizing close to 100 percent of their potential voters.

Just How Many Incumbent Republicans Deserve Primary Challenges?

You know what will exacerbate Republicans’ problems? Messy primary fights, urged by a former Trump advisor, against a GOP senator who’s voted with the White House 94 percent of the time, like Wyoming’s John Barrasso.

Republican megadonor Foster Friess was busy writing checks to GOP candidates, contemplating the future of health care, and getting coffee with liberals for his campaign to “restore civility” in politics last month, when he got an unexpected call from President Trump adviser and provocateur Steve Bannon.

“I get this call, ‘Foster would you consider running against [Wyoming Sen. John] Barrasso?’ And I said, ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Steve Bannon?’ Because we’re pretty much strangers, it kind of struck me as how did he even get my name or my number?”

Friess, a multimillionaire investor, is now launching a “listening tour” to help him decide whether he should challenge Barrasso — his “personal friend” and “hero” — in a GOP primary, he told BuzzFeed News in a 90-minute, wide-ranging interview this week.

Insisting his decision won’t have much to do with Bannon or Barrasso, the 77-year-old who has financed and advised GOP presidential candidates and groups for years is becoming more overtly involved in politics, following a wave of wealthy businessmen, including Trump, taking an interest in elected office.

I met Friess a little while back, and think well of him. But just what changes in the U.S. Senate if voters replace Barrasso with Friess? (Keep in mind that if elected, Friess would face reelection in 2024 at age 84.) 

To give credit where it’s due, another one of Bannon’s preferred candidates, Roy Moore, hasn’t blown the special Senate election in Alabama yet.

A poll commissioned by Raycom News Network released Wednesday found that Republican Roy Moore is continuing to hold a significant lead over Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s Senate race.

Conducted by Mobile-based Strategy Research, the poll said that Moore had 51 percent of support to 40 percent for Jones. And 9 percent of poll participants declared themselves undecided.

Of course, Republicans usually win about 65 percent of the vote in Senate races in Alabama.

Why Would Republicans Ever Adopt This Idea?

Then again, if Republicans aren’t willing to pull out all the stops to promote adoption, why do we have them? Our David French points out a ridiculous facet of the GOP tax plan:

 . . . A $13,570 non-refundable credit that phases out for truly high-income families. It doesn’t cost the government much — according to the Tax Policy Center, the so-called “tax expenditure” (forgone revenue) from the credit totaled $300 million in 2015 — but it makes adoption affordable for thousands of families. I know. It helped my family immensely when we adopted. It’s helped other adoptive families we know. It can be the financial difference that makes adoption possible. And the newly released Republican tax-reform plan would abolish it entirely.

 . . . As things now stand, though, this Republican Congress may well end up funding Planned Parenthood while abolishing the adoption tax credit. That’s intolerable. Not even President Obama went that far. For a brief time during the Obama administration, the adoption credit was fully refundable. What did the IRS do? It deluged adoptive families with audits. Allegedly concerned with fraud, in one year it audited a staggering 69 percent of returns that claimed the credit. A 2011 GAO report indicated that the IRS “had not found any fraudulent adoption tax credit claims.”

If Republicans are dumb enough to get rid of the adoption tax credit, they’ll deserve to lose control of Congress.

ADDENDA: Caleb Howe asked my opinion, and a few others’, about the argument that “Never Trump” Republicans cost Gillespie victory on Tuesday. If by “Never Trump” he means Evan McMullin and Bill Kristol, etcetera, no, they simply don’t influence enough voters. (Remember, Gillespie lost by about 232,000 votes.) If you define “Never Trump” much more broadly to include people who have voted Republican in the past and who are skeptical, critical, or just plain disappointed in the Trump presidency so far, you’re dealing with a much more sizable demographic, and part of the reason Republicans up and down the ticket got nuked in the suburbs Tuesday.

This Is about as Bad as It Gets for Virginia Republicans

by Jim Geraghty

Urgh.

The coming weeks will feature a lot of Trump-friendly Republicans insisting he has nothing to do with last night’s top-to-bottom shellacking of the GOP in Virginia, and a lot of not-so-Trump-friendly Republicans insisting he’s got everything to do with the electoral disaster.

If last night had brought a routine disappointment for Republicans — say, the statewide candidates losing by a few points and only a handful of state assembly seats flipping to the Democrats — the “blame Trump” argument would be weaker. But last night was the worst night for Republicans in Virginia in a long time. Gillespie lost by the worst margin for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in the state since 1985. No GOP statewide candidate hit 48 percent. Perhaps more significantly, Republicans entered Election Day with a 17-seat margin in the state assembly and lost at least 13, with seven seats too close to call this morning.

State Representative Bob Marshall represents a district that covers parts of Prince William and Loudon counties. Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe carried this district by a point in 2013 but by 2016, Hillary Clinton carried it by 14 points, so perhaps Marshall should have recognized his district was turning bluer. But during the off-year state legislative elections of 2015, Marshall won by a comfortable margin, 56 percent to 44 percent. This year he ran against Danica Roem, the first transgender candidate in Virginia history, and Roem reversed the numbers, winning 54 percent to 45 percent.

The fairest and most accurate critique about Ed Gillespie is that his 2017 campaign was neither fish nor fowl. He had too much history as an Establishment insider to drive up big turnout among Trump’s voters, but his campaign’s autumn messages focusing on sanctuary cities, gangs, Confederate statues, and felon voting rights were too “Trumpified” to win over those moderate suburban soccer moms. As I mentioned during an interview with WMAL’s Mary Walter and Vince Coglianese this morning, I wonder how many suburbanites resented Gillespie for his ads telling them about infamous child pornographers during every commercial break.

You’ll probably hear Trump fans arguing Gillespie ran a bad campaign. But he and his supporters kept pace with spending and television advertising, hustled on the stump, and didn’t make many errors or gaffes. This is the same guy who came within a percentage point of knocking off a Democratic incumbent in 2014. He’s likely to finish with about 120,000 or so more votes than he won in that midterm election year.

Gillespie actually kept his party more unified than Trump did; exit polls indicated that 95 percent of self-identified Republicans voted for Gillespie, compared to 88 percent for Trump. (Note that Virginia does not register voters by party, so all responses are best thought of as, “which party do you feel like you belong to today?”) White evangelicals were about as supportive of Gillespie (79 percent) as they were of Trump (80 percent). Those who live in households with guns were slightly more supportive of Gillespie (61 percent) than they were of Trump (59 percent).

Gillespie narrowly won independents, 50 percent to 47 percent. Trump did a little better in that group last year, 48 percent to 43 percent. Gillespie actually did slightly better than Trump among blacks, 12 percent to 9 percent.

No, the big difference of this year is that the Democratic base was fired up on a scale not seen since 2008. Yesterday’s Virginia electorate was 41 percent self-identified Democrat, 30 percent self-identified Republican, and 28 percent independent or something else. When the electorate looks like that, Republicans will get demolished every time. For comparison, Virginia’s 2016 electorate, according to the exit polls, was 40 percent Democrat, 33 percent Republican, and 26 percent independent.

The exit poll asked voters, “How do you feel about the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president?and 40 percent said they approved and 57 percent disapproved. That’s actually higher than his job approval rating nationally in most polls. If Trump’s job approval is 40 or below in a state on Election Day 2018, Republicans can expect further dismal losses.

Former Goldman Sachs Executive Beats Woman in New Jersey Gubernatorial

Let’s not forget that the Republican party managed to completely disappear in New Jersey.

As of Wednesday morning, with 99 percent of districts reporting, [Democrat Phil] Murphy led [Republican Lieutenant Governor Kim] Guadagno by about 13 percentage points — 55.4 percent to 42.5 percent, according to the Associated Press. Murphy was ahead by nearly 250,000 voters — 1.12 million to 859,000.

 . . . Polls showed that Guadagno was hurt by her connection to Christie, a one-time national Republican star and presidential contender whose approval ratings have dropped by nearly 50 percentage points over the last few years.

After voting in Mendham on Tuesday morning, Christie rejected the idea that this race was a referendum on his two terms as governor.

“This is not an election about me,” Christie said. “I had my referendum. My referendum was four years ago.”

After Murphy’s inaugurated, Christie will have more time to spend on the beach.

The downballot races in New Jersey were similarly grim for Republicans:

In perhaps the biggest upset of the night, former Monmouth County Democratic Chair Vin Gopal unseated veteran Republican state Sen. Jennifer Beck in the 11th District along the Jersey Shore.

Entering Tuesday, Democrats had a 24-16 majority in the Senate and a 52-28 majority in the Assembly. At the very least, Democrats will gain at least one seat in the Senate when all the votes are tallied and possibly more in the Assembly.

There Will Be No Justice for Staten Island Chuck

Continuing the cavalcade of GOP failure . . . just how did Republicans manage to not even come close to running competitively against incumbent New York City mayor Bill De Blasio? The city’s infrastructure and subways are falling into disrepair, the city’s nightly homeless shelter population has reached a record high in 25 of the 41 months of his term, the number of homeless children is rising, the governor hates him, the cops hate him, and he’s got the charisma of a boiled turnip. Hell, he murdered a groundhog!

And yet he never had reason to sweat.

Gliding to his second landslide victory, Bill de Blasio was re-elected on Tuesday as the mayor of New York City, overwhelming his Republican challenger, Nicole Malliotakis, and a handful of independent candidates in what he declared a persuasive affirmation of his progressive agenda.

Mr. de Blasio, the first Democratic mayor to be re-elected in a generation, since Edward I. Koch captured his third term in 1985.

ADDENDA: Yesterday was the last big election until . . . December 17, when Alabama has its special U.S. Senate election. One poll has the race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones tied, the other shows Moore with an 11-point lead.

Gillespie vs. Northam: The Story Ends Tonight

by Jim Geraghty

We’re used to political junkies analyzing and griping about polls. But in Virginia, the complaint is on stronger ground, at least looking back at the 2013 and 2014 elections, when the Republican statewide candidate finished significantly higher than the final polling results. One can even throw in Bob McDonnell’s 2009 landslide; the final RealClearPolitics average had him winning by 13.4 percentage points, and he went on to win by 17.5 points.

Today’s gubernatorial election in Virginia will let us know if pollsters have adjusted for the state’s quirks and changing demographics and response trends. Democrats can reassure themselves that the 2016 presidential results in the state were more or less in line with the final poll results.

This morning, the RealClearPolitics average shows Democrat Ralph Northam leading Republican Ed Gillespie by 3.3 percentage points. If the pollsters have an accurate handle on the makeup of the Virginia electorate and turnout, then Democrats will celebrate tonight. But if there’s a persistent “shy Tory” effect in Virginia polling, where a certain number of voters don’t want to say that they’re voting for the Republican, and this effect is worth another four, five, or six percentage points as it was in 2009, 2013, and 2014 . . . well, you can do the math. Last time Gillespie was on a statewide ballot in 2014’s Senate race, he performed nine points better than his finish in the RCP average.

If Gillespie loses, some Republicans will want to blame Trump, and he’ll deserve a share of the blame, but it’s a pretty limited share. Trump’s approval rating among likely voters in Virginia is at 40 percent in the most recent Fox News poll, 41 percent in the Monmouth poll, and 42 percent in the Emerson College poll. Those aren’t great numbers, but then again, the current Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, isn’t that much higher in the most recent polls.

Northam wanted to make the race a referendum on Trump, but he hasn’t succeeded the way he hoped. In the Monmouth poll, 27 percent said Trump was a major factor in their vote, 16 percent said a minor factor, and 56 percent said the president is not a factor at all. Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, concluded, “whatever impact Trump has on voters’ decision-making process was already baked in from the start of this campaign.” Virginia is one of the few states where Hillary Clinton won more votes and a higher percentage of the vote than Barack Obama four years earlier. Obama beat Romney in Fairfax County by about 87,000 votes in 2012; Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 197,000.

But much to the surprise of just about everyone, Trump has done more or less what most Virginia Republicans want him to do. He’s occasionally tweeted out support for Gillespie — with more Tweets this morning — but otherwise he’s largely kept himself out of the race. (Right now, Trump’s in Asia, geographically about as far from Virginia as he can get.)

The Gillespie campaign won’t be able to argue that they were taking on the Democratic party’s version of Superman. Northam may be a nice guy and a good doctor, but on the stump, he brings all the excitement of a boiled turnip. His biographical ads were soft-focus and forgettable, his attack ads cookie-cutter. His attack on Gillespie’s lobbying career focused on labeling him “Enron Ed.”

Pop quiz: Did Enron collapse before or after 9/11? Trick question, the stock collapsed in summer of 2001, and filed for bankruptcy in December. Gillespie’s firm did ten months’ worth of work before the revelations of about Enron’s financial fraud. How many Virginia voters remember much about a corporate scandal from sixteen years ago? How many even recognize the name Enron anymore? Some of the Virginians voting today were in preschool when the company collapsed.

Last night, Northam’s campaign tried a last-minute knockout punch and injured itself. Rick Gates, Paul Manafort’s right-hand man who was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller, received permission from a federal judge to leave house arrest on Tuesday in order to vote in Virginia’s elections. The Northam campaign seemed to think they could score points and attempt to tie Gillespie to Gates and the Russia investigation, and issued a statement declaring,  “If Ed Gillespie believes his fellow consultant, Rick Gates, should be allowed to vote after being charged with conspiracy against the United States, he proves once again he has no principles and no belief in what he campaigns on.”

Except . . . Northam’s said one of his proudest achievements is the restoration of rights for convicted felons, a policy that Gillespie has relentlessly attacked in campaign commercials. Now the statement from Northam’s campaign contends that Gates shouldn’t have the right to vote because he’s been accused of a crime, but not convicted. They later issued a second statement declaring that they do believe Gates should have the right to vote, but they believe Gillespie is being hypocritical.

But Gillespie’s position is as sound as it gets: he doesn’t think certain convicted felons should be allowed to vote, but those who have not yet been convicted should be allowed to vote.

Wait, it gets worse. Virginia elects sheriffs. Denying the vote to those accused of a crime but not convicted would give these elected officials with police powers the ability to deny the right to vote to those who might vote against their reelection.

Finally, has anyone told the Northam campaign that Senator Bob Menendez was indicted on federal corruption charges back in 2015? With both men still awaiting a legal verdict, what’s the difference between Menendez continuing to vote and Gates continuing to vote?

If Only We Could Do a Background Check that Actually Checked Applicants’ Backgrounds

It’s a lot easier to shout for “universal background checks” than to actually get the current system of background checks to work.

A day after a gunman massacred parishioners in a small Texas church, the Air Force admitted on Monday that it had failed to enter the man’s domestic violence court-martial into a federal database that could have blocked him from buying the rifle he used to kill 26 people.

Under federal law, the conviction of the gunman, Devin P. Kelley, for domestic assault on his wife and toddler stepson — he had cracked the child’s skull — should have stopped Mr. Kelley from legally purchasing the military-style rifle and three other guns he acquired in the last four years.

“The Air Force has launched a review of how the service handled the criminal records of former Airman Devin P. Kelley following his 2012 domestic violence conviction,” the Air Force said in a statement.

If you feel a sense of déjà vu upon hearing that a church shooter obtained a weapon that he should have been denied because of a bureaucratic mistake . . . it’s because this has indeed happened before, in the Charleston church shooting.

FBI Director James Comey said the man accused of killing nine people in a Charleston, S.C., church should never have been allowed to purchase a weapon.

Comey said flaws in paperwork and communication between a federal background check worker and state law enforcement allowed Dylann Roof to buy a handgun in South Carolina on April 16 — weeks before he allegedly attacked black churchgoers in a failed attempt to fuel a race war.

“We are all sick that this has happened,” Comey told reporters Friday. “We wish we could turn back the clock. . . . What we can do is make sure we learn from it, get better.”

Hey, I’m sure they’ll get these sorts of snafus worked out once the federal government runs your health care.

How Many Divisions Does Harvey Weinstein Have? More Than You Might Think!

Harvey Weinstein had his own little army protecting his kingdom of sexual predation:

In the fall of 2016, Harvey Weinstein set out to suppress allegations that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women. He began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations. According to dozens of pages of documents, and seven people directly involved in the effort, the firms that Weinstein hired included Kroll, which is one of the world’s largest corporate-intelligence companies, and Black Cube, an enterprise run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. Black Cube, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris, offers its clients the skills of operatives “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” according to its literature.

Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with the actress Rose McGowan, who eventually publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her. One of the investigators pretended to be a women’s-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan. The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.

The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies “target,” or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focused on their personal or sexual histories.

Remember Weinstein’s infamous quote from 2009: “Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion.”

ADDENDA: A gloomy assessment for Garden State Republicans in Politico: “I think Chris Christie has destroyed the Republican brand in New Jersey for a political generation,” said Matt Hale, a professor at Seton Hall University.

The irony is that Christie himself had been the first Republican to win statewide in twelve years . . . meaning that the Republican Party’s brand in the state was already destroyed well before his arrival on the scene. We may look back on Chris Christie as a fluke, an unexpectedly charismatic persona running against a supremely flawed Democratic incumbent in Jon Corzine, who then let his own cult of personality overtake any ambitions to transform the state’s political culture. Back in 2015, Steven Malanga noted he had failed to enact any lasting reforms. As he concluded, “Christie’s administration could have achieved so much more.”

Recovering from a Weekend of Violent Shocks

by Jim Geraghty

Are we growing numb to this?

A young man clad in black and wearing a ballistic vest blasted his way into a Baptist church in this south Texas town on Sunday with an assault-type rifle, leaving at least 26 people dead and 20 others injured.

The gunman fled in a vehicle and died following a pursuit, law-enforcement officials said, adding that it wasn’t known whether he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound or was shot by someone else. Wilson County Commissioner Ernest “Skip” Hajek confirmed his identity as Devin Patrick Kelley. He said Kelley lived in the New Braunfels, Texas, area northeast of San Antonio.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek confirmed that Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge in 2014.

Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of assault on his spouse and on their child. He was given a bad conduct discharge, confined for a year and reduced to the rank of E-1. . .

This is the disturbingly regular time when we grasp for answers, and I think our David French puts things in the clearest possible perspective. Many of this morning’s furious calls for gun control will overlook that the shooter was not legally permitted to purchase or own his firearm. The coming days will probably reveal how he obtained his weapon; unless the shooter purchased his firearm at a gun show, it is unlikely that any new law would have prevented this atrocity, short of a complete ban on the private ownership of guns.

Is the impulse to commit mass murder so undetectable, and so unpreventable?

David:

 . . . while I’m extraordinarily grateful for the courage of the good guys with guns who’ve ultimately put a stop to multiple mass shootings — including this dreadful massacre — it’s not at all clear to me that good guys with guns present the answer to our troubles. They help, certainly, but they are not the cure for this national disease. If recent history teaches us anything, it’s that there is no reliable way to stop a man determined to commit mass murder. He can use guns, cars, trucks, fertilizer, or boxcutters to exact a terrible toll in human life.

Though there is no single answer, there is still effort. Individually, that means learning to how to use a weapon, carrying it, and remaining prepared to defend yourself and the people around you. Individually, that means if you see something, you say something. If a person is acting erratically or radicalizing in dangerous ways, then contact local law enforcement. Collectively, it’s difficult to identify effective prophylactic public policies. We have better answers for jihadists and other terrorists than we do for vengeful and evil men who lash out based on purely individual slights, real or imagined.

The weekend brought another horrifying surprise assault — thankfully not a deadly one, but disturbing in its own way:

Republican Sen. Rand Paul has five rib fractures, including three displaced fractures and lung contusions, after an assault in his home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, a senior adviser told CNN.

Paul sustained what were initially reported as “minor injuries” after a neighbor allegedly assaulted him in his home Friday. Kentucky State Troopers said the neighbor, Rene Albert Boucher, “intentionally assaulted” the senator. The motive for the alleged assault is unknown, but assaulting a member of Congress is a federal crime and could likely result in severe charges including felony assault or assault of a member. Both Capitol Police and the FBI are investigating the incident.

The Final Countdown Begins in Virginia

This morning, Quinnipiac University released a new poll showing Democrat Ralph Northam up by 9 points over Republican Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial election. As dire as that sounds for Gillespie, cynical minds will interpret this result as a face-saving correction by the pollster; the school’s previous survey last week showed Northam up by 17 points.

Most other pollsters show a much closer race: Christopher Newport University shows Northam up by 6 points, Emerson has Northam up by 3 points, the New York Times/Siena has the same, Rasmussen shows a tie and the Republican firm The Polling Company has Gillespie up by 3 points.

No one knows what the results will show Tuesday night, but it does feel like the Northam campaign stepped on a bunch of rakes in the closing weeks and days:

1. How did Democrats, of all people, not realize what a colossal mistake it is to print up any amount of flyers that leave off Justin Fairfax, the African-American candidate for lieutenant governor? Yes, yes, it’s allegedly because a union requested it, because of a disagreement with Fairfax over a pipeline project, but who couldn’t foresee that move becoming controversial? Former Democratic governor Doug Wilder chose to not endorse Northam, implying the flyer was a factor. Wilder has always had an independent streak, but if African-American turnout is lower than Democrats hope, you can expect a lot of finger-pointing about that flyer.

2. The Latino Victory ad — accepted by the Northam campaign as an in-kind contribution — was so over-the-top and incendiary that Chuck Todd was left asking the Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, “Democrats don’t like it when Republicans stereotype — aren’t you stereotyping? Are you saying that . . . all pickup truck drivers are racist? Do you understand why some people think the ad implies that?” Perez ignored the question and just accused Gillespie of running a “dog whistle politics” campaign. Now even those inclined to find Gillespie a squish have a reason to vote against the Democrats this year.

3. The support of the liberal PAC Democracy for America is probably not make-or-break for the Northam campaign. Still, it’s a little unusual to see a liberal group announce in the final week that they’re suspending support for the Democratic nominee and calling him “gutless, politically senseless, and morally debased” . . . for saying he would sign a bill banning sanctuary cities.

4. Patrick Ruffini observed that Northam is running ads tying Gillespie to Trump . . . on Fox News. How do you think most Virginians watching Fox News feel about Trump? This is basically doing the other guy’s get-out-the-vote for him.

Does all of that add up to a Gillespie win? We’ll know in 48 hours.

The Final Dossier: The Last Word on Twin Peaks . . . Ever?

Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost’s new novel, The Final Dossier, provides fans of the original program with a lot of the answers they’ve been seeking for almost three decades. It’s just maddening that the book is so necessary after the show’s 18-episode revival on Showtime.

The Final Dossier is perhaps best described as the detailed backstory and elaboration that fans thought they would get with Frost’s novel from last year, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, and the Showtime series. While there are murmurs about starting work on a possible fourth season someday, it is entirely possible — perhaps likely — that this is the last word on Twin Peaks that fans ever get from one of the creators.

Frost’s first Twin Peaks novel was an intriguing and leisurely journey through esoteric American history and conspiracy theories that only occasionally overlapped with characters and events from the 1990-1991 ABC television series. For what it was, it was really good; it just felt more like a mix of X-Files, National Treasure, JFK, Dark Skies, and Stranger Things than the titular program. Back in 2016, I called it “a fascinating, eye-opening, thought-provoking fun read . . . that is still going to leave a lot of diehard Twin Peaks fans disappointed.”

Co-creators Frost and David Lynch have said in interviews that their friendship and working relationship are fine, and yet . . . Lynch offered this unexpected comment to Entertainment Weekly in March when asked about Frost’s book: “I haven’t read it. It’s his history of Twin Peaks.” [emphasis in original]

In that light, it’s less surprising that Frost’s book and the Showtime series were distant cousins at most. It’s nice that their friendship is rekindled, but perhaps the creative visions of the two men don’t quite align so much after all. When the recent series was done, some fans speculated that there was a better, much more coherent version of the story from Frost that was left on the cutting room floor by Lynch’s creative vision.

Frost may forever disagree with this characterization, but in The Final Dossier, it sure feels like he’s cleaning up the incoherent mess that Lynch left at the end of the series. Infuriatingly unresolved plotlines and cliffhangers are tied up every few pages: the unsavory end of Leo Johnson, the fate of Donna Hayward and the rest of her family, what happened to James Hurley, and so on. If The Final Dossier doesn’t completely explain the otherworldly final vision of Audrey Horne from the Showtime series, it gives fans the general gist of how her character spent the last 25 years and a likely explanation of her character’s painfully inscrutable scenes in the Showtime series. Perhaps most unexpectedly, we finally get a definitive answer to the haunting, closing question in the last line of dialogue of the original series, “How’s Annie?”

The narrative in The Secret History of Twin Peaks offered some glaring contradictions to what was seen onscreen in the original program, leaving some fans grumbling about Frost’s faulty memory or uncharacteristic lack of concern with detail. In his follow-up, he comes up with one fairly convincing explanation after another for those contradictions: lies, cover-ups, misinformation and efforts to hide secrets.

Within this narrative, the intervening decades brought a lot of pain and suffering for the town and its citizens, one that no doubt overlaps with Frost’s assessment of how the country has changed since the early 1990s to today. The timber industry collapsed, the sawmill shut down, and addiction to meth ravaged the poor and desperate. (In real life, the effort to protect the spotted owl played a role in the decline of the logging and timber industries in the Pacific Northwest. The population of the spotted owl kept declining, year by year, even after many new restrictions and regulations on the timber industry, and scientists now blame the invasive barred owl species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is spending $3.5 million over six years to remove 3,600 barred owls from sites in Oregon, Washington, and California.)

The Final Dossier suggests that the bleak tone of the Showtime series was not an accident or Lynch’s vision alone. What had once been a charming, if strangely haunted, small town now seemed to be overpopulated with trailers and drug-dealing backwoods white trash. An acerbic FBI pathologist writes in a meandering forensic report, “The world is changing pronto, Chief, and now that these salt-of-the-earth ‘country volk’ realize they’ve been left behind, it’s going to be sheer hell playing catch up.”

Anyone who follows Frost on Twitter can tell he’s left-of-center and brimming with disdain for President Trump and Republicans in general. In The Final Dossier, Frost’s politics don’t overwhelm the reader, but poke their heads up intermittently, and not always in ways that seem to make sense for the characters. Did anyone use the term “trigger warning” in 1989? Would any currently-serving FBI agent ever characterize the 9/11 attacks as “the first toll of the bell striking midnight for the American Experiment” in a memo? Donald Trump is never named specifically, but abundant clues in the context make clear that Frost imagines one of the series’ minor characters, a seductive gold-digger, interacting with Trump in the mid-1990s. It’s even suggested that Trump at some point wears a jade ring that is always associated with bad luck in the movies and series.

Spoilers Ahead

Frost even incorporates the most confounding aspect of the final episodes of the final series, the suggestion that the series original protagonist, FBI Agent Dale Cooper, succeeded in traveling back in time and saving Laura Palmer from her grisly fate. This closing twist suggested that history had been rewritten, and that nothing depicted in the series had actually happened, a possibility many fans found dissatisfying and a cop-out (no pun intended). Frost offers a scenario where history was indeed altered . . . yet like a river still running downhill around an obstruction, the altered path of fate did not dramatically alter the destination.

This ending is a little vague, but avoids the implication of the end of the Showtime series, that everything you watched and loved about this television show never happened. Some fans have speculated whether David Lynch is being honest when he says how much he loves Twin Peaks; it’s his most mainstream and popular work, but one that he co-created, one that required numerous creative compromises, and one that some critics argue was largely misinterpreted by the culture at large: What was supposed to be an examination of the capacity for evil to hide in the mundane within small-town American life turned into a national game of “Clue.” A lot of viewers felt a streak of misanthropy (and some argued, misogyny) ran through the new Showtime series: the town is declining, the young people are on meth, children are constantly endangered or neglected, brutal violence is rampant, even the villain seems to be going in circles chasing mysterious coordinates, and our once-heroic protagonist spends much of the series as a hapless, mentally inert man-child. If Lynch had intended to offer an artistic middle finger to a creation he had grown to hate as commercialized and kitschy, he wouldn’t have had to change much.

The Final Dossier gives the creation, and the fans, one last bit of affection before that last farewell.

ADDENDA: Tonight the quiz show Jeopardy begins its tournament of champions. A kind reader calls my attention to the fact that contestants will be wearing blue ribbons and memorial pins to honor Cindy Stowell, a longtime friend of my wife and myself. It is great to see her remembered and honored; I just wish everyone had a chance to see her beyond a cancer patient and Jeopardy champion.

Fake News, Gullible Voters, and the Appetite for a 2016 Scapegoat

by Jim Geraghty

Over in the New York Times, Emily Parker provides Democrats — and everyone upset by the 2016 election, including Never-Trump Republicans — with a message they would probably rather not hear: Propaganda only works when there’s a significant enough segment of the population that wants to believe a particular message. It’s convenient and almost fun to blame the big tech companies — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube — for Russia’s efforts to influence the election and the 2016 results, but in the end, the voters were not brainwashed into any choices.

Facebook and Twitter are just a mirror, reflecting us. They reveal a society that is painfully divided, gullible to misinformation, dazzled by sensationalism, and willing to spread lies and promote hate. We don’t like this reflection, so we blame the mirror, painting ourselves as victims of Silicon Valley manipulation.

. . .Facebook and Twitter didn’t force users to share misinformation. Are Americans so easily duped? Or more alarming, did they simply believe what they wanted to believe?

Most of the social media materials the Russians were posting were not sophisticated messages or images. If anything, they were so over-the-top that they seem too ridiculous to be genuinely persuasive. Here’s one:

I mean, if you’re swayed by an image that suggests that Hillary Clinton is the devil and she wants to get into a boxing match with Jesus Christ . . . I’m pretty sure you were probably leaning against her already. The woman’s gotten into a heck of a lot of scandals, but I don’t think she’s ever explicitly challenged the Son of God to get into the UFC Octagon with her.

And if Hillary Clinton supporters really want to argue that they lost the votes of a segment of progressives because Bernie Sanders supporters were persuaded by muscular-Bernie cartoons . . . 

 . . . If that’s really the case, well, look, it’s not Russia’s, Trump’s, or the Republicans’ fault that a part of the Democratic base is a bunch of easily-distracted shallow idiots. If your voters are getting deterred by doodles, they never really were “your” voters.

Parker concludes, “The real crisis is Americans’ inability or unwillingness to sift fact from fiction, a problem that is worsened by the mainstream media’s loss of credibility when it comes to setting the record straight.” Bingo.

If you’re upset that a lot of Americans didn’t seem all that upset about Trump’s lies, broken pledges, and implausible promises during the 2016 campaign, go back and study the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012. Go back to “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” People have absorbed the lesson that “politicians lie,” so they don’t particularly care when one they like lies. They may enjoy getting angry when one they dislike is caught in a lie, but that’s mostly because it reaffirms their preexisting opinion that the other side is full of terrible people who lie all the time. But only very rarely does a politician getting caught in a lie sufficient to get a supporter to abandon their candidate.

One of the painful lessons of 2016, and the rise of Trump, is that the people most connected and most influential in the leadership of both parties were seriously disconnected from what large swaths of the electorate were really thinking and feeling. There’s an important line or two in John Podhoretz’s column about Donna Brazile’s new book that details how the Democratic National Committee became an extension of Hillary Clinton’s campaign before the primary even started:

Brazile has done her party a service because this honest account of the maneuverings of the Clinton campaign is a necessary step for Democrats in determining how to gauge their own organizational and ideological health.

This is long overdue. Rather than try to figure out how they contributed themselves to their calamitous 2016 fate, they have spent a year indulging the fantasy that they really won the election and had it stolen from them.

Stolen by Russian ads on Facebook. Stolen by “collusion,” whatever that might be. Stolen by racism. In other words, they were robbed and the only thing that matters now is catching and jailing the robber.

Sorry, fellas. The 2016 election was the culmination, not the beginning, of a Democratic implosion.

This desire to undo Election Night 2016 continues to be one of the major driving forces in our politics. It’s what transformed grassroots Democrats into “the Resistance,” seeing the fairly elected president as an alien occupying force. It’s what drives much of the investigation to Trump. If Robert Mueller’s investigation ends with Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and a variety of other campaign hangers-on being sentenced to jail time, but not prove that Trump himself colluded or knew of collusion with Russia, I suspect many Democrats will be severely disappointed and maybe even insist that Mueller is complicit in some sort of cover-up. They want President Trump impeached, and they want him impeached as soon as possible. A significant number would want Pence and Ryan and any Republican in the line of succession impeached or removed as well.

Meanwhile, in Virginia . . . 

Hey, I thought the GOP was the party that was supposed to be tearing itself apart:

A liberal activist group on Thursday labeled Ralph Northam’s campaign “racist,” criticizing the Virginia Democrat running for governor a day after he declared that he would not support “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants.

“Let’s be really clear: If Ralph Northam wins next Tuesday, it won’t be because he publicly backtracked on his commitment to protecting immigrant families, but in spite of it,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, a grassroots progressive activist [group] based in Vermont.

Chamberlain went on to say the Northam campaign was running “the same old, broken, and racist playbook that lost Democrats over 1000 elected offices since 2008.”

That allegedly racist stance is . . . opposing sanctuary cities?

You can bet Republicans will bring up that topic early and often in the 2018 cycle. Most Democrats running for office will be hesitant to endorse localities refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. This liberal activist group might find itself denouncing a lot of Democrats next year.

Who Really Controls the President’s Twitter Account?

Having said all that, this is the sort of thing that will get people thinking about social media companies as public utilities and something that needs government oversight:

The deactivation Thursday sparked deep and troubling questions about who has access to the president’s personal account, @realDonaldTrump, and the power that access holds. The deactivation also came at a time when the social network is under scrutiny for the role it played in spreading Russian propaganda during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s account disappeared at around 7 p.m. ET Thursday, when visitors to the page were met with the message, “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”

“The account was down for 11 minutes, and has since been restored,” Twitter’s statement read. “We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again.”

But two hours later, the company admitted that the deactivation wasn’t an accident at all: A preliminary investigation revealed that the account was taken offline “by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day.”

Twitter said it was conducting a full internal review.

If that employee can delete the account, could that employee put out fake tweets in the president’s name?

What would have happened if that departing employee had decided to Tweet out a message like “LAUNCH THE NUKES!!!” under the president’s name? No, that would not have begun the process of launching America’s nuclear arsenal, but it is easy to imagine an immediate panic. The North Korean regime might very well launch a military strike in an attempt to pre-empt an American attack.

In other words, Twitter has gained an enormous power over public discourse, and it’s still effectively controlled by people with the maturity and sense of responsibility of disgruntled teenage fast-food workers. Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben told us, “with great power comes great responsibility.” We hear that a lot, but we don’t see it in practice enough.

ADDENDA: Forget what I said yesterday, I really like Thursday Night Football now!

Ralph Northam: I Completely Support that Sanctuary City Ban that I Voted Against!

by Jim Geraghty

Hey, remember earlier this week, when running an ad about MS-13 crimes in northern Virginia and denouncing sanctuary cities as constituting horrible xenophobia? Never mind!

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam said Wednesday that he would sign a bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities if a Virginia locality tries to become one in the future.

Republican nominee Ed Gillespie has pushed the issue of sanctuary cities to the forefront of the governor’s race. The term is loosely defined but generally understood as a locality that will not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. No Virginia city or county has tried to adopt policies to impede such cooperation.

Northam, Virginia’s sitting lieutenant governor, has insisted he opposes sanctuary cities while also accusing Gillespie of fabricating the issue for political advantage.

But in an interview Wednesday with the Norfolk TV station WAVY, Northam said for the first time that, under certain circumstances, he would sign a bill similar to the one he voted against this year, a vote that spawned a wave of ominous ads from the Gillespie campaign linking Northam to the Latino gang MS-13.

“If that bill comes to by desk . . . I sure will. I’ve always been opposed to sanctuary cities. He knows that,” Northam said of Gillespie, whose MS-13-themed ads have been blasted by critics as racially tinged.

For reference, the legislation was one sentence long: “No locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws.” Not exactly difficult to interpret!

Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, orchestrated the move by initially voting with Democrats to create the 20-20 tie requiring Northam’s vote. Norment then changed his vote so the bill could pass. The Gillespie campaign sent out a news release almost immediately, an early sign of the immigration-themed campaign ads to come.

Bash Virginia Republicans for legislative maneuvering if you wish, but legislative leaders push votes to get members on the record all the time. If Northam really believes that every Virginia locality should cooperate with federal immigration authorities, what was the harm in that one-sentence bill?

If Northam is so willing to sign this legislation, why did he vote against it? His claim at the time was that it was unnecessary, because no Virginia locality had a law like that. But why would you oppose preventing a bad idea from becoming law? By any chance did it have anything to do with the fact that he was fighting in a Democratic primary, and was attempting to court the Left, including endorsing the state providing driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants?

Brazile: Actually, the DNC Really Was in the Tank for Hillary From the Beginning

The odds are good that you don’t think highly of former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile. There are plenty of reasons, perhaps most notably that she passed CNN debate questions to Hillary Clinton’s camp while she was a paid contributor to the network. But her new book, Hacks, is a tell-all that serves up a pretty glaring headline: confirmation that the DNC agreed to become a wing of the Clinton campaign long before the primaries began:

I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.

The agreement — signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias — specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.

 . . . When you have an open contest without an incumbent and competitive primaries, the party comes under the candidate’s control only after the nominee is certain. When I was manager of Gore’s campaign in 2000, we started inserting our people into the DNC in June. This victory fund agreement, however, had been signed in August 2015, just four months after Hillary announced her candidacy and nearly a year before she officially had the nomination.

In other words, five months before anyone had cast a vote in the Democratic presidential primary, the Democratic National Committee had signed over all major decision-making to the Clinton campaign. This morning, every Bernie Sanders supporter should be livid with their worst suspicions confirmed.

Better Ingredients, Better Pizza; Lower Television Ratings, Lower Pizza Sales

Within hours of Papa John’s pizza founder and CEO John Schnatter claiming that declining NFL ratings were to blame for the company’s poor quarter, the company became the latest . . . well, political football. Deadspin labeled him a “crybaby loser,” and Slate declares the contention is “not really an idea anyone should ever express out loud.”

Can we all at least agree that Papa John’s would not make this claim if they didn’t genuinely believe that the league’s handling of the kneeling protest controversy was hurting their bottom line?

“The NFL has hurt us,” company founder and CEO John Schnatter said. “We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.”

Executives said the company has pulled much of its NFL television advertising and that the NFL has responded by giving the company additional future spots.

“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said, noting he thought the issue had been “nipped in the bud” a year and a half ago.

In revising sales estimates for the next quarter, Papa John’s president and chief operating officer Steve Ritchie said on the call that the NFL deal was the primary suspect behind the decline and that “we expect it to persist unless a solution is put in place.”

Ritchie said that research has found that Papa John’s has been the most recognized sponsor associated with the NFL for two years running, which he said means the company’s performance can track with that of the league.

Deadspin’s rant about Schnatter includes a lengthy denunciation of the quality of Papa John’s pizza. You can argue that the chain’s pizza stinks, but it’s the same pizza they were serving a few years back when NFL ratings and pizza sales are better, and the company’s stock hit an all-time high in December 2016. It’s not plausible that the existing customer base suddenly decided they didn’t like the pizza they had been eating all this while.

I’d argue that Schnatter’s criticism of the NFL can be construed as an argument against interest; he’s got no real incentive to take shots at the NFL, as his company paid good money to be “the official pizza of the NFL” and presumably would like to continue a lucrative relationship with the league.

It is rather striking that Commissioner Roger Goodell, despite several meetings and conversations with players, hasn’t figured out some way to get all NFL players standing for the anthem and then participating in some focused protest or demonstration at some other time and place.

The league’s television ratings are down for several reasons, not just the protests, and Fox chief executive officer James Murdoch’s theory is worth serious consideration: The average fan just isn’t going to be that interested in watching a Thursday night game, three games on Sunday, and a Monday night name. A lot of football fan families probably watch or participate in high school football on Friday nights and/or college football games on Saturdays. At some point, the average football fan has to rake the leaves or clean out the gutters.

The players have openly complained about the Thursday night games, contending that four days isn’t enough time to physically recuperate from the last game and prepare for the next one. The Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman is blunt: “You’re still sore from Sunday’s game. You’re going to go out there and compete and give everything you have, because that’s what you do. But your body just won’t have as much to give as it would have had on a full week’s rest. That’s why the quality of play has been so poor on Thursday nights this season. We’ve seen blowouts, sloppy play and games that have been almost unwatchable — and it’s not the players’ faults. Their bodies just aren’t ready to play.”

At the very least, if the NFL wants to continue Thursday night games, they should arrange the schedule so that teams play their Thursday night game the week following their bye week.

ADDENDA: Congratulations, Houston; after an awful year with the hurricane and floods, your great city deserves the joy of a championship. Dodgers fans, don’t despair; you’ve got a young and talented team that is likely to compete for championships for many years to come.

How many men have had a better month in their lives than Jason Verlander? He was named American League Division Series MVP, wins the World Series, and later this month he marries supermodel Kate Upton.

What Did and Didn’t Cause Yesterday’s Terror Attack

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: The curious pattern of early initial non-terrorism explanations for terror attacks; a tough question about why the attacker entered the country; and a rough thought on deterrence of sexual predators in the workplace.

Those Strange, Quickly Emerging, False, Non-Terrorism Explanations

A rarely-discussed aspect of post-9/11 terror attacks is that shortly after the first reports of casualties, a non-terrorism-related explanation tends to surface within a very short time. You probably recall the San Bernardino attack initially being described as “workplace violence.” The “underwear bomber” in 2009 was initially reported as someone attempting to set off firecrackers on a plane. There are still those who contend that the primary motive in the Orlando shooting was gay self-hatred on the part of the shooter, and not his pledge of loyalty to ISIS.

Yesterday afternoon, we received word of a truck running people down on a bike path — in a manner similar to other truck attacks committed by jihadists in Europe — and an assailant allegedly having a gun. The site of this attack was not far from Ground Zero in Manhattan. The bike path runs parallel to the West Side Highway but is separated by a low median with intermittent trees — making it difficult, but not quite impossible, for a truck to accidentally veer onto the bike path.

And yet . . . not too long after the initial reports, a Twitter account called “New York City Alerts,” describing itself as “a team of reporters tweeting NYC news and photos as it happens. We’re not official.” started putting out new information that turned out to be . . . not accurate at all:

Per PD sources, a fight between two truck drivers lead to one truck hitting multiple pedestrians, and one truck driver opened fired

— New York City Alerts (@NYCityAlerts) October 31, 2017

This may be a little-known Twitter account, but in a moment of crisis, people hunger for explanation and don’t care if the source is familiar or new. Those two nuggets of inaccurate data were retweeted more than 600 times Tuesday afternoon. More than a few folks on Twitter cited this report as a sign that anyone characterizing the event as terrorism was panicking and overreacting.

Of course, within a few hours, the authorities announced that this was exactly what it looked like, an Islamist terrorist inspired by ISIS and imitating the style of attacks in European cities using trucks.

The rampage ended when the motorist — whom the police identified as Sayfullo Saipov, 29 — smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran up and down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before he was shot in the abdomen by the officer. He remained in critical condition on Tuesday evening.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the rampage a terrorist attack and federal law enforcement authorities were leading the investigation. Investigators discovered handwritten notes in Arabic near the truck that indicated allegiance to the Islamic State, two law enforcement officials said. But investigators had not uncovered evidence of any direct or enabling ties between Mr. Saipov and ISIS and were treating the episode as a case of an “inspired” attacker, two counterterrorism officials said.

Yes, immediately after a dramatic, violent event like this, eyewitnesses will give conflicting reports. Yes, there’s often confusion and contradictory information in those first reports.

But do these “PD” (police department?) sources even exist? If so, where did this idea of two truck drivers fighting come from? Who was this New York Police Department official who so quickly declared the “incident” was not terror-related? (Was this a misinterpretation of a comment that there was no preexisting intelligence or information indicating that a terror attack was imminent?)

We know there are foreign entities that deliberately spread misinformation to Americans through social media:

The Columbian Chemicals hoax was not some simple prank by a bored sadist. It was a highly coordinated disinformation campaign, involving dozens of fake accounts that posted hundreds of tweets for hours, targeting a list of figures precisely chosen to generate maximum attention. The perpetrators didn’t just doctor screenshots from CNN; they also created fully functional clones of the websites of Louisiana TV stations and newspapers. The YouTube video of the man watching TV had been tailor-made for the project. A Wikipedia page was even created for the Columbian Chemicals disaster, which cited the fake YouTube video. As the virtual assault unfolded, it was complemented by text messages to actual residents in St. Mary Parish. It must have taken a team of programmers and content producers to pull off.

Perhaps those erroneous initial reports are genuine errors and confusion about a breaking news story. But . . . perhaps not.

A separate, painful question in the aftermath of yesterday’s deadly attack: What exactly did terrorist Sayfullo Saipov bring to the United States that we needed so badly?

Sayfullo Saipov’s arrival in the United States in 2010 began unceremoniously in Ohio.

“My dad introduced him as, ‘He’s new to the United States, and he’s going to stay with us,’” said Bekhzod Abdusamatov, 22.

Mr. Saipov, the suspect in the terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan that killed eight people on Tuesday, arrived from Tashkent — the Uzbek capital and its largest city — knowing little English, Mr. Abdusamatov said.

As investigators began on Tuesday to look into Mr. Saipov’s history, it became clear that he had been on the radar of federal authorities. Three officials said he had come to their attention as a result of an unrelated investigation, but it was not clear whether that was because he was a friend, an associate or a family member of someone under scrutiny or because he had been the focus of an investigation.

Over the last two years, a terrorism investigation by the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security, the New York Police Department and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn resulted in charges against five men from Uzbekistan and one from Kazakhstan of providing material support to ISIS. Several of the men have pleaded guilty. It is unclear whether Mr. Saipov was connected with that investigation.

A Rough Thought About Deterring Serial Sexual Harassers

There was a time not that long ago when a man who mistreated a woman had good reason to think that at some point, he would encounter the woman’s father, brother, husband, boyfriend, or some other male that cares about her, and the protective male would register his objection to the abuser’s behavior across the bridge of his nose. Yes, yes, I’m oversimplifying, no doubt there are many cases of unprovoked violence and mistaken identity and other unjust outcomes. We don’t want every workplace dispute settled with fisticuffs.

And yet . . . 

Modern society tells us that there’s no need for such Neanderthal notions of chivalry. Instead of women relying on other males for protection, today’s working women have . . . the human resources department. If a young woman’s boss demands she sit on his lap as he’s aroused, she’s supposed to go to the human resources department. If the boss sticks his tongue in her mouth, she’s supposed to go to the human resources department. If he threatens that she will never work in her profession again if she speaks about his repulsive behavior, she’s supposed to ignore the threat and go to the human resources department, because the HR department is supposed to protect her from the threatened retaliation.

It’s increasingly obvious that the human resources departments of America have, in far too many cases, done jack squat about continued patterns of harassment. The Weinstein Group’s HR department didn’t stop the guy whose name was on the door. Apparently no one at ABC News could stop Mark Halperin. No one at Fox News could stop Roger Ailes or Bill O’Reilly. Apparently the existing human resources authorities have utterly failed to deter “a culture of rampant sexual misconduct in and around the state government in Sacramento.”

But we have one reported case of Weinstein apparently being successfully deterred:

[Actor Brad] Pitt, who was dating Paltrow at the time, confronted Weinstein about the incident at a Hollywood party around 1995, a source tells PEOPLE.

“Brad threatened Harvey,” says the source. “He got right in his face, poked him in the chest and said, ‘You will not ever do this to Gwyneth ever again.’”

The source adds that Pitt “made it clear there would be consequences” if Weinstein tried anything again, and “described it as giving Harvey a ‘Missouri whooping.’” (Pitt grew up in Springfield, Missouri.)

“He made it absolutely clear this was not going to happen again and it didn’t,” explains the source.

As for Weinstein’s response, the source says, “At first Harvey tried to explain, then he stopped and listened and got the message.”

Yes, it is possible that this is an exaggerated or inaccurate version of events.

How does society deter bad behavior? Moral instruction and appeals to conscience and empathy are, sadly, not always enough. Then society must enforce consequences.

It is painfully clear that the most shameless sexual predators do not fear the human resources department. In many cases, the human resources department may report to them. The powerful predators have the financial resources to offer settlements, and they have enough powerful allies to smear or blacklist any accuser. They have the lawyers to threaten libel or slander suits to prevent any reports of their behavior. There is really nothing that the modern corporate structure or culture can throw at them that they fear.

But they might just fear “a Missouri whooping.”

All that money and all that power and all those lawyers might not count for all that much when a father, brother, husband, or boyfriend is coming at you with rage in his eyes. Sure, you can press charges after you’ve found all of your teeth that were knocked out, and you’ll have a lot to tell the police once your jaw is unwired. It only takes seven to nine pounds of pressure to break a nose. Any significant blow to your head can cause your brain to bounce within your skull and cause a momentary “knockout.” Hopefully in the melee, nothing you really need like a kidney, spleen, or lung will get all that banged up. (Sufficient blunt trauma upon your kidneys will cause them to fail.) The odds of a fatal cerebral hemorrhage from your head hitting the ground or a wall or something else hard are small, but not quite nonexistent.

You might win a civil lawsuit against that father/brother/husband/boyfriend, but you’ll be enduring a lot of physical pain in the meantime. And you never really know who the jury will believe. You had better hope there aren’t any fathers, brothers, husbands or boyfriends on that jury. Yes, you can claim that this was an unprovoked attack, but everyone’s going to wonder why this seemingly mild-mannered guy chose to assault you. If you’ve earned a bit of a reputation as an aggressive sleaze, a lot of people will know exactly why this happened.

These are the sorts of thoughts that we need to be running through every predator’s head when they feel the temptation to grope their underlings.

ADDENDA: Ben Shapiro on why Trump fits this moment, when Democrats contend Ed Gillespie supporters want to run down children: “Reagan and Bush both met with left-wing opponents who excoriated them for their supposed “lies,” calling them war criminals and maniacs. So did candidates the Left pretended to tolerate, from John McCain to Mitt Romney. Trump has no moral opposition to trashing his opponents — in fact, he’s made a career out of it. His knee-jerk tendency to demonize his adversaries fits perfectly with the conservative desire to strike back at the Left.”

The Manafort-Papadopoulos Drama Is Relatively Unsurprising

by Jim Geraghty

Happy Halloween! Try your best, ghosts and goblins. We live in a world with North Korean nukes, opioid addiction, Antifa, Russian hackers, a mass shooting in Las Vegas that still lacks a revealed motive, and Harvey Weinstein. Honestly, by comparison, ghosts and goblins are kind of relaxing.

Making the click-through worthwhile: why yesterday’s indictments and plea deals were less dramatic than the news media made it sound, some really ominous news out of North Korea, fallout from the allegations against Kevin Spacey, and why we need your help.

Mueller Strikes: The Thrilling, Exciting Drama That Isn’t That Thrilling or Exciting

I know everyone else in the Washington press corps is treating the first indictments and plea deals with special counsel Robert Mueller as a combination of Christmas and Watergate. But in the clear light of Tuesday morning, don’t Monday’s events feel predictable?

As everyone who bothered to look could see, Paul Manafort always had some unusual and shady connections in Ukraine. Think back to last June. Manafort received his promotion to campaign manager because Corey Lewandowski had proven completely unprepared to run the campaign of the Republican nominee:

Shortly after it began, the children peppered Lewandowski with questions, asking him to explain the campaign’s lack of infrastructure. “They went through the punch list. ‘Where are we with staffing? Where are we with getting the infrastructure built?’” one source explained. Their father grew visibly upset as he heard the list of failures. Finally, he turned to Lewandowski and said, “What’s your plan here?”

Lewandowski responded that he wanted to leak Trump’s vice-president pick.

It’s not like Manafort was a longtime Trump confidante. He was brought on to run the convention and ensure Trump didn’t lose the nomination because of a delegate rebellion. Manfort met two key criteria: He had done it before (way back in 1976!) and he was willing to work for Trump. The Trump campaign, at least at midsummer, simply didn’t have that many other figures who could credibly serve as campaign manager. Remember, at the time, Trump’s campaign looked like the Titanic.

Even then, he only lasted until mid-August, when Trump and Manafort chafed and Kellyanne Conway became the new campaign manager. One of the reasons for that chafing was Trump learning from the press about Manafort’s foreign lobbying and connections:

According to two people familiar with Trump’s decision, Trump on Thursday night was given a copy of an Associated Press story about how Manafort’s firm had not properly disclosed its foreign lobbying, shortly before taking the stage in North Carolina. Trump “blew a gasket,” one person said, and told Bannon and others that he should be dismissed.

Our favorite former prosecutor, Andy McCarthy, writes that yesterday’s Manafort indictment is “a dubious case of disclosure violations and money movement that would never have been brought had he not drawn attention to himself by temporarily joining the Trump campaign.”

The widespread perception is that Mueller is trying to pressure Manafort to get him to flip. But the big question is, what, if anything, does Manafort know that would be of value to Mueller and dangerous to Trump? If you’re skeptical of the Trump-and-Putin-cackling-together-as-they-plot-world-domination narrative, there’s a possibility that Manafort doesn’t have that much dirt to spill, at least about the president.

The guilty plea from foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos will probably prove more significant to the arguments about alleged collusion. But even then, the portrait painted by the indictment makes the Trump campaign look like amateur hour and Papadopoulos look painfully naïve. Papadopoulos was fooled by a woman who claimed she was Vladimir Putin’s niece. Did she promise him a pile of magic beans, too? She didn’t offer to throw in the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge?

I mean, just Google a little: “Putin, now 61, is his parents’ youngest and only surviving child and was born nearly 20 years after two older brothers named Albert and Viktor. Albert died as a baby and Viktor succumbed to diphtheria during the siege of Leningrad in the Second World War.”

Putin has no surviving siblings, and I can’t find any reference to Putin’s first wife having any siblings, either. There, within five minutes, I proved reason to doubt the claim of this woman being Putin’s niece, and I’m just a schmo with an Internet connection. This so-called “foreign policy expert” couldn’t do that. Then again, this guy was a 2009 college grad who listed Model U.N. as one of his credentials. The Trump campaign was scraping the bottom of the barrel when trying to assemble a foreign policy advisory team.

So the big revelations of yesterday are that Manafort tried to hide his work for foreign interests, the Trump campaign had a lot of not-so-smart hangers-on, and the Russians were tricky and hungry to make connections with the Trump camp? This is not “black swan” level unpredictability.

Speaking of Those North Korean Nukes . . . 

North Korea’s nuclear program is a danger to everyone . . . including the North Koreans.

A tunnel at an underground North Korea nuclear site has collapsed with up to 200 people killed, according to reports.

The collapse happened at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the north-east of the country on October 10, according to Japan’s TV Asahi.

The disaster has prompted fears of a massive radioactive leak which could spark a Chernobyl- or Fukushima-style disaster.

A North Korean official said the collapse happened during the construction of an underground tunnel, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.

Some 100 people are said to have been trapped by the initial tunnel collapse, with a further 100 lost in a second collapse during a rescue operation, Asahi reported Tuesday.

Lee Eugene, a spokeswoman at South Korea’s unification ministry, said: “We are aware of the report but do not know anything about it.”

Experts said if the peak crumbles, clouds of radioactive dust and gas would blanket the region, the South China Morning Post reported.

Hey, China, are you watching this? Want to do something about this, before the radioactive clouds start blowing in new directions?

To borrow a phrase from P.J. O’Rourke, giving a nuclear program to the North Koreans is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

Kevin Spacey’s Show Comes Tumbling Down Like A . . . 

After the allegations of Kevin Spacey making a sexual advance on a 14-year-old broke out, the television show House of Cards is suddenly collapsing like a . . . well, you know.

As allegations of unwanted sexual advances in 1986 by Kevin Spacey against then-14-year-old Anthony Rapp have emerged, Netflix today decided to pull the plug on the Spacey-starring House of Cards after the upcoming sixth season next year.

Coming just more than 12 hours after Star Trek Discovery star Rapp first made public his allegations of what happened at a party at Spacey’s New York City apartment back in the mid-1980s, the streaming service made the official decision today, sources tell us. While Netflix and producers Media Rights Capital were leaning towards ending the show a while ago, key cast and creatives were only alerted this morning in a series of calls.

“Media Rights Capital and Netflix are deeply troubled by last night’s news concerning Kevin Spacey,” the companies said in a joint statement today. “In response to last night’s revelations, executives from both of our companies arrived in Baltimore this afternoon to meet with our cast and crew to ensure that they continue to feel safe and supported. As previously scheduled, Kevin Spacey is not working on set at this time.”

We have also heard that Netflix’s Spacey-starring film Gore about the acerbic author Gore Vidal may be on the chopping block now too.

One presumes this decision stems from a confluence of three factors. The first is that no one has come up with any reason to doubt the accusation from Rapp. The second is that Spacey didn’t really deny the accusation, he just claimed he didn’t remember. The third was Netflix and the producers were already discussing ending the show. If House of Cards was in its first or second season, and still a huge hit for Netflix, would they be so willing to end the show?

Or is it that Netflix and the producers already had a backup plan in place?

Variety has learned that the streaming service and producer Media Rights Capital are in very early stages of development on multiple ideas for a potential spinoff. One concept revolves around Doug Stamper, the political aide-de-camp played by actor Michael Kelly in the first five seasons of the political drama, with Eric Roth set to write. Roth served as an executive producer on the first four seasons of “House of Cards” and is currently exec producing TNT’s “The Alienist.”

ADDENDA: Our Charlie Cooke explains why we’re asking for donations, and what those donations can mean to National Review’s expanding stable of podcast offerings.

Who the heck would fund a group that creates commercials that depict Ed Gillespie voters as homicidal manaics, eager to run down children in pickup trucks?

Ah, George Soros, that’s who would do that.

It Begins: Manafort and Business Associate Indicted

by Jim Geraghty

Insert all the appropriate caveats: A prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, every man gets his day in court, the accused will likely have the best defense lawyers that money can buy, and so on.

But come on, we all put the most money on Paul Manafort in the indictment pool, right?

Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates were told to surrender to federal authorities Monday morning, the first charges in a special counsel investigation, according to a person involved in the case.

The charges against Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Mr. Gates, a business associate of Mr. Manafort, were not immediately clear but represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over the president’s first year in office.

Mr. Gates is a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show.

Mr. Manafort had been under investigation for violations of federal tax law, money laundering and whether he appropriately disclosed his foreign lobbying.

Back in August 2016, Manafort was making public denials of corrupt behavior that didn’t pass the smell test, statements like, “I have never received a single ‘off-the-books cash payment’ as falsely ‘reported’ by the New York Times, nor have I ever done work for the governments of Ukraine or Russia.” No, but he worked for the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. If someone did work for the Democratic National Committee or Obama for America in 2012, does that mean they can say they’ve never done work for the U.S. government or President Obama? In both cases, they’re answering to the president, and it seems reasonable to conclude their viewpoints and interests align.

Manafort also made statements like, “My work in Ukraine ceased following the country’s parliamentary elections in October 2014.” Well, yeah, there wasn’t as much left he could do for his primary client after the security forces guarding him opened fire on demonstrators and Russian special forces whisked him away to a safe haven in Russia.

If you pull that kind of technically-true-but-deeply-misleading slipperiness in an interview with federal law enforcement, do you get hit with obstruction of justice charges?

Coming to a Television Near You: Attack of the Zombie Regulators!

How do you get President Trump’s attention? One way is to buy ad time during the Fox & Friends morning program on Fox News Channel. The president is reported to be an avid watcher and has tweeted several times in response to segments on the program.

Americans for Limited Government ran a new commercial during Fox & Friends this morning, attempting to call the president’s attention to the fact that several federal regulatory agencies are still headed by Obama appointees. The ad specifically targets Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt. The ad also calls on President Trump and his administration to repeal or freeze Obama-era regulations.

For a political ad, it’s pretty funny, depicting Cordray and Watt as zombies and relying entirely on text to make the argument, with spooky Halloween music in the background:

Obama’s zombie regulators.

They just keep coming back.

Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Mel Watt, Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The Obama zombie regulators are threatening the Trump agenda.

It’s time to end the Obama administration.

It’s time to drain the swamp.

President Trump, it’s time to fire Obama’s zombie regulators and repeal or freeze Obama-era regulations.

Congress and the Trump administration just dealt Cordray a setback. In July, Cordray’s Consumer Finance Protection Bureau proposed a rule that would restrict financial institutions from inserting mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer contracts; the change would make it easier to file class-action lawsuits against banks and credit card companies. Republicans generally prefer arbitration to class-action suits, because it’s faster, more efficient and generates fewer attorney’s fees. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can overrule federal regulations issued by government agencies within 60 legislative days of the introduction of the rule. The CRA was rarely used in previous presidencies, but it’s getting a workout in the Trump era. Last week, on a party line vote, the Senate voted to repeal the change.

Many Ohio Democrats think Cordray may run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

Earlier this month, Paul Sperry wrote that Watt was “pushing the mortgage-lending giants he regulates — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — to offer home loans to deadbeat borrowers with shaky credit, setting up conditions for another housing-market crash, industry officials warn.”

Keyser Söze, John Doe, Frank Underwood . . .  Were Casting Directors Trying to Tell Us Something?

I guess getting into character as the manipulative, remorseless, predatory Frank Underwood wasn’t as much of a stretch as we thought, huh? A disturbing report from BuzzFeed news about Kevin Spacey from actor Anthony Rapp:

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Rapp is publicly alleging for the first time that in 1986, Spacey befriended Rapp while they both performed on Broadway shows, invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance. According to public records, Spacey was 26. Rapp was 14.

The statement from Spacey is . . .  less than an impassioned denial. Spacey declares that “I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.”

Spacey goes on to declare, “In my life, I have had relationships with men and women. I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”

That’s nice, can we go back to the part where you were attempting to seduce teenagers and commit statutory rape? Because coming out of the closet doesn’t give you a get-out-of-consequences free card on that . . .  does it?

Now they tell us:

As part of a discussion on sexual misconduct on Radio 4’s Today, Victoria Featherstone, artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre, was asked whether she was aware of any stories about Spacey when he was working in London, as artistic director of the Old Vic.

“I think that many people in the theatre and in the creative industries have been aware of many stories of many people over a lot of years, and Kevin Spacey would be one of the people that people have had concerns about, yes,” she said.

ADDENDA: Clown nose on, clown nose . . .  way off, in New York magazine:

Wow, I haven’t seen a comedian compared to Walter Cronkite since . . .  Vanity Fair called Stephen Colbert the new Walter Cronkite in 2015, and the New York Times compared Jon Stewart to Cronkite the same year. Kids today are going to think Cronkite hosted a comedy show.

Morning Joe Addresses the Mark Halperin Scandal . . . Delicately

by Jim Geraghty

Anyone else find this stance . . . a little dissatisfying?

Mika Brzezinski stated, “Over the past 24 hours, there have been more disturbing reports regarding Mark Halperin’s treatment of younger, female coworkers. Behavior in these reports allegedly occurred one to two decades ago, and now, we’re looking at it, we’re talking about it. Mark and Karen [Avrich, Halperin’s wife] have been a part of Morning Joe’s extended family for years; they’re our friends. And we believe it’s important to stand with our friends, through even the most difficult of times.”

But it’s even more important to demand the truth,” Brzezinski continued. “Even when the facts appear to be extremely painful. Yesterday morning we woke up to reports of unnamed sources telling CNN that Mark made unwanted sexual advances and overtures towards them. A day later, more revelations, pointing to a possible pattern of unacceptable conduct. I’ve spoken to, and heard from some of these women. I feel their pain, and I understand the difficult position they were in, because I’ve been through enough in this business to know what I hear.”

“We are at a pivotal moment in history where unacceptable harassing behavior towards women will no longer be swept under the rug and yes, we do remain a nation of laws where everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty, and nothing has been proven or adjudicated here, but, we’re also witnessing a larger movement of women speaking up about sexual harassment because the fear of being dismissed is melting away.”

“I’ll speak for both Joe and myself here, our hearts break for Mark and his family because he is our friend, but we fully support NBC’s decision here,” she said, of NBC’s decision to fire Halperin.

I suppose we should credit Brzezinski for honesty; they’re essentially admitting that because Halperin is a friend, they’re looking at the accusations dramatically differently than they would for another media or political figure. And yes, we’re now in a media environment where there is no presumption of innocence; once an accusation is written about, it will likely stick to the accused, without any trial or opportunity to cross-examine a witness.

But when there are multiple accusers, all describing similar behavior, physical, not verbal . . . that benefit of the doubt evaporates fast.

Steve Deace is getting irritated with the term “open secret,” contending it is code for, “We know this person is a terrible, but disclosing/confronting it disrupts our profit margin and/or political agenda.” But I think Lachlan Markay has a more accurate definition: “long rumored, but [the] allegations were so serious and defamatory that it couldn’t be reported without extensive fact-finding.”

How many things do we know or believe that we’re not willing to fight a long and expensive slander or libel lawsuit over?

A Cuban Revolution We Could Do Without

Maureen Dowd spends time with billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and host of the reality show Shark Tank, and finds there’s a “10 percent” chance he’ll run for president in 2020 as either a Republican or an independent.

“Look, there are people who are saying we don’t need another business person,” he says, sipping iced tea. “But it’s about what you do with it, what you learn, what you can contribute and what value you can add. I’d want to come in with proof of an agenda, ‘Here’s a health care solution and I’ve already paid my own money to have it scored.’”

I have great news to share: The United States has 50 little mini-presidencies where someone can try out their executive leadership skills in government, that come with their own slightly smaller mansions, motorcades, and security details. These jobs operate essentially the same way the presidency does: trying to build legislative coalitions to pass laws, issue executive orders, and nominate judges. They’re called governorships, and for a long time, Americans saw those positions as the best way to demonstrate that a person had potential to be a good president. But apparently paying attention to places such as Baton Rouge, Austin, and Madison is just too much to ask, and the country has decided to select its presidents from the major networks’ prime-time lineup.

Maybe Mark Cuban would make a great president; maybe he would make a terrible one. Yes, he’s outspoken and flamboyant and the bane of NBA referees, and yes, he’s made a lot of money. But at heart he’s making the same “I’m the master dealmaker” pitch that Trump did.

“They always say that people vote against what they didn’t like about the previous president, right? And I think he’s so ineffective, people will look for somebody who can get something done who’s not a politician. If that’s a celebrity, that’s just an easier platform to work from. The best example is tax reform, right?”

He says he would call the top 5,000 profitable companies and say: If I’m going to give you a 20 percent corporate tax rate, I’m going to need a commitment from you that you’re going to increase the wages of your lowest-paid workers.

“If you did that,” he says, “you’d be a hero.”

Okay . . . what if only half the companies are willing make that commitment? Or only 1,000? Do you not reduce the corporate tax rate? How big a wage increase counts as keeping their word? What if they make the promise and then break it? Is this some sort of binding legal contract? Would President Cuban send his Department of Justice after the companies if they didn’t keep their promise? What if there’s a recession? What if their industry makes a great breakthrough in automation in the interim? What if there’s new foreign competition? Can they lay off workers, but raise the wages of the remaining ones?

Grand bargains and fixing government always sound easy when they’re just conversation over ice teas with Maureen Dowd.

Why are so many people who are convinced they know how to fix the government so allergic to the idea of working anywhere in government except the very top? We need smart, reform-minded problem-solvers at every level from town council and board of education to the Oval Office.

I don’t want to hear anyone touting Cuban as “a more serious Trump.”

Asked if he would send the Mavericks’ former player Dennis Rodman to negotiate with Little Rocket Man, he replies, “Why not?”

(Notice how Dowd refers to Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man” and everyone, from the Times editors to the readership, understands. For all his flaws, Trump knows how to put a nickname on someone and make it stick.)

As I mentioned earlier this week, if the election of Trump distresses you, your problem is not merely with Trump, but with the electorates that put him there — in both the GOP primary and the country as a whole. No matter how Trump’s presidency finishes, that electorate is still going to be there, unless there is a significant change in the way Americans see the responsibility of voting. (It’s not just Trump voters. Large chunks of the electorate also embraced a Socialist septuagenarian who promised free health care, free college education, free child care, and cradle-to-grave government care, all financed by taxing the rich, and of course, Hillary Clinton, a walking embodiment of secrecy, lies, arrogance, and victimhood.) We need to recognize that our leaders are not there to entertain us. It’s entirely possible that the most successful and popular governors are the ones that are the most boring.

A Mark Cuban presidential campaign would effectively insist that America needs a president who has never worked in government before, but not the current president who has never worked in government before. Let me throw out a crazy idea: What if governing is a skill that requires practice, and that one gets better at it with experience? What if a president is more successful if he knows and understands the complicated apparatus of the federal government, and doesn’t have to rely on staff for the little details like, “No new gas pipeline plans can be approved anywhere in the country if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has less than three members”?

The Dallas Mavericks don’t let you take the court if you’ve never played the sport before. Why should Americans give untested rookies the keys to the Oval Office?

‘We’re Going to Become Significant Contributors, but We Want Access.’

Hey, New York City voters, are you paying attention?

A Mayor de Blasio donor-turned-felon testified in extraordinary detail Thursday that he and his businessman pals wrote the book on city corruption — buying off the Mayor’s Office and the Police Department using brazen pay-to-play tactics.

“We’re going to become significant contributors, but we want access,” Jona Rechnitz, 34, testified telling de Blasio fund-raiser Ross Offinger after Hizzoner clinched the Democratic nod for mayor in 2013.

De Blasio soon paid Rechnitz a visit to his office, the disgraced businessman told jurors in Manhattan federal court.

De Blasio — who last year called his relationship with Rechnitz “not a particularly close’’ one — handed the wheeler-dealer his private cell-phone number and e-mail address, the witness said.

The pair then began chatting “at least” once a week about “different issues in the city” — as Rechnitz funneled about $160,000 to de Blasio’s campaign and pet political projects, said the government witness.

ADDENDA: America . . . getting great again? “The U.S. economy unexpectedly maintained a brisk pace of growth in the third quarter as an increase in inventory investment and a smaller trade deficit offset a hurricane-related slowdown in consumer spending and a decline in construction. Gross domestic product increased at a 3.0 percent annual rate in the July-September period after expanding at a 3.1 percent pace in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said on Friday.”

Hillary Clinton’s Latest Deception

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: Kicking off with some gratitude; why I don’t believe Hillary Clinton (and you probably won’t, either); the Grand Cleansing coming to America’s abusive powerful men; and somebody needs to fix a broken record at the New York Times.

First, Some Gratitude

The National Review Institute held its fourth annual William F. Buckley Prize Dinner in New York last night, celebrating great achievements, saluting the history of the magazine and the legacy of our founder, and thanking our generous donors.

The world is a better, freer place thanks to the generosity and dedication of Bruce and Suzie Kovner. The legendary author Tom Wolfe is getting up there in years, but he can still leave an audience roaring in laughter. I was reminded that he had added at least four distinctive phrases to the English lexicon: “radical chic,” “the Me Decade,” “the right stuff” — from his 1979 book about the early space program that inspired the film of the same name — and “good ol’ boy.” I might throw in a fifth: When I was a kid, “Masters of the Universe” meant He-Man battling Skeletor, but the grownups sometimes used it in ways I didn’t understand then; Wolfe reframed the term for the ambitious young investment bankers who made gargantuan fortunes on Wall Street, often acquiring egos to match.

The evening was another reminder that I am blessed to work with some exceptional people, serving a readership like no other in the world. Wherever you are as you read this, thank you for being here.

No, Hillary Clinton, I Don’t Believe You.

No, I don’t believe this:

Officials from the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C. have said they were unaware that Perkins Coie facilitated the research on their behalf, even though the law firm was using their money to pay for it. Even Mrs. Clinton only found about Mr. Steele’s research after Buzzfeed published the dossier, according to two associates who discussed the matter with her. They said that she was disappointed that the research — as well as the fact that the F.B.I. was looking into connections between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia — was not made public before Election Day.

Really? The campaign spent some as-yet-unknown but probably considerable sum on research that they think could take down Trump, and it never gets mentioned to her in any conversation during the campaign? The only way that is true is if it were a deliberate effort to keep her out of the loop and preserve her “plausible deniability.” If you’re doing that, then you know what you’re doing is wrong, or at the very least supremely controversial.

You know why I’m so skeptical? Because Ken Vogel of the New York Times says he tried to nail down the Clinton campaign’s payment for the dossier for quite some time, but Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias “pushed back vigorously, saying, ‘you or your sources are wrong.’” In other words, the Clintons lied about this exact topic before. We have no reason to believe them now.

Some delightful spin about that lie:

On Tuesday, the veteran Democratic consultant Anita Dunn, who is working with Perkins Coie, explained Mr. Elias’s earlier response. “Obviously, he was not at liberty to confirm Perkins Coie as the client at that point, and should perhaps have ‘no commented’ more artfully,” Ms. Dunn wrote in an email.

See, “you or your sources are wrong” is not a “no comment” or “I cannot confirm or deny that.”

The Grand Cleansing Coming for America’s Powerful, Abusive Men

Last night, during a discussion of the recent spate of sexual harassment scandals, I made an assessment that is already proving incorrect. I pointed out that New York and Washington have different working cultures, and guessed that horrific behavior was more likely to thrive in wild, crazy, fashionable, and avant-garde New York, “the city that never sleeps,” compared to relatively uptight, cautious Washington. I know the nation’s capital has a reputation as Gomorrah-on-the-Potomac in some circles, but as I’ve written earlier, it’s an endangered species preserve for nerds and geeks. (Or perhaps I’m thinking of Washington of a few decades ago.) I figured the fears of scandal and lawsuit were stronger inside the Beltway and that the culture of the workplace would be less tolerant of the “hey, this is how the system works” attitude that enabled Harvey Weinstein for so long.

Nevermind.

“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” Mark Halperin said in a statement to CNN Wednesday night. “I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize. Under the circumstances, I’m going to take a step back from my day-to-day work while I properly deal with this situation.”

You know Halperin from ABC News, regular Morning Joe appearances, the books Game Change and Double Down, and so on. The allegations include physical interactions that are too gross to describe in this newsletter, and go well beyond the realm of an inappropriate joke or a compliment that is meant well but is interpreted as sexual. I’m suddenly reminded of a comment from a female pundit years ago, indicating a strong revulsion at Halperin, without too much detail about why.

Earlier this week, another scandal shook the world of Washington journalism: “Leon Wieseltier, a prominent editor at The New Republic for three decades who was preparing to unveil a new magazine next week, apologized on Tuesday for “offenses against some of my colleagues in the past” after several women accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate advances.”

Between this, the multitude of resignations and stunning payouts at Fox News, and the reports that Hollywood was an industrial-scale assembly line for sexual harassment and demanding sex for roles . . . I understand the urge to burn it all down. If every woman in the workplace hasn’t experienced harassment, it’s far too close to universal. (Although the point is fair that the spectrum of harassment is broad, with the most severe offenses warranting criminal investigation and jail time, and the most minor largely defined by the eye of the beholder. An infamous unpublished list of “[vulgar metaphor for bad] media men” included a list of offenses from rape to “flirting” and “weird lunch dates,” which doesn’t really seem to belong on the same list.)

There’s a metaphor about pens and inkwells that has apparently been completely ignored for decades. A consensual and happy relationship between a boss and an employee is complicated and difficult enough, and even that puts everyone in an awkward situation. Even if the boss’s girlfriend is doing the best work, her praise, promotions, raises and assignments will always be under a cloud of suspicion. His decisions will obviously be suspect. And everyone who isn’t in a relationship with the boss are likely to feel resentment and judged differently.

Some argue that the Harvey Weinstein scandal would not have come to light if Hillary Clinton had been elected president. This can’t be dismissed out of hand; if Weinstein could say that he had a close, longtime friendship with the President of the United States and who knows, perhaps her attorney general, would the New York Times have pursued the story so relentlessly and published it in the face of legal threats? If Harvey Weinstein could get Matt Damon and Russell Crowe to call reporters on his behalf, urging them to drop a story, would powerful political figures have been willing to do the same? Apparently even the Manhattan District Attorney’s office could mysteriously lose interest in allegations against Weinstein.

Would the media still be as interested in showcasing stories of sexually predatory men if Bill Clinton was the First Husband?

In an odd way, maybe this Grand Cleansing is a consequence of Trump’s victory. If stories of Trump’s unsavory behavior and comments failed to shock the nation, perhaps it’s because so many Americans saw and experienced all-too-similar acts in their own workplaces. That doesn’t justify sudden appearances in the dressing room of a women’s beauty pageant or claiming that women’s body parts can be grabbed. But it does point out that Trump is not a uniquely devilish satyr in modern life.

ADDENDA: New York Times columnist Charles Blow writes twice a week. Today’s offering? “The Menace of Trumpism.” Monday’s was “Trump’s Bogeyman: Women!” A week ago, “Trump Isn’t Hitler. But the Lying…” Last Monday: “Trump, Chieftain of Spite.” Beofre that: “Trump’s War Games.” Before that: “Attacking Media as Distraction.”

As far as I can tell, almost every Blow column since the inauguration has been about Trump, and how terrible he is. Okay, pal, we get it. Message received.

Is there any editor over at the Times who could drop by Blow’s desk and say, “Hey, Charles, was just thinking, is there anything besides Trump grabbing you these days?

Clinton Campaign and DNC Helped Fund that Infamous Trump Dossier

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: Hillary Clinton and the Democrats helped pay for the infamous Trump dossier; DNC chairman Tom Perez denounces Senator Jeff Flake, creating a disincentive for anti-Trump Republicans; Flake glides over the fact that Trump is only feeding the American appetite for scapegoats; and a long look at Nighthawks, a painting for our pensive national mood.

Wouldn’t It Be More Accurate to Call It the ‘Hillary Dossier’ Now?

Didn’t everyone deserve to know this when the media first started reporting on the infamous Trump dossier?

The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

People involved in the matter said that they would not disclose the dollar amounts paid to Fusion GPS, but said that the campaign and the DNC shared the cost.

I wonder how many autumn campaign stops in Wisconsin the amount could have financed.

Also note this:

Prior to that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by a still unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

This had been previously reported, but everyone forgot. Back on January 11: “The story began in September 2015, when a wealthy Republican donor who strongly opposed Mr. Trump put up the money to hire a Washington research firm run by former journalists, Fusion GPS, to compile a dossier about the real estate magnate’s past scandals and weaknesses, according to a person familiar with the effort. The identity of the donor is unclear.”

Some people like CNN National Security analyst Michael Weiss contend the identity of Republican whose team got this rolling is “not hard to guess” but he never names which one. I’m trying to grasp which Republican figure the DNC, the Clintons, and Fusion GPS would be willing to conceal. I can hear the angry cries of “Jeb!” but really, why would the DNC take grief to protect him? Ace of Spades reminds us that “since 2013 Fusion GPS has been working with potent Russian interests to undo the Russia-sanctioning 2012 Magnitsky Act and to deride its chief advocate, London-based investor Bill Browder.” Fusion GPS was already working for Russia on one project… is it possible compiling the dossier was a second assignment?

If you were DNC, the Clintons, and Fusion GPS, which ultimate client would be more damaging to reveal, and more worthy of attempting to obscure? Some wealthy Republican donor, or the Russian government?

As Flake Denounces the Trump Era, Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Yesterday, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona announced his intention to retire at the end of his term, denouncing “the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set up at the top. We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.”

Michael Gerson contends that President Trump has broken conservatism; Claire Berlinski goes one step further and expresses fear that “he’s broken America, permanently.”

A couple of thoughts: A thoroughly dispiriting public discourse and intense political tensions do not define the quality of the entire country. Let’s remember that about a month ago, we watched generous Americans donate more than $37 million in response to J.J. Watt’s appeal, the Cajun Navy come riding to the rescue, and Anheuser-Busch stop canning beer in order to can water and ship it to hurricane victims. Just recently, all six of our former presidents came together to host a relief fundraiser: Presidents Carter, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Gaga.

Wait, I’m sorry, scratch that, five former presidents. Lady Gaga is, obviously, a member of the British nobility.*

A lot of families bicker and fight amongst themselves until there’s a genuine need to unite, and then everyone puts aside differences and pulls together. Put another way, Americans are a big-hearted people with a cold-hearted, nasty political environment.

Yes, something’s gone deeply wrong with our politics, even compared to the nasty partisanship of a few years ago. But rather than see Trump as the master manipulator of the American political system, we should see his election as a reflection of a broad cultural shift that’s been gaining momentum for many years. It’s worth remembering that Hillary Clinton wasn’t just surprised by one blunt-speaking septuagenarian with an outer borough accent blaming out-of-touch elites and a rigged system for the problems of ordinary Americans. There were two, and their messages overlapped a quite a bit.

The dirty little secret of American politics is that the government’s power to improve your life is pretty limited. The best education system won’t help you if you drop out, the best economic policies can’t get you a job if you don’t apply for it or you’re not qualified, and the best health-care policies can only mitigate the damage if you don’t take care of yourself. Your problems will multiply if you succumb to the siren call of addiction.

When people lie on their deathbed and look back on their lives with pride or regret, the political changes during their lifetimes aren’t usually a major factor. Your life is primarily shaped by your decisions, your determination, your judgment, your mistakes, and often how you responded once you realized you had made those mistakes. (And yes, luck.)

The concept of individual responsibility for the quality of one’s own life is a frightening one; we greatly prefer scapegoats. To really come to terms with the idea that our lives are not what we wanted to be because we didn’t work hard enough, didn’t study hard enough, quit too soon, bristled at needed and accurate criticism or chose to ignore it . . . it can be devastating, thinking of all of the time wasted and opportunities missed.

But concept of individual responsibility is also an empowering and liberating one. It means you don’t have to wait for someone else’s permission to improve your life. You can take action, right now, one little step in the right direction. Sometimes we don’t know what we ought to do, but a lot more often, we know what we should be doing . . . we just can’t quite motivate ourselves to do it.

As Kevin Williamson put it in his recent brilliant essay:

Feeding such people the lie that their problems are mainly external in origin – that they are the victims of scheming elites, immigrants, black welfare malingerers, superabundantly fecund Mexicans, capitalism with Chinese characteristics, Walmart, Wall Street, their neighbors — is the political equivalent of selling them heroin. (And I have no doubt that it is mostly done for the same reason.) It is an analgesic that is unhealthy even in small doses and disabling or lethal in large ones. The opposite message – that life is hard and unfair, that what is not necessarily your fault may yet be your problem, that you must act and bear responsibility for your actions – is what conservatism used to offer, before it became a white-minstrel show.

Politics has always had scapegoating, demagoguery and utopian promises. Trump just took a familiar tune and turned the volume up to eleven: “You have 40 days until the election. You have 40 days to make every dream you ever dreamed for your country come true.” “We are going to fulfill every single wish and every single promise.” A lot of smart people in the Acela corridor scoffed when Trump said those sorts of things, forgetting that eight years earlier they cheered the slogan “hope and change” and an Obama fan told reporters that she expected him to pay for her gas and mortgage. (Don’t judge the woman too harshly; by 2014 she was disappointed and an Obama critic.)

Trump may rise or Trump may fall, but so far, there’s little indication that Americans will be all that resistant to the next guy who comes along telling them that the disappointments and problems of their lives are the fault of [insert unpopular group here], and that all that’s needed to bring about a miraculous change is to elect this next guy. In fact, if you’re really worried about the health of American democracy because of Trump, remember he’s got some glaring and often self-defeating flaws. It’s entirely possible Trump will be followed by a demagogue who’s younger, more articulate, and less impulsive and erratic.

*Yes, I am pulling your leg.

DNC Chair Tom Perez Gives the Game Away

Notice Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez’s response to Flake:

Senator Flake voted with Donald Trump 91% of the time. His retirement is symbol of a Republican Party whose leaders allow Donald Trump’s divisive politics to flourish as long as it serves their political interests, and who fail to criticize this dangerous president until it’s too late.

Flake takes the biggest political risk of his life, denouncing a president of his own party, echoing much of the Democratic argument against Trump, and the DNC . . . hits him for not opposing Trump more.

No state has a sufficient political constituency to keep a vehemently anti-Trump Republican in office, at least not yet. That is why the strongest denunciations of Trump will come from Republicans who do not have to (or are unlikely to) face the voters again, like Senators John McCain, Bob Corker and now Flake. A Republican lawmaker who turns against Trump loses a big chunk of his own supporters, and there aren’t enough independents left to make up the gap. Most Democrats will react like Perez, eager to (metaphorically) shoot the guy trying to cross the battlefield to switch to their side. Most Democrats don’t want to be represented by an anti-Trump Republican; they want to be represented by an anti-Trump Democrat.

Perez gives the game away: He wants Republicans to do the right thing, put principle over party, blah blah blah so that once they do, they are much easier to beat in subsequent elections.

Face it, the history of Republicans drifting to the left, both formally and informally, and turning against their party’s leadership is not a tale of heroic iconoclasm and triumphant consciences. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched to the Democrats, giving them control of Congress, because he wanted to save the Northeast Dairy Compact, which artificially inflated milk prices for consumers. In the early Obama years, Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist left the GOP on the principled stand that they didn’t want to lose a primary. Maybe Flake is different, but we’ve been conditioned to see Republicans who turn against the rest of the party to media hosannas as being the opposite of principled.

ADDENDA: Over at Ricochet, Henry Racette takes a moment to appreciate Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

It’s an enormously influential, cited, debated, analyzed referenced and parodied painting, perhaps the most imitated image in our nation’s art beyond American Gothic. Ridley Scott said it influenced the look of Blade Runner. Many have struggled to find the New York location that must have inspired the painting.

If this was a scene in a film, there wouldn’t be much movement: perhaps the server is reaching down for a glass, or one of the patrons will sip coffee. It’s quiet, perhaps just the hum of a dishwasher or water gurgling in a percolator. It’s late, well past the dinner hour. No one’s on the street, not even any parked cars.

Our James Lileks observes, “If you put the work alongside Hopper’s entire oeuvre, the loneliness compounds and accumulates. There’s an ache in the heart of his work, an unease he accentuated with the use of disparate vanishing points – nothing quite lines up. We don’t see it, but we feel it. What has happened on the other side of the street from the diner? All those empty rooms on the second floor. No one in those apartments drew their shades to keep out the blaring light of the diner, or the sun that would rise in a few hours?”

The diner is brightly lit, and yet everyone still seems to be in shadow; the shoulder of the man with his back to us blurs into the darkness of the night in the far window. No one’s making eye contact. The man and woman appear to be together, but there’s no visible affection there. Everyone seems lost in thought. Perhaps the day left them with something to contemplate, something ominous. As Racette observes, this was painted in 1942, and the country has just entered a war where victory is far from certain. It’s late, but our three customers haven’t gone home and don’t seem sleepy.

Great art can inspire joy, but life is more than joy. Sometimes circumstances leave us pensive, grappling with an amorphous, free-floating anxiety, worried about the future but unsure about how to prepare for a coming challenge. We can gather with others, escape the darkness, sit on a stool, lean forward, the aroma of coffee before us . . . but the simple creature comforts may not shake the sober ruminations.

Finally, some of the parodies fit quite well.

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

by Jim Geraghty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Are We Not Giving This Man Asylum?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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