PowerLine -> The Scandal of the Liberal Mind and A Media Alert

PowerLine -> The Scandal of the Liberal Mind and A Media Alert

Daily Digest

  • The Scandal of the Liberal Mind
  • Media Alert
  • Mona Charen: It’s not a witch hunt
  • What, Exactly, Is Feminist Geography?
  • A witch hunt?
The Scandal of the Liberal Mind

Posted: 16 Jul 2017 03:30 PM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

Some years ago the evangelical scholar Mark Noll wrote an influential book titled The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. It was a critique of the lack of intellectual seriousness and depth among his fellow evangelicals and a clarion call to for evangelical thinkers to step up their game. Christianity Today named it the “Book of the Year” in 1994, and it provoked far-reaching and long-lasting discussion among evangelicals.

I wonder if it isn’t long past time for someone of broad gauge to write The Scandal of the Liberal Mind. To be sure, there are a couple of fragmentary efforts at something like this, such as Peter Beinart’s 2006 book The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again. I have a hunch Beinart regrets the last part of that subtitle (heh), and in any case he implicitly repudiated much of this book in his next book, The Icarus Syndrome. (You can find my review of that book here.) Paul Berman and Michael Walzer deserve honorable mention for their public chiding of thoughtless liberalism in recent years.

Instead popular liberalism today seems to consist mostly of name-calling and conspiracy mongering (chiefly involving the Koch brothers). It’s become a cliché that liberals call you a racist because they’re about to lose an argument, but the swiftness with which liberals today deploy this debate-stopping label is a sign that they can’t even begin an argument anymore.

The current example of this is Duke University historian Nancy MacLean’s new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. This book has rapidly become the largest academic publishing scandal since Michael Bellesiles’s fraudulent 2000 book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. That prize-winning book eventually had to be withdrawn from the market (and the prizes revoked) when Bellesiles’s massive fabrications were discovered.

MacLean’s book does not suffer from fabrications (though there appear to be a few) as much as an intellectual shoddiness so obvious that it is astounding that the book was published at all. I’ve been meaning to comment on this unfolding scandal for weeks now, but the story keeps developing so fast that it’s been hard to keep up. David Bernstein offers an apt summary of what it’s all about:

The theme of the book is that Nobel Prize-winning economist James Buchanan, a founder of public choice economics and a libertarian fellow-traveler, was the intellectual leader of a cabal ultimately supported by Charles Koch intent on replacing American democracy with an oligarchy based on constitutional protections for property rights.

Bernstein adds in a later note:

It’s really amazing how careless MacLean is with even tangential facts. For example, I just noticed that she wrote that the Federalist Society’s founding was inspired by Ed Meese, something I had never heard before. Checking her footnote, she cites to Meese’s famous speech on Originalism, delivered in July 1985. The Federalist Society was founded in 1982. You really wonder whether any fact presented in the book can be trusted at face value.

But of course it isn’t long before MacLean gets to the real heart of the matter: Buchanan is a racist—the fellow traveler if not the heir of southern agrarians.

Where to begin. Start perhaps with Buchanan’s Nobel Prize in economics, for his pioneering work in public choice theory, which is basically the economic analysis of politics. I’ve had fun over the years pointing out that since the Nobel Prize in economics was started in 1969, it has been dominated by conservative or free market economists. Think of other winners like Buchanan: Milton Friedman, Fredrich Hayek, Ronald Coase, Douglas North, George Stigler, Gary Becker, James Heckman, Vernon Smith, Robert Mundell, Robert Fogel, Eleanor Ostrom, Eugene Fama, Jean Tirole, Angus Deaton—well, you get the idea. A few liberals have won it—Paul Samuelson, Gunnar Myrdal, Paul Krugman (but for his early work on trade that most free marketeers like), but in general the overall roster does not offer much help for liberalism, unlike the egregious Nobel Peace Prize.

It must be awfully discouraging for the left to see such overwhelming intellectual dominance in such a key area. As we are seeing with the results of the minimum wage in Seattle, the facts of economics get in the way of liberal dreams. What to do? If you can’t beat their arguments, try to delegitimize them by calling them racists, oligarchs, tools of the Koch brothers, opponents of democracy, etc. You would think this playbook would get tiresome, except that the liberal echo chamber can always be relied upon to boost these tendentious efforts and give them the patina of credibility.

Now, the shame of this is that there are some good arguments to be picked with Buchanan and public choice theory. I’ve dissented from Buchanan myself on some points. I think public choice theory is right about 90 percent of the time, but that the other 10 percent—like the small portion of goods that generate the most profit in most retail establishments—is where the real action is in political life. Public choice theory does a poor job, for example, in explaining radical Islam, though I know some public choice devotees think they are up to it.

This defect was never more evident than in one of the greatest intellectual clashes I ever saw in person in 1988, when Buchanan, fresh off his new Nobel fame, was paired in a panel with Allan Bloom, fresh of his new fame and riches from The Closing of the American Mind. Bloom gave his own very artful critique of Buchanan and public choice theory (sometimes called, as Bloom did then, “rational choice” theory), and I thought Bloom ran circles around Buchanan, so badly in fact that Buchanan was nearly helpless to respond. My favorite line from Bloom in that debate was: “It seems to me that the willingness to die for something always mucks up rational choice theory.” Boom!

MacLean doesn’t take up any of the serious critiques that might be made of public choice theory. Instead we get a cartoon villain portrayal that is so laughably bad that it ought to end her academic career, but naturally won’t. But even some liberals have noted the shoddiness of it, such as Henry Farrell (who once attacked me on the Monkey Cage blog) and Stephen Teles at Vox:

A deep, historical study of public choice would be welcome, and Buchanan’s role in the development of the thought and organizational infrastructure of the right has generally been overlooked. Unfortunately, the book is an example of precisely the kind of work on the right that we do not need, and the intellectuals of the left who have praised it are doing their side no favors. . .

In language better suited to a Dan Brown novel than a serious nonfiction book, she describes Buchanan as an “evil genius,” and suggests he had a “diabolical” plan to permanently “shackle” democracy, so that the will of the majority would no longer influence government in core areas of the economy. In MacLean’s account, Buchanan, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on the contractual and constitutional bases of decision-making but is nearly unknown to the public, prepared the plan that the Koch brothers and other conservative funders and activists have been carrying out ever since. . .

Why have so many left-wing readers embraced such a transparently flawed book? The most persuasive explanation is that MacLean confirms and extends their deep preexisting suspicions.

Many people, like the ever gentle Russ Roberts, have pointed out that MacLean constructs her arguments by quoting her targets incompletely and out of context, often twisting their meaning into the exact opposite of what they clearly mean to say.

Another egregious example of MacLean’s ignorance was spotted by Donald Boudreaux:

An unintentionally comical example of MacLean’s ignorance of the basic facts of her subject matter appears in an interview that she gave at Alternet.  There, she asserted that by naming his and Alex Tabarrok’s blog “Marginal Revolution,” my colleague Tyler Cowen was “gesturing” to a devious right-wing scheme to slowly undermine democracy.  In fact, the term “marginal revolution” refers to one of the most celebrated episodes in the history of economics – namely, economists’ discovery in the 1870s that the economic value of a good or service is determined not by the amount of labor used to produce that good or service but, instead, by the usefulness to human beings of an additional unit – a “marginal” unit – of that good or service.  If the amount of a good or service that’s available changes, its economic value changes.  This discovery of the importance of “marginal” changes reinforced economists’ more general understanding that thriving societies seldom change radically, in giant leaps, but instead gradually, as small change upon small change accumulate over time.

MacLean’s suggestion that an economist’s use of the term “marginal revolution” refers to a nefarious modern American political plot is no less ridiculous than had she suggested that a physicist’s use of the term “Newtonian revolution” refers to a plot to stuff all cookies with filling made of figs.

Now, there’s a lot more I can say about this really bad book, but interested readers should see Mike Munger’s forthcoming essay in The Independent Review, and consult also Georg Vanbergand especially Phil Magness, who is all over the case. The point is: it ought to be an intellectual scandal that a book so deeply defective should be celebrated, let alone published. The book really ought to be withdrawn.

But here’s the punch line: MacLean’s book was funded by the taxpayer, through a special National Endowment for the Humanities program that offered $50,000 grants for work on conservatism. Perhaps the NEH had in mind that they might award these grants to actual conservatives, and indeed when I saw this grant program advertised in National Review a couple years ago, I considered applying for my recent book on Harry Jaffa and Walter Berns. But once I saw all the bureaucratic rigmarole involved, and asked myself, “Why do I need a federal grant to write a book? I already have a job. . .”, I decided against it. So the grants apparently went mediocre leftists instead or at least did in this case. Another reason Trump should simply try to abolish the NEH and NEA. Not reform—abolish.

Exit quotes on the general theme, from Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

“Liberalism faltered when it turned out it could not cope with truth. . . The liberal project began to fail when it began to lie. That was the mid sixties…the rot set in and has continued since.”

As I say, what will it take for some liberals to call out this scandalous state of affairs?


Media Alert

Posted: 16 Jul 2017 03:28 PM PDT

(John Hinderaker)

I will guest host Laura Ingraham’s radio show four times next week: tomorrowTuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The show runs live from 9 to 12 a.m. Eastern, and is heard at other times in some geographies. Tomorrow’s guests will include Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee; Rep. Mo Brooks; and Scott Greer, author of No Campus for White Men. It will be a fun show, and I hope you can tune in!

You can go here to find a radio station in your area or to listen online. If you miss the show live, you can get highlights via podcast on iTunes. Please listen in, and give me a call at 855-40-LAURA. I would love to hear from some Power Line readers.


Mona Charen: It’s not a witch hunt

Posted: 16 Jul 2017 01:38 PM PDT

(Scott Johnson)

My friend Mona Charen has sent me the following response to my nearby post “A witch hunt?” In my post I comment on her recent column “16 Things You Must Believe to Buy the ‘Witch Hunt’ Russia Narrative.” I want to give Mona the last word in this exchange and thank her for her response. Mona writes:

Before plunging into your objections, Scott, I want to thank you for being a fair interlocutor and a friend. There are many fissures in our ranks these days, and it’s good to keep the conversation going.

If something is a “witch hunt,” it cannot be fair or impartial for two reasons: 1) those hunting for witches are determined to find them, and 2) there are no witches. Number one is certainly true of some in this case, but after the past week, I don’t think we can say with confidence that number two is true.

I don’t speak for Robert Mueller or his investigation. Apparently, about half of the lawyers have donated to Democrats. That doesn’t inspire confidence, I agree. But this doesn’t all come to down to questions about independent counsels. There are also, as you note toward the end of your post, several Congressional investigations, and any number of press outlets searching for information.

What I can say, based on what I hear, is that what we’ve learned so far is not coming from leaks out of Mueller’s office. It is coming from press reports, so the ideological makeup of Mueller’s legal team cannot account for what we’re learning. Also, it is slightly amusing to see the double standard at work about political donations. During the campaign, when Donald Trump’s past donations to Democrats — including Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer — came up, his fans explained it away saying “He’s just a businessman. He had to buy off politicians.”

I, too, am an avid Andy McCarthy fan, so I’ll see your Andy column and raise you. Here is what Andy has written more recently in light of the Donald Jr. emails:

The tepid-on-Trump camp is aghast at revelations of the extent and nature of the Trump clan’s ties to a murderous anti-American regime — and, speaking only for myself, humbled by analysts who were more troubled by the circumstantial evidence in the absence of smoking guns. Trump fans, to the contrary, are doing the full Clinton: doubling down on the absurd insistence that Trump-Russia is a big ol’ “nothingburger.”

Now, let’s turn to the “shards.”

1) You’re a great lawyer Scott, so let me ask you this about the Donald Jr meeting: When establishing the state of mind of an actor, don’t you look at motive, means, and opportunity? And if said person had all three, and then repeatedly lies about all of them, is it not fair to draw conclusions? When someone is offered help from a hostile foreign power, as “part of Russia and its government support of Mr. Trump” and you reply “I love it,” instead of “Are you out of your mind?” or “Over my dead body” – and then you lie about it — that’s a problem. And when the president of the United States participated in crafting the false story Donald Jr. put out, what does that say?

2) Whether Manafort is investigated or not is beside the point. It is not disputed that he worked for a decade for Victor Yanokovych, who mowed down protesters in Maidan Square and was Putin’s guy. The louche Manafort hardly seems to have the experience or character to say, “Keep your distance from the Russians,” and we now know that indeed, he did not, because he attended at least one meeting.

3) Yup.

4) I grant that some of Trump’s policies have been correctives to the Obama years. I’m particularly enthusiastic about UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. The decision to sell Patriot missiles to Poland, the efforts to permit export of coal and liquefied natural gas are also moves that probably don’t make the Kremlin happy. On the other hand, he chose Rex Tillerson, a man who received a friendship medal from Vladimir Putin, as Secretary of State.

The decision to hand back the two spy centers the US closed after revelations about Russian interference in the election – a concession Seb Gorka explains as an attempt at “collaboration and cooperation” is not encouraging.

And what do we get in return? Didn’t Trump excoriate Obama for making the worst deals? Gorka cited the Syria ceasefire as something that would be evidence of good faith. Ceasefires always sound good, but they are not always good in reality. There have been multiple failed ceasefires in the past few years in Syria. Also, one side can use the ceasefire to gain strategic advantage. I’ll note this news: Israel is opposed to the Syria ceasefire negotiated by Trump and Putin out of concern that it may solidify Iran’s position in the country.

Further, there are some policy initiatives that are either boneheaded or something worse. Exhibit A: The joint cyber security task force Trump announced after his private meeting with Putin (quickly withdrawn).

5) Trump knew at least two weeks before he fired him that Flynn had lied to Mike Pence. Here is what Pence said on January 15, 2017 on Face The Nation about Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador:

“They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure on Russia…. What I can confirm, having to spoken with [Flynn] about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.”

He was asked: “Just to button up one question, did any advisor or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?” Pence replies, “Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”

The Wall Street Journal story about a Republican operative seeking Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails through Russia and claiming that he was working with Mike Flynn is possibly significant. If misleading Mike Pence were a firing offense, I think the president would have had to fire himself. But the Flynn story has other oddities, including that he failed to disclose his paid lobbying for Russia and Turkey. I don’t know why Trump fired Flynn – the president implied that the media done him in, which is strange because the media didn’t fire him. Anyway, I’m skeptical that anyone in the Trump orbit would be punished for lying. If that were the standard, pretty much the whole West Wing would be gone.

6) Sure, it’s possible that Trump is showing loyalty to Flynn by improperly instructing the FBI director to go easy on him and asking Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, to weigh in with Comey on the same subject. But then, consider the point about Trump and loyalty that Jonah Goldberg makes here:

Some argue that [Trump’s] loyal, and there’s some evidence of that. But the loyalty he shows is instrumental and self-serving. In The Art of the Deal, there’s a fairly moving passage about Roy Cohn, Trump’s mentor, and loyalty. “The thing that’s most important to me is loyalty,” Trump says. “You can’t hire loyalty. I’ve had people over the years who I swore were loyal to me, and it turned out that they weren’t. Then I’ve had people that I didn’t have the same confidence in and turned out to be extremely loyal. So you never really know.” He added: “The thing I really look for though, over the longer term, is loyalty.” Trump then said this about Cohn: He was a truly loyal guy — it was a matter of honor with him — and because he was also very smart, he was a great guy to have on your side. You could count on him to go to bat for you, even if he privately disagreed with your view, and even if defending you wasn’t necessarily the best thing for him. He was never two-faced. Just compare that with all the hundreds of “respectable” guys who make careers boasting about their uncompromising integrity and have absolutely no loyalty. They think about what’s best for them and don’t think twice about stabbing a friend in the back if the friend becomes a problem. . . .  Roy was the sort of guy who’d be there at your hospital bed, long after everyone else had bailed out, literally standing by you to the death. But when Cohn got HIV, Trump severed his ties with Cohn. “Donald found out about it and just dropped him like a hot potato,” Susan Bell, Cohn’s longtime secretary, said. “It was like night and day.”

7) You address this in 8.

8) Yup.

9) How do we know what role Carter Page played in the campaign? You can argue that there really wasn’t much of a campaign, and that’s fair. But as Politico reported on March 21, 2016, Page was one of three people Trump listed as foreign policy advisors.

10) You “critique,” Scott, Trump bellows. Perhaps you’re right about this, but after everything we’ve learned, wouldn’t it be reassuring if Trump’s response to the introduction of a sanctions bill was “Where do I sign?” and not “I want to keep my options open.”

11) Ok, I can see the argument that the jury is out on Stone. Perhaps he was just making a lucky guess about Podesta. I’m open to that possibility. But quoting from the FactCheck article you linked to, does it not repel you that he reached out to Julian Assange and Guccifer 2.0 and denies that they are linked to Russia? Stone is the worst kind of bottomfeeder. Assange has done tremendous damage to this country by revealing our secrets. But if for the moment, Assange is hurting Clinton, he’s great and we’ll happily cooperate with him. Here’s a photo of Stone with another delightful character, Alex Jones.

12) Again, I don’t speak for Mueller. I have no idea what his predicates are. But speaking as a citizen, I find these statements highly illuminating and I want to know more. Regarding Andy McCarthy, I refer the honorable gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.

13) Okey dokey.

14) For three days in succession Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say what the administration’s position on Russia is. Day One: I’ll get back to you on that. Day Two: I still don’t have anything for you. Day Three: I don’t have a comment. My lawyer husband says this isn’t significant, it’s just a sign of “moronicness.” Pick your poison.

15) See item 4.

16) I don’t disagree that some in the media are out to get Trump and that they interpret every single datum in the worst possible light (though, ironically, some of them, like CNN, arguably helped elect him by giving him lavish media coverage during the campaign). It’s also true, you’ll surely grant, that many in conservative media (ahem, Sean Hannity) have become equally unbalanced in defense of anything and everything Trump does.

But the fact that the press can sometimes seem like a wolf pack should not force us to respond in kind. What matters is the truth.

Also, Trump’s beef with the press is strictly personal. Rarely does he criticize their coverage of issues conservatives care about – not even his signature issues like immigration and terrorism. No, it’s nearly always just about him. I would not conflate conservatives’ deep suspicion of the press with Trump’s war on his critics. He doesn’t.

So, I stand by the view that you have to swallow a great deal to believe that this is nothing but a witch hunt. And the ground shifts almost daily . . .

All the best to you!


What, Exactly, Is Feminist Geography?

Posted: 16 Jul 2017 11:35 AM PDT

(John Hinderaker)

The bizarre corners of academia are usually Steve’s beat, but a reader sent me a link to an article about a paper published in Gender, Place & Culture, a Journal of Feminist Geography. The paper, by Carrie Mott and Daniel Cockayne, is titled “Citation matters: mobilizing the politics of citation toward a practice of ‘conscientious engagement.’” It urges academics working in the field of geography not to cite works by white, heterosexual men:

An increasing amount of scholarship in critical, feminist, and anti-racist geographies has recently focused self-reflexively on the topics of exclusion and discrimination within the discipline itself. In this article we contribute to this literature by considering citation as a problematic technology that contributes to the reproduction of the white heteromasculinity of geographical thought and scholarship, despite advances toward more inclusivity in the discipline in recent decades. … We argue for a conscientious engagement with the politics of citation as a geographical practice that is mindful of how citational practices can be a tool for either the reification of, or resistance to, unethical hierarchies of knowledge production. We offer practical and conceptual reasons for carefully thinking through the role of citation as a performative embodiment of the reproduction of geographical thought.

The Washington Times quotes from the paper:

The authors point out that whether an academic’s research is cited by his peers has significant implications for promotion, tenure and influence. Therefore, to cite only white men “does a disservice to researchers and writers who are othered by white heteromasculinism.”

The authors define “white heteromasculinism” as “an intersectional system of oppression describing on-going processes that bolster the status of those who are white, male, able-bodied, economically privileged, heterosexual, and cisgendered.”

What any of this has to do with geography, God only knows.

As often happens with academic journals, one wonders whether the whole thing is an elaborate joke. On balance, I think Gender, Place & Culture is intended seriously. Still, papers like this onecause me to wonder: “Fucking geographers! Or the epistemological consequences of neglecting the lusty researcher’s body.”

This article investigates the dichotomy within research on sexuality between the desiring body of the informant on the one hand and the non-desiring body of the researcher on the other. Despite earlier calls to acknowledge and include the eroticisms of the researcher, accounts where the desiring researcher’s body is a central focus remain exceptions to the rule. The main goal of this intervention is to investigate why the absence of the lusty researcher’s body seems to endure. I will first explore some of the reasons researchers might feel inhibited to self-disclose their desires, to continue with uncovering some of the techniques used to sustain the cover of the asexual, disembodied researcher. Afterwards, I will discuss my own experiences as a (junior) researcher in the field, mainly my own discomfort and embarrassment to be perceived as a desiring woman-researcher, and trace how this has informed my own research trajectory. I conclude by suggesting that writing down our negotiations between the validity of our research versus how much we are willing to self-disclose might be a first step towards an improved inclusion of lust and desire in sex research.

I can’t tell whether she is talking about geography or sex research, or both. Which is probably not a good sign.

STEVE adds: Don’t get me started about academic geography departments. For some reason that I can’t quite explain causally, geography was one of the first social science disciplines captured and politicized by the radical left, a long while ago now. Near as I can tell, very few university geography programs actually teach anything about . . . geography. I wouldn’t trust a contemporary geography major to be able to read even a Google map. Most of the courses and papers bear titles like “The Geography of Patriarchal Racism,” etc.  Believe it or not, most sociology departments are more academically rigorous than geography.

As such, “feminist geography” is just a tiny extension of the rot that set in a long time ago in this field.


A witch hunt?

Posted: 16 Jul 2017 07:01 AM PDT

(Scott Johnson)

Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, a syndicated columnist and author of two best-selling books that I have found permanently relevant, Do-Goodersand Useful Idiots. She is also a friend whom I greatly admire for her honesty and integrity.

Both NRO and Jewish World Review carry Mona’s column. In her most recent column, Mona set forth “16 Things You Must Believe to Buy the ‘Witch Hunt’ Russia Narrative” (posted here at JRB).

Having read the column several times, I wrote Mona:

I’m struggling to understand the “collusion” story. I don’t believe it, but I know I may be wrong. If I am wrong, I should think that we would have more to go on at this point than we do. You go with 16 “shards” to imply that there is something to the story, but you don’t flesh out what is implicit in your “shards” or state directly what you do think (such as why Trump really fired Flynn). Would you be willing to state directly what you think at this point?

Don’t you think you have to account for the policies Trump has actually implemented versus the policies Clinton would have? Isn’t this whole thing subject to a reality test of some kind?

Mona responded:

What I was trying to say is that there is that are a slew of unanswered questions in this matter that don’t seem to me to add up to a witch hunt. There are many reasons to be wary — most of all the lies that tumble out of this crowd daily.

So I assembled my “shards” if you will. Maybe you would like to post the column on your site and then you and I can have a public colloquy about what to make of all this so far?

I want to take up Mona’s invitation to address her column in the spirit of inquiry with a friend. Mona writes at the top her column: “One column cannot accommodate the list of things you must believe if you trust that Donald Trump is truly the victim of a baseless witch hunt. Consider this a mere stab.”

I take it that you are alluding to President Trump’s characterization of the investigation conducted under the auspices of Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a witch hunt, or a “WITCH HUNT.” I think Trump is right. Here I would cite the case made by Andrew McCarthy in the June 21 column “Mueller’s empire.” Andy’s column makes several important points on which I have slightly expanded below.

Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fundamentally violates the applicable regulation. The regulation requires that the Attorney General or the Acting Attorney General determine “that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted…”

Rosenstein’s order appointing Mueller is posted online here. In his announcement of Mueller’s appointment Rosenstein stated: “In my capacity as acting Attorney General, I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter.”

Nota bene (this is still Rosenstein speaking): “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

McCarthy explains: “The way this is supposed to work is: the Justice Department first identifies a likely crime, and then assigns a prosecutor to investigate it. Here, by contrast, there are no parameters imposed on the special counsel’s jurisdiction.”

Therefore: “Mueller’s probe is the functional equivalent of a general warrant: a boundless writ to search for incriminating evidence. It is the very evil the Fourth Amendment was adopted to forbid: a scorch-the-earth investigation in the absence of probable cause that a crime has been committed.”

At the time Andy wrote his column, Mueller’s team included 14 lawyers and counting. There were “several more in the pipeline.”

A funny thing about these lawyers. They “overwhelmingly, are Democrats. Power Line’s Paul Mirengoff and the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross have been tracking it: Mueller’s staffers contribute to Trump’s political opponents, some heavily. The latest Democratic talking-point about this unseemly appearance is that hiring regulations forbid an inquiry into an applicant’s political affiliation. That’s laughable. These are lawyers Mueller has recruited. They are not ‘applicants.’ We’re talking about top-shelf legal talent, accomplished professionals who have jumped at the chance of a gig they do not need but, clearly, want.”

Mueller is drawing on a limitless budget to conduct an investigation without boundaries by lawyers hostile to the president.

McCarthy drew on his own experience prosecuting complex cases to ask two questions: “Why does special counsel Mueller need 14 lawyers (and more coming) [as of June 21] for a counterintelligence investigation, as to which the intelligence professionals—agents, not lawyers—have found no ‘collusion with Russia’ evidence after over a year of hard work? What will those lawyers be doing with no limits on their jurisdiction, with nothing but all the time and funding they need to examine one target, Donald Trump?”

On the question raised by the title of your column, I think Andy made a compelling case in support of Trump’s characterization of the Mueller investigation in colloquial terms as a “witch hunt.” This case is not undercut by any of the 16 “shards,” as I call them, that you itemize in your columns.

I am posting your 16 “shards” in italics with my brief responses below.

1) Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner did nothing wrong by meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. The emails requesting the meeting specifically mentioned a “Russian government attorney” and added that the requested meeting concerned “very high level and sensitive information” … that “is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” That doesn’t prove a willingness to collude.

It proves a willingness to accept “incriminating information” from dubious sources on Trump’s presidential rival. It does not prove a “willingness to collude” in any meaningful sense and, despite the hysteria, there is no evidence of “collusion” to date.

2) Concern about Paul Manafort’s extensive links with Vladimir Putin’s former puppet in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, including at least $12.7 million in payments, is, to quote Manafort’s words, “silly and nonsensical.”

The latest New York Times story on Manafort’s work for Viktor Yanukovych is Andrew Kramer’s article in this morning’s paper. Manafort departed the Trump campaign on August 19. You seem to be saying that Manafort should be investigated for the payments he received from Y.’s party. Maybe, but nothing in the most recent Times article seems to support the proposition. Even so, this seems to me far afield from the “collusion” hysteria.

3) That Jared Kushner’s attempt, during the transition, to secure a back channel with the Russian government using their secure communications equipment in the Russian embassy was not alarming/inexplicable.

An explanation is warranted and I would like to hear it.

4) That Donald Trump’s stubborn refusal ever to breathe a critical word about Vladimir Putin, even as he has freely criticized U.S. allies, or acknowledge Russian meddling in our election, is not strange.

I thought it was strange during the campaign and found it troubling. I have been reassured by Trump’s policies in office that subvert Russia’s interests. I am grateful that he is undoing key Obama administration policies that served Putin’s interests. I think Trump’s policies (and personnel, for that matter) belie the “collusion” hysteria.

5) That Michael Flynn’s firing after less than a month on the job was really just because he had misled Mike Pence.

You imply that there was another reason. It never occurred to me that there was. I was hoping you would tell me what I am missing.

6) That Donald Trump’s pressure on James Comey to go soft on Michael Flynn was purely a measure of loyalty and friendship from a person who has rarely shown those traits before.

You imply that there was another reason. Maybe there was. I don’t know.

7) That Comey’s firing, at least according to evolving White House accounts, was due to his mishandling of the Clinton file — no, wait. It was due to poor management of the FBI, which was suffering from low morale — uh, no. It was because of two factual errors Comey made in congressional testimony. Finally, that it was really over the “Russia thing” — but only because Trump was an innocent man frustrated by Comey’s unwillingness to clear him publicly.

Honesty is not Trump’s default mode. The implication of your question is that Trump fired Comey to kill investigation into the “Russia thing.” I have no reason to believe Trump thought he could kill investigation into the “Russia thing” by firing Comey.

8) That it was irrelevant that Trump told the Russian ambassador and foreign minister in the Oval Office the day after Comey’s sacking that the FBI director was a “nut job” whose removal had relieved “great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

These comments tell against my response to 7) above.

9) It’s pure coincidence that one of the only foreign policy advisers on the Trump campaign was Carter Page, who was under FBI investigation for Russia ties. In Moscow, he gave a speech denouncing U.S. policy, saying, “Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.” Anti-anti-corruption isn’t disturbing.

Carter Page had virtually nothing to do with the Trump campaign. As I say, I look to the policies the Trump administration has actually implemented to date.

10) That White House objections to sanctions against Russia, which passed the Senate 98-2, are purely procedural.

I think the executive branch always seeks to preserve its discretion to waive sanctions in the furtherance of foreign policy. That is how I understand the substantive White House critique of the sanctions bill. I don’t think the White House critique of the sanctions bill has anything to do with “collusion.”

11) That former Manafort partner and Trump surrogate Roger Stone, who boasted about links to WikiLeaks founder and America-hater Julian Assange, and accurately predicted in August 2016 that John Podesta would be next “in the barrel,” was just lucky.

This seems to be an Adam Schiff special. I will rest on the analysis of FactCheck by Robert Faricy.

12) That statements by Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. about Russian financial ties are not revealing. Golf writer James Dodson quoted Eric as explaining in 2014 how the Trump organization was able to get financing for various golf courses even after the Great Recession. “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.” Donald Trump Jr., who also traveled to Russia frequently, spoke at a 2008 real estate conference and noted that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” When Donald Trump stated, “I have zero investments in Russia,” he did not say that Russia had zero investments in him, but we should believe his other claim, “I have nothing to do with Russia.”

If this is one of the predicates of Mueller’s investigation, it seems to me illustrative of the “witch hunt” that Andy McCarthy describes.

13) That President Trump’s failure to release his tax returns, despite repeated promises to do so, is because he is under audit.

I don’t think Trump’s failure to release his tax returns has anything to do with the audit. I think the returns would prove embarrassing for political reasons that I doubt have anything to do with the “collusion” hysteria.

14) That it’s unremarkable that presidential spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuses to say whether Russia is an adversary, a friend or a nation about whom we should be wary.

I find it lamentable and worthy of note, but I look to administration policies to ascertain the reality of Trump’s views.

15) That Donald Trump is the first president since 1949 to cast doubt on America’s commitment to NATO, but this is overdue and good for the U.S.

Again, I look to administration policies to ascertain the reality of Trump’s views.

16) That Donald Trump’s obsessive attacks on “fake news” are not an attempt to inoculate himself against future revelations but just good old-fashioned right-wing hatred of liberals.

I think the Democrats and their media adjunct reject the legitimacy of the Trump presidency. I think they have jointly undertaken the project of removing Trump from office. Trump’s critique of CNN et al. has much of substance to it and is a legitimate form of political self-defense.

Thanks for your invitation to take up your column on Power Line. Nothing I say above should be construed to question the several congressional investigations that are underway regarding Russian meddling in the election. Nevertheless, I don’t think that your 16 “shards” lend much in the way of substance to what you call the “Russia narrative” and I call the “collusion” hysteria.


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