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A monument falls in Durham

Daily Digest

About Trump’s “re-election” ad

Posted: 16 Aug 2017 10:38 AM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)

John wrote about and posted what he calls Trump’s first re-election ad. The ad touts the record level stock market and the unusually low unemployment numbers. It doesn’t cite any legislative victories or foreign policy accomplishments. Nor could it.

As a re-election pitch, current stock market prices and employment numbers couldn’t be less relevant. The relevant numbers will be the ones in 2020, when Trump faces the voters. At that time, no one will remember or care about what the numbers were in mid-2017.

The ad is really intended, as John said, to remind voters of Trump’s record so far. And given unrelenting media hostility, it’s wise of Trump to tout his accomplishments. The level of his job approval is relevant to his ability to govern.

But are stock market prices and unemployment numbers really Trump accomplishments? Not to an appreciable degree, in my view.

Both continue trends from the Obama administration. The stock market’s ascent has accelerated, to be sure, and I think Trump’s victory — or at least Hillary Clinton’s defeat — played a role. But that part of the bounce predates Trump’s actual presidency.

As for employment, Ramesh Ponnuru points out that job growth has been weaker under Trump than it was during Obama’s last year in office. From February to July 2017, employment rose by 1.074 million jobs. From February to July 2016, it rose by 1.246 million. Thus, job growth in the Obama months was 16 percent higher.

As Ponnuru says, conservatives tend to be skeptical (at best) of claims that the president “creates jobs” — an assertion Trump applied to himself at his impromptu press conference yesterday. I don’t deny that a president’s polices have an impact on employment, but rarely is that impact experienced in the first six months of his presidency.

I agree with Ponnuru, however, that in the case of Trump his reduction in regulations and the prospect of future positive changes in economic policy might have (I would say probably have) strengthened the economy’s “animal spirits.” Thus, it may well be that Trump can, in Ponnuru’s words, “legitimately take credit for a small fraction of those 1.074 million jobs.”

Let’s hope those “animal spirits” will sustain the economy. We are now, what, eight years into an economic recovery? It’s very rare for a recovery to last for eleven years. Perhaps this one will because it was tepid (or for some other reason), but I wouldn’t count on it.

Thus, some significant legislative and foreign policy accomplishments would be especially welcome.


Statues of Limitation

Posted: 16 Aug 2017 10:31 AM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

So we seem to be on our way to tearing down every statue related to the Democratic Party’s largest achievement in American history—the Confederate States of America. Funny how the Confederate battle flag, and now statues, didn’t start to come down until Republicans became ascendant in southern states. Democrats who had a monopoly grip on the South for decades had lots of time to take these steps, but didn’t. You’d almost think they were opportunists.

Rich Lowry pointed out that there is a statue in Baltimore of Roger Taney, and lo and behold it was taken down last night. Taney did more than perhaps any other figure to propel the nation into civil war with his reckless decision in Dred Scott that “the negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect,” which by implication legalized slavery throughout the entire U.S. and prohibited Congress henceforth from stopping its spread in the territories. All that was needed, as Lincoln pointed out, was one more case extending the principle Taney laid out to make slavery legal throughout the North. Had not the war intervened, maybe we would have had Ubergefell as the sequel to Dred Scott.

There may be a larger parallel between that time and today. I often like to share with students in class the summation of the defense lawyer in the case of Jacob Gruber, a Methodist minister who was put on trial in Frederick, Maryland, in 1818 on the charge of inciting a slave revolt. Gruber had spoken at a large outdoor meeting in Hagerstown about “the nation sin” of slavery, and as the large audience included several hundred slaves, Gruber was promptly arrested. Gruber’s was exactly the kind of abolitionist speech that Democrats in the 1850s like James Buchanan denounced as causing sectional rifts.

Here is the climax of the closing argument to the jury that Gruber’s defense attorney offered:

Any man has a right to publish his opinions on that subject [slavery] whenever he pleases. It is a subject of national concern, and may at all times be freely discussed. Mr. Gruber did quote the language of our great act of national independence, and insisted on the principles contained in that venerated instrument. He did rebuke those masters, who, in the exercise of power, are deaf to the calls of humanity; and he warned them of the evils they might bring upon themselves. He did speak with abhorrence of those reptiles, who live by trading in human flesh, and enrich themselves by tearing the husband from the wife—the infant from the bosom of the mother: and this I am instructed was the head and front of his offending. Shall I content myself with saying he had a right to say this? That there is no law to punish him? So far is he from being the object of punishment in any form of proceeding, that we are prepared to maintain the same principles, and to use, if necessary, the same language here in the temple of justice, and in the presence of those who are the ministers of the law. A hard necessity, indeed, compels us to endure the evil of slavery for a time. It was imposed upon us by another nation, while we were yet in a state of colonial vassalage. It cannot be easily, or suddenly removed. Yet while it continues it is a blot on our national character, and every real lover of freedom confidently hopes that it will be effectually, though it must be gradually, wiped away; and earnestly looks for the means, by which this necessary object may be best attained. And until it shall be accomplished: until the time shall come when we can point without a blush, to the language held in the Declaration of Independence, every friend of humanity will seek to lighten the galling chain of slavery, and better, to the utmost of his power, the wretched condition of the slave.

Such was Mr. Gruber’s object in that part of his sermon, of which I am now speaking. Those who have complained of him, and reproached him, will not find it easy to answer him: unless complaints, reproaches and persecution shall be considered an answer.

Students often assume that Gruber’s lawyer must have been Abraham Lincoln, as his argument sounds so much like Lincoln’s line of argument in the 1850s. Lincoln was precocious, to be sure, but since he was born in 1809, he would have been just nine years old at the time of the Gruber trial.

No; instead, Gruber’s lawyer was. . . Roger Taney.

Which leads to the next question: what the hell happened to Taney? That’s a long story, but can be summarized briefly by the proposition that Democrats ceased to believe that slavery was a national sin—indeed they came to believe it was a positive good. (See Calhoun, Alexander Stephens, George Fitzhugh, etc.), and the first version of identity politics was born. In other words, Democrats aren’t that much different today than they were in the 1850s. To put it still one more way, when thinking about what the hell happened to Taney, you can begin to make out parallels to what the hell has happened to Democrats more recently.

P.S. Gruber was acquitted.


Rouhani: Iran Can Resume Nuclear Program In Hours

Posted: 16 Aug 2017 08:22 AM PDT

(John Hinderaker)

When the Iran nuclear deal was being debated, much attention was paid to the question whether Iran would cheat on the agreement. My position was that they likely would, but they certainly didn’t have to. Iran got what it wanted up front–relief from sanctions and something like $1 billion. Having gotten what they wanted, Iran’s rulers could simply walk away from the agreement at whatever time they chose.

Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, made this point bluntly yesterday, while addressing Parliament:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that if the US discards the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Tehran and the world powers, Iran will be able to revive all the nuclear capabilities that had developed before the start of the nuclear talks in November 2013.

“The new US statesmen should know that the failed experience of sanctions and force brought their previous administrations to the negotiating table and if they are inclined to get back to those experiences, Iran would certainly return in a short time — not a week or a month but within hours — to a situation more advanced than before the start of negotiations,” President Rouhani said, addressing the parliament in Tehran on Tuesday.

So if Iran can, at will, resume a nuclear weapons development status more advanced than when the agreement was entered into “within hours,” what did we buy for $1 billion and relief of sanctions that caused serious problems for the mullahs? Little or nothing.

Of course, it is possible that Rouhani is bluffing, but I see no reason to believe that. This is the eventuality that many foresaw when the ineffective “joint plan of action” was being debated.


Logic. . .

Posted: 16 Aug 2017 08:12 AM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)

is oppressive, patriarchal, and probably racist. At least it is in the increasingly numerous instances where it undermines the liberal narrative.

So I hesitate to point out that the following two things both can be true: (1) neo-Nazis are despicable and must take blame for the violence in Charlottesville and (2) the antifa left-wingers share responsibility for some of the violence.

President Trump has affirmed both propositions. Should he have affirmed the first one faster than he did? I think so.

However, I’m glad Trump is not letting go of the second proposition. Left-wing lawlessness is a growing problem in this country. It should not be swept under the rug. The fascists who are engaging in it need to be called out.

Standing up to the braying asses in the media during his press conference yesterday was the right thing for the president to do. I’m not a fan of Trump, and my view of his presidency is mixed. But I enjoyed watching (via replay) his performance.


A monument falls in Durham

Posted: 15 Aug 2017 09:39 PM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)

The crazed left has an uncontrollable urge not just to vent, but to destroy. The latest manifestation is the destruction in Durham, North Carolina of a monument to Confederate soldiers (“the boys who wore gray”).

I have no problem with removing monuments to Confederate generals and soldiers if that’s what the public wants. The monuments were erected because those in control of the political process at the time considered them worthy of the honor. If those now in control of the political process consider them dishonorable or evil, there’s nothing wrong with removing the monuments.

But there is plenty wrong with a group of activists pulling down monuments. By doing so, they usurp the power to decide who should be honored with a statue.

They also violate the law. The police shouldn’t stand by and watch, as they did in Durham. They should protect town property and break up any mob that can’t resist attacking it.

There are pragmatic reasons for doing so. People — protesters and bystanders — can be injured in the process of toppling statues or by the toppling itself. At some point, moreover, folks who don’t want to monuments taken down will start showing up to protect them. This may lead to more Charlottesvilles.

But the main reason why the police should protect monuments from mobs is that, in a democracy, mobs shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions for the rest of us.

North Carolina has a law, passed in 2015, that prevents removal or relocation of monuments. That law usurps the power of cities and counties to decide who should be honored with a statue. I think it should be repealed. Until it is, the law should be enforced.


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