PowerLine -> For Jewish readers, happy new year – Did Trump unsettle Russia and China? Let’s hope so
PowerLine -> For Jewish readers, happy new year – Did Trump unsettle Russia and China? Let’s hope so
- For Jewish readers, happy new year
- “Stop the Hammering!” Meltdown at MSNBC
- Pseudo-moderate Dems toe party line on DOJ nominations
- Did Trump unsettle Russia and China? Let’s hope so
- That which must not be said
|For Jewish readers, happy new year
Posted: 20 Sep 2017 04:39 PM PDT
Jews all around the world celebrate the holiday of Rosh Hashanah beginning at sundown tonight. Of that much I am sure. Don’t hold me to the rest of this.
We observe the anniversary of the birth of the universe and greet the “head of the year” — the year being 5778 by our reckoning. We commence the Days of Awe during which we submit ourselves to judgment, repent to those we have wronged and seek to merit another year.
The Chabad branch of Judaism explains Rosh Hashanah: “It is a day of prayer, a time to ask the Almighty to grant us a year of peace, prosperity and blessing. But it is also a joyous day when we proclaim G‑d King of the Universe. The Kabbalists teach that the continued existence of the universe depends on G‑d’s desire for a world, a desire that is renewed when we accept His kingship anew each year on Rosh Hashanah.”
We wish our Jewish readers a happy and healthy new year.
|“Stop the Hammering!” Meltdown at MSNBC
Posted: 20 Sep 2017 02:46 PM PDT
Connoisseurs of bad behavior in the media are all familiar with the famous highlight reel of Bill O’Reilly blowing his top at Inside Edition, years before he started non-spinning on Fox News. Today a tape of Lawrence O’Donnell having a really bad night recently has been leaked out from MSNBC. It’s about eight minutes long and takes a while for the full effect to build, but it does perhaps give some insight into recent reports that NBC’s negotiations on a contract extension with O’Donnell were “difficult.” Do tell! (Needless to say: Language warning!)
Methinks “Stop the hammering!” can take its place alongside “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” in the annals of media mysteries. Memo to O’Donnell: That hammering you hear is in your head.
|Pseudo-moderate Dems toe party line on DOJ nominations
Posted: 20 Sep 2017 01:37 PM PDT
If there are any administration jobs for which the Senate should defer to the president’s selection, that job is Solicitor General. The SG represents the U.S. before the Supreme Court, defending the administration’s positions. The administration’s positions should be defended by the lawyer of the president’s choice. Barring truly exceptional circumstances, the Senate should confirm the president’s selection.
President Trump chose Noel Francisco for Solicitor General. Francisco has a distinguished background. He clerked for Judge Luttig of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and then for Justice Scalia. He served the George W. Bush administration in the White House Counsel’s office and later in the Office of Legal Counsel at the DOJ.
After that, Francisco went into private practice at a top law firm. He argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including (successfully) former governor Robert McConnell’s case and the case in which the Court held that President Obama improperly used the recess appointment power.
Since January, Francisco has been Principal Deputy Solicitor General.
Francisco is a solid conservative, but that shouldn’t disqualify him from defending a (mostly) conservative administration in court. I don’t know Francisco personally, but the people I know who do, including some on the left, like and respect him.
Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Francisco. That’s the good news.
Among the Democrats voting against Francisco were alleged moderates Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Heidi Heitkamp.
Let’s compare this vote to the vote on President Obama’s last nominee for the SG position, Donald Verrilli. He was confirmed in 2011 by a vote of 72-16. The Republican split was 26 for, 16 against, 5 not voting.
As I said, Francisco is a solid conservative. Perhaps a more moderate Trump DOJ nominee would fare better with Senate Dems.
Not really. Rachel Brand is the Associate Attorney General. She is a center-right figure and thus, decidedly less conservative than Francisco. Indeed, President Obama appointed her to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, though, to be fair, she did not join in the Board’s recommendation that the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program under the Patriot Act is illegal and should be discontinued.
How did Brand’s confirmation vote go? Essentially the same way Francisco’s did. She was confirmed on a straight party-line vote, 52-46. Manchin, Donnelly, and Heitkamp all voted no.
By contrast, Manchin, Donnelly, and Heitkamp all voted to confirm Justice Gorsuch. What does this tell us? It tells us that in a high-profile vote that might affect their re-election chances, these three Red State Democrats won’t oppose a very conservative nominee. On an under-the-radar vote, they will oppose not only a very conservative nominee but also a center-right one.
It tells me they are phonies.
The interesting question is whether nominees like Francisco and Brand would be blocked if Harry Reid hadn’t done away with the filibuster. Thanks to Reid, Manchin, Donnelly, and Heitkamp can vote against these nominees safe in the knowledge that they will be confirmed anyway. They thus can (1) satisfy left-wing special interest groups and (2) preserve credibility if, down the road, they want to oppose the up-and-coming Brand for, say, a spot on the Supreme Court, but (3) avoid accusations that they actually blocked the nominee.
To actually prevent the administration from filling the SG and/or associate AG position would be another matter. It would give rise to strong charges of obstructionism.
Moreover, the logical extension of this approach would be to force the staffing of top positions with “acting” officials and/or recess appointments, and not just when a Republican is president. It would be another step towards making the U.S. resemble the Banana Republic.
The question isn’t purely hypothetical. It will be raised whenever the Senate is controlled by one party and the presidency by the other.
My guess — and it’s nothing more — is that if the Dems had a Senate majority, they would have blocked Francisco but not Brand. However, given the prevalence of the “resistance” among Democrats, it’s possible they would have blocked both.
It isn’t clear that the Dems have anything against the U.S. taking on characteristics of a Banana Republic, as long as it’s their Banana Republic we’re drifting towards.
|Did Trump unsettle Russia and China? Let’s hope so
Posted: 20 Sep 2017 08:35 AM PDT
The Washington Post reports that President Trump’s statements to the U.N. about North Korea unsettled China and Russia. Trump said that “the United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
China, through a state-controlled newspaper, complained that Trump’s threat will “likely worsen the already volatile situation.” It called Trump’s posture an obstacle to “other countries’ efforts to persuade the two antagonists to talk.”
Russia moaned that “any military conflict means the deaths of civilians.” Russia should know, given the huge number of civilian deaths it has helped inflict in Syria.
If Trump’s speech truly unsettled China, that’s a good thing. If there is a way to end or reduce the menace posed by North Korea, it isn’t by “persuading the two sides [North Korea and the U.S.] to talk.” Rather, it’s through Chinese pressure on North Korea or, better yet, Chinese imposed regime change.
An “unsettled” China is more likely to bring such pressure or impose such change than a China that can rely on the continuation of the status quo.
My sense, though, is that we cannot expect China to help with North Korea under any circumstances except possibly (1) the prospect of Japan and/or South Korea developing nuclear weapons or (2) the conviction that Kim Jong Un is crazy. The status quo is agreeable enough to China. It keeps the U.S. off balance in the region and avoid the collapse of a more or less friendly regime, the resulting influx of refugees to China, and the reunification of the Korean peninsula on unfriendly terms.
I doubt that Kim Jong Un is crazy or that the Chinese view him as such. All of his moves that we know about have been rational and, indeed, have promoted his interests which are (1) staying in power and (2) confronting a hostile world from a position of strength.
If anything, he seems more rational than his predecessors. North Korea’s nuclear program has made great advances under his leadership. Some attribute this to the fact that, unlike his father, he tolerates failure by his scientists. He thus enables his scientists to take risks. This, in turn, produces rewards in the form of a nuclear program that’s ahead of schedule.
If Kim Jong Un is rationale, he’s unlikely to start a war. It doesn’t hurt, though, for President Trump to remind him of the consequences of starting one and, in so doing, perhaps give China an incentive to help us out.
Though the deterrence model seems applicable to North Korea, we cannot be certain that it won’t launch nukes against the U.S. or its allies. We can be pretty certain that diplomacy won’t work and that the cost of a preemptive strike would be too high given the likelihood that Kim Jong Un can be deterred.
Where does that leave us? It leaves us, I think, with two things we should be focusing on: (1) working feverishly on missile defense, (2) assisting Japan and South Korea militarily, especially with a nuclear program if that’s the direction in which they want to go.
|That which must not be said
Posted: 20 Sep 2017 05:34 AM PDT
John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey gave us She Who Must Be Obeyed (i.e., Rumpole’s wife as he privately referred to her). J.K. Rowling gave us He Who Must Not Be Named (i.e., the villain Voldemort). Now higher education gives us daily lessons on That Which Must Not Be Said or, ideally, Thought. Thinking the guilty thoughts puts you at risk of saying them and they must not be said.
Take the case of Professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander. Both Wax and Alexander are tenured teachers of law holding endowed chairs — Wax at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Alexander at the University of San Diego Law School. They jointly wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer column “Paying the price for the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.”
In the column Wax and Alexander articulated the social practices at the heart of middle-class America from the late 1940’s through the 1960’s: “Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”
Wax and Alexander propose that we return to these norms to mitigate widely recognized social pathologies and improve the lives of Americans of all stripes. Drawing on the lingo of the academic left, they propose that we “restore the hegemony of the bourgeois culture.” To do so, they noted: “[R]estoring the hegemony of the bourgeois culture will require the arbiters of culture — the academics, media, and Hollywood — to relinquish multicultural grievance polemics and the preening pretense of defending the downtrodden. Instead of bashing the bourgeois culture, they should return to the 1950s posture of celebrating it.”
Well, of course, this could not stand. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Heather Mac Donald recounted the institutional backlash Wax and Alexander have suffered at Penn and USD respectively (behind the Journal’s paywall, the column can be accessed via the RealClearPolitics Tuesday lineup). Heather summarized the state of play this way:
Mac Donald points out that the critics of Wax and Alexander draw on an arsenal more suited to the Cultural Revolution than to intellectual debate:
I think the Wax and Alexander column recapitulates points that the eminent social scientist Charles Murray has been making one way or another for a long time. Stay in school. Get married. Don’t have kids before you get married. Stay married if you can.
Murray put it this way in his 2012 Wall Street Journal column “The new American divide,” summarizing the conclusion he had reached in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. Murray urged what he calls “the new upper class” to drop its condescending nonjudgmentalism: “Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn’t hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices.”
The secret rules of success can even be deduced from Jason DeParle’s New York Times article “Two classes, divided by ‘I do.’” Murray’s career, however, illustrates the limits of what can be said and thought on campus today. He cannot speak on most campuses. Where he can speak, he requires substantial police protection. See, for example, Murray’s own account of his recent talk at Harvard in “Harvard shows how it should be done.” The Two Minutes Hate to which Professors Wax and Alexander are now subject represents the most recent example of the Murray phenomenon.