PowerLine -> Franken’s statement + Is Jeff Sessions Trump’s most effective cabinet member?

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PowerLine -> Franken’s statement + Is Jeff Sessions Trump’s most effective cabinet member?

Daily Digest

  • The Gathering Storm in the Western Pacific
  • Franken’s statement
  • Weekend reading
  • The Week in Pictures: Pervnado Edition
  • Is Sessions Trump’s most effective cabinet member?
The Gathering Storm in the Western Pacific

Posted: 25 Nov 2017 02:46 PM PST

(Steven Hayward)The South China Morning Post, one of the favorite go-to sources for my old professor of grand strategy Harold Rood, had an interesting article about China and North Korea a couple days ago—and notice how even the Post headline editors aren’t buying the official story:

Main link between China and North Korea to be cut when Friendship Bridge closes ‘for repairs’

The closure of the Sino-North Korean Friendship Bridge in Dandong, Liaoning province will only be “temporary” as the North Korean side carries out maintenance, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a press conference on Friday.

Traffic will resume after the repairs are finished, Geng said.

The 944-metre-long bridge linking North Korea’s light industrial centre Sinuiju to Dandong over the Yalu River has both road and rail lines. It is the route of 80 per cent of trade and a large amount of personal travel between the neighbours.

Geng did not give the date for the closure or an estimate for how long it last, nor did he specify whether it would affect road or rail travel or both. . .

Pyongyang has begun to pull back thousands of its nationals working in China, well ahead of Beijing’s deadline to close all North Korean businesses or joint venture by January 8 next year.

This is just the kind of thing, Prof. Rood used to point out, that should be watched closely, as a possible step toward “something happening.” You’d almost think that China might want to prevent a flood of refugees from North Korea surging across their border.

Then there’s this:

U.S., South Korea Plan Joint Military Exercises Next Month

Vigilant Ace 18 drills, to be held Dec. 4 to Dec. 8, will involve thousands of troops, 230 aircraft

SEOUL—Military exercises involving hundreds of U.S. and South Korean aircraft will take place on the Korean Peninsula next month, the U.S. military said, in the latest show of force aimed at deterring North Korea.

The Vigilant Ace 18 drills, to be held Dec. 4 to Dec. 8, will involve a total of 12,000 U.S. personnel from the Air Force, Marines and Navy, and 230 U.S. and South Korean aircraft, Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michal Kloeffler-Howard said Friday.

Lt. Col. Kloeffler-Howard played down suggestions that the exercises were part of a stronger-than-usual military-pressure campaign against the North, characterizing them as “annual” and “regular.”

“Annual” and “regular” are just what you’d say before exercises became “irregular.” And why might we be out of “strategic patience” with the Norks? Well, maybe this:

Newly Declassified Documents Reveal Failed N. Korea Strategy

By Daniel DePetris

The situation with North Korea was getting critical. The lights, to use the worn-out phrase, were blinking red.

The State Department, the Defense Department and the White House were increasingly concerned either that the North Korean regime was hiding components of its plutonium program from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), or that it would exploit any negotiating track to stall the international community while improving its nuclear capacity. The motives of the Chinese, Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner and bankroller by far, were unclear—adding more complication to a problem that was already far too complicated.

The years in question: 1991 and 1992, when the George H. W. Bush administration was desperately searching for a policy to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and place Pyongyang under the IAEA’s supervision. Thanks to the National Security Archive, last week’s declassification of over a dozen Bush-era documents on the North Korean nuclear issue demonstrates the extent to which administration officials in Washington were frantically trying to come to a consensus policy on preventing Pyongyang from becoming a nuclear power.

The documents also show, however, how little the North Korea discussion within the U.S. government has changed over the last twenty-five to thirty years. The talking points, policy proposals and memos that circulated throughout the interagency are composed of positions that are virtually identical to the Trump administration’s position today. Indeed, if one were to replace the names of North Korean, South Korean and American officials found in the documents with the officials who are now running things, you would find very little that is different.

Perhaps the Trump Administration and our Asian allies—and maybe even China—have come to the conclusion that this Groundhog Day policy needs to be abandoned before the Norks are able to make us start looking for holes in the ground.


Franken’s statement

Posted: 25 Nov 2017 05:57 AM PST

(Scott Johnson)The Thanksgiving statement issued by Minnesota Senator Al Franken on ventures in grope and grin photographs poses a test for Minnesota voters and Minnesota media. It is a sort of intelligence test. How stupid are you? Franken is betting that we are on par with the vegetable kingdom’s cabbage and potato. In the annals of false apology, this must set a new record:

I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.

Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that. I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.

And let me say again to Minnesotans that I’m sorry for putting them through this and I’m committed to regaining their trust.

I want to believe. I really do. Yet the statement reads like a parody of the ever-expanding universe of the apology genre. It evinces either the degradation of the Democratic consultant class or the work of an ironist rebelling against his assignment. The ironist seeks to out Franken as the jerk that everyone who knows him knows him to be.

Given that Franken has just published a best-selling memoir in which he regrets the false apology he served up in his 2008 Senate campaign, the author of the statement must expect readers to approach the text with some skepticism. Only a fool would take it at face value.

Taken at face value, however, it is devastating. In the first paragraph, Franken equates hugs with gropes. He purports to have learned over the past week that some women don’t like to be groped. As I say, this is a test.

In the second paragraph, Franken uses the words “greeting” and “embrace” and “hug” as synonyms for groping the ladies. Having deeply deliberated how anyone might be offended by a “greeting,” he now understands. Enlightenment has dawned. When he grabs the lady’s ass, he doesn’t necessarily have her at “hello.”

In the third paragraph, Franken expresses his commitment to regaining the trust of Minnesotans and apologizes for putting them through “this.” Here a close reading is warranted. “This” undoubtedly includes the statement of false apology. If an ironist is at work here, he may be a master.


Weekend reading

Posted: 25 Nov 2017 04:54 AM PST

(Scott Johnson)I want to take the liberty of drawing attention to the weekend reading of special interest without commentary from me. I recommend:

• Douglas Murray, “The Russian Revolution, 100 years on.” Murray looks back at what Communism wrought and decries its continuing appeal. NRO has posted Murray’s recent cover story along with sidebars by Anne Applebaum, David Pryce-Jones, Noah Rothman, Roger Scruton, and Radoslaw Sikorski assigning notable books for extra credit reading.

• Clifford May (Foundation for the Defense of Democracy), “Came the revolution.” The New York Times has more or less celebrated the centenary of the Russian Revolution this year. The celebration expresses a nostalgia for Communism. Former Timesman Cliff May is not amused.

• Seth Barron (City Journal), “Autonomy in the UK.” A salute to Nick Cave for rebelling against the BDS crowd, with cameos by Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr.

• Victor Davis Hanson (Defining Ideas), “A Thanksgiving toast to the Old Breed.” Dr. Hanson draws on his family background and his scholarly work to raise a toast to those who are gone.

• Ben Cohen (Wall Street Journal), “A chess novice challenged Magnus Carlsen. He had one month to train.” Max Deutsch is a self-described “extreme learner.” In the words of the song, there are such things:

Max [Deutsch] was not very good at chess himself. He’s a 24-year-old entrepreneur who lives in San Francisco and plays the sport occasionally to amuse himself. He was a prototypical amateur. Now he was preparing himself for a match against chess royalty. And he believed he could win.

The unlikely series of events that brought him to this stage began last year, when Max challenged himself to a series of monthly tasks that were ambitious bordering on absurd. He memorized the order of a shuffled deck of cards. He sketched an eerily accurate self-portrait. He solved a Rubik’s Cube in 17 seconds. He developed perfect musical pitch and landed a standing back-flip. He studied enough Hebrew to discuss the future of technology for a half-hour.

Max, a self-diagnosed obsessive learner, wanted his goals to be so lofty that he would fail to reach some. At that, he failed. Max was 11-for-11.

He knew from the beginning of his peculiar year that the hardest challenge would come in October: defeating Magnus Carlsen in a game of chess.

The article is behind the Journal’s paywall. The companion video, however, gives the short version of this compelling and — educational? inspirational? — story (below).


The Week in Pictures: Pervnado Edition

Posted: 25 Nov 2017 03:43 AM PST

(Steven Hayward)The cascade of sexual harassment charges against liberal grandees has become dizzying. I fully expect that when the details of settlements by members of Congress eventually come out—and they will come out—it will include a number of Republicans as well as Democrats. But so far the problem seems disproportionate to occur among liberals in the media and Hollywood. Gee, I wonder if there’s a connection?

 Headlines of the week:


Another example of why people hate the elite media.

Apparently, not much empathy going on in the empathy tent.

Truly important social science.

And finally. . .


Is Sessions Trump’s most effective cabinet member?

Posted: 24 Nov 2017 09:49 PM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)Many conservatives would scoff at the idea that Attorney Jeff Sessions is President Trump’s most effective cabinet member. They would cite his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation (probably the right call), his refusal to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton (probably the right call), and his failure to remember various obscure meetings with Russians, etc. (unfortunate).

But those who pay close attention to policy know that the Sessions Justice Department is advancing important conservative causes and undoing key liberal policies of the last administration. In fact, as the Washington Post puts it, he is reshaping the Justice Department.

The Post is a dubious authority on many propositions, but it knows very well who is harming left-liberalism. It correctly perceives that Sessions has made “dramatic and controversial changes in policy since taking over the top law enforcement job in the United States nine months ago.”

Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz provide this overview of Sessions’ key initiatives and accomplishments:

Sessions has implemented a new charging and sentencing policy that calls for prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible, even if that might mean minority defendants face stiff, mandatory minimum penalties. He has defended the president’s travel ban and tried to strip funding from cities with policies he considers too friendly toward undocumented immigrants.

Sessions has even adjusted the department’s legal stances in cases involving voting rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. . . .

I don’t think the word “even” belongs in the second quoted paragraph. It’s telling that the authors put it there.

Zapotosky and Horwitz tell us that, based on this record, “supporters and critics say the attorney general has been among the most effective of the Cabinet secretaries — implementing Trump’s conservative policy agenda even as the president publicly and privately toys with firing him over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia case.”

Zapotsky and Horwitz provide a fairly detailed, albeit biased, discussion of Sessions’ impact in three policy areas: immigration, law enforcement, and civil rights.

On immigration, the estimable Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, gives Sessions an “A-plus” for his work, especially for his crackdown on “sanctuary cities,” his push to hire more immigration judges, and his focus on the MS-13 gang.

On law enforcement, Sessions has promoted the rule of law by issuing a new charging and sentencing policy. We discussed that policy here

On civil rights, the Sessions Justice Department is aggressively prosecuting hate crimes. For example, he recently sent an attorney to Iowa to help the state prosecute a man who was charged with killing a gender-fluid 16-year-old high school student last year. The move drew praise from the leftist civil rights community.

At the same time, Sessions is determined not to let overly-aggressive parts of the LBGT agenda trump religious freedom. Thus, the Justice Department has sided in a major upcoming Supreme Court case with Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because he said it would violate his religious beliefs.

The Sessions Justice Department has also rolled back overly-aggressive positions taken by the Obama administration in voting rights cases. And, as we discussed here, it is investigating Harvard for race discrimination in its undergraduate admissions policies.

I’m confident there is plenty more where all of this is coming from, provided that President Trump puts policy first and retains Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.


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