PowerLine -> Tom Cotton and the future of Trumpism

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PowerLine -> Tom Cotton and the future of Trumpism

Powerline image at HoaxAndChange

Powerline image at HoaxAndChange

Daily Digest

  • Tom Cotton and the future of Trumpism
  • Losing the plot on free expression
  • Self-help, Texas style: Stephen Willeford edition
  • The New Yorker does Tom Cotton
  • Thoughts About Mass Murder
Tom Cotton and the future of Trumpism

Posted: 07 Nov 2017 02:54 PM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)

Last night, in a post about Tom Cotton, I suggested that the Senator might be one who, along with President Trump himself, helps “shape Trumpism into a functional, more traditionally conservative but still nationalistic approach to governing.” David Azerrad of the Heritage Foundation discusses the kind of synthesis I had in mind.

Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of Trumpist populism, in its current form at least, is that it can at times be thin on proposed policy solutions. This, however, could readily be remedied, especially if reform-minded conservatives were to set aside their objections to Trump and reground their policy agenda to align it more closely with Trumpism.

While Trumpism cannot readily be reconciled with anti-statist libertarianism, it could more easily absorb reform-conservatism. The conservatives would benefit from the overarching vision, the populists from having a more fleshed out policy agenda that would serve the well-being of Americans and protect national sovereignty.

I don’t expect reform conservatives as a class to set aside their objections to Trump and align their policy agenda more closely with Trumpism — not unless and until Trump carries the day in the manner of Ronald Reagan.

However, Tom Cotton is a reform-minded conservative who, as far as I know, never had dogmatic objections to Trump and whose policy agenda is already fairly closely aligned with Trumpism in important, but not all, respects. That is why, to answer Jeffrey Toobin’s question, Tom Cotton may well be the future of Trumpism, at least in a best-case scenario.

By the way, the Azerrad article referenced above is part of an excellent three-part series for The American Spectator on the ideological clashes in America today. Part I, which deals with ideological clashes on the left, is here. Part II, which deals with such clashes with the Republican Party, is here.

I recommend all three parts.


Losing the plot on free expression

Posted: 07 Nov 2017 09:31 AM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)

Shouting down a speaker is un-American. Kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem is anti-American. Giving the presidential motorcade the finger is as American as apple pie.

Yet, students who shout down speakers on college campuses typically receive no (or no meaningful) disciplinary action. Meanwhile, a woman who, while riding her bike, flipped off President Trump’s motorcade lost her job as a result.

Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post has the details on the firing of bird-flipper Juli Briskman. Dvorak seems like a hard leftist even by the Post’s standards, but I think she’s right about this matter.

America seems to be losing the plot when it comes to free expression. Given the central nature of that freedom, this is no small matter.

However, on the plus side, as I see it, the kneeling footballers have not been disciplined or required to stand.


Self-help, Texas style: Stephen Willeford edition

Posted: 07 Nov 2017 02:55 AM PST

(Scott Johnson)

To learn the lessons of the Sutherland Springs massacre we must take into account the examples of Johnnie Longendorff and Stephen Willeford. In his column today, Rich Lowry calls them “two bystanders who refused to stand by.” Thank God, Willeford was within the sound of the massacre: “When Stephen Willeford, 55, heard of the shooting, he left his house barefoot with his AR-15 and started exchanging fire with Kelley outside the church. An expert shot, Willeford hit Kelley and reportedly aimed for the gaps on his body armor.”

I couldn’t find an interview with Willeford yesterday, but Steven Crowder tracked him down to get the story from the man himself (video below). It is instructive, inspirational and humbling all at the same time. More here.


The New Yorker does Tom Cotton

Posted: 06 Nov 2017 09:43 PM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)

The New Yorker is running a piece by Jeffrey Toobin called “Is Tom Cotton the Future of Trumpism?” Toobin is a left-wing hatchet man. Ed Whelan has called foul on him several times, including here (for his treatment of Justice Scalia) and here (for his treatment of then-Judge Gorsuch). Adam White did so here.

Toobin’s treatment of Cotton is far from fair and balanced. Consider this ludicrous passage:

In describing his preferred approach to negotiations with Iran, Cotton said, “One thing I learned in the Army is that when your opponent is on his knees you drive him to the ground and choke him out.” In response, a questioner pointed out that killing a prisoner of war is not “American practice.” (It is, in fact, a war crime.)

Tom certainly wasn’t calling for the literal “choking out” of Ayatollah Khamenei and I’m quite sure he wasn’t talking about inflicting such treatment on prisoners of war in Iraq, either.

In his article, Toobin compares Tom to the unemotional, analytical, literal-minded Mr. Spock of Star Trek. Yet, when it serves his purpose of making the Senator look bad, Toobin is the absurdly literal one.

During the time Tom was stationed near Washington, D.C., we got together once every month or two for drinks. The personality Toobin ascribes to Cotton isn’t the one I observed.

Toobin also blasts Cotton for the nature of his opposition to the lenient criminal sentencing reform legislation that made its way out the Senate Judiciary Committee in late 2015. Toobin writes:

Cotton took the public lead in making statements about the proposal which, as with his comments on Guantánamo, skirted the edge of demagoguery. “I don’t think any Republicans want legislation that is going to let out violent felons, which this bill would do,” Cotton said.

Toobin fails to show, or even make an argument, that this was close to demagoguery. Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, conceded that “yes, [the legislation] would release some violent offenders.”

Readers of Toobin’s piece will spot other instances of unfairness, but let’s focus now on the question the author raises. Is Tom Cotton the future of Trumpism?

It’s clear from Toobin’s discussion of Cotton’s foreign policy views that, although Toobin may miss the fact, Cotton is not a down-the-line Trumpist. I’ve long thought, and probably written somewhere on Power Line, that Tom might well be the one to synthesize Trumpism and traditional conservatism.

This view may be outdated, though, because Trump himself seems to be working on that synthesis — with Tom’s help on certain issues.

So yes, Tom Cotton may be the future of Trumpism, but not in the sense Toobin has in mind. Toobin has in mind the shallow notion that “to make that next leap [to the presidency], Cotton expresses the militarism, bellicosity, intolerance, and xenophobia of Donald Trump, but without the childish tweets.”

I have in mind that Cotton may help Trump shape Trumpism into a functional, more traditionally conservative but still nationalistic approach to governing, and then, after Trump exits, continue that process.


Thoughts About Mass Murder

Posted: 06 Nov 2017 08:10 PM PST

(John Hinderaker)

My wife and I returned a few days ago from a vacation in England. At one point, we walked across the Westminster Bridge, where earlier this year an Islamic terrorist drove a vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians, killing four and injuring more than 50. Since that attack, barriers have been erected between the roadway and the pedestrian paths across the bridge. They are referred to by some as “diversity bollards.” In addition, perhaps because the Nice terrorist got his truck onto the Promenade inside of whatever barriers existed on the road, there are roadblocks at the ends as well, so that a driver can’t circumvent the bollards.

So pedestrians are safe as they cross the bridge. I took this photo from around the middle of the bridge:

However, if a terrorist were to drive another 15 feet beyond the bridge in either direction, there is nothing to stop him from steering his vehicle into the throngs of pedestrians that are nearly always present. The bridge has been secured, for whatever limited purpose that serves. It is a bit like the fact that we are all required to remove our shoes before boarding an airplane because years ago, Richard Reid concealed explosives in his shoe.

Vehicle attacks are essentially impossible to stop, without a major redesign of our cities. Our only real defense is the fact that very few people want to be mass murderers and, most likely, die in the process. We could tie ourselves in knots trying to figure out how to keep vehicles out of the hands of potentially dangerous people, but that would be foolish. Vehicles are everywhere. Often terrorists steal or rent them before committing their atrocities.

These thoughts are prompted by the Sutherland Springs massacre perpetrated by Devin Kelley. Before the bodies were cold, Democrats were demanding new and improved ways of keeping firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people. Recent reports suggest that Kelley may have obtained his rifle illegally; that remains to be seen, and I don’t think it is a particularly important point. Firearms, like motor vehicles, are very common. The idea that gun control laws, no matter how numerous or draconian, will consistently keep firearms out of the hands of would-be mass murderers is delusional. That doesn’t mean that we should abandon the NICS system and other regulations, it simply means that we should recognize their limitations.

Moreover, the root cause of murder isn’t firearms or cars. It is evil. Countries where there are vastly fewer firearms than in the U.S. still have homicides, often at rates higher than ours. In England, “knife crime” has long been an obsessive concern, and acid attacks have become common. Personally, I would rather be shot than have my face melted by acid.

So, is there a solution to the problem of mass shootings? No, just as there is no solution to the problem of vehicle attacks. But some things can be done, as illustrated by the Sutherland Springs slaughter. I have two concrete suggestions.

First, more people should carry firearms. Devin Kelley was able to kill dozens and wound many more because he was the only person on the scene who had a gun. If three or four of the parishioners had been armed, in all likelihood his attack would have been less deadly. Similar future attacks might also have been deterred. The response of local citizens who engaged Kelley and ultimately chased him down illustrates the point.

Second, we could train people to respond more effectively to mass shooting incidents. The conventional advice to go to ground is, I think, wrong. One person, no matter how heavily armed, should not be able to shoot 50. If five or ten of the intended victims charge the shooter from various angles, they in all likelihood will be able to knock him down and secure his firearm. This is what happened in 2015 when three Americans, two of them off-duty military, charged and disabled a would-be terrorist on a French train.

The most extreme example of this phenomenon that I can recall (I am going from memory, but you could look it up) was at Virginia Tech, where the lunatic Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people. At one point, I recall that he ordered a half dozen or so young men to line up against a wall, where he shot them. If those men had separated and charged the perpetrator instead of obeying his command, one or two of them may have been shot, but together they could have ended his rampage.

The problem, of course, is that when confronted unexpectedly by a murderer, most people panic and don’t spontaneously organize concerted action. But civil defense-type training could overcome this, at least in part.

There is no ultimate solution to the problem of evil, which has been with us forever. But specifically with regard to mass shooting incidents, there are concrete steps that could be taken to limit their lethality.


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