Pleased to announce that I'm moving this blog to a new site:
Unlike this site, you can subscribe or least be notified of new posts. No charge. I promise you'll get your money's worth.
Pleased to announce that I'm moving this blog to a new site:
Unlike this site, you can subscribe or least be notified of new posts. No charge. I promise you'll get your money's worth.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi conducted a surreal news conference today. While defending the continued presence of nearly 10,000 Army National Guard troops in the nation's capitol, she called for more funding to help protect Members of Congress "from the enemy within."
That brought back McCarthyite statements and tactics from the 1950's (and a certain 1994 movie). Then again, McCarthyism (Joseph, not the "Kevin" variety) has been on full display by Democrats for several weeks now. But since American history is no longer taught in schools, it seems, few of any know the sordid tale of the late US Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), and his "Army-McCarthy" hearings. It was a dark episode in modern American history, but a turning point.
But those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And now, we seem to have several new Joseph McCarthy's reaching for the mantle. This time, they're Democrats.
You think I'm exaggerating. Have you checked out "cancel culture" lately, and compared it to the Hollywood "blacklists" of the 1950's? There is practically no difference, except cancel culture can hit anyone. And has.
Stealing a page from her former colleague Rahm Emmanuel's playbook, Speaker Pelosi is not letting a crisis - the January 6th Capitol breach - go to waste. It would appear that the gawd-awful, East German Stasi-style fencing and concertina wire are soon to become a permanent feature in an increasingly military-occupied Washington, DC.
I guess my days of giving after-hours Capitol tours is pretty much over, until the city is liberated by another "free and fair" election. Yeah, I know.
Pelosi's news conference brought back bad memories of my first days as Secretary of Senate in June, 1995. It had only been about 2 months since the Murrah Building terrorist attack in my hometown of Oklahoma City. Washington was all agog over how to prevent Hertz rental trucks full of ammonium nitrate from driving down streets adjacent to where Members of Congress might be found.
You might be surprised to know what the Capitol Police had in mind then. They wanted to close off several streets around the Capitol, including Constitution and Independence Avenues (the main avenues that border the Capitol to the north and south, respectively). They were partially successful, but their goal was to create a separate, walled city around the entire Capitol complex (several US Senators were in favor of that, by the way). I was specifically briefed on the closing of Delaware Avenue, which paralleled the Russell Senate Office building. I opposed it, but I had no say - the decision had been made. I strongly opposed separating Capitol complex offices from people (at the time, we had 4.5 million visitors annually to the Capitol - it reached around 6-8 million. Or, was).
One of my 'accomplishments' was contributing to a study on the need for a new $125 million Capitol Visitors Center to help improve Capitol security and facilitate the visitor experience at this very important working office building. I strongly advocated for it, but the congressional media at the time shrugged their shoulders, and several Members of Congress said he could not afford it. It took two Capitol police officers to be murdered by a deranged killer just two years after I left office to spur action. Some $800+ million later, we have a superb Capitol Visitors Center. Or should I call it a National Guard armory?
Except now, we're on the verge of making it impossible for Americans to visit the seat of their government. Yes, their government. Let that sink in. Lincoln's famous words, that we are a government "of the people, for the people, and by the people" are beginning to ring hollow.
These are perilous times. Nancy Pelosi apparently thinks a couple of her colleagues - both women, by the way, including 5'5" Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who wants to conceal-carry around the Capitol (as she did at her restaurant in Rifle, CO, which I hope to visit in April) and the admittedly kooky Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) are enemies of the Republic. Maybe others, but she's not saying. Why punish all 440+ Members of Congress (voting and non-voting delegates)? We've had plenty of kooks serve in Congress and survived the experience. If anything, news reporters may have a bigger history of violence in the Capitol than members of Congress, or even lobbyists.
So, yes, let's improve Capitol security. Clearly mistakes were made that allowed a bunch of clowns and violent actors to overwhelm Capitol Police on January 6th. But let us not over-react, and remember who we are. There is vastly improved technology (drones, anyone?), and there are at least 6 different law enforcement agencies in an around Washington, DC, not including neighboring local law enforcement. We are America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. Where we, the people, govern.
Do not let your Member of Congress, House or Senate, turn our Capitol into their personal enclave, nor permanently establish martial law in your Capitol city. You are not the problem. They may be.
Meet Will Wilkinson. He's conservative writer for the Niskanen Center, a center-right think tank on the West Coast, with occasional op-eds and the like in the New York Times and elsewhere.
As many of my friends know, I am no stranger to doxing. It happened to me about two years ago. The usual ingredients were present - an intemperate tweet taken down from a wholly independent and personal account with a whopping 2,200 followers, followed by an organized outrage mob tweeting and emailing to an employer demanding retribution. The mob's usual allies in the corporate media, found at disreputable online publications like TheDailyBeast.com, but also including CNN, the Washington Post, and Bloomberg were happy to join in, more often than not with completely false reporting. Don't be surprised that the alleged champions of the First Amendment are also among those seeking to make sure a lot of can't exercise it. As Andrew Sullivan has said, "Some journalists live to silence others. More and more of them." Members of the mob occasionally edit a Wikepedia page about my service as Secretary of the Senate to misrepresent facts or repeat provably wrong lies. It is but one reason that you cannot trust Wikipedia as a credible source of information.
Don't take my word for you. You can just "Google" me to see the sordid tale, warts, lies and all.
Just for the record, the offending tweet was harsh but was largely substantiated by independent conservative journalist Michelle Malkin in her 2019 book, Open Borders, Inc., about the organization and funding, direct and otherwise, for the October 2018 migrant caravan. My only mistake, aside from the harsh tone of the tweet (never tweet while angry, even when you believe the anger is justified), was not noting that the funding was indirect.
The organization that led that caravan and is behind several others, is called Pueblo Sin Fronteras - People Without Borders. Just for grins, check out their past funding and affiliations with migrant caravans. Facts are stubborn things.
I probably sound a bit defensive, but I'm still dealing with this more than two years later. Stories like Will Wilkinson's, and many others, keep highlighting the damaging and corrosive culture that is destroying discourse, careers and lives. And the corporate media shows no sign of ending their aiding and abetting it.
Just take the latest: Cara Dumaplin, best known on her 1.3 million member Instagram account as "Take Cara Babies." She reportedly is a parenting expert who specializes in calming screaming babies.
As Vox.com here outlines, someone discovered that her and her husband had contributed some $2,000 to various political accounts supporting President Donald Trump.
Bess Kalb is an author and screenwriter with 279,000 Twitter followers. She leads the doxing campaign against Cara Dumaplin. I guess if you contributed to Donald Trump's campaign, you are incapable of helping babies go to sleep. Who knew?
I'm often asked why many thoughtful conservatives (especially Trump supporters) don't often answer calls from pollsters, openly share their political views, or talk politics anymore, except behind private chat apps like Telegram and Signal. I utter the same two words - "Cancel Culture" - and note how conservatives tip toe around corporate cultures to avoid the marauding mobs of wokesters, many at companies that might surprise you, looking to single out, marginalize, and place targets on the back of coworkers who deviate from Group Think. So much for "diversity" and "inclusion." Many will relate to Spector.org's Melissa McKenzie:
I really am working to restore this social fabric, working with and supporting others who are more expert than me at the cause. My friend Rob Fersh and I co-authored an op-ed in TheHill.Com. My friend Mark Rodgers at The Clapham Group has outlined a thoughtful proposal on a new "Social Capital Campaign." There is some good thought and work being done in this space. But if conservatives are going to participate in this restorative process, cancel culture needs to stop, and that starts by The Left - and The Right - calling out offenders in their own ranks. Glenn Greenwald is the only man of "The Left" that I see going after cancel culture artists.
Niskanan Center, it's your turn, and I'm calling you out. Shame on you. Rehire Will Wilkinson, and apologize.
Will Wilkinson is about as mainstream and conventional a thinker as one can find, and is unfailingly civil and restrained in his rhetoric. But yesterday, he was fired by the technocratic centrist think tank for which he worked, the Niskanen Center, and appears on the verge of being fired as well by The New York Times, where he is a contributing writer. This multi-pronged retribution is due to a single tweet that was obviously satirical and sarcastic and for which he abjectly apologized. But no matter: the tweet has been purposely distorted into something malevolent and the prevailing repressive climate weaponized it against him.
Neither Wilkinson nor his tweet are particularly interesting. What merits attention here is the now-pervasive climate that fostered this tawdry episode, and which has unjustly destroyed countless reputations and careers with no sign of slowing down.
During the Bush and Obama years, Wilkinson worked at the libertarian CATO Institute but, even then, he was not much of a libertarian. As he himself explained, he is far more of a standard-issue neoliberal that one finds everywhere throughout DC think tanks, the op-ed pages of large newspapers, and the green rooms of CNN, just with a bit wonkier style of expression and a few vague libertarian gestures on some isolated issues. That self-description was in 2012, and he since then has become even more of a standard liberal during the Trump era, which is why the Paper of Record made him a contributor opinion writer where he published articles under such bold and groundbreaking headlines as “Trump Has Disqualified Himself From Running in 2020.”
On Wednesday, the night of Joe Biden’s inauguration, Wilkinson posted this now-deleted tweet in which he was obviously not calling for violence. He was instead sardonically noting that anti-Pence animus became a prevailing sentiment among some MAGA followers over the last month, including reports that at least a few of those who breached the Capitol were calling for Pence’s hanging on treason grounds, thus ironically enabling liberals and MAGA followers to “unite” over that desire:
The next morning, a right-wing hedge fund manager and large-money GOP donor, Gabe Hoffman, flagged this tweet and claimed to believe that Wilkinson “call[ed] for former Vice President Mike Pence to be lynched.” Hoffman also tweeted at Wilkinson’s New York Times bosses to ask if they have “any comment on your ‘contributing opinion writer’ calling for violence against a public official?,” and then tweeted at Wilkinson’s other bosses at the think tank to demand the same.
It is unclear whether Hoffman really believed what he was saying or was just trying to make a point that liberals should be forced to live under these bad faith, repressive “cancel culture” standards he likely blames them for creating and imposing on others. This is how he responded when I posed that question:
I was not attempting anything. Numerous major news outlets reported on Wilkinson's tweet, including Fox News. I simply documented the events on my Twitter feed yesterday. Clearly, many liberal journalists were outraged at his firing, noticed my documentation, and decided to inexplicably blame me for his firing. It's ridiculous that many liberal journalists apparently had nothing better to do on Twitter, than blame a guy with less than 10,000 followers documenting events, for getting Wilkinson fired, considering many major news outlets reported on Wilkinson's tweet.
When I pressed further on whether he really believed that Wilkinson’s tweet was an earnest call for assassination or whether he was just demanding that perceived “cancel culture” standards be applied equally, he responded: “I did not take a position either way on the matter. Wilkinson is perfectly capable of explaining the tweet and his intended meaning, since he wrote it. Clearly, given the content, the least one can expect is that he should give that explanation.”
Either way, intentional or not, Hoffman’s distorted interpretation of Wilkinson’s tweet produced instant results. That afternoon, Wilkinson posted a long and profuse apology to Twitter in which he made clear that he did not intend to advocate violence, but still said: “Last night I made an error of judgment and tweeted this. It was sharp sarcasm, but looked like a call for violence. That's always wrong, even as a joke. It was especially wrong at a moment when unity and peace are so critical. I'm deeply sorry and vow not to repeat the mistake. . . . [T]here was no excuse for putting the point the way I did. It was wrong, period.”
At least for now, that apology fell on deaf ears. The president and co-founder of the Niskanen Center, Jerry Taylor, quickly posted a statement (now deleted without comment) announcing Wilkinson’s immediate firing, a statement promptly noted by Hoffman:
Wilkinson’s job with The New York Times is also clearly endangered. A spokesperson for the paper told Fox News: “Advocating violence of any form, even in jest, is unacceptable and against the standards of The New York Times. We’re reassessing our relationship with Will Wilkinson."
So a completely ordinary and unassuming liberal commentator is in jeopardy of having his career destroyed because of a tweet that no person in good faith could possibly believe was actually advocating violence and which, at worst, could be said to be irresponsibly worded. And this is happening even though everyone knows it is all based on a totally fictitious understanding of what he said. Why?
It is important to emphasize that Wilkinson’s specific plight is the least interesting and important aspect of this story. Unlike most people subjected to these sorts of bad faith reputation-wrecking attacks, he has many influential media friends and allies who are already defending him — including New York Times columnists Ezra Klein and Ross Douthat — and I would be unsurprised if this causes the paper to keep him and the Niskanen Center to reverse its termination of him.
All of this is especially ironic given that the president of this colorless, sleepy think tank — last seen hiring the colorless, sleepy Matt Yglesias — himself has a history of earnestly and non-ironically advocating actual violence against people. As Aaron Sibarium documented, Taylor took to Twitter over the summer to say that he wishes BLM and Antifa marchers had “rushed” the St. Louis couple which famously displayed guns outside their homes and “beat their brains in,” adding: “excuse me if I root for antifa to punch these idiots out.” So that’s the profound, pious believer in non-violence so deeply offended by Wilkinson’s tweet that he quickly fired him from his think tank.
Whatever else might be true of them, the Niskanen Center’s president and The New York Times editors are not dumb enough to believe that Wilkinson was actually advocating that Mike Pence be lynched. It takes only a few functional brain cells to recognize what his actual intent with that tweet was, as poorly expressed or ill-advised as it might have been given the context-free world of Twitter and the tensions of the moment. So why would they indulge all this by firing a perfectly inoffensive career technocrat, all to appease the blatant bad faith and probably-not-even-serious demands of the mob?
Because this is the framework that we all now live with. It does not matter whether the anger directed at the think tank executives or New York Times editors is in good faith or not. It is utterly irrelevant whether there is any validity to the complaints against Wilkinson and the demands that he be fired. The merit of these kinds of grievance campaigns is not a factor.
All that matters to these decision-makers is societal scorn and ostracization. That is why the only thing that can save Wilkinson is that he has enough powerful friends to defend him, enabling them to reverse the cost-benefit calculus: make it so that there is more social scorn from firing Wilkinson than keeping him. Without the powerful media friends he has assembled over the years, he would have no chance to salvage his reputation and career no matter how obvious it was that the complaints against him are baseless.
Humans are social and political animals. We do fundamentally crave and need privacy. But we also crave and need social integration and approval. That it is why prolonged solitary confinement in prison is a form of torture that is almost certain to drive humans insane. It is why John McCain said far worse than the physical abuse he endured in a North Vietnamese prison was the long-term isolation to which he was subjected. It is why modern society’s penchant for removing what had been our sense of community — churches, mosques, and synagogues; union halls and bowling leagues; small-town life — has coincided with a significant increase in mental health pathologies, and it is why the lockdowns and isolation of the COVID pandemic have made all of those, predictably, so much worse.
Those who have crafted a society in which mob anger, no matter how invalid, results in ostracization and reputation-destruction have exploited these impulses. If you are a think tank executive in Washington or a New York Times editor, why would you want to endure the attacks on you for “sanctioning violence” or “inciting assassinations” just to save Will Wilkinson? The prevailing culture vests so much weight in these sorts of outrage mobs that it is almost always easier to appease them than resist them.
The recent extraordinary removal of the social media platform Parler from the internet was clearly driven by these dynamics. It is inconceivable that Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos and Google executives believe that Parler is some neo-Nazi site that played anywhere near the role in planning and advocating for the Capitol riot as Facebook and YouTube did. But they know that significant chunks of liberal elite culture believe this (or at least claim to), and they thus calculate — not irrationally, even if cowardly — that they will have to endure a large social and reputational hit for refusing mob demands to destroy Parler. Like the Niskanen and Times bosses with Wilkinson, they had to decide how much pain they were willing to accept to defend Parler, and — as is usually the case — it turned out the answer was not much. Thus was Parler destroyed, with nowhere near the number of important liberal friends that Wilkinson has.
The perception that this is some sort of exclusively left-wing tactic is untrue. Recall in 2003, in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when the lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, uttered this utterly benign political comment at a concert in London: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence. And we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.” In response, millions joined a boycott of their music, radio stations refused to play their songs, Bush supporters burned their albums, and country star Toby Keith performed in front of a gigantic image of Maines standing next to Saddam Hussein, as though her opposition to the war meant she admired the Iraqi dictator.
But two recent trends have greatly intensified this mania. Social media is one of the most powerful generators of group-think ever invented in human history, enabling a small number of people to make decision-makers feel besieged with scorn and threatened with ostracization if they do not obey mob demands. The other is that the liberal-left has gained cultural hegemony in the most significant institutions — from academia and journalism to entertainment, sports, music and art — and this weapon, which they most certainly did not invent, is now vested squarely in their hands.
But all weapons, once unleashed onto the world, will be copied and wielded by opposing tribes. Gabe Hoffman has likely seen powerless workers fired in the wake of the George Floyd killing for acts as trivial as a Latino truck driver innocently flashing an “OK” sign at a traffic light or a researcher fired for posting data about the political effects of violent v. non-violent protests and realized that he could use, or at least trifle with, this power against liberals instead of watching it be used by them. So he did it.
It’s exactly the same dynamic that led liberals to swoon over Donald Trump’s banning from social media and the mass-banning of his followers only to watch yesterday as numerous Antifa accounts were banned for the crime of organizing an anti-Biden march and how, before that, Palestinian journalists and activists have been banned en masse whenever Israel claims their rhetoric constitutes “incitement.”
Unleash this monster and one day it will come for you. And you’ll have no principle to credibly invoke in protest when it does. You’ll be left with nothing more than lame and craven pleading that your friends do not deserve the same treatment as your enemies. Force, not principle, will be the sole factor deciding the outcome.
If you’re lucky enough to have important and famous media friends like Will Wilkinson, you have a chance to survive it. Absent that, you have none.
I suspect not many of you read US Sen. Josh Hawley's (R-MO) op-ed in the New York Post on Monday morning. You should.
This essay from Spectator.us, one of my favorite reads to which I subscribe, is a perfect example. It is written anonymously by someone who considers themselves a “whistleblower” within the Social Justice Movement, Hollywood Division. I especially love the “Wokeyleaks” moniker. This could be a really fun miniseries, but don’t count on Netflix or Amazon to produce it.
It is illuminating and insightful. Especially the penultimate paragraph:
“We are so trapped within the algorithm that we’re blind to the fact that social justice is no longer a political movement but a branding exercise. We are not activists and revolutionaries but consumers, liking and sharing videos and memes about democracy and equality on phones built by serfs in faraway fiefdoms. This is why the social justice movement has been so rapidly and seamlessly adopted by corporate America. It’s all PR with no action. When you walk into the lobby of Netflix’s headquarters in LA, you are greeted by a huge megaphone prop with the words ‘Stay Woke’ spray painted across it — this from a company that edits its content at the request of the Saudi Arabian regime.”
There is ample evidence to suggest that America's "social fabric," that which binds our diverse society together, still hangs but is torn, tattered, wind-whipped, and relentlessly soiled by corrosive forces.
First, the January 6th breach of the Capitol by a hundred or so extremists opened a political opportunity for Democrats - not just to blame President Trump for "inciting" violence, but to drive a wedge between establishment Republicans and Trump supporters. They rightly figured that House and Senate Republicans, among others, would recoil at the violence and damage done to the Capitol.
They were correct. And they responded with a hurried, even "emergency" impeachment of President Trump. No hearings, no investigation, no Judiciary Committee vote, no due process of any kind. And it passed on a largely party-line vote, with 10 Republicans joining in. Establishment Republicans, including reputed New York Times "conservative" columnist Bret Stephens, praised House Conference Lynn Cheney and 9 of her colleagues for their "courage."
Where people may be confused is this: if it was such an "emergency," why hasn't the trial already been started? That's because Speaker Pelosi has never sent the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. This is no constitutional or legal requirement for her to do so, although it was announced today that she will solemnly march them over on Monday.
Senate rules require that an impeachment trial of a president must begin the next "legislative day." They are very prescriptive. Meanwhile, new President Joe Biden has a Cabinet to confirm and an agenda to pursue. So there are some cross currents facing Democrats as well. Some believe the Senate can walk and chew gum at the same time, and conduct business between sessions of a trial, but that would require bipartisan cooperation, perhaps even unanimous consent, and that is very unlikely to happen.
Many establishment Republicans are now clamoring for Trump's conviction to ensure he is not a candidate again in 2024 - the very reasons cited by now-Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer for his support as well. Unity! Healing! Some Republicans agree, believing that excising the Trump "cancer" would help the party rebuild. Some 74.2 million Americans who voted for Trump, the second-highest vote total for a presidential candidate in American history, might disagree.
This places Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell onto a difficult highwire act with all sorts of crosswinds. The Republican's most astute political analyst, McConnell is surely on to the Democrats' political strategy. This is about the 2022 midterm elections and keeping the House and Senate under Democratic control. By driving a wedge between Republicans, Schumer and his Democratic allies would love nothing more than Trump supporters to fade back into the woodwork, stay home on election day, 2022, or better yet, abandon the Republican party entirely.
That is a real possibility. By doing so, Schumer greatly tilts the playing field in his direction and forces Republicans to spend precious time and resources rebuilding their badly fractured base.
Some believe McConnell made a mistake by accusing Trump, in a Senate floor speech, of "provoking" the events of January 6th at the Capitol. He may have, but that may also be part of his highwire act to keep his 49 GOP colleagues as unified as possible, between those who might vote to convict Trump and those who believe the process is unconstitutional. McConnell has not signaled how he would vote. He is keeping his cards close to his vest. There are Republicans who see long-term value of excising Trump from politics. McConnell may be one of them. He's not saying.
Reports are that GOP Senators - 17 of whom would be needed along with all 50 Democrats to convict Trump and deny him a future public office and other emoluments - are moving towards a consensus that the impeachment trial of a former President who has clearly left office is unconstitutional. Reportedly, Chief Justice John Roberts has signaled as much and does not want - and may refuse - to preside at the trial. That puts Democrats in charge of presiding over their own trial. They need to think about that.
Meanwhile, the business of the country (or, at least Democrats, who are busy destroying pipeline and energy jobs while revving up their regulatory engines), continues. And President Biden, who made a commendable appeal for unity and ending division, says nothing about a process that clearly is aimed not just at Trump, but Trump supporters, a process that clearly pits "red" versus "blue," which he supposedly wants to end. The words ring hollow for many and may have contributed to almost the worst-ever honeymoon polling for the new President, as recorded by Rasmussen.
So, Schumer's political machinations continue - whether a trial would really advantage Democrats, is genuinely permitted under the Constitution (we're in unprecedented territory here - we've never tried a former President in an impeachment trial), as does McConnell's. We're watching the middle of a high-stakes poker game.
Best guess: the trial happens, because the Democratic base will insist, and Schumer will see more benefit than cost. He may calculate that he will lose on a conviction vote, but mission accomplished - he will get a divisive vote to use against some Republicans in the 2022 midterms (I can imagine the TV commercials now). Republicans will remain divided, and Trump voters angry. Republicans, ultimately, will object to a trial over constitutional concerns, with an assist from the Chief Justice. Schumer will try to expedite the trial. Biden will remain silent, sadly. Republicans wisely will boycott the trial but show up to defeat the motion to convict, which will require 67 votes. It will be defeated, but some Republicans, such as Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and possibly two or three others, will likely join with the Democrats.
That is not a good scenario for the nation. Or for President Biden.
This is Biden's first test of his lofty inaugural address. If he is serious about unity and healing the nation's division, he should call Speaker Pelosi and tell her never to send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. He should tell Sen. Schumer that there are more important things to do. Biden and Vice President Harris, who is likely to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2024 (if not the incumbent President by then), probably is salivating at a chance to run against then-78-year-old Donald Trump after another bruising GOP primary. She's making calculations of her own about a trial, and if conviction looks possible, she may get cold feet.
Biden could do the nation a big favor by calling on his congressional leaders to let this go. Americans of all stripes (except the most partisan) would applaud. Is he up to it? We're about to find out.
"Is this Donald Trump’s legacy? Have those of us who thought we were fighting a monster become one ourselves? Six months ago, progressives marched against police overreach and scolded their fellow citizens for calling the cops on looters. Today, these same people fantasise openly about seeing the MAGA rioters behind bars. Activists who used the public sphere of social media to transform a hashtag campaign into a global movement for justice now celebrate the silencing of their political opponents."
"It was the refusal of American media to question the necessity of these extraordinary measures that will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the entire bizarre affair. It confirmed that journalists will uncritically accept extravagant shows of intrusive state force, so long as the political incentives are correctly aligned. During the riots in the summer, the US media generally reacted with horror to the prospect of the American military being deployed to allay “civil unrest,” with many claiming that it would be tantamount to white supremacy for soldiers to deter arson attacks against small minority-owned businesses and private residences."
"In a time of polarized partisan parity, passing major bipartisan legislation is mostly impossible, and using partisan majorities to pass longtime wish lists usually boomerangs on those in power."
This is one, by futurist George Friedman. Distinctly non-political and gently inspirational, it puts the day in true perspective, one often not appreciated outside Washington’s beltway. It is important be reminded, from time to time, that not everything is political, nor should be, nor emanates from our well-meaning (well, most of them) political class. Those genuinely interested in “healing” (versus “heeling”) and “unity” (i.e., conformity) should take special note. The line, “so be it” sent a chill down my spine.
I try to refrain from posting on things that are obvious, or which everyone else is commenting. I’ll just say that I frankly found the events of the day(s) quite weird and uninspiring, even contradictory - calls for unity and healing amidst concertina-wired fences and some 30,000 mostly armed troops, with nothing but military marches down an empty Pennsylvania Avenue. Did Lewis Carroll concoct the script (you know, the author of Alice in Wonderland)?
Author Ben Domenech, who edits The Federalist and writes a daily missive, “The Transom,” today describes our new President’s inaugural address better than I can:
“Yesterday’s remarks from Joe Biden were what we thought they would be: a lot of talk about unity, and a lot of condemnations of other Americans along the way. The unity talk went over just as expected, with Republicans rolling their eyes. Of course there was unity on that dais in Washington, with a thousand of America’s elites - nearly all of them already vaccinated, but wearing masks to send a message - guarded by tens of thousands of troops against the dire threat of revolt that we are told came this close to toppling our democracy. The mixed message of what you were being told and what you saw on screen was obvious. The Bidens feel temporary, the government feels fragile, and the media’s attempts at spin and fluff feel irritating but obvious - as John Cleese would say, like setting Julie Andrews on fire.”
Then again, we live in weird, uncertain times. Thus this essay is a welcome respite from the siren sounds of the day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Recently Dr. Anthony Fauci, the 80-year-old, 30+ year head of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases and Allergies - allegedly our nation's top epidemiologist - has been used, perhaps unfairly, as an example of failing up.
But today, we have a new candidate. Dr. Rachel Levine, President-elect Joe Biden's announced nominee for Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. It is perhaps the number 3 position at HHS, responsible for several hugely important agencies, from the Food and Drug Administration to the Public Health Service. It is arguably one of the top scientific positions in all government and the nation's top health official (although Dr. Fauci was asked to be President Biden's "chief medical advisor").
Of course, we know why Dr. Levine was chosen. She is transgender. It has everything to do with politics, and nothing to do with science, and certainly not with competence or integrity. Having lived through Pennsylvania's horrific mismanagement of the COVID crisis, there is overwhelming evidence that Dr. Levine is grossly unqualified to serve in any position of public trust.
Yet, the minute Dr. Levine is criticized by any public person, they will instantly be accused of bigotry. One dare not mention that Dr. Levine's gender dysphoria in the context of criticizing the health secretary's scientific and policy judgments. If you do, the thought police emerge instantly and make Dr. Levin into a victim. I've seen it. Just don't go there.
Every Senate Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which will hold a hearing on Dr. Levine's nomination, will highlight her transgenderism, followed by every single Senate Democratic floor speech once it reaches the full chamber (and it will). Second, there's ample ammunition in Dr. Levine's awful record to torpedo the nomination.
Unfortunately, in a nominally Democrat-controlled Senate, symbolism and politics will trump science and competence. It will be interesting to see which Republicans will go along with Dr. Levine's confirmation. I'm betting most of them, including Pennsylvania GOP Senator Pat Toomey. I hope that I am wrong. And watch what happens to Senators who are critical of Dr. Levine.
What follows is but a small sample of Dr. Levine's failures as noted by Pennsylvania's leading media. With a record like this, given the responsibilities for vaccine distribution and administration and health policy in general, our nation's health leadership and infrastructure - and those who depend on it - are in for a very challenging time.
Documents from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania - one of the state's most populous county in the Philadelphia suburbs, reveal the fear county officials had about Dr. Levine's and the state's mismanagement, especially with regard to nursing homes.
More than two-thirds of COVID deaths in Pennsylvania occur among aged Americans in long-term care facilities, among the highest in the country. Early in the crisis, Pennsylvania had a plan to deal with that. They not only failed to use it, Dr. Levine and Governor Tom Wolf (D) forced unprepared nursing homes, against their protests, to accept COVID-positive patients.
Perhaps even worse, Dr. Levine and her team quietly changed the death counts as the crisis worsened.
But here's the coup de grace. As the Pennsylvania COVID nursing home crisis worsened - as Dr. Levine was forcing nursing homes to accept COVID positive patients - she moved her mother out of her nursing home into a hotel. Too bad other Pennsylvania families could not have been afforded the same opportunity.
Pennsylvania's vaccination rate, despite having one of the highest per capita populations of 65+ Americans, trails many states, including Florida.
There is nothing inspiring about a record or a person like this. It should frighten and alarm you. Dr. Levine should never have been nominated and should have been fired as Pennsylvania's health secretary months ago.
Now it is time for Americans - and the media - to hold Senators accountable for the confirmation process, and to watch their votes carefully.
Dr. King was brilliant in many ways, both as a messenger of the gospel and as an agent for change in the cause of Civil Rights. It would cost him his life, and I think he saw it coming.
Sadly, Dr. King isn't celebrated as he should be today, because his approach is now not acceptable to the Black Lives Matter organization or their compatriots at Antifa. Nor is his admonition to be judged on the "content of our character" instead of the "color of our skin" consistent with the "Critical Race Theory" crowd that dominates our educational institutions from elementary schools to a Ph.D.
There's more. No one ever quotes this from Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech of August 28, 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:
A good friend of mine sent me US Senator Ben Sasse's (R-NE) recent essay in The Atlantic Magazine.
Disclosure: I was a "maxed out" contributor to Sen. Sasse in the last election cycle and co-hosted a fundraiser for him in Philadelphia. I am an admirer. He is a Ph.D. historian, former college president, and one-time Justice Department official with a keen mind and a sharp pen. No matter what some critics on the right say, he is a solid conservative - one of the most conservative members of the US Senate.
But his essay misses the mark a bit. And The Atlantic is hardly a fair-minded publication (just ask Kevin Williamson) for such an essay if you're really interested in reaching Trump supporters. The Atlantic seems more interested in trashing conservatives and Republicans. Ben obliges a bit too much, although the headline writer clearly didn't read past the 4th or 5th paragraph. As a former newspaper editor who has done my share of copy editing and headline writing, they never do. His piece is more fair-minded than headlined.
If you read the essay, you'll soon discover that Sasse rightly excoriates the media, which has done the lion's share of damage to our social fabric by monetizing division and conspiracy theories of their own. He gave too little attention to harmful Democratic conspiracy theories (see: Russia Collusion Hoax) and their tacit if not outright approval of this summer's violent rioting in more than 200 American cities and towns. It was Democrats, after all, that first raised, including their own election theories about Dominion voting systems as far back as 2017. That wasn't just punished but rewarded by the media and other infectious aspects of our culture (e.g., Pulitizer Prizes to the NY Times and WaPo for their "reporting" on the Russia hoax. They were proven to be wrong by none other than Robert Mueller's $30 million investigations and the treasure trove of declassified documents from the FBI and DOJ).
Much of those Trump supporter's excesses were driven by the belief that we now have a two-tiered judicial system (not without evidence), and elections are tilted if not rigged to favor Democrats (not everywhere, of course, but they certainly were in PA this past fall. Pat Toomey is simply wrong about that), even if they don't rise to the level of overturning an election. We will simply never know.
I think Ben, whom I admire, misses the mark a bit. But I can't blame him given his proximity to the horrible events of January 6th. Non-crazy Trump supporters (about 73 million of them) have some legit grievances and do not embrace the over-blown QAnon conspiracy nutters (although I acknowledge they appear to have elected one of them to Congress from Georgia, as Ben extolls - she's a problem, and the press is going to focus on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene [R-GA] like a laser when she utters controversial stuff (like filing impeachment articles on Day One of the Biden Presidency. That is not helpful), as they did with the kook with the buffalo horns and spear in the capitol). The corporate media and their shills want to make them the face of the Republican party.
The Senator's prescriptions are fine, but without some tacit respect for normal Trump supporters and acknowledgment of their more legit grievances and concerns, he risks further shoving these people to the sidelines while ignoring the doxing of good Trump supporters. That would sentence the GOP to minority status, at least for the foreseeable future. He would disagree, perhaps, but there are more and better ways forward to curb the conspiracies and actually attract voters, especially on the GOP side. And moving to a more agenda-driven GOP, and a more aggressively focusing on and countering Democratic excesses, where we are historically comfortable and where Ben actually resides, is the prescription going forward. I wish he'd said that.
QAnon Is Destroying the GOP from Within
By Ben Sasse
Eugene goodman is an American hero. At a pivotal moment on January 6, the veteran United States Capitol Police officer single-handedly prevented untold bloodshed. Staring down an angry, advancing mob, he retreated up a marble staircase, calmly wielding his baton to delay his pursuers while calling out their position to his fellow officers. At the top of the steps, still alone and standing just a few yards from the chamber where senators and Vice President Mike Pence had been certifying the Electoral College’s vote, Goodman strategically lured dozens of the mayhem-minded away from an unguarded door to the Senate floor.
The leader of that flank of the mob, later identified by the FBI as Douglas Jensen, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a red-white-and-blue Q—the insignia of the delusional QAnon conspiracy theory. Its supporters believe that a righteous Donald Trump is leading them in a historic quest to expose the U.S. government’s capture by a global network of cannibalistic pedophiles: not just “deep state” actors in the intelligence community, but Chief Justice John Roberts and a dozen-plus senators, including me. Now Trump’s own vice president is supposedly in on it, too. According to the FBI, Jensen “wanted to have his T-shirt seen on video so that ‘Q’ could ‘get the credit.’”
January 6 is a new red-letter day in U.S. history, not just because it was the first time that the Capitol had been ransacked since the War of 1812, but because a subset of the invaders apparently were attempting to disrupt a constitutionally mandated meeting of Congress, kidnap the vice president, and somehow force him to declare Trump the victor in an election he lost. En route, the mob ultimately injured scores of law-enforcement officers. The attack led to the deaths of two officers and four other Americans. But the toll could have been much worse: Police located pipe bombs at the headquarters of both the Republican and Democratic National Committees. Investigators discovered a vehicle fully loaded with weaponry and what prosecutors are calling “homemade napalm bombs.”
The violence that Americans witnessed—and that might recur in the coming days—is not a protest gone awry or the work of “a few bad apples.” It is the blossoming of a rotten seed that took root in the Republican Party some time ago and has been nourished by treachery, poor political judgment, and cowardice. When Trump leaves office, my party faces a choice: We can dedicate ourselves to defending the Constitution and perpetuating our best American institutions and traditions, or we can be a party of conspiracy theories, cable-news fantasies, and the ruin that comes with them. We can be the party of Eisenhower, or the party of the conspiracist Alex Jones. We can applaud Officer Goodman or side with the mob he outwitted. We cannot do both.
If and when the House sends its article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, I will be a juror in his trial, and thus what I can say in advance is limited. But no matter what happens in that trial, the Republican Party faces a separate reckoning. Until last week, many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon. They can’t. The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about.
The newly elected Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. She once ranted that “there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it.” During her campaign, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a choice: disavow her campaign and potentially lose a Republican seat, or welcome her into his caucus and try to keep a lid on her ludicrous ideas. McCarthy failed the leadership test and sat on the sidelines. Now in Congress, Greene isn’t going to just back McCarthy as leader and stay quiet. She’s already announced plans to try to impeach Joe Biden on his first full day as president. She’ll keep making fools out of herself, her constituents, and the Republican Party.
If the GOP is to have a future outside the fever dreams of internet trolls, we have to call out falsehoods and conspiracy theories unequivocally. We have to repudiate people who peddle those lies.
We also have to show a healthier path forward. The frustrations that caused so many people to turn in desperate directions for a political voice are not going away when Trump leaves the White House for Mar-a-Lago, because deception and demagoguery are the inevitable consequences of a politics that is profoundly, systemically dysfunctional. We must begin by asking how we got to such a discontented place, where we are mired in lies, rage, and now violence. In this essay, I am focusing on the maladies of the right, but Americans across the political spectrum are falling prey to the siren song of conspiracism. Here are three reasons.
The way Americans are consuming and producing news—or what passes for it these days—is driving us mad. This has been said many times, but the problem has worsened in the past five years. On the supply side, media outlets have discovered that dialing up the rhetoric increases clicks, eyeballs, and revenue. On the demand side, readers and viewers like to see their opinions affirmed, rather than challenged. When everybody’s outraged, everybody wins—at least in the short term.
This is not a problem only on the right or only on obscure blogs. The underlying economics that drive Fox News and upstarts such as One America News to cultivate and serve ideologically distinct audiences also drive MSNBC, CNN, and The New York Times. More and more fiercely, media outlets rally their audience behind the latest cause du jour, whether it’s battling supposed election fraud or abolishing local police departments.
The conservative swaths of this media landscape were primed for Trump’s “Stop the steal” lie, which lit the fuse for the January 6 riot. For nine weeks, the president consistently lied that he had “won in a landslide.” Despite the fact that his lawyers and allies were laughed out of court more than 60 times, he spread one conspiracy theory after another across television, radio, and the web. For anyone who wanted to hear that Trump won, a machine of grifters was turning clicks into cash by telling their audiences what they wanted to hear. The liars got rich, their marks got angry, and things got out of control.
Traditional media outlets are only some of the long-standing institutions collapsing as the digital revolution erodes geographic communities in favor of placeless ones. Many people who yell at strangers on Twitter don’t know their own local officials or even their neighbors across the street. The loss of rootedness and institutional authority has created an opening for populists on the right and the left. It’s not a coincidence that in 2016, millions of Republicans threw in their lot behind a man who for almost all of his life had been a Democratic voter and donor, and millions of Democrats wanted as their nominee a senator who staunchly refused to join their party. On both sides, conventional politicians were being told they had lost the thread.
The anger being directed today at major internet platforms—Twitter, Facebook, and Google, especially—is, in part, a consequence of the fading of traditional political authority. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently, Americans have outsourced key parts of political life to Silicon Valley behemoths that were not designed to, and are not competent to, execute functions traditionally in the province of the government. The failure of our traditional political institutions and our traditional media to function as spaces for genuine political conversation has created a vacuum now filled by the social-media giants—who are even worse at the job.
Civic authority has ebbed in other ways. Political incompetence and malpractice around the COVID-19 pandemic have only deepened suspicions that some politicians will never let a crisis go to waste. The decisions in California to keep churches closed but to keep open strip clubs and marijuana dispensaries baffle Main Street. Similarly, the jolting juxtaposition of a media-addict mayor breaking up Hasidic funerals while marching in Black Lives Matter protests not only deepens the cynicism of many Americans, but it indisputably undermined institutions of public health that should have been cautiously protecting their standing.
Our political sickness has a third cause. At least since World War II, sociologists and political scientists have been tracing the erosion of the institutions and habits that joined neighbors together in bonds of friendship and mutual responsibility. Little Leagues were not just pastimes; soup kitchens were not just service organizations; they were also venues in which people found shared purpose. Today, in many places, those bonds have been severed.
In 1922, G. K. Chesterton called America “a nation with the soul of a church.” But according to a recent study of dozens of countries, none has ditched religious belief faster since 2007 than the U.S. Without going into the causes, we can at least acknowledge one cost: For generations, most Americans understood themselves as children of a loving God, and all had a role to play in loving their neighbors. But today, many Americans have no role in any common story.
Conspiracy theories are a substitute. Support Donald Trump and you are not merely participating in a mundane political process—that’s boring. Rather, you are waging war on a global sex-trafficking conspiracy! No one should be surprised that QAnon has found a partner in the empty, hypocritical, made-for-TV deviant strain of evangelicalism that runs on dopey apocalypse-mongering. (I still consider myself an evangelical, even though so many of my nominal co-religionists have emptied the term of all historic and theological meaning.) A conspiracy theory offers its devotees a way of inserting themselves into a cosmic battle pitting good against evil. This sense of vocation that makes it dangerous is also precisely what makes it attractive in our era of isolated, alienated consumerism.
Whatever the republican Party does, it faces an ugly fight. The fracture that so many politicians on the right have been trying desperately to avoid may soon happen. But if the party has any hope of playing a constructive, rather than destructive, part in America’s future, it must do two things.
First, Republicans must repudiate the nonsense that has set our party on fire. Putting it out will take courage—and I don’t mean merely political courage. This week, after realizing that some Capitol insurrectionists wanted to capture the vice president, several Republican House members said privately that they believed a vote to impeach the president would put their lives, or the lives of their families, at risk. That is not the “constituent engagement” that elected officials are duty-bound to deal with on a daily basis. That is simply tyranny, just from the bottom up, instead of the top down. When arsonists are inside our house, can we just stand by and hope that they’ll depart quietly?
Second, the party has to rebuild itself. It must offer a genuine answer to the frustrations of the past decade. Other than by indulging Trump’s fantasies about building iPhones in America, Republicans have not figured out how to address Americans’ anger about community erosion, massive dislocations in the labor force, or Big Tech’s historically unprecedented role in governing de facto public squares.
Sensing a chance at tribal expansion, some on the left are thrilled by the chaos on the right, and they’re eager to seize the moment to banish from polite society not just those who participated and encouraged violence, but anyone with an R next to his or her name. Already on Twitter, a conservative position as long-standing as opposition to abortion has been recast as “domestic terrorism.” An MSNBC host talked about the “de-Baathification” of the GOP, comparing rank-and-file Republicans to supporters of Saddam Hussein. In an exchange on CNN, a host accused Republican voters of making common cause with Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Yet the exploitative overreaction by the left should not allow an underreaction by the right.
The past four years have wounded our country in grievous, long-lasting ways. The mob that rushed the Capitol had been fed a steady diet of lies and conspiracy theories. It is very possible that the QAnon devotee Douglas Jensen believed the junk he’d been sold—that he was a valued foot soldier in Trump’s war against shadowy forces of darkness. So, according to the FBI, he put on his Q T-shirt and acted like a foot soldier. Right up until he ran into Officer Goodman.
In a standoff between the Constitution and madness, both men picked a side. It’s the GOP’s turn to do the same.