Trump’s Staff vs. His Twitter Habit

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Tara Palmeri has a story in Politico about how Trump’s campaign aides tried to keep him from tweeting things they considered self-destructive. The story is based on a mix of named and anonymous sources. All of it is consistent with things we already knew about the president.

The story is being taken to confirm that Trump is a thin-skinned narcissist with a small attention span–and parts of it do indeed reinforce that impression. “One Trump associate said it’s important to show Trump deference and offer him praise and respect, as that will lead him to more often listen. And If Trump becomes obsessed with a grudge, aides need to try and change the subject, friends say. . .”

Yet the bulk of the story does not strike me as being nearly as damning as it is being made out to be. Take this passage:

The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.

“If candidate Trump was upset about unfair coverage, it was productive to show him that he was getting fair coverage from outlets that were persuadable,” said former communications director Sam Nunberg.

Or this one:

[Campaign officials] would also go to media amplifiers like Fox News hosts and conservative columnists to encourage them to tweet out the story so that they could print out and show a two-page list of tweets that show that they were steering the message. While Trump still couldn’t contain his Twitter-rage with [former Miss Universe Alicia] Machado, and ended up tweeting about a mystery sex-tape of the Hillary Clinton surrogate, aides say they dialed back even more posts.

“He saw there was activity so he didn’t feel like he had to respond,” the former campaign official said. “He sends out these tweets when he feels like people aren’t responding enough for him.”

So: The candidate felt that someone should defend him, and if he didn’t see anyone else doing it to his satisfaction he’d do it himself. His aides talked to media figures to get favorable stories in circulation, and then showed him that those stories were in fact circulating. There were a lot of things that were abnormal and appalling about Trump’s feud with Machado. The facts that he wanted certain points made in the media and that his aides were doing what they could to make sure it happened were not among them.

Join Me at National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit

by David French

We live in a world of bubbles, where different American cultures not only don’t interact with each other, they barely understand how the “other half” lives. At the National Review Institute, we break those bubbles — bringing together the best conservative minds from worlds red and blue, urban and rural.

Join me in D.C. at National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit on Thursday, March 16, and Friday, March 17. I will be speaking on a panel with Kevin Williamson and J. D. Vance about conservatism and the class divide, and that’s just one of the discussions about our nation’s politics, culture, and faith. We hope to see you there. Please register today.

Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (Feb. 22, 2017)

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

1. A clever young woman in Florida is putting together a rally for persecuted Christians today on the grounds of a shrine to Florida martyrs. I’m looking forward to being a part of it, speaking on March 4. Details here.

2. A sensitive piece by Terry Mattingly on the life of Norma McCorvey and the media.

Keep reading this post . . .

Pipeline Protesters Ruin Tribe’s Casino Revenue and Set Fire to Camp

by Paul Crookston

The Dakota Access Pipeline protesters are being forced to abandon their camp today, and rather than allow the site to be properly cleaned up, they have decided to light it on fire:

Burning sections of the camp will most likely make a sanitary and efficient cleanup more difficult for the authorities, which have repeatedly clashed with protesters over the camp’s threat to the environment. But the protesters’ primary consideration is symbolism, as one summed up by tweeting, “Some tipis are still burning. Dakota Access and their army can’t have them.”

An even bigger reason many in the Standing Rock tribe won’t be sorry to see visiting agitators go: The pipeline protest has been detrimental to their most important source of revenue, the Prairie Knights Casino & Resort. The Washington Times reported that the casino:

has taken a $6 million hit amid the turmoil stemming from the protests, thanks in part to agitators who blocked roads, forced the closure of the Backwater Bridge after setting it on fire and left tons of garbage in their wake.

LaRoy Kingsley, spokesman for the reservation casino in Yates, North Dakota, said this week that the venue has undertaken a public relations campaign to lure patrons put off by months of upheaval and clashes with law enforcement.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that the protests and the closing of the bridge have had a significant impact on people’s ability to get to the casino and just their comfort level driving down,” Mr. Kingsley told WDAY-AM host Rob Port.

With a harsh winter afflicting the area, the closure of the Backwater Bridge came at the worst time for the tribe’s revenue. “When the bridge was shut off, the numbers just plummeted,” said the tribe’s CFO Jerome Long Bottom to the Bismarck Tribune. With a critical access route to the casino cut off, it follows that revenue is down from $14 million in 2015 to $8 million in 2016, according to figures in the Washington Times.

The protest posed various difficulties for the Standing Rock. When a blizzard hit, they sacrificed space in the casino to help protesters who were in danger from the inclement weather. Meanwhile, the tribe’s association with visiting protesters has discouraged some from patronizing the casino. It appears that massive taxpayer expenses, blocking road access, and halting energy production are not as popular among North Dakotans as they are among the cosmopolitan admirers of the protest.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers set a deadline for protesters to leave by 2 p.m. Central Time this afternoon, and the state of North Dakota is offering not only to clean up the camp’s entire mess but also to give protesters free lodging, food, and travel. After spending $33 million on law enforcement and other expenses associated with the protest, the state considers it worth spending just a little bit more to be rid of the intruders at last.

The Maestro Sings, Speaks, Delights

by Jay Nordlinger

My guest on a new Q&A is Herbert Blomstedt, the venerable Swedish conductor. Actually, he was born in America, in 1927, to Swedish parents. The family returned to Sweden when the conductor-to-be was two. He has conducted all over the world, with tenures in Dresden, San Francisco, and elsewhere.

His dad was a Seventh-day Adventist missionary. Maestro Blomstedt is of this same faith, and does not rehearse on Saturdays. He once told an interviewer — I love this statement — “Really, there’s nothing so sensational about being religious. A great many people are.”

Maestro Blomstedt is guest-conducting the New York Philharmonic this week, and I sat down with him in his dressing room at Lincoln Center. We talked about his upbringing, his relationships with composers — especially his bond with Beethoven — and many other things.

He does a little singing in this podcast, to make musical points. That is one of the delights of this hour. The whole hour is a delight, featuring a rare artist and human being. The music-minded will like it especially, I’m pretty sure. But who knows? It’s available to all. Blomstedt is a communicator to all.

Again, the Q&A is here.

Former Ex-Im Beneficiaries Show They Can Get Private Funding

by Veronique de Rugy

For months, we have been told that the full lending power of the Export-Import Bank must be restored because companies won’t have access to capital and sales of U.S. goods can’t happen without Ex-Im backing the loans. One example of the casualties that pro–Ex-Im advocates liked to use was the failed Boeing sale of a satellite to a Singapore startup called Kacific.

Well, as many of us predicted, if the sale was worth the risk, the companies involved would find a way to make it happen. And they did. SpaceNews reports:

Kacific has finalized its order for a high-throughput platform it will share with Sky Perfect JSAT of Japan. . . . 

In the time since, Kacific raised $147 million in a late 2016 financing round, and signed 15 wholesale contracts for managed bandwidth collectively worth $434 million. That constituted enough to go forward with the satellite without the bank’s assistance, Kacific CEO Christian Patouraux told SpaceNews Feb. 20.

Diane Katz and I wrote about another Ex-Im misinformation campaign regarding another failed Boeing satellite sale back in 2015.

Economists understand why the few companies borrowing money with an Ex-Im guarantee would rather do that than use commercial loans like everyone else: With a government guarantee, they get very good terms and lower borrowing costs, which in turn gives them an edge over their competition. It also happens to shift the risk away from the buyer and the seller to U.S. taxpayers.

However, as we see in this case, the limitation of Ex-Im’s lending power doesn’t mean that these export deals can’t happen. I know Ex-Im advocates would like us to believe that, but it is simply not true. It just means that it may be more expensive and require more work from everyone. Also, not having access to a cheap loan doesn’t mean that these companies don’t have access to capital at all. Besides, you know what? Even before Ex-Im was shut down, 98 percent of U.S. exports took place without the support of Ex-Im–backed loans.

Finally, the fact that capital markets will not extend loans to all companies is not a bug — it is a feature of the capital markets. Not all loans and business ideas are worth financing at regular interest rates.

Now, I know that President Trump has made some comments about being open to helping the crony program out. However, there are some hopeful signs.

First, last Friday during his press conference at the Boeing plant in South Carolina, Trump talked about jobs but never mentioned the Ex-Im Bank.

Second, the Ex-Im Bank is among nine programs targeted for elimination under the White House Office of Management and Budget’s proposal circulated last week. As I noted a few weeks ago, those in charge of writing the budget proposals are serious free-market advocates and the new director of OMB, Mick Mulvaney, is a fierce opponent of all corporate welfare and of Ex-Im, in particular.

Finally, last week Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), a Freedom Caucus member, reiterated his staunch opposition to the Bank and signaled he would fight the president on this issue if need be. Kevin Cirilli of Bloomberg reported Jordan’s comments:

I’ve fought against the Export-Import Bank for years and will continue to do so​. Ex-Im is the definition of crony capitalism: big business getting a special deal from big government at the expenses of the American taxpayer. Additionally, as is often the case with government programs, the Ex-Im Bank is fraught with waste, fraud and abuse and should be shuttered.

We know that the way to make America great again and create jobs isn’t through crony programs artificially boosting the bottom lines of Boeing and GE. Even a pro–Ex-Im group, the American Action Forum, acknowledges that “for the economy as a whole, export financing [such as Ex-Im] merely redistributes jobs across the economy rather than create[ing] more overall jobs.” That’s exactly correct: Ex-Im boosts jobs in the subsidized industries at the expenses of jobs in non-subsidized ones.

The best way to create jobs and boost the economy is, of course, to implement fundamental tax reform. On the corporate side, it means lowering the tax rate and moving to full expensing and a territorial tax system. Deregulation would also go a long way toward boosting growth and creating jobs. Finally, draining the swamp by ending the unhealthy marriage between the government and big businesses would also be a step in the right direction. So let’s do it.

The Ridiculous Case Against Econ 101 Gets Destroyed

by George Leef

Is the standard-model Econ 101 course bad? One person who thinks so is University of Connecticut law professor James Kwak. He has written a book and published at least two articles (in The Atlantic and The Chronicle Review) arguing that students are misled by the “simplistic” ideas taught in Econ 101, revolving around supply and demand. What bothers him especially is that students may become skeptical about the sorts of interventionist policies that leftists favor, such as minimum-wage increases.

In this Martin Center article, economics professor Don Boudreaux of George Mason University rises to the defense of Econ 101 — at least when taught as it should be.

Boudreaux nails it when he writes, “It turns out that the analyst who is simple-minded is not the good Econ 101 student, but instead, Kwak himself, who clearly doesn’t have what it takes to reason as carefully as does this student.”

Fortunately, despite the excessive formality of advanced economics, good Econ 101 courses are not uncommon. In those courses, students learn the “mental toolkit” of economists.

They learn that prices and wages are not set arbitrarily, that voluntary trade that crosses political borders is no less mutually advantageous than is voluntary trade that doesn’t, that all goods and services have costs that someone must pay, that profits are a reward for serving consumers and not an unjust extraction from workers, that intentions are not results, and much more.

Along the way, they also learn that most of what non-economists, and their political representatives, believe about the economy is mistaken.

The college curriculum is degraded enough, and if schools take out Econ 101 in favor of nothing or (worse) fluff courses that will further incline students toward the belief that government can solve all our problems, the country will be much worse off. And before “progressives” embrace Kwak’s notions fully, they might contemplate that students who can see the folly in believing that minimum-wage laws only have good consequences are also students who can see how Trump’s attack on free trade will harm most of us. An economically ignorant population cuts both ways.

Incidentally, I strongly recommend a daily trip to Don’s Cafe Hayek.

Two Opportunities Monday in D.C. to Shine a Light on Life

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Ryan Anderson and I are teaming up thanks to the Heritage Foundation, the Catholic Information Center, and the National Review Institute, at two times on Monday, Feb. 27th to talk about alternatives to physician-prescribed suicide.

One is at 3:00 at the Heritage Foundation on the Hill and will include a keynote by Senator James Lankford.


Details and RSVP information here.

And another is at 6 pm at the Catholic Information Center near the White House.

Details and RSVP information here.

Please consider joining us as we address a heartbreaking topic with people working for compassionate alternatives to a dangerous approach to health care that leaves the vulnerable ever-less protected.

On Trump’s Version of the Presidency

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Trump is off to a slower start than the previous two presidents. At Bloomberg, I suggest that has something to do with the unusual way he is running his administration.

Presidents before Trump have changed their minds about issues, let congressmen hash out issues, and tolerated factions in their administrations. The difference is one of degree, and it is substantial. Trump is doing much less to set a direction for his party in Congress than we have seen in decades.

That might be a good thing. Maybe Congress will adjust by doing more to set its own direction, as befits the branch of government to which Article I of the Constitution is devoted.

But it will take some getting used to. . . .

Trump at the Museum

by Rich Lowry

Trump visited the National Museum of African-American History yesterday. He should do this kind of thing once a week, if not more. Obama and Democrats neglected defensive cultural politics and it cost them in 2016. For Trump, it’s particularly important to try to take some of the edge off and soften the worst perceptions of him. It’s costs him nothing, besides being the right thing to do as the president of all Americans.

‘What’s Happening in Sweden’

by Rich Lowry

My column today:

Sweden’s admirable humanitarianism is outstripping its capacity to absorb newcomers. Nothing if not an earnest and well-meaning society, Sweden has always accepted more than its share of refugees. Immigration was already at elevated levels before the latest influx into Europe from the Middle East, which prompted Sweden to try to see and raise the reckless open-borders policy of German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Sweden welcomed more than 160,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, including nearly 40,000 in October of that year alone. For a country of fewer than 10 million, this was almost equal to 2 percent of the population — in one year. The flow doubled the number of asylum-seekers at the height of the Balkans crisis in 1992.

The foreign-born proportion of the Swedish population was 18 percent in 2016, double that of 1990. As of 2015, the most common county of origin for the foreign-born was Finland, which makes sense as it is a neighboring Scandinavian country. Next are Iraq and Syria.

Predictably, it isn’t easy to integrate people who don’t know the language, aren’t highly skilled, and come from a foreign culture. Sweden’s economic policies don’t help. As a report of the Migration Policy Institute put it politely, Sweden is “an interesting case” because “the state is committed to fostering large-scale immigration despite huge integration challenges in the labor market.”

The Pattern in the Early Special Elections of 2017

by Jim Geraghty

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt…

You’re So Very Special, I Wish I Was Special

Earlier this month, I noted the five special U.S. House elections scheduled for this year will be a good test of whether there really is an energized liberal grassroots movement mobilizing that could be the equivalent of the Tea Party on the Left, or whether we’re just seeing the same familiar activists in the same familiar places.

There have already been a handful special state legislative elections this year, and there’s been a pattern.

In January in Virginia, Republican Mark Peake won the special election in the 22nd Senate District around Lynchberg, a district that usually votes Republican.  The same night, Democrat Jennifer L. McClellan won in the 9th Senate District, which includes part of Richmond. This is a heavily-Democratic district; most years the Republicans don’t even field a candidate, and they didn’t field one in the special election. In Virginia’s 85th House District, which covers Virginia Beach, N.D. “Rocky” Holcomb III beat Cheryl Turpin, keeping the seat Republican and winning by about the same margin that his predecessor Scott Taylor won in 2013.

In other words, in three low-turnout special elections in Virginia so far this year, the political environment is pretty close to normal.

In Iowa, Democrat Monica Kurth won the special election in the 89th State House District with 72 percent. The previous incumbent, Jim Lykam, ran unopposed in 2016 and 2014 and won 67 percent in 2012.

In Minnesota, Republican Anne Neu won 53 percent in the House District 32B race, about what her GOP predecessor Bob Barrett had won.

Again, these results are pretty much “normal.” A writer at Daily Kos touts the fact that that these Democrat special election candidates ran ahead of Hillary Clinton’s margin these districts, but I’m not so sure that’s the right measuring stick. These state legislative candidates may be better on the campaign trail than Clinton – in fact, they probably are! – but they’re not generating significantly different results.

In Delaware, control over the state Senate will come down to one special election being held this Saturday. If the Democrats lose this race, Republicans would control the chamber for the first time in 44 years, and so they’re making extraordinary efforts for a special election.

The fight between Democrat Stephanie Hansen and Republican John Marino has been among the fiercest fought local elections in Delaware history. The election will decide not only who represents Middletown, Glasgow and southern Newark, but also whether the Democrats’ 44-year-old Senate majority comes to an end.

Democrats are poised to spend a record-shattering $1 million. Between Jan. 27 and Feb. 17, Hansen’s campaign raised $306,472 from hundreds of donors, both from inside Delaware and all over the country.

Political advisers say it usually costs about $50,000 to win a state Senate race or $100,000 for one that is particularly fierce.

In Delaware’s 10th State Senate District, the previous incumbent, Democrat Bethany Hall-Long, ran unopposed in 2012 and had a close race in 2014. Considering their institutional and financial advantages, Democrats should win this special election. If they don’t, it’s a sign that the much-touted grassroots anger at Donald Trump isn’t translating into votes when and where the party needs them. 

‘A Day Without Immigrants’ Backfires as Strikers Find Themselves Unemployed

by Austin Yack

On February 16, “A Day Without Immigrants,” thousands of people across the country refused to work and spend money in an effort to protest the Trump administration’s stance on immigration. Many businesses closed for the day because of a shortage in staff, and the strike received national media attention.

The following day, however, over 100 strikers found themselves in a quandary, as their employers informed them that they would no longer be employed.

Take, for example, Bradley Coatings, a commercial painting company in Nolensville, Tenn. All employees were warned the day before the strike that those who failed to work the following day would be terminated, but 18 employees — some of whom reportedly held mid-level positions — joined the nationwide strike anyway.

“Regretfully, and consistent with its prior communication to all its employees,” the company’s attorney Robert Peal said in a statement, Bradley Coatings “had no choice but to terminate these individuals.”

Over in Lexington, S.C., 21 strikers were fired from Encore Boat Builders, a pontoon manufacturer, and in Catoosa, Okla., a dozen employees were fired from a local restaurant, I Don’t Care Bar and Grill. “Restaurant owner Bill McNally said that he has no tolerance for employees who don’t show up for work without notifying their employer,” NBC12 News reported.

In Denver, Colo., dozens of masonry workers were left jobless. For example, employees at JVS Masonry were warned that they would be terminated if they skipped work; as the owner of the company said to one of his employees, “You stand for what you believe, make sure you stand for whatever consequences are going to come.”

Indeed, employees are free to decide for themselves if striking for a day to make their voices heard in Washington, D.C., is worth losing their jobs. But they shouldn’t complain when the consequences catch up with them.

New Anti-Poverty Legislation Aimed at Private Investors

by Alexandra DeSanctis

A bipartisan group of congressmen recently introduced a new bill intended to reinvigorate America’s poorest communities. The Investing in Opportunity Act (IOA) will allow investors to temporarily delay paying capital-gains taxes on their investments if they choose to reinvest the money into “opportunity zones” or distressed communities across the country.

The legislation was cosponsored in the Senate by Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina and Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey, and in the House by Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and Ron Kind (D-Wisc.).  These congressmen report that their bill has garnered bipartisan support in both chambers, and they believe that its provisions will allow for tremendous economic growth in some of the country’s most underserved communities.

The bill’s primary function is to target private-sector investors and give them a tax incentive to roll their assets into areas that most need money, which, according to Scott, has proven more successful than government-run anti-poverty programs.

“It’s designed so that private-sector folks can do what they do naturally in a way that helps the poor,” Scott said during a media roundtable just before the bill was introduced in both chambers.

Scott tells National Review that the very nature of government programs often makes it difficult to measure their success, and there’s little incentive for politicians or bureaucrats to follow up on their progress. “With this program, it’s very easy for investors to measure their success, and they will want to monitor it because it’s their own money going into these communities,” he says.

This bill is part of a larger effort that Scott calls his “Opportunity Agenda,” a blueprint by which he hopes to eliminate the barriers to success faced by many disadvantaged and low-income Americans in South Carolina. But his efforts aren’t limited to his state; last fall he announced a partnership called the Senate Opportunity Coalition — profiled in National Review Online in October — with a handful of GOP senators who hope to address poverty in their own states with local, conservative solutions.

Tiberi noted during the roundtable that the Appalachia region, rural Ohio, and the urban corridors outside of his state’s bigger cities all suffer from a similar lack of opportunity and resulting poverty. This fact is essential to understanding the Opportunity Agenda and its attending bills such as the IOA.

Poverty isn’t limited to declining metropolitan areas or inner cities where children can’t access adequate education, and food and housing are highly insecure. Every region poses unique obstacles to individual success, and Americans often end up in crippling poverty despite the millions of dollars in government money poured into their states.

These leaders and others like them hope to eliminate those obstacles one step at a time by stripping back government control and permitting communities to flourish on their own. Scott gave the example of Spartanburg in his own state, which formed a public-private partnership to develop an innovative new neighborhood, eliminating the food deserts that had long plagued the area.

“But it also kept existing communities intact so that it’s not large-scale gentrification. People stay where they’re from and where they like to live and have always lived,” he added.

When he introduced his Opportunity Agenda on the Senate floor, Scott promised that his work would target the underlying causes of systemic poverty in the U.S. “We will turn neglected neighborhoods, ravaged by poverty, into centers of excellence,” he said. “These people are not asking for a handout. They’re asking for a hand up.”

This newest bill is the most recent proof that Scott intends to keep his word, and to do so with the help of those on both sides of the aisle.

Eleven Passengers Board Planes at New York’s JFK Airport without Security Screening

by Austin Yack

Heading into President’s Day weekend, New York’s John F. Kennedy international airport Twitter account alerted travelers that with the anticipated increase in passenger volume, they should “allow extra time for on-airport travel, check-in & security screening.” One would think that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would have implemented additional security precautions heading into the holiday weekend, but that does not seem to have been the case.

Eleven people were able to board planes without undergoing TSA security screenings after TSA officials mistakenly left a security lane open and unattended. As the eleven people walked through the unattended security checkpoint, three of them set off the metal detector, which would normally lead to further screening.

Port Authority police spokesman Joe Pentangelo told NBC News that police officers had canvassed the terminal looking for the eleven passengers, but failed to find any of them. TSA officials didn’t alert the police until two hours after the breach in security had occurred.

Of the eleven passengers, three were identified as passengers on a California-bound flight and were “expected to be screened once they land;” the eight others remain unidentified.

“We are confident this incident presents no threat to the aviation transportation system,” TSA said in a statement. “Once our review is complete, TSA will discipline and retrain employees as appropriate.”

Thank You

by Charles C. W. Cooke

This is a note to say thank you. In January, National Review Online had its biggest month in its 18-year history. We broke our previous traffic records in both October and November, too.

We greatly appreciate you all sticking with us. It’s a jungle out there these days, and it’s nice to see how many of you come back day after day.

As I noted a while back, we’re currently working on a from-the-ground-up redesign of the site. I look forward to welcoming you to it as soon as possible.

Does Government Know Best About Fathers?

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The American Enterprise Institute (where I am a visiting fellow) and the Brookings Institute have launched a joint project on paid family leave. The project has got several good people with differing political perspectives thinking about an issue that has been rising as a concern for politicians in both parties.

But I am less sure than those people that there ought to be a federal policy on paid family leave. And the latest post associated with the project—by Richard Reeves and Eleanor Krause—is not exactly allaying my small-government concerns.

They write that any paid-leave policy should include fathers as well as mothers, and they may well be right about that. Their rationales, though, include regret that “while the gender revolution has been largely successful at promoting women’s roles in the workplace, there has been less progress in nudging men toward traditionally female roles, like childcare.” It would be good, they add, to “shift social norms” by including men in these policies—and by making it impossible for them to transfer their leave time to their partner. The point, that is, is not to expand parents’ choices but to push them into making the approved ones.

It seems to me that how mothers and fathers divide the labor of child-rearing, and how they think about their roles, should not be the federal government’s business.

Logic, but No Guarantees for Trump’s Foreign Policy

by Michael Auslin

Like Presidents Bush 43 and Obama before him, Donald Trump’s personality so enrages his critics and so enthralls his supporters, that a dispassionate assessment of his actual policies requires almost superhuman effort by observers. Trump does himself no favors with his (as Jonah puts it) “bull in the china shop” approach, which of course is one of his main shticks. Focusing on personality may be okay for the political commentariat, but it is a problem for those in the policy sphere, who should instead be trying to understand equally what the president is doing and what he should be doing.

Yet behind all the sturm und drang, there is a consistency to Trump’s approach to the world, one that those in both opposition and defense should at least understand. This morning in the Wall Street Journal, I have an opinion piece entitled “The Logic of Trump’s Foreign Policy” (paywalled). In short, when a foreign policy is really about the home front, in Trump’s view, then his more radical instincts are pursued (such as on free trade); conversely, on issues that are purely foreign in their impact, such as alliances or U.S. security policy, Trump is far more willing to follow the status quo, at least for now.

The brevity of my piece in the WSJ leaves unaddressed a few more nuanced points. First is the question facing all presidents: Is his policy the right policy? Barack Obama certainly seemed to have a consistent, logical policy; it was, however, one that seemed manifestly inadequate to the challenges he faced. Trump may find himself facing the same criticisms if his policies do not lead to greater global stability or do not protect American interests. This may be all the more likely if he continues to adopt some of Obama’s policies vis-a-vis China, Russia, and North Korea.

Second is the role of Steve Bannon, who was profiled in a long piece on Quartz recently. If Trump has an world view based largely on instinct (as many want to believe), Bannon animates that instinct into policy. The “logic,” therefore of Trump’s foreign policy appears to be largely mediated through Bannon. If so, then either Bannon also supports the status quo in affairs purely foreign, or there is a tension at the center of the White House that will have to resolve itself.

Third, to assert there is a logic to Trump’s foreign policy is to say nothing about the competent execution of that policy. Here, Trump has come recently in for devastating criticism, with his policymaking and implementation being called a “mess,” among other even less complementary assessments. And this criticism is coming from left and right, equally.

There is no doubt that the selection and subsequent firing of Mike Flynn as national-security adviser lent an appearance of chaos to the Trump White House. But the alleged policy flip-flops that fuel so much criticism are instead part of the logic of Trump’s world view that I try to discuss in my WSJ piece. Yet having a relatively consistent worldview offers no assurances that the team charged with implementing that policy, or the process by which that policy is formed, will be neat, collegial, or even logical itself. We may indeed see a White House perpetually consumed by infighting, public contradictions, and back-and-forth on policies. That, however, is the norm for any White House, and certainly marked both George Bush and Barack Obama’s presidencies.

Some of those concerns over national-security policymaking are being assuaged by the appointment of Army Lt. General H. R. McMaster as the new national-security adviser. McMaster (whom I know slightly) is universally applauded as a military thinker, student of history, and effective leader. Like Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his appointment complicates the storyline that Trump’s critics hoped to have of an administration staffed by bootlickers and incompetents. The central question, however, remains unanswered: Will McMaster, along with Trump’s other national-security-related Cabinet appointees, be given free rein to contribute to policy, to challenge the president and his inner circle, and to pick enough of their own teams to feel confident in their positions?

All this politicking will be playing out behind closed doors, at least until the leaks feed the scandal-hungry media. What remains steady, for now, is that Trump’s worldview has a logic, and that logic is so far informing his early foreign-policy formulation. There are no guarantees how long that will last, but critics should at least recognize how the Trump administration is approaching the world in the spring of 2017.

Dave LaRock’s Virginia Campus Free Speech Resolution

by Stanley Kurtz

Virginia Delegate Dave LaRock (R-Clarke, Frederick, and Loudoun Counties) has just filed House Resolution 431, The Campus Free Speech Resolution. HR 431 is based on the model legislation I co-authored with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher of Arizona’s Goldwater Institute.

Since the Virginia House of Delegates is nearing the end of its current session, Delegate LaRock is offering a resolution conveying the sense of the legislature, to be followed up next session by detailed legislation based on the Goldwater model. As Delegate LaRock put it in a press release, “This resolution will put down a marker as a precursor for next session when I will follow up with legislation to assure that universities take this seriously.”

Explaining his reason for taking up the Goldwater proposal on campus free speech, Del. LaRock said, “Virginia is the cradle of democracy and it is a disgrace that many universities have lost track of the idea that it is their responsibility to uphold free-speech principles… By passing this measure we are communicating to universities and the public that students are in school to learn how to think; they are not going to college to be protected from differing opinions.”

Virginia’s HR 431, and Del. LaRock’s promise to follow it next session with fuller legislation based on the Goldwater model, means that Virginia is now the third state to move forward with initiatives based on the Goldwater proposal. North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest has announced that a bill will soon be filed in that state, and Illinois Representative Peter Breen has introduced HB 2939. And although no bill has yet been filed, I will be testifying at the request of Education Committee Chair Michael Bileca before the Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee of the Florida State House this Thursday on the Goldwater proposal.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at

Saudi Arabia’s Ruthless Migrant Policy

by David Pryce-Jones

Saudi Arabia has recently expelled almost 40,000 Pakistanis, to add to the 243,000 already expelled between 2012 and 2015. In answer to advertisements, they had come to the country to do the menial laboring jobs that Saudis feel put the doer to shame. Many of them are accused of visa violations. There are other reasons. The drastic downturn of the economy means that laborers go unpaid, and the authorities deal with complaints by getting rid of complainers. A handful of Pakistanis have been sentenced to prison for terrorism. The chairman of a committee that handles security is on record saying that those entering the country should first have their religious and political affiliations checked. This from the Saudis, who are front-line practitioners and financiers of terror.

Furthermore, a friend who has lived in Saudi Arabia tells me that migrants, and especially Syrians, are considered trouble-makers not to be admitted into the country under any circumstance. Mrs. Merkel may think that welcoming more and more migrants will be no obstacle to her reelection as chancellor of Germany, but from the Saudi point of view, Europe is importing civil war. Crowds are protesting against Mr. Trump’s alleged racism and Islamophobia, but have nothing to say and no placards to wave about the very real Saudi humbug.