A Year of Achievement

by NR Staff

National Review’s latest digital magazine is out today for subscribers, featuring Victor Davis Hanson on President Trump’s first year in office. Also inside you’ll find Jim Geraghty on the Berniecrats’ prospects for 2020, and Ross Douthat’s review of I, Tonya.

For access to this and more from the best conservative writers, subscribe to National Review’s digital magazine here, and print magazine here.

National Review Summer Internship

by NR Staff

National Review is accepting applications for its summer internship. The intern will work in our New York office, receive a modest stipend, participate in every part of the editorial process, and have some opportunities to write. The ideal candidate will have an excellent academic record and some experience in student or professional journalism. If you wish to apply, please send a cover letter, your résumé, and two of your best writing samples (no more, please) to editorial.applications (at) nationalreview.com.

‘Trump is Not a Despot’

by Rich Lowry

I wrote today for Politico about Jeff Flake’s speech hitting Trump for (unknowingly) using a line from Stalin and the general argument that Trump is a budding despot:

The association of Trump, whose offense is being crude and thoughtless while occupying an office he won in a raucously free election, with one of the greatest monsters of the 20th century is so wildly irresponsible it is its own corruption of our discourse. 

Trump is not a despot. Far from being an autocrat, he is a weak president susceptible to the views of the last person he’s talked to and so deferential to Congress that he spent all of last year pining for a signing ceremony for literally anything lawmakers could send him on health care or taxes. 

At its worst, the Trump White House isn’t sinister; it’s farcical. It’s not Recep Tayyip Erdogan carefully and deliberately creating a one-party state; it’s Trump getting miscued by a TV show into a tweet undermining his administration’s own position on the reauthorization of a surveillance program. 

The Trump alarmists thought that a brittle democratic culture and set of institutions were about to encounter a man representing a dire, determined threat to their integrity; instead, a robust democratic culture and set of institutions encountered the guy sitting down at the end of the bar yelling at the TV. 

Why Are Social Conservatives Silent on Trump’s Porn-Star Affair?

by Jonah Goldberg

Response To...

Social Conservatives Should Condemn Trump’...

The responses to my post on Trump, the porn star, and what social conservative leaders saw — or didn’t see — have been instructive. Some are just dumb invective. A bunch prattle on about how the election was a binary choice — which is one of the great non sequiturs of post-2016 America. So what? If you condemn an adulterous affair in 2018 will that somehow trigger a time machine that lets Hillary win?

And a lot of the responses could have been written or said by the “Move On” Left during the Lewinsky scandal. “No one cares,” “Why are you obsessed?” “It’s not our business,” and of course, “Move on.”

As I’ve written before, the comparison to the Clinton years isn’t trivial, because in the 1990s the need to protect and defend Clinton set back the anti–sexual-harassment movement on the left by nearly two decades. Only now are liberals coming to grips with the mess they made for themselves. I see conservatives creating a similar mess for themselves by abandoning notions of decency and character. In fairness, as far as I can tell, few conservatives celebrate Trump’s behavior the way liberals celebrated the supposedly very French and sophisticated lifestyle of Bill Clinton. But maybe it’s just early.

But there’s one response that I think is worth discussing. It comes from Kurt Schlichter:

I disagree with Kurt on a lot of things these days, but I think this is a perfectly defensible response. Imagine you’re, say, Jerry Falwell or Mike Huckabee or any other social conservative who has spent his or her life making a nice living condemning immoral behavior in accordance with your faith and declared principles. The choice to suddenly defend Trump (or Roy Moore) for doing things you would condemn in almost anyone else is contrary to your self-interest for the simple reason that it is self-discrediting.

So why not just say that you condemn the behavior, you’re disappointed in it, etc.? You could then add that the president is doing important things, we only have one president at a time, blah blah blah. It’s not how I would put it, but that doesn’t mean it’s indefensible.

It seems to me there are just two reasons why so many former professional finger-waggers refuse to do the minimal work necessary to protect their credibility. First, the president is incredibly thin-skinned and demands not only loyalty but flattery. Any criticism is seen as a betrayal. Second, the Trump base largely sees it the same way. It’s a right-wing version of virtue signaling, or really, MAGA-signaling. If you’re on board with Trump, you need to be all in. Can’t have one foot on the Trump train. It’s reminiscent of how Steve Bannon went around bragging that real MAGA-ers didn’t flinch during “Billy Bush weekend.” It’s of a piece with the fact that you can vote 100 percent in favor of the “Trump agenda” but if you criticize Trump, you’re a traitor. But if you vote against the Trump agenda but flatter the president, you’ll be fine. It’s why so much of the energy on the pro-Trump Right is channeled into the hypocrisy of liberals who also said sh**, or who defended adulterers, etc. Fine, many prominent liberals are hypocrites for suddenly caring about such things. But many prominent conservatives are hypocrites for suddenly not caring.

At least the Schlichter option preserves an ideal, even if it comes with no intention or desire to enforce that ideal. That’s not great in my book, but it’s better than nothing.

Loophole Benefits Abortion Providers at Taxpayers’ Expense, GOP Congressmen Say in New Letter

by Alexandra DeSanctis

Two Republicans in Congress — Oklahoma senator James Lankford and North Carolina representative Robert Pittenger — are teaming up to crack down on potential abuse of tax-exempt municipal bonds, which some cities and states have chosen to issue to abortion providers for the purpose of building new clinics.

The Hyde Amendment has been attached to federal spending bills since the mid 1970s to prevent taxpayer money from funding abortions, but these Republican legislators say they’ve found a loophole in the tax law that permits tax-free municipal bonds to entangle federal money in the process of creating new abortion clinics.

In a joint letter sent this morning to the U.S. comptroller general, Lankford and Pittenger cite a few examples of this practice having taken place in recent years. In 2012, for example, New York City issued a tax-free $15 million municipal bond to renovate Planned Parenthood’s national headquarters, which the group later sold for nearly $70 million, doubling the amount it initially paid for the location

Meanwhile, in both Florida and Illinois, counties gave Planned Parenthood clinics $8 million tax-free bonds to fund the construction of new clinics to provide abortion services. In response, Lankford and Pittenger are requesting a full report on instances of such bonds being issued, a list of states that issued them, the resulting federal tax liability, and the effect of the bonds on each abortion provider.

Last summer, Lankford cosponsored a bill with Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) to cut wasteful spending by ending federal tax subsidies for the construction of professional sports stadiums. This new effort with Pittenger is a similar endeavor to reduce federal tax liabilities, but it is also motivated by both congressmen’s belief in conscience rights and opposition to abortion.

What Senator Graham Gets Wrong About America

by Ramesh Ponnuru

It’s more than an idea.

Different conceptions of nationhood have different implications for immigration. If the American experience is reducible to American political ideals, then the only assimilation that should concern us is to those ideals: As long as new immigrants are no threat to freedom of speech and the rest, all is well.

If a common culture is important too, though, we will want immigrants to assimilate to it, even as they also change it. We will want natives and newcomers alike to see themselves as belonging, together, to it. And we might decide that we want a smaller influx of immigrants in order to encourage that kind of assimilation.

An Odd National Debate About the President’s Non-Metaphorical Heart

by Jim Geraghty

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The New York Times talks to cardiologists who contend that Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, a rear admiral and the White House physician, was way too optimistic in his assessment of the president’s health.

Cardiologists not associated with the White House said Wednesday that President Trump’s physical exam revealed serious heart concerns, including very high levels of so-called bad cholesterol, which raises the risk that Mr. Trump could have a heart attack while in office.

What exactly are we supposed to do with these differing interpretations of the president’s health information?

Look, the thing about health, particularly cardiovascular health, is that you can fool yourself and you can try to fool others, but you can’t fool your own heart. Either the blood is getting to where it needs to go, or it isn’t. It doesn’t really matter much if the president and the White House are lying to us, because if they are lying, the truth will probably be revealed in a sudden and terrible way. Arterial blockages can’t be spun.

Those of us who aren’t Trump or on the White House medical staff don’t have any ability to influence the president’s decisions about this. Maybe Melania could persuade him to change his habits. Then again, Trump is 70 and he’s unlikely to change his behavior much. He’s probably going to keep eating McDonald’s, and his exercise will probably continue to be limited to golf. He has, arguably, one of the most stressful jobs in the world, a position that rapidly ages every man who has achieved it. If the president and the White House physician are not being honest about his risk for a heart attack… we will probably know sometime before Election Day 2020.

I hope the man lives to be 100, but there’s not much point in worrying about something you can’t control.

‘Winning Time’

by Jay Nordlinger

Impromptus today is all-sports, with some broader issues involved, including journalism. (What are we? Why are we here? What are we supposed to do?) I lead with Stan Van Gundy, my man Stan, the head coach of the Detroit Pistons. He is extraordinarily open to the press, and extraordinarily candid.

A bit from my column:

In fact, I’ve sometimes thought him too candid with the press — saying things about his players that might best be left private. But, look, as a fan, and as a journalist, I’m not complaining. I follow Van Gundy’s comments daily during the basketball season. I watch video clips of his press conferences with relish. Sometimes I go to bed with them.

That doesn’t sound quite right, does it?

Well, after I wrote my column, I went to bed with the latest Van Gundy press conference — after a Pistons loss to the Toronto Raptors — and I want to share a little with you. It will give you a taste of why I love listening to him:

“I think in the last three quarters, we fought hard, but the first quarter counts — and there were just not many times when we played good defense in the first quarter, so, it’s disappointing. You’re working out of that hole, and then late in the game [other things went wrong].

“I thought in between the first quarter and then, we fought really hard, and then when it was winning time, we didn’t do our job.”

Winning time. That is a phrase that is now incorporated into my vocabulary. And, of course, at winning time, you have to do your job.

New Survey: Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Support School Choice

by Alexandra DeSanctis

The American Federation for Children has just released its fourth annual National School Choice poll, and the results should be heartening for supporters of education reform and school choice. Not only do a majority of Americans continue to support school choice, but that support spans a wide variety of demographic groups and political views.

The study collected responses from 1,100 likely November 2018 voters, and it was conducted by Democratic research firm Beck Research, which has polled in the past for the National Education Association teachers’ union. According to the survey, 63 percent of Americans support the concept of school choice — down 5 percent from last year — while 33 percent say they oppose it.

Minority Americans also tend to support school choice, including 72 percent of Latinos and 66 percent of African Americans. About six in ten white Americans support school choice. Meanwhile, majorities of every political group support school choice: 75 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Democrats, along with 64 percent of Millennials.

Nearly all voters surveyed said they support private school choice in some form. Eighty-six percent of voters believe that publicly funded vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts (ESAs) should be available to those who would like to use them.

In fact, while ESAs are a fairly new form of school choice, they continue to increase in popularity among voters, 75 percent of whom now say they favor ESAs. That figure includes 70 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and 81 percent of Republicans. Education savings accounts have been pioneered in a few states and are funded by state governments, which deposit a certain amount of money into each family’s account based on a formula, and the child’s parents can use those funds for a wide variety of education-related expenses, such as private-school tuition, college-savings plans, online classes, and tutoring.

Meanwhile, the idea of a federal tax-credit scholarship remains popular. More than two-thirds of voters surveyed said they would favor a K-12 education tax-credit program, including 55 percent of Democratic respondents. Tax-credit scholarships, which have already been highly successful in several states, allow businesses to receive a tax credit for donating to non-profits that fund scholarships for students to attend the school of their choice.

According to the study, vouchers remain the least popular form of school choice, with just 47 percent support, a decrease of four percentage points from last year’s study. This year marks the first time that the AFC study found a higher percentage of Americans opposed to vouchers than in favor of them. Support for public charter schools (72 percent) and special-needs scholarships (83 percent), though, has remained fairly consistent.

“Almost all voters want private school choice options available in some form, public charter schools remain quite popular,” says John Schilling, AFC president, “and the concept of school choice is favorable across the nation’s ideological, geographic, and racial and ethnic backgrounds like no other issue in 2018.”

While overall support for school choice did dip slightly from the previous year’s poll, it is still clearly a winning issue among a majority of American voters, and most forms of school choice retain strong support on both sides of the aisle. It is also worth noting that teachers’ unions and their political allies routinely spend in the realm of $100 million annually to discredit school choice as a valid option for American families — and yet school choice remains largely popular.

Anatomy of a Smear

by David French

In the hours after the false missile alert in Hawaii, lots of folks online and in real life were asking themselves the same questions. “If an alert was real, what would I do? What should I do?” It was a busy news day, and I didn’t have much time, but I drafted a relatively short post designed to make some simple points. Nuclear strikes are not as destructive as many people imagine, and there are simple things you can do that can actually increase your chances of survival.

That was it. That was the purpose of the post. You can read it here.

In fact, on re-reading it, I’m slightly embarrassed. The post is so basic and simple that it barely scratches the surface of decent prepping. As something of an amateur prepper, I have thousands more words I could unleash. But this wasn’t a magazine piece. It was a blog post.

I wrote about it and forgot about until I got an alert on my phone. MSNBC host Joy Reid tweeted this to her one million followers:

What the heck? I said nothing of the sort. Not only did I say nothing like that, I can’t imagine saying anything like that. It’s not only antithetical to my deepest beliefs, it’s directly contradicted by two long pieces I’ve written that were specifically intended to highlight the horrific risks of an all-out conflict with North Korea.

During my time in the Army, I deployed to South Korea briefly during Operation Key Resolve in 2010. I sat in a bunker for hours watching the projected casualty counts from a North Korean invasion mount up to truly terrifying levels. I’m a veteran of the Iraq War and grieve still for lost friends. You don’t need to tell me that war is hell.

So where did Reid get her information? The quote is entirely fabricated. But is there any reason why she’d think I’d say something like that? Well, it turns out that she pointed out to a Raw Story reprint of a Newsweek piece that purports to summarize my post. It begins like this:

Amid heightened tensions with nuclear armed North Korea a conservative magazine is telling its readers not to worry about a potential nuclear strike because they live in America’s suburbs and countryside.

An article published Monday in the National Review reassures readers that nuclear war—and North Korea’s arsenal—shouldn’t cause them concern because a nuclear strike will mostly vaporize those in major cities while suburbanites will come out largely unscathed.

The piece went on to note that Trump voters tend to live outside cities. No person could read my post in good faith and conclude that I believed that nuclear war shouldn’t cause concern. No person could read my post in good faith and think that I was making a political point. Republicans and Democrats alike should have survival plans for emergencies. They should maintain basic stocks of supplies. They should understand the simple things that make it more likely they’ll survive the worst.

But whatever. There’s clickbait to write, and when there’s clickbait, then partisan smears aren’t far behind.

The strange part of this is I actually know Joy. We’ve talked, I’ve been on her show, and while I disagree with her politics, I’ve found her to be perfectly pleasant and civil. Others have had different experiences, unfortunately. But I’ll hold out a shred of hope. Perhaps she’ll actually read my post, realize her mistake, and apologize. If she does, I’m happy to forgive her and move on. Until then, MSNBC should know that one of its hosts is making things up. It’s a smear, pure and simple. There is no excuse.

General Kelly: About That Wall ‘Flexibility’

by Andrew C. McCarthy

A lot of news came out of Bret Baier’s interview with White House Chief-of-Staff John Kelly (which Fox News has now posted). Not least: General Kelly essentially confirmed the Washington Post’s report that he had told Congressional Hispanic Caucus members that Trump’s campaign rhetoric promising a wall on the Southern border had not been “fully informed,” that there would be no “concrete wall from sea to shining sea,” and that Mexico would not pay for the wall.

This is no surprise to those of us who always knew and said that Trump’s promises on these counts were absurd and would never come to pass. I do wonder, though, how it will sit with the Trump base.

Interestingly, Kelly repeatedly praised Trump’s “flexibility” in office. By this, he meant that Trump is not wedded to the positions he took during the campaign, that he has shown himself ready, willing, and able to change his position as president, once he becomes more … informed.

I’m not sure that will sit real well, either. Of course, people – and public officials most of all – should be willing to change their minds either when facts change or, as in the president’s case, when his understanding of the facts comes more in line with what the facts actually are. It is worse to make a bad decision than to promise to make one.

That said, Mr. Trump has not always seen flexibility as a virtue – particularly when President Obama promised it to Vladimir Putin on a hot mic prior to the 2012 election. I just had a gander at then reality TV star Donald Trump’s tweet on November 8, 2012:

Russian leaders are publicly celebrating Obama’s reelection. They can’t wait to see how flexible Obama will be now.

I guess times change.

Re: ‘Is Diversity a Strength, and Should Strength Be a Core Value?’

by Roger Clegg

Response To...

Is Diversity a Strength, and ...

Following up on Jonah’s excellent article, here’s my top-ten list of what we should expect from those who want to become Americans (and those who are already Americans, for that matter). This assimilation list was first published in a National Review Online column, and it was later fleshed out in congressional testimony.

1. Don’t disparage anyone else’s race or ethnicity.

2. Respect women.

3. Learn to speak English.

4. Be polite.

5. Don’t break the law.

6. Don’t have children out of wedlock.

7. Don’t demand anything because of your race or ethnicity.

8. Don’t view working and studying hard as “acting white.”

9. Don’t hold historical grudges.

10. Be proud of being an American.

Jonah is exactly right that assimilation should not be a dirty word. And to the extent that “diversity” — as it often does these days, though I doubt that Senator Graham, at least, was guilty of this — cloaks an anti-assimilation, anti-merit, pro-preference, pro–identity-politics agenda, it is not a “strength” and should not be “celebrated.”

‘That’s Not the Donald Trump I Know!’

by Kevin D. Williamson

I don’t know what we ultimately will discover about Donald Trump’s relationship with pornographic actress Stormy Daniels. But here’s a question for, say, Jerry Falwell Jr. and other high-profile Christian supporters of Donald Trump: When you heard the allegation that Trump had conducted an extramarital affair with a porn star and paid her $130,000 in hush money, did you think to yourself: “My, that doesn’t sound like the Donald Trump I know! The Donald Trump I know is a man of high character and personal probity, and would never treat his family that way.”

Is that what you thought, Mr. Falwell? Is that what you thought, Tony Perkins? What about you, Pat Robertson?

The Dubious Value of Graduate Degrees

by George Leef

The conventional wisdom about higher education (spread mainly by the higher-education establishment) is that the higher your educational “attainment,” the better off you’ll be. That belief has fueled rocketing credential inflation — the more educational “attainment” in the country, the more of it an individual needs to stand out from the pack. It’s enormously wasteful.

Fortunately, the conventional wisdom is coming under attack. One of the critics is economics professor Richard Vedder, who wonders in today’s Martin Center article if we won’t soon be seeing “Master’s Degrees in Janitorial Science?

Vedder points to recent studies showing that graduate degrees can have a lousy payoff and observes that the two sides of the education debate look at the data differently. “The College for All interpretation,” Vedder writes, “is that the diminishing payoff to the bachelor’s degree means students need to get more degrees, specifically master’s degrees. Historically, a bachelor’s degree was a powerful and reliable signaling device, telling employers that the college-educated individual was almost certainly smarter, more knowledgeable, disciplined, and ambitious, and harder working than the average American. College graduates were special people — the best and the brightest, deserving a nice wage premium in labor markets.”

The problem is that getting a college or even graduate degree these days is more a matter of persistence than anything else and lots of degree holders have hardly any more useful knowledge than they did in high school. That “attainment” alone doesn’t matter much if your abilities are merely mediocre.

The American Enterprise Institute has recently published a study on the value of graduate degrees that supports Vedder’s argument that we have already overdone it on higher education. While some grad degrees are clearly worthwhile, many others aren’t. And curiously, on average they are more apt to benefit women than men.

What the nation really needs is a more efficient means of certifying individual trainability.

Vedder concludes,

As America increasingly engages in massive federal budget deficits, incurs ever larger obligations associated with a costly welfare state serving an aging population, and faces increasingly expensive international challenges from terrorists and emerging nations like China, can we afford to continue to certify predicted employment competence the same way some Europeans did in the late Middle Ages?

Sometimes You Just Can’t Win

by Roger Clegg

Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave fulsome praise to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for his message and life, calling on Justice Department employees to “remember, celebrate and act.”

“But civil rights leaders criticized Sessions’s remarks,” according to the Washington Post, because they were made while he was pointing the Department in a direction their groups don’t like.

Never miss an opportunity to refuse to acknowledge any common ground. No doubt these “civil rights leaders” would have been happier if Sessions had ignored King or, better yet, criticized him, his message, and his life.

Marco Rubio: Populist?

by Henry Olsen

Senator Marco Rubio today authored an interesting post on the website UnHerd.com. You have to register your email address to access it, but the post (as well as their many other articles) is well worth your time to check out.

Rubio argues that the most under-reported story of 2017 was how Apple (and, by implication, a host of other American-based multinationals) exports not only production jobs but even its valuable intellectual capital to offshore foreign subsidiaries. The piece details how this is done and provocatively asks “is Apple an American company?” His conclusion follows up on that to raise an even more provocative question:

If Apple, the most successful enterprise of the information age, is not American, then something is wrong with our model. Globalization is based on the assumption that economic gains from a more open global economy will offset losses in American jobs. What happens if the gains get shipped abroad along with the jobs?

People open to economic populism can answer that question: if the gains get shipped abroad, you get Trump and Bernie Sanders. Americans have shown for decades they are untroubled by economic inequality so long as almost all people share in a ever-growing pie. But if the gains that derive from that pie are not broadly shared, then eventually people (i.e., voters) get wise to the game and demand reforms. While many things coalesced to create 2016’s political earthquakes, the sense that the economy no longer works for the benefit of millions of Americans was surely one of the most important fault lines beneath the tremors.

Teasing out Rubio’s thought here, it seems he endorses one of economic populism’s key tenets, that citizenship matters as well as efficiency in determining whether an economy works for a nation. Economic populism ultimately rests upon this point: it’s not enough that Americans own companies that produce wealth for people in other countries if the broad mass of Americans do not share in the increase in that wealth. That’s why economic populists focus on things like “American jobs”. To an orthodox economist who dismisses any good other than efficiency, there are no such things as “American jobs,” there are only “jobs in America”. And the sort of “jobs in America” that exist are, and ought to be, largely – if not solely – the product of market forces driven by the efficient allocation of capital to economically efficient firms. So under the orthodox view if America is a nation with financiers and software engineers on the one end and baristas and gardeners on the other, with little in between, there’s nothing unjust about that result.

Rubio’s post suggests he does not share that view. If true, it means there is now daylight between him and the party hierarchy and the purportedly populist, but increasingly economically orthodox, president. It would, if he chooses to take this path, allow him to craft a path between Romney-Ryanism on the one hand and Bannonism on the other.

The high priests of supply-side economics who sit in the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board will predictably denounce the Senator’s apostasy. They will find his lack of faith disturbing.

But just as a small band of rebels overthrew Vader’s Empire, I think Rubio has awakened the Force that binds Americans to one another – and which when wielded with skill brings political victory to its practitioner.

I don’t think Rubio is alone. Over the past few months, people like Senators Tom Cotton and Mike Lee have made their own proposals which, if taken to their logical conclusions, are also inherently economically populist and at odds with the supply-side religion. But none to my knowledge has posed the central question – does citizenship matter as much as efficiency in crafting economic policy? – as clearly as Rubio has in this one small post.

I have been writing about working class Americans and their views for nearly nine years. As part of that effort, I have urged Republicans to begin to rethink their faith in their ancient, supply-side religion. For most of that period, I have often been asked something along the lines of “sounds great. Which Republican leader agrees with you?”Now, thanks to Rubio, and Cotton and Lee, I have new hope.

Social Conservatives Should Condemn Trump’s Porn-Star Hookup

by Jonah Goldberg

The allegation that Donald Trump cheated on his wife — the current first lady — with a porn star and then paid to cover it up is gaining attention. Given the legal paperwork involved in that cover-up, never mind everything else we know, I think most people are inclined to believe it happened. The relevant question is, Who will care?

I thought this Twitter exchange was revealing.

Josh Hammer tweeted:

To which Glenn Reynolds replied:

I have a few observations.

First, I think saying, “I’m a libertarian, so I’m fine with people having sex with porn stars” sails past a few important details. I know plenty of libertarians who are not fine with people cheating on their spouses with porn stars or anybody else. There is literally nothing inherent to libertarianism that requires people to be “fine” with adultery. That’s libertinism, not libertarianism.

It seems to me that libertarianism only enters the picture on things like this when the question is “What should the state do about it?” or, perhaps, “Should this matter to voters?” The answer to the former is, of course, nothing. The answer to the latter would probably elicit different responses from lots of people, including among libertarians. But any serious understanding of libertarianism must allow for people to be free to judge other people for their moral failings. I certainly think Glenn is a serious libertarian. And I suspect he was just writing in shorthand, because it’s Twitter.

As for his second point that lots of conservatives are tired of having their principles used against them, this seems incontestable to me. This was a big psychological and political undercurrent among Trump enthusiasts in 2016. It could be summarized in the famous line from Huey Long, “What’s the use of being right only to be defeated?”

And, without spelling it out for liberals who might seem flummoxed by this widespread attitude on the right, I think it’s a legitimate gripe. I can even understand why many rank-and-file GOP voters would throw their hands up and say, “If liberals aren’t going to play by the rules, why should conservatives?”

But I think this is ultimately the wrong way to think about this. It’s a bit like the bureaucrat or cop who won’t take bribes feeling like he’s a fool since everyone else is on the take. He’s not a fool. If it’s wrong to take bribes, it’s still wrong if “everybody does it.”

But while voters are perfectly free to make their own decisions about what factors they want to take into account in their estimation of politicians, I am at a loss as to how various social- and religious-conservative leaders can, with clear conscience, or even a straight face, shrug off this kind of thing, never mind defend it. If you’ve dedicated your professional or pastoral life to upholding and enforcing public standards of decency, there is no principled argument for giving Trump a pass. There are any number of transactional, prudential, “pragmatic,” or instrumental arguments for doing so. But when liberals — and many other Republicans — were embroiled in sex scandals, those leaders were at the forefront of repudiating such defenses as moral relativism. At the very least, Jerry Falwell & Co. should be condemning Trump’s behavior.

Morality is supposed to be way, way upstream of politics. If your position is that your team doesn’t have to do right because the other team does wrong, you don’t really believe in doing right for its own sake.

The Imposition in China

by Jay Nordlinger

In Impromptus today, I have an item about China, whose government has just destroyed a church. This was Golden Lampstand Church, in Shanxi Province, one of the poorest areas of the country. The church was built for $3 million, all contributed by the worshipers. The government blew up the building. They dynamited it.

In my column, I quote an excellent report in the New York Times by Russell Goldman, who writes, “Under President Xi Jinping, the government has destroyed churches or removed their steeples and crosses as part of a campaign that reflects the Communist Party’s longstanding fear that Christianity, viewed as a Western philosophy, is a threat to the party’s authority.” (I comment, “The party is right, isn’t it? Anyway, what that church represented will long outlive the party …”)

A reader from Big Rapids, Mich. — home of Ferris State University — writes, “It may not be an original point, but isn’t communism itself a ‘Western philosophy’?” Yes, it is an excellent point — and it is one made to me many years ago by a leader of the Falun Gong movement, which, as you know, has been shockingly persecuted in China. There are all too credible reports of organ harvesting. (For my review of Ethan Gutmann’s important 2014 book, The Slaughter, go here.)

The Falun Gong leader said to me roughly this: “The dictatorship in Beijing calls us ‘alien’ and a ‘foreign imposition.’ Actually, the opposite is true. Falun Gong has deep roots in China. It is thoroughly, even stereotypically, Chinese. Communism, on the other hand, is a foreign imposition. It comes from you people, in the West! Marx and Engels and all that. The Communist government is hostile to the family. We Chinese have always cherished the family.” And so on.

A point that should be repeated (as I find myself doing).

GOP Rep. Curbelo Could’ve Helped Hispanic Caucus Push Bipartisan DACA Deal

by Alexandra DeSanctis

Earlier this month, the leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) sent a letter to House speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, urging them to provide a permanent fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

But last November, the caucus made a decision that served to undermine bipartisan consensus on DACA — it excluded Florida representative Carlos Curbelo from its ranks because he’s a Republican. Curbelo, born in Miami to two Cuban exiles who fled to the U.S., is both a conservative Republican and a supporter of DACA.

Late last year, the congressman said he wouldn’t support any spending bill unless Congress also found a way to permanently protect individuals in the DACA program. Having him in the caucus would’ve been a nice illustration of the fact that there is bipartisan support among Hispanic representatives for a DACA deal.

In fact, Curbelo’s office tells National Review via email that the congressman fully supports the text of the CHC’s January letter. “The congressman agrees with the sentiment of the letter wholeheartedly, however, it is unfortunate some of the signers are individuals who promote bigotry and division and are committed to the segregation of America’s Hispanic community,” said Curbelo’s spokesperson, Joanna Rodriguez. “It’s ridiculous they can call for compassion and inclusion with a straight face.”

It is worth noting, too, that the CHC’s letter was sent not on official stationery but on political letterhead, despite the group’s status as an official organization that uses taxpayer dollars. The Congressional Black Caucus, for example, uses its own official stationery for similar purposes. The CHC’s decision not to do so suggests that the group intends to use this letter about DACA for political purposes, whether through a PAC or for members’ re-election campaigns.

This move is more evidence that the CHC exists primarily to further its members’ political careers rather than actually represent the needs of Hispanic Americans. For example, news broke today that the CHC’s political arm, BOLD PAC, will back Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Curbelo’s Democratic challenger in Florida’s 26th congressional district.

When the group rejected Curbelo last November, its chairwoman, representative Michelle Lujan Grisham admitted it was because the group wants to oppose President Trump, and having a Republican in the group would make it more difficult to do so. “We have strategies about the White House and we have strategies about those committees and we have strategies about who we are working on and leveraging with and [having a GOP member] creates an environment where we stop having strategic discussions,” Lujan Grisham told reporters at the time.

This obvious ideological intransigence reveals that the group doesn’t actually intend to achieve tangible political change for its supposed constituency, or at least that any allies must fully embrace anti-Trump progressivism. Had the members of the CHC chosen to allow diversity within its ranks — and, as a result, authentic representation of Hispanic Americans — rather than exclude Curbelo due to hyperpartisanship, their case in support of DACA would’ve been truly bipartisan, and thus much stronger.

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by NR Staff

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