We Have Enough Checks on the President’s Power to Order a Nuclear Strike

by David French

Earlier this week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a highly unusual hearing. For the first time in decades it considered whether it’s necessary to alter or restrict the president’s power to order a nuclear strike. Democratic senator Christopher Murphy claimed the hearing was necessary because President Trump is “unstable” and “volatile.” Republicans were more measured, but concerns about potential confrontation with North Korea are more than enough reason to at least carefully think through current processes.

As it is, the president possesses the exclusive legal authority to order a nuclear attack. No general can decide to use our most deadly weapons, even if the forces under his command face complete destruction and only a nuclear strike can save his troops. A general facing a crumbling front and an imminent military disaster has only conventional weapons at his command.

At the same time, the president doesn’t have to consult with Congress before using our nation’s ultimate weapons. It’s one reason why the American commander-in-chief is rightly described as the most powerful man in the world.

But it’s not unchecked power. Every American president is subjected to important constitutional and military restraints. The most important constitutional safeguard against the kind of man who’d launch a truly rogue strike — initiate genocidal war on impulse — is the 25th Amendment. A man so unhinged is incapable of serving as president, and the Constitution provides for his emergency removal if the vice president and a “majority of the principal officers of the executive departments” determine that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Moreover, a proper reading of the Constitution also limits the president’s authority to initiate any kind of war, including nuclear war. The Constitution reserves the power to declare war to Congress. The commander-in-chief, by contrast, is responsible for waging war.

When our constitutional system is functioning, the only time the president should be able to act without Congress is when he’s responding immediately to an actual or imminent attack on the United States, on Americans abroad, or to an attack on American allies when we’re under a Senate-ratified defense obligation. Even then, he should turn to Congress as soon as possible to ratify his defensive response and authorize offensive military action.

As we know, however, a number of American presidents have disagreed with this constitutional formulation and have taken it upon themselves to wage war without congressional approval. And they’ve done so without facing any constitutional consequence. In other words, one of our constitutional safeguards has already failed — at least in the face of lower-stakes conflicts.

Thus, we have to consider a nightmare scenario. What if a president snaps — acting before his cabinet can remove him — and orders an indefensible, rogue nuclear strike? The answer is simple. The military wouldn’t comply. It’s officers are bound by law to refuse lawless commands, and the modern American military has profound cultural and moral restraints against the kind of world-changing mass murder that would result from a rogue strike. It won’t happen.

In fact, it’s doubtful that it would happen even in the face of more defensible temptations to launch a first strike. Our nation has suffered conventional military disasters (for example, deep in North Korea during the first year of the Korean War) without resorting to nuclear weapons, and it’s hard to imagine a single general recommending a nuclear strike in the absence of actual or imminent opposition use of weapons of mass destruction. Our military is built to fight and win wars through the use of conventional weapons . . . and conventional weapons alone.

Of course one can always imagine a different, dystopian future where our current safeguards would be inadequate. But as much as I’ve critiqued Trump on other grounds, I have no fear that he’ll attempt a rogue strike. In fact, his actual military policies since assuming office have been quite moderate, and his military operations have not just been successful, they’ve been conducted squarely in compliance with the laws of armed conflict.

Moreover, there are good reasons for putting the nuclear authority in the hands of the commander-in-chief. In many likely nuclear launch scenarios, decisions will have to be made with extreme speed. In case of a defensive strike, the decision may have to be made in the few minutes while opposing nuclear weapons are in the air — or in the moments before an imminent opposing nuclear launch. In such situations, decision-by-committee could lead to catastrophic delays and cost millions of lives.

Finally, let’s not forget that the system has worked, and in worked through decades of hair-trigger nuclear alerts and times of far worse international tension. This American system is not broken. There’s no harm in evaluating the current system, and the committee was right to hold a hearing. But after further consideration, nothing should change.

New NR Podcast: The Jamie Weinstein Show

by Charles C. W. Cooke

I’m thrilled to announce that National Review will henceforth be hosting one of our favorite podcasts, The Jamie Weinstein Show. Over the last year or so, Jamie has sat down with figures as diverse in background and outlook as Roger Stone, David Frum, Tomi Lahren, Jamie Kirchick, Dana Perino, Richard Spencer, Bill Mitchell, Bill Kristol, and Bill Ayers. On each occasion, he’s managed to cut the 20-seconds-of-shouting-and-then-back-to-the-ads approach that is so common on cable news, and to really get into his chosen topics. The results have been illuminating and entertaining. We’re thrilled to be the new home for this excellent show.

For the inaugural episode at NR, Jamie went to Texas to talk to none other than Mark Cuban. You can listen to that show here, as well as subscribe to the feed on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher (TuneIn will be added by the end of the week). Jamie has also taken the time to write up what he thinks were the most interesting parts of the interview, and I’d recommend reading that too. Enjoy!

On Great Men, and Al Franken

by Kevin D. Williamson

“Great men are seldom good men.” It’s a cliché, but some clichés become clichés because they are true.

Mohandas K. Gandhi was kind of a creep, sleeping nude with attractive young women, usually family members, purportedly as a test of his chastity. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was pretty rotten when it came to women. Thomas Jefferson seems to have amused himself by raping a 14-year-old slave. John Kennedy, Augustine, Mohammed — none of them were exactly exemplary in their personal lives.

The situation is not very different among men who are merely famous. The catalogue of rock-’n’-roll pedophilia, from Jerry Lee Lewis to Iggy Pop, is as long as KISS’s discography, and as predictable. (I consider some of that in the current issue of National Review.) Writers? Don’t even get started on that bunch. Hollywood? Anybody really think Harvey Weinstein is the only Harvey Weinstein out there?

In the case of great men, we have to consider their careers whole. Gandhi had some very weird personal habits and a lot of very stupid ideas about politics and economics, but he was right about his One Big Thing. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., too. We are lucky that Jefferson wasn’t as influential as he might have been among the Founding Fathers, given that he harbored some truly insane political ideas. It’s a difficult thing to do, which is why good historians and good biographers are so valuable.

Happily, in the case of Senator Al Franken, we don’t really have to do very much of that. He’s a putz. He was a putz before that leering picture of him groping a sleeping woman came out. Some of our Democratic friends have been reconsidering their apologizing and excuse-making for Bill Clinton. (More joy in Heaven and all that — but the timing sure is convenient.) If it is the case, as Matthew Yglesias argues, that Bill Clinton should have resigned in disgrace over his gross but consensual exploitation of a young White House intern, what should Franken do?

What says the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota? Are we to take them seriously, or not?

Bad Arguments Don’t Help Us Debate Bad Policy

by Jibran Khan

I’m a skeptic of the Republicans’ tax plan. I think that it’s unwise to blow up the deficit outside of a recession in the hopes that sudden economic growth will rebalance the budget.

Dishonest arguments against the plan, however, do skeptics no credit. Brian Faler in Politico and Matt Yglesias at Vox both released policy explainers this afternoon with a bold claim in their headlines, declaring that the Senate plan raises taxes on the middle class.

As Yglesias notes in the text of his article (but contrary to what the headline suggests), this uses the estimate for 2027, after the individual tax cuts expire. This simply ignores the entirety of those cuts, which will be in effect for years, as well as the possibility that Congress would renew them in the future, closer to their sunset.

There does seem to be an actual tax increase on lower brackets, but it’s not what Yglesias was pointing to. Specifically, the $10,000-to-$20,000 bracket sees a lower refund, and the $20,000-to-$30,000 bracket sees an apparent rate increase. Nicole Kaeding at the Tax Foundation suggests that this is because fewer would claim health-care-premium tax credits with individual-mandate repeal.

This tax plan (and all proposed legislation) should be thoroughly vetted. Misleading critiques to pull in clicks, though, simply encourage people to write off all criticism.

Immigration and ‘Elites’

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The language of “the elites vs. the people” lends itself all too easily to abuse, but there is a division of opinion on immigration policy that is hard to describe in any other way. CEOs do seem to favor higher and less-policed immigration than the people who work for them; the heads of religious organizations do seem to favor it more than the folks in the pews; and so on. Bryan Caplan, himself a proponent of open borders, says as much:

If public support for immigration is so high, why has political opposition become so vocal? Because public support for immigration, though relatively high [compared to 1966-2002], remains absolutely low. And that’s all it takes for anti-immigration demagoguery to work. The real puzzle isn’t, “Why did Trump take a strong anti-immigration stand in 2016?” but “Why doesn’t every presidential candidate take a strong anti-immigration stand in every election?” And the obvious solution to this puzzle is elite-on-elite pressure: elites are more cosmopolitan than the masses – and shame fellow elites who dissent. Trump won by being the sort of elite who treats elite shame as a badge of honor. [emphasis in original]

I think that’s only part of the story. It’s also true that if you were a leading Republican politician in 2007, say, you most likely genuinely fell on the elite side of the opinion divide — and so did most of the people who talked to you about the issue. But it is an important part of it.

National Review’s Joan Didion

by John J. Miller

Part of the lore of National Review is that Joan Didion once wrote for us, way back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, before she became a famous writer. Netflix recently debuted The Center Will Not Hold, a biographical documentary of Didion, who is 82. It doesn’t mention the National Review connection, but if you want to learn more about it, read this fine piece by Nic Rowan in Acculturated.

Go Ahead, Take People Off the Income-Tax Rolls

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Response To...

A Few Thoughts on the ...

I had hoped that conservative enthusiasm for keeping as many people as possible paying income taxes would peter out after the 2012 election, when the sentiment led Mitt Romney to make his politically damaging remarks about the allegedly irresponsible “47 percent” of people who don’t pay them. But it continues as a piece of conservative folk wisdom, and Veronique de Rugy and George Will have both recently voiced it on NRO. People who don’t pay income taxes, Will writes, have “a vanishingly small incentive to restrain the growth of a government that they are not paying for through its largest revenue source.”

In years of debating this issue, I have never yet found a proponent of this theory — the theory that taking people off the tax rolls makes them more likely to support big government — who has provided a scrap of evidence for it. I’m not looking for peer-reviewed social science. Just show me:

1) that increases in public support for government activism have coincided with increases in the percentage of the population without income-tax liability, or that decreases in both have coincided with each other; or

2) that the groups of people who have mostly left the income-tax rolls over the last two decades — parents leaving because of the child tax credit and voters in the Silent Generation and early Baby Boomers leaving because of retirement — have become more pro-government activism; or

3) that voters make a sharp distinction between payroll and income taxes and consider themselves to be getting off free if they pay only the former.

I don’t believe we have good reason to believe any of these things. For example, the percentage of people paying income taxes was rising before and during the Great Society years. And our federal government was much smaller during the century-plus when nobody at all paid an income tax than it has been since then. (The Founders were intensely concerned about limiting federal power but don’t seem to have considered a make-everyone-pay-income-taxes strategy for achieving that end.)

If the Will/de Rugy theory were right, it would place proponents of smaller government at a dead end. Their anti-tax instincts would be at war with themselves. They would have to raise middle-class taxes today in order to deliver a payoff of lowering middle-class taxes in a hypothetical future. Luckily, there is no reason to think the theory holds water.

Senate Democrats Won’t Say Whether They’d Vote To Expel Roy Moore

by Alexandra DeSanctis

In light of the sexual-assault allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore — along with reports that he habitually attempted to date women who were in their teens when he was in his thirties — National Review Online contacted the offices of every Democratic senator (including the two Independents who caucus with the Democrats: Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) to ask if they would vote to expel Moore from the Senate should he win election in December.

Only a handful of offices bothered to reply, and all but one — that of Oregon senator Ron Wyden — did not directly address whether or not Moore should be expelled by sitting senators upon his election.

“Roy Moore does not belong in the Senate, period,” Wyden told NRO via email. “He has been accused of awful, unacceptable conduct. I cannot imagine the people of Alabama will elect an accused sexual predator, but if they do, he should be expelled.”

Less unequivocal were statements from the offices of the few senators who so much as replied to emails and phone calls requesting comment.

“Senator Cortez Masto is disgusted by the reports out of Alabama on Roy Moore’s alleged history of sexual assault,” read an email statement from Ryan King, deputy communications director for Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. “He should do the right thing and step aside.” Since the allegations about Moore surfaced, Cortez Masto has sent fundraising emails in her name for the campaign of Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent in Alabama.

The office of Senator Sherrod Brown said the Ohio Democrat agrees with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell that Moore should step aside, and he does not believe that Moore should serve in the Senate.

Michigan senator Gary Peters’s office replied similarly, saying Peters believes Alabama voters have a clear choice, and if they do not want a senator mired in scandal, they should not vote for Roy Moore.

Sue Walitsky, communications director for Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, told NRO only: “Senator Cardin supports Doug Jones.”

It is worth asking why Senate Democrats would be so hesitant to say whether or not the allegations against Moore are egregious enough to merit a vote to expel him from the Senate. Perhaps some Democrats would prefer to have Moore in the Senate, in spite of his possible misdeeds, because his presence as a GOP leader makes it easier for the Left to tarnish all Republicans with his unfitness for office.

Editor’s Note: This piece has been updated to include a statement from the office of Michigan senator Gary Peters. This article previously stated that his office had declined to comment on the record.

He Was a Happy Man, But . . .

by Jack Fowler

He did worry about NR. Yep. No, not despair — never despair. That being a sin. But there was a less-than-theological reason for Bill’s refusal to despair: It was that he knew that National Review subscribers believed they were part of a much larger thing. A cause. A mutual one which required their additional selfless help — help they were happy to give.

And “they” (has that included you? — if so, thanks so much) have given now for some 59 years, saving the brassy conservative journal from its near extinction way back in 1958. And saving it year in and out ever since. Back when the doors nearly closed, Bill learned quickly that the business of opinion journalism was less about NR being a business and more about it being a genuine and consequential cause. A thing with an important mission. Which NR remains.

If Bill Buckley were here now — and he is, spiritually, looking over our shoulders (I can smell the peanut butter!) — he’d be urging my colleagues and me to in turn urge you to make NRO’s 2017 Fall Webathon a success. So we (read Rich Lowry’s appeal) follow heavenly orders.

Our goal for the current effort is $200,000. We’re more than halfway there. The proceeds will go towards several vital efforts that will make NR much more stable financially, and expand our outreach, particularly through increased podcasting and video. It’s essential to the institution, and to the broad conservative cause we serve, and the principles we fight relentlessly to protect, that we do this.

We worry, just as Bill did — will our friends be there for us (yet again!)? We hope you will be. Pray you will be. If you haven’t yet, please be part of the NRO 2017 Fall Webathon by making a generous donation here. People who prefer PayPal should contribute here. And, of course, checks, made payable to “National Review” and mailed to 19 West 44th Street, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10036, are happily accepted. Many thanks.

A Pox on All ’Em

by Jay Nordlinger

Response To...

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Rejects Congressman ...

I was interested to read Xan’s post on Carlos Curbelo and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. As a Republican, he has been excluded from the caucus. I think I have been noting these things for most of my career: I remember way back when Gary Franks, the Connecticut Republican, had trouble with the Congressional Black Caucus.

Also, there have always been people who don’t, or won’t, count Cuban Americans as Hispanics. This is an interesting political, semantic, and psychological debate. (Not for nothing have the Cubans been called “the Jews of the Hispanic world.”)

Discussing the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressman Curbelo said this: “Unbelievably, petty partisan interests have led the CHC to formally endorse the segregation of American Hispanics.”

Well, I’ll go him one further: I don’t like these ethnic and racial caucuses at all. I think being in Congress, you ought to be a congressman. The End.


House Passes Tax Bill

by Theodore Kupfer

Minutes ago, the House passed its version of tax reform, which expands the standard deduction, shrinks the amount of individual tax brackets from seven to four, and cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. The vote was 227–205, with 13 Republicans voting against the bill and no Democrats voting for it.

All but one of the Republicans who voted against the bill represent California, New York, or New Jersey, states with high income-tax rates whose residents could be affected by the trimming of the state-and-local-tax deduction. The onus now falls on the Senate to pass its version of tax reform, and on Republicans to negotiate the differences between the two bills.

For more on the Senate bill, see National Review’s editorial.

Judge Declares a Mistrial in Senator Menendez’s Bribery Trial

by Philip H. DeVoe

New Jersey senator Bob Menendez’s bribery trial ended in a mistrial after the jury failed to return a verdict twice, first on Monday and again earlier today.

According to a note penned today, the jurors said they were unable to return a unanimous verdict on any of the 18 counts and unwilling “to move away from our strong convictions.” U.S. District Court judge William Walls, who presided over the case, made his decision after interviewing the foreman, at least one other juror, and both lawyers.

After the jury informed Walls that it remained deadlocked this morning, Walls rejected the prosecution’s suggestion that the jury return to deliberation or give them option of issuing a partial verdict. According to the judge, such action would go down “the slippery slope of coercion.”

The prosecution has the option of retrying Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, though it is unclear as to whether it will do so. Both men were charged with participating in a bribery scheme whereby Menendez exchanged political favors for financial benefits from Melgen.

Nancy MacLean’s Deceitful Democracy in Chains Fails to Win National Book Award

by Jibran Khan

It is with great relief that I announce that Duke University professor Nancy MacLean did not win the National Book Award for Nonfiction, for which her book Democracy in Chains was a finalist.

MacLean casts the Nobel Prize–winning economist James Buchanan in the role of grand conspirator who aimed to destroy American democracy as a response to racial integration.

This assertion is absurd on its face. The real Buchanan was a strong scholar in the public-finance tradition, who worried about not only state-enforced racism, but the tendency of people to self-segregate by race and class. This supposed right-wing conspirator wrote a book about his liberalism called Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative.

The Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, a fellow Nobel laureate, considered Buchanan our age’s equivalent of Adam Smith and the Marquis de Condorcet. Indeed, so influential was he that his analyses of political action inspired the best-ever TV comedy, the BBC’s Yes, Minister.

Democracy in Chains, which has been thoroughly debunked by left, right, libertarian, and center, is no good-faith critique. It features fabricated quotes and ellipses to flip the meaning of actual quotes, and invents “facts” out of whole cloth.

Buchanan’s closest collaborators teach at Duke, but MacLean never once approached them as sources for her study, which is a bit like being Representative John Lewis’s neighbor and writing a book about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. without ever asking him questions.

As a historian, I found the nomination of such a book for such a prestigious award to be distressing. While it is unfortunate that she still received recognition as a runner-up, it is a relief that she didn’t win.

Let us hope that the Bannonization of my discipline does not continue unabated.

Al Franken May Be Guilty of a Sex Crime

by David French

The picture of Al Franken apparently groping a sleeping Leann Tweeden isn’t just repugnant; if he committed this act in multiple American jurisdictions, he’d be guilty of a crime. For example, in my home state of Tennessee, the felony of “sexual battery” would clearly cover Franken’s behavior. Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-13-505 defines sexual battery as follows:

(a) Sexual battery is unlawful sexual contact with a victim by the defendant or the defendant by a victim accompanied by any of the following circumstances:

(1) Force or coercion is used to accomplish the act;

(2) The sexual contact is accomplished without the consent of the victim and the defendant knows or has reason to know at the time of the contact that the victim did not consent;

(3) The defendant knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated or physically helpless; or

(4) The sexual contact is accomplished by fraud. [Emphasis added.]

A separate section of the Tennessee code defines “sexual contact” as “the intentional touching of the victim’s, the defendant’s, or any other person’s intimate parts, or the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the victim’s, the defendant’s, or any other person’s intimate parts, if that intentional touching can be reasonably construed as being for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.” A person’s “intimate parts” include the “primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock or breast of a human being.”

I use Tennessee law as an example simply because I’m most familiar with it, and Franken would have a defense against similar claims brought in other jurisdictions — either that he didn’t actually touch Tweeden or that the purpose wasn’t “sexual arousal or gratification.” But this is just one law. New York prohibits “forcible touching.”

A person is guilty of forcible touching when such person intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose:

1. forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor’s sexual desire;

Obviously, prosecution would be difficult — combining statutes of limitations questions with jurisdictional issues (where was the picture taken? what law applies?) — but I highlight these statutes simply to note the gravity of Franken’s actions. And I’m just analyzing here the incriminating picture. Don’t forget, Tweeden also accuses Franken of forcibly kissing her and putting his tongue in her mouth. Unless there is missing context or more to the story than Franken’s lame excuse of a joke gone awry, then Franken should step down. There’s no room in the Senate for a man who has likely committed a sex crime.

Suddenly, Taking Sexual Harassment Seriously Could Cost an Incumbent Democrat

by Jim Geraghty

Response To...

Report: Al Franken Groped a ...

Yesterday I wrote that long-delayed reckonings about the harassment and potential crimes of Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy are welcome, but they are arriving at a distinctly convenient time for the Democratic party.

Today we’ll see whether Democrats and various voices on the left are willing to confront inappropriate behavior on the part of a Democratic lawmaker in office. As our Theodore Kupfer writes below, KABC radio host Leeann Tweeden says that Senator Al Franken groped and forcibly kissed her on a USO tour in 2006. While most people are likely to respond to the photo, the described behavior deserves its own focus:

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said “OK” so he would stop badgering me.

We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time. I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth. I felt disgusted and violated.

The statement from the senator is not really much of a denial: “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

What is the appropriate response or consequence of this kind of gross behavior? Franken can hardly ask that it be dismissed as a youthful indiscretion; he was 55 at the time.

Democrats are likely to be divided in their responses. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri stated on Twitter, “I’m shocked and concerned. The behavior described is completely unacceptable. Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation.”

But then there’s Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who, when asked about the Franken allegations, responded, “You guys need to find something more interesting.” UPDATE: The reporter clarifies that Whitehouse said this before being asked about the Franken accusations… which is a pretty glaring error. 

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Rejects Congressman Curbelo for Being Republican

by Alexandra DeSanctis

This morning, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) announced that it has rejected Florida congressman Carlos Curbelo’s request to join the group. Curbelo is a Republican representative elected to the House in 2014; he was born in Miami to two Cuban exiles who fled to the U.S.

The CHC issued the following statement regarding today’s decision:

After due consideration, the CHC determined not to accept Rep. Curbelo’s request. The CHC isn’t just an organization for Hispanics; it is a caucus that represents certain values. This vote reflects the position of many of our mem­bers that Rep. Curbelo and his record are not consistent with those values.

“It is truly shameful the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has decided to build a wall around the organization to exclude Hispanic-Americans who aren’t registered in the Democratic Party. This sends a powerful and harmful message of discrimination, bigotry, and division,” Curbelo said after the CHC announced it decision. “Unbelievably, petty partisan interests have led the CHC to formally endorse the segregation of American Hispanics.”

Curbelo is exactly right. This decision on the part of the CHC amounts to nothing less than the weaponization of race, a transparent effort to reinterpret race as a set of ideological beliefs rather than an inherent part of one’s identity. In doing so, the CHC has revealed itself to represent not Hispanic Americans as a whole, but only those Hispanic Americans whose opinions conform totally to progressive ideology.


A Familiar Smell

by Jay Nordlinger

All of us are shaped by our times and places. How could it be otherwise? When I was growing up (in America), the anti-Semitism of the Right was generally a thing of the past. We were aware of it, of course — but chiefly as an historical phenomenon. The Left was fast becoming the locus of anti-Semitism. And it seemed to begin in Moscow.

Later, there was the “BDS” movement, targeting Israel. It became increasingly hard to distinguish criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism, plain and simple. Paul Johnson told me once, “Scratch someone who is anti-Israel, and you won’t have to dig very far until you reach the anti-Semite within.”

Right and Left often switch places, or seem to. I discussed this several years ago with Ed Koch (who was always a fantastic interviewee). What I mean is, we discussed Left, Right, and anti-Semitism. For that interview — filmed — go here.

In my Impromptus today, I have a variety of items, as usual, including one on Nigel Farage, the UKIP man in Britain (and campaigner for likeminded people around the world, including Alabama’s Roy Moore). On his radio program, he made some head-scratching remarks about the “Jewish lobby” in America. Perhaps he was not at his clearest-thinking.

Another item in my column goes like this:

A man posing as a Washington Post reporter was trolling around Alabama. He was offering cash in exchange for dirt on Roy Moore. Between $5,000 and $7,000! He was trying to discredit the Post’s reporting, of course.

And what was he calling himself? “Bernie Bernstein.” Interesting. Wonder if the name was chosen at random. Could just as easily have been “John Smith,” right? Or even “Lucy Hickenlooper.”

(This was the real name of Olga Samaroff, the pianist who married Leopold Stokowski, the conductor, who was also married to Gloria Vanderbilt, who is Anderson Cooper’s mother.)

“Never look at the comments,” some say. It’s true that there is a lot of the smelly, to go with the sweet. (Like life itself?) I peek in now and then, to see what’s up. I appreciate the sweet, naturally. I appreciate the reasonably critical. I even appreciate some of the artful, or piquant, smelly.

But today there was this, re “Bernie Bernstein”:

Don’t you think the fact he would use that name might warrant not criticism of him, but rather self reflection among the Jewish elites and perhaps even some concern that Leftist Jews have gone so far that normal people simply expect any member of the Lügenpresse to have a Jewish name?

Lügenpresse, of course, is that old Nazi term, recently revived. It means “lying press.” It is a version of “fake news,” or “FAKE NEWS!!!!”

For decades, the founder of our magazine, William F. Buckley Jr., worked his tail off to divorce conservatism from anti-Semitism. It was one of his (many) mitzvahs, so to speak — one of his good deeds. In recent years, I have seen an explosion of anti-Semitism on the right, and “seen” is the right word, for there is no doubt it has always been there, only submerged. The social media coax it out of the woodwork. (The social media, it’s true, coax everything out of the woodwork.)

What do “Left” and “Right” mean, really? More and more, I find those terms confusing, or slippery. What is Putin? What camp does he belong to? He’s an enduring KGB officer, yes, but looked up to by rightist movements everywhere.

Earlier this week, I did a “Stockholm Journal” and touched on a party, the Swedish Democrats:

They have their roots in Nazism. They are nationalist and populist. They are anti-EU and anti-NATO. Generally, they are considered right-wing. But are they left-wing? Does it matter?

There is a point at which Left and Right join . . . 

Anti-Semitism and other ugly, often murderous isms, we will always have with us, apparently. I suppose the only answer is to keep them at bay — eternal vigilance, which may be tiring, but which is less costly than inattention.

‘Roy Moore Is Pure Steve Bannon’

by Rich Lowry

I wrote about the Alabama Senate race today in the context of the Steve Bannon insurgency:

Roy Moore is the Steve Bannon project in a nutshell.

For the former Trump operative, the Alabama Senate candidate’s tattered credibility is a feature, not a bug. If Moore had well-considered political and legal views, good judgment, and a sterling reputation, he’d almost by definition be part of the establishment that Bannon so loathes. Since Moore has none of those things, he’s nearly an ideal representative of the Bannon insurgency.

Events in Alabama make it clear that Bannon’s dime-store Leninism — burn everything down, including perhaps the Republican Senate majority — comes at a considerable cost. In this project, the truth doesn’t matter, ethics don’t matter, and standards don’t matter. Being anti-establishment is an escape clause from personal responsibility, and #war means proudly defending the indefensible.

Once you’ve devoted time and energy building up the career of white-nationalist fellow traveler Milo Yiannopoulos the way Bannon did at Breitbart, there is nothing that you aren’t willing to do.

Report: Al Franken Groped a Radio Host in 2006

by Theodore Kupfer

KABC radio host Leeann Tweeden says that Senator Al Franken groped her in 2006, when Franken was a comedian and the two were on a USO entertainment tour. Tweeden tells the story on the KABC website:

As a TV host and sports broadcaster, as well as a model familiar to the audience from the covers of FHM, Maxim and Playboy, I was only expecting to emcee and introduce the acts, but Franken said he had written a part for me that he thought would be funny, and I agreed to play along.

When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a kiss. I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.

According to Tweeden, Franken, saying they needed to “rehearse” the part, forcibly kissed her when the two were alone backstage.

Later on in the tour, Franken groped Tweeden while she was asleep — and Tweeden includes a photo of the act. “I couldn’t believe it,” Tweeden writes. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.”

Franken has responded to the report in a statement. “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell called for an investigation of Franken by the Senate Ethics Committee. “As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter. I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this,” McConnell said. “Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable — in the workplace or anywhere else.”