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Updated: Fri, 28 Apr 2017 13:21:02 -0500

 



After 100 Days, These Things Will Stick

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

It’s been quite a ride -- we’ll miss the Inauguration Day crowd pictures, the imaginary 3-5 million illegal votes, the wiretapping tweets, assertions that our government kills people just as the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin does, and the bold revelations that health care is complicated, NATO isn’t obsolete after all, and being president is a lot of work. President Trump, who produced a contract for the voter last October that outlined all that he would accomplish in his first 100 days, now feels the marker isn’t what it’s cracked up to be,...It’s been quite a ride -- we’ll miss the Inauguration Day crowd pictures, the imaginary 3-5 million illegal votes, the wiretapping tweets, assertions that our government kills people just as the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin does, and the bold revelations that health care is complicated, NATO isn’t obsolete after all, and being president is a lot of work. President Trump, who produced a contract for the voter last October that outlined all that he would accomplish in his first 100 days, now feels the marker isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, since governing isn’t either. Yet it’s clear from the first three months that Trump has learned on the job, and enjoyed some achievements with a Supreme Court confirmation, decreased border crossings and hefty rollbacks of regulations. Despite the failure to pass a health care fix and court challenges to some of his executive orders, Trump has handled foreign policy better than most expected by relying upon several respected Cabinet secretaries who have earned the trust  of members of both parties. Trump will continue to change as the learning curve dictates, but here are a dozen things Americans have learned about him since Election Day, or that have been reaffirmed since then, that will never change: The sell is supreme. No matter what issue, no matter what political context or consequence, Trump the Over-Promiser will push out superlatives for any event or  policy, at potential cost to the process. Everything will always be the best in history, the largest, and simplest, and it’s all coming quickly. The president’s proclivity, which can give congressional Republicans and his own West Wing staff fever, is going nowhere. Trump likes to work. He truly is, as all his bullying of Jeb Bush suggested, as high energy as he boasted. The man likes to stay busy, and he doesn't care for sleep. He  doesn’t read lengthy memos or briefing papers, and he takes plenty of time out for golf and cable news, but it’s clear that, at age 70, Trump is an active man who craves the stimulation of the job. Trump is a brazen hypocrite, as documented by his Twitter archive. From the liberal use of executive orders to the folly of airstrikes in Syria to the fallacy of the government’s monthly employment statistics to the amount of time presidents should spend on the golf course -- Trump’s older tweets, in addition to his on-camera statements, are a trove of former outrages over things he bashed President Obama for but now considers groovy.  Who knew Trump would golf twice as much as Obama in just 100 days? Trade will be Trump’s reliable weapon of choice. Whenever times get tough, he can and will threaten other countries on trade, rattling markets as well as Republicans, to distract from any other consuming news and to soothe his base. The gift that never stops giving. Trump can’t let go of his obsession with the media. The 45th president spends hours a day watching cable news, including the channels he says he won’t watch, and at whim calls reporters who write for the FAKE NEWS New York Times and Washington Post with great regularity. The wall is fantasy. It’s hard to find anyone beyond the president who will say out loud that yes, we need to build a wall. What was an energetic chant for Trump supporters packed into stadiums for campaign rallies is now a punch line for the many illusions of the Trump presidency, or as Re[...]



Repeal Misfire; Estate Tax Targeted; Schumer's First 117 Days; Hoover's Gift

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Friday, April 28, 2017. Eighty-seven years ago today, a beleaguered U.S. president sent a special message to Congress that revealed -- as did so many of his actions in a long public service career -- pro-active impulses along with a discerning and empathetic nature. This is not how Herbert Hoover would be perceived by the end of his presidency, which was undone by the onset of the Great Depression. Most Americans came to believe that the White House response to that crushing economic crisis was wholly inadequate. Hence the adjective...Good morning, it’s Friday, April 28, 2017. Eighty-seven years ago today, a beleaguered U.S. president sent a special message to Congress that revealed -- as did so many of his actions in a long public service career -- pro-active impulses along with a discerning and empathetic nature. This is not how Herbert Hoover would be perceived by the end of his presidency, which was undone by the onset of the Great Depression. Most Americans came to believe that the White House response to that crushing economic crisis was wholly inadequate. Hence the adjective “beleaguered” above. In any event, what President Hoover was nudging Congress to do in his April 28, 1930 communication to Capitol Hill was streamline federal law enforcement to make it more efficient and reform the federal prison system to make it more humane. I’ll have more on this in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * House GOP Still Short on Obamacare Votes. Republicans failed to mend their rifts over the health care measure, despite hard-liners’ buy-in, James Arkin reports.  Trump Targets Estate Tax to Save Time, Effort for Wealthy.  The president believes helping successful families by killing the tax will create jobs, Alexis Simendinger writes. The First 117 Days of Chuck Schumer. Scott Jennings asserts that it’s only fair to evaluate the new Senate minority leader -- and so he does. A Democratic ‘Contract With America.’ Bryan Dean Wright spells out his proposal. A Woman Who Made the World Better. Ann Corkery has this appreciation of conservative commentator Kate O’Beirne. ACA Favorability Stays Positive. Ford Carson reports on the polling numbers as Trump nears his 100th day in office. Running for Your Life? Not So Much. In RealClearHealth, Alex Brill analyzes a recent study claiming that running can add years to your life. No Animals Required: Lab-Grown Meat Can Help Fight Antibiotic Resistance. Also in RCH, Scott Romaniuk & Tobias Burgers argue that the future of food safety rests in the lab, not in the slaughterhouses. Republicans: Don't Tax Reinsurance. In RealClearPolicy, Steve Pociask urges GOP lawmakers to exempt reinsurance services from the proposed border-adjustment tax. On Russia, Trump Should Follow Reagan. In RealClearDefense, Rep. Jim Banks has this advice for the president. Europe’s China Pivot. In RealClearWorld, Robert Manning explains how China’s One Belt, One Road plan might shift European priorities and policymaking eastward. The Legacies of President Bill Clinton. In RealClearBooks, Nicholas Evan Sarantakes reviews two new works on the 42nd president. Is the Death Penalty Anti-Christian? In RealClearReligion, Mathew Schmalz explores a topic made relevant by multiple executions this week in Arkansas. * * * In June and December of 1929, Herbert Hoover had proposed several reforms concerning federal law enforcement. Some had been enacted, some ignored. But in the spring of 1930, even as the Depression was starting to dominate the political landscape, Hoover pushed hard for the remainder of his program. The president noted that the number of federal prisoners had d[...]



Trump Targets Estate Tax to Save Time, Effort for Wealthy

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

President Trump will ask Congress to eliminate the estate tax because it would “save time and effort” among wealthy and successful families, according to a senior administration official. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn on Wednesday proposed eliminating the existing tax on estates worth more than $5.5 million for individuals ($11 million for couples) as one element among proposed tax changes the president hopes to enact this year. Mnuchin and Cohn said Trump’s focus in pushing for a major tax code overhaul is economic growth...President Trump will ask Congress to eliminate the estate tax because it would “save time and effort” among wealthy and successful families, according to a senior administration official. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn on Wednesday proposed eliminating the existing tax on estates worth more than $5.5 million for individuals ($11 million for couples) as one element among proposed tax changes the president hopes to enact this year. Mnuchin and Cohn said Trump’s focus in pushing for a major tax code overhaul is economic growth and job creation, as well as simplicity. Conservatives have long called for the elimination of what they describe as “the death tax,” and over decades, the issue has taken on a political life of its own. Under current law, relatively few families have to pay estate taxes on inherited assets. But in the upcoming policy debate about tax benefits -- for companies, the middle class, and for the richest Americans -- the estate tax is sure to be a target among the president’s progressive critics. “This may not be the best political or economic environment to propose a tax cut that over 10 years gives $269 billion to only 5,000 of the wealthiest inheritors each year,” wrote Gene Sperling, a former White House economic adviser to Presidents Clinton and Obama. In a recent article published by The Atlantic, Sperling suggested Trump and Republicans should strengthen the estate tax rather than repeal it.   Trump’s family wealth, global properties and complex holdings -- and the fact that two of his heirs serve as unpaid West Wing policy advisers -- invite questions about the billionaire’s motives in seeking a tax change that could benefit the Trump family. The president has continued to refuse to release his most recent tax returns, making it impossible to accurately calculate how his administration’s tax proposals would benefit him and the Trump Organization, which is run by the president’s two adult sons, Eric and Don Jr. Under existing law, no family estates valued at up to $11 million are taxed at all when heirs inherit. Yet, the senior administration official, who spoke on background to follow ground rules set by the White House Press Office, said wealthy Americans employ complex techniques to avert estate tax obligations, and invest resources and time so their heirs won’t have to pay a dime. Eliminating the estate tax is equivalent to “simplification,” the official argued. “We want people to be encouraged to go out and build a business and hire incremental workers, and get bigger and bigger without the fear that, `Oh my God, if I’m the principal owner of this business and I die tomorrow, my family is going to have to disband the business to pay the taxes, so I’m never going to grow the business,’” a senior administration official told a group of reporters on Thursday. The official mentioned farmers as likely beneficiaries of the president’s proposal. “We think it’s economically stimulative to encourage family businesses, small businesses, sole proprietors to continue to grow their business, and that’s what we’re doing it for,” the official said, speaking on background. “We’re doing it to be an economic stimulus and get people to invest in their family busines[...]



The Rise of the Generals

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

Has President Donald Trump outsourced foreign policy to the generals? So it would seem. Candidate Trump held out his hand to Vladimir Putin. He rejected further U.S. intervention in Syria other than to smash ISIS. He spoke of getting out and staying out of the misbegotten Middle East wars into which Presidents Bush II and Obama had plunged the country. President Trump's seeming renunciation of an anti-interventionist foreign policy is the great surprise of the first 100 days, and the most ominous. For any new war could vitiate the Trump mandate and consume his presidency. Trump no...Has President Donald Trump outsourced foreign policy to the generals? So it would seem. Candidate Trump held out his hand to Vladimir Putin. He rejected further U.S. intervention in Syria other than to smash ISIS. He spoke of getting out and staying out of the misbegotten Middle East wars into which Presidents Bush II and Obama had plunged the country. President Trump's seeming renunciation of an anti-interventionist foreign policy is the great surprise of the first 100 days, and the most ominous. For any new war could vitiate the Trump mandate and consume his presidency. Trump no longer calls NATO "obsolete," but moves U.S. troops toward Russia in the Baltic and eastern Balkans. Rex Tillerson, holder of Russia's Order of Friendship, now warns that the U.S. will not lift sanctions on Russia until she gets out of Ukraine. If Tillerson is not bluffing, that would rule out any rapprochement in the Trump presidency. For neither Putin, nor any successor, could surrender Crimea and survive. What happened to the Trump of 2016? When did Kiev's claim to Crimea become more crucial to us than a cooperative relationship with a nuclear-armed Russia? In 1991, Bush I and Secretary of State James Baker thought the very idea of Ukraine's independence was the product of a "suicidal nationalism." Where do we think this demonization of Putin and ostracism of Russia is going to lead? To get Xi Jinping to help with our Pyongyang problem, Trump has dropped all talk of befriending Taiwan, backed off Tillerson's warning to Beijing to vacate its fortified reefs in the South China Sea, and held out promises of major concessions to Beijing in future trade deals. "I like (Xi Jinping) and I believe he likes me a lot," Trump said this week. One recalls FDR admonishing Churchill, "I think I can personally handle Stalin better than ... your Foreign Office ... Stalin hates the guts of all your people. He thinks he likes me better." FDR did not live to see what a fool Stalin had made of him. Among the achievements celebrated in Trump's first 100 days are the 59 cruise missiles launched at the Syrian airfield from which the gas attack on civilians allegedly came, and the dropping of the 22,000-pound MOAB bomb in Afghanistan. But what did these bombings accomplish? The War Party seems again ascendant. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are happy campers. In Afghanistan, the U.S. commander is calling for thousands more U.S. troops to assist the 8,500 still there, to stabilize an Afghan regime and army that is steadily losing ground to the Taliban. Iran is back on the front burner. While Tillerson concedes that Tehran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, Trump says it is violating "the spirit of the agreement." How so? Says Tillerson, Iran is "destabilizing" the region, and threatening U.S. interests in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. But Iran is an ally of Syria and was invited in to help the U.N.-recognized government put down an insurrection that contains elements of al-Qaida and ISIS. It is we, the Turks, Saudis and Gulf Arabs who have been backing the rebels seeking to overthrow the regime. In Yemen, Houthi rebels overthrew and expelled a Saudi satrap. The bombing, blockading and intervention with troops is being done by Saudi and Sunni Arabs, assisted by the U.S. Navy and Air Force. It is we and the Saudis who are talking of closing the Yemeni port of Hodeida, which could bring on [...]



Trump Tax Plan: Plant Beans and Wait for the Beanstalk

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- You would think that the Trump administration, with so many emigres from the business world, could at least perform simple arithmetic. Judging by the president's looney-tunes tax plan, you would be wrong. As usual for President Trump, he has offered few details. But the outlines of his proposal, released Wednesday, are nothing short of hallucinatory. Next door to the White House, in the Treasury Department, there are actual economists who take seriously the responsibility of safeguarding the world's biggest national economy. They must be deeply embarrassed at now...WASHINGTON -- You would think that the Trump administration, with so many emigres from the business world, could at least perform simple arithmetic. Judging by the president's looney-tunes tax plan, you would be wrong. As usual for President Trump, he has offered few details. But the outlines of his proposal, released Wednesday, are nothing short of hallucinatory. Next door to the White House, in the Treasury Department, there are actual economists who take seriously the responsibility of safeguarding the world's biggest national economy. They must be deeply embarrassed at now having to pretend that two plus two equals seven. In his desperate quest to do something yoooge, Trump proposes massive tax cuts for businesses and individuals, especially the wealthy. The impact, according to experts, would be to make federal budget deficits soar, adding as much as $4 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. I've never thought of myself as a deficit hawk, but this kind of profligacy is ridiculous. You will recall that Trump also wants to spend $1 trillion on upgrading our sagging infrastructure, which is a good idea; and he wants to vastly boost defense spending, which is a bad idea. Meanwhile, he has pledged not to touch entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. Although his promises typically don't seem to mean much, all this would add up to fiscal insanity. Trump's plan is based on the idea that tax cuts stimulate the economy to grow, not a little but a lot -- almost like a magic beanstalk that rises into the clouds, where we find a goose that lays golden eggs, allowing us to live happily ever after. I agree with the economists who find this scenario unlikely. "The plan will pay for itself with growth," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. His rosy projection is that increased growth would produce $2 trillion in new revenue over 10 years. But the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, estimates the tax cuts would cost $6.2 trillion in revenue during that same period, leaving a $4 trillion gap. Even the conservative Tax Foundation, which has rarely seen a tax cut it didn't like, foresees a $2 trillion gap. Surely, leaving more money in the hands of middle-class and working-class consumers does stimulate the economy, because the money is quickly spent. But that's not what Trump's plan does. Instead, it gives massive tax relief to -- I hope you're sitting down -- corporations and the rich. The nominal corporate tax rate would be lowered from 35 percent to 15 percent. I say nominal because many, if not most, businesses find loopholes that allow them to pay less. Still, there is bipartisan agreement in Congress that the 35 percent rate is too high. If House Speaker Paul Ryan cared less about ideology and more about results, a bill cutting the rate to, say, 25 percent could be on Trump's desk for signature within a week. But 15 percent is too low, and fiscal conservatives in the House are already balking. Individual income taxes, meanwhile, would be simplified. Instead of the current seven tax brackets, there would be only three -- 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. It is hard to gauge the precise impact, since Trump did not specify the income levels that define the three brackets. But it is clear that he and other wealthy individuals would get a huge tax cut, however, becaus[...]



Don't Just Do Something

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

The perennial desire of those in government, elected or not, is to just do something. People expect the government to act. They demand laws be passed. They want the regulatory state to work to their benefit. When the elected branches fail, people will run to the courts to just do something, or to unelected regulatory bureaucrats. Perhaps they should not. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States and also best president ever, had the philosophy all of us, particularly those in government, should take. "If you see 10 troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine...The perennial desire of those in government, elected or not, is to just do something. People expect the government to act. They demand laws be passed. They want the regulatory state to work to their benefit. When the elected branches fail, people will run to the courts to just do something, or to unelected regulatory bureaucrats. Perhaps they should not. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States and also best president ever, had the philosophy all of us, particularly those in government, should take. "If you see 10 troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you," he said. Just stand still and watch. Instead, much of local and state government these days spend time fixing laws already passed to address the law of unintended consequences. Each tweak causes another chain of events that eventually will lead to another tweak. According to Jason Russell in the Washington Examiner, the tax code is now 74,608 pages, including both statutes and regulations. It was only 26,300 pages in 1984 -- only. The United States Code, which is the body of laws passed by Congress, consists of 52 titles, bound into multiple volumes totaling more than 8,000 pages, weighing more than 25 pounds, and taking up a bookshelf. Add in the annotated version that is more commonly used and it takes up multiple bookshelves and costs over $18,000.00 to buy. The Code of Federal Regulations is even larger. Ignorance is supposedly no defense of the law, but how anyone can be expected to keep up with so many laws and the regulations thereto is beyond me. Still, Congress passes more laws, as do states, counties and municipalities. Beyond the basic laws of public safety and the general welfare, the various legislative entities maintain archaic laws and criminalize business laws. It is, for example, against the law in Texas to carry an ice cream cone in one's back pocket. Likewise, a Tennessee guitar manufacturer ran afoul of American criminal law by harvesting wood in Indonesia that violated a trade deal, though was legal in Indonesia. Perhaps the various legislative busy bodies should dedicate a few years to repealing laws instead of passing new ones. That leads me to the American Health Care Act, which the Republicans claim keeps a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It does no such thing. Rather, it preserves Barack Obama's signature initiative, but alters it enough that the Republicans will take ownership of all the ills of the law moving forward. Conservatives shouldered all the blame for the American Health Care Act failing to pass Congress a month ago, but the reality is conservatives were right. The proposal broke more promises than it kept. Led by Mark Meadows, the House Freedom Caucus demanded changes to the legislation that steered it rightward and allowed states greater flexibility under Obamacare. That appears to be the best the GOP can do. They will not repeal the law, but will provide a way out of some of its major expenses. While they contemplate that law, the Congress and president are considering a sweeping tax reform package. The United States's tax code has not been comprehensively updated since 1986. As other nations have lowered their corporate tax rate to attract investment and fuel their economies, the United States has left its rate the same. Th[...]



Bill Nye's View of Humanity Is Repulsive

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

Bill Nye has some detestable ideas about humanity. This shouldn't surprise anyone. Many environmental doomsdayers share his totalitarian impulses (he has toyed with the idea of criminalizing speech he dislikes) and soft spot for eugenics. In his Netflix series, "Bill Nye Saves the World," the former children's television host supplies viewers with various trendy notions to adorn his ideological positions with the sheen of science. In the final episode, Nye and his guests contemplate a thorny "scientific" question: How can the state stop people from having...Bill Nye has some detestable ideas about humanity. This shouldn't surprise anyone. Many environmental doomsdayers share his totalitarian impulses (he has toyed with the idea of criminalizing speech he dislikes) and soft spot for eugenics. In his Netflix series, "Bill Nye Saves the World," the former children's television host supplies viewers with various trendy notions to adorn his ideological positions with the sheen of science. In the final episode, Nye and his guests contemplate a thorny "scientific" question: How can the state stop people from having "extra kids"? All of this was pretty familiar to me, and not only because the panel sounded like a ChiCom planning meeting. The Nye segment, it turns out, was just a repetition of a 2016 NPR article on overpopulation featuring Travis Rieder. "Should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?" asked Reider and others who were pondering the "ethics of procreation." The article is titled "Should We Be Having Kids in the Age of Climate Change?" In it, Rieder, a philosopher with the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University, scaremongers a class of college students about The End of Days and the immorality of having children. NPR describes: "The room is quiet. No one fidgets. Later, a few students say they had no idea the situation was so bad." It's not. "Here's a provocative thought," Rieder says. "Maybe we should protect our kids by not having them." This is provocative in the way a stoner wondering why airplanes don't run on hemp is provocative. That's because the entire case for capping the number of children rests on assumptions entirely devoid of scientific or historical basis. In 1798, Thomas Malthus wrote that "the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man." At that point, there were maybe a billion humans on Earth, so we might forgive him for worrying. In 1800, the life expectancy of the average British citizen -- Britain then being the leading light of the world -- was 39 years. Most humans lived in pitiless poverty that is increasingly rare in most parts of the contemporary world. Now, had Nye been around in the early 19th century, he'd almost surely have been smearing anyone skeptical of the miasma theory of disease. The problem is he lacks imagination; he's unable to understand that science is here to help humanity adapt and overcome, not constrict it. Anyway, 7-plus billion people later, extreme poverty was projected to fall below 10 percent for the first time ever in 2015. Most of those gains have been made in the midst of the world's largest population explosion. Additionally, it is reported that because of the spread of trade, technological advances and plentiful fossil fuels, fewer people are hungry than ever; fewer die in conflicts over resources; and deaths due to extreme weather have been dramatically declining for a century. Over the past 40 years, our water and air have become cleaner, despite a huge spike in population growth. Some of the Earth's richest people live in some of its densest cities. It's worth remembering that not only was early progressivism steeped in eugenics but early '70s abortion politics was played out in the shadow of Paul Ehrlich's population bomb theory. Former Vice President Al Gore has already bro[...]



Secret Warriors Can Be Blinded by Sunlight

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- "I was one very lucky kid," wrote retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in a 2016 memoir about his bumpy childhood in a working-class Rhode Island family. "I was one of those nasty tough kids, hell-bent on breaking rules for the adrenaline rush and hardwired just enough to not care about the consequences." Flynn described how he was arrested but given probation after "some serious and unlawful activity." But he added: "I would always retain my strong impulse to challenge authority and to think and act on my own whenever possible." Flynn's...WASHINGTON -- "I was one very lucky kid," wrote retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in a 2016 memoir about his bumpy childhood in a working-class Rhode Island family. "I was one of those nasty tough kids, hell-bent on breaking rules for the adrenaline rush and hardwired just enough to not care about the consequences." Flynn described how he was arrested but given probation after "some serious and unlawful activity." But he added: "I would always retain my strong impulse to challenge authority and to think and act on my own whenever possible." Flynn's luck has run out in recent months. He was fired as national security adviser for misleading colleagues about his questionable discussions last December with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Now he's under investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general for failing to disclose payments he received from Russian and Turkish sources, despite a clear warning in 2014 that such disclosure was required. The puzzle is why Flynn, who had a reputation as a meticulous tactical intelligence officer during his Army career, was so careless when he left the military. The story is a personal tragedy for Flynn, but it illustrates a larger problem in the national-security community. When intelligence officers like Flynn move from compartmented boxes to a wider world, they often make mistakes. They've been living inside super-secret units that resemble a closed family circle. They don't understand the rules of public behavior. They're not good at being normal. And they often pay a severe price. There are numerous examples of this transition problem. James J. Angleton, the CIA's legendary counterintelligence chief, was secretive to the point of paranoia when he was at the agency. But when he left in the 1970s, he couldn't stop talking to journalists and others about his conspiracy theories. Some other former CIA officers are similar: They work the press or lobbying clients the way they used to work their agency assets. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, one of Flynn's mentors, got fired as commander in Afghanistan after he and his staff made inappropriate comments to a Rolling Stone journalist. Gen. John Allen, a much-admired commander in Afghanistan, got involved in an email correspondence with a would-be Florida socialite that led to a Pentagon investigation, which derailed his appointment as NATO commander. Gen. David Petraeus, perhaps the most celebrated commander of his generation, pleaded guilty to improperly sharing classified information with his biographer, with whom he was romantically involved. Each of these people served the country in remarkable ways. But looking at the difficulties they encountered, one senses a pattern. Senior command is a world unto itself. The tribal culture that envelops all our military and intelligence personnel is especially tight for our most secret warriors. They sometimes miss the signals that life outside will be different. Flynn certainly got a clear warning when he left the military after serving as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. On Thursday, the Pentagon released a letter he received Oct. 8, 2014, about "the ethics restrictions that apply to you after your retirement." The instructions listed eight areas of "post-employment restrictions," including an obligation to get approval for any foreign compensation. Flynn apparen[...]



A Road Map for Dealing with Campus Radicals

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

Jonathan Haidt is a member of one of America's smallest fraternities -- those who attempt to see beyond their own prejudices. In the left-leaning Chronicle of Higher Education, he notes that "intimidation is the new normal" on college campuses. The examples are well-known: The shout-down/shutdown of Heather Mac Donald at Claremont McKenna College; the riots sparked by Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley; the experience of Charles Murray at Middlebury College, where he and professor Allison Stanger were physically assaulted by a mob. Stanger was sent to the hospital with injuries. She...Jonathan Haidt is a member of one of America's smallest fraternities -- those who attempt to see beyond their own prejudices. In the left-leaning Chronicle of Higher Education, he notes that "intimidation is the new normal" on college campuses. The examples are well-known: The shout-down/shutdown of Heather Mac Donald at Claremont McKenna College; the riots sparked by Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley; the experience of Charles Murray at Middlebury College, where he and professor Allison Stanger were physically assaulted by a mob. Stanger was sent to the hospital with injuries. She said she feared for her life. Haidt writes: "We are witnessing the emergence of a dangerous new norm for responding to speakers who challenge campus orthodoxy. Anyone offended by the speaker can put out a call on Facebook to bring together students and locals, including 'antifa' (antifascist) and black-bloc activists who explicitly endorse the use of violence against racists and fascists. Because of flagrant 'concept creep,' however, almost anyone who is politically right of center can be labeled a racist or a fascist, and the promiscuous use of such labels is now part of the standard operating procedure." The only word I'd quarrel with is "new." America's campuses have been down this road -- and worse -- before. At San Francisco State, it began with a fire in a dormitory. Hundreds of students awoke to a screaming alarm and rushed from their rooms in bathrobes as smoke and flames rose 30 feet from the roof. That no one was killed or injured was a miracle. The three-alarm fire left the social room of Merced Hall a smoking ruin. The year was 1967. The following year, the campus would be host (and I use that term advisedly) to the longest "student strike" in history. Dozens more fires were set, and radical students were able to shut down the entire campus for four months (there was even an attempted bombing). The college administration, in the face of law breaking, beatings and intimidation by radical students, backed off like cowards. Dr. Thomas Sowell was a professor at Cornell University in 1969 when bands of armed black militant students forced visiting parents out of a campus building and then "occupied" it until their demands were met. Sowell wrote: "The armed occupation of Willard Straight Hall was about reprimands -- mere reprimands -- received by some members of the Afro-American Society for previous disruptions and violence on campus. It was a demand for exemption from the authority of a duly constituted faculty-student disciplinary body that had dared to slap them on the wrist. Apparently existing de facto double standards were not enough, though such double standards were so well established that, when a parent, evicted from William Straight Hall by the students taking it over, phoned campus security, the first question he was asked was whether the students who had evicted him were white or black. When he said they were black, (he) 'was told that there was nothing that could be done.'" At Columbia University, students took faculty members hostage, occupied the office of the university president (David Shapiro was photographed smoking a cigar in the president's chair) and took control of Hamilton Hall. Radicals shut down the entire campus and the[...]



Trump Has Failed to Meet Our Low Expectations

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- As we cross the finish line of Donald Trump's first 100 days, no leader in recent memory has benefited more from low expectations. A more typical president who tumbled from an approval rating in the high 60s to one in the low 40s would be in a political crisis. Trump's current performance is only a slight dip from his divisive norm. A president with pretensions of rhetorical coherence would be embarrassed by gaffes and mediocre speeches. For Trump, gaffes and inarticulateness are part of the package. A president with high standards of integrity would be mortified by a...WASHINGTON -- As we cross the finish line of Donald Trump's first 100 days, no leader in recent memory has benefited more from low expectations. A more typical president who tumbled from an approval rating in the high 60s to one in the low 40s would be in a political crisis. Trump's current performance is only a slight dip from his divisive norm. A president with pretensions of rhetorical coherence would be embarrassed by gaffes and mediocre speeches. For Trump, gaffes and inarticulateness are part of the package. A president with high standards of integrity would be mortified by a brewing scandal that seems to involve smarmy aides and a foreign government. For Trump, well, what would you expect? The president is particularly proud of the consequential elevation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But this action invites a comparison. Trump's one, unquestioned achievement consists of appointing another man who actually has thoughtful convictions. Much of Trump's 100-days defense could have been employed by the pharaoh who ruled after the one in the book of Exodus. The cattle haven't all died. We've seen less fiery hail. And pestilence has been kept to an acceptable minimum. There is, however, one area in which Trump dramatically raised national expectations. He might be unknowledgeable. He might be immature. But at least, in polling language, he is a "strong and decisive leader." This is a conceit that becomes harder and harder to maintain. Consider Trump's interaction with China. On the campaign trail, the Chinese were currency manipulators who were too weak on North Korean nukes. In his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the American president got his first glimpse of the Chinese perspective and was transformed. On North Korea: "After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it's not so easy." Later, on the currency issue: "They're not currency manipulators." It seems the case that one of America's main strategic rivals was, quite literally, schooling the American president on economics and foreign policy. A similar picture has emerged in Trump's dealings with Congress. When the Freedom Caucus defied him on health care, the administration's blustery threats against the dissenters came to nothing. House Republicans ignored his tantrum and continued their work. Now the president will likely be forced to endorse whatever they produce. The same, no doubt, will be true on the construction of a physical barrier across the North American continent. Mexico has not been made to pay (and should not be). Trump has conceded that he will sign an omnibus spending bill that doesn't include wall funding. In the long-term contest between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the border wall, Schumer -- armed with the U.S. Senate's rules -- is the safer bet. And the absence of that wall will be a lasting monument to Trump's political impotence. This is not a problem that can be solved by the big bang of MOAB (the Mother of All Bombs). In a number of cases, Trump has not been cunning but credulous; not an authoritarian but a pushover. During his campaign, Trump looked down on the weak; now, it turns out, he is weak. Ultimately, Trump is failing because he has little knowledge of the world and no guidin[...]



A Woman Who Made the World Better

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

In a city where friends are supposedly scarce, Kate O’Beirne was beloved by so many.  Kate died this past Sunday -- Divine Mercy Sunday -- surrounded by family and loved ones.  Kate would point out that there was no need to identify the date she was born. She was old-school like that, so I’ll respect it. What was more interesting anyway is how she lived, not how long. She was an important conservative thought leader and superb political commentator and an incredible wife, mother, friend. She jumped out of the frame the political left wants to construct...In a city where friends are supposedly scarce, Kate O’Beirne was beloved by so many.  Kate died this past Sunday -- Divine Mercy Sunday -- surrounded by family and loved ones.  Kate would point out that there was no need to identify the date she was born. She was old-school like that, so I’ll respect it. What was more interesting anyway is how she lived, not how long. She was an important conservative thought leader and superb political commentator and an incredible wife, mother, friend. She jumped out of the frame the political left wants to construct for women of the right: Kate was cool and beautiful, smart and quick, conservative and elegant, wise and feminine, kind and thoughtful, faithful and fun. She could talk comfortably to everyone: intellectuals and political activists, politicians and priests, men and women, liberals and conservatives. She only put bullies and fools in their place. There was no Narcissus in her beauty. She had always been popular. Her high school nickname was “Kate the Great.” But here's the thing: She always used her popularity to include people (the shy, the awkward, the newcomer) and to help others. It was always about others with Kate. Always. Right to the end. "Don't you agree, David?” “What do you think, Father?” “Am I right, Susan?” Always pulling others into the conversation. Always with their names. She consciously worked not to dominate any discussion. She wanted others to shine.  That was Kate. An ordinary woman with extraordinary grace. Look back at her appearances on “Meet the Press” or “The Capital Gang.” She treated the liberal arguments with respect and tried to understand and distill them. Sometimes, before going on air if an opponent didn’t have time to prepare, Kate would offer them the best arguments from their side. She was generous like that—and intellectually honest in that way. She could make the most incisive counter-argument or withering riposte without losing her dignity or humiliating her adversary. She could be funny, too, no matter the seriousness of the subject matter.  Once on “Meet the Press,” she was on a panel discussing Bill Clinton and the existence of that fateful "blue dress," as well as the impact of a recent papal visit to Cuba. After discussing Clinton, she said we should take a moment to cleanse our palate before we discussed Pope John Paul II and the grace being showered upon Cuba.  Kate accomplished so much professionally -- St. John’s University law school grad, aide to Sen. James Buckley, policy adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services, television commentator, Washington editor for National Review and director of National Review Institute. Not many people know that William F. Buckley wanted Kate to assume his mantle as editor-in-chief of National Review. She turned Bill down and lifted up Rich Lowry. In a city where people crave the attention television provides, she turned down a Sunday talk shows because it would take her away from her family. She wore her fame lightly, treasuring her role as wife and mother of two extraordinary sons, Phil and John. She was, t[...]



The First 117 Days of Chuck Schumer

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

On Saturday President Trump will rally a huge crowd in Pennsylvania to mark his 100th day in office. The last 14 percent or so of his first 100 days was spent dealing with the interminable analysis of said period. Trump’s communicators have gamely issued a list of accomplishments to deal with the media’s obsession, even as the president himself has Tweeted (correctly) that judging a presidency after 100 days is “ridiculous.” The White House staff has no choice but to play the dumb game, forced to waste valuable man hours dealing with this coverage...On Saturday President Trump will rally a huge crowd in Pennsylvania to mark his 100th day in office. The last 14 percent or so of his first 100 days was spent dealing with the interminable analysis of said period. Trump’s communicators have gamely issued a list of accomplishments to deal with the media’s obsession, even as the president himself has Tweeted (correctly) that judging a presidency after 100 days is “ridiculous.” The White House staff has no choice but to play the dumb game, forced to waste valuable man hours dealing with this coverage instead of running the government. (Trump’s 100-day rally is delicious revenge on the press; it comes on the same night as the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, meaning some of the would-be revelers will have to work instead.) But this back-and-forth over Trump’s 100 days made me wonder – why aren’t other government officials similarly judged? After all, we have a new Senate Democratic Leader in Chuck Schumer. What does his 100-day report card look like? Come Saturday, Schumer will have actually been Democratic Leader for 117 days. He has much to show for it: The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch will ripple throughout history. Schumer’s role in ensuring Neil Gorsuch as the replacement for the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court will be an enduring legacy. Schumer held most of his conference together in opposition to the nominee and delivered what proved to be a momentous legislative occurrence: His decision to force a change to Senate rules was nothing less than inspired. By expanding on what The New York Times called a “precedent set by Democrats in 2013, when they had a Senate majority and used the nuclear option to eliminate some other types of filibusters,” Schumer has made it quite likely that President Trump’s next high court nominee will be even more conservative than Gorsuch, as that person, at the outset of the process, will need but a simple majority to earn confirmation. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley told a newspaper he expects another Supreme Court retirement “this summer.” History will long remember Schumer for reshaping the Supreme Court for decades to come. Exposing hypocrisy in the legislative branch. Schumer is always playing chess while others are playing checkers. Take as a prime example his decision to allow the Democratic conference to grandstand over the nomination of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Schumer knew he could not prevent her confirmation to a Cabinet post that gets less attention than your average shoestring aglet. Nevertheless, he allowed Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, despite their previous support for school choice and vouchers, to hypocritically rail against DeVos on the Senate floor. Schumer’s work exposing legislative branch hypocrisy will hopefully dissuade future senators from embarrassing themselves the way Booker and Warren did. It was a Machiavellian move, but one that was sorely needed. Bravo, Chuck. Flipping the script on Democratic Party leadership. Schumer is no dummy when it comes to reading polls and he knows that be[...]



The New/Old Politics of Capital vs. Countryside

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

Capital vs. countryside -- that's the new political divide, visible in multiple surprise election results over the past 11 months. It cuts across old partisan lines and replaces traditional divisions -- labor vs. management, north vs. south, Catholic vs. Protestant -- among voters. This was apparent last June in Britain's referendum on whether to leave the European Union. London voted 60 percent to remain, while the rest of England, whether Labour or Conservative, voted 57 percent to leave. It was plain in Colombia's October referendum on a peace settlement with the FARC...Capital vs. countryside -- that's the new political divide, visible in multiple surprise election results over the past 11 months. It cuts across old partisan lines and replaces traditional divisions -- labor vs. management, north vs. south, Catholic vs. Protestant -- among voters. This was apparent last June in Britain's referendum on whether to leave the European Union. London voted 60 percent to remain, while the rest of England, whether Labour or Conservative, voted 57 percent to leave. It was plain in Colombia's October referendum on a peace settlement with the FARC guerrillas. Bogota voted 56 percent "si," the heartland cordillera provinces 58 percent "no." In both countries, the ethnic and geographic fringe -- Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Caribbean provinces -- voted with the capital. But in each case, the historic heartland, with the majority of voters, produced a surprise defeat for the capital establishment. It was a similar story here in November. Coastal America -- the Northeast minus Pennsylvania, the Pacific states minus Alaska -- favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a 58-35 percent margin. But the geographic heartland, casting 69 percent of the nation's votes, favored Trump by a 51-43 percent margin. The contrast is even starker if you separate out the establishment metro areas -- New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco -- that produce most Democratic big-dollar funding. They voted 65-29 percent for Clinton; the rest of the country they feel entitled to rule voted 49-45 percent for Trump. And on April 23, France voted in a presidential race that scrambled the usual party divisions. Marine Le Pen, shunned by the Paris establishment as a neofascist, finished fourth, with 11 percent of the vote, in metro Paris and third, with 15 percent, in 13 other prosperous cities. But she ran first in la France profonde, with 24 percent. She'll almost certainly lose the May 7 runoff, but she has already topped her National Front's previous high of 17 percent. Is there any precedent for this? The Economist's Bagehot columnist, Adrian Wooldridge, spots one in the 17th century. He quotes historian Hugh Trevor-Roper's description of the "general crisis" of 1620-60 -- a "revolt of the provinces not only against the growing, parasitic Stuart Court, but also against the growing 'dropsical' City of London; against the centralised Church ... and against the expensive monopoly of higher education by the two great universities." The capital vs. the countryside, in other words, much like today. The countryside party, Trevor-Roper writes, vied to "pare down the parasitic fringe" of central government and sought to "protect industry," "rationalize finance" and "reduce the hatcheries which turned out the superfluous bureaucrats." Similar impulses are apparent in Britain, France and America today. In different ways, Brexit, Le Pen and Trump seek to counter the university-trained bureaucratic, financial and cultural elites in London, Paris and NY/DC/LA/SF. They resent overlarge and undercompetent bureaucracies and public employee unions, the paymasters of the Labour and Democratic parties. With blunt, often ill-advised rhetor[...]



A Democratic 'Contract With America'

2017-04-28T00:00:00Z

This past Sunday, media outlets released a slew of new polls showing President Trump’s popularity continuing its downward slide, most especially among independents. But buried in one report was something jaw-dropping for Democrats. Pollsters revealed that if the 2016 presidential election were held today, voters wouldn’t change their mind. Trump would still beat Hillary Clinton. For some in my Democratic Party – especially those in the “resistance” wing – this latest news is nothing short of a gut punch. After all,...This past Sunday, media outlets released a slew of new polls showing President Trump’s popularity continuing its downward slide, most especially among independents. But buried in one report was something jaw-dropping for Democrats. Pollsters revealed that if the 2016 presidential election were held today, voters wouldn’t change their mind. Trump would still beat Hillary Clinton. For some in my Democratic Party – especially those in the “resistance” wing – this latest news is nothing short of a gut punch. After all, there’s not a single arrow in the party’s quiver that we haven’t slung at the Trump administration. Consider the efforts of: Data show that the media have produced an avalanche of negative stories about Trump – both before and after the election – along with his family, Cabinet choices, executive orders, and proposed legislation. Leaders in the Senate and House have launched a series of bipartisan investigations into Trump and his alleged collusion with Russia. Intelligence community. National security officials briefed a dossier of unverified allegations against Trump knowing it would leak to the press. Later, unnamed officials shared classified intelligence with journalists to embarrass the new president. Interest groups. Democratic lawyers have filed a lawsuit laying the groundwork for Trump’s impeachment based on his tangled web of business interests. Grassroots organizers. Democrats have raised record funds, published “how to protest” guides, and recruited large numbers of 2018 congressional candidates. They’ve also organized marches of scientists and women as a political show of force. Party leaders and intellectuals: The Democratic National Committee installed a new party chairman who claims that Trump didn’t actually win the election. Meanwhile, leading party intellectuals have concluded that Trump won because of racial and gender And yet, despite this barrage, polls show that voters are still inclined to give Trump the presidency. How could this be? How is it possible that Trump – with his well-documented shortcomings and policy reversals – might still win a national election? Part of the answer is something Democrats have been reluctant to acknowledge: We ran a deeply flawed candidate in 2016. Fair or not, Clinton was weighted down with over 30 years of political baggage, scandals, and a generally unlikeable demeanor. Separate polling bears this out. Trump actually loses to a generic, unnamed Democrat even though he continues to beat leaders like Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.  So is our path forward as simple as swapping out “bad” candidates like Clinton for “good” ones? Unfortunately, no. For years, the party has been losing power across the country. This has led to the fewest number of Democrats holding state legislatures, governorships, and federal offices since the 1920s. Simply put, we have become disconnected from the hearts and minds of America’s voters. Polls show that we’re even more out of touch than Trump or th[...]



House Republicans Still Short on Obamacare Votes

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

House Republicans remain gridlocked in their effort to repeal Obamacare.  GOP leaders inched closer to securing the necessary votes to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this week with newfound support from many hard-line conservatives in the Freedom Caucus. But the effort fell flat with a number of centrist Republicans wary of the impact the legislation would have on their constituents’ health care, and it became increasingly clear Thursday that enough Republicans remain opposed to the measure to prevent it from passing.  Ultimately, while the vote count...House Republicans remain gridlocked in their effort to repeal Obamacare.  GOP leaders inched closer to securing the necessary votes to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this week with newfound support from many hard-line conservatives in the Freedom Caucus. But the effort fell flat with a number of centrist Republicans wary of the impact the legislation would have on their constituents’ health care, and it became increasingly clear Thursday that enough Republicans remain opposed to the measure to prevent it from passing.  Ultimately, while the vote count improved significantly for Republicans in recent days, the biggest change may have been that the members now stalling the effort -- and potentially taking the blame for the failure -- are not the conservatives, but rather the so-called moderates. And in many cases, the members who remain opposed have the most to lose politically from the ongoing health care debate.  Several of the lawmakers who opposed the measure in March said they remained opposed for similar reasons, but some also said recent changes added even more areas of concern. The amendment that brought the Freedom Caucus on board -- negotiated with centrist Tuesday Group Co-chair Tom MacArthur -- would give states the ability to request waivers to opt out of some Obamacare regulations that would remain in place under the GOP plan. They would include a regulation preventing insurance companies from charging people with pre-existing conditions more for insurance plans, which several Republicans balked at.  While that amendment didn’t appear to win any moderate votes, it may have caused trouble with some members who had been supportive previously.  Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida supported the legislation in March but said the new changes put him back in the undecided category.  “I’m trying to figure out now what the real effects are,” he told reporters Thursday. “There’s a lot of red flags.” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who also supported the bill in March, was undecided as of Thursday, a spokeswoman confirmed.  Speaker Paul Ryan argued during his press conference Thursday morning that the amendment added protections that moderate Republicans should support. But he also made clear Republicans won’t move forward on a vote until they have enough support to pass the legislation, and that hasn’t happened yet.  “We’re making very good progress,” Ryan said. “We’re going to go when we have the votes, but that’s the decision we’ll make when we have it.” Politically, however, the new direction health care took could be a problem for Republicans. Polling shows the legislation is deeply unpopular, but Ryan argued there would be more repercussions for failing to repeal Obamacare than there would for voting for the bill.  “I think people’s seats are at risk if we don’t do what we said we would do,” Ryan said. Rep. Tom Cole, a close ally of leadership, made a similar point. He argued that despite [...]



In Tweetstorm, Trump Takes Aim at Democrats on Spending Bill

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday unleashed a tweetstorm of criticism of Democrats involved in tense negotiations on a spending bill to keep the government open, accusing them of trying to close national parks and jeopardize the safety of U.S. troops over demands to provide Americans with health care. The talks involving congressional Republicans and Democrats had progressed relatively smoothly after the White House had backed off a threat to withhold payments that help lower-income Americans pay their medical bills and Trump dropped a demand for money for the border...WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday unleashed a tweetstorm of criticism of Democrats involved in tense negotiations on a spending bill to keep the government open, accusing them of trying to close national parks and jeopardize the safety of U.S. troops over demands to provide Americans with health care. The talks involving congressional Republicans and Democrats had progressed relatively smoothly after the White House had backed off a threat to withhold payments that help lower-income Americans pay their medical bills and Trump dropped a demand for money for the border wall. A temporary funding bill expires Friday at midnight, and GOP leaders late Wednesday came out with a short-term spending bill through May 5 to prevent a government shutdown this weekend. The House and Senate were widely expected to pass the measure on strong bipartisan votes to give negotiators more time to work out their differences and avoid an ignominious shutdown on Trump's 100th day in office Saturday. In a series of tweets Thursday morning, the president lashed out at Democrats. "As families prepare for summer vacations in our National Parks - Democrats threaten to close them and shut down the government. Terrible!" Trump tweeted. "Democrats jeopardizing the safety of our troops to bail out their donors from insurance companies. It is time to put #AmericaFirst," he wrote. Even with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, the Trump administration is learning that Democrats retain significant leverage when their votes are needed on must-pass legislation. "I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "It is time that this essential work is completed so that critical programs and activities, including national defense, are properly and adequately funded for the year." House Republicans also had a breakthrough on their moribund health care legislation when a key group of conservatives, the House Freedom Caucus, announced it would support a revised version of the bill. Their opposition was a main ingredient in the legislation's collapse a month ago, a humiliating episode for Republicans that called into question their ability to govern given that they've been promising for seven years to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. A new wrinkle emerged as Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, threatened to withhold votes for the spending bill if Republicans tried to push for a vote this week on a revived health care repeal. "If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful TrumpCare bill to the House Floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well," Hoyer said in a statement. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offered no timing for a vote, telling reporters on Thursday, "we want to go when we're ready to go." One important moderate, GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Penn[...]



Will 2020 Be Another 1972 for Democrats?

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

Forty-nine years ago, Vice President Hubert Humphrey was the Democratic candidate for president. The year 1968 was a tumultuous one that saw the assassinations of rival candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. Lyndon Johnson's unpopular lame-duck Democratic administration imploded due to massive protests against the Vietnam War. Yet Humphrey almost defeated Republican nominee Richard Nixon, losing the election by just over 500,000 votes (43.4 percent to 42.7 percent). Infighting Democrats could have defeated the unpopular Nixon if not for a few...Forty-nine years ago, Vice President Hubert Humphrey was the Democratic candidate for president. The year 1968 was a tumultuous one that saw the assassinations of rival candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. Lyndon Johnson's unpopular lame-duck Democratic administration imploded due to massive protests against the Vietnam War. Yet Humphrey almost defeated Republican nominee Richard Nixon, losing the election by just over 500,000 votes (43.4 percent to 42.7 percent). Infighting Democrats could have defeated the unpopular Nixon if not for a few unforeseen developments. Their convention in Chicago turned into a creepy carnival of televised rioting and radical protests. Hippies and leftists were seen battling police in the streets on primetime news. The former Democratic governor of Alabama, George Wallace, ran as a states' rights third-party candidate and drew 13.5 percent of the vote. Wallace destroyed the Democrats' traditional hold on the old "solid South" by winning five Southern states outright. He also siphoned off enough traditional Democratic supporters to give Nixon astonishing Republican victories in half a dozen other states in the region. Nixon won over a few Northern blue-collar states that had often voted Democratic, such as Wisconsin and Ohio -- again with help from Wallace, who appealed to fed-up, working-class Democrats. What was the lesson from 1968? The Democrats could have recalibrated their message to appeal more to working-class voters. They should have rebuilt the old Franklin D. Roosevelt-era coalition that had elected Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy, mostly by appealing to paycheck issues and avoiding radical agendas. Yet despite picking up 12 House seats in the 1970 midterm elections, and instead of attributing the 1968 loss to Wallace's third-party populism and voter pushback against radicalism, the Democrats went off the rails and veered hard left in 1972. The lowering of the voting age to age 18 in 1971 also tricked Democrats into wrongly thinking that most new young voters were leftists and would vote in record numbers for leftist candidates. So the Democrats in 1972 foolishly nominated die-hard left-wing South Dakota Sen. George McGovern. Although President Nixon wasn't a popular political figure, he was busy unifying voters by moving all over the political map. The wily, flexible and pragmatic Nixon talked hard-right but actually moved to the center. He created the Environmental Protection Agency. He vastly expanded the welfare state and pushed for universal health care. Nixon also had imposed wage and price controls, and visited Communist China. Nixon ridiculed conservative icons such as California Gov. Ronald Reagan and commentator William F. Buckley Jr. as right-wing troublemakers and elitist ideologues. In other words, Nixon was as controversial -- and as politically unpredictable and misunderstood -- as Donald Trump. The November 1972 election proved one of the biggest Republican landslides in American history. Nixon was re-elected with over[...]



Innovators, Entrepreneurs and Economic Prosperity

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

It’s a rare pleasure when a book on economic theory discusses how our economy actually works. Edward Conard’s The Upside of Inequality is one of those rare books. Conard refreshingly places the credit for economic prosperity where it belongs: On the willingness of innovators, entrepreneurs and investors to assume risk and on the availability of properly trained talent to turn risk into success. During the Obama presidency, the economic discussion focused on government directed fiscal and monetary policy intended to generate economic growth by creating demand and increasing...It’s a rare pleasure when a book on economic theory discusses how our economy actually works. Edward Conard’s The Upside of Inequality is one of those rare books. Conard refreshingly places the credit for economic prosperity where it belongs: On the willingness of innovators, entrepreneurs and investors to assume risk and on the availability of properly trained talent to turn risk into success. During the Obama presidency, the economic discussion focused on government directed fiscal and monetary policy intended to generate economic growth by creating demand and increasing consumer spending. With wages stagnating and GDP hovering at 2 percent since the recession ended in June of 2009, this Keynesian demand side approach to economic growth obviously failed. To explain this failure, prominent Keynesian economists have attempted to argue either that President Obama’s nearly $1 trillion dollar economic stimulus was too small (so it failed to create sufficient demand) or because the much criticized “one percent” took too much of the economic pie (leaving too little for working and middle class Americans). Ignoring both history and common sense, these economists continue to advocate for increased government spending, regulation and income redistribution as the path to prosperity. In The Upside of Inequality, Conard brings reality to the ivory tower, convincingly upending Keynesian demand side theory by pointing out that investors rarely wait for demand. Rather, they wait for innovative ideas “that create their own demand” (like iPhones, Amazon, Uber) and the properly trained talent needed to commercialize those ideas. It’s the competition between innovators that creates prosperity, not “misguided government policies”. This is particularly so as we move from a capital intensive manufacturing based economy to a knowledge intensive innovation driven economy. As Conard points out, “[s]uccess bubbles up from a large sea of failures”, and the possibility of large returns creates the incentive to take the risks necessary to produce those successes. While these returns increase the wealth of those who succeed (think Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos), success also accelerates economic growth and prosperity for both working and middle class Americans. Mistakenly blaming stagnating wages on the success of the one percent leaves the true causes unaddressed. Writing before the 2016 election, Conard recognized the significant impact of free trade and low skilled immigration on the economic stress facing working and middle class Americans. As the success of President Trump’s campaign demonstrated, voters intuitively agreed. Conard acknowledges that trade with low wage economies reduces the cost of goods. If trade failed to lower the cost of goods more than it lowered the cost of labor, it would be more economically rational to manufacture goods domestically. However, he points out that while everyone benefits from lower cost goods, le[...]



Trump's Economy; GOP's First 100 Days; Podcast Episode 14; Silicon Valley's Dawn

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Thursday, April 27, 2017. On this date 110 years ago, the stirrings of what we know as Silicon Valley began. One of the early pioneers was a man whose name you’ve almost certainly never heard. He was identified in the sports pages of the Stanford Daily as C.F. Elwell -- he was a quarter-miler on the Stanford University track team -- and his friends called him “Frank,” which was his middle name. Stanford, once known as “The Farm” for its sprawling and pastoral campus, is commonly associated with the technologies,...Good morning, it’s Thursday, April 27, 2017. On this date 110 years ago, the stirrings of what we know as Silicon Valley began. One of the early pioneers was a man whose name you’ve almost certainly never heard. He was identified in the sports pages of the Stanford Daily as C.F. Elwell -- he was a quarter-miler on the Stanford University track team -- and his friends called him “Frank,” which was his middle name. Stanford, once known as “The Farm” for its sprawling and pastoral campus, is commonly associated with the technologies, companies, and culture that spawned the Information Age. For the most part, this credit is well deserved. By the time trade journalist Don C. Hoefler publicly used the term “Silicon Valley” in 1970, several generations of Stanford grads had helped alter the landscape and mindset of Santa Clara Valley. Once a rich agricultural area dubbed by the local Chamber of Commerce as the “Valley of the Heart’s Delight,” it had become the epicenter of a technology revolution. No one person or company or university can claim credit for this transformation, but timelines include several seminal events: The 1968 creation of chip-maker Intel Corp. by former Fairchild Co. engineers Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore; the 1961 formation of the venture capital firm Davis & Rock; the 1957 defection of eight engineers from Shockley Semiconductor to their new firm, a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.; William Shockley’s own mid-1950s breakthroughs in producing silicon transistors; the optimistic 1953 construction of Stanford Industrial Park in an empty field; the 1942 visit of Stanford professor Fred Terman to Cambridge, Mass., to recruit scientists for a wartime electronics research; the encouragement Professor Terman gave Stanford grads William Hewlett and David Packard, who opened shop in a rented Palo Alto garage in 1938. Uncovering the past in this way is like an archeological dig, with each discovery leading to another. But history didn’t start in 1938, either. Silicon Valley’s seeds were planted even earlier, all the way back to the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. Here, Frank Elwell reenters our story, as I’ll explain in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * The Trump Economy at 100 Days: Under Construction. Alexis Simendinger has this assessment. Big Swings, Few Hits in GOP Lawmakers’ First 100 Days. The majority party has faltered on its priority agenda items, James Arkin reports. ‘The First 100 Days’: Episode 14. In the final installment of our podcast, Emily Goodin talks to White House messaging official Cliff Sims, and Joel We[...]



Trump's True 100-Day Achievement

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- In the outpouring of commentary on President Trump's first 100 days in office, his greatest single achievement is almost never mentioned, which is itself a sign of what a major triumph it is: We are not talking much about whether Russia colluded with Trump's campaign to help elect him. Our distraction was not inevitable. Recall that just a little over a month ago, FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the bureau was investigating possible cooperation between Trump's team and Russia's hacking and disinformation campaign to...WASHINGTON -- In the outpouring of commentary on President Trump's first 100 days in office, his greatest single achievement is almost never mentioned, which is itself a sign of what a major triumph it is: We are not talking much about whether Russia colluded with Trump's campaign to help elect him. Our distraction was not inevitable. Recall that just a little over a month ago, FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the bureau was investigating possible cooperation between Trump's team and Russia's hacking and disinformation campaign to undercut Hillary Clinton. As The New York Times wrote, Comey's testimony "created a treacherous political moment for Mr. Trump." Yet the president slipped by. In mid-February, the administration should have come under sustained inquiry when Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, was forced to resign because he misled White House officials about the nature of his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Flynn, who had led the Republican National Convention in "Lock her up!" chants against Clinton, turned out to have received $65,000 from companies linked to Russia, and $600,000 to lobby for the Turkish government, even as he was advising Trump. And, as Politico reported this week, the man who paid Flynn to work for Turkey had business ties to Russia. The episode raised a slew of questions, not the least being what Vice President Mike Pence, whom we presume was vetting administration appointees, knew about Flynn's activities. As for Trump, he believes in "extreme vetting" for immigrants, but apparently not for members of his administration. Unless, of course, he was fully aware of what Flynn was up to. The Flynn story is obviously heating up again, but let's pause to ponder how Trump's genius at evasion, diversion and prevarication helped him to keep the Russia story at bay. It should disturb us more than it seems to that the 100th day of Trump's presidency on April 29 will also mark the beginning of the ninth week since Trump sent out his March 4 tweet-to-end-all-tweets charging that "Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory." There was no evidence then for that accusation and none now because the evidence doesn't exist. Thoughtful souls, conservatives as well as liberals, saw something terribly off about Trump swinging so wildly and with such indifference to verifiable fact. "This is what happens when the White House prioritizes winning the daily news cycle above all else," wrote Jim Geraghty in National Review. "This is the natural result of an amazingly shortsighted approach to governing." I couldn't agree more, but guess what? Trump's gambit worked. First, Trump's lieutenants got Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, involved in a Keystone Kops routine at the White House in which Nunes kind of, sort of suggested he had information giving support to Trump's claim, which he didn't. Nunes eventually had to recuse hi[...]



The Trump Economy at 100 Days: Under Construction

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

President Trump’s advisers boasted about a “Trump doctrine” in foreign policy this week, but in the lead-up to his administration’s 100-day benchmark, the president and his lieutenants made no attempt to assert a “Trump economy.” The president’s fiscal checklist -- lower taxes, less regulation, and revamped trade deals – remains aspirational and incomplete, offering few tangible bragging rights. Trump applauds reports of rising economic confidence, and what he describes as corporate executives’...President Trump’s advisers boasted about a “Trump doctrine” in foreign policy this week, but in the lead-up to his administration’s 100-day benchmark, the president and his lieutenants made no attempt to assert a “Trump economy.” The president’s fiscal checklist -- lower taxes, less regulation, and revamped trade deals – remains aspirational and incomplete, offering few tangible bragging rights. Trump applauds reports of rising economic confidence, and what he describes as corporate executives’ enthusiasm for his business-focused approach to governing. He points to manufacturing jobs he says he single-handedly kept inside the United States. (In contrast, the president has not commented on recently announced layoffs at an Illinois mine run by the American Coal Company; at Fortune 500 giant Coca-Cola; retailer J. Crew; or sports broadcaster ESPN, to name companies in the midst of cost-cutting.) Trump’s top aides argue his newly unveiled tax reform priorities, which were loosely described at the White House Wednesday, have a single goal: “We are trying to stimulate business investment,” White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said. src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/319677270&color=ff5500&auto_play=true&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" frameborder="no" width="320" height="531" scrolling="no"> Even as the president has sidestepped official economic statistics this spring, he’s eagerly drawn sharp contrasts with the 44th president. Trump pointed to President Obama’s final year, arguing via Twitter that the U.S. economy in 2016 under his Democratic predecessor was subpar. “The U.S. recorded its slowest economic growth in five years (2016),” he tweeted Wednesday. “GDP up only 1.6%. Trade deficits hurt the economy very badly.” During his campaign, Trump told voters that Obama’s economic stewardship was “a disaster.” What he did not say was that the “Obama economy” he is now steering represents 6 ½ years of continuous job growth in the wake of the Great Recession. Trump’s economic promises, especially to those living in the Midwestern Rust Belt, bowed to voter insecurities that have been evident for decades. Those fears are more acute because of trends that Washington cannot halt: globalization, automation, declining wages, and a chasm between the wealthiest in America and a shrinking middle class. He vowed to revive coal mining, unleash thousands of oil pipeline jobs, get rid of government red tape and costly regulations, give laid-off blue-collar Americans new opportunities to secure high-wage work, and fight for what he called a “Buy American, Hire American” approach to economic renewal. Since taking office, Trump has used his executive authority and some new leg[...]



Big Swings, Few Hits in GOP Lawmakers' First 100 Days

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

In January, top Republicans on Capitol Hill laid out a 200-day agenda rather than a 100-day one for the year, wary of the many complications and delays that could ensnare their legislative priorities of health care and tax reform in the early months of the Trump administration.  Now, as the president hits his 100-day mark and lawmakers hit the halfway point on their legislative timeline, the lack of progress is causing frustration and raising concern about meeting the goals laid out at the beginning of the Trump presidency.  “The real challenge...In January, top Republicans on Capitol Hill laid out a 200-day agenda rather than a 100-day one for the year, wary of the many complications and delays that could ensnare their legislative priorities of health care and tax reform in the early months of the Trump administration.  Now, as the president hits his 100-day mark and lawmakers hit the halfway point on their legislative timeline, the lack of progress is causing frustration and raising concern about meeting the goals laid out at the beginning of the Trump presidency.  “The real challenge hasn’t been Trump; it’s been our failure as a Republican conference to do the work we said we’d do,” said Rep. Tom Cole. “We’re working at it, and maybe we can get there.” Republicans are quick to point out their wins in the first 100 days of the Trump era: voting to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, which took changing the Senate rules regarding filibusters, and getting Trump to sign legislation gutting 13 administrative regulations from the end of President Obama’s tenure using the Congressional Review Act -- something that had only been done once before.  src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/319677270&color=ff5500&auto_play=true&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" frameborder="no" width="320" height="531" scrolling="no"> “Frankly, we’ve gotten a lot done here,” Sen. Steve Daines said.  But on the big agenda items, Republicans have faltered. They were forced to cancel a vote last month on their legislation repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act because it lacked GOP support, and bickering and finger-pointing resulted in the subsequent weeks. There has been significant movement this week that gives lawmakers hope legislation can still be salvaged after lengthy negotiations between conservatives and more centrist Republicans. An amendment granting states waivers to remove some of the Obamacare regulations earned the support Wednesday of lawmakers in the House Freedom Caucus, who mostly opposed the first iteration of the bill. That backing moved the GOP whip count much closer to having the necessary support to pass the bill.  But questions remain as to whether that support will ultimately secure passage. Several more centrist-leaning Republicans who had opposed the bill said they remained opposed, and a vote had not be scheduled as of Wednesday, with little clarity on whether the changes earned enough Republican votes to pass the measure. If the legislation does pass the House, it still faces significant hurdles in the Senate, and some lawmakers have expressed frustration at the new developments.  “This has been a big exercise in blame-shifting, no doubt,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, arguing that the Freedom Caucus w[...]



The FBI and Hillary, Again

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

Last weekend, The New York Times published a long piece about the effect the FBI had on the outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign. As we all know, Donald Trump won a comfortable victory in the Electoral College while falling about 3 million votes behind Hillary Clinton in the popular vote. I believe that Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate who failed to energize the Democratic Party base and who failed to deliver to the electorate a principled reason to vote for her. Yet when the Times reporters asked her why she believes she lost the race, she gave several answers, the first of which...Last weekend, The New York Times published a long piece about the effect the FBI had on the outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign. As we all know, Donald Trump won a comfortable victory in the Electoral College while falling about 3 million votes behind Hillary Clinton in the popular vote. I believe that Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate who failed to energize the Democratic Party base and who failed to deliver to the electorate a principled reason to vote for her. Yet when the Times reporters asked her why she believes she lost the race, she gave several answers, the first of which was the involvement of the FBI. She may be right. Here is the back story. In 2015, a committee of the House of Representatives that was investigating the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, learned that the State Department had no copies of any emails sent or received by Clinton during her four years as secretary of state. When committee investigators pursued this -- at the same time that attorneys involved with civil lawsuits brought against the State Department seeking the Clinton emails were pursuing it -- it was revealed that Clinton had used her own home servers for her emails and bypassed the State Department servers. Because many of her emails obviously contained government secrets and because the removal of government secrets to any non-secure venue constitutes espionage, the House Select Committee on Benghazi sent a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, which passed it on to the FBI. A congressionally issued criminal referral means that some members of Congress who have seen some evidence think that some crime may have been committed. The DOJ is free to reject the referral, yet it accepted this one. It directed the FBI to investigate the facts in the referral and to refer to the investigation as a "matter," not as a criminal investigation. The FBI cringed a bit, but Director James Comey followed orders and used the word "matter." This led to some agents mockingly referring to him as the director of the Federal Bureau of Matters. It would not be the last time agents mocked or derided him in the Clinton investigation. He should not have referred to it by any name, because under DOJ and FBI regulations, the existence of an FBI investigation should not be revealed publicly unless and until it results in some public courtroom activity, such as the release of an indictment. These rules and procedures have been in place for generations to protect those never charged. Because of the role that the FBI has played in our law enforcement history -- articulated in books and movies and manifested in our culture -- many folks assume that if a person is being investigated by the FBI, she must have done something wrong. In early July 2016, Clinton was personally interviewed in secret for about four hours by a team of FBI age[...]



Trump's Biggest Achievement in His 1st 100 Days? Stopping the Left

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

President Donald Trump's biggest achievement in his first 100 days? Easy. He stopped the left. Measure Trump's first 100 days not just by looking at what he has or has not accomplished. Look at what America would have experienced under the alternative: Hillary Clinton. Under Clinton, the debate would not be on how to replace Obamacare, but how quickly can the left realize its ultimate ambition, a Canadian-style, single-payer system. Under Clinton, the issue would not be how steep the tax cuts, but how many "rich" people, also known as job creators, would experience yet...President Donald Trump's biggest achievement in his first 100 days? Easy. He stopped the left. Measure Trump's first 100 days not just by looking at what he has or has not accomplished. Look at what America would have experienced under the alternative: Hillary Clinton. Under Clinton, the debate would not be on how to replace Obamacare, but how quickly can the left realize its ultimate ambition, a Canadian-style, single-payer system. Under Clinton, the issue would not be how steep the tax cuts, but how many "rich" people, also known as job creators, would experience yet another growth-restricting tax hike. Under Clinton, the $100 billion-plus annually in new regulations imposed by President Barack Obama -- much of it to fight "climate change" -- would continue to rise. This has stopped. President Trump signed an executive order that requires an elimination of two regulations for every new regulation proposed by an executive department or agency in 2017, with a zero-dollar net increase in the cost of regulations. Under Clinton, newly confirmed conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch would've been another Ruth Bader Ginsburg/Sonia Sotomayor/Elena Kagan clone. Four left-wing SCOTUS justices, in the Heller case, ruled that there is not an individual right to keep and bear arms. Spare us a fifth one. Trump, too, has put the left-wing media on notice. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Through WikiLeaks, we found that John Harwood, a debate moderator, emailed a letter to Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, bragging about a question he had put to Donald Trump. He also emailed advice on dealing with the challenge posed by Dr. Ben Carson. Staffers for newsmen Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer of CNN contacted the Democratic National Committee to seek questions they might put to Republican presidential candidates. There were many other examples of flat-out collusion, well beyond the liberal bias we've come to expect. President Trump also changed eight years of Obama's "leading from behind" foreign policy by using our largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS in Afghanistan and bombing Syria for its use of chemical weapons. Under Obama, we pulled out all the troops from Iraq, despite the objections of his foreign policy and national security and defense teams. One of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now-retired Army Gen. Ray Odierno, said: "I go back to the work we did in 2007 (through) 2010, and we got into a place that was really good. Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction. ... We thought we had it going exactly in the right direction, but now we watch it fall apart. It's frustrating. ... I think, maybe, if we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have prevented it." Under Obama, we bombed Libya, a mission that the Obama administration admitted was done for humanitarian reasons.[...]



Lessons In Democracy

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

Like most Americans, I groaned when the mail included a summons to jury duty. Having been there before, I envisioned three days of wasted time in a bland room with lousy internet service. Instead, I served on a jury and came away with a renewed confidence in America's tradition of self-governance. My service as Juror Number 2 took place in Freehold, New Jersey near a Battle of Monmouth monument. At first, I inwardly chuckled when the judge cited the history of the place to convince us of the importance of the jury system. Being a history buff, I knew the battle wasn't as...Like most Americans, I groaned when the mail included a summons to jury duty. Having been there before, I envisioned three days of wasted time in a bland room with lousy internet service. Instead, I served on a jury and came away with a renewed confidence in America's tradition of self-governance. My service as Juror Number 2 took place in Freehold, New Jersey near a Battle of Monmouth monument. At first, I inwardly chuckled when the judge cited the history of the place to convince us of the importance of the jury system. Being a history buff, I knew the battle wasn't as consequential as she tried to make it sound. But, I appreciated the effort to explain that the right to trial by a jury of our peers was as important as our rights to freedom of speech and religion. As the process unfolded, I began to recognize that jury trials are in many ways a healthier expression of American democracy than our system of politics and elections. The process of jury selection, for example, emphasized the rights of the parties to receive a fair hearing. Many prospective jurors were dropped from the trial based upon answers to 22 questions about potential conflicts and other matters. Then, those still in the pool answered questions about personal interests and relationships. Both attorneys rejected some jurors based upon those answers. No explanation was required. They were just exercising rights designed to insure an impartial jury for their clients. This was an important reminder that we all have certain rights that cannot be taken away by our government or anyone else. Too many Americans forget this and talk as if the majority can do whatever it wants. But that's not the way it works in a free and self-governing society. Perhaps the biggest surprise came when everybody in the courtroom rose when we entered or left the room. The judge explained that the honor was bestowed because we were the decision makers. In effect, it was a recognition of our sovereign status in that setting. Can you imagine how much different it would be if elected officials had to stand when their constituents entered the room? Can you think of any way in which national politicians seriously acknowledge that the people are supposed to be the ultimate decision makers in America today? Perhaps the most important lesson of all, however, came when we were summoned for the final time as a jury. Informing us that a settlement had been reached, the judge went out of her way to explain that our time and service had been essential to the outcome. She specifically said no settlement would have been possible if this had been an administrative trial. That, it seems to me, is the proper model for political engagement in a self-governing society. As a jury, we were the sovereign power in that courtroom. But, we had no power at all once the parties worked things out [...]



Hillary as Seen By Official Washington

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- We call it Kultursmog, "it" being that collection of attitudes, ideas, tastes and personages that are polluted by the politics of the left and predominate on both coasts. And who are we? We are the freethinkers who are immune to the Kultursmog by virtue of our natural skepticism and reliance on empiricism, which is to say, reliance on evidence. Thus, we understand and generally accept that Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. We also accept that Hillary Clinton, assisted by her hubby and their consultants, lost the election. In fact, she lost the election...WASHINGTON -- We call it Kultursmog, "it" being that collection of attitudes, ideas, tastes and personages that are polluted by the politics of the left and predominate on both coasts. And who are we? We are the freethinkers who are immune to the Kultursmog by virtue of our natural skepticism and reliance on empiricism, which is to say, reliance on evidence. Thus, we understand and generally accept that Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. We also accept that Hillary Clinton, assisted by her hubby and their consultants, lost the election. In fact, she lost the election after outspending Trump 2 to 1 and turning many of her consultants into millionaires. Now, the question being asked by political wizards is why Clinton lost despite being the smartest candidate, the most virtuous candidate and, oh, yes, the candidate with the best sense of humor since W. C. Fields (though she is a lot prettier). And the question being asked by us -- that is to say, us skeptics -- is: Has the Kultursmog learned anything since Clinton's latest defeat? You will recall that in the 2016 race she was dubbed the "inevitable" one, at least until the clock struck 8:00 p.m. on Nov. 8, much as she was dubbed the "inevitable" one through the election cycle of 2008 until there emerged a little-known community organizer. Incidentally, does anyone wonder how candidate Trump would deal with candidate Obama? That would be a campaign for the ages. There has appeared from the hazy vapors of the smog a book attempting to explain the election, and all the smog's outlets are reviewing it. The book is titled "Shattered: Inside Hillary's Clinton's Doomed Campaign." The best thing about it is the title -- "Shattered." After that, it is pretty uneven. There are a few glints of understanding, but from what I can tell from reading the book and its reviews, the Kultursmog remains securely in the dark. According to it, Clinton was the victim of plots by FBI Director James Comey, Russian hackers, errors made by her staff, the sinister doings of "the deplorables" and misogyny. Six decades after the dawn of feminism, with the feminists' fingerprints all over the republic, Clinton still cannot get a break. But I am told by reliable sources that up there in the Kultursmog, she is contemplating another suicidal run in 2020. She does not take no for an answer. As I say, there are glints in "Shattered" that suggest the authors have learned a thing or two about the new political scene that we were being presented with in 2016. There are few references to Donald Trump and the unique campaign he waged. He proved to be the finest campaigner in my adult life -- all the way back to Bob Kennedy in 1968. And Clinton, after all the absurd laudations that the Kultursmog has basted her in, is about the worst. As the authors s[...]



Can We Think Our Way Past Robots?

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

Never mind the wall that President Trump said Mexico must pay for but then Congress must pay for; either that or much of the working class loses its health coverage. Oh, he's dropped that? Well, it made for a lively 24 hours. Bubbling beneath today's comic-book politics are threats to American workers that have nothing to do with people or things coming over the border. Robots and artificial intelligence are nipping at the heels of not only blue-collar workers but also white-collar professionals who assumed that a degree would keep them several steps ahead of the...Never mind the wall that President Trump said Mexico must pay for but then Congress must pay for; either that or much of the working class loses its health coverage. Oh, he's dropped that? Well, it made for a lively 24 hours. Bubbling beneath today's comic-book politics are threats to American workers that have nothing to do with people or things coming over the border. Robots and artificial intelligence are nipping at the heels of not only blue-collar workers but also white-collar professionals who assumed that a degree would keep them several steps ahead of the machines. Trump's treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, recently opined that this peril for employment is, "like, so far away" that it's not even on his "radar screen." Guess he hasn't read about MillerCoors' plan to offer a beer service called Miller Lite On-Demand. It works like this: A beer drinker watching the game at home comes to the startling realization that he's out of Miller Lite. Without having to take his rear end off the couch, he uses a voice-activated command (or pushes a programmed button on the phone) to order more beer. A truck arrives with reinforcements within an hour. There's no going to a store that has to employ salespeople. Technology for self-driving trucks is well on its way, so truck drivers will soon not be needed. Here's the glitch. With jobs like these gone, how will the beer drinker make the money needed to buy the beverage? Such questions are gathering dust in an administration intent on distracting ordinary folk with entertainment as it marshals its deep thinking for such matters as how to slash taxes for real estate empires. Actually, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently published a study on the advances in automation and artificial intelligence and posed some not insignificant questions related to them. For instance: Who gets to choose the technological future? How does this change us as a society? And what will it mean to be human? The president would no doubt have read all 184 pages had he not been busy that day signing a law to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and flying off to Palm Beach. But as his supporters say, give him a chance. Give him a chance. Artificial intelligence goes way beyond the elementary programming of robots to tighten screws. Simplistically put, it teaches machines to think, to learn the way toddlers do. With traditional robots, at least you needed humans to do the programming. Technology is now being developed that would let the machines program themselves. Artificial intelligence can already do some things that lawyers or their human assistants had to do. For example, it uses "natural language processing" to go through documents and find passages that may be relevant to a case. This technology has let BlackRock[...]



A Bold Remedy for Overdose Deaths

2017-04-27T00:00:00Z

Addiction to opioids is hazardous to your health. To most people, this may sound like an obvious and inescapable reality. If your chief priority is staying cool, the thinking goes, you don't move to Phoenix. If you really want to stay alive, you don't use heroin. But humans have created innumerable places in Phoenix where it's possible to minimize personal contact with searing heat. Humans have also created places where it's possible to inject opioids at relatively low risk. Heroin users have long been susceptible to life-threatening diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis,...Addiction to opioids is hazardous to your health. To most people, this may sound like an obvious and inescapable reality. If your chief priority is staying cool, the thinking goes, you don't move to Phoenix. If you really want to stay alive, you don't use heroin. But humans have created innumerable places in Phoenix where it's possible to minimize personal contact with searing heat. Humans have also created places where it's possible to inject opioids at relatively low risk. Heroin users have long been susceptible to life-threatening diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis, which are spread through shared syringes. In recent years, those who use heroin or prescription opioids have also faced an increasingly common and more immediate peril: sudden death from overdose. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died of overdoses involving these drugs -- nearly triple the number in 2002. That growing epidemic is one reason that life expectancy among whites actually declined last year. It's not hard to figure out why opioid dependence can lead to the morgue. Users may overdose because their heroin has been adulterated with other, more powerful drugs. They may combine opioids with alcohol or sedatives, aggravating the risk. They often shoot up alone or with other users, meaning they may have no one who can help them if things go wrong. The best way to reduce the toll is dissuading people from opioid use. But some people are drawn to intoxicating substances, and once they become dependent, they find it hard to abstain even if they would like to -- which many don't. So the question becomes how to prevent inveterate users from dying. Not everyone thinks this objective is commendable. In the 1990s, drug users were contracting and dying of AIDS (and infecting their sexual partners) after shooting up with dirty syringes. But a lot of people, including President Bill Clinton, resisted efforts to expand access to clean needles. Like giving condoms to teens, this was seen as a false solution that would only encourage people to engage in risky behavior. Wrong. Making sterile needles available, it turned out, averted disease and saved lives without generating more addiction. Let drug users get the means to protect themselves, and many of them will take it. Self-destructiveness is not necessarily their goal. A comparable approach can avert overdose deaths. One tool is naloxone, a drug that quickly neutralizes the effects of opioids, reversing overdoses. Emergency rooms keep it on hand. Ambulances carry it. Some police departments equip officers with supplies. Another solution is coming to King County, Washington, which includes Seattle: safe injection facilities where people dependent on drugs can use them in clean conditions, without fear of arrest, under [...]



The President Goes Bananas

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

Yet again, it's that pesky Constitution and those federal judges who take so seriously their obligation to uphold it, even when the king -- excuse me, the president -- is on the other side. Being president, as Donald Trump is discovering, is nothing like being the boss of a reality television show, where you can go around telling people who disagree with you, "You're fired." (Remember when he wanted to trademark the phrase as his own? Oh, those were the days.) Presidents can't fire federal judges. The Constitution gives them life tenure, subject only to impeachment...Yet again, it's that pesky Constitution and those federal judges who take so seriously their obligation to uphold it, even when the king -- excuse me, the president -- is on the other side. Being president, as Donald Trump is discovering, is nothing like being the boss of a reality television show, where you can go around telling people who disagree with you, "You're fired." (Remember when he wanted to trademark the phrase as his own? Oh, those were the days.) Presidents can't fire federal judges. The Constitution gives them life tenure, subject only to impeachment by Congress, a rare occurrence and a punishment that can't be handed out just because a president may disagree with them. "It's the 9th Circuit going bananas," Reince Priebus, Trump's chief of staff, said Tuesday night. "We're taking action to appeal this," he continued. "You'll find out soon enough." Actually, Priebus is the one going bananas, along with his boss. You see, the decision at issue -- holding that the president cannot condition the receipt of federal funds on his brand of cooperation with immigration enforcement -- wasn't issued by the 9th Circuit. It was issued by a federal district judge in San Francisco. And if the Trump administration seeks to appeal -- as it surely will, if the judge stands by his ruling -- then the appeal will go to the 9th Circuit. The president doesn't have the power of the purse. That's the Constitution again: Congress holds the purse strings. Imagine telling a CEO that. But Donald Trump is not the CEO of America Inc., even though he and his Cabinet might well be more comfortable in that role. And his power, under the Constitution, doesn't rest on whether you like or dislike his policies. As Judge William Orrick explained, this particular case was on all fours with another decision, one Trump probably would have supported, that said the Obama administration could not condition Medicaid funding on states' compliance with Obamacare. That was a 2012 decision of the conservative Supreme Court. Sorry, Mr. Priebus: What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Meanwhile, the Trump's lawyers, up against the wall in oral argument, said the president's order was really just symbolic, just an expression of his point of view. Judge Orrick didn't buy it. And neither did the president, when he said in February that he was ready to defund the state of California. "If we have to, we'll defund. We give tremendous amounts of money to California. California in many ways is out of control, as you know." Someone is out of control, and it's not California. It's a president who clearly thinks he is above the supreme law of the land: the Constitution. It's a White House that thinks federal judges who seek to enforce the Co[...]



Muddy Maxine Waters: What a Riot

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

Are you freaking kidding me? Thirteen-term Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Beltway barnacle permanently affixed to USS Government, is now the fresh-faced "rock star" of the Democratic Party. "Auntie Maxine" is stoking the resistance, inspiring millenials, combating hate, crusading against corruption and invoking the counterinsurgent cry to "stay woke!" I do not have enough guffaws to give. This new spokesmodel for civility and clean government has stoked division and exploited taxpayers for decades. Change agent? She has served on the Democratic National...Are you freaking kidding me? Thirteen-term Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Beltway barnacle permanently affixed to USS Government, is now the fresh-faced "rock star" of the Democratic Party. "Auntie Maxine" is stoking the resistance, inspiring millenials, combating hate, crusading against corruption and invoking the counterinsurgent cry to "stay woke!" I do not have enough guffaws to give. This new spokesmodel for civility and clean government has stoked division and exploited taxpayers for decades. Change agent? She has served on the Democratic National Committee since 1980 -- when the Atari 2600 was cutting-edge, Kim Kardashian was a newborn, and Al Franken was hamming it up on "Saturday Night Live." Waters has spent 37 years in office -- many of those years as head of the Congressional Black Caucus -- promising to make life better for constituents in economically ravaged South Central Los Angeles. What do the denizens of her district have to show for it? Staggering levels of persistent unemployment, poverty and gang violence as the 25th anniversary of the L.A. riots looms this coming weekend. What does Rep. Waters have to show for it? She's earned a lifetime of left-wing adoration for whitewashing the deadly riots as a "rebellion," excusing the week-long shooting, looting and arson orgy as "a spontaneous reaction to a lot of injustice and a lot of alienation and frustration," and coddling Crips and Bloods gang members -- with whom she performed the Electric Slide as part of her "fearless support and understanding of young people and their efforts at self-expression." I covered Waters in the early 1990s as an editorial writer and columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Her federally funded Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center was a gang-infested boondoggle. She embraced Damian Williams, the infamous thug who hurled a chunk of concrete at white truck driver Reginald Denny and performed a victory dance over the bloodied innocent bystander. And she and her family personally profited from her rise to racially demagogic power. She owns a tony mansion in predominantly white Hancock Park, several miles outside her congressional district. She secured an ambassadorship to the Bahamas for her husband, a former pro football player and car salesman whose main qualification was having traveled to the island for a vacation. Her daughter, Karen, has scooped up nearly $650,000 in payments from Mama Waters' slate mailer operation for her federal campaign committee since 2006, the Washington Free Beacon reported this week. And Mama Waters owes her well-heeled daughter an additional $108,000. Waters also mau-maued the House Veterans Committee into hiring two black staffers. And she wal[...]



Fired-Up Dems; Trump's Tax Plan; Melania's First 100 Days; 'Polio Pioneers'

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, April 26, 2017. Sixty-three years ago today, in an elementary school cafeteria in McLean, Va., a young physician began inoculating children against polio. Then, as now, a few frightened parents shied away from such vaccinations. The first mass trial had been scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C. -- until an April 4, 1954 radio and television broadcast by famous gossip columnist Walter Winchell. “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea,” Winchell intoned in his famous sign-on. “In a few moments, I...Good morning, it’s Wednesday, April 26, 2017. Sixty-three years ago today, in an elementary school cafeteria in McLean, Va., a young physician began inoculating children against polio. Then, as now, a few frightened parents shied away from such vaccinations. The first mass trial had been scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C. -- until an April 4, 1954 radio and television broadcast by famous gossip columnist Walter Winchell. “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea,” Winchell intoned in his famous sign-on. “In a few moments, I will report on a new polio vaccine claimed to be a polio cure. It may be a killer.” Winchell was wrong, of course. But if it hadn’t been for faithful parents in Virginia -- those dubbed “Polio Pioneers” in the press -- hysteria may have carried the day. I’ll explain why it didn’t in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * 100 Days:  Trump’s Rocky Start Fires Up Dazed Dems. The fractured minority aims to turn the president’s unpopularity into big wins in 2018, Caitlin Huey-Burns writes. Trump Eager to ‘Sell’ Tax Plan to Voters, Priebus Says.  The White House chief of staff discussed the president’s strategy ahead of Wednesday’s rollout, reports Alexis Simendinger. Melania’s 100 Days: Slowly Growing Into First Lady Role. Emily Goodin has details. Trump, Act 1:  All Drama, No Action. Mark Salter pans the president’s performance in his first 100 days.  Dem Lawmakers Seek Details on Legality of Syria Strikes. James Arkin has the story. Liberals, Worry About Citizens’ Character, Not Just Trump’s. Richard V. Reeves writes that the health and progress of the republic requires more than holding our leaders to a high standard. Don't Let Multinational Corporations Derail Tax Reform. In RealClearPolicy, Joshua Baca urges GOP lawmakers not to heed calls for a border adjustment tax. How the Welfare State Helps China. In RealClearWorld, Dan Blumenthal argues that cuts in military spending have given Beijing the upper hand in Asia. First, Do No Harm to Patients With Pre-Existing Conditions. In RealClearHealth, John Meigs Jr. discusses how the AHCA takes a major step backward in regards to health security for those with pre-existing conditions.  Does Crime P[...]



Trump Eager to 'Sell' Tax Plan to Voters, Priebus Says

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

When President Trump on Wednesday unveils his tax reform ideas leading into his 100th day in office, he wants Washington and the American people to see “a president who is working at breakneck speed,” his chief of staff explained. While defending the president’s achievements since January, and Donald Trump’s decision-making style, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told reporters the president is working to navigate roadblocks, including Democrats in Congress, resistance from some within his party, judicial branch challenges to his...When President Trump on Wednesday unveils his tax reform ideas leading into his 100th day in office, he wants Washington and the American people to see “a president who is working at breakneck speed,” his chief of staff explained. While defending the president’s achievements since January, and Donald Trump’s decision-making style, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told reporters the president is working to navigate roadblocks, including Democrats in Congress, resistance from some within his party, judicial branch challenges to his policies, and enemies on the world stage. Reacting to news Tuesday that a federal judge in San Francisco blocked Trump’s effort to withhold federal funding from cities and communities that defy the administration’s immigration policies, Priebus said the administration would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. “Again, it’s the Ninth Circuit going bananas,” he said in his spacious office, where three muted flat-screen televisions displayed the evening news.  “It’s clear forum-shopping that’s going on in this country,” he continued, his even, Midwestern cadence picking up speed.  “I think the idea that an agency can’t put in some reasonable restriction on how some of these monies are spent … will be overturned eventually and we’ll win at the Supreme Court level at some point,” he said. “We’re taking action to appeal this.” U.S. District Court William H. Orrick ordered a nationwide injunction blocking an executive order that instructed the attorney general to withhold federal grant money from so-called “sanctuary cities.” Also blocked in federal courts after separate legal challenges are two versions of Trump’s immigration travel and refugee bans, which he unveiled as a prelude to what he described during his campaign as “extreme vetting” to reduce the threat of terrorists entering the United States.  As president, Trump “is working as fast as he can within the confines of the law, running through that punch list of promises that he made during the campaign,” his chief of staff said during one in a series of briefings organized for White House correspondents this week to mark the president’s 100th day in office on Saturday. Turning to congressional Democrats, viewed by Trump as political enemies in the Senate, Priebus said continued funding to keep the government operating through the end of the fiscal year was now expected in the wake of a preliminary compromise this week to avert a show[...]



100 Days: Trump's Rocky Start Fires Up Dazed Dems

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

Democrats charting their long course out of the wilderness might look fondly upon the first 100 days of the Donald Trump administration. For in this window of time, they have seen: the new president’s travel ban challenged in courts, a Cabinet appointee withdraw, the FBI make public its investigation into the campaign’s Russia ties, the attorney general and House intelligence chairmen recuse themselves from their own probes, the unraveling of a years-long effort to repeal Obamacare, Trump back away from his insistence of border wall funding, liberal activism at Republican...Democrats charting their long course out of the wilderness might look fondly upon the first 100 days of the Donald Trump administration. For in this window of time, they have seen: the new president’s travel ban challenged in courts, a Cabinet appointee withdraw, the FBI make public its investigation into the campaign’s Russia ties, the attorney general and House intelligence chairmen recuse themselves from their own probes, the unraveling of a years-long effort to repeal Obamacare, Trump back away from his insistence of border wall funding, liberal activism at Republican town halls, and special elections that have put the GOP on edge. As it turns out, the first 100 days of the Donald Trump presidency have invigorated a decimated Democratic Party in ways its own standard bearers could not. The president’s low job approval rating has further complicated the calculus for congressional Democrats inclined to work with the White House to shape legislation. Instead, some members of the loyal opposition are already laying the early groundwork to challenge him in 2020. The Democratic House and Senate campaign committees report a surge in recruitment and fundraising in response to the new administration, and outside groups are busy harnessing momentum from a newly re-activated liberal base. “The resistance has fundamentally altered American politics,” said Anna Galland, executive director for MoveOn.org. “This is the biggest grassroots movement, at least in my lifetime, and it has transformed the way elected officials are acting. It’s a shot across the bow for not just 2018 but for 2020 and beyond.” Yet not too far beneath this shiny surface exist significant issues and problem sets including the party’s structure, leadership, and message that can’t be fixed simply by focusing on Trump’s own troubles. And for all the trials and tribulations of the new administration, the president did make good on a most consequential campaign promise: the confirmation of conservative Neil Gorsuch to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. While public polling assessing the first 100 days of the new administration found a historically unpopular president, Americans aren’t exactly enticed by the opposing party. A Washington Post-ABC News poll this week found 67 percent of voters believe the Democratic Party is out of touch -- and 44 percent of Democrats believe that, too. By contrast: 62 percent say Republicans are out of touch, and 30 percent of Republicans say their own party is out of touch. “Democratic ideas are popular. But the p[...]



Trump, Act 1: All Drama, No Action

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

As he approaches the milestone he embraced as a candidate and tries to downplay as president, Donald Trump’s product launch has been a failure. None of the bold strokes he promised in his first months in office to “make America great again” yet exist in legislative form or in law.  Obamacare is still with us. The North American Free Trade Agreement still governs our trade relations with Mexico and Canada. No ground has been broken on a Trump-branded infrastructure project. Trump’s steep budget cuts are mostly non-starters in Congress. Not a...As he approaches the milestone he embraced as a candidate and tries to downplay as president, Donald Trump’s product launch has been a failure. None of the bold strokes he promised in his first months in office to “make America great again” yet exist in legislative form or in law.  Obamacare is still with us. The North American Free Trade Agreement still governs our trade relations with Mexico and Canada. No ground has been broken on a Trump-branded infrastructure project. Trump’s steep budget cuts are mostly non-starters in Congress. Not a dollar has been appropriated for his border wall, which is going to be a fence if it’s ever built at all, will still cost tens of billions, won’t cover the entire border, will be tied up in lawsuits from landowners, and won’t be paid for by Mexico now or ever. Overseas, China is no longer a currency manipulator, and President Xi Jinping—America’s archenemy according to Candidate Trump—is now President Trump’s best friend forever. NATO is no longer obsolete. The European Union muddles along. The Kremlin is still suffering economic sanctions imposed by the West. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is, thankfully, de facto leader of the free world. Ethno-nationalism, Trumpism, Breitbartism, whatever you want to call it, may have crested with Trump’s election. It was defeated at the polls in the Netherlands and now probably in France, where centrist Emmanuel Macron should handily defeat the national socialist, Putin vassal and Trump enthusiast, Marine Le Pen. To his credit, Trump nominated a qualified jurist to the Supreme Court, whom the Senate confirmed at the cost of the executive calendar filibuster. Trump has also signed more executive orders in 100 days than any of his predecessors, and seems inordinately proud of the large signature that adorns each one. I wouldn’t have thought that would be a record constitutional conservatives could applaud. And what can be done by E.O. can be undone by E.O., as former President Obama is discovering. Other than these modest achievements, along with his very limited but welcome military response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons, and his frequent hyperbole about personally intervening to keep manufacturing jobs in the country, Trump hasn’t done much of anything. Of course, 100 days is a ridiculous measurement. Big changes in public policy take much longer than three months to affect, and 1,360 days remain in his term. It’s theoretically possible he could turn things around. But I’m not holding [...]



Mattis and Trump: The Odd Couple That Works

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

TEL AVIV -- As President Trump nears the 100-day benchmark, it's a good moment to examine the relationship that has evolved between the mercurial and inexperienced commander in chief and his unflappable Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It's an unlikely partnership, but so far it mostly seems to work. Trump may have relatively few domestic-policy accomplishments to show after three months, but he can take credit for selecting a generally solid national-security team and for listening to its advice. Traveling with Mattis last week in the Middle East, I had a chance to watch the delicate...TEL AVIV -- As President Trump nears the 100-day benchmark, it's a good moment to examine the relationship that has evolved between the mercurial and inexperienced commander in chief and his unflappable Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It's an unlikely partnership, but so far it mostly seems to work. Trump may have relatively few domestic-policy accomplishments to show after three months, but he can take credit for selecting a generally solid national-security team and for listening to its advice. Traveling with Mattis last week in the Middle East, I had a chance to watch the delicate balancing act between a media-obsessed White House and a national-security leadership that mostly would be happy to stay out of the news. During his meetings in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, Mattis focused on alliance issues. But the big running stories last week were about symbolic displays of U.S. military power by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, and by dropping a massive weapon in Afghanistan whose nickname, "Mother of All Bombs," was catnip for journalists. Mattis struggled to adapt to this ever-shifting information space, and his messaging wasn't always clear. Mattis is mildly eccentric by military standards, with his penchant for studying Roman philosophy in Latin and suggesting reading lists for his troops. But like every successful Marine and Army general, he is fundamentally a team player who moves with a group, rarely in isolation. What that's meant in practice is that Mattis has bonded with Trump's other key foreign policy advisers: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. This is a strong, self-confident group; there's little of the infighting that characterizes Trump's White House domestic advisers. Mattis' closest link, interestingly, may be with Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO turned diplomat. Mattis believes that U.S. foreign policy became over-militarized in recent years, and that a strong State Department voice is essential. The national-security process worked well in the two-day planning and execution of a missile strike early this month on a Syrian airfield. Within hours of the Syrian chemical weapons attack on its people, Mattis was framing options drawn from a list of contingency plans. The Pentagon prepared for the possibility that Russia would respond. Planners predicted an 85 percent success rate for the U.S.; it turned out to be closer to 95 percent. One puzzle for Mattis these days is navigating a kaleidoscopic[...]



Blame the Spendaholics, Not Tax Reformers

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

If you live in tax hell -- New York, Illinois, California, New Jersey or Connecticut -- paying your state and local taxes could soon become even more painful. Congressional Republicans and President Trump have plans to lower federal tax rates for almost everyone and simplify tax rules. All good news. But there's a catch for residents of high-tax states. For now, federal tax filers can deduct their state and local taxes when calculating what they owe the IRS -- reducing the bite out of their wallets. But the House GOP tax reform eliminates those deductions to partly pay for dramatically...If you live in tax hell -- New York, Illinois, California, New Jersey or Connecticut -- paying your state and local taxes could soon become even more painful. Congressional Republicans and President Trump have plans to lower federal tax rates for almost everyone and simplify tax rules. All good news. But there's a catch for residents of high-tax states. For now, federal tax filers can deduct their state and local taxes when calculating what they owe the IRS -- reducing the bite out of their wallets. But the House GOP tax reform eliminates those deductions to partly pay for dramatically lowering rates. The Trump tax overhaul, expected today, is said to cap these deductions. Ouch. Almost half the taxpayers in Maryland and New Jersey and more than one-third of California and New York taxpayers take these deductions. New Yorkers who itemize on average deduct a whopping $21,000 for state and local taxes. Hardly chump change. Losing these deductions would be a costly blow to residents of high-tax states. But they shouldn't pin the blame for their pain on GOP tax reformers in Washington. They should direct their rage at the tax-tyrants in Trenton, Albany, Hartford and other state capitals who impose excessive taxes to begin with. New Yorkers shoulder the highest state and local tax burden in the nation, followed closely by residents of Connecticut and New Jersey, according to the Tax Foundation. Income taxes, gas taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, surcharges on high earners and investors, death taxes, even a cremation tax. No wonder people are picking up and moving. According to United Van Lines, New Jersey, Illinois (another high-tax state) New York and Connecticut top the list of states in the moving van's rearview mirror. One group not fleeing is public sector employees. They're on easy street. In Connecticut, state employees earn a staggering 42 percent more in total compensation than private sector workers doing the same job. In New York, they earn 34 percent more. Outrageous union demands -- readily indulged by state politicians in exchange for votes -- are ruining it for everyone else. Taxes alone don't cause people to leave the state, but high taxes factor into a family's cost of living. Even more important, taxes depress economic growth. Which states are magnets for people escaping? States with a better economic outlook, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. It's not sunny weather that matters, but business climate. By that measure, New York is at rock bottom, with the worst growth prospects in [...]



Melania's 100 Days: Slowly Growing Into First Lady Role

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

Melania Trump has upped her public profile in the past month but that hasn’t stifled speculation that she is a reluctant first lady as she approaches the 100-day mark in that role. In the past 30 days Trump, who turns 47 today, has been a more visible presence in her husband’s administration, meeting with her foreign equivalents and appearing at White House events. A video of her at the White House Easter Egg Roll, nudging President Trump to put his hand on his heart during the national anthem, went viral. It’s a marked change from three months ago, when...Melania Trump has upped her public profile in the past month but that hasn’t stifled speculation that she is a reluctant first lady as she approaches the 100-day mark in that role. In the past 30 days Trump, who turns 47 today, has been a more visible presence in her husband’s administration, meeting with her foreign equivalents and appearing at White House events. A video of her at the White House Easter Egg Roll, nudging President Trump to put his hand on his heart during the national anthem, went viral. It’s a marked change from three months ago, when the president and first lady weren’t seen together in the early weeks of the new administration. Thus far, her presence has been a quiet, but beautifully dressed, one. She has given very few speeches, as was the case on the campaign trail. One rare moment the public heard from her was on March 29 at the State Department’s International Women of Courage Awards. A lack of confidence with her English, which is not her native language, was obvious. She alternated between two teleprompters, speaking slowly and carefully, never breaking script. When she handed out awards to women who had displayed exceptional courage in fighting for gender equality – some had been beaten and burned – she was cool and composed but a bit distant. Comparisons between first ladies may not be fair but they are inevitable. And as Trump finishes her first 100 days in the most public, yet non-defined, role in the country, questions linger as to what kind of first lady the Slovenia native will be. Laura Bush’s love of reading shone through during her time in the White House. Michelle Obama called herself the mom-in-chief. If Melania Trump doesn’t carve out her own identity soon, she risks having one carved out for her. “A lot of people have expectations, maybe unrealistic, about what a first lady should do. And she, at the moment, isn’t really living up to those,” said Katherine Jellison, a history professor at Ohio University who specializes in first ladies. Jellison warned that the public may already being defining Trump as “the reluctant first lady.” Trump famously didn’t move into the White House after her husband was inaugurated, saying she would do so after her son finished his current school year. “She said she’d be more active after Barron’s school year is out. If that comes to pass and she doesn’t change to her ways, I think it might be [...]



A March to Politicize Science, Not Save It

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

Science joined the #resistance over the weekend, or so the organizers of the March for Science would have us believe. Thousands of demonstrators marched in Washington, D.C., and in cities around the country under the banner of science and in the spirit of the Women’s March opposing President Donald Trump back in January. The march had its share of harmless and charmingly nerdy science enthusiasts holding signs like “I was told there would be pi” and “I was told to bring a sine” (get it?). Who can possibly object to people, who may have waited...Science joined the #resistance over the weekend, or so the organizers of the March for Science would have us believe. Thousands of demonstrators marched in Washington, D.C., and in cities around the country under the banner of science and in the spirit of the Women’s March opposing President Donald Trump back in January. The march had its share of harmless and charmingly nerdy science enthusiasts holding signs like “I was told there would be pi” and “I was told to bring a sine” (get it?). Who can possibly object to people, who may have waited a lifetime for the opportunity, finally getting a chance to make trigonometry puns in public? The problem with the march was its larger ambition to enlist science in the anti-Trump movement. Not only does this represent a jaw-dropping misunderstanding of science — the Large Hadron Collider has no position on whether Trump is violating the emoluments clause — but if taken seriously, it will damage the reputation of science. The left loves to argue that Republicans are anti-science, usually by accusing them of being budding theocrats who value only faith and not science. Since Donald Trump is no one’s idea of a theocrat, the latest argument is that his “alternative facts” administration is an implicit assault on the basis of science. It is certainly the case that Trump says things that aren’t true, although science has survived other fast-and-loose presidents. No one thought that Bill Clinton, during the course of his various falsehoods, was somehow calling into doubt the second law of thermodynamics. Trump has pronounced on all sorts of things over the decades, but so far the scientific method has escaped his wrath on Twitter. Indeed, putting up glass-encased 98-story buildings implies a certain acceptance of the laws of physics and a respect for engineering. This is why it’s absurd for any claque to claim ownership of science, which belongs to all of us. No one disputes that the modern world rests on an edifice of scientific advance, and that we owe much of our material well-being to it. No one wants to argue with Francis Bacon, one of the philosophic founders of modern science, about the importance of empiricism. No one wants to dispute the work of Newton, Bohr, or Curie. This doesn’t mean that science should be apotheosized. It is value-neutral. The same science that gave us penicillin gave us the hydrogen bomb. As Francis Bacon himself put it[...]



Trump Tax Plan a Sign of Better Days to Come

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

This week, President Trump called for a 15 percent corporate and small business tax rate. It couldn’t come at a better time. According to a new Job Creators Network (JCN) poll conducted by Roosevelt Opinion Research of 400 small businesses, more than 70 percent of respondents agree that high taxes and tax complexity currently threaten the viability of their businesses. The nation’s small business job creators face a top federal marginal tax rate of 40 percent. President Trump’s proposal to cut this rate by over 60 percent will allow business owners to invest more...This week, President Trump called for a 15 percent corporate and small business tax rate. It couldn’t come at a better time. According to a new Job Creators Network (JCN) poll conducted by Roosevelt Opinion Research of 400 small businesses, more than 70 percent of respondents agree that high taxes and tax complexity currently threaten the viability of their businesses. The nation’s small business job creators face a top federal marginal tax rate of 40 percent. President Trump’s proposal to cut this rate by over 60 percent will allow business owners to invest more of their resources in hiring, expansion, and their communities—keeping more money on Main Street rather than sending it off to Washington, D.C. Because of the federal government’s decades-old tax code, the United States boasts the highest corporate tax rate—35 percent—in the developed world, which places U.S. businesses and the economy writ large at a severe competitive disadvantage. Countries like Ireland, for example, are able to attract businesses with a corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent. The president’s proposal would dramatically reduce the tax burden on U.S. businesses and encourage job creation. As a result of President Trump’s commitment to the major issues facing small businesses—including taxes, regulations, and healthcare reform—the new JCN poll finds that nearly 60 percent of them believe that Trump “will have a positive effect” on their business, employees, and customers. This bodes well for the U.S. economy. There are 29 million small businesses in America, providing employment for roughly half of the U.S. workforce and impacting 85 million people in total. The JCN survey coincides with the end of President Trump’s first hundred days in office, which have already brought regulatory relief to America’s job creators—well over half of whom see government regulations as a threat to their business. One example is the “Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” which reduces some of the regulatory hassles associated with Obamacare. The executive order directs the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies to scrap provisions that impose a “fiscal burden” on a state or “regulatory burden” on individuals and businesses. The president signed a similar [...]



Liberals, Worry About Citizens' Character, Not Just Trump's

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

People are worried about the character of President Trump. Seasoned observers fear that he lacks the “temperament” for the office he occupies, and in particular the vital capacities for self-restraint, reflection, and empathy. This is understandable. The character of the commander-in-chief of the most powerful nation on earth is an important matter. But what about the voters? Many of us, including liberals, are happy to comment on the virtues and vices of our rulers. We are more reluctant to turn a mirror on ourselves. But the character of citizens matters a great deal,...People are worried about the character of President Trump. Seasoned observers fear that he lacks the “temperament” for the office he occupies, and in particular the vital capacities for self-restraint, reflection, and empathy. This is understandable. The character of the commander-in-chief of the most powerful nation on earth is an important matter. But what about the voters? Many of us, including liberals, are happy to comment on the virtues and vices of our rulers. We are more reluctant to turn a mirror on ourselves. But the character of citizens matters a great deal, especially in a liberal republic. “The worth of a state,” John Stuart Mill observed, “is the worth of the individuals composing it.” A tolerant and productive society does not result from wise laws and smart policies (though of course they help), but from the open-mindedness, confidence, hard work, empathy, and self-reliance of individual men and women. Addressing problems of stagnant social mobility, declining labor force participation, racial intolerance, and family instability requires us not only to pore over charts and test policy interventions, but also to decide what sorts of citizens we ought to be.   The language of character flows more comfortably from the lips of conservatives, with their emphasis on personal responsibility and commitments to faith, flag, and family. But character is, or ought to be, a central concern of liberals. Mill was just one of a parade of Enlightenment thinkers from Adam Smith onward who were deeply concerned with the cultivation of character. Liberals know better than socialists or conservatives that free societies can only function effectively if they are comprised of strong individuals, as I argue in a new Brookings paper. Paternalism becomes necessary when individuals lack the capacity and agency to run their own lives well. Modern liberals are squeamish to even raise the subject of character. We are justifiably afraid of appearing judgmental or of seeming, for example, to blame the poor for their poverty. The temptation is to retreat into antiseptic empirical data. But we shouldn’t simply cede this ground to conservatives. Liberals need to set out their own case for the importance of character. First, character strengths are necessary for economic security and social mobility, especially as they become more valued in the labor market. Collected [...]



The Next President

2017-04-26T00:00:00Z

Will Donald Trump be re-elected in 2020? Probably not, say people who bet. They give Trump only a 23 percent chance. They do pick him over all other politicians, but the favorite is "other." I know this because I follow the betting odds at ElectionBettingOdds.com. Yes, bettors were wrong about Trump's election and Brexit, but those were exceptions, and those votes unusual. Even Brexit's promoters predicted a loss; even Trump said he thought he'd lose when he saw the election-night exit polls. But betting odds are usually right. It's easy to fall into the trap of...Will Donald Trump be re-elected in 2020? Probably not, say people who bet. They give Trump only a 23 percent chance. They do pick him over all other politicians, but the favorite is "other." I know this because I follow the betting odds at ElectionBettingOdds.com. Yes, bettors were wrong about Trump's election and Brexit, but those were exceptions, and those votes unusual. Even Brexit's promoters predicted a loss; even Trump said he thought he'd lose when he saw the election-night exit polls. But betting odds are usually right. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if the bettors gave a candidate, say, a 65 percent chance to win, and he lost, bettors were "wrong." But remember, 65 percent means bettors also thought there was a 35 percent chance that candidate would lose. There's wisdom in crowds, if the crowds put their money where their mouths are. Bettors accurately picked Oscar winners, "American Idol" winners and most important elections. ElectionBettingOdds.com named VP picks Mike Pence and Tim Kaine a week before they were picked. Even when bettors bet wrong, they are quicker to adjust than others. By 10 p.m. on election night, the odds had flipped from Clinton to Trump. An hour later, bettors had Trump at 90 percent, but CNN's Wolf Blitzer was still saying, "Hilary Clinton is now ahead in the all-important electoral college map count!" Last week, right before France's election, reporters claimed that the terrorism in France would help elect Marine Le Pen. Saturday, Fox News headlined: "Le Pen sees Trump-like boost." But bettors knew better. They favored Emmanuel Macron, 60 percent to 20 percent, and sure enough, he was the first-round winner. The New York Times hyped Jean-Luc Melenchon, France's socialist candidate (of course), claiming he was "gaining steam." But betters weren't fooled. They gave Melenchon just a 5 percent chance. A more complete track record of the bettors' predictions is posted at ElectionBettingOdds.com. I should explain: ElectionBettingOdds.com is a website my TV producer and I created. He takes the odds from legal betting markets, mostly from the biggest and most reliable one, Betfair (based in the U.K.). Our site converts Betfair's complex formulae to percentages that are easy to understand. Candidates' shares trade like stocks in the stock market. Since, as I write, bettors give President Trump only a 23 percent chance of winning in 2020, you Trum[...]



Dem Lawmakers Seek Details on Legality of Syria Strikes

2017-04-25T00:00:00Z

Two Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to President Trump this week demanding a fuller explanation of the legal authority for the airstrikes launched against Syria earlier this month. Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Tim Kaine, the signatories of the letter, said that Trump’s notification of the strikes to Congress did not provide any detailed information on the legal basis for the attack, and asked him to direct top administration officials to provide a more specific accounting of the legal reasoning behind his action. “It has now been over two weeks since you ordered the...Two Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to President Trump this week demanding a fuller explanation of the legal authority for the airstrikes launched against Syria earlier this month. Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Tim Kaine, the signatories of the letter, said that Trump’s notification of the strikes to Congress did not provide any detailed information on the legal basis for the attack, and asked him to direct top administration officials to provide a more specific accounting of the legal reasoning behind his action. “It has now been over two weeks since you ordered the strike on the airfield, and your Administration has yet to put forward any detailed legal analysis or justification for that action under domestic and international law,” the lawmakers wrote. Schiff and Kaine have been among the most vocal members of Congress questioning the legality of the strikes in Syria, and are pushing Congress to take a more active role in authorizing the use of military force. Both have in the past pushed for Congress to pass an authorization for the war against ISIS, and requested that the administration seek congressional approval before taking any further military action. In a letter to Congress, Trump justified the Syria strikes, saying he “acted in the vital and national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.” U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley also defended the strikes the day after they were launched, saying the action had been in “our vital national interest.” But those explanations didn’t satisfy the two Democrats, who wrote that they did not provide enough information to Congress or “provide comfort to a public that fears deeper involvement” in the Syrian civil war. In particular, they wrote, rising tensions with North Korea, and the potential for engagement or a preemptive strike there, increased the need for a full explanation of the legal authority for military action: “While the president has the authority to use force to defend our service members and allies from an imminent threat, a preemptive strike could easily spiral into a full-fledged war with a nuclear-armed adversary.” Schiff and Kaine also included a request that senior administr[...]



In Call to Trump, Chinese Leader Urges Restraint Over North Korea

2017-04-25T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As the world braces for a possible North Korean nuclear test, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday urged restraint in a call to President Donald Trump. America's U.N. envoy warned of a strike if Pyongyang attacks a U.S. military base or tests an intercontinental ballistic missile. Xi's phone call with Trump came amid signs Pyongyang could soon conduct its sixth nuclear test explosion since 2006, or the latest in a rapid series of missile tests, further advancing its ambitions of developing a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the U.S. mainland. In...WASHINGTON (AP) -- As the world braces for a possible North Korean nuclear test, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday urged restraint in a call to President Donald Trump. America's U.N. envoy warned of a strike if Pyongyang attacks a U.S. military base or tests an intercontinental ballistic missile. Xi's phone call with Trump came amid signs Pyongyang could soon conduct its sixth nuclear test explosion since 2006, or the latest in a rapid series of missile tests, further advancing its ambitions of developing a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the U.S. mainland. In Washington, the Trump administration invited the entire 100-member Senate for a briefing Wednesday on the escalating crisis. Adding to the atmosphere of animosity, officials said North Korea has detained a third U.S. citizen. Trump told ambassadors from U.N. Security Council members that the status quo in North Korea is "unacceptable" and the council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions. "This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not. North Korea is a big world problem, and it's a problem we have to finally solve. People have put blindfolds on for decades, and now it's time to solve the problem," he said at the White House. North Korea poses one the sternest national security challenges facing the 3-month-old Trump administration. The administration has settled on a strategy emphasizing increased pressure on North Korea with the help of China, rather than trying to overthrow Kim Jong Un's isolated government or use military force. But senior officials have repeatedly said that "all options" remain on the table. China is a traditional ally of North Korea and fought on its side in the 1950-53 Korean War. Those ties have frayed, but Beijing remains the North's economic lifeline. The Xi-Trump call on Monday morning Beijing time was the second time the two leaders have spoken by telephone since meeting in Florida earlier this month. Xi told Trump that China strongly opposes North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which violates U.N. Security Council resolutions, and hopes "all parties will exercise restraint and avoid aggravating the situation" on the Korean Peninsula, China's official broadcaster CCTV said. A White House readout of the call said Trump criticized North Korea's "continued belligerence" and the [...]



Ivanka Trump Joins Merkel in Berlin to Talk Women's Economic Empowerment

2017-04-25T00:00:00Z

BERLIN (AP) -- Ivanka Trump is joining Chancellor Angela Merkel and others in Berlin on Tuesday for talks on encouraging women's economic empowerment on her first international outing as a White House adviser. The one-day visit, at the invitation of the chancellor, gives Merkel and other officials face-to-face access with the influential daughter of President Donald Trump at a time when world leaders are still trying to discern where his policies will lead. Trump and Merkel are part of a panel discussion Tuesday at the W20 Summit, a women-focused effort within the Group of 20 countries,...BERLIN (AP) -- Ivanka Trump is joining Chancellor Angela Merkel and others in Berlin on Tuesday for talks on encouraging women's economic empowerment on her first international outing as a White House adviser. The one-day visit, at the invitation of the chancellor, gives Merkel and other officials face-to-face access with the influential daughter of President Donald Trump at a time when world leaders are still trying to discern where his policies will lead. Trump and Merkel are part of a panel discussion Tuesday at the W20 Summit, a women-focused effort within the Group of 20 countries, entitled "Inspiring women: Scaling up women's entrepreneurship." Other participants include IMF director Christine Lagarde, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Netherlands' Queen Maxima. President Trump's "America first" stance, including his questioning of multilateral trade deals, has left many wondering how the U.S. will proceed internationally. He has been critical of Germany's large trade surplus with the United States, and moved Monday to impose a 20 percent tariff on softwood lumber entering the U.S. from Canada, intensifying a trade dispute between the neighbors. Ivanka Trump, an unpaid White House adviser, has been a vocal advocate for policies benefiting working women and vocational training. She organized a discussion with Merkel, her father, and American and German executives about how companies can better train workers during the chancellor's March visit to Washington. Ahead of the trip, Ivanka Trump co-authored an op-ed piece in the Financial Times, calling for more global efforts to invest in women's economic empowerment. "The evidence is overwhelming that supporting women's economic participation has enormous dividends for families, communities and whole economies," Trump wrote with Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank. Merkel spokesman Georg Streiter said the chancellor had "great interest" in participating in the Tuesday panel, but that there was no one-on-one meeting planned with Ivanka Trump - though he did not rule it out. "This is also a larger meeting - there is not only Ms. Trump, but also others," Streiter said. "It is a meeting in the run-up to the G20 summit in Hamburg and part of the social dialogue; that is why the chancellor attaches such great imp[...]



The Cowards of Academia

2017-04-25T00:00:00Z

Now that student mobs at universities around America (and elsewhere in the West) have silenced conservative speaker after conservative speaker, it has dawned on a small number of left-wing professors that the public is beginning to have contempt for the universities. As a result, a handful of academics at a handful of universities have signed statements on behalf of allowing "diverse" views to be heard at the university. These statements are worthless. While some of the professors who have signed them may sincerely believe that the university should honor the value of non-left free...Now that student mobs at universities around America (and elsewhere in the West) have silenced conservative speaker after conservative speaker, it has dawned on a small number of left-wing professors that the public is beginning to have contempt for the universities. As a result, a handful of academics at a handful of universities have signed statements on behalf of allowing "diverse" views to be heard at the university. These statements are worthless. While some of the professors who have signed them may sincerely believe that the university should honor the value of non-left free speech, one should keep in mind the following caveats. First, the number of professors, deans and administrators who have signed these statements is very small. Second, while no one can know what animates anyone else, it's a little hard to believe that many of those who did sign are sincere. If they are, why haven't we heard from them for decades? Shutting out conservatives and conservative ideas is not new. Plus, it's easy to sign a letter. You look righteous ("Of course, I support free speech.") and pay no price. Third, these statements accomplish nothing of practical value. They are basically feel-good gestures. If any of the rioting students read these statements -- a highly unlikely occurrence -- it is hard to imagine any of them thinking: "Wow, I really have been acting like a fascist, rioting and shutting down non-left-wing speakers, but now my eyes have been opened and I'm going to stop. Even though my professors have taught me that every conservative is a sexist racist xenophobic Islamophobic hatemonger, next time one of these despicable human beings comes to campus, I will silently wait for them to finish talking and then civilly ask challenging questions." Thanks to left-wing indoctrination that begins in elementary school, most American students do not enter college as supporters of free speech. As reported in The New York Times on Feb. 7, 2017, a Knight Foundation survey found that only 45 percent of students "support that right when the speech in question is offensive to others and made in public." If any professors want to do something truly effective, they should form a circle around a hall in which a conservative is scheduled to speak, with each of them holding up a s[...]



The Know-It-Alls

2017-04-25T00:00:00Z

The multiple thousands who marched throughout America and the world last weekend hoped to whip up support for "Science." Well. I'm sold. And what next? Do more than a handful of people doubt the indispensability of science to the enrichment of the human condition? Science's God-given nature may, in these secularizing times, meet with less affirmation than in the old days. But who turns his back on William Harvey, Louis Pasteur and Jones Edward Salk, not to mention Thomas Edison, Willis Carrier and the inventor of the triple-blade razor? The question posed last weekend:...The multiple thousands who marched throughout America and the world last weekend hoped to whip up support for "Science." Well. I'm sold. And what next? Do more than a handful of people doubt the indispensability of science to the enrichment of the human condition? Science's God-given nature may, in these secularizing times, meet with less affirmation than in the old days. But who turns his back on William Harvey, Louis Pasteur and Jones Edward Salk, not to mention Thomas Edison, Willis Carrier and the inventor of the triple-blade razor? The question posed last weekend: "Are we Americans pro- or anti-science?" The question behind the question: "Who defines science?" There the fighting commences. The March for Science, reports The New York Times, "evolved from a social media campaign into an effort to get people onto the streets. Its organizers were motivated by Mr. Trump, who as a presidential candidate disparaged climate change as a hoax and cast suspicions on the safety of vaccines. Their resolve deepened, they said, when the president appointed cabinet members who seemed hostile to the sciences." Then came administration proposals to cut the budgets of the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency. It's all about the elections, in short: science as politics; government as the institution that defines the value of particular kinds of thinking generally expressed in white-board symbols and formulas. A kind of non-priestly priesthood holds authority in these matters. They know. We don't. We prosper only as we defer to the symbols and formulas. Never mind understanding, my boy. That's for the priesthood, not the laity. Kneel, extend your palm and receive the Truth! It is impossible, in public discourse, to doubt the reality of climate change. Actually, no one doubts a phenomenon proved by dinosaur bones and the cliffs of the Grand Canyon. The argument should be over not whether to do something but what to do. A lot? How much? With what tools and weapons, and on what schedule? Political prescriptions cast in the form of "X number of cars sold with Y kind of equipment" are assertions, nothing more. From whom does the assertion proceed? And on what readily graspable evidence? What if someone else's idea is diffe[...]



Is Macron the EU's Last Best Hope?

2017-04-25T00:00:00Z

For the French establishment, Sunday's presidential election came close to a near-death experience. As the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo, it was a "damn near-run thing." Neither candidate of the two major parties that have ruled France since Charles De Gaulle even made it into the runoff, an astonishing repudiation of France's national elite. Marine Le Pen of the National Front ran second with 21.5 percent of the vote. Emmanuel Macron of the new party En Marche! won 23.8 percent. Macron is a heavy favorite on May 7. The Republicans' Francois Fillon, who got 20...For the French establishment, Sunday's presidential election came close to a near-death experience. As the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo, it was a "damn near-run thing." Neither candidate of the two major parties that have ruled France since Charles De Gaulle even made it into the runoff, an astonishing repudiation of France's national elite. Marine Le Pen of the National Front ran second with 21.5 percent of the vote. Emmanuel Macron of the new party En Marche! won 23.8 percent. Macron is a heavy favorite on May 7. The Republicans' Francois Fillon, who got 20 percent, and the Socialists' Benoit Hamon, who got less than 7 percent, both have urged their supporters to save France by backing Macron. Ominously for U.S. ties, 61 percent of French voters chose Le Pen, Fillon or radical Socialist Jean-Luc Melenchon. All favor looser ties to America and repairing relations with Vladimir Putin's Russia. Le Pen has a mountain to climb to win, but she is clearly the favorite of the president of Russia, and perhaps of the president of the United States. Last week, Donald Trump volunteered: "She's the strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France. ... Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election." As an indicator of historic trends in France, Le Pen seems likely to win twice the 18 percent her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won in 2002, when he lost in the runoff to Jacques Chirac. The campaign between now and May 7, however, could make the Trump-Clinton race look like an altarpiece of democratic decorum. Not only are the differences between the candidates stark, Le Pen has every incentive to attack to solidify her base and lay down a predicate for the future failure of a Macron government. And Macron is vulnerable. He won because he is fresh, young, 39, and appealed to French youth as the anti-Le Pen. A personification of Robert Redford in "The Candidate." But he has no established party behind him to take over the government, and he is an ex-Rothschild banker in a populist environment where bankers are as welcome as hedge-fund managers at a Bernie Sanders rally. He is a pro-EU, open-borders transnationalist who[...]



How Can Our Political Bubbles Be Popped?

2017-04-25T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- In the category of argument by irresistible anecdote, David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report tells of meeting with a group of young Democrats in wealthy, suburban Northern Virginia. In the course of his presentation, he made reference to "Cracker Barrel voters" -- those in counties with Cracker Barrel restaurants (Donald Trump won about 75 percent of such counties). "Excuse me," interrupted one of the young liberals. "Do you mean Crate and Barrel?" This is an extreme form of a cultural bubble -- a life arranged by fate and choice so that other...WASHINGTON -- In the category of argument by irresistible anecdote, David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report tells of meeting with a group of young Democrats in wealthy, suburban Northern Virginia. In the course of his presentation, he made reference to "Cracker Barrel voters" -- those in counties with Cracker Barrel restaurants (Donald Trump won about 75 percent of such counties). "Excuse me," interrupted one of the young liberals. "Do you mean Crate and Barrel?" This is an extreme form of a cultural bubble -- a life arranged by fate and choice so that other ways of life are unimaginable. Technology makes such isolation easier, through flows of information we shape and algorithms that shape news to us. It is possible to consume news and entertainment in such a way that our backgrounds and biases are never challenged. And a variety of media outlets -- particularly cable news channels and internet sites -- seek profit in the incitement of bias rather than through the provision of information. Assuming that a democracy benefits from commonly recognized facts and mutual sympathy among citizens, how are these bubbles popped? Even the way this question is posed contains a bias of sorts. Most Americans do not live in ideological bubbles, because they take little interest in politics at all. According to polling by the Pew Research Center, only about 13 percent of Americans say they talk about politics daily, making me and most people reading this column a minority smaller (much smaller) than gun owners. Americans at the ends of the political spectrum on left and right - about 20 percent total - are more engaged politically than those in the center, at least when it comes to making donations and determining the outcome of primaries. The dedicated 10th on both sides have a vastly disproportionate influence on the public affairs of a great nation. And here is where media bubbles matter most. Pew found that Fox News dominates on the right -- cited by 47 percent of conservatives as their main source of information. (Many must feel adrift as the Fox model buckles.) Liberals consume more diverse news sources, but are more likely to de-friend someone on social media for political reasons. The reputation of all [...]



EPA Budget Cuts; Stalking Obamacare; the Canadian Model; Double Helix

2017-04-25T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, April 25, 2017. A loyal reader of this newsletter, in response to Monday morning’s note about the weekend pro-science march, said that her favorite poster from that event was: “Got Polio? Me Neither. Thanks, Science!” This is a nice segue to today’s date in U.S. history -- an article published on April 25, 1953 by Nature magazine. In it, researchers Francis Crick and James Watson described a momentous new finding: the DNA double helix. From this discovery flowed the secrets of molecular biology and, eventually, the...Good morning, it’s Tuesday, April 25, 2017. A loyal reader of this newsletter, in response to Monday morning’s note about the weekend pro-science march, said that her favorite poster from that event was: “Got Polio? Me Neither. Thanks, Science!” This is a nice segue to today’s date in U.S. history -- an article published on April 25, 1953 by Nature magazine. In it, researchers Francis Crick and James Watson described a momentous new finding: the DNA double helix. From this discovery flowed the secrets of molecular biology and, eventually, the mapping of the human genome. I’ll have more on this in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Gutting EPA Is a Threat to Our Health.  In an op-ed, Rhea Suh asserts that the president’s budget proposal will undo important gains made since the EPA was created in 1970. Time for America to Follow China’s Lead. In RealClearWorld, Kishore Mahbubani writes that roles have reversed as the Asian nation emphasizes strengthening rather than weakening multilateral institutions. Will Obamacare Survive Another Round in the Congressional Boxing Ring? In RealClearHealth, Shawn Yates evaluates the future of the GOP’s repeal effort. For ‘Big League’ Regulation Cuts, Look to Canada. In RealClearPolicy, James Broughel offers the Trump administration an unlikely model for regulatory reform. 'Buy American, Hire American': Cruel to U.S. Businesses and Workers. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny reminds readers that such a policy weakens consumers by blinding them to important market signals. Inclusive Growth Requires Full Employment. Also in RCM, Isabel Sawhill explains a key prerequisite for broadly shared prosperity. Study on Charter School Applications Is Useful, in Measured Doses. In RealClearEducation, Frederick Hess and Jenn Hatfield assess whether a new study c[...]



The Real Villain at O'Hare

2017-04-25T00:00:00Z

Unless you've been in a coma, you've seen the video -- about 8 million times -- of what I will delicately call the incident involving United Airlines at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. You've seen the doctor turned into a bloody mess after airport cops hauled him off the plane because United needed the seats for its own crew members who had to be in Louisville for work -- just like the doctor who said he couldn't leave the plane because he had patients to see in the morning. And you have come to your own conclusions as to who is at fault. Maybe you think it was United for...Unless you've been in a coma, you've seen the video -- about 8 million times -- of what I will delicately call the incident involving United Airlines at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. You've seen the doctor turned into a bloody mess after airport cops hauled him off the plane because United needed the seats for its own crew members who had to be in Louisville for work -- just like the doctor who said he couldn't leave the plane because he had patients to see in the morning. And you have come to your own conclusions as to who is at fault. Maybe you think it was United for forcing a passenger off the plane once he was seated. Or maybe it was the police who brutally dragged the man off the plane. Maybe you even think it was the passenger, 69-year-old Dr. David Dao, who refused to give up his seat. But I'll bet you don't know who the real villain is, the one who, despite the fact that he was nowhere near Chicago, is really responsible for the mayhem at O'Hare. Here's a hint: He's the president of a major country in North America and his initials are DJT. No kidding. President Trump is the bad guy. Just ask Frank Guan, who writes for New York magazine. According to Guan, the whole thing started with "President Trump's January 27 imposition of Executive Order 13769, known generally as the 'Muslim ban,' which resulted in huge protests at airports across the nation, and seemingly emboldened some customs and immigration agents to inflict petty tyranny on helpless people whose skin is not white." Dao is of Asian ancestry. Never mind that there is no Muslim ban, despite what progressives who despise President Trump may think. The travel ban, which is temporary, affects only six Muslim majority countries -- all of them either failed states or places connected to terrorism. Muslims from every country on earth except for Iran, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Syria may still enter the United States. Never mind that there were no customs or immigration agents involved. And, while we're at it, never mind that if cops are targeting Vietnamese senior citizens -- because their "skin is not white" -- that's news to me. None of that gets in the way of the New York [...]