The ‘Movement’

by Jay Nordlinger

At C-PAC, Vice President Mike Pence spoke of “our movement” — as in “We’ve got to march forward as if it’s the most important time in the history of our movement, because it is.” What did he mean by “movement”? Whose?

During the campaign, Donald Trump spoke about his movement — the Trump movement — a lot. Here he is speaking in his final ad — the “closing argument” that candidates traditionally run: “Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people.” And, “I’m doing this for the people and for the movement, and we will take back this country for you, and we will make America great again.”

By the way, when politicians, and others, say “the people,” they usually mean “people who think and feel as I do.”

Back to “the movement.” There was a tribal boast in Trump’s inaugural address, though these addresses are usually pitched to the nation as a whole. The newly sworn-in president said, “You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

So this movement that Trump speaks of, and the movement that Pence speaks of — what are they? Are they the same? Would Ronald Reagan be at home in this movement, or movements?

These questions, I think, are at the heart of debate in RightWorld now.

Immigration and Economic Self-Interest

by Ramesh Ponnuru

A recent study says that if all illegal immigrants in the U.S. left or were removed, our economy would be $500 billion smaller every year. I write about why that study doesn’t tell us much about what to do about illegal immigration at Bloomberg View:

If we want to figure out whether deporting illegal immigrants would hurt our economic interests, we might want to know what it would do to the total size of the U.S. economy. That’s relevant to questions about the size of our tax base, for example. But what we most want to know is the effect their removal would have on the incomes of everyone else: that is, of native-born Americans and legal immigrants.

The study doesn’t answer that question. Nor does it examine how important subsets of those groups, such as those without college degrees, would fare.

It’s not unusual for research on the economic effects of immigration to have this blind spot. . . 

George Borjas, the distinguished scholar of immigration economcis, made a similar point about illegal immigrants in 2013: “[T]heir contribution to overall GDP is substantial, increasing national income by between $395 and $472 billion, but much of this increase (between $386 and $462 billion) is remitted to the illegal immigrants themselves as payment for their services.”

Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (Feb. 24, 2017)

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

1. First Mass is celebrated in St. George Church in Mosul in two and a half years.

2. Hundreds of Egyptian Christians flee city after attacks by Islamists

3.  

4. 

Keep reading this post . . .

Bringing Protest Politics to a Sanctuary Near You

by Paul Crookston

Your neighborhood church might seem like the wrong place for a political demonstration, but one Christian writer believes that greater politicization is just what “imperialist” houses of worship need. In an article for Sojourners titled “Take the Politics of Disruption to Church,” Mark Van Steenwyk argues that left-wing parishioners should attempt hostile takeovers of local churches on the grounds that “Christian supremacy has been the justification for the deepest of our national sins.”

In Van Steenwyk’s understanding, the election of Donald Trump constitutes a clarion call to all true Christians to finally “take an ax to the root” of America’s problems: the church. “Trumpian neo-fascism is simply the latest fruit from a much older tree,” he writes. “The worst imperial impulses of the United States of America find their root in a form of Christianity that legitimizes militarism, economic exploitation, racism, and sexism.”

As a self-described “Mennonite anarchist,” Van Steenwyk thinks that “disruption” — e.g., the stopping of interstate traffic by Black Lives Matter activists — is the only way to reason with souls that are blinkered not only by conservative Christianity, but by a progressive Christianity that is not strident enough.

“Progressive Christians,” he writes, “out of a sense of politeness, unity, and respectability, have failed to challenge directly those churches that provide the theological justification that gave us Trump.” Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. on the failure of moderate Christians to stand up for civil rights, Van Steenwyk reasons that protesting in the streets is not enough (nor, presumably, is voting, running for office, or the other forms of civic engagement that go unmentioned). Instead, this is his command: “Raise our angry voices in the pews as well as the streets.”

I don’t mean that figuratively. . . . 

I literally mean we should disrupt our churches. Just as Black Lives Matter has employed a politics of disruption to raise the national alarm about racist policing. Just as the water protectors at Standing Rock have created a human barrier against pipeline construction. So too, should we disrupt and confound any and every congregation that fuels militarism, economic exploitation, sexism, racism, Islamophobia, or transphobia.

Considering his belief that essentially all American Christianity promotes the above “-isms,” Van Steenwyk’s prescription would lead to the seizing of control in almost every American church for the purpose of promoting a political vision. Moreover, it seems logical that such a call would eventually require church leaders to endorse political candidates — something that is currently prohibited under the Johnson amendment. (Ironically, Donald Trump has proposed overturning that rule, only to be met with hostility from the left.)

Van Steenwyk, like the magazine that published his article, is a vociferous yet isolated voice of leftism posing as a theological authority. Not only is his program ludicrous (there are not enough progressive Christians to conquer “any and every congregation” that disagrees with his program), it also encourages an attitude that is wrong even on a small scale.

Churches should be places where political disagreements are put into context, not magnified. Faith must be welcomed into the public square, but the two ought not be conflated. Just as conservative co-religionists should reflect before turning on those who didn’t support Trump, no church community should allow political disagreements to disrupt worship. When politics ruins sports or movies, America stands to lose the unifying power of a shared leisure activity. When politics ruins worship, our societal foundations are placed in jeopardy.

Activism of the kind Van Steenwyk champions also wrongly places politics above religion — a problem Saint Augustine’s conception of virtue as “rightly ordered love” sought to clarify. The things of this world should be loved in the way they warrant, but not loved above God, the highest good. Van Steenwyk should ruminate on that the next time he considers shouting down biblical preaching in favor of the political kind.

Democratic Senators Chicken Out From Town Halls

by Dan McLaughlin

The current narrative on town halls pushed by the Democrats, and finding its way into a lot of media coverage, is that 2017 is the mirror image of 2009, when grassroots Tea Party protests at town halls were a sign of mounting public anger over Obamacare that spilled into a GOP landslide in the 2010 elections. You will notice that this is very different from the old Democratic narrative of what happened in 2009, and you will also recall that Democrats went ahead and passed Obamacare anyway. You will also notice that incidents like left-wing protestors heckling a pastor giving an opening prayer at Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy’s latest town hall suggests that the protests from the Left these days are not exactly apolitical mom-and-pop types who are suddenly worried about their healthcare.

But leave all of that aside for now. Because what’s less noticed in the furor over Republican town halls is that many of the Democratic Senators who face potentially tough re-election bids next year are avoiding holding town halls:

Few of the 10 Democratic senators facing re-election next year in states carried by Trump have scheduled in-person town hall meetings during this week’s congressional recess.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill declined an invitation to attend a town hall organized by a group called Kansas City Indivisible this weekend, deciding to send a staff member in her place. The two-term senator, up for re-election next year in a state Trump won by nearly 19 percentage points, is scheduled to chat with voters next week on Facebook Live….The political pressure is particularly intense for West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp…Both have avoided formal town halls this week…Few vulnerable Senate Democrats are expected to do so in settings that allow for unscripted questions.

In Montana, where Trump prevailed by 20 percentage points, Sen. Jon Tester made several public appearances this week, but he did not advertise any of them as town halls….In Pennsylvania, a spokeswoman for Sen. Bob Casey said he would host a town hall in early March, but the details hadn’t yet been set. In Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson addressed students at two Thursday appearances focused on education. And in Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown “has participated in several telephone conference calls recently” and his office “emailed surveys out to constituents” to gauge their priorities, said spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue.

 

 

Sean Spicer Is Apparently Confused about Our Tax System

by Veronique de Rugy

Last week House Speaker Paul Ryan used two reporters’ recorders as props for a misguided defense of the border-adjustment tax being pushed by congressional Republicans. Now, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has offered his own confused take on the issue.

Yesterday, while answering a reporter’s question about how the White House would respond to critics who say that a border-adjustment tax would increase the cost of doing business in the U.S. for those importing goods and that the tax would be passed on to consumers (hurting mostly lower- and middle-class Americans), Spicer said that “there is no tax if you’re manufacturing in the United States. So there can be no higher cost.”

It was a very confusing statement to say the least. Now, assuming he was saying that under a border tax, a company could avoid the penalty by moving to the U.S., Spicer shows a lack of understanding of how businesses operate. Does he really believe that under this regime no company will ever again import any goods for the production of their final product? If that’s he what believes, he will be highly disappointed. As I have said before, I certainly think those claiming that the dollar will fully and immediately appreciate to offset higher prices on imports under a border tax are ignoring many reasons to believe that there won’t be a full adjustment, but at least they acknowledge that imports can and will continue to exist. Spicer apparently doesn’t.

The rest of Spicer’s answer borders on incomprehensible, or at least suggests that he doesn’t understand the difference between a tax on outsourcers and the House Republicans’ border-adjustment tax. Contrary to his characterization, the latter isn’t a penalty for moving overseas and selling back into the United States, but rather a tax increase on all imports. In today’s dynamic economy, where supply chains can and often do stretch across the globe, that means not just a tax on consumer goods but on inputs for many manufacturers. Again, even goods made in America require components from overseas, and their higher costs will be passed on to consumers. So suggesting that consumers won’t face higher prices just because a company could manufacture in the U.S. instead of overseas is nonsensical.

Just as outrageous is the suggestion that we should even want everything to be produced domestically. Some things can be made more cheaply elsewhere. Leveraging such competitive advantage through trade to satisfy our needs and wants in the least expensive manner possible is a large part of why we are so wealthy today. Punishing Americans for purchasing those goods that can be made more cheaply elsewhere is not a path to prosperity.

Finally, Spicer repeats a common talking point among supporters of the border-adjustment tax: the idea that there is currently an unfair tax advantage for imports to the U.S. This is the same misguided talking point Speaker Ryan used in his example last week.

First, Spicer conflates our corporate income taxes, which unlike most of our competitors taxes the U.S. companies’ income earned overseas with an exorbitant corporate-income-tax rate, with the value-added taxes common in Europe and elsewhere. VATs are border-adjusted taxes, but no other country border-adjusts their corporate income tax even though most of them have one on top of their VAT.

Keep reading this post . . .

To Stop Profligate Leaks, Expand Use of the Polygraph

by Bing West

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn claimed not to have discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador. However, as the press reported, “Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions . . . said Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Flynn was fired because “of an eroding level of trust.”

Those nine senior officials also broke the trust our nation bestowed upon them. They revealed highly sensitive information — the wiretapping of the Russian ambassador — after swearing to protect such secrets. Not one of the nine has had the courage to step forward publicly. No administration, Democrat or Republican, can govern if senior officials act as clandestine insurgents divulging what they choose. Whose phone conversations will these officials next record and selectively publicize?

It is the obligation of a free press to pursue information. It is also the obligation of every administration to prosecute leaks that damage sensitive sources and methods. The odds are high that in this case the FBI will eventually track down some of the leakers. However, the investigation will be politically controversial and take many months to conclude.

In addition, President Trump can issue an executive order, as did President Reagan. On the day of Reagan’s inauguration in January of 1981, Iran announced the released the 52 Americans being held hostage in Tehran. At that time, there were rumors of contacts between Iranian officials and associates of Reagan. A year later, Reagan was beset by his own flurry of leaks and in response ordered tough measures. “I do not believe the Constitution,” he wrote, “entitles Government employees, entrusted with confidential information . . . to disclose such information with impunity. Yet this is precisely the situation we have. It must not be allowed to continue.”

That same month, the Washington Post published a story based on a high-level, classified meeting about the Defense budget. Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci ordered two-dozen senior civilians and generals to take a polygraph. As an assistant secretary of defense at that time, I witnessed the shock in the senior ranks at Defense. Months later, the result of the investigation was very dubious. But Mr. Carlucci had sent a strong message.

A few years later, Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz, threatened to resign if any U.S. diplomats were ordered to take a polygraph. “Those machines,” he argued, “cannot detect lies in a scientifically reliable manner.” He later agreed employees at State could voluntarily submit to a polygraph. On the other hand, President Reagan had to modify his tough regulations due to the back-blast from agencies, the press, and Congress.

The polygraph should be used sparingly and only as one investigative tool. It should not stand alone. In itself, it “proves” nothing. But for decades, the CIA and other intelligence communities have persisted in using the polygraph. In 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, according to CNN, wanted to increase the number “required to take the ‘Counterintelligence Polygraph’ in order to reduce leaks.”

Like President Reagan, President Trump can and should issue an executive order imposing stricter security requirements. This could include imposing non-voluntary submission to polygraphs on a random basis by those holding top security clearances. That would be going too far. But a useful precedent was set at the Pentagon by Secretary Carlucci: In a specific case where sensitive information was leaked, no senior official — regardless of rank, agency, or position — should be exempt from the polygraph.

Richard Spencer, Liberal Journalists, and Bad-Faith Explanations

by Peter Spiliakos

The fascination of liberal-leaning outlets with a fringe character like Richard Spencer is a cowardly attack on Trump voters. Liberal journalists focus on Spencer not because they want to understand why people voted for Trump but to marginalize and stigmatize people who did vote for him by associating them with a white nationalist they had never heard of.

Let’s look at the key swing state of Pennsylvania. In 2008, Obama won Elk County with 51 percent of the vote. In 2012, Romney won Elk County with 57 percent of the vote (though with lower turnout.) In 2016, Trump won Elks Country with 70 percent of the vote and with a larger turnout than in 012.

From the numbers, it looks like quite a few 2008 Obama voters stayed home in 2012 and that a large number of one-time and two-time Obama voters switched to Trump in 2016. How to explain the behavior of these former Obama supporters? The obvious answer is to ask some fool who goes around giving heil-Trump salutes. Who better, right?

Imagine you were trying to understand the appeal of Bernie Sanders to the young. You could interview an African-American 19-year-old who voted for Bernie while her parents voted for Clinton, or you could interview some freak from the fringe Workers World Party who is ranting about North Korea’s resistance to global capital. Which interview would be more representative of Bernie’s appeal?

If the liberal media treated Sanders voters the way they treat Trump voters, we would be seeing profiles of Leninists as the coming thing in Democratic-party politics. It’s all socialism, right?

The attempt by liberal journalists to elevate Spencer (with his cooperation, of course) is a smarmy and passive-aggressive attempt to slur Trump voters under the guise of trying to understand them. 

The Right Way to Pay for Tax Reform

by Veronique de Rugy

There are many reasons to oppose the destination-based cash-flow tax (DBCFT) — a.k.a. the border-adjustment tax — in the otherwise-good House Republicans’ corporate-tax plan. This excellent piece by a former member of the Senate Banking Committee does an excellent job at summing them up. However, nothing is more puzzling to me than the embrace by Republicans of the notion that they should pay for good pro-growth tax reforms with a tax increase.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of not wanting the tax reform to add too much to the deficit. But the right way to handle the deficit concern is not to focus on “revenue neutrality” but on “deficit neutrality,” i.e., by cutting spending, too.

The good news is that it is not hard to find $100 billion a year in spending cuts, which is roughly what DBCFT would raise in theory. Here are a few suggestions:

Corporate welfare: There is roughly $56 billion in corporate welfare in the budget alone. Get rid of it. Cronyism has a real economic cost not captured in this number — but $56 billion is a good start.

Improper payments: According to GAO, there is about $137 billion in improper payments. About $50 billion of that is real and inadmissible improper payments. Let’s get rid of that.

Unauthorized appropriations: There is close to $310 billion spent on programs and activities each year even though the authorization of appropriations has expired. Now, leaving aside the fact that this is a total breakdown in accountability and oversight, there is no doubt that many of these programs would get reauthorized if Congress bothered to follow the rules. But can we truly justify continuing to fund the Brown Tree Snake Eradication Program in Guam and the United States–Poland Parliamentary Youth Exchange Program, especially since their authorizations have expired? I am sure that even moderate oversight on these unauthorized appropriations will bring outlays down and that lawmakers can find a good 10 percent to cut from this list.

Pell Grants: According to the CBO’s budget options, we could save $6.5 billion a year by limiting Pell Grants to the neediest students.

Medicaid: CBO’s budget options scores a saving of $37 billion to $68 billion when imposing caps on federal spending on Medicaid.

Health care: CBO scores a saving of $126 billion by repealing all insurance-coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a saving of $41 billion after repealing the individual mandate, and a saving of $42 billion to end the tax preferences for employment-based heath insurance.

Others: CBO estimates $36 billion in savings if Congress converts multiple assistance programs for lower-income people into smaller block grants to states; $9 billion if we tighten eligibility rules for food stamps, up to $19 billion to reduce Social Security benefits for new beneficiaries.

There are many more spending-cut suggestions in the CBO’s budget-options report, here.

This small sample of spending cuts shows that there is plenty of options to pay for good tax reforms. Moreover, let’s not overlook the tremendous growth benefits of simply lowering the corporate rate and moving to a territorial system. These are good reforms worth pursuing and fighting for no matter what.

Free Speech Fireworks in Florida

by Stanley Kurtz

I testified yesterday before the Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee of the Florida State House on the model campus free speech legislation I co-authored with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher of Arizona’s Goldwater Institute. After my initial presentation, fireworks followed. Although my sense is that the majority of the committee is positively inclined toward legislation designed to ensure campus free speech, a few of the Democratic representatives were more skeptical. These skeptics dominated the questioning. One skeptic in particular, Orlando Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith, pressed me repeatedly on the need to limit freedom of speech in order to combat hate speech. If you want to see an open clash on the free speech vs. hate speech controversy, this is it.

You can find video of the hearing here. My initial presentation runs about 17 minutes, from the 35:50—53:27 mark of the video. The fireworks come during the 32 minute question period, particularly (but not exclusively) during the back and forth with Rep. Smith, which begins at the start of the question period (53:30) and returns again at the 1:18:16 mark.

Also note that in my response to questioning by Democratic Representative Robert Asencio (Miami-Dade), (which begins at 1:12:22), I refer to an incident in which leftist students silence a conservative student by way of the rehearsed and coordinated tactic of “clapping her down.” Video of this clap-down can be found here.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at [email protected]

Medicaid Reform, Security Sweeps and a Dead Body: CPAC 2017

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Medicaid Reform, Security Sweeps and a Dead Body: CPAC 2017

“Sir, you just walked through a crime scene, I’m going to need to see your ID.”

That’s how my Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference began; how was your day? Apparently someone jumped from the top floor of a parking garage about one block away from the Gaylord convention center. The streets had been blocked off with yellow crime scene tape and perpendicularly parked police cars, so I had walked through the garage of the Wyndam hotel to get around the blocked-off area. Apparently the entire block had been ruled a crime scene, so the polite, professional officers needed everyone to hand over their driver’s licenses and log the information.

Word from the police is that the jumper was an employee of a nearby business, and the act is not believed to be related to the conference. But it was an odd, macabre start to what should be one of the happiest CPACs ever. After all, there’s a Republican president, GOP control of the House and Senate, a terrific Supreme Court nominee in the batter’s box, a slew of GOP governors  and state legislatures, giving a leg up in the redistricting after 2020. The weather was unbelievably warm and enjoyable for late February. Literally and figuratively, the sun is shining on the conservative movement.

For all of the thermonuclear reactions in the press, the just-barely-started Trump administration hasn’t really had an un-fixable mistake yet. Yes, the rollout of the executive order on immigration and refugees was a mess from start to finish, but the administration has the option of a mulligan and they’re taking it. (In retrospect, don’t even bother trying to enact a controversial change without your own attorney general in place to defend it legally.)

The markets continue a record run, although that can’t continue forever.

Strategists at Goldman put the mood of the market this way: “We are approaching peak optimism.” They forecast the S&P 500 will hit a high in the next month or so but end the year lower than where it is now as investors push back expectations for the timing of the tax cuts.

I did hear a little bit of grumbling about how slowly the process of repeal and replacing Obamacare is going, and someone assert, “the Republicans just don’t want to do it, they just don’t want to listen to us.” I don’t think it’s so simple as a lack of will.

I had a chance to briefly interview Wisconsin governor Scott Walker yesterday, and he’s leading a small working group of governors trying to help Congressional Republicans figure out how to handle the Medicaid expansion aspect of Obamacare. In the 31 states that chose to expand the eligibility for the health program that is jointly run by the federal and state governments, about 10.7 million people are now covered by Medicaid that otherwise wouldn’t be covered. If you just repeal that, then those 10 million need something new.

Ironically, some states are buying into the Medicaid expansion just as Republicans start talking about replacing it. In Kansas, the state House just voted to expand eligibility, 81-44. It might through the state Senate, but governor Sam Brownback says the idea is akin to “airlifting onto the Titanic.” Maine just decided that in November of this year, they’ll vote on a referendum to expand eligibility.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska already said she won’t vote to repeal the expanded eligibility, citing improved health care for about 27,000 Alaskans.

It’s not surprising that what Walker likes best is the version in Wisconsin – where Medicaid eligibility wasn’t expanded, everyone at or under the poverty line was covered, and everyone above it was moved to private plans.

Wisconsin offers a “Premium Tax Credit” to households with incomes up to 4 times the federal poverty level – this was up to $94,200 for a family of four in 2013 – and who are ineligible for Medicaid or don’t have an affordable employer’s plan. “If the individual or family chooses a less expensive plan, the PTC will cover more of their premium costs. If the individual or family chooses a more expensive plan, the PTC will cover less of their premium costs (but the individual or family will have lower co-pays and deductibles).”

Some might grumble that this is taking away Obamacare-era subsidies for purchasing insurance and replacing them with Trumpcare (or whatever the replacement is called) tax credits for purchasing insurance. But Walker seems pretty convinced that this is better if it is part of an overall emphasis of getting people into the workforce:

“When governors are given the ability to really reform Medicaid and our other assistance programs, when I say it’s the same or better, I mean we help somebody get into the workforce. Now they’ve got an employer-based plan, or they’re making enough to be able to afford the co-pays or the premiums on that. They’re better off than they were before. The government just giving them something, even in the form of a subsidy, isn’t necessarily good for them. We can find a better alterative. It doesn’t mean we’re giving you more money, but rather we’re giving you more ability to earn and live a better life.”

Quebec Moves Toward Euthanasia for Alzheimer’s

by Wesley J. Smith

Our neighbor to the north demonstrates vividly how the logic of euthanasia consciousness spreads like a virus.

Once a society generally accepts killing as an acceptable response to human suffering, the killable categories expand exponentially–clearly seen in the Netherlands and Belgium where psychiatrists kill the mentally ill, sometimes coupled with organ harvesting.

Abuses? What abuses?

Canada is driving that same road with the pedal to the metal. Quebec is now actively considering expanding euthanasia to include the mentally incompetent if they asked to be killed in an advance directive. From the Montreal Gazette story:

A consensus is emerging among Quebec parliamentarians to launch a public debate on the appropriateness of legalizing medically assisted suicide for persons unable to give informed consent, such as patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

My mother died of Alzheimer’s, so I know what this disease is like.

I also know that it would have been wrong to allow her worst fears about what her life was going to be like when the illness began to bite, to allow her to order herself poisoned to death when she lost capacity. 

Even in my mother’s very difficult final days, there were good moments in which she was able to receive and give love.

To say she would have been killable because she was so ill would have been to say that her loss of capacities rendered less than human. Not on my watch.

And that brings up an ironic point: At the same time in which concerted efforts are being undertaken to reduce the categories of animals killed by euthanasia–a worthy cause–similar efforts are underway where euthanasia is widely accepted to expand the number of people so killed. 

That path leads to extreme moral peril.

The same progression we have seen in Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and now Canada, will happen here if assisted suicide ever becomes widely accepted. It’s only logical.

And here’s the worst part: When that happens, people won’t care because society’s adherence to the equality/sanctity of human life will have been fundamentally subverted. 

Burke, Mahler, and Other Righteous Souls

by Jay Nordlinger

Today’s Impromptus, like most of them, is a mixture, ranging from the immolation scene in North Dakota to baseball (in particular, the intentional walk). In between is an item about politicians, and how they follow rather than lead.

What do the activists want? Well, that’s what I want. But what if you (the politician) disagree? Maybe you should make your case, persuade? Be willing to be reelected with 55 percent of the vote rather than 65 percent?

Perish the thought.

I have a thoughtful note from a regular and wonderful reader — who says, in part,

I always thought politicians were our representatives rather than our leaders. … Nobody should be asked to offend their strong principles. If I was elected I would not vote for anything pro-abortion. But if I was pro-NAFTA and the people who elected me voted for Trump, I’d have to follow the will of those voters.

We are talking about members of Congress here, more than presidents, governors, and mayors. In any case, this is all summed up in the phrase “Burkean dilemma.” It is age-old. There is a time for bowing — bowing to the will of your constituents, rather than following your own beliefs. But here’s my beef (one of them):

There are so many politicians who are smart, articulate, and persuasive. Why don’t they use those talents? Say you’re for TPP, believing it to be in the American interest, but your activists have been convinced that it’s bad. Why not talk to them? Why not make a case? That’s what you’re good at, right? Why did you enter politics in the first place? To look at polls and act accordingly?

Anyway …

Now for the intentional walk. From time immemorial, pitchers have thrown four balls, well outside the plate. Strange things can happen (like a wild pitch, allowing a runner to score). But now they have done away with these throws, and an intentional walk will be signaled by a manager from the dugout. (By “they,” I mean Major League Baseball.) The aim is to speed up play.

In Impromptus, I write, “I’m for faster play. But I think we’ve lost something. More than we have gained (in faster play)?”

I have a note from a reader in Berlin — Germany, not New Hampshire or any of the other American Berlins. (By the way, do you know that the Berlin in New Hampshire is pronounced BER-lin, rather than Ber-LIN? Probably true of our other Berlins as well.) (Although “Irving Berlin” is pronounced as we pronounce the German capital.)

Our German reader writes in disagreement with me. He says, “Baseball is supposed to be slow and measured.”

I have nothing against slow and measured. But I think of one of the most common markings in Mahler: Nicht schleppen, or “Don’t drag.” Alternatively, Nicht schleppend, or “Not dragging.”

This is my basic view of this speed-of-play thing. I don’t need them to rush. But nicht schleppen!

P.S. This just in: An exceptional reader from Atlanta Braves country writes,

A “called” intentional walk in PROFESSIONAL baseball? Say it ain’t so, Jay! Tell me it’s “fake news”! Or at least confined to the American League …

What next? A “called” hit-by-pitcher? “Invisible” runners? A “designated” hitter for the pitcher? Oh, wait …

All appears lost. The Huns aren’t just at the gates, they’ve got box seats, are slurping $12 Bud Lites, and are bragging about a “quality start” from a pitcher who couldn’t get through the 6th inning.

And worse yet, there’s nobody to stand athwart the baseline, hollering for the relay throw, ready to tag History out.

Heh.

Krauthammer’s Take: Bannon ‘Had No Horns’ and Gave ‘Intellectual Heft to Trumpism’ at CPAC

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer credited Steve Bannon with providing an intellectual framework for Donald Trump’s ideas:

There is no tonic like winning. He came in third last year, and he was booed the year before when he talked about putting boots on the ground in the Middle East. I think Susan is right. This is a coming together of the conservative movement or at least a part of it. This is mostly the younger, more-edgy part, the one that would’ve been more receptive to a Milo presentation. I think it marks an important moment, and what was interesting was Bannon. He came in. He had no horns. He sounded rather amiable. But on the other hand he was absolutely unswerving, and he sort of gave intellectual heft to Trumpism. He was very specific about the three major goals: foreign policy, domestic economic policy, and what he called the undoing of the administrative state, the first volley in that war was the abolition of the “bathroom bill” or at least the directive coming from HHS — essentially, the federal government has no business here — and in all the cabinet opponents. So I think it was a real plus for them, and it presented a picture that for many conservatives — not all, some have trouble about the trade issue and the protectionism issue — but for many conservatives it was a kind of homecoming.

Who’s the Intolerant One?

by David French

This is surely one of the strangest tweet exchanges I’ve ever seen. Here’s CNN’s Christopher Cuomo responding to a person who asks, “What do you tell a 12 year old girl who doesn’t want to see a penis in the locker room?” His answer?

Not long ago, if school policies purposefully exposed girls to male genitals, they’d be subject to a backbreaking sexual harassment lawsuit. Suddenly, however, “tolerance” looks a lot like indecent exposure, and indecent exposure is what freedom looks like. This is beyond strange. I’m certain Cuomo would still object to a member of the football team walking straight into a girl’s locker room and disrobing, but he not only doesn’t object to the exact same anatomical features if they’re attached to a trans “girl,” he condems those who feel uncomfortable.

If the declaration that “preteen girls shouldn’t see penis at school” doesn’t resonate, I wonder if there’s really any hope for a common moral language when discussing the sexual revolution. In this circumstance, not even consent — the final moral firewall — matters. We used to be told that boys and girls should shielded from unwelcome sexual images. Now we’re told that they can be exposed to genitalia even over their strenuous objection, and they’re intolerant if they argue otherwise. Extraordinary.

The left-wing intolerance on this point is so extreme that they condemn school officials who seek to protect trans kids by giving them their own, private facilities — places where they can change in complete privacy. Yet arrangements like this are characterized as cruel and heartless discrimination rather than the compassionate accommodation they so clearly are. There are ways to protect the rights to all parties to this cultural dispute, but when social engineering is the goal, compromise is out of the question. 

Recording Professors

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Dennis Prager argues that college students should record what their professors say in class. Professors will object, he says, only if they are abusing their position to indoctrinate their students and wish to hide it. I sympathize with Prager’s desire to combat that abuse, but off the top of my head I can think of four reasons a professor who has no reason to be “ashamed of what he or she is saying in class” might object to being recorded.

First, it might interfere with a college’s business model. A no-recording policy would make it easier to prevent anyone from putting lectures online so that people can get them for free.

Second, snippets from recordings could be taken out of context and used to subject professors to undeserved mockery, criticism, and abuse. Prager recommends that professors record themselves “to protect themselves against doctored material,” but that would not fully protect them from a social-media firestorm based on incomplete information–which, in case you have not spent much time on the Internet, sometimes happens. 

Third, a professor might worry that recording would chill classroom discussion in classes with significant amounts of give-and-take: that students might feel inhibited in asking questions or expressing viewpoints.

Fourth, speaking in front of a group of people, even a large group of people, is just different from speaking in front of a camera for people you can’t see. There is such a thing as weighing your words too carefully, and a professor might think that it would be impossible to avoid doing that if students were recording him. 

I don’t know if I would have a no-recording policy if I were a professor (or university administrator). But if a professor had such a policy, I wouldn’t hold it against him.

 

Scott Walker on the Tricky Task of Replacing Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion

by Jim Geraghty

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spoke to NR today about his role in a small working group of governors attempting to help House and Senate Republicans forge the legislative replacement for Obamacare, including what to do about the people who are covered by the law’s expansion of Medicaid in 31 states.

“It’s a logical spot for me, particularly as chairman of the [Republican Governors Association],” Walker said. “It’s important to have governors [involved], particularly on the Medicaid side, since we’re the ones who are going to have to make that happen. We’ve met with both House and Senate chairs, talked to the Speaker, talked to others about this.”

From his comments, it doesn’t sound like many details have been hammered out yet, but the aim is to avoid taking away coverage from the new Medicaid coverage recipients, and instead swapping it for a market-based plan.

“We have a small working group of governors, evenly mixed between states that took the Medicaid expansion and states like mine that did not, and trying to hammer through some of those issues,” Walker said. “The House and Senate leaders would like to have a plan they can pass that will have the support of governors. If you don’t, not only is it politically harder to do, those who are legitimately trying to solve this issue understand that you can’t hand Medicaid off to the states in a way that sets us up for failure.”

Walker said he’s not worried Republicans are overpromising on how satisfied Americans will be with the legislative replacement for Obamacare.

“I think you can replace and reform in a way that gives people the same or better,” he said. “I’m not talking about having the same subsidy from the government. Because of the bifurcated Supreme Court decision, we [in Wisconsin] were able to determine our destiny on Medicaid. We didn’t take the expansion, and we’re not a state exchange state, but for the first time ever, we covered everyone in poverty with Medicaid. All those above [the poverty level], we transitioned them to the marketplace. Somebody conceivably earning just above poverty [level], working to tap into a reasonably-costing plan by virtue of the subsidies, now under the market-driven approach, we [can] do the same with a tax credit or something very similar to the tax credit.”

“When governors are given the ability to really reform Medicaid and our other assistance programs, when I say it’s the same or better, I mean we help somebody get into the workforce. Now they’ve got an employer-based plan, or they’re making enough to be able to afford the co-pays or the premiums on that. They’re better off than they were before. The government just giving them something, even in the form of a subsidy, isn’t necessarily good for them. We can find a better alterative. It doesn’t mean we’re giving you more money, but rather we’re giving you more ability to earn and live a better life.”

Walker also talked about his experience with angry protesters on the Left and offered advice to Congressional Republicans facing hostile crowds in their town halls.

“People have a right to be heard, and don’t respond in kind, but don’t let the noise of the protesters to drown out the voices of the people who elected you in the first place,” Walker said.  “When we had 100,000 or almost 150,000 protesters around our capital, a reporter asked me, ‘don’t these people have a right to heard?’ I said, ‘sure, that’s what great about America. You can protest your government. But I’m not going to let them down out the voices of the people who elected me in this state who are at home, taking care of their families, and working. They elected me to do the things I’m doing.’”

It’s a strange new status for Walker, to suddenly talked about his new status as one of the less controversial Republican figures in the new Trump era of the GOP.

“I had somebody at one of the colleges, say ‘compared to Trump, you’re actually pretty reasonable. I said, ‘thanks, I think,’” Walker said with a laugh. “Obviously, in her mind, she didn’t like me much before, but now I’m this mainstream guy.”

Hecklers at Town Hall Meeting Boo Opening Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance

by Alexandra DeSanctis

As U.S. senators and representatives took a brief recess this week, visiting their home states for town hall meetings with constituents, one senator ran into some issues with a tough crowd. Bill Cassidy, a first-term Republican senator from Louisiana, was meeting with a crowd of constituents in Metairie yesterday, but as Louisiana State chaplain Michael Sprague begun to recite an opening prayer, the crowd immediately began to heckle him.

One man interrupted Sprague’s first words to shout, “Amen! Let’s get on with it.” Another person added, “Pray on your own time. This is our time.” Meanwhile, a group of people began to chant repeatedly, “Separation of church and state.” Here’s a video of the interruption of the opening invocation:

But the disruptions didn’t end there. As a local veteran took the microphone to lead the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, the jeering continued, with one man audibly yelling, “Do your job.” Here’s the video footage of this bout of heckling:

According to a local news account of the town hall event, many constituents had arrived at 11:30 a.m. for the event, which wasn’t scheduled to begin until 3:30 p.m. The venue was much too small for the hundreds who actually showed up, because it had been booked weeks in advance and Cassidy’s staff hadn’t expected such a large crowd. To top it off, Cassidy arrived 20 minutes late, as he had been inspecting the tornado damage in New Orleans.

Throughout Cassidy’s remarks, the crowd remained unsettled, becoming particularly upset when he mentioned President Donald Trump and even more incensed when he referenced Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. It appeared from the footage and the news accounts that the constituents didn’t actually want to ask questions or hear what Cassidy had to say; they wanted to express their anger.

Three Michael Novak Links

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

As you know, Michael Novak died on Friday.

Mary Eberstadt’s remembrance of Michael’s wife Karen in 2009, which I know Michael was particularly fond of.

Mitch Boersma, who worked as a research assistant for Michael Novak, writes about how Michael Novak changed his life:

when I arrived for my first day of work with Michael at the American Enterprise Institute, I was more or less terrified at the prospect of working with such an intellectual heavyweight.  

Michael arrived at the office, dumped a dog-eared article off at my desk, and asked me to read it. I don’t remember what it was about, other than that I thought I disagreed with it.  

He later called me back into his office: “So, Mitch, what do you think?”

I froze and thought to myself: What did I think? What was I supposed to think? I didn’t agree with it. Well, at least I think I didn’t agree, but what if I didn’t understand it completely? Did Michael like the piece? He did give it to me to read after all. What does he want me to say?

After a deep gulp, I stammered out, “It was, uh, interesting.”

Michael pulled his eyes up from his desk and shot back:  “Never use the word ‘interesting.’ Interesting is a weasel word. Every editor in the country will tell you your manuscript is interesting. That doesn’t mean any of them will publish it. Don’t be a weasel.”

There’s more here

We posted a symposium here that included contributions from some colleagues and former research assistants.

                                             

Erdogan to Me: Stay Out of Turkey

by Daniel Pipes

I participated Tuesday in a conference about the eastern Mediterranean at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) just outside Tel Aviv; and because Tel Aviv is the diplomatic center of Israel, its events attract a good number of diplomats. Tuesday was no exception, with a foreign minister and other diplomats from several eastern Mediterranean countries, including Albania, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and Turkey.

My talk surveyed the role of Islamism in the region. In the question-and-answer period, Turkey’s newly-appointed ambassador, Kemal Ökem, vigorously protested points I had made about his country. I defended these, then challenged Ökem (in a video that can be viewed here):

Pipes: I started going to Turkey in 1972. I studied Turkish, not very successfully, but I did study it. I’ve gone back many times. And at this point, I dare not go back to Turkey because I am critical, as you may have heard, of the government and, in particular, I supported the July 15th coup [a position] which is absolutely an outrage in Turkey. And so, I dare not go back to Turkey. And so, let me ask you, Mr. Ambassador, would it be it safe for me to go to Turkey and spend some time there or just go through the airport? You have a great airline that I would love to use but I dare not use it. Would I be safe going to Turkey?

Ökem: If you say that you support the failed coup attempt that killed 250 Turkish civilians and if you that say you support the kind of organization which we call a terrorist organization, which is a religious cult by the way, and trying to export something, if you say that, I would rather advise you not to go there because you be an accomplice, considered an accomplice. [laughter]

Pipes: That’s what I was expecting.

Ökem: It’s an expected answer but it’s legitimate answer. I mean, I would advise you to find good legal advice before you travel to Turkey.

The name of that “terrorist organization” was not spoken, but Ökem was referring to the so-called Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü, or FETÖ (Fethullah Terror Organization). To the rest of the world, it’s the Hizmet movement founded by Fethullah Gülen, a former close and important ally of Erdogan’s until the two of them split. No one else sees it as violent, much less terroristic. Erdogan’s accusation that it organized the July 2016 coup attempt is noxious and absurd.

This ambassador’s statement has several interesting implications:

Left unspoken was what would happen to me, were I foolish enough to venture to Turkey, so I’ll make it explicit here: As someone deemed an accomplice of FETÖ, I would be jailed without charges and held for who-knows-how-long.

This is despite my having a long record of being critical of the Gülen movement. For example, the Middle East Quarterly, a journal I publish, ran so important a critical article on Hizmet by Rachel Sharon-Krespin in 2009 that it was translated and prominently featured by the leftist Turkish daily Cumhuriyet.

An arch critic of the Soviet Union, such as my father, Richard Pipes, had no problem visiting Russia in the still-repressive post-Stalinist era. In other words, Ankara, a member of NATO and a formal ally of the United States, imposes a higher level of thought control than did the USSR.

Turkish Airlines would seem to be the only airline whose passengers must pass an ideological test if they hope to complete their journey without danger of getting thrown in jail.

I have visited Turkey, one of my favorite destinations, ten times over 45 years, with the final trip in 2012. I shall miss the country. Like tens of millions of Turks, I look forward to celebrating the early termination of the Erdogan regime.