Merciless On Air and In Print, Gracious and Kind in Real Life

by Jim Geraghty

A sad start to the first Morning Jolt of the week.

Kate O’Beirne, RIP

If you never had a chance to meet Kate O’Beirne, you really missed out.

Before I knew Kate, when I was a politically-wonky polliwog in the 1990s, I watched her on CNN’s Capitol Gang. It’s easy to forget how good television news debate programs used to be, before the stage was turned over to interchangeable telegenic bobble-heads who aren’t really into reading. On Capitol Gang, the panelists had to be journalists, published regularly in print publications, who knew their stuff and could think on their feet. And on screen, Kate O’Beirne seemed like a cross between Katharine Hepburn and a velociraptor.

The late Robert Novak described Kate in his autobiography, The Prince of Darkness:

Tall, blond, New Yorker-feisty, and exceptionally well-informed… Kate auditioned for the Gang for the first time on June 24, and she was dynamite. My decision was quickly made. Kate O’Beirne was a tremendous asset to the program, informed and able to charm the socks off [liberal panelist Al] Hunt. I think Boston Irish [Mark] Shields was less susceptible to the charms of an Irish lass from New York, and Kate always felt Mark resented a strong conservative woman. But Kate radically improved the program.

Watching her vivisect the arguments of the liberal panelists over the years, I was more than a little intimidated when I first met her. I joined National Review full-time in 2004, and in a circumstance where she had every reason to say or imply, “keep your mouth shut and learn, rookie,” she bent over backwards to make me feel welcome and an important contributor to the magazine as a whole. I recall at Democratic convention in Boston 2004, my first big event as new guy on National Review’s team, she asked me in front of my new co-workers, “how did you learn so much about politics?” I’m sitting in front of a Murderer’s Row of political journalism – Ramesh Ponnuru, John J. Miller, Jonah Goldberg, Byron York – and she’s asking what I think. More than a few folks inside and outside of National Review have those stories – where Kate made you feel like a big deal, even when you weren’t.

As merciless as she could be on-air and in print, she was as gracious and kind in real life. When she hosted a party, she made sure every guest felt at home. She gushed about her sons, serving in the military and law enforcement, two success stories of parenting. She sent gifts when my children were born.

Every once in a while, she left you with the feeling she could see around corners. In 2009, I remember her chatting, in one of her seemingly ever-present clouds of cigarette smoke, after a group of editors had met with some young no-name state legislator. This guy, who looked like he wouldn’t be able to buy booze without his ID, was named Marco Rubio and was talking up a long-shot bid against Charlie Crist in next year’s GOP Senate primary. Impressed, Kate speculated that this kid could be Romney’s running mate in 2012 (this was when the idea of Romney running again was considered unlikely) and that Rubio would run for president someday. Not quite on the nose, but in the ballpark.

You’ll want to read the remembrances from Ramesh, Jonah, Rich, John J. Miller, John O’Sullivan and Mona Charen.

William Kristol accurately observed, “Kate was a stalwart of the conservative movement who never manifested the stodginess or self-importance that one associates with stalwarts.”

She is dearly missed already.

Then and Now

by Jay Nordlinger

My Impromptus today is headed “The way we were, &c.” Why dredge up this song? Well, I was thinking of what we used to say about Obama. We used to say that he spent too much time on the golf course, for example. We toted up the costs of his personal travel — Martha’s Vineyard, Hawaii, and the like. We counted the times he said “I” and “me” in a speech!

That was so fun.

Anyway, we’re not apt to do that kind of thing anymore.

Here is something I do not include, because I read about it after I’d finished my column. President Trump was talking to the Associated Press. And he referred to the speech he gave in Congress earlier this year: “A lot of people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.”

What if Obama had said this? What would we have said? Remember how we were always knocking him for his arrogance and narcissism?

Good times.

I’d like to tell a story — about LBJ. But first, the current president. Talking about Afghanistan, he said, “What I do is, I authorize my military.” “My military,” huh? Can you imagine how we’d react if a Democratic president said the same?

Speaking of Democratic presidents: Johnson was at an airfield of some kind, and an officer pointed and said, “That is your plane, sir.” The president responded, “They’re all my planes, son.”

One more note: Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock had a play day at the White House. They posed and made funny faces in front of the portrait of Hillary Clinton. Okay. The people’s house and all.

I flashed back to the Clinton ’90s — when a photo circulated showing two women jumping up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom. They were from showbiz: Markie Post (the actress) and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (the producer).

You have no idea what a big deal we made of this. All the conservative bigs weighed in (the same ones who are weighing in today, though differently). They said that it epitomized the vulgarization of the presidency. They said it was a grotesque sign of decline.

I can just hear myself. Anyway, the way we were.

The Right’s Divisions

by Peter Spiliakos

In the medium term, I’m more pessimistic about the divisions within the Right than within the Left.

The Left’s divisions are real and sometimes bitter on a personal level, but you can usually see how they can be stitched up at the level of policy. The Left wants single-payer health care today. The center-Left wants single-payer eventually, after expanding Medicare and Medicaid has made the private-insurance market so small that it can be drowned in a bathtub. The center-Left wants the opposition figures and institutions to be silenced by economic boycotts and legal harassment. The far Left wants to speed up the process by breaking heads at riots. When you eyeball the plans of the center-Left (and make allowances for the eventual cost of single-payer), you probably get top marginal tax rates in the high 50s (inclusive of state income taxes.) The far Left probably gets those tax rates somewhere into the 70s.

There are still some important differences on dealing with the big banks (between those who want to break them up and those who want to cash their checks), but either the policy differences between the center-Left and the farther Left are usually prudential or the common ground is easy to see.

It is a little different on the right. One economics, you have what might be called “degenerate Kempism.” It is a combination of tax cuts for high-earners, cuts to entitlements spending, and increased low-skill immigration. On the other side, you have people who think of themselves as being on the right but who reject some or all of that. The ideas of Jack Kemp started as a way to connect wage earners to the GOP, but those ideas have long since become a rationalization for the interests and sensibilities of the right-leaning affluent.

The great advantage of degenerate Kempism is that most of the political talent, social capital, and money is on the side of this agenda – the money being the least important of the three factors. It is the default of the GOP lobbyists, donors, and most of the center-right politicians who came up through business or the professions.

What it doesn’t have are the voters. Put plainly in front of the public, most of swing voters and most Republicans oppose one or all of the components of degenerate Kempism. They might swallow one of the components, but taken together, they are toxic.

A further great advantage is that degenerate Kempism is an existing agenda. That means that those policies get thought out. There are existing plans to cut high-earner taxes, raise the retirement age, restrain Medicare spending, and expand low-skill guest-worker programs. When opportunities arise, believers in degenerate Kempism (and they are painfully sincere) are ready to take advantage.

There is no such common agenda among right-populists. Trump was nominated on the ruins of degenerate Kempism, but there wasn’t much of a policy in Trumpism. The result was that the congressional Republicans gave Trump a degenerate Kempist health-care bill that (whatever its other good qualities) reduced insurance coverage, raised insurance premiums for many older workers, and cut taxes on the wealthy. The public reacted badly.

It is difficult to see the common ground between the more elite degenerate Kempists (and I’m not helping with the labeling) and the populists. The degenerate Kempists want what they want. They are willing to make temporary retreats but will push on any door to cut any tax on the job creators, to cut domestic spending, and to answer the call of the affluent for cheaper low-skill labor. The populists have only the vaguest idea of what they want, and some of that is contradictory.

You can see some room for common ground, but it involves squinting and assuming more good faith and responsibility than either side has demonstrated. It involves the degenerate Kempists accepting that tax policy should be oriented more to the payroll-tax obligations of wage-earning parents than to the marginal tax rates of millionaires. It means that wage subsidies for the lowest-skill workers are a more pressing priority than are capital-gains rates of venture capitalists. It means admitting that America does not have too few low-skill workers. The populism will have to be at the center of the agenda rather than a garnish to a meal set for the business lobbies.

On the other hand, the populists will have to appreciate responsible politicians rather than thrilling to provocateurs. Lasting populist wins will involve what political scientist Lawrence Mead called “administrative statecraft.” It was that combination of populist energy and carefully crafted policy that gave conservatives welfare reform. It has been a generation since the last such victory.

Kate O’Beirne, RIP

by Rich Lowry

Jonah mentioned what a generous mentor Kate was. I can personally attest to this. I doubt I would have become editor of NR or survived the daunting task of working for Bill Buckley at the helm of his beloved magazine if it hadn’t been for Kate’s friendship, counsel, and wisdom. She was funny, warm, creative, generous, and might have been the most persuasive person I’ve ever known. She was also an incredibly acute political analyst, and often anyone here going on TV to do punditry checked in with her to borrow a witty line, a prediction, or an opinion. She loved her family and I remember in particular one story she delighted telling about one of her small granddaughters who went to Chuck E. Cheese’s and was so scared–not unreasonably–of the mouse mascot that she insisted on leaving the restaurant. Driven off to safety by Phil, her dad, she was relieved until a worrisome thought occurred to her: “Daddy,” she asked, “can the mouse drive?” I can hear Kate laughing over it now. RIP.

Kate & Me

by John J. Miller

She was strikingly tall, her laugh was a delightful cackle, and she was one of the wisest people I’ve ever met. I was blessed to work beside Kate O’Beirne and even more blessed to know her.

I’ve benefitted from a few excellent mentors. Linda Chavez tops the list: She taught me the way Washington works, showed me how ideas shape policy, and helped me break in as a writer. Next is Kate O’Beirne. She took over in 1998, when I left Linda’s employment to join National Review. Kate was the magazine’s Washington editor and under her guidance I really started to learn about politics. I knew a few things—in D.C., it comes like osmosis—but Kate schooled me on the workings of Congress, campaigns, and elections.

Our bureau was on the third floor of an old row building, above a now-closed bookstore on Pennsylvania Ave., a couple of blocks to the southeast of the Capitol. I liked it, though we always worried that guests would think it dumpy. So let’s settle on a euphemism: It had character. To get to my office, I had to walk through Kate’s. There was no other way. This quirk turned into a great opportunity, as I fell into conversation after conversation with her. Lots of my articles emerged from these talks, as Kate was generous with her time, opinions, and sources. I discovered that a good way to get an assignment I wanted was to have Kate buy into it. Then I’d ask her to mention it to Rich Lowry, our editor in New York. She was more successful at pitching my ideas than I was, in large part because Rich, like so many people, held her views in such high regard.

Kate once made an observation about the Reagan administration that I’ve never forgotten—a line that taught me a fundamental thing about not only Reagan but all successful mission-driven organizations. She had worked at the Department of Health and Human Services in the 1980s, and we were grumbling about a bureaucratic snafu during the presidency of George W. Bush. “When you worked for Reagan, you just knew what to do,” she said. “Nobody had to tell you what to do. You didn’t wait for orders. You got up in the morning, went to your job, and did what you knew Reagan wanted done because you were a conservative.” It occurred to me that National Review operates in a similar way.

Kate was Catholic on an almost tribal level, but more notably on a spiritual one. When I joined National Review, I had been a Catholic convert for less than a year—and Kate modeled the way writers can allow faith to inform but not overwhelm their journalism. She understood and demonstrated the importance of religion in both private and public life.

I was thinking about her faith just recently. We had fallen out of touch. Six years ago, I moved to Michigan to run the journalism program at Hillsdale College. Sometime after that, she left National Review. The Millers kept mailing Christmas cards to the O’Beirnes, but Kate and I hadn’t spoken in a long time. Last month, at the urging of a mutual friend, I sent Kate a note. In reply, she revealed her poor health. It wasn’t a lengthy exchange, but it was just enough. Now that she’s gone, it feels like we had a final chat. Not having had it would have bothered me for the rest of my life. Kate would have offered a simple explanation: It was the Holy Spirit.

God’s grace works in many ways, of course—and Kate played a unique role in my family. She threw lots of parties at her home in Virginia and my wife and I enjoyed going to them. In the spring of 2001, Kate held one for St. Patrick’s Day. Nine months later, Amy gave birth to our youngest child. We named him Patrick.

One of a Kind

by Mona Charen

Yesterday, as she lay in a hospital bed surrounded by adoring family and friends, I was able to say goodbye to my dear friend Kate O’Beirne. Breathing had become difficult, and she wore an oxygen mask. Her two handsome and devoted sons, her “saintlike” (her word) husband Jim, and her three sisters were there, along with the friends who couldn’t stay away. It’s the only time I’ve ever been in a room with Kate that she didn’t say anything witty.

Kate O’Beirne was brilliant and hilarious and generous and good. Her personality was radiant. She spoke fast, and would often introduce new information with ”as you know.” But few knew as much as she. It just one of her stylistic accommodations to the reality that practically no one could keep up. 

When she was a law student interviewing for a firm, a partner asked her where she pictured herself in 10 years. “Five years older,” she winked. Speaking of a prominent Republican politician who was on his third wife, she quipped “When a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opening.”

There are countless examples of her sterling wit, and her quite deep wisdom. She lit up every gathering, and enlivened every conversation. Never once did she pick up the phone without making you feel that the one thing in the world she most wanted was to speak to you at that moment. 

Unlike so many who become famous, Kate never let it go to her head. She was plugged in and seemed to know everyone, but her self-esteem didn’t rely on being known. This woman was grounded in the permanent things: her family, her church, and her friends. The hole she leaves in our lives and hearts is vast. RIP.


Fillon Endorses Macron for the French Presidency

by Andrew Stuttaford

Fillon, the defeated candidate of the center-right, has now endorsed Macron, saying that Le Pen would lead France to ruin. When Fillon won the Republican nomination—and before scandal intervened—he seemed well-positioned to take the presidency too. He is socially conservative, a supporter of the free market (by French standards) and he promised to take a tough line both on immigration and militant Islam. As such, he would have proved a formidable opponent for Le Pen and, if elected, might have addressed some of the underlying problems that have allowed the National Front to make as much progress as it has done.

The same cannot be said of Macron, who, if elected president (polls suggest that he will beat Le Pen by some twenty percentage points in the run-off), is unlikely to do much to change France’s overall direction, something that bodes ill for what lies further ahead. That said, for now at least, he’s by no means all bad news: Atlanticists will be reassured by his support for NATO and opposition to Putin (Fillon, in an echo of De Gaulle’s attitudes towards Moscow, was more—to use a kind word— ambiguous) and he is a supporter of free trade. Despite his background in the Socialist Party, he seems more sympathetic to the free market than his former colleagues (thus my comparison with Tony Blair in an earlier post) but it remains to be seen how much he will actually be able to achieve without a party to back him in parliament (Macron is officially an independent). On immigration, overreach by the EU and Islamic fundamentalism, he will (at best) offer little or nothing very different from the policies that France is following today, policies that have proved disastrous for the nation and good for both the National Front and, when it comes to the EU, the hard left.  

Two other things to note (for now);

While Fillon’s failure may have reduced the ‘respectable’ vote from what it might otherwise have been, it’s worth noting that Le Pen and Mélenchon (left-wing maniac) together will probably end up with forty percent or more of the vote.

Neither of the two establishment parties appear to have made it to the second round.

France is not a country at ease with itself.

Farewell, Kate

by Jonah Goldberg

When I came to National Review in 1998, Kate O’Beirne welcomed me like that friendly mom who looks out for the nervous new kid on the block. I rarely went into the DC office back in those days, in large part because I knew if I did, I’d get sucked into an endless – and endlessly entertaining – conversation with her. Kate loved to talk, to gossip and to plot. In a 20 minute conversation you could get five column ideas that no one else had written.

If Irving Kristol was the “Godfather” of neoconservatism then Kate O’Beirne was the den mother of the modern American right, or at least my corner of it. She looked out for people, she groomed them, told them what – and who – to watch out for (her B.S. detector was sensitive on a parts per billion scale). 

Kate wouldn’t object to such a “gendered” description either, at least I don’t think she would. She despised modern feminism, but was no demure wallflower. She was what an earlier generation might have called a “terrific Dame,” of the sort one might find in a Frank Capra movie. And she shared, along with her husband Jim, a Capraesque love for her country and its best self. She was a career woman and a devoted mom, a fierce ideological warrior and loving wife, a sincere and passionate Catholic who could laugh at  – or tell – a ribald joke over drinks at the bar. She understood philosophically that life involves compromise, but she always made it look like such rules didn’t apply to her.  

The comparison to Irving Kristol is apt for another reason. There are lots of famous conservatives – and she was one — but only a handful whose most important work is done away from the page or the screen. She mentored a generation of young writers, policymakers and politicians — particularly young women who simultaneously believed in “traditional values” but also sought to make a mark in the world in their own right. She modeled that balance in her own life with joy and wisdom and she helped countless others follow in her footsteps.

She was simply one of the most remarkable women I have ever known. Rest in peace.

Kate Walsh O’Beirne R.I.P.

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Kate O’Beirne was part of National Review’s world before she joined the staff. When she became the magazine’s Washington editor in 1995 her resume already included stints at Senator Jim Buckley’s office, the Reagan administration, and the Heritage Foundation. She served NR in that position for eleven years and then became president of National Review Institute for six more.

She brought a witty and well-informed conservatism to a national television audience as well through weekly appearances on CNN’s marquee political talk show “Capital Gang.” Conservatives were outnumbered there as on cable news generally at that time, but it never seemed that way as long as she was on.

Both her “Bread and Circuses” column for NR and her television commentary were marked by a rare combination of a deep interest in conservative policy, psychological insight, and common sense. Many of those same qualities put her advice — on politics, editorials, careers, and personal matters — in high demand.

It was advice she was happy to give, setting her listeners right while somehow also making them feel like geniuses. She enlivened every party, taking special care for the people who seemed shy or left out. This same impulse led her to take in young colleagues, or classmates of her children, who had nowhere to go for holidays.

And it made her one of the most beloved people of Washington, D.C.

You had to get to know her very well before you realized she was an introvert, one who was making a titanic effort to make sure everyone was happy.

Kate was a quiet apostle for the Catholic faith, taking great satisfaction in the people she had brought, or brought back, to it, and cooking for priests who would “eat me out of house and home.” Reverence was never a chore for her. Leaving last year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast — one of her final public outings — she saw a favorite priest tipping a bellman, she thought, inadequately. She gently corrected him: “Father, you took a vow of poverty, not him.”

Decades of chain-smoking caught up with her last year — vaping came too late for her — leading to an ordeal from which she shielded nearly everyone who loved her.

In her final days she clutched a rosary while surrounded by her devoted husband Jim, her adored sons Phil and John, her sisters Mary Ann, Virginia, and Rosemary, and many friends. Her great regret was that she would not be able to spend more time doting on her grandchildren. She died at noon on this Divine Mercy Sunday.

Phil noted that his mother had believed in the show-business adage, Leave them wanting more. She has done that. R I P.

It’s Macron (It Seems)

by Andrew Stuttaford

The first numbers are out, and they appear to show that the run-off in France’s presidential elections will be between Emmanuel Macron, the Blairite (for want of a better shorthand) on 23.7 percent and Marine Le Pen (21.7 percent), who needs no introduction. There are no exit polls, so these numbers are projections based on early vote counting. That those two were going to emerge as the finalists was what the polls were predicting, although arguably Le Pen has done a little worse and Macron a little better than expected.

Fillon (the conservative) and Mélenchon (left-wing maniac) appear to be battling it out for third and fourth place with a little over 19 percent apiece.

It looks pretty certain that Macron will be the next president of France.

Ça ira (or not)

by Andrew Stuttaford

With France going to the polls in the first round of its presidential elections on Sunday, this long, reflective piece by Chris Caldwell in City Journal is well worth your time. Indeed it would be worth your time even if there was no vote tomorrow.

Some extracts ought to make clear why (my emphasis added):

[E]conomic opportunities for those unable to prosper in Paris are lacking elsewhere in France. Journalists and politicians assume that the stratification of France’s flourishing metropoles results from a glitch in the workings of globalization. Somehow, the rich parts of France have failed to impart their magical formula to the poor ones. Fixing the problem, at least for certain politicians and policy experts, involves coming up with a clever shortcut: perhaps, say, if Romorantin had free wireless, its citizens would soon find themselves wealthy, too. Guilluy disagrees. For him, there’s no reason to expect that Paris (and France’s other dynamic spots) will generate a new middle class or to assume that broad-based prosperity will develop elsewhere in the country (which happens to be where the majority of the population live). If he is right, we can understand why every major Western country has seen the rise of political movements taking aim at the present system.

Le Pen, Mélenchon, Trump, Sanders: Their aim may differ, but, to many of their voters, the target is the same.

Back to France:

At a practical level, considerations of economics and ethnicity are getting harder to disentangle. Guilluy has spent years in and out of buildings in northern Paris (his sisters live in public housing), and he is sensitive to the way this works in France. A public-housing development is a community, yes, and one can wish that it be more diverse. But it is also an economic resource that, more and more, is getting fought over tribally. An ethnic Frenchman moving into a heavily North African housing project finds himself threatening a piece of property that members of “the community” think of as theirs. Guilluy speaks of a “battle of the eyes” fought in the lobbies of apartment buildings across France every day, in which one person or the other—the ethnic Frenchman or the immigrant’s son—will drop his gaze to the floor first….

Guilluy has written much about how little contact the abstract doctrines of “diversity” and “multiculturalism” make with this morally complex world. In the neighborhoods, well-meaning people of all backgrounds “need to manage, day in, day out, a thousand and one ethno-cultural questions while trying not to get caught up in hatred and violence.” Last winter, he told the magazine Causeur:

Unlike our parents in the 1960s, we live in a multicultural society, a society in which “the other” doesn’t become “somebody like yourself.” And when “the other” doesn’t become “somebody like yourself,” you constantly need to ask yourself how many of the other there are—whether in your neighborhood or your apartment building. Because nobody wants to be a minority.”

Thus, when 70 percent of Frenchmen tell pollsters, as they have for years now, that “too many foreigners” live in France, they’re not necessarily being racist; but they’re not necessarily not being racist, either. It’s a complicated sentiment, and identifying “good” and “bad” strands of it—the better to draw them apart—is getting harder to do.

France’s most dangerous political battles play out against this backdrop. The central fact is the 70 percent that we just spoke of: they oppose immigration and are worried, we can safely assume, about the prospects for a multiethnic society. Their wishes are consistent, their passions high; and a democracy is supposed to translate the wishes and passions of the people into government action. Yet that hasn’t happened in France.

Emmanuel Macron, the neo-Blair who will, I suspect end up as France’s next president (full disclosure: my predictions over the past year have been…fallible) has said:

“We can no longer defend a political system whose practices weaken democracy…”

Macron is a eurofundamentalist, an evangelist, therefore, of post-democracy.

My hope is that Macron is a liar, a cynic or both. My fear is that Macron, a product of the elite, is so lost in the Groupthink of his class is that he is simply unaware of the contradictions contained in what passes for his platform.


Guilluy breaks down public opinion on immigration by class. Top executives (at 54 percent) are content with the current number of migrants in France. But only 38 percent of mid-level professionals, 27 percent of laborers, and 23 percent of clerical workers feel similarly.

Never have conditions been more favorable for deluding a class of fortunate people into thinking that they owe their privilege to being nicer, or smarter, or more honest, than everyone else. Why would they think otherwise? They never meet anyone who disagrees with them. The immigrants with whom the creatives share the city are dazzlingly different, exotic, even frightening, but on the central question of our time—whether the global economic system is working or failing—they see eye to eye…

Those outside the city gates in la France périphérique are invisible, their wishes incomprehensible. It’s as if they don’t exist. But they do…

Read the whole thing. Really.

Krauthammer’s Take: Obama ‘Caved’ on Inspections, Now Iran Is Developing a Nuclear Weapon

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer argued that the Iran nuclear deal allows for a weapon to be developed since only one part of the process is even being delayed at all, and the inspections are too weak to seriously impede Iran:

There is no contradiction whatsoever in our position. You need three things to develop a usable nuclear weapon. No. 1, you need the fissile material. No. 2, you have to weaponize it, you have to make it explode. And that, it was revealed today, they have been working on assiduously. Third, you need the ballistic missiles that will deliver them. The problem is that the Obama administration looked only at the fissile element. So technically speaking you can say that, yes it is a frozen program, they are not increasing the amount of enriched uranium.

But what the Iranians are doing — and this is so obvious a child can see it — is while the program on the fissile material is frozen, they’re working rapidly on the weaponization, which is the other part you need, and of course, on the ballistic missiles which we can see. The weaponization is in a military facility called Parchin. It was supposed to have been investigated under the Obama administration and before the signing of the agreement. To make sure it hadn’t been used in the past for weaponization. Of course, Obama and Kerry caved on that, never did. We are not allowed to inspect. We allowed the Iranians to inspect themselves on Parchin, which was a joke. So yes, they are developing a nuclear weapon. It is a violation of the spirit of the agreement, because the way they look at it, in half a decade, they will be able to resume the fissile material, the enriching uranium, they will have weaponized, and they will have the missiles.

A Grave Defeat for Religious Rights in Russia

by Paul Crookston

Russia’s crackdown on religious activity took a major step forward this week as the Justice Ministry banned Jehovah’s Witnesses. Russia has steadily curtailed rights to evangelize in recent years, but this move signals their commitment to aggressively policing private religious activity.

The Russian supreme court ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses amount to an “extremist group,” and therefore the government is shutting down their headquarters and local chapters, seizing their property, and banning them from meeting. Vladimir Putin’s campaign to strengthen ties between the government and the Russian Orthodox denomination has included the passing of absurdly broad laws that prohibit “religious discord” and can easily be deployed against any religion or sect.

This ruling will directly harm the 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country, but it also poses a clear threat to other minority religious groups, such as Protestant Christians. Without genuine protections for the free exercise of religion, the government has remarkably free rein to determine the social benefits of a given religion — and that means trampling the consciences of those who fall victim to government caprice.

This battle may continue in some form. The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ lawyers said that they would appeal the ruling, and they may even take it to the European Court of Human Rights. While it is worth pursuing available avenues of recourse, the larger trend of religious persecution in Russia is continuing apace.

Working the Demand Side of the Anti-Abortion Cause — Democrats, Read This

by Nicholas Frankovich

Response To...

The New York Times Gives ...

Every couple of years, it seems, a Republican politician explaining his opposition to abortion makes the news for having said something repugnant. It can be career-ending, as in Todd Akin’s case. But those are isolated incidents. Democrats talk that way all the time, though from the other side of the debate. At least that’s how they sound to many Americans who abhor or even just feel ambivalent about abortion.

“Even I have trouble explaining to my family that we are not about killing babies,” Donna Brazile remarked after the 2004 election. The “we” were Democrats. She was recommending that her party tone down its rhetoric on social issues.

After the results of 2016, some are now arguing that Democrats should promote policies designed explicitly to reduce abortion. Michael New thinks that a couple of proposals — streamline adoption procedures, drop opposition to the Hyde Amendment — that have been recommended to the Democratic party by a Boston College professor writing in the New York Times are meager, but most pro-life measures advanced by Republicans are also at the margins of the abortion debate: parental notification, stricter licensing requirements for clinics, etc. If Democrats add a measure or two of their own, excellent: Pro-lifers should applaud them and encourage more.

Some pro-lifers will object that Democrats seeking their votes are insincere. But Republican support for their cause over the years has also appeared perfunctory at times. The pro-life movement’s response to that political reality has been clear-eyed: It supports pro-life policies and, unless he’s a crackpot or a scoundrel, the candidate who can best be relied on to advance them. Whether his heart is in it or not is immaterial to their immediate purposes.

In any case, many Democrats could sincerely support abortion-reducing measures. When you talk with people who call themselves pro-choice, you find that few are pro-abortion and that most feel the moral weight of the issue more heavily than you might have thought. They are receptive to certain pro-life ideas when the question is about what is morally optimum.

Why abortion should be illegal is a related but different question. It’s necessary for pro-lifers to answer it for their aim to be intelligible, but that frame is not sufficient to their ultimate task, which is to abolish the injustice or at any rate reduce its incidence to as close to zero as they can manage. It is true but misleading to say even of thoroughgoing pro-lifers that they oppose legal abortion. They oppose illegal abortion equally.

Current legal restrictions on abortion in state laws are about as protective of unborn children as public opinion supports. Pro-life legislators looking for more ways to reduce the supply of abortion are close to an impasse. Measures to reduce demand tend to be more popular. They blunt the objections of activists who are dug in against efforts to reduce the supply.

If only out of electoral self-interest, Democrats could, for example, propose that government funding of Planned Parenthood be halved and that the other half go to Birthright, which offers prenatal care and information on adoption. The organization does what it can to reduce the demand for abortion while removing itself from efforts to reduce the supply. A hard core of party activists would object to any Democratic embrace of Birthright, but the organization’s carefully circumscribed mission is irrelevant to the fight over “choice.” And in any case, where would pro-abortion-rights Democrats go?

Pro-life Republicans would object to the half of the funding that remained for PP. They could make the case that the glass being offered to Birthright should be full, not half full (although limited-government fiscal conservatives might not want to argue for a diversion of such funding rather than for the outright elimination of it). Even if Republicans lost that debate, the pro-life cause would see some gain: more money for Birthright, less for PP.

Let the parties get into a bidding war for the pro-life vote.

Other People’s Money

by Andrew Stuttaford

A Labour win in the upcoming British general election (or even a strong showing by the inaccurately named Liberal Democrats, something that I would not rule out) would be terrible news for the UK, but Theresa May’s Tories seem intent on proving that they are no more than the least bad option for Britain’s unfortunate voters.

Just today, for example (The Guardian reports):

Theresa May moved to quash speculation that the government might drop its pledge to spend 0.7% of national income a year on foreign aid, saying the commitment “remains and will remain”.

The prime minister said Britain should be proud of meeting the UN target, but stressed the need to spend the money more effectively, after days of speculation that she would water down the commitment.

And also today (via the BBC) there was this:

The chancellor has given a major hint that he is no fan of the 2015 Tory manifesto pledge not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT. After the embarrassing U-turn on the attempt to raise taxes for the self-employed, Philip Hammond told me the government needed “flexibility” on taxes. The manifesto is not yet final, so no irreversible decisions have been taken.

So let’s get this straight. Cutting foreign aid is out of the question, raising taxes, not so much.

This, by the way, is (The Daily Telegraph reports) how a very small sliver of that foreign aid has been spent (there are other horror stories to pick from, believe me, but this seems, well, timely):

North Korea has received more than £4 million in foreign aid from the UK in just six years despite the country’s status as an international pariah, according to reports…Despite the country’s status as a rogue state, official statistics cited by the Daily Mail show that £740,000 was sent to North Korea by the UK to fund aid projects in 2015 with the Foreign Office reportedly committed to continuing the handouts.

The UK sent £32,000 of aid to North Korea in 2009 but spending increased under [David Cameron’s] coalition government, peaking at just over £1 million in 2013.

The cash has reportedly been spent on items such as providing English lessons for regime officials and physiotherapy equipment.

There had been concerns that “regime officials” had been mangling the phrase “sea of fire”

The Foreign Office told the Daily Mail that aid spending is not given directly to the North Korean regime and argued that the cash can be used to improve relations.

A spokesman said: “The projects we carry out in North Korea are part of our policy of critical engagement, and are used to promote British values and demonstrate to the North Korean people that engaging with the UK and the outside world is an opportunity rather than a threat.”

Critical engagement.



Scholars Begin to Refute the Micro-aggression Theory Rampant in Academia

by George Leef

All humans have to put up with things other people say that are bothersome, but leave it to American academics to elevate that into a great social problem. About ten years ago, a few scholars began arguing that when members of certain minority groups (oddly enough, the same ones that colleges and universities always feel obliged to succor and protect) hear words or phrases from “dominant” people, they are wounded in ways only they can know. They came up with a name for this: micro-aggression. Ever since, college and university officials have been bending over backwards in efforts to stop the hurting.

A few daring scholars have taken issue with the micro-aggression mania, however, and I write about their criticisms in this Martin Center piece.

Althea Nagai of the Center for Equal Opportunity has penned a sharp critique of the pseudo-research behind it for Academic Questions, the quarterly journal of the National Association of Scholars. Her big point is that the micro-aggression researchers violate the rules of science in their techniques, such as the way they conduct focus groups: with leading questions meant to elicit answers that bolster their theory.

Scott Lilienfeld, professor of psychology at Emory, has also published an academic paper recently. In it he calls out the micro-aggression theorists for bad technique and inflated, unsupportable claims.

And what if the furor over micro-aggressions is counterproductive? Professors Jonathan Haidt and Lee Jussim have argued that it is: It further encourages a victim mindset among members of those protected groups, whose members are supposedly so mentally fragile that they must be sheltered from any words one of them might find offensive — “America is a land of opportunity,” for example.

College officials should back away from the micro-aggression mania and focus on actual education, but that would take some daring on their part. The social-justice warriors would undoubtedly attack them for their insensitivity and “privilege.” I’d bet that this silly movement continues to pick up momentum.

The Clintonites’ Disunity Whine

by Peter Spiliakos

One of the more irritating parts of the new book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign involves Clintonites whining about Bernie Sanders criticizing Clinton and dividing the party. Bernie’s challenge to Clinton was a perfectly normal event, given that there was no Democratic incumbent running for reelection. If the Clintonites wanted to see some real division and bitterness, they just needed to look at Trump and the GOP.

Sanders was a challenger who took some rhetorical shots, won some states, and then endorsed the eventual nominee. This isn’t unusual. In 1980, Reagan faced the same kind of challenge from George Herbert Walker Bush. In 2000, George W. Bush faced the same kind of challenge from John McCain. In 2008, Obama faced the same kind of challenge from Hillary Clinton. So did party nominees who didn’t win the presidency: Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis, Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney. Given that she wasn’t an incumbent, Clinton’s road to the nomination was about average.

And then there are the Republicans. The shots that Trump took from his Republican rivals were much sharper than anything Sanders threw at Clinton. There is nothing from Sanders that even begins to compare to Rick Perry’s calling Trump a “cancer on conservatism.” Sanders said he didn’t care about Clinton’s e-mails while Marco Rubio attacked Trump from head to . . . well . . . you know.

Sanders gave a prime-time speech at the Democratic convention endorsing Clinton. Ted Cruz, Trump’s main GOP rival, gave a prime-time speech at the Republican convention whose implicit theme was that voters should elect Republicans to Congress in order to protect the Constitution from both Clinton and Trump. The resulting scene of a GOP convention booing a former candidate who was passive-aggressively attacking the nominee was like something out of the GOP disaster in 1964.

One of Clinton’s many advantages was that her party’s elected elites rallied around her to a normal degree, while the GOP’s elected elites obviously hated and despised Trump. House Speaker Paul Ryan would take every opportunity to distance himself from Trump whenever things got hot. Ryan made it a point to publicly disinvite Trump from a party unity rally. There is no keeping track of all the Republican elected officials who refused to endorse Trump, or unendorsed Trump (however temporarily), or suspended their support for Trump at one point or another. It was a lot.

Clinton had the advantage of a normal road to the nomination and a unified party. Trump faced the kind of intraparty hostility that is usually associated with blowout losers like Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George McGovern in 1972. The Clintonites (and their candidate) blew it.

Wean Colleges Off Federal Funding

by Peter Augustine Lawler

James Patterson has written an able — if quite arguable — commentary on my dispute with Stanley Kurtz on what’s wrong with higher education and what can be done to make things better.

This, is of course, a friendly dispute. And I agree with Stanley completely that the higher-education establishment has become in certain crucial ways an enemy of authentic human freedom in our country.

It is also a timely dispute, insofar as many are joining Stanley in urging President Trump and the Republican Congress to declare war on our institutions — and especially our elite colleges and universities — of higher education.

The defenders of this approach rightly say that the key precedents were set by the Obama and even George W. Bush administrations. It was Bush’s secretary of education, Margaret Spellings, who demanded that accrediting agencies become obsessed with the details of the accreditation process, forcing accreditation to become considerably more intrusive — a problem that morphed into an opportunity for our establishment educational administrators. And it was under Obama that the Department of Education began writing menacing “Dear Colleague” letters that went far beyond anything the law actually said.

As in the case of executive orders, we should regard these as precedents Republicans should reject.

You might respond: The federal government gives colleges and universities lots of money, and so regulations are appropriate. And surely colleges and universities should be made to protect academic freedom. I don’t think that can be done effectively. Endless attempts at effective oversight would ensue, with inconclusive results. Well, I’m for individuals relying on litigation — our courts — to defend academic freedom in particular cases, just as I’m for genuinely liberal public intellectuals and experts showing how weasly and insincere the statements of behalf of said freedom are at places such as the American Association of Colleges and Universities.

Plus: I doubt that intrusive bureaucracies ever serve the “moral good.” Consider the ways the Democrats were trying to script our institutions. And Trump was elected to preserve the freedom of our countercultural religious institutions of all kinds. His futile attempt to discipline Middlebury would produce a more than compensatory boomerang when the Democrats come back to power, which is inevitable and probably sooner rather than later.

To repeat myself once more: I’m for libertarian means for non-libertarian ends. That means I’m for weaning our colleges off federal money — slowly, and with due attention to issues of accessibility. Meanwhile, I’m particularly interested in Republicans setting as many deregulatory precedents as possible.

Our elite institutions are going to continue to be what they are, and they can’t be saved by government. If you don’t like them, there are plenty of other choices. It’s not like they really give the best education in our land in the social sciences and humanities. And if you’re a science/STEM nerd, you can just ignore all the silliness from the rest of the campus.

Another Reason Men Earn More: How Far They Go For Their First Job

by Carrie Lukas

Women and men make different choices about the number of hours to work (even when working full time), industries, specialties, physical risks to take on, and how much time to take off.

Those are the factors that we mostly hear about when people explain the wage gap statistic that consistently shows that men, on average, still earn more than women do. This new study adds another factor to the mix, how far men and women move for their first job:

We used data from more than 115,000 resumes — 54,000 women and 61,000 men — and found that on average women move 318 miles from their college for their first jobs, while men move 370 miles….

According the Census data, this larger search area brings in an additional 3,873,908 jobs total…

Access to more job possibilities means that men also have the potential to find higher paying options. It’s another reason that men end up earning more than women do.

This study is similar to one I wrote about here on working men having longer commutes, on average, than women do. Once again, it shows men tend to be willing to take on big burdens—longer drives and moves—in order to increase their pay.

Different societal expectations for the sexes may explain why women and men make these different choices. Certainly, working women may feel they can’t take on longer commutes because their assume the bulk of family responsibilities. Similarly, young women may feel that a longer move away from college (and potentially from home and family) would be considered unacceptable.

Yet this research and new factor to consider still chips away at the suggestion that workplace discrimination is the root cause of the wage gap. This is important information for young women to have. If earning more is the goal, they ought to consider expanding a job search to include new cities. That’s far more actionable advice than the Left’s focus of blaming intractable sexism for the wage gap.

It’s Now Racist to Question Whether a Hawaii Judge Should Make Immigration Policy for the Entire United States

by Rich Lowry

This is a stupid controversy even by the standards of the Trump years, but Jeff Sessions is getting slammed for a comment about a judge on “an island in the Pacific,” a.k.a. Hawaii, blocking the president’s travel ban. Sessions said on the Mark Levin show, “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.” Clearly, Sessions was highlighting the geographic remoteness of Hawaii as a way to emphasize the ridiculousness of a single judge making such a sweeping national judgment. But Sessions is being accused by his critics of denying Hawaii’s statehood in keeping with his racism, slandering a federal judge, and playing to vicious and long-standing anti-Hawaii sentiment. It’s obviously too much to ask these critics to get a grip (they won’t for the next four-to-eight years). So, it’s probably best to adopt a tone of light dismissiveness in response, which is why the DOJ statement is just right: “Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born. The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”