We Need an Accurate National Conversation About Guns

by Jim Geraghty

Thank you, Washington Post, for stepping up to the plate and correcting a widely cited and shared piece of misinformation in the aftermath of the Florida shooting. There have not been 18 school shootings in the United States so far this year.

The figure originated with Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group, co-founded by Michael Bloomberg, that works to prevent gun violence and is most famous for its running tally of school shootings. . .

It is a horrifying statistic. And it is wrong.

Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. Take, for example, what it counted as the year’s first: On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school, however, had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers. There were no students.

Also listed on the organization’s site is an incident from Jan. 20, when at 1 a.m. a man was shot at a sorority event on the campus of Wake Forest University. A week later, as a basketball game was being played at a Michigan high school, someone fired several rounds from a gun in the parking lot. No one was injured, and it was past 8 p.m., well after classes had ended for the day, but Everytown still labeled it a school shooting.

We keep hearing, “we need to have a national conversation about guns,” and then we keep hearing statements from those same voices that are simply not true. If we’re going to have that national conversation, I want the other side to do its homework first.

I don’t want to hear CNN lamenting that Florida doesn’t require a concealed carry permit for an AR-15 or shotgun. (They are too large to conceal.) I don’t want to hear people referring to the AR-15 as an “automatic assault weapon” and I want them to learn the difference between automatic and semiautomatic, and which kind is already illegal. I don’t want to hear about “the gun show loophole” unless the shooter purchased his gun at a gun show. (To the best of my knowledge, not a single mass-shooter has done so.) I want former presidents to stop asserting that it’s easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than buy a computer or a book.

If someone wants to ban AR-15s, I want them to say so. I also want to know what they want to do about the 5 million to 10 million AR-15s already in private hands. I want them to realize that if they don’t grandfather in the already-owned ones, they will instantly turn millions of law-abiding Americans, who have never fired a shot in anger, into criminals. If a gun control advocate proposes a buyback program like Australia’s, I want that person to recognize that the compliance rate down under was about 20 percent and it created a violent black market for guns. If a gun control advocate calls for law enforcement to confiscate AR-15s from private homes, I want that person to realize that they’re calling for violent chaos. And I want them to know that as long as groups advocate ideas like this, the line “no one wants to take away your guns” is a disingenuous lie.

Welcome to the Senate, Mitt. Er, I Meant, Welcome to the Senate Race.

This morning, Mitt Romney made it official. And while he and his team would insist they’re taking nothing for granted . . . let’s face it, he’s practically a Senator-elect already.

The 2012 Republican presidential candidate plans to bid for the seat being vacated by retiring seven-term Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. Already, he’s the instant front-runner and presumptive nominee.

Romney has a strong base in Utah, where he’s popular among Mormons and won his highest vote margin – nearly 50 points – over President Barack Obama. He made the state his official residence in 2013 and currently lives in Holladay.

A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll from January showed he would handily win a Senate election here. Some 64 percent of those surveyed said they’d back Romney while 19 percent chose Democrat Jenny Wilson.

Mitt Romney is not the future of the Republican party, but it will be nice to have another smart, analytical, principled, respectful, and upstanding elder statesman in the U.S. Senate.

The Predictable Mess That Is Donald Trump’s Life Behind Closed Doors

Ronan Farrow returns to the pages of The New Yorker, this time with the account of Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year, and her story of an affair with Donald Trump in 2006 — shortly after his son Barron was born. Farrow writes, “her account provides a detailed look at how Trump and his allies used clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs — sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously — out of the press.”

I yawn from the story’s predictability, not out of approval. If you grew up in the New York City area in the late 1980s, you heard all about the messy divorce with Ivana and Marla Maples and all the salacious tales that came with that sordid mess. There’s ample evidence that Trump is a lecherous creep, serial adulterer, abysmal husband, and all around runaway libido, largely sheltered by the consequences of his actions by his enormous fortune and the army of lawyers that a fortune like his can purchase.

For as long as there have been men, women, and power, powerful men have used their resources and power to exempt themselves from a societal expectation of monogamy. It used to come in the form of sultans and harems and kings and concubines; now it comes in the form of nondisclosure agreements and payoffs.

It’s understandable that many women (and many men!) would find these arrangements immoral and repulsive. Many people would suspect that a man who lives with arrangements like these cannot really respect women; to him they’re as interchangeable as luxury cars, expensive objects that he takes out for a joyful ride every now and then.

There is a way for women to stop rich and powerful men from enjoying these shamelessly licentious lifestyles, but so far it has proven almost impossible to implement. First, women would have to stop marrying these men. They would have to stop seeing these sorts of marriages as an acceptable compromise, where they get to live a luxurious lifestyle, and know that their children will someday inherit a fortune, in exchange for averting their eyes from their husbands’ relentless philandering.

Second, other women would have to stop agreeing to be paramours to rich and powerful men. McDougal tells the tale of meeting Trump at the Playboy mansion, and that he kept telling her how beautiful she was. It is hard to imagine there would be much confusion about his intentions. She describes giving him her number, a few phone conversations, and then a first date where she had sex with Trump. She says she turned down his offer of money afterwards, and he told her, “you are special.”

If a young woman chooses to believe that, I don’t think there’s much that can be done. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Trump may objectify women, but there is apparently no shortage of women who are happy to be objectified if the man is rich, famous, or powerful enough.

The American electorate knew what they were getting with this guy. That’s one of the reasons some of us argued against him.

ADDENDA: Jay Cost notices that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, currently an impassioned advocate for gun control measures, voted to repeal the Assault Weapons Ban back and voted against background checks at gun shows when he was in Congress.

“Why won’t Congress do something?” asks the guy who was in Congress and voted against the exact proposals he’s demanding now.

‘If You See Something, Say Something’ Only Works if Authorities Do Something

by Jim Geraghty

An all-too-familiar, horrifying story:

He preened with guns and knives on social media, bragged about shooting rats with his BB gun and got kicked out of school — in part because he had brought bullets in his backpack, according to one classmate. He was later expelled for still-undisclosed disciplinary reasons.

The portrait of Nikolas Cruz, suspected of fatally shooting 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and wounding 15 others at his former school, is a troubled teen with few friends and an obsessive interest in weapons. Administrators considered him enough of a potential threat that one teacher said a warning was emailed last year against allowing him on the campus with a backpack.

“All he would talk about is guns, knives and hunting,” said Joshua Charo, 16, a former classmate at the high school. “I can’t say I was shocked. From past experiences, he seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.”

Late Wednesday, detectives were digging into the past of the 19-year-old who had no previous arrests but had displayed plenty of troubling behavior before officers took him into custody after what ranks as the third-deadliest school shooting in American history.

“Our investigators began dissecting social media,” Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters. “Some of the things that come to mind are very, very disturbing.”

Math teacher Jim Gard remembered that the school administration earlier sent out an email warning teachers about Cruz.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” said Gard, who had him in class. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

How many times will I have to write this? The mass shooters at Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, Isla Vista and Sandy Hook all had one thing in common: before the shootings, concerned and frightened people who had encountered the future shooter told various non-police authorities about what they had seen and heard — in some cases, campus police; in other cases, college and school administrators.

Teachers, school and university administrators, company HR departments — none of these establishments have the legal authority to seize a person’s firearms or commit them to a mental institution. Only the police and courts can do this.

The odds are pretty good that we will learn that the shooter in Florida had an interest in the Columbine school shooting. A stunning number of school shooters since Columbine indicated an obsessive interest in that shooting. Fascinating and disturbing research by Mother Jones found that the shooting inspired “at least 74 plots or attacks across 30 states” and “in at least 14 cases, the Columbine copycats aimed to attack on the anniversary of the original massacre. Individuals in 13 cases indicated that their goal was to outdo the Columbine body count. In at least 10 cases, the suspects and attackers referred to the pair.”

We will probably learn in the coming days how the shooter obtained his gun. A recent Washington Post study found that 168 guns used in mass shootings were obtained legally; 48 were obtained illegally.

If we must discuss gun control after an event like this, let us contemplate more consistent prosecution of straw buyers. Members of Congress have pressed the Department of Justice to make this a higher priority for years. U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones told a Congressional panel in 2013 that out of 48,321 cases involving straw buyers, the Justice Department prosecuted only 44 of them — saying that “hard decisions” to prosecute were made based on “limited resources.”

Even when the straw purchasers are prosecuted, the punishments are often much more lenient than the public might expect. Last year, Simone Mousheh purchased four weapons for $600 each and sold two to a man with Chicago gang ties. She was sentenced to 12 months probation,  15 days in the Cook County sheriff’s work alternative program and ordered to pay $679 in fines.

A lot of gun control advocates and progressives think they support this idea, until they realize who would get hit hardest by tougher prosecution. As my colleague Kevin Williamson wrote:

I visited Chicago a few years back to write about the city’s gang-driven murder problem, and a retired police official told me that the nature of the people making straw purchases — young relatives, girlfriends who may or may not have been facing the threat of physical violence, grandmothers, etc. — made prosecuting those cases unattractive. In most of those cases, the authorities emphatically should put the straw purchasers in prison for as long as possible. Throw a few gangsters’ grandmothers behind bars for 20 years and see if that gets anybody’s attention. In the case of the young women suborned into breaking the law, that should be just another charge to put on the main offender.

It is not difficult to imagine certain voices contending we need to “get tough on guns” and be lenient with straw purchasers simultaneously, and failing to grasp the contradiction.

Children of Immigrants, They Get the Job Done

Many commentators are coming to the defense of Bari Weiss, the New York Times columnist who is apparently detested by some of her colleagues.

Let us return to Weiss’ tweet, in response to U.S. skater Mirai Nagasu landing a triple axel in the Olympic figure skating competition — the first American woman to accomplish that feat. Weiss tweeted, “Immigrants: They get the job done.” (Weiss later deleted the tweet.)

Except . . .  Mirai Nagasu was born in the United States. Weiss insisted she was referring to the skater’s parents, and that she felt “the poetic license was Kosher.”

No doubt Weiss meant well. But words do mean things, and someone who is born in the United States doesn’t really count as an immigrant. Weiss clearly intended to salute Nagasu’s accomplishments and pay tribute to her parents, but . . . I can see why others would interpret Weiss’ tweet as labeling the skater an immigrant.

Separately, I’m not so sure it’s wise for immigrants and those who support legal immigration to adopt the Hamilton lyric as a rallying cry, even though it undoubtedly makes them proud and in many cases is true. Weiss was referring to this exchange — from the musical Hamilton — (visible in the video at about one minute in):

Lafayette: Monsieur Hamilton!

Hamilton: Monsieur Lafayette!

Lafayette: In command where you belong!

Hamilton: How you say, ‘no sweat’? We’re finally on the field. We’ve had quite a run!

Lafayette: Immigrants . . . 

Lafayette and Hamilton: We get the job done! (They high-five.)

Lin Manuel Miranda didn’t set out to make anybody feel worse about themselves; Hamilton is clearly designed to make every audience member’s heart swell with patriotic pride and gratitude.

Dear immigrant friends, God bless you. I’m glad you’re here. In some cases it is not an exaggeration to say I love you.

But I want you to imagine a different musical, say, Grant, where Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman celebrate a similar battlefield victory and declare, “Native-born: We get the job done!” (They high-five).

People would go nuts, right? They would conclude the line was xenophobic and anti-immigrant, an insult to everyone who came to this country from another place.

At this moment, our culture is extremely comfortable with immigrant pride and celebrates it, but extremely uncomfortable with an expression of pride in being born in the United States, finding it almost inherently hateful and dangerous. That value judgment more or less declares that one group of people is better and more valuable than another. Whether we like to admit it or not, “immigrants, we get the job done!” carries the implication, “native-born . . . eh, they’re at least a little bit less certain to get the job done.” If you’re trying to pour cold water on the smoldering embers of xenophobia and anti-immigrant attitudes, you’re going to want to avoid any arguments that suggest, “well, immigrants are just better than the people who are born here.”

And if you want to fight xenophobia, you’re probably going to want to avoid arguing that a young woman born in California is an honorary or de facto immigrant because she did something extraordinary. If you want to say, “God bless Ikuko and Kiyoto Naga, they’ve done such an extraordinary job in raising their daughter,” then say so. But they’re extraordinary because they’re extraordinary people, not simply because they’re immigrants.

In fact, wherever you stand on the political spectrum, I’m going to guess that recently at least one native-born child of an immigrant has really irked you.

Donald Trump is the son of an immigrant mother; Barack Obama is the son of an immigrant father. I guess they can’t all be gold medalists.

ADDENDA: Heather Wilheim with an odd and funny theory: “There is a shockingly high correlation between owning a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker and having an embarrassingly messy car.”

President Trump’s Surprisingly Great Poll Numbers

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: some really surprisingly good poll numbers for President Trump and the Republicans, some tough questions about one of the president’s worst hires, Democrats recoil from a familiar figure as a surrogate on the campaign trail in 2018, and an unusual collection of guests at a 2013 dinner party that deserves more scrutiny.

A ‘Wow’-Inducing New Poll on Trump’s Approval and the 2018 Generic Ballot

Wow. White House staffers must be doing cartwheels this morning:

As a scandal regarding abuse allegations against a top White House aide emerged, voters were evenly split on whether they approved of President Donald Trump’s job performance, marking the first time in nine months that his net approval wasn’t in negative territory.

According to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll, voters are split, 47 percent to 47 percent, when asked if they approve or disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president. Six percent said they did not know or had no opinion.

If you think that’s shocking, take a look at the generic ballot numbers.

When asked which party they would support if the election was held today, 39% of voters said they would vote Republican, compared to 38% who say they would vote Democrat. This represents the highest support for Republicans since early November.

Republicans have nearly pulled even with Democrats when it comes to Independents (25% — 26%) and have increased support within the Republican base (84% — 8%).

The coming weeks should bring two big indicators about the GOP’s level of confidence for 2018. First, does Congressman Kevin Cramer complete his reversal and decide to run for Senate?

A North Dakota Republican dropped his short-lived bid for U.S. Senate Tuesday in anticipation of Rep. Kevin Cramer joining the race, although the third-term congressman was mum about his intentions.

Cramer said a month ago he would seek re-election to the U.S. House instead of pursuing a challenge against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, the only Democrat elected to statewide office in North Dakota. But he said Friday he was “mildly reconsidering” his decision.

Cramer made no formal announcement regarding his intentions Tuesday but said in a text message that he’ll be back in Bismarck Friday. But former state Republican Party Chairman Gary Emineth, who announced his own Senate bid two weeks ago, dropped out Tuesday to make way for Cramer.

In 2012, Heitkamp won 161,337 votes, narrowly winning the seat as Romney won the state easily. But Cramer won the state’s lone House race with 173,585 votes.

And then in Florida, there’s the question of whether Governor Rick Scott decides to challenge incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson:

Scott ended 2017 with a 58 percent approval rating in Morning Consult’s polling, putting him in a tie for the eleventh most popular governor in America. And polls released Wednesday by the University of North Florida and Mason-Dixon Polling confirmed that Scott remains popular as he heads into the final nine months of his tenure as governor, with the UNF survey putting Scott’s approval rating at 63 percent.

Scott appears to have benefited from his performance during Hurricane Irma, when he was a highly-visible presence warning Floridians to take the storm seriously. Florida’s strong economy also benefits Scott, who has tried to position himself as the “jobs governor” and has relentlessly traveled the state in recent years to promote new job creation endeavors.

If the GOP gets its preferred high-profile candidates in those two states, and keeps Democratic incumbents nervous in West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, and maybe Ohio and Pennsylvania, then suddenly 2018 looks like a good year, at least in the Senate. 

The Predictable Disasters That Unfold from the White House’s Hiring Decisions

Last night, Piers Morgan appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News and the pair lamented how awful Omarosa Manigault Newman was, and how terrible it was that she’s reinvented herself as an outraged former Trump staffer, revealing her disputes and disappointments behind the scenes at the White House.

“I don’t know why Donald Trump would ever let her in [the White House],” Morgan lamented. “She’s a reality television star whose only reason d’etre is to be a poisonous little viper spreading gossip and innuendo and terrorizing everyone in her way.”

What exactly was Omarosa doing in the White House during Trump’s first year? And . . . why was there no one around Trump to say, “hiring Omarosa to work in the White House is a terrible idea that will only lead to more problems down the road?” Or if someone did say that to Trump, why didn’t the president-elect listen?

Her title was “assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison.” Most of her relevant public experience was on Trump’s reality shows. There’s always been ample evidence that her . . . understanding . . . of the actual presidency was limited, declaring in September 2016: ”Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.” Yeah, that’s not really one of the enumerated powers of the presidency in the Constitution, ma’am. 

Having jumped from a White House gig to . . . another reality show, she’s now appearing on camera and lamenting of Vice President Mike Pence, “I’m Christian, I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I’m like, ‘Jesus didn’t say that.’”

That’s the sort of quote that goes in a future Republican presidential primary ad . . . for Pence. Your faith mileage may vary, but Pence’s belief that Jesus guides him towards the right decisions and words is not exactly wild or outlandish in Christian circles. Surely she’s seen the bumper stickers “God is my co-pilot” and “My other boss is a Jewish carpenter.”

Politico offered new details about the murky circumstances surrounding her dismissal.

And in December, [White House Chief of Staff John Kelly] dismissed the former director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, Omarosa Manigault Newman, who had been using the White House car service — known as “CARPET” — as an office pickup and drop-off service, something strictly forbidden by the federal government, according to three administration officials.

After Kelly dismissed her, Manigault Newman tried to storm the White House residence to appeal to Trump, according to one of the officials, accidentally tripping an electronic Secret Service wire that monitors entry and egress from the residence.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Manigault Newman’s departure.

Some might argue that when you elect a reality show host as president, you’re going to get some reality show contestants working in the White House as part of the deal. But if you do that, you get a reality show dynamic: drama and backstabbing and infighting and clashing egos. And maybe you get great ratings. But you don’t do what a White House is supposed to do. White House jobs are not meant to be a stepping-stone on the road to fame. White House staffers are to be rarely seen or heard, beyond the communications staff and highest-level positions. The point is not to generate drama, but to minimize drama. A president wants the White House to be a well-oiled machine, foreseeing problems before they manifest, adeptly addressing them, staying on message, and enacting the president’s vision for governing. Does anyone feel like this has occurred much since January 20, 2017?

You can blame the staff and argue Trump is being poorly served, but in the end . . . he hired these people, or signed off on hiring them. 

Bill Clinton and the Great 1990s Reckoning

It’s the great 1990s Reckoning. In the summer of 2016, two surveys found a significant number of African-Americans had changed their mind on O.J. Simpson: “More than 50 percent of black respondents said they thought Simpson was guilty — up from about 20 percent in most polls before, during and right after the trial.” The percentage of white respondents who believed Simpson was guilty increased slightly to around 75 percent. After twenty years or so, a consensus emerged.

We may be seeing a similar phenomenon around one of the other men who symbolized the decade . . . Bill Clinton:

In a year when the party is deploying all their other big guns and trying to appeal to precisely the kind of voters Clinton has consistently won over, an array of Democrats told POLITICO they’re keeping him on the bench. They don’t want to be seen anywhere near a man with a history of harassment allegations, as guilty as their party loyalty to him makes them feel about it.

“I think it’s pretty tough,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus and one of the leading voices in Congress demanding changes in Washington’s approach to sexual harassment. His presence “just brings up a lot of issues that will be very tough for Democrats. And I think we all have to be clear about what the #MeToo movement was.”

Is this what they mean when they say, “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice”?

ADDENDA: Shouldn’t this be bigger news?

Democratic National Committee Deputy Chair Keith Ellison attended a private dinner hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, along with the head of the black nationalist group Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan.

First reported by The Wall Street Journal, Ellison, the Democratic congressman from Minnesota, also visited with Farrakhan in 2015. Ellison attended the 2013 dinner with two other members of the Congressional Black Caucus — Reps. Andre Carson, D-Ind., and Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. 

Thirteen Months In, the White House Still Has Unfilled Spots

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why personnel and staffing-up remains a problem for the Trump administration even after 13 months, Americans for Prosperity unleashes $4 million in advertising hitting Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly for not supporting tax cuts, and an important book tackling America’s “crisis of responsibility” and self-destructive love affair with the mentality of victimhood.

Happy Shrove Tuesday (also known as Mardi Gras and the eve of Lent)! Tomorrow marks Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, which is an inconvenient combination. “Happy Valentine’s Day, honey, I got you a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Too bad we’re fasting today.” If you think that’s odd, just wait 40 days, when Easter Sunday is on April Fool’s Day.

Why the Trump Administration Still Has Personnel Troubles

Yes, the security-clearance process takes a while, but . . . it’s mid-February in the second year of the Trump administration. Shouldn’t at least the folks who arrived with Trump have completed background checks by now? Today the New York Times calculates that the White House has had a 34 percent turnover rate — way higher than any previous administration, and a sign that there are probably new folks in jobs who are still awaiting their background checks to be completed.

Jared Kushner, now a senior White House adviser with a broad foreign policy portfolio that requires access to some of the intelligence community’s most closely guarded secrets, still has not succeeded in securing a permanent security clearance. The delay has left him operating on an interim status that allows him access to classified material while the F.B.I. continues working on his full background investigation . . . 

Officials with previous administrations said it is not uncommon for the full background checks to take as long as eight months or a year, in part because of a long backlog in vetting the backgrounds of people needing clearance across the federal government.

Last week, CNN reported that “30 to 40 White House officials and administration political appointees are still operating without full security clearances.” The point of the background check process is primarily to protect national security, but it also helps avoid embarrassments like the one surrounding Rob Porter and his dismissal. The president is being ill-served by this sluggish process.

If you live in Washington long enough, eventually your friends and neighbors start listing you as possible references and contacts in their security-clearance-renewal process. You get a call and some nice person from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s National Background Investigations Bureau shows up at your door, and asks you a bunch of reasonable questions (“Have you ever seen or heard any indication this person has a drinking problem?” “Anything that you think might make this person vulnerable to blackmail?”) and a few somewhat silly ones (“Have you ever seen or heard anything to suggest this person might want to overthrow the government?” “Is there any reason to think this person has loyalty to a foreign power or terrorist group?”). If you have no criminal record and no glaring red flags like gambling debts, the process should move pretty smoothly.

Most presidents come to Washington with a “kitchen cabinet,” a thick Rolodex of people interested in working for the federal government and a slew of loyal staffers who have worked in the federal government before, and who probably already went through initial background checks for previous jobs. Trump is an outsider; it’s worth remembering that of his initial close advisers — Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks — none of them had worked in any civilian government job before, never mind the federal government. In the cabinet, Rex Tillerson, Steven Mnuchin, Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, and Wilbur Ross are in their first government jobs.

There are advantages to being an outsider, but there are disadvantages as well. A traditional Republican presidency has a slew of potential high-level staffers; a government-in-waiting in conservative think tanks — the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Hudson Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, perhaps the Cato Institute — places full of policy wonks who eat, sleep, and breathe conservative ideas and policies and how to enact them. Trump has selected a few folks from those places, but there really isn’t a large, well-regarded, high profile populist think tank aiming to transform the “Trumpist” philosophy into policy. “Personnel is policy,” as they said in the Reagan administration, and this may be one more reason why Trump’s policies are turning out more traditionally conservative-libertarian than populist.

Some Trump fans might prefer the thought of successful businessmen staffing up the Trump administration, but successful businessmen generally don’t like the thought of leaving their businesses to be undersecretaries for a few years and make a government salary. There is still a  slew of high-level appointed positions still awaiting a nominee in Trump’s second year: fifty-nine positions at the State Department with no nominee (including lots of ambassadorships), seven at the Department of Defense, ten at the Department of Energy, four at Homeland Security, 16 at the Department of Justice, ten at the Department of Transportation, and 15 at the Department of the Treasury. There’s no nominee for the director of the Counterterrorism Center in the office of the DNI, and we’re short one FCC commissioner, two FEC commissioners, a White House director of drug control policy, a White House director of science and technology policy, and two governors of the Federal Reserve.

Some might argue a president shouldn’t need a small army of policy wonks to enact his agenda, but if you want to change how government operates, overcome the permanent bureaucracy, and are wary about a “deep state,” you had better get your own people in place. When the history of this administration is written, it is likely that one conclusion will be that they unnecessarily impeded themselves with their own disorganization.

Here Comes $4 Million in Ads Hitting McCaskill and Donnelly

Americans for Prosperity, part of the Koch brothers network, will launch a major ad campaign in Missouri and Indiana beginning Thursday, hitting Senators Joe Donnelly and Claire McCaskill over “broken promises on tax reform.”

AFP will spend $4 million in TV and digital ads.

“Joe Donnelly and Claire McCaskill promised tax reform for years but chose partisan politics over Indiana and Missouri families when they had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide tax relief,” AFP President Tim Phillips said in a released statement. “Americans deserve better, which is why AFP is committed to ensuring citizens see the pro-growth benefits of tax reform despite dismissals and deception from ‘no’ votes like Donnelly and McCaskill.”

The ad hitting Donnelly can be seen here; the ad hitting McCaskill can be seen here.

Tackling America’s Crisis of Responsibility

There are a lot of wise words in David Bahnsen’s new book, Crisis of Responsibility: Our Cultural Addiction to Blame and How You Can Cure It. But two of my favorite passages are this . . . 

At the heart of our responsibility crisis is an increasingly heated love affair with victimhood — we are addicted to blame. And all of us have lusted after it one way or another — conservatives and liberals, on the outside and on the inside, rural America and cosmopolitan America. We have all found different bogeymen to blame for the things that dissatisfy us, but they are bogeymen nonetheless. The Left caricaturizes financial fat cast and corporate executives while the Right demonizes journalists and politicos. Kernels of truth turn to wholesale excuses for passivity, inactivity, and apathy. All too often, our society has fixated on what has been done to us, whether real or imagined, while losing a healthy and rugged fixation on self-reliance and actualization.

And this:

Your view of yourself cannot be one of “me against the world.” Believing that your boss, spouse, customers or political leaders are all out to get you results in a life shaped by fear, not love — and certainly not joy. Might a spouse, boss, neighbor or politician actually have it in for you? It’s possible, I suppose. Yet even then, the productive response is not despair or defeatism, but courageous faithfulness. I’ve never seen someone who lives in a perpetual state of victimhood make good decisions. I’ve never seen defeatism result in anything but being defeated, or victimization create anything but a victim.

This is self-help in the best sense of the term, and a message Americans really need to hear right now.

Some sections reminded me of Tony Robbins, and I hope Bahnsen takes that as the praise it’s meant to be. I get the feeling Robbins is widely perceived as a salesman for a sort of blind happy-talk, which I don’t think is an accurate characterization at all. I haven’t shelled out for one of Robbins’ rah-rah seminars, but one of his books really shaped my thinking at a key point in my life.

Picture the winter of 2001-2002: My job stinks, my paychecks are bouncing, after 9/11 we’re all awaiting the next terror attack, anthrax was in the mail, the economy was sputtering and better jobs are scarce, and everything seemed dark and gloomy. I picked up Robbins’s Awaken the Giant Within thinking that it was naïve happy talk, but thinking I’d prefer to be naïve and happy than realistic and glum all the time.

Ironically, the book didn’t offer unrealistic happy talk and instead served up the opposite. It was ebullient but firm straight talk, which is what I needed to hear: Improving your life is your responsibility and no one else’s. No one is going to just show up and make your life better for you. You have to decide how you want to change your life to get better results, and you have to stop blaming anyone else — not bosses, not parents, not “luck” or fate or God. You have to start looking at your problems as potential opportunities and you have to refocus your perspective on how you’ve been blessed, not how you’ve been cheated, hurt, shortchanged, or denied. I finally saw my frustrating wire-service job as a remarkable opportunity in disguise if I just approached it differently, and within a month, I had a front-page story in the Boston Globe; within a year, I had my first freelance articles on National Review Online. “Seek and ye shall find.” When you look for scapegoats and excuses, you find scapegoats and excuses; when you look for opportunities, you find opportunities.

Crisis of Responsibility is the kind of book you want to leave in public places so that random strangers will pick it up and be influenced by it.

ADDENDA: David Brooks, writing in the New York Times today: “The Trump era has produced a renaissance in conservative writing. National Review is a more interesting magazine now than at any time in its history.”

I’ll take the compliment, but let’s be honest, that’s a really high bar to clear.

Is That a Little Sunshine Breaking Through the February Gloom?

by Jim Geraghty

Let’s start the week with some easily overlooked polls, all gradually moving in the right direction for Republicans. . .

In mid December, President Trump’s job approval-disapproval split was abysmal, 37.2 percent approval, 58.1 percent disapproval in the RealClearPolitics average. Now it’s 41.5 approval to 53.9 percent disapproval. (Recall Trump took office with roughly a 44-44 split and he went “underwater” almost immediately. He’s got a low ceiling and high floor.) Put another way, Trump is only four and a half points off his all-time high in that average.

The “right track”/“wrong direction” numbers are also looking better in recent weeks. In mid October, just 28.6 percent of respondents said the country was on the right track and almost 64 percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction; now 37.9 percent say the country is on the right track, 55 say wrong direction.

The Democrats’ advantage on the generic congressional ballot — a deeply flawed measure, admittedly, because we don’t have a nationwide vote to determine control of Congress — is down to 6.7 points; the Democrats enjoyed a 12.8 percent margin as 2017 ended.

Finally, two pollsters have surveyed Floridians on how they would respond to a matchup between Florida senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Rick Scott, the Republican governor whose term ends this year. Mason-Dixon put Nelson up by one, the University of North Florida put Nelson up by six. In both polls, Nelson was below 50 percent.

None of this is to say 2018 looks hunky-dory for Republicans. One GOP gubernatorial candidate put it to me that his numbers showed 90 percent of Republicans liking Trump (unsurprising) and 90 percent of Democrats hating Trump (also unsurprising) — but 70 percent of independents disliking Trump, which is a tough hurdle to overcome. But with the passage of the tax cuts, perhaps the country’s mood is starting to lift and Republicans’ enthusiasm is starting to return.

The True North of the American Media’s Coverage of the Olympics

The ludicrous coverage of North Korea’s presence at the Winter Olympics suggests that for the metaphorical compass of many of the biggest institutions in America’s mainstream media, there is a new true north (no pun intended, but now that I think about it, I should have intended it): Whoever is in opposition to the Trump administration is the hero of the story — no matter the circumstances, no matter the stakes.

John McCain, Jeff Flake, Jim Comey, LaVar Ball, the intelligence community, corporate CEOs, kneeling NFL players, the North Korean regime — no matter what you’ve done in the past, no matter how much the media collectively previously hammered you, if you’re butting heads with the Trump administration, you will get the more sympathetic angle in the news coverage of that dispute.

No foreign leader has enjoyed coverage as good as North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong since Vogue profiled Asma al-Assad, first lady of Syria, back in 2011. (That was right before Assad’s regime killed tens of thousands of people and used chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war.) A sampling:

Reuters: “North Korea has emerged as the early favorite to grab one of the Winter Olympics’ most important medals: the diplomatic gold.”

CNN: “Kim Jong Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics!”

Business Insider: “From her “side-eye” of US Vice President Mike Pence to hints at Korean unification, Kim has stolen the spotlight at the Winter Olympics.”

Washington Post: “The ‘Ivanka Trump of North Korea’ captivates people in the South at the Olympics.”

In the name of Otto Warmbier, could we avoid variations of the term “captive” in praising North Korea’s leaders during the Olympics?

The New York Times wrote, “Her quietly friendly approach while in South Korea — photographers repeatedly captured her smiling — seemed to endear her to some observers.”

If a smile is all it takes to “endear” you to a regime as brutal as North Korea’s, you are an exceptionally cheap date. Could you lower the bar a little more? As I joked Sunday, I await the headline, “Kim Jong Un’s Sister Shocks, Delights World By Not Killing Anyone During Meeting.”

And why the heck has every reporter in South Korea suddenly developed a crush on those cheerleaders?

The Associated Press: “North Korean Cheerleaders Spark Fashion Envy”

The U.K. Metro newspaper gushed, “North Korea’s 200 cheerleaders could be the best thing about the Winter Olympics.”

ABC News: “Clad in coordinated outfits of red with white and blue accents, North Korea’s throng of more than 200 cheerleaders are stealing the spotlight at the 23rd Winter Olympic Games in South Korea as they chant, sway and dance in unison.”

Give USA Today some credit for remembering some history, deep in a story:

In 2006, 21 members of a North Korean cheering squad that had traveled to South Korea for an international athletic event were sent to a prison camp for talking about what they saw in the South, the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.

It was left to BuzzfeedBuzzfeed! — to bring some sanity and perspective back to the situation:

In 2015, a South Korean report said that between 2000 and 2013, almost 1,400 North Korean citizens were publicly executed, reportedly as a means to “keep the population in line. Thousands of North Koreans were required to witness firing squad executions in public stadiums in 2013, according to a South Korean newspaper.

Some of these reporters will no doubt insist they’re not touting the charm of Kim Yo Jong and the North Koreans; they’re merely reporting on the reaction of some portion of South Korean public. The South Koreans live their daily lives in the crosshairs and no doubt have a strong cultural appetite for dreams of a peaceful reunification. Last month I wrote, “Sometimes South Korea feels like our buddy who’s still convinced he can patch things up and get back together with the crazy ex-girlfriend who tried to run him over with her car.” I suppose that if you live next door to a crazy dangerous psychopath long enough, you welcome the days the neighbor smiles instead of threatening you.

Finally, in my circles, I saw a bit of grumbling that the United States Olympic team entered the opening ceremonies by dancing to the South Korean star Psy’s 2012 hit, “Gangram Style.” Back in 2004, Psy performed a virulently anti-American song about killing U.S. soldiers and their families. In 2012, Psy apologized, declaring, “While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self, I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words. While it’s important that we express our opinions, I deeply regret the inflammatory and inappropriate language I used to do so . . . I understand the sacrifices American servicemen and women have made to protect freedom and democracy in my country and around the world.”

In some ways, this sort of seems appropriate, a testament to the power of America. We’re hard to hate for long. One year you’re denouncing the United States in the vilest terms, eight years later you’re embraced by that same country as a star, and five years after that your biggest hit is adopted as the U.S. Olympic team’s entrance anthem.

Happy Days Are Here Again?

Where do I begin in summarizing how wonderful the folks at the Leadership Program of the Rockies are? It’s a first-class organization, aiming to help those who have already dipped their toes into the waters of political activism or fighting for a good cause, and who want to become more effective in communication, outreach, networking, and enacting change. My thanks to Bob Schaffer, Shari Williams, Mark Hillman, Kelly Maher, Laura Carno, and everyone else out there who helped put together such a special event this weekend. If you’re a Coloradan interested in promoting the principles of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, you must check this organization out — presuming you haven’t already.

The speaker at the closing luncheon was the legendary economist Art Laffer, who sang the praises of the recently-passed tax cuts and contended that the United States is entering a period of remarkable economic growth. He pointed out that the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta projected that the U.S. gross domestic product will grow by 5.4 percent in the first quarter of 2018, which would be the best quarter since 2003. (In 2014, U.S. GDP growth did hit 5.2 percent.)

A booming economy would mitigate or alleviate a lot of problems in this country. Not all of them, but a lot.

ADDENDA: Spotted on my flights to and from Colorado . . . Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, getting back to his home state for the weekend. He flies coach! A citizen-justice.

As David Jones observed, when professor Robert Kelly appears on our television screens, commentating live from his home office, everyone is watching the door for surprise visitors.

Everyone Gets a Spending Boost!

by Jim Geraghty

Greetings from Colorado Springs — altitude 6,035 feet — where I’m attempting to follow the locals’ wise advice to drink water constantly. I’ve felt weird since I arrived; I spent two years in Ankara, Turkey, (altitude 3,077 feet) and I had no problems; covered the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver (5,280 feet) and I had no problems; I made another trip to Evergreen, Colo., a few years ago (7,220 feet), and had no problems . . . but for some reason, on this trip I’m getting so dehydrated I need my own personal Tennessee Valley Authority irrigation project. But things are improving slowly. I fear that when I speak to the good folks at the Leadership Program of the Rockies tomorrow, I’m going to have an endless series of “Rubio moments.”

The Trump Era Brings Its First Genuine Bipartisan Compromise

You get a spending boost! And you get a spending boost! And you get a spending boost!

I like this quote from Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com, weighing the deal that avoided any significant government shutdown:

On the one hand, a move to fund the government and suspend the debt ceiling is welcomed, avoiding further disruption or worse. With the House and Senate voting to boost spending, the nation’s debt continues to expand at an unsustainable rate. This comes after the tax cut, approved late in the economic expansion added $1.5 trillion to the debt. This spree is reminiscent of the Oprah program where she exclaims, ‘you get a car,’ providing a gift to everyone in the audience. Only in this case, the cost is being put on the proverbial federal credit card.

It’s not quite as simple as “Republicans got the defense spending they wanted, and Democrats got the domestic spending they wanted.” Notice that some Republicans are touting the domestic spending in this bill.

“While neither side got everything they wanted, this compromise provides critical funding that will go towards improving the VA, CHIP, the opioid epidemic, and infrastructure spending,” said Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican. “I look forward to now working with my colleagues on a solution for DACA, border security, and immigration policy.”

Congressional Republicans didn’t get everything they want. Congressional Democrats didn’t get everything they want. President Trump didn’t get everything he wants. That’s . . . pretty much how compromises work. Last night’s “government shutdown” amounted to the store clerk locking up and putting a “be back soon” sign on the door while he runs to the bank to get more singles for change.

When the president needed to put the best spin on the deal, he tweeted, “Just signed Bill. Our Military will now be stronger than ever before. We love and need our Military and gave them everything — and more. First time this has happened in a long time. Also means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!”

Congressman Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican, points out that the House did what it was supposed to do and did its best to avoid massive last-minute all-in-one spending bills.

“The House completed our work on time by passing 12 appropriations bills over 100 days ago. Earlier this week, the House sent our government funding bill to the Senate. The Republican majority is so narrow in the Senate, that 9 Democrats stalled the process. As a result, $300 billion dollars were added to the measure in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Now the Democrats have the nerve to say the House can’t get our work done on time and that the budget spends too much — I believe my constituents are smarter than that.”

Congressman Jim Banks, a Republican who represents Indiana’s third district, writes in NRO about the on-the-ground consequences of the sequester and trying to operate under short-term continuing resolutions.

As the most recently deployed member of Congress, having served in Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015, I have seen our readiness crisis firsthand. It has only intensified after a period of stepped-up military activity carried out while the Budget Control Act shrank defense budgets.

Fewer than half of the Navy’s aircraft can fly, owing to lapses in maintenance and a lack of spare parts. Only 50 percent of the Air Force’s combat forces are sufficiently ready for a highly contested fight. This year alone, the pilot shortage has grown from 1,500 to 2,000. In the Marine Corps, as F-35s replace legacy aircraft, increasing the flying cost per hour, readiness will be even more difficult to achieve. Special Operations Forces are trying to maintain an extraordinarily high global operations tempo, which puts them near the breaking point.

My sense is that while we can argue the merits of particular programs, weapons, and initiatives, no matter how much Americans may think they don’t need more defense spending, the world will always surprise us with some crisis where it comes in handy.

The Case for Keeping John Kelly, Even When He Makes Mistakes

What does Trump gain if he dismisses John Kelly as chief of staff?

Axios reports, “The president is mulling potential replacements, though aides doubt he has it in him to actually fire the retired general.”

The Trump administration has its own time-displacement effect, where the pace of breaking news and shocking events and new controversies makes recent events feel long ago. (The State of the Union was ten days ago.) But it’s worth remembering that Kelly took over as chief of staff on July 31, meaning he’s been on the job a bit more than six months. Reince Preibus was on the job for about six months.

If you want to replace Kelly . . . who else is out there who A) Trump respects and is willing to listen to when he disagrees; B) has the managerial and leadership skills to tackle one of the most challenging jobs in the world during the best of times; C) is capable enough to handle the unique challenges of this White House, with several key advisors like Ivanka and Jared who cannot be dismissed or shut out because they’re family; D) will mitigate, if not help, a hostile relationship with the White House press corps; and E) is willing to leave their current job for a White House gig that very well could end in six months?

People who meet all of those criteria are pretty rare.

Under Kelly, this White House seems to be leaking less. The Game of Thrones palace intrigue and staff infighting has died down some from the first year. In the end, the White House is defined by the president and his behavior and decision-making. When he’s at his best — say, the State of the Union — the White House has a good day. When he starts doing things like insisting he can talk to Mueller under oath without anything going wrong, well . . . things tend to turn out sub-optimally.

Hey, Wasn’t Carter Page Supposed to Be . . . Actually Charged with a Crime at Some Point?

Bloomberg’s Eli Lake makes another important point about how the FBI and Department of Justice have handled figures close to Trump. They have effectively tried and convicted Carter Page in the court of public opinion without the pesky trouble of an actual trial:

The disclosure of the warrant placed a cloud of suspicion over a U.S. citizen without due process. The standard for obtaining a FISA surveillance warrant is much lower than, for instance, charging an American citizen as a foreign agent. There is good reason for this. Counter-intelligence investigations are usually aimed at secretly monitoring the activities of foreign spies, not building public cases against U.S. citizens. When the details of such probes are selectively disclosed, the reputational damage is immense. Unlike someone facing charges, the subject can’t even really mount a defense.

Look, maybe Carter Page really is an agent for the Russians. Back in 2013, he wrote in a letter, “Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month.” Page has certainly offered contradictory statements at various times.

But Page hasn’t been charged with a crime.

If Page is an agent for the Russians, the right way to deal with it is in a courtroom with evidence that a jury can see, not through a series of leaks, where Page and his lawyers have no ability to cross-examine those accusing him.

ADDENDA: If you’re here in Colorado Springs for the Leadership Program of the Rockies annual retreat, I look forward to meeting you! Please forgive me if I stop mid-conversation to drink more water.

Weighing the Good and the Bad in the Spending-Caps Deal

by Jim Geraghty

Let’s start with the good news about the “spending-caps deal:”

Finally, a substantial boost to the Pentagon’s budget. Yesterday I mentioned the complaint by Defense secretary James Mattis that funding the government through continuing resolutions was eating away at the Pentagon’s ability to make long-term spending decisions. Mattis sounds genuinely pleased with this deal:

Steep increases in U.S. defense spending over the next two years — up more than 15 percent in 2018 alone, the largest boost in more than a decade and a half.

The full agreement remains to be hammered out between the House and Senate, but Defense Secretary James Mattis pronounced himself “very happy with $700 [billion] for this year, and $716 [billion] for next.”

This adds up to the biggest increase in defense spending since 2003.

The domestic spending is mostly aimed at genuine national priorities. Republicans dislike “increased domestic spending” in general, but once you see the specifics, you understand why Republican leaders signed off on it: $80 billion in disaster relief funding, $6 billion toward opioid and mental-health treatment, $4 billion to the Veterans Administration to rebuild and improve veterans hospitals and clinics, $2 billion toward research at the National Institutes of Health. These are popular programs and broadly supported national priorities.

Remember the so-called death panels? They’re gone, repealing another key and unpopular component of Obamacare. It was always a stretch to claim that Republicans had “basically repealed Obamacare” just by repealing the individual mandate. But getting rid of the individual mandate and the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board? Now we’re getting somewhere. The IPAB was created under Obamacare and given the duty to slow the growth of Medicare spending, but no board members were ever nominated. But as written under the law, IPAB would have enjoyed a lot of power over what Medicare was willing to pay for and how much, with little opportunity for Congress to overrule their decisions. This deal gets rid of IPAB for good.

Democrats have once again failed to use the threat of a government shutdown to get a DACA fix on their terms, for the second time in two months. In the eyes of the pro-amnesty lawmakers, this is a surrender. Representative Luis Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, is livid, declaring yesterday, “if Democrats join with Republicans on this deal and lift the caps, what you will have is a collusion with Donald Trump to deport Dreamers.”

It avoids a government shutdown. You know my perspective: No one ever “wins” a government shutdown. Democrats looked at polling numbers on DACA immigrants and thought Americans would support a government shutdown over them. Nope. President Trump thinks Americans will support a government shutdown over border security. Probably not. As soon as the government shuts down and Americans start seeing images of kids on a field trip finding the doors of the Smithsonian locked, they start to respond, “Those idiots, why can’t they keep the government open? A pox on both your houses.”

The bad news about the deal . . . 

This is a big spending increase, when the debt is $20 trillion and we’re starting to approach the risk of trillion-dollar-per-year deficits again. The biggest spending increase since 2009, in fact. (It is fair to remember that Donald Trump did not run as a fiscal conservative.)

We just don’t care about deficits and the debt anymore, do we?

I should point out one dollop of budgetary good news: In January, tax revenues . . . are up, about 5 percent higher than they were a year ago. Now, not all companies had implemented the payroll withholding in January, so this month and coming months may see lower revenue. But as Investor’s Business Daily put it, “Those 3 million-plus workers who are getting bonuses and raises thanks to the Trump tax cuts will end up paying more in taxes on those extra earnings, offsetting at least some of the tax cuts they will enjoy this year.”

The editors focus on the opportunity cost of this deal:

This is a bad deal. It is a bad deal because it hikes domestic spending. It is a bad deal, as well, because it may end the chance for a conservative legislative achievement in 2018.

A two-year spending deal means Republicans probably won’t go to the trouble of passing a formal budget for 2019. That would mean no chance for a so-called reconciliation process that could allow them to enact meaningful legislation with only 50 votes in the Senate. If Republicans accept this deal and then forgo the reconciliation process, they will have given up their chance to pass a law without Democratic support, and measures such as easing the Obamacare regulations that will contribute to higher premiums in the coming years or reforming welfare will stand no chance of making it through Congress. With this deal, Republicans are hurting the chance to add to their ledger of accomplishments prior to November.

A Hard Lesson about the Two Faces of Abusive People

Someone asked me recently, “how does someone like [convicted sex abuser and former USA Gymnastics team doctor] Larry Nassar happen? How did no one know what was going on?” Similarly, we hear this morning from Axios’s Jonathan Swan, “Colleagues tell me they can’t reconcile the [former White House Staff Secretary] Rob Porter they know (consummate gentleman) with the Rob Porter they’re reading about, with a police report and photos of a black eye by a former wife.”

A quick, frightening, true, and important point about abusive people: They tend to be as multifaceted as non-abusive people, meaning that they will behave “normally” in a lot of circumstances, oftentimes being charming and pleasant to those they aren’t abusing. 

Despite the popular perception and oftentimes their own self-description, abusive people are very rarely “out of control.” If they are genuinely unable to control their urges to hurt others, they generally run into insurmountable consequences quickly. An abusive person will often become a lot calmer when confronted with an authority figure they cannot abuse, such as a cop at the door. Abusive people can usually recognize the difference between the consequences of hitting a partner or spouse in public — where someone may see and confront them or call the cops — and doing so in private, and thus they keep those impulses in check in public. This is, in fact, one of the traits that can emotionally and psychologically trap the victim; the victim finds herself baffled and wondering, “He’s so nice and normal sometimes, so what am I doing that’s setting him off?

A man who hits his wife is generally not going to run around the office hitting his co-workers or hit pedestrians walking down the street. Abusive people are generally pretty good at measuring what they can get away with in a given circumstance. They want to indulge their impulses right up to the point where it generates a permanent consequence. For example, if the abuser picks up a knife and begins chasing his partner around the house pledging to stab the partner, the partner is almost always going to flee and end the relationship, and/or file a restraining order. (As Jordan Peterson notes in his new book, restraining orders usually only work on the kind of people who don’t require restraining orders.) A man who is violently angry on the first date is not going to get a second date.

The creepy guy who hangs around a playground and stares at the children is going to get reported and caught pretty quickly. The creepy guy who works his way into a position of trusted authority, and who manages to seem kind, caring, and all of those other good traits around other adults, can pursue prey at will for a long time, because accusations of abuse will seem so unthinkable to other adults.

This doesn’t mean that every nice person we encounter is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or that all accusations are true. But it does mean that being professional and pleasant in a work environment does not disprove an accusation of awful behavior in a private environment. Many people have a hard time rectifying the two, and we should have a bit of sympathy for the friends and co-workers experiencing that cognitive dissonance upon learning of a person’s private sins.

ADDENDA: Matt Cooper gives us a depressing and unsavory glimpse behind the scenes of what Newsweek became in recent years — a click-bait-chasing unprofessional mess that made egregious errors week after week and simply didn’t care.

We’re about Five Weeks Away from the Next Big Omen for the 2018 Midterms

by Jim Geraghty

The next big political race on the horizon arrives March 13, when voters in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district go to the polls to replace former Representative Tim Murphy.

Fifty-nine-year-old GOP state legislator Rick Saccone faces against Democrat Conor Lamb, a 33-year-old former federal prosecutor and Marine veteran, and Republicans are more than a little nervous and going all out: “Republicans were outspending Democrats on TV by a ratio of nearly 5-to-1. The GOP push will only intensify: The Republican National Committee is set to invest about $1 million, much of it on digital, field and other get-out-the-vote activities.

This is the southwest corner of the state, including a portion of the southern suburbs of Pittsburgh. Under the current district lines — soon to be redrawn by the state supreme court — the district scores an R+11 and Trump won by 20 points. Murphy represented the region since 2003. By most standards, this ought to be a safe seat for Republicans . . . but one poll in January put Saccone up by twelve points, while another put him up by only three points.

After the mess of Election Day 2017 in New Jersey and Virginia, the debacle in Alabama, and various other Democratic wins in special elections, Republicans are learning the hard way not to take anything for granted.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC endorsed by House Republican leadership, today released its third television ad in the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, titled, “Out Of Touch.” The ad, part of CLF’s $1.7 million buy, slams Lamb for echoing Nancy Pelosi’s arguments while arguing against the recently-passed tax cuts.

Announcer: A $2,900-dollar middle-class tax cut for our community. Now businesses are giving workers raises and bonuses and creating jobs. Yet Nancy Pelosi and Conor Lamb are still opposing your tax cut. Lamb called it a complete betrayal. And Pelosi said . . . 
Nancy Pelosi: This is Armageddon.
Announcer: Middle-class tax cuts. Bonuses? Pay raises?
Pelosi: Crumbs. So pathetic.
Announcer: Pelosi and Lamb . . . Too out of touch. Too many taxes.

In early January, CLF opened two field offices in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district with 50 full-time door knockers, aiming to make 250,000 voter contacts in door-to-door efforts by Election Day in March.

Because we tend to over-interpret special elections, by Saint Patrick’s Day, a lot of pundits will cite this race and insist that the GOP tax cut is either a magic shield that will protect their majority or a political loser that can’t even save Republican candidates in once heavily pro-Trump districts. The stakes aren’t quite that high, but a Lamb victory, with the GOP going all-out, would indeed be a serious rattle in the engine heading into 2018.

Literal Marching Orders

Are you ready for a . . . different kind of parade later this year in Washington?

President Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s armed forces.

Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top-secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning.

Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.

Shows of military strength are not typical in the United States — and they don’t come cheap. The cost of shipping Abrams tanks and high-tech hardware to Washington could run in the millions, and military officials said it was unclear how they would pay for it.

A White House official familiar with the planning described the discussions as “brainstorming” and said nothing was settled. “Right now, there’s really no meat on the bones,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

David French: “In the more than 16 years since 9/11 our military has 1) Toppled the Taliban. 2) Toppled Saddam. 3) Defeated the follow-on AQI insurgency. 4) Defeated the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria. 5) Endured years of grinding deployments while fighting with honor. I’m fine with a parade.”

The politics of this are pretty sharp; by proposing the idea, Trump ensures some of his critics will instinctively publicly oppose the idea. The historically ignorant will insist it’s unprecedented — apparently 1991 is long forgotten ancient history — and some paranoid types will insist the sight of American soldiers marching down American streets is too reminiscent of a military dictatorship, even though occupying forces usually don’t wave and smile as ticker-tape runs down. (Does this country even make ticker-tape any more? I figure in 1991 they had a steady supply of long strands of dot-matrix printer paper edges with holes in them. Right now half my readership is thinking, “oh, I remember tearing those off!” and the other half is asking, “what is Jim babbling about?”) You can see the Fox News chyrons now: LIBERALS OPPOSE PARADE FOR MILITARY. Some of Trump’s more idiotic critics may very well protest the parade.

The Post article above notes that the parade could occur this November 11, to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and that does seem like an occasion worth marking on a grand scale – and an anniversary worth considering, as we contemplate coming years with potential conflict among great powers and the modern use of poison and gas as weapons of war.

Having said all that, I just . . . feel like we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

I’m sure our men and women in uniform appreciate applause and cheers, but they probably could use a raise, better benefits, and all the equipment, spare parts, and training they can get. As we speak, the House and Senate are still hammering out a deal to keep the government open and hopefully give defense spending a boost.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis was characteristically blunt: “It is not lost on me that as I testify before you this morning, we are again on the verge of a government shutdown or, at best, another damaging continuing resolution. I regret that without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time, because no strategy can survive without the funding necessary to resource it.”

Mattis said the Pentagon was seeking new investment in “space and cyber, nuclear deterrent forces, missile defense, advanced autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, and professional military education to provide our high-quality troops what they need to win.” That is not small, quick, or cheap.

All of this is occurring while the U.S. Treasury Department announced they expect to borrow close to $1 trillion this fiscal year and more than $1 trillion in the next two years. Some folks will instinctively blame the recently passed tax cuts, but the amount of money coming in through taxes has consistently hit new records in past years, even adjusted for inflation. For example, from October to December, the U.S. government took in $769 billion, the highest in any three-month span in history. That still left the federal government with a deficit of approximately $225 billion.

A Dastardly NFL Betrayal That Belongs in Game of Thrones

Oof. My sympathies to the Kevoians, Tony Katz, and all Morning Jolt readers who are fans of the Indianapolis Colts, as their team is suddenly abandoned by the man they expected to become their next head coach, three weeks after an agreement was reached. Sometimes the National Football League is just . . . Shakespearean.

Josh McDaniels just ditched the Indianapolis Colts at the altar.

Five weeks after the end of the regular season and six days into the month of February, the Colts find themselves in unprecedented NFL territory: Spurned by the man they’d announced just hours earlier would become their next head coach.

So much for Wednesday’s introductory news conference.

So much for marrying McDaniels’ offensive mind with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck.

So much for the contract agreement the Colts had come to with New England’s longtime offensive coordinator.

In a stunning move Tuesday night, McDaniels informed the Colts he has decided not to become head coach, instead choosing to remain with the Patriots, a league source confirmed.

Even more awkwardly, three assistant coaches already signed with the Colts with the expectation that they would be working under McDaniels. Whoops.

Indianapolis Star columnist Greg Doyel probably has the right attitude:

As for the Colts, they have a second chance to get this right, and how many times can you rectify a grievous error before the error does actual damage? In the long run, the franchise will be better with someone else, anyone else, as head coach. That’s not easy to see right now, I know it, but if McDaniels can be this destructive, this selfish, this fraudulent in three weeks as de facto head coach of the Colts, imagine how much damage he would have done here in three years.

As many in the sports world are speculating, this is almost certainly a sign that Josh McDaniels expects to be the next head coach of the New England Patriots when Bill Belichick retires, and probably a sign that Belichick’s retirement is coming sooner rather than later. Most of the New England fan base is still wondering why Belichick benched cornerback Malcolm Butler for the biggest game of the season, with little to no warning. Butler had no injury and had played almost 98 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps this year. He contends that the post-game rumors are false and that he did not miss curfew or otherwise behave in any manner detrimental to the team.

The discipline issue would at least explain the decision a little. Imagine you’re Belichick. You’re 65 and you have five Super Bowl rings as a head coach and two as a defensive coordinator. You’ve built and maintained “the Patriot Way.” You’ve instilled a sense of consummate professionalism, discipline, attention to detail, and unsentimental replacement of players once their skills are on the decline. “Do your job.” Everyone around you from Tom Brady to the ball boy knows exactly what their duties are. (COUGHdeflationCOUGH) If you’re not the most respected man in professional football, you probably ought to be.

If after all that, key players are still behaving recklessly in the days before the Super Bowl . . . maybe you start to think you’ve had enough of the job.

ADDENDA: Congratulations to Elon Musk and Space X for creating the album cover for every “Greatest Hits” collection of every 80s band.

“Orbital Commute” would make a good band name.

Small Anecdotes about Illegal Immigration Can Have a Big Impact

by Jim Geraghty

The NFL linebacker you have probably never heard of is likely to become the new Kate Steinle – an innocent victim of an illegal immigrant who violated U.S. laws time and time again, with minimal consequence:

The man suspected of driving drunk and fatally striking an Indianapolis Colts player and his Uber driver early Sunday had twice been deported and was in the country illegally, police confirmed Monday. 

Police say Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37, had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit when he hit and killed Edwin Jackson, a 26-year-old Colts linebacker, and 54-year-old Jeffrey Monroe, Jackson’s Uber driver, around 4 a.m. Sunday.  

Orrego-Savala is from Guatemala, according to Indiana State Police. He was first deported in 2007 and again in 2009 following arrests in San Francisco, according to a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE officials say Orrego-Savala has a prior conviction in California for driving under the influence.

Unsurprisingly, there are now voices lamenting that Jackson’s death should not be “politicized.” This inevitable discussion is not politicizing what occurred; it is vividly illustrating the consequences of when a governments decides, without much public debate, that certain laws like entering the country illegally may be violated without much consequence. Yes, some people enter the country illegally as adorable moppets and grow up to be high school valedictorians. But some people who enter the country illegally end up becoming drunk drivers. When you’re convicted of a DUI and then deported, we must have an ability to ensure those people will not come back.

Don’t Panic, Investors!

I guess yesterday morning was a good time to warn you about a stock market correction, huh?

You’re an educated audience, so you probably know this already, but one-day or even two-day drops shouldn’t generate a panic. If you look at charts of the stock markets over most periods of time, you see a jagged line gradually going up. The good news is that the markets overall — if not particular stocks — usually go up over time and generally represent a sound long-term investment. (Look, I’m neither a financial advisor nor a financial columnist, so may the buyer beware.) But those jagged lines mean that there are days the market will decline, sometimes steeply.

An important, and perhaps under-remarked, milestone from January 18: “the Dow has spiked more than 7,000 points, or about 40 percent, since President Trump’s election.”

Now, ask yourself: are shares of the stock of the companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average — companies like Apple, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Disney, IBM, Nike and Visa  – really 40 percent more valuable than they were fifteen months ago? No doubt they’re more valuable by some percentage. The growing economy and wages mean that the outlook for sales is good. The corporate tax cuts mean that the companies will be keeping more of their profits, and dividends to stockholders should be higher. The companies have less fear that Washington will suddenly impose some new regulation that will be costly, complicated, or divert resources. The outlook for most or all of these companies is bright.

But is it 40 percent brighter? Probably not quite that high. In January, the Dow Jones rose 1,000 points in five days, by far the fastest 1,000-point rise on record. A rise that far, that fast, probably reflects what Alan Greenspan used to call “irrational exuberance.”

From the Associated Press:

For now, the economy remains on firm footing, even with the prospect of somewhat higher inflation. The inflation concerns escalated after Friday’s monthly U.S. jobs report showed that average wages surged 2.9 percent in January from 12 months earlier — the sharpest year-over-year gain since the recession.

“What we’re seeing right now is an economy overall that is doing quite well and has strong fundamentals,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “The economy remains on track to expand at a fairly solid pace, and along with that comes inflation.”

An All-Too-Easily Forgotten Veterans Scandal in Wisconsin Resurfaces

Concerned Veterans for America is launching an advertising campaign reminding Wisconsinites about Senator Tammy Baldwin’s failure to address an opioid over-prescription scandal at the Tomah Veterans Administration Medical Center in 2015.

The story faded from the headlines, but represented the sort of scandal a senator dreads:

Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s office received an inspection report last summer detailing high amounts of opiates prescribed at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, but there is no indication her office took action on the findings until last week, when she called for an investigation after a news report revealed a veteran died from an overdose at the facility.

The report by the VA inspector general, a copy of which was obtained by USA TODAY, noted that two practitioners at the center were among the highest prescribers of opiates in a multistate region — at “considerable variance” compared with most opioid prescribers. That, the report said, raised “potentially serious concerns.”

A whistleblower who learned in November that Baldwin had had a copy for months and hadn’t acted, repeatedly emailed her office asking that she do something to help the veterans at the center, according to copies of the emails obtained by USA TODAY.

In them the whistleblower — former Tomah VA employee Ryan Honl — asked that Baldwin call for an investigation, that she push colleagues on the Veterans Affairs committee to take action, and that she help bring the issues in the report to public attention. The report had not been made public, but Baldwin’s office received a copy in August.

Honl, a Gulf War vet and West Point graduate who left the Tomah facility in October, said in an interview Monday he believes Baldwin’s inaction after receiving the report is a “travesty.”

If that sounds indefensible . . . well, it is:

Sen. Tammy Baldwin said Friday she is disciplining her chief of staff and two other aides for failing to take appropriate action on complaints about improper care of veterans at the Veterans Affairs’ medical center in Tomah where a veteran died in August.

In an interview Friday, the Madison Democrat said that at every level, her office made mistakes in handling an inspection report, which found “serious concerns” about “unusually high” opiate-prescription rates in Tomah. She said subsequent pleas from a whistleblower also were mishandled.

As a result, Baldwin said, she is fining her chief of staff, demoting the director of her Wisconsin offices, reassigning a veterans’-outreach staffer and looking for a new aide in Milwaukee.

“Mistakes were made, and I’m taking the action that I need to assure the people of Wisconsin that we are not going to make these mistakes again, and I’ll renew my reputation for excellent casework,” she told USA TODAY.

Concerned Veterans for America is backing the Veterans Community Care and Access Act, a bill introduced by Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and John McCain of Arizona, which would expand veterans’ opportunities to seek out care from private hospitals. The legislation is also supported by the American Legion and AMVETS, and the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee is expected to consider the legislation tomorrow.

One of the provisions of the bill would make the VA responsible for coordinating the prescription of opioids, which would be directed to VA pharmacies for dispensing, except in the case of a prior authorization or when the provider determines there is an immediate medical need for the prescription.

“We plan to make veterans health care a major issue this year as part of our long-term campaign to reform the way the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) delivers care to our veterans,” said CVA Executive Director Dan Caldwell. “Part of this effort includes highlighting when elected officials like Senator Tammy Baldwin fail to ensure that the veterans they represent are being properly served by the VA. Senator Baldwin put Wisconsin veterans in danger when she failed to act on reports of serious misconduct at the Tomah VA. In order to ensure that veterans in Wisconsin aren’t trapped in failing VA hospitals like the one in Tomah, Senator Baldwin needs to step up and support legislation that offers real health choice for veterans at the VA.”

Concerned Veterans for America is one of the groups that is part of the Koch Seminar Network, and Baldwin is one of the group’s top targets in the 2018 cycle.

Reexamining the Costs of the Iran Deal

In Slate, Joshua Keating reevaluates the Iran Deal that he once supported:

While the Obama administration kept its public expectations low, the president also suggested it was possible the deal might impact Iranian domestic politics by empowering moderates within the ruling regime. After all, moderate President Hassan Rouhani was elected on the premise that through improved relations with the West, he could deliver economic growth to Iran. Rouhani got his nuclear deal and won re-election last year, but it’s hard to say that his faction has been “empowered” beyond that. In the months following the deal, the conservative hard-liners who had opposed it stepped up arrests of political opponents in what was seen as a bid to re-establish their position. Human Rights Watch noted that “Iranian dual nationals and citizens returning from abroad were at particular risk of arrest by intelligence authorities, accused of being ‘Western agents.’ “Iran led the world in executions per capita in 2016 and global democracy monitor Freedom House stated last year that there was no indication that Rouhani’s moderates were “willing or able to push back against repressive forces and deliver the greater social freedoms he had promised.”

The protests that swept the country in January, sparked by economic grievances, suggest that most Iranians have not benefited from the lifting of sanctions, and the thousands of arrests and dozens killed in those protests certainly don’t indicate that Iranian security forces have become any more tolerant of dissent. The more recent acts of defiance by women protesting the country’s mandatory hijab rules may be another sign that Iranians are tired of waiting for the regime to reform at its own pace-and that the deal did not motivate the change they so desperately desire . . . 

Many critics, including former members of his administration, have charged that Obama’s reluctance to intervene to a greater extent in Syria was motivated in part by the desire to achieve the nuclear agreement with Bashar al-Assad’s patron, Iran. In the new documentary, The Final Year, which follows Obama’s foreign policy team throughout 2016, adviser Ben Rhodes essentially legitimizes this claim by defending Obama’s hands-off policy in part by saying that if the U.S. had intervened more forcefully in Syria, it would have dominated Obama’s second term and the JCPOA would have been impossible to achieve. Rhodes may be right, but it’s less and less clear as time goes on that this was the right trade-off. Looking at the devastating consequences of the Syrian war, not just for that country but for the region and the world, it’s hard not to argue that Obama should have made Syria his main and overwhelming foreign policy focus, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, Iran deal be damned.

It appears no one has a reliable, recent number of the death toll in Syria; estimates range from 320,000 to 470,000, and even that high number comes from February 2016. (Official estimates of Iraq War casualties range from 110,000 to 460,000.) U.S. military intervention can generate hundreds of thousands of casualties . . . just like what happens when the U.S. military stands on the sidelines.

ADDENDUM: When President Trump, seemingly in jest, suggests that Congressional Democrats committed “treason” by not applauding during his State of the Union speech . . . if the president doesn’t pay much attention to what he says, or seems to not know or care the meanings of the words he uses . . . why should we?

The Eagles Win Their First Super Bowl

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Philadelphia Eagles get their long-sought Lombardi Trophy, and some Philadelphians get their long-sought excuse to smash things; a few ominous signs in the stock markets that will probably be exploited by the president’s critics; California Democrats lurch to the left and tout a wildly unworkable proposal; and where I’ll be next weekend.

A Great Night for Eagles Fans, a Rough Night for Philadelphia Insurance Companies

That’s great, Philadelphia. You deserve all of this joy after so many years of disappointment.

And a lot of the city is still standing after last night. Just not quite all of it.

Philadelphia is cleaning up after its late-night street celebrations, where some overzealous fans smashed windows, climbed traffic lights and trashed some convenience stores.

Rowdy fans clambered atop the awning at the swanky Ritz Carlton Hotel on Broad Street near City Hall, jumping off into the crowd in what one Twitter post calls “Ritz Carlton Skydiving.” The awning could be seen collapsing later with a large group of people on top of it. It’s not clear if anyone was injured. Nearby, windows were smashed at a Macy’s department store.

And apparently no amount of grease in the world can keep some Eagles fans from climbing poles in celebration. A few managed to shimmy up traffic lights and street sign poles on Broad Street. And after 1 a.m., the only people allowed inside the Wawa convenience store were police officers.

An observation: No one is ever so overcome by euphoria and the joy of victory that they turn their own car upside down — suggesting that there’s a little more self-control at work than the hooligans would claim.

Could Investors Have a Bumpy Ride Even as the Economy Grows?

Investors have enjoyed a really, really, really good run in the stock market for the past year or so. No bull market lasts forever, and every good run ends with something of a “correction” as stock prices get back in line with their earnings ratio.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the “correction”? Apparently the Dow futures are down nearly 300 points this morning. Friday brought a good jobs report, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average still dropped 666 points. (The market of the devil!)

A week ago:

Goldman Sachs believes “correction signals are flashing” and is advising its clients to prepare for a correction in the coming months as investors pour cash into the stock market.

“Whatever the trigger, a correction of some kind seems a high probability in the coming months,” Peter Oppenheimer, chief global equity strategist at Goldman Sachs, wrote Monday. “Our Goldman Sachs Bull/Bear Market Indicator is at elevated levels, although the continuation of low core inflation and easy monetary policy suggests that a correction is more likely than a bear market.”

The S&P 500 has entered the longest period since 1929 without a correction of more than 5 percent, the strategist explained. And while bear markets risks are “low,” Oppenheimer wouldn’t be surprised to see a market re-rating in the next few months.

“Drawdowns within bull markets of 10 percent or more are not uncommon,” Oppenheimer added. “The average bull market ‘correction’ is 13 percent over four months and takes just four months to recover.”

This is why the president ought to be a little careful when touting the boom in the stock markets in his first year. The correction shouldn’t give back anything close to the 31 percent it gained in Trump’s first year. But we may see a decline in the coming weeks or months, and the president’s foes in the media will probably eagerly label it a sign of the “Trump Depression.”

California’s Future Looks Depressingly Clear

If we thought California was liberal before, apparently we haven’t seen anything yet.

[Winning a Democratic primary] means staking out the most liberal stance on issues such as single-payer health care in California, a highly expensive initiative that failed in the legislature last year. The push is in response to the uncertainty surrounding health-care revisions in Washington, but it is estimated to cost twice the state’s annual budget.

Candidates will be forced to defend California’s “sanctuary state” status on immigration and push investment in the solar power and electric car industries to reach strict environmental goals. They also will have to address a sexual harassment scandal that, in Democratic consultant Bill Carrick’s description, “hangs like a black cloud” over a State Capitol where two Democratic lawmakers have resigned and another has been suspended.

The single-payer health plan is likely to strike you as the most unrealistic plan and predictable failure imaginable.

California is undertaking an ambitious bid to establish a single-payer health care system, and now its plan has a price tag: $400 billion a year.

The state legislature has been debating a plan this year to implement a government insurance program to cover all Californians, including those without legal status.

It’s a very generous proposal, as currently conceived. The state would pay for almost all of its residents’ medical expenses — inpatient, outpatient, emergency services, dental, vision, mental health, and nursing home care — under the plan, and Californians would not have any premiums, copays, or deductibles. Those sweeping benefits drive up costs.

Think about it, if this goes into effect, if someone comes into the country illegally, the state of California will pay every penny of the bill for all of that person’s health care. I’m half-tempted to let them try it just for the “teachable moment.” The odds are good that the $400 billion estimate is low because it’s not accounting for the population shifts that would follow enactment of such a law; California would instantly become the destination of choice for everyone with health problems in the entire world.

The state already has a “severe” doctor shortage. Researchers recommend at least 60 doctors for every 100,000 people; only two of nine regions in the state meet that threshold. The Inland Empire has just 39 doctors for every 100,000 people. How many more people will head to doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals when the state is picking up the tab?

You know why California is dysfunctional? Because anyone who tells Democratic primary voters “we can’t afford it” or “this is unworkable” will lose the primary and thus lose the election.

In other news, Dianne Feinstein, who’s seemed a little confused lately, is seeking a fifth full term at age 84.

ADDENDUM: If you’re heading to the Leadership Program of the Rockies in Colorado Spring this coming weekend, I hope to see you there.

A Groundhog Day Miracle: Trump’s Stellar State of the Union Numbers

by Jim Geraghty

Happy Groundhog Day! Or, as New York mayor De Blasio calls today, DAWN OF VENGEANCE. Allegedly he is skipping today’s ritual murder festivities, but we know that after-hours, when everyone has gone home, De Blasio will stalk the night, striking fear in the heart of every groundhog.

Look What Dr. Jekyll Can Do When Mr. Hyde Takes the Night Off!

Yes, Trump critics and skeptics are much less likely to want to sit through watching the State of the Union, so the audience is somewhat self-selecting. But the public assessment of Trump’s Tuesday night address is gangbusters:

A combined 62 percent of speech-watchers called Trump’s performance “excellent” or “good,” with 17 percent saying Trump did only a fair job, and another 20 percent calling the speech “poor.”

The sample consists of Americans aged 18 or older who said they watched the speech, either live or after it happened. It does not include people who said they watched or listened to news reports about the speech, or who didn’t see or hear anything about the speech at all.

One reason Trump’s numbers were so strong: The party-ID breakdown of the sample of speech-watchers was significantly more Republican than the overall electorate — 43 percent of poll respondents said they are Republicans, 29 percent are Democrats and 28 percent are independents.

When a president whose approval rating is in the low 40s steps out into the spotlight and delivers an address that leaves 62 percent applauding, we should sit up and take notice. He doesn’t have to be this unpopular. He’s got a good speechwriting team, he delivers his remarks well, and he’s got a compelling story to tell and a strong argument to make. I’d like to think that someone close to the president could remind him of the popularity of Disciplined, Policy-Focused Trump, and how much more political leverage his Dr. Jekyll persona has compared to his Mr. Hyde one.

Why Democrats Won’t Seriously Consider Trump’s Immigration Deal Offer

I realize it’s probably Memo Day, but let’s look ahead to where the immigration debate will be in the coming weeks. Funding for the government runs out on February 8; lawmakers are trying to put together another funding extension bill to keep things going through March 23.

In the New York Times, Thomas Edsall angers readers by declaring, “Trump has Democrats right where he wants them.”

The Trump proposal — which a lot of immigration restrictionists such as Mark Krikorian don’t like — offers a path to citizenship not just to the 690,000 registered Dreamers, but to 1.8 million who did not register for the program but are still eligible. That is a huge priority for the Democratic party.

In exchange, Trump wants $25 billion for the border wall, to shift priorities from family reunification to a skills-based merit system and limit family reunification to spouses and minor children, and to end the Diversity Immigrant Visa program. Needless to say, to most Democrats, those changes represent three enormous concessions to get that one huge priority enacted. Univision anchor Jorge Ramos spells out the perspective of many on the left quite explicitly: “Yes, the fight starts with the Dreamers but the goal is to legalize their parents, their siblings and the majority of the 11M undocumented immigrants. This is the REAL immigration reform (not what Trump and the GOP are proposing).” In short, citizenship for all 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States is the ultimate goal, and anything short of that does not meet their criteria of “real immigration reform.”

Daniel Drezner writes that “liberals have excellent reasons to reject any bargain with [Trump immigration-policy adviser Stephen] Miller on both policy and principled grounds.”

If Democrats want to reject the Trump proposal, that’s their right. But rejecting Trump’s offer, and/or not making a serious counter-offer, means that in the meantime, some of the Dreamers will get deported, as well as other illegal immigrants.

Among those four policies — 1.6 million Dreamers, no border wall, extended-family reunification status quo, the Diversity Immigrant Visa program status quo — Democrats have to prioritize. If they refuse to make a deal, they get the last three, but they don’t get the first one.

Democrats may believe they’ll have more leverage in ten months or so after the midterm elections. In other words, Democrats believe that time is on their side.

But no matter how the midterm elections shake out, Trump controls immigration enforcement for the next three years. Attempted border crossings are down, and arrests and deportations are up. Trump believes that time is on his side.

Yes, the pro-amnesty portion of the electorate will be enraged at the Trump administration. But the pro-amnesty portion of the electorate was enraged at Donald Trump on Election Day 2016, too. The pro-amnesty portion of the electorate might get irked with Democrats as DACA deportations continue. And the pro-amnesty portion of the electorate might get louder and sound more like Ramos, allowing Republicans to turn the 2018 midterms into a national referendum on amnesty. That would make life much more difficult for all of those red-state Senate Democrats up for reelection and all of those Democrats hoping to win swing House districts.

If Democrats were wiser, they might pocket the 1.6 million Dreamers, throw some money for the wall (knowing it will take forever to build and that they can run ads against Trump for breaking his promise to have Mexico pay for the wall), agree to some sort of cap on extended family reunification, and, say, cut the Diversity Immigrant Visa program by some percentage. Then they can run on “we saved the Dreamers, now let’s save the American dream” in 2018. Any concessions they make now can be reversed when there’s a Democratic president and Congress, and they can tell their voters that with enough effort, that can happen in January 2021.

But I’m not sure that rank-and-file grassroots Democrats really accept that they lost the election, and the minority party doesn’t have that much leverage in situations like this. Yes, Chuck Schumer could try to shut down the government again, but that’s punishing a Democratic constituency that votes (federal workers) for a Democratic constituency that legally cannot vote (Dreamers and other illegal immigrants). Trump and the Republicans would love to campaign on the theme, “the Democrats care more about illegal immigrants than they care about you.”

Democrats are really convinced the midterm electorate is going to empower them come January 2019 . . . as convinced as they were that Hillary Clinton would be taking the oath of office on January 20, 2017. We will see.

The Inadvertently Libertarian Trump Administration

On the home page today, I have one last point on the Koch network winter meeting: Don’t let the “the Kochs are jumping on the Trump train” headlines fool you. There’s still a giant personal and philosophical gap between the Koch brothers and the president. It’s just that the policy results of the administration and this Republican Congress have been a lot of what the Kochs like and not so much of what they don’t like, so they’re willing to put in a lot of effort to keep things that way.

ADDENDA: Our Andy McCarthy on the Mark Corallo–Hope Hicks meeting:

Like so much of what we’ve seen in the collusion/obstruction investigations, this episode makes one wince. The president and his subordinates decided to try to mislead experienced reporters. They did so after apparently deliberating for hours over what to say, under circumstances in which (a) it was nigh certain that the truth would come out and (b) Trump did not consult with his own lawyers before the statement was issued. It is an embarrassing display of poor character and ineptitude. Congress, however, has yet to make criminal stupidity a crime.

Heading into the weekend, I’d love to believe that the Philadelphia Eagles can provide us with a Rocky-esque underdog story and spare us another offseason of gloating New England Patriots fans. Alas, I do not foresee it happening. Last Super Bowl I rooted for the Patriots and you saw what happened; by halftime, I was convinced I had genuinely developed power over time and space and could tank anyone just by rooting for them. Just how good are Belichick and company? Good enough to overcome that!

Hopefully the commercials will be good.

Some Real ‘Bombshell News’ in the Mueller Investigation

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile today: Finally, a source I trust in the Mueller investigation, good news for a lot of Republican governors, why Trey Gowdy chose to retire, and Michael Wolff wears out his welcome.

The Days of the Triumph of Hope Over Experience May Be Coming to an End

Now the Mueller investigation is really getting dangerous for the Trump administration, and perhaps key adviser Hope Hicks in particular.

The latest witness to be called for an interview about the episode was Mark Corallo, who served as a spokesman for Mr. Trump’s legal team before resigning in July. Mr. Corallo received an interview request last week from the special counsel and has agreed to the interview, according to three people with knowledge of the request.

Mr. Corallo is planning to tell Mr. Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with Mr. Trump and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, according to the three people. Mr. Corallo planned to tell investigators that Ms. Hicks said during the call that emails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting — in which the younger Mr. Trump said he was eager to receive political dirt about Mrs. Clinton from the Russians — “will never get out.” That left Mr. Corallo with concerns that Ms. Hicks could be contemplating obstructing justice, the people said.

In a statement on Wednesday, a lawyer for Ms. Hicks strongly denied Mr. Corallo’s allegations.

“As most reporters know, it’s not my practice to comment in response to questions from the media. But this warrants a response,” said the lawyer, Robert P. Trout. “She never said that. And the idea that Hope Hicks ever suggested that emails or other documents would be concealed or destroyed is completely false.”

I’ve chatted with Corallo on and off since the days of the Fred Thompson campaign in 2008. He’s a straight shooter, an indisputable conservative, and it’s worth noting that throughout 2016, as I was looking at the Trump campaign and seeing a circus that couldn’t organize a two-car motorcade, Corallo was sending me good-natured notes saying, “Yes, but you know Trump’s going to win, right?”

In other words, Mark Corallo is a pro’s pro who went to work for the Trump legal team completely on board and who wanted to help the president . . . well, make America great again. When he left after two months with some reports that he was troubled by what he was seeing . . . that was a deeply ominous sign.

If Corallo ends up offering sort of critical testimony, this is not because he’s a Judas or because he’s part of the establishment or some sort of “Deep State” sellout. It’s because he saw stuff that genuinely struck him as either illegal or unethical or both and he’s not the kind of person who’s willing to lie under oath about it.

Guess Which Governors Begin 2018 With a Nice, Shiny Approval Rating?

Once again, the ten most popular governors in America are all Republicans; congratulations to Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan of Maryland, Kay Ivey of Alabama, Phil Scott of Vermont, Matt Mead of Wyoming, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Gary Herbert of Utah, Asa Hutchison of Arkansas, Greg Abbott of Texas, and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota.

Baker, Hogan, Ivey, Scott, Hutchison, and Abbott are up for reelection this year, and right now the outlook is sunny and bright for all of them. I would note that none of the above names are really “celebrity” governors or well-known outside their states; they’re workhorses, not show horses, who are focusing on . . . well, governing. What a concept!

The outlook is cloudier for the least popular governors in America. Chris Christie is at the bottom, although he’s already out of office. Dan Malloy of Connecticut announced last year he’s not seeking another term. Sam Brownback of Kansas is about to become the U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma is term-limited, as is

Suzana Martinez, once one of the brightest rising stars in the GOP.

Bill Walker, an independent governor of Alaska, looks vulnerable heading into a reelection year; he’s at just 29 percent approval, 55 percent disapproval.

The outlook isn’t much better for GOP governor Bruce Rauner in Illinois, with a 31 percent approval, and 55 percent disapproval.

Paul LePage of Maine and Rick Snyder of Michigan are underwater, but both are term-limited as well.

Finally, Scott Walker clocks in with 43 percent approval, 50 percent disapproval. Yes, we’ve seen Democrats write Walker’s political obituary time and time again, but there’s probably good reasons for Wisconsin Republicans to take the 2018 political environment seriously.

Other bits of good news for the GOP:

In Florida, Senator Rick Scott is term-limited, and Republicans seriously hope he runs against incumbent Democrat governor Bill Nelson. His approval rating is 58 percent, his disapproval just 31 percent. Nice strong numbers for another statewide race, if Scott wants it. Sometimes he sounds like he really does.

In West Virginia, changing parties is working out well for Jim Justice. “Forty-seven percent of registered voters in West Virginia approved of Justice’s job performance during the final three months of the year, while 39 percent disapproved.”

In Arizona, Doug Ducey’s numbers look . . . okay. Not great, but okay: 42 percent approval, 36 percent disapproval.

Trey Gowdy Is Burned Out

A long while back, I heard a rumor that two members of South Carolina’s congressional delegation would not be there for very long — that Mick Mulvaney was being considered for a job in the administration and that Trey Gowdy was being considered for some judgeship. In February 2017, Mulvaney became director of the Office of Management and Budget, but Gowdy remained where he was in Congress.

This morning in Politico, we learned that Gowdy was indeed offered a federal judgeship recently, a pretty impressive one it sounds like, and he turned it down.

White House counsel Don McGahn in recent weeks broached Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, about filling a slot on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals — a newly vacated judgeship that Gowdy has eyed before, according to sources close to Gowdy. His fellow Palmetto State Republicans, Scott and Sen. Lindsey Graham, also urged him to accept the post.

But Gowdy, who’s long complained about the increasingly toxic nature of politics, turned down the position, the sources said.

That’s pretty burned out!

If you’re a fan of Gowdy, the good news is that his retirement statement declared, “This is the right time for me to leave politics and return to the justice system. Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system.” Perhaps he is planning a return to a courtroom in a judicial role after recharging his batteries.

Separately, it’s fascinating how South Carolina consistently “punches above its weight” in Congress. Back in 2011, the state’s delegation to the House included Tim Scott (now a senator), Joe Wilson (now assistant Republican whip), Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy (eventually chairman of the Special Committee on Benghazi and Committee on Oversight and Government Reform), Mick Mulvaney (now OMB director) and the lone Democrat, James Clyburn (House Assistant Minority Leader).

Back in 1999, the House delegation included one future governor (Mark Sanford) and two future senators (Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint).

ADDENDA: Michael Wolff, whose book Fire and Fury might be better moved to the fiction section, has apparently worn out his welcome on Morning Joe. This morning, Mika Brzezinski abruptly cut off an interview segment when Wolff implausibly claimed he had never accused Nikki Haley of having an affair with Trump.

“You might be having a fun time playing a little game dancing around this, but you’re slurring a woman, it’s disgraceful,” Brzezinski said.

The Economy Is Humming Along Nicely

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: Good news on both job creation and wages, why Congressman Joseph Kennedy III brings too much family baggage to the cultural moment, good reviews for the president’s speech, and a universally-familiar look of confusion.

Can You Stand Some More Good Economic News?

Take your pick, do you prefer good news about job creation . . . 

The new year got off to a strong start for job creation, with businesses adding 234,000 [jobs] in January, according to a report Wednesday from ADP and Moody’s Analytics.

Economists surveyed by Reuters had been looking for private payrolls to grow by 185,000.

Job creation was concentrated largely in service-related industries, which contributed 212,000 to the total.

However, within that sector some of the better-paying industries showed solid gains: Trade, transportation, and utilities led with 51,000, education and health services added 47,000 and professional and businesses services contributed 46,000. Leisure and hospitality services also grew by 46,000.

Or good news about wages?

U.S. workers’ wages and benefits grew 2.6 percent last year, the fastest 12-month pace since the spring of 2015.

The 12-month gain in wages and benefits came despite a slight slowdown at the end of last year with wages and benefits rising 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter, a tiny dip from a 0.7 percent gain in the third quarter. Still, the 12-month gain was an improvement from a 2.2 percent gain for the 12 months ending in December 2016.

If the economy is still humming like this in November, and incumbent Republicans perform badly in the midterms, it will blow up the conventional political wisdom of, “it’s the economy, stupid.” Those of us who are not fans of the daily drama and perpetual controversies of this White House will have evidence to support the argument that Trump’s tweets and tirades are not just silly distractions; they’re enough to counteract what would be a key political strength for most administrations.

Or maybe Republicans will do fine in the midterms, and all of the daily drama really doesn’t matter that much. Time will tell.

Joe Kennedy III and America’s Long Overdue Reckoning about His Family

There’s a wide chasm between how Democrats perceive the Kennedys and the actual truth, and it’s not petty to keep pointing out that gap. There’s a stack of evidence showing that a lot of the Kennedys were horrible, selfish, abusive people who were somehow stage-managed and airbrushed into secular saints. The list of scandals runs generations, from lobotomizing Rosemary Kennedy, to JFK making Jackie get electroshock treatments, to the multiple allegations against William Kennedy Smith, to Patrick Kennedy driving under the influence. And of course, Chappaquiddick.

By Kennedy standards, Congressman Joe Kennedy III is an accomplished 37-year-old: Stanford and Harvard Law, two years in the Peace Corps, several years as an assistant district attorney. Defying his family stereotype, he doesn’t drink. But let’s not kid ourselves; if his name were Joe Smith and his family wasn’t an icon in American politics, he would have had a much tougher time winning a Democratic congressional primary in Massachusetts at age 32.

That’s why there’s a good reason to cringe when Joe Kennedy III, grandson of Bobby Kennedy and great-nephew of John F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, stands before the nation giving the Democratic response to the State of the Union address and laments “a system forcefully rigged towards those at the top.”

Last night, the congressman contended, “The [administration’s] record is a rebuke to our highest American ideal, the belief that we are all worthy, that we are all equal, that we all count, in the eyes of our law and our leaders, our God and our government.”

The Kennedy family spent the better part of two generations fighting for equality in the eyes of the law for everyone not named Kennedy. As a review of the forthcoming film Chappaquiddick declared, “The fact that the Kennedy family — the original postwar dynasty of the one percent — possessed, and exerted, the influence to squash the case is the essence of what Chappaquiddick means. The Kennedys lived outside the law.”

Let us also acknowledge that when someone from a clan that has been touted as “America’s Royal Family” since at least 1962 sings the praises for equality . . . it rings hollow.

Joe Kennedy III may be an absolute gentleman with women and I hope he is. But when he salutes America’s women for “bravely saying, ‘me too,’” some of us can only think of John F. Kennedy bedding 19-year-old White House interns and Ted Kennedy making a “waitress sandwich” with Chris Dodd. For a long time, the Kennedy men embodied everything that #MeToo opposes. Some people may object to this point, declaring it unfair to hold past generations’ sins against the congressman. Of course, if his name were Smith or Jones, would he be giving the response to the State of the Union? Last night Democrats wanted to cash in on the benefits of the family legacy without acknowledging the dark side of that legacy.

My Fellow Americans, the State of Our Union Is Long

The reviews are in and there’s a broad consensus that President Trump gave a great speech. It’s just a shame that this good mood won’t last, because the president will eventually lose his temper and either say or tweet something controversial and un-presidential. As the boss observes, “This point has been made over and over, but if Trump tried to strike this kind of tone all the time, he’d probably be at 47 percent and the party would be in much better shape heading into November.”

I’d love to be proven wrong, but I just don’t think Trump has the discipline to fume and vent privately.

You’ll recall Monday I broke the news that the president would mention prison reform. The section on the topic wasn’t long, but it was notable that it was included: “As America regains its strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens. That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.” This is part of how State of the Union addresses turn into laundry lists — a lot of proposals get mentioned for a sentence or two, so that no part of the White House staff feels neglected.

Ramesh wanted to hear more of an agenda for the rest of the year:

The great exception is immigration, where he laid out a relatively detailed proposal in a way that will strike people without strong views on the subject as fair and sensible. Long stretches of the speech were, however, simply vacuous, as when Trump endorsed higher infrastructure investment and lower opioid addiction rates without saying a word about how these goods would be achieved. These were goals, not policies. One reason the speech was so heavy on shout-outs to heroes and victims in the audience was that the policy cupboard is pretty bare. Congressional Republicans don’t appear to have any more specific idea of what to do now than Trump does. The speech did nothing to fill the vacuum.

Jim Talent notes that Democrats bet big that the economy would not be roaring after the tax cuts passed . . . and now they’re paying the price:

Many conservatives are criticizing the Democrats for not applauding at the economic good news that the president cited. But the Democrats were in a box on this one. If they applauded, it would look like they agreed with what the president was saying — and remember that six weeks ago they not only voted against the tax bill but predicted doom if it passed. On the other hand, not applauding made them look churlish. They might have compromised by applauding perfunctorily, but there’s a good chance that would have pleased no one. It was a tough position to be in, but that’s what happens when the facts on the ground prove you so wrong so quickly, and your political opponents have a high-profile occasion to take advantage of it.

Jonah says he heard a lot that sounded like “compassionate conservatism” of the Bush years:

This was for the most part a conservative speech culturally and thematically. But except for some laudable bits about streamlining the bureaucracy and improving FDA policy, there wasn’t a hint of fiscal conservatism to it. Trump wants a huge increase in infrastructure spending and an end to the sequester for military spending, but he never mentioned the debt or deficit. Well, there was one mention of the word “deficit” — the “infrastructure deficit.” And he endorsed a new entitlement — paid family leave — while failing to mention any effort to reform the existing entitlements.

ADDENDA: Quite a few folks made remarks about Nancy Pelosi’s facial expressions during Trump’s address last night. I think that look of consternation is best described as, “that feeling when you’ve assembled the IKEA cabinet but for some reason you have a whole bag of screws left over.”

Can You Feel the State of the Union Excitement?

by Jim Geraghty

The State of the Union address is tonight. The good news is you’ll probably see President Trump at his best. Last year, in his “joint address to Congress” — the traditional name for the address of a president who’s been in office a short time — I wrote that Trump calmed down, chilled out, and rose to the occasion. Of course, we know how the rest of the year went. The policy is pleasing, but the erratic behavior, fuming over television comments, and general lashing out at everyone demonstrated we shouldn’t read too much into one well-delivered speech on one night.

The bad news is the State of the Union address doesn’t really change very much, according to Gallup. They saw little change in Obama’s numbers most years, and a 2010 review of all of the addresses going back through the Carter years found “across all presidents, the average change in approval has been less than a one percentage-point decline.” Why do Americans watch the State of the Union address? Because it pre-empts most of what they usually watch on a lot of the channels.

It’s driven Allahpundit to beg the president to be bold and blow up the tradition:

You’ve all endured this miserable spectacle at some point in your lives. You know firsthand how insufferable it is. Instead of me having to convince you, the burden should be on you to convince me: Why wouldn’t America be better off with the president submitting a written statement to Congress in lieu of a speech, as presidents did for nearly the entire 19th century?

Lamenting the symbolism of the invited guests, he writes . . . 

SOTU stuntcasting via the guestlist is an especially feeble way to pander to key constituencies, prove one’s ideological virtue, medal in the Victim Olympics, and generally mug for the cameras on a night when the news media is entirely focused on the Capitol. It’s another reminder that no one really cares what’s being *said* at the event, only about the opportunity to see and be seen at it. The president gets camera time, the tools who elbow each other out of the way along the aisles to shake his hand get camera time, and the dopes bringing Heroes of the #Resistance as guests get camera time. It’s the polar opposite of what a written SOTU would be — a serious no-bells-or-whistles message, all content.

Meanwhile, Democratic congressman Joe Kennedy is giving the official response, Virginia state delegate Elizabeth Guzman is giving the Spanish-language response, Bernie Sanders will be giving his own response, Maxine Waters will be giving a response on BET, and Donna Edwards will deliver an address on behalf of the Working Families Party.

We can scoff, but this door opened when Michele Bachmann decided she would give “the Tea Party response” to the State of the Union in 2011.

They’re all fools to volunteer, of course. As I noted two years ago, the job of responding to the State of the Union address is cursed, and terrible fates befall just about everyone who does it.

1989: House Speaker Jim Wright gives the response; he resigns later in the year in an ethics scandal.

1996: Bob Dole gives the response, and later that year, loses the presidential race.

1998: Trent Lott gives the response; by 2002, he resigns as Senate majority leader after controversial comments about Strom Thurmond.

2002: Dick Gephardt gives the response; in 2004, he runs for president and flames out in Iowa.

2004: Senate minority leader Tom Daschle gives the response . . . and loses his reelection bid that year.

2007: Newly elected senator Jim Webb gives the response, eventually grows to hate the Senate, and chooses to not run for reelection.

2008: Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius goes on to become Health and Human Services secretary and promptly unveils Healthcare.gov to the world, lets President Obama stand before the country and tout a non-functioning web site.

2009: Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. People still give him grief about sounding like Kenneth from 30 Rock.

2010: Virginia governor Bob McDonnell — convicted on corruption charges in 2014.

2011: Paul Ryan — obviously, there’s a lot more chapters left in the book of Ryan’s career, but 2012 didn’t go as he hoped.

2013: Marco Rubio — the infamous water-bottle incident.

In fact, I found some some lesser-known examples of this as well.

In 1986, Governor Eugene Gatling gave the response to President Reagan; his reelection bid was impeded by the infamous “unresolved election” of that year.

In 1999, Senator David Palmer of Maryland gave the address, and years later, after a tumultuous career of many long days and constantly being up against the clock, he was assassinated by a vast conspiracy.

In 2000, Senator Robert Kelly gave the response, and later that year, he was turned into a giant mutant jellyfish.

In 2012, Congressman Nicholas Brody gave the response, and within one year, he was executed in Iran.*

The response to the State of the Union address has turned into a political Aztec human-sacrifice altar, where rising stars of the party are given 15 minutes in the national spotlight and then ritually humiliated by fate within a few years.

*Okay, technically, these last four lawmakers only exist in the world of Benson, 24, X-Men, and Homeland.

Release The Memo! Release the Counter-Memo! Release the Kraken! Release Everything!

Look, at this point, I want to see the memo, and the Democrats’ counter-memo, and unless they involve the nuclear codes or something justifiably super-secret, I want to see the source documents, too. Let’s get all of this out into the light, instead of being subject to a seemingly endless campaign of strategic leaking.

That way, a lot of things will probably be clearer and make more sense, like why FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe departed his job with little warning, a few months earlier than expected. Quite a few folks in the political realm insisted the president must have somehow pushed McCabe out, but maybe there’s something bad coming the bureau’s way, and it’s best if he exits the building sooner rather than later:

In a recent conversation, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, raised concerns about a forthcoming inspector general report. In that discussion, according to one former law enforcement official close to Mr. McCabe, Mr. Wray suggested moving Mr. McCabe into another job, which would have been a demotion.

Agents and lawyers expect the report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, to be highly critical of some F.B.I. actions in 2016, when the bureau was investigating both Hillary Clinton’s email use and the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. The report is expected to address whether Mr. McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton investigation because of his wife’s failed State Senate campaign, in which she accepted nearly a half-million dollars in contributions from the political organization of Terry McAuliffe, then the governor of Virginia, who is a longtime friend of Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Mr. McCabe did not become deputy director until after his wife was defeated, and records show that he disclosed her candidacy and sought ethics advice from senior F.B.I. officials.

But critics, including some inside the bureau itself, said he should have recused himself from the Clinton investigation. The F.B.I. has said Mr. McCabe played no role in his wife’s campaign.

This inspector general’s report isn’t out yet, so we’ll have to wait, but that sure doesn’t sound like the IG is going to say, “Nah, everything was hunky-dory, nothing to see here.”

Former FBI director James Comey tweeted, “Special Agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on. He served with distinction for two decades.” Of course, he was presumably among those who saw no problem with McCabe working on the Clinton cases after his wife had benefited from McAuliffe’s giant campaign donations. Comey’s on the hook in this IG report, too.

If you haven’t already done so, please click through and read my soup-to-nuts look at the Koch Seminar Network winter meeting — covering everything from their outlook for 2018, criminal-justice reform, relationship with the Trump administration, achievements in the states, fights against campus speech codes, structural advantages . . . it will make the suits grumble less when I submit my expense report for this trip.

On immigration, a previous sticking point between the Kochs and the Trump administration, it sounds like the network wants to “get to yes” and find an immigration deal they can support.

“The proposal from the White House is a good proposal and we want to applaud them for it,” said Brian Hooks, president of the Charles Koch Foundation and Charles Koch Institute, emphasizing that his nuanced perspective of the White House’s policy can’t be summarized briefly. “It is thoughtful to provide legal certainty for Dreamers, and a path to citizenship is enormous incentive to continue to contribute to this country.” But he also emphasizes that the network will not support “arbitrary reduction to future immigration levels” or “ending family migration in the absence of an alternative.” But they leave the door open to making changes to family-based immigration policies. “If they want to have a conversation about whether family status is the best standard to judge eligibility” for immigration, “that is a conversation that we think is appropriate to have.”

ADDENDA: In case you missed it, my magazine piece on the growing pains of Bernie Sanders’s grassroots group, Our Revolution:

“It’s a little like the Howard Dean movement on steroids,” says Brad Todd, a political strategist who was the lead consultant behind the National Republican Congressional Committee’s strategy to retake the House in 2010. “The story’s been written about the traditional Republican-party leadership being overthrown by Donald Trump. What hasn’t been written as much is the story of the traditional Democratic party run by Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Gore being overthrown by people who don’t care to call themselves Democrats much.”

Expect Criminal-Justice and Prison Reform from President Trump Tuesday Night

by Jim Geraghty

Let’s start this week off with some news: President Trump will talk about criminal-justice reform and prison reform in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

For several months now, the president’s son-in-law and key adviser Jared Kushner has had monthly meetings with Mark Holden, Koch Industries general counsel; Brooke Rollins, president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation; and Doug Deason, a wealthy businessman and advocate for criminal-justice reform. The conservative groups aim to bring prison reforms and anti-recidivism programs that have achieved sterling results in Texas and Georgia to the nation’s federal prison system.

About 10 percent of all incarcerated individuals in the United States are in federal prison. “If they were a state, they would be the largest state in the country,” Deason said. To bring these kinds of anti-recidivism programs to federal prisons, “all it requires is an executive order instructing Jeff Sessions to open up the Bureau of Prisons to outside service providers,” he explained. “Right now they do so, but only on a very limited basis.”

The Koch network hopes to add momentum to the effort with new initiative called Safe Streets and Second Chances, which will research the most effective methods across eight prisons in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana, featuring a “randomized controlled trial involving more than 1,000 participants in a mix of urban and rural communities.” The research will be directed by Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis of Washington University in St. Louis.

The aim is to provide “a counselor for a prisoner from the time he enters prison to years after he’s left, to stop this cycle of recidivism,” Deason said, and “have them leave better equipped to be a productive member of society than when they went in.”

Deason characterizes Sessions as open to proposals on prison reform and programs focused on a prisoner’s re-entry into society, but still “closed-minded” or reducing mandatory minimum sentences.

One other bit of surprising news in the same room Sunday night: Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters that his optimism about an immigration deal, on a scale of one to ten, is “about an eight.”

The Koch Brothers’ Rorschach Test

Saturday afternoon at the Koch winter meeting, I was watching a panel of leaders from community-building and social-capital-building nonprofits: the Cara Program in Chicago, which helps workplace skills; Phoenix Multisport, a Boston-based peer-to-peer recovery organization for young addicts; Rising Tide Capital, which helps low-income individuals start businesses in Jersey City, New Jersey; and Chrysalis, which helps low-income and homeless individuals in Los Angeles prepare for, find, and retain employment.

The Koch network doesn’t single-handedly keep these organizations going, but their financial and operational assistance is considerable. Stand Together, part of the Koch network of organizations, provided Rising Tide $350,000 last year; the group’s annual budget is $5 million.

It struck me that the reaction to the Koch brothers is a pretty good example of how politics has gotten worse over the past two decades. (Alternatively, if you believe American politics has been getting worse for a long time, that worsening accelerated in just the past decade or so.) To hear Harry Reid and a lot of Democrats tell it, they’re “the shadowy Koch brothers.” David Axelrod called them “contract killers.” Liberal columnist Mark Morford once compared them to a combination of “a ruthless drug kingpin, a mafia crime lord, the willful blindness of the NRA, the combined CEOs of Monsanto, Exxon, and RJ Reynolds and a couple scared old wolverines with God complex and a penchant for contaminating the world.” A documentary labeled them “the one percent at its very worst.”

The very worst? They donate more to charity that most of us will ever earn in our entire lives. David Koch and his charitable foundation have pledged or contributed “more than $1.2 billion to cancer research, medical centers, educational institutions, arts and cultural institutions, and to assist public-policy organizations.” The Charles Koch Foundation donates tens of millions of dollars to colleges and universities each year; in 2014, it gave $25 million to the United Negro College Fund.

Yes, the Kochs are libertarian-leaning, free-market advocates for limited government and a big supporter of a lot of Republicans. As noted last year, they’ve rolled up big wins in large part because they don’t just throw up a bunch of television ads. Their organizations like Americans for Prosperity and the Libre Initiative are established to operate 365 days a year, not just around election time. Their organizations pay attention to state legislatures and state attorneys general. They notice and get involved in local tax fights like a referendum on a light rail plan for Nashville.

One can argue about the merits of this policy or that one. But if our national political discourse were better, saner, and more accurate, the Kochs would be universally seen as generous guys who are completely convinced that private organizations, non-profits, and free enterprise can tackle the country’s biggest problems. Maybe they have too much faith in the free market; the nonprofits mentioned above said they get about 10 percent of their funding from government grants. But they’re not evil, they’re not greedy, and you don’t invite two dozen reporters to your organization’s meeting if you’re “shadowy.”

Of course, they’re just one vivid example of a broader trend: the Kochs can’t just be wealthy guys with a clear philosophy on how to fix the world’s problems; they have to be monsters. The tax bill has to be “ARMAGEDDON!” A Republican president can’t just be bad; George W. Bush and Donald Trump, two very different men, both have to be the next Hitler. The White House proposal on immigration reform can’t be merely flawed, it has to be “a white supremacist ransom note.”

Who in their right mind would want to be involved in politics when people react like this?

The Eternal Prediction of a Democratic Comeback in Texas

You may have noticed in the great big 2018 open House seat roundup that a lot of Texas Republicans are retiring; the GOP will be aiming to hold seats in the second, third, fifth, sixth, 21st, and 26th congressional districts.

You’re probably going to hear a lot in the coming year about a potential Democratic comeback in the Lone Star State. The Republicans have been riding high in Texas for a long time, and nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump’s style of Republicanism may not be quite the best fit with the state of Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, and George W. Bush; Trump won Texas by nine percentage points, the smallest margin for a Republican since 1996. And Texas Democrats arguably have no place to go but up.

And then there’s the cover of Texas Monthly, featuring Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke, and an epic-length featured article that declares there are “signs of a nascent Beto-mania taking hold.”

Since the beginning of 2017, O’Rourke has been profiled in the Washington Post, the Texas Observer,Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone. His time playing in punk-rock bands during his high school and college years has proved irresistible for headline writers, who have identified him as “Ted Cruz’s Punk-Rock Problem” and asserted that his “Punk-Rock Past Could Help Him.” An in-production documentary titled Beto vs. Cruz promises that the coming Senate race will be the “most outrageous and consequential political fight of 2018.” O’Rourke’s fund-raising has been robust, with $3.8 million raised in the second and third quarters of 2017 — more than Cruz — and his campaigning has been relentless. O’Rourke plans to visit all 254 counties in Texas before the election, and his traveling town halls have drawn surprisingly large crowds in traditional Republican strongholds like Midland, Amarillo, and Tyler, where he attracted so many people to the restaurant Don Juan on the Square that he had to move the meeting out onto the sidewalk to comply with the fire code. (He answered questions for twenty minutes through a bullhorn.)

A Democratic group commissioned a survey and found incumbent Republican Ted Cruz ahead but not by a large margin, 45 percent to 37 percent. Of course, the organization didn’t talk much about the fact that the same survey found 61 percent of respondents didn’t have an opinion about O’Rourke, and only 20 percent had a favorable opinion of him. In other words, most Texans haven’t heard of him.

Beto O’Rourke is enjoying the best cover of Texas Monthly since . . . well, Wendy Davis and Julian and Joaquin Castro declared “Game On!” in the summer of 2014.

In that issue, Robert Draper wrote:

The Texas Democratic Party has suddenly found a spring in its step — and not just because of Davis’s performance. The national debut of Castro himself in a much-lauded keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention last summer underscored the growing recognition that a new Texas — replete with millions of untapped and largely nonwhite voters — might be there for the party’s taking. Then came the news, immediately following Barack Obama’s impressive defeat of Mitt Romney last November, that the grassroots brainiacs behind the president’s campaign would soon be descending on the Lone Star State in the form of Battleground Texas: a well-funded organization dedicated to the labor-intensive, long-term effort to turn America’s biggest red state blue.

The indelible image of that slender blond lady in the pink tennis shoes provided stark documentation. This was real. This could happen. Texas could, at minimum, become a state where elections are actually competitive.

That was in the magazine’s August issue; in November, the Texas Democrats went out and turned in perhaps the worst performance for any state party in a midterm election in recent memory. None of the 15 Democratic candidates running statewide surpassed 40 percent; Davis actually performed best with 38.9 percent.

Besides winning every statewide race in a landslide, Republicans added two state Senate seats and three state House seats, adding to their wide legislative majorities. Battleground Texas turned out to be an expensive, colossal failure; despite all the talk about Democrats having this new, fantastic get-out-the-vote operation, Davis won 300,000 fewer votes than the last Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

As for the cover trio, former state senator Wendy Davis is leading marches of women dressed like Handmaid’s Tale characters; Joaquin Castro is still a San Antonio congressman, predicting a Democratic comeback in 2018; and Julian Castro became secretary of Housing and Urban Development and might as well have entered the witness protection program.

I suppose I should give Texas Monthly a little credit for noting on the January cover that O’Rourke is “The Democrats’ (Latest) Great Hope” and the sub-headline asking, “Does Beto O’Rourke stand a chance against Ted Cruz?” (If you have to ask that, then it probably means you weren’t comfortable declaring outright, “Beto O’Rourke stands a chance against Ted Cruz,” huh?) The article by Eric Benson even mentions the magazine’s 2014 Draper article and notes, “Since the Democrats last won a statewide race more than two decades ago, hallucinations of a coming restoration have been frequent and fantastical, with a series of would-be saviors vanquished by consistently large margins.”

After a lengthy and largely positive portrait of the congressman, the piece admits that for O’Rourke to win, “he needs to be historically right, and the Castro brothers and every other Texas Democrat who might want a higher office and sat out the 2018 elections need to be historically wrong.”

As I said at the beginning, it’s possible, even likely, that Democrats will improve upon their abysmal performance in the 2014 midterms. But it’s difficult to tell if Texas Democrats are really coming back or not, because the national and state media have been so desperate to see a comeback happen that they find the evidence to write this story every single cycle.

ADDENDA: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it looks like John Kasich wants to run for president again. At the very least, he’s got the schedule of a man who wants to run for president in 2020. Tonight he’s on Seth Meyers (how many other governors get to make appearances on late-night shows?). Tuesday, the day of the State of the Union address, he’s appearing on Morning Joe, CNN’s New Day, and Nicole Wallace’s show on MSNBC. He’s visiting New Hampshire on April 3.

Finally, his team declared to his mailing list yesterday, “An Ohio poll was released last week that showed Gov. Kasich continues to receive high approval ratings in his job as governor with a 57 percent approval rating and only 29 percent disapproval. This is exceptional in a key battleground state like Ohio. Conversely, President Trump’s rating in the state is 43 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove.”

Why are you bragging about your popularity in a battleground state, and how you’re more popular than the president, if you’re not thinking about either challenging him in the GOP primary or running as an independent?

Uh-Oh. The Immigration Hawks Are Underwhelmed by the White House’s Proposal.

by Jim Geraghty

Mark Krikorian, who probably knows the details of immigration policy inside and out better than anyone, is not pleased with the White House’s offer on immigration reform.

The amnesty and chain migration components are fatally flawed. The fact that the amnesty would include a path to citizenship (i.e., the beneficiaries would eventually get green cards like regular immigrants) is fine with me – if you’re going to amnesty illegal aliens, just rip off the band-aid and get it over with. Instead, the issue is the size of the amnesty, or rather the universe of people who would be amnestied.

If – as the White House promised just days ago – the amnesty were confined to those who now actually have DACA work permits (or even those who had them but didn’t renew), administering the amnesty would be relatively straightforward. All those people are already in the DHS database, and even if they were all re-examined as part of the amnesty process (to weed out the fraudsters that snuck past Obama’s eagle-eyed DHS), it could still be done relatively quickly and with minimal disruption of the work of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the DHS component that deals with green cards, work permits, and the like.

But going beyond DACA beneficiaries to those who could have applied but didn’t is a different thing. It’s not just a difference in degree, but in kind. A whole new process will have to be set up for the 1 million additional people who would be expected to apply. The other work of USCIS would grind to a halt, delaying other legal immigration applications, as happened when DACA was originally implemented (and remember that Obama’s DACA amnesty was smaller than what Trump is proposing). In addition, there would be an opportunity cost, with USCIS unable to pursue many urgently needed administrative reforms.

This objection from Krikorian is why the details and fine print matter:

The outline says that no new applications for the visa lottery and the chain-migration categories would be accepted, limiting family immigration to spouses and minor children. Great! But it also provides for the continuation of those categories (and reallocation of the lottery visas) until the admission of all 4 million people on the current chain-migration waiting lists. This is the same gimmick that was in the Hagel-Martinez amnesty bill in 2007 – and the estimate at the time was that it would take 17 years before all those people got their green cards. In other words, legal immigration would not actually be reduced until after President Kamala Harris’s successor took office.

I’m one of those folks who is fine with a modest decrease in legal immigration, and who doesn’t think that amounts to “xenophobia” or “anti-immigrant policies.” (I recall arguing with Nick Gillespie on Twitter about this; he seemed to contend that wanting any reduction in immigration amounted to being “anti-immigrant.”) We accept roughly one million legal immigrants per year. That seems like a lot. Put another way, each year we welcome a population the size of San Jose, California or Austin, Texas.

What if we only accepted a Charlotte (840,000) or a Seattle (700,000) or a Baltimore (614,000)? Can anyone, with a straight face, contend that a policy change of allowing hundreds of thousands of people to legally immigrate is xenophobic?

Off to California . . . 

Good morning! I’m off to the Koch Seminar Network’s Winter Meeting in Indian Wells, California, where the Koch brothers and the good folks associated with their various organizations will assess the work ahead in 2018. Those groups include Americans for Prosperity, which focuses on tax and spending issues; the Libre Initiative, aimed at America’s Latino communities; Generation Opportunity, which focuses on Millennials; Concerned Veterans for America, which addresses veterans’ issues; and the arm founded last year, Stand Together, which endeavors to build social capital.

It should be strangely cheery; in 2016, Charles Koch described the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as choosing between “cancer and a heart attack.” These men and their affiliated groups are better thought of as libertarian-leaning, and Trump-style populism just isn’t their thing. But the economy is roaring, regulations are being rescinded, and the president hasn’t started a trade war yet.

At last year’s meeting, there was general optimism about the Trump cabinet choices and tax cuts and reducing regulations. But the Koch groups strongly opposed the discussion of a potential “Border Adjustment Tax” — a tax on imports and a wariness about big infrastructure projects. Also, the first version of the so-called “Muslim ban” dropped during the conference, triggering confusion, protest and chaos in the country’s airports, and the group announced opposition to that policy. A few weeks later, the network made a big push for Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation in the Senate.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of last year’s meeting was the showcase of innovation — crowdsourced prosthetic hands for kids, telemedicine, entrepreneurial programs for incarcerated criminals to teach them skills for life after prison. I got to chat briefly with inventor Dean Kamen — you know him from the Segways you see zipping around — about his Slingshot device that can bring clean water to remote or dangerous areas. Politics and governance matter a lot, but creative problem-solving from great minds are what can really transform this country for the better.

The Strange, Forgotten History of Murphy Brown

They’re bringing back the old CBS sitcom Murphy Brown.

It’s worth recalling that for the first few seasons, the show was, for its time, pretty funny and not liberal agitprop. It was a classic workplace sitcom with some pretty talented performers and some instantly recognizable characters: the neurotic, stressed executive producer Miles; the stuffy, slightly-stuck-up anchor Jim; the insecure, competitive Frank, and the bimbo-esque Corky. Almost every week, Murphy would have some new wildly dysfunctional secretary, guaranteed to be fired within a few days. When out of the workplace, Murphy was bedeviled by her philosophical and unmotivated house painter Eldin (played Robert Pastorelli, the pride of Edison, New Jersey). Yes, the dirty little secret was that this was an ensemble show, where Candice Bergen’s role as Murphy was to respond acerbically to the wackiness of the characters around her, the last sane woman in an insane world.

Sure, by being set in Washington and in the news business, the show was always nominally political, but it was usually an offhand joke about “Strom Thurmond” or the Supreme Court or something. As the Onion’s AV Club observed, “The way the writers just drop in names like “Pat Buchanan” and “Bella Abzug” (and for that matter, “Barry Manilow”) as automatic laugh-getters, regardless of the context, resembles nothing so much as a Johnny Carson monologue on an off night.” But it became primarily defined and remembered by the events of the 1992 presidential campaign.

After a few seasons, the creators felt the need to shake things up a bit and decided Murphy Brown would become pregnant after sleeping with her ex-husband, an underground radical who had no interest in becoming a father. Then in May 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle gave his infamous speech that included a reference to the show. This is the section that referred to the character:

However, marriage is a moral issue that requires cultural consensus, and the use of social sanctions. Bearing babies irresponsibly is, simply, wrong. Failure to support children one has fathered is wrong. We must be unequivocal about this.

It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown — a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman — mocking the importance of a father, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another “lifestyle choice.”

Nothing in Quayle’s first paragraph is wrong. But in the second paragraph, the vice president didn’t quite describe the character’s situation and perspective right. While the ex-husband character should have been a better man, the storyline made clear he was not likely to ever become more responsible or less selfish. In some ways, the Murphy Brown character was making a radically conservative choice both for the time and for the implied moral lesson. In a circumstance where a significant percentage of “intelligent, highly paid, professional women” would have an abortion, Murphy Brown chose life.

With Quayle’s speech, the show now had an enemy, one that it and the rest of Hollywood and the media lashed at relentlessly and with relish. Quayle’s speech was written into the season premiere in the fall. Everyone who already thought Quayle was a bumbling fool laughed and contended he couldn’t tell fiction from reality and was somehow attacking single mothers.

But something strange happened after the controversy passed. After about a season, the character of the baby, Avery . . . more or less disappeared, with Murphy beginning scenes with a quick mention that Avery was with “the nanny” or “the sitter” or other circumstances off-screen. The show’s producers realized they didn’t want to turn the show into a working-mom family sitcom; the workplace comedy was their bread and butter. It was something of a strange vindication for Quayle; whether or not the fictional character Murphy Brown was ready for the responsibilities of parenthood, her writers and her audience were not.

Of course, in real life, you can’t hand-wave away a baby. And as time passed, Dan Quayle’s perspective changed from some laughable nonsense to . . . a much more widely-accepted truth. In 1993, The Atlantic shocked readers with a cover declaring, “Dan Quayle Was Right.”

According to a growing body of social-scientific evidence, children in families disrupted by divorce and out-of-wedlock birth do worse than children in intact families on several measures of well-being. Children in single-parent families are six times as likely to be poor. They are also likely to stay poor longer. Twenty-two percent of children in one-parent families will experience poverty during childhood for seven years or more, as compared with only two percent of children in two parent families. A 1988 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics found that children in single-parent families are two to three times as likely as children in two-parent families to have emotional and behavioral problems. They are also more likely to drop out of high school, to get pregnant as teenagers, to abuse drugs, and to be in trouble with the law. Compared with children in intact families, children from disrupted families are at a much higher risk for physical or sexual abuse.

None of this is contending that single parents are bad — the vast majority are heroic, and doing the best that they can in difficult circumstances. It’s just that parenting, like so many other actions in life, is easier when you have a partner.

Ironically, actress Candice Bergen relished the mockery of Quayle but . . . didn’t really disagree with his point. By 2012, Bergen declared, “I never have really said much about the whole episode, which was endless. But his speech was a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being dispensable and nobody agreed with that more than I did.”

Politics actually made Murphy Brown a worse, less funny, less enjoyable show; it will be interesting to see how political the new version is.

ADDENDA: Everyone should always listen to Ramesh, but Republicans in Congress should particularly listen to him right now and carefully read his suggestions for a legislative agenda for the coming year:

If Republicans in D.C. asked for my advice, I’d tell them that health care, immigration, middle-class taxes, and higher education are their most promising legislative issues for the year. (Come to think of it, I’m giving them that advice right now without their asking.) They might be able to do some good on these issues. Trying might also help them cut their election losses a little. Especially given that the less they are talking about legislation, the more they will be talking about Trump’s tweets.

Psst! Those Open Seat House Races Don’t Look Bad for the Republicans After All!

by Jim Geraghty

Did it take a lot of time to go through the 34 House districts where an incumbent Republican is retiring? Yes. Yes, it did.

But when you go through those open seat House districts one by one, something becomes very clear: About two-thirds of them are very heavily GOP districts. I can give you a statistic like “25 out of the 34 districts are ones where Trump won by 10 points or more,” but it’s better to go through all of my one-paragraph summaries and get a sense of just how red some of these places are: The eastern half of Idaho. Muncie, Indiana. The suburbs of Jackson, Mississippi. Republicans have held New Mexico’s Second District every cycle except one since 1980. Republicans have held Ohio’s 16th district every cycle except one since 1973. The last time a Democrat represented Pennsylvania’s ninth district, Franklin Roosevelt was president. The last time a Democrat represented Tennessee’s second district was 1855.

Got it? Some of these open seats are in some really, really Republican districts.

Could Democrats win open House seats in the suburbs of Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Columbus, Tulsa, Knoxville, Dallas, the Shenandoah Valley, etc.? Sure, anything can happen. But I wouldn’t count on it, and it suggests the “generic ballot” questions are even less useful than usual. We don’t elect the House of Representatives in a nationwide vote, it’s 435 separate contests, and most years, less than 100 competitive ones.

You find four seats the GOP is likely to lose (CA-39, CA-49, FL-27, and WA-8) and another four that look like real toss-ups (AZ-2, MI-11, NJ-2, and PA-15). The remaining are all pretty heavily Republican-leaning territories.

The other half of the story is that 15 House Democrats are retiring, and a handful are in districts where the GOP has a decent shot. (I counted four, where the Cook Partisan Voting Index is about D+3 or D+4. Your mileage and measurement for competitiveness may vary.)

In short, 25 out of the 34 seats where a GOP member of Congress is retiring in 2018 are in districts Trump won by 10 percent or more. Winning the House is going to be harder for Dems than the conventional wisdom suggests. This is where a lot of conservatives would look at it all and exclaim, “ah-ha! Media bias! All of the 2018 coverage is meant to encourage Democrats and depress Republicans!” And that might be a factor, but I’d point to the fact that no one particularly likes covering the House races, because they’re much more complicated than the Senate races.

If I say, “Texas,” you probably picture certain things: Oil rigs, J.R. Ewing, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the Alamo, everything being bigger there. You probably think of Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, John Cornyn, and Rick Perry and feel like you have at least a general gist of the state’s politics.

If I say “Texas’ 27th Congressional District,” you probably don’t picture much of anything, because you don’t know what part of the state it covers. (It’s the district of the infamous pajama-wearing Blake Farenthold and stretches along the Texas coast from Corpus Christi to Bay City and then goes inland to Lockhart.)

Also, it’s a lot tougher to poll a House race. Area codes line up with state lines, so a pollster can program a certain area code and know they’re only reaching a particular state, making Senate and gubernatorial races much easier to survey. A pollster has to put in a lot more work to ensure he’s only calling respondents a particular house district.

John Kerry 2020! Hey, What’s John Edwards Doing These Days?

Wonderful: I’ll be writing the Kerry Spot until I’m old(er) and gray(er).

The Jerusalem Post quotes sources in the Palestinian Authority who said John Kerry is encouraging Palestinan officials to defy the Trump administration, that he has doubts Trump will be in office a year from now, and that he himself is thinking of running for president again.

Former US secretary of state John Kerry met in London with a close associate of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Hussein Agha, for a long and open conversation about a variety of topics. Agha apparently reported details of the conversation to senior PA officials in Ramallah. A senior PA official confirmed to Maariv that the meeting took place.

During the conversation, according to the report, Kerry asked Agha to convey a message to Abbas and ask him to “hold on and be strong.” Tell him, he told Agha, “that he should stay strong in his spirit and play for time, that he will not break and will not yield to President [Donald] Trump’s demands.”

According to Kerry, Trump will not remain in office for a long time. It was reported that Kerry said that within a year there was a good chance that Trump would not be in the White House.

It’s good to see Kerry’s assessment of American politics is as bad as his assessment of foreign politics. Look, maybe Trump has a heart attack (God forbid), or a full-scale public breakdown, or he gets bored with the job and decides he wants to turn it over to Pence and go back to being a television star. But Trump’s not getting impeached, barring an unbelievable smoking gun that spurs a bipartisan appetite to replace the president. You need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to remove a president from office, and at this point, there’s little sign of that happening.

He surprised his interlocutor by saying he was seriously considering running for president in 2020. When asked about his advanced age, he said he was not much older than Trump and would not have an age problem.

Let me offer a dollop of sympathy to Kerry — after all, he’s been very good for my career. Yes, his judgment is terrible, his mouth gets him in trouble all the time, he comes across as haughty and arrogant and smug and ludicrously out of touch and . . . er, where was I going with this?

Ah, yes, John Kerry, if nothing else, was willing to put in the work. He’s got the kind of résumé that usually made someone a presidential contender, in better, simpler times like . . . 2004. He’s not a reality show host, he’s not Oprah, he’s not some no-name congressman like John Delaney of Maryland, or some little-known mayor like Mitch Landrieu. By traditional standards, Kerry is qualified and prepared to be president. He’s spent his adult life working with policy and law, and that’s the sort of thing a president is actually supposed to do. Twitter, funny videos, NCAA Bracket picks, giving imaginary “awards” to media institutions the president hates — that’s all the circus that’s built up around the job, but none of that is the actual job.

Mind you, I think Kerry would be terrible at the actual job. But it’s not hard to imagine Kerry looking at the buzz around Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg, The Rock, and thinking, “you’ve got to be kidding me.”

Of course, he’s already out trying to create a separate negotiation with the Palestinians. Allahpundit quips, “If Bob Mueller can bring FARA back from the dead to indict Paul Manafort, surely Jeff Sessions can bring the Logan Act back from the dead to put an end to Waffles’s freelance diplomatic career.”

This Job Requires Some Writing, Some Paperwork, and Being the Boss’s Soul Mate

You’ve probably heard about Congressman Patrick Meehan, the Pennsylvania Republican and 62-year-old married father of three who settled a sexual-harassment complaint with taxpayer funds from a staffer he described as his “soul mate.”

Yesterday during a discussion on CNN’s The Lead, correspondent Kaitlin Collins offered a message to grown men in workplaces:

The young women that work for you do not want to date you. They do not want to be your soulmate. They do not want to get ice cream with you. They do not want to be your partner. When they start dating someone else, you cannot get angry with them for that . . . I shouldn’t have to tell you this. When a woman goes to work, they do not want to date their boss.

She’s right. But there’s an aspect of this that hasn’t gotten mentioned, and I doubt will get much attention beyond this newsletter.

Back in my journalism pollywog days, I recall going to some gathering at the National Press Club where the Washington offices of most of the big news organizations were represented. They went around the room and introduced all of the bigwigs, and I noticed a clear pattern. The vast majority of the Washington bureau chiefs were older white men. (Considering the demographics of Washington-based political journalists in previous decades, this wasn’t surprising.) A decent number of institutions had deputy bureau chiefs who were women or African American, Latino, etcetera.

But the assembled rank-and-file reporters looked like a Benetton ad — with a fairly lopsided majority of young women, and quite a few of them were quite attractive.

The room made pretty clear the people who ran Washington political journalism had made an effort to diversify at every level . . . except the top. And this effort for diversity had created a lot of working environments where older men managed a lot of young women. Examined through the right lens, the “diversity” in the reporters in that room had all the diversity of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show: good looking young white women, good looking young black women, good looking young Latina women, good looking young Asian women . . . 

Young guys can’t make an older straight man feel attractive. Yes, older men can find mentoring and managing young men valuable and rewarding, but when the boss is the other side of middle age and wondering if he’s still attractive or if his best days are behind him . . . a warm smile from us is not going to brighten his day the same way.

You’ll have to pardon my cynicism if I suspect that a certain portion of older men in leadership positions embraced “diversity” and “welcoming young women in the workplace” because they liked managing and being around young, attractive women. This doesn’t mean that every boss who hires a younger attractive woman is a letch or a harasser. But it does mean that attraction has been playing a factor in workplaces for a long time.

ADDENDA: Jazz Shaw with a good point about why Democratic senators will hesitate before trying to replace Chuck Schumer, one that is familiar to anyone who watched the “Republicans should replace John Boehner/Paul Ryan/Mitch McConnell!” arguments in recent years.  

If that happened, one of these up and coming POTUS hopefuls could step into the void. That could be Booker, Warren, Harris, Gillibrand, or one of a couple others. (Not so much Bernie Sanders since he actually quit the party again after he lost the primary.) But they might not want to. Being one voice out of nearly fifty, albeit one of the ones who get the most face time on cable news, is actually a much safer position than taking control yourself. If you become Minority Leader, people will actually expect you to do things. That’s what’s weighing down Chuck Schumer right now. But as long as you leave the burden on his shoulders and make a point of voting against any sort of deal, you get to play the hero while suffering none of the consequences.

Could the Left Chuck Chuck?

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile this morning: Wondering if Chuck Schumer is the Democrats’ leader in the Senate for the long haul, a new initiative from the Koch network aiming to reduce criminal recidivism, some tough questions about corruption in American life before and during the Trump presidency, and some great news from Davos, Switzerland.

Will Chuck Schumer Offer Funding for the Wall Again or Not?

One of the more surprising headlines in the final days before the short-lived government shutdown was that Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and the Democrats appeared ready to make a concession and begin funding a wall on the southern border.

The administration has asked Congress for $18 billion to build the wall; Mr. Cornyn said that in negotiations with the White House before the shutdown, Mr. Schumer had offered the president $25 billion. A spokesman for Mr. Schumer declined to comment but did not dispute the figure.

But Mr. Schumer said he rescinded the offer because Mr. Trump had rejected the rest of the immigration package.

“The wall offer was made as part of a broader deal. The president rejected that broader deal, so the offer is off the table,” Mr. Schumer said.

Okay, so if the broader deal comes back, then the offer for Democrats’ support for wall funding comes back, right?

Or is Schumer now so unnerved by the thermonuclear freak-out among grassroots Democrats and immigration amnesty groups that he can’t make that offer again? Progressive writer Kate Aranoff wants Democratic rank-and-file voters to directly elect their Congressional leaders, instead of the current method of election by the party’s senators and House members. The proposal is an unworkable mess – picture presidential-style national campaigns, at any time, for Senate and House leadership jobs – but the sudden overt sentiment for replacing Schumer suggests that if some Senate Democrat announced today an intention to challenge him, that senator would instantly become the Bernie Sanders to Schumer’s Hillary Clinton.

There’s a logjam of Democratic senators who either want to run for president in 2020 or are thinking about it: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sanders, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York . . . 

Maybe if you’re an ambitious Democratic senator, you don’t want to be one of a half-dozen or so senators competing for two minutes of nationally-televised debate time and praying Oprah doesn’t jump in and make you look boring. Maybe it would be more rewarding to be leader of your party in the Senate.

The Koch Network’s New Plan for ‘Safe Streets and Second Chances’

The Koch Seminar Network is probably one of the most misunderstood organizations in American politics. They’re denounced by Democrats as “shadowy” and “right-wing,” but their libertarian-leaning, pro-freedom philosophy brings them to advocate some positions that aren’t always in line with the traditional perception of the Republican party. They want to leave marijuana laws to states, are welcoming displaced Puerto Ricans who are moving to Florida, and they want permanent residency for DACA recipients. They also oppose gas taxes and expensive mass transit plans, and love the new tax cuts.

Last year’s winter meeting of the group focused heavily on criminal justice reform, and this year’s meeting is expected to center around a new initiative called Safe Streets and Second Chances, designed to promote anti-recidivism programs in U.S. prisons.

“Over 95 percent of people who are incarcerated will eventually be released, so it’s in everyone’s best interests to make sure that these individuals are better when they leave prison than before they went in,” said Koch Industries senior vice president and general counsel Mark Holden. “The vision of Safe Streets and Second Chances is that, rather than waiting until the end of an individual’s sentence, the reentry process should begin on day one. The Koch group contends that states that have reformed their reentry policies over the past decade “have shown that this data-driven approach keeps communities safe, reduces recidivism rates, and restores second chances to those who have paid their debt to society.”

The program will include a new research component using eight sites across Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana, featuring a “randomized controlled trial involving more than 1,000 participants in a mix of urban and rural communities.” The research will be directed by Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis of Washington University in St. Louis.

The network hopes this is a project the Trump administration will find reason to support; it pointed to Trump comments supportive for prison reform and programs that reduce recidivism during an event at the White House earlier this month.

“The vast majority of incarcerated individuals will be released at some point and often struggle to become self-sufficient once they exit the correctional system,” the president said. “We have a great interest in helping them turn their lives around, get a second chance and make our communities safe.”

Did Trump Make America ‘Open to Corruption’?

A lot of folks on the left (and a few on the right) are still shocked and horrified that Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election — well, some are still in denial — and some worry that he’s inflicting some sort of national moral stain that won’t be washed away within our lifetimes.

Our old friend David Frum says in a conversation with Ross Douthat that by electing Trump, “the Russians gained a United States that operates in ways they are comfortable with — open to corruption and oligarchy — and they have scored points for the argument that democracy is a joke and a fraud.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Trump didn’t step into the Oval Office and wave a magic wand, suddenly making the country corrupt and run by national elites that acted like an oligarchy. Trump reflects the problem, but he didn’t cause the problem, and no doubt many people voted for him as a reaction to the problem.

If you name any powerful American institution, it’s probably had at least one appalling scandal involving abuse of trust or abuse of power in recent years, and in most cases, it’s had quite a few.

The military? More than 500 cases of serious misconduct. Corporate America? The “toxic asset derivatives,” bailouts, Bernie Madoff, Enron. The church? Horrible child abuse scandals. Law enforcement and cops? Fatal shootings of debatable justification caught on video, sexual abuse, corruption scandals. The courts? We have judges taking bribes and impregnating witnesses before them and “systemic corruption” in prosecutors’ offices.

The media? Rathergate, Brian Ross blaming the Tea Party for the Aurora shooting, NBC misleadingly editing the audio from George Zimmerman, Rolling Stone’s outrageously false report about rapes at the University of Virginia . . . 

The government? Fast and Furious, abuses at the Internal Revenue Service, cronyism in the stimulus, incompetence and cover-ups at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the president standing in the Rose Garden, encouraging Americans to buy health insurance from a government-contracted web site that didn’t work . . . 

And the person leading the argument against the corruption that Trump represented was . . . Hillary Clinton.

Russia didn’t do any of that to us; though it would be psychologically easier to deal with if they had created our problems instead of ourselves. Moscow didn’t need to run some sort of elaborate psychological-manipulation or intelligence operation to persuade Americans that there is corruption and oligarchy-like elites within their own country. Americans saw it with their own eyes and lived with the consequences.

The point of this is not that “America stinks” or that the frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Americanism you see at the Kremlin-funded RT is worthy of serious discussion. But Trump is turning into a scapegoat for a lot of problems that existed in the United States long before he descended that escalator and announced he was running for president. And those problems will probably still linger long after he leaves office.

At the heart of all corruption is some variation of, “I deserve this, I’m entitled to this.” Bribery, cronyism, secret favor-trading, sexual improprieties, it all stems from some sense of, “I do so much good in A, B, and C, that I’m entitled to some moral corner-cutting in X, Y, and Z.” No doubt the Clinton Foundation did some good work, but if Doug Band’s e-mail is to be believed, it also diverted resources to Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. The entire Clinton network was a revolving door between policymaking at the highest levels of government and the heights of corporate power, or sometimes doing both at once, as Huma Abedin managed to collect a State Department paycheck and corporate consulting fees at the same time.

And Trump made America “open to corruption”? Come on. He just continued the game with different, less sophisticated players.

You want to beat Trump? Set a better example.

ADDENDA: Absolutely spectacular news from the World Econmic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:

As Bank of America chief executive Brian Moynihan travels the world in 2018, he says he keeps hearing the same thing over and over: Foreign businesses want to pump money into the United States again after President Trump’s tax cuts. Like the White House, he thinks the positive bounce from the tax bill could be far bigger than most experts predict.

There’s growing cohesion among executives — cutting across industry and even geography — that Trump’s tax plan is going to deliver massive new investment in the United States, which should, in turn, boost growth and employment.

Democratic State Supreme Court Justices Suddenly Discover Partisan Redistricting Is Bad

by Jim Geraghty

It’s not hard to notice that in many minds, drawing district lines to maximize partisan advantage only became a threat to democracy once Republicans started doing it.

In a move certain to upend state politics and the critical 2018 elections, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state’s congressional map “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violates the state constitution and blocked its use in the May primaries.

The justices, a majority of whom are Democrats, sided with a group of voters who contended that the state’s 18 U.S. House districts were unconstitutionally drawn to discriminate against Democrats. The court ordered the Republican-led legislature to draw a new map immediately.

Senate Republicans vowed to request a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. In a statement, President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Majority Leader Jake Corman attacked the ruling as a “partisan action showing a distinct lack of respect for the Constitution and the legislative process.” The court, they said, had overreached.

Some are arguing this could bring about four or five new Democratic-leaning districts in the state, but having just looked at the map for an upcoming big roundup of the 2018 House races, I’m not sure it will be that much of an advantage. As Keegan Gibson points out, there are four Pennsylvania Republicans retiring this year, so they don’t need to preserve old district lines to protect those incumbents. Even if the Democrat-leaning Pennsylvania State Supreme Court draws the lines, this is a state where a bit more than a year ago Trump won, Senator Patrick Toomey won, Republicans won the state House and state Senate, and Republicans won 13 out of 18 U.S. House seats. In 2016, three million Pennsylvanians voted for Republican candidates for Congress, and 2.6 million Pennsylvanians voted for Democratic candidates for Congress. Eventually, you run out of Democratic voters.

As for the nefariousness of redistricting for partisan advantage, I swear, it’s like some aspects of recent history are subject to Stalinesque erasure:

One day in the spring of 2001, about a year after the loss to Rush, [Barack] Obama walked into the Stratton Office Building, in Springfield, a shabby nineteen-fifties government workspace for state officials next to the regal state capitol. He went upstairs to a room that Democrats in Springfield called “the inner sanctum.” Only about ten Democratic staffers had access; entry required an elaborate ritual—fingerprint scanners and codes punched into a keypad. The room was large, and unremarkable except for an enormous printer and an array of computers with big double monitors. On the screens that spring day were detailed maps of Chicago, and Obama and a Democratic consultant named John Corrigan sat in front of a terminal to draw Obama a new district. Corrigan was the Democrat in charge of drawing all Chicago districts, and he also happened to have volunteered for Obama in the campaign against Rush.

Obama’s former district had been drawn by Republicans after the 1990 census. But, after 2000, Illinois Democrats won the right to redistrict the state. Partisan redistricting remains common in American politics, and, while it outrages a losing party, it has so far survived every legal challenge. In the new century, mapping technology has become so precise and the available demographic data so rich that politicians are able to choose the kinds of voter they want to represent, right down to individual homes.

If you weren’t bothered by Democratic redistricting, you cannot be upset by Republican redistricting!

President Trump’s Successful Strategic Silence

“Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness.” – Sun Tsu

When Chuck Schumer gave his speech on the Senate floor Monday, announcing that Senate Democrats would support a continuing resolution to reopen the government in exchange for a promise of a vote on DACA in the coming weeks, everyone could tell he was surprised and dismayed that he had been forced to surrender so quickly. He was particularly irked that his position turned into a political loser over the course of a weekend, and that President Trump had failed to provide him some controversial statement to use as cover.

“The White House refused to engage in negotiations over the weekend,” Schumer fumed. “The great deal-making president sat on the sidelines.”

He’s trying to bait Trump; we will have to see whether that tactic works. The fact remains that Trump earned one of his biggest political victories of his presidency just by staying home and mostly staying quiet over the weekend.

I think Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is a deeply underrated leader, but it’s worth noting he and the Republicans had the wind at their back in this circumstance. Schumer had led his party further out on a limb than his red state senators were willing to go, and to a position a majority of the public did not support. The public is generally supportive of protecting the DACA kids from deportation, but they’re not willing to live with a government shutdown to get it.

The lingering problem for Democrats is that despite all of their Election Day setbacks in recent years, they’re not used to being out-negotiated or losing a messaging fight. They’re stunned.

It’s a debacle,” said Representative Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.) “I’m just saddened by it all.”

“This is a bad, outrageous deal. Trump and Republicans in Congress stood with their anti-immigrant nativist base, and too many Democrats backed down, abandoned Dreamers, and failed to fight for their values,” MoveOn.org political action executive director Ilya Sheyman said in a statement.

“The only thing more astonishing than the man in the White House and the demands he’s made on our national conscience is the fecklessness of the party opposing him,” writes Osita Nwanevu in Slate.

Tonight, liberal groups will be protesting outside Schumer’s house in Brooklyn.

Ezra Klein is one of the few Democrats insisting that Schumer did not cave, and that Democrats can and should shut down the government again in three weeks if they don’t get what they want:

If Democrats get a fair vote in the House and Senate on an immigration deal and it doesn’t pass, will they shut down the government again in three weeks? Put differently, is this a deal about a fair process or about a particular outcome? If Democrats don’t get a deal and they shut the government back down in three weeks, it’s hard to see what was lost here.

But if red state Democrats were exerting enough pressure on Schumer to capitulate and reopen the government after one weekday of a shutdown . . . what will change in their position in the next three weeks?

Among the Democrats who voted to reopen the government yesterday:

Bill Nelson of Florida
Joe Donnelly of Indiana
Debbie Stabenow of Michigan
Claire McCaskill of Missouri
Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota
Sherrod Brown of Ohio
Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania
Joe Manchin of West Virginia
Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin

All of them represent states Trump won, and all of them are up for reelection in ten months. The only Democrat in that category who didn’t vote to reopen the government was Jon Tester of Montana. Also voting “yes” were the four senators who represent the most federal workers, Virginia Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Maryland Democrats Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.

Do you think any of them will become fans of a government shutdown in the coming weeks? The only thing that will change about the politics of a government shutdown next month is that we’ll be a little bit closer to Election Day.

This morning, Schumer has a lot of egg on his face, and he’s probably going to be denounced and pilloried by his political allies for the rest of the week. But it’s worth keeping in mind that Monday’s move might eventually be seen as a wise tactical retreat. Because a shutdown-driven “pox on both your houses” mood is worse for vulnerable red state Democrats up for reelection in 2018 than the alternative, Schumer was wise to retreat and get back to traditional DACA negotiations. A lot of Republicans want the issue of DACA resolved and off their plate, and they want some concessions on border security. Schumer and Gutierrez made noises about reaching a deal on “the wall.” It’s not hard to imagine Democrats making sufficient concessions because they want to avoid a shutdown as well.

For the Democrats, the real big goal is success in the midterms. If they win the House, they’ll have a lot more leverage on negotiations on immigration policy and all kinds of other policies.

Most ‘Aren’t You Really Saying . . . ’ Questions are Thinly-Veiled Attacks.

Over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf watches an interview of Jordan B. Peterson, a University of Toronto clinical psychologist, and notices that the interviewer’s style of questioning is to contend Peterson has said something way more controversial and indefensible than he actually said.

It was the most prominent, striking example I’ve seen yet of an unfortunate trend in modern communication.

A person says something. Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.

Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and various Fox News hosts all feature and reward this rhetorical technique. And the Peterson interview has so many moments of this kind that each successive example calls attention to itself until the attentive viewer can’t help but wonder what drives the interviewer to keep inflating the nature of Peterson’s claims, instead of addressing what he actually said.

First, it’s not just “Fox News hosts” that do this on television. (I guess if you’re writing for the audience of The Atlantic, you need to reassure the readership that you’re on the correct side, even if your article is going to criticize a left-of-center British television host.)

Second, this isn’t that much of a mystery. A significant portion of those in the interviewing business don’t see their job as eliciting information; they see their job as haranguing their guest to ensure that the audience knows that the guest is to be demonized and disdained.

ADDENDA: From the Pew Research Center: “Since 2001, the share of Republicans sympathizing more with Israel than the Palestinians has increased 29 percentage points, from 50 percent to 79 percent. Over the same period, the share of Democrats saying this has declined eleven  points, from 38 percent to 27 percent.”

Y’all know the Palestinians elected Hamas to run their territories, right?

Are Democrats Certain They’re Going to Emerge Unscathed from a Shutdown?

by Jim Geraghty

Government shutdowns happen when one side is convinced they can’t lose. They feel like almost all of the blame for the shutdown will end up assigned to the other political party, and that thus they can demand considerable concessions, because time is on their side.

The side that feels that way in these fights is usually the Democrats, and they have good reason to feel that way. Democrats “won” the government shutdown fights in the mid-1990s, and they would have won the one in 2013 if they hadn’t followed the reopening of the government with the launch of Healthcare.gov, the highly-touted, extraordinarily expensive online platform to buy health insurance… that didn’t work.

The reason Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer feels so confident is because he is convinced that the media will echo the narrative he prefers. That narrative is roughly, “caring, common-sense Democrats want to keep the government open, but the cruel, cold-hearted Republicans want to destroy the DACA program and deport all of these adorable moppets and inspiring high-school valedictorians.”

Schumer is so confident, Democrats filibustered a continuing resolution that would keep the government open and fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years. There were 50 votes in favor of that continuing resolution, without Senator McConnell voting. The 50 included Democratic senators Joe Manchin, W.Va.; Joe Donnelly, Ind.; Heidi Heitkamp, N.D.; and Claire McCaskill, Mo., plus newly elected Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama (all up for reelection in 2018 in Trump states). Four Republicans voted no: Senators Lindsey Graham, S.C.; Rand Paul, Ky.; Mike Lee, Utah; and Jeff Flake, Ariz.

The fact that red-state Democrats didn’t want to launch a shutdown over DACA probably ought to make other Democrats nervous. The public support for DACA is probably akin to the public support for innocuously-worded gun control proposals: a mile wide but an inch deep. On Friday, a poll from CNN indicated Americans didn’t want a government shutdown to preserve DACA: “Still, 56 percent overall say approving a budget agreement to avoid a shutdown is more important than continuing the DACA program, while just 34 percent choose DACA over a shutdown. Democrats break narrowly in favor of DACA — 49 percent say it’s more important vs. 42 percent who say avoiding a shutdown is the priority — while majorities of both Republicans (75 percent) and independents (57 percent) say avoiding a shutdown is more important.”

This morning, the Politico/Morning Consult poll showed similar numbers. When asked whether it was worth shutting down the government to ensure passage of a bill “that grants young people who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children, often with their parents, protection from deportation,” the sample split evenly, 42 percent to 42 percent.

The numbers on blame aren’t that much of an advantage for Democrats, either: “more voters would blame Republicans in Congress for the government shutdown, 41 percent, than would blame Democrats, 36 percent. Democratic and Republican voters, by wide margins, held the other side responsible. But more independents said they would blame Republicans, 34 percent, than Democrats, 27 percent.”

You don’t have to look that hard to find Democrats wondering if they’re making the right calculation. The people hit hardest by a government shutdown, federal workers, are a Democratic constituency, and it’s not clear how much economic anxiety they’re willing to endure for the DACA program. (See below.) Democrats are expecting a constituency that does vote for them (federal workers) to take a hit for a constituency that, at least under current law, cannot vote for them (DACA kids). If the shutdown stretches on, federal workers who live in Virginia and Maryland will notice soon that Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin had a chance to vote to send them back to work and didn’t.

David Leonhardt, writing in the New York Times: “The smart move now for Democrats is to accept a short-term funding bill that ends the shutdown and diffuses the tension.”

A Kind Word for Federal Workers

This morning, about 350,000 civilian Department of Defense workers are staying home. (Or, as I understand it, a few are heading into work for a few hours to ensure everything is set up to minimize disruption during the shutdown.) You may have heard about how Armed Forces Network, which brings U.S. television programming to our men and women in uniform based overseas, stopped operating once the shutdown began, but uniformed personnel were able to step in and set up the broadcast of yesterday’s football playoff games.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, processing of claim appeals will cease, and processing of new claims is likely to be delayed.

At the Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify is shut down.

The Internal Revenue Service, customer service is shut down. Tax refunds may be delayed as a backlog builds up.

At the State Department, processing of U.S. passport applications is shut down.

At the National Institutes of Health, they cannot take in new patients.

The federal courts have enough funding to operate for the next three weeks.

The Smithsonian museums and National Zoo are open today, using leftover funds from the previous fiscal year, but it’s not yet clear beyond that.

During the last government shutdown in 2013, about 800,000 federal workers stayed home.

We all enjoy the joke, “wait, if they’re non-essential, why don’t we just fire them?” but the point is that they’re not essential for public safety; they are still essential for some non-public-safety role. As you can see from the above list, new claims at the VA, E-verify, tax refunds, passports, and NIH treatment for new patients may not be immediately essential to public safety or national security, but they’re still worth having.

If you’re thinking, “great, this is a good way to save taxpayer money,” it isn’t. The federal government usually pays the furloughed workers for the lost time. (After all, it’s not like the workers didn’t want to work or refused to do their duties; the government effectively locked them out.) The government eventually pays workers for the time spent at home, without getting the labor and services.

But if you think that is a sweet deal for federal workers, it really isn’t.

Picture, say, Joe, one of the 850 or so security guards at the Smithsonian museums. Joe knows he works today but doesn’t know if he goes to work Tuesday and beyond. He doesn’t know how long he won’t be working if the Smithsonian does close. Congress could work out a deal by the end of the day, or the shutdown could last weeks.

He knows he won’t get paid until the next pay period after the government reopens. He still needs to pay the rent, the grocery bill, pay for the gas for his car and so on, but he doesn’t know when the next paycheck will come in. He’s not quite laid off and he’s not quite working, either. He doesn’t want to change jobs and there’s probably not even much point in looking for a temp job somewhere; he’s probably expected back at work the day after the shutdown ends. He’s in employment Limbo.

Will Joe be alright? Probably, as long as the shutdown doesn’t stretch on for more than a week. But there’s a lot of economic anxiety in a lot of households that didn’t do anything wrong right now.

ADDENDA: How excited are we about an Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl? I’d like to see some drama, but the Brady-Belichick combo just feels like a machine right now. The Jaguars gave it everything they had. Well, maybe the commercials will be good.

Scott Mason and the good guys at TurnOnTheJets.com were kind enough to invite me back for another Jets-focused chat, this time about free agency. The big questions all focus around current Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, where I end up on the more skeptical side of the divide. Is he a safer selection than the big-name quarterbacks in the draft like Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield? Yes. Is he a better one in the long-term? That’s tougher to say. And will a team win if they make him one of the highest-paid players in the game? That’s the toughest call.