Great Reads for Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016


Back by popular demand, “Great Reads” henceforth will appear on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Forty-four days until the inauguration.

Only on American Greatness: Julie Ponzi lauds Anthony Esolen’s fight against the “cult of diversity” at Providence College.

Senior editor Seth Leibsohn praises Phoenix Suns Coach Earl Watson’s excellent example in the fight against drugs: “This is how coaches should talk.”

American Greatness Publisher Chris Buskirk argued in The Hill on Monday that President-elect Trump’s call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was very much in America’s interest.

Top up your coffee or pour yourself a glass of something a little stronger, sit back, and get ready for today’s great reads . . .

On America-First Foreign Policy

Speaking of China, our chattering classes are trying to figure out whether the president-elect is crazy or stupid. (Does it have to be either-or? Could it be “neither”?)

The Washington Post reports: “Donald Trump’s protocol-breaking telephone call with Taiwan’s leader was an intentionally provocative move that establishes the incoming president as a break with the past, according to interviews with people involved in the planning.”

Turns out, China flew some “nuclear-capable” bombers around the island just ahead of the call, according to NBC News.

The Commentary guys are vexed.  “The Trump administration is winging it,” writes Noah Rothman.

Protocol-schmotocol. Marc A. Thiessen, who was no Trump supporter during the election, has a pretty level-headed take in the Washington Post:

Trump knew precisely what he was doing in taking the call. He was serving notice on Beijing that it is dealing with a different kind of president — an outsider who will not be encumbered by the same Lilliputian diplomatic threads that tied down previous administrations. The message, as John Bolton correctly put it, was that ‘the president of the United States [will] talk to whomever he wants if he thinks it’s in the interest of the United States, and nobody in Beijing gets to dictate who we talk to.’”
. . .
And if that message was lost on Beijing, Trump underscored it on Sunday, tweeting: “Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don’t think so!” He does not need Beijing’s permission to speak to anyone. No more kowtowing in a Trump administration.

Geopolitical Futures’ George Friedman says the game is altered: “By making the call Trump signaled to China that he is prepared to act unilaterally if the Chinese are not prepared to renegotiate the relationship, and everything is on the table. Trump selected a high-visibility, low-content issue – Taiwan – to demonstrate his indifference to prior understandings. Critics say Trump attacked the foundations of U.S.-Chinese relations. It’s true in a way, but Trump had pledged to change the foundations of that relationship.”

Michael Auslin of the American Enterprise Institute writes, “[t]he ambiguity surrounding Taiwan’s international position cannot last forever. Yet while the moral case for supporting Taiwan has never been stronger, a precipitous challenge to the decades-long status quo has enormous risks the farther down the road it goes. America needs to show it can play a long game in Asia, too, and Trump should figure out a way to gradually increase support for Taiwan without causing a reaction that might make such a policy impossible to achieve.”

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) also argues at The Hill that “it takes a Trump to stand up to China.” 

“The President-elect’s phone call with President Tsai is a shot-across-the-bow that signals to Beijing that aggression in Asia will no longer be tolerated or rewarded,” Chabot writes. “The likely result will not be a spiral of costly conflict between the world’s two leading powers. Instead, the incoming administration is paving the way for an increasingly stable architecture of peace in the world’s wealthiest region.”

On Immigration and Border Security

My column at the Sacramento Bee last week addressed why California is wrong to defend sanctuary cities.

Well, the Los Angeles Times reports that California’s new legislative session began Monday with the message: “We’re ready to fight Trump.”  From the story:

Democratic leaders were harshly critical of Trump and sounded a combative tone in their opening comments, vowing to work aggressively as a “check” against the president-elect when his policies conflict with those adopted in California regarding the 3 million immigrants in the state illegally.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) called Trump’s agenda “cynical, short-sighted and reactionary” and criticized his appointments, saying that “white nationalists and anti-Semites have no business working in the White House.” He said California needs to strongly counter what is happening in Washington.

“Californians do not need healing. We need to fight,” Rendon told his colleagues.

If only California had an opposition party of its own.

Assembly GOP Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley said he was saddened by the bellicosity of Rendon’s speech.

“Some of the rhetoric that I heard today, I felt like I was watching a speech from Trump, to be honest,” Mayes said. “It was fear mongering. There was demagoguery.”

Although the U.S. Constitution clearly makes immigration and naturalization policy the sole province of the federal government, California Democrats have introduced three bills they think will matter.

One would require a public vote on any border wall costing more than $1 billion. Which is cute.

Another would bar state agencies from “providing information to the federal government on a person’s religious affiliation if it is to be used for the purposes of compiling a database of individuals based solely on religious affiliation.”

The third is actually a retread of a bill Governor Jerry Brown vetoed this year. According to the Times, “The measure would prohibit local governments from contracting with private, for-profit companies to detain immigrants, and will require detention facilities to meet the minimum health and safety standards set by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Meantime, immigration advocacy groups are asking California Attorney General Kamala Harris to block the feds from accessing a database containing names of gang members, Yvette Cabrera reports at the Voice of OC.  The fear is that Trump might accidentally want to deport some people on the list who might not really be gangbangers.

“Among other things,” Cabrera writes, “auditors found that in some cases law enforcement agencies put individuals in the database without adequate evidence, failed to purge CalGang records that had not been updated within five years, and poorly implemented a state law requiring that juveniles and their parents are notified before the minor is placed in the database.”

On Economic Nationalism

President-elect Trump tweeted over the weekend he thinks U.S. corporations that leave the country, build new factories abroad, put Americans out of work and then want to sell their products back to the country “without consequence” should face a 35 percent tariff. Naturally, that’s sparked a row on the right.

Jennifer Steinhauer: “House G.O.P. Signals Break With Trump Over Tariff Threat” (New York Times):

House Republican leaders signaled on Monday that they would not support President-elect Donald J. Trump’s threat to impose a heavy tax on companies that move jobs overseas, the first significant confrontation over the conservative economic orthodoxy that Mr. Trump relishes trampling.

“I don’t want to get into some kind of trade war,” Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and majority leader, told reporters in response to Mr. Trump’s threats over the weekend to seek a 35 percent import tariff on goods sold by United States companies that move jobs overseas and displace American workers.

Peter High: “Reasons Why The U.S. Will Dominate The World Economy For The Foreseeable Future” (Forbes

Andrew Ross Sorkin: “Want to Bring Back Jobs, Mr. President-Elect? Call Elon Musk” (New York Times): 

In the last decade, Mr. Musk has created nearly 35,000 jobs among his various enterprises — and most of those jobs are classic manufacturing ones. His Tesla Gigafactory, a 5.5-million-square-foot battery factory under construction outside Reno, Nev., is expected to employ 6,500 people in manufacturing jobs by 2020.

Infrastructure is going to be the big topic of discussion for job creation in the new year. Here are three recent must-read stories.

Robin Wigglesworth: “Stock markets look forward to Trump infrastructure boost” (Financial Times): 

The day after Donald Trump’s shock presidential victory, William Sandbrook, the chief executive of US Concrete, woke up to see his company’s shares rocket more than 12 per cent in the first three minutes of frenzied trading.

“It was interesting,” he deadpans. Mr Sandbrook had stayed up late to see futures markets initially shudder at the prospects of President Trump, and then become comfortable with the idea after an unexpectedly magnanimous acceptance speech. But the ferocity of the rally was a surprise. “I thought we’d have a good day, but I didn’t anticipate this,” he admits.

After the initial flash of panic, Mr Trump’s unlikely victory has electrified the US stock market, where investors are eagerly anticipating corporate tax cuts, regulatory loosening and an infrastructure spending spree. Companies such as US Concrete — which gets about 15 per cent of its revenue from infrastructure projects — were among the biggest winners. The Texan company’s shares are up almost a quarter since the election.

“Any stocks having to do with infrastructure spending have taken off regardless of underlying fundamentals in the hopes that a large fiscal stimulus plan is coming that will have us rebuilding all roads and bridges,” says Brett Ewing, chief market strategist at First Franklin Financial Services.

Bloomberg Editorial: “How to Make Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Work” (Bloomberg View) 

Adam Chandler: “Infrastructure Is Only Popular Without Concrete Details” (The Atlantic

Robert Verbruggen at the American Conservative finds a “Populist-Conservative Melting Pot” in the nascent Trump Administration. His description of the populist plants of Trump’s platforms overlaps with what we’ve called “the Greatness Agenda.” After discussing immigration and trade, Verbruggen identifies infrastructure projects as a major populist win:

Trump has chosen Steve Bannon, a strong advocate of the president-elect’s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, as his chief strategist and senior counselor. And Elaine Chao, Trump’s choice for transportation secretary, has a little-remembered record of supporting rail projects. (Today she’s best known as George W. Bush’s despised-by-unions labor secretary. Incidentally, she’s married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.)

Ideally, boosting infrastructure spending will create construction jobs, stimulate the economy, and facilitate future growth, though some experts have doubts. The plan could merely dole out tax breaks to investors and contractors for projects that would have taken place anyway, or focus on unnecessary new projects without maintaining our current infrastructure, for example.


Molly Worthen: “Can I Go to Great Books Camp?” (New York Times): 

Why have philosophical summer schools become a vibrant subculture on the right, but only a feeble presence on the left? The disparity underscores a divide between conservatives and liberals over the best way to teach young people — and, among liberals, a certain squeamishness about the history of ideas.

Liberals, however, can’t afford to dismiss Great Books as tools of white supremacy, or to disdain ideological training as the sort of unsavory thing that only conservatives and communists do. These are powerful tools for preparing the next generation of activists to succeed in the bewildering ideological landscape of the country that just elected Mr. Trump.

Damon Linker: “How conservatives out-intellectualized progressives” (The Week

Freddie deBoer is an unabashed left-wing professor at Brooklyn College who follows premises to their conclusions. He often wishes other leftists and so-called progressives would, too:

This is a constant condition for me: interacting with liberals and leftists who affect a stance of bored impatience, who insist that the answers to moral and political questions are so obvious that every reasonable person already agrees, who then lack the ability to explain the thinking underlying their answers to those questions in a remotely compelling way. Everything is obvious; all the hard work is done; only an idiot couldn’t see what the right thing to do is. And then you poke a little bit at the foundation and it just collapses. I suppose the condescension and the fragility are related conditions, the bluster a product of the insecurity at the heart of it all. You act like everything is obvious precisely because you can’t articulate your position.

Steve Hayward: “‘Post-Truth’ Media Should Look in the Mirror” (PowerLine): 

Who is it that created this “post-truth” climate? Once again, it was liberalism. And just how vigorously has the mainstream media ever stood against this nihilist undertow? That would be zip, zilch, nada. What Scottie Nell Hughes said on the radio is standard leftist orthodoxy. But like the time an independent counsel was used against a Democrat, liberals hate it when their doctrines are used against them.

To the contrary, speaking of “fake news,” I recall a certain prominent journalist—I’d rather not repeat his name—who trafficked in a wholly fake news story about a president, and whose forged documents were defended as “fake, but accurate.” So the media doesn’t have a lot of standing to complain about “fake news” just now, let alone a “post-truth” world they helped create.

I’ll have more about the Electoral College shenanigans on Friday, but in the meantime: “two Colorado presidential electors Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a state law that requires them to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote,” the Denver Post reports. (With more at The Hill.)

Can you even? Because these women literally can’t

Last but not least . . .

Stephanie Land, single mother of two, wants you to know that she’s off the market. The reason? Trump. As Land took pains to explain in the Washington Post on Monday :

I’ve lost the desire to attempt the courtship phase. The future is uncertain. I am not the optimistic person I was on the morning of Nov. 8, wearing a T-shirt with “Nasty Woman” written inside a red heart. It makes me want to cry thinking of that. Of seeing my oldest in the shirt I bought her in Washington, D.C., that says “Future President.”

There is no room for dating in this place of grief. Dating means hope. I’ve lost that hope in seeing the words “President-elect Trump.”


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