Administrative State • Democrats • Department of Homeland Security • Donald Trump • Immigration • Law and Order • Post

After AOC’s Toilet Hysteria, Real Abuse at the Border Is Ignored

The immigration problem today demands a serious debate about how to remedy the situation for the good of the country and its citizens. What we get instead are misleading images and scandalous, politically-motivated allegations. Not surprisingly, the problems continue to worsen. 

The rhetoric boiled over recently when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) visited a border detention facility in Texas and proclaimed that migrants were being abused there. Among her more sensational claims was that migrants were being forced to drink water from toilets. 

The charge was quickly debunked by Border Patrol agents who explained that the facilities use a combination toilet-and-sink fixture that provides potable water to those in custody. No matter, the perception was established among those who wanted to believe the charge: border agents are no better than the guards of Abu Ghraib, sadistic goons who mistreat the less fortunate for their own amusement. This is what passes for policy debate in the 21st century. 

Ocasio-Cortez is correct that children are being abused at the border, but it has nothing to do with the Border Patrol or the Trump Administration. 

In a recent interview, Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, detailed how cartels are “renting children” to “fake families” who use the children to gain entry into the United States. The children are then returned to Mexico or Central America to be “recycled” and used to get more foreign nationals across the border. 

The response to this news from anti-borders advocates is cold indifference, presumably because it doesn’t advance their agenda. Fake photos of migrant children in cages provoke outrage, but a criminal syndicate using children as immigration mules is of no great importance. 

Our border is being overrun because Central Americans have received the message from anti-borders politicians, advocacy groups, and the media: get to the U.S. border with a child in tow and you’re as good as in. Detention facilities are overflowing and after three weeks you will be released into the interior of the country. A hearing date will be set months or years in the future, and there will be no penalty if you fail to appear. Find your way to one of America’s numerous sanctuary cities and you will be shielded from accountability.

Our leaders refuse to address the problem in a serious way because the status quo helps them politically. 

For Democrats, endless migration means the bolstering of a permanent underclass. Poor, low-skilled migrants from developing countries, the theory goes, will make reliable voters for generous welfare programs and the kind of big government largesse that Democrats favor. It is a path to an infinite electoral majority. 

For some Republicans, there is no problem to fix because mass migration means more bodies willing to work for low wages. The fact that flooding the zone with cheap labor will displace American workers is a secondary concern, if it is a concern at all. Businesses will return the favor to anti-borders Republicans in the form of generous campaign donations. In Washington, that’s what’s known as a win-win. The only people who lose in both parties’ machinations are Americans seeking safe communities and the opportunity to earn a living.

If mass migration advocates were truly concerned about the plight of children as they claim, they would reexamine U.S. policies that incentivize foreign nationals to arrive at our border. They would demand a war on the cartels that traffic human beings as commodities and exploit children on a grand scale.  

That neither of these things is happening speaks volumes about the true agenda of those who point their fingers at the purported cruelty of America, while the real humanitarian crisis is ignored. Americans and our neighbors to the south deserve better. 

Photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images

First Principles • History • Law and Order • Post • The Courts

Liberalism, Originalism, and the Constitution

No one would mistake the Supreme Court’s liberal justices for adherents to the concept of “originalism,” or the belief that one should consider—first and foremost—the Founders’ intent when ruling on constitutional issues. And yet their opinions in the Maryland “Peace Cross” case suggests that they, at least implicitly, support the idea.

In American Legion v. American Humanists Association, the court upheld Maryland’s Bladensburg Cross against the claim that its presence on public property violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Writing in dissent, no less a figure than Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—the Notorious RBG and hero of the American Left—turned to the thought of the Founders in order to find the meaning of the establishment clause.

According to Ginsburg, the establishment clause intends to create a “wall of separation between Church and State.” Like generations of liberal judges before her, Ginsburg here relies on Thomas Jefferson’s understanding of the purpose of the establishment clause, expressed in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists. Ginsburg and her predecessors additionally lean on James Madison’s arguments in the Memorial and Remonstrance, written against a proposed system of state support for religion in Virginia.

As it happens, this is a kind of originalism. It’s just that it’s a sloppy and tendentious form of originalism.

The original meaning that conscientious judges should seek is the meaning as it was understood by the public at large when the Constitution was ratified, and not the personal political views of selected Founders who, we should be reminded, were not sovereigns. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that no less a liberal giant than Ginsburg is willing to use at least some form of originalism in an effort to find the meaning of the Constitution.

Nor is this an isolated case. In the previous decade, when the court grappled with the meaning of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), both the conservative and liberal justices turned to the Founding generation to understand the meaning of the “right to keep and bear arms.” Justice Antonin Scalia and the conservative majority found that the weight of the historical evidence supported an individual right to keep and bear arms, while the liberal dissenters disputed this conclusion.

Notably, however, the “living Constitution”—which some liberal commentators treat as the common sense alternative to the much-derided originalist line of inquiry—made no appearance in Heller. Justice John Paul Stevens and the liberal dissenters never suggested the meaning of the Second Amendment should be interpreted in light of today’s values. They mounted no attack on originalism itself as a mode of interpretation. Instead they countered with their own originalist investigation, looking at the same evidence and holding that it supported the view that the Second Amendment aimed merely to protect the state militia.

As well they should. Constitutional originalism provides a nonpolitical standard for judges, one that permits them to think beyond their own policy preferences. Its liberal detractors may claim that it is just a clever disguise for their own political judging (“Originalism is a scam,” according to one recent ThinkProgress headline), but their argument is a weak one.

Anyone who studies the early history of the American Republic can see that originalism is not some novel invention of modern conservatives but a long-established and venerable approach to constitutional interpretation. In his celebrated opinions for the Supreme Court, John Marshall—the “Great Chief Justice”—sought the original meaning of the constitutional provisions on which he was called to rule. Certainly Marshall never suggested—unlike the modern purveyors of the “living Constitution”—that the meaning of constitutional provisions could change over time or might be imbued with new meaning by the jurists of the present generation.

James Madison—the “father of the Constitution”—expressly endorsed originalism as a method of constitutional interpretation. In an 1824 letter to Henry Lee, Madison held that in seeking a “just construction” of the Constitution we must turn to “the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation.”

“In that sense alone,” Madison added, “it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers.”

Small wonder, then, that even liberal justices sometimes draw on originalist traditions. In light of that fact, liberal pundits ought to be candid enough to admit that originalism is not some cynical conservative expedient but a legitimate method of constitutional interpretation.

Perhaps they can go a step further and ponder the following question: If originalism is good enough for some areas of constitutional inquiry, why isn’t it good enough for all of them?

Photo Credit: Stock Montage/Getty Images

Donald Trump • Immigration • Law and Order • Post • The Courts

Roberts vs. Trump: The Supreme Court Piles on the President

The difficulties President Trump faces in carrying out his agenda are massive and were underscored again by the last case decided this term by the United States Supreme Court. That case, Department of Commerce v. New York, presented a challenge to the Trump Administration’s plan to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census form.

The U.S. Constitution requires an “Enumeration” of the population every 10 years, to be made “in such Manner” as Congress “shall by Law direct.” These days, the census has at least two important effects. One is that the enumeration of persons residing in the United States determines the apportionment of representatives in the House, and the other is that it determines, to a great extent, the amount of federal funds that will be expended in each state.

The census, then, is a means of allocating political power and federal government resources. If there is an undercount, a state may end up losing power and wealth. Fearing that asking about citizenship status will result in an undercount of people living here illegally, Democrats challenged the right of the government to secure that information as part of the census. It is no secret that undocumented foreign nationals tend to cluster in urban areas, most often under Democratic Party control. So blue states feared the results of returning the citizenship question to the census.

As they have done with many policies of this administration, a coalition of progressives formed and brought actions challenging the citizenship question, alleging, among other things that it was an attempt at unlawful discrimination on the part of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Finding a judge sympathetic to their views, as they are too frequently able, they were successful in a federal trial court in one of the bluest of the states, New York. Similar actions are underway in other federal courts, but it was hoped that the Supreme Court would resolve the issue one way or the other before the printing of the 2020 census forms, which could take place later this year.

It was not to be. In an opinion of Byzantine complexity by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court acknowledged there was actually no legal impediment to asking the citizenship question in the census questionnaire. But because the Administrative Procedure Act enabled judicial review of the decisions of the secretary of commerce, and because the court suspected Ross had not been candid with regard to his motives for seeking the citizenship question, “meaningful judicial review” could not be had. Therefore, wrote Roberts, it was necessary to forbid the addition of a citizenship question to the census until further examination of the secretary’s motives could be accomplished in the lower courts.

Ross, whose department was charged with conducting the census, maintained that the citizenship question was added at the request of the Department of Justice, so that that that department might better enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA)—the notion being, apparently, that if the census revealed many citizens were not exercising their right to vote, this might be corrected by appropriate action.

This, according to the Supreme Court (and the lower court) was a “pretext” (a nice way of saying “a lie”), since Ross had declared soon after assuming his office that he would add that question to the census, presumably because he believed it would aid in determining the actual scope of the nation’s problem of illegal immigration.

The “pretextual” nature of Ross’s motives, for the Supreme Court majority, precluded effective judicial review. That this result was outrageous was brilliantly communicated in a dissenting opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, further solidifying his reputation as the greatest defender of the Constitution and the rule of law currently sitting on the court. The key provisions of Thomas’s opinion are worth quoting in full:

For the first time ever, the Court invalidates an agency action solely because it questions the sincerity of the agency’s otherwise adequate rationale. Echoing the din of suspicion and distrust that seems to typify modern discourse, the Court declares the Secretary’s memorandum “pretextual” because, “viewing the evidence as a whole,” his explanation that including a citizenship question on the census would help enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA) “seems to have been contrived.” . . . The Court does not hold that the Secretary merely had additional, unstated reasons for reinstating the citizenship question. Rather, it holds that the Secretary’s stated rationale did not factor at all into his decision.

The Court’s holding reflects an unprecedented departure from our deferential review of discretionary agency decisions. And, if taken seriously as a rule of decision, this holding would transform administrative law. It is not difficult for political opponents of executive actions to generate controversy with accusations of pretext, deceit, and illicit motives. Significant policy decisions are regularly criticized as products of partisan influence, interest-group pressure, corruption, and animus. Crediting these accusations on evidence as thin as the evidence here could lead judicial review of administrative proceedings to devolve into an endless morass of discovery and policy disputes not contemplated by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

Elaborating, Thomas observed that Roberts’s majority opinion, joined by the Supreme Court’s four liberals, “engages in an unauthorized inquiry into evidence not properly before us to reach an unsupported conclusion. Moreover, each step of the inquiry offends the presumption of regularity we owe the Executive.”

There is a chance this case will return eventually to the Supreme Court, and the citizenship question will be added to the census, but it may not happen in time for the next count. What Thomas reminds us, however, is that somehow John Roberts has been persuaded to join progressives and the enemies of this administration in erecting hurdles no other president has had to surmount.

Just as the Russia hoax involved an unprecedented attempt by the Obama Administration to employ our intelligence services wrongly to conduct political surveillance and seek to undermine candidate and later President Trump, so the Roberts Court has now made the president’s task of implementing policy more precarious in an unprecedented manner.

No wonder, then, that following this decision President Trump tweeted “Seems totally ridiculous that our government, and indeed Country, cannot ask a basic question of Citizenship in a very expensive, detailed and important Census, in this case for 2020.” He’s right, of course.

John Roberts, who, in his confirmation hearings, boldly claimed that justices were apolitical “umpires,” belied this notion in his majority opinion, just as he did in upholding Obamacare in 2012, with an equally contrived opinion declaring that law—which clearly violated Congress’s commerce clause powers (as Roberts himself admitted)—could be sustained as a constitutional exercise of Congress’s taxing power. In the Obamacare case, Roberts seriously undermined the 10th Amendment, which was thought to guarantee that the federal government remain one of limited and enumerated powers. Thomas’s dissent in the census case, just as he had in the Obamacare case, makes clear that Roberts engaged in judicial legislation, and, in effect, put the federal courts in a position to frustrate countless policies of the executive.

I have written at length elsewhere about how our law schools for two generations have encouraged the development of courts that make it up as they go along, and how that behavior has endangered the sovereignty of the American people themselves. We now have one more jarring example of this behavior that is so detrimental to the rule of law. Only if President Trump succeeds in putting more true conservatives like Thomas on the court is there any hope of returning us to self-rule and the framers’ conception of the judicial role.

Photo Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

America • Law and Order • Post • Progressivism • The Courts

Crime Without Consequences

The latest and greatest cause du jour is criminal justice reform—a push to claw back the “tough on crime” policies of decades past.

In pursuit of that agenda, scores of advocacy groups have masqueraded as public policy analysts presenting their predetermined conclusions that the “system” is broken as unbiased assessments based on data and experience.

The latest is the Council of State Governments (CSG), a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank whose Justice Center arm studies criminal justice reform. In a recently released study, “Confined and Costly: How Supervision Violations Are Filling Prisons and Burdening Budgets,” CSG concludes that prisons are overloaded with parolees and probationers.

CSG’s press release states:

45 percent of state prison admissions nationwide are the result of violations of probation and parole supervision—either for new crimes or breaking supervision rules…[and] one-quarter of prison admissions are the result of technical violations, which are often minor offenses, such as failed drug tests or missed curfews.

National Public Radio (NPR) reported, “the majority of these violations are for ‘minor infractions, such as failing a drug test or missing a curfew. Those so-called technical violations cost states $2.8 billion every year, the report says.”

But the underlying data and the footnotes to CSG’s own report belie those bold, topline claims.

A few necessary corrections and clarifications are in order.

  • “State prison” includes county jails (which aren’t state prisons, at all) and most sentences are short stays.
  • Parole and probation are distinct, but all terms are mutually agreed upon conditions to maintain the offender’s liberty and are often tailored to their risk and history.
  • Prior to being re-incarcerated, both parolees and probationers receive revocation hearings, administered by a neutral third-party.
  • Technical violations are not necessarily minor and often include a re-offense or serious abrogation of their release terms that threatens the public safety.

So little of what CSG says is true it almost would be laughable—if not for the tragedy that some state lawmakers may use the report to alter public safety laws to favor criminals.

The CSG report repeatedly says that violators are admitted to “state prison” which is not an accurate description of the facilities they enter and implies an extended length of sentence of parolee and probationer violators. But buried in a footnote, the CSG acknowledges:

“Prison” includes county jail if the county was reimbursed by the state for a person’s incarceration, which occurs in some, but not all, states. Supervision violations may include revocations (i.e., unsuccessful terminations of a supervision and completion of a sentence in prison or jail) or short-term sanctions (i.e., probation or parole jurisdiction is maintained and the person is incarcerated for a short period of time in prison or jail).” (Emphasis added.)

The issue is further explained in CSG’s methodology section:

[Total admissions to Prison:]

  • Include people sentenced to a term of incarceration regardless of sentence length (include jail sentences in unified systems). This may include people held in private facilities as well as county-run facilities, provided they have been sentenced or formally sanctioned by a court or supervision authority and their incarceration is state funded.

  • Include people incarcerated for short sanctions in state-funded custody (may include county jails) while on probation or parole/post-prison supervision. 

It is important to note that jails, typically, detain inmates for less than one year, while prisons do so for a year or longer. So, “prison” doesn’t mean prison, according to the CSG itself. It is just useful shorthand to grab the attention of smug advocates and lazy journalists.

Another important distinction glossed over by the CSG report is the difference between parole and probation. Both are the result of criminal convictions (felony and/or misdemeanor) but only probation is a sentence in and of itself (you can remain out of prison or jail if you adhere to certain rules). Parole, on the other hand, is a privilege extended to sentenced inmates for good behavior behind bars. Both categories (probationers and parolees) pledge to adhere to given rules to maintain their liberty. The terms are a legal agreement with consequences for violations (i.e., admission to prison or jail for a specified time).

Yet another problem is CSG’s characterization of technical violations as “minor offenses, such as failed drug tests or missed curfews.”

This is not an accurate description of technical violations and how they are enforced. It portrays probation and parole officers as overbearing parents revoking the freedom of otherwise compliant offenders for missing their bedtime.

In reality:

  • Offenders agreed to the terms of probation or parole in exchange for their liberty.
  • The terms are usually tailored to the offender’s history and crimes (e.g., no drugs or alcohol for an addict) or for the safety of past victims (no contact with a former spouse) or the general public (no possession of weapons).
  • Parolees and probationers receive revocation hearings in front of a judge or hearing officer. The decision is not made arbitrarily by a single parole or probation officer. Many states’ hearings include “improvement plans” to avoid re-incarceration through “graduated sanctions” based on risk-level and the severity of new violations.
  • Most importantly, CSG acknowledges a crucial data limitation that all but eviscerates their conclusion that “minor” technical violations are the root cause of revocation. Buried under CSG’s flashy graphics, a tiny asterisks notes: “Whether an incarceration is the result of a new offense or technical violation is often difficult and problematic to delineate, even in states with available data. Most states do not consider a supervision violation to be the result of a new offense unless a new felony conviction is present, meaning technical violations may include misdemeanor convictions or new arrests.” [emphasis mine]

The whole report is so rife with data errors and mischaracterizations that it is difficult to identify how the data was repurposed and interpreted.

CSG claims that the state with the supposedly highest revocation rate, Idaho, holds 5,298 inmates on a given day due to revocations. Such revocations account for 69 percent of Idaho’s “prison admissions” and 62 percent of its overall prison population. Curiously, the prison admissions breakdown that is given is: 1) probationers—new offense (20 percent), 2) technical probation violators (13 percent), 3) parolees—new offense (21 percent) and 4) technical parole violators (15 percent). Just below the fancy widget, a blaring “Data Alert” warns that the state did not provide CSG with any of that data or related costs.

Furthermore, CSG claims that 22 percent of the overall Idaho prison population is comprised of parole violators. But in fact, the Idaho Department of Corrections’ own report identifies only 657 parole violators as housed state prisons, re-entry facilities, or county jails in February 2018. With 8,456 total inmates in Idaho’s control that month, parole violators did not account for 22 percent of the state’s prison population as CSG contends—the figure for parole violators in prison is closer to 8 percent. Even CSG reported in 2015 that Idaho’s violators in prison population was 40 percent not the 62 percent the latest report claims. That did not stop CSG from populating their charts and shaming Idaho as an outlier.

So, let’s summarize the study’s take-aways: facts are irrelevant, costs to society and victims are secondary, and consequences and personal responsibility are cruel (to convicted criminals). It is of no consequence for parolees or probationers to use illegal drugs or possess firearms while on supervision. No accountability is necessary for sympathy, not sanctions will cajole inveterate criminals into good behavior.

Let me help rewrite that press release opener:

A new nationwide study measures the cost to the criminal but ignores the cost to victims of crime and to public safety.

Nearly half the people convicted of crimes in America who were given the opportunity to avoid incarceration instead chose to break their word and the law. They were held accountable for their initial and subsequent offenses after a fair hearing.

An alternative is already working with fewer carrots (leniency) and more swift and reliable sticks (sanctions) for violations.

That alternative is Hawaii’s HOPE program, which implements

a swift and commensurate sanction for each probation violation. Probation, as has traditionally been implemented, usually allows probation violations to accumulate since there are few sanction alternatives available to probation officers and judges apart from a probation revocation. Once the probationer accumulates enough violations to forfeit probation, the probationer usually is sent to serve the original prescribed prison sentence. HOPE, on the other hand, involves delivering an immediate, measured and proportionate sanction for each violation as it occurs. Each probationer entering HOPE is made aware of the program expectations, including that there will be an immediate consequence for every violation.

According to studies, HOPE participants “experienced fewer returns to prison on average: 13 percent for those who only served HOPE probation; 15 percent for those who were transferred into HOPE from conventional probation; and 32 percent for those who served conventional probation only.”

Hawaii’s model has been attempted elsewhere with mixed results due to implementation problems but continues to offer its claim: hope for compliance and keeping offenders out of jail and prison: “[A rigorous study] also showed significant differences in compliance and recidivism for HOPE probationers, with large differences in positive drug tests (13 percent HOPE versus 46 percent among those in the control group) and new arrests (21 percent HOPE versus 47 percent among those in the control group).”

The larger conclusion for the parole and probation system isn’t that leniency works as much as hard, fast, and consistent accountability does. We would all be better off if advocates dressed up as unbiased experts bothered to apply such rigor to their own work.

Photo Credit: Sonkar Shubham/EyeEm/Getty Images

 

America • Deep State • Elections • Law and Order • Post • Russia • The Left

Leftism Makes People Meaner

The sadistic treatment of Paul Manafort illustrates something I have believed since I attended graduate school in the 1970s and saw the behavior of left-wing students: Leftism makes people meaner.

There are kind and mean conservatives and kind and mean liberals. Neither liberalism nor conservatism makes people kinder or meaner. But this is not the case with leftism. With the handful of exceptions that accompany every generalization, leftism makes people meaner, even crueler.

Take the transfer of Manafort, the one-time Trump campaign manager, from a federal prison to New York’s Rikers Island prison. Rikers Island is universally regarded as a wretched place. As Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote:

The decision to move Paul Manafort … from the decent federal prison to which he was sentenced to solitary confinement to the dangerous hell hole that is New York City’s Rikers Island seems abusive and possibly illegal.

I know Rikers well having spent time there visiting numerous defendants accused of murder and other violent crimes. It is a terrible place that no one should ever be sent to.

Mass murderers and torturers are among those incarcerated at Rikers Island.

Moreover, Manafort, found guilty solely for white-collar crimes, will be placed in solitary confinement—”for his own safety.”

Virtually everyone who has written about solitary confinement, both on the right and the left, deems it torture. Manafort will therefore be tortured after being sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for fraud and, in the words of the Daily Wire, “a little-known law that requires lobbyists to report that they are working on behalf of a foreign government (in Manafort’s case, Ukraine).”

Angry over the possibility that Manafort may be pardoned by President Trump, the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, charged Manafort with additional crimes based on state law. That way, if found guilty of state offenses, he cannot be pardoned by Trump, as the president’s power to pardon applies only to federal — not state — crimes.

Everyone knows this prosecution is politically motivated. Vance hates the president and wants to use solitary confinement in a hellhole with violent criminals to squeeze Manafort into testifying against the president.

As Dershowitz said to me on my radio show, what Vance is doing reminds him of Stalin and Beria—the infamous state prosecutor, a man Stalin referred to as “my Himmler.” Dershowitz, a lifelong liberal Democrat and supporter of Hillary Clinton, does not use Stalin analogies loosely.

To her credit, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “A prison sentence is not a license for gov torture and human rights violations. That’s what solitary confinement is. Manafort should be released, along with all people being held in solitary.”

I might add that my opposition to Manafort’s treatment is not partisan or new. On a number of occasions over the years, I have cited favorably New York Review of Books articles describing the horror of solitary confinement.

Despite its history of opposition to solitary confinement, the New York Times article reporting the plan to relocate Manafort said nothing against the unnecessary transfer but did comment on the expensive suits Manafort used to wear.

Solitary confinement is “basically a deathtrap,” former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik wrote when Manafort was placed in solitary at his federal prison. Manafort should never have been sentenced to solitary confinement. But Robert Mueller (and Judge Amy Berman Jackson) sought it for the same political reason Vance has: to break the man.

As former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell wrote: “When a witness or defendant from whom prosecutors want ‘cooperation’ does not do as they demand, they put him in solitary confinement. And it works. It literally breaks people.

“Solitary does have a place in our prison system, but only for those people who are simply too dangerous to be placed around others at all. However, the torture of solitary confinement should never be used as it is now to break people to prosecutors’ will—to torture them until they will say or do anything to get out.

“Solitary is also called the ‘hole.’ It’s a small space, barely large enough to stand, with a slit for light, to which prisoners are confined/caged for 23 hours a day. …

“Paul Manafort, seventy years old, has endured this torture for eight months. He’s now in a wheelchair, while Judge Amy Berman Jackson mocks his rapidly deteriorating health. Where is the outcry from the ACLU?”

So, then, what enables Vance, Mueller, and Jackson to engage in such evil?

The only answer is their politics—the politics of the Trump-hating Left.

Cyrus Vance, Robert Mueller and Amy Berman Jackson may well be good parents, loving spouses, loyal friends, and charitable individuals. But leftism has given them permission to act vilely and mercilessly while thinking of themselves as fine people—just as evil doctrines have done throughout history.

As noted at the beginning of this column, when I was at Columbia, I witnessed this leftist mean-spiritedness firsthand in the personal cruelty of left-wing agitators against professors and others with whom they differed.

Here’s a question perhaps millions of parents will be able to answer: If your child returned home from college a leftist, was he or she a kinder or meaner person than before he or she left for college?

The question is rhetorical.

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Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Center for American Greatness • Donald Trump • Immigration • Law and Order • Post

Trump’s America: No Country for Illegal Aliens

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador once said that immigration to the United States is a “human right,” one that his government would observe and defend. And yet it seems now that fear of President Trump’s tariffs has changed AMLO’s tune.

The Mexican government on Wednesday arrested 350 Central Americans, including two prominent “migrant rights” activists, who were part of a large group headed toward the United States. Mexico is also planning to deploy an additional 6,000 national guard troops to its border with Guatemala.

It gets better.

The day after those activists were arrested, the Mexican Finance Ministry froze the bank accounts of 26 individuals for their alleged involvement in facilitating migrant caravans to the United States from Central America.

It took about a week after Trump threatened to impose a 5 percent tariff—for starters—on all Mexican exports to the United States for Obrador to bend the knee. In fact, Obrador has gone so far as to offer “a sweeping overhaul of asylum rules across” Mexico, the Washington Post reports.

So much for immigration to the United States as a “human right.”

The proposed asylum overhaul has three parts. First, it would require that Central Americans seek refuge in the first country they enter, rather than the United States.

Second, migrants who arrive at the U.S. border would be deported to the “third country”—in this case, Mexico. (It’s important to note that Mexico has never recognized the “third country” agreement, until now.)

Third, migrants who express fear of physical harm in their home country—a claim generally made out of expediency by migrants all too familiar with squishy U.S. immigration laws—would be subjected to a tougher screening process and thus more likely to be rejected.

If Mexico is true to its word, this in all would amount to a major victory. Still other, smaller victories abound.

Minors who had attempted to enter the United States illegally could until recently help themselves to English classes, soccer, and even legal aid while living in federal migrant shelters. This, of course, was all financed by the unwitting American taxpayer.

As of June 5, however, the Trump Administration announced it would end all such recreational activities and services. Law-breaking will no longer be rewarded with ping-pong matches and taxpayer-subsidized legal and educational services. Shame.

Then there is the case of Scott Warren, a professor at Arizona State University and a volunteer with No More Deaths. Warren was arrested in 2018 by Border Patrol agents on charges of harboring illegal aliens, for which he is facing up to 20 years in prison. His trial began last week.

Though it may boggle little liberal minds, illegal immigration is illegal, and Warren was aiding and abetting illegal aliens at a time when Border Patrol has been apprehending them by thousands—literally. A group of 1,036 illegal aliens found in the El Paso sector—the largest ever apprehended at a single time—were intercepted by Border Patrol border on May 30. To punish Warren, then, not only sends a message to others like him but shows respect for the rule of law and for the men and women in the line of duty.

Trump’s hardball with Mexico, the austere changes to migrant detention centers, and the punishing of subversive activists indicate favorable winds for American nationalists. “Trump’s America” increasingly appears to be a nation of laws, and no country for illegal aliens.

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Conservatives • Law and Order • Post • Progressivism • The Constitution • The Courts • The Left

The Way Out of Our Judicial Impasse Is Through It

For more than half a century, as leftist judges have preempted or nullified our efforts to govern ourselves, conservatives have staked much on the appointment of judges who would follow the law rather than legislating or administering from the bench. And indeed, the number of such judges has been growing for a generation.

But since the 2016 election, it has become clear that merely appointing good judges cannot stop what the bad ones are doing, as leftist federal judges continue to strike down one after the other of the Trump Administration’s initiatives, as well as conservative state laws.

Even if a majority of the Supreme Court were to overrule every district court judge’s usurpation once an appropriate case reached it, leftist judges would still be a major brake on one side of American public life. Until conservatives somehow stop this judicial malpractice, all the work they do to elect whomever, to pass whatever laws, to appoint more good judges, is guaranteed to be undone by some bad judge putting his seal on some leftist group’s brief.

Nor can honest, nonactivist judges provide a counterweight on the other side of political conflict.  If conservative judges were the mirror image of leftist ones, there would be a cadre of them ready to invalidate the next leftist president’s every move, as well as every law and practice of California’s and other blue states’ governments. But there is not such a cohort in waiting.

A Tale of Two States
Red states over the past two years have been passing laws restricting abortion, while blue states have been passing laws expanding “abortion rights,” including measures that would allow killing babies outside the womb. The red state restrictions are practically null and void because leftist judges have pronounced them so. Because no judge has done the same, the blue state sanctions of infanticide stand.

There is a fundamental asymmetry between the Right’s view of law, and the Left’s. For conservatives, law is the Constitution as written, as are the laws lawfully passed under it, because these proceed from elections by the people. So are decisions by lawfully appointed judges.

For the Left, law is what meets theirs and their community’s best judgment.

The asymmetry between the Left’s legal culture and that of conservatives guarantees the permanent submission of the conservative side of American life. Conservatives respect the rulings of judges unless and until the Supreme Court invalidates them, and largely respect the Supreme Court’s rulings regardless of their content. They do so because of the link, however tenuous, these institutions have to the will of the people. Leftist judges—and not only judges—have the opposite of respect for the people. For them, the laws are what they say they are. Laws R Us!

Alternative Resolutions
If the conservative idea of American life is going to survive, it must either disable the Left from exercising tyranny through judges or match the Left’s attitude toward laws and judges—something is law only so long as we agree with it.

Disabling the Left’s judicial weapon is a merely political problem. Nothing in the Constitution gives any judge—including the Supreme Court itself—the power to invalidate any law or executive action, much less to set national policy. “Judicial review” grew from the fact that the Supreme Court (and derivatively other Article III judges) being a co-equal branch of government, may refuse to affirm any law which it finds to be in conflict with the Constitution.

But the existence of the inferior federal courts, their rules and jurisdictions are creatures of subordinate legislation, not the Constitution itself—as is the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. Under the Constitution’s Article III, section 2, mere law can restrict a district court’s powers to the case at hand in its own district and eliminate its dictation of policy. Conservatives can and should restrict the courts to their proper role.

Taking matters into our own hands is the other alternative. Abraham Lincoln’s comments on the Dred Scott decision set a standard: while he did not dispute the court’s affirmation of Scott’s slavery, he refused to take its decision as a rule for any other case.

Defying the reach of a federal court ruling—even one of the Supreme Court’s, never mind that of a district court—is within everyone’s power. Alexander Hamilton had made that point in Federalist 78: the judiciary’s fundamental power is neither more nor less than the power to persuade. You may be otherwise persuaded. Hamilton is clear that there is no constitutional duty to obey the courts—certainly not on policy.

Andrew Jackson applied that principle even to the Supreme Court’s decision in the specific case of the Bank of the United States in 1832: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” There is no constitutional reason why any president, or governor, should forbear from carrying out a law or an executive decision just because a federal district judge’s opinion is that it violates some standard, The president or governor has his own opinion. In the final analysis, all depends on executive power, which, in turn, depends on popular support.

The Work of the People
Single district judges who have “struck down” so many of the initiatives on which President Trump was elected have framed the public issue: who rules? Were Trump to defy them, Jackson-style, his argument would be “the voters rule,” not these individuals’ discretion. Their only answer would be that their discretion is the rule of law. This is unconvincing.

Politically based defiance may also counter judges’ interference with democracy at the state level. In 1957, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to enforce a court order pursuant to Brown v. Board, to admit black students to Little Rock Central High School. This outcome was foreordained. Neither side meant to shoot. The presidency’ prestige was at its height, wielded by World War II’s recent victor.

In today’s deeply divided country—as central institutions are widely discredited—no president, regardless of his opinion would send federal troops to enforce a court order against opposition. If, for example, any state law were to ban abortion, the Army would not shoot the state’s police, with the cameras rolling, to enable an abortion. Nor can we actually imagine the reverse.

The only way out of our political impasse is through it. Judges cannot unite us again as a people. That remains the work of the people and their elected representatives.

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Democrats • Elections • Identity Politics • Law and Order • Post • Progressivism • race • The Left

Bizarre Democratic Politics in the D.C. Suburbs

In the Democratic primary race for commonwealth attorney in Arlington, Virginia, the prevailing principle seems to be that no good deed goes unpunished.

The moderate, much-admired Democrat incumbent, Theo Stamos, is being challenged in the primary by an unqualified radical lawyer whose campaign is being funded largely from outside the area and who has spouted one falsehood after another. She is also strangely clueless about local priorities.  

Stamos, who has served eight years in the Arlington-Falls Church district, is widely regarded as sensible, moderate, and competent. Residents are overwhelmingly satisfied with law enforcement.

Stamos’s opponent in the primary, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, is a radical, left-wing “victim’s rights” advocate who has never tried a single case in a Virginia courtroom and seems to have no desire to prosecute anyone other than possibly “racists” and “corporate interests.” Her big issues are “racial inequality” in the courts and jails; withholding prosecution of minor drug crimes (she has announced that she will not bring charges for marijuana possession); the “school-to-prison pipeline” (which is virtually non-existent in the largely middle- and upper-middle-class district); and “police brutality,” which she alleges is not being pursued by incumbent Stamos.

Tafti cites only one case in which a man was killed by a shot in the back by police. But the incident was intensively investigated, with the authorities concluding that the man who was shot had viciously attacked an officer with a metal bar and was turned around by the force of his own blow and a first bullet in his arm. That hasn’t stopped her from condemning Stamos as a racist.

With resources obtained primarily from outside the district, including from radical billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, Tafti has massively outspent Stamos. Her bizarre campaign is focusing on issues that have little local relevance. In effect, Tafti seems to want to reform Ferguson, Missouri, or Baltimore, by running for commonwealth attorney in an affluent, largely law-abiding Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C.

Because Stamos is a moderate and not a raving, anti-law-and-order radical, the Virginia political establishment has the long knives out for her. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe (a long-time personal and political ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton) restored voting rights to 173,000 felons during his term. Because Stamos is influential in the Virginia Association of Commonwealth Attorneys, and because the group opposed certain aspects of McAuliffe’s reforms, McAuliffe evidently is exacting revenge by trying to unseat her. Something similar is occurring in neighboring Fairfax County.

The commonwealth attorney’s job is to prosecute crimes. She must enforce the laws passed by the legislature. She cannot ignore laws simply because she does not like them. And above all, a prosecutor must be honest and open when applying the law.

Distorting the facts to suit a personal agenda is corrupt. We can only hope that enough voters will pay sufficient attention to this local race to reelect the incumbent. Effective law enforcement is essential to a civilized society.

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Administrative State • Deep State • Donald Trump • Free Speech • Intelligence Community • Law and Order • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • Technology • The Constitution • The Corner

The Case for Prosecuting Comey and Brennan

Twenty-five years ago, the Arnold Schwarzenegger action hit “True Lies” depicted a jealous husband abusing his access to powerful tools intended to fight terrorism to discover whether his wife was having an affair. The character played by Tom Arnold lamely warns Schwarzenegger’s Harry Tasker that using government surveillance to spy on his wife is a crime (which is true) and that abusing these tools could land them both in prison.

Tasker retorts that they violate the law all the time. Once you have a person’s search history, access to her emails, text messages, and listen to her phone calls, it’s not hard to construct a blackmail scenario. But that could never happen in real life, right?

Wrong. In 2013, almost 20 years after the movie, Reuters reported that at least a dozen U.S. National Security Agency employees were caught using secret government surveillance tools to spy on the emails or phone calls of current or former spouses and lovers. The NSA has repeatedly promised to reform its procedures as the database it keeps on Americans continues to grow in scope and reach.

When you talk to your spouse, your child, or your lover in the presence of your electronic devices, those devices passively listen to what you’re saying just in case you say “Hey Siri,” or “Hey Alexa.” Have you ever noticed that when you suddenly develop an interest in a particular product or service, ads mysteriously seem to appear and follow you around?

Former FBI Director James Comey once admitted he covered his computer camera for his privacy. He would know. Just imagine a snooping government making a word-searchable transcript of audio and digital recording of video passively transmitted from your phone. What could a curious agent, with access to a feed from the two cameras in your phone, record while simultaneously viewing your private life in both directions?

Such data could give unlimited power to influence and blackmail elected officials, private citizens, judges, law enforcement, journalists, and so on.

When Americans see a public official or an influential journalist suddenly reverse a position or do something otherwise deemed illogical, speculation often runs to question whether “somebody has something on” that official. We should worry about the potential abuse of a database containing essentially unlimited source material that easily could be used to gain power over our fellow Americans.

False Affidavits
Congress set up the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to protect Americans from being spied upon by their own government.
And we also know, as in “True Lies,” that NSA analysts “with greater frequency than previously disclosed . . . used U.S. person identifiers to query,” the giant NSA database. This abuse continues even after repeated promises to Congress and the FISC that NSA revised procedures to safeguard private information about Americans.

The NSA’s inspector general caught this wholesale abuse simply by reviewing a small sample of the searches of the database. “That relatively narrow inquiry found that [a redacted number of] analysts had made [a redacted number of] separate queries using,” names of U.S. citizens to search the database. The inspector general discovered this in the first three months of 2015.

On September 26, 2016, the government submitted to the supervising court a certification that failed to disclose the inspector general’s report even though it was well known by then to the signatories of that certification. Among the supporting affidavits falsely reassuring the FISC that the government was not abusing access to data on Americans: NSA Director Admiral Michael S. Rogers, FBI Director James B. Comey, and CIA Director John Brennan.

On October 24, 2016, in the early days of the Trump-Russia scheme then-dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” and just a few days after the FISC issued a warrant authorizing surveillance on Carter Page, Rogers dashed to the FISC court to make an oral admission. Two days before the FISC was about to approve the government’s continued use of the database, Rogers admitted to significant “non-compliance” with the NSA’s procedures to protect the private information gathered on Americans from the prying eyes of curious analysts. Rogers amended his affidavit to address the falsehoods of his earlier affidavit supporting the September 2016 certification.

Comey and Brennan apparently did not.

In the October 26, 2016 hearing, “the Court ascribed the government’s failure to disclose” the explosive revelations of widespread abuse of Americans’ data, “to an institutional lack of candor” and “emphasized that ‘this is a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.’” The court further described the NSA’s abuse of the database as “widespread during all periods under review.”

Rogers Breaks Ranks 
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, Rogers then did something that incensed the Intelligence Community and its allies in the media: he
met with President-elect Trump without first giving President Obama a “heads up.” A cold slap of fear might have stung the offending intelligence officials as Rogers seemed to be tattling. This may explain why the Russia hoax accelerated after the election—to keep the incoming anti-swamp president from exposing their vast exploitation of the private information of Americans.

Georgetown University Law Center published an article arguing that the NSA gathering bulk information about Americans is simply unconstitutional. The NSA’s argument has been that the data is kept safe from unconstitutional searches until there’s a need for to search for a U.S. citizen in connection with a particular crime, at which point a warrant would be issued to “search” the data the government already scooped up. But we know from repeated experience that the database remains an irresistible temptation for bureaucrats looking for dirt on targets.

The government has repeatedly demonstrated that it won’t follow constitutional safeguards. The law review article noted, “As with general warrants, blanket seizure programs subject the private information of innocent people to the risk of searches and exposure, without their knowledge and with no realistic prospect of a remedy.” The article adds: “the seizure of papers for later search was an abuse distinct from, but equivalent to, the use of general search warrants—which is why ‘papers’ was included in the Fourth Amendment in addition to ‘effects’ or personal property.”

Comey and Brennan Have a Big Problem
“The FBI doesn’t spy on people,” Comey recently
proclaimed in a public announcement of the same lie he made to the FISC in his affidavit. Under the statute, the FBI was not supposed to search the NSA database without a court order. The FISC noted that the FBI not only accessed the database, but it did so with such frequency that it resorted to the extra manpower of outside contractors to conduct the searches.

Every search by the FBI without a court order requesting data on an American is a potential crime punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both. Comey submitted a false affidavit to deceive the court charged with protecting our constitution.

That seems like a good reason to interrupt the celebrity deep stater’s interminable publicity tour and hold him accountable. We don’t yet know the identities of the targets of these many searches or how that illegally-obtained information was used. Were wives blackmailed into humiliation? Were public officials coerced into changing positions? Were journalists forced to conform to the Intelligence Community’s talking points? It does seem puzzling that the media cheerleads so vigorously for our intelligence agencies. The victims, if they know what the government did, aren’t talking.

Rogers did the right thing by (eventually) coming clean to the FISA court on the widespread abuse of Americans’ data. But James Comey and John Brennan do not appear to have taken any steps to correct their affidavits certifying that the data was not used improperly. The FISC court did not provide numbers but it’s reasonable to infer that the term “widespread” in reference to ongoing violations by multiple officials could mean thousands of felonies under the cover of the Comey and Brennan affidavits that apparently remain uncorrected, in spite of having been found false by a published court opinion.

Comey and Brennan should be prosecuted and the evidence is in plain sight.

The great gift that Donald Trump gave America may be that he tempted the intelligence community to the task of interfering with an American election and undermining a duly elected president. The abuses related to Trump appear to be the tiny tip of a much larger iceberg that we might never have spotted as our intelligence agencies increasingly seem to see their role as “protecting” us from our own constitutional rights.

James Comey and John Brennan (among others) presided over an assault on the constitutional right to keep the government out of our emails, texts, phone calls, and other data. Our republic must hold them to account. As Roman scholars once observed, ubi jus ibi remedium—”a right must have a remedy.” If no action is taken against those who trampled on our Fourth Amendment rights, then no right remains.

Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

2016 Election • Administrative State • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Law and Order • Post • The Courts

Jurisprudence and the Failed Coup

The indispensable Victor Davis Hanson recently noted, “Real coups against democracies rarely are pulled off by jack-booted thugs in sunglasses or fanatical mobs storming the presidential palace. More often, they are the insidious work of supercilious bureaucrats, bought intellectuals, toady journalists, and political activists who falsely project that their target might at some future date do precisely what they are currently planning and doing—and that they are noble patriots, risking their lives, careers, and reputations for all of us, and thus must strike first.”

He was discussing what we are now beginning to understand was the attempt to oust Donald Trump begun by officials in the Obama Administration, including certainly former FBI Director James Comey, assistant director Andrew McCabe, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page, and quite possibly President Obama himself.

This will, in the long light of history, be regarded as the greatest misuse of governmental power ever to appear in our politics, and yet there has been very little attention paid to how this could occur and why at this particular time in our political development.

Equal Protection Denied?
To a hammer everything looks like a nail, and to a law professor like me, everything looks like a problem in jurisprudence, and it does appear that it was a change in our approach to law in the courts and the law schools in the middle of the twentieth century that is responsible for the betrayal of our democratic ideals on the part of those who attempted the failed coup against Donald Trump.

It is, of course, always characteristic of those in power to believe they ought to stay in power, and to them any means at hand are justified by that end. Perhaps this is the simple answer to why these miscreants did what they did, but I think the problem is a deeper one peculiar to American law about 70 years ago.

At that time a number of American intellectuals began seriously to question the existing laws, particularly in the Southern United States, that seemed wrongly to be subjugating African Americans (the Jim Crow laws), and, in the name of equality, they embarked on an intellectual project suggesting that the courts could remove these vestiges of slavery through an expansive interpretation of the 14th Amendment, which provided that no state should deny to any of its citizens “the equal protection of the laws.”

The research of the distinguished legal historian Raoul Berger made clear in the 1970s that the historical meaning of the phrase “equal protection” was simply a guarantee that no citizen could be denied access to the courts to uphold property and contract rights, but that historical understanding certainly did not reflect a clear wish to give federal courts power to reallocate the responsibilities of state and federal governments that were clearly provided in the Constitution. After all, the 10th Amendment makes clear that the federal government (including the federal courts) is to be one of limited and enumerated powers, with the governments closest to the people—the state and local bodies—given whatever residue of power existed, save that which was retained by the people themselves.

Judges Reign
Berger called the book in which he made this case Government by Judiciary, to emphasize that from the 1950s to the 1970s, and, in particular, the work of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the most important policy-setting organs in the republic became the federal courts, rather than Congress or the president.

Our courts are still making policy, particularly as a brace of Obama-appointed judges seek to nullify executive initiatives of the Trump Administration, but it was the attitude of the Warren Court justices and their acolytes on the lower courts and in the academy that are of most interest to us here.

As one of them, a United States Court of Appeals judge, J. Skelly Wright, made clear in an important 1971 Harvard Law Review article, what the Warren Court was doing was implementing a jurisprudence of “goodness,” to redress then-existing evils such as racial segregation, legislative reapportionment that favored rural over urban districts, purportedly unfair investigative techniques resulting occasionally in coerced confessions, and, he might have added, mandated prayers and Bible reading in the public schools.

All of these things were clearly matters traditionally left to the discretion of the states, but the Warren Court proceeded to rewrite the Constitution to remove that discretion. Thus our pluralistic society became more centralized, and as a result a cadre of enlightened ephors in Washington decided they possessed superior wisdom to the rubes in the hinterlands.

The Warren Court never described the state legislators whose authority they supplanted as “deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton would notoriously label President Trump’s supporters, but the sentiment, sadly, was probably the same.

While it is undeniable that there was some nobility in what the Warren Court did, that nobility was in the service of undemocratic means, as the popular sovereignty on which the Constitution ultimately depends was dangerously eroded by that court.

It is equally notorious that something similar happened with decisions of the Burger Court such as Roe v. Wade, or decisions of the Roberts Court such as NFIB v. Sebelius or Obergefell v. Hodges. These were all cases where a majority of the Supreme Court decided to overrule policy decisions appropriately made by state governments, in the service of a purportedly superior ideology professed by particular justices.

It is no coincidence that deep state bureaucrats such as Comey, Brennan, Clapper, et. al., and the Harvard Law School-trained Obama would be tempted to act on what they must have seen as their superior judgment to the voters of flyover country who chose to elect Donald Trump. To these federal officials, the Fabian socialist policies of the Obama Administration, purportedly dedicated as they were to equality, efficiency, redistribution, and centralized control were the inevitable wave of the future, and nothing as trivial and outdated as the Electoral College (or perhaps the Constitution itself) ought to be permitted to interfere.

What Justice Requires Now
If we are still a republic governed by the rule of law, then those who engineered​ this failed coup (to use Hanson’s and Roger Kimball’s term), with its Russian collusion scheme must be brought to justice, and there is every indication that Attorney General Barr understands this and is proceeding accordingly.

Equally important, however, is that we understand the poisonous nature of a legal philosophy that enables justices, judges, and even bureaucrats to overrule the decisions of state and federal legislatures or voters not because they have exceeded traditional and historical constitutional limits, but because those decisions are not in keeping with the tenets of progressive ideology.

Donald Trump and William Barr have their work cut out for them in rooting out the excrescences of an overweening federal leviathan, and Trump’s appointments to the federal bench should be instrumental in that effort, as well.

It is now time, however, for our law schools, enamored as they have been with the Warren Court and with judicial policymaking, to come to an understanding that a return to more traditional notions of jurisprudence and constitutional hermeneutics are essential. If the rule of law and popular sovereignty are to remain as the cornerstones of our polity and our Constitution—the real appeal of Donald Trump to his supporters, and the two quintessential aspects of American greatness—this simply is indispensable.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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2016 Election • Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Hillary Clinton • Intelligence Community • Law and Order • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Obama • Post • The Constitution

Colluders, Obstructionists, Leakers, and Other Projectionists

Before the defeat of Hillary Clinton, the idea that the Russians or anyone else could warp or tamper with our elections in any serious manner was laughed off by President Obama. “There is no serious person out there who would suggest that you could even rig America’s elections,” Obama said in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.

Obama was anxious that the sure-to-be-sore-loser Trump would not blame his defeat on voting impropriety in a fashion that might call into question Clinton’s victory. After Clinton’s stunning defeat, Russian “collusion”—thanks initially to efforts by Obama holdover Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to go after Michael Flynn and the successful attempts of the CIA and FBI to seed the bogus Steele dossier among the government elite—became a club to destroy the incoming Trump Administration.

Colluders, Inc.
How ironic that Russian “collusion” was used as a preemptive charge from those who actually had colluded with Russians for all sorts for financial and careerist advantages.

The entire so-called Uranium One caper had hinged on ex-President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and their Clinton Foundation uniting with Russian or Russian-affiliated oligarchs to ease restrictions on the sale of North American uranium reserves to a Russian company with close ties to Vladimir Putin. Coincidentally what followed were massive donations from concerned Russian parties to the foundation, as well as a $500,000 honorarium to Bill Clinton for a brief Moscow speech. Note that no more money has been forthcoming from Russia to either of the Clintons or their foundation.

Had Donald Trump been caught, as President Obama was in Seoul in March 2012, on a hot mic assuring the Russians that he would be more flexible with Russia after the 2012 election (“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solvedbut it’s important for him [Putin] to give me space”) he would likely now be facing real impeachment charges.

Imagine the cries of outrage from Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) had Trump inadvertently blurted out to the world that he was willing to warp U.S. security interests to fit his own reelection agenda. (Remember: “This is my last election . . . After my election, I have more flexibility.”) Such a stealthy quid pro quo certainly would have been the crown jewel of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

The locus classicus of Russian collusion, however, is Hillary Clinton’s effort in 2016. The facts are not in dispute. Using the three firewalls of the Democratic National Committee, the Perkins Coie law firm, and Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS, the Clinton campaign paid a foreign national, British subject Christopher Steele, to compile a smear dossier against Clinton’s then-opponent, Donald J. Trump.

Steele then bought Russian and Russian-related sources to produce supposed dirt on Trump. None of these Russian-generated smears would ever be verified. In fact, almost immediately most slurs proved to be outright lies and completely made up in their details—if not the stuff of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Nonetheless, Steele seeded his contracted dirt during the 2016 election, and later during the Trump transition and presidency, among the highest Obama Administration officials at the Justice Department, FBI, and CIA. After more than three years of ex-Obama officials’ obfuscation, stonewalling, and chronic lying, we now know Clinton used Russian fake sources both to generate damaging anti-Trump media stories and to prompt government investigations designed to hamstring his governance. Again, if there is such a thing as “Russian collusion,” then Hillary Clinton is its font.

Obstructors of Justice
Mueller spent more than $34 million and wrote over 440 pages to inform the American people that Trump could not realistically be indicted for obstructing justice, mostly because the underlying crime—“collusion”— never existed in the first place. Moreover, Mueller and other officials were never actually hampered in their investigations. No matter: “obstruction” was supposedly the key to destroying the Trump Administration after collusion imploded. To this day it remains the battle cry of the impeach-Trump Left.

But what exactly would real obstruction of justice look like it? It might be a deliberate effort by government officials to mislead and impede the proper conduct of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in an effort to spy on an American citizen deemed useful in proving “collusion.”

That is, James Comey, Sally Yates and others signed FISA requests when they knew, but did not dare disclose to the court, that their sources of evidence—the Steele dossier and news accounts in circular fashion based on it—were unverified, products of Hillary Clinton’s bought oppositional research, and written by a contractor at the time fired by the FBI for unprofessional conduct.

Had Comey simply told the court that Clinton had paid for his evidence, that the Yahoo News account was not independent but based on the dossier, that he had fired Steele as an FBI collaborator, and that nothing in the dossier had been verified, then the court never would have granted him permission to spy on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. In other words, top FBI and Justice Department officials deliberately obstructed and essentially destroyed the normal protocols necessary to protect the sanctity of legal surveillance, during the election, the Trump transition, and the early Trump presidency.

Or maybe obstruction would be defined as the efforts of a recused attorney general like Loretta Lynch, who had stepped aside from the FBI probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails, to have met secretly on an airport tarmac with the spouse of the target of her department’s investigation.

Or would obstruction be classified as Lynch supposedly ordering the FBI not even to use the word “investigation” when it was investigating Clinton? Or would obstruction constitute deliberately destroying more than 30,000 emails under subpoena, in the fashion that Clinton ordered her aides to “bleach bit” her correspondence and destroy mobile communication devices?

Or would obstruction be classified as deleting emails germane to an investigation of the collusion scam in the fashion of Nellie Ohr erasing emails received from her husband’s government email account, or perhaps in the manner of Mueller team staffers who wiped clean the mobile phones of the fired Lisa Page and Peter Strzok?

Or would obstruction characterize the brag of the anonymous New York Times guest editorialist? He preened in a September 5, 2018 column that he was an unnamed high administration official and NeverTrump Republican who, along with like-minded “resistance” leaders, was trying his best to disrupt his own president’s governance. What would anonymous’s obstruction entail—deliberately ignoring legal mandates? Failing to follow new federal guidelines? Trying to subvert nominations? Illegally leaking to the press? Obstructing anything he did not like, whether in legal or illegal fashion?

Logan Acting
The pathetic attempt to invoke the ossified Logan Act—with two indictments and no convictions in the law’s 220-year history—by Sally Yates likely fueled much of the Trump collusion investigations, well before Mueller’s misadventure.

Yates testified before Congress that her theory of supposed violations of the Logan Act prompted her own request for FBI interviews with Michael Flynn. Trump’s first national security advisor had purportedly dared to talk about sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the Trump transition in the days before Obama left office. In other words, Obama officials believed there really was a viable Logan Act, or at least the façade of one that could be deemed useful to destroy a political opponent.

But for the sake of argument, assume it is unwise to allow any private citizen to subvert government foreign policy. What then would be a classical definition of a Logan Act violation?

Perhaps the ongoing efforts of former Secretary of State John Kerry fit the bill. During the lead-up to the Trump’s Administration’s cancelation of the Iran deal and in its aftermath, private citizen Kerry met with high Iranian officials and purportedly advised them how to obstruct or at least survive the ramifications of Trump’s new Iranian policies.

In spring 2018, Kerry’s sought out meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Norway, Germany, and perhaps as well at United Nations headquarters in New York. He purportedly discussed ways to preserve the spirit of the prior Iran deal negotiated by the two—an agreement which was no longer official U.S. policy and had just been canceled by Trump.

In other words, the ex-secretary of state and, again, now private citizen Kerry met secretly with an Iranian foreign minister to brainstorm about how the elements of their deal might survive his own country’s current policies. Note that Senator Dianne Feinstein likewise just met with Zarif, a sort of copycat performance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 2007 meeting with the murderous Bashar al-Assad, who at the time was doing all he could to help Iran spike American deaths in Iraq.

If Kerry’s machinations were deemed grey violations of the Logan Act, how about the more overt recent efforts of another former State Department official Susan Thornton? Here is what she boasted about recently in Shanghai to an audience of Chinese analysts and academics:

I tell all our foreign counterparts they should keep steady, keep their heads down and wait. [They should] try to not let anything change dramatically . . . If this skeptical attitude towards talking diplomacy continues in this administration, you might have to wait till another administration . . . 

Thornton seems to be advising the likely veneer of the Chinese apparat and government to stall out the Trump Administration and thus wait to find a more familiar and compliant America that would follow past protocols. That advice might be taken to mean she is advising them to stonewall her current American president and find better ways to facilitate the accustomed serial Chinese patent and copyright infringement, dumping, currency manipulation, technological appropriation, massive trade and account surpluses, and imperialist initiatives in the South China Sea.

When Thornton crows, “I tell all our foreign counterparts” she seems to assume that she is playing the role of omnipotent shadow State Department grandee, whose message is geared to assist almost any power other than her own government.

Thornton’s advice is old news. It is simply a more muscular version of former Obama Pentagon official Rosa Brooks’ June 30, 2017 reassurance to the nation and the world (“3 Ways to Get Rid of President Trump Before 2020”) about how  best to depose the just inaugurated U.S. president without having to wait for a constitutionally mandated election in four years.  

After just a week of Trump in office, Brooks had concluded Trump had to go. Her blueprint for his forced retirement was in an apparent answer to “the question being asked around the globe” (note how our would-be best and brightest always boast of having their hands on the pulse of the like-minded global elite).

Presumably Brooks would reassure her foreign friends and kindred Democrats at home that Trump most certainly could be stopped after just a few days in office—if only the right people began the right adoption of her tripartite strategy of either impeachment, removal under the 25th Amendment, or an outright military coup (e.g., “The fourth possibility is one that until recently I would have said was unthinkable in the United States of America: a military coup, or at least a refusal by military leaders to obey certain orders.”)

The revolutionary Brooks could sum up Trump after a few days in office as a likely target of a military plot (one far more likely to have been successful than Andrew McCabe’s later comical 25th Amendment effort to record Trump secretly and then convince the Cabinet of his mental derangement). Brooks ended her scenarios with a triumphant approval of the idea of a revolutionary coup d’étatnever before seen in our history: “For the first time in my life, I can imagine plausible scenarios in which senior military officials might simply tell the president: ‘No, sir. We’re not doing that,’ to thunderous applause from the New York Times editorial board.”

Noble Dangerous Leaking
Lately, House impeachment hounds Nadler and Schiff have whined that Trump’s effort to declassify government intelligence records concerning the collusion scheme poses a grave threat to national security. In other words, the chronic leakers who recently demanded an unredacted Mueller report and serially leak supposed impending “bombshells,” suddenly have become anti-leakers and pro-redactors. The only common denominator in their chameleonism is Trump hatred.

But what would dangerous and illegal leaking consist of?

James Comey leaking to media conduits classified, private-one-on-one presidential conversations to prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor?

Andrew McCabe feeding the media self-serving hoaxes about collusion?

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper seeding to CNN the private Comey briefing with President Trump—and then deploring such illegal leaks, as he leveraged that scoop to land himself a future CNN analyst billet?

FBI sources planting stories of pre-election “collusion” with Yahoo and Mother Jones?

Or how about leaks to tip off the media about the timing Roger Stone arrest? Or periodic Mueller team “walls are closing in” and “noose is tightening” leak-lies to the obsequious media?

What have we learned about the Left’s moralistic talk of Trump’s supposed collusion, obstruction, Logan Act violations, and leaking?

One, that these are all projections of real resistance behavior. The zeal to remove Trump by any means necessary justified colluding with Russians, obstructing justice, undermining his administration abroad, and chronic leaking.

Two, these deep-state and media elites are narcissistically delusional. So inured are they to deference that they really believed they should have the power, indeed the right, to subvert democracy, to overturn a U.S. election on the justification that the wrong voters had voted for the incorrect candidate and both needed to be corrected by the right people. All that is why the last 28 months have been both scary and dangerous.

Real coups against democracies rarely are pulled off by jack-booted thugs in sunglasses or fanatical mobs storming the presidential palace. More often, they are the insidious work of supercilious bureaucrats, bought intellectuals, toady journalists, and political activists who falsely project that their target might at some future date do precisely what they are currently planning and doing—and that they are noble patriots, risking their lives, careers, and reputations for all of us, and thus must strike first.

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Photo credit: Eduardo Muñoz-Alvarez/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

California • Democrats • Elections • Law and Order • Post • Second Amendment

Kamala’s Contradictions

Kamala Harris, the junior U.S. senator from California who is battling among some two-dozen other candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, didn’t have much of a career before 1994. That was the year she became the new “steady” of California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a man who is a full 30 years her senior. In a process of poontronage, Brown appointed Harris to lucrative sinecures in state government and raised money for her successful run for San Francisco district attorney.

Harris went on to win election as state attorney general in 2010, even though the Sacramento Bee endorsed her Republican rival, Steve Cooley. (So much for the power of endorsements!) In 2016, Brown urged former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to drop out of the U.S. Senate race, and his former steady went on to win the November election handily. Harris now wants to be president, but she is hardly the only Willie Brown understudy on the rise.

In 1995, a year after he met Harris, Brown encountered fundraiser Carolyn Carpeneti, an elegant blond of 32, and the two became romantically involved. In fact, the pair had a daughter in 2001, when Carpeneti was 38 and Brown 67. As the San Francisco Chronicle noted in 2003, “people familiar with her career—political professionals, city officials, her ex-husband—say Carpeneti’s success is rooted in her relationship with Brown.”

Over a five-year period, groups controlled by Brown paid $2.3 million to Carpeneti, recently granted a sweetheart no-bid deal to recruit for California’s online college project. As Dan Morain noted in CALmatters, the person who selected Carpeneti, Heather Hiles, “is connected to San Francisco politics, having overseen communications for Gov. Gavin Newsom while he was running to succeed Brown as mayor of San Francisco in 2003.”

Like Carpeneti, the success of Kamala Harris is also rooted in her relationship with Willie Brown. The most successful Brown understudy recently announced that, that if she is elected president, within 100 days she would issue an executive order against “assault weapons,” because “1 in 4 police officers killed in the line of duty by gunfire is killed by an assault weapon.”

But just as the corporate leftist media ignored Harris’s relationship with Brown, so too have they ignored her most notable encounter with a cop killer.

As San Francisco’s D.A., Harris promised she would never seek the death penalty. But a murder of a police officer was one of the special circumstances for which voters approved the death penalty in 1977. The San Francisco Chronicle examined 90 cases of cop killings since 1987, and found that prosecutors sought the death penalty in nearly every case.

In 2004, David Hill, 21, a member of the Mob Hill gang, deployed an AK-47 to gun down San Francisco police officer Isaac Espinosa, 29. Harris announced, “today I want to be very clear: in the city and county of San Francisco, anyone who murders a police officer engaged in his or her duties will be met with the most severe consequences.” Despite the tough rhetoric, however, Harris would not seek the death penalty for Hill.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco, showed up at Espinosa’s funeral and said, This is not only the definition of tragedy, it’s the special circumstance called for by the death penalty law.” Police union president Gary Delagnes demanded that Espinosa’s killer “pay the ultimate price.” Delagnes also drew an ovation, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle report, the officer earned “a dirty look from Harris, who was sitting in the front row.”

San Francisco police officer Mike Nevin argued that the death penalty is already reserved for a small percentage of the most heinous crimes. Killing a police officer should qualify, the officer said, “because if you’re willing to kill a cop, you’re willing to kill anybody.” That failed to change the thinking of Harris, and in her 2009 Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer, Harris found the number of nonviolent offenders “truly staggering” and put them at the top of her “crime pyramid.”

Harris won a narrow victory in 2010 but the Attorney General stayed quiet in 2014 when previously deported Mexican national Luis Bracamontes gunned down police officers Danny Oliver and Michael Davis. The Mexican’s weapon of choice was an assault rifle and during his trial, he shouted “black lives don’t matter” at family members of the victims.

In 2015, repeatedly deported Mexican felon Jose Inez Garcia Zarate shot and killed Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier. Harris defended the city’s sanctuary policy and failed even to decry “gun violence” in the case

That same year, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik used assault rifles to kill 14 unarmed innocents and wounded 22 at an office party in San Bernardino. A year later, Harris issued a statement on the “devastating and tragic terrorist attack,” but failed to name the Islamic terrorists and their motive for the mass murder.

Meanwhile, for murdering Isaac Espinosa with an AK-47 and attempting to murder his partner, Barry Parker, David Hill drew a life sentence, without the possibility of parole. Had Hill been sentenced to death, as Feinstein and others wanted, the killer would have been saved by Governor Gavin Newsom. In March, Newson reprieved all 737 murderers on California’s death row, including Luis Bracamontes who said during his trial that he wished he had killed more cops.

But opposing the death penalty in San Francisco means never having to say you’re sorry. Then again, the rest of America might think otherwise.

Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Congress • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • History • Intelligence Community • Law and Order • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • the Presidency

Deep Throat and Donald Trump

You have to give it to Democrats; they are organized.

As soon as Attorney General Bill Barr refused to commit a crime by releasing a fully unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, the Democrats’ talking-point team was drafting the mandatory soundbites.

In a flurry of interviews over the past few weeks, everyone has been on message: If they work for, or are related to President Donald Trump, just jail them.

Whether it’s the ongoing calls for the attorney general to be imprisoned  or Da Nang Dick Blumenthal (D-Conn.)—the only senator in office who lied about serving in Vietnam—calling for the imprisonment of the president’s son or whether Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying she doesn’t have enough prison cells to lock up all the “criminals” in the Trump administration, the refrain has been remarkably consonant.

Just a reminder friends, this is America in 2019. Not Russia in 1918. Or Cuba in 1960. Or Venezuela today.

As a legal immigrant to this the greatest nation on God’s Earth, I find this shocking. It’s all the more shocking given what my family suffered during the 20th century, with my parents surviving as children under a fascist occupation and then persecuted under a Communist regime before escaping to the West and to freedom. The recent actions and statements of the Democrats are so surreal, so over-the-top, that it feels like we’ve crossed into new and very dangerous territory.

But then I read the latest issue of the superb Hillsdale publication Imprimis and I realized I was so very, very wrong. I had lost all historic perspective. This is the Left. This is who they have been for a very long time.

In his essay, “Politics by Other Means: The Use and Abuse of Scandal,” John Marini of the University of Nevada, takes us back to Watergate and juxtaposes the conventional wisdom about who Richard Nixon was and the significance of Watergate with what actually happened and why the then President had to be neutralized. He writes:

The popular understanding of the Watergate scandal—that it was somehow rooted in Nixon’s flawed personal character, and that it was essentially a legal matter—remains unshaken after more than 40 years. But I was not convinced then, nor am I convinced today, that Watergate can be properly understood in either personal or legal terms. By promising to use his executive power to bring the executive bureaucracy under his control, Nixon posed a danger to the political establishment after his landslide re-election. In response, the establishment struck back.

And how did they do that exactly? If you ask anyone of the right age, or even a Millennial who has received the requisite indoctrination (or happened to see the film version of “All the President’s Men”), the same answer is the same: The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein risked their all for the truth in a fight with the “criminal” in the White House.

But that’s not really what happened. That’s a narrative that has been drummed into the public psyche thanks to the Noam Chomsky-Howard Zinn-Oliver Stone-Michael Moore machine intent on falsifying our history for political ends.  

The real story is that an incredibly vain self-appointed “elite” who fancied himself a Guardian of the Good and who became notorious as “Deep Throat,” spoon-fed information to the Post duo for over a year. (Remind you of anyone called Jim you know? Possibly a very tall former FBI director?) Woodward and Bernstein didn’t investigate anything. The deep state was in control the whole time. Who was the puppet master? None other than FBI Associate Director Mark Felt.

As Marini writes, the media merely “served as a conduit by which the bureaucracy undermined the authority of the elected chief executive.” He adds, fascinatingly, that  “Geoff Shepard, a young member of Nixon’s defense team who has continued investigating Watergate using the Freedom of Information Act, has recently established as well that the prosecutors and judges involved in Watergate violated the procedural requirements that ensure impartiality, acting instead as partisans opposed to Nixon.” Can you say FISA Court? Can you say “Operation Crossfire Hurricane”?

What was the catalyst for this series of seditious leaks that led to a president’s downfall? Marini has done his homework and provides us an answer from the Congressional Quarterly of the period:

When the 93rd [Congress] first convened in January 1973, President Nixon’s sweeping assertions of executive authority posed a threat to the viability of the legislative branch. Even as Congress braced for confrontations with Nixon over spending, war powers, and other issues, its defiance was tempered by doubts as to whether it was indeed any match for the newly re-elected President. But by the time Congress adjourned [on] December 20, 1974, the balance of power had shifted dramatically. Both Nixon and . . . [Vice President] Agnew had been driven from office in disgrace—replaced by men whom Congress had a hand in selecting. 

The opening sentences may as well be a description of Congress today and the cries to impeach President Trump must be put into this broader, more strategic context.

This is not a case of the Democrats lacking imagination and not having a platform for the 2020 election and simply defaulting to “Impeach, Impeach, Impeach!” This isn’t just a delayed act of revenge for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, a settling of scores with the GOP. The Democrats couldn’t care less about the Clintons today. Just look at the fate of the Clinton Foundation or the pathetic spectacle that is the Clintons’ speaking tour fiasco.

This is about one thing and one thing alone. It’s yet another case of the deep state deciding that the will of the American people must be overridden and an election nullified with the help of their domesticated lackeys in the media.

Richard Nixon was never supposed to be president. And the billionaire from Queens most certainly wasn’t. Donald Trump is a threat to the Comeys, the Brennans, the Nadlers, the Schiffs, the Pelosis, and the Mark Felts of the world. Just who do the American people think they are to threaten the power and control of people who have made up the modern professional political class since the 1960s?

These are the stakes involved and this is why 2020 will be even more important than 2016. The Republic hangs by a thread. Remember that when next you hear the Speaker of the House laugh like a despot about jailing those who support the president.

Photo credit: © Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Administrative State • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Law and Order • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • The Constitution • The Resistance (Snicker)

The Sinking of Mueller’s Prosecutorial Pequod

In the long and fascinating history of American political pamphleteering, the Mueller report will be regarded for years to come as a unique and in many ways impressive literary achievement.

But as a legal work, and more importantly, as a precedent for future special counsel investigations, it cannot be regretted more deeply, or forgotten soon enough.

Part Robert Ludlum, part Herman Melville—blending John Le Carré’s themes of Cold War disloyalty with hints of Joseph Conrad’s brooding and distinctly Russophobic pessimism—the report paints spectacular allegations of espionage, treason, and theoretical obstruction of justice against Donald J. Trump on the grandest possible canvas.

As if through a glass, darkly, it glosses over how the intelligence community framed (quite literally, it turns out) certain select encounters of peripheral Trump staffers with assumed-to-be Russian assets around the globe in 2016, such that, taken together and connected by a dossier whose political origin was never spelled out forthrightly, they purported to reveal to a FISA court a subversive foreign conspiracy to undermine American democracy.

This “dossier” containing unverifiable evidence of shady provenance (to put it nicely), attested to under oath by many upper-echelon leaders of the Obama Justice Department and FBI, was inexplicably deemed sufficient to obtain several surveillance warrants on two peripheral Trump campaign hangers-on.

Both of these individuals—Carter Page and George Papadopoulos—are today still free men, cleared completely of the original conspiracy suspicions that laughably spooked the FISC multiple times. (Papadopoulos spent a grand total of two weeks in federal prison for lying to federal agents.) Let that sink in.

Needless to say, then, Mueller’s report avoids any nettlesome inquiry into whether said pre-FISC framing was actually warranted, since the framing—indeed the very fact of such spying—and not its demonstrably false justification, is the only rooted leg upon which the whole sprawling spectacle of the investigation itself now stands, casting its long shadow over our whole electoral system.

As is evident by now, though, particularly after the timed leak of the Special Counsel’s letter of displeasure with Attorney General Bill Barr’s no-nonsense approach the release of its final report, the Mueller investigation was only ever a political hit-job. Thus its “report” could never amount to anything more than that.

Fruit of the poison tree, indeed.

The Literary Character of the Report

“Call me Schiffmael.”
Omitted opening line of a draft of the raw unredacted Mueller report, as collected from 1,000 blood-stained paper shavings dropped on the floor by a sub-par-paralegal

Weighing in at a hefty 448 pages, the much-anticipated Mueller report was an instant classic, already the Moby Dick of American political muckraking, and now available in several incarnations and formats on Amazon.com.

Far from a merely factual summary composed exclusively for the attorney general of investigative conclusions about whether to prosecute or not, the report provides a complex, multilayered, issues-conflating narrative, crafted more like the great American novel than a perfunctory legal brief, and clearly intended for more than Barr’s bespectacled eyes only.

It is a long and winding (not to mention windy) tale, with many angst-filled animadversions and desultory digressions about its grand antagonist, the Great Orange Whale—President Donald J. Trump.

It is also, at a more meta level, the tale of an aggrieved political establishment’s dramatic (if self-destructive) quest to hunt down and kill that Great Orange Whale, for the unforgivable offense of defeating them in an election. After all, his victory only could have been possible with supernatural, or at least foreign-conspired, malevolence. And this report aims to prove it, even if the assembled facts don’t support further indictments on mere criminal grounds.

The report’s voluminous, painstaking, and often Pynchonesque passages on the president’s erratic and supposedly reprehensible behavior in response to the media’s completely scandalous coverage of the scandalously leaky special counsel investigation constitute a veritable Gravity’s Rainbow of sometimes-revolting, but always enthralling encyclopedic detail.

Through it all, the “totally reliable and trustworthy narrator” provides needed guiding light for his “model reader” (presumably, newly empowered House Democrats itching for one or more impeachment pretexts) to navigate the bizarre and mythical shadow-world of Trumplandia. It highlights the silhouette of this seedy and darkly imagined underworld in search of a stubbornly non-existent Team Trump nexus between—and any connection whatsoever to—foreign powers and their alleged nefarious plots to subvert the otherwise preordained outcome of the 2016 election.

More 2020 dossier than 2016 investigative review, the vast majority of the Mueller report, however, is nothing more than a legal manifesto and extended meditation, not on “collusion” (because it could prove none), but rather on the apparently more urgent subject of obstruction of justice. Can a sitting president, merely by executing his executive powers under the Constitution, also be obstructing justice, even when there is no underlying crime found to have been committed? This absurd question is given serious consideration, for some reason. Hundreds of pages of it.

It vividly depicts the public indignations, select Twitter indiscretions, and the freely waived but otherwise privileged legal consultations of the wily and unpredictable target of its fearsome, high-strung legal harpoons—the president of the United States himself—whose campaign and family the report nevertheless formally clears of any “collusion” or conspiracy charges, despite its best efforts to connect dots where only holes in the original conspiracy theory ever existed.

The Death of a Narrative
And so for lack of any actual evidence of conspiracy in the millions of documents, thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of witness testimonies, and (we are slowly learning) an elaborate counterintelligence campaign secretly launched against him by our own government much earlier than previously thought, the “Trump-Russia possible collusion” narrative is dead.

In other words, for all the loud proclamations of pending “bombshells” and all the fury engulfing the entire D.C. punditocracy and fomenting their rage nightly on cable news for the last two years, there was in the end no “there, there”—as one of the “totally reliable and trustworthy narrator’s” original contributing voices once frankly, in another context, fretted.

But then, rather than admit the obvious conclusion that you can’t obstruct justice if no crime has been committed and a complete inversion of the innocent-till-proven-guilty standard of traditional American justice, Team Mueller curiously refrains from “exonerating” Trump et al. of possible lawbreaking.

By punting the decision to prosecute for obstruction of justice on the merits to the attorney general, along with some curious theories about why he might (should?) indict the president on these charges,it leaves a door open to Congressional (read: political) intervention that, like Pandora’s box, never should have been opened in the first place on so weak a pretext.

But this was its whole purpose.

And Finally, We Come to the Political Objective
They knew before finishing the report that the attorney general planned, at his sole discretion and in the interest of transparency, to release quickly as much of the full report as possible to the public, and yet (we now know) they deliberately ignored his early request to assist in this effort by refusing to indicate in the report places where any grand jury testimony and other things, which by law must be redacted, should be redacted. They did this in order to create the media appearance that the AG himself was slow-walking its release.

Fortunately, Attorney General Barr would have none of this Swamp-savvy nonsense, and over their “snitty” objections he provided a simple “bottom line” summary of conclusions within days of the initial release of the report, letting the whole report stand (or fall) on its own merits with its full release a couple of weeks later, after the appropriate minimal redactions were finally made. Mueller’s team had hoped their stirring opening narrative would shape initial public reaction to the report, thus belying their political intent in the writing of it in the first place.

In the near term, as the Swamp’s mercurial denizens wrangle over Mueller’s dump of lightly redacted rumor, politically charged innuendo, and the prejudicially selected facts common to the one-sided grand jury process, members of the establishment political class are proposing quite creative pro-impeachment interpretations of the “raw evidence” it supposedly provides. This, despite the inexorable “bottom line” conclusions of “no collusion” and “no obstruction” that the applicable criminal legal standards demand.

The public rollout of a statutorily required report that was by that same legal framework only ever supposed to be confidential to the attorney general has unleashed a distinctly beltway political clown show for the American electorate in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

The shocking intensity of that clown show, however, merits deeper reflection on what, exactly, the Mueller report has actually achieved, versus what it was supposed to achieve—not to mention the good it could have achieved, had it been undertaken in good faith.

Mueller: Tragedy or Farce?
Had Mueller not merely regurgitated the DNC’s paid-for and questionable CrowdStrike assertions about Russian “hacking“ of their servers; had he shown actual wisdom in building a truly non-partisan legal team; had he reined in his more aggressive deputies in their excessive public humiliation of peripheral characters in barely-related, selectively-chosen prosecutions; had he informed the public sooner of his no-collusion conclusion when he determined it, certainly long before the 2018 election handed victory to its target’s unhinged political enemies—largely in anticipation of collusion-related indictments that never came; had he given equal consideration to “collusion” between Democrats and the Ukraine, or other bad actors besides the Russians, as his open-ended (and arguably legally inadequate) remit surely allowed; had he explored clear evidence of Fusion GPS involvement in the infamous Trump Tower meeting, which now appears clearly to have been a deliberate setup; had he, in short, behaved like the man of impeccable integrity that his admirers still, without evidence, insist he is—instead of the absurd, Ahab-like, self-styled Javert caricature that he appears, looking in hindsight at his entire career, to be—what a different, less fearful, more “normal” political landscape we would be beholding today!

But instead, Mueller’s prosecutorial Pequod, the once-invincible, media-beloved, whale-killing man-of-war, carrying the impeachment hopes and removal from office dreams of many a Great Orange Whale-hunter in their bloodlust for political vengeance, was sunk by an actual agent of cosmic justice, and is condemned now to spin anticlimactically in a whirlpool of its own media-fueled, leak-frenzied narrative-blubber.

Yet the totally reliable and trustworthy narrator still lives—barely!—clinging with desperation to the “coffin life-buoy” of his now-lifeless “collusion” companion, floating aimlessly at sea on the jetsam and flotsam of theoretical obstruction to an ambiguous, entirely regrettable—and ultimately forgettable—end.

Photo credit: Warner Brothers/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Democrats • Elections • Law and Order • Political Parties • Post • Satire

A Modest Proposal for Felons’ Rights

Socialist savant Bernie Sanders has propounded, and Senator cum footwear model Kamala Harris has endorsed, the notion that felons ought to be able to vote.  

After all, to deny the vote to anyone at all is, in Sanders’ memorable phrase, “running down a slippery slope.”

Perhaps this is so.

If it is indeed true, however, the same standard needs to apply to all civil rights, not merely to the right to help direct the world’s most powerful government in its decision-making.  Prisoners ought to be secure in their persons – protected from search and seizure, for instance. They also ought to be able freely to assemble, and not restricted from one another’s company.  Prisons are full of walls which keep people apart. And we know what the Left thinks of walls.

Most importantly, if prisoners have the right to vote, surely they have the right to keep and bear arms.  

Statistically, prisons (like Democrat-run cities) are among of the most dangerous places in the United States. Denying the right to keep and bear arms to our most vulnerable citizens, merely because they are convicted felons in our penitentiaries, clearly is a travesty of justice. They ought to be allowed the arms they need to protect themselves in a dangerous environment.  Consider that an ordinary, law-abiding American in a peaceful and prosperous Midwestern town, may purchase a high-powered rifle he’ll never need—while a felon in constant fear for his life, must rely on an improvised shiv. Privilege, much?!

A few keen observers might note that a dangerous inequality might exist if only those prisoners who already had firearms, were able to keep them.  That’s true. So jJust as we must make sure that all prisoners, from marijuana possession offenders to serial murderers, should be able to vote, we must arm them all equally. A government-provided handgun with adequate ammunition should be issued each newly-admitted prisoner along with his voter registration.

This concrete affirmation of the prisoner’s rights ought, of course, to remain with him upon release.
Many ex-prisoners fall victim to violence after their period of incarceration. Don’t we owe them a head start in the struggle for survival, especially in “Trump’s America”?  Let each released felon keep his government-issued pistol.

Some old-fashioned opponents of civil rights for all, are sure to point out that a few of these firearms might be misused. After all, with a pistol, you can rob or harm someone.

Ah, but with the vote, you can rob and harm EVERYONE.  So anyone who can be trusted with either, might as well be entrusted with both.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Donald Trump • Law and Order • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • The Constitution • The Media • the Presidency

Let Me Speak to the Manager!

We’re all familiar with the petulant customer constantly demanding to speak to successive managers at a store until she gets what she wants. And some of us have been there when the final manager comes to put a stop to the commotion.

Ultimately, the customer is trying to get her way and is willing to make a scene until someone comes to tell her she’s right. When that final manager refuses to acquiesce, she will look for any other authority—the corporate office, the wrathful pages of Yelp, occasionally even the police—to force the store to submit to her whims.

Ever since the 2016 election, media pundits and Democratic political operatives have been playing the role of the petulant customer having a full-scale meltdown in the checkout aisle. And it hasn’t been pretty. Initially, they pinned their hopes on “Russian collusion,” a phrase the media repeated so much as to warrant a remix, and their friend—who happened to be a manager—who was going to investigate it.

But when Mueller finished his report and sent it to his manager, the media and the Democrats were confused and upset. They wanted the friendly manager to make the final determination—but ultimately it wasn’t his call to make.

In a press conference coinciding with the release of the Mueller report, Attorney General William Barr had to re-familiarize journalists with the way government works.

The penultimate question Barr answered demonstrates the confusion that journalists seem to have.

Reporter: There’s a lot of public interest in the absence of the special counsel and members of his team. Was he invited to join you up on the podium? Why is he not here? This is his report, obviously, you’re talking about today.

Barr: No, it’s not. It’s a report he did for me as the attorney general. He is required under the regulation to provide me with a confidential report. I am here to discuss my response to that report and my decision, entirely discretionary, to make it public, since these reports are not supposed to be made public.

The media has a difficult time understanding that Mueller was not the free-floating deistic savior they had imagined him to be. Mueller was an employee of the Justice Department and as such he was working for the attorney general.

Members of the press are in good company. Even Democratic politicians have difficulty with this concept.

In a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Barr had the following exchange with Congressman Charlie Crist (D-Fla.):

Crist: Did you contemplate having the special counsel’s office help you with the preparation of your March 24 letter, or did you?

Barr: We offered to have Bob review it before putting it out and he declined.

Crist: I didn’t ask you about reviewing, I asked if you thought about having them help prepare the March 24 letter. I mean they did the report after all.

Barr: No, I didn’t think about that.

Crist: Why not?

Barr: Because it was my letter.

A long, cringe-worthy pause follows this exchange as Crist presumably processes the fact that Barr is, in fact, the attorney general and that Mueller reports to him, not the other way around.

When they do finally process this piece of information, media pundits and Democratic operatives go off the rails and immediately start casting aspersions on Barr’s credibility. If they could, they would no doubt have their own Saturday Night Massacre to find someone who would indict President Trump.

Editorial pages have been littered with denouncements of William Barr and calls for him to resign. Presumably, the media and the Democrats will soon want to speak to Barr’s manager. Unfortunately for them, the Attorney General serves at the pleasure of the President of the United States who happens to be Donald Trump.

No Shortcuts
Politics is filled with hypocrisy. Opposition groups relish in digging up old footage of politicians using the exact logic they now denounce. Just think of the competing statements from Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) circling around the internet where they appear to espouse views on impeachment and report redactions diametrically opposed to the ones they hold today.

But the Democrats’ hypocrisy is striking because it is laced with a myopic imprudence that lacks a fundamental understanding of why our system of government is set up the way it is.

They venerate the Supreme Court as an arbiter of morality, not as an arbiter of law. They view the electoral college and the disproportional representation of the Senate as an impediment to democracy, not as a check of smaller states on larger ones. And they view impeachment as a way to reverse a political decision they didn’t like, not as a last resort against a truly despotic leader.

For some, these confusions come from an obsession with power. But for many, they come from an overly idealistic view of morality and politics. And in a group that largely views both morality and politics as merely social constructs, this idealistic view is especially misguided.

Many in the media and in the Democratic party are convinced that President Trump is bad. But since they also hold that morality is a subjective social construct, they do not have to articulate any clear reasons why they think he is bad. And since justice is a subjective social construct, anything they think is bad should be illegal. And since politics is just a subjective social construct, they are happy to warp the fabric of politics to achieve their ends. Which they believe are good. Even though good is a subjective social construct.

This is the same chain of logic most Democrats apply to issues as disparate as immigration, abortion, gun rights, and socialism.

But this logic fails to account for why politics was created.

Politics exists to settle issues without having to resort to violence. We made a calculation that an ordered, authoritative, and nonviolent system to adjudicate political questions was worth the intermittent political losses. Violent battles gave way to far less bloody wars of words and ideas. But the ongoing success of politics requires us to engage our fellow citizens and occasionally to acquiesce to opinions we hold to be misguided or wrong.

When we stop acting within the political systems we built, the kindling builds up. Some may make the calculation that the political system no longer works or that peace isn’t worth preserving at the cost of tolerating these actions by the government. They may write off a group of their fellow citizens as irredeemable and beyond the pale. But when they make this calculation, they must understand that they are inviting violence and civil war.

There are no permanent shortcuts in politics. Any attempt to circumvent actually engaging your fellow citizens will only ratchet up tension and contribute to the political strife that all too easily gives way to violence.

Never Enough
It’s increasingly clear that the media and the Democrats will never be happy with any result from any investigation into the current administration that does not establish President Trump’s guilt. They will continue to exhaust us all with their continued petulant whine on the supermarket floor. They will continue to try to get their way by employing every shortcut they know.

President Trump could have fired Robert Mueller. Congressional Republicans could have cut funding. Attorney General Barr did not have to publish the report. The executive branch could have exercised executive privilege. They did not. They humored the Democrats and tried to engage their “concerns” and address them as best as they could.

But we have patiently humored Democrats for years on the whole collusion narrative. It’s time we politely yet firmly tell them to get stuffed so we can get back to dealing with the problems that actually matter.

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America • History • Hollywood • Identity Politics • Law and Order • Post • The Left

From ‘Birth’ to ‘Glory’ by Way of ‘Wind’

At the end of his documentary series “The Civil War,” Ken Burns bids farewell to many of the figures who drove that story. They departed this earth in touching, even inspiring ways.

There’s General Ulysses S. Grant, stricken with cancer, racing the Reaper to produce an autobiography and thereby provide for his family, and finishing the manuscript one week before his death. (The resulting work is, unlike the overpraised memoirs of a more recent president, a true classic of American literature.)

There’s the aged Confederate General Joseph Johnston, standing bare-headed in the cold as a pallbearer at the 1891 funeral of William Tecumseh Sherman, the man who had harried him out of northern Georgia and chased him through the Carolinas. Urged by a friend to cover up, he replied, “If I were in his place, and Sherman were standing here in mine, he would not put on his hat.” (Johnston died of pneumonia a month later.)

There’s Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the hero of Gettysburg, who led his Maine regiment in a bayonet attack that stopped the Southern effort to turn the Union flank on the battle’s second day, thus dooming the rebels to attempt Pickett’s Charge on the third. Chamberlain, full of years and honors, died in 1914 of complications from one of his six war wounds. The narrator concludes: “The war was over.”

The postscript Burns assigns to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest goes like this: “In 1867, he became the first Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, but then quit, when the Klan grew too violent even for him.” That’s more terse than elegiac. Much more could be said about Forrest’s disaffection from the KKK, enough to make the story of his final years an inspiration too.

Forrest didn’t just resign from the Klan; he threatened its remnants. In 1874, when a racial disturbance in Gibson County, Tennessee, ended with the murder of 16 blacks, Forrest attended a Memphis “indignation meeting” along with Jefferson Davis and other leading ex-Confederates. There he said that if he “were entrusted with proper authority he would capture and exterminate the white marauders who disgrace their race by this cowardly murder of negroes.”

Not only that, but Forrest started preaching integration long before its day finally came. At a time when many white Americans, North and South, would rather have deported free blacks from America to Africa, Forrest recommended the immigration of free blacks from Africa to help repopulate the South. In 1875, he told members of a black fraternal group in Memphis:

I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man, to depress none. I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. … I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. … Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.

As Forrest noted, such sentiments were not then shared by many of his fellow whites, and in fact they would shortly impose a Jim Crow regime in the South that lasted almost a century. (Forrest himself died two years after the Memphis speech.)

It’s a shame that Forrest’s more benign views did not prevail in his day. It’s a further shame that they are ignored now by those who want his memorials destroyed. But my question is how, after being damned by Forrest, Davis and the others, the KKK could ever have become resurgent to the point that it thrived in northern states like Indiana and even marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

We have Hollywood to thank for that. Hollywood melodrama, to be precise. And, just as the indulgence of melodrama is working mischief today, it worked mischief back then.

The most successful and consequential melodrama Hollywood ever produced is “The Birth of a Nation.” Completed in 1915 by film pioneer D.W. Griffith, it tells the story of how two families, the Stonemans of the North and the Camerons of the South, fought, suffered and eventually reconciled during and after the war. (The title reflects Griffith’s view that before the Union victory established the supremacy of federal power, the United States of America were not truly one nation.)

The film aroused a furor. In Boston, black citizens greeted its premiere with a riot at the theater and a petition to the governor that procured a threat of prosecution against Griffith. Despite such protests, “Birth” did enormous business, and it sparked and turbocharged the Klan’s revival.

In Griffith’s version of the Klan’s origin, Ben Cameron, “the little Colonel,” tries to warn a menacing black soldier named Gus away from his kid sister, Flora, but is rebuffed by the Reconstruction carpetbag leader, Silas Lynch. Sitting on a riverbank, “in agony of soul over the degradation and ruin of his people,” Cameron finds inspiration when he sees some white children scare their black playmates by hiding under a sheet and pretending to be ghosts. The Klan makes its debut by scaring “a negro disturber and barn burner” in like manner.

Undeterred by such nonsense, Gus accosts Flora in the woods. She flees, he gives chase, and she throws herself off a cliff to escape him. Her brother arrives in time to hear the dying woman name her pursuer.

Led by “the little Colonel,” the Klan captures Gus and decides his fate in a proceeding that takes as little time on film as many such deeds took in real life. One title reads, “The trial.” A few seconds later, another title reads, “Guilty.” The Klan kills Gus and dumps his body on the carpetbaggers’ doorstep.

In the film’s climax, black soldiers lay siege to a rural cabin in which some of the Stonemans and Camerons have taken refuge, while in town, whites cower behind locked doors as a riot rages in the streets. The Klan rides to the rescue, defeating soldiers and rioters in pitched battles.

Historians Richard Griffith and Arthur Mayer wrote in 1957 that the sensation created by “The Birth of a Nation” was “without precedent and has never been duplicated. People had not known that they could be so moved, so roused, by what is, after all, only a succession of pictures passing across a screen.”

Despite its highly problematic subject matter, “Birth” is in the National Film Registry because of artistic merit, technical innovation, and historical significance. But its legendary cinematic virtues don’t obscure the fact that much of the film is just plain racist.

The film treats interracial marriage as a fate worse than death. It pictures uncouth black legislators as contemptible, even though the movies often depict equally uncouth white backwoodsmen with admiration. When Cameron is introduced to the mulatto Lynch, he spurns Lynch’s polite offer of a handshake, a snub that, though it offends the onlooking Stonemans, seems intended to meet with the audience’s approval. And at the end, the Klan completes its triumph by keeping black Southerners from voting, as if casting a ballot were a crime.

The whole story is of, by, and for whites. Except for Gus, Lynch, the elder Stoneman’s mistress and two “faithful souls” in the Cameron household, the blacks in the picture are a nameless horde whose rights, happiness, and future seem to interest the filmmaker not at all.

That’s not so with another Civil War film whose subject intersects with Griffith’s. Yet its presentation of the case is in surprising agreement on one point.

Edward Zwick’s 1989 epic, “Glory,” tells the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and it is counted by many Civil War buffs as the best and most authentic depiction of the war on film.

No melodrama here. Instead of whitewashing one side and smearing the other, “Glory” tells its story in full, dutifully recording the terror inflicted by black Union regiments on the Southern backcountry. Zwick’s heroes go along on one of those rapacious forays, and though their commanding officer objects in vain to his superior in the field, and his men carry out their orders reluctantly, this is of no benefit to the victims. Griffith, for his part, simply depicts the events, early in the wartime portion of his film, with no attempt at extenuation. In his melodrama, the black soldiers are villains, and that’s that.

Between “Birth” and “Glory,” was there any other Civil War movie of note? Oh, yes: filmdom’s all-time top grosser, “Gone With the Wind.”

Margaret Mitchell’s novel came out in 1936 and was America’s top-selling fiction title that year and the next, when it won the Pulitzer Prize. No sooner had Hollywood producer David O. Selznick set about bringing it to the screen, however, than he encountered protests like those which had greeted “Birth.” The problem was that since “Wind” dealt with the Civil War and Reconstruction from the Southern perspective, its story was going to involve many of the same elements as “Birth” had done, including lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan.

So Selznick and his screenwriters took care to keep the Klan out of the picture. In Mitchell’s novel, after Scarlett O’Hara is attacked while riding near a shanty town, the retaliatory sortie led by Frank Kennedy and Ashley Wilkes is a KKK raid. It remains off-screen in the movie, with the Klan never mentioned and with nary a Klan robe in sight.

The contrast between book and film here is revealing. In the novel, Scarlett came to be taking her buggy around Atlanta without the protection of a male driver because of two incidents: First, her black driver Uncle Peter refused to continue with her after some Yankee ladies insulted him and her retort to them struck him as inadequate. Second, the taciturn hillbilly ex-con she secured as Peter’s replacement quit her when she started using convict labor at her sawmill.

In the movie, Rhett Butler smiles and shrugs after Scarlett rejects his warning against driving alone “through all that riff-raff” to reach the mill. But in Mitchell’s novel, Rhett is more severe:

If you don’t care personally whether or not you are raped, you might consider the consequences. Because of your obstinacy, you may get yourself into a situation where your gallant fellow townsmen will be forced to avenge you by stringing up a few darkies. And that will bring the Yankees down on them and someone will probably get hanged. Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps one of the reasons the ladies do not like you is that your conduct may cause the neck-stretching of their sons and husbands? And furthermore, if the Ku Klux handles many more negroes, the Yankees are going to tighten up on Atlanta in a way that will make Sherman’s conduct look angelic. . . . They mean to stamp out the Ku Klux if it means burning the whole town again and hanging every male over ten.

By the time this business reached the screen, its most fearsome aspects had vanished almost entirely. The episode even included moments of comic relief.

Such sanitizing kept “Gone With the Wind” from stirring up a second Klan revival. Unfortunately, it hasn’t kept the film out of the cross-hairs of today’s social justice warriors, who, not being content with saying, “Sorry, this flick is not my cup of tea,” are trying to ban it from public viewing. “Wind,” they say, is an artifact of white supremacy, and as such it is beyond the pale.

The melodrama of Southern villainy that runs in such people’s heads has a much worse consequence than what it might mean for movie lovers. With their slogan “‘Law and order’ are code words for racism,” our progressive thinkers have exposed millions of their fellow Americans to dangers that are no mere shadows on a screen.

A woman has a right to drive a buggy past a shantytown, or stroll on a pier in San Francisco Bay, or go jogging in Central Park, without suffering violence of any kind whatsoever. A child has a right to be tucked into bed at night, and not be hidden in a steel bathtub for fear of bullets flying through the walls. All of us have a right to sleep out on the fire escape if we want to, or ride a bicycle, or walk to school, or wait at a bus stop, or go grocery shopping, or attend church or synagogue, without worrying about becoming the next crime statistic.

Protection from criminal violence is something we owe to ourselves and to each other. It’s something the government owes to all who, as Forrest put it, “live honestly and act truly.” And as the image of Lady Justice has attested since antiquity, when the shield of the law has failed to protect, the sword of the law is there to avenge.

These statements are true regardless of race—and only a scoundrel or a fool would call it “white supremacy” to insist on them.

Photo Credit: Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Intelligence Community • Law and Order • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post

Spying By Any Other Name

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Here we go again: Democrats are arguing about what the meaning of “is” is.

Unable in their last Senate interrogation to make headway against a real attorney general, William Barr, Democrats have resorted to their favorite strategy: pretending they don’t understand what words mean and carefully forgetting inconvenient facts that everybody knew the day before yesterday.

Asked by Senator Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.) whether there was spying on Trump campaign, Attorney General Barr accurately replied, “I think spying did occur.” Democrats and their allies in the media have now spent the past few days wearing out their fainting couches and creating a run on the pearl industry after clutching so many and so hard.

There’s a word that shorthands the use of the surveillance state, human assets, foreign intelligence assets, wiretapping, electronic surveillance, and such all secretly collecting information on unwitting targets. It’s a very simple two syllable word: spying.

Until a few days ago, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN were perfectly happy to use the word. Now, to hear CNN’s Chris Cillizza tell it, “‘Spy’ is a purely political term being used by Trump and his team.” Uh huh.

Of course, the mainstream media and Democrats think you’re too stupid to see the obvious—that the Trump campaign was spied upon, repeatedly, by an FBI investigation spurred in large part by a phony dossier assembled by Democrats, filled with Russian disinformation, and compiled by an ex-foreign spy to undermine the campaign and then the presidency.

But then again, never forget, they do think they’re your betters and that somehow they’re more enlightened than you are.

Only an idiot could look at what the FBI, and let’s be honest, the CIA and others, did and say, No, this couldn’t reasonably be considered spying. So of course James Comey took a break from posting weird emo pictures to Instagram to say he never thought of “court ordered electronic surveillance” as spying. What synonym for spying would you prefer? Watching secretly without being detected? Observing someone furtively? Tapping into their electronic communications without them knowing it? Comey and the various bureaus of deep state propaganda are being willingly obtuse.

This kind of spin doctoring runs rampant through the media and the halls of the administrative state. They’re so concerned with distracting from their own willful attempts to undermine Trump and their complete abuse of power over the last two years, that they’re looking for any nit they can pick to hide from the necessity of owning up to their egregious actions.

All of this might have been rubber-stamped by a secret foreign intelligence surveillance court without adequate oversight by the bodies that are supposed to protect us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not spying.

This shell game of deciding what’s really spying and what’s not distracts from the more concerning facts in the case. It might have been authorized spying, but it sure wasn’t kosher. Over the last two years, an entire political party, the deep state actors, and their partners in the media have consumed our nation with their wild conspiracy theories, the big lie of the Russian collusion fairytale, in which many were complicit. It was all based on a fraudulent opposition research document.

The Steele dossier was used to try and poison the American people against supporting Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign and was used as justification by the FBI to begin spying. Sorry, I don’t mean “spying”—I mean bogusly approved electronic surveillance and human intelligence that definitely wasn’t spying. The FBI used this document to begin not-spying-just-secretly-surveilling parts of the Trump campaign, which fueled more speculation and scheming and eventually resulted in the special counsel’s investigation.

As the pieces are all falling into place, it’s becoming more apparent that what some of us have been saying for two years has been true all along: the Obama Administration, via the surveillance state and law enforcement, massively abused its power.

We may never know what Barack Obama knew and when he knew it, but we do know this: crimes were committed. People like John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates, and others engaged in this activity because they thought it was acceptable to use the surveillance state and law enforcement as political weapons against domestic political opponents. They have, through their arrogance, helped destabilize our constitutional republic.

There needs to be a reckoning for this behavior—not merely for the settling of political scores, but for our future. If there are no consequences for these actions, we will have normalized it; we will have said that a police state is acceptable. If we allow that to happen, we will have sown the seeds of our demise. We might continue on with the happy illusion of a free society, but in reality our republican government of, by, and for the people will be over.

Photo credit:  Drew Angerer/Getty Images

America • American Conservatism • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Hollywood • Law and Order • Post • self-government • The Culture

Civilization Wins in ‘The Highwaymen’

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Hollywood’s cultural liberalism is effective not because it lectures us. Indeed, the lecturing, hectoring awards shows have been getting clobbered in ratings precisely because they do that. The movies and TV shows that succeed in moving our culture leftward do so because they tell a story that gets us to sympathize with the hero.

In his fine little book, The Three Languages of Politics, Arnold Kling writes that the three most significant political ideologies in America see political issues in terms of distinct fundamental conflicts. For liberals, it’s the oppressors versus the oppressed; for conservatives, it’s barbarism versus civilization; for libertarians, it’s tyranny versus freedom.

The categories are not mutually exclusive, because the people who hold these ideologies are rarely completely pure. (People with completely pure political ideologies are fanatics, and all fanatics are boring, Pellinore.) The oppressed fight for freedom; tyranny is itself a form of barbarism; real freedom can only flourish in civilization. Still, as basic frameworks, they are both durable and remarkably explanatory.

John Lee Hancock’s new film, “The Highwaymen,” speaks the language of conservatism. The movie—showing in theaters and on Netflix—follows famed Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and his partner Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) as they track and ambush Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, bringing an end to one of the most celebrated killing sprees in U.S. history.

Superficially, “The Highwaymen” is a cop-buddy picture, with the stock elements of the genre. More substantially, it’s a compelling consideration of society’s response to evil, civilization’s response to barbarism.

John Fusco’s screenplay serves as a rebuttal to 1967’s unduly honored “Bonnie and Clyde.” If ever there were a movie that spoke the language of liberalism, that was it. In the popular imagination of the Great Depression, Bonnie and Clyde were Robin Hoods, robbing from banks. Director Arthur Penn bought into that myth, weirdly sympathizing with them even as his film graphically displayed their violence. If Bonnie and Clyde were bloody, they at least sided with the oppressed Everyman against the oppressor banks.

Likewise, “Bonnie and Clyde” slandered Frank Hamer as a braggart and a buffoon, motivated not by a sincere desire to enforce the law and protect society but rather by revenge and self-glorification. The Hamer family was so upset by the portrayal that they sought and won a substantial defamation settlement against Warner Brothers.

Hancock and Fusco set out to right that wrong, along the lines of John Boessenecker’s 2016 book, The Epic Life of Frank Hamer.

Rather than a showboat, Hamer is correctly depicted as a serious, experienced lawman, methodically tracking his quarry across the south and Midwest. Bonnie and Clyde knew they were wanted; they didn’t advertise their route or their whereabouts. Hamer and Gault had to understand their targets and anticipate their moves. They also had to disabuse some of the locals of their hero-worship and figure out which local law enforcement officers they could trust.

In reframing the story to be sympathetic to Hamer and Gault, Fusco literally had no choice but to choose the language of conservatism: Hamer as Civilization, confronting the Barbaric Bonnie and Clyde.

Because Bonnie and Clyde were barbarians. They robbed banks. They killed lawmen in cold blood and engaged in any number of petty thefts from the Everyman whose sympathy they exploited. And as true barbarians, they turned civilization’s own ethics against it. Confident that men in 1930s America would be reluctant to shoot a woman, Clyde used that moment’s hesitation to get the drop on those they confronted.

Hancock’s filmmaking here is masterly. He simultaneously emphasizes the inhumanity and violence of Parker’s and Barrow’s crimes, while distancing us from the criminals. They are shown only from a distance, from behind, unclearly, fleetingly. They are the Other, come to terrorize, and we can never empathize with them.

And yet, we are dealing with human beings. If we are to avoid turning civilization’s defenders into tyrants or oppressors, if Hamer is to be something other than the assassin from “Serenity”, we must confront the choice to take life head-on. Conservatism demands that examination of hard truths and hard choices. In two pivotal scenes, Fusco’s screenplay does just that.

Repeatedly, Hamer has to tell people that Bonnie and Clyde aren’t who they think they are. They aren’t Robin Hood and they’re not the nice kids who grew up in Dallas. They are stone-cold killers.

One person Hamer doesn’t have to tell that to is Henry Barrow, Clyde’s father. Yes, they discuss whether Clyde was a bad seed or was pushed to go bad. Instead of ending there in trite fashion, though, the two men agree that it really doesn’t matter. What matters is what Clyde has done. Is it enough to put him past redemption? And if so, what must the response of society be to that evil, whatever its source?

Our distance from Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow works to filmmakers’ advantage in one other scene. The two detectives have located the criminals’ hideout. Harrelson’s Gault holds Parker’s hairbrush, and is reminded that he has been chasing a real person across the country, a woman, and he is preparing to take her life. Because we have also only seen Bonnie and Clyde from a distance, we’re with him.

Once again, Hamer sets the terms: “It’s never easy, and it’s never pretty. And there’s always blood at the end of the road—you know that.” Weakness right now is just going to get more good men killed.

The movie opts not for the easy postmodern moral ambiguity, but instead shows the calm, reasoned self-confidence of men bringing individuals to justice.

Photo credit: Netflix

Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Donald Trump • Hillary Clinton • Law and Order • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Dear Citizen Collusion Truther—You Own This, Too

 

Hey, what’s up . . . wait, where are you going?

Why the dark glasses? Did you dye your hair? What’s with all the deleted tweets and Facebook posts lately?

Oh, I get it. Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller didn’t find any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Ruskies to throw the 2016 election, you want to move on. Act like it never happened. Or at least pretend that you weren’t part of the whole damn hoax from the start.

But . . . not so fast.

It wasn’t just the entire American media infrastructure—every broadcast network, cable news outlet, opinion page, political website, blue-checked social media account, washed-up D.C. pundit, unhinged MSNBC host, irrelevant Bush hanger-on, complicit Obama lackey, and Clinton bitter clinger who fell for the Trump-Russia collusion fairy tale. It wasn’t just every Democratic lawmaker and candidate—and a good chunk of the establishment Republican elite—who peddled a bogus story for two years. It wasn’t just every Hollywood actress, producer, legend, fluffer, has-been and late night host who caterwauled for months about Trump’s treachery.

You did it, too, my fellow citizen.

For two years, you helped do the dirty work of the vanquished Hillary Clinton campaign and the sore-loser Democratic Party. You reposted memes on your Facebook and Instagram pages that depicted Donald Trump as a Putin puppet, even suggesting tongue-in-cheek (in a way that you’d call homophobic if the other side did it) that Trump was Putin’s gay lover. You warned your neighbors that Trump’s son was a traitor. You insisted to your co-workers that, yes, Trump’s campaign team was populated by Russian agents and that the president’s attorney general, his secretary of state, his education secretary, his national security advisor, his son-in-law—among others—were Kremlin plants in the new administration.

You actually believed that Carter Page was a spy. You actually believed that the FBI opened up an investigation into the Trump campaign because a drunken George Papadopoulos said he had Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. You actually believed that Trump urinated on a Russian prostitute at a Moscow hotel. You actually believed that a teeny tiny batch of Facebook memes and Twitter posts allegedly controlled by Moscow masterminds somehow convinced voters in Michigan and Wisconsin to vote for Donald Trump.

You believed that Michael Cohen went to Prague. You believed that Russia hacked the DNC email system and fed those emails to Wikileaks. You believed that Roger Stone orchestrated the release of those emails. You believed that Sam Nunberg and Jerome Corsi and Konstantin Kilimnik had the goods on Trump.

You tuned into Joe Scarborough each morning and Rachel Maddow each night, desperate to gratify your collusion urges with their passionate rants about Trump and Putin. Ditto for Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper and Chris Cuomo. The pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post read like collusion porn every morning, teasing you and titillating you with erotic tales about secret phone calls and mysterious interpreters and raven-haired Russian lawyers.

You swooned over Adam Schiff. You suddenly believed every word of faux conservatives such as Bill Kristol and David Frum and Max Boot; people you had held in contempt prior to the 2016 election. You retweeted every post by the Krassenstein brothers, Kathy Griffin, and Alyssa Milano.

You bought prayer candles with Robert Mueller’s face etched across the glass and instead of sending Christmas cards last year, you sent everyone a weird video of washed-up celebrities singing “We Wish You a Mueller Christmas.” You signed every petition to “Protect Robert Mueller!” and reposted every commercial that warned Congress to “Save the Special Counsel!” You worried that Russian bot accounts were trying to mess with Mueller.

You bought James Comey’s book. You bought Andrew McCabe’s book. You donated to Peter Strzok’s GoFundMe page. You urged Sally Yates to run for office. You believed that Christopher Steele was just a former British spy whose dossier was totally legit. You were bummed Rod Rosenstein didn’t wear a wire while talking to the sitting president of the United States. You were equally bummed that Paul Manafort isn’t going to die in prison.

You were the baritone in the Trump-Russia collusion quartet, harmonizing along with the news media, the Democrats and the NeverTrump Republicans: “The walls are closing in!” “Trump’s days are numbered!” “It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when!” “His cabinet is turning on him, ready to invoke the 25th Amendment!” “He’s brooding and angry and lashing out at staff as Mueller gets closer to finding out the truth!” “Trump won’t survive the week/month/year/term!”

Details and evidence were of no concern to you. You believed all of the following things for no reason other than that you wanted to. Trump told the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails before the election. (He didn’t.) Donald Trump Jr. colluded with Russia when he met in June 2016 for 20 minutes with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower. (The meeting was a setup between Russian lobbyists working with Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion GPS which produced the dossier, and Trump’s campaign team. No “dirt” on Hillary Clinton was passed along.)

Mike Flynn promised the Russian ambassador that Trump would drop sanctions against Russia. (No such promise was made.) President Trump told James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn. (The only evidence that Trump suggested such a thing is Comey’s own memo; Trump was unaware of the investigation into his campaign at the time.)

And so on.

But the most compelling evidence that you refused to accept was right before your very eyes the entire time. In nearly two years, Mueller did not charge one person with so-called “collusion.” Not one associate tied to the Trump campaign was indicted or convicted of any crime related to the election.

I know you still have hope that the full Mueller report will contain some far-fetched nugget of collusion evidence to vindicate your gullibility/ignorance/foolishness. You’ve already moved the goalposts to an imaginary crime of obstruction of justice even though there was no underlying crime to obstruct.

History will not be kind to the Trump-Russia collusion truthers in Congress, the expert class, Hollywood, and the media. But history also shouldn’t forget the role that you, Citizen Collusion Truther, played in this. No matter how many tweets and Facebook posts you delete, it cannot erase your complicit stupidity in this scandal.

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