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Debate, Politics, and NeverTrump

CPAC 2018 has come and gone, and with it, NeverTrump has met its Waterloo.

Whereas in 2017, there were still those willing to indulge the urge to keep a rhetorical distance from President Trump, or otherwise to downplay his significance to the resurgent Right in America, now almost nothing of the kind survives. Instead, the conference featured moments of nigh-explicit surrender by previously anti-Trump conservatives.

Ben Shapiro, for example, had to admit sheepishly that he didn’t see Trump’s commitment to conservative governance coming, and then had to launch into a detailed genealogy of how political correctness’ overreaches had spurred its own messy death, implicitly at Trump’s hands. Mark Levin, meanwhile, went from barking at Trump to “cut the crap” to sternly instructing the CPAC audience that it was “our obligation to defend [Trump] and defend this office.”

As it turned out, Shapiro and Levin’s prudence in beating a path to praising Trump would self-demonstrate before too long. For when one less astute, still sincere NeverTrumper—former Jack Kemp speechwriter Mona Charen—tried to spout feminist anti-Trump rhetoric (ironically, in response to a panel question on feminist hypocrisy!), the CPAC audience booed her into silence and Charen had to be escorted out by security. Charen, ever vigilant to defend herself against charges of closet liberalism, then ran to that unquestioned redoubt of right-wing thought known as the New York Times to express her displeasure. To give Charen her due, I’m sure the 93 percent of CPAC attendees who approved of the job President Trump is doing must have found that convincing.

I mention all of this not just because gloating is fun (though believe me, it is), but as prologue. NeverTrump seems to know they are beaten, and have retreated to (mostly) lamenting the death of all that is good and decent on the Right, rather than pretending that such supposedly good and decent qualities can be resurrected by the return of House Romney to the throne of Westeros…er, I mean the United States Senate. My friend, the always-entertaining anti-Trump writer Kevin Williamson, seems to have penned the ultimate encapsulation of NeverTrump’s dominant sentiment, writing “If conservative ideas cannot prevail in the marketplace of ideas without lies, they do not deserve to prevail at all.” Or at least, so says Jonah Goldberg, who writes of this sentence: “I love [it] so much, I want to take it home after the prom and get it pregnant.” Nor is this sentiment confined to National Review. Ben Shapiro himself said something similar in his CPAC 2018 address, imploring his audience not to lie, because that would make snowflakes look like the defenders of truth.

Now I’m certainly not a fan of deceit for its own sake: there is undoubtedly real danger to its application, even at the best of times. However, that being said, I suspect that most Trump people find the sentiment above incredibly naïve and dangerous. I certainly do. We should give up on defending right-leaning ideas if we need what Williamson and Goldberg, in their self-righteousness, label “deceit” to sell them? Really? What politician in history, if he has not lied himself, has not at least permitted lies or truth fudging in order to move public sentiment? What leader in history has not employed or permitted disinformation to demoralize or confuse his or her enemies, both foreign and domestic? Did not Plato talk about the idea of noble lies that enable a society to function despite their vulnerability to overly critical scrutiny? The Left lies about their policies all the time: surely, we can’t be expected to let their lies prevail, if the result of left-wing policies are as awful as we right-wingers consistently and correctly point out?

All these thoughts crossed my mind as I read the above pieces, along with a disturbing question: Does NeverTrump realize that they’re talking about politics?

And that’s when it hit me. They aren’t. Or at least, they don’t want to. The more I think about it, the more the entire difference between NeverTrump and my peers in the #MAGA movement seems to boil down to a very simple contrast: NeverTrump is doing debate. #MAGA is doing politics.

What do I mean? Well, ironically, I can illustrate it best with my own experience with two very different formats of high school and college debate.

In high school, I was a member of an organization known as the Junior State of America (JSA). The point of this program is to teach young people about the broad outlines of major issues facing America, as well as basic civics, such as the legislative process and systems like Robert’s Rules of Order. A typical JSA debate, at least when I was on the circuit, worked as follows: two speakers would be selected to give initial and closing arguments on some hot button resolution, such as Resolved: Require Parental Consent for Abortions. These students would have five minutes each at the start of the debate to present their arguments, and about three at the end.

Between their opening and closing statements, speakers would be selected from the audience to go up and speak for one side or the other, with each speaker getting three minutes to speak. When the debate was concluded, the audience would vote for which side they agreed with, and would also vote to recognize the person who they thought gave the single best speech of the debate, irrespective of side. JSA alumni include the likes of former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former Attorney General Ed Meese, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and even New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady.

In college, on the other hand, I joined an organization known as the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA)—a group of which, coincidentally, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is also an alumnus. In APDA, teams of two students would deliver speeches in succession on a topic chosen by the team designated the “government” team, with a single judge (or a small panel of 3-7 in qualifying rounds) deciding scores for individual speakers, and ultimately deciding the winning team, as well. APDA alumni include the aforementioned Senator Cruz, as well as Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), former Solicitor General Paul Clement, former Council of Economic Advisers member Austan Goolsbee, and even the inveterate NeverTrump columnist David Frum (another friend), not to mention a vast swathe of the legal profession. Two people I came to know while I was on the APDA circuit, in fact, ended up clerking for Justice Antonin Scalia, and Justice Clarence Thomas.

The reader can probably see how stark is the difference between the two formats. The JSA format is fundamentally democratic: an audience of self-selected viewers picks the winning side of issues, and issues awards to speakers. The APDA format, meanwhile, is fundamentally technocratic: a pre-selected judge or group of judges acts as the arbiter of victory and rhetorical success. As you may expect given this, JSA debates are raucous rhetorical bloodsports, whereas APDA debates have a greater resemblance to arguments in a courtroom, or something you might see on think tank panels.

Moreover, speaking from experience, being good at JSA debates made one worse at APDA debates. Why? Because judges in APDA debates were highly sensitive to rhetorical excess, and would sometimes refuse to award victory to a team that had won a debate on the merits because they were too cruel in doing so. However, in JSA, audiences would shriek approval for speakers who not merely defeated their opponents logically, but humiliated them personally. This was clearly a result of the fact that in one case, those judging the debate saw themselves as unilateral guardians of norms of discourse who had to police the speakers, whereas in the other, they felt like voters being courted by a succession of their peers, and so placed a premium on identifying with speakers. In short, APDA was debate, and nothing but debate. JSA looked like debate, but was actually purely political speech.

Which brings me back to #NeverTrump and, in many ways, Trump himself. I’ll be blunt: Trump would be a disaster on the APDA circuit. He would most likely score near the bottom of the acceptable range for speakers, because he does not enunciate methodical and logical intellectual cases for his positions, and compensates for this with “truthful hyperbole” and insult comedy that would be deemed abusive, out of place, and unsportsmanlike. He would likely be banned from participating in APDA conferences after a very short time.

But in JSA? Trump would be a virtuoso. He would almost certainly win every debate he touched. He would stir audiences into a frenzy with his combination of memorable lines, forceful personality, and ability to improvise, not to mention his many other talents at persuasion, documented ably by Scott Adams.

And therein lies the problem: NeverTrump, particularly the species of NeverTrumper that idolizes former college debate star William F. Buckley, Jr., is treating the marketplace of ideas as if it’s some sort of highly regulated, centrally planned affair: as if the worth of ideas is decided by a technocratic, virtuous few, appointed to police not merely the worth of an idea, but the ethics of the rhetoric supporting it, and the truthfulness of its supporters. Of course, Buckley himself started his literary career by triggering his university in print, and perfected his distinctive facial expressions as debaters’ tricks to distract the audience, and so even here they militate against their own inspiration, but let that pass. Those of us in the #MAGA movement, on the other hand, understand that the marketplace of ideas is an unfettered market that relies on mass consumption by a large and willing audience: a wild Laissez Faire jungle, where a Darwinian approach to advertising, salesmanship, and the usage of all persuasive tools is necessary to survive.

Does this mean that there is no place for the pure debaters of the world? Of course not: Trump himself has hundreds of appellate court vacancies to fill, for one thing, and there will always be a need for such people in the rarefied realms of policymaking, law, and economics, where the high cognitive and knowledge-based barriers to entry prevent an unconstrained democratic approach like that found in JSA debates. Not all questions are resolved only by the person that can get an audience to cheer, clap, or blow air horns the loudest.

But almost all political questions are. Which is why NeverTrump’s adherence to the “debate club conservative” attitude will always doom their advocacy of their preferred policies and ideals to a secondary position within the art of politics. And it is why those of us inclined to throw in our lot with Trump have given them a leader who is willing to ruthlessly implement and advocate those policies in a way that the Mona Charens and Jonah Goldbergs of the world might not be able to stomach but is the only way the country will ever digest it.

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America Created the Sino-Russian Threat

Russia and China are forming a dangerous coalition of powers on Eurasia. This is bad for the United States and the world. The great geostrategist, Sir Halford Mackinder, once cautioned his audience to be on the lookout for the rise of a strong military power or an alliance of powers in Eurasia, as that could negatively impact global trade. Eurasia—the landmass of Europe and Asia (connected by the Mideast)—is the most populous region of the world and contains the bulk of the world’s natural resources. It is a critical engine for global trade and prosperity. The largest powers in Eurasia, Russia, and China, are all land-based powers.

It was only in recent decades that both Russia and then China started becoming maritime powers. Even then, the Sino-Russian relationship was fraught and ultimately created a strategic opening for President Richard Nixon to exploit during the Cold War. When the United States moved China into its camp during the Cold War, the Soviet Union was truly isolated globally, and the end was nigh.

For some time, the United States and China maintained affable relations (though China took advantage of the United States, draining it of economic vitality and coming to threaten it militarily today). Meanwhile, Russia continued its inexorable decline. Today, it is a shadow of its former self, though it retains nominal control over a sizable chunk of land and its military gives Russian leaders the ability to complicate American grand strategy (which it does routinely).

Yet, at the end of the Cold War, the world was made anew—or at least it could have been. The Russians wanted to be embraced in the Western camp whereas the Chinese were looking to craft an alternate power center, but did not at that time have the power to create one. After 30 years of diplomatic mismanagement in Washington, D.C., the Russians have been pushed into China’s camp and China has been allowed to become a real threat to the United States.

Never once did American leaders take the time to ask how their actions (or inaction) on the world stage would propel the Russians and Chinese into a closer alliance. Not only that, most American leaders didn’t even care, believing in the bizarre notion that the United States possessed an otherworldly capability to control events everywhere, all at once with its military. It was geopolitical malpractice of the highest order and it was allowed to continue for three decades. Now, the United States is paying the price.

Presently, the Russian Federation is a weak state with a large nuclear arsenal. It has demonstrated limited capabilities for intervening in nearby states and using superior diplomacy to exercise its will across the world, from the Mideast to Africa. The Russian population is unhealthy and dwindling in size, being replaced slowly by Muslims from the south and ethnic Chinese in the Russian Far East. Meanwhile, in the world of United States Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Russia is a giant gas station masquerading as a country. It sits atop some of the wealthiest reserves of natural gas, oil, and water—Lake Baikal, for instance, is believed to have the largest stores of fresh water beneath its frozen surface.

The Russians have used their position atop this rich vein of natural resources—particularly its access to abundant stores of natural gas and oil—as a geostrategic lever to goad other states into adhering to Russian will. Currently, Europe is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. The Russians have effectively created linkages with other oil-and-natural-gas-producing states, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, to intensify its standing in the Middle East. Also, the Russians sell their resources to the resource-starved China. In many respects, Russia is the geostrategic linchpin of the world order when it comes to natural resources.

Rather than bringing Russia closer to its orbit, the United States spent much of the last three decades alienating and insulting Russia whenever it could. Today, the United States has strict sanctions placed on the Russian economy for their boorish behavior in Ukraine. Unfortunately, though, all that the sanctions have managed to do is to force Russia to move more closely into China’s orbit. Russia is making energy deals with the Chinese (and Indians) to make up for their losses in Europe and the West. Also, the Chinese are providing diplomatic cover to the Russians, as they run roughshod over neighboring countries and throughout the Middle East. Then, of course, the Chinese are using the Russians to solidify their dream of connecting all of Eurasia with the Chinese-dominated Belt-and-Road Initiative.

As the Chinese move east-west with their “new silk road” project, the Russians are moving from the north-south to link Eurasia together that way. Much of this could have been avoided had the United States simply thought through how it would respond to a weakening Russia. Thanks to America’s draconian moves, Russia is now becoming a “partner” to China’s global ambitions and is providing close cover for rogue regimes, such as North Korea and Iran, as they move further in building arsenals of nuclear weapons.

America’s political class—the so-called foreign policy experts—failed this country royally in the post-Cold War era. The United States and Russia should be running the world. Instead, Russia and China are set to destroy the world order. Just wait for China’s petro-yuan project to take full form. Then even the threat of American sanctions directed against Russia, Iran, or North Korea will no longer hold any weight.

If we were smart, the United States would use what leverage it currently has over Russia with the sanctions to negotiate a longer-lasting settlement with Moscow over long-standing conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, and then build off that to stunt the growth of Chinese power in the Pacific. But, time is not on our side and Washington continues to dither.

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The Schiff Obstruction

Readers of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit will recall the philosopher’s withering comments about “the dogmatism of mere assertion” which yields naught but an empty and deceptive feeling: self-certitude.

I thought about Hegel’s comments this morning when looking through the Democrats’ attempted rebuttal of the memo released earlier this month by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee.

It is interesting to compare the two memos, both as rhetorical artifacts and as substantive contributions to the debate over possible “Russian collusion” in the 2016 presidential election. Even a comparison of their physical appearance is revealing. Let’s start there.

The Republicans’ memo, overseen by Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is a three-and-a-half-page précis of findings from an ongoing oversight investigation into the behavior of the FBI and Department of Justice during the 2016 election cycle. It is prefaced by a brief letter from presidential counsel Donald McGahn to Congressman Nunes laying out the rationale for declassifying the memo and releasing it to the public. Each page of the memo is marked “UNCLASSIFIED” and the legend “TOP SECRET NOFORN” (for “no foreign nationals”) on each page is struck through with a heavy black stroke. Otherwise it is clean.

The Democrats’ memo, overseen by ranking minority member Adam Schiff, spills on to a tenth page. It is probably only about a half again as long as the Republicans’ memo, however, because—in addition to bearing the “Unclassified” stamps and strike-throughs of the “top secret” advisories—its text is littered with redactions: many passages of the text are blotted out. Were those redactions required by the FBI? By the executive branch? It was not said. Nor was it said why the Democrats did not take the redactions on board and present a clean text. I do not know the answer. My suspicion is that they wanted the blocks of black to stand as mute, non-specific but nonetheless graphically incriminating witnesses to their allegations.

For example, much of the memo deals with Carter Page, the American businessman who briefly served as a volunteer foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign. In a section of the memo headed “Page’s Connections to Russian Government and Intelligence Officials” we encounter the following: “As DOJ described in detail to the Court, Page had an extensive record as”—as what? We don’t know. The juicy news is submerged beneath a minatory stroke of black.

Similarly, after informing us that a “Russian intelligence officer targeted Page for recruitment”—eyebrow raising, what?—we read that “Page showed”—another black stroke, starving knowledge but inflaming the imagination. What did Page show? Interest? Did he promise to smuggle the nuclear launch codes into Moscow? We don’t know. But we can think the worst.

My favorite of these little party favors comes in a discussion of Page’s alleged activities during the 2016 campaign. Remember: the issue that prompted Devin Nunes to compile and release his memo in the first place was the suspicion that the police power of the state had been mobilized to spy on an American citizen—Carter Page—for partisan ends. Remember: the FBI sought and obtained a warrant (actually, four successive warrants) from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to surveil Page. The first was granted in October 2016, just weeks before the presidential election. That warrant gave the spooks carte-blanche to rifle through Page’s emails, texts, and phone conversations. Given his connection to the Trump campaign, the warrant also amounted to a free back-door pass to the Trump campaign’s communications as well.

According to the Nunes memo, almost the sole basis for the warrant were allegations gleaned from the infamous Steele Dossier, the 17 memos prepared from June to December 2016 by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, for the opposition research firm Fusion GPS. I say “almost” because the FISA application (which has not been made public) apparently also referenced a story from Yahoo News by Michael Isikoff. But that story, by Isikoff’s own admission, depended entirely on information imparted to him by Christopher Steele. “One bare assertion,” as Hegel put it, “cancelling another”?

So what had Carter Page done to warrant the warrant? For starters, according to the Steele Dossier, he had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin, Vladimir Putin’s bosom buddy, and chairman of Rosneft, the giant Russian integrated oil company that commands annual revenues of some $65 billion. According to the Steele Dossier, Sechin offered Page a brokerage commission on 19 percent interest in Rosneft if the sanctions against Russia (imposed because of their absorption of Crimea in 2014) were lifted should Donald Trump become President.

That, I submit, is ridiculous on its face. It would certainly, by a factor of about a zillion, be the biggest payoff in history. Steele (who admitted that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president”) gives no source for the allegation beyond an unnamed “Sechin’s associate.” For his part, Carter Page has vigorously denied the allegations and has filed a defamation suit against several entities. Discovery should be fun.

But here’s the thing. A key part of the Democrats’ memo is challenging the assertion that the critical evidence for the FISA warrant was the Steele Dossier, that “salacious and unverified” document (to employ the eloquent phrase of James Comey, the disgraced former Director of the FBI). Here is how the Democrats’ memo deploys its rebuttal. “In subsequent FISA renewals,” the memo says, “DOJ provided additional information obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting.”

Wow. Let’s have it! Whatdya got? Three bullet points—count ’em, three!—the first two of which are entirely blacked out. The third reads: “Page’s [blacked out phrase] in Moscow with [blacked out word or two] senior Russian officials [blacked out line and a half] as well as meetings with Russian officials.”

So in their physical presentation, the two memos are very different. How do they stack up in other ways? The Nunes memo, as I said, had its origin in the alarm Republican lawmakers felt at the spectacle of the coercive (and inquisitive) power of the state deployed against an American citizen to further a rival political campaign. The Democrats’ memo touches briefly on George Papadopoulos, the 30-year-old policy advisor for Trump who was charged last summer with lying to the FBI (that’s a felony unless your name is Clinton).

But the motor of the memo revolves around Carter Page. Did you know that Mr. Page traveled to Russia? Suspscious, no?  It gets worse. He did business in Russia, with Russians! And as if that weren’t bad enough, he delivered a university commencement address in Russia—“an honor,” the Democrats’ memo darkly informs us, “usually reserved for well-known luminaries.” Gosh.

The Democrats’ memo speaks of Carter Page being a “target for recruitment.” On the contrary, he was vetted by a Russian intelligence agent. But of course everyone who is anyone is vetted by Russian intelligence: diplomats, celebrities, prominent businessmen, your Aunt Millie. If the Russians think a mark can help them, they’re there with an offer. But as it happens, the agent who vetted Carter Page concluded that he was an “idiot” not worth bothering with. The Dems’ memo notes that the FBI had been watching Page since 2013. But of course there are many reasons intelligence services might take an interest in people. One reason, which the Dems’ memo neglects, is that person A, who is innocent, might help you get to person B, who is not. The memo does not note that Page actually helped the Bureau build a case against the Russian industrial spy Evgeny Buryakov. Nor does it note that Page has never been charged with a crime. 

The great irony surrounding the “Russia Collusion” soap opera is that, after a white-hot investigation of nearly a year, the only collusion to have emerged implicates the Clinton campaign, not Trump’s. As I noted elsewhere, it was the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee who secretly paid for the Steele dossier—facts that, pace assertions to the contrary by the Democrats, were concealed from the FISA Court when the applications were made.

And where did Mr. Steele get his lurid stories? Why, from a congeries of unnamed Russian “sources close to the Kremlin.” Nota bene: a piece of opposition research, paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC, was fed to the FBI, which used it to obtain secret court warrants to spy on people inside the Trump camp. In other words, the Clinton campaign indirectly colluded with Russian sources, first to affect the election and then, when that didn’t work, to undermine the incoming administration.

That’s the real story behind these memo wars. And stay tuned. Devin Nunes has alerted us to the advent soon of Phase Two, regarding the State Department’s role in this melodrama, and even Phase Three, which will bring it into the inner corridors of the Obama administration.

The Democrats screamed bloody murder when they learned that Nunes planned to publish a summary of his investigation’s findings. They said they were all about protecting the integrity of our wonderful intelligence services; they were concerned that “sources and methods” not be revealed. But all that was clearly a blind. What they feared was the exhibition of the truth about the biggest American political scandal in living memory.

There’s a lot we still do not know. But cast your mind back over the last several months: think of the stunning revelations that have appeared one by one: about James “Higher Loyalty” Comey leaking classified information and lying to the FBI; about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the amorous anti-Trump FBI agents; about Fusion GPS (co-founded by Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter) which was conducting anti-Trump research. Later we learned that Fusion GPS had “conducted opposition research” (that’s shop-talk for “conducting a smear campaign to destroy someone”) against Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer who, as The Washington Post reported, “was tortured and killed in a Russian prison in 2009 after uncovering a $230 million tax theft by 23 Kremlin-linked companies and individuals close to President Vladimir Putin.” We learned about Bruce Ohr, once upon a time Associate Deputy Attorney General (i.e., number 4 in the DOJ), who had undisclosed meetings with Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson. Then we learned that Bruce Ohr’s wife, Nellie, was employed at Fusion GPS “to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump.” And on it goes.

The Democrats’ memo makes some effort to counter, neutralize, or distract from these realities. But Andy McCarthy—who has just posted at must-read anatomy of the Dems’ memo—is right: “The Schiff Memo Harms Democrats More Than It Helps Them.” As I say, there’s a lot we don’t know. But the Nunes memo presented a number of disturbing revelations. The Dems, on the other hand, are stuck in the “dogmatism of mere assertion.” Their performance in this memo is partly comic, but mostly it’s contemptible, dishonest, and alarming. Fortunately, early returns suggest that the people—outside the precincts of CNN, The New York Times, and other infected redoubts—understand the truth. It bodes well for the republic. For the Democrats, not so much.

[Updated 2/26]

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Gun Grabbers Deny the Science

Mark Rosenberg, former assistant surgeon general and founder of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control, claimed in Politico recently that there is still too little useful research into how to reduce “gun violence” in the United States. This is the same Dr. Rosenberg who, speaking in his official capacity in 1994, said firearms should be seen as “dirty, deadly—and banned.”  

(For the whole story about the CDC’s anti-gun activism then, see discussions by Timothy Wheeler, MD and Don Kates et al.)

Rosenberg claims “Research efforts had slowly but steadily ground to a halt following the passage of the [1996] Dickey amendment.” The Dickey amendment was a rider on a 1996 omnibus spending bill providing, “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” Rosenberg’s claim about the implications of the amendment have always been false. The CDC, the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies have been free to fund research so long as it does not propagandize for gun control, which the CDC pointedly did during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Academics always want greater federal funding for their area of study, but the number of published studies on gun violence has significantly increased since 1996. Only their proportion of all medical research has decreased, which is perfectly reasonable as medical science expands. Even Dr. Rosenberg points out that there are many “. . . public health programs that are viewed as more central and critical to CDC’s mission—fighting infectious diseases like Ebola or influenza and chronic diseases like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and stroke.”

Dr. Rosenberg says that gun control advocates can seem “so single-mindedly focused on safety that they would happily take all firearms out of civilian hands . . . [while] those who favor gun rights . . . have been conditioned by the NRA leadership to have zero tolerance for any discussion whatsoever about preventing gun violence.” Nonsense! “Gun safety” comprises the knowledge and skills to handle guns responsibly, and has nothing to do with the gun control restrictions that are perpetually in demand by those claiming to want “common sense gun control.” Many would happily deny Americans their right to keep and bear popular, historically legal arms of their choice. It is a distortion of reality to accuse gun owners of being “conditioned” by the National Rifle Association or any other pro-gun group. These groups are successful because they reflect the opinions of millions of Americans, among which include accomplishing background checks on nearly 90 percent of all firearm purchases. Reducing firearm deaths and injuries is important to everyone, and accusing pro-gun organizations and owners of refusing to talk about it is insulting.

What “gun contr . .”—excuse me, “gun safety” [sic] advocates want to accomplish is legislation that would mainly further limit the civil rights of the vast body of over 150 million safe, responsible, law-abiding American gun owners.

The flaw in the public health claim about the need for more research into gun violence is the idea that gun violence can be solved with “the same kind of scientific research that showed us how to save millions of lives from cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. . . [to] save half a million lives from road traffic crashes, without banning cars. . . [and] that proved that second-hand smoke harms people.” And to compare “gun violence” to the thalidomide tragedy of the 1960s is just noxious.  We’ve addressed these irrelevancies many times at Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, in great detail here.

Guns are inanimate objects controlled by people. With any knowledge at all, they can be dealt with safely despite certain intrinsic risks like misfires. It’s entirely about where they are pointed and, literally, how they are handled. They cause no contagion (it’s psychological), no pathological spread (just illegal acquisition like straw purchases and theft), and no societal threat (except by criminal use). None of this compares to the issues addressed by true public health science, when people living normal lives are unknowingly, even helplessly subject to illnesses and other risks of pathogens, lack of sanitation, and accidental injuries in the workplace and at home.

Deaths (currently something more than 30,000 annually) and injuries (70 – 100,000 annually) by firearms have been in general decline for four decades, even while the stock of civilian owned guns in the United States has increased (up nearly 50% in 20 years).  During that time, our population has increased by about 20 percent, while the gun homicide rate has fallen by nearly 50 percent. By any standard, that is a remarkably, happy reduction of mortality that unquestionably confirms that the number of firearms in circulation does not increase harm, and may well be a factor in reducing it.

Criminologists address homicide and violent crime, mental health researchers seek to understand how to reduce suicidal thinking, and safety education by firearm experts on gun handling and storage options (no one size fits all here) continue to reduce accidents. Sociologists and economists are good at teasing apart societal fundamentals that foster violence as a way of life for poor urban youth, drug gangs, and criminal enterprises—central problems in “gun violence.”  Without our socioeconomically disadvantaged urban crime centers, the United States is one of the safest countries in the world. These are the areas of expertise that can promote further harm reduction. There is simply no useful role for the epidemiological “public health approach.”

Is it true that, as Rosenberg says, “. . . we don’t know whether arming all teachers in a school will save lives or take more lives. We don’t know whether making it easier for people to carry concealed weapons will save lives or result in more deaths. And we don’t know whether banning the sale of semi-automatic rifles will prevent mass shootings or lead to more gun deaths because there will be fewer good guys with a gun to stop the bad guys with guns”?

No, not at all.

We do know that trained, armed school staff has resulted in no harm where it has been established in recent years, and that mass shooters of every variety always target places that are touted to be “gun-free.” We know from studies of permitted concealed carriers that they are far more law-abiding (i.e., safer) than the general public or even law officers. We know that good guys with guns intervening do prevent or minimize casualties because attackers don’t like return fire (e.g., the Clackamas mall attack, the Colorado Springs and the Sutherland Springs, Texas church assaults). We know that banning semi-automatic rifles doesn’t help from the 1994-2004 “assault rifle” ban. These weapons have always been statistically insignificant, being used less than 2 percent of all shootings while mass shootings themselves are responsible for only about 1 percent of all firearm-related deaths.

A core component of any public policy analysis is balancing risks with benefits. Academic health researchers roundly ignore the fact that firearms are used every day by Americans protecting themselves, their property and others when facing assault with deadly weapons. The National Research Council reported in 2004 that this happens anywhere from 500,000 to 3 million times each year. That’s enormous benefit, with many lives saved and injuries prevented, to set against the tens of thousands of deaths and scores of thousands of injuries documented (a significant number of which are justified by being defensive). If only a fraction of these defensive gun uses prevent deaths and injuries to innocents, that more than balances the losses that occur from other causes.

If researchers care about true public health crises, I’d urge them to focus on much more damaging problems that are more amenable to public health solutions. These include the escalating opioid epidemic, which used to kill a fraction of those who die by gunshot. More than 64,000 people died of opiate overdoses in 2016. Or address the little noted epidemic of iatrogenic deaths (i.e., caused by health care professionals). Estimates of this tragically run to approximately 400,000 deaths per year, with 10-20 times as much serious harm.

Interestingly, after criticizing the Dickey Amendment two years ago with its framer, James Dickey, Rosenberg seems to have had a change of heart, saying “that the Dickey amendment should be preserved, to assure those on the gun-rights side of the debate that none of the funds they send to CDC will be used to lobby for gun control legislation and that these funds will be used only to support scientific research.” It will be a hard sell for a long-time gun restrictionist like Dr. Rosenberg to convince Americans who’ve felt condescended to and criticized by those on his side of the argument to buy this.

My advice to Dr. Rosenberg and anyone who wants to grow their careers in public health at the expense of Americans who stand by their natural right of self-defense and our Second Amendment’s guardianship of the consequent right to keep and bear arms is this: Heed the science as it already exists. We have a great deal of work to do to decrease violence and preventable causes of deaths in our country without questioning whether the wheel is round.

The truth is already out there. Let’s use it.

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One More for the NRA

I just joined the National Rifle Association.

Although I’ve always been somewhat open-minded about gun control, especially high-powered weapons, the current mob mentality of the Left—incited by propagandists in the media—has closed my mind. The spectacle over the Florida school shooting proves the Left will exploit any tragedy, manipulate any victim, and demonize any detractor in their scorched-earth strategy to regain power. Further, its purported solution seeks to empower the public authorities who utterly and despicably failed to stop this massacre at every chance.

Unhinged elites + corrupt government = my gun.

The ruling class cannot be trusted. The revelation yesterday that a deputy sheriff stood down while helpless teenagers were slaughtered by a disturbed young man goes beyond a dereliction of duty. It reflects the lack of common decency pervasive among our protected institutions and their bureaucratic lackeys, whether they be positioned at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Veterans Administration hospitals, the top brass at the FBI, or in your local police force. In addition to their incompetence and inhumanity, we are further humiliated as they lie to us, place blame on others, and then get to “retire” with full benefits. (It’s only a matter of time before we find out Scot Peterson, the deputy who cowardly crouched outside Stoneman Douglas High School, listening to bullets and screams, will still get his taxpayer-funded pension and collect a sizable portion of his six-figure salary package.)

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel—a Democrat—should be the poster boy for the ruling class’s pathetic cocktail of bravado, ineptitude, and blame-shifting. On February 21, he appeared on CNN’s town hall meeting, refusing, in dramatic fashion, to accept any culpability for what happened: “America, there’s one person responsible for this act, that’s the detestable, violent killer. He is responsible for this act.” (Your friendly reminder that sheriffs are politicians, too. Israel once compared himself to Don Shula, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King while defending his crony hiring practices.)

He confronted NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, after she ticked off a string of documented warning signs displayed by the shooter, scolding her that she was “absolutely not the litmus test for how law enforcement should follow up. You’re wrong.”

Israel didn’t stop there. After the event, his office doubled-down:

But less than 24 hours later, amid rumors of Peterson’s whereabouts that day, the county’s smug top cop held a press briefing admitting:

I’ve restricted two of our deputies while we delve further into this. Scot Peterson was absolutely on campus through this entire event. He was armed, he was in uniform. After seeing video, witness statements, and Scot Peterson’s very own statement, I decided this morning to suspend Scot Peterson without pay. As is his right, because he has the necessary time with the agency, and meets the requirements of retirement, he resigned and slash, retired.

Translation: His “right” to retire was gifted to him by public employee’ unions so he can collect lifetime benefits paid by the grieving community he failed to protect.

Israel explained what the now-retired, public check-sucker did during the slaughter: “What I saw was a deputy arrive, take up a position, and he never went in.” He said Peterson should have gone into the building and “killed the killer.” When asked for his reaction, Israel said he was, “devastated. Sick to my stomach. These families lost their children. We lost coaches. I’ve been to their funerals, I’ve been to their homes where they sit in Shiva. I’ve been to the vigils. There are no words.”

But there are words, Sheriff. Did you apologize? To the community, to the parents, or to NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch? Did you crawl out of that press conference on your hands and knees, begging for forgiveness, not just for your department’s grievous mishandling of this situation for 10 years but for your showmanship and arrogance?

Of course not. Being a well-paid political hack means never having to say you’re sorry.

How many times do we have to suffer through this? How much more malfeasance do we have to tolerate? The people who used the IRS to harass conservatives and the people who flat-out lied to the American people about the Benghazi terror attacks to save a presidential election are not only walking free, but raking in cash from pensions, book deals, and speaking engagements. The former head of the FBI who leaked confidential information and possibly lied to Congress is about to publish a book, laughably titled, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.

The country has been roiled by a phony conspiracy story hatched by political schemers at the top level of our federal government and, aside from a few demotions, no one has been held accountable. To shade the now-obvious corruption at the Justice Department and FBI, #TheResistance—the media, Democrats and NeverTrumpers—spend every waking minute legitimizing a costly investigation into an election-collusion fantasy devoid of evidence while accusing citizens of “criticizing law enforcement” if we dare question anyone’s competence or motives. They will even show up at your front door, confront you out of the blue, basically call you stupid, and demand you explain your vote and your activism, as a CNN hack did this week.

The target of the Trump Resistance is all of us. Who owns guns, the Clinton voters in Manhattan or Berkeley? No, it’s the folks in red states and counties who voted for the candidate these elites and their minions in government despise. Anyone who dares to challenge the reigning dogma on guns will be verbally attacked and physically threatened, even subjected to a teenager accusing a grown woman of being a bad mother for not supporting gun control.

The Left’s lynch mob is not just aimed at gun owners. Since Trump’s election, a female cabinet member was almost physically attacked, top officials are getting a record number of death threats, and women in the administration have been mocked, vilified and berated in a vile manner that is unprecedented. A lunatic opened fire on Republican lawmakers, almost killing one, and a Republican senator was assaulted in his home.

In Federalist 28, Alexander Hamilton wrote: “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.” We have been betrayed, misled, and ignored while they are feeding the public trough. There is no end to what the ruling class will take away to preserve their power and their paycheck.

Joining the NRA isn’t a solution, but it’s a small act of defiance against those who insist I do otherwise. Consider it resistance against #TheResistance.

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The Unbearable Mendacity of NeverTrump-Inspired Comparisons

It requires a special degree of mendacity to compare Robert Mueller’s recent indictments to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Only someone desperate to get attention, or to please his new Trump-hating masters at a top news organization, or to improve his name recognition to sell his new book, would be shameless enough to equate one of America’s most horrific attacks to an unproven attempt by a handful of shady Russians to sway votes in a presidential election. One might even feel tempted to pity such a soulless, craven opportunist because, clearly, his brain is broken.

But you can’t feel sorry for Max Boot, the NeverTrump neoconservative whose tirades against the president and the Republican Party just earned him a primo spot in the Washington Post. Instead, you should feel sorry for the families and friends of the 9/11 victims Boot just exploited for clicks.

Boot called the alleged election interference by 13 Russian social-media agitators, “the second-worst foreign attack on America in the past two decades. The Russian subversion of the 2016 election did not, to be sure, kill nearly 3,000 people. But its longer-term impact may be even more corrosive by undermining faith in our democracy.”

Think about that for a moment. Boot, an historian who advocated going to war in Iraq, thinks a few Russian-funded Facebook campaign ads will have a longer-term impact than a massive terrorist attack on U.S. soil that killed 2,977 people, injured more than 6,000, and remains one of the most traumatic events in U.S. history. According to Boot’s logic, a Rooskie ploy to get a few unsavory hashtags trending is worse than the following: Fort Hood (13 dead), San Bernardino (14 dead), Pulse nightclub in Orlando (49 dead), Hudson bike path (eight dead), and Boston marathon (three dead). All because his candidate—Hillary Clinton—lost the election.

I dare Boot to try to persuade the parents of Martin Richard that low-level Twitter chicanery during a presidential election is a more devastating blow to our country than the murder of their child.

Boot went further, blaming Trump for “ignoring” the Russian threat—less than 48 hours after the Mueller indictments were announced. In more 9/11 comparisons, Boot accused the president of “refus[ing] to appoint a commission to study how to safeguard America,” much like the Bush Administration did after the 9/11 attacks. (Fun fact, Mr. Historian: The 9/11 Commission was formed 14 months later.) Nonetheless, Boot lamented how “we are at war without a commander in chief.”

His entire column was an adventure in false equivalence, imagining crimes that were not committed by people who were not involved, such as Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Boot, like his fellow NeverTrumpers—folks on the Right who opposed Trump’s candidacy and voted for either Clinton or Evan McMullin—are on a hardcore mission to destroy the Trump presidency and take the GOP down with it. Their only hope now is for Robert Mueller to uncover clear cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, a fever dream that is quickly fading with each passing day and each inconsequential indictment.

Led by their de facto leader, Weekly Standard editor-at-large Bill Kristol, the NeverTrumpers’ raison d’être is keeping the Mueller investigation alive. Some have loosely organized into a group called Meeting of the Concerned. Has-been legislators, washed-up Bush Administration officials, and unknown political pundits have found a new purpose—and renewed media fame—by vouching for the credibility of the Trump-Russia probe. In December, a group of Republican outliers, including former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, and former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman (see a pattern here?) wrote an open letter defending Mueller and waving off legitimate charges of political influence on his team:

We understand concerns about a senior FBI agent detailed to Mueller’s team who sent anti-Trump texts with an attorney who had also worked on the team. But when Mueller learned of the texts, he ousted the agent. The attorney had already departed. That is evidence of the high standards that Mueller has imposed.”

They even justified reported political donations made to Democrats by some on Mueller’s team: “Many of the undersigned donated to candidates of one or another party in or around our government employment. It never impacted our faithful adherence to our oath to support and defend the Constitution.” (Oh, did I mention how intolerably sanctimonious they are?)

But instead of honestly facing the reality that the Mueller probe may come up empty, the NeverTrumpers are doubling-down, aiding and abetting a similarly seditious media and Democratic Party to stoke irrational fear among the American public. When Trump joked that maybe the Russians knew in 2014 that he would run for president, even though Trump himself didn’t know, Kristol tweeted this:

Are you serious? How far gone does one have to be to not only think that, but to post it on social media?

Not to be outdone, the man Kristol elevated to public notoriety (a sin, in my opinion, far worse than any of his anti-Trump campaigning), Evan McMullin, called Trump the “key” to Russia’s election interference:

Sensing their plan to help Democrats win the House and Senate in November is quickly fading, some NeverTrumpers are already blaming Russia and Trump’s inaction for the assumed outcome of the mid-term elections. Here is David Frum:

Most observers predict a grim year for the GOP in 2018. But the economy is strong, and selective tax cuts are strategically redistributing money from blue-state professionals to red-state parents. The Republican National Committee commands a huge financial advantage over its Democratic counterpart. A little extra help could make a big difference to Republican hopes—and to Trump’s political survival.” 

This is their out: Rather than having to admit they were wrong that Trump’s presidency would be a disaster and how he would wreck the Republican Party, they will now use the, “It was the Russians!” excuse for their once-again dead-wrong political predictions.

In the process, the NeverTrumpers are helping obscure from public view very important developments in the Russian collusion investigation. On the same day the Russian interference charges were announced, the judge in the Michael Flynn case issued an order for Mueller’s team to produce “any exculpatory evidence in the government’s possession” that wasn’t offered up during Flynn’s plea negotiations. This could set the stage for Flynn to withdraw his guilty plea, which would be a major blow to Mueller.

This week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes sent a letter to more than 20 former and current government officials with several questions about the Steele dossier. The move suggests congressional investigators are getting close to identifying key players in the Obama administration who helped promote the Trump-Russia conspiracy scheme.

As this falls apart, expect the NeverTrumpers to become even more hysterical and hyperbolic: It might be only a matter of time before Boot and company roll out some Auschwitz comparisons.

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Russia Focus Neglects the Real Threat from China

Samantha Vinograd, a former senior national security advisor under President Obama, intoned Monday on CNN that in light of the previous week’s indictment of 13 Russian trolls, “We are under live attack and we’re doing nothing.”

Now, we know about these semi-hapless Russian trolls because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday announced they had been indicted for “conspiracy to defraud the United States” over their meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Solemnly stating they’d committed “information warfare” against America, Rosenstein’s statement and the actual indictment made it apparent that the 2016 Russian effort was very limited in size and scope, with roughly 80 Russians in total, who together had managed to spend several million dollars.

Rosenstein’s announcement, with its pointed use of “unwitting” to describe any interaction with the Russians, was yet another nail driven in the coffin of the Trump-Russia collusion fairytale.

If one were taking the Democrats and their allies in press at their word for the the last 14 months you would have thought there was collusion at the very highest levels of the Trump campaign and a literal invasion of Russians meddling with the American elections: “The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming! We’re under live attack!” Amazingly the Russian footprint was so small in 2016 that were it not for the “helpful” screaming of bloody murder by those hoping to distract from Democrat malfeasance, we’d likely never even have known about it.

The Russian “information warfare” as it pertained to Facebook ads was a whopping total of $46,000 before Election Day 2016. That included targeted buys of $300 in Pennsylvania and $832 in Michigan—or basically what a B-evel actor would spend on a promoted post for a day.

Some of the Russians’ ads were so bad they got a total of 14 clicks. With the Clinton and Trump campaigns spending $81 million combined on Facebook ads, and the total expenditures in the 2016 election between presidential and congressional campaigns coming to almost $6.5 billion, we’re somehow expected to believe that this is really warfare? It’s like the Russians threw a pebble into the great monetary ocean of the U.S. elections and the Left and mainstream media screamed that it caused a tsunami.

Considering the numbers involved, it’s a question whether Vladimir Putin  should be proud or ashamed: proud that his measly investment paid off in spinning up a media frenzy or ashamed at the measly spend of the “awesome and terrible” Russian “empire” being exposed; warfare seems like such a grandiose term for what actually happened.

Real information warfare is when a British national by the name of Christopher Steele, with his former press buddies at Fusion GPS, manipulate a compliant media to create false narratives that no doubt created billions of earned media coverage across the American airwaves. With whispers and rumormongering, Steele and Fusion GPS were able to feed into anti-Trump biases at major newspapers and cable channels and then, with the complicity of senior level management at the FBI, have the fake dossier used as evidence to support a FISA warrant.

While it’s lovely that 13 Russians have been indicted, never to be able to return to the United States, inquiring minds nevertheless want to know: if they were indicted for “conspiracy to defraud the United States,” why isn’t Christopher Steele being indicted as well?

It’s clear from the Grassley-Graham memo that Steele likely lied to the FBI, but it is also clear is that Steele helped destabilize American democracy, with the help of the mainstream media. But of course we can’t have Steele indicted because that would imply that the ones who ultimately funded him, the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign, are also guilty by extension for the role they played.

The insanity in all of this is that while Democrats and the Left and mainstream media have been fixated on Russia, they’ve been missing what the real warfare story is: a Chinese army of 100,000 trained cyber warfare hackers who launched, according to NSA estimates, 30,000 cyber attacks on the United States in 2015 alone. This army of hackers, a division of the People’s Liberation Army, have increased their capabilities since 2015 and are still launching daily attacks on America. Yet the Chinese threat doesn’t fit the media narrative so, of course, nobody is really discussing it.

While the Trump Russia collusion fairytale is dying an inglorious death every day with new indictments of bit players for process crimes, there’s little doubt the Left and the media will never stop trying to undermine and destroy Trump. The entire Russia narrative in reality has little to do with the real threats to America’s national security. But it’s been a useful tool for #TheResistance to use to attack Trump, the country and the facts be damned.

What is troubling is that our biased and blinkered media are so determined to drive this narrative and this agenda, that they are actually becoming the darkness in which democracy may die.

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‘Reforming’ Confucius Institutes

With all the concern over the effect of Russian propaganda on American voters, it might be helpful now to recall that Russia isn’t the only nation trying to influence public opinion and create chaos in America. China remains a threat, too.

Of course, when China’s propagandists face criticism, they seem to have only one response: more propaganda.

Recently Xinhua News, the official press agency of the Chinese government, announced that Confucius Institutes would undergo a series of “reforms.” Confucius Institutes, as I noted at American Greatness last year, are teaching and research centers sprinkled across hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States and elsewhere. They have sparked significant backlash—not least because of their direct funding and control by the Chinese government.

Among the chief concerns is China’s censorship of its own history (Tiananmen Square? What’s that?) and its insistence on vetting all curricula. To ensure that instructors don’t stray from the approved text, China also staffs the Confucius Institutes with teachers it selects, trains, and pays. A Chinese government agency, the Hanban, provides textbooks plus additional operating funds to sweeten the deal for college administrators.

The only appropriate response to such inappropriate interference is to reject China’s overtures. The University of Chicago did so in 2014, when it shut down its Confucius Institute. The University of Texas at Austin, which recently rebuffed a funding offer from a foundation closely connected to the Chinese Communist Party, also deserves commendation. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has encouraged Florida Confucius Institutes and classrooms to close down, and in response, one at the University of West Florida announced its plans to shutter.

China is aware of growing criticisms. China’s Global Times, reporting on new “reforms,” observes, “The Confucius Institute is facing challenges overseas especially in the West.” It blames these “challenges” on Westerners’ tendency to “misconstrue” the Institutes “as a religious organization sponsored by the Chinese government.”  It insists that “in fact, [Confucius Institutes are] just for language teaching and cultural exchanges.”

In fact, they are not just for language teaching and cultural exchanges. I completed a study of 12 Confucius Institutes in the United States and concluded the Chinese government uses the institutes to shape students’ perceptions of China, build soft power, and intimidate American scholars into keeping quiet about China’s sub-par human rights record. In their less guarded moments, Chinese officials admit this. Li Changchun, former head of propaganda for the Chinese Communist Party, called Confucius Institutes “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.”

Nevertheless, Ma Jianfei, a deputy executive of China’s Confucius Institute Headquarters, is preparing to give Confucius Institutes a makeover. Far from permitting Confucius Institutes greater latitude to respect intellectual freedom, however, Ma’s plans would make Confucius Institutes only more insular and censorious.

The source of the plan highlights the intimate connection between Confucius Institutes and Chinese foreign diplomacy. The Global Times reports that President Xi Jinping presided over a meeting of the Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform of the 19th Communist Party of China Central Committee where adoption of the reform plan was took place.It further notes, “Language education in other countries will surely serve the country’s diplomacy.”

Ma says the plan is rooted in “improving the quality of education and systems” and “offering more innovating programs.” This bureaucratic jargon obfuscates China’s troublesome goals of building soft power.

What does the plan entail? For one, Ma calls for providing “strengthened support from China” to all “local faculty”—that is, say, the American professors who also have roles at their university’s Confucius Institute. That amounts to a warning: We are watching you. China already sends everything from the textbooks and course maps to the logo decals for the front door and office decorations. The Chinese government regulates every aspect of each Confucius Institute.  American universities do not need more “support” from China. They need freedom.  

For another, Ma intends that going forward, “More Chinese deans and teachers will be employed overseas.” There is nothing wrong with American colleges hosting guest professors and participating in educational exchanges, to be sure. But Confucius Institutes are already staffed almost entirely by teachers selected by the Chinese government. Every Confucius Institute also has a “Chinese co-director,” a high-ranking professor or administrator from a Chinese university who helps oversee all operations and reports back to China. If China’s only interest is in promoting the study of Chinese language and culture, why not send strings-free funds to American universities and let them select promising American scholars of Chinese to employ?

Unfortunately for Ma, his reform efforts may be too late. University of Massachusetts, Boston’s Confucius Institute is under protest right now. Congress is considering various efforts to rein in improper interference in American higher education. Many scholars and their researchs—ranging from University of Chicago anthropologist Marshall Sahlins to the American Association of University Professors to my own research for the National Association of Scholars—have concluded that Confucius Institutes jeopardize academic freedom, compromise the quality of students’ educations, and skew American scholarship towards a conciliatory foreign policy with China according to Chinese designs.

It is time for Confucius Institutes to close. Host universities should shut them down. Congress should take up legislation to increase transparency and oversight. Students should be wary and shy away from Confucius Institute classes. Don’t fall for China’s “reform” efforts.

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Why Not Invite NeverTrump to CPAC?

Adapt or die.

Such, I would argue, was the ultimatum faced by the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) after last year. As I explained in serious, but not literal, detail at the time, the conference’s adherence to checklist conservatism gave it the appearance of a corpse still twitching with fragments of consciousness.

So moribund was CPAC 2017 that it began with a literal suicide. So, at the time, did conservatism itself appear bound for self-destruction, if it was not already there:

In short, if CPAC 2017 is to be taken as a microcosm of the pre-Trump conservative movement, then it can only be said (with apologies to Monty Python) that the movement in question is not merely pining for its past: it has passed on. This movement is no more. It has ceased to be. It has expired and gone to meet its maker. It’s a stiff, bereft of life. It rests in peace. If it hadn’t given itself over to astroturf, it would be pushing up the daisies. Its metaethical, metaphysical, and political processes are now history. It’s off the twig. It has kicked the bucket. It has shuffled off the mortal coil. It has run down the curtain, joined the choir invisible, and commenced preaching to it.

This is an ex-movement. And soon, perhaps, CPAC will be an ex-conference.

What a difference a year makes. Fast-forward to this year and, judging by the agenda of the 2018 CPAC, the ex-movement part remains not only true, but accepted by the organizers themselves. The ex-conference part, on the other hand, does not look likely, because miraculously, CPAC has chosen to adapt, and adapt drastically, at that. What else can one make of a conference that two years ago invited Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and today rolls out the red carpet for Marion Le Pen, niece of Front National leader Marine Le Pen; that invites Nigel Farage for a repeat performance, but neglects Mitt Romney?

The answer, of course, is that CPAC knows where the Right is headed, both at home and abroad: that is, toward a nationalist, or (arguably) Occidentalist stance. The American Conservative Union (ACU), which organizes CPAC also knows that it cannot afford to be on the wrong side of this shift in the ideological winds. If they want to continue to preserve the illusion that their conference speaks for the Right, they must somehow get out in front of the march up from globalism. Speaking as a stringent critic of their refusal to acknowledge this shift last year, I am compelled both by good faith and by genuine relief to give them an “attaboy” for it.

Of course, not everyone is so enthused about the ACU’s choice to plant its feet so far from the slough of despond that is pre-Trump conservatism. In particular, the nattering nabobs of NeverTrump have complained loudly that CPAC made room for the likes of Le Pen (and almost made room for Milo Yiannopoulos last year), but has no space on its agenda for anti-Trump pundits. I admit to finding this complaint more than a little confusing, as one of the conference’s headliners this year is none other than Ben Shapiro, a man notable mainly for his inability to give Trump anything more than a qualified endorsement for anything. The conference also features speakers such as Gary Johnson, who actually ran against President Trump during the general election of 2016, not to mention Katie Pavlich, Andrew McCarthy, and Ben Domenech, all of whom were contributors to National Review’s infamous “Against Trump” issue.

What I suspect irks NeverTrump about such people, however, is that most of them have shifted into the so-called “anti-anti-Trump” camp, or into simple Trump neutrality. Johnson is an exception, though I suspect that given NeverTrump’s almost exclusively neoconservative ideological makeup, they hardly see him as a fellow traveler, particularly given his opposition to pointless wars. In other words, without Johnson, CPAC’s invited Trump-skeptical people are objectionable to NeverTrumpers because their skepticism is not hardline enough. They are not prepared to follow the logic-defying vacillations of the ungrateful bastards determined to find something wrong in everything Trump does, no matter how much they would otherwise agree with it. When NeverTrump implores CPAC to invite anti-Trump speakers, they probably have people like John Schindler, or Jennifer Rubin, or Evan McMullin in mind.

And you know what? I agree with them! CPAC should invite such #NeverTrump pundits to speak.

How can I say this? Well, I implore the hypothetical pro-Trump reader to hold off the “sellout globalist cuck” comments for just a moment, and hear me out.

Let me take you back to an earlier CPAC—specifically, CPAC 2010, where speaker Ryan Sorba issued a full throated condemnation of the conference for inviting GOProud, a now defunct Tea Party-friendly alternative to the gay friendly Log Cabin Republicans. Sorba’s complaint was, essentially, that in doing so, CPAC was encouraging sinners—an argument that would have been right at home at CPAC during the Bush years, but which no longer held currency at a time when the conservative movement was re-embracing its libertarian wing in opposition to Barack Obama. In short, the audience didn’t want to be lectured on the impurity of GOProud: if gays were against socialism, they were conservatives just like everyone else.

The result? Sorba couldn’t even finish his speech. He was booed off the stage after taunting the audience (“The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do”), GOProud was invited to succeeding conferences without incident (and, in fact, invited Donald Trump to his first CPAC the following year), and the libertarian bent of Obama era conservatism was solidified more completely by that moment than a thousand speeches by libertarian politicians, writers, and activists could have done.

Which brings me back to NeverTrump. Those arguing for aggressively anti-Trump speakers to gain a speaking slot at CPAC are protesting that the conference organizers are afraid to permit them to speak, for fear that their persuasive abilities may work on the audience.

Stop laughing for a moment and consider: the more likely explanation is that ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp’s refusal is born of mercy more than of fear. He knows that last year’s CPAC straw poll showed overwhelming support for Trump among the attendees, well before Trump had managed to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed, or eviscerate the regulatory state, or push through the most consequential tax reform in 30 years. The odds of them souring now are somewhere between zero and Jeb Bush’s chance of ever being a credible presidential candidate again.

Given this, how long into a speech would the hypothetical NeverTrump speaker get before being treated like Sorba? A minute? Two? Schlapp, probably out of a desire not to alienate any anti-Trump friends, is no doubt anxious that we never find out.

Those of us on the Trump train should not be so afflicted. Let us show the world that it is not only CPAC, but the right itself, that has rejected NeverTrump. Let those who still fear the potential influence of NeverTrump’s legacy writers watch them immolate that influence on live TV. Mr. Schlapp, let NeverTrump speak. 

…If they can.

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Men With Chests and Those Without

Last week’s mass shooting at a Florida high school reminds us yet again that to live well—to live free—requires men with chests. That is a fundamental requirement of free government.

One young man in particular, Peter Wang, died with his chest out for all to see. As the Daily Mail reports, Wang was killed while “holding the door for classmates, dressed in his grey ROTC uniform.” For his heroism, the Army posthumously awarded Wang with the JROTC Medal of Heroism. In addition, the United States Military Academy appointed Wang to West Point’s class of 2025, as it was his dream to attend the academy.

Such honors are fitting, but they are not sufficient.

Peter Wang exhibited extraordinary courage under fire for a young man, and his example serves as a stark reminder of the republican virtue required to live in a free nation. His sacrifice deserves extraordinary attention to match his deeds. With that in mind, Trump should do one of the things he does best: dispensing honors to the deserving to teach our citizens what republican virtue really is.

The idea of men with or without chests comes from C.S. Lewis’s description in The Abolition of Man. Lewis ends his first chapter with an important passage:

And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more “drive,” or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or “creativity.” In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

This, it seems, captures our predicament today. A man’s chest—the organ that enables one to know right from wrong and the source of virtues like courage—is a laughable idea to many today.

This utter disbelief in the need for boys (especially) but even adult self-governing citizens more generally, to develop manly chests in order to act like free men, is systemic. As the controversial author Doug Wilson points out, our problem has to do with “fatherless boys who are loaded up on psychotropic drugs, administered by the school nurse, and educated by a school system that is prohibited by law from telling anybody what the meaning of life is.” We’ve denied to our children our heavenly Father, Wilson writes, and “substituted the state—a ramshackle federal father, if ever there was one.” PJ Media’s Roger Simon makes it clear that this substitution is our fault. “This abdication of adult and, quite often, parental responsibility,” he says, “is rampant in today’s America.”

Wilson and Simon are not the only ones to make this point. When fathers lack chests, it should not be surprising that our sons do too. “Unstable homes produce unstable individuals,” notes Peter Hasson. But unstable homes do not arise as a common problem in ordinary circumstances. Representatives without chests helped make it this way. And voters without chests helped elect those representatives. The problem is more than one of simple fatherlessness; it is a disease in the whole body politic.

But it does not have to be this way. We can elect representatives who will end government practices that hurt the family. And we can raise our boys better. We can teach them what their chests are for. American Greatness’s own Joe Long wrote an excellent piece about this in the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

And thankfully, there are still some men out there with chests. Which brings us back to Peter Wang.

While others died well that day, doing their duty and protecting the innocent, Cadet Wang’s courage was extraordinary. We should expect that any self-respecting man would have to charge someone shooting children, but we do not expect it of those as young as Cadet Wang. At the mere age of 15, Wang died a man’s death so that others might live.

For such heroism, we should honor Peter Wang. We should raise what he did up high in our minds, not simply because of the nobility of his actions, but because Wang vindicated himself in a way that represents what is required of all of us in lesser measure if we want to live free.

As James Madison pointed out so well in Federalist 55:

As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.

In other words, to live free we must have virtue. This is not limited to moderation and self-control. Adam Selene observes how the Founding Fathers knew keeping America free requires courage. They rallied behind sayings like “give me liberty or give me death” and “live free or die.” Our situation today requires no less courage—the courage to resist the tyranny of government and the tyranny of murders alike.

If we want to be free, we must be like Peter Wang, for where there is not “sufficient virtue among men for self-government…nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”

In this statement about republican virtue the Founders echoed the ancient wisdom found in Pericles’ Funeral Oration. And the words of Pericles would be a fitting epitaph for Peter Wang, preferably etched on his monument in Arlington Cemetery: “Make up your minds that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.” This is a message that Peter Wang clearly understood; and a message many of us need to learn.

Peter Wang had the chest required to live free, and President Trump should heed the petition to give Peter Wang full military honors. Trump should offer to the family the option to process through the nation’s capital to Arlington Cemetery if they should so desire. He should attend the ceremony and present the flag himself.

I’m a military man myself, and I’ve had the honor to do a few funerals for soldiers who have passed on. When men like me present the flag, we say:

On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.

Harder words to say are difficult to find. But they are important, for they honor men with chests. The President should do the same, but in an extraordinary way to match the extraordinary courage displayed by Peter Wang. President Trump should look in Peter Wang’s mother’s eyes and say his own version: “On behalf of a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our gratitude for your son’s example and courage.”

Perhaps in so doing, we might all get a better sense of what is right and wrong, and the courage necessary to defend our freedom. We are in extraordinary need of such courage. Perhaps in honoring Peter Wang, we might find our chests, and keep our country “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

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Heroism Befitting Free Men

The U.S. Army on Tuesday announced it would award the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Medal of Heroism to the three high school cadets slain attempting to protect their classmates during last week’s murderous attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The grieving families of heroic JROTC Cadets Peter Wang, Alaina Petty and Martin Duque, were each presented with the posthumous awards, whose requirements include “an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding that it clearly set the individual apart from fellow students or from other persons in similar circumstances.”

These cadets, and other members of their unit who performed bravely and selflessly in the midst of the deadly chaos, had already set themselves apart in smaller ways, and distinguished themselves from their peers through their participation in one of our nation’s best remaining patriotic programs for young people.

In the mid-1980s, having moved to the South from western New York, the JROTC program was a wonderful discovery in the course of adjusting to my new high school.

Junior ROTC was established in 1917, alongside the college-level Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, at a time when America was committed to training young men in the martial virtues. JROTC expanded during the Cold War to encourage military preparedness, and has entered the 21st century with a record of success in all of its goals. The program’s military trappings enhance its effectiveness for education in patriotism, personal character, and communications skills, as well as knowledge specific to the services; and JROTC’s military recruiting function, while secondary, is also significant.

I didn’t know all of that at the time, but I knew that here was an opportunity to wear my nation’s uniform (in my school, the Air Force uniform) and to try to live up to the responsibility that went with it. I felt as though I were actually joining the ranks of the heroes I’d been raised to emulate.

Once a week, on our uniform day, I’d stride proudly through the halls between classes sporting my uniform and, eventually, rank insignia and ribbons. (An active and capable cadet, in four years of JROTC, can often accumulate a “ribbon rack” rivalling in appearance those of members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These awards do not carry over into college ROTC or active service—but the military socialization, along with the values and knowledge gained from JROTC, do.)

JROTC instructors are uniformed, retired U.S. military officers and noncommissioned officers with a unique place on their high school faculties. Their relationship to their students is part teacher and part coach, but also the students’ first glimpse of the military leadership paradigm that goes beyond both.

Great things could be accomplished through JROTC, a fast-forward to senior ROTC scholarships or service academy appointments—or an immediate boost in rank and pay upon enlistment, to cadets who choose that route. Naturally, silly things could happen too. Once, I received a minor ribbon which, as part of its citation, mentioned that I’d stayed after that year’s Military Ball was over, to help clean up; I called it my “Couldn’t Get A Date” ribbon. Still, in our daydreams we were heroes—and the steps we were taking towards those daydreams, guided by the wise leadership of instructors whose military careers gave them a broad base of experience, were making us better citizens. (Not universally, certainly; there were students who would not internalize the values the program promoted; generally they weeded themselves out after a semester. )

The essence of leadership training is accepting personal responsibility, for one’s actions as a “follower” and then increasingly for one’s decisions, as a leader. When this is taught in a military context, it’s reinforced in myriad ways beyond correct answers on a multiple choice “leadership test”

I suspect we all thought we wanted to be heroes; fortunately, we never got to be. None of us could have imagined how terrible an opportunity for heroism might have been.

Today,  we know of a Junior ROTC unit that has taken real-world casualties—young Americans who in some cases sacrificed themselves as surely and as valiantly as the Continentals at Bunker Hill, or young sailors at Pearl Harbor—teenagers who made the most of their limited training under the worst of circumstances.

The three members of the Junior ROTC unit at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who were killed in action were shot by a disturbed teen who had “weeded himself out” of their unit sometime before. And they did perish in action—as resisters and rescuers. Others—Cadet Captains Zackary Walls and Colton Haab have been names mentioned in the news—performed with outstanding, and lifesaving, leadership during the terrible events there. They, too, deserve formal recognition for actions in the highest traditions of the American citizen-soldier.

The ROTC Medal for Heroism’s criteria specifies: “… accomplishment so exceptional/outstanding as to set cadet apart from others in similar circumstances (which) must involve acceptance of danger or extraordinary responsibilities exemplifying praiseworthy fortitude and courage.”   

Based on news reports so far, this is an apt description of the performance of the Douglas High School cadets. Awarding the medal to surviving as well as well as to the fallen cadets would not only honor these exceptional young men and women, it might also help to direct national attention both to positive behavior by disciplined, patriotic young Americans, and to the difference individual valor can make during a horrific attack.

Focusing attention on these young people, speaks to who we are—or at least, who we should be, when we live up to the ideals of self-governing, free, and independent citizens. These cadets have not been coached to march to make loud demands—rather, while learning to march, they have also learned what duty demands of citizens and leaders.  They displayed courage, compassion, and individual initiative in the most difficult of circumstances.

That’s exactly what we need our young people to learn. Cadet organizations such as JROTC, Civil Air Patrol, and the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets (the latter two programs are even accessible to private-schooled and homeschooled students), provide challenge, guidance and inspiration for young Americans daily, establishing common values and reinforcing a sense of personal responsibility within a culture which desperately needs to reclaim both. We need to support these organizations, beyond the well-deserved public recognition of the heroism so recently displayed by the members of this JROTC unit. America’s greatness depends on the virtues and values which these programs, against the general drift of our culture, still promote.

American greatness is not found merely in economic prosperity or international respect; there’s no American greatness greater than a boy, in a man’s uniform, laying down his life for his friends.

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Once Again, A House Divided

And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. —Mark 3:25 (King James Version)

In the wake of the horrific shootings in Parkland, Florida, shouldn’t the people of this country be united in grief? Apparently not. Innocent victims are not yet buried, but rather than allowing us to mourn together over these senseless murders, the Left chooses to go on politicizing this heart-rending tragedy. The solitary reminder that the entire country is in mourning is that flags are at half mast—but the Left isn’t otherwise known for its demonstrations of respect for Old Glory.

Do I expect Democrats and Republicans to be united in their approach to solving the horror of mass killings? Unfortunately, no. Most likely there never will be agreement among the people of these United States when it comes to gun ownership: how best to interpret and conserve the Second Amendment of the Constitution; or whether, as some wish, to simply discard it entirely. Never has it been more abundantly clear that the left prefers to indulge their hatred for fellow Americans with whom they disagree over constructive discourse on any number of issues—from expressions of faith to the value of human life. Indeed, the context of the biblical reference to “a house divided” is not about issues and beliefs—it is about the hardening of hearts.

Call me an idealist, but I never expected such an atrocity to be the launching pad for liberals to drop f-bombs on anyone who won’t bow before the specifics of their command-and-control agenda. Their salvos further fracture any chance of actual discourse, which is the only means to explore possible solutions to the grave issues that divide us. From news to social media, rather than acknowledge that all persons across the political spectrum are in shock and grieving, the Left uses the horror of these senseless murders to blame and lash out at their political opponents for any number of other issues about which we disagree.

Among many divisive posts on Facebook, one of the more abhorrent I’ve read came from a young woman I once thought I knew. She says “Are you ready to blow up congress yet? Because I am. Those useless fucking asswipes take gun lobby money and chuckle through their ‘thoughts and prayers’ while … children bleed out in the hallway.”

Sorry, lady, but nobody (save, perhaps, the killer and others like him) chuckles when children are killed. Your perverse accusation says everything about the depth of your hatred toward others, and shuts down any meaningful conversation about the Second Amendment—or anything else, for that matter. You already have decided that those who own firearms certainly must intend to kill other people, when in fact most own firearms in order to protect life, hoping they never will have cause to do so. Since you don’t want to engage in discourse that might actually make a difference, you resort to a vile accusation.

And let’s not ignore the special jab ridiculing persons of faith—religion being something that many leftists want to eradicate. It’s not enough for some on the Left to disregard the Second Amendment—why not chuck the First Amendment, too?

A duplicity is inherent in leftist ideology. When President Trump addressed the nation and sincerely offered his “prayers and condolences to the family of the victims,” or when any person on the Right offers his thoughts and prayers, the Left is quick to castigate and ridicule that person—sympathy and prayer are subject to their immediate scorn and derision. They refuse to recognize that in times of great despair, consolation can heal hearts, and prayer becomes the bedrock for action. Those same leftists laud the sensitivity and caring of their idolized celebrities when they tweet phrases such as “my heart is with the students and parents” (Ellen DeGeneres), or “sending light and healing to the students” (Adam Lambert).

Another unconscionable statement now circulating comes from some deep thinker who tweets using the name Nathan G:

So this person admits that the occupant of a woman’s uterus is actually a child? Yet again, a liberal callously uses the shooting tragedy to fling an incendiary comment at the Right to Life movement, and not so subtly implies that those who fight to protect the life of an unborn child don’t care about the loss of life outside of the womb. This is despicable tripe rooted in the false narrative that one cannot be seriously “pro-life” unless one ascribes to the Left’s agenda. It’s yet another heinous ploy to circumvent any constructive conversation about stopping mass killings.

Ironically, a brain-trust respondent to Nathan G suggests:

Wait, what? Funny that when Republicans suggest this very solution—to harden schools against attacks instead of advertising them as “gun free zones”—the Left becomes infuriated that we don’t instead ban all firearms. In any case, President Trump’s adult children have stated they will decline Secret Service protection once their father is out of the White House.

And so the adolescent finger-pointing continues. Lefties hide within the safe-spaces of social media and say that which they would never dare to utter in the face of their supposed adversaries. Their sardonic name-calling includes charges that those on the right and President Trump are mentally ill, that Republicans in Congress are spineless cowards, and that they all have blood on their hands.

Is it not clear who demonstrates a hardening of hearts? Just in case there is any uncertainty, let’s revisit President Trump’s first State of the Union Address, when Democrats conspicuously exhibited their lack of compassion. They hurl vicious and unfounded accusations that conservatives don’t care when school children die, but their behavior was reprehensible—refusing to stand, sitting stone-faced and silent instead of honoring the family whose daughter and her friend were murdered by the MS-13 gang. Not all Democrats stood to honor Steve Scalise after he survived a mass shooting attempt, nor did they stand to honor the patriotism of a 12 year-old boy who placed 40,000 flags on the graves of veterans.

So, while an entire country grieves the deaths of fifteen high school students and the two unarmed heroes who tried to protect them, while this country is still reeling in shock as we learn more about the deranged killer—it is the Left who politicize this tragedy, and who use dead children as pawns as they shamelessly push an agenda demonstrably unrelated to the problem. Theirs are the hearts that are hardened—not because they aren’t in grief over this recent tragedy, but because they believe only they are capable of grief and only they operate in good faith. Meanwhile, they slander and defame anyone who isn’t one of their own.

If this country begins to lose it footing and becomes the house that cannot stand—it will be because the Left willfully divides us, willfully widens a chasm, and has divided the house that represents and serves every citizen in this country. Not even our flag at half-mast is enough to remind them we are meant to be united—if not over certain political issues and beliefs, then at least in our profound grief.

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Mental Health or Nihilism?

On January 29, the Senate defeated a bill that would have outlawed abortion beyond 20 weeks (five months) gestation. Reaction was swift on the part of pro-life citizens.

“We cannot tolerate a society and live in a country with any level of pride when our babies are being slaughtered … the effect of this extreme violence on a human body—especially the body of a child,” is one statement of recent vintage.

This statement was not uttered in defense of innocent pre-born human life, however. It was not a reaction to the violence of abortion. It was the reaction to the Ash Wednesday slaughter of 17 teens and their teachers by one of the staunchest supporters of unlimited and unrestricted abortion, Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).  Ironic? Hypocritical? Tone deaf? Immoral?  

Let’s see what she did say about the bill she voted against last month: “The GOP has scheduled a vote on a 20-week abortion ban on Monday. Add your name to demand Congress votes down this immoral bill.” 

She claims to have moral standards, but what are they?

Her use of the word indicates that she understands there to be such a thing as a definite and defined morality but, confusingly, she defines it as both the unfettered need for any woman to rid herself of the child in her body (in ways that  are documented to be as violent as anything that happened in Parkland) and the killing of those teens.  

Our reaction to the shooting in Florida last week and debate about how to prevent another has brought produced many proposals, one being the desperate need to address the seeming explosion of “mental health” issues especially among the mostly young men who are perpetrating these mass shootings.

It may well be the case that we do have a crisis of mental illness as well as inadequate means of addressing that problem in America. But it is also fairly obvious that America is now suffering from a nihilism crisis. Kamala Harris’ remarks above offer a perfect illustration of it.

Kamala Harris has risen in the ranks of her party to become a very powerful legislator and is rumored to be considering a run for her party’s nomination for president in 2020. And yet, she doesn’t seem to have a grasp on life’s most important question. What is life? And why does it or why does it not have value? She’s not mentally ill, obviously, so what is her diagnosis? Hypocrisy? Opportunism? And how does she get away with the obvious contradictions in her moral thinking?

It’s not mental illness that allows two completely contradictory moral standards to hold sway in our culture—it’s nihilism. The lack of moral standards has taken over our entertainment, our politics,  and sadly, the education of our children. Clearly defined morality has no place in the public square. From “do your own thing” in the 1960s to John Lennon’s ubiquitous anthem “Imagine,” the nihilism steeped in our culture encourages us to accept that moral and religious standards are in the past and not necessary. It’s led to obvious contradictions in our public life.

The media fell in love with the North Korean dictator’s sister during her propaganda visit to the Olympics and seemed very pleased that she was “winning the diplomacy games” over Vice President Mike Pence. They scorned him for not shaking her hand and didn’t seem to understand why the vice president would shun her. She participates in the starving and torturing of her own people and imprisons foreigners for the slightest of offenses. She knows that her own brother and great uncle were murdered at the hand of her brother. Otto Warmbier’s parents know why Mike Pence didn’t shake that woman’ hand. But the media have their own calculus and up against the sister of a murderous dictator, Mike Pence, the Christian conservative, comes up short. It’s no contest for the nihilists.

The “Me Too” movement lives side by side with the enormous financial success (mainly fueled by the ticket purchases of young women) of a book and film series about bondage and sadism towards women, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The latest film has made more than $150 million.

Is Kamala Harris’ worldview our future? Will her confusion about the value of human life become our lodestar? Or is there something we can do to confront the inherent dangers in that way of thinking?

What was the point of all those visits to the shooter by law enforcement? Was there any solution offered? Was there any concept of what was the right thing to do in a case such as his? Does our new culture restrict law enforcement and community leaders from holding someone like the shooter to account for his anti-social and immoral behavior or were our laws and restrictions ineffective because we prize allowing everyone “do his own thing” without interference or moral judgment? Were opportunities missed to correct his violent tendencies because people in authority were reluctant to insist his behavior was unacceptable even though it may not have been legally actionable.

He was expelled from school, but was there ever any intervention in his life by teachers or law enforcement to teach him about his moral obligations to his fellow students or neighbors? Even if there was some pro forma attempt, we know that people like him when corrected receive almost no reinforcement from our culture—a culture that allows a senator to believe that denying a mother the right to abort her child in the sixth, seventh, eighth or even ninth month of her pregnancy is an immoral law.

If we don’t address the nihilism in our culture—the absence of agreed upon moral standards—the contradictions inherent in our confused civilization will continue to manifest themselves in ugly ways. Vague attempts at solving mental health issues or restricting access to particular types of weapons will merely paper over the real and very dangerous problems of a culture that does not value human life and is confused about what is right and what is wrong.

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A Serious Note on ‘The Monopoly on Force’

This year in the United States more than 35,000 people likely will die and more than 2 million people likely will be injured or disabled in road crashes. Of the people killed in road crashes, nearly 8,000 will be killed in crashes involving drivers ages 16- to 20-years-old.

Despite the high cost in life and limb, few question the social utility of driving a car by the age of 16, although it is well documented that adolescent brains cannot assess risk or control impulses. Americans today highly value the mobility of teenagers. Most Americans, still prizing independence in young men and women, will bear the risk of that independence.

When it comes to the use of force, a good many people believe—or will signal the belief (which is not the same as actually believing)—that the state ought to have a monopoly on the use of force, leaving no room for individual gun ownership, except as an atavism.

These beliefs share a kinship with beliefs that the state is fundamentally about force, such as those expressed by John C. Calhoun or Noam Chomsky (who have more in common than meets the eye), and are alien to the consent described in the Declaration of Independence. These misguided people have inverted the conditions of freedom, thinking the arc of History bends towards justice, but consent could bend just about anywhere. They forget the principles of the American founding: justice—“just government”—is derivative of consent, not the other way around.

Most Americans have been taught the fundamentals of this wrongheaded idea by the time they finish elementary school. Most basic civics classes teach that a “monopoly on force” is a defining feature of a functioning state. The principle is reinforced by their experience, as their schools respond to security issues with “lockdowns” and the ubiquitous command to passivity in the face of danger, “shelter in place.”

The opinions of family and neighbors, grown in the fertile ground of a bourgeois life with a low risk of violence, augment this. Antecedents to H.G. Wells’ docile and naïve Eloi, they cannot understand why always trusting someone else to defend you is not a safe and common sense arrangement. Interestingly—perhaps an antecedent to Wells’ Morlocks, who turn out to be the smarter of the two human descendants—in tough neighborhoods across America, one of the first of life’s lessons is there is one person you can count on to defend you . . . you.

For those who share the homogenized and ossifying opinions of the elite institutions, the idea that government might not control itself seems farfetched. They are more worried that government might not control those for whom the opinions of elite classes are not catching on. When the permanent state shares your political beliefs on all fundamental issues, its monopoly on force feels like—but only feels like—your monopoly on force. This explains the stridency of gun control opinions. which are put forth as an insult: “Fuck your thoughts and prayers.” This is not an opinion that asks for your trust; they don’t plan on needing it.

Maybe another angle on the discussion—if you call what is going on “discussion”—is rather than to emphasize the hardware, the arms, emphasize the man. That is, emphasize the importance of the principle on which the right to bear arms is derived: consent.

One can’t make an agreement if one party has no means to enforce it. Similarly, a people cannot give political consent without retaining the right to withdraw consent, in the event that consent is irreparably abused. This implies the use of force. It is contradictory to consent to government—to ruling oneself—and not also to have the right to defend that consent, if necessary.

Tragically, there is a price being paid for the intersection of this principle of consent with the descent into madness of a society that in too many places has cut ties with civilization. It may be small comfort to people that it is a far smaller price than the price paid for the practice of teenage driving. People routinely exaggerate remote risks that are disturbing, and understate risks that while imminent they wish to be remote in their minds. Americans value self-government and consent, which they instinctively realize is tied up with the right to bear arms. We hear a lot about the NRA bending the legislature. Truth is, the NRA wouldn’t get far without the American people.

Americans know the risks, and are willing to mitigate them, but not at the expense of the principle.

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The Media’s Walk-of-Shame Won’t End

The media have been on a walk-of-shame bender since 2016. They were whored out by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, swallowed the Christopher Steele dossier, and still get drunk-dialed by the Left. The cheap-date journos show up every time.

Each morning, the media floozies trudge through the quad wearing their “I’m With Her” t-shirts from the night before while they come up with a new cover story for their bad behavior. They lie, distort what actually happened, change the subject, and make excuses for why they got in bed with an ungrateful lover. “Hey, it’s better than sleeping with that other guy!” They insist they’re not being used, but everyone who sees them meander back to the dorm knows they are.

Last week was perhaps one of the tawdriest of the walks of shame taken by the flat-on-its-back, call-me-later commentariat. Still desperate to prove their Hillary hook-up was worth it, the media had several flings over the past several days: North Korea, FBI Director Christopher Wray (again), a white supremacist group, and Russian social-media bots all got bedded. Like the easy girl who never learns her lesson, journalists and opinion-writers keep ruining their reputations in the futile hope of getting some love from their greedy suitors in the #Resistance, then they traipse their escapades through news websites and social media to justify their deed.

Let’s take a look at last week’s Walk of Shame, shall we?

I Heart North Korea: Nothing says self-respect like going home with the last bully in the bar, the guy no one else will sleep with. The same press corps that was apoplectic after President Trump tweeted about the size of his nuclear button in response to Kim Jong-un’s provocations (some in the media insisted the president was declaring war on social media) fell in love with the dictator’s little sister, Kim Yo-jong, at the Winter Olympics in Seoul.

The New York Times cooed about how the totalitarian’s sis flashed “a sphinx-like smile and without ever speaking in public, Ms. Kim managed to outflank Mr. Trump’s envoy to the Olympics, Vice President Mike Pence, in the game of diplomatic image-making.” CNN said she was “stealing the show” and ABC News fawned over this “youthful, photogenic individual” and her “enigmatic smile.” The Washington Post, while dismissing the fact that her family “threatens nuclear war and deprives its people of food and information,” nonetheless admired her “high cheekbones and fine ears” and “Mona Lisa face.”

But nothing could top this from ThinkProgress, a Soros-funded outfit run by former Clinton/Obama lackeys:

Facing criticism, even from some of the Left, about Kim’s glowing press coverage, CNNs Chris Cuomo, a reliable #Resistance ho, of course blamed the president:

Go home, Chris. You’re drunk.

Chris Wray is My Hero: For a solid week, the media pounded on the Rob Porter story, insisting the White House knew for months that Porter’s two ex-wives had accused him of verbal, emotional, and one instance of physical abuse. (Read more here.) During Senate testimony on February 13, FBI Director Christopher Wray gave a timeline of how his agency handled the former staff secretary’s security clearance.

Although Wray clearly said he couldn’t get into the specific content of what information was given to the White House, the media got all hot and bothered by it, celebrating how Wray’s remarks proved the White House harbored a wife-beater. Slate claimed Wray’s cryptic comments proved, “the White House has been lying for the past week about former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter’s security clearance status.” But leave it to party-pooper Trey Gowdy, the House Oversight Committee chairman looking into the whole Porter mess, to break up the lovefest. Gowdy confronted CNN’s Alisyn Camerota after she insisted Wray had contradicted the White House’s account of what happened: “Do you know what he told them?” She had no answer, of course, because she hasn’t a clue, but why let facts get in the way of a fun romp in the political hay?

A White Nationalist Would Never Lie to Me: Desperate to pin the horrific and heartbreaking Florida high school massacre on Donald Trump—after all, the NRA-has-blood-on-their-hands mantra isn’t sexy enough any more—the media fell for the old “trust me, I’m a white supremacist” pick-up line. Based on the flimsiest of evidence, the Anti-Defamation League reported that “a spokesperson for the white supremacist group Republic of Florida (ROF) claimed that Nikolas Cruz, the man charged with the previous day’s deadly shooting spree at a Parkland, Florida, high school, was associated with his group.” (Since when do white nationalist groups have “spokespeople?”)

But nothing is more powerful an aphrodisiac to the media than the word “alt-right” so upon the suggestion of it, they started shedding their clothes without a second thought. The New York Post declared the shooter “trained as a member of the white nationalist militia” and ABC News also claimed the killer was a member of the group. Pundits wasted no time connecting the killer to the alt-right, to Trump, and to the GOP:

An eager NeverTrumper even got in on the act:

But tragically, from the point of view of the media, the hook-up was brief: The whole thing was a hoax. (Politico published a good explainer.) Friday night, the Associated Press embarrassingly admitted that “a white nationalist appears to have lied to The Associated Press and other news organizations when he claimed that Florida school-shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was a member of his obscure group.” Dear God, if we can’t trust white supremacists, who can we trust?

I Must Have Had My Bot-Glasses On: This one could be a longer fling. It’s a holiday weekend so it might need revisiting since they’re still getting it on. On Friday, the Justice Department announced charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for conspiring to interfere in the 2016 presidential election starting in 2014.

The indictment is a weird hodgepodge of accusations about social media use, hashtags, rallies and pranks: “For example, Defendants and their co-conspirators asked one U.S. person to build a cage on a flatbed truck and another U.S. person to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform.” The defendants are accused of organizing “U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results” of the election.

Although the indictment doesn’t mention Russian President Vladimir Putin or make any connection between the conspirators and the Trump campaign, the media claimed the information debunked President Trump’s comments that Russian election-interference is a “hoax.” The New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker magazine, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today are just a few of the news organizations insisting Trump was wrong about the “myth” of Russian election meddling.

Rick Wilson, one of the more nasty among the embittered NeverTrumpers, even seemed a little more unhinged than usual:

Ah, nice try, but since the grand jury charges came from the special investigation into how the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to steal the presidency, we can tell the difference. The “hoax” was about Donald, Jr., Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and whoever the Rooskie Villain of the Week was; not about some shady Facebook posts and Twitter hashtags.

So, media one-night-stands, you can cover up with sunglasses, a borrowed sweatshirt, or even a pussy hat. We know who you are and what you did. Maybe morning-after guilt will set in some day, but for now, it looks you’re your perpetual walk-of-shame isn’t ending any time soon.

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Congress Loses Focus on Illegal Immigration

Last week, Congress tried—and failed—to act on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Senate failed to reach the necessary 60 votes on four proposals, two from Republicans and two from Democrats, and three of which offered varying degrees of amnesty for DACA recipients and other illegal immigrant populations.

There was a troubling synonymy among all of the proposals, both left and right. Rather than starting from the factual premise that illegal immigrants are just that—people who have violated the law—Democrats, Republicans and even President Trump are attempting to turn citizenship into an entitlement, rather than a closely-held privilege.

This was overwhelmingly evident in the proposal put forward by Democrat Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the Senate last week, with support from fellow Democrat Angus King of Maine, plus Republicans Susan Collins (Maine), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.).

The Schumer amendment didn’t just legalize 3 million “Dreamers,” it ensured a path to citizenship for their 6 million parents, raised the age application for DACA to 43 (so much for DACA “kids”) and, through an overly broad waiver process, effectively gave citizenship to criminal aliens.

But it gets worse. The Schumer amendment actually halted enforcement of immigration laws for illegal aliens who aren’t even in the country yet. According to the terms of the proposal, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be forced into an enforcement “holiday” for all aliens who arrive before June 2018—essentially inviting a border rush of illegal immigrants and raising an untold number of security concerns.

DHS, rightly appalled by the Schumer amendment, said the proposal was tantamount to the “end of immigration enforcement in America.”

The most discouraging part of the bipartisan Schumer amendment was how well it performed on the Senate floor. Despite failing to garner the necessary 60 votes, the proposal still tied for the highest number of votes that any of the four proposals received. Democrats supported it unanimously, as did eight Republicans.

For those who take American sovereignty and the rule of law seriously, the strong performance of the Schumer amendment should raise all kinds of red flags. The terms of the proposal are bad, but what it represents is far more insidious.

The terms of the debate have now shifted. No longer do we start with the fact of illegality—that is, how we deal with aliens who have broken our laws. Rather, the starting point for debate is now an attitude of entitlement; that lawbreakers, present and future, are deserving of legal protection, up to the point of citizenship.

As a policy matter, immigration is unique in this way. In no other policy arena do we begin with the presumption that known lawbreakers are free from accountability.

For example, in the criminal justice system, a teenager found with any amount of marijuana can go to jail for up to a year for a first offense. Washing someone’s hair without a license in Michigan can result in a $500 fine and 90 days in jail (longer for multiple offenses). In Idaho, regulators from the Environmental Protection Agency fined the Sackett family $75,000 a day for modifying their own property without a permit.

But for those who break our immigration laws, there are very few consequences. Not only that, we provide for illegal immigrants financially, grant citizenship to any child born here and Members of Congress now consistently argue that the status of illegal aliens should take priority over the needs of American citizens.

Our immigration debate has taken the rule of law and flipped it on its head. We cannot have a rational immigration debate until the correct balance is restored.

Future immigration policies need to start from this factual premise: DACA recipients are here illegally. Though the left will howl about fairness and exploit one or two DACA recipient valedictorians in front of the news cameras, it doesn’t change the fact that they are here in violation of the law.

Second, the DACA program itself is illegal. President Obama instituted the program unilaterally, in violation of the constitutional balance of powers and well outside the scope of his own authority. The courts have recognized this. Indeed, even the 9th Circuit, which is currently challenging President Trump’s wind-down of DACA, is only doing so on the basis of process, rather than the merits of the program itself. It’s telling that even the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, widely seen as the most liberal circuit in the country, cannot come up with a legal justification that allows DACA to continue.

Restoring rule of law to the immigration debate is necessary to change the debate from one centered on entitlement to one focused on actually solving the problem.

And that problem is a big one. Our borders aren’t secure enough to prevent illegal immigration, and our policies have actually encouraged it. Our interior enforcement is blatantly mocked by cities and states that flout the law but still demand federal dollars to support illegal populations. Those immigrants who do try to follow the law and come here legally are stuck for years in a labyrinthine web of nonsensical standards.

Yet none of the proposals considered in the Senate last week addressed any of these issues (the only exception being Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey’s amendment to end federal funding to sanctuary cities). Rather, each proposal sought to make illegal immigrants an entitled class, deserving of all the rights and benefits afforded to American citizens; indeed, deserving of that share of ruling the country that citizenship affords.

Congress isn’t going to solve the problem if they cannot first identify what it is. As the House and Senate continue to contend with DACA, it is imperative that future proposals focus on the problem of illegality and its consequences, rather than on creating a class of non-citizens entitled to more rights than those of us who live here legally.

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What Would Kasich Do?

Looking back at the past year, the Year of Living Trumpantly, it’s clear to fair-minded individuals—that excludes the media and every other Democrat—that the Trump presidency has been a resounding success.

Many Republicans, even ardent Trump supporters, are pleasantly surprised. No one was really quite sure what they would be getting with Trump. After all, he hadn’t spent decades advocating conservative principles and solutions like a Ronald Reagan. At times, he could easily have been a stand-in for Bill Clinton or even, ugh, Barack Obama.

And then, one success after another.

Despite the praiseworthy achievements, conservatives again are worried about how the immigration issue will play out. Dreamers and DACA and chain migration, oh my! Will Trump cave on the most important of issues, the issue that propelled him into the White House?

His recently announced immigration plan, focusing on the so-called Dreamers, managed to give both the left and the right conniption fits. But maybe Republicans should cut Trump some slack. Making America great again is a tough job. And Trump’s doing it. So this should be the time for Great Trumpectations.

And yet…conservatives are currently in the throes of a peculiar neurosis, fearing nothing less than Armageddon—Republican style, as opposed to the Pelosi variant that occurs when the government confiscates less money from every American’s paycheck.

It’s a déjà vu kind of thing. All too often, a Republican giveth, and a Republican taketh away. It’s not like Trump has been hard at work burnishing his conservative credentials. He hasn’t embraced any of William Buckley’s mannerisms or gestures, and he even refuses to wear those black horn-rimmed Barry Goldwater eyeglasses. So how can we know for sure that he won’t give away the immigration store?

We can’t be sure. But let’s face it, there are no sure things. Even Ronald Reagan was rolled by Tip O’Neill and the Democrats, and tricked into raising some taxes in exchange for spending cuts. Those cuts never came. “Cuts, we don’t need no stinkin cuts,” was more or less O’Neill’s justification for not keeping his end of the bargain.

Delivering his State of the Union address, Trump spelled out his immigration plan. It was a Tale of Two Trumps, offering the best of deals and the worst of deals.

According to the President, everything rested on four pillars. “The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants,“ Trump said.

So right out of the gate, that first pillar looked awfully shaky. So “generous” an offer could only mean one thing: Trump was going wobbly. But as Trump continued and discussed the remaining pillars, you had the feeling that the first pillar would eventually get a seismic retrofit.

“The second pillar fully secures the border,” Trump stated. “That means building a wall on the Southern border. “

Yes. The wall. It was good to hear that Trump hadn’t given up on the big, fat, beautiful wall. But hearing the President talk about the wall can only give us pause. It’s been a year, and there’s no wall in sight. Sure, Rome wasn’t built in a day either. But at least the Romans could throw their opponents to the lions if they proved unreasonable. Trump doesn’t have the mandate for that. Not yet anyway.  

And then Trump spoke about the two other pillars—and these are indeed big, fat, beautiful pillars: the visa lottery and chain migration. Trump intends to end them, not mend them.

So it’s clear sailing—except for assorted naval mines and depth charges planted by Democrats and their media acolytes. So how can the Trumptanic steer clear of these obstacles, stay on course, and shield his agenda from the Pirates of the Potomac?

Not a problem. When the going gets tough, Trump is adept at playing the Kasich card.

Yes, that Kasich. John Kasich. One of the many Republican nominee wannabes vanquished by Trump. Who can forget Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Low Energy Jeb? And Kasich. So inconsequential was Kasich, Trump couldn’t even be bothered to brand him with a nickname.

It’s a safe bet Trump never thinks of Rubio, Cruz or Bush. They’re losers, mere Babes in Trumpland. Why give them a second thought?

But Kasich, the biggest loser of them all, the one-hit wonder—winner only of his home state’s primary—is another story. As all the other more formidable contenders were abandoning their campaigns, Kasich refused to bow out. He was the annoyance that kept on annoying.

Trump never forgot all the Kasich connivances. And he also couldn’t forget that Kasich, the Governor of Ohio, was a very conspicuous no-show at the Republican convention in Ohio.

Sitting in the Oval Office shortly after becoming President, Trump began to grapple with the issues facing him. He didn’t look to Washington or to Lincoln for inspiration. How could they be of help when they never had to contend with fake news and pussy hat marches?

Determined to eschew the advice of the establishment “experts,” it made more sense for Trump to turn to someone he knew was always wrong—then go the other way. This was the Kasich card. And Trump played it. On issue after issue, Trump asked himself, “What would Kasich do?” Then he went the other way.

Supreme Court

Even before his January 20th inauguration, Trump knew a momentous decision awaited him: Who to select to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court? Trump had promised to choose an originalist, someone conservatives would find to their liking. Nothing less than another Scalia.

With a majority in the Senate, Republicans could take comfort in knowing their nominee could not be Borked. This nominee would be immune to the Democrats predictable, and all too familiar, slings and arrows.

But Republicans have a habit of committing *Soutercide. And it’s never painless.

(*Soutercide: Choosing a Supreme Court Justice based on the recommendations of the Bush inner circle. This Justice, deemed to be a solid conservative, proceeds to vote with the most liberal justices in almost every case.)

A lot could still go wrong, and Trump was under enormous pressure to get it right. So—What would Kasich do?

Always the “moderate,” Kasich said he would consider nominating Obama’s spurned nominee, Merrick Garland. At the very least, Kasich urged Senate Republicans to meet with Garland, and hear him out.

Merrick Garland. Really! If Obama had his way, Garland would have taken his place alongside Sotomayor and Kagan, Obama’s two other august selections. You could get more reasoned and cogent Court decisions from just about any other threesome, including Moe, Larry, and Curly. And Kasich wanted give this man consideration. Any questions?

Not for President Trump. This was easy. A slam dunk. He just went the other way, and it was Hello Neil Gorsuch.

Paris Climate Accord

Another important decision made by Trump, more ceremonial than consequential, was what to do about the Paris Climate Accord unilaterally accepted by Obama. With no Senate ratification, it couldn’t really compel the U.S. to do much of anything. The accord vaguely spoke about adopting green energy sources, cutting down on climate change emissions, and limiting the rise of global temperatures. All that good stuff espoused by climate change fanatics. It was pure symbolism, but it put the U.S. on the side of all these global warming absolutists.

Trump never cared much for the global warming/climate change concept. “I believe in clean air. Immaculate air,” he once said. “But I don’t believe in climate change.”

Another time, Trump managed to ding Obama and dismiss global warming concerns in one fell swoop. Said Trump: “Obama said in his State of the Union that ‘global warming is a fact.’ Sure, about as factual as ‘if you like your healthcare, you can keep it.'”

But now, as the leader of the free world, with practically every other nation signing on to an agreement that promised to do nothing less than save the planet, Trump faced significant pressure to just keep on keeping on.

Well, what would Kasich do?

Kasich was on record as saying he believed climate change is real and that it’s a problem.

And concerning the Paris Accords, Kasich stated, “I know that climate change is real. It is a global issue and will need a global agreement to address.”

Again, Trump knew exactly how to respond. “The United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord,” Trump announced.

Trump claimed the agreement was “negotiated poorly” and was too costly for the American people. He maintained that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not the citizens of Paris.”

Clearly, the Kasich card has worked out quite well. But is it enough to get Trump through the immigration debate?

Regarding the visa lottery and chain migration, Trump drew a line in the sand.

Previously, Trump used some colorful language to describe the countries providing us with visa lottery “winners.” And in his State of the Union, Trump said the visa lottery is “a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people.”

Surprised that Trump would take such an uncompromising stance? You wouldn’t be, if you asked “What would Kasich do?”

Kasich views these types of immigrants differently. “This is America,” he said. “We got a Statue of Liberty out there.”

Sorry Ms. Lazarus, but Trump has had it with the wretched refuse on our teeming shore.

“It is time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system,” said Trump. “One that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country.”

That pretty much eliminates the type of people who James Carville might describe as Third World trailer trash.

Trump was equally resolute when it came to chain migration, “The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration,” Trump claimed. “Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.”

Right there, Trump nailed it. Somehow it became the rule, not the exception, to permit new immigrants to sponsor their closest relatives, most of their grade school classmates, and at least 100 of their favorite Facebook friends.

No doubt, Trump’s opposition to this policy had something to do with Kasich’s comments on how “the focus of immigration should be to keep families together.”

“Looking backward in an effort to break up law-abiding, contributing families is the wrong way to go,“ said Kasich. “Let’s secure the border and move forward.

Trump is still vulnerable on the handling of the Dreamers, those 1.8 million elephants in the room. He’s made them an offer. But it’s one that he might still refuse.

Because Kasich.

“Undocumented immigrants who otherwise follow the law should be allowed to gain a legal status,” proclaimed Kasich. “A path to citizenship may be part of compromise talks.”

What would have happened if Kasich stayed in Ohio, and never joined in on the debates? What would life be like if Trump never had asked “What would Kasich Do?”

We’ll never know. Just like we can’t be sure if an angel gets his wings when a bell rings.

But in the meantime, It’s A Trumperful Life.

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Signs of the Times

When we think about “Making America Great Again,” surely one such feature that would contribute to it would be the end of nihilistic crimes, such as serial killings, riots, and, of course, the hallmark of our times, the mass shooting. These things simply did not happen very much in the good old days, which is to say, before things began to fall apart in the late 1960s.

Crime and disorder are complicated questions, of course. Incarceration rates seem to matter, as does the presence of an intact family. But much that once defined our “way of life” goes beyond the “national creed” or the “rule of law” or even Christianity. Much of what defined us, once upon a time, was a high degree of trust.

High trust societies are noticeably different. Social bonds can extend beyond the immediate kinship group. Crime is low, because of the risk of reputational harm, as well as the high levels of surveillance in high trust communities. Much that laws and regulations attempt to address can be secured by simple trust. This is evident in photos of the recent past, where kids played unsupervised, schools hosted rifle teams, and young men and women drove cars and worked, when today they are pacified either by smartphones or SSRIs.

There still are some places where a handshake counts for something, where kids do not need to be regimented and supervised well into their teen years, and where doors are really unlocked at night. 

But the signs of declining trust and social fragmentation are everywhere. Consider the recent end of L.L. Bean’s lifetime return policy. For over 100 years, customers could return anything at any time if they were not satisfied with it. Economists might see an arbitrage opportunity, and the “rational actors” of our low trust, low honor society increasingly did so, sometimes treating items such as skis and tents like rentals and returning them after the end of the season, or, more dramatically, returning worn out products that did exactly what they were supposed to do many years after the original purchase.

The viability of this type of generous guarantee likely depends on some notion of honor, reinforced by a perceived similarity between the customers and the seller, that is to say, by trust. Social solidarity and a sense of shared destiny are necessary so that cheaters don’t take advantage of such common, though easily abused, offers.

Most traditional notions of honor, good manners, and the like are directed at exactly these kinds of abuses. For example, if everyone were like Mr. Pink of Reservoir Dogs fame, the entire profit model of waitressing would break down. Instead, most people tip, even when they don’t expect to be repeat customers, and in spite of the lack of any formal obligation to do so. The importance of these unwritten rules is the main theme of Francis Fukuyama’s work from the mid-1990s, Trust.

I imagine, as a matter of evolutionary biology, trust is actually quite natural and regular. Without it, social life would be too difficult to sustain. If a bunch of ants, through instinct, can all find their way to the Snickers Bar on the ground and still share morsels with the queen and the little baby ants, human beings, who are far more complex and equally social, have had to learn similar good habits. Generally, we instill habits of cooperation and sociability at an early age, while ostracizing antisocial and selfish behavior in others and condemning such behavior in one’s self.

But this socialization, seemingly irrational for individuals, likely also requires some sense of the “in” group and the “out” group to survive as a practical matter. And the reasons are obvious. People who can get together for a barn-raising, also could find themselves poisoning the wells and burning down the villages of an outside group when threatened, all the while imaging this to be good, moral behavior. While our age sings the praises of diversity, unity appears far more necessary and fragile in a world of competing groups.

Some cultures appear more cooperative and trusting than others, with East Asia and Northern Europe seeming to have the greatest capacity for cooperation outside of kinship groups. A great deal of literature in the western world is concerned with teaching the beauty of this kind of cooperative behavior, including tales like George Washington and his Cherry Tree or Aesop’s Fables. But there are limits.

Fractured nations with strong subcultures and “diverse” groupings of people necessarily have less trust. Everyone must take more steps to ensure they’re not ripped off or otherwise victimized by behavior that only is sensible among people who have similar and reciprocal mores. The only reason the L.L. Bean guarantee worked for so long is that most of its customers, until recently, had some sense of decency, shame, and fair play. They had these things because America is a nation with historically high levels of trust.

You will be less likely to find such guarantees in diverse settings; recall the mutual hostility of Korean shop-owners and African-Americans in South Central Los Angeles at the time of the 1992 riots. Surely their ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and other differences had a great deal to do with it.

Beyond economic effects, serious crime is also affected by this devolution of common bonds. Serial and mass killers also may have some sense of horror if the harm were done to their own families, whom they treat normally. They do what they do, in part, by depersonalizing their victims. When the nation is just a shared piece of geography, the limits to crime brought about by a shared identity also declines. The neighbor can become more and more the “other,” to whom nothing is owed and no commonality is recognized.

The smaller costs of a low trust society accumulate as well. We may find ourselves negotiating a “bulletproof lazy susan” in retail establishments or arguing endlessly with a bureaucrat who has no reason to take one’s word. Our public spaces more and more will resemble military fortresses, designed to keep bad people with guns outside the perimeter.

So whether it is kids trick-or-treating without parental supervision, making a living on tips, or going to school without fear that you will be mowed down by an alienated teenager, the poison fruits of lost trust leave people uneasy. The shaming language of leftism functions in large part to render this unease a forbidden thought, even though the desire to be around people who think, live, dress, worship, look, and act similarly to oneself is perfectly common to all groups of people from every background, as evidenced by the voluntary choices people make when choosing where to live.

Declining trust is exacerbated by our disunity, which is fueled in part by our existing regional tensions and the constant arrival of newcomers from very different places. We do not have the same heroes, same songs, or same language anymore. The Red and Blue states are more polarized than they were even 20 years ago. In large cities, people are increasingly isolated, limited to small circles of families and friends, often even speaking different languages, and consequently less defined by common interests and fewer common pursuits than ever.

While there will be much talk of gun control and mental health in the weeks ahead, neither guns nor mental health exist in a vacuum. Their latent evils are magnified by the lack of trust. High trust Switzerland has few issues with violence, in spite of widespread gun ownership; low trust Somalia and Mexico, of course, have much more. Indeed, low trust societies likely breed more mental health ills, as Emile Durkheim documented over a century ago.

In short, in a world with deliberately engineered diversity—that is to say, disunity—expect to see the consequences of declining trust in matters great and small.

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Our Anglo-American Heritage Can’t Be Wished Away by the Left

As a history professor and long-time instructor in “Western Civilization” classes, I was dumbfounded by recent leftist attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions, at a meeting of U.S. sheriffs, innocuously observed that these highly respected police officials are part of our country’s democratic and “Anglo-American” legal and law enforcement heritage. The term “Anglo-American” stuck in Left’s collective craw, symbolizing (as they see it) the fact that U.S. laws and law enforcement are made of, by, and for (you guessed it) white people. This interpretation of Sessions’ remarks is not only grossly unfair—it also ignores the very real “Anglo-American” basis for our laws, constitution, and democracy.

Americans should understand that our legal system is founded on the British “common law” tradition, which distinguishes the legal environment in Britain and its former colonies, including the United States, from that in almost every other part of the world. “Anglo-American” common law bases ideas of justice on precedents established in previous judicial rulings. Because of this, many of the assumptions of the American legal system actually predate America itself and hearken back to ideas of justice in medieval and early modern England.

Many of our most important legal and constitutional principles—from presuming a person innocent until proven guilty, to allowing people to speak their minds freely, to consulting the people in matters of government—are traceable to the British political tradition, which nurtured the growth of similar sentiments in the 13 Colonies. Our Founding Fathers were under no illusions about the debt we owed to the British. Indeed, they borrowed freely from British political and legal traditions, and consciously copied the ideas and sometimes the language of men like the English political philosopher John Locke. And this is not even to go into the benefits that accrue from our use of the wonderful English language itself, which binds our country together, and the world-historical importance of the fabled Anglo-American “special relationship,” which won two World Wars, plus the Cold War.

Moreover, when Jeff Sessions observed that the American institution of “sheriff” is an outgrowth of our “Anglo-American heritage,” he was likewise merely stating an obvious truth. Sheriffs were appointed by England’s Kings in the Middle Ages to administer justice at the county level. As Sessions pointed out, our innovation in the United States was to make sheriffs elected officials, so as to maximize their representative character and to make them servants of the people rather than agents of royal authority. Simply put, we would not have sheriffs in America were it not for our Anglo-American heritage. This is precisely why, outside of areas once ruled by the British Empire, sheriffs do not exist.

Why do liberals consider Sessions’ remark “racist”? Perhaps it is because they do not bother to distinguish between the meaning of the term “Anglo-American” in a legal or historical context, and the meaning of “Anglo” in the cultural context of the American southwest, where the word refers to a white person from a non-Hispanic background. If this is the case, liberals should consider that the New York Times Magazine published an article in November 2016 lamenting the decline of an “Anglo-American order” in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.

The New York Times, of course, was not condemned as racist. Why? Because there was nothing racist about its position! The Times was merely trying to blame then President-Elect Trump for an anticipated decline in center-left bonhomie between Britain and the United States. Likewise, President Obama used the phrase “Anglo-American” in a legal context on several occasions, and he was never accused of racism. “Anglo”, therefore, does not always refer to “white people,” and, even if it did, acknowledging the powerful historical role played by white people in history is not “racist”. It is, once again, merely stating the obvious.

The other reason why leftists may be offended by the term “Anglo-American” is because it reminds them that this is a country that was largely founded by immigrants from Europe—the dreaded “white people” of which we spoke earlier. Moreover, there is an argument to be made, and I make it in my classes often, that this is still a nation that is part of “Western Civilization,” and the legacy that this civilization has bestowed on us is overwhelmingly positive. The fact that we are free to criticize our elected leaders, that we have elections in the first place, that we are all equal in the eyes of the law, that we live in the freest, most prosperous society that has ever existed—all of this is down to the political and social principles that Europeans, mainly Englishmen, bequeathed to us.

Ironically, it is the (largely British) freedoms that we enjoy today that empower liberals to inveigh against the very civilization that birthed modern democracy as well as the competing ideals of Marxism, feminism, and “social justice,” among others. It would make more sense for liberals to acknowledge these contributions than to spurn them, since liberalism itself would make no sense outside of its clearly Western context.

Make no mistake, therefore: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ words, which honored our country’s “Anglo-American heritage,” were no more racist than the words of the Declaration of Independence. The real racists, I would argue, are those who are so pathologically anti-white that they impute racial animus (even “white supremacy”) to every phrase, no matter how harmless and no matter how true, that escapes the lips of a Republican. Such race-baiting nonsense ought to have no place in our political discourse.

Furthermore, we should embrace rather than reject our heritage as a Western people. The West has achieved spectacular advances in every field of human endeavor, and is especially notable for advancing the cause of human freedom and dignity. That is a tradition of which we all should be proud.

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Mass Shootings Point to a Problem—and It Isn’t Guns

I’m a father of four children who all attend public school. My love for them and their value to me and to society are immeasurable. When they enter their school building, where they spend the most time outside of our home, I want to know they are safe and have confidence that they are being protected. That is the hope of every parent regardless of party affiliation or political persuasion.

But in the wake of the terrible tragedy at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the debate has begun once again regarding guns. The gun control advocates wasted no time in calling for severe restrictions on the civil liberties of law abiding Americans. You can bank on many of the Left continuing to promote policies that not only fail to prevent future violence, but also infringe upon the rights of every American.

We’ve tried banning so-called “assault weapons.” In 1994 Bill Clinton signed The Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which banned not only magazines with a capacity larger than 10 rounds, but also created an entirely arbitrary list of banned features that classified a firearm as an assault weapon. Banning these largely cosmetic features had absolutely no effect on gun crime.

When the ban expired in 2004, a study funded by the Department of Justice stated that “By most estimates, assault weapons were used in less than 6 percent of gun crimes even before the ban.” It should be noted, too, that during the ten-year ban, mass shootings went up over the previous ten years. Even the left-leaning Guardian admits: “The 1994 federal assault weapon ban, after all, showed no evidence of impact on overall gun violence.”

The answer to these school shootings is not banning guns. And, being a realist, no matter where you stand on the issue of guns, a full-on ban simply isn’t going to happen in the short term, and likely never will. Gun ownership is too ingrained into the American psyche. There are too many firearms in the hands of Americans who are sane, responsible, and take gun safety seriously ever to make such a feat possible.

What is needed now isn’t political gamesmanship, but a realistic conversation about what can be done right now to prevent these types of horrendous acts of violence from happening in the future.

While these murderous psychopaths who commit these acts of horror and mayhem aren’t driven by any normal human desire, there’s still a logic to the locations they choose to attack: their violence is centered on soft targets, places that have little security and very little chance of resistance. Imagine banks not having security and then broadcasting to the general public the lack of armed guards or security precautions. We would think that insane. How much more valuable are our children? And yet we do precisely the opposite of what we do with our money when it comes to our schools by advertising that they are almost completely unprotected.

Politicians have done their level best to make our schools some of the softest targets there are right now. Liberals work tirelessly to make “gun free zones” that often are the most likely to be attacked. It’s time to repeal the 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act, which in the real world means in most places all the normal law abiding people on school grounds have precisely zero guns when a heavily armed insane person shows up.

After 9/11, we made our airports and planes more difficult to attack. While I’m not suggesting we create anything like a TSA for our schools, it’s time to have a conversation about “hardening” schools. That includes physical barriers and restrictions on entry to make campuses and schools less open to those who might target children. In my kids’ grade school in Northern Virginia, there is only one point of entry where you must stand before a camera and show your driver’s license before being allowed into the school. While these precautions are by no means impermeable, they can dissuade attacks, slow down attackers, and allow authorities time to respond.

Similarly, we must increase our schools’ ability to have onsite response. We trust our kids to these teachers for roughly eight hours a day. Many schools employ police officers as School Resource Officers, but it’s time to increase their use across the country. We should also consider allowing teachers and administrators to be trained and certified as security guards.

Schools in Texas and Colorado have already decided to allow qualified employees to carry firearms at school, after proper training and background checks. Depending on the state, teachers could be trained over the summer. School districts could fund the training, with anywhere from 12 to 72 hours worth of training needed to be certified security guards. We trust teachers every single day to nurture our students academically, setting them up for success throughout life. We should extend the same trust to keep them physically safe at school, if they so choose.

What also needs to be addressed is how background checks are completed. It’s clear the Florida shooter had issues that were visible to many around him, yet was still able to purchase an AR-15. We need to have a conversation about how background checks are completed, the depth and rigor of the background checks, and the ability of federal, state, and local authorities to access every piece of information needed to ascertain whether someone should be allowed to purchase a firearm.

No one can dispute that recent perpetrators of mass gun violence should not have been cleared for gun ownership of any type. In the same way federal, state, and local law enforcement departments continue to face challenges in sharing information and data in real time (so-called “interoperability”), we must find a way to ensure that licensing agencies have the ability to access the information they need to make legitimate and accurate decisions on potential licensees.

But every time a politician attempts to make a good-faith effort to solve what everyone acknowledges is a gaping hole in gun licensing, the progressive, anti-gun lobby looks to take that opportunity to deny legitimate gun owners their Constitutional rights. Instead of working with their colleagues across the aisle, they try instead to throw sand in the gears of taking steps toward real safety. Either folks want legitimately to make a difference, or they want to play games for broader political purposes. If it’s the former, great. If it’s the latter, then they are part of the problem we are facing, not part of the solution.