America • Deep State • Donald Trump • Intelligence Community • Post • Russia • The Leviathian State • Trump White House

Don’t Let Mueller Fool You

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday gave a performance in front of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees that Fox News anchor Chris Wallace described as a “disaster for Democrats.” 

Mueller, who was appointed by the Justice Department in 2017 to investigate whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign “colluded” with Russia to rig the 2016 election, appeared nonplussed by his surroundings. His responses to members’ questions posed to him were laconic, to say the least. After a little more than two years of a seemingly unforgiving and endless investigation, Mueller’s appearance was a total flop.

The Democrats have responded to Mueller’s lackluster showing either by quietly admitting it was an unmitigated disaster for their party heading into what will be another contentious presidential election year, or by insisting, as Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) continues to do without evidence, that it proved everything the Left has been saying about Trump’s perfidy. 

Republicans mainly have agreed that Mueller was an embarrassment; a doddering old man who was well beyond his prime. Rush Limbaugh has maintained for months that Mueller was merely a figurehead for the investigation into Trump; that he was uninvolved with the day-to-day operations of the insidious, politically-charged investigation. 

Instead, Mueller’s presence as the namesake of the investigation into President Trump and his 2016 campaign allowed for true partisans to run amok—and to do so while still hiding in the murky shadows of the swamp. 

Don’t be fooled. 

Robert Mueller Is Not a Sad Sack

Mueller knew exactly what he was doing. Yes, he appeared much as Muhammad Ali did against Trevor Berbick in 1981: a sad remnant of a once-dominant fighter who was ultimately crushed by his own frailties. Yet, unlike Ali in that fight against Berbick, Mueller has no known or discernible physical or mental ailment that would reduce his talents. 

What Americans saw Wednesday was an act by Mueller to deflect attention away from the fact that his investigation was never going to “prove” any “collusion.” The entire thing was a grotesque act of political theater designed to give the anti-Trump forces of the establishment the boost they needed going into 2020. 

Mueller also wanted to protect critical intelligence sources from deeper public scrutiny, meaning that those responsible for initiating the absurd investigation into Trump will not be punished for their wrongdoing and, further, that these same people will be free to attempt similar shenanigans in the future. That’s right. The deep state will live to fight another day. Now that their attempt to defeat Trump through investigations and false accusations has faltered, Mueller would rather be viewed as a hapless hack than as the corrupt top cop he is. 

At the end of June, the House Democrats issued a subpoena demanding that Mueller appear before the House to answer questions related to the Russia investigation. Shortly before Mueller’s appearance, Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer sent a letter to Mueller reminding him that his testimony, “must stay within the boundaries of your public report because matters within the scope of your investigation were covered by executive privilege.” Mueller did exactly as he was instructed by the Department of Justice. 

This was not the act of an ignoramus, rather it was the mark of a truly deceptive personality.

Mueller has been a career federal prosecutor. He has been involved in some of the biggest, high-stakes investigations both as a prosecutor and, later, as the second-longest-serving FBI director in history. Mueller has survived endless controversies, whether it be engaging in a massive cover-up after the FBI engaged in heinous informant abuse, or botching the 2001 anthrax terror attack investigation. 

After each controversy, Mueller maintained his good standing in “polite” society. 

The Greatest Ego Trip Ever

Mueller, I believe, accepted the role as special counsel investigating claims of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence because his ego would not allow him to pass up the chance. Not only did Mueller personally and politically dislike Trump (being a “Republican,” as we know, does not preclude NeverTrumpism), but as a career federal prosecutor, Mueller could not help but to envision himself the man to take down this much-maligned president. 

Pride goes before a fall, though, and Mueller has suffered through the greatest ego deflation of any public figure in recent memory. Touted as the purest of the pure; proclaimed to be the most respected man in Washington; portrayed as being too smart and tough for Trump to handle, Mueller has been stymied at every turn—and had minimal effect on Trump. 

The world did not witness the public nervous breakdown of a once-powerful member of the elite in that hearing. Instead, we saw the shiftiest move an inside operator could make in these tough circumstances. Mueller played dumb; he allowed himself to be the center of a partisan feeding frenzy, while ominously insisting that the president was neither guilty nor innocent—a sort of legal purgatory, awaiting final judgement. 

And who will be the arbiter of that final judgement? 

Mueller slyly showed us his devious hand: the president would be subject to an investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. He would not be investigated for “conspiracy” to rig the 2016 election. Instead, Trump would be subject to an investigation into purported corrupt practices that occurred during his tenure as head of the Trump Organization. This investigation would begin the moment Trump leaves office, provided he loses in 2020, and it would be Mueller’s last laugh. 

Whether or not this come-from-behind-winds investigation can be more successful than the current spate of inquiries into President Trump is another matter, and not an especially important one for Mueller’s purposes. What Mueller appearance showed was the long-game that our wretched elite are playing. The Right can joke among themselves that Mueller broke down today and laugh at his embarrassing display. Yet, what most in the Right-wing media don’t get is that Mueller and his ilk are not playing for laughs and they don’t worry about the embarrassment. They are playing for keeps. 

Straining Credulity

Ask yourself: do you really believe a former FBI director would be unaware of the fact that virtually all of the people working for his investigation team were not only rank partisans who hated Donald Trump, but who also were active supporters of Hillary Clinton? Is it probable that Mueller is fine with his eponymous investigation turning up a royal goose egg for all to see?  

Come on. 

Mueller was shining everyone on today and that’s why all of us should be upset and why Trump and his supporters should continue to be on guard. These corrupt elites are only just getting started—especially the more obvious it becomes that they will not defeat Trump in a fair election.

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Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Identity Politics • Post • The Left • The Leviathian State

A Conservative Resistance?

Leftists in America treat conservative voters, elected officials, and policies as illegitimate. Should conservative Americans return the favor? Could they?

Few outside the corporate leftist media took seriously Hillary Clinton’s accusation that Donald Trump might refuse to accept defeat in the 2016 election. Though Americans’ sociopolitical divisions had already become irreconcilable, no one really believed that a major party would rebel against the voters, and hence against our constitutional republic—yet.

And yet the Democratic Party and the ruling class that it represents did just that, and decided never again to concede legitimacy to any serious opponents’ victory.

#TheResistance began as an attempt by Clinton and her staffers to explain why their unexpected electoral defeat had to be illegitimate. It burgeoned quickly into rejection of rule by voters because so many on the Left and in the ruling class rallied to it, having already decided that ordinary Americans have no right to stand in their way.

Clinton’s characterization of Trump voters as “deplorables” and “irredeemables” and Barack Obama’s description of rural Republican voters as “clingers” to Bibles, guns, and racism, has long been ruling-class conventional wisdom. This attitude is what crossed the threshold of revolution.

Because the Resistance succeeded so well in limiting the impact of the 2016 election, it solidified the Left and the ruling class’s sense of common identity and entitlement. Henceforth, the bureaucracies, the educational establishment, the judges, the corporate establishment and the media will continue to impose themselves, regardless of conservative election victories or laws, never mind the Constitution. This attitude is not the result of a policy decision, but the expression of an evolving identity.

The Resistance also portends the wholesale abandonment by the ruling class of limits in cases of electoral victories. Already we have the precedent of the Obama Administration refusing to enforce laws it disliked (defense of marriage, religious freedom restoration, illegal immigration), and ruling “with a pen and a phone” on the principle of “stop me if you can.”

With the advent of the Resistance, the ruling class merged with radical identity groups and has become dependent upon them for electoral success. Because radical blacks, third-wave feminists, LGBTQ identitarians, etc. regard most Americans as enemies, given that “intersectionality”—i.e., concurrence in wreaking vengeance upon the rest of America—is what binds these disparate groups together, a victorious Democratic Party’s extra-legal rule will be far more noxious next time around.

Were the radicalized Democratic Party to win the 2020 elections, the top of its agenda would feature prohibition of abortion restrictions, a crackdown on non-public education, and the pursuit of “environmental criminals”—as well as ever newer and more Byzantine impositions of political correctness.

Would a conservative resistance to such a turn of events even be possible? Conservatives lack the control of society’s commanding heights that made the ruling class’s resistance to 2016 so successful. Constitutionalist judges might well rule that certain government actions were ultra vires. But the ruling class would ignore such judges, as they do now, and the media would pillory them. The media would also cheerlead the prosecution of whomever stood in the way.

The conservative resistance would have to be organized, openly as a revolution, by national-level political leaders, whose credible voices could not be silenced. This resistance would have two assets: state-local government backed by the people, and economic boycotts.

But rallying the deplorables would have to overcome the natural conservative reluctance to acknowledge that the Republic of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the republic of “all men are created equal,” is beyond our capacity now to restore. It must be understood that it needs instead to be reasserted anew.

Unlike the Left’s resistance, however, the conservative one would aim not at forcing anything upon those who deplore us, but at ruling ourselves in living our lives as we think we should.

The state and corporate officials who have pressured conservative America to bend to their ways by withdrawing their business from recalcitrant localities threaten those whom they target with isolation. They discount the fact that isolation is a double-edged sword, which their targets can wield to greater effect than they. Some 180 corporate CEOs declared they will reduce business in states that restrict abortions. But the moment that conservatives come to view companies and institutions like, say, Procter & Gamble, or Disney, or corporate Hollywood, as an enemy of their way of life, said institution is cut in half, at best. Twitter says conservative speech is hate speech. Why should conservatives use Twitter?

Conservative boycotts would intend not to change corporate policies, but to channel conservative patronage away from their enemies—to amputate diseased parts of the body politic so that healthy ones might grow.

Similarly, conservatives should call out and boycott schools and any other institutions that show themselves to be promoting a way of life alien to them. Why should we associate with those who hate us?

Analogously, the past decade has seen 11 states, notably Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington, legalize the production and marketing of marijuana for recreational use, contrary to federal law. Any number of states and localities, also following their voters, have refused to enforce U.S immigration laws. Explicitly, the governors of California and New York have made their governments part of the Resistance to the Trump Administration. The federal government has not used force against these states or their cannabis entrepreneurs, or against officials who violate federal immigration law. There is no reason why conservative state and local governments could not, should not follow their voters’ preferences with regard to abortion, health care, or anything else in defiance of what the federal government, or judges, or bureaucrats, or anyone, might demand of them.

The ruling class, unwilling to loosen its grip on America, will appeal to “the rule of law,” use its control of the bureaucracy to cut funds, its control of the media to intimidate, and might even send some federal agents to give substance to that intimidation. They might point guns. But knowing what they are up against, they dare not shoot.

America has already come apart. The conservative resistance can conserve only one of those parts.

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2016 Election • Administrative State • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Intelligence Community • Post • The Left • The Leviathian State

Russian ‘Collusion’s’ Greatest Hits

From late 2015 until April 2019, the media, the Left, and the Obama administrative state hierarchy warned us nonstop that candidate, president-elect, and inaugurated President Trump “colluded” with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton, to assemble a suspect cabinet, and to rule in treasonous fashion in the interests of Vladimir Putin. The former head of the CIA and the director of national intelligence were birthed as permanent analysts at MSNBC and CNN to sermonize—with wink-and-nod assurances that their past billets and security clearances substantiated their authority—that the treasonous Trump would likely be impeached, indicted, or quit.

A mostly progressive team of lawyers, with an unlimited budget, no restrictions on time, and with enormous legal powers found all of that to be a lie.

Unable to find Trump likely guilty of either collusion or obstruction of investigating the non-crime of collusion, they instead salted their report with innuendo and rumor of what the enraged Trump was supposedly thinking about, raging about, and talking about among his closest confidants, including the insurrectionary statement of his press secretary who allegedly sinned by exaggerating the extent of FBI rank and file unhappiness over the firing of James Comey.

All that was a long, slow distraction over real culpability on the part of a number of our supposed best and brightest. And here are some of their most absurd moments from the Orwellian hunt for collusion.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper swore under the oath to the House Intelligence Committee that he did not leak the contents of the Steele dossier to the media or disclose to them an intelligence briefing to the newly elected president of the dossier’s contents. When such news accounts were nevertheless reported in the media, a shocked-in-Casablanca Clapper expressed “profound dismay” at such leaks and expressed his regret to President-elect Trump. With furrowed brow and assurance that such unprofessionalism did not come from the “intelligence community,” Clapper elaborated that these unauthorized disclosures were “extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security.”

Later Clapper admitted that he himself had been one of the sources—what James Comey called a “news hook”—of the very “extremely corrosive and damaging” leaks that he had so damned, through passing on information to CNN’s Jake Tapper, et al., Clapper mysteriously was later hired by CNN as a national security analyst.

Fox in the Henhouse
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein replaced Attorney General Jeff Sessions on all oversight of matters relating to “Russian collusion” on the theory that, unlike Sessions, the Obama-era Justice Department official was nonpartisan, not conflicted, and thus could decide whether to appoint a special counsel, and, if so, whom.

Yet Rosenstein himself had himself signed one of the FISA warrant extensions that continued surveillance of former Trump campaign Carter Page, a fact of some importance to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s subsequent investigation. Rosenstein, in fact, appointed Mueller, who was a longtime associate who had worked with him on prior investigations. Rosenstein had also drafted the memo justifying Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment.

Rosenstein would then meet with Comey’s replacement, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, allegedly, to discuss the possibility of removing the elected President Trump on grounds under the 25th Amendment that he was mentally unfit. Rosenstein’s angst, apparently, arose because Trump had taken Rosenstein’s own advice to fire Comey, which had in turn prompted McCabe to launch new investigations, which Rosenstein, again apparently, then sort of joined—in theory then to investigate in circular fashion himself?

A Higher Ego
Fired FBI Director James Comey wrote a book called A Higher Loyalty, with the theme that Comey had always put allegiance to “the Truth” over all careerist and partisan concerns.

Yet Comey signed off on a FISA warrant request without apprising the court that the chief evidence for such a writ was paid for by losing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Comey’s own sworn testimony about the dossier to a Senate Judiciary Committee was not consistent with the actual evidence in the dossier presented to the court. Comey also claimed he needed to brief Trump on the dossier because the media was going to publish its contents, when, in fact, it was only Comey’s staged meeting with Trump about the dossier that offered enough official sanction for the dossier to convince Buzzfeed finally to release it.

Yet Comey on FBI time and machines wrote memos memorializing his confidential meetings with President Trump, and then leaked seven of them to the media in order to create enough fury to lead to the appointment of a special counsel.

Despite Comey’s denials, four of the seven memos may well have contained some classified information and thus were probably illegally leaked by Comey, who succeeded in prompting the appointment of a special counsel—his longtime friend Robert Mueller. Yet Comey in his December 2018 congressional testimony, admitted under oath over 200 times that he did not know the answer to the questions asked or did not remember.

Yet Comey’s testimony cannot be reconciled with sworn statements of his own deputy Andrew McCabe. Comey’s real message is not about a higher loyalty, but rather that when one does not tell the truth, one must apparently continue not to tell the truth—at least until the edifice of the aggregate untruth collapses by its own weight.

Collusion Delusion
Robert Mueller investigated a supposed crime of Trump-Russian collusion that early on in his investigation was discovered to hinge on the Christopher Steele dossier, which to this day has had none of its contents verified but lots of its assertions proved impossible or inaccurate.

The mandate of the Mueller investigation was to discover which foreign nationals tried to interfere with the 2016 election, with the help of the Trump campaign, in order to warp its outcome. While the contents of the dossier that prompted his investigation were never substantiated (no sane person believes that Alexander Downer’s happenstance meeting with campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos prompted the entire collusion hoax), its author and sources were very much authenticated: foreign national and British subject Christopher Steele, and Russian anonymous sources whom Steele contacted and may have paid for the information that wound up in the dossier.

In other words, the Mueller investigation failed to find any Trump foreign collusion, but knew that its birth was initiated by the efforts of a foreign agent to work with other foreign sources to alter the 2016 election: real collusion created the Mueller investigation that looked in vain for false collusion. If that seems surreal, then perhaps the real purpose of the investigation soon was to sweep up enough innuendo and dirt on the president and to publish such extraneous allegations as some sort of justification for finding no collusion.

The No Stars
Robert Mueller had to assemble an independent and unbiased special counsel’s legal team, ostensibly to avoid the partisanship of an all-Republican Department of Justice hierarchy investigating the Republican Trump. But Mueller, a Republican, appointed almost all non-Republican lawyers; among them many donors to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign; among them lawyers of the former Obama Justice Department who had been briefed by Bruce Ohr on the contents of the Steele dossier at a time when Fusion GPS and members of Obama Administration were doing their best to seed the gossip mill among the media; and among them a few lawyers who variously had either represented the Clinton Foundation or former Clinton aides or former Obama Administration officials; and among them Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, who earlier had sent each other hundreds of text messages, many of them expressing not just loathing of the object of their investigation, but also vows to ensure that Trump would not become president.

In the end, the “dream team” and “all stars” spent $34 million and 22 months, and wrote over 400 pages to confirm what was self-evident from the outset of this ill-starred inquest: Donald Trump did not “collude” with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton; Trump did not impede the nonsensical investigation of absurd charges; and the horde of lawyers who found no crimes were frustrated to the point of including anything in their report they could to embarrass Trump—except the proof of collusion for which they were tasked to find.

The Mueller fiasco likely will end any talk of any special counsel investigation for a generation. Eventually, Brennan, Clapper, Comey, and McCabe, along with others, will feel what it is like to have a federal prosecutor leveraging them, but this time about real, not made-up, crimes.

The liberal television media and their administrative state partisan “experts” likely will not gain back their former audiences, who were duped with two years of fabrications dressed up as “the walls are closing in” psychodramatic news. The hard Left, “Impeach Trump!” Democratic presidential field will no longer have an excuse to avoid explaining to the American people their weird agenda: a fundamental transformation of the country antithetical to the visions of the American Founders and likely on every issue opposed by a majority of Americans. And we the people will learn yet again that our best and brightest just may be among our worst and dumbest.

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Administrative State • Democrats • Donald Trump • History • Post • The Leviathian State

Nixon, Marini, and the Russia Hoax

In a recent essay reflecting on John Marini’s excellent new book, Unmasking the Administrative State, Ken Masugi wrote that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report amounted to a rerun from the Nixon era. It is certainly a repeat performance of sorts, but it looks like it will not conclude in the same satisfying way for the Left. Now, the tables are being turned on them. For the first time since the 1970s, we have a president and an attorney general, William Barr, who will not cave to injustice.

Barr has made clear he will look at spying regardless of party affiliation. The Democrats naturally are howling at the prospect, for it well may wrap up their grand ruse that is a political scandal bigger than anything Nixon could ever have imagined.

What we have witnessed the last two-plus years with the Russia hoax, is a variation of the Watergate scandal playbook replayed by the same Democrat party that once sacrificed the political health of the country in order to protect their self-interested pursuit of power. Marini and Masugi’s work has made this clear to me in ways that it was not until now.

Let’s begin with a little background.

On June 17, 1972, members of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CRP) broke into the office of the Democratic National Committee. They were caught and arrested. Eventually, the FBI found that the burglars were on the Nixon campaign’s payroll. Congress soon investigated the matter, and Nixon, reacting defensively, resisted inquiries thus contributing the claim he covered up the break-in after the fact.

Nixon knew, however, that the political desire to oust him was so great that even if he cooperated, there would be trouble. Nixon had just trounced the radical Democrat, George McGovern by an overwhelming 520-17 electoral votes. He knew the level of rage against him coming from the Left. But he also knew that the Left had a powerful ally in the administrative state. So he resisted.

When the House Judiciary Committee drew up articles of impeachment against Nixon, one of the first items they considered was his impoundment of funds, which is withholding congressionally appropriated monies from the bureaucracy. This fact lends evidence to the suggestion that the real reason Nixon was targeted was that he dared to challenge the administrative state’s authority. Nixon’s desire to reassert executive authority over the administrative state as its rightful and legal constitutional head explained why he was so hated in Washington. Since the committee determined this was not an impeachable offense, the committee generalized his “crimes” to matters that had nothing really to do with the Watergate break-in. These amounted to not doing what the Congress demanded when they demanded it. It is also worth noting that two other articles—the bombing of Cambodia, and an alleged failure to pay taxes—were added to the impeachment list, but failed in committee.

The media of the 1970s was a monolith. There was no other entity to challenge its narrative. There was no competition as presently exists today with multiple news outlets. Therefore, as Nixon noted in his book, In the Arena, the false allegations that he conducted a campaign of spying on multiple targets without discretion were never questioned. Henry Kissinger even stated in Years of Upheaval that Watergate was a “political coup” by Nixon’s opponents. In fact, most Europeans viewed it that way at the time.

The lazy and unintelligent journalist class in America—including the Washington Post’s famed Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein—never pursued the motives of those making allegations against Nixon, nor did they put Watergate into any context. They did not have to because there was no media outlet that might contradict or test the veracity of their claims. The “truth” was dispensed without questioning from the public or competing media outlets which, let’s face it, were all basically the same.

Of course much has been forgotten about our politics and Watergate. For example, the Democrats defeated a resolution to look into the political sabotage of the 1964 and 1968 elections, as well in the Watergate break-in. We now know that Lyndon Johnson used the CIA and the FBI to spy on Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.

And when it comes to the Watergate break-in, nobody seems to remember that there was no phone bugging equipment found, that there is no direct connection between Nixon and the order for the break-in, that witnesses were pressured into giving preferred testimony, nor that Woodward and Bernstein never once interviewed Nixon nor met their famed source, Mark Felt.

There was no due diligence on the part of the press. They made their target, and it was the man who challenged those who provided them conveniently with anonymous leaks, true or not. The mission of the press then as now was to take down the president on behalf of the permanent and unelected state.

While there can be no doubt that there was a break-in at the Watergate building, and it is at least plausible that Nixon may have covered it up after the fact, the event pales in comparison to the things FDR, LBJ, and JFK did to their political opponents while in office. The details of the alleged “crime” serve to cloud memory that the preeminent motive behind the targeting of Nixon was shielding the administrative state, not protecting the privacy of political actors.

The tell is that there was no such concern for the actions of previous presidents who committed far worse acts. The lesson we learned from the Watergate scandal was that while one party may use the administrative state for their selfish and partisan ends, those who oppose the deep state cannot.

We can surmise that if Nixon had not been out to rebalance our constitutional republic by scaling back the rule of experts, he might have been allowed to remain in office. But, Nixon was gunning for the heart and soul of their political livelihood. He meant to return political rule to the people, who are its legitimate heirs.

So what gives? Why did the country fall for the ruse that Nixon was responsible for everything surrounding the break-in? Historian Stephen Ambrose in his seminal biography of Nixon concluded he knew nothing of the attempted skullduggery even to the point of anger, throwing an ashtray across the room when he was told about it, so incensed he was at the stupidity of those acting on behalf of his re-election.

Marini noted that the reason the break-in became a political issue was that those defending the administrative state saw in Nixon someone who would challenge their unelected authority and follow through with dismantling the extra-governmental administrative leviathan that had been built up over the decades: “the president claimed the legitimacy of a partisan presidential election as justification for the use of power that could have resulted in fundamental changes in direction and control of the federal bureaucracy.”

The defenders of the deep state denied that the 1972 election was a mandate, and we might add, they denied that the enlightened consent of the people should govern politics in the United States.

The people, Marini continues, represent a challenge to the unchecked rule of the administrative state. Nixon was winning on that issue so he had to be stopped by any means necessary. The real crime is that Nixon was ousted on behalf of the government, not the people, who in this new understanding of our regime are considered its subjects.

Nixon’s mistake was in reacting so defensively. He had a perfect opportunity not only to turn the tables on his enemies, especially those in the deep state, by being proactive, gathering information for an investigation into the extra-constitutional activities of the government, and at the same time condemning those who foolishly organized the break-in. But his first instinct was to circle the wagons. That reaction served his enemies.

It is probably anathema to utter such words, but “Conservative, Inc.” failed us all as far back as Watergate. The only major conservative organ at the time, National Review, imprudently argued that Nixon should resign for the good of the country, whatever that means. The failure to understand the political stakes amounted to capitulation.

This was not lost on Nixon, who said himself that liberals want to win, while conservatives have no problem with losing. The so-called Right rolled over for the Democrats and persecuted their own president for daring to scale back the administrative state. They never pressed the fact that the Democrats got away with dirty tricks that far exceeded breaking-and-entering. They could have pressed for a national discussion on a graver and grander political scandal of the distant rule of a swamp of “experts” who disdain the people they allegedly serve.

What we are witnessing with the Trump presidency is not only a reckoning for “conservatism,” but a defense of American republicanism which has been under assault since the 1930s. Trump, unlike Nixon, is not being abandoned by his party (though there are elements who still persist in their fantasies). Trump has the added benefit of being entirely innocent of the charges against him. Empowered by the idea that they are faced only by a feeble Republican establishment opposition that stretches as back as Nixon, the Democrats sought to frame yet another fellow citizen.

Everyone now understands that if they are successful in framing one innocent, they can and will do that to anybody; there is no doubt now that the mask is off and Americans are realizing that Democrats are engaged in these operations not to protect the country but to protect their positions and the status quo in the administrative state. The Congress and media in the Russia hoax have been complicit in all this. Democrats have been spying on their political enemies for the last 80 years without consequence. One can hardly blame them for trying to do it again and remove the most serious challenge to their largess since Nixon. They have never been held to account.

We now know that the media was just as complicit in 1972-1973, and that’s why the reckoning is coming for them in the name of the people.

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America • Defense of the West • Podcast • The Leviathian State

Populism and the West With Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry and Chris Buskirk on America First Radio

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American Greatness publisher Chris Buskirk is joined by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry to discuss the meaning and destiny of populism and the West. Check out the full clip below.

Photo Credit: Vernault Quentin/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Post • The Culture • The Left • The Leviathian State

The Elite Pulls Up the Ladders Behind Them

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The recent college admissions scandal is something to behold. While it’s always been known that wealthy alumni might bestow a small leg-up for their progeny through well-timed gifts, the unvarnished cheating on tests, bribes to coaches and admissions personnel, and the shameless participation of wealthy parents truly removes all pretense that the system is not rigged. The demented offspring who have defended their cheating parents show rather plainly what a huge gap there is between these young people’s talents and the largesse that would be bestowed upon them in a ticket to Harvard or Yale.

The composition of our nation’s elite and how it is selected has changed over time. While Americans always had a great concern for merit, factors like coming from a good family and other marks of social standing predominated. A large number of high-IQ students did not even go to college until the post-war boom of higher education, driven in part by the G.I. Bill.

One of the great changes of the 20th century was the increasingly efficient selection of raw intelligence among a handful of institutions, particularly the Ivy League. What used to be finishing schools for established families, instead became highly selective institutions that selected chiefly for intellectual talent. Middle and working-class Jews, Catholics, and smart kids from Nowheresville, U.S.A. began to attend college in greater numbers.

The highest talents that used to go, at best, to the City University of New York or an “Ag” college ended up more and more at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. They were joined by high-IQ newcomers from other parts of the world, particularly Asia. Coupled with the high weight accorded to standardized test scores, this self-selection accelerated with the advent of the U.S. News and World Report list of college rankings in the 1980s. While Duke, Harvard, and Emory might all have been indistinguishably “good private schools” a generation earlier, they were now precisely ranked for everyone, including parents and students, to see.

The efficiency of the process became such that, according to the The Bell Curve, 60 percent of students with a verbal score on the SAT above 700 ended up at only the top-20 universities. These classmates would, in turn, become friends, remain part of each other’s business networks, and marry each other. A new class, which the Bell Curve’s authors called the “Cognitive Elite,” began to emerge.

Whether at the top or in the middle, entry and success increasingly required credentials. Job listings required college degrees for management and sales positions where they were previously unnecessary. Certain fields, such as finance or management consulting, were essentially only available to graduates of top schools. Credentials substituted for the tests themselves, which employers were wary to do directly after a string of unfortunate employment law precedents in the 1970s. This credentialism also trickled downward. Engineers, lawyers, and others were falling into different tiers based on their pedigrees.

With these top schools functioning more than ever as a ticket to the elite—indeed, they were the defining mark and gatekeeper to the elite—the process became more competitive even among the gifted. Not mere brains but high-level research, internships, and stories of grace in the face of insurmountable hardships became important parts of the admission process. More and more slots were reserved for members of various underprivileged ethnic groups, which tended to squeeze out bright, but merely middle-class or even poor, whites who worked summer jobs instead of internships at the United Nations and at cancer research labs. In these matters, the wealthy can afford to give their kids every advantage to round out their résumés.

It seems parents’ love for their children knows few bounds, particularly in an increasingly status-conscious, post-moral, winner-take-all world. Cheating goes far beyond the already-burdensome math camps, tutors, and subsidized internships. But all of this cheating and scheming is merely a symptom. The root of the problem was already there, because the importance of credentials from a handful of elite institutions crowded out other important criteria for success and advancement, such as results or genuine character. Just as an enormous government leads to more lobbyists and higher stakes elections, the increasing importance of a degree from the right schools has led to the corruption of parents, children, schools, and their admissions personnel.

As these schools have become more important for credentialing, the actual educational content has declined. There is no more Latin and Greek requirement, nor even the transmission of the best of Western civilization. The brand is key, and the brand says, “this person deserves to rule.”

The elite is defined by its inculturation. Whereas in the past this might have included the high country club arts of knowing the rules to polo and the dress code for summers in the Hamptons, it now includes having the right neoliberal tastes and prejudices. This is what David Brooks in 2000 called the “bobo” class, and it’s notable as much for its contempt for phenomena like Trump, working with one’s hands, and chain restaurants, as it is for its embrace of the modern, of diversity, of feminism, and, most important, of preserving the right of that class to rule.

At the same time, the imposition of “woke” consciousness-raising on matters of “social justice,” far from shielding students from what they’ll face in the real world, have been recreated in multinational corporations like Google, Apple, and Facebook. The same basic cultural view is now dominant among elites in business, government, academia, and the media.

Much of the frustration of middle America arises from its own divergence from this class. Each has different tastes, different priorities, different levels of wealth, and different degrees of hope for the future. While the old WASP elite may have been exclusive, ethnocentric, and stiff, it always had a sense of noblesse oblige. The new class rather shamelessly mocks the losers who shop at Walmart, eat at Olive Garden, and haven’t traveled to Morocco or Vietnam (other than perhaps on a Navy troop ship). Hillary Clinton let the mask slip during her campaign by referring to such people as “deplorables.”

The divergence is not merely on tastes, but extends to economics and politics. For all the talk of what we used to call “limousine liberals,” rarely does something like trade protectionism, immigration restriction, or concern for the small businesses displaced by globalism concern the elite. These present not problems but opportunities for them. These trends tend to transfer power and control from small businesses (which are not particularly marked by credentialism) to large corporations and government, where the managerial elite and credentials are key.

Not only is there a lack of empathy for the displaced, but there is an understandable concern for their own offsprings’ future. They have the ability to finance the various camps and experiences that demonstrate the new emphasis on “being well rounded.” Their children and grandchildren will maintain their slots among the elite, the admission to which is increasingly obscure. What began as a group from diverse backgrounds defined particularly by intellectual talent has evolved into a class, defined as much by who its parents are and what they can afford to do for their kids, as anything else. These cheating parents are just extreme examples of a broader problem.

Media, government, higher education, business, and science are now dominated by matriculants of a handful of institutions. Both wealth and power are determined early on by one’s inclusion among the right list of alumni. There is something not merely anti-democratic but anti-self-government more generally in their dominance of these institutions and in their cultivation of immunity from democratic controls.

These elites—whether in government or business—lock ranks against all that has even a whiff of “populism.” This immunity includes large parts of the government itself, where the credentialist rulers of administrative agencies coupled with the elite-dominated courts increasingly say “no” to the democratic branches of government. The American system is supposed to be one of popular sovereignty. The people and their common sense and experience are the final arbiter, but that is not allowed in the age of a managerial elite.

The best result of the bribing scandal would be to introduce some healthy skepticism among the governed about the quality of our elites. After all, if the status of our elites is something that one merely can buy one’s way into, perhaps it’s not a very good test of talent or worth.

Beyond the mockery, the admissions scandal should also occasion a more serious question: why is it the case that a mere degree from one of these institutions is deemed worth $1 million or more? And while these credentials clearly accrue a great deal of wealth, power, and prestige for those who become a part of the ruling class, how great of a job has this group done ruling the rest of us anyway?

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America • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Post • The Left • The Leviathian State • The Media • the Presidency • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

Jumping the Shark with Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen testified in Congress Wednesday. And boy was it rough.

Cohen prostrated himself in front of the House Oversight Committee and begged for forgiveness from the Democrats and the media. He even put on that special look—the look that a teenage boy puts on when he gets caught doing something wrong—to go along with the “I-know-better-now-and-I-will-never-do-it-again” line. It was pathetic.

But Cohen was smart enough to know that his doleful tone, “sincerely-repenting” expression, and crestfallen demeanor did not, by themselves, carry the water. So, he brought along some meager evidentiary “gifts” in the form of salacious anecdotes and some “irrefutable” documents.

His “gifts” included three years of Trump’s financial statements and two media hit pieces suggesting Trump exaggerates his net worth, a magazine clipping about a Trump portrait being sold at an auction, a bunch of checks to Cohen and a bank statement, and a letter he wrote to various educational institutions to threaten legal action if they released Trump’s grades or test scores.

Democrats and the media surely will continue pushing the narrative that Cohen’s scant documents somehow prove something. They don’t.

He produced two $35,000 checks that he claims were reimbursements for the Stormy Daniels’ payment. He produced no evidence that these checks were in fact for that payment.

He produced a bank statement showing an advance from a home equity line of credit for $131,000 that he claims offers proof that Trump indicated that he would reimburse him. He produced no evidence that Trump actually gave any such indication.

He produced three financial statements from three separate years with differing estimates of Trump’s net worth that he claims show that Trump manipulated his financial statements. He produced no evidence that these statements were in fact doctored.

He produced a letter, which he wrote to Fordham University, advising the university that it was illegal to release a third party’s educational records without the third party’s consent, that he claims shows that…shows that…Trump is a hypocrite? Well…if hypocrisy were a crime, Congress would have far more troubles than the president.

And he produced several news articles and tweets that he claimed…well, it’s not entire clear what he was claiming those particular submissions were supposed to prove.

In other words, he produced no positive proof that Trump is a conman, a cheat, or that he knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.

At best, he provided some evidence that Trump has, at least once, been hypocritical. But even that would be a stretch.

Though Cohen’s “evidence” may be made to fit his narrative, it does not corroborate his narrative, and it certainly doesn’t add any compelling new information. The only thing that adds anything new is his testimony, in the form of his opening statement and answers to questions. And when we’re dealing with a witness who is about to go to prison, in part for lying to Congress, there are many reasons to take everything he says with a grain of salt.

But this hearing was never intended to change anyone’s mind anyway.

Few Trump supporters care about the Stormy Daniels payoff, Trump’s hardball business practices, or his supposed interactions with WikiLeaks. They will view this hearing as yet another show trial in the ongoing witch hunt, meant to distract from Trump’s continued economic successes and promising diplomatic work. And they will view Michael Cohen as a disloyal opportunist whose prior independent crimes made him a perfect target for Mueller to squeeze.

And most Trump opponents already believed Trump was a racist conman, long before Michael Cohen ever testified. They view each additional piece of evidence, no matter how weak, as yet another nail in the coffin of inevitable impeachment. They will view this hearing as yet another demonstration of the treachery of Trump and the disingenuousness of those who support him. And they will view Michael Cohen as a flawed man but one who finally took responsibility and did the right thing.

It’s dizzying to consider the widening gap between what the average Democrat and Republican believes today. It’s a gap so wide that it is nearly impossible to bridge it with any type of reasonable, objective conversation. And though Chairman Cummings and Ranking Member Jordan were able to keep a thin veneer of civility covering the proceedings, the obvious animosity and complete lack of understanding between the two sides was palpable.

Much like the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings, the focus and thrust of the questioning from each side was completely different.

Democrats went to great lengths to try to drag further salacious stories out of Cohen, at one point asking him if he knew of any occasion in which Trump paid for a medical procedure for a woman outside of his family (Cohen’s answer was no). Their entire goal was to continue to cast aspersions on Trump, his family, his companies, his campaign, and ultimately his presidency.

Republicans—confined to the minority and opposed to having the hearing in the first place—systematically made the case that Cohen was not a credible witness, had every incentive to paint Trump in a negative light, and was certainly not the bumbling but useful idiot he painted himself out to be. They kept painting Cohen into a smaller and smaller corner.

Don’t be surprised if we find real smoking gun evidence that Cohen perjured himself in response to a Republican’s question.

But did anyone expect anything different? Did anyone really expect that Michael Cohen would testify before Congress and suddenly the scales would be lifted from everyone’s eyes and they’d see Trump as an evil, dangerous, megalomaniac? Finally the “bombshell” hit its target?

Democrats, if nothing else, are unwavering optimists. They have had so many misfiring silver bullets, they could get an endorsement from the National Werewolf League.

Think of every time that the Democrats and the mainstream media have told us, “this is it, this is the beginning of the end of the Trump Presidency. As soon as [fill in the name] testifies/is indicted/releases a book/is interviewed, it will be over for Trump.”

Well, if they really believed that Michael Cohen was going to be the beginning of the end of the Trump Presidency, then it’s probably the beginning of the end of the beginning of the end. They’ve put up a valiant, if slimy, fight. But when you’re taking moral advice and testimony at face value from Michael Cohen, you know you’ve jumped the shark.

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Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Healthcare • Post • The Leviathian State

When Bureaucracy Replaces Humanity

I got a letter last week informing me that my catastrophic health care insurance was terminated.

The plan was terminated because of a technical glitch. Instead of billing the credit card I had designated as my primary payment option, my healthcare provider billed an old and deactivated card.

A declined payment of $10.42 (to supplement an early payment due to rising premiums) and another for $127.49 later, I lost my coverage, long before I realized there was anything wrong.

If this happened in a different industry, I likely would not have had any problems. I would have called the company and, after a short conversation and the successful payment of my outstanding premiums, I would have had my insurance back.

But the American healthcare industry is not just any industry. It is an industry that is controlled, to varying degrees, by federal, state, and local governments.

When I called my provider, the representative was unable to fix my problem because local government regulations do not allow individuals to sign up for health insurance outside of an enrollment window.

My provider patched me through to DC Health Link, a District of Columbia government agency—set up in accordance with the Affordable Care Act—assigned with establishing a local health care exchange program. My provider told me I would have to plead my case there.

A bored yet relatively helpful receptionist at DC Health Link collected my information and listened to my story. She told me to send any supporting evidence to a nameless generic email address and to wait four weeks to hear whether or not my appeal had been approved.

If the agency does not approve my appeal, I will be without my catastrophic health care insurance until 2020. If, God forbid, I were to be hit by a truck, I likely would have to declare bankruptcy.

I began to hear the theme music from Terry Gilliam’s film “Brazil” in my head.

The 1985 classic, set in a dystopian future where massive bureaucracies force competent HVAC professionals to become vigilantes just to avoid the headache of paperwork, has turned from a far-fetched nightmare into a dramatized satire of our current society.

Thankfully, unlike the film’s poor Mr. Buttle who ends up dying due to a typographical error caused by an errant swatted fly, my health care provider’s error—if not rectified by DC Health Link—will only leave me uninsured. But it should serve as a helpful reminder of the consequences an overwrought bureaucracy may yield.

Being a resourceful young lobbyist, I immediately called the constituent services representative of my local councilmember. I am happy to report that she was one of the most helpful people I’ve spoken to in D.C. government.

She took the time to compile a detailed diagram of my problem and to forward it to the relevant personnel at the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, with a promise that we would resolve the issue. With luck, I will be reinsured promptly. I hope.

But most people don’t have the time or the wherewithal to deal with their massive bureaucracies. And if it’s hard enough to navigate a behemoth with 35,000 employees, imagine the challenge of dealing with the U.S. federal government with millions of employees.

Most conservatives don’t think that government employees are evil. They worry that the government, in its sheer size, becomes impersonal and inhuman. Given the frequency of errors and miscommunications, and given the propensity for humans to err, be complacent, and become mechanical institutional sheep, there are many reasons to decentralize institutions as much as possible so that problems may be solved by autonomous individuals rather than mindless automatons.

The more functions we relegate to government, the more our fortunes are at the whims of a capricious and overly complicated machine that seems often to have a mind of its own. Humanity comes when individuals know when not to follow the script. When they take that extra step to help each other—a step that becomes increasingly risky and difficult when the system, rather than the person, takes control.

The scary scene in a sci-fi artificial intelligence thriller isn’t the scene in which the AI starts acting like it has a mind of its own. It’s the scene when humanity, in a moment of insecurity, decides that it will hand over control of key functions of society to the system that we created.

Our system of government is a form of artificial intelligence. Unchecked, it acts in ways that no reasonable human would ever act. The vast processes, protocols, and the bureaucrats who staff the various cogs in the machine end up operating as an emergent phenomenon with a mind of its own—a form of artificial intelligence that is far more interested in its own self-preservation than the job the people have given it.

This emergent phenomenon actively bribes its staffers with promises of comfort and a lack of culpability. Responsibility is painful and often requires thought. Our artificial intelligence is more than happy to alleviate this pain.

This is why we fight for federalism, accountability, and limited government—so that our creation doesn’t end up taking us over and imposing its unfathomable will.

(Editor’s note: At press time, thanks to the author’s lobbying efforts, his insurance was reinstated.)

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Administrative State • Democrats • Healthcare • Post • Progressivism • The Leviathian State

Killing the Old Folks

He [Harold Ross] was reminded of a pleasant afternoon that the two of them [Ross and Mrs. Roosevelt] had spent a few years earlier, talking for hours as they rode along in Mrs. Roosevelt’s sedan. At one point the former First Lady suddenly allowed as how “old people ought to be bumped off when their usefulness is done.” . . . [H]er remark took Ross by surprise. “I mildly raised the question of who would make the decision as to when the moment had come,” he recalled,” and she didn’t have a ready answer for that. —Thomas Kunkel, Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of The New Yorker (1995)

This brief scene from Kunkel’s biography of Harold Ross captures in miniature the whole story of progressivism in America.

Let’s have Eleanor Roosevelt represent the progressives, those in government imposing progressivism by the power of government and the ones outside of government cheering on the progressive project. She is perfect for that role. Ross, then, makes an interesting choice to represent the rest of us. Like many Americans who overcame impossible odds to achieve much in life—one thinks of Lincoln, Grant, Edison, many others—he does not look the part (he’s a “genius in disguise”). And as with many ordinary Americans, he was not greatly interested in politics; he always resented how the horrors of the 20th century kept interfering with his vision of a magazine dedicated to great writing and sophisticated humor.

Now that we have our characters in place, what is the action in our little drama? One person in that sedan understood where progressives were taking America; the one who was along for the ride did not. The progressives always knew where they were taking us; the rest of us keep being “surprised.”

That Roosevelt did not have “a ready answer” to Ross’s common sense question did not mean she did not know who would “make the decision.” She knew. The time was not yet ripe for answering that question. As a beloved teacher and friend of mine liked to say, “You have to work up to a thing like that.”

Much would have to be accomplished and much would have to be undone before progressives could begin openly insisting on the need for death panels. Gaining complete control of health care, they knew, would give them the key. They understood that to get in position to bump off the old folks “when their usefulness is done” they would have to realize their dream of socialized medicine. Once there is no alternative to government health care, the problem of exploding costs will give the progressives the opportunity to get grimly serious about the “regrettable but necessary” steps required to reduce spending on old people, if you know what I mean.

Fortunately for Ross, he died before his companion on that drive and her friends could get the death panels up and running, though you have to admit they have been making fantastic progress in their project of killing inconvenient babies. If many Americans were surprised when Democrats recently came out in favor of infanticide, it only means that—like Ross and too many of us—they have been enjoying the ride without paying much attention to where it is going.

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Administrative State • America • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Economy • Government Reform • political philosophy • Post • Religion and Society • The Culture • The Left • The Leviathian State

Tucker Carlson’s Witness

Tucker Carlson’s now ubiquitous 15-minute monologue from his January 2 show is causing some conservatives a bit of consternation. Not because what he said was new or groundbreaking (it wasn’t, really), but apparently because Carlson dared to say it in the first place.

What is most alarming, however, is that it needed to be said at all, and more so, that it has to be defended not just from the Left but also from the legacy conservative media. The American vision that Carlson described used to be understood. It is at the heart of our founding documents, woven into our nation’s fabric, the shine of the city on the hill.

Carlson’s message resonated with many of us. In it, I heard echoes of another great conservative thinker of the mid-20th century, Whittaker Chambers. Chambers’ autobiography, Witness, had such a profound impact on Ronald Reagan that he “could recite passages” from it “verbatim,” according to biographer Paul Kengor. Chambers’ influence on Reagan was “evident in speeches throughout his public life,” most notably in his famous Evil Empire speech.

In his monologue last week, Carlson, like Chambers, “hit something else” when he “took up [his] little sling and aimed” it. Communism was Chambers’ Goliath, and the “something else” he struck were “the forces of that great socialist revolution, which, in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, but always in the same direction, has been inching its ice cap over the nation. . . .”

Since Chambers’ time, that ice cap has become a glacier. Carlson’s 15-minute barrage of stones similarly hit the mark and cracked its veneer—and people heard it. The “conservative” corner, however, seems to hear with different ears. And their response, has been enlightening.

What Are Conservatives For?
Carlson targeted several “isms” in his monologue: conservatism, capitalism, liberalism, socialism, interventionism, libertarianism, feminism, environmentalism, as well as the “private equity model,” the ruling class, banking, diversity, and marijuana use, among other problems that plague us. But fortifying all of these salvos was something much larger and more powerful. At the heart of it, Carlson was asking what should America really stand for?

Recall what Chambers wrote in Witness: “A man is not primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something.”

It has been a long time since conservatives thought of themselves in terms of presenting what they are for.

In the middle of a long list of what ails us, Carlson asserted, “Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot. The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence.”

Channeling more of Chambers, Carlson went on to say: “. . . one of the biggest lies our leaders tell us that you can separate economics from everything else that matters. Economics is a topic for public debate. Family and faith and culture, meanwhile, those are personal matters. Both parties believe this.”

In Witness, Chambers similarly refuted that lie. “Economics is not the central problem of this century,” he argued. “It is a relative problem that can be solved in relative ways. Faith is the central problem of this age.”

It was Carlson’s reference to faith, perhaps, that spurred Trump critic David French to pen a rebuttal. Fellow Trump critic Ben Shapiro took Carlson to task for his omission of the words “pursuit of” before “happiness.” And both seemed to object primarily to what they felt was Carlson’s attribution of blame: in short, to the government/elites and their bad policies. French and Shapiro place the blame on the people, an attitude apparently shared by many NeverTrumps, often manifesting itself as a shameful disdain.

French’s title to his piece summed up this contempt neatly: “The Right Should Reject Tucker Carlson’s Victimhood Populism.” French argues,“Yes, we need public officials to do their best to create and sustain a government most conducive to human flourishing, but the primary responsibility for creating a life of virtue and purpose rests with families and individuals.”

That’s true as far as it goes. But what French seems to underestimate is the smothering, uncontrolled growth of Chambers’s “icecap.” This glacier we now face is certainly not going to recede on its own. Instead, as the many examples Carlson mentioned reveal, ever more impediments to pursuing a “life of virtue and purpose” have been erected and incentives removed.

Carlson simply noted what should, by now, be obvious: that our government should create incentives and remove impediments to secure the blessings of our liberty. Further, that conservatives should make this their focus, rather than “free trade” coupled with a sort of laissez-fairethey failed themselves” attitude toward the people harmed (or at the very least, not inspired to be more virtuous and responsible) by such policies.

Instead of acknowledging this, French insisted, “This is still a land where you can determine your own success more than can any political party or group of nefarious elites.” He concluded: “Contrary to Carlson’s contention, America isn’t being destroyed. It’s being challenged.”

Stumbling Into Philosophic Materialism
Whether we’re merely “being challenged” or more seriously engaged in a “cold civil war” seems to be the core of the disagreement between the NeverTrump-leaning conservatives and the pro-Trump faction, a phenomenon first observed in the heated reaction to Michael Anton’s “Flight 93 Election” essay, which Shapiro labeled “incoherent, mind-numbing horseshit.”

In a more polite response to Carlson, Shapiro titled his rebuttal: “Tucker Carlson Claims Market Capitalism Has Undermined American Society. He’s Wrong.”

After listing some facts and figures he thinks refutes the notion that our situation is dire, Shapiro notes, in agreement with French, that “Carlson seems to suggest that our system itself is to blame for individual shortcomings, and that collective restructuring of free institutions will alleviate and cure those shortcomings. This is simply not reflective of conservatism, or of founding ideology.”

The gist of Shapiro’s argument seems to be that although he somewhat agrees with Carlson’s list of American society’s ills, Carlson erroneously attributes “America’s troubles not to government interventionism, but to government non-interventionism.” He says that Carlson is “wildly wrong”—that “[t]he goal for America wasn’t happiness. It was the pursuit of happiness—the framework of freedom that allows us to pursue happiness.”

Chambers, in his 1957 scathing review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, had something to say about that “pursuit.” Here are just a few of Chambers’ wonderful takedowns of the godless, “philosophic materialism” of Rand’s utopia:

[M]an’s fate, without God, is up to him, and to him alone. His happiness, in strict materialist terms, lies with his own workaday hands and ingenious brain. His happiness becomes, in Miss Rand’s words, “the moral purpose of his fife.”

. . .

Here occurs a little rub whose effects are just as observable in a free-enterprise system, which is in practice materialist (whatever else it claims or supposes itself to be), as they would be under an atheist socialism, if one were ever to deliver that material abundance that all promise. The rub is that the pursuit of happiness, as an end in itself, tends automatically, and widely, to be replaced by the pursuit of pleasure . . .

. . .

[I]n a wicked world, a materialism of the Right and a materialism of the Left first surprisingly resemble, then, in action, tend to blend each with each, because, while differing at the top in avowed purpose, and possibly in conflict there, at bottom they are much the same thing. . . . The question becomes chiefly: who is to run that world in whose interests, or perhaps, at best, who can run it more efficiently?

Chambers nails the fundamental problem of American life in that series of observations: we live in a materialistic, “wicked world,” both Left and the Right. “Much wickedness,” C.S. Lewis observed, “when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way.” Indeed, the road to Hell (and socialism) is lined with such pursuits.

Capitalism can become dysfunctional—crony capitalism. Welfare programs often become enabling and destructive. Tax law grows into a voluminous collection of favors for special interests. Regulations grow into smothering mountains. Economic programs result in benefit to an elite few. Laws can frequently limit individual flourishing, freedom, and liberty rather than promote it. Speech, instead of being protected, is silenced.

Most importantly, our nation can either protect our “freedom of religion” or limit it to “freedom of worship.” That latter term was used by both President Obama and Hillary Clinton, and, as Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon explains, they are two monumentally different concepts. Had Clinton been elected instead of Trump, we would have felt the impact of that shift, further ripening our society for the takeover of the Godless socialist revolution that Chambers warned us against.

As historian Christopher Henry Dawson noted: “The process of secularisation arises not from the loss of faith but from the loss of social interest in the world of faith. It begins the moment men feel that religion is irrelevant to the common way of life and that society as such has nothing to do with the truths of faith.” And further, “Secularism is terrible not only on account of its emptiness but because there is a positive power of evil waiting to fill the void.”

A very liberal neighbor of mine once admitted that the more he distanced himself from the Catholic faith of his upbringing, the more leftward he leaned politically.

Carlson concluded his monologue with this warning:

Socialism is a disaster. It doesn’t work. It’s what we should be working desperately to avoid. But socialism is exactly what we’re going to get, and very soon unless a group of responsible people in our political system reforms the American economy in a way that protects normal people.

Although President Trump is certainly no saint, he has been working on doing just that. Besides weakening the legacy media’s control of the conversation, he’s accomplished many things that protect and improve the lives of “normal people,” such as tax cuts and reduced regulations. But his emphasis on trade policies that favor the United States and the interests of our people over those of our trading partners is also important.

Another fight Trump is fighting that has been practically ignored but is yet critical is the fight to end the Johnson Amendment and its ban on political speech in church. This is an important step—for it was in America’s churches that the people first spoke revolutionary ideas of freedom and liberty. It was in churches that slavery was condemned. Of course, faith is personal, but it is also a worldview that does and ought to “live loudly” within us. If politics is downstream from culture, culture is downstream from faith.

To channel Reagan channeling Chambers, our crisis exists to the degree that we are indifferent to God and collaborate in materialism’s attempt to make man stand alone without God. We can answer this challenge provided that our faith in God and in the freedom He enjoins is as great as materialism’s faith in Man.

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Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Hillary Clinton • Intelligence Community • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • The Leviathian State • the Presidency

An Epidemic of Erasures, Redactions, Omissions, and Perjuries

Imagine the following: The IRS sends you, John Q. Citizen, a letter alleging you have not complied with U.S. tax law. In the next paragraph, the tax agency then informs you that it needs a series of personal and business documents. Indeed, it will be sending agents out to discuss your dilemma and collect the necessary records.

But when the IRS agents arrive, you explain to them that you cannot find about 50 percent of the documents requested, and have no idea whether they even exist. You sigh that both hard copies of pertinent information have unfortunately disappeared and hard drives were mysteriously lost.

You nonchalantly add that you smashed your phone, tablet, and computer with a hammer. You volunteer that, of those documents you do have, you had to cut out, blacken or render unreadable about 30 percent of the contents. After all, you have judged that the redacted material either pertains to superfluous and personal matters such as weddings and yoga, or is of such a sensitive nature that its release would endanger your company or business or perhaps even the country at large.

You also keep silent that you have a number of pertinent documents locked up in a safe hidden in your attic unknown to the IRS. Let them find it, you muse. And when the agents question your unilateral decisions over hours of interrogatories, you remark to them on 245 occasions that you have no memory of your acts—or you simply do not have an answer for them.

In some instances, you state things that are not true, cannot be true by any stretch of the imagination, and contradict things you have said in the past—and you make it clear that you don’t think much of such inconsistencies. When pressed with contradictory evidence, you nonchalantly reply that you gave the “least untruthful” answer.

What would happen to you, a typical American citizen, should you follow this current Washington model of erasing, redacting, omitting, forgetting, and lying?

Of course, you are a citizen and so must obey the law. Therefore, you might well find yourself either broke, out on bail, in jail, or mired in endless litigation. But since 2016 we have seen how many high government officials involved in any number of such investigations, were not so much citizens as hyper-citizens above the law, who felt they were not subject to audit. And they were largely right in their assumptions.

Audacious Deletions
Take erasure. Hillary Clinton arbitrarily decided that some 30,000 communications under subpoena were not relevant to FBI inquiries about her illicit email server. So she erased them, or rather “bleached” them electronically to such an extent that they could not be recovered. Some of them, in fact, were likely classified, given even her surviving trove contained classified information. She also had her devices smashed to destroy any electronic footprints.

Again, try all that in a civil suit, and inform a judge that you have determined that electronic messages requested were irrelevant, and so were destroyed.

Investigators on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team arbitrarily announced that months of text communications on FBI phones between FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, including critical periods in which Strzok interviewed key persons related to various scandals, were lost, due perhaps to thousands of messages slipping through bureaucratic cracks or to “technical glitches.” That is, the Mueller team apparently determined that texts on the surrendered FBI phones of its fired employees either could not be read for technical reasons, or were erased, purportedly because the Mueller team alone had determined that they found not only nothing of interest to themselves, but also nothing of concern to those who might disagree with them.

Once more, try explaining to a prosecuting attorney or judge that both technological glitches and your own determination of their superfluity explain why requested messages on your phone vanished.

Redacting Into Oblivion, Lying By Omission
Redaction for “national security” purposes now often results in making released documents almost unreadable, given the lacunae. When the FBI finally released over 400-pages related to the October 2016 FISA applications to surveille Carter Page they were so redacted as to become almost meaningless.

Moreover, two essential truths of the FISA application—the Steele dossier, as former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe had testified, was the chief impetus for the surveillance request (along with news reports in circular fashion based on it), and the dossier was paid for by Hillary Clinton to damage the candidacy of Donald Trump—were obscured by omissions in the applications.

The infamous James Comey memos—the confidential transcripts of supposedly private conversations with the president, written on FBI devices and on FBI time, and deliberately and likely unlawfully leaked by Comey to the press to prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor—are both heavily redacted and full of deliberate omissions. Comey recounts his briefings with Trump on the Steele dossier, but somehow does not inform the president that his own (likely fabricated) information arose from the fact that Hillary Clinton had hired a law firm to hire an investigative firm to hire foreign national Christopher Steel to hire foreign Russian sources to provide supposed dirt on Clinton’s own presidential rival.

We, the public still cannot read the full texts. But apparently Comey passed the supposedly confidential and apparently in some cases classified memos (Comey himself initially wrote on them “secret” and “confidential”), unredacted, to a small circle of friends, who had full access to what was government property, not Comey’s own. Note that Comey promised that he was doing everything he possibly could to limit leaks of confidential information, even as both he and Andrew McCabe were talking to the press, and Comey was soon crafting memos that were by design his insurance policy to be leaked to the media.

As for lying, the litany of top officials in the Justice Department, FBI, and CIA who routinely have not told the truth is now legion. James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, lied under oath to Congress; former CIA director John Brennan did on two occasions. Both have admitted such, as has former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. James Comey lied by omission by not answering or evading questions asked by Congress under oath—on 245 occasions. His testimonies cannot be reconciled with those of McCabe. He lied by omission by not informing the FISA court the true origins of the Steele dossier—sort of in the fashion of Bruce Ohr who filled out government forms without noting that his own wife worked for GPS on the dossier, while he sought to promote its currency from his office.

The Power Elite Exemption
To this day, we have no idea which officials in government leaked the unmasked names of surveilled Americans to the media, or leaked the transcripts of a conversation between the Russian Ambassador and Gen. Michael Flynn. I say we have no idea, because no one in government has any interest in finding out, because for the few, who might, to do so would earn them media and partisan venom.

The message from the Clinton email scandal, the Mueller investigation, and the careers of Brennan, Clapper, Comey, and McCabe seems to be that if the government wishes a document then do not provide it. If you are finally forced to surrender it, either erase or destroy what you can reasonably get away with hiding. Or barring that, insist that it be heavily redacted, according to your own judgment, for the sake of America. If asked to explain such behavior or allegations of leaking information to the press, either deny or claim faulty memory.

Do all of that and be of the correct political persuasion and of Washington repute, and there is little chance of criminal exposure.

Such exemption so far is the message that we’ve learned from the behavior of high officials of the Obama Justice Department, CIA, FBI and National Security Council. Or put another way, our illustrious government officials are reminding us Americans, “We are better than you.”

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Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Elections • Foreign Policy • Immigration • Post • The Left • The Leviathian State • The Media • the Presidency • Trump White House

Does ‘Make X Great Again’ Ever Happen in History?

The short answer: Sometimes.

Here’s one example. By 527 A.D., the Eastern Roman Empire at Constantinople seemed fated to collapse like the West had a near century prior. The Persian Sassanids were gobbling up Byzantine lands in the east. Almost all of old Rome west of Greece had already been lost.

A growing and unsustainable administrative state exercised near control of Constantinople. Christianity was splintering into irrelevant factionalism. The law was a selective mess.

Justinian was certainly an unlikely emperor: an outsider of peasant stock from the northern frontier, an Eastern Latin rather than Greek speaker (and likely the last native Latin-speaking emperor), who would marry an infamous but shrewd courtesan, Theodora.

Yet in some 38 years of sometimes brutal rule, Justinian through the leadership of his brilliant generals, Belisarius and Narses, stabilized the eastern borders. He reclaimed for eastern Rome North Africa, Sicily, much of Italy, and some of Spain, often through small, well-organized armies and prudent alliances. He reformed the bureaucracy, systematized Roman law (Codex Justinianus), and built the magnificent Christian cathedral of Hagia Sophia—the largest church in the world for a thousand years.

Justinian might have done even far more had not a devastating three-year epidemic of bubonic plague spiked and wiped out a quarter of the empire’s population. The millions of losses created a permanent manpower shortage that left the Byzantines vulnerable to relentless Gothic enemies in Western Europe—and ultimately, a century and a half later, the conquests of new Islamic armies in the Middle East and North Africa.

The outsider Justinian’s agendas were those of many past reformers and restorers: apply the law equally and rationally, control government finances, restore the value of the currency, unite and inspire the population with iconic buildings and new infrastructure, reform and enhance religious practice, and offer predictable and steady rule.

Out of a Rut
History is replete with leaders who wish to perpetuate the status quo and to manage supposed permanent decline, but less frequently witnesses a few successful “great again” reformers of various stripes and agendas, both elected and the more ruthless (e.g., Pericles, Alexander, Augustus, Constantine, Charlemagne, Elizabeth, Catherine the Great, Joseph II, Lincoln, Churchill).

In our own time, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are the most notable restorers. Both came into power at a time when the English-speaking West was considered near spent.

A much talked about “crisis of confidence” and “malaise” had led to general British and American depression about the costs of containing global communism. No one seemed to know what to do about the economy—given stubborn stagflation, low growth, high unemployment and inflation, and a rising “misery” index.

Oil shortages and rising prices were proof of “peak” oil in a dependent West—and permanent reliance on corrupt Middle-East petrodollar kingdoms. Radical Islam and Middle East terrorism were on the rise. But then so were ascendant “Tiger” economies in Asia that seemed in perpetuity would make cars, steel and just plain stuff better and cheaper than in Detroit or Manchester. The cultural residue of the Sixties made any call for reformation and renewal seem quaint and hokey.

The United States would no doubt follow Britain’s postwar trajectory. Declinism—supposedly due to moral nihilism, debt, spiritual emptiness, permanent energy shortages, Cold War militarism, laziness, statism, corruption—was thematic in think tanks and current in-the-know books.

Popular culture and politics offered no avenue of optimism. Remember the age of polyester, platform shoes, bell bottoms, falsetto disco, “Mork and Mindy,” Watergate, Chevettes, Gremlins, Pacers, and Pintos—and choppers leaving the roof of the Saigon embassy, oil boycotts and gas lines, the Yom Kippur War, the Munich Olympics, and hostages in Iran.

After the end of the roaring 1960s and late 1970s, both Thatcher and Reagan were written off as near kooks, advocating strong defense, renewed nationalism, optimism, traditionalism, limited government, lower taxes, smaller government, and free-market deregulation—as pathways to a new muscular Britain and renewed superpower United States.

The results of their revolutions were the collapse of global communism, the eventual restoration of Anglo-American international finance, recalibrated American entrepreneurism, and energy renaissances. Certainly the United States today in terms of technology, defense, agriculture, fossil fuel production, and higher education towers over its competitors in ways that would have seemed impossible in the 1970s.

The idea of a Trump economic restoration in 2015-2016 seemed equally absurd. Larry Summers had assured us that annualized 3 percent GDP growth was the stuff of “fantasies.” He predicted instead a recession at 18 months of the Trump term, while Paul Krugman insisted on a market collapse in early 2017 with dubious chances of recovery.

We could never “drill our way out” of an energy crisis—so Obama had insisted and wrote off the very idea of a manufacturing rebound as some myth requiring a “magic wand.” Massive illegal immigration was a permanent fact of life, as was the new demography and identity politics. We were apparently to live with the Iran Deal and though not spoken, an eventual nuclear Iran. Nuclear missiles pointed at the West Coast from North Korea required “strategic patience.”

“Lead from behind” diplomacy relied on an international consensus of the sort illustrated by the Paris Accord and permanent refugee status of the Palestinians—as well as avoidance of disruptive moves likes leveraging NATO partners to meet their promised contributions, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, considering taboo tariffs to trim China’s huge surpluses and its assumption that its ascendance to global hegemony was a matter of when, not if.

Dilemmas of Restoration
Trump had lots of assets and advantages in seeking to restore U.S. power and prosperity. American research universities dominate global education. American frackers had produced more natural gas and oil than ever thought possible. Agriculture had never been more productive, and the United States had unused leverage and economic clout to recalibrate trade deals and alliances in a more symmetrical fashion.

The dilemma of Trump’s restoration was similar to that of many radical reformers: being an abject outsider meant he was beholden to few insiders and was largely immune from stifling and ossifying establishment groupthink. Yet his pariah status also ensured little inside help, lots of status quo deep state venom, and a learning curve required to rein in the chariot of a huge and dangerous bureaucracy.

No one knows how this latest historical effort to make great again a perceived ailing state will play out. On the plus side, Trump has sought to restore traditional jurisprudence through impressive judicial nominations. He has praised rather than lectured business and helped to free the animal spirits of capitalism. Trump cut rather than raised taxes, deregulated rather than stymied entrepreneurialism, and expanded energy leasing on federal lands and green-lighted pipeline construction.  His current foreign policy team of Bolton, Mattis, and Pompeo is impressive and seeks to restore U.S. deterrence that will bring far more stability to the world than mushy lead from behind subordination. A possible Chinese agreement to cut their trade surpluses and play by international trading rules, and a North Korean guarantee of denuclearization would be the most significant foreign policy developments since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Where has Trump’s MAGA agenda stalled?

A Republican majority House and Senate squandered a rare chance for radical change between 2017-2018 by failing to repeal and reform Obamacare, failing to build a border wall, failing to pass an immigration law that would secure the border and ensure only meritocratic, legal, diverse and measured immigration, and failing to stop out of control spending and debt by addressing unsustainable entitlements.

Trump and the Republican Party also have underestimated the effects of radical changes and protocols in voting laws, such as voter harvesting in California that has made Election Day totals largely irrelevant. Trump has neither chipped away at the 90-percent negative coverage of the media nor yet made it irrelevant.

Trump’s rare winning efforts at humor and self-deprecation (“I never had a glass of alcohol. I never had alcohol, for whatever reason. Can you imagine if I had? What a mess I would be. I would be the world’s worst.”), and real empathy (our miners, our vets, our farmers) become overshadowed by “horseface” and “Schitt” tweets that turn off once won-over squishy suburbanites.

Inept Justice Department decisions led to the venomous Mueller investigation that ignored real wrongdoing as it chased a Trump collusion unicorn. In some sense, if Trump’s election as the first president without either political or military experience was unprecedented, equally unparalleled was a 90 percent hostile media, coup-like attempts to abort a presidency through absurd resorts to the Logan Act, Emoluments Clause, the 25th Amendment, lawsuits, impeachment writs, and non-stop celebrity talk of assassination, and death and destruction to the Trump family. Almost any other man Trump’s age would long ago have collapsed under the stress and venom.

Trump’s Uncertain Fate
The future of Trump’s solid two years of achievement is uncertain. The more his economic policies and foreign affairs bring results, the more the hatred of him grows, both inside and outside his own party.

So Trump’s three signature long-term agendas hang in the balance—checking China’s often ruthless rise to global commercial and eventual military supremacy, growing an economy that includes preeminent American manufacturing, energy production, and industrial output, and ending the idea of a bicoastal elite adjudicating politics and culture for a supposedly backward and declining traditional interior.

No one knows quite how to fathom Trump’s paradox. His extraordinary powers of resilience and retaliation stave off the constant assaults from progressives and the media, and such defiance inspires a red-state America. Yet so far Trump’s caustic retorts also stymie winning over enough swing and minority voters to achieve a 51 percent ruling majority to ensure his ideas of restored greatness.

For now, Trump’s fate may be in the hands of others—as it was in 2016 when what put him over the top was wide scale repugnance at the thought of a corrupt President Clinton and all that her victory would entail. The final take-over of the Democratic Party by progressive extremists might well empower Trump to reelection.

Yet it is a scary idea that the fate of making America great again might hinge on the nihilism of the Democratic Party.

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

Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats • Economy • Post • The Left • The Leviathian State

Socialism Is the ‘Leeching’ of Our Time

Published in 1818, Horace Smith’s “Ozymandias” imagines a London long-since abandoned—the English civilization is gone. Collapsed. The city is a new Rome. A half-forgotten memory like Babylon. Troy.

…We wonder—and some Hunter may express

Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness

Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chase,

He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess

What powerful but unrecorded race

Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Perhaps this is London’s destiny—perhaps it’s ours too. After all, many of America’s greatest cities are decaying before our very eyes.

Consider Detroit. Its population plummeted by 63 percent since 1950, in no small part because it is plagued by America’s highest violent crime rate. More than 78,000 buildings are empty and many of its greatest monuments—reminders of its gilded past—lie abandoned. Within our lifetimes this all-American city, once teeming with life and commerce, ossified into an archeological ruin. Soon Detroit will be a memory, not a place.

Detroit is not unique—large swathes of America are rotting away beneath our feet. Look at California: 50 years ago the Golden State was home to America’s largest and most affluent middle class. It was a beacon on a hill, the apotheosis of the American dream. Now it is dystopia. One-in-five Californians live below the poverty line. It is “home” to one quarter of America’s homeless population. California’s income inequality is worse than Mexico’s.

What happened?

Leech Me, Doctor!
A favorite cure of 19th century physicians was leeching. They thought that letting leeches suck their patient’s blood could rebalance their body fluids and cure their tuberculosis, pneumonia—anything. Doctor’s orders. Of course, draining sick people of their blood rarely improves their condition. Often it makes things worse.

Eventually physicians figured this out and invented a term to describe those situations where medical treatment actually aggravated people’s ailments: iatrogenics. Now for the weird part. Although many people—physicians included—were well-aware that leeching was harmful, this didn’t stop physicians from prescribing it, nor patients from requesting it. Why?

People are predisposed toward action—not non-action. We are doers. When confronted with a problem, be it illness or poverty, our instinct is to take positive steps towards solving it, rather than simply waiting or removing negative stimuli. For example:

The year is 1850. Your son gets sick. What do you do? You cannot simply do nothing while your son wastes away, so you call a doctor. The doctor prescribes leeching. Even though you’ve heard that leeching is harmful, you go through with it. It feels right.

Psychologically, you’re correct: if your son lives then the leeching was successful and you saved him; if he dies then at least you tried. Either way you are blameless. At no point do you even consider letting nature take its course—which would have been the best option. Our psychological bias towards action explains why doctors have existed since the beginning of recorded history, despite the fact that they did more harm than good until perhaps 150 years ago.

Our bias towards action also explains the allure of socialism—and why it doesn’t work.

Blizzards, Not Billiards
Socialism is a political philosophy predicated upon interventionism. It’s all about taking action. Doing. Unemployment? Create jobs. Poverty? Provide welfare. High rents? Impose rent controls. Socialism is popular because it appeals to one of mankind’s most powerful psychological biases. Sadly, socialism is also often little more than an exercise in political iatrogenics: it just makes things worse.

There are two primary reasons for this. First, socialism is redistributive: the government taxes productive industries and individuals and gives the proceeds to unproductive or nonproductive industries and individuals. A socialist government is like Robin Hood—it steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Sometimes this “theft” (taxation) is morally justified. Often it’s not. Regardless, redistribution virtually guarantees that our economic resources will be used inefficiently, and this makes everyone a little bit poorer.

The second, and main reason why socialism fails is because it confuses simple for complex systems. Simple systems are governed by something called first order causality: cause and effect are related in a linear, Newtonian way. Imagine a billiards table. Every time a ball is struck, it responds perfectly predictably. There are no surprises in pool. Socialists naïvely believe that the economy works like a giant pool table in that we can understand the consequences of our actions. If only we had perfect knowledge then we could “solve” the economy.

But that’s not how the economy works. The economy is a complex system governed by second order causality: cause and effect are related in an opaque, nonlinear way.

Imagine a butterfly. It flaps around your garden, disturbing the air ever so slightly. Although this disturbance alters our immediate atmospheric conditions imperceptibly, its effect may magnify because of exponential interactions and positive feedback loops. Perhaps this disturbance gives a breeze just enough impetus to blow. This catalyzes another breeze, and another. Now a gust of wind. A month later a storm rumbles overhead—it was born of the butterfly’s wings. It is not always obvious how cause and effect are related in complex systems, and this is why tampering with them is so dangerous. Will we get a butterfly or a tornado?

Socialists believe that every problem has a corresponding solution. What they fail to understand is that the “solution” itself will have a myriad of unknown—and often unknowable—effects. Not all of them savory. For example, socialists say that rents are too high. The solution? Rent control: cap the maximum amount that greedy landlords can charge their tenants. Surely lowering rents will lower rents? How could it be otherwise?

Of course, it is otherwise. A 2017 study from Stanford University looked at the effect of rent control laws in San Francisco. The authors found that because rent control regulations made renting less profitable, many landlords sold their properties or converted them into condominiums. This led to a 25 percent decline in the number of renters living in “rent-controlled” units, relative to 1994. Not only did rent control chase poor tenants from their apartments, but the decrease in housing supply actually led to citywide rent increases of 7 percent. This cost renters the sum of $5 billion. Rent control hurt the very people it was supposed to help.

This observation is not limited to rent control: many socialist policies are iatrogenic in nature. Studies from Harvard University and the National Bureau of Economic Research show conclusively that minimum wage increases hurt minimum wage earners the most. Meanwhile, a plethora of studies demonstrate that racial preference programs actually harm minority students and workers. The list goes on and on.

The socialist prescribes leeches to cure our economic ills, and in doing so drains America of her economic lifeblood. We grow weaker. Weaker still. And the weaker we become the more we demand the socialist’s leeches. We must do something—anything. All the while our people fall into poverty’s arms. Our cities decay.

Was Horace Smith a poet or a prophet? I wonder.

Photo Credit: J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

2016 Election • Congress • Donald Trump • Elections • Post • The Left • The Leviathian State

Trump’s American Turnaround: Why the Midterms Matter

In February 2017, during the second month of his presidency, I argued Donald Trump was best understood through the lens of a turnaround executive. Through that lens are three focal points:

Turnarounds Begin Only When Enough People Accept Something Is Wrong
Like many turnaround efforts, the past months confirmed a deep cultural and political crisis, with numerous irreconcilable differences.

This article is the second in an occasional series on Trump as a turnaround executive. Read part one.

First, as John Zmirak points out, while the Left and Right in America have had their differences, they also mostly agreed in 1996 on the broad outlines of sovereign borders, constitutional gun rights, fidelity to the Constitution, men and women being equal but different, abortion as rare, marriage between one man and one woman, that religious freedom and rights of conscience are fundamental, that political speech should be free, and academia should pursue truth and maximum free expression. Zmirak contends it is the Left that abandoned the common ground.

Second, displaying an appalling contempt for the American people, the Left and the political ruling class have joined together in a will-to-power push to enforce radical cultural changes and to sustain political control:

. . . the 2016 election clarified new political dividing lines. It is no longer Republican/Democrat or Conservative/Liberal or even Right/Left. Instead, it is a well-formed statist ruling class with five key constituencies [GOP establishment, Democrats, administrative state bureaucracy, mainstream media, cultural Left – including Hollywood, academia] against a dissatisfied, but unorganized, American people who desire to be recognized as equals and part of the sovereign people who are supposed to govern America.

They have contempt for Americans and treat them as subjects, not citizens; they have balkanized our society while weaponizing the federal government to punish and enforce subservience.

Third, they refuse to accept the 2016 election outcome, bringing our cultural civil war into the open.

Yet, a successful turnaround requires a guiding coalition to drive the necessary changes. What was unknown in January 2017 was whether a meaningful coalition could be assembled given the gulf between key stakeholders in America.

Into this spiraling cultural and political milieu, entered Donald Trump, the political turnaround executive.

Turnaround Critical Success Factor No. 1: The Rapid Delivery of Measurable Results
Successful turnarounds begin with substantive short-term accomplishments that achieve positive results, thus buying precious time to unravel the embedded conventional wisdom that led to the crisis. Rapid wins create an incentive, or at least a willingness, for previous fence-sitters and even doubters to join an expanded guiding coalition.

Trump has had a turnaround executive’s laser-like focus on delivering his campaign promises, attracting the American people with positive results:

  • Domestic Results: Faster economic growth. Lowest unemployment in decades or ever. Rising wages. High consumer and business economic optimism. Tax cuts. Reduced regulations. Energy independence. Appointments of judges committed to the rule of law.
  • International Results: More reciprocal trade deals. Out of Iran deal. Destruction of ISIS. NATO meeting its obligations. Embassy in Jerusalem. Promising North Korean developments. Hostages released without ransom payments. Exited Paris climate accord.

Many among the Left and their statist ruling class cousins refuse to acknowledge, let alone praise, these tangible accomplishments—a telling sign—even though the results have visibly improved many American lives and made the country safer.

Contemplate what that suggests the Left and statists stand for!

Turnaround Critical Success Factor No. 2: Put a Spotlight on Issues and People, Relentlessly Driving Change
Trump’s modus operandi aligns well with a turnaround executive facing resistance after challenging the failed status quo. As Bill Mitchell has noted:

Trump also fights, ditching the civility bullshit that was used only to hobble previous Republicans—the failed dignity, collegiality, and propriety of Conservatism, Inc. and the GOP establishment—by recognizing (and persuading others) that such virtue signaling leads to certain defeat in a one-sided war.

While Trump can be rude and crude at times, he has put the public spotlight on many important policy failures and the lie of political correctness that Andrew Klavan describes:

…he [casually] breaks the rules with which the Left has sought to muzzle those who disagree with them…Better impoliteness than silence. Better crudeness than lies.

In doing so, Trump has become a cultural Rorschach test, revealing what David Gelertner says: “the left’s only issue is ‘We hate Trump’…an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about…Trump is precisely what it hates about America” and Americans—highlighting an irreconcilable cultural divide that must be closed before a turnaround can succeed.

Why? Because four jarring developments since his inauguration have put the spotlight on the increasingly totalitarian instincts of the Left—even as they project their hatred and behaviors onto us:

A new majority political coalition is also needed so Trump’s executive order changes can be transformed into laws, a change that would be more consistent with republican government and more firmly lock in the turnaround changes.

Turnaround Critical Success Factor No. 3: Know What Turnaround Success Looks Like
Many turnarounds fail and it is far from clear that the American turnaround can succeed. The 2018 midterm elections have become unusually significant because they will determine if the American people will let a new political alignment paradigm continue to evolve or return us to the previous loop of doom.

If the people do give the turnaround more time, how will that time be used? Here is the twist: Even if Trump serves as President for two full terms, the American turnaround will not be completed by 2024. While a talented turnaround executive like Trump can clarify the problems, drive the initial changes, and then enable a new strategic direction and initial operational actions, a successful turnaround typically requires more time and a broader team effort.

#WalkAway and #Blexit are creating the potential for a new majority political coalition that combines the Trump base with liberals who believe in civil liberties and blacks who have declared their freedom from their Democratic political plantation masters. Will a growing anti-Semitism and the Democrats’ refusal to cut ties with Louis Farrakhan and Linda Sansour convince Jews also to separate themselves, too?

The ultimate success of the turnaround will require forming a broad new governing coalition of Americans who have the will power to carry out the operational execution of the turnaround that can drive the required longer-term cultural and political changes to create a New Americanism, including these strategic initiatives:

The 2018 Midterm Election Pivot: Where Do We Go From Here?
I am not optimistic but I am hopeful. After all, who thought the 2016 election would turn out as it did?

Two parallel efforts, requiring Americans with complementary talents, must drive our future turnaround actions.

First, we need to act boldly and with a righteous anger toward those who promote a social justice progressivism orthodoxy while rejecting liberty, including rights of conscience. A successful turnaround requires a steely willingness to fight and take political and cultural power away from the false progressive orthodoxy. We must call our enemy by its name—evil—and recognize how they seek power and control for its own sake and know no limits.

At a practical level, I have written previously how that means we must “become indifferent to their Alinsky tactics. Do not let . . . [them] . . . act as society’s moral compass, dictating terms of the public debate . . . Don’t give them power by engaging, responding, or explaining. Instead, laugh at and dismiss their hypocrisy and will-to-power because they are not morally serious.”

Second, we must also hold onto the virtues of faith, hope and charity, giving the American people something to be drawn to: Faith in our Creator and an openness to His guiding us as well as faith in the decency of the American people. Hope that enough hearts can be changed to make a difference. It is easy to lack such hope in these troubled times.

But allow me to share a personal anecdote about a gift my father once gave to me when I had suffered a deep loss and, for a time, found it hard to believe recovery could ever happen. In those darker moments, my dad told me he would carry my hope for me until I was able to reclaim it. Those moments always passed, I did reclaim the hope every time and soldier on, and eventually the losses were repaired.

Americans of good will need to be willing to carry each other in a similar way, claiming hope as ours while we remember that the Achilles’ heel of Evil is a hubris that always leads it to overplay its hand. Finally, we must act with charity toward others, knowing that loving America first requires that we love our fellow Americans. Not every person who adopts what amounts to an evil ideology is himself evil. Accordingly, we seek to persuade people to reject that ideology and the tyranny that flows from it while doing what we must to support liberty.

But, first, Trump needs a decisive political victory on November 6 that pulls together an expanded guiding coalition that can continue recovering the promise of America.

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

California • Democrats • Post • Technology • The Leviathian State

California’s Socialist Oligarchy: Making the State Unaffordable

If you don’t think the Democrats have a platform or that their entire message accurately reduced to one vacuous word, “resist,” come to California.

First of a two-part series.

If you think Democrats aren’t offering concrete alternatives to the policies pursued by President Trump and the Republican Congress, come to California. And if you actually believe that President Trump and the Republican Congress are indistinguishable from the establishment Democrats, come to California.

Touted as the “fifth-largest economy on Earth,” and recently heralded as delivering the “greatest increase in average income,” these statistics obscure an alarming reality. California has become a feudal state, where the benefits of prosperity are unequally distributed, rewarding corrupt plutocrats and punishing ordinary working families. Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban studies at Chapman University in Orange, California, characterized California’s current political economy as “Oligarchical Socialism.” This is a perfect description of a system that destroys the middle class at the same time it protects the ultra rich.

California’s leftist oligarchy benefits financially from precisely the depredations they accuse conservatives of committing. They have enacted policies that are designed to make California unaffordable to all but the wealthiest residents, and hostile to emerging small businesses, at the same time as their preexisting wealth and politically connected corporations reap enhanced returns and profits.

Plenty of Land, Impossible to Build
Nowhere are the consequences of California’s oligarchical socialism more evident than in the cost of housing. State legislation has made it nearly impossible for developers to construct new housing outside the so-called “urban growth boundary.” Instead, development is redirected into the footprint of existing urban areas.

While there is a natural tendency as population increases to see higher density redevelopment in urban cores, by restricting outward expansion of urban areas, the value of the limited remaining eligible land becomes artificially inflated. But established landowners and large development firms benefit from these restrictions. They are able to withstand years, if not decades, of expensive permitting delays and endless litigation. They are able to afford millions in permit fees because these costs are offset by their ability to sell residence units—from high-rise condos to detached single family dwellings—at prices far beyond what they would cost in a normal market.

These billionaire business interests get richer, while ordinary Californians who want to own or develop land cannot afford to go through the permit process. Meanwhile, the median cost of a home in California is $539,400—nearly 2.5 times the national average of $216,700. And that’s not even in the tougher markets.

With all land development, environmentalist laws such as California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) create additional barriers. California’s legislature has now made it necessary for new home construction to be 100 percent “energy neutral” by 2020. Not only does this require installation of photovoltaic roof panels, but also more expensive insulation, as well as more expensive appliances that use less energy (and also happen to be less durable and don’t work as well). These mandates make homes less livable, for example, requiring smaller windows in order to make the homes easier to heat and cool.

The amazing fact that California’s legislators willfully ignore is the incredibly abundance of expanses of land that remain virtually empty in this vast state. California is only 5 percent urbanized. According to the American Farmland Trust, of California’s 163,000 square miles, there are 25,000 square miles of grazing land and 42,000 square miles of agricultural land; of that, 14,000 square miles are prime agricultural land. In other words, you could put 10 million new residents into homes, four per household, on half-acre lots, and you would only consume 1,953 square miles. If you built those homes on the best prime agricultural land California’s got, you would only use up 14 percent of it. If you scattered those homes among all of California’s farmland and grazing land—which is far more likely—you would only use up 3 percent of it. Three percent loss of agricultural land, to allow 10 million people to live on half-acre lots!

Instead of allowing land owners to build millions of inexpensive homes on, say, just a small fraction of California’s 25,000 square miles of grazing land, California’s lawmakers want to have “smart growth.” And as prices rise, the solution? On the ballot this November, propositions to enforce statewide rent control, borrow $4 billion to build “affordable housing,” and use state tax revenues to build more government-run homeless shelters. After all, expanding the private sector threatens the oligarchy. Best to expand the public sector.

Plenty of Energy Resources, Unaffordable Energy
While the cost of housing is an obvious example of how California has been turned into an enclave for the super rich and an expensive ordeal for ordinary Americans trying to live there, it is not the only example. California’s legislature has curtailed, if not completely shut down, development of oil, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear power.

In the summer of 2000, during California’s energy crisis, as brown-outs were rolling up and down the state, total disaster was averted because two nuclear reactor complexes, San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, were continuously pumping 4.2 gigawatts of electricity—more than 10 percent of California’s peak demand at the time—into the power grid. But instead of retrofitting, San Onofre was shuttered in 2013 and Diablo Canyon is set to shut down by 2025.

And what’s replacing these power plants? Wind and solar farms, with their intermittent output backed up by natural gas power stations.

If the massive amounts of surplus electricity produced when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing could be stored, it might make sense to decommission clean nuclear power plants and ban development of fossil fuel. But despite decades of research, and dozens of promising but failed attempts, grid-scale electricity storage remains prohibitively expensive. But that’s OK. According to the state legislature, Californians can just pay more. And of course, when consumers pay more, utilities—whose percentage profit is limited by regulation—make far more in absolute profits, since they get to charge so much more per kilowatt-hour. The average cost for electricity is 19.7 cents per kilowatt-hour in California, compared to 13.1 cents per kilowatt-hour nationally.

And there’s no end in sight. True to form, California’s state legislature just passed a law that calls for 60 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045. With hydroelectric and nuclear power off the table, that’s going to be a neat trick.

With oil, it gets worse. We’re not talking about California’s aggressive formulation requirements that make tailpipe emissions cleaner. Perhaps California’s geography justifies this, as offshore winds blow the entirety of coastal city smog into the inland valleys where it is trapped and accumulates. But the reason gas is so expensive in California has little to do with that. It is nearly impossible to maintain refinery output in California, and California’s state gas taxes are among the highest in the nation. Gasoline in California costs around $3.87 per gallon, compared to $2.87 nationally.

While ordinary Californians suffer, left-wing oligarchs prosper.

Green technology entrepreneurs flourish, selling products that consumers are required by law to purchase. Not just solar panels and the related “balance of plant” systems. There are also “negawatts,” a good concept that is being taken to extremes. Sensors and chips designed to make appliances more “energy efficient” are designed by Silicon Valley companies whose prosperity depends on legislative mandates that compel Californians to purchase their products. Promoting the “internet of things” is purportedly justified on environmentalist grounds, while in reality it is a lucrative source of income for high-tech manufacturers, as well as a lucrative means of surveillance and data mining. These new appliances save some electricity. But are they durable? Easy to operate? Do they work as well as conventional appliances? Are they easy to use? Are they inexpensive? No to all.

Plenty of Water, Yet Water Is Rationed
Water is another area where ordinary Californians needlessly suffer inconveniences and pay more.

California receives between 150 and 300 million acre feet of rainfall per year, depending on whether it’s a drought year or a wet year. Regardless of the year, most of that water either evaporates, percolates, or runs off into the Pacific Ocean. And of the roughly 65 million acre feet that are diverted, fully half of it is saved for re-release into the environment, to maintain river flow and to prevent saltwater intrusion into the Sacramento Delta. Of what remains, almost all of it is used for agriculture. Less than 4 million acre feet of water each year are used by California’s households, and less than half that much is for indoor use.

You wouldn’t think that were the case if you reviewed California’s new laws regarding water, and the ways they’re going to be implemented. This year California’s state legislature passed a law requiring average daily indoor water use by California residents to not exceed 55 gallons per day, an amount that lowers to 50 gallons per day by 2030. Maybe you’ve encountered the “solutions” that will effect this reduction: Water faucets that spray eight tiny concentrated, 1.0 mm thick jets of water onto your hands, making it difficult to get them wet and nearly impossible to rinse off soap. Or “low-flow” shower heads with the same problem, magnified for anyone who wants to rinse shampoo out of long hair. What about “smart” laundry machines that start and stop randomly, ostensibly to save energy and water, that do a poor job of cleaning your clothes. Or supplemental “tankless” water heaters positioned close to your kitchen sink, that cost thousands of dollars and don’t work all that well, in order for residents to avoid running unnecessary gallons down the drain as they wait for the hot water to flow through their pipes.

All this expense and bother, to save what, at a statewide level, amounts to a trivial amount of water. California’s total residential indoor water use represents less than three percent of California’s total water diversions.

And California’s bureaucrats still aren’t done. In a hearing postponed till just after November 6—no coincidence there—California’s State Water Resources Board is expected to mandate increased “natural flows” in California’s rivers, which will create additional water scarcity, especially for farmers.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Californians could easily escape water scarcity by investing in additional reservoirs, desalination plants, and wastewater recycling. But environmentalists torpedo all of these projects, successfully lobbying for laws that tie every project up in permitting delays that cost millions, if not tens of millions, and take years, if not decades, to overcome. When permits are finally granted, along come the lawsuits.

A good example of a project that makes compelling economic sense, but is bitterly opposed by environmentalists, is raising the height of the Shasta Dam. In exchange for construction costs under $2 billion, an annual yield of a half-million acre feet would be added to California’s water resources. Not only does this amount of water exceed how much water could be saved by additional household rationing, there’s even an environmental benefit, because summer releases of this water from Shasta’s deep, cool reservoir would improve fish habitat on the Sacramento River.

Roads Are Congested, And the State Builds a Bullet Train
There is nothing more versatile than the common road. On a road, anything on wheels, from bicycles to 80-ton trucks, can get from their point of origin to their destination. The simple flat surface delivers transportation options that nothing requiring rails or runways can hope to match. Moreover, cars and trucks are becoming cleaner and greener every year. One may argue vehemently over how exactly clean energy abundance will be achieved, but only the most pessimistic Luddite might cling to the notion that it will never happen.

Meanwhile, Californians urgently need new roads, wider roads, and upgraded roads. Californians may supplement these new roads with hyperloop technologies, or flying cars and other next generation vehicles, but what California does not need is the much criticized but seemingly unstoppable “bullet train,” a project that fails any rational cost-benefit analysis.

Using the California High Speed Rail Authority’s own projections, the system will not be profitable for 10 years. And what projections! The CHSRA assumes an average ticket price of $60, and average daily ridership of 120,000 people. Will 120,000 individuals actually be willing to spend $600 per month to commute from California’s less expensive Central Valley, into their jobs in coastal Silicon Valley and Los Angeles? And so what if they did? California has a workforce of more than 19 million people. How does spending around $100 billion on high speed rail help these other 18.9 million commuters?

To build a road in California takes years of permitting and litigating, then costs far more than it would in other parts of America. Environmentalist restrictions, project labor agreements, and a bloated, inefficient State Department of Transportation are all contributing factors. Meanwhile, in comparison to other states, California consistently ranks at or near the bottom in terms of pavement conditions and traffic congestion. There is no end in sight.

Housing. Energy. Water. Transportation. These are the basic necessities of civilized life. And for power and profit, California’s socialist oligarchs have made them all prohibitively expensive. The social agenda of California’s Left is well understood. But the punishing economic agenda, engineered by California’s socialist oligarchy, is equally disturbing. It represents a devastating threat to the American way of life.

The second part of this report will identify the special interests that constitute this coalition of scarcity profiteers, and how they might be stopped.

Photo Credit:  Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Deep State • Donald Trump • Intelligence Community • Obama • Post • The Leviathian State • the Presidency

Russian Collusion Investigation Has Orwellian Roots

Paul Manafort may or may not have violated tax and banking laws in 2010. Given the twisted and arcane nature of those laws, who knows?

What we do know is that Manafort first was investigated for breaking those laws in that year by Robert Mueller’s FBI. A discretionary decision was made not to prosecute. It wasn’t a priority of the Obama Administration to indict consultants over how they reported income from foreign governments. If that were a priority, a lot of big shots in Washington would have gone down.

There is insufficient concern that what is broadly called “election tampering” really means efforts to influence voters by legitimate means. It was unnervingly Orwellian when Congress cudgeled Facebook’s founder for selling ads to the highest bidder without first assessing the worthiness of the content. Manafort’s real crime is not that he chose to book certain income as loans from offshore shell companies, because a lot of people do that.

No, Manafort’s crime is the same as Facebook’s: he failed to measure the orthodoxy of his political client’s message and, because of that, he now faces an inquisition.

In 2010, pro-Russia candidate Viktor Yanukovych was elected as president of Ukraine. Manafort provided extensive consulting services for Yanukovych’s campaign. Politico has called it “a political love connection.” Vladimir Putin was pleased. His strategic endgame has been to create a united Eurasia that is nationalistic, Christian, and steeped in local culture and history, that would compete with Europe for regional hegemony.

This was an early inkling of the zeitgeist that would later lead to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Manafort was one of its architects.

Ukraine’s decision to align with Putin did not sit well with globalists, though. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) flew to Kiev to stir up protestors against the democratically elected ruler, fomenting a coup d’état in 2014 that ousted Yanukovych and installed a pro-Western puppet. That’s right, the Washington establishment has shown no reluctance to topple a democratically elected government to vindicate its policy preferences.

The FBI, headed by James Comey, investigated Manafort for his work with Yanukovych but found no evidence of a crime.

In 2016, Donald Trump rode the international trend of nationalism to win the Republican nomination. On June 20 of that year, he hired a campaign manager who had experience promoting such an agenda: Manafort. Three days later, the people of the United Kingdom voted in favor of the Brexit proposal to withdraw from the European Union. Manafort appeared on Meet the Press that weekend as Trump’s campaign manager hailing the vote, in an affront to the preferences of the world’s elite.

At the time, British Intelligence was looking under mattresses for Putin connections. The British aristocracy has a condescending view of the hoi polloi who voted for Brexit, regarding them as easily manipulated Pygmalion-like by smarter people. They assumed Vladimir Putin was somehow playing Professor Henry Higgins to the flower girls who voted to reject the EU, because that’s how they see the world. Among the Cambridge class, this simple prejudice renders Russian collusion a first principle with no need for supporting evidence. George Neumayr has ferreted out the British source of the Russian collusion investigation over at The American Spectator.

Lee Smith at Tablet first noticed how this Russian stuff was imported to America by a class of aristocratic wannabees, not-quite-ivy-league enough New Jersey-ites John Brennan and James Comey. These Irish-Catholic (I can say that because I am one) Kapos and “practitioners of the beltway arts” sold the prejudices of their British betters as actual evidence, stupidly lending the CIA and FBI to this afternoon tea plot against an American political campaign. They believed Russian interference with the giddy enthusiasm of the first minority at the country club. That is why the looks on their faces say they still believe it. They must. It would be an act of crushing self-awareness to admit that they were always just Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd resolving a one-dollar bet among the Randolph and Mortimer Dukes of the British spy agencies.

The existence of this investigation is vindication for those who voted for Brexit and Trump because they believe an illuminati rules the world. The Washington establishment may not use jet contrails to control minds. But, if crossed, they will seize your lawyer’s files, put your one-time campaign manager in solitary confinement, and tell your third wife that you slept with a porn star. They even dared to appoint the same guy they once trotted out to tell everyone there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to do it.

The Washington establishment is less interested in the means used to influence voters than in the fact that the deplorables have been prompted to defy them, which cannot be allowed. As long as Facebook and Twitter perform the necessary act of genuflection and voluntarily ban dissenting voices, they will not be similarly tormented. Those who display lèse-majesté will be harshly punished, which accounts for the “Get Trump!” fervor. It is Orwellian, sure. And it is really happening.

Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Deep State • Donald Trump • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • Russia • The Constitution • The Leviathian State • the Presidency

Manafort Trial Threatens the Constitution, Not Just Trump

One of the things that most concerned the U.S. Constitution’s framers was the misuse of the criminal justice system by those in power to check their political foes. We have a Bill of Rights, in large part, to protect us against this most harmful abuse of arbitrary power. Ostensibly, we are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, from delayed trials and unnecessary incarceration, from being forced to be witnesses against ourselves, and from “cruel and unusual punishments.”

Unfortunately, all the parchment safeguards in the world cannot guard a citizenry from a truly corrupt government, and a corrupt government is capable of securing its evil ends by enlisting persons of good faith who may find themselves unwittingly employed in miscreancy. Something very like this has occurred in the Robert Mueller prosecutorial investigation of Donald Trump for alleged collusion with Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Evidence is accumulating that Mueller’s appointment as special prosecutor was the result of fabricated accusations concocted by conflicted officials in the Obama administration, who wished to prevent Trump’s election—or, failing that, to create (as disgraced FBI Agent Peter Strzok put it) an “insurance policy,” that would prevent Trump from continuing in office.

Whether it was a coordinated plot or not, former FBI Director James Comey’s leaking of information designed to result in the appointment of a special counsel succeeded, and for almost two years now Mueller’s activities have compromised the Trump Administration’s effectiveness.

Special prosecutors can, if they are talented, command almost unlimited resources. Mueller is just such a talented individual. He has amassed a large group of zealous minions, adept at employing harsh tools designed to turn lower level functionaries against their former associates, culminating most recently in what federal Judge T.S. Ellis III has labelled an attempt to squeeze the president’s one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort into turning on Trump himself.

The astute Alan Dershowitz predicts Manafort probably will be convicted, and that in order to avoid a lengthy prison sentence Manafort is likely to “sing”—or, as the former Harvard Law School professor remarked even more ominously, to “compose.” In other words, Dershowitz has indicated the grave risk that Manafort, in order to save himself from spending the rest of his life in prison, may simply make up something to implicate Trump.

Should this happen, of course, it would make the corruption that led to the Mueller investigation pale by comparison, as Mueller and his prosecutors, instead of seeking justice, pervert it.

One of our greatest civil libertarians, Harvey Silverglate, in 2011 wrote an influential polemic, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, arguing that our criminal laws had been so riddled with a myriad of purported offenses, that any zealous prosecutor could very easily secure a criminal conviction of anyone. This is eerily reminiscent of Stalin’s secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria’s comment, regarding an equally problematic justice system: “Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime.”

If one reads Mueller’s indictment of Manafort, one discovers that he is being pursued for 32 separate offenses, including failure to register as a foreign agent, bank fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion, principally involving millions of dollars of funds earned through foreign consulting activities, and funneled through a bewildering variety of Virginia, Florida, Delaware, Cyprus, Grenadines, and United Kingdom business organizations. Manafort may or may not have violated a complex series of federal laws of a kind that Silverglate chronicled, but all of the alleged infractions took place years before Manafort worked as campaign manager for Trump, and none of them have anything to do with alleged Russian interference with our 2016 election, the ostensible reason for Mueller’s investigation

My colleague Steven Calabresi has raised questions about the constitutionality of appointments of special prosecutors, since the statute authorizing their appointment, insofar as it immunizes them to a great extent from executive control, means that they exercise power inconsistent with our basic scheme of checks and balances and separation of powers. Calabresi is concerned, as is Dershowitz, with the abuse of arbitrary power, and the attempt to use the Manafort trial possibly to fabricate a case against the president ought to concern any true civil libertarian.

Manafort claims he is innocent of the charges against him, and that any failures to comply with the federal reporting requirements are due not to his intent to avoid the law, but rather to administrative failures and misdeeds of those below him, in particular his associate Rick Gates. Manafort’s defense lawyers have told the jury in his case that Gates—who has pled guilty to offenses similar to those of which Manafort has been accused, and is expected to be a witness against Manafort—is the real villain, and has been seeking to obscure the fact that he, Gates, embezzled millions from Manafort. Gates may well be a compromised and an easily impeached witness, and if the prosecution’s case depends on Gates’s word, Manafort’s jury may acquit him.

Whether or not Manafort escapes conviction in the trial now being conducted in Northern Virginia, Mueller’s prosecutors have another proceeding against Manafort in a District of Columbia court, where a local jury, likely composed of former Clinton supporters, will probably be much less sympathetic to a former Trump associate. This is just another manifestation of the dangers of politicizing law enforcement.

Even though Mueller himself may well be a virtuous individual, the newly emerged institution of which he is a part, the special prosecutor, appears to be an untethered and dangerous abuse of the criminal law our Constitution was designed to prevent. There is no reason why offenses of a kind that Manafort and Gates were accused of cannot be brought by the regular procedures of the Justice Department, subject to the supervision of the executive branch. Not actual Russian meddling, but political chicanery prompted Mueller’s appointment.

Special prosecutions such as that conducted by Mueller appear to be more of a threat to the rule of law than tools for its preservation. The practice of appointing them ought to cease, and, for the moment, whether or not Manafort and Gates violated federal law, the future of our Constitutional safeguards against arbitrary power are now in the hands of a judge and jury in Northern Virginia.

Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Deep State • Democrats • Intelligence Community • Law and Order • Post • The Leviathian State

Where is Carter Page’s Exoneration by the FBI?

Two years ago this month, President Obama’s FBI began investigating Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Four campaign associates were targeted: campaign manager Paul Manafort; Trump’s foreign policy advisor and Obama’s former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael Flynn; and foreign policy aides George Papadopoulos and Carter Page.

The timing was not coincidental. Polling in late July 2016 showed the presidential race tightening following a relatively successful Republican National Convention and a messy Democratic National Convention marked by intraparty strife. The FBI was still under fire after James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton from any wrongdoing related to her private email server.

Although the reigning political wisdom at the time was that Hillary Clinton would easily defeat Trump in November, top FBI officials wanted a backup plan in the event their favored candidate lost. In August 2016, then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe reportedly met with lead FBI investigator Peter Strzok and FBI counsel Lisa Page to concoct an “insurance policy” in case of a Trump victory.

And so began the first known federal investigation into a sitting president’s political foe and potential successor in U.S. history.

No Charges
Two years later, three of the four original suspects remain in legal trouble. Paul Manafort is now on trial and being held in solitary confinement, indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in two separate jurisdictions for charges unrelated to alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor who resigned after being set-up by Obama holdovers, is awaiting sentencing for pleading guilty to one count of lying to federal agents. And George Papadopoulos is scheduled to be sentenced next month on one charge of making false statements to federal investigators.

The only man still not charged with any crime is Carter Page. Two years later, the Trump campaign volunteer who was accused of being a secret agent for the Russians is a free man. And the FBI has yet to explain why.

Page—an Eagle Scout and Naval Academy graduate—arguably has suffered the greatest personal price. After helping the FBI nab a Russian foreign agent in 2016, Page suddenly became an FBI target when then-candidate Trump announced Page would serve as one of his foreign policy advisors. (Page has never met Trump and was not paid by the campaign for his work.)

Then the FBI started to set him up. According to Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, then-FBI Director James Comey convened a meeting to brief Obama’s National Security Council principals on the alleged threat that Page posed to America. Although there is no confirmation of who attended the meeting in late spring 2016, some news outlets have reported the participants included Lynch, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, CIA Director John Brennan, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (The vice president and secretary of state also serve on the council.)

At the same time, the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign hired a politically connected law firm to retain Fusion GPS to dig up dirt about the Trump team’s ties with Russia. Fusion contracted with ex-British spy Christopher Steele (who was already working with the FBI according to newly-released documents) to come up with proof.

Now think about this: Carter Page—a Ph.D., MBA, top graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, and a former staffer on Capitol Hill—was about to have the most powerful government and political forces in the world come down on his head. And he was powerless to stop it.

The Beginning of a Nightmare
Shortly after he returned from giving a speech in Moscow in July 2016 (an event where Hillary Clinton pal Madeleine Albright also was a speaker), Page began getting calls from reporters asking about his ties to Russia and alleged meetings with Putin associates. Little did he know that those accusations were included in the so-called Steele dossier. Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson was peddling the dossier as legitimate intelligence to his former colleagues in the D.C. press claque. Page’s first call was from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, where Simpson used to work.

One reporter finally took Simpson’s bait: Michael Isikoff published a story in Yahoo News on September 23, 2016 that claimed the government was looking into Page’s ties to Russia. Isikoff cited a “well-placed Western intelligence source” who ended up being Steele. (Isikoff later admitted he privately met with his “old friend, Glenn Simpson” and Steele in a D.C. restaurant that same month.)

That set off, as Page told me a few months ago, his “nightmare.”

More news coverage followed. The Trump campaign distanced itself from him. Page wrote a letter to Comey, offering to meet with FBI investigators to “put these outrageous allegations to rest.” He stepped down from the Trump campaign. Despite all this, James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates signed an application in October 2016 and submitted it to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, accusing Page of being a Russian foreign agent—a crime that could land him in prison for years. Their proof? The politically sourced, unverified Steele dossier and the Isikoff article. (Manafort and possibly Flynn were also under FISC-authorized surveillance.)

Even while Page was meeting with congressional investigators, the FBI, and Robert Mueller’s team, the government continued to spy on him, listening to his phone calls and seizing all of his electronic communications.

At the same time, the news media continued its assault on Page aided by illegal leaks of information from people at the top echelons in government. He has received death threats, and been mocked by news reporters and by some Republican lawmakers: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) called him a “clown” and “more like Inspector Gadget than James Bond.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla) recently defended the government’s surveillance of Page. People on social media have asked me why I defend Page, suggesting he is odd or weird or acts suspiciously. (If that’s the barometer for getting the feds attention, everyone in D.C. should be under surveillance.)

The court-ordered surveillance ended in September 2017. So, nearly one year later—after submitting to lengthy interviews with every legal entity investigating Trump-Russia collusion—Carter Page, 47, has not been charged with a crime. The man that the federal government accused of being a criminal, who “knowingly engage[d] in clandestine intelligence activities” on behalf of Russia, is doing interviews on cable news shows and trying to put his life back together. (He is also suing the parent company of Yahoo News.)

No Justice—Yet
So, where is the outrage?

Where is the ACLU, which has a long history of criticizing FISA?

Where is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), also a long-time critic of FISA?

Where are the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Washington Post, demanding justice for Carter Page and apologizing for its nonstop coverage to smear him? (The Post has published 612 articles mentioning Page in the past year alone.) Where are the mea culpas from every single reporter and pundit who fell for this sham?

Where are Republicans such as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)—who just said the wiretapping against Page was unjustified and called the FISA application “a bunch of garbage”—demanding that the FBI explain its egregious actions against Page?

Speaking of, where are FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions? When will they explain to the American people, many of whom were convinced Page was a Russian spy working for the Trump campaign, why Page has not been charged? When will they officially clear his name?

It’s not as if the FBI is afraid to explain to the public why certain public figures are innocent of suspected crimes, right?

Two years ago this month, top officials of the Obama Administration launched a politically motivated investigation and worked with their accomplices in the media to harass, intimidate and defame Carter Page. Two years later, he has not been found guilty of any crime.

When will President Trump’s Justice Department give Carter Page his reputation back?

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Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

America • civic culture/friendship • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Elections • Hillary Clinton • Obama • Post • Progressivism • The Constitution • The Courts • The Culture • The Left • The Leviathian State • The Media

Who’s Winning the Culture Wars Now?

On May 6, 2016, as the run-up to the struggle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for the presidency began in earnest, one of the Left’s most influential and brilliant intellectuals, Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet, wrote a blog entry called “Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism.” His most important assertion in that little screed, italicized no less, was “The culture wars are over; they lost, we won.” By “they” he meant “conservatives,” and by “we” he meant “progressives.”

Tushnet, an almost unbelievably prolific and charismatic individual (and, indeed, an old friend), is wrong.

One of the founders of the Marxist-influenced Critical Legal Studies Movement, Tushnet was writing about what he thought should be done in the United States Supreme Court after Clinton was elected and more progressives were put on the bench. But, of course, the unexpected victory of Trump means, as we are seeing with the appointments of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, that it is the cultural conservatives who will be ascendant for a generation, and not the progressives after all.

Culture Wars Define American Greatness
Trump’s triumph was a conservative triumph and a decisive victory in the still ongoing culture wars. Tushnet got it wrong because he apparently failed to grasp there will be no end to the culture wars so long as one side—the Left—insists on the illegitimacy of traditional views of human nature and flourishing, of religion and morals, and of private property and of the limited government contemplated by our framers.

Understanding this, one can go even further. The culture wars—best understood, actually, as battles over what really constitutes American greatness—will continue as long as there is a conflict between good and evil on earth, or, as C.S. Lewis once argued, as long as our planet is “enemy-occupied territory,” where God and the Devil fight for the soul of man. Such a notion is anathema to progressives, whose deity is science, whose current obsession is intersectionality, and, for most of whom, the proposition that Providence governs human affairs is hopelessly irrational and outdated.

Those whom Hillary Clinton despicably called the “deplorables,” and whom President Obama condescendingly accused of clinging to their guns and their religion, those whom the effervescent Kurt Schlichter (a Tushnet of the Right) calls “us normals,” still have that traditional understanding, and what is most remarkable is the manner in which people on the Left, like Tushnet, may be incapable of understanding why that should be so.

One has only to spend a few moments on the internet or watching Fox News to be exposed to the manner in which the Left increasingly fails to comprehend this reality, and flails about in a misguided struggle to silence conservatives and indecently and intolerantly to seek to crush dissension from political correctness. Two recent horrifying and instructive examples are a recent Planned Parenthood promotion and a “comedy” routine from Michelle Wolf.

The abortion provider Planned Parenthood of New York City’s fundraising campaign is straightforwardly labeled, “Protect Our Freedom to F*ck: Donate to Planned Parenthood of New York City.” The 45-second spot, a spectacular paean both to fornication and intersectionality, uses the word “f*ck” or its derivatives 13 times, and ends with the admonition, “F*ck New York and everyone in it. Protect our right to safely f*ck whoever the f*ck we want: donate to Planned Parenthood of New York City.” Apart from the lamentable grammatical lapse of the split infinitive, the ad appears to suggest that human flourishing is all about unlimited copulation, and this can be done without fear of consequences because abortion (and, presumably birth control and “safe-sex” counseling) can be readily available if Planned Parenthood has sufficient funding.

In a similar vein, Michelle Wolf, the purportedly comedic harridan who earlier this year harried President Trump and horrifically tried to humiliate Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House Correspondents Dinner, has a new routine called “a Salute to Abortion.” Dressed in fetching sparkling tights and a star-spangled low-cut red-white-and-blue majorette ensemble, Wolf throws confetti and declares, “God bless abortion and God bless the United States of America.” One can admire the patriotism, but she makes clear in her performance that for her, abortion is not the taking of an innocent human life. Instead, it’s merely “stopping a baby from happening. It’s like ‘Back to the Future’ and abortion is the DeLorean. Everyone loves DeLoreans.” At another point in her routine, Wolf suggests that abortion ought to be something available on the dollar menu at McDonald’s, and that it ought to be viewed as removing an egg from a woman’s “McMuffin.”

If the RNC runs the Planned Parenthood promotion and Wolf’s routine as part of its campaign, it is likely to result in quite a few Republican victories in 2018, because these progressives are broadcasting their unappealing and narrow view of life as fulfillment of evanescent carnal desire and a crabbed version of self-actualization.

“People Will Die” and Other Lies
Similarly horrid events unfolding last week included the testimony of Peter Strzok, which once again demonstrated the Left’s intolerance of Trump and his supporters, and reminded us of the Obama Administration’s placing Clinton and her campaign officials above the law, as they were excused from abominable breaches of national security and mendacity.

In the same disturbing vein were the scare tactics employed to suggest that if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed for the Supreme Court, “basic rights” of all Americans are threatened, and “people will die.” The Borking of Brett is well underway, but this time, because Republicans have the numbers, it won’t work.

The Left must lie, perhaps, in order to continue to persuade its supporters and to appeal for funds to maintain power because it simply gets reality wrong. Life is not about solipsistic self-actualization, and—as the Right now understands, but the Left still does not—humans will not flourish under socialism and a leviathan state. Not abortion on demand, but moral and religious altruism, of a kind that Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated in his private life, is what makes life worthwhile.

As Russell Kirk showed us, a rich diversity of approach in politics and culture is also essential, and, perhaps, the fact that our First Amendment encourages abominations like the Planned Parenthood promotion and Michelle Wolf’s “salute to abortion” is not entirely lamentable. At least they help us understand the real nature of American greatness, by suggesting its opposite.

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Peter Strzok’s Affair is a National Security Crisis

FBI agent Peter Strzok held one of the most important national security positions in the entire bloated federal government. Strzok was the chief of the counterespionage section of the FBI. While working in that capacity, Strzok oversaw the FBI’s much-maligned investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal email server. Strzok’s fingers were in several other major investigations, as well: most of those related to Russia, the Trump campaign, and Hillary Clinton. After 2016, Strzok was promoted to deputy director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

Watching Strzok’s recent, explosive, testimony one might get the impression that the Republicans are on a witch hunt against a “dedicated” civil servant. But this impression would be quickly dispelled after combing through the more than 60,000 text messages between Peter Strzok and his alleged lover, FBI lawyer Lisa Page. It is clear that Strzok was not acting as the objective investigator he was trained to be.

Strzok is Everything We Hate About the Administrative State

Everything about Strzok’s conduct shows that he represents the worst excesses of the administrative state. FBI agents—like members of the United States Armed Forces—are held to a strict code of conduct in their personal lives. Essentially, even when an FBI agent is not on duty, he is to comport himself in the same upright manner that he would on the job. This is doubly true for agents who work in national security-related divisions (those who hold security clearances, as Strzok reportedly still does).

In the words of attorney Matthew B. Tully, “Adultery is the kiss of death for federal employees with security clearance.” It certainly was for David Petraeus, whose prior outstanding service and dedication to his country was no match for the controversy he caused when news of his own illicit extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell broke. The ensuing scandal destroyed Petraeus’s career and political future.

And while Strzok’s career is likely over as well, the damage he did to the FBI and the country is arguably greater than any fallout from Petraeus’ affair.

Apparently, Strzok’s marital problems were well-known to his peers in the FBI. Further, his close relationship with Lisa Page was known as well. Despite having been the number-two man in the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, there were still several people above him in the chain of command. Also, FBI agents who are engaged in violations—such as adultery—are supposed to be investigated by the Office of the Inspector General. This never happened. Given how well-known the affair was, it’s surprising that no one in the FBI had the fortitude to launch the investigation into Strzok and his alleged girlfriend. Had it been, it’s likely that the damage could have been mitigated or entirely avoided.

Character and Integrity Matter

The division that Strzok worked for in the FBI hunts foreign spies operating in the United States. Naturally, these agents have immense investigatory power and they are expected to be supremely judicious, responsible, and fair. When an issue of personal moral integrity arises, it is up to the institution to rein it in. The assumption is that if an agent’s personal integrity is compromised, then that agent’s ability to act as a professional, objective investigator vanishes, which of course puts their investigations in jeopardy.

Those who work in counterintelligence or intelligence—and who are engaged in extramarital affairs—open themselves up to blackmail. Since the beginning of time, spy services have sought to “flip” agents of rival services. Adultery can be a powerful tool in furthering those aims.

Luckily, Strzok and Page, as far as we know, were not operating at behest of a foreign power. Without the affair, however, it is likely that the well-placed Strzok never would have risked his career the way he did in 2016. This affair has irrevocably changed modern American political history. Without Strzok’s influence—and his urge to impress his Trump-hating girlfriend—the turmoil roiling the American political landscape today likely would not be as feverpitched as it currently is.

In his efforts both to satisfy his own political needs, as well as his personal desires, Strzok got the hapless, former FBI Director James Comey to remove the criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her irresponsible handling of classified emails during her time as secretary of state. After Trump won the election, Strzok promised Page he would stymie Trump’s presidency. The Robert Mueller investigation soon followed, with both Strzok and Page joining the investigation—along with 13 other highly partisan, Democratic lawyers.

Clearly, Stzrok’s judgement was negatively influenced by his illicit relationship with Page, in much the same way it would have been if Stzrok had been sleeping with a foreign spy. Thus, just as America paid the price in 2000 for FBI agent James J. Smith’s affair with a Chinese spy, Katrina Leung, we are paying the price for Strzok’s inappropriate relationship with a hyper-partisan FBI lawyer today.

The Punishment Should Be Severe

On top of his loss of objectivity and abuse of power, Strzok’s adultery must be investigated. Since it is known that he engaged in the activity—in violation of basic FBI guidelines—he must be disciplined (regardless of what punishment Congress metes out in its own investigation of him and Page). Since everyone knows he was having an affair, the FBI should punish him to the fullest—meaning Strzok should be fired immediately with the loss of his pension.

An affair being made public decimated a real hero like General David Petraeus. The same should happen to a man who has facilitated an administrative coup attempt against the duly elected president of the United States.

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