Category: US politics

Biden the liar, and worse

Alana Goodman:

Joe Biden claimed twice recently that he met with Parkland, Florida, shooting survivors when he was vice president, despite the fact that he was already out of office when the attack took place. His campaign said Biden misspoke and was referring to a different meeting he had after the Sandy Hook shooting. But the flub was reminiscent of Biden’s past misstatements and his tendency to embellish biographical details.

In 1988, Biden was forced to drop out of the presidential race after he was found to have exaggerated his academic record, plagiarized a law school essay, and used quotes from other politicians in his speeches without attribution. But these are not the only questionable claims Biden has made. Here are six other times Biden was caught embellishing his biography:

1. Biden said his helicopter was “forced down” near Osama bin Laden’s lair in Afghanistan

Biden claimed in multiple speeches in 2008 that he knew where Osama bin Laden was hiding because his helicopter had been “forced down” nearby in the mountains of Afghanistan.

“If you want to know where al Qaeda lives, you want to know where bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me,” said Biden. “Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are.” In another speech, he claimed al Qaeda is “in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan … where my helicopter was recently forced down.”

He later referred to “the superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down.”

“John McCain wants to know where bin Laden and the gates of Hell are? I can tell him where,” said Biden.

The helicopter actually landed to wait out a snowstorm, according to the Associated Press.

Biden, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel were on a Senate junket in Afghanistan when their helicopter crossed paths with the storm, according to reports. The pilot landed as a precaution, and a U.S. military convoy picked up the senators and took them to the main American airbase.

“Other than getting a little cold, it was fine,” Kerry told the APwhen asked about the incident. “We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs,” he joked.

2. Biden said he was a coal miner

While running for president in 2008, Biden told the United Mine Workers that he was a coal miner.

“I hope you won’t hold it against me, but I am a hard-coal miner, anthracite coal, Scranton, Pennsylvania,” Biden said. “It’s nice to be back in coal country. It’s a different accent [in Virginia], but it’s the same deal. We were taught that our faith and our family was the only really important thing, and our faith and our family informed everything we did.”

The Biden campaign later told the AP that his comment was a “joke.” But it echoed another false claim he had made about coming from a family of coal miners during his 1988 campaign.

In a 1988 speech, Biden referred to “my ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours.” That line was plagiarized from a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock, whose family actually did work in the mines.

In 2004, Biden acknowledged that he did not have family members who worked in mining.

“Hell, I might be president now if it weren’t for the fact I said I had an uncle who was a coal miner. Turns out I didn’t have anybody in the coal mines, you know what I mean? I tried that crap — it didn’t work,” he said during an interview with Jon Stewart.

3. Biden said he was “shot at” in Iraq

In 2007, Biden claimed he was “shot at” during the Iraq War while visiting the Green Zone, the heavily guarded area in the middle of Baghdad where the United States embassy is based.

“Let’s start telling the truth,” he said. “Number one, you take all the troops out — you better have helicopters ready to take those 3,000 civilians inside the Green Zone, where I have been seven times and shot at.”

When asked for details about the shooting, a Biden campaign aide told the Hill that the then-senator was staying at a hotel in the Green Zone when a mortar landed several hundred yards away.

“A soldier came by to explain what happened and said if the mortar fire continued, they would need to proceed to a shelter,” the aide said.

4. Biden said he called Slobodan Milošević a “damn war criminal” to his face

Biden met with Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević in 1993, at the height of the siege of Sarajevo. According to Biden’s book Promises to Keep, when Milošević asked what he thought about him, Biden responded: “I think you’re a damn war criminal and you should be tried as one.”

In 2008, Biden aide Ted Kaufman, who was at the meeting and also worked on Biden’s 2008 campaign, told the Washington Post that the account was accurate. However, three other Biden aides who were at the meeting declined to corroborate the story.

John Ritch, a Senate aide who attended the Milošević meeting, told the Post he did not recall Biden making such a dramatic pronouncement.

“The legend grows,” said Ritch. “But Biden certainly introduced into the conversation the concept that Milošević was a war criminal. Milošević reacted with aplomb.”

5. Biden said he participated in sit-ins at segregated restaurants and movie theaters

In the 1970s and 1980s, Biden regularly claimed to have been an activist in the civil rights movement and said he participated in sit-ins along U.S. Route 40 in Delaware in 1961.

”When I was 17 years old, I participated in sit-ins to desegregate restaurants and movie houses in my state, and my stomach turned upon hearing the voices of Faubus and Barnett, and my soul raged upon seeing the dogs of Bull Connor,” said Biden in 1983.

Biden also claimed to have organized a boycott of a segregated restaurant in Wilmington called The Pit when he was in high school after the restaurant refused to serve a black member of his football team. “I organized a civil rights boycott because they wouldn’t serve black kids. One of our football players was black and we went there and they said they wouldn’t serve him. And I said to the others, ‘Hey, we can’t go in there.’ So we all left,” said Biden.

The football player contradicted Biden’s account and said Biden was not aware of the incident until later.

“They weren’t aware of what happened,” said the football player in 1987. “I was only 16 then. It was my problem and my battle for me to work out. They were oblivious to it until later.”

When Biden dropped out of the 1988 presidential race amid his plagiarism scandal, he said the extent of his civil rights participation was working at an all-black swimming pool for a summer in college. “During the 1960s, I was in fact very concerned about the civil rights movement. I was not an activist. I worked at an all-black swimming pool in the east side of Wilmington, Delaware,” he said. “I was involved in what they were thinking, what they were feeling. But I was not out marching. I was not down in Selma. I was not anywhere else. I was a suburbanite kid who got a dose of exposure to what was happening to black Americans.”

6. Biden said he criticized President George W. Bush during lengthy private meetings in the Oval Office

Biden claimed in 2009 that he spent “a lot of hours alone” with President George W. Bush and bluntly rebuked the president over his foreign policy decisions.

“I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office,” Biden told CNN, “‘Well, Joe,’ he said, ‘I’m a leader.’ And I said: ‘Mr. President, turn around and look behind you. No one is following.’”

Bush aides told Fox News in 2009 that they did not recall Biden ever meeting alone with the president or making such a comment.

“The president would never sit through two hours of Joe Biden,” Candida P. Wolff, Bush’s White House liaison to Congress, told Fox News. “I don’t ever remember Biden being in the Oval. He was such a blowhard on all that stuff — there wasn’t a reason to bring him in.”

Habitual lying is a sign of bad character. Another lie is even worse, as reported by Jack Fowler:

In the #MeTooMaybe hoopla over the former vice president’s hair-sniffing and hand-slipping and personal space-invading, much cataloguing of Joe Biden’s peccadillos has emerged — for example, in Jonah Goldberg’s new column. It’s a handy summary.

But missed in these lists is a deeply troubling — I guess the right word is “lie.” It is one that Biden contrived — or at least perpetuated — over a deeply painful event: the death of his first wife and daughter. The lie hides in plain sight, amongst all the other oddball anecdotes (like his vowing to use his rosary beads as a choking device), maybe because it is so amazingly brazen, and because of its complete lack of being — here, I guess the right word might be “unnecessary.”

The sad story is 29-year-old senator-elect Biden received the horrible call in December, 1972, that there was an accident in which his wife Neilia and baby daughter Naomi were killed, and his young sons Beau and Hunter severely hurt. Mrs. Biden seems to have driven into a busy intersection, into the path of an oncoming truck. Its driver was Curtis Dunn. Investigators found him blameless. Of no surprise, according to his family, his involvement in the deaths of Mrs. Biden and her daughter weighed on Dunn until his own death in 1999.

It was a heartbreaking story all around, and with officials leaving no doubt of the truck driver’s complete innocence, what was the point of doing or saying anything more than letting Neilia and Naomi Biden rest in peace? As for Joe Biden, the tragedy was so utter that the accident’s circumstances were best left unremarked. Never mind unembellished.

But embellished they became. When exactly, we don’t know. Why? That’s a question the answer to which is unfathomable — or if for political purposes, utterly deplorable. For some reason, the evidence shows, in the early 2000s, Joe Biden began to remark in public that his wife had died at the hands of someone who “allegedly . . . drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch.” That Curtis Dunn “was an errant driver who stopped to drink.” That drunk-driver story spread into news accounts. The Dunn family, who had strong sympathy for Biden, was shocked by the sullying of their now-dead father. They wrote the senator and asked him to stop and reminded him of the exonerating investigation. When that didn’t happen, they went public. Per a 2010 Biden profile in The Atlantic:

For many years, he described the driver of the truck that struck and killed his first wife and their daughter in December 1972 as drunk, which he apparently was not. The tale could hardly be more tragic; why add in a baseless charge? The family of the truck driver has labored to correct the record, but Biden made the reference to drunkenness as recently as 2007, needlessly resurrecting a false and painful accusation.

This is truly disturbing. But by our current standards, hair-sniffing rates condemnation, while the false accusation of an innocent dead man, and the embellishment of a personal tragedy — could the Biden tragedy be more tragic? — are forgotten and/or ignored.

This says so much more about Biden the man than any too-close shoulder grasp ever could. It also says plenty about the contrition junkies who influence America’s news cycle, and, as Jim Geraghty pointed out recently, about the media who for many years had dutifully served as Joe Biden’s reputational bodyguard.

I can already anticipate a liberal reading this will come up with his or her own list of Donald Trump’s lies. The question to ask that liberal is why he or she accepts behavior from a Democrat that he or she does not accept from a Republican.

 

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A mass murder motive

The Washington Post:

Before the slaughter of dozens of people in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso this year, the accused gunmen took pains to explain their fury, including their hatred of immigrants. The statements that authorities think the men posted online share another obsession: overpopulation and environmental degradation.

The alleged Christchurch shooter, who is charged with targeting Muslims and killing 51 people in March, declared himself an “eco-fascist” and railed about immigrants’ birthrates. The statement linked to the El Paso shooter, who is charged with killing 22 people in a shopping area this month, bemoans water pollution, plastic waste and an American consumer culture that is “creating a massive burden for future generations.”

The two mass shootings appear to be extreme examples of ecofascism — what Hampshire College professor emerita Betsy Hartmann calls “the greening of hate.”

Many white supremacists have latched onto environmental themes, drawing connections between the protection of nature and racial exclusion. These ideas have shown themselves to be particularly dangerous when adopted by unstable individuals prone to violence and convinced that they must take drastic actions to stave off catastrophe.

The alleged El Paso shooter’s document is full of existential despair: “My whole life I have been preparing for a future that currently doesn’t exist.”

In recent years, the mainstream environmental movement has moved strongly in the direction of social justice — the opposite of what hate groups seek. Now, the leaders of those organizations fear white nationalists are using green messages to lure young people to embrace racist and nativist agendas.

“Hate is always looking for an opportunity to grab hold of something,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, a vice president of the National Wildlife Federation and an expert on environmental justice. “That’s why they use this ecological language that’s been around for a while, and they try to reframe it.”

Michelle Chan, vice president of programs for Friends of the Earth, said, “The key thing to understand here is that ecofascism is more an expression of white supremacy than it is an expression of environmentalism.”

This is all happening in a rhetorically and ideologically overheated era in which public discourse is becoming toxic, not only in the dark corners of the Internet but among those occupying the highest elective offices. Environmental activists want to create a sense of urgency about climate change, the loss of biodiversity and other insults to the natural world, but they don’t want their messages to drive people into deranged ideologies.

There is a danger of “apocalypticism,” said Jon Christensen, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who has written extensively on the use and misuse of dystopian environmental scenarios.

It’s important, he said, to provide people with potential solutions and reasons to be hopeful: “There’s definitely a danger of people taking dire measures when they feel there’s no way out of it.”

Hartmann, who has tracked ecofascism for more than two decades, echoes that warning, saying environmentalists “need to steer away from this apocalyptic discourse because it too easily plays into the hands of apocalyptic white nationalism.”

The leaders of several major environmental organizations say that white supremacy is antithetical to their movement.

“What we saw in the El Paso manifesto is a myopic, hateful, deadly ideology that has no place in the environmental movement,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

Echoing that was Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists: “We need to speak out so that our members know that under no circumstances are we buying into this kind of philosophy.”

The alleged gunmen in El Paso and Christchurch did not emerge from the green movement. The documents attributed to them are primarily focused on race, cultural identity, immigration and the fear of a “great replacement” of whites by people of other races. The “eco” part of the equation is arguably an add-on.

But these people did not come up with their hateful ideologies in a vacuum. They have tapped into ideas about nature that are in broad circulation among white nationalists. Before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, for example, white nationalist leader Richard Spencer published a manifesto that had a plank on protecting nature.

Ecofascism has deep roots. There is a strong element of it in the Nazi emphasis on “blood and soil,” and the fatherland, and the need for a living space purified of alien and undesirable elements.

Meanwhile, leaders of mainstream environmental groups are quick to acknowledge that their movement has an imperfect history when it comes to race, immigration and inclusiveness. Some early conservationists embraced the eugenics movement that saw “social Darwinism” as a way of improving the human race by limiting the birthrates of people considered inferior.

“There’s this idea coming out of the eugenics movement that nature, purity, conservation were linked to purity of the race,” said Hartmann, the author of “The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War and our Call to Greatness.”

Conservationists have a long history of wrestling with questions about immigration and population growth. Some of those on the environmental left have seen the explosion in the human population — which is nearing 8 billion and has more than doubled in the past half-century — as a primary driver of the environmental crisis. That argument has then been adopted by racists.

The alleged Christchurch shooter began his online screed by writing, “It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates,” and then warned of the “invasion” by immigrants who will “replace the White people who have failed to reproduce.”

The document thought to have been posted by the alleged El Paso shooter cites birthrates among the “invaders” trying to enter the United States and asserts, “If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable.”

This line of thought is dismaying to Paul Ehrlich, 87, a professor emeritus at Stanford University whose 1968 bestseller, “The Population Bomb,” proved hugely influential.

“They often cite me, even though I’ve spent my life trying to fight racism,” Ehrlich said.

John Holdren, a Harvard professor who co-authored articles with Ehrlich and later served eight years as President Barack Obama’s science adviser, said the environmental movement grappled decades ago with the perceived racist undertones of the emphasis on population growth.

“A lot of people felt they were getting burned by talking about population growth and its adverse impact,” Holdren said. As a result, he said, the movement’s leaders began focusing on the education and empowerment of women, which has led to falling birthrates around the world as women take control of their reproductive lives.

A refrain among environmentalists is that if anti-immigrant groups are genuinely concerned about degradation of the natural world, they’re targeting the wrong people. Climate change hasn’t been driven by poor people struggling to get by. The activities of wealthy nations have been the main historical source of greenhouse gas emissions, the depletion of natural resources and the destruction of habitats.

Ali, the environmental justice expert, said he often hears people say population growth is the big problem today, and he shoots that down.

“My response to them is, ‘Who are the people we need to limit? Who are the people making decisions about that?’ . . . Until we have true equity and equality and a balance of power, then we know vulnerable communities are going to end up on the negative side of the ledger, whatever the tough choices are,” Ali said.

Interesting that the apocalyptic language used by environmentalists for decades is now paying off.

A real conservative, and not

George S. Will:

Regimes, however intellectually disreputable, rarely are unable to attract intellectuals eager to rationalize the regimes’ behavior. America’s current administration has “national conservatives.” They advocate unprecedented expansion of government in order to purge America of excessive respect for market forces, and to affirm robust confidence in government as a social engineer allocating wealth and opportunity. They call themselves conservatives, perhaps because they loathe progressives, although they seem not to remember why.

The Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass advocates “industrial policy” — what other socialists call “economic planning” — because “market economies do not automatically allocate resources well across sectors.” So, government, he says, must create the proper “composition” of the economy by rescuing “vital sectors” from “underinvestment.” By allocating resources “well,” Cass does notmean efficiently — to their most economically productive uses. He especially means subsidizing manufacturing, which he says is the “primary” form of production because innovation and manufacturing production are not easily “disaggregated.”

Manufacturing jobs, Cass’s preoccupation, are, however, only 8% of U.S. employment. Furthermore, he admits that as government, i.e., politics, permeates the economy on manufacturing’s behalf, “regulatory capture,” other forms of corruption and “market distortions will emerge.” Emerge? Using government to create market distortions is national conservatism’s agenda.

The national conservatives’ pinup du jour is Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who, like the president he reveres, is a talented entertainer. Carlson says that what Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., calls “economic patriotism” sounds like “Donald Trump at his best.” Carlson approves how Warren excoriates U.S. companies’ excessive “loyalty” to shareholders. She wants the government to “act aggressively” and “intervene in markets” in order to stop “abandoning loyal American workers and hollowing out American cities.” Carlson darkly warns that this “pure old-fashioned economics” offends zealots “controlled by the banks.”

He adds: “The main threat to your ability to live your life as you choose does not come from government anymore, but it comes from the private sector.” Well. If living “as you choose” means living free from the friction of circumstances, the “threat” is large indeed. It is reality — the fact that individuals are situated in times and places not altogether of their choosing or making. National conservatives promise government can rectify this wrong.

Their agenda is much more ambitious than President Nixon’s 1971 imposition of wage and price controls, which were temporary fiascos. Their agenda is even more ambitious than the New Deal’s cartelization of industries, which had the temporary (and unachieved) purpose of curing unemployment. What national conservatives propose is government fine-tuning the economy’s composition and making sure resources are “well” distributed, as the government (i.e., the political class) decides, forever.

What socialists are so fond of saying, national conservatives are now saying: This time will be different. It never is, because government’s economic planning always involves the fatal conceit that government can aggregate, and act on, information more intelligently and nimbly than markets can.

National conservatives preen as defenders of the dignity of the rural and small-town — mostly white and non-college educated — working class. However, these defenders nullify the members’ dignity by discounting their agency. National conservatives regard the objects of their compassion as inert victims, who are as passive as brown paper parcels, awaiting government rescue from circumstances. In contrast, there was dignity in the Joad family (of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”), who, when the Depression and Dust Bowl battered Oklahoma, went west seeking work.

Right-wing anti-capitalism has a long pedigree as a largely aristocratic regret, symbolized by railroads — the noise, the soot, the lower orders not staying where they belong — that despoiled the Edenic tranquility of Europe’s landed aristocracy. The aristocrats were not wrong in seeing their supremacy going up in the smoke from industrialism’s smokestacks: Market forces powered by mass preferences do not defer to inherited status.

Although the national conservatives’ anti-capitalism purports to be populist, it would further empower the administrative state’s faux aristocracy of administrators who would decide which communities and economic sectors should receive “well”-allocated resources. Furthermore, national conservatism is paternalistic populism. This might seem oxymoronic, but so did “Elizabeth Warren conservatives” until national conservatives emerged as such. The paternalists say to today’s Joads: Stay put. We know what is best for you and will give it to you through government.

Will puts in words the discontent of many conservatives, that rather than correctly reducing the size and scope of government, Trump and other Republicans are perfectly fine with big government, as long as Republicans are in charge of that big government. Among the numerous problems with that school of thought is the idea that one election predicts the next election. If that were the case, then Democrats would have controlled everything after the 1994 and 2010 elections because of how the 1992 and 2008 elections turned out. Readers know that is not how 1994 and 2010 turned out. Six years after the 2002 election, which gave Republicans control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, Democrats won the presidential election, two years after Democrats took control of both houses of Congress.

Of course, not everyone agrees with Will, including Emile Doak:

There’s been much hand-wringing on the right over Donald Trump’s conservatism—or, more accurately, his perceived lack thereof. From the early days of the 2016 GOP primaries, venerable institutions of Official Conservatism denounced Trump’s departure from orthodoxy on issues ranging from tariffs to Iraq. There was the strange, brief, supposedly serious presidential run from Evan McMullin, a sort of last gasp effort to conserve the Conservatism brand: free markets, strong national defense, individual liberty, and the like. The subsequent launch of The Bulwark ensured that the McMullin gasp was more penultimate than conclusive.

The latest entry into the fray comes from George Will in the Washington Post. Will dismisses national conservatives as simply trying to rationalize the Trump administration’s behavior, and labels their economic thinking “Elizabeth Warren conservatism.” He excoriates Oren Cass as a socialist for suggesting that the United States adopt an industrial policy that allocates resources well rather than “to their most economically productive uses.” He scorns Tucker Carlson’s contention that the private sector now poses a greater threat to personal liberty than government, dismissing corporate power as “friction of circumstances.” To Will, national conservative arguments come at the expense of conservative principles. As he writes, national conservatives “advocate unprecedented expansion of government to purge America of excessive respect for market forces and to affirm robust confidence in government as a social engineer allocating wealth and opportunity. They call themselves conservatives, perhaps because they loathe progressives, although they seem to not remember why.”

The implication, of course, is that the legitimate reason to “loathe” progressives is not necessarily over a difference in political ends (are drag queen story hours good for our children? Do we want a nation in which our manufacturing base is owned by China?) but rather over political means: progressives’ willingness to consider governmental solutions to the social and economic problems that plague our nation. And further, that any openness to such remedial policies among conservatives requires forfeiture of the moniker. Herein lies the essential, un-conservative nature of Official Conservatism. What Will—and Max Boot and Gabe Schoenfeld and countless others—bemoan as unprincipled are not principles at all, but rather policies. These policies, from tariffs to immigration restrictions to troop reductions in Afghanistan, do deviate in important ways from those long associated with the political label “conservative.” They instead seek to conserve a uniquely American way of life—one that, if 2016 is any indication, voters think worthy of conservation. Indeed, the extent to which the language of conservation (“preserve,” “save,” “tradition,” “community”) has been absent from the conservative movementspeaks volumes about the truly un-conservative nature of the modern political right.

More importantly, these Trumpian deviations from established GOP policies often seek to correct the very social ills that those policies produced. Blind commitment to “strong national defense” gave us a generation mired in endless wars that have done little to actually defend the homeland and left their disproportionately working class communities to cope with the social destabilization that accompanies missing their would-be civic leaders. Fealty to “free markets” has hollowed out America’s industrial base and produced unprecedented concentrations of corporate power, which is in turn leveraged against conservative cultural ends—to say nothing of the economic toll on the middle of the country. Overemphasis on “individual liberty” has yielded a thoroughly libertine culture in which religious conservatives can conceive of no defense from the excesses of sexual and identity politics but to wave the First Amendment in vain, expecting equal protection for their “bigoted” views.

Enter Donald Trump. A disclaimer is in order, of course, as the irony of a thrice-married vulgarian acting as bulwark against social unraveling is not lost. Trump the man is but a brute instrument, a bull in a china shop bringing attention to the inability of Republican talking points to actually conserve anything worthwhile. His personal behavior, from philandering to boorish tweeting, merits condemnation when necessary. But wholesale dismissals of the broader Trump phenomenon along these lines are tiresome. At their best, the underlying themes that Trumpian policy reflects represent a far more classical, Burkean conservatism than anything the GOP has put forward in recent years precisely because they deviate from “principled” conservatives. The North Star of conservatism is no longer allegiance to a collapsing three-legged stool, but rather preservation of that which gives life meaning: productive work, strong families, cohesive culture.

One need only look at how the right’s leading lights define conservatism to illustrate the divergence. In the midst of his “principled” stand against the Trump candidacy at CPAC in 2016, Senator Ben Sasse made explicit the policy-principle confusion that has plagued the conservative movement: “Conservatism is a set of policy principles,” he said. Contrast that to candidate Trump, who, in his characteristically clumsy way a mere month earlier, defined conservative very differently: “I view the word conservative as a derivative of the word conserve…. We want to conserve our country. We want to save our country.”

Conservatism is not an ideology. It’s a disposition (and as such, is more appropriately discussed in its adjectival rather than noun form). As the founding editors of this magazine wrote, a conservative disposition is “the most natural political tendency, rooted in man’s taste for the familiar, for family, for faith in God.” It’s no wonder that Russell Kirk, a principal architect of American conservative politics, spoke so often of the permanent things. Those permanent things—faith, family, culture, country; the “elements in the human condition that give us our nature”—are the principles that must guide a conservative politics. Policy should seek to promote them, not vice versa. To the extent that Donald Trump can reorient our policy to serve those ends, he is the truly principled conservative.

To that came this comment:

Let’s be clear: Illiberalism is not conservatism. What the writer espouses is little more than a rear-facing form of Maoism. Conservatives focus on the means of policymaking because we believe that the true and the good have a way of rising to the surface. We also recognize that humans are prone to err, and that concentrated power has a tendency to suppress the truth in favor of entrenched interests.

I agree that Will isn’t interested in preserving some nostalgic vision of American life. He recognizes that time moves forward and that yesterday’s answers won’t always be tomorrow’s. The illiberalism that the writer promotes is indeed akin to “Elizabeth Warren conservatism.” Such illiberalism is marked less by a desire to preserve the good than by a paralyzing fear of the future.

When Goldwater lost the Presidency in 1968, many thought that the movement he started was finished. It wasn’t. It succeeded in large measure because men like George Will put in the hard work of promoting a message of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and respect for human life. All the while, Will raised a son with Down’s Syndrome, and remained a passionate advocate for those with special needs. Meanwhile, the writer is a 20-something-year-old kid whose accomplishments are but a drop in the bucket in comparison to Will’s. And that likely says it all. Will recognizes that wisdom lies at the heart of what it means to be a conservative. The writer, by contrast, promotes a conservatism that has no place for wisdom or the natural limits of human affairs. He desires an authoritarian system that picks winners and losers. Its only difference from progressivism is that it would pick different winners and losers. I’m thankful that George Will has the moral integrity to call out this illiberal faux conservatism as con that it is.

Which prompted this response …

It’s the George Wills who are unwilling to admit their many policy mistakes and who are contributing to the continued irrelevancy of conservatives. Progressives have super majorities up and down the west coast. This will continue if the war-mongers, corporate apologists and environmental denuders keep representing conservatism. The National Conservative movement is true conservatism and most importantly the only hope for conservatism in any form. I was a life-long Democrat and I have found National Conservatism quite appealing. I think others will as well as the movement grows.

… and this response:

After beating liberals over the head forever with wonders the free market, conservatives finally recognize it isn’t producing the results they want so now it’s OK to get government involved.

As someone who abides by the rule that Trump should get praise when he deserves praise and criticism when he deserves criticism, I’m not sure I see a movement as much as a coalescing around Trump’s positions, such as they are.

The Republican Party I grew up with, as led by Ronald Reagan, is not the current Republican Party. Reagan was an optimist, as were such conservatives as Newt Gingrich and Jack Kemp. (The Wall Street Journal terms its philosophy “Free markets and free men,” and since “men” obviously includes women in this reference perhaps you could call me a Wall Street Journal conservative.) Trump is certainly not, for what that’s worth.

The conservatism I grew up with emphasized free markets because free markets give the most power to the individual. Deemphasizing free markets and emphasizing government does not make individuals better off. The complaints about the power of corporations neglect the point that a business (and, by the way, those evil publicly traded corporations total 0.1 percent of American businesses) has to earn what it gets — sales of its products or services. Government takes what it wants.

It is most disturbing to see Republicans and conservatives abandon the free market, which has only led to unprecedented prosperity, as in the most wealth for the most people, in comparison with every other economic system in the history of the world. The concept that government, whether run by the left or the right, knows better than individual citizens, as the last two quoted seem to claim, is 100 percent wrong, especially if that’s what a Republican believes.

 

How to ruin your business

Back in my previous life as a business magazine editor, I quoted someone in a story who claimed that getting a new customer was five times as expensive as keeping an existing customer.

So what kind of brainiac thinks that alienating your existing customers to get new customers is a good business strategy? (Besides the creators of the eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette, that is.)

Dwight Longenecker has the answer:

Gillette is the largest shaving brand in the world. For years they’ve been raking in the cash for their overpriced razors and shave cream. But recently they’ve faced stiff competition from online suppliers. Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club ship shaving supplies to the door. Like most online retailers, they shave the price down and provide smooth customer service.

The online retailers appeal to the younger generation and are clearly the wave of the future. So last year Gillette decided to launch an ad campaign they thought would attract the younger generation. Their film We Believe: The Best Man Can Be was a self righteous, politically correct sermon haranguing men in the wake of the MeToo movement.

The ad made broad assumptions about men and the overwhelming prevalence of “toxic masculinity.” Men were portrayed as bullies and sexist, misogynistic, racist brutes. Then in May they launched an ad showing a man teaching his transgender son how to shave for the first time.

The ads bombed big time. They were ham-fisted politically correct propaganda. Not only did people dislike being patronized and preached to, but they resented the sappy, anti-masculine message. It seems men have voted with their wallets. Last week Gillette announced that it had taken a $5 billion dollar loss for the last quarter.

According to Washington Examinerthe head of Gillette is defiant. Defending his choices, CEO Gary Coombe admitted they were hoping to impress young shavers, “It was pretty stark: we were losing share, we were losing awareness and penetration, and something had to be done,” So they decided to “take a chance in an emotionally-charged way.”

The ads were indeed emotionally charged, but it doesn’t take a Madison Avenue professional to figure out that you don’t win customers by insulting them. Making a shaving product ad that insults men is on a par with McDonald’s scolding people for not being vegetarians. Duh.

Coombe was unrepentant, “I don’t enjoy that some people were offended by the film and upset at the brand as a consequence. That’s not nice and goes against every ounce of training I’ve had in this industry over a third of a century,” he said. “But I am absolutely of the view now that for the majority of people to fall more deeply in love with today’s brands you have to risk upsetting a small minority and that’s what we’ve done.”

What interests me about this whole debacle is the larger issue of commercial companies promoting progressive social agendas. Since when is it the business of business to preach to us? During the month of June why did so many American companies feel obliged to drape themselves in the LBGTQ rainbow flag?

Why do the executives at Ben and Jerry’s, Nike, Starbucks and umpteen other name brands feel they must use their platforms as bully pulpits? Even more disturbing, why do the puppet masters behind the scenes of the media giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feel it is their business to monitor, censor and impinge on free speech? …

Fortunately, in a free country the free market brings its own checks and balances. The Gillete company nicked themselves badly with their ill-advised ad campaign.

So now customers are abandoning them and their overpriced products. Boycotts are usually the customer’s best counter attack

I’m using a Harry’s razor now. Better shave, and the company apparently isn’t run by woke idiots.

 

What if?

Miranda Devine has a provocative question to ask:

You can’t walk through the streets of Manhattan these days without smelling weed.

Even as evidence mounts of the health problems associated with marijuana, New York has insisted on joining other greedy states scrambling to legalize this deceptively dangerous drug.

It makes no sense at a time when American youth is suffering from an unprecedented mental health crisis.

And, in all honesty, we cannot rule out a connection between increasing marijuana use, mental illness and the recent spate of mass shootings by disturbed young males.

We don’t yet know much about the mental state or drug use of the El Paso or Dayton killers. But a former girlfriend of Dayton killer Connor Betts, 24, has indicated he was mentally ill, and two of his friends interviewed by reporters this week mentioned his previous drug use.

Just last year, the Parents Opposed to Pot lobby group tried to sound the alarm on the link between marijuana and mass shootings, compiling a list of mass killers it claims were heavy users of marijuana from a young age, from Aurora, Colo., shooter James Holmes and Tucson, Ariz., shooter Jared Loughner to Chattanooga, Tenn., shooter Mohammad Abdulazeez.

Until we understand those links, it is nuts to enact lax laws that ­encourage more young people to use a drug proven to trigger mental illness.

President Trump was right to highlight mental illness in his remarks Wednesday on the El Paso and Dayton shootings, not that his unscrupulous critics will listen, so determined are they to brand him a white supremacist.

We know from a 2018 FBI report that 40% of “active shooters” in the US between 2008 and 2013 had been diagnosed with a mental illness before the attack and 70% had “mental health stressors” or “mental health concerning behaviors.”

So for anyone actually interested in preventing future such massacres, the so-called “red flag” legislation Trump is advocating to deny people with mental illness access to firearms is the most logical measure and the one most likely to be embraced by both sides of politics.

But it also should apply to marijuana use, seeing as the two go hand in hand.

You can’t address the youth mental health crisis without considering the effect of rising teen marijuana use.

Among American teenagers, the drug’s “daily use has become as, or more, popular than daily cigarette smoking” according to the National Institute of Health’s 2017 Monitoring the Future study.

We’ve successfully demonized cigarettes while new laws send kids the message that marijuana is harmless.

Yet we’ve known for more than a decade of the link between marijuana and psychosis, depression and schizophrenia.

In 2007 the prestigious medical journal Lancet recanted its previous benign view of marijuana, citing studies showing “an increase in risk of psychosis of about 40 percent.”

A seminal long-term study of 50,465 Swedish army conscripts found those who had tried marijuana by age 18 had 2.4 times the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia in the following 15 years than those who had never used the drug. Heavy users were 6.7 times more likely to be admitted to a hospital for schizophrenia.

Another study, of 1,037 people in New Zealand, found those who used cannabis at ages 15 and 18 had higher rates of psychotic symptoms at age 26 than non-users.

A 2011 study in the British Medical Journal of 2,000 teenagers found those who smoked marijuana were twice as likely to develop psychosis as those who didn’t.

Another BMJ study estimated that “13 percent of cases of schizophrenia could be averted if all cannabis use were prevented.”

That’s more than 400,000 Americans who could be saved from a fate worse than death.

Young people and those with a genetic predisposition are most at risk, particularly during adolescence, when the brain is exquisitely vulnerable.

The evidence of harm is overwhelming, and it defies logic to think that legalizing marijuana won’t increase the harm.

And yet marijuana activists pretend there is no problem and baby-boomer lawmakers, perhaps recalling their own youthful toking, ­ignore the science.

To make matters worse, the marijuana sold at legal dispensaries today is five times more potent than the pot of the 1970s and ’80s, according to a thoroughly researched new book by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson: “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Violence and Mental Health.”

Berenson reports that the first four states to legalize marijuana, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, have seen “sharp increases” in violent crime since 2014.

If we care about mental illness, which has been spiking up at an alarming rate in recent years among young people, especially teenage boys, we should care about the convincing evidence of marijuana-induced psychosis.

We didn’t have to wait for three mass shootings in two weeks to know that young males are in ­crisis.

Youth suicide is at an all-time high and rates of serious mental illness in this country are on the rise, especially among people aged 18 to 25, the cohort most likely to use marijuana.

Young people born in 1999, the birth year of the El Paso shooter, were 50% more likely than those born in 1985 to report feeling “serious psychological distress” in the previous month, according to an alarming study published this year in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

With all we know, it’s time to put the brakes on marijuana legalization before it’s too late.

You might say that there is no proven link between marijuana and mass shootings. You would be correct. There is also no proven link between violent video games and mass shootings. That’s not stopping anyone from proposing things to stop mass shootings without any evidence they actually will stop mass shootings.

What’s worse than doing nothing? Doing the wrong thing, particularly when you’re not sure what you want to do will achieve what you want to achieve. Unless, of course, your interest is in restricting people’s rights and really not in reducing violence.

 

When what you (think you) know is wrong

Christopher J. Ferguson:

When 22 people were killed in El Paso, Texas, and nine more were killed in Dayton, Ohio, roughly 12 hours later, responses to the tragedy included many of the same myths and stereotypes Americans have grown used to hearing in the wake of a mass shooting.

As part of my work as a psychology researcher, I study mass homicides, as well as society’s reaction to them. A lot of bad information can follow in the wake of such emotional events; clear, data-based discussions of mass homicides can get lost among political narratives.

I’d like to clear up four common misconceptions about mass homicides and who commits them, based on the current state of research.

By Monday morning after these latest shootings, President Donald Trumpalong with other Republican politicians had linked violent video games to mass shootings.

I’ll admit my surprise, since only last year the Trump administration convened a School Safety Commission which studied this issue, among many others. I myself testified, and the commission ultimately did not conclude there was sufficient evidence to link games and media to criminal violence.

Long-term studies of youthconsistently find that violent games are not a risk factor for youth violence anywhere from one to eight years later. And no less than the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 2011 that scientific studies had failed to link violent games to serious aggression in kids.

A 2017 public policy statement by the American Psychological Association’s media psychology and technology division specifically recommended politicians should stop linking violent games to mass shootings. It’s time to lay this myth to rest.

Early reports suggest that the El Paso shooter was a white racist concerned about Latino immigration. Other shooters, such as the perpetrator of the Christchurch, New Zealand, attack, have also been white supremacists.

Overall, though, the ethnic composition of the group of all mass shooters in the U.S. is roughly equivalent to the American population.

Hateful people tend to be attracted to hateful ideologies. Some shootings, such as the 2016 shooting of police officers in Dallas, were reportedly motivated by anti-white hatred. Other shooters, such as the 2015 San Bernardino husband and wife perpetrator team, have espoused other hateful ideas such as radical Islam.

Most mass homicide perpetrators don’t proclaim any allegiance to a particular ideology at all.

Of course, mass homicides in other nations—such as several deadly knifeattacks in Japan—don’t involve U.S. race issues.

As far as gender, it’s true that most mass homicide perpetrators are male. A minority of shooters are female, and they may target their own families.

Whether mental illness is or is not related to mass shootings—or criminal violence more broadly—is a nuanced question. Frankly, proponents on both sides often get this wrong by portraying the issue as clear-cut.

As far back as 2002, a U.S. Secret Service report based on case studies and interviews with surviving shooters identified mental illness—typically either psychosis or suicidal depression—as very common among mass homicide perpetrators.

As for violence more broadly, mental illness, such as psychosis as well as a mixture of depression with antisocial traits, is a risk factor for violent behavior.

Some people suggest mental illness is completely unrelated to crime, but that claim tends to rely on mangled statistics. For instance, I’ve seen the suggestion that individuals with mental illness account for just five percent of violent crimes. However, that assertion is based on research like one Swedish study that limited mental illness to psychosis only, which is experienced by about one percent or less of the population. If one percent of people commit five percent of crimes, that suggests psychosis elevates the risk of crime.

It’s also important to point out that the vast majority of people with mental illness do not commit violent crimes. For instance, in one study, about 15 percent of people with schizophrenia had committed violent crimes, as compared to 4 percent of a group of people without schizophrenia. Although this clearly identifies the increase in risk, it also highlights that the majority of people with schizophrenia had not committed violent crimes. It’s important not to stigmatize the mentally ill, which may reduce their incentive to seek treatment.

So improving access to mental health services would benefit a whole range of people and, by coincidence, occasionally bring treatment to someone at risk of committing violence. But focusing only on mental health is unlikely to put much of a dent in societal violence.

Mass homicides get a lot of news coverage which keeps our focus on the frequency of their occurrence. Just how frequent is sometimes muddled by shifting definitions of mass homicide, and confusion with other terms such as active shooter.

But using standard definitions, most data suggest that the prevalence of mass shootings has stayed fairly consistent over the past few decades.

To be sure, the U.S. has experienced many mass homicides. Even stability might be depressing given that rates of other violent crimes have declinedprecipitously in the U.S. over the past 25 years. Why mass homicides have stayed stagnant while other homicides have plummeted in frequency is a question worth asking.

Nonetheless, it does not appear that the U.S. is awash in an epidemic of such crimes, at least comparing to previous decades going back to the 1970s.

Mass homicides are horrific tragedies and society must do whatever is possible to understand them fully in order to prevent them. But people also need to separate the data from the myths and the social, political and moral narratives that often form around crime.

Only through dispassionate consideration of good data will society understand how best to prevent these crimes.

Here’s another one: The murder rate in the U.S., even with all our access to guns, ranks 83rd in the world.

John Lott adds:

The logic goes that President Trump is a right winger and a racist, and that therefore he is in league with and responsible for mass public shootings by white supremacists. Supposedly, there has been a flood of these mass public shootings because Trump has engendered a culture of hatred.

But Trump’s political views are worlds apart from those of the El Paso and New Zealand killers. Both were extreme environmentalists who opposed immigration because they thought that overpopulation would damage the environment.

The El Paso killer’s environmentalism was clearly the basis for his anti-immigrant views: “Our lifestyle is destroying the environment of our country. The decimation of the environment is creating a massive burden for future generations. Corporations are heading the destruction of our environment by shamelessly overharvesting resources. This has been a problem for decades. . . . If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable.” …

The Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) collected data on the race and ideology (political and religious) of mass public shooters. Since 1998, 58% of these killers have indeed been white, but this percentage is smaller than the white share of the US population (64%, as of 2015). Middle Easterners are by far the most overrepresented among mass public shooters, given that they represent about 1% of the US population and 8% of mass public shooters. Blacks, Asians, and American Indians are also overrepresented. Hispanics are the most underrepresented, committing attacks at a rate that is little more than a third of their share of the population.

Environmental extremism is on the rise, and doomsayers on the left should take some responsibility for the unhinged frame of mind that many young Americans now occupy. Trump certainly didn’t inspire this strain of environmental fanaticism. But instead of having an honest conversation about where such fanaticism comes from, the media would rather just stereotype all angry white males as “right-wingers” and warn of a “white nationalist terrorism crisis.”

Trump’s supporters

It is somewhat amazing that The Atlantic printed this:

Donald Trump’s supporters would like to be clear: They are tired of being called racists.

Leave it to the president’s eldest son to set the tone. Last night at the 17,500-person-capacity U.S. Bank Arena downtown here, Donald Trump Jr. strode onto the stage two hours before the president was scheduled to speak. The venue was already brimming.

It had been a rough week for his father. On July 28, President Trump was once again deemed racist after lashing out at House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, whose district includes part of Baltimore. Trump referred to the city 40 miles north of Washington as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” in which “no human being would want to live.” Those comments came shortly after the president suggested that four progressive congresswomen of color “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” prompting the crowd at his July 17 rally in Greenville, North Carolina, to chant, “Send her back!” Trump—though he later disavowed the chant—did nothing to stop it.

Last night, Trump supporters in Cincinnati were eager to defend their man.

“It’s amazing that when Donald Trump makes a comment about Baltimore, it’s racist, it’s terrible, it’s this. But when the mayor of that town, when the congressman from that town, says the exact same thing, ‘Oh! No problem!’” Trump Jr. boomed, referring to a statement that Cummings made in 1999, calling Baltimore “drug-infested.”

“It’s sad,” he continued, “that using ‘racism’ has become the easy button of left-wing politics. All right? Because guess what? It still is an issue … But by making a mockery of it by saying every time you can’t win a fight—‘Oh! We’re just gonna push the button! It’s racist’—you hurt those that are actually afflicted by it. People hear it, they roll their eyes, and they walk on. And that’s a disgrace, and that’s what you’ve been given in the identity politics of the left.”

The crowd erupted in jeers and boos. It was a segment of Jr.’s speech that in many ways echoed that of a speaker who’d appeared before him, Brandon Straka, a gay Trump supporter who founded the WalkAway movement to encourage people to leave the Democratic Party. “Insinuations of bigotry and racism,” Straka claimed, were “divisive tactics” used by the “liberal media to control minorities in this country.” “This is a president who serves minorities,” he said, “because he loves minorities.”

As speakers mounted their defenses of the president, it seemed apparent that supporters were cheering them on as a means of affirming not just Trump, but also themselves. Because to accuse a politician of holding virulent racist beliefs is also, if only implicitly, to condemn his or her voters of harboring those same tendencies.

And that’s what the rally-goers I spoke to last night seemed most nonplussed by—not so much that Trump had been roundly condemned in recent days as a racist, or a bigot, but that they, by virtue of association, had been as well. But rather than distancing them from Trump, the accusations have only seemed to strengthen their support of this president. To back down, they suggested, would be to bow down to the scourge of political correctness.

“We’re all tired of being called racists,” a 74-year-old bespectacled white man named Richard Haines told me. “You open your mouth, you’re a racist. My daughter is a liberal, and she’s [using the word] all the time. We don’t talk politics; we can’t—all the time she always accuses me of hate.”

Haines, who told me he had just returned to the United States from Thailand, where he had done missionary work for 15 years with impoverished children, said that he knew what real racism looked like—that his father was a “bigot” who “didn’t like black people.”

“Donald is not racist, you know?” Haines said. “He makes a statement, and they take the words out of context and try to twist everything so that he’s a racist. And I think it’s gonna backfire.”

Before the rally began, I sat down on the floor of the arena with two women—Roseanna, 50, and Amy, 48—who felt similarly. (Neither woman was comfortable providing her last name for this story.) Roseanna, who wore a red T-shirt, white shorts, and a MAGA hat adorned with multiple buttons, including one featuring the likeness of Hillary Clinton behind bars, had driven an hour and a half from Lexington, Kentucky. She defended Trump’s statements about Baltimore. “He didn’t say nothing about the color of somebody’s skin,” Roseanna said, yet it seemed like everyone was “wishing him toward ‘He’s a bigot.’

“I’m sick to death of it. I have 13 grandchildren—13,” she continued. “Four of them are biracial, black and white; another two of them are black and white; and another two of them are Singapore and white. You think I’m a racist? I go and I give them kids kisses like nobody’s business.”

When I asked Roseanna and Amy whether they would join in a “Send her back!” chant were it to take place that night, both women said no, but out of deference to Trump. “He apologized for that, so I think us as Trump supporters will respect him for that,” Roseanna said. She then shared her thoughts on the chant’s target, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who came to America as a refugee from Somalia.

“Look, but she is gonna get—you know, I don’t want her stinkin’ Muslim crap in my country,” Roseanna said.

“Sharia law,” Amy chimed in. Her iridescent CoverGirl highlighter glinted under the stadium lights. “Sharia law.”

“That’s not America,” Roseanna said. “She is a Muslim through and through …She wants that all here.” She wondered aloud whether Omar had come to the U.S. illegally. (There is no evidence this is true.)

After a pump-up playlist that included Elton John, The Sundays, and Céline Dion, and after a brief speech by Vice President Mike Pence, the president himself took the stage. It wasn’t long before Trump brought up “the four congresswomen” and bemoaned the conditions of inner cities after years of Democratic leadership. He said he could name one city after another that’s “failed,” “but I won’t do that.” He flashed a grin. “I don’t want to be controversial.” (Multiple rally-goers shouted, “Baltimore!”)

The president’s speech was ultimately more memorable for what wasn’t said than for what was. The rally included its share of greatest hits—a “Build the wall” demand here, a “Lock her up” chant there, a rant about windmills as bird killers, among other things—but there were no deafening incantations about ejecting American citizens of color from their home.

Robert Morris, a 72-year-old man who was fixing his van outside the arena before the rally started, had predicted as much to me. “We’re not that kind. They got a little carried away there,” he said of the Greenville crowd. Morris, too, said he was tired of being called a racist. Just yesterday, he said, he’d given a stranger $20 to help his foster child, who was black. And he sends money as often as he can to a school charity in the Dominican Republic. So if anybody started a chant like that, Morris said, “I’ll tell them, ‘Shut it down. You’re acting like them. We’re not them.’ The Democrats—they call names, they accuse, they’re always slandering, they always have a negative.”

“Send her back?” No, he said, that wouldn’t happen again, because “we’re positive.” He chuckled a bit. “But I’d buy her a ticket so she can go on a cruise back.” Omar was, he said, “a very ungrateful person.”

Imagine if the news media tried to understand Trump supporters instead of merely denigrating them as racist hicks, as I’m sure most of The Atlantic’s readers did upon reading this.

A purpose of the Second Amendment

David French:

Few things are more frustrating than watching members of the media, politicians, and activists who often know very little about guns, have the resources to hire security when they face threats, and don’t understand the weapons criminals use telling me what I “need” to protect my family. And what they invariably tell me I “need” is a weapon less powerful than the foreseeable criminal threat.

Or, let me put it another way. My family has been threatened by white nationalists. Why should they outgun me?

Few things concentrate the mind more than the terrifying knowledge that a person might want to harm or kill someone you love. It transforms the way you interact with the world. It makes you aware of your acute vulnerability and the practical limitations of police protection.

If you’re wealthy, you have a quick response: Hire professionals to help. Let them worry about weapons and tactics. If you’re not wealthy, then your mind gets practical, fast. You have to understand what you may well face. And despite the constant refrain that semi-automatic weapons with large-capacity magazines are “weapons of war,” if you know anything about guns you know that what the media calls a large-capacity magazine is really standard-capacity on millions upon millions of handguns sold in the United States.

This means it’s entirely possible that a person coming to shoot you is carrying something like, say, a Glock 19 with a standard 15-round magazine.

So, how do I meet that threat? Unless you’re a highly trained professional who possesses supreme confidence in your self-defense skills, you meet it at the very least with an equivalent weapon, and preferably with superior firepower.

In a nutshell that’s why my first line of defense in my home is an AR-15. One of the most ridiculous lines in yesterday’s New York Post editorial endorsing an assault-weapons ban was the assertion that semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 are “regularly used only in mass shootings.” False, false, false. I use one to protect my family.

Why? The answer is easy. As a veteran, I’ve trained to use a similar weapon. I’m comfortable with it, it’s more powerful and more accurate than the handgun I carry or the handgun an intruder is likely to carry, and, while opinions vary, multiple self-defense experts agree with me that it’s an excellent choice for protecting one’s home.

What’s more, like the vast, vast majority of people who own such a weapon, I use it responsibly and safely. Don’t believe me? It’s the most popular rifle in the United States — one of the most popular weapons of any kind, in fact — and it’s used in fewer murders than blunt objects or hands and feet.

Here is the fundamental, quite real, problem that gun-control advocates face when they try to persuade the gun-owning public to support additional restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms: The burden of every single currently popular large-scale gun-control proposal will fall almost exclusively on law-abiding gun owners.

Even in the case of our dreadful epidemic of mass shootings, the available evidence indicates that so-called “common sense” gun-control proposals popular in the Democratic party (and the New York Post) are ineffective at stopping these most committed of killers. As my colleague Robert VerBruggen pointed out yesterday, a large-scale RAND Corporation review “uncovered ‘no qualifying studies showing that any of the 13 policies we investigated decreased mass shootings.’”

It’s one thing to ask millions of Americans to sacrifice their security for the sake of the larger common good. It’s quite another to ask for that same sacrifice in the absence of evidence that the policy will accomplish what it is designed to accomplish.

The criminal who seeks to harm my family has already demonstrated that he has no regard for the law. He doesn’t care about magazine-size restrictions or rhetoric about “weapons of war.” He doesn’t care that he evaded a background check or that he placed his girlfriend in legal jeopardy by using her as a straw purchaser. He doesn’t care if a previous felony conviction renders his gun possession unlawful.

By contrast, I care about the law. I want to remain law-abiding, and I want my family to remain law-abiding. I have immense respect for our nation’s legal system and its political processes. And so, as a person who has that respect and who also feels the keen anxiety of real threats aimed at the people I love the most, I’m making a simple request: Don’t give the white nationalists an advantage. Don’t give violent criminals the edge in any conflict with peaceful citizens.

In your well-meaning ignorance, you seek to provide greater security at the price of liberty. In reality, you would sacrifice both to no good end.

As the phrase goes (and police officers I know do not deny this), when help is needed in seconds, the police are there in minutes.

The solution for our political problems

J.D. Tuccille agreed with me:

Speaking on CNN Sunday morning, Democratic donor Tom Steyer blamed recent political violence, included attempted pipe bombings and the murderous attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, on the nasty rhetoric of Republican President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Despite his own taste for throwing around the word “treason” and speculating that a nuclear war might be necessary to get Americans to turn against Trump, he might be forgiven his excess—he was the target of one of those bombs, after all. Yet, as leaders of both major American political tribes portray their enemies as not just wrong on policy but dangerous and depraved, they both bear responsibility for making government so frighteningly powerful that Americans increasingly feel that they can’t afford to lose control of governing institutions.

In the current environment, even when Americans don’t love their political allies, they hate their opponents—and have reason to fear their turn in power.

“Record numbers of voters in 2016 were dissatisfied with their own party’s presidential nominee and the opposing party’s nominee,” according to Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster. So the deciding factor came down to the fact that “large majorities of Democrats and Republicans truly despised the opposing party’s nominee.”

“Negative views of the opposing party are a major factor” in why people belong to political parties, Pew Research agreed this spring. In the U.S., many Democrats and Republicans alike say “a major reason they identify with their own party is that they have little in common with members of the other party.”

Pew had already found that “sizable shares of both Democrats and Republicans say the other party stirs feelings of not just frustration, but fear and anger.”

Why such fright and rage? Is it all about mean words?

No. Heated rhetoric is nothing new (the founders blistered each others’ ears) and insufficient by itself to inspire a Trump supporter to send pipe bombs to prominent Democrats, or to inspire a Bernie Sanders fan to shoot a Republican congressman and several others. Nor are the idiot leftists and right-wingers pounding on each other in PortlandNew York CityCharlottesville, and elsewhere otherwise placid people moved to violence by politicians’ intemperate words. Heated rhetoric and violence have resulted and escalated as government has grown in size and power—and been weaponized for use by those holding the reins against those they see as enemies.

Officials can be vindictive creatures, eager to use the power of the state to penalize those whose lifestyles, economic activity, and political affiliations they dislike. Tax power was long ago turned to such misuse, probably because tax collectors had authority to intrude into people’s lives before other government employees gained such clout. “My father may have been the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution,” Elliott Roosevelt observed of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In recent years, federal officials have abused their regulatory authority to squeeze financial institutions to cut off funds to critics such as Wikileaks. The practice was formalized at the federal level by Operation Chokepoint, which sought to deny financial services to businesses that were perfectly legal, but disfavored in certain circles, such as adult entertainers, gun shops, and payday lenders.

New York’s governor extended the abuse of state regulatory power over banks to target not just firearms dealers, but advocates of self-defense rights such as “the NRA or similar gun promotion organizations.”

President Trump has openly pushed the Justice Department to investigate Democrats who have rubbed him the wrong way. He also sees security clearances as personal favors to be doled out to friends and denied to critics. In this, he follows on his predecessor’s distaste for “enemies” and willingness to misuse the organs of government—including the IRS—as weapons.

Even those Americans who aren’t especially concerned with politics can find themselves on the receiving end of laws weaponized for use against businesses and pastimes that those currently in power associate with their political enemies.

“[T]he separation here seeps into the micro level, down to the particular neighborhoods, schools, churches, restaurants and clubs that tend to attract one brand of partisan and repel the other,” the Washington Post reported in 2016 of an era when lifestyle and partisan affiliation increasingly correlate. That makes it easy to punish partisan opponents through things they enjoy, such as hunting, marijuana, and brands of cars, without running afoul of constitutional protections for the way they vote.

There are few areas of human life into which government has not inserted itself. “More and more of what we do is dependent on permission from the government,” I noted in July. “That permission, unsurprisingly, is contingent on keeping government officials happy.”

If the government can reach into virtually every area of life, can grant or deny permission to make a living or enjoy pastimes, and has a documented history of abusing such authority for petty and vindictive reasons, why wouldn’t you be afraid of your enemies wielding such power? How could you avoid growing fearful and angry over their anticipated conduct once they took their inevitable turn in office? And what would you say—and eventually do—to stop them? Especially, if you were a little unhinged to begin with.

Are politicians further stirring the pot with nasty rhetoric about their critics and opponents? Maybe. We may well find that the man who murderously attacked a Pittsburgh synagogue and the guy who mailed poisonous ricin to U.S. officials became more prone to act in an environment in which overt expressions of hatred have become common.

But that rhetoric and the related partisan rancor have been building for years as government has become inescapable, and as victorious factions have used their time in power to punish those who lost the last battle—only to suffer in turn as the wheel turns. If you want violent political battles for control of government to end, make politics matter much, much less. When Americans have less to fear no matter who wins political office, they’ll be less prone to viciously fight each other for control of government.

Everything wrong with politics today is because of the outsized stakes in elections. The more power government has — taxation, regulation or laws that exceed the bounds government should have at any level — the more imperative winning elections is. Nasty rhetoric and (by some definition) too much campaign spending is the logical result.

 

The post-Obama Democrats

S.A. Miller and Seth McLaughlin:

Democratic voters are still enamored with former President Barack Obama, but the party’s 2020 presidential hopefuls are running away from his policies as fast as they can.

Although many voters say they are searching for an Obama-esque standard-bearer to run against President Trump, the candidates say the former president was a failure on immigration, health care and trade.

Even former Vice President Joseph R. Biden tossed overboard the man he called his “brother from another mother.” He griped during the Democratic presidential debate Wednesday that Obamacare needs changes, the trade deal they negotiated falls short and too many illegal immigrants were deported.

“Absolutely not,” he said when pressed on whether he would continue Obama administration deportation policies, which resulted in 400,000 removals a year, a figure that outraged liberal activists.

The Obama legacy took hits from Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California. She described the Affordable Care Act, often touted as Mr. Obama’s biggest accomplishment, as unacceptable “status quo.”

Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey trashed the former president’s immigration legacy.

Deflecting criticism of his own administration, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio faulted the Obama Justice Department’s handling of the 2014 killing of Eric Garner, a black man who died in a chokehold by city police during his arrest for selling cigarettes on the street.

Mr. Biden pivoted Thursday to more forcefully defend Mr. Obama’s record.

“I was a little surprised about how much incoming there was about Barack,” he said at a campaign stop at a Detroit diner. “I’m proud of having served with him. I’m proud of the job he did. I don’t think there is anything he has to apologize for.”

Mr. Biden didn’t reverse course on where he distanced himself from the country’s first black president.

However, he defended the Obama immigration record, citing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deportation amnesty granted to illegal immigrant “Dreamers.” He said the number of deportations was a poor yardstick for the administration’s accomplishments.

“The idea it’s somehow comparable to what this guy’s doing is bizarre,” he said.

Zach Friend, a Democratic strategist who worked on Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, said it was a mistake to mess with the former president, whose popularity among Democrats has been as high as 97% in recent polls.

“It seems counterproductive to focus on concerns with his legacy rather than on President Trump’s current policies,” he said. “Ultimately, the differences in shades of blue between these candidates pale in comparison to the differences between these candidates and the policies of the current administration. The focus should be united on how we will make the lives better for everyday Americans and how to keep this president a one-term president.”

The Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit NAACP, agreed that the focus should be on Mr. Trump “because his record is destroying the nation and who we are.”

“They spent a lot of time talking about the past, rather than the present or future,” he said. “You don’t want to cannibalize the whole team so no woman or no man is left standing.”

If there was any doubt about the continuing appeal of Mr. Obama, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez put it to rest with his opening remarks at the debate.

“Am I the only one who misses Barack Obama in this room?” Mr. Perez called out to a roar of applause from the crowd at the Fox Theater.

The moment could have given pause to the 10 candidates about to take the stage and sow doubts about Mr. Obama’s legacy.

Criticizing Mr. Obama’s time in the White House is a dangerous undertaking for any of the 2020 hopefuls because they risk alienating the party’s voters who romanticize those not-so-long-ago days.

It is particularly treacherous for Mr. Biden, who is running as Mr. Obama’s political heir with the promise of restoring the normalcy of the Obama era.

Obama voters were irked by the attacks on the former president’s policies at the debates Tuesday and Wednesday.

Francois Demonique, a professional chauffeur in Detroit, said he “felt bad” seeing Mr. Obama’s legacy dragged through the mud.

“Democrats are not supposed to sling at another Democrat because they are giving President Trumpammunition to use against them in the general,” said Mr. Demonique, who is backing Mr. Biden because of his ties to Mr. Obama.

Mr. Demonique moved to the U.S. from Liberia more than 30 years ago. He said he got his U.S. citizenship so he could vote for Mr. Obama.

He was especially distraught that Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts want to replace Obamacare with “Medicare for All” government-run health care.

“That is like attacking Obamacare. If you want to take away current insurance, that is scratching everything and starting all over,” he said.

Jeff Link, an Iowa-based Democratic strategist, said it is smart for Mr. Biden to keep Mr. Obama close because the good in the eyes of primary voters far outweighs the bad.

“I wouldn’t put a lot of distance between [Mr. Biden] and President Obama on anything,” Mr. Link said. “I think he is smart to embrace Obama, and why not embrace the whole thing? Obama is still incredibly popular and respected among Democrats — particularly Democratic primary voters.”

He said Mr. Biden’s words against the former president may have been “in the heat of the moment” of the debate and noted that he tried to repair any damage afterward.

“I would hold on tight to Barack Obama if I were Joe Biden,” Mr. Link said.

Still, the Democratic Party has moved dramatically to the left since Mr. Obama was in office.

Some of the strongest challengers to Mr. Biden, who remains the front-runner, are far-left champions Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren.

Another powerful contender, Ms. Harris, is more moderate but also is embracing parts of the far-left agenda, including a variation of Medicare for All.

Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said it was an effective strategy for Mr. Biden to tap into Mr. Obama’s popularity with the party’s voters.

“That may well be Biden’s best claim to the nomination. However, in the current political environment, it will be hard to defend Obama’s record on deportation and trade,” he said. “The party has moved well to the left on those issues, and no one is going to accept those policies as the right ones at the current time.”

Yes, the 2009–16 Obama fails the 2020 would-be Obamas because he was insufficiently liberal. Ponder that one.

Jonah Goldberg adds:

For a while there, no modern figure was supposed to be as consequential. It’s difficult to describe the hype in the early days of the Obama era. TimeNewsweek, and countless deep thinkers cast him as a 21st-century Lincoln or FDR. Some literally saw a messianic figure — “The One,” in Oprah Winfrey’s words. Self-help guru Deepak Chopra said Obama represented a “quantum leap in American consciousness.”

George Lucas speculated that he might even be a Jedi.

It was a global phenomenon. In a move that embarrassed Obama himself, the Nobel Committee gave him a Peace Prize on spec — i.e., in anticipation of what they were sure he would do. A leading Danish newspaper editorialized: “Obama is, of course, greater than Jesus.”

Obama himself set his sights lower; he wanted to be the Democrats’ Ronald Reagan. And for a time, it seemed to many that he’d succeeded. As late as April of 2017, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said, “Obama aspired to be a transformational president, like Reagan. At this point, it’s fair to say that he has succeeded.”

But this proved to be a mirage. As National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru observed in 2017, Obama left office almost as popular as Reagan, but when Reagan departed for California, he left his party stronger than when he found it, holding more elected offices at the federal and state level. And the public felt better about the direction of the country as well. By the time Obama left office, nearly 1,000 Democrats had lost their jobs, and the GOP was better positioned than at any time since the 1920s.

Some analysts plausibly argue that these statistics are unfairly inflated because they’re pegged to the large coattails Obama had in 2008. Even so, it demonstrates that Obama failed by his own standard insofar as transformational presidents expand and entrench their parties the way FDR and Reagan did.

In fairness, Reagan and FDR had an advantage that Obama did not: They were succeeded by allies. Since so much of what presidents do can be reversed by the next president, particularly when done by executive order — as Obama did for most of his presidency — it takes a new, friendly replacement to solidify a presidential legacy. Donald Trump reversed many of Obama’s policies with a stroke of a pen (just as a Democratic successor would do to Trump’s).

Still, it was hard to appreciate the extent of Obama’s incredible shrinking presidency until the recent Democratic presidential debates. Much of the post-debate punditry has focused on the fight between the handful of moderates, led by Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, and the far more numerous left-wingers, who attacked numerous Obama policies from the left, most notably his signature Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, but also his immigration and economic policies.

Attacks on the Reagan legacy on the right are lamentably increasing among some intellectuals on the right, but we’ve never seen anything remotely like this in a GOP presidential debate. Attacking Reagan is still risky for a Republican politician, and he left office over three decades ago.

The Democrats’ migration to the left is not merely a story of ideological or intellectual transformation, though it is that; it’s also the direct consequence of Obama’s presidency. However we’re supposed to measure the total number of Democratic losses under Obama, the important part isn’t the quantity of the loss, but the quality.

The ranks of moderate and conservative Democrats were disproportionately hollowed out under Obama, while Democrats in deep-blue liberal areas were emboldened to move even further left. (Trump has had a similar effect on the right, decimating the moderate wing of the GOP while intensifying the partisanship of conservatives in safe red areas.)

The big-name Democrats who survived Obama are more concerned by primary challenges to their left than by general-election threats from their right. As a result, they have a hard time talking to audiences that don’t already agree with them on the big questions.

Those ultra-liberal politicians — Warren, Sanders, et al. — now drive the party to such a degree that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seen as a moderating force on the Democrats. The moderates in the debates are like refugees of a wing of a party that has shrunk to a feather. Only Biden stands as a formidable figure, because of his time at Obama’s side.

And now even that is turning into a liability, at least on the debate stage.