Category: US politics

The corrupt phony moderate

Daniel J. Mitchell:

Given their overt statism, I’ve mostly focused on the misguided policies being advocated by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

But that doesn’t mean Joe Biden’s platform is reasonable or moderate.

Ezra Klein of Vox unabashedly states that the former Vice President’s policies are “far to Obama’s left.”

The rhetorical clash between “leftists” and “moderates” is obscuring the deeper truth: This is the most progressive Democratic primary in history, and even if, say, Biden won the nomination, he’d be running on a platform far to Obama’s left. https://t.co/x3CMj5XqAn

— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) December 20, 2019

This is an issue where folks on both ends of the spectrum agree.

In a column for the right-leaning American Spectator, George Neumayr also says Biden is not a moderate.

Biden likes to feed the mythology that he is still a moderate. …This is, after all, a pol who giddily whispered in Barack Obama’s ear that a massive government takeover of health care “was a big f—ing deal,”…and now pronouncing Obamacare only a baby step toward a more progressive future. It can’t be repeated enough that “Climate Change” Joe doesn’t give a damn about the ruinous consequences of extreme environmentalism for Rust Belt industries. His Climate Change plans read like something Al Gore might have scribbled to him in a note. …On issue after issue, Biden is taking hardline liberal stances. …“I have the most progressive record of anybody running.” …He is far more comfortable on the Ellen show than on the streets of Scranton. He has given up Amtrak for private jets, and, like his lobbyist brother and grifter son, has cashed in on his last name.

If you want policy details, the Wall Street Journal opined on his fiscal plan.

Mr. Biden has previously promised to spend $1.7 trillion over 10 years on a Green New Deal, $750 billion on health care, and $750 billion on higher education. To pay for it all, he’s set out $3.4 trillion in tax increases. This is more aggressive, for the record, than Hillary Clinton’s proposed tax increases in 2016, which totaled $1.4 trillion, per an analysis at the time from the left-of-center Tax Policy Center. In 2008 Barack Obama pledged to raise taxes on the rich while cutting them on net by $2.9 trillion. Twice as many tax increases as the last presidential nominee: That’s now the “moderate” Democratic position. …raising the top rate for residents of all states. …a huge increase on today’s top capital-gains rate of 23.8%… This would put rates on long-term capital gains at their highest since the 1970s. …Raise the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%. This would…vault the U.S. corporate rate back to near the top in the developed world. …the bottom line is big tax increases on people, capital and businesses. There’s nothing pro-growth in the mix.

And the ever-rigorous Peter Suderman of Reason wrote about Biden’s statist agenda.

Biden released a proposal to raise a slew of new taxes, mostly on corporations and high earners. He would increase tax rates on capital gains, increase the tax rate for households earning more than $510,000 annually, double the minimum tax rate for multinational corporations,impose a minimum tax on large companies whose tax filings don’t show them paying a certain percentage of their earnings, and undo many of the tax cuts included in the 2017 tax law. …as The New York Times reports, Biden’s proposed tax hikes are more than double what Hillary Clinton called for during the 2016 campaign. …Hillary Clinton…pushed the party gently to the left. Four years later, before the campaign is even over, the party’s supposed moderates are proposing double or even quadruple the new taxes she proposed.

The former Veep isn’t just a fan of higher taxes and more spending.

He also likes nanny-state policies.

Joe Biden says he is 100% in favor of banning plastic bags in the U.S. …let’s take a quick walk through the facts about single-use plastic bags at the retail level. …the plastic bags typically handed out by retailers make up only 0.6% of visible litter. Or put another way, for every 1,000 pieces of litter, only six are plastic bags. …They make up less than 1% of landfills by weight… 90% of the plastic bags found at sea streamed in from eight rivers in Asia and two in Africa. Only about 1% of all plastic in the ocean is from America. …Thicker plastic bags have to be used at least 11 times before they yield any environmental benefits. This is much longer than their typical lifespans. …Though it might seem almost innocuous, Biden’s support for a bag ban is symptom of a greater sickness in the Democratic Party. It craves unfettered political power.

Let’s not forget, by the way, that Biden (like most politicians in Washington) is corrupt.

Here are some excerpts from a Peter Schweizer column in the New York Post.

Political figures have long used their families to route power and benefits for their own self-enrichment. …one particular politician — Joe Biden — emerges as the king of the sweetheart deal, with no less than five family members benefiting from his largesse, favorable access and powerful position for commercial gain. …Joe Biden’s younger brother, James, has been an integral part of the family political machine…HillStone announced that James Biden would be joining the firm as an executive vice president. James appeared to have little or no background in housing construction, but…the firm was starting negotiations to win a massive contract in war-torn Iraq. Six months later, the firm announced a contract to build 100,000 homes. …A group of minority partners, including James Biden, stood to split about $735 million. …With the election of his father as vice president, Hunter Biden launched businesses fused to his father’s power that led him to lucrative deals with a rogue’s gallery of governments and oligarchs around the world. …Hunter’s involvement with an entity called Burnham Financial Group…Burnham became the center of a federal investigation involving a $60 million fraud scheme against one of the poorest Indian tribes in America, the Oglala Sioux. …the firm relied on his father’s name and political status as a means of both recruiting pension money into the scheme.

I only excerpted sections about Biden’s brother and son. You should read the entire article.

And even the left-leaning U.K.-based Guardian has the same perspective on Biden’s oleaginous behavior.

Biden has a big corruption problem and it makes him a weak candidate. …I can already hear the howls: But look at Trump! Trump is 1,000 times worse! You don’t need to convince me. …But here’s the thing: nominating a candidate like Biden will make it far more difficult to defeat Trump. It will allow Trump to muddy the water, to once again pretend he is the one “draining the swamp”, running against Washington culture. …With Biden, we are basically handing Trump a whataboutism playbook. …his record represents the transactional, grossly corrupt culture in Washington that long precedes Trump.

I’ll close by simply sharing some objective data about Biden’s voting behavior when he was a Senator.

According to the National Taxpayers Union, he finished his time on Capitol Hill with eleven-consecutive “F” scores (hey, at least he was consistent!).

 

And he also was the only Senator who got a lifetime rating of zero from the Club for Growth.

 

Though if you want to be generous, his lifetime rating was actually 0.025 percent.

Regardless, that was still worse than Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

So if Biden become President, it’s safe to assume that America will accelerate on the already-baked-in-the-cake road to Greece.

P.S. Of course, we’ll be on that path even if Biden doesn’t become President, so perhaps the moral of the story is to buy land in Australia.

Advice Democrats ignore

Jake Novak:

Now that we’re just [two] weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and the real start to the 2020 voting process, there are still three basic facts the Democrats need to accept if they hope to have any chance to win the White House.

If you are a Democrat reading this, I warn you that this isn’t going to be easy. But no pain, no gain. So here goes:

Trump didn’t steal the 2016 election

Let’s start with what is still the toughest pill to swallow for Democrats: Trump won the White House fair and square.

The two-plus years of laser focus and high hopes connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were the clearest examples that all too many Democrats believe the only reason Donald Trump is president is because the Russians somehow helped him cheat. Even the release of the Mueller Report showing no direct evidence of that hasn’t stopped this narrative from continuing to be promoted regularly.

But let’s face it, this is a very good way for the Democrats to lose to Trump again in 2020. Just like in sports, the worst way to overcome a loss in politics is to go around believing you didn’t “really” lose and no real improvements or changes need to be made by your team to win next time.

Now just imagine if the Democrats spent as much time and effort on winning back the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin as they have been in pursuing the Russia collusion obsession and the impeachment process. If the latest polls in those states tell us anything, those other efforts have only made things worse for the anti-Trump forces. It’s time to cut bait on the stolen election illusion.

The economy is doing well, even for the little guy

Whether they deserve it or not, Democrats have consistently been viewed by most American voters as the party that is more concerned with the poor and lower middle-income earners in this country. In many ways, that’s been a golden ticket to victory for Democrats in almost every major election. They only seem to mess it up when a Democratic administration presides over a worsening economy, (like under Jimmy Carter in 1980), or when Democratic candidates latch on to non-economic themes like social issues or foreign policy.

The problem for Democrats now is not only the fact that the overall economy and Wall Street are strong, but even Americans further down the income scale are now experiencing record wage gains. In fact, new data shows that the labor market has become so tight that rank-and-file workers are now getting bigger percentage raises than the bosses and top management.

But all is not lost for Democrats when it comes to economics, thanks to the sticky issue of health care. As health care insurance costs continue to rise, voters from both parties are still ranking health care very high on their list of top concerns going into 2020.

Some of the Democratic presidential candidates have made ‘Medicare for All’ a key part of their campaign promises. But compare that to the way then-candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton actively paraded their health coverage plans around in 2008, and you can see how no Democrat has really mined this issue properly this time around.

This issue is simply not going away, and any Democrat willing to offer an attention-grabbing new idea on lowering insurance costs stands to gain substantially in the polls. Of course, that opportunity is also still available for President Trump. So the Democrats don’t have any time to waste.

Stop denigrating the voters

Even mediocre students of American history should know that politics in this country have always been nasty. If you don’t believe that, do a little reading about the election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

But the nastiness has really only been effective when it’s directed at opposing candidates or parties. One of the rules just about every major American politician has followed is to never actually go after the opposing candidate’s or party’s voters. It’s an important distinction.

More and more these days, that rule is being broken and it’s mostly being broken by Democrats. The most egregious example from 2016 was Hillary Clinton’s description of Trump voters as a “basket of deplorables,” a term those Trump supporters have since taken on as a badge of honor.

But in another example of not learning from 2016′s mistakes, we’re still seeing 2020 Democrats and their supporters following this line. That includes the Democrat with perhaps the best “nice guy” persona, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who recently said Trump voters are “at best, looking the other way on racism” when asked by a cable news host if casting a vote for Trump could be considered a “racist act.”  

So far, Buttigieg’s comments are the most egregious slam on Trump voters from an actual candidate. But prominent liberals and Never Trumpers are increasing their attacks lately. Filmmaker Michael Moore said this week that since two out of three white men voted for Trump in 2016, that means two out of three white men in America are “not good people,” and “you should be afraid of them.” Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather said last month that Trump voters are part of a “cult,” a comment that major news media outlets including CNN echoed days later. Never Trumper Republican Jennifer Rubin has recently been pushing the line that Trump voters are poorly educated.

If the DNC has any power to put a lid on these kinds of comments from Democratic candidates and their supporters, it needs to exert that power right now. The “we think you’re stupid and we hate and fear you… now vote for us” line has never worked because there’s no way it can.

The above three points may seem very simple and logical, but anyone who has been watching the Democrats since 2016 knows that this is kind of like an intervention for a stubborn drug addict. Each of the above truths is something many Democrats have been fiercely fighting against for some time.

The irony is, they need to give up that fight to win the contest that should be much more important to them overall.

If Bloomberg

Joel Kotkin:

Many in the media and political class see Donald Trump as the face of America’s autocratic future. They’ve had less to say about Michael Bloomberg, a far more successful billionaire with the smarts, motivation, and elitist mentality not only to propose but actually carry out his own deeply authoritarian vision should he be elected president.

Bloomberg, who’s quickly moved up in national polls on an unprecedented tsunami of spending and despite sitting out the Democratic debates, represents, in a way never seen in modern American politics, the melding of oligarchal power with political willfulness. His campaign remains a wild long shot, but ask New York City how that can play out—and how  difficult it is to dislodge this oligarch once he’s in office, even when the law demands that he leave.

Compared to Bloomberg, Trump’s estimated $3 billion fortune is paltry. Bloomberg is the world’s ninth richest man, with a fortune of nearly $60 billion. The two post-retirement-age party-jumpers share not only flimsy medical excuses for staying out of Vietnam, long histories of locker-room talk, and joint refusals to fully disclose their taxes while running or to step away from their private business interests while serving in public office but, perhaps most fundamentally, a habit of naming things after themselves and a narcissistic sense that common rules don’t apply to them.

Already a modern-day Crassus, Bloomberg has both the wealth and the brains to emerge as a true Caesar, albeit a short-statured and aging one. Just as Caesar used the wealth of Gaul to finance his takeover of the Republic, Bloomberg can use his private fortune to bribe, cajole and otherwise promote his ascendancy. In his 12 years as ruler of New York, he showed his willingness to “buy” elective office, spending half a billion dollars on his three runs. To match the $174 per vote he spent to win his final term, Bloomberg—who’s has already spent $200 million on TV ads—would need to spend an unheard of $12 billion. He could afford it.

None of this seems beyond a man who demonstrated his l’état c’est moi attitude in 2009, when, after reluctantly giving up a run in the 2008 presidential election, he changed city law and overrode the will of the voters to allow himself to run for a third term after personally meeting with the owners of the city’s three major papers to get their editorial boards to reverse themselves and endorse that undemocratic move. Rules, in the Bloombergian universe, only apply to people with less than ten zeros in their net worth. He spent $102 million—not counting off-the-books hush money to keep activist groups quiet, among other things—for a 15-to-one spending advantage as he eked out a narrow win in a city that was so sick and tired of him that it elected corrupt schmendrick Bill de Blasio once Bloomberg’s name was finally off of the ballot.

Bloomberg is a man of undisguised arrogance. As mayor, he already saw himself as a sort of little president, once boasting that “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh largest army in the world… I have my own State Department, to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the UN in New York, so we have entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have. I don’t listen to Washington very much, which is something they’re not thrilled about.” Should he gain access to the real Army and State Department, he’ll use them as he sees fit, and with little concern for the will of the voters.

Unlike Trump, or some of his leading Democratic rivals, Bloomberg is not playing the populist card but seeking to bury “the great revolt” that has overturned elite control of the country. A fierce defender of Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the corporate elite, he is hoping, as a recent editorial in Bloomberg Opinion suggested, that “populism will probably just fade away” so that the ruling class can again “relax.”

The plutocracy would relax with Bloomberg in a way they have not with the erratic Trump. Most of those in the big corporate suite, according to a recent poll in Chief Executive magazine, would prefer to see the president impeached and out of office. Bloomberg is a friend to many owners of mainstream media properties, and an owner of those properties himself, as we were reminded when Bloomberg News announced it would no longer aggressively cover his Democratic rivals, though Trump would remain fair game, an absurd standard that poured news on the fire of Trump’s attacks on “fake news.” The executive staff of Bloomberg Opinion, meantime, left their positions to join his campaign.

What would a Bloomberg regime look like? In contrast with Trump, Sanders or Warren, Bloomberg is offering the politics of the gentry liberals who have dominated the party’s big-dollar fundraising in recent decades.

This typically means strong support for combating climate change, advocating ever more mass immigration, free trade and banning guns—all positions that don’t cost the plutocracy money.

Bloomberg’s big idea, if you want to call it that, is that rather than buy a candidate, he can be the candidate.

Even his aggressively “progressive” stances, for example on climate, would likely benefit the plutocracy. His calls to have 80 percent of America’s electricity, up from 17 percent today, come from renewables this decade, is a blatantly unrealistic gambit that sounds good in a campaign ad. More important, it offers a golden opportunity for Wall Street to make windfall profits while imposing higher prices on ordinary rate payers.

The problem Bloomberg needs to solve lies in being a billionaire oligarch running in a Democratic Party that’s moved farther to the left, as Sanders and others have found ways to create a “party of the people” that can raise enough money to reject the policies preferred by Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the rest of the globalized ruling class. As Sanders aptly put it when Bloomberg announced his intentions: “The billionaire class is scared and they should be scared.”

Resentment of Sanders’ detested “billionaire class” is widespread and well-deserved. Over the past few decades they have consolidated both financial and corporate assets into few hands. Public support for large corporations, including key industries controlled by the oligarchs—banking, media and tech—are all near historic lows. Corporate consolidation also has been linked to ever greater inequality and a diminishing of the middle class. Despite a strong economy, roughly half of Americans, according to Gallup, have negative views of large corporations, while nearly 90 percent favor small business.

The Trump-opposed billionaire class had hoped to align behind former Vice President Biden but as his campaign has struggled they fear that the 2020 race could be gentry liberalism’s Stalingrad. Bloomberg hopes that his money can liberate him from political gravity; that while other candidates are putting scarce resources into a handful of states ahead of their caucuses and primaries that he can afford to spend nationwide, and, if none of his rivals breaks all the way through, put himself in a position to be the powerbroker at a brokered convention. That’s a long-shot bet, but he’s bet big against the odds before and won.

As mayor of New York, Bloomberg’s approach—in addition to building on Rudy Giuliani’s law-and-order regime—was to shape the city as “a luxury product” shaped by the interests and investments of his fellow billionaires. Under his watch, the city moved to the tune of oligarchy, constructing ever more expensive apartment structures, often encouraged by heavily discounted property taxes and with lots of breaks for new lavish new corporate offices.

In contrast, the city’s middle-class neighborhoods shrank, most precipitously in Manhattan, while those of the rich and poor grew. The city’s inequality burgeoned, ranking among the most pronounced in the country now. The very feel of the city changed as long-standing neighborhood retail fell from soaring rents, with once cherished outlets either replaced by chains, “pop-ups” or simply abandoned, a form of “high rent blight.” Gone increasingly are both the historic neighborhoods and blue-collar commerce areas—the food, fish, flower, and other markets—that had been part of the city’s economic culture for centuries.

In the process, he steadily weakened the city’s once diverse, if chaotic character into plutocratic-driven monoculture. His disinterest in the will of the voters, as captured in his jihad against sugar and his insistence of ever more stop and frisk policing even as popular opposition to it grew along with its overuse, was in many ways policy made possible by the power implicit in his wealth, a function of his fortune.

Another mayor with such an agenda would have faced major opposition. But as Sol Stern and Fred Siegel wrote in 2011, “the most discomfiting aspect of the Bloomberg mayoralty” was his ability to curb criticism by handing out what Ben Smith of BuzzFeed called ”protection money” to the city’s many nonprofits, activist groups, religious and community associations. Bloomberg even cleverly uses his largesse to win over journalists, offering hugely remunerative salaries to those willing to follow his party line.

In the end, however, the Bloomberg legacy proved unable to survive Midas’ reign. Without his checkbook to smooth conflicts, the city has devolved under his leftist successor, the scandal-prone Bill de Blasio, who ran on an anti-Bloomberg “tale of two cities” platform.

If there’s a good parallel to Bloomberg it would be Silvio Berlusconi, the media magnate who served, somewhat disastrously, as Italy’s prime minister between 1994 and 2011. Like Bloomberg, Berlusconi, long his neighbor in Bermuda, used his own media to promote his political ascendancy. Bloomberg has a similarly impressive media empire including the former Business Week, Bloomberg News, Bloomberg View (formerly Bloomberg Opinion), and Bloomberg TV. He has also reportedly expressed interest at times in purchasing the Financial TimesThe New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

While the media, including Bloomberg’s own mouthpiece, has compared Trump to Berlusconi, holding up a mirror might be more accurate. With his existing web of information providers, Bloomberg, like Berlusconi, has some power to create his own political reality. Bloomberg’s touch may be lighter, but the Bloomberg-controlled media tends to follow the “boss’s” party line; as a long-time writer for the magazine now called Bloomberg BusinessWeek told me, “we’re not even allowed to use the word ‘oligarch’” in their articles. One would have to wonder how thrilled progressives would be if, for example, an American-born Rupert Murdoch announced a White House bid.

A Bloomberg presidency would be very different from this one. Trump is annoying but has scaled back the power of the administrative state. Bloomberg would likely seek to expand federal power to dictate the minutiae of everyday life in terms of diet, how we use energy, the kind of houses we live in and how we get to work.

And for all of Trump’s conflicts as the chief executive of both the United States of America and the Trump Organization, his businesses have little influence on anything beyond some slivers of the real-estate market.

Yes, Trump roars like an authoritarian, and admires those with power—but that’s a trait he shares with Bloomberg, who recently made the preposterous claim that China’s Xi Jinping is “not a dictator.” He portrays the communist regime, noted New York magazine as “ecologically friendly, democratically accountable, and invulnerable to the threat of revolution.” Of course, this is the same Bloomberg whose news operation gave up on reporting on corruption in China when that reporting started damaging the terminal sales that made his fortune.

If Bloomberg somehow manages to buy this election, we would not see a repeat of the haphazard and sometimes nonetheless effective Trump presidency, but rather a softer version of Xi’s rule here in America— dictatorial, intolerant of dissent, controlling, and friendly to the oligarchy so long as it produces economic growth. Having made themselves hysterical about our current tin-pot petty authoritarian president, progressive Americans could look forward to experiencing the real thing under the all-knowing guise of Michael Bloomberg.

The real King

Robert L. Woodson on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.:

As the nation celebrates the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the progressive left will again seize the moment to twist the story of black Americans’ struggle, to the detriment of those who suffered most in that struggle. They’ll put all the attention on the oppressive conditions faced by black freedom fighters—what white racists did to them—rather than on their own spirit in fighting to gain equal rights under the law. Instead of celebrating blacks’ achievements and the progress made toward delivering on America’s promissory note, the left will transport yesterday’s real injustices into today’s false social-justice narrative, ignoring the principles that were so crucial to Dr. King.

History is full of inspiring examples of black people succeeding against the odds, including building their own schools, hotels, railroads and banking systems when doors were closed to them. According to the economist Thomas Sowell, “the poverty rate among blacks fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent by 1960.”

These accomplishments were made possible by a set of values cherished among the blacks of the time: self-determination, resiliency, personal virtue, honesty, honor and accountability. Dr. King understood that these values would be the bedrock for black success once true equality was won. As early as 1953, he warned that “one of the most common tendencies of human nature is that of placing responsibility on some external agency for sins we have committed or mistakes we have made.

Today the progressive left wants to ignore the achievements and pretend that blacks are perpetual victims of white racism. The New York Times “1619 Project” essay series is the latest salvo in this attack on America’s history and founding, claiming “anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.” This statement is an abomination of everything Dr. King stood for. Further, the left’s disinterest in historical accuracy—as evinced in the Times’s dismissal of corrections sought by prominent historians—and its frequent perversion of blacks’ story will have grave consequences not only for blacks but the nation as a whole.

In sharp contrast to the claims of the “1619 Project”—which disparages the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence and insists America is hopelessly racist—Dr. King believed deeply in the need to remain true to the Founders’ vision, the “patriot dream that sees beyond the years.” To him, that was the only avenue toward fulfilling America’s promise. As he wrote in his 1963 “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”:

“One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

“We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”

Dr. King, who sought full participation in America, would never have indulged today’s grievance-based identity politics, whose social-justice warriors use race as a battering ram against the country. In fact, in “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” Dr. King explicitly warned against the type of groupthink that characterizes identity politics: “Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”
Yesterday’s values prepared blacks to walk through the doors of opportunity opened to them through civil rights. Family, faith, character and moral behavior were all crucial to their victories. Today’s social-justice warriors trade on the currency of oppression, deriding the concept of personal responsibility and always blaming external forces. I can think of no better way to instill hopelessness and fear in a young person than to tell him he is a victim, powerless to change his circumstance.

During the civil-rights movement blacks never permitted oppression to define who we were. Instead we cultivated moral competence, enterprise and thrift, and viewed oppression as a stumbling block, not an excuse.

Dr. King would have refused to participate in today’s identity politics gamesmanship because it frames its grievances in opposition to the American principles of freedom and equality that he sought to redeem. He upheld the country’s founding principles and sought to destroy only what got in the way of delivering the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as the recognition that all men are created equal.

Last month the school board of Westfield, N.J., approved a history course on critical race theory, which is the embodiment of the oppressor narrative embraced by the left. At the board meeting a young woman spoke passionately in favor of the course, ending her comments by blaming slavery for the absence of black fathers in the home. This is how successful the left, with its lethal message of despair and distortion of history, has been at undermining agency within the black community.

To honor the legacy of Dr. King, we must not only acknowledge the evil he confronted, but also focus on his example in overcoming it. He persevered and triumphed in the face of evil because he was beholden to truth, honor and love for all mankind, driven as he was to see blacks share fully in the American dream. We must not let the purveyors of identity politics fudge the record: Martin Luther King Jr. believed in the promise of America. In fact, he helped to fulfill it.

Trump, three years later

Donald Trump was inaugurated as president three years s ago today.

David Harsanyi looks back:

One of the most irritating things about being a professional pundit is having random strangers hold you accountable for every column, tweet, and post you’ve ever written. Needless to say, I’ve accumulated plenty of bad takes over the past 20 years. An industrious critic with lots of time on his hands could, no doubt, rifle through millions of my words and unearth a number of contradictions.

These days, a popular way that Trump critics try to embarrass former “Never Trumpers” such as I is to point out that we’ve failed to embrace an appropriately adversarial attitude toward the presidency of Donald Trump. There’s an expectation — often, a demand — that “movement conservatives” be all in or all out on the Donald Trump presidency. Why aren’t we “against Trump” anymore, they wonder?

With the 2020 election season approaching, I figured it was time to revisit the numerous critical pieces I penned about Trump during his first campaign and take inventory of my alleged moral failings. As it turns out, I’ve remained consistent in my basic political beliefs. I wish I could say the same of my critics.

At the time, I harbored three major trepidations about a Trump presidency:

The first concerned Trump’s political malleability — perhaps a better way to put it would be that I feared he lacked political convictions. I was convinced that Trump wouldn’t govern like a conservative, either ideologically or temperamentally. I was skeptical that he would uphold his promises to appoint originalist judges, exit the Iran deal, cut regulations, defend religious liberty, and overturn his predecessor’s unconstitutional executive decisions — and that he would do much of anything I regarded as useful.

I was convinced that the billionaire would govern like a latter-day FDR, which, let’s face it, might well be what many Republican voters were really looking for all along.

On this question, I was largely, although not completely, wrong. Trump, certainly a big spender, has failed conservatism in much the same way that Republican presidents typically fail conservatism, with a complete disregard for debt. Though in some surprising ways — his steadfast support of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh even in the face of massive media pressure, or his insistence on moving the American embassy to Jerusalem in the face of foreign-policy groupthink — Trump’s obstinacy seems to have made him less susceptible to the pressures that traditionally induce GOP presidents to capitulate.

Through much chaos and incompetence and numerous self-inflicted wounds, Trump’s policy record is turning out to be a mixed bag: more moderate than his opponents contend, less effectual than his supporters imagine, and definitely more traditionally conservative than I predicted. I’m happy to have been wrong.

Granted, for me, a less energetic Washington is a blessing. Contemporary American political life features a series of unbridgeable divisions. Gridlock on a national level is a reflection of our intractable political differences. Frustrating as it may be, the system is working as it should. The nation is too big, too diverse, and too divided for the kind of centralized and efficient federal governance that many seek.

Whether we like to admit it or not, many of the most significant political victories of modern conservatism have been achieved by simply getting in the way. Trump, certainly, has been an obnoxiously effective impediment to an increasingly radicalized Democratic party. In the meantime, he has also taken a cultural rearguard action by helping fill the courts with constitutionalists.

Trump antagonists will dismiss this as a “but Gorsuch” argument. But ensuring that the judicial branch serves its purpose as a bulwark against government overreach — rather than being an unaccountable enabler of it — is nothing to sneer at. It’s a strategy that conservatives have long supported, and I don’t see why Trump should lead them to abandon that position.

“Aha!” critics will also say, “you’re willing to overlook all of Trump’s behavior in exchange for long-term ideological victory.” Absolutely! There are limits to everything, of course, but if the choice, as many voters rightly see it, is between a group that wants a nationalized health-care system to pay for abortion in the ninth month of pregnancy and one that doesn’t, it’s not a difficult one to make.

My second concern about Trump revolved around fears that his administration would mainstream protectionist trade policy and anti-market populism, already a staple of the progressive Left. This change, sadly, has happened.

Perhaps Trump’s rhetoric on trade is merely a reflection of the growing grievances of many voters. Either way, trade wars are still raging, and high-profile conservatives such as Marco Rubio and Tucker Carlson feel perfectly comfortable railing against the market economy. The debate over capitalism within the conservative movement has only just started.

My third big fear was that Trump’s boorish and impulsive behavior would undermine his presidency. On this, the president hasn’t failed me, acting with all the grace, civility, and humility I expected.

While civility is an imperative in a decent society, we can’t ignore that Trump’s coarseness has also helped reveal the liberal establishment’s incivility and disdain for anyone who refuses to adopt its cultural mores. I’m sorry, I have a hard time taking etiquette lessons from people who can’t raise any ire over the Virginia governor’s casual description of euthanizing infants but act as if every Trump tweet should trigger his removal from office through the 25th Amendment.

So while I don’t like Trump any better today than I did when writing those critical pieces, I do live in the world that exists, not the one I wish existed. And that world has changed. What I didn’t foresee when writing about Trump’s candidacy was the American Left’s extraordinary four-year descent into insanity.

My own political disposition during the past four years has hardened into something approaching universal contempt. When I defend the president — as far as I do — it is typically in reaction to some toxic hysteria or the attacks on constitutional order that Democrats now regularly make in their efforts to supposedly save the nation from Donald Trump — whether they’re calling for the end of the Electoral College or for packing the Supreme Court, or they’re embracing shifting “norms” that are wholly tethered to a single overriding principle: get Trump.

Recently, for example, New Yorker editor David Remnick, the kind of high-minded, sane person we’re expected to take seriously, argued that removing President Trump from office was not merely a political imperative but a necessity for the “future of the Earth.” Four years ago, we might have found such a panic-stricken warning absurd. Today, such apocalyptic rhetoric is the norm in media and academia.

As the Democrats’ allies in the media stumble from one frenzy to the next, it has become increasingly difficult to believe any of it is really precipitated by genuine concern over Russian interference or improper calls with a Ukrainian president or dishonesty or rudeness. The president has become a convenient straw man for all the political anxieties on the left, which have manifested in an unhealthy obsession and antagonism toward the constitutional system that allowed Trump to win.

Many of us would prefer a more articulate and chaste classical liberal as our president. I don’t have any special fondness for Trump, either, but I also don’t hold any special antagonism for him. Political support is a transactional arrangement, not a religious oath, and Trump has done much to like. I support policies, not people. If Trump protects the constitutional order, he deserves to be praised for it. If not, he doesn’t. But the notion of some Trump critics that conservatives have a moral duty to uniformly oppose the president for the sake of principle or patriotism — or because they once opposed him during a GOP primary — is plainly silly.

An utterly predictable crisis

David French:

I speak and write quite a bit about American political polarization. I’m alarmed by the extent of mutual partisan loathing and enmity. It’s terrible, it’s getting worse, and I’m convinced that—unchecked—it’s a threat to our national existence. There is no law of nature that says that a diverse, continent-sized, multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy will always remain united.

To understand the reality of our political polarization, I highly recommend diving into More in Common’s outstanding research on America’s “hidden tribes.” They dive deep into American political attitudes and find that much of America’s polarization is driven by roughly one-third of the population—the “devoted conservatives” and “traditional conservatives” on the right, and the “progressive activists” on the left.  “Traditional conservatives” (16 percent of the population) are defined as people who are religious, patriotic, and highly moralistic. They also “believe deeply in personal responsibility and self-reliance.” The “devoted conservatives” (6 percent) are “deeply engaged with politics” and tend to “perceive themselves as the last defenders of traditional values that are under threat. “Progressive Activists” are “deeply concerned with issues concerning equity, fairness, and America’s direction today. They “tend to be more secular, cosmopolitan, and highly engaged with social media.”

The devoted devoted conservatives and progressive activists in particular are people with a disproportionate amount of wealth and who spend a disproportionate amount of time on politics as a hobby. They have resources, they’re engaged, and they’re angry. They’re a minority, but they tend to dominate public discourse—even as an “exhausted majority” retreats from political engagement and longs for an alternative.

The rage of the “wings” is well-known. We can see it every day on social media. We can see and hear the fury at many political rallies and events. The reasons for that rage are complex, but let me advance an under-appreciated reason why red-pilled Uncle Karl and his woke niece Alice hate each other so darn much.

The story starts with public apathy.

I haven’t been a writer all my life. I spent most of my professional career (21 years!) as a litigator, and for most of that time I worked for public-interest law firms. My practice focused on the First Amendment, and it required that I focus not just on the court of law, but also on the court of public opinion. I wasn’t just a lawyer, I was a legal activist, and I saw firsthand how hard it was to motivate the public to actually care about important constitutional concerns.

If you try to raise awareness (much less money) from people with busy lives and multiple family responsibilities, the first thing you learn is that it is extraordinarily difficult to break through to the public with a proportionate, measured message.  If your message implies, “I’m working on something important, but there is no true emergency.” Or, “I’m concerned, but there’s no crisis,” then prepare to face indifference.

No, the tried and true activist message is simple—“The threat is dire, and we’re the last line of defense.”

None of this is new. “Scare grandma with direct mail” has funded much of the conservative movement for a generation (or more). But technology has made the experience much, much more intense. Sign one online petition, and you magically find yourself on a dozen new mailing lists. Start clicking on alarmist social media posts, and you start to tell the algorithm that’s what you want to see. It’s hard to merely put your toe in the water politically. Test the temperature with a small donation, and within days, five scam PACs, nine breathless email messages, and four Facebook ads are deluging you with some variation of the same message, “They hate you! They want to destroy you! Only I can save you!”

There are Americans who recoil from this like they’ve touched a boiling cauldron. “Just stop,” they say, and they furiously unsubscribe, ignore political posts, and go back to talking about the Tennessee Titans, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the utter dominance of SEC football (ideally, anyway). But there are millions of other Americans who have a very different reaction.

“I had no idea things were so terrible!”

As the messages flood your inbox, and the posts flood your feeds, concern grows to alarm, and alarm turns into rage. And if you’re looking for things to be angry about, there’s always a fresh outrage, somewhere. The immediate nationalization of every volatile local event means that a politically engaged American can know within hours (sometimes minutes) after someone punches a kid wearing a MAGA hat in Des Moines, or if a busybody white woman calls the cops on black kids who are innocently grilling in a Sacramento park.

Instantly, each incident becomes emblematic of the other side’s perfidy. It’s as if the scales fall from the eyes, and you see the world anew. You’re “woke.” You’re “red-pilled.” You’re not simply “Jane” anymore. You’re “Deplorable Jane,” and it’s your mission in life to own the libs.

But the strange thing is that this new life doesn’t actually awaken you to  reality, it deceives you. It distorts the truth. One of the most fascinating aspects of the hidden tribes research is its finding that Americans on the “wings” have the most twisted views of the other side. The wings are far more likely to believe that political opponents are more extreme than they really are. In crucial ways their political engagement is increasing not just their political extremism, but also their political ignorance. They consistently accept opposing extremism as the norm, when it is not.

This is where, when someone makes an assertion that ignores facts, I ask: “Evidence?”

There’s no simple solution to this problem. I routinely tell people that the two types of pieces I write that cause the most dramatic negative reaction either 1) criticize Donald Trump; or 2) argue that a particular problem is a concern and not a crisis. It’s as if an argument that a problem isn’t an emergency is viewed as detrimental to the cause of public mobilization and public activism. And they’re probably right. When was the last time 10,000 people flooded the streets of a state capital chanting, “We’re concerned! We’re concerned!”?

Leadership does matter, however. And partisans respond to winning politicians. If someone can turn down the temperature and win while doing it, perhaps we can chip away at the culture of permanent outrage.

I agree with French that it’s a mistake to assume that “They hate you! They want to destroy you!” is credibly followed by “Only I can save you!” That is because politicians care about your vote, and your money to fund their campaign. And that’s it. The next politician who helps me will be the first. I have written before that there is no place in this state, and I’ve lived in seven different places, where I have felt I got my tax money’s worth. I am confident that I will die thinking the same thing, because it’s the truth.

What French sees as a crisis is the logical result of the growth of government beyond anything this country’s founders intended. When government does more and taxes and regulates more (in whichever ideological direction), the stakes in elections go up. When the stakes go up, the rhetoric gets more intense, and candidates will do anything short of murder (and that’s on the way, no doubt) to win. And doing anything encompasses raising and spending money, rhetoric from supporters and opponents, and basically everything wrong with American politics today.

The fact that people of opposing political views get along more often than not in the non-political world is not significant. Put them in the political arena, particularly when the stakes are higher than a town board position, and watch what happens.

How you stop that is not by having more reasonable-sounding candidates winning. Today’s politics include numerous examples of how bite is worse than bark. The only way for this to stop before the next real civil war is to take away politicians’ power.

Iran’s mullahs and their Democratic allies

Victoria Taft:

Congressman Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida, accused his Democratic colleagues of being cowards for their weak-kneed reaction to the killing of Iranian terror-master Qasem Soleimani. Mast made his comments on the House floor Thursday during the debate over the “war powers act resolution.” The Democrats passed the resolution, arguing Trump didn’t have the authority to order the missile strike taking out Soleimani and another top terrorist in Iraq.

Mast served in an ordnance detail in Afghanistan and lost his legs while trying to clear a roadside bomb. Soleimani’s IRGC and Quds Force orchestrated the building of many of those bombs. They were responsible for killing 603 U.S. troops and wounding hundreds, if not thousands, of others.

The congressman walked forcefully to the podium, his prosthetic legs exposed, took a second to tune his verbal flame-thrower, and then put the Democrats on blast.

I know most in here haven’t seen or smelled or touched that kind of death, but let me tell you about it. They were burned alive inside their Humvees. Their lungs were scorched by the flames of the explosions. The vehicle fragments were blown into their skulls. Some of them were paralyzed. Some of them had their arms blown off. Some of them had their legs blown off. Some of them will never see again. Some of them will never be recognized again by those who knew them previously. Each and every one of them – they are the credible explanation for deleting this terrorist target from our world. And, no doubt, it is dangerous to take out a terrorist target, but a coward is somebody who lacks the courage to endure danger” [Emphasis added]

He wasn’t done yet.

And this is the fundamental difference in voting yes or no here. If you vote no you understand that we would be justified to kill 100 Soleimanis for just one of our heroes, that have been killed by him. And the danger would be worth it. For those who vote yes, they see that he has killed hundreds of our service members but still can no find the justification to kill him because, unlike our fallen heroes, they lack the courage to endure danger” [Emphasis added]

Democrats upset with President Trump for killing Soleimani were called out by Mast for lacking “the courage to endure danger,” which he’d just defined as cowardice.

The war powers resolution was a rebuke to President Trump for what Democrats and a couple of Republicans claimed was overstepping his role of commander in chief.

They claim Soleimani isn’t under the previously approved AUMF, the authorization for the use of military force. But not only was the Iranian terror leader an enemy combatant, he was a leader of enemy combatants on the fields of battle in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He had just overseen the assault of the American Embassy in Baghdad. Baghdad, IRAQ.

President Trump said at his rally in Ohio Thursday night that the Iranian Quds Force leader not only wanted to bomb the American Embassy in Baghdad but other embassies as well.

American embassies are favorite targets of terrorist bad guys. Terrorists targeted the U.S. Mission in Benghazi in 2012. In 1998 two American embassies were destroyed by Al Qaeda in Tanzania and Kenya.

Watch Mast’s speech below, but make sure you’ve got a fire extinguisher to put out the flames.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1215376088639201280

Calling the elimination of a terrorist an assassination is what anti-Americans do, even if they are Americans. That sounds familiar to Jim Geraghty:

Jeane Kirkpatrick accurately declared: “they always blame Americans first.”

Sure, the Iranian air-defense system would not have been on highest alert this week if the United States had not killed Soleimani outside the Baghdad International Airport January 3. But the Iranians made the choice to fire rockets into Iraq that evening, the Iranian government made the choice to permit civilian air traffic in the hours after their rocket attack, and ultimately it was the Iranian military that fired the surface-to-air missile. You really have to squint and stretch to say that this tragedy — which killed 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, eleven Ukrainians (including the crew members), ten Swedish, seven Afghans, and three Germans — is President Trump’s fault.

One question for the military-technology experts: Does this tragedy stem from poor training on the part of the Iranian military, or does Russian air-defense system equipment do a lousy job of differentiating between civilian airliners and military jets?

Whatever the answer to that question is, the fact remains that right now, the Democratic grassroots believe that Trump is the root of all evil, and all bad things that happen lead back to him in one form or another. There’s a Democratic primary and impeachment battle going on simultaneously. No one of any stature in the Democratic party can afford the political risk of publicly arguing or even acknowledging that anything isn’t Trump’s fault. The Democratic presidential candidates, in particular, have to offer the biggest, most vocal, most emphatic, “yes, you’re right, grassroots” that they possibly can.

“Innocent civilians are now dead because they were caught in the middle of an unnecessary and unwanted military tit for tat,” Pete Buttigieg declared. The most common term floating around Thursday night was “crossfire,” even though Tuesday night only one side was firing any weapons. Keep in mind, so far in this conflict, the United States military hasn’t fired anything into or in the direction of Iranian territory.

If we really want to extend blame beyond the Iranian military, there is a long list of individuals and institutions who should be standing in line ahead of President Trump. Let’s start with Iranian aviation authorities who kept their local civilian aircraft flying, and the airlines who chose to keep flights taking off shortly after Iranian military action — when no one could know for sure whether the military action had concluded.

About 2 1/2 hours before the Ukraine International Airlines jet with 176 people on board took off, the Federal Aviation Administration issued emergency orders prohibiting American pilots and airlines from flying over Iran, the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman.

The notices warned that heightened military activity and political tension in the Middle East posed “an inadvertent risk” to U.S. aircraft “due to the potential for miscalculation or mis-identification.”

Foreign airlines aren’t bound by FAA directives, but they often follow them. In this case, however, several large international carriers — including Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and Aeroflot — continued to fly in and out of Tehran after Iran fired missiles at military bases inside Iraq that house U.S. troops. They still were flying after the FAA warning, and after the Ukrainian jetliner crashed, according to data from Flightradar24, which tracks flights around the world.

“It was awfully peculiar and awfully risky,” said Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. “That’s a theater of war and these guys were acting like there was nothing going on.”

Goelz said airlines should have canceled all flights when Iran fired the missiles.

That Kirkpatrick speech from the 1984 Republican National Convention, linked above, is always worth rereading, because while the particular issues change, the philosophy doesn’t. (Although note one section of her speech dealt with Iranian-backed terrorism: “When our Marines, sent to Lebanon on a multinational peacekeeping mission with the consent of the United States Congress, were murdered in their sleep, the “blame America first crowd” didn’t blame the terrorists who murdered the Marines, they blamed the United States.”)

Kirkpatrick concluded: “The American people know that it’s dangerous to blame ourselves for terrible problems that we did not cause. They understand just as the distinguished French writer, Jean Francois Revel, understands the dangers of endless self-criticism and self-denigration. He wrote: ‘Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.’”

A certain kind of U.S. foreign-policy thinker or lawmaker believes that if we just apply the right combination of incentives, every problem beyond our shores can be fixed. If some foreign leader takes action against us, it’s because we didn’t do something we should have or because we did do something we shouldn’t. It’s as if they don’t really see foreign leaders and peoples as having independent wills and agencies, just instinctive responses to our actions, and that all of their acts, no matter how malevolent, are entirely rational responses to our failures to meet their expectations.

A couple people griped that Monday’s piece assessed the behavior of the Iranian government starting in 1979 — you know, when the revolution and current regime took over — and didn’t go back to the coup in 1953 or the formation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1914. (At least this is a refreshing change from the folks who believe Iranian history began when Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal.)

I’m a big fan of studying history, but the past can’t be changed. When trying to figure out how to deal with the threat of this regime, declarations like, “well, we never should have opposed Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq 67 years ago!” don’t really get us anywhere.</blockquote?Fortunately, the Iranian people seem to be getting the idea, even if American Democrats are not, that their government is failing them. Brian Stewart:

Iran, said President Carter on New Year’s Eve in 1977, “is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” It didn’t take long for this confident avowal to prove erroneous. Just over a year later, Iran’s shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, would be forced into exile, with a clutch of hysterical mullahs led by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini taking his place. Iran’s vaunted stability turned out to be a mirage, and the Islamic revolution has been a source of trouble in the region ever since.

A little more than 40 years later a similar conviction has taken hold regarding the staying power of the regime seated in Tehran. This fashionable fatalism claims that, whatever its problems or the designs of its enemies, the Islamic republic is here to stay.

But there is ground for skepticism about this reigning complacency, and not only because the stability of an autocratic government is fiendishly difficult to gauge. There are unmistakable signs of fatigue and fragility roiling the Islamic republic today. For starters, the paralysis gripping the economy as a result of chronic mismanagement, the diversion of resources, and onerous sanctions is causing acute distress among average Iranians. The tenacious political demonstrations that have been rising in the face of lethal violence from the authorities reveals both the determination of the opposition and the cruelty of Iran’s rulers. Even in the aftermath of the targeted U.S. strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s extraterritorial Quds Force and adjutant to the Supreme Leader, the people have not significantly rallied behind the clerics. To the contrary, they have been given fresh occasion to see clearly the nature of a regime whose Revolutionary Guard incites aggression, recklessly shoots down a civilian airliner, and then literally attempts to bulldoze the evidence.

All of this suggests that the affairs of Iran are drawing rapidly to an eventful crisis. Observers reconciled to the endurance of the Islamic republic might want to reconsider their determinism before history passes them by.

In the turbulent life of the Islamic republic, it has not been foreign meddling by outside powers but domestic insurrection that has posed the greatest threat to its rule. Recalling the revolt across Iran in June 2009 may be instructive here. Here was more proof that it was not a “regime change war” (with apologies to Tulsi Gabbard) that nearly felled the Islamic republic, but the vox populi. No less a figure than Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei later admitted that during the Green revolution the regime suffered a near-death experience.

Back then, pro-democracy protests had engulfed the country after the regime in Tehran engineered a crude voting exercise that flouted the elementary standards of a “free and fair” contest. (No one with the faintest understanding of Iran’s government—and its totalitarian doctrine of clerical control known as velayat-e faqui—could bring himself to credit this charade, or the alternately credulous and cynical response of the Obama White House that treated the “result” with deference.) The peaceful uprising was viciously suppressed by the regime’s Revolutionary Guard units, including the fearsome Basij paramilitary force, but not before a bravura display of people power by Iranians chafing under theocratic rule.

One decade later, it seems that the 2009 Green movement was a dress rehearsal for a larger and more lingering confrontation between Iranians and the mullahs who oppressed them for four decades.

This past November, protests erupted in several cities across the country in response to abrupt government increases in fuel prices. The demonstrations called for a swift end to the Islamic republic, and were vigorously put down by rulers accustomed to meting out violence to peaceful protesters. According to credible accounts, hundreds and perhaps more than a thousand Iranians were killed for the offense of raising their voices against the regime. Thousands more have been detained and tortured.

At first, this ferocious crackdown gave every appearance of having worked as intended. The demonstrations disappeared and the regime’s security apparatus came off high alert by mid-December. It seemed as if the status quo had survived intact. Then, in January, many stories appeared in the Western media suggesting that the Iranian people were broadly united behind the mullahs—a supposedly monolithic nation in mourning for Soleimani. Press coverage of the mass funeral procession for the fallen commander offered little skepticism about the meaning of such a highly orchestrated event in an authoritarian state.

So imagine the surprise when Iran’s protests reignited last week. The backward and brutal regime has imposed martial law to thwart memorial services for the victims of the recent repression. For the ayatollahs, all this domestic turbulence has come at an inauspicious time when popular discontent with the Islamic republic—and its corrupt and violent proxy and surrogate political forces—has reached a boil from Baghdad to Beirut. This tense domestic situation will not be allayed by the show of force from China, Russia, and Iran, all holding joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. Nor does it seem that, after the death of Soleimani, the Iranian street has been fooled by the regime’s “face-saving” gesture of lobbing rockets toward coalition bases in Iraq without harming any U.S. or Iraqi forces.

The persistent nature of this inchoate anti-regime movement—this revolution against the revolution—suggests something other than a revolt rooted solely in severe economic hardship. Whatever the misery inflicted by the combined weight of excessive government debt (ballistic missile development doesn’t come cheap) and punitive U.S. sanctions, the scale and resilience of the demonstrations gripping Iran suggest a more thorough repudiation of a regime characterized by superstition, reaction, and transnational violence. The Islamic revolution of 1979 finds itself under siege today by would-be revolutionaries who have not only challenged its economic mismanagement but also its very political legitimacy.


The late scholar Bernard Lewis liked to note a curious phenomenon in the Middle East: Pro-American regimes that were dictatorial often had anti-American populations, but anti-American regimes like Iran had pro-American populations. This certainly looked true in 2009 when the Iranian masses cried out for the explicit support of the American president, to no avail. How the U.S. government responds to the new protests and the likely crackdown against them may be even more consequential than its recent action in the skies over Baghdad.

The observers who consider Iran’s regime resilient beyond measure believe a revolution against it holds so little hope that its potential scarcely deserves mentioning, let alone supporting. These fatalists contend that the Iranian regime, like a cornered animal, is most dangerous when cornered, and therefore the wisest course is almost endless conciliation. The alternative, this argument runs, is a policy of mutual confrontation in which Iran’s Revolutionary Guard lashes out and turns the region into a cauldron of violence and terror.

The trouble with this argument is that it does not account for the violence and terror the regime has already inflicted across the region, and will continue to inflict. But with sanctions beginning to bite down hard and the Iranian masses inflamed against their bellicose but exposed regime, now may be the time for those who blithely assume the stability of the Islamic republic to ask themselves the breathless question: What if they are wrong?

Governor Coward

The Richmond (Va.) Times–Dispatch:

Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in Richmond ahead of a rally Monday that is expected to bring thousands of gun rights activists to Richmond.

The state of emergency will be enforced Friday evening to Tuesday evening. It includes a firearms ban on Capitol Square, as well as a general ban on weapons that includes bats and knives.

Northam cited safety threats “similar to what has been seen before other major events such as Charlottesville,” a reference to the deadly Unite the Right rally in August 2017.

“These are considered credible, serious threats by our law enforcement agencies,” Northam said, citing claims that groups plan on “storming our Capitol” and “weaponizing drones over our Capitol.”

Monday’s rally is being organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which says it is expecting between 30,000 and 50,000 people to arrive on the steps of the Capitol to protest gun control legislature proposed by Democratic lawmakers.

In an email to rally participants sent Tuesday, VCDL encouraged a peaceful demonstration. It told protestors planning to go inside legislative buildings to leave their guns at home or in their hotels. But, it also encouraged unarmed protestors to travel with an armed “designated defender” that will wait outside the buildings for them. It’s unclear how the group might update its directive following Northam’s announcement.

“We cannot stress enough that this is a peaceful day to address our legislature,” Tuesday’s email reads. “The eyes of the nation and the world are on Virginia and VCDL right now and we must show them that gun owners are not the problem. Lead by example.”

By violating the First and Second Amendment rights of those opposed to Northam’s unconstitutional gun-banning efforts, Northam is certainly leading by example … the example of a coward.

Saving Iran from its mullahs

Nick Gillespie:

The killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the United States military will understandably dominate headlines for weeks if not months to come.

But the actual demise of the authoritarian regime that’s been in power since 1979 will come more from acts like the one taken by Kimia Alizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist. Late last week, the bronze medalist in Taekwondo in the 2016 Summer Games announced via Instagram that she has fled her home country due to the systematic oppression of women. Via CNN:

“Let me start with a greeting, a farewell or condolences,” the 21-year-old wrote in an Instagram post explaining why she was defecting. “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years.”…

“They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me,” she wrote, adding that credit for her success always went to those in charge.

“I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools,” Alizadeh added, explaining that while the regime celebrated her medals, it criticized the sport she had chosen: “The virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs!”

On the heels of Alizadeh’s self-imposed exile comes reports that two anchors for Iranian state broadcaster IRIB have quit over qualms about censorship and official lies. From The Guardian:

Zahra Khatami quit her role at IRIB, saying: “Thank you for accepting me as anchor until today. I will never get back to TV. Forgive me.”

Her fellow anchor Saba Rad said: “Thank you for your support in all years of my career. I announce that after 21 years working in radio and tv, I cannot continue my work in the media. I cannot.”

The journalists’ statements are part of a crisis of confidence following the initial attempts by state officials to deny that Ukrainian jetliner 752 had been shot down by mistake by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) air defence force.

A third broadcaster, Gelare Jabbari, said she quit “some time ago” and asked Iranians to “forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.”

This is all happening against the backdrop of massive protests in Iran following the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner that carried 176 people. Demonstrators protested rising gas prices late last year and in the years prior, there have been other protests and general strikes for a host of reasons, including increased dissatisfaction with theocratic rule. According to a Carnegie Endowment report, 150,000 educated Iranians emigrate each year, “costing the country over $150 billion per year” as relatively young and motivated residents leave for greener pastures elsewhere.

By all accounts, sanctions imposed by the United States in 2018 have hit Iran’s economy extremely hard and are playing a role in sparking protests. It’s never fully clear how those sorts of intervention, much less more militaristic actions such as the killing of Soleimani, play out—sometimes overt pressure applied by an outside power emboldens dissent and sometimes it decreases it. But when a country starts to get hollowed out from within, as seems to be the case with Alizadeh’s exile and other recent and ongoing domestic developments, autocrats should start sweating.

 

The most dangerous Democrat

Rich Lowry:

Bernie Sanders is leading or near the top of most polls in the first two Democratic nominating states, Iowa and New Hampshire. He could plausibly win both, which would instantly transform the race into a desperate effort to Stop Bernie.

Sanders doesn’t exactly get good press. A lot of the punditry (understandably) wrote him off when Elizabeth Warren eclipsed him in the polls a couple of months ago and he had his health scare. Longer profiles have tended to be fond, while expressing skepticism that Sanders can build out his coalition. But the same people who have spent years worrying about norms — by which they usually mean things President Donald Trump says and tweets — express little alarm about Bernie’s campaign of jaw-dropping radicalism.

If he had his way, he’d fundamentally change the character of the country. He’d make the United States an outlier in the Western world, not in terms of its relatively limited government, but its sweeping activism. A Hellfire missile aimed right at the federal fisc, Sanders would make Barack Obama’s economic agenda look like the work of a moderate Republican.

In foreign affairs, he’d bring to the Oval Office a sympathy for America’s enemies not often heard outside academia or Noam Chomsky reading groups.

He’s the American Jeremy Corbyn, a socialist true believer whose fantastical agenda reflects the dictates of dogma. The difference is that Corbyn effectively promised a return to socialist-imposed stagnation in Britain, whereas Bernie is inviting America to experience it for the first time.

His domestic program, according to Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute, would cost nearly $100 trillion over the next decade. It would more than double federal spending and blow past Western European social democracies in government profligacy. What would ordinarily be considered ambitious spending plans — his proposed increased expenditure expansion on Social Security, infrastructure, housing, education, and paid family leave — are dwarfed by his gargantuan commitments to his “Medicare for All” proposal, his federal job guarantee, and his climate plan.

He’d fundamentally transform the relationship of the individual to the state, which, among other things, would ban people from owning their own health insurance.

Sanders pitches his health-care proposal as “what every other major country on Earth is doing,” but no other place is as sweeping or as generous. “There is not a single country in the world,” health-care analyst Chris Pope writes, “that offers comprehensive coverage with an unlimited choice of providers, fully paid for by taxpayers, without insurer gatekeeping, service rationing or out-of-pocket payments.”

Sanders would drastically increase taxes and still fall short of funding his program. As Riedl notes, he’d boost the top federal income-tax rate to 52 percent from 37 percent, and the payroll-tax rate to 27.2 percent from 15.3 percent, as well as impose a 62 percent investment-tax rate on upper-income taxpayers.

His foreign policy bears the stamp of soft spots for the Communist regimes in Nicaragua and the Soviet Union. He called the killing of General Qasem Soleimani an assassination. He condemned the ouster of Bolivia’s leftist autocrat, Evo Morales, who has called Sanders “brother.” He won’t call Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro a dictator but slams Benjamin Netanyahu as a “racist.” He has said his vote to authorize the war in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks was a mistake.

Sanders does indeed have his charms. He’s sincere, consistent, and inarguably himself. He now has a step on frenemy Elizabeth Warren in the leftist lane in the primaries because he’s not as painfully calculating as she is. But make no mistake: Sanders is a socialist continuing his takeover attempt of the Democratic party to forge what he aptly calls a political revolution. He may be more polite than Trump, but he’s wildly outside the mainstream and a clear and present danger to the public welfare.

And Comrade Bernie attracts these kinds of supporters, summarized in this tweet: