We Need More Ships!

by Jim Talent

New presidents begin to appreciate America’s armed forces at their first National Security Council meeting during their first foreign-policy crisis, when the first question asked is usually: “Where is the nearest aircraft carrier?”

President Trump has decided where two of the carriers will be. The United States is extending the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson to join the USS Ronald Reagan in the waters near the Korean peninsula. The Nimitz is scheduled to relieve the Vinson in the Pacific later this year.

General McMaster, the national-security adviser, has said that the United States does not anticipate using military force against North Korea. Yet the carriers are still vital to our policy there. The carrier strike group is the tip of the iceberg of American power; its presence is a powerful signal the United States is serious about protecting its people and its interests in a crisis.

In fact, the most common use of hard power generally is to reinforce the soft power that all American presidents prefer to use when exerting national influence. George Kennan put it concisely in a lecture to the National War College in 1946: “You have no idea how much it contributes to the general politeness and pleasantness of diplomacy when you have a little quiet armed force in the background.”

There should be two aircraft carriers in the Pacific theater at all times. Only one is deployed there consistently. There should also be a two-carrier presence in the Persian Gulf, yet only one is typically there. There should be a continuous carrier presence in the Mediterranean, but typically there is no carrier there at all. This is because the United States only has eleven aircraft carriers and at any given time only about a third of them can be deployed at sea. Carriers have to steam to and from deployments, and they must be maintained in home port. This “two for one” rule is true for the entire Navy (and in fact, for most of the armed forces) but it’s especially true for carriers, because they require so much maintenance.

Numbers matter, both in actual combat and because forward presence, which requires numbers to sustain, is as important a mission for the Navy as combat. At 275 ships, the Navy is at least 75 ships too small — no matter what PolitiFact or the Washington Post says.

In the early 1990s, when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, he proposed a plan for the armed forces in the new post-Cold War world. He thought that the Navy would need twelve carriers and almost 200 more ships in total than it has today. That was before the rise of Chinese power, before global Islamic terrorism, before Iran’s nuclear program, before Russia became hostile, and before North Korea acquired nuclear weapons. It was a relatively peaceful world then; the world today, as Madeleine Albright put it a few years ago, is “a mess.”

Aircraft carriers cost $12-13 billion. That’s a little more than 1/15th of one percent of America’s GDP, and a little less than one third of 1 percent of the federal budget. (It’s also about one eighth of Bill Gates’ personal fortune; maybe the Navy should apply to Bill and Melinda for a grant.)

America can afford more carriers, more ships of other kinds, and a larger military generally. The problem isn’t money. It’s time. You can’t throw a switch and get an aircraft carrier; it takes five years or more to build one. Other classes of ships can be built much quicker, if they are already designed and ready for production, and if the industrial base is robust enough to absorb the extra work. That’s another problem for the Navy; the United States has lost half its public shipyards in the last 20 years.

Foreign policy is the product of capability and intention. One of the ironclad rules is that intention can change quickly — we have seen that in the last two weeks of the Trump administration — but it takes a lot longer to change capability, which is why it was such a consequential mistake to allow American strength to sink so low over the last 20 years.

I’ve always believed that Donald Trump grasped all this intuitively, that in this area his instincts were much sounder than those of his predecessors. When Mr. Trump says that his policy is “peace through strength,” he means it. He knows that negotiating from strength is better than negotiating from weakness. His defense plan calls for a 350-ship Navy. My guess is that as time goes on, he will conclude he needs a bigger Navy than that.

He can have it, and he can have the military he wants; in the process he can revitalize American manufacturing and American innovation, and get the high-end job creation he wants as well. Many of those jobs will be in the heartland, in Trump country. The defense plan alone, if pursued with vigor and purpose, can by itself go a long way toward fulfilling his pledge to make America great, and safe, again.

All his administration — or the top level of it anyway — needs to do is focus like a laser on two things: a) getting more money for defense, and b) spending the money with reasonable efficiency, so that Congress will give him even more money. Money is not the solution to most of the problems in Washington. But for all intents and purposes, it’s the solution to this one.

The industrial base has become so fragile that Mr. Trump won’t be able to complete a rebuild of the military in his administration, even if he serves two terms. But he can get us most of the way there, and there is nothing he could do that would help his country more, or secure his place in history better.

Who Will Take the Threats to Free Speech on Campus Seriously?

by George Leef

Nasty, thuggish attacks on free speech by leftist students, often aided by outside “Antifa” allies, has reached crisis stage. We have a large cadre of people who’d have fit in perfectly with Mao’s Red Brigades because they are eager to enforce ideological purity and punish those who disagree with “progressive” beliefs. What must be done?

That is the question Martin Center president Jenna Robinson and Anna Beavon Gravely (the North Carolina spokeswoman for Generation Opportunity) explore in this article.

While some college leaders at least say they want to stop the attacks and restore free speech and civility, we shouldn’t expect too much from the higher-education establishment itself. As the authors explain,

A recent survey of 440 American universities indicates that nearly half of them have adopted policies that infringe on the First Amendment rights of students. Also, many schools are willing to fire dissenting employees and create “free speech zones” for the sake of maintaining their public image and avoiding controversy. And in some cases a double standard has been established, where controversial expression is tolerated so long as it has a “liberal” slant.

Perhaps state politicians can use their authority over the colleges and universities they fund (and are supposed to be able to control but that’s very problematic) to deal with the free-speech problem. Toward that end, the Goldwater Institute has drafted model legislation called the Restore Campus Free Speech Act and it is now under consideration in a number of states, including North Carolina. The General Assembly has begun hearings on a bill modeled on the RCFSA. Guess what? The general counsel for the UNC system testified that it is unnecessary and the ACLU’s spokesperson objected that it is “overly broad.” The bill will probably pass despite such objections. Then we will find out if Governor Cooper, a Democrat who narrowly won last November, will sign it or veto it to make leftists happy.

One thing all the riots and disruptions have accomplished is to wake many Americans up the the fact that free speech is in danger. “Perhaps soon,” optimistically write Robinson and Gravely, “higher education will return to being a bastion of free speech and intellectual diversity.” That indeed must be the goal, and it it is not accomplished, more and more Americans might decide to do their college work at schools that haven’t let themselves become enclaves of, to use Jonah Goldberg’s apt phrase, “liberal fascism.”

Handel Campaign Raises $1 Million Online in a Week

by Alexandra DeSanctis

In the week since the April 18 jungle primary in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, the Handel campaign has raised over $1 million in online contributions. The race pitted 18 candidates against one another and ended with no outright victor, triggering a runoff competition between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

This money will be a huge help to the GOP campaign as the former Georgia secretary of state heads into a June 20 face-off with Ossoff, who, at 48.1 percent of the vote, fell just short of the 50 percent needed to take the congressional seat in the first round of voting. Handel came in a distant second at just under 20 percent.

No GOP congressional campaign has ever raised so much online in such a short period of time. In the two months leading up to the April 18 contest, the Handel campaign had raised about $290,000 online in a total fundraising haul of $457,000.

Meanwhile, the Ossoff campaign raised over $8.3 million in donations before the election, over 90 percent of which came from outside Georgia, and $6 million of which he spent on his efforts to take the seat outright. On the day after the primary alone, his campaign landed nearly half a million more in contributions.

Recent reporting shows that Ossoff’s strong showing on April 18 was the result of unusually strong Democratic turnout for an off-year election. While Republican primary voters turned out at rates typical for a midterm election, which is rare in a special election, Democratic voters beat them in this instance by a four-percentage-point margin, a rare feat. Much of this was due to the strong early-vote turnout for Ossoff, who was hailed from early on in the race as the Democratic party’s preferred candidate. However, Ossoff did not do as well in the district as Hillary Clinton did in November, despite losing GA-06 to Donald Trump by a razor-thin margin.

Since last week’s election results came in, both Trump and House speaker Paul Ryan have announced their intention to visit the sixth district and campaign with Handel.

Washington Post: More Young Republicans Know a Millionaire Than a Muslim

by Jonah Goldberg

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake tweets:

I’m not sure why this is all that interesting a stat (or why they went with this picture) but okay. The tweet and headline are also misleading. The Harvard poll that the data come from asks if you have a “close relationship” with someone who fits a certain category and “Muslim” is one of them. There are lots of people I “know” but I wouldn’t say I have a close relationship to them.

I strongly suspect the point of the headline is to suggest that there’s something nefarious or revealing about conservative attitudes here. For instance, here is one of the first responses to Blake’s tweet:

Ah yes, if we could only introduce more young people to Muslims that will magically make them Democrats — just like rubbing a leprechaun’s head.

Anyway, the stat I find more interesting is that less than half (49 percent) of young people who call themselves Democrats “know” (in Blake’s usage) a gun owner, compared to 80 percent of young Republicans. There are by one reputable estimate some 3 million Muslims in America. They tend, like many ethnic or religious groups that are disproportionately made up of immigrants, to be concentrated in few enclaves. Meanwhile, roughly 44 percent of American households have at least one gun in them (it may well be higher as some people lie or refuse to answer the question).

In terms of electoral politics, I think that datum is much more significant.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article. If you get past the click-baity headline, you’ll even learn this:

Some of these numbers are perhaps a little less surprising than you might think. There are actually more millionaires in the United States (about 3 percent of the population) than there are Muslims (1 percent), for example.

“Culturally Loaded”

by Andrew Stuttaford

From the New York Times’ Public Editor (my emphasis added):

One reader wrote in this week to ask why The Times, in a story on a Michigan doctor who is accused of performing female genital mutilation on two 7-year-old girls referred to the practice as “genital cutting.”

We asked Celia Dugger, the editor of Health and Science, to explain the reasoning behind the decision.

“I began writing about this back in 1996 when I was an immigration reporter on the Metro desk covering the asylum case of Fauziya Kassindja. I decided in the course of reporting that case — especially after a reporting trip to Togo, her home country, and the Ivory Coast — to call it genital cutting rather than mutilation. I never minced words in describing exactly what form of cutting was involved, and there are many gradations of severity, and the terrible damage it did, and stayed away from the euphemistic circumcision, but chose to use the less culturally loaded term, genital cutting. There’s a gulf between the Western (and some African) advocates who campaign against the practice and the people who follow the rite, and I felt the language used widened that chasm.”

I was just going to let those words stand there in all their squalor, but then I read this in the Washington Post, a newspaper that, unlike Ms. Dugger, seems comfortable with an accurate description of this barbaric procedure:

The attorney for a Detroit-area doctor accused of mutilating the genitals of young girls acknowledges that her client performed the procedure, but she says it was part of a religious practice.

The revelation came during a detention hearing on Monday, a few days after Jumana Nagarwala was charged in what authorities say is the first case of its kind in the country. Shannon Smith said in federal court in Michigan that her client removed the girls’ genital membrane as part of a custom practiced by the Dawoodi Bohra, a small sect of Indian Muslims of which Nagarwala is a part, the Detroit Free-Press reported.

I imagine that a First Amendment defense would fail on, among other grounds, the fact this particular ‘religious practice’ involved third parties (and young children at that), but the fact that religion is even mentioned, albeit by a defense attorney trying to throw in some supposedly mitigating circumstances for her client is—and I’ll put it no more strongly than this— an interesting straw in the wind.

Back to The Washington Post:

Female genital mutilation — or removing all or part of a female’s genital for nonmedical reasons — is considered a human rights violation, though it is practiced extensively in some African countries and areas of the Middle East, according to UNICEF. A June 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office found that increased immigration from countries where it is practiced had brought it to the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2012, 513,000 women and girls here were “at risk of or had been subjected” to it.

The report also found that while female genital mutilation was a crime under federal and many state laws, there were few investigations or prosecutions stemming from it — because of underreporting and other problems, The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky reported. The report said the FBI had two investigations from 1997 to 2015, one which resulted in a prosecution on other charges. Department of Justice officials indicated to the Government Accountability Office they were aware of two state prosecutions involving the practice.

“And other problems.”

‘I’m Not an Expert, But I Play One on TV.’

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt

‘I’m Not an Expert, But I Play One on TV.’

This would be a better country if those engaged in public debate had a little humility about what they know and what they don’t know. No one is an expert in everything.

But we’ve seen several high-profile commentators go beyond the realm of understandable errors and flubs to the realm of spouting at length and getting things completely wrong.

Shaun King, the “senior justice writer” of the New York Daily News, asked his Twitter followers how to change the Constitution, and upon learning how difficult it was, wrote a column wishing it was easier. Last fall, CNN’s Chris Cuomo contended that it was illegal for anyone who wasn’t a member of the news media to possess the DNC and John Podesta documents posted on WikiLeaks. That was a muddy explanation at best; hacking or stealing information is a crime but looking at it or publishing it is not.

And now we have Howard Dean arguing that the Constitution doesn’t protect nebulously-defined “hate speech” and citing three Supreme Court cases whose rulings are the opposite of the position he supports…

The generous interpretation is that this reflects the difficulty of explaining complicated concepts off-the-cuff while the bright lights of the television studio are shining. Or maybe Dean has, at best, a cursory understanding of these cases, or maybe no understanding at all. At the core of his argument is an effort to blur the line between speech that is merely objectionable or offensive to someone and speech that presents an imminent threat of physical harm to someone. The former is protected under the Constitution, and the latter isn’t, particularly if the threat is explicit and specific.

First Amendment lawyers across the country and across the political spectrum probably threw things at their television as Dean asserted that the three cases supported greater government restrictions on speech instead of the opposite.

Just how harmful is ill-informed talking head blather on television? I can’t help but wonder if it adds to public skepticism and distrust of “elites” or scoffing about “so-called experts.” Of course, actual experts are indeed actual experts. But our country has a lot of people who aren’t experts, but who play them on TV.

The joy of journalism is that if you’re doing it right, you learn something new every day. The dark side of journalism is the number of people who write about topics they… maybe, kinda-sorta understand.

I was talking with a neighbor about his work, a complicated profession measuring and projecting the economic effects of corporate mergers, and asked him how his field is covered by the media. He mentioned an article in a national magazine that made his profession seem secretive, greedy, and a bit sinister, and scoffed at how the reporter simply didn’t understand the work he and his colleagues did. He described a version of what the late author Michael Crichton called “the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.”

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

It’s not hard to find cases of reporters metaphorically tripping over their shoelaces, and either forgetting or never learning about facts and events important to their beat: Forgetting Obama statements from five years earlier. Botching a description of what the Easter holiday is about. Not knowing who Alger Hiss is, not knowing about the Clinton administration bombing Iraq in the 1990s, not know who A.Q. Khan is.

Recall the sneering contempt that Obama administration official Ben Rhodes had for the White House press corps:

Rhodes singled out a key example to me one day, laced with the brutal contempt that is a hallmark of his private utterances. “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something. We all start at zero. The real shame comes from not picking up more knowledge as we stumble along the path of life.

As Hugh Hewitt put it:

So many of the people writing under bylines are willing to do just the opposite today. It cannot end well when a free people are choosing leaders based upon the reporting of a class of people both biased and blind as well as wholly unaware of both or if aware, unwilling to work at getting smart enough to do their jobs well.

Still, young journalists at least have the excuse of being young. What’s Howard Dean’s excuse?

Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi Are Right

by Ramesh Ponnuru

They’re the moderates in a debate among Democrats about how their party should treat candidates who are not in complete agreement with the abortion lobby. I write about the controversy–which centers on Sanders’s endorsement of Heath Mello, a Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, who has a mixed record on abortion–at Bloomberg View today.

A few additional points:

First: Some of the coverage of this controversy is obscuring the status quo ante. Even this column by Bill Scher, which gently cautions abortion-rights activists to make a little more space for dissenting Democrats, says that Sanders “re-opened old wounds” by endorsing Mello and that it’s understandable that activists would “speak up when their agenda is at risk of being downgraded.” But Sanders’s endorsement of a Democrat who is not down-the-line with NARAL followed a longstanding practice among Democrats–as this article by D.D. Guttenplan in The Nation makes plain. What’s new is the assertion by Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez that all Democratic candidates have to side with NARAL. It’s pro-life and abortion-ambivalent Democrats who are being downgraded.

Second: As that Guttenplan article also makes clear, misunderstandings of Mello’s position and record that made him appear more anti-abortion than he is fueled the controversy. But Perez has taken a position that goes beyond the particulars of this case.

Third: I note in my Bloomberg article that a Pew poll last year found that 28 percent of Democrats think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Also worth mentioning: A Marist poll for the Knights of Columbus after the election found that 34 percent of Democrats think abortion should be illegal with exceptions, at most, for cases of rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life. An additional 24 percent of Democrats think abortion should be available only within the first three months of pregnancy. That’s a majority of Democratic voters with views to the right of the ones that have gotten Mello into trouble.

Fourth: In Perez’s statement that all Democratic candidates should support “the Democratic Party’s position on women’s fundamental rights,” he also says that he “fundamentally disagrees” with Mello’s “personal” opposition to abortion. The statement can, however, be read to indicate tolerance for people who think abortion is wrong but don’t want the law to follow the implications of its wrongness. In Gallup’s most recent poll on the subject, from last year, 47 percent of Americans say abortion is not morally acceptable and 43 percent say it is.

Fifth: There remain limits to how aggressive even Perez is willing to be in support of abortion. His statement steers clear of actually using the word.

Chelsea Clinton Has Some Seriously Committed Fans

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Judging by the back-and-forths of last few days, Chelsea Clinton is well on her way to joining Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Ron Paul, and Beyoncé as an executive platinum member of the Club of the Praetorian guard. Just try it: Say a few words in public that are critical of any of them, and out will come the apologists — vehemently, angrily, at length. Chelsea hasn’t even run for anything yet and already she’s garnering more loyalty than her mother ever did.

It’s not merely the scale of the reaction that is notable; it’s the extraordinary depth of the witlessness it involves. On the many occasions that I have criticized Sarah Palin, I have watched in amusement as her name became a stand-in for America itself. “You don’t like Palin?” I would be asked. “But she’s a real American. So you must hate real America.” So it was with Donald Trump, albeit in a slightly different manner, and with Ron Paul, who represented to his fans the very distillation of American liberty. To criticize any of them, it seemed, was to exhibit a moral failing.

With Chelsea, the same dynamic applies. It cannot be that the PR push is awkward and obvious; that Chelsea is embarrassingly mediocre, despite the abundance of coverage; that her denials of ambition are parsed to perfection. It cannot be that people are irritated by her desire to comment on politics without suffering any pushback. It must be something else: sexism, racism, fragility, a lack of love. It must be obsession. It must be mental illness.

T.A. Frank has written a perfectly pitched takedown of Clinton in Vanity Fair. But nobody — nobody — has engaged with its substance. Rather, they have attacked T. A. Frank. It’s a peculiar thing, to whom the Gods give vigorous acolytes. We’ll see what they have in mind for Chelsea.

Tuesday links

by debbywitt

April 25th is ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps ) Day, the anniversary of the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli:  history, maps, contemporaneous footage, a brief documentary, and a Lego re-enactment.

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Medieval Dragons.

Is a Drunk Witness a Bad Witness?

It’s Oliver Cromwell’s birthday - here’s his excellent speech throwing out the corrupt Parliament, with bonus Monty Python.

The World’s Most Stubborn Real Estate Holdouts.

Inside the FBI’s Colossal Pre-Computer Fingerprint Factory.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include the science of cheap wine, Earth Day’s murderous co-founder, a 1964 coffee revolt, fighting communism with jazz, and a 1983 episode of The Family Feud that pitted the cast of Gilligan’s Island against the cast of the Batman TV series.

Mentally Ill Woman Euthanized in Canada

by Wesley J. Smith

I did a radio interview yesterday warning that I expected Canada to, one day, allow euthanasia as a “treatment” for serious mental illness.

Today, I find out it already happened. A court apparently allowed a mentally ill woman to be euthanized. From the CTV story:

In the case of E.F., court documents show the 58-year-old woman told the court she was “suffering intolerable pain and physical discomfort,” and “that her symptoms were irremediable.” She said she suffered from muscle spasms, digestive problems, immobility and periods of insomnia.

She said she was exhausted from her suffering, as well as depressed and fully mentally competent yet unable over eight years to find any effective treatment.

Despite objections from the attorneys general of Alberta and B.C., who argued E.F.’s condition did not meet the criteria of being terminal, the Court of Appeal sided with E.F. and allowed a doctor to help her die by suicide.

Dr. Ellen Wiebe, a former family physician in B.C. who has become a vocal and prominent advocate of medically assisted death, says she met with E.F. and knows how she suffered. “The case of E.F. is so important because she was the only case where someone received an assisted death for…mainly a purely psychiatric condition,” Wiebe told CTV News.

So, Wesley? She was suffering! She sure was.

That’s the logic. So let’s quit pretending that assisted suicide will ever remain solely for the terminal ill–once society accepts the premise that killing can be a proper remedy to suffering–and have an honest debate rather than the crapola about strict guidelines.

Canada is following the path trod by Belgium and the Netherlands. (Mark my words, euthanasia conjoined with organ harvesting within a few years.) We will too one awful day if we get on Assisted Suicide Highway.


Krauthammer’s Take: ‘The Whole 100-Day Thing Is Absurd’

by NR Staff

Taking on the issue of tax reform, Charles Krauthammer argued that Trump only has to worry about getting it done in time to stimulate growth, not to meet an arbitrary 100-day deadline:

I think this is the single most important legislative initiative for the Trump presidency. I think health-care reform is much more a congressional deal, it preceded Trump. But Trump is the one who ran on this, he ran as a businessman — and also, this is his one chance, and I think it will be a good chance, to actually stimulate the economy, to get to three percent or near three percent. And that would make his presidency. I think the whole 100-day thing is absurd. Does anybody remember what Obama accomplished in 100 days, or George W. or Clinton? Nobody remembers. All that matters is what happens in your first term, and the key is going to be tax reform.

If Trump has to answer on the first term, I think he says Gorsuch, Keystone, Dakota Access, deregulation, and around the world he’s put the world on notice that America is back, it’s willing to act. I think those are major achievements.

Isn’t That Special?

by John J. Miller

My latest Bookmonger podcast is with Mark Moyar, author of Oppose Any Foe: The Rise of America’s Special Operations Forces. In a 10-minute conversation, we talk about what makes the Special Forces so special, the biggest mistakes that presidents make with Special Forces, and how President Trump should use them.

Do Some Feminist Professors Even Know What the Word ‘Rape’ Means?

by David French

Last week Inside Higher Ed published an essay from an anonymous feminist professor that truly has to be read to be believed. In it, she describes being triggered into literal hysterics by a male student’s essay (at one point saying that she screamed at her computer screen, “Zero! You get a f**king zero!) This student, who allegedly rather bluntly questioned the existence of “rape culture,” caused her to compare the student to the man she claimed raped her many years ago. Here are her exact words:

I imagined him being friends with my rapist (though the man who raped me is now significantly older than this student, he is frozen in the 18-22 age bracket in my mind). How, I wondered, could I possibly evaluate this student’s work in an “unbiased” fashion? Such a request would involve me living an entirely different life than the one that I have had.

It’s worth highlighting her essay not so much because of one professor’s unbalanced reaction to one student’s essay but because of something else — something far more indicative of campus propaganda on rape and sexual assault. Here’s her description of teaching about “rape culture.”

It was the middle of the semester, and we were covering rape culture. As any feminist instructor who has ever taught about rape culture probably knows, covering this topic is challenging for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes we encounter students who realize that they have been raped who come to office hours looking for resources. Other times, students learn that they have actually perpetrated rape and struggle to reconcile that with their images of themselves as “good people” and “not one of those (usually) guys.” And many feminist instructors, especially those who are women, know all too well what it is like to navigate the “mansplaining” of a few men students who would like to ardently deny that rape culture exists. (Emphasis added.)

Read the italicized portion again. She’s claiming that thanks to feminist instruction, some students actually “realize” that they’ve been raped, while others “learn” that they’re rapists. This is extraordinary. Rape is not difficult to define — unless, of course you’re redefining it. And if she is describing people who “learn” that they’ve committed actual rape, why is she not calling the police? If she’s not calling the police, is she placing other women in danger? After all, didn’t she just “learn” that a sexual predator is on the loose?

Here’s a fundamental problem with campus “rape culture” arguments. On the one hand, campus feminists argue that colleges are in the grips of an extraordinary crime wave — with women at astounding risk of experiencing sexual violence. On the other hand, these same feminists will argue that it’s entirely fine if women choose to leave these crimes in the hands of campus tribunals – that people they believe to be actual criminals should receive academic discipline only, leaving them free to rape again.

Do feminists want to take rape seriously? Then they should define it according to the law and refer every single rape claim to law enforcement. But if they’re really talking about drunken hook-ups or radical new concepts of consent, then they should speak the language of morality and manners, not crime and punishment. Otherwise, they drain the word of its real meaning and contribute to the skepticism they so loudly condemn. 

U.N. Council Votes to Put Saudi Arabia on a Women’s-Rights Commission

by Paul Crookston

It’s hard to fathom the scale of the U.N.’s hypocrisy on human rights, but electing Saudi Arabia to the Commission on the Status of Women gives some indication of its depth. In ascending to the body, the Saudi government will serve alongside fellow Middle Eastern dictatorship and human-rights luminary Iran, which joined in 2014.

That’s the same Saudi Arabia that bans women from driving, forbids them to associate with men who aren’t family, and chooses for them what they will wear. Over at UN Watch, Hillel Neuer describes the oppression that Saudi women face: “Every Saudi woman must have a male guardian who makes all critical decisions on her behalf, controlling a woman’s life from her birth until death.”

Forty-seven countries in the U.N. Economic and Social Council voted in a secret ballot for the Saudis to join the women’s commission, which means that at least 15 liberal democratic states voted to include the Saudis, according to UN Watch’s calculation. Surely, palms were greased and deals were made behind closed doors, but the collective embarrassment extends to the U.N. as a whole, which Nikki Haley has taken to calling “corrupt” on matters of human rights.

Joining this commission may be part of the Saudis’ ongoing propaganda effort to change their image from one of a sexist and backward regime to one of a country attempting to “modernize.” So far, that effort has involved starting a “Girls Council,” the first meeting of which was notable for being entirely male. The putative chairwoman of the council is Princess Abir bint Salman, who, despite her high status, was nevertheless prohibited by law from appearing physically at the launch of this council. She was allowed to address the group by video, but appearing in person would have broken Saudi sex-segregation laws.

It’s doubtful that she will start a women’s-rights revolution any time soon. In the meantime, the men who lead her country will have ample opportunity to contribute their wisdom on women’s “equality and empowerment” to the U.N.’s commission.

What The Free Speech Debate Misses

by Jonah Goldberg

I basically agree with everything Wesley Smith says about that tortured op-ed in today’s New York Times.

But I still have misgivings with some of the pro-free speech arguments I often hear from my friends and colleagues on the right, including here at National Review.

That may be because I’ve long been a defender of censorship, rightly understood. I came to this view by way of Irving Kristol.

Irving wasn’t for political censorship, and neither am I (depending what you mean by the term). Irving argued that, “If you care for the quality of life in our American democracy, then you have to be for censorship.” But he more famously said, “The liberal paradigm of regulation and license has led to a society where an 18-year-old girl has the right to public fornication in a pornographic movie — but only if she is paid the minimum wage.”

These two quotes are perfectly consistent. What Kristol was getting at was the fact that societies survive by upholding minimum standards of decency. Such views seem awfully quaint in the era of online porn and whatever-the-Hell-this-is. But I think he was basically right. Progressives spent decades arguing for maximalist free speech in areas not traditionally considered speech at all. I am highly dubious that the authors of the First Amendment ever had strip clubs in mind.

But I’m no Comstock and, besides, these horses left the barn long ago. What vexes me is that at the same time progressives have maximized the right to “free expression” to even cover federal subsidies for craptacular “art,” they have worked assiduously to constrain the only speech the founders really cared about: Political speech.

As I’ve written many times, this approach puts the whole argument of free speech rights on its head. Normally, we defend “extreme” forms of free speech on the grounds that if we maintain these freedoms on the frontiers of our civilization, our core freedoms will not be threatened. This is the form arguments for everything from abortion rights to gun rights usually work. We must protect this questionable thing less we risk this other, unquestionable, core right.

The argument about free speech on campuses is so maddening because these petty magistrates want to crush the free exchange of serious ideas in a setting that is supposed to encourage such exchanges.

But the more important point, at least for me, is not the censoriousness of the campus commissars, but the ideology. Most of the speakers they want to ban aren’t spewing “hate speech” – whatever that is —  they’re offering “heresy speech.” Defenders of murderous Communist regimes aren’t banned from speaking on campuses – heck they often get tenure. Christina Hoff Sommers, Ayan Hirsi Ali and Charles Murray are kept off campuses because they are dangerous to leftwing orthodoxy and they expose the inability of college students to deal with arguments that undermine the secular religion of campus leftism.

That said, in a morally and intellectually healthy society, I’d have no problem with campuses refusing to lend resources to certain speakers. The idea that, say, the administrators of Yeshiva University, should be required to offer a venue to David Duke strikes me as silly as silly as saying he has a right to run an article in National Review.

In other words, the problem isn’t a lack of commitment to free speech (though that is a problem). The free speech argument is downstream of the real dilemma: The people running what should be citadels of civilizational confidence have turned against our civilization. Maybe some atheist speaker has been banned because he would hurt the feelings of religious students, but I’ve not heard about it. In other words, these administrators aren’t principally concerned with the sensitivities of “students” or even “students of color” or female students,  but of particular students who adhere to a specific ideology. The administrators use them as props and excuses to justify their ideological, quasi-religious, agenda.

The irony comes when the defenders of these totalitarian enclaves must defend their stance to the larger society. Normal people and other elite critics shout “What about free speech?” And so the secular priests contort themselves into pretzels trying to make the case that their censorship is somehow consistent with some nonsensical notion of a “higher principle” of what free speech is. They can’t be honest and say, “We have a heckler’s veto for anything that smacks of heresy and we’re not afraid to use it.”

So much of the arguments about free speech would be better served if they skirted the issue of  “rights” and stuck to old-fashioned notions of decency, good manners and sound judgment. But such antiquarian considerations don’t do the work the left wants them to do. Those standards won’t keep Charles Murray & Co out (though they might leave Richard Spencer in the anonymity he deserves). Worse, such values stem from a mainstream tradition of what college is supposed to be and how democracy is supposed to work, and in the new time religion, those wellsprings have been rendered off-limits. 



Democrats to Pro-Lifers: You Are Unwanted and May Be Discarded

by Dan McLaughlin

Bernie Sanders and new DNC Chair Tom Perez have been taking their “unity tour” on the road lately, and only underscoring the fact that the mindset of progressive activists these days allows Democrats to unify their party only by driving out dissenters. You might think Sanders – who is so far left he still only tenuously embraces the Democratic Party label – is, of all people, immune from criticism to his left, but he violated one of the Left’s most sacred cows by campaigning in Nebraska for Heath Mello, a candidate for Mayor of Omaha who has voted for a number of modest abortion restrictions as a state legislator. How modest? Mello earned a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood in 2015, but Daily Kos withdrew its endorsement of Mello for this heresy:

Prior to Wednesday, Daily Kos was unaware that Heath Mello, a Democrat who is running against the incumbent Republican mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, had supported legislation in the Nebraska state Senate eight years ago that would require women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound…However, as soon as we learned this information, we withdrew our endorsement, because this legislation clearly runs contrary to Daily Kos’ deepest values, including our support for women’s reproductive rights and our staunch opposition to laws that in any way impede women’s access to reproductive health care…according to a contemporaneous Associated Press report from 2009, the bill Mello co-sponsored “requires the physician performing the abortion to tell a woman an ultrasound is available, but it doesn’t require the ultrasound to be performed.” If a woman does elect to undergo an ultrasound, the images from the ultrasound must be displayed simultaneously. Mello called the measure a “positive first step to reducing the number of abortions in Nebraska.”

That’s right: Mello pledges fealty today to the “pro-choice” cause, but eight years ago, he voted to inform women that they could get an ultrasound; fear of even that modest bit of scientific information is enough to get endorsements pulled in today’s Democratic Party. Given that Perez is chairman of the party, defeated an opponent even more closely tied to the Left for his job, and is thought (despite his own very hard-left record) to represent the more “moderate” wing of the party by virtue of his ties to big donors, you’d think it would be his job to suggest that maybe a party that’s too purist for Bernie Sanders should be a more welcoming place for Democrats trying to win elections in places like Nebraska.

Think again:

 Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez became the first head of the party to demand ideological purity on abortion rights, promising Friday to support only Democratic candidates who back a woman’s right to choose. “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” Perez said in a statement. “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.” “At a time when women’s rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country,” he added, “we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.”… 

Perez initially defended the DNC’s acceptance of an anti-abortion Democrat. “Our job at the DNC is to help Democrats who have garnered support from voters in their community cross the finish line and win ― from school board to Senate,” Perez said….But Perez changed course Friday and delivered a big victory to the reproductive rights movement, saying that he “fundamentally disagree[s] with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health” and that “every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same, because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.” 

Dick Durbin underlined that people who consider themselves pro-lifers can be welcome in the Democratic Party only “as long as they are prepared to back the law, Roe versus Wade, prepared to back women’s rights as we’ve defined them under the law.” And that doesn’t just mean allowing abortion to remain legal, as Mello’s case illustrates: it means no limitations, however modest, on abortion – not even efforts to inform women of their choices and the nature of the life growing within them. In fact, Democratic orthodoxy now extends far from “pro-choice” to treating abortion as something the government should subsidize and thus encourage more of: the Democratic Party platform in 2016 called for repealing the Hyde Amendment (which restricts federal funds from being used for abortions), a position backed by supposed moderate, Catholic Tim Kaine in the fall campaign. Democrats routinely threaten to shut down the government if Planned Parenthood (the largest abortion provider in America, performing over 300,000 abortions annually) is not subsidized with federal funds. Democrats have pushed for legislation to repeal a Trump executive order banning federal funds from being used for abortions overseas. In every way, the Democratic Party today stands unified not only against legal restrictions on abortion, but for government subsidies of abortion. The fiction that anyone can vote Democrat today without embracing abortion as an affirmative good is falling to tatters.

And yet, many people who vote Democrat or are open to voting Democrat don’t agree with the party’s stance. A 2016 Pew poll found 28% of Democrats, 37% of independents, and 41% of those who identify as moderate or liberal (including 14% of liberals) believe abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Demographically, the poll found that 41% of women, 40% of African-Americans, 43% of black protestants, and 50% of Hispanics want abortion to be illegal in most or all cases. And that’s not even including the people who want it to be legal but subject to regulations and not taxpayer-funded. A 2015 Public Religion Research Institute poll found the same answer among 54% of Hispanic Millennials (the same poll found that over 70% of African-American and Hispanic respondents consider themselves “pro-life,” even many who also embrace the “pro-choice” label – a finding suggestive of a significant population of moderates on the issue). Other polls of Millennials found a sizeable pro-life contingent.

Abortion polling is at least as subject to wild fluctuations and variability by question phrasing as any other issue polling, but the overwhelming mass of polling data shows that there is a non-trivial number of Democratic voters and potential voters who do not want the party to be a lockstep “abortions for all” party. That’s particularly the case outside the coastal enclaves where the party is already strong (the thirteen states where Hillary Clinton won a majority, the seventeen states where they hold a majority of the House seats). The chairman of the party just told those voters they are unwanted and disposable.

NYT Publishes Speech Suppression Advocacy

by Wesley J. Smith

These are dangerous times for free speech in the increasingly less free Western world. In Europe and Canada, one can be fined or jailed for expressing views that those in power find odious or “oppressive.”

Here in the USA, we see such authoritarian speech suppression increasingly embraced on college campuses. But in the New York Times?

Alas, yes. The paper that rarely publishes positions that materially diverge from its own editorial positions, has published a vigorous defense of speech suppression. The idea is that speech deemed antithetical to the “public good” can be squelched. From, “What Snowflakes Get Right About Free Speech,” by New York University professor Ulrich Baer (my emphasis):

The great value and importance of freedom of expression, for higher education and for democracy, is hard to underestimate. But it has been regrettably easy for commentators to create a simple dichotomy between a younger generation’s oversensitivity and free speech as an absolute good that leads to the truth.

We would do better to focus on a more sophisticated understanding, such as the one provided by Lyotard, of the necessary conditions for speech to be a common, public good. This requires the realization that in politics, the parameters of public speech must be continually redrawn to accommodate those who previously had no standing.

Thus, speech that supposedly demeans those whom the speech suppressors deem to have been marginalized should be squelched. Hence, those refusing to accept that, say, Caitlyn Jenner is now a “she,” not only can be–but should be–forcibly shut up.

But Ulrich advocates an even broader suppression of speech, that could, if imposed, shut down NRO or punish Rush Limbaugh.

The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.

The tremendous peril here can’t be missed. Who gets to decide which view has what “inherent value?” Those in power.

This means, as we see on college campuses today, that minority views are not only suppressed, but suppressed by threats of, or actual violence — as we have seen at UC Berkeley and Middlebury College.

Ulrich concludes:

I am especially attuned to the next generation’s demands to revise existing definitions of free speech to accommodate previously delegitimized experiences.

Freedom of expression is not an unchanging absolute. When its proponents forget that it requires the vigilant and continuing examination of its parameters, and instead invoke a pure model of free speech that has never existed, the dangers to our democracy are clear and present.

So, First Amendment-protected political speech is a clear and present threat to democracy. No, Ulrich is.

Moreover, he misses the obvious point that the power to squelch speech that conflicts with progressive social advocacy could be similarly used to punish those who call Donald Trump a fascist, if the government ever attained the power to punish disfavored views.

I have been thinking for some time that on issues of speech, we are watching a contest between the American Revolution — that guarantees the right to express unpopular social and political views — and the French Revolution that unleashes Jacobins to suppress heterodoxy.

But after reading Ulrich, I think we face something even more dangerous to liberty: A full-blown Mao-style Cultural Revolution is gestating on college campuses. If we don’t restore American ideals of speech freedom to those “snowflake” enclaves, we could well see a violent avalanche materialize that threatens the peaceability of our broader social discourse.

Merciless On Air and In Print, Gracious and Kind in Real Life

by Jim Geraghty

A sad start to the first Morning Jolt of the week.

Kate O’Beirne, RIP

If you never had a chance to meet Kate O’Beirne, you really missed out.

Before I knew Kate, when I was a politically-wonky polliwog in the 1990s, I watched her on CNN’s Capitol Gang. It’s easy to forget how good television news debate programs used to be, before the stage was turned over to interchangeable telegenic bobble-heads who aren’t really into reading. On Capitol Gang, the panelists had to be journalists, published regularly in print publications, who knew their stuff and could think on their feet. And on screen, Kate O’Beirne seemed like a cross between Katharine Hepburn and a velociraptor.

The late Robert Novak described Kate in his autobiography, The Prince of Darkness:

Tall, blond, New Yorker-feisty, and exceptionally well-informed… Kate auditioned for the Gang for the first time on June 24, and she was dynamite. My decision was quickly made. Kate O’Beirne was a tremendous asset to the program, informed and able to charm the socks off [liberal panelist Al] Hunt. I think Boston Irish [Mark] Shields was less susceptible to the charms of an Irish lass from New York, and Kate always felt Mark resented a strong conservative woman. But Kate radically improved the program.

Watching her vivisect the arguments of the liberal panelists over the years, I was more than a little intimidated when I first met her. I joined National Review full-time in 2004, and in a circumstance where she had every reason to say or imply, “keep your mouth shut and learn, rookie,” she bent over backwards to make me feel welcome and an important contributor to the magazine as a whole. I recall at Democratic convention in Boston 2004, my first big event as new guy on National Review’s team, she asked me in front of my new co-workers, “how did you learn so much about politics?” I’m sitting in front of a Murderer’s Row of political journalism – Ramesh Ponnuru, John J. Miller, Jonah Goldberg, Byron York – and she’s asking what I think. More than a few folks inside and outside of National Review have those stories – where Kate made you feel like a big deal, even when you weren’t.

As merciless as she could be on-air and in print, she was as gracious and kind in real life. When she hosted a party, she made sure every guest felt at home. She gushed about her sons, serving in the military and law enforcement, two success stories of parenting. She sent gifts when my children were born.

Every once in a while, she left you with the feeling she could see around corners. In 2009, I remember her chatting, in one of her seemingly ever-present clouds of cigarette smoke, after a group of editors had met with some young no-name state legislator. This guy, who looked like he wouldn’t be able to buy booze without his ID, was named Marco Rubio and was talking up a long-shot bid against Charlie Crist in next year’s GOP Senate primary. Impressed, Kate speculated that this kid could be Romney’s running mate in 2012 (this was when the idea of Romney running again was considered unlikely) and that Rubio would run for president someday. Not quite on the nose, but in the ballpark.

You’ll want to read the remembrances from Ramesh, Jonah, Rich, John J. Miller, John O’Sullivan and Mona Charen.

William Kristol accurately observed, “Kate was a stalwart of the conservative movement who never manifested the stodginess or self-importance that one associates with stalwarts.”

She is dearly missed already.

Then and Now

by Jay Nordlinger

My Impromptus today is headed “The way we were, &c.” Why dredge up this song? Well, I was thinking of what we used to say about Obama. We used to say that he spent too much time on the golf course, for example. We toted up the costs of his personal travel — Martha’s Vineyard, Hawaii, and the like. We counted the times he said “I” and “me” in a speech!

That was so fun.

Anyway, we’re not apt to do that kind of thing anymore.

Here is something I do not include, because I read about it after I’d finished my column. President Trump was talking to the Associated Press. And he referred to the speech he gave in Congress earlier this year: “A lot of people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.”

What if Obama had said this? What would we have said? Remember how we were always knocking him for his arrogance and narcissism?

Good times.

I’d like to tell a story — about LBJ. But first, the current president. Talking about Afghanistan, he said, “What I do is, I authorize my military.” “My military,” huh? Can you imagine how we’d react if a Democratic president said the same?

Speaking of Democratic presidents: Johnson was at an airfield of some kind, and an officer pointed and said, “That is your plane, sir.” The president responded, “They’re all my planes, son.”

One more note: Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock had a play day at the White House. They posed and made funny faces in front of the portrait of Hillary Clinton. Okay. The people’s house and all.

I flashed back to the Clinton ’90s — when a photo circulated showing two women jumping up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom. They were from showbiz: Markie Post (the actress) and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (the producer).

You have no idea what a big deal we made of this. All the conservative bigs weighed in (the same ones who are weighing in today, though differently). They said that it epitomized the vulgarization of the presidency. They said it was a grotesque sign of decline.

I can just hear myself. Anyway, the way we were.

The Right’s Divisions

by Peter Spiliakos

In the medium term, I’m more pessimistic about the divisions within the Right than within the Left.

The Left’s divisions are real and sometimes bitter on a personal level, but you can usually see how they can be stitched up at the level of policy. The Left wants single-payer health care today. The center-Left wants single-payer eventually, after expanding Medicare and Medicaid has made the private-insurance market so small that it can be drowned in a bathtub. The center-Left wants the opposition figures and institutions to be silenced by economic boycotts and legal harassment. The far Left wants to speed up the process by breaking heads at riots. When you eyeball the plans of the center-Left (and make allowances for the eventual cost of single-payer), you probably get top marginal tax rates in the high 50s (inclusive of state income taxes.) The far Left probably gets those tax rates somewhere into the 70s.

There are still some important differences on dealing with the big banks (between those who want to break them up and those who want to cash their checks), but either the policy differences between the center-Left and the farther Left are usually prudential or the common ground is easy to see.

It is a little different on the right. One economics, you have what might be called “degenerate Kempism.” It is a combination of tax cuts for high-earners, cuts to entitlements spending, and increased low-skill immigration. On the other side, you have people who think of themselves as being on the right but who reject some or all of that. The ideas of Jack Kemp started as a way to connect wage earners to the GOP, but those ideas have long since become a rationalization for the interests and sensibilities of the right-leaning affluent.

The great advantage of degenerate Kempism is that most of the political talent, social capital, and money is on the side of this agenda – the money being the least important of the three factors. It is the default of the GOP lobbyists, donors, and most of the center-right politicians who came up through business or the professions.

What it doesn’t have are the voters. Put plainly in front of the public, most of swing voters and most Republicans oppose one or all of the components of degenerate Kempism. They might swallow one of the components, but taken together, they are toxic.

A further great advantage is that degenerate Kempism is an existing agenda. That means that those policies get thought out. There are existing plans to cut high-earner taxes, raise the retirement age, restrain Medicare spending, and expand low-skill guest-worker programs. When opportunities arise, believers in degenerate Kempism (and they are painfully sincere) are ready to take advantage.

There is no such common agenda among right-populists. Trump was nominated on the ruins of degenerate Kempism, but there wasn’t much of a policy in Trumpism. The result was that the congressional Republicans gave Trump a degenerate Kempist health-care bill that (whatever its other good qualities) reduced insurance coverage, raised insurance premiums for many older workers, and cut taxes on the wealthy. The public reacted badly.

It is difficult to see the common ground between the more elite degenerate Kempists (and I’m not helping with the labeling) and the populists. The degenerate Kempists want what they want. They are willing to make temporary retreats but will push on any door to cut any tax on the job creators, to cut domestic spending, and to answer the call of the affluent for cheaper low-skill labor. The populists have only the vaguest idea of what they want, and some of that is contradictory.

You can see some room for common ground, but it involves squinting and assuming more good faith and responsibility than either side has demonstrated. It involves the degenerate Kempists accepting that tax policy should be oriented more to the payroll-tax obligations of wage-earning parents than to the marginal tax rates of millionaires. It means that wage subsidies for the lowest-skill workers are a more pressing priority than are capital-gains rates of venture capitalists. It means admitting that America does not have too few low-skill workers. The populism will have to be at the center of the agenda rather than a garnish to a meal set for the business lobbies.

On the other hand, the populists will have to appreciate responsible politicians rather than thrilling to provocateurs. Lasting populist wins will involve what political scientist Lawrence Mead called “administrative statecraft.” It was that combination of populist energy and carefully crafted policy that gave conservatives welfare reform. It has been a generation since the last such victory.