In his new official portrait, as in his presidential rhetoric, Barack Obama just couldn’t quite get clear of the Bushes.
North Korea sent to the Winter Olympics a squad of comely female cheerleaders and Kim Yo-jong, the despot’s sleek sister. These apparitions from the world’s most hermetic state got the media’s attention, the Washington Post labeling Kim Yo-jong “the Ivanka Trump of North Korea” and CNN reporting that she was “stealing the show” at the Winter Olympics. North Korea is mounting a major charm offensive on a fearful and divided South, which has always had a large core of appeasers. It would be foolish to ignore this initiative. But it is irresponsible not to place it in context, as a ploy of the most sadistic regime on earth, which imprisons thousands, regularly executes hundreds, and starves all but the elite so that its nuclear program may thrive. Some reporters — William L. Shirer, Westbrook Pegler — understood the politics behind the 1936 Olympics; their heirs should emulate them.
It was bad enough to learn that the Steele dossier — unverified hearsay reports about a purported Trump–Russia conspiracy compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, based on anonymous Russian sources — was a Clinton-campaign opposition-research document that the FBI used to obtain FISA-court warrants to spy on the Trump campaign. Now we learn of a second dossier that a couple of familiar Clinton hatchet men fed to the FBI through Steele. Seems that Sidney Blumenthal — last seen slithering about the Clinton White House — collaborated with Cody Shearer, Bill and Hill’s “Mr. Fixer,” to dig up some Trump-and-Russia dirt. Blumenthal just happened to share it with his old friend Jonathan Winer, a State Department official, who just happened to share it with his good friend Christopher Steele, who dutifully folded it into the uncorroborated Trump rumors he was sharing with his friends at the Bureau. Clintonite corruption of government investigations: It is a new angle but an old story.
Donald Trump is considering whether to submit to an interview with Robert Mueller. Saying yes would be a bad idea. Competent lawyers advise clients that speaking with prosecutors voluntarily is perilous. Since making false statements to investigators is a federal felony, a volunteer who gets cute or sloppy in an interview can end up a convict. With Donald Trump’s checkered business past and propensity to stretch the truth, his lawyers must be highly cautious. But the more significant concern here is that Trump is president of the United States. A president has responsibilities that dwarf those of a prosecutor, even one conducting a significant investigation. That is why the Supreme Court has recognized a qualified executive privilege shielding presidents from law-enforcement demands. The president should not be asked to answer a prosecutor’s questions unless he is reasonably suspected of serious criminal misconduct and is in possession of critical evidence — of the caliber of Nixon’s White House tapes — that the prosecutor cannot acquire from other witnesses. Former FBI director James Comey repeatedly told Trump he was not a suspect. Unless that status has changed, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is supposed to be supervising Mueller, should not permit an interview.
After climbing for months, stocks reminded their owners that they can drop, too, and fast. Facile explanations were quickly devised, as always on these occasions. Some liberals blamed tax cuts. Hard-money men found a way to blame the Fed. The market isn’t reacting to any new information that pulls down estimates of future corporate earnings. So it is likely reacting instead to the prospect of higher interest rates, which discount those future earnings. Whatever the explanation, and whatever the political sparring over day-to-day movements in equities, the sensible investor is in it for the long run and should remain unfazed.
President Trump held an event at an Ohio plant in February to highlight some of the beneficiaries of his tax reform. Some employees of the plant, who had received a one-time bonus from their employer and a tax cut because of the bill, spoke about what they planned to do with the money. One man said he would put his $1,000 bonus toward savings to start a family; one woman said she’d use hers to help pay for a home and her children’s college education. NBC journalist Katy Tur scoffed in a series of tweets that, actually, the average cost of childbirth and tuition and houses in Ohio far exceeds $1,000 — the implication being that such a paltry amount would not really help these deluded people to achieve their goals. This was an odd bit of news analysis. Luckily, most people are in a position to know what use they can make of $1,000 without journalists’ explaining it to them.
Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary, was in charge of the flow of paper into and out of the Oval Office. The Daily Mail reported that two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend had accused him of physical abuse. The initial reaction of the White House was to defend Porter’s honor. Then he resigned. President Trump said that Porter had protested his innocence, and said nothing about his alleged victims; three days later, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was sympathetic to them, too. It was also reported that Porter, notwithstanding his sensitive job, did not have a full security clearance; the White House and the FBI gave conflicting accounts of what had happened. Aides leaked about one another’s role in this debacle. The evidence for Porter’s guilt is very strong, as is the evidence of White House mismanagement.
Paid leave for new parents is popular, and President Trump has promised to pass legislation to facilitate it. But existing proposals have had deep flaws. They tax one-earner couples to help two-earner couples, or give employers a strong incentive to avoid hiring and promoting women of child-bearing age. Kristin Shapiro, a libertarian lawyer in Washington, D.C., had an idea to minimize these drawbacks: Let new parents borrow against their future Social Security benefits in order to finance their leaves. They could get a percentage of their pay for twelve weeks, for example, in return for a twelve-week (or perhaps shorter) delay in retirement. After Shapiro wrote up the idea for the Independent Women’s Forum, Senators Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) expressed interest in it. The Left is already savaging it as a heartless cut to Social Security, which it isn’t — nobody’s total benefits would be cut, and participation would be voluntary. Kudos to Shapiro for redirecting this debate in a productive direction.
President Trump’s infrastructure plan is an exercise in wishful thinking: The president aims to spur $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending with only $200 billion in federal outlays, and to offset that $200 billion in spending with . . . something . . . to be determined later. That’s a lot of work — and a lot of money — toward no obviously desirable end: Contrary to the familiar hysteria, our infrastructure is not “crumbling.” A Reuters survey of the federal data puts the number of heavily traveled bridges that are “structurally deficient,” for example, at fewer than 20. (“Structurally deficient” is not a synonym for “at risk of imminent collapse.”) Of course there are repairs and improvements that need to be made, and here is how to go about doing that: In the cases in which responsibility for that infrastructure is federal, the relevant federal agencies should apply to Congress for funding as part of their regular budgeting process and then, if Congress agrees, make the repairs. Speeding up permitting is the element of the Trump plan that would help this process. But there is no national infrastructure emergency requiring a national response in the hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars. And, even if infrastructure spending had a reliably stimulative effect on the economy — it does not, though it often is sold that way — the economy is not currently in need of stimulus. If Trump can really identify $200 billion in easy federal cuts, then make the cuts, pocket the money, and flush the new infrastructure spending.
For centuries France has been either riven at home or menaced by enemies, often both. It is no surprise then that military display, enforced by hard experience, is embedded in French culture. President Trump, inspired by the Bastille Day parade he witnessed in Paris last year, has floated the idea of a march of American troops now. Our attitudes toward things military are more schizophrenic than France’s: Though we fight as hard as anyone, our aesthetic is casual — more Ike and Grant, less Patton and McClellan. What is there to celebrate now? Hard-won victories over 15 years: taking down Saddam, and now the ISIS caliphate. As with everything in the Trump years, the president and the resisters will strive to politicize any parade, which will detract from the men and women who so richly deserve our respect and our applause.
Steve Wynn, the casino mogul and Republican benefactor — he was until recently the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee — has been driven from his position as chairman and CEO of the gambling empire that bears his name after a series of sexual-misconduct complaints first reported in the Wall Street Journal. Wynn denies the complaints and has called them “preposterous,” but he stepped aside nonetheless. His company has brought in the high-powered law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and so voluminous are the complaints pouring in against Wynn that the Nevada gaming regulator is setting up a special online service to handle them. Wynn is accused of coercing employees into performing sex acts, an allegation that came to light as part of an ugly divorce case in which his ex-wife’s court filings revealed a $7.5 million settlement to a former employee. Others have stepped forward with claims ranging from harassment to assault. The RNC, which has never found a rake it would not step on, has announced that it is keeping Wynn’s money for now, at least until the investigations are concluded.
Races that are hopeless for normal candidates can be boons for crackpots or extremists. Illinois’s third congressional district, stretching southwest from Chicago, has been represented by a Democrat named Lipinski (father Bill, or incumbent Dan) since 1993. No regular Republican filed for the March 20 primary. This will allow Arthur Jones, who did file, to capture the GOP line. Jones, a perennial would-be candidate, is a Holocaust denier who cheerfully calls himself a National Socialist. In 1991, when Klansman David Duke emerged from Louisiana’s free-for-all open primary as the challenger to the Democratic candidate, President George H. W. Bush said a Holocaust denier did not deserve “one iota of public trust.” Memo to President Trump: Sometime between now and November, do likewise.
Elon Musk captured the national imagination and its passion for space exploration with the successful launch of his Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful rocket in current use and one that is partly reusable: Once detached, its boosters perform the nifty trick of returning to Earth and landing vertically. Musk, who runs Tesla Motors as well as the SpaceX aerospace company, put a red Tesla convertible in the rocket and strapped a mannequin in an astronaut suit into the driver’s seat; the car currently is in orbit and streaming video via the Internet. Musk’s sense of showmanship is amusing (the sports-performance setting on his sedans is dubbed “Ludicrous Mode”), but, for all the criticisms of his firms’ enjoyment of green subsidies, he and his enterprises are putting cars on the road and rockets in the air, and solar panels on houses, too, if that’s your thing. An immigrant from South Africa by way of Canada who spent 48 hours in the Stanford physics-Ph.D. program before deciding to go into business, he has captured the excitement of innovation and competition in a way few business figures have in recent years. Electric, solar power, rockets, artificial intelligence, hyperloops, brain–computer interfaces: Starting one of those businesses would have been remarkable. At 46 years of age, Musk has time for a dozen more.
Representative Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) has been wrangling with Representative Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) about the Russian-collusion investigation. Naturally enough, President Trump has weighed in. But observe the form: “Little Adam Schiff . . . ” his tweet began. Why, Mr. President? Jefferson, Lincoln, and George H. W. Bush were taller than rivals John Adams, Stephen Douglas, and Michael Dukakis, respectively. Cartoonists played on the contrast. But the big guys themselves — never. They knew that, after childhood, men don’t use such abuse. Donald Trump grew tall, but apparently not up.
In recent appearances, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a welcome stalwart in many respects, gave remarks of extraordinary stupidity regarding drug use. In Washington, D.C., he blamed the opioid epidemic on the gateway drug marijuana; the next day, in Florida, he advised sufferers of chronic pain to “take some aspirin . . . and tough it out a little.” Heroin use typically starts with prescription opioids, not pot. Lazy doctors and venal drug companies targeting them as customers are handing out too many pills to too many people, and a lot of them end up in the wrong hands. But those who suffer from intractable pain need a lot more than aspirin. Sessions is probably too set in his ways to rethink this issue, but we hope not everyone in the Justice Department is.
The turnaround of the D.C. public-school system has been held up as a model success story in the education-reform movement. The numbers showed big leaps being made: Graduation rates, for one, had skyrocketed in recent years. One high school, Ballou, graduated all 164 seniors last June, up from 57 percent the year before. That miraculous-seeming accomplishment spurred on an NPR investigation, which found that over half of the graduating students at Ballou had in fact not met basic graduation requirements. Under pressure, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser ordered an independent district-wide investigation. It found that systematic fraud was occurring at all but two of D.C.’s public high schools: Administrators had fudged attendance records, misused credit-makeup programs, and pressured teachers into complying with the deception. In all, the audit found that last year more than 900 students, a third of total grads, had been handed a diploma without earning it. They may have passed, but they have been set up for future failure — and the adults responsible must be held to account.
Moral confusion over the evil of Communist China appears to be a fairly common problem within the leadership of the Catholic Church. Just weeks after the Vatican demanded the resignation of one Catholic bishop and the demotion of another to appease the Chinese government, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, told Vatican Insider: “Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.” With this remark, the bishop offered an outright defense of one of the most oppressive totalitarian regimes in the world. Far from promoting Catholic social doctrine, the Communist government in China has repeatedly demonstrated an appalling disregard for human rights, religious freedom, and the sanctity of life. It deserves no praise from anyone, let alone rhetoric such as that of Bishop Sánchez Sorondo, whose remarks should be read as a slander on the Church.
Saleh al-Shehi is a prominent Saudi journalist with over a million Twitter followers. On December 8, he went on television and told a simple truth: People with connections to the royal court have an easier time buying certain land than do ordinary citizens. He has now been sentenced to five years in prison for insulting the government. He joins many of his fellow journalists behind bars. They have been victims of the crackdown by the new sheriff in town, Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince. An alliance with Saudi Arabia makes sense for the United States — but we should be under no illusion about what that kingdom is, under old sheriffs and new.
Like many people across Europe — and in East Asia, for that matter — Poles are very touchy about their role in World War II, and how it is portrayed. The ruling Law and Justice party has decided to do something about it. They are making it illegal to link Poland to Nazi crimes or “crimes against peace,” etc. He who does this “shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.” Thus does Poland travel the road of Putin’s Russia, where it is also a crime to offend the nation, as the government determines offensiveness. In 2016, a blogger named Vladimir Luzgin was fined 200,000 rubles, or about $3,500. He was lucky: He could have been sent to prison. His crime was stating that the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939 — a plain fact. Friends of Poland should tell the government: You do not want to travel this road.
The undeclared war between Israel and Iran is coming out into the open. Iran released a drone over Israel from a base in Syria, a country that it has virtually colonized. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel will not allow Iran to build an anti-Israeli front in its Syrian base. Israeli jets shot down the drone and went on to destroy some twelve bases serving as launch pads. Syrian-Iranian anti-aircraft batteries fired missiles at the Israeli aircraft and brought down one of them. The plane was in Israeli airspace, the pilots ejected, and they and the plane landed in home territory. It is the first time in many years that Israel has lost a plane in combat. The Six-Day War of 1967 began with a similar clash between Syrian and Israeli air forces. Netanyahu and his military advisers are treating that drone as an omen.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the famously old-fashioned Tory backbench MP and a leading Brexiteer, was invited to give a speech to the University of the West of England’s politics and international-relations society. As he spoke, black-clad protesters entered the auditorium and attempted to shout down Rees-Mogg, who responded by trying to engage them in debate. They weren’t interested. Punches were thrown, epithets were uttered, and Rees-Mogg was caught on video attempting to break up scuffles between the protesters and audience members, before, finally, police were called and the protesters decamped for fairer climes. After they left the hall, Rees-Mogg, with a stiff upper lip, carried on with his talk. Asked what he was looking forward to after his speech, Rees-Mogg answered, “Going home for some dinner.”
Fighting in Syria appeared to be dying down, at least according to the pundits. Whereupon the Turkish army invaded Syria in a large operation ironically called “Olive Branch.” From President Recep Tayyip Erdogan downwards, they identify Kurds as terrorists rather than nationalists. The Kurds have enrolled women into so-called Protection Units. In an exchange of fire, Syrian militiamen allied to the Turks killed a woman in one such unit. Twenty-three years old, she came from the town of Kobani and so far is identified only by her nom de guerre of “Barin Kobani.” A video circulating in Kurdish territories shows the killers enjoying themselves as they gather round the poor woman’s mutilated body, her private parts exposed and covered with blood. In the Middle East, dishonoring of women is especially shameful, and these militiamen have brought shame upon themselves. Many atrocities have taken place in the civil warfare in the region. This is one that will be neither forgotten nor forgiven.
Aurelia Brouwers, a 29-year-old Dutch woman who suffered from mental illness, was euthanized on January 28, at her request. In recent years Brauwers had acquired international fame after advocating further liberalization of Holland’s euthanasia and assisted-suicide laws. She was granted permission for her own assisted suicide on December 6. She had spent more than two years in prison and more than another two in a mental-health facility. The list of her afflictions — borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic-stress syndrome, addiction, anxiety, “and many more mental issues,” she reported on her blog — demanded compassion, not surrender. The logic of the right-to-die movement is inexorable: If death is deemed a good, at least for those who are suicidal, and if their right to choose is paramount, laws against their choosing death for themselves become hard to justify. Note that arguments that pro-lifers advance against abortion are not always applicable in the case of assisted suicide, whose supporters appeal to the sanctity of human free will. The right-to-die movement will have to be fought in the courts and legislatures, of course, but first of all in the culture. That’s a taller order.
German automaker Mercedes-Benz was forced to apologize after posting an allegedly insensitive quote on its Instagram page. It wasn’t the words that offended the Chinese people — “Look at situations from all angles, and you will become more open” — but the speaker, the Dalai Lama, who supports a sovereign Tibet against the wishes of Beijing. This is the latest in a rash of Chinese overreactions to Western corporations’ unintentionally defying Beijing’s “One China” policy by asserting the sovereignty of contested nations. Last month, the Chinese civil-aviation regulator ordered Delta Air Lines to remove Taiwan and Tibet as nations from its website and demanded an apology. After Marriott listed not only Tibet and Taiwan but also the autonomous territories of Hong Kong and Macau, the Chinese government blocked the hotel chain’s website and apps for a week. As did Mercedes-Benz, every defiant company followed up by issuing an over-the-top apology. The Chinese market is too lucrative to lose.
The Lebanese have often sought novel methods to maintain inter-community harmony, given the diverse and multiconfessional makeup of their population. This was reflected quite colorfully in a recent court ruling, which perhaps could not have happened anywhere except Lebanon. After three young Muslim men in Tripoli vandalized a statue of the Virgin Mary, they were brought before Judge Joceline Matta. The judge, who is Christian, ordered that the youngsters memorize verses of veneration of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin from the Quran’s third chapter, Al-Imran. (The chapter is about the family of the Virgin Mary, as “Imran” in Arabic means Joachim.) The judgment has been hailed across Lebanon and the Arab world, by Christians and Muslims alike, including Lebanon’s prime minister, who is a Muslim. It has even resulted in a hashtag of the judge’s name.
Ithaca, N.Y., is such a college town that even the high school is wracked with social-justice protests. The Ithaca H.S. drama club was planning a production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but when the part of Esmeralda was cast with a white student, an uproar ensued. The reason (spoiler alert): Esmeralda is half white and half Roma (Gypsy), and IHS’s woke thespians felt that this part demanded an actress of color. Why casting a half-white character with a white student is cultural appropriation, but casting her with a black student would not be, was never made clear, but no matter; the protesters issued a list of demands, the administration responded with a hive full of buzzwords, and finally the show was canceled, which the protesters celebrated as a victory. Let no one accuse Ithaca High School of failing to prepare its students for college.
In the fourth quarter, the New England Patriots took the lead for the first time in the game and elicited from living rooms and sports bars across the country a chorus of “There they go again.” Memories of last year’s Super Bowl, when the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28–3 lead, or the Patriots mounted a comeback for the ages, depending on your perspective, came roaring back. But a strange thing happened on the way to Tom Brady’s latest ring: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw an eleven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz, and with minutes remaining, the Eagles forced a Brady fumble. When the clock ran out on Super Bowl LII, the underdogs beat the overdogs, 41–33, and Philadelphia celebrated its first Super Bowl championship. No condolences to the Patriots — they’ve spent the 21st century inflicting more than their share of pain on the rest of the league.
Chief Wahoo, the longstanding logo of the Cleveland Indians, will disappear from player uniforms in 2019, team owner Paul Dolan has announced. Protests against both Wahoo and the team name began in the 1970s. In recent years, Wahoo became the bigger target, and then baseball commissioner Rob Manfred added to the pressure on the front office. By all indications, Clevelanders were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping Wahoo, whose likeness they will still be able to buy on team merchandise, so expect the protests to continue until the Indians remove him from the souvenir T-shirts too. The front office caved after holding out for decades, defending local taste and tradition against the sensibilities of out-of-towners who were mostly sincere, sure of the correctness of their view, and ignorant of what the logo means to the indigenous people of Northeast Ohio: It serves as their unofficial flag. The argument against Wahoo is that he’s a cartoon of an Indian and therefore disrespectful. Polls consistently show that most American Indians are not offended by the names or symbols of Indian-themed sports teams. Final score: Activists 1, Silent Majority 0.
Eighteen-month-old Lucas Warren of Dalton, Ga., is the new Gerber Baby, chosen from a pool of 140,000 contestants. As a model with Down syndrome, he’s preceded by Jamie Brewer and Madeline Stuart, who have been in the business a few years now. He serves as the newest face not only of the baby-products company but also of a gradual but unmistakable social trend, toward acceptance of people with Down syndrome. In the United States, two-thirds of unborn children diagnosed with the condition are still aborted, but that figure is down from ten years ago, when it was close to 90 percent. In other Western countries, Down syndrome remains a virtual death sentence when it’s detected in utero. The larger context in which we celebrate Lucas the Gerber Baby is sobering, though improving, slowly. Smiling out from ads and social media, he’ll light up the darkness a little.
History vindicated Jeff Bell. In Populism and Elitism (1992), he pointed out that the Republican party soared in the 1970s when it began to defend traditional social values against the elite opinion that prevailed in media and academe. He held up Reagan as the most successfully populist president since Andrew Jackson. Bell’s background — Columbia, Harvard, and think tanks, including the Manhattan Institute, which he served as its first president — was more elitist than populist, and that may have undermined his message as a political candidate. He rose to fame in 1978 when he knocked out incumbent Clifford Case in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in New Jersey; he lost to Bill Bradley in the general election. He ran against Cory Booker in 2014. In The Case for Polarized Politics (2012), the subtitle, “Why America Needs Social Conservatism,” told the story — again. He was an early supply-sider and a thinking man’s politician to the end. Dead too young, at 74. R.I.P.
Radio is a jewel of America, and Milt Rosenberg was a jewel of American radio. A professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, he hosted a late-night radio program that lasted from 1973 until almost the end. Joseph Epstein, the Chicago writer, called him “the Lou Gehrig of intellectual talk radio.” Rosenberg had a wide variety of guests, from statesmen to ballplayers. He covered a universe of topics: “just about everything except pop psychology and poodle-trimming,” he once said. What he had against poodles, we don’t know. In 2008, he received the National Humanities Medal for “bringing the world of ideas to millions of listeners.” This extraordinary man has died at 92. R.I.P.
Getting the Memo
The release of the Nunes memo occasioned a bout of derision and outrage from the media and the Left that was extraordinary even by the standards of the Trump years. There is still much to be learned about how and why the FBI obtained a FISA warrant on Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page, but the Nunes memo, together with corroborating information in a document released by Senators Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), raises troubling questions.
According to the Nunes memo — the eponymous project of House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) — FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe told the committee that there would have been no Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application to surveil Page absent the information in the so-called Steele dossier. That’s the lurid oppo document produced by former British spy Christopher Steele, who worked for the research firm Fusion GPS, which the Democrats paid to dig up dirt on Trump.
The memo says that the partisan source of the document wasn’t made clear to the FISA court (the Grassley-Graham document says the only reference was in a vague footnote that did not reveal the Clinton campaign’s role); that the dossier was largely unverified (something that Grassley-Graham states as well); and that Steele made his anti-Trump agenda clear to the FBI. This suggests sloppiness on the part of the FBI, and perhaps something worse. Certainly, if this were a Democratic president who was the subject of an investigation that began, in part, on the basis of partisan information, Democrats would be running around with their hair on fire (and the press wouldn’t be outraged by congressional oversight to get to the bottom of the matter).
One argument made against the Nunes memo is that it is “partisan.” Well, yes, and so is everything that Representative Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), author of the Democrats’ response, does. Yet Schiff doesn’t appear to have any trouble getting reporters on the phone. A high-stakes Washington investigation such as this will always become politicized, with the two parties clashing over what’s most important and how to interpret facts.
Another argument is that the FISA surveillance was of Carter Page, an eccentric low-level Trump-campaign foreign-policy aide who has obnoxiously pro-Kremlin views. So why should anyone be concerned? He was already, it is said, on the FBI radar screen. Page isn’t our cup of tea, but when he first came to the attention of the FBI years ago, he cooperated with the bureau in an investigation of a Russian spy. The widespread presumption that he is dirty hasn’t been proven.
Yet another argument is that the memo acknowledges that the Russian investigation didn’t begin with Page, but with another low-level Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, months earlier, and with no connection to the dossier. But there is no indication that this was anything other than a ministerial act, i.e., a formal opening of a case with no action taken to follow up. So the Carter Page surveillance may well have been the main event.
Finally, the FBI says that the memo has material omissions, and Democrats contest key allegations in it. Resolving this shouldn’t be difficult: An appropriately redacted version of the counter-memo produced by the Democrats should be released (the White House has sent it back to the Intelligence Committee over concerns that it reveals sources and methods), along with as much underlying material as is reasonably possible.
The Nunes memo has broken the seal on information related to the start of the Russian investigation; the republic will survive, and in fact benefit, from an airing of the circumstances of this episode.
Ten Years Gone
Many times in the past ten years we have had occasion to wonder what William F. Buckley Jr. would have made of the latest development: of the ubiquity of smartphones, or the North Korean challenge, or the election of President Trump. We have to make our way forward knowing only the principles and dispositions he would have brought to bear on the questions.
What we can say is that the intellectual and political movement that Buckley midwifed continues as a live and embattled force. The current administration is deregulatory in economics and traditionalist in social policy: a combination that is not inevitable, and descends directly from the coalition-building in which Buckley engaged from the 1950s onward. But while collectivist ideology has been defeated, the axioms of a free society are perhaps more poorly understood than ever. Government continues to grow and the West drifts farther away from its Christian roots.
Luckily Buckley imprinted on conservatism enough of his personality to protect it from triumphalism or despair. The lot of conservatives today is to appreciate what is good and lovely in our inheritance, to build on it, and to protect it from both external attack and internal decay. To the extent we can follow his example we will do it with wit, intelligence, and good cheer — and with gratitude for his enduring legacy.