A Bad Idea for the Tax Conferees

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Deroy Murdock argued on NRO yesterday that Republicans should change two provisions of the Senate bill, cutting corporate tax rates faster and expanding the child credit from $1,000 per child to $1,600 (as in the House) rather than $2,000. Robert VerBruggen has already responded by pointing out the counterintuitive effects that a faster corporate-rate reduction would have.

Murdock writes,

Before anyone screams that this would let tungsten-hearted Republicans gleefully “hurl America’s children under the bus,” remember: Today’s per-child tax credit is $1,000, so inserting the House language into the final tax measure would increase by 60 percent the tax credit for “the children, the children; Think of the children!”

However, this would not double that tax benefit, as otherwise free-market Republican senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah want. In exchange for a mere 60 percent more love than today’s U.S. tax code showers on this country’s amazing boys and girls, every American — even the childless and those with adult offspring — would benefit from giving U.S. job creators their biggest tax cut ever, and in just over three weeks, not 13 months.

Murdock is mistaken about the effect of his proposal. He is ignoring another feature of both the House and the Senate bills: the abolition of the dependent exemption. That exemption is worth about $1,000 per child to households in the 25 percent tax bracket. Abolishing it and raising the child credit by $600 leaves many of those households behind by $400 per child. Doubling the child credit just leaves those same households even.

In the 15 percent bracket, the exemption is worth about $600 per child. Abolishing it and raising the credit by $600 leaves those households even rather than “showering them with love.”

And the trade gets worse over time. The dependent exemption increases with inflation under current law. Under both the House and Senate bills, the child credit does not.

Don’t Take the HIT

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Will Republicans let a tax increase take effect on their watch? Obamacare includes a tax on health insurance plans. This “health insurance tax” (HIT) has been suspended, but is scheduled to go into effect in 2018. The effect has been estimated to be a $185 increase in premiums for small-group plans.

Opposition to the HIT has been something of a bipartisan cause. Now Republicans are debating how to handle the issue in the continuing resolution they are using to keep the government funded next year.

One option is to suspend the tax for participants in Obamacare’s exchanges and Medicare Advantage—leaving people who get coverage through their employers in the cold. That option would let the government keep more of the revenue of the tax, and some Republicans say that it’s too late to eliminate the tax on employer-provided coverage in a way that will be passed on to employees. It’s a disputed point. But it would be decidedly odd for Republicans to leave the tax in place for most plans while exempting the Obamacare exchanges.

A spokesman for the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, tells me, “Members are working to deliver as much relief as possible from the health insurance tax – as soon as possible.”

The Trustworthiness of Social Media, Walter Duranty, and Tommy Tutone

by Jim Geraghty

Today’s Morning Jolt looks at the latest accusation against Senator Al Franken (D-Not For Long) and whether we should heed Andy McCarthy’s advice to reserve judgment on the FBI’s Peter Strzok. Also, an elaboration about how easily disinformation can enter the public debate, and the responsibility of the tech giants…

The Naïve Tech Masters

Over on the home page, I have a column arguing that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google have grown to encompass duties to the public trust — duties that these companies were never intended to handle in the first place.

Facebook began as “FaceMash” in 2003, when an apparently-inebriated Mark Zuckerberg created a site to allow Harvard students to compare students and rate which one was hotter. These world-dominating Internet tools were created by technical geniuses whose wisdom and understanding of human nature is way behind their ability to design and program an algorithm.

These companies and apps weren’t built with journalism or political communication in mind, and no one really thought through that empowering everyone to send short messages, post videos or create online communities meant it would empower terrorists, criminals, hate groups, garden-variety nut-jobs and child predators to do the same things.  

No system will ever be perfect, and any system can be “hacked” with enough time, effort, and resources. For example, the 2016 election was not the first time Russia was able to fill the minds of some Americans with propagandistic nonsense. In the good old days of professional journalism and old media, the New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty “shrugged off the Ukrainian famine of 1930-1931 as ‘mostly bunk,’ and in any case, as he admonished the squeamish, ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.’” He won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage. The Times more or less apologized for his coverage of the Soviet Union in 1990, conceding, “having bet his reputation on Stalin, he strove to preserve it by ignoring or excusing Stalin’s crimes. He saw what he wanted to see.”

In the old days, the Russians had to find and influence, flatter, court and seduce a Western media correspondent in order to get their preferred messages and viewpoint before the American public. Today social media allows them to eliminate the middleman. (Insert sarcastic slow clap here.)

I offer two possible solutions. The first is that we get it into Americans’ heads that without verification, what’s posted on social media is as reliable and verified as graffiti or what’s written on the wall of a bathroom stall. Sadly, it turns out Jenny is not eager to show you a good time if you call her at 867-5309.

The second option is that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google realize that whether or not they intended to be media companies or want to be media companies, they have become media companies, and they need to take responsibility for what appears on their platforms. This means temp workers can’t have access to the president’s Twitter account and shut it down for eleven minutes. This means you shouldn’t have the option of selecting ‘Jew hater’ as a target demographic for advertising on Facebook. This means the criteria for shutting down a Twitter account has to be crystal clear and based upon non-ideological criteria, not the complaints of celebrities. It probably means fewer algorithms making decisions and more human judgments – and more openness about how those humans reached those judgments.  

ADDENDA: My Three Martini Lunch podcast co-host, Greg Corombus, reminded me of this 1991 Saturday Night Live sketch of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. In it, the assembled senators (Joe Biden, Edward Kennedy, Howell Heflin, Strom Thurmond and Paul Simon) come across as sex-obsessed creeps who can’t even begin to understand why harassment is wrong. One of the particularly ironic moments, in light of recent revelations, is Phil Hartman’s Ted Kennedy offering advice to Thomas: “Have you ever tried coming out of the bathroom nude, and acting like you didn’t know someone was there? … Well, that’s too bad. Because that works, too.”

The man playing Senator Paul Simon, asking Clarence Thomas if women weren’t into him because of his bow tie, was… current senator Al Franken. I’ll bet that back then, Franken thought that he would never be like those senators, so tone-deaf and out of touch about sexual harassment.

If you don’t want to get caught watching the sketch at work, a transcript can be found here.

Thursday links

by debbywitt

A day that will live in infamy: It’s the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor: some history, contemporaneous newsreels, and a Monty Python re-enactment.

The voice actress who played Snow White was forbidden by Disney from appearing in films /radio /television. She was paid $970 for her services.

How rats conquered New York City.

If spiders worked together, they could eat all the humans in a year.

This ‘smart condom’ will give insights into your sex life you probably didn’t want.

Do emotions related to alcohol consumption differ by alcohol type?

ICYMI, Wednesday’s links are here, and include the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra (aka Santa Claus), how Civil War soldiers gave themselves syphilis while trying to avoid smallpox, a famous French fartist from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a selection of weird nativity sets.

Babbitt Strikes Back

by Jay Nordlinger

Today, I conclude my notes on Arthur Vandenberg, the Michigan senator who was a staunch isolationist before World War II and then cooperated with President Truman et al. to forge international institutions (go here). In yesterday’s installment, I wrote about a book — a book whose title entered our American language:

In 1922, a book went off like a stink bomb in the Midwest: Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt. It mocked the values that Arthur Vandenberg embodied and championed. In a strange turn of events, he and Lewis became friends, or at least friendly acquaintances.

Today, I quote a swatch of Vandenberg, and will again here:

Babbitt has a right to strike back. Without him this would be a sodden land. … He is happy and satisfied to be a part of his own ‘home town’ — and to strive, with his neighbors, to make the old ‘home town’ a little better and a little cleaner and a little healthier. … Save us from a society that is all ‘Mencken’ and ‘Sinclair Lewis.’ Give us ‘Babbitt’ at his best — interested in his home — living with his own wife — striving to educate his children — helping his church — still believing in a just God — loving his country and his flag.

As I remark in my column, one could weep.

I also quote a swatch of The Good Society, Walter Lippmann’s book of 1937. Vandenberg quoted it too. It reminds me a lot of what I’ve read in National Review over the years (though you would never think of Lippmann as an NR-type guy):

We are trying to operate a capitalistic system under a government that dislikes the system, and would, if it had the courage and power, replace it with a collectivist system. This inner conflict between the nature of free capitalism and the real purposes of the government has created a deadlock. Business cannot proceed because it is terrorized by New Dealers. The New Dealers cannot proceed because, being only half-hearted collectivists, they dare not follow out the logic of their own ideas.

VDH’s WWII

by Jay Nordlinger

As readers will know by now, Victor Davis Hanson’s latest is The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won. And VDH is my guest on Q&A (here).

I take the opportunity to ask some fundamental questions: What if Hitler hadn’t declared war on us? Would we have gotten into the war — the European theater? What if Japan hadn’t attacked us? Could they have triumphed in the Pacific?

What were the causes of the war?

Was Hitler a little nuts — did that save our bacon? If he had been saner, could he have pulled it off?

How was FDR as wartime leader? And Truman? Were we right to drop the A-bomb(s)? What about Yalta? Was FDR, were we, guilty there? What about the Holocaust and the war? Could the Holocaust have been carried out without the war? Would it have?

Who are some unsung heroes of the war?

And more. Victor Davis Hanson knows the answers, I can tell you. Knows them cold. This podcast with him is both an education and a pleasure. Again, here.

Make Radicals Pay a Cost for Abusing Courts

by Wesley J. Smith

The lawsuit to declare the Colorado River a “person” entitled to human type rights has been dropped.

It isn’t that the environmental radicals who brought the case realized that geological phenomena should never be considered rights-bearing entities. 

The point is that for once, the defendants threatened the radicals with real pain for pursuing the case. From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Last week, [Attorney General Cynthia ]Coffman’s office announced she would seek federal sanctions against Flores-Williams for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Yes! Make them pay for this nonsense. 

Too often radicals–such as these plaintiffs and animal rights types seeking to have animals declared to be persons–are allowed to abuse the court system with ridiculous cases and treated with deference and respect. This is precisely the way to stop such cases going forward.

In other words, stop coddling the radicals who are abusing our courts!

Fifty-Eight House Democrats Vote to Proceed with Impeachment

by Philip H. DeVoe

Texas Democrat Al Green introduced two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in the House earlier today, and while 364 representatives voted to kill the resolution, 58 Democrats voted to proceed.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has advised Democrats to exercise caution and wait until sufficient evidence that Trump committed an impeachable offense turns up. Green hasn’t listened, though, and his aggressive support for impeachment might cause problems for Democrats in 2018. Voting prematurely forces Democrats facing re-election in tough districts to go on the record about their desire to impeach Trump, leaving them with a sort of Catch-22: If they vote to kill the resolution, they risk alienating the blue half of their voters; if they vote to proceed, they risk alienating the other half.

All in all, it was a politically inept decision on Green’s part. If Pelosi and the House minority leadership want to keep impeachment hopes alive, they need to rein him in.

Delaying the Corporate Rate Cut Won’t Hurt the Economy

by Robert VerBruggen

Betsy McCaughey (echoed by our own Deroy Murdock) suggests that Republicans should make it a priority to cut the corporate tax rate right away in 2018, instead of delaying the cut until 2019 as the Senate bill does, and pay for it by raising the child tax credit to $1,600 instead of $2,000. I believe this is unnecessary, indeed potentially counterproductive, and would create political problems as well.

The key concern is that we’ll reduce growth if we delay the corporate cut until 2019, because companies will put off economic activity until then. Believe it or not, the opposite is more likely the case.

Another provision in the Senate bill would allow companies to fully expense certain investments, such as equipment and machinery, instead of deducting depreciation over a number of years; it goes into effect right away and phases out gradually after 2022. A higher corporate rate in 2018 actually enhances the effect of this policy, giving companies a bigger reason to shield their money from taxation next year. They can deduct investments against the current 35 percent rate, and then pay the new 20 percent rate on the profits they make from those investments in future years.

That’s a huge incentive, and it’s the reason the Tax Foundation found the Senate bill (as it stood about a month ago) to be more pro-growth than the House bill: “Due to the interaction of a delayed corporate rate cut and the immediate implementation of temporary full expensing, the Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act accelerates capital investment, generating a faster dynamic response than the House version of the plan. The current version of the House plan takes longer for these economic results to be achieved.”

Politically, Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee pushed quite hard for the $2,000 child credit; Rubio said it was “actually not a very negotiable number.” Going back on that would risk their and their allies’ votes, and thus the fate of the whole effort.

Further, the House’s $1,600 credit basically just makes up for the fact that both bills eliminate dependent exemptions — and thus shifts money around, creating winners and losers, rather than giving any of the bill’s $1.5 trillion price tag to parents. The Senate’s higher credit shields more families from tax hikes and ensures that parents in general get a meaningful cut.

‘Neither Slavery Nor Involuntary Servitude…’

by Jibran Khan

Today we celebrate one of the great milestones of American history, the abolition by law of our national “original sin” of slavery. Ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment followed soon after the end of the Civil War.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

It was the first of the Reconstruction Amendments, followed by the 14th Amendment, which affirmed equal protection under the law and citizenship, and the 15th Amendment, which affirmed the right to vote.

While the amendments were hindered in effect by white-supremacist vigilantes, such as the Ku Klux Klan, which disrupted black citizens’ exercise of their rights, and were flouted systematically by Jim Crow laws, the ratification of the 13th Amendment settled in law that the United States would not remain “half slave and half free.”

Indeed, from overruling the infamous Dred Scott decision to defeating school segregation in Brown v. Board, the Reconstruction Amendments would prove instrumental in the fight to ensure that the nation lived up to the self-evident truths proclaimed in 1776.

It Took Way Too Long for Senate Democrats to Demand Franken’s Resignation

by Alexandra DeSanctis

As Rich noted on The Corner earlier this afternoon, the dam appears to have finally broken on Al Franken. A seventh woman has come forward, this one alleging that the Minnesota Democrat attempted to forcibly kiss her in 2006.

Apparently this was the final straw for Franken. Senate Democrats finally found their voices, calling on Franken to resign his Senate seat. And according to some accounts, these Democrats deserve to be praised for taking a brave stand. Let’s quickly recap this Franken nightmare.

On November 16, nearly three weeks ago to the day, a woman named Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of kissing and groping her without her consent. A photo accompanied the story, a photo of Franken appearing to grope Tweeden as she slept.

The situation devolved from there. Over the following week, several women accused the Democratic senator of inappropriately touching them during photo ops. This latest report alleges that he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show; Franken denies it.

For some unknown reason, Democratic senators have suddenly decided that this latest allegation is the last straw, and as of this writing, 23 have called on their colleague to resign immediately. (A running list is available here via CNN.)

MSNBC host Chris Hayes suggested on Twitter that having a number of female Democratic senators has made the party more willing to address sexual-misconduct than the GOP — never mind the fact that all of those supposedly noble progressive women waited three weeks to demand consequences for Franken. Vox, meanwhile, published a piece insisting that female Democrats had single-handedly rescued the party from the shame of covering for a sexual abuser.

It is utterly absurd to suggest that the decision to call for Franken’s resignation was anything more than pure political calculus on the part of Senate Democrats. They relinquished their chance to virtue signal when they all but ignored the first six of Franken’s accusers.

Every Democratic senator had ample information well before this afternoon indicating that Franken had engaged in incredibly inappropriate behavior — if not outright sexual battery. And yet they all chose to remain silent or to offer non-answers when questioned about whether Franken should step down. Not one single senator suggested, until this afternoon, that, if the allegations were true, the Democrat ought to relinquish his seat.

New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand — who is among the Democratic women being praised for taking a principled stand against sexual misconduct — was asked in late November whether Franken should resign following the allegations. “It’s his decision,” she replied, noncommittally.

As recently as yesterday afternoon, Gillibrand was still dodging the issue. When asked at an event if she’d request that Franken resign, she said, “I am not going to say that today. But it is something I’m very troubled about.”

Franken’s office has said the senator will make an announcement tomorrow at 12:26 p.m.

Trump on Jerusalem

by Rich Lowry

It was an excellent speech, and one of those decisions where any other Republican president probably wouldn’t have had the boldness to follow through (possible exception: Ted Cruz). Read Jonathan Tobin on the homepage on some of the implications.

What Happens if Moore Wins?

by Jonah Goldberg

I don’t think it’s a sure thing that Roy Moore will win next week, but it looks like the smart bet. The interesting question to me is: What happens once he’s in the Senate? Mitch McConnell is clear he doesn’t want Moore in the Senate and that the Ethics Committee will take a hard look at Moore. Putting aside the thorny thicket of precedents and procedures involved in expelling a senator for behavior that took place before he was elected, the political dynamics are fairly fascinating.

Some Republicans will probably be wary of overturning the will of the voters, particularly given Moore’s perverse status as some kind of folk hero of the Bannonistas. Others will probably be eager to see him go, not just on the merits or to make it clear to their own voters they want no association with the man, but also because the governor of Alabama would surely replace him with a more reliable Republican vote.

But what about the Democrats? Having Moore in the Senate will be a fundraising and messaging gift from God, particularly if they ultimately hound Al Franken from the Senate, which looks increasingly likely.

Last month, our Alexandra DeSanctis called a bunch of Democratic senators and asked whether the Senate should expel Moore. The responses were remarkably non-committal. Of course, the Democrats can’t publicly say they want the Alabamian albatross, but I hardly think it’s too cynical to imagine a scenario where Chuck Schumer finds a way to keep Moore around through the 2018 election.

The Proverbial Dam Breaks on Franken

by Rich Lowry

A seventh allegation — of a forcible kiss in 2006 — looks like Al Franken’s undoing. His Democrat colleagues called on him to resign, and more Democrats are joining the call at this moment. He could try to defy his party and demand his day in front of the ethics committee. But he would be a man on an island, and the pattern of accusations suggests that there will be more to come. Even if Franken hangs on, there will be pressure to trade a Moore expulsion for a Franken expulsion, if Moore wins his race. One way or the other, this isn’t going to end well for Franken. Whether by design or not, Democrats have now set themselves to occupy the political high ground on harassment and wage war on the GOP on that basis if Moore makes it to Washington.  

Democrats Aren’t Giving Up Anything

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Dahlia Lithwick is unhappy that Democrats are holding themselves to higher standards than Republicans are. For Democrats to push John Conyers and Al Franken out of office while Republicans embrace Donald Trump and Roy Moore is “unilateral disarmament,” she writes.

But the analogy does not really apply. I’m glad Conyers has resigned in disgrace and hope Franken will too. But Democrats aren’t really sacrificing anything in these cases. They will get a new Democratic senator to replace Franken and a new Democratic representative to replace Conyers. (He may even be named Conyers.) Democrats can cut these guys loose at no cost.

Is There Really a ‘College Affordability Crisis’?

by George Leef

Although Hillary’s “free college” campaign promise last year didn’t bring them victory, Democrats still think there is political hay to be made in declaring that there is an affordability crisis in higher education. They’ve put out a hackneyed report declaring that the country is suffering because not everyone gets a college degree and saying vaguely that Washington must do something to solve this supposed crisis.

That overlooks some very inconvenient facts, which I write about in today’s Martin Center article.

It overlooks the fact that we already have a labor market glutted with college graduates. We have oversold higher education, a condition that was manifesting itself 20 years ago and has gotten steadily worse. It makes no sense to devote more resources to slapping college credentials on still more academically weak and disengaged students.

Another fact the report ignores is that there are many good careers open to individuals who don’t have college degrees.

It overlooks the fact that the main reason why college has gotten so much more expensive is Washington’s meddling. Bill Bennett was essentially right when he argued that the more generous we make student aid, the more schools will raise tuition and pocket the money for what they love to spend on — the race for prestige.

The report takes it as a fact that declines in state higher-ed spending are a major cause of the “affordability crisis,” but the so-called “cuts” are in almost all cases reductions in per student expenditure, not actual reductions in appropriations. And this argument overlooks two facts: College costs started rising long before the states realized they were spending too much on it and the cost of attending private schools has also been rising.

And what to do about this alleged crisis? The same old “progressive” solution for just about everything — more government. Congress must magically alleviate the cost burden on students and prod the states to “invest” more in higher education.

Education is no business of the federal government and it will be a wonderful day in America if politicians (Democrat and Republican) stop saying that it is.

Getting Rid of the Individual Mandate

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Abolishing it makes more sense than ever — and will make it a little easier for Republicans to replace Obamacare in the future.

Lena Dunham, Tina Brown: We Warned Hillary Clinton’s Campaign About Harvey Weinstein

by Jim Geraghty

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt . . . 

Lena Dunham, Tina Brown: We Warned the Clinton Campaign About Harvey Weinstein

This morning, Time magazine announced that “The Silence Breakers” is the magazine’s selection for Person of the Year. They announced this on NBC’s Today show. No word on whether any of Matt Lauer’s accusers were present for the announcement.

The New York Times’ follow-up investigation into Harvey Weinstein and the small army he used to cover up his crimes and behavior is pretty stunning and gross reading. Here’s what will be most jaw-dropping revelation for those of us who follow politics:

But two prominent women said they warned Mrs. Clinton’s team. In 2016, Lena Dunham, the writer and actress, said she was troubled by the producer’s visible presence during Mrs. Clinton’s presidential run, hosting fund-raisers and appearing at campaign events. She had heard stories, both directly and secondhand from other actresses, about disturbing encounters with him, she said. So in March last year, Ms. Dunham, a vocal Clinton supporter, said she warned the campaign.

“I just want you to let you know that Harvey’s a rapist and this is going to come out at some point,” Ms. Dunham said she told Kristina Schake, the campaign’s deputy communications director. She recalled adding, “I think it’s a really bad idea for him to host fund-raisers and be involved because it’s an open secret in Hollywood that he has a problem with sexual assault.”

Earlier, during the 2008 presidential race, Tina Brown, the magazine editor, said she cautioned a member of Mrs. Clinton’s inner circle about him. “I was hearing that Harvey’s sleaziness with women had escalated since I left Talk in 2002 and she was unwise to be so closely associated with him,” Ms. Brown said in an email.

Ms. Dunham said that Ms. Schake seemed surprised at her warning, and that Ms. Schake said she would tell Robby Mook, the campaign manager, Ms. Dunham recalled in an interview.

With the Democratic National Convention approaching in summer 2016, Ms. Dunham said she also warned Adrienne Elrod, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Clinton who was leading efforts with celebrity campaigners. As far as Ms. Dunham could tell, the campaign had not responded to her concerns about Mr. Weinstein. Weeks before Election Day, the producer helped organize a star-packed fund-raiser: an evening on Broadway with Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway and others.

Notice the careful wording of this response from the Clinton campaign: “Ms. Elrod and Ms. Schake, through Mrs. Clinton’s communications director, denied that Ms. Dunham mentioned rape, while [Robby] Mook said that no one had ever alerted him about the producer.”

Maybe Dunham and Brown are lying. But it’s more likely that they’re exaggerating the intensity and clarity of their warnings. Maybe they didn’t mention rape. But the campaign’s statement does not deny that Dunham warned them about something about Weinstein – presumably aggressive and inappropriate sexual behavior directed at unwilling women in subordinate positions.

This wasn’t enough to raise red flags in the Clinton campaign. Then again, the candidate was married to Bill Clinton and the candidate’s most trusted aide was married to Anthony Weiner, so maybe there was difficulty establishing a baseline for abnormally “aggressive and inappropriate sexual behavior directed at unwilling women in subordinate positions.”

Wednesday links

by debbywitt

December 6 is the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra, aka Santa Claus.

In 1909, a Door-to-Door Catnip Salesman Incited a Riot in New York City.

How Civil War Soldiers Gave Themselves Syphilis While Trying to Avoid Smallpox.

A selection of weird nativity sets.

The Amazing Story of Joseph Pujol, the Famous French Fartist From the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries.

The Evolutionary Reason Why Fish Don’t Swim Upside Down.

ICYMI, Tuesday’s links are here, and include why dark winter days bum people out, the anniversary of the end of prohibition in the U.S., how air cargo de-regulation led to Amazon, and, in the “what could go wrong” department, a spider that drank graphene and spun a web that could hold the weight of a human.

‘Madam, If Every Mother Talked That Way . . .’

by Jay Nordlinger

In Impromptus today, I write about a new book about Arthur Vandenberg, the longtime senator from Michigan: leader of the isolationists before the war, and a leading internationalist after. The book is by Hendrik Meijer of Vandenberg’s hometown, Grand Rapids (also the hometown of Gerald R. Ford).

Early in his book, Meijer tells a story about Theodore Roosevelt, whom Vandenberg greatly admired. I retell the story in my column today. Roosevelt, an ex-president, was furious at Wilson, the incumbent president, for not entering the war in Europe. He cursed him up and down until he did (in April 1917).

In May 1916, Roosevelt gave a speech in Detroit, attended by Arthur Vandenberg. Roosevelt’s theme was military preparedness. As he spoke, he was interrupted by a woman in the balcony, who called out, “I have two sons who will respond.” What she meant was, they will enlist. A silence hung over the auditorium (as you can imagine). Then Roosevelt said, “Madam, if every mother talked that way, there would be no need for any of our sons to fight, because the power of our national defense would save us from all trouble.” The crowd burst into mighty applause.

Roosevelt made a striking statement of deterrence — a striking statement in behalf of the principle of deterrence. And this reminded me: Roosevelt stands as one of the most unusual Nobel peace laureates in history. I got to know them all, when I was writing my history of the peace prize. There are over a hundred of them. Many were very, very interesting on the subject of peace — and none more so than Roosevelt (the laureate for 1906, when he was president). (TR won chiefly for his mediation in the Russo-Japanese War.)

In his autobiography, Roosevelt made a statement that drew gasps for years: “In my own judgment the most important service that I rendered to peace was the voyage of the battle fleet around the world.”

Anyway, Hendrik Meijer has written a magnificent biography of Vandenberg, which I will dwell on today and tomorrow.