A lot of cable TV debate can stilted and rote, but this segment this morning was something else entirely:
Asked by Charlie Rose (at the 15:30 mark) “should they take down the Jefferson Memorial?” Al Sharpton reflected on the nature of slavery then answered a different question: whether the federal government should support the memorial. Sharpton said it should not. “When you look at the fact that public monuments are supported by public funds you’re asking me to subsidize the insult of my family. I would repeat that the public should not be paying to uphold somebody who has had that kind of background. You have private museums, you have other things that you may want to do there.”
The Jefferson Memorial obviously can’t be placed in a museum. I’m not sure how privatizing it would work but I doubt the protesters who are surely coming to it will much worry about that detail.
Sharpton also said (at the 11:55 mark), in the course of criticizing President Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville, ”I’ve…in my own career wrestled, you’ve got to deal openly and say, no, I’m not gonna be with those elements, I’m not going to deal with violence. I’ve had to deal with that. I’m not saying anything that a lot of public officials haven’t had to struggle with, which is why I’m saying, he knows better. Every one of us knows when you’re around extremists that you need to say, ‘Wait a minute, I’m going to part company.’”
After Sharpton played a key role in the 1991 riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, it took him 20 years to issue what The Forward called “the closest he will probably ever come to an apology” (“our language and tone sometimes exacerbated tensions and played to the extremists”) though he claimed he saw “brick-throwing on all sides” during the unrest, which he helped instigate. After a black youth was accidentally killed by a car driven by a Jew, Sharpton said these words at a service for the deceased: “Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid. . . . All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no coffee klatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’.” A mob responded by murdering a rabbinical student and rioting for three days.
Sharpton in 1995 damned the Jewish owner of a sneaker store in Harlem at an angry rally broadcast on local radio during which he called the store’s owner a “white interloper” and added, “We are asking the ‘buy black’ committee to go down there, and I’m going to go down there and do what is necessary to let them know that we are not turning 125th Street back over to the outsiders that was done in the early part of this century. . . .This is a sin and a shame and a disgrace, and we should not under any circumstances sit by and allow this to happen without a major reaction and major protest from us.” One of the demonstrators who besieged the store shouting racist and anti-Semitic epithets later killed seven people and himself in an arson attack on it.
Let’s accept for the sake of argument the president’s contention that there were “fine people” on both sides in Charlottesville (though where you’d find such a person in a torchlight parade chanting about Jews isn’t clear). These hypothetical fine people on the “Unite the Right” side still would not be conservatives, or even American patriots, because they’ve given up on America. They, like the left, reject the existence of an American people and equality of all before the law, and instead embrace identity politics and the ideology of government-enforced multiculturalism.
There’s no mystery why the mainstream left hasn’t denounced the antifas and communists the way the mainstream right has the Nazis and Klansmen. The mainstream left and the antifas share an antipathy for American nationalism and agree on the goal of deconstructing the American people – it’s just that the antifas are willing to do the wet work that New York Times editorial writers are unsuited for.
On the other side, though, there is a basic ideological split, completely apart from any propensity for violence or delusions of supremacy. The Charlottesville crowd agrees with the left that there is no American people, only multiple, distinct peoples inhabiting the same space, whose interaction must be refereed by the state. In other words, they’re multiculturalists who merely want whites to grab their share of the spoils.
American patriots, on the other hand, embrace Justice Harlan’s dissent from Plessy v. Ferguson:
Our Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.
No one on the left still believes this, and the Charlottesville knuckleheads have joined them. Both reject Martin Luther King’s dream “deeply rooted in the American dream” and instead embrace Malcolm X’s approach: “We are African, and we happened to be in America. We’re not American.”
The proper response to this is not Romney’s and Rubio’s desperate pleas to be eaten last, but a forthright assertion that race and ethnicity have no place in American law. No quotas or set-asides. No Census Bureau tabulation of race or ethnicity. No ethnic or religious preferences in immigration law. We need a high wall of separation between ethnicity and state. There’s even a catchy phrase we can use: E Pluribus Unum.
The media often reacts to Trump’s outrages as though his presidency is on the verge of ending (some on the right also harbor this fantasy). But there’s no magic mechanism that is going to make him disappear.
We discussed a question related to this on The Editors podcast yesterday, which we recorded before the press conference. I asked whether the Charlottesville episode would be a blip or a watershed in how people view Trump. Michael Brendan Dougherty argued watershed. I thought blip, but then adopted Dan McLaughlin’s formulation — not watershed or blip, but erosion, part of a steady slide.
That’s still my answer, but Trump should realize what thin ice he’s on. I don’t think there are any Republican senators who are enthusiastic about him in private, and many disdain him. These are the people that Trump may eventually need to protect him in a Senate impeachment trial.
And then there are Trump’s own officials. Oftentimes, the social-media focus on how political figures are reacting to a statement or event can be cheap — based, say, on one picture that captures someone at an awkward moment. This was not the case with General Kelly yesterday. This video shows that he was genuinely pained by what he heard:
WATCH: White House chief of staff John Kelly reacts to President Trump’s latest remarks on violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. pic.twitter.com/O9gwSCxwp8— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 16, 2017
If Kelly quit, it would likely be debilitating to the White House. So the answer is erosion, but the longer you erode, the less margin for error you have and eventually you will indeed reach a breaking point.
It’s frequently said that at his press conference yesterday Trump reverted to his Saturday statement. This isn’t quite right, for a couple of reasons:
1) His Saturday statement was vague and didn’t condemn the Nazis et al. by name. In his press conference yesterday, he was specific in saying that some protestors on the alt-right side were fine people. This is much more objectionable than simply failing to name the malefactors on the right.
2) Saturday was easier to clean up. Trump could claim, as he basically did on Monday, that he had condemned the Nazis implicitly in his statement and was now elaborating and being more explicit. But cleaning up yesterday, if he were so inclined, would require backtracking and disavowing things that he affirmatively said.
3) Finally, it’s one thing to have two bites at the apple; it’s another to have four. Again, if Trump were inclined to return to this with yet another carefully written statement, no one would believe it given what he said off prompter yesterday after his prepared remarks on Monday.
Pianists aren’t ranked like tennis players, but if they were, Yefim Bronfman would be right up there. He is a Russian-born pianist, long a U.S. citizen. (He celebrated his citizenship at the Russian Tea Room next to Carnegie Hall. Hosting the party was Isaac Stern, the legendary violinist.) Bronfman’s personal No. 1 is Emil Gilels, the Russian pianist who lived from 1916 to 1985.
Bronfman told me this in a Q&A we recorded in Salzburg, where he had been playing at the festival. To hear this podcast, go here. We discuss pianists, composers, singers — and a bit of life. “Fima” Bronfman is a thoughtful and kindly person, in addition to a great pianist and musician.
P.S. If you feel like a little reading, here’s a review of the Vienna Philharmonic, with Riccardo Muti conducting, and Bronfman serving as piano soloist. And here’s a post on Igor Levit, another Russian-born pianist, who has also been playing at the Salzburg Festival.
Repeating the question of a French interlocutor, Jay asks: “Is there someone who can defy the two major parties, capture the imagination of the country, and be elected president?”
The good news is: Yes, there is.
The bad news is: Yes, there is, and that’s more or less what Donald Trump did in 2016.
Trump had the good sense to run a Perot/Buchanan/Reform Party campaign inside the Republican party rather than as a third-party or independent candidate.
It would be relatively easy for someone with a little money or celebrity to take over and dominate a third party or independent movement. But if you have a lot of money or—and I think this is the relevant factor for Trump—a great deal of celebrity, you can simply take over the existing infrastructure of a major party, which includes not only the formal party apparatus itself but also the partisan loyalties of institutions and media figures. Hence the very odd spectacle of conservative Republicans of long standing being denounced as “RINOs” by people cheering the candidacy of a man who is literally a Republican in name only.
Democrats have had a good laugh at Republicans over this, but their party is just as vulnerable to celebrity, if not more so. They nominated Mrs. Clinton mainly because she is a familiar face and name, not because she has any particular acumen and in spite of the fact that her policy views are slightly to the right of the current Democratic party consensus. Anyone who thinks Oprah Winfrey or Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t do to the Democratic party what Trump did to the GOP is fooling himself.
It would probably be easier to stage a truly independent candidacy today than it was when Ross Perot tried it. But why would you bother? There really are two main political tribes in the United States, and that sustains the two-party system. It isn’t the other way around.
Under Obamacare, insurers are required to provide “cost-sharing reduction” (CSR) — lower deductibles and so on — to lower-income enrollees who buy plans classified as “Silver” in quality. The government is supposed to reimburse the companies for the cost of doing this.
Obamacare itself didn’t provide the money, however. That was supposed to be handled through the annual appropriations process — and Republicans refused to cough up the funds when they gained control of Congress. The Obama administration simply paid the insurers anyway, sparking a lawsuit, and now Trump has threatened to cancel the payments as a way of encouraging Congress to pass a new health-care law.
A new CBO report underlines some of the unintended consequences of doing that.
Basically, Obamacare’s subsidies are pegged to the price of the second-cheapest Silver plan in each market. If these payments are cut off, but insurers are still legally required to provide the cost-sharing reductions, insurers will simply raise Silver premiums to compensate — 20 percent next year and 25 percent by 2025 — and government subsidies will rise in turn.
This will be especially beneficial to enrollees slightly higher on the economic ladder, who receive subsidies but aren’t eligible for cost-sharing reduction — and therefore don’t have to buy Silver plans. Their subsidies will rise along with Silver premiums, but they’ll choose to buy Bronze or Gold plans instead, whose premiums won’t be much affected. Some people will even find that a Gold plan is cheaper than a Silver plan because Gold enrollees don’t have to, in effect, help pay for other people’s CSR.
Indeed, thanks to more generous subsidies even for people whose premiums will be unaffected, total health-insurance enrollment will actually rise slightly by 2026. Overall, the federal deficit would increase almost $200 billion over ten years.
All this ties in nicely to a point that Robert Laszewski made here on NRO earlier this month. The subsidized portion of the individual market is self-stabilizing to some degree, in a perverse sort of way, because when insurers get in trouble they can just raise premiums and thereby soak up more government money.
It hasn’t gotten much attention for obvious reasons, but something else President Trump said at his impromptu press conference deserves comment: “I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president.”
Conservatives would of course have been all over President Obama if he had said something so solipsistic (and socialistic). Leaving aside the phrasing, what does recent job growth says about Trump? I think the answer is mixed.
First: We should put that job growth in perspective. It has been weaker than it was during Obama’s last year in office. From February to July 2017, employment rose by 1.074 million jobs. From February to July 2016, it rose by 1.246 million. Job growth in the Obama months was 16 percent higher. (Stats here.)
Second: We should put that perspective in perspective, too. This economic expansion is getting pretty old, and we might expect that job growth would slow down as it continues.
Third: There have not been many changes in economic policy yet, but Trump has reduced some regulations. And the prospect of future positive changes in economic policy might have strengthened the economy’s “animal spirits.” It may be, then, that he can legitimately take credit for a small fraction of those 1.074 million jobs.
Fourth: Some people said that Trump would be a disaster for the economy. When he was elected, Paul Krugman foresaw a global recession, starting more or less immediately. He has so far cleared that bar, and then some.
Professors say lots of ridiculous things that advance “progressive” notions about the world. It’s hard to top a recent New York Times article by a psychology prof at Northeastern who argued that there is a scientific basis for believing that words can “shorten your life” and therefore some speakers should be kept off college campuses.
As I explain in today’s Martin Center article, while there is indeed science showing that prolonged stress, of which words could play a role, can be physically damaging, that simply doesn’t apply to the situation of guest speakers (or for that matter, any other kind of speech on campus), since whatever “stress” might be caused by listening to someone who presents ideas you disagree with, that is of short duration and you’re free to leave if you just can’t stand hearing what the person has to say.
The professor in question, one Lisa Feldman Barrett, admits that it’s not bad to hear challenging ideas, but thinks there’s a line to be drawn between those who present debatable arguments (such as Charles Murray) and those she claims are just spreading hate (such as Milo Yiannopoulos). Even if that fuzzy line made scientific sense (listening to someone who really just spewed hatred is, after all, merely short-term stress), there is no reason to think that it would be respected by campus social-justice-warrior types who love any excuse to keep their philosophical enemies from speaking.
Sorry, professor, but words are not violence and all you’ve done is to fan the flames that are consuming free speech on college campuses.
On his Group, John McLaughlin used to ask the “mega-question”: the big question. I have one for you — but I’ll need to set it up first.
There are conservatives who are anti-Trump. There are conservatives who are pro-Trump. And there are conservatives who “call balls and strikes.” They are the Good Umpire.
“This one’s a little outside. That one caught the corner.” The Gorsuch nomination? A Max Scherzer fastball, smoked right down the middle, untouchable by the batter.
It is comfortable to be the Good Umpire. You get to say, “I’m not an anti-Trump hysteric, like Kristol or Nordlinger. Nor am I reflexively pro-Trump, like certain of our ‘talk’ guys. I’m just callin’ balls and strikes here.”
That’s fine as far as it goes, but it misses the moral dimension, as I keep saying. It misses the moral dimension of a presidency, which ultimately proves of greatest importance.
Okay, my mega-question: Will there come a time when the ball-and-strikers say, “Enough”? Will there come a time when they feel that conservatism must be disassociated from Trump and Trumpism, for the sake of “hygiene,” as WFB used to say? What if Trump taints conservatism long-term? Has he done so already?
Not long ago, Nancy Pelosi made an interesting statement. “I’m worth the trouble,” she said. In other words, her strengths in fundraising and other areas outweighed the problems this San Francisco Democrat occasionally causes her party.
Is Trump worth the trouble? Are we indefinitely to lie back and think of Gorsuch?
Another question — a related mega-question: Will the Republican party go ahead and renominate Trump for 2020? And if so, will a Reagan-style politician offer an alternative: an alternative to Donald Trump vs. Elizabeth Warren, or whatever it will be?
Last week, a Frenchman put something interesting to me: Is there someone in America who can pull a Macron? That is, is there someone who can defy the two major parties, capture the imagination of the country, and be elected president?
Probably not. But stranger things have happened, as in 2016, one could argue. (And could a Reaganite Macron live in Nebraska?)
The time to think about these questions is now, and the time to answer them is soon.
President Trump is getting a lot of criticism for his response to Charlottesville, and he deserves, oh, 90 percent of it. (He still has not called Heather Heyer’s family.) His comment yesterday about the “very fine people” who marched on Friday was appalling: These weren’t people who merely wanted to undo the city’s decision to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee; they were people who chanted against Jews. I’m glad a lot of Republicans are criticizing Trump over these issues. It is extremely easy to do that without defending violent hard-Left protestors. Mitt Romney, unfortunately, chose a different path.
Texas’s futile care law is a disgrace, permitting hospital bioethics committees to kick patients off of wanted life-sustaining treatment.
Until now, they could even impose DNRs on a patient’s chart before asking permission, and then notify the sick person or family/guardian. Until now. From the Texas Tribune story:
The Texas Senate on Tuesday evening voted to adopt a House-amended version of Senate Bill 11, which requires doctors to obtain explicit legal permission from patients before issuing do-not-resuscitate orders.
There are even criminal penalties for violating a patient’s DNR wishes. Yikes!
Why a law was needed to keep doctors from imposing do not resuscitate orders on patients without permission is beyond me. It should have gone without saying.
On Fox News, Laura Ingraham offered only a mild critique of President Trump’s comments on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Charles Krauthammer would have none of it. He explained:
To critique what [President Trump] did today on the grounds that it distracts from the agenda or was a tactical mistake, I believe, is a cop-out. What Trump did today was a moral disgrace. What he did is he reverted back to where he was on Saturday, and made it very clear that what he read on Monday, two days later, was a hostage tape. Clearly reading off a prompter, saying these denunciations by name of the KKK et cetera — that wasn’t Trump speaking, that was the aids speaking.
. . .
What Trump is missing here is the uniqueness of white supremacy, KKK, and Nazism. Yes, there were bad guys on both sides. That’s not the point. This was instigated, instituted — the riot began over a Nazi riot, a Nazi rally. And the only killing here occurred by one of the pro-Nazi, pro-KKK people.
You know the old expression “Not in my name”? It would be so easy — so easy for President Trump to say to the neo-Nazis and the neo-Confederates and the neo-Klansmen, “Not in my name.” He is good with words, as he tells us. He can find a way of saying that. While he was at it, he could say, “Take off my hat.” (The red MAGA hat.) “Just wear your hoods and whatnot.”
He could say that. Does he want to?
And if the alt-Right gets associated with the Republican party and conservatism, it will not be the fault of the media and the Left. It will be the fault of those on the right who played footsie with the alties and who winked and nodded.
P.S. The GOP is the “Party of Lincoln.” They should stand up for Lincoln. Be Lincoln men. Or forfeit their heritage.
Let’s be very clear about what just happened at Donald Trump’s press conference. He gave the alt-right its greatest national media moment ever. He even called some of them “very fine people.” Don’t believe me? Watch this key statement:
Pres. Trump on Charlottesville: “There’s blame on both sides…you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.” pic.twitter.com/ayX9eHABsN— ABC News (@ABC) August 15, 2017
Trump: [Inaudible.] You have some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group — excuse me, excuse me — I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
To understand the significance of Trump’s words, you have to understand a bit about the alt-right. While its members certainly march with Nazis and make common cause with neo-Confederates, it views itself as something different. They’re the “intellectual” adherents to white identity politics. They believe their movement is substantially different and more serious than the Klansmen of days past. When Trump carves them away from the Nazis and distinguishes them from the neo-Confederates, he’s doing exactly what they want. He’s making them respectable. He’s making them different.
But “very fine people” don’t march with tiki torches chanting “blood and soil” or “Jews will not replace us.” The Charlottesville rally was a specific “unite the right” rally that sought to bind the alt-right together with all these other groups. The alt-right wants it both ways. They want the strength in numbers of the larger fascist right while also enjoying the credibility granted them by Breitbart, Steve Bannon, Milo, and — today — the president of the United States.
The most pernicious forms of evil always mix truth and lies. So, yes, there were kernels of truth in some of Trump’s statements. No question there were hateful, violent leftists in Charlottesville this weekend. And on the question of monuments, Trump is right to point out the lack of a limiting principle. We already know that some on the Left have their eyes set on demolishing or removing monuments and memorials that have nothing to do with the Confederacy, but all that pales in importance compared to his stubborn and angry attempts not just at moral equivalence (after all, no one on the Left committed murder this weekend) but at actually whitewashing evil.
What makes this all the more puzzling is that it is so easy to say the right thing here. Do not call anyone at a racist rally a ”very fine” person. It’s not hard to name and condemn an act of alt-right terrorism. It’s not hard to name and condemn the alt-right without equivocation. And it’s not hard to also condemn political violence on all sides. If you think Trump did those things, and sent the right message to the racists, think again. Alt-right Twitter overflowed with gratitude. Richard Spencer declared that Trump “cares about the truth,” and others complimented him for his “uncucking.” This jubilant tweet from David Duke says it all:
Donald Trump loves people who love him, and the vile and vicious alt-right has loved him from the beginning. Today, he loved them right back.
As it happens, I addressed the question President Trump raised — if you take down Confederate statues and memorials, will you end up knocking down Monticello next? — in a Bloomberg View column earlier today.
Our national mythos has come to celebrate Thomas Jefferson less than it once did: His reputation has suffered, as it should have, as we have reckoned with slavery. We remember Jefferson the slave master; but we also remember the Declaration of Independence, the University of Virginia, a role in our national history that is not reducible to his slaveholding. Jefferson Davis, on the other hand, to this day has a highway with his name on it in Virginia because, and only because, he tried to found a nation with slavery as its cornerstone.
It is certainly true that a subset of the people who want to tear down statues of General Lee will turn to the Founders once they are done. The rest of us shouldn’t deny ourselves the ability to make reasoned distinctions just because they can’t.
Trump turned in a truly extraordinary performance at his Trump Tower press conference just now that was probably meant, in part, as a middle finger to his advisers who convinced him to read yesterday’s remarks. He stood by his specific denunciation of the Nazis and white supremacists but justified his vague statement on Saturday by saying he needed more facts. That might hold water if he was, say, only addressing the car attack (the identity and the likely motive of the driver weren’t clearly established until later). But he didn’t need more facts to forthrightly and immediately denounce the Nazis and associated low-lifes. Then, he went on today to praise the rally on Friday night, which was a torch-lit Nazi march, and to say there were good people just concerned with defending Robert E. Lee on the alt-right side of the protests. This is, needless to say, outrageous (good people don’t march together with protesters holding Nazi flags). The press is exercised about two further contentions that I think are correct, namely that there was violence on both sides (even if the Nazis were the instigators and had a murderer in their midst) and that there is potentially a slippery slope from removing Confederate statues to statues of the Founders. Many of his supporters no doubt loved this characteristically combative performance, but it shows that Trump couldn’t just let his Charlottesville statement from yesterday stand and rather than trying to rise above it, he’s happy to be no-holds-barred participant in the angry national debate in the aftermath of last weekend.
I must take exception to the sweeping nature of Rich Lowry’s column arguing in favor of removal of all “Confederate monuments” from everywhere but battlegrounds and cemeteries, even though I agree with many of his points and with a large portion of his ultimate goal. I do agree that a considerable number of such statuary have well-merited historical associations with the advocacy of Jim Crow laws and the like, and that they should be not in general public places but only in battlegrounds and cemeteries (if they are to remain standing anywhere at all).
Yet, as I wrote with regard to the statues in New Orleans that now have been removed, different monuments were erected under different circumstances and for different reasons — and not all of them should be considered under the same criteria. The famous statue there of Lee was erected in front of a cheering crowd that included numerous former union soldiers, under the aegis of a committee co-chaired by former Confederate General Beauregard — right around the time that Beauregard was publicly, and courageously, arguing for full integration of public spaces and schools and full rights of voting and citizenship for blacks. Obviously, the Lee statue was no monument, when erected, to white supremacy, but rather a celebration of Lee’s cause of post-war reconciliation. As for Beauregard, he also grew up in New Orleans and was a civic leader on numerous fronts both before and after the Civil War. His legacy of civil engineering, railroad oversight, and (in effect) invention of New Orleans’ famous streeetcar system is grounds enough to commemorate him completely apart from his role in the Civil War. For those reasons and others, I argued that the statues of Lee and Beauregard should remain in their iconic places even if the other two controversial statues were taken down.
I write this as one with a long record of fighting white supremacists and racists, as no great lover of the Confederacy, and as one who believes, and wrote, that the proper response to last weekend’s events in Charlottesville is to completely condemn the white supremacists without trying to assert (im)moral equivalence between them and the counter-protesters.
As many others also have written, this is one time where the “slippery slope” argument also is definitely applicable: I do quite seriously worry that even before all the Confederate monuments are down, the media will be giving credence to leftist calls to remove anything that honors “slave owners” named Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.
It was perfectly reasonable for the entrance to New Orleans’ City Park to feature a statue honoring P. G. T. Beauregard, especially one that was a particularly fine and celebrated piece of sculpture. In other cities, there may be other good reasons to retain statues of Confederate leaders in places where they have stood for decades — not because they are a symbol of white nationalism, but to insist that they are not such symbols and should not be hijacked by radicals on either side. Each memorial has its own context, place, and meaning, and those who cherish history and public understanding thereof should want each statue judged, and its fate determined, upon careful consideration thereof.