How’s Your ‘Day of Rage’ Going So Far?

by Jim Geraghty

Today is the Palestinians’ “Day of Rage” over the United States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, marked by angry mobs, violence, and chants of “We don’t need empty words, we need stones and Kalashnikovs.” The other name for days they do this is “Friday.”

Actually, as of this writing, today is looking more like a “Day of Predictable Usual Anger and Protests.”

By midday Friday there had been no reports of deaths in two days of demonstrations in the Palestinian territories. Thirty-one Palestinians were wounded on Thursday.

Clashes began in some spots of the West Bank after Friday prayers, though the unrest appeared less intense than the previous day. In Hebron and Bethlehem dozens of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers who fired back with tear gas.

In Gaza, calls for worshippers to protest sounded over mosque loudspeakers and dozens of youths burnt tires on the main streets of the enclave, controlled by the Islamist Hamas group, and hundreds rallied toward the border with Israel.

Look, pal, all you’re doing is leaving a terrible burnt rubber smell in your own neighborhood. (Somebody out there probably could have used those tires.) Israel doesn’t care. The current U.S. administration doesn’t care. Your anger isn’t really changing anything. 

Do you know who is going to get hurt by this violence? All the businesses in a little town of Bethlehem.

IDF General Yoav Mordechai the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories issued a statement on Facebook calling on the Palestinian public to lower tensions in the West Bank.

“Extremists are trying to incite the public by spreading lies that this is a religious war. In the end violence will only hurt the Palestinian people,” he wrote. “I beseech you. do not let the extremists ruin the Christmas season, by scaring off the tourists, without whom a period of positive blossoming, will go down the drain.”

This is a choice on the part of the Palestinians, one of many bad ones they’ve made, time after time. Back in the 1990s, they had President Bill Clinton desperate to reach a deal, and Yassir Arafat walked away from the table and the best offer his people were probably ever going to get. Barack Obama was about as tough on the Israelis as any American president is ever going to be, and the Palestinians still didn’t show any real effort to reach a deal. They need to learn, the hard way, that good opportunities don’t keep coming back over and over again.

Congress’s First In-Vitro Fertilization Sex Scandal

Picture the scene: a busy, overworked office of the House Ethics Committee.

Staffer One: Urgh. Well, that completes another case. What a weirdo. Who’s next?

Staffer Two: Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona.

Staffer One: And what did he do? Allegedly?

Staffer Two: He asked two female employees to bear his child as a surrogate.

Staffer One: (blinks) Wait, what? Run that by me again.

Staffer Two: It says on the complaint that he asked two female employees to bear his child as a surrogate.

Staffer One: Two? What, did he want twins or something?

Staffer Two: (reading) The congressman says he never “physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”

Staffer One: No, he just wanted his genetic material to be placed within the wombs of his staffers and carried to term. How, exactly, do you bring up a request like that? ‘Hey, I need you to carry something for me . . . for about nine months?’

Staffer Two: The staffers say the request made them uncomfortable.

Staffer One: I’d imagine so!

Staffer Two: It’s probably worth noting that there’s no sign of any prurient interest.

Staffer One: No, it’s just . . . weird. I mean, really weird, man! Of course it’s inappropriate for the workplace! How would you feel turning down your boss for a deeply personal request like that? Every time he made a decision after that, you would wonder if he was punishing you for turning him down, or if your refusal was playing a factor in his decision.

Staffer Two: Yeah, but let’s keep in mind, one of the toughest difficulties a couple can go through is infertility issues. People enduring that can find the sight of any child or any pregnancy upsetting, because it feels like they’re being denied something they want so badly, something that everyone else seems to get to have, even accidentally or at an inconvenient time. High school sex-ed classes make it sound like you can get a girl pregnant by looking at her for too long; it’s maddening for couples to find they’re having difficulty getting pregnant after all that time of trying to avoid pregnancy. The yearning for a child, and risk of not having one, can throw anybody for a loop. I once read a book where a guy described going through a difficult pregnancy with his wife and crying at the sight of kids in car repair commercials. My point is that Franks . . . may not have been at his peak emotional and psychological health when he made these requests.

Staffer One: Those are very good points. But you can’t ask your staffers to do something like this!

Staffer Two: No, of course not. As their boss, Franks had a responsibility to make sure these women never felt like they were obligated to do something inappropriate or excessively personal, and procreation certainly seems to be on that list. But Franks probably shouldn’t be lumped in with John Conyers and all the other creeps in the pile of paperwork in front of us.

Staffer One: In the aspect of seeing others as objects for his sexual pleasure, correct. But in some ways, this case is the clarifier of the current trends because of that difference. The key problem running through so many workplaces, so many prestigious offices, and so many halls of power is not an inherent “brutality of the male libido,” as that New York Times op-ed put it. The problem is people in authority not understanding or not caring about boundaries, not seeing those under them or around them as human beings deserving of respect, and losing any reticence or hesitation about abusing their power over them. Upset or not, it’s hard to believe Franks thought very long or hard about how his staffers would feel upon getting this request, or the awkward and difficult position he was putting them in by making it. The House Ethics Committee will have to–

Staffer Two: (checks phone) Wait, never mind, says here he’s resigning. Well, that saves us a lot of time and paperwork.

Staffer One: Great. With Franken going, let’s call our counterparts in the Senate and ask them if they want to grab a drink. The busy days aren’t likely to end anytime soon.

Is Senator Al Franken Really Leaving?

Of course, is Senator Al Franken really going to resign?

More than a few sharp political minds noticed that Franken did not resign immediately, but declared, “in the coming weeks I will be resigning as member of the United States Senate.” He also jabbed, “there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of the sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”

How likely is it that if Roy Moore wins the Alabama Senate race, Franken will pull a Larry Craig, rescind his resignation, and pledge to serve out his term or even run for reelection? Franken didn’t apologize for any actions, and declared, “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently.” What if Wednesday he declares his resignation is contingent on Roy Moore’s expulsion, or Donald Trump’s resignation?

What percentage of Minnesota Democrats would back the statement, “As long as a pig like Trump as in office, Al Franken’s got nothing to apologize for”? I’ll bet it would be enough to survive a primary.

Over in The New Yorker, Masha Gessen makes the unexpected argument (at least in that venue) that #MeToo is turning into “the sex police.”

The case of Franken makes it all that much more clear that this conversation is, in fact, about sex, not about power, violence, or illegal acts. The accusations against him, which involve groping and forcible kissing, arguably fall into the emergent, undefined, and most likely undefinable category of “sexual misconduct.” Put more simply, Franken stands accused of acting repeatedly like a jerk, and he denies that he acted this way. The entire sequence of events, from the initial accusations to Franken’s resignation, is based on the premise that Americans, as a society, or at least half of a society, should be policing non-criminal behavior related to sex.

Interesting word there, “policing.” Because so far, none of the big names that have resigned in the face of any accusations have been arrested, even though the behavior described in at least a few of them appears to meet the criteria for sexual assault. (I’ve heard through the grapevine that at least one large urban police force has an “if seen, stop and bring in for questioning” order on Harvey Weinstein.)

Let’s choose a different word. Should Americans be . . . rebuking non-criminal behavior related to sex? The Mikado sang, “let the punishment fit the crime” and there’s a big gray area between perfectly okay behavior and sex crimes. Society needs minor, non-criminal penalties for minor, non-criminal inappropriate acts.

(By the way, that bag of sex toys Lauer apparently had in his office? His lame-sounding excuse turned out to be true; he really had been given them as a gift by a sex therapist who appeared on the Today show. Go figure!)

ADDENDA: Happy holiday shopping season! Some distinctly pleasing news in the latest jobs report:

Employers added 228,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate remained at a 17-year low of 4.1%, the government reported Friday.

The report also showed that on average weekly paychecks increased by 3.1% over the last 12-months, the first time that reading has topped 3% in nearly seven years. But much of that gain came from Americans working longer hours, as the average hourly pay did not increase by quite as much.

Those working part-time because they couldn’t find a full-time job decreased, another bit of good news for job seekers.

Is the Era of Senator Al Franken Coming to an End?

by Jim Geraghty

By the time you read this, Minnesota senator Al Franken may have resigned. Or maybe not.

A Democratic official who spoke to Franken and key aides told MPR News Franken will resign Thursday. He’s expected to make a speech from the Senate floor Thursday morning.

After MPR News reported the planned resignation, a tweet from Franken’s official account said it was “not accurate.” “No final decision has been made,” the tweet also said.

In The Atlantic, Tina Dupuy offers another shocking anecdote about her run-in with Franken, at a Media Matters party during Obama’s inauguration in 2009:

D.C. was decked out and packed in for the inauguration of a young and popular new president. The town was buzzing with optimism, and one of the many events on our list was a swanky Media Matters party with Democratic notables everywhere. Then I saw Al Franken. I only bug celebrities for pictures when it’ll make my foster mom happy. She loves Franken, so I asked to get a picture with him. We posed for the shot. He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice.

I’d been married for two years at the time; I don’t let my husband touch me like that in public because I believe it diminishes me as a professional woman. Al Franken’s familiarity was inappropriate and unwanted. It was also quick; he knew exactly what he was doing.

I am certain that there are creeps, gropers, and bad men — bad people, really — in all professions and walks of life. But I cannot help but wonder whether certain men who profess to be feminists and defenders of “women’s rights” feel particularly enabled by those public beliefs to indulge their worst impulses.

Back in 2013, the journal Psychological Science noted that a certain segment of the population maintains “a kind of moral equilibrium, meaning that giving money to charity may lead them to skimp on the tip at dinner, whereas partying too much may inspire a volunteer day at the soup kitchen.” Other studies confirm these forms of rationalization or self-justification: I’m a really good person because I do this good thing, which is why I’m allowed to do this bad thing. It’s the psychological version of buying indulgences for sin.

Again, this is not a partisan or ideological trait; I’m sure there is no shortage of conservatives who feel they’re doing “God’s work” and thus are entitled to some bad behavior.

But this mentality is pretty explicit on the left. Back on November 18, Howard Fineman wrote on Twitter, “He went too far (& apologized). BUT: he’s NOT predatory, adores his wife & family & is a lifelong champion of women’s rights.” The implication, of course, is that a senator who wasn’t a “champion of women’s rights” — presumably meaning abortion — wouldn’t be entitled to this mercy or understanding.

Give Dupuy credit, she’s tired of these excuses and justifications.

I have a radical idea: Maybe Democrats can replace politicians who harass and abuse women with anyone other than an abuser. There are good men in the world. I married one. I’ve worked with many more. Do we really believe our talent pool will dry up and our caucus will be nonexistent once we kick out all the creepers? I don’t. What if protecting men who harass and abuse women isn’t actually good for women?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s only good for the men.

By the way, Republicans, are you listening? Are you absolutely certain, swear-on-a-Bible, damn-me-to-hell-if-he’s-lying that Roy Moore isn’t guilty of what his accusers claim? If there’s any possibility that he sexually pursued a 14-year-old in his 30s, do you want anything to do with the effort to put him in office?

The Case for Waiting and Seeing about the FBI’s Peter Strzok

Our Andy McCarthy is never predictable. Like many others, I greeted the news that the lead FBI investigator on the Russian probe, Peter Strzok, was removed by Mueller for sending partisan and political text messages in 2016 as a sign that his decisions on both the Clinton investigation and Trump-Russia probe were driven, at least in part, by partisan politics. It’s all too easy to conclude that Clinton’s slap on the wrist and the extensive, aggressive investigation of Trump were driven by an unjust preconceived notion by at least one figure in law enforcement that Democrats are the good guys and Republicans are the bad guys.

McCarthy — a former federal prosecutor and nobody’s definition of a Hillary Clinton defender — makes the argument that we should withhold judgment on Strzok until we know more.

Strzok did not decide on his own to interview Flynn. We know the matter was being monitored at the highest level of the Justice Department, by then-acting attorney general Sally Yates and then-FBI director James Comey. Strzok and a colleague were assigned to interview Flynn. More importantly, Strzok apparently reported that he believed Flynn had been truthful. Shortly after the interview occurred, it was reported that the FBI had decided no action would be taken against Flynn. On March 2, Comey testified to a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee that, while Flynn may have had some honest failures of recollection during the interview, the agents who questioned him concluded that he did not lie.

Far from setting Flynn up, it seems that Strzok would exculpate him. Flynn was prosecuted not because Strzok is an anti-Trump zealot, but apparently because Strzok’s finding that Flynn was truthful was negated by Mueller’s very aggressive prosecutors. Did they decide they knew better than the experienced investigators who were in the room observing Flynn’s demeanor as he answered their questions?

I still subscribe to a theory that I think aligns with Occam’s Razor: Then-FBI director James Comey really, really, really didn’t want to recommend the indictment of the Democratic nominee for president two weeks before the Democratic convention — particularly when he knew Attorney General Loretta Lynch would never follow that recommendation. But he also didn’t want the Bureau to effectively help cover up Hillary Clinton’s crimes. His July 5 press conference was his idea of splitting the baby, publicly criticizing her but keeping the whole matter out of the judicial system, and letting the American electorate decide whether this was serious enough to keep her out of the Oval Office.

But, with all due respect to McCarthy . . . would Comey’s finding, or at least the wording of it, have been different if Strzok had strong feelings in opposition to Hillary?

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.

They 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 judgements — 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, a transcript can be found here.

Next Year in Jerusalem — Wait, No, They Might Really Mean It This Time!

by Jim Geraghty

Credit where it’s due: I did not think that any president would move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Today Trump is, well, sort of doing that: “President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday, while also delaying moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city,” officials said.

Back in 1992, Bill Clinton criticized George H. W. Bush for keeping the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, and pledged to move it. And then he didn’t. Again in 2000, Clinton declared, “I have always wanted to move our Embassy to west Jerusalem. We have a designated site there. I have not done so because I didn’t want to do anything to undermine our ability to help to broker a secure and fair and lasting peace for Israelis and for Palestinians. But in light of what has happened, I’ve taken that decision under review, and I’ll make a decision sometime between now and the end of the year on that.”

His presidency ended without a move.

George W. Bush criticized Clinton for it, declaring before AIPAC in 2000, “as soon as I take office I will begin the process of moving the U.S. ambassador to the city Israel has chosen as its capital.”

 . . . and then Bush made the exact same decision that Clinton did, constantly signing six-month waivers and extensions delaying the move.

Even Obama declared on the campaign trail in 2008, “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” But then once he was asked whether he would move the U.S. embassy to the capital, the way our embassy is in the capital of every other country, he backtracked.

Back in June, Trump signed his first temporary waiver, but the Israeli government seemed confident Trump would come around. In a chat with Ralph Reed at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference in Washington, Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer joked that he told the president, “you get better real estate prices if you get in early.”

Dermer also appealed to Trump’s desire to have a historic presidency. “King Cyrus, twenty-five-hundred years ago, let the Jews rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. If you’re a president who wants to be remembered for two thousand years, move the embassy to Jerusalem.”

We’re told that moving the embassy would lead to chaos; Turkey’s deputy prime minister declared moving the U.S. embassy would “completely destroy the fragile peace process in the region, and lead to new conflicts, new disputes and new unrest.”

We just witnessed roughly a half million people get killed in the Syrian Civil War. Maybe the region generates its own conflicts, disputes, and unrest on its own, regardless of where our embassy is. Nobody makes any faction in the Middle East pick up weapons and start trying to kill each other. Maybe it’s time all the players in the region stopped using the United States as the scapegoat for their own decisions.

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 on 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.”

Don’t Get Too Comfortable in That Senate Seat, Roy Moore

A well-connected Republican former senator explained to me how he thinks Roy Moore’s fate will shape up if he wins the special Senate election in Alabama.

If Moore wins, the Senate Ethics Committee will almost immediately announce an investigation of the allegations against Moore. The committee and its staff will interview all of his accusers, go out and see if they can find any corroborating evidence and then present a conclusion. The panel will either conclude that the accusations are credible or that they aren’t. If the Senate Ethics Committee concludes the accusations are credible, a bipartisan coalition will push for a vote on his expulsion. (Colorado Republican Cory Gardner has already called for Moore’s expulsion if he’s elected.)

Two-thirds of the senators present must vote for expulsion for Moore to go; Republicans who don’t want to defend him but also don’t want to vote to dismiss could simply be elsewhere that day.

For some conservative Republicans, the Alabama Senate race will resolve itself either way: either the Senate Ethics Committee finds the allegations against Moore aren’t credible, or he gets expelled, the Republican governor of Alabama names another GOP replacement, and another special election will be held.

ADDENDA: Gentlemen, you may think you have a good head of hair. But you will never equal radio commentator Larry Elder-in-the-1970s hair.

Let’s Hear It for the U.S. Border Patrol!

by Jim Geraghty

Some good news from down on America’s southern border and throughout the country:

The federal government, in the most complete statistical snapshot of immigration enforcement under President Donald Trump, says Border Patrol arrests plunged to a 45-year low while arrests by deportation officers soared.

The Border Patrol made 310,531 arrests during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, a decline of 25 percent from 415,816 a year earlier and the lowest level since 1971. Despite the significant decline, arrests increased every month since May — largely families and unaccompanied children.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose officers pick up people for deportation away from the border, made 143,470 arrests, an increase of 25 percent from 114,434 a year earlier. After Trump took office, ICE arrests surged 40 percent from the same period a year earlier. . . 

ICE said “interior removals” — people deported after being arrested away from the border — jumped 25 percent to 81,603 from 65,332 the previous year. They rose 37 percent since Trump’s inauguration compared to the same period a year earlier.

Count the number of times you see the phrase “deporting immigrants” or “rounding up immigrants” from critics of this administration. They really love to drop that key “illegal” label, and speak as if the Scoops from Soylent Green were riding up at the conclusion of citizenship ceremonies and shoveling up everyone and taking them off to some dire fate.

Whether these people are willing to admit it or not, their “deportation is wrong” perspective means they do not believe that there is any needed path to citizenship; they believe that citizenship is a matter of location. In their mentality, once you get across a U.S. border, you’re in.

That’s not the law.

John Conyers, Al Franken, Roy Moore, and the Psychological ‘Permission Slip’

The Republican National Committee, like President Trump, is formally supporting Roy Moore again.

Are Democratic congressmen John Conyers and Senator Al Franken giving Alabama Republican voters psychological “permission” to vote for Roy Moore? Is there a similar effect for other Republican party leaders?

The allegations against Roy Moore are as serious as they can get. There’s a decent amount of circumstantial evidence, and Moore’s initial denials were contradictory and unpersuasive. His current insistence that he never knew or met any of these women, and that anything he signed for them is a forgery, is similarly unconvincing. But there’s that nagging sense that his defeat would mean voters would be signing off on a new standard, that accusations of impropriety are sufficient to end a person’s career. Maybe Moore’s guilty as sin, but what about the next guy? If mere accusation becomes the new, universal standard for removal or disqualification, voters will keep some bad men out of office, but they say see some good men’s reputations and career’s destroyed by false accusations.

And if we argue that Moore’s alleged behavior is worse than Conyers’ . . . well, Conyers is still pretty darn bad:  

Another former staff employee of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, came forward late Monday to publicly accuse the congressman of sexual harassment, saying he once slid his hand up her skirt in church.

Attorney Lisa Bloom, who is representing Marion Brown, the former staffer who first accused Conyers, 88, of sexual harassment, on Monday night made public on Twitter an affidavit from Elisa Grubbs making many of the same accusations.

She said in the affidavit she saw Conyers groping and stroking Brown’s legs and the legs of other women in the office and that she saw Brown shortly after an alleged event in Chicago in 2005 where Brown said Conyers’ propositioned her in a hotel room. In the affidavit, Grubbs said Brown told her, “That SOB just wanted me to have sex with him.”

She also said she was sitting next to him at church on another occasion when he ran his hand under her skirt and said other people saw him do it.

Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed of Southfield, dismissed the new claims, noting that Grubbs is a relative of Brown’s and calling them “another instance of tomfoolery from the mouth of Harvey Weinstein’s attorney.” Bloom previously represented Weinstein, a movie mogul accused of sexual harassment by several women, before resigning in recent months.

Reed added that Grubb’s claims were “unworthy of any further response.”

Conyers has already been accused by at least six women of sexual harassment or other improper behavior, including showing up in his underwear for meetings. In her statement, Grubbs said she was at his home on one occasion when he came out of the bathroom naked.

The allegation is that he groped her in church.

This morning, Conyers is scheduled to hold a press conference discussing his future. Apparently he will refuse to resign:

Mr. Conyers, 88, who last week stepped aside as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, planned to announce on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election, according to a family member who wants to run for the congressman’s seat.

“He is not resigning,” Ian Conyers, a Michigan state senator, said of his great-uncle. “He is going to retire.”

Apparently John Conyers’ behavior had been an open secret for years; as Cokie Roberts said on This Week a few weeks ago, “every female in the press corps knew, don’t get in elevator with him.” We’re left wondering how this could be such an open secret, and why Conyers’ creepy, predatory behavior was never reflected in the coverage of him.

(Conyers was the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee back during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and pulled out all the stops to insist that Clinton’s actions were a private mistake and that Republicans were the true villains in the story. Before the committee vote on impeachment, he declared, “if the American people ever wanted strong evidence that the extremists are still in control of this process, then that is it. It is time to give the American people a holiday gift, to end this sordid tale.” Nobody thought it was relevant that he was harassing his own staff and reporters all along? Of course Conyers wouldn’t give Clinton any grief for seeing his own workforce as a personal harem, he was doing the same thing! And once Bill Clinton escaped any serious consequence . . . what lessons do you think Conyers took from the whole experience?)

If Al Franken stays . . . does Texas Republican representative Blake Farenthold, who used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment claim, get to stay? He says he’s going to pay back the government.

If Fahrenthold stays, does Nevada Democratic representative Ruben Kihuen stay?

A woman who worked as the finance director for a promising Nevada Democrat is alleging that he repeatedly harassed and made sexual advances toward her during his 2016 congressional campaign — and like many young people on campaigns all over the country, she did not know what to do with her complaint and didn’t feel comfortable bringing it to the campaign’s leadership.

So she quit her job. And he’s now in Congress.

Samantha, whose last name BuzzFeed News is withholding at her request, began working for Rep. Ruben Kihuen early in his campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy in December 2015 and quit by April 2016. Starting in February of that year, Samantha, who was 25 at the time, said Kihuen, who was then 35 and still competing in the primary race, propositioned her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections. On two occasions, she says he touched her thighs without consent.

For what it’s worth, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi called for Kihuen to resign. Notice this is, so far, one accuser who remains unnamed. Is this really the standard Pelosi wants?

Should all the creeps go? Absolutely, Congress would be a better place without them. But once a party decides that one of their guys should be allowed to stay, the other party is not going to enforce its own zero tolerance.

The voters, in Alabama and elsewhere, see this cynical game, where standards of conduct are used as a partisan tool to knock out the other side’s officeholders. And they shrug and refuse to play, and decide they’re not going to worry about any of the allegations.

What I Think I Think About Trump, the Russians, and the FBI

What I think I think . . . 

1. Donald Trump and his senior campaign staff were mostly amateurs with seriously flawed judgment at times (Kellyanne Conway was the rare exception); their 2016 victory has more to do with Hillary Clinton’s epic flaws and arrogant campaign than any innate strategic genius.
2. No, really, one of them fell for the “I’m Putin’s niece” con.
3. Donald Trump has always been strangely naïve and warm towards Russia and Vladimir Putin. This is troubling but hardly unique; recall Hillary Clinton’s “Reset Button,” Obama’s “after my election I have more flexibility” statement and George W. Bush’s assessment of Putin, “I looked the man in the eye, I found him very straightforward and trustworthy.” A lot of American leaders believe that their personal charm, persuasiveness, and reasonability are all that’s needed to improve U.S.-Russian relations.
4. Donald Trump and his campaign would welcome Russian help, but they have just enough common sense to not reach out to the Russians and ask for it. If evidence of this arises, the argument that Trump and the Russians colluded in a criminal manner becomes much more persuasive.
5. Russian intelligence would not want to bet too heavily on the continued cooperation of Donald Trump; he’s far too erratic and has too much history of taking favors and then stiffing his allies like a Manhattan contractor.

Finally . . . it’s getting harder and harder to believe that no one at the highest level of the FBI was playing politics in 2016. As the editors of the Wall Street Journal put it:

The Washington Post and the New York Times reported Saturday that a lead FBI investigator on the Mueller probe, Peter Strzok, was demoted this summer after it was discovered he’d sent anti- Trump texts to a mistress. As troubling, Mr. Mueller and the Justice Department kept this information from House investigators, despite Intelligence Committee subpoenas that would have exposed those texts. They also refused to answer questions about Mr. Strzok’s dismissal and refused to make him available for an interview.

The news about Mr. Strzok leaked only when the Justice Department concluded it couldn’t hold out any longer, and the stories were full of spin that praised Mr. Mueller for acting “swiftly” to remove the agent. Only after these stories ran did Justice agree on Saturday to make Mr. Strzok available to the House.

This is all the more notable because Mr. Strzok was a chief lieutenant to former FBI Director James Comey and played a lead role investigating alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Mr. Mueller then gave him a top role in his special-counsel probe. And before all this Mr. Strzok led the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and sat in on the interview she gave to the FBI shortly before Mr. Comey publicly exonerated her in violation of Justice Department practice.

The Journal doesn’t even mention the worst part: “Strzok, who led the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server as the No. 2 official in the counterintelligence division, changed Comey’s earlier draft language describing Clinton’s actions as ‘grossly negligent’ to ‘extremely careless.’” This changed the wording to ensure it didn’t meet the specific statutory language that describes the crime. Put another way, the original draft of Comey’s statement stated she committed a crime.

It’s not surprising that the top leaders at the FBI would have political opinions just like many other Americans. But they’ve got to keep that under wraps and avoid even the appearance of impropriety, bias, partisanship, or having an axe to grind. Indictments get tossed over this sort of thing.

ADDENDA: I’m scheduled to appear on HLN today, around 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

Finally, Sports Illustrated makes some great selections for Sportsmen of the Year: The Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, who raised $37 million for hurricane victims, and the Houston Astros’ José Altuve, who epitomized the team’s unlikely World Series victory, bringing joy to a city that was still recovering from a major disaster.

Trump Pushes His Chips to the Center of the Table, Endorses Roy Moore

by Jim Geraghty

President Trump must feel pretty confident Roy Moore is going to win the Senate special election in Alabama.

This morning he declared on Twitter, “Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!”

(There’s something German about Trump’s capitalization habits, isn’t there? Just this morning, he has capitalized “Witch Hunt,” “Tax Cutting,” “Republican Agenda,” and “Highest Stock Market.”)

Even by Trump standards, there’s not much logic or advantage by jumping on the bandwagon of an enormously controversial candidate like Moore if he’s about to lose.

On the other hand, how confident should anyone be about the outcome right now? It’s a special election, which usually means much lower turnout. It’s a special election just a few weeks before Christmas. Then again, this special election, and in particular the allegations against Moore, have been huge news, it’s hard to believe too many Alabama voters will simply not notice the special election going on. As Allahpundit observes, the polling is probably even more suspect that usual, with everyone guessing how many Republicans don’t want to tell a pollster that they’ve voting for Roy Moore, and how many Republicans don’t want to tell a pollster that they’ve voting for a Democrat.

Had Doug Jones looked or sounded at all like a moderate on abortion, you would probably see more open defections from the Republican nominee. But right now he’s asking pro-life Alabamans to vote for a candidate who declares, “I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose” and who’s declared he doesn’t support any changes to current laws on abortion. There’s your choice, Alabama pro-lifers: abortion on demand or the creep who kept pursuing teenagers when he was in his 30s (and perhaps did more than merely “pursue” them).

Interestingly, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell appears to be coming to terms with seating Moore if he wins the election. Asked yesterday if he believes Roy Moore should be in the Senate, McConnell said, “I’m going to let the people of Alabama make the call.”

Back on November 14, McConnell declared, “He’s obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate, and we’ve looked at all the options to try to prevent that from happening.”

How many senators are reluctant to begin the process of refusing to seat a legally elected senator over serious, but unverified allegations of criminal behavior? If the Senate refused to seat Moore because of this . . . would there be an effort to refuse to seat or unseat another senator facing slightly less horrific allegations? Maybe Roy Moore isn’t fit to join the chamber where Ted Kennedy served 47 years . . . but if he isn’t, is Al Franken?

If Moore wins, Republicans keep the Senate seat, with the minor complication that Democrats will argue that they “welcomed” a man facing allegations of statutory rape. There’s also the minor problem that Roy Moore tends to make Donald Trump look like a disciplined, focused speaker, going on about “reds and yellows,” not knowing what the Dreamer program was as recently as this summer, and contending that Illinois communities are under Sharia law. (This isn’t even getting the conspiracy theory right, which contends that majority-Muslim communities in Michigan operate under de facto Sharia law.)

If Doug Jones wins, Republicans are down to a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and President Trump will have managed to back the losing candidate in the primary and in the general, in one of his strongest states. Before today, Trump could have at least claimed, “Moore always struck me as a loser, that’s why I never explicitly endorsed him.”

If Jones wins, can we all agree to never listen to Steve Bannon again? Just think, Senator Luther Strange could have been cruising right about now.

McCarthy: You Can Have Obstruction Even If There’s No Evidence of Collusion

Our Andy McCarthy, former federal prosecutor, reading between the lines and using deductive reasoning in the Russia investigation#..#

If the FBI had a collusion case of some kind, after well over a year of intensive investigation, Flynn and Papadopoulos would have been pressured to plead guilty to very serious charges —  and those serious offenses would be reflected in the charges lodged against Manafort. Obviously, the pleas and the indictment have nothing to do with collusion because Mueller has no collusion case.

Since there is no collusion case, we can safely assume Mueller is primarily scrutinizing President Trump with an eye toward making a case of obstructing an FBI investigation. This also makes sense in light of the pleas that have been taken.

Obstruction itself is a process crime – i.e., it relates to interference in the investigation of an underlying transaction that may or may not be criminal. In the first point, above, we noted that prosecutors generally do not let a cooperator settle a case by pleading guilty to a mere process crime. But, if the main case the prosecutor is trying to build is itself a process crime, such as obstruction, then it is not all that damaging that the witnesses have pled guilty only to process crimes. The theme of such a prosecution is that the investigative process must be protected, not that some terrible underlying crime (like an espionage conspiracy) has been committed. Witnesses such as Flynn and Papadopoulos would therefore not be made to look like they had gotten a pass on serious offenses; they would look like they had owned up to corrupting the process and are now helping the prosecutor against the principal corruption target.

None of that will matter to most of Trump’s most ardent critics, of course. In their eyes, any obstruction is automatically evidence that there was indeed collusion with Russia.

The GOP Tax Bill Is Almost Passed . . . 

Congressional Republicans have almost passed a tax bill. But let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. The House and Senate still have to take their different versions and mash them together into a new version in a conference, and pass that new hybrid through both houses.

Senator Susan Collins liked the Senate version, but isn’t making any promises about the conference version: “I want to see what comes out. I believe that the amendments I added on medical expense deductions, on property tax deductions, on helping retirement security for employees improve the bill.”

The finish line of the marathon is in sight. Don’t trip over your shoelaces now!

ADDENDA: Why did the clash of white nationalists and protesters in Charlottesville this summer get so out of hand? A new independent review concludes the Charlottesville police deliberately chose to not stop the fighting.

Chief Thomas’s response to the increasing violence on Market Street was disappointingly passive. Captain Lewis and Chief Thomas’ personal assistant Emily Lantz both told us that upon the first signs of open violence on Market Street, Chief Thomas said “let them fight, it will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly.” Thomas did not recall making that statement, though he did confirm that he waited to “see how things played out” before declaring the unlawful assembly. Regardless of what he said, Chief Thomas’ slow-footed response to violence put the safety of all at risk and created indelible images of this chaotic event.

John Sexton concludes, “All the police really succeeded in doing at this point was forcing the white supremacist protesters back toward a crowd of counter-protesters.”

No Justice for Kate Steinle

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: The jury reaches a verdict for the man who shot Kate Steinle, the GOP Senate faces a make-or-break moment, a quartet of superhero shows try to get serious and fail, and wondering what the president really believes.

Sanctuary Jury

Upon hearing that the illegal immigrant who shot and killed Kate Steinle was acquitted of murder, involuntary manslaughter, and assault charges, I was reminded of Robert Wuhl’s joke after the O.J. Simpson verdict: “What do you expect? It’s California. They haven’t convicted anybody since Charles Manson.”

The thing is, even if you believe Jose Ines Garcia Zarate’s version of events, that he accidentally fired the gun, didn’t aim at Steinle, and that she was killed when the bullet ricocheted and struck her, I don’t quite understand how his actions wouldn’t constitute “involuntary manslaughter.”

Check out the definition of “involuntary manslaughter” under California law:

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of three kinds:

(a) Voluntary—upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.
(b) Involuntary—in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection.

Wouldn’t firing a gun in a crowded public place amount to an act that might produce death in an unlawful manner, without due caution and circumspection? Doesn’t Zarate’s account amount to a confession of this?

You’re going to hear a lot of talk about “jury nullification” in the coming days, and it doesn’t sound all that farfetched. Zarate’s defense attorney was quick to make an argument to the Trump administration after the verdict:

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez said this “verdict should be respected.”

Gonzalez, the chief attorney in the San Francisco’s Public Defender’s Office, said it was important to remember that the president, vice president and attorney general were under investigation themselves and should appreciate that they would be afforded the protections of the justice system.

“Before you start tweeting or commenting on this outcome, just reflect on the fact that all of us get these protections,” he said. “We get a right to a jury. We get these burdens of proof. We have to respect that a jury that spent this much time on this case got it right.”

Did they? By convicting Zarate of only illegal possession of a firearm, and nothing relating to the shooting, the jury effectively ruled that Zarate wasn’t responsible for her death.

I’m reminded of another cynical joke, this time from Dennis Miller: “How comforting is it to know that as a defendant in our criminal justice system, your fate is being decided by 12 people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was quick to issue a statement:

When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk. San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle. While the State of California sought a murder charge for the man who caused Ms. Steinle’s death—a man who would not have been on the streets of San Francisco if the city simply honored an ICE detainer—the people ultimately convicted him of felon in possession of a firearm. The Department of Justice will continue to ensure that all jurisdictions place the safety and security of their communities above the convenience of criminal aliens. I urge the leaders of the nation’s communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers.

Zarate is not, however, a free man:

Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan said that immigration officials will take custody of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate once his case concludes.

Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the San Francisco prosecutor’s office, said the “verdict that came in today was not the one we were hoping for” but it was the jury’s decision and prosecutors would respect it.

Jurors did find Garcia Zarate guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi said that charge carries a potential sentence of 16 months to 3 years.

Sarah Rumpf makes the argument that a good portion of the blame may lie with the prosecutors, for putting so much focus and effort on a first degree murder charge that the evidence simply couldn’t support: “This seems to be a classic example of prosecutorial overreach. They pushed hard for a first degree murder verdict, which requires not only proving that the defendant killed the victim, but that he did it intentionally, and that it was premeditated (planned or thought out beforehand).”

It’s Make-Or-Break Time for Senate Republicans on the Tax Reform Bill

We might have genuine drama in the Senate today:

The Senate is scheduled to hold its first votes of the day at 11 a.m. on a pair of Democratic motions as GOP leaders try to salvage the legislation, which they see as vital to their political fortunes.

Senator Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, said Friday morning he backs the tax plan. He said in an interview that he thinks the bill will pass without a deficit-cutting mechanism sought by GOP Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

“That’s going nowhere,” he said. “What Bob was suggesting is just causing more problems.” Daines said he would oppose changing the bill to retain the alternative-minimum tax or to add another tax increase.

No pressure, fellas; the only thing at stake is whether the Trump administration can get a big legislative priority passed in its first year.

A Type of Story That Superhero Shows Probably Needn’t to Try to Tell

The CW network has four superhero shows — Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow – and for the past two years, they’ve done big crossovers where all of the heroes work together, in a story that runs through one episode of each show.

Last year it was an alien invasion, this year it was . . . an attack by Nazi versions of themselves from an alternate reality where the Nazis won World War Two. Yes, it was a lot like the Amazon series, The Man in the High Castle.

Look, I’m perfectly fine with Nazi villains; Raiders of the Lost Ark is perhaps my favorite movie of all time and I’d put Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade not too far behind it. But there are two ways you can tell a fictional story about the Nazis. You can use them as pulp-style villains, with only a fleeting reference to their real-world horrors, like in the Indiana Jones movies, The Rocketeer, and Captain America. (In fact, Captain America goes even further to emphasize that its particular villains are “Hydra,” a more-or-less rogue Nazi Science Division.) Or you can do a more serious “afterschool special” with the important message that Nazis are bad, or perhaps the more mature concept that the appeal of fascism isn’t as alien as we might hope. The 1980s NBC sci-fi miniseries V aimed to imagine a scenario where Americans would turn against their neighbors in service to a powerful, alien occupying force that wore red and black and behaved like fascists.

But it’s very hard to do both kinds of stories simultaneously, and the CW storyline, “Crisis on Earth X” handled it pretty ham-fistedly, having the heroes captured and taken to the alternate earth concentration camp, complete with “arbeit macht frei” signs. One of the characters examines the other prisoners’ uniforms and asks what the stars and pink triangles mean, a quick bit of exposition presumably for any younger viewers who hadn’t paid attention in history class. Look, producers, either kind of story could have been good. But it’s hard to cheer for swashbuckling heroics when your show just tried to hit the same emotional chords as Schindler’s List.

(It’s not just comic book movies that have this problem. Monuments Men was thoroughly disappointing, with an all-star cast and a real-life story of American professors trying to recover art stolen by the Nazis during World War Two. The story veered between a sort of comic moments, like the team trying to figure out how to get Matt Damon off a landmine, and then finding barrels full of gold fillings extracted from Holocaust victims. You can’t give your audience this sort of emotional whiplash.)

The ramifications of a Nazi-run world occasionally manifested itself in interesting ways; there were evil Nazi versions of Green Arrow and Supergirl, but not one of the Flash; in the recent Justice League film, Barry Allen (played by a different actor) explicitly says he’s Jewish – suggesting that in the “Earth X” alternate timeline, Barry Allen was probably never born. None of the African-American heroes appear to exist in the alternate reality, either.

Some folks I respect, like John Podhoretz, get really infuriated with Holocaust references and scenes in comic book movies. I’m fine with them, as long as they’re handled carefully, and I’d argue Magneto’s survival of the Holocaust offers a crystal-clear explanation of why he’s so driven, uncompromising, and slow to trust anyone. But “Crisis on Earth X” really bungled the tone of its story — and it’s unfortunate, because the non-Nazi scenes and characterization were pretty good. This doesn’t mean the shows need boycotts, or howls of outrage. Just . . . the next time some writer pitches, “we’ll do a Nazi story!” the creative team needs to ask whether it will really fit the tone of their show.

ADDENDA: Does President Trump believe those outlandish conspiracy beliefs he occasionally mentions? I think he’s trolling, putting out rumors about people he doesn’t like. This isn’t good behavior, but it isn’t evidence of a mental breakdown. But if he really does believe things like the Access Hollywood tape was faked . . . we’re in a whole different world.

It’s Getting Worse Every Day

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: Today’s just a cavalcade of creeps. Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, John Conyers, Al Franken. . .

Bonfire of the Grotesqueries

I hope this newsletter isn’t getting boring or redundant, dear readers, and that the coverage and discussion of sexual harassment scandals isn’t getting monotonous. It’s just that nearly every day, there’s some “whoa, did you see this? Can you believe this?” revelation about some previously-respected figure in politics or media or entertainment, one more figure that our society put up on a fairly high pedestal who turns out to be an abominable creep.

The revelations in the articles in Variety and the New York Times about former Today host Matt Lauer are stomach-turning.  Many people are focusing on this bizarre detail about Lauer’s office, suggesting he had a Bond-villain-like setup to ensure female subordinates could not easily leave his office:

Lauer, who was paranoid about being followed by tabloid reporters, grew more emboldened at 30 Rockefeller Center as his profile rose following Katie Couric’s departure from “Today” in 2006. His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.

For what it’s worth, the Times article says “People who worked at NBC said the button was a regular security measure installed for high-profile employees.” But it has its own worse detail:

On Wednesday, NBC received at least two more complaints related to Mr. Lauer, according to a person briefed on the network’s handling of the matter. One complaint came from a former employee who said Mr. Lauer had summoned her to his office in 2001, locked the door and sexually assaulted her. She provided her account to The New York Times but declined to let her name be used.

She told The Times that she passed out and had to be taken to a nurse. She said that she felt helpless because she didn’t want to lose her job, and that she didn’t report the encounter at the time because she felt ashamed.

The “office culture” under Matt Lauer at NBC doesn’t sound all that different than the office culture under Charlie Rose at PBS, or the office culture under Roger Ailes at Fox News, or the office culture under Harvey Weinstein at his production company. In each case, workers under the celebrity boss may have personally abhorred the behavior but were unwilling or unable to make any real stand against it. The attitude was more or less, “look, he acts like Caligula and sees the staff as his personal harem, but he’s the boss, and he’s the guy who makes the place work.”

Except . . .  they weren’t! Were any of these guys all that difficult to replace? Lauer had an amiable presence on camera and read off the teleprompter, but was he exponentially better than any other NBC morning show host? Fox News has continued to thrive after Ailes’ retirement and death, and Tucker Carlson’s ratings are about as high as Bill O’Reilly’s. Future movie producers will cast different actors in the roles that Kevin Spacey would have previously had; cable networks will find comedians besides Louis CK to build shows around.

Several things about the network’s response do not make sense. NBC News chairman Andrew Lack declared in a memo that someone had come forward Monday and the network reached its decision Tuesday, concluding, “While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

That is difficult to square with “several women told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding Today.”

I keep thinking about how much of the country watched Lauer co-host the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a week ago. Did NBC really have no idea that Variety and the New York Times were investigating Lauer’s behavior? Did they know and send him out to host the parade anyway?

Sometimes We Just Have to Say, ‘I Don’t Believe You’

Let’s take a good look at Garrison Keillor’s version of events that led to his dismissal from Minnesota Public Radio.

“I put my hand on a woman’s bare back,” he told the Star Tribune by e-mail minutes after MPR’s statement. “I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized. I sent her an email of apology later and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it. We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”

Wait, he aimed to pat her on the back, and somehow accidentally put his hand six inches up her shirt? Really?

And then this woman claimed to accept his apology, and secretly went to Minnesota Public Radio to complain?

And then in response to this entirely innocent and innocuous gesture, Minnesota Public Radio – which Keillor more or less built after 50 years – discounted his version of events and reacted as if he had been identified as the Zodiac Killer?

MPR will end its business relationships with Mr. Keillor’s media companies effective immediately. By terminating the contracts, MPR and American Public Media (APM) will:
* end distribution and broadcast of The Writer’s Almanac and rebroadcasts of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion hosted by Garrison Keillor;
* change the name of APM’s weekly music and variety program hosted by Chris Thile; and,
* separate from the Pretty Good Goods online catalog and the website.

Maybe we’re in a recurrence of the Spanish Inquisition, where innocent and well-meaning 75-year-old insufferably smug progressive radio personalities are targeted by vicious women, eager to paint their reassuring gestures as a horrible assault. Perhaps that explains Al Franken’s insistence that his hand may have accidentally brushed against a woman’s behind while taking photos, and that somehow these women are misremembering it as a full-fledged aggressive grope.

But then Keillor went even further: “If I had a dollar for every woman who asked to take a selfie with me and who slipped an arm around me and let it drift down below the belt line, I’d have at least a hundred dollars.”

I’m sorry. I’m just not buying that a hundred women have met Garrison Keillor, taken one whiff of his musky raw masculinity, and found themselves overcome with lust and unable to resist the urge to feel his tush or other places.

Speaking of Franken . . . 

Stephanie Kemplin, 41, of Maineville, Ohio, is the fifth woman in two weeks to accuse Franken of inappropriate touching, and the second person to allege that such behavior took place while Franken was on a USO tour. Three of the five women have been identified by name.

Kemplin said while she was stationed in the Middle East during the Iraq War, she met Franken — at the time, a comedian and writer — as he was visiting American troops with the USO. A longtime fan of “Saturday Night Live,” Kemplin got in line to take a photo with Franken.

“When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast,” Kemplin said in an interview. “I’ve never had a man put their arm around me and then cup my breast. So he was holding my breast on the side.”

Kemplin repeatedly used the word “embarrassed” to describe her immediate reaction at the time.

“I remember clenching up and how you just feel yourself flushed,” she said. “And I remember thinking — is he going to move his hand? Was it an accident? Was he going to move his hand? He never moved his hand.”

Let me guess, senator, this is another incident that you don’t recall but that must be another innocent gesture maliciously misinterpreted?

Congressman James Clyburn Plays the Race Card in His Defense of John Conyers

Prediction: The spate of sexual harassment allegations will do more damage to the Democratic party as a whole than Republicans.

The New York Times’s Robert Draper: “Also at this morning’s House Democratic caucus: James Clyburn compared Conyers’ accusers to the child murderer Susan Smith, who initially claimed a black man had abducted her kids. Clyburn said these are all white women who’ve made these charges against Conyers.”

This cultural change will hurt Democrats more because the party’s grassroots faithful see their leaders as defenders against women in the allegedly GOP-driven “war on women,” and when Democratic powerful, entitled men exhibit the same unacceptable behavior, lame excuses, and counter-accusations as every other powerful, entitled man, those grassroots will be appalled and outraged.

ADDENDA: Go figure . . .  Chris Hofmann discovered the casting in the film Love, Actually was prophetic!

Wow. NBC Fires Matt Lauer for ‘Inappropriate Sexual Behavior in the Workplace’

by Jim Geraghty

NBC News announced this morning that they fired Matt Lauer last night after “a detailed complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” with “reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

Whatever NBC discovered, it must have been dire, out of the blue, and sudden. Lauer just co-hosted NBC’s coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday!

Picture traveling back in time a year, and telling people that by the end of November 2017, sexual harassment allegations had not really derailed the Trump presidency, but had effectively ended the careers of NBC’s Matt Lauer, PBS’s Charlie Rose, NBC’s Mark Halperin, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Vox editorial director Lockhart Steele, NPR news chief Michael Oreskes, former New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier, and former New Republic president and publisher Hamilton Fish.

Probably the single most empty argument we’ve seen in the aftermath is some variation of “men need to embrace feminism.”

As Vox of all places observes in the aftermath of the allegations against Senator Al Franken and Congressman John Conyers, some of the worst offenders were the loudest self-proclaimed feminists:

It would be an indication that [Franken], a self-declared progressive feminist — a “champion” of women, as he put it in his initial response to Tweeden’s allegations — did not see “caring about the comfort of women interacting with you in casual settings” as part of the job description.

It wouldn’t be uncommon. We know by now that people who profess to care about gender equality can be serial harassers too. We know that Harvey Weinstein raised money for Planned Parenthood. We know that Leon Wieseltier thought of himself as a champion of women writers and editors. We know that Louis C.K. tried to build a comedy legacy on being a male feminist.

We know, now, that none of the things those men did in public changed the fact that they scared the women around them into victimhood and then into silence.

As a wise man* once said, “it’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” It doesn’t matter how noble your principles and stands and beliefs are if you treat people like dirt. This is the true measure of a person’s character; a person who disagrees completely on all ideology but who is respectful, kind, big-hearted and honorable does more good for the world than the ideological compatriot who is a walking misery factory driven by abusive egomaniacal narcissism.

Vox is getting pretty fascinating to read lately, just because their writers expect progressives to live up to their own professed values. We on the Right might disagree with them on a whole lot, but their rejection of casual hypocrisy is pretty pleasing to see:

This is the nature of civil society, though: No person can dictate whether others live up to his values, or even their own. No organization can either. The only actions they can control are their own.

If you believe that a more just world is one in which sexual harassers lose their jobs, the only way you can act to enforce that norm is to take care of the sexual harassers in your midst.

*That wise man, of course, was Batman.

Do Captured Terrorists Belong in U.S. Courtrooms?

There are four potential conclusions to draw from the news that a jury convicted Libyan terrorist Ahmed Abu Khattala on several conspiracy charges, but not murder, in a U.S. federal criminal court yesterday.

1. Maybe the prosecution really dropped the ball. (Not likely.)
2. Maybe proving guilt for a chaotic terrorist attack halfway around the world is more difficult than it looks. (More likely, more on this in a moment.)
3. Maybe this is why military tribunals and/or drone strikes are a better way to deal with terrorists.
4. Maybe he just got the descendants of the O.J. Simpson jury.

As the New York Times points out, this is not the first time an Islamist terrorist walked into a U.S. courtoom and a jury decided not to convict on a slew of the most serious charges.

Khattala was convicted on four counts — including providing material support for terrorism, conspiracy to do so, destroying property and placing lives in jeopardy at the mission, and carrying a semiautomatic firearm during a crime of violence — but acquitted on 14 others. He faces life in prison.

The mixed verdict showed the difficulty of prosecuting terrorism cases when the evidence is not clear-cut. The outcome was reminiscent of the 2010 federal trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian man and former Guantánamo Bay detainee who was charged in federal court as a conspirator in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa that killed hundreds. Mr. Ghailani was acquitted of most of the charges, including each murder count for those who died, but he was still sentenced to life in prison for a conviction on one count of conspiracy.

This aspect of the case appears to support the second conclusion above:

Prosecutors acknowledged that no evidence existed that Mr. Khattala had personally fired any shots or set any buildings ablaze, but argued that he had nevertheless helped orchestrate the attacks and aided them while they were underway. To make that case, they drew primarily on testimony from three Libyan witnesses and on a database said to be Mr. Khattala’s cellphone records.

Prosecutors presented witnesses who said that leading up to the attacks, Mr. Khattala had talked about the need to get rid of what he saw as an American spy base in Benghazi, and gathered weapons with his militia a few days beforehand.

There were roughly 150 attackers in Benghazi more than five years ago; so far the United States government has captured just two of them. The U.S. caught the second perpetrator just last month, nabbing Mustafa Al-Imam during a special operations forces raid in Libya.

What if Roy Moore Wins Alabama’s Special Senate Election?

If Doug Jones wins, a lot of Republicans will be able to argue the lessons are obvious: Don’t listen to Steve Bannon. Don’t nominate egomaniac candidates with skeletons in their closets who refuse to withdraw in the face of credible accusations and who only offer contradictory, semi-blanket denials.

If Roy Moore wins, Senate Republicans have to decide whether they want him to take the seat.

And it looks like a Moore win isn’t that unthinkable. JMC Enterprises just completed a new poll in Alabama and found three conclusions: “(1) Roy Moore has regained his lead in the polls; (2) Republicans have similarly regained the lead in the generic ballot test; and (3) allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore have not materially impacted the race.”

ADDENDA: I’m scheduled to appear on CNN International’s State of America this afternoon.

Finally . . . we’re almost at the end of November. We’re never going to get any further information about the motive of the Las Vegas shooter, are we? We’re just supposed to let that go.

As my podcast co-host Mickey White periodically wonders, this guy was a professional gambler who hung out in casinos all the time, yet we’ve not seen any security footage of him?

John Conyers Is Facing a Bouquet of Accusations

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: The number of Conyers accusers grows almost large enough to field a baseball team; what James O’Keefe and Project Veritas should do now; President Trump and the lost art of decorum and respect for veterans; and an NR holiday shopping guide.

Counting All the Conyers Accusers

At some point, the “why did you keep working for him?” defense needs to be retired, or at least recognized as not much of a defense.

A former staffer of U.S. Rep. John Conyers said the veteran lawmaker made unwanted sexual advances toward her, including inappropriate touching, adding to allegations by other unnamed former employees that have prompted a congressional investigation.

Deanna Maher, Conyers’ former deputy chief of staff who ran his downriver office from 1997 to 2005, told The Detroit News that the Detroit Democrat made unwanted advances toward her three times.

Maher is the second former Conyers staffer to go public with accusations about the veteran lawmaker. Conyers on Sunday stepped aside as the the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid a congressional ethics probe of sexual harassment allegations involving former staffers.

Conyers’ attorney Arnold Reed questioned why Maher would continue to work for Conyers for so many years after the alleged incidents. He also said Maher’s allegations are uncorroborated and that his client denies wrongdoing.

“At the end of the day, he’s confident that he will be exonerated because he maintains that he has not done anything wrong,” Reed said.

Maher said her need for employment explains why she stayed on the job.

“I needed to earn a living, and I was 57. How many people are going to hire you at that age?” she said.

Conyers’ status as a leading Democrat deterred her from going public at the time, Maher said, adding she doesn’t have anything to lose now.

“I didn’t report the harassment because it was clear nobody wanted to take it seriously,” she said. “John Conyers is a powerful man in Washington, and nobody wanted to cross him.”

If you’re keeping score, that’s one staffer who received a taxpayer-funded settlement of $27,000, one scheduler who filed a suit alleging she was sexually harassed “repeatedly and daily,” one former counsel alleging he was “abusive and inappropriate,” four former staffers who signed affidavits claiming Conyers sexually harassed his staff, and now the claims from the deputy chief of staff.

Maybe you believe that all eight of these Conyers staffers got together and decided to make up awful stories about the boss. Or maybe they’re telling the truth, and he’s been an abusive jerk all along.

So far, just one lawmaker has called for Conyers’ resignation.

The Unforced Error of Doubling Down on a Bad Decision

When we make a consequential mistake, usually the best thing to do is be upfront about it, admit it, think hard about how we came to make that mistake, and try to make amends.

Often our instincts will tell us to double down.

For some reason, James O’Keefe and his gang at Project Veritas must have been quite convinced that the Washington Post’s reporting about Roy Moore was shoddy and rushed.

The Post reporters spoke to four accusers and two childhood friends of the youngest accuser; both said the accuser described the encounter years earlier (before Moore was running for Senate) and one said the accuser named Moore specifically. The newspaper said it interviewed the youngest accuser six times and her story remained consistent. The Post was able to determine that none of the accusers had donated to his rival, Doug Jones, or his primary rivals. The Post reporters were able to confirm that the youngest accuser’s mother attended a hearing at the Etowah County courthouse in February 1979 through divorce records, and that Moore’s office was down the hall from the courtroom.

To a lot of eyes, the Post article looked as thoroughly reported as possible. Moore denied the allegations, but did not really offer any specific contrary evidence. In fact, he backtracked from his blanket denial, telling Sean Hannity, “I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go out on dates then we did. But I do not remember that.” Then he offered another blanket denial.

Some Moore supporters argued that Corfman’s credibility is unreliable because of her three divorces and a messy financial history that involves filing for bankruptcy several times. (Needless to say, no fan of Donald Trump should be discounting anyone’s credibility because of life events like that.)

Moore’s wife, Kayla, shared a Facebook post claiming that the restaurant that the latest accuser says was the site of her meeting with Moore did not exist in the late 1970s, that it opened in 2001; thus the accuser’s story cannot be true. That claim is false; the restaurant existed in the late ’70s, judging from business records and advertisements in newspapers at the time.

To believe Moore’s version, you have to believe that all four of these women decided to lie when the Washington Post showed up at their door, that they all spontaneously made up a story that they were able to recount in detail in multiple retellings to reporters over a period of weeks, and they all chose to make up similar stories about Moore’s sexual pursuit.

For some reason, the Veritas team believed that if they had a person claiming to be a victim of Moore reach out to the Post, the newspaper would rush the story to print, without investigating the details.

The woman emailed and texted the Post reporter, claiming a sordid and false tale of Moore impregnating her, then driving her to another state to have an abortion. The reporter asked if there were any documents to verify these events. The Post started to find discrepancies in the Veritas woman’s account:

Phillips had said she lived in Alabama only for a summer while a teenager; but the cellphone number Phillips provided had an Alabama area code. Reinhard called NFM Lending in Westchester County, but they said a person named Jaime Phillips did not work there.

Alice Crites, a Post researcher who was looking into Phillips’s background, found the document that strongly reinforced the reporters’ suspicions: a Web page for a fundraising campaign by someone with the same name. It was on the website under the name Jaime Phillips.

“I’m moving to New York!” the May 29 appeal said. “I’ve accepted a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt of the liberal MSM. I’ll be using my skills as a researcher and fact-checker to help our movement. I was laid off from my mortgage job a few months ago and came across the opportunity to change my career path.”

One of two donations listed on the site was from a name that matched her daughter’s, according to public records.

When the Post reporter asked Phillips about this, she claimed she had been interviewing at the Daily Caller. Nothing about that story checked out, either. When confronted about the discrepancies, Phillips quickly departed.

James O’Keefe should publicly acknowledge that no matter how much he may dislike the Post, they did what they were supposed to do in this situation. They did not rush Phillips’s unverified claims into print. They sought to verify as much of Phillips’s story as they could, and when they could not, they did not print it. Perhaps all of the Washington Post reporters involved in this story loathe Roy Moore. But they have now proven that they’re not willing to print unverified rumors about him.

At any point, did it cross the minds of anyone at Project Veritas that if the Post had run Phillips story, that some people might have concluded Moore had committed the act of securing the abortion, even after O’Keefe appeared and demonstrated that his organization had arranged the whole hoax?

If you truly believe the Post has wronged Roy Moore, there’s a better way to achieve justice: find a discrepancy, contradiction, or impossibility in the accounts of Moore’s accusers.

We all rightfully disdain hoax hate crimes. Just how different is it to make a false claim of statutory rape, hoping to fool a reporter into running a false story? If an effort like this blows up in your face, don’t you have an obligation to come clean and offer a full accounting of who this occurred?

This morning, as of this writing, the Project Veritas web site has nothing about Phillips or her false claims. Instead there’s video of one of O’Keefe’s undercover reporters, talking with Washington Post staff inside the newsroom, with National Security reporter Dan Lamothe saying of the paper’s editorial page, “They definitely don’t like Trump. I mean here’s the thing though. There’s the news side that’s just trying to critically call bull**** when there’s bull****, but also give him credit where there’s credit, you know? When something is good, and he’s doing more things bad, but he’s doing some of the things good.”

Where’s the news there? Where’s the scandal?

In Roman mythology, Veritas was the goddess of truth. How well can you serve truth by lying?

And how are you serving Truth when you refuse to even address your mistakes?

One Point on ‘Pocahontas’ . . . 

Regarding President Trump’s joke — during a White House event honoring the Navajo Code Talkers . . . 

I just want to thank you because you’re very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her “Pocahontas.”

It is perhaps revealing that Trump keeps calling Warren “Pocahontas” when the joke on the right was always that she was “Faux-cahontas.” The joke is not that she’s Native American; the joke is that she claims to be Native American on such thin and sketchy evidence. (One test from AncestryDNA will clear this up really quickly, senator.) The point is to mock her inauthenticity and shameless opportunism, not that Native American ancestry is inherently funny or deserves to be mocked.

Put aside your preexisting views of Warren and Trump: Didn’t those Navajo Code Talkers in attendance deserve better?

ADDENDA: In case you missed it yesterday, here’s a National Review book-and-art-shopping guide with updated links.

What to Do about Conyers

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: John Conyers’ disorientation and Nancy Pelosi’s strategic obliviousness, Senator Al Franken’s implausible claim that he’s a victim of a witch hunt against hugs, and that big New York Times profile of a white nationalist and how it revealed more than the editors thought.

John Conyers’ Disorientation and Nancy Pelosi’s Strategic Obliviousness

Congressman John Conyers should have been removed from office a long time ago, for his own good:

He has already handed over much of the day-to-day committee work to staff aides and other Democratic members in recent years, and has often appeared disoriented. In at least two separate occasions — once at a United Automobile Workers event in Michigan and once at a meeting of top Democrats on Capitol Hill — Mr. Conyers showed up wearing pajamas, according to two people familiar with the incidents.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Conyers said she had “no knowledge this ever occurred.”

When members of Congress are exhibiting signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s, and no one around them takes steps to ease them out of governing responsibilities . . . stop asking why Americans don’t have more faith in their leaders! Our old colleague Tim Alberta observed last week, “John Conyers has not been all there, mentally, for some time. Every top Dem in MI and DC knows that.”

You wouldn’t let your grandpa operate heavy machinery if he started wandering around in his pajamas. Why did Democrats allow Conyers to keep operating as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee all this time? Forget stepping down as ranking member on the committee; he does not belong in Congress, for his own good.

How the hell does Nancy Pelosi not know that the guy set to run the Judiciary Committee is wandering the walls of Congress in his pajamas? How does she not do something about that?

Yesterday morning, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked Pelosi, “Do you believe John Conyers’ accusers?”

She responded, “I don’t know who they are. Do you? They have not really come forward.”

As Perry Bacon of observed, “Seriously? One of them talked to the Washington Post. Another filed a lawsuit against Conyers. A third reached a settlement with him.”

Back in 2012, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then chair of the Democratic National Committee, had a simple solution for dealing with the question and moral complications of President Obama’s “kill list” for drone strikes: She simply didn’t read about it and acted like it didn’t exist, telling reporters, “I have no idea what you’re talking about” — even though it had been reported upon, in detail, on the front page of the New York Times.

The easiest way to deal with difficult or inconvenient information is to simply never encounter or acknowledge it.

No, Senator Franken, This Is Not an Anti-Hug Witch Hunt

Sports Illustrated writer Peter King titles part of his weekly column, “What I Think I Think” — laying out conclusions and ideas that he’s leaning towards, but not quite completely believing yet.

I think I think that the public discussion of sexual harassment scandals will continue to focus upon serious and indisputable abuses of power, not innocent misunderstandings of nonsexual physical gestures or mundane flirtation.

One of the reasons the current controversies may seem like a witch hunt against mundane gestures is because the accused men are using mundane gestures as their cover stories.

Note Senator Al Franken’s statement issued on Thanksgiving:

I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.

Except that no woman is complaining about him being too warm or “hugging” too much. They’re complaining about him allegedly reaching out and squeezing their tushes.

Franken started doing interviews with local media Sunday, and continued to suggest this was just a matter of accidental, incidental touching that was misinterpreted by the women.

Franken said he would “never intentionally do that.” And he underscored that he has stood for pictures with thousands of people.

“I’m someone who, you know, hugs people,” Franken said. “‘I’ve learned from these stories that in some of these encounters I have crossed the line for some women.”

Accused men will continue to use this blurred line defense — this suggestion that they’re just big-hearted affectionate guys, and that their well-meaning gestures of warmth and reassurance have been misinterpreted by uptight, prudish women.

I could be wrong, but I think very few women will get that upset over an unexpected and not-particularly-wanted hug. No doubt that those women exist, but they are not what’s driving this spate of scandals.

We’ve probably all had that sort of moment, either with an old friend or perhaps someone with a different culture where their expected form of greeting is not what we expected.  (By the time someone’s lips are going for my cheek when I’m expecting the half-hug, I’m thinking, “Oh, we kiss on the cheek ‘hello’ now? I missed that memo.”) But most of us give a cordial-to-unenthusiastic reciprocation and life goes on. The current spate of scandals is not driven by accusations of unwanted hugs.

Dissecting the New York Times Profile of a Mundane White Nationalist

How often do you see the Times national editor declare he regrets how much one of the big feature articles in his paper offended readers?

Perhaps the more interesting conclusion about seemingly ordinary Ohio white nationalist Tony Hovater can be found in Times correspondent Richard Fausset’s column about what he learned, and didn’t learn, while interviewing the man:

 . . . what, of any of this, explained Mr. Hovater’s radical turn? What prompted him to take his ideas beyond his living room, beyond the chat rooms, and on to Charlottesville, where he marched in August alongside allies like the neo-Confederate League of the South and the Detroit-based National Socialist Movement, which bills itself as “America’s Premier White Civil Rights Organization”? Where was his Rosebud?

(Is it possible the notion of a tidy, easily-summarized “origin story” is a psychologically erroneous one from fiction and literature, and that real-life human beings are shaped by dozens of events and interactions in formulate years and young adulthood?)

After I had filed an early version of the article, an editor at The Times told me he felt like the question had not been sufficiently addressed. So I went back to Mr. Hovater in search of answers. I still don’t think I really found them. I could feel the failure even as Mr. Hovater and I spoke on the phone, adding to what had already been hours of face-to-face conversation in and around his hometown New Carlisle, Ohio.

In other words, no, his choice of fashion, restaurant, Twin Peaks-inspired cherry pie tattoo, enthusiasm for Seinfeld, polite manners — none of them are particularly distinctive or meaningful to the story that the Times set out to tell, which was, presumably, what makes a seemingly ordinary guy start saying things like, “I think [Hitler] was a guy who really believed in his cause. He really believed he was fighting for his people and doing what he thought was right.” You don’t become a hater by reading William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and you don’t become a white nationalist by ordering the turkey sandwich at Panera Bread.

I’d argue that the Times profile does offer a clue or two about Hovater’s radicalization, but the correspondent and editors missed them.

In his follow-up, Fausset writes:

He spoke of a number of moments that soured him on mainstream politics, none of them particularly exotic. One was the Republican National Committee’s rule changes, during the 2012 convention, that worked against Mr. Hovater’s preferred candidate at the time, the libertarian Ron Paul, and in favor of Mitt Romney, the eventual Republican nominee.

Not everyone associated with the Ron Paul presidential campaigns was a hateful anti-Semite, but a lot of hateful anti-Semites sure took an interest in the Ron Paul campaigns. There was the big dust-up about his old political newsletters, which frequently veered into nutty conspiracy theories about the Mossad committing terror attacks on American soil. The congressman insisted he had no idea what was being written in the Ron Paul Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report, and so on. His former aide claimed that Paul’s perspective on World War Two was that  “saving the Jews,” was  “absolutely none of our business.” As far back as 2007, white supremacists were discussing the benefits of a Ron Paul presidency. Maybe Ron Paul genuinely never did anything to attract or encourage this kind of support. But if he didn’t, it sure is a mysterious coincidence the way members of these kinds of groups kept trying to jump on his bandwagon, cycle after cycle.

Secondly, in Fausset’s profile, Hovater is quoted as saying he wanted to see the United States become “an actually fair, meritocratic society.” We can argue how much this country is genuinely fair and meritocratic; I wrote earlier this year, “America has a quasi-aristocracy that is completely convinced that it rose to the top of a meritocracy.”

My guess is, Hovater sees himself as smart and hard-working and feels like he should be doing better. He feels like he ought to be closer to the top than being a welder in New Carlisle, Ohio, registering for his wedding at Target. I suspect he feels like he has followed “the rules” and been inadequately rewarded, and that others have broken “the rules” and gotten ahead. He has probably concluded this means “the rules” are not legitimate, and they are there to keep him down and help others get ahead.

If you conclude the rule “work hard and you’ll be rewarded” is nonsense, is it possible that you grow more inclined to break the rule “don’t praise Hitler”?

People seek scapegoats, and a lot of hate is seeking someone to blame. I’d argue the greatest antidote to hate in society is individual responsibility. If your life stinks, at least half of your problems are a result of decisions you’ve made. People loathe hearing this. Taking a hard look at your own past decisions, habits, excuses is probably one of the most difficult things to do in life. We want to think well of ourselves, and a serious examination of our own bad decisions, irresponsibility, laziness, short-sightedness, gullibility, and other faults challenges the vague notion that gets a lot of us through the day: ‘I’m doing okay.”

It is much, much easier and more reassuring to conclude someone else caused your problems. Sometimes the scapegoat is personal — parents, teachers, bosses, co-workers, the cop who gave you a ticket instead of letting you off with a warning — and sometimes It’s easier to shift to abstract groups: Jews, blacks, “the government,” bankers, vast obscure conspiracies, big corporations, the military-industrial-complex. If they’re keeping you down, it’s not your fault. You’re just one person. You did the best you could. Your decision to drop out of school, not study, slack off at work, have a bad attitude, lose your temper, drink too much, try drugs, have unprotected sex, do something stupid and reckless — none of that really mattered, so long as the Bilderbergers and the Trilateral Commission are working together to ensure you never get ahead.

People hate other groups because that mindset is reassuring. Because the alternative, to examine your mistakes, bad judgment, and worst impulses, would mean redirecting all of that frustration and anger in the direction of the person most responsible: yourself.

How many people in hate groups are trying to suppress or escape the fact that they hate themselves?

ADDENDA: Thanks to the fine gentlemen at and the Play Like a Jet podcast for hosting me yesterday afternoon. It was a familiar, revealing, frustrating day for Jets fans – a team good enough to hang close with New England, Atlanta and Carolina for three quarters, but not good enough to keep it together in the fourth quarter. But even defeat is easier to bear as a shared experience.

He’d Have Been 92 Today

by Jack Fowler

As is our custom, the offices of National Review are closed the day following Thanksgiving. The turkey does make you groggy, after all. Never mind the hard cider.

But a day without a Jolt? Perish that thought. We’ll keep it short and sweet, but keep it we will — enjoy this classic piece by Bill Buckley on gratitude.

By the way, today would have been Bill’s 92nd birthday. My colleagues at NRO put together a terrific photo essay about our founder. I am sure you will enjoy glancing through it.

Big Jim Geraghty will be back on Monday, and tomorrow, Yours Truly will have some truncated Weekend Jolt for you to enjoy or ignore.

Keep digesting,

Jack Fowlerp.s.: I’m thinking this picture of Bill Buckley with (from the left) his sister Priscilla, wife Pat, and mom (Mrs!) may have been taken at a Turkey Day celebration in Sharon, Connecticut. Maybe not, but whatever the occasion, it shows Bill in all his Billness, bursting with gratitude.

The Gipper, Talking Turkey

by Jack Fowler

The offices of National Review are closed today in honor of Thanksgiving. We wish you and yours copious and enjoyable meals, the company of loved ones, a nap, and time to reflect on the blessings of Liberty.

We also offer you this delightful article, “Thanksgiving at the Buckleys’,” from WFB’s last book, The Reagan I Knew. The selection tells the story of Ron, Nancy, and Ron Jr. spending the 1976 holiday at Casa Buckley. And yes, there is some drama.




Enjoy. And God bless.







Tough Numbers for Franken

by Jim Geraghty

Happy Busiest Travel Day of the Year! Making the click-through worthwhile today: some wretched polling numbers for Senator Al Franken, some easily-overlooked signs that the U.S. border is getting more secure and the problem of illegal immigration is being gradually resolved, and a look back at the ill-considered cinematic mess that was Batman vs. Superman.

Yeesh! Only 22 Percent of Minnesotans Say Al Franken Should Stay in Office

Senator Al Franken’s not up for reelection until 2020, and there’s a lot of time between now and then. But his future suddenly looks a lot cloudier:

In less than a week since sexual harassment allegations were leveled against Minnesota Senator Al Franken, his approval rating has plummeted and many Minnesotans say he should resign, according to an exclusive KSTP/SurveyUSA poll.

In a poll conducted Monday night after allegations from a second woman were made public, only 22 percent of 600 Minnesotans surveyed said he should remain in office. Another 33 percent say he should resign, while 36 percent say he should wait for results of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.

“To me the striking findings in this poll are first, that only 22 percent are behind Al Franken staying in office,” Carleton College Political Scientist Steven Schier said.

Everybody’s replaceable.

Those Easily-Overlooked Signs of a Gradually-Improving Country

Two key details are buried deep in a Washington Post article about how the Trump administration is “following a blueprint to reduce the number of foreigners living in the United States — those who are undocumented and those here legally — and overhaul the U.S. immigration system for generations to come.”

Arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are up more than 40 percent this year, and the agency wants to more than double its staff by 2023, according to a federal contracting notice published this month. ICE is calling for a major increase in workplace raids and has signed more than two dozen agreements with state and local governments that want to help arrest and detain undocumented residents.

 . . . Illegal crossings along the border with Mexico have plunged to their lowest level in 45 years, and U.S. agents are catching a far greater share of those attempting to sneak in.

Republicans are going to face tough midterm elections in 2018, whether they pass tax reform on not. But they probably will be able to point to some improvements in the quality of life of Americans even without passing big bills: a more secure border and dramatic drops in illegal immigration, the elimination of the Islamic State as a state, an unemployment rate around 4.5 percent, a stock market that has increased 28 percent since Election Day 2016, and a more accountable and better-performing Department of Veterans Affairs. (Right now, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector, and one of the long-term ideas on the table is merging the VA programs with TRICARE, the Pentagon’s insurance plan that allows active-duty military personnel to use private health-care providers.)

Looking Back at the Mess That Was Batman Vs. Superman

With Justice League now in theaters, perhaps it’s safe to look back at Batman v. Superman, the messiest and least satisfying wildly-hyped big-budget superhero blockbuster since the Joel Schumaker Batman films. Perhaps what made BvS so maddening is that so many of the film’s problems could have been avoided by listening to a voice of reason early in the process.

“Hey, fellas . . . you can do a story that introduces Batman, Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, and sets up a future Justice League film, or you can make a film version of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, or you can do a film version of the early 1990s “The Death of Superman” storyline . . . but you can’t do two, and you certainly can’t do all three.”

The simplest and most glaring reason the film was so unsatisfying was that it tried to do way too much and ended up doing none of it well by the time the credits rolled. Man of Steel had done a nice little job of setting up Henry Cavill’s Superman, leaning a lot on the imagery of the television series Smallville and Kevin Costner.

Then Warner Brothers and DC looked on in envy at the runaway ticket sales of The Avengers, and decided it wanted to equal that, except they weren’t willing to follow Marvel’s formula of introducing at least three heroes (Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America) in their own stand-alone movies before teaming them up. One of the reasons that The Avengers was so satisfying was because it revolved around the spy agency introduced in the Iron Man movies, the Tesseract MacGuffin from the Captain America movie, and the villain from Thor, all previously suggested by the presence of Nick Fury in each movie . . . it felt like a culmination of multiple strands of a story.

Every once in a while, BvS made an interesting choice. We had already seen Batman in seven films (eight, if you count Adam West) so the creative team felt compelled to offer a new, slightly different version of the character. Ben Affleck largely delivered this: an older Bruce Wayne, on the back half of his career as Batman, wondering how much good he’s really done and — at least it seemed — one that had never really worked with Gotham’s police. “Alfred, we’ve always been criminals.” (Of course, in Justice League, Batman is chatting and strategizing with Commissioner Gordon, just like he always did in other portrayals.)

Gal Gadot’s casting of Wonder Woman is about as perfect as it gets. (Some of us are less than surprised that the world would find the best representation of feminine beauty, strength, and indomitable resolve in Israel. After my visit, I concluded that the country had three things in abundance: beautiful women, M-16 rifles, and beautiful women carrying M-16 rifles.) Of course, this raises the question of whether such a key and appealing character should be introduced to audiences in a glorified cameo.

Even worse, Batman v. Superman decided to introduce three of the DC Comics’ big heroes, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg in . . . grainy security camera footage! This was no way to introduce any key character, much less three of them, and if the creative team absolutely had to go that route, it’s the right fodder for a post-credits teaser, not a time-out right before the climactic battle.

Finally, someone needed to say to the producers, “no, Jesse Eisenberg is not the guy you want to cast as Lex Luthor.” In the comics and most previous media, Luthor is cold, calculating, ruthless . . . always in control. Someone decided Eisenberg playing Luthor as a mix between Mark Zuckerberg and Heath Ledger’s Joker was a better choice than, say, Bryan Cranston. The result is a main antagonist who’s annoying and weird and distracting, rather than ever really menacing.

Ugh. Then there are the problems with the film’s structure. It starts slow, then focuses on some fair and potentially good story-generating questions: if Superman appeared in our world today, would we trust him? How would he feel about our lack of faith in him? But in order to set up the titular battle, Bruce Wayne jumps from a reasonable conclusion — Superman is extremely powerful, answers to no one, and is an intolerable danger without any check or balance — to “Superman must be killed.”

When Superman and Batman fought in The Dark Knight Returns, a graphic novel that the movie is clearly aimed to visually emulate, readers understood that these were different versions of the characters they knew. In that story’s altered, not-too-distant future, each one had a much clearer motivations for trying to incapacitate or kill the other. Superman had become a government agent to a doddering, quasi-fascistic president (resembling Reagan, which is pretty ironic considering how Frank Miller’s political views would evolve) and Batman had become the lone force of order in Gotham City in a world that had just witnessed a limited nuclear exchange. Even here, the motive isn’t that great, but it’s at least helped by an initial discussion between the two characters where both pledge to the other that despite their past friendship and respect, neither is willing to back down.

Batman vs. Superman resolves the titular fight on “save Martha,” which many viewers interpreted as Batman deciding to not kill Superman because their mothers have the same name. This could have been fixed with the simplest change of dialogue, if Superman’s at the precipice of death and desperately pleads, “please… save my mother.” Bruce Wayne, obsessed orphan, would no doubt hesitate to strike the killing blow if he learned A) an innocent mother is in danger and B) his foe, who he thought was a malevolent danger, is more concerned for his mother’s safety than his own.

Finally, the movie ends with Superman dead from his fight with Doomsday, and let’s face it, no one believes that the filmmakers are going to kill off the franchise’s central character, particularly one that they just introduced one film ago. We, the audience, know in our guts that Superman’s death doesn’t mean anything because we know he’ll come back, probably pretty soon. Compare this to Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, which focused on much more plausible personal conflict between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. That movie does have a consequence: Cap becomes a fugitive, loses his shield, and while he and Tony appear to reach a détente, we know their friendship will never be the same. Emotional stakes can be more tense than physical stakes; deep down, we know the bad guy’s plan to blow up the world isn’t going to work, otherwise they won’t make any sequels!

ADDENDA: To all my readers, have a happy Thanksgiving, have a shrewd Black Friday and safe travels. (Everything I endorsed in the last gift-giving guide is still good.)

This weekend, I dip my toe into sports commentary; after Sunday’s New York Jets-Carolina Panthers game, I’ll be a guest on the post-game podcast of TurnOnTheJets, the best and most in-depth independent blog focused on Gang Green.

Is the World of Journalism More Like Hollywood Than It Wants to Admit?

by Jim Geraghty

At a recent gathering of conservative bloggers, a few of us joked about creating a “sexual impropriety pool” — wagering on which public figure will next face accusations of improper or repulsive behavior. We concluded that too many of us had heard rumors through the grapevine to make it work; essentially every prediction would amount to insider trading.

Then again, none of us had Charlie Rose in the pool.

Eight women have told The Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.

The women were employees or aspired to work for Rose at the “Charlie Rose” show from the late 1990s to as recently as 2011. They ranged in age from 21 to 37 at the time of the alleged encounters. Rose, 75, whose show airs on PBS and Bloomberg TV, also co-hosts “CBS This Morning” and is a contributing correspondent for “60 Minutes.”

There are striking commonalities in the accounts of the women, each of whom described their interactions with Rose in multiple interviews with The Post. For all of the women, reporters interviewed friends, colleagues or family members who said the women had confided in them about aspects of the incidents. Three of the eight spoke on the record.

Perhaps that story was broken by the Post and not the New York Times because the Times was dealing with its own issues yesterday:

The New York Times said on Monday that it was suspending Glenn Thrush, one of its most prominent reporters, after he was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.

The move came after the website Vox published a report containing allegations from four female journalists that Mr. Thrush, who was hired by The Times in January to cover the Trump administration, had acted inappropriately toward them. Mr. Thrush was a star reporter at Politico before joining The Times.

The women cited in the Vox article described Mr. Thrush’s behavior as including unwanted kissing and touching. Three of the women were not identified by name. The fourth, Laura McGann, wrote the article, which was presented in the first person.

“The behavior attributed to Glenn in this Vox story is very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of The New York Times,” The Times said in a statement on Monday. “We intend to fully investigate and while we do, Glenn will be suspended.”

Not that long ago, the reports of awful behavior by Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and other tales of gross and juvenile antics in the halls of Fox News Channel led many to suspect that something was deeply wrong at that institution. But in light of the various allegations against NBC’s Mark Halperin, former Vox editorial director Lockhart Steele, NPR news chief Michael Oreskes, former New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier, and former New Republic president and publisher Hamilton Fish . . . maybe the office culture of Fox News wasn’t as unusual as its critics contended.

While it’s not quite as competitive as Hollywood, journalism is like other fields perceived as glamourous: a lot of people competing for a limited number of jobs and slots. An editor or publisher’s ability to offer a job, and then give a particular journalist the top-tier assignments, prominence, and accolades creates enormous power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely; no doubt Harvey Weinstein’s power to create or destroy careers in Hollywood added to his certainty that he could harass any woman (and apparently berate any man) and get away with it.

It’s cynical but not so rare to assert that the highest tier of the realm of journalism is starting to resemble Hollywood. Halperin’s latest show, The Circus, ran on HBO, not a news network. Journalists play themselves in cameos in television shows and movies, and the White House Correspondent’s Dinner increasingly resembles Oscar Night for Washington. Some journalists have become full-scale “personality celebrities,” performing a drama of their own. The cover of Vanity Fair usually features a movie or music star; in January, Megyn Kelly stared out at viewers. Would anyone today launch a McLaughlin Group style-show of ruffled, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time middle-aged print reporters with more inside scoops than good looks?

Some might tell me I shouldn’t look down upon those guys who are hired to stand or sit in front of a camera while wearing makeup and say the right words on cue, with the appropriate emphasis and emotional tone in their delivery. In the end, is the biggest difference that pundits are their own screenwriters?

Franken and Conyers and Moore and Filner . . . 

As a second accuser comes forward with a description of Minnesota senator Al Franken behaving inappropriately — this time grabbing buttocks, while he was a senatorNew York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, who called for Franken’s resignation after the first accusation from Leeann Tweeden, suddenly backtracks . . . 

If Democrats “set this precedent in the interest of demonstrating our party’s solidarity with harassed and abused women, we’re only going to drain the swamp of people who, however flawed, still regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms,” she wrote. And when the next Democratic member of Congress goes down, there might not be a Democratic governor to choose his replacement.

I’m partly persuaded by this line of reasoning, though conservatives mock it as the “one free grope” rule. It’s a strange political fiction that anyone can really separate partisanship from principle. In general, the character of the party that controls the government has a much greater impact on people’s lives than the character of individual representatives. Those who care about women’s rights shouldn’t be expected to prove it by being willing to hand power to people devoted to taking those rights away.

Meanwhile, breaking late last night . . . 

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.

Hey, I’m sure Roy Moore will clean up the place when he gets there. Kyle Whitmire reads Moore’s autobiography, where he describes meeting his wife:

“Many years before, I had attended a dance recital at Gadsden State Junior College,” Moore wrote. “I remembered one of the special dances performed by a young woman whose first and last names began with the letter ‘K.’ It was something I had never forgotten. Could that young woman have been Kayla Kisor?”

Moore later determined that it was.

“Long afterward, I would learn that Kayla had, in fact, performed a special dance routine at Gadsden State years before,” he wrote.

 . . . In an interview Moore gave earlier this year, he gave a similar account, but for one detail.

“It was, oh gosh, eight years later, or something, I met her,” Moore said. “And when she told me her name, I remembered ‘K. K.,’ and I said, ‘Haven’t I met you before?’”

It’s a simple matter of subtraction. When Roy Moore first took notice of Kayla she would have been as young as 15.

Or perhaps 16. Moore would have been roughly 30 at the time.

Can you stand one more?

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette said Monday that she is among the many women who have been sexually harassed while serving in Congress — telling MSNBC that former U.S. Rep. Bob Filner of California groped her while the two Democrats were in an elevator.

“Some years ago, I was in an elevator and then-Congressman Bob Filner tried to pin me to the door of the elevator and kiss me and I pushed him away,” said the Denver lawmaker in an on-air interview.

Some of us who covered Filner’s end as San Diego mayor are not surprised.

The local Democratic Party has known for a long time about sexual harassment allegations against Bob Filner, a former Democratic assemblywoman said in a Thursday interview.

“I blew the whistle on this two years ago to the Democratic Party leadership,” former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña said.

Saldaña said that in summer 2011 six prominent women in local politics, business and education told her that Filner had physically or verbally harassed them. Saldaña had been exploring what turned out to be an unsuccessful bid for Congress and the conversations came in the context of the 2012 elections.

Saldaña said she contacted former party Chairman Jess Durfee with the allegations and Durfee was among a group of Democratic leaders who met with Filner to discuss them that summer. She said nothing happened.

“As disgraceful as Bob’s behavior has been, it’s been tolerated by our Democratic Party leadership,” she said.

ADDENDA: Sorry for all of the depressing and unsavory news today; I’ll try to be cheerier tomorrow. In the meantime, some wise thoughts from Dennis Prager: “You can’t be a happy person if you aren’t grateful, and you can’t be a good person if you aren’t grateful . . .  Ingratitude guarantees unhappiness . . .  Ingratitude is always accompanied by anger. Perceiving oneself as a victim may be the single biggest reason people hurt other people. People who think of themselves as victims tend to believe that because they’ve been hurt by others, they can hurt others.”

Donald Trump vs. LaVar Ball

by Jim Geraghty

Happy Thanksgiving Week! Making the click-through worthwhile: A qualified defense of Trump’s tweet about LaVar Ball, how we’re outsourcing our thinking about political figures, and the ugly truth about Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones.

A Ball Goes Out of Bounds

A minute, qualified, half-defense of Trump’s otherwise inexcusable Tweet about the three UCLA players who were arrested in China and ultimately released.

If you don’t watch much sports television or listen to sports radio, you may not know who LaVar Ball is. He had a short, unspectacular career in professional sports, and is the father of at least one, and perhaps two or three potential basketball superstars, his sons Lonzo (currently a highly-touted rookie for the Los Angeles Lakers), LiAngelo (currently a freshman at UCLA), and LaMelo, currently playing at Chino Hills High School. One suspects that if they ever made a gender-reversed basketball-focused reboot of the musical Gypsy, LaVar Ball would be Mama Rose, determined to push his sons to the heights of fame and fortune, no matter the cost.

Since his son Lonzo became a star, LaVar Ball has become an increasingly outspoken and high-profile sports personality, boasting that his son is better than NBA MVP Stephen Curry, contending that he himself could defeat Michael Jordan one-on-one, and that he expects his sons to make a billion dollars in endorsements over the course of their careers. There is, ironically, something Trump-like in his wild bombast that makes the national sports media turn their heads and instantly need to react.*

It’s also worth noting that LaVar Ball is something of an idiot, making his sons’ entry into the realm of professional basketball much more difficult, with the perpetual potential of a camera-hogging, controversy-courting, expectation-raising maniac of a father following them throughout their careers.

The UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team was invited to China for a tournament last week. Chinese police accused LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel in Hangzhou, China. As the Los Angeles Times Bill Plaschke summarized:

The three UCLA freshman basketball players didn’t steal items from just one Chinese store, but three stores. Their loot was discovered only after police searched bags in the team bus and hotel. They were released back to the United States not for lack of evidence, but through the intervention of two presidents.

Yes, the players are young men, and young men do foolish things, but “don’t commit multiple acts of shoplifting in China” does not seem like an excessively harsh rule. A quick refresher: China is not a free country. It may be a wonderful place to visit, with many amazing sights and friendly locals, but it is not a free country. Visitors should not expect that shoplifting will be treated as a minor crime, or that their status as college basketball players will protect them from the legal consequences. The players embarrassed their team, their school, and their country.

During his two-day visit to China, President Trump asked his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to help resolve the situation. (Note that this is a case of the president of the United States not intervening to help a group that is unjustly imprisoned or suffering human rights abuses, but asking for leniency in a case of invited guests who indisputably committed a crime.)

During an interview with ESPN — where LaVar Ball seems to spend roughly half of his waking hours these days — the father examined the burning embers of a potential international incident and promptly poured gasoline on everything:

“Who?” LaVar Ball told ESPN on Friday, when asked about Trump’s involvement in the matter. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

“As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that’s a different thing.”

You can’t begrudge Trump for grumbling that Ball is an ingrate — first denying that Trump had anything to do with the release, and then downplaying the seriousness of the crime. (Try the “I’ve seen a lot worse things happen” defense in a Chinese court and see how far that takes you.)

Out of all the people Trump has denounced in his little rants on Twitter, LaVar Ball probably had it coming a lot more than most. Perhaps it was an uncharacteristic lapse in judgment, but his son just embarrassed the country and created an international incident; a little humility, gratitude, and graciousness would be appropriate right now. And I’d bet a decent number of sports fans are tired of seeing Ball as the ubiquitous hey-look-at-me outrage-generating chatterbox of the basketball world.

Now, should President Trump be tweeting his easily-understandable irritation with Ball? No, and this is why Twitter is dangerous in his hands; his initial, gut-level reaction is instantly broadcast out for all the world to see. Accounts of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton show us that Trump is not the first temperamental, uncouth, or easily-angered figure to sit in the Oval Office. But those presidents weren’t given the technological freedom to vent their feelings to everyone on the globe without editing or preparation.

*None of this is to say that a lot of dads don’t relate to Ball’s irrepressible-to-the-point-of-insufferable pride in his children. Have I mentioned that my older son is already a green senior belt in karate and my younger son is the unstoppable dynamo of the youth soccer Authenticity Woods Blue Clump (when he’s actually paying attention)? Clearly, they’re destined for greatness, let me show you roughly thirty-thousand photos from my phone . . . 

We’re Outsourcing Our Thinking

We’re outsourcing our critical thinking. From a CNN panel this morning:

If Jesus Christ gets down off the cross and told me Trump is with Russia, I would tell him, ‘Hold on a second. I need to check with the President if it’s true.’

Maybe Trump colluded with Russia, maybe he didn’t. But if you don’t consider Jesus Christ to be a reliable witness . . .  if a guy can turn water into wine, heal the sick, walk on water, cater giant crowds with a couple loaves and fishes, and return from the dead, I think He’s likely to also have sufficient dominion over time and space to have clear perspective on an international conspiracy.

From this morning’s Boston Globe:

Over the last week, the Globe called dozens of evangelical pastors in Alabama and elsewhere who had supported Moore before the allegations emerged, gleaning from a list of names posted to the Facebook account of the candidate’s wife.

None of the nearly 10 pastors reached by phone said the allegations of sexual misconduct changed their views about Moore. Several said the allegations made them more proud to vote for the former judge.

Repeatedly, the pastors attempted to discredit Moore’s accusers in personal terms, with some dismissing their emotional stories as “crocodile tears” and “fake news.”

“I don’t know how much these women are getting paid, but I can only believe they’re getting a healthy sum,” said pastor Earl Wise, a Moore supporter from Millbrook, Ala.

Wise said he would support Moore even if the allegations were true and the candidate was proved to have sexually molested teenage girls and women.

“There ought to be a statute of limitations on this stuff,” Wise said. “How these gals came up with this, I don’t know. They must have had some sweet dreams somewhere down the line.

“Plus,” he added, “there are some 14-year-olds, who, the way they look, could pass for 20.”

“You’re asking me to believe them,’’ Raddish said, “when their own mother didn’t have enough red blood in her to . . . go and report this? Come on.”

Yeah, why didn’t those mothers go down to the local district attorney and report that their daughters were being inappropriately sexually pursued by . . . the local assistant district attorney? “Sir, your right-hand-man is pulling a Humbert Humbert, I’m sure you’ll get right on investigating and prosecuting this, even though the successful prosecution will create a giant scandal in your office and make you look like an idiot for hiring him, and I’m certain you will, in no way, shape or form, attack the credibility of my daughter and publicly bring up every embarrassing fact possible to ensure no one believes her, in order to protect yourself, your assistant and public faith in your office, right?”

Now, if those pastors had simply said, “the paramount goal of my political effort is to end the abominable human toll of abortion, and my conscience requires me to vote for the candidate who brings this country closer to that goal . . . ” well, it would be a little easier to understand. We could argue about whether it’s the right choice, but it would at least be more logically consistent.

Our Alexandra DeSanctis points out the ugly truth about Democratic Senate candidate in Alabama Doug Jones – he doesn’t believe in any legal restrictions on abortion:

Jones: I am a firm believer that a woman should have the freedom to choose what happens to her own body, and I’m going to stand up for that, and I’m going to make sure that that continues to happen. I want to make sure that as we go forward, people have access to contraception, they have access to the abortion that they might need, if that’s what they choose to do.

Todd: You wouldn’t be in favor of legislation that said “ban abortion after 20 weeks,” or something like that?

Jones: No, I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose. That’s just the position that I’ve had for many years, it’s the position I continue to have.

May the best man . . .  eh, never mind, just vote already.

ADDENDA: Hey, it was a good weekend. Mugabe stepped down, Charles Manson’s dead, and Hillary Clinton’s back to ranting about the vast right wing conspiracy:

“Our body politic’s immune system has been impaired, because there has been a concerted effort, starting with the creation of the Fox network.”

It’s Like an Instant-Replay Review for One of the Big Decisions of 1998

by Jim Geraghty

The spectacularly convenient shift among Democrats continues, now with Kirsten Gillibrand leading the charge:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who holds Hillary Clinton’s former seat, said on Thursday that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago.

Asked directly if she believed Mr. Clinton should have stepped down at the time, Ms. Gillibrand took a long pause and said, “Yes, I think that is the appropriate response.”

But she also appeared to signal that what is currently considered a fireable offense may have been more often overlooked during the Clinton era.

(As I wrote a few weeks ago, spectacularly convenient shifts are a habit for Gillibrand.)

Still, for those of us who always felt Bill Clinton escaped serious consequence for his long history of sexually pursuing women who worked for him, this long-delayed emerging bipartisan consensus is a bit of a pleasant surprise, the political equivalent of the Missouri Tigers being officially notified that there shouldn’t have been a “fifth down” in that infamous game against Colorado in 1990. Clinton’s critics were right, and his supporters were defending the indefensible. Let’s start revising those history books, folks.

(I know everybody remembers the Clinton presidency for the dot-com boom, welfare reform, and the Macarena, but there’s a need for a serious reconsideration of the Clinton record – most spectacularly in the rise of al-Qaeda, the aid deal with North Korea, and the botching of probably the best opportunity for entitlement reform . . . )

Plus, the thermonuclear reaction from the remaining Clinton enclave is going to be delightful to watch. Philippe Reines, the former adviser to Hillary Clinton, is beside himself: “Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons’ endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.”

Actually, yes, this is an interesting strategy for the 2020 primaries. Reines seems to think that deviating from the Democratic Party’s orthodoxy over an impeachment battle from what will then be 22 years ago will be a make-or-break issue in what is likely to be a crowded primary. By 2020, Bill Clinton’s impeachment will be further back in the past than the Vietnam War was in the 1992 presidential race.

Will the Democratic primary electorate of 2020 be so convinced that a statement like Clinton’s is such blasphemy? We can feel the ground shifting beneath our feet. A lot of behavior that was once unsavory but did not generate serious consequence is now fodder for stories and part of a “trend.” (More on that below.) No doubt within the inner circle of the Clintons, women like Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones are all considered to be terrible liars, and Clinton’s interaction with Monica Lewinsky was an entirely personal indiscretion that warranted no serious public scrutiny or consequence. Never mind the country as a whole, I’m not sure most Democrats believe that anymore. Vox contributor Matt Yglesias is getting a lot of skepticism for his recent essay, but I’m willing to take him at his word:

“My boss took advantage of me,” Lewinsky writes in the same article, a piece in which she correctly argues that the ensuring debate ended up entirely slighting highly relevant issues including “the balance of power and gender inequality in politics and media.”

Had Clinton resigned in disgrace under pressure from his own party, that would have sent a strong, and useful, chilling signal to powerful men throughout the country.

Instead, the ultimate disposition of the case — impunity for the man who did something wrong, embarrassment and disgrace for the woman who didn’t — only served to confirm women’s worst fears about coming forward.

Yes, there is no consequence for Democrats suddenly coming to their senses now and concluding that Clinton deserved to pay a steeper price. That’s why the Clintons should be so terrified. How many Democrats, in the back of their minds, heard a little voice of conscience during the Clinton scandals and knew that they were defending a creep?

(An early indicator: The 2008 Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy-drama Definitely, Maybe features the actor as a political consultant who briefly worked for Bill Clinton, and events of the Clinton presidency are playing in all of the flashback scenes. After Clinton admits the affair with Monica Lewinsky, the Reynolds character grumbles to his friends, “Maybe he should be impeached. Why not? I put my faith in him. We all did. I thought he was gonna be different than the other jokers, but this guy, he can’t even define the word ‘is.’ What happens if they give him one of the hard words, like ‘truth’?” The movie moves on to the romantic plot, but that’s a pretty scathing assessment to hear spoken aloud by the lovable male lead of a romantic comedy, and Hollywood was always one of the places the Clintons were loved the most.)

Maybe a good chunk of Democrats defended Bill Clinton because they felt like they had to, not because they wanted to. And maybe there’s been some resentment over that brewing for the past two decades.

The Hits Just Keep on Coming . . . 

We already know who Time’s Person of the Year is going to be, right? Don’t they have to choose the women who came forward to speak about sexual misconduct in Hollywood studios, cable news networks, state capitols, and so on?

Here are just the latest allegations in the past twenty-four hours . . . 

At NPR . . . 

As NPR’s Board of Directors meet in Washington, D.C., this week, the network finds itself confronted by a series of dispiriting developments: a CEO on medical leave; a chief news executive forced out over sexual harassment allegations; the sudden resignation of a board chairman; fresh complaints over inappropriate behavior by colleagues; and a network roiled by tensions over the treatment of its female workers.

On Wednesday, NPR Board Chairman Roger LaMay announced that he was stepping down at the end of his second one-year term. LaMay, who remains on the board, said he needed to devote more time to running the popular Philadelphia public radio music station WXPN, where he is general manager.

However, according to a knowledgeable source, LaMay is the subject of a complaint filed with NPR alleging past inappropriate behavior. Few additional details are currently known.

Again, out in Hollywood . . . 

Another woman who worked on Transparent has made allegations against star Jeffrey Tambor, claiming the actor became inappropriately physical and made sexual comments while they worked together on the Amazon show.

And on Capitol Hill . . . 

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Michigan Democrat, announced Thursday that she has accepted the resignation of her chief of staff following allegations that he sexually harassed several former office staffers.

Last week, Lawrence placed chief of staff Dwayne Duron Marshall on administrative leave Nov. 7 while she investigated allegations that he sexually harassed multiple former staff members.

And of course, you heard about Al Franken’s crude, unwanted physical advances on that USO trip in 2006.

This world has its share of men on the Right who believe they’re entitled to act this way – either because they’re convinced the world needs them, or because God is on their side, or because they stand for so many good things, and they believe they do so many good things, they don’t have to be a good person in this arena.

But the world also has its share of men on the Left who believe they’re entitled to act this way — because they’re convinced the world needs them, or because they’re Progressive and helping build a better world, or because they stand for so many good things, and they believe they do so many good things, and have donated to so many good causes, they don’t have to be a good person in this arena.

And all these long-held secrets get spoken and all of this dirty laundry gets exposed, nobody knows which side of the ideological divide will be hurt more.

Alabama voters want a candidate who will represent their state with honor — and they think Doug Jones has strong moral character and Roy Moore doesn’t. That gives the Democrat the lead in the U.S. Senate race.

Jones is up by eight points over Moore among Alabama likely voters, 50 percent vs. 42 percent, in a Fox News Poll conducted Monday through Wednesday evenings. His lead is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error (±3.5 percentage points). Nine percent are undecided or plan to vote for someone else.

Candidates who believe they’re on a mission from God are generally quite difficult to persuade to withdraw from a race.

ADDENDA: One other contender for the story of the year, one strangely under-covered in this country: the gradual defeat of the Islamic State. They’re out of business in Iraq…

Iraqi forces have retaken the town of Rawa from ISIS, one of the militant group’s last footholds in the country.

The Iraqi national flag was raised over Rawa around midday Friday, Iraq’s Joint Operation Command (IJOC) said in a statement.

A spokesman for the command told CNN that engineers laid down a pontoon bridge across the Euphrates River around dawn to allow Iraqi forces to cross near the outskirts of the town.

Located in Anbar province in the Euphrates valley, Rawa was the last known Iraqi town still held by ISIS militants. Recapturing it means ISIS has been defeated in all of the country’s towns and cities, though pockets of resistance still exist and the group does control some territory in the deserts of western Iraq.

Hannity Has the Answers He Needs... That He’s Not Willing to Share with You!

by Jim Geraghty

One day after Sean Hannity gave Roy Moore 24 hours to provide clearer answers about his history and any interaction with the women accusing him of sexual misconduct, the television and radio host more or less backed down.

All it took was an open letter and some sort of private communication, apparently: “Without giving away details, I have gotten an answer from the Roy Moore campaign on the questions that I had.”

But those details apparently aren’t worth sharing with listeners or viewers!

Sean Hannity, back on April 17: “We do our own digging, we get our own sources, we get our own information, and frankly, I think we disseminate more real news than a lot of other people out there, and we’re proud of what we do, and I think we play a vital role in this news media landscape.”

The Story of This One Gun Is the Story of a Straw Purchaser

The Washington Post offers a well-reported, detailed odyssey of how one 9mm Glock 17 pistol changed hands several times and was used in multiple shootings and crimes within just a few nights in 2014.

What it reveals is that the gun was purchased in Manassas by Jamal Fletcher Baker, a young man with no criminal record or record of mental illness. But Baker lied on the required paperwork, Federal Form 4473, and declared he was buying the gun for himself when in fact he was purchasing it for an unemployed aspiring rapper nicknamed “Stunna.”

If we want to stop gun crimes, we probably need to stop letting straw purchasers off the hook. As my colleague Kevin Williamson points out, prosecutors may have understandable reasons to be less than fully enthusiastic about pressing charges in some of these cases: “the nature of the people making straw purchases — young relatives, girlfriends who may or may not have been facing the threat of physical violence, grandmothers, etc. — made prosecuting those cases unattractive.” Kevin points out that if you put some gang member’s grandmother in jail for a long time, you may actually deter future use of grandmothers as straw purchasers.

The gun was then used in a shootout at a party; as the Post notes, “suspects, victims and partygoers refused to cooperate with detectives.”

Which factor actually endangers residents of the inner city more, legal gun purchases or the “snitches get stiches” mentality?

After the party shooting, someone gave the gun to a Romeo Hayes, who ends up in a dispute and another series of shootings the following night. The first is with Shaquinta Gaines, an off-duty D.C. police officer, who attempts to pursue Hayes’s vehicle in her car. Then Hayes encounters Thurman Stallings, a D.C. police detective, who attempted to intervene. Hayes shot the detective several times. (Thankfully, Stallings lived to tell the tale, including in court.) The gun disappears for a time, and is then is recovered months later, found “tossed under a car after a police chase by a man whose relatives lived in Poppa’s housing complex.”

The Post story may not have intended this point, but the article illuminates the futility of most of the arguments for gun control we see after mass shootings. The gun was not purchased at a gun show, so there was no “gun show loophole” to exploit and the initial purchaser passed the background check, so the tired cry of “universal background checks!” is meaningless here. The existing “universal background checks” are why these young men with criminal records use straw purchasers. And the straw purchasers either do not know or do not care that they are enabling those who will commit shootings in city streets.

The good news is that Baker was indeed prosecuted for lying on the federal background check form, and sentenced to more than a year in prison. Hayes was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Is ‘The Pence Rule’ Really the Problem Here?

Katelyn Beaty, the editor of Christianity Today, takes to the New York Times op-ed page, examining the stunning revelations of powerful men sexually preying on subordinate women and concluding that one unacceptable response is . . .  Vice President Mike Pence’s rule that he never dines alone or meets alone with a woman that isn’t his wife.

Yes, she can find some examples of men taking the rule to ridiculous lengths:

The Pence rule can manifest in ways that are strangely un-Christian. A former colleague at a Christian nonprofit threw her back out while on a business trip. Lying in pain in her hotel room, she asked her co-worker to carry her suitcase from her room. He refused to enter the room. One wonders what he thought was going to happen. In this and other cases, personal purity seems to take precedence over the command to love your neighbor.

Dude. If Jesus Christ can lift all of us up, you can lift up the suitcase and put it on the little folding luggage rack in the corner.

And many would agree with Beaty’s conclusion that not all meetings of unmarried men and women are the same: “Reasonable people know the difference between a business meeting over breakfast and drinks at a hotel bar at night.”

But I’d argue her interpretation of what the rule aims to prevent is completely wrong:

The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away. Offering the Pence rule as a solution to male predation is like saying, “I can’t meet with you one on one, otherwise I might eventually assault you.” If that’s the case, we have far deeper problems around men and power than any personal conduct rule can solve.

Er, no. Yes, the rule keeps people away from the temptation to stray. But the rule also prevents either party from a false accusation and unfounded rumor-mongering. How many women get accused of sleeping their way to a promotion? If I had a nickel for every time I heard some version of, “well, you know, they left together and somebody saw her going into his hotel room” . . . I could afford one of those fancy Venti Frappuccino drinks at Starbucks. It’s not right and it’s not fair that innocent behavior can be interpreted as a sign of adultery or other bad behavior, but this is the world we live in.

She contends the Pence rule is a significant obstacle to women’s success in the workplace:

Imagine a male boss keeps some variation of the rule but is happy to meet with a male peer over lunch or travel with him for business. The informal and strategic conversations they can have is the stuff of workplace advancement. Unless there are women in senior leadership positions — and in many Christian organizations, there are not — women will never benefit from the kind of advancement available to men.

I’m really struck by how many people are convinced that one-on-one lunches, happy hours, business trips, discussions in hotel rooms, and dinners with alcohol are how promotions are earned. Maybe they are, and perhaps I’m wildly naïve.

 . . . But is that really how you get promoted within Christian organizations?

ADDENDA: I concur with Michael Graham: most of the recent horror stories of sexual harassment we’re hearing from women are not cases of “misunderstandings” or “excessive friendliness” or “mixed signals,” and we’re not doing anyone any favors by lumping, say, awkward flirting in with effectively extorting sex from women.

When U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) tells the story of a female staffer who was asked to bring paperwork to a (no pun intended) member’s home, and he greets her wearing nothing but a smile and a bath towel, I wonder: Do we really need House Speaker Paul Ryan’s new mandated sexual harassment training to figure out this is bad?

Forcing everyone who works at the Massachusetts State House to sign a document declaring they understand the consequences of sexual harassment is fine, but is there anyone signing it who didn’t already know that demanding sex from employees or underlings is wrong?

Hannity to Moore: I Want Answers! I Think I’m Entitled! I Want the Truth!

by Jim Geraghty

Go figure. Even Sean Hannity has his doubts that Roy Moore gave him truthful answers in that interview.

“Here’s where I am tonight,” Hannity continued. “Between this interview that I did and the inconsistent answers, between him saying ‘I never knew this girl’ and then that yearbook comes out. For me, the judge has 24 hours. He must immediately and fully come up with satisfactory explanations for [the] inconsistencies that I just showed. You must remove any doubt. If he can’t do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.”

Hannity went on to say that this country “has way too many issues and problems” and that the American people deserve “100% truth and honesty” and need correct answers “the first time.”

“Judge Moore, you owe that to the people of Alabama, the Republican Party that you represent and to the country which is suffering under so many problems,” he concluded.

Obviously, it is unlikely that Moore will meet Hannity’s demands. The candidate is putting forth an ultimatum of his own. The people of Alabama must accept his imprecisely-worded, occasionally-contradictory denials and endorse his contention that all of his accusers are making it up out of whole cloth in an organized partisan effort to destroy him . . . or vote against him. (Or not vote.)

It’s more difficult to get figures in politics to fall on their sword these days. No one wants to step down for the good of the party. New Jersey senator Bob Menendez won’t do it. These scandals are often brought on in part by ego and narcissism; the perpetrator believes they are irreplaceable and that no one else can do what they do. Recent history has taught these men that they have a chance of surviving the scandal by just waiting it out. Bill Clinton did it. (More on him in a moment.) Gary Condit sort of did it. Larry Craig did it. But it doesn’t work for everyone. Former Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price and Congressman Tim Murphy couldn’t weather the storm.

Another piece of the Clinton scandal survival playbook is to lie and make counter-accusations. As Guy Benson observes, Moore’s wife, Kayla, has shared on Facebook some claims that are false. On November 12, she shared a letter from 50 pastors declaring, “We are ready to join the fight and send a bold message to Washington: dishonesty, fear of man, and immorality are an affront to our convictions and our Savior and we won’t put up with it any longer. We urge you to join us at the polls to cast your vote for Roy Moore.” What she did not make clear is that those pastors signed the letter back in August, before all these revelations. Several pastors said they were not contacted about the letter, and have asked for their names to be removed.

Kayla Moore also shared a post claiming that the restaurant that the latest accuser says was the site of her meeting with Moore did not exist in the late 1970s, that it opened in 2001; thus the accuser’s story cannot be true. That claim is false; the restaurant existed in the late 70s, judging from business records and advertisements in newspapers at the time.

As Guy puts it, “This does not prove that Ms. Young worked there, that Moore was a regular, or that he assaulted her — but it does prove that a foolish, baseless claim repeated by Moore’s wife to undermine Young was complete garbage.”

Some as-yet-undetermined percentage of Alabama voters will not care, of course. They put their faith in Moore a long time ago, and are not willing to entertain the notion that he fooled them all these years. The idea that his wife is telling lies in his defense will strike them as an understandable reaction – not something that undermines the credibility of his denials.

Colonel Jessup was right; we can’t handle the truth. The truth is that it’s very likely that America’s favorite sitcom dad of the 1980s spent many years slipping drugs to unsuspecting women, that Kevin Spacey might as well have never broken character, that much of Hollywood knew one of its most powerful and hailed producers was a serial predator and looked the other way, that Fox News permitted and enabled a frat-house atmosphere of harassment that started at the top, that the Catholic Church covered up horrifying cases of child abuse, and in the 1990s many Americans voted twice to make a rapist the President of the United States. Is it any wonder that given the option of a soothing, reassuring lie — that the leaders they’ve put their faith in are genuinely good people — so many people choose to believe the lie?

As Lefties Used to Say during the Bush Years, ‘I Question the Timing . . . ’

As mentioned above, we’re apparently entering a media “reckoning” about the allegations against Bill Clinton. I’m pleased, but let’s not kid ourselves. As I write today on NRO, this reckoning comes at a convenient time for Democrats, too late to really have any impact on the political fortunes or future of Hillary Clinton or Bill. I find it very comparable to the fascinating-looking, apparently hard-hitting forthcoming film, Chappaquiddick. I prefer a delayed truth to a permanent lie, but let’s remember that the truth wasn’t been locked away in some hidden tomb somewhere. It was visible to many of us, and obscured by those in powerful positions who didn’t want to believe it.

And perhaps some people were quite happy with the way Bill Clinton was rewriting the social rules for men, women, sex and the workplace.

Was Bill Clinton a role model for how men can indulge their worst impulses and get away with it? Since the 1990s, how many men in powerful positions have seen Bill Clinton in that light? After all, all sorts of powerful people — from prominent feminists to powerful lawyers to the leaders of Clinton’s party — came to the consensus that the whole Lewinsky mess was a “private matter.” Perhaps the affair with her was — although Americans are right to expect better from a president — but the claims of Jones, Willey, and Broaddrick were not private matters in the slightest.

 After the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, Lee Smith, writing in The Weekly Standard, asked a difficult question that few Democrats will really want to confront. Would the enormously consequential New York Times article detailing the accusations about the Hollywood producer have been published if the 2016 election had ended differently and Weinstein had the president of the United States on speed-dial?

Biden: ‘I Would Have Banned the Gun Used By the Hero in the Texas Church Shooting’

Wow. This is the sort of comment that should throw some cold water on the “Biden 2020” buzz:

Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared on NBC’s “Today” on Monday where he said the hero who shot the Texas church gunman should not have had the weapon he used to stop the murder spree.

Biden’s remark came as a response to a question from someone in the audience who asked him to justify the Democrat’s call for more gun control – even though the shooter was stopped by a good guy with a gun.

“Well, first of all, the kind of gun being carried he shouldn’t be carrying,” Biden said. “Assault weapons are, uh, I wrote the last serious gun control law that was written and that was law for 10 years, and it outlawed assault weapons and it outlawed weapons with magazines that had a whole lot of bullets and so you can kill a whole lot of people a lot more quickly.”

He added, “The fact that some people with guns are legally able to acquire a gun, and they turn out to be crazy after the fact, that’s life and there’s nothing you can do about that.” Top to bottom, a terrible answer.

ADDENDA: Did you ever notice that things that are obvious to conservative media tend to get picked up, months later, by non-conservative media as sudden revelations?

Democrats are rethinking their future — but doing it with the leadership of old men and women deeply rooted in the past. The top three House Democrats in leadership are all nearly 80 years old.

By the numbers: The average age of Democrats serving under them is 61. Three of the most talked-about 2020 contenders are Sen. Bernie Sanders, 76; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 68; and former Vice President Joe Biden, 74.

Why it matters: Older Democratic leaders are unwilling to give up their seats, even as younger Democrats call for “a new generation of leaders,” as top House Democrat Linda Sanchez said when she asked for Nancy Pelosi to step down. And former DNC Chair Howard Dean told MSNBC: “Our leadership is old and creaky, including me.”

The elderly trend among Democrats: A recent CNN poll found that five of the six people voters view as the leaders of the Dem Party average 71 years old (Sanders, Clinton, Schumer, Warren, Biden).

How many times have I joked that the Democratic leadership looks like the cast of Cocoon? What’s more, beyond Obama, this was true all the way back to 2009. It’s not like Harry Reid, John Kerry, Steny Hoyer, or Dick Durbin were youngsters, either.

By the way, thanks to Tony Katz for having me on his program this morning.

Welcome Back, Senator Rand Paul!

by Jim Geraghty

Finally, some good news: Kentucky senator Rand Paul is on the mend and back at work.

Struggling to breathe and talk, the result of six ribs being broken in the incident, Paul told [Washington Examiner's Washington] Secrets that he knew of no motive that would have sparked his neighbor to hit him from behind.

“From my perspective, I’m not really too concerned about what someone’s motive is. I’m just concerned that I was attacked from the back and somebody broke six of my ribs and gave me a damaged lung where at least for now I have trouble speaking and breathing and now I’ve hurt for 10 days,” the senator said after arriving back in Washington for a week of critical votes.

No official reason has been given for the attack and the lawyer for Boucher, 59, said politics was not the cause. Social media posts from Boucher show that he is aggressively anti-Trump and anti-Republican.

On November 8, Paul retweeted two articles suggesting that the attack was politically motivated, not driven by a landscaping dispute as some news accounts suggested. Perhaps the senator doesn’t want to make accusations until legal proceedings are complete. It will be good to hear his full account.

If, as those articles suggest, Paul was attacked by an enraged partisan, this would mark the third criminal assault on a Republican members of Congress this year. On May 8, a woman tried to run Rep. David Kustoff off the road:

A Tennessee woman hated that her congressman voted for the controversial Republican health-care bill in the House of Representatives, authorities said.

So Wendi L. Wright tried to run Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) off the road after he visited the University of Tennessee at Martin, they said.

The Weakley County Sheriff’s Department said Wright tailed the car carrying Kustoff. At some point, the congressman and his aide became afraid and worried that Wright wanted to force them off the road.

They then turned into a driveway and stopped. That’s where Wright got out, screamed at the congressman and struck the windows of his vehicle, even reaching inside the car, the sheriff’s department said.

And then in June, James Hodgkinson fired at least 70 rounds at Congressional Republicans at baseball practice in Alexandria, leaving GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise critically injured and several others hurt.

Three violent attacks on members of Congress in seven months is the sort of thing that would ordinarily generate long feature pieces in the media about the “culture of hate” and “out-of-control partisan appetite for violence” plaguing the country, with hard questions asked about whether the most incendiary voices are partially responsible for these sorts of attacks.

You might hear some leader say something like . . . 

We hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate. They leave the impression that — by their very words, that — violence is a acceptable. You ought to see — I’m sure you are now seeing the reports of some things that are regularly said over the airwaves in America today. It is time we all stood up and spoke against that kind of (pounding podium) reckless speech and behavior.

That, of course, was President Bill Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombing. But I guess there’s no broader lesson or important theme that can be discerned from three violent attacks on Republican lawmakers in seven months, huh?

How Much Moore of This Can We Stand?

An interesting data point, for those who argue that the opposition to Roy Moore is driven by liberal and media elites, outsiders, and not Alabamans:

Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, on Monday, told a reporter with ABC News that embattled Senate candidate Roy Moore should “seriously consider dropping out” ahead of the Dec. 12 general election.

In addition, according to a reporter with the Huffington Post, Shelby is advocating for a write-in campaign for sitting Senator Luther Strange, the Republican who lost to Moore during the Sept. 26 GOP runoff.

Richard Shelby was reelected with 64 percent of the vote last November. I think he’s got his finger on the pulse of his state.

The allegations are getting worse:

In a brief appearance before reporters in his small Etowah County hometown of Gallant, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore again denied wrongdoing and said that he doesn’t even know his latest accuser, who came forward Monday.

Moore spoke for a couple of minutes with reporters and took no questions. His wife, Kayla, also made a brief statement.

“I can tell you without hesitation this is absolutely false,” Moore told reporters. “I never did what she said I did. I don’t even know the woman. I don’t know anything about her.”

Except . . . 

At a press conference in New York on Monday, Beverly Young Nelson alleged she was sexually assaulted by Moore in December 1977 when she was 16 years old and he was 30.

Nelson produced a high school yearbook that she said Moore signed about a week before she said the assault occurred in Moore’s car in the parking lot of a restaurant where she worked and he frequently visited.

Let’s get handwriting analysts to take a look at that yearbook. Presuming that it is indeed Moore’s handwriting, he’s been caught in a lie. This is what happens when you attempt both the blanket denial and the modified limited hangout simultaneously — the latter invalidates the former.

(Did the local assistant district attorney sign your yearbook, telling you how beautiful and sweet you are? Fairly or not, this is going to be a really big red flashing neon sign of guilt to a lot of people. Grown men just don’t sign many high school yearbooks of teenage girls.)

Remember, in Moore’s interview with Hannity about the four preceding accusers, he contradicted himself several times.

He began, “I’ve never known this woman or anything with regard to the other girls.”

But then he said he does remember at least one of them, and makes a comment suggesting that he may have dated one:

HANNITY: Well let me let me give the details. Debbie Wesson Gibson says she was 17 when you spoke to her high school civics class and asked her out on several dates and it did not progress — her words — beyond kissing, according to the Washington Post. Did that happen?

MOORE: I do not remember speaking to civics class. I don’t remember that. I do not remember when we . . . I seem to know or remember knowing her parents . . . that they were friends. I can’t recall the specific dates because that’s been 40 years but I remember her as a good girl.

HANNITY: But do you remember ever going on a date with her? She said that you asked her out on the first of several dates but nothing progressed beyond kissing.

MOORE: I don’t remember specific dates. I do not and I don’t remember if it was that time or later. But I do not remember that.

HANNITY: But you know hard but you never dated her ever? Is that what you’re saying?

MOORE: No but I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go on dates then we did. But I do not remember that.

HANNITY: At that time in your life. . . . Let me ask you this, you do remember these girls; would it be unusual for you as a 32 year old guy to have dated a woman as young as 17? That would be a 15 year age difference. Do you remember dating girls that young at that time?

MOORE: Not generally, no. If did, you know, I’m not going to dispute anything but I don’t remember anything like that.

But he did in fact dispute that! He began by asserting, “I’ve never known this woman or anything with regard to the other girls.”

HANNITY: But you don’t specifically remember having any girlfriend that was in her late teens even at that time.

MOORE: I don’t remember that and I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother. And I think in her statement she said that her mother actually encouraged her to go out with me.

If he never dated any teenager, why would he want to note and emphasize his regard for parental permission? This is like saying, “I don’t remember ever eating any cookie from the cookie jar and I don’t remember eating the biggest one.”   

He continues, “ . . . It involves a 14 year old girl, which I would have never had any contact with, nothing with her mother or any courthouse or anywhere else would I have done that. In fact, her allegations contradict the whole behavior pattern of the other two young ladies who even witnessed yourself.”

Wait, if he didn’t go on any of these dates, why is he referring to the “behavior pattern” of the other accusers? If they’re lying, why is he pointing to their accounts as contradictory evidence that this particular accuser’s account cannot be true?

ADDENDA: Yesterday’s Jolt mentioned the 1998 op-ed by Gloria Steinem that some later characterized as the “one free grope” rule. I’m not the only one reminded of that in the spate of modern sexual harassment allegations; the great Caitlyn Flanagan observes:

The notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed by Gloria Steinem must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life. It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover (never write an op-ed in a hurry; you’ll accidentally say what you really believe), it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.

Roy Moore and Our Faith in Our Abilities to Assess Others’ Character

by Jim Geraghty

We all like to think we have a good sixth sense about people. Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Blink about the decisions we make instantly, without thinking. We all like to believe we can spot a liar, not be fooled by the con man, resist the siren call of salesmen or advertising. We like to believe that our intuition, Divine guidance, Spidey-sense, or the Force will set off alarm bells if someone we encounter has secret malevolent intentions or overall bad character.

Obviously, a lot of people who think they have this good sense about people don’t, otherwise con men would never succeed. Life has a way of teaching us some humility as it passes. I’ve had tenants rip me off, enjoyed the company of friends who weren’t actually my friends, and I thought former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell had a bright future in Republican politics. The odds are good that we don’t really know people as well as we think we know them, and that is exponentially more accurate for public figures.

If you’re reading this newsletter, the odds are good that if you had ever heard of Harvey Weinstein before the scandal, you didn’t think well of him. He’s the Hollywood elite personified. Let’s face it, he looks like an obese toad, and separate from the sex scandals, he had well-publicized tales of an enormous ego and quick temper. He’s smug and insufferable, once boasting, “Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion.”

Once we learned that Weinstein was a sexual predator, groping and harassing and attacking his way through every actress and model in Hollywood, probably quite a few people who never liked him felt vindicated, thinking something like, “I knew there was something really wrong with that guy.” Perhaps you really are a good judge of character or have a sixth sense about people. But perhaps you simply had other reasons to not like him and drew a full conclusion about his character from that.

If you’re reading this newsletter, the odds are good that if you had ever heard of Roy Moore before the scandal, you thought better of him, or at least better than Harvey Weinstein. (Perhaps the lowest bar to clear.) Perhaps like me, you’re skeptical that a statue of the Ten Commandments in a judicial building represents an unacceptable unification of church and state. (If any particular statue, painting, or other work is an artistic depiction of any culture’s representation of justice, I’d be inclined to let it stay. The U.S. Supreme Court building has friezes featuring Moses, Solomon, Confucius, Justinian, Muhammad (!), Charlemagne, Napoleon, and others.) Rather than seeing Moore’s fight over the Ten Commandments statue as a sign of his appetite for theocratic extremism, as many in the media portrayed it, you saw Moore as a man fighting to keep some semblance of Christian values in an increasingly morally decadent society. You may or may not agree with Moore’s steadfast refusal to enforce a Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.

Thursday the Washington Post reported on the four women describing Moore’s advances upon them in their teenage years. Moore says he never met Leigh Corfman and never had any contact with her. He said he knew two of the other women in the story but never dated them.*

A lot of people’s evaluation of the differing accounts is based upon their preexisting opinion of Moore. If you thought he was a loon or extremist before, it’s a short step to imagine him pursuing women way too young for him, even in violation of the law; if you like him, you believe he deserves the benefit of the doubt until someone presents irrefutable proof that these allegations are true.

Perhaps you really are a good judge of character or have a sixth sense about Roy Moore. But perhaps you simply had other reasons to like him and are drawing an inaccurate conclusion about his character from that.

It should not surprise us that Roy Moore fans are treating the Washington Post story as a personal attack upon themselves; on some level, it is. The article asserts, in effect, “the man you thought of as a good man for all these years was, at least in the late 70s and early 80s, not a good man. Your judgment and ability to assess others’ character is faulty.” This fact is true of all of us, but no one likes being confronted with it.

I would argue the solution for this is simply to stop seeing public figures — whether political figures or celebrities — as role models and stop putting them up on pedestals. The ability to win elections, perform well on camera, perform great athletic feats, or other extraordinary traits is not synonymous with good character. (It is entirely possible that good character is an impediment to ambition.)

Last week I offered a few tweets on this theme with photos of Bill Clinton, Bernard Law, Bill Cosby, Jimmy Swaggart, John Edwards, O.J. Simpson, Jim McGreevey, Kevin Spacey, Dennis Hastert, Eliot Spitzer, and Tiger Woods, and it was fascinating to see how many argued that one figure or the other didn’t belong in the same category with the others. The point is that all of them had a dark side that they hid from their many admirers, one that led to their downfall. It is likely that fame, power, and money do not bring out a person’s best character. An atmosphere of constant adoration and entitlement probably erodes the conscience and that little voice telling us, “I shouldn’t do that.”

Perhaps particular forms of fame present their own enabling influence: If you’re a comedian known for doing blunt sexual routines, describing your id’s desire to take wildly inappropriate actions, and everyone laughs and praises you as a genius for that, it becomes more difficult to resist the impulse to act out those actions in real life.

*Some would argue that Moore is giving contradictory statements in his defense, first stating, “These allegations are completely false, false and misleading,” and then later saying, “I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go out on dates then we did. But I do not remember that.” If they did indeed go on dates and Moore simply doesn’t remember it, then the allegation isn’t “completely false, false and misleading.”

Patient Zero for a Plague of Tolerating Sexual Harassment from Powerful Men

David Brooks asks an extremely important question, one that I suspect many of the most prominent media voices of 1998 will want to avoid confronting.

[T]he uncomfortable thing for a lot of progressives, frankly, is how much did the Clinton thing create this whole environment? How much did tolerance of Bill Clinton create the environment in which the rest of this was given permission?

I think it had an effect. I think the fact that — nobody, like, was approving Bill Clinton and some of the things he was accused of doing, like Kathleen Willey, those sorts of people. But people were not saying, ‘We’re drawing the line here.’ And if you don’t draw lines in these big cases, then you don’t draw lines in the little cases in the workplace. And so, now we’re seeing — you know, we saw Republicans tolerating what Donald Trump was accused of doing, and today, we’re seeing this astounding case where Republicans in Alabama are tolerating what Judge Roy Moore is accused of doing.

Gloria Steinem responded to the allegations against Bill Clinton with a position some characterized as a “one free grope rule”: if a man backs down after making one undesired sexual advance, he has done nothing wrong. It is not surprising that if you institute that social more for a president you like, a lot of powerful men will believe that rule applies to them, as well.

Speaking of Religious Environments of Powerful, Abusive Men . . . 

Every once in a while, the New York Times op-ed page turns its attention to sex scandals within groups that usually enjoy sympathetic coverage from the paper. Sylvie Kauffmann, the editorial director and a former editor in chief of Le Monde, informs readers of shocking — or perhaps not so shocking — allegations about one of the world’s most prominent Islamic theologians:

If you thought it was challenging for women to come forward and accuse Harvey Weinstein of rape, consider accusing the Islamic theologist Tariq Ramadan. Emboldened by the enormous response in France to the #MeToo wave that was born in Hollywood, two Frenchwomen decided last month to sue Mr. Ramadan for rape and sexual abuse. One of the women, Henda Ayari, has gone public. The second has described her ordeal to journalists but has remained anonymous. And for good reason: Henda Ayari has had to appeal for help after becoming the target of a vicious campaign of insults and slander on social networks, mostly from Muslim extremists. Mr. Ramadan, a grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, denies the accusations.

It is not only that the Swiss-born Mr. Ramadan, 55, who has taken a leave of absence from Oxford University, where he has taught contemporary Islamic studies (a chair financed by Qatar), is a prominent figure on the intellectual and religious Islamic scene in France. What makes his accusers particularly brave is that they, like him, are practicing Muslims. By the very fact of having spent time alone with him, they have, in the eyes of rigorist teachings of Islam, violated the rules of modesty that women are required to follow . . . 

[Kaouther] Ben Hania, 40, is one of several Arab women now raising their voices in North Africa and in France. The New Year’s Eve attacks by mostly Arab migrants on German women in Cologne in 2016 shed light on what the Algerian author and columnist Kamel Daoud described as “the sexual misery of the Arab world.” His scathing text, published in Le Monde and The New York Times, shocked a group of French academics, who accused him of indulging in “Orientalist clichés.” But when the video of a young woman sexually assaulted by a group of teenagers on a bus in Casablanca, Morocco, went viral this summer, those academics kept silent.

The Catholic Church deserved the public scorn it received for the abuse scandals in past decades, and evangelicals are going to get a lot of grief for excusing Moore’s behavior. But if we’re handing out public derision for religions mistreating women and excusing sexual abuse, let’s not avert our eyes from a faith that condones punishing rape victims by lashing them and in some cases stoning them to death.

ADDENDA: At a time when so many folks on the right seem angry at everyone else when they disagree, I want to thank Nate Jackson for concluding my assessment on Moore was “worth pondering.” To return the favor, I’ll note that if these women are making up or wildly exaggerating their encounters with Moore, then he is a victim of a great injustice — on par with the late Richard Jewell — and he might very well have a case for libel against the Post.