The Poisonous Allure of Right-Wing Violence

Gavin McInnes is selling a very marketable product.

The pose of the right-wing provocateur and founder of the group the Proud Boys is that he’s simply a defender of normality and old-fashioned male fellowship, when what gives his cause its frisson of excitement is violence.

McInnes is enjoying a media moment. After he gave a speech at New York’s Metropolitan Republican Club, a usually staid establishment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, his Proud Boys fought with members of antifa on the streets, in what has been a publicity coup.

The group got denounced by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and video footage of the clash has been irresistible. The New York Times duly profiled McInnes the other day (“Proud Boys Founder: How He Went From Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur”).

McInnes may have more staying power than other fringe-y right-wing figures who have briefly gained prominence the past Continue reading “The Poisonous Allure of Right-Wing Violence”

Civility Is for Suckers

It’s doubtful that a former American presidential candidate has ever endorsed incivility before, but Hillary Clinton is ever full of surprises.

In an interview on CNN, the erstwhile advocate of “if they go low, we go high” switched around to unapologetically call for going low, at least until Democrats retake some power in Washington.

“You cannot be civil with a political party,” she explained, “that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.” She added that if Democrats retake a house of Congress, well, then, “that’s when civility can start again.”

Clinton’s statement is yet more confirmation of the radical mood of the current Democratic Party, not just in blessing tactics that once would have been anathema to the mainstream, but questioning the legitimacy of core elements of our system. The party’s base is just a few steps — and perhaps the loss of another Continue reading “Civility Is for Suckers”

No, Kavanaugh didn’t lie

Brett Kavanaugh gave high-profile testimony that very few people seem to have paid attention to in any detail.

The media is now engaged in a full-court press to establish that Kavanaugh drank to excess — when he admitted in his testimony that he drank to excess. After every new story hits, Kavanaugh’s opponents say it’s more proof that he lied, but piling up detailed accounts of excessive drinking doesn’t achieve anything if he was truthful about excessive drinking.

The focus on Kavanaugh’s supposed lies comes as the rest of the case against him is falling apart or is at a standstill. The Julie Swetnick gang-rape accusations are in a state of collapse, not that they were sturdy to begin with. The Deborah Ramirez exposing-himself-at-Yale allegation isn’t very reliable, given the admittedly foggy state of her own memory. And no corroborating evidence has emerged for Christine Blasey Ford’s charge.

This has Continue reading “No, Kavanaugh didn’t lie”

Avenatti 2020

Michael Avenatti is the lawyer for our times.

In an age of vertiginous news cycles, of nonexistent standards, of social-media trash-talkers and braggarts, it’s no wonder that cable news has belched forth an attorney whose main qualification is making charges that get him more attention.

Avenatti hit pay dirt initially with Stormy Daniels, the porn star who allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump and got paid for her silence. The payment was handled by Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, and provided endless fodder for cable segments, as Cohen came under federal investigation and eventually pled guilty to crimes, including involving the payment.

This was a real nice ride, but how was a cable-addicted attorney who enjoyed being knee-deep in a sleazy story transfixing the media to keep the hits coming? Well, he could run for president, which he is considering, but the Iowa caucuses aren’t for another 16 months. He Continue reading “Avenatti 2020”

How the U.S. Senate Became a Campus Kangaroo Court

Christine Blasey Ford deserves a hearing, although at the moment it’s not clear if she really wants one. What she doesn’t deserve is to be believed automatically just because she’s a woman making an accusation.

When our system of justice is at its best, it judges each individual—the accuser and the accused—fairly, on the basis of the evidence, and with an adversarial process that has proved over the centuries the best way to ascertain the truth.

Ford’s charge is serious by any standard, and despite the shameful way it was handled—Senator Dianne Feinstein sat on it for weeks, until it leaked out at the eleventh hour—Republicans appropriately agreed to delay a committee vote and hear from both Ford and Kavanaugh at an open hearing.

The problem is that Ford’s accusation doesn’t seem particularly provable—an alleged incident 36 years ago, with few details to check against—and the Democratic-media complex isn’t very Continue reading “How the U.S. Senate Became a Campus Kangaroo Court”

An Economic Boom Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

President Donald Trump is showing it’s possible to preside over a period of peace and prosperity, and still be notably unpopular.

Over the past several months, Trump has opened even more of a wedge between the largely benign material conditions in the country and his own political standing, which is precarious and appears to be sliding backward. This isn’t how it’s supposed to work.

Republican politicos believed, reasonably enough, that last year’s tax cuts would stoke growth and create a good-news backdrop for Republicans in the midterms. The substantive part of this theory has worked swimmingly, with headlines just over the past week about middle-class incomes increasing over $61,000 for the first time, blue-collar jobs growing at their fastest clip in 30 years, and small-business confidence reaching an all-time high.

The only flaw in their theory is that the drumbeat of good news has coincided, lately, with a drop in Continue reading “An Economic Boom Is a Terrible Thing to Waste”

The Left’s White-Power Self-Own

It’s not easy to set a new standard for stupid in 2018, but a few left-wingers on Twitter managed it during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

Less discerning viewers wouldn’t have noticed the moment at all. During the interminable opening session of the hearings on Tuesday, Zina Bash, a former Trump White House aide who once clerked for Judge Kavanaugh, sat behind the nominee, visible in the camera shot, with one hand at rest in a gesture that looked vaguely like an “OK” signal.

The gesture was declared a white-power symbol and “a national outrage” by a #resistance tweeter who has 200,000 followers. The activist and author Amy Siskind said the supposed gesture alone should disqualify Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court. (She deleted the tweet but still maintained that she couldn’t tell whether Bash’s hand was in a natural position or represented something more nefarious.) Liberal stalwart Chris Hayes tried Continue reading “The Left’s White-Power Self-Own”

Trump Should Come Clean

If it wasn’t obvious before, it should be now: President Donald Trump is in an impeachment fight.

It hasn’t fully ripened yet. That won’t happen unless Democrats take the House and do so with a healthy margin in the fall. But Michael Cohen’s statement that he committed campaign-finance violations at the behest of Trump makes it that much more likely Democrats will impeach him once they have the power and the votes to do it.

The campaign-finance charges give the Democrats one article of impeachment—they will find others—and surely will intensify the desire of the Democratic base for the sternest rebuke the House can make of a president. Even if Nancy Pelosi, assuming she’s still the leader of her caucus, wants to avoid impeachment as pointless and politically counter-productive, she will be hard-pressed to resist the #Resistance on the question.

This means Trump is in a political fight more than Continue reading “Trump Should Come Clean”

Don’t Ban Alex Jones

It’s just gotten a little easier for the government to control the weather.

Social media sites moved en masse to ban Alex Jones, the self-parodic conspiracy theorist, from their platforms. Jones is a poisonous toad, who leveraged his compellingly ridiculous persona and bizarre rants into considerable notoriety and a lucrative dietary-supplement empire.

Alex Jones doesn’t represent anything new in this country. We’ve always had our share of paranoid crackpots. Before the age of social media, they relied on publishing underground newsletters and handing out leaflets and the like to get their message out.

What Jones has done is take a cracked worldview that long pre-dated him—lunatic theories about the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg group and the Illuminati have been a fringe staple for decades—and shrewdly marketed it using technologies that afford him a reach unimaginable to his daft forbears.

This is a significant downside of the new media Continue reading “Don’t Ban Alex Jones”

It’s Bernie’s Party Now

A voice crying in the wilderness is supposed to be ignored, not rewarded with accolades and growing influence.

Bernie Sanders is the prophet with honor in his own party. The former socialist gadfly is now the socialist trendsetter. At the moment, he has to be counted among the most successful ideological leaders in a generation in terms of moving the terms of the American political debate and putting previously discounted ideas on the agenda.

This doesn’t mean that he’ll be the next Democratic nominee for president, or even run. It doesn’t mean that his ideas are good (I personally consider them godawful), or that they will make for a salable platform for the Democratic Party (which I very much doubt).

It does mean that when it comes to domestic policy on the left, it’s Bernie’s world and the rest of the Democrats live in it.

It’s impossible to imagine a Continue reading “It’s Bernie’s Party Now”

The Power of Low Expectations

It’s a symptom of our time that a tape of the future president of the United States discussing machinations related to an alleged affair with a former Playboy Playmate isn’t truly a blockbuster.

The brief snippet of conversation between Donald Trump and his lawyer Michael Cohen about buying the story of former Playmate, Karen McDougal, who says she had a 10-month-long affair with Trump beginning in 2006, is certainly of interest.

How often do you hear a future president speaking so frankly, if cryptically, about such a salacious matter? And the tape is part of the storyline of Cohen flipping against Trump and cooperating with prosecutors that will be an ongoing media obsession.

But what would be a potential torpedo to the bow of any other presidency is a relative trifle, because the underlying conduct, the tinny and dishonest denials, and the cynical maneuvers involving a tawdry tabloid have been Continue reading “The Power of Low Expectations”

Yes, the Supreme Court Is Undemocratic

In an era of partisan polarization, it is rare to get agreement on anything, but about this there should be a consensus: The Supreme Court is an undemocratic institution whose power should be carefully circumscribed.

The right has long been of this view, and the left is suddenly and opportunistically partway there.

In an essay capturing progressives’ newfound skepticism, Ezra Klein of Vox wrote that the Supreme Court “has always been undemocratic” and is now becoming even “more dangerous.”

This represents a welcome turnabout from cheering the high court’s de facto legislating, most recently in the Obergefell case that mandated gay marriage nationally with little or no constitutional warrant. Indeed, the left is about a half-century late to the insight that the court isn’t a democratically elected legislature.

In the 1960s, the court became markedly more assertive, delivering a raft of activist decisions, especially on matters of criminal justice Continue reading “Yes, the Supreme Court Is Undemocratic”

The Tawdry and Dumb Nazi Charge

The Nazi analogy has long been recognized as the crudest and dumbest form of argument, but it is enjoying a renaissance.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden notoriously and unapologetically tweeted a photo of Auschwitz-Birkenau as a response to family separations at the border. Upon a report that parents at the border were being told that their children were being taken to get bathed and disappearing, Chris Hayes of MSNBC tweeted, “What does this remind you of?” Soledad O’Brien chimed in, “Welp, I guess we’ve put to rest the question: ‘Nazi Germany: Could it happen here in America?’”

I have a relaxed attitude toward harsh political rhetoric, but Nazi analogies are over the line, and combined with the left’s taste for personally confronting Trump officials and supporters, they portend greater civil conflict and, perhaps, violence.

You don’t deal with Nazis, you don’t talk to Nazis, you don’t tolerate Nazis. Continue reading “The Tawdry and Dumb Nazi Charge”

Enforcement, not separation, is the issue

President Donald Trump climbed down on separating families at the border, but the underlying argument is not going away.

The central question at the border isn’t whether we should separate families — even most hard-liners in the Trump administration would prefer to hold families together — but whether migrants should stay in the United States or not.

Trump’s executive order ending family separation aims to salvage his “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all illegal border-crossers by holding parents and kids together. The reaction among immigration advocates has gone from outrage about family separations to consternation about family detention, because their ultimate goal is to let the migrants come into the United States and stay.

It will surely be only a matter of weeks until the Nazi analogies made about separating kids from parents will be repurposed to apply to keeping kids and parents together.

This is not to deny that Continue reading “Enforcement, not separation, is the issue”

Why Republicans Should Want Scott Pruitt Out

It’s time to test the proposition whether it’s possible to roll back the Obama regulatory agenda without using government employees as glorified personal assistants.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt long ago acquired the moniker “scandal-plagued” in the press. None of his offenses are criminally corrupt — no one has found cash stuffed in his freezer.

But the corner-cutting and grubbiness are unworthy of a high-level government official, who should be ever mindful that the money and people at his command aren’t truly his. Public service should mean that you serve the public, not that publicly funded resources and personnel serve you.

It was possible to look beyond the initial bout of Pruitt stories. Sure, he had a sweet $50-a-night condo deal from the wife of an energy lobbyist, but maybe he was simply using a convenient arrangement as he first settled into Washington?

Yes, there was the security detail Continue reading “Why Republicans Should Want Scott Pruitt Out”

Trump is not destroying himself

Right now, Donald Trump is in the strongest political position since the initial months of his presidency.

He’s not in robust shape — he’s ticked up into the mid-40s — but the slow upward trend in polls has been evident since March.

Too much shouldn’t be read into the numbers, except for the basic conclusion that Trump hasn’t destroyed himself and isn’t going away. Trump may not even harm the interests of Republicans in the midterms any more than any other sitting president whose party holds Congress.

After 18 months of Trump, the GOP is possibly in position to retain control of both houses. Despite the constant low-level sense of crisis, despite the tweets, despite the Russia investigation, despite the Stormy Daniels scandal, despite the jaw-dropping message indiscipline (e.g., let’s talk about presidential self-pardons, even though there is almost no prospect of the president getting indicted and he Continue reading “Trump is not destroying himself”

Roseanne Barr Tells Us Nothing About America

Valerie Jarrett says that the Roseanne Barr train wreck should be a “teaching moment,” and so it should—about the poisonous kookery of Roseanne Barr.

Given the political freight piled atop the hit revival of her TV program, it was inevitable that Barr’s spectacular Twitter flameout would be interpreted as a portentous statement on President Donald Trump’s America.

Chris Hayes of MSNBC says that her “problem turned out to be that she far too authentically represented the actual worldview of a significant chunk of the Trump base.” Roxane Gay of the New York Times wrote a piece headlined, “‘Roseanne’ Is Gone, but the Culture That Gave Her a Show Isn’t.”

Activist Michaela Angela Davis said on CNN that Trump had enabled Barr—a common theme on the left—and then went all the way: Asked point blank if all Trump voters are racist, she said, “Yes.”

Nothing so perfectly encapsulates Continue reading “Roseanne Barr Tells Us Nothing About America”

Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

The Nobel committee will presumably be disappointed, but President Donald Trump should cancel his planned June 12 summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

The meeting is much more likely to serve Kim’s interests rather than ours and could well begin the unraveling of the pressure campaign that is our most reliable point of leverage against the regime. There is every reason for Kim to want a superficially successful summit in Singapore, and the easiest way to deny him one is to call the whole thing off.

The past week has shown that the North Koreans aren’t to be underestimated—something that is easy to forget because the regime is not just heinous and evil, but ridiculous. Pyongyang managed to wrap the president around the axle on “the Libyan model” and got him to go wobbly on rapid and complete denuclearization with just a few pointed statements.

The Hermit Kingdom Continue reading “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”

The Russia Temptation

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Democrat from Minnesota, uttered a forlorn sentiment at the Center for American Politics conference this week. She said Democrats can’t spend all their time bemoaning President Donald Trump’s existence and that her voters care more about soybean exports than Russian bots.

She’s right, but good luck getting anyone to listen. If Democrats have a disappointing November, their consuming Russian obsession will have something to do with it.

With special counsel Robert Mueller’s net allegedly closing in and the investigation having taken a lurid turn by broadening out to the Stormy Daniels affair, there are now reputable polls showing Trump at 44 percent. This doesn’t mean he’s in hale and hearty condition, but his standing is markedly better than six months ago, raising the question: Why didn’t he think of getting embroiled in a fight with a porn star earlier?

Scandal politics is always very tempting, and Continue reading “The Russia Temptation”

Donald Trump, Man of His Word

The instant analysis on cable TV of President Donald Trump’s decision to dump the Iran deal had a weary resignation to it: He said he would do this.

Indeed, he had. Trump repeatedly promised to pull out of the deal on the campaign trail and had made it a target from the time that Barack Obama first entered into it in 2015.

His exit from the agreement is another instance of the Trump paradox: The president who says more outlandish and untrue things than anyone who has ever occupied the office of the presidency is also extraordinarily determined to deliver on his big promises.

Trump often doesn’t mean what he says, but when he says what he means — watch out. The combined forces of international pressure, polite opinion, outraged New York Times editorials, resistant advisers and sheer inertia aren’t an obstacle.

Many of Trump’s loose promises in the campaign Continue reading “Donald Trump, Man of His Word”