Mona Charen | Editorial
22024
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  • Will Democrats Choose Safety or Risk? for 01/17/2020

    When the economy shows signs of weakness, Wall Street analysts expect to see what they call a "flight to safety." Investors sell stocks and buy bonds or gold. The same phenomenon can sometimes be found in politics. Understanding that George W. Bush was riding high in 2004, after what was perceived as a successful response to the 9/11 attacks, Democrats wagered that Vietnam veteran Sen. John Kerry would stand a better chance of victory than the candidate who most excited them, Vermont's Howard Dean. A popular lapel pin at the time captured the mood, "Dated Dean. Married Kerry." The strategy — to neutralize Bush's war advantage with Kerry's war record — ran into difficulties. There was partisan wrangling over whether Kerry deserved his Purple Hearts and other citations, but most damaging was Kerry's dubious makeover — transforming himself from prominent Vietnam War critic into Vietnam War hero. The threads didn't mesh, and Kerry found himself tangled in contradictions.Updated: Fri Jan 17, 2020 […]

  • Was the Soleimani Killing a Policy Success? for 01/10/2020

    There's an old story — apocryphal, as the best stories always seem to be — that Richard Nixon asked Chinese premier Zhou Enlai what he thought about the French Revolution, and Zhou said, "It's too soon to tell." At first blush, the minicrisis between Iran and the United States appears to have ended well for the U.S., but it may be too soon to tell. On the positive side of the ledger, Trump's action rid the world of an effective terror master. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds ("Jerusalem") force, was instrumental in creating Hezbollah, which has been responsible for attacks around the globe and has specifically targeted the United States and Israel. Hezbollah was behind the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, as well as the embassy annex the following year. They kidnapped CIA station chief William Buckley and tortured him to death. In 1985, Hezbollah hijacked a TWA airliner and killed a U.S. Navy diver, dropping his body onto the airport tarmac. Updated: Fri Jan 10, 2020 […]

  • Gertrude Himmelfarb, RIP for 01/03/2020

    When I emailed Mary Ellen Bork that our mutual friend, Gertrude Himmelfarb, aka Bea Kristol, had passed away at 97, she replied, after expressions of sadness, "Now she and Irving can resume their conversation." Irving was Irving Kristol, Bea's husband of 67 years. It was one of the great marriages of our time — two towering intellects who were also devoted to one another and to their family and friends. Irving would not have been the giant he was without Bea, and vice versa. They were also completely down to Earth.Updated: Fri Jan 03, 2020 […]

  • Lovable Ol' Bernie? for 12/27/2019

    You won't hear young Democrats deride Bernie Sanders with the "OK, boomer" dig. At 78, he's actually too old for the cohort, but that's not why he won't get dinged. He's the most popular Democrat among the under-35 crowd, and judging by recent polling, he's the second-most popular Democrat overall. Sanders has raised nearly twice as much money as the frontrunner, Joe Biden, and seems to have scooped up support from a declining Elizabeth Warren in the past 60 days. Despite a heart attack that sidelined him for a week, he marches on, now buoyed by a poll showing that in a head-to-head matchup against Donald Trump, he would do better than Biden — though within the margin of error. Sanders' appeal, the experts explain, is founded on "authenticity." Is he humorless, repetitive, cloying and rigid? Sure. But these are signs that he really believes something! He's not a packaged, blow-dried (no argument there), insincere pol cooked up in a political laboratory. He's the real deal. Let's concede that Sanders is sincere, and that he is, with some small hypocrisies — did you know he was a millionaire? — honest. But what people actually believe is kind of important, and Sanders professes and sells a series of prejudices that do him no credit. Updated: Fri Dec 27, 2019 […]

  • What Senate Acquittal Will Mean for 12/17/2019

    If I have this straight, House Republicans are united in the belief that public integrity is critically important for our nation. Accordingly, Joe Biden deserves to be impeached. During a meeting of the Rules Committee, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., referencing Biden's supposed role in pressuring Ukraine to cease investigating his own son's company, demanded, "If you're running for president, does that mean you can do anything overseas?" Republicans, even very sophisticated ones, have bought this line — that Joe Biden was engaged in unconscionable corruption while vice president. This is Donald Trump's comfort zone. His jujitsu is to accuse any critic or opponent of corruption. The press is corrupt. The pollsters are corrupt. Adam Schiff is corrupt. The FBI is corrupt. The Mueller investigation was corrupt. "Corrupt" is his favorite epithet.Updated: Tue Dec 17, 2019 […]

  • US Blocks Examination of Crimes Against Humanity for 12/13/2019

    It's easy to treat Kim Jong Un as a figure of ridicule. I've done it myself. His foreign ministry issues statements like this: "If any language and expressions stoking the atmosphere of confrontation are used once again on purpose at a crucial moment as now, that must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard." His youth, his odd haircut, and his rotund physique don't signal menace so much as clownishness. But that's a mistake. He is, in fact, guilty of crimes against humanity on a massive scale, and the United States government has just chosen to block a United Nations Security Council session that would take up those atrocities.Updated: Fri Dec 13, 2019 […]

  • Red Death, Blue Health? for 12/06/2019

    Josef Stalin is reputed to have said: "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." In the hands of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, the deaths of thousands can be a partisan bludgeon. A number of scholars have pondered the recent rise in deaths of despair — those attributed to alcoholism, suicide and drug overdoses. Krugman sees a chance to make a crude red state/blue state comparison. Updated: Fri Dec 06, 2019 […]

  • On Being the Good Guys for 11/29/2019

    People often offer cynical interpretations of American support for Israel. It's the malign influence of the Jewish lobby, or Israel is a colonial outpost of the American hegemon or Israel has brainwashed American policymakers. What these right-wing conspiracists, anti-Semites and committed leftists miss is that there isn't any mystery about the bond between the U.S. and Israel. U.S. support for Israel, and vice versa, has been based on shared values. Israel shares with the United States respect for human rights and the rule of law. Though often besieged by enemies who target innocent civilians in terror attacks, use their own civilians as human shields, and celebrate as heroes terrorists who massacre unarmed men, women and children, Israel does not sink to that level. Though Israel vigorously defends herself, she does not resort to targeting civilians, nor to indiscriminate bombing (despite accusations to the contrary). And — this is crucial — when Israeli soldiers go too far and kill unarmed Palestinians, Israel does not name public squares after them. They are tried and punished.Updated: Fri Nov 29, 2019 […]

  • Is Caitlin Flanagan Right About the Abortion Debate? for 11/21/2019

    Caitlin Flanagan has written a searing piece for The Atlantic titled "The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate: Why We Need to Face the Best Arguments From the Other Side." Flanagan argues that neither the pro nor the anti side of the abortion debate reckons with the best arguments of the other side. She then takes the reader through some heartbreaking true stories. Flanagan is an affecting writer, and her plea that both sides of a bitter dispute offer more respect to the other is one with which I am in sympathy. But the argument she makes — movingly told as it is — is not quite convincing.Updated: Thu Nov 21, 2019 […]

  • What Is the American Idea? for 11/15/2019

    If I were addressing a young audience today, I would face an uphill battle to explain why conservatism so inspired me during my own impressionable years. Today, what has been dubbed "Conservatism, Inc" has become so cynical, so nasty, so truth-challenged, and so dumbed-down that it repels all but one-quarter of people between 18-29. The Republican Party, now a training ground for Fox News, has shed dignity and principle like a Siberian Husky blowing its coat. Even among conservative intellectuals, this era has provoked a shocking departure from ideas and identities that had been brilliantly conceived and painstakingly argued for decades. It is now even fashionable in some right-wing quarters to question American exceptionalism — which had enjoyed nearly universal acclaim less than a decade ago. Today, we are invited to believe that America is just a nation like any other, and that American nationalism — based upon language, history and geography — has the truest claim on our hearts.Updated: Fri Nov 15, 2019 […]

  • The Great Missing Topic for 11/08/2019

    We don't care. You can check Pew or Gallup or any other polling company. We are running deficits that ought to make us nauseated with worry — the federal deficit passed $1 trillion in September — but we're not interested. Well, a majority of us anyway. About 48% of those polled by Pew in January said that reducing the deficit should be a top priority for the president and congress. As recently as 2014, 72% of the public agreed with that statement. Republicans (54%) are in favor of reducing the deficit at higher rates than Democrats (44%), but concern has declined among all voters. And the politicians? Well.Updated: Fri Nov 08, 2019 […]

  • Impeachment for Thee But Not for Me for 11/01/2019

    Here's a parlor trick: How many people can you name who were in favor of impeaching William J. Clinton and also favor impeaching Donald J. Trump? Or flip it: How many opposed Clinton's impeachment at the time and now also oppose Trump's? Of the 14 House impeachment managers in the Clinton case, most have retired from Congress and one has died. None has endorsed the current effort to impeach President Trump. Updated: Fri Nov 01, 2019 […]

  • Quid Pro Quo for 10/25/2019

    During the last impeachment, the Latin expression coitus interruptus got a workout. This time, it's quid pro quo. Republicans lashed themselves to this mast when the White House's own rough transcript of the Donald Trump/ Volodymyr Zelensky call was disclosed. That document, so damaging that one might think its release was the work of Trump's opponents rather than Trump himself, left no doubt that the president had strong-armed a besieged ally for political dirt. Enter the QPQ squad. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania allowed that the conversation was "inappropriate" but "reveals no quid pro quo." Sen. David Perdue of Georgia said that the media had "talked about eight quid pro quos ... I can't find one." Nor could Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. "I didn't find it (the call) concerning," he told Politico. "There was no quid pro quo, you'd have to have that if there was going to be anything wrong." Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., tweeted repeatedly about the lack of QPQ, while Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., offered that "there's nothing there." But the most embarrassing declaration award must go to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who told National Review last week that "What would've been wrong is if the president had suggested to the Ukrainian government that if you don't do what I want you to do regarding the Bidens, we're not going to give you the aid. That was the accusation; that did not remotely happen."Updated: Fri Oct 25, 2019 […]

  • Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest for 10/18/2019

    If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We've been a storytelling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don't cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. Lincoln told stories. FDR told stories. Reagan told stories. Watching the Democrats' fourth debate Tuesday night, you could see the candidates implementing this advice. They'd mention Joe Blow in their state who said X, or Jane Blow who called their office with Y problem. They commonly use techniques like: "The voters I speak to aren't preoccupied with the elite concerns of Washington or New York. The voters I speak to are concerned about..." and then the candidate fills in the policy he or she is touting. Updated: Fri Oct 18, 2019 […]

  • Trump Thinks He's Above the Law for 10/11/2019

    Donald Trump is testing whether he can claim immunity from the rule of law. That's the plain meaning of the announcement that his administration will not cooperate in any way with the House impeachment inquiry. The letter released by White House counsel Pat Cipollone brands the impeachment inquiry an effort "to overturn the results of the 2016 election ... President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances." In Trump's words, it's a "kangaroo court."Updated: Fri Oct 11, 2019 […]