Mona Charen | Editorial
22024
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  • 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 […]

  • Trump's Enablers for 10/04/2019

    We're all familiar by now with the reasons advanced for why elected Republicans shrivel like dry houseplants whenever they are asked to distance themselves from the president. They fear primary challengers. They dread his Twitter wrath. They like the judges. All true as far as it goes. And we might add that partisanship has reached radioactive levels — what with the siloing of information sources, the "big sort" in geographical choices, and so forth. But pause for a moment over the people who work directly for Trump. Why do so few of them quit? The turnover rate in this administration has set records, but with the exception of James Mattis and John Bolton, remarkably few have walked out. (For what it's worth, Trump contends that he fired both Mattis and Bolton.)Updated: Fri Oct 04, 2019 […]

  • Trump May Not Even Understand Corruption for 09/27/2019

    Speaking to the "enemies of the people" at the United Nations this week, President Donald Trump demonstrated that he may not understand what corruption is. Seriously. Trump's favorite gambit is to accuse others of what he himself has done — self-dealing, lying, sexual misconduct. And he has displayed a flair for jujitsu — turning a weapon against his critics. "Fake news" began as a slam against the social media armies who circulated false stories about Hillary Clinton (recall that she was deathly ill?) and other Trump opponents in 2016. Trump made it his own. But this tactic seems to be wearing thin. Trump's attempt to sell presidential sharpies after the Hurricane Dorian debacle — doubling down on error — fell utterly flat. This week, with the whistleblower scandal in full bloom, he conveyed something significant. He knows how to engage in schoolyard taunts: "I know what you are, but what am I?" but he may not fully grasp the difference between corruption and honesty.Updated: Fri Sep 27, 2019 […]

  • Why Reparations Talk Is Harmful for 09/20/2019

    Three Democratic candidates for president, Julian Castro, Cory Booker and Marianne Williamson, have declared support for the idea of slavery reparations. A number of others have said they'd vote for a bill sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee to create a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals For African-Americans Act. Still other candidates have been vague (Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke), while Elizabeth Warren has called for a "national, full-blown conversation about reparations in this country." Oh, a conversation. A Washington Post piece examining the tensions among black Americans on the question offers a glimpse of why this idea is terrible. It's a profile of William A. "Sandy" Darity, a professor of economics at Duke, and leader of the "Planning Committee for Reparations," a group of academics who are attempting to create a program to implement reparations. They envision a plan that would offer cash payments to all African Americans who can 1) prove that they are descended from someone enslaved in the United States, and 2) have identified as black in public documents for at least 10 years. Updated: Fri Sep 20, 2019 […]

  • Jews, Israel and Loyalty for 08/23/2019

    President Donald Trump has opined that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats — as 79% did in the 2018 midterms — are demonstrating "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." At first, he didn't say to whom. An eager Trump explainer, Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition, leapt to clarify. The president wasn't accusing Jews of disloyalty to America, he said, nor to Trump himself, but rather "to themselves." That's artful. Look, lots of people think other people don't have a good grasp on their own self-interest (see, for example, "What's the Matter with Kansas?"). I have often expressed frustration about the political leanings of my co-religionists. But it's never a good idea for a Jewish leader like Brooks to accept the framing of the matter as one of loyalty when we are speaking of Jews. (It doesn't help that Trump later said American Jews were being disloyal to Israel.) Jewish Americans are free to vote with an eye toward Israel's welfare or to ignore it altogether. They can be religious or secular, liberal or conservative, and, as George Washington promised in 1790, there "shall be none to make (them) afraid." You can write whole books about why many Jews are liberals without suggesting for a moment that this reflects disloyalty to anyone or anything. Just say you think they're wrong, because the accusation of disloyalty has a long and ugly history, as Brooks is well aware. And ironically, it's the very thing Rep. Ilhan Omar has been trafficking in.Updated: Fri Aug 23, 2019 […]

  • What Hong Kong Means for 08/16/2019

    The protests in Hong Kong are heartbreaking to witness. I recall the gloom that accompanied the handover of sovereignty ceremony in 1997. Prince Charles was there. So was Tony Blair. Only eight years had passed since the communist Chinese government had mowed down an estimated 10,000 democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square. And while China had since begun to liberalize its economy, the communist party maintained its totalitarian grip on political power, news and information, travel, family life, religion and the arts. As the band played "God Save the Queen" for the last time, there were the usual soothing promises. According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, dubbed "one country, two systems," Beijing pledged that Hong Kong would continue to enjoy the economic and political liberties it had known under British rule for 50 years. Hong Kong would remain free until at least 2047. Many imagined that by then, the communist government in Beijing would be gone.Updated: Fri Aug 16, 2019 […]

  • A Cosmetic Proposal on Guns for 08/09/2019

    It seems necessary to begin every discussion in America today with a reminder to show a little charity. If you oppose gun control, don't assume that those proposing restrictions on gun purchases are merely using the latest atrocity as an excuse for confiscation. Likewise, gun opponents should rid themselves of the notion that, but for the evil machinations of the NRA, common sense gun control would have been enacted long ago and would have prevented the loss of many lives. Show some good faith. Both gun controllers and gun advocates grieve at mass murders and wish there were a simple solution. Though I am a lifelong conservative, I have always been open to the idea of (constitutional) gun control. But some of the proposals that surface after each mass shooting seem not so much unconstitutional as ineffectual. Consider universal background checks. Updated: Fri Aug 09, 2019 […]

  • So, You Want Canadian Health Care? for 08/02/2019

    These "debates" are to serious policy discussions as a kazoo is to an orchestra. You can say a kazoo is an instrument, and you can say that these truncated thoughts are proposals, but you'll invite smirks. This is not a slam on Democrats. The Republican "debates" in 2016 were no better. When a stage is sardined with candidates, there is no alternative to keeping answers short. If the voters had longer attention spans, we could arrange four or five nights of less manic encounters, which would give candidates the chance to explain themselves. But since we don't, we have unedifying and demeaning soundbite pingpong matches. Updated: Fri Aug 02, 2019 […]

  • False Racism Accusations Don't Excuse the Real Thing for 07/19/2019

    On a high wall overlooking the central court of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the words of novelist James Baldwin are etched in stone: "The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it ... History is literally present in all that we do." Baldwin's words are particularly apt this week, as our leaders, for the millionth time, use and abuse race for their own purposes, committing sins against the past and the present.Updated: Fri Jul 19, 2019 […]

  • Claremont Would Make Founders Weep for 07/12/2019

    The Claremont Institute was part of the flowering of intellectual conservatism that graced America in the 1970s and '80s. Founded by students of Lincoln scholar Harry Jaffa, the California think tank was devoted to teaching "the principles of the American Founding to the future thinkers and statesmen of America." Through their various programs, they aimed to "educate the best and most promising young writers, lawyers, activists, academics, entrepreneurs, and public servants." Among the outstanding past fellows were former George W. Bush administration official Tevi Troy, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, and social conservative writer Ryan Anderson. After the announcement of the 2019 Claremont Lincoln fellowships, it is safe to say that the flowering has gone to seed.Updated: Fri Jul 12, 2019 […]