Mona Charen | Editorial
22024
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  • Robert E. Lee Doesn't Deserve a Statue, But Thomas Jefferson Does for 10/22/2021

    In New York City, a statue of Thomas Jefferson has graced the City Council chamber for 100 years. This week, the Public Design Commission voted unanimously to remove it. "Jefferson embodies some of the most shameful parts of our country's history," explained Adrienne Adams, a councilwoman from Queens. Assemblyman Charles Barron went even further. Responding to a question about where the statue should go next, he was contemptuous: "I don't think it should go anywhere. I don't think it should exist." When iconoclasts topple Jefferson, they seem to validate the argument advanced by defenders of Confederate monuments that there is no escape from the slippery slope. "First, they come for Nathan Bedford Forrest and then for Robert E. Lee. Where does it end? Is Jefferson next? Is George Washington?" No historical figure is without blemish, they protest. And it's unfair to condemn our ancestors using today's standards. If owning slaves is the discrediting fact about Lee, how then can we excuse George Washington? As if on cue, "TFG" chimed in with a statement chiding the city for "evicting" the "late, great Thomas Jefferson, one of our most important founding fathers." Not so important, apparently, that former President Donald Trump felt the need to learn about him though, because the next phrase was "a principal writer of the Constitution of the United States." Sigh. No, Jefferson was in Paris during the Constitutional Convention. He authored another founding document Trump hasn't read. But never mind.Updated: Fri Oct 22, 2021 […]

  • Jonah Goldberg's Narcissism of Small Differences for 10/15/2021

    Back in 2016, when formerly distinguished conservatives were suddenly lining up to issue glassy-eyed endorsements of a half-mad reality TV figure, Jonah Goldberg wrote a brilliant column comparing the experience to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." He captured the sense so many of us had that nearly an entire party and, eventually, nearly an entire intellectual movement had been lobotomized. "People would go to sleep violently opposed to Trump and everything he represented," he recapped for Vanity Fair, "but by morning they'd start telling me how under comrade Trump, we were going to have the greatest harvest we've ever seen." If he does nothing else in his career, I will always cherish him for his indomitability when others, with less to lose, crumpled. So it's disappointing to see him falling for the narcissism of small differences. As Sigmund Freud wrote, "It is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of hostility between them." Celebrating the two-year anniversary of The Dispatch, Goldberg, apparently feeling the need to do some product differentiation, tossed off a gratuitous swipe at The Bulwark. Both publications are redoubts of Trumpism-defying conservatives and thus, you might think, allies? Compadres? Friends? I was a charter subscriber to The Dispatch. Updated: Fri Oct 15, 2021 […]

  • What Nobel Prizes Say About National Greatness for 10/08/2021

    It's Nobel Prize season. The just-announced 2021 winners in medicine/physiology are two Americans, Dr. David Julius and Dr. Ardem Patapoutian, who've done groundbreaking research on the senses of touch, taste, heat and pain. Their joint discoveries may yield new, nonopioid treatments for pain and other breakthroughs. Patapoutian had his cellphone switched off, and so he missed the call from Stockholm. The committee eventually reached his 94-year-old father on a landline, so Patapoutian learned that he hit the prestige jackpot from his dad. Do you feel a flush of pride when Americans win Nobel Prizes? I do. It's a sign that for all of our division, disarray and decay, we continue to achieve excellence. If you peruse the winners of Nobel Prizes by country since 1901, you find that a number of European countries are well-represented. France has earned 70, Germany 111, and Great Britain 135. Russia/Soviet Union claimed 31, and Belgium 11. But towering over the list is the USA with 392. This year's winners in medicine are not atypical. One is native-born, and the other an immigrant. Patapoutian, who traces his ancestors to Armenia, was born in Beirut. He and his brother fled the civil war there when he was 18. While at UCLA, he fell in love with basic research.Updated: Fri Oct 08, 2021 […]

  • What We Lost When the GOP Lost Itself for 10/01/2021

    In the typhoon of congressional brinkmanship we've witnessed this week, one detail caught my eye that could easily have been lost in the gales. A group of 35 Republican senators signed a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden about an aspect of the House reconciliation bill that they find disturbing. "As you know, current marriage penalties occur when a household's overall tax bill increases due to a couple marrying and filing taxes jointly. ... Unfortunately, despite its original rollout as part of the 'American Families Plan,' the current draft of the reconciliation bill takes an existing marriage penalty in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and makes it significantly worse. This is not the only marriage penalty created or worsened by the partisan bill."Updated: Fri Oct 01, 2021 […]

  • Why I'm a Single-Issue Voter for 09/24/2021

    In a few weeks, Virginia will hold an election, and I will have to make a decision. In the past, it would have been no contest. I'd have voted Republican. But now, though Terry McAuliffe leaves me cold, I will vote for him. I guess that makes me a single-issue voter. What is that issue?Updated: Fri Sep 24, 2021 […]

  • The Future is Female: But Is That Entirely a Good Thing? for 09/17/2021

    "Men are abandoning higher education in such numbers that they now trail female college students by record levels." So declares the opening sentence of a Wall Street Journal piece that is creating quite the buzz. Here are some of the eye-popping statistics: Women now account for 59.5% of college students in the United States. They also earn 58.5% of master's degrees and 52.9% of Ph.D.s. Women have been earning the majority of doctorates for 13 straight years. In the 2020-21 academic year, a million more women than men applied to college. You can be forgiven if you find these numbers startling. The popular press focuses on the challenges women face, not on their achievements. We are constantly warned about silencing girls' voices, discrimination against female athletes, glass ceilings, pay gaps, "mansplaining" and the paucity of women in the top ranks of corporate America. There are innumerable programs, scholarships and inducements to increase the share of girls and women who study STEM subjects (the only fields where men continue to earn more Ph.D.s than women). And the assumption persists that it's a man's world.Updated: Fri Sep 17, 2021 […]

  • Pro-Life Cause Deserves Better Than Texas Law for 09/10/2021

    The Supreme Court's fateful step of judicializing abortion in 1973 effectively removed it from the political process for nearly a half-century. Americans' passionate feelings on the matter were displaced from legislative disputes (where they belonged) to the composition of the Supreme Court, resulting in crude, openly political, circuslike nomination battles that have characterized nearly all recent appointments. But now the Court seems poised to toss the question back into the political realm. I say this not so much because of what happened with the Texas law but because the Court is scheduled to hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a Mississippi case aimed squarely at Roe v. Wade. The Texas Heartbeat Act currently causing such angst may be remembered as a sideshow. Bear in mind that in declining to issue an injunction, the Supreme Court did not endorse the substance of the law. It ruled only that the appellees lacked standing. Updated: Fri Sep 10, 2021 […]

  • The Party of Violence for 09/03/2021

    A Republican running for Northampton County executive in Pennsylvania gave a heated address on Aug. 29 about mask mandates in schools. Steve Lynch is tired, he said, of providing his school board arguments and data (he apparently thinks the data support letting kids go maskless), but the important thing about his rant is the threat of force: "Forget into these school boards with frigging data. ... They don't follow the law! You go in and you remove 'em. I'm going in there with 20 strong men." That's the kind of language that Republicans are now employing. Lynch has not run for public office before, but he did attend the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., and has posted on social media that the violence that day was a false-flag operation meant to discredit Trump supporters. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina spoke last weekend at an event sponsored by the Macon County Republican Party. He delivered the kind of lies that have become routine among some Republicans. The election was stolen — and not just the presidential contest but also that won by Gov. Roy Cooper (who defeated his opponent by a quarter of a million votes). Cawthorn told the crowd that vaccines are harmful to children and urged them to "defend their children." A woman asked what he plans to do about the "535 Americans who have been captured from Jan, 6." Cawthorn, who has apparently heard this before, thundered, "Political hostages!" When someone in the crowd asked, "When are you gonna call us back to Washington?" he replied, "We are actively working on that one."Updated: Fri Sep 03, 2021 […]

  • Nation Building Was Not the Point for 08/27/2021

    Damon Linker is one of the sharpest political/cultural observers writing today. If you're not already reading his contributions to The Week, you should. He is also my colleague on The Bulwark's weekly podcast "Beg to Differ." In the spirit of our podcast, I must beg to differ with his recent column about the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Linker writes that the argument over Afghanistan is in part partisan (as nothing can escape that sinkhole) but more broadly part of a well-established disagreement about America's role in the world. Those who are criticizing President Joe Biden today, Linker writes, are Wilsonian idealists. They are united in thinking that the United States is responsible for spreading liberal democracy around the world, that our safety depends on the success of this effort, that the effort requires us to use military force against opponents of liberal democracy and that we must never pull back from that confrontation. Well. Let's concede that liberal internationalism or neoconservatism or Wilsonianism has a long history in this country, but it's a bit of a leap to suggest that even these interventionists are so sweeping in their enthusiasm for military force. In fact, believers in liberal internationalism understand that there are practical and prudential limits to what can be achieved militarily.Updated: Fri Aug 27, 2021 […]

  • What Orban's Apologists Reveal About Themselves for 08/13/2021

    As someone who was weaned on stories of leftist intellectuals and journalists traipsing off to communist countries to pay obeisance, I can only shake my head as a parade of right-wingers are making their way to Hungary to sing the praises of authoritarian Viktor Orban. Tucker Carlson of Fox News is the highest-profile rightist to make the trek, but the path was already well-trod. Former National Review editor and Margaret Thatcher speechwriter John O'Sullivan has moved to Budapest to head the Danube Institute, a think tank funded by Orban's government. He likes his nationalism straight up. A few years ago, at the National Conservatism conference in Washington, D.C., Orban was an honored guest, which was a bit head-snapping for those inattentive to the drift toward authoritarianism on the right. Speakers at the conference (and a follow-up one held in Rome) have featured mainstream figures such as John Bolton, Chris DeMuth, Peter Thiel, Oren Cass and Rich Lowry. In addition to Orban, other questionable invitees included Marion Marechal (she has dropped Le Pen from her surname) and Steve Bannon pal Matteo Salvini.Updated: Fri Aug 13, 2021 […]

  • Vaccinate the World. Now. for 08/06/2021

    About six weeks ago, I wrote a piece urging that the United States take the lead in vaccinating the world. The case for doing so is even more compelling now. Yes, we've been scratching and clawing at one another domestically over vaccine hesitancy, vaccine disinformation, vaccine mandates, masks, schools and every other damn thing. It's a disgrace that right-wing infotainers have made basic public health the enemy. Masks and vaccines are weak, they sneer, while simultaneously declaring that any effort to mandate them is communism. But consider how the vaccinophobes would feel if vaccination became the next great American gift to humanity.Updated: Fri Aug 06, 2021 […]

  • Cheney and Kinzinger May Be Too Late for 07/30/2021

    I wish I could be a Cheney fan. I really do. Rep. Liz Cheney has conducted herself honorably for the past nine months. Her courage in telling the truth about the election and the insurrection of Jan. 6 has been punished by the Republican conference, which booted her from leadership and replaced her with the lying, scheming Trumpist, Rep. Elise Stefanik. Former President Donald Trump is apparently working feverishly to unseat Cheney from Congress altogether, and his lickspittle lieutenants are joining the effort. The invertebrate minority leader, Kevin McCarthy — who, let's recall, declared on Jan. 13 that "the president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters" — has long since scurried back under Trump's skirts, from whence he issues barbs against the few remaining Republicans who still have some principles. McCarthy sniped that Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the other Republican appointed to the Jan. 6 committee over the objections of party leadership, are "Pelosi Republicans." The opening segments of the Jan. 6 committee were another fine moment for Cheney. She began by thanking the police officers who testified about their experiences defending the Capitol that day:Updated: Fri Jul 30, 2021 […]

  • Can National Solidarity Solve Our Race Problems? for 07/23/2021

    On Oct. 16, 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House. As Edmund Morris relates in "Theodore Rex," many Americans were pleased with this precedent-shattering dinner. But not all. Definitely not all. In the South, disgust and vitriol shook the rafters. A sample of headlines: "Roosevelt Dines a Darkey" and "Our Coon-Flavored President." Sen. Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina said, "The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that n——- will necessitate our killing a thousand n——- in the South before they will learn their place again." In 1918, Will and Annie Johnson, young, Black sharecroppers in Marlboro County, South Carolina, would name their son Theodore Roosevelt Johnson to honor the 26th president. They could have chosen to honor Washington, but as their great-grandson Theodore R. Johnson writes in his new book "When the Stars Begin to Fall," by choosing the president's name, they were making a "bold proclamation about who could be truly American."Updated: Fri Jul 23, 2021 […]

  • What We Lost When We Won the Cold War for 07/09/2021

    Almost exactly 60 years ago, the newly appointed Chadian ambassador to the United States, Adam Malick Sow, was heading south on Maryland's Route 40 toward Washington, D.C. He stopped at the Bonnie Brae diner and asked for a menu. The owner, Mrs. Leroy Merritt, sneered, "We don't serve n——-s here," and threw him out. The same thing happened to other African diplomats at other Maryland establishments, and it became an international embarrassment. President John F. Kennedy worried that this treatment of diplomats from Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Congo and other newly independent African nations would harm U.S. efforts to limit Soviet influence in Africa. The story, recounted in Ted Johnson's exploration of race and history, "When the Stars Begin to Fall," illustrates something that's worth pondering: How much did Cold War competition spur us toward fulfilling our national ideals?Updated: Fri Jul 09, 2021 […]

  • Decency RIP for 07/02/2021

    Sen. Mitt Romney appeared on Jake Tapper's CNN show last weekend, and for a few brief minutes, I felt transported to a saner world. Asked about the gross things some on the right are saying about Gen. Mark Milley, he responded that "Gen. Milley is a person of extraordinary accomplishment and personal character and a brilliant man." Asked about continuing allegations from the former president and his enablers that the election was stolen, Romney didn't hesitate to call it "the big lie." On substance, Romney was rock solid. He opposes government efforts to dictate what is taught in schools. He supports spending $1.2 trillion on roads, bridges, rail, air, water pipes, broadband and more, but when Tapper noted that the American Society of Civil Engineers wants to spend an additional $800 billion, Romney responded politely but deftly: "Well, I must admit that I do pay a lot of attention to the engineers, but, of course, they're paid based upon how much we spend in their arena." Spoken like someone who wasn't born yesterday. Romney knew the infrastructure bill in detail. He praised President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He differed with Democrats about social spending and taxes. He stated unequivocally that the election was free and fair. In short, he was completely out of step with modern "conservatism" and the GOP. Updated: Fri Jul 02, 2021 […]