AOC’s Risky Game: Liner Notes

I have a new column posted at The Federalist today, “How Ocasio-Cortez’s Trump-Like Tactics Could Be Her Downfall.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) became a phenomenon doing her own thing, but she has started copying Pres. Trump’s tactics. Attacking fellow Dems and the establishment media (but I repeat myself) is a path already proving a bad choice for her — and one which could get worse if the media realizes she could harm them in ways Trump cannot.

What got left out? After the fact, it occurred to me that I may have buried in the subtext the theory that AOC is behaving as she is precisely because she is in over her head (a factor that has played into Trump lashing out dating back to the 2016 campaign).

Beyond that, I left out a discussion of the impact of the 2020 Democratic primary race and its outcome. AOC’s endorsement — or lack thereof will be a storyline.

More significantly, 2020 will be at least a partial referendum on democratic socialism, either with the Democratic primary electorate or the general electorate — and this will pose questions for AOC’s status in the party as well. In the event of a more moderate nominee, the pressure on her to be a team player will intensify (even more so if that moderate won). In the event of a more socialist nominee, a loss would tarnish her agenda, while a win would raise questions about what AOC would do when her agenda likely crashes against the reality of governing.

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Ilhan Omar Strikes Again : Liner Notes

My second column of the day at The Federalist is headlined “Ilhan Omar Deletes Tweet Smearing Covington High Schoolers, But Her Anti-Semitic Tweets Remain Online.”

This was truly done on a “breaking news” type of deadline, so not much got left on the clipboard. If I had more time, I might have done more parsing of Omar’s most recent rationalization of the infamous ” Israel has hypnotized the world ” tweet. The more closely you read her new tweets, the more they read as: “sorry Jews were offended by my obvious anti-Semitic trope; I’ll try not to let the mask slip quite so obviously in the future.”

In addition, as Omar will almost certainly stick her foot in her mouth again, I think I might profit from looking at the media coverage of Israel on the date of the “hypnotized” tweet. Based on how the Middle east conflict generally gets covered, I suspect it’s not the pro-Israel fantasy coverage Omar seems to think it was.

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Impeachment? Bring It On. (Liner Notes)

My latest column at The Federalist is online: “Impeachment Won’t Be The Trump-Ending Silver Bullet Democrats Expect.” It’s a set of arguments for why the right is coming around to the acceptance of impeaching Pres. Trump, in case you were wondering whether the site publishes a broad spectrum of views.

Some on the right have been questioning the FBI/Special Counsel probes of the President for some time already. All recognize that any serious claim against the President would wind up with Congress, as the Constitution dictates. If a Democratic House cannot be stopped, it should be asked why Dems should be allowed to hide behind the executive branch investigations.

What got left out for space? First, the consideration of evidentiary claims (other than to note the current public evidence is not moving a GOP-controlled Senate). After all, Trump supporters are confident he did nothing warranting a conviction. And if it turned out that Trump was guilty of something that would convince the Senate, the GOP should rip off that band-aid sooner rather than later.

Second, space precluded a more detailed examination of the timing of impeachment. But once you realize that (so far), the Dems have better odds of beating him at the ballot box than in an impeachment, there’s not really a “good timing” scenario for them. Impeachment this year might take it off the table before the 2020 election and dispirit Dems. Impeachment might have the most impact in Summer 2020, but it would be seen as the height of partisanship. Dragging proceedings out past the election would be difficult if Trump is reelected.

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CNN Mishandles Ilhan Omar: Liner Notes

A busy week of punditry ends with a third column at The Federalist, “CNN Does Not Know How To Question Ilhan Omar’s Conspiracy Theories And Anti-Semitism.” The domestic channel’s anchors dropped the ball by failing to ask basic questions. Meanwhile, on CNN International, Christiane Amanpour asked some basic questions, but embedded fairly obvious sympathy for Omar’s odious views.

Given the “breaking news” quality of the interviews, it was written on a fairly tight de facto deadline to get it posted today (at least this is how I thought of it). If I had allowed myself more time, I could have addressed those on the left who emerged later in the day to defend Omar’s so-called defense on CNN Newsroom by arguing Omar was not claiming Sen. Graham was being blackmailed regarding his sexuality.

First, Omar’s substitution of baseless speculation about political pressure remains baseless, regardless of whether it’s rooted in the sexual rumor. And her “explanation” still leaves open the question of whom Omar believes has pressured Graham.

Second, as noted in the column, Omar singled out Graham among many Republicans who have changed their tune (rightly or wrongly) on Pres. Trump. Her tweet appeared at the moment that MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle was alluding to the rumor in a discussion about the exact prior comments by Grhama that Omar relied upon. The inference to be drawn here is a lot stronger than any of the speculation Omar has ever offered about Graham.

Time and space considerations also precluded me from mentioning the Politico report that House Democrats likely will not move to censure Rep. Steve King (R-IA) because they fear the GOP will retaliate with motions to censure members like Omar and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). With the Dems being this weak on policing themselves, the media’s failures loom larger.

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Blank Screen Beto: Liner Notes

I have another new column up at The Federalist this week, “There’s No Way Beto O’Rourke Can Duplicate Obama’s Success.” That headline is a bit more confident than I am (as headlines tend to be). But Beto will have problems trying to be the “blank screen” that Obama — and Trump, for that matter — were for many voters.

What got left out? Not the material about his weird road trip journal; that story had not broken when I submitted this column. (I tend to think this is a calculation on O’Rourke’s part, albeit a strange one.)

Rather, I cut more material about the weaknesses of populism, whether deployed by Beto or others.

For example, in the original discussion that led to me writing the column, I had noted that Tucker Carlson’s recent critique of modern capitalism was largely devoid of any actual policy, and that by his own admission, Carlson was “just asking questions.” And that as the Federalist’s publisher, Ben Domenech, pointed out in his newsletter (The Transom), when Carlson got specific on the issue of marijuana decriminalization, he got it backward: it was not an issue driven by elites (at least not by political elites). Similarly, while the column has a Big Lebowski-inspired joke about President Trump’s desired border wall, I would up skipping a bit about the wall not really being the top priority for immigration hawks in the policy sphere.

Unfortunately, as much as I like that bit, it tended to break the flow of the argument. This is what writers mean when they talk about “killing their darlings.”

I also wound up cutting more about the attacks on Beto from the Bernie Sanders types, including that Beto squirms about being labeled “progressive” and never joined the progressive caucus in the House. To the contrary, he belonged to a caucus that was more of a Clintonite, “third way” sort of group. The degree to which Beto and others (notably Kamala Harris) decide to embrace the democratic socialist agenda will probably be one of the major stories of the Dems’ 2020 presidential nomination, but it’s a story for another column.

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Walking Away From the Women’s March: Liner Notes

My latest column is up at The Federalist, “Major Liberal Groups Walk Away From the Women’s March, But Very Quietly.” That’s the title I suggested, so I have only myself to blame for the traffic.

It’s not a clickbaity headline, but it accurately describes how top-tier lefty groups have stopped partnering with the Women’s March. The exodus is almost certainly due to the claims of anti-Semitism against the leaders of Women’s March Inc., but the groups are largely remaining silent and the establishment press is curiously incurious.

What got left out for space? Plenty. The subtext of the column is a meditation about our competing desires to reward good behavior and to judge people — particularly political opponents — by their failure to live up to higher standards in the first instance. And this tension runs through a number of current news stories. It’s hardly limited to the controversy regarding the Women’s March, as the House GOP’s wrestling with the odious Rep. Steve King’s comments about white nationalism attests.

I suppose others might “whatabout” my failure to mention the King saga. But what these stories might tell us is that tribalism promotes lower standards all around — and that if the parties are going to attack each other, doing so in ways that ask us to meet higher standards is probably an improvement. And that parties trying to clean up their own messes is probably more effective.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Big Green Unicorn: Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ Is Powered By Unicorns.” It’s mostly about how the newly-minted Congresswoman’s big environmental proposal is not technologically feasible and the tax hike she proposed to pay for it would be completely inadequate.

However, I usually try to to fit even newsy columns into larger themes. Here, it’s that AOC — and increasingly the Democratic Party — is hitching their future to “policies” based on magical thinking. Pres. Trump occasionally does this, but the Democrats have long flattered themselves as the party of wonks, which makes the current turn that much more of an embarrassment.

It seems worse than that also. AOC also told 60 Minutes that ” There’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.” People deride this as “post-truth politics,” but it’s really “Truth politics” or “faith-based politics.” This is what happens when people decide their politics is a religion, not politics. And the degeneration of our politics into a pure power struggle based on conflicting moral visions seems to be our near-future.

The NYT Whitewashes Ilhan Omar: Liner Notes

Another new column at The Federalist today, “NYT Puff Piece On Democrat Ilhan Omar Again Whitewashes Her Apparent Anti-Semitism.” It’s largely a continuation of what is sadly becoming a “beat” covering progressives’ tolerance for anti-Semtism in their ranks. There have been a couple of other pieces criticizing the New York Times for giving Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar a puff piece; mine focuses on the “silver lining” that both Omar and the NYT have to go out of their way in their dishonesty, suggesting consciousness of guilt.

What got left out for space? Mostly that — in addition to tolerating left-wing bigotry — the NYT has chosen to smear Republicans with the charge of anti-Semitism where it doesn’t exist. The paper waged such a campaign against GOPer Tim Miller for doing routine opposition research for Facebook on groups critical of the company, discovering that some of those groups were funded by George Soros.

Similarly, other Timespeople (and colleagues in the media) have condemned Pres. Trump and Sen. Chuck Grassley for noting Soros was involved in funding a variety of left-wing activist groups. Although others have made anti-Semitic attacks against Soros, NYTers have chosen to flood the fainting couches over entirely factual and non-bigoted descriptions of what Soros has done. The same could be said of Democrats’ attacks on GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson: some attacks have been bigoted, but others not. Unfortunately, the NYT has chosen to debase the debate over resurgent anti-Semitism not only by ignoring it on the left, but also by imagining it on the right even when it is absent.

Again, this is not to say that the NYT could not find legit bigotry on the right. It is to say that the institution is becoming so rotten, lazy, and “woke” as to become counter-productive as fewer people take them seriously.

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German Journo Commits Fraud on a “Grand Scale”: Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist today, “CNN Journalism Award Winner Exposed As Massive Fraud.” This was done quickly at the end of last night after I noted the CNN award angle during a conversation about the scandal. CNN was hardly alone in honoring this serial liar.

What got left out for space? Some nuance, as is often the case. For example, I note that these stories by Claas Relotius “occasionally further a larger anti-American narrative,” including an invented phone interview of Colin Kaepernick’s parents.  Sloppy readers might assume I’m also calling the former-NFL QB anti-American, which I am not — though one could have a lengthy discussion on that question.  Regular readers may recall that I have previously written about the very real problems of police brutality and police shootings in Chicago.  But the question of whether those problems should be a deal-breaker to standing during the National Anthem is obviously controversial, particularly when the protest comes from a fan of Fidel Castro.  What I’m really suggesting is that a journalist fabricating a story to promote that critique of America by Kaepernick — as part of a series of fake stories portraying America as a seething pit of nativism and racism — seems to be pursuing an anti-American agenda. And since the faker is German, that label does not carry with it a traitorous connotation, merely an ugly, stupid and ungrateful one.

Also, it struck me more after submitting the piece that it’s interesting how this fraud got caught by a fellow journalist — as has happened in other cases. (My column links to an earlier piece of mine recounting numerous cases of journalistic fraud.) In the future, I would probably emphasize how much of the problem here is with editors who become remarkably gullible when their socio-political biases are being confirmed.

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Voxplaining Andrew Sullivan to Ezra Klein: Liner Notes

Busy week! I have yet another new column up at The Federalist, “Andrew Sullivan And Classic Liberalism, Voxplained For Ezra Klein.” It’s about a significant debate between the Wonk and the Wanker, even if you care for neither personally.

What got left out for space? Most of what Klein had to write in his lengthy critique of Sullivan. My column is an explainer of Sullivan’s point. Klein misinterpreted it to a degree that much of his argument is not really a response to Sullivan and thus not useful in illuminating Sullivan’s argument.

Rather, Klein critiques the influence of Christianity on our history, and American history generally.  It’s a fairly typical example of so-called progressives being obsessed with looking backward through the telescope. He seems to think we became a more small-l liberal society despite Christianity, rather than because of it, even while begrudgingly conceding the history is a lot more complex than that.

Sullivan was not defending the historical record in toto; he was making the case that the Lockean take on Christianity — which incorporates religious pluralism and the separation of church and state — is what makes reason-based, post-Enlightenment politics possible. And that if we rid ourselves of that religion in favor of another, like intersectionality, the edifices built on the former ultimately collapse. 

Klein’s major mistake is failing to understand that when Sullivan is discussing religion and politics, he is considering the nature of each, rather than reducing them to historic and sociological phenomena. And it’s particularly absurd of Klein to do so when Sullivan’s column explains why this sort of argument fails, even when presented at length by Christopher Hitchens.

Moreover, while I mention Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West for a historical point, it’s also important to this debate thematically. Jonah’s argument is that the “Miracle” we are currently enjoying rests upon ideas and institutions that do not come naturally to humans, whose brains come preloaded with all sorts of tribalist software. Locke’s take on Christianity, as refined by Jefferson, is one of those key unnatural things we destroy at our peril. This is a second irony of progressivism: it is obsessed with condemning the past, but imagines a future based on pre-Enlightenment psychology won’t repeat the mistakes and horrors of that past.

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