The Teapot Tempest Continues

Just in case you are not reading Kevin D. Williamson’s newsletter,The Tuesday,you should go do it right now.  You can skip the language part if you like.  Today he is covering the teapot tempest of a few conservative pundits debating the wisdom of how much of GOP should be destroyed because of The Donald.  There is also The Lincoln Project that appears to be a group of political consultants trying to create a winning record to get future gigs.

Kevin cuts right though the discussion with his usual balance of overstatement, insight, and acerbity.  Here are a great couple of sentences:

Everybody loves a good purge, but real progress means recruiting new allies and forming new alliances. And that is what the Trump movement in fact did, aligning the soft xenophobic tendency (anti-trade, anti-immigration) with the entitlement mentality (“Don’t touch my Social Security!”) and a whole Chalmun’s Cantina of social anxieties, while promising a salubrious purge (“Drain the swamp!”) of effete elitists who secretly run the world while being simultaneously entirely irrelevant.

There are three things to talk about in the quote.  First, does he really think that EVERYBODY loves a good purge?  And yet it is true that folks spend an inordinate amount of time trying to exclude other folks.  On the right, conservative is the premier designation.  Is The Donald a conservative?  No, of course not but some disagree.   Are his detractors on the right conservatives?  Sometimes.  On the left there is a whole host of preferred classifications based on race, sexual preferences, and so on that leads to the cancel culture of their purges.

Second, unlike everyone else in the kill the GOP discussion, he gives The Donald credit for creating a winning coalition.  At the same time he recognizes that excluding parts of that coalition is unlikely to be a winning strategy.

Sidebar: Kevin expects the reader to work.  Other than the articles he doesn’t use many links.  An example in the quote above is when he uses Chalmun’s Cantina rather than the more common Mos Eisley Cantina without any link.  End Sidebar.

We can infer the third part from the second.  What are these pundits going to do to build a coalition if they are busy with the purges?  Elections in the USA are much different from those in the USSR.  The Stalin approach won’t work here.

The question is: do you want The Donald or The Frontrunner as president?  We can accept either answer.  All the pundits that Kevin links to have really run out of interesting things to say.  Kevin, of course, is the exception.

Courage

We remember that it was the now disgraced Dan Rather’s sign off when he was reading the news for one of the networks.  David French has a history of courage in his litigation and as a warrior.  In his recent Dispatch article he is back on the issue of burning down the GOP and we think it relates to courage.  He supported Marsha Blackburn for the Senate but does not now because she attacked a a Purple Heart recipient named Vindman who attacked The Donald:

And that’s but a small part of what Politico called her “multimonth, multimedia crusade against Vindman.” It was inexcusable. It betrayed a corruption of character that makes her unworthy of future support.

We often don’t agree with it but we love David’s thunderous disapproval of folks.  David didn’t use the word but it is clear to us that he finds Vindman courageous and Marsha not.  We find these excommunications for a single action or a series of related actions worrisome.

Sidebar: On the other hand, there are surely some actions that would merit such a response.  The problem is that conditions matter.  See or read Murder On The Orient Express as a book, TV show, or movie to consider when murder might be acceptable to even those who live by the rule of law.  End Sidebar.

For example, David is an NBA fan and ends some (many, most all?  We are not going to spend the time to check.) of his recent articles with an NBA story or clip.  How can the NBA with its China connections earn his support but not Marsha?

Jim Geraghty in the Morning Jolt (it is a newsletter so we don’t have a link) is discussing the threat from Communist China.  He observes that some the of difficulties in confronting China are financial:

And yet, quite a few wealthy Americans — some of whom make an affluent living dribbling basketballs — wish to keep the American relationship with China intact, because this arrangement is financially good for them. [Emphasis added]

It is easy for us to disagree with David on the NBA because we gave up watching basketball decades ago so it doesn’t take courage for us to call out the NBA.  David is wrong to continue to shill for the NBA.  We don’t deny his courage, his good faith, or his conservatism when we say this.  We just think he is wrong to support the NBA without mentioning the China problem.  We know it is unlikely to happen but we think he should show the same attitude towards Marsha and The Donald.

Voting Decision Models

James Lileks writes great angry.  Here is an example.  James used to have a section of his website, we think it was called screeds, for his collection of angry, nasty humor.  We loved them.  Kevin D. Williamson is also a master of the genre.  David French is not.  We are not either.  That’s why it has taken us time to respond to David’s “Dump [The Donald], But Don’t Burn Down The GOP” at The Dispatch.  David’s Dump doesn’t have the style of James or Kevin but who does?  The problem is that it doesn’t make much sense either.

Our disagreement is interesting because we suspect that if asked to pick who should be president now we would both have the same response: Mitt’s second term.  We are not saying David is not a conservative.  We just think he is wrong about voting models.

One issue we are ignoring is the conjunction of dumping The Donald AND burning down the GOP.  Near the beginning David says:

In other words, in the furious argument over the future of the Republican party and political conservatism, consider me squarely in the camp that seeks to dump [The Donald] but not to seek vengeance on the rest of the GOP.  [Emphasis added]

It must be a Twitter thing since we are not in that milieu.  We see that there are still some Never The Donald folks out there and there are some folks that want to burn the GOP because it doesn’t support The Donald enough but we didn’t know anyone was for both.  We weren’t aware of an argument of any kind never made a furious one.  We are not interested in that part of David’s Dump.  We are interested in the Dump The Donald part.  David quotes himself on how Christians should vote:

First, they must possess a personal character that is worthy of the office they seek. Second, they must broadly share my political values. If a candidate fails either prong of that test, he or she doesn’t receive my vote.

Then he goes on about The Donald’s incompetence.  He needs to reread The Weed Agency to remind himself of the difficulties of governing.  Yes, we know it is a work of fiction but it is instructive.  He goes on to say that competence is a character trait.  He is surely wrong about that.  Expertise relates to specific limited areas.  Everyone (do we need an almost before everyone?) has limited areas of competencies.

Sidebar One: The winner of a recent bridge tournament with thousands of entries including MWG is also (self reported) a crossword puzzle champ.  We are amazed by that combination of extraordinary skills.  End Sidebar One.

Our major complaint is that David’s voting model has people staying home on election day or only making a couple of votes.  How many people have you voted for enthusiastically in your life?  If your two main criteria are character and political values while competency fits in too do you want to help The Frontrunner win?  VDH isn’t always right (is he?) but you might consider this in your voting decision.

When we get down to the general election we think you need to compare the two candidates.  It is a binary choice: either The Donald or The Frontrunner will win in November.  Even if you live in Wisconsin only rarely do you get to vote for a Ron Johnson.  Pick the best candidate by your model and vote.  If your model has you staying home often reconsider it.

Sidebar Two: One rational model for staying home is that the value of your vote is not worth the cost of making it.  It is not an unreasonable conclusion.  The problem is that this model means that rational people vote less.  We don’t think that having rational people voting less is a good idea.  End Sidebar Two.

Don’t stay home or leave the presidential choice blank on David’s orders.

The Conservative Brand

Jonah Goldberg at The Dispatch is on about The Donald as is his wont. The headline is:

Does The Word “Conservative” Mean Anything Anymore?

Below it is:

Positions Aren’t Conservative Just Because The Republican President Holds Them.

You should read the rest of this before you read all of Jonah’s so you can evaluate what we have to say.  The second one isn’t a questions but we would say yes to both.  Conservatism has great meaning because so many people what to be one.  We don’t, however, think The Donald is a conservative and so his positions don’t determine conservatism.  We voted for him once and we will vote for him again but he is not, as we see it, a conservative.  The Donald holds some conservative positions but, as we see it, conservatism is largely about process and that is why The Donald is not a conservative.  We would prefer a more conservative option but one is not on offer.

What Jonah needs to recognize is that, unlike liberal, progressive, or libertarian, conservative is a great political brand.  People (lots of them but obviously not everyone) want to support and vote for conservatives.  Thus, there is a great battle to be anointed as a “true” conservative.  The Donald and his supporters want him to have the advantage of the conservative brand.  We agree with Jonah that he should not have the conservative brand but the nature and details of conservatism, and every other political designation change over time.  Some folks might find our “heresy” of supporting a modest carbon tax sufficient to be excommunicated as a conservative. We think economic freedom, political freedom, and due process should be high on the list for somebody to be considered a conservative.  The Donald supports economic and political freedom some of the time but he is a results guy rather than a process guy.

Sidebar: Of course the details get tricky.  When is the carbon tax no longer modest? What should we do about Venezuela?  How can we support economic an political freedom there and elsewhere?  End Sidebar.

Exactly what conservatism means beyond the great brand is a political and philosophical debate.  We need to continue the debate.  We need to recognize that few political candidates will be full conservatives.  If you are going to wait for a true conservative to support you won’t vote very often.

 

Rays Of Sunshine

In our cultural wars there are an enormous amount of battle lines that have been drawn.  According to the partisans, the last two presidents could either do nothing right or are playing six-dimensional chess.  There are all kind of trenches for various religious groups and races and ethnicities.  We see it as the bigotry of bigotry.  If those folks on the other side are against us then we can’t admit that they could  be right about anything.

The rays of sunshine come from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar via Jay Nordlinger at NRO.  Kareem’s “Where Is The Outrage At Anti-Semitism In Sports And Hollywood?” makes us see sunshine, rainbows and more for two reasons.  First, it is well done.  Of course you should read it it all but here is a great story about the wonderful Billie Holliday from Kareem:

One of the most powerful songs in the struggle against racism is Billie Holiday’s melancholic “Strange Fruit,” which was first recorded in 1939. The song met strong resistance from radio stations afraid of its graphic lyrics about lynching:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Despite those who wanted to suppress the song, it went on to sell a million copies that year and became Holiday’s best-selling record ever. The song was written by a white, Jewish high school teacher, Abel Meeropol, who performed it with his wife around New York before it was given to Holiday.

One small quibble: We expect that Abel got his royalties.  He didn’t give the song to Billie.  He gave her the right to sing it.

What makes us joyful about Kareem’s op-ed is that he black Muslim.  He began using his Muslim name many years ago at the age of 24.

Sidebar: Kareem’s Wikipedia entry might need some explaining.  He did win three consecutive NCAA championships.  Back in those days you couldn’t leave college early for the NBA and you couldn’t, how quaint, play varsity as a freshman.  End Sidebar.

Before that he was Lew Alcindor.  Kareem’s history makes his op-ed infinitely more powerful.  When Kareem takes Louis Farrakhan to task folks might listen.  He ends with this:

The lesson never changes, so why is it so hard for some people to learn: No one is free until everyone is free. As Martin Luther King Jr. explained: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” So, let’s act like it. If we’re going to be outraged by injustice, let’s be outraged by injustice against anyone.

We can still disagree about when X’s freedom impairs Y’s freedom but we need to first look at ourselves.  We are glad that Kareem found his voice.  We hope he will be a role model for others in every group.

 

 

Go Big Or Go Home

Eric Boehm at Reason has a Reason-able position.  He says the next stimulus package should eliminate tariffs.  We agree it is a great idea.  It is never going to happen but lots of great ideas don’t get implemented.  It turns out Eric is asking for small potatoes:

In a new paper he’s authored, Young highlights the costs of the trade barriers erected by the Trump administration. He says repealing the tariffs, which have cost about half a percentage point of economic growth per year, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, should be common sense.

Eric is talking about Ryan Young at CEI.  The Donald’s tariffs are a tiny part of our tariffs.  Since it is never going to happen, we think Eric should go big.  Why not eliminate all tariffs?  Ryan’s logic on The Donald’s tariffs apply to all tariffs.  Let’s start with our negotiating point being the elimination of all tariffs. Let’s have a serious discussion rather than arguing over peanuts.

Another Easy Binary Choice

Kevin D. Williamson writes with his usual clarity and wisdom on economic matters at NRO in “[The Frontrunner]: Make America Great Again.”  Of course you should read the whole thing.  You should read everything that Kevin writes.  His article compares the similarities between Biden’s recent speech and The Donald.  He is absolutely right that The Frontrunner and The Donald have much in common on the economic front.  For us capitalistic orphans or friends of economic liberalism, as Kevin calls them, the 2020 election will not be a feast.

Where we disagree with Kevin is on the choice.  Kevin says:

For the friends of economic liberalism, 2020 is going to be a choice between testicular cancer on the left or testicular cancer on the right.

We would like a whole loaf.  We would be delighted with a half a loaf to feed us economic orphans.  With The Donald we get a slice, perhaps the heel, while with The Frontrunner we get nothing.  To paint them both with the same brush Kevin has to stretch the evidence.  For example:

Trump is more of a born-again Republican on taxes today, but in 2016 he complained long and loud about Wall Street traders beating the tax man,

The Donald has reduced taxes, and most importantly corporate taxes, grudgingly renewed NAFTA, and reduced regulations.  He is far from what Keven and MWG wants but he is the dominant solution in a binary choice.  The Donald should be an easy choice for economic liberals and capitalistic orphans in 2020.  It is likely to be a tougher choice for us in 2024 with folks like Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley.

More Perspective On The Harper’s Letter

Earlier we said that we did not share David French’s rosy view on the Harper’s letter on Justice and Open Debate.  Our perspective was based on events at universities around the country.  Douglas Murray at Unherd has a similar perspective to us based on the letter’s contents, the letter’s signatories, and the reaction to the letter.  Of course you should read everything that Douglas writes.

We find Douglas convincing.  The letter is so bland and obvious it hardly needs to be written.  Then why is The Donald the only person or organization that is specifically mentioned?  If you were creating a list of the enemies of free speech The Donald would be well down the list.  Why is the political cutoff for signatories a millimeter to the right of the political center?  As Douglas says, Victor Davis Hanson, among others, would be a great addition.  Then Douglas covers the reactions to the letter and the reaction of the signatories to the challenges.  Here is a great paragraph on the agonized reactions of the signatories:

It must be an awful thing to discover, that. You wake one morning believing that you have just signed the usual “well-meaning, if vague” letter alongside a genocide-denier and other reputable Left-wing authors, only to discover that a former speechwriter to a Republican president is on the same list of names as yours. What a lot of weight that must be to bear. Almost intolerable in its way.

At the very least, it is not clear that the letter has improved attitudes towards free speech.  It is too soon to tell but it is entirely possible that the letter has failed and free speech is only a value of some on the right.

Still, David could be right.  The letter, in Churchill’s phrase, could be the end of the beginning.  Perhaps hate and cancellation will start to be more contested and include more folks from the left.  This would be the process that eventually would turn the tide back towards free speech.  We agree with David that it can’t be done without some help on the left.  We, like Douglas, are unconvinced help is coming from the left but it is possible.

Warren And Woodrow

David Harsanyi has a thoughtful article on Warren Harding at NRO.  We should use his insight to help us with our current political decisions.  He does have a little red meat in the second and third paragraphs:

Good riddance, Woodrow. Wilson was one of the most despicable characters in 20th-century American politics: a national embarrassment. The Virginian didn’t merely hold racist “views;” he re-segregated the federal civil service. He didn’t merely involve the United States in a disastrous war in Europe after promising not to do so; he threw political opponents and anti-war activists into prison. Wilson, the first president to show open contempt for the Constitution and the Founding, was a vainglorious man unworthy of honor.

Fortunately, we have the perfect replacement for Wilson: Warren Harding, the most underappreciated president in American history, a joyful champion of civil rights and republicanism. Harding deserves to be reinserted into the nation’s consciousness on the merits of his presidency alone. But considering that he also negated much of Wilson’s calamitous legacy, we have an even better reason to honor him.

Sidebar: American (in bold) is an excellent adjective in the quote.  Woodrow was not not Lenin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, MaoIdi Amin or Pol Pot to name a few more despicable characters during the 20th century.  End Sidebar

David is much more interesting than Jonah’s Goldberg File to cancel Woodrow for two reasons.  First Jonah is just, but properly, negative about Woodrow.  All three of us agree that Woodrow was an awful person and awful president.  We agree that Jonah has been part of our education on Woodrow.  But in this time of cancellation of both reservations and people we need something positive.  David gives us Warren as something positive.

Second, and even more important, David recognizes that Warren is less than perfect.  He says Warren is remembered for his depravity and corruption:

And [Warren] was definitely a flawed president, far too trusting of crooked subordinates, most famously those who participated in the Teapot Dome, a scandal surrounding the leasing of federal oil reserves. (From my perspective, Harding’s views on tariffs and immigration, and his failed effort to poison-pill Prohibition, leave something to be desired, as well. But those are political, not moral or Constitutional, objections.)

We see the opposite point of view all too often.  The NRPlus Facebook page had a commenter that couldn’t abide by Calvin Coolidge because he has appointed a justice that enabled FDR and the Great Depression a decade later.  Humans can’t see checkmate in 15 moves.  Everybody makes mistakes and with public figures some of those mistakes are public.

Everyone is a failure if judged against perfection.  Even Bill Russell.  He won two NCAA championships, a gold medal, but “only” won 11 of 13 NBA championships. Prohibition was a disaster and Warren and Calvin have to share some of the blame for their lack of perspicacity.  There are no free traders among Warren, Calvin, and The Donald.  That is a more serious flaw.  Yet all three support freedom and particularly economic freedom in many other situations.  The Frontrunner might  not be as anti-freedom as Woodrow but clearly, to us, if you are pro-freedom then you need to support The Donald in 2020 despite his shortcomings.

Fighting The New Scams

Eugene Scalia is very kind in his WSJ opinion piece.  He says that investors are concerned about the environment, social factors, and corporate governance (ESG):

Many investors understandably want to do good while also doing well. But the standards for ESG investing are often unclear and sometimes contradictory.

We don’t understand but we are capitalistic orphans so we care about returns.  In one of the huge non-surprises:

Other studies show that when investments are made to further a particular environmental or social cause, returns unsurprisingly suffering

Let’s be honest.  It is a scam.  Entities promise to maximize something other than returns so that investors won’t leave because of low returns.  And, of course, it is very difficult to measure ESP as Eugene documents.  A simple question: Are wind farms good for the environment?  Are the dead birds and the rare earths used worth the returns to the electrical grid?

The excellent news is that The Donald’s administration is not buying.  The US Department of Labor says that fiduciaries have a primary responsibility to current and future retirees:

The department’s proposed rule reminds plan providers that it is unlawful to sacrifice returns, or accept additional risk, through investments intended to promote a social or political end.

Individuals can fall for ESG investing.  It is their money.  We support folks being able to sell ESG investing.  We would never recommend buying such products but if folks want purchase them then we won’t stop them.  What we want to do is stop folks from being forced to invest in ESG.  One of the things the proposed rule will do is help to give the fiduciaries some backbone when the activists come for them.

We never suggest that The Donald is anything more than a net positive compared to the alternative in 2016 and The Frontrunner.  Lots of folks point out The Donald’s negatives.  We are reminding you that Eugene and Betsy are part of that net positive.