Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with ISRAEL; fight against those who fight against ISRAEL!
Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for ISRAEL'S help! Draw the spear and javelin against ISRAEL'S pursuers!
Friday, November 10, 2023
The Week | The GOP Falls Short Again | Nov 10, 2023
Plus: The debate in Miami, China takes back its pandas, and Joe Biden's horrible polls.
Nov 10, 2023
NATIONAL REVIEW Nov 10, 2023
◼ China is bringing its pandas home, no doubt to be debriefed.
◼ A New York Times/Siena poll showing Donald Trump beating Joe Biden in the swing states Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania has set off a Democratic panic. Polling finds Trump unpopular but Biden equally or more so, as the public tires of high prices, an insecure border, and foreign crises. Majorities also consider Biden, who turns 81 in November, too old to serve another term. David Axelrod, former chief adviser to Barack Obama, acknowledged the obvious: Biden might well lose in 2024, and as his party's default nominee he needs to decide "whether that is wise; whether it's in HIS best interest or the country's" to run again. Another Democrat, Bill Kristol, explicitly called on Biden to step aside. What we're seeing is nothing particularly new: Biden's job-approval rating has been underwater since the Afghanistan-withdrawal debacle, and the "right track"/"wrong track" poll responses have been terrible throughout his term. The risks of nominating the elderly, rambling Biden for another four years have been obvious for a long time; in 2019, there was considerable talk about Biden being a "bridge" or "transition" president. But he may end up serving as a bridge back to Trump.
◼ Then again, shouldn't Republicans be worried about their 77-year-old? Most of Trump's rude jibes and absurd boasts fit into the persona he has crafted and maintained since he rode down the escalator in 2015. But lately he's been spinning into the weird zone. At the Freedom Summit in Orlando, he claimed to have won every state in 2020. "Think of it," he said, "every state." James Monroe actually did that, but it was 1820, and who doesn't confuse himself with James Monroe? Then consider Trump's insult moniker for hostile reporter Maggie Haberman, "Maggot Haberman." Older insults—"Sloppy Steve" (Bannon), "Low Energy Jeb" (Bush)—were rude without being actual fighting words. But to compare someone to a corpse-eating grub recalls the outsider art of mental patients. At a recent rally, Trump also said that Biden was trying to arrest his opponents and that he would therefore have the same power. Reportedly, he privately counts among those opponents his own former attorney general Bill Barr and chief of staff John Kelly. Does the GOP want to go with someone who is fraying away in public?
◼ New York State has rested its case in Attorney General Letitia James's lawsuit against Donald Trump, his adult sons, and the Trump Organization. James seeks to put the Trump real-estate empire out of business and disgorge it of $250 million in "ill-gotten gains." Yet there are no victims. Though she maintains that Trump overvalued his assets to obtain favorable loan and insurance terms, no financial institution has claimed fraud—to the contrary, they did their own due diligence regarding asset values (as a disclaimer in Trump's financial statements urged), and Trump made full, timely payments. No matter, counters James, who is delivering on a campaign vow that, if Trump is elected by the Deep State's voters, she will use the AG's office to get him on . . . something. After federal and state prosecutors declined to take up the case owing to lack of criminal evidence, she found a monstrous civil statute that allowed the suit. And she landed a complaisant judge—another elected Democrat, Arthur Engoron—who, before the trial even started, ruled that Trump had committed fraud. The defense case begins next week, but the outcome is not in doubt. Trump is banking on an appeal while treating the trial as 2024 campaign political combat.
◼ Even this long into Donald Trump's dominance of our national political life, his shamelessness can still impress. In his telling, he is responsible for all good political outcomes but for no bad ones. The Saturday before Kentucky's gubernatorial election, for example, he claimed credit for a late surge by Daniel Cameron, the Republican candidate. "Wow, Daniel Cameron of Kentucky has made a huge surge, now that they see my strong Endorsement, and the fact that he's not really 'a McConnell guy,'" Trump wrote on social media. "Go Daniel, great future for you and your State—You will bring it to new levels of success, and I will help you!" But after Cameron failed to defeat incumbent Democratic governor Andy Beshear, Trump cut Cameron off. "Daniel Cameron lost because he couldn't alleviate the stench of Mitch McConnell. I told him early that's a big burden to overcome. McConnell and Romney are Kryptonite for Republican Candidates. I moved him up 25 Points, but the McConnell relationship was 'too much to bear.'" Heads, Trump wins; tails, somebody—anybody—else loses.
◼ Since Dobbs, and before this Election Day, pro-lifers had gone 0–6 on abortion-related ballot initiatives at the state level. Ohio makes it 0–7. Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that enshrines abortion as a fundamental right, passed easily. This year, Ohio pro-lifers at least had the advantage of some advance preparation and national-level attention and resources. But they were outspent and proved unable to defy the national trend. The ominous outcomes of the amendment's intentionally vague language—starting with a gutting of the state's existing abortion restrictions and possibly proceeding to the establishment of taxpayer-funded abortion—are now likely to be realized. Yet the pro-life movement must not give up. In Ohio, for now, it must fight to keep the amendment from being expansively interpreted. And nationwide, it must thwart the momentum of abortion advocates who see their cause as a political winner and of the defeatism of those on the right who agree. The post-Dobbs environment, to which pro-lifers have not yet fully adapted, undoubtedly presents a political challenge, requiring new and improved modes of political activity and of cultural persuasion. For the sake of the unborn, it is a challenge that the pro-life cause must meet.
◼ In the aftermath of Hamas's attack on Israel, members of the so-called Squad in the House of Representatives have been in a perverse contest to see who can provide the worst reaction. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) has decried Israel's military response. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) called AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) an "extremist" organization after it condemned her for not voting for a House resolution supporting Israel. But Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) seems to be the winner. Tlaib published a video accusing the Biden administration of being complicit in a "genocide" of Palestinians. She followed it up with a defense of the eliminationist slogan "From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free." It is an "aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate," she assured us. The House has now voted 234–188 to censure Tlaib, with 22 Democrats joining almost all Republicans. Tlaib is unlikely to be chastened by this measure. That doesn't make it any less welcome.
◼ Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has long been a Seattle resident, but he has decided to move to Florida. He says he's doing it to be closer to his family, and we don't doubt his sincerity on that front. But it's hard to ignore the tax implications of his move. Washington, which has a constitutional prohibition on an income tax, nonetheless enacted a capital-gains tax. State lawmakers have also proposed a wealth tax on top of that. They also want to remove the cap on property-tax increases (currently 1 percent) and raise property taxes on expensive homes. And King County, where Seattle is located, approved a property-tax levy to fund mental-health services. All told, Bezos was facing a tax hit somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion. Washington had projected the wealth-tax proposal would raise $3.2 billion a year, and based on his current net worth, Bezos would have had to pay $1.4 billion under the proposal. This is, from a revenue perspective, one of the biggest problems with wealth taxes. They rely on such a tiny sliver of the population that even minor changes—in this case, one person's moving to a different state—can have large effects. That's the thing about wealthy people: They can always afford to move to Florida.
◼ Former Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte sought to bring his country closer to China. Current president Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in office since 2022, is reversing that. As part of that effort, the Philippines is leaving China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the centerpiece of Xi Jinping's international economic policy. The legislature has scrapped seven China-supported projects, including a major rail project. There's certainly some political tension between the two countries. China and the Philippines have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, and a Chinese Coast Guard vessel recently collided with a Filipino resupply ship. But the reason the Filipino legislature gave for canceling the projects was that they would rather work with Japan, South Korea, and the West. On top of the desire for closer economic ties, the Philippines earlier this year also gave U.S. forces access to more of its military bases. As for China, the BRI is in trouble overall, as rising interest rates around the world squeeze emerging markets and make it harder for them to repay the $1 trillion they have borrowed from Beijing over the past decade. But since the supreme leader's program can't be admitted to have failed, China is plowing another $100 billion into the BRI. Wasn't it Sun Tzu who said not to interrupt your enemy when he's making a mistake?
An Off Off-Year
Republicans fell short on Tuesday night, but it wasn't a debacle, either.
In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin (R.) made a crusade of taking unified control of the state legislature and instead lost both chambers. Republicans picked up one senate seat, falling just short of control, and lost three house seats, just giving up control. This is disappointing but not shocking, given Virginia's blue coloration. (Biden won it by ten points in 2020.) If the outcome is a blow to Youngkin, there is no doubt that the GOP is immensely better off than it was prior to his arrival in 2021.
Andy Beshear, the popular Democratic governor of Kentucky, turned back a challenge from Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Kentucky is a heavily Republican state, although one with a habit of electing Democratic governors, especially ones named Beshear. The current Governor Beshear is the son of a prior Governor Beshear. Cameron, an African American, is widely thought to be a rising a star but probably tried too hard to nationalize the race, while Beshear kept it relentlessly focused on the state.
In Mississippi, a state not in the habit of electing Democratic governors lately, Republican governor Tate Reeves won reelection.
Finally, a pro-abortion measure swept to victory in Ohio (see above).
Two main culprits are being cited for the lackluster GOP night. One is abortion. Democratic legislative candidates in Virginia leaned heavily on it, as did Beshear, and Ohio was the latest in an unrelieved series of ballot-measure defeats for pro-lifers. In response, some on the right are telling pro-lifers to go away and let Republicans focus on more popular causes. This, of course, would be a moral abdication, and a political overreaction, since many Republicans who have championed pro-life laws are thriving post-Dobbs.
The other is Donald Trump. He, of course, wasn't on the ballot, but the charge of "MAGA extremist" played a prominent role in Democratic attacks in Virginia. Republicans are always going to be accused of being "extremists" of some variety or other. It matters, though, that they really are associated with Trump, who remains the de facto leader of the party and is the presumptive 2024 nominee despite conduct that would be disqualifying for anyone else. The merits aside, there is no electoral upside to this for Republicans—a Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis would presumably run stronger against Biden, without blighting the GOP brand.
A lackluster night is survivable, especially in an off-year election, but the stakes are about to get much higher.