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 17, 2023
The Week | San Francisco Tidies Up for Xi | Nov 17, 2023
Plus: Speaker Mike Johnson averts a shutdown and Tim Scott bows out.
Nov 17, 2023
NATIONAL REVIEW Nov 17, 2023
◼ The streets of San Francisco were brought into good order for Xi. Maybe the chairman can visit the southern border next?
◼ Congress, with overwhelming bipartisan support, passed a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. Speaker Mike Johnson structured the resolution so that four of the twelve funding bills will expire in mid January and the other eight in early February. This represents a tiny victory for fiscal conservatives because the spending will no longer expire at the end of the year. That will spare the country the spectacle of another "Christmas tree" omnibus package in which legislators add a bunch of pork during the holiday season when most people aren't paying close attention. Johnson had to rely on Democrats to pass the CR in the House, which was supposedly a sin so grievous when Kevin McCarthy did it that it required his removal from the speakership. But Johnson, like McCarthy, had no better choice. Government shutdowns don't spur spending reforms, and they don't benefit Republicans politically, either. The intransigent House Republicans demanding spending cuts have their hearts in the right place, but their minds are detached from political reality. Democrats control the Senate and the White House, and Congress wasn't going to undo decades of fiscal irresponsibility this week. The project of true spending reform will require years of effort and bipartisan buy-in to be successful.
◼ Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.) has withdrawn from the presidential race. It was the right thing to do, and we applaud both the decision and the man. Scott is a fine senator and a reliably conservative one. He is also a happy warrior in a time with too few of them. His life story is inspiring, and his love of country is as unfeigned as his faith. He bears without strain the symbolism of being a descendant of slaves who holds the Senate seat once occupied by a man who, within living memory, raised the Confederate flag over the South Carolina capitol. Perhaps greater things—Senate leadership, a vice-presidential nomination, a more successful presidential bid—lie in Scott's future. But this was not his year. Scott made a good introduction but never quite found a message and rationale for his candidacy. If voters are to have a clear alternative to Donald Trump, it is important for the other contenders to know when to quit. Mike Pence has done so as well. Other marginal contenders should follow their example.
◼ Having learned that the incumbent governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, will be a candidate in the Senate race—and having looked at the lopsided opinion polling that showed Republicans romping and Justice winning by double digits—Joe Manchin (D.) sensibly decided to opt out. But not, necessarily, of everything. In recent years, he has enabled Democratic excesses more than he is willing to admit, yet he has still been less partisan than most. Now he intends to discover whether there is an appetite for working across the aisle in the nation at large: During the next few months, he says, he will be "traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together." If he decides there is, the chaotic presidential election we're all expecting next year could get more chaotic yet.
◼ The bipartisan House Ethics Committee has finally released its report on Representative George Santos, the Republican congressman from Long Island and Queens found to have lied—often in wildly entertaining fashion, it must be granted—about nearly every aspect of his biography, including his ethnicity and marital history. According to the committee, these lies were part of Santos's attempt to financially exploit a no-hope candidacy for Congress in an overwhelmingly Democratic district: The plan was to raise money from donors for a losing bid against a well-entrenched and high-profile liberal and then take the money and run. Instead, thanks to a shocking last-minute court-ordered redistricting, he actually won. As a new representative rather than a failed candidate, Santos—his life and the lies he had told about it—immediately came under scrutiny and his fraud was revealed. Santos has announced he will not be running for reelection, which should give him more time to avoid going to prison.
◼ Hearings of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee are usually not exciting affairs. But Oklahoma senator Markwayne Mullin and Teamsters president Sean O'Brien decided to turn a sleepy Tuesday session into the WWE. During his allotted time, Mullin read a series of critical tweets that O'Brien had previously sent about or at him, for example: "You know where to find me. Anyplace, Anytime cowboy." Mullin told O'Brien that "this"—the Senate hearing, apparently—"is a place" and asked O'Brien whether he wanted to settle their dispute there and then. "I'd love to do it right now," O'Brien responded. "Well, stand your butt up then," Mullin replied. "You stand your butt up," the Teamster shot back. Mullin stood up and appeared to be readying for a brawl when committee chairman Bernie Sanders, banging his gavel repeatedly, ordered them to cut it out. "This is a hearing," Sanders bellowed, "and God knows the American people have enough contempt for Congress. Let's not make it worse." We don't often agree with Bernie, but we can't argue here.
◼ The FBI has been dramatically undercounting how many times armed citizens prevent or end active-shooter attacks. As a report published by the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) contends, this was perhaps inevitable, given that the FBI has no comprehensible system for collecting such data and does not count incidents in which citizens thwarted a shooting but the police apprehended the suspect. Responding to the CPRC criticisms, the bureau confirmed that it relies heavily on news reports. Per the CPRC, this approach has led to a considerable discrepancy between the FBI's numbers (which show that citizens intervened in 4.4 percent of active shootings between 2014 and 2021) and the CPRC's numbers (which show that citizens intervened in 34.4 percent of active shootings over the same period). Given the persistence of this problem in American life, it would at the very least be a good idea for the FBI to develop a clear and public set of criteria by which it collects and publishes such data.
◼ Apparently San Francisco was always capable of clearing out tent cities of the homeless, removing human feces and hypodermic needles from the sidewalks, and making the downtown look sparkling clean and shiny, all in a matter of days. It just took sufficient motivation—such as hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and, in particular, Xi Jinping. Maintenance workers resurfaced uneven sidewalks and installed plywood over empty tree wells on Market Street. The homeless were shooed away from downtown, and the city did not even set up special shelters during the gathering. But why isn't the city worth making safer, cleaner, and more attractive for its residents? They pay some of the highest taxes in the country and ought to get better results than a visiting dictator does.
◼ The Supreme Court has published a formal code of ethics guiding the conduct of the justices. The code, and an irritated accompanying statement, was pointedly signed by all nine members of the Court, who emphasized that they wished to "dispel" a "misunderstanding" that the Court had no ethical standards. The code makes the Court's self-imposed ethical rules more transparent and deprives bad-faith critics of a common talking point. But it does not change much. The standards for recusal were already governed by a federal statute and supplemented by principles developed in scattered sources that are now collected in a single authoritative statement. The code denounces influence-peddling, puts some guardrails on outside activities, and defines who counts as a family member bound by rules on gifts. It recommends better software for tracking conflicts of interest but states that justices should not recuse themselves because of conflicts involving groups that file amicus briefs. The justices are still—properly—not subject to any outside disciplinary authority that could influence their decisions. The code reiterates a core principle: "A Justice should not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism." They should not pay too much attention, either, to the current critics, who will not be swayed by anything but a left turn by the Court.
◼ An estimated 290,000 friends of Israel gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate their support for the Jewish state and to denounce antisemitism. In stark contrast to the "anti-Zionist" demonstrations, which featured red paint smeared across the White House gate, clashes with police, and calls for "intifada revolution," the pro-Israeli rally was peaceful, cheerful, and heartening. One show of support was from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who said, "Our commitment to Israel's security is ironclad, and let me be clear: Israel has an absolute right to defend itself against Hamas terror." Given the hostility of many progressive Democrats toward Israel, Jeffries's statement was particularly welcome. Actress Debra Messing, a progressive activist, was also present. She said, "We will pray for the success of the IDF in a war Israel did not start and did not want, but a war Israel will win, because we must." Her words are hard to improve on.
◼ On November 8, the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance (an arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center) screened horrifying footage collected by the Israeli government of the October 7 Hamas massacres in Israel, both as they were unfolding and in the aftermath. The savagery of the terrorists is a political inconvenience for the worst sort of American opponents of Israel, so they gathered outside the museum to protest, and then to attack, attendees and counter-protesters, beating them brutally until the police intervened. Coincidentally, this happened one day prior to the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Everything old is new again.
◼ Michael Ramirez, the veteran political cartoonist, drew a cartoon satirizing the spokesman for Hamas, Ghazi Hamad. Hamad claims that the Israeli military targets Palestinian children. Ramirez drew him using children as human shields—which Hamas, in fact, does. The Washington Post published the cartoon. But some of the paper's staff and subscribers objected, saying the cartoon was racist—so the Post pulled it. Ramirez spoke to National Review about this episode. If you can't handle a cartoon such as the one he drew, he said, "maybe you need to grow up."
◼ MLBannounced that the All-Star Game will return to Atlanta in 2025. Atlanta was supposed to host the All-Star Game in 2021, but MLB moved it to Denver because of changes to Georgia's voting laws. The president of the United States described those changes as "Jim Crow on steroids," and critics said Georgia Republicans were seeking to suppress black turnout and prevent Democrats from winning elections. Only one year later, a black Democrat won the state's Senate election. The 2022 elections saw the highest turnout for a midterm cycle in Georgia history. Despite that, lines at polling places were short in both the primary and general elections. Early voting set records, with especially high turnout from racial-minority voters. A University of Georgia survey found that 0 percent of black voters had a poor experience casting their ballots. Governor Brian Kemp (R.) always said the goal of the reforms was to make it "easy to vote and hard to cheat." He was right, and his opponents were wrong. MLB is implicitly admitting as much. Winners don't need to sit around waiting for apologies.
◼ British prime minister Rishi Sunak has commenced a cabinet reshuffle. He appointed David Cameron to the House of Lords so that Cameron could also become foreign secretary. It is certainly an odd match of man to job. Britain's foreign policy involves making the most of Brexit, a policy that David Cameron denounced in lurid and hysterical terms until the voters ended his political career by choosing it anyway. Sunak also got rid of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who had inspired the loyalty of the Tory conservatives with her get-tough rhetoric on immigration and crime. Braverman had all but handed in her resignation when she criticized the government for not banning what she termed "hate marches" and criticized the police for giving breathing space to Hamas supporters while restraining patriotic British demonstrators. At least Sunak can claim to have taken the Tory approval rating out of the 20s. The problem is that he has done so by bringing it down into the teens.
◼ The Big Ten conference suspended Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh for the final three games of the college football regular season amid allegations that the Wolverines were running an against-the-rules sign-stealing operation. Connor Stalions, a now-resigned Michigan staffer and former Marine officer, is accused of orchestrating a secretive scouting campaign aimed at future Michigan opponents. Sign-stealing is as old as college football and isn't explicitly against the rules, but the in-person scouting of future opponents certainly is. Late last week, as Michigan prepared to play Penn State, Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti ruled that Coach Harbaugh either knew about the sign-stealing operation or should have known. The controversy is boiling over because undefeated, No. 2–ranked Michigan is on a collision course with undefeated, No. 3–ranked Ohio State in two weeks—and Ohio State may or may not be behind the private investigators who uncovered Michigan's operation and reported it to the Big Ten offices. Not all the games are on the field.
◼ Roland Lajoie was the kind of man we depended on during the Cold War. He was an officer of the U.S. Army (retiring as a major general). Fluent in Russian, he specialized in the Soviet Union. He monitored the enemy's weaponry. After the Cold War, he helped former Soviet republics secure and destroy their nuclear arsenals. Lajoie grew up in a poor Francophone family in New Hampshire. He was the youngest of eight children. When he graduated from high school, his siblings pooled their money to send him to the University of New Hampshire. Roland Lajoie has died at 87. Merci, général. R.I.P.
Note: This newsletter will be taking next week off so that we can count our blessings, which assuredly include our readers.