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!
Saturday, November 11, 2023
Weekend Jolt: What If Biden’s Age Is a Much Bigger Liability Than Democrats Thought?
Joe Biden isn't just old; he was eight years older than any other U.S. president in starting his ter
There's no analogue for any of this, really. Not for a billionaire former president running on an agenda of revenge while striving to make what could be multiple felony convictions a selling point for his return to power. Not for an unpopular octogenarian and his equally unpopular veep trying to alchemize "Bidenomics" into political gold to stop him.
But there's something about this race that's especially novel, to the extent that we have no way of gauging its true impact on 2024. Nate Silver made note of this great unknown the other day: Joe Biden isn't just old; he was eight years older than any other U.S. president in starting his term. Now, he's looking to re-up. "We don't know how much of a penalty to expect from voters" with respect to his age, Silver wrote, "because there isn't really any precedent."
The comment was a droplet in the deluge of commentary on last weekend's five-alarm poll showing Biden trailing Donald Trump in five of six key swing states. The results reflected voter concerns on the economy, immigration, and the Middle East, but also this, per Caroline Downey's report:
The poll also indicated anxiety around Biden's perceived frailty, with 71 percent agreeing strongly or somewhat that the 80-year-old is too elderly to be an effective president and 62 percent saying he lacks the mental sharpness for the role. On the other hand, only 39 percent believe the same about Trump's age, 77.
Why voters don't worry about Trump's age is its own question. But we now have months' worth of evidence that they do worry about Biden's, across numerous polls probing this point in a variety of ways. Charlie Cooke flagged the "uncharted territory" we're entering back in September, pertaining to a poll that, astonishingly, found only a third of voters think Biden would "finish a second term." He translated: "In the opinion of a supermajority of the American public, the Democratic Party is on the verge of asking the country to vote for a president who will either die in office or be so infirm that he is obliged to resign." He added, "I honestly have no idea how voters will react to this."
None of us do. Voters have never been put in this position before. It's one thing to vote a 70-year-old back into office. Pierce Brosnan is 70. It's quite another to do so for someone who would be 82 on Inauguration Day. Dick Cheney is 82. The polls being what they are, anxious Democrats are more openly questioning Biden's ability to defeat someone considered so toxic that the party runs against his "MAGA" agenda virtually everywhere, whether or not the four-letter word fits (see: Virginia). Obama veteran David Axelrod, citing the Trump threat, tweeted that "the stakes of miscalculation here are too dramatic to ignore." He said only Biden can make this call, but: "If he continues to run, he will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. What he needs to decide is whether that is wise; whether it's in HIS best interest or the country's?"
Other Democrats are putting on a happy face and noting that, yes, history is replete with examples of candidates bouncing back to win. And yes, nationally, this presidential match-up is essentially tied. And yes, Tuesday's state-level election results were yet another indication of how Trump/MAGA is dragging the GOP down. But, as Audrey Fahlberg's reporting indicates, Virginia Democrats performed well in spite of Biden, not because of him. Jim Geraghty (who downplays Tuesday's losses a bit, as does NR's editorial) notes that, for Team Biden, there's been a depressing consistency to his numbers, and "the public perception of his presidency never recovered from the late summer of 2021." Oh, and this, from undecided/persuadable voters queried in the aforementioned poll:
Just 7 percent — seven! — said that it would be very good or somewhat good for America if Biden was reelected, while 44 percent said it would be very or somewhat bad.
For the record, Mark Wright predicted back in August that, when the time comes, Democrats will ditch Biden as their 2024 presidential nominee. In surveying both nomination battles, Charlie argued more recently that "it simply cannot be the case that we are going to end up next year with two presidential candidates whom the public openly loathes." Right? Well . . . maybe Joe Manchin read that column. But in the nominal GOP contest, no Trump rival has cracked 20 percent since July; Wednesday's mostly substantive debate looks unlikely to change that, even if several on that stage would almost certainly fare better against Biden. And the big problem for Democrats, of course, is that they don't have an obvious alternative. Vice President Kamala Harris is a verbal Möbius strip. Gavin, Gretchen, and others are raising their profiles but remain loyal to Biden; if there is a sudden job opening, filling it might become a (very) messy convention-hall task. Over at the Washington Post, Aaron Blake predicts Democrats will "grin and hope for the best." Or, as Rich Lowry put it, hope "to ride to victory in a sputtering jalopy of a political vehicle that should be eased back into the garage rather than run out onto the track again in a high-pressure, high-stakes contest."
Gun to my head, I'd bet on the jalopy — but not a lot.
The new issue of NR is out, about a world on fire. The full roster of stories is here. But if you like, you can start with one of those from the cover, by Mike Watson, sorting realities from fantasies:
Since the end of the Cold War, much of the Western world has built and inhabited an elaborate fantasy. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to this story, the big dragon had been slain, the kingdom was at peace, and the only task left was to clean up the last vestiges of the nasty old world of conflict and chaos. Democracy and human rights could advance around the world, Communist China could learn free trade, Russia could come into the fold, Europe could unite and become a great and independent power, and none of it would require much spending on the military, diplomatic, and aid tools of foreign policy. The future would be like the finale of Independence Day, with all the peoples of the world united behind American leadership to defeat invading aliens — or, sober-minded fantasists believed, more-realistic threats such as the erosion of the ozone layer.
Not every member of the Western foreign-policy elite shared each aspect of this dream, but enough of them picked up enough parts of the story to push the United States and its allies into hubris and overreach. Like the Pompeiians in search of fertile soil, they forgot the wisdom of their ancestors, ignored the dangers, and moved steadily closer to the mouth of Vesuvius.
Now, the rumblings from the caldera are shaking the foundations of this fantasy world. First, the early stages of the pandemic revealed that the supposedly global system of trade would screech to a juddering halt if disease broke out in a handful of Chinese cities, or if the Chinese Communist Party withheld shipments to disfavored nations. Companies around the world discovered that after optimizing for efficiency for decades, they no longer had the resiliency needed to deal with sudden shocks. Next, Vladimir Putin's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine reminded them that hostile dictators cannot be put off forever by threats of sanctions and diplomatic isolation, that steel cuts through paper. And the catastrophe that Hamas unleashed on Israel shows that another part of the fairy tale — that the bad guys will always lose the fight and the good guys can relax — is also made of pixie dust.
Did you miss the GOP debate? I'm sure you're not alone, if so. Noah Rothman (Jim, too) explains why, with some caveats, this was one worth watching:
For two blessed hours on Wednesday night, Americans were treated to a rare glimpse of a Republican Party that is recognizable to GOP voters who remember a time before Trump.
It was a combative debate, but there was more consensus on that stage than contention. Among the points of broad agreement: America is a force for good on the world stage, the American-led geopolitical order is worth preserving, and America's geostrategic position vis-à-vis its foreign adversaries can have dire consequences for the quality of life U.S. citizens presently enjoy. Only Vivek Ramaswamy dissented against this concurrence, but he served as the heel in today's production — a paper tiger whose objections only emphasize the virtues endorsed by his opponents.
Given the rapid deterioration in the global security environment since the September 28 debate, NBC News devoted appropriate attention to foreign policy. On Israel's war in Gaza, there was broad agreement around the notion that the Biden administration's foremost task is to get out of Jerusalem's way. Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie, and Tim Scott endorsed Israel's war of regime change in the Strip. Indeed, some went further by highlighting the extent to which the 10/7 attack was an extension of Iran's provocations in the region. Given the ongoing attacks on U.S. positions from Iran's proxies in the Middle East, Israel's war is, to some extent, America's war, too. Ramaswamy, of course, objected, but only indirectly — insisting that only those who want to cut Israel off from U.S. material aid really have the Jewish state's best interests in mind. But Ramaswamy's attempt to retail his parochial foreign-policy preferences as a rare species of hawkishness only underscored the unpopularity of his vision within the GOP. . . .
These two hours were devoted to issues Republicans care about, and the questions were premised on Republican assumptions. The relative seriousness of the moment was reflected in the candidates' demeanor. With rare exceptions (involving, of course, the cloying pharmaceutical billionaire), the candidates did not try too hard to manufacture a moment for themselves. They treated the job they were interviewing for like it was the most important position in the world, and they didn't talk down to their audiences. In a party that was and remains dominated by Donald Trump — a figure whose influence supposedly banished from the GOP the instinct toward a muscular, extroverted American foreign policy — it was as refreshing as a blast of air conditioning on a summer sidewalk. But like that unanticipated gust, the relief is sure to be fleeting.
Today's explosion of antisemitism needs to result not only in firm rhetorical responses but also in durable policy action that can offer greater protection to American Jews now and in the future. There are some useful models of what such action could involve, at the state and federal level. The most constructive may be the work of Virginia's Commission to Combat Antisemitism, which was called together by Governor Glenn Youngkin early in his term. The commission was chaired by former acting U.S. attorney general (and my American Enterprise Institute colleague) Jeffrey Rosen, and produced its final report last December.
The report's recommendations begin with the need for a clear and binding definition of antisemitism, and the commissioners proposed using the one developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, along with the IHRA's contemporary examples of how that definition should be applied. The IHRA definition has been adopted into law by more than half the states in recent years (now including Virginia, in the wake of the commission's recommendation). And in a 2019 Executive Order, Donald Trump instructed federal agencies to consider it in their enforcement practices — albeit in a non-binding way. But the Biden administration, in a strategy document published in May, backed off of even that commitment. . . .
The Virginia commission also called for clarifying the state's hate-crime laws to include "ethnic identity" as a category and proposed several ways to improve data collection on antisemitic incidents, particularly in educational institutions, and the training of law-enforcement officials.
Some similar steps would make sense at the federal level, including a statutory definition of antisemitism and improved enforcement and data collection. Antisemitism does already show up very prominently in the hate-crimes data. As FBI Director Wray put it last month, "our statistics would indicate that for a group that represents only about 2.4% of the American public, [Jews] account for something like 60% of all religious-based hate crimes." And that was before this latest explosion of intimidation and hate. But it's clear that many serious antisemitic incidents slip through this system, and better awareness of the scope and nature of the challenge would be of serious practical value.
Oregon's recent decision to extend a Covid-era suspension of a major graduation requirement for high-school seniors was driven by a dubious equity effort that many parents and educators argue is "fraudulent," unpopular, and a disservice to minority children.
During the pandemic, Oregon temporarily dropped its essential-skills evaluation for its 2020 and 2021 graduating classes. In October, the state board of education unanimously voted to prolong the pause again until the 2027-2028 school year on the grounds that the standards exacerbated racial inequality.
The equity-driven overhaul of Oregon's graduation benchmarks began in 2021, when the Democrat-dominated state legislature passed senate bill 744. The law directed the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to review graduation requirements and recommend changes.
In Oregon and 17 other states, students' graduation readiness is judged by grades and a separate assessment. Under the pre-Covid system, in order to receive a diploma, students must earn 24 credits and demonstrate mastery of nine "essential skills," including reading, writing, math, critical thinking, technology usage, and civic and community engagement. This can be done via state standardized tests, another approved test, or a special project.
A 183-page ODE report released in September 2022 indicted Oregon's graduation-requirement system as systemically racist. . . .
Even though Asians are the highest-performing students in Oregon, [Portland State University professor Bruce] Gilley said, ODE determined that differences in group-based outcomes must be the result of racism. But many minority families viewed their solution as dumbing down education standards for their kids.
[Andrea] Esuk, whose children are black, called the suspension "racist." She has twin boys who are sophomores in high school.
"My children are just as smart or smarter than anybody else's kids," she said. "It is greatly insulting to think that someone of a different color is less capable."
I figured I'd see a healthy number of responses to last weekend's call-out for the perfect use of a song in a movie — sure enough, y'all sent in a fine bunch, so thank you. This was a fun exercise and nudges me, at least, to finally get around to seeing some of the films I haven't. I'll try to mention everybody — here goes:
This list would be woefully incomplete without Goodfellas. So: David J. Libertella shoots over the "Layla" scene. Chris Traczek opts for the helicopter scene, helped along by a soundtrack of "Jump into the Fire."
Hope you enjoy, and thanks again for the nominations. Cheers, everyone.