There Is No Teen-Pregnancy Epidemic in Texas

by Michael J. New

Since Texas removed Planned Parenthood’s state funding in 2011, the mainstream media have been on a constant search for evidence of a resulting public-health crisis. A new study by Analisa Packham, an economics professor at Miami University, has nicely served that purpose. Packham’s study purports to show that recent funding cuts to the Texas Family Planning Program have led to statistically significant increases in both teen abortions and teen births in the state. A number of mainstream media outlets have covered the study, including HuffPost, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle.  

Packham’s study analyzes county-level data on teen births and teen abortions, and she compares both teen birth rates and teen abortion rates in a group of Texas counties to those of other counties around the country. Using regression analysis — holding constant various demographic and economic factors — she argues that cuts to Texas family-planning programs increased teen birth rates by 3.4 percent and increased teen abortion rates by 3.1 percent.

While Packham’s study is interesting and analytically rigorous, the media have missed the big picture. Based on the media coverage of this study, one would think that there was a teen-pregnancy epidemic in Texas. But the legislature cut funding to the Texas Family Planning program in 2011, and since then there have actually been large reductions in both the abortion rate and birth rate among minors in Texas. Specifically, between 2011 and 2014, the number of Texas minors who gave birth fell by over 24 percent. During the same period, the number of abortions performed on minor girls in Texas fell by 28 percent. This is the opposite of a public-health crisis.

If both abortions and births among Texas minors have fallen since 2011, why does Packham’s statistical model show a different result? There are a few possibilities. First, it is possible that demographically and economically similar counties outside of Texas might have experienced slightly larger declines in the teen birth rate. What’s more, Packham’s statistical model effectively analyzes percentage changes in both teen births and teen abortions. Some very low-population counties in Texas might have seen small aggregate increases but high percentage increases in either teen births or teen abortions, skewing the results.  

Packham’s study has apparently been accepted for publication by the Journal of Health Economics. Once it is published, other researchers will be able to request the full data, which could give scholars helpful information about the effects of family-planning programs. Until then, and perhaps even afterward, the mainstream media will likely continue repeating the misleading narrative that Planned Parenthood–funding cuts caused a public-health crisis in Texas.

You’re a Bad, Bad Man, O.J.

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week…

For one brief period on Thursday afternoon, we went back to the 1990s.

The good news is that at age 70, former football star, convicted felon and Totally-Not-a-Double-Murderer-He-Swears O.J. Simpson is less likely to represent a physical threat to anyone else. This is good, because he is likely to be walking the streets on parole this autumn.

The bad news is that once again we saw shockingly implausible claims made on his behalf in a legal proceeding, and those who sit in judgment of him just shrugged it off.

“I’ve basically spent a conflict-free life. I’m not a guy that ever got into fights on the street with the public and everybody,” Simpson told the parole board.

Are you kidding me? Even if we accept the jury’s decision on the charges of double murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, let’s take a look at that history of violence before the arrest for murder charges:

The reports say that when police arrived at Simpson’s North Rockingham Avenue house Jan. 1, 1989, they saw Nicole Simpson running out of some bushes, bruised and scratched.

“He’s going to kill me, he’s going to kill me,” she cried while running toward the officers, one of them wrote. “She kept saying: ‘You never do anything about him. You talk to him and then leave.”

During a fight after a New Year’s Eve party at the house, Simpson had punched and kicked his wife and pulled her hair and screamed, “I’ll kill you!” according to the documents. He had slapped her so hard, one police report said, that a handprint was left on her neck.

Four months later, when Simpson pleaded no contest to spousal battery charges, Municipal Judge Ronald Schoenberg overruled prosecutors’ requests that he serve a month in jail because of the severity of the beating and undergo an intensive yearlong treatment program for men who batter their wives.

Instead, according to the court documents and interviews with prosecutors Thursday, Simpson received no jail time and was allowed to pick his own psychiatrist and receive counseling over the phone, which prosecutors said was unprecedented.

Then the 911 call from Nicole Brown Simpson in October 1993:

911: Okay. You just want him to leave?

NS: My door. He broke the whole back door in.

911: And then he left and he came back?

NS: He came and he practically knocked my upstairs door down but he pounded it and he screamed and hollered and I tried to get him out of the bedroom because the kids are sleeping in there.

Then Simpson lost the civil suit about the wrongful deaths of Goldman and his ex-wife. And then he was convicted of kidnapping and robbery.

This may be only the second most shocking legal decision involving O.J. Simpson, but let’s face it, that top one is a high bar to clear.

O.J. Simpson is as “conflict-free” as Syria.

Krauthammer’s Take: McCain Is the ‘Spirit of Reaganism’

by NR Staff

John McCain represents the ideas of Reagan, Charles Krauthammer argued tonight, and there is no obvious successor to him within the Republican party.

Krauthammer explained why McCain is so special:

I think he’s sort of the spirit of Reaganism. Not only was he even more heroic than Reagan himself in his own life, but he carried the ideas of Reagan — this expansive, optimistic, aggressive American confidence in itself, and that I think is waning among Republicans, among the whole country. And I think there’s a kind of a symbolism in him being struck down in this sense by this illness. I think it reflects that waning. And we are going to miss him because he is the one — I don’t want to give an obituary — but I’m just saying over time, if you think who would succeed McCain, I don’t think he has a successor.

 

Yeah, Trump Is Probably Going to Fire Robert Mueller

by Rich Lowry

The Trump New York Times interview was, as Jim pointed out, a wholly gratuitous slap at Jeff Sessions (that aside, the interview is classic, madcap, highly entertaining Trump, e.g. “Napoleon finished a little bit bad”). The 3-D-chess theory of the interview would be that Trump is trying to force Sessions out in favor of a non-recused attorney general who can rein in Mueller, as outlined by Andy. The reality is almost certainly that Trump is still angry at Sessions and wanted to humiliate him a little more over his recusal. The most telling part of the interview is this section (excuse the long excerpt):

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].

SCHMIDT: But if he was outside that lane, would that mean he’d have to go?

[crosstalk]

HABERMAN: Would you consider——

TRUMP: No, I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, peoples say, “Man.” People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. I think about this. ’Cause one thing, when you do this, companies seem very trivial. O.K.? I really mean that. They seem very trivial. But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. The gentleman that you mentioned, with his son, two nice people. But basically, they brought the Miss Universe pageant to Russia to open up, you know, one of their jobs. Perhaps the convention center where it was held. It was a nice evening, and I left. I left, you know, I left Moscow. It wasn’t Moscow, it was outside of Moscow.

HABERMAN: Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is? [crosstalk]

SCHMIDT: What would you do?

[crosstalk]

TRUMP: I can’t, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.

The reason I tend to think Trump will end up firing Mueller is that this almost certainly going to happen (for those keeping score at home, I asked the percentage chance that Trump will fire Mueller on The Editors podcast today: Michael Brendan Dougherty was 200 percent; Charlie was 50 percent; and I was 70 percent or higher). This kind of expansion of an investigation is what special counsels do, and there is nothing to indicate that Mueller is going to limit his work, in fact the opposite. Bloomberg is reporting that Mueller is already looking at Trump’s business transactions. Maybe that report is premature, but it’s probably where this is headed.

All sorts of people will tell Trump not to fire Mueller. But we can be pretty certain that Trump didn’t sign up for a free-floating investigation into his businesses and that he believes — and must feel confirmed in the belief — that fortune favors the recklessly bold. If Trump doesn’t fire Mueller, it will only be because every other day he’s talked out of following his instincts.

Is Donald Trump Shrinking the GOP?

by David French

Over at the New York Times, Dartmouth’s Brendan Nyhan highlights interesting research indicating that Republican loyalty to Trump may be overstated. Yes, overwhelming percentages of self-identified Republicans still approve of his performance, but that’s because dissenters are leaving the party.  In other words, he’s holding on to a high percentage of a shrinking voter pool. Here’s Nyhan:

A new working paper by the Emory University political scientists B. Pablo Montagnes, Zachary Peskowitz and Joshua McCrain argues that people who identify as Republican may stop doing so if they disapprove of Trump, creating a false stability in his partisan approval numbers even as the absolute number of people approving him shrinks. Gallup data supports this idea, showing a four-percentage-point decline in G.O.P. identification since the 2016 election that is mirrored in other polling, though to a lesser extent.

Obviously it’s too early to know whether the trend is real or meaningful, and Nyhan makes no sweeping claims, but the argument resonates with my experience. Those who most dislike Trump are more likely to dislike the party that embraced him. Some will stay and fight to reclaim the party from Trumpism. Others, perhaps the more casual members, will distance themselves from the party entirely. In the last six months, I’ve spoken to any number of longtime Republicans who not only ask, “What is the GOP?” they’re also asking, “What is the conservative movement?” I’d also note that the ferocity of the ongoing internal arguments makes it more likely that dissenters simply don’t feel like they belong. 

As with any disruptive political moment, some will be attracted by change, others repelled. Unquestionably, Trump brought new voters into the GOP fold. Over time, will they stay? Will the new voters be enough to replace those who leave? Time will tell, but Nyhan’s analysis raises an important point — solidarity among a remnant won’t necessarily save a party from the consequences of a shrinking base.

Ben Carson Should Rescind the AFFH Rule ASAP

by Peter Kirsanow

HUD Secretary Ben Carson suggested to the Washington Examiner that because the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of disparate-impact claims under the Fair Housing Act, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (“AFFH”) rule promulgated by the Obama administration shouldn’t necessarily be rescinded, but rather, “reinterpreted.”

The AFFH rule is, however, incapable of reinterpretation in a manner remotely consistent with sound public policy. As Stanley Kurtz has detailed in these pages, the rule is, quite simply, profoundly flawed and represents an astonishing assertion of federal control over matters properly of local concern.

Even in the short time the rule has been in effect, the Obama administration forced some communities into overreaching compliance agreements that deprived such localities of control over significant aspects of self-governance. For example, Dubuque, Iowa, has a waitlist for Section 8 housing assistance for which it had to advertise in Chicago to attract more Section 8 voucher holders. Dubuque is prohibited from preferring its own residents who are in need of housing assistance over those from outside the state because the Dubuque waitlist is too white. Accordingly, the city is compelled to attract out-of-state blacks to join the housing waitlist, making such list even longer.

It’s true that the Supreme Court has held that disparate-impact claims may be brought under the Fair Housing Act. The fact that such claims may be brought is, however, a far cry from the intrusive racial bean-counting and micro management that is the substance of the AFFH rule. If the rule is not rescinded, lower courts will be guided by the rule’s interpretation of the Fair Housing Act in disparate-impact cases. This is in contrast to the more limited use of race as a matter of last resort in remedying disparate-impact claims. The AFFH rule uses race first, last, and always. Even if HUD somehow reinterprets the rule, private plaintiffs will still rely on the most expansive interpretation, and once such case law is established it will be all but impossible to return to a world in which housing policy isn’t heavily influenced by overt racial engineering.

This rule can’t be reinterpreted or rehabilitated. Rescission is the only sensible solution.

Charlie Dent’s Commitment to Corporate Welfare Is Stronger Than Ever

by Veronique de Rugy

While Republicans are failing to repeal Obamacare and implement tax reform, they are nonetheless very effective at bending the rules and walking all over their promise to return to regular order so that they can promote the interests of the powerful corporations that benefit from the Export-Import Bank.

And as always, Representative Charlie Dent (R., Pa.) is leading the charge. Yesterday, Dent got an amendment added to the State Department Appropriations bill to change the quorum requirements for the Ex-Im Bank so that it can authorize deals that are over $10 million (guaranteed with your tax dollars, of course) without the current three-board-member requirement and without a chairman.

Politico Pro reports:

In a policy tweak to the $47 billion measure, the panel agreed to an amendment that would allow the Export-Import Bank to approve deals without the usual quorum, just as business groups have been increasingly pressuring the White House to renege on its nomination of former Rep. Scott Garrett to head the bank.

The amendment’s author, Charlie Dent, said the exception would be merely “a temporary fix” to “let the bank fully function” while the Senate works to confirm nominees.

This is wrong in so many ways. Dent is well-known to many of us for being a shameless tax-and-spend Republican with a passion for propping profits of large companies. If promoting the interests of these large companies at the expense of all of us means bending the rules and lifting all accountability at the bank, so be it apparently.

Update: I should have added that thankfully a few Republicans are still willing to register their opposition to Ex-Im. A few weeks ago, Rep. Justin Amash reintroduced a bill to abolish Ex-Im. Also, the newly released Republican Study Committee’s budget calls for the end of the crony agency.

Trump vs. Sessions, Rosenstein, and Mueller

by Ramesh Ponnuru

If the attorney general isn’t doing his job properly; if the deputy attorney general is hopelessly conflicted; if the special prosecutor is pursuing a witch hunt. . . if all of this is true, then shouldn’t the man in charge of the federal government’s justice system do something about it? The president’s powers are not limited to kibitzing.

The Trump Jr. Meeting: A Smoking Gun?

by Jim Talent

A number of writers in these pages have been critical of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Rob Goldstone, and a Russian lawyer. They include a lot of people I respect highly. Here are a few: Charles Krauthammer, David French, and the editors of National Review.

The visceral reaction of these writers was that there was something terribly abnormal or unethical about Trump Jr. being eager to meet with Goldstone and his Russian contact.

I didn’t react the same way. My first impulse was to think that, if I had been Trump, I too would have wanted to get useful information from the Russian, or at least to see what information she had. I wouldn’t have “loved” the idea, as Trump Jr. said he did, but I would have wanted to listen to what the contact had to say.

After reading the NR articles, I thought perhaps I was missing something. So I called one of my former campaign staffers and asked him what he would have done in Trump Jr.’s place.

He said that “it would have been campaign malpractice not to explore the opportunity.” He added: “The first thing I would have done was to call the lawyers to see how I could proceed.”

That pretty much sums up my opinion. If I were running in a close race against an opponent who had been credibly accused of using her foundation to do favors for foreign entities, and a contact from one of those entities had approached my campaign with an offer of information, I would have wanted my campaign to follow up, albeit with caution. (More on the cautious part later.)

I would have been suspicious, of course, of the motives of the representative and the foreign entity. Maybe somebody was playing my campaign — setting us up. On the other hand, I would have also thought that it was precisely people connected with the foreign entity who might have the kind of information that would expose illegality by my opponent.

In other words, my reaction was that the meeting proves nothing other than that the Trump campaign was exploring a lead it thought credible, as it would have explored any other credible lead, whatever the source, and as most campaigns would have done in similar circumstances.

I ran for office eleven times, and in four highly competitive races: one for Congress, one for governor, and two for the Senate. Naturally, I wanted very much to win, in part because nobody likes to lose, but also because I really felt that I could accomplish worthwhile things in office.

To be sure, in any given election, many voters think that all of the candidates are pretty worthless, but understandably enough, the candidates themselves rarely see it that way. President Trump wasn’t the first politician, and won’t be the last, who believed that he could make America great again if only he could get elected.

In addition, when you become the nominee of your party, you have a responsibility to do everything you can to succeed. The agenda of your movement is at stake, your party is counting on you, and your supporters are working hard to elect you. Of course, every campaign should operate within ethical as well as legal constraints, but a candidate doesn’t have the luxury of eschewing an opportunity for political advantage because it carries some risk or is in some way distasteful.

I think most politicians of both parties would feel that way. And most candidates wouldn’t care too much about whether a foreign entity was rooting for them to win. How, really would you know what a foreign government is thinking? And what difference would it make to your campaign if you did know?

It’s a pretty good bet that Vladimir Putin preferred Barack Obama to Mitt Romney in 2012, given this episode, and this one.

So what should Obama have done? Blow the race to frustrate the Russians?

One of the things the press likes to do is to raise the visibility of something that has been part of the political culture for a long time, when by focusing on it they think they can embarrass a politician they don’t like. The press manifestly dislikes President Trump, and it has now discovered how terrible it is that foreign governments get involved in our elections — as if that never happened before, and as if the media hadn’t pretty much ignored it when it did.

I am not accusing Charles, David, or NR’s editors of engaging in such a double standard. But a double standard definitely is at play in much of the coverage of the Goldstone–Trump Jr. meeting.

Now for the caution part. Politics is a highly regulated affair, and so is dealing with foreign entities and people who purport to represent them.

The Trump campaign should have had experienced lawyers and senior national-security advisers, and those people should have been consulted when the request for a meeting was made. They could have helped lower the risks attendant to such a meeting. In fact, I would have had a lawyer and an intelligence professional attend the meeting, to assess the motives of the parties, the value of any information, the possibility of foreign intrigue, and whether the information should be shared with the authorities.

The Trump campaign didn’t do that, of course. But all that tells us is that the campaign was not a normal campaign with a normal infrastructure, and that President Trump’s team was less risk averse than most politicians or for that matter most people. That much we knew already. And to be fair, there is no evidence, other than the Goldstone episode itself, that at the time of the meeting, Trump’s people were aware Russia was involved in the election at all (though the Obama administration evidently knew) and therefore little reason for them to believe that the meeting would be as sensitive as it has become.

The upside of being risk positive is that you exploit more opportunities quicker. The downside is that some of those opportunities come back to bite you later.

By my count, there are at least three ongoing official investigations into Russia interference: the Mueller inquiry, and the House and Senate Intelligence Committee probes. By the time these bodies conclude their work, they will have collected a great deal of information about a great number of things, including not just the Trump campaign, but the response of the Obama administration to intelligence it received, the surveillance and unmasking of American citizens, and the leaks of classified information springing from this whole episode and its political fallout.

Some people will undoubtedly end up being embarrassed, and a few may suffer consequences greater than that. We may all be surprised, both by who gets hurt and who doesn’t. I will allow the process to finish before reaching any conclusions. In the meantime, I am inclined to view the Trump–Goldstone affair more as a straw in the wind than a smoking gun.

Who Knew May 18, 2010 Was the Day It Became That Much Harder to Reform Two Entitlement Programs?

by Rich Lowry

That was the day Rand Paul won the Republican primary for senate in Kentucky, defeating Trey Grayson, who wasn’t conservative enough for Paul. Whatever may be Grayson’s other faults, he would probably be a “yes” on the health-care bill (with perhaps some nervousness on Medicaid), whereas Paul is an automatic “no.” Not only does this imperil the entire effort, it means even if the bill somehow passes, Republicans have had to go out and shower even more spending  on other fence-sitting Republicans who might not be as much of a worry if Paul weren’t permanently off the reservation (and for ever-shifting reasons). Libertarianism at work.

UPDATE
This just in, indicating that perhaps Rand Paul is going to be a little less pointlessly destructive:

Art for Color’s Sake

by Roger Clegg

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio wants to coerce museums and arts groups that receive city money into using hiring quotas based on race and ethnicity, according to the New York Times. But it would be illegal for employers to give into this pressure, because Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act forbids such discrimination.

Federal statute aside, it is unconstitutional for the city to engage in such pressuring. Any use of racial and ethnic classifications is “presumptively invalid” and triggers “strict scrutiny,” which can be met only if, for starters, there is a “compelling” government interest. The courts have recognized no such interest in the context here.

And no such interest is cited in the news story, just a claim by an official that hiring by skin color and national origin will lead to a “cultural sector” that “is fairer, more equitable and looks like the city it serves.” That, Justice Powell wrote many years ago, is just “discrimination for its own sake. This the Constitution forbids.”

Let’s Play by Nancy MacLean’s Rules

by George Leef

As long as Duke professor Nancy MacLean continues to defend her awful, misleading screed Democracy in Chains, she will richly deserve counterattacks like this one by GMU economics professor Don Boudreaux, “Let’s Play by Nancy MacLean’s Rules,” on his always enlightening Cafe Hayek blog. (If you crave more criticism of MacLean’s book, that’s the place to start.)

This episode tells us much about the decline of the educational endeavor. A tenured professor writes an abominable book and when it gets torn to shreds by people who actually know a lot about the subject, she resorts to whining about being “bullied” and that her critics are just parts of the evil Koch-funded plot to destroy America.

The Editors: Is Obamacare Repeal Dead?

by NR Staff

Check out the latest episode of The Editors, in which Rich, Charlie, and Michael Brendan Dougherty discuss the death of the Senate healthcare bill and more!

You can subscribe to The Editors on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, and TuneIn. You can also download this episode here.

Uncommon Knowledge: How to Be a Conservative with Sir Roger Scruton

by Peter Robinson

In the latest episode of Uncommon Knowledge, Sir Roger Scruton, a formally trained political philosopher, talks about his life and the events he’s witnessed that led him to conservatism.

Sir Roger and I discuss the 2016 political upset of Brexit in the United Kingdom and how the political analysts failed to predict the vote outcome, much like what happened in November 2016 in the United States. They deliberate how the issues around immigration from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom contributed to Brexit, in addition to general dissatisfaction with the European Union. Thus, in the cases of both the United Kingdom and the United States, the media and intellectuals ignored the will of the “indigenous working classes” who made their voices known through their votes.

About the Guest: Sir Roger Scruton

Sir Roger Scruton is an English writer and philosopher who has published more than 50 books in philosophy, aesthetics, and politics. His book discussed in this episode was How to Be a Conservative; it was published in 2014. He is a fellow of the British Academy and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He teaches in both England and America and is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C. He is currently teaching an MA in philosophy course for the University of Buckingham. Sir Roger was knighted in 2016 by Queen Elizabeth II for his “services to philosophy, teaching and public education.”

Accepting Applications for the Rhodes Journalism Fellowship

by Jack Fowler

National Review Institute is seeking applicants for the prestigious Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellowship. The Rhodes Fellow will hone his or her journalistic skills and deliver essays that preserve and promote the conservative principles championed by Bill Buckley and exemplified in Mr. Rhodes’s lifetime of work as president of National Review magazine — in particular an abiding conviction that limited government, free markets, and individual liberty are necessary for a prosperous society. The Rhodes Fellowship is sponsored by National Review Institute, and is generously supported by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation (on whose board Mr. Rhodes served as chairman). National Review will regularly publish the work of the Rhodes Fellow, who will directly benefit from the training, guidance, and editorial oversight of NR’s editors and regular interaction with other staff writers.

Qualifications and Terms:

The ideal candidate would be a recent college graduate who shows interest, capability, and experience in writing on the areas of domestic policy, including but not limited to tax and fiscal policy, health care, limited government, education reform, affirmative action, the state of the conservative movement, and other subjects which have been of particular concern to Mr. Rhodes.

The Fellow will work from NR/NRI’s headquarters in New York City, where he would be overseen and directed by NR’s editors, who would interact daily with the Rhodes Fellow for the purposes of training in writing (editorial, reporting, and commentary), as well as in promotion, publicity, podcasting, and social-media skills. The fellowship has a term of one year, renewable on an annual basis for up to two additional years (no more than a total of three years).

The application deadline is August 15, 2017. For more information, visit nrinstitute.org.

Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (June 20, 2017)

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

1.A beautiful life on this earth ended yesterday. George Weigel wrote about Fr. Arne Panula here at Easter time.

2. An interview with Robert P. George by my friend Matthew Bunson.

3. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ recent TED Talk on facing the future together without fear.

4. A physician-assisted suicide assessment by Richard Doerflinger.

5. The new Index of Culture and Opportunity from the Heritage Foundation.

By the way, I gave a shout-out to Jennifer Marshall and the vision she’s been able to drive in her part of Heritage in this piece on Catholics and evangelicals working together for good.

6. Christina Hoff Sommers on a silly controversy over John McEnroe in the latest episode of her Factual Feminist series: 

Keep reading this post . . .

Macron: L’état c’est lui

by Andrew Stuttaford

If there’s one thing of which we can be sure about 2017, it is that one of its more paradoxical moments was the election of Emmanuel Macron to the French presidency.

Writing in Law and Liberty, Guillaume de Thieulloy:

Macron succeeded mainly because he was considered “new”: young, without any political experience, without any electoral mandate. Of course, one could recall that he was in charge of economic policy during the Hollande presidency—a policy that was not exactly successful. For that matter, he was a strong supporter of the policies that have been applied for decades. But he was “new” and it was enough.

With the subsequent sweeping victory of LREM, Macron’s new political movement, in parliament (in terms of seats, if not terms of the population: More than half the adult population did not bother to vote, a remarkable declaration of indifference by French standards), Macron is in the catbird seat.

De Thieulloy:

It’s important to note that many of these members of Parliament are even newer than Macron. Many of them have never held office before. And many know little of public finance, foreign affairs issues, or even the rules of the National Assembly. So, a large contingent of MPs don’t have any political identity save the “label” LREM and the support of Emmanuel Macron, and have rudimentary, if any, political skills. One assumes that they will vote the way President Macron will ask them to vote, and espouse policies that government ministers tell them are good….

Some in the French media speak of a government by “pronunciamento.” That’s not completely off the mark, for one sees no real checks and balances, now, to the presidential will. No political power can resist his decisions at this point. But it could instead be considered a return to the “Gaullist” conception of the chief of state: the only one chosen by the French people, independent of the parties and the lobbies, like a king. Just as Macron could be seen as a populist with an anti-populist roadmap, he could also be considered a “Gaullist” with an anti-Gaullist roadmap. This would mean a President independent of the parties, not to promote France’s independence but, on the contrary, to promote a better European integration or a wider opening of the borders.

What could go wrong?

But perhaps we are all too slow to keep up.

The BBC (from before Bastille Day):

French President Emmanuel Macron will break with tradition and not give a news conference on Bastille Day because his “complex thoughts” may prove too much for journalists, reports say.

But’s what not too difficult to understand is that, even by the standards of anyone who makes his way to the French presidency, Macron is uncomfortable with dissent.

The Independent:

Just days after the new President rode alongside the head of the armed forces in the Bastille Day parade, General Pierre de Villiers resigned, saying – with quite brutal directness – that the model of the armed forces, as envisaged, would not “guarantee the protection of France”. The next day, he strode out of the Defence Ministry to applause from a guard of honour. The sequence was shown on the chief of staff’s Twitter feed, with a one-word caption: “Merci”.

With hindsight, Macron may accept that he could have acted differently. Having taken umbrage at confidential criticisms the general had made of defence cuts, he then gave de Villiers a very public dressing down – at the top brass’s summer party, no less. This, almost as much as the unexpected reductions in spending on military procurement, seems to have convinced the five-star general his time was up. 

Interesting times ahead, I think.

‘The Looming Republican Disgrace’

by Rich Lowry

I wrote a dyspeptic column today on Republicans and Obamacare repeal:

At least Collins, an ideological outlier in the Republican Conference, has been consistent. She voted against the repeal-only bill in 2015, and the GOP leadership never thought she was gettable. The same can’t be said of her cohorts. Capito and Murkowski both voted for the repeal-only bill a year and a half ago. The only plausible reason they’ve switched now is that they knew the bill would be safely relegated to oblivion by an Obama veto, whereas Trump will now sign any legislation into law. 

Then there is another tranche of Republicans, like Rob Portman, who are nervous fence-sitters. The Ohio senator doesn’t have to appear on a ballot again until 2022, yet gives every indication of quailing at taking a tough vote. The former Office of Management and Budget director’s calling card is fiscal conservatism, yet he blanches at the prospect of scaling back Medicaid. He is a wonk, yet appears to be outsourcing his policy thinking to Gov. John Kasich. 

For Rand Paul, clearly, a perhaps once-in-generation opportunity to significantly reform two entitlement programs isn’t as important as scoring cheap points against his colleagues in the cause of getting as many cable hits as possible. For a purist, he can’t keep his story straight. At first, he insisted that repeal had to be accompanied by replace. Now, he’s back to saying just repeal. Whatever it is, Paul will find a reason to oppose … because libertarianism. 

Lee is a thoughtful, public-interested conservative who isn’t a showboater. He has an outsize influence on the prospects of the bill because he is one of the few Republicans willing to be the decisive vote against it. If he’s opposed, then other senators can slipstream behind him and declare against, as well. This is what happened this week when Moran joined Lee in public opposition. This is why it’s particularly important that the Utah senator keep the big picture in view; torpedoing the entire effort over a relatively technical question about the insurance risk pools — Lee’s current posture — would be a disastrous mistake.

What Does Trashing Sessions Get Trump?

by Jim Geraghty

Today the White House touted the accomplishments of the administration in the first six months, and the list included: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions implemented new charging guidelines to end catch-and-release policies.”

Of course, the president’s not so focused on that part of Sessions’ record lately. As noted in the Jolt, Trump declared in an interview with the New York Times, “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.”

Tensions between a president and attorney general aren’t new to Washington, but it’s hard to see what this sort of on-the-record fuming gets the president. Sessions reportedly already offered the president his resignation during an earlier tense exchange, and the president rejected it.

 It goes without saying that not a single adviser to President Trump would urge him to publicly criticize his own attorney general like this, and they would probably tell him that there’s no benefit to expressing this kind of frustration publicly. Sessions can’t undo the recusal decision, there’s no indication that Sessions thinks he made a mistake in that decision, and this can only lead to two things: more whispers that Sessions’ days are numbered as attorney general because the president doesn’t have faith in his judgment — as longtime Trump associate Roger Stone is telling reporters now — or Sessions deciding he’s had enough of it and resigning.

Sessions’ departure would set up another headache for an administration that’s already full of them, and just add to the narrative that the Trump White House simply cannot govern. It’s worth thinking back to all of the political capital expended to get Sessions confirmed back in February. Replacing Sessions could prove more difficult than the White House expects; if Trump is going to publicly rip his attorney general over every decision he doesn’t like, who in their right mind would want the job?

Oh, and if the “failing” New York Times is always full of “fake news,” why is President Trump giving them an exclusive interview that lasts 50 minutes? 
 

Thursday links

by debbywitt

How Baby Flamingos Become Pink. Kind of related: Don Featherstone, creator of the plastic pink flamingo, and his wife wore matching outfits every day for 37 years.

The Great Lengths Taken to Make Abraham Lincoln Look Good in Photos.

Fascinating photos: when Paris flooded, 1910.

It’s the anniversary of the 20th of July plot, the unsuccessful bomb attempt by his associates to kill Hitler in 1944.

The 1858 ’Great Stink’ of London.

Why Red M&M’s Disappeared for a Decade.

ICYMI, Monday’s links are here, and include why ancient Roman concrete is better than modern mixes, a compilation of film of New York City circa 1900, the anniversary of the first nuclear test, and the history of condoms.