The Howard Stern Guest in Chief

by Jay Nordlinger

Impromptus today brings you the usual mélange, to the extent there is a “usual”: Al Franken, Donald Trump, the opioid crisis, Russia, Syria, middle names, “Merry Christmas,” and more. But I would like to make a further point here in the Corner.

In my column, I quote one of the president’s tweets from yesterday:

Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!

A lot of people thought that Trump implied something vulgar in this tweet. (See, for example, this article.) Trump people replied, “No, no, get your minds out of the gutter! Our president couldn’t possibly be like that!”

I heard this same game early in the 2016 campaign, when Trump said of Megyn Kelly, “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever.”

Yeah, yeah. Trump has a very long record. He was a Howard Stern guest. Even in the presidency, he has the style of a Howard Stern guest (which millions of people thrill to, it’s true). He is often vulgar and nasty — a fact that every conservative would acknowledge, if Trump had a “D” after his name instead of an “R.”

I always thought that the Democrats were the ultimate tribalists. I saw this during the second term of Bill Clinton, especially. But they have competition, for sure.

Kirsten Gillibrand draws some interesting remarks. Remember when Harry Reid, the majority leader, called her “the hottest member”? I wonder whether the senator from New York was flattered. And whom would Harry vote for today?

The Math in Alabama Doesn’t Add Up to a State-Funded Recount

by Jim Geraghty

From the Wednesday morning edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Math in Alabama Doesn’t Add Up to a State-Funded Recount

Roy Moore did not give a concession speech last night. He’s not convinced he lost, and seems to think a state-funded automatic recount is still a possibility. That does not seem likely, based upon the initial tally.

Secretary of State John Merrill said it’s too soon to know whether the margin of victory by Doug Jones in Alabama’s special election on Tuesday will trigger the state’s automatic recount law.

State law calls for an automatic recount in a general election if a candidate wins by not more than 0.5 percent, unless the defeated candidate submits a waiver.

Merrill said it is doubtful the outcome of the state’s U.S. Senate race will change. “It would be very unlikely for that to occur,” Merrill said late Tuesday.

Overseas ballots, provisional ballots and possibly write-in ballots will have to be counted before a final margin is determined in Jones’ narrow win over Roy Moore.

The Associated Press reported that with all 2,220 precincts reporting, Jones received 671,151 votes, 50 percent, to Moore’s 650,436, 48.4 percent.

There were 22,819 write-in votes cast.

That’s a 1.6 percent margin, with 1,344,406 votes cast; Jones’ margin over Moore was 20,715 votes.

One half of one percent under the current total would be about 6,723; as you can see, Moore’s margin is three times the amount that triggers an automatic recount.

The state does not count write-in ballots that vote for someone ineligible for the office, so some write-ins will be tossed. But even if every write-in ballot voted for “Mickey Mouse” and was tossed out, Jones would have 50.7 percent to 49.2 percent… still a 1.5 percent margin.

Just to qualify for an automatic recount, Roy Moore would need as many write-ins dismissed as possible AND an unprecedented overwhelming margin of about 14,000 or so votes among overseas ballots and provisional ballots.

When Mike Huckabee is calling you out for acting like a sore loser, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Huckabee on Twitter this morning: “Roy Moore won’t concede; says will wait on God to speak. God wasn’t registered to vote in AL but the ppl who voted did speak and it wasn’t close enough for recount. In elections everyone does NOT get a trophy. I know first hand but it’s best to exit with class.”

That doesn’t seem likely. The entire Moore operation has been about Moore and his ambitions. A better man would have recognized he was endangering the values and ideas he claimed to stand for and withdrawn from the race. A better man would have answered all questions about his interactions with all of his accusers in great detail from anyone who wanted to ask, not just stumbling on softballs from Sean Hannity. A better man would have at least remembered to congratulate his rival on a hard-fought race on Election Night.

A better man might have recognized that his own state party declared the race over. Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan conceded the race: “If Mr. Jones aligns himself with the liberal Democrats in Washington, Alabama voters will remember his choices in the 2020 U.S. Senate election. Now that this race has ended, may this holiday season of peace, love and hope resonate with everyone, regardless of one’s political affiliation.”

Keep in mind, Moore’s campaign could cover the costs of a statewide recount themselves. How long until his campaign starts asking for money for that?

The Alabama Senate Race Has Lessons for Populists and the Establishment

by Fred Bauer

Roy Moore’s loss on Tuesday underlines the significant possibility that both the establishment and populists might need to revise their electoral strategies.

One of the traditional strengths of the “establishment” is its ability to cut deals. Well, the GOP establishment might need to start thinking about how to cut some deals with the base of its own party. This might mean teaming up with some Tea Party–aligned politicians in order to block more unpredictable (and unelectable) radical outsiders.

Roy Moore always looked like he was going to make it past the first round of the GOP primary. However, rather than trying to ally with the populist-but-electable Mo Brooks, establishment-aligned forces such as the Senate Leadership Fund spent buckets of money attacking Brooks. Moreover, the establishment also convinced President Trump to endorse Luther Strange. The strategy was clear: Kneecap Brooks in order to have Strange cruise to victory in a Strange-Moore runoff. In the short term, it was successful. Polls taken between August 8 and 10 (before the Trump endorsement could be fully felt) had Strange ahead of Brooks by only a few points. By the August 15 primary, however, Brooks was decisively beaten. (Trump’s endorsement couldn’t lift Strange all the way to the nomination, but it did likely help him beat Brooks.)

However, as Tuesday’s results show, that strategy didn’t quite work out over the long term. Heading into 2018, the Republican establishment might at times need to compromise with populist upstarts. That might include supporting them in primaries or trying to offer them support for alternative races (for instance, there are a few open Republican-leaning House seats that Kelli Ward could run for).

Meanwhile, populists are going to need to start vetting their candidates more seriously. There were plenty of warning signs that Roy Moore would be a vulnerable candidate in the general election. Supporting someone just because they inspire “librul tears” can be a counterproductive electoral strategy. It also might not be the best political strategy. The fact that someone is shocking doesn’t mean he can draft legislation, persuade the body politic, or forge a legislative coalition. And it certainly doesn’t mean he can win elections.

While the Alabama Senate race was dominated by Roy Moore’s flaws, it also casts light on a bigger dynamic. So far in the Trump administration, Republicans have tried to govern through pushing unreformed, donorist policies while hoping that the president’s angry tweets will give a sufficient veneer of populism. Based on election results in Virginia and, now, Alabama, that strategy doesn’t seem to be working. Health-care reform and the tax bill have proven dramatically unpopular, and the president’s cultural feuds have helped dragged down his approval rating. The base grows increasingly irritated with a party that has not delivered on any populist legislative priorities, and swing voters are turning hard against a party that alternates between internecine warfare and the numb inertia of nostalgia. If the GOP can’t adopt more responsive policies and a more restrained tone, it might end up trading its 2016 political mandate for a frantic and sloppy waltz on the Titanic.

The Aftermath

by Jonah Goldberg

I’ll have more to say in the morning. But a few quick points.

1. I agree with Jim: It stinks to lose a Senate seat, but if ever there was a reason to do so, this was it.

2. Steve Bannon isn’t responsible for Roy Moore and neither is Mitch McConnell. The difference is that McConnell wanted nothing to do with Roy Moore for all the obvious reasons and Steve Bannon wanted to take credit for him! He wanted to take credit for Moore when it was clear Moore was a bigot, buffoon, and charlatan, and he wanted to take credit for Moore after Moore was credibly accused of being a child molester and jailbait fetishist. Bannon has an almost unblemished record of picking disastrous candidates on the theory that he knows what he’s doing. That theory is wrong.

3. Relatedly, one would hope that Republicans would now recognize how ridiculous it would be for them to continue acting like Mitch McConnell is the problem. McConnell is the single most important person for getting the “Trump agenda” passed, and declaring open war on him and backing fourth rate candidates is not just dumb, it actually hurts Trump more than it does McConnell.

4. One of the things I’m most interested in is to see who suddenly claims to have been troubled by Moore all along or thinks he may be guilty after all — without any new evidence coming in. Some people must feel shame having backed him, and others are no doubt eager to muddy the record by pretending they were scandalized from the get go.

5. I want to say one last thing, because for months I’ve been ridiculed by people for even suggesting Moore could lose and that nominating him was dumb:

I told you so.

Drawing the Wrong Lessons from Moore’s Defeat

by Michael Brendan Dougherty
Let's not get carried away

I know the first flush of victory is a little dizzying, but on social media I’m seeing some crazy suggestions about what Roy Moore’s loss means going forward: If this can happen in Alabama Democrats can win anywhere. And Republicans can lose everywhere! Doug Jones is a true progressive on abortion, immigration and a host of other issue. Therefore, Democrats can use their unity and be uncompromising. 

My own impressions are more modest. Alabama Republicans spared their party the shame of electing this creep to Congress. In backing Moore, Steve Bannon made a very reasonable bet–most of us expected Moore to win even after the revelations–but he lost this one.  

Everything else is over-reading the data. Are Dems more energized than a normal out-of-power party? I think that’s unproven. Jones may turn out to be their Scott Brown. Have Dems solved the issue of turning out black voters in the post-Obama era? Or was it that the Republican nominee was the sort of man who rhetorically denigrated the Constitutional Amendments that ended slavery? Will 2018 be a Democratic tsunami? I don’t know yet. I also think it would be a mistake for anyone to take Jones’ performance in Alabama today as any indicator of how Trump will perform in 2020. 

I’m not happy Jones won. But I’m happy the causes I hold dear won’t be disgraced further by Roy Moore’s presence in the Senate. For that, I thank the judgment of the many Alabama voters who did what I would have done in their place: abstained. 


Alabama Conservatives Made Their Stand

by David French

Let’s plainly state the reason why Roy Moore lost tonight. Alabama conservatives took a stand. By the tens of thousands they either stayed home, voted for other candidates, or — in some instances — voted for Doug Jones. To say that conservatives beat Roy Moore is not to take one thing away from Doug Jones. He ran a smart race, he mobilized Democrats, and his voters came to the polls in large numbers — large enough to win. But this is Alabama. He could have run the perfect race, and he still would have lost — if conservatives supported their party’s nominee.

Tonight, Alabama conservatives told Steve Bannon and, yes, Donald Trump that integrity matters. They told their party that some victories aren’t worth the cost. They declared that partisanship isn’t worth grotesque moral compromise. The deep South said no to Roy Moore’s bigotry. It said no to his ignorance and malice. 

To give you a sense of the magnitude of the conservative rebellion tonight, consider some numbers. Donald Trump won Alabama by 28 points. Jeff Sessions had such a hammerlock on this seat that he ran unopposed in 2014 — collecting more than 97 percent of the vote. The closest Senate election in a generation was a 19 point GOP victory in 2002. In other words, what happened tonight wasn’t the result of changed hearts and minds in a tiny few swing votes. It was a mass rebellion. 

Where do we go from here? The answers are obvious. Nominate conservatives with integrity. Retake the seat. Reject the vicious, malicious politics of men like Steve Bannon. Center the political fight around ideas and values that men and women are proud to vote for. In the meantime, Alabama conservatives have sent their message. May the GOP hear it loud and clear.

Steve Bannon Loses Alabama

by Theodore Kupfer

Steve Bannon didn’t draft Roy Moore as a candidate, nor was he the proximate cause of Moore’s win in the Republican primary. But Moore’s defeat tonight is nonetheless a signature loss for Bannon’s political project, the goal of which is to replace incumbent Republicans with insurgents just like Moore.

It is important not to overstate Bannon’s involvement in the Moore campaign. Moore has been a figure in Alabama politics for years, and Bannon arrived late in the Republican primary when Moore was already ahead. His most visible contribution to the Moore campaign was to order his writers to cheerlead from the sidelines as the molestation allegations piled up, a pathetic endeavor that accomplished little. Moore’s elevation as a candidate owes to several factors.

But one of those is the corrosive influence that Bannon exerts on a portion of the Right. His mission is to find ridiculous candidates and convince voters and donors they are legitimate; for years he has used his highly-trafficked site in an effort to do just that. Yet tonight, his ideal candidate lost a statewide election in Alabama. We already knew that a party made in Bannon’s image would be repulsive. Tonight we learned it is not even politically viable.

Good Riddance

by Kevin D. Williamson

So what have Steve Bannon and the rest of the half-bright moneyed dilettantes — and their talk-radio and cable-news cheerleaders — accomplished? With Roy Moore, Republicans gave up any plausible claim to being “constitutional conservatives” and to being the party of the rule of law, to say nothing of any claim to principle or meaningful moral standards . . . and they still lost. To borrow from A Man for All Seasons: It profits a man nothing if he lose his soul even if he gains the whole world — but Alabama?

And they didn’t even get Alabama.

(I like Alabama.)

Republicans have some time to get their act together and find a decent candidate to challenge Jones when he finishes up Sessions’s term. And Roy Moore, with his little hat and his little gun, can ride his little pony off into well-deserved obscurity — or worse.

It’s Never Fun to Lose a Senate Seat, But the GOP Dodged a Bullet

by Jim Geraghty

The populists are indeed miracle workers, they’ve managed to elect a Democrat in Alabama.

Roy Moore may very well have been the worst Senate nominee for any major party in American history. Even if you dismissed the allegations of him sexually pursuing teenagers in his 30s – and there was no compelling reason to believe Moore’s shifting denials –he managed to create appalling new controversies in almost every appearance.

He completely avoided the campaign trail in the final days, because he could not be trusted to speak to the public.

Despite the frustration of a 52-seat majority becoming a 51-seat majority, tonight’s result is in fact, a long-term victory for the Republican Party. Had Moore gone to the Senate, he would have faced a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. Had that investigation brought back anything less than a full exoneration, GOP senators would have faced the decision of whether to expel him. As is, Moore could be counted on to create new controversies every time he faced the cameras; every Republican would constantly be asked if they agreed with their fellow senator’s controversial contentions about “reds and yellows,” unnecessary Constitutional Amendments, the wisdom of Vladimir Putin, or whether America was the focus of evil in the modern world.

There is no reason for any Republican to listen to Steve Bannon on any candidate selection ever again.

You know who looks pretty smart tonight? Cory Gardner and the National Republican Senatorial Committee who understood that Roy Moore was politically toxic, even in Alabama.

“Tonight’s results are clear – the people of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate,” said NRSC Chairman Cory Gardner. “I hope Senator-elect Doug Jones will do the right thing and truly represent Alabama by choosing to vote with the Senate Republican Majority.”

Finally, I guess this means Al Franken has to go ahead with his resignation, huh?

Republican Options If Moore Wins

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Response To...

What Happens If Alabama Voters ...

Rich Lowry notes that a lot of people will say that “the voters have spoken” if Roy Moore wins, thus making it unnecessary to look into the allegations against him. I agree with the prediction–which tracks what Senator Collins has already said–but the sentiment is worth pushing against. The voters will have said that they prefer Moore to Doug Jones. If Moore wins the election, no decision by the Senate is going to make Jones the senator. Moreover, the voters will have said that they prefer Moore to Jones given the information they have. There are charges and counter-charges. If there is an Ethics Committee investigation, presumably its point will be to get to the bottom of it.

Republicans are also going to have decisions to make besides whether to investigate or expel Moore if he wins. Will they give him some of the majority’s committee slots? I gather that Democrats would be able to filibuster any resolution that gives him committee assignments (so I don’t think the process is quite as automatic as Lowry’s point 2 suggests).


Live Results: Alabama Special Election

by NR Staff

Courtesy of our friends at Decision Desk, here are the live results from Alabama’s special Senate election:


by Ramesh Ponnuru

At Huffington Post, Jennifer Bendery laments the Senate’s confirmation of Leonard Steven Grasz to a federal appeals court. Among Grasz’s alleged sins is that ”in a 1999 article [he] argued that lower courts should be able to overrule Supreme Court decisions on abortion rights because ‘abortion jurisprudence is, to a significant extent, a word game.’” That characterization of Grasz’s article is a garbled version of a claim made by the American Bar Association in its attack on the nominee.

Here are the most relevant passages from the actual article, written before the Supreme Court had pronounced on the constitutionality of partial-birth abortion:

Lower federal courts are obliged to follow clear legal precedent regardless of whether it may seem unwise or even morally repugnant to do so. However, a court need not extend questionable jurisprudence into new areas or apply it in areas outside of where there is clear precedent. . . .

Abortion jurisprudence is, to a significant extent, a word game. In a legal context where a child is a non-person one minute and a person the next, terminology and definitions are of critical importance. In this light, it is clear that the killing of partially-born children is inherently different from a true abortion. Abortion is typically defined as the termination of a pregnancy, which occurs “within the uterus.” However, pregnancy differs from parturition or childbirth. ”Childbirth is defined as ‘parturition,’ ‘[t]he act of giving birth.’” Thus, recognition of a heightened legal status for a partially-born child is not inconsistent with either Roe or Casey because the right to choose abortion, recognized in Roe and Casey, applies only with respect to “the unborn” (footnotes omitted).

Grasz’s actual argument, in other words, was that Roe and Casey do not apply the abortion right to a partially-born human being and that lower courts have no obligation to apply it against them. There was no suggestion that lower courts should overrule higher ones, and an explicit denial of it. Bendery is misinforming her readers.

‘Do Anything’

by Jonah Goldberg

As the old saying goes, the middle of the road is where you get run over. But what the heck, I have a take on the “Do Anything” controversy.

The mainstream media and the Democrats overwhelmingly believe that Donald Trump was trafficking in a cheap sexual innuendo when he tweeted that Senator Gillibrand would “do anything” for a donation. Senator Elizabeth Warren called it “slut-shaming” – the wisdom and implications of that usage we’ll just leave for others to masticate. Nancy Pelosi called it “disgusting.” Mika Brzezinski nearly had an aneurysm over it.

Meanwhile, Trump’s most ardent defenders are outraged by the mere thought that the President of the United States would say anything of the sort. The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, was either disgusted or feigned disgust at the suggestion that the president had claimed Gillibrand wanted sexual favors for a donation. Only people who have “their mind in the gutter” would think that.

So here’s my middle of the road position: I think it’s entirely possible that Trump had a cheap sexual innuendo in mind, and I think it’s entirely possible he didn’t. He has used somewhat similar language about men in the past.

This is one of the problems with the way many liberals always want to make Trump’s rudeness and crudeness about racism or sexism. I’m not saying such a case can never be made. But the truth is the president is fairly “equal opportunity” in his rudeness and crudeness. He attacks critics and inconvenient people, regardless of their race, creed, sex, and religion. Some attacks may cross certain lines and be particularly offensive (Judge Curiel, Megyn Kelly, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, et al), but the animus pretty much always derives primarily from his ego and not his bigotry, as far as I can tell.

To pick one small example, when he attacked yours truly on Twitter it never occurred to me that he was being anti-Semitic. Indeed, his attacks on me are mildly instructive, because the president who loves to brag about how he’s not politically correct used political correctness to try to get me fired (or something). For example:

In other words, Trump usually goes for the nearest weapon to hand.

Which brings me to Sanders’s outrage. It’s ludicrous for her to claim it’s ludicrous that a reasonable person might read Trump’s tweet that way. Trump loves innuendo and has said all manner of terrible things.

The only thing that is obvious to me is that the president is wildly promiscuous and irresponsible with his Twitter feed. This is not a newsflash (nor is it a reason to normalize or condone it). A reasonable person would have stopped and rethought that tweet, or at least the phrasing, particularly given the “Me Too” climate, for the simple reason that its meaning and intent were ambiguous. More to the point, there are literally millions of people who will not give the president the benefit of the doubt in cases like this — because he has not earned it.

The DNC Finally Offers Paid Internships. The GOP Has Paid Interns for 20 Years.

by Philip H. DeVoe

Starting in January 2018, the Democratic National Committee will begin paying some interns, in the form of stipends valued at up to $3,000. A spokesman for the DNC told the Huffington Post that chair Tom Perez’s mission for the intern program is to “give the young voices in our party the opportunity to grow,” and that the new paid internships will help the DNC “select the most qualified and diverse individuals regardless of financial background.”

The DNC is a little late to the party. The Republican National Committee has been offering stipends to its full-time interns for at least 20 years. Plus, according to a June study from Pay Our Internships, more congressional Republicans pay their interns than do congressional Democrats.

In the U.S. Senate, 51% of Republicans offer paid internships and 31% of Democrats pay their interns. In the House, 8% (19/238) of Republican Representatives pay interns and 3.6% (7/193) of Democrat Representatives pay.

It’s not clear why the DNC hasn’t paid its interns in the past, nor why it’s starting now. As it turns out, the Democrats simply can’t afford this. The DNC has been raking in less and less money during fundraising — it posted its worst October since 2003 this year– and is sitting on $3.2 million in debt. Adding such a cost will certainly make matters worse for the party; is it even paying attention to its drastic financial situation?

What Happens If Alabama Voters Decide in Favor of Roy Moore?

by Rich Lowry

If Roy Moore wins tonight, will he get expelled? Probably not:

1. Republican senators, even ones hostile to Moore, have said for weeks now that it’s up to the voters of Alabama to decide. If Moore wins, he will immediately turn this argument around, “Hey, fellas, the voters of Alabama decided and here I am.” Like it or not, winning the election will lend legitimacy to a Senator Moore.

2. So will getting seated by the Senate and getting committee assignments, which will happen automatically.

3. The Ethics Committee will certainly look at Moore, but there is no guarantee that it will decide to delve into 40-year allegations. 

4. Even if it does, it would be unprecedented for the Senate to expel someone based on conduct prior to his time as a senator. If Moore provably lied under oath in such a probe, that would be a current offense. But I would expect Moore to refuse to cooperate with an investigation, denounce it as a witch-hunt and say the voters of Alabama have already litigated the question. 

5. No matter what happens, Trump is likely to strongly back Moore and oppose his expulsion. Such is his power in the party at the moment that he has a pretty decisive say in such matters.

6. The Republican base is likely to be skeptical of a Moore expulsion, not just because it would be over-turning the fresh verdict of Alabama voters, but because they would probably smell a preview of an attempt to impeach President Trump or to get him to resign over the allegations against him.

All of this makes it likelier than not — absent some explosive new revelation — that if Roy Moore makes it to Washington, he’s going to stay in Washington.

Corporate Tax Rates at 21 Percent?

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The House and Senate versions of the tax bills lower the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent. Two weeks ago, most Senate Republicans opposed an amendment to change the rate to 20.94 percent in order to provide payroll-tax relief to parents. Moving away from 20 percent was supposedly an attack on economic growth, a betrayal of a solemn commitment by the party, a step on a slippery slope toward confiscatory corporate taxes.

Now congressional Republicans, according to multiple reports, are coming around to a 21 percent corporate tax rate. The extra money won’t be used to provide tax relief to the lower middle class, or even to soften the blow of losing the state-and-local tax deduction for households making between $100,000 and $500,000 a year. Instead it will go to reduce tax rates for singles making more than $500,000 and couples making more than $1 million.

In other news, Republicans remain baffled by why their bill is unpopular.

‘More Debonair’

by Jay Nordlinger

Years ago, I interviewed Leon Fleisher, the great American pianist, and I asked him about George Szell: the legendary, and sometimes oppressive, Hungarian-born conductor. Once, they were recording Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in B flat. The orchestra was not getting the opening to Szell’s satisfaction. Fleisher had a suggestion for Szell — which took some temerity, believe me. He said, “Perhaps a bit more debonair?” Szell loved the idea. “Gentlemen,” he said to the orchestra, “more debonair.” And so it was.

I have recorded a new Jaywalking, here. (You can also subscribe in a number of ways.) Toward the beginning, I play Walking the Dog, the Gershwin number.

The most debonair music ever written? Quite possibly. See if you agree.

P.S. Someone should write a piece for our own time: Wagging the Dog.

P.P.S. I once met Kitty Carlisle Hart at a party at the Buckleys’. Someone said to me, “You just met a woman to whom George Gershwin proposed marriage.” That was a dizzying fact. Took some math. Remarkable.

‘Too Anti-Trump to Check’

by Rich Lowry

I wrote about the media’s Russia mistakes today:

It’s a wonder that President Donald Trump devotes so much time to discrediting the press, when the press does so much to discredit itself. 

The media’s errors over the past week haven’t been marginal or coincidental, but involved blockbuster reports on one of the most dominating stories of the past year, Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. They all slanted one way — namely, toward lurid conclusions about the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with the Russians.

Every media outlet makes mistakes. It’s easier than ever to run with fragmentary or dubious information in a frenzied news cycle that never stops. But underlying the media blunders was an assumption — not based on any evidence we’ve yet seen — of Trump guilt in the Russia matter. This was news, in other words, too anti-Trump to check.

No, Apple Isn’t Getting a ‘$47 Billion Windfall’ from the Tax Bill

by Veronique de Rugy

Over at Vox, Matt Yglesias has an article that is supposed to outrage all of those who already believe that the Senate and House tax-reform plans are just a big handout to the rich and American corporations. He makes the claim that the GOP will reduce Apple’s tax bill by “a staggering $47 billion.”

Unfortunately, this article is completely misleading. Apple isn’t going to benefit from a tax windfall of $47 billion. Instead, the IRS is going to get a $31 billion windfall from Apple.

How can we have such different numbers, you may ask? Because Yglesias is operating in a make-believe world. He arbitrarily and unrealistically assumes that Apple will bring its overseas profits to America in the absence of tax reform.

In the real world, however, one of the reasons for tax reform is that the current system of “worldwide taxation” harshly penalizes firms that bring money back to America.

Here’s what you need to know. When American companies earn money in other countries, they pay taxes to the governments of those jurisdictions. That’s the reasonable part. And it works both ways: Foreign companies that earn money in America pay taxes to the IRS.

The screwy part is that current tax law tells American companies that if they bring their already taxed foreign profits back to the U.S., the IRS gets to impose another layer of tax. Very few other nations practice this self-destructive form of double taxation. To make matters worse, the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world.

So it makes perfect sense that U.S. multinationals indefinitely defer this tax by holding their profits abroad (or they “invert” and permanently protect their foreign-source income from the IRS).

That’s what Apple, like many other companies, is doing. Indeed, American multinationals are holding about $2.5 trillion overseas. It’s not terribly efficient for them to lock up their funds, but it’s better than needlessly paying an additional layer of tax to the IRS.

So how do we encourage companies to bring this cash home? Many of us have been clamoring for a shift to a lower rate and a system of “territorial taxation.”

And that’s what the Senate or the House plans would do, hence the change in Apple’s tax situation. The new law would tax domestic corporate income at 20 percent but no longer would impose U.S. tax on profits earned (and subject to tax) in other nations. For our friends on the left who always want America to copy the rest of the world, they should be happy. Almost all other countries already have territorial taxation.

And our leftist friends should be doubly happy because Republicans are engaging in a big revenue grab as part of reform. There would be a one-time repatriation tax of roughly 14 percent on that foreign income whether the company brings the money back or not. In Apple’s case that tax would collect roughly $31.4 billion.

In other words, Apple would go from paying zero dollars on its foreign profits kept abroad to paying a one-time $31.4 billion tax bill. But Yglesias claims that the company is getting a windfall of $47 billion, which is the difference between a $78.6 billion tax payment that exists solely in his mind and the $31.4 billion that actually will be collected if tax reform gets enacted.

The Wall Street Journal has a good article on this, this time about the same claim made by the Financial Times (so much for financial literacy on the part of the newspaper). The editorial board concludes:

This is the latest of many false claims that corporations are the sole beneficiaries of the Republican tax plan, even though the GOP agenda includes “base erosion” rules and many other clamps designed to address current tax loopholes and prevent future corporate tax trickery. Whether the media attacks on the Republican tax bill represent economic illiteracy or ideological tendentiousness is a judgment we’ll leave to readers.

No kidding.

The Officer Shouting Instructions at Daniel Shaver Was Not the Officer Who Killed Him

by Robert VerBruggen

I agree with David French: What happened to Daniel Shaver was nauseating. The police employed horrendous tactics and gave confusing instructions that made it difficult for Shaver to comply — and needlessly required him to make a series of movements that could lead to his hands’ ending up in the wrong place.

I’m seeing a mistake all over, though, that needs correcting. The officer who shouted instructions at Shaver was not Philip Brailsford, the officer who fired five rounds and was later tried for murder. There is an important legal question about whether bad tactics can make an officer culpable for a subsequent use of force, but in this case the bad tactics were not executed by the officer who used force.

David didn’t make this error, to be clear. But CNN is in the process of revising a piece largely premised on it, and it was my initial impression, too, upon viewing the video.

This doesn’t excuse the officer’s decision to shoot, but it makes the jury’s decision more understandable. After being called to a report of someone waving a rifle out of a hotel window, Brailsford was faced with a shoot/don’t-shoot decision where the suspect unambiguously reached toward his waistband. As I’ve written several times, officers are trained to react quickly to such movements when suspects have been instructed not to make them, because if a suspect is in fact armed, the cop will be dead if he waits to find out what the suspect is reaching for.

In this case, the broader circumstances — a drunk, crying man crawling on the floor, trying his hardest to comply with confusing instructions and begging the officers not to shoot him, outnumbered by the police many times over — still make the decision to shoot wrong. I hope the family’s lawsuits succeed spectacularly. But in the context of Brailsford’s trial, the video does look somewhat different when you realize the voice and the gunshots don’t come from the same person.