Trump’s Loyalty Tests Are Uniquely Corrupting

by David French

Here’s how the Washington Post began a report last night about Trump’s wife-beating aide, Rob Porter:

White House Counsel Donald McGahn knew one year ago that staff secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wives were prepared to make damaging accusations about him that could threaten his security clearance but allowed him to serve as an influential gatekeeper and aide to President Trump without investigating the accusations, according to people familiar with the matter.

Chief of Staff John F. Kelly learned this fall about the allegations of spousal abuse and that they were delaying Porter’s security clearance amid an ongoing FBI investigation. But Kelly handed Porter more responsibilities to control the flow of information to the president.

As Tim Miller pointed out on Twitter, the same administration that let Porter linger for months is the administration that was adept at perusing Twitter for any evidence that potential employees had criticized POTUS during the primary or general election. Remember when Shermichael Singleton was fired from HUD for a single critical pre-election op-ed? But when you’re loyal, even the worst person can rise to the top.

Look, I know that it’s hardly unusual for politicians demand loyalty, but when loyalty trumps character or competence — or when demands for loyalty require that you excuse the inexcusable — then there’s a problem. In the Trump administration, it’s particularly toxic. There’s a three-step process to moral corruption. 

First, there are lots of folks in Washington who are struggling to make the best of the Trump presidency. He might be a personal disaster, they reason, but we can still get some decent policies passed.

Second, everyone knows that Trump demands loyalty. Everyone knows he’s remarkably thin-skinned (even as he fires more than his share of verbal broadsides). So they know that any public critique carries with it a risk of being shut out — of losing the president’s ear and losing the ability to influence his policy-making. 

Third, so even while he does things they’d publicly condemn in any other president, politician, or public figure, they’ll often stay largely quiet. Sometimes they’ll even grant “sex mulligans” or praise his crass and crude public manner as “authentic.” Thus, they retain their access. They retain their influence.

Not only is this process cowardly on its own terms, it’s remarkably short-sighted. In some instances, people are sacrificing reputations built for decades to defend a presidency that may last no longer than Jimmy Carter’s. It’s as if this moment is the only moment that matters. But we know that battles over ideas can continue for generations.

Reputations sacrificed today will be sorely needed tomorrow. It’s time for the president’s defenders to think twice before leaping to his defense. It’s even time for them to think twice before remaining silent. It’s time to stop enabling dysfunction for the chance at influence. 

Mike Allen on The Jamie Weinstein Show

by Jamie Weinstein

My latest podcast is with Axios’s Mike Allen, one of the most plugged in reporters in Washington. I hope you will take a listen. 

Allen provides a great deal of insight into the current state of journalism, but I suspect what you will find most fascinating are his thoughts on how covering the Trump administration is different from covering other presidential administrations. There are, he says, very few loyalists in this White House: “A huge difference with the Trump crowd is that there were Bush people, and there were Obama people, and they came up with their guy through thick and thin, and they were very loyal to him,” Allen explains. “There aren’t many Trump people. You know that campaign was very thin. What you have is a lot of people who take almost a clinical approach to describing what’s there. So there’s not the reflexive instinct to defend, protect, explain, rationalize the president that you got in past administrations. What you get is like smart people telling you what they’re saying, and that is a huge change.”

That, he suggests, is one reason why there are so many more damning leaks coming from this White House. It might also portend trouble for Trump in the Russia investigation, which Allen doesn’t think is ending anytime soon: ”The one thing that we know about federal investigations, whether it’s of President Clinton, or whether it’s of some real estate family in Richmond, Virginia, as I covered, and that is that federal investigations never end where they start,” Allen says. “What federal prosecutors do is pull threads on the sweater, and this is a sweater with a lot of threads.”

Allen does see at least one enduring legacy of Trump’s presidency: His “use of social media” he predicts, “is one of the elements of Trump that will outlive him. There’s not going to be a lot of former reality stars and self-proclaimed billionaires that are going to be running for office, but something that will outlive him is this power that he’s shown in authentic, direct communication,” Allen explains. “It’s not going to be possible to run from a TV studio like you did in the past.”

Check out the whole thing here.

You Get a Spending Boost! And You Get a Spending Boost! And You...

by Jim Geraghty

Greetings from Colorado Springs — altitude 6,035 feet — where I’m attempting to follow the locals’ wise advice to drink water constantly. I’ve felt weird since I arrived; I spent two years in Ankara, Turkey (altitude 3,077 feet) and I had no problems; covered the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver (5,280 feet) and I had no problems; I made another trip to Evergreen, Colorado a few years ago (7,220 feet), and had no problems…  but for some reason, on this trip I’m getting so dehydrated I need my own personal Tennessee Valley Authority irrigation project. But things are improving slowly. I fear that when I speak to the good folks at the Leadership Program of the Rockies tomorrow, I’m going to have an endless series of “Rubio moments.”

With that in mind, from the last Morning Jolt of the week:

The Trump Era Brings Its First Genuine Bipartisan Compromise

You get a spending boost! And you get a spending boost! And you get a spending boost!

I like this quote from Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com weighing the deal that avoided any significant government shutdown:  ”On the one hand, a move to fund the government and suspend the debt ceiling is welcomed, avoiding further disruption or worse. With the House and Senate voting to boost spending, the nation’s debt continues to expand at an unsustainable rate. This comes after the tax cut, approved late in the economic expansion added $1.5 trillion to the debt. This spree is reminiscent of the Oprah program where she exclaims, ‘you get a car,’ providing a gift to everyone in the audience. Only in this case, the cost is being put on the proverbial federal credit card.”

It’s not quite as simple as ‘Republicans got the defense spending they wanted, and Democrats got the domestic spending they wanted.’ Notice that some Republicans are touting the domestic spending in this bill. “While neither side got everything they wanted, this compromise provides critical funding that will go towards improving the VA, CHIP, the opioid epidemic, and infrastructure spending,” said Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican. “I look forward to now working with my colleagues on a solution for DACA, border security and immigration policy.”

Congressional Republicans didn’t get everything they want. Congressional Democrats didn’t get everything they want. President Trump didn’t get everything he wants. That’s… pretty much how compromises work. Last night’s “government shutdown” amounted to the store clerk locking up and putting a “be back soon” sign on the door while he runs to the bank to get more singles for change.

When the president needed to put the best spin on the deal, he tweeted, “Just signed Bill. Our Military will now be stronger than ever before. We love and need our Military and gave them everything — and more. First time this has happened in a long time. Also means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!”

Congressman Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican, points out that the House did what it was supposed to do and did its best to avoid massive last-minute all-in-one spending bills.

“The House completed our work on time by passing 12 appropriations bills over 100 days ago. Earlier this week, the House sent our government funding bill to the Senate. The Republican majority is so narrow in the Senate, that 9 Democrats stalled the process. As a result, $300 billion dollars were added to the measure in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Now the Democrats have the nerve to say the House can’t get our work done on time and that the budget spends too much — I believe my constituents are smarter than that.”

Congressman Jim Banks, a Republican who represents Indiana’s third district, writes in NRO about the on-the-ground consequences of the sequester and trying to operate under short-term continuing resolutions.

As the most recently deployed member of Congress, having served in Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015, I have seen our readiness crisis firsthand. It has only intensified after a period of stepped-up military activity carried out while the Budget Control Act shrank defense budgets.

Fewer than half of the Navy’s aircraft can fly, owing to lapses in maintenance and a lack of spare parts. Only 50 percent of the Air Force’s combat forces are sufficiently ready for a highly contested fight. This year alone, the pilot shortage has grown from 1,500 to 2,000. In the Marine Corps, as F-35s replace legacy aircraft, increasing the flying cost per hour, readiness will be even more difficult to achieve. Special Operations Forces are trying to maintain an extraordinarily high global operations tempo, which puts them near the breaking point.

My sense is that while we can argue the merits of particular programs, weapons, and initiatives, no matter how much Americans may think they don’t need more defense spending, the world will always surprise us with some crisis where it comes in handy.

Empty USCCB Amicus Brief in Public-Sector Union Dues Case

by Ed Whelan

On February 26, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the much-watched case of Janus v. AFSCME. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has submitted an amicus brief in Janus. Both as a Catholic and as a lawyer, I find the USCCB’s brief badly misguided in important ways.

The legal issue in Janus is whether, consistent with the First Amendment, government employees who refuse to join the public-sector union that has been recognized as their representative for purposes of collective bargaining may nonetheless be compelled to pay the union a fee (a so-called “agency fee”) to cover their share of the union’s collective-bargaining expenditures, even when those employees object to the union’s political advocacy and lobbying.

To illustrate the issue more concretely: In 2014, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) donated $400,000 to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which in turn funded political candidates who support Planned Parenthood’s abortion agenda. May a government employee who is a faithful Catholic, as a condition of continued employment, be required to pay AFSCME a monthly agency fee?

The USCCB amicus brief would have you believe that the “widely held” position of American bishops is to answer “yes” to the question whether agency fees may be imposed on government employees.

The USCCB’s amicus brief suffers from three serious defects:

First: The brief itself is nothing more than special pleading—asking that the (supposed) position of “so many bishops” against right-to-work laws in the public sector not be declared “constitutionally out of bounds.” The brief does not offer any legal argument why agency fees in the public sector are constitutionally permissible. Indeed, the words “First Amendment” do not appear a single time in the brief. [Update: I now see that “Free Speech Clause” appears three times, so I’m striking the preceding sentence.]

Second: The brief derives the supposed “widely held” position of American bishops by stitching together a handful of statements of dubious relevance that were made over a period of seven decades. You might think that the actual position of American bishops today could be ascertained by asking them. But there is no evidence in the brief that the question was ever put to them.

Keep reading this post . . .

A Draft Regulation on Welfare-Dependent Immigrants

by Robert VerBruggen

Trump plans to better enforce the federal law saying that immigrants can’t come — and can’t get permanent residency or a new visa status if they’re already here — if they’re likely to become a “public charge.” Vox has gotten its hands on a draft of the regulation, and as the publication’s Dara Lind summarizes it:

Right now, the government can only consider use of cash benefits, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, in “public charge” determinations. The Trump administration wants to give officials the power to look at use of other benefits as well, including:

some “educational benefits,” including use of Head Start for children

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

use of any subsidies, or purchase of subsidized insurance, under the Affordable Care Act

food stamps

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance

Housing benefits, like Section 8

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

transit vouchers

Using any of these for more than six months in the last two years (before applying for a different visa or a green card) would be considered a “heavily weighted” strike against the immigrant. (That strike could be canceled out if an immigrant was making more than 250 percent of the federal poverty level when applying for the new visa or green card — which, for a family of 4 in 2017, was $60,750.)

We should not take pleasure in yanking benefits away from poor families, but this is a good policy and consistent with the law. We can let into this country only a fraction of the people who would like to come, and many of those who can’t come are left behind in poverty-wracked nations. There is no reason the people who win this lottery — sometimes a literal lottery — should also get taxpayer support, reducing the resources available to our own citizens. It is entirely reasonable for us to insist that people who come here support themselves, and to refuse to grant permanent residency if they fall into government dependency.

As Milton Friedman noted two decades ago, the combination of generous welfare and generous immigration is inherently problematic. The solution written into federal law is to allow a fair amount of immigration and a fair amount of welfare spending — but to keep out immigrants who are likely to use welfare. That is a workable arrangement and one we should enforce better than we do today, given the high rates of welfare use among immigrants, not to mention the fact that the cash benefits we currently consider in “public charge” determinations are a tiny proportion of the overall welfare state.

Paid Leave Will Disrupt Businesses and Hurt Workers

by Michael R. Strain

Funding paid parental leave by allowing new parents to collect early Social Security benefits in exchange for delaying the collection of their retirement benefits decades in the future has been gaining traction in conservative circles. GOP senators Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and Joni Ernst have signaled support, along with Ivanka Trump, as have writers here on the Corner.

I’m not sold. In my latest Bloomberg column I criticize the idea. For one, projected Social Security spending should be cut, not redirected for other purposes. In addition, using anticipated Social Security benefits from, say, 2048 to finance expenditures in 2018 is a Pandora’s box conservatives shouldn’t want to open. (Why not use tomorrow’s Social Security benefits to pay for today’s college tuition? Or pre-K?) Furthermore, Social Security is underfunded. So using benefits anticipated to be received decades in the future is imprudent, since those benefits likely won’t be there in full.

More generally, I’m skeptical of any plan that delivers benefits today with the promise that they will be paid for decades from now. In the 2040s, Social Security will hopefully look a lot different than it does today. For example, it might be means-tested, or it might feature private accounts. Given that Social Security’s structure will likely be changed, it’s far from certain that those who would collect early benefits when they welcome a new child will ever pay those benefits back.

On balance, then, we should think of this new approach as another middle-class entitlement program. It goes without saying that given our projected debt and deficits, we don’t need another entitlement.

And while this new approach to paid parental leave doesn’t require employers to foot the monetary cost of their workers’ leave, it does create other significant burdens. Both the number of new parents who take long periods of leave and the length of leave taken will increase under this plan. That will considerably disrupt business operations, especially for small firms, which will likely respond to that disruption by hiring fewer less-educated women of child-bearing age and promoting fewer women into management positions.

This paid-leave scheme would be another instance of a government program creating adverse unintended consequences.

Check out my column for more. And your comments are very welcome.

Friday links

by debbywitt

The classic 1970 exploding whale video from the early days of the internet, and the Dave Barry column that made it famous.

An Italian village is selling homes for $1.25 so it doesn’t become a ghost town.

Watch Beetles Shoot Hot Chemicals From Their Butts to Escape Toad Bellies. This has to be a metaphor for something – discuss amongst yourselves.

Check out this 1861 Victorian sex manual - it’s chock full of useful information.

Alcohol Helps Clean Toxins From the Brain, Study Shows. This reminds me of the theory that alcohol thins the brain cell herd, as it were, by killing off the slower neurons and, therefore, contributing to the overall health of the herd. Not buying it. 

Kind of related to the above: Chemical found in McDonald’s fries may be cure for baldness, study finds. The new healthy diet – alcohol and McDonald’s fries. 

ICYMI, Monday’s links are here, and include the physics of sunsets, World Nutella Day (with a canonical list of Nutella recipes), the world’s oldest bottle of wine, NatGeo’s visit to the coldest city on earth, and the last photo taken of President Abraham Lincoln.

Tutti per Muti

by Jay Nordlinger

Riccardo Muti, the venerable conductor, has rolled into New York to lead his Chicago Symphony Orchestra in two concerts at Carnegie Hall. I seized the chance to do a podcast with him — a Q&A, here. When I arrived at his suite, he was frustrated because he was not getting reception on his cellphone. (An antique job, not a smartphone.) And the landline in the suite was too difficult to use, with its codes and so on.

“I can read twelve lines of counterpoint,” said Muti, “but I can’t use a phone like that.”

In our podcast, we cover the waterfront, or a fair stretch of it: Muti’s life; the nature of music; our society today. He has a lot to impart, this man. One of his mentors was Nino Rota, whom most of us Americans know as the composer of the Godfather music. At the end, Muti pays tribute to Mozart, his lifelong companion, and that of millions.

Muti is famous for, among other things, a glorious head of hair (which is no disadvantage to a conductor). We talk about this for a bit. Muti uses the phrase “la forza del destino.” It’s a matter of destiny. In acknowledgement of this remark, I end the podcast with Muti conducting the overture to La forza del destino, Verdi’s opera.

A leisurely and enjoyable hour, I think you’ll find. Again, here.

By the way, I should explain the heading of this blogpost. When Muti took over the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1980, the orchestra dressed in T-shirts that said “Tutti per Muti,” or “Everyone for Muti.” The photo went ’round the world. I’ve never forgotten it, as you can see.

Putin’s Winning Strategy

by Reihan Salam

What is it that makes Russian President Vladimir Putin such a dangerous man? Is it his meddling in Western elections? Maybe, although it seems unlikely we’ll ever know the extent to which such gambits mattered. Is it his foreign-policy adventurism? Perhaps, but taste for aggression has gotten him mired in expensive and apparently unwinnable conflicts with few repercussions for the West.

In fact, even as Putin is held out as public enemy number one, he is also described as pathologically weak. In a 2016 article, Robert Kaplan wrote of Putin’s “profound sense of insecurity” in the face of foreign foes. And in the Washington Post, Joss Meakins describes Russian power as “brittle” because of the country’s troubled economy, demographic problems, social problems, and more.

Yet therein lies the answer to our question. Putin is dangerous precisely because he has been extremely good at playing a very weak hand. To see how, consider the case of the Russian economy. Headlines about its imminent collapse aside, “today, Russia’s economy has stabilized, inflation is at historic lows, the budget is nearly balanced,” writes Fletcher School of Law’s Chris Miller in Foreign Affairs, “and Putin is coasting toward reelection on March 18, positioning him for a fourth term as president.”

How did he do that, despite facing supposedly crushing sanctions and a crash in oil prices? For one, argues Miller, he focused on keeping debt and inflation low. He also kept unemployment down and pension payouts steady, while allowing some modernization of the private sector. The result, concludes Miller, is that “Russia is a relatively rare kleptocracy that gets high marks from the IMF for its economic management.”

Of course, the real goal was never economic health, and Putin’s policies certainly won’t ensure it. Rather, the point was retaining power at home and creating the ability to project power abroad. And on that score, Putin’s strategy has worked.

National Review Summer Internship

by NR Staff

National Review is accepting applications for its summer internship. The intern will work in our New York office, receive a modest stipend, participate in every part of the editorial process, and have some opportunities to write. The ideal candidate will have an excellent academic record and some experience in student or professional journalism. If you wish to apply, please send a cover letter, your résumé, and two of your best writing samples (no more, please) to editorial.applications (at) nationalreview.com.

Patrick Bateman Approves

by Kevin D. Williamson

As some of you may have noticed, I do not much care for Donald Trump or for the tendencies he brings out in others. The subject of politics has been so off-putting at times that I have occasionally considered going into theater criticism and book-reviewing full-time, writing about culture instead of politics as such.

This morning I received a press release informing me that there is a new musical in the works based on . . . the songs of Huey Lewis and the News.

So much for that plan.

I may have to go live in an ashram. The Patrick Bateman moment is upon us.

Dying Naturally with Loving Care True “Death with Dignity”

by Wesley J. Smith

Mom died of Alzheimer’s disease in my home after receiving months of excellent and truly compassionate hospice care that alleviated her physical, mental, and existential symptoms significantly. Mom even had a slight smile on her face at the end.

Dad died naturally of cancer in a Veterans Hospital hospice after receiving months of excellent in-home hospice care that helped him live his last months substantially pain free and able to contemplate life’s deepest meanings.

Sure, both had difficult times–particularly my mother–as did I in caring for and worrying about them. But so what? That’s part of life.

Neither committed suicide by prescribed poisoning nor administered a lethal injection–which we are now told ubiquitously in the media and popular culture, encouraged by assisted suicide advocates, are the true means to “death with dignity.”

I bring this up because we rarely see a strong defense of the inherent dignity in natural dying these days. But Theos has published a fine essay in that regard that I hope readers will ponder. From,  “What Does Dignity Really Mean?” (my emphasis):

Many of us fear the loss of independence which old age and illness bring. We fear that when we need other people’s help to move around, wash ourselves, feed ourselves we will lose our dignity. That we will lose control of our bladder or bowels and feel humiliated. Of course we do.

That fear is a reason for defending the fuller, deeper concept of dignity. Dignity cannot and should not rest wholly or mainly in our ability to make self–optimising choices, or be totally ‘together’, impervious to pain or suffering. If we continue to let the concept of dignity be high-jacked to mean choice and independence we will add to the sufferings of those at the end of life.

A non–assisted death is not undignified. No one should feel ashamed of becoming incontinent. Needing the love and care and help of others should be seen as a normal part of the human lifecycle, part of our embodied adventure, not a cause for mental distress. Dignity can be protected and enhanced through tailored, thoughtful, personal palliative care, reassurance, and a sense of humour. Many of our hospices provide dignified deaths day in, day out, helping people feel loved and valued no matter their physical or mental limitations.

Absolutely true.

When you look at the studies of why people decide to commit assisted suicide or be euthanized, a consistent pattern emerges. It is very rarely about pain that can’t be controlled–despite the euthanasia movement’s fear-mongering about that being the reason to legalize euthanasia.

Rather, it involves deep existential fears–primarily (but not exclusively) of losing dignity, meaning a profound worry that we are less worth loving when impaired than we were when healthy. 

Even the poster woman for legalizing assisted suicide, Brittany Maynard, gave that as one of two primary reasons for her self-termination.

Sure, with brain cancer, she worried about suffering. Who wouldn’t? But she never tried hospice and apparently accepted a worst case scenario about what her experience would be–which I suspect the suicide pushers whispered in her ear.

And then, she and the assisted suicide movement reacted angrily when good hospice doctors–such as Ira Byock–tried to alert her and the country that death from brain cancer could be peaceful and didn’t have to be a time of uncontrollable suffering.

But also note that she worried deeply about being thought of less well by her family after they witnessed her time of dying. From a column by Maynard published by CNN:

Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that.

I did not want this nightmare scenario for my family, so I started researching death with dignity. It is an end-of-life option for mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. It would enable me to use the medical practice of aid in dying: I could request and receive a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable.

I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family.

In other words, she was terrified that dying naturally would not have been dignified, and therefore–bluntly stated–she felt the need to put herself out of her family’s misery as an act of love! Imagine how awful that must have felt.

And imagine what kind of an abandoning society we will establish if we allow fears of losing dignity or being a burden to become substantially grounded in reality and accepted as the norm to justify support for suicide.

How often do we hear the ill, elderly, and people with disabilities worry about being a burden or losing dignity? Isn’t that another way of saying we worry that we are no longer worthy of being loved unconditionally? Isn’t it a fear of being considered of reduced value when we need care or if our condition causes our family grief and anxiety? Isn’t it to accept that once we are not as good looking as we were when healthy and may have some odor issues, the time has come to go?

And then, when such concerns make people suicidal, we coldly offer “choice” instead of suicide prevention and other ameliorating interventions.

That’s not on people who have those fears. It is on us for creating a society in which people so readily believe that suicide, rather than dying naturally with proper care, is the “dignified” way out.

Signs of Improvement, Cont.

by Rich Lowry

James Hohmann at the always impressive Daily 202 writes about GOP polling improving, using the new Quinnipiac survey as a hook:

A Quinnipiac University poll published Wednesday showed that a generic Democrat leads a generic Republican by nine points, down from 14 points in early December.

The Democratic lead among independents has weakened on this important barometer. Polls in January from Monmouth University, CNN/SSRS and Marist all showed Democrats and Republicans nearly tied among independent registered voters on the generic ballot, a flip from December when each showed Democrats leading by double digits.

“The improving poll numbers and growing GOP confidence isn’t an accident,” said Kevin Seifert, the executive director of Speaker Paul Ryan’s political operation. “This development is happening because Americans are recognizing that Democrats overplayed their hand on tax reform. As companies dole out bonuses, raise wages for workers, and families see the positive impact that this law is having on their lives, they understand that the Republican House majority is working for them.”

– The new Quinnipiac poll puts Trump’s approval rating at 40 percent among registered voters, up from 35 percent in early December. The percentage approving “strongly” is 30 percent, up five points from early December and his highest level since last March. (To be sure, 55 percent still disapprove.)

Fifty-one percent approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, while 43 percent disapprove. This is the first time in Trump’s presidency that a majority has approved of his economic stewardship in Quinnipiac polling and compares with a negative 44-51 split in mid-December.

For the first time, more voters say Trump is responsible for the current state of the economy than Barack Obama, by a 48 percent to 41 percent margin. This is a flip from January when voters said by nine points that Obama was more responsible for the economy’s condition, and from December and November when the public was more evenly split.

A striking 70 percent rated the economy as excellent or good, up 14 points from January and up 24 points from January 2017.The size of the recent shift might raise an eyebrow as possibly a one-poll fluke, but the overall direction is clear. A big question has been whether Trump can take credit for it, and both the above findings above suggests he is increasingly doing so.

More still disapprove than approve of the Republican tax plan, but approval is up from 26 percent in mid-December to 39 percent in Quinnipiac’s new poll, while 47 percent currently disapprove.

There’s no doubt that Republicans will have a tough November, but there’s an enormous difference between holding the House by one vote or losing it by one vote. Either way, it will wipe out their ability to govern. But if Democrats get the majority, it means subpoena power and investigatory trench warfare with Trump, even if they don’t try to impeach him. And if after all this build up, Democrats don’t manage to take the majority, it will drive them insane and initiate a civil war (or a more intense civil war) within the party.

‘Yes, Throw a Parade’

by Rich Lowry

I wrote about the parade controversy for Politico today. One point is that most conservatives (I was among them) allowed themselves to indulge in a silly caricature of France in our irritation at the likes of Dominique de Villepin in the run-up to the Iraq War:

Trump was, understandably, impressed in a visit to France last July by the pageantry of the Bastille Day parade. Despite the disdain conservatives have long heaped on France as a country of pansies, it has a storied military tradition and a deep sense of national pride as one the world’s oldest nation-states, one that has always been at the center of Western civilization. 

The Bastille Day parade dates back to the 1880s. Nothing that the U.S. comes up with will match its resonance or its beloved, unifying nature.

Another is that this flap goes to a fault-line in our politics that isn’t new, but that has greater prominence now:

The parade controversy is another sign that the place of patriotism in our national life, and what that patriotism should consist of, is a Trump-era flashpoint. 

Trump’s critics tend to think that patriotism itself is atavistic, or that its locus should be only in our ideals. Trump’s patriotism is more grounded, and insists that we are a nation, not just an abstraction.

This is why a military parade once in a while is a healthy thing: We should be proud, not just of our troops, but of our military as such. We should be proud of our strength. We should be proud of our weaponry, highly proficient machines fashioned by the most technically adept society the world has ever known. 

Finally, something I didn’t get to is how this is different than other controversies along these lines: Trump isn’t hitting any particular NFL players for their refusal to stand for the National Anthem. He isn’t pledging to have Mexico pay for a wall, which was, at least in part, a calculated insult to Mexico’s national pride. A parade is entirely affirmative, or it should be.

‘We Train and We Fight’

by Jonah Goldberg

I’m not gung ho on the idea of the military parade, but not because I’m against a good parade. If it was for celebrating the military, I’d be all for it. Lord knows the military has made enormous sacrifices over the last decade and a half. Expressing some gratitude for it is fine by me.

My problem is that this just seems like a vanity project for the president, not gratitude for the troops. I also don’t think it’s the biggest outrage in the world either. Moreover, I think Democrats are once again boxing themselves into a corner by freaking out over something most Americans will think is kind of cool and harmless.

Still, if you want to effectively throw shade at the idea or at countries that are great at dressing up but not so great at fighting, you can do no better than General Jack Keane. Here he is on Fox:

“These European militaries and some of these other guys, they dress up in fancy outfits with fancy uniforms,” Keane said. “They have unbelievably fancy uniforms. Gold braid, sabers all over the place. Shiny helmets. We’re a pragmatic military. We reflect the American people.”

He continued:

We’re informal. Our uniforms are dull by comparison. And what we do is we train and we fight. We bear the burdens around the world. These other guys, they do a lot more parading than they do fighting. But if the president wants a parade from the United States military, he’ll get his parade.

And here he is again on Fox Business.

Swamp Things?

by Victor Davis Hanson

No doubt people talk indiscreetly when they believe their communications are private; perhaps those in an illicit affair may posture and brag about their self-importance and exaggerate. All that said, when reading through the latest release of the Page-Strzok archive, one is struck not just that the two who eventually were to investigate Donald Trump did not like Trump, but rather that they utterly loathed him, given their banter back and forth included: “God trump is a loathsome human.” Or “And wow, Donald Trump is an enormous d**che.” Or “And Trump should go f himself.” Or “I am riled up. Trump is a f***ing idiot.”

It is hard to imagine how the Mueller investigation was not tainted by such venom — or perhaps the hate is better understood as proof that both were uniquely qualified to serve on the Mueller team doing the holy work deemed necessary to save the progressive project.

And perhaps the two had even more disdain for the supposed white working class who supported this “loathsome human”: e.g., cf., “from buttf*** Texas . . . ” Or “Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support . . . ” Or “Loudon is being gentrified, but it’s still largely ignorant hillbillys [sic].”

Anyone trying to chronicle the supposed pretensions and arrogance of a deep-state, deplorables/irredeemables/clingers/dairy-farmer–hating elite could not make all this up, especially the idea that a Trump supporter gives off a unique odor, real or metaphorical.

Of course, if two FBI amorous agents/attorneys in 2008 were investigating candidate or president-elect Obama and their correspondence was later revealed to be anything like the above about him or his constituents, they would have long ago been fired, no questions asked.

Thank You Rush

by Jack Fowler

Seems like our friend and America’s premier conservative voice has never done a local event in his home town of Palm Beach. But on Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh ventured not too far from the EIB studio in order to join National Review Institute for the kick-off event (one of many NRI is hosting across the country this winter and early spring) to celebrate the legacy of Bill Buckley, whose death happened ten years ago this month.

On hand — before the intimate sold-out venue of 100 Florida conservatives (with maybe an out-of-state ringer or two) — were Andy McCarthy (who joined Rush for a conversation on free speech and plenty more, poorly captured by Photographer Yours Truly), John O’Sullivan, Rich Lowry, and Neal Freeman. It was a big success. It would be an understatement to say that El Rushbo (WFB was a huge fan and friend) knocked it out of the park, and that he had a grand time knocking it. He talked about his appearance on his show yesterday.

The Mystery of Pronunciation

by Jay Nordlinger

I have done a new Jaywalking, and it includes a story about Saoirse Ronan, a young Irish actress. I had to learn how to pronounce her name (the first one): “SUR-sha.”

I had a memory of The Arsenio Hall Show (which started in the late ’80s and ran into the ’90s). Sade was a hot pop star, and you pronounced her name “Shar-DAY.” Arsenio said approximately this: “How do you get ‘Shar-DAY’ out of S-a-d-e? That’s like saying, ‘My name is B-o-b, but I prefer to pronounce it “linoleum.”’”

It’s funny about memory. I’m a little hazy about last night, but I remember Arsenio’s line as clear as a bell.

Anyway, that Jaywalking is here. And if you’d like a concert review, try here, for Matthias Goerne and Daniil Trifonov at Carnegie Hall.

Parade Politics

by Jay Nordlinger

As a rule, the greater a nation is, the humbler it can afford to be. The less it has to flex its muscles and preen its feathers. Same with an individual.

President Trump belittles people, literally. He calls them “Little Marco” and “Liddle’ Bob Corker” (no, I can’t explain the apostrophe either) and “Little Adam Schiff.” It’s perfectly possible to knock Rubio, Corker, and Schiff — and knock them hard — without calling them “little.” Without referring to their physical stature.

Most parents wouldn’t allow their children to do this. Should the president do it? Doesn’t he set an example, for good or ill?

President Trump saw a military parade in France on Bastille Day. Then he wanted one of his own. Usually, Republicans and conservatives don’t take their cues from France, but these are unusual times.

I like it when other countries aspire to be like America. I don’t think we need to aspire to be like other countries (no offense to anyone).

North Korea has just had a big military parade, showing off their stuff. That’s what they do. We Americans don’t have to brag that our nuclear button is bigger than theirs. Everyone knows it.

There is a Republican John Kennedy — I mean, a literal John Kennedy, the junior senator from Louisiana. He said, “I think confidence is silent and insecurity is loud.” He also said, “America is the most powerful country in all of human history — you don’t need to show it off.”

(We can leave discussion of Rome and so on for another time.)

Another senator, Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), said, “I don’t mind having a parade honoring the service and sacrifice of our military members. I’m not looking for a Soviet-style hardware display. That’s not who we are, it’s kind of cheesy, and I think it shows weakness, quite frankly.”

That sounds about right to me. I wonder where Graham’s friend John McCain stands on this. He has a little standing, doesn’t he?

I fear the Parade has already become a wedge issue, like the NFL: with red-blooded God-fearing Americans on one side and quiche-eatin’ weenies on the other (though quiche is French and France is in).

And if we do have a parade, will it be an annual event? Will it be simply a Trump-centric event, to expire with his presidency? What are the plans?

No doubt, this parade will come off, at least once. The energy is with it. To oppose it is now stigmatizing. So, I say, let there be a feeling of honest patriotism, rather than jingoism. And let the music be good! Sousa’s Washington Post March?

Talk about something to confuse Left and Right …

Weighing the Good and the Bad in the Spending Caps Deal

by Jim Geraghty

From the Thursday Morning Jolt…

Weighing the Good and the Bad in the Spending Caps Deal

Let’s start with the good news about the “spending caps deal”…

Finally, a substantial boost to the Pentagon’s budget. Yesterday I mentioned Defense Secretary James Mattis’ complaint that funding the government through continuing resolutions was eating away at the Pentagon’s ability to make long-term spending decisions. Mattis sounds genuinely pleased with this deal:

…steep increases in U.S. defense spending over the next two years — up more than 15 percent in 2018 alone, the largest boost in more than a decade and a half.

The full agreement remains to be hammered out between the House and Senate, but Defense Secretary James Mattis pronounced himself “very happy with $700 [billion] for this year, and $716 [billion] for next.”

This adds up to the biggest increase in defense spending since 2003.

The domestic spending is mostly aimed at genuine national priorities. Republicans dislike “increased domestic spending” in general, but once you see the specifics, you understand why Republican leaders signed off on it: $80 billion in disaster relief funding, $6 billion toward opioid and mental health treatment, $4 billion to the Veterans Administration to rebuild and improve veterans hospitals and clinics, $2 billion toward research at the National Institutes of Health. These are popular programs and broadly-supported national priorities.

Remember the so-called “death panels”? They’re gone, repealing another key and unpopular component of Obamacare. It was always a stretch to claim that Republicans had “basically repealed Obamacare” just by repealing the individual mandate. But getting rid of the individual mandate and the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board? Now we’re getting somewhere. The IPAB board was created under Obamacare and given the duty to slow the growth of Medicare spending, but no board members were ever nominated. But as written under the law, IPAB would have enjoyed a lot of power over what Medicare was willing to pay for and how much, with little opportunity for Congress to overrule their decisions. This deal gets rid of IPAB for good.

Democrats have once again failed to use the threat of a government shutdown to get a DACA fix on their terms, for the second time in two months. In the eyes of the pro-amnesty lawmakers, this is a surrender. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, is livid, declaring yesterday, “if Democrats join with Republicans on this deal and lift the caps, what you will have is a collusion with Donald Trump to deport Dreamers.”

It avoids a government shutdown. You know my perspective; no one ever “wins” a government shutdown. Democrats looked at polling numbers on DACA immigrants and thought Americans would support a government shutdown over them. Nope. President Trump thinks Americans will support a government shutdown over border security. Probably not. As soon as the government shuts down and Americans start seeing images of kids on a field trip finding the doors of the Smithsonian locked, they start to respond, “those idiots, why can’t they keep the government open? A pox on both your houses.”

The bad news about the deal…

This is a big spending increase, when the debt is $20 trillion and we’re starting to approach the risk of trillion-dollar-per-year deficits again. The biggest spending increase since 2009, in fact. (It is fair to remember that Donald Trump did not run as a fiscal conservative.)

We just don’t care about deficits and the debt anymore, do we?

I should point out one dollop of budgetary good news: In January, tax revenues… are up, about five percent higher than they were a year ago. Now, not all companies had implemented the payroll withholding in January, so this month and coming months may see lower revenue than the preceding year. But as Investor’s Business Daily put it, “Those 3 million-plus workers who are getting bonuses and raises thanks to the Trump tax cuts will end up paying more in taxes on those extra earnings, offsetting at least some of the tax cuts they will enjoy this year.”

The editors focus on the opportunity cost of this deal:

This is a bad deal. It is a bad deal because it hikes domestic spending. It is a bad deal, as well, because it may end the chance for a conservative legislative achievement in 2018.

A two-year spending deal means Republicans probably won’t go to the trouble of passing a formal budget for 2019. That would mean no chance for a so-called reconciliation process that could allow them to enact meaningful legislation with only 50 votes in the Senate. If Republicans accept this deal and then forgo the reconciliation process, they will have given up their chance to pass a law without Democratic support, and measures such as easing the Obamacare regulations that will contribute to higher premiums in the coming years or reforming welfare will stand no chance of making it through Congress. With this deal, Republicans are hurting the chance to add to their ledger of accomplishments prior to November.