Speaking of the Iran deal (11)

I have said repeatedly here that the Iran deal is distinguished from the Munich Agreement in part by the state of public opinion. As Churchill acknowledged in his great speech opposing the Munich Agreement was hugely popular in Great Britain; it reflected public opinion. By contrast, Americans (on average) resist the deal with Iran. They understand the sinister nature of the Iranian regime and they understand that the deal serves the interests of the Iranian regime, not ours. Nevertheless, I find the results reported by Quinippiac today striking:

American voters oppose 57 – 28 percent, with only lukewarm support from Democrats and overwhelming opposition for Republicans and independent voters, the nuclear pact negotiated with Iran, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

Voters say 58 – 30 percent the nuclear pact will make the world less safe, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.

Opposing the Iran deal are Republicans 86 – 3 percent and independent voters 55 – 29 percent, while Democrats support it 52 – 32 percent. There is little gender gap as men oppose the deal 59 – 30 percent and women oppose it 56 – 27 percent.

As with Obamacare, so it seems, the more President Obama talks, the more Americans understand that they are being sold a bill of goods. Bill Kristol comments here.

Whole thing must reading.

Via Ed Morrissey/Hot Air.

My Coates problem–and ours

I refashioned my posts about Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between the World and Me into a column for City Journal. The column has now been published under the heading “An updated racial hustle.” Please check it out if you have any interest in the subject.

Dreadful as it is, Coates’s book remains at the top of the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list this week. Culture matters, and this book is polluting the culture, yet Coates’s book has been hailed as a brilliant contribution. New Yorker editor David Remnick, for example, welcomes Coates and his book in Remnick’s fawning podcast with Coates. (“You are a writer with a capital W,” Remnick tells Coates.) In his capacity as editor of the New Yorker, Remnick closes a loop of sorts here.

Coates is not a modest man. He fancies himself the second coming of James Baldwin in The Fire Next Time. As the editor of Commentary, Norman Podhoretz had commissioned the major essay in The Fire Next Time for Commentary and Baldwin had taken him up on it. After writing the essay, however, Baldwin gave it to the New Yorker for a fee about 20 times what Commentary would have paid him.

Upon its publication in the New Yorker Baldwin’s essay made a major splash. Podhoretz felt betrayed by Baldwin and let Baldwin know it. His furious conversation with Baldwin led to Podhoretz’s famous essay responding to Baldwin, “My Negro Problem–and Ours,” published in Commentary in February 1963.

Podhoretz tells the story in the closing pages of his superb memoir Making It as well as in his 2013 Commentary essay looking back in “‘My Negro Problem–and Ours’ at 50.” Not surprisingly, with his unsurpassed editorial eye, Podhoretz plucked Coates from the current scene to make a cameo appearance in his retrospective essay.

I do not fancy myself Norman Podhoretz, but I had him in the back of my mind while suffering through Coates’s book. His opinion regarding my piece on Coates was the one I cared about. Closing the loop in my own way, I sent the edited draft to him last week. He took a look and graciously responded by email: “I hadn’t realized from ​the reviews how badly written the book is. Jimmy Baldwin at his worst (i.e., in the last years of his life) never came close to writing such gibberish, and at his best he was many literary miles beyond the reach of Coates. Evidently Toni Morrison [in her endorsement on the back of the dust jacket] can’t tell the difference, but the Baldwin I knew would have been insulted by the comparison to him.”

I also had City Journal in mind while working through Coates’s book. Coates rehearses many of the themes that City Journal has manfully resisted over the years. I am most grateful to the editors for their hospitality to my piece on Coates.

The Judiciary Below the Water Line

Decisions of the Supreme Court understandably get a lot of attention, but what about the decisions of the Circuit Courts of Appeals, not to mention District Court and state appellate courts? Their decisions are often very important to the evolution of case law, but receive much less attention and often don’t get appealed successfully to the Supreme Court (except, it would seem, for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals because of its relentless nuttiness).

The good folks at the Institute for Justice do a weekly roundup of lower court proceedings worthy of note in a weekly email and podcast called “Short Circuit.” You can sign up to receive “Short Circuit” in your email here. The summaries are brief and snappy. (Listen to the podcasts if you want more details.)  A few of this week’s highlights:

• Fairfax, Va. nurse engages in sexual innuendo in the workplace. For shame! NLRB: Many staff members enjoyed the odd ribald joke. In fact, the hospital actually fired her for asking management—in concert with other nurses—for certain accommodations. D.C. Circuit: Agreed. Fun Fact: No union = no problem. The NLRB has jurisdiction.

• To impose a penalty, in this case for late paperwork, four of six FEC commissioners must vote in favor of enforcement. Is it cool that failing to vote counts as a yes vote? D.C. Circuit: It gives us pause, but we need not resolve the issue just now.

• Litigation pro-tip from the Sixth Circuit: When challenging an ordinance that requires your client to mow the curb strip in front of his house, maybe don’t compare the city to North Korea, “a totalitarian regime that notoriously tortures criminal defendants, executes non-violent offenders, and sends those accused of political offenses to ‘brutal forced labor camps.’”

• DEA agents seize $239,400 cash money from train passenger. He’s free to go; they don’t find any contraband. Gov’t: Sucks for you, guy. You don’t have standing to try and get the money back. Seventh Circuit: Yeah, no, he does.

• Should the prevailing party in a just-compensation case involving abandoned property receive attorneys’ fees even if the district court doesn’t feel like awarding them? In a word, yes, says the Seventh Circuit.

• Officers scuffle with detainee in Ferguson, Mo. jail. After subduing detainee, officers continue to kick and beat him. Blood gets on the officers’ uniforms, so the detainee is charged with damaging property—among other things. Detainee sues, alleges excessive force. Eighth CircuitContra the district court, a concussion, scalp laceration, and bruising cannot be considered de minimis for qualified immunity purposes.

• Convict to judge: I hope you die slowly of a painful disease. U.S. Marshals to convict: We’re going to arrange for you to be mistreated. Eighth Circuit: No qualified immunity for the marshals. Fun fact: If you get invited to a “blanket party,” do not go.

• Hawaiians challenge the “cabotage” requirement of the Jones Act, under which all shipping between domestic ports must be carried out by ships made in America and owned by Americans, alleging that it forces them to pay higher prices for goods. Ninth Circuit: Even if you had standing, which you don’t, you would still lose.

Worth a scan on Fridays. Sign up today!

Trump: Bush’s Stalking Horse?

In my interrogatories about Trump a week ago, I asked Trump enthusiasts the following question:

Are you happy that Trump is essentially a stalking horse for Jeb Bush? If Trump wins some early primaries in a crowded field it will be with less than 20 percent of the vote, but it will likely cause the party establishment—such as still exists—to rally around Bush, just as Democrats rallied to Michael Dukakis in 1988 after Jesse Jackson swept a round of Super Tuesday primaries in the South and caused panic at DNC headquarters.

The New York Times reports today:

Donald J. Trump’s surge in the polls has been met with barely concealed delight by Jeb Bush and his supporters. Mr. Trump’s bombastic ways have simultaneously made it all but impossible for those vying to be the alternative to Mr. Bush to emerge, and easier for Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, to position himself as the serious and thoughtful alternative to a candidate who has upended the early nominating process. . .

“The longer it goes, the greater the panic is going to build,” said Alex Castellanos, a longtime Republican strategist. “And that means you may not have the luxury to flirt with an undeveloped, budding candidate. Trump has set the Republican Party on fire, and if you’re going to put that fire out you don’t have time to waste. You’re going to have to grab the biggest blanket you got and throw it, and right now that’s Jeb.” . . .

Privately, Mr. Bush’s top strategists, who have become increasingly fixated on halting Mr. Walker, believe that Mr. Trump is nothing short of a godsend. That is because Mr. Trump is drawing support from voters — blue-collar, less-educated, more conservative — who are unlikely ever to support Mr. Bush but are essential to Mr. Walker’s candidacy.

Remember, Power Line was there first.

How would a Biden campaign play out?

If it really was Beau Biden’s dying wish that Joe Biden run for president, then Joe has a powerful incentive to enter the race, especially since Hilary has yet to show any sign of invincibility. Moreover, as Scott notes, regardless of what Beau did or did not say, the fact that Biden is putting this story out amounts to strong evidence that he’s considering a run.

How would a Biden candidacy affect the race? If Hillary’s campaign implodes, Biden would become the front-runner. But her campaign isn’t likely to implode. And in a Clinton-Sanders-Biden race, the vice president might well be squeezed into third place.

The problem is that he has no obvious constituency. The hard left wants Sanders (or Elizabeth Warren, if it could have her). Women, if they aren’t too hard left, tend to want Hillary. Blacks are likely to divide — some favoring Biden because of his name-recognition and ties to President Obama; some favoring Hillary because of her name recognition, ties to Bill, and (in the case of black women) her gender; some perhaps disfavoring Biden because of his borderline racist statements.

I don’t mean to suggest that Biden would be without a decent share of support. However, there’s a good chance that he would rank third in the field.

Who would rank first? It’s conceivable that Biden would take enough support away from Clinton to elevate Sanders to the top. One can imagine, say, Sanders at 36 percent; Hillary at 33; Biden at 27; and “others” at 4.

If Sanders were to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, panic might set in among members of the Democratic establishment. Pressure would then mount on one of the other two top candidates to withdraw. If Biden were in third place, the pressure would fall mainly on him, especially given the sense among many Democrats that “it’s a woman’s turn.”

On the other hand, if Biden is doing significantly better than Hillary in head-to-head polls against Republican contenders — a distinct possibility — most of the pressure to withdraw would be on her. It’s difficult to see her pulling out early, though, especially if she’s running ahead of Biden within her party.

The other question is: who would make a worse president, Clinton or Biden? Ideologically, I see little difference. Decades ago, Hillary was far more radical. But these days, both are standard-issue liberals who have offered very little resistance as their party has to drifted steadily leftward (to the point where its chairperson can’t explain how Democrats are different from Socialists).

In terms of intellect, I see no contest. Hillary seems much smarter than Slow Joe (and Bill, from whom Hillary takes advice, seems much smarter than both, even in his seemingly diminished state).

Biden, however, certainly appears to be the better person. By now, his nice guy image is tarnished (think about his debate with Paul Ryan). But Biden has never shown the capacity for the corrupt, vindictive, and even criminal conduct that Hillary Clinton consistently displays.

Add it all up, and Biden comes out on top. The nation would be better served by the less corrupt and vindictive liberal, and probably by the less clever one.

Media Alert

I will be guest hosting the Laura Ingraham radio show tomorrow and Tuesday. The show is 9 to 12 Eastern. You can go here find a station in your area. If you miss the show live, you can get highlights via podcast on iTunes.

Both shows should be a lot of fun, with good guests. Please tune in!

Moral Clarity of the Past [With Comment by John]

Scott reminded us this morning of Winston Churchill’s notice of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, suggesting that we ought to take seriously the statements of murderous purpose whether they come from a seemingly implausible Austrian-born corporal, or a soon-to-be nuclear-armed Iranian ayatollah. Of course, Mein Kampf was mostly ignored in the 1930s or dismissed as the unimportant or irrelevant thoughts that Hitler would discard once he assumed the “responsibilities” of high office.

As background research for one of my longer writing projects currently under way I have been reading old issues of the American Political Science Review from the late 1930s to see how the rise of European fascism and specifically German Nazism was treated. The majority of the articles and book reviews are either stupid, trivial, or superficial, i.e., they examine institutional changes and administrative structures in the value-free way typical of social science that can’t bring itself to consider making moral judgments. Hitler’s regime is treated as more or less normal (ditto the Soviet Union, of course). From these treatments a serious student would learn almost nothing important about politics. These blinkered assessments remain the case even after the Reichstag fire, Kristallnacht, the Anschluss, the investment of all of Czechoslovakia following the Munich agreement, and even the outbreak of open war in 1939. While there were some clear voices about the deeper significance of what was taking place—one thinks of Hermann Rauschning’s 1939 best-seller The Revolution of Nihilism: Warning to the West—you typically didn’t find such clarity and depth among academic political scientists.

There are a few notable exceptions. One of them was Robert C. Brooks of Swarthmore College, who was president of the American Political Science Association in 1940. His presidential address at the December 1940 annual meeting of the APSA was entitled “Reflections on the ‘World Revolution’ of 1940,” and you could hardly ask for a more direct and sensible statement of what political science ought to be and to say. He opens by chiding his fellow academics for avoiding “contemporary, controversial political affairs.”

Some representative samples:

[S]ince Nazi Germany is the sole really effective totalitarian state, its overthrow should be the one great desideratum of democratic world politics. Nothing should be allowed to obscure that end. It was the tragic, nay criminal, blunder of Neville Chamberlain that he did not perceive this fact, that he believed in the possibility of gaining concessions from the insatiable Hitler by a policy of appeasement. For Britain, the consequences of this blunder have been tragic beyond all reckoning. Fortunately, in Winston Churchill a prime minister has been found who knows how to keep his eye on the ball. Let us hope that the President of the United States will follow his example.

Incredible as it may seem under such conditions, there are still said to be some appeasers on this side of the Atlantic, gentlemen willing to make a neat little loan—five billion dollars is the figure most frequently mentioned—to Germany as soon as her victory over Europe is complete. This, it is assumed, will soften any ill-feeling Hitler might cherish against us because of our earlier mistaken sympathies for the Allies. Also, poor fellow, he would need the money to buy our goods where with to repair the ravages of war and to feed the starving German people. Of course, once the loan were made, we would be too polite to inquire how much of it was spent, not for butter but for guns, the latter to be used against the United States. If political scientists cannot scotch so obviously ruinous a policy, one may well despair of the future of our profession. What is far worse, one would have to despair of the future of free government. . . [Emphasis added.]

Political scientists must be realists. As such, we know that if Britain is crushed, the only kind of peace we can hope for will be an armed peace—and that probably of short duration. . .

Combined attack by dictator powers upon America may result in our defeat or in our victory. In the former event, democracy will be dead upon this planet for a period of unpredictable length. Even so, let us hope that we might inflict wounds upon despotic aggressors from which they would not soon recover. This is not set down in malice; rather it would appear to be the only hope of future resurrection for our political principles. If democracy fighting for its life proves to be spineless and cowardly, why should any future generation wish to revive it? On the other hand, if it goes down fighting gloriously to the last ditch, it will not lose the power to fire the hearts of some future generation. Once more, as at the end of the eighteenth century, a race of rebels may be born of the sons of men.

Finally, the conclusion, which evokes the spirit of both Churchill and the famous words of Lincoln:

In the end, it is certain that Americans will not submit tamely to such a fate. They will not enter the door marked “Appeasement”: they will go out through the opposite door marked “Defiance.” I do not pretend to like the sort of future that confronts us. It may bring with it the heaviest burdens, the most cruel sacrifices. In all probability, things will get worse before they get better. It may fall to the lot of an American President to say, as did Prime Minister Winston Churchill, that he has “nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” Not liking a future, however, is no reason for not facing up to it. There is a deep satisfaction in resoluteness, through all perils, regardless of the outcome. Let us give thanks also that we are done with roseate illusions; that we are ready to deal with grim realities. Peace and justice may not be for our time, but we have the privilege of risking everything that they “shall not perish from the earth.”

For this Prof. Brooks gets posthumous induction into the Power Line 100 roster of Best Professors in America. Can anyone imagine a president of the APSA speaking in these tones today? Not likely. (And now that James Kurth is retired, is there anyone remotely like Brooks at Swarthmore today?)

(There is no public Internet access to the complete article unfortunately: You can only get it if you have a JSTOR account. It appears in the February 1941 issue of the APSR.)

JOHN adds: Wow. This is a brilliant observation that I don’t think I have seen before:

If democracy fighting for its life proves to be spineless and cowardly, why should any future generation wish to revive it? On the other hand, if it goes down fighting gloriously to the last ditch, it will not lose the power to fire the hearts of some future generation. Once more, as at the end of the eighteenth century, a race of rebels may be born of the sons of men.

At the moment, our democracy is spineless and cowardly. Self-government has given way to the administrative state without firing a shot, real or metaphorical. In 1940, it was a sound prediction that “Americans will not submit tamely to such a fate.” Today, it appears that Americans will submit tamely to just about anything.