In Portland, the mania of Bernie

Reader Dave Begley reported for us on the mania of (and for) Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Now we can go to the tape to check out the mania for Bernie in Portland, Maine (video below, too long at about an hour).

Times are tough in Obama’s America! A revolution in political consciousness! Fight for Social Security! Fight for Social Security taxes! Raise the minimum wage! Transform America (again)! Brothers and sisters, we are going to end “wealth inequality”! It is “grotesque”! We are going to send a message to the billionaire class! Children are going hungry! Your greed has got to end, and we are going to end it for you! Real unemployment is 10.5 percent! The real tragedy is youth unemployment!

We have more people in jail than the Commies! Rethink the war on drugs! Free the people! Women control their bodies! Contraceptives (Republicans are opposed)! He’s been married for 27 years! Twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave are decreed! Two weeks of paid vacation are decreed! It’s the least we can do! He’s got a message for Wall Street! Koch brothers! Oligarchy! Free tuition at every public college and university is decreed! And so endlessly on.

Merle Haggard puts it somewhat more concisely: “We’ll all be drinking that free Bubble Up/And eating that rainbow stew.”

The man is feeling it, a relentless demagogue taking a trip down memory lane. He takes the trip with kernels of truth scattered like pebbles to help him find his way home. He returns to the ’30s, but it is the ’30s overlaid with C. Wright Mills and the higher wisdom of the ’60s.

Via Ed Driscoll/InstaPundit.

The deep meaning of San Francisco

KathrynSteinle In one phase the modern novel takes up the idea of expressive form. James Joyce took it about as far as possible in Ulysses, with the style of each chapter varying to mirror the content. In the “Aeolus” chapter placed inside a newspaper office, for example, Joyce exhausted the variety of rhetorical devices available in English to capture windbaggery in action.

The city of San Francisco now presents as a real life study in expressive form. San Francisco is the expressive form of the Democratic Party.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders documents the city’s descent into an urban outhouse in the column “Summer of muck.” Saunders writes: “Downtown San Francisco feels like a large public toilet without enough janitors. More than once this year, I’ve seen men drop their pants in public places — including at Fifth and Market — in order to leave a smelly mess on the sidewalk. You can walk for blocks and never escape the stench of stale urine.” (Saunders warmed up for this column last month in the post “Warning: San Francisco smells like a toilet.”)

Saunders concludes her column with an observation and a dainty question: “San Francisco is such a beautiful city. Why do we let people poop all over it?”

How to turn a beautiful city into a shithole? (Pardon my language. No synonym suffices here.) Turn the city to over to progressive Democrats who form the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

Saunders is a working stiff walking the streets of San Francisco. You can see where the limousine has become the indispensable handmaiden of the city’s limousine liberals. It helps insulate them from the stench as they travel to and from the office.

San Francisco now gives us the case of Francisco Sanchez. Sanchez is the seven-time convicted felon and five-time deportee who murdered Kate Steinle (photo above) last week at Pier 14 in the course of his most recent stay in the United States.

He left his heart in San Francisco. Why? Sanchez loved San Francisco because it was a so-called sanctuary city, proudly declining to cooperate with the enforcement of our immigration laws.

Sanchez is himself the Democrats’ ideal love object. He kept coming back to San Francisco because he knew he could avoid deportation there. See this ABC News report. (More here.)

Why did federal officers at ICE turn Sanchez over to local authorities under an immigration detainer when the local authorities follow a sanctuary city policy? I haven’t seen an answer to that question, but we can look up to the Democratic president who has exercised authority beyond the limits of the law to undermine immigration policy. Debra Saunders herself explores the question in “Whose sanctuary?”

What does President Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security have to say about San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy? He isn’t saying. “In my view, this type of situation highlights the importance of the direction where we are headed,” Johnson said when asked about the California murder.

From the city of San Francisco to the president of the United States, it’s Democrats all the way up.

Obama’s uncertain trumpet, cont’d

As President Obama works to complete our surrender to the Islamic Republic — the crowning glory of his legacy — he also seeks to reform our character with deep thoughts such as those he enunciated at the Pentagon with military officers standing dutifully behind him (video below):

Th[e] broader challenge of countering violent extremism is not simply a military effort. Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas and more attractive and more compelling vision. So the United States will continue to do our part by continuing to counter ISIL’s hateful propaganda, especially online. We’ll constantly reaffirm through words and deeds that we will never be at war with Islam. We are fighting terrorists who distort islam and its victims are mostly Muslims.

We’re also going to partner with Muslim communities as they seek the prosperity and dignity they observe. And we’re going to expect those communities to step up in terms of pushing back as hard as they can in conjunction with other people of good will against these hateful ideologies, particularly when it comes to what we’re teaching young people.

It’s not exactly “We shall fight on the beaches.” To the annals of idiocy Obama has made monumental contributions. As for us, we shall, apparently, yammer on the beaches.

Via RealClearPolitics.

Peter the Great for Our Time

Last night over 700 people gathered in Ashland, Ohio, to honor Peter Schramm, the long-time director of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, and one of the great classroom teachers of our time. Peter has fought off cancer for the last several years, but a few weeks ago his doctor delivered a very grim diagnosis. His many friends didn’t want to wait passively on the sidelines.

Born American copyWith a New Orleans jazz band providing the musical backdrop for the festivities, Ashbrook Center director Roger Beckett conducted a “conversation” (Peter’s favorite term) about Peter with Larry Arnn, Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Jeff Sikkenga, Lucas Morel, and David Tucker. A new scholarship and library in Peter’s name were announced.  Then Peter came out and spoke for about 10 minutes in one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen a human being do anywhere, at any time.  I may have some of the video at a later time, but for people familiar with the phenomenal “last lecture” of Randy Pausch a few years ago, this was every bit as excellent and profound. If you want to get a small flavor of it, and if you never read anything else by Peter, see “Born American, But in the Wrong Place.” Or, as the mockup National Review cover nearby captures it: “The Amazing Story of the Cigar-Chomping Hungarian Who Explained America to Americans.”

Peter’s body may be giving out, but he is not. He’s still in the classroom every day this summer.  Two years ago I sat down and interviewed Peter for about 90 minutes, and posted a couple of short excerpts here at the time.  I thought it appropriate to repost both of these excerpts today. Meanwhile, I’ll be going back through the other hour-plus of material for more in the coming days and weeks. Jonah Goldberg said Peter was the definition of a mensch. I’ll just go with Peter the Great.

Chris Flannery and Peter, best friends of 50 years.

Chris Flannery and Peter, best friends of 50 years.

Cruz Control?

Of the entire GOP presidential field, I think the candidate with the best or most substantive grasp of the constitutional defects of the administrative state—the term for our unaccountable “fourth branch” of government that increasingly governs us without our consent—is Ted Cruz. (If Tom Cotton were running for president, he’d get the clear nod on this point, but perhaps some day. . .)

At the very least, Cruz knows enough about the separation of powers to make the bold suggestion that some states have a legal basis to ignore or resist the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing gay marriage. As Politico reported last week:

“Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it,” the Texas Republican told NPR News’ Steve Inskeep in an interview published on Monday. Since only suits against the states of Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky were specifically considered in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which was handed down last Friday, Cruz — a former Supreme Court clerk — believes that other states with gay marriage bans need not comply, absent a judicial order.

Politico goes on to say that “Cruz’s statement may be technically true,” which is another way of saying that Cruz is right, isn’t it? Well, not quite: the last four words of the previous paragraph—“absent a judicial order”’—are crucial. It is a mere formality for someone to go into federal district court and ask for a writ to overturn a state’s laws restricting marriage to one man and one woman, and lower court judges will have to apply the holding of Obergefell.

But that isn’t the end of the story. Cruz is on to something larger here. He’s trying to channel Lincoln’s attempt to confine the damage of the Dred Scott case in his first inaugural address:

I do not forget the position assumed by some, that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case, upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration, in all l cases, by all other departments of the government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be over-ruled, and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased, to be their own rulers, having, to that extent, practically resigned their government, into the hands of that eminent tribunal.

Clearly anyone seeking a same-sex marriage license in a state who was not party to the Obergefell suit falls under what Lincoln would call a “parallel case.” But what about someone who runs to federal court or a state marriage license bureau, and holds up Obergefell’s doctrine of “dignity” on behalf of, say, polygamy? Must the court or marriage license bureau shrug their shoulders and say, “Well—I guess so”?

When Lincoln arrived in the White House in 1861, he found two executive branch decisions to which he objected. A free black man in Boston had applied to the State Department for a passport to travel to France, which the State Department had denied on the ground that the Supreme Court, in Dred Scott, had declared that blacks could not be citizens because blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” And in Philadelphia, a free black man had applied to the Patent Office for an invention, and been denied on the same ground. Lincoln ordered both decisions reversed.

I often tell this story to my students in classes on the Constitution, with the question appended: “Was Lincoln defying the Supreme Court? Did he act unconstitutionally?” It is amazing—and depressing—that the overwhelming majority of my students get the answer wrong. Such is an example of how deep the idea of judicial supremacy—“the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is,” as the Court self-congratulated in Cooper v. Aaron—has crept into the public mind today.

Look again at Lincoln’s careful language in that passage above. He is saying that the reasoning of Dred Scott must be respected as to the parties of that particular case and in parallel cases (i.e., a slave owner who brings his slave into a free state, as Dred Scott’s owner had done). But in his decision to reverse the executive branch decisions supposedly based on Dred Scott in circumstances that were not parallel—both were free blacks in free states, with no one asserting ownership claims to them—Lincoln was asserting that the executive branch was not obligated to extend the principle of the Dred Scott case more broadly. The Constitution belongs to all three branches of government, each of which may assert its constitutional prerogatives in its own sphere—pending a legal challenge in the courts that concludes otherwise.

Good for Cruz for sticking up for constitutional rectitude, though as I say I think he’s stretching it a bit here. But his general point is solid, because you can be sure that there will be people asking to extend Justice Kennedy’s reasoning about “dignity” on behalf of all kinds of “rights” beyond marriage, and governors and state legislatures will be on solid ground to resist.

Perry Sense

While Donald Trump continues to get disproportionate attention for his correctly grounded—if not well formulated—attacks on out of control immigration, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is quietly emerging as a much more serious candidate. Worth catching the excerpts of his remarks on race and economic opportunity that he delivered at the National Press Club last Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal editorializes on it today:

[Perry’s] remarks are far more than a mea culpa. He also lays out a rationale and a specific agenda for how the GOP can earn—and deserve—the support of black Americans. In particular he points out how Republican policies have improved life for all races in Texas. And he contrasts those results for blacks in progressive states that purport to do so much more for minorities but have left them behind economically.

In particular I relished this part of Perry’s aggressive analysis:

There is a lot of talk in Washington about inequality. Income inequality. But there is a lot less talk about the inequality that arises from the high cost of everyday life. In blue state coastal cities, you have these strict zoning laws, environmental regulations that have prevented builders from expanding the housing supply. And that may be great for the venture capitalist who wants to keep a nice view of San Francisco Bay, but it’s not so great for the single mother working two jobs in order to pay rent and still put food on the table for her kids.

There’s a huge opportunity for conservatives if they will but attempt to grasp it. I recall with glee the day I appeared on a panel on “Environmental Justice” at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s annual “Diversity and Inclusion Summit.” (Stop guffawing: I was the diversity and inclusion that year.) Of course, most of the other panelists wanted to talk about chemical companies deliberately poisoning their neighbors, or the predations of those two brothers from Kansas, or whatnot. But what most of the minorities in attendance at the session wanted to talk about was high housing prices in Boulder that required them to live elsewhere and have long commutes to work.

Boulder, like much of coastal California, has long had very restrictive land use policies in place to preserve open space and quality of life. The mania for open space is so deep that the town even went so far as to purchase land in an adjacent county to keep it from being developed.  Fine and nice if you are a prosperous Boulderite, but the “disparate impact” is obvious.

I always have fun pointing this out; the “environmental justice warriors’ change the subject as fast as they can (Look! Koch-funded squirrels!), or propose some ridiculous regulatory scheme that amounts to housing rationing.

Beyond this particular point, a competent conservative politician ought to be able to make some hay out of the fact that blacks are moving in large numbers from states liberals run to southern states that conservatives run—you know, those states supposedly soaked in racism. Perry does exactly this:

From 2005-07 more African-Americans moved to Texas than all but one other state, that state being Georgia. Now, many were coming from blue states like New York and Illinois and California. Many came from Louisiana, where they had lost their homes due to Hurricane Katrina. But each one of those new residents was welcomed to Texas with open arms. They came to a state with a booming economy. We kept taxes low, regulations low, we kept frivolous lawsuits to a minimum. . .

If we create jobs, incentivize work, keep nonviolent drug offenders out of prison, reform our schools, and reduce the cost of living—we will have done more for African-Americans than the last three Democratic administrations combined.


This could be a very effective way of calling out the left on their egregious race-baiting. Understand that the left has to race-bait not just for ideological reasons, but for sheer self-preservation. The left understands that Republicans don’t need to win a majority of the black or Hispanic vote to prosper; the GOP only needs to increase its share—say to 20 percent of the black vote and 40 – 45 percent of the Hispanic vote—and it will be all over for the Democratic Party.  Several blue states would flip back to the GOP in presidential elections.

Perry has clearly learned from his ill-fated 2012 run.  Keep your eye on him. I’ll bet he surprises in one of the early debates.

Gelernter on fire

David Gelernter is an old-fashioned Renaissance man. He is professor of computer science at Yale University, chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies, contributing editor at the Weekly Standard and member of the National Council of the Arts (more here). We have proudly hosted several of his thoughts on the present discontents.

Professor Gelernter is the author of books that suggest a kind of Herodotean interest in everything human. Professor Gelernter has written a history of the 1939 World’s Fair. After he survived an attack by the Unabomber, he wrote a reflective book about that. His is also the author, most recently, of America-Lite.

A while back the Weekly Standard carried Professor Gelernter’s article “The Roots of European Appeasement.” Among his provocative observations in the piece was this timely statement:

Once upon a time we thought of appeasement as a particular approach to Hitler. We have long since come to see that it is a Weltanschauung, an entire philosophical worldview that teaches the blood-guilt of Western man, the moral bankruptcy of the West, and the outrageousness of Western civilization’s attempting to impose its values on anyone else. World War II and its aftermath clouded the issue, but self-hatred has long since reestablished itself as a dominant force in Europe and (less often and not yet decisively) the United States. It was a British idea originally; it was enthusiastically taken up by the French. Today (like so many other British ideas) it is believed more fervently in continental Europe than anywhere else.”

Now Professor Gelernter joins Bill Kristol in the latest installment of Bill’s Conversations (video below, about an hour). The video is also posted and broken into chapters here; the transcript is posted here. I will limit myself to saying that Professor Gelernter is on fire on the subjects covered in this conversation and that it is worth your time.

Quotable quote: “Students today are so ignorant that it’s hard to accept how ignorant they are. It’s hard to grasp that [the student] you’re talking to, who is bright, articulate, interested, doesn’t know who Beethoven was. Looking back at the history of the 20th Century [he] just sees a fog. Has [only] the vaguest idea of who Winston Churchill was or why he mattered. No image of Teddy Roosevelt. We have failed [them].”