Who Will Staff a Second Trump Administration?

January 16, 2024 at 9:09 am

It's too early to start measuring measure the office drapes. There are scenarios—a "No Labels" independent ticket, a Nikki Haley New Hampshire Republican primary miracle powered by crossover Democrats and independent voters, a legal twist or turn that keeps Trump off the ballot or makes it practically impossible for him to continue—that could change things. But the morning after the Iowa caucuses, it sure looks like Donald Trump has a reasonably good chance of returning to the White House.

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Two U.S. Navy SEALs Lost in War With Iran

January 16, 2024 at 8:42 am

Their names and photos haven't yet been released, and I hope and pray that by some miracle they may yet be found alive, but at this writing it sure looks as if the new phase of the war between Iran and the U.S. has claimed two American seamen.

A press release from U.S. Central Command reports that on January 11, "U.S. Navy SEALs operating from USS Lewis B Puller ... executed a complex boarding of the dhow near the coast of Somalia in international waters of the Arabian Sea, seizing Iranian-made ballistic missile and cruise missiles components." The dhow—a sailboat with a triangular sail—was "conducting illegal transport of advanced lethal aid from Iran to resupply Houthi forces in Yemen as part of the Houthis' ongoing campaign of attacks against international merchant shipping," the press release said. More from the release:

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Biden on Smoothie Prices

January 15, 2024 at 4:29 pm

From the "Remarks by President Biden During Tour of Nowhere Coffee Co. | Emmaus, PA," January 12, 2024:

THE PRESIDENT: ...By the way, anybody want a coffee? It's on me. (Laughter.) All right?

Q I'll take a smoothie.

THE PRESIDENT: You'll take a smoothie? Well, they're six bucks, but I'll do it anyway. (Laughter.)

Seriously, if anybody here wants anything, I'll pay for it. Okay?

MR. VARGAS: That's very generous of you.

(The tour of Nowhere Coffee Co. continues.)

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Sean Hannity to Florida, and Maybe Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, Too

January 15, 2024 at 3:33 pm

Rich and famous people are leaving high-tax states and moving to Florida. We've been trying to keep track—Jeff Bezos, Billy Joel, Tom Brady, Lionel Messi, Ken Griffin, Carl Icahn, Paul Tudor Jones—but the stampede is so extensive that keeping pace with it can be a challenge. Some recent developments:

Fox News's Sean Hannity announced a permanent move to Florida from New York.

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A $6 Trillion Difference in Taxes

January 13, 2024 at 10:22 pm

A news article in the Wall Street Journal explains the stakes in the 2024 elections in terms of federal taxes over a decade: The Republicans want to extend $4 trillion in tax cuts, while Democrats want to impose $2 trillion in tax increases. From the Journal:

"It's just striking both how clear and how large the gap is between these two approaches," said Brian Deese, Biden's former National Economic Council director, in an interview arranged by the president's campaign.

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Josh Hawley on "Our Christian Nation"

January 13, 2024 at 9:52 pm

Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, has a long essay in the February issue of First Things headlined, "Our Christian Nation." It complains, "The conservative 'fusionism' of yesteryear, that combination of anti-communism, free-market economics, and social conservatism, taught too many Christians that their faith was relevant only to 'cultural issues,' whatever that means." Hawley concludes:

A Christian society requires a Christian economy. ...A Christian economy is one in which parents—and I mean everyday folks, not just the most talented and well-placed—can afford to have children and raise them, without turning to a government day care so that both parents can rush back to the service of the global corporations that claim every second of their waking energy, often in return for paltry wages.

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Bret Stephens on the Case for Trump

January 12, 2024 at 3:01 pm

It's a rare day when I'm recommending not just one but two New York Times items, but Bret Stephens on The Case for Trump is a well-crafted column:

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When the Left Ignores Evidence

January 12, 2024 at 8:55 am

Pulitzer-Prize-winning former New York Times Washington Bureau Chief David Leonhardt writes, in a front-page New York Times article:

the notion that standardized tests are worthless or counterproductive has become a tenet of liberalism. It has also become an example of how polarization can cause Americans to adopt positions that are not based on empirical evidence...liberals sometimes try to wish away inconvenient facts.... In recent years, Americans on the left have been reluctant to acknowledge that extended Covid school closures were a mistake, that policing can reduce crime and that drug legalization can damage public health.

There is a common thread to these examples. Intuitively, the progressive position sounds as if it should reduce inequities. But data has suggested that some of these policies may do the opposite, harming vulnerable people.

The devotion to "empirical evidence," "facts," and "data" as opposed to intent-to-"reduce inequities" is so refreshing and surprising to see.

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Kraft and Belichick

January 11, 2024 at 4:54 pm

It's not that often that an NFL team owner says goodbye to a coach who won six Super Bowls, but that is what happened today in Massachusetts with New England Patriots Chairman Robert Kraft and Coach Bill Belichick.

Kraft took press questions about it and his answers I thought had some broader lessons about leadership and life that are worth paying attention to.

One is a point about effort: "The thing with Bill that was unique and special is his work ethic is so strong. That's what I looked at. He always gave us the best he had. There wasn't a shortage of effort. Now, whether he has the right people around him or selected the right players, that we all can make judgment on. But he was always giving it his all, and that's what was most important to me."

And the other is a point about results: "This is a results business." And, "We're looking for someone who can help us get back to the playoffs and win. ...I am very upset when we don't win games."

The effort is important and the results are important.

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The Kestenbaum Complaint Against Harvard

January 11, 2024 at 9:25 am

Even those, like me, steeped in the details of the Harvard antisemitism story may find the federal complaint in Alexander Kestenbaum and Students Against Antisemitism, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College to be enlightening, and sobering, reading. Kestenbaum is represented by Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP.

It's a 77-page document and hard to summarize adequately, but some lowlights are worth passing along. From Harvard Law School: "Fearing a violent attack, students in the study room removed indicia of their Jewishness, such as kippot, or hid under desks....SAA Member #2 was shocked that Harvard had effectively surrendered its campus to the mob."

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Three on the Value of Viewpoint Diversity

January 10, 2024 at 10:38 am

The outbreak on antisemitism on college campus has put a new focus on academic integrity and also on viewpoint diversity. For those wondering why those issues are related, three items are worth a look.

The first is Yale President Peter Salovey's August 21, 2023, opening assembly address to the Yale College Class of 2027.

I think, too, of the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, another honorary Yale degree recipient I reference today, who expressed powerfully that "arguments are won only by giving your opponent a hearing."...

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The Perfect Weekend

January 9, 2024 at 11:36 am

Under the headline, "The Science-Backed Schedule for Your Perfect Weekend," the Wall Street Journal cites "behavioral researchers and time-management coaches" on "the perfect weekend equation," a mix of sleep, hobbies, unplanned time, socializing, work and chores, and physical activity. Totally absent from the Journal's "perfect weekend": church or synagogue. It's a strange omission, because researchers at Harvard, Stanford, and Duke have all found regular religious service attendance is associated with better health outcomes.

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Michael Mandelbaum on a Third Party in 2024

January 9, 2024 at 11:13 am

A third party as a way out of the Trump-Biden choice in 2024? Political scientist Michael Mandelbaum ("A Third Party Candidate?," American Purpose) sees it as unlikely: "The American political landscape lacks an issue that, like race in the late 1960s and the deficit in the early 1990s, large numbers of voters believe is not being adequately addressed by the two major parties....Perhaps some day national indebtedness will become an issue about which voters believe the two major parties have behaved in dangerously derelict fashion, which will generate support for an alternative to these parties' presidential candidates; but there is no evidence that that day will arrive in 2024."

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Derek Bok on Absent Campus Conservatives

January 8, 2024 at 4:19 pm

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, a former president of Harvard, Derek Bok, weighs in:

A problem that is especially difficult to correct is the predominance of liberal and liberal-leaning professors, especially in social-science and humanities departments, where they often outnumber conservatives by 10 or even 15 to one. As a result, there is an important body of conservative thought that is now nearly or completely absent on the faculties of many eminent universities. That is not ideal for educating students or for fruitful collegial discussion and disagreement within the faculty. Surveys show that most professors in most universities agree.

In seeking to solve this problem, universities should certainly not compromise their rigorous standards for making faculty appointments. Still, it is possible to make some immediate progress by trying to hire conservatives as visiting professors or lecturers while also encouraging conservative students with ability to consider embarking on an academic career.

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James Q. Wilson on Harvard

January 8, 2024 at 3:34 pm

This reads like it could have been written yesterday but is in fact from James Q. Wilson (from the same Harvard Government Department that has been home to Claudine Gay, Henry Kissinger, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan), writing in the June 1972 issue of Commentary, "Liberalism Versus Liberal Education":

How, then, can I suggest that a liberal education is at all inconsistent with liberalism? I suggest it, quite simply, by pointing to the fact that it is within higher education that one finds today many but not all of the most serious threats to certain liberal values—the harassment of unpopular views, the use of force to prevent certain persons from speaking, the adoption of quota systems either to reduce the admissions of certain kinds of students or enhance the admissions of other kinds, and the politicization of the university to make it an arena for the exchange of manifestoes rather than a forum for the discussion of ideas.

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