Krauthammer’s Take: Bannon May Not Survive

by NR Staff

Charles Krauthammer explains how Steve Bannon may have undermined the president and endangered his own job with his reckless comments to a reporter:

I think that [Bannon] just got Scaramucci-ed. Actually, he was self-Scaramucci-ed, kind of a Japanese version of it where you impale yourself. This was completely unnecessary. I suspect [Bannon] thought he was speaking to somebody who would not publish this. But part of the reason it is so inexplicable, and it can’t be a part a larger strategy, is that on North Korea, which he did speak extensively about, he totally contradicted the president. He ridiculed his position. The president is going around saying, if [Kim Jong-un] continues these threats — “fire and fury,” we’re going to retaliate. And Bannon says it’s idiotic, there’s nothing we can do, we are done. And he kind of equates Kim Jong-un and President Trump as these amateurs blundering about.

That, I think, is the most damaging part in terms of his standing with the president — and I’m not sure he survives that.

‘Why Was the Confederacy Founded? And Why Was the United States?’

by Jason Lee Steorts

Not all slippery slopes are slippery in the same way. You slide down some because you started out with an arbitrary distinction; you slide down others because you overlooked a sound distinction. It’s possible that removing Confederate monuments will result in our eventually dynamiting the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. But if so, we will have slid down the second kind of slope. To understand why, ask the questions above.

Alexander H. Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, had no doubt about the answers. Consider these words from his 1861 “Cornerstone” speech (which I thank my colleague Rick Brookhiser for bringing to my attention):

The prevailing ideas entertained by [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. . . .

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. . . .

. . . Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system.

Race slavery was essential to the purpose and self-understanding of the Confederacy, which was founded expressly to preserve the peculiar institution. It was not essential to the purpose and self-understanding of the United States, and the United States became truer to its founding principles when slavery was abolished (for reasons that I elaborated here). That doesn’t mean we should shrug off the moral enormity of certain Founders’ slave ownership. But it does mean that we can reject those Founders qua slaveholders even as we honor them for dedicating our nation to ideas that would not tolerate the enormity.

A couple of years ago, I said that my view of Confederate monuments was “not so much that they should cease to exist as that they never should have existed.” Perhaps some of them could be altered or re-contextualized in ways that acknowledge the moral chasm separating the Union from the Confederacy. But what I believe must cease to exist on public property, and should cease to exist on private property too, is any monument that romanticizes the Confederate cause or presents it as just or honorable or good.

Today, President Trump tweeted that “you can’t change history, but you can learn from it.” That is correct. The problem is that Confederate monuments as they exist today provide a miseducation. The most charitable thing, if not necessarily the most plausible, that can be said of Trump’s wish to preserve them is that he himself received that miseducation and has now joined the faculty.

Balls, Strikes, and Trump

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Jay Nordlinger and David French have both written in recent days against those conservatives who “call balls and strikes,” praising and criticizing President Trump when they think each is warranted. Jay says this stance “misses the moral dimension of a presidency” and that at some point these conservatives have to declare when they think “conservatism must be disassociated from Trump and Trumpism.” David writes very similarly, saying that calling balls and strikes is a “cop-out” and that it’s “time for conservatives to remember the cultural power of the presidency.”

Before reading this article of David’s, I would have thought that “calling balls and strikes” was a pretty good description of how he has responded to this presidency. He often criticizes him and sometimes praises him, even in the same articles. There is no particular conflict between assessing particular Trump comments and policies and commenting on Trump’s overall character. Vices and virtues are, after all, revealed in actions, and commenting on those actions not infrequently means commenting on what they reveal. And I honestly don’t know who either of my colleagues have in mind. Who are these conservatives who frequently criticize Trump but refrain “from speaking the larger, more important truths”?

Jay gives these conservatives a specific challenge: Do they want to see Trump renominated in 2020 or not? My own answer is: I’d vastly prefer almost any other Republican. But I don’t begrudge other conservatives for not putting that question front and center. I haven’t given it a lot of thought myself. There are a lot of balls and strikes to call before 2020.

More Internet Censorship

by Mark Krikorian

PayPal this week banned at least 34 organizations for promoting “hate, violence or racial intolerance,” including Richard Spencer’s group and others apparently involved in the Charlottesville riot. PayPal’s announcement mentions “KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups” that have violated its acceptable use policy.

It’s a private company (that’s not yet regulated as a utility) so it can do as it pleases, and the Nazi/Klan creeps certainly aren’t going to evoke any sympathy. But as someone who’s been at the receiving end of “hate group” smears, it would be good to know how such decisions are made. PayPal’s announcement notes that “our highly trained team of experts addresses each case individually” – highly trained in what? Sniffing out heresy? (No one expects the PayPal Inquisition!) When PayPal goes beyond the objective standard of banning activity prohibited by law to banning those it simply doesn’t like (however loathsome they might be), all dissenters are vulnerable.

PayPal’s highly trained experts haven’t yet targeted my organization, but Twitter has, albeit in a small way so far. You can pay them to promote a tweet that’s already been posted, as a form of advertising, and here are three that we submitted for promotion that were rejected:


All three were rejected on the grounds of “Hate”:

Twitter censor

They contain nothing hateful, obviously, but the common thread appears to be that all three refer to the costs to society of illegal immigration, and all three contain the word “illegal” – two refer to illegal immigrants and one to illegal aliens.

When you look at Twitter’s “Hateful content in advertising” page, it looks like the very word “illegal” is indeed prohibited with regard to immigrants (as opposed to the U.S. Code, where it’s common). It mentions “Hate speech or advocacy against a protected group or an individual or organization based on, but not limited to, the following…” including “Status as a refugee” and “Status as an immigrant”.

This is merely a nuisance for me, so far, but it does point to the broader issue addressed by Jeremy Carl in his piece on the homepage this week about regulating the big internet firms as public utilities. Carl writes “What is needed is not regulation to restrict speech but regulation specifically to allow speech — regulation put on monopolist and market-dominant companies that have abused their positions repeatedly.”

One internet company this week abused its position but at the same time practically begged for the government to step in. Cloudflare is a sort of middleman facilitator between users and the web sites they’re visiting. Because of the company’s position in the infrastructure of the internet, its CEO, Matthew Prince, was able to simply shut down the Daily Stormer neo-Nazi website: “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet.” He explained his decision by noting that “the people behind the Daily Stormer are assholes,” which they no doubt are.

But to Prince’s credit, he continued: “No one should have that power”:

“We need to have a discussion around this, with clear rules and clear frameworks. My whims and those of Jeff [Bezos] and Larry [Page] and Satya [Nadella] and Mark [Zuckerberg], that shouldn’t be what determines what should be online,” he said. “I think the people who run The Daily Stormer are abhorrent. But again I don’t think my political decisions should determine who should and shouldn’t be on the internet.”

As Prince wrote in a blog post on the incident, “Without a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online.”

The internet is now a utility more important than phones or cable TV. If people can be denied access to it based on the content of their ideas and speech (rather than specific, illegal acts), why not make phone service contingent on your political views? Or mail delivery? Garbage pickup? Electric power? Water and sewer? (I hope I’m not giving the SPLC’s brownshirts any ideas.)

Editor of Pro-Trump Journal Regrets Voting for Trump

by Rich Lowry

This is a little like David French going full MAGA. Julius Krein, who founded a journal devoted to defending Trumpism, is off the Trump train:

When Donald Trump first announced his presidential campaign, I, like most people, thought it would be a short-lived publicity stunt. A month later, though, I happened to catch one of his political rallies on C-Span. I was riveted.

I supported the Republican in dozens of articles, radio and TV appearances, even as conservative friends and colleagues said I had to be kidding. As early as September 2015, I wrote that Mr. Trump was “the most serious candidate in the race.” Critics of the pro-Trump blog and then the nonprofit journal that I founded accused us of attempting to “understand Trump better than he understands himself.” I hoped that was the case. I saw the decline in this country — its weak economy and frayed social fabric — and I thought Mr. Trump’s willingness to move past partisan stalemates could begin a process of renewal.

It is now clear that my optimism was unfounded. I can’t stand by this disgraceful administration any longer, and I would urge anyone who once supported him as I did to stop defending the 45th president.

Far from making America great again, Mr. Trump has betrayed the foundations of our common citizenship. And his actions are jeopardizing any prospect of enacting an agenda that might restore the promise of American life.

Is this a big deal politically? No. But is another sign that Trump’s circle of support is steadily shrinking. The president has to hope that high-level advisers around him aren’t on the verge of making similar breaks.

Breaking: 13 Dead after Terror Attack in Barcelona

by NR Staff

Update 4:40 p.m.: The latest reports out of Barcelona indicate that, in addition to the 13 people killed in the ISIS attack, 80 people have been injured, 15 of whom are in serious condition. Forty-two people have been described as having mild injuries. Two people have been arrested, and there are reports that another possible suspect has been killed in a shootout with the police.

Update 3:35 p.m.: The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the terror attack in Barcelona that took the lives of at least 13 people. Meanwhile, there have been separate reports that a driver ran over two police officers at a checkpoint in Barcelona. It is not yet clear how this event was connected to the earlier attack.

Update 3:00 p.m.: Spanish media report that a suspect involved in the Barcelona attack has been killed in a shootout with police just outside the city.

Update 2:26 p.m.: The Associated Press is reporting that a Catalan official says 13 people were killed in the Barcelona attack, and more than 50 were injured. Regional police also dismissed early reports that suggested attackers were holed up in a bar near Las Ramblas.

Update 1:56 p.m.: Spanish public broadcaster RTVE reports that one suspect has been arrested.

Update 1:42 p.m.: Reuters reports that local authorities have found a second van, possibly connected to the terror attack, north of Barcelona.

Update 1:27 p.m.: According to local news source El Pais, the van used in the attack had been rented by a man named Driss Oukabir:

Update 1:16 p.m.: According to The Telegraph, police have set up roadblocks around Barcelona amid reports that a second van might be involved in the attack.

Update 1:08 p.m.: Barcelona authorities have reported that there has been at least one fatality, with another 32 people injured, ten of whom are in serious condition.

Update 12:52 p.m.: Cadena SER radio station and Reuters have both reported that at least 13 people were killed in the attack. Local authorities have confirmed this was a terror attack.

Update 12:45 p.m.: Barcelona police have confirmed that there have been fatalities and injuries. Here’s an image from BBC of the driver’s path through pedestrians:

Update 12:20 p.m.: Spanish media report that two gunmen are holed up in a Barcelona bar near the location of the crash. Fox News has reported that hostages are being held. Police are searching for the suspected driver, who fled on foot. The entire area has been cordoned off by law enforcement, and local transportation systems have been shut down.

Breaking 12:00 p.m.Someone has driven a van into a crowd of pedestrians in a plaza in central Barcelona, the Las Ramblas district. Reports indicate that there were extensive injuries and at least two deaths. Police on the scene have described it as a “massive crash.”

Reporters on the scene say that the suspected driver of the van was seen fleeing on foot after crashing into dozens of people. Spanish police say they are treating the incident as a terror attack.

The El Pais newspaper report that at least one person had died, 20 were injured.

From The Telegraph’s report on the incident:

Aamer Anwar was walking down Las Ramblas at the time, which he said was “jam-packed” with tourists.

He told Sky News: “All of a sudden, I just sort of heard a crashing noise and the whole street just started to run, screaming. I saw a woman right next to me screaming for her kids.

“Police were very, very quickly there, police officers with guns, batons, everywhere. Then the whole street started getting pushed back.”

This post will be updated as events develop.

In One Tweet, Donald Trump Just Spread Fake History, Libeled a Hero, and Admired an Alleged War Crime

by David French

Just minutes ago the president of the United States – the man who just yesterday said, “When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts” – fired out a tweet apparently in response to the dreadful terror attack in Barcelona, Spain. Here it is:

Trump is almost certainly referring to a story he told during the campaign. He claimed that General John J. Pershing crushed an Islamic insurgency in the Philippines by committing a heinous war crime. Here’s Trump at a South Carolina rally:

They were having terrorism problems, just like we do,” Trump said. “And he caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood — you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem. Okay? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem

There are multiple problems with this story. First, it’s false. There’s no evidence Pershing did such a thing. In fact, he got the history exactly backwards. Pershing worked hard to avoid inflaming religious fanaticism and worked hard to avoid unnecessary loss of life. For example, read this excerpt from a letter Pershing wrote to the insurgents. The language comes from his own memoir:

I write you this letter because I am sorry to know that you and your people refuse to do what the government has ordered. You do not give up your arms. Soldiers were sent to Taglibi so that you could come into camp and turn in your guns. When the soldiers went to camp a Taglibi, your Moros fired into camp and tried to kill the soldiers. Then the soldiers had to shoot all Moros who fired upon them. When the soldiers marched through the country, the Moros again shot at them, so the soldiers had to kill several others. I am sorry the soldiers had to kill any Moros. All Moros are the same to me as my children and no father wants to kill his own children.

Those are not the words of a man who commits a religious war crime. A comprehensive report over at Snopes contains a number of other, similar reports in Pershing’s own words. Simply put, Trump libeled an American hero, the man who led American troops through the crucible of the First World War. The president who relentlessly attacks “fake news” keeps advancing “fake history.”

Trump isn’t just spreading falsehoods, he’s doing so in a context that puts a presidential stamp of approval on war crimes. Even worse, he’s doing it in direct defiance of the warrior ethos of the American military. There is no possible way that any of Trump’s generals would approve of this sentiment. I’ve never met an American officer who would carry out an order to commit an atrocity like this.

Trump is careening out of control. He says what he wants, when he wants, and neither truth nor consistency nor wisdom nor prudence dictates a single syllable that comes out of his mouth. By many accounts he’s taken to directly defying his advisers simply for the sake of declaring that he’s in charge. This isn’t leadership. It’s a collection of temper tantrums. Unfortunately, those tantrums have consequences.

One final note – if Trump thinks this tweet is the least bit intimidating to actual jihadists, he’s fundamentally wrong. In fact, it illustrates that he flat-out doesn’t understand our enemy. They respond to actions not words, and words like this serve only to facilitate the radicalization of angry jihadist minds.

In one tweet Trump spread fake history, libeled an American hero, and signaled a willingness – even eagerness – to commit war crimes. That’s conduct unbecoming the lowliest officer in the military. Coming from the commander-in-chief, it’s a complete disgrace.

Silicon Valley and Free Speech: Tim Cook Edition

by Andrew Stuttaford


Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook has joined a chorus of business leaders who have voiced their opposition to President Donald Trump after he blamed white nationalists and anti-racism activists equally for violence in Virginia over the weekend.

“I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans,” Cook wrote in a note late on Wednesday to employees, according to technology news website Recode.

Cook also said in the letter that Apple will donate $1 million apiece to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League and will match two-for-one their donations to the organizations and other human rights groups until Sept. 30.

Let me note first that I am not very impressed (to put it mildly) with the way that the president has responded to the events in Charlottesville.

That said, let’s concentrate on this: Cook is spending $1m of shareholders’ money on a gift to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The SPLC has, shall we say, its issues. You can find some interesting commentary over at that well-known bastion of the right, Harper’s Magazine, here, here and here.

But I’d like to focus on the SPLC’s “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists”, and two of the names included in that guide (something already discussed by Ericka Andersen on this very Corner back in June).

Firstly, there’s Maajid Nawaz “a British activist and part of the “ex-radical” circuit of former Islamists who use that experience to savage Islam.”

Amongst the evidence of his “extremism” is this:

According to a Jan. 24, 2014, report in The Guardian, Nawaz tweeted out a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad — despite the fact that many Muslims see it as blasphemous to draw Muhammad. He said that he wanted “to carve out a space to be heard without constantly fearing the blasphemy charge.”

So Apple is funding an organization that deems taking a stand in favor of free speech as evidence of extremism. The company that once advertised itself as the antithesis of Big Brother is now a de facto supporter of controlling ‘blasphemy’. Times change. 

Doubtless this will play well in Apple (Saudi Arabia), so there’s that.

Here’s (part of) what The Atlantic had to say about Nawaz last year (my emphasis added):

Nawaz is a star in certain anti-terror circles, thanks to a compelling personal narrative: A self-described former extremist who spent four years in an Egyptian prison, he has changed approaches and now argues for a pluralistic and peaceful vision of Islam. He stood for Parliament as a Liberal Democrat in 2015, and advised Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and David Cameron.

Nawaz’s work has earned him detractors—critics claim he has embellished or neatened his narrative, some attack him for opportunism, and others question his liberal bona fides—but calling him an “anti-Muslim extremist” is a surprise. Unlike the likes of Gaffney and Geller, he doesn’t espouse the view that Islam itself is a problem; unlike Ali, who now describes herself as an atheist, Nawaz identifies as a Muslim.

Ali? Ah yes: Someone else who is on the SPLC extremist list is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali knows a thing or two about Islam, having been brought up in that faith (at one point in her youth she was very devout) and then broken with it publicly and, yes, abrasively, something that put her life in danger (which goes some way to backing up what she has to say about Islam). Sometimes she has, in my view, overreached in her rhetoric (others will disagree), but to go from that to claiming that she is an extremist in the way that the SPLC use that word is absurd, no more than that, it’s sinister. 

Another prominent atheist, Sam Harris, has described the labeling of Hirsi Ali and Nawaz as extremists as “unbelievable”. After Hirsi Ali was snubbed by Brandeis in 2014 (two years before the SPLC ’field guide’ came out), Richard Dawkins referred to her as a “hero of rationalism & feminism”.

Over at Patheos, Hemant Mehta. “the Friendly Atheist” (and no rightist) called the SPLC’s designation of Hirsi Ali and Nawaz a “f****** joke” :

If criticizing religious beliefs makes them extremists, then it won’t be long before other vocal atheists end up on that list, too. And make no mistake, that’s what Nawaz and Hirsi Ali are doing. That’s all they’re doing. They’re not anti-Muslim; they work with moderate Muslims. They’re critical of the worst aspects of Islam. For goodness’ sake, they’re not attacking Malala Yousafzai.

Hell, Hirsi Ali’s foundation works to end faith-based “honor killings” and female genital mutilation. Who knew that would make her the Worst Person Ever?

Mehta added:

Essentially, while her words may have been harsh, they should be seen with the understanding that she has been personally affected by the worst aspects of the faith. As I wrote before, it takes a very uncharitable interpretation of Hirsi Ali’s words to think her goal of “defeating Islam” means we should commit violence against peaceful law-abiding Muslims or descends into hate speech. Her goal is full-scale reform of Islam, not genocide against all Muslims.

She has repeatedly said that her goal is to prevent the spread of Islamic radicalism, not to prevent peaceful Muslims from practicing their faith.

Yet she and Nawaz have attracted the ire of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But all of that’s fine with Apple’s Tim Cook, so fine that he’s prepared to throw one million dollars of his shareholders’ money SPLC’s way.

More Moving Stuff

by Jack Fowler

So you want an NR bound volume or two? Of course you do, and as luck would have it, we have them in stock, starting in 1991, through 2015 (all but two years are available; although for some years, we have several, while for other years, maybe two). They’re being sold first-come, first-served, and the cost is just $34.99, which is a steep discount and which will include shipping via UPS Ground (unless you provide a P.O. Box, then it’s Uncle Sam who does the hauling). These suckers are not going to last. Order yours at the NRO Store

Living, and Not Living, with History

by Jay Nordlinger

The issue of Confederate monuments is in the air, in a big way. This issue comes and goes. It is an important issue, and a complicated one. I addressed it, and related issues, in a three-part series at the beginning of last year.

“Living with History,” this series was called. The three parts are here, here, and here. The series was an expansion of an essay I had in our print magazine: “‘Rhodes Must Fall’: The rights and wrongs of a movement.”

What do you mean, “Rhodes Must Fall”? That was the slogan, and the name, of a movement, composed primarily of students, to remove statues of Cecil Rhodes, and to remove his name from institutions.

Well, I wrote about that, of course — and about King David, Queen Victoria, John C. Calhoun, Elihu Yale, the Maryland state song, Washington and Lee University, the Lenin statue in Seattle …

This subject is a multifaceted, if not a many-splendored, thing. Give my series a skim, if you’re interested. There are tables of food for thought in it.

Confederate Statues and the Slippery Slope

by Rich Lowry

We’ve had a number of pieces on Confederate statues here the last couple of days, with more to come. The latest is Kevin on the home-page right now. But I want to respond to the excellent pieces by Kyle Smith and Quin Hillyer, taking exception to my column arguing for, in most cases, moving the statues to battlefields, cemeteries, and museums. A big question here is the slippery slope (Kyle’s piece focuses only on that aspect).

My view is that the slippery slope is obviously very real and we’re already seeing it at play. But I’d flip this around: If you don’t think we can ultimately defend monuments to George Washington, do you really think that we’re going to defend statues of old Jeff Davis (outside of the question of whether we should)? I also find it a little hard to believe that if Baltimore gets rid of its statues of Roger Taney — not a Confederate, but an execrable figure in the story of the Civil War-era — that there’s going to be a straight-line to dynamiting Washington and Jefferson off of Mount Rushmore. Fears about the slippery slope shouldn’t be a reason for us to suspend all judgment about the public worth and historical meaning of all the statues. The fact is that there is clear moral line between the men who founded the nation and set out its ideals (imperfectly, of course) and the men who, no matter how personally honorable, tried to tear the nation apart.

Quin also makes case an affirmative case for keeping some statues. I think he makes very good points and the two of us are on different points on a spectrum here rather than diametrically opposed. Certainly, the case for the statues is strongest where there is a nexus between the figure being honored and the location, as Quin points out with Beauregard and New Orleans. Quin also says the erection of the Robert E. Lee statue in New Orleans was a celebration of “his cause of post-war reconciliation.” If this was true in New Orleans (and I know nothing about the history of those statues), it wasn’t true everywhere.

Certainly, the black paper in Richmond seemed to have a pretty good read on what would be the drift of events when a statue of Lee went up there:

Reading the coverage from the Richmond Planet, Richmond’s prominent black newspaper, gives a very different perspective of the events surrounding the reveal of the Lee Monument. On May 7, 1890, when the pieces of the statue arrived in Richmond, a procession followed the crates to the site of the monument. The Planet noted “The boxes were decorated with bunting and Confederate Flags. On every hand could be seen the ‘Stars and Bars.’ Nowhere in all this procession was there a United States flag. The emblem of the union had been left behind…a glorification of the lost cause was everywhere manifest.” [Source: Richmond Planet May 10 1890, ed. John Mitchell Jr, p. 1]

Editor John Mitchell, Jr. allotted just under half of a column of the front page of May 31, 1890’s issue to the statue. The article described the impressive size of the crowds and the grandeur of the parade while adding that the Confederate flags they displayed and carried were “emblems of the lost cause” and “were carried with an enthusiasm that astounded many.” It was clear to Mitchell, from the number of veterans who came back to Richmond, once more joining together in the rebel yell, that “they still clung to theories which were presumed to be buried for all eternity.”  The brief article ends with the admonishment: “The south may revere the memory of its chieftains. It takes the wrong Steps in so doing, and proceeds to go too far in every similar celebration. It serves to retard its progress in the country and forges heavier chains with which to be bound.”

On the second page of the same issue, a piece titled “What it Means,” discussed the display of Confederate symbols in Richmond. It warned that the result of revering Confederate generals like Lee, and  considering them equal to Washington or other Founding Fathers would have far reaching effects on the future of America.  “This glorification of States Rights Doctrine- the right of secession, and the honoring of men who represented that cause…will ultimately result in handing down to generations unborn a legacy of treason and blood…it serves to reopen the wound of war.”

We’ve heard a lot about the need not to erase history the last few days, and I obviously agree. But the history of these statues should weigh in our consideration of them. I think we should be clear that we are honoring the sacrifices of Confederate troops, not the Confederate cause itself, which is why I’d relocate Robert E. Lee statues to battlefields or cemeteries. As I said in my column, a Lee statue overlooking the site of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg is completely appropriate.

Finally, obviously I oppose vandalism by stupid, angry mobs, and these decisions should be made lawfully by the states and localities in question, ideally with some genuine thoughtfulness and care.

‘The Breitbart Presidency’

by Rich Lowry

I wrote about Charlottesville for Politico today:

Charlottesville has been a diminishing event for President Trump. He has been unable to summon the moral authority of his office, even though this wasn’t a difficult test.

It doesn’t take political skill or crisis-management ability to show largeness of heart. It doesn’t require knowledge to demonstrate basic moral discernment. It doesn’t take a Demosthenes or a Churchill to say the appropriate things about a couple of hundred racist goons. Future historians will marvel that one of the most damaging events in the early Trump administration came in a botched response to a neo-Nazi rally. Even Jake and Elwood Blues could have gotten this right.

Over the past few days, Trump hasn’t spoken as the leader of the country, or even leader of one party, but as a leader of an inflamed faction. This is why it was almost unthinkable that he would give a unifying talk, as any other president would, at the funeral of Heather Heyer, the young woman slain in the vehicular attack by an “alt-right” protester.

Trump’s sensibility is highly unusual for a politician — let alone for the leader of the free world — but very familiar from the internet or social media. As his news conference showed, his level of argument is at the level of a good Breitbart blogger, or of a Twitter egg of yore. He would absolutely kill it in the comments section of a right-wing website or trolling a journalist.

Donald Trump, Scourge (?) of Tabloids

by Jay Nordlinger

Yesterday, the president’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said something eye-popping: “The president is focused on what Americans care about … not tabloid gossip, which the media seems to care so much about.”

Oh, the media, huh? Donald Trump has made his life off the tabloids. Does Mrs. Sanders know about his career in New York? His melding with the tabs there? His regular appearances on the Howard Stern show? Access Hollywood and all that?

How about his relationship with the National Enquirer? He touted them during his presidential campaign, saying they ought to win Pulitzers. He broadcast a story of theirs about Ted Cruz’s father — who, the Enquirer implied, was in on the JFK assassination. Trump said he had merely read it in “the newspaper.”

There seems to be little self-awareness in the White House — starting with the president himself.

On Tuesday, he said that the CEOs quitting his Manufacturing Council were “grandstanders.” This morning, he called Lindsey Graham “publicity-seeking.”

“Like being called ugly by a frog,” Bert Lance used to say, back in Carter days. (Or was it Jody Powell? Need to brush up on my Carterology …)

Thursday links

by debbywitt

Roundup of some solar eclipse links and resources.

How Army Rations Helped Change Food.

Hilarious recipe videos in the style of famous directors.

Happy birthday to Davy Crockett, hero of the Alamo.

The Women Warriors who served Wine on the Battlefield.

A Brief History of Mooning.

ICYMI, last Friday’s links are here, and include an online version of Leonardo da Vinci’s 570-page notebook, a map of the Roman roads of Britain, plane crashes that changed aviation, and Erwin Schrödinger’s (he of the famous half-dead cat) birthday.

Trump on Confederate Statues

by Ramesh Ponnuru

On Tuesday, President Trump raised a question about the removal of Confederate statues and memorials and said local authorities should make their own decisions. This morning, he offered his own opinion: They should stay.

A lot of different issues are getting jumbled up this week, so I thought I should note: While I disagree with the president about these statues and memorials, for reasons I have discussed here and here, I also acknowledge that his view is one that many well-meaning people hold and for which reasonable arguments can be made. (Trump has made one of those reasonable arguments: the where-does-it-stop argument.)

But it would be better if the most prominent defender of the statues was someone who was willing to condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists explicitly and without being pressured, and who had not said that “very fine people” had participated in their march.

A Reminder

by Jay Nordlinger

Regularly, something happens that reminds me why I became a conservative in the first place — and when I say “conservative,” I mean a Reaganite. (These days, more than ever, you have to specify.) Earlier this week, I had a post about President Trump, saying that you can tell when his heart is in something and when it isn’t. When he denounced the Nazis et al. in Charlottesville, he sounded pro forma. When he denounced Kenneth Frazier, the CEO who left the president’s Manufacturing Council, he did it with gusto.

In my post, I said that you could tell the same about President Obama: You knew when his heart was in something and when it wasn’t.

I also said that Trump was loath to apologize or admit error, ever. In this, I compared him to Al Sharpton, who has explained why he will never apologize for his role in the Tawana Brawley hoax.

So, after this post went up, a man tweeted at me — a journalist in a college town. He said, “You spend more words criticizing black men in that post than you do Trump. Hmmm…”

Hmmm, indeed. Needless to say, I did not respond. I was a little stunned. (WFB would say things to me like “Can you be ‘a little stunned’?”) And I realized a big difference between that fellow and me: He regards Obama and Sharpton as black men. I regard them as men. The same as I do Trump. And all three are different from one another — they are individuals — although, as I pointed out in my post, they have some things in common.

That is what sets people like me apart from the Left, and from elements of the Right, elements that are gaining in strength and influence.

Confederate Statues and the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn

by Andrew Stuttaford

Via PBS:

“It’s often forgotten that Lee himself, after the Civil War, opposed monuments, specifically Confederate war monuments,” said Jonathan Horn, the author of the Lee biography, “The Man Who Would Not Be Washington.”

In his writings, Lee cited multiple reasons for opposing such monuments, questioning the cost of a potential Stonewall Jackson monument, for example. But underlying it all was one rationale: That the war had ended, and the South needed to move on and avoid more upheaval.

“As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated,” Lee wrote of an 1866 proposal, “my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; [and] of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour.”

The retired Confederate leader, a West Point graduate, was influenced by his knowledge of history.

“Lee believed countries that erased visible signs of civil war recovered from conflicts quicker,” Horn said. “He was worried that by keeping these symbols alive, it would keep the divisions alive.”

In that same letter, Lee also wrote (my emphasis added):

All I think that can now be done, is to aid our noble & generous women in their efforts to protect the graves & mark the last resting places of those who have fallen, & wait for better times.

That, I reckon, is key.

I sympathize with the objections to keeping statues of the leading Confederate figures on public land, not least when they are in a prominent place. It’s not difficult to see why those who want to get rid of them are so determined to do so, most importantly, of course, due to the real nature of the Lost Cause, but also because of the war’s long, long afterlife after the end of Reconstruction, an afterlife that has barely drawn to a close.

It’s equally easy to understand—although in my view they have the weaker argument— why many locals have rallied to the defense of what they see as their heritage—even if that heritage is often represented by statues erected decades after war they supposedly commemorate (that they had another message is difficult to deny).

As for those who have come from outside the South to exploit this situation, that these particular carpetbaggers chose to signal their presence by flying the Nazi flag—the flag of a genocidal regime that so many Americans of both North and South gave their lives to destroy—is revolting. These are not allies that anyone wishing to defend these statues should want.

So what to do?

The first thing to say is that, wherever possible, this is a decision for locals to take: If the monument is on state property, the state should decide, if it’s on city property, the city should decide, and so on. It is not for a largely leftist mob, elected by no one, like the group that tore down the Confederate monument in Durham, N.C., to decide what stands and what falls.

Many of the monuments are modest, statues of individual, unknown soldiers, a device used to symbolize military sacrifice, for good causes and bad,  on both sides of the Atlantic for over a century. In many cases, the best place for them would be with their fallen comrades in those areas of a cemetery dedicated to the Confederate dead. To take an example from Eastern Europe, where a battle of monuments has been fought since the Soviet collapse, there is the case of the bronze soldier of Tallinn.

The first time I visited the Estonian capital, Tallinn, almost exactly two years after Estonia won back its independence from the Soviets, I noticed a monument near the city center featuring a little more than life sized bronze statue of a Red Army soldier with gently bowed head. Originally known as the “Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn”, it was an insult to the many Estonians who regarded the Red Army’s return to their country in 1944 not as a liberation but as the resumption of the USSR’s earlier occupation of their homeland – a murderous interlude that had been a product of the squalid deal Stalin cut with Hitler in 1939. No liberation, the early years of the country’s reoccupation were marked by savage repression which over time eased into a slower strangling of any idea of revived Estonian independence.

But if the bronze soldier was an affront to numerous ethnic Estonians, to Tallinn’s large ethnic Russian population (occupation-era settlers or their descendants) it was a symbol of the enormous sacrifices made by the Soviet people in the war against Hitler.

The statue continued to stand even after the Soviet Union collapsed. Finally, in 2007, the Estonian government, amid protests that quickly turned violent, moved the bronze soldier to Tallinn’s military cemetery (Soviet soldiers are amongst the dead buried there). If ethnic Russians want to pay their respects they can (and do), but the affront that the statue represented to many Estonians has largely been defused: Out of sight, out (more or less) of mind.

Not a solution for purists, but it seems to work.

As for the larger Confederate statues, some may belong on the civil war battlefields.

To quote Rich’s article from the New York Post:

The Baltimore commission has called for moving a striking dual statue of Lee and Stonewall Jackson to the Chancellorsville, Va., battlefield where the two last met before Jackson’s death. This would be appropriate, and take a page from the Gettysburg battlefield. A statue of Lee commemorates Virginia’s losses and overlooks the field where Gen. George Pickett undertook his doomed charge. If you can’t honor Robert E. Lee there, you can’t honor him anywhere.For some on the left, that’s the right answer, but this unsparing attitude rejects the generosity of spirit of the two great heroes of the war, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. Notably, Grant vehemently opposed trying Lee for treason.

Of the other larger monuments, some may belong where they now stand, but perhaps displayed in a way that gives better context. Others should go to museums or storehouses. And some—those without any artistic merit or historic interest— should be scrapped or sold. But it must be for the locals to make the final decision. 

There’s No ‘Nazi’ Exception to the First Amendment

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Piers Morgan is at it again:

Morgan is echoing an idea that has been advanced repeatedly in the last couple of days: To wit, that there is something particular about Nazism that makes it ineligible for protection under the Bill of Rights. This is flat-out wrong. And, more than that, it’s dangerous. Abhorrent and ugly as they invariably are, there simply is no exception to the First Amendment that exempts Nazis, white supremacists, KKK members, Soviet apologists, or anyone else who harbors disgraceful or illiberal views. As the courts have made abundantly clear, the rules are the same for ghastly little plonkers such as Richard Spencer as they are for William Shakespeare. If that weren’t true, the First Amendment would be pointless.

This is not a “controversial” statement. It is not an “interesting view.” It is not a contrarian contribution to an intractable “grey area.” It is a fact. There are a handful of limits to free speech in the United States, and all of them are exceptions of form rather than of viewpoint. Here’s Eugene Volokh to explain that further:

To be sure, there are some kinds of speech that are unprotected by the First Amendment. But those narrow exceptions have nothing to do with “hate speech” in any conventionally used sense of the term. For instance, there is an exception for “fighting words” — face-to-face personal insults addressed to a specific person, of the sort that are likely to start an immediate fight.

. . .

The same is true of the other narrow exceptions, such as for true threats of illegal conduct or incitement intended to and likely to produce imminent illegal conduct (i.e., illegal conduct in the next few hours or maybe days, as opposed to some illegal conduct some time in the future). Indeed, threatening to kill someone because he’s black (or white), or intentionally inciting someone to a likely and immediate attack on someone because he’s Muslim (or Christian or Jewish), can be made a crime. But this isn’t because it’s “hate speech”; it’s because it’s illegal to make true threats and incite imminent crimes against anyone and for any reason, for instance because they are police officers or capitalists or just someone who is sleeping with the speaker’s ex-girlfriend.

Under the doctrine laid out by a unanimous Supreme Court in the seminal Brandenburg v. Ohio decision, incitement to imminent lawless action may in some circumstances be prosecuted. But this rule is universal and narrow, and, crucially, is in no way akin to the sort of “hate speech” exceptions that obtain in every other country, and that so many Americans seem to believe exist here too. Under U.S. law it is legal for a speaker to say broadly that “all the Jews should be killed” or that “it is time for a revolution,” or that “slavery is good,” and it is not legal for a speaker to say to a crowd, “let’s all go and kill that guy wearing the yarmulke,” or “meet me in an hour at the armory and we’ll start our insurrection at the Post Office,” or “look at that black guy over there in the blue t-shirt, let’s chain him to my car.” Who is saying these things, however, does not matter in the slightest. Whether one likes it or not, Brandenburg applies as much to neo-Nazis as to the Amish, as consistently to Old Testament preachers as to gay rights activists, and as broadly to my mother as to David Duke. It applies in exactly the same way to good people, to bad people, and to those in between. 

It is, in other words, a principle — a principle that cannot be obviated by cynical word games or by thinly disguised special pleading. “I believe in free speech, but” or “I just don’t think this is a free speech issue” — both popular lines at the moment — simply will not cut it as arguments. On the contrary. In reality, all that the “but” and the “I just don’t think” mean is that the speaker hopes to exempt certain people because he doesn’t like them. But one can no more get away from one’s inconsistencies by saying “it’s not a speech issue to me” than one can get away from the charge that one is unreliable on due process insisting in certain cases, “well, that’s not a due process issue to me.” This is a free speech issue. Those who wish it weren’t just trying to have it both ways — to argue bluntly for censorship, and then to pretend that they aren’t.

Leaving aside that the Supreme Court has been extremely clear on this matter, time and time again (inter alia, see: Brandenburg v. Ohio, R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, Matal v. Tam), it seems obvious as a philosophical matter that any robust free speech protections will have to be assiduously neutral if they are to be useful at all. The purpose of the First Amendment is to deprive the government of the capacity to determine at the point of a bayonet what is true, and what is not; what is good, and what is not; what is acceptable to the ruling class, and what is not. To accept this arrangement is not to suggest that one thinks the Nazis might “have a point,” or to imply that one believes that we need the Bill of Rights in case Richard Spencer’s “race science” turns out to be true. And, however rhetorically effective it might be to pretend otherwise, it is in no way to defend those people. Rather, it is to propose that the only effective way of preventing governmental abuses is to take away its oversight of viewpoints in toto. Moreover, it is to submit that, having been born with a host of unalienable rights, free human beings are not obliged to ask their employees in the government for permission to speak their minds.

In a country such as this one, that means that disgusting reprobates such as those who marched in Charlottesville will be beyond the reach of the state — at least until they go beyond speech and into the realm of action (which does not include carrying a torch or a flag or wearing a t-shirt, but certainly does include driving a car into another human being). Is that distressing? Yes, it is. Had I been in Charlottesville at the weekend, I’d no doubt have been even more appalled than I was watching it on television. But the salient question is not whether the status quo can be upsetting, but whether it is better than the alternative. Piers Morgan believes that “If America doesn’t wake up to” the “fact” that “what these Nazis did in Charlottesville is not free speech . . . it is in deep trouble.” It seems obvious to me that the precise opposite is true. “No free speech for fascists” is an incoherent, almost Orwellian, position. Happily – and on a routinely “bipartisan” basis – the Supreme Court concurs.

On the Alt-Right and the ‘Alt-Left’

by Ian Tuttle

In one of his several press appearances addressing last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, President Trump asked, “What about the ‘alt-left’?” — a question that a few on the right have taken up, along with the label. A quick thought.

Obviously, “alt-left” is intended to suggest the existence of a faction on the left that mirrors the “alt-right.” But the comparison doesn’t hold up, and the reasons why not are important.

The alt-right — the white nationalists, neo-Nazis, 4chan trolls, etc. — christened itself the “alt-right,” because it envisioned itself as a political alternative to traditional, mainstream conservatism. That is to say, the alt-right thought of itself ultimately as a political movement that would get people elected, move legislation, and do broadly the things one expects of politics, and they had an affirmative agenda of sorts — albeit a repulsive, illiberal one.

By “alt-left,” Trump and others seem to be referring primarily to Antifa, the black-clad “anti-fascists” who rioted on Inauguration Day in D.C., at Berkeley shortly after (to forestall an appearance by alt-right icon Milo Yiannopoulos), and have made appearances elsewhere (most recently in Seattle). But Antifa has never cast itself as a political alternative to the Democratic party as currently constituted, and it has no positive agenda (“anti-fascism”). No one is running on the Antifa platform.

That’s in part because they don’t need to. Antifa (in its anti-WTO days, in its outbursts during the Occupy movement, and in its current form) has been largely tolerated by the Democratic party. Without coming to its express defense, the mainstream Left has nevertheless effectively accepted Antifa as a tool in its political toolbox. (The same can broadly be said of the violent fringe of the Black Lives Matter movement — whose membership overlaps more than a little with that of Antifa).

By contrast, neo-Nazis and the core constituencies of what became the alt-right have been around for a while — but they were largely anathema to mainstream politicians on the right. (The alt-right, in any organized fashion, was nonexistent before Donald Trump entered the Republican primary.) Because of Trump, of course, that has changed, and now Steve Bannon (who made “the platform for the alt-right”) works just outside the Oval Office, alt-right leader Mike Cernovich has access to White House officials, and the president himself calls crowds making the Hitlergruß “very fine people.”

Which is all to say: “alt-right” and “alt-left” as labels may not be particularly helpful. There was never anything “alt-” about the so-called alt-left. And there’s not much “alt-” to the alt-right, either, now.


by Rich Lowry

A lot of cable TV debate can stilted and rote, but this segment this morning was something else entirely: