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Trump Impeachment — Nancy Pelosi Allows Democratic Debate to Proceed, but Hurts Candidates

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, October 17, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

This was the week when even Democrats began to publicly question Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to not transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate. 

“The longer it goes on the less urgent it becomes,” Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein told Politico on Wednesday. “So if it’s serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.”

Pelosi kept dragging her feet. On Thursday, she said she’d transmit the articles “soon,” and today she finally sent a “dear colleague” letter, making it clear that the trial could start no sooner than next Wednesday.

Whatever her initial reasoning for the delay, one possible reason she’s pushed the trial back yet another week is so that Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, the last one scheduled before the Iowa caucuses, can take place as planned. 

If Pelosi had sent the articles of impeachment over this week, Democrats likely would’ve had to reschedule the debate for the upcoming weekend, possibly making the debate compete for viewers with the NFC championship game, so Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren could participate. Attendance at an impeachment trial is compulsory for sitting senators.

So Pelosi has spared the Democrats the chaos of rescheduling the Iowa debate, but as Jim notes, the timeline for a trial she has dictated couldn’t be worse for Senate Democrats running for president.

Sanders, Warren, and Klobuchar will be stuck in Washington for the trial in the crucial days leading up to Iowa — possibly past New Hampshire — while Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg will be out on the campaign trail wooing voters.

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Remembering Rush Drummer Neil Peart: Rock’s Greatest Drummer (and Randian)

Rush drummer Neil Peart during a performance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in 2002. (Ethan Miller/Reuters)

Neil Peart, the Canadian drummer and leader of the Seventies hard-rock band Rush, has died. Peart had battled brain cancer for three years.

I saw Peart and his band perform at the now-demolished New Haven Coliseum during Rush’s Power Windows tour in  1985 (I think), and he was even more phenomenal in person than he was on the records. Fan polls routinely agreed he was the greatest rock drummer of his time (or indeed of all time, I would argue, though some would go with Keith Moon). I’m not sure any rock track boasts drumming that can match Peart’s breathtaking work on the 1981 song “Tom Sawyer”

Unusually for a drummer, Peart also wrote the big majority of his band’s lyrics, which were among the most ambitious ever attempted in the hard-rock space. Like many other rock lyricists (Roger Waters, Pete Townshend), Peart was a genius at tapping into the restless alienation of late-teen boys who think they’re smarter than everyone around them. It occurred to me many years later that it’s an odd kind of gift, to keep your mind stuck in that mode of detachment, anger and frustration as you advance into middle age and accumulate mansions and supermodel girlfriends. Peart told Rolling Stone four years ago, “I set out to never betray the values that 16-year-old had, to never sell out, to never bow to the man. A compromise is what I can never accept.” Well, no one wants to hear rock lyrics about property taxes and the failings of the kitchen staff.

He also labeled himself a libertarian and in youth dabbled in Ayn Randism, naming Rush’s 1975 song “Anthem” for her 1937 novel Anthem, which was among George Orwell’s influences for 1984, and crediting Rand in the liner notes for her influence on the 1976 Rush album 2112. What teen boy didn’t also flirt with Rand? To persist with a Rand fixation is not the mark of a healthy mind, though. When asked in 2012 (again in Rolling Stone) if Rand’s words still spoke to him, he said, “Oh, no. That was 40 years ago.” Peart did retain his libertarianism, after a fashion. He explained:

In that 2112 album, again, I was in my early twenties. I was a kid. Now I call myself a bleeding heart libertarian. Because I do believe in the principles of Libertarianism as an ideal – because I’m an idealist. Paul Theroux’s definition of a cynic is a disappointed idealist. So as you go through past your twenties, your idealism is going to be disappointed many many times. And so, I’ve brought my view and also – I’ve just realized this – Libertarianism as I understood it was very good and pure and we’re all going to be successful and generous to the less fortunate and it was, to me, not dark or cynical. But then I soon saw, of course, the way that it gets twisted by the flaws of humanity. And that’s when I evolve now into . . . a bleeding heart Libertarian. That’ll do.

Peart died in Santa Monica on January 7. R.I.P.

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The Non-Delegation Doctrine Conundrum | National Review

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington December 3, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

As Robert VerBruggen noted on NRO the other day, a lot of conservative and libertarian legal thinkers are excited about the possibility that the Supreme Court will start reining in the congressional practice of granting chunks of its legislative authority to unelected bureaucracies. VerBruggen uses the hard-to-escape terminology of “reviving the nondelegation doctrine” to describe this prospect. But as his own account suggests, and I’ve argued elsewhere, “revival” is the wrong term. Never in U.S. history has the Supreme Court acted as an important restraint on the legislature’s delegation of power.

Partial explanations for this fact may lie in the lack of an obvious constitutionally based line for the Supreme Court to draw between permissible and impermissible delegations (or, to put it another way, between impermissible delegations of legislative power and permissible creations of discretionary executive power) and in the political limits of the Court’s power. My American Enterprise Institute colleague Peter Wallison responded to my skepticism about a newly vigorous non-delegation doctrine by arguing that keeping the legislature in charge of legislation is sufficiently important to our constitutional structure that the Supreme Court must attempt to do it, notwithstanding the conceptual or political difficulties. He is persuasive on that point (I am admittedly not a hard sell).

The question remains: How should the justices overcome those difficulties? VerBruggen brings up one possible answer: They could start striking down delegations in small-bore cases that won’t generate much pushback. It seems to me, though, that this idea would lead to one of two possible dead ends. Either the Court would eventually build on its precedents about small-bore delegations to start taking on major bureaucracies, in which case it would merely delay the day of political reckoning. Or it would refrain from ever taking that risky step, which would yield the perverse result that Congress can delegate its power only over the most politically important issues. The Court would not, presumably, say as much; but I’m not sure what it would say as a respectable cover story.

Adam White, another AEI colleague of mine, has drawn a parallel between the center-right interest in judicial action against delegation and the center-left interest in judicial action against gerrymandering. In both cases, the argument goes that there’s a significant deformation of constitutional government that Congress lacks the incentive to correct; in both cases, judicial intervention is therefore thought necessary; but in both cases, the Constitution doesn’t provide a rule to guide the Court in intervening.

I’ll toss out another possible idea for the Court. Maybe it could treat the delegation of legislative authority as a sign that something has gone awry constitutionally, and intervene if other such signs also appear. So, for example, an agency that exercises delegated power over major questions and has slipped the leash of presidential control, or an agency that exercises such delegated power and is accused of due-process violations, would need to be reined in. I am not sure that’s a satisfactory answer to the problem; but I’m not sure a satisfactory answer exists.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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Rand Paul Is Right Limiting the President’s War Powers Is Patriotic

Sen. Rand Paul (Chris Keane/Reuters)

On Wednesday, Republican senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee announced that they would support a Democratic resolution to limit the president’s war powers — and unsurprisingly, they’re taking some heat for it.

Equally unsurprising is that they’ve particularly pissed off Lindsey Graham, who wasted no time in scolding his colleagues for playing a “game with the war powers act” — calling the act “unconstitutional,” and claiming that their support amounts to “empowering the enemy.”

Paul fought back in an interview with CNN Wednesday night, saying: “I think it’s sad when people have this fake sort of drape of patriotism and anybody that disagrees with them is not a patriot.”

He continued:

I love my country as much as the next guy. For him to insult and say that somehow we’re not as patriotic as he is, he hasn’t even read the history of the Constitution,” he continued. “The Constitution specifically says the warmaking power resides in Congress… He insults the Constitution, our Founding Fathers and what we do stand for in this republic by making light of it and accusing people of lacking patriotism. I think that’s a low gutter type of response.

Paul is correct.

First of all, he was absolutely right to characterize Graham’s response as “low gutter.” After all, it’s not like Graham had offered an original thought. No, he just regurgitated the exact same talking point that hawks like him always use to try and shut down anyone who dares to question the war machine. It’s not shocking; it’s not new; it’s been happening for decades. In fact, the only thing that’s changed is that now, it’s also become a catch-all, knee-jerk antiphon to use any time someone criticizes President Trump.

The problem, of course, is that this intellectual laziness discourages independent thought. I mean, why bother to consider anything for yourself when you already know what you’re “supposed” to think? If you’re a Republican, you must support whatever Trump supports, or else you’re a disloyal, socialist-sympathizing traitor. If you’re a “patriot,” you must not question military action, because then you’re choosing the terrorists over the troops.

It really is a shame, because Paul was also right about something else: There is a patriotic case for limiting the president’s war powers. In fact, to me, it’s quite clearly the patriotic case. There is, after all, a reason why the Founders gave Congress the sole power to declare war in the first place. They were explicitly rejecting the English model, the one that they fought to be freed from, where the entire country could find itself at war based on than the whims of the king. They took war seriously; they wanted it debated and carefully considered. The truth is, it’s Paul and Lee’s position, and not Graham’s, that reflects the position of the Founders — and that seems pretty damn patriotic to me.

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Harry & Meghan Leaving Royal Family — Brand Sussex

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry leave St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle following their wedding, May 19, 2018. (Jane Barlow/PA Wire/Pool via Reuters)

Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

First, there is our own Maddy Kearns, who has some advice for Markle. On Twitter, Antonia Garcia Martinez smartly observed: “The fact royals opt out of an hereditary aristocracy to launch some direct-to-consumer, spun-bulls***, goop-style lifestyle brand is really quite telling in its social hierarchy implications. It’s the triumph of the blue checks over the blue bloods.”

Then there is Laura Perrins of ConservativeWoman.co.uk with some harsh assessments of Harry and Meghan. I think Perrins gets precisely at what is bothering a certain type of royals-watcher about the statement from the Duke and Duchess: their desire to have the cake and eat it too. She notes that while they say they are “stepping back” as senior members of the royal family, they stop short of stepping out and instead demand “a progressive new role within this institution.”

Perrins writes:

This is not about Harry and Meghan going quietly into the night; what they want is a ‘progressive new role within this institution’. In other words, they want to be able to give their leftist views using the royal platform. They don’t want to be traditional members of the royal family; they want to be royal celebrities and use their royal connections to push a leftist agenda. Harry is going to make the Duke of Windsor, who abdicated to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson, look like a model son and Royal.

We certainly know what Meghan and Harry don’t want: the dull protocol, the service to the public, the boring plaque-unveiling events in the North of England. Most of all they don’t want the burden of duty and tradition.

I think it’s correct. They are chucking the duties and responsibilities, but in the meantime they are turning the name of their royal household into a trademark for overpriced consumer goods. And this is what they call “financial independence.” They could live the lifestyle of very wealthy millionaires just on the earnings of what Harry inherited from his mother, and on the allowance from his father’s massive income. But, they can’t be billionaire progressive political entrepreneurs and disrupters on such an income.

The ambition of Harry and Meghan seems quite a different thing from those members of the Swedish royal family who are not in line for the throne and living rather quietly in Florida.

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Ukraine Plane Crash — Regarding That Absurd Claim That America Is to Blame

One other note I forgot to add to today’s Morning Jolt about the notion that the United States is somehow to blame or ultimately responsible for the Iranian military shooting down a passenger jet: Some of the people most eager to make this current accusation had little or nothing to say about the civilian casualties of the drone-strike program of the previous administration — an estimated 384 to 807 civilians in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, according to reports logged by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Civilian casualties are a horror, and the U.S. military must always take serious precautions to avoid them. But they are more or less inevitable, particularly when fighting an enemy that does not wear uniforms, hides among civilians, and does not operate on established military bases.

But to many partisans, civilian casualties are more serious or less serious depending upon whether they occur under a president they prefer. The current controversy represents an absurd extension of moral culpability, where the United States is not only responsible for civilians killed by their actions, but we are also responsible for those killed by our enemies’ actions.

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Capitalism Isn’t Broken | National Review

Modern capitalism occasionally imposes indignities (see the tweet above) in its effort to get the most out of workers. Absurdities of excess exist as well, including paper straws and the margarita that costs $1,200. And many are concerned about inequality, economic injustice, and corporate power.

But are critics of capitalism — including those who argue that we are in a “stage” of capitalism described as “late capitalism,” in which the system is spent and exhausted, reduced to entrenching the elite — correct to be so concerned?

In my latest Bloomberg column, I argue that these concerns are wildly overblown.

* Now is a bizarre time to argue that capitalism is broken. The unemployment rate is at a half-century low, and employment (for prime-age workers) has recovered fully from the Great Recession.

* From the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007 through 2016 (the most recent year for which data are available), the Congressional Budget Office finds that inequality of post-tax-and-transfer income has fallen by 7 percent.

* Technology innovators — who receive a lot of criticism in “late capitalism” discussions — have created trillions of dollars of value for the American people.

* Median household income (after taxes and transfers) is up 44 percent since 1990.

Check out my column for my full argument. Your comments, as always, are very welcome.

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Colleges Don’t Teach What Students Need to Learn

As film culture moves onward, it’s best to approach 2020 by previous milestones. The past movie decade did not belong to social-justice propagandists but to Alain Resnais, Zack Snyder, Clint Eastwood, and the rise of S. Craig Zahler. What makes those four auteurs the most significant filmmakers of the preceding …
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Arguments in, and about, a Free Society: George F. Will, Josh Hawley, Etc.

Bush 41, Bush 43, and Laura Bush at the inauguration of 43’s presidential center on the campus of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, on April 25, 2013 (The Bush Center)

For years, Barack Obama slammed Republican philosophy as “You’re on your own.” So did others, including Hillary Clinton. Republicans like me reacted indignantly, saying this was a slander, and explaining why. Then a funny thing happened: Republicans agreed with the Democrats.

In 2007, Hillary was running for president. She said that what President George W. Bush was calling an “ownership society” was really an “on-your-own society.” Obama won the nomination that year, and used the same rhetoric.

Accepting the nomination in Denver, Obama said that John McCain “doesn’t get it.” Obama continued,

For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the “ownership society,” but what it really means is you’re on your own.

Short years later came Donald Trump and the transformation of the Republican party and the conservative movement. By the summer of 2018, even Marco Rubio was denouncing “the radical you’re-on-your-own individualism promoted by our government and by our society in the last 30 years.”

By the way, is that your view of what happened in America from roughly 1990 to 2020? If so, we must have been living in different countries. (After I publish a review, people sometimes tell me, “We must have been at different concerts!”)

A prime example of the new Republican is another senator, Josh Hawley. George F. Will has devoted a column to him, here.

The sails of Sen. Josh Hawley’s political skiff are filled with winds gusting from the right. They come from conservatives who think that an array of — perhaps most of — America’s social injuries, from addiction to loneliness, have been inflicted by America’s economy. Individualism, tendentiously defined, is the Missouri Republican’s named target. Inevitably, however, the culprit becomes capitalism, which is what individual freedom is in a market society’s spontaneous order.

Some more of Will’s column:

It is not accidental, Hawley asserts, that there is “an epidemic of personal loneliness and isolation — driven by the loss of community.” This is a consequence of being told “that to be truly free is to be without the constricting ties of family and place, without the demands of faith or tradition.” Oh? By whom have we supposedly been sold this caricature of individualism?

Yes, exactly.

I think of George W. Bush, who inaugurated his presidential center in 2013. Behind him on the stage were the other living ex-presidents, and their wives. (So that meant Hillary Clinton was present.) President and Mrs. Obama were there too.

In the course of his speech, Bush implicitly answered the longstanding criticism of the Left that Republicans stood for social Darwinism, a dog-eat-dog existence, devoid of heart.

“Independence from the state does not mean isolation from each other,” he said. “A free society thrives when neighbors help neighbors, and the strong protect the weak, and public policies promote private compassion.”

Yes. I will repeat that first sentence, so important to understand: “Independence from the state does not mean isolation from each other.”

By much of the Right these days, George F. Will and George W. Bush are not considered conservatives, while Trump, Hawley & Co. are. People define words in their own times and places. But if conservatism is redefined as a nationalist-populist statism, and liberalism, in America, remains a pink-hued statism, then our country will be a lot poorer (in more than one sense).

Has anything that has done so much for so many ever been less appreciated than a free economy? And when you try to divorce a free economy from freedom itself — you run into a frightful dilemma.