Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Cruising the Web

As Charles C. W. Cooke writes, the MSM seems to not be able to help itself from providing more evidence to make the public distrust the media. This week's example comes from an NBC reporter on Capitol Hill, Leigh Ann Caldwell, who tweeted out early yesterday that she'd heard from an anonymous source that Justice Kennedy and President Trump had been negotiating over Kennedy's retirement for months and Kennedy agreed to retire only when Trump agreed to nominate Brett Kavanaugh.
So that tweet got retweeted around 1600 times and all sorts of people were expressing outrage on Twitter (what a surprise!) and calling for an investigation. Some more hysterical commenters were implying that this supposed deal cast in doubt Kennedy's vote in the travel ban case as if there were some sort of quid pro quo involved in how Kennedy voted in that case. So liberals loved Kennedy until he retired and now they're furious and willing to accuse him of selling his position on a case in order to name his successor.

Later she tweeted that she was deleting the tweet because it gave the wrong impression that there was some sort of deal made. Ya think? Now her story is simply that Kennedy gave Trump a list of acceptable replacements. She added in that the secondary list that Trump issued of possible candidates was a blind just to get Kavanaugh's name out there.

So the reporter created this brouhaha based on one anonymous source and doesn't really know if her original tweet had any element of veracity in it. Way to go with reporting. Now major network reporters are putting rumors out there instead of trying to track down whether there is any truth to their stories or not. As Cooke writes,
Gosh, what a bombshell story! And the day after the nomination, too! Given that this has the potential not only to dominate the news cycle, but to filter down into the rhetorical arsenals of everyone who opposes Kavanaugh, one can only assume that its progenitor did her homework, right? After all, she isn’t some random; she’s a Capitol Hill reporter for NBC, and worked previously at CNN and in public radio. She knows how important it is to ensure that her story is solid. It would be absurd if her attitude were, “not sure about this one, better send it around the Internet just in case.”

....The point here is not that Caldwell is necessarily wrong. I am skeptical myself, and Leonard Leo has categorically refuted the charge, but it’s certainly possible that we’ll see more of this story. The point is that this isn’t journalism. Because she did no research, Leigh Ann Caldwell has allowed herself to be used as a laundry service for political rumor-mongering. Whether deliberately or not, she’s become part of a partisan fight. Irrespective of whether she wanted to, she has made herself a mouthpiece, not an arbiter. “I heard a rumor” is not good enough. It’s not professional. Do better — or quit complaining about your cavilers.
But that's how we roll these days.

I'm still trying to figure why it would be any story that a retiring justice had given the presidenta list of several possible replacements that he recommended. I suspect, but don't know, that that might be rather common especially when the retiring justice is of the same party as the president. And how surprising is it that Kennedy would recommend a former clerk, much respected in the legal community who also has a history of sending his clerks to clerk at the Supreme Court and whose opinions have been adopted by the majority on the Supreme Court?

Allahpundit, with his usual mordant wit, wonders what sort of leverage Kennedy might have had over Trump.
How would that negotiation have worked anyway? Purely as a psychological matter, does anyone really believe Trump would be willing to cede his most momentous kingly appointment power to Anthony Kennedy or anyone else? Besides, he still has two years left in his term and is more likely to have a redder Senate next January than a bluer one. He’s facing no time pressure that Kennedy could have used to squeeze Trump on replacing him with Kennedy’s own preferred candidate. (“If you don’t pick Kavanaugh I’ll stay on the Court another year and then you won’t get to appoint anyone!”)

Also, Trump being Trump, what would have prevented him from solemnly promising Kennedy that he’d appoint Kavanaugh if he retired and then turning around and breaking his promise? It’s not like Kennedy would have been able to un-retire. Nor could he have gone public about the deal he and POTUS allegedly reached. The lefty true believers in the quid pro quo theory are in the strange position of thinking on the one hand that Trump is a sleaze who’d absolutely make a bargain like this but on the other hand not so much of a sleaze that he’d stab Kennedy in the back by reneging on his promise to appoint Kavanaugh. It’s idiotic.
Yes, but, but, the reporter had an anonymous source! That always implies the truth, doesn't it?

Politico, meanwhile, has a different story about why Kavanaugh wasn't on the first list and why he was later added.
Kavanaugh and four others, including Barrett, were added to Trump's list late last year. Kavanaugh was kept off the first list because he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and the president and his aides wanted the candidates on the list to heavily represent states that Trump carried in the 2016 election, according to two people familiar with the matter.

He was added at the urging of his many backers in the conservative legal community.

Kavanaugh is “not a clear outsider,” said one former Republican senior administration official. “I don’t think he’d have stayed off the list given his support from the Federalist Society and Heritage and, most particularly, McGahn.”

Glenn Reynolds is exactly right
about how the over-the-top rhetoric on the left has been diluted of meaning.
As a lawyer messaged me on Facebook today, Kavanaugh will be Hitler, because whoever Trump nominated was going to be Hitler.

But, of course, when everyone’s Hitler, nobody’s Hitler, and the Democrats have been slinging the H-word around rather a lot for the past couple of years. When you have the hysteria turned up to 11 all the time, it has less traction when you need it. (As comedian Dennis Miller tweeted: “Just to keep things in perspective, or not, Trump could nominate either Amy Coney Barrett or Vladimir Putin tomorrow and the headlines would be exactly the same.” He’s not wrong).

Still, brace yourself for a lot of hysteria. But here’s a parting thought: If so much hangs on the appointment of a single person to the Supreme Court that it matters more than almost anything else in our politics, then maybe the Supreme Court matters too much. In a healthier republic, it would matter less.

William McGurn observes how willing Senator Durbin is to allow his red-state colleagues immolate their reelection chances by voting against Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Sure, that will probably mean they won't win reelection, but it's all worth it for the greater good.
July 9, 2018 7:05 p.m. ET
In Tennyson’s hands the light brigade’s disastrous frontal assault on Russian troops in the Crimean War produced some stirring verse. But suicidal charges are less advised for political parties. So it’s startling to hear a high-ranking member of the Democratic leadership call on the most vulnerable members of his own party to march into their own Valley of Death for the sake of rejecting Donald Trump’s pick to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

Mr. Durbin pitched his charge on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” The Illinois Democrat acknowledged that the resistance he is proposing could mean a smaller Democratic minority in the Senate.

Host Chuck Todd put it to Mr. Durbin this way: “Staying united to stop the Supreme Court pick could cost you red-state senators. Not fighting it as hard might allow the red-state senators to get re-elected and get Democrats in control of the Senate. That’s your dilemma.”

Sen. Durbin replied as follows: “It is a dilemma in one respect but not in another. I will tell you, the men and women that I work with on the Democratic side really take this seriously. They understand it’s an historic decision. It’s about more than the next election. It’s about what country the United States of America is going to chart as its course in the future on this Supreme Court. I think each and every one of them take that seriously, that personally. It goes beyond the next election.”
Not only is Durbin asking those senators to basically give up their jobs, something that, as a blue-state guy, he doesn't have to worry about, but he's also risking the chance that the Democrats would regain control of the Senate. That's a big sacrifice. Think of other judicial nominations that could come up over the rest of Trump's term that a Democratic Senate could block.
Now, it’s one thing for a gadfly such as Rand Paul or Bernie Sanders to be willing to give up seats. It’s another when such talk comes from the Senate minority whip. In effect, Mr. Durbin is admitting that a Supreme Court that limits itself to the law and Constitution—calling “balls and strikes,” as Chief Justice John Roberts put it during his own confirmation hearing—means a dead end for causes Democrats cherish but have given up trying to achieve through the democratic process, a k a passing legislation.

Mr. Durbin is making clear that more-moderate Democrat incumbents will be dragooned into the party’s war with Mr. Trump over the Supreme Court whether they can afford to or not. No doubt this approach resonates with the party’s donors and its activist wings in New York and California. But it won’t play as well in the red states where the most vulnerable Democratic senators are now fighting for their political lives.
And if several of those Democratic senators are defeated, Trump could just resubmit Kavanaugh's nomination to the Senate. Those senators would have sacrificed all hopes of reelection for a mess of pottage. But hey, it would make the leftist donors and the #Resistance fringe happy and that seems to be what Durbin cares about.

Even if Kavanaugh's presence on the Court moves it more conservatively, the changes won't be the Apocalypse that liberals are forecasting.
Democrats will also claim that a new conservative 5-4 majority will mean the rollback of American rights from abortion to voting. Don’t believe it.

The change we expect would be a Court that returned to the role it played before the 1960s when the Justices became an engine of progressive policy. The American left is distraught because it fears losing the Court as its preferred legislature. A conservative Court won’t overturn liberal precedents willy-nilly. But we hope it will be inclined to let most political questions be settled where they should be in a democracy—by the political branches.

This still preserves for the Court a large role in protecting fundamental rights and the structure of the separation of powers that is a bulwark against tyranny. The Court has become far too embroiled in politics, which has undermined public faith in the law and Constitution.

We firmly believe that liberals have much less to fear from a conservative majority than they imagine. A genuinely conservative Court might even help progressives by liberating them to focus once again on the core task of self-government—persuading their fellow Americans through elections, not judicial fiat.
Imagine that!

Noah Rothman looks at how liberals have elevated abortion to the supreme issue for them. Now, as Rothman writes, they've fetishized abortion. They celebrate killing babies/fetuses as if it is something to brag about.
Michelle Wolf is the latest liberal talk-show host to confuse being provocative with cleverness. Adorned in cartoonish patriotic regalia evocative of “John Philip Sousa’s America,” Wolf spent her Independence Day staging a “salute to abortion.” The performance consisted of gushing over the life-affirming practice of voluntary pregnancy termination, a few off-color jokes, and some self-soothing techniques typical of “the party of science.” For example: “Some people say abortion is ‘killing a baby,’” Wolf noted. “It’s not! It’s stopping a baby from happening.” The more you know.
They're a long way from when Bill Clinton talked about making abortion "safe, legal, and rare."
In the intervening years, Americans on the left have composed even more preposterous devotionals to the practice of aborting fetuses. They’ve formed advocacy organizations with titles like “Thank God for Abortion,” advocated depicting abortion in cartoons aimed at young children, praised the destigmatizing effect of abortion jokes, and penned columns advocating the late-term abortion of children diagnosed in utero with autism. And while Democratic officeholders are cautious about mirroring their base’s off-putting pro-abortion enthusiasm, they are still content to vote with them when it counts. In 2016 and again in 2018, the party united to block a ban on aborting a child after the 20th week of gestation—when the child has a functioning heart and brain, and has developed fingers, toes, and external genitalia. Senator Dianne Feinstein called the effort an “attempt to harm women by criminalizing their healthcare.”

Liberal confidence is buttressed by polls that routinely show voters oppose overturning Roe v. Wade by two-to-one margins. But virtually unfettered access to abortion is a similarly unpopular position. Since the mid-’70s, Gallup has found Americans prefer some restrictions on abortion rights. A 2017 Marist survey commissioned by the Knights of Columbus found nearly six in ten respondents backing a ban on the practice after 20 weeks with exceptions if the life of the mother is in jeopardy. That figure is virtually unchanged from 2013 when a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that a majority support a 20-week ban. Dive deeper into the weeds, and you’ll be privy to heated arguments about what stage of the pregnancy actually constitutes 20 weeks (there is a valid debate on the matter), but none of this suggests that the general public has any stomach for reverential pro-abortion passion plays.

Almost from the moment that Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, liberal commentators and columnists pronounced Roe v. Wade dead. They parsed the validity of arguments that had not been made in cases that had not been brought and they reached a predetermined conclusion. All the while, the activists to their left have made a golden calf out of abortion. When it comes to practice, the Democratic Party’s activist base is out of touch with the rest of the country, but they haven’t seemed to notice.
Those in the pro-life movement who oppose any sort of abortion or want limits for only rape, incest, or the health of the mother are painted as extremists. But those who want abortions legal up to birth are just as extreme. If people weren't so driven to their partisan corners, there is room for a reasonable middle position of abortion being legal in the first trimester with limits. That would be as extreme as...most European countries.

This is a wonderful story about Ray Allen and how he has become so dedicated to learning about the Holocaust and encouraging others, including all his teammates to learn about what happened. He wrote up his reflections at the Players' Tribune to explain to other people why he felt it was so important to visit Auschwitz. He tells a powerful story of a family of 10 Poles who hid Jews in a crawl space under the kitchen and how the Nazis came and took the family away.
There was a small hole in the kitchen floor that led to a secret crawl space. That image is burned into my memory. The space was maybe five feet long by five feet wide.

The owner of the house said, “They used to fit six people inside there. When the Nazis would come.”

His name was Tadeusz Skoczylas, and the house we were in had belonged to his family during World War II. It was a small brick house in the town of Ciepielów, Poland. It had a red roof that had seen better days. The front door was just a few steps off the street. In the backyard were a few barns and other small shacks.

I had been in Poland for a few days already, and the horror of the history I had experienced was overwhelming. But this was something different. This was so personal.

I’m looking at this tiny space. And I’m imagining six people down there, hiding from death. Six real people. Crawling through that little hole right in front of me. Not that long ago. It wasn’t a history book. It wasn’t a museum. It was right there.

Tadeusz explained that one day in 1942, Nazi soldiers visited the house on a tip. Someone in the village had told them that the family had been harboring Jewish people. There were supposed to be 10 Skoczylas living in the house. On this particular day, the youngest boy in the family was not home when the soldiers came by. The Nazis grew suspicious and began tearing the house apart. They found the hole and the crawl space, but the Jewish people the family had been hiding were not there. They had already moved on.

Without saying a word, the Nazis went next door to a neighboring family and took their young son. The punishment for hiding Jews was death for the entire family, and they had a quota to fill.

The soldiers took all 10 people out back and executed them right in front of those barns and shacks that are still standing there today.

When the little Skoczylas boy returned home, he found his entire family dead.
Allen goes on to explain why he encouraged every team he played for to visit the Holocaust Museum whenever they played the Washington Wizards. When he posted online about his visits to Poland, he got pushback from some trolls online about how he shouldn't be making a fuss about the Holocaust while there are still problems among American blacks. Ray Allen is having none of that.
When I returned home to America, I got some very disheartening messages directed toward me on social media regarding my trip. Some people didn’t like the fact that I was going to Poland to raise awareness for the issues that happened there and not using that time or energy to support people in the black community.

I was told my ancestors would be ashamed of me.

I know there are trolls online and I shouldn’t even pay attention, but that one sort of got to me. Because I understood where they were coming from. I understand that there are plenty of issues in our own country right now, but they were looking at my trip the wrong way. I didn’t go to Poland as a black person, a white person, a Christian person or a Jewish person — I went as a human being.
Good for him. It's a powerful essay and so very unexpected. How crazy that some people wouldn't want a black athlete to spend time learning about the Holocaust and helping others learn about it. But what can we expect from a country where two-thirds of millennials don't even know what Auschwitz is and 22% say they have never heard of the Holocaust or aren't sure they've ever heard of it?