Trump Celebrates Education Day USA

On April 5, President Trump issued a proclamation designating that day as Education Day, and calling to mind the life and work of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, often known simply as the Rebbe. In doing so, the president continued a tradition that began in 1978 during the Carter administration and has been followed annually by every president since then.

Education Day (the name has occasionally been tweaked) has been set to coincide with the rabbi’s birthday and it mentions him specifically because of his abiding campaign to strengthen education worldwide. The importance of moral education was always at the heart of his message, because the history of teaching one’s children is a biblical mandate and also because modern times showed how education without a moral center has led to the worst human-made disasters the world has ever seen.

The importance of moral education was always at the heart of the Rebbe’s message.

Although Rabbi Schneerson developed relations with every president, he and Ronald Reagan had a special bond. President Reagan responded warmly to the rabbi’s letter of blessing after the 1981 assassination attempt, and the two exchanged letters a number of times.

President Reagan found particularly resonant a central part of the Rebbe’s message — the teaching of the Seven Noahide Laws. These laws are seen hinted at in the text of Genesis by the Rabbis of old. They are set out in the Talmud and organized in Maimonides’ medieval Code of Law. As taught in those sources, these laws were given by G-d to all humanity, with the first six laws being given to Adam and then all those reiterated and one more given to Noah after the Flood.

President Reagan was no more noted for biblical piety than Churchill or Lincoln. But there was something in the idea of a universal moral code that appealed to Reagan’s freedom-loving, constitutional outlook on the world. Freedom is possible because we are all called upon to individually take up moral responsibility by the Force that lies beneath the entire universe.

Though neither Reagan nor the Rebbe spoke of it in their correspondence, the Seven Noahide Laws had already emerged from their native soil in the Bible and Jewish tradition and had made themselves known in the world. When 17th-century Europe struggled to find an international order after the wrenching and bloody struggle of the Thirty Years’ War, Hugo Grotius, the architect of the Treaty of Westphalia that at last brought peace, used the Noahide Laws as his part of his intellectual foundation. The discovery of these laws, which claim to be divinely binding on all, gives a place to stand and to begin the development of precedent and binding custom in international relations.

John Selden in England engaged Grotius’ thought and developed and even more systematic use of the Seven Laws. In Table Talk, Selden is recorded as saying,

How should I know I ought not to steal, I ought not to commit adultery, unless somebody had told me so? … ’Tis not because I think I ought not to do them, nor because you think I ought not; if so, our minds might change. Whence, then, comes the restraint? From a higher power; nothing else can bind. I cannot bind myself, for I may untie myself again; nor an equal cannot bind me, for we may untie one another. It must be a superior Power, even God Almighty.

Reagan never indicated that he had read Selden, but his appreciation of American freedom would have been naturally in tune with it, as Selden was a fundamental influence on the series of British and then American thinkers who developed on his firm basis the idea of political rights flowing directly from G-d.

So we can understand the president’s response to the Rebbe’s emphasis on the need for an education that gives all a moral foundation instead of just uncentered knowledge. He wrote in his proclamation of 1982,

The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s work stands as a reminder that knowledge is an unworthy goal unless it is accompanied by moral and spiritual wisdom and understanding. He has provided a vivid example of the eternal validity of the Seven Noahide Laws, a moral code for all of us regardless of religious faith.

And in a similar vein, Reagan wrote in his 1985 proclamation,

The Seven Noahide Laws … are the essence of education at its best, and we should be certain that we pass on this precious heritage to all young Americans.

Part of what is enduringly attractive about these laws is that along with their universality goes the realization that everything not included in these laws is within the realm of human freedom to determine. Thus, the ground is cut out from beneath religious intolerance. As Grotius had noted in the 1600s, within ancient Israel

there always lived some Strangers … as it is read in the Talmud…. These, as the Hebrew Rabbins say, were obliged to keep the Precepts given to Adam and Noah … but not the Laws peculiar to the Israelites.

And if the laws given by divine revelation were not meant to be enforced outside of Israel, then, certainly, no later religious laws should be imposed. In short, here was a divine mandate for religious freedom, which grew and thrived in Grotius’ Holland, and then, somewhat later, in Selden’s England.

An openness to religious freedom flowing from the ancient source of religion itself — this engaged and inspired Reagan, as it had done with the builders of Western democracy before him.

This same spirit of freedom being something divinely given speaks from this year’s proclamation, as well. In the president’s words,

On this day, let us acknowledge that each person has a unique purpose that can be unleashed through an individual, whole-of-person approach to education, and let us renew our commitment to supporting education as a means by which individuals may grow their gifts, develop their talents, and fulfill their God-given potential.

The authority of the universe stands behind our freedoms, as they are the way to realize the unique gifts distributed in every nation and every individual. Once again, an American president has called us to contemplate and implement this message.

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Author: Shmuel Klatzkin

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Quit Trying to Make Americans Like Each Other

F.H. Buckley’s newest work, American Secession: The Looming Threat of National Breakup, is probably the most important non-fiction books of 2020. Written during the last year when Americans were more divided at any time in their national history since the Civil War, Buckley argues that neither “Blue” America nor “Red” America, to use former President Barack Obama’s postulation from 2004, can coexist. According to Buckley, that is all right. We Americans have a mechanism — nullification — for coexisting peacefully in this massive country without the need to take up arms against those with whom we disagree. Under nullification, the immense powers of the central government are distributed (or, returned, as my Libertarian friends would argue) to the state and local authorities without the need for one part of America violently separating away from the other as happened during the Civil War.

Buckley’s book poses many controversial questions to the reader while engaging in some wonderful counterfactual exercises in order to prove the author’s point: that nullification is our bifurcated country’s only hope at remaining a country. In the book, Buckley ruminates on the way historians remember America’s sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, and the way they castigate the memory of Lincoln’s predecessor, James Buchanan. The former is regarded as one of the greatest men to have ever inhabited the White House; he is normally mentioned in the same breath as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Buchanan, on the other hand, is often remembered as the man who basically “lost” the Union when the issue of chattel slavery tore the Union asunder.

Yet, in Buckley’s view, without the moral issue of slavery being the dividing line in what Angelo Codevilla has described as the “cold civil war” today, the political divisions are far murkier. What’s more, many Americans might prefer to have a James Buchanan in the White House as opposed to an Abraham Lincoln. As Buckley asserts, would most Americans be willing to fight another civil war to make sure California liberals will stay part of Donald Trump’s America? People today would likely far prefer a more permissive president, such as Buchanan, to lead them through this crucible rather than the Bismarckian nation-builder, Lincoln, who vowed to fight any insurrectionist to the last man. Today, most Americans would be content to have liberal Californians just go their own way while allowing for more conservative Californians to move to Texas.

Using federalism as a guide, though, Buckley thinks we can have our constitutional cake and eat it. At its core, today’s conflict between Red and Blue America is the classic battle over centralization versus decentralization. How much power are Americans willing to cede today to Washington, D.C.?

The 20th century, particularly following the Second World War, showed how willing most Americans were to hand over large amounts of power to the federal government that were once reserved for either the private sector or for the local and state governments of the United States. Today, there is a reaction to the decisions made over the last 80 years. Increased power to Washington has created horrible imbalances in our national political, social, and economic system. The central authorities are often slow to respond and are subject to influence peddling that diverts national resources and laws away from where they are needed and into areas where only the special interests benefit.

When Bill Maher and those like him in California say that Trump supporters “don’t belong” in their neighborhoods, the solution is not to take up arms against those folks. It’s to do as Charles Murray observed in his 2012 book on the matter and to self-sort: find those American communities that are most like you and join them. Vote with your feet. Meanwhile, allow for Californians to do that which works for their communities so long as they allow for you to do that which best works for your community. A live-and-let-live approach is the best solution here and nullification offers that to the country.

The recent outbreak of the coronavirus from Wuhan, China is another example of the argument of centralization versus decentralization. On the one hand, the natural inclination for many is to look to the federal government for a resolution to the problem. Yet, the Trump administration has deftly managed to embrace a decentralized network model that is much more effective in combating the spread of the disease. The White House has given the resources and personnel needed to combat the outbreak while letting states and local authorities both respond to the outbreak in their communities and to conduct tests and mitigation procedures according to the needs of their individual communities. While it remains to be seen if this approach will work, a similar decentralized model — where the central authority merely manages rather than dictates the response — is how the South Koreans pulled their country out of the coronavirus pandemic after it spread there from neighboring China.

For a country as large and diverse as the United States, whether attempting to ameliorate internal division or respond to a pandemic, the diffusion of greater power to the local and state authorities is the best path forward. Further, it’s the most constitutional approach. What works for Los Angeles may not work best for Sevierville, Tenn. and vice-versa. Why force different people in different parts of the country to comport with standards that do not reflect their local realities? And does anyone really want to take the approach that Abraham Lincoln favored on the Blue States when a James Buchanan live-and-let-live approach would not only be the least bloody method to resolving our national division?

Buckley’s book is essential for today’s America. I’m on my second read-through of it now. I cannot recommend this book enough. It will leave you questioning many ingrained assumptions — and that’s a very good thing in today’s age of incuriosity.

Brandon J. Weichert is the author of the forthcoming book, Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, due out this fall from Republic Book Publishers. He also publishes The Weichert Report and is a contributing editor at both American Greatness and The American Spectator. Brandon’s work also appears at Real Clear Public Affairs, Real Clear World, and Real Clear Defense. Be sure to follow him via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

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Author: Brandon J. Weichert

No News Is Bad News in the Briefing Room

Washington

The Washington Post and the New York Times aren’t sending reporters to the Trump White House for daily briefings.

Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron explained, “We have to keep in mind our reporters’ health and those of our colleagues at other media outlets,” as he noted that Post reporters were exposed to a symptomatic reporter who later tested negative.

New York Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet said that possible exposure to the coronavirus and the White House news briefings’ lack of news value drove his decision, the Washington Post reported.

How low the titans of journalism have slumped.

News outlets routinely send reporters into war zones and natural disasters with ugly death tolls. Yet somehow the White House is just too dangerous?

It’s one thing for editors to tell reporters who can work at home to do so and to direct journalists who are at high risk to cede their spots to other colleagues. It’s another thing for major news organizations to engage in — what else can you call it? — a boycott.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies reporters as essential workers whose presence is vital in keeping the public informed.

In effect, Baron and Baquet are arguing: We’re not essential. We don’t need to be there. Our crew can watch it on TV.

Liberal bias surely is a driver, and also can be seen in the debate as to whether cable news should air the ratings-rich briefings. It’s no accident that this debate is percolating as President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have been inching upward.

Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote: “Business as usual simply doesn’t cut it. Minor accommodations, like fact-checking the president’s statements afterward, don’t go nearly far enough to counter the serious damage this man is doing to the public’s well-being.”

And: “Radical change is necessary: The cable networks and other news organizations that are taking the president’s briefings as live feeds should stop doing so.”

In this cloistered news climate, the vaunted public’s right to know is for suckers.

It looks bad when journalists say there is not enough news in the briefings after the White House press corps spent so much time decrying the end of daily briefings in March 2019.

It’s a good thing that the White House Correspondents’ Association canceled its annual dinner in April, because we’d look pretty silly patting ourselves on the back for courageously standing up for the First Amendment. In our bathrobes.

Yes, I am writing this from home. But I’ll be back in the White House for pool duty, and I am up for a coveted briefing room seat — unless I show symptoms.

The White House has to be one of the safest places inside the beltway to work. Someone takes your temperature before you can get through the gate, and again before briefings.

The correspondents’ association has negotiated with the White House to limit how many journalists safely can be in the room; 14 out of 49 seats are spaced for social distancing and rotated among interested outlets. Under this social-distancing regime, reporters cannot stand in the aisles.

Wednesday, there was a kerfuffle when Chanel Rion, a Trump-friendly reporter with One America News Network, broke the new regimen by standing in the aisle for the second day in a row. The correspondents association kicked her out of rotation.

On Twitter, One America News Network staff tried to frame the move as the liberal establishment squashing a conservative voice. It’s a happy conceit that has the network trolling for victimhood after Rion flouted rules that apply to everyone else.

Inconvenient fact: One America News Network was on rotation for a seat.

If the White House wanted Rion in the room, as a One America News Network executive told the Washington Post, the press office should have given her a seat among administration staff on the sideline where she can ask Trump, as she once did, if the term “Chinese food” is racist.

By the way, Trump can grant Rion an interview whenever he wants. No one is standing in the way.

I’m not a fan of Rion’s style, which falls under the heading showboat on a soapbox. That profile is equally unappealing when practiced by left-leaning cable news correspondents who prefer pontificating to asking questions.

But at least Rion wants to be in the room, which is more than I can say for the New York Times and Washington Post.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

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Author: Debra J. Saunders

Constitutionalism and the Spirit of Unity

England in the 1640s was shaking apart along many fault lines. The royalists, known as the Cavaliers, fought with King Charles in his deadly struggle with Parliament. The supporters of Parliament’s supremacy fought with ever-increasing ferocity for their rights and privileges, which required the king’s powers to be limited. The Scots fought for their Presbyterian church and struggled to have recast the Church of England in Scotland’s Presbyterian mold. The episcopate of the Church of England struggled to maintain its status as the state church and the power of their bishops who sat in the House of Lords. Catholics looked mostly to the king but had no assurances the king was with them. The Independents, the Puritans in particular, fought for their own supremacy and joined their cause with that of Parliament in its struggles with the king. This would not end before two separate civil wars had been fought, King Charles and the Archbishop of Canterbury had been beheaded, and a military dictatorship had been set up that would rule for over a decade.

The lawyer John Selden had played a prominent role as a leader in Parliament. He had spearheaded the successful passage of the Petition of Right, a landmark document in the history of political freedom that limited the king’s arbitrary powers. But as the years stretched on, Selden concentrated more and more on a vision of a constitution that would find a place for all the warring elements to be ordered and to contribute to the common good as one body politic.

Selden concentrated on a vision of a constitution that would find a place for all the warring elements to be ordered and to contribute to the common good as one body politic.

Selden was a scholar of highest repute, and as the political climate darkened, he turned from merely championing one side against the other to employing his scholarship to find a larger and more stable basis for politics. He believed that there was a living tradition in England, a branch of the tradition that ran through the Bible and the law of Israel, that had a model of how England could avoid strife and maintain the liberties of its people. King, Lords, and Commons all had their place in this ancient constitution. Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Puritan could all defer to a common order that preceded their differences and gave all a place to stand and a possibility to reconcile.

Selden died during the latter years of the Cromwell dictatorship, when the English constitution lay in tatters on the ground. His dream was disappointed in his lifetime. But it would only be a few short years later when the dictator was dead and the new king, now a constitutional monarch, sat on a restored throne and Parliament again met, now confidently exerting its power.

Britain has not been without its constitutional crises in the centuries intervening. Yet the basic constitutional outlook has endured. Winston Churchill summed up that outlook in his history of Britain that he wrote just before World War II. Well aware of the titanic struggle for the soul of humanity that was already raging, Churchill held up constitutionalism as something inspirational and worthy of fighting for. And that quality that he highlighted was its basic peacefulness — that all had their proper place and, despite alternations, no one would be excluded and no one would presume to hijack the state for a narrow and partisan purpose.

The great mass of the people could get on with their daily tasks and leave politics to those who were partisans without fear. The national horse had shown that the reins could be thrown on his neck without leading to a furious gallop in this direction or that. No one felt himself left out of the Constitution. An excess of self-assertion would be injurious.

In these days of crisis when a common national purpose has started to rise out of the fierce and cutthroat partisanship of the three years of the Impeachment Era, the modesty of this vision is appealing. The heroic American era of the Greatest Generation also saw people value what bound us together above all else. The marvel of a stable basis for such a large nation of diverse people was starkly different from the ideology of the fascists, for whom difference was anathema and unity was defined only as the will of the leader.

Here, having adopted and adapted the constitutionalism of Selden and his disciples, we have a chance to reaffirm its wonder. As we rally to a national purpose from all the places our freedom has taken us, we can infuse a new spirit into our politics. For all that we differ, no one is left out; from the plurality of our outlooks and commitments, we are yet one, able to face our challenges with coordinated power. Our Constitution lives. Let the wonder of that inform all our political life.

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Author: Shmuel Klatzkin

A Strong Contender for the U.S. Senate in Virginia

The Virginia Republican Party has taken a beating these past few years, going back to the legal misfortune of Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2014 and 2015. And the Trump brand did not play well in the northern suburbs, which now resemble, politically at least, New Jersey more than the Old Dominion, well, of old. Despite some very close races at the state level, counties like Fairfax and Loudoun — wealthy areas with many, many federal workers and their contractors — are now very blue and seem to be driving statewide elections.

So it is a welcome sign of renewal for the GOP that Lt. Col. (ret.) Daniel Gade is running for the U.S. Senate.

Gade is a West Point graduate with 20 years of military experience; decorated combat veteran who lost, and is now excelling, on one leg; dedicated family man; Ph.D. in public policy; and recipient of the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Daniel through my daughter and her husband, another military officer and a vascular surgeon, who tended to him at Walter Reed. After Gade’s second combat wounding, he lost his entire right leg and endured more than 40 surgeries. It was after this ordeal that he earned his Ph.D. in public policy. He is now on the faculty of American University after a tour in the administration of President George W. Bush, an honor we share in common.

As if he did not have enough challenges to overcome, in 2010 Gade completed an Ironman 70.3 World Championship and won the paratriathalon category. A week later, he completed Ironman Arizona, pedaling an impressive 112 miles.

But Daniel Gade has more than an impressive biography. He is a full-spectrum, principled conservative who also shows great respect to those of differing views. Having watched him in action in public appearances and televised interviews, I know that he has a persuasive way with people across the political continuum. It helps that he is very articulate and has the presence of a true officer and gentleman. He also knows suffering, which is invaluable in establishing empathy with his audiences. He is, as the saying goes, a happy warrior, comfortable in his own skin.

It is no accident that he has been endorsed by another veteran, former Navy SEAL Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas. Crenshaw is known for his winning ways and trademark eye patch.

Daniel Gade is running on a platform of strong economic growth, regulatory reform, the right to life, and — essential for winning statewide in the Commonwealth — the Second Amendment.

“Our civil rights include the right to live in accordance with our religious principles, the right to unrestricted free speech and exchange of ideas, and the right to protect ourselves by keeping and bearing arms,” Gade says. “This is the only way to ensure equal protection and justice for all, regardless of race, class, or creed.”

While supporting a strong national defense, he insists that it is for Congress, not the Executive, to declare war. “I believe we should commit troops only a) in defense of vital national interest, b) when there is a defined end state, and c) when military force is the only remaining option,” Gade says.

“Military families shouldn’t be the only ones having dinner-table conversations before their loved ones go to war,” he continues. “I am opposed to the open-ended commitment of troops around the world.”

Gade was quick to speak out about U.S. senators who dumped stock shares after receiving special information on COVID-19, which appears to be “insider trading.” On March 23, he announced his first piece of legislation that he would introduce in the Senate, the Stop Insider Trading (SIT) Act, to require members of Congress to place their investment portfolio in a blind trust upon taking the oath of office. It would also prohibit them from using information received from their official duties for personal benefit.

“Using your official position for private gain, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, is an egregious abuse of public office,” Gade says.

Gade reframes issues in a way that connects with people in new, engaging ways. He has argued against the discriminatory use of abortion to destroy unborn children with disabilities just because they are disabled.

He has also written in the Wall Street Journal on the backlog and abuse of disability payments for veterans, demonstrating that the aggressive expansion of benefits for medical conditions not related to military service actually has hurt veterans with more severe military-related problems. He provides a thoughtful explanation of a complex problem.

Of course, taking on the incumbent, Sen. Mark Warner, will be a difficult challenge given the shift of Virginia from a red to purple to blue state. But regime change in Richmond, from Republican to Democrat, has resulted in a cascade of liberal proposals, laws, and programs which, Gade calculates, are going to enflame most of the state south of the Rappahannock River. In January, 105 cities and counties across Virginia had passed some kind of Second Amendment sanctuary resolution in reaction to legislative activity in the state capitol. Incredibly, over 20,000 protesters rallied in support of gun rights in Richmond.

According to the Almanac of American Politics, Warner has moved back and forth on gun rights but has supported the expansion of background checks on gun buyers. While he once opposed bans on assault weapons, he now has expressed support for them. He will face increasing pressure from progressives in his own party to move to the left on the Second Amendment.

At a recent gathering, Gade said Warner’s name recognition is 40 percent, which is low for a former governor and incumbent senator. Moreover, he came within 1 percentage of losing his reelection in 2014 against former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. That was a low turnout year for Democratic voters, but Gillespie relentlessly tied Warner’s votes to Obama. Gade will, no doubt, be looking for other comparisons to illustrate Warner’s voting record. The American Conservative Union gives rates him at 9 percent, the Heritage Foundation 5 percent, and the Family Research Council zero percent.

To win this race, Daniel Gade will have to pile up votes outside of northern Virginia while holding losses to a minimum in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. He will also need to work his military and pro-life networks, using social media (he is already doing this) and shoe leather to develop new constituencies for his campaign and optimize his strengths against what will be a well-funded incumbent.

Lt. Col. Daniel Gade has surmounted tremendous challenges before. He is ready to take on this one. As he often reminds his supporters:

I am not a career politician. I have served the Constitution since I was 17, and I look forward to continuing my service to the people of Virginia. My mission is different, but the oath is the same.

The game is afoot.

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Author: G. Tracy Mehan III

Letters to the Editor: Biden’s Stellar Social Distancing

Our editors’ inboxes and comment sections are filled with insightful, sharp, and thought-provoking responses from our readers. So we’ve started a weekly roundup of highlights. Check up on our blog each Friday for more, and send your letters to editor@spectator.org!

“Slow the Spread” — And Spread Out the Feds

That the Washington metropolitan region is an upcoming hotspot for the pandemic should, like the sniper scare of 2002 and the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, revitalize the debate of geographically diversifying the locations of our federal government agencies and some 400,000 federal personnel in the D.C. area. We should not be put off by the criticism of the 2019 relocation of some parts of the Department of Agriculture to Kansas City.

James Thunder

April 2

On “ ‘No Show Joe’ Makes Trump Look Presidential,” by J. T. Young

It is a long way to November. A summer long continuation of this crisis and the accompanying economic collapse may very well doom the President no matter how presidential he may seem. It is not his fault but it is his fate to be confronted with this Wuhan Virus and the virulent, never ceasing attacks from a deranged media. Biden’s strategy to sit back and let his attack dogs do the heavy lifting is pretty smart and really about the only thing he can do. The last thing he needs to be doing is any more floundering teleconferences or whatever that thing was last week that had him so flustered he looked like he did not know where he was until his wife got him.

George P. Burdell III

April 2

Pretty much agree with you, November is a lifetime away. Hopefully, the American people will not suffer from amnesia like the media and Sleepy Joe. The media is upping their blame game now and spreading the narrative that President Trump has blood on his hands for not acting sooner. They are claiming they could see this coming in early January. However, these same people, some who even moderated Democratic debates that were held weeks after, claim that they could see this coming, never mentioned a single word about the virus. There were multiple debates after January, it was never an issue to discuss … Maybe the Wuhan virus also causes amnesia amongst its other symptoms.

The media’s relentless attacks may eventually have an impact but for now the president is very presidential and the American people are seeing it every day. This is why many of the media outlets are pushing to not cover the daily press conferences.

With that said, Biden has nothing to do with the president looking presidential. Trump is handling that on his own.

Anonymous

Joe Biden makes my goldfish look presidential …

Anonymous

April 2

On “We Are All Homeschoolers Now,” by Jeremy Lott

More home schooling will be a good thing. But there should remain choices for parents who either cannot stay home vs go to work, or those who lack the skill/patience to teach. Not every adult makes a good instructor, even when they know the material. Many of such reluctant parents never liked school as children, and desire no repeat of those expectations, rules and standards. Homeschooled kids will need to schedule time to get with their peers. That’s a very important skill.

San Rafael Blue

April 1

Read more Letters to the Editor here, and send yours to editor@spectator.org!

As a parent, here’s what I have noticed: the opposite. Everyone I know (affluent, upper middle class, well-educated) is marveling at how teachers do it, at how difficult it is to teach, and how they can’t wait till the schools open back up. Also, everyone is saying how much their kids need and miss the social aspect of school. The kids have serious cabin fever. They hate being isolated at home. So none of this rings true to me.

Anonymous

April 2

On “ ‘The Five’ Have an Off Day,” by R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.

I am currently reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (she’s a socialist, and once threatened Margaret Thatcher). I am anything but a socialist — arch conservative and a practicing Catholic. The book is fascinating and exceptionally well written. I stopped watching “The Five” a long time ago. In fact I no longer watch any TV news unless my wife turns on the local news. After about 10 minutes, I ask her to get anything but news. She switches to some mindless rerun, which I find preferable to watching real people arguing about the same things ad nauseam. Tonight I plan to watch an episode of Inspector Morse. Then read or do the Sunday NYT crossword.

Joseph McGrath

April 2

Gee, why not go whole-hog literary and suggest Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. Times are dismal enough, and it’s only going to get worse, without suggesting they should turn off the movies and read Grant’s biography.

Kitty Myers

April 1

Listening to Boccaccio’s Decameron makes you enlightened as you hear bawdy stories of monks, friars, bishops, and nuns.

“Tides of History” podcast is great, too. Hard to read when you walk, but a good listen helps pass the miles.

William Rufus

April 1

On “My Last Column,” by Stuart Kaufman

Perhaps equally, you could list those advertisers that pulled or threatened to pull their business form the Mercury. Like Nick Searcy I’m starting to think that there’s no other way to begin to deal with this sort of cognitive dissonance.

Anthony McBride

March 31

So it seems the Charleston Mercury‘s loss is our gain. Hope to see your column regularly.

Mike

March 31

From Daniel J. Flynn’s Spectator A.M. Newsletter

Daniel:

Kudos to you for those great articles on fiscal and monetary policy. Everyone should be aware of the critical nature of the problems you are pointing to, not just guys like me who have done part of their Ph.D. grad work in economics at UC-Berkeley. Beware a new threat of that old bogeyman we haven’t seen in 40 years, hyperinflation.

Click here to subscribe to Dan Flynn’s daily morning newsletter!

Now that the coronavirus has cut into economic productivity, coupled with the politicians accelerating their spending of dollars “like drunken sailors” (Reagan quip: “At least drunken sailors spend their own money”), the dam holding back mega-inflation may finally break. Let’s hope it doesn’t become anything like the most famous runaway inflation of the 20th century, that of Germany in the 1920s which largely destroyed the German middle class and laid the groundwork for the rise of Hitler ten years later. During that inflation, for instance, the price of mailing a first-class letter went from one-to-two deutschmarks in 1920 to ten billion deutschmarks in 1923. The saying was that before the inflation, you took your money to the grocer in your wallet and came back with your groceries in your basket. After the inflation you took your money to the grocer in your basket and came back with your groceries in your … But you get the picture.

Regards,

Denis Norrington

San Francisco, California

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Author: The Editors

Prayers for Chris Cuomo

The other day it was announced that my former CNN colleague Chris Cuomo was fighting the coronavirus.

So I wanted to make sure to send along prayers for Chris and his family. We didn’t agree on politics — that, of course, was the point of my being there on CNN in the first place. But most assuredly our differences were always political, never personal.

In fact, last summer when Chris was confronted by some jerk at a Shelter Island summer watering hole I was also familiar with — while he was out with his family — I made a point of defending him. As I said on Sean Hannity’s show — and Sean was defending Chris as well — he is indeed a good person and didn’t deserve this kind of treatment.

This virus is tough stuff. And with the descriptions now out there from Chris doing TV from his basement, it is a horrendous thing to have to deal with.

So I wanted to make sure that Chris knows his old CNN sparring partner, like so many others, is pulling for him. He is, as brother the Guv has noted, young and strong. And so he is. I look forward to the moment when he can do his shows without this hanging over him.

And yes, once that happens, I look forward to disagreeing with him — in print! — once again.

And if we are out there on Shelter Island at the same time this next summer, I will meet you in that watering hole and I will buy.

God bless you, brother. Fight.

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Author: Jeffrey Lord

A Trip to the Pharmacy

After spending the whole night going over the plan, I finally leave the house at 9:01 a.m., wearing a long coat, fisherman’s boots, a raincoat, a swimming cap under a moscovite ushanka, a pair of diving goggles, latex gloves, woolly gloves, three fireproof mittens — one of which hangs daintily over my nose — and six layers of underwear. All of this is soaked in hydroalcoholic gel. Destination: the pharmacy. I’m so nervous that I forget to open the door in the lobby. I’m pretty sure the astronauts on the International Space Station hear the crash. My outburst of expletives, which is louder still, is clearly heard in Wuhan and in perfect Chinese. My plan was flawless. Not so my cracked nose.

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The street is the zombie apocalypse kind of empty, although this is to be taken with a pinch of salt because I haven’t actually witnessed any zombie apocalypses, unless you count New Year’s Eve 1999, when we were on the verge of being devoured by our own appliances, and in the end the most dangerous thing in my building turned out to be the neighbor on the sixth floor, who after getting completely out of his face, had to be reduced like a gremlin, threatening him with a cold shower.

I walk with the utmost caution. I walk long and hard. I try to minimize contact with the ground. The idea was not to breathe for however long the journey lasted, but a traffic light turns red and I start to get dizzy, so I choose to take one single but very, very deep breath to avoid suffocating. I’ve been up all bloody night thinking about it, and there is sound logic behind my reasoning: I’ve calculated that if I breathe the air in the street just once, I’m less likely to swallow the virus than if I breathe in a thousand times. On the other hand, there is a risk to this: I’ll be breathing so deep that if the coronavirus gets in, it’s sure to nest at the base of my lung, settling in permanently, I mean buying the land and building a house with a swimming pool overlooking the large intestine, a stone’s throw from almost all the vital organs and five minutes in an artery to the center of the body. In other words, if I do catch the virus with this mother of all inhalations, I’m going straight to the next world without passing GO, collecting my 200 bucks, or having time to swallow a sleeping pill. But nobody said it was easy. Courage.

I’ve chosen the only pharmacy in the neighborhood with an automatic door to avoid contact with the number one enemy: doorknobs. So I spend a fair amount of time at the door, dancing flamenco in front of a motion detector that never has any problems except when it detects an imbecile in distress dressed as a frog-man. Finally, the pharmacist comes to my aid with her Colgate smile, making it clear that to the motion detector she is everything and I am nobody.

Once inside the pharmacy I stand at a safe distance from the pharmacist. So much so that, for a moment, between the six-meter separation I leave and my peculiar outfit, she asks me with a panic-stricken face if this is a stick-up. I tell her it isn’t, but to slowly slide the packet of sleeping pills into a bag, and to push it with her foot towards me. To make communication easier, I end each instruction with a laconic “OVER,” which she must find convenient, because she includes the same little line at the end of each of her communications.

But you can never let your guard down. When it comes time to pay, the lady tries to pull a digital exchange on me, meaning she wants me to hand her money, which would ruin all of my precautions, with a fantastic demonstration of how the human race will bring about its own extinction. Luckily, I planned for this. So I pull out a little paper plane I folded out of a hundred-euro note the previous night. Crouching behind the suppositories shelf, I throw it at her, working my arm like a catapult, and run away. From outside the pharmacy, I shout to her, “Keep the change! I’ll see you when this is all over.” The pharmacist hugs the note against her chest, kisses it — “Hello, I’m COVID-19, I have something to tell you” — and groans painfully, mumbling, “When all this is over, Mr. Butler.” I poke my head inside again and add, “Yes, Miss O’Hara. When this is all over.” Looking into her eyes, I lift my hand slightly to touch the flap of my ushanka, wrapping myself tight with my special clothes and, with the little box of pills clamped tightly between my teeth, I swiftly mount my horse and gallop homewards through a dense, dark sandstorm.

Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist, political satirist and author. He has written nine books on topics as diverse as politics, music or smart appliances. He is a contributor to the Daily Beast, the Daily Caller, National Review, the American Conservative, the Federalist, and Diario Las Américas in the United States, and columnist several Spanish magazines and newspapers. He was also an adviser to the Ministry for Education, Culture, and Sports in Spain. Follow him on Twitter at @itxudiaz or visit his website www.itxudiaz.com.

Translated by Joel Dalmau

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Author: Itxu Díaz

When the Kissing Had to Stop

Ausweis in pocket, I head out for my morning constitutional on Avenue de Breteuil, a spacious esplanade lined with double rows of plane trees leading to the monumental golden dome of Les Invalides and Napoleon’s tomb. A police car cruises by, stops, and disgorges several officers. One comes up to me with that sauntering cop-walk. I half-expect him to demand in guttural tones, Achtung, ausweis bitte! But no, he is not requesting the pass required of Paris residents under Nazi occupation.

What he wants is my Attestation de déplacement, duly signed and dated, giving my name, date and place of birth, home address, time of leaving my residence, and reason for doing so. “Where are you going?” he asks politely. Showing him the form, I explain that I am walking for exercise as prescribed by my cardiologist. “Please return to your apartment,” he says in a tone not inviting any backchat. I point out that exercise is one of the seven acceptable motives for being outside mentioned on the form. But to his mind, jogging is exercise, not walking. (Perversely, it would be okay if I were accompanied by a dog.) I know when I’ve lost an argument with a cop. I trudge back home, reflecting that this must be what it’s like in a police state.

France in confinement isn’t a police state, of course. I was in no danger of being packed off to a concentration camp. The worst that could happen would be a stiff fine of 135 euros, about $150. But even during the darkest days of World War II occupation, the Nazis didn’t forbid walking in the street. Nor did they ban going to work or bring the whole economy to a standstill. So the French are finding lockdown due to a viral enemy almost as stressful as occupation by a jackbooted army.

In some ways, their reactions to both have been similar. Even in times of crisis — especially in times of crisis — national character is still fate. Or as they say here, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Thus the first thing many did when it became clear that lockdown was coming was, as in the great exodus of 1940 with German tanks speeding toward Paris, pack up and leave. In mid-March, Panicked Parisians swamped train stations or took to the A6 autoroute south to get to country homes or drop in on relatives in the provinces for extended stays. Some estimates run as high as 15 percent of the city’s population that fled. (Provincials were less than pleased by the influx of visitors from the capital, fearing they would bring the virus; cars bearing the telltale “75” of Paris on their license plates often had their tires slashed.)

As in 1940, when the inept governments of the crumbling Third Republic misled and confused the French about the real danger of invasion, Emmanuel Macron’s administration — caught unawares like many others — has vacillated and confused the public with contradictory declarations. France’s health-care system was the best in the world, we were assured in February, and all would be well. Besides, the vast majority of those infected would be just fine. Unless, maybe, they were elderly, in which case they were done for. Oh, and the young were at risk too. The vaunted health-care system was quickly overwhelmed, with protective masks and ventilators in disastrously short supply. The government is pinning its hopes on Chinese largess to save the situation. It has set up a weeks-long airlift from Beijing to supply billions of masks.

Were cinemas, theaters, restaurants, and cafés, the lifeblood of Paris social life, safe? That was unclear for weeks until suddenly they were to be shuttered and shunned. France’s 8,000 street markets, where crowds of housewives jostle for a vast assortment of viands, were deemed important enough to be left open — until unexpectedly they were counter-deemed not so important and were closed. The confinement itself was to be for only two weeks. Then the government admitted what everyone suspected: that it would run through the whole month of April, maybe longer. Now no public pronouncement about the virus is taken at face value.

Confusion peaked over the nationwide municipal elections to be held on March 15. Experts advised against gatherings of 10 persons or more, so they couldn’t be held safely. They must be held, went the official line; nothing less than democracy itself was at stake. And held they were — with a record abstention rate of 55 percent due to the frightened absence of older, usually more conservative, voters. That skewed the results toward the youth vote, with surprising wins by the ecologists. Now there is a torrent of demands by those who lost to nullify the results and hold a new ballot.

Just as the Occupation often brought out the worst in the French, with scammers skimming profits from the black market and many settling accounts by denouncing neighbors to the Gestapo, today’s hard times are exposing some ugly latent traits.

Police and gendarmes attempting to enforce the lockdown in the seething Paris suburbs are attacked with rocks, and roman candles are fired at them. Tens of thousands of masks have disappeared from hospitals; by one estimate some 20 percent of their supply has been stolen and sold on the black market for many times their value. Doctors and nurses have their cars broken into in the search for masks or other protective gear. They are threatened and told to go live elsewhere by craven neighbors who fear they bear the virus. Some things never change.

Some things will be changed for good. The French habit of close-up contact is a prime example. When meeting, they stand closer than we Anglo-Saxons; in conversation I am constantly moving back to maintain my physical comfort zone, while my interlocutor keeps moving toward me — a sort of talking tango. Arriving at work, be it in an office or factory, they shake hands with everybody in sight (known, to the logical Gallic mind, as the shake-hand) for several minutes before doing anything else.

Often at work and on social occasions there is a cheek kiss — whether it’s twice as in Paris or three or more pecks in the provinces. Unwritten codes determine all this; failure to do it properly, and at the right time and place, can be a faux pas or even prima facie evidence of ill humor or perhaps a secret quarrel. There are almost as many slang names for kissing as for money: baiser, bise, bisou, bec, smack, for starters.

Imagine then the shock when the government, in the interest of social distancing, not only told the French to stay farther apart but also banned both the shake-hand and the bise. It puts considerable effort into promoting this wrenching change. There are leaflets, posters, and radio announcements several times a day reminding citizens they are not to shake hands or kiss. At the government’s bidding, companies still operating issue warnings to employees to back off and, above all, not to kiss.

Experts on etiquette and savoir-vivre explain at length that it’s not really impolite, after all, and there’s no reason to feel insulted if there’s no bise or other accolade. Strange as it may seem, they point out, people in other countries actually have different ways of greeting. Besides, explains one, “Shaking hands is a fairly recent habit. It only dates from the middle ages [sic].”

As the confinement goes on, there is as yet no agreement on what replaces such signs of camaraderie. Touching elbows or feet, fist bumps, and other such foreign barbarisms are not catching on. Still, there are hopeful signs that social distancing changes will be permanent, making it unnecessary for me to backpedal when I meet a French friend. Or to wonder, as a socially tone-deaf American, whether and how to buss or not to buss (see “To Tu or Not to Tu” in the October 2007 American Spectator). Some are beginning to admit they feel a pleasant deliverance from the burden of having to embrace, shake, and kiss on every occasion. “What a relief,” writes one frank commentator. “Exonerating us from the kissing chore, from feigning to like people we detest, is at least one good thing about the coronavirus.”

French joy may yet reign unconfined.

Joseph A. Harriss is The American Spectator’s Paris correspondent. His latest book is Jean Gabin: The Actor Who Was France (McFarland).

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Author: Joseph A. Harriss

Coronavirus Diaries: Court Closings

There is a plaque at the Rose Park courts, and there are some mighty fine players here, nationally and internationally ranked, and others improving daily. When play resumes, they will do very well for a day or two and then slide back as kinks reappear, until I stomp on them:

“You are choking. Hold the stick back, way back, even before you see the ball come off my frame, move those feet, and for pete’s sake the point of contact is in front of you, not in the fence.”

“Why Pete?” the young lady will say, because she is cheeky, not because she does not know the idiom. She won the 2019 most-improved prize, which I awarded despite possible conflict of interest (coaching), but there was no money involved, so I do not think this is indictable.

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You mind that because the courts at Rose Park are thick with lawyers. Some show up at court even when it interferes with their match schedule.

R hits like an avenging prosecutor. He is retired Navy JAG and Democrat, albeit old-school. I want him to run for something so I can write speeches quoting Al Smith. In True Grit, Mattie Ross expresses support for Al Smith despite he is Catholic and wet, but that’s what remembering Thaddeus Stevens and his squad will do to a prim old Southern lady.

R is an old-salt, hard-nose power hitter, but he rushes the net on first serve, and I have figured out how to place the backhand return past him.

B, another lawyer, tougher than his slim frame suggests, uses cross-examination, a never-quit defensive game. His pal E, who plays classical flute patient and steady, counter-crosses until he can make the winning shot.

Initials only on these guys and dolls because, you know, the lawyers.

At Rose Park, M is the best. He is up there with our friend Taki when he played Davis Cup, but that was some years ago. Taki gave me excellent advice on the backhand, as did H, who is good enough for M. If you got, you want to give.

“Pete’s sake” here is a nod to Margaret and Matilda Roumania Peters, who lived across the street, next door to where Mr. Jeh Johnson (a lawyer) lives. They played with wooden frames and the surfaces were rough, but they were perfectly dressed in elegant white or pale blue or pink outfits.

They were the best girl players of their time. But they were born just about when Woodrow Wilson — “the greatest Presbyterian of the age,” thought Mattie — came to Washington and brought Jim Crow with him. Georgetown kept that bird off its streets, but the sisters, “Big Pete” and “Repeat,” were limited to the Negro Leagues, which in this sport was the American Tennis Association (ATA). They were invincible as a college doubles team out of Tuskegee and took turns topping the singles charts, but it took Althea Gibson — whom Roumania beat in 1946 for the ATA championship — to break the color line imposed by the USTA and its British and French counterparts and hoist the trophies of the sport’s major tournaments.

Mr. Johnson and the Friends of Rose Park civic organization put up a Peters Sisters plaque in 2015. They missed the big bucks era — Miss Althea was already fading when it began — and worked as teachers in the D.C. public schools. They were good schools then, because of women like these, and when the courts reopen we will study on being worthy of the gifts we receive.

Plaque Honoring Peters Sisters at Rose Park Tennis Courts

Plaque honoring Peters Sisters at Rose Park tennis courts (The Georgetowner)

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Author: Roger Kaplan