Our National Affliction

From Paul M. Johnson:

THE MENTAL INFECTION known as “political correctness” is one of the most dangerous intellectual afflictions ever to attack mankind. The fact that we began by laughing at it–and to some extent, still do–doesn’t diminish its venom one bit.

PC has an enormous appeal to the semieducated, one reason that it’s struck roots among overseas students at minor colleges. But it also appeals to pseudo-intellectuals everywhere, since it evokes the strong streak of cowardice notable among those wielding academic authority nowadays. Any empty-headed student with a powerful voice can claim someone (never specified) will be “hurt” by a hitherto harmless term, object or activity and be reasonably assured that the dons and professors in charge will show a white feather and do as the student demands. Thus, there isn’t a university campus on either side of the Atlantic that’s not in danger of censorship. The brutal young don’t even need to impose it themselves; their trembling elders will do it for them.

The insidious thing about PC is that it wasn’t–and isn’t–the creation of anyone in particular. It’s usually the anonymous work of such Kafkaesque figures as civil servants, municipal librarians, post office sorters and employees at similar levels. It penetrates the interstices of society, especially those where the hierarchies of privilege and property are growing. To a great extent PC is the revenge of the resentful underdog.

Nowhere has PC been more triumphant than in the U.S. This is remarkable, because America has traditionally been the home of vigorous, outspoken, raw and raucous speech. From the early 17th century, when the clerical discipline the Pilgrim Fathers sought to impose broke down and those who had things to say struck out westward or southward for the freedom to say them, America has been a land of unrestricted comment on anything–until recently. Now the U.S. has been inundated with PC inquisitors, and PC poison is spreading worldwide in the Anglo zone.

For these reasons it’s good news that Donald Trump is doing so well in the American political primaries. He is vulgar, abusive, nasty, rude, boorish and outrageous. He is also saying what he thinks and, more important, teaching Americans how to think for themselves again.

No one could be a bigger contrast to the spineless, pusillanimous and underdeserving Barack Obama, who has never done a thing for himself and is entirely the creation of reverse discrimination. The fact that he was elected President–not once, but twice–shows how deep-set the rot is and how far along the road to national impotence the country has traveled.

Under Obama the U.S.–by far the richest and most productive nation on earth–has been outsmarted, outmaneuvered and made to appear a second-class power by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. America has presented itself as a victim of political and economic Alzheimer’s disease, a case of national debility and geopolitical collapse.

None of the Republican candidates trailing Trump has the character to reverse this deplorable declension. The Democratic nomination seems likely to go to the relic of the Clinton era, herself a patiently assembled model of political correctness, who is carefully instructing America’s most powerful pressure groups in what they want to hear and whose strongest card is the simplistic notion that the U.S. has never had a woman President and ought to have one now, merit being a secondary consideration.

The world is disorderly and needs its leading nation to take charge and scare it back into decency. Donald Trump fits the bill. Other formidable figures, including Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, have performed a similar service in the past. But each President is unique and cast in his own mold. Trump is a man of excess–and today a man of excess is what’s needed.

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Playing Dangerous Games With Our Constitutional Republic

From David French:

The state of North Carolina and the federal government are now in a state of declared legal war. On Wednesday afternoon, the Obama administration sent a letter to North Carolina governor Pat McCrory demanding that the state “not comply with or enforce H.B. 2,” its so-called transgender bathroom law. According to the letter, a state requirement that people use the bathrooms reserved for their biological sex violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Department of Justice gave the state until today, May 9, to assure the federal government that men can use women’s restrooms and showers in state facilities.

Today, the state answered the Department of Justice — with a lawsuit. In its complaint, filed in federal court, North Carolina accuses the DOJ of engaging in a “baseless and blatant overreach,” an “attempt to rewrite long-established federal civil rights laws in a manner that is wholly inconsistent with the intent of Congress and disregards decades of statutory interpretation by the courts.” Simply put, Title VII does not establish “transgender status” as a protected class, and any effort to do so by executive fiat violates the law.

Then the DOJ escalated again. At an afternoon news conference, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a “significant law enforcement” action — its own lawsuit. At the same time, Lynch indicated that the DOJ retained the authority to federal funding to key state entities, issuing a not-so-veiled threat of dramatic action before the courts issue a definitive ruling. At the same time, she preposterously compared the act of preserving bathrooms for people of the same sex to, of course, “Jim Crow” and hearkened back to the days of segregated water fountains.

A public-relations battle over bathrooms and showers has transformed into a fight over the meaning and indeed authority of the Constitution itself. In its zeal to advance the sexual revolution, the Obama administration has defied the will of Congress, unilaterally rewritten federal law without even bothering to go through a statutory rulemaking process, and now seeks to bring a sovereign state to heel through a combination of threats and lawsuits.

Let’s make this simple. Title VII prohibits private and public employers (including state governments) from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.” Title IX prohibits federally funded educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of “sex.” Neither statute prohibits sexual-orientation or gender-identity discrimination. For more than 20 years, LGBT activists have sought to amend federal law through the so-called Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would essentially add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes within federal nondiscrimination law. For more than 20 years, LGBT activists have failed. ENDA hasn’t passed even when Democrats controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress.

Rather than wait for the law to change, however, federal regulators and lawless federal judges have incrementally changed it by executive and judicial fiat, steadily expanding the scope of Title VII until July 2015, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission unilaterally amended the statute. In a document entitled “What You Should Know about EEOC and Enforcement Protections for LGBT Workers,” the Commission declared that it interprets and enforces Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding any employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation” (boldface in original).

At a stroke, the EEOC decided that it was going to essentially enforce ENDA — a statute that doesn’t exist. Democracy wasn’t working fast enough for the Obama administration, so it decided to give authoritarianism a try.

North Carolina’s lawsuit represents a direct challenge to the notion that the EEOC can amend federal law merely by changing its “interpretation.” It also challenges the very idea that requiring people to use bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex represents sex discrimination. The Obama administration credulously buys the notion that a man in a dress or a man who has been surgically mutilated is now a “woman,” and it seeks to enforce that notion with the full power of the federal government. As I said before, quack science meets quack law, and the Constitution is the casualty.

The Obama administration is playing dangerous games with our constitutional republic. Unlike nullification crises in years past, this time the state government is leading the way in attempting to preserve the will of Congress and our nation’s system of checks and balances by defending federal law as written. The executive branch has gone rogue by amending federal law through unconstitutional action.

The administration is supplementing and buttressing its lawlessness with sheer bullying. Governor McCrory and the North Carolina legislature have shown admirable resolve. May they continue to stand firm. We’re way beyond bathrooms now.

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Checking our Imperial President

From Kevin D. Williamson:

As all sensible men instinctively do, I concur with John Yoo’s opinion below on the legal questions related to President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. As a purely political question, I do not see how the president, or Mrs. Clinton, gets around the simple facts of the case. If it is morally permissible for President Obama to employ a maximalist interpretation of his powers in an explicit attempt to act legislatively in place of Congress — for instance, by attempting to impose through executive order an amnesty for illegal immigrants that Congress has rejected — then it is equally permissible for Congress to employ a maximalist interpretation of its own powers and stymie the executive branch. Obama may have technically been within his powers all this time (though I very much doubt that even that is true) but he unquestionably has done violence with malice aforethought to the constitutional order, attempting to arrogate to himself legislative powers. It bears repeating that he has been absolutely explicit about this, his argument (“argument”) being that if Congress will not act as he wishes it to, he will act in its place.

The predictable, and predictably stupid, rhetorical line from the Democrats now goes: “The Senate should do its job (and give the president whatever he wants).” In truth, the Senate is doing its job by stopping him. The Senate exists to provide a check on the democratic passions of the House and on the imperial pretensions of the presidency. Mitch McConnell is absolutely right to make use of the procedural powers granted him to check the White House in this matter. He should have begun doing it years ago, in fact.

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Win One for Nino

From Charles Krauthammer:

Let’s understand something about the fight to fill the Supreme Court seat of Antonin (“Nino”) Scalia. This is about nothing but raw power. Any appeal you hear to high principle is phony — brazenly, embarrassingly so.

In Year Seven of the George W. Bush administration, Senator Chuck Schumer publicly opposed filling any Supreme Court vacancy until Bush left office. (“Except in extraordinary circumstances.” None such arose. Surprise!) Today he piously denounces Republicans for doing exactly the same for a vacancy created in Year Eight of Barack Obama.

Republicans, say the Democrats, owe the president deference. Elections have consequences, and Obama won reelection in 2012.

Yes. And the Republicans won the Senate in 2014 — if anything, a more proximal assertion of popular will. And both have equal standing in appointing a Supreme Court justice.

It’s hard to swallow demands for deference from a party that for seven years has cheered Obama’s serial constitutional depredations: his rewriting the immigration laws by executive order (stayed by the courts); his reordering the energy economy by regulation (stayed by the courts); his enacting the nuclear deal with Iran, the most important treaty of this generation, without the required two-thirds of the Senate (by declaring it an executive agreement).

Minority Leader Harry Reid complains about the Senate violating precedent if it refuses a lame-duck nominee. This is rich. It is Reid who just two years ago overthrew all precedent by abolishing the filibuster for most judicial and high executive appointments. In the name of what grand constitutional principle did Reid resort to a parliamentary maneuver so precedent-shattering that it was called “the nuclear option”? None. He did it in order to pack the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia with liberals who would reliably deflect challenges to Obamacare.

On Tuesday, Obama loftily called upon Congress to rise above ideology and partisanship in approving his nominee. When asked how he could square that with his 2006 support of a filibuster to stop the appointment of Samuel Alito, Obama replied with a four-minute word-salad signifying nothing. There is no answer. It was situational constitutional principle, i.e., transparent hypocrisy.

As I said, this is all about raw power. When the Democrats had it, they used it. The Republicans are today wholly justified in saying they will not allow this outgoing president to overturn the balance of the Supreme Court. The matter should be decided by the coming election. Does anyone doubt that Democrats would be saying exactly that if the circumstances were reversed?

Which makes this Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s moment. He and his cohorts have taken a lot of abuse from “anti-establishment” candidates and media for not using their congressional majorities to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, block executive orders, etc.

What was the 2014 election about, they say? We won and got nothing. We were lied to and betrayed by a corrupt leadership beholden to the “Washington cartel.”

As it happens, under our Madisonian Constitution, the opposition party cannot govern without the acquiescence of the president, which it will not get, or a two-thirds majority of the Congress, which it does not have.

But no matter. Things are different now. Appointing a Supreme Court justice is a two-key operation. The president proposes, the Senate disposes. There is no reason McConnell cannot hold the line. And he must. The stakes here — a radical generation-long reversal of direction of the Supreme Court — are the highest this Senate will ever face.

If McConnell succeeds, he will have resoundingly answered the “what did we get for 2014?” question. Imagine if the Senate were now in Democratic hands. What we got in 2014 was the power to hold on to Scalia’s seat and to the Court’s conservative majority.

But only for now. Blocking an Obama nominee buys just a year. The final outcome depends on November 2016. If the GOP nominates an unelectable or unconservative candidate, a McConnell victory will be nothing more than a stay of execution.

In 2012, Scalia averred that he would not retire until there was a more ideologically congenial president in the White House. “I would not like to be replaced,” he explained, “by someone who immediately sets about undoing everything that I’ve tried to do for 25 years.”

Scalia never got to choose the timing of his leaving office. Those who value the legacy of those now-30 years will determine whether his last wish will be vindicated. Let McConnell do his thing. Then in November it’s for us to win one for Nino.

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Obama Wants to Do Wonderful Things

…with more of your money.

From Kevin D. Williamson:

If you’re enjoying the low gasoline prices currently on offer throughout most of the country, some bad news: The Obama administration wants to levy a 31 percent tax on the stuff out of which gasoline is made.

But, not to fear: The tax will be paid by oil companies, which are big and mean and nasty and would never, ever, ever pass on the cost to a nice guy like you.

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The Most Nauseating Display in American Public Life

From Kevin D. Williamson:

The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

It’s the most nauseating display in American public life.

[…]

The State of the Union has not always been a grotesque spectacle. George Washington delivered his briefing in person, but he was dealing with a self-respecting Congress that understood itself to be his equal in government. When he wanted the Senate’s advice and consent for an Indian treaty, he visited the chamber personally to seek it — and was so put off by the questioning and debate to which he was subjected that he vowed never to put himself through that again. It was an excellent idea. Thomas Jefferson, ever watchful against monarchical pretensions in the federal apparatus, discontinued the practice of delivering the State of the Union in person before Congress, instead submitting a written report. For a blessed century, Jefferson’s example was followed, and, despite civil war and the occasional financial panic, the nation thrived without an ersatz Caesar to rule over it.

It will come as no surprise that the imperial model was reinstated by Woodrow Wilson, Princeton’s answer to Benito Mussolini and the most dangerous man ever elected to the American presidency, a would-be dictator who attempted to criminalize the act of criticizing the state, dismissed the very idea of individual rights as “a lot of nonsense,” and described his vision of the presidency as effectively unlimited (“The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can”). A big man needs a big show, and it is to Wilson’s totalitarian tastes that we owe the modern pageant.

The next Republican president should remember why his party is called the Republican party and put a stop to this.

The State of the Union is only one example of the deepening, terrifying cult of the state that has taken root here. Many heads of state — and some royals, for that matter — fly on commercial aircraft. Presidents of the Swiss federation and members of the federal council receive . . . an unlimited train pass. They have occasional access to a Cessna maintained by the air force, but are known to use mass transit — just like the people they are elected to represent. An American president stages a Roman triumph every time he heads out for a round of golf. The president’s household costs well more than $1 billion annually to operate. The president’s visage is more ubiquitous than was Vladimir Lenin’s in his prime, his reach Alexandrian, his sense of immortality (they call it “legacy”) pharaonic. Washington has become a deeply weird and alien place, a Renaissance court with armored sedans and hundred-million-dollar paydays.

It’s expensive maintaining an imperial class, but money isn’t really the object here, and neither is the current occupant of the White House, unlikeable as he is. Whether it’s Barack Obama or some subsequent pathological megalomaniac, Republican or Democrat, the increasingly ceremonial and quasi-religious aspect of the presidency is unseemly. It is profane. It is unbecoming of us as a people, and it has transformed the presidency into an office that can be truly attractive only to men who are unfit to hold it.

George Washington showed the world that men do not need a king. We, his heirs, have allowed the coronation of something much worse.

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