Our Best Stuff From a Week in the Belly of the Whale

What the Arizona audit and.legal moves by the new right tell us about perspective.

Happy Saturday! How was your week? Good or bad, I bet it was less exciting than that of Michael Packard, a lobster diver who was swallowed by a whale off the coast of Massachusetts and lived to tell about it. It’s funny, I almost wrote, “It had to be better than the guy who got eaten by a whale” but then I thought about it for a minute. He got swallowed by a whale, sure--but the whale spit him out. He walked away with minor injuries. How many people can say that? I’d probably have a pretty different outlook after such an event. It all depends on your perspective. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective lately. Maybe it’s because we’re spending most of our weekends at baseball tournaments this summer. Our son is a pitcher, and it’s funny how his perception of an umpire’s calls depends on whether he’s pitching or hitting, whether he’s the baserunner or the fielder. As a parent I try to be a little more objective, but there are moments.  

And as it happens, “perspective” was a bit of a recurring theme in our coverage this week. When I first heard that the Arizona Senate had voted to conduct an “audit” of 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County from the 2020 election, I kind of rolled my eyes. It seemed like a pointless and futile gesture but … nothing would come of it right? The election is long over, Joe Biden is well-settled into the White House, etc. And while, no, nothing will overturn the election results, it’s not accurate to say “nothing will come of it.” Audrey went out to Phoenix last week to report on the audit, and while she was there, a delegation from Pennsylvania was there to see about doing their own audit. So it’s not just some kooky stunt from a state party that (as Audrey notes in her piece) has a history of fringe figures doing outlandish things. The refusal of so many Republicans to accept the results of the 2020 election has already caused so much harm, to the GOP specifically but also the whole country.  

And then we have David’s newsletter on how the conservative movement is essentially at odds with its own beliefs. He looks at a slew of court cases that show how conservative lawyers have won important victories for free speech, but at the same time some on the right want to use political power to limit the speech of others (David discusses efforts to ban the teaching of critical race theory). 

What’s common to these two stories is that both show how so many on the right perceive themselves, and our culture, as under attack. It’s necessary to keep relitigating the 2020 election because only Donald Trump can “save” America, they argue. It’s necessary to shut down speech because it’s “dangerous.”

Right now so many on the right feel like they’re in the belly of the whale, with no way out. It’s not a new feeling, obviously. It explains how we ended up with Donald Trump as president in the first place. It’s something we’ve written about extensively. It’s worth considering why people feel that way and that sometimes the feelings are legitimate. But it’s also (beyond) time to move on from the election. It’s time to counter bad ideas with better ones, not try to shut them down. We need to get everyone out of that whale’s belly.  

Now, for the best stuff we did this week.

Maricopa County Audit Tests an Already Fractured Arizona GOP

On its face, the ongoing audit of 2020 election ballots being conducted in Maricopa County by the Arizona State Senate could be seen as an exercise in futility. The election has been long certified, since previous recounts turned up no evidence of widespread fraud, and there is no mechanism by which to overturn the election. But as Audrey discovered on a reporting trip out to Phoenix, other state Republican parties are planning to use Arizona’s model to launch their own audits. She details how the audit is being conducted, looks at the strange history of the Arizona GOP--fringe characters like those leading the audit aren’t new to the state party, but the electorate has long preferred more mainstream candidates--and talks to sources who say of the whole business, “it could be a breaking point for the party as a whole nationally.” On another note: Audrey is spending the summer doing a fellowship with the Wall Street Journal that was delayed by the pandemic, but we’re thrilled that she’ll be rejoining us full time in the fall.

Why the Coming Iranian Elections Will Challenge the Biden Administration

The Iranian presidential elections are coming up, and you’d think with all the entreaties coming from the Biden administration about agreeing to a new nuclear deal that the mullahs might be pushing candidates who would appeal to the West to help sell the deal. You’d be thinking wrong. Reuel Marc-Gerecht offers up some fantastic insight into what to expect next week, running through the list of potential victors. He predicts it will be “Ebrahim Raisi, a ruthless cleric who knows much more about crushing internal dissent than about Islamic law and who has long been mentored by Khamenei.” Why would Iran want a president like Raisi instead of someone like Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif, who was educated in America and plays the Western press well? “Raisi as president would signal that Khamenei isn’t worried about the United States—at least not nearly as much as he is about internal threats.” 

The Conservative Legal Movement Is On a Collision Course With the New Right

In his midweek French Press (🔐 ), David contrasts the conservative movement’s legal victories on religious liberty and free speech issues--for teachers and professors punished for personal opinions on transgender issues and a likely victory in a Supreme Court case involving Catholic Social Services and the city of Philadelphia--with pushes by elements of the new right to ban speech. He looks at efforts to “ban” the teaching of critical race theory in schools and points out “this isn’t confident pluralism. It’s fearful, authoritarian populism. And it will only truly happen if courts start to unwind the precedents I’ve outlined above.” He looks at what happened when a judge threw out an executive order by President Trump that banned federal agencies from conducting training that included “divisive concepts” and “race or sex scapegoating.” A court enjoined it and the Biden administration repealed it, but David notes how some on the right see it not as a cautionary tale but a way forward. “If the new right prevails and either defeats or transforms the conservative legal movement, it will not like the world it makes. Degrade the First Amendment, and watch your freedom depend entirely on your political power,” he writes. 

And now for the best of the rest: 

  • In Capitolism (🔐 ), Scott Lincicome extols the virtues of his favorite pastime, gardening. And to those who would point out that, thanks to capitalism, food is plentiful and cheap at supermarkets, he praises the fact  “that several wonders of modern free market capitalism let me grow food for fun, instead of just to stay alive.” There are also charts.

  • New Dispatch reporter Harvest Prude looks at China’s decision to allow families to have three children and talks to experts who explain why the nation’s sudden pro-natal turn might not do much to increase family size.

  • Chris Stirewalt explains the difference between good federalism--“If Hoosiers want to forbid bars from having happy hour, that’s no skin off of Ohioans’ noses”—and bad—“when states try to force Americans in other states to live a certain way or to usurp the powers reserved for the federal government.”

  • Several states have passed laws that would let college athletes profit off their “name, image, or likeness,” and now the Senate is taking up debate over similar legislation. Considering that state laws vary in scope (or don’t exist) and the NCAA has basically dragged its feet on coming up with a solution, it’s probably time for Congress to act. Haley has the details in Uphill (🔐 ).

  • Another busy week on the pods. On The Dispatch Podcast, Steve and Sarah welcomed Purdue President and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to ask him why he rode a motorized couch to commencement this year (and a few other things). It’s a busy time for Supreme Court news, as all the big end-of-term decisions will be handed down over the next few weeks. David and Sarah have the details on Advisory Opinions. Folks on Twitter and in the comments gave this Remnant episode with Jonathan Rauch rave reviews, and we’re inclined to agree. Last but not least, Stirewalt continues his postmortem of the 2020 election with NBC’s Steve Kornacki on The Hangover.

Our Best Stuff From a Week Near the End of the Pandemic Tunnel

Happy Saturday! In case anyone was still wondering whether masks work: I’ve been blissfully going without one except when necessary the last few weeks, and … I have a cold. So there’s that. If that’s the price I have to pay for a return to normalcy, I’ll take it. 

And I have to say, normal feels pretty darn good. Last March, when everything shut down, I think most of us had the impression that the pandemic was going to be a blip. We’d have a couple months of lockdowns, and then we’d go back to normal. Someday we’d reminisce about “social distancing” and maybe even reflect on the shared sacrifices. Looking back, last summer wasn’t terrible, at least here in Ohio. The initial lockdown measures—bans on in-person dining, total closures of non-essential businesses—ended in late May and early June. It was around that time I saw an ad for “sports masks,” designed to be worn while working out, but they were on backorder until August. I remember telling a friend, “Gosh, I hope we aren’t still wearing masks in two months.” Ahem.

But then fall and winter hit, and the opposite feeling sank in. We weren’t ever going to get out of this. We typically host Thanksgiving at our house, usually about 15-20 people counting kids. This year, we were in the middle of a kitchen remodel and mostly living in our basement at the time, and I’ll never forget the lonely little dinner we made for the five of us. Christmas was a little better, but not the usual over-the-top spectacle I insist on making it. And then January hit, and the emails from the schools got a little crazy: 12 cases at the high school in one day, 18 a couple days later. Our district had worked so hard to open up in person and stay that way, but the whole high school shut down for about a week to get things under control. It was a long winter.

All of that makes me very grateful for what we have now. I’m not going to wax eloquent about the lessons we learned, for a few reasons. We’re not entirely out of the woods, we’re just now getting to the bottom of how this disease originated, and the stress and confinement exacerbated our already dangerous polarization. (Plus, David already wrote that column this week.) But I will enjoy the normalcy. And this weekend, that means a baseball tournament, a weekend long swim meet, and hopefully some plans with friends later. So I’m going to keep this short and let you get right to our best stuff. Enjoy your weekend!

A Slow Kowtow to China

Good news, everyone. Jonah has a fantastic idea for a screenplay: a little Contagion, a little Chernobyl, a little Seven Days in May. It would look into what happens when a Chinese research lab accidentally unleashes a virus that creates a global pandemic and kills millions. What could go wrong? Just ask … John Cena. In an extra spicy G-File, Jonah inveighs against the woke corporations and celebrities that are only too happy to performatively boycott states like Georgia or North Carolina, but continue to do whatever it takes—groveling, prostration, etc.—to do business with and in a country that has actual concentration camps and 3 million slaves. It’s about money, sure. But it’s more than that. It’s about America, too. “We are addicted to a kind of rebelliousness that cannot rationally account for the fact that this is a good and decent country,” Jonah writes. “Where’s the courage in denouncing that? So we manufacture outrage and exaggerate existing foibles. We systemize anecdotes and reify literary and abstract indictments.”

The China Threat Meets the China Reality

There are lots of reasons to worry about China. (Did you read the G-FIle I just blurbed👆🏻?)  It has imprisoned 1 million Uighurs, cracked down on Hong Kong, threatens Taiwan on the regular, and spent plenty of time during the pandemic that started in its own country pursuing an aggressive foreign policy. But is it ready to overtake the U.S. as a global economic hegemon? Not so fast, says Scott Lincicome in Capitolism. He looks at China’s economic growth that started in the 1970s and its reliance on state capitalism today, which has numerous downsides: “China’s industrial policies have also been shown to indirectly foment numerous problems proven to hinder stable, long-term economic growth, including resource misallocation; corruption; investment bubbles; and overcapacity.” 

Is the Right Going to Talk Itself Back into Political Violence?

If you watched the violence at the Capitol on January 6 and hoped it might serve as a warning about our overheated dialogue and bring people back to their senses, you have something in common with David French. And, as David notes in his midweek French Press, you’d have been wrong. He uses two recent examples to highlight the danger we still face from what he calls the “nationalization of outrage”: Michael Flynn’s suggestion that we could/should have a Myanmar-style coup to restore Donald Trump to the Oval Office and Tucker Carlson’s claim that workplace vaccination requirements are a “medical Jim Crow.” “What’s particularly alarming about this relentless alarmism is that the nationalization of everything means that there is constant fuel for the grievance fire,” David writes. “It’s a big country, and there’s always an outrage somewhere.” 

How Moscow Is Threatening Radio Free Europe

When Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny voluntarily repatriated to Russia after recovering from being poisoned by henchmen of Vladimir Putin, his flight was diverted to a small airport, hoping to keep him away from supporters and news crews. It might have worked to some extent, but two journalists from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty had boarded Navalny’s flight in Germany and were able to document the whole thing. Charlotte uses that example to show why the U.S.-funded but editorially independent outlet is so vital, and why it has drawn Putin’s ire. The regime has designated RFE as a “foreign agent,” a move that requires it to apply lengthy disclosures on its content. “Russia’s heavy-handed enforcement effectively and deliberately renders independent outlets unable to operate. According to RFE/RL head Jamie Fly, the disclaimers—if properly applied—take up almost the entirety of a social media post,” Charlotte writes. The measures also have chilling effects on freelance journalists. 

And now for the best of the rest:

  • Glenn Youngkin won the GOP’s Virginia gubernatorial nomination. Audrey checks in on how his messaging may have changed as he moves into a general election campaign. 

  • Please welcome Emma Rogers to The Dispatch. She’s one of four (or six, or eight, it’s hard to keep track) interns spending the summer with us. For her first assignment, she tackled what’s going on with Texas’ proposed election reform law.

  • We’re pretty sure Tom Joscelyn is tired of reminding everyone that the Afghanistan peace “deal” was bad and that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are still closely intertwined. But when Joe Biden suggests that we can take out al-Qaeda “if they return to Afghanistan,” well, Tom has little choice in the matter.

  • Speaking of bad deals … As the Biden administration rushes headlong into a retooled Iran nuclear agreement, Danielle Pletka shares the juicy bits of a new book that details the full extent of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear aspirations.

  • If you’ve paid attention to the vaccine-requirements debate, you may have seen people arguing online that businesses can’t ask you about your vaccination status or even enforce their own mask mandates because of a law called HIPAA. Walter Olson debunks those myths and reminds readers what the law mandates (lots of paperwork for nurses) and what it doesn’t.

  • On the pods: Are you keeping up with The Hangover? After the initial burst of three episodes, a new one will roll out every Thursday. This week, Chris Stirewalt interviewed Matthew Continetti, founder of the Washington Free Beacon. On the Dispatch Podcast, Steve and Sarah talk to the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin, who first covered the lab-leak hypothesis of the origins of COVID in April 2020, about the politicization of the issue. Some of us of a certain age remember when a president questioned the definition of the word “is.” On Advisory Opinions this week, David and Sarah do a deep dive on the meaning of the word “so.” (It’s important!) And if you haven’t had enough of David and Jonah lately, check out their conversation on The Remnant.

Our Best Stuff for You to Read on a Holiday Weekend

Crime and policing, an early look at 2022 midterms, and a reflection on one man’s sacrifice for this country.

Hello! I hope your Memorial Day weekend is off to a good start. I have to admit, I’ve been looking forward to the unofficial start of summer more than usual. A challenging school is over, everyone in our family has had at least one vaccine dose, and concrete signs of a return to normalcy are everywhere: Plexiglas shields are coming down, floors have glue “scars” where stickers indicating spacing for social distancing have been scraped off, and people are standing up and mingling at bars again. Joe Biden had promised that we might be back to normal by July 4, but at least in Ohio, we’re a little ahead of that pace and this feels more like an “Independence Day” than a Memorial Day.

But it’s important to remember the real purpose of the day (and weekend) that many of us mark with family picnics, graduation parties, and neighborhood gatherings: to honor those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of this great country. 

We’ve written a few—maybe more than a few—pieces on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Tom Joscelyn has been critical both of the “deal” that the Trump administration signed with the Taliban, and with Joe Biden’s decision to bring our remaining troops home even though the Taliban has not held up its supposed end of the deal and is in fact closing in on provincial capitals. It’s frustrating to think of the danger we are inviting by not leaving a number of troops in the country to help keep the Taliban and al-Qaeda in check, because of the many geopolitical risks it creates. 

But on a more personal level, it makes me incredibly sad to think that the sacrifices of those who died might essentially go for naught. 

Marc Anderson lived across the street from me for much of my childhood. I don’t remember when the family moved in, or how long they stayed. But even after he moved away, we crossed paths at school and we both competed in track and field. I was a mediocre distance runner; he placed in the top six in the shot put three years in a row at the state championship meet. He went on to compete at Florida State and twice earned All-ACC honors

He was also a damn good human being, and from a young age. One winter morning—I think I was in second grade—my mom packed my lunch and handed me my backpack and I set off on my walk to school. I noticed that the snow from the night before was well past my knees but didn’t think much of it. (It was the late 1970s, in case the “walking to school alone in second grade” didn’t clue you in.) I got to the school and the crossing guards weren’t out yet, which I thought was weird. But I stayed put. I’m not sure how long I stood there, but soon I saw my neighbor Marc. He laughed and asked what I was doing, and then he explained that we did, in fact, have a snow day. He proceeded to walk me home and even a few times lifted me up and practically carried me since the snow was so deep.

I didn’t see Marc much after high school. But after I graduated from college, I went to buy my first car and there he was, working at the dealership. He wasn’t a salesman, but he asked what other cars I’d been looking at and chuckled at a few of my lesser choices. He convinced me that the car I’d come to look at was, indeed, the best choice. He probably should have gotten the salesman’s commission on that 1995 Eagle Talon.

Marc had gone to college to study engineering but decided he wanted to be a teacher because, as his family later told the New York Times, he thought he could do more good that way. But there aren’t a lot of full scholarships for shot putters. He ended up going into the military in 1998 to help pay off his student loans and, as with track and field, he was pretty good at that too. He became an Army Ranger, and when 9/11 happened he was off to war. 

In March 2002, he and his fellow Rangers were conducting a mission to rescue a wounded soldier during Operation Anaconda when their Chinook helicopter was forced down by enemy gunfire, and he was killed in the ensuing firefight. It was a terrible week for U.S. force—seven other Americans died in that battle, at a time when there had been only a couple dozen deaths in our war effort. 

Those of us in Generation X were lucky, in a way, that we came of age in a time that warfare tactics had changed (and, in the wake of Vietnam, a time of considerable distaste for large-scale wars in foreign countries). We didn’t lose tens or hundreds of thousands of our brothers and friends to armed conflict. But that doesn’t make individual deaths any easier.

Have a wonderful weekend, and please take a moment to remember those who gave their lives so that you can do so.

Will History Rhyme Again?

This week, David and Jonah teamed up (kind of) to take us on a journey back to the 1980s. Not on purpose. In fact, Jonah went back just one year in his midweek G-File, using the fiasco of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) as a launching point to discuss what happens when people try to live without law enforcement (spoiler alert: things went downhill quickly). He looked at the “defund the police” movement one year on and reminded readers that fighting crime is the original purpose of government: “Crime—particularly violent crime—causes people to prioritize safety and security.  This is a fact of human nature, and an entirely justifiable one. Get on the wrong side of that priority, and you can’t get elected to do the other stuff you want to use government for.” David starts his Thursday French Press by asking everyone to read Jonah’s newsletter, and then points out that our current moment, with rising crime rates and the Communist threat from China, feels a lot like 1980. “There exists an urgent moral and cultural necessity to combat rising crime. There similarly exists an urgent moral and strategic necessity to confront and contain Chinese expansionism and Russian militarism. If crime continues to rise and if foreign threats continue to emerge, there’s a clear path for the Republican Party to assume its (recent) historic role. “

A Way Too Early Look at the 2022 Senate Races

OK, OK, I’m cheating a bit here, cramming THREE articles into one blurb. But they are related. We have learned that election season never really ends, and 2022 is already upon us. The Senate will likely get the bulk of the attention in these midterms: It’s a 50-50 split right now, early predictions are that it’s going to be difficult for either party to make big gains, and the GOP is dealing with a few open races because of retirements. And so here we are. Andrew checked in on Missouri, where Mark McCloskey is challenging scandal-ridden former Gov. Eric Greitens in the race to replace the retiring Roy Blunt. McCloskey first gained fame—or infamy—when a video emerged showing him waving a gun at Black Lives Matters protesters who walked by his house in a gated St. Louis neighborhood. Meanwhile, Audrey reports on Rep. Mo Brooks and his Trumpian agenda (read “election integrity”) in the Alabama race. And Ryan covers both parties’ early entrants in Pennsylvania, where Pat Toomey is retiring. He notes that even though the election is a year and a half away, our current dynamics are shaping the field: Two Republican frontrunners are competing for the support of former President Trump and two Democrats are pushing leftist agendas while trying to avoid the label “progressive.”

How the West Must Handle Lukashenko’s Threat to the International Order

It was a brazen move by a reviled dictator: Last Sunday, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko used the ploy of a fake bomb threat to scramble a military jet and have it force a commercial airliner to land in Minsk. On the plane was dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who was promptly arrested along with his Russian girlfriend. The move was met with internatioal outrage. But outrage is not enough, as David J. Kramer and Eric Edelman argue. The West should move to designate Lukashenko as a terrorist, for starters. But democratic nations also need to deal with Vladimir Putin, who backs Lukashenko. “Left unaddressed, this move by Lukashenko creates an incredibly dangerous precedent and it will only be a matter of time before other authoritarian leaders repeat Lukashenko’s gambit,” they write.

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • In Vital Interests, Tom Joscelyn addresses the elephant in the room: The lab-leak theory is gaining credence, only the Chinese Communist Party knows the true origins of our pandemic, and they ain’t talking.

  • The delays in the vote for the January 6 commission kept Haley from reporting on its failure in the Senate, but she’s got a great item on progress—or lack thereof—on the infrastructure front in Uphill.

  • Both parties have demonstrated an unwillingness to discuss entitlement reform for years. But Brian Riedl reports on a bipartisan proposal to shore up Social Security and Medicare that is modest but has real potential.

  • I wish you could have seen the look on the boss’s face when Alec told him I had signed off on a piece in which he would try to cook and eat cicadas. But Steve acknowledged that we’re all about reporting, and so this well-reported piece would fit our mission. Check out the results! 

  • Remember last week we told you The Hangover was coming? It’s out! Check out Chris Stirewalt’s introductory podcast and first two interviews with Eric Cantor and Richard Brookheiser, looking at what went wrong for the GOP in 2020.

  • On the other pods: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah cover Florida’s new social media law, yoga in public schools, and—while I’m a little unclear how this relates to jurisprudence—talk to Ryan and Alec about eating cicadas. Jonah discusses woke corporations and what the reaction to them says about the conservative movement in a wide-ranging solo Remnant. And on The Dispatch Podcast, the gang takes a look at which parts of Biden’s agenda might actually make it into law.

Our Best Stuff and a Special Announcement

The Israel-Hamas conflict, the January 6 commission, and more.

Happy Saturday! Today we’re going to talk about The Hangover. No, I didn’t go on a roaring bender last night (8 a.m. Saturday baseball games tend to prevent such shenanigans). It’s the name of Chris Stirewalt’s forthcoming eight-episode podcast series that will do the dirty work that the GOP has avoided in the wake of the 2020 election: a postmortem. 

Stirewalt joined us in February, and in addition to his weekly columns, he’s contributed to The Sweep, joined a Dispatch Live or two, and made the rounds on our podcasts. But I hadn’t had a chance to really sit down and have a personal conversation with him yet. Thank goodness I finally had an excuse! We traded stories about growing up in Ohio (me) and West Virginia (him) and realized we both started our careers as sportswriters at small-town papers. But, more interestingly for you, dear readers, he filled me in on why he wanted to do this podcast series.

“I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat,” he said. “But every American has a vested interest in having two healthy parties. And what we have right now is like a half of a healthy party. We have a Democratic party that is sort of limping along. They barely have a majority in Congress and they have a president who is very careful, very careful to not flex his political muscle too much, because he knows that his party isn't really united. And the Republicans are way below the slump line. So we are operating at about 25 percent of where I would like us today. So in taking a look at what's wrong with Republicans, you know, I hope it helps the Republicans in the sense that I hope we have a healthy party, but everybody has an interest in that.” 

In each episode, Stirewalt and a guest will look at a different aspect of the Republican coalition: the traditional pro-business establishment, populists, evangelical Christians, the right-of-center media, and the consultant class. His guests will include historian and journalist Richard Brookheiser, former National Republican Congressional Committee Executive Director Parker Poling, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Commentary editor and author John Podhoretz, among others.  

They’ll have a lot to talk about. In 2017, Republicans controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. Today, they control none. Last fall’s election brought to office a handful of figures who indulge in conspiracy theories and spend more time tweeting than legislating. The party just endured a very ugly and very public leadership battle, ousting Liz Cheney as House GOP Conference chair over her refusal to lie about the 2020 election. 

Now, the Democrats have their share of problems, too. (But they’ll have to find their own Stirewalt to help them out.) And at the end of the day, unhealthy parties lead to unhealthy governments.

“We have a shattered Congress that is beyond dysfunctional. It's malfunctional,” Stirewalt said. “We have an executive branch that is way out of whack and is turning gradually into a premiership. We are not delegating authority to local levels. We're not embracing the advantages of small-r republicanism. What I'm interested in as a journalist and as an American and as a human has to do not with which piece of legislation would be more liberal or more conservative, but rather trying to get people to work through the system.”

We’ll be rolling out the first couple of episodes this week. There will be a home page for it in the next few days, and you can expect more information in the coming days in our other newsletters. And we’ll do a Dispatch Live event with Stirewalt where members can ask him questions.

Now, here’s the best stuff from the last week.

Structural Antisemitism

We hear a lot these days about structural or systemic racism, and Jonah starts his midweek G-File by pointing to some illustrative examples: He defends Pete Buttigieg for saying that there is systemic racism built into our infrastructure (after all, the construction of roads and railroad tracks often affected poor and minority neighborhoods more than wealthier and whiter neighborhoods). But he uses those examples to point out another disturbing trend, what he calls structural antisemitism. He highlights how Israel is treated differently from other nations on the world stage, pointing in particular to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which since 2015 has issued 112 condemnations of Israel. (For comparison, Russia has been condemned 12 times, North Korea six, and China? Zero.) And he looks at how that attitude has affected the debate around the conflict between Israel and Hamas, especially comments by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggesting that Israel hasn’t the right to defend itself. “What she and countless others are arguing is that Israel has no right to act like a normal country,” Jonah writes. “You don’t have to hate Jews to believe that the only Jewish country in the world is also the only country in the world that can’t behave like a normal country and defend its citizens. But the policy that flows from that argument is, in important ways, antisemitic—even if it isn’t intended as such.”

Can Portland Recover From a Year of Lockdowns and Nihilism?

Between COVID lockdowns and racial justice protests that gave way to violence and riots, it’s been a long and difficult year for many Portland business owners. At least 190 businesses closed, permanently or temporarily, as a result of lockdowns. The city cut $15 million from the police budget in response to calls to defund the police. Crime shot up, and downtown became deserted. Nancy Rommelmann, who used to live in Portland, talked to business owners about what it’s been like. Here is what one source told her: “Am I optimistic or pessimistic about the city? Hmm… on the pessimistic side,” said Sally Krantz, co-owner of a CBD-infused beverage company. “The trash situation is out of control. I know it’s partly because of the pandemic, but there are now rats everywhere. And [Mayor] Ted Wheeler is an ineffective dope. Everything from the riots to the amount of garbage and the fact that the homeless have taken over the city frankly reminds me of when I lived in [New York mayor] Ed Koch’s Manhattan.” 

Will Roe Fall?

The stars are apparently aligned for the biggest challenge to Roe v. Wade in years. The Supreme Court announced this week that it would hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks. There are six conservative justices on the court, and the law itself is popular—fewer than one-third of Americans think abortion should be “generally available” after the first trimester. So David thinks it’s understandable that pro-lifers are excited and pro-choicers fearful about the outcome of the case. He looks at all the possible outcomes and predicts: “We shouldn’t be surprised if SCOTUS doesn’t settle the abortion question with Dobbs. The most likely outcome (I believe) is a decision that upholds the Mississippi law and thus effectively introduces a new standard that permits greater abortion regulation without explicitly permitting abortion bans.” 

GOP Senators Dig In Against January 6 Commission

The House this week passed legislation to create a commission to investigate the January 6 riots at the Capitol. Its fate in the Senate is less certain, given that it will require the votes of 10 Republicans. In Uphill, Haley interviews Marco Rubio and many other senators about their opposition to the bill. She noticed two trends: The senators claim not to have read the bill, but they are certain that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will exploit the commission for partisan purposes. Unlike Pelosi’s initial proposal for a commission, which was nakedly partisan, this panel would be evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, and subpoenas require the approval of at least one person from each party, but that is not enough for some Republicans. ““At the end of the day, it’s going to be Schumer and Pelosi-driven and this is all about continuing to litigate the impeachment trial of Trump,” Montana Sen. Steve Daines told The Dispatch.

And now for the best of the rest:

  • Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, recently testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Taliban has “made substantial progress in delivering on” its commitment to stop supporting al-Qaeda. In Vital Interests, Thomas Josecelyn, backed by a new assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency, is skeptical.

  • The COVID lockdowns and last summer’s political violence prompted millions of Americans to become gun owners for the first time. Stephen Gutowski looks at how that trend could change our gun politics.

  • As the violence between Israel and Hamas abates—at least for now—Danielle Pletka provides an update on the political situation in Israel. She predicts yet another parliamentary election (though not entirely because of the Hamas conflict). 

  • We’ve all seen the “help wanted” signs, and gallons of ink have been spilled debating whether our current labor shortage is the result of fears over COVID, the difficulty families have in procuring childcare, or enhanced federal unemployment insurance benefits. But Brent Orell argues there is another factor, one that can’t be resolved so easily and one that will affect us long into the future: declining fertility.

  • On the pods: On The Remnant, frequent flier Jim Geraghty of National Review drops by to discuss the pandemic and the “lab leak” theory, as well as the state of  Republican Party in the wake of the Liz Cheney kerfuffle. On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah offer up (extremely early) predictions on how the Supreme Court could rule in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which promises to be the most consequential abortion case in years. Last but not least, Sarah and Steve interview Rep. Chip Roy on The Dispatch Podcast about his decision to run against Elise Stefanik for GOP Conference chair and his opposition to the January 6 commission. 

Our Best Stuff From a Week Things Opened Up Just a Little

Plus the ousting of Liz Cheney, the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas, and more.

Happy Sunday! I don’t know if you heard, but Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced this week that anyone who’s been vaccinated will be entered into a lottery to win $1 million. There will be five drawings. With any luck, maybe this newsletter will start coming to you from a tropical locale where I type with my toes in the sand and have a fruity beverage served in a coconut by my side. (Don’t worry, boss. We already decided my husband is the one who can quit his job when we win.)

That was the announcement that got DeWine the most attention—-and a fair amount of ridicule from critics unimpressed by the idea of bribing people to get vaccinated. The way I see it, Ohio has to spend its pandemic relief money on something, and giving people a chance to win $1 million can’t be less effective than, say, spending that money on scoldy public service announcements. 

But it wasn’t the only news. As of June 2, we’ll be out of COVID jail, as nearly all public health orders pertaining to the pandemic are ending. Now, to be fair, our  COVID jail has been far more like one of those cushy minimum-security places they send white collar criminals than, say, a supermax facility. Even during the worst of the winter wave, nothing closed down completely. Bars and restaurants closed at 10 p.m. for a while. There were capacity restrictions on a lot of indoor events, like athletic competitions. While we had a statewide mask mandate, it was mostly indoors. The only time we experienced an outdoor mask mandate was when we took our oldest on a college tour in Athens over spring break.

It’s felt all along like DeWine has been trying to strike a balance by putting in place public health measures to keep people safe while not locking down to such a degree that the economy suffers anymore than it has to. (And also trying to avoid fights with the state legislature.) It’s hard to argue against his strategy. We rank 39th in cases per 100,000 people and 28th in deaths per 100,000. Meanwhile, our unemployment rate is a respectable 4.7 percent. (California’s, by comparison, is 8.1 and New York’s is 8.5.)

It’s obvious that there is not going to be a “VC” (victory over coronavirus) day, a la the VJ day that marked the end of World War II in the Pacific. Other countries—notably India—are having horrifying levels of cases and even Japan, which has fared well throughout the pandemic, is seeing a spike that has some calling for the Olympics to be canceled. Experts are cautioning that even with vaccines, COVID will linger as a risk, though a much smaller one. And we cannot yet vaccinate young children.

And so, for Ohio at least (and barring anything like a variant that is resistant to vaccines), June 2 is the closest we’re going to get to saying we’re done. I’m not planning a mask burning party, and I don’t expect the plexiglas dividers at stores and restaurants to go away anytime soon. But I do look forward to not having to yell at the kids when they leave their disposable masks all over the house. 

What are you most looking forward to about getting back to normal? While you’re thinking about it, don’t miss our best stuff from the last week.

‘I Probably Won’t Ever Speak to Her Again’

It wasn’t so long ago that Elise Stefanik was elected to Congress as a moderate and championed the cause of bringing more women into the Republican Party. This week, she was chosen to replace the ousted Liz Cheney as the GOP Conference chair, the third-ranking Republican in the House, for her staunch support of Donald Trump. Declan traces her journey all the way back to her time at Harvard, where she was involved in the Institute of Politics, and he looks at her evolution into a MAGA apologist who has elevated claims of voter fraud that have been repeatedly debunked. As one of Declan’s sources says: “She did things supportive of President Trump, and got a really good response for them.  And I think it was just a positive feedback loop where the incentives aligned to make her, not necessarily that much more conservative, but that much more pro-Trump. Which is a different thing.”

What’s Behind the Escalation of Violence in Israel

The conflict between Hamas and Israel is only getting worse. Hamas spent the week launching rockets into Israel, the great majority of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Israel has responded with its own strikes, which have left nearly 200 Gazans dead. Charlotte identifies several flashpoints for the latest round of violence, including the pending eviction of six Palestinian families from an East Jerusalem neighborhood and proptests by Palestinians during Ramadan. But she talks to Jonathan Schanzer from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who points out that a lot of this has to do with Iran.  “There has been a shadow war between Israel and Iran for the last several months. And it has been more intense than previously understood. Israel has struck Iranian assets in Syria, in cyberspace, on the high seas—and it has done so with relative impunity,” he explained. “It is my strong sense the Hamas attacks right now against Israel are being done with guidance and assistance from Iran.” Also, in French Press, David points out that while Palestinians might have legitimate grievances against Israel,  Hamas isn’t merely seeking redress for those but instead wants the destruction of the entire Jewish state. And he has a few words for people who misunderstand the concept of “proportional response.”

How Republicans Could Blow Their Midterm Moment

The Liz Cheney story dominated the news cycle for another week. Chris Stirewalt wrote about it in context of next year’s midterms. The GOP has a strong chance of  retaking the House, as the party in the White House tends to lose seats in the midterm. But the idea that Cheney, in refusing to indulge the lie that Trump won the election, is the problem in this situation has Stirewalt scratching his head. He points to the Maricopa County recount as evidence that the desire to “move on” is a little one-sided.  “It’s understandable that many Republicans wish Cheney would go along to get along, but they ought to remember who it is that’s busy relitigating the 2020 election in swing states from coast to coast.” In another piece, John Hart argues that the whole fight could backfire spectacularly for the GOP. And Cheney herself talked to Sarah and Steve on The Dispatch Podcast Friday. “I think people have been misled, people have been betrayed, people who voted for President Trump, people who, you know, believe what he's saying,” she said. “And I think that makes it even more important for those of us who know it's not true, and who know how dangerous it is to speak out against it, and it's necessary for us to do it.”

Here’s the best of the rest

  • Some conservatives made a big to-do about not wearing masks during the pandemic. And now that we’re coming out of it, some on the left are refusing to take theirs off because—we’re not making this up—they don’t want people to think they’re Republicans. Jonah has some thoughts in a fantastic G-File.

  • Bradley Bowman warns about China’s efforts to build up its military and how the U.S. response has been inadequate. He says that those who consider Beijing to be a “paper dragon” are dangerously wrong.

  • Frederick Hess details all the problems with the push by many schools to adopt “anti-racism” lessons into the curriculum and then points out that there are real problems with our education system, problems that affect minorities acutely, and that anti-racism concepts do nothing to solve them.

  • On the pods: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah talk to The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins about his recent profile of Brett Kavanaugh. On The Remnant, Jonah talks to one of his favorite regular guests, Niall Ferguson, about the latter’s new book. And on The Dispatch Podcast … did we mention that Steve and Sarah talked to Liz Cheney? We did. But we really don’t want you to miss it.

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