Our Best Stuff From a Big Week at the Supreme Court

What will become of Roe v. Wade?

Happy Saturday! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and didn’t miss this newsletter too much. After a very quiet holiday last year, we had family in town and multiple days of celebrating. It was a lovely time, except for a few hours on Saturday when my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes lost to Michigan for the first time in a decade. 

The biggest story of the week was the Supreme Court arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Women’s Health, as the court considers the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. The court could decide to uphold the law and overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that upheld Roe but changed the framework for acceptable abortion restrictions from one based on  trimesters to one based on fetal viability. Or it could uphold the Mississippi law on narrow grounds and leave Roe and Casey in place. (The court could also strike down the Mississippi law. Given that there are six conservative justices, and based on reporting from the arguments, however, I would not bet my kids’ college savings accounts on that outcome.)

I mention this not to jump in with my own punditry on the matter. For one thing, few people write as eloquently on this issue than our own David French. Plus, he and Sarah, who are both lawyers, are far better equipped to discuss the jurisprudence. (And in fact they did in a fantastic episode of Advisory Opinions. Listen!)

No, I bring it up because of a tweet I saw earlier this week. Karen Swallow Prior, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, shared a letter she got after writing from a pro-life perspective for the New York Times. The letter writer said “With luck every woman in your family is raped and pregnant as a result, then forced to give birth to a psychopath’s baby.”

Once upon a time, I used to write a little about abortion. I was the only conservative woman at Slate, and we had a blog about women’s issues where I got to write about pretty much whatever I wanted. I hoped that perhaps if I wrote thoughtfully and carefully about the issue within a largely liberal environment that, even if I couldn’t change any minds, I could  at least have a positive effect on the discourse. No luck. I don’t remember being subjected to anything as vile as the comments that Prior faced, but I was called a misogynist more than once. And self-loathing. I was told I wasn’t allowed to call myself a feminist.

Eventually, I just stopped. It’s not that I didn’t have thick skin. It’s not that I thought my opinions and writing were above critique or even reproach. And I will add that having intelligent exchanges with some of the more thoughtful pro-choice writers did change some of my thinking. It’s that abortion is an immensely emotional issue, and I hated feeling my blood pressure go up when I read the worst of the comments. I hated wasting mental energy formulating responses that I knew I’d never put on paper, because I didn’t want to get down in the mud like that.

Now, the world has been just fine without my musings. There are smarter and better people who do that everyday. Like Karen Swallow Prior, for example. But reactions like that do have a chilling effect on the discourse. And when people who want to engage respectfully on an issue put themselves on the sidelines, we all suffer.

I will also say that it’s not just pro-life women who are subject to such vitriol. There are plenty of pro-choice writers who have sincere and carefully considered beliefs in support of abortion rights. And they get called “baby killers.” That’s not better. Because here’s the thing. Abortion will always be a fraught issue. It’s conventional wisdom by now that with Roe, the Supreme Court heightened the tensions by taking the matter away from states. But even without that, abortion is an issue where two parties have competing fundamental rights. Pro-lifers who dismiss that pregnancy can be a risk to a woman’s health and that carrying an unwanted pregnancy is a significant burden are no better than pro-choicers who call the unborn a “clump of cells” or a “parasite.” 

I imagine that this is an issue of concern to many of you reading this newsletter. As you seek out information, please consider reading not just David French or Ross Douthat or Karen Swallow Prior. Look for smart coverage from writers like Caitlin Flanagan. Read my friend Will Saletan. Read this piece that ran in the New York Times this week by a woman who got pregnant at 19 and described how getting married and giving birth affected her. You don’t have to agree with them if you’re pro-life. But they can provide important perspectives. And, if you do disagree with them, please think twice before dashing off a comment that you might regret later. 

Enjoy your weekend and thank you as always for reading.

What to Expect If You’re Expecting SCOTUS to Overturn Roe v. Wade

Andy Smarick wrote this as a preview to the Supreme Court arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Women’s Health that took place on Wednesday. But his predictions as to what to watch for were spot-on, and it’s worth reviewing them here as the decision itself likely won’t come down for months. While the court has a 6-3 split between conservatives and liberals, and while it’s likely that all six believe that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided, that doesn’t make it a slam dunk. Smarick writes about how Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh are “conservative in judicial philosophy but also conservative in temperament. Their restraint reveals itself in a number of ways—for example, penning narrow decisions, avoiding dramatic holdings, and hoping to maintain the court’s public standing.” He predicted that the key to overturning Roe would be whether the state of Mississippi could offer a sound alternative.

The Fox News Distortion Field and Other Media Maladies

If you watch cable news and pay attention to ratings, you know that Fox News is by far the most popular news network on the airwaves. But the network’s online presence is vastly more dominant. In French Press (🔐), David shares a chart showing that FoxNews.com gets almost 94 million unique visitors a month. The rest of the top 20 conservative websites (sorry folks, we didn’t quite make the cut—share The Dispatch with your friends!), combined get only 59 million.  Fox News is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, and everyone else operates with that in mind. “Fox is like a red supergiant star, and each orbiting planet is defined by its presence and its heat. Some of the planets will burn hotter. Some cooler. But they’re all just planets, living in the solar system Fox defines.” 

Kevin McCarthy’s Dilemma

You’ve probably heard by now that part of our mission at The Dispatch is to focus on serious reporting and sober commentary. We’re not going to react to every stupid thing politicians say or wade into every Twitter controversy. But sometimes, we can’t ignore the crazy.  And a handful of House Republicans are causing headaches for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy by dealing in a special brand of crazy. Just in the last few weeks, Rep. Paul Gosar shared an anime video depicting him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Rep. Lauren Boebert has joked with constituents that Rep. Ilhan Omar is a terrorist, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has mixed it up with fellow Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, calling her trash. (To which Mace responded that Greene is, as Jonah Goldberg might put it, “bat guano crazy.”) What’s a minority leader to do? In Uphill (🔐), Haley writes that McCarthy has chosen not to do much: “While Republican lawmakers and former senior staff say it’s easy to understand why McCarthy would avoid making enemies in his quest to be speaker after the 2022 midterms, some members are becoming increasingly frustrated with his lax approach, especially as they have come into the crosshairs of the right.”

And now for the best of the rest:

  • The head of Britain’s MI6 just undertook the unusual task of making a public speech—not exactly something spy chiefs normally do. In Vital Interests, Tom Joscelyn says it was an important move as it’s imperative for the intelligence communities of Western democracies to regain the public’s trust.

  • In the G-File, Jonah writes about listening to a podcast featuring a climate-science grad student who spent little time talking about climate change and plenty of time talking about social justice. The scientist expressed concern that the academic environment can be “not safe” for people of color. Jonah’s reaction? “Really? Places like Stanford are often unsafe environments for people with ‘minoritized identities’ and ‘bodies of color’?”

  • Walter Olson writes about what happens when public officials weigh in on criminal trials before verdicts are rendered. Spoiler alert: nothing good. It’s not just that they embarrass themselves, it’s also destructive to the independence of the judiciary.

  • News out of Turkey doesn’t always penetrate our outrage-heavy, domestic-focused news coverage, but we had two important pieces this week. Eric Edelman and Aykan Erdemir report that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is using “hostage diplomacy” to achieve certain ends, and that it’s the Turkish people who are paying the price. And Charlotte looks at why Erdoğan, who has a good personal relationship with Vladimir Putin, is selling drones to Ukraine, which is fighting Russia-backed separatists.

  • It was a great week on the pods: Jonah’s conversation with Chris Stirewalt on The Remnant is probably the most enjoyable podcast we published this week, as they describe the Build Back Better Act as the “kitchen junk drawer” of legislation. On The Dispatch Podcast, Sarah and Steve interview ABC News’ Jonathn Karl about his new book, Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show. And don’t forget to listen to Sarah and David on the Dobbs arguments on Advisory Opinions

Our Best Stuff on Education, Nationalism, and Social Breakdown

Plus, thoughts on the reaction to the Rittenhouse verdict.

Happy Sunday! It was a busy news week: President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping held a virtual summit, Russia made a big mess in space, a federal grand jury indicted Steve Bannon, the House passed the Build Back Better Act, and a Wisconsin jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges in his trial for killing two men and injuring another during riots in Kenosha last summer.

The verdict in the Rittenhouse trial came down early Friday afternoon. The jury had deliberated  for more than 25 hours over the course of four days. Alas, it took about 30 seconds for the reaction to the verdict to get really stupid. Missouri Rep. Cori Bush tweeted that the decision was “white supremacy in action.” And New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney put out a statement protesting that Rittenhouse was able to bring a gun to “a protest against the unjust killing of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man.” Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s statement bemoaned that “a violent, dangerous man chose to take a gun across state lines and start shooting people.”

It wasn’t much better from the other side. In response to Bush’s tweet, several people responded with a meme claiming that a black high school student served one day in jail and was “never mentioned again” after shooting a classmate and a teacher. Some chose to celebrate Rittenhouse as “king.”

I’m not here to weigh in on the case itself. For that, you can read David’s French Press from Tuesday, or his newsletter over at The Atlantic. I’d rather reflect on what the reaction says about the state of things. Facts matter, and there weren’t enough of those on display. First, Maloney’s statement: Jacob Blake, whose shooting by police kicked off the protests and riots, was not killed. And he wasn’t unarmed: He had a knife. Maloney is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the DCCC issued an apology and a corrected statement, but the original is still out there spreading on social media. De Blasio was incorrect to say that Rittenhouse took “a gun across state lines.” People who read the statements from Bush or the ACLU without knowing the full details of the case might well assume that Rittenhouse’s victims were black. They weren’t. 

But the claims attempting to draw a parallel between Rittenhouse and Timothy Simpkins, who shot two people at his high school, are flat-out inaccurate. The shooting just happened in October, and he’s been charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. There are numerous articles about his case, so it’s unfair to say that he was “never mentioned again.” And nothing is gained by describing a teenager who unnecessarily put himself into a dangerous situation as a “king” or “hero.”

Now, some of these statements are simply falsehoods and others just reflect extreme views. But lies and extremism are dangerous bedfellows. It doesn’t matter whether publications and social media outlets seek to combat misinformation (Disclosure: The Dispatch is part of Facebook’s third-party fact checking program) if the rewards for raising the temperature seem greater than the costs. Those rewards might seem nebulous to most of us: —More followers? “Owning” the other side? A smug feeling of moral superiority?—but it’s clear that people feel like they are getting something out of it. And while politicians and pundits might not face consequences for being misleading or exacerbating our differences, the cost for society is high. 

One thing that is clear is that there are no easy fixes. As you’ve heard more than a few times from us by now, one reason we started The Dispatch was to be part of the solution: rely on facts, dig for the truth, and keep the temperature down. But there are times it feels like an uphill battle. We’re glad you’re here for us, supporting our work. Thanks as always for reading.

The Changing Face of Social Breakdown 

Divorce is down. Teenage pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births are down. Abortion is likely at its lowest rate since before Roe v. Wade. Shouldn’t we be cheering? Only if we ignore the fact that divorce is down because fewer people are getting married and that pregnancies and abortion are down because people are having less sex. Technology enables people to live more solitary existences while meeting their basic needs, leaving them isolated and not making connections that lead to friendships, marriage, and starting a family. What we have here is a failure to launch. In an important essay, Yuval Levin argues that we’ve replaced one kind of dysfunction with another, and that social breakdown remains a problem—this time with different symptoms and causes. “Habits and institutions of restraint can work like sculptors of the social order—selectively chipping away at our wild, boisterous pursuit of happiness to shape it into more beautiful forms of energetic human action,” he writes. “But what if we fail to act on our longings to begin with? What if there is nothing to restrain, and so no raw material for the sculptor to work with?”

We Are Less Educated Than We Think

Continuing on the theme of “things might seem better until you look closely,” Paul D. Miller offers a critique of the modern university and the downsides of academia’s abandonment of the classics. He notes that less than 5 percent of the U.S. population had bachelor’s degrees in 1940, but today the number is 37.5 percent. But there’s a problem: “To get a college degree 100 years ago, students had to master Latin, Western history, rhetoric, English literature, higher mathematics, and a smattering of theology and philosophy. … Student activists revolted against the classics in the 1960s, believing them to be irrelevant and racist. They demanded fundamental changes to make college curricula more relevant and representative—and they won. While broadening the canon held promise, reforms generally subtracted more than they added and threw the entire idea of a canon into question. Today students get, at most, a mere sampling of a classical liberal arts education.” Today, college is more about vocational training, but students graduate thinking they’ve been given a liberal arts education. “It turns out none of us are terribly well-educated, and we are all more confident than our actual competence merits,” he concludes.

Mugged by Fallacy

Jonah says right up front he didn’t want to write about this particular topic, but it’s important. So I’ll share it for the same reason. A certain segment of the right has decided that populist nationalism is the way forward for a conservative movement that has long rallied around small government, free markets, and liberty. But adherents can’t offer a good definition of “national conservatism,” preferring merely to insist it’s necessary to combat a leftism that is more radical and dangerous than previous eras. Jonah is not persuaded. “Maybe the left is worse than ever in some ways, but I think in other ways it’s almost certainly not,” he writes. “Things are complicated. But what is obvious to me is that the threat to the country is not lessened when conservatives think the answer to that threat is to emulate progressive tactics and categories of thought.”

The Rising Danger of Space Debris

If you pay attention to bylines around here, you know that Haley Byrd Wilt does a great job covering Congress for us. Turns out, she’s also a bit of a space expert. When news broke over the weekend that Russia had blasted a defunct satellite to smithereens in a test, we were lucky to benefit from her study of space debris. She provides important background information about what scientists have learned over the years, details how many pieces of debris are floating around up there, and how scientists are working on solutions. “Experts fear that crashes and close calls like this are going to become more common due to massive growth in the number of operational satellites in orbit today, and tens of thousands of new satellites set to be launched in the coming years,” she writes.

And the best of the rest:

  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers recently introduced the Filter Bubble Transparency Act. If you think the name sounds silly, wait till you get a load of the text. The legislation would require big social media companies to offer a version of their services that doesn’t employ “opaque algorithms.” Klon Kitchen has a better idea: If you don’t like a social media platform … don’t use it.

  • Before the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict came down, David wrote about the case for French Press. He made a series of very sensible points: Rittenhouse was foolish to put himself in that position, yet that does not diminish his right to self defense. But also … “it’s a mistake to believe that open carry is always tied to out-of-control unrest.”

  • Now that the dust has settled on the 2021 elections, it’s already time to think about 2022. In The Sweep, Sarah checks in on Senate races in Alaska and Texas, Audrey writes about the chances of Larry Hogan running for Senate in Maryland, and Chris Stirewalt argues that the Democrats are going to face a drubbing if they can’t figure out how to get out of their pandemic mindset.

  • There have been increasingly loud calls for countries to boycott the Beijing Olympics, scheduled to start in February, over China’s actions against, well, take your pick—Hong Kong, the Uyghurs, Taiwan. And that was before Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai went missing after accusing a Chinese Communist Party official of sexual assault. The Morning Dispatch reports on this disturbing story and asks whether it will make any difference regarding the Olympics.

  • Speaking of China, Danielle Pletka writes about how the CCP uses shell companies and other methods to acquire sensitive technology from Western nations without anyone knowing who’s really buying it or what they are doing with it.

  • On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah try to get to the bottom of the Yale Law School controversy. On The Dispatch Podcast, the gang talks about inflation, pandemic fatigue, and Kamala Harris. And on The Remnant, Jonah welcomes fan favorite Will Saletan.

Our Best Stuff From a Revealing Election Week

Plus, Zalmay Khalilzad is blaming the Afghan government for the fallout from his terrible deal with the Taliban.

Happy Sunday! I know, I know. I usually send these out on Saturday. But it wasn’t just a busy news week (Election Day, debates over spending packages in Congress, my victory over Steve in The Dispatch fantasy football league), it was a hectic one in the Ohio bureau. I made a quick trip to D.C. midweek to catch up with everyone and meet Jonah’s famous dogs, Zoe and Pippa. And then I woke up Saturday and drove to Indianapolis so our youngest could compete in his first travel swim meet since the pandemic began.  

If you’ve been reading this newsletter since the early days, you know I’ve sometimes gauged the state of the pandemic by looking at how normal or abnormal sports are for our kids. I think it’s because that’s what they lost first. Back in March 2020, our youngest had qualified for the age-group state championship meet and we had planned a big family weekend in Columbus around it. And then Tom Hanks announced he had COVID and the NBA shut down and everything started falling like dominoes—including that swim meet.

It was a gut punch for a lot of reasons, including the fact we had switched swim clubs just to give his brother and him a better chance to swim in meets like that, and it was a bigger investment in both time and money. But also … Wilson really likes out-of-town swim meets. There are always team dinners and a designated team hotel, so he can run around with his teammates being goofy. And, of course, the breakfast buffets where you make your own waffles.

The pandemic took away not only those, but pretty much anything that made swimming fun. You could barely even talk to your teammates at practice, and it was a painfully slow return to competition. The first “meets” were glorified practices with maybe 20 other kids, no spectators, and no other teams. It showed how isolation can be hard on those who really need social interaction (we saw the same thing with remote learning, though we were lucky to have mostly in-person school last year): It was hard to keep his interest, and his performances definitely suffered. 

This weekend’s meet is at the IUPUI Natatorium, which is one of the fastest pools in the country and was home to the Olympic Trials a few times. It’s a cool opportunity. But I’m not really worried about his race times. I’m just happy that he gets to laugh with friends at dinner, and I didn’t complain when he foiled my plans to kick back and watch college football by bringing teammates back to our room to watch silly YouTube videos on the TV.

That said, I don’t know if my own experiences are really a good gauge of where we are. That was the lesson of my travels this week. While things have been relatively normal in my neck of the woods for a while now (excepting labor shortages and supply chain issues that serve as reminders), D.C. is still full of restrictions. Air travel still ranges somewhere from annoying to nightmarish. I remember writing back early this summer that all the signs were pointing toward a return to normal: plexiglass barriers coming down, social distancing stickers disappearing, etc. And then Delta hit. Even as it recedes, it still feels like we are living in a kind of limbo. And so I’ll just keep being grateful for weekends like this one. 

Thanks for reading.

The Takeaway From Youngkin’s Win in Virginia

Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia set off a lot of excuse-making by liberals and raised a few questions from voters and observers. How much of a role did critical race theory play? Does this show Republicans can win without Donald Trump? What does this mean for the midterms?  In The Sweep, Sarah lays out the questions--and answers them. For one, “Critical race theory wasn’t irrelevant to this race. And it was a dog whistle to a lot of parents. But it’s not obvious to me that the whistle was about race or even race-based curriculum. For a lot of parents, they heard McAuliffe using shorthand for 18 months of pent-up frustration with a public school system that didn’t seem to care about their kids and a candidate who then told the parents he didn’t care about them either.” Chris Stirewalt also weighs in, analyzing how the pandemic influenced voters. For more, check out The Morning Dispatch from Wednesday (Declan was up very late putting it together).

The Taliban’s Man in Washington

This, my friends, is as close to a “hot take” as you’ll see in our pages. As Zalmay Khalilzad makes the rounds on TV news shows, Tom Joscelyn can’t believe what he’s seeing. As the special representative to Afghanistan, Khalilzad negotiated our withdrawal from the country in bilateral talks with the Taliban. The talks excluded the Afghan government and made significant concessions to the Taliban. Now that the disgraceful withdrawal is over and the Taliban is back in power, Khalilzad is blaming … the overthrown Afghan government? “There was no ‘political settlement’ to be had,” Joscelyn writes. “The Taliban was fighting for total victory—exactly as it played out this year. There is no valid counterfactual scenario in which Ghani, or any other Afghan official, could have persuaded the jihadists to settle for anything less than the resurrection of their authoritarian government. Therefore, Khalilzad’s story rests on an entirely dishonest premise.”  

Is It Time To Fight?

As David has written about more than a few times, the left-right divide in this country is only getting worse. It’s gotten so bad that surveys show that big majorities on each side think the other is a danger to democracy and significant minorities have expressed a willingness to resort to violence. Paul D. Miller, who has literally written the book on “just war,” would like everyone to calm the heck down. He runs through a list of issues where each side believes the worst about the other (election law, the Supreme Court, the  culture wars) and writes: “Let’s assume for the moment that every one of these critiques is accurate and not exaggerated nut-picking, conspiracy theorizing, or bad-faith whataboutism. Even then, none of them comes close to justifying political violence. None of those things are the same as ‘widespread, systematic murder,’ ‘totalitarianism,’ or ‘state collapse and anarchy.’ Political violence is not the appropriate response to any of these complaints. Political engagement is.”

And now the best of the rest.

  • The Democrats took it on the chin in Virginia and New Jersey last Tuesday, and some on the left responded by saying it was only because voters are racist. While there are plenty of data points to indicate that can’t explain the outcomes (Winsome Sears won the lieutenant governor’s race in Virginia, and there had to be Biden>>Youngkin voters), Jonah reminds everyone that calling the people who voted against your party “racist” is just terrible politics.

  • There has been a lot of coverage of the Democratic intraparty warfare over the Build Back Better Act. But what exactly is in it? Haley is breaking it down in Uphill. In Friday’s edition, she focused on the provisions intended to fight climate change.

  • The U.S. and Europe managed to shut down the nuclear proliferation network headed by A.Q. Khan back in 2004, but his efforts created security crises around the world that linger to this day. Khan died last month of complications of COVID, and Anthony Ruggiero and Andrea Stricker mark his passing with an examination of his legacy.

  • The pods! Check out The Dispatch podcast to hear Steve’s interview with Sen. Ben Sasse and learn why the senator calls some of his colleagues “chuckleheads.” On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah break down the oral arguments at the Supreme Court over the Texas abortion law and explain why it all has nothing to do with Roe v. Wade. And for the last word on the Virginia elections, tune into Jonah’s conversation with Matthew Continetti on The Remnant.

Our Best Stuff From a Week of Tricks and Treats (But Mostly Tricks)

Afghanistan evacuations, daylight saving time, and the Virginia governor’s race.

Happy Saturday! There is a slew of great football games to watch this weekend, plus the World Series, and of course it’s Halloween weekend. I don’t have any great ideas for a last-minute costume for you, but may I suggest you not dress up in khakis while carrying a tiki torch while posing in front of Glenn Youngkin’s campaign bus? 

It’s safe to say that something stupid happens on Twitter every day, and we don’t cover it 99 percent of the time. For good reasons. But the stupid thing that happened on Friday touches on a few issues plaguing our politics and our discourse. 

Youngkin, you probably know, is the GOP nominee for governor in Virginia. He was endorsed by former President Donald Trump in May but has largely avoided Trump during his campaign. He’s had no rallies with him and specifically stayed away from an event hosted by Steve Bannon in which Trump appeared by video and where the audience said the pledge of allegiance to a flag that someone waved at the Capitol on January 6. But his opponent, Terry McAuliffe, has made an effort to tie Youngkin to Trump (as Audrey noted in a piece covering a McAuliffe rally with Joe Biden).

Late Friday morning, I noticed a tweet by a reporter from a local NBC affiliate in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

On first glance, it looks pretty bad for Youngkin. A group of supporters trying to evoke the 2017 Unite the Right event where demonstrators marched with tiki torches in defense of monuments to Confederate soldiers in Charlottesville. The next day, protesters and counterprotesters clashed, violence broke out, and a woman died. The scene all but screamed “White Supremacists for Youngkin.” 

But first glances aren’t everything. I was lucky enough to start my journalism career before the internet was a big deal, and way before social media influenced everything. The newspaper came out once a day. News magazines came out once a week. The only 24 hour news network was CNN, and it wasn’t yet dominated by talking heads analyzing everything. So I didn’t face some of the same pressures that young reporters do today. But we were taught to be skeptical. To question everything. Not to rush out details that we couldn’t confirm. One thing that bugged me about that tweet was that the reporter said, “saying what sounded like …”

As it turned out, appearances—and sounds—were deceiving. Long story short, the whole thing was a stunt by the Lincoln Project, a PAC formed in 2019 to defeat President Trump. I don’t normally turn to Wikipedia as an authority, but  its description of its founders as “people who claim to be former and present Republicans” is spot-on. It moved quickly beyond its mission of defeating Trump and also campaigned against GOP Sen. Susan Collins in an effort to throw control of the Senate to the Democrats. (Who knew Trump himself would be more effective in making that happen? But I digress.) The Lincoln Project has spent money on anti-Youngkin ads and otherwise supported McAuliffe this time around. 

Conservatives on Twitter quickly recognized that the whole thing was likely a stunt, and Friday afternoon the Lincoln Project issued a statement defending its actions. “The Youngkin campaign is enraged by our reminder of Charlottesville for one simple reason: Glenn Youngkin wants Virginians to forget that he is Donald Trump’s candidate.”

So we have a media environment in which reporters are “breaking news” not in their publication or on their broadcasts but on social media, which is designed to make things go viral, true or not. We have a political environment in which we are immensely polarized and where people don’t have to work very hard to find information that confirms their priors. It seems like skepticism, and even curiosity, is at an all-time low. It’s a toxic stew. 

There is one potential positive takeaway from all this. The Lincoln Project wants Terry McAuliffe to win. But there was nothing about this stunt that helps his campaign. It’s true that most Americans don’t live on Twitter, and if you’re lucky (or smart), these shenanigans probably escaped your notice. So maybe it won’t hurt him—we’ll find out in a few days. But it backfired spectacularly enough that we can only hope that it serves as a warning to others. If you want to make a case that the other side is harmful and a threat to democracy, the best way to do that is to show that your side is honest and trustworthy. The worst way to engage in deception. 

On that note, have a great weekend. May your Halloween bucket be filled with lots of Reese’s Cups and no circus peanuts. Thanks for reading. 

Crazy at Any Price

Jonah wrote recently about how the provisions of Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act are very popular—until you ask people how much they’d be willing to pay for them. It’s a theme he returns to and expands on in the midweek G-File (🔐). He touches on how withdrawing from Afghanistan was very popular with Americans—until we did so in embarrassing fashion. It turns out Americans think the disgrace of losing a war is a pretty high price to pay. And while people on both sides are upset with our election processes and our dysfunctional parties, no one really wants to do anything about it that would bring about meaningful change. “Trumpists in California would harangue me about how not voting for Trump was tantamount to destroying the country. ... And yet, were any of them willing to move to a swing state so their vote would matter? Or were any voters from reliably red states willing to move to California to bring it into the fold? That’s a very small price to pay if you actually believe we’re one election away from the apocalypse,” he writes.


We haven’t seen Scott Lincicome this worked up since someone asked him to try Guy Fieri’s trash can nachos. In Capitolism (🔐) this week, he unleashes a stemwinder  against daylight saving time. He explains why it’s anti-health, anti-science, anti-family, and more. It doesn’t save any energy, its nominal reason for existing. In fact, it probably causes us to waste energy. We should all be able to agree that it’s a bad idea that needs to go, but did he need to make it so personal? I’m pretty sure he’s talking about yours truly when he writes, “Sure, some late-night revelers who overindulged might struggle with a few light mornings in the summer, but personal suffering is often the only way to learn needed life-lessons, and that’s what blackout curtains are for, anyway.” 

‘An Unprecedented Mobilization’

We're no longer subjected to daily images of Americans and Afghans trying desperately to flee Afghanistan, but that doesn’t mean everyone who wanted to get out did so. Charlotte reports on the ongoing effort by lawmakers and private citizens to evacuate stranded people. One such group is Task Force Argo. The group has aided more than 2,000 people and has a backlog of 3.500. “In all, Task Force Argo has rescued Afghans and Americans of a range of ages and backgrounds,” she writes. “The volunteers evacuated an 80-year-old grandmother and American citizen, a baby who was born on September 11 of this year in one of their safe houses, twins and college students in danger of becoming forced brides, senior members of the Afghan National Security Forces, and a man interrogated and shot by the Taliban.” 

The Right Way to Reject Critical Race Theory

It’s a funny thing, our debate over critical race theory. Many of the people who are upset about the prospect of it being part of a K-12 curriculum seem to be angry about schools teaching the legacy of slavery and racism in this country accurately, or complain about reading assignments that just happen to be by black authors. Meanwhile, administrators and politicians try to say that CRT is not being taught in public schools while also obfuscating about faculty trainings that advise teachers to “embrace critical race theory” and “engage in race-conscious teaching and learning.” It’s tempting to call for a “pox on both houses” but Frederick Hess has a better idea. He describes CRT as full of “toxic, illiberal, Marxist doctrines” and highlights data that shows that minority voters want schools to teach traditional Western values. He argues that, “These issues hit parents where they live. They’re about what values their kids are bringing home from school. Conservatives have the chance to defend shared values that resonate deeply with many who have not historically found themselves on the right.”

And now the best of the rest: 

  • Patrick T. Brown breaks down the social spending measures in the Build Back Better framework. His takeaway? If you like the college student debt crisis, you’ll love the childcare subsidies.

  • As part of the debate over critical race theory in schools, parents have been demanding more input over their district’s curricula. David digs into the court precedent in his Tuesday French Press (🔐), and informs readers that while the courts have ruled that parents can choose whether to send their kids to public schools, districts control the subject matter.

  • As I mentioned above, Audrey covered a rally this week in which President Biden campaigned for Terry McAuliffe. She also writes about McAuliffe’s struggles in the polls and what he might have to do to outlast Youngkin. 

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci insisted in his fights with Rand Paul that a grant to a company called EcoHealth that worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology did not go to fund “gain of function” research that could strengthen a pathogen. The truth is both complex and murky. We get to the bottom of it as best we can in The Morning Dispatch (🔐).

  • Last but not least, the pods: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah get into the generational battles between Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z, and also discuss some legal stuff. On the Dispatch Podcast, the gang talks about the idea of taxing unrealized capital gains of billionaires, Taiwan, Facebook, and more. And Jonah welcomed David, Haley, and his old friend Jack Butler onto The Remnant to discuss Dune and other sci-fi nerdery.

Our Best Stuff on Uyghurs, Kyrsten Sinema, and China

We reported that the U.S. admitted zero Uyghur refugees in fiscal 2021.

Happy Sunday! While I was perusing the news yesterday, I came across an interesting item in The Daily Beast: “Elephant Takes Revenge, Kills Suspected Poacher in South African National Park.” It’s just a brief post that summarizes a longer article from ABC News, and that article is a little tamer, saying that investigators believe the poacher was killed by an elephant but not ascribing revenge as a motive. But it got me thinking, and I realized it’s almost a theme for the week. 

If you read our articles and newsletters even only occasionally, you know that we’re concerned about our polarization and the nastiness of our discourse.  (In fact, I have to be careful not to plagiarize myself from just a week ago.) The extremes of both parties can be loud and demanding and suck all the oxygen out of the room,  making it hard for the rest of us to get a word in. So today I’m going to highlight some accounts of pushback.

Progressives have been enormously frustrated with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for their refusal to go along with the $3.5 trillion spending package that would provide free community college and universal childcare along with many provisions to fight climate change. I summarize our coverage of Sinema below, but one of my favorite (non-Dispatch) stories of the week came from Axios, which reported on a meeting between Senator Bernie Sanders and Manchin. Sanders has long complained that the spending package is too small and that we should be spending $6 trillion. Manchin is having none of it: “"I'm comfortable with zero," he reportedly told the Vermont senator.

And in Jonah’s midweek G-File  (🔐), he writes about David Shor. Shor is, to quote Jonah, “an avowed socialist and data geek.” Shor gained a measure of fame, or rather infamy, in the summer of 2020 when he sent a tweet calling attention to a study from Princeton that showed that peaceful protests effect change but violent protests can create a backlash that hurts the protesters’ cause. It cost Shor his job, but he hasn’t backed down. He has continued to speak out about how young “woke” progressive elites are out of touch with mainstream Democrats to the detriment of the party. 

There’s not quite as much to be excited about on the right, but I’ll point to one hopeful moment. The select committee investigating the events of January 6 subpoenaed Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Bannon has refused to cooperate, citing “executive privilege.” The House voted 229-202 to hold Bannon in contempt and refer the issue to the Department of Justice. Nine Republicans joined Democrats in voting yes. Granted, it’s mostly the same group that voted to impeach Trump and it would be nicer if the number was higher. But those who stand for the rule of law should be celebrated. 

Thanks as always for reading, and have a great weekend.

U.S. Admitted Zero Uyghur Refugees in Fiscal 2021

We broke a little news Thursday evening: The U.S. admitted exactly zero Uyghr refugees during  fiscal year 2021. The Biden administration has vowed to increase the number of refugees admitted after Donald Trump reduced the refugee cap during his term, but overall numbers are still low. It is extremely difficult for Uyghurs to leave China, and the public-private partnerships that drive our refugee resettlement suffered during the Trump administration, which has reduced resources. But even refugees who made it out and are living in the U.S. for now can’t get help. Harvest and Haley share the story of Tahir Hamut Izgil, a Uyghur poet and activist, who managed to make it to the U.S. with his family in 2017. “Some Uyghurs in the United States have been waiting for asylum status for seven or eight years,” Izgil said. “Although some Uyghur Americans are living in safe conditions and have work opportunities in the United States, many have not been granted legal residency status and they are going through many hardships and anxieties.” 

Sinema Saving Seats of Silent Dems

Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have been equally vocal and adamant in their unwillingness to go along with the massive reconciliation spending package that Democrats want to pass, but Sinema is the one taking most of  the heat. What gives? Stirewalt dives in. He writes that some of it may be that she’s a woman, and young, and so activists have different expectations of  her than Manchin. But also: it makes no sense to push Manchin because West Virginia has no progressive base to speak of. But Stirewalt also notes that all the attention on Sinema provides cover for senators who might not want to actively speak out against the bill but are also skeptical. And in French Press, David explores Sinema’s journey from “former progressive activist who once famously wore a pink tutu” to a senator who’s drawn the ire of progressives. He writes:  “If disgust at factionalism and identity-based politics is truly her ‘guiding principle,’ then she may well be one of the first senators for America’s exhausted majority.”

Why China’s Hypersonic Missile Tests Are So Concerning

The Financial Times reported last weekend that China conducted successful tests of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile system. Hypersonic missiles, despite what the name might imply, aren’t as fast as traditional intercontinental ballistic missiles but they have a big advantage over them: they can change their flight path while still traveling very fast, making it much easier for them to evade missile defense systems. Klon Kitchen, from the American Enterprise Institute, explores what this means for U.S.-China relations: Whether you want to call this a “cold war” or not, the clear reality is that the United States and China are assuming increasingly adversarial postures toward one another, and this is driving a new technological and military arms race,” he writes.

And now the best of the rest:

  • Danielle Pletka catches readers up on the latest developments in Lebanon, where tensions are high and there’s considerable mystery surrounding the investigation into the 2020 port explosion that killed more than 200 people. Why should Americans care? Because, as she writes, what happens in Lebanon doesn’t stay in Lebanon.

  • In Capitolism (🔐), Scott Lincicome tackles the labor shortage, and he has some bad news. While many issues can be blamed on the pandemic and the disruptions it created, we could very well be looking at a long-term problem.

  • There aren’t many big races in an off-year election, so all eyes are on the gubernatorial race in Virginia. Audrey writes about how, even though GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin has tried to distance himself from Donald Trump, Democrat Terry McAuliffe keeps trying to make the race about the former president.

  • The pods! David and Sarah dig into the report from the commission to reform the Supreme Court on Advisory Opinions. On The Remnant, Jonah and David Drucker of the Washington Examiner discuss the state of the GOP. And on the Dispatch podcast, Steve and Sarah talk to Klon Kitchen about those Chinese missile tests.

Loading more posts…