Our Best Stuff From a Pretty Good Week

Tim Scott’s big moment, the House GOP retreat, and an interview with former President George W. Bush.

Happy Saturday! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I didn’t need a down parka to sit through our son’s baseball game this morning. Maybe it’s the weather, or the fact I got my second vaccine dose this week, but I’m ending this week and heading into the next one feeling optimistic about a lot of things. 

First and foremost, we saw signs that the Republican Party is taking at least tentative steps to forge a path forward from the worst of the Trump era. On Wednesday night, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott delivered a forceful response to President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress. It’s a fraught assignment that can, at minimum, turn you into a meme if you stumble (see Marco Rubio and his sips of water) and, at worst, help sink your entire political career (remember Bobby Jindal)? But Scott wisely called attention to the divide between Biden’s promise to unite the country and govern in a bipartisan fashion to the reality of the Democrats going it alone in Congress and spending big on the way. He touted the criminal justice reform bill that he introduced in the Senate last summer, and talked frankly about his experiences as a black man in America while at the same time professing his belief that we are not a racist country. 

Scott clearly got under the skin of Democrats and progressives: Late Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, “Uncle Tim” was a trending topic on Twitter. 

Meanwhile, at a House GOP retreat in Florida, Liz Cheney took center stage. Cheney led a group of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump after the storming of the Capitol on January 6 and later survived a secret-ballot, closed door vote to remove her as chair of the House GOP caucus 145-61. “We have big differences about [Trump],” Cheney told The Dispatch. “But we’re very united on other areas of substance and policy, and I think we know that’s what we’ve got to be focused on.”

Now it wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns in Orlando. Audrey went to the conference and asked many representatives whether they would endorse Cheney’s 2022 reelection bid. More than a few avoided the question: “I haven’t talked to her about it,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. “Oh, we all have our own races to run, I don’t know about that,” said House GOP Vice Chair Mike Johnson.

The conference shows that it won’t be easy to get past Trump, but Cheney is doing her part to keep the party focused on its opposition to the Biden agenda while it sorts out how to deal with the divisions within. And she’s not backing down.

On another positive note, we have a lot more time to talk about policy these days. On Friday we ran a great piece from Scott Winship responding to various proposals for child tax credits and family allowances. The impetus behind these proposals—whether from Democrats, Mitt Romney, or Josh Hawley—is that it’s become too expensive to raise a family. There is some merit to this argument, and David has written favorably about Romney’s proposal. But Winship takes an important look at whether declining fertility has more to do with economics or is a matter of changing preferences on family size. This is an important debate to have, and it’s a welcome sign that smart people can engage in it in good faith. 

That’s the kind of work we have been trying to do at The Dispatch, and we look forward to bringing even more of it in the coming year. Whoops, I just wrote myself into a sales pitch. Ssssh, don’t tell anyone, because we ended our 30-day free trial promotion at midnight Friday. But I’ve got a special link RIGHT HERE that gives you until tomorrow at noon to take advantage. Last reminder: 30 days, no obligation. Cancel anytime. Why? Please take a minute to read this from David about why he joined The Dispatch—and consider joining us!

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George W. Bush Paints E Pluribus Unum

Immigration is one of the most divisive issues in America today. Donald Trump’s nativist rhetoric during his campaign and White House tenure was met by calls from the left to “abolish ICE.” So it’s positively refreshing to hear former President George W. Bush speak about the issue with such compassion and appreciation for the contributions of immigrants to this country, and with empathy for those who are concerned about losing jobs. Which, by the way, he just happened to do on The Dispatch Podcast with Steve and Sarah this week. He talks about campaigning in Iowa and realizing that attitudes toward Hispanic immigrants working largely in the meatpacking industry were less than welcoming. He wants skeptics to know, “Without those immigrants, the economies of those areas would be, you know, paltry. … We know, we understand your angst. On the other hand, I hope you take time to learn about the motivations, and the positive contributions these citizens can make.” Bush also discusses his regrets over not passing immigration reform (offering both fascinating insight to the inner workings of Congress and some advice for President Biden), the future of the Republican Party, and oh yes, his new book of portraits and profiles of immigrants, Out of Many, One. Listen to the whole thing to hear Sarah talk to Bush about how he took up painting after leaving office and how he came to love experimenting with color, and to hear Bush get in a few digs at Steve’s expense. (And if you can’t listen, here’s the transcript.)

Americans Color Outside the Lines

Chris Stirewalt opens his weekly column by telling the story of Gregory Williams, who spent his early childhood in rural Virginia in the 1940s and 1950s thinking he was white. At the time, his white mother’s marriage to a black man would have been illegal. Williams only learned the truth when his parents divorced and his father moved them to Indiana. Williams went on to become the president of both the City College of New York and the University of Cincinnati. Stirewalt tells this story in part to explain how far as a country we’ve come on race relations. He compares the attitudes prevalent in the Jim Crow era to the divisiveness we see on race today, when “bigots and the progressive proponents of race science hold fast to the idea of fixed, measurable race and ethnicity.” He has some good news: Americans largely ignore both the bigots and the proponents of identity politics. “While the Census Bureau and professors of critical race theory are trying to salvage ideas about race from a century ago, Americans are going about their business. That means loving whomever they choose. One in five marriages are now between different racial groups. The children of mixed-race marriages take increasingly flexible views on their own racial identity. The results of the 2020 census will surely reveal that the trend is only accelerating.” 

Outrage Overload

Folks, we’re going to need more of you to share these articles. I know some of you do. But Jonah’s midweek G-File demonstrates that his message needs wider circulation. He’s written a couple times debunking the myth that the concept of policing originated with Southern slave patrols. And yet … it persists. Jonah discusses his Twitter spat with Nikole-Hannah Jones over the matter, and how believing the myth requires one to ignore hundreds of years of history. He segues from that into a larger discussion about Twitter and honest discourse and anger.  “Whether it’s Black Lives Matter and their apologists throughout elite left-wing media or the constellation of MAGA propagandists and their apologists throughout elite right-wing media, the order of the day has gone forth: You must be pissed off. You must think the other side hates you and you must hate them for it.” 

New Witnesses Allege Kanakuk Kamps Tried to Cover Up Child Sex Abuse

Back in March, David and Nancy French published their first report on a sex-abuse scandal at a Christian summer camp, Kanakuk Kamps. In 2010, former camp director Pete Newman was convicted and given two life sentences plus 30 years for several counts of abusing children at the camp. But the case went largely unnoticed and the camp required many of its victims to sign non-disclosure agreements. David published a follow-up talking about those NDAs. And now Nancy has yet another update, as families have come forward since our initial article. She has pieced together an answer to one of the lingering questions: How did the camp become aware of Newman’s crimes and why did it take so long for him to be arrested?  As with the other pieces, it’s not an easy read but it’s well worth your time.

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Now for the best of the rest. I’m gonna make this quick.

  • Charlotte talks to some experts about the leaked interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in which he claimed that former Secretary of State John Kerry told him about 200 Israeli covert operations against the Islamic Republic. She also looks into who might have leaked the tape, the motivation behind doing so, and the ramifications.

  • A Department of Education proposal to award grants to school districts to incorporate anti-racist curricula generated a lot of media attention. Andrew investigates and finds the program itself would be small, but could provide a window into the Biden administration’s priorities. 

  • The COVID situation is bad in India. Very, very bad. In Capitolism, Scott Lincicome makes the case that not only should we respond to help India, but that we should be looking to see where other outbreaks could crop up and address them proactively. We have a surplus of vaccines and PPE that we can share, and doing so would benefit us both economically and geopolitically.

  • As for the pods, it might be hard to compete with the George W. Bush interview, but we have plenty of other good listens. Jonah welcomes A.B. Stoddard to The Remnant for some rank punditry and canine conversation—two of his favorite topics. And on Advisory Opinions, getting a heaping helping of Supreme Court analysis from David and Sarah, including an important First Amendment case with a cheerleader at the forefront.