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.
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.”
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.”
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.