Our Best Stuff on Congress, Afghanistan, and More

Infrastructure, infrastructure, iinfrastructure.

Some years ago, when I was working at a different publication, we had a watercooler conversation about a study that had come out showing that professional women were leaving the workforce in their 40s. (The particular study is long gone from my memory, but this article gets at it.) It was kind of a head scratcher. Why, after working so hard for so long and being at peak earning power, would women walk away?

We have lots of debates in this country about paid leave and the value of having one parent at home with young kids. But even as young adults these days are delaying both marriage and starting families, the average age of a first-time mom is still about 26. That doesn’t explain women walking away from work in their 40s. 

I have a hunch. The early childhood years are physically demanding and exhausting. But in at least one respect, they are easier. You can be confident you’re doing a good job if you keep them fed, clean, rested, and entertained or enriched. Read them bedtime stories, build some block towers, schedule playdates with their buddies, teach them their ABCs. It’s time consuming and exhausting, yes. And you look forward to the days when they are a little more independent and think it’s going to be less work.

And then adolescence hits. Sure, some things are better. You can have real conversations and common interests. They dress themselves (not necessarily well) and groom themselves (again, not necessarily well) and you can take them to restaurants without worrying about them having tantrums or running around manically (good luck getting them to put down their phones). 

But it’s also a whole different kind of work, and a whole different kind of exhaustion. And the rides. They always need rides! To practice, to a friend’s house, to the movies. But more importantly, you worry more. Are they doing okay at school? Do they have good friends or are they getting caught up in the wrong crowd? You worry about their emotional well-being, especially during puberty when they can be happy one minute and have an outburst the next. If they are struggling with something, you want to get them help. If they are excelling at something—music, dance, sports, etc.—you have to decide what kind of commitment you want to make to help foster that talent. (I mentioned rides, right?) And the old adage that “the days are long, but the years are short” really hits home. They’re growing up and will be on their own before you know it.

Back when we had that watercooler conversation, I was in the early-kid years. But now ours are older and I kind of get it. 

You might be wondering by now if I have a point. I do! And no, this is not some long windup into me saying I’m off to an early retirement. (Sorry if I scared you, boss.) I love my job, and I get to do it from home, which gives me lots of time with our goofy, smelly teenagers. No, it’s really just an excuse to say I’m keeping (or meant to keep) this week’s newsletter short because it’s homecoming weekend and we’ve got two highschoolers who waited until the last minute to finalize their plans.So we have a busy day ahead of us. (Once again with the rides … ) Plus, our oldest is a senior and has missed out on more than a few milestones like this because of the pandemic, so I’ve got a lot of “feels” right now. It didn’t seem like a good day to try to explain the past week’s congressional shenanigans or sort out the immigration crisis or weigh in on the GOP primary here in Ohio (honestly, I don’t think there will ever be a good day for that). 

With that, here’s our best stuff. Have a lovely weekend and thanks for reading.

What We Learned When the Generals Went to Congress

When Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and CENTCOM Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie appeared before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday, much of the media focused on how their testimony contradicted the Biden administration’s statements that “no one” advised him to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Charlotte notes that discrepancy, but also uses the Pentagon officials' testimony to piece together a complete timeline of the Afghanistan withdrawal that demonstrates that, had Biden listened to his advisers, that things could have gone much differently.

‘This Was Not About Finding the Truth’

On September 23, the cybersecurity firm hired to carry out the faux audit of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots from the 2020 election released its report. It indicated that—surprise—Joe Biden really did get more votes than Donald Trump. Even so, the report made a number of false claims and is full of errors and misinformation. And election officials are worried about longer-term implications for election integrity. As ​​David Becker, the executive director and founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research, told Khaya: “It demonstrates how debilitating it is to democracy. There are legislators and elected leaders in other states looking at the absolute abject failure of what occurred in Arizona, and they’re saying ‘let’s import that here.’” For more on the audit, check out Chris Stirewalt’s column.

We’ve Got the Schoolhouse Rock Blues

Did you pay attention to Congress this week? Did it make any sense to you—the vote to avoid a government shutdown and the fight over raising the debt ceiling going on at the same time moderate and progressive Democrats were fighting over just how many trillions to spend? It reminded me of a married couple fighting about how to pay the grocery bill while also trying to decide whether to vacation in Hawaii or Europe. But it has Jonah thinking about Schoolhouse Rock, in particular the beloved classic, “I Am Just a Bill.” Not only do we not craft legislation quite like that anymore, we do it the exact opposite way: top down, not bottom up, and throwing out a number and then finding ways to spend enough to reach it.  

And the best of the rest

  • Tom Joscelyn testified before Congress on the Afghanistan withdrawal, and in Vital Interests he discusses one line of questioning: our ability to do “over the horizon” counterterrorism operations. And he makes an important point: The Doha agreement signed by the Trump administration allows the Taliban to protect al-Qaeda.

  • Sarah was out this week, so Stirewalt took over The Sweep to write about the Virginia gubernatorial race, asking whether GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin might be able to pull off an upset over Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

  • While the Biden administration is annoying our allies, it’s also sending dangerously conciliatory messages to China. Ellen Bork criticizes Secretary of State Antony Blinken for deleting a tweet saying we “stand with Hong Kong” and replacing it with a watered-down iteration.

  • Public sentiment around schools is a little bit like that around Congress. Just like everyone likes to complain about politics but they generally like their own reps, parents like to complain about education policy but they like their own schools and teachers. But the pandemic has turned a lot of things upside down. Frederick M. Hess explains.

  • On the pods: On The Dispatch Podcast, Steve talks to Haley and National Review’s John McCormack about the infrastructure debate in Congress. David talks to Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, about free speech on college campuses. And also about Star Trek, if that’s your thing. And finally, on The Remnant, Jonah reminds progressives (we’re looking at you, Bernie Sanders) that we don’t have a parliamentary system, and he explains why that’s a good thing.