The Lackluster Democratic Field

2020 Dems

Beto O’Rourke is lost. The former Democratic congressman, who unsuccessfully challenged Ted Cruz in last year’s election, has spent the last few weeks in a confused and melancholy state. Something possessed him to live-stream a recent dental cleaning, perhaps the grossest introduction of a potential presidential candidate in the nation’s history. He gave an interview to the Washington Post where the only specific plank in his immigration platform was opposition to President Trump’s border wall. In the same interview, he mused that the Constitution may no longer apply to the United States, since we’re an “empire” with troops deployed around the globe and “trading agreements.”

The Coming Democratic Disillusion

Nancy Pelosi

On Thursday, after eight years in the minority, Nancy Pelosi returned to power as speaker of the House of Representatives. Her party controls 235 seats to the Republicans’ 199. One contest, in North Carolina, has yet to be decided. The Democratic majority is just a couple seats larger than the one Pelosi led more than a decade ago. Back then a Republican resided in the White House as well. By the seventh year of his presidency, when some 100 U.S soldiers were killed in Iraq every month and gas on average cost $2.80 per gallon, George W. Bush was about as popular as Donald Trump is today. And in 2007, as we all remember, Pelosi’s Democrats set about enacting universal health care and ending the war in Iraq.

Shinzo Abe’s World

Shinzo Abe and leaders

TOKYO—”I would like to congratulate you on your historic victory in the midterm election in the United States,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Donald Trump during the recent G20 summit. Mentions of the remark occasioned knowing smiles here during a recent study trip sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The election might not have been, strictly speaking, a “historic victory” for Trump—Republicans lost some 40 seats and control of the House of Representatives while adding two seats to their Senate majority—but Japanese voters are nonetheless aware of Abe’s intention. He wants to be Trump’s friend. More importantly, he needs to be.

The Great Wall of Democracy

U.S. Marines deployed from Okinawa, Japan participate in the U.S. and South Korean Marines joint landing operation at Pohang in South Korea

OKINAWA—I’ve had to wait on the tarmac for planes ahead of mine to take off before, but never F-15s. Naha airport here shares a runway with Japan’s Air Self Defense Forces, leading to delays whenever Japanese fighters scramble to counter Chinese incursions into the airspace above the Senkaku Island Chain in the East China Sea. The pace of such incursions has accelerated over the last half decade. The Japanese scrambled a high of 1,168 times in 2016, mostly in response to Chinese activity. The sight of active afterburners on a U.S. commercial runway would be shocking. In Okinawa, it’s everyday life.

Asia Bibi and the First Freedom

A Pakistani supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, holds an image of Christian woman Asia Bibi during a protest rally

Asia Bibi got into an argument with her co-workers and ended up in jail. Bibi is a Pakistani Catholic and mother of five. She cannot read. For years, she picked fruit in her rural village. One day in June 2009, her peers refused to share a pitcher of water with her because she is a Christian. She argued with them, muttering some caustic words about the founder of Islam. They responded by accusing her of blasphemy: a capital crime in Pakistan. The next year she was sentenced to death row.

Continetti in Claremont Review: Behind the Reagan Doctrine

President Ronald Reagan

Over at the Claremont Review of Books, I have a review of Laurence Jurdem’s evenhanded and comprehensive study Paving the Way for Reagan. It’s a look at three conservative periodicals—Human Events, National Review, and Commentary—and how they influenced the development of Ronald Reagan’s worldview. Here’s the lead:

The Wrong Time to Cut Defense

US soldiers take part in a massive amphibious landing

Last month, when the Treasury Department reported that the fiscal year 2018 deficit was a staggering $779 billion, President Trump made an announcement. Before meeting with his cabinet, the president said he would be asking every secretary to trim five percent, “if not more,” from his or her budget. Nor would he exempt the department of Defense.

Here’s hoping Trump changes his mind. Cutting the resources available to the Pentagon is a bad idea. A new report from the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission underscores just how bad.

What Does History Tell Us About 2018?

Donald Trump

The lesson of 2018 is that the political class is addicted to drawing lessons. Every two years, after the ballots are counted and the winners declared, our reporters, pundits, officials, activists, and analysts turn immediately to the next election. What do these results portend? Will Trump be reelected? Will the suburbs stay Democratic? This emphasis on the future allows the political class to indulge in its favorite activity: mindless speculation. For once, it might be more useful to look backward rather than forward. History has much to tell us.

The Trump Economy Continues to Surge

President Trump Holds Rally In Columbia, Missouri

Not even Jared Bernstein, former economic adviser to Joe Biden, could put a negative spin on Friday’s jobs report. The U.S. economy created some 250,000 jobs in October, beating expectations. The labor participation rate increased even as unemployment held steady at 3.7 percent. That’s a 50-year low. The best part: Wages rose 3 percent in the highest rate of growth since the Great Recession a decade ago. “Pretty much everything you could want in a monthly jobs report,” Bernstein tweeted.