Hollywood is filled with remakes and reboots. Washington is about to get one of its own. The re-launched property: the 2016 campaign.
You know the plot. An outsider with grassroots support leads a crusade against the party establishment and the legitimating institutions that bestow credibility upon a candidate. He’s old, white, been around for a while, says some things that are outside the mainstream, and has a fickle relationship to his party. But he possesses a strange charisma, dominates the conversation, and is willing to speak to audiences outside the typical party coalition.
I used to laugh every time I heard someone like Elon Musk say that we are living in a Matrix-like simulation. These days, not so much.
Don’t call the funny farm just yet. On the major question of the nature of sense experience, I remain with Aristotle and against Bishop Berkeley. Matter is real. But there is also the question of how we perceive “the news”; how established media institutions present and frame information; how we are supposed to respond to the “takes” purportedly expert and knowledgeable voices serve up to us by the second on social media. And here, I’m skeptical.
Time to check on the twenty Smurfs.
Joe Biden recorded a message on a friend’s iPhone in which he admitted that over the years he’s made “women and some men” uncomfortable by, among other things, touching them, rubbing their shoulders, and smelling their hair. It’s his way of making a “connection,” Biden explained, as though he were a domestic animal introducing himself to another pet. Men, women, “young, old,” he’s touched them all. Perhaps I’m out of step, but I was taught that the way of making “connections” was through handshakes, maybe small talk.
In a 60 Minutes interview that aired shortly before Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, Morley Safer asked William F. Buckley Jr., “Has there ever been a liberal Buckley? What would you do if one came along and openly proclaimed to be?”
Buckley’s response: “Pray for him.”
Every element of the college admissions scandal, aka “Operation Varsity Blues,” is fascinating.
There are the players: a shady high school counselor turned admissions consultant, the 36-year-old Harvard grad who sold his talents for standardized testing to the highest bidder, the comely actresses from Full House and Desperate Housewives, the fashion designer, the casino magnate. Who would have thought that one of the major headlines of 2019 would be “Lori Loughlin released on bond”?
I have a new hobby. It’s collecting the excuses Democrats make for Ilhan Omar, the Minnesota Democratic congresswoman who has an unhealthy fixation on Jewish influence, Jewish money, and Jewish loyalty. Omar has said that Israel “hypnotized the world,” attributing Jews with the power of mind control in the service of manipulating public opinion. She’s said the only reason Congress supports Israel is Jewish campaign donations. Most recently, using the classic anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty, she criticized supporters of Israel for having “allegiance to a foreign power.” A real treasure, Omar is.
The best narrative art eschews didacticism in favor of subtlety and nuance and moral reflection. The Polish film Cold War, released last year and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, is no exception. It tells the story, inspired by Pawlikowski’s parents, of Wiktor Warski (Tomasz Kot) and Zula Lichón (Joanna Kulig), whose amour fou burns against the backdrop of postwar Europe.
No Democrat running for president has had a better 2019 than Kamala Harris. The numbers tell the tale. The California senator was in the low single digits in polls conducted before her official launch on January 28. She is now in the low double digits, running third behind Joe Biden, who enjoys cosmic name recognition, and Bernie Sanders, whose devoted supporters brought him a second-place finish last time. But polls do not tell the whole story.
“The most important political event of the twentieth century,” wrote Irving Kristol in 1976, “is not the crisis of capitalism but the death of socialism.” Plenty of self-described Marxist and socialist regimes existed throughout the world, Kristol recognized. It was rather the ideas behind such regimes that had reached a moral and intellectual endpoint. Nor was this passing away entirely to be cheered. “For with the passing of the socialist ideal,” Kristol went on, “there is removed from the political horizon the one alternative to capitalism that was rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition and in the Western civilization which emerged from that tradition.”
February 2019 is turning out to be a critical month in the presidency of Donald Trump. It may be the critical month. The midterm elections and record-long government shutdown are behind him. By delivering an optimistic and inspiring State of the Union address, Trump effectively reset his presidency and framed his opposition as beyond the American mainstream. But three tests await him: on Congress, on North Korea, and on China. How he handles these challenges will say a lot about his chances of reelection.