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.
I’m not a Democrat—in case you haven’t noticed—but Howard Schultz is. And Schultz isn’t one of those Blue Dog, southern or mid-Western, conservative Democrats either. He’s from Seattle, holds liberal positions on, as far as I can tell, every issue, and has donated gobs of money to the Democratic Party and to the last two Democratic presidents. But Schultz is also a democratic capitalist who attributes his phenomenal success—his fortune from Starbucks is around $3 billion—at least in part to America’s culture of entrepreneurial risk-taking, minimal government interference in commerce, individual responsibility, and rule of law. He worries that the Democratic Party, radicalized by the presidency of Donald Trump, is in the process of abandoning support for the very aspects of American life that made his life possible.
Decades from now, historians will note with irony that socialism was rehabilitated in the United States just as its full depravity came into view in Venezuela. That beleaguered South American country took its first steps on the road to serfdom in 1999, when Hugo Chávez was elected to the first of four presidential terms. The former military officer used Venezuela’s plentiful oil reserves to spread the wealth as he consolidated power, harassed dissenters, and joined forces with Castro. Chávez was more than a typical Latin American populist. His regime was the rallying place for the international, anti-American left. His name became an ideology—Chávismo—based on revolutionary politics and centralized control. He was detestable.