National Review editor labels Trump ‘Jacksonian’

Rich Lowry dissects at National Review Online voters’ continued interest in Donald Trump’s presidential bid.

After the Paris attack, conventional wisdom held that Republican voters would finally turn away from political outsiders and reward candidates representing sobriety and experience. No one stopped to consider that, actually, voters might be drawn to the guy who memorably said of ISIS that he would “bomb the [expletive] out of them.”

Not only has Donald Trump not been hurt by Paris, he has bumped up in the aftermath (Ben Carson, on the other hand, has indeed dropped). The cliché about Trump is that he’s defying the laws of political gravity. If Trump is cutting against the contemporary political grain — certainly, no one else could get away with being as routinely careless and insulting in his statements — he is also tapping into one of America’s deepest cultural and political wellsprings.

In large part, Donald Trump is a Jacksonian, the tradition originally associated with the Scotch-Irish heritage in America and best represented historically by the tough old bird himself, Andrew Jackson. Old Hickory might be mystified that a celebrity New York billionaire is holding up his banner (but, then again, Jackson himself was a rich planter). Trump is nonetheless a powerful voice for Jacksonian attitudes.

Historian Walter Russell Mead once wrote a memorable essay on the Jacksonianism that, so many years later, serves as a very rough guide to the anti-PC and fiercely nationalistic populism of the 2016 Trump campaign.

Trump has trampled on almost every political piety, and gotten away with it, even when he has been factually wrong or had to backtrack. “The Jacksonian hero dares to say what the people feel and defies the entrenched elites,” Mead writes. “The hero may make mistakes, but he will command the unswerving loyalty of Jacksonian America so long as his heart is perceived to be in the right place.”

Williamson notes irony of progressives’ attacks on Woodrow Wilson

Kevin Williamson‘s latest column at National Review Online explores the current furor at Princeton University involving the legacy of former university and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

Princeton University is convulsed at this moment in 2015 over the fact that its school of public affairs, established in 1930, was renamed for Woodrow Wilson in 1948. The objection is to the fact that President Wilson was a horrifying racist with backward attitudes about black Americans, a fact that has been known for more than a century. The life and thought of Woodrow Wilson are not the question here; what is at issue is the devolving sensibility of the American undergraduate, which has regressed from the mere illiterate puritanism of the original era of political correctness on its way back to naked totalitarianism, having acquired a Taliban-like taste for disannulment of historical artifacts.

The irony here is terrific: President Wilson was a self-identified progressive, the father, in fact, of American progressivism. In practice he was a more or less straightforward fascist who used xenophobia and the threat of mob violence to silence critics — when he wasn’t simply jailing them — and who attempted to put the entire economy under political discipline and dreamed of censoring the nation’s newspapers.

Modern progressives have come around on every point: Journalists covering the protests at the University of Missouri were physically assaulted, Gawker and the attorney general of New York dream of locking people up for having the wrong views on global warming, Democrats in 2014 voted to repeal the First Amendment in order to bring all political debate under direct federal supervision, Bernie Sanders rages that American economic problems are the result of greedy capitalists’ getting into bed with scheming foreigners, and that the government must be empowered to intervene in all economic matters, etc.

Woodrow Wilson won, and his epigones, who embrace his philosophy entirely — he resegregated much of the federal government while they want to resegregate the college campuses — seek to destroy their master, i.e. to reenact the oldest story in politics, from The Golden Bough to Star Wars.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Dan Way reports for Carolina Journal Online on Gov. Pat McCrory’s announcement that he will pursue legal action in the controversial case of a transgender public school student’s access to opposite-sex bathrooms and locker rooms.

Barry Smith reports state government is moving forward with sales of unused government buildings and other property.

Smith also reports on legislation that would shift state government retirees to the federal Medicare Advantage program.

John Hood’s Daily Journal explores the potential impact of North Carolina’s move to a March election primary.

Continetti chides Clinton’s media sycophants

Matthew Continetti heard all the mainstream media reports about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s successful run through the closing days of October. Continetti explains in the latest “Mediacracy” column for Commentary magazine why he remains unimpressed.

The media couldn’t get over the fact that the positive turn of events happened in a 10-day span. They were like children marveling at a sudden change in the weather. “The last 10 days of October have been the best of Clinton’s campaign,” said Andrea Mitchell. “It’s been a very good 10 days,” said Wolf Blitzer. “She’s had a great 10 days,” said Gloria Borger. “It has been a momentous 10 days for Hillary Clinton,” said Carol Costello. “What a difference 10 days make,” said another CNN anchor. “What a week—really, the last 10 days,” said Brooke Baldwin. Chuck Todd, the host of Meet the Press, used the “10 days” line six times in 24 hours. “We’ve had a good 10 days,” agreed Clinton aide Jennifer Palmieri.

But Cillizza and his friends were wrong. We didn’t learn or relearn anything about Clinton “over the past 10 days.” She was the same Hillary Clinton on October 31 that she had been on October 1. Clinton is a good debater, she has little competition for her party’s nomination, and she’s more popular than Congress. Well, give her a medal.

Here’s what else is true about her. She is still seen as unlikable and untrustworthy by the general electorate. She has a habit of making statements that are not, you know, true. And assuming she wins the Democratic nomination, which at this point only the FBI seems able to prevent, Clinton will be running for her party’s third term in the White House at a time when the public says the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Commentary column documents a ‘liberal fallacy’

Elizabeth Powers explains for Commentary magazine readers how some left-of-center thinkers approach political debates with false premises.

What we consider “good,” “best,” “excellent,” and so on are matters of what, since the 18th century, has been called taste. And if there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that taste is an individual thing: I like Manet, you like Lucian Freud. Our personal preferences, for this is what they are, will probably change over our lifetime. By the time we reach middle age, what impressed us when we were 20 will seem immature instead. We “grow”: We read more books, we see more movies. Our opinions evolve.

Nevertheless, when we use words such as excellent, we feel that what we love will also be loved by everyone else, especially our kind of people: our spouse, our friends, our colleagues. We attribute our own feelings to others. To a great extent, this desire to share with others what we love is a very human thing: It indicates a certain universality. At the same time, our judgments of taste—for instance, that a painting or a book is excellent or not even worth considering—are value judgments, and they have a coercive aspect. When I assert that something is good, it does not mean that you too might find it good; it means that what I love, you too should love. This would not be a problem if the matter were restricted to books, movies, art, or, increasingly, food—subjects on which few of us come to blows.

But such value judgments encompass the social and political realms as well, with destructive, cascading effects. We can call it “the liberal fallacy.”

For liberals, the correctness of their opinions—on universal health care, on Sarah Palin, on gay marriage—is self-evident. Anyone who has tried to argue the merits of such issues with liberals will surely recognize this attitude. Liberals are pleased with themselves for thinking the way they do. In their view, the way they think is the way all right-thinking people should think. Thus, “the liberal fallacy”: Liberals imagine that everyone should share their opinions, and if others do not, there is something wrong with them. On matters of books and movies, they may give an inch, but if people have contrary opinions on political and social matters, it follows that the fault is with the others.

Of course, true liberals avoid this fallacy. They believe in free expression and the competition of ideas.

You might be a campus progressive if…

…in the midst of terror attacks around the world and shootings on college campuses the term “safe zone” means to you a place where you don’t have to hear any speech by your fellow students that could possibly make you uncomfortable.

British defence U-turn of the moment

Britain for the past 60 years or so has been very good at having very poor defence policy, particularly in the air and at sea. The Ministry of Defence has regularly thrown big money at locally-produced weapons systems only to see them fail to live up to expectations, run vastly over budget, and have to be canceled with the solution often then being to buy an off-the-shelf American solution. Or to throw vast amounts to build ships and planes only to see them retired prematurely as a result of the latest defence cuts.

The latest case in point: The 2010 British defence policy review left the United Kingdom, an island nation, without any maritime patrol aircraft, and thus no ability to hunt submarines over large areas from the air. Yes, really. The existing Nimrod aircraft were just too old and expensive to operate. The next generation Nimrod was years late and very over budget, and the program was cancelled. So now in 2015, the British have admitted the error of its ways, and are buying nine new Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft on an expedited basis.

Economic Freedom and the Regulatory State

In a recent Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, Cause of Action’s Executive Director Dan Epstein tells the harrowing story of a cancer screening provider that was “hounded out of business” by the FTC:

Since 2013, my organization has defended … LabMD … against meritless allegations from the Federal Trade Commission. Last Friday, the FTC’s chief administrative-law judge dismissed the agency’s complaint. But it was too late. The reputational damage and expense of a six-year federal investigation forced LabMD to close last year. …

In May 2008, LabMD was contacted by Tiversa, a company that describes itself as a “world leader in P2P cyberintelligence,” alleging that it had found on the Internet a LabMD insurance-agent file containing the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of about 9,000 patients. Oddly, Tiversa wouldn’t disclose where or how it discovered the file. But the company demanded a fee of $40,000 to mitigate the situation.

After leading its own thorough review that turned up no sign that any patient information had been exposed online, LabMD refused to pay. …

Tiversa had an exploitation game going. The company would “scour” the IT networks of companies for confidential information, according to whistleblower testimony in May from Richard Wallace, a former forensic analyst at Tiversa. Upon finding any such information, Mr. Wallace said, Tiversa would contact the company and demand large payments to “fix” the problem. …

In his May testimony, Mr. Wallace said that Tiversa’s strategy was essentially, “Hire us or face the music.” And that music, Mr. Wallace said, was the FTC. According to a January congressional investigation … Tiversa began working closely with FTC staff in 2007.

As Mr. Wallace detailed in his testimony, and as was uncovered in the congressional investigation, two years later the FTC and Tiversa entered a deal wherein Tiversa would create a separate company that would pass to the agency confidential computer files it had obtained from internal computer systems from LabMD and 88 other companies. The FTC then used the files to take enforcement action under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act for alleged unfair trade practices pertaining to inadequate data security. …

From the start, LabMD tried to cooperate. Yet the FTC refused to detail LabMD’s data-security deficiencies and would not disclose the nature and extent of Tiversa’s involvement. Eventually, the FTC demanded that LabMD sign an onerous consent order admitting wrongdoing and agreeing to 20 years of compliance reporting.

Unlike many other companies in similar situations, however, LabMD refused to cave and in 2012 went public with the ordeal. In what appeared to be retaliation, the FTC sued LabMD in 2013, alleging that the company engaged in “unreasonable” data-security practices that amounted to an “unfair” trade practice by not taking reasonable steps to protect patient information. …

The FTC never produced a single patient or doctor who suffered or who alleged identity theft or harm because of LabMD’s data-security practices. The FTC never claimed that LabMD violated HIPAA regulations, and until 2014—four years after its investigation began—never offered any data-security standards with which LabMD failed to comply.

The administrative-law judge’s decision—which noted the lack of proof of a single victim in the case—vindicates LabMD, though Tiversa isn’t admitting anything. “We have acted appropriately and legally in every way with respect to LabMD,” the company said in a statement after last week’s ruling.

But the case illustrates the injustice of the federal system that allows agencies to cow companies into submission rather than seek a day in court. During its three years of pre-suit investigation against LabMD, the FTC demanded thousands of documents, confidential employee depositions and several meetings with management. LabMD—which at its apex employed 30 people—spent hundreds of thousands of dollars meeting demands. No federal court would ever allow such abusive tactics. But this isn’t federal court—it’s a federal agency.

Furthermore, the FTC is likely to simply disregard the 92-page decision—which weighed witness credibility and the law—and side with commission staff. … The agency has disregarded every adverse ruling over the past two decades, according to a February analysis by former FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright. Defendants’ only recourse is appealing in federal court, a fresh burden in legal fees.

That’s what happens when a federal agency serves as its own detective, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. … Winning against the federal government should never require losing so much.