The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

@monacharenEPPC

Dr. Oz Quacks the Code of Republican Politics

Sean Parnell, the Trump-anointed candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, dropped out of the race a week ago after a custody hearing that featured lurid details of his relationship with his ex-wife. Laurie Snell alleged that Parnell had struck her, choked her, left her by the side of the road and hit one of their sons hard enough to leave a welt on the boy's back. Parnell countered that she had invented all of it.

Custody battles are infamous for exaggerated accusations and heated denials, and it's difficult for outsiders to know whom to believe and how much. But Parnell's comments off the witness stand didn't burnish his credibility. Appearing on Fox Nation, for example, Parnell opined, "I feel like the whole 'happy wife, happy life' nonsense has done nothing but raise one generation of woman tyrants after the next." He wasn't finished. "Now there's an entire generation of men that don't want to put up with the BS of a high-maintenance, narcissistic woman." Well. Someone seems to be dealing with anger issues. The would-be — er, rather, won't-be — senator concluded with a short sermon on biology: "From an evolutionary standpoint, it used to be, you know, women were attracted to your strength because you could defend them from dinosaurs." Where does the GOP find these geniuses?

Well, this one was one of the crops cultivated by Fox News. Parnell served, apparently honorably, in Afghanistan and wrote a book about his war experiences, but since his discharge, he has sought advancement mostly through public speaking. Becoming famous is a stand-alone career goal these days. Parnell was Diamond and Silk with testosterone. Fox and other right-wing media elevated him. He ran once for Congress — unsuccessfully. That's the whole resume. But Parnell caught the eye of the dauphin, Donald Trump Jr., who told Trump Sr. about him and voila, he was on his way to the U.S. Senate ... until the judge in the above-mentioned hearing awarded full custody of his three children to his ex-wife.

So, with the departure of the dinosaur slayer, the field was open for another clown. We'll come to Dr. Oz in a moment, but first, consider Chris Sununu.

Sununu is the very popular three-term governor of New Hampshire whom Mitch McConnell had been begging to enter the Senate race in 2022. Polls had shown Sununu running seven points ahead of sitting Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. But on November 9, he announced that he would forgo a Senate bid in favor of running for a fourth term as New Hampshire governor.

Sununu may not be your cup of tea as a leader — he isn't mine in all respects — but he has a record. He's for low taxes, state support for substance abusers, the death penalty, school choice, abortion rights, unrestricted gun rights, and LGBT-friendly measures such as permitting a nonbinary designation on driver's licenses. Before running for office, he worked as an environmental engineer and then as CEO of a ski resort that employed about 700 people. All told, a serious person with a checkable resume. Unlike some other northeast Republican governors, Sununu endorsed Donald Trump for reelection.

That Sununu, a solid, substantive politician (with an asterisk for his Trump endorsement), has no interest in an easy glide-path to the United States Senate speaks volumes about the state of the national GOP.

That brings us to Dr. Mehmet Oz. Unlike Parnell, Oz has impressive professional credentials and career accomplishments. He's a cardio-thoracic surgeon and professor at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. He holds degrees from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania (both the business and medical schools).

Oz could be at the pinnacle of America's professional class — respected, well-compensated, privileged to devote his career to caring for others, and teaching rising generations to do the same.

But that wasn't enough for Oz. He wanted to be a TV star. With a boost from Oprah, that's what he became, and before you could say ka-ching, he was hawking "miracle" weight loss drugs. There was green coffee extract: "You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they've found the magic weight-loss cure for every body type." And raspberry ketones: "the No. 1 miracle in a bottle to burn your fat."

He also touted umckaloabo root extract as a cure for cold symptoms (it doesn't work) and lavender soap for leg cramps (don't bother). A 2014 study by Canadian researchers found that only 46 percent of the advice dispensed on The Dr. Oz Show was based on science. The following year, 1,000 physicians signed a letter calling upon Oz to resign from the Columbia faculty. "He's a quack and a fake and a charlatan," wrote Dr. Henry Miller of Stanford.

Maybe prostituting your professional credibility for fraudulent products is nothing to get too exercised about. It certainly isn't new — though the snake oil peddled in the 19th century was at least laced with cocaine or sometimes heroin. But Oz did more than abuse the trust of his audience by selling trash; he veered into outright harm when Covid-19 arrived, advising viewers about a "self-reported" hydroxychloroquine study that showed great results. The con man didn't bother to add that the study had not been peer-reviewed and its subjects consisted only of patients who were already near death.

Dr. Oz abuses every privilege life has handed him. He preys upon people with less knowledge and sophistication. He misleads even when it can cause harm. So, naturally, Sean Hannity is ready to help launch his political career.

Pennsylvania Republicans might have been better off with Parnell, who at least delivers his blows directly, without the smarmy deception.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Twitter Sewage: When Did The Right Abandon Simple Decency?

On Saturday morning, as I was preparing to head to our basement to use the stationary bike, I smelled something. Opening the basement door, I saw something no one ever welcomes on the floors of their homes — running water, ankle-high. Calling to my husband to get the wet/dry vac, I rushed downstairs only to make the second disgusting discovery: This water had raw sewage in it. The source was the drain under the water heater. It just kept coming and coming, a great gusher of awfulness.

And so, the frantic phone calls began. We called the sewer emergency line for Arlington County. We called Servpro. We called plumbers. We called the insurance company. The county said they'd send a crew.

I ran to my neighbors to warn them. One was just pulling into her driveway. When I blurted out the crisis, she froze. "You might want to check your basement!" I repeated, confused at her stare. "I know," she said, "but I'm terrified." Her basement had not been spared.

Meanwhile, our basement had become one huge latrine. The sewage, now five or six inches deep, watery and brown, was swirling around the sofa, the ottoman (did I mention it was a finished basement?), the bedskirt, the rugs, the bookcases, the dog beds and the contents of the closets, and flowing out the back door. It was also surging out of the toilets. The smell was nauseating.

Eventually, a truck with county technicians arrived and finally found a way to make it stop.

Then the angels from Servpro arrived and began the revolting work of cleaning up the mess. They did so with the utmost courtesy and diligence. They didn't complain. They didn't make jokes, thankfully. We were not ready for jokes. Still not, honestly.

We had to spend that night in a hotel and rush back at first light to take care of the pets. For two days, we cleaned and phoned and dealt with failing systems. What was that alarm? The sump pump? The hot water heater? The furnace? What could be saved? What was lost? Family pictures? The Servpro technicians, having cleaned the floors and walls, sprayed disinfectant everywhere. The smell slowly subsided. We slept in our bed on Monday night with every window in the house wide open.

And then came Tuesday. Going down to check on the dehumidifiers and fans, I saw and smelled it again. The sludge. The running water. It was back.As I write, we still have no idea whether the county has found the source of the problem. The flow has stopped, and Servpro is cleaning ... again. And while I am agitated and upset, I am also grateful for the professional way the insurance company, the Servpro people and others have handled the emergency. My family has rallied round (I'm working on this column at my son's house now); my colleagues have offered us their beach houses, spare rooms, etc.

Of course, the Twitter jerks were heard from as well. In the panic Saturday morning, when I couldn't get hold of anyone for a while, I tweeted about our emergency on the off chance that someone in authority in Arlington might see it. Couldn't hurt, right? But, of course, some respondents, in the spirit of the age, let fly with jeers and abuse. "God might have sent it in response to your endorsing candidacies of communists," said one. "Karma is a b——, eh? Pretend it's what used to be your political values getting revenge for your embrace of Democrats," said another.

For the record, most of the comments were sympathetic, but Twitter is its own kind of sewer. The anonymity mixed with the hyper-polarized climate encourages the worst in people. I understand much of what drives conservatives crazy about the left — the language police, the constant attribution of racism and xenophobia to opponents, and the uncritical embrace of fads in the name of inclusion, among other things.

But what I'm still struggling to understand, and frankly doubt I will ever really comprehend, is the right's abandonment of simple decency. Do you remember during the 2020 campaign when Donald Trump's brother died? Joe Biden released a statement: "Mr. President, Jill and I are sad to learn of your younger brother Robert's passing. I know the tremendous pain of losing a loved one — and I know how important family is in moments like these. I hope you know that our prayers are with you all."

Until just a short time ago, that kind of thing would have been utterly unremarkable, one of the thousands of courtesies we extend in a civilized society. But in 2020, after five years of vertiginous descent into coarseness and venom, it seemed like a grace note. I remain mystified that, even if you listen to partisan TV all day long and patronize fact-optional websites, you can discard basic human decency like yesterday's fashion.

I sense that people's anger makes them feel alive and gives them a much-needed sense of community. If you hate together, you're at least together, right? People are too damn atomized. America's families have been in decline for decades, which has weakened communities, and localism generally. The internet has further isolated us, freeing our ids while starving our hearts.

I don't know where this is all headed. Yes, I mean the house, but also the country. We're in the s—— now. Let's hope there's a way out.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Will 'Critical Race Theory' Sink Democrat McAuliffe In Virginia?

Reprinted with permission from Creators

There are two big reasons that Republican Glenn Youngkin shouldn't be within striking distance of Virginia's state house. The first is that Virginia has been trending Democratic over the past decade and a half. Joe Biden won the state by more than 10 points last year.
Read Now Show less

Why General Lee Doesn't Deserve A Statue But Jefferson Does

Reprinted with permission from Creators

In New York City, a statue of Thomas Jefferson has graced the City Council chamber for 100 years. This week, the Public Design Commission voted unanimously to remove it. "Jefferson embodies some of the most shameful parts of our country's history," explained Adrienne Adams, a councilwoman from Queens. Assemblyman Charles Barron went even further. Responding to a question about where the statue should go next, he was contemptuous: "I don't think it should go anywhere. I don't think it should exist."

When iconoclasts topple Jefferson, they seem to validate the argument advanced by defenders of Confederate monuments that there is no escape from the slippery slope. "First, they come for Nathan Bedford Forrest and then for Robert E. Lee. Where does it end? Is Jefferson next? Is George Washington?"

No historical figure is without blemish, they protest. And it's unfair to condemn our ancestors using today's standards. If owning slaves is the discrediting fact about Lee, how then can we excuse George Washington? As if on cue, "TFG" chimed in with a statement chiding the city for "evicting" the "late, great Thomas Jefferson, one of our most important founding fathers." Not so important, apparently, that former President Donald Trump felt the need to learn about him though, because the next phrase was "a principal writer of the Constitution of the United States." Sigh. No, Jefferson was in Paris during the Constitutional Convention. He authored another founding document Trump hasn't read. But never mind.

There is an answer — a reason why it's right to remove Robert E. Lee from his pedestal in Richmond, Virginia, yet wrong to exile Thomas Jefferson from a place of honor in American life. It requires grappling with the full complexity of human beings and the mixed legacy of history. We must, as William Shakespeare said, "Take them for all in all," that is, judge them for their entire lives, not just a part.

People who defend monuments to Lee on the grounds that he played an important role in our history are confusing significance with honor. Lee surely played a huge role in our history, but as the leader of an army whose aim was to destroy the union. That made him a textbook traitor. As Ulysses Grant put it in his memoir, recalling his feelings upon accepting Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, Lee had fought "valiantly" but for a cause that was "one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse."

Is it fair to judge Lee by our modern standards? Perhaps not, but even by the standards of his own day, he is wanting. Much has been made of Lee's supposedly agonizing decision to resign his U.S. Army commission because he could not "raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children." But others, including Gen. Winfield Scott, who offered Lee command of the Union army in 1861, also hailed from Virginia, yet remained loyal, as did Virginian Gen. George Henry Thomas, the "Rock of Chickamauga," and an estimated 100,000 white Southerners who fought for the Union.

Lee's image has been sanitized and even beatified by purveyors of the "Lost Cause" narrative about the Confederacy. They've depicted Lee as an upright, chivalrous defender of tradition, a moral man and a Christian. But, as Adam Serwer reminds us, Lee was a cruel slave master. In the words of Wesley Norris, one of his slaves who attempted to escape and was whipped, "Not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done." As the leader of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee enslaved all of the Black Union soldiers he captured as well as free Black Pennsylvanians his army encountered.

As the author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson enshrined the ideals that made this nation. Jefferson's words formed our national identity as free people and marked a departure in human affairs. A 19th-century Hungarian nationalist, Lajos Kossuth, called the American Declaration of Independence "the noblest, happiest page in mankind's history."

Was Jefferson a hypocrite? Oh, yes. One of history's most flamboyant. He owned slaves and almost certainly fathered children with his dead wife's half sister, Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman. But he never defended the institution (as Lee did), quite the contrary. He wrote, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

Do we overlook Jefferson's shameful private behavior? No, but we take him in full. His contribution to human liberty, despite his personal behavior, entitles him to a place of honor. There will always be an asterisk, but to say that statues honoring him "shouldn't exist," as the New York City assemblyman did, is to dismiss the Declaration, the American anthem.

As for George Washington, there would have been no nation to criticize or lionize without him. If Jefferson was the poet laureate of liberty, Washington was the living exemplar of republican virtue. Having led the revolution, he could have proclaimed himself king or dictator. Some urged him to do so. When King George III was told by the American artist Benjamin West that Washington intended to resign and return to private life after winning his country's freedom, the king said, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world."

He was. Many a revolutionary leader came after him. Most became despots in turn. None has achieved his greatness.

Yes, Washington held human beings in bondage, and that was terrible. Owning slaves is a blight on his record, but the rest shines bright. No nation that has judgment — and gratitude — can fail to honor him forever.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense."To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: mercuryatlasnine at Pixabay

What Nobel Prizes Tell Us About National Greatness


It's Nobel Prize season. The just-announced 2021 winners in medicine/physiology are two Americans, Dr. David Julius and Dr. Ardem Patapoutian, who've done groundbreaking research on the senses of touch, taste, heat and pain. Their joint discoveries may yield new, nonopioid treatments for pain and other breakthroughs.
Read Now Show less

The Grand Old Party Is Now The Party Of Violence

A Republican running for Northampton County executive in Pennsylvania gave a heated address on August 29 about mask mandates in schools. Steve Lynch is tired, he said, of providing his school board arguments and data (he apparently thinks the data support letting kids go maskless), but the important thing about his rant is the threat of force: "Forget into these school boards with frigging data. ... They don't follow the law! You go in and you remove 'em. I'm going in there with 20 strong men."

That's the kind of language that Republicans are now employing. Lynch has not run for public office before, but he did attend the January 6 rally in Washington, D.C., and has posted on social media that the violence that day was a false-flag operation meant to discredit Trump supporters.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina spoke last week at an event sponsored by the Macon County Republican Party. He delivered the kind of lies that have become routine among some Republicans. The election was stolen — and not just the presidential contest but also that won by Gov. Roy Cooper (who defeated his opponent by a quarter of a million votes). Cawthorn told the crowd that vaccines are harmful to children and urged them to "defend their children." A woman asked what he plans to do about the "535 Americans who have been captured from January 6." Cawthorn, who has apparently heard this before, thundered, "Political hostages!" When someone in the crowd asked, "When are you gonna call us back to Washington?" he replied, "We are actively working on that one."

Insurrection talk is becoming Cawthorn's specialty: "If our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it's going to lead to one place — and it's bloodshed."

Naturally, former President Donald Trump has endorsed him for "whatever he wants to do."

In neighboring Tennessee, the Williamson County school board was disrupted by anti-mask parents. As doctors and nurses testified that masks would help limit the spread of COVID-19, people cursed and threatened them: "We will find you!" "We know who you are!"

In Georgia, a mobile vaccination site had to be shut down after anti-vaccine protesters showed up to threaten and harass health care workers. "Aside from feeling threatened themselves, staff realized no one would want to come to that location for a vaccination under those circumstances, so they packed up and left," a spokeswoman for the state health department told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

A survey of the rest of the country yields yet more examples.

We are all old enough to remember a time when election workers were public-spirited citizens, usually elderly, who volunteered their time (or got very modest compensation) to sit for hours at polling sites scanning names from lists of voters and handing out little stickers. That America is gone, driven out by a radicalized Republican party. A number of states with Republican majorities have passed laws that would impose criminal fines of up to $25,000 for "offenses" such as permitting a ballot drop box to be accessible before early voting hours or sending an unsolicited absentee ballot application to a voter.

But that's not the worst of it. Election workers have been hounded and threatened. Bomb threats have been emailed to election sites. "You and your family will be killed very slowly," read a text message sent to Tricia Raffensperger after her husband, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, declined to "find" enough votes to flip the state to Trump. As many as 1 in 3 election workers has reported feeling unsafe, and thousands are resigning.

When Rep. Liz Cheney made the principled decision to vote for Trump's impeachment, she noted that one reason more Republicans might not have chosen to join her was that "there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security — afraid, in some instances, for their lives."

Republicans talk incessantly about other people's violence. The rioters who burned buildings after George Floyd's death. The criminals who make Chicago a murder capital. Immigrants who supposedly terrorize their host nation (they don't).

Criminal violence is a problem, but the kind of violence Republicans are now flirting with or sometimes outright endorsing is political — and therefore on a completely different plane of threat.

Kyle Rittenhouse, an ill-supervised teenager who decided to grab an AR-15 and shoot people at a Kenosha, Wisconsin, riot (killing two and wounding one) was lionized by the GOP. His mother got a standing ovation at a fundraiser in Waukesha. Ashli Babbitt has become a martyr. Allen West, former chair of the Texas GOP, speaks approvingly of secession. Former National Security Adviser and Trump confidant Michael Flynn suggests that we need a Myanmar-style coup. Some 28 percent of Republicans respond affirmatively to the proposition that "because things have gotten so far off track" in the U.S., "true American patriots may have to resort to violence" to save the country.

Maybe that's not so bad? Not even a third. Another poll framed it differently: "The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it." Fifty-six percent of Republicans agreed.

They are playing with fire. Nothing less than democratic legitimacy is on the line. These menacing signals suggest that Jan. 6 may have been the overture, not the finale.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

America Should Vaccinate The World. Now.

About six weeks ago, I wrote a piece urging that the United States take the lead in vaccinating the world. The case for doing so is even more compelling now.

Yes, we've been scratching and clawing at one another domestically over vaccine hesitancy, vaccine disinformation, vaccine mandates, masks, schools and every other damn thing. It's a disgrace that right-wing infotainers have made basic public health the enemy. Masks and vaccines are weak, they sneer, while simultaneously declaring that any effort to mandate them is communism.

But consider how the vaccinophobes would feel if vaccination became the next great American gift to humanity.

Let's start with the selfish reasons to do this.

An American-led, global effort to vaccinate the whole planet would be fantastic for our reputation. The American brand has taken some hits since we presided over Pax Americana in the post-World War II era. The Iraq War, with its images of Abu Ghraib, did real damage. The election of Donald Trump and his truculent "America First" posturing further eroded our standing. The arrival of COVID-19 on the heels of this new American unsteadiness spurred even more suspicion of trade and international travel and led to what the World Bank called "viral protectionism."

While understandable in the first throes of a deadly disease, the long-term consequences of reduced trade would be ruinous — for the United States as much as for other nations. Contrary to the fantasies of some Trumpian protectionists, the U.S. is the world's largest trading nation. Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside our borders, and we've been flourishing by catering to those consumers. A 2019 survey found that one in five of us is employed because of international trade.

So, we want a healthy world that can buy our products and sell us things we need and desire. And we want to be perceived by people from Mexico to Malaysia as a benevolent power that looks out for its citizens first but also considers the well-being of humanity.

Further, as we learned in 2020 (if we didn't understand it already), we cannot wall ourselves off from diseases that cross borders. If COVID-19 variants are stewing in low-vaccination countries such as India, Ukraine, and Nigeria, they can and will threaten the rest of the globe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now advises that the Delta variant, which arose in India, is more transmissible than the common cold, the 1918 Spanish flu, smallpox, Ebola, MERS, and SARS. It also makes people sicker than the original COVID-19.

Here's another reason to vaccinate the world: As I noted in my earlier piece, our vaccines advertise the greatness of America. They work — unlike the inferior products produced by China and Russia. Innovation is one of our strengths, and what better advertisement can there be for an open, entrepreneurial system than a wonder drug that so successfully combats the deadly plague that has plunged the world into chaos?

What about the price? Nothing is free. It is estimated that the cost of vaccinating all 7.8 billion humans (assuming that the vaccine will eventually be approved for children) would be somewhere between $50 and $70 billion. That's it. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost to the U.S. economy from COVID-19 over 10 years will be $7.9 trillion. The U.S. government spent $5.3 trillion (so far) to mitigate the pandemic's effects. These sums do not include the emotional cost of more than 600,000 lives lost, the fatherless and motherless children or the thousands suffering "long-haul COVID-19." It does not include the social and emotional cost of more than a year of lost schooling and the forfeited potential advancement of millions of women who left the labor force.

Yes, $50 to $70 billion is a lot of money, but it's dirt cheap compared with the costs of COVID-19. Democrats and Republicans are currently considering a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Fine, but the problems the infrastructure bill addresses are long-term; they are not emergencies.

Consider that the next variant may be even worse than Delta. It may, rather than mostly sparing the young as the current iteration does, target them as the 1918 flu did. It is no disrespect to the old (I'm getting there myself) to say that that would be infinitely worse.

Though we can easily afford the cost of vaccinating the world, we really wouldn't need to shoulder the whole burden ourselves. If President Joe Biden led an effort by the wealthy nations of the world, he would surely find willing partners. He could request an emergency session of the G-20 to get this moving.

Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton were fond of quoting Alexis de Tocqueville to the effect that "America is great because she is good." Alas, like so many famous quotations, this one is made up. But it's not a stretch to suggest that the reason the fake quote resonated was that it captured an aspiration. For all of our many flaws, there is something in the American soul that longs for righteousness, that is willing to undertake burdens, that feels a sense of mission to lift up a battered world.

Vaccinating the world is within our scope, and though it would redound to our benefit as much as anyone's, it would nevertheless be an act of vision and even nobility. It would honor our forebears and inspire our descendants.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense.To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

Why It May Be Too Late For Cheney And Kinzinger

I wish I could be a Cheney fan. I really do. Rep. Liz Cheney has conducted herself honorably for the past nine months. Her courage in telling the truth about the election and the insurrection of Jan. 6 has been punished by the Republican conference, which booted her from leadership and replaced her with the lying, scheming Trumpist, Rep. Elise Stefanik. Former President Donald Trump is apparently working feverishly to unseat Cheney from Congress altogether, and his lickspittle lieutenants are joining the effort.

The invertebrate minority leader, Kevin McCarthy — who, let's recall, declared on January 13 that "the president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters" — has long since scurried back under Trump's skirts, from whence he issues barbs against the few remaining Republicans who still have some principles. McCarthy sniped that Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the other Republican appointed to the Jan. 6 committee over the objections of party leadership, are "Pelosi Republicans."

The opening segments of the January 6 select committee hearings were another fine moment for Cheney. She began by thanking the police officers who testified about their experiences defending the Capitol that day:

"Thank you to each of the witnesses appearing before us today. ... You defended the Constitution and our Republic, and every American owes you our undying gratitude. Every American, I hope, will be able to hear your testimony today and will watch the videos. The videos show the unbelievable violence and the inexcusable and intolerable cruelty that you all faced, and people need to know the truth."

She went on to outline the stakes:

"If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our Constitutional Republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system."

Those are good words, and as I said above, I respect Cheney's willingness to pay a price. She understood that by taking on the "Big Lie" and the almost-as-consequential lie about what happened on January 6, she was risking her leadership position, her seat and possibly her own security. Every word of truth that she (and Kinzinger) utters is like a balm of Gilead.

And yet, the voice in the back of my head keeps saying, "Is it too late?"

Both Cheney and Kinzinger, may they live to be 120, had many, many earlier opportunities to extinguish this forest fire before it became a raging inferno. Both supported Trump's reelection in 2020. Kinzinger said he was "upset" by President Joe Biden's victory. Cheney appeared on Fox and Friends in July 2020, and while she allowed that she disagreed with Trump on some issues, most notably withdrawal from Afghanistan, she emphasized how important it was that Trump be reelected: "Whether or not we have debates and discussions internally — as I'm sure we continue, we will continue to do — we are going to be absolutely united going forward on the big issues, and I'm not going any place."

Both Cheney and Kinzinger voted against the first Trump impeachment. They stuck with their support for his reelection, despite the first debate with Biden, despite the catastrophic handling of COVID-19, despite Trump's green light to China's Uyghur camps, despite QAnon, and despite the avalanche of lies and cruelty that corrupted America's soul — and prepared the ground for the violent insurrection they are now investigating.

Is it welcome that they finally found a line they couldn't cross? A thousand times, yes. But how might this story have unfolded differently if they, and thousands of other Republicans, had found their uncrossable lines sooner?

You can say, "The base is calling the shots, and the elected are just following what the voters demand." That's nonsense. The base doesn't get its ideas from nowhere. It gets them from Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and the rest of the conservative media world. And it gets them from elected officials. To paraphrase what Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn told the Jan. 6 committee: When elected officials give permission, there is no limit to the violence that may ensue.

Trump was the arsonist. But if every time he dropped a match on the dry tinder of American polarization, Republican elected officials and others had leaped to extinguish the small flames, we would not be here.

And where is here? We have seen the end of 160 years of the peaceful transfer of power. We've seen the majestic United States Capitol turned into a scene from a dystopian fantasy; an armed mob attempting to subvert an election. They smashed and tortured and caused deaths. They erected a gallows and hunted for the speaker of the House and for the vice president. And Republicans, almost to a man and woman, are excusing, downplaying or whitewashing what happened. An entire political party has abandoned commitment to the rule of law.

To speak up now, well, it's better than nothing. But it's a little like saying you'll take away a drunk's driver's license after he crashed into and killed an 8-year-old. What about all of those times when you saw him get behind the wheel after five drinks and did nothing?

Trump attacked the basics of American democracy. The consequences were foreseeable. There were countless warnings. The great tragedy of this moment is not that Trump attempted what he did, but that so few Republicans tried to stop him when it would have made a difference.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense.To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

There’s A Better Way To Protect Democracy Than H.R. 1

When Sen. Joe Manchin announced he would oppose the For the People Act, Steve Benen of MSNBC spoke for many Democrats when he declared that "Joe Manchin is prepared to be remembered by history as the senator who did little more than hope as his country's democracy unraveled."

One can share Democrats' alarm about the state of our democracy without concluding that the For the People Act was the answer.

H.R. 1 is a mashup of sound ideas (requiring a paper record of each vote) with outdated and arguably unconstitutional measures (banning so-called dark money at a time when small-dollar donations are more important); and limiting speech, which the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, opposes.

Some are now saying the Democrats should turn to the John Lewis Act as a response to Republican efforts to curtail voting rights in the states. But the Lewis Act is off-point, too.

Look, Republican efforts to limit early and absentee voting are destructive because they ratify the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen. These laws deserve the strongest condemnation, and Democrats would be justified in running ads reminding voters that Republicans were acting in bad faith.

But not all of the measures in these laws are objectionable. Requiring an ID strikes many people as simple common sense. An Economist/YouGov poll in April found that 64 percent of Americans agreed with the statement: "Photo ID should be required to vote in person." Among African Americans, 60 percent agreed. Democrats should not die on this hill.

Moreover, the far more pressing emergency is the Republican Party's loosening attachment to democratic procedures and to truth itself. As we saw in the aftermath of 2020, 147 Republican officeholders were willing to decertify the Electoral College count. A few brave local Republican officials resisted tremendous pressure to alter or misreport the results of elections. They demonstrated integrity. For their trouble, instead of being lauded and celebrated as heroes of democracy, they have been censured by GOP committees across the country as the legend of the Big Lie has seized the minds of rank-and-file Republicans.

The Republican Party is barreling toward disregarding the actual vote count in a presidential contest. The John Lewis Act does not address this.

There is something Democrats can do at the federal level to respond to the threat: They can amend the Electoral Count Act of 1887. Republicans would be unlikely to filibuster this law, so Democrats can pass it with a simple majority vote.

This law was passed following the contentious Hayes-Tilden election in 1876 — a contest that was so close it threatened to tear the country apart just 11 years after Appomattox. Here is a sample of its brilliant draftsmanship:

"If more than one return or paper purporting to be a return from a State shall have been received by the President of the Senate, those votes, and those only, shall be counted which shall have been regularly given by the electors who are shown by the determination mentioned in section 5 of this title to have been appointed, if the determination in said section provided for shall have been made."

It goes on and on like that. Laws should not be written to obscure but to clarify.

The law directs governors to certify their states' results and the slate of electors chosen by the voters. But it also specifies that in a case of a "failed election" (not defined) in which the voters have not made a choice, the state legislature can step in to appoint electors.

As the votes were being counted in 2020, Republican influencers like radio host Mark Levin were suggesting that state legislatures had a "constitutional duty" to reverse the will of the voters and name their own slate of Trump electors. When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was asked by Sean Hannity about possibly invalidating votes, he said, "Everything should be on the table."

The Electoral Count Act decrees that if one representative and one senator object, in writing, to the counting of any state's electoral votes, the bodies must adjourn to their chambers to debate the matter.

As Ed Kilgore has recommended, Congress should amend the Electoral Count Act to clarify that only electoral votes certified by individual states will be counted and that the vice president's role is purely ceremonial. Further, the threshold for objections to state electoral vote counts should be much higher than two.

I would add that a supermajority should be required to decertify any state's electoral votes, not just a simple majority as the law now permits. Additionally, the law should be amended to eliminate the "failed election" section that empowers legislatures to substitute their preference for that of the voters. There are armies of law professors who can provide relevant language and good ideas for other changes.

Forget H.R. 1. Forget campaign finance. Don't perseverate on whether poll watchers can distribute water to voters waiting in line. It's not the vote casting but the vote counting that needs attention. Now.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Sidney Powell Admits It Was All A (Very Big) Lie

The Big Lie is starting to unravel. One of Donald Trump's disinformation stars, Sidney Powell, is backing down. But while we're considering the matter of truth and lies, let's recall when conservatives cared about truth (or seemed to).

In the 1990s, Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchu was a phenomenon. Of Mayan descent, she offered harrowing testimony about the conduct of the Guatemalan military during that country's civil war. Her 1983 as-told-to memoir, I, Rigoberta Menchu was a sensation. In 1992, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

When it came to light that Menchu had distorted key aspects of her autobiography, right and left responded very differently. David Stoll, an anthropologist, learned through archival research and interviews with more than 120 people that some of her tales were false. A younger brother she said had died of starvation never existed. Another brother, whom she claimed had been tortured to death in front of her parents, died in completely different circumstances. A New York Times investigation confirmed Stoll's findings.

Liberals tended to excuse Menchu, on the grounds that her story revealed a "larger truth." Some argued that while details of her story might not have been strictly true, the overall narrative remained valid because it "raised our collective consciousness" about the Maya people.

Conservatives were appalled that Menchu's Nobel Prize was not rescinded, and galled that some liberals defended Menchu's invocation of "my truth." There was no "my truth" or "your truth" they countered. There was only the truth.

The Menchu story comes to mind because this week we've witnessed further evidence of just how corrupted the right has become. The assault on truth is Donald Trump's most damaging legacy.

It's not good for Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic that allies of the president grossly defamed them, but it may turn out to be good for the country that they are availing themselves of legal remedies.

Powell, a key propagandist in Trump's big lie about the 2020 election, has issued a response to Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit. Let's review some of the statements Powell made after the election:

Appearing on Newsmax on Nov. 17, Powell said she had a video showing Dominion founder John Poulos bragging, "I can change a million votes, no problem at all." The video did not exist.

At a press conference with Rudy Giuliani and others, Powell said Dominion had been "created in Venezuela by Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost an election." She said the machines had an algorithm that automatically flipped votes, and that George Soros' "No. 2 person" was "one of the leaders of the Dominion project." Also false.

Her tone has changed.

The reply Powell's lawyers issued to Dominion's complaint is a climb down. After challenging the court's jurisdiction and venue (standard lawyer maneuvers) and adding the claim that her comments were First Amendment-protected political speech, they get to the substance and things get truly mind-bending.

Sure, Powell's reply acknowledges, she made a series of claims about the election being stolen, but because she was clearly speaking in a political context, her comments must be construed as standard political exaggeration.

The election truther's argument, then, is that any factual claim, no matter how false, is insulated from consequences under defamation law if it is connected to politics. This is worse than "my truth." This is the claim that any politically motivated lie is fine.

But Powell takes it to another level. She next argues that the very outlandishness of her false statements is a defense. Sure, her reply acknowledges, Powell had said, "Democrats were attempting to steal the election and had developed a computer system to alter votes electronically." But "no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact."

So, that's it. The great lie that has poisoned our politics and inspired an attack on the Capitol and bids to become the incubus of future extremism and violence was such absurd bilge that "no reasonable person would believe it."

Of course, millions of Americans did and do believe it. The crazed mob that stormed the Capitol believed every word. Polls have found that between two-thirds and three-quarters of Republicans believe the election was fraudulent.

This is not about Powell or even about Trump anymore. It's about the complete abdication of integrity by leaders on the right — Republican officeholders, conservative opinion leaders, right-wing TV and so forth. At first they countered Trump's lies. Soon after, they began to avoid them. Next, they pretended to find them amusing. Then they shrugged. Finally, they joined. When enough people in authority tell lies, they cripple their audience's capacity for reason. A few meritorious lawsuits cannot repair that.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the Beg to Differ podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

J.D. Vance Joins The Jackals

The question of what will become of the Republican Party in the post-Trump era seems to be on everyone's lips. A New York Times survey found that Republicans themselves have five distinct views of Donald Trump, including 35 percent who are either "Never Trump" or "Post Trump." But 65 percent fall into the "Die-hard" camp (27 percent), the "Trump Booster" faction (28 percent), or the "InfoWars" segment (ten percent).

Whatever the future of the Republican Party will be, the shape-shifting J.D. Vance sheds light on the dynamics of how we got here and where the Republican Party is headed. This week, billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel announced that he is donating $10 million to a super PAC supporting Vance's potential run for the United States Senate seat from Ohio.

Vance today is a fixture of the Trumpist right, but that isn't the way he debuted. Not at all.

Rarely does a nonfiction book make the kind of splash Hillbilly Elegy did in 2016. I was part of the cheering section. Vance emerged as an authentic voice of the working class — a self-styled "hillbilly" no less — to declare that the problems of many working-class people were largely self-inflicted.

Or perhaps a better way to say it is that their problems are a matter of personal choices. Drug abuse, welfare dependency, domestic violence, irresponsible spending, and family disintegration were all omnipresent in Vance's family and community. The stories of his upbringing are harrowing. He described his home life as "extraordinarily chaotic." His grandmother once attempted to murder his grandfather by dousing his bed with gasoline and lighting a match (he survived).

In a 2016 interview, Vance told Rod Dreher that his mother probably cycled through 15 husbands/boyfriends during his childhood. Family disintegration was the greatest handicap Vance and others like him were saddled with. "Of all the things that I hated about my childhood," he wrote, "nothing compared to the revolving door of father figures."

His depiction of working-class life wasn't a complete rejection of his origins. He stressed that he loved his family, and that a majority (even if a bare majority) of his community does work hard. For children trapped in dysfunctional homes, one can have nothing but sympathy. And he believed that elites did fail to evince much understanding for people who were struggling. On the other hand, he was keen to counter the pervasive sense of helplessness in the community he was raised in. "There is a lack of agency here — a feeling that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself."

In a sense, Vance was the anti-Trump. He was a true son of Appalachia striving to lift his community, in contrast to the faux populist from Manhattan seeking to flatter and exploit them. Vance felt that they needed hope and a generous dose of honesty. Trump offered fantasies and cunningly curated hatred.

During his 2016 book tour, Vance was not shy about his disdain for Trump. When NPR's Terry Gross asked how he planned to vote in November, he said: "I can't stomach Trump. I think that he's noxious and is leading the white working class to a very dark place." And appearing on the podcast I hosted at the time, Need to Know, Vance recalled texting his editor to say that, "If Trump wins it would be terrible for the country, but good for book sales."

But a funny thing happened after the introduction of J.D. Vance, anti-Trump voice of the working class. He began to drift into the Trump camp. I don't know why or how, but Vance became not a voice for the voiceless but an echo of the loudmouth. Scroll through his Twitter feed and you will find retweets of Tucker Carlson, alarmist alerts about immigration, links to Vance's appearances on the podcasts of Seb Gorka, Dinesh D'Souza, and the like, and even retweets of Mike Cernovich. But the tweet that really made my heart sink was this one from Feb. 12: "Someone should have asked Jeffrey Epstein, John Weaver, or Leon Black about the CRAZY CONSPIRACY that many powerful people were predators targeting children."

By citing the cases of Jeffrey Epstein and John Weaver, one a convicted abuser of underage girls and the other an accused abuser of teenage boys, he is whitewashing the QAnon conspiracy.

Jeffrey Epstein was a despicable creep. John Weaver seems to have done bad things (though he has not been convicted of anything yet). But the QAnon conspiracy teaches that a cabal of leading Democrats and Hollywood celebrities sexually abuses not teenagers but little children, and then eats them. No decent human being should in any way remotely suggest, far less with all caps, that those conspiracies might not be so crazy.

I'm not sure which is worse: that Vance, who just four years ago lamented the rise of conspiracy theories on the right, is now helping to foment one of the worst, or that the Republican base is so warped that ambitious men feel the need to sink into the sewer in search of political success.

Vance's slide from path-breaking writer to Trumpist troll tracks perfectly with the decline of the Republican Party. Peter Thiel clearly believes his new incarnation will win votes. And it may. But to quote Vance back at himself, if he does win, "it will be terrible for the country."

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the Beg to Differ podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

Why Liberals -- And Conservatives -- Should Back Romney’s Child Bill

It may be coincidence that the best policy idea to come out of the 117th Congress was offered by the one guy who has demonstrated the integrity to brave harassment and death threats to do what's right vis a vis former President Donald Trump. Mitt Romney has an excellent plan to reduce child poverty.

This country has a serious child problem. Our birth rates are low and heading lower, which endangers the prospects for Social Security and Medicare for our large elderly population. Also, old countries tend to lack dynamism, which has always been an American specialty. Some couples are happy with their small family sizes, but most Americans want more children (2.7) than they are likely to have (1.8).

About 20% of American kids live in poverty compared with 13% among all OECD countries. Part of the reason our kids are struggling is due to changes in family structure. Though the marriage norm has declined nearly everywhere, the U.S. holds the dubious distinction of leading the developed world in unstable adult relationships. Child Trends reports that the 2017 poverty rate for children in married couple families was 8.4%. For kids in single mother homes, the poverty rate was 40.7%.

Clearly, a return to the two-parent norm (updated to include same-sex marriages) would be ideal. But that is a complicated cultural matter that governments have limited capacity to affect — except, as the Romney Family Plan envisions, we can at least stop doing the things that penalize marriage. Our system of getting aid to children is convoluted. Because we Americans love to disguise spending as "tax policy," we offer a "child care tax credit" along with a child allowance included in the Earned Income Tax Credit. The poorest families receive TANF. The way the EITC is structured, an analysis for the Niskanen Center demonstrates, can cost couples between 15% and 25% of income if they marry. Also, the child care tax credit, which the Biden administration's proposal would expand, serves as a pass-through to increase prices for providers without helping the average family choose the kind of relative-provided or local child care arrangements that most families prefer. It also preferences paid day care over parental care.

The Romney proposal would sweep away TANF, the tax credits and the rest in favor of a simplified and more generous child allowance of $4,200 per year for children up to age 6, and $3,000 per year for children ages 6-17.

Conservatives worry about the disincentive to work inherent in traditional welfare programs, which reasonable. But part of the old "poverty trap" was not the child allowance per se but the implicit high marginal tax on earnings as parents reentered the workforce. Niskanen points to Canada's experience with a direct child allowance, finding that labor force participation actually increased after their child allowance was increased in 2016.

Another benefit of Romney's approach is that it respects the wishes of parents. There's a weakness on the left for the idea of clean, bright day care centers staffed by Ph.D.s. But a quick glance at the local public school should be enough to raise doubts about the supply of "high quality" care. In fact, most day care arrangements are far from ideal. Here again, Canada's recent experience is instructive. Quebec instituted a $5 per day universal day care in 1997. The number of families placing preschoolers in care jumped by 33%. But a study published in 2015 by the National Bureau of Economic Research found some disturbing results. Compared with kids from other provinces, Quebec's kids were less healthy and less satisfied with life. Most strikingly, Quebec experienced a spike in crime among the teenagers who had been in day care as children.

The direct child allowance gives parents the flexibility to make decisions about care. Some will use professional daycare centers, others will opt for help from relatives and friends, and still others will use the extra income to permit one parent to stay at home while the kids are little.

Romney's proposal is also pro-life. Family incomes tend to decline in the second half of pregnancy, so Romney's child allowance would begin four months before a child's birth. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, some 28% of abortion patients cite financial worries as one of the reasons for terminating a pregnancy.

Poverty isn't good for anyone, but arguably child poverty is more damaging to society than any other kind. An Institute for Social and Economic research paper found that for every 1% increase in unemployment during the Great Recession, there was a 25% increase in child neglect. This effect was muted in states with more generous safety nets. Niskanen estimates that Romney's proposal would reduce child poverty by one-third and cut deep poverty in half. It would accomplish this without adding to the deficit since the proposal contains offsets (specifically, eliminating the state and local tax exemption that mostly benefits wealthy individuals in high tax states).

This is what policymaking is supposed to look like. With any luck, Romney's proposal will at least spark debate on a critical challenge for our country. A few years ago, that would have been normal. In 2021, it would be nirvana.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is "Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense." To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

How The Party Of Lincoln Became A Danger To The Republic

Off and on for 25 years, I participated in National Review cruises as a speaker. I met lots of wonderful people who were intelligent, curious, and great company — but there were always cranks and conspiracy theorists, too. Once, during the Clinton administration, people at my dinner table were repeating the story that Hillary Clinton had killed Vince Foster. I choked down my bite of chicken Kiev and responded, as equably as possible, "Well, for that to be true, she would also have had to transport his body to Fort Marcy Park without the Secret Service or anyone else noticing." Several people at the table blinked back at me. Yeah? So?

In later years, I noticed that cruisers weren't citing mainstream publications for their information. They were getting their news from email lists and subscription newsletters.

Read Now Show less

To Dispel Trumpism, Begin By Restoring Truth

The photo looks faked. It's so heavy-handed. A grinning Australian soldier, his insignia clear as day on his helmet and arm, stands on the Australian flag holding a small, barefoot Afghan child in front of him. He grasps a bloody knife to the child's throat. The caption reads "Don't be afraid, we are coming to bring you peace!"

This not particularly well-disguised piece of propaganda (it's the work of Chinese graphic artist Fu Yu, aka Qilin) was posted to Twitter by the government of China, part of a broad-based campaign China is waging against Australia. Why? Simple: Australia has told the truth.

Read Now Show less

To Explain Voting For Trump, Conservatives Offer Feeblest Excuses

Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal. — Robert Heinlein

Among many lessons learned over the last excruciating four years is this: Partisanship is a more potent drug than heroin. I consider myself to be in recovery but by no means cured. After decades of Republican loyalty, I now devoutly desire a Republican loss.

Read Now Show less

Authentic Conservatives Have No Political Party Now

Kelly Loeffler looked like a standard-issue Republican when she was appointed senator from Georgia in December 2019. She came from a super-rich family (like plenty of Democrats as well), she was pro-gun, anti-immigration, and pro-business. Originally pro-choice, her position on abortion evolved in time for her to be accepted by pro-life gatekeepers.

Once in Washington, D.C., though, Loeffler quickly got with the program. She described the impeachment of the president as a "circus" and lambasted Mitt Romney for even voting to call witnesses, whom she was sure would "slander @realDonald Trump." Now, she's encouraging hero worship of Trump, tweeting: "COVID stood NO chance against @realDonaldTrump."

Read Now Show less