Why Progressives Should Care About The 'Family Gap'

Economist Melissa Kearney has studied poverty, inequality and family structure for more than 20 years and come to the conclusion that America's drift away from the two-parent norm has "contributed to the economic insecurity of American families, has widened the gap in opportunities and outcomes for children from different backgrounds, and today poses economic and social challenges that we cannot afford to ignore."

She is hardly alone among her social science peers in reaching this conclusion. As she relates in her new book, The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind, these insights are more or less commonplace among those who study the matter. The facts aren't in serious dispute — the wisdom of saying it out loud is another matter. Wary of seeming preachy — or worse, conservative — most social scientists recoil from talking about family structure when considering the matter of poverty and child outcomes.

Unsurprisingly, her book has been greeted skeptically by progressives and enthusiastically by conservatives. Progressives were quick to label Kearney a "scold" and to object that they were being "lectured" to get married.

As I documented in my own book, Sex Matters, marriage has been in decline at least in part because it was sabotaged. Feminists argued that marriage was essentially a male conspiracy to keep women unfulfilled, submissive, and servile. Radical feminists scorned married women for "sleeping with the enemy."

Their arguments carried the day, or at least contributed to what came next. Marriage rates, especially for the poor and working class, cratered.

The consequences for children were stark. In 1980, 77 percent of American children lived with their married parents. By 2019, only 63 percent did. Among the college-educated, 84 percent of children still live with married parents, which is a solid majority, if down a bit from 90 percent in 1980. But among those with a high school degree or some college, only 60 percent of children are living with married parents (down from 83 percent). So today when you enter a hospital nursery, 4 out of 10 babies will be children of single moms. As significant as the class divide is, the racial divide is wider. In 1960, 67% of Black children lived with their married parents. In 2019, only 38 percent did.

As Kearney carefully documents, children in mother-only homes are five times more likely to live in poverty than children with two parents. Poverty is not conducive to thriving, but even for kids who are not poor, those who grow up with only one parent fare worse than others on everything from school to work to trouble with the law. Boys raised without fathers and/or without good adult male influences in their lives are less likely to attend college, be employed as adults or remain drug-free.

It's unfair to suggest, as many of Kearney's critics have, that she is a scold. She's not chastising single mothers. Her book overflows with sympathy for the difficulties of raising kids alone. If she's scolding anyone it's the educated class that has imposed omerta on the subject of family structure. Nor is she unaware that some marriages cannot be saved and that many kids raised by single parents turn out fine.

Progressives tend to respond to the family gap with calls for more government support for single-parent families. Kearney is fine with that, and advocates it herself. But her book is realistic about the limits of financial resources to address this problem. Two parents provide more to kids than money. She notes that a "child born in a two-parent household with a family income of $50,000 has, on average, better outcomes than a child born in a single-parent household with the same income."

One reason is that two parents share the stress of parenting — the sleep deprivation, the appointments, the scheduling conflicts, the missed work, the terrible twos — the lot. When there are two parents to share the load, both have more "emotional bandwidth" to meet their children's needs and more opportunity to take care of themselves. In true economist style, Kearney notes that having two adults permits for "task specialization."

Frankly, the case that two are better than one when it comes to raising children is open and shut.

But the critics do raise a point that Kearney cannot answer — and neither can I. It's the problem posed by The Washington Post's Christine Emba, among others, who agrees that two-parent families are best and that marriage is the gold standard, but "plausible marriage partners for heterosexual women are thin on the ground."

There may not be a solution for all of today's single women who are hoping for marriage. Pew estimates that one in four unmarried adults (as of 2012) would likely never marry. But for the kids who are growing up now, Kearney does have ideas. These include increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and other programs that will enhance the economic position of low-income men, scaling up the efforts of groups like Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Becoming a Man, promoting and supporting co-parenting among non-married couples, and above all, reviving the norm that marriage is best for kids.

As a bonus, it's also good for grown-ups.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her new book, Hard Right: The GOP's Drift Toward Extremism, is available now.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.


The World's Oldest Hatred Roars Back Into Fashion

In one day of savagery, Hamas brought the world's oldest hatred into the mainstream. The upwelling of antisemitism around the globe, and especially in the United States, mocks the naivety of those who imagined that the oldest hatred was mostly in the past, that Israel could be a normal nation, or that a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue could be realized in the near future. American Jews, stunned by the worst mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust, are reeling from the lack of basic decency shown by many progressives. If your ideology blinds you to the crimes of rape, arson, kidnapping and mass murder, what is there to discuss?

No more hiding behind "anti-Zionism is not antisemitism." This moment, for all its horror, is at least clarifying. Jewish schools and synagogues are closing around the globe. Vandals stenciled Stars of David on the doors of Jewish homes in Paris. What has Zionism to do with that?

Criticizing the Israeli government, or even generally taking the side of Palestinians over Israelis, is not anti-Zionism. No, anti-Zionism is dehumanizing hatred of Israelis and Jews. It's the denial of Israel's right to exist and the hunger to punish, harm or kill Jews wherever they may live. It is indistinguishable from antisemitism.

Raw, Jew-hating anti-Zionism can be found in statements like that of Columbia professor Joseph Massad praising the "resistance's remarkable takeover" of Israeli bases and checkpoints and calling the 10/7 attack "awesome" and "striking." We see it in the mob in Sydney, Australia, that gathered to celebrate — yes, celebrate — the mass murder with cries of "Gas the Jews." We see it in the mob at Cooper Union college shouting antisemitic slogans at a group of Jewish students who were barricaded in the library for their safety.

The depravity of Hamas's useful idiots is matched only by their ignorance. In Philadelphia last weekend, I passed a pro-Hamas demonstration. One protestor's sign read "Free Palestine" and was decorated with a hammer and sickle. The cross-cutting inconsistencies here are legion. Hamas is an Islamist movement that believes in strict adherence to sharia law, persecutes homosexuals and represses women. But they are the oppressed, according to the moral hierarchies in vogue on the left. The protesters also decry Israel as a "settler colonial" state. Sorry, that's rubbish.

There have been Jews in Israel since Biblical times of course (and Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority for hundreds of years), but the modern settlement of the land began in the 1880s when Jews from Europe arrived, inspired by the Zionist idea. They were not colonists for any European power. They were fleeing European persecution. Several more waves of migrants came in the following decades, especially after the severe pogroms of the early 1900s. They did not push anyone out of their homes or land. They purchased land legally and openly.

Israel is also routinely accused of genocide, which is satisfying for the kind of person who thinks, "Why can't they shut up about the Holocaust?" But it's a lie. Israel has for 16 years absorbed thousands of missiles fired over the border into southern Israel with only limited responses. They built the Iron Dome system and safe rooms instead of attempting to destroy Gaza. But the rule cannot be that Hamas can target Israeli grandmothers, families and babies for kidnapping, rape, death and dismemberment but Israel cannot pursue them because they hide among their own civilians. That would amount to surrender to terrorism.

The Hamas apologists who point to the suffering of Palestinian civilians are not wrong about the suffering — though they cannot see the obvious responsibility of Hamas for starting this war. A pre-10/7 poll of Palestinians in Gaza found that 62 percent wanted to preserve the ceasefire. In any case, Gazans haven't been given a vote since 2006, so Hamas's claim to legitimacy is essentially nonexistent.

There is also a strange selectivity among Hamas apologists in their concern for civilians. They overlook the glaringly obvious moral distinction between intentionally targeting civilians and inadvertently harming civilians. Hamas makes war on Israeli and Palestinian civilians, in the first case through the most vicious violence imaginable and in the second through using them as human shields for missiles and terror headquarters. Yet their apologists give them a pass for both. They also display notable indifference to what is happening to the civilians in other parts of the world: in Yemen (15,000 killed), or Nagorno-Karabakh (100,000 Armenians ethnically cleansed and forced to flee their homes), or Burma (25,000 Rohingya killed, 18,000 raped), or Syria (306,000 civilians killed including 30,000 children, 12 million forced to flee their homes). It's almost as if it doesn't matter how many people suffer and die — that doesn't disturb the sleep of Hamas's defenders. What matters is whom you most hate. Israel and Jews top the list.

There was a time when respectable observers who sympathized with the Palestinians would emphasize their desire for "two states for two peoples." No longer. The protesters and Ivy League professors who proclaim their support for a "free" Palestine "from the river to the sea" are not asking for a tame, two-state solution. The river is the Jordan. The sea is the Mediterranean. What lies between is Israel. Hamas has never made a secret of its rejection of the two-state idea. The slogan envisions at least massive ethnic cleansing, and after 10/7 only a fool would imagine that genocide is unthinkable. There would doubtless be cheers in Paris and Sydney and Dagestan if it came to pass. And that only underscores the original Zionist raison d'etre. There must be an Israel because the world's oldest hatred will never die.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her new book, Hard Right: The GOP's Drift Toward Extremism, is available now.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Joe Biden

Yes, Biden Is Old -- But His Stamina And Mental Condition Are Good

Our octogenarian president traveled 8,000 miles to meet with India's premier, Narendra Modi, and to attend the G20 summit in New Delhi. He then flew another 2,000 miles to visit America's new pal, Vietnam — all over the course of just five days. That's a demanding trip, even for a younger person. After meeting for several hours with the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong, Biden held a formal press conference. And he did fine.

Yes, his voice is weaker than it used to be, and his gait is stiff, but on the matter that currently has 62% of the public seriously worried — namely, whether he has the mental acuity to serve as president — his performance should be reassuring.

The public's perception of Biden's mental decline is out of all proportion to reality. A May NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 69% of registered independent voters believe Biden's mental fitness is a real concern. A more recent CNN poll found that 73% are seriously concerned that his physical and mental health might not be adequate for another term. Even among Democrats, only 49% say he has the stamina and mental sharpness to serve another term. At dinner parties, people say the president has dementia.

To be clear, it would be better to have a younger president seeking reelection — and I would like to be four inches taller and gifted at the cello. But we got what we got, and part of being a grown-up is accepting reality.

There is no way to watch Biden's Hanoi press conference and not recognize that his brain is working fine. He responds to questions in appropriate fashion. His words are diplomatically chosen, and his thoughts follow in logical order.

Anyone who has ever had a friend or relative with dementia knows that this is nothing like what they sound like. They repeat themselves constantly without self-awareness. They don't distinguish between things that happened that morning and things that happened years ago. They get angry and tearful for no apparent reason. Dementia is a devastating disease and quite different from normal aging. In fact, while the percentage of people with dementia rises with age, only about 10% of those aged 70 and older suffer from it.

Now, have a look at Biden's press conference. He was asked about a Chinese official's accusation that Biden was "insincere" about the relationship with China, and also whether he thought Chinese President Xi Jinping was sincere in light of his recent move to "ban" Apple in China. Biden had trouble hearing the first part of the question (OK, that is his age showing), but then gave a careful answer.

He declined the implied invitation to get into a spitting match with Xi and emphasized that "we're not looking to hurt China ... We're all better off if China does well," adding that "if China does well by the international rules, it grows the (world's) economy." To underline that point, he noted that "It's not about isolating China. It's about making sure the rules of the road — everything from airspace and — and space and in the ocean is — the international rules of the road are ... abided by."

Without overt threats or intemperate words, Biden then noted that he is building and/or bolstering alliances with other Asian nations. "That's what this trip was all about: having India cooperate much more with the United States, be closer with the United States, Vietnam being closer with the United States. It's not about containing China; it's about having a stable base — a stable base in the Indo-Pacific."

I could have done without the too-clever-by-half tactic of calling only upon female journalists (a reprise of an Obama gimmick from 2014). And Biden's acknowledgement at the start that the five questioners had been chosen in advance was a mistake. He introduced the Q and A by saying, "And now, I will take your questions. Let me see. They told me — they gave me five people here," which made him seem directed by others instead of in charge. And he stumbled over their names all the same.

But in the course of his basically direct, non-meandering answers, he touted the new rail and shipping corridor just announced at the G20 that will link India to Europe; noted that the United States has the world's strongest economy; praised a past Republican senator for working with poorer nations to maintain forest land; and mentioned the amount of carbon the Amazon rainforest absorbs.

At one point he did sound like a geezer, quoting from a John Wayne movie, but that was one deviation from an otherwise workmanlike performance.

Biden's physical presentation — the slow and careful walk, the slightly pitched posture — suggests age more than his words. But, bottom line: He is perfectly capable of thinking on his feet. Too many Americans have come to believe that he is in sharp mental decline. When you see him in a Q and A, it's clear that he isn't, and people need to know that.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her new book, Hard Right: The GOP's Drift Toward Extremism, is available now.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Joe Biden

Why Biden's Age Might Not Be A Problem After All

Confession: For the past couple of years, I fell into the "Biden shouldn't run again" camp. Too old. Better not to ask Americans to reelect a man who will be 82 in November of 2024 and ... you know the rest. Nikki Haley summed it up tactlessly in April: "The idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely."

But I've thought better of it. Yes, Biden is the oldest man ever elected president and bids fair to break his own record, but that's not entirely a bad thing.

We're all familiar with the usual narrative. Americans are awfully dubious about Biden's fitness. Only 32 percent in a recent poll said he has the "mental sharpness to serve effectively as president," and a mere 33 percent said he had the physical health to serve out another term. By contrast, 54 percent believe Trump, 77, has the mental fitness to serve, and 64 percent believe he has the physical fitness to serve. (I know. I know.)

So Biden has some work to do to prove that he's not senile or decrepit. This has been a favorite GOP talking point since 2020, yet Biden has not been able to debunk it despite owning the bully pulpit, so something has to change there. On the other hand, to the degree that people are simply concerned about age per se, there are many reasons to rest easy.

Nikki Haley is wrong. If you go to the Social Security longevity calculator and punch in Biden's sex and date of birth, you find that he can expect to live until age 89.1. That would carry him through a second term and then some, but the reality is even better than that. The Social Security number is just an average for all 80-year-old American men and doesn't take account of other reasons to expect Biden to age very well. He has advanced levels of education and wealth and lives in a safe neighborhood. He is white (alas, race does matter in longevity), married, and has a circle of good friends. He attends church. He doesn't drink or smoke and exercises five days a week. Other than a weakness for ice cream (which he clearly eats only in moderation), his diet seems good and his weight is in the healthy range. His father lived until 86 and his mother until 92.

There's one more thing: Biden is president of the United States, and it seems that people who achieve this office have a tendency to outlive others in their cohorts.

So worries that Biden is going to die before 2028 are overblown. Obviously, you can't rule it out — age is still the greatest risk factor for death — but it's far more likely that he will serve out his term. And his age carries some benefits.

As The Economist notes, older people are happier than younger people. Though it may seem counterintuitive to our youth-obsessed culture, it seems to be the case that happiness is U-shaped. People start out their adult lives pretty happy, then experience a drop in middle age and get progressively happier in their later years. This pattern holds true across nations and cultures.

Though many Republican primary voters probably hate the idea of a happy president, the rest of us can see the benefits. Happy people are less likely than others to be spiteful, petty, distracted, self-absorbed, or erratic. If you're thinking of a certain mango-hued counterexample, look, he has never been a normal human and defies all categories. For most people, research confirms, anger declines throughout life.

Biden, by contrast, does seem to have mellowed with age. I can recall a younger Biden who got himself into multiple embarrassing gaffes because he was prickly, sensitive about his dignity, and quick to anger. The older Biden is more comfortable in his skin.

It's no good sighing over the fact that a 70-year-old Biden would be so much better than this Biden. Take it from someone who is 66: Accept life as it is. If Biden had bowed out of the 2024 race, we can all fantasize about the ideal candidates who could have taken his place — Gretchen Whitmer, Josh Shapiro or Amy Klobuchar — but what are the chances the Democratic Party would deny the nomination to the sitting vice president? And who thinks Kamala Harris would be a stronger general election candidate than Biden?

Aging is a challenge. I constantly buy broccoli forgetting that I had some in the back of the refrigerator. I can't make out what people are saying when there's a lot of background noise. But I don't fret about small slights, rage at drivers who cut me off in traffic, or nurse grudges. I take more joy in nature and the simple pleasures.

Joe Biden is better at 80 than he was at 50. He is very likely to serve another term just fine. And there is not a particle of doubt that in a Biden/Trump rematch, the fate of the republic rests on the old(er) guy winning.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the Beg to Differ podcast. Her new book, Hard Right: The GOP's Drift Toward Extremism, is available now.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Donald Trump

Trump's Criminal Trials Will Be A Step Toward Truth

It's a little hard to recall now, but last year, Donald Trump was in eclipse. In July 2022, half of GOP primary voters expressed a desire to move on from Trump. His anointed candidates fared poorly in November, and even some of his most ardent backers, including the Murdochs, were eyeing other options. If he could be relegated to the rearview window, I reasoned, even if it meant that he escaped liability for his crimes, it would be the best available outcome. An indictment, I feared, would spark a rally-round-Trump effect that would revive his fortunes among Republicans and thrust this viper back into our national life.

I was also concerned that, considering Trump's modus operandi, his response to indictment would be a thoroughgoing assault on the rule of law.

Perhaps Merrick Garland had similar worries. He certainly seemed to drag his feet — until Trump's florid criminality forced the DOJ's hand. In the matter of the stolen classified documents, Trump defied a subpoena, attempted to conceal evidence (textbook obstruction), and displayed such contempt for national security and law that, in the words of former Trump Attorney General William Barr, "What is unjust is not prosecuting Trump at this stage." Once Jack Smith was appointed to investigate the Mar-a-Lago documents case, it was untenable not to give him authority to look into the January 6 offenses as well.

As feared, the rally-round-Trump effect has happened. The GOP base is once again glassy-eyed with zeal for their martyr/hero. This emphatically does not reflect poorly on the prosecutors (though the Alvin Bragg prosecution was ill-considered), but only on the Republicans whose instinct is to adore the most despicable human to hold high office in our lifetime, or maybe ever.

Also, as predicted, the discrediting of our legal system has shifted into overdrive. The cowardly and cynical among Republican presidential candidates have cast aspersions on the Department of Justice. Ron DeSantis, though claiming not to have read the document, calls the latest indictment a "weaponization of federal law enforcement" that "represents a mortal threat to a free society." Tim Scott leaped to whataboutism, citing the Hunter Biden case, and suggesting that "We're watching Biden's D.O.J. continue to hunt Republicans while protecting Democrats." And from what used to be the fever swamps but are now the MAGA influencer ranks comes this from The Federalist's Sean Davis: "The Department of Justice is a domestic terror organization."

The party of law and order is now the party of nihilism and chaos.

So in some ways, this is a sum-of-all-fears moment. But there are reasons to believe that the coming months, which will be ugly, debased and charged with anxiety about the future of this republic, will not necessarily end badly.

There are four and a half Republican presidential contenders who are telling the truth about Trump. Mike Pence, Asa Hutchinson, Chris Christie and Will Hurd are solid. Nikki Haley, characteristically, is hedging, but she also sometimes stumbles into honesty. That is a departure from the norm during the 2016 primaries and during the Trump presidency. And it matters that these Republicans are making the case now, during the primaries, that Trump is unfit for office because some in the party will automatically tune out any critique of Trump if it seems that the beneficiary will be a Democrat in the general election.

Now, some will object, reasonably enough, that all of the Trump-critical candidates account for only about 11% of the primary vote according to recent polling. But in our time, politics is a game of inches. If just a small fraction of Republicans, to say nothing of independent voters, are dissuaded from supporting Trump because of the pending trials, it would make all the difference. A recent New York Times poll showed that 25 percent of the GOP electorate is not open to supporting Trump. Among that 25 percent, 49 percent think Trump is a criminal, and 29 percent (or about seven percent of all Republican respondents) would vote for Biden over Trump in 2024.

Is that enough to keep the disaster of a second Trump term at bay? Probably not, because the structure of the Electoral College requires that the Democrat score at least a four-point victory to prevail.

In our polarized information world, with millions getting only news that is politically palatable, it's excruciatingly difficult to convey basic facts. But trials, especially trials that will dominate every single news outlet, are probably the one way to penetrate those hermetically sealed bubbles. Through the trials, some who are currently in ignorance will learn facts that will disturb them. There will be testimony from Republicans and cross-examination and sworn oaths. Our justice system is by no means perfect at revealing truth, but it's far superior to social media or cable TV. If just a few tens of thousands of Americans in key states have their minds opened to new information, it could be enough to avoid an unthinkable outcome in 2024.

So we must strap in and prepare to play our part, mindful of the stakes, and welcoming a new ally in the battle for truth — the courts.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her new book, Hard Right: The GOP's Drift Toward Extremism, is available now.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Donald Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018

Trump On The World Stage Was Cringeworthy

One of the most absurd claims the leading candidate for the GOP nomination makes about himself and his term in office is that he restored global respect to the United States. He said it frequently when he was in office, and stressed to Bret Baier three weeks ago that he's running again "because I want to make America great again. We had great — we were respected all over the world. Very simple."

Did you spit out your coffee?

This is one of those claims that, alas, enjoys some currency even among noncultists. Ask your average Republican whether Trump restored America's image around the world and they are quite likely to say yes.

This isn't a case of both sides having a fair point. This is bonkers. Trump was perceived as a boob and a fool the world over. (And by the way, it caused many of our friends to doubt Americans' sanity, too.) He was a global laughingstock. Literally.

Remember when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly and launched into his typical bombastic BS about his administration accomplishing more than almost any in history? The assembled delegates, who are VERY accustomed to political exaggeration and even inanity, burst out laughing.

Then, there was the time when European leaders were caught on a hot mic mocking him at a NATO summit in London. Princess Anne, Emmanuel Macron, Mark Rutte, Jens Stoltenberg and Boris Johnson smiled knowingly as Justin Trudeau regaled them with accounts of Trump's antics. Trump was so personally wounded that he cut short his participation in the summit.

International summits were often stages for Trump's cringe-inducing conduct — behavior that many Americans as well as nearly all non-Americans found stunningly gross. Here, he shoved the prime minister of Montenegro aside in order to pose at the center of the group.

Worse than the shove was his credulity. If a dictator or a thug whispered something in his ear, he believed it. The examples are legion, but since the Montenegro leader was manhandled, let's recall what Trump said about that recent entrant to the alliance. Just days after meeting with Vladimir Putin, Trump told Tucker Carlson that Montenegrins are "very aggressive people ... They may get aggressive and, congratulations, you're in World War III."

Let's be real, before that meeting with Putin, what are the chances that Trump had ever heard of Montenegro, far less had views about their national character? Naturally, it was in Putin's interest for Trump to think that enlarging NATO threatened World War III. And Trump believed it, not necessarily out of stupidity (though we can't rule that out) but because his sick attraction to naked power made him unusually susceptible to Putin's propaganda.

Trump routinely insulted allies like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May. At one summit, he reportedly reached into his pocket for some candy, threw them across the table to Merkel and smirked, "Don't say I never gave you anything." Americans elected a mental seven-year-old.

Not just a child, but a ridiculous child. He attempted to buy Greenland from the Danes, and when he was rebuffed, he canceled a planned diplomatic visit to Copenhagen.

His initial fiery bluster against North Korea was unnerving and his later obsequious fawning was vile. Neither accomplished anything except to remind the world what a moron America had elevated.

Trump wasn't just a joke, though. His obvious instability and tenuous hold on reality were unnerving to the world. His "America First" slogan alienated allies. And his softness toward dictators and strongmen emboldened adversaries.

International opinion polls leave no doubt about how America's reputation fared under Trump. In September 2020, Pew found:

"America's reputation has declined further over the past year among many key allies and partners. In several countries, the share of the public with a favorable view of the U.S. is as low as it has been at any point since the [Pew Research] Center began polling on this topic nearly two decades ago."

Some of this was in response to the U.S. handling of COVID-19. Among 13 European nations, only an average of 31 percent held a positive view of the United States, while only 16 percent expressed confidence in Trump. In fact, Trump was less trusted than the leaders of Germany, France, the U.K., China, or Russia.

President Joe Biden has gone some way toward restoring America's global image. Pew reports that a new survey of public opinion in 23 countries finds an average of 59 percent holding favorable views of the United States and 54 percent having confidence in Biden.

Though views of the United States have improved during the Biden years, doubts must persist. Hell, they persist among Americans. Though other presidents have been unpopular (George W. Bush in particular), our foreign friends and foes never before had to wonder about America's political stability. Confidence about that will take years to rebuild, or just another election to wreck utterly.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her new book, Hard Right: The GOP's Drift Toward Extremism, is available now.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.


How To Read Election Polls Without Feeling Terror

Experts will advise you never to eat meat with cream sauce at a buffet; always to lock your car even when just dashing into the 7-Eleven for two minutes; and never to read national polls in the year before an election.

But there are coping mechanisms if you, like me, fail on the third.

Two recent polls illustrate the dangers of consuming too much public opinion at this stage. NBC's poll shows that Trump has widened his lead over the field in the Republican primary contest since his latest indictment, with 51 percent now saying he's their preferred candidate for the nomination, up from 46 percent in April. That puts him 29 points ahead of Ron DeSantis, his nearest challenger, whose support dropped from 31 percent in April to 22 percent in June.

Asked about Trump's federal indictment, 63 percent say the charges give them "no real concerns at all" along with 14 percent who report only "minor concerns." But that isn't even the most disturbing result. That honor belongs to the question about what disturbs voters most. The question: "Does this issue give you major concerns, moderate concerns, minor concerns, or no real concerns?" Option 1: "Joe Biden being re-elected and serving another four years as president" or Option 2: "Donald Trump being elected again and serving another four years as president." OK, inhale. Fifty-eight percent had major or moderate concerns about Trump, but once again, Biden had him beat with 60 percent registering concerns.

Good God, what is wrong with people? Donald Trump attempted a coup, endangered national security, exacerbated internal divisions, mishandled a health emergency causing thousands of needless deaths, dined with Nazis, and is running on "terminating the Constitution." So, sure, kind of a toss-up between that and a normal president who has some policies we don't like but who follows the law (with one exception that is being challenged in the courts) and appoints responsible adults to important posts.

Another poll from Morning Consult showed, for the first time since tracking began in December 2022, that in a head-to-head contest between Trump and Biden, Trump would win by three points.

So, aside from vodka or hemlock, what is the secret to assimilating this information?

One thing I keep in mind is that polls this far ahead don't mean much. In June 2015, Jeb Bush had 19 percent to Trump's 12. In June of 2007, Clinton led Obama 33 percent to 21 percent. Lesson: Voters are not that focused on presidential races this far out.

Another thing to bear in mind is that nominating contests are not conducted on a nationwide basis, as these polls are. They are state-by-state contests wherein the results from one contest influence the outcomes of later races. Momentum is real. Bandwagon effects are strong. If Trump wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, the race for the nomination will probably be over. But if someone else wins one or both, or one non-Trump candidate wins Iowa and another takes New Hampshire, then it's a jump ball.

Though Trump remains strong among Republican primary voters, there are definite cracks. The same NBC poll reports that 29 percent of Republican registered voters say the GOP needs a new leader "with better personal behavior and a new approach," and an additional 21 percent say "Donald Trump was a good president but it's time to consider other leaders." The party is thus divided roughly 50/50 on whether he ought to be the nominee. Of course, with the winner-take-most system the GOP employs, Trump could have more than enough support to ensure his nomination.

Which brings us to the question of the indictments. Polls reflect what voters hear and most GOP voters have heard whataboutism. But this time, there are voices from within the GOP information bubble who are telling the truth. Chris Christie is firing daily broadsides. Asa Hutchinson and Will Hurd, too. And even on Fox News, viewers have been exposed to former Trump stalwarts Bill Barr, Trey Gowdy, Karl Rove, and Jonathan Turley saying the indictment is strong and Trump's behavior is inexcusable. Elected Republicans like Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) and even Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) have said they won't support a convicted felon for president. I know, I know, it's such a low bar, but considering where we've been, it marks a significant change.

And even if Trump is nominated, a critical portion of Republican voters will either stay home or vote for the Democrat. We've seen this pattern in recent races. In 2022, Republican voters in key races gave less support to MAGA candidates than to traditional Republicans. In Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Georgia and Arizona, Republicans split their votes, denying victories to Doug Mastriano, Don Bolduc, Herschel Walker, and Kari Lake. In each of those crucial swing states, if Republican voters had delivered the percentage of votes to those candidates that they did to other Republicans on the ballot, the election-denying MAGA candidates would have won.

It's going to be a stressful 18 months, but there are good reasons not to despair for the future of the country over today's polls.

Mona Charen is Policy Editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Donald Trump

Republicans Who Know That The Trump Indictment Is Devastating

What will Republican voters make of Trump's federal indictment? There have already been polls, but they are too early to mean much. Voters' reactions will be influenced by Republican leaders and media personalities. For the past eight years, "influencers" have rallied around Trump. The base has accordingly dismissed every allegation as politically motivated and the politicians, in turn, have pointed to the opinions of "the people" as justification for sticking with Trump themselves. Rinse and repeat. That minuet continued after the indictment was announced, but this time there were some interesting dissenters.

Yes, the usual lemmings, Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Elise Stefanik and more, leapt from their chairs to offer bad-faith excuses for Trump. McCarthy found himself defending the placement of highly classified documents in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom because "bathroom doors have a lock." Most of the talking heads on Fox and other right-wing outlets decried the "weaponization" of the justice system and many, including some members of Congress, went even further and urged violent resistance.

But there were some Republicans — even some stalwart Trump defenders — who swallowed hard this time and told the truth. Even on Fox News Sunday.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr, appearing on Fox, was unsparing. "I was shocked by the degree of sensitivity of these documents and how many there were, frankly. ... And I think (the search) was a right thing to do, and ... the counts under Espionage Act that he willfully retained those documents are solid counts."

"Solid counts," not a "boxes hoax," as Trump calls it. Barr continued, "I do think that ... if even half of it is true, then he's toast. I mean, it's a pretty — it's a very detailed indictment, and it's very, very damming."

Law professor Jonathan Turley has been a reliable Trump shill for some time, and even as recently as the night the indictment was announced, he was predicting confidently that "Trump could run on pardoning himself." But on Friday, after reading the indictment, Turley was sounding chastened. Allowing that "we haven't heard from the other side," Turley acknowledged that "It is an extremely damning indictment ... Some of the evidence is coming from his former counsel." Referring to the photos of boxes stacked in various locations, he said, "It's really breathtaking. Obviously, this is mishandling. Putting classified documents into ballrooms and bathrooms ... borders on the bizarre." And he cautioned the Trump attorneys (yet to be named), "The Trump team should not fool itself. These are hits below the water line ... It's overwhelming in its details."

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy wasn't pulling any punches either. Asked by Fox's Shannon Bream whether some of the evidence in the indictment might never be seen by a jury, Gowdy said, "Well, the most damning piece of evidence to me is the audiotape. I mean, you want to talk about consciousness of guilt?"

Alan Dershowitz has embarrassed himself by his past Trump advocacy, including during an impeachment trial, and yet he, too, was awed by the strength of the indictment, which he said was "stronger than many people anticipated."

The "most important" and "most difficult for Trump" he argued, were the audiotapes. "It may not be a smoking gun, but it's a gun, and it's a very important piece of evidence, and it's enough to convict ... (Trump) of knowingly possessing unauthorized classified material ... Donald Trump has a lot to worry about."

National Review would not, it's safe to say, be mistaken for an anti-Trump publication. They fall more into the anti-anti-Trump camp much of the time. But in the wake of this indictment, they've run a number of scorching essays. Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, had no patience for the Trump as victim narrative:

"These are not the people who want to take him out. This is not Joe Biden, Liz Cheney, congressional Democrats, or the 'fake news' media. ... No, the evidence comes from Trump's lawyers. The people who were trying to minimize his criminal exposure and push back against his destructive tendencies. The people who were trying to help him. ... If you tell me I need to look the other way on that because Hillary Clinton got a pass, I respectfully suggest that you've lost your way."

Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center was not a Trump apologist, but he's an influential conservative legal analyst, and he was at pains to debunk the argument some were floating that the Presidential Records Act somehow permitted Trump to do what he did. He tweeted, "I marvel at various leaps people (including, I'm sorry to see, people I like) are making in claiming this case means that (the) Presidential Records Act gives Trump protection against criminal prosecution for allegedly retaining (and lying about retaining) classified materials."

Finally, three of Trump's rivals for the Republican presidential nomination declined to bend the knee this time. Asa Hutchinson called on Trump to withdraw from the race and scorned Vivek Ramaswamy for promising to pardon Trump. Chris Christie declared that the facts in the indictment are "devastating." And Nikki Haley suggested that "Trump was incredibly reckless with our national security."

Would it have been better for the entire GOP to have taken an off-ramp many years ago? Without doubt. But that cannot blind us to the fact that right now, some former Trump allies are telling the truth, and that may just influence a few Republicans who've rarely heard this kind of thing from their own side before.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Tim Scott

The Racial Cynicism Driving Tim Scott's Presidential Campaign

Watching Tim Scott's announcement speech, I was struck by how differently I would have responded to his message 10 years ago. In 2013 I wrote: "It's to their credit that Republicans are obsessed with getting the government to address its unconscionable and unmanageable debt, freeing up the productive private sector to create economic growth and maintaining the nation's military preeminence."

Ten years on, I'm sadder and (hopefully) wiser. As the intervening years have shown, the GOP has abandoned good faith altogether. Kevin McCarthy and his band of nihilists wouldn't recognize good faith if it hit them on the fanny. The Republicans who are beating their chests for "fiscal discipline" were obedient lapdogs when Trump increased deficits by 50% — and that was before COVID. In total, they grinned along to an additional $7.8 trillion in national indebtedness. Did I mention that they quietly raised the debt ceiling three times during Trump's term?

Sen. Tim Scott was along for the ride on all of this, so when he objected on Monday in his presidential campaign announcement that we have "spent decades getting deeper and deeper into debt to the Chinese Communist Party," it rings a little hollow.

It's not that there is nothing to like or admire about Scott. He did rise from poverty. His grandfather picked cotton. When he says, "My family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime," he has every right to be proud. And while he wasn't exactly a profile in courage in calling Trump out, he wasn't a total sniveling coward either. After the Charlottesville "fine people on both sides" disaster, he said: "What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised. ... There's no question about that."

When asked about raging inequality, Scott talks about education, praising the work of entrepreneurs like Eva Moskowitz, whose Success Academy schools have made such a dramatic difference in the lives of poor kids. "The quality of your education shouldn't depend upon the accident of your ZIP code," he declares. Even after years of bitter disillusionment with conservatives and (especially) Republicans, I still believe that our schools are a disgrace and reforming education is the best route to reducing poverty and hopelessness. Maybe I wouldn't use the expression "less CRT and more ABCs," but OK, it's politics. Let that pass. One cheer on policy.

I would also offer one cheer on message. During his announcement speech, Scott insisted that "We must show compassion for those who disagree with us," arguably not the most congenial sentiment for the perpetually roiled GOP base that has moved from laughing at cruelty to cheering on brutality.

Scott's boosters hope that his message of patriotic optimism (he even used Reagan's "city on a hill" cliche) will be an implicit rebuke to the dark turn the party has taken with Trump, to which one can only say, lots of luck. A party that makes Kyle Rittenhouse a pin up, dangles pardons for convicted murderers of Black Lives Matter protesters, and describes the January 6 rioters as citizens engaging in "legitimate political discourse" doesn't seem to be pining for a return to sunny optimism.

Does Scott have one unique advantage here? Sure. Republicans do love Black conservatives. I used to think Republicans lavished so much love on Black candidates and others (like Condoleezza Rice) because they were keen to prove that they harbored no racism in their souls. But since 2015, it looks different. The mask has slipped so often: Trump's Charlottesville outrage. The "s—-hole countries." The smearing of immigrants. A senator said Democrats favor reparations for "the people who do the crime." Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson mainstreamed the "great replacement" theory.

So Scott's pitch that his life is proof of America's virtue and lack of racism seems discordant. It seems less an affirmation of patriotism than a cynical play for Republican votes: "I'm the candidate the left fears the most." Translation: I'm the Black candidate who affirms your racial innocence. "We can choose victimhood or victory," Scott intones. "Grievance or greatness." Sure, there are people on the left who wallow in grievance, but what fair-minded person can fail to notice the victimhood and grievance that billows from every GOP outlet? "I will be the president," Scott promises, "who destroys the liberal lie that America is an evil country." Seriously? It's more like he will be the candidate who erects the biggest straw man to attack.

Is this unjust to Scott? Perhaps, though someone once said, "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." Here is Scott, the breath of fresh air, the neo-Reaganite, on the events of January 6: "The one person I don't blame is President Trump." And here is his 2022 response to Maria Bartiromo on whether he'd be open to the VP spot with Trump: "I think everybody wants to be on President Trump's bandwagon, without any question."

If you're keen to prove that America is not an evil country, maybe start by ruling out running with or even voting for a truly evil figure.

Mona Charen is Policy Editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Why Is A Kennedy Democrat Mimicking Donald Trump's Madness?

Why Is A Kennedy Democrat Mimicking Donald Trump's Madness?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is causing eyebrows to arch all over the political world. The 69-year-old son of slain Sen. Robert F. Kennedy is a former environmental lawyer turned vaccine conspiracist. On April 19, he announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president. His aim? To "end the corrupt merger of state and corporate power."

Would you imagine such a platform attracting followers? Well, he's been racking up some startling poll numbers. Fox News put him at 19%, and Emerson College found 21% support. Those are some impressive percentages for a challenger to a sitting president.

Let's start with the name. About a dozen Kennedys have dotted the political landscape over the decades, and no other political family has matched their glamor or celebrity. But this is a different kind of Kennedy.

Let's review. Just after Donald Trump was elected, a parade of notables trooped to Trump Tower to be interviewed by the president-elect: Kanye West, Rick Santorum, Sonny Perdue, Rick Perry, Omarosa Manigault, Mike Flynn. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was there, too. Odd, you might say, for a major Democratic figure? But not when you consider that he went off the rails decades ago amid his manias about dark forces and evil schemes. It all fits smoothly into Trump's own cracked obsessions. He was an early proponent and superspreader of the thoroughly debunked claim that childhood vaccines cause autism.

Perhaps you've heard of the crazed theory that Microsoft's Bill Gates was implanting microchips into patients through vaccines? Thank RFK Jr. for giving it oxygen. He posted a YouTube video that accused Gates of developing this "injectable chip" to enable Big Tech to track people's movements. RFK Jr. has also circulated the bogus notion that 5G alters human DNA, causes cancer and is part of a vast program of surveillance. He does not believe Lee Harvey Oswald killed his uncle; he fingers the CIA. Not surprisingly, he also believes that Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of killing his father, is innocent and has urged his release. Kennedy's view of who murdered his father? Also the CIA.

Unsurprisingly, when COVID hit, RFK Jr. was ready. On December 6, 2021, he said that the COVID vaccine is "the deadliest vaccine ever made." He published a book accusing Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates of being in cahoots to profit off vaccines and told a rally crowd in 2022 that things were worse today than during the Holocaust: "Even in Hitler's Germany ... you could cross the Alps to Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did," whereas "the mechanisms are being put in place that will make it so none of us can run and none of us can hide."

RFK Jr.'s nonprofit has been banned from Instagram and Facebook for spreading disinformation about COVID. He has wallowed in martyrdom, complaining that Big Tech is silencing him for "disagreeing."

One more item to complete this grim picture: RFK Jr. is anti-Ukraine, spouting Russian propaganda about provocations from "fascists" in Volodymyr Zelensky's regime and American "neo-cons." This is not out of character. A couple of decades ago, he was agog for Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who holds a record for the speed with which he plunged a reasonably prosperous country into chaos and destitution (before posthumously stealing the 2020 election for Joe Biden, of course).

It is difficult to imagine that his poll numbers will hold up once Democrats draw a bead on what he believes. But there is another audience that is proving quite receptive — Republicans.

Benjamin Braddock, writing in The American Mind, a Claremont Institute outlet, praised him because "RFK Jr. is thus far the only announced presidential candidate who has declared his intention to prosecute officials who betrayed the public trust in the course of the pandemic."

Of course. Jailing Fauci.

Over at National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty notes mildly that some of RFK Jr.'s message "resonates" with him: "The government lies to us. The media lies to us."

Just for the record, it isn't "crony capitalism" RFK Jr. despises; it's straight-up capitalism. He wanted to jail the Koch brothers before sending them to the Hague as war criminals. He described the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, ExxonMobil and a raft of other entities as "snake pits for sociopaths" before recommending treason charges against Southern Company and Exxon. Any fan of Hugo Chavez is not against "crony capitalism"; he hates the real thing.

RFK Jr., like Trump, has swum for decades in the cesspool of conspiracies, lies, baseless accusations and ginned-up outrage. We hardly pause to note it, because Trump has committed so many other outrages, but he cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives thanks to minimizing the seriousness of COVID. RFK Jr., too, belongs in the select company of major figures who have used their power for harm. Perhaps he isn't quite right in the head. Who knows? But the fact that he appeals to significant numbers of Americans, and particularly to those who have always been on the other side of the aisle, suggests that he is far from alone in that.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

The GOP Normalizes Margie, A Disordered And Poisonous Personality

The GOP Normalizes Margie, A Disordered And Poisonous Personality

During one of Kevin McCarthy's gauntlet of punishing votes, it was striking to see with whom he passed the time. There she was, dressed in sophisticated black, the member hailed as a "key ally" to the new speaker of the House: Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Her choice of color (in the past she has donned stark reds, whites or blues — get it?) is perhaps a signal of the new Greene — a mainstream figure, a serious politician. Her status was signaled by a respectful, not to say softball interview with Howard Kurtz on Fox News.

Doubtless Fox would like to sanitize her since she played a significant role in elevating McCarthy to the speakership. She must be a changed person or the GOP will have to ask itself some uncomfortable questions.

Things move fast, so cast your minds back only to 2021 when Mitch McConnell described Greene as a "cancer" on the Republican party and John Thune warned that the party had to draw some lines: "They have to decide who they want to be. Do they want to be the party of limited government and fiscal responsibility, free markets, peace through strength and pro life, or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon?"

On his Sunday show, Kurtz teed up opportunities for Greene to cleanse herself in the healing Fox font, inviting her to express her frustration with fellow members of the Freedom Caucus, and marveling that a Republican would decline to take a call Greene had placed to Donald Trump on her cellphone. Kurtz next advanced to the touchy topic of Greene's bat-guano views, but introduced it this way: "Just to deal with one bit of history, the Democrats stripped you of committee assignments — which was raw politics."

No, actually, it was civic hygiene. It was what the GOP would have done itself if it retained a shred of integrity.

Kurtz continued: "But in fairness, didn't you say around that time that you'd been a follower of QAnon conspiracy theory and you had rethought this and you were no longer influenced by the group?" Greene seized the opportunity to refashion herself:

"Like a lot of people today, I had easily gotten sucked into some things I had seen on the internet. But that was dealt with quickly early on. I never campaigned on those things. That was not something I believed in. That's not what I ran for Congress on. So those are so far in the past."

The bad internet sucked her in and forced her to believe that the Parkland shooting and the Sandy Hook murders and the Las Vegas massacre were all false flag operations; that 9/11 was an inside job; that a California wildfire was caused by Jewish space lasers; and that Hillary Clinton had murdered a child in order to use her blood for a satanic ritual.

"So far in the past." She hasn't said those things since 2018! Except, wait, wasn't it just in February 2022 that Greene spoke at a conference sponsored by the white nationalist/fascist Nick Fuentes? That was also the month that she described the Jan. 6 defendants as political prisoners and denounced "Nancy Pelosi's gazpacho police." (Though, candidly, we owe her a debt of gratitude for that.) And if memory serves, in October 2022, she told a crowd that "Democrats want Republicans dead and they have already started the killings." And wasn't it in December 2022 — last month — that she told the New York Young Republican Club that if she and Steve Bannon had organized the January 6 insurrection, "We would have won. Not to mention, it would have been armed."

Greene's makeover didn't start this week. She's made stabs at resets before, even traveling to the Holocaust museum to introduce a few facts into the roiling stew of garbage between her ears. She denounced Nick Fuentes after Trump dined with him (but not Trump), and acknowledged that a plane really did hit the Pentagon on 9/11. She has sparred with Lauren Boebert, the pillow guy and Alex Jones' fans.

But this is not a case of a politician who misspeaks or commits a gaffe and must make amends. She has a disordered personality. As a grown adult, she chased a teenager who had survived the Parkland school shooting down the street, harassing and berating him. She is drawn to hatred as a moth to a flame. She is the poison that courses through the veins of parts of the right — the vicious, reality-challenged right. If she is to be normalized by the GOP, it is the party, not she, that is changed.

No sooner did McCarthy achieve election on Friday night than Greene rushed to his side. They posed for a grinning photo. It was his first act as speaker.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

We Need More Immigrants -- And Less Lying About Immigration

We Need More Immigrants -- And Less Lying About Immigration

On Christmas eve in Washington, D.C., the temperature plunged to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest on record. In our neighborhood, people were admonishing their neighbors for leaving dogs outside too long. "It's friggin' 15 degrees!"

And yet, the governor of Texas nonetheless decided to dump another 130 men, women and children — some wearing just T-shirts — on the doorstep of Vice President Kamala Harris' official residence. Three buses arrived between 8 and 10 p.m., and, thanks to the work of volunteers, the dazed and confused migrants were offered blankets and conveyed to local churches. Several restaurants donated food. So the immigrants were OK. But without that intervention, we must assume that the bus drivers were under instructions to leave them there, in a residential neighborhood, on a frigid night, wearing only light clothing, not speaking the language and having no idea where they were.

This brings to 8,700 the number of immigrants Gov. Greg Abbott has shipped to the District this year. Another 6,520 have been bused to New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.

When, in a similar attention-seeking stunt, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew a planeload of asylum seekers to Martha's Vineyard, it was at least in September. The two Republican governors are in a heartlessness duel. Perhaps the next step will be to shoot would-be migrants in the legs as Trump demanded in 2019.

Yes, this country is being swamped by would-be immigrants, and a mature polity would address the problem with sensible reforms. But that's not what the governors of Florida and Texas are demanding. They and their right-wing media claque are saying that immigrants are clamoring for admission to the United States only because President Joe Biden has an "open borders" policy.

They repeat this mantra even though it contradicts another of their favorite talking points, namely that the border patrol has experienced record numbers of encounters with would-be crossers. Customs and Border Protection reports that agents had 2.2 million encounters with illegal border crossers in fiscal year 2022 — a new record. (Many are repeat crossers.) If the border were truly open, the border patrol would not be apprehending anyone, right? They'd be standing aside and waving them on in.

In fact, the constant GOP refrain about the border being "open" may actually be aggravating the problem by disseminating the impression around the globe that it's worth making the attempt to get into the United States.

Here is the complicated reality. It is not Biden's fault that so many people want to come to the United States. There was a big jump in border encounters under the Trump administration as well (from 310,531 in fiscal year 2017 to 859,501 in fiscal year 2019 — the numbers plunged temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic). People want to come here because 1) so many nations around the globe are hellish and a number of those are within walking distance; 2) this is a place where people with a good work ethic can get ahead and enjoy the blessings of liberty; 3) our immigration laws and rules are confusing.

A 1980 law permits migrants to ask for asylum. Unfortunately, it requires asylum seekers to be physically present in the country — thus the crush at the border. Also, word is out around the world that you can claim fear of persecution and at least get a hearing (though 75 percent of claims are rejected, which may be less well understood). So many have attempted to take advantage of this avenue that the backlog of cases now stands at 1.29 million. Perhaps one way to handle the hordes of people hoping to gain admittance is to clarify the asylum criteria. Another possible reform is to permit people to make an asylum claim at the U.S. embassy in their countries.

Here's another solution to the immigration problem — welcome more legal immigrants!

More immigration is in our national interest. Even aside from the injection of vitality that immigrants always provide, we are suffering from a serious labor shortage. The wait for green cards, even for those who've been fully vetted, can be insanely long because our needlessly complicated law imposes caps by country of origin. Immigrants from India and China, for example, can wait their entire working lives.

We are starved for workers. Americans are paying more for food, housing, and other commodities and services due to the severe labor shortage. We have backlogs of already-vetted immigrants, asylum-seekers with credible claims, and refugees who would gratefully (dare I say tearfully) accept jobs and lives in this country if we could only get out of our own way.

But our politics is poisoned by the demagogues who speak of immigrants as "invaders" and warn of catastrophe if we don't close our border. In contrast to the finest traditions of this country, which at its best has been a haven for the persecuted and a friend to the oppressed, they are treating immigrants as enemies. No — worse. Enemies would be entitled to the protections of the Geneva conventions, which would prohibit what Greg Abbott did on Christmas Eve.

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.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

What Republicans Get Wrong About Democrats -- And Vice Versa

What Republicans Get Wrong About Democrats -- And Vice Versa

Paging through the latest survey research from More in Common, I came upon a phrase that deserves to be carved in stone: "conflict entrepreneurs." You know them. They are the arsonists who incessantly inflame every disagreement in order to boost their own "brands." They rile us up and deceive us about the danger of "the other side."

A conversation I had a few weeks ago could have been pulled from the pages of this report. Just before the midterms, I was chatting with someone who was hoping for a GOP sweep to "teach the Democrats a lesson." What lesson, I asked? She explained that she loves America and resents that all the Democrats want to teach kids to despise this country.

That is precisely the impression that many Republicans have about Democrats, according to "History Wars," the new report from More in Common. What distinguishes this from run-of-the-mill surveys is that More in Common asks not just what various groups think, but what they think the other side thinks.

It turns out that while 87 percent of Democrats think "George Washington and Abraham Lincoln should be admired for their roles in American history," Republicans on average believe that only 42 percent of Democrats would say that. And while 83 percent of Democrats agree that "In learning about American history, students should not be made to feel personally responsible for the actions of earlier generations," Republicans suppose that only 43 percent would assent to that. Ninety-two percent of Democrats say, "All students should learn about how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution advanced freedom and equality." Republicans figured only 45 percent of Democrats would agree.

Similarly, while 93 percent of Republicans believe that "Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks should be taught as examples of Americans who fought for equality," Democrats guess that only 38 percent of Republicans would agree. Democrats estimate that only 32 percent of Republicans would assent that "It's important that every American student learn about slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation," whereas the actual percentage of Republicans who agree is 83. A huge majority (91 percent) of Republicans agree that "Throughout our history, Americans have made incredible achievements and ugly errors." That is close to the 95 percent of Democrats who say the same.

But the steady diet of falsehoods, exaggerations, and "nut-picking" served up by the conflict entrepreneurs has led us to believe that we are two nations, unbridgeable. Seventy-five percent of Republicans say Democrats are "brainwashed," and 75 percent of Democrats say that about Republicans. Among Democrats, 78 percent describe Republicans as "hateful," and 73 percent of Republicans return the compliment. The numbers are worse among the extremes, the 14 percent of the population who fall into either the "progressive activists" or "devoted conservatives" camp.

If large majorities of both parties agree that we should teach the history of the United States, warts and all, what are the history wars about? Is it all just a big misunderstanding?

Yes, to a point, and More in Common does a tremendous service by highlighting these mutual misunderstandings, which they call the "perception gap." But it's also a matter of knowing how to navigate our disagreements, because we still have them. Yes, there is broad agreement about what should be taught, but there is wide divergence on trust in the educational system. Fifty-five percent of Democrats, but only 27 percent of Republicans, say that "Most public schools in America are doing their best to teach American history accurately, without an agenda or bias." And Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe that discrimination against minorities continues to this day.

It's impossible even to begin to talk with those you disagree with if you lack basic good faith. If you believe that the other side is irredeemable, there is nothing to discuss. But, just to cite one example about myself, if I were to approach a curriculum conference saying, "I want kids to learn about the systematic oppression of African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, and others," Democrats might be more open to hearing me say, "But I also believe that there are no perfect nations and that, all in all, we're doing pretty well at confronting our past and striving toward a better tomorrow," or, "While I believe that our history of oppressing Black people and others has contributed to disparities of all kinds between the races today, I don't think every differential is evidence of continuing racism."

And I think Democrats who come to the table saying, "I agree that America is a great nation; that patriotism is justified and that each person should be treated as an individual rather than as a representative of his or her group," others will be ready to listen when they add that "We can't escape history. White supremacy is down but not out, and we can never relax our vigilance."

This report gives hope that those conversations are possible.

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.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Why Republicans So Desperately Need Hunter Biden Right Now

Why Republicans So Desperately Need Hunter Biden Right Now

The right is positively giddy over the so-called Twitter files. House Republicans called a press conference to declare that their very top priority will be investigating Hunter Biden's laptop. Rep. Elise Stefanik promised in July that if given the majority, Republicans would get "accountability" from the "Biden crime family." The victim narrative — that big Tech rigged the 2020 election by suppressing the Hunter laptop story — is all the rage on the right.

"We're learning in real-time how Twitter colluded to silence the truth about Hunter Biden's laptop just days before the 2020 presidential election," Rep. Kevin McCarthy tweeted, and the whole right-wing chorus has sung along. They haven't been this energized since the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. Laura Ingraham cheered Elon Musk on for uncovering the "fact" that Twitter "worked overtime" to elect Biden. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel offered that "If Joe Biden were a Republican, this would be getting nonstop coverage by the mainstream media. Their blatant bias would be unbelievable except it happens EVERY SINGLE TIME." Self-described "psychedelic adventurer" Joe Rogan suggests that this proves that "The deep state is 100% real. The swamp is real. They're real monsters, and they were really trying to get rid of him (Trump) by lying."

The notion that a laptop delivered to the New YorkPost by Rudy Giuliani two weeks before the election and rejected by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and others should not have been treated skeptically is the dicier proposition. Further, the hyperventilating about the assault this represents on the First Amendment is risible. Twitter, a private company, was free to ignore the request. Even if Biden had been president at the time, there would be no violation of the First Amendment. Government officials not infrequently request that journalists refrain from publishing material, often about military secrets. Newspapers sometimes comply and sometimes not. It's only a violation of the First Amendment if the government coerces the journalists.

Nor did Twitter's temporary suspension of the Post's account sway the election. As Cathy Young notes, 1) the ban lasted only about 36 hours; 2) the ban may have heightened interest in the story rather than suppressing it, and in any case, the story was available via a Google search; and 3) the whole narrative about Biden's participation in Ukrainian corruption, the gravamen of the laptop story, is false.

So what is this really about? Consider the timing.

For seven years, the right has been explaining, excusing, avoiding and eventually cheering the most morally depraved figure in American politics. That takes a toll on the psyche. You can tell yourself that the critics are unhinged, suffering from "Trump derangement syndrome," but then Trump will do what he always does — make a fool of you. You denied that Trump purposely broke the law when he took highly classified documents to Mar-a-Lago and obstructed every effort to retrieve them. And then what does Trump do? He admits taking them! You scoff at the critics who've compared Trump with Nazis. And then what does he do? He has dinner with Nazis! (And fails to condemn them even after the fact.) You despised people who claimed Trump was a threat to the Constitution, and then Trump explicitly calls for "terminating" the Constitution in order to put himself back in the Oval Office.

Hunter Biden seems to be a mess. But there is nothing relevant to public policy or civic virtue here. Joe Biden is hardly the first president to have troubled family members. But Joe Biden didn't hire Hunter at the White House, and if there is any evidence of the president using official influence on Hunter's behalf, we haven't seen it. The Department of Justice under Trump opened an investigation into Hunter Biden. President Biden has left it alone. It's ongoing.

The right has a deep psychological need for the Hunter Biden story. They desperately want Joe Biden to be corrupt and for the whole family to be, in Stefanik's words, "a crime family" because they have provided succor and support to someone who has encouraged political violence since his early rallies in 2015, has stoked hatred of minorities through lies, has used his office for personal gain in the most flagrant fashion, has surrounded himself with criminals and con men, has committed human rights violations against would-be immigrants by separating children from their parents, has pardoned war criminals, has cost the lives of tens of thousands of COVID patients by discounting the virus and peddling quack cures, has revived racism in public discourse, and has attempted a violent coup d'etat.

They know it. But here's something else they need to meditate on: Even if everything they're alleging about Joe Biden were true; even if he did pull strings to help his son and even profited unjustly thereby, it still wouldn't amount to a fraction of what Trump did. And it still won't wash out the "damn'd spot."

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.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

China's Turmoil And Repression Highlight What We Have -- And Can Lose

China's Turmoil And Repression Highlight What We Have -- And Can Lose

In 2022, the United States conducted its 117th consecutive peaceful election (though the aftermath of the 1860 election was not). The 2022 elections were blissfully uneventful, with losers conceding gracefully.

To call that a relief is a tremendous understatement, but this is no time to drop our guard. Trust in democracy remains weaker than it has traditionally been. A World Values survey, for example, found that fewer than 30% of millennials rate living in a democracy as "essential," compared with 70% of their grandparents.

Prominent conservatives like Tucker Carlson openly lionize Hungary's Viktor Orban, and hardcore rightists admire Vladimir Putin. Even mainstream publications can seem to lose sight of what authoritarian rule really means. The New York Times, for example, published a comparison of economic opportunity in China versus the United States under the headline "The American Dream is Alive. In China."

People in democratic countries often fantasize about "being China for a day" in order to achieve their policy goals. So, at this moment, when thousands of Chinese are protesting throughout the nation, we need to remind ourselves of just how terrible unfreedom is. Did we make mistakes in the way we handled a once-in-a-century pandemic? Of course. But we have a free press and disbursed, decentralized power through our federal system and independent courts. Accountability, while imperfect, is built into the system.

In China, by contrast, the ukase is issued by the ruler. We have mechanisms for self-correction. The Chinese system does not. One party. One ruler.

The overflow of frustration and rage we are seeing today throughout China regarding Xi Jinping's "zero COVID" policy started with an apartment fire in the city of Urumqi. Ten people died and others were injured. Fires happen everywhere of course, but in this building, the fire escapes were locked.

People in Europe and North America protested when their local governments closed schools and businesses for a time, but China's COVID lockdowns are different in kind, not in degree. Videos from the spring and summer showed people screaming from their apartments in Shanghai. In other cities, people imprisoned in their apartments have posted heartbreaking videos. A distraught father said his children had not eaten in three days. In Xi'an, a heavily pregnant woman was denied entry to a hospital because she hadn't been tested recently enough. She went into labor on the street. Her 8-month-old fetus was stillborn. Children, including babies, who test positive can be removed from their parents' care and confined to quarantine centers. In China, if you are even in the same apartment complex as someone who tests positive, you can be forcibly quarantined.

Don't complain. It's unpatriotic to question the wisdom of the party. Nor is the regime embarrassed by its repression. Drones patrol the skies broadcasting this message: "Please comply with COVID restrictions. Control your soul's desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing." You will learn to love Big Brother.

In the first year, it seemed that China's harsh lockdowns along with testing and tracing kept the total number of COVID deaths down. But China went all in on "zero COVID." While most nations vaccinated as rapidly as they could manage, China declined to purchase the U.S./German mRNA shots. They insisted on using a domestically-produced Sinovac vaccine, which is significantly less effective. Large numbers of China's elderly population (numbers are hard to come by) are unvaccinated, which leaves them vulnerable as new, more contagious variants of COVID are spreading.

Whereas most of the world is emerging from the COVID pandemic, China's bad decisions have left it still in the throes. Infection rates are climbing, the economy is slowing, and after three years of cruel measures, the people are fed up.

Xi is in a bind now. If he relaxes the harsh lockdown measures, many Chinese, lacking either natural immunity or vaccination, will die. If he relents in the face of widespread protests, he will empower the protesters. If he doesn't bend, the frustration and anger will only grow.

The protests have become about more than COVID restrictions. People are chanting, "We want freedom!" in cities throughout the country. They hold aloft white sheets of paper to symbolize the regime's scrubbing of truth. They chant, "Step down, Xi Jinping. Step down, Communist Party." At universities, students speak hopefully of "freedom of expression, democracy and the rule of law." They even echo a declaration from America's revolution: "Give me liberty, or give me death."

The future is veiled in shadow. We remember the glorious demonstrations of 1989, the similar slogans and the inspiring hope for democratic reform. And we remember well the vicious massacre that followed. We can't know how this latest eruption of protest will end. But we can remind ourselves that China, and authoritarianism more broadly, is not the answer to anything.

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.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

What Abortion Opponents Should Do Now -- If They Actually Want To Help Women

What Abortion Opponents Should Do Now -- If They Actually Want To Help Women

What is the pro-life movement? I've always imagined it to be broader than just efforts to make abortion illegal. In the wake of the 2022 elections, in which voters rejected candidates whose abortion postures were perceived as extreme, those who care about the welfare of unborn children might want to rethink their focus.

Arguably, the immediate aftermath of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision has been a legal tangle. A number of states had adopted so-called "trigger laws" during the regnancy of Roe v. Wade, specifying that if and when Roe was overturned, abortion would be restricted in a variety of ways. Idaho's law, for example, prohibited abortions except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother. Louisiana's law did not permit exceptions in cases of rape or incest, but only for the life of the mother or "serious permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ of the pregnant woman." Utah's law contains an exception for "severe fetal abnormality." In 11 states, bans have been blocked by courts. Litigation continues and is likely to persist for years as courts grapple with cases that reveal the limitations and ambiguities of the laws.

In Ohio, a ten year-old rape victim was forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion. Pro-lifers initially thought the story was invented, but it was true. Ohio's law, like Louisiana's, permitted abortion when a "medically diagnosed condition ... so complicates the pregnancy of the woman as to directly or indirectly cause the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." It's common knowledge that pregnancy is dangerous for very young girls, but under Ohio's law, would being ten qualify as a "medically diagnosed condition"?

Voters have demonstrated a clear preference for laws that permit abortion in the early stages. Kansas led the way last August by rejecting a constitutional amendment that would have permitted the legislature to adopt strict limits. In the midterms, abortion restrictions were defeated across the board. It's safe to say that the legal strategy of outlawing abortion is facing a prolonged backlash at the hands of voters.

What can the pro-life movement realistically expect to achieve with the narrow focus on the law? Thirteen mostly low-density states have adopted abortion bans (for now). How many fewer abortions will there be in America as a result? The states with the highest numbers of abortions are mostly blue. The District of Columbia has the highest rate with 32.7 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age. New York is second, followed by New Jersey and Maryland. The bottom ten states for abortion are all red, and most are sparsely populated: Wyoming, South Dakota, Kentucky, Idaho, and more like that. And, as you can surmise from the geography, most abortions are sought by Black (38 percent) and Hispanic (21 percent) women. Whites account for 33 percent.

Today the majority of abortions in America are medication abortions. A number of states have moved to ban abortifacients, but considering our national success rate at restricting cocaine, fentanyl, and heroin, such laws are going to be leaky at best.

While the rate of abortion has decreased dramatically since 1990, the percentage of poor or low-income women getting abortions has increased sharply. According to the Alan B. Guttmacher Institute, 75 percent of women terminating pregnancies in 2014 were either poor or low-income.

Their reasons for seeking abortions vary, but women often cite economic hardship among the chief motivators. So the pro-life movement is, in essence, adding a nuisance factor for poor and minority women in red and purple states.

The accusation against the pro-life movement that I've always thought was unjust was that they cared little for actual mothers and babies and simply wanted to control women, or worse, to harm women. The blinkered legal strategy tends to give that accusation a whiff of plausibility. Why not concentrate on concrete reforms that can make a difference in women's lives?

We need a huge push to get contraceptives into the hands of all women who want them. Half of women with unintended pregnancies had not used birth control in the month they conceived. Many cite cost as a factor. A doctor's appointment should not be necessary to obtain oral contraceptives. All of the major medical groups agree. So, let's kickstart a campaign to permit the over-the-counter sale of birth control pills.

Every abortion is a tragedy. And while it's unrealistic to use the law to forbid women to abort if that's what they are determined to do, there are thousands of expectant mothers who wish there were an alternative. They need financial and moral support and we should provide it. Wouldn't it be better to devote time and money to support groups for struggling moms than to limiting the exceptions to pregnancy termination in Louisiana? Every child should be welcomed in love. The pro-life movement should concentrate on helping more women to avoid unintended pregnancies, and ensuring that expectant mothers who really just need financial or practical or emotional support can find it.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the Beg to Differ podcast.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Theater Of Cruelty: The Indecent Republican Response To Pelosi Attack

Theater Of Cruelty: The Indecent Republican Response To Pelosi Attack

The House speaker's husband was brutally attacked, and most GOP officeholders — even the "good Republicans" we've been assured will usher us out of Trumpism — failed the test.

A handful still had enough of a decency default to find the right words. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted his concern, as did former Vice President Mike Pence. But the former president was silent. Most elected Republicans were as well.

Kevin McCarthy took his time. He didn't tweet for most of the day except to say, through an aide, that he had reached out privately to Nancy Pelosi. That's nice, but that's not what the situation calls for. The crucial thing is to condemn the act publicly and leave no doubt that when it comes to acts of violence and terrorism, there are no Democrats or Republicans, only Americans.

On Saturday evening, Kevin McCarthy finally found it within himself to say the attack was "wrong" but immediately vitiated the sentiment with heavy-handed whataboutism. "We've watched this with Lee Zeldin, we've watched this with Supreme Court justices, this is wrong — violence should not go. You watch what happened to Steve Scalise and others. This has got to stop." McCarthy's list contained only Republican victims.

While Paul Pelosi was in surgery, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin told a campaign crowd that "Speaker Pelosi's husband, they had a break-in last night in their house, and he was assaulted. There's no room for violence anywhere, but we're gonna send her back to be with him in California. That's what we're going to go do." Very tasteful. The audience naturally cheered, because crowds, especially at political rallies, are not given to sober reflection. That's why leaders must set the right tone.

So even the "normal" Republicans are, if not trolls themselves, troll adjacent.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, another Republican who seemed, if you squinted just the right way, to be normal, appeared on Meet the Press the day after Paul Pelosi was attacked. Sununu looked wise when he declined to run for the Senate and accurately characterized Don Bolduc, the GOP's eventual Senate candidate, as "not serious, a conspiracy type" back in the spring. Today though, Sununu is supporting Bolduc because he wears the correct jersey. So it's not terribly surprising that he lapsed into whataboutism, saying, "This started back in the summer of 2020, right, when you saw cities burning, you saw not a whole lot of accountability there."

This is a version of a Republican talking point. Democrats failed to condemn the violence that followed the murder of George Floyd, they say, so they have unclean hands when it comes to the violence committed by Trump's mob on January 6. While it's true that some Democrats seemed soft on antifa violence in the summer of 2020, there are a few flaws with the argument.

For one thing, leading Democrats, including the party's presidential nominee, did condemn the violence repeatedly. Second, the rioters were not acting as agents of any political party. They were not called into the streets by the president of the United States with the words "stand by" and "will be wild!" They were not carrying flags emblazoned with Biden's name. And third, while the violence that followed Floyd's murder was unconscionable and extremely destructive of property, it was not political except in a very abstract sense. It was not designed to, and could not have, affected the outcome of any election, for example. Nor did it involve threats of violence against political figures. There was tremendous property damage, but no gallows erected for Republican officeholders and no rioters chanting, "Hang Donald Trump."

Democrats have not fetishized guns and violence as the GOP has. They have not elevated to hero status a young man, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot his way into a protest, killing a man; nor featured gun-brandishing suburbanites at their national convention; nor filled their commercials and even their Christmas cards with images of themselves bedecked with weaponry.

So Sununu's bothsidesism breaks down.

Nor is there anything to compete with the GOP's descent into sheer brutishness. Larry Elder, noting that Paul Pelosi had been arrested for a DUI a few months ago, tweeted: "Poor Paul Pelosi. First, he's busted for DUI and then gets attacked in his home. Hammered twice in six months."

What the hell is wrong with these people?

All of this is a garden party compared with the bilge (thank you, Charlie Sykes) released into the atmosphere by Donald Trump Jr. Repeating a rumor from the fever swamps (which rumor was later retweeted and then taken down by the new chief Twit), he displayed a picture of men's underwear and a hammer, saying "Got my Paul Pelosi Halloween costume ready." The vile, baseless claim that Pelosi was in the midst of a homosexual tryst with his attacker thus became the official conservative response to a horrifying attack on a defenseless 82-year-old man.

It's beginning to look like Republicans go along with Trumpism not because they feel they must, but because they've really come to embody it.

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.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.