Good Friday Morning! The country is still digesting the President’s State of the Union address, and we’re in a lull between major legislative fights, with the DACA immigration fight looming first. I’ll go more into the speech below. I’ll also cover the weirdly politicized Grammy awards and take a brief look at the Nunes memo making the rounds. Links follow.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
I spent some time last weekend reading over old records and case law from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel and a legal memo from the Ken Starr era on whether or not a special or independent prosecutor has the constitutional power to indict or prosecute a sitting President. It’s an interesting question because, as you might guess, because America has never encountered the issue that often. I walk through the law surrounding Mueller’s probe, and why those constraints mean, he likely doesn’t attempt to indict Trump. If this goes anywhere, it has to be an impeachment.
Trumps State of the Union: A look back, a look forward
Overall, I’d say Trump’s state of the union speech was a good one (full video if you missed it). I don’t think there’s any memorable line from it, as we’ve had in the past. But it was a good speech, gave a positive vision of the future, and laid out some of Trump’s better agenda items. And while there weren’t any memorable lines, there was an extraordinary moment when Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean defector, received a standing ovation and proudly held up the crutches that helped him flee the brutal Kim regime.
The speech ran long, at an hour and twenty minutes, but Trump spent the bulk of that time highlighting the stories and lives of great Americans from 2017. While the policy objectives he laid out will get the coverage, the speech was good because of those stories.
And while I understand why Democrats weren’t applauding or standing for really any significant point in the speech, it was still odd to watch them refuse to acknowledge things like rising wages or patriotic sections of the address. While it’s still early, the substantial lead Democrats held on the generic Congressional ballot, a harbinger of success or failure in midterm elections, has narrowed. You’d think they would try to take some credit for these items.
The shadows looming from the speech are large. First, there’s the immediate Russia investigation, which eats up every waking moment if you’re on CNN. Next, the fallout from the Nunes memo is only amplifying the Russian probe (more below). Finally, the March 5th DACA deadline approaches, in which the Democrats could trigger another government shutdown. If Democrats do trigger another closure, I think that helps the GOP, but we’ll see. The way each party navigates the next three weeks likely dictates whether or not any other legislative milestones happen this year. If Trump scores a significant victory combined with the speech, he could push for more.
As a last note, continuing the great press and polls Trump gets from the speech depends on him maintaining positive momentum and staying disciplined. He’s shown the ability to stay disciplined in a statement, but nowhere else. I fully expect some random fight that sinks him again in the polls, multiple times, before the midterms. But for now, he’s done an excellent job.
The #Resistance is weird at the Grammy’s
The Grammy’s got political. That wasn’t the surprising part. The Grammy’s got political by having #MeToo speeches combined with readings of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” book on Trump, with a surprise guest appearance by Hilary Clinton was the surprising and strange part.
I get the opposition to Trump and finding his actions and behavior appalling. I don’t understand the #Resistance.
First, of all the industries that haven’t dealt with #MeToo problems, music is at the top. You can’t tell me there aren’t Harvey Weinstein’s in the music industry. It’s strange to watch them speak out about it, but do nothing about cleaning up this segment of the entertainment industry.
Second, as a #MeToo moment, it’s ghastly to use Hilary Clinton and Michael Wolff as moral standards in opposition to Trump. Wolff’s book isn’t reliable. I’ve detailed that, and others have too. Wolff baselessly smeared UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, accusing her of having an affair with Trump. As Bari Weiss noted in the NYTimes, this is rank hypocrisy from so-called #MeToo feminists:
For years, the fundamental complaint of the right in the culture wars has been that the left is hypocritical, and the Nikki Haley episode perfectly confirms the point: A prominent Republican woman is smeared. The author who does the smearing is celebrated by all the A-listers, including the most prominent Democratic woman in the country, who herself has a history of giving a pass (or worse) to men accused of sexual assault and harassment. And yet the arbiters of American culture cheer the Democrat and, in the words of the actor Don Cheadle, tell the Republican who has the gall to defend herself: “Sit down, girl. You’re drunk.”
In the Trump era, the left has smartly and justifiably seized a moral high ground that the right has abandoned by its embrace of the president. That’s a high ground the left cannot hold if it embraces subtle double standards that it would never accept for a moment if the woman in question was a Kirsten Gillibrand or a Kamala Harris.
When Matt Lauer subjected Hillary Clinton to a harsh interview, within 24 hours it was common knowledge that it was evidence of misogyny. But when Nikki Haley is smeared with the most base, sexist lie, it’s met with little more than a collective shrug.
Even stranger, as Weiss alludes to in her piece, is the presence of Hilary Clinton, who retained a senior advisor accused of sexual harassment. Those allegations appeared in the days leading up to the Grammy’s, where the entire show glorified an author launching sexist smears and putting Clinton on a pedestal.
The second weird disconnect is the liberal celebrity class pushing Clinton in the limelight, while actual Democratic establishment types are sick of the Clintons. If you’ll recall, I wrote back in November 2017 about former DNC Chair Donna Brazile’s attempts to shove the Clinton’s out of the party. Less than three months later, Clinton is out on a book tour doing press and culture appearances to drive her polls up. Democrats want her out; the liberal celebrity activist class wants her back.
The #Resistance is weird. Clinton has never been a cultural touchstone. What does she have to do to wear out her welcome for them?
As a side note, it’s also interesting to see a far-left political crowd continue to shun black hip-hop artists. For a liberal group that’s comfortable with awarding Macklemore (a future $2000 question on Jeopardy) and Bruno Mars, but not Kendrick Lamar (or any other rap artist), it has to make anyone question the biases in the industry. I don’t blame any rap artist for boycotting the Grammy’s entirely at this point.
Don’t release the memo – Release everything
I expect Trump will release the long-awaited Nunes memo, which claims to detail problems in the FBI from their investigations into Clinton’s emails and the Trump-Russia investigation. If you’ve not heard of this, it’s a memo created by House Republican Devin Nunes regarding impropriety and potential bias by the FBI, as ABC News describes:
The underlying #ReleaseTheMemo drama started Thursday after Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, revealed a brief report produced by Republican staff dealing with Trump’s wiretapping allegations. The report stems from a lengthy investigation House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes conducted into the alleged surveillance of Trump transition aides and the revealing of names — or “unmasking” — of Trump aides in classified reports.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted on party lines — over Democratic member objections — early Thursday to make the brief, 3-page report available to members of Congress. But the same Republican members have said they cannot say what exactly the report shows because it is classified — and revealing classified information is a federal crime.
Committee officials who reviewed the documents said that they revolve around a dossier on Trump produced by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, and questions over whether it was used to obtain surveillance warrants. The report also relies on classified intelligence that is only available to a select group of lawmakers known as the “Gang of Eight” — a sign that some of the information is highly sensitive.
Devins Nunes and Democrat Adam Schiff have fought back and forth about what is in the memo, Democrats have created their own, and lies are flying back and forth. So here’s the thing: until it’s released, no one knows what is in this report. We can’t verify any claims because they aren’t giving us the evidence.
I don’t believe Nunes or Schiff in their stories. I don’t believe anyone promoting or degrading this memo. I’d believe the evidence behind the memos, which interestingly enough is not scheduled for release.
What needs to happen is everything needs to get released: the Nunes memo, the Schiff memo, and all the evidence behind it. We also need to publish the original FISA warrants and the evidence supporting them. All of this is in Trump’s hands to release. Declassification isn’t a Congressional matter, it’s an executive branch call.
The Nunes and Schiff memos are partisan creations. They only summarize the evidence. Americans deserve the truth on this matter: release everything.
Black History Month Facts
The Harlem Hellfighters: The Harlem Hellfighters, or 369th Infantry Regiment, was one of the first regiments of soldiers made up almost entirely of African-Americans in WWI and WWII. The nickname “Hell Fighters” was given to them by the Germans due to their toughness and that they never lost a man through capture, lost a trench or a foot of ground to the enemy.
William Henry “Black Death” Johnson, part of this regiment, was recognized with the “Croix de Guerre” by France in 1918, and posthumously awarded two Purple Hearts in 1996, and the Medal of Honor in 2015 for his actions on May 14, 1918, when he single-handedly fought off a German raid of 12-24 soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. He was armed with an American firearm, but French ammunition that jammed when he tried loading it. He instead used his rifle as a club and his knife to kill four Germans and scare off the remaining raiders. He saved a fellow soldier from capture in the process despite being wounded 21 times in the skirmish. His actions that day earned him the nickname “Black Death” among both American and French troops.
Best links of the web
The Slut-Shaming of Nikki Haley – Bari Weiss, The New York Times
The Obstruction Case against Trump Still Has a Way to Go – David French, National Review
Oh my God, have you heard the news?! It will change everything! – Jonah Goldberg, The Los Angeles Times
The FBI deserves scrutiny for its botched Clinton probe, but not a GOP witch hunt: The Republican obsession with the idea that the FBI is out to get Trump is obscuring more important questions. – Noah C. Rothman, NBC Think
The Challenge of Scale: Auschwitz and the struggle of remembrance. – Daniel Krauthammer, The Weekly Standard
The Dubious Legal Claim Behind #ReleaseTheMemo – Orin Kerr, Lawfare blog
The GOP Is Gaining on the Generic Congressional Ballot. Does That Mean Anything? – David Byler, The Weekly Standard
Trump’s Stellar Judges – Edward Whelan, National Review
A Tale of Two Columbia Classes – Coleman Hughes, Heterodox Academy
The Invention of Moral Narrative – Scott Alexander, The Slate Star Codex
Millenials Strike Back: An Esoteric Reading of The Last Jedi – Caleb and Samantha Cohoe, First Things
Satire Piece of the Week
If you were rooting for the Patriots to win Super Bowl LII, get ready for some devastating news. Tom Brady broke his strict TB12 diet by eating a carrot on the day he was supposed to eat only radishes, and as a result he’s ballooned up to 500 pounds.
This is absolutely heartbreaking news for Patriots fans everywhere. It’s hard to imagine Tom Brady’s going to be able to put in a great performance at the Super Bowl when he’s currently too heavy to leave his house.
Normally, the TB12 dietary system keeps Brady in peak physical condition with a carefully calibrated nutritional regimen. Unfortunately, the Patriots superstar QB decided to celebrate the Pats’ AFC Championship victory over the Jaguars by cheating a little and nibbling a bite of raw carrot on a day that was supposed to be dedicated to eating nothing but radishes. That small portion of carrot completely threw off the TB12 diet’s precise balance of vitamins and minerals, and Brady instantly gained hundreds of pounds of pure body fat.
If only Brady had adhered more closely to the TB12’s strict dietary schedule! With one bite of carrot on radish day, the four-time Super Bowl MVP has instantly become dangerously overweight, and the Patriots’ odds of winning the Super Bowl have taken a huge nosedive.
Thanks for reading!