Good Friday Morning! Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers. I’m grateful for everyone continuing to read and share this newsletter with others. Hopefully, you’re having a great holiday weekend with friends and family. I know I did. I’m too stuffed to do much else than lay on a couch and walk football the rest of the weekend – not that I had other plans in mind.
This week, I’m taking a slight detour from covering current events and writing about an observation I had while reading an article in the New York Times about being a good dinner guest, and the finished Jared Kushner’s memoir of his time in the Trump White House. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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[11/21/2022] Democrats and press make Biden’s age an issue for 2024 – Conservative Institute
[11/25/2022] Left wants to use Big Tech to attack Elon Musk – Conservative Institute
Elite panic: from pandemics to Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving is one of those times when every news site offers “how-to” articles or recipes for the holiday. The New York Times published one on how to be a great guest for any holiday party. One of my friends called it neurotic, which is friendly. I thought it was deranged.
I will connect this NYT piece to a scene from Jared Kushner’s memoir that struck me. The two are related, I promise; hang with me. But first, you judge how this NYT article comes across; here’s the first thing the NYT suggests you, a guest, bring to a party:
Upon arrival, hang up your coat, don an apron you brought from home—or better yet, wear the apron under your coat so you can reveal it Clark Kent–style—stride into the kitchen and declare, “I’m here to help.”
You have just become a holiday hero.
To a host who may be too frazzled to think about delegating, this is much better than the passive, “Let me know if I can help.” You are now the host’s go-to assistant, and they don’t even have to dig through an unkempt drawer of cast-off kitchen linens to find you an apron!
Upon arrival, hang up your coat, don an apron you brought from home … stride into the kitchen and declare, “I’m here to help.”
I loved one of the comments to this piece on Twitter: “If you try an upstage me with secret apron reveal at my own party, it better be Kevlar.” Josh Barro added, “If you ever do this as a guest at my house, I will throw you out of my house.”
I shared that clip of the piece on social media, and a friend messaged me, saying: “I’d shoot a person who did that. Bring wine, not an apron.” There were similar sentiments elsewhere. It’s an unconscionable act for a guest to do unless specifically requested.
The second thing the Times says you should bring to a Thanksgiving party? To-go containers.
As the party at the table enjoys their holiday banquet, it has yet to occur to the host that they might produce more leftovers than they have storage or stomach space for.
You can do your host the huge favor of anticipating this problem and helping solve it by coming equipped with your own snap-lid containers, reusable silicone bags, or just some repurposed takeout tubs. Now your host won’t have to make a mental note to track you down for borrowed containers. (I’ll go to war before I relinquish ownership of my cherished Stasher bags.) This also mitigates many hosts’ after-Thanksgiving struggle of the guilt that comes from gorging on too many leftovers or allowing them to go to waste. There’s a fine line between being pushy about demanding specific leftovers and being helpful. But if you were at my Thanksgiving, I’d be so pleased by your proactive approach that I’d insist you help yourself to first dibs while I tucked into another glass of wine.
Ben Dreyfuss (son of the actor Richard) had the best take on this segment: “Bringing your own Tupperware is presumptive and insulting. You think I don’t know how much food to cook? And if I were to offer you leftovers, ziplock will do. If not, I’ll just throw it in the trash.”
Finally, what’s the last thing you should do? Bring some stain remover:
When the gravy boat gets passed around a little too enthusiastically, your fellow guests will appreciate a quick refresh from a Tide to Go pen or, as we’ve recommended as a laundry pre-treat, some OxiClean spray. (Transfer the latter into a travel-size bottle for easier carrying and gift-giving; your host might appreciate it for their own post-event cleanup). Tide pens are frequently sold in packs of three, so you can offer them up en masse as a need-a-pen, take-a-pen present for all, or you can leave them behind at the end of the night. Either way, your host will be thrilled that they won’t have to get out of their seat to whip up a makeshift stain solution.
Again, Ben Dreyfuss hilariously flipped this: “If you walk into my dinner party with a bottle of stain remover, I’m going to ask you to leave because I don’t want people in my house who are so profoundly incompetent and clumsy that they walk around with cleaning supplies.”
It’s both neurotic and narcissistic. What struck me was how the piece assumes the reader should view the host. A reader of the Times presumes they are better at thinking ahead and acting than the host.
Note the phrases used to describe the host:
- “To a host who may be too frazzled to think about delegating…”
- “[I]t has yet to occur to the host that they might produce more leftovers than they have storage or stomach space for…”
- “Now your host won’t have to make a mental note…”
- “This also mitigates many hosts’ after-Thanksgiving struggle of the guilt…”
- “[Y]our host will be thrilled that they won’t have to get out of their seat to whip up a makeshift stain solution…”
The host is thought of as amiable but an idiot. Because the host can’t get everything right, it’s up to you to correct things and make the party run smoothly, even though you were never asked to do these things. It’s presented as being helpful, but there’s an assumption behind it that the host is a dolt.
That brings me to Kushner’s memoir. For those who don’t know, Jared Kushner is the husband of Ivanka Trump and one of Donald Trump’s advisors during his term. Kushner was the driving force behind the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and many other Muslim countries in the Middle East, something most experts thought was impossible.
Like most political memoirs, they’re self-serving in predictable ways. Kushner skips over some of the more controversial episodes of the Trump administration. But within the confines of his work in foreign diplomacy, the book is quite good because you get intimate portraits of him working with numerous people across the Middle East. On that front alone, it’s a fascinating book (most of the one-star reviews on Goodreads hadn’t even read the book, they review-bombed it).
Kushner started in a limited role at the beginning of the Trump administration before taking on a lot by the end. The final year of the Trump administration, 2020, is the most action-packed section of the memoir between the re-election campaign, COVID, and the Abraham Accords coming to a head.
In the middle of the COVID section, he starts talking about Anthony Fauci. I appreciated his first description of Fauci, “no one rises to the top of a bureaucracy like the National Institutes of Health and survives six presidential administrations over three and a half decades without knowing how to self-promote, outmaneuver, and curry favor with the powerful.”
Kushner sets the scene early on with Fauci and how there was a clash between Fauci and the White House (Breaking History, pages 374-375):
Early in the pandemic, Fauci was sitting in my office when his phone rang. We both glanced down and saw the caller’s name: Jim Acosta, the president’s chief antagonist on the generally hostile news network CNN. Neither of us acknowledged the awkward moment, but it stuck in my mind. Members of our task force resented that Fauci would participate in these meetings, and then criticize the federal government’s response as if he was not involved with it.
This back and forth, where the task force would present one thing, while Fauci would come and say the opposite came to a head between Fauci and Trump (note Kushner uses quotation marks, he’s not paraphrasing):
One day, after Fauci gave another doom-and-gloom interview, Trump tried to convince him to change his approach: “Anthony, you’ve got to be more positive. We need to give people hope.”
Fauci pushed back: “My advice in situations like this is that we should make people feel as bad as possible. We want to explain the worst possible scenario. If it comes true, we were right. If it doesn’t, then we did a better job than people expected.”
“I’m not like that,” Trump said. “I take the opposite approach. I am like a coach who believes in the team even if they are down to give them a reason to keep fighting. We can’t let people give up. People are losing their jobs. They are drinking and doing drugs; they are depressed, suicides are going up. That is not America. We will get through this, but we have to stay positive; we have to give people a reason to keep their businesses open so that our country can bounce back.”
“Fine, I’ll be a little more positive,” Fauci said, but he never made good on this commitment.
I fully believe this exchange happened — because Fauci admitted this exact mindset over herd immunity. I wrote in a column for the Conservative Institute in December 2020 that Fauci was lying about the numbers it took to reach herd immunity. Traditional immunology standards set the number in the 60-70% range; Fauci said the number was 90%. Fauci is and was a believer in the noble lie — trying to get people to do what you need through constructive lying.
There’s very little difference between the Fauci mindset and looking down on the host serving a Thanksgiving dinner. In both situations, there’s a person who believes they know what needs to happen best, and they’ll manipulate the situation to get what they want.
Early in the pandemic, the one article that influenced everything I saw about the pandemic was in Commentary Magazine, written by James B. Meigs: “Elite Panic vs. the Resilient Populace.” It’s a longer read, but worth your time if you haven’t read it. He has this section:
Disaster researchers call this phenomenon “elite panic.” When authorities believe their own citizens will become dangerous, they begin to focus on controlling the public, rather than on addressing the disaster itself. They clamp down on information, restrict freedom of movement, and devote unnecessary energy to enforcing laws they assume are about to be broken. These strategies don’t just waste resources, one study notes; they also “undermine the public’s capacity for resilient behaviors.” In other words, nervous officials can actively impede the ordinary people trying to help themselves and their neighbors.
If you believe the American public won’t do what you want, you lie to them to get the necessary action. If you believe the Thanksgiving host is frazzled and incompetent, you show up ready to remedy the situation. In all things, you presume yourself to be the elite person looking down on the rest of the world.
It’s easy to see this in a piece on the pandemic or disaster preparedness. I was shocked to see it again in a New York Times puff piece on how a guest needed to act at a dinner party. It’s beyond a Nanny State mindset. It’s narcissism in the extreme, combined with elitism, that views everyone else as lesser in every way.
As I’m ending this newsletter here, I don’t have a pithy way of combating this mindset on the left. It’s a pervasive mindset among progressives, particularly the well-credentialed left. The more university training and the less life experience they have, the more likely they view the world that way.
It’s why there’s such a stark difference between Trump and Biden on the pandemic. Trump trusted people and sought to provide a litany of solutions. Biden focused on messaging, lockdowns, and giving stern speeches about people with bad behavior. A solutions mindset versus elite panic. Note: all progress on the pandemic ended once Biden took office. With Biden, we’ve just had to let the virus run its course.
I hope we don’t have another pandemic, especially under Biden. This White House is not equipped to handle it. However, they are ready to come to your dinner party wearing an apron and tell you how to do things better.
Links of the week
Biden Admin Not Enforcing Conflict-of-Interest Rules, Ethics Watchdog Group Alleges: Campaign Legal Center calls for an investigation into federal agencies’ stock-trading conflicts – Washington Free Beacon
Fed Minutes Show Most Officials Favored Slowing Rate Rises Soon: Policy makers have signaled plans to dial back the pace of interest-rate increases, while warning rates could rise to somewhat higher-than-anticipated levels next year. The central bank’s staff saw a U.S. recession next year “as almost as likely” as their baseline projection of weak growth, the minutes showed. – WSJ
High mortgage rates send homebuyers scrambling for relief – Associated Press
Couple welcome twins from embryos frozen 30 years ago – Good Morning America
Air Force crew that delivered baby during Afghanistan evacuation to be awarded Distinguished Flying Cross: The military currently has a backlog of awards to give out from the Afghanistan evacuation – Fox News
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!