North Korean leader Kim Jong-un resurfaced last week at the eighth Congress of his ruling Workers’ Party, where he admitted “almost all sectors” of his country’s economy had fallen short of their goals. Speaking for nine hours, Mr. Kim also said North Korea should bring its “arch-enemy” — the United States — “to its knees.”
Mr. Kim’s weapons of mass destruction program, which has long denied North Korea a path to economic prosperity because of punitive sanctions, reflects the internal contradiction of his policy of “byngjin” — developing the economy while simultaneously expanding its nuclear weapons deterrent. Mr. Kim has embraced his family’s tradition of seeking to hoodwink the world into lifting economic sanctions in return for empty denuclearization promises.
The Trump administration forsook that approach even when Pyongyang’s state-controlled media accused the U.S. of “gangster” diplomacy for holding Mr. Kim to even the most benign promises of the broad disarmament “framework” which Mr. Kim and President Trump signed at their 2018 Singapore summit.
Of all of the wickedly challenging national security threats awaiting the incoming Biden administration, none might be as complex as North Korea. Mr. Kim has conducted no nuclear tests since September 2017 and no missile tests since November 2017. But in spite of international sanctions, natural disasters and a COVID-induced border lockdown, North Korea has advanced its ballistic missile capability, including a new ICBM unveiled in October, and added an estimated 30 to 40 nuclear weapons to its stockpile.
President-elect Biden will no doubt be asking his intelligence agencies, the military and the State Department to reexamine U.S. policy on North Korea, which has for years sought face-to-face negotiations with Washington, a peace treaty ending the Korean war, diplomatic recognition by the U.S. and acceptance of the North as a nuclear state.
But Mr. Kim has never provided an inventory of his nuclear arsenal or an itinerary for their destruction. His behavior strains the logic that North Korea has accumulated ICBMs and nuclear weapons for the sole purpose of bartering them away for food, energy and a more productive relationship with the international community.
Mr. Kim knows his brutal regime, which denies its citizens every political, civil and religious liberty, is inherently unstable and in great need of an economic lifeline. One of the world’s most isolated countries, the “Hermit Kingdom” has a young, literate and inexpensive workforce as well as large reserves of coal, iron ore, limestone and minerals.
A prosperous North Korea integrated with the outside world, however, would increase pressure for greater political freedom, which would threaten the regime’s survival. North Korean leaders have no doubt internalized the lessons of the Soviet Union’s collapse in the wake of Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost reforms, as well as how a nuclear deterrent might have meant a different fate for Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
So far, Mr. Kim has successfully played Russia, China, South Korea and the U.S. against one another. Russia and China would like to reduce — if not eliminate altogether — the U.S. military presence on the Korean peninsula. Both Moscow and Beijing have argued for reducing international sanctions before North Korea completes denuclearization.
The incoming Biden administration should be prepared for three equally precarious scenarios: that the North accelerates its missile and nuclear programs; that the North seeks to sell its nuclear and missile technology to U.S. adversaries and non-state groups to bolster its economy; or that the regime collapses altogether, spawning a destabilizing nightmare of loose nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Mr. Kim’s bellicose threats last week might were likely designed to assuage his population. But if past is prologue, the North Korean leader is also seeking to encourage a new round of negotiations with a new team in Washington.
Having eschewed Mr. Trump’s top-down, personal diplomacy, Mr. Biden should consider appointing a special envoy to re-start negotiations with North Korea, which has been largely frozen since Mr. Trump rightly walked away from what would have been a bad deal at the 2019 Hanoi summit.
As a trust-building measure, the U.S. and North Korea could begin by opening liaison offices in their respective capitals.
The sanctions which the Trump administration imposed are valuable leverage. While complete and verifiable denuclearization remains the ultimate goal, diplomatic engagement should focus on matching concrete North Korean nuclear arms cuts and transparency with economic incentives and the possible easing of sanctions.
The special envoy should also seek common ground for engaging Mr. Kim even with China and Russia, neither of whom wants a nuclear North Korea or a chaotic failed state on their border.
Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu spoke of seeking to “subdue the enemy without fighting.” A commitment to diplomacy from the new administration is all that is needed to get started.
• Daniel N. Hoffman is a retired clandestine services officer and former chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.
The last time these slinking mongrels in Congress impeached President Trump, a deadly disease from China was stalking our country, poised to pounce and kill close to 400,000 Americans.
In those crucial early months of the global pandemic, our federal government ground to a halt as Democrats in Congress pursued with blind fury a hotly partisan and clearly futile effort to remove Mr. Trump.
Democrats failed. Mr. Trump survived. Everyone knew the outcome of the fake charade from the start.
But as Democrats dawdled, bloviated and fawned for the cameras, the pandemic prevailed. If you want to know why Democrats are so hellbent on blaming the China virus on Mr. Trump, it is because the blood is actually on their hands.
Now comes Round Two of hopeless impeachment.
Still, the pandemic rages. This time they all know it. Yet, still, they pursue Mr. Trump with an ISIS-like zealotry in an effort to remove Mr. Trump a few days before he leaves office anyway.
Truly, these are the most fundamentally dishonest and unserious people ever to hold elected office. They are a mockery of self-governance and precisely why Mr. Trump got elected in the first place.
You might say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presides over a circus of untrained animals and diabolical clowns, but that would be an unkind insult to clowns and penned animals, frantically pacing back and forth, back and forth inside their confined cages.
Speaking to her social media mob, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York laid out Mr. Trump’s impeachable offenses.
“A lot of people have drank the poison of white supremacy and that’s what Donald Trump represents,” she said. “Just is.”
That’s right. There is the evidence. There lies the proof. Forget hearings. Forget a trial.
Hang him high!
If you really want to stir up one of these impeachment fanatics, just ask them to point to the one single line in Mr. Trump’s speech from before the raid against the Capitol that “incited” the violence.
They go full Adam Schiff and start making up quotes and manufacturing language that the president never used. Also, they refuse to acknowledge that the president implored his supporters to protest “peacefully.”
The reason they cannot hold hearings or hold a trial is because any such due process would prove that no such premeditated incitement of violence occurred.
If anything, it was unpremeditated incitement of peaceful protest — also known as our constitutional right to free speech, free assembly and the right to petition your government. Peacefully.
Among the clowns in Congress scrambling to shift blame for the mess they have made in Washington onto Mr. Trump are 10 Republicans in the House. One of them is Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who is in the chamber because her father, Dick Cheney, was vice president.
I guess we should be thankful that finally someone in the Cheney family has found an “armed insurrection” that they are not lustily in favor of. Maybe Ms. Cheney would have been more enthusiastic about this eruption of violence if more American soldiers had been killed or maimed and it had cost taxpayers $2 trillion.
Another impeachment zealot is Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat. To his credit, at least he is honest about his motives.
“This president must be impeached and convicted,” he thundered. “And he must be prevented from ever attempting to seize power again.”
There you have it. This is not even about removing Mr. Trump from office in the final week of his presidency. It is all about preventing him from ever running for office again.
In other words, Congress is scrambling to overturn the next election before it even happens. They are desperate to deny American voters the right to elect Donald Trump again.
Talk about an insurrection.
No wonder Liz Cheney is so excited about it.
• Charles Hurt is opinion editor of The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected]
Trying to determine what will be open and what will be closed over the next month or so is impossible.
The more things change since the COVID-19 pandemic, the more they stay the same.
With schools closed, and parents and caretakers out of work, everyone’s got plenty of free time — including ne’er-do-wells.
So a lot depends on what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer do in the next few weeks and months. All four will be trying to placate young people, who have been moved to protest for the past couple of years and allowed to skip school in the name of free speech and civics lessons.
And when George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, young adults were joined in their protests by older folks fondly remembering, via Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine, when protests were the Page 1 news and really big shows on the nightly news.
Today, it’s violence, too. Who zonked who on the head, stole somebody’s smartphone, tried to take a weapon on a plane or just fill in the blank.
The only thing law enforcers can do wrong these days is police and arrest.
Mrs. Pelosi, who’s second in line to become president, wants to fine lawmakers up to $10,000 who refuse to follow safety protocols at the Capitol. That way, federal authorities can keep track of lawmakers’ comings and goings.
Another American liberty bites the dust. All in the name of safety and security.
The true measure of this measure won’t be exposed until the House and Senate get their hands on new federal legislation, and that’ll be much sooner than you think, albeit post-Trump impeachment.
If lawmakers play the game, America will never be the same again.
As Mr. Schumer has said, “Now we take Georgia, then we change the world.”
Who does he mean by “we?”
⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]
“Hello, American sailor. Hello, freedom man.” These words came from one of the refugees crammed on a leaky little boat who came across the USS Midway. They were hoping to get to America from Indochina.
“A small moment with a big meaning, a moment the sailor, who wrote it in a letter, couldn’t get out of his mind. And, when I saw it, neither could I. Because that’s what it was to be an American in the 1980s. We stood, again, for freedom. I know we always have, but in the past few years the world again — and in a way, we ourselves — rediscovered it.”
President Reagan shared this amazing story in his farewell address to the nation delivered 32 years ago this week.
Prior to 1981, the United States was in a malaise and Iran held our hostages for 444 days. It was bad. Now, at the end of the Reagan presidency, we were proud to be Americans again. It was a great feeling.
In his address from the Oval Office that evening, Reagan also gave us a warning. It bears repeating as the words are more important today than they were at the end of the 1980s. He said:
“An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-sixties.”
Just as the president said, I learned about patriotism from my family and my neighbors. My Scout leader was a veteran of both World War I and II. He was active in our church and the American Legion. And he made sure us kids put flags on the graves of veterans every Memorial Day to honor the fallen. We learned to stand for the flag when it went by in a parade and as we sang “The National Anthem.” We learned to love America and what it stands for — freedom.
Reagan continued: “But now, we’re about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.”
Freedom is special and rare. It is why so many people come to these United States of America from all over the world. They yearn for freedom.
As Reagan said, “So, we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important — why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, 4 years ago on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who’d fought on Omaha Beach. Her name was Lisa Zanatta Henn, and she said, ‘we will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did.’ Well, let’s help her keep her word. If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.”
Our country is at a tipping point. Too many of our fellow citizens have taken our freedoms for granted, or they didn’t learn about them at all. Liberals have taken over major parts of our campuses and culture. To counter the radicals, we need “more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.” That’s why I’m honored to be the new leader at Young America’s Foundation as we prepare young people to be defenders of liberty. Will you join our efforts?
• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him @ScottWalker.
Thanks to a political uprising at the Capitol building and its online fallout, the scrutiny toward major tech companies has never been more intense. Following a flurry of deplatforming decisions on the part of major corporations, Apple moved to polish off Parler from the app store for its alleged failure to adequately moderate posts inciting violence.
The choice wasn’t wise — and not just because it supports the narrative that tech companies are out to stifle conservatives. There’s a lot more at stake than that.
Google Play and Amazon, which hosts Parler’s servers, have followed Apple in revoking service to the social media platform favored by conservatives and Trump supporters as a “pro-free speech” Twitter alternative. While these moves could cripple Parler, they’ll also be watched by more mainstream competitors, who know that they too could find themselves on the firing line from the same app stores at some point. Facebook and Twitter have already responded to last week’s events by rapidly taking down a slew of pro-Trump accounts linked to election fraud allegations and the QAnon conspiracy theory.
The message seems simple. With the ability to reach users increasingly controlled by a limited number of companies behaving in similar ways, platforms must more proactively police what their users post or risk losing their business.
While the goal of curbing misinformation or violence is a good one, that doesn’t make Apple and Google’s actions very wise. Parler already prohibits content that explicitly incites violence. It has also created a temporary taskforce to bolster moderation efforts, and has taken down posts such as Trump surrogate Lin Wood’s call for Vice President Mike Pence to be hung for disloyalty to the president.
Apple doesn’t think that this goes far enough. Besides, laws like Section 230 might shield platforms from legal liability for their users’ posts, but private companies can’t be forced to provide services to entities that they believe have failed to meet their own terms of service.
Yet, Apple should consider that even much larger platforms like Facebook — which can afford to employ scores of moderators and advanced algorithms for flagging content — often struggle to catch all the posts that are violent, illegal or violate their terms of service. Error (human or algorithmic) means that some content will always slip through the cracks, and, conversely, that non-offending content can unjustly be caught up in the system.
This isn’t merely a problem for conservatives, either. Everyone from Middle Eastern journalists trying to expose human rights abuse on YouTube to left-leaning outlets have been victims of overzealous moderation or algorithms that have shut them down.
Since journalists, media outlets and businesses often depend on these platforms for their livelihoods, the effects can be disastrous. They can also reduce the diversity of news coverage since large media conglomerates are better placed to appeal against bad decisions than their smaller, independent peers. That’s bad news for local outlets, which are increasingly responsible for a lot of news and investigative journalism that mainstream news won’t touch.
Reactionary moves can have unforeseen consequences for innocent users and for the quality of our informed liberal democracy. Just consider the Patriot Act, hastily drafted amid post 9/11 fervor. It has long deprived Americans of their civil liberties, even in ways that don’t help combat terrorism.
That’s why the utility of zealously taking down fringe or extremist content should also be questioned. Public platforms out in the open make it easier for security and intelligence agencies to track and police threats. Even 4chan’s accessibility led the government to a successful airstrike on ISIS — thanks to the hapless terrorists’ YouTube postings. It’s a bad idea to drive nefarious actors entirely underground to encrypted messaging apps or dark web platforms where they can organize effectively without being seen.
These problems were acknowledged by former FBI assistant counterintelligence director Frank Figliuzzi. Pushing folks out of mainstream platforms can also isolate them “in an amplified extremist echo-chamber where they hear only their truth and their reality,” he noted.
That said, there’s no point in making social media the scapegoat for governments’ failures. Government agencies are better equipped than platforms to combat citizen violence to speedily monitor all posts by countless users, and that’s what they should do. Despite the FBI flagging the threat of mob violence last week, possibly thanks to monitoring social media, there were still crucial security lapses instrumental to the Capitol storming. As a result, the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police was forced to resign.
But major tech companies are making a misstep by going after Parler soon after a close election, wherein nearly 75 million Americans demonstrated support for the president. They could very well be further fracturing the country’s existing divides. But, if nothing else, they’ll reduce competition in the social media space and encourage an overzealous censorship culture — one with an unknowable victim tally. Tech companies are right to criticize President Trump for not being cognizant of the political consequences of his actions, but they should take care to do the same for themselves.
• Satya Marar is a Young Voices senior contributor and tech policy fellow.
When the thrust of your defense procurement strategy is to please its benefactors in Congress rather than achieve and increase strategic demands, you’ll get some odd outcomes.
One is that the goal becomes not to build a great weapons system but to get one or two in the field as quickly as possible. That’s how the F-35 fighter jet became the largest and most wasteful project in the history of defense acquisition and it’s now the Navy must decide what to do about its increasingly costly Freedom class of littoral combat ships.
In the case of the F-35, the effort to field aircraft before final testing caused the planes to have problems that prevented them from flying in thunderstorms or at the speed for which they were designed.
Further, the aircraft was conceived as a way to save money and promote interoperability — the Navy, Air Force and Marines would use the same plane.
But the Navy, Air Force and Marines had different needs for the aircraft, which led to different designs, which led to still more delays and cost overruns. We’ve sold them to allies around the world and set up supply lines in those countries as well, further exposing the technology to possible transfer to adversaries.
Between the delays in production while huge issues were dealt with in regard to design and the procurement process, the plane is now out of date, and its technology is in the hands of adversaries — as demonstrated by recent news that Russia has developed anti-aircraft technology designed specifically to overcome the F-35.
The Department of Defense recognizes the problem and has developed its Next-Generation Air Dominance program, headquartered at the Air Force, to address it. Rather than tie our fortunes to an aircraft for decades and allowing adversaries to catch up to it and procurement rot to sink in, it proposes that the U.S. be in constant redesign mode and produce new aircraft every five years or so.
But Congress is invested in the F-35 — to the tune of about $1.2 trillion before the program winds down over the next 15 years — and members of Congress are invested in keeping the parts manufacturers and other businesses that earn money off the F-35 from losing their contracts.
And with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, doubling up on defense spending is unlikely.
Similarly, the Navy reached a point after the Cold War where it found its ships designed for open ocean warfare but perhaps vulnerable in more shallow waters near the shore. Littoral combat ships are smaller, more maneuverable craft that can be reconfigured to serve a variety of roles.
But the Freedom class littoral combat ships — with 17 ships fielded since 2008 — has what increasingly appears to be a class-wide design defect that would require design changes for any new Freedom class littoral ship constructed and the retrofitting of all existing ships.
The latest problem with the littoral ships is with the “combining gear,” a transmission that connects power from two large gas turbine engines and two main propulsion diesel engines to the ship’s propulsion shafts, which in turn propel the ship through the water with water jets.
The combining gear on the USS Detroit, a littoral ship, failed at sea in October, and the ship had to be towed back to port. The contractors who built the ship — Lockheed and RENK AG, a German firm — are conducting a “root cause analysis” of the mishap, but the nature of the problem and the difficulty of repairing have the Navy close to concluding the entire class needs to be retrofitted and redesigned to address the flaw.
Meanwhile, the 10 ships still in service are trying to muddle through by operating at lower speeds — no more than 10 knots on ships designed to travel up to 40 knots — to limit use of the combining gear. The Navy is trying to figure out what to do – the gear boxes on Navy ships are not designed to be repaired or retrofitted over the life of the ship, and it’s unknown if they even can be repaired — and, more importantly, who will pay for the problem.
Lockheed, which stands to profit from any repair or retrofitting, designed the ship, which has concerned the Navy and other policymakers about the specter of a contractor building in problems to its products so it can later profit from these repairs and retrofits.
What it must count on is that the weapons systems it purchases work as planned and provide the value Americans expect for their tax dollars. That means not deploying systems that aren’t ready, and, most importantly, letting need and taxpayer value be the top drivers of policy.
• Brian McNicoll, a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Virginia, is a former senior writer for The Heritage Foundation and former director of communications for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
If, as he insists, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia opposes his fellow Democrats’ far-left agenda, there would be no more effective way of doing that than for him to switch parties and become a Republican.
The Democrats’ radical agenda could include packing the U.S. Supreme Court with liberal justices, abolishing the Electoral College and the Senate filibuster, and granting statehood to the District of Columbia.
Mr. Manchin said on CNN on Nov. 10 of packing the high court: “I’m not voting for that.” He added: “I’m not voting for basically breaking the filibuster because that means that we’ve given up on the Senate. It’s supposed to work in a bipartisan way. I would never do that.”
Democrats apparently learned nothing from the resounding repudiation voters handed to them for misreading their 2008 mandate and enacting Obamacare in the 2010 midterms, in which they lost 63 House seats and six in the Senate.
With Democrats having captured both of the Georgia seats in the Senate on Jan. 5, the Senate now will be split 50-50. With Vice President-elect Kamala Harris poised to be the tiebreaker, there’s no reason not to take Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, at his word on his Nov. 7 vow to “change America.”
Mr. Manchin can pre-empt all of that by switching parties, denying Democrats the opportunity to steamroll their radical agenda through.
There are two other good reasons for Mr. Manchin to become a Republican:
1.) West Virginians gave 68.6% of their votes to President Trump over Joe Biden, which makes the Mountain State if not the reddest of states, certainly in the Top 5.
2.) There’s recent precedent for it in Mr. Manchin’s own backyard: West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who was elected as a Democrat in 2016, switched parties just seven months later. He won re-election in a landslide in November.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, could throw in a plum committee chairmanship or two as an added incentive for Mr. Manchin to switch sides.
In a Senate split 50-50, he will come under intense pressure to toe the party line and support the Democrats’ far-left agenda.
While the West Virginia lawmaker could vote against his current party’s far-left agenda while remaining a Democrat, doing so would make him about as popular as the proverbial skunk at a garden party at meetings of the Senate Democratic caucus.
In short, it would be easier for Mr. Manchin to switch than to fight his party. He could cite Ronald Reagan, who explained his 1962 switch of party affiliation: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.”
When Twitter and Facebook decided to ban President Donald Trump, censor The New York Post, and start erasing other people and institutions from their platforms, they started down a path which will have enormous consequences for them and for America.
When Google, Amazon and Apple joined in taking down Parler, a conservative social media platform, they reached critical mass in proving that an oligarchical cabal was potentially seeking to control public dialogue for all Americans.
Even the American Civil Liberties Union, normally an opponent of conservatives, felt moved to have its senior legislative counsel Kate Ruane issue a statement that big tech using its power to remove political speech is a concern for all Americans, saying: “We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions — especially when political realities make those decisions easier.”
People noticed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (who combined earned zero votes for president) had claimed the right to silence President Trump (who earned more than 74 million votes for president). The idea that a few oligarch billionaires could control the political discourse of America began to really worry people.
This process of squeezing people out of the public square is inherently dangerous. As President Harry Truman warned: “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
This terrifying concept of technological management of memory and opinion was captured in its most human form in George Orwell’s 1984 (which was about a Western democracy devouring itself and its citizens in a totalitarian nightmare).
The cancel culture and social media erasure movements are strikingly like Orwell’s vision of a “memory hole,” in which ideas that are no longer deemed valid by the those in power are destroyed so people can no longer access them.
The House Democrats’ new rules (adopted Jan. 3 with 217 Democrats voting in favor) which eliminate mother, father, son, daughter and more than a dozen other “inappropriate” gender-specific words in the “Rules of the House of Representatives” document is another Orwellian example of retraining us to only think “appropriate” thoughts and use “appropriate” language. Truman’s fears are beginning to come true.
Fortunately, there is a reaction building which will defeat the left’s grasp for power over words, speech, and discourse.
First, the Internet giants are at risk of being sued for acting as indirect agents of government power. Some argue that the protections of Section 230 also make them indirect agents of the government. The Supreme Court has ruled consistently that private corporations acting as government agents are bound by the U.S. Constitution.
Cutting off free speech is a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of liberties, and therefore the companies might be subject to fines and penalties for violating the constitutional rights of their customers. Vivek Ramaswamy and Jed Rubenfeld have laid out the intellectual basis and historic precedents for this application of constitutional limitations to the internet giants.
Second, the nature of section 230 may be profoundly changed. The guarantee against lawsuits made sense when we passed it in 1996 (while I was Speaker), because it was an effort to grow what were then tiny, fragile companies. Those guarantees no longer make sense when you are dealing with gigantic worldwide institutions of enormous power and wealth.
Further, they have now demonstrated an ability to moderate content that they didn’t have in the beginning. Section 230 could be modified to either make them common carriers with no right to monitor or block the participants’ ideas, or it could be modified to make them liable to the same legal exposure as newspapers and magazines, in which case they could be sued.
Third — and the approach I most favor — conservatives should simply create alternative communications systems to provide access for everyone who disagrees with the left.
We have done this before.
In the 1980s, news was dominated by three New York City-based networks with relatively liberal newsrooms. Along came Rush Limbaugh. Following his massive success there arose hundreds of conservative talk radio hosts. Today, talk radio is overwhelmingly conservative and it is a solid alternative to traditional media liberalism.
In the early 1990s, CNN and a relatively liberal approach dominated cable news. Then, in 1996, Fox News was launched. Ironically, the genius behind the rise of Fox into the dominant news channel, Roger Ailes, had been driven out of political consulting by the left because they feared and hated him. He ended up fighting the left far more effectively through his invention of Fox News than he ever would have as a political consultant.
Now, we have the latest effort by the left to rig the game, smother dissent, and dictate what we can think, say, and believe.
Competition will destroy this left-wing groupthink machine much more quickly, decisively — and safely — than any effort to regulate or supervise the big internet giants, which will take massive time and effort to defeat their lobbying machines.
There are more than 74 million Americans who voted for President Trump. At least half of them would be a potential market for an alternative social media-web hosting system. That would be a market of 37 million Americans. If only a small share of nonconservatives came to the new system, that would give it a potential market of more than 40 million Americans.
Competition is the best way to defeat efforts at monopoly and domination.
I am convinced we Americans will reject domination by oligarchs and insist on our right to be free. We will not be thrown into the “memory hole” by a handful of rich liberals.
On to the new competitive world.
• To read, hear, and watch more of Newt’s commentary, visit Gingrich360.com. And join us on Jan. 26 for the next Newt Live event.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offered his understanding last weekend of President Trump’s alleged role in the Capitol riots when he said, “If inciting to insurrection isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is.”
He must have been addressing the political, ethical, practical and emotional implications of Mr. Trump’s exhortations to the crowd. Mr. Christie knows that the U.S. Constitution expressly requires that the House of Representatives have evidence that the president committed a crime before it can impeach him.
Did Donald Trump commit a crime by exhorting the crowds on Jan. 6? In a word: No.
Here is the backstory.
Any analysis of the criminal implications of speech must begin with the plain language of the First Amendment which reads in part: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” James Madison, who drafted the Bill of Rights, insisted that the article “the” precede the word “freedom,” as in “the freedom of speech,” so as to make it manifestly clear that those who proposed and ratified the First Amendment recognized that the freedom of speech preceded the existence of the government.
To the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the ratifiers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the freedom of speech, along with other freedoms, is a natural right because it comes of our humanity, not from the government.
I recount this brief history and offer this philosophical nuance because the freedom of speech is supposed to be a bulwark against prosecutions for speech. Thomas Jefferson once argued that so long as the speaker neither picked his pocket nor broke his legs, all the speaker’s words are protected. Stated differently, before anyone can be prosecuted for speech, the court must find that there is no legitimate, nonviolent purpose to the speech and no time for the listeners to hear countervailing speech.
That was the understanding of the freedom of speech at the creation of our republic.
Sadly, that understanding gave way to the exercise of raw power animated by the fear of losing power when Congress, in 1798, during the presidency of John Adams, enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts. One of those acts made it a crime to utter “false, scandalous, or malicious” speech against the government or the president, or to utter speech in opposition to the government’s efforts to shore up defenses from a war with France that never came about.
It is hard to accept that some of the same human beings who ratified, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech” also enacted laws that abridged speech. But they did.
Eventually, Jefferson defeated Adams for president and the federalists in Congress repealed the anti-speech portion of their own acts, lest the Jefferson administration have it available for repression against them. That was hardly necessary as Jefferson pardoned those who had been convicted under Adams for uttering speech in violation of the acts.
Regrettably, the history of free speech in America is not the history of patient governmental tolerance. Rather, it is the history of the government violating the First Amendment.
Even in the present era, the so-called Patriot Act of 2001 forbids the recipient of a nonjudicial search warrant (a warrant for which one federal agent has authorized another to search business or financial records in the custody of a record keeper, such as a physician, bank or lawyer, in violation of the Fourth Amendment) from using speech to tell anyone about the receipt of the warrant.
From time to time, the Supreme Court has entered this gloomy picture in an effort to define just how far one can go with uttering words that the government hates or fears. Its most significant modern advance came in a unanimous opinion in 1969, called Brandenburg v. Ohio. In that case, Clarence Brandenburg, a KKK leader, set out to incite violence against Jews and Blacks in Washington, D.C.
But he did so by encouraging violence at a rally in Hamilton County, Ohio. Though he acknowledged that violence was his purpose, he claimed his words were protected political speech. He was convicted under an Ohio law that prohibited inciting violence — even though the violence never came about.
The Supreme Court reversed his conviction, holding that it violated the First Amendment. The court ruled that all innocuous speech is absolutely protected and all speech is innocuous when there is time for more speech to rebut it — before the harm that it advocates comes to pass. Since Brandenburg spoke in Ohio and the violence he sought to foment was to have occurred in Washington, there was time for saner heads to utter speech rebutting his hateful words.
Now back to the president’s words on Jan. 6. President Trump has been accused of inciting violence by saying: “Get ready to fight”; “It’s going to be wild”; “Fight for Trump”; “Fight much harder”; “Get rid of the weak congresspeople”; and, later, “We love you.” The president’s speech ended at 12:45 p.m. and the Capitol was first breeched at 2:15 p.m.
The essence of criminal incitement is immediacy. On Jan. 6, because there was time for more speech to rebut what the president said, his words are protected. He cannot be prosecuted or even sued for them. If he were impeached for uttering words that are not obviously criminal, Congress would be violating the Constitution.
I write this as a constitutional analysis, not a political one. The First Amendment protects the speech we hate and fear. It even protects the speech that harms. The remedy for harmful speech is not punishment; it is more speech. The courts know this. Congress needs to know it as well.
• Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is a regular contributor to The Washington Times. He is the author of nine books on the U.S. Constitution.
Are the Democrats, under the leadership of President-elect Joe Biden, Sen. Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the 195 members of Congress that have agreed to or signed onto the Articles of Impeachment against President Trump, getting ready to commit the same crime or misdemeanor they attribute to President Trump? That is inciting violence and insurrection.
For the most part, the people that showed up for the Jan. 6 rally to protest the election integrity and show support for Mr. Trump were peaceful average American citizens that love our constitutional republic. I know because I was at a Washington hotel where many were staying. Yes, it’s true things got out of control in short order and unfortunately some lost their lives, including a female military veteran and some of the dedicated Capitol Hill Police Department. But to move forward without knowing who incited the violence and caused the breach of the nation’s Capitol is irresponsible.
We know extremists were present, and I suspect the anti-American agitators were there to foment chaos and anarchy. We also know the legitimate participants represent a large majority of the 74 million-plus voters that supported Mr. Trump and have real concerns over the integrity of the November election. These voters are approximately half of this nation’s voters that participated in the election.
I watched Mr. Trump and the others on the stage and did not agree with much that was said. However, the president only asked people to march to the Capitol and let the members of Congress know where they stand on election integrity. Not once did he tell them to cause violence or ask them to storm the Capitol. So why put this nation through another impeachment debacle?
I see this being done out of spite, disdain, hatred, or an effort to discredit and humiliate the 45th president of the United States. This is in the backdrop of the Democrats and Republicans in the last election calling for unification, tolerance respect for different views, and a healing of all the vitriol caused by the current administration that has divided this nation.
If these words were spoken with sincerity and truth then Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Nadler et. al. would not move to impeach and they would check their own rhetoric. When I hear Mr. Biden refer to these people as domestic terrorists or Congresswoman Karen Bass say this was a KKK rally, I assume because they were predominantly White it sounds like hate and racism being spewed to many. It does not sound like leaders wanting to heal a nation but more of a mob mentality wanting to fan the same flames of discontent that they accuse President Trump of to justify impeachment.
Ms. Bass must of had her blinders on and didn’t notice the makeup of the crowd. It was made up of Asians, Hispanics, Indians, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, atheists, the LGBT community, Whites and yes even some Blacks were present. It was a representation of America and again over 74 million voters that did not choose Joe Biden to be their next president.
I caution those that are hell-bent on removing the 45th president days before his term is up to reconsider the gasoline you’re about to throw on a house already divided. Without the facts as to who the bad rioters were, is this the best way to heal a nation and start a new presidency or will it cause more division and justify more violence? The choice is yours. Please choose wisely.
Sincerely and thankfully, a former member of Congress,
• Ted S. Yoho is a former Republican U.S. representative from Florida.