“Debt is the worst poverty.”
— Thomas Fuller, 17th-century English churchman and historian
No reporter asks about it. The candidates don’t talk about it. Are voters even concerned about it?
The unmentioned “it” is the national debt, which days ago reached $27 trillion and continues to grow like an untreated tumor on the economic body of the nation.
At least one group is trying to get the public’s attention about how dangerous the national debt is to the future of the country. It is the newly formed Millennial Debt Commission (MDC), a civilian-led commission working toward a framework for long-term deficit reduction, made up of “20 millennial business leaders from across the country.”
The MDC recently held a conference call with current and former members of Congress (all Republicans, unfortunately, since the debt is equally the fault of both parties) and former government officials.
One of those on the call was former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Holtz-Eakin, who said the national debt is “quite literally mathematically unsustainable.” This is not new, as many have been saying much the same over many years, though they lack the will to do anything about reducing it. These include Congresses with Democrat and Republican majorities and administrations. Mr. Holtz-Eakin added, “We are headed into a death spiral where we borrow to pay interest on previous borrowing, and it cannot be sustained.”
It is, as Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, calls it, “intergenerational theft.” We’ve heard that one before, too, but it’s one thing to sound an alarm; it is quite another to stop the thieves. Said Mr. Johnson, “70 percent of our budget (is) now on complete automatic pilot … .”
While some alarmists are warning we could all die from climate change in the next however many years (their predictions differ and have been consistently wrong), the national debt is a clear and present threat to the stability, even existence, of the country. Great nations of the past have expired, or been greatly diminished, by refusing to control debt.
Rep. William Timmons, South Carolina Republican, warned, “The global economy is not going to allow the United States government to borrow $70 trillion (his estimate at the current rate of borrowing and spending) … we will lose our pre-eminent position and the dollar will just be in the trash can.”
Rep. Bryan Steil, Wisconsin Republican, added, “… the projected Congressional Budget Office debt to GDP ratio at the end of the year is 101 percent. That’s really the tipping point when you talk to macroeconomists and where you get into a danger zone. … What we need to do is have an adult and thoughtful conversation about how we are going to turn the tide and get back to a sustainable path going forward.”
Ah, but herein lies the problem. Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, told the conference call participants, “I was on the budget and appropriations process reform committee, the joint select committee that was established several years ago … we couldn’t come together on legislation. We could not do anything more than simple window dressing. … There are so many people stuck in the way that we’ve always done things … and we really do have to move beyond that.”
The ongoing problem is how? As long as many Americans believe government owes them money extracted from other people, as long as politicians use spending to “buy” votes, refusing to say “no” to any request, the debt will grow. That guarantees the bill will come due sooner rather than later.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is among legions of people who have warned of the dangers of debt: “A man in debt is so far a slave.”
If that is true for individuals, how much more for nations?
• Cal Thomas, a nationally syndicated columnist, is the author of “America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires, Superpowers and the United States” (HarperCollins/Zondervan, January 2020).
“You can crush the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring.” — Alexander Dubcek
The destinies of the Czech Republic and Taiwan have never been more intertwined. The Czech Senate passed a resolution 50-to-1 in favor of Senate President Milos Vystrcil leading a delegation to Taiwan in August of this year, which was lauded by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Meanwhile, 70 legislators from a number of democratic countries, including France, Germany and the United States, as well as members of the European Parliament, issued a joint statement staunchly supporting the visit.
When Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that the Czech Republic would “pay a heavy price,” political leaders from the European Union, France, Germany and Slovakia voiced support for the visit and openly challenged China. European and global attitudes toward China are changing. Senate President Vystrcil’s visit made clear that collaboration among democratic nations is strengthening, marking the dawn of a new democratic spring.
In recent decades, Taiwan has been subjected to threats and military intimidation by the Chinese Communist Party, which has also exerted undue influence to hinder Taiwan’s participation in the international community — a fact little understood by people around the world. As COVID-19 ravages the globe, Taiwan remains largely untouched, demonstrating the efficacy of the Taiwan Model for disease prevention.
However, even now Taiwan continues to be excluded from the World Health Organization due to Chinese suppression. The CCP’s harassment of Taiwan has escalated to the extent that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has begun to brazenly deny the existence of the Taiwan Strait median line, which separates Taiwan and China.
And the CCP continues to repeatedly threaten the use of force against Taiwan, flexing its military muscle by conducting missile tests and sending warplanes and military vessels to intimidate Taiwan. China seeks to encircle and harass Taiwan, a bastion of democracy situated in the first island chain. Only now are democratic nations finally beginning to pay close attention to China’s actions.
Communist China ascended to its place as the world’s second-largest economy on the back of slogans such as “keeping a low profile” and “a peaceful rise,” which it used to conceal unfair trade practices and blatant disregard for intellectual property rights.
Furthermore, the CCP persecutes religious practitioners and violates human rights, ruling Tibet with an iron fist, imprisoning Uyghurs in Xinjiang, stamping out democracy in Hong Kong, threatening Taiwan and devastating Inner Mongolia. China also employs “wolf warrior” diplomacy to export corruption and authoritarianism with its Belt and Road Initiative. The CCP’s antidemocratic methods and human rights abuses are increasingly encroaching on free and democratic nations across the globe, allowing the world to glimpse the true face of the CCP.
Alexander Dubcek famously said, “You can crush the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring.” Today, global democratic collaboration against the CCP’s antidemocratic actions and human rights violations marks the dawn of another democratic spring. The world is beginning to realize the need for a new containment policy and enhanced cooperation among democracies.
I have been in politics for nearly 40 years, and democracy and human rights have always been my highest priorities. As president of the Legislative Yuan, it is my duty to promote exchanges between Taiwan and democracies worldwide. In an act of friendship, Senate President Vystrcil opened the doors of Europe for Taiwan, and Taiwan now extends both arms to warmly embrace our friends from democratic nations across the globe.
• You Si-kun is president of the Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently met with his counterparts from India, Australia and Japan in Tokyo. This gathering of “The Quad” is another example of this administration “doing diplomacy different” and, in some ways, maybe even better than the old ways.
It’s fair to say President Trump doesn’t do old-fashioned diplomacy. But that’s because traditional statecraft won’t cut it this era of great power competition. The U.S. must push back against countries like China, Russia and Iran and the threats they pose to regional stability, liberty and security.
Not all of our friends are comfortable with that. They’re comfortable with velvet glove diplomacy and little else. But when critics complain that the U.S. administration doesn’t do multilateralism, arrangements where multiple states cooperate together, it’s like the guy with a rotary phone telling the guy with the iPhone he doesn’t do telephony.
Multilateralism was all the rage in the 1990s. Like-minded nations would band together, advocating international norms for other states to follow. Back then, with the Cold War over, the commitment to participate may have been good enough, even if it produced more dialogue than results.
But in an age where serious competitors like China and Russia have no intention of following any rules that get in their way, talk alone isn’t enough.
This administration does not eschew multilateralism, but it does not restrict itself to multilateralism. And that approach has delivered some welcome results doesn’t look half bad.
When has it embraced multinational cooperation? When cooperating can yield results. NATO is a case point. The administration pressed for reforms and increased burden-sharing because it only makes sense for the U.S. to be part of a collective security alliance if the alliance is capable of delivering collective security.
NATO reform is not a one-off. The administration consistently seeks to participate in groupings that demonstrate they are capable of delivering real outcomes.
The Five Eyes partnership is a good example. The Anglo-American partners (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.) have long had an arrangement for intimate, almost seamless intelligence sharing. This administration concluded that if it works for intelligence, it could work for other matters. Consequently, it has expanded the format to include foreign affairs and other issues.
The Quad is another example of the administration being attracted to multinational activities that can enhance stability and security in the modern era. All four countries involved — Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. — are committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. They reject the notion that China should have a hard sphere of influence that allows Beijing to bully its neighbors or decide who can and cannot operate in Asia. Bringing together the four nations together for regular, strategic discussions of common issues just makes sense.
No, it is not a formal military alliance as NATO is. The Quad doesn’t need to be. Collective arrangements in the Asia-Pacific need not mirror those in the trans-Atlantic community. What matters is forming associations that can deliver tangible results.
The Oct. 6 Quad meeting was the second time the foreign secretaries have met, a clear sign that this is a serious effort.
Critics were disappointed that the meeting didn’t produce a joint statement. That’s just old-think. Statements are the statesmen’s way of declaring, “See, we can talk to each other.” It appears that the Quad has already moved beyond such paper-deep diplomatic gestures.
By insider accounts, this was a roll-up-the-sleeves meeting where the ministers dug into serious issues: China’s behavior during the COVID outbreak to Taiwan, the Indo-Sino border dispute, the East China Sea, and Beijing’s malicious cyberactivity.
Expect more meetings. Expect the Quad framework to branch out into multilevel discussions that might include bringing in other ministers or national security advisers.
No matter what happens in November or what the Quad critics say, old-fashioned multilateralism doesn’t have much of a future. Without a commitment to real action and outcomes, diplomatic dialogue and joint statements won’t be enough to assure stability and security in today’s geopolitics.
• A Heritage Foundation vice president, James Jay Carafano directs the think tank’s research in matters of national security and foreign relations.
President Trump released his America First Healthcare Plan last month, yet judging by the lack of media coverage, you’d be forgiven if you missed it. At last month’s debate in Cleveland, Joe Biden said, Trump “has no plan for health care.” Aside from expanding a failed public option, Mr. Biden could have been talking to the mirror when he made this statement.
In reality, Mr. Trump’s plan amounts to a personalized health care revolution that would increase choices, reduce costs and improve care. He would enact this health care plan by consolidating and expanding on his various accomplishments already made in his first term.
To start, Mr. Trump’s plan provides non-negotiable protections for those with preexisting conditions. Mr. Trump has promised to veto any bill that comes to his desk that does not protect these vulnerable Americans.
Mr. Trump would increase health care choices by building upon his success in expanding from the one-size-fits-all options under Obamacare. These additional choices include short-term health plans, which don’t include all the mandates of Obamacare but are roughly 80 percent less expensive. He also empowers association health plans (AHPs), which allow small businesses to band together to increase their negotiating power and get less expensive policies for their members. Unfortunately — like much of the Trump health care agenda — AHPs have been held up by court challenges.
Nevertheless, Trump has succeeded in increasing health care choices. When he took office, more than 50 percent of counties nationwide offered plans from only a single insurance company on the individual market; today, more than 90 percent of the counties will have multiple options from which to choose. This will lead to competition which is sorely absent in Obamacare.
Mr. Trump’s health care plan would lower costs by introducing real health care price transparency so that patients can easily shop for less expensive care. This reform would also eliminate surprise billing because patients would know before receiving care what they have to pay. This cost certainty would be a welcome change from the status quo where patients don’t know what they’ll pay until they get their bills in the mail. This price transparency rule, too, is the subject of a court challenge.
By working to reform the complex prescription drug market, including addressing the Kabuki theater system of middlemen rebates and kickbacks, Mr. Trump has succeeded in lowering drug costs for the first time in 52 years. Drug prices will continue to fall as these rebate dollars are directed away from the middlemen and instead given back to patients.
Mr. Trump’s health care plan would improve care by expanding telemedicine and granting patients access to their personal medical records so that they can get care from the comfort and safety of their own homes. These reforms are just two of many modernization steps Mr. Trump is taking to finally drag American health care into the 21st century.
Mr. Trump has also improved care by getting rid of Obamacare’s individual mandate, which forced Americans to get health care insurance even if it was shoddy. When patients can choose whether or not to purchase coverage, insurers must try to attract them based on quality and cost.
In contrast to this bottom-up vision of personalized health care reform, Joe Biden’s alternative amounts to essentially just expanding the failed Medicaid program to all who want it. Yet Medicaid suffers from long wait times, cost overruns, and substandard care. Expanding this broken system to all who want it is not the solution to the American health care problem. Obamacare is the direct cause of health care’s out of control inflationary spiral.
In fact, a public option would turn into a Medicare for All single-payer system because it would attract the relatively young and healthy patients who are needed to offset the costs of sicker patients in the private market. As a result, premiums would rise and the private market death spiral would begin. Indeed the public option is just a steamship en route to the single-payer port.
The Trump and Biden health care visions could not be more different. Mr. Trump’s vision is a personalized system that would increase choices, lower costs and improve care. Mr. Biden’s plan doubles-down on Obamacare, expanding a failed government-run model of care. Voters should examine these alternatives, which will become their health care futures, before they cast their vote on Election Day.
• Dr. Robert Campbell is president of Central PA Anesthesia in Lebanon and a member of the Job Creators Network.
Current U.S. presidential election polls, if they are to be believed, bode very well for former Vice President Joe Biden. An Opinium/Guardian US poll released this week shows Biden leading President Trump nationally. According to their poll, 57% of likely voters intend to vote for Biden and 40% intend to vote for Trump.
Other polls provide evidence that would seem to give the Biden camp great confidence with less than three weeks until election day. According to an Epic-MRA poll, Mr. Biden currently leads Trump in Michigan by 9 points. An Emerson poll shows Mr. Biden leading Trump by 3 in Florida. The swing state of Pennsylvania favors Mr. Biden by 7 according to Reuters/Ipsos. Other swing state polls look bleak for TMr. rump as well If the polls hold true, Wisconsin goes for Biden. Minnesota goes for Biden. A recent New York Times/Siena poll even shows Biden leading in Ohio.
These numbers rival the polls of Ronald Reagan before his landslide victory of 1984 and Reagan was one of the most popular presidents in American history. This Joe Biden fellow must be extraordinarily popular as well.
Except he isn’t.
In September Mr. Biden attempted to connect with Latin voters in Florida by playing “Despacito” on his smartphone. To say it was an awkward moment is an understatement. Little noted about that appearance, however, was the fact that there was nearly no one there. When Mr. Biden was introduced there was a smattering of applause and by smattering I mean perhaps fifteen people. He didn’t appear on stage immediately and when he did finally come out, the applause was even more thin, perhaps six or eight people. Six or eight people is roughly the number of staff that travels with Mr. Biden to these events.
CNN sponsored a drive-in town hall meeting for Mr. Biden in September in Pennsylvania. A few dozen people sat in lawn chairs in front of their cars. Multiple other empty cars were also parked at the event.
After Mr. Biden spoke on the final night of the Democrat virtual convention, he and his wife, along with his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, walked outside and waved to rows of cars. In retrospect one wonders if it was more of a parking lot full of empty cars than actual enthusiasts. Nearly no humans were visible.
To the Biden team’s credit they have played the coronavirus like a fine symphony. It is the perfect cover for keeping a far from perfect candidate under wraps. They have gone to great pains to keep Mr. Biden hidden from sight and in the process also managed to conceal the fact that no one is excited by him.
On Tuesday, Oct. 13 the former vice president held a rally in Pembroke Pines, Florida. The local Florida newspaper, The Sun Sentinel, reported that between 50 and 60 people attended. Included in that tally was mostly media, some campaign staff and a handful of Broward County Democratic activists.
Which is it then? Is this candidate wildly popular with a potentially record-setting majority demanding he spend the next four years as their faithful leader in the White House or is Mr. Biden a guy that so few people care about that he can’t draw more than a couple of dozen bodies to an appearance? Equally important is the question of why the media isn’t reporting this strange paradox.
When Donald Trump held a rally in Oklahoma in an arena that held 20,000 people and it wasn’t sold out, the American mainstream media breathlessly chided Mr. Trump because there were empty seats. Mr. Trump drew at least 14,000 people to that rally. Mr. Biden drew about 10. Not 10,000. Ten. Why isn’t that a story?
It isn’t exactly a eureka moment to state that much of the mainstream media loathes President Trump. They constantly treat him with contempt and disrespect. One would think that when thousands of people consistently show up for Candidate A all across the country and literally no one shows up for Candidate B, that is news. Logic would dictate A has the advantage.
This is politics however. Logic has no place here. Polls say Candidate B is going to win big. End of story.
We are left with one of two conclusions. Conclusion one is that if the American public has zero enthusiasm for Mr. Biden but he leads by 17 points, the public must absolutely hate Mr. Trump. I don’t mean they merely have a bad taste, but rather, if the polls are to believed, a dog could outpoll Mr. Trump simply because America has an overwhelming desire for someone else, anyone else.
The second option is simpler. What if the polls are wrong? It wouldn’t be the first time. In 1988 Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis led George H.W. Bush by 17 points. My history books find no record of a President Dukakis. In 2016, nearly every poll had Hillary Clinton winning big. Fox News, CBS News, ABC/Washington Post and NBC/Wall Street Journal polls all had Mrs. Clinton up by 4 points and a landslide win in the Electoral College. To this day, Mrs. Clinton can’t get through a speech without somehow complaining about her loss. The polls were wrong.
Polling is a science. It depends on randomly sampled participants, but there is nothing random about the formulas used to assure the statistics are accurate and meaningful. Many of the polls cited in the national news fail to adhere to science. Assessing what percentage of overall actual voters will be Democrat, Republican or independent is one example.
In one recent national poll touting a 14-point lead for Mr. Biden among likely voters, 45% of the respondents were Democrat. The actual percentage of 2020 voters in the real election expected to be Democrat is between 35% and 38%. By including more Democrats in their poll, the numbers were tainted in favor of Mr. Biden. The Guardian poll mentioned above that shows Mr. Biden up by 17 points included only 20% independent voters. When the ballots are tabulated in November, it is expected that about 31% of them will have come from independents.
In short, the science of these polls is fatally flawed. Some pollsters adhere to science. Some ignore it. It is why the campaigns themselves depend on internal polling for accurate information.
There is a well-known philosophical debate that asks, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Some will argue that if no one is there to hear it, it actually makes no sound.
The 2020 Biden Polling Paradox version of this same philosophical debate may be “If a presidential candidate shows up to speak and no one is around to hear him, does he get their vote?”
In the 21st century, hallmark American and international institutions have lost much of their prestige and respect.
Politics and biases explain the lack of public confidence in organizations and institutions such as the World Health Organization, the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Pulitzer Prizes and the Academy Awards.
The overseers entrusted with preserving these institutions all caved to short-term political pressures. As a result, they have mostly destroyed what they inherited.
The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is the first person without a medical degree to hold that position. Why? No one really knows.
In the critical first days of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic, almost every statement issued by Mr. Tedros and the WHO about the origins, transmission, prevention and treatment of the virus was inaccurate. Worse, the announcements predictably reflected the propaganda of the Chinese government.
The bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates was formed in 1987 for two purposes: to ensure that during every presidential campaign, candidates would agree to debate; and to ensure that the debates would be impartial and not favor either major party.
Unfortunately, in 2020, the commission so far has a checkered record on both counts.
Conservatives have argued that the moderators of the first presidential debate and the vice presidential debate — Chris Wallace of Fox News and Susan Page of USA Today — were systematically asymmetrical in their questioning.
The moderators asked both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to explain prior controversial quotes and then to reply to critics’ accusations. The moderators did not pose the same sort of gotcha-type “When did you stop beating your wife?” questions to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden or vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
Although the vice presidential debate was conducted with proper social distancing, along with screens and testing to protect the candidates, the commission abruptly canceled the second live presidential debate for safety’s sake and insisted it be conducted remotely.
Yet, White House doctors have cleared Mr. Trump, who recently contracted COVID-19, as both medically able to debate and no longer infectious.
The public perception was that a remote debate would favor the frequently teleprompted Mr. Biden, who has been largely ensconced in his home during the last six months, and would be less advantageous to Mr. Trump, who thrives on live, ad hoc television.
Ms. Page is currently writing a biography of Mr. Trump’s chief antagonist, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. The designated moderator of the now-canceled second president debate, Steve Scully of C-SPAN, once interned for Vice President Biden.
The Nobel Peace Prize has been subject to criticism over the years for failing to adequately recognize either diplomatic or humanitarian achievement.
Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization won the prize in 1994, despite conducting lethal terrorist operations. He allegedly gave the final order to execute U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel and two other diplomats in 1973.
In 2009, the Nobel Peace Prize went to President Obama, despite the fact that Mr. Obama had only been president for eight months when the prize was announced. Many felt the award was a political statement — aimed at empowering Mr. Obama and criticizing the policies of his then-unpopular predecessor, George W. Bush.
Much later, Geir Lundestad, the longtime director of the Nobel Institute, confessed that the prize committee had indeed hoped the award would strengthen Mr, Obama’s future agendas and wasn’t really in recognition of anything he had actually done.
“Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake,” Mr. Lundestad lamented in his memoir. “In that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.”
Earlier this year, New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her work on The 1619 Project. She has argued that 1619, the year African slaves first arrived on North American soil and not 1776 marked the real founding of America.
Almost immediately, distinguished American historians cited factual errors and general incoherence in The 1619 Project — especially Mrs. Hannah-Jones’ claim that the United States was created to promote and protect slavery.
Facing a storm of criticism, Mrs. Hannah-Jones falsely countered that she had never advanced a revisionist date of American’s “real” founding. Yet, even the New York Times — without explanation — erased from its own website Mrs. Hannah-Jones’ earlier description of 1619 as “our true founding.”
The annual Academy Awards were once among the most watched events in America. In 2020, however, Oscar viewership crashed to its lowest level in history, due in large part to backlash against the left-wing politicking, sermonizing and virtue-signaling of award winners.
Recently, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Oscars, announced that it will adopt racial, gender and sexual identity quotas for nominees — refuting the ancient idea of “art for art’s sake.”
Such ideology has also infected, and thus tarnished, the Grammy and Emmy awards, and left-wing virtue-signaling has also become part of the NFL and the NBA.
The lesson in all these debacles is that anywhere ideology trumps science, public service, history, art and entertainment, ruin surely follows.
• Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is the author, most recently, of “The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.” You can reach him by e-mailing authorvictorhanson.com.
Sen. Kamala Harris is the very embodiment of today’s progressives. She proved this again and again on the debate stage with Vice President Mike Pence, most clearly in her continual willingness to twist or rewrite history to make a point.
This time she simply made up a story about Abraham Lincoln’s decision to appoint Salmon P. Chase to the U.S. Supreme Court as the election of 1864 approached. Chief Justice Roger Taney, author of the notorious Dred Scott decision and an implacable foe of the president, died in early October. In Ms. Harris’ version of what happened next, Lincoln delayed appointing his successor until after the election because “Honest Abe said, it’s not the right thing to do.”
She suggested that “Honest Abe” acted honorably while Donald Trump, the dishonest president she and former Vice President Joe Biden hope to send back to Mar-a-Lago, is acting dishonorably in appointing Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the court before this fall’s election. As National Review’s Dan McLaughlin and others quickly pointed out, Lincoln didn’t send a nomination to the Senate that October because the Senate wasn’t in session and no one has been able to find the senator’s all-too-convenient quote. What’s more, historians agree that Lincoln delayed until after the elections not because he wanted to do the “right thing,” but so he could motivate wannabe justices to campaign for his reelection.
The Senate reconvened in a lame duck session following the November election and Lincoln immediately submitted the nomination of his former Treasury secretary, Salmon P. Chase. The Senate took up the nomination as soon as a quorum showed up and confirmed him that very day. Ms. Harris’ Lincoln story, like the progressive claim that decent presidents don’t try to fill court vacancies as an election approaches, is more fantasy than fact.
Twenty-nine Supreme Court vacancies have come up during election years and in every case the incumbent president nominated someone to fill the vacancy. They must all have shared President Trump’s belief that presidents serve for four years not three-and-a-half.
It is true, of course, that presidents whose party controlled the Senate at the time of these appointments fared far better than those who tried to name a justice with the Senate in hostile hands. Seventeen of the 19 justices appointed by a president with a friendly Senate were confirmed. Nominees submitted by a president to a hostile Senate didn’t fare as well, but they could hardly be criticized for trying — as Barack Obama did in naming Merrick Garland.
Perhaps the single most consequential Supreme Court nomination in our history was made not just in an election year, but to a lame duck Senate after an election the president had lost. In December 1800, Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth resigned from the court for health reasons. President John Adams had lost the November election to Thomas Jefferson, a man seen as the embodiment of all that was evil by Federalists like Adams.
Desperate to preserve and extend the Federalist legacy, President Adams nominated Secretary of State John Marshall, a 45-year-old, dedicated Federalist, knowing that if he hesitated, Jefferson would appoint someone hostile to the Federalist cause as soon as he was sworn in.
Marshall was a loyal friend and lawyer, but hadn’t practiced for some years, which led Adams’ opponents to question his competence. None, however, doubted the president’s right to submit his choice until the moment he left office — even as a lame duck.
Marshall went on to become the best known and most influential Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. He served for three decades as chief justice and turned the largely ineffectual court into a branch of government equal to the presidency and Congress. Marbury v. Madison, the decision that made the Supreme Court what it is today, was written by the new chief justice and is studied to this day by every student of the law and constitutional history. It is that court and Marshall’s legacy that Mr. Biden, Ms. Harris and their progressive followers would destroy if they cannot control it.
Ms. Harris and her progressive followers never hesitate to misuse history for their own purposes, but ignoring our past and making up stories to fit the narrative of the day is unseemly or worse. It was clear that the senator concocted the story in advance to use as a diversion when asked if she and her running mate intend to “pack” the Supreme Court if they win in November. The two have dodged that all-important question whenever it’s been asked, but as Mr. Pence observed after watching Ms. Harris duck and weave, we all know that is exactly what they intend to do if they win.
• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.
“The fax will set you free!” Years ago, that was such a hopeful rallying cry. I was among those convinced that exciting, new technologies would defeat tyrants and censors. When the facsimile machine, an invention of the 19th century (look it up) came into widespread use in the 1980s, it seemed to be the sharp point of a freedom-friendly technological spear.
A fax machine could do in minutes what it had taken Soviet dissidents weeks to achieve with a typewriter: make a copy of a forbidden book and transport it from one place to another.
Years later, of course, there was the advent of the even more revolutionary Internet, followed by social media and other developments that promised to bend the arc of history toward liberty.
You know what’s happened since: Tyrants have learned to use high technology to spread disinformation while, in totalitarian countries, censors have become adept at repressing truthful information they find inconvenient.
We all know there was Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. But only some of us grasp what the Kremlin intended — and still intends — to achieve.
“The Russian government’s goal is to weaken our country — to diminish America’s global role,” Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, explained in congressional testimony last year.
President Vladimir Putin and the Russian security services, she added, “deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each other, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.”
The Wall Street Journal took a serious look at some Russian disinformation efforts last week. A piece headlined “How Russia Today Skirts High-Tech Blockade to Reach U.S. Readers” revealed the mechanisms by which Mr. Putin’s propaganda is packaged by such operations as RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik and then laundered into legitimate American online media outlets.
And though RT reluctantly complied with a 2017 U.S. Justice Department demand that it register as a “foreign agent,” it’s still carried by such major U.S. television cable and satellite networks as Comcast, Dish Network and DIRECTV. Shouldn’t these networks clearly disclose that to viewers? If they don’t, aren’t they assisting the Russian propagandists? Is anyone in Congress interested?
American audiences are not the only Kremlin targets. RT and Sputnik broadcast to dozens of countries in about 30 languages.
What got me thinking about all this was an email I received last week from a journalist friend living in Kyiv. “We have a critical situation here in Ukraine where Putin-allied or friendly oligarchs own half the TV stations,” he wrote. “They are spewing anti-US, anti-EU propaganda 24/7. Eventually, it will take a toll on public opinion.”
One example: Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Russian media have been propagating the lie that the U.S. maintains military biolabs in Ukraine, and that these labs have been spreading diseases.
The People’s Republic of China also blatantly slanders the U.S. As my FDD colleague Craig Singleton noted in a recent report, Beijing’s “well-funded propaganda machine operates across platforms including television, radio, print media, and social media. Some efforts are unambiguously linked to the Chinese government, while others are structured to hide Beijing’s hand.”
According to a White House report issued earlier this year: “In 2015, China Radio International was revealed to control 33 radio stations in 14 countries via shell entities.” Every two years since 2001, the Beijing-owned China News Service has hosted “The World Chinese Media Forum.” Last year, it was attended by more than 400 overseas media representatives closely aligned with Beijing.
There’s a bigger picture: The propagation of disinformation in traditional and social media, including the use of bot and troll accounts as well as blogs and websites with fake or uncertain attribution, are all weapons deployed in the “hybrid wars” Moscow and Beijing are waging against the U.S. and the West. Other hybrid warfare tactics include cyberattacks, boosting extremist political parties, and “encouraged protests.”
China’s rulers also may be using more direct methods to impact election outcomes. Cleo Pascal, another FDD colleague, wrote in India’s Sunday Guardian last week about a recently released independent report: “Fraud in South Korea’s April 2020 Elections: It Probably Happened and is a Big Deal for the United States.”
Written by Grant Newsham, a retired Marine Corps colonel and former reserve head of intelligence for Marine Forces Pacific, the report details “some of the alleged methods used,” including “Electronic Counting Machines (ECM) and/or attached computers containing Huawei components.” Huawei, of course, is a Chinese multinational technology company that advances Beijing’s “military-civil fusion” policies. (Huawei executives deny that. If you believe them, there’s a bridge in Hong Kong I can sell you.)
The result, Ms. Pascal writes, “was a massive, surprising win for President Moon Jae-in’s party in an election with results that seemed so statistically improbable that the former head of the highly prestigious Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology said, ‘either God did it or it was rigged.’”
Ms. Pascal adds that Beijing also has “a track record of attempting to manipulate elections in Taiwan, and buying influence with voter groups, politicians and political parties in countries from Australia to Zambia.” The election in South Korea, however, “seems to involve direct technological infiltration.”
What will it take to defend Americans and American allies from hybrid warfare including disinformation offensives and high-tech falsification of election results? Lots of work by a list of U.S. government agencies that, for the most part, have not been up to the task in the past.
• Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for The Washington Times.
The Senate majority leader has been something of an underrated miracle worker for his party over the past several years. Without Mitch McConnell, the White House and the Republican Party might never have achieved the enormous successes they did in the nearly four years of the Trump presidency. Nor is it likely President Trump would have become the odds-on favorite for reelection in the pre-pandemic era. Even the president’s win over Hillary Clinton can be traced to Mr. McConnell’s savvy political advice on how to campaign on the issue of judges.
Consider one of his most important accomplishments, the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. When the chief executive in April of 2017 demanded that congressional Republicans send him a supply-side tax reform bill to his desk by Christmas, Senate Democrats were in total opposition and Mr. McConnell’s party had just a two-vote majority (52-48), with several very uncertain trumpets among the 52. But Mr. McConnell persuaded 51 of the 52 Republican senators to approve the bill. (John McCain was absent because of illness.) The results: A boom so spectacular that the polls show the president’s handling of the economy is still his strongest suit to play in winning a second term.
When the president’s job was threatened by House impeachment, Mr. McConnell swooped to the rescue, convincing every Republican senator save Mitt Romney to keep the president in the Oval Office. Or, as CNN put it in a news story: “How Mitch McConnell orchestrated the end to Trump’s impeachment trial … .”
The Kentucky Republican’s most impressive achievement, of course, has been his transformation of the federal courts. He will have pushed through the Senate nearly 300 federal judges by the end of this year, has managed to put two new Scalia-like “originalists” on the U.S. Supreme Court and apparently has rounded up enough Republicans to install a third, Antonin Scalia’s law clerk Amy Coney Barrett. By June of this year, he had filled every vacancy at the Circuit Court level, the final authority for 95% of federal cases, tilting even the liberal 9th Circuit in a conservative direction.
Mr. McConnell’s most important task at this perilous moment in the election cycle is to help Republicans maintain control of the U.S. Senate, the only legislative body that can rein in the Biden-Harris agenda if the House remains in Democratic hands and the president loses the White House. The Republicans have just a 53-47 seat majority in the Senate. If Joe Biden wins and the Democrats pick up just three seats, the Republicans would control 50, but the then-vice president, Kamala Harris, could break any tie if the upper chamber splits along party lines.
Keeping that majority will not be easy, with justified fears that Mr. Trump might drag down the ticket in key races held by Senate Republicans. Mr. McConnell, however, appears to believe the confirmation fight over Judge Barrett can potentially save his Senate majority and possibly put Mr. Trump over the top.
People forget how crucial he was in electing Mr. Trump in 2016. Mr. McConnell persuaded the Republican nominee to convince supporters that he was deadly serious about filling the courts with young, dedicated conservatives. (There was much doubt because Mr. Trump had suggested he might name his liberal sister, a federal appellate court judge, to the high court.) Mr. McConnell told him to publish a list of potential court appointees but to make sure they had the approval of the prestigious, right-leaning Federalist Society. Mr. Trump agreed, eventually putting out a list of 21 names, with critical input from the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The New York billionaire turned politician exploited the issue for all it was worth. “If you really like Donald Trump … That’s great,” he would tell folks gathered at those monster rallies, “but if you don’t, you have to vote for me anyway — you know why? Supreme Court judges!”
“The single biggest issue in bringing Republicans home … was the Supreme Court,” Mr. McConnell remarked to The Washington Post, an assertion affirmed by post-election surveys and underscored by the votes of White evangelical Christians. When the Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the high court in April 2017, with all Republican senators in favor, Mr. McConnell was treated like a rock star among the party faithful. The majority leader, as a key staffer told me, was suddenly receiving “standing ovations” when attending GOP gatherings, boisterous welcomes that lasted for months.
Nor was this the end of the story. Mr. Trump’s now famous list of 21 not only helped salvage the president’s candidacy but became a guide for the critical choices he picked in his ongoing effort to reshape the Courts of Appeals.
Will the raising of Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court save the Senate for the GOP? It may be a long shot, but Mr. McConnell clearly thinks her nomination will raise issues that will again propel conservative-leaning voters to the polls — issues like religious liberty, gun rights, abortion on demand and, now, Biden-Harris court packing. She is clearly a brilliant legal scholar whose family and faith are a major positive so far as surveys reveal. And a Hail Mary Pass, as Judge Barrett’s co-religionists will tell you, frequently gets the job done.
• Allan H. Ryskind, a former editor and owner of Human Events, is the author of “Hollywood Traitors” (Regnery, 2015).
There’s simply no denying it any longer: Beijing has an image problem. Half a year into the coronavirus pandemic, traditional views of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a constructive global actor have plummeted precipitously around the world, while suspicions about China’s strategic intentions are on the rise.
That’s the main finding of a new poll just released by the prestigious Pew Research Center. The study, which surveyed global attitudes about China in 14 separate nations between June and August of this year, paints a picture of an international environment that is increasingly opposed to Chinese government policies and hostile to Beijing’s global overtures.
In Australia, unfavorable views of China have risen by double digits since last year, and are now shared by a staggering 81% of the population. That is perhaps understandable, given the island nation’s geographic proximity to the PRC and the extent to which China has expanded its political and economic footprint there in recent years. Yet, Australia’s attitudes are far from unique.
The study notes that in the United Kingdom, where China’s national tech giant, Huawei, had previously made major inroads, “around three-quarters now see the country in a negative light.” Roughly the same percentage of the public in the United States (73%), South Korea (75%), France (70%), Germany (71%), the Netherlands (73%) and Canada (73%) are now deeply suspicious of — or express negative views about — the PRC.
The reversal is nothing short of stunning. For the better part of the past two decades, the prevailing view among policymakers in Washington and assorted European capitals was that it was possible to transform the Chinese Communist Party into a “responsible stakeholder” through sustained economic and political engagement. That idea, however, increasingly appears to be falling by the wayside, as more and more nations gravitate to the conclusion that the Chinese government isn’t simply seeking a seat at the international table, but wants to overturn it altogether.
The global coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this perception dramatically. In line with the principle that “the best defense is a good offense,” China responded to the outbreak of the health crisis this spring with a massive disinformation campaign designed to obscure the origin of the virus and its own culpability in its spread. At the same time, Beijing revived its concept of a “health silk road,” using it to peddle personal protective equipment and associated goods to countries struggling with the pandemic.
Neither strategy, however, appears to have had the success that Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders were hoping for. The aggressive, confrontational diplomatic style increasingly adopted by Chinese officials (colloquially known as “wolf warrior diplomacy”) has ruffled more than a few foreign feathers, while the PRC’s health policy offensive has been viewed with deep suspicion by officials abroad who have concluded that the Chinese government is simultaneously playing the role of arsonist and firefighter — providing remedies to a pandemic of its own making.
The new Pew findings are a resounding confirmation of these trends. “A median of 78%” of publics surveyed, the study notes, have little to no confidence that Mr. Xi and his government will “do the right thing regarding world affairs.” “This lack of confidence … is at historic highs in every country for which trend data is available except Japan and Spain,” and in most “has grown by double digits since last year,” it details.
That effectively debunks the notion that Beijing enjoys the upper hand in its unfolding “great power competition” with the West. The outstanding question now is whether Washington can parlay the negative views of China that now predominate in a growing number of global capitals into a truly competitive strategy by which to balance and contain Beijing on the world stage. On that score, at least, the jury is still out.
• Ilan Berman is senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.