By Jeff Charles • RedState
The Republican Party has a choice to make about its future. It can either adapt to America’s societal and demographic changes or rely on its current strategy. One of these options leads to a party that reflects the United States; the other renders the party obsolete.
Many on the right have argued that the GOP must broaden its base by assertively courting minority voters if it wishes to remain relevant. So far, many in the party have ignored or even resisted such outreach. However, if a recent announcement from Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is any indication, a new approach is on the horizon.
Hurd, who retires next year, is starting an organization that will support diverse candidates in primary races across the country. The group, known as Future Leaders Fund (FLF), will “go into primary races around the country where there are good, conservative, and diverse candidates to build the future of the Republican Party,” according to its website.
FLF’s objective is to help the GOP shed its “party of old white men” label by creating “a diverse crop of future elected officials to be ambassadors to our party,” who will “attract new voters disenfranchised by the socialist left to join our party.”
The group plans to spend millions of dollars next year to ensure that minority, female, and young candidates get on the ballot. During the announcement, Hurd explained his reasons for this new endeavor: “America is becoming more diverse, while the Republican Party is becoming less popular with minority voters,” he said, pointing out that the GOP “lost 76% of minority voters.”
The representative then issued a stark warning: “If the Republican Party doesn’t start looking like America and resonating with all Americans, then there won’t be a Republican Party in America.” Hurd, the only black Republican in the House, announced that he would not seek re-election next year. He endorsed Tony Gonzalez, a Hispanic American, to replace him. After announcing his retirement, he indicated that he was not finished with politics, and it appears this initiative will occupy his time in 2020.
Until the present, the Republican Party has focused the bulk of its campaigning and messaging efforts on white voters in rural and suburban areas. Since the 1960s, this strategy achieved varying levels of success. Nevertheless, this approach will likely become ineffective going forward because the nation’s demographics are changing. The solution is simple: The Republican Party must adopt a plan that will expand its base.
Hurd and other conservatives are correct in this assessment. Unless the GOP reforms into a party that looks like the rest of the country, it will become irrelevant. Some on the right are resistant, arguing that engaging with minorities constitutes the same type of pandering that Democrats love, but this argument misses the point. Interacting with minority voters is not pandering. It is stimulating dialogue and demonstrating the areas where conservative solutions can make a positive difference. To keep the GOP vital in the years to come, the party must enlarge and revitalize its base.
As it stands now, the entire effort is drenched in partisanship.
By DAVID HARSANYI • National Review
Democrats on the Intelligence Committee have spent the vast majority of their impeachment hearings trying to persuade voters that bureaucrats believe Donald Trump is impulsive, self-serving, and misguided — all of which is unsurprising, and completely irrelevant to the matter at hand.
Quite often, in fact, the most breathless coverage of these tedious hearings has absolutely nothing to do with the allegedly impeachable offenses of quid pro quo or “bribery” — or whatever focus group-tested terminology Democrats are deploying today. Take the newest blockbuster witness, Fiona Hill, a Russia expert whose testimony nearly every outlet promised would be “explosive.” She “lashes Rs for siding w Russian theory instead of us on 2016,” Politico’s Jake Sherman informs us.
Having a witness repeat “Russia” a whole bunch of times in front of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment panel isn’t nearly as fascinating or significant as reporters might imagine. Certainly, it has little to do with the supposed investigation undertaken to ferret out impeachable behavior.
For one thing, Hill’s broader contention is dubious. While Trump hasn’t called out Russia for interference, various other GOP leaders have done so on numerous occasions, including in a Senate intel report. And a person can simultaneously believe that both the Russians and Ukrainians meddled in 2016 to various degrees (and the Iranians.)
Even if one doesn’t, though, failing to adopt the Democrats’ histrionic tone over the threat of Twitter bots is neither criminal nor unconstitutional. (Reacting to 2016 as if it were Pearl Harbor, in fact, is likely quite pleasing to Putin.) If selling conspiracy theories to the American public for partisan reasons were a crime, Representative Adam Schiff would be serving consecutive life sentences in Supermax.
Hill ended up making a compelling case that she, and others, disapproved of the White House’s haphazard handling of foreign policy. But she offered no evidence of “bribery.” Yesterday, Ambassador Gordon Sondland also offered compelling testimony that he disapproved of how the White House was conducted foreign policy over Ukraine. Yet, Sondland, like all other bombshell witness, offered no real evidence of any arrangement proving Trump traded on U.S. military aid for a Biden investigation. Indeed, Sondland basically conceded that he didn’t believe Trump cared one way or another whether Zelensky launched an investigation — Trump simply wanted the Ukrainian president to announce one.
None of this means it didn’t happen, it only means that the dramatic tone of the coverage is unwarranted and the hearings have been a waste of time. Everything we know now that matters we already knew when first reading the report of Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky. Either you believe Trump should be impeached for asking a foreign leader to investigate his opponent’s son for corruption or you do not. It’s unlikely we will ever have any hard proof of whether or not there was a quid pro quo.
To me, there’s little question such a call from the president — whether he was explicitly favor trading or not — is at the very least unethical and at most an abuse of power. Is it impeachable? That’s a political decision. Because, no matter how hard liberals try and convince you otherwise, the Trump presidency doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Republicans believe they’ve been living life under two sets of rules. Considering what previous administrations have gotten away with — and what many of the people now clamoring for impeachment helped them get away with — it’s difficult to blame them. Perhaps if Democrats and operatives within government hadn’t spent three years cooking up a fantastical Manchurian Candidate conspiracy to delegitimize Trump this impeachment inquiry might be playing out differently. As it stands now, the entire effort is drenched in partisanship. Which makes it extremely unlikely that many voters will be pried from their previously held positions. Nothing that’s been said during these hearings changes that fact.
By JIM GERAGHTY • National Review
A lot of people are dunking on Michael Moore for declaring that he now represents the center of the Democratic party, and they’re enjoying it, and they ought to. But he might not be completely wrong in that self-assessment, and it’s both a statement about him and a statement about the Democratic party.
Put aside everything you can’t stand about Michael Moore for a moment. (I know, it’s a lot.) But Moore’s political vision has always had a strong populist streak that aligns a lot with elements of the 2016 Donald Trump campaign. His 1989 documentary, Roger and Me was all about Moore’s anger that General Motors was ending production of automotive parts in factories in Flint, Mich., while increasing production of parts in Mexico. Moore sees America’s corporate class as a bunch of selfish, greedy snobs who show little or no appreciation for the workers that enable their profits or the country that gave them their opportunities. That leftist view of 1989 feels pretty mainstream three decades later — and not just in the Democratic party.
In July 2016, Michael Moore shocked many of his allies by predicting that Donald Trump would win the presidential election. Moore’s assessment is eerily prescient, warning his political allies that working-class voters in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin felt “abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to [vulgar euphemism] with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who’ll write them nice big check before leaving the room. What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here.”
He also warned about Hillary, whom he said he personally believed had gotten a bad rap, but “nearly 70 percent of all voters think she is untrustworthy and dishonest. She represents the old way of politics, not really believing in anything other than what can get you elected. That’s why she fights against gays getting married one moment, and the next she’s officiating a gay marriage.” Finally, he reminded people about the unexpected victory of independent Jesse Ventura in 1998: “Minnesota is one of the smartest states in the country. It is also filled with people who have a dark sense of humor — and voting for Ventura was their version of a good practical joke on a sick political system. This is going to happen again with Trump.”
Moore’s a progressive through and through, but he periodically reveals a seething disdain for the hypocrisies and phoniness of the Democratic party’s elite leadership class. And you get the feeling that while Moore isn’t opposed to woke culture and the various crusades that rile up the Twitter Left, he would prefer a Democratic party much more focused on improving the quality of life for America’s working class. He’ll never make a film about how “Latinx” should replace the term “Latinos.”
Meanwhile, certain kinds of Democrats are nearly extinct — pro-life Democrats (other than Louisiana Governor Jon Bel Edwards) pro-gun Democrats, the kinds of reformers who used to make up the old Democratic Leadership Council. Democrats to the right of Michael Moore are fewer, and Democrats to the Left of him are more numerous. He stood still; the party moved around him.
Column: Positions and personality trump party and region
By Matthew Continetti • The Washington Free Beacon
Next year you will enter the Twilight Zone where the governors of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maryland are Republicans and the governors of North Carolina, Kentucky, and Louisiana are Democrats. It is the middle ground between working-class realignment and the rising American electorate, between polarized parties and disaffected independents, and it lies between the pit of man’s ideology and the summit of his pragmatism. This is the dimension of American politics that reveals the overriding importance of a candidate’s personal qualities and issue positions. It cannot be ignored.
The coverage of recent Democratic victories in Kentucky and Louisiana has emphasized President Trump’s failure to drag Republicans past the finish line. Analysts have focused on Democratic strength in the suburban regions of these states, as well as in the suburbs of Mississippi where the Republican won by a surprisingly slim 5 points. Both of these storylines are important. But so is this one: Candidate attributes and positions matter more than a state or nation’s partisan tilt. President Trump and his 17 Democratic challengers might want to pay attention.
The relationship between individual characteristics and party allegiance was clearest in the Bluegrass State. Republicans won every statewide office but governor. Incumbent Matt Bevin had the unhappy distinction of being the least popularstate executive up for reelection in 2019. It showed. His abrasive personality hurt him in negotiations with teachers’ unions and in the implementation of work requirements for Medicaid recipients. The memory of his 2014 primary challenge against Mitch McConnell still stung. Bevin fought the Republican-controlled legislature, blocked people on Twitter, and made up nicknames for his opponents. Stop me if this is sounding familiar.
Bevin’s Democratic opponent, Andy Beshear, was the son of the previous governor. Beshear attacked where Bevin was weakest, on education and health care, and did his best to avoid cultural issues such as gun control (he supports red-flag laws) and abortion (he’s pro-choice). He campaigned as if President Trump and impeachment did not exist. “This race is about nothing going on in Washington, D.C.,” he said on the trail. His localization of the race worked. Beshear attracted a high crossover vote—16 percent of Republicans. A Libertarian spoiler candidate also helped.
If Bevin strayed too far from the political golden mean, John Bel Edwards never wavered. When he was elected in 2015, Bel Edwards recognized the tenuous nature of his position as the Democratic governor of a deep-red state. He opposes gun control and abortion and worked with the Trump administration on criminal justice reform. He signed a pro-life heartbeat bill that alienated him from abortion rights groups but cemented his identity as an independent-minded Democrat. His Medicaid expansion enrolled half a million people who are wary of Republican cuts. He ran for reelection as the defender of the cultural and political status quo against businessman Eddie Rispone, who despite having an inspiring personal story lacked stage presence and was unable to tie Bel Edwards to the progressives in charge of the national Democratic Party. The incumbent won 51 percent to 49 percent.
Likability and empathy matter more than wonkiness and purity. In 2004, more voters held a favorable opinion of President Bush than of John Kerry, and Bush enjoyed whopping margins among voters who cared most about strong leadership, having clear positions, and telling the truth. In 2012, more voters held a favorable opinion of President Obama than of Mitt Romney, and voters said Obama was more in touch with the people. He also won among voters who said caring for others was a priority. In 2016 the electorate held unfavorable opinions of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but Clinton lost to Trump by 17 points among voters who disliked them equally. Trump narrowed the “cares about me” gap to 23 points from 63 points. And he won by an incredible 68 points on the most desired candidate quality: the ability to bring change.
Democrats have candidate attributes in mind as they evaluate potential 2020 nominees. A November 19 Gallup pollshowed that 60 percent of Democrats would rather have a nominee who has the best chance of defeating President Trump than one who agrees with them on the issues. A majority of Democrats surveyed said that Joe Biden is the most electable, with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren far behind at 16 percent and 15 percent. Half of Democrats would rather have a moderate as the nominee than a liberal or a conservative.
Biden’s strength among moderate Democrats and lead over Trump nationwide and in swing states are responsible for his frontrunner status. But the first caucus is more than two months away, and the rules of the Democratic primary give the party opportunities to choose an unlikable and extreme nominee. They have plenty of options.
Nor is President Trump out of the game. The New York Times/Siena poll of the battlegrounds found him within the margin of error against Biden. A November 20 poll of Wisconsin registered voters from Marquette University Law School has Trump leading Biden, also within the margin of error. Trump’s debut reelection ad acknowledges that “he’s no Mr. Nice Guy,” but touts a record of accomplishment that even Democrats recognize as impressive. And he will have plenty of time and resources to define his opponent negatively.
How ironic if Democrats so concerned with electability in the primary find themselves backing a flawed and uninspiring candidate in the general. Because, you see, fate can work that way in the Twilight Zone.
Cartels in Mexico aren’t just fighting over drugs, they’re fighting over industries, and it might well trigger a new and much bigger migrant crisis on the U.S. border.
By John Daniel Davidson • The Federalist
Two important and interrelated news stories largely passed under the radar Wednesday as the House impeachment hearings continued to dominate the headlines. Both stories concern the deteriorating state of affairs in Mexico and have huge implications for immigration, the southwest border, and U.S. national security. It’s a shame more Americans aren’t paying attention.
The first was a report from BuzzFeed that as of Wednesday the Trump administration began carrying out a controversial plan to deport asylum-seekers from El Salvador and Honduras—not to their home countries, but to Guatemala, which the administration has designated a “safe third country,” meaning that migrants from those countries must first apply for asylum in Guatemala before seeking asylum in the United States.
The move is part of the administration’s broader strategy to reduce the number of Central Americans seeking asylum at the southwest border, which last year saw a dramatic increase in illegal immigrationlargely driven by families and minors from the so-called Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The second story was a Los Angeles Times dispatch from the Mexican state of Michoacán, where rival cartels are waging war not over drug trafficking routes but over control of the multibillion-dollar avocado industry. More than a dozen criminal groups are fighting over the avocado trade in and around Uruapan, the capitol of Michoacán, “preying on wealthy orchard owners, the laborers who pick the fruit and the drivers who truck it north to the United States,” writes reporter Kate Linthicum. Organized crime in Mexico, she explains, is diversifying—it isn’t just about drugs anymore:
In parts of Guerrero state, cartels control access to gold mines and even the price of goods in supermarkets. In one city, Altamirano, the local Coca-Cola bottler closed its distribution center last year after more than a dozen groups tried to extort money from it. The Pepsi bottler left a few months later.
In Mexico City, bar owners in upscale neighborhoods must pay taxes to a local gang, while on the nation’s highways, cargo robberies have risen more than 75% since 2016.
Compared with drug trafficking, a complex venture that requires managing contacts across the hemisphere, these new criminal enterprises are more like local businesses. The bar to entry is far lower.
The report also notes that homicides are at an all-time high in Mexico, and that cartels have taken control of migrant smuggling in the state of Tamaulipas, which borders the Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, the busiest stretch of the border for illegal immigration.
All this comes on the heels of the massacre of an American family in Mexico, including three women and six children, earlier this month by cartel gunmen, as well as the defeat of a detachment of the Mexican National Guard by cartel forces in the city of Culiacan last month. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has no strategy to reduce cartel violence and no intention of fighting the cartels.
So what do these two news stories from Wednesday have to do with one another, and why would they have major implications for the United States? Simply put, what has happened in Central America is now happening in Mexico. The difference is, when asylum-seekers from Mexico start turning up on our border we won’t be able to deport them to a third country or easily turn them away. If you thought the border crisis was bad last year, wait until hundreds of thousands of families in Michoacán and Tamaulipas decide to flee the cartels and seek asylum in the United States.
To really appreciate the gravity of the situation in Mexico you have to understand some of the dynamics behind the border crisis, which has been driven by Central Americans fleeing societies that are in a state of collapse. Widespread extortion, kidnapping, and violence from gangs throughout the Northern Triangle, combined with grinding poverty and scarce economic opportunities, has prompted hundreds of thousands of Central American families to head north.
One of the reasons this mass exodus turned into a crisis is that unlike earlier waves of illegal immigration, these migrants weren’t single adults from Mexico who could be quickly deported under U.S. law. They were migrant families and minors seeking asylum from noncontiguous countries, which meant they had to go through an entirely different legal process that takes much longer.
The Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, faced a choice: either release large numbers of people who had crossed the border illegally or detain them in inadequate facilities that were never designed to hold children and families. The administration responded with a host of new policies, some of which have been struck down by the courts, designed to deter Central American asylum-seekers and reduce illegal border-crossings.
Designating Guatemala as a safe third country is one of those policies, despite the reality that Guatemala is by no means a “safe” country (like El Salvador and Honduras, it’s one of the most violent countries in the world). The Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “remain in Mexico,” is another such policy, which forces asylum-seekers to await the outcome of their case in Mexico, often in dangerous border cities where they are vulnerable to exploitation by cartels and corrupt officials.
The upshot is that as Mexico descends into warlordism marked by widespread criminality and gang warfare, we should expect ordinary Mexicans to respond the way ordinary Central Americans have. Eventually, they’ll leave. Many of them, perhaps hundreds of thousands, will at some point head north and claim asylum. When they do, the border crisis that we’ve been dealing with for the past year will seem insignificant—a prelude to a much larger and intractable crisis, for which there will be no easy fix.
By Richard A. Epstein • The Hoover Institution
A vexed Supreme Court is now considering the legal status of the highly popular program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA. DACA’s survival is now up for grabs in three related cases before the Court, which are being consolidated under the name Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California. The Court displayed its angst about the legality of DACA during last week’s oral argument for the case.
In June 2012, President Barack Obama initiated the program whereby children who were brought into the United States illegally became eligible to remain for two-year renewable periods so long as they did not committed any felonies or misdemeanors. As designed, the program does not offer these “Dreamers” a path toward citizenship, but it does authorize them to get jobs, obtain driver’s licenses, social security, and a host of other privileges. There are now close to 700,000 Dreamers in the United States, and they have often excelled, as students, military personnel, and workers. Most emphatically, they are not “far from angels,” let alone “hardened criminals,” as President Trump scandalously tweetedon the day of oral argument.
Fortunately, the debate before the Supreme Court rose above that low bar. At issue was the Dreamer’s “reliance interest” in the continuation of the DACA program. The notion of a reliance interest is old and runs throughout the law. It holds that a claim that is otherwise imperfect becomes fully protected once the recipient relies on the promises or actions of the defendant—here the government—to its detriment, and thus cannot be returned to his original position. As a substantive matter, I think that DACA was a welcome modification of national immigration policy. But as a legal matter, the issue is more complicated.
Of course, Trump’s election as president marked a dramatic reversal in immigration policy. In September 2017, Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution to the DACA issue, which, to him, boils down to the simple fact that the Dreamers, having come to the United States illegally, have no right to remain in this country. No such deal was worked out, and the Trump administration issued an order to terminate the program. The order was promptly postponed in the lower courts on the ground that Trump was not exempt from the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946, which provides that a court “shall … hold unlawful and set aside agency action … found to be … arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.”
What is odd about the current dispute before the Supreme Court is that it subjects the Trump administration’s DACA decision to close scrutiny without once asking whether the same level of scrutiny should have applied to then-President Obama’s decision to create DACA in the first place. It is still an open question whether or not Obama had such legal authority in June 2012 to issue his own executive order. On multiple prior occasions, as in October 2010, Obama had repeatedly denied that he had the power to remove or alter the legal status of these individuals by saying “I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself.” Yet less than two years later, Obama reversed himself and unilaterally imposed a new legal regime under the fig leaf that he was only exercising the most traditional form of prosecutorial discretion, whereby a prosecutor may decline to pursue a case under the law if he thinks that the evidence is not strong enough to warrant pursuing the case, or that other matters have higher priority.
But the outer limits of that discretion is a decision not to prosecute, not on the strength of individual facts, but for an entire class of persons, such as the dreamers. I regard this practice as questionable at best. If a president can refuse to deal with minor, non-violent offenses, can he also refuse to prosecute serious offenses because he thinks that the penalties are too steep? But even if he can rethink prosecution for broad classes of cases, he may not unilaterally change the status of illegal aliens (the statutory term) under state law.
As such, in my view, the DACA program was flatly illegal at the time it was first issued, because no amount of administrative review under the APA could cure this initial defect by making administrative findings about the strength of the supposed reliance interest. Yet, it was not possible for anyone to immediately challenge the program on its face before implementation. The reason for that is the standing doctrine engrafted onto Article III of the Constitution that restricts access to the federal courts to cases in which there are concrete and discrete “injuries in fact” to a particular person that are traceable to government action and capable of remediation in the event of a favorable decision. In the case of DACA, this standing doctrine means that the case can only be brought by some party that suffers that kind of discrete injury, which cannot be any general member of the public at large.
This narrow interpretation, however, misreads the key language of Article III, which states that “the judicial Power shall extend to all Cases in Law and Equity” that arise under the Constitution. The requirement of particularized injury is satisfied whenever an individual is subject to a deportation under the immigration laws. But the limited definition of standing—itself a term nowhere found in Article III—ignores the phrase “in equity,” which has long included challenges against ultra vires action—those beyond the power of any corporation, charitable organization, or local government. In other words, the legality of DACA should in principle be subject to challenge by any citizen who thinks that the program is illegal. If many such cases are brought, they can be consolidated into a single proceeding.
Accordingly, no recipient of DACA benefits could challenge the statute, and it is a tough sell to say that a state has standing to challenge the statute simply because it must issue driver’s licenses to Dreamers. While the driver’s license argument was accepted in 2015 by Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit in Texas v. United States, a case which challenged DACA-spinoff program DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents), its thorough examination is of limited precedential value because its judgment was affirmedone year later, without opinion, by an evenly divided Supreme Court.
The standing issue would be trivial, however, if any citizen of the United States was entitled to challenge the illegality of any presidential order. Accordingly, the correct procedure needs an expedited review of DACA’s constitutionality before it was put into place. It is always easier to decide on the legality of a program before it is implemented, not afterwards.
Unfortunately, that did not happen. Hence the glacial pace at which DACA reached the Supreme Court has made it plausible for individual DACA claimants to insist that their reliance interest should force the Trump administration to do what the Obama administration never did— namely, give a set of reasoned justifications under the APA for reversing Obama’s original DACA order.
But their argument is suspect on two grounds. The first is that the reliance interest claim is weak in this context. There are all sorts of ways for individuals to rely on the decisions of other parties in organizing their own conduct. Company S, for example, contracts with local government L to remove snow from the streets. The contract lasts for several years, during which time X buys an automobile that he parks by the street. If L and S agree to reduce the frequency and quality of the snow removal services, X does not have a claim against either solely because he relied on their joint decision when he purchased his automobile.
In the language of contract law, a Dreamer is an “incidental beneficiary” who does not acquire rights against the government simply because the past implementation of DACA improved the Dreamers’ overall position. It is perfectly rational for every DACA recipient to take full advantage of the program. But it is not possible for them to claim that their past good fortune gives them any future entitlement to program continuation. Any waivers of enforcement power in two-year chunks can be stopped at any time.
The point has not been lost on defenders of DACA who grimly understand that the whip in all immigration cases lies with the President, such that the best they could hope for is a delay in action whereby the Court insists that the Trump administration offer a more detailed justification for its decision. Indeed, one reason why the oral argument proved so frustrating is that there was still judicial doubt—as expressed by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan—as to whether the Obama program was illegal when issued. Hence Justice Ginsburg pressured Solicitor General Noel Francisco to explain the “strange element” whereby he argued first that DACA was flatly illegal, and then asserted that the Trump administration had ample discretion to end the program because of its policy reservations on its ends and purposes.
There is less to Ginsburg’s objection than meets the eye. Francisco was arguing the case in the alternative—first, that the program was illegal, but then if not, that the administration could end it in the same fashion it was implemented, by presidential order. In my view, the first of these grounds is correct. However powerful the case for DACA on the merits, the constitutional principle of separation of powers does not grant to the president the power to create an entire immigration reform out of whole cloth. Asking for a memo in justification for undoing that error seems most unwise. The standards here are necessarily fluid, and that inquiry invites lower courts to keep DACA in place by constantly raising the burden of proof to extreme levels.
Ironically, if this view on legality is correct, the harder question becomes whether Trump had the power to extend DACA once he came into office after he concluded that DACA was constitutionally infirm from its inception. The whole inquiry quickly enters uncharted waters, given the evident need to allow some limited time for transitions to take place. But the matter is too urgent for it to be resolved by either presidential directive or by judicial decision. Fortunately, the same option that was available in 2012 is available today: enact DACA as is for a short-term fix, and then work through the larger immigration challenges at a more thoughtful pace. The human toll is too great to tolerate more indecision, confusion, and delay.
A survey of 2,504 French adults found that 69 percent of respondents would not buy products labeled ‘made in Israel.’
By Melissa Langsam Braunstein • The Federalist
Europe’s highest court isn’t exactly telling everybody to boycott Israeli food and wine. But they’re doing their darnedest to ensure Europeans don’t buy them.
For anyone who missed the news, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled last week that food and wine produced by Jewish Israelis beyond the Green Line must be explicitly marked: “‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added, in brackets, for example. Therefore, expressions such as ‘product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)’ or ‘product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)’ could be used.”
Eugene Kontorovich, director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East at George Mason University Scalia Law School, considers the new labels “a new kind of Yellow Star on Jewish-made products.” He told The Federalist that the CJEU’s labeling requirements “are not geographic—they are not about where something was made but by whom.” Kontorovich added, “They’re not even pretending that the rules they’re applying to Israel are the rules they’re applying to the rest of the world.”
Readers may recall that when the court’s advocate general suggested such labeling earlier this year, his reasoning was that consumers needed “neutral and objective information.” But this outcome is neither neutral nor objective. As Marc Greendorfer, president of Zachor Legal Institute, which battles Israel boycotts, emailed, “That the court contravened established principles of international law to wrongly stipulate the status of the disputed areas (as occupied) exposes the fact that this ruling was about taking sides in a political dispute.”
“Labels are not the place to engage in political debate,” Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, which participated in this case, told The Federalist.Indeed, product labeling is supposed to be about health and safety. Labels also help consumers shop “ethically” or “responsibly.” But if a consumer factors politics into those decisions and wants to avoid Israeli goods, why is it so important to specify where in Israel those goods are produced?
According to a 2017 poll conducted by Opinion Way for the Lawfare Project, a survey of 2,504 French adults found that 69 percent of respondents would not buy products labeled “made in Israel.” That number rose to 75 percent if labels read “West Bank, Israeli colony/settlement.” So more detailed labeling would clearly shift some shoppers’ habits, but those figures are already startlingly high.
While the CJEU may not be declaring a boycott with this ruling— after all, it remains legal to import Israeli goods — they are nudging consumers in that direction. Even the U.S. State Department, which typically avoids criticizing allies, expressed “deep concern,” calling “the circumstances surrounding the labeling requirement . . . suggestive of anti-Israel bias.” They also rightly noted that “this requirement serves only to encourage, facilitate, and promote boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel,” a movement Germany’s own parliament considers antisemitic, and even Nazi-like.
This decision is not focused on informing consumers about unconscionable behavior across the globe (e.g., the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs) or highlighting the world’s many disputed territories (see: Western Sahara, Cyprus, and Crimea for starters). It is about ostracizing the world’s only Jewish nation and unilaterally redrawing Israel’s borders via economic pressure.
The aforementioned French survey underscores just how widespread popular prejudice against Israel is in France, long home to Europe’s largest Jewish community. Rather than calm that prejudice, the CJEU panders to it, inflames it, and now embeds it in law. So it won’t be surprising if antagonism to Israel keeps rising in France and the rest of Europe. Stigmatizing Israel now has the gloss of official, legal respectability.
The whole episode is offensive. Consider, this long-awaited decision was scheduled for release on November 12. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum reminds us that date is significant, as “just 2 days after the end of Kristallnacht [in 1938], the Nazi government issued the Decree on the Elimination of the Jews from Economic Life. Banned from owning shops or selling any kind of good or service, most Jews lost their livelihoods entirely.”
Further, by establishing a unique standard for Israel, this decision fits the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism, cited in the United Nations’ recent report on global antisemitism. So it’s rich for the European Commission to tell Fox News, “Any suggestion that indication of origin on products coming from Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory or in the occupied Golan has anything to do with targeting Jews or anti-Semitism is unacceptable. The EU stands strongly and unequivocally against any form of anti-Semitism.”
Check out that loaded word choice. Then consider that such critiques are fair game. The EU does not stand unequivocally against antisemitism. There are bright spots, like Austria’s second largest city banning support for BDS. However, European Jews are acutely aware that antisemitism is widespread and dangerous.
EU officials like Michael O’Flaherty, director of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, know that in spite of the many reported antisemitic crimes across the EU, 80 percent remain uncounted. “As one person asked [O’Flaherty], ‘Why would I report antisemitism to an antisemite?’” Over in Britain, which has not quite left the EU, nearly half of British Jews have said they “would ‘seriously consider’ emigrating if [Labour Party leader Jeremy] Corbyn is elected prime minister [in December].”
Seventy-four years after the Holocaust’s end, the EU is no haven for Jews. Nor is it a particularly reliable friend to Israel. Calling the decision “disgraceful,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told The Federalist, “This labeling singles out Jews who live in communities where Europeans don’t think they should be allowed to live and identifies them for boycotts. It is reminiscent of the darkest moments in Europe’s history.”
Indeed, the CJEU may have forgotten, but world Jewry hasn’t. We also know that discrimination and other harms that start with Jews never end with us. So whether or not the timing was coincidental, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcing a reversal of Obama-era policy regarding Israel’s settlements certainly looks fortuitous, because this fight is far from over.
By Eric Felten • RealClear Investigations
For three years many of journalism’s most prestigious news outlets won acclaim for making and repeating claims President Trump and his team had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. No accusation, from secret meetings in Prague to tales of prostitutes peeing on beds, was deemed unfit to print. When they wanted to signal to readers that they were conveying claims instead of facts, their hedge words of choice – “unverified” or “not yet proved” were favorites – strongly suggested that confirmation was on the way.
Call it the Trump Standard.
Now those same news outfits are observing a new standard of proof, at least when it involves former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who enjoyed a lucrative relationship with a Ukrainian gas company. This new norm demands that, absent definitive proof, assertions must be labeled as “without evidence” or said to be supported by “no evidence.”
Call it the Biden Standard.
Journalists have been appropriately skittish about appearing to spread Trump talking points – especially his accusation that while serving as vice president Joe Biden demanded a Ukrainian prosecutor be fired because he was investigating the gas company, Burisma, that was paying his son Hunter tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Trump’s allegation has not been proved. But Joe Biden was the Obama administration’s point man on the Ukraine. His son has said Burisma probably hired him because of who his is father and Joe Biden did demand the prosecutor’s firing – because, he says, the prosecutor wasn’t doing enough to root out corruption. Still, the Burisma probe was dropped.
Normally media would greet such an arrangement skeptically, to say the least. A politician’s son making hay in a business over which his father has some sway? That’s the sort of stuff traditionally met with journalistic lectures not only on the evils of conflicts of interest but on the perils of the mere appearance of such conflicts. Instead, in this instance, reporters and editors have read from the same script to diminish and discredit such concerns.
“There is no evidence to support that claim,” stated CBS News. The Hill newspaper hit the same notes: “There’s no evidence that Joe Biden was acting with his son’s interests in mind.” Esquire declared there is “no evidence Joe Biden made any effort to protect his son’s interests as Vice President.”
Reporting on corruption at Burisma, the Wall Street Journal was quick to assure readers “there is no evidence to suggest they [the Bidens] broke any laws.” As for the allegations that Hunter personally profited from his father’s position, Politico seemed to contradict Hunter himself, casting them as “claims for which there is no evidence.”
But none have outdone the New York Times. As far back as May, the Times pronounced “No evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor general’s dismissal.” Last month, the Times declared at least half a dozen times that there was “no evidence” of Biden wrongdoing.
There is ample evidence for key parts of the story. Hunter Biden, for example, has publicly admitted he exhibited “poor judgment” in taking money from Burisma. The Obama administration was concerned enough about Hunter Biden’s employment that Marie Yovanovitch was coached on how to answer questions about it in her Senate confirmation hearing to be ambassador to Ukraine.
For those who might find the repeated assertions that there is “no evidence” of Biden wrongdoing overly generous to Hunter Biden, there are good reasons for even them to embrace it in other contexts. Under the Biden Standard, editors would be encouraged to take out their blue pencils and mark unsubstantiated accusations with the simple and obvious acronym.
Jon Marshall is an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He advocates an even-handed standard of proof that is strict by today’s usual practice. “I think for journalists to count something as ‘evidence,’ there needs to be a reliable, verifiable source of information,” he says. “Examples of what I would count as evidence include court documents, government studies or data, scientific reports, business records, and a reporter’s own investigations to name a few.”
To date, Donald Trump has not enjoyed the benefits of the Biden Standard. When the Christopher Steele “dossier” was made public, the media reaction was to believe it – or at least to entertain it – unless and until it was disproven. Instead of demanding evidence to prove the claims, reporters said the allegations were just as yet “unverified.”
Back in January 2017, when the dossier was new on the scene, NPR called it an “explosive — but unverified – document that alleges collusion between Russia and President-elect Donald Trump.” Under the Biden Standard it would have read that the dossier “alleges without evidence collusion. …”
When the Mueller report finally came out, the New York Times allowed “some of the most sensational claims in the dossier appeared to be false.” And yet the Times was still not prepared to let go of the story of “Mr. Trump’s alleged dalliance with prostitutes” in Moscow, which the Times declared “neither proved nor disproved.” But of course, the “alleged dalliance” could have been proved, and easily: just produce the supposed tape. In the absence of the tape, the Biden Standard should apply. It’s simple: If there isn’t evidence, there isn’t evidence.
Marshall of the Medill School would set the bar even higher: When it comes to the Steele dossier, “I would not have published it, as some news outlets did,” he says, “unless a reliable source substantiated it.”
If it’s important to distinguish true from false allegations about Hunter Biden – and it is – then it is just as important to do so for Donald Trump. That means thinking seriously about what counts as evidence and how to test for counterfeit claims. Most important, it means applying those standards equally.
A case can be made for adopting the Trump Standard or the Biden Standard, but it’s hard to justify switching between the two in what can only be called a double standard.
The fall of the Berlin Wall was indeed a watershed in the collapse of the Soviet Empire, yet one could argue the true death knell came two months before at a small grocery store in Clear Lake, Texas.
By Jon Miltimore • The Federalist
The fall of the Soviet Union is sometimes remembered as Nov. 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall symbolically collapsed. While the physical barrier endured for some two more years, on that day, East German Communist Party officials announced they would no longer stop citizens of the German Democratic Republic from crossing the border.
The fall of the barrier that scarred Germany was indeed a watershed in the collapse of the Soviet Empire, yet one could argue the true death knell came two months before at a small grocery store in Clear Lake, Texas.
On Sept. 16, 1989, Boris Yeltsin was a newly elected member of the Soviet Parliament visiting the United States. Following a scheduled visit to Johnson Space Center, Yeltsin and a small entourage made an unscheduled stop at a Randalls grocery store in Clear Lake, a suburb of Houston. He was amazed by the aisles of food and stocked shelves, a sharp contrast to the breadlines and empty columns he was accustomed to in Russia.
Yeltsin, who had a reputation as a reformer and populist, “roamed the aisles of Randall’s nodding his head in amazement,” wrote Stefanie Asin, a Houston Chronicle reporter. He marveled at free cheese samples, fresh fish and produce, and freezers packed full of pudding pops. Along the way, Yeltsin chatted up customers and store workers: “How much does this cost? Do you need special education to manage a supermarket? Are all American stores like this?”
Yeltsin was a member of the Politburo and Russia’s upper political crust, yet he’d never seen anything like the offerings of this little American grocery store. “Even the Politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev,” Yeltsin said.
It’s difficult for Americans to grasp Yeltsin’s astonishment. Our market economy has evolved from grocery stores to companies such as Walmart and Amazon that compete to deliver food right to our homes.
Now compare that footage to the images of Yeltsin shopping at a U.S. supermarket. The contrast is undeniable. Yeltsin’s experience that day ran contrary to everything he knew. A longtime member of the Communist Party who had lived his entire life in a one-party system that punisheddissent harshly, Yeltsin had been taught over and over that socialism wasn’t just more equitable, but more efficient.
His eyes were opened that day, and the revelation left the future Russian president feeling sick.
“When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people,” Yeltsin later wrote in his autobiography, “Against the Grain.” “That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it.”
Yeltsin was not the only person fooled, of course. There is copious documentation of Western intellectuals beguiled by the Soviet system. These individuals, who unlike Yeltsin did not live in a state-controlled media environment, saw the Soviet system as both economically and morally superior to American capitalism despite the brutal methods employed in the workers’ paradise.
“I have seen the future, and it works,” the Progressive Era journalist Lincoln Steffens famously said.
Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in economics and one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, was a longtime enthusiast of Soviet central planning and predicted it would lead to a higher standard of living. “Who could know that [the data] was all fake?” Samuelson is said to have asked a fellow economist following the empire’s collapse.
Despite decades of propaganda and obfuscation, the great fiction of socialism was eventually fully exposed with the fall of the Soviet Union and the publication of its archives in the 1990s. No longer could academics deny the truth that the people of the Soviet Union endured a painfully low standard of living despite the vast wealth of its empire.
“Their standard of living was low, not only by comparison with that in the United States, but also compared to the standard of living in countries with far fewer natural resources, such as Japan and Switzerland,” the economist Thomas Sowell observed in “Basic Economics.”
Yeltsin deserves credit for laying bare the lie of socialism that so many others had refused to see. “[T]here would be a revolution,” Yeltsin told his entourage that fateful September day in 1989, if the people in the Soviet Union ever saw the prosperity in American grocery stores. Yeltsin was more right than he knew.
Dear Chairman Simons,
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) should open an investigation into Ring—a subsidiary of Amazon—and its data-sharing practices with law enforcement officials. Ring’s conduct raises a number of concerns, including fears that (1) the emerging technology may result in discriminatory law enforcement activity, (2) sensitive consumer data may be jeopardized as a result of misuse by Amazon and (3) consumers may be subjected to heightened physical security risks. Given these concerns, which are outlined in greater detail below, and Amazon’s history of data mishandling, the FTC should more deeply examine the damaging effects of these practices.
While innovative, Ring’s home security doorbell and its use of consumer data are cause for significant concern as this conduct has the potential to result in considerable consumer harm. So-called “smart home” technology, still very much in its infancy, and its misuse have the potential to cause lasting damage to consumers if the necessary precautions are not taken.
Despite the potential benefits of “smart home” technology like the Ring “smart” doorbell, the data collected by Amazon opens consumers to exposure under the promise of additional security. As a result, not only is consumer data made more vulnerable, but their physical safety is put at unprecedented risk.
As the Commission is well aware, as more data is collected by Amazon, potential data breaches become more damaging. A data breach of consumers’ home security system by nefarious actors could have direct consequences on consumer physical safety. For example, should home security video footage fall into the wrong hands, consumers’ daily routines—including when they leave home and when they are alone and most vulnerable—would be easily discernible by criminals intending to cause harm.
According to reports, Ring has already misled consumers about its data handling practices. The Washington Post reports that Ring has partnered with over 400 police departments in the U.S., “granting them potential access to homeowners’ camera footage.” Amazon was able to secure hundreds of partnerships by capitalizing on artificially low prices funded through taxpayer resources. Making matters worse, Ring engages in these partnerships without first informing its users. This deceptive practice raises, at best, tremendous ethical concerns.
Amazon’s record on data security is already cause for concern. Recently, two prominent senators have asked the Commission to investigate Amazon’s role in the Capital One data breach, which affected nearly 100 million customers. Given Amazon’s potential involvement in this historic breach and its reckless handling of consumer data captured through Ring, it would be unwise to allow this activity to continue without at least some examination from the Commission.
In addition to the data security concerns, Ring’s video-sharing arrangement raises questions about the potential for profiling. In an open letter to lawmakers, more than 30 civil rights action groups described the threat to civil liberties posed by Ring’s partnership with law enforcement. In the letter, the organizations explain the dangers of this arrangement:
“With no oversight and accountability, Amazon’s technology creates a seamless and easily automated experience for police to request and access footage without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely. In the absence of clear civil liberties and rights-protective policies to govern the technologies and the use of their data, once collected, stored footage can be used by law enforcement to conduct facial recognition searches, target protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, teenagers for minor drug possession, or shared with other agencies […].”
These sentiments were echoed by another prominent senator in a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. In the letter, the lawmaker outlined the privacy and civil liberty concerns noted above. Amazon has not yet responded to this letter—a clear indication that, unless pressured by government officials, the company will only act in accordance with its own interests, rather than address the genuine threats expressed here. Because of this, it would be wise for the FTC to act before the situation spirals out of control.
Inaction in light of these facts would subject consumers to risks that are all too dangerous. As the top “cop on the beat,” the FTC has a public responsibility to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices. Given the data security and civil liberty concerns, it would be wise for the FTC to undertake a review of the partnership between Amazon and Ring and law enforcement authorities.
This issue—that of data security and physical safety—is bipartisan in nature. In fact, it transcends politics entirely.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
 Harwell, D. (2019, August 28). Doorbell-camera firm Ring has partnered with 400 police forces, extending surveillance concerns. Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/08/28/doorbell-camera-firm-ring-has-partnered-with-police-forces-extending-surveillance-reach/.
 Guariglia, M. (2019, August 30). Five Concerns about Amazon Ring’s Deals with Police. Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/08/five-concerns-about-amazon-rings-deals-police.
 Fight for the Future (2019, October 7). Open letter calling on elected officials to stop Amazon’s doorbell surveillance partnerships with police. Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://www.fightforthefuture.org/news/2019-10-07-open-letter-calling-on-elected-officials-to-stop/.