An executive order on LGBT rights signed by President Joe Biden on Wednesday signals the start of a bitter cultural clash that will loom large over his presidency.
Biden’s directive broaches almost every aspect of domestic policy, from housing to refugee resettlement to transgender student athletes. The order requires every federal agency to make clear that civil rights laws banning sex discrimination also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, citing the Supreme Court’s landmark gay rights ruling in June 2020.
Many changes resulting from Biden’s order, like a ban on anti-gay discrimination in renting, are unlikely to cause controversy. Other mandates will accelerate long-simmering cultural disputes, like those allowing trans students to participate in women’s sports or use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. While Biden says his focus is fixed on the coronavirus pandemic and economic stimulus, cultural conflict is poised to play a defining role in the coming years of his presidency.
The Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County is the basis for Biden’s directive. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bans discrimination “because of sex” in employment. The question for the justices was whether that sex discrimination ban also covers sexual orientation and gender identity. A six-justice majority led by Justice Neil Gorsuch said it does. Gorsuch wrote that it is “impossible” to discriminate against LGBT workers without discriminating in some way “because of sex.”
Biden’s order says the logic of Bostock—that discrimination against LGBT people is necessarily discrimination “because of sex”—should apply to every other federal law and regulation that bans sex-based discrimination. The order thus requires any agency that enforces statutes banning sex discrimination to likewise prohibit bias against LGBT people.
For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development administers a sex non-discrimination law called the Fair Housing Act. Under Biden’s order, HUD will enforce that law to ban LGBT bias when selling homes or renting apartments. The Immigration and Nationality Act likewise promises assistance to refugees regardless of sex, meaning Biden’s order also guarantees protections for gay and transgender migrants.
All told, the list of forthcoming changes is a long one.
“Biden’s executive order is the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life.”
While many new policies will likely enjoy broad support, some may inflame the hottest cultural disputes. Biden’s Education Department will be a flashpoint.
The Education Department administers Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in federally-funded schools. The department, consistent with Biden’s order, will make rules requiring any school that takes federal dollars to allow trans students access to their preferred bathrooms and locker rooms. Another rule granting trans-women access to women’s sports will almost certainly be promulgated. The order expressly contemplates those steps.
“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love. Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” the order reads.
Critics say those moves are tantamount to repealing Title IX, which was passed to put women on equal-footing with men in athletics.
“This isn’t equality, and it isn’t progress. President Biden’s call for ‘unity’ falls flat when he seeks to hold those receiving federal funds hostage if they don’t do tremendous damage to the rights, opportunities, and dignity of women and girls,” said Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer Christiana Holcomb.
The Trump administration took the same view, arguing Bostock shouldn’t apply to Title IX because Title IX serves a different and unique purpose—protecting girls and ensuring equal athletic opportunities for women. Forcing women’s athletic leagues to accept transgender competitors would defeat the law’s purpose, the Trump Education Department argued in a 2020 memorandum.
In the months following Bostock, two federal appeals courts sided with transgender students challenging bathroom access policies, an early indication that many courts are ready to apply the case to education.
Implementing Biden’s order will take time. In the short term, agencies will issue advisory notices to forewarn employees or industry leaders about the new enforcement practices. That will give schools, banks, and employers time to implement changes on their own without formal government action.
Agencies will then move to enshrine the new policy in an official rule. Crafting rules is time-consuming. Agencies must give adequate notice of a change and allow a public comment period. Settling the finer points is likewise slow work, often involving officials from different parts of the government. For example, former education secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded an Obama-era “Dear Colleague” letter on campus sexual assault in 2017, but a long-promised rule setting due-process requirements for campus tribunals wasn’t finalized until 2020.
And whatever changes are achieved may be stymied in court. Advocacy groups and Republican attorneys general are sure to file legal challenges to the new rules. It’s not clear if they’ll ask judges to halt Biden’s policies on a national basis. Conservatives castigated so-called nationwide injunctions during the Trump administration, though with Biden in the White House they may be back in style.
Justice Samuel Alito foresaw a long slog in his wide-ranging 54-page dissent in Bostock.
“Although the Court does not want to think about the consequences of its decision, we will not be able to avoid those issues for long,” Alito wrote. “The entire federal judiciary will be mired for years in disputes about the reach of the Court’s reasoning.”
By Red State•
We touched on the concerns of folks in New Mexico over Joe Biden’s 60-day moratorium on new oil and natural gas leases and drilling permits.
But it’s a huge problem now and would devastate the state if that were made permanent, according to leaders in New Mexico. Not to mention if Biden then forbids fracking on public lands.
Half of New Mexico’s production is on federal lands. It provides over 100,000 related jobs and it’s what provides money for education and other government programs. It will crush the state’s economy which is already struggling, according to Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway.
“During his inauguration, President Biden spoke about bringing our nation together. Eliminating drilling on public lands will cost thousands of New Mexicans their jobs and destroy what’s left of our state’s economy,” Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway told The Associated Press on Friday. “How does that bring us together? Environmental efforts should be fair and well-researched, not knee-jerk mandates that just hurt an already impoverished state.”
Plus the order is halting all regulatory activity, even that which does what Democrats claim they want, requests for rights of way for new pipelines to reduce venting and flaring which Democrats claim exacerbates climate change.
One could say all this was out there to know, but New Mexico was called for Biden. So what were the people who actually voted for Biden there thinking? They were seduced by media about President Donald Trump’s ‘mean tweets.’ Meanwhile now they’re going to get hit hard.
It’s not just New Mexico that’s going to suffer, it’s other Western states as well, including the states who didn’t vote for Biden.
Utah said that such a widespread suspension is unprecedented and incredibly harmful and they asked Biden to reconsider his “arbitrary decision.”
But it’s not just states that Biden is attacking with this, as a Native American tribe points out. Luke Duncan, the chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee, minced not words when he called Biden’s decision a “direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination.”
Here’s what their letter said.
The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation respectfully requests that you immediately amend Order No. 3395 to provide an exception for energy permits and approvals on Indian lands. The Ute Indian Tribe and other energy producing tribes rely on energy development to fund our governments and provide services to our members.
Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination. Indian lands are not federal public lands. Any action on our lands and interests can only be taken after effective tribal consultation.
Order No. 3395 violates the United States treaty and trust responsibilities to the Ute Indian Tribe and violates important principles of tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Your order was also issued in violation (of) our government-to-government relationship. Executive Order No. 13175 on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, and Interior’s own Policy on Consultation with Tribal Governments.
The order must be withdrawn or amended to comply with Federal law and policies. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward from hearing from you.
While we might say if any of these folks voted for Biden, they should have known better, unfortunately this is not going to just hurt all these people, but it’s going to hurt all of us, translating in more expensive energy prices and losing that energy independence that President Donald Trump worked so hard to get for us.
It’s only Day 4 into this calamitous mess. How’s it going so far?
Joe Biden largely campaigned on restoring the status quo ante in Washington, so naturally one of his first proposals is for the sort of “comprehensive immigration reform” that was a staple of the pre-Trump years.
George W. Bush pushed a “comprehensive” bill and failed. So did Barack Obama. Biden picks up where they left off, except with a proposal — and this will be a theme — that is further to the left than the prior bills.
The key, if always dubious, promise in past legislation was to implement enforcement provisions before or alongside an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Biden’s plan doesn’t even bother pretending. It discusses upgrading technology at the border, the bare minimum of enforcement window-dressing, while proposing an amnesty for more than 10 million people.
Although the details are yet to be written into legislation, it’s hard to exaggerate how sweeping this proposal is. It would apply not just to illegal immigrants who have been here for years and become embedded in their communities, but to illegal immigrants who showed up the day before yesterday — the cutoff for the amnesty is January 1, 2021. Even this requirement may be waived for illegal immigrants who were deported on or after January 20, 2017 but resided in the United States three years prior to that.
Biden doesn’t want to give temporary legal status to illegal immigrants. He wants to give them green cards and then, after a period of years, make them eligible for citizenship. This would precipitate a wave of follow-on immigration. Green-card holders can petition for spouses and minor children to come to the United States, while citizens can petition for parents and siblings, as well.
It’s an unwritten rule that comprehensive immigration bills must always increase levels of legal immigration, too, and sure enough, the Biden proposal would loosen and lift various restrictions and caps in the legal system.
The proposal’s gesture toward stemming the flow of migrants from south of the border is to increase foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. We should do what we reasonably can to assist the development of these countries, but we shouldn’t pretend that this is any kind of short-term solution to migration. Even if these countries were to experience more economic growth right away, the immediate effect would likely be to increase migration as more people would have the resources to attempt to come north.
In a move worthy of an apparatchik at Oberlin College, Biden also wants to eliminate the term “alien” from the U.S. code on grounds that this longstanding, perfectly good term is offensive and exclusionary.
There is a good case for a carefully tailored amnesty for the illegal immigrants who have been here the longest, coupled with real enforcement measures like E-Verify and an exit-entry visa system. This is not even close to that.
At least the proposal furthers Biden’s goal of unity in one respect. It should unite Republicans and all supporters of a sound immigration system in determined opposition.
Yellen backed 2014 report forecasting 500,000 lost jobs from minimum wage hike
Treasury secretary nominee Janet Yellen previously backed a 2014 report that found a $10.10 federal minimum wage could kill half a million jobs. On Tuesday, she claimed that a $15 minimum wage would result in “minimal” job loss.
Yellen testified before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday morning, nearly two months after President-elect Joe Biden announced her nomination to head the Treasury Department. When Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) criticized Biden’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15, noting that it could “hurt our economy as much as it would improve our economy,” Yellen defended the proposal.
“I think that the likely impact on jobs is minimal,” Yellen said. “That’s my reading of the research.”
But Yellen endorsed a 2014 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicting up to 500,000 lost jobs as a result of a $10.10 minimum wage. While the Obama administration lambasted the report, Yellen defended the CBO, calling the agency “good at this kind of evaluation” and adding that she “wouldn’t argue with their assessment.” The CBO later found that a $15 minimum wage could kill as many as 3.7 million jobs, with total real family income dropping by $9 billion.
Biden has made a $15 minimum wage a key pillar of his economic package, but the policy is likely to face hurdles in an evenly split Senate. At least 10 Senate Republicans must back Biden’s proposal to avoid a filibuster, and many GOP lawmakers have already expressed their opposition. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), for example, said that the proposal would cause “many low-income Americans” to “lose their current jobs and find fewer job opportunities in the future.”
Employment Policies Institute managing director Michael Saltsman echoed Toomey’s claim, telling the Washington Free Beacon that a $15 minimum wage would harm small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s frankly irresponsible for the Biden administration to propose this at any time, but especially at a time when restaurants are dealing with huge 2020 losses, continued mandatory closures, and millions of jobs that haven’t come back since the start of the pandemic,” Saltsman said.
The Biden transition team did not return a request for comment.
Calls come as center's director, Biden's secretary of state nominee, undergoes Senate confirmation process
A good-government watchdog is calling on secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken to disclose any foreign-funding sources for the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Biden Center, where Blinken served as director, as part of his Senate confirmation vetting process.
The National Legal and Policy Center (NPLC) is arguing thatany foreign money that made its way into the Penn Biden Center could pose a conflict of interest for Blinken, who served as the center’s director from 2017 to 2019 and received a more than $79,000 salary, according to his financial-disclosure records. The watchdog group said the university also saw a significant spike in contributions from China after the Penn Biden Center opened in 2017, raising questions about whether the funding had any connection to the policy center.
While President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to tighten ethics standards for his incoming administration, the Penn Biden Center’s lack of financial candor raises questions about the Biden cabinet’s commitment to transparency as Blinken testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday afternoon.
“The Penn Biden Center is the poster child for revolving-door conflicts of interest,” said Tom Anderson, director of the NPLC’s Government Integrity Project. “It’s time they disclose their donors and allow the American people the opportunity to evaluate whether any lines have been crossed.”
The Penn Biden Center was founded by Joe Biden at the University of Pennsylvania in 2017. Biden’s other policy-research institute at the University of Delaware has faced similar criticism over a lack of transparency and has no plans to disclose its donors after the president-elect takes office. Both organizations have served as cabinets-in-waiting, employing former Biden advisers who are now expected to join his administration.
Stephen MacCarthy, a spokesman for the University of Pennsylvania, told the Washington Free Beacon that the Penn Biden Center “is funded entirely with University funds” and doesn’t engage in fundraising.
“The University has never solicited any gifts for the Center. Since its inception in 2017 there have been three unsolicited gifts (from two donors) which combined total $1,100. Both donors are Americans,” said MacCarthy.
MacCarthy declined to discuss additional details of the center’s funding, or the sudden spike in donations from China, on the record.
Foreign contributions to the University of Pennsylvania tripled since the Penn Biden Center’s soft opening in March 2017, rising from $31 million in 2016 to over $100 million in 2019. The largest foreign contributor was China, which significantly increased its gifts to the university after the Penn Biden Center opened.
The University of Pennsylvania took in around $61 million in gifts and contracts from China between 2017 and 2019, according to records from the Department of Education. This was a substantial uptick from the prior four years, when the university received $19 million from China.
Many of the Chinese contributions were listed as coming from “anonymous” sources, according to the university’s disclosure records. Between March 2017 and the end of 2019, the university received a total of $22 million in anonymous gifts from China—a spike from less than $5 million during the preceding four years.
Blinken’s work outside of the Penn Biden Center also involved China and university funding.
Blinken cofounded the consulting firm WestExec, which helped U.S. universities raise money from China without running afoul of Pentagon grant requirements, the Free Beacon reported last month. WestExec scrubbed the details of this work from its website over the summer.
Anderson said his group is preparing to file a supplement to a Department of Justice complaint filed against the University of Pennsylvania last year.
The NLPC’s complaint asked the DOJ to look into whether the University of Pennsylvania or the Penn Biden Center violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act by accepting foreign funding in exchange for promoting the interests of foreign governments. Anderson said the new complaint will include Blinken’s work assisting universities that receive funding from China.
Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that the committee will likely vote on Blinken’s confirmation on Monday.
It would be nice if everyone had given their attention to how quickly Congresscompleted its work Wednesday. How, after a brief disruption, it counted the electoral ballots and confirmed President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris‘s victory. That the norms were upheld and the victorious indeed emerged triumphant.
It would be nice—but it would ignore the elephant in the room.
Many regard the U.S. Capitol with the same kind of awe and reverence shown by Jimmy Stewart’s character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I know I do and, after nearly 40 years of being intimately involved in the political process, I confess a great deal of earnest sentimentalism has managed to survive beneath my hard-shell journalistic cynicism.
The Capitol is an amazing building, unique for what it represents. To the world, its dome means freedom, liberty and equality. It stands for the idea every man and woman has an equal chance to succeed, unhampered by those factors that in other nations perpetuate class, caste and regional differences. We are, as a friend often reminds me, a great country full of amazing people who often do amazing things.
What happened Wednesday is an abomination. More than that, it sullies the very democratic institutions and processes those who came to protest the counting of the Electoral College ballots in what they believe is a stolen election said they had come to protect. Spontaneous or not, the assault on the Capitol was an affront to us all, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike—no matter who committed it.
As has been argued by others, President Donald J. Trump bears considerable responsibility for this madness. He sent those people off on a mission believing they were patriots standing up against the culmination of a corrupt process that denied him a second term. That is not, however, an indictment of the nearly 75 million Americans who voted for him in November.
Those who broke the law should be sought out and, if apprehended, punished to the full extent allowable by law. Those who entered the Capitol to ransack it not only made a mockery of the majesty and ritual with which America’s legislative process is conducted, they proved the Founding Fathers to have been correct in every way in which they warned against the dangers of the mob.
There is a coarseness in politics today that, for some time, has debased our democratic system. James Madison warned that partisanship would be problematic. We can see now how prescient he was. Disagreement and dissent are now too often presented as dishonorable, especially by the people on the other side of any given disagreement. The plain fact is there’s plenty of blame to go around, and the mob that attacked the Capitol were no more “patriots” than the assassins of the two New York City police officers murdered in 2014 while sitting in their cruiser were “civil rights activists.”
Words are the way we are supposed to settle things—not violence. That’s what my mother and father taught me and, I presume, it’s what most of you who are reading this now were also taught in your formative years. The disputes we have over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, whether grounded in reality or a fantasy-fueled attempt to hang onto power, cannot and will not be settled by brawling or attacking democratic symbols.
As a new administration comes into office, hopefully both Democrats and Republicans will adopt a calmer approach to settling differences. The persistence of our democratic republic is a tribute to the vision of the Founders and the living legacy of men like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Kennedy and Reagan—all of whom did so much to give it life. It is a tribute to them that our institutions and our democratic republic have not yet crumbled on account of the lesser lights who have been sometimes chosen to lead it.
However unfairly Mr. Trump was treated during his presidency, he must realize at some point that he brought many of these indignities upon himself. He chose to throw sharp elbows and should not have been surprised when they were thrown back. He could have left the presidency on a high note, confident he’d built a movement that would outlast him and that, in just four years, he’d successfully pushed policies leading to greater peace and prosperity (at least before COVID-19 hit). Ultimately, he surrendered to the lesser parts of our nature and seems, for the moment at least, to have destroyed any meaningful legacy he might have left.
First Dem-controlled gov't in a decade means fights over filibuster, court packing, socialist agenda
Victory in Georgia has guaranteed Democratic control of the White House and Congress, giving President-elect Joe Biden expanded options but also denying him cover from the demands of his party’s radical left wing.
Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff’s surprise double triumph on Tuesday makes possible many of Biden’s more expansive legislative priorities, such as his promised revisions to Obamacare or his $2 trillion climate plan. But it also means that he has lost the convenient excuse of a Republican-controlled Senate, which would have allowed him to refuse the more revolutionary changes endorsed by members of his party.
Instead, progressive groups are already agitating for proposals such as ending the Senate’s filibuster. Eli Zupnick, spokesman for the left-leaning Fix Our Senate, responded to the news of Warnock and Ossoff’s victory with bluntness: “What does this election mean? The filibuster is dead.”
Similar calls will soon emerge from other corners, pushing for court packing, the addition of new states, radical appointees, and the agenda of the House’s socialist “squad” caucus. Paradoxically, Biden’s victory in the Senate may have set up an even greater battle: not against Republicans, but across the ever-growing fault lines which divide his party.
As much is particularly true due to the razor-thin margin by which Democrats control government. They will hold the Senate only through the grace of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, while Republicans chipped away at their already narrow control of the House in the November election.
That margin will come into play over a likely contentious debate over the filibuster. Democrats’ sub-60-vote position means that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) can still stall much of Biden’s agenda, as he did in the latter days of the Obama administration. Recognizing this, soon-to-be majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has repeatedly signaled an openness to ending the practice.
In this, Schumer has been joined by progressive members of his caucus such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), as well as former president Barack Obama. But blue dog senators have been hostile: Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), and Jon Tester (D., Mont.) are all opposed, while Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) has dodged the question. So too has Warnock, while Ossoff offered only a “maybe” when asked.
Abolishing the filibuster would be a prerequisite for another major change Schumer has been eyeing—granting statehood to the District of Columbia and possibly Puerto Rico, guaranteeing two to four more Democrats in the upper chamber. But it would not be necessary to add further justices to the Supreme Court, a move many Democrats agitated for in the wake of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment. Biden has remained conspicuously silent on the issue of court packing, which would require his involvement but would see the ostensible moderate yielding to progressives over the majority of Americans.
Such major changes are not the only place Democratic control could be a headache for Biden. McConnell’s control of the Senate was expected to moderate Biden’s selection for top posts, and the president-elect has leaned toward the center in many of his taps.
But a Democrat-controlled Senate will allow more controversial choices, like the inflammatory OMB pick Neera Tanden, a serious hearing Biden may not have expected. And it could give new life to appointment priorities from the left, like the list of 100 foreign policy progressives that until Tuesday appeared dead on arrival.
A similar headache may await House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), as a smaller caucus gives more power to the growing “squad” of Democratic socialists in her chamber. A cadre of online progressives spent the days leading up to the vote for speaker agitating for Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), and others to withhold their votes unless Pelosi agreed to allow a vote on Medicare for All. Ocasio-Cortez shot down the idea but acknowledged it—indicating future pressure efforts may be more fruitful.
Pelosi, in other words, could experience a redux of the standoffs that defined the relationship between former speaker John Boehner and the House Freedom Caucus, which ended with Boehner’s resignation. Biden, similarly, risks his agenda being hijacked—not by obstreperous Republicans, as expected, but by members of his own party eager to seize power.
Lax immigration enforcement under Biden could bring about a new border crisis
New data from the Department of Homeland Security capture the changing face of illegal immigration, revealing dramatic shifts that will shape President-elect Joe Biden’s hopes for comprehensive immigration reform.
The report from the Office of Immigration Statistics captures a transition as the share of lone adults, particularly from Mexico, declined, replaced by children and adults traveling with them from the “northern triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. That change in turn has led to a dramatic decline in the number of individuals reported, as members of the latter group rely on more accommodative legal protections to remain in the country far longer than the former.
The report also shows that individuals who were not detained after apprehension are much more likely to still be in the country. That’s a sign, acting deputy homeland security director Ken Cuccinelli wrote, that “catch and release” policies do not work.
That such policies, including an expansion of the use of “alternatives to detention,” are top of the Biden immigration agenda augurs poorly for the incoming president. The challenges that changing migration patterns posed to the Obama and Trump administrations are unlikely to go away under Biden, teeing up yet another border crisis and ensuing political meltdown.
The report combines data from myriad sources to track the “lifecycle” of would-be entrants apprehended over the past five years at the southwestern border, providing information on the immigration status of some 3.5 million apprehensions. Its coverage bookends two major migrant crises: a surge of unaccompanied minors in 2014, and a much larger surge of both families and unaccompanied kids in late 2018 and early 2019.
These two crises are part of the changing face of migration. Whereas in the period of 2000 to 2004, 97 percent of all those apprehended were Mexicans—many of them lone adults seeking work—by 2019 that share had dropped to just 24 percent. By contrast, arrivals from the “northern triangle” countries rose from 44 percent of apprehensions in 2014 to 64 percent in 2019, amid the second crisis. Many of these individuals were children, often quite young, and adults traveling with them, claiming to be their family members.
Those demographic differences strongly determine what happens to an individual after he or she is apprehended. Single adults are quickly deported, with 78 percent of those apprehended over the preceding five years repatriated by Q2 2020. But family arrivals and children are not—just 32 percent of the latter, and only 11 percent of the former, had their cases resolved as of Q2 2020.
Such migration is likely to rise under Biden, who has promised to substantially reduce immigration enforcement and intends to pursue an amnesty, both of which could incentivize further arrivals. Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that apprehensions at the border rose year-on-year in the immediate lead-up to and aftermath of Biden’s election, which may indicate a rising tide of migrants eager to take advantage of a more lax immigration regime.
Those arrivals will enjoy the same preexisting immigration challenges that the Center for Immigration Studies’ Andrew Arthur identified as driving the low number of deportations for families and children. “Loopholes” in federal immigration law incentivize the bringing of children from noncontiguous countries and delay almost indefinitely their immigration court process.
In particular, abuse of the asylum system, and of provisions which require the release from detention of minors and their guardians, results in large populations who arrive, are released, and never show up for subsequent immigration processing. According to the report, just 1 percent of those detained had unexecuted removal orders, while 55 percent of those released were still listed as unresolved.
The reason for this dynamic is not that those who arrive at the southwestern border have reasonable claims to be asylees: Just 14 percent of initial applicants are eventually granted asylum. Similarly, among those cases resolved, roughly 13.6 percent were granted some relief, while the rest were summarily deported.
In other words, the report indicates a large and persistent challenge to the U.S. immigration system, with an ever-growing pool of illegal entrants and an ever-expanding backlog of immigration court cases jamming up the process of legal immigration and the limited resources of DHS.
That dynamic is likely to continue, and even expand, under the Biden DHS. Biden’s promised undoing of many of President Donald Trump’s tougher enforcement tools, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy and the limitation of “reasonable fear” asylum claims, could exacerbate the inflow of people driven by the “loopholes” Arthur and Cuccinelli identify. So too could the deployment of “alternatives to detention,” which Cuccinelli specifically singled out as problematic.
The Biden team, likely spooked by the surging apprehension numbers, has signaled that it will slow-roll the undoing of Trump’s immigration agenda. But it has not promised any of the “targeted legislative fixes” endorsed by Cuccinelli in his letter, leaving in place the adverse incentives. That could lead to another humanitarian crisis at the southwestern border—a ticking time bomb Biden’s team has evinced little interest in defusing.
Notes on the ascendant Left’s new terminology.
ith the rise of the Left inevitable over the next two years, the public should become acquainted with the Left’s strange language of Wokespeak. Failure to do so could result in job termination and career cancellation. It is certainly a fluid tongue. Words often change their meanings as the political context demands. And what was yesterday’s orthodoxy is today’s heterodoxy and tomorrow’s heresy. So here is some of the vocabulary of the woke lexicon.
“Anti-racism.” Espousing this generic compounded -ism is far preferable to accusing particular people of being “racists” — and then being expected to produce evidence of their concrete actions and words to prove such indictments.
Instead, one can pose as fighting for “anti-racism” and thereby imply that all those whom one opposes, disagrees with, or finds distasteful, de facto, must be for “racism.”
“Anti-racism” is a useful salvo for students, teachers, administrators, public employees, political appointees, and media personnel to use peremptorily: declare from the start that you are working for “anti-racism” and then anyone who disagrees with you therefore must be racist, or, antithetically, “pro-racism.”
Oddly, such Wokespeak “anti-” adjectives denote opposition to something that no one claims to be for. For each proclaimed “anti-racist,” “anti-imperialist,” or “anti-colonialist,” there is almost no one who wishes to be a “racist” or desires to be a “colonialist” or an “imperialist.” These villains mostly come to life only through the use of their “anti-” adjectives.
“Disparate Impact.” This word is becoming anachronistic — call it Wokespoke, if you will. In ancient labor-law usage, it often accompanied the now equally calcified term “disproportional representation.” But in 21st-century American Wokespeak, it is no longer necessarily unfair, illegal, or unethical that some racial, gender, or ethnic groups are “over”-represented in certain coveted admissions and hiring.
Thus there can be no insidious, silent, or even inadvertent, but otherwise innate, bias that results in now-welcomed disproportional representation.
“Disparate” thus will likely be replaced by a more proper neologism such as “parity” or “affirmative” impact to denote that “overrepresentation” of one group over another is hardly “disparate,” but just and necessary to restore “parity” for past crimes of racism and sexism.
So disparate impact in general no longer has any systematic utility in matters of racial grievance and will soon be dropped. It was once a means to get to where we are and beyond. For example, at about 12 percent of the population, African Americans are disproportionally represented as players in both Major League Baseball (8 percent), and the National Basketball Association (75–80 percent), as are “whites” likewise in both sports, who constitute 65–70 percent of the general population, but make up only 45 percent of the MLB and 15–20 percent of the NBA. No constant term can be allowed to represent facts such as these.
“Cultural appropriation.” This adjective-noun phrase must include contextualization to be an effective tool in the anti-racism effort.
It does not mean, as the ignorant may infer from its dictionary entries, merely “the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.”
Asian Americans do not appropriate “white” or “European” culture by ballet dancing or playing the violin; “whites” or “Europeans” surely do appropriate Asian culture by using non-Asian actors in Japanese kabuki dance-drama.
For non–African Americans, dreadlocks or playing jazz are cultural appropriations; dying darker hair blond is not. A black opera soprano is hardly a cultural appropriationist. Wearing a poncho, if one is a non–Mexican-American citizen, is cultural theft; a Mexican-American citizen wearing a tuxedo is not.
Only a trained cultural appropriationist can determine such felonies through a variety of benchmarks. Usually the crime is defined as appropriation by a victimizing majority from a victimized minority. Acceptable appropriation is a victimized minority appropriating from a victimizing majority. A secondary exegesis would add that only the theft of the valuable culture of the minority is a felony, while the occasional use of the dross of the majority is not.
“Diversity.” This term does not include false-consciousness efforts to vary representation by class backgrounds, ideologies, age, or politics. In current Wokespeak, it instead refers mostly to race and sex (see “Race, class, and gender”), or in practical terms, a generic 30 percent of the population self-identified as non-white — or even 70 percent if inclusive of non-male non-whites.
“Diversity” has relegated “affirmative action” — the older white/black binary that called for reparatory “action” to redress centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and institutionalized prejudice against African Americans — to the Wokespoke dustbin.
“Diversity” avoids the complications arising out of past actionable grievances, or worries about the overrepresentation or underrepresentation of particular tribes, or the class or wealth of the victimized non-white.
The recalibrated racially and ethnically victimized have grown from 12 percent to 30 percent of the population and need not worry whether they might lose advantageous classifications, should their income and net worth approximate or exceed that of the majority oppressive class.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion.” This triad is almost always used in corporate, professional, and academic administrative titles, such as in a dean, director, or provost of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
Known more commonly by their familiar, abbreviated sobriquets of “diversity czars,” such coveted billets are usually immune from budget cuts and economic belt-tightening. Often such newly created czar positions are subsidized in times of protest and financial duress by increasing the reliance on exploited part-time or low-paid workers, by either cutting or freezing their hours, benefits, or salaries.
No “equity czar,” for example, can afford publicly to be concerned about university exploitation of all part-time faculty. (See also under “Equity.”)
“Diversity” and “inclusion” are not synonymous or redundant nouns. Thus they should be used always in tandem: One can advocate for “inclusion” without oneself actually being “diverse,” or one can be “diverse” but not “include” others who are “diverse.” However, serving both diversity and inclusion ideally implies that those hired as non-white males are entrusted to hire additional non-white males.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
“Equity.” Equity has now replaced the Civil Rights–era goal of “equality” — a word relegated to vestigial Wokespoke. After 60 years, equality apparently was exposed as a retrograde bourgeois synonym for the loaded “equality of opportunity” rather than a necessary, mandated “equality of result.”
Since seeking equality does not guarantee that everyone will end up the same, “equality” became increasingly unhelpful. Equity, in contrast, means that we do not just treat people at this late date “equally” — since most have been prior victims of various -isms and -ologies that require reparatory considerations.
“Equity” instead means treating people quite differently, even prejudicially so, to even the playing field for our past sins of economic, social, political, and cultural inequity.
“Hate speech.” Most of the incendiary “free speech” protected under the First Amendment is in actuality “hate speech,” and therefore deserves no such protection. If America were a properly woke society, then there would be no need for the First Amendment.
Like much of the vocabulary of Wokespeak, the notion of “hate speech” is not symmetrical. It cannot be diluted, subverted, and contextualized by false equivalencies. So the oppressed, occasionally in times of understandable duress, can use generic gender and race labels to strike back at the oppressor (see “Leveling the playing field”).
Crude stereotypes can be occasionally useful reminders for the victimized of how to balance the predictable hurtful vocabulary of the victimizer. In times of emotional trauma, the use by the oppressed of emphatics and colloquials such as “cracker,” “honky,” “gringo,” “whitey,” or “white trash” can serve as useful reminders of how “words matter.” In general, the rare and regrettable use of purported “hate speech” by one oppressed group against another is not necessarily hate speech, but usually a barometer of how a majority lexicon has marginalized the Other.
“Implicit bias.” “Implicit” is another handy intensifying adjective (see “Systemic racism”). Implicit bias, however, differs somewhat from “systemic racism.” It is analogous to a generic all-purpose antibiotic, useful against not just one pathogen but all pathogens, such as sexism, homophobia, nativism, transphobia, etc., that make up “bias,” a word that is now rarely used without an intensifying adjective.
Also, “implicit,” while implying “systemic,” additionally suggests chronological permanence, as in “innate bias.”
Thus “implicit bias” denotes a hard-to-detect prejudice against the non-heterosexual, the non-white, and the non-male that is sometimes as nontransparent as is it innate to the DNA of the heterosexual white male. Diversity trainers and workshops are needed to identify and inoculate against the virus of implicit bias.
“Intersectionality.” Race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics supposedly “intersect” with one another as shared victimizations. Thus, the community of the oppressed is commonly crisscrossed, and therefore amplified by such osmosis of shared grievances. The postmodern “intersectionality” has replaced the apparently now-banal term “rainbow coalition.”
In theory, the more shared victimizations, the higher the ranking one enjoys within the intersectional community.
However, when intersectionality results in stubborn tribal rivalries and struggles over identity-politics spoils, either one of two things follows: On the good side, those with the most oppressions (e.g., gay women of color) are the most rewarded accordingly. But on the bad side, the intersectional graph is blurred into rank Balkanization or worse.
A bellum omnium tribūum contra omnes tribūs follows, as the number of victims outnumbers the victimizers. Unfortunately, reparatory claims then must be fought over intrasectionally, i.e., each offended tribe unites monolithically in opposition to the others: e pluribus tribibus una becomes plures tribūs ex una.
“Leveling the playing field.” Sports terms can become useful Wokespeak. So to un-level the playing field is to “level” it. Leveling does not mean insisting on equality of opportunity (i.e., ensuring a soccer or rugby field does not slope in one direction), given inherent inequity. After all, when one team has not had access to proper training facilities, it deserves to play on an advantageously sloped field.
So to “level” means most certainly to slope the field for the benefit of one team, which in other matters allegedly suffers from past disadvantage brought on by bias that can only be corrected by and compensated through downhill advantage — or bias.
“LGBTQ.” This is currently the most widely used woke sobriquet for the homosexual and transgendered communities (see “Intersectionality”), although almost no one can agree on what the letter Q actually stands for.
Most clumsy politicians invoke the combined abbreviations — but often mangle and mix up the letters — without knowing really who does and does not qualify within the larger rubric. The term assumes there are few if any different agendas among homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered — at least that might outweigh their common nonbinary affinities.
“Marginalized.” The marginalized are those dehumanized by the white majority culture on the basis of race, sex, and sexual orientation. On rare occasions, the category can be difficult to articulate, given the intrusion of irrelevant class considerations that supposedly remedy “marginalization.” Income and wealth, however, are transitory criteria; sex and race are not. Jay-Z, Barack Obama, and LeBron James are permanently marginalized in a way that an unemployed Pennsylvania clinger is not.
“Micro-aggression.” “Micro” is another qualifying adjective of our subtler age in which active race- and gender-based prejudices are almost impossible for the novice to spot.
Instead, adept micro-aggression experts and skilled diversity trainers can detect double entendres, gestures, inexplicable silences, facial expressions, fashions, and habits — the “code” that gives one away as an offensive sexist or racist. Such skills, much like cryptography, as mastering a cult’s hand gestures can be taught through workshops to the general population to enable them to break these silent systems of insidious aggressions.
“Proportional representation.” This, and its negative twin, disproportional representation, is another ossified term (see “Disparate impact”) that has largely served its 1990s purpose and is now relegated to Wokespoke.
Originally, it meant that various minority groups deserved to be represented in hiring and admissions, and in popular culture, in numbers commensurate to their percentages in the general population.
But in 21st-century Wokespeak, the goal of ensuring “proportional representation” can now be racist, sexist, and worse — given that females enroll in, and graduate from, colleges in far greater numbers than their proportions of the general population, or that African Americans, from lucrative professional sports to coveted federal jobs such as the U.S. Postal Service, are represented in number greater than their percentages in the general population.
To reflect new demographics, proportionality is becoming questionable; disproportionality is now almost good.
“Race, class, and gender.” Another Wokespoke, Neanderthal tripartite term that is dropping out of Wokespeak.
“Class” no longer matters much in America. Billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros are not enemies of the people; white impoverished deplorables in West Virginia certainly are. Oprah is a victim. So are Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg and Michelle Obama. Class is an anachronism.
To ensure distance from the irredeemables and clingers, Wokespeak will soon likely reduce the catechism to just “race and gender.”
“Safe space.” Safe spaces on college campuses (see “Theme house”) are not just segregated by race, gender, and sexual orientation; they are better described as official no-go zones for identifiable white heterosexual males. It would be debatable whether particular non-white or non-heterosexual or non-male groups can intrude into the segregated spaces of other particular groups. In general, these segregated enclaves offer sanctuary against “implicit bias” and “systemic racism.” Labeling them as “segregated spaces” is proof of implicit bias and systemic racism.
“Systemic racism.” “Systemic” belongs to this newer family of intensifying adjectival epithets (e.g., “micro,” “implicit,” etc.) that are necessary to posit a pathology that otherwise is hard to see, hear, or experience.
When one cannot point to actual evidence of “racism,” one can simply say that it is nowhere precisely because it is everywhere — sort of like the air we breathe that we count on, but often can’t see or feel.
“Theme house.” Theme houses are university dorms or sponsored off-campus student housing segregated by race. “Theme” is a useful euphemism for segregation, given that in theory there can be dorms for those of all races who share musical, artistic, or scholarly interests — or “themes,” e.g., an opera dorm or History House. But, in fact, “theme” today refers usually to race, gender, and ethnicity.
In Wokespeak, everyone is for theme houses; no one is for racially desegregating them. Being against the racial segregation of college dorms can become racist; being for them is never racist. Picking a future college roommate on the basis of race can be allowed — if neither the selector nor the selected is so-called “white.”
“The Other.” See under “Diversity.”
“Unearned white privilege”— as opposed to mere “white privilege.” The intensifier “unearned” is usually an added-on confessional by middle-aged white people in administrative or elite professional and coveted billets who wish to express their utmost penance for their high salaries, titles, and influence.
“Unearned,” however, is not to be confused with “undeserved.” Instead, it suggests certain white elites who wish to publicly confess their guilt for doing so well but without having to resign and to give back what they admittedly claim they did not earn.
Thus a college president is allowed to confess to having enjoyed “unearned” white privilege that nonetheless does not mean his present position is “undeserved.”
In sum, despite the fact that he was unfairly catapulted into the presidency, the college president’s manifest genius displayed after obtaining the job means he is now woke and clearly deserves to remain in the post. In other words, what explicit “unearned” was then, implicit “deserved” is now.
Progressive efforts to staff the nascent administration backfire
On Nov. 2, before the first votes in the presidential election had even been tallied, the foreign policy “experts” from the Blame America wing of the Democratic Party laid out their demands. Foreign Policy described their “wish list,” which included above all else their pick of jobs in the expected Biden administration.
They’d kept their mouths shut for six months and now they wanted their reward. Or, as Foreign Policy put it, they were preparing to “take off the gloves, setting the stage for a public brawl for the party’s soul over policy and political appointments to the most senior positions.”
But Biden’s victory was less sweeping than expected, and as early as Nov. 6, Foreign Policy was reporting that progressives were panicking that the election results would “ease pressure on Biden to offer progressives key positions in the new administration.”
Still, the nomenklatura have pressed on, presenting the Biden transition team with a list of 100 names they must consider for senior jobs in the new administration.
The list’s existence was first reported by Politico, but the Washington Free Beacon obtained the document and published it in full. It includes a rogue’s gallery of fringe figures—anti-Semites, operatives with deep ties to unsavory regimes, and the merely unserious and unqualified.
And it quickly became clear that the organizers did not want the list to see the light of day. The Free Beacon’s publication of the dossier elicited recriminations and finger pointing. List organizers accused the mainstream reporters with whom they’d shared the list—presumably, an accurate one—of leaking the document to their enemies (us). At the same time, they told us we’d obtained an inaccurate copy, representative only of “research materials.” False, unless they were bamboozling us all.
The contretemps is revealing of how quickly the Democratic Party’s progressive wing went from demanding to begging, and of the disorganization and unseriousness of its efforts. Turns out, one mainstream reporter said, that list organizers hadn’t even consulted with several of those named on the list before including their names and résumés without their permission.
Vanquished in the primaries and now at risk of exclusion from the new administration, they are in disarray. A compelling story, if anybody cared to cover it.
Silicon Valley's allies are filling up the Biden administration. A big payoff is sure to follow.
Silicon Valley played an integral role in propelling Joe Biden to the White House. He raked in uncounted millions from liberal tech billionaires such as Netflix’s Reed Hastings, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, and Apple heiress Laurene Powell Jobs; their employees shelled out $5 million more.
As Biden takes office, the techies want what they paid for. Reuters reports that executives at top firms like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are gunning for jobs at the Departments of Defense, State, Justice, and Commerce and also eyeing influential posts at the Federal Trade Commission and beyond.
They want two things: lucrative federal contracts and less scrutiny than they’ve gotten over the past four years, as President Donald Trump has made their bias against conservatives front-page news. The Department of Justice’s antitrust inquiry into big tech has already garnered bipartisan backing, including from a group of state attorneys general who have filed their own suit.
A Biden administration could make all of that go away. And it could ignore altogether these firms’ obsequious dealings with Communist China.
That explains the rush to fill seats: It’s unlikely that the techies moving into the Biden administration will check their business relationships at the door. Each hire is another pressure point for Silicon Valley’s most powerful to exploit.
This is hardly a problem unique to Democrats—you just hear about it less when they’re in the White House. This sort of revolving door was considered outrageous in the George W. Bush administration, when Democrats and the media harped relentlessly on Dick Cheney’s ties to Halliburton and charged that he was in the pocket of Big Oil. They raised the same ruckus when Trump appointed Exxon chief Rex Tillerson as his first secretary of state.
These unseemly connections aren’t new for Democrats. Google employees averaged a meeting a week with that Obama White House, influencing a president who “routinely pushed policy that pleased the tech-savvy.”
Now think what happens with those same lobbyists running the show. After rolling out transition teams free of connections to big tech, Team Biden added several Facebook executives over the Thanksgiving holiday. The transition team “has already stacked its agency review teams with more tech executives than tech critics,” Reuters notes, including “several officials from Big Tech companies, which emerged as top donors to the campaign.”ADVERTISING
Their influence doesn’t stop there. Biden on Tuesday named as an economic adviser Joelle Gamble, who last worked as an investor under eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, funneling funding to outfits run by other Biden appointees. Others may soon follow, like Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy chief and former Kamala Harris aide Mike Troncoso.
For just one example of how a problematic connection, consider WestExec, the consultancy cofounded by secretary of state nominee Tony Blinken. The firm helped Google win contracts from the Defense Department and advised Google cofounder Eric Schmidt’s philanthropy. Now, Reuters says, Schmidt is making recommendations for personnel in the Biden Defense Department, a textbook example of business relationships shaping government policy.
That’s just the start of the coming horse trading, hidden behind the Obama-era pretext that the White House is merely cultivating a relationship with the smartest people. But if personnel is policy, the Biden White House will be doing everything it can to comfort Silicon Valley’s most comfortable.
Some people, even some very prominent economists like Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman simply cannot get their heads around the idea that letting people keep more of what they earn is the best kind of economic stimulus there is. Instead, despite years of hard data proving otherwise, they still maintain more spending by the government is what greases the wheels and keeps the economy running.
This is nonsense. The tax cuts of the 1920s, the 1960s, and the 1980s were all followed by periods of remarkable growth in the U.S. economy. The spending binges pushed by FDR, by Richard Nixon, and among others, Barack Obama did little to fuel the engine of productivity or raise living standards.
The latest experiment, if it need be called that, was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act proposed by a Republican-led Congress and signed into law three years ago by President Donald Trump. Progressives derided the legislation as “welfare for the rich” that would see the “poor get poorer.”
The progressives were wrong. After the TCJA became law, optimism among Main Street business leaders reached an all-time high in the third quarter of 2018 while the unemployment rate reached a generational low. Before the implementation of lockdowns as a mostly Blue Strategy for combating the novel coronavirus, the economy added 5 million jobs while unemployment among women, people of color, and workers without high school degrees reached record lows.
Thanks to the reworking of the tax code by the TCJA, American business started to put money into itself again. Core investments in equipment and other business necessities reversed its five-year downward Obama-era trend, shooting back up, adding to productivity, and raising workers’ wages. And, most distasteful of all to liberals whose economic policies are all about spending your money like it was theirs, federal revenues reached an all-time high because more Americans were working for bigger paychecks in businesses that were expanding.
This is what Joe Biden has promised America he’s going to undo. That’s the practical effect of his promise to “repeal the Trump tax cuts” which, in his mind only benefited the ultra-rich like him. He and his party win votes by exploiting the resentments that exist in America between those who are well off and who work hard and those who don’t. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., may think the $600 per person being doled out in the latest COVID-19 relief bill will stimulate the economy – but that will be hard to do while other benefits provide a disincentive for people to go back to work in the places they can. Believe it or not, there was a hiring crisis in the Red States once their economies got moving again during the pandemic because some folks decided, rationally enough, they’d rather stay home and collect unemployment plus rather than go back to work.
They – and Biden and his incoming team of economic advisers – don’t know what they missed. Figures released by the Federal Reserve show low- and middle-class families saw large gains in wealth growth in 2018 and 2019. Low-income families saw their net worth increase 37 percent while middle-class families saw their net worth increase 40 percent.
Figures supplied by the House Ways and Means Committee show household income reached new highs as real median U.S. household income in 2019 rose nearly 50 percent more than during the eight years Barack Obama was president. Median household incomes increased 7.1 percent for Hispanics, 7.9 percent for Blacks, 10.6 percent for Asian Americans, and 8.5 percent for foreign-born workers while wages for minorities and women and young people grew at a faster pace than they did over Obama’s second term.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act worked, so well in fact it established the foundation for what should be – and looked like it was going to be a rapid recovery from the pandemic lockdowns. Instead, we have Joe Biden hinting that higher taxes, new taxes, carbon taxes, and other taxes are coming even if – as he unbelievably promises – families making less than $400,000 a year won’t pay a single dime more.
It’s sad really. With all the evidence showing Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan were right, that a rising tide does lift all boats, Biden would rather pursue policies that play to the rhetoric of classically socialist class envy while ignoring the need to create an environment in which opportunities exist for those who most need them
Will China’s negligence unleashing the coronavirus and mendacity exploiting it catalyze a reckoning with the PRC, comparable in significance to the Czech Coup of 1948? And will it crystallize long-term American determination to contest China’s scheme to supplant the United States as the world’s preeminent power? Or will China ultimately emerge as the winner from the devastation it has wrought because of a deficit of strategic and moral clarity within the United States and among our allies?
The answer to these questions depends considerably on the policies adopted by the next president. Start with the good news. Negative views of China have soared to a record high of 73 percent of Americans, according to a Pew Foundation Poll released in late July 20201. Chinese behavior during and since the coronavirus also has elicited strong negative reactions across the Indo-Pacific, especially in Japan, India, and Australia, where views of China’s ambitions and behavior already trended strongly in a negative direction. Even in Western Europe, long committed to engaging and conciliating rather than confronting China, COVID-19 has generated an anti-China backlash, more muted on the continent but stronger in Britain where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined President Trump in imposing a complete ban on Chinese 5G vendor Huawei.
Even so, this contingent good news might prove ephemeral rather than enduring if the United States and our allies should waver in the reckoning with China that President Trump deserves credit for initiating. The reelection of President Trump would have offered the best practicable option for building and intensifying the Administration’s first term strategy of contesting China comprehensively and vigorously—a vital condition for bolstering deterrence, or defeating China at the lowest possible cost and risk should deterrence fail. Unlike his predecessor––who “welcomed China’s rise,” who significantly shrank American defense spending while China armed prodigiously, and whose national security statements of 2010 and 2015 omitted naming China or any other great power as an adversary––the Trump Administration designated China from the outset as our number one adversary. The President has not only increased the American defense budget substantially, but invested in threshold technologies such as strategic defense and created an independent Space Force. The President has pushed back hard against China’s implacable economic warfare against us on trade and intellectual property that his predecessors rationalized away. The President’s economic policies before COVID-19 intervened had generated prodigious economic growth on which American military preeminence depends. Trump began, too, the long overdue decoupling of the U.S. economy from China’s, the imperative of which our inordinate dependence on China for essentials such as antibiotics exposed in high relief during this pandemic. President Trump strengthened relationships with a decent democratic India and Japan, vital, value-based allies who share our strategic priorities and alarm about the trajectory of China’s policies at home and abroad—relationships his predecessor, with the support of Vice President Biden, allowed to languish while courting China and other adversaries.
Trump’s recalibration of our China policy that COVID-19 has broadened, deepened, and accelerated is a good start, but only the end of the beginning of what is necessary for the United States and our allies to prevail. For all the considerable merits of President Trump’s approach towards China, the President would enhance the effectiveness of his policies by doing some recalibrating as well. The President’s rhetoric has undervalued the importance of American ideals as well as self-interest in identifying friends, foes, threats, and opportunities. Many Americans who are increasingly alarmed by China rightly advocate calling out China with no pale pastels on human rights, stressing the tyrannical nature of the Chinese regime, while championing the importance of a value-based alliance system of fellow democracies in the Indo-Pacific, grounded firmly in geopolitics. The President’s spokesmen—particularly Secretary of State Pompeo and Vice President Pence—have done much better articulating this dimension of the contest with China than the President, whose actual policies on this and many other issues are often better than he makes them sound. A greater emphasis on human right also may elicit greater support for sterner policies towards China from our Western European allies, where resolve—especially in Germany—is fragile at best even now with disillusionment with China running much higher than usual.
A second term Trump presidency also would run the risk of undermining the significant progress the Administration achieved in the first term if the President decided to settle for a deal rather than staying the course. This temptation is not only organic to President Trump’s nature, but would loom large for whoever became president because of the huge budgetary deficits that COVID-19 has compounded. President Trump’s salutary hectoring our allies to do more—yielding impressive results in Europe his predecessor failed to match—also ran the risk of reaching a culminating point counterproductive to forging a muscular strategic consensus that actively counters China’s ambitions.
With President Trump’s defeat, the odds diminish that China loses more than it gains by unleashing and exploiting COVID-19. Granted, the most recent Pew Foundation Poll found that many Democrats as well as even more Republicans advocate tougher policies on toward China on human rights and trade. An increasing number of prominent Democrats have become rhetorically more willing to criticize rather than conciliate China. Even so, President-elect Biden has a long record of advocating engagement with China while downplaying the idea that the PRC has become a serious strategic rival. The leftward lurch of the current Democratic Party also does inspire confident that a Biden Administration will follow through on President Trump’s policy of robust resistance towards China’s predatory behavior. On the contrary, Senator Biden had moved steadily in a more dovish direction on national security even before becoming President Obama’s Vice President and cheerleading for Obama’s Dangerous Doctrine President Trump has repudiated in its entirety. Neither Biden nor his surrogates said much of anything about China at the Democratic convention despite the urgency of addressing the paramount national security threat of our time.
Will a Democratic Party reluctant to condemn the breakdown of law and order in a growing number of municipalities its leaders have governed for decades—a party seriously considering deep cuts in law enforcement amidst the mayhem—pursue the types of muscular national security strategies essential for credibly reassuring our terrified real and prospective allies in the Indo-Pacific that it is safer to stand up to China rather than to capitulate? Will a party committed to a vast expansion of government domestically—with deficits cascading, taxes poised steeply to increase if President Biden has his way—have the resources much less the inclination to spend enough on defense to counter China’s relentless military buildup aimed at driving the United States out of the Western Pacific? Will a Biden Administration also designate China’s grandiose ambitions and predatory behavior as danger number one? Or will the President-elect and his party revert instead to the default position of President Trump’s predecessor, who considered climate change the paramount gathering danger, envisaging China as a partner in fighting it?
Concluding with an optimistic plausible caveat about the consequences of a Biden victory for our struggle with China, history furnishes ample examples of policies confounding expectations. Recall the Truman Administration’s decision to resist North Korea’s June 1950 attack on South Korea just six months after Secretary of State Dean Acheson seemed to exclude South Korea as a vital interest in his speech to the Washington Press Club in January 1950. Recall, the strategic metamorphosis of heretofore isolationist Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan into a stalwart supporter of President Truman’s policy of vigilant containment. In the immortal words of the Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” if a Biden Presidency underwent a similar metamorphosis in this direction. It would be a triumph of hope over experience, however, to count on it. This version of the Democratic party has purged itself of all vestiges of the Truman/Scoop Jackson tradition of muscular Cold War liberalism congenial to the President’s hawkishness on China. The party’s political banishment of Former Senator Joseph Lieberman—the last of the Cold War Democrats—sadly attests to that.
May a Biden Presidency, too, be better than it sounds. Otherwise, the COVID-19 pandemic may turn out to be a strange and stinging defeat for the United States instead of a defeat for its perpetrator.
Sanctions relief didn't bring stability in 2015. And it won't now
Back in September, Joe Biden described his Iran policy in an op-ed for CNN. After several paragraphs criticizing President Trump, Biden made an “unshakable commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” Then he offered Tehran “a credible path back to diplomacy.” The terms were simple. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal,” Biden wrote, “the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.” Sanctions would be lifted. And Biden is sticking with his plan. Recently Tom Friedman asked him if the offer stands. “It’s going to be hard,” Biden replied, “but yeah.”
Sure, Biden admitted, the agreement did not cover Iran’s missile programs, or support for terrorism, or human-rights violations, or malign behavior in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Absolutely, it contained a sunset clause that freed Iran of its obligations, and limited inspections to non-military installations. True, Iran maintained its archive of nuclear weapons research (until Israel revealed it to the world in 2018). And yes, the regional dynamic has changed. But these are secondary issues. “The best way to achieve getting some stability in the region,” Biden said, is “with the nuclear program.”
“Stability” is not how most people would describe the Middle East after 2015. Iran continued to launch missiles and send weapons and rockets to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, Shiite militias in Iraq, and Houthis in Yemen. Iran continued to hold captive U.S. citizens and harass and even detain U.S. naval personnel. Iran continued to harbor al-Qaeda’s number two, until he was killed earlier this year.
The economic benefits from sanctions relief went straight to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Its leader, General Qassem Soleimani, used this walking around money to sow murder and chaos before Trump ended his reign of terror last January. The nuclear deal did not bring order to a Greater Middle East where the Islamic State ruled large parts of Iraq and Syria, and where extremist ideologies inspired attacks in America, France, and the United Kingdom.
It is fantastic to think that the Iran deal stabilized anything. But the agreement has replaced the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as a kind of philosopher’s stone that, according to the liberal imagination, transmutes ethno-sectarian animosity into peace and toleration. In reality, the benefits of the nuclear deal were just as illusory as the promise of Oslo. Concessions did nothing but embolden the agents of terror.
That’s because negotiations were not conducted in good faith. One side, earnest and idealistic, was willing to pay a steep price to attain its aims. The other side wanted to pocket its gains while dissembling, diverting from, or otherwise undermining the spirit of diplomacy. This cynicism and double-talk isn’t a function of religion or ethnicity. It is a function of regime. Both the Palestinian Authority and the Islamic Republic of Iran are autocracies. Neither government respects the dignity and liberty of its own people. There is no reason to assume they would respect ours.
Recent weeks have provided remedial instruction for those unwilling or unable to acknowledge the reality of Iran’s outlaw government. On December 9, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif gave a Persian-language interview in which he said that “America is in no position to set conditions for its return” to the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA. Then he used anti-Semitic slang to express his support for Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “popular referendum” that would decide whether Israel should continue to exist. “We’re not talking about throwing the k—s into the sea, or about a military attack, or about suicide operations,” Zarif said. A simple up-or-down vote should do the trick.
No one in the English-speaking world would have known about Zarif’s comments were it not for the indefatigable translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Needless to say, when his despicable language was publicized, Zarif claimed in a tweet that, ha-ha-ha, he was just joking. “I was mocking the allegation that Iran seeks to ‘throw the Jews into the sea’ and reiterating our solution is a referendum with participation of ALL: Jews, Muslims, Christians,” he wrote. In a favorite trick of demagogues everywhere, Zarif cast himself as the victim, and said it was really his critics who were biased and beneath contempt. How could anyone accuse Minister Zarif or his government of anti-Semitism? It’s not like his supreme leader denies the Holocaust and says Israel won’t exist in 20 years. “MEMRI,” Zarif wrote, “has sunk to a new low.”
It is Zarif who’s hit bottom. Around the time the foreign minister dropped the k-bomb, Iran executed the 47-year-old Ruhollah Zam, an Iranian journalist and dissident who had been living in France until Tehran’s agents lured him under false pretenses to Iraq, where they kidnapped and arrested him. Zam’s killing was intended to demonstrate that no Iranian who speaks out against the mullahs is safe. It also sparked an international outcry from the very people whose good opinion Iran needs the most. It’s “another horrifying human rights violation by the Iranian regime,” tweetedincoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan. “We will join our partners in calling out and standing up to Iran’s abuses.”
One way to stand up to “Iran’s abuses” would be resisting the temptation to reenter the nuclear deal. Using the sanctions leverage bequeathed to him by Trump, Biden might try linking not only missiles and terrorism but also human rights to a renewal of negotiations. Iranian refusal would not be a “failure of diplomacy.” It would be confirmation that Tehran has no interest in changing its ways. The mullahs understand that the second they relax their grip, or appear weak vis-à-vis America, their government will crumble. Paying them off to abide by an agreement whose terms they set is an evasion. Stability in the Middle East won’t come when America rejoins the JCPOA. It will arrive when the Iranian people put an end to the Islamic revolution.
Biden courts disaster with retreads, culture warriors, and scandal
This is not a third Obama term.
—Joe Biden, November 24, 2020
He has a funny way of showing it. Biden’s recent moves provide little comfort for Americans looking for a way out of the polarization, acrimony, catastrophism, and hysteria that have characterized politics lo these many years.
Not only is Biden filling his administration with the same people who made such a hash of things from 2009 to 2017. He has also selected, for some of the most important offices, progressive ideologues who believe it is the bureaucracy’s job to pick new fights in the culture war. And he’s doing it all while his family and his party face new questions about their entanglement with the People’s Republic of China.
You are right to feel anxious.
Obama’s appointees were known for their elitism, imperiousness, and cocksure expertise. What does Biden do? He brings them back. John Kerry becomes a special envoy for climate—though if you assume he will restrict himself to that portfolio, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn you might like to buy. Janet Yellen gets Treasury—and a sure-to-be awkward relationship with her replacement as head of the Federal Reserve. Alejandro Mayorkas was deputy secretary of Homeland Security when he became ensnared in a visa scandal. Biden wants to promote him.
Jeffrey Zients salvaged Healthcare.gov from its catastrophic launch. He’ll be coronavirus czar. Having lied about both Benghazi and Bowe Bergdahl while coordinating national security, Susan Rice will apply her mendacious talents to domestic policy. Denis McDonough was Obama’s chief of staff during the Syrian “red line” debacle. He’ll be secretary for Veterans’ Affairs. A few officials—Vivek Murthy, Tom Vilsack—will be nominated for exactly the same jobs they held during the Obama years.
The cases where Biden has struck his own path are either strange or disturbing. Biden chose retired general Lloyd Austin, the former CENTCOM commander, for secretary of defense because “he played a crucial role in bringing 150,000 American troops home from the theater of war” and because he had a good relationship with Beau Biden. The selection, which requires a congressional waiver, not only raises the fraught subject of civil-military relations. It also guarantees a replay of the debate over America’s 2011 withdrawal from Iraq and the subsequent growth of the Islamic State. And it’s already created friction between Biden and members of his own party, as well as between Biden and members of the bipartisan foreign-policy elite who backed his candidacy.ADVERTISING
Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services was notorious for rules, such as the 2012 contraceptives mandate, that restricted religious freedom in ways calculated to benefit the Democratic Party. Our second Catholic president might try to reduce tensions between traditional believers and Washington, D.C., by appointing a nonpolitical HHS secretary with a directive to cope with the pandemic above all else. Instead, Biden picked Xavier Becerra, the far-left attorney general of California, who when not filing lawsuits against President Trump has targeted religious and pro-life organizations. The Becerra nomination is a rebuke to social conservatives. It puts the lie to Biden’s call for unity. Obama must love it.
What Obama can’t be happy about is Hunter Biden’s admission that the U.S. attorney for Delaware is looking into his taxes. The reality of Hunter Biden’s shady overseas business dealings, despite media and tech-sector attempts to suppress the information in the days before the election, can be avoided no longer. And Hunter’s revelation came during the week that Axios released a blockbuster report on Chinese infiltration into West Coast political circles, and disclosed that one Chinese spy became so close to Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell that the FBI gave him a defensive briefing about her in 2015. Swalwell will remain on the House Intelligence Committee. “When that was made known to the members of Congress, it was over,” said Nancy Pelosi.
Well, then. That settles it.
In truth, Biden’s denial that he would be the caretaker of Obama’s third administration was exaggerated. He made it in an interview with Lester Holt of NBC. His reasoning deserves a second look. “We face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama-Biden administration,” he said. “President Trump has changed the landscape.”
What will make his presidency novel, Biden revealed, is neither personnel nor approach. It’s circumstances. The world is “totally different.” Trump transformed politics, economics, diplomacy. Hence a Biden term will be unlike Obama’s simply because it’s four years later.
This is begging the question. Of course the world is different. It always is. But similar objects can inhabit varying landscapes. What matters is whether Biden will diverge from Obama in people, policy, and style. Not because he holds any animus toward the forty-fourth president. Because the success of his own presidency depends on it.
Biden may not think so. He shares Obama’s goals. He’d like to enjoy Obama’s popularity. He forgets that Obama’s good marks were personal. They never translated to the Democratic Party. As Obama pressed ahead with his agenda despite public ambivalence and hostility, his party lost one chamber of Congress, one governor’s mansion, one state legislature after another.
Deprived of allies in Congress, Obama relied on judicial and bureaucratic means to achieve his ends. But this approach enraged the Republican base while creating the widespread sense that the electorate no longer controlled its government. The result was Trump. Who promptly unwound Obama’s executive orders.
Biden seems eager to reboot this sordid drama. But he’s playing a weaker hand than Obama enjoyed at the outset. When the next Congress convenes in January, Democrats will have their smallest House majority since 1893. The best case scenario for Democrats is a 50-50 Senate. In 2009, Obama had a huge majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. He still couldn’t get everything he wanted.
Unusual staffing decisions, needless fights, the specter of corruption, the promise of gridlock—and inauguration is still over a month away. Biden gives us the same team and plans as his former boss, but with more awkward presentation and additional scandal. The third Obama term is on track to be as disappointing as the first two.