Weekend Jolt: The Trump Enchantment

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Donald Trump, granted, could yet win in 2024 given that Democrats ...


The Trump Enchantment

Dear Weekend Jolter,

Donald Trump, granted, could yet win in 2024 given that Democrats have strategists who spitball terms like "ultra-MAGA" and "Trumped-up trickle down" and then think, "Yes. Perfect. That."

Say what you will about the tenets of Trumpism, at least the man can brand.

Of course, he also can dither and scorn executive duty while a mob hunts for his vice president.

The workings of the January 6 committee — which, as Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, is essentially building the impeachment case the House should have brought from the start — have helped establish what already was clear to many: This is not a man who should ever again hold public office. Do Democrats want to use the committee drama as ammo in a recession-stained election year? Sure they do. Are Democrats proving their words hollow by boosting pro-Trump candidates as part of a crass political play? You bet. That ickiness does not alter the truth. As the New York Post's editorial board observed of Trump, "He was the only person who could stop what was happening. He was the only one the crowd was listening to. It was incitement by silence."

Yet cults of personality are stubborn things, and Trump enjoys sustained enthusiasm from his base and the devotion of organizational machinery. A straw poll from a Turning Point USA summit last weekend showed him crushing the hypothetical GOP competition by nearly 60 points. Trump fired up a D.C. audience on Tuesday as he teased a possible 2024 run. And the House Republican apparatus continues to defend the former president in real time against the dread — *checks notes* — Liz Cheney, former director of the House Republican apparatus.

It doesn't have to be this way. Unlike the Democrats' perma-gerontocracy bench (more on that from Kevin Williamson here), the GOP roster is brimming with talent. Ron DeSantis, Mike Pompeo, Tim Scott, Tom Cotton, Nikki Haley, Kristi Noem . . . the list goes on. And not one of those people treated the vice president's pulse like a poker chip. (Mike Pence, while we're at it, goes on that list too.)

Dan McLaughlin wrote recently for the magazine about how the 2012 election "deranged" America, the thesis being that Barack Obama discarded the conventional strategy of winning the center that year in favor of pursuing enormous base turnout. Dan recalled:

While weak in the center, Obama rolled up colossal margins at the edges: 93 to 6 among black voters (96 to 3 among black women), 76 to 22 among LGBT voters, 73 to 26 among Asians, 71 to 27 among Hispanics, 67 to 31 among unmarried women, and 63 to 31 among nonreligious whites.

Polling suggests, however, that this will be a difficult strategy for Democrats to replicate today, given that Hispanics are abandoning Biden and that other groups thought to be part of their expanding base are similarly drifting away. At the same time, Republicans should consider the opportunity these changes present and seek a nominee who won't turn back converts. Fox News polling indicates Trump is just as unpopular as Biden among independents, and less popular than Biden among Hispanics.

Trump World, meanwhile, is serious about its return to power. Jonathan Swan at Axios has published a fascinating look at allies' preparations for an "administration-in-waiting." They're not deluded in making them. As Jim Geraghty notes, the "default setting" for many Republicans right now is still Trump. If he is indeed nominated again, Jim forecasts, "the 2024 general election will be dominated by arguments about January 6, and Trump's insistence that he was the true legitimate winner of 2020, and the cockamamie theories of Sidney Powell and Lin Wood and Venezuelan hackers and Chinese bamboo in the paper ballots of Arizona."

It doesn't have to be this way. Fred Bauer offers a slightly more optimistic view, noting Trump is no longer the only viable populist on the stage and suggesting he'll face significant obstacles in a reboot. Dan specifically puts the onus on Ron DeSantis to figure out a way to disarm Donald 2024 without leaving his base dispirited. But, as Jim wrote this week in regard to another race, "Republicans have a choice."

The Democrats' base is shrinking, yet the party is incapable of reaching beyond it. The Republicans don't have the first problem. Why induce the second?



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Jim Geraghty: Who Saw This Recession Coming? Lots of People

Isaac Schorr: Now It’s a Recession, Now It’s Not: Media Parrot White House Talking Points on Economy

Ryan Mills: Guilty until Proven Innocent: Biden Title IX Changes Mean Return to ‘Dark Ages’ for Falsely Accused Students

Stanley Kurtz: How Stacey Abrams Hijacked Civics

Abigail Anthony: American Academy of Pediatrics Accused of Censoring Concerns about 'Gender-Affirmative Care'

Abigail Anthony: The Sexual Experiment at the Ivy Leagues

Charles Hilu: The University of Michigan's Cancel-Culture Problem: 'It Has Real Consequences'

Jack Fowler: Republican Attorneys General March into Battle

Alexandra DeSanctis: How Every State Pro-Life Law Handles Ectopic Pregnancy and Miscarriage

Jack Wolfsohn: What Happened to the Supreme Court Leaker Investigation?

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Republicans Need to Investigate the Pandemic Response

Brittany Bernstein: Clarence Thomas Will No Longer Teach Law Seminar at George Washington University

Kevin Williamson: The White House Can't Weasel Its Way Out of a Recession


Dominic Pino spots a potentially troubling sign for energy prices: Oil-Tanker Orders at a Record Low

Just how inflationary is Biden's term to date? Joseph Sullivan does the historical comparison: Biden Sets a New Inflation Record

David Bahnsen has a reality check, and a podcast, on the ESG trend: The Bankruptcy of ESG Is Being Exposed


Armond White praises a film — which is not a Frozen installment — about a lover lost in the woods: The Grace and Wisdom of My Donkey, My Lover & I

Brian Allen continues his streak of highlighting the best exhibits and museums in Washington, including this newcomer: Planet Word Wows in D.C.


Kevin Williamson: The Nuclear Heresy

Andrew Stuttaford: Putin's Genocide in Ukraine

Madeleine Kearns: Marital Clash

Jimmy Quinn: The Department of Woke


Michael Brendan Dougherty urges congressional Republicans to prioritize a pandemic-response audit:

The Covid era saw us take utterly extraordinary steps with monetary and fiscal policy. The word "lockdown" entered our normal political vocabulary — as if the measures used to quell a prison riot were just the sort of thing that governors or the federal government could impose on free citizens. An odd private–public partnership for censorship emerged in which government information became the basis for mass editing of America's most important public forums: digital social media.

And the history is being rewritten as we speak. Dr. Anthony Fauci this week has said two astonishing things. First, to the Hill's Batya Ungar-Sargon he said, "I didn't recommend locking anything down." He continued: "I have always felt — and go back and look at my statements — that we need to do everything we can to keep the schools open and safe." In the exact same interview, he said that if he could go back, he would recommend a "much more stringent" response. . . .

Scores of millions of parents figured out that their children weren't at serious risk and by the summer of 2020 could read credible science showing their kids at school did not pose serious risks to others. Yet they were shut down.

These millions of people have reasons privately to feel vindicated. But they deserve to have someone in public life affirm the fact that they weren't crazy, that in fact public health did mislead them, shaded the truth, and occasionally abused the trust placed in them.

All the other issues — including inflation, the youth mental-health crisis, and the cultural battles over education in schools — flow out of our pandemic response, and the mistakes we made in it. Auditing the pandemic response should be a prerequisite for Republican governance after the 2022 election and for any Republican hoping to represent the party in 2024.

Alexandra DeSanctis comprehensively addresses the misinformation clouding the abortion debate when it comes to ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. What follows is her introduction to a state-by-state guide to what pro-life laws say on the issue:

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, supporters of legal abortion have leveled the false accusation that pro-life laws threaten pregnant mothers facing medical emergencies. In particular, abortion advocates claim that laws prohibiting abortion will make it more difficult or even impossible for women suffering from an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage to receive necessary treatment.

In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants somewhere outside of the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube. In the absence of emergency treatment, ectopic pregnancy will cause severe and life-threatening health consequences for the mother, because there isn't room for the child to develop. Miscarriage management, meanwhile, involves caring for a pregnant mother whose unborn child has died spontaneously. The standard of care for post-miscarriage treatment differs depending on how far along the pregnancy is.

Abortion supporters have argued that state abortion limits aren't clear about whether these types of health care are permitted — and they have argued that, as a result of this supposed lack of clarity, doctors have declined to perform necessary and potentially life-saving procedures out of fear of reprisal from officials enforcing state pro-life laws.

This is simply not the case. If doctors are doing so — and abortion supporters have offered little evidence of a systemic problem in this regard — it is the fault of the doctors themselves, not the fault of the pro-life laws, which are eminently clear. The pro-life worldview has always held that both lives matter, that of the mother and that of her unborn child. It is always permissible to act to care for a pregnant mother whose life is at risk.

Jack Fowler chronicles the progressive capture of a supposedly bipartisan organization, and the backlash to it:

"All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing."

Those interested in watching O'Sullivan's First Law play out in real time should pay attention to the ways and means of the allegedly bipartisan National Association of Attorneys General, a.k.a. "NAAG," whose ideological-trending ways have forced a growing number of Republican members to head for the exits.

How wise this craze is for America is a matter for consideration.

NAAG's membership — attorneys general from the 50 states, plus AGs from Guam, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — has been depleted by five members since early 2021. All departures are by Republicans. All cited serious concerns with the institution's ideological trajectory, its practices, and its thrall over money as their reasons for leaving.

Alabama AG Steven Marshall jump-started the walk-out in April 2021. "I can't justify spending taxpayer dollars to fund an organization that seems to be going further and further left," he explained. "With the money we will save, I can add a young lawyer to my consumer protection division and yield a far better return on the taxpayer's investment."

It took a while, but the following May, a trio of Republicans — Ken Paxton (Texas), Eric Schmitt (Missouri), and Austin Knudsen (Montana) — wrote to NAAG's Democrat chairman, Tom Miller, Iowa's long-serving attorney general, to announce that they were following Marshall out the door.

An excellent piece of reporting on the impact of Title IX changes, by Ryan Mills:

While the woman who'd accused him of rape appeared before a Columbia University panel in June 2017, Ben Feibleman was in another room watching it on Zoom.

Feibleman was not allowed to cross-examine his accuser during the hearing to determine if he would be expelled from the school, potentially scarring his personal and professional life permanently. He wasn't even allowed to be in the same room with her.

During the hearing, Feibleman was also barred from discussing a medical report that found his accuser was likely not impaired or unable to consent to sexual activity the night of the alleged assault. He was barred from discussing his accuser's behavior that he said eventually caused her friends to doubt her. If Feibleman mentioned any of it, he'd be removed from the hearing.

Feibleman's written statement to the three-member hearing panel was heavily redacted, according to court records. The panel took no testimony. Members refused to ask questions of Feibleman or his accuser that Feibleman had repeatedly begged them to ask about evidence he'd submitted in his favor — hundreds of photos, videos, and a damning audio recording.

And then the panel found Feibleman guilty. He was expelled and denied his diploma.

"Nobody had any interest in my version of events," Feibleman told National Review.

Feibleman's experience with a less-than-fair quasi-judicial university hearing was not unique in the years after the Obama administration issued Title IX guidance documents directing the nation's colleges and universities to crack down on sexual harassment and sexual violence cases on and off campus. The Obama-era guidance essentially tipped the scales in the direction of the accusers, typically women, with millions of dollars of federal funding for schools on the line. . . .

During the Trump administration, former secretary of education Betsy DeVos pushed back, issuing more-balanced regulations requiring schools to offer basic due-process rights to both the accuser and the accused in sex-assault cases. Accused students were presumed innocent until proven guilty. They had the right to a live hearing with cross-examination and the right to see the evidence. Schools could again use a stronger clear-and-convincing standard of evidence.

But in late June, President Joe Biden's administration proposed sweeping new regulations that would roll back many of those protections, fulfilling a promise he'd made during his campaign. The right to a live hearing? Gone under the Biden proposal. The right to cross-examination? Also gone. Schools could launch sexual-assault investigations without a formal complaint. The single-investigator model would be back on the table.


Jonathan Swan, at Axios: A radical plan for Trump's second term

Robby Soave, at Reason: Anthony Fauci Says If We Could Do It Again, COVID-19 Restrictions Would Be 'Much, Much More Stringent'

Christian Datoc, at the Washington Examiner: Biden staffers left White House in year one at higher rate than Trump and Obama

Jessica Chasmar, at Fox News: Joe Biden met with at least 14 of Hunter's business associates while vice president


Time for a reader rec: A couple weeks back, this newsletter put out the call for a '90s throwback. Kevin Antonio writes in with Suzanne Vega's bossa-nova-inspired "Caramel," from 1996. It is impossible to remark on this song without use of the word "sultry," so I won't try.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.


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