Weekend Jolt: Is Biden Really on a Winning Streak?

Dear Weekend Jolter,

You'll probably guess before reading too much further into this ...

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WITH JUDSON BERGER August 06 2022
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WITH JUDSON BERGER August 06 2022
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Is Biden Really on a Winning Streak?

Dear Weekend Jolter,

You'll probably guess before reading too much further into this newsletter that we think the answer to the question above is "Not really, no."

But President Biden should get credit, of course, for the fact that Ayman al-Zawahiri is no longer here (courtesy of the bladed "Flying Ginsu," it seems, he's there, and there, and there, and, oh look, some more over there . . . ).

It was one of a few things going right for this administration — heck, the country — at a time when everything else seems to be going wrong. Jim Geraghty rounds up the Biden "W's" here:

Joe Biden ordered the strike against Zawahiri, and the al-Qaeda leader assumed room temperature on his watch, so Biden gets to take a victory lap. Shocking as this may seem to some people, Biden really is having a good stretch, particularly compared to the rest of this year's cavalcade of disasters.

He got a superconductor chips bill through Congress, and Joe Manchin came around on a smaller version of Build Back Better, as long as it was called the "Inflation Reduction Act." There are some signs that the Democratic enthusiasm for the midterms is picking up a bit and that Republican Senate candidates are underperforming in some key states. And now, he's overseen the Zawahiri strike.

So the president is having a good stretch. Add to that a pro-choice victory in Kansas this week.

But a "winning streak," as Axios's Mike Allen terms it, seems charitable given (a) economic conditions that are of far greater concern to voters and (b) the devilish details of the "wins" themselves.

The Inflation Reduction Act appears to be moving forward after the pivotal Senator Kyrsten Sinema signed on. But even if it passes, it's unlikely to do much about the thing that's in the title of the bill. Per an analysis produced by the Penn Wharton Budget Model, the impact on inflation is "statistically indistinguishable from zero."

Not encouraging.

As NR's editorial notes, "Voters want to see inflation actually come down, not their member of Congress vote for the words 'inflation reduction.'" Rich Lowry calls the bill a "non sequitur," meeting the challenge of inflation with new spending and the threat of recession with new taxes. His assessment:

The bill isn't going to remake Biden's foundering presidency, but it will make Democratic activists feel a little better.

To the backdrop of these developments is the heavily debated news that GDP seemingly shrank for two consecutive quarters, meeting the commonly accepted definition of a recession (though the administration and allied economists dispute it), and, more importantly, inflation, which at last read was a hair-singeing 9.1 percent. In Gallup's measure, Biden's approval rating just dipped below 40 percent for the first time.

Will the accomplishments above move the needle much? Skepticism is warranted. What this really is, Jim concludes, is a "false dawn":

A week from today, the new Consumer Price Index numbers come out, updating our sense of how bad inflation is. Once again, we don't know what the precise figure is going to be, but we know the number isn't going to be good. One projection is 9.2 percent, and Kiplinger expects inflation to remain near 9 percent for the rest of the year. . . .

When inflation is raging at a 40-year high, and gas and food prices are skyrocketing, the incumbent party is going to get thrashed.

Jim also points out, as we approach the ignominious anniversary of the Afghanistan pullout, that the Zawahiri strike underscores that Kabul, where he was killed, was hitherto a safe place for him in the wake of the American departure and Taliban takeover.

The asterisk here is that the fate of Biden and his party could be guided in the near term more by what the Republicans do to themselves. Tuesday was not a great night for sane congressional/gubernatorial candidates. Incumbent Republican congressman Peter Meijer lost to John Gibbs in Michigan after committing the apparent sin of voting to impeach Donald Trump. Democrats crassly poured money into boosting Gibbs (more on that below) — but they didn't force anybody to vote for him. Republican voters, exercising democratic rights and free will, chose the guy who likes to call Trump's 2020 election loss "mathematically impossible." Election conspiracist Kari Lake days later secured a win in the Arizona gubernatorial primary. Meanwhile, Dr. Oz is not doing great as the celebrity Republican nominee in Pennsylvania's Senate race.

All this said — correct, the answer is "Not really, no."

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Pelosi's brave trip to Taiwan should be followed up with meaningful action against the CCP: Pelosi's Courageous Trip to Taiwan

For pro-lifers aiming to persuade the voting public in the wake of Dobbs, some specifics will be required:  The Lessons of Kansas

Bravo, Mr. President: Zawahiri Deserves to Rot

ARTICLES

Jimmy Quinn: Top Chinese Diplomat Vows 'Reeducation' of Taiwan after 'Reunification'

Luther Ray Abel: The Prius Has Been Wronged

Caroline Downey: Buffalo Pregnancy Center Firebombed by Pro-Abortion Extremists Reopens after Spending $100,000 on Security

George Leef: The Absurd End to the UNC–Nikole Hannah-Jones Furor

Brittany Bernstein: Arizona AG Investigation Debunks Claim That Hundreds of Dead Voters Cast Ballots in 2020

Andrew Follett: China's Space Ambitions Just Came Crashing Back Down to Earth

Diana Glebova: One NYC Council Member Criticized Drag Queen Story Hour. She Faced Threats So Severe She Requested Police Protection

Kevin Williamson: Signs of the Times

Andrew McCarthy: Grand Jury Subpoenas Pat Cipollone, in Signal DOJ Is Weighing Trump Indictment

Ramesh Ponnuru: The Pro-Life Defeat in Kansas

Dan McLaughlin: Vin Scully: A Personal Remembrance

Charles Hilu: Peter Meijer Lost His Race; Democrats Lost Their Moral High Ground

Philip Klein: There's No Denying Trump's Enduring Power within the Republican Party

Ryan Mills: Are Minneapolis Democrats Sane Enough to Dump Ilhan Omar, Elect Don Samuels?

CAPITAL MATTERS

Joel Zinberg sees health authorities drawing the wrong lessons from Covid in dealing with monkeypox: WHO Is Fighting the Last War

Steve Hanke & Matt Sekerke are out with a scorching crypto takedown. Give it a read: What’s Next for Crypto, Winter or Extinction?

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

The sustained effort to jam everything, everywhere, all at once through the prism of racism, colonialism, imperialism (let's call it the "ism, schism game," with apologies to Bob Marley) is getting quite tiresome. Brian Allen writes on the latest instance: In the Met's Crosscurrents Show, Great Homers Can't Hide Shoddy Scholarship

Armond White dissects the new Bey release: The Madonna-fying of Beyoncé

KIDS, WE'RE GOING OUT FOR EXCERPTS TONIGHT

More on the Peter Meijer loss, and Democrats' role in the whole thing, by Charles "Mr. Michigan" Hilu:

A mere week before [Meijer's] primary for the Republican nomination in Michigan's third congressional district — which he lost to MAGA challenger John Gibbs on Tuesday — the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) ran a TV ad in the district, calling Gibbs "too conservative for west Michigan." Though the ad was critical of Gibbs, the intent behind it was clear. Republican voters would likely gravitate toward the candidate whom Democrats hated the most. The DCCC knew this, and that is why it spent $435,000 to boost Gibbs in the race. . . .

There is no shortage of lamentable actions from the GOP in relation to the events of January 6: the effort to object to the 2020 election's certification, Senator Josh Hawley's raising his fist to the crowd of protesters that would soon become marauders, and Trump's wishy-washy condemnation of those who illegally entered the Capitol. Additionally, Republican voters are the ones who have the final say in the election, and the moral blame of nominating Gibbs ultimately falls on them. But in terms of party leadership in the present moment, it is hard to see how Democrats are not doing markedly worse damage to democracy than Republicans. The GOP is bound by its voters. If the people want to nominate a "stop the steal" candidate, Republican leaders have no choice but to go along, lest America return to a "King Caucus" system, in which the party establishment chooses a candidate without a popular vote. Democrats, on the other hand, could have chosen not to aid an effort, which, by their own admission, is antithetical to the Constitution. Unlike Republicans who have a duty to follow their constituents' wishes, they have no obligation to give monetary assistance to Gibbs and others. With these efforts, they have gone out of their way to prop up the people they have told voters to ostracize. . . .

The United States Constitution is durable, and it has endured more menacing threats throughout American history. But if MAGA Republicans somehow do destroy our system, Democrats will have been complicit.

Caroline Downey follows up on a pregnancy center that was firebombed, and the costs that attack imposed:

A Buffalo pro-life pregnancy center that was firebombed and vandalized by pro-abortion extremist group Jane's Revenge in June has re-opened its doors to patients after rebuilding for 52 days and incurring over $100,000 in new security expenses.

After the arson attack against Compass Care in Buffalo, N.Y., Jane's Revenge claimed responsibility in an online memorandum. It also threatened to unleash a rampage of violence against pro-life clinics nationwide following the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

The day after it was firebombed, Compass Care relocated so it could continue offering its services to distressed pregnant women, CEO Jim Harden told National Review. "This is the generosity of the people of Buffalo; we were offered three different alternate locations," he says. The one he settled on was left undisclosed for safety reasons.

While the organization's Buffalo operation, which Harden claims doesn't receive a "dime of state or federal money," quickly repaired the damage and rebounded, it's in a financially disadvantaged position now. The center had to implement all kinds of expensive security measures, including armed guards at the undisclosed location and a secured perimeter and entry points, he says.

"Security alone at all three of our sites has cost $150,000 this year. In the next budget it will probably cost us an additional $80,000 every year," he adds. Harden even had to temporarily move his family due to doxxing from pro-abortion activists.

Meanwhile, the perpetrators of the attack have still not been caught, he says.

In the most recent issue of the magazine, Andrew Stuttaford explains the full scope, and telltale signs, of Putin's genocide:

Putin's tirades have been echoed by incendiary commentary in Russia, none of which, presumably, has appeared without some degree of official approval. This has included the dehumanization of Ukrainians — another characteristic of genocide — as, in a peculiarly perverse historical twist, "Nazis." More-usual fare, such as comparisons with insects, has not been neglected but clearly was not thought to be enough. Some of this appears to have been internalized by the invading forces, with effects — such as the mass killing, torture, and rape of civilians in Bucha, not far from Kyiv — that have been as horrific as they were predictable.

Some of the ruin that the Russians have left in their wake has been of Ukraine's cultural heritage. Perhaps the destruction of museums, such as one dedicated to a prominent pre-revolutionary painter from Mariupol and another, near Kharkiv, to an 18th-century Ukrainian philosopher, was collateral damage. Perhaps. And perhaps, in Borodyanka, the shots into a bust of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine's national poet, who was persecuted under the czars for favoring something dangerously close to an independent Ukraine, were merely the result of malicious high spirits of a type not infrequently displayed by occupying armies. Perhaps. But as early as April, Ukrainian officials were talking of the destruction of dozens of churches, monuments, and other sites of cultural significance in what looks disturbingly like a repeat, sometimes improvised, sometimes more carefully targeted, of the wholesale destruction of, to quote one prominent Stalinist apparatchik, "historical junk" in Kyiv after the effective abandonment of indigenization in the 1930s. Meanwhile, Russian history books, those endlessly rewritten devices for the propagation of an invented past, have been arriving in the schools of occupied Ukraine.

More sinister still, well over a million Ukrainians have been forcibly "relocated" across Russia, among them hundreds of thousands of children, including, reportedly, orphans — some young enough to forget their identity and their language and thus prime candidates for assimilation. Those who remain in Ukraine's occupied cities are increasingly being taught in Russian, while Ukrainian is . . . discouraged.

On any commonsense understanding of the word or, for that matter, of a reading of Lemkin, there can be little doubt that what is occurring in Ukraine is genocide. Unsurprisingly, given their countries' own decades-long sufferings, the Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian parliaments have declared the war in Ukraine to be genocidal, in each case unanimously. Poland's president, Andrzej Duda, has joined in arguing that it is "hard to deny" that genocide is under way. President Biden has also applied the term, explaining that he "called it genocide because it's become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian." The State Department has, however, stressed that the president's comments should not be read as a formal declaration that that threshold had been crossed.

A famous sports broadcaster died this week, and America lost an icon. Dan McLaughlin lost a family member too. Read his moving tribute to his uncle, Vin Scully, here:

They say you shouldn't meet your heroes. I didn't have a choice in the matter. The larger-than-life hero in my life was Vin Scully. For millions of people, he was like a member of the family. For me, he was. He was my mom's brother, and it was just the two of them. How could he not be my hero? He died Tuesday at 94, just shy of the 20th anniversary of my mother's death. He lived as rich and meaningful a life as any man could hope for, yet he endured many tragedies. We shall miss him deeply, as will the whole world of baseball. . . .

As a cop's son growing up in the New York suburbs in the 1970s, I treated a visit from Uncle Vin as something on the order of having Batman drop by the house. Any other time, we were ordinary people, but he was a Star. He got us down on the field to meet Tom Seaver and Don Sutton and the rest at my first baseball game, when I was four. We'd hang out by the front window trying to guess what color rental car he was driving. But then, we'd go to a nearby diner, because it was where my grandmother liked to go. I have a vivid memory from those years of Vin and my dad, both in shirt and tie, changing a tire in the parking lot at Hogan's Diner.

The greatest moment, of course, was his Hall of Fame induction in 1982, when I was ten, for which we got to stay in the Otesaga Hotel with all the Hall of Famers. One morning at breakfast, the table behind us was all the oldest guys: Bill Terry, Bill Dickey, Charlie Gehringer. It was a card collection come to life. I sat with Warren Spahn on the bus ride to the induction.

It was a brutally hot day, and we all came home cursing Happy Chandler, who spoke endlessly. Hank Aaron, who went last, must have thrown out his prepared text (we could see his parents, who had been sharecroppers in Alabama, suffering in the sun) and mostly thanked people. Vin's speech, which had the advantage of being early in the day, was a masterpiece of concision, humility, gratitude, faith, and awe.

I do not give too much away, and likely will not surprise anyone, in saying that the private Vin was exactly the same as the public Vin. He was generous and even-tempered and in every sense a gentleman. When he called the house, he broadcasted: you could hear his voice coming out of the phone halfway across the room. In later years, a voicemail from Vin was a small treasure in itself, with a beginning, an anecdote, and a conclusion.

Shout-Outs

Mariam Memarsadeghi, at Tablet: Iran Is About to Murder Another Journalist

Sarah Ellison & Jeremy Barr, at the Washington Post: The Murdochs and Trump aligned for mutual benefit. That may be changing.

Amanda Mayer, at Campus Reform: 'Angry White Male Studies' course comes to campus this fall

Byron York, at the Washington Examiner: The dam breaks, and key Dems run away from Biden '24

CODA

Among his famous quartet's many, many albums, Dave Brubeck and company released several records in the '50s and '60s titled as "impressions" of the various locations they'd played. Jazz Impressions of Japan is one I picked up years ago and would highly recommend. It features some memorable up-tempo impressions reflecting surely the bustle of that country, but the serene "Fujiyama," with its airy sax serving as tour guide, stands out. Dave recalled in the liner notes, "I tried to imagine a pilgrimage up the slope of [Mount] Fuji," in explaining the theme.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading.

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