September 21, 2018

Trump Spars with Dem Senators on Twitter

President Donald Trump signs the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S. December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Trump’s tweeting is in the news yet again, this time involving a Twitter feud between the president and a couple of female Democratic senators.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) drew the ire of Trump after she called for an investigation into the sexual harassment claims against the president. Trump retaliated by tweeting that Gillibrand is a “lightweight” who “would do anything for” campaign contributions:

The Left pounced on Trump’s tweet by claiming it was sexist and implied that Gillibrand was willing to perform sexual favors for campaign contributions:

In the last tweet by Warren, some took notice of Warren’s use of the term “slut-shaming.”

Gillibrand responded to Trump’s tweet by stating, “It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice, and I will not be silenced on this issue. Neither will the women who stood up to the president yesterday.”

Others dispute the notion that there was any sexism in Trump’s tweet, pointing to how Trump has used similar rhetoric toward the likes of Mitt Romney and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

In the wake of Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) resignation announcement, the Democrats are rallying behind the notion that Trump should resign given that he is accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. Gillibrand told CNN on Monday, “President Trump has committed assault, according to these women, and those are very credible allegations of misconduct and criminal activity, and he should be fully investigated and he should resign. These allegations are credible; they are numerous. I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.”

Trump has denied the accusations.

Antifa, Nazism and the opportunistic politics that divide us

White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Americans are more united than ever on issues of race and free speech.

So why the hell are we so divided?

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist terror attack on anti-white supremacist protesters, the vast majority of Americans agreed on the following propositions: white supremacism is evil; neo-Nazism is evil; violence against peaceful protesters is evil, whether from left to right or vice versa.

Yet here we are, two weeks after the event, and the heat has not cooled.

That’s not thanks to serious disagreements among Americans. It’s thanks to political opportunism on all sides.

It’s easy to blame President Donald Trump for that reaction; his response to the Charlottesville attack was indeed deeply disturbing. It was disturbing for the president to initially blame “both sides” for the event, as though those counterprotesting white supremacism were moral equals of those protesting in its favor. It was more disturbing for the president to say there were “very fine people” at the neo-Nazi tiki torch march, and to add that he had no idea what the “alt-right” was.

Trump’s bizarre, horrifying response to the Charlottesville attacks would have justified criticism of him. I’ve been personally pointing out the president’s stubborn and unjustifiable unwillingness to condemn the alt-right for well over a year (I was the alt-right’s top journalistic target in 2016 on Twitter, according to the Anti-Defamation League). Such critiques would have been useful and welcome.

Instead, the mainstream left has politicized the situation through two particular strategies: first, labeling conservatives more broadly as neo-Nazi sympathizers; second, justifying violence from communist/anarchist antifa members.

The first strategy is old hat by now on the left. On college campuses, conservatives are regularly labeled beneficiaries of “white privilege” who merely seek to uphold their supremacy; anodyne political candidates like Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been hit with charges of racism from the left. Democrats routinely dog Republicans with the myth of the “Southern switch” — the notion that the Republicans and Democrats changed positions on civil rights after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, leading to Republicans winning the South. (For the record, that theory is eminently untrue, and has been repeatedly debunked by election analysts ranging from Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics to Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin and Richard Johnston of theUniversity of Pennsylvania.)

But that false conflation found a new outlet for the left in support for antifa (anti-fascism). Antifa is a violent group that has attacked protesters in Sacramento, Berkeley, Dallas, Boston and Charlottesville; it’s dedicated to the proposition that those it labels fascists must be fought physically. It’s not anti-fascist so much as anti-right-wing — it shut down a parade in Portland last year because Republican Party members were scheduled to march in that parade. Antifa’s violence in Boston two weeks after Charlottesville wasn’t directed at Nazis or Nazi sympathizers, but at police officers and normal free-speech advocates.

Yet many on the left have justified their behavior as a necessary counter to the white supremacists and alt-righters. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) justified the violence by appealing to the evils of the neo-Nazis. Professor N.D.B. Connolly of Johns Hopkins University wrote in the pages of The Washington Post that the time for nonviolence had ended — that it was time to “throw rocks.” Dartmouth University historian Mark Bray defended antifa by stating that the group makes an “ethically consistent, historically informed argument for fighting Nazis before it’s too late.”

This is appalling stuff unless the Nazis are actually getting violent. Words aren’t violence. A free society relies on that distinction to function properly — as Max Weber stated, the purpose of civilization is to hand over the role of protection of rights to a state that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. Breaking that pact destroys the social fabric.

Now, most liberals — as opposed to leftists — don’t support antifa. Even Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced antifa’s tactics in Berkeley, for example. But in response to some on the left’s defense of antifa and their attempt to broaden the Nazi label to include large swaths of conservatives, too many people on the right have fallen into the trap of defending bad behavior of its own. Instead of disassociating clearly and universally from President Trump’s comments, the right has glommed onto the grain of truth embedded in them —  that antifa is violent — in order to shrug at the whole.

The result of all of this: the unanimity that existed regarding racism and violence has been shattered. And all so that political figures can make hay by castigating large groups of people who hate Nazism and violence.

Let’s restore the unanimity. Nazism is bad and unjustifiable. Violence against those who are not acting violently is bad and unjustifiable. That’s not whataboutism. That’s truth.

If we can’t agree on those basic principles, we’re not going to be able to share a country.


BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Clinton vetting Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in initial stages of VP search

Hillary Clinton’s campaign isn’t considering primary rival Bernie Sanders as her running mate, but is actively looking at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose populist politics line up closely with Mr. Sanders, people familiar with the process said.

The vetting remains in its early stages. So far, potential candidates have been scrutinized using publicly available information. The Clinton team hasn’t asked anyone to submit tax returns or other personal information, one of the people said. Conversations with Mrs. Clinton herself about options are just now beginning.

Beyond the Massachusetts senator, other prospective candidates include Labor Secretary Tom Perez; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Cory Booker of New Jersey; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is Jewish, and Reps. Xavier Becerra of California and Tim Ryan of Ohio, several Democrats said.

The rest of this article appears in The Wall Street Journal.

At Politicon, diversity and polarity make for entertaining (and loud) political fare

Partisan, political theater was on full display mid-afternoon on Oct. 10 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, as two of the panels at the inaugural Politicon conference overlapped.

In “Independence Hall,” a panel included Democratic strategists David Axelrod, James Carville and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, while next door in “Freedom Hall,” right-wing firebrand Ann Coulter debated Cenk Uyger, a left-wing activist and commentator.

Some of the louder Democrats in the crowd chortled as Gingrich talked economics, and whooped when Axelrod defended President Obama’s economic record. Meanwhile it seemed Uyger and the standing-room only crowd next door couldn’t quite tell whether Coulter was serious when she said it would have been better had the United States dropped a nuclear weapon on Iraq instead of toppling Saddam Hussein and then withdrawing.

“ISIS, when they put somebody in a cage and burned him alive, we thought they were the worst monsters on earth. You say you’d like to do that on a grand scale, because that’s what a nuclear weapon does,” Uyger said to Coulter, to large applause. 

“In response to 9/11, yes,” Colter responded, “we should not have sent ground troops. We should have dropped…in retrospect, now that we know we’re in a country that can elect Barack Obama, instead of bothering to create a democracy in Iraq, which we did, and which was working beautifully,” she said, to boos. “Are we getting back to immigration, the topic of my book, and technically the topic of this panel?”

The two-day conference, which ran Oct. 9-10, attracted about 9,000 attendees, according to event organizers, and brought together some of the nation’s most recognizable figures in politics, media and entertainment, including “The Daily Show” host, Trevor Noah, who performed a stand-up routine followed up by a conversation with Carville, the political commentator who helped Bill Clinton win the presidency, as well as Paul Begala, former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), John Avlon, editor in chief of the Daily Beast, with Edward Snowden, who became famous for leaking classified information from the NSA, appearing via live video from Russia.

Modeled after the wildly popular Comic-Con, Politicon’s first run was a sort of cholent for the political mind. There was the good – former Obama speechwriter, Jon Favreau, and Jay Leno-monologue writer and Democratic political consultant, Jon Macks on speechwriting; conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, broadcasting his show live and interviewing, via telephone, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. There was the bad – a woman who screamed out “bulls**t!” to one of Gingrich’s points and then bragged about it after the panel. And there was the weird – ranging from the “Beats, Rhymes and Justice” slam poetry session to the cleverly and thematically cosplay-dressed attendees who got in for free.

In “Democracy Village,” the physical proximity of booths from different organizations, despite their stark ideological contrasts, created a bit of a compromising, kumbaya feel. Local conservative radio station KRLA, for example, bumped shoulders with the LGBT Republican Log Cabin Republicans, while just a few feet away were a Teamsters Local Union booth, and one for the Los Angeles County Young Democrats.

“This is really the intersection of politics and entertainment,” said Macks, who, in addition to his comedy writing, has also done debate preparation sessions with Obama, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, and has done speechwriting for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others. “When politics is entertainment, when 24 million people are watching Donald Trump debate, this is a chance for everyone from your political junkies to political nerds to your issue-oriented people to everyday citizens who are just interested in finding out and having some fun.”

Did Politicon, with its variety and diversity, change minds or create some ground for compromise? Probably not, but that wasn’t really its purpose. Like any convention – whether for comic books, fashion, politics or entertainment – many, maybe even most of the attendees, were those already passionate about, and probably set in, their political and ideological beliefs. But with commentators on opposite sides of the spectrum sharing a stage, and with activists from the left and the right schmoozing and working only a few feet apart, Politicon did deliver on its slogan, “Entertain Democracy.”

Warren, in rare Israel foray, defends Iron Dome funding

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) vigorously defended her vote for increased funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-interception system.

“America has a very special relationship with Israel,” Warren, a leader among liberal Democrats touted as a possible presidential contender, said last week at a Cape Cod town hall meeting when challenged about her vote.

“Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law,” she said. “And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

Warren has accrued popular support on the democratic left for her backing for sweeping banking reforms and strengthening the social safety net.

She has not focused since her 2012 election on foreign policy issues, and her robust defense of Israel marked one of her first forays into the issue.

A man at the Aug. 20 meeting had challenged Warren on the vote, likening the funding for the defensive system to the controversy in Ferguson, Mo., over the police shooting of an unarmed black youth, according to a report in the Cape Cod Times.

Congress overwhelmingly voted to approve the $225 million in supplemental funding for the program during the recent Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

When another person at the meeting noted the high civilian death toll among Palestinians, who suffered more than 2,000 deaths in the conflict, Warren said Israel did not seek to kill civilians, as opposed to the Hamas rulers of Gaza.

“When Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself,” Warren said.

She also said that Israel’s relatively low death toll — 71 at war’s end this week — was a result in part of the efficacy of Iron Dome.

Both critics and defenders of Israel appeared to be present at the meeting, according to the newspaper report, with applause for both views.

Doing the math on Dems and the Iran sanctions bill

At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent uncovers letters from Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) opposing, at least for now, new Iran sanctions. (I wrote this week about how the bid to build a veto-proof majority for the sanctions legislation has stalled.)

Sargent does some math and figures that with these two, “the number of Dems against a vote has comfortably surpassed the number who want one.”

I count 19 members of the Senate Democratic caucus opposed to a vote, versus 15 who might be assumed to support one, with 21 not accounted for.

Here’s how I got there.

There are 16 Democrats out of the 59 Senators co-sponsoring the bill, including lead sponsor Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). (On Dec. 19, when the bill was launched, 15 Democrats signed on; Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is the sole Democrat to have signed onto the bill since Congress returned to work this month.) Subtract from those 16 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who now opposes advancing the bill while talks are underway between Iran and the major powers. The White House and sympathetic Democrats say the bill could scuttle the talks; backers of the bill say new sanctions would enhance the U.S. hand in the talks.

So that’s 15 one might assume still back advancing the bill.

As Sargent notes, there are 10 committee chairs who signed a letter opposing the bill. In addition to those, there are another nine senators who in recent weeks have told interlocutors they oppose advancing the bill for now: There are Murray and Warren, plus Blumenthal. There are another four listed in this Huffington Post roundup. Sen. Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, is listed here. And I’ve heard from Rhode Island Jewish officials that Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) is opposed to advancing the bill now.

The White House is competing hard with backers of the bill, including leading pro-Israel groups, for the remaining 21 members of the Democratic caucus. Among them are key players in states with substantial Jewish communities, like Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader; Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the assistant majority leader; and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio.).

Here are some other breakdowns. Of the Senate’s seven Democratic leaders, two are signed on to the bill, two have said they won’t advance it, and three others we’re not sure. The breakdown of committee chairs is 13 against, four for and three not known.

Of the ten Jewish Democrats, six (Dianne Feinstein-Calif., Barbara Boxer-Calif., Ron Wyden-Ore., Carl Levin-Mich., Blumenthal and Sanders) oppose advancing the bill now, two favor it (Ben Cardin-Md. and Schumer) and two have yet to say (Franken-Minn. and Schatz-Hawaii).

Among Republicans, 43 out of 45 back the bill; the holdouts are Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).