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On the roster: ‘Suicide of the West’ is tough medicine for globalists - McConnell becomes the issue in W.Va. Senate primary - Ryan gives boot to House chaplain - Comey denies release of memo contents was a ‘leak’ - Woof
‘SUICIDE OF THE WEST’ IS TOUGH MEDICINE FOR GLOBALISTS
Legislators in Connecticut are poised to join a compact with ten other states, including Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, to change state law to award the state’s electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote.
We don’t say this lightly, but this is just the latest in a series of un-American political ideas gaining traction around the country. We don’t mean that it is evil because it is un-American, just that having a popularly elected president is contradictory to our founding charter and the republican ideals of our founding.
Perhaps nothing would so readily set the stage for authoritarianism in America than abolishing the Electoral College. If you think we have a bunch of rotten demagogues in politics now, wait until you see what kind of President Camacho idiocracy we would get with direct presidential elections.
What we wonder, though, is why people are so eager to throw out a system that has worked so well and done so much good for so long.
We live in an era of unsurpassed wealth and in the presence of technological wonders that would have been unimaginable even a generation ago. We are healthier, living longer and safer than we were before.
So why is everybody so crabby?
A new survey from the Pew Research Center sheds some useful light on the subject. Americans, it seems, are very unhappy with their government. The survey found 61 percent of adults believe that “significant changes are needed” in the fundamental design and structure of our government.
Forty percent said democracy is not working in the US today and 56 percent of respondents said they have little or no confidence in “the political wisdom of the American people.”
Those are the kinds of numbers you’d expect to see in a country that is failing, not one in the middle of an economic upswing and without rival among world powers.
We do not like to use the phrase “important book” because it sounds so pretentious and generally denotes works that you are supposed to read but never get around to. But we would have to put Jonah Goldberg’s latest “Suicide of the West” in that category.
While fans of Goldberg’s madcap pop cultural references and dog videos may find the book a more scholarly treatise than they are used to, the book is eminently readable, even for those of us who do not happen to be experts in Enlightenment era political philosophy.
The book is a meditation on the unmet promises of the Enlightenment and the globalist world order that descended from it. While not as alarming in tone as its title suggests, the book is strong medicine for those on the left and right who are telling themselves that our current populist moment will abate.
His thesis is that the visceral, tribal nature at the core of every human break through the veneers of liberalism and egalitarianism faster than we think. In one useful passage, Goldberg talks about our love of tribal justice and vengeance in cinema:
“When we suspend disbelief, we also suspend adherence to the conventions and legalisms of the outside world. Instead, we use the more primitive parts of our brains, which understand right and wrong as questions of ‘us’ and ‘them.’”
Tribalism has a power that transcends rationality. Few in the West could imagine the disasters that lay ahead after the fall of the Soviet Union, precisely because our institutions pay so little attention to the kind of tribalism that has torn the world apart in recent decades.
Populist nationalism of the kind on the march in the United States and Europe looks superficially different than what we have seen elsewhere, but it is all part of the same rejection of the bland pieties of post-Enlightenment liberalism.
Goldberg’s book is not a political one, per se, but those who want to understand our current political moment and what may descend from it ought to give it a read.
THE RULEBOOK: ONE IN THE SAME
“The assiduous merchant, the laborious husbandman, the active mechanic, and the industrious manufacturer,--all orders of men, look forward with eager expectation and growing alacrity to this pleasing reward [of revenue] of their toils.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 12
TIME OUT: MAN VS. SLOTH
Atlantic: “Last April, Matthew Bennett was lying on a white salt flat in New Mexico, uncovering fossilized footprints that had been preserved in the white rock. The print belonged to a ground sloth… Inside the outline of the sloth’s 20-inch-long foot was a human footprint. … Thousands of years ago, a ground sloth had walked along this site, and a person had followed it, carefully matching its every step. … Ground sloths were not slow-moving slackers like the sloths we know today. They were well-armed and potentially dangerous animals, which ranged from bear-sized to elephant-sized. … A human would have had to stretch to walk in its footsteps. What possessed them? Bennett thinks the pursuer was trying to provoke the sloth—and if he’s right, it clearly worked. At the end of the overlapping tracks, the team found a very different series of sloth prints, indicative of pivoting feet and scraping claws. The animal was rearing up onto its hind legs, and swinging its claws around.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 40.8 percent
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent
Net Score: -13.6 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.4 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 44% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 39% approve - 54% disapprove; Gallup: 38% approve - 57% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 39% approve - 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 44% approval - 54% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 41.2 percent
Democratic average: 47.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up one point
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% Dems - 39% GOP; ABC News/WaPo: 47% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 44% GOP.]
MCCONNELL BECOMES THE ISSUE IN W.VA. SENATE PRIMARY
Politico: “Don Blankenship walked into the Guyan Golf & Country Club on Tuesday afternoon and bluntly laid out his plan for the final two-week stretch of the GOP Senate primary: a relentless slash-and-burn campaign targeting Mitch McConnell. As the assembled local GOP women’s group munched on chocolate chip cookies, the coal baron who spent a year behind bars after a deadly 2010 mine explosion compared his current battle against the McConnell-led Republican establishment to his past legal fight against the federal government. ‘When you’ve been falsely charged, when you’ve had seven of 10 bill of rights flagrantly violated, you tend to fight back. … I make no apologies for that,’ he said, adding that when he sees people like McConnell ‘leading us to the left, I will speak out about it, because I know bad people join good organizations.’”
Rokita prints children’s book attack on rival - IndyStar: “If you think the fighting among Republicans seeking Indiana's U.S. Senate seat is childish, wait until you get a load of this. Todd Rokita's newest attack on primary opponent Luke Messer is not a television ad or a mailer, but a children's book. That's right, a children's book. Titled ‘Oh, the Places You'll Forget,’ the book mimics Dr. Seuss's classic, ‘Oh, the Places You'll Go.’ It is a rhyming assault on Messer, who the Rokita campaign claims abandoned Hoosiers when he moved his family to the Washington, D.C., area after winning a congressional seat in 2012. ‘We can't find Congressman Messer. Have you seen him around? We've looked everywhere. He's nowhere to be found,’ the book begins. ‘We searched Columbus, Muncie, and a local Richmond pub,’ it continues. ‘I heard someone saw him at a Virginia country club.’”
Tenney, in trouble, veers right - Politico: “Rep. Claudia Tenney learned last week that she’d been outraised by her Democratic opponent for the second quarter in a row, a sign that her hold on a moderate upstate New York district is in peril. But if GOP leaders thought that would be a five-alarm reminder for the vulnerable freshman to pursue a moderate path to reelection, they were mistaken. Days later, Tenney called for the jailing of Hillary Clinton and James Comey – embracing a hard-line stance championed by President Donald Trump but shunned by most GOP leaders and virtually all moderates. ‘Lock them up!’ a Tenney campaign email blared on Tuesday, touting her call for a special counsel to investigate the Democrat presidential nominee and former FBI director.”
North Carolina House contenders in a race to praise Trump the most - McClatchy: “In [Rep. Robert Pittenger’s] primary, there is no doubt that the animating issue of the campaign is support for Trump—and he and his most prominent opponent, the deeply conservative Mark Harris, are taking increasingly extreme measures to prove their Trumpian bona fides. They have fought over the timing of their Trump endorsements in 2016 (a matter of weeks, according to PolitiFact), featured Trump in their campaign materials, run ads questioning the other’s support for Trump, in Pittenger’s case—or Trump’s support for Pittenger, in Harris’s case—and dropped the president’s name at every opportunity.”
DeWine spends big in ugly Ohio GOP gubernatorial primary - The Columbus Dispatch: “Mike DeWine is not afraid to spend his stash of cash as he fights to fend off Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in their bitter battle for the Republican nomination for governor. The attorney general and long-time statewide officeholder has spent $4.9 million this year, largely on TV commercials and other advertising, ahead of the May 8 primary. He still has $7.4 million remaining in the bank — $5.7 million more than the richest Democrat gubernatorial candidate.”
Kasich reportedly met with Clinton mega-donor Burkle - CNBC: “Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is considering another run for president in 2020, recently met privately with billionaire investor and philanthropist Ron Burkle, who has a reputation for donating to candidates and causes across the political spectrum, CNBC has learned. Kasich met with Burkle in March in Los Angeles, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.”
RYAN GIVES BOOT TO HOUSE CHAPLAIN
AP: “House Speaker Paul Ryan has forced out the House chaplain, Reverend Patrick Conroy. Conroy had served as the chamber’s chaplain since 2011 but offered his resignation last week at Ryan’s urging. Conroy’s resignation letter said he was offering to step down at Ryan’s request, calling his seven years of House service ‘one of the great privileges of my life.’ Ryan spokeswoman Ashlee Strong would not reveal the speaker’s reasons for forcing Conroy out. A top Democrat, Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, said he believes it was because of a prayer Conroy gave during last fall’s tax debate urging that lawmakers not ‘pick winners and losers’ but spread its benefits equitably. Strong said that was not the reason. Lawmakers such as Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., said they were in the dark as to why ‘Father Pat’ was eased out. Boyle, a Catholic, said he did not know that Conroy was ousted until hearing it from media accounts.”
Pruitt played blame game during hearings - AP: “Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, yet another Trump administration official with his job on the line over ethical concerns, took heat from lawmakers Thursday over his profligate spending and lobbyist ties and tried to divert responsibility to underlings. The EPA administrator said ‘twisted’ allegations against him were meant to undermine the administration’s anti-regulatory agenda, and he denied knowing details of some of the extraordinary spending done on his behalf at the agency. The public grilling at back-to-back House hearings, called formally to consider EPA’s budget, came as support has appeared to erode for Pruitt among fellow Republicans after revelations about unusual security spending, first-class flights, a sweetheart condo lease and more. Even Republicans who heartily support Pruitt’s policy agenda said his apparent lapses had to be scrutinized.”
The reason Sasse voted against Mueller protection bill - Weekly Standard: “A bipartisan bill that would provide special counsel Robert Mueller legal recourse in the event of his firing passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but it failed to win the approval of one of Trump’s most outspoken critics in the Republican party. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse joined several of his GOP colleagues raising concerns about the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would allow special counsels removed by the Justice Department to challenge the decision in court. The legislation, sponsored by Republicans Lindsey Graham and Thom Tillis alongside Democrats Chris Coons and Cory Booker, is intended to prevent what some say would cause a constitutional crisis. But Sasse argues that the measure would unintentionally spark a different one. ‘Firing Robert Mueller while Russia is waging a shadow war against America would be disastrous for the nation…’ said Sasse…”
Senate confirms all five Trump FTC commissioners - The Hill: “The Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed all five of President Trump's nominees to serve on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), bringing the consumer protection agency to full strength for the first time since the start of the new administration. The FTC will now be chaired by Joseph Simons, a Republican antitrust attorney who led the commission's competition bureau during the George W. Bush administration. Also confirmed Thursday were two other Republicans — Noah Phillips, an aide to Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), and Delta Air Lines executive Christine Wilson — plus two Democrats — Rohit Chopra, a consumer advocate and former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official, and Rebecca Slaughter, an adviser to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).”
Grenell confirmed as next US ambassador to Germany - The Hill: “The Senate confirmed President Trump’s long-stalled nominee for ambassador to Germany a day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to visit the White House. Senators voted 56-42 to confirm Richard Grenell. A simple majority was needed. Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin (W.V.a.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) supported the nomination. The Senate vote comes after Trump railed against Democrats for holding up Grenell, who previously served as the U.S. spokesman to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration.”
COMEY DENIES RELEASE OF MEMO CONTENTS WAS A ‘LEAK’
Fox News: “Former FBI Director James Comey, in a wide-ranging interview with Fox News on Thursday, defended sharing his memos about conversations with President Trump with multiple people, while denying it was a ‘leak.’ ‘That memo was unclassified then,’ Comey told anchor Bret Baier during an appearance on ‘Special Report.’ ‘It's still unclassified. It's in my book. The FBI cleared that book before it could be published.’ Comey acknowledged giving the memos to at least three people including his friend, Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman. He said he sent Richman a copy of the two-page unclassified memo and ‘asked him to get the substance of it out to the media.’ ‘The reason I'm smiling, Bret,’ Comey said. ‘I don't consider what I shared Mr. Richman a leak.’ In addition to Richman, Comey said he gave the memos to other members of his ‘legal team,’ including David Kelly and former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. … He also claimed the memos were personal, not official.”
Could John Kelly go from the West Wing to the VA? - Vanity Fair
Trump met with Merkel, criticized Iran nuclear deal and promoted America first trade policy - USA Today
Commerce Department: U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in first months of 2018 - WaPo
Senate Ethics Committee berate Menendez for accepting gifts and special treatment from donors - USA Today
After loss to Moore, Luther Strange to advise financial firms for Patomak Partners - Bloomberg
Rep. Brooks suggests assassination fears fueling wave of GOP retirements - Roll Call
AUDIBLE: NO, YOU HANG UP FIRST
“Boss, I miss you so much. I wish I was down there with you. It’s really hard for me to be here.” – Michael Cohen, attorney to President Trump, talking to the president in April of last year according to the WSJ.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This Sunday Chris Wallace will sit down with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“No mailbag Letter here, Chris, just a quick thank-you for the enthusiastic recommendation for ‘Ready Player One’. I took my high school sons the other night (love the Half-Price Tuesdays at BowTie Cinemas) and we enjoyed it very much. I thought it was a tad too long (and the homage to ‘The Shining’ was a bit much) and would have preferred less ‘avatar time’ to ‘actor time’ but that’s just my inner Pac-Man talking. Best of luck with the completion of your book! Lastly, if you need a fiction break (yes, a novel...horrors), try ‘Beartown’ by Fredrik Backman. Reading it now… a nice surprise. I’m recommending it to my sons.” – John Walsh, New Canaan, Conn.
[Ed. note: Why thank you, Mr. Walsh! I agree wholeheartedly about “The Shining” bit. I was only sorry I didn’t have a third hand to put over my own eyes for that scene. As a secondary gift of the film, my still-young sons have been requesting Hall & Oates and Van Halen on heavy rotation. And I do read fiction, it’s just that I am extraordinarily picky. Maybe I will peruse your recommendation. Up next at the movies, though, it’s got to be Avengers: Infinity War.]
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UPI: “Security cameras at a Chinese phone shop were rolling when a dog took control of a three-wheeler cab and crashed through the wall of the business. The footage, filmed Sunday at a store in Taizhou City, Jiangsu Province, shows customers and workers quickly darting out of the way as the three-wheeler taxi cab crashes through the wall and store displays. The vehicle initially appears to be driverless, but witnesses soon discover the cab is occupied -- by a dog. The cab driver said he had left his dog alone in the vehicle with the engine running and the canine apparently knocked the cab out of park, sending it crashing through the store.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.