Archive | The Atlantic

‘We Care Just as Much’: A Republican Reflects on the Parkland Shooting

By Elaina Plott

Joe Barton didn’t see the shooter until the end. For 10 minutes he lay face down behind the dugout, tasting the dirt, listening to the gunfire. Then, for several seconds, all would go quiet. “I thought it was over, but then it wasn’t,” Barton says. The shooter had two weapons, and he’d cease fire to reload or switch from his pistol to his semi-automatic rifle. In those silent seconds, Barton’s then 11-year-old son, Jack, would peek out from under the car where he was hiding. His father would frantically yell at him to get back down.

It was June 14, 2017, a steaming morning at the Alexandria park where Republican lawmakers had gathered for baseball practice. The annual congressional baseball game was the next day and Barton, a Texas representative and the team’s manager, had scheduled one last get-together on the field.

Just after 7 a.m., a man named James Hodgkinson, toting a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun and a SKS rifle, approached the field near third-base and opened fire. He gravely wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a bullet scissoring through and exploding into thousands of tiny fragments inside his hip. He hit Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner in the ankle, and congressional aide Zack Barth in the calf. Matt Mika, a lobbyist, took a series of blows to the chest. Hodgkinson, a left-wing activist, went down after a shootout with Capitol police and Alexandria police; he would later die in surgery.

Scalise was airlifted to MedStar. Over the next several days, he underwent a series of surgeries. Meanwhile, for the first time since Gabby Giffords was shot in the head in 2011, Americans breathed the phrase “assassination attempt” aloud.

The story may be familiar, but folks like Barton grapple with new facets of it all the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



A Mentor’s Advice to UCLA’s Campus Republicans

By Conor Friedersdorf

Earlier this month, the Bruin Republicans at UCLA invited the performance artist Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at an event tilted “Ten Things I Hate About Mexico.”

Days later, they thought better of their decision, cancelling their event with a vacuous, nihilistic enabler of bigots, to the credit of a faction in their leadership. “The decision to host Milo has polarized the leadership of the organization between those wishing to move forward with the event and those who wish to cancel it,” they wrote on their Facebook page, adding, “We would like to make it clear that any public backlash to this event has nothing to do with our cancellation and that we have been more than willing to stand up to both protesters and administrative figures as evidenced by our Ben Shapiro event last quarter.”

In addition to the expected backlash, the initial announcement of the event had caused Gabriel Rossman, a conservative professor sympathetic to the group, to publish an open letter in The Weekly Standard affirming the Bruin Republicans’ First Amendment right to host Yiannopoulos while forcefully arguing that they ought to voluntarily cancel their invitation.

Whether or not Rossman’s advice had any influence on their decision, his letter ought to be read by Republican college students on other campuses as they ponder whether or not to affiliate themselves with a given speaker, and by liberal faculty and administrators as an example of the counsel young people on the right can receive when there are ideologically friendly members of the faculty to mentor and advise them.

He wrote:

As one of the few conservative faculty at UCLA, and one of a very few who knows the campus club, I feel obligated to provide some mentorship here: I strongly urge you to rescind your invitation to Yiannopoulos.

Allow me to explain why.

The most important …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Flawed Nationalism of Donald Trump

By Peter Beinart

The astonishing thing about Donald Trump’s response to Robert Mueller’s recent indictments is his inability to recognize that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election is about something bigger than him. Look closely at Trump’s tweets.

February 16: “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

February 17: “General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!”

February 18: “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said “it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.” The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!”

Each tweet makes basically the same point: “Sure, Russia may have tried to undermine American democracy. But what really matters is that I never colluded with Putin and won the presidency fair and square.” Even if you believe that Trump is right—that his campaign never assisted Russia’s efforts to swing the election in his favor and that Russia’s efforts had no material effect on its outcome—the narcissism is breathtaking. It’s like Franklin Roosevelt going before a Joint Session of Congress on December 8, 1941 and declaring: “Sure, Japan bombed Hawaii. But there’s no evidence I knew the attack was coming or that my decision to impose oil sanctions on Tokyo contributed in any way.” Or George W. Bush declaring …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Gun Control Is not Impossible

By Julian E. Zelizer

As the United States tries to recover from the massacre in at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school in Parkland, Florida, a feeling of pessimism is setting in among liberal politicians and pundits about whether gun control legislation is possible. Many Americans who have been following politics have seen this movie before and the ending is usually bleak.

The scenes are as predictable as a third-rate Hollywood film. The crisis opens with a devastating shooting at a school in which a mentally disturbed person uses lethal weapons against children. What follows are families grieving before the television cameras, a nation watching in total shock, and a few brave souls who step up to demand that the government take action. Occasionally, Congress debates legislative proposals to address the national gun problem. Some legislators point out how effective regulations have been in other countries as well as in some states. But in the inevitable next scene, the steel-hearted NRA steps in to remind politicians to whom they have given campaign contributions that there will be hell to pay for anyone who votes yes. Rather quickly, the legislation dies. Nothing else happens. This is how it all played out after the shooting in Las Vegas, when Congress failed to act on the “bump stocks” that a gunman used to kill 58 people on the strip.

Following the Florida shooting, with President Trump focused on mental health, and the Russia investigation, former President Barack Obama offered some leadership by calling for “common-sense” legislation, and assured a grieving nation that “we are not powerless” to do something about these tragedies.

Another voice of courage came from a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student named Emma Gonzalez, who told a rally that: “Maybe the adults have got used to saying, ‘It is what it is.’ …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Devin Nunes’s Fake Oversight

By Amy Zegart

Watching the Senate Intelligence Committee’s world threat hearing last week, it felt like the adults were finally back in town. Republicans and Democrats sat next to each other and spoke politely, in front of the cameras. They agreed that intelligence agencies are vital to America’s national security, not some deep state cabal bent on destroying the Trump administration.  

Nobody used the word “hoax” or “shithole.” Senators from both parties asked sensible questions about serious threats—including North Korea’s nuclear weapons, China’s espionage activities, and Russia’s past, present, and future efforts to meddle in elections and undermine democracies around the world. Oh sure, there were screwball moments. This is Congress, after all. Senator Tom Cotton asked some “show of hands” questions to see if anyone would recommend that Americans use Chinese telecom products or services.

Those hoping for serious progress were also disappointed.  Six intelligence agency leaders in the line of fire—including the directors of National Intelligence, FBI, CIA, and NSA—all expertly parsed, praised, and parried. Congressional hearings are always delicate dances. Witnesses have to satisfy their legislative overseers without alienating their executive branch bosses or hurting their home agencies.

But still. It was a moment of adult supervision where questions were asked, answers were given, and facts were facts. These days, that’s a big deal. Over on the House side of Capitol Hill, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has managed to bring oversight to a dangerous new low. Weak oversight is bad, and we have lived with it for a long time.  But Nunes is creating something much different and much worse: Fake oversight.

For months now, Nunes—who served on the Trump transition team—has been behaving like a  teenager who so desperately wants to be liked by the cool kid in the Oval Office, he’ll do anything …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



‘Show Us the Carnage,’ Continued

By James Fallows

For recent items about gun massacres, and the public response, please see (starting with most recent):

In this installment, readers respond to the proposal in a previous item that the news media should become much less “restrained” and considerate, much more blunt and shocking, and instead “show us the carnage”: Run pictures of the corpses of children and other civilians after gun attacks.  

From a reader in Kentucky:

What prompts me to write was the “show us the carnage” headline of your recent column. That headline likely resonated with anyone who lived in Louisville in 1989, when Joseph Wesbecker killed eight coworkers and wounded many more with an AK-47 at the Standard Gravure printing plant.

The plant was owned by the Bingham family, which had also owned the Courier-Journal until a few years prior. The next day, the Courier ran the attached photo on the front page, along with other photos of injured (and possibly dead) victims. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Archive screen shot, via Atlantic reader.

Read On »

…read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Burden of Trump’s National-Security Staff

By Andrew Exum

What a contrast.

I woke up on Sunday morning and first read the news accounts of National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s cogent speech to the Munich Security Conference. I then read the president’s tweets. And some more tweets. And, just when I thought he was done, some more tweets.

As I have written before, you have to give this administration some credit for having assembled some pretty good foreign policy talent. The Republican Party arguably didn’t have the deepest bench on foreign policy in 2017, having been out of the executive branch for eight years, and some of the best talent available to the administration after Trump was elected was ineligible for having signed one of the infamous Never Trump letters over the course of the 2016 campaign.

Nonetheless, I’ve been struck, in conversations with the men and women serving in the Department of Defense or on the National Security Council, by how good and earnest many of the people working for this president’s administration are. Some of them are true believers, but far more common are retired or active duty military or intelligence officers (like McMaster) dragooned into political service, or longtime Republican Hill staffers who kept their noses clean in 2016. These folks are, as one friend told me, just keeping their heads down and concentrating on what they can affect rather than the things—like the president’s tweets—that they cannot.

But here’s another thing that struck me, which has been noted by other people who speak often to those in this administration: how rarely people mention Trump’s name. You can have an hour-long conversation with someone serving in a national security billet in this administration, and they will tell you all about their problems and policies without ever mentioning the name of the president they are serving—unless …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Excesses of Call-Out Culture

By Conor Friedersdorf

One of America’s best attributes wasn’t fully real to me until I studied abroad in Seville, Spain, with Asian American classmates. Their answers to the question “Where are you from?” were often met with confusion by locals, who had trouble even conceiving of a nation without an ethnic conception of citizenship. As a Californian, I knew not only that people of Asian descent were as American as white people like me, but that many of their ancestors arrived before mine. And I saw why Americans who don’t grasp those truths offend.

Another of America’s best attributes concerns those who immigrate here. People who become U.S. citizens later in life—as did Albert Einstein, Desi Arnez, and Patrick Ewing—are no less American, no more “other,” than the native born. In fact, when my friend Andrew Sullivan was finally granted U.S. citizenship, as well as when efforts began to secure legal protections for undocumented immigrants brought here as children, I realized that my own conception about what it means to be an American is even broader than the legal definition: I’d long considered people like Andrew as well as those kids to be “one of us.”

To reflect on these matters at length—as some immigrants and people of color are forced to do, and as I’ve done in part because my journalism has often contested the stances, assumptions, and double-standards of restrictionist politics—is to become highly attuned to the language used to talk about immigrants.

Had I been on Twitter, for example, I’d have noticed when New York Times writer Bari Weiss celebrated Team USA Olympic ice-skater Mirai Nagasu by tweeting, “Immigrants: they get the job done.” I’d have understood why that reference to the California-born skater, whose parents immigrated to the U.S., would strike some people as accurate shorthand, others as an …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The FBI’s War on Black-Owned Bookstores

By Joshua Clark Davis

In the spring of 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover announced to his agents that COINTELPRO, the counter-intelligence program established in 1956 to combat communists, should focus on preventing the rise of a “Black ‘messiah’” who sought to “unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement.” The program, Hoover insisted, should target figures as ideologically diverse as the Black Power activist Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture), Martin Luther King Jr., and Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

Just a few months later, in October 1968, Hoover penned another memo warning of the urgent menace of a growing Black Power movement, but this time the director focused on the unlikeliest of public enemies: black independent booksellers.

In a one-page directive, Hoover noted with alarm a recent “increase in the establishment of black extremist bookstores which represent propaganda outlets for revolutionary and hate publications and culture centers for extremism.” The director ordered each Bureau office to “locate and identify black extremist and/or African-type bookstores in its territory and open separate discreet investigations on each to determine if it is extremist in nature.” Each investigation was to “determine the identities of the owners; whether it is a front for any group or foreign interest; whether individuals affiliated with the store engage in extremist activities; the number, type, and source of books and material on sale; the store’s financial condition; its clientele; and whether it is used as a headquarters or meeting place.”

Perhaps most disturbing, Hoover wanted the Bureau to convince African American citizens (presumably with pay or through extortion) to spy on these stores by posing as sympathetic customers or activists. “Investigations should be instituted on new stores when opened and you should recognize the excellent target these stores represent for penetration by racial sources,” he ordered. Hoover, in short, expected agents to adopt the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Selfishness Is Killing Liberalism

By James Traub

The death of liberalism constitutes the publishing world’s biggest mass funeral since the death of God half a century ago. Some authors, like conservative philosopher Patrick Deneen, of Why Liberalism Failed, have come to bury yesterday’s dogma. Others, like Edward Luce (The Retreat of Western Liberalism), Mark Lilla (The Once and Future Liberal), and Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (How Democracies Die) come rather to praise. I’m in the latter group; the title-in-my-head of the book I’m now writing is What Was Liberalism.

But perhaps, like God, liberalism has been buried prematurely. Maybe the question that we should be asking is not what killed liberalism, but rather, what can we learn from liberalism’s long story of persistence—and how can we apply those insights in order to help liberalism write a new story for our own time.

Liberalism is not a doctrine founded on a sacred text, like Communism. It is something more like a set of predispositions—a faith in individuals and their capacity for growth, a tempered optimism that expects progress but recoils before utopian dreams, a belief in open debate and the possibility of persuasion, an insistence upon secularism in the public realm, an orientation towards civil rights and civil liberties. Precisely because it has no canon, liberalism perpetually redefines and renews itself. Liberalism is not intrinsically majoritarian, but because it fully thrives only in democracies, seeks to align itself with the broad public will.

Nevertheless, liberalism has a core, and that is the right of the individual to stand apart. John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” is the closest thing liberalism has to a founding tract. Mill set out to explain why it was in the interest of society in general to give individuals the greatest possible right to speak and act as they wish. Individuals, that is, do not have some …read more

Via:: The Atlantic