On the October issue:
The 2024 Election
To the Editor:
John Podhoretz’s “2024: The Nightmare Ahead of Us” was an excellent, thoughtful discussion of our current political mess (October). The Democrats will probably dump the Biden-Harris ticket, but their problem is a lack of a credible replacement. So long as Democratic politicians are forced to take radical positions in favor of defunding the police, unlimited abortion access, DEI, transgender rights, climate change, and other progressive causes, they will remain unacceptable to middle-of-the-road Democrats and independents who care about crime, inflation, the cost of education, and other concerns of average Americans.
To the Editor:
As a centrist independent, I value John Podhoretz’s rare, reasoned, and rational viewpoint. I and many others I know are ex-tremely concerned about how both Democrats and Republicans are going to react to the election results, and I’m glad COMMENTARY is ringing the alarm bells.
Las Vegas, Nevada
To the Editor:
John Podhoretz’s article on the coming presidential election was superb. But there’s a need to address the matter from a broader perspective. Over the next two years, three massive storm fronts are going to collide: the constitutional crisis and civic unrest that will most surely follow from the election of either Donald Trump or Joe Biden, the fiscal cliff over which the U.S. is scheduled to drop at the end of 2025, and China’s likely invasion/blockade of Taiwan. There is a lot of talk these days about an honest reckoning with the past; Americans are entitled to an honest reckoning with the future.
John Podhoretz writes:
I thank Terence Kelly, Joseph Campanale, and Daniel Gormley for their kindness and thoughtfulness. The trajectory of the race has only changed since the publication of my article to the extent that the potential worldwide crisis that erupted on October 7 will challenge both Donald Trump and Joe Biden to speak and act and conduct themselves in ways that match the unprecedented seriousness of the moment, and I fear neither of them has it in him in the long run.
A Karen Corrective
To the Editor:
Wilfred Reilly seems to have left some information out of his article “The Karens Were Innocent” (October). The omissions cast some doubt on his valid points.
For example, the author talks about First Nations mass-grave sites in Canada where no bodies were found. Yet he doesn’t mention the 20-plus sites where graves were found and the many more that are still under investigation. Leaving out this information makes it seem as if these genuine findings were a farce.
Similarly, Reilly mentions Nick Sandmann’s legal victory over the Washington Post without mentioning the lawsuits he lost against other media companies.
Moreover, discussions on “Central Park Karen” and “BBQ Becky” were not about, as Reilly says, who was right and who was wrong. They were about the escalation beyond a reasonable response. The sobbing, the shaking, the extreme fear, the accusations of being attacked when video shows that the accused were calm and never close to harming the women. The question is why these women were acting as though these black individuals tried to murder or attack them when the conflict was merely about park ordinances. “Central Park Karen” was indeed breaking the law. The man she accused was simply trying to inform her that dogs were not allowed in that section of the park. The escalation beyond reasonableness is where the accusations of racism come in. Why did these white women act as if black men were threatening their lives when they clearly were not? Why did the women weaponize their emotion against a police force already biased to believe white women over black men?
Reilly’s leaving out important context prevents any opportunity for nuanced consideration of why these incidents are worth discussing.
Derry, New Hampshire
Wilfred Reilly writes:
Iris Reggs responds to my article about the Karen phenomenon by accusing me of omitting some inconvenient facts.
Per her letter, Native American claims of “mass graveyards” at Canadian residential schools may have been exaggerated, but some “graves” certainly were found at the schools; Nick Sandmann of l’affaire Covington Catholic lost several libel cases alongside winning one against the Washington Post; and accused busybodies such as “BBQ Becky” and “Central Park Karen” were guilty of “escalation beyond a reasonable response” regardless of whether or not they were technically in the right. All of this, allegedly, should have been discussed.
Let me note first that authors write under a word limit. That said, Reggs’s points strike me both as very arguable and very technical—i.e., they do not alter my overall point about narrative accuracy. In the Canadian mass-graves case, for example, there have now been 14 excavations, none of which has turned up a single body. At Kamloops, where the claim of a “mass grave of more than 200 indigenous children” was first made, there is now acknowledged to be “no proof of actual human remains.” My understanding is that individual graves, a few even unmarked, have been found at some schools—because many historic boarding schools have graveyards at them. But this is not what was originally claimed.
Similarly, young Mr. Sandmann did have a few of his libel suits tossed; winning defamation cases, especially as a public figure, is notoriously hard. But he settled or won at least three of them (vs. CNN, NBC Universal, and the Post), not one. The Covington Catholic kids, also, are now almost universally acknowledged to have done nothing wrong. They were perhaps a bit rude, but other people, including an entire group of Black Hebrew Israelites, started the confrontation they became involved in.
The same can be said for “Becky” (Jennifer Schulte) and “Central Park Karen” (Amy Cooper). Cooper reacted after being approached by a large, strange man who tried to lure her beloved dog away with treats, and said he was going to “do what I want, (and) you’re not going to like it.” Schulte was pulled into an hour-long public argument after making what seems to have simply been an accurate point about an area of a park being off-limits for charcoal grilling. Neither behaved perfectly, sure. But, that is not what was claimed.
And that’s the point. For most of the past five years (at least), normal citizens have been constantly told that minority Americans and Canadians are under literal, violent attack. Ben Crump, one of the nation’s leading lawyers, wrote a bestseller unironically titled Open Season—the Legalized Genocide of Colored People. However, when examined in detail, almost every story used to prop up this narrative collapses largely or entirely. Parsing the exact difference between what is asserted and what is revealed, in an intelligent and lawyerly fashion, can be interesting—I would expect nothing less from the COMMENTARY readership—but does not change the critical reality.
Republicans to the Left
To the Editor:
Matthew Continetti makes solid points in “The Left of the Right” (October). But Continetti suffers from a failing similar to that of the most entrenched MAGA supporters. The Republican Party needs to include large numbers of people who disagree with one another.
Donald Trump is an albatross around the neck of the GOP and the conservative movement. But Republicans must make a place for all the people who Trump brought into the party if they are going to start winning national elections again. As always in American politics, the big tent wins.
Bibi and the U.S.
To the Editor:
Joe Biden, as quoted by Tevi Troy, is right—the Democratic Party is no longer the party of “Scoop” Jackson (“Bibi’s Seven Presidents,” October). The party contains a growing number of anti-Semites, and even some Jewish Democrats seem less likely than they once were to support Israel. This means that the Jewish state must figure out how to deal with a less approving Democratic Party.
What few Americans seem to understand is that Benjamin Netanyahu is a relative left-winger in his government. When he exits the stage, Washington may come to miss him. Israel is moving more and more to the right and becoming more religiously observant. American Jews who are neither conservative nor religious might find themselves estranged from Israel. Ultimately, Israel must decide what is in its best interests in spite of America’s wishes.
Tevi Troy writes:
I thank Rafi Marom for writing. He is of course correct that there is an ugly element of anti-Israel sentiment inside the Democratic Party, something that we have seen in some reactions to the Hamas pogrom of October 7. But polls also show that a majority of Americans of both parties side with Israel in its conflict with Hamas, which has the potential to reorient things in terms of partisan feelings toward Israel. As for Netanyahu, Marom is correct as well. The point of my article was that for all his flaws, Netanyahu has shown a willingness to study and figure out ways to either counter or work with American presidents. Whoever follows him will be someone new, and Democrats who have long worked for Netanyahu’s political demise—something I detail in my article—may indeed come to miss him.
To the Editor:
It seems, as detailed in Abe Greenwald’s review of Melvyn P. Leffler’s Confronting Saddam Hussein, that the Iraq War was unavoidable and necessary, even though it ended so unfortunately (“A True History,” October). What was particularly unfortunate was that the U.S. did not have the will and staying power to turn the war around fully and implement needed improvements. This raises the essential question of whether the United States should continue to be engaged in world affairs as a benevolent superpower.
Great Neck, New York
To the Editor:
It is well past time for an honest recounting of the Iraq War. I was an anti-Saddam leftist at the time it was being fought, and I wasn’t worried about the WMD allegations. I thought justifying the invasion on those grounds missed the more important truths about Saddam: He was, as Abe Greenwald’s review states, a monster. Getting rid of him was a good thing.
The postwar shambles were a disgrace in multiple ways. The invading forces didn’t secure Iraq’s munitions, didn’t provide for a quick recovery from the war’s damage, and botched operations in a number of ways.
Today, Iraq has something not entirely unlike representative government, even if the cost has been incredible. It’s worth supporting and preserving. Iraq is not a bystander in the contest between Saudi Arabia and Iran; it’s the very meat in the sandwich. Adroit diplomacy with real teeth is going to be needed. It’s not at all clear that the U.S. has the understanding or the moxie to see it through. And worse is likely to come.
Westport, New Zealand