Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are pleasantly surprised at President Trump’s State of the Union address, in which he extolled the greatness of America, condemned socialism and late term abortion and found several issues where bipartisan cooperation seems plausible. They also cringe at some other moments in the speech including Trump’s contentions that investigations of him will hurt the economy, that you can negotiate peace with the Taliban, and that another summit with Kim Jong-Un is a good idea. And their jaws hit the floor as Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admits to dressing up in blackface while in college, just days after calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to resign.
One college is now handing out punishment to students for disrupting free speech on campus, and while the speaker impacted says she is glad there are some consequences for those protesters, she still believes colleges may be hopelessly immersed in the movement of racial victimhood.
On April 6, Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald was prevented from giving her scheduled address at Claremont McKenna College. Protesters denounced Mac Donald over her best-selling book, “The War on Cops,” and physically prevented students from attending the lecture. They also led chants of “F— the police.”
Unlike other disruptions at schools like the University of California-Berkeley and Middlebury College, Claremont McKenna is now handing out punishments. In a statement, the school condemned the blockade.
“The blockade breached institutional values of freedom of expression and assembly. Furthermore, this action violated policies of both the College and The Claremont Colleges that prohibit material disruption of college programs and created unsafe conditions in disregard of state law,” read part of the statement.
While acknowledging 170 students were involved in the demonstration, just seven were disciplined: three were suspended for a year, two others for one semester and two more were put on conduct probation.
Mac Donald sees the results as a mixed bag. On one hand, she’s grateful that Claremont McKenna was willing to take action.
“For once, I’m gratified that there’s some discipline with teeth, unlike in Middlebury. True academic suspensions are serious punishment. That’s going to show up on a student’s record,” said Mac Donald.
But while seven students are paying the price, she’s a bit puzzled as to why there weren’t more discipline cases stemming from the event.
“It’s a very small number of people who have been punished. Five receiving suspensions is much less than (the number) people complicit in the blockade. There’s no explanation by Claremont as to how they reached that number and whether it’s because they didn’t have evidence for other people or not,” said Mac Donald.
But while giving the school leaders some credit, Mac Donald says the larger response to the chaos surrounding her visit shows the administrators still don’t get it.
“Ironically, the Claremont-McKenna statement said that it was calling on its faculty to try and help us understand how to mitigate the forces that divide our society. What divides our society is precisely this preposterous idea that to be a minority student at an American college today is to be the victim of oppression,” said Mac Donald.
Mac Donald says that approach is only hurting the very students it intends to help.
“CMC and every other college has vast bureaucracies dedicated to that proposition. Students that are brainwashed with that idea in college are going to go on into American society unable to see the opportunities that are available to them, with a big chip on their shoulders. We’re going to see racial tensions and possibly even racial violence continue,” she said.
“This is ludicrous,” said Mac Donald. “There is no more privileged position in society today than to be a student at an American campus.”
Far from seeing Claremont-McKenna’s actions as a turning point in tolerance for differing opinions on campuses, Mac Donald believes things are worse than ever because the people who should be standing up for free speech and free expression are on the other side of the debate.
“We’re fast approaching a critical mass, where the majority of faculty are themselves perpetrating this idea that speech from a student from a favored victim category finds disagreeable is itself a form of violence,” said Mac Donald.
She says faculty at the University of California-Berkeley were even defending the rioting that forced the cancellation a Milo Yiannopoulos event on campus.
“There were two faculty at Berkeley, in an email chain, that were dismissing the Antifa black block fascists as just doing what was necessary and in a very nice, surgical manner of trashing buildings and creating fires,” said Mac Donald.
She also says no one should expect college administrators to suddenly get a surge of courage and stand up for academic and constitutional freedom in the face of hostile students.
“Ever since the ’60s, they caved in then in a very, very bad way and they’ve absolutely been cowards since then,” she said.
Mac Donald believes a major alumni revolt could change the minds of administrators on some campuses. But even if the money dries up, she fears some schools are too far down the social justice pathway to turn back now.
“It’s a real tension because by now the universities have really been taken over by this left-wing zealotry. I’m not even confident that a drop in alumni donations would lead them to say, ‘OK, no more of this nonsense,'” said Mac Donald.
She says the only true recourse is for parents with children at all levels of education to demand better.
“You’ve got to fight back against it and give your children alternative sources of knowledge,” said Mac Donald.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud President Trump’s strong defense of the value of Western civilization in his speech in Poland Wednesday. They also express disappointment in comments made by Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey conceding Republicans failed to prepare a healthcare repeal and replace bill because they didn’t believe Trump would win the election. Finally, they decry New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for protesting President Trump in Germany in the midst of ongoing crises in his city.
Across the country, loud and sometime violent campus protesters are often met by administrators who ultimately give into the demands related to perceived slights on issues ranging from race to gender and sexuality to alleged to hate speech, but one college president is fighting back and says the pursuit of truth – not unanimous political ideology ought to be the goal of higher education.
Oklahoma Wesleyan University President Dr. Everett Piper burst on to the scene in late 2015, when he wrote an open letter to his students and famously explained their campus was not a day care but a university. He is also the author of the forthcoming book, “Not A Day Care: A Coddled Nation is a Crippled Nation.”
Dr. Piper is also speaking up after the latest round of campus unrest, specifically the saga over Ann Coulter’s scheduled appearance at the University of California-Berkeley, an which ultimately never happened. In his column for The Christian Post, Piper unloads on what he sees as an assault on free speech and an abdication of role played by higher education.
“The liberal arts institution was founded some 1,000 years ago, let’s say at Oxford, for what? To educate a free man and a free woman, to educate culture and what it means to enjoy liberty, and liberation, thus the word liberal,” said Piper, in a follow-up interview to his column.
He says that original purpose is now almost recognizable at most schools.
“The classical liberal is someone who stands for freedom, for liberty, and for liberation. What we see today within the American academy is the shutting down of ideas. We see ideological fascism rather than academic freedom,” said Piper.
“The conservative voice is actually more classically liberal because we’re arguing for an open, robust exchange of ideas. Why? Because we can trust truth to judge the debate rather than politics or power,” said Piper.
Piper says the problem has been brewing for many decades, when ideology became more important than truth.
“We’ve taught lousy ideas for decades in the academy and we’re seeing lousy behavior on the campus green and in the campus quad today. These student rebellions, these snowflake rebellions, trigger warnings, microaggressions, and safe spaces are being called for because we’ve taught these kids this intellectual mush and this ideological narcissism and nihilism,” said Piper.
“We hear people say things like, ‘I hate these hateful people. I’m sure that nothing’s sure. I’m absolutely confident there are no absolutes, and I can’t tolerate your intolerance.’ It’s self-refuting at every turn. The reason we see this is because we started teaching this type of nihilism and intellectual relativism and intellectual mush some three, four, five decades ago,” said Piper.
“When you teach good ideas, you get good culture, good kids, good community, good government, good church, etc. When you teach bad ideas, you get the opposite,” he said.
So why aren’t more administrators pushing back?
“I’ll be very blunt here: lack of spine, lack of courage, lack of conviction. They’re more interested in capitulation and compromise. We’re more interested in a conversation than we are in demonstrating conviction and purpose and principle. We don’t seem to have the heart and the soul to engage in the things that are right and just and true,” said Piper.
And he says the administrators are often ideologically in sync with the protesters.
“We call for justice but deny that there is a Judge. We argue that we want tolerance but then act intolerable to anybody we can’t tolerate. Our administrators and our presidents and our professors parrot this pablum. They don’t have the conviction and the spine,” said Piper.
Piper also pushes back hard against the notion that free speech somehow began at Berkeley in the 1960’s. He says the people who believe that are about 2,000 years behind.
“Free speech was not born at Berkeley. It was born at Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago, because without the truth you shall never be set free,” said Piper.
Piper says history shows that removing God and His word from a society never results in freedom because man’s rules then intervene to fill the vacuum. He says true freedom is like playing music or sports in that one has great freedom within certain boundaries.
“You are only set free with the context of truth, judging the activity you want to be free to engage in. When we abandon the concept of truth, you don’t get freedom, you get tyranny. And that’s what you see in the snowflake rebellion in the streets of Berkeley,” said Piper.
He says the very notion of safe spaces misses the point of education.
“Safety is not what good education is about. Goodness is what good education should pursue, but you’ve got to have a measuring rod outside of those things being measured or you can do no measuring, according to C.S. Lewis,” said Piper.
“You have to have the measuring rod of Truth with a capital T, and goodness and justice, and mercy. Those things all come from the Judeo-Christian ethic that our country was founded upon. If we don’t have that ethic any longer, we’re going to see fascism and tyranny and power prevail, rather than live by principles that give us freedom,” said Piper.
His immediate advice is for families to refuse to send their children to colleges that don’t embrace truth.
“Moms and dads, stop sending your kids to these institutions that teach this pablum and send them to places that teach what’s actually objectively right and real and true and good,” said Piper.
Ian Tuttle of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America shake their heads as Ann Coulter cancels her Berkeley speech after officials there make it clear they will not maintain order. They also vent after a liberal judge rules that the federal government cannot withhold funds from localities that flagrantly refuse to obey federal immigration law. And they throw up their hands as CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin is more worried about why senators have to go to the White House to discuss North Korea – than she is about the North Korea threat itself.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America get a kick out of the disunity on full display during the Democrats’ “Unity Tour,” as Bernie Sanders focuses on big government economic policies and the party leadership is still about identity politics. They also hammer Howard Dean for incorrectly citing three Supreme Court cases in arguing Ann Coulter’s speeches are not protected by the Constitution. And Jim pays tribute to his late National Review colleague, Kate O’Beirne.
Liberal groupthink is nothing new on college campuses but resorting to violence and intimidation to stifle views contrary to the progressive orthodoxy is a dangerous escalation, according to a prominent scholar who was recently targeted by an angry mob of students and warns free speech is under fierce assault in the United States.
Earlier this month, the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald experienced the hostility first-hand, while visiting the west coast, first at UCLA and then at Claremont-McKenna College. Her visit to Claremont-McKenna was the most harrowing, with protesters blocking access to the auditorium where Mac Donald was to give her presentation. Organizers then tried to have her speak via video access before the event was finally cancelled over security concerns.
“The day before Claremont-McKenna, I had an effort to storm the stage. That was at UCLA. At Claremont-McKenna was a blockade around the building where I was supposed to speak to prevent anyone from entering to be able to listen to me in person and interact with me. That’s certainly the most extreme that I’ve experienced,” said Mac Donald.
Protesters targeted Mac Donald in response to her book “The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe,” accusing her of being a racist and a fascist.
This is the latest in a series of campus unrest as a result of a speaker who does not subscribe to standard liberal views. Riots broke out at the University of California at Berkeley when Milo Yiannapoulos was scheduled to speak. A professor at Middlebury College in Vermont suffered a concussion while trying to protect American Enterprise Institute scholar Dr. Charles Murray.
Mac Donald says the intolerance of the left is reaching new heights.
“I had a direct experience of how a student body reacts to a non-conforming opinion. It basically reacts like an immune system does, surrounding the alien virus with corpuscles to try to expel it from the body politic,” said Mac Donald.
“There is no an increasing insistence that everybody hew to the same line and that line is something very, very dangerous for the future of America. It hold that this country is rife with oppression, that minorities in particular are the victim of non-stop bigotry and anybody who dares propose facts to the contrary is simply not to be tolerated,” said Mac Donald.
Colleges are often billed as the place to explore and compare different ideas, yet administrators seem to do little or nothing to punish students who stoke violence or prevent the exercise of free speech.
Mac Donald is not surprised.
“College administrators are reluctant to discipline students for clear violations of their rules for fear of alienating the parents, alienating the student darlings. That’s a purely economic self-interest explanation for the passivity of administrators in the face of this,” said Mac Donald.
But she sees another factor at work as well.
“The campus bureaucracies are being colonized now by people of the left who believe in identity politics and have a stake in students thinking of themselves as victims because that necessitates, allegedly, an ever-growing student service and diversity bureaucracy,” said Mac Donald.
One of the great ironies of this campus groupthink for Mac Donald is the insistence the students are fighting fascism by forbidding alternative viewpoints to be expressed.
“I’m amazed anybody has the sheer gall to label themselves anti-fascist, who then says [they] are shutting down me, or Charles Murray or Ann Coulter and nobody else gets to hear that person without anybody taking a vote. I mean it is the very definition of at least soft totalitarianism,” said Mac Donald.
Mac Donald says liberal academics are succeeding in their mission to groom the next generation to consider only the ideas of the far-left.
“The brainwashing is very effective. Students are told that the police are racist and that mass incarceration is a reality aimed at re-enslaving blacks. If you’re hit with that enough, you do start to believe it,” said Mac Donald.
As intimidation and violence becomes more common on campus, where does this kind of development ultimately lead our society?
“It ends badly,” said Mac Donald. “These students graduate. They take levers of power in government, in corporate HR departments. They are absolutely committed to the view that America is profoundly racist, sexist, mysogynist, you name it. They will put in policies to support that view,” said Mac Donald.
But in addition to the impact on the culture and the workplace, Mac Donald fears for the future of free speech.
“Traditionally, America has had the greatest degree of freedom of speech of any western, industrialized country. There’s much stronger speech codes in Europe. I think we could be moving in that direction and that means less and less possibility for correcting the errors that guide so many members of the cultural and political elite,” said Mac Donald.
The Virginia congressman who defeated his own party’s House Majority leader three years ago is hailing President Trump’s speech as a “total conservative tour de force” but says Republicans must resist the temptation to embrace Obamacare-lite and truly embrace repeal and reform.
Trump’s speech Tuesday night to a Joint Session of Congress highlighted a number of conservative priorities. It received acclaim for both style and substance. Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., was thoroughly impressed.
“He hit it out of the park. It was just a total conservative tour de force across all the issues and it was all upbeat. It just gave everybody hope,” said Brat. “When MSNBC can’t say anything negative, you know you had a good speech.”
Brat hailed Trump for pushing tax cuts as part of overall tax reform and for lifting the regulatory burden from families and businesses. While politicians and pundits alike suspect tax reform cannot happen this year, Brat says Trump has a way of motivating people that the so-called experts may not understand.
“This city has a way of delaying and letting the special interests take over. Trump is the one guy who can light a fire and make sure that does not happen,” said Brat.
One of Trump’s most forceful demands was for Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. But how that can be done is becoming increasingly contentious inside the GOP.
Last week, a leaked memo of a Republican replacement plan set off fierce debate as the more conservative members of the House and Senate balked at replacing health care subsidies with refundable tax credits.
Brat also revealed that the debate over tax credits is playing out only in the wake of the leaked memo because GOP lawmakers haven’t assembled to work through a replacement bill.
“We’ve never even had a show of hands for , ‘Hey, which way do you want to go on this? That’s part of the problem with this town. Our conference needs to be more transparent and represent the will of the people,” said Brat.
“We all ran to represent the will of the people. We all ran for six years on repeal of Obamacare. So when you say repeal of Obamacare, I think the average person means repeal of Obamacare, right? If we end up putting Obamacare-lite in its place, our base is going to be furious. The average small businessperson is going to be furious,” said Brat.
Brat reminds citizens and lawmakers how we got into the current predicament with respect to Obamacare.
“The insurance guys walked into the White House eight years ago looking at their shoes. They were going to get 18 million new customers, but they knew they were setting up a non-free market death spiral system,” said Brat.
He says Republicans can’t leave the American people effectively headed down the very same road.
“Having taught economics for 20 years, you’ve got to get the system right. That’s what some of us are very worried about, that’s we’re going to do an Obamacare-lite. Then our team is going to own that product. That will be a disaster,” said Brat.
“We’ll just do the same thing and call it (something) different, but you keep the insurance regulations. You keep the implicit mandates. The tax credits will turn into a new entitlement. And then we’re also getting rid of the health care deductions in the piece that was leaked on Politico,” said Brat.
Pointing out that entitlement spending is set to engulf the entire federal budget within a decade, Brat says responsible lawmakers cannot create another entitlement through the tax credits.
“We do not want to provide another federally-run entitlement program. The others are all insolvent, right, Medicare, Social Security. Everything the feds touch is insolvent,” said Brat, who points out Trump will need to fend off the growth of mandatory spending, either through entitlement reform or pushing tax reform that spawns major economic growth and tax revenues.
Brat says the most obvious priority in replacing Obamacare needs to be lowering the costs.
“Everybody’s paying attention to who’s covered and whether everybody’s covered, but we’re ignoring the cost of 300 million Americans,” said Brat. “If you can half the cost, then the money we’re spending goes twice as far just on simple math.”
In the meantime, Brat urges the public to see through the slanted media coverage on repeal and replace. The congressman points out bronze plan deductibles are now averaging $12,000 per year while premiums increase roughly 20-25 percent per year.
“Then the press calls and they say, ‘Hey, can you assure us that every single person is going to be just as well off or have gold-plated health care?’ I’m like, ‘You’re missing the thesis. Obamacare is in a death spiral, according to the heads of Humana and Aetna,'” said Brat.
“The entire system is collapsing under it’s own weight. About five million people lost their plans due to Obamacare. Where’s the reporting on there? The reporting is just in the realm of fake news at times and they’re acting like the Republicans are in charge of the disaster that just happened over the past eight years,” said Brat.
Despite his frustrations with the media and a lack of communication within GOP ranks, Brat is still optimistic repeal and replace will happen and that it will be done right.
“The car’s in the ditch. Now we’ve got to pull it out, get some free market principles going and I think we have plenty of time to get it right,” said Brat.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America found a lot to like in Pres. Trump’s speech, from conservative principles to powerful moments to a calm but determined delivery. They also point areas where Trump is embracing big government: including infrastructure, family leave, and health reform. And they have fun with the very awkward Democratic response.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America discuss the almost unanimous praise of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to be Pres. Trump’s new national security adviser. They also discuss how the free speech debate ought to be less about Milo and more about liberals bent on destroying the careers of anyone they disagree with politically. And Jim mulls Singapore-style caning for whoever defaced three monuments in Washington over Presidents’ Day weekend.