White House Watch: Have Senior Trump Aides Signed Non-Disclosure Agreements?

Over at the Washington Post, opinion columnist Ruth Marcus reports something remarkable: Early in the Trump administration “senior White House staff members were asked to, and did, sign nondisclosure agreements vowing not to reveal confidential information and exposing them to damages for any violation.” “It would expose violators to penalties of $10 million, payable to the federal government, for each and any unauthorized revelation of ‘confidential’ information,” she writes. And not just during their government service, but afterwards, too.

03/19/18 5:40 AM

Editorial: The McCabe Firing Is Not About Everything

Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI, was fired on Friday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions had received a report from the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General following a probe into McCabe’s conduct while he served in the FBI. McCabe, who took over as acting FBI director after the dismissal of James Comey, stepped down as this investigation process began in January 2018.

McCabe stood accused of improper dealings with the media on the issue of the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The OIG investigation found that McCabe “made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor—including under

03/19/18 6:49 AM

Skunk vs. Skunk

If someone invented a television “raver filter” there would no doubt be national jubilation—until we realized that blocking the ravers would leave very little to watch. Everyone raves these days: sports announcers, politicians, airline executives, celebrities, cartoon characters, weather forecasters, dog trainers, and of course the growing army of what were once called “talking heads”—whose noggins have all gone nuclear in the Age of Trump.

Add to the raver list the current flock of flacks deployed by the National Rifle Association.

03/16/18 2:40 AM

How Is Larry Kudlow Going to Get Along with Trump?

“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows,” wrote Shakespeare. Although the odds that President Trump was reminded of that observation when re-reading The Tempest must be regarded as low, they are somewhat higher that he might at one time have stumbled across the modern variant, about politics making strange bedfellows. Trump’s misery stems not from any doubts about his policies. He believes that his bonfire of the regulations has released the animal spirits of investors and the business community, and that his tax cuts will take the economy’s growth rate to a level it never achieved in the Obama years. Alas, he is not getting the credit he craves and feels he deserves, which he attributes to poor

03/19/18 6:20 AM

The Protectionist's Protectionist

This is Peter Navarro’s moment. The gadfly economist, whose idée fixe is America’s capitulation to China on trade, joined the Trump administration on Day One, heading up the National Trade Council, a new office created by the new president. But for the first 13 months, Trump did little to advance his promised protectionist agenda, and Navarro had to keep quiet as free traders like Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, the chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC), held the reins.

But Trump’s announcement of new steel and aluminum tariffs on March 1, and Cohn’s subsequent resignation, suggest that protectionism’s time has come.

03/16/18 2:40 AM

Hayes: Mike Pompeo Is the Real Trump Whisperer

Rex Tillerson was fired because Trump didn’t listen to him. Tillerson was an adviser whose advice was rarely sought and even more rarely followed. His disputes with the president were widely known—often because Trump took them public—and they made it clear that Tillerson couldn’t effectively perform of his job. Mike Pompeo is the exact opposite.

03/16/18 6:59 AM

Overload: Will Any Shows From the Golden Age of TV Endure?

It's been a while since we talked; have you caught up yet? The second season of Jessica Jones was bonkers; did you manage to make it through The Punisher and The Defenders? What about the new season of Black Mirror—that one episode where they warned against the dangers of technology outpacing our humanity was amazing, right?—or the latest run of Bojack Horseman? Never thought a cartoon could send me into an existential tailspin like it manages to do. It was a shame that the Stranger Things crew got shut out at the Golden Globes; they’re doing really innovative work in the 1980s homage space.

03/16/18 8:38 AM

Afternoon Links: The Last Arthur Treacher's, Eve of Chernobyl, and Haste Makes Waste

Plus, why Sonny is always right.
Mar 16, 2018
Happy Friday! We have a lovely new issue out, with the cover story by former TWSer, current Free Beacon bigwig, and Weekly Substandard podcast co-host Sonny Bunch. It’s about the abundance of television #content available to people in the present day. Will any/much of this content endure, or is most of it … well … shit? Read Sonny, who is always right. I don’t want to spoil it for you. Depending on your age, jump back a decade, two, three, or four ago. What was your entertainment / news diet like? Better? Worse? Will there be more #content? Or are we at peak #content? Since it’s Friday, and many of our readers are observing Lent, here’s a neat look at the nearly dead restaurant chain  Read more

An Ode to a Disappearing Portland

The City of Roses used to be funky and offbeat and working class. No more.
Mar 16, 2018
Talk about a Friday news dump: Chopsticks III, the “How Can Be Lounge,” a Portland, Oregon, karaoke institution will close this weekend, it was announced on Friday. (“How can be” was not a Mickey Rooneyism circa Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but a phrase uttered by proprietor David Chow.) It’s another nail in the coffin of the funky, offbeat place that the City of Roses used to be. Portland was once fun. When I moved there in the mid-2000s to attend Reed College (another declining institution) it already had undercurrents of hipsterism, to be sure. Stumptown Coffee was there; as was its far superior competitor Ristretto.  Read more

Trump's Controlled Chaos

Hosted by Charlie Sykes.
Mar 16, 2018
Today on the Daily Standard Podcast, senior writer Michael Warren discusses the recent tumult and turnover in the Trump administration: From the end of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's tenure, to the Pompeo shuffle, and importation of CNBC's Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn. This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.  Read more

Prufrock: Sohrab Ahmari on the Trans Movement, the Art of Directing, and St. Patrick's Day Reading

Also: Can TV be great art?
Mar 16, 2018
Reviews and News: Can TV be great art? “There certainly are excellent TV shows, especially relative to other TV shows. There are TV shows that are produced with artistic genius and beauty and that shed light on timeless truths about the human condition. But given the nature of the medium, will these achievements last? So many great shows will slip into oblivion unloved and unmourned. For instance, I would love to share my appreciation of The Shield with more people. But I’m a realist. I am fully aware that asking most people to sit down and watch 88 episodes of a cop drama, albeit a very good cop drama with one of the few great endings of this era of narrative television, is pointless. There’s not enough time.  Read more

Rand Paul Stands by His Opposition to Haspel

ProPublica corrected a story that claimed Haspel oversaw the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. Paul cites other issues with the president's choice for CIA director.
Mar 16, 2018
The opening shots in the battle over Gina Haspel's nomination to lead the CIA badly missed their target Thursday, when ProPublica corrected a report that featured a number of false allegations about Haspel's involvement in the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Senator Rand Paul, who repeatedly cited the false claims on a media tour highlighting his opposition to her nomination, brushed aside the erroneous information at the center of his attacks and reiterated his opposition. The 2017 report falsely claimed that Haspel oversaw a ‘black site’ prison in Thailand during the interrogation of al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah.  Read more

Fact Check: Did an Astronaut's DNA Change in Space So It No Longer Matched His Twin's?

Sensationalism and a weak grasp of genetics combine to make misleading news stories.
Mar 15, 2018
Nowadays the term “fake news” is usually associated with politics, but it’s worth remembering that no field is immune to the spread of misinformation. And pop-science journalism is at least as prone to distortion as political coverage, especially when simplistic headlines are exaggerated on social media. This week saw a prime example of this problem. From its earliest days, NASA has studied the physiology of the men and women it sends up into space.  Read more

Fact Check: Was Trump 'Shaking With Rage' After Rachel Maddow 'Confirmed' The 'Golden Shower' Rumors?

No. Not even close.
Mar 15, 2018
In the “fake news” business nothing spreads misinformation quite as well as a ridiculous headline. They’re perfect for ginning up inquisitive clicks with the almost-money-back guarantee that the reader won’t get past the lede. Just take the headline that appeared on the blog Real Time Politics Thursday: “Trump Shaking With Rage After Rachel Maddow Confirms All The ‘Golden Shower’ Rumors.” Nothing in that headline is true. At all. On her MSNBC show, Maddow explored the new book Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.  Read more

Afternoon Links: Geoffrey Giraffe Rides Off Into the Sunset, .GIF Marketing, and Family Matters

Plus, narcissism and democracy.
Mar 15, 2018
I don't want to grow up... But poor Geoffrey the Giraffe will have to, as Toys "R" Us bids adieu after a 61-year run. (Bankruptcy is causing them to close all of their stores.) I loved TRU as a kid, and my first and only magazine casual has a tie-in. Alas, all good brands eventually die. Something I did not know was that TRU's origin story begins in our nation's capital! (Who says #TheSwamp doesn't produce anything?) The blog Ghosts of DC reports: Charles Lazarus, the founder of Toys “R” Us started out with a small store at 2461 18th St. NW. He had returned from World War II, and in 1948, at the age of 25, saw an opportunity to capitalize on the growing baby boom with a store to capture this  Read more

At Tax Time, Don't Forget Your Bitcoin Gains

Or, more likely, your losses.
Mar 15, 2018
It's been a tumultuous year for the digital currency markets. Now that we're a few weeks away from tax day, a friendly reminder: Don't forget your digital currency trades! Yes, gains from bitcoin, dog-coin, or whateverishotthisweekcoin are taxable. (Similarly, if you have losses, and many coin-obsessed people do have losses, there are tax implications there, too.) Unlike Forex trading, bitcoin enthusiasts also tend to use their virtual currency to buy things with bitcoins. This complicates matters, as the Motley Fool reports, and underscores why it's important to keep good records: It's important to mention that because bitcoin is considered to be property, every bitcoin transaction is potentially  Read more

Admiral: US Has No 'Bloody Nose Strategy' for North Korea

"In the past in talking about other countries, we tend to use the term 'trust but verify.' In this case, I think it's 'distrust and verify,'" Admiral Harry Harris adds of U.S. diplomacy with North Korea.
Mar 15, 2018
The United States does not have a "bloody nose strategy" for a limited preemptive strike against North Korea, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific said Thursday. “We have no bloody nose strategy,” Admiral Harry Harris told lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’m ready to execute whatever the president and the National Command Authority directs me to do. But a bloody nose strategy is not contemplated.” If military action were to occur, Harris suggested, it would likely be broader than a limited strike. “I believe that if we do anything along the kinetic region of the spectrum of conflict, that we have to be ready to do the whole thing,” he said.  Read more

Of Bowling and Democracy

How America deals with con men and fantasists.
Mar 15, 2018
Speaking at a Republican fundraiser Wednesday in Missouri, President Donald Trump criticized Japan for unfair trade practices, and offered this example: "It's called the bowling ball test; do you know what that is? That's where they take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and they drop it on the hood of the car. And if the hood dents, then the car doesn't qualify. Well, guess what, the roof dented a little bit, and they said, nope, this car doesn't qualify. It's horrible, the way we're treated. It's horrible." No one familiar with Japanese trade practices or the auto industry seemed to know what the president was talking about.  Read more

Feinstein, McCain Want Info About Haspel's Role in Rendition and Interrogation Programs

Questioning a strong woman.
Mar 15, 2018
California senator Dianne Feinstein is calling on the CIA to release documents detailing the involvement of Trump’s pick for CIA director, Gina Haspel, in the agency’s detention and interrogation program. President Trump announced in a tweet Tuesday that he would be nominating Haspel, who is currently deputy CIA director, to replace Mike Pompeo, who will be his nominee for secretary of State. “As we move forward with the nomination process for Ms. Haspel, my fellow senators and I must have the complete picture of Ms. Haspel’s involvement in the program in order to fully and fairly review her record and qualifications,” Feinstein wrote in a Thursday letter to Pompeo and Haspel.  Read more

Congressman: Child Sex Dolls Are Coming—And We're Not Ready

Representative Dan Donovan warns that lifelike sex dolls encourage pedophilia and should be illegal.
Mar 15, 2018
One of the great legislative challenges of history, from the Hittite abominations to the regulation of internet porn, has been anticipating the latent evils unleashed by man’s ingenuity. Now, child sex dolls—robots engineered to warm to the human touch and disturbingly lifelike in their prepubescent features—are being marketed to pedophiles. Made overseas, they’re increasingly prevalent stateside. Republican Dan Donovan of Staten Island, a federal prosecutor for 20 years before his election to the House in 2015, has made it his mission to sound the warning about child sex dolls.  Read more

Doggie Death in the Skies, the Theranos Fraud, and the Democratic Wave Gets Bigger

Hosted by Charlie Sykes.
Mar 15, 2018
Today on the Daily Standard Podcast, Jonathan V. Last and Christine Rosen discuss the recent uproar over a dog who died on a plane, the natural end of Theranos, and the PA-18 special election. The Daily Standard is sponsored by quip, the new electric toothbrush. quip starts at just $25, and when you go to getquip.com/standard, you'll get your first refill pack free! This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.  Read more

Prufrock: The Liberal Neuhaus, Samuel Johnson and the Law, and the Problem with Privilege

Also: An aurora borealis named Steve, the final days of Stan Lee, and more.
Mar 15, 2018
Reviews and News: Samuel Johnson and the law: “Toward the end of his life, Samuel Johnson drew up a list of subjects that he would like to research. He projected forty-nine works in all; none was on any aspect of the law. According to James Boswell, Johnson’s celebrated biographer, almost the only subjects sure to distress Johnson when raised were mortality, particularly his own, and what might have transpired had he become a lawyer. Even when nearing seventy, he rounded on his friend William Scott, who had innocently commented, ‘What a pity it is, sir, that you did not follow the profession of the law. You might have been lord chancellor of Great Britain and attained to the dignity of the peerage.  Read more

Putin and the Curious Case of Sergei Skripal

Vladimir Putin insists that there's no way Russia poisoned the former spy with Novichok.
Mar 15, 2018
Sergei Skripal was Russian colonel who, in 2006, was convicted of spying for Britain. After serving four years in a Russian jail he was released. He settled in Salisbury, a scenic and quiet town in western England where he bought a home and lived on an MI6 pension. He made friends in his new home, and became a regular at the Railway Social Club, where he took his Sunday roast with beer and vodka. That is, until he and his daughter were mysteriously poisoned with Novichok. Read more

The Substandard on Death Wish, the 1970s, and Girl Scout Cookies

Mar 15, 2018
In this deadly serious episode, the Substandard discusses Death Wish, the original versus the reboot—Sonny gives the latter a million stars (another reviewer liked it too). JVL reminds us of the general awfulness of the 1970s, but at least there was Charles Bronson. Plus Vic weighs the sin of gluttony versus the sin of waste. The Substandard is sponsored by quip, the new electric toothbrush. quip starts at just $25, and when you go to getquip.com/substandard, you'll get your first refill pack free! The Substandard is sponsored by Casper mattresses. Get $50 toward any mattress purchase by visiting Casper.com/substandard and using promo code SUBSTANDARD at checkout. This podcast can be downloaded here.  Read more

'A Wrinkle in Time': Lights, Camera, Tesseraction

The movie doesn't share the book's transcendental purpose.
Mar 15, 2018
Rejected by more than two dozen publishers in the early 1960s, A Wrinkle in Time was itself a work of its own time and entirely out of time—a sophisticated and original intellectual coming-of-age story featuring speculative science fiction, anti-Communist dystopia, and Christian hermeneutics. There had never been anything quite like it. And yet the wild success of the book didn’t help Madeleine L’Engle establish a reputation in literary circles. While these days a J. K. Rowling novel for adults is considered a significant publishing event, the opposite was true in L’Engle’s case.  Read more

Mississippi Is Now in Play for Democrats

It would take a lot to turn Mississippi blue, but Chris McDaniel could make it happen.
Mar 15, 2018
Thad Cochran is resigning and Mississippi will have a special election to fill his seat in November. Mississippi is deep, deep red. In order for Republicans to lose a Senate seat there, they would have to catch a chain of unlucky breaks. On Wednesday, Chris McDaniel announced his intention to run, and the GOP might have gotten their first bad-break of the chain. Read more

White House Watch: Here's Larry!

Larry Kudlow moves from CNBC to the White House.
Mar 15, 2018
More than a year after getting shut out of a White House job, economic commentator and CNBC host Larry Kudlow will succeed Gary Cohn as the chairman of the National Economic Council, the White House confirmed Wednesday. Kudlow and his fellow supply-side writer Stephen Moore were top economic advisers on Donald Trump’s campaign and helped write his tax proposal. But both were passed over for administration jobs following the election, with Trump appointing Gary Cohn to the NEC position. Cohn’s exit from the White House reopened the job and Kudlow was still interested. “I’m overjoyed,” Moore told me. “It’s one of the best appointments made by Trump.  Read more