In case you missed it when it appeared last week, let me highlight this graph, created by Katie Park of NPR from data collected by the Harvard Institute of Politics GFK-Knowledge Panel (and used by NPR here). It sums up many of the themes we’ve been covering in this Chickenhawk thread.
The small print accompanying the graph shows that among Americans ages 18 to 29 who were surveyed, some 60% believe the United States should commit ground forces to fight the Islamic state. And among the same sample group, 62% say they “would definitely not” enlist to join the fight themselves, and another 23% said they “would probably not.”
As they say in the cable-TV news-talk business, “We’ll leave it there.” Thanks to Jordan Steves of the Chautauqua Institution for the pointer to this story (which he did with the subject line, “Chickenhawk Nation, quantified.”)
There are lots of threads to follow, but I will be offline again for several more days on a big print-magazine project. If the image above seems too discouraging to leave in this space in the meantime, I can offer instead a more encouraging recent panel by Berkeley Breathed of the revived Bloom County 2015. I’ve written asking to copy it but haven’t heard back yet. You can see it at his site here.
After President Obama’s speech on ISIS last night, I argued that he was making a least-bad, sane, shrewd case about a long-term U.S. strategy, notwithstanding cable-news scolding about his “distance” and “dispassion.”
Now two reader responses worth noting. First from a partner at a major law firm on the East Coast. He argues that as long as the United States relies on a drone-strike strategy, it cannot be surprised if people who lack conventional military strength react with the tools available to them. Namely, retail-level terrorism.
Additionally this reader says that the era of San Bernardino-scale terrorism may bring the Chickenhawk Nation era to its logical culmination. Only a tiny handful of Americans will ever see the battlefield, but larger and larger numbers could feel exposed to the blowback effects of their nation’s wars. Over to the reader:
It is the policy of the United States that it may kill anyone it wants in certain areas of the Middle East; the executive branch decides and kills. The claimed entitlement to kill includes not just those targeted but also anyone who happens to be nearby. The United States seeks to minimize this “collateral damage,” but accepts however much of it is necessary to achieve its killing objectives.
As a result, everyone in the affected areas of the Middle East has for a long time lived in peril of a sudden deadly attack by the United States. Reports on how many we actually have killed vary, but the number appears certainly to be in the hundreds and likely to be in the thousands.
This policy comes with a cost: the people who are subject to it and their sympathizers will seek to retaliate by such means as are available, even as we would do if a foreign country’s drones were hovering over Connecticut and killing people in the same fashion. The idea that such retaliation can be willed or persuaded out of existence is a fantasy. Retaliation might be forestalled by resort to the level of force used against Germany and Japan in WWII, but our country is not prepared to do that or pay for it.
Given that the people subject to U.S. violence will retaliate “by such means as are available,” what are we in for? It appears that their capabilities are limited, for now, to relatively small-scale random killings by suicidal attackers such as those in San Bernardino. U.S. authorities can prevent some of these attacks, but not all. At least so long as the U.S. pursues the discretionary killing policy described above, every American must bear the risk of being killed or maimed in the occasional retaliatory San Bernardino.
This state of affairs represents a possible exception to your “Chickenhawk Nation” diagnosis. Americans have persuaded themselves that their country can wage war on foreigners at no personal cost to them, but only because they refuse to see the connection between such wars and the desire of those subject to them to retaliate. They are persuaded by propagandists such as Fox News that what is really retaliation occurs because attackers “hate us for our freedoms.” We in fact are the front-line soldiers in the drone war.
And from an American reader who now lives in Asia, how the spectacle looks from there — and the underlying reasons why Obama’s opponents may dismiss his arguments.
Tthe following may be in poor taste or easily twisted in a direction that is opposite of my intent, but here goes: As an addition to your analysis of how Obama may not inspire some, the birthers are wrong that the logical Mr. Obama is from another country.
He is from another planet: Vulcan.
Actually, Mr. Spock may have had an easier time to get the group to follow. I think hard to overstate the inability for a significant number of Americans to accept being lectured to by a black man … an alien from outer space, okay, he comes from above. But me being told what to do by a black guy?
Just writing the words feels really, really crude but a reality that only those from the privileged class can blithely ignore.
You don’t need me to tell you that Phil Klay’s Redeployment is worth your attention. Last year it won the National Book Award for Fiction. But I do want to highlight an Essay he read last night on the PBS Newshour, on the theme of what Klay would tell his young son about his service as a Marine in the Iraq war. The full four-minute version is embedded here; below I’ll mention the part that struck me.
Here is how Klay ends, on the “lessons” of his service. Emphasis added:
I volunteered, after all. All of us did. That’s how we wage war now. A fraction serves, and a majority decides in hindsight which politician to blame it on….
You don’t get to decide the broad course of history, only your role within it. I wish I could evade responsibility for all that’s gone wrong in Iraq and only think about the sacrifices of those I served with, the heroic efforts, the courage of the Iraqis I met, the lives of both Iraqis and Americans saved by the medical staff at my base….
But I can’t. I’m an American citizen, responsible, just like every other citizen, for every part of the war, not just how I felt about the end of my part.
In a democracy, everyone shares responsibility. Troops don’t issue themselves orders. War is paid for by our tax dollars and ordered by politicians we as a people need to hold accountable.
So, I guess this is what I will tell my son. I will tell him it’s my job now and until I die to be an informed citizen. I will tell him about joining institutions, government or otherwise, that are working for a better world.
Blame, versus responsibility: I’ve added emphasis to this passage to highlight the contrast.
In a chickenhawk nation, it’s easy for politicians and public to wait around and decide whom to blame when things go wrong. What’s much harder is accepting responsibility for war-and-peace decisions as they are being made ( for instance, now) and for the lasting consequences, good and bad, foreseeable and not, as they accrue. As I mentioned last week in discussing Nancy Sherman’s book Afterwar, merely saying “thank you for your service” has become a largely empty ritual. The real demonstration of thanks, as Klay points out, is service as an informed, responsible citizen.
I’ve also mentioned many times the powerful book God Is Not Here: A Soldier’s Struggle with Torture, Trauma, and the Moral Injuries of War, by Lt. Col. Bill Russell Edmonds. Here is a video of Edmonds lecturing on various aspects of moral responsibility, last month at Clark University.
I've been following your posts and book list, and have a recommendation: The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel.
Non-fiction (Finkel was an "embedded" reporter with a US Army battalion for 8 months between April 2007 and April 2008.) This is the All Quiet on the Western Front of the Iraq war.
A harrowing book- be prepared for that. I wanted to quit about 1/4 the way through. But I felt a duty to read it clear through- if the guys lived it and Finkel chronicled it, I could at least read to the end.
Karl Marlantes’s What it’s Like to Go to War is a Viet Nam and postwar memoir that belongs on returning soldier reinstatement and chicken-hawk cautionary reading lists too.
When reading about the roadblock tragedy today in your first post about Afterwar, I thought of the similar scene in One Bullet Away….
When you read What it’s Like to Go to War, consider if any part of Marlantes’ suggestions for bringing veterans back whole into civil life remind you of scenes in the film The Best Years of Our Lives. I was reminded of his book when I watched the film again recently with my kids. The movie is old but not dated for this topic.
From another reader on the same topic:
You mentioned Karl Marlantes's harrowing Matterhorn, but an even better book for this topic is his follow-on non-fiction What it's like to go to war. He addresses these exact issues, not just from the standpoint of the trigger puller, but also from the viewpoint of the officer who orders artillery and air attacks that kill dozens.
In your list of books about healing moral injuries, I hope you mention Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam. It is one of the most profound and humane books on healing trauma I have seen (indeed, it is one of the most profound and humane books I have ever read).
If you haven’t read it [JF: I have], it is structured as a meditation on Achilles’ moral breakdown in the Iliad, culminating with his dragging the corpse of Hector around the walls of Troy—all filtered through Shay’s work with the men (Vietnam veterans) he has treated for combat trauma. The notion that combat trauma is as old as combat, and that loss of honor through being forced to commit what “normal,” civilian society sees as crimes is at its root, has stuck with me for many years.
I know and tremendously admire this book and join the reader in urging others to find and read it.
Afghanada, a radio drama by the CBC in Canada. A reader in Toronto says:
I don't know if you already know Afghanada, but it was a radio play on the CBC. Khan Soror, a well-know Afghani actor played a a part and advised. Scott Taylor was the military advisor, so it was gritty and sounded real to someone like me (reserve force).
Late last night I explained why I thought that Nancy Sherman’s Afterwar was an important non-fiction entry in the still-not-large-enough canon of works explaining our modern chickenhawk-era culture of war. I named a few related works, and this morning I find reminders from readers of others that certainly deserve mention too:
Consequence magazine. Consequence describes itself as an “international literary magazine focusing on the culture of war.” I am chagrined to say that I had not known about it, but at least I do now. A few days ago it published a review of God is Not Here, by Bob Shea.
The FX one-season series Over There, which I saw when it originally aired ten years ago and also admired. Its possible that it was too ahead-of-its-time, for a mainstream audience, in its darkish view of the Iraq invasion and the aftereffects.
Restrepo, a powerful documentary film by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington that follows a U.S. unit through a year in Afghanistan. The film came out in 2010; a year later, Hetherington was killed while covering the Libyan civil war.
One Bullet Away, by Nathaniel Fick. Fick was a young Marine Corps officer during the invasion of Iraq and also fought in Afghanistan. His book was one of the earliest notable memoirs of the war.
I know there are more, but that will hold us for now. Thanks for the reminders and tips.
Update The video of the Georgetown session is now online. You can find it here, or in embedded version in my preceding post.
In my “Tragedy of the American Military” article early this year and in many updates since then, I’ve referred to Ben Fountain’s great novella Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk as the emblematic work of fiction for our Chickenhawk age. As a reminder: a chickenhawk nation is one willing to do anything for its military except take it seriously — in particular, thinking seriously about the wars to which it will be committed, and about what will happen to the troops when they return (except for halftime ceremonies at football games, like the one Billy Lynn portrays).
A week ago I attended and had a small part in a session at Georgetown in which veterans of our modern wars talked about something usually missing from our talk about “saluting the heroes” or “boots on the ground.” That something was the effect on the troops of the decisions they had to make in combat and the “moral injuries” they inevitably incurred in even the most successful and “glorious” wars.
For instance, in a terrible real-world case described at the Georgetown session: During the occupation of Iraq a young U.S. officer, commanding a roadblock checkpoint, sees a car barreling toward his soldiers at night. He gives all the established “slow down” and “turn back” warning signals. By this point in the occupation the Iraqis knew how the checkpoints worked and what the rules were. But as the car continues to bear down, the young officer finally orders his men to do what the rules of engagement called for: to riddle the car with machine-gun bullets before it could get close enough to set off a bomb — if that is what it contained. Only when they go to inspect the wreckage do the Americans learn that they have just killed an Iraqi couple, with their young daughters, who had been hustling to the hospital so that the pregnant mother could deliver another child. The soldiers were doing their job; the Iraqi family suffered more than a “moral injury”; but those soldiers would also never be the same. Two of them later killed themselves.
The literature of war has long dealt with impossible choices and moral injuries. Just in semi-modern history we have works from Cold Mountain to the The Red Badge of Courage about the U.S. Civil War; All Quiet on the Western Front from the German side and the great war poets from the British side, about the first World War, and the non-comic parts of Catch-22 about the second; now-largely-forgotten works like The Bridges at Toko-Ri and The Hunters about Korea; Matterhorn and others about Vietnam; and the dozen other titles that will come to mind.
The closest we’ve come for our modern wars would include The Hurt Locker, whose angle was that Jeremy Renner’s anti-IED specialist found meaning mainly in his recklessly dangerous work; or Homeland, whose angle is that Claire Danes’s CIA analyst has been driven crazy by the clues she missed; or maybe American Sniper, whose moral calculus involving Bradley Cooper’s sharpshooter I won’t try to untangle.
I am sure there are more, but for now my point is that Afterwar is a real step forward in assessing what America’s modern wars have done to — and also for — the one percent of America’s people who have fought them, and how the other 99% of the country should respond. For instance, it has an entire chapter on the tangles of that familiar phrase, “Thank you for your service.” One veteran says to a civilian, “Don’t just tell me ‘thank you for your service.’ First say, ‘Please.’” Sherman explains why this means, “Don’t take for granted my service. Don’t be cavalier in a call to arms. Take greater responsibility for the wars that our country wages.”
If a video of last week’s session goes on line, I will mention it, because many of the veterans’ accounts were remarkable. For now I will strongly suggest that you get and read this book.
Let’s continue our saga of the professional sports-world’s embrace of military imagery, costuming, and honoring-our-heroes celebration. A reader points me to this piece by Dan Wetzel, in Yahoo, on why the coach of a team named the Patriots, who himself grew up in Annapolis where his father was a Naval Academy coach, refuses to wear the dress-up camouflage gear other NFL staffs and cheerleaders have displayed during this month’s “Salute to Service.” Wetzel writes:
Belichick's commitment to the cause [of respecting military service] can't be questioned. What can be questioned is the league demanding someone wear a camouflage hat. It is a mostly meaningless gesture and doesn't signify anything. It's a sort of forced, show-pony act that has become pervasive….
Maybe the league's intentions here were 100 percent noble. Considering its publicity-conscious way of doing business and that recent paid patriotism scandal though, it can also feel like this is more about what the military can do for the NFL than what the NFL can do for the military.
The reader adds:
Speaking of Belichick, do you think he's a Stoic i.e. a true follower of the teachings of Epitectus? Given the hysterical bed wetting many Americans are engaging in currently in the wake of the Paris attacks, I think we could all use a dose of stoicism.
Short answer: Yes. I am agnostic in most of the passionate debates about whether Belichick’s Patriots symbolize good or evil. (I like the sheer efficiency with which they win, and their amazing years-long sequence of little-guy receiver and running-back stars. But because I’m not from Boston it would feel phony to make them “my” team.) I will say that I like the Stoic style.
From a reader who grew up in the United States but has lived and worked for many years in Japan:
The chickenhawk / military fetish … illustrates the thin ice we are walking on a la, on the obscure side, J. G. Ballard`s Kingdom Come. Ballard`s book is about an English town that goes fascist gaga over sports and shopping with a store manager staging a coup at the mall. Boundaries blur, candy turns to rocks, rocks turn to candy.
Your label of chickenhawk nation is easy to twist into that we should become hawks, all in. The chickenhawk nation has a certain passive ring to it, we seem to have gone beyond that.
I remember in the 60`s the F-4 flyovers before football games with one jet peeling off representing POW`s and MIA`s (I was about 10 at the time, part of the TV pregame), but I do not think anything special was done for baseball games, I guess too many, would break the budget. On a trip back to the US a few years back I remember being shocked at the overt, over the top patriotism before the start of a baseball game (again, TV), so I think we are a big step up and over what was done during the Vietnam War.
It is this extraordinary report, by Brian Castner, published today in Motherboard. It is called “One Degree of Separation in the Forever War,” and I promise you will find it worth the time, and later reflection.
I would like everyone thinking about, or voting on, American foreign and military policy also to read and absorb this essay. Readers owe thanks to Brian Castner for writing it. The public owes deep respect to the Hines brothers whom it describes.
In response to this past week’s NFL observances of Veterans Day, including camouflage-themed clothing for coaches and sideline staff, a reader sends a comparative note on how pro sports teams elsewhere recognize this occasion:
You mentioned lapel poppies in the UK the other day. Worth noting that how the UK observes Remembrance Day is very different even at sporting events. Here is some fan-shot video from the proceedings at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in North London this past Saturday:
In addition, every player had a poppy embroidered on their jersey. I find this way of marking the occasion far more meaningful than the overly jingoistic version that seems to predominate on our shores.
Veterans Day respects and gratitude to those who have sacrificed and served.
To spare effort by those getting ready to write in and explain this distinction: I do realize that the connotations of Remembrance Day, in England and elsewhere, are different from those of Veterans Day on the same November 11 date in the United States. Originally all these observances were Armistice Day, recognizing the end of World War I hostilities on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in 1918. As another world war began, the name was generally shifted to Remembrance Day, which in England serves the purpose Memorial Day does in the United States: that of recognizing those who died in the line of duty. (For more on the Civil War origins of American Memorial Day, see Deb Fallows’s item from Mississippi.) In the United States, Veterans Day is for those who have performed military service, living and dead.
Will Bardenwerper, who joined the Army after the 9/11 attacks and served as an infantry officer in Iraq, has a very strong essay in the Washington Post just now on the hollowness of the “Salute to the Heroes!” rituals that have become part of professional sports, especially the NFL. The title gives you the idea: “How patriotic pageantry at sporting events lost its meaning.” Here is a sample:
I should appreciate these moments at professional sporting events. I did once, but not so much anymore. Neither do a surprising number of the men with whom I served…. These moments, after a decade and a half of continuous war, have become rote and perfunctory, unintentionally trivializing what began with the best of intentions.
And, more pointedly, about the scenes that might accompany the heartwarming videos of a service member being reunited with spouse and children:
When I saw this, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like if, instead, the Jumbotron had carried live footage of a military “casualty notification” officer in his dress uniform approaching the door of a comfortable home in middle America, stepping across a carefully manicured lawn, knocking on the door, an American flag blowing lazily in the breeze overhead, and having a mother collapse in tears at the sight of him, before he even has a chance to tell her that her only son had been shot and killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Very much worth reading. Bardenwerper even has a “to do” suggestion at the end of his essay. Conceivably at some point the chickenhawk shamelessness of these spectacles will sink in.
Additionally, from a reader on the East Coast:
Yesterday at noon I posted on Facebook that, as a veteran, I was NOT “honored” when the NFL’s partners sell camo clothing.
I got 25 likes, and I only have 100 – 125 “friends”.
Here’s a strange story out of Annapolis that seems to fit within Fallows’s new thread on Chickenhawk Nation, or the tendency of the American public to express easy gestures of gratitude to the military without at the very least informing themselves about why servicemembers are deployed all over the world, let alone sacrificing anything themselves. (As the son of two retired Army officers, including a Vietnam vet, I’m a bit biased on this.) So here’s the story: Local fans of the Naval Academy’s football team have renewed a seemingly sweet but condescending habit of tossing candy to the brigade of about 4,400 midshipmen that traditionally marches into the stadium at every home game. Things have even gotten ugly:
“[Y]ou get these little cretins who throw [the candy] 150 mph,” then-city police Sgt. Paul Gibbs told The Capital [in October 1998]. Well, the enthusiasts may have returned this season, because complaints resurfaced about the practice — don’t call it a tradition — of throwing Snickers, Starbursts, Tootsie Rolls, even hamburgers at the brigade.
“I saw hamburgers lying in the street,” said Bill O’Leary, who has lived across from the stadium since the 1990s. For years, he has called for an end to the throwing. “They throw plastic water bottles at them, too.”
Beer cans were added to the onslaught during a game against Wake Forest in 2009. Since the late ‘90s, Naval Academy officials have repeatedly urged the public to stop this habit—“It shows a lack of respect for the uniform of our armed services,” according to one statement—but it keeps popping up. Here’s one lame defense from a local fan via Facebook:
“As a kid, I grew up watching the Brigade of Midshipmen marching from the academy to the games at the stadium. My first memories were that we would toss candy to them so they could have some treats during the game. It wasn’t ‘throwing candy at them’ to be disrespectful. Then sometimes they would have candy to thank us and toss it back,”
The comedian went viral for “playing Trump,” but in her new Netflix special, Everything’s Fine, she shows how unusual her comedic taste can be.
Press play on a video by the comedian Sarah Cooper, and you know what to expect: Cooper in a blazer, lip-synching to something nonsensical that President Donald Trump has said, her exaggerated facial expressions highlighting the absurdity of his comments. These bite-size, viral impersonations, created on TikTok and popularized on Twitter, have launched her to online fame since she began posting them in April, garnering her millions of followers, a guest-hosting gig for Jimmy Kimmel, and a deal with Netflix to create a special. In a year when comedians have had to cancel stand-up shows and adapt to performing without live audiences, Cooper’s meteoric rise is remarkable. When we spoke in May, she sounded stunned by her success. “My impostor syndrome is kicking in,” she told me then. “I’m like, ‘Wait, I didn’t actually write anything.’”
The highest-profile internal critic of the administration now admits that the basic premise of his argument was mistaken.
When a “senior official” in the Trump administration published an op-ed in The New York Times in September 2018, detailing how he and others had worked to sabotage President Donald Trump, it seemed like an important moment for the emerging “resistance” movement.
No longer was it only angry liberals, disaffected moms, and disillusioned old-school Republicans. Suddenly we had evidence of the resistance inside the very halls of power. The same week, news emerged from Bob Woodward’s book Fearabout officials at the time, including Defense Secretary James Mattis and the economic adviser Gary Cohn, refusing orders or simply hoodwinking the president. For those who opposed Trump, these stories provided a ray of hope that he could be contained or at least curtailed by officials who still believed in the rule of law.
If Donald Trump is reelected, he will continue to downplay the threat of the coronavirus, and more Americans will fall ill.
The president’s response to the pandemic should not have been a surprise. In December 2016, a month before Donald Trump was inaugurated, I asked how a pandemic would play out during his term. The question was not idly put: Every recent president before Trump had been challenged by epidemics, and Trump’s actions as both a citizen during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and a candidate on the campaign trail had been troubling. His record suggested that come a pandemic, he would lie, spread misinformation, opt for travel bans in lieu of more effective measures, and heed his own counsel over that of experts.
In the 2020 election, on top of every routine test of character and capability, the candidates must answer the challenge the coronavirus has brought to this country. Trump’s response has been so lax as to effectively cede the country to a virus whose spread is controllable. He has, by his own admission, repeatedly downplayed the threat after he became aware of how dangerous the new coronavirus could be. He caught the virus himself and seems to have learned nothing from the encounter.
Media outlets appear to be operating on the assumption that Trump will lose, and are covering his latest scandals accordingly.
You can teach old journalists the occasional new trick, but two? Forget it.
The 2016 election persuaded the press to avoid publicly presuming that Donald Trump will lose and the Democrat will win. The very cautious news coverage about Joe Biden’s chances, despite his formidable advantage in polls, makes this plain.
But even though reporters are loath to say that the president is a serious underdog, they are repeating another 2016 error. Trump is getting off easy for a series of recent scandals, most likely because press outlets have concluded that he is doomed and that coverage is largely pointless. From a radical reorganization of the civil service to sketchy Chinese bank accounts, the president has faced little scrutiny on what should be major topics of concern for voters.
Why the grandiose promises of multilevel marketing and QAnon conspiracy theories go hand in hand
Jordan Schrandt—blond, beautiful, mother of eight, founder of The Farmhouse Movement magazine, which teaches readers how to achieve “a lifestyle of authenticity, simplicity, and kindness”—is a Royal Crown Diamond.
Less than 1 percent of the independent distributors who sell essential oils and related products through the Utah-based multilevel-marketing company Young Living reach that top ranking. Those who have net an average annual income of $1.5 million and resemble celebrities within the organization, counting tens of thousands of followers on social media. Their success sometimes even allows them to charge for access to advice on how to become more like them—a private Facebook group for business coaching from Schrandt costs $10 a month, and the cheapest single ticket for a recent “Diamond Bound” conference she hosted in Dallas was $309.
An Atlantic investigation reveals who they are and what they might do on Election Day.
Photographs by Philip Montgomery
Image above:Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers
Stewart Rhodes wasliving his vision of the future. On television, American cities were burning, while on the internet, rumors warned that antifa bands were coming to terrorize the suburbs. Rhodes was driving around South Texas, getting ready for them. He answered his phone. “Let’s not fuck around,” he said. “We’ve descended into civil war.”
It was a Friday evening in June. Rhodes, 55, is a stocky man with a gray buzz cut, a wardrobe of tactical-casual attire, and a black eye patch. With him in his pickup were a pistol and a dusty black hat with the gold logo of the Oath Keepers, a militant group that has drawn in thousands of people from the military and law-enforcement communities.
Short of an outright constitutional crisis, a lot could still go horribly wrong.
A brazen refusal by the president to leave office is surely a nightmare scenario. But even if President Donald Trump were to lose and accept the results on November 3 or soon thereafter, he could nevertheless wreak significant damage during the period between the election and the inauguration of Joe Biden—endangering the incoming administration, at best, and actively sabotaging it, at worst.
Presidential transitions are perilous even in normal times. With each inauguration of a new president every four to eight years, the executive branch undergoes a massive overhaul; more than 4,000 new political appointees flood into federal departments and agencies, including 1,200 senior officials who require Senate confirmation. The minute a new president is sworn in, his administration assumes responsibility for everything from nuclear launch codes to pandemic response, economic policy, and counterterrorism—at the very moment when the government’s capacity is most diminished. At the Defense Department alone, the nation’s largest employer and perhaps the world’s most complex organization, the top 59 senior civilian leaders, from the secretary of defense on down, are political appointees requiring Senate confirmation. A private-sector company would be crazy to emulate this approach, yet the security, the health, and the prosperity of Americans depend on its success.
Every time the president ramps up his violent rhetoric, every time he fires up Twitter to launch another broadside against me, my family and I see a surge of vicious attacks sent our way.
When I put my hand on the Bible at my inauguration, it did not occur to me that less than two years later, I would have to tell my daughters about a plot against me. But earlier this month, I learned that a multistate terrorist group was planning to kidnap and possibly kill me. Law-enforcement announced charges against 14 people as part of the plot. As jarring as that was, just over a week later, President Donald Trump traveled to Michigan, and when a crowd chanted “Lock her up” after he mentioned me, he said, “Lock them all up.”
I am not surprised. I have watched the president wedge a deeper divide in our country; refuse to denounce white supremacists on a national debate stage; and launch cruel, adolescent attacks on women like Senator Kamala Harris and public-health leaders like Anthony Fauci. And while I won’t let anything distract me from doing my job as governor, I will not stand back and let the president, or anyone else, put my colleagues and fellow Americans in danger without holding him accountable.
Prescribed burns, which create buffers against larger fires, can do only so much.
The West will have many more summers like this past one. Extreme heat waves, wind events, and droughts will make severe, destructive fires an inevitability. The air will be choked with smoke from July to October, and tens of thousands of people will likely be displaced by wildfires in the next decade. For all of humanity’s attempts at setting boundaries between our spaces and wild ones, every summer proves that the two are irreversibly interwoven.
The calls for better management of the lands where fire and human settlement meet are intensifying. Some western landscapes haven’t seen fire at regular, natural intervals since the 19th century, leaving them congested with overgrown brush and bug-ridden trees. Politicians are always happy to talk about “better forest management”—most recently, Mike Pence briefly mentioned it during the vice-presidential debate, as a solution to severe wildfires. Meanwhile, fire managers and ecologists continue to beg for resources to complete more forest-management projects. And politicians, national media, and fire managers alike are repeating one specific (and familiar) sentiment: The West Coast needs more prescribed burning, and it needs it right now.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is using his Scranton bona fides to win over a key voting bloc.
Step inside the world of a Biden campaign ad, and you’ll find a young Joey going up to bat in his front yard here in Scranton, Pennsylvania, decked out in his baseball uniform while a baby stands in a crib nearby. Women in ’50s-era hats and colorful skirt suits walk up the sidewalk to church. Biden’s dad calls him “champ” and dispenses attaboy wisdom: “When you get knocked down, get up.”
Selling America on this Irish Catholic Lake Wobegon—a place where family comes first, everyone’s middle class, and all of the kids learn the same basic values from the wise nuns around the corner—is how Biden hopes to win the 2020 election.Toss-up states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are roughly one-quarter Catholic, and many of these Catholics are white voters who abandoned their longtime affiliation with the Democratic Party to support Donald Trump in 2016. Biden’s campaign sees his religious identity as a huge advantage in his bid to win those voters back: Trump and his associates “look down their nose on people like Irish Catholics, like me, [who] grew up in Scranton,” Biden said during the first presidential debate.