August 12, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein's Death

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead on Saturday after an apparent suicide in the New York jail cell where he was being held without bail on sex-trafficking charges.” Reuters

Both sides are frustrated that Epstein’s victims will not get their day in court:

“It is not an exaggeration to say that there are thousands of similar victims in America out there watching this case and wondering if they will be heard, believed and protected if they come forward. So ask yourself: How can we as a society ask them to stand up and speak out if we are willing to let a wealthy and connected alleged sex trafficker effectively evade justice by suicide? Many questions still remain about what happened in this case. But what is perfectly clear is that this should not — this cannot — be the end.”
Andrea Powell, NBC News

“Epstein’s victims, law enforcement and the public have now been deprived of the right to see him stand trial and be held accountable for the many crimes he is accused of committing. The women who said they were Epstein’s victims had a right to confront Epstein in court – both from the witness stand and during sentencing if he wound up being convicted… We can no longer levy any punishment against Epstein. But his victims deserve justice, and anyone who assisted him in his crimes deserves prosecution.”
Robert Bianchi, Fox News

They also condemn the urge to blame one’s political opponents for Epstein’s death:

Mr. Epstein’s apparent suicide is, in many ways, the post-truth nightmare scenario. The sordid story contains almost all the hallmarks of stereotypical conspiratorial fodder: child sex-trafficking, powerful global political leaders, shadowy private jet flights, billionaires whose wealth cannot be explained. As a tale of corruption, it is so deeply intertwined with our current cultural and political rot that it feels, at times, almost too on-the-nose. The Epstein saga provides ammunition for everyone, leading one researcher to refer to Saturday’s news as the ‘Disinformation World Cup’…

“Saturday’s online toxicity may have felt novel, but it’s part of a familiar cycle: What cannot be easily explained is answered by convenient untruths. The worst voices are rewarded for growing louder and gain outsize influence directing narratives. With each cycle, the outrage and contempt for the other builds. Each extreme becomes certain its enemy has manipulated public perception; each side is the victim, but each is also, inexplicably, winning. The poison spreads.”
Charlie Warzel, New York Times

“The one thing that both sides seem to agree on is that they believe the other side to be capable of anything, including murder. In an already tense political situation, spreading conspiracy theories only serves to further inflame political passions. We should all sit back, take a deep breath, and wait for the facts before we make up our minds rather than squaring facts with what we want to believe.”
David Thornton, The Resurgent

Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted, “Scrutiny of how #Epstein was able to commit suicide is warranted. But the immediate rush to spread conspiracy theories about someone on the ‘other side’ of partisan divide having him killed illustrates why our society is so vulnerable to foreign disinformation & influence efforts.”
Marco Rubio, Twitter


Finally, many are skeptical about the prison system in general:

“You don’t have to believe in conspiracy to question the competence of the Federal Bureau of Prisons… The death by apparent suicide of the politically connected financier couldn’t have been scripted better to undermine trust in law enforcement and the prison and legal systems… Mr. Barr has asked the Justice Department inspector general and the FBI to investigate, and the results need to be made public for the sake of public confidence.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Having dealt with BOP for many years, I believe Epstein's suicide could have been prevented had prison officials followed the policies and protocols in place for at-risk inmates. But I don't think that means that the prison guards or staff intentionally looked the other way while Epstein killed himself. In my practice, I have often been frustrated by the incompetence of certain BOP correctional officers and management. While it is possible something more nefarious was at play, I think it is much more likely that Epstein's suicide was the result of negligence and not some grand conspiracy.”
Page Pate, CNN

If you are shocked by a jail suicide you aren’t paying attention to the grim conditions of incarceration in America… inmate suicides are such a regular part of life in American prisons and jails that none of us should be surprised whenever they occur. They are the leading cause of death behind bars, and have been for many years, and the problem seems to be getting worse. The latest statistics, from 2014, tell us the rate of suicides in jails was the highest it’s been since at least 2000… The only real conspiracy here is the ageless one between and among prison guards and jail officials who too often treat at-risk inmates with callous disregard and deliberate indifference.”
Andrew Cohen, New Republic


Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left believes Sanders’s chances have improved, but notes that obstacles still remain.

“When, if ever, will there be charges for all the helpers, procurers and hangers-on in Epstein’s network of sleaze -- up to and including his longtime partner Ghislaine Maxwell… publicly accused of pimping for her wealthy, perverted ‘best friend.’ Then there’s the next level -- the U.S. attorney-turned-Cabinet secretary who gave Epstein a cushy deal and has walked away with a pat on the back from President Trump, and the Palm Beach sheriff who turned Epstein’s previous brush with justice into a joke, and all the other compromised folks in our injustice system…

“It’s not just Epstein, and it’s not this one case. It’s not even just the horrors that have been exposed in two years of the #MeToo scandals, where abuses by the world’s most powerful men in show business, media, the arts, big business and, yes, politics have been covered up if not openly tolerated for years ... centuries, really. It’s the growing awareness that the current American system has lost the capacity to hold anyone accountable in any position of power or influence… Americans are bitter, confused, and most of all angry. And they have absolutely no faith in the people who are in charge. I know I don’t.”
Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Regarding President Trump’s retweet of a commentator’s assertion that Bill and Hillary Clinton were behind Epstein’s death, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) stated, “This is just more recklessness… What he is doing is dangerous. He is giving life to not just conspiracy theories but really whipping people up into anger and worse against different people in this country."
Lauren Egan, NBC News

“Republicans have successfully maneuvered around the evidence that already exists for removing Donald Trump from office. Their ability to do so probably wouldn’t change even if damning new information came out, but it’s nevertheless in their interest to keep anything new from coming out. That’s why 13 hours were spent on Tuesday rejecting Democratic amendments to subpoena new witnesses and documents at the outset of the trial… The strategy was to block Democrats from obtaining new material, and then to mock their presentation for failing to present any new material. In judging it that way, they elide the crucial question: Whether Donald Trump had admirably discharged his duties as president in the Ukraine affair.”
Jim Newell, Slate

At last night’s debate, Warren “called attention to a recent fundraiser Buttigieg held at a California wine cave. ‘The mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900-a-bottle wine,’ the Massachusetts senator said…

Buttigieg responded with a slippery claim that he was the only one on stage who wasn’t a millionaire or billionaire. But that’s true only because of his youth. He’s likely to be quite wealthy when he’s the age of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. In fact, as the child of two university professors, Buttigieg grew up wealthier than almost anyone on the stage. Further, pointing to his relative wealth did nothing to address the issue that his fundraising is coming from wealthy donors… If the goal of the other candidates was to sabotage Buttigieg’s campaign, they might have succeeded.”
Jeet Heer, The Nation

“Yes, the Constitution states that public officials may only be impeached for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but that phrase had an expansive meaning when it was written into the Constitution… The impeachment power, Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, extends to ‘those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.’... As a member of Congress, James Madison argued that a president could be impeached for ‘wanton removal of meritorious officers.’… Trump’s claim that he was improperly impeached is simply wrong.”
Ian Millhiser, Vox

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right applauds Trump’s speech and argues that his Iran strategy has been successful.

From the Right

Assembling an innocent explanation of Epstein’s death requires assuming a staggering amount of incompetenceon the part of MCC Manhattan staff. Despite a near-miss on July 30, they would have had to innocently give their most infamous and high-profile criminal defendant the means and opportunity to kill himself, and in doing so, utterly fail at their most basic responsibilities… Many people had a powerful motive to see Epstein dead. It’s perfectly reasonable to think the man might have been murdered.”
Will Chamberlain, Human Events

“It’s still possible that Epstein reallydid commit suicide today. After all, he’d attempted it once before, and it appeared that the power of his money and connections had finally failed him… His money could help him cope in federal prison, but only to a small extent. That huge fall in lifestyle certainly would lead to some despair. On the other hand, that despair seems at least a little premature… He still had the funds to hire a fleet of the country’s best attorneys to extricate him from his troubles and options still left on the table…

“Among those options would be to start naming names of the men who accompanied Epstein on his sexual exploitation of underaged girls. Prosecutors might have been interested enough in that information to trade it off for a little window of freedom for Epstein at the end of his eventual incarceration. That’s why Epstein’s suicide seems so very suspicious at this point — because of that very powerful card Epstein still had left to play against some very powerful men.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Some argue that “with war on the horizon, we must demand a clear objective for staying, fighting, spending taxpayer dollars and most certainly sending some of our young men and women to their deaths… Iran’s strength is its use of insurgent and terror tactics. America’s strength is our ability to project power. We are fools if we stay in striking distance of Iran, playing to its strengths. U.S. forces are fully capable of striking from afar and crippling Iraq and Iran economically if that become necessary until Iraq decides it wants to join the rest of the world and detach itself from Iran’s axis of ruin. If we keep our roughly 5,000 troops in Iraq – or add more troops – we are likely to be drawn into a war with Iran that will be impossible to withdraw from.”
Joe Kent, Fox News

“Did Bill Taylor deliver the smoking-gun testimony House Democrats need to justify their drive for impeachment? Or did GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe ‘destroy’ the former Ukraine charges d’affaires in two minutes flat, as Nunes claimed last night?… The only way to really know what happened is to see the transcripts, and the serial leaks out of the SCIF make Schiff’s security arguments a bad joke… No one should trust any of these reports until we see the transcripts. In fact, no one should put any confidence in this process until it gets conducted openly, honestly, and fairly. House Republicans might have been conducting a stunt this morning, but the purpose of that stunt is spot-on. The House Democrats’ star-chamber approach is an affront to justice and due process, and their conduct in using selective leaks to goose public opinion from these proceedings is nothing short of despicable.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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