March 28, 2019

Jussie Smollett

“Chicago prosecutors on Tuesday dropped charges accusing ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett of staging a phony hate crime… The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said it viewed the outcome as appropriate… First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats told the Chicago Sun-Times that the decision to drop the case did not mean Smollett is innocent of the charges, or that he was a victim.” Reuters

On Wednesday, the Chicago Police Department released its file on the case. ABC 7 Chicago

Many on both sides are highly critical of the prosecutor:

It’s an indefensible decision, a deal hashed out in secret, with — this is outrageous — Smollett not even required to take ownership of his apparent hoax. Not even required to apologize for allegedly exploiting hate crime laws. And not even required to reimburse Chicago taxpayers for the enormous cost of this investigation… Unless there’s yet one more big revelation in this case that makes the prosecutors’ decision sensible, it will further erode citizens’ trust in law enforcement.”
Editorial Board, Chicago Tribune

“Whatever Mr. Magats may pretend about this being no exoneration, Mr. Smollett and his attorneys are claiming exactly that. Mr. Smollett asserted as he left the courthouse that he’s been ‘truthful and consistent’ from the start, and he’s still claiming he was attacked by two people he was unable to identify. Mayor Emanuel and Police Superintendent Johnson are right.This deal stinks, and the city of Chicago deserves an apology.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left is disappointed that Mueller did not bolster the case for impeachment and criticizes Republicans for downplaying the threat of election interference.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press conference in which he stated, "This is an unbelievable…  whitewash of justice, this is a person now who got off scot-free with no sense of accountability of the moral and ethical wrong of his actions, from top to bottom, not only besmirching the name of the city... but you have a person using hate crime laws that are on the books to protect people who are minorities from violence, to turn around and use those laws to advance your career? Is there no decency in this man?"
RealClearPolitics

The explanation was as forced as it was false. First, Cook County presumably has not decided to confine prosecutions to violent crimes, or everything from blackmail to bank fraud to tax evasion would be effectively immunized…

“This was not just any nonviolent offense. Smollett sent a city into crisis and caused the Chicago Police Department to direct huge resources into the search for racist, homophobic Trump supporters terrorizing innocent citizens. Magats said that the office did not want to use limited resources to go after nonviolent crime, but it already spent those resources in uncovering the hoax and securing 16 charges. All that remained was what looked like a perfunctory trial.”
Jonathan Turley, The Hill

“I started caring about the Smollett story because of the reaction to the story, because we've come to view the justice system as just another tool to push political agendasinstead of the best way to determine truth and ensure justice… [For example] many liberals howled when Paul Manafort was given ‘only’ four years in prison -- even though liberals have been fighting against mass incarceration and unduly long and harsh prison sentences…

“Smollett shouldn't be top of mind, no matter whether he's telling the truth or really staged a phony attack to boost his chances of getting a raise. But he is. That doesn't mean he should be scapegoated for our inability to focus on things far more important. That's our fault, not his.”
Issac Bailey, CNN

Some argue that “few enraged by Smollett’s case seem to have considered what should be intuitive — that Tuesday’s decision was a perfectly reasonable response to a system that locks up far too many people while offering inadequate ways to address the most serious crimes… To the extent that incarceration is ever appropriate in its current American manifestation, it should be used sparingly to protect people from those who would harm them. Smollett clearly does not qualify.”
Zak Cheney-Rice, New York Magazine

“Beijing is [also] looking to a seemingly unlikely place for support: Europe. In recent days, Chinese ambassadors across the continent have gone on the offensive to rally Europe behind Hong Kong’s government and against the protestors. As part of their campaign to promote Beijing’s line, China’s ambassadors are publishing op-eds in local papers and publicly criticizing European leaders for failing to denounce what they are trying to frame as violent protests…

“While Washington has been antagonistic, Beijing has been careful to strike all the right chords… [But] to uphold their shared values, both the United States and Europe need to collectively push back against China’s unfair trade and investment practices, its blatant human rights abuses, and the anti-democratic norms and practices it seeks to spread… Europe must realize where its long-term interests lie, and not let [the Trump] administration or the allure of economic gains prevent the right choice. The health of liberal democracy will depend on it.”
Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Rachel Rizzo, Politico

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

The right criticizes Sanders and Warren for adopting far-left policies, and praises Marianne Williamson’s performance.

From the Right

Smollett isn't getting off because he is innocent. He is not innocent. He is something better than innocent. He is famous. The charges against him were dropped because someone in power called someone else in power and said, ‘Let him go.’ None of this had anything to do with justice. It's the opposite of justice.”
Tucker Carlson, Fox News

“Hate crimes happen every day. Sometimes to gay black men. Sometimes to Muslims. Sometimes to Jews. Hoaxes make real victims seem less believable, and they also unnecessarily exacerbate racial and political tension… In a country obsessed with the hierarchy of oppression, it’s rare to see anyone call a black gay man privileged. But what else do you call a person who fakes a hate crime, gets off scot-free, and doesn’t even offer so much as an apology?”
Daniella Greenbaum Davis, Spectator USA

“It ought to be blindingly obvious to Chicago prosecutors that if a hate-crime hoaxer is allowed to get away with it, this constitutes an engraved invitation to others who might be inclined to paint themselves as victims and bask in the inevitable national-cynosure status while precious police resources get tied up in one of the most dangerous cities in America on the investigation of nonexistent crimes… Some nominal fine and community service, unaccompanied by a guilty plea, fall far short of the degree of punishment that is necessary both to impress upon Smollett the gravity of what he has done and to deter future Smolletts from following his lead.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

Some argue that “Smollett’s celebrity and political connections may have been factors in the decisions made by Cook County prosecutors throughout the course of this case, including State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s decision to recuse herself. But the unfortunate truth is that such leniency isn’t rare in Chicago. Hardened criminals are constantly given sweet deals

“Last December, Marcus Moore was released from prison after serving just five months of a sentence for an assault, captured on camera, that led to the death of Marques Gaines. Moore, according to the Chicago Tribune, was ‘a five-time felon with 33 arrests by Chicago police.’... last summer, police charged two men with attempted murder after they live-streamed on Facebook the vicious beating of a 42-year-old man. The two were both on parole and had more than 20 prior arrests between them… Chicago violence is frequently committed by repeat offenders—many released with pending cases, paroled after serving only a portion of their sentences, or given probation despite troubling criminal histories.”
Rafael Mangual, City Journal

Regarding the decision to label China a currency manipulator, “traders may fear the tiny devaluation signals trade conflict spreading to currency. [But] this is highly unlikely, because a steep devaluation would be destabilizing for China… If an extended depreciation is encouraged or permitted, RMB holders can only guess what level the government truly wants. Last time around — four years ago — they chose large-scale capital flight rather than trusting the People’s Bank. China’s economy is slower, older, and more indebted than back then. Most importantly, it no longer has the foreign exchange to afford a repeat of 2015–6. That’s why the People’s Bank is likely to continue to defend the RMB near 7 to the dollar.”
Derek M. Scissors, The National Interest

“Trump should be overjoyed. Tariffs are taxes paid by Americans on the things Americans buy. The only way China can be paying any of them is if something else, something extra, then happens — like the yuan dropping. This makes all imports into China more expensive for Chinese citizens. That's China paying for Trump's tariffs when the yuan falls. Without this happening, only Americans pay. With the yuan dropping, China pays as well. This is the claim Trump has been making all along, that China's really paying those trade taxes — now they are… Imposing significant export tariffs on a country should mean the value of that currency falls. This is what is happening. Why is Trump complaining about it?
Tim Worstall, Washington Examiner

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

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

Outside Hong Kong, the silence Is deafening… Some protesters in Hong Kong today are adopting the British Union Jack flag, the American flag and the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as symbols, yet that doesn’t seem to have stirred our collective imaginations… Americans are preoccupied with fighting each other over political correctness, gun violence, Trump and the Democratic candidates for president. To be sure, those issues deserve plenty of attention. But they are soaking up far too much emotional energy, distracting attention from the all-important struggles for liberty around the world…

“It’s 2019, and the land of the American Revolution, a country whose presidents gave stirring speeches about liberty and freedom in Berlin during the Cold War, remains in a complacent slumber. It really is time to Make America Great Again — if only we could remember what that means.”
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg

On the bright side...

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.