March 28, 2019

Jussie Smollett

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!

“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 supports eliminating the electoral college, arguing that all votes should count equally regardless of which state they're from.

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

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

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 sees Buttigieg and Biden as the winners of the debate, and criticizes the answers on housing and foreign policy.

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

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

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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