Best columns: The U.S.
A new low for campus censorship
“My fellow liberals,” said Peter Beinart, “something has gone badly wrong on the campus Left.” When a conservative club at Middlebury College in Vermont tried last week to host a conversation between controversial author and scholar Charles Murray and a liberal professor, angry protesters shouted them down for 20 minutes until they finally gave up. The college moved Murray and the professor, Alison Stanger, to a new room, but a mob of dozens of protesters—some wearing ski masks to conceal their faces—shouted them down again, then swarmed and pushed them as they fled, injuring Stanger’s neck. Liberals might prefer to ignore the ugliness of this incident, because Murray’s views are “indeed odious”: He is most famous for arguing in The Bell Curve that the races may have genetic differences in intelligence. But if student mobs are permitted to block Murray’s free speech, they will censor virtually any conservative intellectual or Republican politician who, say, opposes climate change regulation or transgender rights. And if all conservative ideas become verboten, many liberals “will get shouted down, too,” including Zionists and Barack Obama, whose drone attacks leftists consider “war crimes.” Murray’s silencing is “a warning of things to come.”
Whatever happened to Rex Tillerson?
Los Angeles Times
“Rex Tillerson is like no other modern secretary of state: He’s largely invisible,” said Tracy Wilkinson. The former Exxon Mobil CEO, who gave up running one of the world’s largest corporate empires to serve Donald Trump’s administration, has barely appeared in public since his confirmation and has held no press briefings. Trump refused to let Tillerson hire his choice for No. 2, veteran diplomat Elliot Abrams, and has proposed making massive cuts in the department’s staffing and budget. Dozens of high-level positions within State have not been filled. The silver-haired Texan’s predecessors—John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell—were highly visible “global celebrities” with lots of influence over policy. But Trump is getting most of his foreign policy advice from his trusted son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon. Insiders say the State Department is “rudderless,” with no clear policy role or direction. Tillerson’s only foreign trips thus far were made with other Cabinet officials and served only to reassure Mexican and European leaders alarmed by Trump’s hostile statements. Will Tillerson ever play a significant role in this administration, or will he be “out of the loop” permanently? No one knows.
A new check on presidential power
The Washington Post
Now that Congress no longer serves as a check on “executive overreach,” said Charles Krauthammer, we must rely on “the revolt of the attorneys general.” In our constitutional system, Congress is supposed to be an equal branch of government. But in recent years, Congress has largely been “supine,” allowing President Obama to expand the power of the presidency to unprecedented heights. “Into that vacuum stepped the states.” Their attorneys general banded together to file lawsuits that succeeding in getting Obamacare’s forced Medicaid expansion struck down, and blocked his most extreme environmental regulations and his executive order essentially legalizing 4 million illegal immigrants. “Democrats noticed.” Their state attorneys general filed lawsuits that blocked Trump’s first version of the travel ban, and they’ll sue Trump on many of his executive actions. “Regardless of your policy preferences,” this is a welcome development: With Congress now a “subordinate branch,” our system needs a mechanism to restrain “executive willfulness.” The revolt of the states is a reassuring sign of our constitutional system’s “amphibian capacity to grow a new limb when an old one atrophies.”