A New Period of Consequences
Plus, Ketanji Brown Jackson: Patriotism and Pride
Recently at The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: DJT reminds us (again)...
JVL: Counting the Dead
SONNY BUNCH: Why Is YA Fiction So Broken? 🔐
BILL RYAN: The Best Picture Nominees: A Retrospective.
You can support The Bulwark by subscribing to Bulwark+ or just by sharing this newsletter with someone you think would value it.
WILLIAM KRISTOL: A New Period of Consequences.
The subject of Churchill’s remarks was that Britain needed a major increase in defense spending. It was then—in November 1936—that Churchill was already lamenting British complacency. It was in 1936 that he deplored the failure to take seriously the threats of the new world in which Britain found itself. It was in 1936 that Churchill tried to urge a new seriousness and willingness to face facts and their challenging consequences.
And even then, in 1936, Churchill acknowledged his surprise that “the dangers that have so swiftly come upon us in a few years, and have been transforming our position and the whole outlook of the world.”
He warned that there was no quick solution to the problem Great Britain faced: “We have entered a period in which for more than a year, or a year and a half, the considerable preparations which are now on foot . . . will not . . . yield results which can be effective. . . . It is this lamentable conjunction of events which seems to present the danger of Europe in its most disquieting form.”
THEODORE R. JOHNSON: Ketanji Brown Jackson: Patriotism and Pride.
The first day of the Senate confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination went as expected, with the Judiciary Committee members playing their parts: Democratic senators lavished her with praise while most Republican senators congratulated her on the nomination before challenging several of her judicial decisions. And then, there were the handful of Republicans who used the stage for other purposes, such as throwing partisan mud, or making disingenuous attacks on Judge Jackson, or advertising their podcasts. But it was Judge Jackson’s own statement, delivered at the conclusion of today’s proceedings, that stole the show.
Amid the short walk through her biography and the gratitude expressed to her loved ones, Ketanji Brown Jackson expressed her love of America in the same breath as her pride in being a black woman. Given how poorly national conversations on race in this country tend to go, it was striking to see how she simultaneously embraced the two.
She declared early on that “the first of my many blessings is the fact that I was born in the great nation,” and vowed that, if confirmed, she would “work productively to support and defend the Constitution and the grand experiment of American democracy that has endured over these past 246 years.” Her testimony echoed sentiments expressed in her nomination acceptance remarks at the White House last month: “The United States of America is the greatest beacon of hope and democracy the world has ever known.”
Melania prefers Dr. Oz, Greitens may have just enough shamelessness to win Trump's blessing, and Ohio GOP Senate candidates are on the cusp of a fistfight. A.B. Stoddard joins Charlie Sykes today to give an update on the midterms.
Bulwark+ members can listen to an ad-free version of this podcast on the player of their choice. Learn more at Bulwark+ Podcast FAQ.
MICHAEL J. TOTTEN: No Certainties in Ukraine Outcome.
In 2003, years before General David Petraeus rescued Americans and Iraqis from civil war and a terrorist-driven insurgency in Iraq, he famously said to military historian Rick Atkinson, “Tell me how this ends.” Not even Petraeus knew in advance how that miserable conflict would end, and he had more of a say in how it finally did than almost anyone.
Petraeus doesn’t know how the Russia-Ukraine War will end either—and neither do I, and neither do you. Yet no shortage of people in Western media and especially on social media have already made up their minds that one side or the other is bound to prevail, with their moods ranging from elation and schadenfreude to despondency.
Hardly anything in this world is as unpredictable as war. Projecting the outcome isn’t rocket surgery—it’s harder. We can’t plot trend lines on a graph the way epidemiologists can forecast COVID-19 surges or meteorologists can predict rising temperatures as winter gives way to spring. The beginning of a new war, as a notorious German tyrant once put it, is like “pushing open the door to a dark room, never seen before, without knowing what lies behind the door.”
The March 18 New York Times editorial that caused the big outcry, titled “America Has a Free Speech Problem,” is a good-faith effort hampered by not-so-great execution. The problem shows up in the opening paragraph:
For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims, Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.
The critics have a point: there is no such thing as a right so speak without having to worry about “being shamed or shunned.” It’s true that the editorial goes on to say (several paragraphs down) that the issue here isn’t First Amendment rights, it’s a cultural climate inhospitable to speech. But the editorial, and its accompanying poll, further muddies the waters when it seems to conflate criticism with persecution (i.e., doing precisely what “cancel culture” foes are often accused by progressives of doing). The first three poll questions cited in the editorial, which deal with people’s experiences of self-censorship and bullying, refers to “retaliation or harsh criticism” for speech. But these things should not be lumped together, and besides, “harsh criticism” is an extremely vague phrase that could refer to anything from “that argument should be taken out and shot for torturing logic” to “that argument is racist and misogynistic.” The “harsh criticism” that serves as a “cancel culture” enforcement mechanism has two essential characteristics: accusations of moral atrocity (usually some form of bigotry or insensitivity to bigotry) and collective judgment or shaming.
It’s not everyday… That a U.S. Senate candidate shares an article that accuses me of lying. But that’s what happened yesterday!
The fun backstory is this: I called the Minnesota GOP, left a voicemail seeking comment. I recorded this voicemail and have a timestamp of my call. The MN GOP responded with a statement:
I got a kick out of this, naturally. So, I was typing a response with a copy of my voice message to the MN GOP and from whom do I get a call? Mike Lonergan!
I was about to tell Mike I am happy to add their statement, minus the incorrect part about me never contacting them. And then we chatted, because they called me back! Mike’s from Ohio, like me, and I told him that even if their front office messed up and didn’t check their voicemail, perhaps they should do a better job of that. I didn’t want to make them look even worse (“looking forward to hosting J.D. Vance” is bad enough) so I left it out.
But then, a fringe website run by Steve Bannon’s old buddy Raheem Kassam ran a story with the statement above. Which has me wondering: Who sent it to him? J.D. Vance or the Minnesota GOP? And who would want to be affiliated with him?
Either way, the rot in the GOP is real, and it’s funny to see an accidental own-goal can reveal who leaks what to whom in real time.
What is your risk of poverty? Take the test!
The trucker rally in D.C. is going just fine… Totally normal stuff here.
Welcome to Belarus! If only more insurrectionists would consider leaving, we’d appreciate it. America, love it or leave it.
Accountability to others… Consider it the price of freedom.
The weirdest Taco Bell I’ve ever seen. I thought it was a BB&T in Alexandria, until I saw this one.
Parkour? Nah, barkour.
That’s it for me. Tech support questions? Email email@example.com. Questions for me? Respond to this message.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. For full credits, please consult the article.