It Took a Village to Raise Kavanaugh

Kavanaugh is the product of a community. He is the product of a conservative legal infrastructure that develops ideas, recruits talent, links rising stars, nurtures genius, molds and launches judicial nominees. It almost doesn’t matter which Republican is president. The conservative legal infrastructure is the entity driving the whole project. It almost doesn’t even matter if Kavanaugh is confirmed or shot down; there are dozens more who can fill the vacancy, just as smart and just as conservative.

This community didn’t just happen; it was self-consciously built. If you want to understand how to permanently change the political landscape, it’s a good idea to study and be inspired how it was done.

Back in the 1970s, the legal establishment was liberal. Yale Law School was the dynamic center of liberal legal thinking. Lawyers who had begun their careers during the New Deal were at the height of their power and prestige. The Ford Foundation funded a series of legal aid organizations to advance liberal causes and to dominate the law schools.

.. Business groups funded a series of conservative public interest law firms. But the business groups had no intellectual heft, they were opportunistic and they had zero moral appeal.

.. First came the critique. In 1980, Michael Horowitz wrote a seminal report for the Sarah Scaife Foundation, explaining why conservatives were impotent in the legal sphere. Horowitz suggested, for example, that conservative legal organizations pick cases in which they represented underdogs against big institutions associated with the left.

.. Then came the intellectual entrepreneurs. Aaron Director of the University of Chicago Law School inspired many of the thinkers — like Ronald Coase and Richard Posner — who would create the law and economics movement.

.. This movement was funded by groups like the John M. Olin Foundation, which was willing to invest for the long term and not worry about “metrics” or “measurable outcomes.”

.. Then came the network entrepreneurs. In 1982, a group of law students including Lee Liberman Otis, David McIntosh and Steven Calabresi founded the Federalist Society, which was fundamentally a debating society.

.. The Federalist Society spread to other law schools and beyond pretty quickly. It turned into a friendship community and a professional network, identifying conservative law students who could be promoted to fill clerkships.

.. the key features of the Federalist Society were the limits it would put on itself. It did not take stands on specific policy issues. It did not sponsor litigation on behalf of favorite causes. It did not rate judicial nominees the way the American Bar Association did.

.. Otis, McIntosh and Calabresi all went to work in the Reagan administration. They are now part of a vast army of conservative legal cadres, several generations deep, working throughout the system or at organizations like the Center for Individual Rights and the Institute for Justice.

.. Trump bucked the conservative foreign policy establishment and the conservative economic establishment, but he’s given the conservative legal establishment more power than ever before, which is why there are so few never-Trumpers in legal circles.

.. The members often break down on libertarian versus conservative lines, or, as we saw in the behind the scenes jockeying recently, between social conservatives (for Amy Coney Barrett) and establishment conservatives (for Brett Kavanaugh).


Conservatives Against Border Adjustment Tax

Former Rep. David McIntosh, the club’s president, said the House GOP was wrong to chase after the goal of revenue-neutral tax policy. “Instead of trading one tax for another, the GOP needs to focus on cutting rates, and cutting spending and the size of government to match,”

.. Make no mistake, the BAT will inflict American working families – the very people critical for Donald Trump’s election – a whole lot of hurt … The BAT is absolutely unnecessary to attract businesses and capital to our shores. Cutting the profits tax to 15 percent and minimally taxing – or not taxing at all – overseas earnings would lead to a flood of money pouring into the U.S. Countless foreign companies would be eager to set up shop here

.. Former Reagan Economic Advisor Arthur Laffer:

I think the border tax adjustment is a major mistake to put into legislation. It’s a huge bureaucratic mess to be honest with you. If it’s done ideally, Maria, which would be a tax on imports matched by a subsidy on exports of the equal size, it would have the same effect as devaluing the currency which would lead to domestic inflation. But if you look at it, there will be all sorts of nuances, all sorts of political grab bags going in the process and I just think they should just do tax rate reductions, get rid of this pay-for notion and don’t touch a border tax adjustment. It just makes no sense.

The Overlooked Menace of ‘Gangster Islam’

.. The sections I found most eye-opening were how the jihadist movement is flourishing not among the particularly religious but among the angry young men who are looking for a justification for their preexisting violent and aggressive impulses.

[Former Brussels Mayor Philippe} Moureaux told me, “we never had any evidence that the trouble eminates from the mosques.” Geraldine, mother of Anis, said that her son never attended mosques but was radicalized by people “on the street.” Her opinion was echoed by almost everybody I met in Molenbeek. “The people that do this,” one source told me, “are more familiar with a bar stool than a prayer mat.”

.. The networks responsible, he said, are dominated by a Tunisian mafia.

Can the Club for Growth Survive Donald Trump?

The free-market group spent big to defeat Trump, but he proved its supporters weren’t quite as faithful as once thought.

In the early Obama years, the group helped achieve its longstanding goal—the virtual annihilation of moderate Republicanism—by bankrolling Tea Party candidates. By 2015, it had become, arguably, the most influential anti-establishment interest group in politics and was closely aligned with the ascendant House Freedom Caucus. But in 2016, the Club for Growth watched in horror as millions of its ostensible supporters flocked to a candidate who shared few of its most cherished beliefs. Worse yet, Trump had won them over by co-opting the Club’s most reliable tactic—channeling anarchic rage at establishment politicians.

.. “The Club for Growth is both anti-Trump and anti-establishment,” Walsh says. “They’re seeing their slice of the GOP pie shrink.”

.. The Club was founded in 1999 by the banker/activists Richard Gilder and Thomas Rhodes, and the economic pundit Stephen Moore. All three were supply-siders in an era of moderate Republicanism. The group’s mission was to rid Washington of tax-and-spenders and replace them with extreme fiscal hawks.

.. Their darlings included incoming Sens. Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey, a former Club for Growth president.

.. Suddenly, any sitting Republican to the left of Ayn Rand—the group wields scorecards—risked getting primaried by a Club-sponsored insurgent.

.. Indeed, the group’s super PAC has historically been funded by a handful of super-rich white men, including financiers Jackson and Warren Stephens of Little Rock, New York hedge fund baron Robert Mercer and PayPal founder/Gawker Media bête noire Peter Thiel.

.. “When Ted Cruz … ‘shut the government down,’ people would ask, ‘What do you think of the guy now?’” says Chocola, “I’d say, ‘I love the guy. Tell me one thing he advocates that’s not in the GOP platform. The difference is he would actually fight for it.’”

.. May, Club President David McIntosh met with the candidate at Trump Tower. Accounts of the event differ, but the result was that McIntosh wrote Trump a letter asking him for a donation of $1 million. He refused, the Club began airing attack ads, and a Twitter war broke out.

.. Finally, in July, the Club for Growth received some welcome news, when Trump selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate. During his congressional career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, nobody donated more to Pence than the Club.

.. In fact, as POLITICO reported last month, there is a widespread feeling in Washington that the Club has become little more than a fundraiser for the Freedom Caucus, at the expense of any other agenda.

.. “If the [Club for Growth] makes their top priority to increase the size of the House Freedom Caucus, what does that get?” asks a Republican strategist working with one such group. “On Nov. 9, you’re going to have a smaller House majority and possibly a larger House Freedom Caucus. That strikes me as a strange goal to have.”