The Skiing in MOAB
Thursday’s show began with an overview of the MOAB: the “mother of all bombs/massive ordinance air blast” that was dropped on a network of tunnels in Eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.
“Yes, it might have been very useful for destroying tunnels that ISIS has dug,” Buck began. “But people say this also is a signal, a signal to dictators around the world that there is no tool the government is unwilling to use. The reinstating of ‘all options are on the table, but we mean it.'”
Buck contrasted that decision with that of the Obama administration, “which said ‘all options are on the table’ with regard to Iran, but didn’t mean it.”
“The bin Laden raid gave the Obama administration credibility and political capital here at home that it would not have otherwise had. But when you look at it, there was plenty of executive dithering on that, as well.”
North Korea, Nuclear Personality
Buck then pivoted the discussion to North Korea, which is signalling it may try to pull off a military action, possibly the detonation of a nuclear weapon, this Saturday to mark the birthday of Kim Il-Sung.
“We have to stop thinking this is a problem that will go away on its own,” Buck said. “The policy objective when it comes to North Korea has been containment and, I kid you not, ‘strategic patience.’ And that has been…a total failure. This is a problem that the Trump administration inherits from an Obama administration that did very little. We’ve got to do something about this. The clock is not on our side. North Korea just gets closer and closer to being able to destroy a US city. And getting China on our side is a critical step going forward.”
Buck played a clip of Douglas MacArthur’s Farewell Address, which was delivered about this time seventy years ago.
“The conflict Macarthur was talking about has never really ended,” Buck said. “There’s no peace treaty in place.”
“All of this is a work in progress,” summarized Buck. “We’ve had a couple decades of failed policies, nuclear freezes that weren’t freezes. The North Koreans act badly and get stuff in response.”
Buck quoted the late Christopher Hitchens, who’d visited North Korea, that North Korea was “a concentration camp above ground, a mass grave below.”
On the Media’s Anti-Enlightenment Nature
Following that discussion, Buck brought on Charles Cooke, editor of National Review Online, to discuss, among other matters, an incident involving a reporter Tweeting his outrage over a comment by Jeff Sessions that was not only taken out of context, but never actually said.
Sessions allegedly referred to illegal immigrants as “filth” when, in fact, the use of the word “filth” was intended to be in reference to drug cartels. To further complicate matters, Sessions never spoke the line; it was part of his written speech, which was released to the press pool, but he did not say it aloud.
Filth. He described illegal immigrants as “filth.”
Whatever your views on immigration that’s f**king embarrassing for a US official to say. https://t.co/sl5x5uLObK
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) April 11, 2017
“There’s a pattern here, and it’s a pattern born of ignorance and misunderstanding, and some of it is willful,” Cooke said. “The fact is that since Donald Trump was elected, the press seems to have put down its fact-checking red pens, and seems to have abandoned its skepticism. And the reason for that is that it has preconceivied notions not only for what conservatives believe but what Donald Trump and those around him are like.”
“It’s contributing to a culture in which people don’t listen to the press, and don’t believe what they read in the newspapers,” Cooke said. “And that’s not good at all.”
Buck inquired whether these apparent mistakes weren’t, in fact, useful.
Cooke agreed. “There’s a tiny piece of heresy, and the piece gets written. And it later comes out there was nothing to it at all. This has become something of a party trick. The lie gets 10,000 retweets, and the correction gets 100, if that. I think there’s a more sinister thing at play. It’s a rejection of the Enlightenment. The truth is the truth, reason is reason, yet when it is pointed out that the critics of Trump and his administration are wrong, one hears, ‘Well, they aren’t good people anyway.'”
“We saw this perfectly illustrated with Sean Spicer,” Cooke continued. “Nobody believes Sean Spicer is a Holocaust denier, but the press was quick to label him as such because he made a bad analogy.”
Buck invited Rich Lowry, editor of National Review and a Fox News and Politico syndicated columnist, into the Freedom Hut to discuss the “palace intrigue” storyline involving a rift between Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, and how it might affect policy going forward.
“Some people tell me this is huge for the direction of this White House,” observed Buck.
“I think it is pretty consequential,” Lowry replied. “Trump is so unformed, and so susceptible to the last advice he’s heard from anyone. And if Jared and Ivanka and Gary Cohn really become totally ascendant, it will affect policy. We might’ve already seen that this week, with Trump backing off on labeling China a currency manipulator, backing off on his opposition to the Export-Import Bank. And if Bannon is exiled entirely, their influence would only grow.”
“And if Bannon goes, what do you make of the direction of this White House?” asked Buck. “What does a Bannon-less White House mean?”
“I’d be worried if he goes,” Lowry replied. “I’m not a huge Bannon fan. I don’t like the protectionism, I don’t like the chaos. But he’s a populist/conservative, and he helps keep Trump grounded somewhere in that conservative populist spectrum. What I would worry is that Jared and Cohn…pull Trump back on immigration restrictionism, that they don’t want to have a fight on Planned Parenthood in a spending bill. If those things get softened and pulled back, that’s my worry.”
Sorry If We Offend, But…
Finally, Buck invited psychology professor Scott Lilienfeld of Emory University to the Freedom Hut. Lilienfeld recently released a paper that claimed that microaggressions not only have no psychological effect, they may not even be real, or scientifically verifiable.
“There’s no doubt there are subtle forms of pressure,” Lilienfeld said. “The problem is that the microaggression as it is currently conceptualized is so broad and so diffuse that it can include almost anything. It’s entirely subjective, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Anyone in principle can be offended by anything someone says. It’s so vague and elastic that it’s lent itself to potential abuse.”
Lilienfeld discussed another problem with microaggressions: their baggage.
“The term itself, and the baggage associated with that term, are problematic. Most microaggressions are probably inadvertent racial or cultural slights. And I worry that deeming them aggressive might not just be inaccurate, but may fuel racial tensions.”
“It automatically creates an atmosphere of fear and paranoia that’s not based on societal norms,” Lilienfeld continued. “Additionally, the assumption here is that microaggressions are linked to adverse mental health outcomes. But it’s not clear there’s a direct causal relationship between the two.”
“We all have our biases,” Lilienfeld said, “and if the concept of microaggressions is used as an opening salvo, they can be constructive, it may help people to realize where each group is coming from. The problem is that microaggressions are not the beginning of the conversation, they’re the end of the conversation.”