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Stirewaltisms: For Memorial Day, Give It a Rest
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Stirewaltisms: For Memorial Day, Give It a Rest

Take the weekend off from having political opinions—or at least audibly gurgling about them.

FOR MEMORIAL DAY, GIVE IT A REST

This product is a day late and $1.50 short (inflation), and I have no better excuse than having briefly been too busy to be alive. I’m sorry. 

And kindly excuse this eat-dessert-first format, in which we will answer the Mailbag at the top, before the news and news-like content. Also, some bear jokes. 

Please have a lovely, peaceful time this weekend, whether you are solemn or celebratory. And avoid talking about politics, if you can. Take Memorial Day weekend off from having political opinions—or at least audibly gurgling about them. If we could all give it a rest for three days, it would be a worthwhile sign of respect for the sacrifices of people who gave their lives apolitically. 

My version of patriotism says I should love my fellow citizens at least as much as I love my nation-state. Why would I care so intently about politics and government if I didn’t love the people those things were made to serve? It is neither loving nor productive to go around telling people they are wrong. 

We ask the members of our armed forces to be willing to die at the direction of governments of either party. We owe them the effort of treating each other as worthy of such a grave responsibility. 

MAILBAG

“Very simple set of questions on a complex issue. … Why are the liberal Dems not fully behind the U.S. as an energy independent nation? In your opinion, had we become or almost become energy independent during Mr. Trump’s last year in office? It’s driving me nuts to be paying what I do for gas when I’m pretty sure we as a nation don’t have to be doing this.”Rick Randell, Bradenton, Florida

It gets a little stickier than that, Mr. Randell. The United States is the world’s largest producer of oil, and has been since 2018. In 2020 and 2021, the U.S. was a net exporter of petroleum, though early forecasts for this year said that we would end up as a net importer. Of course, that was before the steepest climb of energy prices got underway, so one imagines that production will be way up. 

Trump certainly played a part in juicing production by opening up more federal lands for exploration and approving more permits through the Interior Department, but presidential policies have much less influence on oil production and prices than market forces. Or, looked at another way, presidents are small market forces. 

The increase in average U.S. oil production after the first four years of Barack Obama’s administration was 37.7 percent. The increase during Trump’s four years was 25.3 percent. That’s not about energy policy (lolz), that’s about the fact that Obama took office when demand had been crushed by the panic of 2008 and started his second term amid modest economic growth. Trump came in amid a growing economy and then rode it higher, but left(ish) office with the economy gutted by coronavirus. 

We are energy independent in the sense that we could meet all of our own energy demands domestically, but it is cheaper for Americans in some places to buy oil from abroad, especially from Canada and Mexico, while more profitable for other Americans to sell oil overseas, like to India, China, and South Korea. 

If we had some kind of state-run oil company, as some still do, we could require that oil produced in the U.S. be sold only in the U.S. That would not only drive prices here higher without the cheaper imports, it would drive global prices up by bottling up our surplus. Increased global energy costs mean more expensive imports and slower growth in foreign markets where Americans sell their goods and services. Plus, such a company would be massively corrupt and hugely inefficient. Right now, we have economic growth combined with massive disruptions to world oil flows because of Russia’s folly: High demand plus scarcity. 

My guess is that prices will drop soon. Unfortunately, the likely cause will be another recession and a corresponding decrease in demand. Democrats generally favor more expensive, greener energy sources, while Republicans tend to support cheap energy for economic growth. But neither can stop the business cycle.

“Loved this column, but would like even better to see the follow-up. If you were putting on the hat of ‘real leadership,’ informed by your extensive campaign experience, what offering do you think the public would ‘buy?’ What needs to be on the market that isn’t?”—Nancy Lippincott, Cincinnati, Ohio

Nice try, Ms. Lippincott, but I’m not giving up my day job! There are already plenty of people with lots and lots of policy opinions. I’d rather talk about HOW we make our decisions and choose our policy paths, which probably turns out to be more important anyway. What I think Americans would most definitely “buy,” would be policies put forward in good faith in well-functioning political institutions by leaders with political courage. 

“You’ve written often about the tendency among those of us who are politically engaged to hyperventilate about our current moment, whether out of historical narcissism, or simply due to too much time spent on Twitter. But have you considered your own role—and that of your colleagues at the Dispatch—in fueling that anxiety? I mean that in good faith. I respect you and everyone at TD. But, while few who know me would call me an optimist, I think I’m more sanguine about the country than you or Steve or Sarah. Last week, in his interview with Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns, Steve used the words ‘a pre-written obituary for the country’ to describe their book. I get that he was in interview mode, not necessarily describing his own opinion, but that is a shocking statement. From where I stand (and I’ve been doing a lot of traveling around the country), we’re not on death’s door. Last year, on an episode of The Remnant, you told Jonah that the Republicans would end American democracy if given control of Congress in 2022. Is that a mischaracterization of what you said? While I’ve never been a fan of McCarthy, et. al., I distinctly remember your assessment being far bleaker than anything I would have said. Do you seriously think we’re close to the end of American democracy? If so, what does that mean for your critiques of Americans as being overly anxious? If anything, wouldn’t it mean that someone in my position should be more worried, not less? Finally, if you seriously think that we’re in such a dire moment, what are you doing about it? If I seriously thought democracy was about to end, I don’t think I could sit around and do nothing. Very Respectfully,”—Ben Connelly, Charlottesville, Virginia

I’m struggling, Mr. Connelly, to craft a thoughtful defense of how you think I feel and why I “sit around and do nothing” about what you say I believe. That’s kind of a tight corner you’re putting me in. Nor is it my place to defend my colleagues against your charges. Steve and Sarah are more than capable of speaking for themselves. 

I can only tell you how I feel, which is that America remains the last, best hope of earth and that I believe we will recover our footing and continue to fill that role. I also believe, though, that we are in a very bad spot when it comes to our system of government and civic virtue. “As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide,” is as true today as when Abraham Lincoln spoke the words 184 years ago. And in recent years we have surely contemplated taking the latter option. 

Indeed, there seems to be an almost fetishic obsession with self-destruction on the nationalist right and progressive left. But I don’t think most Americans feel that way, if only because most people try to avoid thinking or talking about politics too much. For the folks who are the most engaged, however, it’s been a very ugly season. The upside is that the anger, extremism, and anti-Americanism that became so common is producing a counter-reaction among those concerned about our direction. 

But we don’t know how this story will go, so I urge you not to be so deterministic.The choices we make in the next four years will likely shape our politics in profound ways for decades to come. I hope and believe that Americans will again return to the virtues of our Founding, but that is no guarantee. The stakes are high and the possibility of failure is very real. But I am not anxious about that. I am not anxious about anything, because all I can do is the work that is in front of me and remain cheerful in it. Whatever troubles we face as individuals or as a nation, never be anxious. Even if the worst someday comes to pass, worry is only ever a thief. I generally urge people to avoid highs and lows in politics. Just stay after it, do the right thing, and hope for the best. 

I’m sorry you’re frustrated with what you perceive to be my pessimism, and I appreciate you writing in to share your concerns. But please bear in mind that citizenship is not a choice between feelings. It is a choice between construction and destruction. In my little corner of the world, I’m working on a building.


Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.


STATSHOT

Biden job performance

Average approval: 38 percent
Average disapproval: 57.2 percent
Net score: -19.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 3.6 points
Change from one month ago: ↓ 6.4 points

[Average includes: Ipsos/Reuters: 36% approve-59% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve-54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 35% approve-57% disapprove; AP/NORC: 39% approve-60% disapprove; NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College: 39% approve-56% disapprove]

Generic congressional ballot 

Democrats: 44.2 percent
Republicans: 46.8 percent
Net advantage: Republican Party +2.6 points
Change from one week ago: No change
Change from one month ago: Republican Party ↑ 2 points

[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 43% Democrat; 47% Republican; NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College: 47% Democrat, 42% Republican; NBC News: 46% Democrat, 46% Republican; Monmouth University: 43% Democrat, 50% Republican; CNN/SSRS: 42% Democrat, 49% Republican]


TIME OUT: A MULLIGAN 

New York Times: “Buffeted by rising costs and declining interest from golfers, the Links at Queen Creek course closed two years ago after 26 years of operation. But with the demand for housing in Arizona soaring, Walt Brown Jr. saw a different fate for the 106-acre parcel of grass and palm trees southeast of Phoenix. … Across the country, developers … see potential for construction on struggling golf courses. Large expanses of grass and trees sewn into the fabric of prosperous communities look like open space ripe for development. When it comes to golf courses, though, looks can be deceiving, and developers have learned to be cautious. … From 1986 to 2006, 4,400 new courses were built around the country. … But since then, more than 1,000 have closed. Many others have gone on the market as revenues decline and operational expenses climb, including the high cost of water for irrigation.”


ABBOTT BACKS OUT OF NRA CONVENTION 

KPRC: “[Texas] Governor Greg Abbott will no longer make an in-person appearance at the NRA convention in Houston Friday due to him being scheduled to hold a news conference in Uvalde. The news conference, which is set to begin at 3:30 p.m., will provide more information on the resources available for those impacted by the Robb Elementary School shooting. Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were all scheduled to attend the event. There’s no word if Sen. Cruz and Lt. Gov. Patrick are still planning to attend. Former President Donald Trump, who is scheduled to speak, said Wednesday he still plans to attend.”

Appeared at fundraiser after shooting: Texas Tribune: “Gov. Greg Abbott attended a fundraiser for his reelection campaign Tuesday night in East Texas, hours after a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school over 300 miles away in Uvalde. His campaign says he is postponing all political activities going forward. Abbott went to the fundraiser after visiting Taylor County — another part of the state — to survey the state’s wildfire response there. While holding a news conference there, he gave an update on the Uvalde shooting, which had just happened. … ‘On the way back to Austin, I stopped and let people know that I could not stay, that I needed to go and I wanted them to know what happened and get back to Austin so I could continue to my collaboration with Texas law enforcement,’ Abbott said [at a press conference].”

Walker struggles with answers on shooting: Washington Examiner: “Georgia’s GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker fumbled two responses to questions about his stance on gun control this week in the aftermath of a shooting at a Texas elementary school. The former NFL running back proposed that law enforcement develop ‘a department that can look at young men that’s looking at women that’s looking at their social media’ rather than strip U.S. citizens of constitutional rights, likely referencing the alleged shooter’s social media patterns before opening fire at the school on Tuesday. ‘What about doing that, looking into things like that, and we can stop that that way?’ Walker asked on Fox News. … When asked by a CNN reporter on Tuesday whether the shooting should lead to new gun laws, Walker responded, “What I like to do is see it and everything and stuff,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”

BRIEFLY

Progressives seek revenge against DCCC Chairman Maloney with primary bid—New York Times

Sen. Ron Johnson squeezed over fed-funded Florida flightsMilwaukee Journal-Sentinel 

Cheney files for re-election as Trump readies Wyoming rally for challenger—Casper [Wyoming] Star Tribune

Meadows aide says boss burned papers after meeting on election steal—Politico 

Trump, children must testify under oath, judge rules—AP

WITHIN EARSHOT: FINGERS ON THE PULSE OF THE ELECTORATE
“By changing how we refer to our division heads we are in no way diminishing the indispensable contributions of our district central service leaders.” — Statement from the San Francisco Unified Schools District on its decision to drop the term “chief” from all job titles because of concerns of offending Native American residents.


You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and always good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission anonymous. My colleague, THE Samantha Goldstein, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack! 


CUTLINE CONTEST: RENT-A-BEAR

(Photograph from Getty Images.)

In last week’s note, the powers that be chose a very handsome bear to illustrate musings on the price of bear rentals for personal use after a candidate reported using the services of a bear-for-hire. 

Our winner is: 

“Hi, is this the **checks notes** Stirewalt wedding?”—Chris Lee, Corvallis, Oregon

Very honorable mentions to:

“After doing the political photo shoot the bear says to the trainer: ‘I’m rethinking bringing cubs into this world.’”—Greg Williams, Monroe, Ohio

And:

“Hello, I’m Smokey The Bear.  Only you can prevent nut bars from becoming elected officials.”—Chad Blancett, Houston, Texas

This is your last chance to get into the May contest, so readers should send in their proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the top entrants and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun! 


IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME 

KLFY: “A house too wide to fit through the residential street mangled power lines, hit telephone poles, damaged trees and mailboxes, was then left abandoned by the homeowner. According to the Iberia Parish [Louisiana] Sheriff’s Office, around 3:30 a.m. Sunday, Tony Domingue, 46 and Nico Comeaux, 32 were attempting to transport the home down Coteau Holmes Road when it got stuck. More than 690 [Central Louisiana Electric Company] customers were without power for several hours following the damage. Deputies say when they arrived, they found an abandoned truck, a trailer and the house blocking the 400 block of Berard Road. … Domingue and Comeaux were each charged with one count of volition of parish ordinance, obstruction of highway commerce, and criminal damage to property.”

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Broken News, a book on media and politics available August 23. Samantha Goldstein contributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt's Headshot

Chris Stirewalt

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.