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Our Best Stuff From a Week We Got a Little Bigger
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Our Best Stuff From a Week We Got a Little Bigger

Putin’s mobilization, national conservatism’s threat to religious freedom, and more.

Hello and happy Saturday. I apologize for not sending this out last week, but I was traveling back to the Ohio bureau from our first-ever staff retreat. The gathering was especially nice for me, since I usually see everyone only on video calls. It was also  full of surprises—and I’m not just talking about the hike we took that started out as a pleasant walk in the woods before we embarked on a 1,200-foot elevation gain over about a mile.

When I checked into my room, there was an itinerary for meetings and recreation, and also a guest list. As I perused it, one name in particular stood out. “Why,” I asked myself, “is Kevin Williamson at a Dispatch gathering?” Kevin has long been one of my favorite writers at National Review, and I was excited for the chance to meet him. And I had a hunch. (Hey, journalists tend to be bad at math but even I can put 2+2 together.) After I got settled and went to find others, I saw the boss. “So, Steve, do you have any surprise announcements while we’re here?”

And with that, the pirate skiff got a little more crowded. In fact, we really need a bigger boat. Kevin started this week, and so did Nick Catoggio (née Allahpundit), and I think I might need to either reformat this newsletter or at least change the headline to “Some of Our Best Stuff.” Both are prolific, and everything they have written already has been fantastic (yes, I am biased). Both wrote about why they joined us, and if you missed the posts, here is Kevin’s and here is Nick’s.

The Dispatch has been a labor of love since well before we hit “send” on the first Morning Dispatch in October 2019. We tell you this frequently (I hope not too often), but we really believe we are doing important work here. Our politics are a mess, and the state of conservative media is … uneven. We like to think that we can improve both. Adding Kevin and Nick to the lineup can only help on that front. I opted to summarize Nick’s piece on Russia’s mobilization below because it is so timely and offers great insight on Vladimir Putin’s very risky move, but I also recommend you read his first newsletter for us, which he headlined “Suckers and Fighters” and discusses the schism in the Republican Party between those who behave honorably and those who excuse dishonor if it’s in the service of acquiring power. 

Thank you as always for reading. We know you’ll enjoy our new additions, and we hope you don’t mind spending a little more time reading The Dispatch.

One of my favorite things about Nick is that he writes his own headlines. In this case, he’s borrowing a quote from a Ukrainian official to describe the danger that Vladimir Putin presents. As poorly as the war has gone for Russia, we can’t ignore the fact that it has nuclear weapons. Nick runs through all of the reasons that Putin’s new mobilization of 300,000 troops is likely to fail—“new troops will be unhappy troops,” he writes, so morale will be a problem. Plus, Russia has neither the time nor resources to train those troops properly. “The monkey with the hand grenade might be about to blow itself up. And Putin must know it, remembering how in Russia unpopular wars have a habit of inducing regime change. … And that’s what makes his decision to finally follow through [with mobilization] significant and ominous.”

We’re spending a lot of time talking about gasoline prices: It was a long summer of $5 a gallon (or higher) fill-ups, and then President Joe Biden started bragging when prices dipped for a couple months. But now they are creeping up again. As painful as that might be for Americans dealing with inflation elsewhere, Kevin argues that it’s not what we should be talking about. Instead we should be talking about the long-term stability and efficiency of the entire energy industry. “If U.S. refineries and wholesalers were cut off from … imports, it would not be cheap or easy—or quick—to replace them. That isn’t a case for energy autarky, but it is a case for encouraging the development of a more robust, diversified, and secure domestic energy industry, particularly when it comes to pipelines and other distribution modes—that ‘infrastructure’ that presidents are always talking about.”

David begins his Tuesday French Press by reminding readers the First Amendment not only protects free speech and religious liberty, but that it guards against compelled speech—institutions can’t be forced to support points of view that are at odds with their beliefs and social media companies don’t have to host speech that is dangerous or abhorrent. And then he details all the ways that the national conservatives are pretty much upside down on the First Amendment, trying to outlaw drag queen performances, placing restrictions on speech in private corporate diversity programs, and preventing censorship on social media. It’s not just wrong, he argues. It’s dangerous, and it’s bad for religious liberty. “The inevitable result of privileging ‘Christian’ expression and convictions is privileging the dominant Christian faction at the expense of others. And those in power consider those others not truly ‘Christian.’”

Billionaire Peter Thiel poured $15 million to GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters’ primary campaign in Arizona, but he has since turned off the tap (though he is hosting a fundraiser for Masters). Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund PAC has pulled back, canceling half of its planned $16 million spend on Masters. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has raised $100 million but isn’t spending it to boost candidates—as Andrew notes, “Trump has shown little indication he particularly cares who controls the Senate next year.” So what happens if Masters loses to the well-funded Democratic incumbent, Mark Kelly? “MAGA Republicans are gearing up to blame someone should Masters fail to unseat Kelly. And, spoiler alert, it’s neither Thiel nor Trump. The Arizona Republican Party, which is chaired by MAGA firebrand Kelli Ward, sent an open letter to McConnell last week urging him to redouble his efforts to support Masters.”   

Why is Democratic Senate nominee Tim Ryan running ads touting positive comments that Fox News hosts have made about him? Well, he’s running in Ohio, where Donald Trump beat Joe Biden by 8 percentage points in 2020 and where there’s a Republican governor and GOP control of both chambers of the state legislature. So he’s probably trying to obscure the fact that, as Audrey and Harvest note, “Ryan has voted with President Joe Biden 100 percent of the time.”  They write: “Aside from a few areas of agreement with Trump—and his decision to run against Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi for speaker in 2016—Ryan is nearly indistinguishable from the average congressional Democrat.” 

And now the best of the rest:

  • In the G-File, Jonah goes on a rampage against the practice of whataboutism—when people try to excuse bad behavior by someone (say, Donald Trump) by pointing out that someone else (say, Bill Clinton) did something worse. 

  • In an interview last weekend, President Biden said—for the fourth time—that the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack by China. And—for the fourth time—aides later walked back the pledge. In Uphill, Haley talks to Democratic lawmakers who are getting a little exasperated with the president.

  • With reports that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini has been gravely ill, Charlotte looks at who might succeed him: current President Ebrahim Raisi or Khameini’s 53-year-old son Mojtaba.

  • Stirewalt makes the case that it’s ill-advised to treat Hispanic Americans as a political monolith. “Lumping people together not only numbs us to real political considerations, but makes us more inclined to withhold our patriotic filial love from one another.”

  • Climate change and political unrest are likely to create millions of refugees seeking new homes, mostly in the West. John Gustavsson notes that Western nations cannot possibly accept so many people and provide them with living standards comparable to their own citizens (and not doing so creates its own unrest). He points to a controversial arrangement that the U.K. recently made with Rwanda as a potential solution. 

  • On the pods:The gang discusses Russia’s mobilization and Putin feeling cornered on The Dispatch Podcast. David and Sarah continue their work on the Mar-a-Lago investigation beat on Advisory Opinions. On The Remnant, Jonah interviewed Nicholas Eberstadt about his new book about the problem of men leaving the workforce. And it’s a little more Russia on Good Faith, as David and Curtis Chang discuss the power of evil, and whether evil contains the seeds of its own destruction.

Rachael Larimore is managing editor of The Dispatch and is based in the Cincinnati area. Prior to joining the company in 2019, she served in similar roles at Slate, The Weekly Standard, and The Bulwark. She and her husband have three sons.