Our Best Stuff From the Week We Turned 2

I still remember the awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was February 13, 2017. One of my colleagues at Slate called me with a “holy crap” kind of interoffice rumor: Layoffs were coming. Oh no, I told her. Our boss had sent me a meeting request late the night before. I was supposed to talk to her in an hour. 

It was one of the longest hours of my life. I called my husband at work. I called my parents. I waited. I might have been the last of the five of us laid off that day to get the news, because it was only 20 minutes later that I lost access to Slack and my email account. I’d been there for 14 years, I had enjoyed most of them, and it was all over in an instant.  

Fortunately, my grief was short-lived. (And not just because my East Coast co-workers rallied on my behalf. An editor who had family in Southwest Ohio sent her brother on a crazy mission to buy and deliver to my house enough beer to host an Irish wake.) Only a few weeks later I found myself talking to Steve Hayes about an opportunity at The Weekly Standard. I’d been a subscriber for years. He brought me to D.C. for an interview, and there I was, getting to meet Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes. Steve talked about his plans for The Weekly Standard, his commitment to truth and reporting and serious journalism. He offered me a job, and I felt like I had “fallen up.”

And yet. Not even two years later, I found myself in a conference room in Washington, D.C., with that same awful feeling in my stomach. The Weekly Standard was shutting down. Journalism is a tough business, for lots of reasons. But once again, I’ve fallen up instead of down. Steve and Jonah invited me to board the pirate skiff, and here we are. 

We marked our two-year anniversary on Friday. It’s been a whirlwind. And it’s been incredibly rewarding. It’s a privilege to work with this group of people everyday. We have such a wonderful combination of esteemed, established voices and bright young reporters who are developing their talents rapidly. And we have a great (and growing) audience. It’s been a treat engaging with you, our readers.

I could go on for a couple of thousand words about our editorial successes. The Morning Dispatch newsletter has become a must-read for many. David has been beating the drum about the dangers of our political polarization (and with his wife, Nancy, exposing some accounts of horrific abuse at a Christian summer camp). Our fact checkers have fought an uphill battle against misinformation and disinformation on the pandemic and election-related conspiracy theories. We published an audio recording of Rudy Giuliani trying to leave a voicemail for Sen. Tommy Tuberville on the night of January 6, asking him to stall the certification of the Electoral College votes. We were relentless in our coverage of the Afghanistan withdrawal—and we’re still writing about it.  

But I’ve already told you about those pieces in this very newsletter every week, so you probably know that. Instead I’ll use the space I have left to thank those of you who read our work. Whether you’re a paid member who gets all the good stuff or a “freelister” who is happy with our articles, podcasts, and free newsletters, we’re glad you’re here. Launching a digital media company in an already crowded industry has its risks, and our mission keeps us from engaging in any shortcuts to quick profits. We literally could not do this without you. Thank you for reading. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Personal Harassment Is Spiraling Out of Control

Two seemingly unrelated events serve as the basis of David’s Tuesday edition of French Press (🔒). Last week, activists followed Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema into a public restroom at Arizona State and filmed from the bathroom as they hectored her over her lack of support for the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. And in Sarasota, Florida, residents demonstrated outside the home of a school board member. Different states, different ideologies, but the activists had a few things in common, but especially the phrase “We have demands that must be met.” David, who as you may recall wrote a book about our dangerous polarization, is concerned: “Personal confrontations are inherently tense. Trigger personal confrontations against the backdrop of increasing public unease, and you ratchet up the tension. The result is a tinderbox.” For what it’s worth, when I shared David’s article on Twitter, my replies quickly became filled with responses from conservatives that the school board member protest was TOTALLY justified, and from liberals that Sinema had it coming. We’ve got a ways to go, folks.

Pfizer Will Earn Billions in Profits from the Vaccines. It Should Be Much, Much More.

You’d think even people who are skeptical about Big Pharma might cut some slack to the companies that created, tested, and produced the life-saving vaccines that will (eventually) get us out of this pandemic. No dice. In Capitolism (🔒), Scott Lincicome is mad, too: mad that Pfizer isn’t making more. And he lays out all the reasons, which go well beyond the fact that these vaccines will save tens or hundreds of thousands of lives. For starters, profits allow pharmaceutical companies the ability to invest in more drugs, and they encourage competitors to develop their own similar products. But maybe the most important factor is that the vaccines allow the economy to get back to normal, adding trillions to the global GDP. “Given what the companies are producing and what their profits might generate in the future, we’re getting the bargain of the century,” he writes.

Federal Probe Scrutinizes Financial Dealings of the American Conservative Union

The American Conservative Union is best known for hosting the annual Conservative Political Action Conference and issuing an annual scorecard of politicians’ voting records. But it also issues the occasional endorsement of congressional candidates, and that aspect of its work has it facing scrutiny from federal investigators. Several sources told Andrew that they have spoken with FBI investigators about events leading up to the organization’s endorsement in 2016 of Tennessee state Sen. Brian Kelsey as he sought the GOP nomination for the state’s 8th Congressional District. Kelsey sent funds from his state senate campaign to two political action committees which subsequently made donations to ACU, and shortly after, the ACU launched a radio ad buy to promote Kelsey. The issue, Andrew writes, is that “the flow of money strongly suggested that ACU had coordinated with the Kelsey campaign in its ad expenditures, making that spending a forbidden in-kind contribution.”

How Democrats Are Using the Pandemic to Advance Long-Term Spending Priorities

Scott Winship, who is the director of poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute, has been doing a deep dive about the policy decisions that have formed our pandemic response, and we’re lucky that he’s sharing his work with us. Two weeks ago, he wrote about how the early economic relief packages were effective at staving off poverty and hardship as the economy shut down in 2020. The problem, he notes this week, is that even though those programs were successful, a mistaken narrative developed among economists that things were worse than they were. And as a result, Democrats are using poverty as an excuse to spend trillions. “Democrats might have focused on immediate ways to contain the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 infection; remediating the learning losses that kids experienced in 2020 and 2021; getting employment back up to encourage economic growth; withdrawing from Afghanistan effectively and responsibly; or beginning the difficult task of bringing the national debt down to a manageable level. Instead, they have shifted to the party’s longer-term goals,” he writes.

Now for the best of the rest:

  • Congressional Democrats have been contending with a bit of infighting lately, and one of those issues is over funding for Israel’s Iron Dome air-defense system. Charlotte has a great piece looking at how the U.S. benefits — not just on the technology front but also in how it contributes to stability in the region.

  • How seriously should we take China’s recent aggression toward Taiwan? Very seriously, writeMatthew Kroenig and Jeffrey Cimmino.  “A successful CCP invasion of Taiwan would be a disaster. Taiwan, a longstanding U.S. partner and thriving democracy, would lose its freedom. The episode would set the precedent that China can gobble up its neighbors by military force with impunity.”

  • Somewhat out of sight, but never out of mind: Donald Trump. In The Sweep this week, Audrey writes about the Trumpification of the Michigan secretary of state campaign, and Chris Stirewalt critiques a Washington Post story about Trump’s potential 2024 campaign. 

  • Danielle Pletka writes about how hostage taking has gone from a tool deployed by terrorists to one used by authoritarian governments, pointing to the case of Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive who’d been arrested on financial fraud charges. She returned to China in exchange for two Canadian citizens who’d been detained in China nine days after her 2018 arrest. 

  • On the pods: If you’re enjoying our anniversary celebration as much as we are, you’ll want to check out Jonah and Steve’s conversation on the Dispatch Podcast. On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah weigh in on hot controversies including the Texas abortion bill and the Justice Department’s letter about violence against schoolboard members. And on The Remnant, Jonah talks to former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb about whether he’s in the pocket of Big Dairy and also about Gottlieb’s new book about the pandemic. 

  • One last thing: One of my favorite writers at The Weekly Standard—before and during my time there—was Matt Labash. We’ve all been missing his voice, but good news: He’s launched his own Substack publication, Slack Tide. Check it out.

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