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Our Best Stuff on Antisemitism, Ukraine Funding, and the GOP Debate
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Our Best Stuff on Antisemitism, Ukraine Funding, and the GOP Debate

Plus: Some thoughts from a new-ish Army mom.

Liz Magill, president of University of Pennsylvania, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 5, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Magill has since resigned from her post. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Hello and happy Sunday. I hope you’re having a good weekend. We started what I expect will become a tradition here in the Ohio bureau: watching the Army-Navy game with a rooting interest. Our oldest son, as regular readers of this newsletter might remember, is going to be spending at least a few years in the Army after he graduates, and I realized it’s time to start acting like an Army mom.

The role is one I never could have imagined when the kids were little. Not that I had anything against it; there’s just not a big military tradition in either my or my husband’s families. My grandfather fought in World War II (as I wrote about on Veteran’s Day), and my father-in-law was in the Army for a few years—but that’s about it. When Brandon was in eighth grade and scheduling his classes for freshman year, he told us he wanted to sign up for Junior ROTC. My reaction was something like, “Huh?” (He was also forming his political beliefs at the time, and he’s a bit to the left of my husband and me, so it wasn’t the most obvious choice.) We told him to try it out, but I didn’t expect it to take the direction it did.

He jumped in with both feet, spending some time on the marksmanship team and then joining the “Raiders” team, taking part in meets that feature obstacle courses, rope-bridge building, distance running, etc. He even got to compete at nationals during his senior year, and he was also one of the executive officers for his school’s battalion. When he told us he wanted to pursue ROTC in college, we were considerably less surprised than we’d been four years earlier. Happily for me, it turned out that the same university I chose to study journalism—Ohio University—has a pretty good ROTC program. (I suppose he could have pursued West Point, but since the pandemic disrupted the middle of his high school career, I’m thrilled that he gets to have a normal college experience. Plus, he’ll still be an officer when he graduates—and I get to visit my beloved alma mater regularly.) 

We’re extremely proud of him, of course. He has natural leadership skills and a good work ethic, and we’re more than a little grateful that his scholarship covers most of the bills. But I’ve got a lot to learn about being an Army mom! He’s considered pursuing several different branches—from air defense artillery to military intelligence to medical services, which would allow him to do work related to his academic major of environmental biology. (“I would be a guy who tells them not to go and build burn pits in Iraq before they go and build burn pits in Iraq,” he explained.) 

Learning about the options he has, the processes he’ll go through, and how the military works has been interesting, but I’m still grappling with my own anxiety about it all. He participated in a language immersion program at the University of Pittsburgh last summer, and when he said he wanted to study Russian—which will admittedly make him attractive to certain branches of the Army—my first reaction was, “What’s wrong with learning French?” When friends ask us how he’s doing, I joke that he’s doing great but that I’d personally be happy if these wars we’re supporting and the conflicts we’re facing could kindly resolve themselves before he graduates. It’s not really a joke. 

I think nervousness about the future is normal for any parent of a child coming into adulthood. Will they be successful? Happy? Will they finally figure out how to make their bed and hang up their towels? But “will they end up deployed to a scary place?” hits a little differently. I always appreciate the nice comments some of you post when I indulge in more personal musings—I don’t think it was part of the plan back when I started writing this, but it grew out of our COVID quarantine—and I try to hit on things that I know will resonate with others. In this case, I’d love to hear from those of you who’ve served or had a loved one serve. What is or was the most rewarding aspect? What are the downsides?

Thanks for reading, and go Black Knights!

Did you catch the congressional testimony from the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania, who were grilled by Rep. Elise Stefanik for their handling of antisemitic behavior on their campuses? All three equivocated when she asked them if calling for the genocide of Jews violated the school’s code of conduct. In Wednesday’s G-File, Jonah—acknowledging there’s a case for free speech absolutism—takes the presidents to task for their hypocrisy. “What everyone understands is that these schools do not in any way, shape, or form actually believe in uninhibited free speech,” he writes. “Speech that conforms with the worldview of the ruling priests of these secular monasteries should be given free rein. Speech that pets the cat of social justice backward elicits screeches and scratches.” And he argues that the antisemitism is just a symptom of a larger problem the left has with Western values: “Israel is held to the standards of the West—and rightly so—but the people most ferociously holding it to those standards have no interest in holding Hamas, Palestinians, or, frankly, China, Russia, Iran, or any other country ‘resisting’ the West to anything like those standards.”

We’re very excited to welcome John McCormack to The Dispatch. He comes to us from National Review, and he wrote for The Weekly Standard back in the day. In his first piece, he looks at how Hamas’ attack on Israel has exposed—and exacerbated—divisions within the Democratic Party. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was praised by his Republican colleagues last week for his powerful speech decrying antisemitism, but reaction from within his own party—to the speech and to the problem itself—was more circumspect. “It’s not just the antisemitism, which is very real, it’s Islamophobia as well,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told John. And Sen. Chris Murphy voiced a similar sentiment: “I think there’s an awful lot of hateful speech on the left and the right.” John also reports that the Democratic Majority For Israel PAC is looking to support Democrats in primaries against anti-Israeli representatives. DMFI President Mark Mellman didn’t name names, but John notes that Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Jamaal Bowman of New York are obvious targets, and that both have already drawn primary challengers. “It’s clear,” John writes, “that the Democratic Party’s reckoning over left-wing antisemitism has only just begun.”

Democrats are on board with another round of funding for Ukraine, but there is significant opposition from House Republicans. Speaker Mike Johnson might have found a way to get them on board: by pairing the funding with border security measures. Democrats might not like that, but Nick argues that Johnson’s proposal is kind of brilliant, noting that public support for Ukraine is slipping and Biden’s polling on immigration is dismal. “All in all,” he writes, “Republicans look to be on the popular side of both ends of the ‘border security for Ukraine money’ standoff, a pretty sweet place to be in a democracy and one destined to make their demands in this crisis seem inherently reasonable to many voters.”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • Charlotte reports from Tel Aviv on how the Israeli government is relying on civilian organizations on important matters like collecting information on missing Israelis and finding host families and accommodations for refugees. 
  • In Wanderland (🔒), Kevin notes that the Republican Party loves “Novelty Cons”—prominent conservatives who break out of the party’s white Midwestern businessman’s mold—and that expelled Rep. George Santos might have been the most novel of them all. 
  • What’s going on with the housing market? High interest rates have made it a bad time to buy, and housing shortages in many areas mean prices are still high. Tom Shaffner explains the complex forces at work in the sector.
  • Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute dives into the late Henry Kissinger’s legacy on Asia and argues that Kissinger erred by embracing China over India.
  • Could Nikki Haley really defeat Donald Trump for the GOP nomination? John Hart argues that she can make a good case by focusing on … crazy as it sounds … policy and by touting her competence and serious demeanor. 
  • David Drucker was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for Wednesday’s GOP debate and notes that while Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis avoided going after Trump for his election fraud claims or mishandling of classified documents, both candidates did criticize him a few times—DeSantis over Trump’s handling of COVID-19 and not “draining the swamp,” and Haley over his China policy.
  • On the pods: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah offer their take on the dismal performance of the university presidents testifying before Congress, noting that there are Title VI civil rights implications. On The Remnant, Jonah welcomes Francis Dearnley, the host of one of his favorite (non-Dispatch) podcasts, to discuss the war in Ukraine—with Woodrow Wilson somehow working his way into the conversation. And on The Dispatch Podcast, don’t miss Steve’s conversation with Liz Cheney about her new book, the danger another Trump term presents, and whether she might run for president.

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.