Happy Sunday! I know, I know. I like to send these on Saturday. But at some point last week, I realized Christmas was sneaking up on me. So I took yesterday morning to get some much-needed decorating done, and then we had a swim meet in the afternoon. The trees are up (yes, I’ve got more than one!), the stockings and the garlands are hung, and there is a lot of red and green and silver and gold all over the place. Now, if someone could just point me to where I can find an Xbox or Playstation for less than $1,000 …
We make a pretty big deal out of Christmas. We’ve established a few traditions over the years, and I look forward to them. The kids get Christmas pajamas in December, and we always watch The Polar Express while we decorate the tree. (Yes, the animation is creepy and only seems more so with each passing year. But our oldest loved the movie when he was little and darn it, traditions are traditions.) On Christmas morning, we make the kids wait at the top of the stairs before they can come down to see the giant pile of presents under the tree. (I need to get the first pot of coffee going.)
A lot of what I do at the holidays is because my own childhood memories of Christmas are so wonderful. My parents worked very hard to make the day special for my brother and I and I look back on those days as magical. (I’m sorry if that sounds a little cheesy.) Almost every year they would sit us down on Christmas Eve or the day before and say, “Well, kids, we hate to say this but things were a little tight this year, so there might not be as much under the tree as you were hoping for.” Almost every year, this was a half-truth. Things were tight, yes, but there was always plenty under the tree. And anticipation would build all morning because we knew there’d be something big at the end. I especially remember the year we got an Atari 2600. Kids these days would no doubt scoff, but it was unlike anything we’d ever seen. Another fun tradition was that my parents would set limits for how much to spend on each other, and my dad would find creative ways to get around it. One year he bought my mom a cabinet she’d wanted and the tag said it was for “the house.”
I hope it doesn’t come across as materialistic. Sure, the gifts were nice. But what really meant the most was seeing my parents work so hard to make it special for us. The little speech about how things had been tight? They owned a small grocery store and some years were definitely leaner than others. But my brother and I always had everything we needed and then some, and not just on Christmas. They didn’t look at the price when I needed new shoes for cross country and track, and my mom bought my school clothes at stores she wouldn’t dream of shopping at for herself. Most importantly, they started saving for college before I was born.
And all of that put me in a position to succeed myself. We’re very, very fortunate that we’re able to do the same things for our kids without quite the same level of stress. (Have you seen how much a good baseball bat costs these days?) And we’re lucky that our kids are grateful for it.
As for the news this week … You’ll see below that we went pretty big on Russia and Ukraine. Our own politics can be so overwhelming that it’s easy to ignore what’s going on overseas. But this is a crisis that, as contributor Paul D. Miller notes, “will matter for the shape of world order in coming years and decades.” We also discussed the lawsuit against The Gateway Pundit and the dangers of spreading disinformation.
I hope that those of you who celebrate Christmas are enjoying this festive time of year. Thanks as always for reading.
On Tuesday, Tucker Carlson aired a segment on his Fox News show in which he defended Vladimir Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine as a matter of border integrity, blamed NATO for the tension between Russia and Ukraine, and painted Joe Biden as weak and as one taking orders from others. Garry Kasaparov has heard it all before—on Russian state television—and he wonders what Carolson is up to. “Putin is a hostile actor, an enemy who has repeatedly attacked American interests abroad and in the homeland. Russian hackers and disinformation campaigns target everything from racial strife to vaccine effectiveness to US elections. Why would a flag-wrapped nationalist like Tucker Carlson take Putin’s side?”
Paul Miller gets to the heart of the dilemma about Ukraine. It’s a big deal, and highlights the threat that Vladimir Putin presents to the world order. But is it a “Munich moment”? Not yet, he says. While we have an obligation to defend our NATO alliesas our allies defended us in Afghanistan—the fact is that Ukraine is (not yet at least) a NATO member: “We have already drawn a line in the sand—and Ukraine is on the other side of it. NATO membership is the line we have publicly committed to defending. Sticking to our line, and neither going beyond it nor shrinking from it is the responsible thing to do.”
A lawsuit filed earlier this month shows the real world ramifications of the misinformation that flooded the internet and right-wing media in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. A mother and daughter who were election workers in Fulton County, Georgia, filed suit against The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing website that peddled disinformation and conspiracy theories about the election for months. After Gateway Pundit falsely claimed the women mishandled ballots, mobs gathered outside the mother’s home and twice showed up at the grandmother’s house in hopes of making a “citizen’s arrest.” Khaya details the series of false claims that were made about the women and how they were repeatedly debunked by state officials, and she spoke to David Becker, the executive director and founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research. “There are way too many people whose entire model of income and wealth is built upon generating disinformation that hurts people,” Becker said. “The grifters that are behind The Gateway Pundit will likely just find another way to spread disinformation after it’s gone. I think we need to hold individuals and organizations who create this content and spread it accountable. And that’s just one step in a very, very long road to getting back to reality.” In his Tuesday French Press (🔐), David also discussed the lawsuit and the announcement by former Georgia Sen. David Perdue that he would run a primary campaign against incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp. “The Georgia Republican primary is just the latest and perhaps highest-profile example of a concerted effort to replace Republican elected officials who demonstrated courage and integrity during Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 election,” he writes.
And the best of the rest:
It’s easy to be frustrated with Congress. But a few representatives are trying to make it better. In Friday’s Uphill (🔐), Harvest interviewed Reps. Derek Kilmer and William Timmons of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.
Bob Dole passed away last Sunday. Scott Reed, his campaign manager from his 1996 presidential run, recalls what drove Dole to accomplish all that he did. “Because it [politics] a business that was both deeply personal to him and a source of great joy, he would work with anyone to get the job done.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. targeted a senior al-Qaeda leader in Idlib, Syria, with a drone strike. The strike took out Musab Kinan but also wounded a family of six. In Vital Interests (🔐), Tom Joscelyn writes that the U.S. is not doing a good enough job of explaining the threat specific terrorists present to America.
In the Wednesday G-File(🔐), Jonah does his best to help liberals by explaining that using “elite progressive mumbo jumbo” like “Latinx,” “defund the police” and “birthing person” is doing nothing to advance their cause.
On the pods: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah discuss whether the court should hear a case on whether Harvard’s admissions policy violates anti-discrimination laws. On The Remnant, Jonah and A.B. Stoddard weigh in on the ill health of both political parties. And don’t miss The Dispatch Podcast from Friday, in which Steve and Sarah talk to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.