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Our Best Stuff on the Durham Investigation, Migrant Children, and P.J. O’Rourke
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Our Best Stuff on the Durham Investigation, Migrant Children, and P.J. O’Rourke

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Happy Sunday! Breaking news from the Ohio bureau: Our youngest son qualified for the age-group state championships in swimming Friday night. Wait, you might be thinking. The Dispatch isn’t a parenting blog or a sports publication, and even ESPN mostly only covers swimming during the Olympics and the culture wars. What gives? Bear with me. It’s not about the 33 seconds in the pool; it’s about the two-year journey to the blocks. It’s about perseverance.

Back in the winter of 2020, as a 10-year-old, he qualified for the same meet. Our other kids had come close, but he was the first one to make the cut. We were over the moon, and planned a whole weekend in Columbus around the meet, which was supposed to start March 13. On March 11, we had a pasta party at the last practice, coaches handed out goody bags, and we were set. An hour or two later, Tom Hanks announced he had COVID, the NBA shut down after Rudy Gobert tested positive, and it was all downhill from there. By the next morning, the meet was canceled. (If you remember me sharing this story when it happened, thanks for being a longtime reader!)  

Pretty soon, we were learning to navigate Zoom schooling, ordering takeout, and teaching the kids to play Texas Hold ’Em because we were tired of board games. Our kids filled the rest of the time in those early months with too many hours of video games (at least they could talk to their friends while playing Fortnite), too many dumb YouTube videos, and definitely too many potato chips and frozen pizzas. Swimming usually starts back up in April; we had to wait until June when outdoor pools opened. 

Long story short, Wilson’s swimming really suffered. He stopped improving, and even slid backward a bit. School wasn’t great, either—and we had it better than most, as our district offered in-person instruction starting in August 2020. But there were unavoidable quarantines, and brief periods in which a whole class or whole grade was sent into remote learning. Even though we were working from home and I had the luxury of flexibility, it was hard to work and keep up with their lessons. One day, when we were all in quarantine because our middle son tested positive, Wilson pretended to be doing Zoom school but was actually playing video games. It was not our finest moment. 

We’ve been extremely lucky throughout the pandemic, and I acknowledge this is the definition of a “First World problem.” Our schooling was as normal as it could be, our jobs were never in danger, and even our COVID cases (four of the five of us, though our 15-year-old is a repeat offender) were mild. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy. We’ve worried about our kids’ grades, their social lives, their mental health. I worry about remote work in ways that I never did before, because they’ve been home so much. We’re all in the same place, sure, but that doesn’t mean we’re together. Maybe they want to talk about something when I’m working, and I shoo them away. But then I wonder why the “How was your day?” question at dinner is met with monosyllabic responses. I worry that we have missed out on important family moments and not taken enough vacations. We’ve had more time together quantity-wise, but not necessarily quality-wise.

I know we’re not the only ones. That time Wilson got in the 50-yard butterfly to qualify for the state meet? It wouldn’t have been good enough for a 12-year-old two years ago. When Ohio Swimming sent out the time standards for this year’s meet, it acknowledged that it had used slower times than in the past—so many kids had dropped out of the sport the last two years and not enough kids were hitting the times. Wilson even confided in me this weekend that he’d thought about quitting. How many kids have dropped out of their favorite sport or activity, whether because it was no longer fun or family finances were too tight? How many are struggling because of losing that connection? How many will look back someday and wonder about their missed potential? It’ll take years for us to fully understand.

But there we were on Friday night, feeling hopeful but nervous. He was swimming in Lane 8, next to the wall, which is not ideal. The water churned up by swimmers kicking and splashing bounces off the walls and can slow you down. But in this particular pool, he’s had a few great races in that lane over the years, and I took it as omen. His start was good, he was aggressive, and quick off the turn. Where we were standing, the giant scoreboard that shows each swimmer’s name and running time was behind us, and I resisted the urge to peek over my shoulder. When he hit the wall, I took a deep breath and turned around. He needed to swim 33.19 or faster. He swam 33.01. 

In that moment, a big chunk of the gray cloud that has hovered over us for two years broke off and floated away. No, the pandemic isn’t over. And I am not going to drop all the concerns I’ve had over one big moment. But it was nice to feel unadulterated joy for a few minutes. 

So thank you for indulging me. I hope that the waning of the Omicron surge will bring us closer to full normalcy, that no ugly variant rears its head next month, and that all of you can experience such bright moments, whatever might bring you joy. Thanks for reading.

It was just the news that Trump supporters had long been waiting for. Special Counsel John Durham had been appointed by then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 to review the origins of the Russia investigation but his years of work had thus far yielded only one major charge, against Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann for lying to the FBI. But in a recent court filing, “Durham had seemingly revealed new details about the Clinton campaign’s efforts both to suss out supposed connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia and to wheedle federal law enforcement to start trying to do the same.” Fox News reported that the Clinton campaign had paid to “infiltrate” servers in Trump Tower and even the White House. Trump himself said it was a bigger scandal than Watergate. But was it? Andrew cuts through the breathless claims to explain that it might not be Watergate but it “is quite sketchy and absolutely newsworthy—provided the facts bear out the narrative Durham is outlining.” Andrew takes a complicated issue and makes it accessible, so read the whole thing. 

Last fall, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order forbidding the renewal of licenses to foster homes and agencies who work with unaccompanied migrant children. That might be popular with immigration opponents in his base, but the order was criticized both by those who work with such children and faith leaders who work in the foster care system. Harvest spoke with one man whose family has taken in 250 migrant children over the last seven years who is unsure whether they will be able to continue their work. She also spoke with Matthew Soerens, national coordinator for the Evangelical Immigration Table. Soerens argued DeSantis’ policy goes against the idea of religious liberty and that it will have negative effects on Florida: “Some of them might choose not to [renew their license],” he said. “And that’s going to harm Florida in the end. Florida does not have enough foster parents as it is without taking anyone out of the system.”

With Omicron fading, Democratic governors are starting to end mask mandates and other pandemic-related restrictions, and it’s making things a little awkward for federal lawmakers from those states. The Biden administration has taken a more cautious approach, and representatives and senators find themselves walking a fine line trying to be supportive of the governors while not appearing critical of the president. Audrey spoke with several lawmakers about the matter. Sen. Ron Wyden focused on the importance of vaccination, Democratic Sen. Jack Reed said, “We have to be flexible,” and Dianne Feinstein, apparently unaware that Gov. Gavin Newsom had ended California’s mask mandate as of February 15, told Audrey that “wearing a mask is the least you can do” but said that mandates should be in the hands of local officials.

Jonah was a little reluctant to write about the passing of P.J. O’Rourke, the satirist and journalist who wrote Parliament of WhoresCEO of the Sofa, and, regarding the 2016 election, How the Hell Did This Happen? He explains that he didn’t know O’Rourke well and that others have already written eloquently about O’Rourke, and then he offers up a “brief intellectual defense of humor.” He notes that philosophers—especially Plato—are disdainful or at least skeptical of humor and writes: “It takes a lot of chutzpah for eggheads like Plato to crap on comedy as the stuff of false superiority. Philosophers are the ones who want to be de facto mystics demystifying the universe to everyone, often in ways no one can understand. Comedians do something similar, and all it takes is a two-drink minimum (unless you’re Socrates).”

Now for the best of the rest:

  • Two years into the pandemic, and more than a year after the events of January 6, the Capitol is still largely closed to the public. Haley looks at whether that might change anytime soon in Uphill.

  • There are loud contingents on both the left and the right calling for the U.S. to stay out of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. In The French Press, David wonders who they are yelling at, given that there is no sizable pro-war movement calling for us to jump in.

  • Christian Schneider files from Wisconsin, where a state representative arguing that the legislature has the power to rescind the state’s 2020 electoral votes for Joe Biden has announced his gubernatorial candidacy

  • I hope this won’t be out of date by the time you read this, but Charlotte has a detailed report on the latest (as of Friday) between Russia and Ukraine.

  • In Stirewaltisms, Chris Stirewalt  makes the case for age limits for federal lawmakers. What do you think? Should we kick out the geezers?

  • The pods! The presidency has evolved considerably from the Clinton era to the Biden era, and Tevi Troy joins Jonah on The Remnant to discuss the evolution. On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah dive into the crazy conclusion to Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the New York Times. Americans are happy with their personal lives, but unhappy with the direction the country is headed. What gives? The gang tries to figure it out on The Dispatch Podcast.

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.