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Regular readers know by now that this missive comes to you each week from Ohio, which is where I grew up and where I returned with my husband to raise our family 15 years ago. Maybe you’ve wondered how that came to be, or what it’s like to work in political journalism without living in or near the Beltway. (Quick answer on the latter: sanity saving!)
It’s a long story, but I’ll spare you the boring stuff about how I went to college with dreams of becoming a features writer at Sports Illustrated. We’ll skip ahead to the early 2000s. We were living in the Seattle area, but I was given a chance to start doing my job from home. And it didn’t matter where home was. We called a real-estate agent, told my parents we wanted to crash with them for a few months, and started packing.
There were many reasons we’d been wanting to move to Ohio … someday. We had it good in Seattle: The mountains were beautiful, and we had many options for culture and recreation. And the breweries! So much good beer. But it was crowded and expensive even then, and we were far from most of our family, which was tough once we had a baby. And it never quite felt like home. I missed the Midwest. And there was one simple thing I was very much looking forward to. I just wanted to go to a dinner party or a cookout that did not devolve into some heated political exchange.
Obviously, Seattle was a pretty liberal place and we were kind of misfits as moderate conservatives. That didn’t bother me. Heck, I was working for a liberal publication. It was just the constant politicization of … Every. Little. Thing. I don’t want to stereotype Midwesterners or imply they aren’t politically engaged or aware. It’s just that Ohio is a somewhat purple state, or used to be, and people knew they were in mixed company in social settings or realized that what they had in common with their friends was more important than what divided them. If we were going to fight, it would be about who was worse, the Bengals or the Browns.
All these years later, that has mostly held up. At least “in real life.” Obviously social media has changed things. As much I like using Facebook to keep in touch with old friends from high school and college, I’ve learned stuff about some people that I wish I never knew. And the fights are stupid. People get outraged at the drop of a hat, and our national polarization has filtered down into local issues.
All that has done has strengthened my belief that politics should be compartmentalized. It doesn’t need to dominate every conversation and people don’t need to wear their ideologies on their sleeves (or in their social media profile images).
At this point, you might be wondering if I have one. A point, that is. I do! Thanks for bearing with me. All of what I mentioned above gets at what I love about what we’re trying to do at The Dispatch. For starters, we want to turn down the heat on all the outrage. We’re bringing you smart, well-reasoned, and level-headed arguments on the issues of the day. We don’t chase after every Twitter spat or write about every time President Trump calls into Fox & Friends. We want you to turn to us when you want to know the real deal on the latest COVID data, or what to think of the Israel-UAE announcement, or how to interpret the campaign strategies of Trump and Biden.
And, we don’t want to take up your whole day. For the most part, we publish all of our articles for the day by 8 a.m. You can pop by our home page with your morning coffee, read what you want, and know that you’re not missing anything for the rest of the day. Anything else you want to read will come to your inbox in the form of a newsletter, and it’s there whenever it’s convenient for you to read. Go ahead, have lunch with a friend. Talk with the other parents at your kid’s soccer practice. Enjoy socially distanced driveway drinks with your neighbors. We’ll still be here.
And now is a great time to become a paying member of The Dispatch, because we are letting you try it out for free for 30 days. It’s risk free—you can cancel at any time. And in the meantime, you’ll get all of our content: The full Morning Dispatch, all the G-Files and French Presses and Sweeps that you want, plus Vital Interests and Scott Lincicome’s Capitolism.
Now, here’s your weekly sampling of our best work. We hope you’ll give us a chance.
In many of our “Biden Agenda” pieces, our contributors have been laying out what a President Joe Biden might do in a certain policy area irrespective of what Trump has been doing on that front the last four years. But when it comes to the Middle East, we can’t ignore the potentially huge deal between Israel and the UAE. So in this case, Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies dives into what the normalization of relations between those two countries means for the larger Middle East, and he looks at whether a Biden administration would be able to build on that success.
Wednesday was a news day for the ages. News broke that a Homeland Security official had been accused of manipulating intelligence, and then that a Health and Human Services official had tried to manipulate Dr. Anthony Fauci. It went almost unnoticed that Mike Pence was slated to appear at a fundraiser hosted by QAnon adherents. (You can catch up with The Morning Dispatch if you missed anything.) But all of that was overshadowed by the news that Donald Trump had told Bob Woodward back in February that he knew that the coronavirus was more deadly in the flu, and that he had downplayed the threat on purpose. After letting that news digest for a day, David addressed it in the French Press, and “dismayed” doesn’t begin to describe it. “We will debate for years why the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation, a nation chock-full of many of the best doctors and hospitals in the world, experienced such a disproportionately staggering death toll. But here’s one reason: A man who millions of people trust and who sets the tone for communications from massive right-wing news outlets and for massive right-wing celebrities told a series of lies.”
President Trump has faced criticism for his foreign policy. He’s made many favorable statements about dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un but has been harsh toward some of our allies. But Danielle Pletka asks an important question: Will the Democrats be any better if they are in charge? She contrasts Trump’s words with his administration’s actions (sanctions against bad actors, and efforts at human rights promotion) and casts a critical eye toward Democrats, reviewing some of the ill-advised moves by the Obama administration and looking at what Biden might do. “The former vice president, the Democratic caucuses in the Senate and House, and the Democratic apparatchiks who filled the Obama administration’s ranks have proven time and again their belief that small-d democracy is a weapon to be wielded in domestic politics, not a value to be upheld in foreign policy.”
And here’s the best of the rest:
Abby McCloskey previews how Biden might handle safety-net issues for working families. She says his empathetic messaging and proposals on childcare and paid leave will likely appeal to families that have been hit hard by the pandemic, but she cautions about the cost of his programs.
The Los Angeles Unified school district opted for virtual learning this fall, and reports are that some kindergarten classes are only half full. Frederick Hess points out it didn’t have to be this way, except that the district spent six months appeasing the teachers union while ignoring the needs of its low-income students.
In Vital Interests, Tom Joscelyn calls out President Trump for saying “top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t [in love with me] because they want to do nothing but fight wars.” He writes: “We are thus left with President Trump impugning the motives of the Pentagon for carrying out the very same strategy for which he advocated and also still wants to claim credit.”
We almost never do hot takes, but Jonah had some thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the Woodward revelations in his midweek G-File. “[Trump] didn’t like the idea of having to do the very hard work of dealing with it responsibly. Why is that? Well, because Trump has made it manifestly clear that he doesn’t think he’s the president of the whole country…”
We can’t forget the pods! On the flagship Dispatch Podcast, Steve, Sarah, and Tom Joscelyn reflect on their memories of 9/11, and Tom offers an update on al-Qaeda. On Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David discuss voter fraud, in light of Trump’s suggestion that people in North Carolina should vote twice. And you won’t want to miss Jonah’s conversation with “eminence grise” Andy Ferguson on The Remnant.
Photograph by Jessica Rossi/Flickr.