Our Best Stuff From a Week That Felt a Little Hopeful
Plus, the investigation into the Capitol riots, a warning for Biden on Iran, and more.
As a parent, you learn not to spend too much time doing cost-benefit analyses or considering the “ROI”—return on investment—for some of the crazier demands on your time. Like spending two hours in the car so your kid can swim one race that takes a little over 2 minutes, for example.
But we’re a swimming family. And the pandemic has been absolutely brutal for indoor sports. The truncated baseball season our sons experienced last spring and summer seems miraculous compared with what we had to go through to experience club swimming and even rec basketball the last few months. So when you finally get a three-day championship meet, against other teams, and the schedule works out that you have a day with only one race, you hop in the car.
It’s been almost exactly a year since our youngest qualified for the age group state championship meet, only to have it get canceled the day before it was supposed to start. It was crushing. But what’s been worse is spending the months since practicing and practicing with no real competition. Our club has done its best, but it’s been rough.
This weekend, though, is giving us a small slice of normalcy and a peek into a more hopeful future. As with everything these days, it looks a little different. Championship season typically features a series of meets: one for swimmers of all abilities, one for high school swimmers who are done with their varsity seasons, and a couple that require stringent time standards. There are prelim swims in the morning and finals at night, and so parents spend a good deal of time in the car and subsist on a diet of not-so-soft pretzels, nachos, and protein bars they find at the bottom of their kids’ swim bags.
This year there is one big meet for everyone. No time standards. No prelims, just finals. And no spectators. On Friday I watched a grainy livestream from my car, 100 yards away from the natatorium. And, it was amazing. In the morning I got to watch our youngest improve his time in both his races, something he hasn’t done all year. We’ve had long talks about how swimming isn’t fun right now. It’s a kind of lonely sport—you can’t talk while you’re doing it, and you spend a lot of time staring at the bottom of the pool. What makes it fun, what gets you through the bad days where you blow a turn and get a slow time, is the social aspect—goofing off in the locker room (those are closed), hanging out with your friends at the hotel during travel meets (nope, none of those), being challenged in practice. Wilson told us at one point that he missed trying to catch the toes of the kid in front of him at practice (they even swim socially distanced within their lanes).
We came home from his session on Friday, and then I worked a few hours and got back into the car to take our 14-year-old to his race. Yep, as I mentioned above, an hourlong drive just to swim the 200 yard freestyle. This is normally the kind of thing that makes me question my sanity. Instead, Friday night, I watched happily. The big improvement in his time was nice, and made it worth the drive. But while I waited, I read news stories about our improved vaccine rollout, and the decreases in cases. I did a little research for an article I’m writing (note to the boss: I’ll have it for you tomorrow, I swear) about school reopenings, and there is at least a little encouraging news on that front.
Last March, when the big state meet got canceled, the coaches sent out an email saying they hoped to have some kind of competition in May. That obviously never happened. Had you told anyone then what the next year would like, they would have laughed. Or cried. Or both. But as with so much else in our pandemic world, everyone kept plugging away. Practice schedules had to change, groups had to be smaller, and coaches had to work extra hard to keep kids motivated. We’ve made the best of it. And now, this weekend, we get to see the reward for all that labor. It makes all the craziness worth it.
Now, for the best of what we published this week:
Many conservatives profess to be pro-life and pro-family. But what if it turns out the best way to foster a better social conservatism is to embrace two policies that are more typically associated with the left? In a midweek French Press, David points out that immigrants enjoy higher marriage rates and lower divorce rates, which allows their children to prosper at school. And he has (more) words of praise for Mitt Romney’s plan for child allowances, which are more family-friendly than existing safety-net programs. “It is fascinating to note that one answer to the public policy question: “How do we encourage a culture of marriage in the United States?” may well be a response that is an anathema to the current populist right: Maintain high levels of legal immigration,” he writes.
As Congress holds hearings into the security breakdowns that allowed an angry mob to break into the Capitol on January 6, an FBI memo warning of potential violence has garnered a considerable amount of attention. But that memo was sent out on January 5, not leaving agencies much time to confirm details or adjust their plans. But the attention focused on that one memo obscures other important details, Gary Schmitt writes, including the fact that the Capitol Police had already received similar warnings, and it remains unclear whether the social media posts that discussed planning for January 6 fall under protected speech or rise to the level of insurrection. And there’s one other little matter: “The failure to think about the worst case on January 6 has to be tied to no one knowing or even thinking about what the president would do that day. … It was a shock to see the president go to the rally, feed the crowd’s frenzy with the hottest of rhetoric and then tell them, before sending them off to the Capitol, ‘If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”
Yes, we spend a lot of time talking about Iran at The Dispatch. Don’t expect that to stop anytime soon. The Biden administration has said it will not lift sanctions on the Islamic Republic until it halts its uranium enrichment, but that’s not the only problem. Iran has repeatedly lied about its facilities and nuclear capabilities. Richard Goldberg details those deceptions, and he has a warning: “Since the deal was premised on Iran abandoning its nuclear weapons ambitions and coming clean to the IAEA about its clandestine nuclear activities, the Biden administration must demand Iran fully account for all undeclared nuclear activities, sites and materials prior to rejoining the agreement and lifting sanctions.”
And now for the best of the rest:
The Biden administration this week declassified a report that explicitly implicates Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the gruesome murder of Saudi dissident and U.S. resident Jamaal Khashoggi in 2018. But Tom Joscelyn is unimpressed, and he explains why in Vital Interests (🔒). The report contains little new information, and while the Biden administration has moved to restrict the travel of individuals who crack down on dissidents, MBS is not on the list.
Dr. Seuss was, well, not exactly canceled this week. But an announcement by the company set up to preserve his legacy that it would no longer sell six books that have images that can be deemed racist has everyone talking about banning books. Nicholas Clairmont wonders where the free-speech absolutists are for this particular debate.
Remember the heyday of blogging? Jonah does, and in the Friday G-File he has some thoughts about how it changed the news business, not for the better. It sped up the news cycle, leading to the “hot take” genre, and then gave way to “micro blogging.” You know, Twitter. Read the whole thing, as they say.
The fencing around the Capitol isn’t just aesthetically displeasing. It’s an affront to our democratic process. Arthur Rizer and Daniel Schuman explain.
The pods: On The Dispatch Podcast, Sarah and Declan talk to Oren Cass, executive director of the center-right group American Compass, about how to reform the conservative movement. Meanwhile, on Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah discuss how the Equality Act would affect religious liberty, and whether its passage is necessary to codify Bostock v. Clayton County, which protects gay and transgender people from employment discrimination.For a healthy debate on the merits of primaries, the strength of parties, and the Electoral College, check out Jonah’s interview with Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution on The Remnant.