Our Best Stuff From the Week of a Bombshell Leak
Roe v. Wade, GOP primaries, and the debate over student loan forgiveness.
Hello and happy Saturday. When I woke up Monday morning, I expected that the news week might be dominated by whatever happened in my home state’s GOP Senate primary. Who would win the right to run for the seat that Rob Portman is vacating at the end of his term: Trump-endorsed J.D. Vance, Trump-aligned Josh Mandel (campaign slogan: “Pro-God. Pro-Guns. Pro-Trump.”), or the late-surging, Trump-avoidant Matt Dolan?
It ended up being Vance, but that was overshadowed by the story that broke Monday evening when Politico published a leaked draft opinion written by Samuel Alito in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health that indicated the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Don’t worry: I’m not going to spend the next few hundred words giving you my opinion on Roe, the Supreme Court, or the leak. David wrote a great and very useful newsletter on it (summarized below), he and Sarah discussed it at length on Advisory Opinions, the gang talked about it in Tuesday’s Dispatch Live (video here for members), and Jonah tackled it in his Wednesday G-File.
I did write about abortion in the past, but these days I’d rather dig up the weeds in my flowerbeds with a dinner spoon than try to tackle it. So instead I’ll try to share some lessons I learned.
First and foremost: There are many people making bad-faith arguments—on both sides—but there are also sincere good-faith arguments. Try to seek those out, and be able to tell the difference. Abortion is a complex, emotional issue because it deals with rights that are invariably at odds: a woman’s right to control her body and the (harder-to-define) rights of a separate but wholly dependent not-yet-born child. Bad-faith arguments come from an unwillingness to acknowledge that reality. Pro-choice activists like to focus on “clumps of cells” or brand abortion opponents as sex-hating misogynists because it keeps the focus off the undeniable humanity of the unborn. On the other side, though, you’ll find anti-abortion arguments that completely ignore the physical, emotional, and financial burdens that women contend with when facing an unplanned pregnancy.
We talk a lot about how poisoned our discourse is these days, thanks to social media and our polarization and everything else. But the abortion discourse has always been toxic. Back when I did write about abortion, reading the comments at the end of my posts invariably caused a blood-pressure spike and left a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.
If you truly want to understand the other side (and this goes for both sides), stay away from extreme partisans or clickbait sites. Don’t put stock in Facebook memes. Don’t launch bombs on Twitter. (“Don’t tweet” is almost always a good option.) If you’re getting mad at what you’re hearing on cable news, turn off the television. Take your dog for a walk. Understand that there are pro-life activists who foster children, support women who are going through unplanned pregnancies, and work to provide for children being raised in poverty. Know that there are pro-choice activists who have had loved ones die in childbirth or faced horrific decisions about a pregnancy that threatened their life or health.
If you have friends with opinions that are different from yours, and you can have frank conversations, then listen without interrupting. When you share your thoughts, do so with empathy and without name-calling. Neither of you has to change your mind on the big question, but you can at least learn where the other person is coming from.
We don’t know yet how the Supreme Court will ultimately rule. But one effect of the Politico bombshell is that we’ll likely be talking about it until it happens. Fencing is going up around the Supreme Court. Activists this week published a Google Maps image showing where the six conservative justices live and encouraged protests. It’s going to be a heated time, and we’re all better off when we heed rational voices.
Now, here’s the best work we did this week, and not just on Roe. Thanks for reading. And if you choose to comment below, please be respectful—this week and every week.
When Politico published Alito’s leaked draft opinion on Monday night, David’s phone blew up (figuratively, at least we hope) with questions from friends and acquaintances. He turned those questions into a newsletter the next day. He looks at what might have motivated the leaker—whether the leak came from the left or the right—and writes that the leak was “an extraordinary breach of norms that dramatically undermines the process of deliberation and damages the legitimacy of the court.” Will overturning Roe cause a “political earthquake”? He’s skeptical. Among other reasons, “most Americans won’t experience any real change. A 2019 Guttmacher Institute study estimates that reversing Roe would lead to only a 12.8 percent decrease in the total number of abortions. More than 87 percent of abortions would still occur. The reason is simple. Reversing Roe would leave state abortion laws intact, and the vast majority of abortions occur in states the strongly protect abortion rights.”
More than a few congressional candidates are running on the notion that the U.S. should be less involved in world affairs—most notably J.D. Vance, who won in Ohio on Tuesday. No matter how popular that message might be on the campaign trail, those who make it to Congress might not find much company once they get there. Charlotte and Audrey talked to Republicans serving on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and found they are not inclined to reward isolationists with seats on those committees. “Nationalist-leaning candidates have cast their non-interventionist arguments on Ukraine as an updated version of foreign policy ‘realism. In theory, the realist school of thought rejects the moral binary of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in geopolitics, arguing instead that nations are guided by rational self-interest.” they write. “In practice, it’s lent itself to soft defenses of autocratic leadership in the name of prioritizing American economic and national security interests.”
Vance’s victory in the Ohio GOP Senate primary showed the value of Donald Trump’s endorsement in the Buckeye State. So why isn’t it working very well for David Perdue in Georgia’s gubernatorial primary, where incumbent Brian Kemp enjoys a huge lead in the polls? Andrew traveled to Georgia this week to find out. He found a busy and active campaign–Perdue held five campaign events one day and four the next–interacting with audiences that were “receptive, but sparse.” But a big difference between this race and others in which Trump has endorsed a candidate is that “Kemp’s conservative record is sterling, making it difficult for Perdue to corner the market on any segment of the GOP base besides those voting based on persistent hard feelings about 2020.”
Facing likely heavy losses in the midterms and pressure from the unhappy progressive wing of his party, Joe Biden is considering forgiving some amount of student loan debt. David Bahnsen lays waste to the arguments in favor of such a move: The government created the problem in the first place when it decided to subsidize student debt, it’s actually regressive not progressive (low-wage earners don’t hold that much debt), and it will do nothing to fix what he calls the real injustice. “The injustice is the runaway inflation in the cost of higher education disproportionate to the benefits it provides,” he writes. “That dynamic is a direct result of the very existence of the loan market college administrators have so exploited. That subsidy has facilitated a reckless allocation of resources to the absurd and the indoctrinating—dormitory amenities for recruitment purposes, exorbitant “diversity” departments—but it has not facilitated a greater experience for college students.” Brian Riedl also weighed in on the very bad idea of canceling student debt, noting that it would be expensive, unjust, and could worsen inflation, among other reasons.
And now the best of the rest:
Jonah was tired of talking about abortion, so for his Friday G-File he turned to a less heated topic: race. He has smart advice for Democrats. Will they take it?
Joe Biden says he’s trying to fight inflation, but he refuses to take actions on trade that would help, and other decisions actively make it worse. What gives? Scott Lincicome explains in Capitolism.
If you’re a member of the House who is abusing the right to proxy voting so you can stay in your district and campaign, be warned: Haley has now identified—and reported on—three such representatives. This week in Uphill she wrote about New York Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi.
Whether or not Vladimir Putin ever resorts to the unthinkable and uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the mere threat has already shaped the West’s response to his invasion and will undoubtedly influence nuclear policy by both allies and adversaries going forward. John Hannah explains.
In The Current, Klon Kitchen is keeping his eye on China—and this week writes about how China is keeping its eye on us. He discusses why the Biden administration is considering adding Hikvision, a Chinese company that produces surveillance cameras, to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) and Blocked Persons List.
On the pods: As I mentioned above, David and Sarah tackled the big leak and what it all means in Advisory Opinions. It’s such a big topic that it took two episodes: Don’t miss either Part I or Part II. On Good Faith, David and his co-host Curtis Chang look at what the leak says about the integrity of the court as an institution. Steve had a great conversation with Mitt Romney on The Dispatch Podcast. Come for the Princess Bride jokes, stay for the part where he discusses whether he might run in 2024. And on The Remnant, Jonah talks Afghanistan, China, and Russia with former National Security Adviser and retired Gen. H.R. McMaster.