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The President Is Provoking His Own Crisis

Donald Trump assured us during his campaign, "I know words. I have the best words." But are "fire and fury" and "locked and loaded" really the best words for a president to use in an increasingly volatile international crisis involving nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles? No question, North Korea precipitated this crisis with its aggressive pursuit and testing of a nuclear delivery system capable of reaching not only America's allies but also our very shores. Kim Jong Un's bellicose threats (that he would "blow the U.S. from this planet," and other such claims) upped the ante, but should the president be responding in kind?

U.S. policy toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has been a failure for decades, under both Republican and Democrat presidents. Neither diplomacy nor economic sanctions have deterred North Korea from building and testing nuclear weapons -- and, most recently, miniaturizing a nuclear warhead -- or the missiles to deliver them. Even former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice admits that U.S. efforts to denuclearize North Korea have failed -- though her advice is to learn to tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Clearly, past approaches haven't worked and President Trump is right to consider alternatives. What is not right is to take to Twitter and make off-the-cuff remarks to outline a new policy, especially one that threatens military action. On one issue there is unanimity of opinion: There are no good military options to take out North Korea's arsenal pre-emptively. Any attempt to do so would result in retaliation that would, at a minimum, put South Korea's population at grave risk and cost tens of thousands of lives. Trump's warlike rhetoric may suggest he thinks we could strike first and destroy North Korea's capability, but surely the generals have told him differently by now. And China has responded to the president's threats by putting both the DPRK and the U.S. on notice: If North Korea strikes first it cannot count on China's help to defend it, but if the U.S. tries a pre-emptive attack, all bets are off. The U.S. miscalculated China's response once before on the Korean peninsula, and the resulting Korean War took more than 33,000 American lives.

One of the biggest dangers in President Trump's warlike rhetoric is that it damages American credibility. The president is saber rattling in the worst way. He's gotten into an ego match with a dangerous and delusional dictator. He should be making it clear that the U.S. has no interest in initiating war -- but that we will defend U.S. territories and allies with all the might at our disposal. Instead, his loose language makes him sound like a bully on a playground. For a man who dodged military service himself -- receiving five deferments during the Vietnam War, including a medical deferment for bone spurs in his feet -- Trump sure likes to sound like a tough guy.

If Trump doesn't start acting more presidential, he's likely to provoke his own crisis here at home. The Constitution provides a mechanism to remove a president who for mental as well as physical reasons cannot perform his duties. In a press conference Friday afternoon, the president raised the specter of using military force not just against North Korea but also Venezuela: "We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary," Trump said. "We have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are suffering, and they're dying," he said.

The statement sounded unhinged. If he keeps this up, he's inviting those within his own administration and party to consider whether it's time to invoke the 25th Amendment's provision for his removal: "Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President." It would take a two-thirds vote by both houses of Congress to remove the president permanently, but President Trump is skating on thin ice right now.

Immigrants a Convenient Scapegoat

The administration rolled out its new immigration policy at the White House Wednesday during a week when nothing has gone well for the president. President Donald Trump has failed at health care reform. His poll numbers have slipped to 33 percent approval in a new Quinnipiac poll and 36 percent in Gallup's latest. And Congress forced the president to do something he's been avoiding for months: punish Russia for its meddling in last year's presidential election by sending him a veto-proof Russia sanctions bill. No wonder the president tried to change the subject by trotting out his favorite scapegoat.

Immigrants make easy scapegoats, a truth the president exploited all the way from Trump Tower to the Oval Office. First, it was illegal immigrants, whom the president blamed for a nonexistent spike in violent crime in the United States. Now it is the legal immigration system in general, which the administration is blaming for lowering wages for American workers and burdening the welfare system. But immigrants, especially those here legally, aren't the problem, and cutting their numbers in half will do great harm to the economy.

The bill the president has thrown his weight behind -- sponsored by Republican senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia -- would dramatically alter U.S. immigration policy, shifting the emphasis from family-reunification to one that is skills-based. There is nothing wrong with moving to a more skills-based approach; I've advocated doing so for years. The problem is in the way that this bill defines skills and the hubris of thinking government bureaucrats know better than employers which kinds of workers America needs and how many.

Even though our current system gives priority to immigrants who already have family living in the United States, those admitted clearly bring certain skills with them. As it happens, the immigrant flow is bifurcated into two streams: low-skilled workers, largely from Latin America, and high-skilled workers, mostly from Asia. However, there are plenty of exceptions. Some 6 percent of Mexican immigrants in 2014 had a college degree or higher, and 15 percent of Asian immigrants had less than a high school degree.

But both these major immigrant streams fill gaps in the U.S. labor force.

We have too few Americans graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math to fill our needs in the STEM fields, and too many Americans with at least a high school degree who don't want careers at a meat-packing plant or picking produce. Yes, we also have American-born high school dropouts who have left the labor force and who could take those jobs. But how can we force them to do so? And should we blame employers for wanting to hire a foreign-born worker who sees a low-skilled job as his or her American Dream and will show up on time and put in a full day's work over an American dropout who has no track record of doing either?

The immediate effect of this proposed policy change will be to reduce the number of immigrants from Latin America and to cut immigration overall, but its more lasting impact will be on making both the U.S. economy and population smaller. The impact on GDP will be large. A reduction in immigration of this magnitude would negatively affect labor growth as well. The Congressional Budget Office already predicts a decline in the growth of the labor force over the next 10 years, which will mean that GDP will grow at only about 1.8 percent -- and those numbers were calculated before the Trump proposal. Replacing productive foreign workers with Americans who've dropped out of the labor force, even if it were possible to do so, wouldn't raise productivity, which means any hike in wages will be inflationary. Employers faced with less-productive workers demanding higher wages will move jobs out of the country or mechanize them out of existence.

The better solution is to move to a market-based legal immigration system that lets employers decide what kind of workers they need. Blaming immigrants for stealing jobs and depressing wages is just one more way President Trump draws attention away from his own lack of leadership.

Color-Coded Meds

Professor Mark J. Perry has posted some important data that show graphically (in both senses of the word) the extent to which racial preferences are used in medical-school admissions. “Bottom Line: Medical school acceptance rates in recent years suggest that medical schools must have ‘affirmative discrimination’ and ‘racial profiling’ admission policies that favor black and Hispanic applicants over equally qualified Asian and white students.”

And, as is almost always the case with university admissions (see numerous studies by the Center for Equal Opportunity here— scroll down), race is weighed not lightly but heavily indeed:

For students applying to medical school with slightly below average GPAs of 3.20 to 3.39 and slightly below average MCAT scores of 24 to 26 . . . , black applicants were more than 9 times more likely to be admitted to medical school than Asians (56.4% vs. 5.9%), and more than 7 times more likely than whites (56.4% vs. 8.0%). . . . Compared to the average acceptance rate of 16.7% for all applicants with that combination of GPA and MCAT score, black and Hispanic applicants were much more likely to be accepted at rates of 56.4% and 30.5%, and white and Asian applicants were much less likely to be accepted to US medical schools at rates of only 5.9% and 8.0% respectively.

We find the same pattern of acceptance rates by ethnic/racial groups for applicants with slightly above average academic credentials. . . . For example, for applicants with MCAT scores of 30 to 32 (slightly above average) and GPAs between 3.40 to 3.59 (average) . . . , the acceptance rates for blacks (86.9%) and Hispanics (75.9%) were much higher than the acceptance rate for whites (48.0%) and Asians (40.3%) with those same academic credentials.

Professor Perry also notes, “Even if factors other than GPA and MCAT scores (which are probably the two most important ones) are considered for admission to medical school, wouldn’t it still be very hard to conclude that admissions policies to medical schools are completely ‘race-neutral’ and completely free of any ‘racial profiling’ practices that favor blacks and Hispanics over equally qualified Asians and whites?” Yes, professor, it would.

This discrimination is obviously a bad thing for the white and Asian students who were denied admission and now may not become doctors. It’s bad for patients who will not have doctors as good as they might have had otherwise. It’s bad for future medical research and teaching. And, because of the mismatch problem, it’s not even a good thing for many of the black and Latino students who do get admitted.

This unfair and pernicious discrimination should stop.

University of Texas Sued — Again:  Speaking of which, the University of Texas has been sued, again, for its racially discriminatory undergraduate-admissions policy. This time, the claim has been brought in state court, and the allegation is that the policy violates the state constitution’s ban on such discrimination. It’s asserted that the “diversity” exception that has been carved out of federal antidiscrimination law in student admissions doesn’t exist in Texas law.

The lawsuit has been brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) — a nonprofit membership organization made up of over 21,000 students, parents, and others. SFFA has members who were recently rejected from UT; its president is Edward Blum, who was the principal force behind Fisher v. University of Texas, which twice went to the U.S. Supreme Court. SFFA also has pending lawsuits against Harvard and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

This is great news, and kudos to Mr. Blum, his lawyers, and of course most of all to the SFFA. It’s important for universities that insist on engaging in this sort of discrimination to know that the political and legal pressure on them to stop will be unremitting and resourceful, and that message is being sent, loud and clear. As the press release notes: “According to a Gallup Poll conducted days after Fisher was decided last year, `seven in 10 Americans say merit should be the only basis for college admissions’ and ‘65% disagree with the Supreme Court decision allowing race to be a factor.’”

Race and IQ:  I very much enjoyed John McWhorter’s thoughtful essay on discussing race and IQ, and Robert VerBruggen’s thoughtful response to it, both on National Review Online, where I am a contributing editor.  As a mere lawyer, I have less expertise and narrower interests than either of them. Still, for what it’s worth, here’s what I wrote on the topic three years ago, in the context of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act:

[L]et me also say a word to those who ask: What if it turns out that there are genetic differences in cognitive abilities among different groups?
The issue whether there are racial differences in IQ is, it seems to me, of an intricacy disproportionate to its interest, at least for those of us who think that sound law and policy require judging people as individuals, without regard to race. In short, even if such genetic differences can be proven to exist, it would not provide a convincing rationale to refrain from re-instilling the sound law and policy of requiring citizens to be judged as individuals, without regard to race. Were science to somehow prove that the average white’s IQ is 12.03 higher than the average black’s, there will still be plenty of blacks smarter than plenty of whites, and plenty of mixed blacks/whites/others.

In the civil-rights context, the science here is important only to those on the far Right who would defend racial discrimination, and — especially — those on the far Left who insist that, since culture of course also cannot be blamed for racial disparities, they must all be a result of discrimination. The quota mongers have to deny unequal distributions of talent, interests, and ability, since their whole approach hinges on an assumption that proportionate representation is what a meritocratic system, sans discrimination, would produce. It is only to people who want to make racial generalizations and to people who believe that, absent discrimination, every university and workplace would “look like America” that race and IQ is of great importance.

I, on the other hand, am happy to be agnostic: Just choose the best qualified people, and don’t worry about getting your numbers right. For us colorblind conservatives, who think people should be treated as individuals regardless of race and who don’t think that racial disparity equals racial discrimination, the connection between race and IQ doesn’t matter. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, as originally written and understood, makes sense for a multiracial and multiethnic society, whether or not there are genetic differences among different groups.

“Why Obama’s Presidency Didn’t Lead To Black Progress”

Last week I wrote briefly about a new book by Jason Riley, False Black Power?  (Mr. Riley, by the way, recently joined the Center for Equal Opportunity’s board of directors.)  This week, as  a summertime treat, I’m sharing the excerpt from this book that was recently published by the New York Post.  Enjoy!

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Why Obama’s Presidency Didn’t Lead To Black Progress

Since the 1960s, black leaders have placed a heavy emphasis on gaining political power, and Barack Obama’s presidency represented the apex of those efforts. The assumption — rarely challenged — is that black political clout must come before black social and economic advancement. But as Jason L. Riley argues in this excerpt from his new book, False Black Power? (Templeton Press), political success has not been a major factor in the rise of racial and ethnic groups from poverty to prosperity.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was followed by large increases in black elected officials. In the Deep South, black officeholders grew from 100 in 1964 to 4,300 in 1978. By the early 1980s, major US cities with large black populations, such as Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia, had elected black mayors. Between 1970 and 2010, the number of black elected officials nationwide increased from fewer than 1,500 to more than 10,000.

Yet the socioeconomic progress that was supposed to follow in the wake of these political gains never materialized. During an era of growing black political influence, blacks as a group progressed at a slower rate than whites, and the black poor actually lost ground.

In a 1991 book, social scientist Gary Orfield and his co-author, journalist Carole Ashkinaze, assessed the progress of blacks in the 1970s and ’80s following the sharp increase in black officeholders. The thinking, then and now, was that the problems of the cities “were basically the result of the racism of white officials and that many could be solved by black mayors, school superintendents, policemen and teachers who were displacing white ones.” The expectation, they added, “was that black political and education leaders would be able to make large moves toward racial equity simply by devising policies and practices reflecting their understanding of the background and needs of black people.”

But the integration of these institutions proved to be insufficient. “Many blacks have reached positions of local power, such as mayor, county commission chairman or superintendent of schools, positions undreamed of 30 years ago,” they wrote. Their findings, however, showed that “these achievements do not necessarily produce success for blacks as a whole.” The empirical evidence, they said, “indicates that there may be little relationship between the success of local black leaders and the opportunities of typical black families.”

When Michael Brown was shot dead after assaulting a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, a large fuss was made over the racial composition of the police department and city leaders, which supposedly explained the subsequent civil unrest.

A Justice Department report responding to the incident noted that although the city’s population was 67 percent black, just four of its 54 police officers fit that description.

“While a diverse police department does not guarantee a constitutional one, it is nonetheless critically important for law enforcement agencies, and the Ferguson Police Department in particular, to strive for broad diversity among officers and civilian staff,” said Justice.

But if racial diversity among law enforcement and city officials is so “critically important,” what explains the rioting in Baltimore the following year after a black suspect there died in police custody?

At the time, 63 percent of Baltimore’s residents and 40 percent of its police officers were black. The Baltimore police commissioner also was black, along with the mayor and a majority of the city council.

Contentious relations between the police and ghetto communities are driven mainly by high crime rates in those areas, something that the political left doesn’t like to acknowledge. The sharp rise in violent crime in our inner cities coincides with the increase of black leaders in many of those very same cities, which makes it hard to argue that racist or indifferent authorities are to blame.

What can be said of Baltimore is also true of Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans and Washington, where black mayors and police chiefs and city councilmen and school superintendents have held sway for decades.

In her 1995 book, Facing Up to the American Dream, political scientist Jennifer Hochschild examined data from the late 1950s to the early 1990s — an era that covers not only growing black political clout but also the implementation of the War on Poverty and two full decades of affirmative action policies in hiring and college admissions.

Hochschild reported that between 1959 and 1992, poverty fell from 55 percent to 33 percent for blacks and from 18 percent to 12 percent for whites, which means that the “ratio of black to white poverty has remained at 3 — hardly a victory in the war on racially disproportionate poverty.”

The absolute numbers, she added, “tell the same story: there are now about 4 million fewer poor whites than 30 years ago, but 686,000 more poor blacks.”

Moreover, low-income blacks lost ground to low-income whites over the same period. Between 1967 and 1992, incomes for the poorest fifth of blacks declined at more than double the rate of comparable whites.

This history should have served to temper expectations for the first black president. Without taking away anything from Barack Obama’s historic accomplishment, or the country’s widespread sense of pride in the racial progress that his election symbolized, the reality is that there was little reason to believe that a black president was the answer to racial inequities or the problems of the black poor.

The proliferation of black politicians in recent decades — which now includes a twice-elected black president — has done little to narrow racial gaps in employment, income, homeownership, academic achievement and other areas.

Most groups in America and elsewhere who have risen economically have done so with little or no political influence, and groups that have enjoyed early political success have tended to rise more slowly.

“Group cohesion, expressed in political pressure and bloc voting, is often regarded as axiomatically the most effective method of promoting group progress,” explains the economist Thomas Sowell.

But historically, “the relationship between political success and economic success has been more nearly inverse than direct.”

Germans, Jews, Italians and Asians are among those who saw economic gains precede political gains in America.

Similarly, the ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia, the English in Argentina and Jews in Britain, among many other examples, all prospered economically while mostly shunning politics.

A counterexample is the Irish, whose rise from poverty was especially slow even though Irish-run political organizations in places like Boston and Philadelphia dominated local government. The Irish had more political success than any other ethnic group historically, according to Sowell. “Yet the Irish were the slowest rising of all European immigrants to America. The wealth and power of a relatively few Irish political bosses had little impact on the progress of masses of Irish Americans.”

Even if a group has the ability to wield political influence, they don’t always choose to do so.

German immigrants to the US in colonial times were not lacking in numbers. In Pennsylvania they were one-third of the population, a situation that was not lost on non-Germans. “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly become so numerous as to Germanize us instead of us Anglifying them?” wrote Benjamin Franklin in 1751.

Nevertheless, Germans, many of whom arrived as indentured servants and focused initially on paying off the cost of their voyage, had other priorities and were well known for avoiding politics. Germans began entering politics only after they had already risen economically.

Viewed against this history, many blacks were expecting Obama’s presidency to deliver more prosperity than political clout tends to deliver for a group — in the US or anywhere else.

The black experience in America is of course different from the Irish experience, which in turn is different from the Chinese or German or Jewish experience. Indeed, we can’t even generalize about all blacks in the US, since the experience of black natives is different from the experience of black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa. But that doesn’t mean group cultural traits that show patterns of success or failure should be ignored.

Even if we can’t make perfect apples-to-apples comparisons, it doesn’t mean we can’t make any comparisons or draw any conclusions. Many different racial and ethnic minority groups have experienced various degrees of hardship in the US and in other countries all over the world. How those groups have dealt with those circumstances is something to study closely and draw lessons from going forward — even if the only lesson is to manage expectations.

One of the clear lessons from this history is that human capital has proven to be far more important than political capital in getting ahead. And that reality helps to explain why blacks fared the way they did not only in the Obama era but also in the preceding decades.

Obama’s election was the end product of a civil-rights strategy that prioritized political power to advance blacks, and eight years later we once again learned the limitations of that strategy.

Reprinted with permission from False Black Power? by Jason L. Riley (Templeton Press), 2017.

The President, the Senate, and the EEOC

There are five commissioner slots on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. At the beginning of last week, only one was a Republican; three were Democrats, and there was one vacancy.  Last Saturday, on July 1, there opened up another vacancy, because this Democrat’s term expired.

What this means is that, if the two vacancies are filled quickly, we could have a 3-2 Republican majority; if they are not, we will have a 2-1 Democrat majority. The EEOC enforces all the private sector antidiscrimination employment laws, so this is a big deal. Does the administration have anything in the works, or will it dawdle along?

I know there are lots of vacancies the President needs to fill. But the White House needs to understand that this is different. If the important job of heading the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education is vacant, for example, it at least has an acting head who is a political appointee, and a department secretary who is a presidential appointee and is overseeing the office. That is not what we will have at the EEOC, which is alas a so-called independent agency that cannot be bossed around by the president — too bad, but at least for the time being, there you are — nor can the president appoint “acting” commissioners until permanent nominees are confirmed. Rather, this is analogous to there being a 4-3 liberal majority on the Supreme Court, free to do God knows what unless and until President Trump got around to filling those two vacancies and making the balance 5-4 the right way.

So nominating good people to the EEOC and getting them confirmed should be an administration (and Senate) priority.

I should add that the general counsel position at the EEOC, also appointed by the president and also a big deal, is vacant as well.

I sent a draft of the above to my editors at National Review Online last week, and then saw the announcement right after that on the White House website that day, announcing that the president had sent in a nomination for one of the two commissioner vacancies.  President Trump must have heard me typing! 

Seriously, it’s good but belated news that the president has nominated someone, but (a) the Senate now has to confirm that nomination, and (b) the president and the Senate still have the other vacancy to fill.  As of now, the 3-1 Democratic majority has become a 2-1 Democrat majority, but that can become 3-2 Republican majority.  Here’s hoping that takes place sooner rather than later.

More Math:  We Need at Least 315 Little Red Schoolhouses in Each District --  According to Education Week recently, “Students feel happier, more valued, and more motivated when they have a teacher of the same race and gender as them, a new study finds.” And, let’s see, it says here there are 63 genders.  As for races, I’m going to be very conservative, so to speak, and limit it to 5 (black, white, yellow, brown, and red).

You do the math.  Unless, of course, your math teacher didn’t match your race and gender, in which case no one can expect you to be able to do any arithmetic.

One More Thing -- Finally, here’s a memo we sent off last week.

To:       Board of Chosen Freeholders
            Essex County, New Jersey

From:   Roger Clegg, Center for Equal Opportunity
            Meriem L. Hubbard, Pacific Legal Foundation

Re:       Proposed “affirmative action” plan for contracting

We are writing with regard to the news story appended below.  We want to make clear at the outset that it is good to make sure contracting programs are open to all, that bidding opportunities are widely publicized beforehand, and that no one is discriminated against because of skin color, national origin, or sex.  To the extent that this is the aim of the new proposal, it is laudable.  Indeed, we praised an earlier proposal which we understood to be along those lines ….

But that means no preferences because of skin color, etc. either—whether it's labeled a "set-aside," a "quota," or a "goal," since they all end up amounting to the same thing.  Such discrimination is unfair and divisive; it breeds corruption and otherwise costs the taxpayers and businesses money to award a contract to someone other than the lowest bidder; and it's almost always illegal—indeed, unconstitutional—to boot (see 42 U.S.C. section 1981 and this model brief:  ). 

We discuss in greater detail the problems with such discrimination in [another] memorandum, which we sent to another Atlantic coast community.  We urge that any program you adopt also be race-, ethnicity-, and sex-neutral.

Thank you very much in advance for your attention to our concerns.

Twitter No Way to Issue Orders for Commander in Chief

Serving in the U.S. military is a privilege, not a right. Not everyone who wishes to serve can be allowed to do so, for a variety of reasons -- age, physical and mental fitness, education, and legal status, to name a few. The purpose of the military is not to advance a social or political agenda but to defend the nation. These simple truths seem to be lost in the debate stirred by President Donald Trump's clumsy and ill-timed announcement via Twitter that transgender individuals are no longer allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces.

The decision to allow transgender people to serve in the military in the first place was barely 2 years old -- unthinkable even a decade ago. In 2015, President Barack Obama's secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, announced that the Pentagon would move to allow transgender individuals to serve openly in the military. But perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Obama administration's stance was the announcement in June 2016 that the military would provide medical treatment for those service members seeking hormone treatment and plastic surgery to change their sex.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria "is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition." It seems fair to say, however, that those who choose to undergo the painful surgeries and lifelong hormonal treatments necessary to transition their sex don't do so lightly but are indeed experiencing significant distress. The question isn't whether transgender individuals have the right to live as they choose -- they do -- but that does not mean they have a right to serve in the military.

All sorts of physical and mental conditions preclude military service. The reasons vary, but the underlying assumption is that any condition that might make deployment and combat readiness more difficult justifies excluding certain individuals. Everything from asthma to plantar fasciitis may be disqualifying, depending on when the individual experienced the condition and its severity, and some medical conditions, such as diabetes, are automatically so. But so are common mental conditions. People who suffer from depression or other mood disorders -- even adults with attention deficit disorder -- can be excluded.

The military rejects these individuals not out of prejudice but because their conditions complicate the mission of the military. Individuals who require medication on a daily basis are more difficult to deploy in a wartime situation. Someone who has diabetes quickly becomes a liability on the battlefield when there isn't access to proper food or insulin or other medication. Transgender individuals require hormone treatments for the rest of their lives after transitioning. What happens when a transgender soldier runs out of male or female hormone replacement treatments while deployed? How long would a transsexual be unable to deploy while recovering from surgery?

Those who are expressing outrage that the Trump administration is reverting to the policy barring transgender individuals from service that existed prior to two years ago seem more than a little disingenuous. Some 29 million Americans have diabetes; another 25 million have asthma. But I don't remember anyone suggesting that these individuals are being discriminated against because they cannot serve in the military.

President Obama lifted restrictions against transgender people in the military, and President Trump has decided to impose those restrictions again. These are policy decisions -- and both presidents were within their authority to make them. President Trump bungled the decision to change course. He did it as he does everything, impulsively, without proper consideration for its implementation or how it affects individuals who are already in the military. Twitter is no way to issue orders as commander in chief.

It is certainly fair to ask why he did it now. Was it a way to distract from other issues? With this president, who knows? He says he talked to the generals, but few of them are coming forward to confirm any discussions, and the Pentagon was left flat-footed.
Once again, the president is setting up the dynamics for failure. Perhaps this is a bone thrown to those in his base in anticipation of disappointing them on another front. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, stay tuned.

A New Iran Policy

Five-plus months into the Trump administration, the outlines of a new foreign policy remain unclear. One of Donald Trump's frequent applause lines when he was a candidate was his promise to "rip up" the Iranian nuclear agreement, which Trump and other critics claimed was one-sided because it lifted crippling economic sanctions yet allowed too much room for Iran to pursue development of nuclear weapons. In April, the Trump administration certified that Iran was narrowly living up to the agreement to halt the development of nuclear weapons, but the administration nonetheless slapped new sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program and state-sponsored support for terrorism. This new approach might not be so aggressive as hard-line opponents of the Iranian nuclear deal hoped for, but it does deliver a needed shot across the bow to an Iranian regime that continues to threaten regional peace and suppress its people.

But what happens next? Iran continues to play an important and destructive role in Syria, backing the Assad regime in its murderous campaign against its own people. This week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned in congressional testimony that Syria's apparent preparation for another chemical attack could have grave consequences. "The goal is, at this point, not just to send Assad a message but to send Russia and Iran a message," Haley said: "If this happens again, we are putting you on notice." She continued, "My hope is that the president's warning will certainly get Russia and Iran to take a second look, and I hope that it will caution Assad." But if the U.S. response were to be another limited attack on a Syrian airfield, that message would most likely be ignored.

If the U.S. wants to stop Iran from interfering in Syria and elsewhere in the region and put an end to its nuclear program -- not just a temporary halt -- the most effective means would be to recognize the democratic opposition to Iran's theocratic regime flourishing both inside Iran and among the Iranian diaspora around the world. On July 1, tens of thousands of Iranians will gather in Paris to promote "Free Iran." As I have been for the past six years, I will be on hand to emcee the event, which gathers dignitaries from several European counties, the Middle East, Africa and the United States. This year, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, former Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, as well as retired U.S. military officials, will be among the Americans addressing the conference, which is sponsored by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran and the National Council of Resistance of Iran, whose leader is Maryam Rajavi.

What makes this year's gathering different from those of previous years is recent support for Rajavi's group on visible display within Iran. During the Iranian elections in May, posters of Rajavi appeared on overpasses and on walls in Tehran, Tabriz and other major cities, along with PMOI pleas to vote against the two major candidates -- Ebrahim Raisi, the mullahs' favorite, and the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani. Although media often describe Rouhani as a moderate, he is anything but; his government has actually increased the number of executions and cracked down hard on dissent within the country. But elections in Iran are a sham; all candidates must be approved by the Guardian Council to appear on the ballot, and almost all are rejected. Only with free and fair elections will the Iranian people finally have a chance to determine their future.

In the past year, more than 7,000 demonstrations against the regime have taken place, a number not seen since the Green Movement in 2009. That year, the new Obama administration turned a deaf ear toward Iranians hankering for democracy. If the Trump administration is serious about reversing the Obama administration's Iran policy, it could begin by embracing those Iranian dissidents who offer a different future for their fellow countrymen.

The 'Recognizing America's Children' Act

President Donald Trump may not yet have built his "big, beautiful wall" along the southern border or figured out a way to make Mexico pay for it, but immigration is one area where the president seems committed to keeping his campaign promises. Illegal immigration, which was already at a 40-plus-year low when the president was sworn in, has fallen even further in his first six months in office. The administration has stepped up immigration arrests, averaging over 13,000 a month since February, abandoning the policy in effect under several previous presidents that concentrated on rounding up criminals and recent arrivals. And the administration is intent on punishing cities and states that are insufficiently cooperative on immigration enforcement, though its efforts to withhold federal funds from such jurisdictions is being challenged in the courts.

You'd think this would be enough to satisfy immigration hard-liners, but some are still grousing that President Trump has yet to pull the plug on the Barack Obama-backed program that gave temporary protection from deportation to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children or young teens. The so-called "dreamers" seem to be the only foreign-born residents for whom President Trump has a soft spot (save his wives and seasonal visa holders on the payroll at Mar-a-Lago). The president has, so far, refused to rescind the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but now several states are threatening to sue if he doesn't suspend the program, which currently gives some 800,000 dreamers the right to live and work in the U.S. provided they are enrolled in college or serve in the military, pass a background check and have no criminal record. What President Trump should do instead is get behind legislation introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.: the Rec!
ognizing America's Children Act, which currently has 17 Republican co-sponsors in the House.

RAC, like previous legislative attempts to grant legal status to those who arrived as minors, would give provisional status to applicants who were in school, worked continuously or enlisted in the military. All applicants would have to pass rigorous background checks, have no criminal record, could not receive public welfare and would have to submit biometric data. Only those who fulfilled these obligations, paid taxes (including any back taxes owed plus interest) and stayed employed or in school or in the military would be eligible to become legal permanent residents.

Most Americans, including 7 in 10 Trump voters in a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll, favor allowing childhood arrivals to remain in the U.S. and be granted legal status. And it's no wonder; these are the most productive and sympathetic group of illegal immigrants. Most were too young to have knowingly violated U.S. law. They came here as youngsters, went to American schools, learned English and know no other country but this one as home. A recent Cato Institute study of these young people reveals that the average DACA participant is 22 years old, employed and earns $17 an hour. Most are also enrolled in higher education, and 17 percent are pursuing advanced degrees. These are exactly the kind of immigrants America should want. What possible benefit would be gained by removing these young people -- especially after we've already invested in educating them?

Republicans have increasingly earned a reputation as anti-immigrant -- and no one more so than President Trump. But immigration is part of what makes America America. We aren't a nation that defines itself by blood. We attract the best and brightest and hardest-working people from all over the world, and we always have. For most of our history, our doors were wide open, admitting anyone who had the will to get here. And our generous immigration policies have helped make us the most productive and successful nation in the history of the world. We are constantly renewing ourselves and gaining in the process.

President Trump has few legislative victories to claim. Getting behind the Recognizing America's Children Act could give him a needed win -- and fulfill his most important promise, to make America great again.

Between Flag Day and July 4th

This week finds us between Flag Day and the Fourth of July, so what better time to think about what it means to be an American and, in particular, what values all Americans should hold in common.

Earlier this year, President Trump promised, “So in the coming days, we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination.  We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us and to love our values — not to hate us and to hate our values.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last month likewise called for there to be more attention given to immigrants “assimilation.”  The Center for Equal Opportunity is providing input on this to the administration, and certainly the President is right about the importance of all Americans, immigrant and native-born alike, needing to share certain basic values if our country is to work well.

So here’s a column I wrote on this topic in 2000.  I’ve sent it around since then, and I still stand by it — and I hope that the President and his administration find it useful as they work on ensuring better assimilation.  (Later on, I fleshed out this article in Congressional testimony I gave here.) Here’s the column:

E Pluribus Unum
America has always been a multiracial and multiethnic country. But saying that it is, or should be, multicultural is very different. The ideal was, and still should be, that you can come to America from any country and become an American — but that means accepting some degree of assimilation. It is not diversity that we celebrate most, but what we hold in common.

The same is also true for native-born Americans. All of us can claim equally to be Americans, but all must acknowledge a shared set of beliefs and mores.

America has always been diverse. But telling an elementary school that it cannot insist on teaching children standard English, or English at all; or telling a college that it cannot focus on Western Civilization; or insisting that an employer accommodate work habits it finds to be unproductive; or condemning social strictures as judgmental — well, all this may celebrate diversity, but it denigrates the common standards that a free society must have if it is to flourish.

Still, it will not do simply to condemn diversity, any more than it will to embrace it indiscriminately. There is much diversity that is valuable or at worst harmless. Workers and students from all backgrounds have contributed enormously to our national life, and who cares what food they like? Some diversity is good, and some bad.

Accordingly, it makes sense to set out some rules essential for a multiracial, multiethnic America and that all Americans should follow — wherever they or their ancestors came from, whatever their skin color, whatever their favorite food or dance. Here are my ten, aimed as much at the native-born as the newly arrived.

1. Don’t disparage anyone else’s race or ethnicity. It may seem odd to begin the list with this one, but actually it’s not. On the list of things we don’t tolerate, intolerance deserves a prominent position. If we are to be one nation, we cannot criticize one another’s skin color and ancestors.

2. Respect women. Just as we do not tolerate a lack of respect based on race or ancestry, we also demand respect regardless of sex. Some subcultures — foreign and domestic — put down women. That is not acceptable. This doesn’t mean that men and women have no differences or that we all must be ardent feminists. But it does mean that women must be treated respectfully, and that where the law requires that they be treated equally — as it frequently does in this country — it be followed.

3. Learn to speak English. This doesn’t mean that you can’t learn other languages, too, or keep up a native language. But you and your children must learn English — standard English — as quickly as you can. And, if you expect to be accepted, you should avoid speaking another language when you are with people who don’t understand it.

4. Don’t be rude. Some people apparently view it as unmanly or uncool to be polite. But that is just adolescent sullenness. Customers, coworkers, fellow students, strangers — all expect to be treated courteously, and rightly so. Not every culture is a stickler for taking turns, queuing up, and following the rules (see next item), but Americans follow the British here.

5. Don’t break the law. If you want to participate in this republic — if you want a say in making the rules and electing those who make them — you have to follow the laws yourself. That means, among other things, that you can’t use illegal drugs, which is just as well since there is no surer way to stay at the bottom of the heap or to find yourself there in a hurry.

6. Don’t have children out of wedlock. Moral issues aside, illegitimacy is a social disaster for women and children alike (especially boys). Here again, it is a sure way to stay poor and raise poor children. Perhaps in some countries it takes a village to raise a child, but in the United States it takes two parents. That said, the pathology of illegitimacy is more widespread among some native-born groups than among some immigrants.

7. Don’t demand anything because of your race, ethnicity, or sex. You have the right not to be discriminated against because of these factors, and it follows that you also cannot demand discrimination in your favor. The sooner you can stop thinking of yourself first as a member of a particular demographic subset, and instead as a human being and an American, the better. This is true for both individuals and groups. The demagogues of identity politics promise nothing worthwhile.

8. Working hard-in school and on the job — and saving money — are not “acting white.” And, for whites, it is not being a nerd or a dweeb. America owes her success to a strong work ethic and to parents instilling that ethic in their children.

9. Don’t hold historical grudges. There is not a single group in the United States that has not been discriminated against at one time or another. But we are all in the same boat now, and we have to live and work together. Your neighbor’s great-great grandfather may have tried to kill or enslave yours, but we are a forward-looking country and so we cannot afford to dwell on the past.

10. Be proud of being an American. You can hardly expect to be liked and accepted by other Americans if you don’t love America. This is not a perfect country, and it does not have a perfect history. And there are lots of other countries that have good qualities. But there is no country better than the United States. If you disagree, then why are you here?