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Email Scandal

Hillary Clinton is leading in the polls, but the public still doesn't entirely trust her. This week, those suspicions focused on the candidate's relationship to the organization her husband founded, which she joined following her tenure as secretary of state. Appointees to high office must avoid not just actual conflicts of interest but the appearance of conflict, and the since-renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation's aggressive pursuit of donations from individuals and governments that might want special access to the State Department made it difficult, if not impossible, to avoid such conflicts. Thanks to Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, we now have evidence that the Clintons may have crossed the line.

In a batch of emails newly released this week as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request, we see concrete proof that foundation staff sought access to top-level State Department officials on behalf of donors. In some cases, doors appeared to open for donors; in others, it is less clear. But in several cases, the foundation sought help from two of Hillary Clinton's top, longtime aides: Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. No quid pro quo is necessary to determine that such contact was highly inappropriate.

In a normal election cycle this story would be dominating the news -- but Donald Trump's comments that maybe "Second Amendment people" could do something to stop a President Clinton from appointing unfriendly judges managed to take the focus off Clinton and put it on Trump once again. Nonetheless, this story has legs, and Clinton must come to terms with the problems the Clinton Foundation poses to a Clinton presidency.

Neither Bill Clinton, president of the foundation, nor daughter Chelsea, who is vice chair, have announced what their relationship to the eponymous foundation will be should Hillary become president. Resigning their posts would seem a prerequisite to avoid actual conflicts, but I believe they would be wise to go much further. Even the name of the foundation presents problems. Donors would perceive gifts to a foundation named for a former and current president and their daughter as their way of showing "appreciation," not simply fostering good deeds. Whether or not the Clintons and their aides provided access to such individuals, the donation would always raise suspicions. The first step, then, in avoiding such conflicts would be to drop the Clinton name. Why not rename the group simply the Global Initiative, which the foundation uses in the titles of many of its projects?

But even that would not be enough, so long as the charity was headed by Clinton allies and staffed with Clinton stalwarts. The best way to avoid the problem would be for the Clintons to hand over the leadership to a prominent Republican, a former governor, senator or president. George H.W. Bush is probably too old to assume the duties, but what about George W. Bush? No, I'm not kidding. President Bush was very active in the fight against AIDS and malaria in Africa, among other humanitarian efforts. Certainly no one could accuse donors to a foundation headed by such a prominent Republican as trying to curry favor with a Democratic president. If naming a Bush to head up the group is a bridge too far, the Clintons could appoint co-chairs or co-presidents, one Democrat and one Republican, and make sure the executive director had no previous ties to the expansive Clinton network.

The Clintons have always relied on "friends" to get them what they wanted, whether it was getting deals on investment properties on the White River; making miraculously profitable trades on the commodity markets; or securing huge donations to charities that would burnish the Clinton legacy.

And they've managed to enrich themselves along the way, earning fabulous speaking fees: Bill has a talent for public speaking that could possibly justify those fees, but no one could say the same for Hillary. And it was those fees that helped turn the couple from being "flat broke" when they left the White House (as Hillary claimed in an interview) to being worth more than a hundred million today. No president in recent history has cashed in on the presidency to the degree Bill Clinton has, and part of the reason is that Hillary moved into a position of power just as Bill was relinquishing his, first as a U.S. senator then as secretary of state.

If the Clintons don't give up their ties to the Clinton Foundation entirely should Hillary become president, you can bet they will be hounded by skeptical Republicans in Congress, who will haul the foundation into hearings and maybe even try to bring in the president herself. The last thing she needs if she assumes office is to keep feeding the suspicion that she's not entirely trustworthy. So, why not get out front now? Who knows, she might even boost her favorability ratings by a few points.

Some Blunt Talk on Race

Many African Americans have blown it.  By no means all, but many.  By no means only African Americans, as I’ll discuss in later, but a disproportionate number of them.

African Americans finally and rightly achieved great equality of law, and along with it much greater equality of opportunity than they had ever had, as a result of the Civil Rights Movement that culminated in the 1960s.  But they have failed to take advantage of it.  

It’s a sad irony that, at the same time something good was happening for them, sometime bad was happening, too.  This is not to say that great progress hasn’t been made in shrinking various socioeconomic gaps between African Americans and other groups, but the progress could have been much greater.

To be blunt:  The reason I say that African Americans have blown it is because, at the same time that they were achieving so much, they abandoned marital childbearing.  At the same time the civil-rights advances were occurring, the black family started to implode, so that now 71 percent of African Americans are born out of wedlock.

And now those in organizations on the left like Black Lives Matter are blaming others for this failure by too many African Americans.  Yet it is this failure that accounts for the persistence of racial disparities, not racial discrimination.   For raising children without fathers results in more crime, more poverty, more unemployment, more substance abuse, more high-school dropouts — you name the social problem, and it goes along with illegitimacy, and that includes the problem of illegitimacy itself, which has become intergenerational and culturally ingrained.

And, what’s more, the persistence of racial discrimination is itself caused by the racial disparities as much as it is a cause of them.  Racial stereotypes are not, alas, completely divorced from reality. 

Recall the confession years ago of Jesse Jackson — yes, Jesse Jackson of all people — that if he hears footsteps behind him on a dark street he is relieved when a nervous glance back over his shoulder reveals that the two youths behind him are white, not black.

Why did this happen — why, that is, did the African American family implode at the same time as the Civil Rights Movement was triumphing? 

I don’t know.  John McWhorter, a decade ago in his book Winning the Race, blamed it on the hippies — or, more precisely, on the cavalier liberal attitude in the 1960s toward sexual promiscuity.  It’s as good a theory as any I’ve heard.  The same forces that gave us the Civil Rights Movement also gave us the Great Society, and with the latter came a decidedly anti-bourgeois mentality.  But, as Irving Kristol warned, it’s a mistake to look down on the bourgeoisie, and we ignore its values at our peril. 

Upper class whites were able to recover from the sixties nonsense.  Lower-income blacks, not so much.

Whatever the cause of that 71 percent number, in any event, what is to be done now? 

Here again, I’m afraid that it’s hard to say.  You can’t pass laws against illegitimacy and promiscuity.  These are fundamentally moral problems.  My own view is that we need another Great Awakening.  And of course that’s something else that can’t be legislated.

But the good news is that the out-of-wedlock birthrate can go from 71 percent to 0 percent in exactly 9 months without it costing anyone a dime.  All that’s necessary if for African Americans — and, in particular, African American women — to will it.  

I stress women not because they are more culpable.  To the contrary, biology being what it is, I think it is more likely that they can be persuaded to behave responsibly than men, especially young men.  And women, after all, are the ones more likely to bear the brunt of the problems of single parenthood. 

I’m under no illusions, though:  This message has to be carried by someone like Oprah Winfrey, or better yet whoever the younger version of her is these days, rather than an old white guy like yours truly.

And, while I’m focusing on African Americans here, let me also hasten to add that all of this is true for members of other racial and ethnic minority groups — and for whites, too

Indeed, much is being made now of the collapse of strong families and the concurrent rise of social pathologies in large swaths of white America.  That seems to be the theme of J.D. Vance’s new book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.  That was also the point of Charles Murray’s earlier book, Coming Apart.

That’s all true.  This is really not about race.  Bad behavior leads to bad results for any demographic group, and bad behavior for any demographic group is strongly correlated with raising children in a home without a father.

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Last week, the Washington Post published an op-ed by the head of the Obama administration’s Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, calling on Congress to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision three years ago in Shelby County v. Holder.  She wants, that is, to resurrect the “preclearance” provision in the Voting Rights Act, which requires many state and local jurisdictions to get advance permission from her minions before making any changes in voting practices or procedures.

My published response in the Washington Post can be read here:

No new legislation is needed. The Supreme Court invalidated only one provision in the Voting Rights Act, and that provision was indeed unconstitutional. There are plenty of voting-rights laws on the books to ensure that the right to vote is protected.

In every other area of civil rights law, if someone believes his rights have been violated, he has to prove it in court. That is fair, and there is no reason that our voting laws should be any different.

Liberal lawyers would prefer to be able to get their way without proving anything, simply working behind the scenes with left-of-center bureaucrats to block laws they dislike. They are not concerned about ballot integrity and use racial gerrymandering to advance their own interests.

Also, the principal bill that has been drafted is bad legislation. It does not protect all races equally from discrimination, contains much that has nothing to do with the Supreme Court’s decision and violates the Constitution by prohibiting practices that are not actually racially discriminatory but have only racially disproportionate effects.

No Unity, No Victory

Conventions are usually pretty boring affairs, but this week's Republican convention was anything but. Apparently, Donald Trump thinks that's a good thing for the party he now leads. Midweek, Trump tweeted about the controversy surrounding his wife's partially plagiarized Monday speech: "Good news is Melania's speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!"

If chaos, disorganization and mixed messages on policy are a mark of success, Trump had a banner week. But for those of us watching to see whether Trump could bring a badly fractured party and country together, it was a disaster.

The Trump campaign's refusal to acknowledge that parts of Melania's speech were taken word for word from Michelle Obama's 2008 speech to the Democratic National Convention dominated the news for almost three days. It could have been a one-day story, but the campaign's adamant, blatantly false denials turned it into three. And no sooner had Team Trump put one controversy to bed than it stoked another.

Ted Cruz's failure to endorse the nominee was, apparently, no surprise to the campaign. Staffers had a copy of his speech for three days prior to his delivering it. So why did they extend his time from 10 minutes to 20? The only possible explanation is that they hoped for exactly what happened on the convention floor -- the booing and jeering of Cruz.

But the melee also managed to upstage the evening's star, Mike Pence. Trump's vice presidential pick was supposed to add gravitas to the ticket. Pence warned in his speech that the United States "cannot have four more years apologizing to our enemies and abandoning our friends. America needs to be strong for the world to be safe." But no sooner had he uttered those words than The New York Times published an interview with Trump done earlier that day, which threw those sentiments under the bus.

Trump told The New York Times that he would reverse 67 years of American foreign policy by disregarding Article 5 of the NATO treaty if he felt that member nations haven't "fulfilled their obligations to us." He also said he'd shred NAFTA "in a split second." These are treaties signed by presidents of the United States and ratified by the U.S. Senate.

A Trump administration would mean adios to the rule of law and welcome to rule of one. For those actually listening to what he says he would do, it sounds like a more bellicose version of the current administration -- with the president following the laws he likes and disregarding or rewriting those he doesn't.In a normal election cycle, this would be enough to defeat a candidate. President Gerald Ford's re-election odds famously plummeted when he declared in a presidential debate, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe," arguing that Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia were free from Soviet interference. In 1976, such blunders could actually doom a candidate. This year, Trump's gaffes have been so numerous and outrageous that no single misstatement or insult seems to stick.

Even Trump's disparaging remarks about America in that same Times article will probably go unnoticed. "When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don't think we are a very good messenger," he said when asked why he seemed to be defending Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's jailing of 50,000 people after the failed coup that tried to oust the leader.

Trump also called for pulling out U.S. troops from South Korea, noting that if we hadn't stayed on the peninsula after the Korean conflict, "maybe you would have had a unified Korea." Apparently, it doesn't matter to Trump that that would most likely mean one under the rule of Kim Jong Un, about whom Trump has admiringly said, "You've got to give him credit. ... He goes in; he takes over; and he's the boss. It's incredible."

There is no doubt that Trump's true believers will end the week thinking their guy is a winner. But I can't imagine that most undecided voters will feel the same. The Trump convention gave us controversy, plagiarism, heckles, boos and cries of "lock her up" about the Democratic nominee. It was full of anger, even hatred, and remarkably devoid of policy.

Will any of this matter on Election Day? I think so, not that people will go into the voting booth remembering the missteps made in July. But the likelihood that we will see more of the same for the next 100 days virtually guarantees Republican defeat. This week was Donald Trump's chance to show those not yet in his camp that he can indeed lead the nation to a more prosperous, secure and principled future. He failed, utterly.

The IRS Should Call Trump's Bluff

For 40 years, Americans have had a chance to review the tax returns of major party candidates running for the presidency. But this year, the Republican nominee says he "can't" release his returns because they are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has said nothing prevents a candidate under audit from releasing his or her returns, but Donald Trump still balks. He has not flatly refused to release the returns, which some might view as suspicious, so here's a solution to the dilemma: The IRS should close the audit of Trump's most recent returns immediately. He will have no excuse then and will either have to release them or, as I suspect he might, stonewall, thus confirming his critics' worst suspicions.

IRS audits are the government's way to ensure taxpayers aren't cheating. But for wealthy individuals who have multiple business interests and income earned from a variety of sources, audits are pretty routine. For someone as wealthy as Trump claims to be, his chances are about one in 50. So his audit doesn't necessarily mean he's done anything wrong. But his secrecy does raise red flags. Richard Nixon -- a president not known for his openness -- released his returns while still under audit in 1973. And Mitt Romney eventually released his, though he waited until the fall of 2012, which probably brought more scrutiny and criticism than if he'd done it earlier. In campaigns, the general rule is: release bad news early and hope it will be forgotten by Election Day.

If Trump does owe more in taxes than he's paid over the last several years, closing the audit would mean the government might not be able to automatically force payment of those taxes. So the U.S. Treasury would be a few million dollars poorer. But isn't transparency worth that cost? Of course, closing the audit would not allow the IRS itself to reveal the returns -- that's a felony -- but it would force Trump's hand. He's said many things about his returns, but perhaps Trump can be held to this tweet reprinted in Politico this week: "In interview I told @AP that my taxes are under routine audit and I would release my tax returns when audit is complete, not after election!"

Closing the audit would not prevent the IRS from prosecuting Trump for tax fraud later if he intentionally misrepresented information on his return. While there is a three-year limit on collecting back taxes, there is no statute of limitations on fraudulent returns. So the risk in releasing Trump from audit is minor compared to the risk of giving him an excuse to avoid honoring his pledge.

Many pundits and Trump critics have speculated about why Trump won't release his returns. Some think he's not nearly as rich as he claims -- I fall into this category -- and believe Trump pays almost nothing in taxes. There's good reason to assume this speculation is correct. Trump's returns from the late 1970s, which he provided for the New Jersey gambling commission in order to open his casino, showed he paid $0 in taxes for the previous two years at a time when he claimed to the New York Times he was worth $200 million.

A look at Trump's return would doubtless find that the billionaire is stingy. According to an investigation by the Washington Post, which examined gifts to 188 charities Trump has either claimed he's given to or whose events he attended, he's given almost nothing. The Post found that contrary to Trump's boasts about the millions he gives, he's made only a single, verifiable donation between 2008 and May 2016 -- less than $10,000 to the Police Athletic League of New York City. Nor has Trump given anything to his own charitable foundation since 2008.

But the biggest worry is that Trump may be in hock to Russian banks, which would show up in his returns. Again, there is ample fuel for such speculation. Trump's reputation with American banks isn't great; he's got a history of trying to stiff them. His lender of choice is Deustche Bank, but he's had a rough relationship even with them involving suits and countersuits when Trump refused to pay back what he owed. According to Trump's financial disclosures filed with the Federal Elections Commission, he owes at least $335 million on more than a dozen large bank loans. But the sum may be much higher since the disclosure only lists rough categories, the largest of which is $50 million or more per loan.

The public has a right to know Donald Trump's complicated financial dealings before voters go to the polls. If it takes suspending his audit to force Trump to come clean, the IRS should do it today. And if Trump won't honor his pledge, voters should know he's hiding something.

President Obama, Race, and the Police

On Wednesday last week, just after the President’s speech at the memorial service for the fallen police officers in Dallas, I posted this on National Review Online:

I think it’s a fair question whether a memorial service for the fallen police officers in Dallas was the appropriate venue to talk at all about the shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana, and about bias, bigotry, prejudice, racism, and discrimination in America — “and that includes our police departments.”

The scope of the president’s remarks aside, here is what seems to me to be the most problematic paragraph of his speech:

“And so when African Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across the country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment; when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently, so that if you’re black you’re more likely to be pulled over or searched or arrested, more likely to get longer sentences, more likely to get the death penalty for the same crime; when mothers and fathers raise their kids right and have “the talk” about how to respond if stopped by a police officer — “yes, sir,” “no, sir” — but still fear that something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door, still fear that kids being stupid and not quite doing things right might end in tragedy — when all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid.  (Applause.)  We can’t simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism.  To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends and coworkers and fellow church members again and again and again — it hurts.  Surely we can see that, all of us.”

Now, the president is saying here that the evidence is in, and it shows that our criminal justice system is biased.  Not only is that not true, but it ignores what is true: that by far the biggest reason African Americans experience the criminal justice system differently is that they are much more likely to commit crimes. I am not happy about that, and it can be changed, but it has to be recognized.

Finally, the president ignored another, equally large elephant in the room: He said not a word about the catastrophic out-of-wedlock birthrate among African Americans, especially in our inner cities. I’m not happy about this fact either, but it too has to be faced.  That’s what drives racial disparities in our country, including disparities in crime rates. It drives differences in life outcomes within racial groups as well as among them, by the way, and there is no doubt that the problem is getting worse among non-Hispanic whites and Latinos, too.

More than seven out of ten African Americans are born out of wedlock, more than six out of ten Native Americans, and more than five out of ten Latinos; versus fewer than three out of ten whites, and fewer than two out of ten Asian Americans. That is a huge range, and it is no coincidence that it lines up precisely with how well the different groups are doing in any aspect of American life you want to look at.   

The rise in out-of-wedlock birthrates is the single most important domestic problem our country faces. Will the president ensure that this becomes part of the national conversation we are having on race and crime?

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Alas, I had to follow up that post with another one two days later:

I noted Wednesday that, in his speech at the Dallas memorial service, “the president ignored [an] elephant in the room: He said not a word about the catastrophic out-of-wedlock birthrate among African Americans, especially in our inner cities.” 

I noted that I’m not happy about this fact, but it has to be faced. I said that this is what drives racial disparities in our country, including disparities in crime rates, so that a disproportionate number of young black males find themselves at odds with the police.

I pointed out that more than seven out of ten African Americans are born out of wedlock, more than six out of ten Native Americans, and more than five out of ten Latinos; versus fewer than three out of ten whites, and fewer than two out of ten Asian Americans. That is a huge range, and it is no coincidence that it lines up precisely with how well the different groups are doing in any aspect of American life you want to look at.  

I concluded that the rise in out-of-wedlock birthrates is the single most important domestic problem our country faces. And I asked, “Will the president ensure that this becomes part of the national conversation we are having on race and crime?”

The answer is, “No.”

President Obama had every opportunity to say something, anything about this issue at tonight’s town hall.  He talked a lot about the underlying problems in inner-city communities that lead to more crime there. So he talked about the need there for more jobs and better schools and mental health care. He talked, naturally, a lot about guns. And he went through this litany several times.  

He talked about how these communities needed to be healthier. He said a lot about the need for more government programs, and he even said that parents need to parent. When he was talking with a single mom with six children, he proudly noted that he was raised by a single mom.

So, as I said, President Obama had every opportunity to mention the fact that children who are raised by married parents are much less likely to get into trouble than those who aren’t.

But he didn’t.  Not a single word.

School Discipline and Political Correctness

My response to a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial was published last week by that paper in its “Correspondent of the Day” feature, and I thought I would make the issues it discusses the focus of this week’s email. 

My response was titled “Undisciplined students hurt the entire class,” and here it is:

You made two points in your recent editorial “Political Correctness” that were spot on. Both issues involved the Obama administration’s Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. In each instance, the administration has indeed “fixated on leftist identity politics.”

In the first instance, the department has reacted to the serious issue of sexual assaults on campuses with decidedly unserious guidance for universities, urging them to stack the deck against alleged violators who may not have been violators at all. The second matter is even more absurd. The administration is creating a strong presumption that any school system in which discipline policies have a disproportionate statistical result for this or that racial or ethnic group is illegally discriminatory.

But the fact is that there can be wide variations in a school district among different groups when it comes to misbehavior. The title of a recent article in the Journal of Criminal Justice neatly sums this up: “Prior problem behavior accounts for the racial gap in school suspensions.”

The Obama administration’s insistence on de facto racial quotas is what is really illegal. What’s more, it is bad policy. If students who should be disciplined are not disciplined, this penalizes their classmates who will be trying to learn in unruly classrooms. Those students are themselves likely to be African-Americans from poor backgrounds.

Somehow, those enamored of leftist identity politics always forget about the interests of the law-abiding members of poor communities, even though they are in the majority.

My discussion prompted a lot of comment from readers, both positive and negative.  Hans Bader — who is an expert on these issues and works at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a frequent ally of the Center for Equal Opportunity — kindly helped answer some of the critics.  He noted:

The above letter was written by former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general Roger Clegg, a civil-rights expert. He carefully read the Education Department "Dear Colleague" letter he is criticizing in his letter to the editor. Links to the study he mentions in his letter can be found in my 2014 column in the Daily Caller, which supports everything Clegg says in his letter. Clegg is arguing that colorblind school discipline rules should not be overridden by "disparate impact" rules being interpreted to require racial quotas in school discipline, which violate the federal appeals court decision in People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education (1997).

Hans then added:

The Department of Education, where I used to work as a lawyer, is wrongly pressuring schools to adopt racial quotas in school suspensions, ignoring research showing that black students have higher misbehavior rates because they are more likely to come from broken homes. As Katherine Kersten noted this year in the Star-Tribune, black students’ "discipline rate is higher than other students’ because, on average, they misbehave more.”  …

Many thanks, Hans! 

I’ll add that my analysis of the DoEd guidance when it first came out was published by National Review Onlinehere.

Finally, I should say that the original editorial by the Richmond Times-Dispatch is itself well worth reading:

The Education Department's double standard on school discipline

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and on the issue of political correctness Donald Trump has a point. For evidence, just look at the Education Department’s ridiculous double standard on school discipline.

In 2011, in response to perfectly legitimate and reasonable concerns about the prevalence of sexual misconduct on campuses across the country, the department sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter with an unreasonable demand. It instructed colleges and universities to lower the standard of proof in cases of alleged sexual assault. Instead of requiring “clear and convincing” evidence, the department said, schools should require only a “preponderance of the evidence,” the better to find students guilty.

Law professors across the country have condemned that standard for violating the rights of the accused — and it’s not hard to see why. Colorado State University-Pueblo recently expelled a student-athlete for sexual assault even though the woman in question said their relationship was consensual, told investigators “I’m fine and I wasn’t raped,” and the two had sex again later.

The Education Department is now investigating 192 colleges and universities for not prosecuting sexual misconduct cases more aggressively. And yet for grades K-12, the Education Department has been hammering schools for being too aggressive on school discipline, especially when it comes to suspensions, because of their alleged “disparate impact” on minorities.

Two years ago the department issued guidance warning schools that they “violate Federal law when they evenhandedly implement facially neutral policies” if those policies affect minority students more than non-minority students. Under that standard, a school that metes out exactly the same punishment to every student who breaks the rules is not discriminating if black students commit fewer infractions per capita — but it is discriminating if they happen to commit more.

Since schools cannot punish white students who have done nothing wrong, at certain times the only way to avoid this dilemma, and hence the wrath of federal officials, will be to refrain from punishing minority students in cases where the students are at fault.
In short, an Education Department fixated on leftist identity politics has incentivized colleges and universities to convict some students who might be innocent — and incentivized K-12 schools not to convict some students who might be guilty. For liberals trying to unpack the mystery of Donald Trump’s appeal, this would be a good place to start.

*          *          *

Just a few words on the recent party conventions:  Hated to see Ivanka Trump cite the phony “women-get-paid-78-cents-on-the-dollar” figure in the speech introducing her father.  Amused at the decision to have the Rolling Stones’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” playing as the balloons dropped for Donald Trump.  Irritated to see Tim Kaine going back and forth between English and Spanish in his acceptance speech.  Really irritated to see Hillary Clinton decrying America’s supposed “systemic racism” and, therefore, calling for the “reform our criminal justice system from end to end” in hers.

No Quick Fix for Prejudices

Americans are increasingly pessimistic about race relations, nearly eight years after many of us hoped we had ushered in a new, post-racial era with the election of the first African-American president. A New York Times poll taken in the wake of the killing of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota and the assassination of five Dallas police officers by a black veteran shows that 69 percent of Americans believe race relations are generally bad, with 60 percent saying they believe race relations are getting worse. But why now, when so many markers of racial equality have improved? And why does America's racial divide continue to be black and white while America's population is no longer primarily black and white?

Blacks made up just 13 percent of the population in 2014, while Hispanics (who may be of any race) made up 17 percent and Asians 6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Non-Hispanic whites made up 62 percent of the population in 2014, but that was down significantly over the previous few decades, largely because of the increase in Hispanics and Asians. Yet when we think of race relations, we rarely think about the white/Hispanic divide or the white/Asian divide or even the black/Hispanic or black/Asian divide.

History is partially to blame. No group faced the systemic, state-sponsored discrimination that African-Americans faced -- not to mention their arrival on these shores in chains, not of their own free will. Nonetheless, broad state-sanctioned discrimination is largely a thing of the past, and even overt individual discrimination is infrequent, with plenty of laws aimed at preventing it and a vast federal, state and local bureaucracy to enforce those laws.

But laws alone cannot change hearts. And to ignore that racial prejudice is still very much alive in our society is to dismiss the real pain that many African-Americans endure on a regular basis. Life is different for black Americans, even if they are wealthy and accomplished, yet many whites fail to appreciate how this affects their fellow citizens.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., recently noted that he has been stopped frequently by police for doing nothing more than driving a late-model car in an affluent neighborhood. Even Capitol Police officers have mistakenly stopped him from entering Senate buildings, despite the pin he wears designating he is a member of Congress, with one officer telling him, "The pin, I know. You, I don't. Show me your ID." What these officers see is a black man in a place they don't expect him to be.

These slights and embarrassing encounters leave a mark, which some victims can more easily dismiss than others. Scott hasn't let them define or enrage him, but he decided to speak out nonetheless in hopes that his fellow conservatives would not just dismiss the anger and hurt experienced by many African-Americans.

It's the beginning of a dialogue that needs to take place. But it has to be a two-way dialogue -- one in which African-Americans must listen, as well. Scott has been the victim of stereotypes, but the most potent stereotypes sometimes embody a grain of truth, which is what makes them so powerful. The uncomfortable grain of truth is that black men commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime -- including about half of homicides, according to the Department of Justice. If we want to understand white attitudes, we cannot ignore this fact and the impact it has on increasing prejudices among whites.

The human mind is quick to generalize, and absent specific information about an individual, humans are likely to draw on group characteristics to make a quick judgment. Too many whites see blacks, especially black men, and think danger. Too many blacks see whites, especially those in authority, and imagine bigots. These perceptions feed off each other and infect even those who don't necessarily embrace them. Until we can fix both parts of this unfortunate equation, racial prejudices are unlikely to disappear.

What I Want in a President

More than 20 million Americans watched some or all of the Republican and Democratic conventions these past two weeks, though how much crossover there was between the two is unknown. For those of us who watched both, the differences were stark and confusing. Donald Trump's convention painted a dismal view of the American landscape: a nation at war -- besieged by terrorists, criminals and cheating foreigners -- losing on all fronts and able to be saved only by electing a strongman who will bring law and order.

Hillary Clinton's convention was more optimistic, but its pledges of more income equality and new entitlements, such as free college tuition, sounded distinctly like a socialist utopia. There were more flags at the Republican convention, but the Democrats talked more about love of country, with speakers from Michelle and Barack Obama to Cory Booker extolling American exceptionalism in language reminiscent of Ronald Reagan. Watching the two, I felt the world had been turned upside down.

With voters telling pollsters that they are unhappy with both major-party presidential nominees, the next three months will be a roller-coaster ride -- and as with riding a roller coaster, many voters will hold on tight, shut their eyes and end up screaming.

I want to be able to vote for a candidate for president, but I will only vote for someone who offers at least some of the following. I want a president who offers a clear, integrated approach to dealing with terrorism that incorporates better intelligence, cyber efforts to take down radical Islamic websites that pose a clear and present danger to America and our allies, and increased U.S.- and NATO-led strikes on Islamic State-held territories in Iraq and Syria. I want a president who will honor our commitments to NATO and our allies in Asia and elsewhere and one who will maintain our current free trade agreements within our hemisphere and seek broader agreements that expand our markets elsewhere.

I want a president who understands that our economy depends on a healthy private sector, where government doesn't play favorites or discourage investment and innovation. I want someone who will take a hard look at government regulations and keep those that truly protect safety and eliminate those that simply create busywork and jobs for bureaucrats. My ideal president would be courageous enough to take on entitlement reform, which includes taking on the biggest special interest group in America, seniors like me who draw Social Security checks and Medicare benefits. But he or she would also look at our so-called safety net programs to see whether they really are a temporary helping hand or they are a permanent crutch that discourages work.

I want our next president to know that immigrants helped build this country and continue to make it grow more prosperous every day. I want him or her to encourage more people to come legally, but I also want those newcomers to have the skills America needs and a willingness to learn our language and take pride in becoming American as every group before them has, including the most recent Hispanic immigrants.

I want a president who will unite us, not divide us. I'm tired of appeals based on race, ethnicity, sex and economic status. I want a president who appeals to the better angels of our nature, not one who sees one part of our population as ripping off the other or one group as victimizing another.

I want someone who understands that our most intractable social problems -- from poverty to unequal educational achievement to crime -- can be traced not to race but to the breakdown in the two-parent family. And I want that president to speak honestly and openly about this issue and to evaluate every government program to see whether it encourages or it discourages the formation and support of two-parent families.

At the moment, neither major-party candidate offers much, if anything, that I'm looking for. Worse, the next four years promises not an end to the roller-coaster ride but more of the same. The best we can hope for is that whichever candidate is elected, we'll be able to step off the ride with nothing more than a queasy stomach.

Twelve Observations on the Police and Race

1. There’s really little to say about the Dallas shootings. They were horrific and inexcusable.

2. Does Black Lives Matter bear some of the blame for them? The argument would be that, by relentlessly vilifying the police and shrilly insisting that they are targeting black men, it encourages counter-assassinations. But, as Kevin Williamson points out, there’s a big jump from even overheated rhetoric to an action like the Dallas snipers. Yes, it shows that words matter, and those elements of BLM that have used irresponsible words should take a hard look in the mirror. And BLM’s supporters should ask whether they are really comfortable in supporting an organization that contains such elements.

3. There’s more to say about Louisiana and Minnesota.

4. But the first thing to say about both is that we don’t have all the facts.  Remember Ferguson, all right: It turned out that the police officer there acted entirely reasonably. It may turn out that way in these two cases as well. The Minnesota governor was wrong to prejudge the matter.

5. After all, we already know that the Minnesota case did not involve an “unarmed black man,” and it may turn out that the Louisiana case didn’t either (certainly the video suggests that the police at least thought that the black man there was armed, and maybe he was).  When the police are dealing with armed suspects, the equation obviously changes.

6. The Louisiana man, who was much loved by his family but also had a long criminal record, certainly appeared to be resisting arrest; whether it was reasonable for the police to conclude that he posed a serious enough threat to warrant being shot is, as I said, a question we can’t yet answer. 

7. We don’t know what actions the Minnesota man took that might have provoked a shooting (by a Hispanic policeman, incidentally); we have only the statements by his girlfriend that he did nothing provocative. Our heart has to go out to her, as it does to the family of the Louisiana man, but again we have to await more facts on what precisely the police were reacting to.

8. Even if it turns out that in one or the other case the police acted unreasonably, it’s a big jump from that to a conclusion that the police acted unreasonably because of race. It’s still wrong and still a tragedy, but it might not be a racially tragic wrong.

9. And even if it turns out that in one or the other case the police acted unreasonably because of race, it’s a big jump from that to a conclusion that the police commonly act unreasonably and that they commonly act unreasonably because of race. President Obama’s suggestion to the contrary last week from Poland was unpersuasive and unhelpful. Each case provides some evidence, surely, but each is only one encounter among thousands of police encounters every week. Even the very liberal Chronicle of Higher Education acknowledges that the research in this area is inconclusive.

10. More nonblacks, after all, are shot by the police, some reasonably and some unreasonably.

11. Assuming that some (disproportionate, because of their race) number of African Americans are shot unreasonably by the police, what do we do about it?  I’m open to the possibility of better training and better community relations, and quicker and sterner measures against bad actors; but bear in mind that less aggressive policing will hurt only law-abiding people (especially those African Americans who — disproportionately —  live in high-crime areas), and hiring by the numbers will only result in less qualified policemen, which is also not in the interests of the community, whatever its color.

12. The police should not profile on the basis of race, in their shooting or anything else that they do but, as I noted in this Senate testimony, the degree to which they do so has been greatly exaggerated. What’s more, the unpleasant fact is that the reason for this profiling is that a disproportionate amount of crime is committed by African Americans, a problem that is, in turn, rooted in inner-city culture (particularly the breakdown of the black family). This doesn’t excuse profiling, but it does help explain it, and so long as this problem persists then so will some amount of profiling.  Those who want to eliminate racial disparities in this country have to get serious about most important racial disparity of all, namely that more than seven out of ten African Americans now are born out of wedlock.

Justice Ginsburg on Future Racial-Preference Challenges – In an interview in which she opined on much that a sitting justice has no business opining on, Justice Ginsburg had this to say about a topic in the Center for Equal Opportunity’s neck-of-the-woods:  “[Ginsburg] said court majorities this term moved to shut down tactics used by opponents of abortion and of affirmative action in higher education in two major cases.  Ginsburg said she doesn’t expect to see any more such cases after the court upheld the use of race in college admissions in Texas and struck down Texas abortion-clinic regulations that the state said were needed to protect patients.” 

So, what are the “tactics” of racial-preference opponents that she thinks the court has “shut down” — bringing lawsuits against schools that are engaging in such discrimination?  It’s risible to suggest these policies should be meekly accepted, or that the Court’s decisions have drawn such clear lines on what is and is not acceptable that future litigation is pointless.  And I would note that in the five instances in which the Court as heard such challenges, a majority ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor three times (Bakke, Gratz, and Fisher I).  In the other two instances (Grutter and Fisher II), the plaintiff lost by one vote.