Best columns: The U.S.
Project Veritas’ biggest exposé yet
Project Veritas set out to prove that The Washington Post prints “fake news,” said Conor Friedersdorf. Instead, it showed how real journalists and a great newspaper really work. Right-wing activist James O’Keefe, who founded Project Veritas to conduct undercover “stings” designed to embarrass journalists and liberal organizations, recently tried to trick the Post into running a fake story about Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. A woman named Jaime Phillips contacted the newspaper, claiming that when she was 15 Moore impregnated her and then took her for an abortion. Phillips was actually a Project Veritas plant sent by O’Keefe, who assumed drooling Post reporters would jump on the sensational story and print it, and reveal their animus toward Moore during interviews Phillips covertly videotaped. “The premise proved incorrect.” The Post assigned multiple staffers to vet Phillips’ story, grew suspicious, and turned up evidence that her story was bogus and that she worked for Project Veritas. Instead of conceding that the Post passed his test, O’Keefe used his humiliating failure as an excuse to ask conservative donors for more funding. In 2016, O’Keefe paid himself an “eye-popping” salary of $317,691 for his “nonprofit” work as a partisan hatchet man. As we now know, it’s nothing but a big con.
We need younger presidents
David Von Drehle
The Washington Post
Abraham Lincoln was 52 when he became president. Teddy Roosevelt was 42, and Franklin D. Roosevelt was 51. Harry S. Truman was 60. John F. Kennedy, 43. If most of our best presidents entered office at an average age of 50, said David Von Drehle, “why am I reading about potential candidates for 2020 who will be in their 70s?” Our current president, Donald Trump, is the first to take office as a septuagenarian. If he runs for re-election at 74, his Democratic opponent could be Joe Biden, who’ll be 78 in 2020, Bernie Sanders, who’ll be 79, or Elizabeth Warren, who’ll be 71. Do we really want to give the nation’s most demanding job to someone nearing 80? Yes, age and experience can produce wisdom. But science has found that “mental agility, executive function, and creativity” all decline as people age, especially beyond 70. In addition, older people tend to cling to ideas and strategies they adopted decades ago, with less capacity to embrace new information and innovate. We Baby Boomers have run the country long enough, and the many problems we’re leaving behind “call for leaders at the peak of their creative and conceptual powers.” It’s time to “pass the torch.”
The enduring promise of freedom
The North Korean soldier who fled across the border a few weeks ago, as other soldiers shot him five times in the back, “risked everything to live in freedom,” said Matthew Continetti. Like so many other defectors from tyrannical regimes, Staff Sgt. Oh ran toward the promise of “liberty and self government, toward the bounty of the marketplace, and the possibilities of representative democracy.” It’s now fashionable for cynics on both the Right and Left to sneer at the individualism, selfishness, and inequality in Western democracies. They’re right, up to a point: Freedom unconstrained by morality can lead to decadence. But we should not forget how rare freedom remains on this planet, and what blessings it provides. Refugees from communist, autocratic societies such as North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela “run in only one direction”— to countries where they are allowed to follow their own dreams, to think and live as they choose, and to enjoy the fruits of capitalism. In elitist intellectual circles, some now insist that free will itself is an illusion, and that we’re better off when “our cognitive and moral superiors” nudge us toward the proper choices. “Tell that to Sgt. Oh.” ■