On her majesty’s service

It’s been almost 40 years since I met British diplomat Gordon Pirie and his wife, Maria, at the coffee shop at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tehran.

Iranian militants had just taken American diplomats hostage in what would be become an ordeal of 444 days.

As a reporter for Newsweek, I was trying to figure out what was going on. Gordon provided me with important insights into what was happening.

Unbeknownst to me and the rest of the world until two decades later, Gordon played an important role in saving a number of American hostages who had managed to escape the takeover of the U.S. embassy.

The Times of London provided an account of his derring-do to correct the errors of Argo, a 2013 movie about the hostage crisis that gained critical acclaim but had little to do with the facts.

Gordon and a colleague, Martin Williams, learned that the diplomats had holed up in the southeast part of Tehran.

The two men drove around and made contact with five fugitive diplomats. A sixth found his way to the Swedish embassy and joined them in hiding 10 days later.

Gordon and Williams were meant to take the Americans back to the British embassy, but as it was occupied, that was out of the question. They decided to go instead to Williams’s home in the British compound in the northern suburbs.

The Americans’ relief was palpable when they made it to the relative safety of the compound, where Maria, who is Italian, cooked up pasta.

Eventually, the Americans went to the home of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and were spirited out of the country on January 28, 1980, bluffing their way through passport control at the airport in Tehran as Canadians from a film crew created by the CIA for their escape.

Just as the CIA’s role in springing the Americans was not declassified until 1997, so the British decided to keep quiet fear of further inflaming relations with the Iranian regime.

Over the years, my wife Elizabeth and I spent many hours with the Piries, who moved across the street from us in Beirut and down the street from us in Rome.

We often regaled one another with memories of how Gordon, who was fluent in Farsi and several other languages, helped us bargain with Persian carpet sellers to get the best price possible.

In Rome, our apartment looked into the love nest of the Italian finance minister, who brought numerous young ladies there for his extramarital affairs. We’d turned off the lights and peered from behind the curtains to see what new woman he’d decided to wine and dine. We justified our Peeping-Tom approach as research into Italian politics!

Last year, Gordon, who was in his 80s, ran into the inevitable problems of getting older. I was able to visit him, and it was as if we hadn’t spent a day apart from one another.

Sadly, Gordon died a few weeks ago. He was a tribute to his work as a diplomat throughout the world. More important for me, he was a dear friend who will sorely missed.

A thank you to Bill Clinton

I would like to thank Bill Clinton for making me a conservative.

Before Clinton’s impeachment, I had a voting record that usually tilted toward the integrity of the candidate rather than his party. I supported George McGovern, Gerald Ford, Walter Mondale, and H. Ross Perot.

But Clinton’s sexual antics in the White House and subsequent perjury about them brought me into the conservative branch of the GOP.

It’s worthwhile recounting those days as the Trump impeachment process begins.

Simply put, the accusations against Trump and the media’s handling of the “facts”—are decidedly different than 20 years ago.

For example, Newsweek sat on a story about the sexual affair between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky because the magazine didn’t think it had enough confirmation about the accuracy of the account.

Think about that for a moment. A news organization actually trying to make sure it had a story right before publishing it. [Transparency note: I worked for Newsweek].

Matt Drudge, a Hollywood gossip reporter, got wind of the story and put out a story on his website that Newsweek was holding the report. It was the first major online scoop and pushed Drudge into the forefront of the news business. The publication of Newsweek’s caution or coverup—I’m not really certain which one—launched the online news industry, which dominates information throughout the world.

Ultimately, the House of Representatives passed two of the four articles of impeachment:

Article I charged that Clinton lied to the grand jury concerning:

  1. The nature and details of his relationship with Lewinsky
  2. Prior false statements he made in a deposition
  3. Prior false statements he allowed his lawyer to make characterizing Lewinsky’s affidavit
  4. His attempts to tamper with witnesses

Article III charged Clinton with obstruction of justice in a case brought by Paula Jones, who had accused him of sexual harassment:

  1. Encouraging Lewinsky to file a false affidavit
  2. Encouraging Lewinsky to give false testimony if and when she was called to testify
  3. Concealing gifts he had given to Lewinsky that had been subpoenaed
  4. Attempting to secure a job for Lewinsky to influence her testimony
  5. Permitting his lawyer to make false statements characterizing Lewinsky’s affidavit
  6. Attempting to tamper with the possible testimony of his secretary Betty Currie
  7. Making false and misleading statements to potential grand jury witnesses

I thought that Clinton should have been removed from office, but both articles failed to get the 67 votes in the Senate necessary to kick him out of the White House.

It’s rather ironic that had these “high crimes and misdemeanors” been discovered today, I am relatively certain that the #MeToo movement would have driven Clinton out of office.

Whatever the case, Clinton’s actions and the impeachment proceedings had a profound effect on me. Thank you, Bill!

The truth about hate crimes

Hate crimes have been rampant under President Trump, amounting to a horrendous rate of 0.005 percent of the incidents tracked by the FBI.

That’s right. Despite the narrative that this administration has ushered in a climate of hate, the number of crimes is almost statistically insignificant.

Although every hate crime is abhorrent, I think it’s important to keep such incidents in perspective.

The most recent statistics from the Department of Justice and the FBI from 2017, an estimated 1,247,321 violent crimes occurred nationwide, a decrease of 0.2 percent from the 2016 estimate.

Of these incidents, hate crimes represented about 8,000 cases. Murders across the nation were double that. Rapes were 20 times higher. Burglaries were forty times worse.

A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.

Although anti-Islam/Arab incidents rose after 2001, the numbers are relatively small. Moreover, blacks and Jews faced more attacks. Following are the statistics:

In 2017, law enforcement agencies reported that 4,832 single-bias hate crime offenses were motivated by race/ethnicity/ancestry. Of these offenses:

 48.8 percent were motivated by anti-black or African-American bias.
 17.5 percent stemmed from anti-white bias.
 10.9 percent were classified as anti-Hispanic or Latino bias.
 5.8 percent were motivated by anti-American Indian or Alaska Native bias.
 4.4 percent were a result of bias against groups of individuals consisting of more than one race.
 3.1 percent resulted from anti-Asian bias.
 2.6 percent were classified as anti-Arab bias.

Hate crimes motivated by religious bias accounted for 1,679 offenses reported by law enforcement. A breakdown of the bias motivation of religious-biased offenses showed:

 58.1 percent were anti-Jewish.
 18.7 percent were anti-Islamic (Muslim).
 4.5 percent were anti-Catholic.

Simply put, the data don’t back up the narrative presented by the media and Democrats that hate is running rampant in the United States, But neither group has ever let the facts stand in the way of a bad story, particularly when the target is Trump.

The other opioid crisis

After many years of back and knee pain, I got a prescription for hydrocodone from my doctor.

I rarely use the pills—about once or twice a month—but the government overreaction to the opioid crisis has left me and others feeling like crack addicts.

I used to get 30 pills every six months. But new government and insurance regulations force me to make an appointment every two months. That costs me $20 per session.

I have to provide a urine sample every time I see the doctor, who agrees that the restraints are extremely silly for people who don’t abuse their medication.

But my complaints about overreaction are far less serious than those who need pain relief.

The Washington Post wrote an excellent story—yes, that Washington Post—about how the opioid “crisis” has created massive problems for people who use pain drugs legally.

The news organization provided the story of Hank Skinner, 79, of Alexandria, Va., who has had seven shoulder surgeries, lung cancer, open-heart surgery, a blown-out knee, and lifelong complications from a clubfoot. He has a fentanyl patch on his belly to treat his chronic shoulder pain. He replaces the patch every three days, supplementing the slow-release fentanyl with pills containing hydrocodone.

“But to the Skinners’ dismay, Hank is now going through what is known as a forced taper. That’s when a chronic pain patient has to switch to a lower dosage of medication. His doctor, Hank says, has cut his fentanyl dosage by 50 percent — and Hank’s not happy about it. He already struggles to sleep through the night, as Carol can attest,” The Post reported.

Tami Mark, senior director of RTI International, a North Carolina think tank, said the changes in drug prescriptions might be a serious mistake. She has conducted one of the few formal studies of forced programs to cut back on legal prescriptions.

“This national effort at ‘de-prescribing’ is again being undertaken with limited research on how best to taper people off opioid medications,” Mark told The Post. “You can’t just cut off the spigot of a highly addictive medication that rewires your brain in complex ways and not anticipate negative public health consequences.”

The opioid “crisis” is a classic example of how government underreacts to a problem and then overreacts to it, leaving people angry and confused. These people—like me—aren’t drug addicts or criminals. They’re people with pain who were just following a doctor’s orders.

Trump’s Immigration Plan is Working

In their continuing policy of ignoring good news about the Trump administration, the mainstream media failed to note the significant decrease in the number of illegals crossing the Mexican border.

The Border Patrol arrested about 72,000 people who tried to sneak across in July — a reduction of almost half compared with the peak of two months ago.

That means that the policy of forcing Mexico to handle more immigrants from Central America has worked well.

Mexico has 26,000 troops deployed to focus on immigration. More than 10,000 of
those are on its southern border with its Central American neighbors, and more than 15,000 others are up north.

Mexico also agreed to expand its cooperation with the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocol, a policy of taking asylum seekers from Central America who cross Mexican territory and sending them back to Mexico to wait for their cases to be heard in U.S. immigration courts.

Customs and Border Protection said some 30,000 migrants have been returned to Mexico under the protocol. Border cities that were so overwhelmed that they declared states of emergency are getting back to normal, with drops of 70% or more in the regions of El Paso, Texas, and Yuma,
Arizona.

The cooperation between the United States and Mexico also means that the number of people being held at the border has dropped dramatically.

While border facilities had more than 19,000 people in custody at one point in June, there were about less than 5,000 last week.

As the Democrats prepare for their debate this week, it’s worth noting that DaTimes and NPR’s most recent polling shows that 67 percent of Americans do NOT favor an open border with Mexico. Twenty-seven percent favor an open border, with 6 percent having no opinion.

If there’s any indication that the Democrats and the media are out of step with the rest of the country, immigration is an example of just how much they both don’t get it.

This Just In: Trump is Right on China

A trifecta of anti-Trump organizations—DaTimes, DaPost, and the Council on Foreign Relations—has endorsed the president’s policy on China.

As I have noted in the past, China has used government support illegally to dump cheap exports to the United States. Moreover, President Xi has claimed the South China Sea, one of the richest waterways in the world, as his own. His Belt and Road Initiative is intended to open up markets on nearly every continent. And then there’s Hong Kong.

“China can’t join all the right international clubs and go on playing by its own rules. It can’t make some trade ‘deal’ and then not be held fully accountable, relying on the infinite global capacity to turn a blind eye to its predations,” Roger Cohen writes in DaTimes.

“The president’s statement linking a trade deal and the Hong Kong demonstrations — ‘It would be very hard to deal if they do violence. I mean, if it’s another Tiananmen Square, it’s — I think it’s a very hard thing to do if there’s violence’ — was perhaps his finest hour.”

In DaPost, a Chinese dissident goes even further.

“[A]s someone who has spent years with the knife edge of the Chinese Communist Party bearing down on my throat for my human rights work, I know that the president is on to something. Tariffs and economic threats may be blunt tools, but they are the kind of aggressive tactics necessary to get the attention of the CCP regime, which respects only power and money. It’s not just about ‘winning,’ as the president sometimes puts it, and it’s not simply about trade: It’s about justice, and doing what’s right for ordinary Chinese and American people,” writes Chen Guangcheng, a professor at Catholic University.

The Council on Foreign Relations gives Trump a B+ on his China policy, noting that “his administration has taken the lead in awakening the United States to the growing threat that China poses to U.S. vital national interests and democratic values.”
Although the trade war will cost almost every American some amount of cash depending on the electronics, textiles, and shoes we buy, I think the policy will save us a great deal of money in the long run. And with DaTimes, DaPost, and the Council actually praising Trump, we may finally have something that conservatives and liberals can finally agree upon.

DaTimes and revisionist history

Having failed to take down Donald Trump with the Mueller investigation, the American media have turned to race as a way to discredit the president.

DaTimes launched the first assault with its project about slavery and race.

In case you missed it, DaTimes has determined that the nation started in 1619, the title of its nearly 100-page missive on race in DaMagazine, when slaves were shipped to Virginia.

It’s worth noting one significant error with this revisionist history: Slaves actually arrived on the continent 100 years earlier in Florida, which was controlled by Spain. But that fact undermines the narrative that DaTimes and others are pushing.

But I digress. DaTimes links slavery to rush hour traffic, mass incarceration, an “inequitable” healthcare system, and American overconsumption of sugar. “[N]early everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery,” DaTimes argues.

But there’s more. The Smithsonian will examine the slave trade, beginning in the 15th century. In partnership with the Pulitzer Center, DaTimes has offered lesson plans, guides, and activities to help teachers bring this material into their classrooms.

Others have decided to toe the line. DaPost offers an advice column from a college professor: “Dear fellow white people here’s what to do when you’re called racist,” on how to cope with such attacks.

USA Today chimed in about “America’s original sin.” AOC called the electoral college a “scam” because it gives too much power to white people in flyover country.

The creators of the 1619 project and its followers argued that they are interested in a dialogue about race, but it’s a diatribe. At a meeting with reporters and editors at DaTimes, executive editor Dean Baquet faced outrage from the staffers who wanted the organization to call Trump a racist.

According to a recording of the meeting obtained by Slate, the question of how to address presidential “racism” was something the paper would need to do. “How do we cover America, that’s become so divided by Donald Trump?” asked Baquet, who is black. “How do we grapple with all the stuff you all are talking about? How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven’t done in a large way in a long time?”

The emphasis on race comes at a time when Trump’s support from minority voters has never been better. A recent Zogby poll found that a quarter of blacks and half of all Latinos support the president.

Had DaTimes and others been serious about a dialogue about race, there have been many opportunities, particularly during the Obama years. Hanging such a discussion on events from 400 years ago seems rather dubious.

Why not just admit that race is the media’s current argument against Trump for the 2020 election? That would at least be honest.