February 2, 2019


Only Democrats can save this president (George F. Will, February 1, 2019, Washington Post)

For the separation of powers to function properly, producing constitutional equilibrium, there must be rivalry between the legislative and executive branches. As James Madison said, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place." Or, today, the interest of the woman.

Greg Weiner, author of the best book about Madison's thought ("Madison's Metronome"), rightly celebrates the way the 35-day government shutdown ended: The House "stared down the presidency and won." In losing, Donald Trump behaved (reluctantly) as a president should, as "a constitutional actor subservient in policymaking matters to the will of Congress." Pelosi "acted like a speaker of the House laying a claim to primacy in policymaking." Says Weiner, "This was institutional hardball between branches not just with respect to policy but, more important, with respect to authority. Madisonians should rejoice." [...]

Jeffries understands intra-branch rivalry: Much that this Democratic-controlled House will send to the Republican-controlled Senate will be euthanized there. But the Democratic Party will thereby define itself and its opponent regarding such matters as curbing health-care costs, particularly (this was the most surprisingly salient issue of the 2018 elections) the cost of prescription drugs, by using the government's bulk-purchasing power. Furthermore, having participated in last year's bipartisan criminal-justice reform, Jeffries thinks a big bipartisan infrastructure measure is possible.

His district is five miles from that of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the left's enfant terrible du jour, who provides sophomores of all ages with daily frissons from socialist daring ("We [millennials] never experienced, really, a time of true economic prosperity in the United States"; zero carbon emissions in 12 years). For her, politics is performance art; for Jeffries, it is a continuation of his life of adult seriousness.

After New York University Law School, Jeffries spent seven years at a premier law firm (Paul, Weiss), then was at Viacom and CBS, then spent six years in New York's state legislature. Last week, while he was enjoying an almost abstemious breakfast (yogurt and cereal with berries, but also bacon), the morning paper was reporting Sen. Kamala D. Harris's (D-Calif.) intriguing plan to win the presidency while promising to take away 177 million Americans' private health insurance. That morning's paper also reported that 56 percent of Americans -- including majorities of women, Hispanics, blacks, urban residents, suburban residents, those under 65, college-educated whites -- say they will "definitely not" vote to reelect the incumbent president.

Posted by at February 2, 2019 8:27 AM