Over the weekend, in the face of what Secretary Kerry called “free-wheeling militia violence,” the United States “temporarily” evacuated its embassy in Libya—not a closure, insisted Kerry, but merely a suspension of activities. But as former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill explained on NPR, “By the time you get to evacuation, you have essentially destroyed all sensitive equipment in the Embassy, you’ve burned everything, every document in the Embassy—[a] very big step.”
Since the unveiling of the first, much-hyped “Ryan plan,” the left-wing response to Rep. Paul Ryan’s policy pronouncements has ranged from gleeful mockery to outright contempt. So it was striking when, in response to the release of Ryan’s new antipoverty plan on Thursday, liberals were suddenly finding nice things to say. Well, one nice thing, to be specific. That’s because, for once, Ryan actually suggested a good idea: expanding a well-regarded tax credit for the working poor.
This morning’s astonishing ruling from the D.C. Circuit decided—against logic, against any semblance of judicial modesty—that the Affordable Care Act does not authorize subsidies for health insurance plans purchased on the federally run exchanges, currently operating in the 36 states that decided not to form their own exchanges. If the ruling were to go into effect (which it won’t yet—other federal courts still haven’t weighed in, and the Supreme Court probably will too), nearly five million Americans would see their premiums increase by an average of 76 percent. In its 2-1 ruling, the Court—following the passage wherein it debated the finer nuances of how many angels can fit on the head of a pin—considered the government’s argument that, textual ambiguities aside, it is manifestly clear that the law’s drafters never intended to arbitrarily deny subsidized health care coverage to Americans who happened to live in states that would turn out to decline to set up their own exchanges. In short: Although there’s a bit of grey area in the text, a holistic look at the law’s purpose and goals makes its meaning clear. Rejecting that argument, the Court muses: “Finally, turning to the ACA’s purpose and legislative history, we find that the government again comes up short in its efforts to overcome the statutory text. Its appeals to the ACA’s broad aims do not demonstrate that Congress manifestly meant something other than what section 36B says.”
In just under two months, voters in Scotland will decide whether they’d like to remain a part of the UK or become an independent country. To say this is an old problem is quite the understatement: The vote is taking place in the 700th anniversary year of the Battle of Bannockburn, a major Scottish victory in the Wars of Independence against England. The question is both a tough political-economic issue and an emotional, historically pregnant referendum on national identity. But as a recent piece in The New York Times shows, the push for independence is also one of those bizarre issues which seems to attract people incapable of marshaling convincing evidence in its favor (not unlike the case against Justice Ginsburg’s retirement). This latest example comes from the Scottish journalist Neal Ascherson, whose effort to muster a convincing array of pro-independence arguments ends in something like poignant exhaustion.
Earlier this week, I commented on the emerging left-wing split regarding the unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the Southwestern border, a political issue that could reshuffle the 2016 Democratic primaries. But Iowa and New Hampshire are still a long way away, and the more than 50,000 children at our doorstep—a number which may reach 90,000 by the end of the fiscal year—present a humanitarian crisis right now.
Garry Wills has a sharp evaluation of Pope Francis’s progress in addressing the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal—an effort characterized chiefly by the work yet to be done. The pope’s apologies, the Vatican’s panels of study, the promises of reform: all these steps are probably beside the point, Wills argues, since “without addressing structural issues in the Vatican, meaningful action to restore trust in the priesthood and church authority cannot get far.”
This weekend’s Washington Post makes an important point about the refugee crisis at the southern border: For the first time in years, immigration politics are no longer a win-win for Democrats. Although the article admittedly indulges in the “how will it play?” obsession that plagues D.C. political reporting, it also highlights a burgeoning left-wing rupture that could help scramble the prematurely stale 2016 primaries.