Saturday, October 07, 2017
The not-so-historic clash of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
From the October 9 Issue
The 1973 tennis match between the 29-year-old female champ Billie Jean King and the 55-year-old former champ Bobby Riggs was many things. It was one of the great “pseudo-events” of all time, fitting perfectly Daniel Boorstin’s definition in his 1962 book The Image as “dramatic performances in which ‘men in the news’ simply act out more or less well their prepared script.” The script, in this case, was the Male Chauvinist Pig vs. the Women’s Libber.
The match was a ludicrous and colorful distraction from the accelerating disaster in Vietnam and the accelerating collapse of a presidency. And it was a forerunner of the stupid culture wars of our day in which our national discussion is overtaken by absurd sideshows (the War on Christmas! the silencing of Sandra Fluke!).
Yes, the event dubbed the “Battle of the Sexes” was many things. But a historically significant moment it was not—not for tennis, not for women, and not for homosexuals. Similarly, Billie Jean King herself was many things at the time—but adorable and demure and unsure of herself she was not. One of the most ferocious and competitive players who ever lived, she was driven and determined and not at all personable. And Bobby Riggs, too, was many things—an anything-for-attention reprobate who stumbled into a commercially brilliant idea by playing a cartoonish version of a woman-hating troglodyte—but cute he was not.
Alas, Battle of the Sexes presents us an adorable, demure, and unsure Billie Jean against a cute Bobby. It is set against the backdrop of King’s discovery and exploration of her lesbian feelings and her battle against the casual sexism of the powers-that-be in tennis and American culture more generally. Emma Stone turns Billie Jean into the second coming of her Oscar-winning Mia from La La Land; it’s a wonder this woman can get a ball over the net, given her half-heartedness, let alone win a tournament or set up a competing women’s tennis league to challenge the male-dominated U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. And Steve Carell’s Bobby is neither a proto-Trump nor a self-inflated caricature of the rearguard American action against gender egalitarianism but rather a lovable con man with a gambling problem and a heart of gold.
Everything that might have made this movie more interesting is left on the sidelines. A genuine exploration of the very real risks King was taking experimenting with same-sex attraction as a married woman in 1973 would have been more compelling than the inadvertently comic imagery offered as she and her first girlfriend contemplate their desires—footage that unfortunately calls to mind television commercials of the era for Vidal Sassoon and Summer’s Eve.
Even worse, the movie dispenses entirely with the possibility that Riggs might have deliberately thrown the match in order to settle gambling debts with the mob, as Don Van Natta Jr. revealed in an explosive 2013 piece for ESPN. The movie doesn’t even show Riggs battling against the temptation. Far from it; Battle of the Sexesseems determined to quash the very idea by showing us a scene in which Riggs lays a $15,000 bet on himself to win.
Why do this? Because screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and codirectors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are committed to the narrative that Billie Jean King’s victory meant something transcendent. They cannot allow her triumph to be mitigated in any way by even a hint that Riggs—who had slaughtered King’s rival Margaret Court in straight sets only months before he collapsed in the King match—might have dogged it for money.
Because Battle of the Sexes takes itself so seriously, it cannot even have that much fun with the cheesy and over-the-top spectacle the match became. The only inspired flourish is the use of Howard Cosell’s classically ridiculous and knowing color commentary during the match (with a nice CGI job placing the actress Natalie Morales in direct proximity to the real Cosell).
King wins a cool $100,000 but what do we see? Emma Stone going for consecutive Oscars by having a sobbing fit alone in a locker room. Carell getting an unearned sentimental final moment when Bobby makes up with his incomprehensible wife (Elisabeth Shue), whom we’ve seen be dismissive and contemptuous in one scene and lovingly thoughtful in the next. And then, at the last moment, we get an anachronistic speech from Billie Jean’s wise gay dress designer: “Someday we will be free to love whom we love.”
So Battle of the Sexes takes a fizzy comic moment appropriate for satire and turns it into an ABC Afterschool Special. What a waste of a juicy subject. What a bore.
John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, is THE WEEKLY STANDARD's movie critic.
Friday, October 06, 2017
Iran has never, not for a moment, been ‘transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing’ the JCPOA.
By Andrew C. McCarthy — October 5, 2017
President Trump and Iranian President Rouhani
The question is not whether President Trump should decertify President Obama’s farcical Iran nuclear deal. Of course he should. Indeed, he must: Even if we set common sense to the side, federal law requires it.
Instead, there are two questions.
1. Why has President Trump recertified the deal, not once but twice?
This is shameful. Remember, Trump insisted throughout the 2016 campaign that the deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — was the worst and most dangerous in the history of deals. Just two weeks ago, addressing the U.N. General Assembly, he described it as an “embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” Yet, under the statute that calls for presidential findings every 90 days, the president, in recertifying, represented to Congress and the American people (a) that Iran is “transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing the agreement” and (b) that continuing the JCPOA is “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
These assertions insult the intelligence.
The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is charged with what laughably passes for the “monitoring” of the JCPOA and related “side agreements,” which the Obama administration shielded from congressional inspection. Last week, the IAEA fessed up: The agency has been unable to verify that Tehran is implementing the deal. The regime has barred inspectors from inspecting military sites. Consequently, as the invaluable analyst Omri Ceren points out, the IAEA has no way of verifying that Iran has refrained from “activities which could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device” (as required by the JCPOA’s Annex 1, Section T — see here, at p. 27).
This admission is not news. It just makes the obvious — the inevitable — explicit. It has been widely known from the first that the JCPOA is not verifiable, despite the Obama administration’s guarantees that it would be. It has long been known, moreover, that Iran is not in compliance with many of the JCPOA’s terms. That, too, illustrates the duplicity by which Obama sought his foreign-policy legacy monument: To get the deal approved by Congress — or, at least, to get it not disapproved under the cockamamie Corker-Cardin legislation — the prior administration solemnly pledged to hold the mullahs to the letter (and, of course, that this could be done verifiably). Obama officials further vowed that sanctions would “snap back” if Iran failed to comply. Once the deal got its congressional stamp of non-disapproval, though, we learned that Obama was quietly waiving violations left and right, and had even agreed to limits on what the IAEA could report — the better to conceal Iran’s breaches.
Bottom line: Iran has never, not for a moment, been “transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing” the JCPOA. The Obama administration knew this all along — and knew it would go this way. The Trump State Department, which is chockablock with Obama holdovers and has heavily lobbied the new president to stand by the deal, has known it from Day One.
And what about that second representation: vital to the national-security interests of the United States?
Seriously? With a straight face?
Quite apart from violating the terms of the JCPOA and refusing to permit verifiable inspections from the start, Iran continues to be the world’s No. 1 sponsor of anti-American terrorism, backing Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Taliban, a network of Iraqi cells, and the Houthis in Yemen, to cite just the best-known examples. That’s not just me talking; the regime continues to be one of just three countries on the U.S. government’s official terrorist list (the others are Syria, which is Iran’s cat’s-paw, and Sudan, which has longstanding ties to the regime in Tehran).
Moreover, Iran maintains its aggressive program of ballistic-missile development in defiance of Security Council resolutions. In fact, less than three months ago, Trump imposed new sanctions on regime officials and abettors. Iran is exporting arms and personnel to fortify Assad’s barbarism in Syria. It continues to threaten Israel’s destruction — in fact, two of the ballistic missiles it has test-fired were inscribed in Hebrew “Israel must be wiped out.” The mullahs are substantially responsible for the massive Hezbollah build-up (including an arsenal estimated at well over 100,000 missiles) that raises the distinct possibility of a catastrophic war. And, still proud to be the “Death to America” regime, Iran continues to abduct American hostages and menace American naval vessels.
Now, as you take all that in, understand: The tens of billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief Tehran has gotten under the JCPOA, including pallets stacked with billions in ransom cash that Obama threw in for good measure, are helping to pay for all of this anti-American malignity. Yet, we are told — multiple times — that maintaining this arrangement is somehow in the vital national-security interests of the United States.
On what planet?
2. What should Trump do after (finally) decertifying?
It is time to walk away.
As our former colleague Eliana Johnson reports at Politico, a scheme is afoot in the Trump administration to decertify the Iran deal without killing it. The idea is that the administration would keep the deal alive rather than push Congress to reinstate the sanctions, while endeavoring to persuade Iran and the other parties to the deal to renegotiate it.
This is a terrible plan.
To begin with, how much more betrayal are we supposed to endure? The Obama administration started down this path assuring the nation that Iran would be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons. Obama then struck a deal that, by its own terms (i.e., even if there were no cheating), merely delayed Iran while paving its way to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Obama officials promised exacting verification protocols and then made an agreement in which Iran’s performance of its obligations could not be verified. Obama officials promised full disclosure but withheld key portions of the deal, then conspired with Iran to conceal its lack of compliance — even as Iran continued its anti-American provocations.
We were encouraged to swallow hard and accept all of this on the assurance that the sanctions could and would be “snapped back” into place if the deal failed to change Iran’s behavior. Now, with Iran’s behavior as appalling as ever, Trump — the guy who campaigned on what a lousy deal it is — reportedly has cold feet about snapping back the sanctions.
The rationalization for keeping the JCPOA is that Iran has already gotten most of the deal’s goodies. Abandoning the deal now would hurt us more than the mullahs, the thinking goes, because it would relieve them of the deal’s burdens.
That’s preposterous. Under the terms of the JCPOA and its undisclosed side deals, we do not and cannot know whether Iran is performing its obligations. More significantly, even if we could verify and even if Iran were in compliance, the deal does not prevent Iran from acquiring nukes; it just slows the mullahs down for a few more years.
Plainly, then, the deal is not in American interests. “But wait,” the decertify-but-don’t-kill-it crowd argues, “we will make it in our interests by improving it.”
Nonsense. If you keep the JCPOA, you have to try to fix it within the framework of the JCPOA . . . under circumstances in which Iran insists it will not renegotiate and our “partner” nations — who now have lucrative financial intercourse with Tehran — will balk. In other words, you would already be negotiating in order to try to preserve something that should never have been agreed to in the first place — and from there, you’d have to plead for accommodations.
It is better to walk away.
What the Iran-deal apologists never mention is that the United States still has enormous leverage in the form of the American economy. Even with the relief Iran has gotten, it is still feeling the pain of being walled off from commerce in U.S. dollars. An aggressive sanctions regimen would punish not only Iran but governments and corporations that do business with Iran. As former Senate staffer Richard Goldberg recounts, this kind of pressure works.
Would there be caterwauling by countries, their heavy-hitter businesses, and even such American companies as Boeing that chase profits in Iran? Yes, of course. If the Trump administration were serious, though, these calculating players would understand in short order that, if they want access to the $19 trillion U.S. economy, they must shun Iran.
They would shun Iran. And while Iran might not change its behavior, what I am proposing presents the only realistic chance of convincing Iran to change its behavior, especially if we unapologetically pursue other ways to squeeze the regime — as opposed to preserving the JCPOA, which obliges us to be supportive of the regime.
Trump the Businessman has long maintained that the art of the deal is knowing when to walk away from the table — when to take a tack antithetical to Obama’s no-concession-is-too-big approach. It is time to walk away from the table. The JCPOA is an atrocious deal that deserves to die. If the president wants to negotiate, let it be on a new deal and on America’s terms — which, you may remember, are that Iran does not get nuclear weapons, must honor its obligations on weapons development and proliferation, and must cease promoting terrorism.
No other deal is worth having.
How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal
Why Trump Is Right and the Experts Are Wrong about the Iran Deal
Get Rid of the Iran Deal: Here Are Four Options
How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal
Why Trump Is Right and the Experts Are Wrong about the Iran Deal
Get Rid of the Iran Deal: Here Are Four Options
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.
Thursday, October 05, 2017
It’s not an all-powerful manipulator; it succeeds by reflecting the wishes of a large community.
By David French — October 4, 2017
It never fails. Every single time there is a mass shooting in the United States, a huge section of the Left singles out a single political culprit. Yes, they condemn the shooter, but it’s almost as if there’s another murderer out there, lurking in the shadows — the National Rifle Association. The NRA, you see, is to blame for America’s gun culture. It’s to blame for the lack of so-called “common sense” gun regulations. It’s the puppeteer, and GOP politicians are its marionettes.
It’s a pop-culture-Left idea — Jimmy Kimmel earlier this week claimed that the NRA had Republican senators’ “balls in a money clip” — and the elite Left analyzes the NRA’s influence like it’s breaking down the Zapruder film. Experts analyze the organization’s evolution from hunter-safety organization to gun-rights group, and left-wing social media pass around charts of NRA political donations as if those modest sums dictated the outcome of some of America’s most important civil-rights debates.
Journalists often treat the NRA differently from every other consequential activist group in the United States. Yes, they recognize that liberal groups like the National Education Association and Planned Parenthood are important, but they do not treat progressive politicians as those organizations’ puppets. Instead, they do the accurate thing: They cast progressive politicians and progressive organizations as part and parcel of a larger progressive community that shares certain ideas and values and speaks for tens of millions of American citizens.
Why not treat the NRA in the same way?
At the risk of going full Star Wars nerd, it’s the difference between treating groups like the Sith or like the Jedi. For all too many journalists and pundits, the NRA is the Darth Sidious of the American republic, the malicious manipulative force that poisons our citizenry and corrupts our politics. Powerful progressive organizations, by contrast, are the engines of social justice, the persuasive force that helps put our nation on the right side of history.
Why the difference? Why do progressives ascribe such awesome power to the NRA? I’d suggest that one explanation is confusion. Simply put, the progressive movement is used to winning its culture wars. It’s used to seeing “progress” on its core issues. When the mighty combination of pop culture, the religious Left, the academy, and the Democratic party unite, they usually get results. With the exception of a stagnant abortion argument, progressives have unquestionably moved the needle to the left on a number of vital cultural fronts.
Not so in the gun debate. While the Left, of course, has solidified its hold on progressive urban enclaves, it has been thoroughly and completely routed in much of the rest of the country. The debate hasn’t even been close. For almost a quarter-century, state legislatures have been steadily loosening gun restrictions, Americans have gone on a historic gun-buying spree, and citizens have obtained concealed-carry permits by the millions. In short, “gun culture” has entrenched itself in American communities from coast to coast.
No doubt the NRA has been influential. No doubt it does vital work informing and mobilizing gun owners. But no one who actually inhabits red America can credibly think that the NRA is the hinge, that disabling or transforming the NRA will decisively swing our national gun debate.
Imagine if one day the Left got its wish and the NRA board of directors suddenly “evolved” on gun rights. At a stroke they changed its focus to gun safety, hunting, and target shooting; trap and skeet became more important than assault-weapons bans or concealed carry. Would America change? Hardly. Within days, millions of frustrated and angry gun owners would coalesce behind one or more competing organizations, the lobbying apparatus would rebuild, and we’d be right back where we are today — just with a different organization leading the charge.
The NRA is powerful for precisely the reason most potent progressive organizations are powerful. Like those progressive counterparts, the NRA is an effective part of a larger community, and it is effective precisely because it persuasively expresses the will of its members and allies. It represents those who understand and adhere to the central truths of American “gun culture.” We each possess an unalienable and inherent right of self-defense, a lawfully armed citizenry is a free citizenry, and no government ever constructed has merited the total trust of its people.
The Left can challenge the NRA all it wants, but until it defeats those ideas, it will not transform American attitudes toward guns. Or let’s put it another way: In the Left’s fight for gun control, the great bogeymen aren’t the leaders of the NRA, they’re the Founders of our country. After all, it’s the Founders’ ideals the NRA defends, and should the NRA ever drop that standard, others would pick it up and carry it through the ideological wars to come.
— David French is a senior writer at National Review
Wednesday, October 04, 2017
By Kevin Kernan
October 4, 2017
Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees hits a two run home run against Jose Berrios #17 of the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning in the American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium on October 3, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The biggest of rookies owns the big playoff stage, too.
In his first postseason game, Aaron Judge brought the capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium to its feet Tuesday night.
“All Rise” works in October, as do “MVP’’ chants.
In the wildest of wild-card games, Judge jettisoned a two-run home run to left off a Jose Berrios breaking ball in the fourth inning, sending the crowd into a home run frenzy as the baseball left the park at 108 mph in four seconds flat.
Even Judge let out a wow as he rounded first base.
The two-run blast gave the Yankees a three-run cushion over the Twins and they survived the AL Wild Card Game with an 8-4 victory, after trailing 3-0, to move on to the ALDS against the Indians.
It was pure power in the dugout, too, as Judge went wild with this home run celebration, yelling with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for a college football game.
“When I look at Aaron,’’ Joe Girardi said, “there’s a smile on his face a lot. You just feel really good when he’s around.’’
Judge stopped to get “interviewed’’ by his “Toe-Night Show’’ teammates, a glimpse of these fun-loving Yankees. As Judge jogged to right field the next inning, the crowd, from the bleachers past the foul pole, stood and cheered wildly, chanting Judge’s name.
“It was extraordinary,’’ Judge said of the 49,280 fans. “We were feeding off that crowd all night.’’
This was the Judge’s Chambers like never before.
“I was nervous before the game, but after the first pitch was thrown, it’s still the same ballgame,’’ Judge said after his two-hit, three-run, two-RBI night, becoming only the third Yankees rookie to homer in his postseason debut, joining Shane Spencer (1998) and Elston Howard (1955).
No. 99 enjoyed every second of his initial postseason game.
Even MLB commissioner Rob Manfred went out of his way to praise Judge, saying: “He had a phenomenal season. A great young player. One of a group of really great young players in our game that we are blessed to have.’’
Yankees fans certainly feel blessed that Judge is in their lineup. His presence has changed the team on the field and in the clubhouse. He set up the Yankees’ three-run first inning when his single to center put runners on the corners, and Didi Gregorius lashed a three-run home run two batters later.
Another Aaron who knows something about Yankee Stadium postseason magic and home runs was at the ballpark, too. Aaron Boone was here broadcasting the game for ESPN.
Boone hit the walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS to beat the Red Sox.
When he hit that home run, this is what Boone felt: “Joy, relief, exhaled.’’
Boone offered this advice to Judge and all the Yankees: “The Indians are waiting for you [Thursday]. Enjoy the evening, but more so than anywhere else, in New York it’s about the end.’’
“We can’t exhale now because we are going to be facing one of the best teams in baseball,’’ Judge said of the Indians. “We have to keep this momentum we have going.’’
Judge led the American League with 52 home runs and amazingly became the fourth qualifying rookie to post an OPS of more than 1.000 with a 1.049 mark, behind only these three historic names: Joe Jackson (1911), Ted Williams (1939) and Albert Pujols (2001). Imagine that.
The Twins always lose to the Yankees in postseason series. The Indians are a much more complete team. The Yankees did what they had to do and now this group gets to grow even more.
Judge said this is the most caring, together team he ever has been on in his life. They fell behind 3-0 in the first inning, but charged back with home runs from Gregorius, Brett Gardner (a solo shot in the third for a 5-4 lead) and Judge, who hit his two-run laser in the fourth.
“I was just happy to add two more runs to the board,’’ Judge said of his blast.
In every way this was a terrific postseason opening night for Judge. All Rise once again.