Charles Lipson

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Before 2021

Who would want to be Joe Biden’s attorney general?

Whoever Joe Biden picks for attorney general is in a lose-lose situation. Why is that job so hard? At least three reasons stand out:
• None A boiling cauldron of divisive legal questions facing the new administration, particularly immigration and gun control
• None Pressure to investigate everything the Trump administration ever did

All those will land in the attorney general’s lap. The first one, involving the Biden family, is especially vexing.The probe into Biden’s grifting kin will face the

Those emails seeking donations aren’t junk mail

It’s a small miracle, really, and it only happens in America. Every December, the mailboxes fill with requests for donations. They come from St Jude’s Hospital, the Salvation Army, the World Jewish Congress, Nature Conservancy, Feed America, the American Cancer Society and thousands more. They trickle in all year, but the deluge comes after the clock strikes 12 on December 1. And not just emails. Every day the postman brings more, most describing the charities’ good works, offering heart-warming

Dr. No: Northwestern's Unwise Rebuke of Epstein's Op-Ed

Joseph Epstein wrote a controversial column last week saying Jill Biden should stop using the courtesy title “Dr.,” despite her doctorate in education. Leave that title for physicians, Epstein said on the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page.

The column set off fireworks among academics and intellectuals. The epicenter was Northwestern University, where Epstein, a prolific and erudite essayist, has long been listed as a “lecturer” in the English Department. No more. His name disappeared immediate

The Georgia Runoffs and Our Embattled Constitution

If Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win Georgia’s Jan. 5 Senate runoffs, Democrats will control both houses of Congress as well as the presidency. The Republican Party, which won nearly half the national vote, will have no check on the Democrats, aside from the Senate’s filibuster rule. Although that rule requires a supermajority to pass some legislation and appointments, it can be abolished by a simple majority when the new Senate convenes.

Preventing one-party rule is one of the strongest argum

Are Trump’s lawyers big enough to back their claims up?

Before the showdown in old Western movies, one character would issue a barbed challenge and his rival would confidently reply, ‘Them’s mighty big words. Are you big enough to back ’em up?’

That’s the question facing President Trump’s lawyers. Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis threw down the challenge at an incendiary press conference on Thursday. Now, they have to back up ‘them big words,’ and do it fast. The stakes couldn’t be higher. It goes beyond who sits in the Oval Office next

Opinion | Let the Transition Proceed

The more divisive our politics, the more important it is to respect the fundamentals of constitutional democracy. Two tenets are critical: elections in which legal votes are counted honestly and the peaceful transition of power. It is appropriate to pose legal challenges to an election’s integrity, but not to impede the transition.

Two weeks after Election Day, President Trump’s team hasn’t presented compelling evidence against Joe Biden’s victory. They are assembling that evidence and Mr. Trum

Biden Family Corruption Does Matter

It’s important to remember that conventional wisdom is not always wise. It emerges, after all, from a cloistered echo chamber in New York City and Washington, D.C., and is constantly reinforced, not corrected, by the chattering class that promotes it. This insularity was perfectly captured by Pauline Kael’s puckish comment after Richard Nixon’s landslide reelection. The New Yorker’s famed film critic was an early observer of America’s growing culture gap. “I only know one person who voted for Ni

The American media is failing you

American journalism has lost its bearings, and we are all paying the price. For the past four years, egged on by President Trump, mainstream news swiftly descended past the first circle of hell — subtle partisanship — and reached a far darker, hotter one: blatant favoritism, stories killed for purely partisan reasons and occasional propaganda masquerading as solid news.Journalism’s decline mirrors that of other American institutions, but it has compounded the social damage. A thriving democracy

Morning in America or mourning in America?

In the countdown to Election Day, the two campaigns are taking starkly different approaches.Joe Biden is sitting on a lead in the polls, trying to run out the clock, while Donald Trump is making a frenzied dash for the finish line, selling optimism.Both strategies make sense.Like a football team leading in the final quarter, Biden’s goal is simply to keep the clock ticking down to zero. Nothing fancy. Just avoid mistakes and prevent the other team from getting the ball back.To avoid those mistak

A serious debate that leaves Biden with lingering bruises

Thursday night’s debate was far calmer and more substantive than the street brawl that preceded it. If we score it like a boxing match, it was pretty close. Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden landed punches. Neither had to be carried out on a stretcher.

But that’s the wrong way to look at it. It matters, obviously, that neither candidate won a decisive victory and that Trump needed one more because he’s trailing, according to polls. But the debate helped Trump in another way. Biden said things he

Behind the social-media blackout of Biden family corruption

Hunter Biden is now the subject of multiple stories involving serious corruption. Whether he committed any crimes is a question for prosecutors and the courts. Whether he was paid handsomely for his family’s political clout is a question for voters.You wouldn’t know that from ABC’s pathetic town hall with his father Joe Biden on Thursday night. They spoke with him for 90 minutes and didn’t ask a single question about the shocking emails published by the New York Post. That’s either journalistic

The Gordian Knot Protecting Obamagate Secrets

Donald Trump and Republicans are furious that U.S. Attorney John Durham has not brought indictments against senior people who spied on the president’s campaign, lied repeatedly to judges in order to do it, and based their intrusions on specious evidence, which they knew to be false -- and had been commissioned by the opposition political party. We know the broad outlines of this coordinated operation, but we still don’t know its full extent, all those involved, and what precise roles they played

Did the VP debate change a single mind?

The vice presidential debate was a predictable clash between two solid professionals, each with plenty of debate experience.

Both said what they came to say, and not one jot more. Both evaded several hard questions, such as how they would handle changes in abortion laws, if the Supreme Court rules force some changes.

‘I’m glad you asked about baseball, Susan, because the American people love sports. And the sport they really love is football. That’s what’s on their mind now.’

That’s how they

Who Wants to Blow Up Our Constitution? (It's Not Trump)

The most profound attacks on Donald Trump are that his presidency is illegitimate and that he wants to destroy our constitutional structure. The Democrats have leveled those accusations for four years, accompanied by charges he is a wannabe dictator, elected thanks to his good buddy, Vladimir Putin.

These frenzied charges, we now know, were invented and paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and then funneled to the U.S. government through the FBI, Department of Justice, and State Department.

The debate was a mud-wrestling match — and Biden won

The first presidential debate is the most important — and Joe Biden won it.

These contests should be understood — and judged — as political events, not as high-school debating contests. Ask yourself: what should a successful candidate accomplish? He should put forward his own vision, define his opponent, generate enthusiasm among his voters (to ensure they turn out), and appeal to any who remain undecided. He must also answer the big reservations about his candidacy, including major weaknesses

Ruling supreme

Within hours of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Democrats and Republicans began fighting over how to fill her seat — and when. The stakes are high because the Supreme Court is so important. It can invalidate any federal, state or local law by ruling that it violates the US Constitution. And its decisions set precedents that lower courts must follow. Its rulings are final, made by judges with lifetime appointments.

Donald Trump intends to fill Ginsburg’s seat as quickly as pos

Ginsburg's Death and the Dangerous Politics Ahead

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life in the law cast a long shadow. In death, she casts a long shadow, too.

Since Justice Ginsburg was both historic figure and reliable liberal vote on the United States Supreme Court, replacing her was always going to be contentious. After all, the court’s direction for years to come is at stake. Candidate Donald Trump made the “activist federal courts” a major campaign issue in 2016. As president, he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have delivered on that issu

What Bahrain’s deal with Israel really means

On September 15, representatives from the oil-rich Kingdom of Bahrain will meet Israeli leaders at the White House to sign a historic peace deal. It will normalize relations between the Muslim state and the Jewish one, not long after the United Arab Emirates concluded a similar pact. Expect more such ‘normalization deals’. They supplement other White House initiatives, such as the deal it brokered between Serbia and Kosovo, which includes both countries establishing closer relations with Israel.

Nancy Pelosi’s bad hair day

Does Nancy Pelosi’s unfortunate trip to a hair salon have any news value? Or is it much a hairdo about nothing?

Compared to the big stories of the day, it hardly matters. The country faces violent disorder, we’re unsure who will become our next president and millions of people are trying to get back to work and school. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, ‘It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of one person getting a shampoo and blow-out don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.’

Joe Biden's Three Risky Choices

Joe Biden’s quick trip to Pittsburgh and his speech there Monday condemning urban violence show Democrats now recognize they made a major mistake in ignoring the problem at their convention. They’ve read the polls and finally realize voters care about the arson, shootings, and looting -- and their own safety. That’s a problem for the Biden campaign, which had almost nothing to say about the violence all summer. Now, they are doing “cleanup on Aisle 6” and there’s a lot of broken glass around.


Commentary: Trump’s speech: What worked, what didn’t

The speech itself was effective, though it was too long and a bit flat as all teleprompter speeches are. Trump normally enlivens those by going off-script and inserting impromptu remarks. He didn’t do that this time, perhaps because the stakes were so high. The speech suffered for it.

The most important thing it did was frame the election as Trump against Joe Biden. That might seem obvious, but it’s actually different from how Democrats are framing the race. They want it to be a referendum on T


What’s the bottom line so far?

The Democrats think they will win by making the race a referendum on Donald Trump (more the person than the policies, though they hate both). They are effectively trying to run Joe Biden as a generic Democrat.

The Republicans think the path to victory is to make the race a choice, Trump versus Biden, to say the Democratic party is dominated by the far left and that Biden is unable or unwilling to stop that oppressive movement. Drawing a sharp contrast between the

Playing with fire

Some conflicts begin with clear aims but morph into endless battles, the original motives forgotten. The timeless metaphor for self-sustaining battles is Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the inheritance case at the heart of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. ‘Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on,’ he wrote. ‘This scarecrow of a suit has, over the course of time, become so complicated, that no man alive knows what it means… Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married in

Joe Biden offers platitudes, not policies

Joe Biden’s speech was effective in many ways and sure to please his supporters. But anyone who expected him to say something substantive about his policies left empty-handed. He did little more than spin gauzy pictures of a rosy future.

First, the good news for Biden supporters. He looked strong, never stumbled, and delivered the speech with remarkable empathy, energy, and modulated tones. His performance showed no traces of the confusion he has shown occasionally or the cognitive decline he h
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