Anthony Bourdain: bashing capitalism, cheering Cuba

Anthony Bourdain


When Anthony Bourdain chose to off himself on June 8, millions mourned. He was a member of that ever-growing tribe, the celebrity chefs – people who have used books and TV to turn themselves into superstars and millionaires, all the while introducing their fans to culinary experiences from around the world.

It all began with his bestselling 2000 book Kitchen Confidential, following not too long thereafter by the first of several TV series that combined food with travel. Well, actually, of course, it began before the book – with stints as top chef at several leading restaurants in New York City. His signature gig was at the Manhattan branch of Brasserie Les Halles, where he started working as executive chef in 1998 and with which he maintained a relationship until it closed its doors last year.

For some folks, that career would’ve been enough. But not Bourdain. He also wrote fiction. In 2011, Ecco Press gave him his own publishing line. He produced and starred in his own movie. To his admirers, he was not just one more globetrotting guy sampling exotic fare on camera – he was a “rock star,” a “culinary bad boy,” a – well, you get the idea.

Alice Waters

But as Gore Vidal once said, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Among the other celebrity chefs who felt the sharp edge of his carving knife was Guy Fieri. Bourdain dismissed Rachael Ray as a no-talent. He trashed Wolfgang Puck’s “shitty pizza restaurants.” We don’t even know who Sandra Lee is, but he called her “pure evil.” We do know who Alice Waters is – she runs the legendary Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley California, and made her name by promoting fresh, locally sources foods. Her crime, in Bourdain’s book? Her agenda isn’t PC enough – it doesn’t take into account either poor people or sustainability.

Bourdain’s take on Paula Deen was also partly rooted in PC considerations. Bourdain called Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America.” Why? Well, one reason was that her recipes were too high-calorie. Another reason: “her food sucks.” Reason #3 – and here’s the PC part: “She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations…she’s unconscionable, cynical, and greedy.”

Paula Deen

Then there’s this: “I will never eat in his [Donald Trump’s] restaurant. I have utter contempt for him, utter and complete contempt… I’m not going. I’m not going.” Last year, when asked what he would serve if asked to cater a peace summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, Bourdain said: “Hemlock.” How courageous of Bourdain to express a political view that he had to know 99% of his fans would cheer.

A few years back, Waters came up with a terrific way of getting back at this pompous fool: she started a pseudonymous Twitter account under the name “Ruth Bourdain.” After the secret came out, she explained: “Well, Tony has always been something of an ass to me. So there’s that. But he also represents this tremendous dark-side of the human psyche. He is drugs, and sex, and rock music.”

He was also, as his comments on Deen makes clear, a world-class hypocrite – a man who got rich on capitalism but was quick to demonize others who dared to try to make a buck. Meanwhile, as Humberto Fontova pointed out after Bourdain’s suicide, this man who “wore his ‘anti-corporate hipness’ on his shirtsleeve, always smirking and snarking that ‘evil corporations’ and ‘crass commercialism’ repelled him,” was at the same time “a shameless tourism agent for the Castro-Family-and-Military Crony-Crime Syndicate, a thieving, murdering criminal-corporate empire that makes the Mafia look like Boy Scouts of America.”

What? More on Thursday.

Why doesn’t Natalie Portman boycott the U.S., too?

Natalie Portman

As we saw on Tuesday, Jerusalem-born Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, who is a dual American and Israeli citizen, was supposed to go to Israel this summer to accept the Genesis Prize, which is known as the “Jewish Nobel” and which they presumably decided to give to Portman because they figured that movie stars don’t get enough awards. The other day, she showed her gratitude by kicking the Genesis Prize Foundation in the cojones. She holds an Israeli passport, but doesn’t want to set foot in Israel right now. When accused of buying into the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, she denied the charge, saying she simply doesn’t like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We suspect that she doesn’t care for Donald Trump either, but that doesn’t cause her to flee the U.S. No, somehow Israel is the only country that it’s cool to boycott. Not that it has anything to do with anti-Semitism, of course.

Benjamin Netanyahu

In a powerful op-ed, Ben-Dror Yemini wrote that her unwillingness to travel to the Jewish state “was seen, rightly, as a move aimed at reinforcing the boycott” and that “Israel’s haters haven’t received such a significant gift in a long time.” Whatever her specific motives, observed Yemini, the fact remains that “[a]nyone who boycotts Israel bolster our haters, the demonization campaign and the boycott movement, which opposes Israel’s actual existence.” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz made the same point: “Natalie Portman has played into the hands of the worst of our haters and of the worst of the anti-Semites in the Middle East,” Steinitz charged. “Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Boycotting Israel has elements of anti-Semitism.” Would Portman boycott, say, China or Russia?

Caroline Glick

Columnist Caroline Glick cited a 2015 interview in which Portman, asked if she “was shaken” by the Charlie Hebdo massacre, “said toughly, ‘Listen, I’m from Israel.’” Glickman commented: “In other words, Portman, who moved with her family to the U.S. when she was 3, appropriated the toughness Israelis have been forced to cultivate in the face of their neighbors’ continuous aggression to cultivate a tough-girl image of herself.” Glick wondered: “If Portman cancelled her participation in the ceremony because she hates Netanyahu, why did her representative say she was distressed by ‘recent events’? Netanyahu didn’t assume power ‘recently.’ He’s been in office for nine years.” If her decision was motivated by Bibi-hatred, “the Genesis Prize Foundation should sue her for fraud since it means that she never intended to accept the prize and she deliberately sabotaged the foundation’s work.”

Gal Gadot

Meanwhile Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, didn’t criticize Portman – he criticized the Genesis Prize Foundation for picking her in the first place. “If the Genesis prize wanted to honor an actress,” he suggested, “they should have honored Gal Gadot, who has repeatedly shown her pride in being Israeli, supporting Israel during times of difficulties and is married to a Jewish person raising Jewish kids.” Good point. How did they come to pick Portman? “The selection of the Genesis Prize Laureate,” the Foundation’s website explains, “is a multi-step process.” It involves both a Selection Committee and a Prize Committee, both of which are tasked with ensuring that the winner has “a commitment to Jewish values,” is “proud of their Jewish identity,” and enjoys “a meaningful connection to the Jewish People and/or to the State of Israel.” Oops.

Ideologically pure, historically ignorant: Oliver Willis

Oliver Willis

On Tuesday we met Oliver Willis, a commentator who started out working for lowlife Clinton agitprop merchant David Brock and who, since the turn of the century, has been a staggeringly prolific blogger and tweeter, not to mention an occasional contributor to one or another of the usual websites (Salon, HuffPo). Perhaps the most surprising thing about his work is that he is never, ever surprising. His opinions, if you can even call them that, are ready-made, pre-packaged. He actually appears to think that he’s thinking, but he’s just regurgitating. As we saw on Tuesday, he thinks that he’s whip-smart (and that everybody to his right is an idiot), but all that he seems to have between his ears is a library of left-wing platitudes and victim-group grievance rhetoric.

Not a “real president”

To be sure, today’s Internet commentariat being awash in similar mediocrities, Willis doesn’t usually stick out from the crowd. Now and then, however, he demonstrates convincingly that his learning is skin-deep. Recently, when Donald Trump waited three days before calling out the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, Willis tweeted: “FDR didn’t take 72 hours to respond to Nazis. Then again, FDR was a real president.”

The “real president”

As several members of the Twittersphere were quick to point out, FDR didn’t take 72 hours to respond to the rise of Nazism; by the most charitable calculation, he took more than two years, if you start counting from September 2, 1939 (when Britain and France responded to the Nazi invasion of Poland by declaring war on Germany), and stop counting on December 11, 1941 (when the U.S. declared war on Germany a day after Germany had declared war on us). Willis also appears to have forgotten a couple of other minor facts about his “real president”: first, that when Jews who were trying to avoid the Nazi extermination camps sought refuge in America, FDR turned them away; and second, that while FDR was willing to put a German-American, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in charge of the Supreme Allied Command, he felt compelled to put Japanese-Americans in California internment camps.

An actual Willis tweet

This is only one of many examples we could cite of Willis’s historical and cultural illiteracy. But for leftist ideologues, ignorance on the scale of Willis’s hardly matters. Nor does his barely serviceable prose style or his chronic inability to actually form an argument. No, what counts is reflexive devotion to the cause, period. And as it happens, Willis, just like his old boss, David Brock, is the most reliable of ideological tools. Hence fellow inhabitants of the DNC echo chamber shower him with praise. (If Willis is to be believed, Rachel Maddow has twice called him “the great Oliver Willis.”)

Willis with four other bloggers at the White House

Just as Brock, moreover, is far less dedicated to any political idea than to the continued success of the Clinton clan, Willis is such a servile devotee of Barack Obama that he was one of only five bloggers who were invited to a White House meeting with the 44th president in October of 2010.

“I would be unfair if I said that David Brock represents everything wrong with politics,” wrote Post columnist David Von Drehle earlier this year. “So let me say that David Brock represents almost everything wrong with politics.” The same, alas, can be said of Brock’s equally unsavory protégé, Oliver Willis.

Meet Oliver Willis, third-rate sleaze merchant

Perhaps the main thing you need to know about the opinion writer Oliver Willis is that he spent a formative part of his career at Media Matters for America, the sleazy left-wing propaganda factory run by David Brock, who has variously been called a smear artist,” “poisonous” (in The Nation, no less!), and a “slippery snake” (by Maureen Dowd).

Oliver Willis

Willis is black. His parents were Jamaican. He is obsessed with race. Shortly before the 2016 election, he dismissed Trump supporters as “knuckle dragging racists.” He also dismissed the idea that working-class whites in flyover states had any legitimate grievances, whether about the economy or anything else: no, these people were “table-slamming racists,” “the absolute gutter worst of the country,” and didn’t deserve a hearing. They “lack the capacity to have any sort of empathy for anyone who doesn’t look exactly like them.”

The mentor: David Brock

In today’s America, Willis maintained, “you still start out several lengths ahead if you’re white and male than if you’re brown and female. The system is still set up for you to have a home field advantage, and the rules and many of the referees are still rigged for the outcome to tilt in your favor.” Needless to say, some people who’ve been denied jobs or rejected from colleges because of affirmative action would disagree strongly with this statement.

The devil: Donald Trump

But in Willis’s world, affirmative action isn’t a matter of systematic victim-group preference but of being “more inclusive” of “well qualified — sometimes overqualified — people [who] have been sidelined for eons because they didn’t buy the winning genetic lottery ticket.” Anyway, when Trump won, Willis attributed it to racism, pure and simple. Just the other day, he tweeted: “i see we’re still pretending trump’s rust belt wins were about effing trade agreements and not racism.” 

Houston hit by a hurricane: hilarious

Sometimes his race obsession manifests itself in a particularly ugly way. When Houston was struck by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, Willis asked on Twitter: “where are the right wing memes ridiculing houston evacuees like w katrina? many of the photos of people from houston are white. ahhhhhhhhh.” And sometimes it comes out in a way that’s just plain bizarre. Retweeting an item about the early 1800s slave trade, he wrote: “I am told daily by conservatives that the founders were perfect.” Huh? In 2018, who on earth describes any of the Founders as perfect? Doesn’t every history textbook these days emphasize that several of them owned slaves?

Thomas Jefferson, a slave holder? Who knew?

Willis thinks of himself as smart. Exceedingly smart. His website is headlined “Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid.” “I hate being smarter than the leader of the free world,” he tweeted only a few days ago. The purported stupidity of conservatives is a constant theme in his work. “For #WorldBookDay,” he tweeted on March 1, “I would like conservatives to know that they are the scary piles of paper with all the forbidden knowledge and one day you should crack one open.” Back in 2010, the Huffington Post ran a piece in which Willis took on the charge that liberals who look down their noses at conservatives are elitists: no, he argued, liberals should treat conservatives like inferiors, because the latter are, quite simply, morons.

Tea Party movement: morons

The Tea Party crowd, he explained, are “cretins,” “the lowest common idiotic denominator,” and a “roving band of conspiracy nuts” who are preoccupied with “idiotic” issues. In sum: “we owe them no recognition or inclusion in the important discussion about the direction of American society.”

Pause for a moment over that last sentence: as far as Willis is concerned, a whole huge chunk of the American populace deserves no voice in the public square. Implicit in this claim is an assumption that he and his ideological confreres have, or should have, the right to silence those who disagree with them. Willis smears white conservatives as exclusionary racists, but he’s the one who’s the exclusionary racist.

More on Thursday.

 

“Once a meathead, always a meathead”: Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner is one lucky fellow. First, he was born into the highest rung of showbiz – the son of the brilliant director, writer, and actor Carl Reiner, the man behind the classic Dick Van Dyke Show plus a whole bunch of very funny movies. Second, Rob’s family connections got him into acting – and his first big acting job, as it happened, turned out to be in the seminal sitcom of its time, All in the Family.

Mike Stivic (Reiner), left, and Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor in All in the Family

All in the Family‘s success owed nothing to Rob: playing Mike Stivic, the son-in-law of the show’s protagonist, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), and Archie’s wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton), Reiner was, in terms of acting chops, the weakest link on the show. Mike was also the series’ most insufferable character. While producer Norman Lear, a card-carrying leftist, had meant for Archie, a working stiff who labored on a factory loading dock, to be an anti-hero – a typical hippie-hating “hardhat” of the early 1970s – Archie was, for millions, a lovable hero.

Hey, look at which cast member of All in the Family didn’t win an Emmy

Meanwhile Mike, a social-sciences student into whose dialogue Lear shoved many of his own political opinions, was insufferable: although he shared a bedroom in Archie’s house in Queens because he couldn’t afford to support his wife – Archie’s daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers) – Mike plainly considered himself to be Archie’s intellectual and moral superior of Archie. For Archie, his son-in-law wasn’t “Mike” but “Meathead,” a mindless mouthpiece for an ideology that Archie considered pernicious.

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally

After All in the Family, Rob Reiner moved on to directing. His oeuvre contains some of the most entertaining movies of the eighties and nineties: This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men. His more recent product has been less memorable. In any event, what all of his best films have in common is that he didn’t write them. (The one exception is This Is Spinal Tap, on which he shared screenplay credit with funnymen Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.)

Ugh!

His old man, Carl Reiner, is a writer-director, and is terrific at both; Rob is good at figuring out where to put a camera, but his efforts at writing have been disastrous. We still remember, for example, the horror show that was the 1978 TV movie More than Friends, a fourth-rate Annie Hall ripoff that he co-wrote and in which he starred with his then wife, Penny Marshall.

Anyway, the reason we’re looking at Rob Reiner is that over the last quarter century or so, even as his directorial career has faltered, he’s become increasingly visible as an exceedingly shrill, far-left political activist and major megaphone for Democratic Party talking points. He was a prominent supporter of the presidential candidacies of Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. A few years ago, when the Tea Party movement was at its height, he likened it to Hamas.

Reiner’s Malibu manse

Critics have often pointed out his extreme hypocrisy: a resident of Malibu, one of the whitest, richest, and most exclusive municipalities in America, where he lives behind high walls and gates, Reiner has supported open borders and was among the Malibu residents who decided to declare it a sanctuary city – a decision that was, in practice, given the cost of property in the town and the high level of private and public security there, a thoroughly meaningless exercise in virtue signaling. Indeed, pretty much the only illegal aliens who ever set foot in the seaside enclave are the rich locals’ cooks, maids, gardeners, nannies, and chauffeurs.  

But it was the entry of Donald Trump into politics that really sent Reiner into activist overdrive. Ever since Trump began running for the Presidency, Reiner has been shouting from the rooftops that a “constitutional crisis” was in the offing. In a tweet written last December, he urged his fellow citizens to “prepare to take the streets” in response to Fox News’s criticism of the Robert Mueller probe into claims of Russian collusion by the 2016 Trump campaign.

At the January 2018 Women’s March in LA

Speaking at a Women’s March in Los Angeles on January 20, Reiner noted that Trump had been in office for a year and had “corroborated every one of our fears….And we cannot whitewash this anymore. We have a racist in the White House. We have a sexist in the White House. We have a pathological liar in the White House. And he is tearing away at the fabric of our democracy.”

Rod Rosenstein announcing the results of the Russia probe

In mid February, when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the Russia investigation had concluded that no Americans had “knowingly cooperated with the Russian interference” and that the Russians had “in no way impacted the outcome of the 2016 election,” Reiner, instead of throwing in the towel and admitting he had been hysterical over nothing, chose to take an Orwellian approach to the truth, tweeting as follows: “It is now crystal clear that Russia had a profound impact on the 2016 election. They have attacked US, they are continuing to attack US. If Trump is unwilling to acknowledge this and unwilling to protect US, the word TREASON is now center stage.”

Trump, the “traitor”

We need not comment on this shameless effort at disinformation, because Reiner’s Twitter feed soon filled up with apropos reactions. “Did you even WATCH the actual press conference?” wrote one of Reiner’s followers. “No impact on the election.” Several people commented that if there were any White House treason, it was committed not by Trump but by Obama, since the Russian meddling had, according to the Justice Department, begun in 2014.

One Reiner follower summed it up all this way: “Once a meathead, always a meathead.”

Robert De Niro: slamming the U.S. in Dubai

Robert De Niro

For a long time, nobody thought of Robert De Niro as an American thinker, great or otherwise. For over a quarter century, however, he was unquestionably a great American artist – a remarkably versatile and extraordinarily compelling actor who created immortal characters in such films as The Godfather, Part II, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, and Casino. He was nominated for several Oscars, and won two. In short, a cinematic treasure.

De Niro and Anne Hathaway in The Intern

In recent years, however, De Niro has become what some uncharitable observers might describe as a sellout. You might have gotten a few laughs out of Analyze This and Analyze That, but nobody will ever confuse them with The Godfather, Part I and II. You can say one thing about those two comedies – they look like Preston Sturges masterpieces alongside Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, and Little Fockers. And the movies have just gotten worse and worse: The Intern, Dirty Grandpa, and The Comedian gave new meaning to the word lightweight. He’s obviously decided to stop going with the best scripts and instead grab at the biggest paychecks.

With Obama at that 2012 fundraiser

Of course, he’s entirely within his rights. What’s interesting to us is that while De Niro the artist has shriveled, another creature has risen up from the murk: De Niro the political commentator. In 2012, he spoke at an exclusive Obama campaign event in New York – attended by such left-wing showbiz luminaries as Harvey Weinstein and Whoopi Goldberg – at which he put race at the heart of the matter. “Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney,” he said. “Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?” It was obviously meant as a joke, but what’s the joke?

But that was nothing. In October 2016, a month or so before the presidential election, he made headlines by releasing a video in which he urged the electorate not to vote for Donald Trump. “He’s so blatantly stupid,” De Niro said, appearing to channel one of his gangster characters. “He’s a punk. He’s a dog. He’s a pig. He’s a con.” It went on – and got nastier from there. “He’s a national disaster. He’s an embarrassment to this country.” De Niro concluded by saying he’d like to punch Trump in the face.

The video was notable for its utter lack of anything resembling a serious argument. It didn’t so much as touch on a single real issue. It was pure name-calling. Days later, while in Dubai to promote investment in Antigua and Barbuda, where he was involved in a resort development (could it be that he and Trump have more in common than he realizes?), De Niro told an interviewer that Trump “does not have a clue about what goes on in the rest of the world.”

He was still at it this past January, when, standing at the lectern at the National Board of Review awards ceremony, he delivered what one news source accurately called “an expletive-filled rant” about Trump. “This f***ing idiot is the President,” De Niro said, and went on to call Trump a “f***ing fool” and “the jerkoff-in-chief.” Once again, he had nothing of substance to say about Trump. Once again, it was just name-calling – which he (quite mistakenly) appeared to consider amusing.

The other day, De Niro was back in Dubai, this time to attend the World Government Summit. He was there “to help combat climate change.” In a speech at the summit, he unfavorably compared the U.S., which he called “a backward country,” to the United Arab Emirates, which he described as “an example to the rest of the world.” Under Trump, he charged, Americans were suffering from “temporary insanity.”

De Niro in Dubai

Reading his remarks, one wondered who, exactly, was insane; who, exactly, was an embarrassment to his country; who, exactly, was clueless “about what goes on” in the world. There he was, praising as a role model a country that’s governed under sharia law – a country that denies its citizens many basic human rights, that carries out floggings and stonings, that restricts freedom of speech and of the press, that punishes apostasy, adultery, and homosexuality with death, that permits men to beat their wives, and that treats not rapists but rape victims as criminals.

Two pieces of advice for Robert De Niro. Go back to making good movies. And stick to the words in the script.

Calling for coups: Chelsea Handler’s activism

The political Chelsea

As we noted on Tuesday, Chelsea Handler has metamorphosed from clown into political pundit. Well, actually, she has become a political pundit while remaining every bit a clown. October saw the end of her snooze-worthy series, Chelsea, in which she conducted endless wonky interviews with the scintillating likes of David Axelrod and Gavin Newsome. That show was a deadly dull exercise in political shop talk, but after it was canceled, Chelsea, instead of trying to find her funny bone again, announced that she would be setting her show business career aside for the nonce and instead focus on political activism. “Like so many across the country,” she tweeted, “the past presidential election and the countless events that have unfolded since have galvanized me.”

Dana Rohrabacher

Only days later, she showed just how knowledgeable she was about politics with a tweet about Dana Rohrabacher, a member of Congress whose district centers on Huntington Beach, California. “So, Republican rep. Dana Rohrabacher from California is was the original person who received info from Russia, because she works w/ them,” wrote Chelsea. Savvy! Just one problem: Dana Rohrabacher, as tens of millions of Americans know, is not a “she” but a “he.” “Her stupidity knows no bounds,” marveled one fellow denizen of the Twitterverse.

Melania Trump

This was far from Chelsea’s first show of idiocy since her foray into politics. In the last weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, she sent out several tweets mocking Melania Trump’s English. On October 28: “Trump said Melania will give two or three more speeches….Hopefully an interpreter will be present.” November 5: “Tim Kaine delivered a speech entirely in Spanish. Still easier to understand than Melania.” After Trump’s election, Chelsea said she wouldn’t invite the First Lady on her show for an interview because “she can barely speak English.” As many observers noted at the time, Mrs. Trump speaks five languages; Chelsea, in her previous incarnation as a comedian, admitted more than once to being monolingual.

Donald Trump

Even the left is embarrassed by her. On August 11, the Daily Beast ran a piece headlined “Chelsea Handler’s Twitter Feed Has Officially Gone Off the Rails.” In it, Matt Wilstein cited a couple of Chelsea’s recent tweets. In one, she called for a U.S. military coup (“To all the generals surrounding our idiot-in-chief…the longer U wait to remove him, the longer UR name will appear negatively in history”); in another, she called for limits on the First Amendment (“2 Chinese guys were arrested in Berlin for making nazi salutes. Wouldn’t it be nice 2 have laws here for people who think racism is funny?”). As one person tweeted in response to her attack on free speech: “If we start arresting people for disgusting opinions you better call your lawyer.”

Sarah Sanders

In other tweets, she’s blamed the GOP for California’s rampant wildfires and for last November’s church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (Of course, California wildfires and church shootings took place under Obama, too.) Despite her proclaimed feminism, she’s repeatedly made fun of the physical appearance of White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. And notwithstanding her boasts of being pro-gay, she hasn’t been above “accusing” political opponents of homosexuality. Earlier this month, when she was displeased by a certain senator’s comments at a White House meeting, Chelsea wrote an obscene tweet suggesting that the only reason he could be so civil to President Trump must be that somebody in the Executive Branch has a gay porn video of him. The tweet, founded on a widespread rumor that the senator in question is gay, occasioned widespread criticism. “Keep being a voice for the Democrats while you use homosexuality as an insult,” one reader commented. Another wrote: “If a Republican said something like this, they’d be burning down the RNC.”

Chelsea Handler is an idiot, but for the far left, she’s a highly useful idiot, with 8.5 million Twitter followers who’ve hung in there with her despite the disastrous failure of her Netflix show. Let’s hope, for the sake of comedy and the Republic, that she gets tired of politics ASAP and returns to making people laugh on purpose.  

Taking on Trump: Xavier Becerra

Some of us never imagined we’d ever see such a thing happening in the United States: last Thursday, Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California, warned employers in that state that if they assist federal officials who are looking for illegal immigrants, they will be prosecuted.

Xavier Becerra

More on that later. But first, who is Xavier Becerra? Born in Sacramento to Mexican immigrants, he went to college in Spain before earning a B.A. and J.D. from Stanford. After working in a private law practice, he went into politics, serving, in turn, as an assistant to a California state senator, as the state’s Deputy Attorney General, as a member of the State Assembly, and as a member of Congress. California Governor Jerry Brown named him state Attorney General on January 23 of last year. He is the first Latino to hold that position.

Becerra to Trump: “Be careful!”

His ideological agenda was clear from the start. A sympathetic profile of Becerra in the Atlantic began with the news that he was “issu[ing] a warning to the President of the United States:

“Be careful,” he said in a singsongy voice. “Be careful!” A wicked smile appeared.

Becerra, wrote Atlantic reporter Michelle Cottle, “clearly relishes his role as a burr in Donald Trump’s backside.” What business does a state Attorney General have issuing warnings to Presidents or being burrs in their backsides? Why was the new Attorney General of America’s largest state focused on challenging the newly elected President’s politics rather than on prosecuting people arrested for committing crimes in his (frankly) crime-ridden state?

Becerra’s ideologies allies

When talking to Cottle, Becerra had nothing to say about such matters – which are, after all, the appropriate province of a state Attorney General. No, what he was interested in was using his new position to push California, and thus the U.S., even further to the left, especially on the issue of illegal immigration. “Becerra sees California playing a special role by virtue of its size and ‘forward leaning’ politics,” wrote Cottle. As Becerra told her: “Sometimes it takes a generation, but we pull the country in certain directions.”

More Becerra allies

His first major action as Attorney General was to join a lawsuit that managed to put the kibosh on President Trump’s January 27 presidential directive that sought to restrict travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim countries that were deemed to represent dangers to American security. When Trump issued a new order on September 24, seeking to limit travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq, Becerra again leapt into action, accusing Trump of pushing “a political agenda rooted in fear and bias” and insisting that California would “continue to welcome and embrace people of goodwill from all backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities.”

More on Thursday.

Don’t mess with Debra Messing!

Born in 1968, Debra Messing has had a stellar acting career. Her breakthrough role on the NBC sitcom Will and Grace (1998-2006) led, via a series of supporting roles in obscure movies and one-shot performances on various TV series, to her triumphant current gig in, um, the retread of the NBC sitcom Will and Grace (2017-).

Debra Messing

Okay, we won’t knock her career. Let’s face it, she’s been lucky. However horrible Will and Grace was (and is), the residuals certainly can’t be anything to sneeze at. Still, to those who aren’t Will and Grace fans, Messing is probably best known for her recent forays into political commentary. In a relatively brief time, she’s become quite the nag. In the spring of 2016, when actress Susan Sarandon, a longtime feminist and leftist radical, expressed her lack of enthusiasm for the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton and suggested that the country might be better off under Donald Trump, Messing was outraged, writing on Twitter: “Wonder if she’d say that if she were poor, gay, Muslim or imm[i]gr[a]nt.”

Blake Shelton

That was just the beginning. In July, after country singer Blake Shelton told an interviewer that “Whether you love [Trump] or hate him, he says what he thinks, and he has proven that you don’t always have to be so afraid,” Messing was – again – outraged, accusing him of supporting an enemy of women’s rights. (Shelton explained that he wasn’t supporting either Trump or Hillary.)

Susan Sarandon

Following Trump’s election, it was back to Sarandon again, who opined on Twitter that progressives needed to “reach out in dialogue to those who voted 4 [Trump]. We can’t afford a blanket judgement [sic] of them. We need allies in that camp. Possible.” Once again, Messing went berserk: “JESUS CHRIST. NOW she wants to give racist, islamophobic, homophobic, sexist, mysogynists a chance! ‘Pure’ 4 Bernie. F*** everyone else.”

For years, Messing pretty much kept her mouth shut except when reading lines penned for her by screenwriters. Now – well, we suppose that thanks to Will and Grace she has pockets full of “F*** you” money and is now taking advantage of this financial independence to try to out-Lena Dunham Lena Dunham. Earlier this month, while being interviewed by a reporter for the E! network on the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards, Messing served up a shrill demand: “Time is up. We want diversity and we want intersectional gender parity!” She proceeded, according to NBC News, “to demand more diversity among workplaces, emphasizing women of color, and a gender balance of ’50/50 by 2020.’”

Lena Dunham at a Golden Globes afterparty

Messing wasn’t the only political activist on the red carpet. Far from it. The Golden Globes ceremony, after all, was the first major Hollywood awards show of the season since the industry’s biggest scandal of all time kicked into high gear a few months ago, with one powerful industry figure after another being brought down by accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. The result has been a hashtag campaign – #metoo – on behalf of the victims and, at the Golden Globes, a purported display of solidarity in the form of black gowns (for the women) and stylish “Time’s Up!” buttons (for the men), meaning that the era of male sexual predation in Hollywood was supposedly over.

Almost all of those attending the ceremony, in short, were – at least in their own minds – bold heroes, tireless activists. But none of them outdid Messing. More on Thursday.

Keith Ellison, Antifa fan

Keith Ellison

On Tuesday, we met Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in the U.S. Congress – who, among much else, has defended Louis Farrakhan, likened George W. Bush to Hitler, and compared Trump unfavorably with Kim Jong-un. As we’ve seen, Ellison, who represents Minneapolis and environs, has been quite chummy with the terrorist-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations: he’s spoken at CAIR events, and CAIR leaders have spoken at Ellison fundraisers.

Ellison addressing the US Council of Muslim Organizations

But CAIR isn’t the only dicey Muslim group with which he has cozy connections. He’s addressed at least three conventions of the Hamas-linked Islamic Society of North America. In 2007 and again in 2008, he was the keynote speaker at conventions of the Muslim American Society (MAS), appearing on the second occasion with an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. MAS, which has been linked to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al-Qaeda, and which the United Arab Emirates has designated as a terrorist group, has called for jihadist violence and the murder of Jews, and, in its official magazine, routinely refers to suicide bombers as martyrs and to terrorists as freedom fighters. In 2016, under pressure, Ellison withdrew as speaker from a MAS event.

Ellison with jihad enthusiast and faux feminist Linda Sarsour

As we made clear on Tuesday, Ellison’s radical record was no mystery when Minneapolis voters sent him to Congress in 2006. It is hard to know what to make of the fact that they’ve sent him back five times since then, during a decade when his ties to pro-jihad groups and his hostility to Israel have been repeatedly on display. Less difficult to explain is why his fellows Democrats chose him – by unanimous acclamation – as the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee: he represents the party’s “progressive” wing, and these days, in that party, “progressive” includes everything from socialists-bordering-on-Communists to Muslims (and friends of Islam) whose public criticisms of jihadist terrorism sound painfully tame and pro forma.

Ellison with Mark Bray’s book

The latest cause for widespread concern about Ellison was a tweet he sent out on January 3. It read: “@MoonPalaceBooks and I just found the book that strike [sic] fear in the heart of @realDonaldTrump.” Accompanying the text was a photo of Ellison holding a volume entitled Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray. Antifa, of course, is the umbrella term for a number of groups that, during the last couple of years, have joined together in violent protests against conservative, libertarian, and other non-leftist speakers at various U.S. college campuses. As the Daily Caller noted, “While the group [Antifa] claims to be anti-Fascist, they routinely shut down the speech of people they disagree with.”The Washington Times described Bray’s book as “a history of anti-fascism movements and guide to aspiring radicals.” Some reports have maintained that the book is nothing more than an objective account of its topic (Newsweek called it “politically neutral”), but this claim is nonsense: as an Associated Press report indicated, Bray “calls violence during counter-protests ‘a small though vital sliver of anti-fascist activity.’” Bray also maintains that certain ideas are undeserving of First Amendment protection.

Ben Shapiro

In response to Ellison’s tweet, Alex Griswold of the Washington Free Beacon tweeted: “Um, the deputy chair of the DNC is endorsing a book that advocates for violence in the streets.” The Young America’s Foundation (YAF) chastised Ellison for his tweet, calling it an “inexplicable embrace of violent Antifa tactics.” YAF, which has been involved in arranging many of the campus speaking events that Antifa has sought to disrupt, commented: “No one knows the dangers posed by Antifa better than the conservative college students YAF works with around the country who have been threatened, stalked, and at times attacked by the radical leftists who make up its ranks. Most notably, Antifa thugs attempted to shut down YAF’s campus lecture with Ben Shapiro at the University of California, Berkeley.” 

Nancy Pelosi

Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has vilified Antifa, saying last August: “You’re not talking about the far left of the Democratic Party – they’re not even Democrats. A lot of them are socialists or anarchists or whatever.” But Ellison isn’t the only high-profile establishment figure to signal his fondness for Antifa, and after his tweet went public – and garnered criticism – some mainstream publications dismissed the furor as a far-right tempest in a teapot. “The anger toward Ellison is increasingly a fringe movement,” Newsweek insisted, the implication being that any hostility directed at him is by definition racist and Islamophobic.