S.C. Shout Fest; Simon on His ‘Contract’; Stevens-Sumner

7 mins read

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. The Democratic presidential contenders took the stage for another debate last night, one that showcased the dual drawbacks of a large field of candidates led through their paces by network moderators.

Television news thrives on conflict, as I understand, and unless one wants to socialize the media as well as the nation’s medical system — even Bernie Sanders isn’t talking about that — ratings are part of the equation. Still, the pettiness on display last night, along with the indifference to factual featly, was jarring. While characterizing Donald Trump as a disaster, the Democrats’ boasting, name-calling, virtue-signaling, and wild exaggerations were reminiscent of, well, the 2016 Republican primary debates. And look how that turned out.

The most preposterous assertion of the night came when Joe Biden tried to blame Bernie Sanders for gun violence in the United States by claiming that 150 million Americans have been slain with firearms since 2007. That’s right: nearly half the people in our country were killed by guns. Not one of his fellow Democrats or the moderators challenged this. Actually, CBS moderator Gayle King got the misinformation rolling when she prefaced her question on gun control by stating, “Every day in our country, over 100 people die from gun violence.” This is only true if one counts suicides. Perhaps they should be included in the discussion, but that’s somewhat misleading. The number of Americans shot and killed by others in this country is about 40 each day. 

But in yesterday’s Morning Note, I extolled the advantages of humility in journalism. So this morning I’ll practice what I preach, which is easy to do because today’s date in history reminds me of a supremely dumb mistake of my own. I’ll explain in a moment. First I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

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Shouting Match Breaks Out on South Carolina Debate Stage. Phil Wegmann reports from Charleston on last’s night forum.

Neal Simon Discusses “Contract to Unite America.” In this video, A.B. Stoddard interviews the author about his new book on reforms he believes could bridge our growing political divide.

Brady PAC Backs Cunningham in Divisive N.C. Senate Primary. Susan Crabtree explains cross-party machinations in the race as the GOP pushes one Democratic candidate over another and a gun-control group responds.

Should Lawyers Be Forced to Fund Political Adversaries? In RealClearPolicy, Timothy Sandefur questions the practice of state bar associations making campaign contributions.

The Art of More Trade Deals. In RealClearWorld, Derek Scissors writes that the USMCA set the stage for bigger things to come.

A Fix for Prescription Sticker Shock. In RealClearHealth, Peter J. Pitts touts the benefits of a bill in the Senate.

A Breakthrough in Repairing Neurological Trauma? RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy spotlights researchers’ successful connection of a silicon neuron to a neuron from a rat hippocampus.

Misinformation Surrounding Energy Solutions. In RealClearEnergy, Jakob Puckett details misconceptions regarding electric vehicles and nuclear power. 

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Yesterday, a retired Lutheran pastor from Kansas named Elwyn Luber sent me an email that made me wince. More than wince. The Rev. Luber, whom I’ve never met, was reading my book “On This Date,” and he was stopped by something in that day’s entry. The story is about Hiram Revels, an African American veteran of the Civil War (he was a chaplain) who was seated in the United States Senate on Feb. 25, 1870. The part that puzzled my new friend from Kansas was an aside I wrote about the movie “Lincoln.” Here is his email in its entirety:

“Greetings Carl. I am reading your book ‘On this Date’ and I’m enjoying it very much. However, this morning’s reading has a mistake that you have probably already been informed about. In the movie ‘Lincoln,’ the character that Tommy Lee Jones is portraying is not Charles Sumner from New England but is Thaddeus Stevens, a representative from Pennsylvania. Both of them were rabid abolitionists & Radical Republicans seeking to bring about equality for black people.”

No one likes making historical errors, especially in a book about history, but this was mortifying for two additional reasons: First, I didn’t merely mix up Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner; I compounded the error by extrapolating snidely on Tommy Lee Jones’ accent. It was, as I wrote in a correction several years ago when I first made this blooper, my own Emily Litella moment.

So how did a blunder made (and corrected) in 2013 make its way into a book published in 2017? The answer comes from the incomparable Roger Angell in a recent New Yorker interview: “All of us, everywhere, need an editor — every single writer in the world needs an editor, or more than one.” 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)
[email protected]

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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