Entries from March 2009

Ron Silver: 1946-2009

David Frum March 16th, 2009 at 10:23 am Comments Off

Actor Ron Silver has passed away at 62.  A Democrat for many years, treatment after the 9/11 attacks he became a supporter of President Bush and was a featured speaker at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Questions For Jeff Frederick

March 16th, 2009 at 4:41 am 1 Comment

I wrote earlier of the decision of over 75% of the Virginia State Republican Central Commission to ask Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Jeff Frederick to resign or face expulsion at a special Central Committee meeting on April 4.

The battle’s now getting more heated. All five Virginia Republican U.S. House Members, including rising star Eric Cantor and conservative stalwart Frank Wolf, have asked Frederick to resign before the April 4 meeting.  Virginia AG and Republican candidate for Governor Bob McDonnell has also joined the call for Frederick’s resignation.

Frederick’s supporters, though, are fighting back. As the Washington Post reported on Saturday, “some of his backers arranged for automated calls to party activists accusing McDonnell of being an ‘elitist’ who is taking orders from ‘tax-raising, anti-gun, pro-abortion officeholders in Richmond.’  Frederick denies authorizing the calls.” The text of the calls is here.

And on Wednesday, I received this email (personally identifiable links removed):

This is curious. The RPVNetwork is linked from the RPV website. It’s described as “sanctioned by RPV Chairman” (presumably they mean “endorsed” or “approved,” not “sanctioned” as in Cuba or Iran). The Network is a great idea and an attempt to use new media to bring Republicans together, share ideas, and invite people to events.  But, never having received one of these invitations before, when I tried to look at the link to the group, I was blocked on the ground that I had to include a password.   Let’s look at this more closely.

After Frederick was elected, I started getting a weekly update from RPV. Fine, no problem with that (other than with some of its content, which struck me as uncalled for and off-putting). That’s push marketing, and I assume they got my email address from the Alexandria Republicans, the 8th District Committee, or the McCain Virginia campaign.

But I never joined the Network or set a password to do so. So why all of a sudden would I get the “We Support Chairman Jeff Frederick” invitation?  And is it really the case that of the “231 discussions” mentioned above, this would be the only one issued to all RPV members (and therefore the only one I received)? That seems odd.

What’s going on?   Who controls the RPV email list?

The “Grassroots Republicans” call states that the decision on Chairman was made in 2008 and shouldn’t be revisited now. That’s their argument – fine. But something else was decided in 2008, too: that Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling were the ticket for Governor and Lieutenant Governor and that the party would not have a bruising fight for the nomination but instead focus on winning.

And that’s the decision that really matters.

Bob McDonnell is a pro-life conservative with a few “moderate” positions, such as having supported a “one gun per month” law (For an RPV Network discussion of this that I accessed through a Google search, click here. (Funny how I can’t access the Network from the site without a password, but parts of it are available through Google.)

Frederick’s right that “Anytime a party spends its time and energy battling its own, it’s losing.” That’s why the much better course is for him to resign now.

But if the pro-Frederick forces want to have this fight and risk damaging and demoralizing the party so that Terry McAuliffe (yes, that Terry McAuliffe, who’s suddenly decided he’s a Virginian), Craig Deeds, or Brian Moran have a better chance of becoming Governor, here are some questions for Chairman Frederick:

If someone didn’t sign up for the RPV Network website, why are they listed as already having a password? If the response is that one was assigned, is it really the case that the effort to help save Frederick was the first and only appeal given to everyone on the RPV list?   (And what does it say about the RPV if this is the case?)

The Washington Post story on Thursday, which Delegate Bob Marshall sent out to his email list, states that you were “noncommittal” about ruling out an independent run for Governor. Will you confirm your support of Bob McDonnell and publicly announce that you will not run for Governor this year no matter what the outcome on April 4?

And if not, why should you lead the Republican Party of Virginia?

American Pharaoh

David Frum March 15th, 2009 at 3:14 pm Comments Off

What is it about Illinois?

Three governors since 1968 have gone to jail, viagra and a fourth seems headed to join them.

The state’s biggest city, Chicago, is a byword for corruption and election-rigging. Until inauguration day 2009, the Chicagoan to have held most power in Washington was former House Ways and Means Committee chairman Danny Rostenkowski. He went to prison too.

Now the United States has its first Chicago president, supported by a Chicagoan chief of staff. The two of them are proceeding to launch the biggest wave of peacetime public works projects since the New Deal. Gore Vidal quipped about the rise of the Kennedy family: “It is like watching the Borgias descend upon some Italian town.” Should we be worried about the Chicago dynasty placing its hands upon the federal Treasury? At a minimum, we should all be trying to understand Chicago politics better…

So that’s one of my reading projects for the year ahead. I have a shelf of books to read about Chicago politics. Here are some notes on the first, the mammoth biography of Chicago’s mayor Richard Daley by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor: American Pharaoh.

Richard Daley became mayor of Chicago in 1955, just as urban America entered a period of extreme crisis. Industry and homeowners were following the new interstate highways out of the central city. The industrial city had to evolve into a post-industrial city, but as yet post-industrial jobs still existed mainly in the imagination.

Even as the future darkened for employment in urban factories, docks, railyards and stockyards, millions of southern blacks were arriving to seek such employment. Between 1940 and 1960, the black population of Chicago would almost double, to more than 800,000. Many of those people would begin the climb into the middle class. Many others would slide into a dependent and violent urban underclass.

Federal welfare programs stepped in to deliver the services that had once been distributed by local political machines, even as competition from suburban jurisdictions suddenly raised the relative burden of those machines’ incompetence and corruption.

These pressures would ultimately wreck many once great industrial centers. Taylor and Cohen generously allow that it was in great measure due to Richard Daley that they did not wreck Chicago.

Daley built America’s greatest airport, O’Hare – and ensured that it was sited within Chicago’s city limits. He ensured that the interstates entered the city but that they did not smash apart its business district, as they did in so many other jurisdictions. He encouraged the expansion of the business district northward up Michigan Avenue. He brought a major university into Chicago.

But he did something else too, something alluded to by this biography’s strange title: he used his construction boom to erect psychic barriers between the city’s established white working class neighborhoods and its new black population. Chicago’s major north-south expressway corridor was reinforced by a parallel line of public housing projects to create a mile-wide no-go zone between the black South Side and the rest of the city. Spatial segregation became a tool of urban preservation, enforced by an often brutal and corrupt and disproportionately white police.

During the civil rights era, Chicago blacks often referred to Mayor Daley as “Pharaoh.” Civil rights activists saw Daley as an oppressor and a taskmaster – as an unrelenting Ramses to Martin Luther King’s Moses. Daley was a pharaoh in this sense …” ( p. 12)

Cohen and Taylor have set out to produce a detailed work of urban history in the manner of Robert Caro’s study of Robert Moses. They share with Caro a prodigious work ethic and a shrewd eye for the mechanics of power. But they share with him something else, something unfortunate: thralldom to liberal sentimentality in its least self-aware form.

With fascinating accumulated detail, Cohen and Taylor minutely explicate Daley’s use of political power to divide the city racially – a division that remains a harsh fact of Chicago life to this day. Yet their curiosity fails them when the question arises: so what should have been done instead? They assert repeatedly that a planned scattered integration would have served the city better, breaking down barriers without unleashing a crime wave that would have driven out of the city everyone who could afford to leave. Yet they offer no reason to believe these assertions, and the reader is left to wonder whether they can really believe in them very much themselves.

The book does a magnificent job analyzing the mechanisms by which Daley gained and exercised his power. Briefly: Chicago was a one-party system. To gain a Democratic nomination was to win the election. Democratic nominations were decided by the Central Committee of the Cook County Democratic party, and Daley had become the chairman of that committee in 1953. As chairman, Daley could “list” or “delist” Democratic nominees for every office up to judge and alderman.

In his capacity as mayor, Daley controlled tens of thousands of patronage jobs – and these patronage hires were then expected to make themselves available for Democratic party work under Daley’s direction. Daley beat back demands for a more professional city work force by expanding employment of “temporary” workers outside the civil service system. Some of these “temporary” workers remained on the payroll for decades.

All this wasted tremendous amounts of money. Cohen and Taylor pay much less attention to that subject – or to the cost in taxes and lost productivity of this waste. The exploitation of business and taxpayers by politicians is not a subject that engages the authors very much.

Yet this system of exploitation is the central modality of Chicago politics, and a modality that Chicago politicians may now export to the national scene.

It might be objected that Barack Obama is the very opposite of a Daley-style politician. He is a reformer, not a machine pol; an educated grandee, not a ward-heeler dispensing patronage jobs. All true. But of course Chicago has generated such reformers before: Paul Douglas in the 1940s, Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s. These men are useful to the machine: They “perfume the ticket,” in the old Chicago phrase. And if they want to survive, they learn to cooperate with the machine and to avert their eyes from its excesses. Douglas and Stevenson both benefited from Daley’s support and took care never to clash with him.

And in his turn, Barack Obama learned to get along by going along. Unlike his Republican predecessor Peter Fitzgerald, Barack Obama mutely acceded to the bad practices of Illinois and Chicago government. What he didn’t know couldn’t offend him – and he took pains to ensure that he knew as little as possible.

The Chicago Way has evolved since the time of the elder Daley. But for all the change, it is Daley’s son who rules Chicago now as its second-longest-serving mayor. For all the change, Chicago remains by most accounts the most corrupt city in the northern United States. For all the change, nothing much has changed. The story told in American Pharaoh retains alas all its relevance – and more – as Chicago’s history guides the nation’s future.

David Frum On Meet The Press

David Frum March 15th, 2009 at 9:39 am 22 Comments

An economic and political roundtable with David Frum, BBC’s Katty Kay, CNBC’s Steve Liesman, and PBS’s Tavis Smiley.

Obama’s Trade Actions Threaten To Further Destabilize Mexico

David Frum March 15th, 2009 at 8:00 am 10 Comments

Once elected, President Obama disavowed the protectionist rhetoric of his campaign. But over the past weeks, the Democratic party’s impulse to restrict trade has reasserted itself in menacing ways. The president’s trade representative, Ron Kirk, has pooh-poohed further trade expansion.

Now though the protectionism has gone beyond talk. NewMajority’s John Gardner Friday reported that President Obama signed into law a direct violation of US obligations under NAFTA.

A provision in the $410 billion stopgap funding bill that the President signed on Tuesday prevents implementation of a provision in NAFTA that permits properly licensed Mexican trucking companies from operating throughout the United States. Specifically, the bill prevents the U.S. Department of Transportation from continuing a pilot program to begin U.S. compliance with its NAFTA obligation.

This news has received shockingly little attention inside the United States. But it’s being noticed north and south of the border – where it is already generating shockwaves. NewMajority recently spoke to a former senior Canadian diplomat about the trade measure. Here’s what this former official had to say: 

This strikes me as thinking really, really small and contrary to American interests.

First, this is a headache that President Calderón does not need. His grip is precarious and this will only play into the hands of those who think he is an American pawn, unable to uphold Mexican interests, and would like to see him undone. What then?

Second, America is investing millions into the Merida Initiative to fight drug trafficking, but the continuing strategic objective, shared by successive administrations (Democrat or Republican) is to bring Mexico into the open, market economy. Mexico is involved in an existential battle with the cartels and we should be doing all we can to help. The Merida initiative helps tackle the immediate problem with a hand out, but NAFTA, despite its warts, is an effort to give Mexico a hand up.

Third, the pilot trucking certification program does exactly that by raising safety standards around economic interest and providing an incentive for responsibility.  One of the gripes of labour is that NAFTA does nothing for the ‘working Joe or Jose’. This pilot was doing that.

What incentive now for Mexico to raise its game? Ironically, without this program the trucks and truckers that will inevitably cross the frontier into the US will be considerably less safe than the 103 permitted AND inspected, under the pilot program.

Like it or not, the world looks to America for leadership. Know it or not, America is the inspiration because of their capacity to think big.  Or as Churchill observed, “America will always do the right thing, but only after exhausting all other options.”

I’ve no doubt that the American generosity of spirit inevitably will do the right thing by the Mexican truckers. But in this case, America’s own national interest dictates that it should do so sooner rather than later.

A War You Can Stop

David Frum March 14th, 2009 at 1:54 pm Comments Off

Guess which city leads the world in kidnappings?

No, not Beirut. Not Baghdad. Mexico City.

And guess who comes second? Ready? It’s Phoenix, Ariz.: 370 recorded cases in 2008 alone, and who knows how many unrecorded cases.

When you think Phoenix, you may think of retirees and golf courses. But here’s what the late Paul Harvey used to call “the rest of the story,” courtesy of the Web site Stratfor.com:

“Late on the night of June 22, [2008] a residence in Phoenix was approached by a heavily armed tactical team preparing to serve a warrant. The members of the team were wearing the typical gear for members of their profession: black boots, black BDU (battle dress uniform) pants, Kevlar helmets and Phoenix Police Department (PPD) raid shirts pulled over their body armour. The team members carried AR-15 rifles equipped with Aimpoint sights to help them during the low-light operation and, like most cops on a tactical team, in addition to their long guns, the members of this team carried secondary weapons –pistols strapped to their thighs.

But the raid took a strange turn when one element of the team began directing suppressive fire on the residence windows while the second element entered — a tactic not normally employed by the PPD. This breach of departmental protocol did not stem from a mistake on the part of the team’s commander. It occurred because the eight men on the assault team were not from the PPD at all. These men were not cops serving a legal search or arrest warrant signed by a judge; they were cartel hit men serving a death warrant signed by a Mexican drug lord.”

Mexico has become one of the most violent places on the planet, as drug cartels battle each other and police. More than 6,300 people have died violently since January, 2008, more than 1,000 in just the past two months.

These killings are not obscure hit-and-runs. As former U. S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey told National Public Radio last week, “[S]quad-sized units of police officers and soldiers [have been] abducted, tortured to death, decapitated.” Decapitation is new to Mexico: The narcotraffickers seem to have been watching al-Qaeda snuff films.

Mexico’s violence has reached deeper and deeper into the United States. and Canada. In July, 2008, for example, police raided a house in an Atlanta exurb and rescued a man who had been blindfolded, chained to a wall, beaten and left to die of thirst. Apparently he had owed traffickers $300,000.

In a March 10 interview with the Associated Press, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Agency claimed: “[Y]ou see the escalation in violence … because U. S. and Mexican law enforcement are winning. You are going to see the drug traffickers push back because we are breaking their back. It’s reasonable to assume they are going to try to fight to stay relevant.”

On the U. S. side of the border, there are signs of anti-narcotic success. Border crossing has been tightened — which is why the worst of the violence occurs in border cities like Juarez, adjoining El Paso, Tex.

At the end of February, U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that a recent crackdown had netted 755 arrests and the seizure of millions of dollars in cash and drugs, as well as 160 weapons. The price of cocaine on U. S. streets has risen and purity has deteriorated, two signs of constrained supply. As supply dwindles, traffickers as far as Vancouver turn their guns on each other to increase their share.

Progress on the Mexican side, however, is not so impressive. Of the 755 February arrests, only 20 occurred inside Mexico. Corrupt officials inside the Mexican attorney general’s office have betrayed police activities. (It’s hard to say whether it is good news or bad news that the Mexicans have arrested their country’s former drug czar for allegedly taking bribes from drug dealers. Better, I suppose, than not arresting him, but still …)

The most audacious demonstration of narco-power occurred in February in Cancun. Drug traffickers kidnapped, tortured and murdered a retired army general serving as the city’s chief anti-drug officer.

Forty-five thousand Mexican troops have been deployed against the narcotraffickers. But they need help from their North American neighbours, and not just military aid.

Every time a North American indulges in illegal drug use, that user subsidizes and incentivizes the gangsters who dump charred, decapitated bodies in Mexico’s cities. It’s our buying that creates the profits for which the gangsters kill. An estimated 2.8% of American adults and 2.3% of Canadians use cocaine at least once a year. If they quit, they’d put the gangsters out of business. This is one war that ordinary individuals have the power to stop. So here’s a challenge next time you meet a campus peace activist. Ask them: What are you doing to put an end to this murderous trade?

Originally published in the National Post.

Tracking The Bailout

David Frum March 14th, 2009 at 7:14 am Comments Off

John McCain used to repeat a joke of Bob Hope’s (and I’m sure that he got it from Artemus Ward or somebody) about Americans coming to Washington to visit their money. But it’s not here any more – we are busy shoveling it out the back door to bailed out banks! The New York Times has helpfully compiled a clear and accessible list of who gets what, here.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Annual Dinner In Washington, D.c.

March 13th, 2009 at 3:52 pm 4 Comments

Conservative glitterati turned out to toast AEI’s new president, Arthur Brooks, and to honor Charles Murray, recipient of the 2009 Irving Kristol Award, on March 11.

Click here to read the full text of Murray’s Irving Kristol lecture, “The Happiness of the People.”


Ester and Arthur Brooks



David and Jennifer Gerson


Lynne Cheney and Mel Sembler


Betty Sembler, Newt Gingrich, and Michael Barone 

Harlan Crowe, Danielle Crittenden Frum, and Charles Murray



Richard B. Cheney and Susan Kristol



Timothy Mak, Tucker Carlson, David Frum, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali



Leon Aron, Karlyn Bowman and Norman Ornstein


Kevin Hassett and Kristie Hassett


Maureen Scalia and Antonin Scalia



David Frum and G. Gordon Liddy



Margaret Hoover and Ayaan Hirsi Ali



Meghan Gurdon, Hugo Gurdon, Gwendolyn Makin and John Makin

Gretchen Bolton and Robert Agostinelli


Anne Dickerson, Danielle Frum and Roger Hertog



John Bolton and Michael Barone


Kayla Cook and Morgan Goatley

Danielle Pletka


Cathy Merrill-Williams and Tevi Troy


Meg Inomata, Timothy Mak and Renee Sieli



Sally Satel and David Frum



Marty and Byron York, and Danielle Frum

Want to see your conservative event or party covered in NewMajority?  Please email events@FrumForum.com.


Obama Signs A New Attack On Trade

March 13th, 2009 at 3:51 pm 18 Comments

Remember all the fuss during the debate over the stimulus bill about the “Buy American” provision? And how the President said that, decease “I think it would be a mistake, sales though, at a time when worldwide trade is declining, for us to start sending a message that somehow we’re just looking after ourselves and not concerned with world trade.” And that he said that, “we need to make sure that any provisions that are in there are not going to trigger a trade war,” in his interview with Charlie Gibson? And that Congress rewrote the bill so that the provision would be “consistent with international obligations”?

Well guess what: President Obama just signed a bill that not only threatens to, but actually violates, an international trade obligation, in this case, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). And you probably didn’t even hear about it.

A provision in the $410 billion stopgap funding bill that the President signed on Tuesday prevents implementation of a provision in NAFTA that permits properly licensed Mexican trucking companies from operating throughout the United States. Specifically, the bill prevents the U.S. Department of Transportation from continuing a pilot program to begin U.S. compliance with its NAFTA obligation.

In NAFTA, the United States agreed to a gradual opening of all U.S. roads to Mexican trucks, ending a Congressional moratorium enacted in 1982. First, all border states were to be open to Mexican trucks by 1995, and then the full U.S. market upon certification of Mexican trucking companies by the U.S. Department of Transportation. But the process was supposed to be complete by January 2000.

After the Clinton Administration declined to act, a NAFTA panel unsurprisingly decided in 2001 that the U.S. was in breach of its obligations. In 2002, the Bush Administration took a major step to implementing the provision, which led to the pilot program. But Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), among others, has been an opponent of complying with the provision. In 2007, he and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), who should know better, sponsored an amendment to prevent the U.S. Department of Transportation from using funds to implement a pilot program to implement the provision nationwide. The vote was unfortunately overwhelming.

Opponents claim that Mexican trucks may not meet U.S. safety requirements. But the companies would have to be certified by the U.S., so this is a bit of a false rabbit. Anyway, the pilot program included only 103 Mexican trucks operated by 26 carriers, while the U.S. was permitted 10 carriers with a total of 61 trucks operating in Mexico. Without the pilot program, Mexican trucks are limited to a small commercial zone near the border, which severely restricts trade – or forces commerce onto U.S. trucks, depending on one’s perspective. It’s a pretty small pilot given the volume of commerce between the U.S. and Mexico but apparently too much of a threat for some NAFTA opponents.

This issue has been a persistent irritant in an important bilateral relationship. (It was already a hot issue when I was a research analyst on transportation issues 12 years ago.)   It would have been nice if the President had included a specific mention of the NAFTA obligation in his signing statement on the bill. Fortunately, the Administration now claims that it will try to revive the pilot program.

Quickly, please. We do $1 billion a day in trade with Mexico. A good bit of that trade must and should be carried in trucks. A stronger Mexican economy is good for the United States and for our national security. Apparently Mexico has already prepared a list of possible sanctions against the United States in case the U.S. does not respond in a timely manner. 

A trade war with Mexico is the absolute last thing either country needs right now. Keep NAFTA going, and keep on trucking.

Dating Advice For The Newly Impoverished Bachelor

March 13th, 2009 at 12:41 pm 4 Comments

Lost your job and can only afford a dinner date at Wendy’s? This week’s Broadside panel, Mona Charen, Danielle Crittenden, Betsy Hart, and Melinda Sidak, offer tips for recessionary romance.


Ahh, I am uniquely well placed to answer this.  I am currently dating a man who is neither tall nor wealthy (and have in fact rejected both of the previous sort, to the chagrin of certain friends, sometimes even when it came in the same package!).

So, what does my current beau have which I find so attractive?  It’s the heart which matters most.  A man who desires to care for and protect a woman and children, who opens his heart to her while at the same time is strong for her emotionally, is all but irresistible.

Okay, my current beau’s body — which I have not seen in total (and FYI, a man who has values is, well, valued by this woman) — does seem to be sculpted out of marble.   I fully confess that’s a nice touch.   (For that matter, so is the badge and the Glock 19, not to mention the occasional bit of poetry.)

In any event, I have three pieces of advice to the currently penniless fellow:

Tell her how you feel about her, and do brush up on your Shakespeare.
Be wonderful to her children, or talk about the children you will have together.
Get to the gym.

(And if you need to?  Let her know you are sending out a lot of resumes.)


Betsy is on to something here. Wealth alone is not the attraction for a woman (although I can’t resist repeating an old Yiddish saying: “He’s tall when he stands on his money.”). It’s what the money represents: power and success, the true female aphrodisiacs.

The penniless young man might fare better here in Washington, where money and power rarely go hand in hand. I suspect the low-paid, single male staffers working in the West Wing are probably not hurting for dates.

But in the absence of either, a man should wear the air of them as he would a cologne. After you shower every morning, spritz yourself with invisible eau de PowerSuccess. Dress well, if casually, or (good tip, Betsy!) as if you’re about to head out for the gym. Check your posture: squeeze those shoulder blades together! No matter how worried you are, don’t confide it. Treat your current situation as a temporary setback–discuss it as if it may even be a good thing for you (it inspires creative change and offers a chance to focus on what’s really important to you, yadda yadda). As Betsy said, emotional strength in a man, especially during a difficult time, is catnip to women. I would also add that so is confidence and self-possession. Despite a generation of being told to look out for ourselves, I believe women still want a man who is fundamentally emotionally and physically strong, and able to protect them (even if they don’t strictly need it). Also, one who shows old-fashioned, courtly consideration: Opening doors for her, pulling out her chair at a table, standing when she arrives, offering your sweater or jacket if she looks cold. These small gestures are absolutely free, but they reap disproportionate rewards because, sadly, they are so rarely performed anymore.

So what happens when it comes time to pick up the tab? Yes, that’s a problem. But as noted, setbacks can inspire creative change. Don’t ask a woman out to do anything you can’t afford. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a cheap date (although you can pray she will be). Women are absolute suckers for romance–and especially for men who take charge of romantic planning. Find out the kinds of activities she likes to do: Plan a bike ride, or a hike, or a walk, and pack along a small picnic of wine and cheese (Cost to you: $25. Romantic cost: Priceless). Offer to cook her dinner (so long as you’re up to it): She’ll swoon. Bonus point: You’ll have solved in advance the problem of how to get her up to your apartment. Offer her inexpensive but spontaneous, fresh tokens of affection: Bring her a gift of fresh raspberries and cream from a farmer’s market, a pot of daffodils or hyacinths; put together a playlist; give her one of your favorite books (careful wonkish readers:  nothing with “Economic Indicators” in the title).

And if she is the sort of woman for whom this all isn’t good enough–drop her as you would a bad penny.


Danielle and Betsy’s advice sounds great. I am sure any woman would appreciate a man who follows their suggestions. However, I am not sure how much help getting dates a recently unemployed Wall Street investment banker or laid-off Washington lawyer, even a 5’2″ one, needs. As Miranda Hobbes once observed in Sex and the City, “[a] 34-year-old guy with no money and no place to live, because he’s single, he’s a catch. But a 34-year-old woman with a job and a great home, because she’s single, is considered tragic.” Although an aging, relatively unattractive multimillionaire has dating access to 20-something supermodels otherwise beyond his reach, that is far from the norm. Even a relatively impecunious man, not too troll-like in appearance, still has plenty of opportunities, and they only increase the older he gets. The reason is something known as the “demographic flip.” When women are young and attractive, they have access to all the boys their age, and even to much older men, including the rich, old, bald ones. As she ages, the demographic advantage shifts. It is the 40-year-old man who has access to all the women near his own age, as well as twenty years below, while the 40-year-old woman finds her options increasingly constrained.

Recession notwithstanding, a young man of modest means in his twenties still has plenty of options, particularly if he is willing to commit. The young man has all the time in the world to have adventures, date lots of women, and still end up with the wife, the two kids, and the white picket fence. For the girl, however — even with all her allure to men of her own age and older — time is her enemy. She needs to get that big white princess wedding crossed off the list and get to work on the two kids before her bioclock hits the zero-hour. Otherwise, as Miranda suggests, she ends up feeling tragic, possibly with cats and aromatherapy candles.

So cheer up, newly unemployed, impoverished young men. Try not to eat with your mouth open, belch loudly, or leave the seat up (a deal-breaker if there ever was one). They’ll be tearing down your door — if not now, when you’re 40.


I don’t disagree with anything you gals have said. If I have anything to add, it would be to challenge Melinda’s point a little. While I agree up to a point that men benefit from the “demographic flip,” I think things had gotten very tough for men out there even before the Great Recession. With all of the rules changed about dating and relationships, men are never sure what’s expected of them. Should they do all the chasing, check-grabbing, and traditional male roles? If they do, what do they get in return? Young women are so bulldozed these days to be INDEPENDENT and self-sufficient. And many are. Or at least they look that way to guys however much they may be secretly wishing for Prince Charming (and however much their priorities, not to mention standards, may change as they pass 35ish).

If I were a guy without money looking to impress a young woman, I would romance her. My idea of romancing is not flowers or chocolates or champagne. It’s letting her know the unique things about her that attract you. It’s good to say she’s beautiful. But that can sound like a line. It’s better to focus on the smaller details (a la “When Harry Met Sally”), the way she crinkles her nose when she’s deciding, the fact that she stops to pick up a ball that the neighbor’s kid lost, the way she gets excited about the latest book she’s read. That shows that the man is paying close attention, and that he is really smitten, and that is (dare I say it?) better than a trust fund.

About the Contributors:

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist and political analyst living in the Washington, D.C. area.

Danielle Crittenden is a Washington-based author and journalist.

Betsy Hart is a nationally syndicated columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service. Betsy’s show, “It Takes a Parent,” is featured on Chicago’s WYLL/AM1160 radio and also heard on NationalReview.com.

Melinda Sidak is Vice-President of Criterion Economics LLC in Washington, DC.