The Jury Talks Back


I Hope He Fails

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 6:15 am

As President Trump tries to strongarm Freedom Caucus members into voting for TrumpCare, I have just one thing to say:

I hope he fails.

Those words might sound familiar if you were following politics eight years ago. You youngsters may have to Google it.

Naturally, I want Donald Trump to succeed at the things he seeks to do that limit government and restore freedom. Appointing excellent Supreme Court justices and slashing regulation are some of the things I hope he succeeds in doing — and so far, so good.

But when it comes to putting political pressure on the few people in Congress who are for freedom, to get them to vote for TrumpCare, I do not want him to succeed.

TrumpCare retains the basic conceit of ObamaCare: that health care can be centrally planned. It must be voted down.

And then the GOP must deliver on what they promised: full repeal.

I want the country to succeed. And so, in this endeavor, I hope he fails.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


Nunes Spokesperson: Nunes Had No Idea What He Was Talking About

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 4:53 pm

They didn’t say that in so many words, mind you. But that’s what they said.

This is your big vindication:

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., does not know “for sure” whether President Donald Trump or members of his transition team were even on the phone calls or other communications now being cited as partial vindication for the president’s wiretapping claims against the Obama administration, according to a spokesperson.

“He said he’ll have to get all the documents he requested from the [intelligence community] about this before he knows for sure,” a spokesperson for Nunes said Thursday. Nunes was a member of the Trump transition team executive committee.

So the incidental collection of material relating to Trump’s team didn’t even necessarily involve any communications in which Trump’s team took part. In other words, for all this sh[vowel deleted]thead Nunes knows, the Big Reveal is people talking about Trump or members of his team?

Are you kidding me? This is what this clown held a press conference about?




If anyone here is vindicated, it’s me — since I warned people yesterday afternoon that Nunes appeared to be contradicting himself all over the place and was not inspiring confidence.

I’m willing to believe there was scandalous behavior on the part of many intelligence officials. That is a separate question from the idiot Donald Trump being even close to right about anything. Please keep claiming he was, Trumpalos. I enjoy watching you beclown yourselves.

Trump: Why Should I Apologize for Tying Ted Cruz’s Dad to Lee Harvey Oswald?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:00 am

On a day when Donald Trump is trying to get the House to pass TrumpCare (I hope he fails, by the way) and the Senate’s business is overshadowed by the Gorsuch hearings, we have a new interview in which Trump plays the jackass. And nowhere is his jackassery more on display than in this comment:

But you would agree also that some of the things you have said haven’t been true. You say that Ted Cruz’s father was with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Well that was in a newspaper. No, no, I like Ted Cruz, he’s a friend of mine. But that was in the newspaper. I wasn’t, I didn’t say that. I was referring to a newspaper. A Ted Cruz article referred to a newspaper story with, had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast.

That gets close to the heart…

Why do you say that I have to apologize? I’m just quoting the newspaper, just like I quoted the judge the other day, Judge Napolitano, I quoted Judge Napolitano, just like I quoted Bret Baier, I mean Bret Baier mentioned the word wiretap. Now he can now deny it, or whatever he is doing, you know. But I watched Bret Baier, and he used that term. I have a lot of respect for Judge Napolitano, and he said that three sources have told him things that would make me right. I don’t know where he has gone with it since then. But I’m quoting highly respected people from highly respected television networks.

This is why it’s difficult for me to get that upset if there’s a bogus story about Trump in a newspaper or on TV. I still criticize such stories, out of a sense of intellectual honesty, but I don’t feel the same fervor that I feel when almost any other Republican is unfairly attacked. Because that’s the standard he sets: If it appears in some media outlet or even blog and it benefits me, I quote it. No matter how bogus the story obviously is, I quote it. And I never apologize, even if the story was clearly wrong.

That’s the standard you want to set? OK. Live by the bogus story, die by the bogus story.

I won’t feel sorry for you.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Sen. Chuck Schumer Apparently Not Too Interested In Making Sure The People’s Business Is Getting Done

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 8:07 am

[guest post by Dana]

This morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced that he’s a “no” on Judge Gorsuch:


Reminding us of that this is yet more partisan hypocrisy, here’s what Sen. Schumer had to say back in January when the Senate Republicans exercised their prerogative not to give President Obama’s nominee a hearing:

“The Supreme Court handles ‘the people’s business,’ as President Reagan put it. Every day that goes by without a ninth justice is another day the American people’s business is not getting done.”

Sen. Schumer’s grandstanding notwithstanding, Allahpundit points out:

In this year of all years, with the left pushing Schumer to filibuster Gorsuch on principle to avenge Merrick Garland’s honor or whatever, Gorsuch should want to present himself as being as unobjectionable as humanly possible. That way, if Schumer filibusters anyway, McConnell can nuke the filibuster with little political problem: Judge Gorsuch is eminently qualified, he’ll say (correctly), he gave not a single answer at his hearing that would disqualify him from this position (also correct), therefore Schumer’s obstruction is petulant and illegitimate and deserves to be overridden with brute force.



CNN: Trump Folks May Have Possibly Coordinated with Russia, Sources Might Say. Possibly.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:38 pm

This is CNN:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.

The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.

Wow. So some anonymous sources, based on evidence we can’t see, have inconclusive maybes that suggest possibly there could have been this thing that happened.

After all the stories Big Media presents us with that fizzle out, forgive me if my attitude is: wake me up when you have actual evidence.

I’m really tired of this. And, just to piss off everybody in an equal opportunity fashion: I’m equally tired of all the partisans out there who are declaiming that this Nunes character somehow proved that Donald Trump was surveilled and wiretapped and PEOPLE OWE DONALD TRUMP A BIG APOLOGY!!!!1!!111!!!!1!! (If this confuses you, read Jay Caruso and learn about incidental collection. It ain’t targeted surveillance and it ain’t wiretapping.)

Good Lord. Settle down, people.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Confirms Info Was Collected On Trump Transition Team

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 1:12 pm

[guest post by Dana]

But, as Chairman Nunes (and Rep. Adam Schiff) make clear, they do not have any evidence supporting President Trump’s claim that President Obama wire-tapped Trump Tower before the election.

President Trump told CNN that he feels “somewhat vindicated” after being personally briefed by Chairman Nunes about this:

The U.S. intelligence community incidentally collected information on members of President Trump’s transition team and the information was “widely disseminated” in intelligence reports, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Wednesday.

“I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community collected information on U.S. individuals involved in the Trump transition,” Nunes told reporters.

“Details about U.S. persons involved in the incoming administration with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reports.”

He said that “additional names” of Trump transition officials had been unmasked in the intelligence reports and indicated that Trump’s communications may have been swept up as well.

The intelligence collected has nothing to do with Russia or the investigation into Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to Nunes.

“I want to be clear — none of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team,” Nunes said.

Professor Reynolds notes:

It’s the “widely disseminated” part that may be felonious.

Gabriel Malor clarifies the terminology:



…and follows it with the obvious question:


Two takeaways:



Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Lack of Credibility Is a Real Problem

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:30 am

Yesterday Jay Caruso said conservatives have to stop defending the indefensible when it comes to Trump and his often incredible statements. Today the Wall Street Journal echoes that sentiment with an editorial titled A President’s Credibility bearing the deck headline: “Trump’s falsehoods are eroding public trust, at home and abroad.” Here’s how it begins:

If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.

The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago that he had “found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory” on Election Day. He has offered no evidence for his claim, and a parade of intelligence officials, senior Republicans and Democrats have since said they have seen no such evidence.

Yet the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims. Sean Spicer—who doesn’t deserve this treatment—was dispatched last week to repeat an assertion by a Fox News commentator that perhaps the Obama Administration had subcontracted the wiretap to British intelligence.

That bungle led to a public denial from the British Government Communications Headquarters, and British news reports said the U.S. apologized. But then the White House claimed there was no apology. For the sake of grasping for any evidence to back up his original tweet, and the sin of pride in not admitting error, Mr. Trump had his spokesman repeat an unchecked TV claim that insulted an ally.

It’s all on target, except maybe for the part that Sean Spicer “doesn’t deserve this treatment.” Spicer looks for all the world like someone who has fully thrown himself into the task of shoveling B.S. for his boss.

When it comes to the credibility of Trump and his spokesholes, to borrow a memorable phrase used by John McCain in a different context: “there’s a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede.” Here’s some more shoes that have dropped recently. Remember this?

As I said at the time:

If Donald Trump denied it happened, you can take that to the bank.

Of course, if the bank is familiar with Trump’s reputation for veracity, they probably won’t accept it.

And of course now we know that Ivanka has gotten a security clearance. Well, I’m sure Trump was telling the truth at the time, right?

Then there’s Sean Spicer on March 13 telling us that all appointees are required to sign Trump’s ethics pledge:

Q Thanks a lot, Sean. I wanted to follow up with you on questions regarding Michael Flynn, who’s no longer in the administration. There’s a five-year lobbying ban that’s been imposed upon all Trump administration employees. Does that also apply to Michael Flynn? Would he not be permitted to lobby now for five years because of the agreement that he signed when he became the national security advisor?

MR. SPICER: That would be correct. I’d have to check and actually figure out when he signed or if he signed the form. But yes, all administration officials who come in are required to sign that ethics pledge banning them from lobbying for five years and then a lifetime ban on lobbying on behalf of any foreign government.

“All” apparently doesn’t include Flynn after all. Today we learn from Lachlan Markay:

The White House’s former top national security official did not sign an ethics pledge ostensibly required of all Trump administration appointees barring them from ethically questionable lobbying activities, The Daily Beast has learned.

Then we have Kellyanne Conway saying President Trump doesn’t know Carter Page:

Huh. Odd, given that Trump named him as someone on his team advising him on foreign policy, when speaking to the Washington Post editorial board:

RYAN: Thank you… We’ve heard you’re going to be announcing your foreign policy team shortly… Any you can share with us?

TRUMP: Well, I hadn’t thought of doing it, but if you want I can give you some of the names… Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD, adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and counter-terrorism expert; Carter Page, PhD; George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy; the Honorable Joe Schmitz, [former] inspector general at the Department of Defense; [retired] Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; and I have quite a few more.

And, of course, Trump promised on the campaign trail to repeal ObamaCare, but yesterday was on Capitol Hill threatening Republican lawmakers’ jobs (as usual, Democrats are let off the hook) if they don’t pass a bill that does not repeal ObamaCare:

I’m asking for your vote on Thursday. I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

I guess someone could always argue that lying from the Oval Office or White House Press Room is hardly unprecedented, and that’s true. But we criticized Obama when he lied — and if we are to maintain our own credibility, we have to hold Trump and his spokespeople accountable for their countless falsehoods as well. The editorial today concludes:

All of this continues the pattern from the campaign that Mr. Trump is his own worst political enemy. He survived his many false claims as a candidate because his core supporters treated it as mere hyperbole and his opponent was untrustworthy Hillary Clinton. But now he’s President, and he needs support beyond the Breitbart cheering section that will excuse anything. As he is learning with the health-care bill, Mr. Trump needs partners in his own party to pass his agenda. He also needs friends abroad who are willing to trust him when he asks for support, not least in a crisis.

This week should be dominated by the smooth political sailing for Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and the progress of health-care reform on Capitol Hill. These are historic events, and success will show he can deliver on his promises. But instead the week has been dominated by the news that he was repudiated by his own FBI director.

Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.

Tough but fair.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


TrumpCare Still Sucks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:30 am

Donald Trump heads to Capitol Hill today to push the passage of a health care bill he doesn’t understand: TrumpCare, which rejects the free market, tinkers around the edges of the problem, and assumes that government central planning is the answer. This bill continues to treat insurance as the primary way to get health care, substitutes lawmakers’ judgments for that of the market as to how to price policies, and sustains an unsustainable path of central planning.

Basically, the First Five Year Health Care Plan has been determined a failure, so Trump will give us a Second Five Year Health Care Plan. Let’s hope it doesn’t take thirteen Five Year Health Care Plans to figure out that central planning of the economy never works.

Economist Bob Murphy suggests an analogy to food, to illustrate how ObamaCare (the First Five Year Health Care Plan) rejects the free market to the detriment of health care consumers. Let’s say the nation decided to deal with the problem of the hungry by saying that everyone had to buy a food plan. If you couldn’t afford it (or might have to give up your iPhone to buy it) the government would subsidize it. The food plan provided that you could go in the store and get whatever you wanted. Pretty soon you’d have shortages of everything, as people ran in to stock up on stuff. The price of food would skyrocket and the “need” for government to subsidize food plans would seem more critical every year.

This seems absurd to us, because we have experienced a (mostly) free market in food. But what if this experiment with food plans had begun decades ago? What if virtually nobody alive remembered what it was like to have a free market in food? If someone like me came along and said: “Dude! I found your problem! It’s these food plans! You just need to have a free market in food!” I would be derided as an ivory-tower egghead. Food isn’t like other commodities! I’d be told. It’s not a luxury item. You need food to live. People aren’t going to give up their free food. And what? You want millions to starve?

And if some narcissistic blow-dried ignoramus came along and told us that the Magic Solution was to institute a New Five Year Food Plan, I’d keep telling everyone the same thing: “We have to have a free market in food. Free markets are the only way you’ll get the costs down. I know you don’t understand this because you’ve had food plans your whole life. But empty shelves and lining up for hours for cheese isn’t normal. There’s a better way!”

Well, there’s a better way for health care, too. In any area not covered by insurance (like LASIK), prices have come down and quality has gone up. Having a third-party payer system, which has arisen because of government distortions in the market, will keep prices high — and subsidies, whether you call them subsidies or “refundable tax credits,” will only make it worse.

Freedom. The market. These are the mechanisms that will drive down the cost of health care and make it affordable. Tinkering with different ways to redistribute the wealth won’t work. It never has and it never will.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Ivanka Trump To Be President Trump’s “Eyes And Ears” From Office In The West Wing

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 5:51 am

[guest post by Dana]

Before you jump to defend this, tell me how you felt when President Clinton appointed Hillary Clinton to be in charge of overhauling the nation’s health-care system in the early 90’s? And consider how you think you would be feeling right about now, had Hillary Clinton had won the election and given Chelsea an office in the West Wing, along with a security clearance and government-issued communication devices?

So, now this:

The powerful first daughter has secured her own office on the West Wing’s second floor — a space next to senior adviser Dina Powell, who was recently promoted to a position on the National Security Council. She is also in the process of obtaining a security clearance and is set to receive government-issued communications devices this week.

In everything but name, Trump is settling in as what appears to be a full-time staffer in her father’s administration, with a broad and growing portfolio — except she is not being sworn in, will hold no official position and is not pocketing a salary, her attorney said.

Trump’s role, according to her attorney Jamie Gorelick, will be to serve as the president’s “eyes and ears” while providing broad-ranging advice, not just limited to women’s empowerment issues. “I will continue to offer my father my candid advice and counsel, as I have for my entire life,” Ivanka Trump said in a statement Monday. “While there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president, I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees.”

“Having an adult child of the president who is actively engaged in the work of the administration is new ground,” Gorelick conceded in an interview on Monday. “Our view is that the conservative approach is for Ivanka to voluntarily comply with the rules that would apply if she were a government employee, even though she is not.” A spokeswoman for Ivanka Trump said her role was signed off on by the White House counsel’s office, and the conflict issues were “worked through” with the office of government ethics.

Addressing possible conflicts of interest, Gorelick cautioned:

“The one thing I would like to be clear on: we don’t believe it eliminates conflicts in every way. She has the conflicts that derive from the ownership of this brand. We’re trying to minimize those to the extent possible.”

Gorelick argued that the area is murky because outstanding contracts with third party vendors mean that Ivanka Trump cannot simply close her business — those vendors could continue using her brand. She also can’t sell the business, her attorney argued, because the buyer would have the right to license her name and potentially create other ethical issues.

Instead, Trump will be distancing herself, as much as possible, from the day-to-day operations of the Ivanka Trump brand and convey her interests to a trust.

The trust, Gorelick said, will be controlled by her brother-in-law, Josh Kushner, and her sister-in-law, Nicole Meyer, who will be prohibited from entering the brand into any agreements with foreign countries or agencies. Ivanka Trump has appointed Abigail Klem to serve as president of her company, overseeing the day-to-day operations, and prohibited the company from using her image to sell the brand. The first daughter, however, will retain veto power to kill any deals that would be “unacceptable from an ethics perspective.”

You might be thinking that the the obvious upside of this nepotism is that Ivanka Trump could be a steadying influence on her father, as she helps rein in his impulsive and excessive tendencies. That assumes that her influence would be good, and that the right side of the aisle is okay with nepotism just as long as it benefits our side. But clearly that’s not the only influence she would have on this president if she is also advising him in a non-official capacity from an official office in the West Wing.



POLITICO Hit Piece Shows They’ve Got Nothing on Judge Gorsuch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:30 am

Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings begin today, and the Democrat case against him is laid out in a POLITICO piece titled 5 pieces of Gorsuch’s record that Democrats will attack (cached link; no links for bullies). It’s an attack that not only falls flat, but increases my admiration for the judge.

Complaint #1 is that he ruled in favor of religious freedom. That’s a non-starter as an attack. He’d have a problem if he ruled against it. Next?

Complaint #2 is that, while a lawyer at the Bush Justice Department, he supported the Bush administration’s priorities. Um, that’s what lawyers do. Next?

Complaint #3 is that Judge Gorsuch told people he found it “disheartening” and “demoralizing” to see President Trump attack the judiciary over his executive order on immigration. I couldn’t be more pleased about this. Democrats are indeed going to make much of this. They’re going to quote his comments and force him to own those comments publicly, in front of the cameras. I believe he’ll find a way to do that in a forthright manner that sounds reasonable. But in any event, he’ right. Next?

Complaint #4 is supposedly about “worker’s rights” but in reality is the sort of nonsense Democrats always engage in. Judge Gorsuch ruled properly in a couple of cases with sympathetic plaintiffs. To Democrats, if someone is sympathetic, it shouldn’t matter what the law says; you just make sure you rule for them because of the feelz. For example:

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held a news conference last week with people that the New York Democrat said had been victimized by Gorsuch’s legal decisions. Among his guests: the Hwang children, whose mother sued Kansas State University because she was denied an extension of her six-month leave of absence caused by her cancer diagnosis. Gorsuch sided against Hwang, who died last year.

Stunts like Schumer’s are designed to make judges seem heartless — almost as if Judge Gorsuch had killed Ms. Hwang with his own bare hands. But, to their credit, POLITICO at least provides a key line from Judge Gorsuch’s opinion that explains why he ruled this way:

Ms. Hwang’s is a terrible problem, one in no way of her own making, but it’s a problem other forms of social security aim to address. The Rehabilitation Act seeks to prevent employers from callously denying reasonable accommodations that permit otherwise qualified disabled persons to work — not to turn employers into safety net providers for those who cannot work.

Ms. Hwang could not work, and the ability to work is a requirement for an employee to be eligible for relief. The opinion was uncontroversial. It was also unanimous, and was joined by Judge Carlos Lucero, a Bill Clinton appointee, as well as Bush appointee Judge Harris Hartz. But Ms. Hwang and her family were sympathetic, and so let’s make Judge Gorsuch the bad guy. Fail. Next?

Complaint #5 is that “Gorsuch has shown deep skepticism toward the so-called Chevron deference, a longstanding doctrine that calls on judges to defer to how federal agencies interpret key laws.” This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the Gorsuch nomination: the way it threatens to help destabilize the overweening power of federal bureaucracy. I wrote about this extensively here, and will quote the heart of my post:

[A]bsurd regulations, completely untethered from common sense, have become ubiquitous in the lives of American businessmen. Fighting these regulations is well-nigh impossible because the bureaucracy serves as lawmaker, enforcer, and even judge. Your challenge to a stupid regulation must first be adjudicated by an administrative law judge who is an arm of the same agency that wrote and enforced the ridiculous regulation. But to make matters worse, when you then go to court, judges apply something called the “Chevron doctrine,” in which they almost always defer to the agency’s decision, as long as it is “reasonable.” . . . It’s a dangerous doctrine that makes judicial review toothless. It’s not what the Founders had in mind when they set up our system.

Gorsuch opposes this doctrine, and three cheers for him.

They’ve got nothing. Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed — and his tenure will be a home run for the American people.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Comey Confirms Investigation of Trump-Russia Ties

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 6:45 am

Happening now; no time to punditize it.


Chuck Berry, 1926-2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — JVW @ 12:31 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Maybe Chuck Berry didn’t invent rock ‘n roll. By the time his first single, “Maybellene,” hit the charts in July 1955 there had already been several early rock records on the airwaves including “Good Rocking Tonight” by Roy Brown, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats (featuring a young Ike Turner on piano), “Shake Rattle and Roll” by Big Joe Turner, and “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & the Comets. Over in Memphis, Elvis Presley had already released most of his early recordings made by Sam Phillips at Sun Studios. Fats Domino had already scored a Top Ten hit with “Ain’t That a Shame” and Little Richard was two months away from recording “Tutti Frutti” for Speciality Records.

But the release of “Maybellene” and the hits that followed over the next three years — “Thirty Days,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “School Days,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and others — established Chuck Berry as the purest embodiment of the sound of the 1950s. Nearly ten years older than Elvis, he nevertheless retained the heart of a teenager well into his thirties, writing magnificent songs about cars, school, carefree fun, and young love.

As the Fifties progressed to the Sixties, the music began to lose much of the youthful innocence. Songs about cars, girls, and sock-hops became songs about politics, drugs, and violence. Though Berry’s influence among the new generation of rockers remained strong and his songs were respectfully covered by both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the legend found himself relegated to playing state fairs, nostalgia shows, and college dances. As music writer Robert Christgau has noted of that period, “For a fee. . . Chuck Berry will hop on a plane with his guitar and go play some rock and roll. He is the symbol of the music — the man invited to come steal the show at the 1975 Grammys, although he has never been nominated for one himself, not even in the rock & roll or rhythm & blues categories.” There is something comforting about the idea that in an age when Elvis was playing Las Vegas showrooms, the Stones and the Who were playing football stadiums and basketball arenas, and the Beatles no longer had any interest in performing live at all, there was Chuck Berry arriving at a fraternity party, quickly rehearsing the chord changes for ten or so hits with a pickup band assembled for just that night, playing a forty-minute set, collecting his fee (cash please), and heading on to the next location. No doubt that Berry would have preferred a life of English countryside manors, chauffeured cars, sumptuous backstage buffets with a full bar, but fate dictated that he play the role of the pioneer, the man who lays the groundwork so that those who come after him can succeed.

His only Billboard Number One pop hit was a miserable ditty, a throwaway naughty children’s song he had been doing to get a laugh from college audiences, which kept “Burning Love,” Elvis’s best song of the 1970s, from reaching the top spot in October 1972. Berry was said to have hated the song but loved the royalty checks that it brought in. When Keith Richards put together a 60th birthday party concert for him and arranged for the filmmaker Taylor Hackford to record and release it as the documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, Berry saw a slight career resurgence on the oldies circuit, but some of his questionable decisions of the past continued to haunt him and he once again found himself in legal trouble of his own making.

But no one deserves to be judged solely on their weakest moments, and Chuck Berry overcame poverty, discrimination, shady music business operatives, incarceration, and career neglect by being willing to humble himself and play 180 nights a year for any audience who would pay him. His legacy is the influential music he left behind, the sound of teenage America for two generations. As Ted Nugent once said, “If you don’t know all of Chuck Berry’s licks then you can’t play rock & roll guitar.” Finally, he’s the man who coined one of my favorite words, “motorvate,” in the song that started it all and that we will leave here as a fitting epitaph. Rest in peace.


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