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Twitter as America’s conscience

WASHINGTON — Denizens of social media were rankled during Sunday night’s Academy Awards telecast when actor Sean Penn made a crack about Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and green cards.

Reversing course in Illinois

CHICAGO — The most portentous election of 2014, which gave the worst-governed state its first Republican governor in 12 years, has initiated this century’s most intriguing political experiment. Illinois has favored Democratic presidential candidates by an average of 16 points in the last six elections. But by electing businessman Bruce Rauner, it initiated a process that might dismantle a form of governance that afflicts many states and municipalities.

The fragility of life’s greatest gift

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — At a health center here, a young woman is in the recovery room after a cesarean section. A nurse takes the newborn to a table for cleanup. We (a group organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies) are allowed to enter and see the child. But the newborn girl starts struggling for breath. Three more nurses enter. One briefly applies bag-and-mask ventilation. Yet her breathing grows weaker and weaker, as she turns a horrible shade of gray.

Tweeting against terrorism

“We’re here today because we all understand that in dealing with violent extremism, that we need answers that go beyond a military answer. We need answers that go beyond force.” — Vice President Joe Biden at the Countering Violent Extremism Summit, Feb. 17

The riddle of war

WASHINGTON — There’s a very 2001 feel to President Barack Obama’s request for authorization to use military force and the nauseating sense that we’ll be at war indefinitely.

Taming the government ‘Leviathan by proxy’

WASHINGTON — For the six years of the Obama presidency, or perhaps the last 35 years since Ronald Reagan’s election, American politics has been dominated by a debate on the size and role of the federal government. This argument, while intense and consequential, has often lacked one element: actual knowledge about the size and role of the federal government.

Curb your pessimism

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama’s tone of mild exasperation when tutoring the public often makes his pronouncements grating even when they are sensible. As was his recent suggestion that Americans, misled by media, are exaggerating the threat of terrorism.

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Bud Selig’s winning legacy

WASHINGTON — The business of baseball and the nation’s business used to be conducted in Washington with similar skill. The Washington Senators were run by Clark Griffith, who said: “Fans like home runs, and we have assembled a pitching staff to please our fans.” Today, however, Washington’s team is a model of best practices. The government? Less so.

The fight for the middle class

WASHINGTON — When you strip away all the layers of cockiness, preachiness and delusion in President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, you find more cockiness, preachiness and delusion underneath.

Vermont’s Sanders has mountains to climb

WASHINGTON — The young man who answered the phone in the Senate office of Vermont’s Bernie Sanders told the caller, a would-be campaign contributor, that it is illegal for funds to be accepted on federal property. He advised the person to contact Sanders’ political operation, which might become a presidential campaign.

The mushrooming welfare state

WASHINGTON — America’s national character will have to be changed if progressives are going to implement their agenda. So, changing social norms is the progressive agenda. To understand how far this has advanced, and how difficult it will be to reverse the inculcation of dependency, consider the data Nicholas Eberstadt deploys in National Affairs quarterly: