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Goldwater 2.0

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Fifty Julys ago, up the road near San Francisco, in the unfortunately named Cow Palace, the Republican National Convention gave its presidential nomination to Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who knew he would lose: Americans were not going to have a third president in 14 months. Besides, his don’t-fence-me-in libertarian conservatism was ahead of its time. His agenda, however, was to change his party’s national brand.

Vote fraud myths meet voting rights reality

Before she was allowed to register and vote for the first time in Franklin County, N.C., Rosanell Eaton had to read the entire preamble to the U.S. Constitution out loud in front of three men in the county courthouse.

The dystopia next door

WASHINGTON — In 1993, Lois Lowry wrote a slim book for youth about totalitarianism, euthanasia, suicide, sexual awakening and infanticide. “The Giver” created a blooming genre — the dystopian youth novel — and considerable controversy. Some parents wanted the book banned from schools, thus unintentionally re-asking the book’s central question: How comprehensively should children (and other humans) be protected from risk and pain?

A lawsuit with little merit

WASHINGTON — Rep. Pete Sessions, the House Rules Committee chairman who led Wednesday’s hearing on Republicans’ plans to sue President Obama, presented the legal credentials that have put him in this position of responsibility.

Corrupting citizens for fun and profit

WASHINGTON — Two of the larger social trends of our time — the growth of payday gambling and the legalization of marijuana — have two things in common: They are justified as the expansion of personal liberty and they serve the interests of an expanding government.

The tea party’s embrace of martyrdom

WASHINGTON — Hiroo Onoda, the last imperial Japanese soldier to surrender after World War II, hid in a jungle in the Philippines for 29 years, refusing to believe that the war was over. He finally turned himself in, wearing his sword, cap and patched uniform, in 1974.

Where does the buck stop?

WASHINGTON — Some elections are contests between voters who are happy and voters who are not. This fall’s elections are of a different sort: Since almost all the voters are unhappy with politics, the battle will be over which party gets the blame for dysfunction, inaction and disillusionment.

The divided states of Obama

WASHINGTON — The headline — “Poll: Obama Worst President Since World War II” — was both provocative and misleading. The Quinnipiac survey did, indeed, place President Barack Obama at the top of the worst since FDR. But this was largely a measure of partisan concentration. Republicans were united in their unfavorable historical judgment of Obama. Democrats divided their votes (and would insist, I’d imagine, that they have more options to choose from).

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The vital incoherent center

WASHINGTON — Here’s one political paradox: A substantial majority of Americans do not fit neatly into the conventional “liberal” and “conservative” boxes, yet there is no coherent political center. Those who dream of a middle-of-the-road third party are destined to be disappointed.

What’s in a name?

WASHINGTON — Amanda Blackhorse, a Navajo who successfully moved a federal agency to withdraw trademark protections from the Washington Redskins because it considers the team’s name derogatory, lives on a reservation where Navajos root for the Red Mesa High School Redskins. She opposes this name; the Native Americans who picked and retain it evidently do not.

Let’s sue the president

WASHINGTON — Republicans, after years of squabbling with President Barack Obama, have decided to resolve their differences with him according to a time-honored American tradition.

Mississippi votes its appetite

WASHINGTON — Chris McDaniel, 41, the flawed paladin of the tea party persuasion who in Mississippi’s Republican Senate primary failed to wrest the nomination from the faltering hands of six-term incumbent Thad Cochran, 76, came into politics after a stint in talk radio. There practitioners do not live by the axiom that you don’t have to explain something you never said, and McDaniel had some explaining to do about some of his more colorful broadcast opinions and phrases, which may have given a number of voters pause about whether he is quite senatorial, whatever that means nowadays.

An arrogant and lawless IRS

WASHINGTON — Noted management expert and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was apparently called out of retirement — like the Ted Williams of evasive, unapologetic bureaucrats — to destroy what is left of his agency’s credibility.

Who had worst week in Washington? Obama

Six years ago, Barack Obama ran for president promising to end what he described as “a dumb war” in Iraq. And in 2012, he campaigned for re-election by declaring that he’d achieved that goal. But this past week, Obama decided to send 300 troops back into the country — one deeply riven by sectarian violence and teetering on the edge of chaos.