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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:

What change sounds like

WASHINGTON — When he opened the 114th Congress, House Speaker John Boehner declared that “too many are working harder only to lose ground to stagnant wages and rising costs.”

Mitt’s third run would be no charm

WASHINGTON — After his third loss, in 1908, as the Democratic presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan enjoyed telling the story of the drunk who three times tried to enter a private club. After being tossed out into the street a third time, the drunk said: “They can’t fool me. Those fellows don’t want me in there!”

Hyping Obama’s Paris fail

WASHINGTON — If we can be serious for a moment: The president made an error in judgment by not sending someone with a higher profile than our ambassador to join world leaders Sunday at a solidarity rally in Paris.

The community college cause

WASHINGTON — Permit me to declare my bias: I came to revere community colleges for very personal reasons and learned to admire them because they are central to restoring social and economic mobility in our nation.

The Keystone catechism

WASHINGTON — Not since the multiplication of the loaves and fishes near the Sea of Galilee has there been creativity as miraculous as that of the Keystone XL pipeline. It has not yet been built but already is perhaps the most constructive infrastructure project since the Interstate Highway System. It has accomplished an astonishing trifecta:

Internet can be used to undermine freedom, too

When media guru Marshall McLuhan declared back in the 1960s that “Every innovation has within itself the seeds of its reversal,” I had no idea what he meant. But, like his other catchy quotables — “global village,” ”cool media,” ”the medium is the message” — it stayed with me. Now, in the Internet age, I am seeing proof of his prophecy every day.

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Improvising in panic

Vladimir Putin claims to have the overwhelming support of Russians after a year in which he launched an invasion of Ukraine, annexed part of it and positioned his regime as an autocratic and homophobic counter to the democratic West. If that’s the case, why does Putin appear to be so terrified of Alexei Navalny?

A strike against rent-seeking

WASHINGTON — Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, so last year’s most encouraging development in governance might have occurred in February in a U.S. District Court in Frankfort, Ky. There, a judge did something no federal judge has done since 1932. By striking down a “certificate of necessity” (CON) regulation, he struck a blow for liberty and against crony capitalism.

Clear choice, or clear trauma?

WASHINGTON — One outcome of and proof for ideological polarization is the way it has made stalwarts appear like centrists. In what world is Hillary Clinton — feminist heroine, author of Hillarycare, sworn enemy of the vast right-wing conspiracy — not progressive enough? In what parallel universe is Jeb Bush — a tax-slashing, school-voucher-supporting, pro-gun former Southern governor — some kind of moderate?

Permanent Armageddon

WASHINGTON — Meg Greenfield, the late Washington Post editorial page editor, counseled against writing in “High C” all the time. By this she meant that an editorialist or columnist who expressed equally noisy levels of indignation about everything would lack credibility when something truly outrageous came along that merited a well-crafted, high-pitched scream.

Jeb Bush’s hurdles

WASHINGTON — In 1968, a singularly traumatic year — assassinations, urban riots, 16,899 Americans killed in Vietnam — Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the ebullient Minnesotan, said his presidential campaign was about “the politics of joy.” This was considered infelicitous.

Inglorious hackers

WASHINGTON — If I were a cartoonist, a phrase cartoonists are loath to hear, I’d sketch a chubby imp donned in a diaper, sporting a chia mohawk and munching the last Big Mac on earth, while straddling a nuclear-armed missile that bears a striking resemblance to Dennis Rodman.

Cuba Derangement Syndrome

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama has made a geopolitical irrelevancy suddenly relevant to American presidential politics. For decades, Cuba has been instructive as a museum of two stark failures: socialism and the U.S. embargo. Now, Cuba has become useful as a clarifier of different Republican flavors of foreign-policy thinking.