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Why Washington is broken

WASHINGTON — Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican senator who asked the Discovery Channel to film him and a Democratic colleague last month as they subsisted on an uninhabited Pacific island, came home with a sunburn, a 10-pound weight loss — and a desire to see Senate leaders put through the same ordeal.

Obama needs Congress to approve this war

WASHINGTON — The United States last declared war many wars ago, on June 5, 1942, when, to clarify legal ambiguities during a world conflagration, it declared war on Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Today’s issue is not whether to declare war but only whether the president should even seek congressional authorization for the protracted use of force against the Islamic State.

Can Congress be responsible?

WASHINGTON — There was a moment in the last quarter-century when the Congress of the United States made the nation proud. It did so across all its usual lines of division: Republican and Democratic, conservative and liberal, hawk and dove.

Dove Obama makes a reluctant hawk

As he offered to the nation his prescription for the most recent Middle East crisis, President Barack Obama reminded me of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather: Part III.” “Just when I thought I was out,” sighed the young mob boss about his efforts to leave the family business, “they pull me back in.”

Scotland’s epic vote

WASHINGTON — Tucking into a dish of Scottish haggis is not a task for the fainthearted. There are various haggis recipes, but basically it is sheep’s pluck — the heart, lungs and liver — cooked together, then mixed with suet and oatmeal and boiled in a sheep’s stomach, then served, sometimes drenched with Scotch. People who pour whisky on oatmeal are not shrinking violets. Remember this on Thursday when Scotland votes on independence from the United Kingdom.

Obama’s careful war

WASHINGTON — The most compelling and encouraging parts of President Barack Obama’s Islamic State speech — his intention to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the enemy, his pledge to hunt down its fighters and deny them “safe haven,” his moral clarity on their “acts of barbarism” — also sounded least like Obama. Everyone — and I mean just about everyone on the planet — knows that he was more comfortable declaring that America had moved “off a permanent war footing” and that the war on terrorism, “like all wars, must end.”

The new politics of foreign policy

WASHINGTON — Over the last decade, Americans’ views on foreign policy have swung sharply from support for intervention to a profound mistrust of any military engagement overseas. Over the same period, political debates on foreign affairs have been bitter and polarized, defined by the question of whether the invasion of Iraq was a proper use of the nation’s power or a catastrophic mistake.

Extremism in defense of re-election

WASHINGTON — Since Barry Goldwater, accepting the Republicans’ 1964 presidential nomination, said “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” Democrats have been decrying Republican “extremism.” Actually, although there is abundant foolishness and unseemliness in American politics, real extremism — measures or movements that menace the Constitution’s architecture of ordered liberty — is rare. This week, however, extremism stained the Senate.

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The GOP’s impeachment two-step

WASHINGTON — If you attack the president repeatedly for law-breaking, executive overreach and deceiving the public and Congress, do you have an obligation to impeach him? This is the logical question Republicans are now trying to duck.

The GOP as the party of reform

WASHINGTON — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair came to prominence in the 1990s as an expert in political renovation, transforming the Labour Party from a creaky, socialist relic to a modern, center-left, governing institution. Before Blair, Labour had not won back-to-back victories in a hundred years. Blair secured three.

Me Inc. offers plenty of dividends

WASHINGTON — “Checked the tax code,” wrote a friend who’s engaged to a woman from a low-tax country. “Unfortunately, marrying [my fiancee] does not entitle me to a tax inversion like the big U.S. companies are getting. Thanks for nothing IRS.”

In Oregon, a doctor calls

PORTLAND, Ore. — “Are you kidding ?” This is Monica Wehby’s amiable response to people who wonder whether she will be able to bear the pressures of office if she wins her race as a Republican Senate candidate. For 17 of her 52 years she has been a pediatric neurosurgeon, holding in steady hands sharp steel and the fate of children’s brains. She probably can cope with the strains of legislative life.

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.