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Stopping the IRS

WASHINGTON — Rep. Peter Roskam is now chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee whose jurisdiction includes oversight of the Internal Revenue Service, and hence of Lois Lerner’s legacy. He knows how interesting her career was before she, as head of the IRS exempt-organizations division, directed the suppression of conservative advocacy groups by delaying and denying them the tax exempt status that was swiftly given to comparable liberal groups.

Jeb Bush, CPAC pinata

It happened just as Jeb Bush was about to explain why he thinks conservatives need to stop being perceived as “anti-everything”: Attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference let it be known that, as part of their anti-everythingness, they are also anti-Bush.

Getting Africa’s health systems to be self-reliant

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — After a storied history of revolutionary defiance toward America — in which Tanzania played host to Angela Davis, Huey Newton and Malcolm X — this country can hardly get enough of the U.S. of A. Rumors still float among cabbies and tour guides that George W. Bush bought land here during his 2008 visit and plans on returning. When President Barack Obama came in 2013, a main road, running scenically along the Indian Ocean, was renamed in his honor: Barack Obama Drive.

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.

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The senator to watch in 2015

WASHINGTON — Standing at the intersection of three foreign policy crises and a perennial constitutional tension, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, may be the senator who matters most in 2015. Without an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) tailored to novel circumstances, America is waging war against an entity without precedent (the Islamic State). Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons during negotiations that should involve congressional duties. And Russia is revising European borders by force and, like Iran, is the object of a U.S. experiment testing the power of economic sanctions to modify a dictator’s behavior. As Congress weighs its foreign policy role regarding these three matters, Corker treads the contested terrain between deference to presidential primacy in foreign policy and the need for collective wisdom and shared responsibility.

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.