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No time to lead from behind

WASHINGTON — Responding to the horrifying murder of photojournalist James Foley, Secretary of State John Kerry declared, “ISIL (the Islamic State) and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed.” President Obama said, “people like this ultimately fail.” The first is a pledge; the second an observation. Obama remains a rhetorical spectator to events in Iraq and Syria he does not want to own, and that he believes America has a limited ability to influence.

Islamic State must be stopped

Americans awoke Wednesday to a gruesome video, showing an Islamic State executioner beheading James Foley, an American. A grim President Barack Obama interrupted his vacation to condemn this act of savagery, aptly calling the Islamic State “a cancer” that must be eradicated.

Obamacare, beyond the label

WASHINGTON — The Affordable Care Act was supposed to be a slam dunk issue for the Republicans in this fall’s elections. Karl Rove told us so in April, writing that “Obamacare is and will remain a political problem for Democrats.”

Fed up with cupcake cops

WASHINGTON — In physics, a unified field theory is an attempt to explain with a single hypothesis the behavior of several fields. Its political corollary is the Cupcake Postulate, which explains everything, from Missouri to Iraq, concerning Americans’ comprehensive withdrawal of confidence from government at all levels and all areas of activity.

Containing Ebola means sending masks and gowns, not drugs

The question of how to fairly distribute scarce doses of experimental Ebola treatments is capturing the world’s attention. Yet the fate of the epidemic doesn’t rest on getting these expensive and unproven drugs to the afflicted African countries. What medical teams there need most are protective masks, goggles, gloves, gowns and boots.

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Movement on Medicare

For years, lawmakers, policy experts and journalists have fretted about the explosive growth of health care spending. Would the United States ever find a way to “bend the curve” on economic charts that projected seemingly endless growth in health care’s share of the gross domestic product and, consequently, uncontrolled expansion of federal spending on health-care entitlement programs?

Inverting tax policy

One campaign 2014 kerfuffle concerns the previously arcane issue of “inversion,” the process by which a U.S. corporation merges with a foreign one so as to pay taxes at the other country’s lower rates. If ever a tax loophole were designed to provoke inflammatory rhetoric, this is it. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., labeled a recent wave of corporate reflaggings a “plague”; Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew took to The Washington Post’s op-ed page to demand “economic patriotism.” For their part, Republicans are playing this as a simple story of corporate escape from the allegedly oppressive U.S. corporate tax rate.

Bet on Africa rising

WASHINGTON — As more than 40 African leaders gather in Washington for an unprecedented summit, Africa’s brand problem in America has grown significantly worse. Two events — the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls by Boko Haram and a currently uncontrolled Ebola outbreak in West Africa — have tuned in clearly through the news and social media static. And they have reinforced existing public impressions of disorder and disease.

CIA spying on its own overseers suggests a deeper problem

A strange and convoluted fight between the Central Intelligence Agency and its ostensible overseers in Congress has reached a zenith of sorts. A report by the CIA’s inspector general has concluded that the agency’s employees had improperly spied on a computer network used by a Senate committee. That committee just so happened to be investigating the CIA.