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A better side of America

WASHINGTON — In the first days of the Iraq war 11 years ago, Army reservist Jay Briseno was shot in the back of the head at a Baghdad market. The bullet left him blind, brain-damaged, paralyzed from the neck down and unable to communicate, eat or breathe on his own.

The people’s party

Now that pro-democracy protests have shut large swaths of central Hong Kong, China’s leaders find themselves in a trap of their own making. Denying residents authentic democracy has not led to stability nor peace in the city-state. Crushing the demonstrations would do even more harm to the international reputation for freedom and the rule of law that has allowed Hong Kong to prosper as a semi-autonomous piece of the People’s Republic of China. The future of the city-state — and much more — rests on whether the Chinese central government realizes that its tight grip is ultimately counterproductive.

Runaway Obamacare costs will hurt Senate Democrats

As we start the final stretch before the midterm elections, many analysts are convinced that Obamacare isn’t the hot political issue it once was. While the flood of negative publicity about the law has subsided of late, a majority of people still oppose it, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls taken from Sept. 2 to 15. And I’ve always believed the voters’ negative impressions of the law were “baked” into their assessments of Democratic incumbents.

Holder and RFK’s legacy

WASHINGTON — When he announced his leave-taking last week, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke of Robert F. Kennedy as his inspiration for believing that the Justice Department “can and must always be a force for that which is right.”

Battle royal brewing in Iowa

URBANDALE, Iowa — The Machine Shed restaurant, where the waitresses wear bib overalls and suggest a cinnamon roll the size of a loaf of bread as a breakfast appetizer, sells a root beer called Dang!, bandages made to look like bacon strips, and signs that proclaim “I love you more than bacon.” For Joni Ernst, however, the apposite sign reads “No one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side.”

The law of the war

At the United Nations on Wednesday, President Barack Obama offered a powerful case for war against the Islamic State. “This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria,” he said. “There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.”

Introspection time for evangelicals

WASHINGTON — Christian conservatives are often the subject of study by academics, who seem to find their culture as foreign as that of Borneo tribesmen. And this is a particularly interesting time for brave social scientists to put on their pith helmets and head to Wheaton, Ill., Colorado Springs or unexplored regions of the South. They will find a community under external and internal cultural stress.

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Immigration stutter-steps

President Barack Obama’s zigs and zags in pursuit of immigration reform are a long-unfolding narrative now assuming epic dimensions. In the latest installment, Obama has postponed the unilateral reforms he promised to have unveiled by now. He did so not for any high-minded purpose but rather to avoid dealing mortal blows to the re-election of a handful of Democratic senators who begged the president to hold off.

Finally combating Ebola

With people dying in the streets of the Liberian capital, President Barack Obama has at last ramped up the U.S. response to the worst outbreak ever of the Ebola virus in West Africa. The fresh surge of support announced Tuesday represents a welcome change of course. No one knows if the package outlined by Obama at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be sufficient, but at least the United States has started to act like the world’s indispensable nation.

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.

Short on firepower

In launching two previous wars in Iraq, the United States assembled formidable coalitions of dozens of countries. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Oman were among the Arab states that deployed substantial ground forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Though derided by some as a “unilateral” U.S. action, the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was supported by troops from 39 countries, nine of which deployed more than 1,000 soldiers.

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.