The Mistake that Will Haunt Obama’s Legacy Abroad
There are still nearly two years left in Barack Obama’s presidency, but historians looking back on his record in foreign policy will surely identify one costly error: his refusal to follow through on the implied threat in stating that ...
Rahm Emanuel Has the Yuppification of Chicago to Thank for His Success
Rahm Emanuel heads into a runoff April 7 in his bid for a second term as mayor of Chicago. He’s the favorite going in, having won 46 percent in the February 24 first round against longtime local officeholder Chuy Garcia’s 34 percent ...
Cotton’s Letter Shouldn’t Be Controversial
In her brief press conference at the United Nations, Hillary Clinton led off with a denunciation of the letter to Iranian leaders signed by 47 of the 54 Republican senators. This was in line with Democratic talking points — a sign that the ...
King v. Burwell’s Mere Existence Is Politically Remarkable
On Wednesday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the case challenging the IRS’s decision to pay subsidies to lower-income health-insurance buyers in states with federal insurance exchanges — even though the Obamacare legislation authorizes subsidies only ...
If America Is Mars and Europe, Venus — How Is Europe Doing?
‘Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus,” wrote Robert Kagan in Of Paradise and Power, published in 2003, just as the United States went into Iraq. Americans, he wrote, see themselves in “an anarchic Hobbesian world,” where security and ...
Like it or not, the 2016 presidential race is now well under way. Republican candidates are flocking to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, while Hillary Clinton, in-between $200,000 speeches at universities, is reported to be in seclusion developing her economic policies.
Breaking Democrats’ ‘Blue Wall’
Do Republicans have a realistic chance of winning the next presidential election? Some analysts suggest that the answer is no. They argue that there is a 240-electoral-vote “blue wall” of 18 states and D.C. that have gone Democratic in the ...
The Democratic Majority that Wasn’t
John Judis, co-author of the book The Emerging Democratic Majority, now says in an article in National Journal that that majority has disappeared. His title: “The Emerging Republican Advantage.”
The original book, published in the Republican year of 2002, forecast accurately ...
Obama’s Taxed Himself into a Corner
Word comes that Barack Obama’s budget will call for ending the sequester spending limits now in effect. That’s not surprising. White House aides proposed the sequester, but Obama thought it wouldn’t go into effect because Republicans couldn’...
Public policymakers and political pundits tend to focus on problems — understandably, because if things are going right they aren’t thought to need attention. Yet positive developments can teach us things as well, when, for reasons not necessarily clear, great ...
Could the Financial Crisis Repeat Itself?
What caused the financial crisis? How can we prevent another one from happening again? The answers you most often hear to those questions are (1) greed and deregulation and (2) the Dodd-Frank law.
But they’re patently inadequate. Greed — or the desire ...
There are likely to be many surprises in a race for the Republican presidential nomination that has something like 20 plausible potential candidates. The first of those surprises came in the last hours before New Year’s when Jeb Bush announced ...
Can Family Fragmentation Be Fixed?
How big a problem is family fragmentation? “Immense,” says Mitch Pearlstein, head of the Minnesota think tank Center of the American Experiment. “The biggest domestic problem facing this country.”
So big he went out and interviewed 40 experts of varying ideology ...
Washington’s Power Is Flowing Away
Too much power being grabbed by Washington — in health-care law, environmental regulations, education standards. That has been a constant complaint of conservatives not only during Barack Obama’s presidency but during George W. Bush’s as well.
But power is ...
Earlier this week, Jeb Bush announced he was setting up a political committee to explore a presidential candidacy. Hillary Clinton has been exploring a presidential candidacy for months and perhaps years. Polls show Clinton with a wide lead for the ...
What the Midterms Mean for 2016
The defeat of Democratic senator Mary Landrieu by Republican representative Bill Cassidy in last weekend’s Louisiana runoff ends an election year that has been very successful for Republicans — and has implications for 2016. Some observations:
(1) Democrats relied heavily on legacy ...
The Collapse of the Clinton Brand
A year ago, Hillary Clinton seemed likely to become the next president. Presumably she and her husband had not yet started to call themselves, Bush style, 42 and 45. But she had an overwhelming lead in the polls for the Democratic nomination ...
The Diminished Minority Leader
No one in Washington much cares what House Democrats do these days. House rules tend to ensure that the main job of members of the minority is to show up, vote “no,” and lose. And in the next Congress, Democrats ...
Second Thoughts on Immigration Reform
‘When the facts change, I change my mind,” economist John Maynard Keynes said when charged with inconsistency. “What do you do, sir?”
As President Obama threatens to stretch his power to faithfully execute the law to a breaking point by ...
The Political Map of the Future
If you’re a political junkie — or at least if you’re a conservative political junkie — you’ve probably seen the map. It’s a map of the United States showing the congressional districts won by Republicans in red and ...
The Shrinkage of the Obama Majority
Some observations on the election:
1) This was a wave, folks. It will be a benchmark for judging waves, for either party, for years.
2) In seriously contested races, Republican candidates were generally younger, more vigorous, more sunny and optimistic than Democrats. ...
Democratic Dogs That Aren’t Barking
Sherlock Holmes famously solved a mystery by noticing the dog that didn’t bark in the night. Dogs that are not barking at night — nor in prime time — provide some useful clues to understanding the significance of this year’s ...
The GOP Will Retain the House
You probably haven’t read much commentary about this year’s elections to the House of Representatives. There’s a good reason for that: The majority in the Senate is up for grabs, but it’s clear to everyone who ...
Are Hispanics Turning on Democrats?
It’s looking like a tough off-year election for Democrats, with their Senate majority at serious risk and their chances of gaining House seats down toward zero.
Every party has a bad off-year sometimes; Republicans did in 2006. Sooner or later ...
Democrats on the Defensive
Things are spinning out of control. Out of control, at least, by government, and by the United States government in particular. You don’t have to spend much time reading the news — or monitoring your Twitter feed — to get that ...
Republicans seem to be pulling away in the race to win a majority in the U.S. Senate. At least this week.
In mid-September, several polls seemed to be going the other way. The well-informed Washington Post analyst Chris Cillizza ...
Scotland and the Secessionist Impulse
Last week, the voters of Scotland, in a heavy turnout and from age 16 up, decided not to disunite what has been arguably one of the most successful and beneficial nations over the last 307 years, the necessarily clunkily named United Kingdom ...
Which Is the Weaker Party?
Which of our two great political parties is the stronger? Maybe it makes more sense to ask which of the two is weaker.
The case that the Republicans are weaker is easy to state. Democrats have won four of the ...
Big Government Outlives Its Use
‘Twentieth-century technology,” writes economic historian Joel Mokyr in the Manhattan Institute’s excellent City Journal, “was primarily about ‘large’ things.”
Large in physical size, that is. Mokyr’s examples include the diesel engine and the gas turbine, shipping containers, communications ...
Liberals like to think and talk about themselves as if they were the wave of the future. Note, for example, how Barack Obama and John Kerry have denounced Islamist terrorists and Vladimir Putin for behaving as if they are still ...
Obama’s Metamorphosis: Reformer to Demagogue
‘The tax system should be simplified and work for all Americans with lower individual and corporate tax rates and fewer brackets.”
That’s from the Obama administration’s 2009 proposals for tax reform, straight from WhiteHouse.gov.
“Because our corporate tax ...
Continued violence in Ferguson, Missouri, brings back memories of the urban riots of the 1960s.
As it happens, I had a front-row seat back then, as an intern in the office of Detroit mayor Jerome Cavanagh during the six-day riot ...
Hillary’s Goldilocks Foreign Policy
Politicians have ranges of positions of varying widths that they find acceptable. Hillary Clinton, like her husband, has a very wide range of stands she finds acceptable, depending on timing and circumstances. President Obama’s range of acceptable positions has ...
The standard thing to say about the various Republican primaries this year is that the tea-party movement has lost one race after another. That’s a defensible conclusion but also an oversimplification.
I see more turbulence and undercurrents among Republican ...
Seems Like Old Times (Crony Capitalism Mix)
‘Pare down the parasitic fringe” of government. “Favour a gospel of work” instead of aristocratic entitlement. “Rationalize finance” and “reverse the Parkinson’s Law of bureaucracy.”
All that sounds like rhetoric from the Tea Party or reform conservatives assailing what ...
Liberals’ Liberty Problem
Liberals just aren’t very liberal these days. The word “liberal” comes from the Latin word meaning freedom, and in the 19th century, liberals in this country and abroad stood for free speech, free exercise of religion, free markets, and ...
Obama Skitters, Scampers, and Scuttles Away from Failure
Skitter, scamper, scuttle. That seems to be the mode of the Obama administration of late.
Skitter away from your red line in Syria. Scamper off to a meeting you’d previously nixed with Texas governor Rick Perry.
Scuttle as much ...
Not So Fast, Mr. President
Seldom in American history has the Supreme Court unanimously rejected positions advocated by presidents’ administrations.
But in this respect, at least, President Obama has produced the fundamental transformation that he promised in his 2008 campaign. Over the last three years, the ...
Senate Democrats’ Free-Speech Problem
I’m old enough to remember when American liberals cherished the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. They celebrated especially the freedom accorded those with unpopular beliefs and protested attempts to squelch the expression of differing opinions.
America’s Electoral Unraveling
America’s two political parties seem to be coming apart.
That’s in contrast to the relatively stable competition of the last 20 years, when Democrats have won three of five presidential elections and Republicans won House majorities in eight of ...
Scenario for a Republican Nightmare
The 2016 presidential election is shaping up to be another close race, like the last four. From 2000 to 2012, both major parties’ nominees received between 45 and 53 percent of the vote. Historically, that’s a narrow range, not seen since 1880–1892. It suggests something ...
London — British politics has a familiar look to Americans, with a center-right Conservative party and a center-left Labour party resembling America’s Republicans and Democrats.
Britain’s parliamentary system, however, presents a contrast with the U.S. Constitution on the ...
Demography and the Future of the GOP
Demography is destiny, we are often told, and rightly — up to a point. The American electorate is made up of multiple identifiable segments, defined in various ways: by race and ethnicity, by age cohort, by region and religiosity (or lack ...
Obama’s Era of Bad Feelings
Second-term presidencies are an opportunity for bipartisan compromise. The institutional stars are in alignment to address long-range problems not amenable in other circumstances.
The president is barred from running for a third term and thus does not have to worry ...
Equality at the Expense of Prosperity
French economist Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has been inspiring a lot of comment and controversy. The English translation published last month zipped to No. 1 on Amazon.com.
It has given a lift to economists on ...
Obama’s Dithering Ukraine Policy
Last week, masked men in camouflage garb with no insignia, dressed and equipped like Russian special forces, started taking over police stations and other government buildings in the Donets basin in eastern Ukraine. They appeared to be working in tandem ...
The 1970s’ False Prophets of Doom
Forty years is roughly the length of a working lifetime — and long enough for history to have taken some unexpected turns. And to have proved that long-term forecasts based on extrapolations of existing trends usually end up wide of the ...
The Disconnected Generation
When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1830, he was struck by how many Americans were participating in voluntary associations. It was quite a contrast with his native France, where power was centralized in Paris and people did not trust each ...
The Dangers of ‘Flexibility’
‘This is my last election,” President Obama said in words caught on an open mic. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”
He was speaking in Seoul, South Korea, in March 2012, almost exactly two years ago, to Dmitri Medvedev, then ...
Social Mobility and Surnames
America used to be a land with great upward social mobility, but it isn’t anymore. America was never a land with great upward social mobility.
Which do you believe? Keep in mind that your answer will have significant implications ...
Can America’s Family-Breakdown Problem Be Reversed?
Our kids, at least many of them, are not doing very well. The reason, writes Harvard professor Robert Putnam in his just-published Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, is the “two-tier pattern of family structure” that emerged in the 1970...
Will the American Dream Hold True for Hispanics?
‘Firing up America” is the cover line on the March 20 issue of The Economist, heralding a 16-page special report on America’s Latinos. Its tone is resolutely upbeat — perhaps a bit too much so.
“America is lucky to have millions ...
The controversy over Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and her unconvincing press conference at the United Nations have gotten many Democrats and others thinking the unthinkable: Clinton may not be the Democrats’ 2016 nominee for president. And it has many asking the ...
If anyone had any doubts that most members of Congress oppose the Obama administration’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran, they can put them aside after viewing the response to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress Tuesday.
China’s Long Road to Dominance
In reflecting on relations between the United States and China, Henry Kissinger in his 2011 book, On China, notes that since he and Richard Nixon ventured to Beijing more than 40 years ago, “Eight American presidents and four generations of Chinese leaders ...
Why Let the Law Get in the Way?
Reckless disregard. It’s a phrase in legal writing that means “gross negligence without concern for danger to others.” And it’s a phrase that characterizes much of the attitude toward law of an administration headed by a man sometimes ...
There’s No ‘Grand Bargain’ to Be Made with Iran
‘We will extend a hand if you are unwilling to unclench your fist,” President Obama proclaimed in his inaugural address in January 2009. He characterized those to whom this was addressed in negative terms, but the implication was that this president, ...
Scott Walker’s Dynamite Speech
Can a single speech at an Iowa political event change the course of a presidential nomination race? Maybe.
It actually has happened. Barack Obama’s November 2007 speech at a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines is generally credited with giving ...
My Mistaken Predictions about the 2016 Race
Some columnists write New Year’s columns chronicling the mistakes over the last year. I don’t, but as this January has rolled on, it’s become clear I’ve made many about the 2016 presidential race.
One is that I ...
A Substance-free State of the Union
It’s not in the printed text, but the most revealing words in President Obama’s seventh State of the Union address came near the end. After the scripted line, “I have no more campaigns to run,” elicited Republican applause, ...
For the Free World, an Old Challenge Returns
How far should a tolerant society tolerate intolerance? It’s a difficult issue, one without any entirely satisfactory answer. And it’s a current issue in the days after 40 world leaders and the U.S. ambassador to France marched together ...
Urban Statists’ Great Foe
Lou Cannon has a nice remembrance on Real Clear Politics of Martin Anderson, the economist and adviser to Ronald Reagan who died last week at 78. He touches on all of Anderson’s accomplishments, from his successful advocacy in the Nixon ...
The Most Republican House in 70 Years
Before Christmas, Arizona finished its 2nd congressional-district recount, showing Republican Martha McSally beating incumbent Democrat Ron Barber by 167 votes. This means there will be 247 Republicans in the House in the 114th Congress — one more than was elected to the House ...
The total discrediting of Rolling Stone’s story on rape at the University of Virginia has shined a light on one of the least palatable features of American life: the so-called epidemic of rape on campus.
Authorities from Barack Obama ...
America’s Stale Culture Wars
In an earlier column, I looked at the role the abortion issue would play in the 2016 election — not very much, I concluded — and promised another column on other cultural issues. Here goes.
On anyone’s list of cultural issues that ...
The Political Perils of Abortion Absolutism
Americans are divided politically along cultural, not economic, lines. Partisan preference is highly correlated with views on non-economic issues and only loosely related to economic status.
This is the norm rather than the exception in American political history. Party preference ...
Will Democrats Take Back the Senate in 2016?
Even as Republicans are about to regain a majority in the Senate after eight years in the minority, the conventional wisdom around Washington is that Democrats are likely to win back that majority again in 2016. That’s certainly possible, but ...
Why No Talk of Piketty Taxes?
Last spring, you may remember, the French economist Thomas Piketty was all the rage in certain enlightened circles. His book Capital in the 21st Century shot up to the No. 1 spot on bestseller lists, and many economists praised his statistics ...
Where the Polls Went Wrong
Were the polls wrong? It’s a question asked after every election. Sometimes, as in 1948, the answer seems as obvious as the answer to the question, “Why did Custer lose at Little Bighorn?” Sometimes the answer is less obvious, as ...
The Hidden Factors in the 2014 Campaign
Looking back on the 2014 election cycle, I see two largely unnoticed turning points that worked against Democrats and in Republicans’ favor.
The first came in response to the October 2013 government shutdown. This was blamed, as shutdowns usually are, on Republicans, ...
Obama Will Leave the Democrats in Shambles
Before the election results are in, and keeping in mind that there may be some unpleasant surprises for one party or the other — or both — it’s possible to assess how the Democratic party has fared under the leadership of ...
A Most Consequential Campaign Speech
On October 27, 1964, 50 years ago Monday, a movie actor and television host delivered a 30-minute speech on primetime national television in support of the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater.
There were no visual diversions, and the production values by today’s ...
Is Political Decay Inevitable?
Francis Fukuyama picked an auspicious publication date for his latest book, Political Order and Political Decay. The news is full of stories of political decay: the Centers for Disease Control and Ebola; the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ health service; the ...
Rise of the 2014 Independents
One question I’m asked in every electoral cycle is, “What are the surprise races in this election?” My answer in recent years has been, “There are no surprises, because any unexpected development becomes universally known in seconds.”
There have ...
The President’s Security: A Bipartisan Issue
‘Even opposition lawmakers who have spent the last six years fighting his every initiative have expressed deep worry for his security.”
So wrote the New York Times’s Peter Baker in the lead paragraph of a story on the congressional ...
Obama’s ISIS Policy in Historical Context
President Obama’s speech at the United Nations last week was “an important turning point in American foreign policy — and in his presidency.” That’s the verdict of Brookings Institution scholar and former Clinton White House aide William Galston, a ...
A Path Forward on Immigration
What should we do about immigration policy? It’s a question many are asking, and some useful perspective comes from an article in Foreign Affairs by British-born, California-based historian Gregory Clark, unhelpfully titled, “The American Dream Is an Illusion.”
Iraq, immigration, inversion. On all three of the issues referred to, President Obama finds himself forced by events to do something he dislikes — and he’s in trouble with much of his Democratic-party base for doing so.
Obama seemed ill ...
Has Reality Dispelled Obama’s Delusions?
‘If you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart,” President Obama told Democratic mega-contributors last month in one of the 400-plus fundraisers of his presidency.
But not to worry. “The world has always been messy,” ...
Some time ago I contrasted the reaction a conservative would get if he were in the same room with the two most consequential politicians of the 1990s, Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.
If you were in a room with Bill ...
Liberals’ Legality Problem
‘About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists in telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop.” So supposedly said Elihu Root, New York lawyer and secretary of war and of state, and U.S. senator ...
Hillary’s Campaign-Trail Absence
Just about everyone noticed Hillary Clinton’s scathing comments on President Obama’s foreign policy in her interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.
But almost no one has noticed where Clinton hasn’t been seen. That’s on the ...
Celebrating the Hanoverian Succession
Three hundred years ago, on August 1, 1714, by the Julian calendar (August 12 by the Gregorian calendar we use now), Queen Anne died. She was just 49 years old, but was weakened by obesity, gout, and the effects of 17 pregnancies, from which only ...
Big Government’s IT Problem
Earlier this week, I was thinking of writing a column about the lying and duplicity of Obamacare backers who argued that the difference between providing subsidies in states with state-run health exchanges and providing no subsidies in states with federal ...
‘Why do you think President Obama’s job rating is falling, even though the economy is recovering?” the interviewer asked.
It’s a fair question, even though the economy declined 2.9 percent in the first quarter, even though most jobs created ...
The ‘Man-Caused Disaster’
The flood of underage — and non-underage — illegal immigrants from Central America coming across the border in Texas is, to paraphrase a former Obama administration official, a “man-caused disaster.” The man who caused it, more than anyone else, is Barack Obama.
Genetic Science vs. Belief
‘New analyses of the human genome establish that human evolution has been recent, copious and regional,” writes Nicholas Wade in his recently published book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.
That sounds reasonable, and Wade, a science reporter ...
The Tyranny of Sclerotic Government
Government just doesn’t work very well. That’s the persuasive thesis of three important books published this year.
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge’s The Fourth Revolution takes a historical and international (and British) perspective.
They argue that the ...
Hispanics Sour on Obama as Young Illegals Surge Across Border
What should Republican lawmakers do about immigration? That’s been a simmering source of controversy ever since George W. Bush’s push for so-called comprehensive immigration legislation, with legalization and enforcement provisions, in 2006.
Most liberals and many economic conservatives argued ...
Obama Follows the Polls on Foreign Policy
Polls show that most Americans wanted the United States to withdraw from Iraq. Barack Obama did indeed withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, not troubling to negotiate a readily negotiable status-of-forces agreement that would have left a contingent of American ...
Gummit don’t work good. That conclusion, often that inelegantly expressed, seems to be more and more common, not only in the United States but around the world.
It is certainly the verdict of John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in ...
The Revolt of the Wingers
In recent times, British and American politics have often flowed in parallel currents.
Margaret Thatcher’s election as prime minister in 1979 was followed by Ronald Reagan’s election as president in 1980. As Charles Moore notes in his biography of Thatcher, ...
Republicans Are in It to Win It
Results of Tuesday’s primaries, particularly the victory of state house speaker Thom Tillis in North Carolina’s Republican Senate primary, are being hailed — or decried — as a victory for the Republican establishment over the tea-party movement.
There’s something ...
Obama’s Partial Pivot to Asia
For a president who hasn’t enjoyed many foreign-policy successes lately, Barack Obama did pretty well on his just-completed trip to Asia.
In Japan, he reiterated in no uncertain terms the American defense commitment, including on the Senkaku islands in ...
The GOP’s Electoral Future
Have the Republicans become the white man’s party? Are the depth and bitterness of Republicans’ opposition to Barack Obama and his administration the product of racism?
Those are questions you hear in the clash of political argument, and you ...
Obama's Bogus Equal-Pay Stat
An economist serving on a second-term president’s Council of Economic Advisers might expect to weigh in on fundamental issues, such as restructuring the tax system or making entitlement programs sustainable over the long term. Barack Obama once talked of ...
Children of History, in Ukraine and the U.S.
If you’ve been following events in Ukraine closely, you may have seen maps, such as those available at electoralgeography.com, showing how the ethnic-Russian areas voted heavily for one candidate and the ethnic-Ukrainian areas for another.
However, as the ...
America’s two major political parties are inevitably coalitions, forced by the winner-take-all Electoral College and the need of candidates in single-member congressional districts to amass 50 percent of the vote, or nearly that, to win election.
In a nation of ...
Clinton Is Far from Inevitable in 2016
Will Hillary Clinton be elected America’s next president? The polls suggest she will.
Recent polls compiled by Real Clear Politics show her winning 67 percent of the vote in Democratic primaries, with no other candidate above 11 percent. General-election polling shows ...
The Democratic Party’s Bad Options
It is reminiscent of the quandary faced by General Maurice Gamelin on the evening of May 15, 1940. Suddenly he realized that German panzer troops had broken through the supposedly impassable Ardennes.
French troops to the north were cut off and rendered ...