Fred Barnes

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard, which he cofounded in 1995. From 1985 to 1995, he was senior editor and White House correspondent for the New Republic. He covered the Supreme Court and the White House for the Washington Star before moving to the Baltimore Sun in 1979. He served as the national political correspondent for the Sun and wrote the "Presswatch" media column for the American Spectator.

Barnes appears regularly on the Fox News Channel. From 1988 to 1998 he was a regular panelist on the McLaughlin Group. He has also appeared on Nightline, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Barnes graduated from the University of Virginia and was a Neiman Fellow at Harvard University.

(Member: Washington Speakers Bureau)

Stories by Fred Barnes

A Tale of Three Speeches

The most interesting part in Iowa came after the caucusing.
Feb 15, 2016

Ted Cruz put on a show when he won the Iowa caucuses. The impression was that of a rookie football player dancing in the end zone after scoring a touchdown. In the NFL, teammates stop an exuberant player from celebrating too long and being penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. The stage at his victory speech was full of Cruz backers, but nobody stopped him. He danced for 32 minutes.

The advice to rookies from football veterans is when you score, act like you’ve been in the end zone before. Cruz didn't. He claimed the 28 percent of the Republican caucus vote he received sent a message to the world that "morning is coming." Not quite. He likened himself to Ronald Reagan. But he was very un-Reagan.

Cruz relied almost

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Rubio Makes it a Three-Man Race

12:42 AM, Feb 02, 2016

By finishing third in last night’s Iowa caucuses, Marco Rubio joined Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as a candidate with a realistic chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination. Rubio pulled himself out of the pack of long-shot candidates and sure losers in the large GOP field – by itself, an important achievement.

What made Rubio's showing especially impressive was how close he was behind Trump, who had led in pre-caucus polls. That wasn't all. Rubio not only survived a wave of nasty negative ads by Jeb Bush, his one-time political ally in Florida. He also overcame complaints by Iowa Republicans that he had taken the state's role as the first contest in the nomination battle too lightly and not campaigned

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The Mystery of the Trump Followers

Who are they, and how many of them are there? We’re about to find out.
Feb 08, 2016

When a Republican leader went to vote in his Dallas neighborhood on May 1, 1976, he was in for a huge surprise. It was the day of the Republican presidential primary in Texas—Ronald Reagan versus President Gerald Ford—and a long line of voters extended outside the polling place. And he didn't recognize any of them.

Many of the voters were participating for the first time in a GOP primary. They had showed up for one purpose: to vote for Reagan. The crowd in Dallas matched those around the state. Reagan swamped Ford, winning all of the Texas delegates to the national convention and coming close to capturing the nomination.

The turnout was a revelation. Reagan was attracting a mass of new voters to the Republican

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1896 and All That

Karl Rove's election primer.
Feb 01, 2016

When political strategist Karl Rove spoke in Washington last week, he was reluctant to talk about the 2016 presidential race. His most extensive comment to a packed crowd at the American Enterprise Institute was to say that the Republican nominee should emphasize “economic security" for everyone, safety from attack, and national unity.

Rove stuck to his topic, William McKinley and his path to winning the presidency in 1896, about which he has written a superb book, The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters. That election is famous for the political realignment it created and the 36-year Republican era that followed.

But Rove achieves something new. He elevates McKinley's status to that

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Peace Breaks Out

A new comity among House Republicans.
Jan 25, 2016

Those happy days for Democrats and the media—when House Republicans were angry with each other and divided—are over. The archconservatives of the House Freedom Caucus are mostly on board with Speaker Paul Ryan. So is Heritage Action, the serious-minded group that wants the most conservative ideas to be paramount in Congress.

To the extent there's comity, though, it's fragile. Differences among House Republicans—more tactical than ideological—haven't magically vanished. Disagreements are as likely as ever on the budget blueprint that may be voted on as early as next month. And Idaho's Raul Labrador, a Freedom Caucus stalwart, told reporters, "The honeymoon is over" with Ryan.

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As incoherent as you'd imagine.
Jan 18, 2016

Hillary Clinton says she comes from “the Clinton school of economics." It's her way of identifying with her husband, Bill Clinton, and suggesting that if elected president she would duplicate the economic success of his presidency.

Given what she's proposed in her campaign for the White House, the chances of this happening are practically nonexistent. Her policies are closer to those of socialist senator Bernie Sanders, her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, than to Bill Clinton's.

She is against nearly everything her husband either signed into law or benefited from in the 1990s. He raised income tax rates in his first year in office, the top rate increasing from 31 percent to 39.6 percent.

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Astonishingly Popular

How to succeed as a Republican governor in a Democratic state.
Jan 11, 2016


As rioting broke out in Baltimore last April, Maryland governor Larry Hogan got a call from Chris Christie, his friend, political ally, and governor of New Jersey. How you handle the crisis, Christie told Hogan, “is going to be the defining moment for you" as governor.

The situation was dicey and Hogan's task—preventing the riot from spreading—was delicate. He was a Republican official in a Democratic state, a white politician dealing with a predominantly black city, a governor ready to send in the National Guard who had to negotiate with a black mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. She appeared more fearful of an overreaction than of the riot itself.

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Can Ted Cruz Actually Win?

It won't be easy.
Dec 28, 2015

Ted Cruz has as good a chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 as Donald Trump or Marco Rubio. But there are serious doubts whether he can win the general election.

To capture the White House, Cruz would need to win most or all of the states carried by Mitt Romney in 2012. Romney won 206 electoral votes. Cruz would need to flip enough states won by President Obama to gain at least 64 more electoral votes to win the presidency.

That means winning "purple" or swing states. A Republican operative lists nine of them: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, and Virginia. Besides being toss-ups, they have something else in common. President Obama won all nine both

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Wrong Again

Governors make the best presidential candidates? Call it conventional unwisdom.
Dec 21, 2015

At full tide, 9 of the 17 Republicans running for the 2016 presidential nomination were current or former governors. There was a perfectly good reason so many were in the race: Governors have an advantage with voters. They are executives who make real-life decisions, not just talk about doing so. Governors, more often than not, are regarded as leaders.

At least that was the conventional wisdom as recently as last spring. But it has died this year like many other assumptions about presidential campaigns. Three governors have dropped out, and none of the remaining six is in the top tier

of candidates.

A corollary to the notion of a governor's advantage has also died.

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The Democrats’ Boutique Issues

There’s a reason they talk of nothing but climate change.
Dec 07, 2015

When Hillary Clinton announced her opposition to the Keystone pipeline from Canada, she said climate change was the reason. In the first Democratic presidential debate (CNN), Martin O’Malley listed the greatest national security threats to America as nuclear Iran, ISIS, and “climate change, of course.” And in the second Democratic debate (CBS)—it was the day after the Paris terrorist attacks—Bernie Sanders insisted climate change “is directly related to the growth of terrorism.”

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The President's Scary Speech

10:09 PM, Dec 06, 2015

It's inspiring when a leader meets a moment and takes charge. President Obama didn't come close to doing that Sunday night in his Oval Office speech.

If it wasn't a letdown to most Americans, that's only because their expectations were so low. Obama's streak of failing to come to grips with the terrorist threat, both substantively and rhetorically, remains intact.

He retreated to a euphemism to assess the menace of ISIS. He said it's "evolving." Please, Mr. President, it's growing in front of your eyes – in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and, most alarmingly of all, here at home.

We've now had two bloody attacks – in Paris and last week's slaying of 14 Americans in San Bernardino, California.

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The 'Consummate Happy Warrior'

Arizona's freshman governor goes from success to success.
Dec 14, 2015


Doug Ducey's path to the governor's office in Arizona was unforeseen and unlikely. When he was 18 and fresh out of high school, he left his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, and drove to Arizona. He had never been to Arizona and didn't know a single person there. But he had little reason to stay in Ohio. His parents were divorced, and his mother had remarried and moved to Nevada.

Ducey loved Arizona. "It has a West Coast vibe and Midwestern values and work ethic," he says. Ducey worked his way through Arizona State University as the college representative for the local Anheuser-Busch beer distributor. "That was a great company with a great brand and a great culture," he says. Ducey touted Budweiser as "a beverage of

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Hollywood Mythmaking

Of whitewashing and blacklisting.
Nov 23, 2015

Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo died in 1976, but Hollywood still hasn’t gotten over its high regard for him. He is the subject of a new movie, Trumbo, that lionizes him as a passionate supporter of the First Amendment and free speech, a true patriot. But that defines Trumbo only in terms congenial to the political culture of the Hollywood left.

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Sasse Finally Speaks

An unusually promising senator’s unusual debut.
Nov 16, 2015

After Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) delivered his maiden speech on the Senate floor last week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a text of his address to every Republican senator. This was unusual. McConnell rarely does anything quite like this.

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Debates Playing Key Role in Winnowing Republican Field

Replacing importance of primaries.
7:05 AM, Nov 12, 2015

The process of winnowing the Republican presidential field to a few candidates is beginning to take its toll, though the first actual voting won’t occur until February.

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Kondracke: Times Review 'Misguided'

5:09 PM, Nov 09, 2015

Morton Kondracke fired off a letter to Powerline Blog, criticizing a New York Times review of the book he recently co-authored with TWS executive editor Fred Barnes: Jack Kemp: The Bleeding-Heart Conservative Who Changed America.

Here's an excerpt:

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From Acolyte to Speaker

Paul Ryan’s Kemp connection.
Nov 09, 2015

Paul Ryan was a waiter at Tortilla Coast, a Capitol Hill restaurant, when he first encountered Jack Kemp. Ryan had worked for Senator Bob Kasten (R-Wis.), who lost his race for reelection in 1992. Ryan was killing time in Washington before going to graduate school in economics.

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Voters Thwart McAuliffe in Virginia

11:05 AM, Nov 04, 2015

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and pal of the Clintons, has taken it on the chin again.

McAuliffe unleashed a major effort to capture the Virginia senate with help from ex-New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent more than $1 million in anti-gun ads in two critical districts.  But while Democrats held the targeted seat in northern Virginia, Republicans retained the other in the Richmond suburbs.

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Ben Sasse Is Now Ready to Shake Up Washington

9:45 AM, Nov 03, 2015

A tradition in the Senate required a newly elected member to wait a year or more before addressing his colleagues on the Senate floor.  But that practice has been absent from the Senate for decades—until today.

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Strife of the Party

The GOP is ready to grumble
Nov 02, 2015

Republicans are in trouble. A significant bloc regards their congressional leaders—House speaker John Boehner, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and their underlings—as enemies. A quarter or more of grassroots Republicans think Donald Trump should be president. And to make things worse, Hillary Clinton has a glide path to the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, making her tougher for any Republican to beat.

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The Big Loser: CNBC

But there were plenty of winners.
11:25 PM, Oct 28, 2015

What were they thinking?  I’m referring to the CNBC questioners in last night’s Republican presidential debate.  They started the 2-hour session by asking Donald Trump if he was conducting “a comic book version” of a campaign? Mike Huckabee was asked to rate Trump’s “moral authority” to be president?  (Huckabee refused.) And so on with gotcha questions.

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Remembering Lou Rotterman

Oct 26, 2015

The Scrapbook’s colleague Fred Barnes took time out from his book tour last week to email us an exclusive addendum to his new biography of Jack Kemp, coauthored with Mort Kondracke. 

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The View from the Sidelines

Charlie Black on the 2016 campaign.
Oct 26, 2015

When you’ve been involved in presidential politics as long as Charlie Black, things get pretty simple. A good candidate is one who can communicate and isn’t mistake-prone. News coverage matters as much as ever. “The basic things don’t change,” he says.

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BARNES: A Disastrous Week for Democrats on Foreign Policy

Hosted by Michael Graham.
12:25 PM, Oct 16, 2015

THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on the Democrats' disastrous week.

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The Kemp Era

When Republicans became the party of growth and tax cuts
Oct 12, 2015

In 1970, the year after Jack Kemp had retired as quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, he was elected to the House from a district covering the Buffalo suburbs. He was 35. His chief concern was the suffering of his Rust Belt constituents, beset by plant closings and high unemployment. In 1973, he proposed a business-friendly tax cut, followed by another titled the Jobs Creation Act. Neither passed. Kemp, a phys. ed. major at Occidental College, had taught himself economics. He had read Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman, the masters of free-market economics.

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Everyone Gets Everything Wrong

The surprising 2016 race.
Oct 05, 2015

Nearly everything that was expected to happen in the 2016 presidential race hasn’t, and many things that weren’t expected have. The rise of Donald Trump—even that he would run—was not predicted. Nor was the fall of Scott Walker or the weakness of Jeb Bush’s candidacy. Polls have proved to be unreliable indicators of where the Republican and Democratic campaigns are headed. Hillary Clinton’s coronation as Democratic nominee, we were told, was a sure thing. Now she’s sliding toward underdog status.

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Bush Looks to Curtail Federal Power

And return authority to the states.
6:05 AM, Sep 29, 2015

Two days after George W. Bush was inaugurated as president in 2001, his brother Jeb sent him a nine-page letter on the subject of yielding federal power in favor of state control.  Jeb Bush was still in his first term as governor of Florida at the time, but he knew the ties between Washington and statehouses had gone wrong.

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A winning tax reform.
Sep 28, 2015

Some Republican presidential candidate was sure to come along with a credible tax reform plan to erase tax loopholes, preferences, and special breaks, broaden the tax base, and lower rates. Now Jeb Bush has done it. This marks a departure point in the GOP race.

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Barnes: Why Boehner is Stepping Down

Hosted by Michael Graham.
12:23 PM, Sep 25, 2015

THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on the reason Speaker John Boehner decided to step down..

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Bye Bye, Boehner

Kevin McCarthy likely to be the next House Speaker.
10:35 AM, Sep 25, 2015

John Boehner will step down as House Speaker on October 30. His announcement was not a total surprise, however, since he’d been expected to leave Congress as early as next year, or even sooner.

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