This issue: July 25, 2011 (Vol. 16, No. 42)
The debt ceiling negotiations have become a tedious game of dorm room poker. Barack Obama is the dealer, and the deck is stacked in his favor. He’s enjoying the game. Even so, he’s not as good as he thinks he is: Witness his comment last week to House Republican leader Eric Cantor, “Eric, don’t call my bluff,” which suggests the president doesn’t know it’s a bad idea to tell your opponent you’re bluffing. Still, Obama has the advantage over the Republican congressional leadership, who are playing weak hands . . . weakly. Meanwhile, the GOP rank and file and conservatives around the country are exasperated, at once disliking the whole game and annoyed that they’ve only been allowed to participate at the last moment.
So, when all the collegiate Sturm und Drang ...
‘I’m the president of the United States, and I want to make sure that I am not engaging in scare tactics. And I’ve tried to be responsible and somewhat restrained so that folks don’t get spooked.” So said President Obama at his June 29 debt ceiling press ...
One giant leap backwards.
Merritt Island, Florida
My seven-year-old son, Cliff, watched the last space shuttle launch from the NASA viewing stands at the Kennedy Space Center. He had a spiritual experience of a kind that no amount of dragging him to Mass or even Fenway Park has inspired. His little face—seemingly made up entirely of open eyes—announced it: “This is awe!” He didn’t need to say anything and, having forgotten to breathe, he probably couldn’t. Indeed, for the first waking moment in his 89 months on earth, he was silent.
The president’s real agenda.
Soon after Mitch McConnell joined the debt limit talks, his suspicions grew. An agreement with President Obama on raising the limit by $2.4 trillion—and tied to serious spending cuts—looked impossible. The more he heard from Obama and his aides in the ...
The White House debt strategy.
At a press conference early last week, Barack Obama used the first question posed to preempt another that he was certain to receive. In the summer of 2009, Obama had explained at some length that raising taxes in an economic downturn was “the last thing you ...
Happy times aren’t here again.
The disappointing employment report made public on July 8 provided fresh evidence that economic growth is slowing and the state of the economy will be the central issue in next year’s presidential election. As if in anticipation of the jobs report, David ...
A misbegotten scheme to boost gun control turns deadly.
The Obama administration’s Justice Department has been no stranger to controversy. Attorney General Eric Holder has staked out controversial policies on everything from terrorist detainee trials to the decision not to pursue voter intimidation charges against ...
Federal earthquake insurance is an awful idea.
Residents of California do not have nearly enough insurance to cover rebuilding costs following a big earthquake. One proposal to deal with this problem, a bill before Congress called the Earthquake Insurance Affordability Act, would not make things better and ...
From the best of intentions to bankruptcy and recriminations
The intentions of Democrats are only the best. They want all of the old to have lavish retirements, all of the young to have scholarships, verse-penning cowboys to have festivals funded by government, and everyone to have access to all the best health care, at no cost to himself. In the face of a huge wave of debt swamping all western nations, this is the core of their argument: They want a fair society, and their critics do not; they want to help, and their opponents like to see people suffer; they want a world filled with love and caring, and their opponents want one of callous indifference, in which the helpless must fend for themselves. (“We must reject both extremes, those who say we shouldn’t help the old and the sick and those who say that we should,” quips the New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg.) But in fact, everyone thinks that we “should” do this; the problem, in the face of the debt crisis, is finding a way that we can. It is ...
Tarek Mehanna is an odd choice of ‘victim’ for so-called progressives
In late March, as Boston emerged from winter, so did the city’s protest community. On the 24th of the month I watched as antiwar students joined forces with partisans of the Palestinian cause and Nation of Islam members in their immaculately pressed suits and ...
The political origins of the meltdown.
To have served as the intellectual architect of the stalest presidential campaign of the modern-media era, to have lost a record number of states, to have gained a reputation for ruthlessness and secrecy in the process—only in Washington is that a recipe for success. Running the 1984 effort of his fellow Minnesotan, Walter Mondale, turned out to be the perfect entrée for James A. Johnson: He wound up a director of the Kennedy Center, chairman of the Brookings Institution, a board member of Goldman Sachs, an adviser to John Kerry in 2004, and—until derailed by scandal—the head of Barack Obama’s vice-presidential search team in 2008.
But if Johnson’s name winds ...
When the going gets tough, the world beckons.
The art of spousal survival in the aging Henry’s court.
It used to be thought that, when England’s uxorious Henry VIII made his sixth attempt at matrimonial bliss in 1543 and took on the twice-widowed (but childless) Katherine Parr, he had at last ...
Illuminating the darker corners of humanity.
Religion was far from absent in the Founding.
God of Liberty
Enlightenment springs from an unlikely source.
The Tree of Life
Joseph Bottum, Friendly Flyer
The man squeezing his way through to the window seat smells of manure. Not a bad, rotten smell, exactly. Just that faint, fresh odor that farmers can’t ever quite get rid of. “He smells funny,” announces the little girl waiting in the aisle, and everyone stares carefully down at the airplane’s industrial-blue carpet, pretending they didn’t hear.
Even the farmer pretends he didn’t hear. And the girl’s mother. And the stewardess. And the smoker shakily clawing nicotine gum out of its wrapper, and the scholarship girl in the Wellesley sweatshirt who’s heading back east to school, and the retired plumber who’s taking his wife to Aruba—they all pretend, because . . . well, because that’s what people do on airplanes. It’s the etiquette of the thing. The manners of flying ...
A Scrapbook correspondent in the state of Washington mails us the June 24 front page of the Seattle Times, reporting the arrest of two men who were plotting a suicide attack on a U.S. military office in Seattle. On July 7, a federal grand jury indicted the two, Walli Mujahidh and Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, on nine felony counts, including, as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, “conspiracy to murder officers and agents of the United States, and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.”
What caught our correspondent’s eye was the surreal juxtaposition of the Seattle Times’s headline description—“looked like everyday guy”—and the adjacent photo of Abdul-Latif (born Joseph Anthony Davis), the “guy” in question, an admirer of Osama ...
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