Etch A Sketch Politics


Etch A Sketch

Last week, Mitt Romney’s communications director, Eric Fehrnstrom, made a terrible gaffe: He told the truth, as he saw it, on national TV. Asked, “Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?” Fehrnstrom answered, “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Fehrnstrom said in public what much of the political class was saying in private. And what he said shouldn’t be shocking. Guess what? Candidates adjust their message in the course of political campaigns, and especially when moving from one stage of the campaign to another, from the nominating contest to the general election. Fehrnstrom may be overly confident about the ability of a campaign to “start all over again,” as if ...

Gas prices

Anti-Energy in the Executive


After weeks of high gas prices, President Obama is on the defensive about his energy policy. On March 15, he justified his administration’s high-profile green energy failures by invoking a predecessor’s alleged skepticism of innovations: “Rutherford ...


A Path to Security


Rep. Paul Ryan calls his budget plan the “Path to Prosperity,” but it could be termed as well a “Path to Security.” In reclaiming more than $200 billion of the nearly $500 billion in military cuts made in last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA), the ...


Bureaucratic Gas

To lower prices at the pump, abolish the boutique fuel regime.


Boutique gasoline

Quick: How many kinds of gasoline do we use in America? Most people would say three or six: regular unleaded, mid-grade, and premium, along with the ethanol blends of the same that have become nearly universal. The actual number is somewhere above 45, though hard to pin down exactly, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). It might even be closer to 70. Thirty-four states use specially blended gasoline, usually during the summer, which is one reason gasoline prices always rise during the “driving season.”

If you want a good idea of why this makes no sense, meet me in St. Louis. St. Louis, Missouri, uses one kind of gasoline; East St. Louis, Illinois, right across the Mississippi River, uses a different blend. Meanwhile, the surrounding suburbs use a third kind. Same metropolitan area, different gasolines, and they can’t be sold across jurisdictional lines, so refiners and ...


The ‘Clean Energy’ Stalking Horse

A carbon tax by any other name . . .


They’re not calling it a carbon tax or cap and trade. But make no mistake, the national “clean energy” mandate introduced earlier this month by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and eight cosponsors entails both a tax and a trading measure.


A Model Intervention

Has the Libya precedent paralyzed the Obama ­administration on Syria?


The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, and NATO’s top military commander, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, took to the pages of the latest Foreign Affairs for an unusual but deserved victory lap over the campaign that led to the fall of ...


Risk-Averse Romney

The candidate attempts to reassure conservatives.


Mitt Romney wants to eliminate government programs and shutter cabinet agencies. Doing so, he says, is “the critical thing” that needs to be done in order to bring government books back into balance and to begin restoring the promise of America. ...


Al Qaeda’s Network in Iran

Revelations from a German courtroom.


Koblenz, Germany
An al Qaeda cell slated to take part in one of the final plots ordered by Osama bin Laden made use of an Iran-based terror network that, according to the Obama administration, operates “under ...


What’s Left, Who’s Right?

Why did the Chinese Communists purge Bo Xilai?



The crisis over Bo Xilai in huge Chongqing, a city-state double the size of Switzerland with 28 million people, proves the left lives on in China, despite 35 years of Communist party flight from Maoism—and despite U.S. China specialists’ calling leftists “conservatives.” A pro-free-market right is also intellectually strong, and the Beijing government seems hesitant to attack it. Are a hundred flowers blooming? Is the party-state skillfully balancing left and right to keep politics stable and boring for the populace? Or are darker clouds on the horizon?

Bo Xilai, as Communist party chief in hillside, cacophonous Chongqing, embraced the poor with housing and social benefits, encouraged red story-telling, “singing red songs,” and mass texting of messages displaying Mao’s thoughts. Bo, who boasts a famous father but has some history of opportunism, hitched his rising career to this deployment of leftist ...


A Tale of Two Budgets

Paul Ryan draws the contrast Republicans will need this fall.


Last spring, when House Republicans passed Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s ambitious fiscal agenda, it would have been easy to make two basic guesses about the proposal’s lasting impact: On the one hand, it seemed that the budget’s focus ...

Car Wars

Car Wars

General Motors is no longer ‘Government Motors,’ if it ever was. So why won’t the Obama administration sell its GM stock?


The folks at General Motors are blessed with more foresight than you might have suspected. They were prepared when Vice President Joe Biden wanted to address a United Auto Workers rally at the GM plant in Toledo, Ohio, that manufactures transmissions. ...

Books & Arts

A Movement Explained

What does the Tea Party mean?


Tea Party

The world came unhinged in the fall of 2008.

The United States had been in recession since the previous December, according to the Bureau of Economic Research, and in March 2008 the Fed had brokered a panicked fire sale of Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase. But the real drama did not begin until September, when the government nationalized mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, the government took over AIG, global credit markets froze, and a run began on money market funds.

To restore calm, President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke proposed the $700 billion emergency Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to bail out insolvent financial institutions. TARP failed in the House of Representatives on the first vote, sending markets into a tailspin, but was later passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president in ...

David Hume

Natural Philosopher

The skeptical mind, and sympathetic character, of David Hume.


After pretending to study law, and abandoning a brief attempt to work for a sugar importer in Bristol, David Hume, the second son of a prominent Edinburgh family, decided to return home and live with his mother, sister, and brother. He was then in his ...

Game of Thrones

Out of This World

George R. R. Martin and his fantastic universe.


The 11-year-old daughter of a great noble house is brought to court as bride to the crown prince, only to find herself reduced to a hostage against her mutinous family. A king’s fatal injury on a boar hunt may or may not have been an ...


Journey to Clubland

‘A place where people can go to escape, but still belong.’


Reader, have you ever been inside a London club? 

I do not mean a jazz club, or a nightclub, or a golf club. I refer to those pillared edifices on Pall Mall ...

Friends with Kids

The Children’s Hour

A modern comedy of manners just misses the mark.


For a while, Friends with Kids is a breath of fresh air, a movie that offers a satirical look at fashionable New Yorkers as sharp in its depiction of low-level intimate conflict as a really good old New Yorker cartoon.


Down the AmaZone

Joseph Epstein, anxious author.


Epstein Amazon

No greater fantasts exist than writers, who are able to bring an extra dollop or two of imagination to their unreality. About no subject are they more fantastic than the potential commercial success of their books. When I publish a book with the least chance of popular appeal, I am unable, even after all these years, to suppress dreams of shekels raining down upon me. (“I can stand a lot of gold,” said Henry James, who was himself subject to these fantasies.) I imagine villas in Tuscany, apartments in Paris, a nicely understated Bentley in my garage. Not, let me hasten to add, that I am in the least need or want of these items—ownership of any one of them would make me even nuttier than I now am. But a boy—quite an old boy, as it turns out—can dream, can’t he?

I once came close to achieving serious commercial success with a book. David Brooks, who reviewed it in the Wall Street Journal, declared it would be the ...


Biden the Boastful

Biden the Boastful

The incomparable Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor died last June at 96 after an astonishing life, remembered both for his amazingly erudite travel writing and feats of almost super-human heroism as a leader of the resistance to the Nazi occupation of Crete. It was in the latter connection that The Scrapbook thought of Leigh Fermor last week, for reasons we will get to in a bit. 

But first, let us consult the obituary that appeared last June in the Telegraph, as it provides an admirably concise account of Leigh Fermor’s most famous contribution to the war effort. Having acquired fluency in Greek and great familiarity with the terrain in the years before the war, he was infiltrated onto the island after it fell to the Nazis in 1941, to lead the guerrilla activities of the Cretan partisans. As the Telegraph recounted:

His occasional ...


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