The Obama Retreat


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Last week, we wrote on this page that given the Obama administration’s lack of leadership on Iran in this “period of consequences,” Congress should step in to fill the void. As our editorial went to press, a bipartisan group of 44 senators began to do just that. In a letter organized by Senators Robert Menendez and Roy Blunt, the group outlined a series of steps Iran would have needed to take at the June 18-19 Moscow talks to justify further negotiations. These included shutting its previously covert enrichment facility near Qom, freezing enrichment above 5 percent, and shipping its stockpile of uranium enriched above that point out of the country.

The letter noted, “Absent these steps, we must conclude that Tehran is using the talks as a cover to buy time as it advances toward nuclear weapons capability.” And the senators called on the president to “reevaluate the utility of further talks at this time and ...

Eric Holder



Last Wednesday, the White House stunned observers by asserting executive privilege in its refusal to turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal that resulted in the death of U.S. border patrol agent Brian Terry. The ...


Democratic Heretics

Would FDR, Truman, JFK, or LBJ be nominated by their party today?


Democratic Hertics

The never-ending Democratic attempt to resurrect the strategy that destroyed Barry Goldwater in 1964—he’s an extremist, don’t you know—rolls on, with liberals and the media trying to tar the Republican party as an “ideological outlier” in American politics. 

There are three legs to this rickety barstool of an argument. One is the pseudo-social science findings of Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann that congressional Republican voting records have lurched sharply to the right in recent years (though it is not obvious why this should be bad news). The second is the populism of the Tea Party, which, to be sure, is a disruptive force in the Republican party much as the anti-Vietnam war movement was a disruptive force in the Democratic party in the late 1960s and 1970s. The wobbliest leg of the triad is the argument, unfortunately abetted by Jeb Bush, that the GOP has become too extreme even for ...

Romney posters

They Pack a Wallop

The super-PAC juggernaut.


For three weeks in May, Republican super-PACs took turns attacking Democratic senator Claire McCaskill in TV ads. Republicans hadn’t held their primary​—​it’s not until August 7​—​but McCaskill wound up trailing all three of the GOP candidates in polls. Now ...

 American belt-tightening

Pro-Growth Austerity

Tightening the government’s belt doesn’t have to squeeze the economy.


Austerity and growth are increasingly viewed as opposites: If one is selected, the other must be sacrificed. Policies to promote growth require that austerity in government spending be forgone, while policies that impose austerity in government spending do so at the ...

Plans for the Eisenhower memorial

Doing Right by Ike

Let’s give him the memorial he deserves.


Only in Washington: After 12 years of study and millions of dollars spent, a congressionally appointed commission has yet to break ground on the National Mall for a memorial to President Dwight David Eisenhower. The memorial, which could cost American ...


The People Versus Vladimir Putin

Russia’s strongman may be more vulnerable than you think.


After Vladimir Putin’s predictable victory in the Russian presidential election in March, the opposition​—​which had enjoyed a few heady months of visibility and freedom after the December parliamentary vote became a debacle for the Kremlin​—​seemed ...

President Obama

Obama’s Victory Plan

The economy won’t necessarily do him in.


If you’re wondering how President Obama plans to get reelected in 2012—and why he might succeed—look back not to 2008 but to his successful campaign to win congressional passage of Obamacare during 2009 and early 2010.

Obamacare generated popular ...

François Hollande

A Conversation in Paris

As the Socialists take over.



It was a grand election, and the Socialists swept the field. They won the presidency and the parliament, on top of which they already controlled most of the regional councils—in Burgundy and Poitou and ...


Seven Bloody Days

Forgotten battlefields; monuments to vanity


General George McClellan

Richmond, Va.
It doesn’t take long to walk the Malvern Hill battlefield. Less than an hour. And there is not much to see. There are a few cannons at the top of the hill, where they were on July 1, 1862, firing remorselessly into the lines of assaulting Confederate infantry that never came close to reaching them and took appalling casualties in the effort. Alongside a trail that meanders through the mature hardwood trees at the base of the hill, there are some shallow depressions in the ground that a plaque describes as hasty graves where some of the Confederate dead had been buried. There is one structure at the top of the hill that looks, more or less, the way it did on the day of the battle. Some split rail fences for verisimilitude. And that is about it.

Measured against, say, the 4,000 acres of Shiloh or Gettysburg with its 1,300 monuments, Malvern Hill is decidedly minor league as Civil War battlefields ...

Books & Arts

Austen’s Power

The novelist’s advice to ‘recovering Romantics.’


Felicity Jones as Catherine Moreland, 'Northanger Abbey,' 2007

For decades now, media marketers and content producers have been milking the Jane Austen craze, first with fine dramatizations of the novels themselves for small and large screen, then with a vast bazaar of knockoffs—sequels by the score (Letters from Pemberley: The First Year, Captain Wentworth’s Diary), modern adaptations (Emma as Valley Girl in the movie Clueless), and even exotica introducing zombies and sea monsters into the Austen genre. What on earth is the appeal?

Elizabeth Kantor has taken the trouble to think through a serious answer—to wit, Jane Austen “is the cure” for our modern disillusionment about happiness in marriage. Specifically, what keeps us coming back for more is the dignity, elegance, and sheer competence of the Austen heroine’s pursuit of happy love. A literary scholar steeped in Jane Austen’s fiction and letters, but also a happily married wife and mother, ...

The USS constitution

On to Canada?

The other side’s view of ‘the struggle for mastery in North America.’


Francis Scott Key and the rockets’ red glare at Fort McHenry. Dolley Madison rescuing Washington’s portrait from the sack of the White House. Andrew Jackson’s lopsided victory at New Orleans after the Treaty of Ghent. These are colorful episodes that people at least ...

Palm tree eclipse.

Addicted to Murder

Crime in the realm of recovery and redemption.


A drug enforcement agent, a friend of a friend, used to say that society is like a skyscraper: Most people stay on one or two floors, only getting to know people about as rich or poor as themselves. Only the cops go to every floor, from the subbasements ...

Protest at the Danish embassy, London, 2006

Annals of Intolerance

The Islamist war on freedom of conscience.


Paul Marshall and Nina Shea have performed an important service with this account of laws and customs against “apostasy” and “blasphemy” in Muslim countries. Marshall, a senior fellow, and Shea, the director at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in ...

Chanel No. 5

Fortune’s Lump

The unlikely alchemy that leaves a scent.


A man wanders along a beach, picking up smelly rocks and poking things with sticks. If one of the gray-green lumps he seeks happens to have just the right scent—of squid, musk, and fecal matter—it could change his life. Ambergris is a rare substance ...

‘The Boyhood of Raleigh’ (1870) by Sir John Everett Millais

Courtier Prince

The adventurous history of an Elizabethan favorite.


When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

In John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the courageous but overmatched Jimmy Stewart gets credit for laying out a desperado in ...

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo

Houses of Cards

One shot, and Europe descends into catastrophe.


World War I, the great wrong turn of modern history, began with a wrong turn. It was made by the driver of the open car carrying the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife on their visit to Sarajevo in June 1914. The ...

A couple in Paris

On the Brink

The City of Light under cover of darkness.


Long before their tanks roared through the Ardennes, the Nazi regime had Paris in its sights. Hitler’s lunatic ambition had its crafty side; as his urbane diplomats charmed French aristocrats, his secret minions mounted a cultural offensive aimed at ...

George W. Bush

Bush II Revised

The policies of George W. Bush are winning the war on terror.


On great occasions,” the president wrote, “every good officer must be ready to risk himself in going beyond the strict line of the law.” In fact he would later say, during a national security ...

Graham Greene reading on shipboard, 1955

Booked for Travel

How going places leads to the printed page.


We all know that books are vessels, transporting us to other worlds. Less celebrated is how travel, our real-life discovery of the world, leads us to books. 

I’m not talking about airport novels. I am always struck not ...

Emily Dickinson

The Groaning Shelf

Five new titles that instruct and entertain.


Herewith a handful of assorted volumes that, having crossed the literary editor’s desk, strike The Weekly Standard as interesting—even pleasant—reading in a variety of moods and circumstances.

Only in America, as it were, could ...


The Law of Dismality

Joseph Bottum, the dismal scientist


The Law of Dismality

Back in the dark ages of superstition and disease, before science brought suffering humanity into our present era of perpetual peace and economic stability, people were very unenlightened. As Harris (2010) and Hitchens (2007) note, it was a dark time. Very dark.

We shouldn’t assume, however, that everyone who lived before us was entirely foolish. Yes, they were all under five feet tall, died at age 39, and smoked unfiltered cigarettes while driving nonelectric cars without seat belts. To examine their bleak lives, however, is to discover that many of them had a kind of prescientific intuition that—when put on a proper scientific foundation—can prove useful, even today.

Take, for example, the curious manner in which bad events seem to clump together. The car gets sideswiped, the sink backs up, the stock market falls, the Yankees win. And somehow it all seems to merge ...


Risky Romney Business

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney has a well-deserved reputation as risk-averse and cautious. His campaign team has made no secret of its strategy to have their man tiptoe to the presidency by focusing almost exclusively on President Obama’s stewardship of the economy. The execution of this strategy depends on Romney doing nothing to “distract” from the economy, meaning that Romney’s innate caution is being reinforced at every turn by those around him. 

To some extent, this approach is understandable. For months, voters have told pollsters that the economy is the most important issue in the election, and handling the economy is one of the few issue areas where Romney enjoys a real advantage over Obama. 

But there’s a downside, too. Voters may care most about the economy, but they don’t care only about the economy. And by seeking to avoid doing anything controversial, Romney has ...


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