The Republican Party in Opposition


A Republican speaks in opposition

In March 1975, with the United States in post-Watergate disarray at home, stunned by repeated diplomatic defeats at the United Nations, and about to suffer the humiliation of seeing an ally at whose side we had fought for many years be overrun by the North Vietnamese Communist Army, Daniel Patrick Moynihan asked: “What then does the United States do?”

His answer, in an article in Commentary magazine:

 The United States goes into opposition. This is our circumstance. We are a minority. We are outvoted. This is neither an unprecedented nor an intolerable situation. The question is what do we make of it. So far we have made little—nothing—of what is in fact an opportunity. We go about dazed ...

President Barack Obama and Sen. John Kerry

The Iraq Syndrome


It is not possible—at least not yet—to program a computer to predict all the consequences of adopting one foreign policy over another. Policymakers therefore tend to act with one eye cocked on the rearview mirror, making decisions based on ...

A man prays with protestors

The Nonexistent Red Line


Last week, we learned of a secret State Department assessment that forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar ...


Dead in the Water

The federal flood insurance fiasco.



By almost any analysis, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)—the recipient of a $9.7 billion bailout in the wake of Hurricane Sandy—doesn’t work. It is poorly conceived, it’s terribly mismanaged, and it encourages harmful behavior.

Of course, the same can be said for dozens of other federal efforts. What sets the NFIP apart is that, in looking to address what was at the time a clear market failure, Congress created a program that has so influenced the course of society these past four and a half decades that getting rid of it would be nearly impossible.

Before Congress set up the NFIP in 1968, only a handful of very small insurance companies wrote flood coverage as part of conventional homeowners’ policies. Although a demand for flood insurance clearly existed, nobody would ...

presideng barack obama

Let’s Not Make a Deal

The great non-compromiser.


President Obama complained in a Saturday radio and Internet address that crucial issues are resolved in Washington only at the last possible moment. It was late December when ...

Chuck Hagel, Louis Johnson

Anti-Defense Secretary

Would Chuck Hagel be the second coming of Louis Johnson?


Much of the opposition to President Obama’s choice of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel to become secretary of defense has focused on his apparent hostility to Israel and his seeming ...

Sen. Tim Scott

Grand New Party

These are not your father’s Republicans.


Ironies will never get stranger than that a rock-ribbed conservative from South Carolina would bring Diversity with a capital D to the old, white, and male Republican party, but that ...

homes foreclosed on

Money in Bad Faith

The depredations of the Fed.


The Federal Reserve is not your friend. Whether you reside on Wall Street or Main Street, whether you are a borrower or a saver,

ebassy burns in benghazi

Debacle in Ben­ghazi

It’s worse than an injustice; it’s a humiliation.


On September 21, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to reporters before a meeting with the Pakistani foreign minister. She addressed the September 11 assault on U.S. ...


Obama’s Regulatory Rampage

Fasten your seatbelts, because the courts and Congress won’t be able to slow it down much


Obama and his red tape

Despite all of the White House speechwriters’ labors on the Inaugural and State of the Union Addresses, their attempt to define the tone of the president’s second term is unlikely to improve upon the president’s own words, a year ago: “Where Congress is not willing to act, we’re going to go ahead and do it ourselves.” It would be “nice” to work with Congress, he conceded, but he and his regulators were ready to act unilaterally. 

That threat echoed the White House press secretary’s own warning, just weeks earlier, that although Congress ought to act to improve the economy, the president “can also act independently—or, rather, administratively, and exercise his executive authority to benefit the American people in other ways. And he will continue to do that.” ...

Books & Arts

How China Was 'Lost'

And could it have been saved?


Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Madame Chiang, General Joseph Stilwell, 1942

What was called by some “the loss of China”—the unexpected victory in 1949 of the Chinese Communists over the American-backed Nationalists—also destroyed the career of the diplomat John Paton Davies Jr. (1908-1999) as, in the 1950s, he and other like-minded “China hands” were wrongly accused of having been responsible for the defeat. Davies’s China reporting had certainly been pessimistic about Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist government—which Franklin Roosevelt was determined should take its place as one of the “Big Four” after World War II—while consistently upbeat about the Communists, to whom, he forecast, “China’s destiny” belonged.

The charge, however, confused accuracy (the Communists did, in fact, win) with advocacy, needlessly sacrificing one of the ablest diplomats of his generation.

Davies was born in China to missionary parents and educated at the University of Wisconsin, Yenching University in Beijing (which was built by American philanthropy, ...

Robert Ingersoll

Rational Man

The skeptic who scandalized Victorian America.


Robert Ingersoll was fat. The Great Agnostic, as he was known in his day, was so portly that critics sighed over the “spectacular auto da fé” he would have made if set alight for heresy—as he surely would have been in an earlier era.

Speaking to sold-out crowds around the nation at the ...


A Vessel's Voyage

The journey of a cameo, from Cleopatra's Egypt to modern Italy.


Bringing an inanimate thing to life has tantalized story-tellers from Aeschylus (Prometheus Bound) to Mary Shelley (Frankenstein) to Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein). But when the life spirit is encased in a mesmerizing artifact rather than a rampaging monster, the ...

Between the Lines

What is the meaning, and intent, of Hebrew Scripture?


Yoram Hazony is frustrated. A scholar at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, he has sought to bring Judaism in conversation with Western thought. The West, he believes, has not returned the favor.

Indeed, Hazony believes that academic opinion has turned against the Hebrew Bible. Neither ...

Black Comedy

Quentin Tarantino's version of history as farce.


Like Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino has now made an American slavery film to go with his Holocaust film (Inglourious Basterds, 2009)—and like Spielberg, he secured Best Picture nominations for both of his epic journeys into shameful human history. But while Spielberg treats his ...


Old Volvos Never Die

Terry Eastland’s brave new Volvo


Katherine eastland

Late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve, my wife Jill and I were driving through Vienna, Virginia, toward Tysons Corner when we found ourselves in front of, and then beside, and then right behind an old gray Volvo wagon. The car caught our eyes, and quickly we realized why, for it wasn’t just another car on the road but a car we’d once owned—from 1987, to be precise, when we bought it new, until December 2011. That’s not a misprint: The car was ours for more than 24 years.

It’s not as though we bought the wagon intending to keep it for a generation. No, we bought it having decided, as people do when they buy cars, that it was the right one for us. 

With a 1-year-old, Katherine, to carry about the city, Jill wanted the safest wagon around, and Volvo had a reputation for making heavy, sturdy vehicles. While I was reluctant to own a car made by a company headquartered ...


Oral Argument

Justice Thomas

When Greta Garbo appeared in Anna Christie (1930), her first movie with sound, MGM breathlessly advertised the film by announcing that “Garbo talks!” This made a certain sense at the time: Garbo was a big star and was Swedish, and there had been uncertainty about whether her accented English would translate successfully to the screen. By contrast, it is a little more difficult to understand the front-page story last week in the Washington Post (“The seven-year silence ends—but what did the justice say?”) when Justice Clarence Thomas spoke from the bench for the first time since 2006. 

First, a couple of facts. Thomas is the rare ...

the president holds a child

For the Children

In arguing for stricter gun control, the White House has a fundamental problem: The facts simply aren’t on its side. Gun ownership has increased in this country for decades ...


Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money—but Mostly Lawyers

Last week brought more gruesome headlines from Africa, with a botched raid by the Algerian military to free hostages seized by al Qaeda-linked terrorists at a natural gas plant in the ...


Sentences We Didn’t Finish

I’d love to see the president launch us on an aspirational journey. My choice would be to connect every home and business in America to the Internet at one gigabit ...


A friend writes reprovingly of the reference—in our profile two weeks ago of Ken Myers, founder of Mars Hill Audio Journal—to “Bach’s motet ...

See no evil.


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