Deal Breaker


President Obama

What is it about “compromise” that President Obama doesn’t understand? Is it that he and Democrats would have to give up something—perhaps numerous things—to reach an agreement with Republicans? Or is a bipartisan deal unappealing simply because Obama and Democrats would have to share the credit with Republicans?

The issue this time is immigration. And Obama has resumed his familiar role not as compromise-maker but as compromise-wrecker. He spurned bipartisanship on the stimulus and Obamacare and twice raised his demands so high that a grand bargain with Republicans on taxes and spending was impossible, first in 2011, then in 2012.

Now Obama is confronted by a compromise on overhauling the immigration system that’s already been reached by eight senators, four Democrats and four Republicans. In a speech last week, Obama said the agreement is “very ...

Chuck Hagel

Any Profiles in Courage?


On October 3, 2005, President George W. Bush announced his intention to nominate his White House counsel, Harriet Miers, to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. On October 27, after ...


The Issue Left Behind

Republicans and education reform.


Honk if you Love a Teacher

As the Republican party searches its soul and its ranks for policies, strategies, and leaders that can restore it to fighting strength at the national level, few expect education reform to loom large among the issues needing close attention. Yet it’s hard to get very far on such central challenges as economic growth and international competitiveness without paying close heed to the capacity of America’s workforce in the medium term​—​and to the prowess of our scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs over the long haul. 

Keep this in mind, too, as any pollster will tell you: The more Republicans talk about education, the better they do with voters. 

A number of GOP governors, past and present, have figured this out, among them Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and Rick Snyder. And plenty of education reform is underway at ...


The Hagel Fiasco

Worst confirmation hearing ever?


Finally John Warner let Chuck Hagel speak. Warner, having declared that he was discarding his prepared remarks in the interest of sincerity and brevity and then spoken for 15 minutes, turned to Hagel with a ...

Why We Might Get Tax Reform

For incredibly cynical and corrupt reasons.


Argentina hasn’t always been a basket case: In the early 1990s the country embarked on a radical privatization of government assets, with the result being a decade of strong growth and foreign investment. Much of the successes of that time have been reversed, but the story of how the statist ...


Cameron and the Euroskeptics

Color them unimpressed.


David Cameron leaves things late. Leadership by essay crisis, it has been called, a nod to procrastination by generations of students. But his belated response to the mounting political turmoil over Britain’s ...


How to Kill a Story

China versus the Tibetans.


Dharamsala, India

At the Tibetan Children’s Village, where India’s high mountains meet the first row of the Himalayas, the latest arrival is a ...

President Reagan

Documenting Reagan

Another poor effort.


There are now some 1,000 books about Ronald Wilson Reagan and, according to Amazon, 86 documentaries. The bad ones are sloppy; the worst sloppily push a political narrative.


Obama the Bargainer

How to lose friends and alienate Congress


Obama the bargainer

The recent inaugural festivities would have seemed more than a little strange to the Framers of the Constitution, had they been on hand to see the show. After all, here was their “republic” unified in celebration of vast executive powers being vested in a single human being. Did they not wage a bloody war to overcome such 17th-century notions?

And yet, the republic bequeathed by the likes of Madison and Jefferson prizes the inaugural ceremony. It is the most important rite in what Gene Healy of the Cato Institute calls “the cult of the presidency,” which is a decidedly bipartisan affair. Liberals celebrated Obama’s power, conservatives bemoaned it, but all acknowledged it.

What then is this power, exactly? The answer is scarcely to be found in the Constitution itself. Article II is shorter than your average newspaper column and spends most of its ...

Jack Davis

Abandon ‘the Children’

We need a better argument against the massive federal debt


Politicians are not known for originality. In their public speech, most cling to the security of clichéd stock phrases the way toddlers hold fast to threadbare blankets. Thus Republican presidential candidate ...

Donkey and Elephant

Losing Streak

The Democratic ascendancy and why it happened


In the six presidential elections between 1992 and 2012, the Democratic party has regained the solid popular vote majority it enjoyed during the New Deal/Great Society era (1932-64) but relinquished in the six elections between 1968 and 1988.

Books & Arts

Parker Inaction

The criminal mind is not necessarily gripping entertainment.


Donald Westlake

In 1962, Donald E. Westlake created his pulpiest character, the sociopathic criminal-of-all-trades named Parker, who became the protagonist of two dozen novels (written under the pseudonym “Richard Stark”) before Westlake’s death in 2008. In doing so, Westlake became part of an innovative movement in crime fiction: novels told from the point of view of the crooks, not the good guys. What was new in the Parker novels was the utterly cool and detached tone in which Westlake wrote about his character’s brazen amorality.

Westlake had been preceded in this approach by the far darker Jim Thompson, who reveled in the psychopathy of a serial-killer cop in The Killer Inside Me (and whose book The Grifters Westlake would adapt for the big screen in 1990, getting an Oscar ...

‘Stairway to Heaven’ (2002) by Didier Faustino

Building Blocs

An exhibition at the intersection of politics, art, and urban design.


New York

The phrase “political architecture” evokes the idea of architecture for ...

Copernicus and his planisphere (detail), 1661

Seeing and Believing

The scientific method for comprehending the world.


In 1935, Ernst Gombrich, scion of a bourgeois Viennese Jewish family, and newly minted Ph.D. in art history, found himself out of work. Walter Neurath, a friend and publisher, asked him to look over an English history book for children and, if ...

At the LBJ Ranch, 1965

Woman of Texas

The 20th-century journey of Lady Bird Johnson.


Whatever you may think about the reliability of oral histories, the set of interviews that

David Shields

Books of Hours

One man’s meat is another man’s stuffing.


The title of David Shields’s latest book could hardly be more straightforward, but by the time we are finished with it, we are not sure how Shields would define “literature,” or what it

Sgt. John Guerra of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Baghdad, February 07

Victory in Iraq

How it was won, how it may be lost.


It was December 2006. Al Qaeda was near the peak of its influence in Iraq. The United States was widely considered to have been defeated in a humiliating war of choice in a country of extraordinary importance.


Say It Ain’t So, Lance

Philip Terzian, circumspect fan


Donald Westlake

Stan Musial, the St. Louis Cardinal who died a few weeks ago, seems to have been one of those great athletes of good character—player-hero, civic monument, example to youth—that sportswriters forever seek but seldom find.

If you’re a reader of a certain age you might remember a time when O.J. Simpson—now resident at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada—was universally admired, a nice guy, superior football player, star of movie comedies and TV commercials, blessed with a sense of humor about himself, and winning manner. Not anymore! Now the axe has fallen on Lance Armstrong, professional cyclist and cancer survivor, whose many victories in the Olympics and the Tour de France were won with the help of performance-enhancing drugs. 

What really infuriates the mentioning class, however, is not so much Armstrong’s ...


Faster and Furiouser: The Sequel


A store calling itself Fearless Distributing opened early last year on an out-of-the-way street in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, offering designer clothes, athletic shoes, jewelry and drug paraphernalia,” begins an investigative report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the latest Keystone Kops operation carried out by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). As you might expect from the agency that carried out the disastrous “Fast and Furious” gunrunning program along the Mexican border, the store was part of an elaborate sting aimed at getting guns off the streets. The agency arrested some 30 people on low-level criminal charges in conjunction with the operation, but in at least three cases the ATF seems to have identified the wrong suspect. In one case, they charged a man who was in prison during the ...

The Andrews Sisters

The Bugle Boy Is Blowin’ Taps

If anyone doubts that fame can be fleeting, The Scrapbook recommends the January 31 edition of the New York Times where, on page A17, may be found an obituary for Patty Andrews, ...

Men at work

Social Science News You Can Use

There’s an important article in the latest American Sociological Review which The Scrapbook passes along in the interest of disseminating scientific ...


IRS Update

The Scrapbook had no idea legal briefs and decisions could provide as many laugh-out-loud moments as a P. G. Wodehouse novel. But a welcome update to our item last week on a federal court’s ruling that the IRS’s ...

Energy Policy
What to expect when no one's expecting

Required Reading

The Scrapbook is delighted to announce that our colleague Jonathan V. Last’s brilliant essay, “America’s One-Child Policy,” which appeared in these pages two-and-a-half years ago, has grown into an even more brilliant new book, ...


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