Sound and Fury


Code Pink

What to make of Rand Paul’s 12 hours and 52 minutes of fame? Was his filibuster on the floor of the Senate last Wednesday, as Charles Krauthammer said on Fox’s Special Report, though substantively misguided, “a stroke of political genius”? Was it, as Seth Lipsky suggested in a column in the New York Post, “wonderful,” signifying both that “our country is in a constitutional moment” and “the rise of a new generation of Republican constitutional conservatives”? Or was it, as William Shakespeare wrote ahead of the fact, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”?

Forced to choose among three of our favorite pundits, we incline toward Shakespeare. That’s not to say Krauthammer isn’t right to be struck by Paul’s political talent. The senator dramatically seized a moment to make a point. He made himself briefly a central figure on the national stage. He demonstrated a political entrepreneurship that’s ...

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith

What Did Iran Know?


Last week, the U.S. government announced that Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s Kuwaiti-born spokesman and son-in-law, had been arrested in Jordan and is awaiting trial in New York City. The Obama administration’s decision to place Abu Ghaith in the criminal ...

President Obama

Spender in Chief


On March 6, Barack Obama invited a dozen Republican senators to dine with him at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington. The group spent virtually all of their time discussing debt, deficits, and spending. Obama picked up the tab. The next day, he hosted House Budget chairman ...


Who Will End Up with Heartburn?

The president breaks bread with Republicans.


Who Will End Up with Heartburn?

President Obama’s outreach to congressional Republicans isn’t a minor tactical shift. It’s a course correction. Five days after denouncing Republicans as tools of “the well-off and well-connected,” he had dinner at the swanky Jefferson Hotel in Washington with a dozen GOP senators. Not only had Obama invited them, but he paid the bill. The next day, he hosted Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, for lunch at the White House.

Obama doesn’t go out of his way to socialize with Republicans. He avoids them. So why would he engage them so vigorously now? Simple. He is slipping politically. His overwrought claims about the effect of the sequester backfired. In little more than a week, his presidential job approval fell dangerously below 50 percent, dipping to 43 percent in one poll. His focus on winning control of the House in the 2014 midterm election stamped him as a partisan president of half the ...

Is she the one to close with and destroy hostile forces?

Congress Goes AWOL

Over women in combat.


When news broke that the Obama administration was lifting the rule excluding women from combat units, the rare sound of bipartisan applause reverberated on Capitol Hill. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, one of two conservative women in the Senate, said she was “pleased” with the change, issued ...

Paul Ryan: The fiscal chickens have come home to roost.

A Difference that Can’t Be Split

The parties have to fight over the budget because the status quo is untenable.


This week Paul Ryan’s House Budget Committee is set to release its fiscal year 2014 budget, which promises to balance Uncle Sam’s books in 10 years. Ryan’s offering will elicit lamentations from the usual quarters of the mainstream media: House Republicans have lurched sharply to the right, ...

Can we let some of them out?

The Party of Prison Reform

Conservatives lead the way.


Michael Hough​—​a second-term Republican state legislator from Frederick County, Md.​—​is about as conservative as blue-state legislators come. He played a prominent role in opposing the state’s new gay marriage law, holds an “A” rating from the National Rifle ...


The Double Bind

What stands in the way of a Republican revival? Republicans.


Elephant double Bind

I doubt John Boehner has read much feminist theory, but it’s never too late for him to start. He and other GOP leaders, not to mention the Republicans who want to run for president in 2016, might want to familiarize themselves with the concept of the double bind. They are in the middle of one, and it will be difficult for them to escape.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote the classic treatment of the subject in her 1995 book, Beyond the Double Bind: Women and Leadership. A trap confronts successful women, Jamieson argued. They can’t display mastery in the workplace without sacrificing their sense of femininity. On the other hand, they can’t emphasize the feminine without being condemned as bimbos.

Hobson’s choice; Catch-22; double bind​—​all of these expressions describe situations in which you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Situations of ...

YPG fighters in Sere Kaniyah

The Kurds Are for the Kurds

Syria’s other combatants


Syrian Kurdistan
In northeast Syria, from the border with Iraq to the disputed town of Seri Kaniyah, a de facto Kurdish autonomous region has emerged. The area, known to the Kurds as western Kurdistan, is ruled by the Democratic Union party (PYD). This is the Syrian franchise of ...

Books & Arts

Not-So-Silent Cal

The underestimation ends here.


President Calvin Coolidge, October 2, 1924

Ronald Reagan astonished much of Washington when, in 1981, he hung Calvin Coolidge’s portrait in the White House Cabinet Room.  

The punditocracy saw in Reagan’s gesture further evidence that he was, indeed, an “amiable dunce,” as Clark Clifford maintained. Only a fool would choose to emulate a predecessor whom the chattering classes of his own era thought a fool. But Reagan knew what he was doing. In selecting a role model to symbolize the direction in which he wished to take the country—or in Obamaspeak, the trajectory he chose to embark on as a transformational president—Reagan cast his sights back to a time when Washington played less of a role in people’s daily lives and the creative impulses of the American people soared. 

This took Reagan back nearly 60 years, and to Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933). Reagan’s search for a beacon to guide him, at least in the ...

‘Jacob Receiving the Tunic of Joseph’ by Diego Velázquez (ca. 1630)

Patriarch of Identity

Who is Jacob, and what does he mean?


Jacob dreams of ladders. A romantic reading of his story would see the ladder as a metaphor of ascent. This child who begins as a deceiver ends surrounded by his children, and is brought back home to Israel for burial. A preacher would tie it up (as many have) with a ...

M.R. James, ca. 1900

An English Chill

Rediscovering the ghost stories of M. R. James.


Every Christmas Eve, M. R. James (1862-1936), the celebrated scholar of medieval literature and provost of King’s College, Cambridge, enacted a strange ritual. After participating in the Christmas service at King’s College Chapel—that miracle of 15th-century Gothic architecture ...

Petri Dish

Ignoble Experiment

This is what happens when dogma distorts science.


A meta-study that appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine last September found no “strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.” A dozen Stanford researchers combed some 237 studies ...

wrapping paper

The Paper Chase

Vengeance is mine when the crime is so abhorrent.


Recently, I drove to the nearby village of Pleasantville to buy my wife a couple of books as a birthday present. I also bought some festive wrapping paper. The paper had lots of brightly colored fruits silhouetted against a shiny white surface. ...

Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana

If the Slipper Fits

Cinderella gets the update she deserves.


Is there any fairytale more maddening than “Cinderella”? Other classic stories force their heroes and heroines to undergo a journey from innocence to experience in which they are punished for immoral choices and tested to show their moral worth; Cinderella is rewarded ...


Health of Nations

Matt Labash, health nut


Matt Labash Gives Up

Being a health nut and a creature of habit, I claim as my breakfast of champions six pieces of bacon and a large tankard of iced tea spiked with Sweet’N Low. That way, I quickly cover the essential food groups (sodium, grease, caffeine, saccharin, etc.). But in this age of the Nanny Nutritionist, I’m cognizant of the fact that the good life is a well-balanced one. So on two out of three mornings, I dutifully take up my bowl of high-fiber Special K, sweetened with a dollop of organic honey and studded with fresh blackberries. Doing so causes me to feel clean and whole and slightly accomplished, since, like most Americans, I enjoy setting unimpressive goals, then celebrating myself for achieving them. 

For in choosing such healthy goodness, I am not merely fortifying, but antioxidizing. The plentiful antioxidants in the likes of honey and blackberries—as any seeker who reads omnipresent Internet health squibs ...


The Customer is Always Wrong

Washington Post Building

The recent decision of the Washington Post to abolish its ombudsman has inspired a variety of responses among the chattering classes. Some have been cynical, some have been furious, and some have been anguished​—​although, to be truthful, we took a certain pleasure in Post publisher Katharine Weymouth’s announcement, which was clothed in the kind of corporatespeak​—​“The world has changed, and we at the Post must change with it”​—​intended to disguise economic decline as social progress. We fall somewhere between cynicism and indifference.

No, here at The Scrapbook, we see all this as a natural evolution of the Internet era. Like most newspapers, the Washington Post has relentlessly shrunk in size and stature, and the shrinkage has taken its toll on what might be called the personality of the Post. Its writers and editors are disconcerted by the brave new world of journalism, even angry​—​as who wouldn’t be if their ...

Tea Party

News Flash: Study Confirms Tea Party’s 18th-Century Roots

A new conspiracy theory began percolating on the port side of the Internet last month. The essentials of the story are best summed up by this Huffington Post headline: “Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaire Koch Brothers.” ...

Hugo Chavez

Now on Display in Caracas

Recently deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is officially joining the ranks of Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung, and Ferdinand Marcos​—​yes, El Jefe is now a member of the Glass Coffin Club for Villains and Dictators (not to be confused with the Glass ...

Reinforcements Have Arrived


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