EDITORIAL

The Soft Underbelly of Obama­care

BY JAMES C. CAPRETTA and YUVAL LEVIN

Obamacare

For opponents of Obamacare, it almost seems like the law offers too many targets to choose from. Its effects on premiums and costs look to be highly unpopular, its perverse incentives are already harming employment, its state exchanges will hand out costly subsidies without the necessary checks against fraud, the promises of its champions—from keeping costs down to keeping the coverage and doctors you have—are proving empty, its lawless implementation is anathema to our system of government, and on and on. Where to focus their efforts to best combine political appeal with practical effect has been a real challenge for Obamacare’s foes.

But fortunately for the cause of repeal and replace, the most essential part of Obamacare is also among the most unpopular: the individual mandate. This is where efforts to use the GOP’s limited leverage should be concentrated.

The law’s champions have always ...

UPI

‘A Different Country’

BY WILLIAM KRISTOL

The Weekly Standard has paid tribute to Philip Larkin’s great 1969 poem “Homage to a Government” before. In light of the release this week of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s strategic review laying out the dramatic reductions in our fundamental defense capabilities that current ...

Joscelyn

Hunger Games

BY THOMAS JOSCELYN

In a newly released video, Ayman al Zawahiri, confederate and successor of Osama bin Laden, vows to free al Qaeda’s “imprisoned brothers” at Guantánamo. Seeking to capitalize on the controversy over the U.S. government’s force-feeding of some detainees, Zawahiri says the ongoing ...

ARTICLES

Let’s Not Make a Deal

Obama and Reid kill tax reform.

BY FRED BARNES

Gary Locke

Tax reform is dead. President Obama killed it, with an assist from Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

To be exact, it’s officially dead now for this year and next. But in truth, it’s been dead for months because Obama, in private negotiations with Republicans conducted by his aides, rejected the one thing that makes tax reform politically possible: revenue neutrality. It allows the tax base to be broadened and tax rates to be lowered.

But Obama doesn’t like this formula​—​that is, traditional tax reform. He wants reform that raises tax revenues. He would kill tax preferences and loopholes, then use the windfall this produces to fund his favorite spending programs.

The president has been publicly committed to revenue-neutral reform of corporate taxes for years. But his negotiators added a twist. Sure, the White House would happily go along with ...

Phony Indeed!

Phony Baloney

A pathetic new scandal defense.

BY MICHAEL WARREN

During his speech on the economy last month in Galesburg, Illinois, Barack Obama suggested Washington should stop focusing on an “endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals.” He repeated the line about “phony scandals” in another speech on July 25 and ...

Approval? Who cares? I got reelected.

The Obama Magic Fades

But his approval ratings probably won’t sink much more.

BY JAY COST

When he was sworn in for a second term in January, Barack Obama’s political standing was the best it had been in years. His job approval had climbed into the mid-50s—not extraordinary but solid—and he seemed to have the wind at his back as he called for a new era of liberal ...

Assuming they have votes to offer

No Kidding

Republicans, Democrats, and illegal immigrants.

BY PETER SKERRY

These days, the precocious teenage political junkie who lives across the street from me understands that the notorious intransigence and truculence of House Republicans can be explained in great part by their ingeniously gerry-mandered, extremely homogeneous congressional ...

What would Arnold say?

Liberal Dogmatism

How a far-out idea becomes orthodox.

BY EDWARD ALEXANDER

In his dissent from the Supreme Court’s recent overthrow of the Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Antonin Scalia observed that the majority opinion accused the Congress and president who had enacted this law not merely of exceeding their powers but of spreading malice, encouraging ...

Janet Yellen, Larry Summers

The Real Fed Sweepstakes

It’s policy that counts, not personalities.

BY JUDY SHELTON

At first, it was fun—this parlor game of guessing who the Obama administration will appoint as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. We all assumed it would be Janet Yellen, because she’s a woman. And then suddenly we had Larry Summers all over the leading financial ...

FEATURES

Miss America vs. Mr. Incumbent

Not your ordinary House primary race

BY JONATHAN V. LAST

Erika Harold at the 2004 Republican convention in New York

The most interesting House primary of the 2014 cycle began in June in the 13th District of Illinois. It pits freshman Republican congressman Rodney Davis against an insurgent candidate named Erika Harold. Davis is a political operative who won his seat last year nearly by accident. Erika Harold is a 33-year-old lawyer. Who happens to have been Miss America.

The recent history of the 13th District is about as confusing as a game of musical chairs played in the dark. Reapportionment after the 2010 census shunted a seven-term Republican incumbent to a neighboring district, leaving the 13th an open seat. Another Republican congressman displaced by redistricting, Tim Johnson, decided to try his luck there. 

Johnson was a longtime Illinois pol. He’d served in the state legislature for 24 years before being elected to Congress in 2000 from ...

David Clark

The Oldest War

Remember when the battle of the sexes was a laughing matter?

BY ANDREW FERGUSON

I'm showing my age again, but I can remember, just barely, when we had the war between men and women. Not a war, but the

Books & Arts

Down the Boot

Understanding Italy, one train at a time.

BY THOMAS SWICK

Railroad through the Cilento region, 2012

Tim Parks has followed in that predominantly British literary tradition of making another country one’s home and then making that home one’s principal subject. Gerald Brenan chose Spain; Lawrence Durrell and Patrick Leigh Fermor shared Greece; William Dalrymple has claimed India. For the last three decades, Parks—with books like Italian Neighbors, A Season with Verona, Medici Money, and a number of novels—has taken it upon himself to explain Italy to the English-speaking world. And he has done this in an age when the field has been crowded by sybaritic short-timers, whose books appeal more to people dreaming of idyllic retirements than to readers wishing to learn about another culture. 

So it’s a pleasure to pick up Italian Ways and, from the first sentence, feel ...

Odyssey Project Chicago South

Culture Shock

There’s a reason why they call it the humanities.

BY JONATHAN MARKS

'That will never work,” one cannot help thinking, as the late Earl Shorris retells the story of the first Clemente Course in the Humanities, or in “the study of human constructs and concerns,” such as political philosophy, history, ...

Barney Rosset at home, 1958

Beats Go On

Publishing and profiting with the avant-garde.

BY STEPHEN SCHWARTZ

Through the modernist upheaval in American cultural life, with its earliest significant traces in the 1930s and an inerasable mark on the society as we now know it, three publishing houses were most prominent in redefining aesthetic taste. All of the trio ...

Hitler/Stalin

Two Roads Converged

How fascism and communism led to totalitarianism.

BY RONALD RADOSH

For those who considered themselves men of the left, it was a staple of belief that the very concept of totalitarianism was deeply flawed. Marxism, it was argued, came from the age of the Enlightenment and sought man’s perfection in a classless society that would ...

Keukenhof Gardens, near Leiden

Dutch Treats

Oh, to be in Holland, now that August’s there .  .  .

BY SARA LODGE

Groningen
As my plane drops toward Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, I can see what look like multiple alternative runways: broad pink, blue, and yellow strips that turn the fields around the coast into the flags of an imaginary nation. They are bands of flowers—tulips, ...

Pod

Feminine Mistake

The high cost, and sweet rewards, of Woody Allen’s vision of women.

BY JOHN PODHORETZ

If you are a female performer desperately in want of an Oscar or an award from some critics’ circle somewhere, your best bet is to work for Woody Allen. Since Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall statuette in 1978, ...

CASUAL

The Hunter Home from the Hill

Katherine Messenger on Daisy's old dominion.

BY KATHERINE MESSENGER

RIP

One August afternoon in 1999, my parents and I drove to a farm in Leesburg, Virginia, to look at a litter of Jack Russell Terrier puppies we’d seen advertised. As soon as we arrived at the breeder’s house, we were confronted by Bunny, the long-legged mother of the pups. She was jumping in place, and for the entire time we visited, she never stopped jumping, up to three feet in the air. We should have known what we were in for.

The puppy we chose held her white-tipped tail high and posed as if on camera, while her brothers and sisters lolled about. As the breeder noted, she favored her glamorous show-dog grandmother. And when she looked at me, she turned her head intelligently, pricking up her ears so that they formed perfect triangles. We named her Daisy, because she was delicate and cheerful like the flower. It didn’t last. 

As soon ...

SCRAPBOOK

The Bonding Market

Bowling

On July 24, the New York Times was granted a rare sit-down interview with President Obama. The interview was unremarkable, but that’s to be expected considering that the Times has been as sycophantic toward Obama as he has been contemptuous toward the press. The interview contained no inquiries on the IRS, Benghazi, or surveillance scandals and focused mostly on the White House’s embarrassingly inchoate economic agenda, leaving readers to squint between the lines to find something interesting or newsworthy. But there was one inadvertently revealing exchange:

Mr. Obama: I had a conversation a couple of weeks back with a guy named Robert Putnam, who I’ve known for a long time. 

NYT: He was my professor actually at Harvard.

Mr. Obama: Right. I actually knew Bob when I was a state senator and he had put together this ...

RIP

The End of an Era

The Scrapbook notes with regret the death of two names from the recent political past: William Scranton, 96, the former Pennsylvania governor, U.N. ambassador, and Republican presidential candidate; and Harry Byrd Jr., 98, longtime U.S. senator from Virginia and, as it happens, ...

Sinatra

These Boots Are Made for Lobbying

Nancy Sinatra has been a good daughter to her father Frank—probably, in The Scrapbook’s view, better than the late singer deserves. Since his death in 1998, she has resolutely defended her father’s reputation against the dozens of stories of his coarse behavior—our favorite being a ...

Sensitivity Alert

We’ve published quite a few criticisms of local “human rights” or “civil rights” commissions in these pages. And we’re going to keep at it, until they give up their Orwellian ways. Last week, Seattle city agencies received a memo from Elliott Bronstein of their Office for Civil ...

Michael Ramirez

PARODY

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