Feebleness in the Executive


Gary Locke

Sometimes politics is just “one damned thing after another.” But sometimes not. Sometimes those damned things constitute a trend and form a pattern. So it is today, with President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

* Our defense capabilities are being slashed. As the editors of the Washington Post pointed out two weeks ago, funding for the Pentagon “is on track to fall tens of billions short of what it needs to fulfill the strategic mission that President Obama has articulated for national defense.” The Post noted that “Mr. Obama told congressional Democrats that the Pentagon should get no more attention than many other areas of the budget also subject to the punishing automatic spending cuts known as sequestration,” and commented, “That can’t be the final answer from the commander in chief.” But it is. The Post further remarked, “Mr. Obama ultimately ...


Misjudging al Qaeda


Anyone following the news even casually last week surely noticed the long parade of Obama administration officials trotted out before the cameras to insist their boss, the president, has always understood the serious and ongoing threat presented by al Qaeda and its ...


The Media’s Double Standard

Some hate crimes are less hateful than others.


Leo Johnson at the entrance to the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

On August 15, 2012, at 10:46 a.m.—one year ago this week—Floyd Lee Corkins entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He was carrying a backpack that contained 15 Chick-fil-A -sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, and 100 rounds of ammunition. Corkins has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing for the crimes he proceeded to commit. He’s set to spend decades in a prison cell and fade into obscurity. 

But Leo Johnson deserves to be remembered for his heroism that day. The building manager for the Family Research Council was manning the front desk that morning and let Corkins enter the building under the pretense he was a new intern. The video of what happened after that is remarkable. 

After Corkins takes a suspiciously long time rummaging through his bag to produce identification, Johnson cannily stands up and walks around the desk to get a closer look at what Corkins is ...

In Algeria, officials celebrate the opening of a section of a Chinese-built east

Algeria and Its Islamists

A presidential succession fraught with peril.


Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika returned to Algiers on July 16 after three months in a hospital in Paris. His health will prevent him from running for reelection in April, and it’s unclear whether he can run the country until then. As a result, the contest over his ...

OMB director Sylvia Burwell

Not Worth the Paper It’s Printed On

The folly of OMB’s annual cost-benefit report.


Every spring the Office of Management and Budget releases the president’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. While Congress invites senior administration figures to testify before various committees, and the media pore through the document to elucidate the ...

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addresses a street rally in Tokyo, July 4.

Japan’s Sun May Be Rising

A different cure for economic stagnation.


Whether by design or inadvertence, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans for reviving Japan’s economy after two decades of stagnation differ sharply from the stimulus and austerity policies pursued by the United States and the European Union to ...


Child’s Play

The fairy-tale world of Model United Nations



I imagine a world in which the “international community” provides universal education for all girls. Or where countries that deploy children as soldiers cease to do so as a result of moral suasion. Or where the global scourge of malaria is stopped with the passing of a unanimous resolution. Indeed, where there is no problem or crisis, no matter how seemingly intractable, that cannot be solved over the course of a lively weekend in a hotel ballroom. Welcome to the world of Model United Nations.

From the age of 14 to 18, I was an enthusiastic member of my high school’s Model United Nations (MUN) team. A lackluster athlete, I applied myself to MUN with the passion that most of my peers devoted to sports, rising to vice president by the time I was a senior. During that period, I attended at least three national conferences every year and devoted countless hours to the club. There was little I looked forward to more than an upcoming Model ...

Andrew Jackson takes on the Hydra of centralized power.

The New Old Thing

Jeffersonian populism returns


In conservative circles of late there has been an ongoing conversation about a (seemingly) new approach to governance, “libertarian populism.” Timothy P. Carney, a senior columnist for the Washington Examiner, argues that “conservatives need to turn to the working class as ...

Books & Arts

You Could Die Laughing

What is the humor in Jewish jokes?


Sam Levenson, Jack Benny, George S. Kaufman, Clifton Fadiman, 1952

'Two Jews, each with a parrot on his shoulder, are in front of a synagogue,” Hyman Ginsburg begins to tell his friend Irv Schwartz, when the latter interrupts. 

“Hy, old pal, don’t you have any jokes that aren’t about Jews?” 

Ginsburg replies that of course he does, and begins again: “Two samurai meet on a dark night on the outskirts of Kyoto. The next day is Yom Kippur .  .  .”

What is it about Jews and jokes, and what, especially, is it about Jewish jokes? The most put-upon people in the history of the world, Jews, and they’re telling jokes: endless jokes, ironic jokes, silly jokes; jokes about czars and commissars, rabbis and mohels, widows and wives and mothers-in-law and matchmakers; and some jokes which, if told by Gentiles, might result in strong letters from the Anti-Defamation ...

Roger Ailes

Roger’s Neighborhood

The world according to the Fox News maestro.


Earlier this summer, Roger Ailes, president of the Fox News Channel, was honored by the Bradley Foundation. Ailes’s speech, delivered to a right-leaning audience at the Kennedy Center, was rollicking and well received, filled with red meat and barbed humor, ...

Five little maids from school are we .  .  .

Wiseacre Latinas

A soap disturbs the ethnic hornets’ nest.


Devious Maids is the Sunday-night soap on Lifetime about five Latina domestic servants who routinely outwit their wealthy, decadent, self-centered, materialistic, and generally evil Anglo employers in the Beverly Hills monster-mansions where the maids have been hired to do ...

‘Guerrilla Warfare, Civil War’ by Albert Bierstadt (1862)

Canvas Battlefield

In the Civil War, art comes to terms with reality.


In one of his bolder poetic flourishes, General MacArthur once invoked “the sputter of musketry” to refer to burp guns and bazookas. His phrase had the élan of gallantry, even chivalry, to it, as it deftly sidestepped the new and very ...

Detroit Institute of Arts

At What Price?

The value of the Detroit Institute of Arts to Detroit is an open question.


No doubt, the bankruptcy of Detroit will have unintended consequences. But one possibility, currently under discussion, is especially distressing: sale of the paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts, which, unlike most municipal collections, is owned by the city, not a nonprofit ...

H. Brandt Ayers

Improbable Dream

A Southern editor recalls his time and place.


This is an age of mystifying book titles, including the one that adorns this memoir. 

But it should be no surprise, at least for Southern readers who have wrestled with their mixed heritage, that Brandt Ayers speaks of being “in love ...


The Ninja Party

David Skinner, shadow warrior


figure, Shutterstock; pedestal, veer

Americans may be having fewer children, but we make a fetish of the ones we have. This is obvious to anyone unlucky enough to have attended a child’s birthday party in recent years. 

The great Alexis de Tocqueville did not broach this subject in Democracy in America, but were he to happen upon one of these affairs, I am certain he would say, “Americans have abandoned the mysteries of God-worship for a religion of man, staking their salvation on satisfying the mercurial whims of short, moody offspring who one day want a three-tiered basketball cake with LeBron James leaping from the frosting and the next insist on a Skylanders-themed party instead.”

When I was a kid, my parents threw birthday parties for me and my brothers by taping a single balloon to the wall, making a tray of cupcakes, and inviting friends over to play hide-and-seek—outside. We were barely allowed in the house. ...


The Worshipful Coverage of Wendy

The Worshipful Coverage of Wendy

Ever since state senator Wendy Davis’s unsuccessful filibuster of new late-term abortion regulations in Texas, the media have been, even by their own embarrassing standards, astonishingly obsequious towards her. The Associated Press actually tweeted out a link to their coverage of the story with the hashtag #standwithwendy. When Davis went on ABC’s This Week, reporter Jeff Zeleny asked her three questions about her now-famous pink running shoes, three questions about using a catheter during her filibuster, and exactly zero substantive questions about abortion or Texas’s new law. And the coverage in the New York Times was, well, New York Times coverage, with breathless encomiums to Davis’s “feat of stamina and conviction.”

Not surprisingly, the media are too busy discussing how fabulous Davis is to note that most Americans regard what she stands for as barbaric. The Texas legislation she opposed primarily did two things. One, ...


No Summit

The Scrapbook enjoyed what might charitably be called a warmhearted chuckle at the news that President Obama had abruptly canceled his planned “summit” meeting in Moscow with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Even the reliably turgid language of White House press secretary Jay ...

Michael Dorausch.

Attack of the Vapors

The Scrapbook neglected to follow its usual practice last week and had a look at the reader comments under an online New York Times article. The Times piece covered the growing popularity of so-called electronic cigarettes (which Ethan Epstein chronicled in these ...


Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"Don Graham’s decision to sell the Washington Post was his reverse Sophie’s Choice moment. She had to decide which cherished child to save and which to send to the gas chamber. Don and the Graham family weren’t forced to make an anguishing choice .  .  . ” ...


More Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"Our new owner is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. No self-respecting journalist would shower the new boss with wet kisses, so I won’t. Suffice it to say that he has good values and that he was among the first to figure out a way to make print content (books and newspapers) available in ...


Still More Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"I think I speak for more than myself when I say that the main reason I have high hopes for your stewardship is that Don Graham said it was the right thing for the paper. He said you are the right guy. That was enough for me. ‘Great’ is an overused term, and sports has rendered it ...


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