Assad Calls Obama’s Bluff


In the aftermath of the deadly gas attack northeast of Damascus

The timing was probably not a coincidence, falling as it did on two anniversaries. August 18, 2011, was when President Obama first demanded Syrian president Bashar al-Assad step aside, and August 20 last year was when Obama warned that the use of chemical weapons would “change my calculus.” It was a year to the day after Obama’s warning that Assad launched what is to date the regime’s largest chemical weapons attack. At least a thousand people are dead, likely more, in several Damascus suburbs and outlying towns. The video reports from Syria are chilling—children foaming at the mouth, their unblinking eyes full of terror, their contorted limbs frozen like broken dolls.

Yes, yes, it’s terrible, say many, but why would Assad be so foolish as to use his unconventional arsenal when a U.N. investigating team is already in the country collecting evidence on past use of chemical weapons? Well, Assad is not a fool: The purpose of waging an ...


Lawlessness in the Executive


As was quite clear at the time, the biggest mistake that Mitt Romney’s campaign made in 2012 was not aggressively attacking Obamacare. What may well have been its second-biggest mistake, however, was less noticed: the striking silence in the face of President Obama’s announcement ...


Our Document No. 1


Perhaps inspired by the Searchers’ great 1964 hit “Love Potion No. 9,” the Chinese Communist party seems to be rallying behind “Document No. 9.” As the New York Times reported last week, a memorandum with that title issued forth in April from a party office. While the ...


The Elder Stateswoman

Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be a fresh face in the White House.


The Elder Stateswoman

Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president—just as she was eight years ago today. If she were to succeed this time around, what would her chances be for a general election victory? Obviously, it is far too early to reach anything approaching a definitive conclusion. Nevertheless, we can draw some basic inferences based on the career and age profiles of previous nominees for the presidency to see how Clinton stacks up.

In his groundbreaking 1966 study Ambition and Politics, Joseph A. Schlesinger observed that there was a fairly rigorous hierarchy to political careers in the United States. In particular, he found that certain positions offered avenues to promotion to higher positions, while others did not. For instance, one does not go from being a state legislator to president in a single shot. Rather, the pathway to the executive mansion usually comes via having been a ...


How to Fight Obamacare

The Republican leadership leans toward delay rather than defund.


One question, more than any other, will determine the shape of the national political discussion over the next several months: Will Republican leaders make Obamacare a central part of the coming negotiations over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling?

Jason Seiler

You Can Go Home Again

What’s so awful about living with one’s parents?


A few years ago I was getting a ride home from a party with a guy in his early twenties. I lived in a gentrified neighborhood I could no longer pretend to afford, and he lived, it emerged, with his parents. “Good for you,” I said. “I think that’s great.”

test tube

And Baby Makes Four

Is it ethical to make three-parent babies?


The decision by the British government earlier this summer to approve a suite of new technologies that would make possible the creation of human embryos with three genetic parents has brought a long-simmering and seemingly obscure bioethical debate into the public eye, raising ...

Alexei Navalny speaks to voters, July 31.

Alexei Navalny Versus the Kremlin

The high-stakes election for mayor of Moscow.


Visiting Moscow today, you’d never know that the city is less than a month away from a mayoral election, scheduled for September 8. There are hardly any campaign posters or billboards (you’re far more likely to see the ...

Rachid Ghannouchi

Where Spring Was Sprung

Tunisia and its jihadists.


it is less than three years since the fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the small Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, sparking the events that toppled dictator Ben Ali and launched the “Arab Spring.” Now, the high hopes of those days have faded, and Tunisia is in ...


Conservatism on Top Down Under

Meet Tony Abbott, the likely next prime minister of Australia


Tony Abbott campaigning in 2010

Absent a stunning reversal of fortune, Tony Abbott is a good bet to be the next prime minister of Australia. He’s the head of the Liberal party, which is expected to capture Parliament from the Labor party in the national election on September 7. In today’s politics, Liberals are misnamed. They’re actually the conservative party in Australia. So if all goes well, Abbott will become one of the world’s leading conservatives.

Abbott, 55, is an aggressive partisan once described as “one of the great head-kickers of Australian politics.” Karl Rove isn’t his only American admirer. Abbott is a social conservative who opposes abortion, is leery of gay marriage, doesn’t hide his Catholic beliefs, and even defends the monarchy.

In Australia—where the political, intellectual, and journalistic classes tend to be very secular—Abbott has been called a religious ...


Going, Going, Gone

The arguments that justified Obama­care are already being discredited. Here’s how to replace it.


In the continuing debate over Obamacare, both the law’s champions and its critics are now focused largely on the mechanics of implementation. This is understandable. The insurance exchanges are supposed to launch October 1, most of the law’s other major provisions take effect ...

Books & Arts

Augustine’s Mission

The right man, at the right time, for Christendom.


St. Augustine from the Langenzenn (Germany) City Church altar, ca. 1445

Most of the time, intellectual history is a tangle, the threads so snarled that the result looks like a skein of yarn after a dozen kittens have been set loose on it. That lump over there? The muddle that the Venerable Bede made of things. That twisted set of knots? The playful chaos that Thomas Carlyle constructed for us. That indecipherable web? It’s what was left of Western philosophy after Martin Heidegger got his paws on it. 

But every once in a while, somebody comes along to straighten things out. Whatever the mess before, whatever the mess after, for a moment, intellectual history seems gathered and given direction. Picture it as a silver ring on the frame of a loom, with all the threads of a culture’s thought passing neatly and precisely through its intelligible circumference. Virgil was one of those rings, perhaps; Descartes was another. And so too, maybe most obvious of all, was Saint Augustine ...

Curt Flood, 1965

Reserve Judgment

How one national pastime (baseball) has been injured by another (the law).


For decades, the lords of big-league baseball scrambled to protect their antitrust exemption, warning that the professional game would fall apart if the owners could not conspire against free markets to run it their way. Most of all, they wanted to protect the reserve clause, under ...

Henry Stimson, George C. Marshall, 1941

Prelude to War

Before Pearl Harbor, public opinion was the battlefield.


Seventy years distant, World War II has become indelibly etched in the national memory as “the good war.” The rapid passing of the war generation makes it difficult to disentangle the conflict itself from our collective reverence for its sacrifice and achievement. Yet Lynne Olson ...

Iconic Peekskill

I Like Icon

But I’m getting a little weary of the adjective.


The other day, I decided to see how long I could go without reading the word “iconic.” 

Four minutes. After putting on the teakettle, I opened the newspaper and almost immediately read about the “iconic” Oprah Winfrey. Then I read about an ...


Look and Learn

One collection plus three buildings equals the Yale Art Gallery.


New Haven 
The Yale University Art Gallery reopened last December after a 14-year renovation. I was pessimistic: Yale may be drowning in money, but a curator with a good eye is hard to find, even when ...

Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker

The Butler Did It

Turned a good story, that is, into a bad movie.


Has there ever been a more melodramatic director than Lee Daniels? The man screams out movies at the top of his lungs. Even the titling of his films becomes an occasion for histrionics. In 2009, he made a movie called ...


Toting a Dumb Phone

Joseph Epstein on the wisdom of the dumb phone.


David Clark

Cell phones today in America are of course endemic, if not epidemic. On one of the thoroughfares in the youthful neighborhood in which I live, I can sometimes walk an entire block without passing anyone not on or gazing down at or thumb-pumping his or her cell phone. Everyone has seen three or four people sitting at a restaurant table, each one of them on a cell phone. Or a young couple who should be looking longingly into each other’s eyes looking instead into their cell phones. Just yesterday a homeless man, in front of the Whole Foods in our neighborhood, his cup extended for change in one hand, was talking loudly into the cell phone held in his other hand. Contemporary America might have a homelessness but certainly not a phonelessness problem. 

The homeless man’s cell phone was not a smartphone, but a flip phone, rather, I am a touch nervous to confess, ...


Oils Well


Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is sponsoring a measure that sounds like a good idea and features one of those clever legislative acronyms: the Eliminating Government-Funded Oil-painting (EGO) Act. It would outlaw the use of federal funds to pay for portraits of senior officials, especially members of the cabinet. “At a time of trillion-dollar deficits,” says Cassidy, “it is not appropriate to spend thousands of taxpayers dollars on official paintings. .  .  . Just because it’s a Washington tradition doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it.”

Mr. Cassidy, as it happens, is running for the Senate, and publicity about the EGO Act, which appeals to a certain kind of primary voter, has done him no harm. At a time of trillion-dollar deficits, who would not wish to save the taxpayers’ hard-earned money—especially money that might be spent on, say, an oil portrait of Eric Holder or Nancy Pelosi? 

To which ...

Hugs, not carrying stolen classified data

Who Will Guard the Guardian?

A curious episode unraveled last week that, in The Scrapbook’s judgment, tells us everything we need to know about the motives of Edward Snowden, and the ethics of Glenn Greenwald (the Guardian journalist who broke the Snowden story) and the Guardian itself, ...


High-heeled Nonsense

The press, for whatever reason, has been strangely Panglossian on North Korea ever since Kim Jong-un took over as supreme leader back in December 2011. No Stalinist tyrant is he, we’ve been told time and again. In fact, he may just be a bona fide reformer!

Last ...

Weiner Truck

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"Anthony Weiner may be lagging in the race for New York City mayor, but he is winning in another area—hot dog marketing. The delicious combination of Anthony Weiner’s name and his sexually suggestive Twitter antics were apparently too good to pass up for one Florida marketing man, ...


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