‘Hello, I Must Be Going’



Maybe Barack Obama really is a Marxist. His September 10 speech to the nation on Syria seems to have been inspired by Groucho’s great number in Animal Crackers (1930):

Hello, I must be going
I cannot stay, I came to say I must be going
I’m glad I came, but just the same, I must be going .  .  . la-la! 

Less than three weeks after Bashar al-Assad gassed his citizens, Obama let us know he was glad to have come before us to share his outrage, explained that of course he couldn’t stay, and went off to the United Nations with his partner in comedy, Vladimir Putin.

Putin had the follow-up routine, an op-ed in the September 12 New York Times. This comic masterpiece surpassed in its dry wit even John Kerry’s performance of a few days before, ...

What will go wrong today? Cabinet meeting, September 12.

The Damage Done


Forty years ago this fall, the United States shipped more than 20,000 tons of tanks, artillery, weapons, and supplies to Israel to ensure its victory over two of the Soviet Union’s Arab clients, Syria and Egypt. Those airlifts showed the Arabs that despite their numerical ...


Ineptitude at the Top

How not to be a war president.



When President Obama abruptly called off the bombing strike on Syria and decided to seek the approval of Congress, he surprised no one more than French president François Hollande. France, the only country set to join the United States in the raid, was left in the lurch. Hollande was humiliated and isolated. Now, if an assault on Syria occurs, France is unlikely to participate.

Several days after aborting the raid, Obama traveled to Sweden, then to Russia for the G-20 summit. At both stops, he sought support for serious action against Syria. He failed. Meanwhile, in Congress, where support for punishing Syria for its use of poisonous gas really mattered, opposition to Obama’s plan swelled in his absence, notably among Democrats.

Last week in London, Secretary of State John Kerry carelessly answered a question by saying Syria could avert a bombing attack by turning over all its chemical weapons ...


Worse Than It Looks

A close reading of the red line.


It now seems to be the general consensus that President Obama’s Syria policy is a contradictory mess. But that’s only how it appears on the surface. Probe a bit deeper and it’s very seriously deranged.

The most obvious problem is symptomatic of the ...

Foreign policy again?

Maxilateral Man

Obama’s essence.


With his Syria policy careening from inaction to the threat of force to a request for congressional approval to a diplomatic bailout from Russia, the long-vexing puzzle of what makes Barack Obama tick has again come to the fore.

About most ...

You know how I talk about deterring Iran? I don’t really mean a word of it.

Lessons for Jerusalem

First, don’t count on Washington.


Americans watch our tragedy-of-errors Syria policy from the safety of houses and apartments in suburbs and cities 5,000 miles from the conflict. Israelis are next door, and two weeks ago​—​when an American strike and possible Syrian counterstrike at Israel seemed imminent​—​they ...

Mystify me concert photography

The View from Across the Pacific

Washington gains a friend in Canberra.


Canberra has joined Tokyo and other U.S. allies in Asia by electing a conservative government vowing less tax on business, robust defense, support for the United States, and guarded cooperation with China. A big victory in Australia’s national election on September 7 for Tony ...

How do I get to Asia from here?

No Escape

The Middle East fails to cooperate with Obama’s pivot.


As the United States vacillates over what to do in Syria, it might be a good time to check in with the Obama foreign policy “pivot.” A little less than two years ago President Obama’s administration announced that the United States would pivot away from the Middle East and toward ...


Washington Builds a Bugaboo

How does Senator Ted Cruz tick off liberals? Let us count the ways.



Several times a day, especially if he’s out travelin’ and talkin’ to folks, as he always is when the U.S. Senate isn’t in session, Ted Cruz will stand before an audience and reflect, seemingly for the first time, about the generational shift taking place in the Republican party. 

“I call them the Children of Reagan,” he says. He means the rising group of Republican officeholders who came to political consciousness during President Reagan’s two terms. He rattles off their names: “young leaders” like Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Nikki Haley, Mike Lee, Scott Walker .  .  . and then sometimes he’ll pause, letting you wonder if he’s leaving out any of the Children’s names. Sometimes a helpful fan in the audience will volunteer it, to general appreciation from the crowd.

Among that tiny fraction of Americans who are paying attention to such things, Cruz seems to be the only person who is forgetting Ted ...

Books & Arts

Forces in Excess

As always, who will guard the guardians?


SWAT team preparing to execute a search warrant, Racine, Wisconsin, 2008

Late one night last October, a SWAT team from the police department in Billings, Montana, served a search warrant on what they thought was a home meth lab. Dressed in military gear and toting assault rifles and a battering ram, the officers surrounded the house. As one group staged near the front door, an officer knocked out a bedroom window and dropped a flash-bang grenade inside. The grenade landed next to a sleeping 12-year-old girl, where it exploded, inflicting second-degree burns on the girl’s back, abdomen, and arms. 

Seconds later, officers battered in the front door and stormed inside, where they restrained the girl’s parents at gunpoint. One thing the officers did not find was evidence of a meth operation. The girl’s mother, Jackie Fasching, says that she would have told the officers this if they had given her a chance to open the door: “A simple knock on the door, and I would’ve let them in.”

Stories like the ...

‘The Black Prince invested as a Knight of the Garter’  by Charles West Cope

On Their Honor

The thriving of the medieval cult of chivalry.


The word “chivalry,” associated with the Middle Ages and its knightly ethos of courtesy and dragon-slaying, has a bad rap nowadays. “Chivalrous” refers to the patsy in shining armor who opens doors for women, picks up the tab on dates, and is willing to be there with sensitive ...

‘Crawford’s constant refrain that “Comcast=bad” tends to overpower the reader.’

Bandwidth on the Run

On the entrance ramps to the information superhighway.


According to a recent analysis by Sandvine, Netflix, the streaming video service, accounted for one-third of all Internet traffic in North America last year, making it the single largest user of bandwidth on the continent. Apart from being a repository of old Star ...

Richard Wright, 1945

The Wright Stuff

Understanding the radical vision of ‘Native Son.’


Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) was the first novel by an African American to become a bestseller and the first selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club. And until the rise of Toni Morrison and other black women writers, ...

And Bébé Makes Three

And Bebé Makes Three

Good marketing=bad movie, plus kicker.


The box-office surprise of 2013 is a cheaply made, unbelievable, unfunny comedy-drama with a Mexican star-writer-director you’ve never heard of, who isn’t the least bit amusing, doesn’t act very well, and writes even more poorly. Imagine Adam Sandler’s ...


Dog’s Breakfast

Christopher Caldwell waits for insight at breakfast


Michael Sloan

There is something futile about breakfast meetings. Breakfast ought to be where you dissipate the irrationality of dream-life and find your way back to a clear view of the things you care about in the waking world. Alcoholic memoirs are full of where-the-hell-am-I stories, some funny (“I seem to have woken up with this tattoo .  .  .”) and some terrifying (“I seem to have woken up with my hands caked in blood .  .  .”). They appeal to readers because every waking, even on the best of days, is a where-the-hell-am-I story. It is not a time when you want to be among people who don’t love you. 

When you’re traveling on business, though, you don’t have all the time in the world. In a short week, turning breakfasts into meetings is a way to talk to, say, 16 people instead of 12. Last week I scheduled a breakfast with a woman who is one of the most insightful essayists in Germany. I woke up in the bleak Berlin pre-dawn ...


Obama and Putin

My Thoughts..


Rocky Mountain Surprise

When it was announced earlier this year that gun rights activists were attempting to recall two Colorado state senators for helping pass new gun control laws, the campaign wasn’t taken seriously. It was treated as a marginal curiosity by the political press, when it wasn’t ignored ...


El Kennedy Center

Almost exactly a year ago, The Scrapbook reported with dismay that the Kennedy Center Honors (“Mau-Mauing the Kennedy Center,” Oct. 15, 2012) were under assault from Hispanic pressure groups because the annual selection of five (mostly baby boom pop culture) performers had an ...


Exceptionally Inexperienced

It has long been The Scrapbook’s contention that one of the great weaknesses of Barack Obama in the White House is both simple and obvious to discern: inexperience. People can argue until they’re blue in the face about his Kenyan father, or his wicked Chicago friends, or whether ...


Hare Krishna Comes to the iPhone

President Obama’s handling of Syria over the last several months has suggested that we are witnessing Jimmy Carter’s second term. Yet every so often there are other items in the  news which suggest that we might as well be in 1978 all over again. Witness: the Peace App.


Bring Your Parents to Work Day?

The Scrapbook discounts a lot of the perennial harrumphing about “kids these days,” but we were nonetheless a bit taken aback by last week’s Wall Street Journal report on our latest generation of participation-trophy winners: “Should You Bring Mom and Dad to the Office? ...


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