EDITORIAL

The Park Police

Advance Editorial From Our Forthcoming 10/21-10/28 Issue

BY JONATHAN V. LAST

Man puts sign on barricade

“We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around.”
—Ronald Reagan

The conduct of the National Park Service over the last week might be the biggest scandal of the Obama administration. This is an expansive claim, of course. Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS, the NSA, the HHS mandate​—​this is an administration that has not lacked for appalling abuses of power. And we still have three years to go.

Even so, consider the actions of the National Park Service since the government shutdown began. People first noticed what the NPS was up to when the World War II Memorial on the National Mall was “closed.” Just to be clear, the memorial is an open plaza. There is nothing to operate. Sometimes there might be a ranger standing around. But he’s not collecting tickets or opening gates. Putting up barricades and posting guards to “close” ...

Fifth Congress

Who’s Extreme?

BY JAY COST

Earlier this month, California congressman George Miller took to the floor of the House of Represent-atives and, in a vitriolic speech, shouted that the Republicans were shutting down the government because of a “jihad” against Obama-care. Miller is a far-left liberal, but he is no ...

Bigstockphoto

No Mandate

BY JEFFREY H. ANDERSON

Contrary to many pundits’ expectations, congressional Republicans seem to have zigzagged their way to a reasonable position in the ongoing budget battles. To be sure, their clumsy manner of getting there has helped to obscure this conclusion. Nevertheless, the GOP has the better ...

ARTICLES

An Inauspicious Debut

The health exchange meltdowns are not just ‘glitches.’

BY MICHAEL ASTRUE

gary locke

For over a year it has been common knowledge within the Obama administration that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could not launch its network of health exchanges for the Affordable Care Act in a minimally acceptable way. That knowledge did not stop the HHS publicity machine from constantly assuring the American public that its computer systems would be ready for the first enrollment period. That knowledge did not stop carefully scripted HHS employees and contractors from making similar false assurances to two House committees just weeks before the botched October 1 launch.

As the HHS day of reckoning approached, the publicity machine shifted gears and began acknowledging the likelihood of “glitches,” a brilliant rhetorical technique designed to dismiss all HHS failures as minor and fixable. President Obama echoed this “glitches” theme, and it worked. A mesmerized USA Today, for one, characterized the ...

Obama in Egypt

The Persian Gulf Power Vacuum

America’s Middle East allies are getting ­nervous.

BY LEE SMITH

Despite the administration’s hype of President Obama’s “historic” 15-minute phone call with the ostensibly moderate Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, the looming prospect of direct engagement with the regime in Tehran over its nuclear weapons program, and all the other symptoms of ...

Courtesy of the SITE Intelligence Group

Why Is Ali Harzi Still at Large?

From Benghazi to Tunis.

BY THOMAS JOSCELYN

During a press conference on July 26, Tunisian interior minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou listed the suspected terrorists thought to be responsible for two high-profile assassinations in his country. Among the names was one Ali Harzi—the same name as one of the chief suspects in the ...

FEATURES

Health Reform Breaks Bad

The deceptions and disasters of Obamacare

BY CHRISTOPHER J. CONOVER

Obamacare

Breaking Bad is the story of a seemingly well-intended but very misguided man who turned to cooking meth in order to amass enough wealth to provide for his family once he dies of cancer. The consequences of that unfortunate decision—not to mention the lies and deceptions to keep it on track—pyramid alarmingly over the course of five seasons, culminating in mayhem and a head-spinning body count.

Obamacare isn’t a TV drama. But it will unleash its own tsunami of unintended consequences: more than a million jobs lost, an economy increasingly made up of part-time workers, higher health spending (at least a half-trillion dollars just over the next decade), a decline in medical innovation (and attendant loss of life).

While Obamacare undoubtedly will do a modest amount of good, the urgent question is whether the law’s supporters will come to see that the good pales in comparison to the ...

Books & Arts

Teller of Tales

The definitive Updike, in two volumes.

BY WILLIAM H. PRITCHARD

John Updike, 1994

There have always been readers of John Updike’s work who find his most impressive achievement to be his short fiction rather than his novels. 

Excepting the four Rabbit Angstrom novels, this is a plausible judgment. About 10 years ago, Updike collected the stories he had written between 1953 and 1975; his death in 2009 left the remainder of them uncollected. So it is an event of some moment to see 186 stories (the ones about the Maple family and about Henry Bech have been saved for later publication) chronologically arranged and splendidly edited by Christopher Carduff for the Library of America. 

Carduff has already brought out posthumous volumes of Updike’s prose and the uncollected essays and reviews of his art criticism. The editorial contribution here, a very large one, consists of pertinent notes to the stories, along with the date that they were submitted for ...

Presidents at Leisure

Presidents at Leisure

Two centuries of lightening the burden.

BY SONNY BUNCH

Philosophers, war heroes, a movie star: A wide variety of men with an even wider variety of cultural tastes have inhabited the White House over the centuries. And evolving standards and technologies have combined with evolving political realities to create a ...

Michael Burleigh

Turned Upside Down

The end of World War II meant the end of empires.

BY ALONZO L. HAMBY

Franklin D. Roosevelt, meeting with his son Elliott at the beginning of the Casablanca conference in January 1943, went out of his way to voice his revulsion at the ugliness of British imperialism by referring to his transit through the tiny British colony of Gambia: ...

Lone Star Power

Lone Star Power

What Texas does, and has to do, to stay successful.

BY WILLIAM MCKENZIE

What Erica Grieder has succeeded in doing with this book is what few journalists have been able to do: The Texas Monthly editor and one-time Southwest correspondent for the Economist has captured the twin realities of a state that is easy and tempting to ...

Glitter Gulch cowgirl

Wattage Industry

There’s more to urban lighting than illumination.

BY ELISABETH EAVES

Decades before Hillary Clinton chaired a health care task force and Nancy Reagan urged new drug enforcement laws, Lady Bird Johnson declared war on neon lights. Specifically, she fought for the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, lamenting what she called “endless ...

Eddie Chapman (‘Agent Zigzag’) in disguise

Bodyguard of Lies

A trilogy on military deception.

BY EDWIN M. YODER JR.

Winston Groom’s legendary Forrest Gump is the iconic bystander who stumbles into the company of historically significant figures—and even, in the case of Elvis, supplies signature bodily gyrations. What follows will claim no such force or ...

Bird Brains

Bird Brains

The hidden life, and surprising depth, of the avian mind.

BY DAVID GUASPARI

"What is it like,” asks Tim Birkhead, “for an emperor penguin diving in the inky blackness of the Antarctic seas at depths of up to 400 m[eters]?” And what is it like “to feel a sudden urge to eat incessantly, and over a week or so become hugely obese, then fly relentlessly—pulled ...

The Martian landscape, 1997

On to Mars?

An astronaut makes the case for exploration.

BY JOSHUA GELERNTER

On July 21, 1969, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin joined Neil Armstrong on the moon’s surface and launched a new epoch of human history. It’s safe to say that this is the best-known item on Buzz Aldrin’s résumé. 

Less known is the item that won Aldrin his ...

Couple

Literary Postcards

The writer’s vocation in J. F. Powers’s correspondence.

BY JOSEPH BOTTUM

One of the things you learn when you read the letters of great writers is how rarely great writers talk about literature in their letters. Mostly they talk about money. The letters of Henry Ford show more interest in big ideas and ...

Franklin Pierce, 1857

Less Is More

In the presidency, obscurity is not the same as unimportance.

BY MICHAEL ROSEN

It’s sometimes the case that the most forgettable historical figures furnish the most enduring lessons. Here, Michael J. Gerhardt excavates the remains of some of our least memorable—and least popular—chief executives, along the way adroitly reconstructing the political, legal, and ...

Artist at work, Greenwich Village, ca. 1935

It Takes a Village

Bohemia at the bottom of Manhattan.

BY FRED SIEGEL

Greenwich Village has always been a matter of geography imbricated by doctrine. Exempted from ...

Theodore Roosevelt and friends, 1905

Paradox of the Book

The chaos of the Internet makes reading easier.

BY THOMAS L. JEFFERS

Plato is smarter than you. That’s how an experienced teacher once began a series of lectures on the Greek philosopher. And a good beginning it was, for it put students on notice ...

CASUAL

Nostalgia Organized

Joseph Epstein, reunion dropout.

BY JOSEPH EPSTEIN

Darren Gygi

A reunion marking the hundredth anniversary of the founding of my high school—Nicholas Senn, on the northside of Chicago—is to be held this month, and I shall not be attending it. I am one of those people who had a good run in high school. A minor athlete, a member of most of the school’s better clubs, a boy who went out with pretty and pleasant girls, I had mastered the arts of conformity, and in high school they brought me much happiness. So much so that I sometimes think I may have peaked around the age of 17, and it’s been slowly but relentlessly downhill since. 

I went to my high school class’s fiftieth reunion, which did not do much for me. I did, though, make one notable discovery: that some of the people who as kids were on the periphery of high school social life went on to have interesting lives as painters, drama teachers, entrepreneurs, while the most popular kids in the ...

SCRAPBOOK

Fast and Furious—Still Infuriating

John Dodson

With the economy still cratered, a slew of foreign policy debacles, and a government shutdown, most Americans probably haven’t thought much about the Fast and Furious scandal in recent months. The Scrapbook doesn’t know what it says about the times we live in that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ homicidal negligence is all but forgotten a few years later, but we’re pretty sure it isn’t good.

The ATF is certainly doing everything it can to make sure that Americans don’t revisit its inexplicable decision to give thousands of guns to Mexican gangs, resulting in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and dozens of Mexican nationals. Two years ago, ATF whistleblower John Dodson revealed the incompetence of the Fast and Furious operation, which led to the resignation of a number of top-ranking ATF officials. It also led to Eric Holder becoming the first attorney general in U.S. history to be held in contempt ...

Hoya!

Hoya, Hoya, Hoya

The Scrapbook has taken note of the federal government’s political use of the shutdown: the National Park Service closing down popular attractions and open spaces, scare stories about medical research and air traffic safety, and so on. In the words of Rahm Emanuel, the onetime ...

Angel Echevarria

Department of Harassment

Last month, Angel Echevarria, an off-duty Department of Homeland Security official, was arrested in Florida for pulling his gun and shooting a car that allegedly cut him off on the highway. According to police, Echevarria had absolutely no legal authority to do this. The episode ...

E-Cig

Vape ’em If You Got ’em

Last week in these pages, Ike Brannon noted that Europe is outstripping the United States in reducing the role of government in the economy (“Europe Leads the Way?” October 14). Now it seems that our European brethren are also taking a more sensible view of the regulatory state. ...

Sentences

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"Washington is a place where hundreds of children couldn’t play soccer this past weekend; where cafeteria workers, janitors and secretaries aren’t getting paid for who knows how long; where Metro trains and buses run empty; where shoeshine guys sit idle; and where Girl Scout troops ...

ramirez

PARODY

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