Obamacare’s Mugged by Reality Moment



As  metaphors go, “train wreck” turned out to be pretty apt. That’s how retiring Democratic senator Max Baucus described his expectations for the implementation of Obamacare at a hearing last April. If anything, he could be accused of soft pedaling the fiasco that has been on full display since the beginning of October.

The main entry point into Obamacare for citizens in 36 states is healthcare.gov, an online portal through which consumers are supposed to enter personal information and then shop for health insurance. But healthcare.gov is so poorly constructed that it is essentially useless as an enrollment system. This is a website the Obama administration had three years to build. It is absolutely essential to making Obamacare work, if it is going to work at all, because the program relies on broad enrollment, especially among young and healthy Americans, to keep premiums low for everyone else. Administration officials note that applicants can ...


The Problem of Technology


Technology is a problem, not only for President Obama but also for Republicans and conservatives. In fact, technology is several problems, practical and theoretical, all relating to and interacting with one another. And none of them can be ignored.

The most ...


An Opportunity for the Court


Among the first cases heard by the Supreme Court in its new term is one from Michigan. The state stands accused of violating the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee by requiring equal treatment in public-university admissions decisions. Michigan has committed no such ...


Killing Obamacare

There’s no time to waste.


Gary Locke

The recent government shutdown illustrated a lot of political truths. For starters, people are unhappy when the government is shut down, and they naturally tend to blame the party of less government. The media instinctively help them conclude that the Republicans are at fault.

But the shutdown also illustrated just how unprepared the Republican party is to deal with the threat of Obamacare. Even though the law is unpopular, Republicans failed to convince the country of how great a threat it poses to the public good. Poll after poll shows that only a minority thinks the law will make them worse off, despite growing evidence that Obamacare’s side effects are serious and far-reaching. “Shutdown theater” did nothing to alter that attitude, which reflects poorly on the Tea Party backbenchers who wanted this fight and the leaders who prosecuted it. And now it appears House Republicans intend to deemphasize Obamacare and focus again on ...


The Point of No Return

President Obama is about to play defense, for three years.


President Obama is facing the abyss. It’s that moment when a president’s plans are overwhelmed by his problems, and he’s relegated to playing defense for the rest of his White House term. Obama’s agenda already lingers near death. His poll numbers have slipped to new lows. His ...


Sit on the U.N. Security Council?

Saudi Arabia would prefer not to.


On October 17, Saudi Arabia was elected by the United Nations General Assembly to a nonpermanent seat on the Security Council. The next day, Riyadh made a stunning announcement: It was declining the seat, because of the council’s ...


Ankara Alienates Everyone

Forget chess, Turkey is failing at geopolitical checkers.


A recent spate of newspaper articles suggests a concerted media campaign targeting Turkey’s foreign intelligence service, the MIT, its director, Hakan Fidan, and almost surely his boss as well, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a piece published by the Wall Street ...

Cuccinelli addresses Virginia Tea Partiers, October 9.

Trailing from Behind

Ken Cuccinelli’s up against a carpetbagging hack, and losing.


Sterling, Va.
From the looks of it, Ken Cuccinelli II isn’t enjoying his run for governor of Virginia. We’re in a small white SUV, driving from his campaign office in Fairfax County outside Washington to a rally in neighboring Loudoun County. ...


The Second American in Orbit

Scott Carpenter, 1925-2013


On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union opened the space age by orbiting Sputnik, history’s first artificial satellite. Four months later, the United States launched its own first satellite and began hiring astronauts in the hopes of beating the Soviets to a manned space flight. ...


Down and Out in Vermont

Heroin in the hills



Rutland, Vt.
On his way into town, Dana Gray wondered about the number of cars and pickups parked at a local health care clinic. It was Saturday morning, and normally the clinic would be closed.

A little further down the road, he drove by the St. Johnsbury farmers’ market where the local organic gardeners and farmers set up Saturday mornings and do a nice weekend trade in vegetables, eggs, and cheese. There were a few vehicles parked nearby. Fewer, though, than there had been back up the road, at the clinic.

At the office of the Caledonian-Record, St. Johnsbury’s daily, where he is executive editor, Gray asked someone, “Hey, what’s going on at the clinic this morning?”

“It’s Saturday, remember?” a colleague said. “Free needle exchange day.”

“Oh, yeah. I ...

Books & Arts

Heavenly Rewards

That business of God and Mammon.


The Reverend Ike (1935-2009) interviewed in his office, 1998

Anyone who doubts that truth is stranger than fiction should reflect on the fact that one of America’s leading “prosperity” preachers is named Creflo Dollar. The owner of two Rolls Royces, he shames and cajoles his congregation, most of whom are poor African Americans, into giving their money to his ministry, telling them that to do so will make them not poorer but richer. After all, God wants them to be rich; He wants money to rain down on the righteous as a sign of His blessing. How do we know? Because Jesus himself was rich and was used to receiving gifts like gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

“Prosperity attached itself to baby Jesus immediately,” he says, “and that same gift to prosper has been given to us as heirs of Christ.” 

The paradox at the heart of Blessed is that this apparently materialistic creed, immensely ...

Prospero and Miranda

Op-Ed Shakespeare

All the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely politicians.


Shakespeare wrote about kings. Not, as the tour guide at the Globe Theatre told me, because the nobility were the reality stars of their day and the masses wanted to know all their business, but because Shakespeare, like his near-contemporaries John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, was a ...


A Covert Story

It takes a certain intelligence to comprehend the CIA.


There is probably no harder beat in Washington than intelligence. 

Journalists rarely have sources inside the Central Intelligence Agency who are not authorized, and when they do, odds are the source will be on the public, analytical side of ...

John Hay by John Singer Sargent

Witness to History

A golden life in the Gilded Age.


When John Hay’s name is mentioned today, it is often as a footnote attached to the names of the two giants he worked for, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. But he was much more than an associate of great men. Hay was a creature now mostly extinct on our ...

getty images

Global Glamour

What I learned at London Fashion Week.


It’s tough to determine the origin of the It Shoe for next spring. After all, the turquoise-and-golden-yellow Manolo Blahnik pump with black ankle ties is made of fabric from Africa, was stitched together in Italy, and debuted at London Fashion ...

Sandra Bullock in space

Moving Parts

This story is not quite equal to the setting.


I saw Gravity several weeks ago, so it’s interesting to reflect on what kind of staying power this box office sensation actually has. Once you’re out of the theater and away from director Alfonso Cuarón’s mind-boggling success in convincing you that you’re actually ...


Gimme Mein Gummi

Joseph Bottum, Der Gummibärchenkenner


Hans Riegel, October 2009

Herr Riegel’s father vas a candy maker. Was, I mean. Was a candy maker. This morning, over the phone, a friend made some passing reference to German economic policy—speaking, unfortunately, in that exaggerated German accent that used to be a standard of American comedy. You remember? Sgt. Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes, Arte Johnson on Laugh-In. And the trouble is that once that voice gets into your head, it hangs around for days.

Anyway, Hans Riegel’s father was a candy maker in Bonn in the early years of the twentieth century, and like many confectioners at the time, he started experimenting with reduced-liquid pastilles. Sugar was expensive, and hard candy, from lollipops to candy canes, requires heating to at least the hard-crack stage, where sugar forms over 90 percent of the hot solution from which the candy is made. If you could get the candy to hold together at a lower temperature, you could make ...


When the Old Party Was Still Grand

Mr. Republican, right, with Sen. McCarthy

It would be a rare week in political journalism when there wasn’t a story somewhere about a lifelong Republican who doesn’t recognize his party nowadays.

These fascinating essays, textbook specimens of lazy reporting since the 1950s or so, always related more in sorrow than in anger, explain that the modern Republican party bears no resemblance whatsoever to the GOP of happy memory, and always feature characters direct from central casting: the grizzled New England farmer whose grandpa was a town select-man, the retired Midwest veteran whose first ballot was cast for Willkie, the great-nephew of some Republican president.

The latest example appeared on the op-ed page of the New York Times last week, entitled “The Cry of the True Republican,” and was written by John G. Taft, a grandson of Sen. Robert A. Taft (1889-1953). After establishing his “genetic” Republican credentials, Taft ...



By now, a good portion of America is familiar with Moneyball, either Michael Lewis’s book or the movie, but here’s an abridged explanation: A baseball obsessive and amateur statistician named Bill James began positing data-driven theories about what makes for a winning ...


Fever Swamp

The 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy is nearly upon us, and it feels as if Camelot has returned like Brigadoon. Many a navel is currently being gazed upon in the media in an attempt to wring some contemporary meaning out of JFK’s tragic end. Some of this ...


Required Reading

The Scrapbook is thrilled to note the publication this week of

Obama's America


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