Obama on the Ropes


AP/ Charles Dharapak

When in trouble, presidents have ways to escape the hubbub, deflect attention from what’s causing the problem, and wait for the whole thing to pass. In 1974, as Watergate was engulfing his presidency, President Nixon traveled to Egypt. A million people lined the roads to see him. Nixon aides quipped that “a million Egyptians can’t be wrong.” But they were wrong, and Nixon resigned a few weeks later.

In 1987, President Reagan was beset by the Iran-contra scandal. His advisers came up with a clever idea for him to emphasize in speeches, an “economic bill of rights.” Its acronym was EBOR, so it was half-jokingly referred to at the White House as “ebor.” Talking about it was preferable to addressing Iran-contra. But the press and public stayed focused on the scandal.

In the firestorm over Obamacare, President Obama has few of these tools of evasion at his disposal. His ability to change the subject ...

AP / Jason Reed

Fantasy Diplomacy


On November 20, negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program recommence in Geneva. The last round two weeks ago ended with egg on the Obama administration’s face after Secretary of State John Kerry failed to clear “bracketed text” with his own side in the talks. French foreign ...


After the Train Wreck

What will Republicans offer to replace Obamacare?


Gary Locke

Congressional Republicans have Obamacare right where they want it. The idea of a one-year delay of the law, always far-fetched as long as the Democrats controlled the Senate, is suddenly looking plausible.

“I think there needs to be a one-year suspension of the entire law, at least, if not a longer suspension,” says Georgia Republican Tom Price. “The Senate Democrats and the president are the ones that have to decide it needs to be done.”

When asked about a delay, House Republican whip Kevin McCarthy chuckles but doesn’t answer. Instead, he suggests that the law’s destructiveness could upend the entire health care system. It’s not just the faulty health insurance exchange website and a slew of insurance policies canceled in light of Obamacare’s regulations. Starting in January, Americans will almost certainly be looking at higher out-of-pocket costs for doctor’s visits and procedures. The ...


We’ve Seen This Before

Obama’s Middle East debacle.


Israel’s primary adversary is acquiring powerful new weapons that will overturn the military balance in the Middle East. But it needs at least a year before its weapons will be fully functional. In the meantime, the Israelis are signaling that they are contemplating a preemptive ...

De Blasio hugs his children November 5.

A Curious Form of ‘Populism’

Bill de Blasio and Wall Street.


First, a matter of numbers and nomenclature: Bill de Blasio, who is being hailed like Eliot Spitzer before him as the new face of American liberalism, won his race to be New York City’s next mayor with a near-record victory margin but also record low turnouts in both the primary ...

The only known photograph of President Lincoln giving his Gettysburg address

Seven Score and Ten Years Ago

The Gettysburg Address at 150.


November 19 marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—rightly judged to be the greatest speech in America’s history. And while there have been innumerable books and articles written about the content, language, and rhetorical sophistication of ...


New Dawn in Dallas

Fifty years after the Kennedy assassination, Main Street values trump political ideology



The Sunday after Kennedy was shot my dad and I drove downtown to Dealey Plaza. It was an apology of sorts since my parents had refused to let me skip school to see the presidential motorcade on November 22. We were standing on the grassy knoll between the Old Red Courthouse and the Triple Underpass when our neighbors from across the street—a man and his teenage son my age—walked up with a noose and began exhorting bystanders to go lynch Lee Harvey Oswald. The mood of the crowd quickly turned from consternation to embarrassment, and it wasn’t long before people began inching backward. At that point, somebody with a transistor radio yelled, “Lee Harvey’s been shot!” 

A number of people began walking briskly toward police headquarters nine blocks away. The rest of us stood there mute, transfixed by the specter of frontier justice galloping unbidden into the heart of the 20th century.

A ...


The Town FEMA Turned Down

The tide goes out on religious liberty


Ocean Grove, N.J.
When Sandy swept across the Jersey shore in October 2012, the coastal town of Ocean Grove was spared the worst. Sure, half the town’s boardwalk was destroyed and its pier was swept out to sea. And yes, sand, trees, and concrete ...

Hossein Dehghan in parliament, 2013

The Secret History of Hezbollah

It was always an outpost of the Iranian revolution


Thirty years ago last month, Hezbollah blew up the barracks of the U.S Marines and French paratroopers stationed at the Beirut airport, killing 241 U.S. servicemen and 58 Frenchmen. It wasn’t Hezbollah’s first terrorist operation, but this attack, the most memorable in Lebanon’s ...

Books & Arts

Listen to Wagner

A bicentennial sense of his life and work.


‘Die Walküre’ in rehearsal at the Bayreuth Festival, 2009

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner (1813-1883), arguably the greatest of all opera composers. (Mozart and Verdi fans: Please note the “arguably.”) Accordingly, the Wagner industry, active enough in off years, has kicked into high gear. The major recording companies have issued large boxes of commemorative CD collections, with varying degrees of completeness. Deutsche Grammophon is the current champion, with a bargain set that includes the 10 canonical operas, plus the early and rarely performed Die Feen (The Fairies), Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), and Rienzi. Opera houses around the world have been offering major productions of Wagner works throughout the year.

To cite just one example: Zurich conducted a Wagner festival that ran from June 14 to July 14. The Swiss city provided refuge to Wagner when he was exiled from German lands, and he wrote ...


The Right Stuff

Where was John F. Kennedy on the ideological spectrum?


Reading this provocative and compelling analysis of John F. Kennedy’s political vision, I could not help but think of the reaction Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. had when his colleague John P. Diggins told him he was writing a book favorable to Ronald Reagan’s presidency. “Please,” ...

J. Carter Brown, 1985

Blockbuster Brown

The man who made museums what they are today.


In the 1970s and ’80s, American museums reinvented themselves as dazzling arenas of art and culture. Sacred temples of tradition suddenly heard the siren call of show business: Spectacular exhibitions took center stage, and museums became the most exciting sites in town, with ...


How America Grows

Immigration, in stages, has refreshed the nation.


Michael Barone may well have intended his exciting new book to make its appearance precisely when Congress turned its attention to immigration reform. That Congress had its attention turned elsewhere should not surprise him. One of the themes in this lively, ...


Screen Test

How the movies did business with the Third Reich.


Between 1942 and 1945, Hollywood produced a plethora of antifascist movies. Of the 1,500 titles released during this period, over half of them referred to the Second World War; 242 made reference to the Nazis, and 190 mentioned Adolf Hitler. The role American ...


Keep It Simple

’Tis the gift, if you follow these suggestions.


The national conversation about simplifying modern life continues unabated. 

Recently, the New York Times reviewed not one, but two books about simplicity on the same day. This comes on top of all the other books and magazines and ...


Blockbuster, 1985-2013

Matt Labash appraises a Blockbuster ending.


jori bolton

Though four decades shy of being an octogenarian myself, I’m starting to know how they feel. For at the hurtling speed of change these days, even a casual observer of the scene is unwittingly turned into a perpetual obituarist, forever marking the loss of old friends. So it was again last week, when news broke that Blockbuster was shuttering all of its bricks-and-mortar video stores. 

The company is down to 300 outlets from its 9,000-store zenith; a new store used to open every 24 hours. Blockbuster’s announcement was doubly cruel, since many reacted with, “You mean they aren’t already dead?” Indeed, if you were one of the lonely holdouts who found yourself in a Blockbuster franchise—clerks often outnumbering patrons in the latter days—the ritual had become like visiting a favorite uncle with advanced dementia. You told yourself you were happy to see the shell of him that was left, but averted your gaze as he tried to comb his ...


Change You Can't Keep



The Good Ship Gerald Ford

Donald Rumsfeld, the implacable ex-defense secretary, sniffled through his remarks about President Ford. Former vice president Dick Cheney recalled Ford’s kindness in hiring him despite his having dropped out of Yale twice and been arrested two times. Henry Kissinger, whom Ford ...

John Kerry

The Two JFKs

John Forbes Kerry is one of those upper-middle-class East Coast types of estimable lineage and impeccable credentials (St. Paul’s, Yale, U.S. Navy) whose tribal habits were the subject of the late sociologist E. Digby Baltzell (The Protestant -Establishment, Puritan ...


Clinton Being Clinton

If you’re looking for a clue to what a Hillary Clinton administration might get up to, check out her husband’s speech at the annual meeting of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. His idea du jour is to jump-start the economy by depositing all bank fines into ...


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