EDITORIAL

Obama-Weary

BY LEE SMITH

John Kerry in Geneva

Two public opinion polls released last week show that the American public is skeptical of the Obama administration’s interim agreement with Iran concerning the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program. Further, the surveys show that Americans by a large majority mistrust the mullahs and, as much as they’d like a negotiated settlement, believe that it’s unlikely. In other words, the broad American mainstream is more judicious and more sensible than elite liberal opinion, which is still caught up in its Rouhani-fever-induced fantasies of a “historical reconciliation” with a state sponsor of terror that has been targeting America, our interests, and our allies for 35 years.

Just as telling, the latest polls push back against the conceit that in the wake of two wars, Americans—Republicans, Democrats, and independents—no longer care about the larger world around them, especially not the Middle East. As it turns out, the American people ...

Barnes

Twilight of the Sequester

BY FRED BARNES

In Washington, folks are celebrating a new bipartisan budget deal that saves us from another full round of reductions in federal spending mandated by the “sequester.” Far fewer are lamenting the dwindling of the sequester itself. As usual, Washington has things upside down.

ARTICLES

The Purge of Jang Song-thaek

End of the road for Beijing’s Man in Pyongyang.

BY DENNIS P. HALPIN

Newscom

The spectacle of North Korea’s former number two, Jang Song-thaek, being stripped of all his titles at a December 8 party meeting in Pyongyang and then arrested by uniformed guards left no doubt about his fall from grace. Jang’s former protégé, Premier Pak Pong-ju, was in tears as he denounced his old friend while he was being dragged away. Such a public display of political disarray, broadcast the next day on state television, was unprecedented in the North Korean hermit kingdom. Four days later, Jang’s execution was reported by KCNA, the official news service of the regime.

The fall of one of North Korea’s most artful dodgers—the uncle of ruler Kim Jong-un—was accompanied by a laundry list of his reported transgressions. He was accused of engaging in a “depraved, capitalist lifestyle” that included “gambling, womanizing, and drugs.” On a more sinister note, Jang was denounced for “throwing the state financial-management system ...

Promethean neopelagians, beware.

Speed Reading the Pope

50,000 words, boiled down—way down.

BY ANDREW FERGUSON

Everybody has an opinion about the pope these days and, what’s worse, feels compelled to express it. Rush Limbaugh has an opinion about the pope. He says he finds the pope “upsetting.” And he’s not even Catholic!

It’s true that Rush Limbaugh finds nearly everything ...

Justin Amash, left, and Brian Ellis

The Congressman Who Says ‘No’

How many enemies does Rep. Justin Amash really have?

BY MARIA SANTOS

"Tables turn on the Michigan tea party”; “Business to tea party: Get out of our way”; “Donors Plot Against GOP Rebel”: Judging by the headlines, next year’s Republican primary in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District is shaping up as a referendum on the conservative incumbent’s ...

Bigstockphoto.com

Subsidizing Rich and Poor

There are better ways to help workers than the minimum wage.

BY IKE BRANNON

There is a vintage Corvette parked on the street nearby, a 1977 canary yellow model in perfect condition. The NADA Blue Book says it’s worth around $15,000.

The car is someone’s toy: I know that because it hasn’t been moved for an entire year. I’ve ...

FEATURES

Schweitzer Takes Aim

A progressive populist has Hillary in his sights

BY MICHAEL WARREN

Schweitzer

Brian Schweitzer sounds content with being a “former” pol. As we chat on the phone, he is looking out the window of his home on Georgetown Lake in western Montana. By mid-November, the lake is frozen, and the Pintler Mountains to the south are covered with snow. Schweitzer’s home sits at the end of a dirt road more than a mile long. “I’m 25 miles from groceries,” he says.

The 58-year-old Democrat is also a long way from Helena, the state capital, where he was governor from 2005 to 2013. And he’s even farther from Washington, D.C., where national Democrats had hoped he might succeed longtime senator Max Baucus in two years. They assumed when Baucus announced his retirement in April that Schweitzer was the party’s best (and maybe only) choice to replace him. But in July, Schweitzer said he wasn’t running, leaving Democrats scrambling to find a suitable candidate.

Just because Schweitzer wasn’t ...

The greatest ever? Texas vs. USC, BCS, January 2006

Bowl Championship Splendor

The golden age of college football

BY JEFFREY H. ANDERSON

College football wasn’t always like this. The eyes of the nation weren’t always riveted on a massive stadium in a tiny town in southeastern Alabama, wondering whether the two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide could really​—​against all probability—be knocked off by ...

Dave Malan

The Silence of the Liberals

Obamacare is inimical to their values, too

BY CHRISTOPHER DEMUTH SR.

Obamacare may or may not survive its inauspicious beginnings. It has become dangerously unpopular and accident-prone and faces a minefield of difficulties. Still, the Obama administration has a plausible strategy: to titrate the program’s numerous taxes, subsidies, mandates, and ...

Books & Arts

Undoing the Damage

The (legal) case against Obamacare.

BY TERRY EASTLAND

President Obama and friends defending the Affordable Care Act, December 3, 2013

The biggest political story in our domestic politics since 2009 has been, as it will be for the foreseeable future, health care. One part of this story is ripe for telling now: the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—also known as Obamacare. That effort, you’ll recall, came in a series of lawsuits that few legal experts thought had much chance of succeeding. But victories in the lower courts led to new appraisals and a growing sense that, in the Supreme Court, the challengers just might win.

As it turned out, the Court’s decision last year in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius was very close, with the ACA barely surviving.

Josh Blackman is an assistant professor of law at the South Texas College of Law and a blogger on legal topics. His politics lean in libertarian and conservative directions, and he admits being “very sympathetic” to ...

‘Mother, Wilfred wrote a bad word!’

Uncivil Tongues

The evolution of forbidden language.

BY JOSEPH BOTTUM

The early British and American reviews of this book are hilarious—hilarious, that is, in the sense of proving two of Melissa Mohr’s minor theses. In her account, the sex-based swear words so reviled by the Victorians have become almost ...

Napoleon by Ingres (1806)

Emperor of Europe

The little Corsican with some big ideas.

BY LAWRENCE KLEPP

One thing that Napoleon— who didn’t believe in God, ideologies, or progress—did believe in was his own destiny. The spectacular victories of his Italian campaign in 1796 made the 27-year-old general famous in France and throughout Europe, and, at that moment, he ...

Rosemary Clooney in ‘The Stars Are Singing’ (1953)

Rosie the Riveting

How a great pop singer regained her voice.

BY JOHN CHECK

Rosemary Clooney was brought back to popular consciousness a half-dozen years ago in an episode from the first season of Mad Men. Viewers were treated to a rendition of “Botch-a-Me,” one of her conspicuous successes of the 1950s, a time when she recorded ...

‘Mistress and Maid’ by Johannes Vermeer (ca. 1666-67)

Dutch Masters

The greatest of whom is much in evidence here.

BY DANIEL GELERNTER

What may be the greatest painting in our hemisphere is on temporary loan from the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Girl with a Pearl Earring (ca. 1665) hasn’t been in the United States since 1996 and is unlikely ever to be here again. We owe this traveling show of Dutch ...

Toni Servillo

Eternal Rome

A flawed gem features a brilliant performance.

BY JOHN PODHORETZ

There’s a breathtaking and deeply frustrating Italian film called The Great Beauty I have to tell you about, because it’s really something to see even though it will probably drive you a little crazy.

The Great Beauty is a conscious and knowing ...

CASUAL

A Condition in Need of a Label

Joseph Epstein coins a condition

BY JOSEPH EPSTEIN

Dave Clegg

The Nobel Prize in Medicine has already been given for this year, but I should like to get a jump on next year’s prize by describing and naming a mental condition from which untold millions suffer. The condition is not anything so devastating as dementia. Most people who have it manage to work around it. 

For the most part the condition attacks people in their fifties and beyond, though the young can acquire it in an early onset version. Consider a single, if far from singular, case—mine. I encounter with mildly irritating regularity the problem of forgetting names, both common and obscure. In sports, the Mets’ catcher Gary Carter’s is a name I not long ago forgot. The other day I could not call up the name Eric Blore, the comic character actor in lots of Fred Astaire movies. From culture I lost the name Reynaldo Hahn, the composer who was a friend and some say lover of Marcel Proust. With a few clues, of course, one can locate ...

SCRAPBOOK

Selfie-in-Chief

Getty Images

Last month, the Oxford English Dictionary named “selfie” the word of the year. If you are blissfully unaware, a “selfie” is a photo taken of yourself by yourself, holding a smartphone at arm’s length pointed towards your face. It is then typically shared on a social media site such as Facebook, perhaps with a brief comment or caption, as a means of letting your friends and followers know that you are, say, attending some fabulous event (which they aren’t), are looking particularly fine, and are perhaps surrounded by a fun-loving group of attractive people (ideally of the opposite sex).

If you think this trend is symptomatic of the malignant narcissism infecting our culture, you’re not alone. One brave American recently started a blog called “Selfies at Funerals,” documenting people who use this uniquely postmodern expression to put themselves inappropriately at the center of an important event that is not about them, or otherwise act ...

Mandela Funeral

In Memoriam

Neson Mandela, a man of some considerable personal dignity, might have been distressed by the series of mishaps at his public memorial service: the disorganization which left thousands unable to get to the event, rendering the stadium half-empty; the embarrassing “selfie” taken by ...

Bottum

A Christmas Tradition

The Scrapbook is delighted to commend to readers a new ebook from our contributing editor Joseph Bottum.

Ramirez

PARODY

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