Memo to House GOP



Election Day is almost nine months off. But right now Republicans seem almost certain to hold the House of Representatives and are likely to take the Senate. Which raises the inevitable question: How might the GOP seize defeat from the jaws of victory?

Two occasions stand out, two obvious obstacles ahead that could lead to disastrous Republican stumbles, two pitfalls on the path to a happy GOP Election Day. Republicans are pretty good at falling into such pits. One is the increase in the debt limit, which Congress will have to deal with in the next month or two. The other is immigration reform, which the Senate has passed and which awaits a decision from the House leadership on how to proceed.

Conservative activists tend to get excited at the prospect of a debt ceiling increase, since it allegedly gives them a rare moment of leverage over the president. There is already a conservative ...

Aleppo, January 22

Obama’s Fantasy World


So what if the sectarian conflict raging from Beirut to Baghdad claimed yet more lives last week? From the Obama administration’s perspective, all’s well with its Middle East policy. Not a bombing in the Lebanese capital, nor clashes throughout Iraq, nor even reports that Bashar ...

No Such Agency

Privacy or Security: a False Choice


In the wake of all the “leaks” by Edward Snowden of the National Security Agency’s collection programs and the resulting debate over those programs, one constantly hears from elected officials and the commentariat about the need to strike the right balance between privacy and ...


Cuomo’s Place


At the 1992 Democratic National Convention, the pro-life Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey, was barred from speaking. The message was if you are pro-life, you have no place in the Democratic party.

The new attitude of ...


The Obamacare Bailout

Big government in bed with big insurance.


Dave Malan

Obamacare is like an onion: The more layers you peel back, the worse it smells. The latest revelation about this horrible law is the presence of a “risk corridor,” a euphemism for an insurance industry bailout that will occur sometime in the next year. 

The law depends upon the voluntary participation of insurers. Private citizens are compelled to purchase insurance, but insurers are free to walk away from Obamacare. To prevent that from happening, congressional Democrats put in place guarantees to cover insurance industry losses for the first few years of the program. The total cost of this bailout could feasibly run into the tens of billions of dollars. 

Conservative thought leaders have begun to sound the alarm. In a Washington Post column in early January, Charles Krauthammer argued that ending the bailout should be the “first order of business” for ...


A Modesty Proposal

New York City’s half-baked inquisition.


In recent years, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg has acquired a reputation as one of America’s most progressive hipster outposts. In addition to the waves of Manhattan refugees who have relocated here, the area gets no ...

Keith Ellison at a protest by fast-food workers in Washington, D.C., 2013

The Ellison Elision

A congressman rewrites his own history.


Minnesota’s Keith Ellison made history as the first Muslim elected to Congress. He is a former member and local leader of the Nation of Islam who first ran for office as a Democrat in 1998 under the pseudonym Keith Ellison-Muhammad. He’s a voluble striver and a hustler emitting ...


The Presidency Goes to Pot

Irresponsible Obama.


With his unique appeal to the young, President Obama has suddenly transformed the “experiments” in Colorado and Washington state into an experiment involving every kid in America.

First, the administration made a unilateral decision to curtail ...


The Go-to Senator

Lindsey Graham’s recipe for success


Graham, with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, meets reporters after  discussing Benghazi with

Duncan, S.C.
The pungent scent of sauerkraut permeates the room, but Lindsey Graham doesn’t have time to try it, or the pretzels, bratwurst, and schnitzel at the buffet. Each one of the few dozen business types gathered to celebrate the opening of a local chapter of the German-American Chamber of Commerce wants a chance to meet the senator, and Graham is more than eager to chat. An aide brings him a Coke Zero (his favorite), which he sips intermittently. 

Graham is unassuming in his ordinary gray suit and dusty black shoes. The businessmen mostly look a little sharper. That doesn’t matter, though. They all want to shake the powerful senator’s hand, have their picture taken with him, and get in their word or two. He smiles at them all and asks, in his nasal twang, “How’s business?”

In an interview on our way to the reception, Graham says he sees himself ...


Negotiating with Ourselves

Obama’s diplomatic march to an Iranian bomb


Analyzing the Islamic Republic isn’t a guessing game—at least it shouldn’t be. Iranian Islamists’ words and deeds are pretty consistent. Memoirs, speeches, and biographies have poured forth from those who made and sustain the regime. The New York Times and ...

Books & Arts

The Good(?) Old Days

The postwar cultural consensus was not so stable.


Reinhold Niebuhr (1956)

The indisputable achievement of American society in the second half of the 20th century was surely the ending of legally authorized discrimination against African Americans. Among the overwhelming majority of Americans who glory in this achievement, however, there is a not-inconsiderable number who feel a curious nostalgia for the 1950s, a time when the modern civil rights movement was just beginning. 

Looking back from the 21st century, the 1950s can be seen as a time when religion was respected, good manners were the rule rather than the exception in public life, and there was a shared agreement about fundamentals. George Marsden emphasizes the special appeal of the 1950s for cultural conservatives: It was, after all, not so long ago when “traditional Judeo-Christian standards, such as monogamous, heterosexual marriage, were the dominant public ...

‘Gassed’ (detail) by John Singer Sargent (1919)

Casualties of War

Medicine as metaphor for the Western Front.


If you read only one book this year to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, let me suggest Wounded rather than one of the more conventional histories. 

The virtue of this choice is that it is likely to give you a better idea both of ...

the penguin press

Imaginary Novelist

Has reality rendered Thomas Pynchon obsolete?


"Thomas Pynchon is up to his usual business,” promised a blurb written by Pynchon himself for his previous novel Against the Day (2006). Promised, that is, or warned, depending on whether the reader is a free and accepted 33rd-degree Pynchonian or a hopeless “normal” who ...


Virtue Rewarded?

The origins of the ‘Human Rights Revolution’ are more complicated than this.


When President Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly last September, he spoke about the importance of removing chemical weapons from Syria and emphasized that President Assad must give way to a more broadly ...

‘Icon of the Hospitality of Abraham’ (late 14th century)

East to West

The Byzantine bridge from the classical to the modern world.


The place to begin a visit to this important exhibition is with a sculptural work it doesn’t include: the Dying Gaul, on loan to the gallery from the Capitoline Museum in Rome. This fallen warrior’s powerful presence results from a masterful integration of spatial design ...

Joaquin Phoenix

Crazy for It

Boy meets machine. Boy falls in love. No, really .  .  .


The writer-director Spike Jonze made a television commercial in 2002 about a lamp that gets thrown away when a new one is purchased. The commercial turns the lamp into a tragic character, deposited on the curb in the rain, sitting forlornly ...


Alexandros Petersen, 1984-2014

Kelly Jane Torrance on The Most Interesting Man in D.C.


sue anne tay

The last time I heard from Alex, he emailed from Kabul. “Our lengthy discussions about your trip to St. Petersburg were apt, because you are like Russia: a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” As was not uncommon with an email from Alex, I didn’t quite know what to say, so I didn’t respond right away. Then I lost the chance. Two days after he sent the note, Alex was dead. And I soon realized that Churchill’s famous words applied quite aptly to the man who’d quoted them.

On Friday, January 17, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated himself at the entrance to a restaurant in the Afghan capital popular with foreign civilians. Then two men with AK-47s entered and methodically killed every foreigner inside, along with some locals. Alex hadn’t been in Kabul a week; he’d flown out of Washington the previous Saturday to take a post at the American University of Afghanistan.

Alexandros Petersen ...


American Hustle



The Eliot Ness Monstrosity

Among the many topics of discussion that do not keep The Scrapbook awake at night, the naming of federal buildings is high on the list. The Department of Justice building, for example, was recently named for Bobby Kennedy—not the most distinguished attorney general in American ...


Kmiec’s Progress

Doug Kmiec has had an amazing political journey. Today a chaired professor at Pepperdine Law School, Kmiec has traveled nearly the full gamut of public life: He worked in the Office of Legal Counsel under both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and pursued an active career ...


The IRS Blacklist

The Scrapbook’s attention was drawn last week to a front-page story in the New York Times about a small organization, based in Los Angeles, that is applying for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service. Called the Friends of Abe, it is a loose association of ...


Novak Fellowship Alert

The Scrapbook is a grizzled veteran of the groves of journalism and so can’t compete, but his fellow print and online journalists with less than 10 years of professional experience should be aware of the looming deadline (February 11) for the annual Robert Novak ...


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