Don’t ‘Fix’ Obamacare


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In the official Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, newly elected Iowa senator Joni Ernst stressed the importance of combating liberals’ “stale mindset” that has “led to failed policies like Obamacare,” while reaffirming Republicans’ commitment to “fighting to repeal and replace” that disastrous legislation. To find an opportunity to match their words with actions, Republicans won’t have to wait long.

On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell. Obamacare’s plain text says that its taxpayer-funded subsidies can only be paid out through state-based exchanges, yet the Obama administration has been paying out through federal exchanges as well. If the Supreme Court rules in King that Obama has been distributing subsidies in violation of Obamacare’s written text—that he has been paying them out illegally—millions of Americans across ...


Obama Turns a Page


Otto von Bismarck may never have said what’s often ascribed to him: “There is a special Providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America.” But he could have, and it probably sounds even better in German. In any case, one can certainly see, looking back, why the ...


Iran Nonsense


When House speaker John Boehner invited Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress in the coming weeks, the reaction from the White House was swift. In background interviews with reporters, top Obama administration officials made clear that they considered the ...


The ‘American Sniper’ Freakout

Why the left can’t tolerate this movie.


Gary Locke

"So-called ‘sand movies,’ the term Hollywood sometimes uses for films set in Afghanistan and Iraq, have a terrible box office track record,” noted the New York Times. Or rather, they had a terrible box office track record. The release of American Sniper, a biopic about Iraq war veteran and legendary Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, has changed all that. 

The film, which opened wide January 16, shattered the record for the largest opening weekend of a film released in January, a month traditionally considered a graveyard for ticket sales. The film pulled in $105 million its first weekend against its $60 million budget—and the film that previously held the record for largest January weekend is Avatar, the highest-grossing picture in history. Already, American Sniper has the markings of a cultural phenomenon. In exit polls conducted by CinemaScore, movie-goers rated the film A+. Phil Contrino, chief ...

Frankly, I didn’t mean a word of it.

What You Missed If You Didn’t Watch

Five insights into Obama, none of them flattering.


If you skipped President Obama’s State of the Union address on TV last week, you missed something. It was long (61 minutes) and uninspiring. Yet as the Obama presidency enters its seventh year, the speech was revealing. Here are a few things we ...

Dave Malan

Barack Obama, Corporate Liberal

And secret friend of the one percent.


In last week’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama came across as the ultimate class warrior. His domestic agenda consists of more spending on roads and infrastructure, new entitlement programs for community college and preschool, and tax preferences targeted to low- ...


But Seriously . . .

How the State of the Union address would have sounded if I’d been the president’s speechwriter.


Sorry I’m a little late. The National Association of Police Chiefs was being given a tour of the White House just when I was showing Joe Biden my new backswing—HANDS UP. They must have fired 600 rounds. The Blue Room—we’re renaming it the “Swiss Cheese Room.” Good thing ...


Don’t Forget Who Voted You In

The Republican Congress and the middle class.


Congressional Republicans can reasonably be accused of prioritizing issues about which middle-class voters care little. The president can reasonably be said to have his priorities perfectly in order, with counterproductive proposals that won’t achieve them.

The imam was in on it.

The Ayatollah and the U.S. Embassy

Khomeini’s role in the 1979 hostage crisis.


It has long been the conceit of Iran specialists and political commentators that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was not informed that militant students intended to take over the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1979. The Western intelligentsia has vouched for the Islamic ...

Corker at his first meeting as chairman

Corker in Charge

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has a new chairman.


The almost numberless foreign policy fires raging worldwide that affect the United States are the purview of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and its new chairman, Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee. The Islamic State continues its violent attempts to ...


Hard Times for Hezbollah

Is Iran’s Lebanese client losing its grip?



Last week Hezbollah buried one of its princes, Jihad Mughniyeh, the 22-year-old son of the late Imad Mughniyeh, a legendary Hezbollah commander implicated in such infamous operations as the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. The assassination 

of the elder Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008, typically attributed to Israel, is regarded as one of the organization’s most traumatic blows. However, some in the Shiite community here say that Israel’s January 18 strike on a three-car convoy in the Golan Heights near the Syrian town of Quneitra—which killed the younger Mughniyeh and five other Hezbollah operatives, along with as many as six Iranians—is evidence of a dangerous crisis for Hezbollah.

The throngs attending the younger Mughniyeh’s funeral on January 19 yelled “Death to America” only once. “I counted,” says Lokman Slim, an ...


Diplomatic Malpractice

Cultural preservation grants to culture-destroying regimes


The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) is a federal program that, since its establishment by Congress in 2001, has granted millions of dollars—$47,750,971 through 2013—to about 800 projects of foreign governments seeking to preserve historic structures and ...

Books & Arts

Minority Report

How can Republicans reclaim black voters?


Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) at the Utah Republican party convention, April 2014

A number of Republicans will pick an immediate fight with this book. First, one of its premises is that from the New Deal to the advent of Reagan conservatism, black Republicans lost an internal fight for the heart and soul of Lincoln’s house—and with that loss, the party founded on the ideal of equality has morphed into an institution its founders would not recognize. Conservatives who view that same period as the steady triumph of principle will bristle at this suggestion. 

Then there is the dust jacket cover, a 1960 photo of a beautiful but nationally unknown African-American woman. (She happens to be Jewel LaFontant, the first female deputy solicitor general and mother of Barack Obama confidant John Rogers.) Why, conservatives may ask, such an anonymous image instead of one of the GOP’s black stars? Flip through the index and there is no reference to ...

The moral implications of being scared.

Fear Itself

The moral implications of being scared.


In ancient warfare, the phalanx was a specific kind of troop formation in which armed soldiers were arrayed closely together in multiple rows and then advanced as one in battle. As Chris Walsh describes it here:

Virgil Thomson (1947)

Notes and Music

The words of Virgil Thomson, composer and critic.


There are four 20th-century writers who are widely considered to be the gold standard in American journalistic criticism of the arts and intellectual ...

The ebb and flow of American influence in the world

A Bigger Bang

The ebb and flow of American influence in the world


The first laser-guided bombs operated on what was known as a “bang bang” guidance system. After the bomb’s sensor detected a laser designator’s ...

The lighthouse at Eilean Bán, where Maxwell lived (1968-69)

The Lives of Otters

A centenary pilgrimage to the world of Gavin Maxwell


It is autumn and I am making a pilgrimage by sea to a literary gravestone. On my left rise the primeval, groined, and gullied mountains of Skye; on my right is the wild coast of Knoydart, one of the least populated regions of western Scotland. The ...

Kyle Gallner, Bradley Cooper

Ennobled, Unnerving

One man, one war, and the cost of service


The overwhelming American Sniper is cast in shadow from start to finish by two real-world tragedies, one very broad and one very precise. The first is the irresolution of the Iraq war, the conflict to ...


Say Yes to the Dress

Claudia Anderson, inspired by beauty.



Reading about an exhibition that’s about to open at the Milwaukee Art Museum—“Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair”—took me back to the night long ago in Cincinnati when my teenage daughter and I saw this African-American extravaganza live. 

I can’t reconstruct how we first learned about it, but the Ebony Fashion Fair was a high-class, traveling fashion show that visited, at its peak, over 150 cities and towns every year. And “high class” barely says it: The show was filled with one-of-a-kind creations from the grands couturiers of Europe—interspersed with the work of up-and-coming black designers and showcasing black models. The purpose wasn’t to sell clothes—they weren’t for sale—but to enjoy them for their artistry and flair, give exposure to young models and designers, raise money for charity (a local sorority in each town sold tickets and channeled the proceeds to favorite causes), promote Ebony ...


Kick Me

Kick me.


Remembering Churchill

The death of Sir Winston Churchill, 50 years ago last week, reminds The Scrapbook that, while a half-century is a very long time, Churchill’s lifetime is closer to us than we suspect. Indeed, in the words William Faulkner gave to Gavin Stevens in Requiem for a Nun, “The ...

Bill Moyers

Moyers, Johnson, and King

The film Selma, which chronicles the pivotal battle in the civil rights movement, is currently in theaters and has even garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The film has an unlikely critic, however—PBS host and former White House aide to Lyndon Johnson ...


Profiles in Courage (not really)

"North Korea and the Berlin Film Festival have resolved their ‘misunderstanding’ over ‘The Interview.’ The North Korean government had issued a statement Wednesday alleging that screening the film at the festival would encourage ‘terrorism,’ but the festival said no such screening ...


Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"I've never been a fan of global conferences to solve problems, but .  .  .” (Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, January 20). 


Sentences We Stopped Listening To

"Some have questioned why we preachers have not used our pulpits to condemn terrorism as strongly as we do gun violence or racial profiling in our own land. .  .  . Why do preachers persist in talking about violence on American streets and cities rather than about ISIS beheadings ...


Sentences We Never Believed We’d Read

All these years later, the New York Times accepts the Laffer Curve: “But other parts of [Greek opposition leader Alexis Tsipras’s] agenda aim to roll back many cost-cutting measures, gradually restoring salaries and pensions and lowering the tax on heating oil to make it ...


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