A War President—Sort of


Not what I signed up for

On September 10, President Barack Obama announced in a prime-time television address that the United States would be going to war—sort of. He explained that terrorists in Iraq and Syria threatened the United States—sort of. He proclaimed that the United States would do everything in its power to eliminate that threat—except deploy the “modest contingent” of ground troops recommended by his generals. The president declared an ambitious objective—destroying the Islamic State—and laid out a strategy that almost certainly will not achieve it. And in so doing Obama assumed the mantle of war president—sort of.

America needed to hear from the president himself an acknowledgment that his approach to the global war on terror hasn’t worked, that the reason he was delivering the speech at all is that he had misunderstood the threat. We needed to hear that he was committed to changing course and that, while we were not yet safer, we would be if ...

American Leadership at its Best?

‘American Leadership at Its Best’


In his September 10 speech to the nation, President Obama said, “This is American leadership at its best: We stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.”


Leave No Voter Behind

Ben Sasse’s exhaustive Nebraska Senate ­campaign.


Gary Locke

Lexington, Neb.
It was a little disconcerting when Ben Sasse, the man most likely to be Nebraska’s next senator, dropped down and did 60 push-ups. There was almost no warning this was about to happen, and it happened on board the campaign’s RV, aka “The Benebago,” cruising down a lonely road in the western part of the state. One of his campaign staffers joined him in the effort, though with four other people on board, there wasn’t much room for one person to hit the deck, let alone two. Lest anyone think this strange, Sasse’s loyal campaign strategist and push-up partner cracks wise: “We decided it would be awkward if one of us did push-ups, but if two people do it, we’ve created a subculture.” 

The truth is that it’s hard to stay in shape in the middle of a political campaign, with the long hours and omnipresent fast food. As for Sasse’s campaign style, well, the push-ups are all part of the ...

Mark Pryor and Barack Obama survey the  wreckage of Arkansas’s Democratic party.

From Blue to Red Overnight

The fall of the Arkansas Democrats.


Little Rock
In 1949, Harvard political scientist V. O. Key Jr. declared in his book Southern Politics in State and Nation that in Arkansas “we have the one-party system in its most undefiled and undiluted form.” Other ...

Gilbert Chagoury in 2003

Unsavory Bedfellows

It’s not easy protecting the Christians of the Middle East.


Last week, Senator Ted Cruz helped unmask an organization ostensibly founded to protect a Middle East minority. When the Texas legislator, the keynote speaker, asked the gala dinner audience comprising mostly Middle Eastern Christians at the In Defense of Christians conference in ...


Crony Capitalism Has Deep Roots

The Ex-Im Bank and the trouble with the Republican party.


Well, this was predictable. House Republicans last week acceded to an extension of the Export-Import Bank for at least the next nine months. The Export-Import Bank is far from the worst example of government-business cronyism. I just completed a history of American political ...

Ahoy! The Chinese Navy...

Getting to Know the Chinese Navy

Sharing carrier secrets is a bad idea.


The Obama administration very much wants a diplomatic success somewhere in the world. So when the president orders the head of the U.S. Navy to meet with his Chinese counterpart and find areas of cooperation, it is neither surprising nor inappropriate. But the possibility that the ...


The Ruggers of the Great War

They didn’t let the old game down.


“Good old rugby football. All over the
British Isles its exponents were in the van of those who went.”

—Walter Carey,
Bishop of Bloemfontein
and former British Lion, ...

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter on the front lines near Erbil, September 10

At the Kurdistan Front

Holding the line against the Islamic State.


Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan
A war is being waged along a 900-mile front between two entities that today constitute de facto quasi-states stretching across the old border between Syria and Iraq. These are the Islamic State to the south and a contiguous ...


Getting There

How to transition from Obamacare to real health care reform


An anti-Obamacare protest in front of the Supreme Court, 2012

Obamacare—or at least the version of it that the president and his advisers currently think they can get away with putting into place—has been upending arrangements and reshuffling the deck in the health system since the beginning of the year. That’s when the new insurance rules, subsidies, and optional state Medicaid expansions went into effect. The law’s defenders say the changes that have been set in motion are irreversible, in large part because several million people are now covered by insurance plans sold through the exchanges, and a few million more are enrolled in Medicaid as a result of Obamacare. President Obama has stated repeatedly that these developments should effectively shut the door on further debate over the matter.

Of course, the president does not get to decide when public debates begin or end, and the public seems to be in no mood to declare the Obamacare case closed. Polling has consistently shown that more ...

Thomas Fluharty

The Party of Reason?

It’s not the Democrats, despite their self-flattering claims


It has become a staple of the political left to brand Republicans the anti-science, anti-reason party. This narrative congealed in a breathless 2005 book by journalist Chris Mooney entitled—does the phrase sound familiar?—The Republican War on Science. Those fueling the ...

Books & Arts

The Misery Index

Why aren’t we doing more to relieve pain?


‘The Raft of the Medusa’ by Théodore Géricault (1819)

Hyrum Neizer was a successful Salt Lake City truck driver and a happily married man until the headaches began. Then, suddenly, for no apparent reason, he was disabled by pain—pain so punishing that he often ended up in the emergency room. He sought help from physician after physician, but the experts were either stumped or skeptical. They either didn’t believe his pain was as bad as he said or, worse, they thought he was faking the headaches in order to get drugs. Even his wife grew doubtful over time. Finally, having lost his job, his home, and his dignity, he stuck the barrel of a gun into his mouth and poised to pull the trigger.

Neizer would be dead if his wife had not happened to walk in at that moment. At her urging, he renewed his efforts to find an answer, and, finally, another ...

Napoleon in retreat after the Battle of Laon, 1814, by Ernest Meissonier

Refracted Glory

Napoleon on the downward slope


History is rewritten and rehashed—in the lingo, it is “revised”—for many reasons, some of which have nothing to do with politics, ideology, or current academic trends. Sometimes, the reason is the ...

George Eliot, Rebecca Mead

Oneself in Others

The unintended consequences of reading George Eliot


Let’s face it. Should Rebecca Mead, a New Yorker staff writer, offer us her mere, unadorned autobiography as something to pack along with our pail and shovel as a good beach read, she might risk the odd ...

‘New Hoover Convertibles’ (1981-87)

Eager to Please

Jeff Koons and the kitchen-sink approach to art


In theory, this Jeff Koons retrospective is a big deal. It has taken over the entire Marcel Breuer fortress at 945 Madison Avenue—an honor that, if memory serves, has been accorded to no previous artist. Perhaps more important, it is the last ...

Flannery O’Connor and peacock  at Andalusia (ca. 1961)

Here They Stood

Confessions of a literary pilgrim


When I was 16 years old and obsessed with the Glass family stories of J. D. Salinger, I convinced three of my friends to set out for Cornish, New Hampshire, in hopes of meeting the reclusive author. I’d recently read an unauthorized biography of ...

Westlake Lives!

Westlake Lives!

Tasty morsels from the late master’s larder


Imagine that a beloved family member has died unexpectedly, leaving a huge void in your life. Logic dictates that you will never hear another word from the deceased again. But then, the departed contacts you in an hours-long séance! The medium in this ...

Chris Pratt

The Big Slide

Fans aren’t exactly flocking to the cineplex


The summer of 2014 confirms it: Hollywood is dying. By “Hollywood,” I mean the industry that pro


Less Is Less

Matt Labash, maximal minimalist.


Dave Clark

The surest way to know who you are is to understand who you are not. For as long as I can remember, I’ve thought myself a simple man. I prefer hamburgers to fancy cheeseburgers, with all their dolled-up, dairy-fied excess. I have a “Simplicity” calendar with lots of Lao Tzu quotes. I would rather micturate outdoors than indoors, as it connects me to the land while keeping down the weeds. And as long as we’re showing our simplicity cards, I would rather say “squirt” than “micturate.” 

In short, I subscribe to Thoreau’s philosophy: “Simplify, simplify.” Or as we true minimalists say: “Simplify.” I am not a materialist. I labor to stay content within each moment, so that when reading Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh on mindfulness, I try not to let my mind wander. Though sometimes it does. Such as when hearing the neighbors pull up in their spanking new Infiniti QX80. I don’t keep up with the Joneses, which would be both difficult and expensive. But ...


EV 2: Electric Boogaloo

Only 999,997 to go

Back in the Edenic days when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal and the people of this great nation were as one—way back in January 2011, that is—President Obama called on Americans to put one million electric cars on the road by 2015. It was a typically Obamian diktat, addressed to both producers and consumers, greasing both sides with other people’s money, and bearing no relation—none at all—to reality.

Well, 2015 is less than four months away, and like many other parts of the Obama fever dream, the idea of making and selling a million electric vehicles in America has turned out to be a mass delusion.

The Electric Drive Sales Association, the industry booster that puts these things in the most favorable light, recently crowed that there are now 246,426 plug-in EVs on the road in America. But even that likely overstates the appeal of the vehicles. Nobody ...

Free Speech, Man

Berkeley and Free Speech

The 50th anniversary of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement is upon us, and we’re willing to concede that the founders of the movement had a good slogan—even if it pains The Scrapbook to contemplate the damage done by “campus activists” since then. Whether the social and political ...


The Bushitler Curriculum

It has been a constant refrain from the president’s supporters that Barack Obama has been subject to levels of criticism that no other president has had to confront. To that end, we refer you to Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky, a usually sensible, middle of the road ...


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