All the World Wonders


The U.S. consulate in Benghazi

What happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent. And those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya, and that then spun out of control.

—U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice Sunday, September 16

There was no spontaneous “fray” in Benghazi that “spun out of control.” The only thing spinning out of control last week was the Obama administration, frantically portraying the terrible events in the Middle East as anything but what they were. By late in the week the Obama narrative had been exposed as just that, a narrative, and the White House grudgingly had to abandon it.

They were sorry to do so. They were fond of their spin. The mainstream media reported the Obama administration’s shift as if it had ...

Obamacare Ad

The Obamacare Bowl


Have you ever watched a football game in which a team runs the ball seemingly at will and wins in a rout? And then, in a rematch, that same team for no good reason throws the ball repeatedly, with little success? Meet Team Republican. In 2010, it ran Obama­care down the Democrats’ throats. ...


Retreater in Chief


Things are getting ugly in Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents somehow managed to penetrate the coalition’s main base in Helmand Province, Camp Bastion, and blow up six Marine Corps Harrier jump jets and damage two others, making this the greatest single-day loss of American warplanes since the ...

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice

Permanent Spin


For nine days, the Obama administration made a case that virtually everyone understood was untrue: that the killing of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, was a random, spontaneous act of individuals upset about an online video—an unpredictable attack on a ...


A Rocky Start in the Rockies

Romney needs to win Colorado, but hasn’t closed the deal.


Romney on Skis

Colorado is Mitt Romney’s safety valve. If he falters in the East​—​losing, say, Ohio​—​Colorado is the key to offsetting that defeat and still winning Romney 270 electoral votes. In fact, as the presidential race now stands, Romney probably won’t be sitting in the White House next January unless he does win Colorado.

Romney ought to capture Colorado. There are 97,954 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the state. In 2010, Republicans won two House seats, gained control of the state house of representatives, and ousted two statewide Democratic officials for the first time since 1974. If Republicans hadn’t botched the elections for governor and senator, Colorado would be seen today as rich GOP soil.

Romney polls well here, relatively speaking. The Denver Post is outlandishly pro-Obama, but its poll in mid-September gave the president only a one-point lead, 47-46 percent. Republicans were thrilled, especially with the ...

Professor Stephen Schneck

What the Schneck?

A Catholic University scholar’s data-free theory on Romney and abortion.


Professor Stephen Schneck is a conundrum. He’s a Catholic who works for the Catholic University of America (CUA). But he’s involved with the group Catholics for Obama—despite the church hierarchy’s view that the president is attacking the religious freedom of Catholics. He’s pro-life. But he ...

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and President Obama

Power Grab

Our technocratic future.


To paraphrase Freud: Liberals, what do they really want? Not the communism or socialism of the right’s fever dreams. They know that didn’t work. Today’s liberal agenda is more akin to the corporatist vision of the 1920s and ’30s​—​an economy in which the state directs the activities of the ...

Aung San Suu Kyi

The Right Way to Engage Burma

Insist on democratic reforms.


A cartoon on the front page of the August 2 Independent, a weekly journal published in Burma’s capital, showed a rider approaching a fortress painted with the stars and stripes of the American flag.

“Please open the door,” the rider says.

“What is the password?” asks a ...

Sewing the EU flag

Europe’s Gift to Obama

The EU will muddle through until after the U.S. election.


September 12 was a momentous day for Europe. It saw three separate events that in a powerful way may come to remake the European Union.  First, Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled that the nation’s parliament can ratify a new, permanent rescue fund for the eurozone, called the European ...

We Accept EBT sign

It’s Not Really a Farm Bill

It’s a food stamp behemoth.


This week, Congress is under pressure to pass the 2012 farm bill before the current legislation expires on September 30. About every five years, Congress pushes through a farm bill, ostensibly a big bundle of agriculture subsidies that also funds food stamps. But the name is misleading. ...

Peter Lougheed in 1975

Freedom Fighter

Peter Lougheed, 1928-2012.


A cerebral law professor takes his progressive ideas into politics and inspires a personality cult that catapults him to the highest office in the land. Encouraged by the heady mixture of popularity and power, he makes an unprecedented move to abuse his authority. It guts the federalism ...


Supremely Overdue

With Fisher v. University of Texas, the High Court can finally put an end to racial preferences in university admissions


Abigail Fisher

Abigail Fisher, a white applicant to the University of Texas, contends that the university, in giving preference to minority applicants while rejecting her, discriminated against her unlawfully because of her color. The Supreme Court will hear the case this fall; it is likely that Fisher will prevail. The Texas 10 percent law and the special circumstances of that university present complications, of course, but the makeup of the Supreme Court today differs importantly from that of the Court that decided Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, which authorized universities to use race in admissions in some circumstances.

But how will Fisher prevail? Put another way, how much of Grutter will remain standing when this decision comes down? Might Grutter be flatly overturned? Many fervently hope for that, and I am among them. Grutter v. Bollinger is one of those decisions that were wrong on the day they were decided; it is the ...

Obama’s Palace Guard

Obama’s Palace Guard

How media fact checkers made themselves of service to the president in the welfare reform debate


Bill Clinton’s address to the Democratic convention is widely seen as a pivotal moment in President Obama’s reelection campaign. It was an undeniably powerful speech, but particularly noteworthy were his remarks about the popular and bipartisan 1996 welfare reform Clinton himself signed into ...

Books & Arts

Wisdom of the Age

Words to live by—at the moment.


Yogi (‘You can observe a lot by watching’) Berra whispers to pitcher Allie Reyno

‘Modern proverbs” is surely a contradiction in terms—unless “modern” is being used in its unmodern sense of “commonplace,” as in Shakespeare’s “wise saws and modern instances.” The word “proverb” inevitably connotes the idea of age and seasoning—wisdom that has been tried by time. Indeed, a proverb is usually so old that its original author is unknown.

What has such a weathered artifact to do with the linguistic ephemera of popular culture collected by Charles C. Doyle and company from 20th-century authors under the title of The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs? The best you can say is that some of them (but by no means all) are aspirational proverbs—proverbs only if they stick around for a few hundred years, as very few of them seem likely to do. For although this florilegium is not quite devoid of wit, wisdom, or concision, the selection is short enough of these qualities that it has had to rely on a large number of decidedly second- and even third-rate examples to make up ...

Hugo Chávez and prop, 2012

Power in Play

How to get it, keep it, and take it away.


There’s been an Orange Revolution in Ukraine, a Rose Revolution in Georgia, and a Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia that helped launch last year’s Arab Spring. Is democracy sweeping the globe at last? Well—not yet, according to our author, a former editor at Foreign Policy who has been doing some ...

Dwight Macdonald, ca. 1950

Wars of Words

Dividing the world into prescriptivists and descriptivists.


The fifth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary, published by Houghton Mifflin, was released last fall. In the typecast world of dictionary publishing, American Heritage is the “conservative” dictionary. Developed in the 1960s in the wake of company president James Parton’s failed ...

Charles Darwin, ca. 1874

Reason for Faith

The case for the peaceful coexistence of science and religion.


Pleonasm and pomposity, those twins of purple prose, define a certain kind of religious writing. A certain kind of holiday writing, for that matter—read a typical newspaper column about Thanksgiving, if you need another example—and any number of political orations. Historians, scientists, ...

Yayoi Kusama at the Whitney exhibition, 2012

Installed for Good

The improvisational art of Yayoi Kusama.


Though every generation dutifully brings forth its crop of visual artists, some harvests are more blessed and bounteous than others. And while few have been as sparse as those of recent date, we can all take some consolation in the Whitney’s retrospective of Yayoi Kusama. Any age that ...

Albert Einstein

Einstein Bageled

The relatively cutthroat world of intellectual theft.


Americans, particularly older Americans, continue to ignore the devastating effect that hackers can exert on one’s life. No matter how often they are warned to be vigilant about computer security, to erect firewalls to ensure that hackers do not infiltrate their PCs and steal credit card ...


Flight Risk

Christopher Caldwell, frustrated frequent flyer


Flight attendant spills coffee on a passenger

The Sunday before last, my plane was half an hour away from Budapest and a stewardess was bustling clumsily down the aisle. I was reading John Lukacs’s Budapest 1900. Something in his description of the Austro-Hungarian Empire led me to be glad I was wearing a neat shirt and blazer. In some countries, people value spontaneity and casualness. In others, people appreciate an effort to look distinguished. I expected the Hungarians I was scheduled to meet at the airport would be of the latter type. By a strange coincidence, the stewardess chose just this moment to pour half a pitcher of black coffee down the front of my shirt.

She said she was sorry. Actually, being English, she said, “Sore-ray!” This was my cue to blurt out, “Not to worry!” or some such consolation. But her tone was so impenitent, so insincere, so indistinguishable from “Good morning!” or“Here’s your drink!” that I could only stare dumbfounded at the puddle of coffee in my lap.

Once my absolution had ...


Bernanke Bails Out Obama

Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke

When Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke rushed to the aid of President Obama with an act of raw partisanship called QE3, the media ignored the political implications of this latest plan to print massive amounts of new money to boost the stock market.

“Ben Bernanke has joined Chief Justice John Roberts as a Bush appointee working for the reelection of Barack Obama,” Donald Luskin, the chief investment officer of Trend Macrolytics, said. Luskin was one of the few who understood what Bernanke was up to. The presidential election was eight weeks away, and the Fed boss had jumped in to boost Obama. Roberts had done the same as the swing vote in the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding Obamacare.

Roberts may have acted for institutional reasons, seeking to protect the Court’s reputation as nonpolitical. Bernanke doesn’t have that excuse. Apart from the risk inherent in such aggressive monetary expansion when interest rates are already at record lows, Bernanke has hurt ...

Maureen Dowd

Dowd Goes There

The Scrapbook scrupulously avoids Nazi analogies, such invidious comparisons being, almost exclusively, the province of the left. As strongly as The Scrapbook may feel about this or that, there is no politician in America remotely like Adolf Hitler, no program or proposal to compare with the ...

I'm from the media and I'm here to help.

Fact Checking the Fact Checkers (cont.)

Over the last year or so, the argument has been made many times in these pages that media “fact checking” organizations are a discredit to the journalism profession. Further discrediting the journalism profession at this point is no easy thing to do, yet fact checkers seem more than equal to ...


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