Category Archives: National Columnist

The four foreign policies of presidential candidates

After dozens of contests featuring cliffhangers, buzzer-beaters and a ton of flagrant fouls, we’re down to the Final Four: Sanders, Clinton, Cruz and Trump. (If Kasich pulls a miracle, he’ll get his own column.) The world wants to know: What are their foreign policies? Herewith, four candidates and four schools: pacifist, internationalist, unilateralist and mercantilist.… Continue Reading

Libya debacle undermines Clinton’s foreign policy credential

Republican peculiarities in this political season are so numerous and lurid that insufficient attention is being paid to this: The probable Democratic nominee’s principal credential, her service as secretary of state, is undermined by a debacle of remarkable dishonesty. Hillary Clinton’s supposedly supreme presidential qualification is not her public prominence, which is derivative from her… Continue Reading

‘Dangerous Donald’ fits Trump to a T

Whatever else one may think about Donald Trump, he has a gift for labeling opponents. Jeb Bush? “Low energy.” Ted Cruz? “Lyin’ Ted.” (Trump directs supporters to drop the “g.”) Marco Rubio? “Liddle Marco.” (He decrees that little be spelled with a double “d.”) “You have to brand people a certain way when they’re your… Continue Reading

Have fun traveling the galaxies, old friend

My friend Jim Harrison died Saturday, who wrote to me last fall: “Nothing new here except aggressive aging that comes from working every day of the week. I don’t know what else to do. Since age 14 I’ve been a slave to language. There’s a new book about aging — ‘Travels with Epicurus.’ Penguin. Fine… Continue Reading

Sinking to old lows in presidential politics

When a presidential election devolves into a hydrant-watering contest between leading contenders about the relative attractiveness of their respective wives, not only does America look ridiculous but we diminish our moral standing to denounce other cultures’ marginalization of women. It’s that bad. This latest tantrum-a-deux between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz began with an anti-Trump… Continue Reading

Why the future will disappoint — the antidote

Presidential campaigns incite both hypochondria and euphoria, portraying the present as grimmer than it is and the future as grander than it can be. As an antidote to both, read a rarity, an academic’s thick book (762 pages) widely recognized as relevant to America’s current discontents. Robert Gordon’s “The Rise and Fall of American Growth”… Continue Reading

Preparing to eat my words about Trump

Here’s some food for thought. Or, rather, here are some thoughts for food. Six months ago, I made a reckless vow. With Donald Trump dominating in the polls, I said I’d eat a column — 18 column inches of toxic newsprint, wood-pulp, ink and all — if he won the Republican presidential nomination. My rationale:… Continue Reading

Column: Obama’s ideological holiday in Havana

The split-screen told the story: on one side, images of the terror bombing in Brussels; on the other, Barack Obama doing the wave with Raul Castro at a baseball game in Havana. On one side, the real world of rising global terrorism. On the other, the Obama fantasy world in which romancing a geopolitically insignificant… Continue Reading

Column: Can automakers redefine mobility again?

If Mark Fields’ theory is correct, his industry faces novel challenges. His theory about the changing role of driving in Americans’ lives is one reason Ford Motor Co. now describes itself as an “automotive and mobility company.” Fields, Ford’s CEO, remembers a time when, on the day a teenager became old enough for a driver’s… Continue Reading

Column: What did you do to stop him, Daddy?

Now that Donald Trump has spoken before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbying group, Americans have learned the following: Trump can read a teleprompter; he finally got someone to write him a decent speech, which he was able to deliver without resorting to vulgarities; and he has provided something like a… Continue Reading

The poisonous conservative thinking that caused the Flint crisis

In a hearing this week about the poisonous water in Flint, Michigan, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) tried to blame the lead-tainted water on the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained that, under the law Congress passed, states are in charge of enforcing drinking-water standards. “The law?” Carter replied, contemptuously. “The law?… Continue Reading

Column: The GOP’s blocking of court pick is indefensible

The Republican Party’s incoherent response to the Supreme Court vacancy is a partisan reflex in search of a justifying principle. The multiplicity of Republican rationalizations for their refusal to even consider Merrick Garland radiates insincerity.      Republicans instantly responded to Antonin Scalia’s death by proclaiming that no nominee, however admirable in temperament, intellect and… Continue Reading

There’s an air of menace about this campaign

By international and historical standards, political violence is exceedingly rare in the United States. The last serious outburst was 1968 with its bloody Democratic-convention riots. By that standard, 2016 is, as yet, tame. It may not remain so. The political thuggery that shut down a Donald Trump rally in Chicago last week may just be… Continue Reading

Column: A few hours among Trump’s true believers

It was a festive afternoon at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater. Families rolled out blankets on the lawn beside a man-made lake. Vendors sold foot-long hot dogs. Organizers tossed T-shirts from the stage. Then, at nightfall, Donald Trump took the stage — and things turned dark. “On Friday, we went to Chicago,” the billionaire presidential candidate… Continue Reading

Column: Understanding the Islamic State

One wouldn’t call them bedfellows, strange or otherwise, but President Obama and Donald Trump are both inadvertently helping the Islamic State through rhetoric that is either too cautious or too rash. It shouldn’t be difficult to discern which is which. Obama, through his studious avoidance of explicitly calling terrorists or the Islamic State either Islamic… Continue Reading

Shame, shame, shame — Trump’s real strength

As Donald Trump continues to surge forward as the most-likely Republican nominee, perfectly sane people are beginning to wonder: “Was there something we missed? Maybe he’s not really so bad?” Shed that self-doubt and purge the thought. You’re not wrong — and he’s that bad. Just ask the Breitbart reporter who was roughed up at… Continue Reading

Donald Trump’s ‘peak’ might be coming

Frequently predicted but never reached, “peak oil” — maximum possible production — has been postponed yet again, this time because of fracking. “Peak Sanders” was prematurely announced because of persistent underestimations of how underwhelming Hillary Clinton is as a candidate. The Vermont senator’s peak might not arrive soon because his fundraising prowess will allow him… Continue Reading

The Holocaust and the Jewish identity

Bernie Sanders is the most successful Jewish candidate for the presidency ever. It’s a rare sign of the health of our republic that no one seems to much care or even notice. Least of all, Sanders himself. Which prompted Anderson Cooper in a recent Democratic debate to ask Sanders whether he was intentionally keeping his… Continue Reading

Column: Farewell, prince of tides

Soon after “The Prince of Tides” became a blockbuster movie in 1991, People magazine put the film’s leading man, Nick Nolte, on its cover as the “Sexiest Man Alive.” This couldn’t possibly be true, I thought (and wrote) at the time. Nolte, who played protagonist Tom Wingo, was a good-looking actor who did well by… Continue Reading

Column: Desperate tactics

It is desperation time for the Republican party establishment. Its extremely well financed favorite — Jeb Bush — never got anywhere with the voters in the primaries, and has already been forced out of the contest. This should at least cause some second thoughts — or perhaps first thoughts — by people who keep repeating… Continue Reading

Column: Trump’s flirtation with fascism

So it has come to this: The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, at a campaign rally Saturday in Orlando, leading supporters in what looked very much like a fascist salute. “Can I have a pledge? A swearing?” Trump asked, raising his right hand and directing his followers to do the same. He then led… Continue Reading

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