Category Archives: National Columnist

Column: Speaker of the House? Don’t do it, Paul Ryan

The worst job in the world, it turns out, isn’t the U.S. presidency but speaker of the House of Representatives. “It’s where you go to die,” as one veteran Hill watcher put it to me. Volunteers? In the wake of majority leader Kevin McCarthy’s sudden withdrawal from his once-certain ascent to the speakership, several others… Continue Reading

John Kasich may be the Jon Huntsman of 2016

On paper, John Kasich is a perfect candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. He has a long record as a fiscal and social conservative, and he’s the popular governor of Ohio, a must-win state for any Republican hoping to occupy the Oval Office. But the 2016 GOP presidential primary isn’t being fought on paper. It’s… Continue Reading

A Rose for racial reconciliation

Long before there was a “Black Lives Matter” movement, there was Ruth Starr Rose — an activist artist whose paintings nearly a century ago captured the dignity and spirit of America’s black families at a time when stereotype and caricature prevailed. It is fitting that an exhibition of her early 20th-century work should find its… Continue Reading

Joe Biden’s never-ending delay

Finally, it can be reported: Joe Biden is running for president, unless he isn’t. He will announce his decision this weekend, unless he doesn’t. Furthermore, Biden is approaching important deadlines for declaring his candidacy, unless those deadlines don’t matter. His advisers really want him to run, except those who don’t, and he has been sounding… Continue Reading

Charlatans and sheep

One of the many painful signs of the mindlessness of our times was a recent section of the Wall Street Journal, built around the theme “What’s Holding Women Back in the Workplace?” Whenever some group is not equally represented in some institution or activity, the automatic response in some quarters is to assume that someone… Continue Reading

Column: The GOP (New) McCarthyism

The lede to this column is a deep, guttural groan that originates in the throat and expands into the lungs before collapsing in the pit of the stomach. How do you spell hmmmgrrrungh? What else is there to say about House Republicans’ inability to get something right? And I say this with compassion, I really… Continue Reading

Column: Finding our place in the universe

Twinkling stars are pretty but, for astronomers, problematic. Twinkles are caused by the interference of Earth’s atmosphere with light radiating throughout the breathtakingly beautiful and unimaginably violent universe. In 1990, however, the Hubble telescope went into orbit 370 miles above Earth, beyond the atmospheric filter, peering perhaps 12 billion years into the past, almost to… Continue Reading

Obama outmaneuvered by Putin once again

“Russia hits Assad’s foes, angering U.S.” — Headline, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 1 If it had the wit, the Obama administration would be not angered, but appropriately humiliated. President Obama has, once again, been totally outmaneuvered by Vladimir Putin. Two days earlier at the United Nations, Obama had welcomed the return, in force, of the… Continue Reading

What kind of Navy do we want for America?

The Navy’s operations, on which the sun never sets, are the nation’s nerve endings, connecting it with the turbulent world. Although the next president may be elected without addressing the Navy’s proper size and configuration, for four years he or she will be acutely aware of where the carriers are. Today they are at the… Continue Reading

The GOP brat pack

The Republican Party’s “Freedom Caucus,” which has several less-charitable nicknames on Capitol Hill, is the dog that caught the car. Now what? Having (sort of) unseated Speaker John Boehner, these 37 or so uber-conservative House members are now scrambling for “a real leader.” Except that they aren’t really because they have no one with the… Continue Reading

Column: The ‘affordable housing’ fraud in California

Nowhere has there been so much hand-wringing over a lack of “affordable housing,” as among politicians and others in coastal California. And nobody has done more to make housing unaffordable than those same politicians and their supporters. A recent survey showed that the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was just… Continue Reading

Column: Yogi Berra, an American story

The 18-year-old U.S. Navy enlistee, thinking it sounded less boring than the dull training he was doing in 1944, volunteered for service on what he thought an officer had called “rocket ships.” Actually, they were small, slow, vulnerable boats used as launching pads for rockets to give close-in support for troops assaulting beaches. The service… Continue Reading

Fiorina is CNN-created flavor of the week

Sorry, Carly. You’re peaking too early. Just ask President Herman Cain. This week’s CNN poll shows Carly Fiorina, the former business executive, rocketing to the top tier of the Republican presidential race. She has 15 percent support, up from just 3 percent weeks earlier. Meantime, the previously unassailable front-runner, Donald Trump, is suddenly hemorrhaging support,… Continue Reading

With charity toward some

In the spirit of charity prompted by Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S., let’s not call them bigots. Let’s just call them the clueless, the incurious, the moronic, the dull. In short, ignoramuses. I refer to those Republican wits who unconscionably demonize a swath of Americans based on their religious views. Haven’t we gone through… Continue Reading

The Left has its pope in Francis

Pope Francis has created political controversy, both inside and outside the Catholic Church, by blaming capitalism for many of the problems of the poor. We can no doubt expect more of the same during his visit to the United States. Pope Francis is part of a larger trend of the rise of the political left… Continue Reading

Column: Putin’s gambit, Obama’s puzzlement

Once again, President Obama and his foreign policy team are stumped. Why is Vladimir Putin pouring troops and weaponry into Syria? After all, as Secretary of State John Kerry has thrice told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, it is only making things worse. But worse for whom? For the additional thousands of civilians who will… Continue Reading

Column: Francis’ fact-free flamboyance

Pope Francis embodies sanctity but comes trailing clouds of sanctimony. With a convert’s indiscriminate zeal, he embraces ideas impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary. They would devastate the poor on whose behalf he purports to speak — if his policy prescriptions were not as implausible as his social diagnoses are shrill. Supporters of Francis… Continue Reading

Column: Jim Gilmore — the candidate left in the cold

Sixteen candidates remain in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Fifteen of them were invited to Wednesday night’s debates. And then there was Jim Gilmore. “I’m very disappointed,” the former Virginia governor told me when I reached him on Wednesday. He paused, as if reflecting on his word choice. “Uh, actually, I’m angry,” he… Continue Reading

Column: A mission to reform lives behind bars

About a mile from where the Cleveland Indians test their fans’ patience, there is a facility that expresses Ohio’s attempt to temper justice with patience. The facility resembles a school, except for the razor wire. This prison contains 619 women, one of whom, Jessica Torok, mother of three sons — in the third year of… Continue Reading

Column: Cretins and squirrel heads

Some in the media were quick to dismiss Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s speech attacking Donald Trump as the opportunistic rant of a 1 percenter. That is, as a presidential candidate whose poll rating hovers around 1 percent. The consensus was that Jindal was trying to hook his wagon to Trump’s jet by calling him out,… Continue Reading

Column: Redeeming the remainder of a life

The man at the front of the room in the prison here is talking about the institution’s culinary and hospitality training that will help some of his fellow inmates “give back to the community.” He will never get back to any community; he is serving a “double life” sentence. But because he is not going… Continue Reading

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