National Columnist

What’s superbugging you?

September 20, 2013

You may be worried about a government shutdown, but I’m not. I’m not worried about a shutdown because we’re all about to die anyway. Superbugs are going to kill us. “Drug-resistant bacteria pose potential catastrophe, CDC warns” was The Post’s headline this week about a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that did indeed Read More

Is America in Syria’s trouble?

September 6, 2013

President Obama has asked Congress to authorize the use of American military force in Syria against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Recent American history in the region demands that the United States exercise tremendous prudence and discretion in how it handles the war in Syria. Syria is embroiled in a bitterly violent civil war Read More

What Arlington could tell Obama

August 30, 2013

As President Obama weighs a strike on Syria, he will meet with military advisers, consult with allies, talk with congressional leaders and perhaps check the opinion polls. But before he sends Americans into another war, I suggest one more activity: Return to Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery. This is where those killed in Iraq Read More

Mirror, mirror on the wall

The president is up early, already showered and preparing to shave. Wiping steam from the mirror, he grimaces slightly at his image. Obama: Good grief, I look old. So much gray. Mirror: Aw, lighten up, Bo, it makes you look distinguished. You can’t wage war without a few streaks of worry showing in your face Read More

Shamed into war?

Having leaked to the world, and thus to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a detailed briefing of the coming U.S. air attack on Syria — (1) the source (offshore warships and perhaps a bomber or two), (2) the weapon (cruise missiles), (3) the duration (two or three days), (4) the purpose (punishment, not “regime change”) — Read More

Will my generation someday be called the weakest?

August 23, 2013

In my mother’s telling, I exist because of the March on Washington. Her account went something like this: In 1963, she was a student at Goddard College, an experimental school in Vermont that attracted the forerunners of the hippies. My father had come to Goddard the previous year, and though my mom first noticed him Read More

Choice in Egypt

Egypt today is a zero-sum game. We’d have preferred there be a democratic alternative. Unfortunately, there is none. The choice is binary: the country will be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood or by the military. Perhaps the military should have waited three years for the intensely unpopular Mohamed Morsi to be voted out of office. Read More

Can presidents write their own laws?

August 16, 2013

As a reaction to the crack epidemic of the 1980s, many federal drug laws carry strict mandatory sentences. This has stirred unease in Congress and sparked a bipartisan effort to revise and relax some of the more draconian laws. Traditionally — meaning before Barack Obama — that’s how laws were changed: We have a problem, Read More

Just clowning around?

Children, children. Here we are in the midst of a bloody clash in Egypt, more than 100,000 slaughtered in Syria, another looming debt crisis at home, and we’re consumed with angst over a rodeo clown who wore an Obama mask and invited the crowd to cheer for the bulls. There’s more. The clown has been Read More

America’s bubble of complacency

August 9, 2013

The impending replacement of the chairman of the Federal Reserve has taken on elements of a political campaign, with members of Congress endorsing candidates and financial bloggers strafing rival monetary camps. One half expects to see ads go up in Iowa: “Janet Yellen: Inflation’s best friend,” or “Larry Summers: In your heart you know he’s Read More

Finding solutions through busybody politics

August 6, 2013

It is hard to read a newspaper, or watch a television newscast, without encountering someone who has come up with a new “solution” to society’s “problems.” Sometimes it seems as if there are more solutions than there are problems. On closer scrutiny, it turns out that many of today’s problems are a result of yesterday’s Read More

The GOP flips the script on Obama

August 2, 2013

Republicans need to make up their minds: Is President Obama a socialist or a corporate stooge? “The president claims his economic agenda is for the middle class. But it’s actually for the well-connected,” Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, wrote last week in USA Today, rejecting Obama’s latest proposal for a corporate tax Read More

How fractured is the Republican Party?

A combination of early presidential maneuvering and internal policy debate is feeding yet another iteration of that media perennial: the great Republican crackup. This time it’s tea party insurgents versus get-along establishment fogies fighting principally over two things: (a) national security and (b) Obamacare. (a) National security Gov. Chris Christie recently challenged Sen. Rand Paul Read More

Itching for a shutdown

August 1, 2013

House Republicans, in their final days at work before taking a five-week vacation, have come out with a new agenda: “Stop Government Abuse.” A more candid slogan might be: “Stop Government.” This is traditionally one of the busiest weeks of the year, when the House rushes to complete the dozen annual spending bills so that Read More

Weiner’s Schnitzel

July 31, 2013

Would that Anthony Weiner were old news. But no. He won’t quit. Only a man who distributed online photos of His Own Self could imagine denial as virtue. Weiner’s stubbornness is likely based on two probabilities: First is that he can outlast the electorate’s attention span, which gnats regard with envy. A second pertains to Read More

The tragedy of isolation

July 30, 2013

In the 20th century, Western intellectuals’ two most dominant explanations of disparities in economic, educational and other achievements were innate racial differences in ability (in the early decades) and racial discrimination (in the later decades). In neither era were the intelligentsia receptive to other explanations. In each era, they were convinced that they had the Read More

What makes the McWeiners of the world do stupid things

July 26, 2013

Over two decades of covering politicians’ scandals, I’ve often been asked a version of this question: What makes them do such stupid things? Based on my extensive experience, I respond with a version of this answer: I don’t know. But I do have theories. And that brings me to this week’s McWeiner controversy. Most news Read More

Stein’s Law and the fall of Detroit

If there’s an iron rule in economics, it is Stein’s Law (named after Herb, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers): “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Detroit, for example, can no longer go on borrowing, spending, raising taxes and dangerously cutting such essential services as street lighting and police protection. Read More

When sex matters

While political sex scandals can be disturbing, outrage at sex scandals can also be irritating. When news of the Profumo affair broke in 1963, Lord Hailsham vented that his Tory colleague, Secretary of War John Profumo, had “lied and lied; lied to his family, lied to his friends, lied to his solicitor, lied to the Read More

Rep. Steve King’s rotten tomatoes

July 25, 2013

Now the immigration debate is really getting juicy. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, has always been a bit of a melon head, but he outdid himself in an interview that came to light this week in which he described “DREAMers” — people brought to this country illegally as children — as misshapen drug mules. Read More

Random thoughts

Random thoughts from wise thinkers: “We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.” (F.A. Hayek) “Many respectable writers agree that if a man reasonably believes that he is in immediate danger of death or grievous bodily harm from his assailant he may stand his ground and Read More

Doubling down on double standards

July 24, 2013

Redemption is in the air, we keep hearing. Americans don’t care about a person’s sex life because, well, they have one, too, and, hey, we all have weeds in our garden. Indeed we do, but not all sins are created equal. And though we are quick to forgive the repentant — and do believe in Read More

Obama’s race speech offered few good solutions

July 23, 2013

Eight presidents owned slaves while living in the White House. President Zachary Taylor pledged that his fellow slave owners would “appeal to the sword if necessary” to keep them. So when a president arrived at the White House briefing room to speak of his personal experience with racial bias, it stirred some historical ghosts. Typically, Read More

Rand Paul can never be a mainstream Republican

July 19, 2013

To this point, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has been the Republican flavor of the year. Events from the IRS scandal to NSA revelations to the Obamacare train wreck have corroborated libertarian suspicions of federal power. And Paul has shown serious populist skills in cultivating those fears for his political benefit. For a while, he Read More

The Zimmerman case: A touch of sanity

“No justice, no peace,” chants the telegenic mob. In a civilized society, however, where the mob doesn’t rule, justice is defined by the verdict that follows a fair trial. It’s the best that humans can do. And in the case of George Zimmerman, we have a verdict. It followed a trial every minute of which Read More