Category Archives: National Columnist

Column: The ‘Voice of the People’ fallacy

We hear many fallacies in election years. The fallacy that seems to be most popular this year is that, if Donald Trump comes close to getting the 1,237 delegates required to become the Republican nominee, and that nomination goes instead to someone else, then the convention will have ignored “the voice of the people.” Supposedly… Continue Reading

Column: A battle to save a battlefield

One of history’s most important battles happened here on a field you can walk across in less than half the 45 or so minutes the battle lasted. If George Washington’s audacity on Jan. 3, 1777, had not reversed the patriots’ retreat and routed the advancing British, the American Revolution might have been extinguished. Yet such… Continue Reading

Column: 2016: The reckless vs. the responsible

Free trade agreements “have been disastrous” for America, the candidate said, and have sent jobs to Mexico and China. “I will stop it by renegotiating all of the trade agreements that we have.” It sounded like just another threat from Donald Trump to tear up trade deals and make good ones instead. Actually, the candidate… Continue Reading

The coming train wreck

Yes, the big Wisconsin story is Ted Cruz’s crushing 13-point victory. And yes, it greatly improves his chances of denying Donald Trump a first-ballot convention victory, which may turn out to be Trump’s only path to the nomination. Nonetheless, the most stunning result of Wisconsin is the solidity of Trump’s core constituency. Fundamentalist Trumpism remains… Continue Reading

The people’s race

The spectacular strangeness of this presidential election may require a new display in Ripley’s Odditorium of believe-it-or-nots. Among the exhibits, curators might place the History of Conventional Wisdom, wherein the page titled “Populists Never Win in America” has a large, red X drawn through the word “never.” Like all things status quo, this bit of… Continue Reading

Trump learns that thinking is hard

Donald Trump is learning how hard it is to pretend to be something he’s not. Case in point: Since deciding to run for president — and maybe before, but who knows? —Trump has insisted he is pro-life. America learned otherwise with his recent remarks that a woman should be punished were she to have an… Continue Reading

How well do you know your baseball?

Pitcher Jim Bouton said: “Baseball players are smarter than football players. How often do you see a baseball team penalized for too many men on the field?” To show how smart you are, identify: (1) The team that won a record 26 consecutive games (but finished fourth). (2) Among those with 3,000 hits, the player… Continue Reading

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

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