National Columnist

Legacy of a first citizen

July 9, 2013

As Nelson Mandela lies gravely ill — heaped with tributes and obscured beneath them — it is worth recalling his defining achievement. Mandela spent 27 years in prison, much of it in a 7-by-8-foot cell with a bedroll and a bucket, embodying the wall-less captivity of a majority of his countrymen. But his historical place Read More

The Washington change that wasn’t

July 5, 2013

The nation’s capital is savoring a satisfying spasm of schadenfreude this holiday weekend. Copies of “This Town,” my friend and former Washington Post colleague Mark Leibovich’s soon-to-be released book about Washington culture, have begun to dribble out, and people in the capital are reacting in the predictable way of sorting out who came out worst. Read More

Obama’s global-warming folly

The economy stagnates. Syria burns. Scandals lap at his feet. China and Russia mock him, even as a “29-year-old hacker” revealed his nation’s spy secrets to the world. How does President Obama respond? With a grandiloquent speech on climate change. Climate change? It lies at the very bottom of a list of Americans’ concerns (last Read More

Famous threesomes, old homes, good reads

Welcome, visitors! •••••• Question: As people age, do they sleep more soundly? Answer: Yes, but usually in the afternoon. •••••• I see by the paper…….. • U.S.-made car sales are robust in comparison to their automaker peers in France, Italy and Germany, the Wall Street Journal reports. In France, sales are off 11 percent. Recalls Read More

The sudden sainthood of Wendy Davis

July 3, 2013

I like Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis. I admire her intelligence, chutzpah, tenacity and, to be perfectly honest, her enviable continence. But her elevation to national heroine, essentially owing to her ability to speak for 11 hours straight without a break while wearing (how many times did we hear or read it?) “rouge-red sneakers,” is Read More

Obama’s bright idea — Generating power in Africa

July 2, 2013

Before his current trip, President Obama’s Africa strategy was known for inattention at the highest level. Former Chinese President Hu Jintao made five extensive visits to Africa as head of state. Obama spent 20 hours in sub-Saharan Africa in 2009. The intense affection of a continent seemed unrequited, and foreign policy experts wondered if American Read More

Nationalized gay marriage now inevitable

June 28, 2013

Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages even in states that have legalized it. This week, the Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional. There are two possible grounds, distinct and in some ways contradictory, for doing so. The curious thing about the court’s DOMA decision is that it contains Read More

The Zimmerman trial is no joking matter

June 27, 2013

When it comes to knock-knock jokes, it helps to be 5 years old: You can slap your head, roll your eyes and run outside and play. In a courtroom where the defendant is charged with second-degree murder, a knock-knock joke has all the appeal of a bar of soap on the shower floor. It is Read More

Roberts court guts Martin Luther King Jr’s­ triumph

The Roberts court chose a most cynical way to celebrate this summer’s 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s penultimate day in session before the Aug. 28 semi-centenary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the court’s conservative majority announced a 5-to-4 ruling that guts one of Read More

Random thoughts: From Biden to the Yankees

June 26, 2013

Random thoughts on the passing scene: Edmund Burke said, “There is no safety for honest men, but by believing all possible evil of evil men.” Evil men do not always snarl. Some smile charmingly. Those are the most dangerous. If you don’t think the mainstream media slants the news, keep track of how often they Read More

The Republican’s leadership challenge

June 20, 2013

It is often argued, including by me, that the GOP needs its own Bill Clinton or Tony Blair — a leader to reposition the party and reinvigorate its political appeal. But if these figures are examples of successful reform, British Prime Minister David Cameron is a warning of its perils. Cameron set out to modernize Read More

The right’s poisoning of patriotism

June 14, 2013

A number of libertarians and conservative populists have found data collection by the National Security Agency to be the final confirmation of their worst fears about Barack Obama and modern government. It is an attempt, according to Ron Paul, to “deliberately destroy the Constitution.” To radio talk show host Mark Levin, it reveals “the elements Read More

Snowden’s NSA leaks are backlash of too much secrecy

June 13, 2013

Keep your distance: The director of national intelligence is having intestinal distress. “For me, it is literally — not figuratively, literally — gut-wrenching to see this happen,” James Clapper told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell over the weekend, referring to leaks about the government’s secret program to collect vast troves of phone and Internet data. There Read More

Crisis of faith in government

June 12, 2013

It is reassuring that in the midst of so much government dysfunction, the IRS has resolved the question of when and whether to tax tanning beds under the Affordable Care Act. Do not be concerned about that giddiness you feel. You are not having a nervous breakdown but are suffering a symptom commonly associated with Read More

A power of conviction on human rights

June 11, 2013

President Obama’s newly designated national security adviser, Susan Rice, and his proposed United Nations ambassador, Samantha Power, are political loyalists. They are also known as liberal interventionists — emotionally seared by American passivity during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and advocates for military action to prevent a Libyan bloodbath in 2011. So the question arises Read More

Obama in a hot spot on trafficking

June 7, 2013

When President Obama goes to Africa at month’s end, the first African-American president will have a rare opportunity to spread American values to that continent. It would be a shame if his trip instead validated slavery. By selecting Tanzania as one of three African countries that will receive a presidential visit, the Obama administration is Read More

A message from Qusair

On Wednesday, Qusair fell to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Qusair is a strategic town that connects Damascus with Assad’s Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean, with its ports and Russian naval base. It’s a major strategic shift. Assad’s forces can now advance on rebel-dominated areas in central and northern Syria, including Aleppo. For the Read More

Republicans are acting like it is 1999

June 6, 2013

It’s beginning to feel like the late ’90s all over again. Then, congressional Republicans howled themselves hoarse about Clinton administration scandals. But the indicators kept pointing to a booming economy, and support for President Bill Clinton climbed steeply through 1998 as House Republicans marched toward impeaching him. Now, after a long economic winter, green shoots Read More

May 31, 2013

Bob Dole must be some kind of prophet. Not 72 hours after Fox News aired the former Republican leader’s suggestion that the GOP put out a “closed for repairs” sign, Michele Bachmann announced that she’s going out of business. Just like that, the Republican conglomerate got an unexpected chance to shutter one of the balkiest Read More

The Dorothy doctrine of the Obama administration

“This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises …” — Barack Obama, May 23 Nice thought. But much as Obama would like to close his eyes, click his heels three times and declare the war on terror over, war is a two-way street. That’s what history advises: Two sides to fight it, Read More

Droning about the end of war

May 30, 2013

It’s good to know that the war on terror is finally over. It was all so ugly, what with the beheadings and bombings. Wait. Weren’t we just talking about the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Justice Department secretly seizing reporters’ phone records? Weren’t we just talking about how no effort was made to rescue Read More

The bullying pulpit

May 29, 2013

We have truly entered the world of “Alice in Wonderland” when the CEO of a company that pays $16 million a day in taxes is hauled up before a Congressional subcommittee to be denounced on nationwide television for not paying more. Apple CEO Tim Cook was denounced for contributing to “a worrisome federal deficit,” according Read More

Ending corruption would help Washington, D.C.’s, case for local control

One of many exciting things about living and working in the capital is that you never know just what the District of Columbia government will come up with next. A month ago, D.C. officials declared that they were prepared to end the city’s tradition of many-hued cabs by requiring that all taxis be painted red Read More

Dark details behind family portraits

May 28, 2013

Women’s reproductive rights have enjoyed a half-century or so of well-defined proponents and opponents, but the recently flourishing fertility industry, from egg harvesting to surrogacy, has produced fresh and surprising alliances among former foes. Feminists, traditionalists, Catholics, evangelicals, ethicists and atheists alike have united to combat what many convincingly view as the exploitation and commodification Read More

The other IRS scandal

May 24, 2013

Let us stipulate that now might not be the best time — with IRS officials exposed for abusing power, caught in self-serving deceptions, invoking their constitutional right against self-incrimination — to dramatically expand the authority and size of their agency. But this is what Obamacare requires. Thousands of new IRS agents will implement 40-odd provisions Read More