National Columnist

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

In Israel, no silver linings

The abandoned Circassian village of Zureiman provides a vantage point across the fortified Israeli border into Syria. Regime forces hold an area from the crossing at Quneitra to Ruheineh. Elements of the rebel Free Syrian Army are attacking from both north and south, attempting to close the corridor. A slow artillery duel — thud, thud Read More

Republicans test the definition of insanity

July 18, 2013

Well, this is embarrassing. Republicans have made so many attempts to repeal “Obamacare” that the scorekeepers have lost count. “Republicans,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, “voted to repeal it 40 times.” “Their 38th vote to repeal,” Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, tallied Wednesday on the House Read More

Thawing the Senate’s ‘deep freeze’

For all the railing against dysfunction in the nation’s capital, very little actually happened to overcome it — until this week. That’s why the agreement to begin putting an end to Senate filibusters of presidential nominees is a very big deal. It is an acknowledgment that the only way to stop political bullying is to Read More

The road to bedlam

July 17, 2013

It is easy to understand how everyone in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case feels. If I were Martin’s mother, I’d want his killer’s heart on a platter. If I were Zimmerman’s mother, I’d be grateful my son escaped greater injury, however he managed. If I were African-American, I would fear for my sons and be Read More

Is this still America?

July 16, 2013

There are no winners in the trial of George Zimmerman. The only question is whether the damage that has been done has been transient or irreparable. Legally speaking, Zimmerman has won his freedom. But he can still be sued in a civil case, and he will probably never be safe to live his life in Read More

Republicans adopting role of principled martyrs

July 12, 2013

Republicans seem to be adopting the self-immolation tactics of principled martyrs. Of course, principled or not, you’re still dead in the end. At this stage in the second term of the president they couldn’t defeat, Republicans seem more like stubborn children refusing to come out of their rooms for supper, even though the alternative is Read More

GOP’s search-and-destroy mission

Watching House Republicans’ latest complaint about Obamacare brings to mind the joke Woody Allen used to open “Annie Hall,” about two elderly women at a Catskills resort. “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible,” says one. “Yeah, I know,” says the other. “And such small portions.” Last week, the administration announced it was Read More

May be time to get television out of courtrooms

July 11, 2013

As a courtroom junkie since my early reporting days, it is at great personal sacrifice that I suggest the following: It may be time to get television cameras out of the courtroom. Or at least, judges might be encouraged to exclude electronic media from high-profile trials. The excessive coverage and commentary we’ve watched in recent Read More

Return of the uniter

July 10, 2013

Former President George W. Bush, on his recent trip to Africa, toured Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. He then sat down for an interview that may qualify as the eighth. The man who started two wars abroad and introduced a new level of hostility to domestic politics spoke with Read More

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