June 23, 2014
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OPINION: A closer look at The Road to Character
With his new book, “The Road to Character,” David Brooks — New York Times columnist, PBS “NewsHour” commentator, and serial mensch — emerges as a countercultural leader.
OPINION: The Obama administration seems so anxious to score political points that it cannot act with restraint
The Obama administration’s high-profile announcement of an embryonic nuclear deal has already had the practical effect of undermining the isolation of Iran
OPINION: Every word Rand Paul says on foreign policy must pass through a balancing test
Rand Paul has beat a tactical retreat from the front lines of libertarian foreign policy. Having previously proposed slashing defense spending, he now awkwardly embraces increases. Having tracked closely with Obama’s position on Iran, he now prefers negotiation from “a position of strength.”
OPINION: The apocalypse has been much on my mind
The proliferation of nuclear weapons since World War II has been relatively slow. And the current global balance of power makes a world-ending, ozone-layer-destroying, nuclear-winter-inducing exchange unlikely. But it doesn’t take much historical imagination to spin a scenario in which, at some point over the next century, a different balance obtains.
OPINION: The Obama administration kept bar of expectations low, then cleared it
Will this agreement give the Iranian regime cover for what it is currently doing in the Middle East — actively spreading its influence and threatening our allies? Negotiations on the nuclear issue have taken place in isolation from the ballistic missile issue; the terrorism issue; the regional destabilization issue.
OPINION: Leaders willing to make deals are being regarded as politically and even morally compromised
This suspicion about compromise should be surprising in a nation that resulted from the Great Compromise. But it reflects a broader trend that has reshaped the attitudes of both parties: polarization.
OPINION: The Ebola outbreak should be a wake-up call
The next time a politician sneers at “foreign aid,” substitute the words “disease surveillance” and see if his or her statement still makes sense.
OPINION: As with any nuclear agreement, the devil is in the details
Many Republican senators are open to supporting a reasonable nuclear deal with Iran. But they have a series of reasonable concerns.
OPINION: Clinton is beatable, but the effort to label her as Nixonian will not do it
The effective kickoff of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was an act of deck clearing so breathtaking, so brazen, that it remains difficult to process.
OPINION: These trends now characterize a large portion of the U.S. working class
Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” is sociology as story, as tragedy and as an act of social solidarity. It is the culminating work of an academic career characterized by sound judgment and bigheartedness. And the more influence this book gains, the more just and generous our country will become.
OPINION: The half-baked Cotton letter was a poor instrument to express concern
This was a foreign policy maneuver, in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation, with all the gravity and deliberation of a blog posting. In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about the Republican majority’s capacity to govern.
OPINION: The Justice report on Ferguson police cleared the officer but condemned the system
The Justice Department report describes a patchwork of municipalities that have become predators, trapping residents in a web of tickets, fines, fees and warrants in order to raise revenue. Police officers and municipal judges are employed as collection agents, and police departments such as Ferguson’s — lacking diversity, proper training and accountability — are prone to swagger and profiling.
OPINION: President Obama has narrowed U.S. demands on Iran to its nuclear ambitions
As Obama has avoided direct confrontation with Iran to preserve the viability of nuclear talks, Iran has been busy destabilizing the Middle East, replacing us as the major power and threatening our allies. And those allies have taken note.
OPINION: A history of generosity can become an expectation of benefit
Tanzania has a strong economic growth rate, recently recalculating its gross domestic product upward by 32 percent, near the low end of middle-income status. But the foreign share of health care spending is growing, while government spending — as a percentage of the total health effort — is declining.
OPINION: As political attacks go, this one is particularly heavy-handed
Scott Walker pronounced that he is agnostic about President Obama’s Christian faith and patriotism. it is simply not the role of a Christian layman to publicly dispute the self-identification of other Christians, especially in a political context. It is a practice that can lead down ugly alleys of sectarianism.
OPINION: Our system of government by proxy is often comfortable with high levels of fraud
American politics has been dominated by a debate on the size and role of the federal government, an argument that has often lacked one element: actual knowledge about the size and role of the federal government.
OPINION: The rapidity of progress by the gay rights movement is causing a series of social and legal tensions
The unfolding victory for gay rights has set up a national debate about the meaning of pluralism.
OPINION: Some of the president's critics are blithely recommending a massive, unforced geostrategic blunder
Those who long for greater clarity in describing the peculiarly Islamic nature of terrorism (see Bobby Jindal: “Let’s be honest here: Islam has a problem”) should also be clear about something else. They are proposing a fundamental shift in the rhetorical strategy of the war against terrorism.
OPINION: Wherever you scratch the paint, there is some underlying, consistent philosophy at work
On both domestic and foreign policy, Rand Paul holds libertarian views that, if fully and publicly expressed, would bring new rounds of controversy. It is a difficult position for a candidate when every glimmer of authenticity is a potential gaffe.
OPINION: A measles outbreak brings up the balance of responsibility and choice
Whether hipsters or homeschoolers, parents who don’t vaccinate are free riders. Their children benefit from herd immunity without assuming the very small risk of adverse reaction to vaccination. It is a game that works — until too many play it
OPINION: In our politics, ideological assertions tend to gain an immediate, massive velocity
The use of apocalyptic language is often a form of self-elevation. It allows a politician to embrace the role of lonely truth seeker.
OPINION: GOP presidential hopefuls avoid major miscues at Iowa summit
The greatest hazard to Republican prospects with rising demographic groups came in the form of an argument rather than an epithet.
OPINION: State of the Union speech was layered with cockiness, preachiness and delusion
Presidential leadership on defense and foreign policy usually consists of preparing Americans for the unsought but necessary struggles of a dangerous world. Obama provides assurances of global progress and order at a minimal cost, so Americans can turn their attention within.
OPINION: The president continues to react poorly to terrorism threats
The situation in Europe reveals the line of argument that overreaction provokes terrorism is farcical. The French did not support the Iraq War. They did not engage in enhanced interrogation. They have been consistent supporters of the Palestinian cause. They have tried not to offend. But it didn’t matter.
OPINION: The White House has turned the clock back a quarter-century for Democrats
President Obama has now effectively undone everything that Clinton and the New Democrats did in the 1980s and ’90s. Issue by issue, today’s Democratic Party is about where it was in 1979.
OPINION: Ideological polarization has made stalwarts appear like centrists
A Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush presidential contest would be among the clearest choices in modern political history, but for some the contrast is not nearly vivid enough.
OPINION: The film is worth seeing, but too worshipful
The movie “The Imitation Game” has revived deserved interest in Alan Turing, the eccentric genius of Bletchley Park who helped create the marvelous machine that broke Nazi codes and hastened the end of World War II.
OPINION: Child survival rates worldwide have improved in 15 years
There are a variety of reasons for increased child survival, including improved prevention of malaria and HIV. But according to a recent report in The Lancet, about half of these gains came from reductions in pneumonia, diarrhea and measles — diseases addressed by vaccination.
OPINION: The ending of the 113th Congress was instructive
As a trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill trundled into law, the populist wings of both political parties declared themselves both revolted and in revolt.
OPINION: The problem for Democrats is Jonathan Gruber is not stupid
Jonathan Gruber recently appeared before a hostile House committee. The MIT economist played a significant paid role in producing and defending the Affordable Care Act, and later admitted the law was written in a “tortured way” to hide tax increases and other flaws.
OPINION: Will a future president or Congress attack drone program?
With the apparently imminent release of the Feinstein report on CIA interrogations of high-value terrorists a decade ago, let’s consider the situation of intelligence personnel who have been involved, not in that program but in drone strikes against terrorists, conducted in a variety of countries around the world.
OPINION: On immigration, Obama circumvents deliberation
Obama’s action shows the power of even a weakened president to influence a public debate.
OPINION: President Obama gives up on politics with power play
Obama has now officially abandoned the harder path — not because the issues surrounding immigration will never be resolved (a case no one has adequately made) but because he wants to be the president to resolve them.
OPINION: Pope Francis confuses Catholics about marriage
Francis is cultivating debate within the church about an essential social institution — and the value of relationships outside it — even as that institution is under assault by the world (at least in parts of the world where the sexual revolution continues its relentless march). In the middle of an important cultural conflict, Francis sounds an uncertain trumpet.
OPINION: Using executive orders will leave issues unrevolved rather than resolved
An ambitious executive order by Obama on immigration would result in an even greater ideological storm. Nearly all Republicans would have deep legal and procedural objections.
OPINION: Governor says politics should not be a wrestling match
Ohion Gov. John Kasich is an exuberantly orthodox free marketeer who has balanced budgets, reduced business regulations, privatized government services and placed a relentless emphasis on job creation. “Let me be clear,” he told me. “Unless you build a strong economy, nothing else works.”
OPINION: The focus of Bill Gates' life -- preventable disease -- is now a world obession because of Ebola
Following the Ebola crisis, infectious disease should remain a focus for good reasons: Because dramatic gains are possible. And because losses can be sudden and deadly, affecting rich and poor alike.
OPINION: We are humanized by closer acquaintance with the intellectually disabled
Those interested in the most efficient provision of social services would probably not design L’Arche — a program that lavishly invests a single life in a single life. Whether this is viewed as wasteful depends upon your ultimate goal.
OPINION: The Ebola virus has multiplied in a medium of denial
The White House believes it has a management and communications challenge. But the problem is far larger — the inability (so far) to get ahead of the crisis in West Africa with decisive action.
OPINION: Republicans controlling both houses of Congress has some downsides
The electoral map is favorable to GOP candidates, with battlegrounds located mainly in states Mitt Romney carried in 2012. Democrats can win only by running well ahead of President Obama’s approval ratings, which range from the 30s to mid-40s.
OPINION: For those treated very ill Ebola patients, danger of infection is dramatically increased
The federal response to Ebola has had serious weaknesses under stress. CDC officials wrongly assumed any large hospital would know what it was doing in isolating an Ebola patient, then allowed a nurse with an elevated temperature who had been heavily involved with a patient’s treatment to board a plane.
OPINION: The shift of President Obama over four months has been remarkable
For the first time during his stewardship of the war on terrorism — or whatever it is called nowadays — Obama at least sounds single-minded.
OPINION: It is fair to say that some cultural views traditionally held by evangelicals are in retreat
Even as some evangelical cultural views change along with broader norms, the Democratic Party is still viewed as a hostile instrument of secularization — a perception reinforced by the health care mandates of the Obama era.
OPINION: Big donors to GOP waiting to see what Chris Christie, Job Bush plan to do
Christ Christie and Jeb Bush are considered the most serious compeitors to presumptive Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Donor checkbooks likely won’t come open until Christie and Bush make their intentions clear.
OPINION: Belgium officials determine mentally ill prisoner has right to cease to be a human being
The right to suicide adheres, in this case, not to all human beings but to sick and apparently flawed human beings. And such a “right” begins to look more and more like an expectation. A mentally or physically ill person can be killed, in the end, because they have an illness. A qualification can slide into a justification.
OPINION: It's reasonable to question Obama's enthusiasm for a series of options he previously ignored, dismissed or even mocked
President Obama’s newly announced policy consists mainly of previously discarded policies that would have been easier to pursue in the past: Supporting moderate rebels in Syria. Asserting executive authority to bomb on both sides of the border. Actively cooperating with Iraqi and Kurdish forces to build their capacity.
OPINION: President Obama is more likely to change his policy than his rhetoric
America has found that this ideological, political and military struggle continues, whether we participate or not. And periods of our inattention are periods of our enemy’s growth and success.
OPINION: A human catastrophe looms is stronger action is not taken
In Liberia, the rate of new infections has probably already moved from a linear to an exponential curve. If not checked, it may pose a global health threat.
OPINION: A former reporter for the Associated Press says his editors spiked stories that did not fit their narrative of opposed Palestinians
Historically, Jews have been a stateless entity on which people have projected their anger and resentments. With the advent of a Jewish state, those projections are focused on Israel, which gets disproportionate (and disproportionately hostile) attention as the embodiment of colonialism and nationalism — things that European and American liberals find offensive.
OPINION: The problem for President Obama has come in managing the symbolic aspect of his office
The president is so aggressively indifferent to appearances that he doesn’t really seem indifferent at all. He appears to be telling the media, his political critics and the world: You can criticize me, vilify me, challenge me; but you are powerless, at least, to change my tee time. It shows resilience. Yet there is a fine line between not giving an inch and not giving a damn.
OPINION: Obama wants to keep strategic ambiguity at the heart of U.S. foreign policy
An American leadership “vacuum” (Hillary Clinton’s word) was not filled by the resolve of friends. It was filled by Iranian adventurism, by Russian meddling, by Bashar al-Assad’s mass atrocities, by Gulf state money flowing to disturbing places and by expansionist, ruthless, messianic Islamist radicalism.
OPINION: When an unarmed person is killed by police, the police have the burden of proving it was justified
The killing of Michael Brown is not primarily a symbol, an example or a wake-up call. It is a specific human tragedy, on a specific street, involving a serious factual dispute. It is the reality that matters most: the deadly struggle over a gun or the murder of a man with his hands in the air.
OPINION: Experiment ends with foreign policy collapse
In the absence of stabilizing American leadership, the Middle East has become a regional Sunni-Shiite proxy war in which the most radical and ruthless thrive.
OPINION: The Syrian conflict will be remembered as a strategic watershed for American foreign policy
President Obama has consistently complained about American powerlessness in Syria, and, through risk aversion and delay, has ensured that powerlessness.
OPINION: The Giver will provoke political commentary
This is fairly serious stuff for a summertime movie. But it is precisely what causes “The Giver” to transcend the genre of teen literature it created.
OPINION: What’s it like from a legislator’s perspective?
The growth of payday gambling and the legalization of marijuana have two things in common.
OPINION: Obama’s presidency has changed the nation in more ways than one
The headline — “Poll: Obama Worst President Since World War II” — was both provocative and misleading.
OPINION: Thomas Jefferson inserted an abstract truth into a revolutionary document
America could have been declared independent from Britain without all men being declared equal. The various “injuries and usurpations” relating to the traditional rights of Englishmen would have been enough. But something more ambitious and universal got planted.
OPINION: There are many ways to succeed in American politics, but most of them involve authenticity.
The implicit front-runners in the 2016 presidential race — Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush — are sometimes lumped together as candidates of the past, essentially the incumbents in the race. But if authenticity can trump incumbency, there is currently some distance between the two establishment options.
OPINION: If there was any political motivation for this abuse of power, it is a form of corruption
In recent congressional testimony, Koskinen admitted that the emails were irretrievably gone; that the “backup tapes” had been erased; and that Lerner’s hard drive was apparently destroyed in an aggressive act of recycling. With that settled, Koskinen expressed his “hope that the investigations … can be concluded in the very near future.”