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American Democracy: Not So Decadent After All

WASHINGTON -- Under the dark gray cloud, amid the general gloom, allow me to offer a ray of sunshine. The last two months have brought a pleasant surprise: Turns out the much feared, much predicted withering of our democratic institutions has been grossly exaggerated. The system lives.

Let me explain. Donald Trump’s triumph last year was ...Read more

The Real World of Obamacare Repeal

WASHINGTON -- The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but for governments it’s not that easy. Once something is given -- say, health insurance coverage to 20 million Americans -- you take it away at your peril. This is true for any government benefit, but especially for health care. There’s a reason not one Western democracy with some ...Read more

Down the Conspiracy Rabbit Hole

WASHINGTON -- When he was Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz was once asked about the CIA’s disavowal of involvement in a mysterious recent bombing in Lebanon. Replied Shultz: “If the CIA denies something, it’s denied.”

Has there ever been a more dry, more wry, more ironic verdict on the world of espionage? Within it, ...Read more

Revolt of the Attorneys General

WASHINGTON -- Among the many unintended legacies of Barack Obama, one has gone largely unnoticed: the emergence of a novel form of resistance to executive overreach, a check-and-balance improvised in reaction to his various presidential power grabs.

It’s the revolt of the state attorneys general, banding together to sue and curb the executive...Read more

Trump and the ‘Madman Theory’

WASHINGTON -- At the heart of Donald Trump’s foreign policy team lies a glaring contradiction. On the one hand, it is composed of men of experience, judgment and traditionalism. Meaning, they are all very much within the parameters of mainstream American internationalism as practiced since 1945. Practically every member of the team -- the ...Read more

The Case of the Cover-Up in Search of a Crime

WASHINGTON -- It’s a Watergate-era cliche that the cover-up is always worse than the crime. In the Mike Flynn affair, we have the first recorded instance of a cover-up in the absence of a crime.

Being covered up were the Dec. 29 phone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to Washington. The presumed violation was Flynn ...Read more

The Travel Moratorium: A Hopeless Disaster

WASHINGTON -- Stupid but legal. Such is the Trump administration’s travel ban for people from seven Muslim countries. Of course, as with almost everything in American life, what should be a policy or even a moral issue becomes a legal one. The judicial challenge should have been given short shrift, since the presidential grant of authority to ...Read more

Thank God for Harry Reid

WASHINGTON -- There are many people to thank for the coming accession of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Donald Trump for winning the election. Hillary Clinton for losing it. Mitch McConnell for holding open the high court seat through 2016, resolute and immovable against furious (and hypocritical) opposition from Democrats and media. And, of...Read more

Trump’s Foreign Policy Revolution

WASHINGTON -- The flurry of bold executive orders and of highly provocative Cabinet nominations (such as a secretary of education who actually believes in school choice) has been encouraging to conservative skeptics of Donald Trump. But it shouldn’t erase the troubling memory of one major element of Trump’s inaugural address.

The foreign ...Read more

Obama’s Self-Revealing Final Act

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama did not go out quietly. His unquiet final acts were, in part, overshadowed by a successor who refused to come in quietly and, in part, by Obama’s own endless, sentimental farewell tour. But there was nothing nostalgic or sentimental about Obama’s last acts. Two of them were simply shocking.

Perhaps we should have ...Read more

What Happened to the Honeymoon?

WASHINGTON -- The shortest honeymoon on record is officially over. Normally, newly elected presidents enjoy a wave of goodwill that allows them to fly high at least through their first 100 days. Donald Trump has not yet been sworn in and the honeymoon has already come and gone.

Presidents-elect usually lie low during the interregnum. Trump ...Read more

Cold War Relic, Present Day Threat

WASHINGTON -- You can kick the can down the road, but when Kim Jong Un announces, as he did last Sunday, that “we have reached the final stage in preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic rocket,” you are reaching the end of that road.

Since the early 1990s, we have offered every kind of inducement to get North Korea to give...Read more

Obama’s Final, Most Shameful, Legacy Moment

“When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.”

-- Barack Obama, AIPAC conference, March 4, 2012

WASHINGTON -- The audience -- overwhelmingly Jewish, passionately pro-Israel and supremely gullible -- applauded wildly. Four years later -- his last election behind him, with a month to go in office and with no need to fool Jew or ...Read more

Aleppo and American Decline

WASHINGTON -- The fall of Aleppo just weeks before Barack Obama leaves office is a fitting stamp on his Middle East policy of retreat and withdrawal. The pitiable pictures from the devastated city showed the true cost of Obama’s abdication. For which he seems to have few regrets, however. In his end-of-year news conference, Obama defended U.S....Read more

The Trump Cabinet: Bonfire of the Agencies

WASHINGTON -- Democrats spent the first two decades of the post-Cold War era rather relaxed about Russian provocations and revanchism. President Obama famously mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for suggesting that Russia was our principal geopolitical adversary. Yet today the Dems are in high dudgeon over the closeness of secretary of state nominee, ...Read more

Tweets and Theater Entertain, but Congress is the Main Event

WASHINGTON -- The most amusing part of the Trump transition has been watching its effortless confounding of the media, often in fewer than 140 characters. One morning, after a Fox News report on lefty nuttiness at some obscure New England college -- a flag burning that led a more-contemptible-than-usual campus administration to take down the ...Read more

After a Mere 25 years, the Triumph of the West is Over

WASHINGTON -- Twenty-five years ago -- December 1991 -- communism died, the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disappeared. It was the largest breakup of an empire in modern history and not a shot was fired. It was an event of biblical proportions that my generation thought it would never live to see. As Wordsworth famously rhapsodized (about ...Read more

For Democrats, the Road Back

WASHINGTON -- One of the more salutary outcomes of the recent election is that Democrats are finally beginning to question the wisdom of basing their fortunes on identity politics. Having counted on the allegiance of African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, unmarried women and the young -- and winning the popular vote all but once since 1992 --...Read more

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