WASHINGTON -- Politics is an odd profession. Usually it involves the posturing inherent to partisanship and the self-abasement of endless fundraising. But occasionally it entails the most solemn duties of self-government -- decisions that echo across the decades.
Members of the House of Representatives now face this kind of resonant choice.
WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump's claim of vindication by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report depends on some creative thinking. The president, it seems, is not guilty of conspiracy with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. He is only guilty of wishing really, really hard for Russian help and having his fondest desire miraculously granted...Read more
WASHINGTON -- So another norm of public decency falls, like a historical building demolished to make way for one of Donald Trump's tasteless towers.
When the president of the United States goes after an American Muslim -- in this case Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who came to the U.S. as a Somali refugee -- using images of the 9/11 attacks, it is ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- There not being nearly enough discussion of chariot racing in American politics, it is worth recalling the story of the Greens and the Blues. These were the two main racing teams of the Byzantine Empire, and they generated considerable sporting enthusiasm. A clash of their fans in the riots of the year 501 took perhaps 3,000 lives...Read more
WASHINGTON -- The ouster of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen -- the implementer of some of the most unjust immigration policies since the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II -- is another proof of Donald Trump's ratchet-wrench theory of loyalty. It goes only in his direction.
In the end, the burnt ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- The national debate on race -- which the president has made more angry and urgent with his racial demagoguery -- is hindered by imprecise language.
Most whites do not feel personally guilty for America's long history of imposed white supremacy. A white man who has lost his job at the coal mine, or the daughter of a recent ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- There are times when Donald Trump manages to be so wrong -- so empirically groundless, so logically fallacious, so stridently uninformed -- that it seems like a form of parody. But more often than not, this reflects an authentic and alarming ignorance. The mask of a barroom political crank turns out to be the face of the president ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- A thought experiment. Suppose that on March 24 -- the day Attorney General William Barr publicly summarized the Mueller report -- all of the results of the special counsel's probe that have dribbled out over the last two years had been revealed at once.
Americans would have discovered that a hostile foreign power had ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- A friend -- reacting to the apparent thinness of Robert Mueller's case against the president -- told me: "This year, I'm giving up hope for Lent." I, in turn, am giving up commenting on documents I have never seen. And so it might be more productive to focus on Lent itself -- the yearly festival of self-examination, denial and ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- As politics has become a religion in so many lives, political discourse has taken on theological overtones. I am not referring to President Trump's accusation of a "witch hunt," which places the FBI in the role of Puritan divines. This is merely an absurd metaphor.
What I am talking about is the appropriation -- really the ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- A friend just returned from some time with a group of wealthy conservative donors. "They were ambivalent about Donald Trump two years ago," he said. "Now they are vociferously pro-Trump. There's a psychological study to be done here."
Those in and around Republican politics have seen this dynamic at work. In spite of past ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Another massive study has discovered no causal connection between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism.
This time, the study's cohort consisted of every child born in Denmark from 1999 through December 2010 -- more than 650,000 children. The conclusion? "The study strongly supports that MMR vaccination does not ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- "A great empire and little minds go ill together," said Edmund Burke.
America is not quite an empire, but one little mind was on full display during President Trump's recent CPAC speech. It was two hours of Trump unplugged, unleashed, uncensored, unreconstructed and unhinged. It was a vivid reminder that the president of the ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- At the Hanoi summit, perhaps following a champagne toast officially welcoming North Korea to the nuclear club, I imagine President Trump and Kim Jong Un sitting down to watch the Michael Cohen hearing. Not far into the Republican questioning, Kim might have said something like: "I thought I knew toadying, but I've never seen ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- A friend on a long car trip took the opportunity of listening to conservative talk radio along the way. He reported: "Right-wing talk radio is using language that can't get much more apocalyptic. It's all about coups, and Mueller as a Soviet-style prosecutor, and the left wanting to destroy America, and off-the-charts rage at the ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Eventually, someone who writes on public policy comes up against the limits of words. There are only so many times you can urge, condemn, cajole, wheedle, praise, remind, prod, propose and coax before your vocabulary and patience both give out. This is not to say that public argumentation makes no difference. But for a columnist, ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- With the continued refusal of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign over his racially offensive past, we are presented again with a controversy about the nature and limits of public forgiveness.
One feature of this case is admirably distinctive. Following the revelation that Northam appeared in blackface during his medical ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- It is the tragedy of America that a story of freedom, self-government, religious liberty, entrepreneurship and inclusion is also a story of forced migration, stolen labor, routine rape and murder, lynching, vote stealing, racist piety, segregation, red-lining and mass incarceration.
Both these versions are true; but I hope they ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- There is a whole movement dedicated to unplugging from digital devices on the theory that they are turning us all into slackjawed, empty-eyed, pasty-faced zombies. Having explored that option fully, I recently experienced an extended break from digital connection. This was not due to any virtue on my part. It was in a medical ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- My professional opinion? It was a below-average State of the Union address in a long, distinguished tradition of below-average State of the Union addresses. The speech was prosaic, disjointed and mediocre in theory and execution. But adjectives fail me. It is like a restaurant critic trying to analyze green Jell-O with carrot ...Read more