Posts By Author » Michael Barone
Did Clinton and Obama Believe Their Benghazi Baloney?
13 May 2013 12:02 am
What were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton thinking? Why did they keep pitching the line that the 9/11/12 Benghazi attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans started as a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim video?
One possible explanation is confusion. There was such an attack on our embassy in Cairo earlier that day that fit that description.
When Hillary Clinton on Sept. 14 talked of a “mob” and “violent attacks” over the caskets of the Americans slain in Benghazi, she could have been referring to the attacks in Cairo. …
College Bubble Bursts After Decades of Extravagance
9 May 2013 12:02 am
Markets work. But sometimes they take time.
That’s the uncomfortable lesson that proprietors of America’s colleges and universities are learning.
For many years, market forces didn’t seem to apply to them. There was a widespread societal consensus that a college education was a good economic investment.
Politicians gave lip service to the idea that everyone should go to college. No one should be stopped by a lack of money.
There was historic precedent. The G.I. Bill of Rights vastly expanded college populations and helped build prosperous post-World War II America. Putting even more through …
Fewer Border Crossings, E-Verify System Justify Bill
6 May 2013 12:01 am
Many loud voices in the debate over immigration have been insisting that effective border enforcement must precede any steps that legalize the status of current illegal immigrants.
Some analysts, including my Washington Examiner colleague Byron York, have been reading the fine print in the 800-page draft prepared by the Senate Gang of Eight (or Gang of Ocho, if you prefer).
They argue that the legislation is quick to provide some form of legal status but only calls for commissions to be convened at some later time if the border is not secured. …
Obama’s Blink on Syria Could Bring Peril to Allies
2 May 2013 12:02 am
“We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked,” Secretary of State Dean Rusk famously said during the Cuban missile crisis.
Barack Obama has been doing a lot of blinking lately. On Syria especially.
“There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movements on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons,” he said back in August 2012. Chemical weapons were a “red line.”
Presumably the president hoped that his statement would deter Bashar Assad’s embattled regime from using chemical weapons. And presumably he hoped that his …
Benghazi Report Revives Troubling Questions
29 Apr 2013 12:02 am
“What difference, at this point, does it make?”
That was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s angry response to a question about the State Department’s account of the attack on the Benghazi consulate where Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were murdered on Sept. 11, 2012.
Her response was cheered by leftist commentators on MSNBC. Righteous indignation is so attractive.
But of course it makes a difference. Hillary Clinton is leading in polls for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and general election. It’s always legitimate to examine the performance of a front-runner …
As Bush Stays Silent, His Reputation Steadily Gains
25 Apr 2013 12:02 am
Tomorrow, the George W. Bush Presidential Center will be dedicated at Southern Methodist University in Texas. It’s a good time to look back on the performance of the 43rd president, who has been almost entirely missing from the public stage these past four years.
It’s widely assumed that Bush is generally despised by the public. The perceptive American Interest blogger Walter Russell Mead stirred the ire of some former Bush aides when he recommended that Republicans avoid any defense of his record and move on to new issues.
But perhaps Bush’s name …
At Every Turn, Things Were Spinning out of Control
22 Apr 2013 12:02 am
Chaos. Things seemed to be spinning out of control on many fronts this week.
Starting, of course, with the Boston Marathon bombing Monday. The bombers chose a significantly festive time and place for their attack.
The marathon is held every year on Patriots Day, the Massachusetts state holiday commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. Even before the identity of the bombers became known, it seemed likely that they were enemies of America.
And their attack was a reminder that this free and open country remains a soft target. There …
Not Such a Hot Idea: Liberal and Conservative Parties
18 Apr 2013 12:02 am
“More tears are shed over answered prayers,” the 16th century nun St. Teresa of Avila is supposed to have said, “than over unanswered ones.”
So it may be appropriate to shed a tear for two or three generations of American political scientists whose prayers have been answered — in a way that most political scientists today regret.
The prayers of the political scientists in the 1940s, 1950s and into the 1960s was that our party system would evolve into one with one clearly liberal party and one clearly conservative party.
This was a …
Extra Care Required in Crafting Immigration Reform
15 Apr 2013 12:02 am
“Without legislative language,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy declared in a statement March 20, “there is nothing for the Judiciary Committee to consider this week at our markup.”
The subject of the statement was immigration legislation, and his irritation was understandable.
“For months, I have urged the president to send his proposal for comprehensive immigration reform to the Senate,” Leahy noted. He might have added that the White House, with access to the expertise and experience of the Justice and Homeland Security Departments, could easily have come up with a draft.
Thatcher Insisted on Facing Hard, Uncomfortable Truths
11 Apr 2013 12:02 am
“Divisive.” That’s a word that appeared, often prominently, in many news stories reporting the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
One senses the writers’ disapproval. You’re not likely to find “divisive” in stories reporting the deaths of liberal leaders, although every electoral politician divides voters.
“Divisive” here refers to something specific. It was Margaret Thatcher’s special genius that she systematically rejected the conventional wisdom, almost always well-intentioned, of the political establishment.
Instead, she insisted on hard, uncomfortable truths.
British Conservatives like Harold Macmillan accepted the tyranny of trade unionism because they had …
Mexico Becomes a Stable, Politically Diverse Neighbor
8 Apr 2013 12:02 am
We Americans are lucky, though we seldom reflect on it, that we have good neighbors.
In East Asia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines face challenges from China over islands they have long claimed in the East China Sea.
In Europe, Germany and other prosperous nations face demands for subsidies from debt-ridden nations to avoid the collapse of the Euro.
When Southern Europeans look across the Mediterranean, they see Muslim nations facing post-Arab spring upheaval and disorder.
The United States has land borders with just two nations, Canada (on which more on another …
Why Freight Rail Pays and Passenger Trains Flunk
30 Mar 2013 12:02 am
Forty years ago, American railroads were in trouble. The Penn Central, the largest railroad, had recently gone bankrupt.
American freight rail was technologically obsolescent and hamstrung by union rules and government rate regulation. American passenger rail was unprofitable and unreliable.
Freight rail was losing business to trucking firms. Passenger rail was losing out to cars on the new interstate highways and airplanes on long routes.
The past 40 years have seen a laboratory experiment on how to revive railroads. Government has gotten out of freight rail, while passenger rail has become largely a …
Republicans Grow Less Hawkish in Wake of Iraq War
28 Mar 2013 12:02 am
Are Republicans no longer the party more inclined to military interventions and an assertive foreign policy?
It’s a question raised by the enthusiastic response to Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster and to his not-very-interventionist foreign policy.
It’s raised also by House Republicans’ willingness to accept the budget sequester, which includes defense cuts that former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called “devastating.”
Barack Obama thought those cuts would be so unpalatable that Republicans would agree to increase tax revenues to avoid them. A decade or two ago, that would have been true. Not so today.
New Census Data Show People Go Where the Money Is
25 Mar 2013 12:02 am
What parts of America have been growing during these years of sluggish economic growth?
Answers come from comparing the Census Bureau’s just-released estimates of metropolitan area populations in July 2012 with the results of the Census conducted in 2010.
The focus here is on the 51 metro areas with populations of more than 1 million where 55 percent of Americans live, most of them of course not in central cities but in suburbs and exurbs.
Two growth champs stick out — Austin and Raleigh. A half-century ago, neither of them amounted to much.
Republicans Must Show Support for Hispanic Dreams
21 Mar 2013 12:02 am
Rarely does a political party issue a document so scathingly critical of itself and its most recent presidential nominee as the report of the five-member Growth and Opportunity Project of the Republican National Committee.
It refers to Mitt Romney on occasion as “our presidential nominee” and notes disapprovingly of his reference, in the debate about immigration, to “self-deportation.”
And while the report states modestly, “We are not a policy committee,” it does call for a policy — “comprehensive immigration reform” — that many, perhaps most, Republican members of Congress oppose.
I think there’s …
Support for Same-sex Marriage Crosses Party Lines
18 Mar 2013 12:02 am
In an opinion article in the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced that he has changed his mind and now supports same-sex marriage.
He wrote that on learning that one of his sons is gay he “wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister.”
He is not the only prominent Republican to come to this view in this way. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is another.
And at the Conservative Political …
Cardinals Would Be Wise to Ignore Journalists’ Advice
14 Mar 2013 12:02 am
The College of Cardinals met in conclave on Tuesday to begin the process of electing a new pope. The cardinals have been getting plenty of advice from American journalists.
The Catholic Church, they say, should open up the priesthood to women and allow priests to marry.
It should abandon its ban on contraception and endorse same-sex marriage. It should stop being so dogmatic about its dogmas.
As a non-Catholic, I don’t presume to offer any advice. The church has managed to exist for nearly 2,000 without my counsel. But I do have some …
Obama Flails as Republicans Stand Firm on Sequester
11 Mar 2013 12:02 am
They’re flailing. That’s the impression I get from watching Barack Obama and his White House over the past week.
Things haven’t gone as they expected. The House Republicans were supposed to cave in on the sequester, as they did on the fiscal cliff at the beginning of the year.
They would be so desperate to avoid the sequester’s mandatory defense cuts, the theory went, that they would agree to higher taxes (through closing loopholes) on high earners.
But the Republicans didn’t deal. They decided to take the sequester cuts and make them the …
Spending Cuts May Be Answer to Slow Economic Growth
7 Mar 2013 12:02 am
The Dow set a new high on Tuesday, but the larger economy is a different story. What if today’s sluggish economic growth turns out to be the new normal? That’s the unsettling question asked by some of our most creative economic thinkers.
And the people asking it are not necessarily partisan opponents of the Obama administration. They argue that economic growth rates were disappointing even before the financial collapse and recession of 2007-09.
Take Tyler Cowen, author of the e-book (belatedly published in print) “The Great Stagnation.” Economic growth is the product …
For Obama, Politics Always Trumps Governing
4 Mar 2013 12:02 am
Do we have a president or a perpetual candidate? It’s not an entirely unfair question.
Even as Barack Obama was warning of the dreadful consequences of the budget sequester looming on March 1, he spent days away from Washington, apparently out of touch with Democratic as well as Republican congressional leaders.
In the meantime, Obama fans were lobbing verbal grenades at none other than The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward.
His offense: He’s continuing to make it clear, as he did in his book “The Price of Politics,” that it was Obama’s then-chief of …