Hello, it's 08:51AM January 27, 2015

Doyle McManus: U.S. foreign policy fails in Syria

In 2011, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, a mild-mannered diplomat named Robert S. Ford, became the face of American support for the Arab Spring when he boldly visited opponents to the brutal regime of Bashar Assad in the northern city of Hama. In 2014, Ford quit, saying he could not defend the Obama administration’s inconstant support for Syrian rebels. “More hesitation . (will) simply hasten the day when American force …

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George Will: Independent facing big impediments

WASHINGTON — The young man who answered the phone in the Senate office of Vermont’s Bernie Sanders told the caller, a would-be campaign contributor, that it is illegal for funds to be accepted on federal property. He advised the person to contact Sanders’ political operation, which might become a presidential campaign. Sanders, 73, does not smile promiscuously, as befits someone who thinks the republic is being ruine …

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Obama rightly looks to shore up Pacific trade pacts

The following editorial appeared in Friday’s Washington Post. We’ve faulted President Obama for his less-than-full-throated support of free-trade agreements that enjoy the nominal backing of his administration. There was no such cause for complaint about his State of the Union address Tuesday night, however, in which he called on “both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers with st …

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Cokie and Steven Roberts: The Supreme Court and the right to be ordinary

Steve received an email the other day from a colleague announcing the birth of her son Brinton. She attached a photo of a red-faced tyke in a striped stocking cap, and co-workers responded with a cascade of “wows” and “bravos.” Ordinary family. Obvious fanfare. Except for one thing: Brinton has two moms: Nikki and Shelly Layser. The baby was born 10 days before the Supreme Court decided to rule on the issue of gay marr …

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Esther Cepeda: Deadly truth about ‘healthy obesity’

CHICAGO — Here’s a cold dose of reality for people telling themselves that their extra pounds aren’t harming them: Contrary to 2013 research linking extra weight to a lowered risk of mortality, there’s really no such thing as “healthy obesity.” In January of that year, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a survey of research that found people with a body mass index of 25 to 30 — considered over …

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Trudy Rubin: There’s a gap between foreign policy rhetoric and reality

If anyone still needed proof of President Barack Obama’s reluctance to let foreign policy distract from his domestic agenda, he provided an excess in his State of the Union address. In the brief foreign policy portion of the speech, Obama revisited his constant themes: He trumpeted the end of America’s combat missions abroad (last year he cited Iraq, this year Afghanistan) and the need for allies to shoulder the burde …

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State of the Union: Obama’s policy ideas are anything but bold

You could look at President Barack Obama’s proposals in Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech as a bold set of prescriptions for a new Democratic agenda. Here’s another interpretation: Those prescriptions mostly demonstrate the timidity of the ideas that Democrats are willing to offer. Start with the headline goal of revitalizing the middle class. Obama wants to shift the tax burden upward by raising the tax rate …

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State of the Union: Obama sets terms of economic debate — even if proposals’ chances are slim

In his powerful and inspirational State of the Union address, President Barack Obama devoted time to economic proposals that have no chance of being approved by the Republican-controlled Congress. Yet he didn’t squander the opportunity offered by this widely watched speech. The president was able to discuss an issue that is of considerable interest to the American people, and to frame the national economic debate befo …

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Esther Cepeda: ‘Racism’ accusation misses mark with faux Barbie blog

CHICAGO — To appropriate the Franco-centric rallying cry of those who defend satire even when they don’t agree with it: Je suis Barbie! Specifically, the fictional “Six New Barbie Dolls That Reflect 21st Century Women,” which Janet Eve Josselyn thought up and listed on the “Points in Case” blog. Among these treasures of contemporary femininity are “Facebook Barbie,” which posts “food-porn pictures of desserts she wi …

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George F. Will: The mushrooming welfare state

WASHINGTON — America’s national character will have to be changed if progressives are going to implement their agenda. So, changing social norms is the progressive agenda. To understand how far this has advanced, and how difficult it will be to reverse the inculcation of dependency, consider the data Nicholas Eberstadt deploys in National Affairs quarterly: America’s welfare state transfers more than 14 percent of GD …

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Kathleen Parker: Is pope opening door for women?

WASHINGTON — Forget E.F. Hutton. It’s P.F. (Pope Francis) these days who, when he talks, people listen. And then they get busy trying to figure out what he was really saying. Even non-Catholics are keen to study his words, so surprised and delighted are they to hear a pope say things that suggest to them a more enlightened view of the world, even if those views are attitudinal rather than tangible. Each time Francis …

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Can Mitch McConnell really make the Senate better?

To outsiders, some of the changes new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring to the Senate might seem like inside baseball. But they could bring about a huge improvement in the way the Senate works. And that could in turn lead to a huge improvement in the way Washington works. McConnell’s restoration of what is called “regular order” will give both Republican and Democratic lawmakers something they have not had in …

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Cyberattacks are no joke: Shore up defenses

The following editorial appeared in Friday’s Washington Post. Hackers defaced Crayola’s Facebook page this week with some offensive and off-color posts that no parent would want children to see. Separately, intruders managed to hijack the YouTube and Twitter accounts of U.S. Central Command, posting videos and documents to taunt the military. Both cyberattacks were symbolic annoyances rather than real threats; neit …

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George F. Will: Mitt’s third run would be no charm

WASHINGTON — After his third loss, in 1908, as the Democratic presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan enjoyed telling the story of the drunk who three times tried to enter a private club. After being tossed out into the street a third time, the drunk said: “They can’t fool me. Those fellows don’t want me in there!” Mitt Romney might understandably think that a third try would have a happy ending in a successful …

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MLK as ‘drum major for justice’

“We see men as Jews or Gentiles, Catholics or Protestants, Chinese or Americans, Negroes or Whites. We fail to think of them as fellow human beings made from the same basic stuff as we, molded in the same divine image.” — Martin Luther King Jr. “The nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every person is somebody because he or she is a child of God.” — Martin Luther King Jr. Nearly 50 ye …

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Congress gets to work: Great Society scrutiny is long overdue

In the history of the American welfare state, no event was more consequential than the convening of the 89th Congress on Jan. 3, 1965, in which Democrats enjoyed huge majorities in both houses. Followed 17 days later by the swearing-in of another Democrat as president, Lyndon B. Johnson, the seating of these lawmakers heralded one of the most productive legislative sessions in U.S. history, whose major acts continue t …

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Congress gets to work: Tea party drives immigration debate

Days after the 2012 presidential election, in which less than one third of both Hispanic and Asian voters supported Republican candidate Mitt Romney, House Speaker John Boehner told ABC News that “a comprehensive approach” to immigration reform was “long overdue” and that he was “confident” a solution could be reached. Oh, well. Wednesday, House Republicans voted for what might be called “comprehensive anti-immigratio …

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Congress gets to work: Keystone pipeline could signal return of compromise

The U.S. Senate launched its first great debate of 2015 last week, on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta to the refineries of Texas. Predictably, the rhetoric was apocalyptic. “I think XL stands for extra lethal,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a leading opponent of the pipeline, pointing to the high lead content of Canadian oil. “This is really a big hug and a bi …

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George F. Will: Obama’s anti-keystone catechism

WASHINGTON — Not since the multiplication of the loaves and fishes near the Sea of Galilee has there been creativity as miraculous as that of the Keystone XL pipeline. It has not yet been built but already is perhaps the most constructive infrastructure project since the Interstate Highway System. It has accomplished an astonishing trifecta: It has made mincemeat of Barack Obama’s pose of thoughtfulness. It has demo …

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Esther Cepeda: Free tuition doesn’t make the grade

CHICAGO — President Obama has misguidedly set his sights on giving away two years of free tuition to “responsible” community college students who attend at least half-time and maintain a 2.5 GPA. Unfortunately, “America’s College Promise” is, like so many other public relations campaigns the White House devises to attract the support of young voters, of little use to the very people it vows to help. In his speech anno …

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Kathleen Parker: Hypercritics will always have Paris

WASHINGTON — If we can be serious for a moment: The president made an error in judgment by not sending someone with a higher profile than our ambassador to join world leaders Sunday at a solidarity rally in Paris. The White House has admitted the error. This more or less sums up the news of the past two days, but you wouldn’t guess it from the coverage and commentary. Based on the nearly 24-hour rehashing of the admin …

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Doyle McManus: New majority meets new reality

The triumphant Republican class of 2014 formally took control of both halves of Congress last week, and here’s what it has changed so far: not much. The new GOP majority didn’t vote to repeal President Obama’s health care law. It didn’t undo Obama’s decision to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. (House Republicans proposed a sweeping repeal measure, but it’s unlikely to pass even a GOP-r …

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Questions for attorney general nominee

WASHINGTON — Senate confirmation hearings put nominees on notice that, as a Michigan state legislator reportedly once said, “I’m watching everything you do with a fine-toothed comb.” Loretta Lynch, a talented lawyer and seasoned U.S. attorney, should be confirmed as attorney general. Her hearing, however, should not be perfunctory. Questions like the following would highlight some festering problems: • Next year is t …

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Health care on a deadline

The following editorial appeared in Friday’s Washington Post. Gallup reported Wednesday that the national uninsured rate dropped to 15.5 percent of the non-elderly population, down from 20.8 percent a little over a year ago. Yes, the improving economy may have helped. But that’s also the period in which the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, began phasing in. Eventually the law is likely to cut the propo …

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Even imperfect policy can succeed

Weeks after voters dissed the Democrats, an important economic benchmark was passed with little public notice: The U.S. government sold off its stake in Ally Financial, the auto financing company once known as GMAC. It even made money on the deal — about $2.4 billion. That sale ended the six-year effort to rescue the American auto industry from financial disaster. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was correct in saying, “T …

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Massacre in Paris: Attacks are an assault on free speech everywhere

Wednesday’s shocking terror attack on the French satirical journal Charlie Hebdo should finally awaken Western publics to the threat posed by radical Islamists to free speech worldwide. That threat may seem obvious when 10 journalists from a newspaper that published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad are murdered by masked men with Kalashnikovs shouting “Allahu Akbar.” Yet these assassinations follow a rising number …

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Massacre in Paris: Attacks run counter to Islamic teachings on tolerance

From the fatwa on author Salman Rushdie to the attack on the offices of French weekly Charlie Hebdo, the phenomenon of anti-blasphemy actions remains prominent in the Muslim world. At first glance, the problem appears to be quite simple. For many years, there has been much talk about the conflicts between blasphemy and free speech within Islam. Some go further and argue about the “intrinsic hostility between two civil …

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Margaret Carlson: GOP spreads its different wings

WASHINGTON — Everything you need to know about the state of the Republican presidential race is explained by the schedules of the first two candidates to publicly dip their toes into the 2016 waters. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, like Willie Sutton going where the money is, was scheduled to fundraise in Greenwich, Conn., on Wednesday. By contrast, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who announced last weekend that he …

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George F. Will: No denying the climate change of the past

WASHINGTON — We know, because they often say so, that those who think catastrophic global warming is probable and perhaps imminent are exemplary empiricists. They say those who disagree with them are “climate change deniers” disrespectful of science. Actually, however, something about which everyone can agree is that of course the climate is changing — it always is. And if climate Cassandras are as conscientious as t …

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Cokie and Steven Roberts: McConnell tries to make a difference

‘There are two kinds of people in politics,” says Mitch McConnell, the new Senate majority leader: “Those who want to make a point and those who want to make a difference.” “All of us from time to time make a point,” he told The New York Times, “but it is time now to make a difference.” It’s a new year and a new Congress. McConnell now has to convince fellow Republicans to follow his adage: to go from the party of “no …

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Kathleen Parker: Beware the racial carnival barker

WASHINGTON — Recent events from Ferguson, Mo., to Staten Island, N.Y., might prompt an observer to infer that American cops are racist and that a bigoted white populace tolerates unnecessary lethal force against minorities. One might also conclude that America has a hearty appetite for the carnival barker, the jester, the rabble-rouser, the race baiter and, lest we leave anyone out, the performance-activist who prete …

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Doyle McManus: ‘Selma’ and why we still struggle with ’60s

The powerful film “Selma” is stirring audiences across the country with its compelling portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. and the heroism of ordinary African Americans as they demanded the right to vote a half century ago. But the movie has stirred controversy, too, for its portrait of President Lyndon B. Johnson as a leader whose commitment to civil rights was hesitant at best and duplicitous at worst. Some of his f …

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Byron York: Consider the facts before judging Republicans on race issues

Democrats have tried to rev up the outrage machine over news that Rep. Steve Scalise, the number-three ranking House Republican, may or may not have given a speech to a white supremacist group in Louisiana 12 years ago. Not only has the Democratic Party attacked Scalise himself, it has also gone after the House GOP leadership and, now, the 2016 Republican presidential field. The sin of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco …

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Senator has clear eye on world issues

WASHINGTON — Standing at the intersection of three foreign policy crises and a perennial constitutional tension, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, may be the senator who matters most in 2015. Without an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) tailored to novel circumstances, America is waging war against an entity without precedent (the Islamic State). Iran is pursuing nu …

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Jimmy Carter: Make sure economic sanctions don’t hurt people of North Korea

As we contemplate how to strike back at North Korea because it is believed to be behind the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer network, the foremost proposal is tightening sanctions. In my visits to targeted countries, I have seen how this strategy can be cruel to innocent people who know nothing about international disputes and are already suffering under dictatorial leaders. The imposition of economic …

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LBJ and MLK: How Hollywood’s ‘Selma’ got it so very wrong

What’s wrong with Hollywood? The makers of the new movie “Selma” apparently just couldn’t resist taking dramatic, trumped-up license with a true story that didn’t need any embellishment to work as a big-screen historical drama. As a result, the film falsely portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr. and even using the FBI to discredit him, as only reluctantly behind the Voting Ri …

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Trudy Rubin: Global glimmers of hope (but not much)

The year 2014 was such a grim year for foreign policy that I’d like to write a column predicting things will get better next year. In truth, there’s scant reason to hope that the Islamic State will soon be destroyed, Vladimir Putin will see the light, or Kim Jong Un will agree to appear on “The Daily Show.” However, if one suspends disbelief, it’s possible to imagine how some of the grim conflicts of the past year cou …

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Remembering Mario Cuomo’s rare gift of insight

WASHINGTON — It was 1983, and the newly elected governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, was flying on a small state plane from upstate down to the New York City. Tim Russert, his brilliant young press secretary, and I, a political journalist, were with him. He was speaking that evening to a gay-lesbian dinner in New York City, and cracked that he and Bella Abzug — the bombastic, left-wing former member of Congress — would …

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George Will: Liberty wins one in Kentucky court

WASHINGTON — Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, so last year’s most encouraging development in governance might have occurred in February in a U.S. District Court in Frankfort, Ky. There, a judge did something no federal judge has done since 1932. By striking down a “certificate of necessity” (CON) regulation, he struck a blow for liberty and against crony capitalism. Although Raleigh Bruner’s Wildcat Moving compan …

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Trudy Rubin: Is this the end of Iraq’s Christian communities?

On Christmas Day in 2008, I attended early-morning Mass at the Al Qaleb Al Aqdas (Sacred Heart) Church, in the Karrada district of Baghdad. Although Christians had already become targets in Iraq’s civil war and thousands had fled, the Chaldean Catholic church was filled with well-dressed families, and a choir sang near a large Christmas tree. Some worshipers continued on to a Santa Claus show in a nearby park. Those d …

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Kathleen Parker: However unfunny, the joke’s on us

WASHINGTON — A writer seeking profound pronouncements for a year-end column is likely instead to find herself awash in punchlines. Life isn’t a comedy. It’s a joke. Hey, did you hear the one about North Korea hacking Sony and threatening to blow up movie theaters that showed the film? Joke, right? No, wait. It wasn’t North Korea, it was the Russians! No, wait, it wasn’t the Russians, it was a disaffected former staff …

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Doyle McManus: Time to fess up: My 2014 hits, misses

“Prediction is difficult, especially about the future,” Yogi Berra once said. Wait — let me correct that. It wasn’t Yogi Berra; it was Niels Bohr. Or maybe Mark Twain. It’s correction time. For columnists, the end of the year is a time to shed the flimsy mantle of omniscience and eat some crow. That’s easy to do when your job is to think out loud twice a week. At the beginning of 2014, I forecast bravely that after a …

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Talented Jeb Bush still faces big hurdles

WASHINGTON — In 1968, a singularly traumatic year — assassinations, urban riots, 16,899 Americans killed in Vietnam — Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the ebullient Minnesotan, said his presidential campaign was about “the politics of joy.” This was considered infelicitous. He was, however, right to insist that, whatever America’s vicissitudes, the nation’s premises explain its trajectory and validate cheerfulness. Si …

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Learn from Ebola before next crisis

The following editorial appeared in Friday’s Washington Post. The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa this year came as a surprise. Perhaps no one could have predicted that such a terrible scenario would unfold. But over the past decade, there have been four major outbreaks of infectious disease caused by a virus: severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS; swine flu; Middle East respiratory syndrome; and no …

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Margaret Carlson: Obama has reason for holiday cheer

The headline out of the Dec. 19 news conference was that the president was happy. Barack Obama’s post-midterm-election scowl was gone, replaced by the wide smile that once charmed the country. Emerging from his bunker, he blithely engaged reporters (all of them women), calling out a “bless you,” when he heard a sneeze. The news conference took place after some real and surprising post-election gains: a climate deal wi …

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Korean question: North Korea will regret hacking of Sony

There is little doubt that President Barack Obama meant business when he said the U.S. would respond to North Korea’s hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment computers. It’s unclear whether or not Monday’s shutdown of the North Korean Internet was part of that response. Regardless, Kim Jong Un’s regime may soon have cause to regret its assault on Hollywood. Little known to the outside world, Kim has, in the past year, …

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Esther J. Cepeda: Everything in moderation, even video games for kids

CHICAGO — Parents across the land, take heart — I hear it on good account that young-adult video-game obsession is not the end of the world. A few weeks ago, I lamented that young people who are immersed in fantastical video games are often despondent when faced with the boring details of day-to-day living. I wrote: “There’s a big difference between the video-game world our kids have grown up in and adults who playe …

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Korean question: ‘The Interview’ is a real threat to reclusive regime

For starters, “The Interview” is very funny, in the Seth Rogen foul-mouthed, silly way. And while the propriety of showing a real world head of state being assassinated can be debated — the latest in a long list of political and social boundaries pushed by Hollywood — it also has moments that are surprisingly smart and politically astute. That is why the North Koreans have reacted so aggressively. Because if this movi …

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Cuba’s irrelevant, but also instructive

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama has made a geopolitical irrelevancy suddenly relevant to American presidential politics. For decades, Cuba has been instructive as a museum of two stark failures: socialism and the U.S. embargo. Now, Cuba has become useful as a clarifier of different Republican flavors of foreign-policy thinking. The permanent embargo was imposed in 1962 in the hope of achieving, among other things, regime …

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