When Foster Friess, the billionaire backer of Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, suggested yesterday that women should simply place aspirin between their legs rather than use contraception, it was the latest salvo of a culture war that has been raging for months. “Culture war,” in fact, increasingly seems too vague a term for the current conversation in the country about women’s rights.
In October, Mitt Romney delivered a speech at the Citadel in which he laid out his foreign policy views. “As president of the United States, I will devote myself to an American Century. And I will never, ever apologize for America,” he pledged. “Some may ask, ‘Why America? Why should America be any different than scores of other countries around the globe?’ I believe we are an exceptional country with a unique destiny and role in the world.” The speech was hardly an unusual moment.
When it comes to taxes, the Republican primary electorate this year has a split personality. As ever, it demands that presidential candidates pledge to lower tax rates on the rich. But show it a living, breathing rich person whose effective federal tax rate is demonstrably low—say, Mitt Romney, who in 2010 paid 13.9 percent on his $21.7 million income, compared with about 25 percent for the typical middle-income family—and the GOP base is suddenly appalled.
On the surface, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul do not appear to have a lot in common. Yet, there is one respect in which they are strikingly similar: Pundits on both the right and the left have been all too eager to give their least defensible traits a pass. At this point, there is almost an accepted style for such rationalizations.
When Americans talked or wrote about Kim Jong Il, we often tended to play up his eccentricities: his ridiculous sunglasses, his towering hair, his platform shoes, his interest in movies. The 24 hours since the announcement of Kim’s death have been no exception. Huffington Post quickly published a fashion retrospective on the dictator. (“Dark and oblong or silvery and square, Kim always had on a funky pair of specs.
For all of their differences, the Republican candidates agree on one thing: They don’t like President Obama’s policies. That’s fine. Elections are supposed to be about clear choices. And, while we have found plenty to admire in Obama’s tenure, we too believe that there are many issues on which he has fallen depressingly short. He didn’t act swiftly or aggressively enough to improve the economy. He was too deferential to Wall Street. He’s been too lenient toward dictators and too slow to unequivocally align the United States with those seeking freedom the world over.
On Tuesday, the Obama administration took bold and important action in advancing the cause of gay rights around the globe. In a memorandum, the president directed all U.S. agencies to “promote and protect” the rights of gay and lesbian people through diplomatic means, including the allocation of foreign aid. And in a rousing speech before the U.N.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Perry v. New Hampshire, a case concerning the reliability of eyewitness testimony. It was the first time the Court had tackled the issue in 34 years. During those three-plus decades, we’ve learned a lot about eyewitness testimony—namely, just how unreliable it can be.
Michael Bloomberg isn’t having a very good week. The New York mayor is being pilloried for his decision to chase the Occupy Wall Street protesters out of Zuccotti Park in a heavy-handed, pre-dawn raid. And the press conference at which he tried to defend his decision was a weasely dance around his motivations. But Bloomberg isn’t just having a bad week. He’s having a bad third term. His politics and his demeanor appear to be wearing thin in New York.
It’s college admissions season, which makes this the perfect time to note that our national conversation about income inequality has mostly spared from criticism one of the country’s principal culprits: elite universities. Perhaps because Ivy League schools and their peers are so frequently attacked by conservatives, liberals have come to reflexively think of them as allies. And it is certainly true that the vast majority of professors, and probably students as well, at elite colleges are liberals.