Before BP
June 21, 2010

In Obama’s June 15th Oval Office speech on the oil spill, he railed against a “failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility—a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves.” Obama was getting at a real problem. As economic historian Edward Balleisen points out, the trend over the past half century has not been less regulation per se, but a greater acceptance of “self-regulation,” whereby industry funds government oversight, and government outsources oversight to industry.

What Makes Elena Kagan Tick?
June 04, 2010

People who complain about Max Baucus seem to forget that not so long ago the likes of James Inhofe chaired Senate committees. And if you worked in a Democratic administration, those folks made your job a tough slog. Back in the Clinton White House, I was a middling staffer on the Domestic Policy Council, working on issues ranging from the adoption tax credit to media violence and its effect on children. One of my bosses, as it happens, was Elena Kagan.

Obama Takes On Conservatism
June 03, 2010

There has been a fascinating sea-change in President Obama's rhetoric over the last year. He ran for office, and began his presidency, making his case in largely non-ideological terms, as a defense of pragmatism and against ideology. As Republicans have met him with a stone wall of resistance, the idealistic tinge of his rhetoric has largely disappeared. Now Obama contrasts himself with the partisanship ideological extremism of the Republican Party.

Dear Leader
June 03, 2010

Two years ago, the Cato Institute’s Gene Healy wrote an insightful essay in Reason titled, “The Cult of the Presidency.” Healy argued that the office of the president had assumed an almost supernatural place in American life. Not only had presidents assumed powers far beyond those originally intended—though I’d take exception to Healy’s shrunken, nineteenth-century conception of the office’s proper role—but the broader culture had also assigned it powers that go beyond the realm of politics itself.

Greece Is The Word?
June 01, 2010

Neil Irwin takes on the conventional wisdom about U.S. debt: The U.S. government debt is rising inexorably, according to the conventional wisdom in Washington, and the political system is too paralyzed to take unpopular actions to rein it in. Privately, many policymakers take it as a given that the situation will change only when the nation faces a Greek-style fiscal crisis. But apparently nobody told the people who lend the U.S. government money.

These Sanctions Are Neither 'Crippling' nor 'Biting.' They Are Feeble and Flaccid, Truly Obama's Sanctions
May 19, 2010

It used to be that the president sent out Ms. Clinton to do the retreat on Iran, and she's been doing it for about 17 months. Pathetically, actually, and with some embarrassment on her face. Now it's Susan Rice's turn. It's only fair. For our U.N. ambassador actually believes that the processes of the organization are more important than the results. So it was given to Ms.

Turkey Slaps Obama In The Face … Again. And He Takes It.
May 18, 2010

You may remember that during the president’s first trip abroad he spent two days in Turkey. A little much, I thought. After all, a presidential visit is something of a gift to the host country’s government. And why did Ankara deserve such a gift? Well, it didn’t. First of all, in 2003, it had barred American troop movement through Iraq from the north. I don’t know exactly how many U.S. deaths accrued because of this ban. But sober estimates tell us that as many as 500 soldiers may have been killed because of the restriction.

Blank Slate
May 08, 2010

Imagine a candidate for the U.S. Senate who has never taken a public stand on almost any policy issue. Imagine that her campaign consists of asking people for their support because, according to friends and colleagues, the candidate is smart, fair, and good to others. When her friends are asked what her views are on various political matters, they reply that they don't know—but that they're confident she'd make an excellent senator. This bizarre hypothetical closely resembles the actual campaign to put Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court.

Thiessen Out-Hacks Himself
May 07, 2010

I think it's pretty ridiculous to call a primary campaign against an establishment candidate a "purge." I recently opined that it's even more ridiculous when partisan hacks like former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen draw some metaphysical distinction between primary campaigns against incumbents in their party (good!) and primary campaigns against incumbents in the other party (purge!). Now Thiessen has another post attempting to clarify his principles.

The Reverse Katrina
May 06, 2010

WASHINGTON—Ever heard the one about the guy who hated government until a deregulated Wall Street crashed, an oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico, a coal mine collapsed, and some good police work stopped a terrorist attack?       Rarely has the news of the day run so counter to the spin on the news of the day. It's hard to argue that the difficulties we confront were caused by an excessively powerful "big" government. Rather, most of them arose from the government's failure to do its job in the first place.