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Political Hay

About Last Night

By 9.17.15

From left to right (from the TV viewer's perspective), two sentences on each candidate's performance in last night's CNN debate:

Rand Paul tried hard — perhaps too hard — to go after Donald Trump, with modest success offset by his coming across as slightly whiny. His answers continue to offer an interesting and unusual perspective, more focused on liberty and the Constitution than many of the others, but his campaign nevertheless feels like its tires are spinning badly.

Mike Huckabee made a particular effort to be upbeat, to avoid criticizing other Republicans, and to make a strong moral case in the few questions that came his way. However if you imagine each of the candidates being asked “Why do you want to be president?” he's the one I have the hardest time imagining answering the question adequately.

A Further Perspective

Life Is Short; CNN Debate Is Long

By 9.17.15

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — “Anything could happen over the next few hours,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper announced at the prime-time Republican presidential debate.

Anything did happen. Billionaire Donald Trump made faces and rolled his eyes. He mugged as a petulant little boy would mug. He insulted his opponents for no apparent reason. When Tapper asked the reality TV star to react to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s remark that Trump is “such a hothead” he shouldn’t have his finger on the nuclear codes, Trump responded by proving Jindal correct. Trump answered: “Well, first of all, (Sen.) Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s No. 11. He’s got 1 percent in the polls, and how he got up here — there’s far too many people.” Then he said he is successful and entertaining. And he has a great temperament: “Believe me, my temperament is very good, very calm.”

Among the Intellectualoids

White ‘Poet’ Plays the Game

By 9.17.15

It would be an understatement to say that poetry is considerably less than central to the contemporary literary experience of the English-speaking world. This has been true since before Auden breathed his last. It has been a long time since Wordsworth was “trailing clouds of glory” to the delight of Brits across the island. By the 1970s, it seems the only person interested in reading and reciting poetry was Horace Rumpole. (And didn’t Horace/Leo McKern do a fine job of reciting?) 

But just because hardly anyone outside the boundaries of the hundred thousand or so campuses that infest the USA reads poetry anymore, this appears to be no reason for university poetry workshops and MFA (master of fine arts) programs, poetry division, to stop churning out poet-wannabes by the thousands. This upside down state of affairs had led editors of the few remaining poetry journals to complain — not in jest — that they have more contributors than subscribers.

Political Hay

Separated at Patent Reform

By 9.17.15

When two of the biggest conservative stars in Congress disagree on something, it’s generally a sign that at least one of two things is happening: Either some great principle is at stake, or some fact has been misunderstood by one party.

As it happens, when it comes to the disagreement between Ted Cruz and Mike Lee over the idea of patent reform, both are true.

On the surface, it’s hardly obvious why the two should differ, with Lee supporting patent reform, and Cruz opposing it.

London Calling

To the Victoria Station!

By 9.17.15

When Britain’s Labour Party elected arch left-winger Jeremy Corbyn as its leader last weekend, it waved goodbye to any hope of forming a government anytime soon. Corbyn’s supporters may have aped President Obama by chanting “Jez we can!” but the reality is that they won’t, can’t, and are kidding no one but themselves.

This is the kind of man we’re dealing with: Corbyn called the assassination of Osama bin Laden “a tragedy,” wants to pull Britain out of NATO, refers to Hezbollah and Hamas as “our friends,” wants to renationalize Britain’s energy companies and railways, intends to re-introduce rent controls on private housing, wants to give Argentina joint-sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, and would abolish the monarchy. He’s also just appointed as his Treasury spokesperson a man, John McDonnell, who is so socialist he says he’d like to have assassinated Margaret Thatcher.

It’s one heck of a gift for Prime Minister David Cameron and his governing Conservative Party. Corbyn is, in effect, no threat at all.

Special Report

The Right Needs a New Strategy After Obergefell and Kim Davis

By 9.17.15

As the high profile lock-up of a bureaucrat in Kentucky showed, same-sex marriage doesn’t occupy a third rail in American politics just yet. Kim Davis’s civil disobedience in Rowan County is the first flashpoint since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision in late June. In response to that decree for nationwide same-sex marriage, society became primed in the rainbow pattern of the gay pride movement. From individual Facebook pages and corporate Twitter accounts to the front portico of the White House, there was a cultural elevation of the decision as a contemporary civil rights milestone. But the reality has set in that although gay marriage may be settled law, it’s far from a settled political issue.

Campaign Crawlers

The Carly Show

By 9.17.15

Our readers probably watched the CNN debate Wednesday night and therefore do not need this writer to tell them what they saw. So I won’t bore you with a rundown.

Instead, a few impressions to offer of the 11 candidates scratching and clawing for airtime amid Jake Tapper’s incessant attempts to turn a crowded political debate into a WWE-style food fight…

1. Carly Fiorina won. That’s pretty clear. She won because she gave Republican voters what we want — the aura of a strong leader with passionate convictions who’s not afraid to articulate them with an edge. Fiorina tore Donald Trump apart with a very few words when asked about his insulting comments about her face, she gave one of the best answers about Planned Parenthood and whether an effort should be made to defund it, and her foreign policy answers displayed a knowledge of national security and American interest that for eight years hasn’t even been part of the analysis in the White House. That’s impressive for a non-politician; her fellow outsiders in the race have both suffered fairly significantly from a lack of specificity on policy, particularly foreign policy, that Fiorina has largely overcome.

The Nation's Pulse

Will Sacramento Enact This Bad End-of-Life Bill?

By 9.16.15

California Gov. Jerry Brown convened a special session of the Legislature to fix a $1 billion shortfall in health care funding — and the bill the Legislature sent to his desk would legalize physician-assisted suicide.

Supporters of the measure made this argument last week: The Legislature needed to pass the End of Life Option Act because if it were not to become law, then advocates would place a similar measure on the ballot. Voters would be sure to adopt such a measure, but if it created unforeseen problems, the Legislature might face hurdles trying to correct errors embedded in an inflexible ballot measure. “We should be making those decisions,” Assemblyman Luis Alejo argued on the Assembly floor.

Ben Stein's Diary

It Is Just Great Here

By 9.16.15

This has been a quiet day. I have been feeling poorly and have been mostly lying in bed thinking.

First, I keep thinking that it’s a miracle that I live in America and live now, right now, when we have peace and air conditioning. I keep wondering what my ancestors in some pitiful shtetl in Russia would have thought about my life. They could not have even remotely understood it or imagined it.

I have indoor plumbing, an immense swimming pool, two beautiful dogs, and basically can eat whatever I feel like eating.


Long ago, I said to my father (this was probably in about 1990), “We Jews in America get to live the best lives that Jews have ever lived anywhere at any time.”

My father, far smarter than I, said, “Benjy, that’s what America means. Everyone lives better than his ancestors could have dreamed of: the blacks, the Hispanics, the Irish, the Poles, the Italians, the Germans. Everyone. That’s what America means.”

Special Report

Let’s Get Radical

By 9.16.15

Liberal pundits are wetting themselves over the supposed “radicalization” of the Republican Party, their cries ever more plaintive with the rise of Donald Trump as the GOP front-runner.