Tag Archives: George Will

Obama called one of “America’s two vainest presidents” as he continues to “monopolize true democratic dignity denied to mere legislators”


America’s Newtonian Constitution might again function according to Madisonian expectations if a provoked Congress regains its spine and self-respect, thereby returning our constitutional architecture to equipoise. But this is more to be hoped for than expected. Even without this, however, the institutional vandalism of Barack Obama’s executive unilateralism still might be a net national benefit. It will be if the Republicans’ 2016 presidential nominee responds to Obama’s serial provocations by promising a return to democratic etiquette grounded in presidential self-restraint.

Mr. ZerobamaNot since the off-year elections of 1938, when voters rebuked Franklin Roosevelt for his attempt to pack the Supreme Court by enlarging it, has the electorate made constitutional equilibrium a central concern. James Madison, however, hoped institutional balance could be self-maintaining: “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.”

He expected that the rivalries between self-interested branches would produce an equal and opposite reaction to a rival’s overreaching. This would hold the branches in a planetary balance akin to that of the solar system, preventing the concentration of legislative and executive power in the same hands, which he defined as tyranny.

Before conservatives had the disorienting delight of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, they had a healthy suspicion of executive power, and an inclination to favor congressional supremacy. (See “Congress and the American Tradition” by James Burnham, one of William F. Buckley’s collaborators in founding National Review.) Congress, however, has long since ceased to be a reliable custodian of its own powers.

And now it has permanent and deepening attention deficit disorder: It can neither control nor even maintain meaningful oversight over the sprawling government it has created. According to historian Morton Keller in “America’s Three Regimes,” members of early Congresses were more numerous than federal bureaucrats. Today there are many more than 535 executive departments, agencies and other entities that Congress funds without effective supervision and to which a harried, distracted Congress delegates discretion tantamount to legislative power. James Buckley, in his forthcoming book “Saving Congress from Itself,” reports:

“Shortly after my election to the Senate in 1970, I was handed a recently completed study of Congress that had concluded that the workload of the average congressional office had doubled every five years since 1935. … I can certify that during my own six years in office, I witnessed a sharp increase in the already frenetic pace of the Senate and an equally sharp decline in its ability to get very much done that could honestly be labeled ‘thoughtful.'”

There have been 1,950 senators since the Constitution was ratified, and none has done as much damage to the institution’s deliberative capacity as Harry Reid has done as majority leader. He has broken its rules in order to rewrite its rules, and has bent its procedures, all in the service of presidential preferences. He and his caucus exemplify how progressives, confident that they know history’s proper destination, are too results-oriented to be interested in institutional conservation.

America’s two vainest presidents, Woodrow Wilson and Obama, have been the most dismissive of the federal government’s Madisonian architecture. Wilson, the first president to criticize America’s Founding, was especially impatient with the separation of powers, which he considered, as Obama does, an affront to his dual grandeur: The president is a plebiscitary tribune of the entire people, monopolizing true democratic dignity that is denied to mere legislators. And progressive presidents have unexcelled insight into history’s progressive trajectory, and hence should have untrammeled freedom to act.

Courts will not try to put a bridle and snaffle on a rampaging president, and perhaps Congress cannot, even if it summons the will to try. So we are reduced to hoping for something Madison was reluctant to rely on — executive self-restraint in response to a popular demand for it.

Fortunately, Obama’s ongoing and intensifying assault on constitutional equilibrium is so gross it has produced something commensurately remarkable — growing public interest in matters of governmental processes. Obama, who aspired to a place in the presidential pantheon, will leave office with a status more like Chester Arthur’s than Franklin Roosevelt’s, but without an achievement as large and popular as Arthur’s civil service reform. Obama will, however, merit the nation’s backhanded gratitude if the 2016 Republican presidential nominee makes central to a successful campaign a promise to retreat voluntarily from his predecessor’s Caesarism.


[by George Will, writing for The Washington Post]


As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis





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Hillary in 2016 makes sense only if voters really want a third Obama term

Now that two of the last three Democratic presidencies have been emphatically judged to have been failures, the world’s oldest political party — the primary architect of this nation’s administrative state — has some thinking to do.

The accumulating evidence that the Democratic Party is an exhausted volcano includes its fixation with stale ideas, such as the supreme importance of a 23rd increase in the minimum wage. Can this party be so blinkered by the modest success of its third recent presidency, Bill Clinton’s, that it will sleepwalk into the next election behind Hillary Clinton?

In 2016, she will have won just two elections in her 69 years, the last one 10 years previously. Ronald Reagan went 10 years from his second election to his presidential victory at age 69, but do Democrats want to wager their most precious possession, the presidential nomination, on the proposition that Clinton has political talents akin to Reagan’s?

In October, Clinton was campaigning, with characteristic futility, for Martha Coakley, the losing candidate for Massachusetts governor, when she said: “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.” Watch her on YouTube. When saying this, she glances down, not at a text but at notes, and proceeds with the hesitancy of someone gathering her thoughts. She is not reading a speechwriter’s blunder. When she said those 13 words, she actually was thinking.

You may be wondering, to use eight other Clinton words that will reverberate for a long time: “What difference at this point does it make?” This difference: Although she says her 13 words “short-handed” her thinking, what weird thinking can they be shorthand for?

Yuval Levin, whose sharp thinking was honed at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, is editor of the National Affairs quarterly and author of two books on science and public policy and, most recently, of “The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left.” He is one of conservatism’s most sophisticated and measured explicators, so his biting assessment of Clinton is especially notable:

“She is smart, tough and savvy and has a capacity to learn from failure and adjust. But … people are bored of her and feel like she has been talking at them forever. … She is a dull, grating, inauthentic, over-eager, insipid elitist with ideological blinders yet no particular vision and is likely to be reduced to running on a dubious promise of experience and competence while faking idealism and hope — a very common type of presidential contender in both parties, but one that almost always loses.”

Her husband promised “a bridge to the 21st century.” She promises a bridge back to the 1990s. Or perhaps to 1988 and the “competence” candidacy of Michael Dukakis, which at least did not radiate, as hers will, a cloying aura of entitlement.

The energy in her party — in its nominating electorate — is well to her left, as will be the center of political gravity in the smaller and more liberal Democratic Senate caucus that will gather in January. There is, however, evidence that the left is too untethered from reality to engage in effective politics. For example:

Billionaire Tom Steyer’s environmental angst is implausibly focused on the supposed planetary menace of the Keystone XL pipeline. His NextGen Climate super PAC disbursed more than $60 million to candidates who shared — or pretended to in order to get his money — his obsession. The result? The gavel of the Environment and Public Works Committee is coming into the hands of Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, the Senate’s most implacable skeptic about large-scale and predictable climate change driven by human behavior.

Is Clinton the person to maintain her party’s hold on young voters? Democrats, in their misplaced confidence in their voter mobilization magic, targeted what have been called “basement grads.” These are some of the one-third of millennials (ages 18-31) who, because of the economy’s sluggishness in the sixth year of recovery, are living with their parents. Why did Democrats think they would be helped by luring anxious and disappointed young people out of basements and into voting booths?

The last time voters awarded a party a third consecutive presidential term was 1988, when George Herbert Walker Bush’s candidacy could be construed as promising something like a third Reagan term. A Clinton candidacy make sense if, but only if, in 24 months voters will be thinking: Let’s have a third Obama term.

[by George Will, writing for The Washington Post]


As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis





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We must be getting ready to close out the winter when even the major columnists are writing about baseball…

Baseball quiz:
Take a swing at these

“Andre Dawson,” Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully once said, “has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. Aren’t we all?” Yes, so use some of your remaining time constructively by identifying the player or players who:

1. Won three batting titles by at least 44 points (two players).

2. Hit more than 50 home runs in a season in which he had fewer than 50 strikeouts.

3. Won a batting title hitting .361 but slumped to .243 the next season.

4. Was the oldest MVP.

5. Caught the most games.

6. Was the first catcher to hit 40 home runs.

7. Batted at least .300 and drove in at least 100 runs in each of his first 11 seasons.

8. Hit 50 home runs in one season and stole 50 bases in another (two players).

9. Had 3,000 hits and 1,500 walks (four players).

10. Had 3,000 hits, 300 home runs and a career .300 average (four players).

11. Received the most unintentional walks.

12. Is the only American League player to have 100 walks, 70 extra-base hits and 30 stolen bases in a season.

13. Are the only three National League players with such a season.

14. Was the first lefthander to win 300 games.

15. Won three ERA titles before age 26.

16. Was the last player to have 600 hits with three teams.

17. Is a Hall of Famer whose lowest winning percentage in 10 pitching seasons was .643.

18. Had 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons.

19. Had eight league home run titles, ranking second to Babe Ruth’s 12.

20. Completed 237 of the 370 games he started in the 1950s.

21. In 1968, the “year of the pitcher,” hit 10 home runs in 20 at-bats in six games.

22. Contracted tuberculosis, interrupting his Hall of Fame career at second base and perhaps costing his team a third consecutive pennant.

23. Hit five home runs in a doubleheader (two players).

24. Was the first African-American to win an American League batting title.

25. Are the only active players to have at least 350 home runs and a .320 average (two players).

26. Had his record for most home runs in the first 10 seasons of a career broken by Albert Pujols.

27. Had 27 wins in a season pitching for a losing team (three players).

28. Was the World Series MVP on a losing team.

29. Three times hit at least 40 home runs and had fewer strikeouts than home runs.

30. Made All-Star Game rosters at catcher and second base.

31. Played the most games at first base.

32. Had only 54 wins at age 30 but won 318.

33. Won two World Series MVP awards as a position player.

34. Other than Jackie Robinson, had his number retired by three teams.

35. Although a relief pitcher, started a season 17-0 and finished 18-1.

36. Threw 16 shutouts in a season.

37. Was the last pitcher with 10 shutouts in a season.

38. Hit the most career doubles.

39. Won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves (two players).

40. Won the Cy Young Award in his rookie season.

41. Was an All-American basketball player (Duke) before being an MVP.

42. Compiled the most total bases in a game.

43. Had the lowest World Series ERA (minimum 30 innings pitched).

44. Walked six times in a nine-inning game.

Bonus question: Who said, “The reason the Mets have played so well at Shea this year is they have the best home record in baseball.”


1. Rod Carew, Rogers Hornsby

2. Johnny Mize, 1947

3. Norm Cash, 1961-1962

4. Barry Bonds, 40 in 2004

5. Ivan Rodriguez

6. Roy Campanella

7. Al Simmons

8. Brady Anderson, Barry Bonds

9. Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial, Pete Rose, Carl Yastrzemski

10. Hank Aaron, George Brett, Willie Mays, Stan Musial

11. Rickey Henderson

12. Mike Trout

13. Bobby Abreu, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds

14. Eddie Plank

15. Clayton Kershaw

16. Johnny Damon

17. Babe Ruth

18. Ichiro Suzuki

19. Mike Schmidt

20. Robin Roberts

21. Frank Howard

22. Red Schoendienst, 1959

23. Nate Colbert, Stan Musial

24. Frank Robinson, 1966

25. Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols

26. Eddie Mathews

27. Grover Cleveland Alexander, Steve Carlton, Eddie Rommel

28. Bobby Richardson, 1960 Yankees

29. Ted Kluszewski

30. Craig Biggio

31. Eddie Murray

32. Phil Niekro

33. Reggie Jackson; 1973 A’s, 1977 Yankees

34. Nolan Ryan; Angels, Astros, Rangers

35. Roy Face, 1959

36. Grover Cleveland Alexander

37. John Tudor, 1985

38. Tris Speaker, 792

39. Jim Kaat, Brooks Robinson

40. Fernando Valenzuela, 1981

41. Dick Groat, 1960

42. Shawn Green, 19: single, double, four home runs

43. Harry Brecheen, 0.83

44. Jimmie Foxx

Bonus answer: Ralph Kiner, of course.

[George Will is a well known and well respected columnist for The Washington Post]


NORM ‘n’ AL Note: Just when it seems like the entire world is going to hell in a handbasket, the baseball season opens again and assures us that, for another year at least, things are going to be all right.


As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis


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