On June 12, as al Qaeda forces marched toward Baghdad, John McCain spoke on the Senate floor. Noting that the al Qaeda affiliate ISIS has conquered a third of Iraqi territory, has overrun the city of Mosul, has captured abandoned American equipment, and has stolen more than $400 million in cash reserves, McCain said that the enemies of the United States are on the verge of a strategic victory. Only a major course correction, McCain went on, might prevent the emergence of an al Qaeda state that stretches from eastern Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad. “It’s time that the president got a new national security team,” he said.
Referring to the administration, one Democrat said to Politico: “I wouldn’t be surprised if they looked at the next three years and think, ‘Oh my God, how are we going to survive the next 36 months of this bullshit?” Good question—one the president seems intent on answering by not caring, by retreating into his comfy and unthreatening cocoon of affluent bourgeois liberals from around the world. The rest of us have to live with the consequences.
The phrase “offshore balancing” did not appear in President Obama’s commencement address at West Point. It did not have to. Obama’s every word was informed by the idea that America should renounce nation-building, extended deployments, base construction, and other elements of hard power in favor of diplomacy, military-to-military partnerships, multilateral institution-building, and soft-power in general. “Just because we have the best hammer,” the president said in a particularly insipid use of cliché, “does not mean that every problem is a nail.”
An intellectually stimulating and potentially historic event was held at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday. House majority leader Eric Cantor, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, and Senators Mike Lee and Tim Scott appeared alongside conservative thinkers and journalists such as Arthur Brooks, Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, Ramesh Ponnuru, Peter Wehner, Yuval Levin, and Kate O’Beirne to discuss “solutions for the middle class.” The AEI panel was noteworthy not only for its content but also for the presence of Republican elected officials. It was the debut, however modest, of “reform conservatism” as a political force.
Reading the New York Times’ report on the defenestration of the paper’s executive editor, Jill Abramson, and the coronation, at a hastily arranged meeting Wednesday, of her replacement Dean Baquet, I could not escape the feeling that the Soviet press must have covered the comings and goings of Politburo members in much the same way.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has named its collection of used clothes—a sort of consignment shop one must pay to enter and where nothing is for sale—after Anna Wintour. A trustee of the Met since 1999, the editor of Vogue, artistic director of Condé Nast, and inspiration for The Devil Wears Prada has over the years raised some $125 million for the museum. Earlier this week, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Anna Wintour Costume Center, Michelle Obama delivered a speech. Never have I read one quite like it.
Fitting, I thought, when I saw Air Force One returning to Andrews Air Force Base in the rain the other day. The weather had not only assumed the character of President Obama’s demeanor, it had become a physical representation of the sentiments inside his administration, inside Democratic circles in Washington. Those sentiments are dark, foreboding, cloudy, and gloomy. The president’s foreign policy is under attack, his agenda is stalled in Congress, and his signature program remains unpopular. A second repudiation of Obama, a second shellacking, may be at hand.
“To see what is in front of one’s nose,” George Orwell famously wrote, “needs a constant struggle.” In front of my nose as I write this is a copy of last Sunday’s New York Times. I have opened it to the business section. Below the fold is one of many Times articles on Thomas Piketty, the French economist and author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which argues that America has entered a second Gilded Age of vast inequality, inherited fortunes, and oligarchic politics, where the shape of public discourse and public policy is determined by a wealthy few.
Hillary Clinton may end up deciding she wants to spend the 935 days until election 2016 making corporate speeches and spoiling her grandchild. Recent events have exposed weaknesses in Clinton’s supposedly impregnable armor, gaps through which a Democratic or Republican challenger could damage, perhaps even defeat her. The bad headlines to which she has been subjected are enough to make anyone—anyone who isn’t a Clinton—think twice about running for president.
“I see lobbying,” Tony Podesta has said, “as getting information in the hands of people who are making decisions so they can make more informed decisions.” Last week the information Tony Podesta was giving was the divorce complaint he had filed in D.C. Court against his wife Heather. The hands receiving the information were those of a gossip columnist for the Washington Post, who made the “informed decision” to report on it. Later in the day Heather, who is also a lobbyist, passed the text of her counter-suit to the Post. It published a follow-up.