Opinion

  • We are Americans, First

    I saw a Tweet this week that made me laugh a little.  Someone had shared a video of the flooding in downtown DC on Monday when that deluge of rain came through.  The National Archives had tweeted the footage and pointed out that you could see their building beyond the waves of the flood waters.  An historian at Georgetown said he hoped the Constitution had been kept dry because “we … Read More

  • Democracy is America’s Most Potent Asset

    The next American president should get back to celebrating the moral power of democracy.  This was standard fare for President Ronald Reagan—in fact it was pretty standard throughout the Cold War.  The fact that democracy promotion is little more than a slogan and not a centerpiece of American foreign policy is a mistake. We are leaving our most powerful asset unused in the global competition that will shape the 21st … Read More

  • Remembering D-Day and Tiananmen Square

    This week, we mark two very different milestones: the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944, the allied invasion of Nazi-controlled Europe; and the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, 1989.  How these days are marked and remembered tells us a lot about the difference between democracy and autocracy. Earlier this week, a friend pointed out that D-Day is perhaps the most celebrated, fictionalized, and talked … Read More

  • Iran? I’ve seen that movie, too

    On February 15, 1898, the USS Maine was at anchor in Havana Harbor when an explosion sank her killing 260 officers and men.  The so-called Yellow Press—led by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer— promptly blamed the Spanish government and cried “Remember the Maine!” In truth, historians remain uncertain about what caused the explosion, but the leading theory is that a fire in one of the coal bunkers on board … Read More

  • It’s Not a Constitutional Crisis

    It’s easy right now to let our worries and anxieties about events in Washington consume us. A quick listen to the talking heads or a glance at some of the opinion pages would lead you to believe that we’re in the midst of a full-blown constitutional crisis.  It’s a thought that I’ve considered on more than one occasion in recent months, largely stemming from the proliferation of congressional investigations into … Read More

  • Impeachment and the Lessons of the Iraq War

    Whether or not to impeach the president is going to be the over-riding question in American politics for the rest of Donald Trump’s time in office.  This question is not going to flame out.  It’s here to stay, and history will judge both Democrats and Republicans by how they handle this most serious question facing the republic. So far, Republicans in the Congress remain publicly united behind the president.  Democrats … Read More

  • Technically True, but Spin

    In 2005, the United States Department of Defense announced a list of excess military bases that it wanted to close as part of a cost-saving measure.  Anyone who has lived near a closed base will appreciate that this is an incredibly disruptive thing for communities who lose an important employer, community members, both in uniform and their families, and a source of pride—an operational military unit in their home-town that … Read More

  • Special Counsel; Independent Thinking

    There is a competition underway to condition the American public’s response, in advance, to whatever Special Counsel Robert Mueller ultimately reports.  For the president and his allies, the message has been consistent: it’s a “witch hunt.”  For Democrats, after championing the integrity of Mueller’s investigation for months, there seems to be an effort, now, to manage expectations. The president’s use of the term “witch hunt” in relationship to the Mueller … Read More

  • Of Bull Elephants and Mentors

    In the late 1990s, juvenile elephants were killing white rhinos in the game preserves in South Africa. Park rangers were mystified. As they grappled with what to do—including killing several of the offending elephants—the rangers stumbled on a thought: the juvenile elephants had been culled from their original herds and released into new parks without being socialized by older elephants. In effect, they hadn’t learned how to behave properly as elephants. So the … Read More

  • The First Campaign Narrative of 2020

    The 2020 campaign is fully under-way. Democrats and even a few Republicans have announced campaigns and exploratory committees, and campaign narratives are beginning to emerge. Campaign narratives are central to how candidates engage with the public. They provide a framework for understanding developments because the public, once having internalized a narrative, can sort facts and new developments on their own. The narratives that emerge around campaigns are driven by the … Read More