George F.

Stories by George F. Will

  • Presidential Minimalism

    Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, fresh from winning 91 of 92 counties and 67 percent of the vote and a fourth term, is seeking the Republican presidential nomination so he can be on the receiving end of what he was dispensing four decades ago. Then, as a Naval officer dealing with intelligence, he gave closed-circuit television briefings to President Eisenhower. Today, when foreign policy has receded farther from the center of the electorate's consciousness than at any time since the 1920s, Lugar is running to assert the primacy of foreign policy among the presidential functions. This will be a hard row to hoe at a moment when America's passionate political arguments are not about where and how Washington should project American power abroad but about where and how Washington's powers and functions can be dissolved or devolved to lower governments. ...
  • Good Man . . . Wrong Job?

    When democrats were thinking of offering their 1948 presidential nomination to Dwight Eisenhower, taciturn Speaker Sam Rayburn said of him, "good man, but wrong business." Does Rayburn's estimate of Eisenhower suit Bob Dole? Rayburn, who later revised his assessment of Eisenhower sharply upward, worried that the soldier, shaped by the military's command environment, might not be sufficiently rhetorical and wily for the political environment of persuasion and negotiation. Today even many people who wish Dole's candidacy well worry that his lifetime as a legislator -- he was elected to Congress when Eisenhower was president, in 1960 -- has revealed, or developed, proclivities that would be disabilities in a president. ...
  • About Those 'Orphanages'

    With a tendentiousness that seems characteristic, Hillary Clinton has entered the welfare reform debate by denouncing ""the unbelievable and absurd idea of putting children into orphanages because their mothers couldn't find jobs.'' But the serious idea being considered by serious people is that infants whose mothers are, say, 16, unmarried, uneducated, unemployed, addicted and abusive might be better off in institutions. Ms. Clinton should be shown James Q. Wilson's recent lecture to the Manhattan Institute. It demonstrates how to bring intellectual honesty and humility to bear on the problem of character development, the problem that is commonly called the ""welfare crisis.'' ...
  • The Restoration

    Americans bandy the word ""revolution'' with the insouciance of a fortunate people whose history has spared them any recent acquaintance with the rigors of the real thing. The revolution due to begin in January with a bang of Speaker Gingrich's gavel may indeed involve greater change than Washington has seen since the New Deal. However, the huge wave about to hit Washington did not rise suddenly from a flat sea. It is part of a tide of conservatism that began rising in the late 1960s because of disappointment with Great Society social engineering and dismay about the coarsening of the culture. This protracted revolution is actually a restoration, a reconnection with the most continuous thread in America's political tradition, commitment to limited government. ...
  • A Kind Of Compulsory Chapel

    The high school test asked students to identify the ""Hellenic epic which established egotistical individualism as heroic.'' The correct answer was ""The Iliad,'' the message of the question being this: Individualism is egotistical and egoism, rather than anything more noble, defines Western civilization. When a University of Pennsylvania student wrote of ""my deep regard for the individual,'' an administrator underlined the word ""individual'' and wrote back: ""This is a red flag phrase today, which is considered by many to be racist. Arguments that champion the individual over the group ultimately privileges [sic] the "individuals' belonging to the largest dominant group.'' ...
  • The Curdled Congress

    THE CURDLED 103RD CONGRESS, DURING WHICH THE first member ever indicted for child pornography (Mel Reynolds, a Chicago Democrat) dashed back from his arraignment to vote for the crime bill, began with an abuse of power and ended in bitterness. In November 1992, Republicans gained 10 House seats. In January 1993, House Democrats, in bovine obedience to their leaders, voted to give the five delegates from Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia-- all Democrats, of course--full voting rights on the floor when the House is functioning as a Committee of the Whole, the mode in which most important decisions are made. So now 47,000 residents of Samoa, who pay no U.S. income taxes, have as much say about raising taxes and spending revenues as do the 540,000 residents of Speaker Tom Foley's district. ...
  • O-Klahoma,

    He was proud to be an Okie from Muskogee. But in Congress he voted like a liberal from Manhattan. And last week his career collapsed under the accumulating weight of its contradictions, crystallizing a Democratic worry: This year, money may not be enough. ...
  • Forrest Gump On The Potomac

    As members of Congress crept back into Washington from America, their eyebrows singed and their ears ringing from close encounters with constituents, there was a tasty omelet of events demonstrating how dicey it is to be a Democrat as this autumn's elections draw near. ...
  • Up From Geniality

    As slender as a Stiletto, and as cutting, David Frum's "Dead Right" arrives at a moment when conservatives, flush with some summer successes resisting Clintonism and anticipating substantial gains in this autumn's elections, are feeling chipper. Frum's book, constantly scolding and sometimes scalding, should complicate their complacency. He says few conservatives are serious about combating the social ills they deplore. ...
  • Tony Gwynn, Union Man

    Tony Gwynn, baseball's best pure hitter, stood in the Padres' dugout in San Diego listening to a friend talk about Ted Williams. The friend said that when Williams hit .388 in 1957, his 38-year-old legs probably cost him at least the five hits that would have given him a .400 average. Gwynn replied that his own sore knee -- it has been drained three times this season -- has cost him at least six hits. ...
  • R = C2

    TODAY'S POLITICAL CLASS DIVIDES ITS TIME BETWEEN deploring the public's cynicism and doing things that deepen that cynicism. Hence the public's mood may be, if anything, insufficiently dyspeptic. Certainly the president whose campaign promise of a middle class tax cut was patently disingenuous should not be amazed if Americans (in his words) "indulge themselves in the luxury of cynicism." Having featured his promise to end "welfare as we know it" in about 40 percent of his campaign commercials, he now tentatively and tardily advances a tepid reform proposal so late in the congressional session that it probably will be lost in the legislative shuffle, which is what his core liberal supporters want, and perhaps he does, too. The public's cynicism about this can be considered reciprocal. ...
  • The Tenth Problem

    President Clinton, the uncoolidge, is relentless-ly garrulous, but he is reticent about the Korean crisis. The United States is on a narrowing, descending path to a fearful choice between the risk of war half a world away, or a retreat from the world. Yet the president has not apprised Americans of the possibilities. ...
  • Since Mckinley's Cigar

    IN THE SUMMER OF 1901, AT WILLIAM MCKINLEY'S HOME in Canton, Ohio, a photographer approached to take the president's picture. McKinley laid aside his cigar, saying, ""We must not let the young men of this country see their president smoking!'' That camera was a harbinger of the graphic revolution in communication that would help enlarge the place of the presidency -- the most photogenic piece of America's government -- in the nation's consciousness. McKinley was a transitional figure. He had presided over America's passage into imperialism in the war with Spain, and his assassination late that summer produced the first modern president, Theodore Roosevelt, who proclaimed his office a ""bully pulpit'' for shaping the public's mind and morals. ...
  • A Stupendous Mystery

    IF SOMEONE SURREPTITIOUSLY TOOK EVERYTHING BUT ESPN from my cable television package, it might be months before I noticed. But I am up to speed on the subject du jour: Why are so many baseballs flying over fences? Players and fans who share Flaubert's flair for le mot juste say the ball has been "juiced." Must be a conspiracy. Or not. ...
  • Sheldon Hackney's Conversation

    SHELDON HACKNEY HEARS AMERICA TALKING AND IS dismayed. He thinks the talk is inexpert and unorganized and needs federal help. Hackney, who heads the National Endowment for the Humanities, wants Washington to organize a "national conversation" about pluralism. The NEH was created pursuant to LBJ's promise that Washington would transform America into a great society. That transformation still has a way to go, but perhaps Hackney's "conversation" is the missing ingredient of greatness. ...
  • Orwell In New Jersey

    THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE HAS BEEN JOINED. A SUIT filed in New Jersey by the National Organization for Women, the state American Civil Liberties Union and others claims that mothers on welfare have a constitutional right to additional payments for however many children they choose to have, in or out of wedlock. The suit argues, in effect, that the state law denying welfare increases for babies born to women already on welfare violates the Constitution's "privacy" right because it intrudes upon "the most personal of decisions: whether or not to have children." Because the law attempts to "influence" family planning and reduce rates of conception and childbirth, it burdens the welfare mothers' "fundamental rights to make decisions about family composition, conception and childbirth without undue governmental intrusion." ...
  • Facing The Skull Beneath The Skin Of Life

    THERE IS A LARGE LACUNA IN THE NATION'S CURrent conversation about medical matters. Unless we talk about something we flinch from facing-death-we will aggravate some problems of modern medicine, for two reasons. Enormous costs are incurred in the final months of patients' lives. And society's stance toward death shapes its stance toward life. Unless we think more clearly than modern medical prowess inclines us to think about dying, we shall not understand something strange. ...
  • Came The Revolution...

    HAVING STORMED, IN THE NAME OF LES MISERABLES, the ramparts of Republican reaction, Democrats, who call themselves "the party of compassion," now have produced a budget that slashes assistance to poor people for home heating, but cuts nary a nickel from the National Endowment for the Arts, an agency paradigmatic of government's solicitude for the already comfortable. Welcome to the revolution. Moral ostentation was liberalism's delight during the fallow years when Republicans were in power and homeless people were in the streets illustrating the "uncaring" nature of Republicans. But in the liberal party's budget the big winner is the Justice Department, primarily because of funding to put more police on the streets where homeless people still are. No wonder many liberals are uneasy and the administration's leading liberal, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is quite cross. ...
  • Coming Next, Clinton's Year One

    HOLLYWOOD'S 1929 PRODUCTION OF "THE TAMING OF the Shrew," starring Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, had this credit line: "By William Shakespeare, with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor." We have now had a year of government as scripted by the Founding Fathers, with additional thoughts by the Clintons and associates. Among the conclusions now possible is this: The post-Cold War contraction of the presidency, which Clinton did not start and cannot stop, is part of the reassertion of constitutional normality, meaning congressional supremacy. And the inertia of events, combined with the country's continuing, even deepening, conservatism, is pulling Congress to Clinton's right. ...
  • 1993: Nature's Hysterics, And More

    PEERING, WITH TREPIDATION, TOWARD 1994, WITH fascism rising in Russia and a father-son pair of North Korean paranoiacs acquiring nuclear weapons, we can cherish the memory of 1993. In America, the year's most impressive event resulted not from man's hysterics but from nature's--rain that caused the Father of Waters to flow unvexed across farmland. The Midwest squared its broad shoulders and gave the nation a lesson in fortitude. On the banks of another river, the Khwae, in Thailand, two survivors, one British and one Japanese, both former soldiers, both 75, shook hands where a bridge had been built, long ago. ...
  • A Trickle-Down Culture

    SHORTLY AFTER 7 A.M. ONE DAY LAST SEPTEMBER, driving through rural South Carolina, Edwin Delattre, Dean of Boston University's School of Education, saw something that was both "a breathtaking picture of hope" and a dismaying reminder of "what dreadfully diminished signs of civility I look for." What he saw by the side of the road were brightly clad black schoolchildren, with backpacks, the older children attentive to the younger, heading for schools not marred by litter, graffiti, barbed wire, chains on the doors or uniformed police. ...
  • Look Who's Being Beastly To The President

    CONGRESS HAVING SHUT DOWN, IT IS SAFE TO DIG UP, for the holiday season, the family silver you buried in the backyard, as Southern ladies did When Sherman was near. So, property being safe until January, this is the time to survey a year of government without "gridlock." ...
  • Are We 'A Nation Of Cowards'?

    JEFFREY SNYDER'S TIMING IS EITHER PERFECT OR PERFECTLY awful. Just as there seems to be a coalescing consensus that the keys to controlling violent crime are more police and fewer guns, along comes Snyder to trouble the conscience of anyone who thinks so. In his essay "A Nation of Cowards" in The Public Interest quarterly, he argues, with a potent blend of philosophy and fact, as follows: ...
  • The Politics Of Discomfort Levels

    BOREDOM, SAYS A CHARACTER IN SAUL BELLOW'S NOVEL "The Adventures of Augie March," is "the shriek of unused capacities." The boredom of political junkies is palpable just now because there are only two gubernatorial races to enliven the autumn. But neither is boring. Both offer stimulating samples of contemporary styles of political discourse. ...
  • The Athletic Jazz Of Michael Jordan

    BASKETBALL MAY BE "THE CITY GAME," BUT ITS greatest performer soared out of Wilmington, N.C. That is how it should have been. As "Hoosiers," one of the best sports movies, made vivid, basketball often means most in small towns where the community gathers in a cramped gym on winter nights, imagining their boys teaching humility to some team from an arrogant metropolis. By the time Michael Jordan stepped away from the game, he had given Chicago the inestimable pleasure of several times slam-dunking in the playoffs the team from the most arrogant of metropolises. The Knicks represent the city that produced the smarty-pants journalist (A. J. Liebling) who hung on Chicago the label the "Second City." The stacker of wheat and hog butcher showed the Big Apple how to play hoops. ...
  • Sex Amidst Semicolons

    THE SOCIAL AIR IS HEAVILY SCENTED WITH SEX. It saturates commerce and amusement-advertising, entertainment, recreation. Eros is rampant everyWhere. Make that almost everywhere. In Yellow Springs, Ohio, home of Antioch College, the god of love has a migraine, the result of reading that institution's rules regulating "interactions" of a sexual sort. ...
  • So, The Culprits Are Now The Cure?

    Our current president, never a slave to the rule "save your breath to cool your porridge," is particularly loquacious when his subject is, as it usually is, "change." He got awfully wrought up at a recent governors' meeting, calling for "fundamental and profound and relentless and continuing change." ...
  • 'The Tangle Of Egos And Rules'

    In Literature as in life, lawyers are swarming like locusts. The hit movie made from John Grisham's novel "The Firm" (Tom Cruise's first movie since he played a lawyer in 'A Few Good Men") is about nasty lawyers working for the mob and portrays the government (run by and for lawyers) as not much nicer. Grisham, a lawyer-novelist who today has the second best-selling hardback and the, first, third and fourth best-selling paperbacks, has sold 25 million books in 18 months. Lawyer-novelist Scott Turow's "Pleading Guilty," his third lawyer novel (following "Presumed Innocent" and the even better "The Burden of Proof"'), is fourth on the hardback list. Why this fascination with lawyers? The reasons are related Lo the reasons why there are so many lawyers. ...