George F.

Stories by George F. Will

  • So, We Talk Too Much?

    Washington's political class and its journalistic echoes are celebrating Senate passage, on a mostly party-line vote, of a "reform" that constitutes the boldest attack on freedom of VW speech since enactment of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. The campaign finance bill would ration political speech. Fortunately, it is so flagrantly unconstitutional that the Supreme Court will fling it back across First Street, N.E., with a two-word opinion: "Good grief!" ...
  • Sympathy For Guinier

    Lani Guinier deserves some sympathy. She is an academic and a liberal Democratic activist, so she probably cannot understand what the fuss was about. She probably rarely associates with people who think her ideas are strange. (After McGovern lost 49 states in 1972, a member of Manhattan's liberal literati exclaimed in bewilderment, "But everyone I know voted for him!") Many of Guinier's ideas are extreme, undemocratic and anticonstitutional. But they also are reflections or extensions of tendencies in today's academic thinking and public policy. ...
  • 'Compassion' On Campus

    With commencement season comes a summer respite from attacks on freedom of speech on campuses. Consider the University of Pennsylvania, whose recently resigned president, Sheldon Hackney, is heading for Washington to chair the National Endowment for the Humanities. Penn's thought police are persecuting a Jewish student because late one night, when he was trying to study and a black sorority group was being noisy beneath his window he shouted, "Will you water buffaloes get out of here?" The Hebrew word behama, meaning water oxen, is a slang putdown meaning dolt. The blacks say their feelings were hurt and-therefore?-he is guilty of "racial harassment." When some other blacks at Penn were offended by a conservative columnist in the student newspaper, they met delivery trucks early one morning and dumped 14,000 copies into trash bins. Hackney gave this cringingly neutral description of this Brownshirt behavior: the papers II were removed from their regular distribution points." He said...
  • Jon Will's Aptitudes

    Jon Will, the oldest of my four children, turns 21 this week and on this birthday, as on every other workday, he will commute by subway to his job delivering mail and being useful in other ways at the National Institutes of Health. Jon is a taxpayer, which serves him right: he voted for Bill Clinton (although he was partial to Pat Buchanan in the primaries). ...
  • Anita Hill's Tangled Web

    One of them lied. Anita Hill's charges were as detailed as Clarence Thomas's denials were categorical. Now comes a book, "The Real Anita Hill" by David Brock, that dismantles the myth that Hill is a conservative Republican who was driven from Washington by sexual harassment. Brock assembles an avalanche of evidence that Hill lied-about her career and her relations with Thomas. ...
  • Reunion In The Desert

    If you want to know everything important about baseballmeaning everything about baseball; there is nothing unimportant-you can memorize the 2,857 pages of The Baseball Encyclopedia. Or you can go sit next to that elderly but sprightly man in the broad-brimmed straw hat, sitting behind the screen back of home plate at the Oakland A's spring training camp in Phoenix. Bill Rigney, 75, is working, but he can work and conduct a tutorial at the same time. ...
  • 'Medicine' For '724 Children'

    Herewith an understated introduction to the practice of pediatrics in the inner city: "The young child's attempts to master the age-appropriate fears of monsters under the bed are severely undermined when the child needs to sleep under the bed to dodge real bullets or attempt to screen out the violent fights of his or her caregivers." ...
  • 'The Fatal Conceit'

    Clinton's Washington is awash with "the fatal conceit." The phrase is from the late Friedrich von Hayek, Nobel Prize-winning economist. The conceit is the belief that governing elites can make the future conform to their plans, and should do so because the alternative-allowing markets to allocate resources and opportunities-makes the preferences of the untutored many superior to the planning of the expert few. ...
  • Agents Of What Change?

    President Clinton is quite cross about "the economic elite," a.k.a. "the privileged few," and is promising to punish them by raising their taxes. That will teach them not to do it again. (Do what? Make a lot of money, presumably. Or keep too much of it because of 1980s tax laws that Democratic majorities in Congress supported.) By taxing the rich, as well as calling them names, he hopes to make more palatable the "sacriices," a.k.a. tax increases, he hopes to impose on the virtuous middle class. ...
  • 'Rhetorical Presidency'

    President Clinton is probably being pelted with advice as he prepares to go to Capitol Hill to deliver his State of the Union address. My advice is: Don't go. ...
  • Old Hickory Is Not Amused

    Seeing the use to which his name is being put, the ghost of Andrew Jackson cannot be amused. But, then, Old Hickory-brawler, dueler, warrior, Indian remover, slayer of the Second Bank of the United States-rarely was of a mind to be amused. Because this Inaugural features an open house at the White House, comparisons are drawn with the riotous reception on Jackson's first day. Orange punch soaked the rugs, muddy boots ruined damask upholstery, drapes were tom and china was smashed until the mob was lured out onto the lawn by pails of liquor. It would be nice if, after his slightly Jacksonian open house, William Jefferson Clinton would emulate Jackson's Jeffersonian principles. ...
  • 'Exoneration' Of Alger Hiss

    On Oct. 29 The New York Times reported that Gen. Dmitri Volkogonov, in charge of oversight of Russia's intelligence archives, had declared the espionage accusation against Alger Hiss "completely groundless." He said, "Not a single document, and a great amount of materials has been studied, substantiates the allegation." He made this declaration at the behest of Hiss, and of John Lowenthal, who traveled to Moscow and whom the Times described as "a historian and filmmaker who has long studied the Hiss case." ...
  • 1992: Came The Revolution

    Like Lenin and Trotsky returning from Swiss and Siberian exiles, the American left, at long last a winner of a presidential election, has, as it were, surged forth from the Finland station and stormed the Winter Palace, so now America's propertied classes are at the mercy of ... Lloyd Bentsen. Only in America. ...
  • Our Expanding Menu Of Rights

    In Eden Prairie, Minn., Cheltzie Hentz has triggered local, state, and even federal investigations of her charge that her right to freedom from sexual harassment has been violated. She is 7. Her alleged harassers-boys on the school bus-use, she says, "naughty language." Cheltzie is, the Los Angeles Times reports, the youngest person ever to provoke a harassment inquiry by the U.S. Department of Education. A local school board member says, "This is not sexual harassment. Children at this age don't have a concept of sexual harassment." Sure they do. They get it in school. Cheltzie's school district teaches, from kindergarten on, a sexual harassment curriculum. And the state recently awarded a young woman $15,000 because Duluth officials were not vigorous enough in responding to sexual graffiti on a restroom wall. ...
  • Here Come The Eager Beavers

    James Carville, Bill Clinton's Clausewitz, talks like an Uzi, in bursts. He should do the president-elect a final favor by firing off for him the story of the traffic lights on Florida Street in Baton Rouge. ...
  • ELECTION, NOT CANONIZATION

    Voters, encouraged by candidates and by journalists caught up in all the folderol, begin to believe that a presidential election is like a walk along the lip of a volcano: a matter of life and death. Actually, we are just selecting someone for a four-year stint as head of one of the three branches of one of our governments. That's all. That's enough. ...
  • Twilight Along the Potomac?

    With a chip on his shoulder the size of Florida, George Bush stalked into that state and said: "Governor Clinton's a very ambitious politician." Gadzooks. Get the children out of earshot. This is getting ugly. Still, what a critic said of Wagner's music (it has beautiful moments but awful quarter hours) is true of this campaign. There was a beautifully emblematic moment last week when Larry King lapsed into Bushspeak while interviewing the inventor of that dialect. ...
  • AT LEAST ONE OF THESE, PLEASE

    The finest words spoken so far in this political season were: "I don't want some poor guy in West Virginia, who works in a coal mine, to chip in for a subway he'll never see." So spoke Bruce Herschensohn, a California Republican seeking a U.S. Senate seat. His is this year's most interesting candidacy because of how his victory would improve Congress. ...
  • Baseball's Woes--And Ours

    If you like major league baseball, you had better take yourself out to the ballpark this month. You may not get back there until 1994. At 28 parks, 1993 may be a silent spring. And summer, and fall. There are 28 teams, counting the new Miami and Denver expansion franchises. Those two may participate in a lockout of players (they do not yet have any) before they play their first game. ...
  • The 'Truman Paradigm'

    Publishing poetry has been likened to tossing rose petals into the Grand Canyon and waiting for echoes. You might think that would also describe publishing (when the public thinks politicians are valuable only as a source of protein) a biography of an unglamorous president who was deeply unpopular most of his time in office, who left office not merely disliked but disdained-and before most of today's readers were politically awake. What, then, explains the astonishing, even though merited, success of David McCullough's "Truman"? ...
  • Bedeviled By Ethnicity

    The Balkans, again. There this century's fuse first sputtered, leading, in 1914, to the explosion that blew to smithereens the Hapsburg, Romanov and Ottoman empires. In 1992, from Sarajevo to Iraq to central Asia, the world is still struggling with the still-smoldering debris of those empires, which died in the aftermath of pistol shots in Sarajevo 78 summers ago. Is it still true that, as was then said, the Balkans produce more history than they can consume locally? That depends on whether other nations decide to regard Bosnia's bleeding as of merely local importance. ...
  • Oh, Melancholy Conservatives!

    Americans always believe it would be an improvement if their politicians had only feet of clay. But not even this year's dyspeptic electorate finds all politicians equally aggravating. Bill Clinton, a politician of honeyed words and placid aspect, is irritating to the Bush campaign because he does not irritate. At least he does not have a prickly personality or a sharp ideological edge that makes him frightening to many people. This vexes Bush's people because their aim is to "Goldwaterize" Clinton. ...
  • Labels Do Matter

    Is Bill Clinton our Henry of Navarre (1553-1610)? Henry, King of France, was raised a Protestant but twice embraced Catholicism for political reasons, once with words that could be the credo of many a politician: "Paris is well worth a mass."Is Clinton a chastened, converted liberal? Or does he just believe the White House is worth a moderate speech? Republicans will say his acceptance speech, sounding themes of entrepreneurship and responsibility, was mere trimming for tactical purposes. That is not a frivolous suspicion about a man who entered polities in the service of George McGovern and who was nominated by a convention composed of delegates more liberal than even most Democrats.Dukakis learned what happens to a Democratic nominee who runs from the liberal label. When he told the 1988 convention that the election would be about "competence," not "ideology," Republicans pounced. Clearly Dukakis himself thought that his liberalism was a handicap. There is a striking difference...
  • The Dumpling Also Rises

    No one now mistakes George Bush for Old King Cole. A merry old soul he is not. He is trying to become the fourth president since the Second World War, the 6th in this century and the 15th in history to win a second election. Second terms often are troubled. However, if Bush wins one, the nation will be immunized against disappointment because he will be unencumbered by great or even minuscule expectations. Has America ever inaugurated a president already considered a proven failure? That could happen next Jan. 20. ...
  • The Veep And The Blatherskite

    The more thoughtful half of the Bush-Quayle team has recently been brimming over with thoughts, two of which merit more amplification than he gave them. Quayle says Perot "has contempt for the Constitution." And Quayle says the election of Perot would deepen the problem of "the deadlock between the elected branches" of the government. "So let us return to the tried and true. Let us elect a President-Republican or Democrat-and give him a Congress that responds to presidential leadership." ...
  • The Barefoot Billionaire

    Who, besides Bill Clinton and George Bush, is responsible for Ross Perot's remarkable political rise? Owen Wister is. Ninety years ago this week he published a novel, "The Virginian." It pioneered a literary genre, the Western; it invented the cowboy of popular imagination, and it defined a region, the West, as a repository of American yearnings and regrets. ...
  • 'Shadow World'

    Popular fiction can popularize ideas, so Michael Crichton's best-selling "Rising Sun" is dismaying as a symptom and reprehensible as an act. It is a crime novel well stocked with murder and other mayhem-or, as Crichton says, other Japanese business practices. It overflows with anti-Japanese passion, a peculiar blend of fear and loathing and admiration. ...
  • That Man On Horseback

    Ross Perot is saddled up and raring to ride to the nation's rescue-but only if the country says " pretty please" on the 100 phone lines he has installed, so reluctant is he. Any independent candidate begins by benefiting from a brute fact: when the presidential choice for 100 million voters narrows to just two candidates, many millions think a third choice would be nice. The last significant independent candidacy was John Anderson's in 1980, and it was not very significant. At one point polls put him above 20 percent, but by Election Day that had melted to 6.6 percent and zero electoral votes. Anderson was political Evian water, an elite affectation. He had neither a sizzling personality like Teddy Roosevelt's, nor an agenda neglected by the major parties as Bob LaFollette had, nor a regional base like Strom Thurmond's and George Wallace's. ...
  • The Keepers Of The Rules

    OVERLAND PARK, KANS.-One of the battery of physical therapists who put Steve Palermo through an average of five hours of pain, five days a week, says he is the first patient she has had who, looking back on the episode that broke his body, insists he would do it again. Of course he would. He was just enforcing the rules. He is, after all, an umpire. ...
  • 'Whatever It Takes'

    Jesse Jackson was rapping away the other day, cataloging the shortcomings of the candidates, listing all the downtrodden constituencies that are not being sufficiently loved. When his litany reached "our forsaken farmers," the 1992 campaign reached the level of cabaret. ...