Stories by George F. Will

  • Will: McCain and the Oath

    He has not been bashful about advising the Supreme Court. He should weigh in again, against aspects of McCain-Feingold.
  • Will: How McGovern Made This

    He thinks he could have won in 1972 with a running mate called 'the most trusted man in America'—Walter Cronkite.
  • Will: The Biofuel Follies

    To avoid drilling for oil in ANWR, the planet savers evidently prefer destroying forests that absorb greenhouse gases.
  • Will: Stimulating Talk, Redux

    Washington will stimulate the economy by enacting pet agendas in the name of recovery from a perhaps nonexistent recession.
  • Will: The GOP—Grand Old Pulpit

    Divided Iowa Democrats favored Edwards, fiery tribune of the proletariat, and Obama, whose political persona is anodyne.
  • 2007: Ready, Fire, Aim

    Lego blocks were banned by progressives, Che's hair was for sale and Sheryl Crow urged (almost) giving up toilet paper.
  • Anh Duong, Out Of Debt

    Such are history's caroms—she was involved in the end of the Vietnam War and the beginning of the War on Terror.
  • How No. 1s Pick No. 2s

    Seriously, now: Have you ever met anyone who voted for a presidential candidate because of his running mate?
  • Peru and Other Menaces

    Before panicking, people should remember the witticism that the stock market has predicted nine of the last three recessions.
  • Messy, But Not a Mess

    The always-evolving nomination process provides ample time and challenges to compel candidates to reveal their characters and skills.
  • Sleepwalking Toward DD-Day

    Congress, creating yet another entitlement, is not at all inhibited by the Law of Holes, which is: When you are in a hole, quit digging.
  • Will: 150 Seconds Over Baghdad

    So aged are many Air Force planes, a colonel who calls himself a ''61 model'—he was born in 1961—has flown a tanker made in 1957.Montgomery, Ala.—Two and a half minutes. That is how quickly ground troops in Iraq can receive requested close air support from "the iron over head." The request might pass from a ground unit to a forward air controller, to an intelligence analyst, to someone who does risk assessment (should air power be used against a sniper? A building? A city block?), to a combat lawyer who advises the commander if the risk is consistent with the rules of engagement and the laws of war. Based on that advice, the particular munition or angle of attack axis might be changed.At the Air University here at Maxwell Air Force Base, officers are studying their service's new roles. Time was, air power's primary purpose was to attack massed enemy forces, or the enemy nation's "vital center." Insurgencies have neither. Yet in "the long war" against terrorists, air power is, Air...
  • Now, Defining Decency Down

    Last week, a U.S. Senator’s 27-year congressional career crashed and burned and his life unraveled in public ignominy, and a presidential candidate announced his disgust in a way that did him no credit. The U.S. attorney general made a resignation statement containing a repulsive sentiment suffused with vanity. And in a weird addition to lastweek’s jumbled sensibilities and sensitivities, the Public Broadcasting System announced that, because some station managers are afraid that the Federal Communications Commission’s decency police might take umbrage and impose fines, two versions of Ken Burns’s 14½-hour documentary “The War” will be distributed, in one of which four words of profanity will be removed. This is not because the words shockingly and wrongly suggest that soldiers in World War II sometimes used indelicate language (does no one remember what the F in the wartime acronym “snafu” stands for?), but because someone, somewhere, might be offended by that fact.Good grief. Let...
  • Will: Sisyphus in the Senate

    Sen. Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, has not received the memo explaining that Congress can accomplish nothing in an election year or the year before one. He calls himself the Senate's designated driver, the one not running for president, so he has time to try legislating. He also is the Senate's Sisyphus, determined to roll the boulder of tax reform up Capitol Hill yet again.The fact that Wyden's proposal, the Fair Flat Tax Act, seems radical is a measure of how foolishness has become conventional. Today, as when tax reform was accomplished in 1986, the objectives are threefold—although Wyden stresses only two.One is simplification for its own sake. Americans spend an estimated 6.4 billion hours (more than the 6.3 million industrious people of Indiana work in a year) and more than $265 billion on compliance with a tax code that is six times longer than "War and Peace" (not counting 8 million words—20,000 pages—of regulations). And even with professional help, Americans cannot be...
  • Will: Is Fred Thompson All Charm, No Substance?

    Tulip mania gripped Holland in the 1630s. Prices soared, speculation raged, bulbs promising especially exotic or intense colors became the objects of such frenzied bidding that some changed hands 10 times in a day. Then, suddenly, the spell was broken, the market crashed—prices plummeted in some cases to one one-hundredth of what they had been just days before. And when Reason was restored to her throne, no one could explain what the excitement had been about. Speaking of Fred Thompson ...Some say he is the Republicans' Rorschach test: They all see in him what they crave. Or he might be the Republicans' dot-com bubble, the result of restless political investors seeking value that the untutored eye might not discern and that might be difficult to quantify but which the investors are sure must be there, somewhere, somehow.One does not want to be unfair to Thompson, who may have hidden depths. But ask yourself this: If he did not look like a basset hound who had just read a sad story...
  • Out of What 'Shadows'?

    Who knew? The nation's fastest-growing metropolitan area is in Southern Utah. The continuing growth of this area is, however, contingent on something that is contingent on Congress. This region around the town of St. George in Washington County (which has grown about 40 percent since 2000) is the destination for a familiarAmerican phenomenon, "internal immigration." A river of Americans, many of them in or near retirement and most of them escaping (as they see it) from California's congestion, taxes, housing costs, crime and other blemishes, are buying houses about as fast as lumber can be sawed and nails driven, and are eager to purchase services. But Utah's Sen. Robert Bennett has been told by representatives of the county's construction industry that if the flow of illegal immigrants comes to an abrupt halt, so will the county's growth.Now, allowing for hyperbole, of which there is an abundance in the immigration debate, such anecdotal evidence, especially concerning construction...
  • Will: McCain Risks Presidency By Standing By Iraq 'Surge'

    Admiration is not much practiced in today's dyspeptic politics. Surely, however, Americans of all persuasions should pause in their partisan furies and honor what John McCain did last week with his speech at the Virginia Military Institute. It is stirring and poignant to watch McCain, by acting presidential—like a leader-putting at risk his long-held and exhaustingly pursued dream of being president.There are reasons of temperament and policy, including Iraq policy, to doubt that he should be president. And concerning Iraq, thoughtful people of good will honorably hold dramatically different views of what can and should be done now. What McCain has done is not merely bind himself, as with hoops of steel, to the president's current "surge" policy. At a moment of intense national weariness with a strenuous foreign policy, he has intimated an agenda which, like the president's "freedom agenda," promises unending strenuousness.There is not much of a constituency for a policy of "stay in...
  • Will: The Insanity of College Admissions

    Ivies," "safeties," "AP prep courses," "legacy," "résumé-enhancing activity," "nonbinding early acceptance," "rolling admissions," "single-choice early action." If this argot is familiar to you, poor you: You have a child in high school, and these are the days that try your soul, the spring days when many college admissions are announced, often by e-mail, which is how AP Harry learned he was deferred by Harvard.Harry is a character in Susan Coll's new novel "Acceptance," set in Verona County, Md., which is the real Montgomery County, Md., thinly disguised—rich, liberal, full of strivers and contiguous to strivers' paradise, Washington. Harry earned the nickname AP because beginning with his freshman year he took almost every Advanced Placement course offered at Verona High School, which is so serious about placing graduates in prestigious colleges that the principal stalks the halls quizzing students on vocabulary words. For Harry, only Harvard will do.But Harry is a white male...
  • Will: The Ferocious Power Struggle in American Politics

    "Look at him," said Casey Stengel, expressing incomprehension about a clean-living pitcher. "He don't smoke, he don't drink, he don't chase women and he don't win." In politics, too, winning is the objective. Today, both parties have an unusually small number of kamikaze activists—people willing, even eager, to go down in flames with a presidential candidate they consider so ideologically lovely that they do not care that he or she probably cannot cobble together 270 electoral votes.Both parties must calculate how much would, or should, this or that facet of a candidate's political program be an impediment to his or her winning the presidency. Today, as usual, but in unusual ways, such calculations must be guided by this rule: Think regionally.The nation long ago removed such impediments to voting as property requirements, poll taxes and literacy tests. Perhaps we should add one: No one should be allowed to vote until he or she has driven across the country. Why? Because voters...
  • Will: Longfellow: A Founder

    One hundred years ago, Feb. 27 was enlivened by events around the nation commemorating what had happened 100 years before that, in 1807. But last week's bicentennial of the birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow passed largely unnoted, which is noteworthy.It was, naturally, a poet (Shelley) who declared that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." Wishful thinking, that, but Plato took poets so seriously as disturbers of the peace that he wanted them expelled from his republic. And Longfellow was, in a sense, an American Founder, a maker of this Republic's consciousness.Time was, children learned—in schools; imagine that—the origins of what still are familiar phrases: "Ships that pass in the night," "Life is real! Life is earnest!" "footprints on the sands of time," "the patter of little feet," "the forest primeval," "Let the dead Past bury its dead!" "In this world a man must either be anvil or hammer," "Into each life some rain must fall."Even the first stanza of...
  • A Cheerful Anachronism

    Some rice farmers from congressman Ron Paul's district were in his office the other day, asking for this and that from the federal government. The affable Republican from south Texas listened nicely, then forwarded their requests to the appropriate House committee. It may or may not satisfy their requests in some bill dispensing largesse to agricultural interests. Then Paul will vote against the bill.He believes, with more stubbornness than evidence, that the federal government is a government of strictly enumerated powers, and nowhere in the Constitution's enumeration (Article I, Section 8) can he find any reference to rice. So there. "Farm organizations fight me tooth and nail," he says, "but the farmers are with me." Of course they can afford to indulge their congressman's philosophical eccentricity because lots of other House members represent rice farmers, so rice gets its share of gravy. Still, Paul is a likable eccentric, partly because he likes his constituents while...
  • Golly, What Did Jon Do?

    What did Jon Will and the more than 350,000 American citizens like him do to tick off the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists? It seems to want to help eliminate from America almost all of a category of citizens, a category that includes Jon.congenital condition resulting from a chromosomal defect that causes varying degrees of mental retardation and some physical abnormalities, such as low muscle tone, small stature, a single crease across the center of the palms, flatness of the back of the head and an upward slant to the eyes (when Jon was born, Down syndrome people were still commonly called Mongoloids). There also is increased risk of congenital heart defects, childhood leukemia and Alzheimer's disease. Down syndrome, although not common, is among the most common congenital anomalies--47.9 per 100,000 births (compared with 77.7 with cleft lips or palates, which also can be diagnosed in utero, and which sometimes result in abortions).As women age, their risk of...
  • Ahmadinejad And Thin Ice

    How gruesome was 2006? the year's most consequential person was Iran's president, who says the Holocaust did not happen and vows to complete it. Regarding his nuclear aspirations, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose manias are leavened with realism, treated the United Nations as a figment of the imagination of a fiction--the "international community."Democrats, given control of Congress because of Iraq, vowed to raise the minimum wage. Nimble and graceful Barack Obama became the Democrats' Fred Astaire, adored because of, well, perhaps the way he wears his hat, the way he sips his tea. And the way he isn't Hillary.This year's civil-rights outrage was "soaring" and "record" gasoline prices, a violation of Americans' inalienable right to pay for a gallon no more than they paid 25 years ago. By December the price of a gallon, adjusted for inflation, was 83 cents lower than in 1981. Kansas voters removed some skeptics of evolution from the state's school board. A fossil 3.3 million years old...
  • Retreat From Exuberance

    In his graceful concession speech after President Jimmy Carter and he lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan in a landslide, Vice President Walter Mondale said voters had "quietly wielded their staggering power." They did so again last week. The Constitution designed the House to be the federal institution most responsive to gusts of opinion, and this year, with a gale blowing against the Iraq war, the House functioned as the Constitution's framers expected it to.So with Democrats soon to be rampant on Capitol Hill, in the House and the Senate, is the Antibullying Campaign Act an idea whose time has come? No. That legislation would federalize, by throwing money at, the problem of children being beastly to each other in and around schools. Some House Democrats, unfazed by the suspicion that their party lacks a sense of the ridiculous, have actually proposed this. Two of its sponsors will be committee chairmen in the coming Congress.Now, however, Democrats have bigger fish to fry....
  • Togetherness In Baghdad

    Many months ago it became obvious to all but the most ideologically blinkered that America is losing the war launched to deal with a chimeric problem (an arsenal of WMD) and to achieve a delusory goal (a democracy that would inspire emulation, transforming the region). Last week the president retired his mantra "stay the course" because it does not do justice to the nimbleness and subtlety of U.S. tactics for winning the war.A surreal and ultimately disgusting facet of the Iraq fiasco is the lag between when a fact becomes obvious and when the fiasco's architects acknowledge that fact. Iraq's civil war has been raging for more than a year; so has the Washington debate about whether it is what it is.In a recent interview with Vice President Cheney, Time magazine asked, "If you had to take back any one thing you'd said about Iraq, what would it be?" Selecting from what one hopes is a very long list, Cheney replied: "I thought that the elections that we went through in '05 would have...
  • Prohibition Ii: Good Grief

    Perhaps Prohibition II is being launched because Prohibition I worked so well at getting rid of gin. Or maybe the point is to reassure social conservatives that Republicans remain resolved to purify Americans' behavior. Incorrigible cynics will say Prohibition II is being undertaken because someone stands to make money from interfering with other people making money.For whatever reason, last Friday the president signed into law Prohibition II. You almost have to admire the government's plucky refusal to heed history's warnings about the probable futility of this adventure. This time the government is prohibiting Internet gambling by making it illegal for banks or credit-card companies to process payments to online gambling operations on a list the government will prepare.Last year about 12 million Americans wagered $6 billion online. But after Congress, 32 minutes before adjourning, passed its ban, the stock of the largest online-gambling business, Gibraltar-based PartyGaming, which...