Stories by George F. Will

  • Speechless In Seattle

    Seattle--as the comprehensive and sustained attack on Americans' freedom of political speech intensifies, this city has become a battleground. Campaign-finance "reformers," who advocate ever-increasing government regulation of the quantity, timing and content of political speech, always argue that they want to regulate "only" money, which, they say, leaves speech unaffected. But here they argue that political speech is money, and hence must be regulated. By demanding that the speech of two talk-radio hosts be monetized and strictly limited, reformers reveal the next stage in their stealthy repeal of the First Amendment.When the state's government imposed a 9.5-cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax, John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur of station KVI began advocating repeal by initiative. Proponents of repeal put up a Web site, hoping to raise 1,000 volunteers and $25,000. In two days they had 6,500 and $87,000. Needing 224,880 signatures to put repeal on the ballot, they got 400,996...
  • A Species Yet Not Extinct

    Republicans regret, or say they do, that there are no more "Truman Democrats" --Democrats as hardheaded about national security as was the president who formulated the cold-war policy of containment. That regret must amuse the gangly, soft-spoken 15-term congressman from Truman country--western Missouri, where they pronounce it "Massouruh." If Democrats capture the House in November, Ike Skelton will become chairman of the Armed Services Committee. The Republicans might wish there were one fewer Truman Democrat.Skelton, two of whose three sons are in the military, comes from a military family. His father lied about his age in order to get into the Navy, where he served on the first battleship Missouri, which had been part of the Great White Fleet that Teddy Roosevelt sent around the world to advertise America's emergence as a world power. Skelton's mother was the great-great-granddaughter of Squire Boone who, with his uncle Daniel, fought in August 1782 in northwestern Kentucky at...
  • The Last Word: Japan's Move To Normality

    A dragonfly flitted in front of me and stopped on a fence. I stood up, took my cap in my hands, and was about to catch the dragonfly when ...--From "Children of the Atomic Bomb: Testament of Boys and Girls of Hiroshima"HIROSHIMA--"When" was the first time in history that thousands of people were killed in an instant. "When" was 8:15 a.m., 61 summers ago. In the B-29 Enola Gay, the copilot, keeping a flight log, wrote: "There will be a short intermission while we bomb our target." Next, in a wild hand, he wrote "My God!"People who worry about a revival of Japanese militarism do not fathom history's grip on the only nation that has experienced nuclear war, a nation still reading newspaper stories about the ailments and entitlements of hibakusha --survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. But a revival of nationalism--the belief that Japan should have international stature and responsibilities commensurate with its economic prowess--is overdue.Today in this glistening port city...
  • Progress in A Cauldron?

    Cascading events in the middle east call to pessimistic minds one of the reasons for modern pessimism--the events that caused the guns to roar in Europe 92 Augusts ago. By the time they fell silent, Europe, which until 1914 had been a fountain of cultural vitality, was what it remains, a spent force. The Middle East, unlike Europe in 1914, has no pinnacle from which to fall, but it festers with forces that menace elevated societies everywhere. And the first target, always first, is Israel.When Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says "the infrastructure of Hizbullah has been entirely destroyed" in Lebanon, his words call to mind these from 36 years ago: "Tonight, American and South Vietnamese units will attack the headquarters for the entire Communist military operation in South Vietnam. This key control center has been occupied by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong for five years in blatant violation of Cambodia's neutrality." So said President Nixon on April 30, 1970, announcing...
  • An Analysis Of Roveology

    The Sunday before the 2004 election, some Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Russia living in the Cleveland area gathered at a suburban party center to eat deviled eggs and dark bread and hear Russian-language exhortations to re-elect George W. Bush. Jews generally vote heavily Democratic, but a few thousand of Greater Cleveland's immigrant Jews were especially receptive to the appeals of Republicans armed with a database of every Orthodox household in the area.Elsewhere in Ohio, Bush did not get Felicia Hill's vote in 2004, but his campaign caused her to pause before voting for John Kerry, which is portentous. An African-American married to a unionized GM worker, Hill voted for Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton twice and Al Gore. But as a church member in a golfing community in a growing suburb where her children attend private schools, she was targeted for GOP courtship. Not until she was in the voting booth did she decide for Kerry. But next time?These episodes, from what Tom Hamburger...
  • Civil War in Connecticut

    Hartford, Conn.--Ned Lamont, who is 52 and looks younger, is the reason Joseph Lieberman must be feeling all of his 64 years. Lamont wants Lieberman's U.S. Senate seat because he opposes Lieberman's support for the Iraq war. Both Lamont, a wealthy Greenwich cable-television executive, and Lieberman, who has been in politics since 1970 and is seeking a fourth Senate term, are Democrats. They will settle the party's nomination in an Aug. 8 primary that might leave much unsettled.In 2004, for the first time in decades, Connecticut held an August primary. The turnout was only 19 percent. Those most likely to vote in vacation season are disproportionately the ideologically incandescent and seriously annoyed--not Lieberman supporters. Lamont won one third of the vote at the state party's convention in May. (Lamont says, "Joe was introduced by [Sen.] Chris Dodd. I was introduced by Annie Lamont," his wife, a venture capitalist.) He is challenging Lieberman to match his pledge to support...
  • World War I: Still Ending

    It was hot on July 20, 1944, at Hitler's headquarters at Rastenburg in East Prussia, so his meeting with staff was moved out of the underground bunker, which would have contained the explosion's force, to a flimsy cabin that did not. The briefcase carrying the bomb was placed under the table Hitler leaned over when examining maps, and behind one of the table's supports, which deflected the blast. Hitler survived. The war continued.If Hitler had died, the Third Reich, a mare's nest of rival power centers, might have quickly become ungovernable, and the Wehrmacht' s officer corps, which knew what was happening in France and Russia, and which feared a Soviet conquest of Germany, would have liquidated the war by unconditional surrender.It would be heartening to believe that the splendid killing of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi will have a similarly shattering effect on the insurgency in Iraq. It will not. The decapitation of a regime--especially one run on the Führerprinzip (the principle that...
  • White Guilt, Deciphered

    The unbearable boredom occasioned by most of today's talk about race is alleviated by a slender, stunning new book. In "White Guilt," Shelby Steele, America's most discerning black writer, casts a cool eye on yet another soft bigotry of low expectations--the ruinous "compassion" of a theory of social determinism that reduces blacks to, in Steele's word, "non-individuated" creatures.That reduction is the basis of identity politics--you are your (racial, ethnic, sexual) group. A pioneer of this politics, which is now considered "progressive," was, Steele says, George Wallace. He, too, insisted that race is destiny.The dehumanizing denial that blacks have sovereignty over their lives became national policy in 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson said: "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line in a race and then say, 'You are free to compete with all the others'." This, Steele writes, enunciated a new social...
  • 'His Brother Was Worse!'

    Twelve days before the 2004 election, James Carville was feeling his oats. In a Beverly Hills living room, he told a cohort of Hollywood liberals they could begin savoring a happy ending to the movie "John Kerry Runs for President":"If we can't win this damn election, with a Democratic Party more unified than ever before, with us having raised as much money as the Republicans, with 55 percent of the country believing [the country is] heading in the wrong direction, with our candidate having won all three debates and with our side being more passionate about the outcome than theirs--if we can't win this one, then we can't win [expletive deleted]."Today Democrats have a gale filling their sails. They have even more intensity than they had two years ago; 69 percent of the electorate thinks the country is on the wrong track; the president's job approval is down to 29 percent (it is higher than 50 percent only in four contiguous states--Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Nebraska), and the...
  • Legal Theft In Norwood

    Norwood, Ohio--in this town, which is surrounded by Cincinnati, there is a field surrounded by a high chain-link fence. Across a street on one side of the field is a residential neighborhood of modest homes. On another side is an upscale shopping center with a Starbucks, and Birkenstock and Smith & Hawken stores. The field used to be a neighborhood with 99 houses and small businesses, but almost all the structures have been destroyed. One of the homes that remain--the developer of the shopping center wants to level all so he can expand his domain--was for 35 years the first and only home owned by Carl and Joy Gamble, who are both in their mid-60s.Now they live across the Ohio River in Kentucky, in the basement of their daughter's house, as they wait for the Ohio Supreme Court to decide their home's fate. Norwood's government seized it to enrich itself by enriching a taxpaying developer who has a $125 million project.The Gambles say that when the city offered them money for their...
  • Take Me Out To the Metric

    Michael Bourn needs to get out more. A database programmer in Nashua, N.H., he created the Web site plunkbiggio.blogspot.com that tells everything -- really, everything-- about the 273 times that Craig Biggio of the Astros has been hit by a pitch, the modern major-league record.On average, Biggio's plunks have occurred 493 feet above sea level, up 36 feet after two plunkings last year in Denver. The shortest pitcher to hit him? Byung-Hyun Kim (5 feet 9 inches). The average age and weight of the plunking pitchers are 28.5 and 200.22. He has been hit most often by pitchers whose astrological sign is Sagittarius, but more Leos have hit him. He has been hit 15 times while Tiger Woods was on Sports Illustrated's cover. In 1997, the Dow rose an average of 28.63 on trading days after Biggio was hit. And on, and on.Why does Bourn do this? "It is better than following Ruben Sierra's approach to the sacrifice-fly record." (Sierra is nine short of Eddie Murray's 128. Feel the excitement.) An...
  • April: Please Come Soon

    March madness, indeed. College basketball's version adds to the public stock of harmless pleasure. That cannot be said of what the political class has been up to. Consider two things.March began with what can best be described as a riot by the nation's political class. The riot concerned ports.Or, more accurately, it concerned container terminals. Not since the Terri Schiavo stampede has there been such a brew of piety and irrationality. But the Schiavo episode did no lasting damage to the nation, and was a mostly Republican folly.The high-minded are constantly telling us that the nation needs more bipartisanship. Well, the riot about ... well, whatever it was about, was nothing if not bipartisan. The subject, sort of, was the terrifying specter of foreigners' taking over operations of six of the major ports that are among the 80 percent of U.S. terminals currently operated by ... foreigners. Worse, by an Arab nation, which muddies up our certitudes by being a staunch friend of...
  • Let States Be Entrepreneurs

    Last week the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the proposition that "entrepreneurial federalism" is unconstitutional. No one used that phrase, but it captures what the court is pondering: When states compete to attract businesses by offering tax and other incentives, are they violating the Constitution's Commerce Clause? It delegates to Congress the power to "regulate commerce... among the several states."In 1998, Ohio granted DaimlerChrysler substantial tax benefits--all states offer similar incentives--to expand a Jeep assembly plant in Toledo rather than moving operations to Michigan. A federal appeals court disapproved the deal, ruling that it unconstitutionally interfered with interstate commerce by favoring companies expanding in one state. The case was brought to court by some Ohio and Michigan taxpayers who said--correctly, but irrelevantly as regards the Constitution--that such state policies shift tax burdens from businesses to individuals.The Supreme Court...
  • An Election Breakwater?

    The electorate's dyspeptic mood about the nation's politics reflects the fact that, as is frequently the case, the party in power in Washington has done much to earn a rebuke but the opposition party has done nothing to earn a reward. Herewith a tour of the political horizon nine months before the November elections, and 33 months before the first presidential election since 1952 without an incumbent president or vice president running--and just the second in 28 years without a Bush on the ballot.Democrats are hoping that an electoral tsunami in November will wash away the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. But Democrats have been complicit in building what may be a breakwater--Republican consultant Bill McInturff's term--that protects the hold that Republicans secured in 1994 after 40 years in the minority. And if Democrats do win a majority, they may regret it.The breakwater has three components--gerrymandering, campaign-finance "reforms" and the particular form...
  • U.K. Pets Get 'Freedoms'

    One thinks twice, even thrice, before using in a magazine as decorous as NEWSWEEK the four-letter F word that causes so much discord. But words should not be minced. So, what is being done for British pets is just not fair .One wants to avoid speciesism, the moral disease of being species-centric. Still, why should British pets have more--25 percent more, to be precise--freedoms than humans do?In January 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt envisioned a "world founded upon four essential human freedoms"--freedom of speech and expression, freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear. In January 2006, Prime Minister Tony Blair's--technically, Her Majesty's--Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said pets should have five freedoms. The Animal Welfare Bill says the five are:^ An appropriate diet.^ Suitable living conditions.^ Companionship or solitude, as the cat, canary or gerbil prefers.^ Monitoring for abnormal behavior.^...
  • About Those Categories...

    For many months the nation has reverberated with the clanging certitudes that swirl around today's process of confirming Supreme Court justices. Last week the first major decision handed down by the Roberts Court demonstrated the problematic nature of the simplifying categories by which justices and rulings are characterized. The 6-3 decision, which affirmed a ruling by the very liberal Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, upheld the constitutionality of Oregon's law legalizing physician-assisted suicide. The Supreme Court's decision could be characterized as conservative, exemplifying judicial modesty in deference to policies adopted democratically.The three dissenters--John Roberts and Clarence Thomas embracing Antonin Scalia's argument--favored striking down the law that Oregonians passed in a 1994 referendum and resoundingly reaffirmed by a 60 percent vote against a 1997 attempt to repeal it. The dissent by the three conservatives could be characterized as liberal--judicial...
  • 2005's Kind Of Progress

    Seeking the serenity that a sense of history confers in testing times, Mike Cameron, a Mets outfielder in 2005, said in defense of a teammate who lost a fly ball in the sun, "Stuff is going to happen sometimes. The sun has been there for 500, 600 years." Stuff happened in 2005, when an obituary in the Chicago Tribune advised, "In lieu of flowers, please send acerbic letters to Republicans." At home, the president's, and the nation's, disagreeable year can be summarized by three female names: Terri Schiavo, Harriet Miers and Katrina. The first involved grotesque overreaching by the federal government, undertaken by self-described conservatives whose action refuted their description. The second involved indifference to competence. The third displayed the consequences of incompetence. Abroad, Iraq illustrated one, two and three.In Russia, despotism continued to make a comeback, but Lenin, at least, may soon be buried: His cadaver in Red Square is said to sometimes sprout fungi. The 482...
  • Free Speech Under Siege

    Attacks on freedom of political speech are becoming more brazen. Because the attackers aim to enlarge government's control of the political campaigns that decide who controls government, the attacks advance liberalism's program of extending government supervision of life.Some liberal senators have filed a brief urging the Supreme Court, in a case concerning Vermont's speech restrictions, to affirm that people like the seven senators--"elected representatives and seasoned participants in the electoral process," meaning professional politicians--"are entitled to broad deference in the regulation of federal elections." Entitled, that is, to regulate the quantity, the timing and even the content of speech about themselves. Indeed, in its 5-4 decision upholding the McCain-Feingold law's expansion of government regulation of political communications, the Supreme Court held that political incumbents are entitled to judicial deference when they write rules that control challenges to their...
  • Three Samples Of Sam Alito

    While gambling at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, Ayhan Hakimoglu chose to accept from the casino many free drinks. That, he said, was why he lost "substantial" sums and why he sued the casino, charging that it "intentionally and maliciously enticed him" on numerous occasions. Judge Sam Alito was unpersuaded.Writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Alito noted that New Jersey courts have not made servers of alcohol liable beyond injuries resulting from drunken driving or accidents or brawls in a bar. He said that although the state's regulation of casinos is "intense," there was no evidence of a legislative intent to make casinos liable for giving alcohol to gamblers. Alito agreed with a lower court's holding that extending such liability into an area "so fully regulated" would not be a "predictable extension of common law tort principles."Alito also cited the lower court's opinion that making casinos liable for losses incurred by drunken gamblers ...
  • 'Eleven Men And Sic 'Em'

    On Jan. 26, 1983, phone service through-out area code 205, which then included all of Alabama, crashed from overload. Was the cause a natural disaster? Yes. Oh, yes, something very natural--death--had claimed the University of Alabama's football coach.Allen Barra's illuminating book "The Last Coach: A Life of Paul 'Bear' Bryant" explains why Alabamians felt so bereft. It also answers a question especially pertinent since Thomas Herrion, 23, a 315-pound lineman for the San Francisco 49ers, died in August of a previously undetected heart disease: Has football become grotesque?Football combines two disagreeable features of American life--violence punctuated by committee meetings, called huddles. Furthermore, after Bryant became a coach, and to his regret, football players became specialists--often dangerously large specialists.In 1964, all limits on substitution ended, bringing the virtual extinction of players who played "on both sides of the ball"--both offense and defense. Some...
  • On K Street Conservatism

    For a few conservatives, the accumulation of discontents may have begun building toward today's critical mass in December 2001 with the No Child Left Behind law, which intruded the federal government deeply into the state and local responsibility of education, grades K through 12. That intrusion has been accompanied by a 51 percent increase in the budget of the Education Department that conservatives once aspired to abolish.The accumulation accelerated in December 2003, when the Republican House leadership held open for three hours the vote on adding a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare. The time was needed to browbeat enough conservatives to pass the largest expansion of the welfare state since LBJ--an entitlement with an unfunded liability larger than that of Social Security. The president's only believable veto threat in nearly five years was made to deter an attempt to cut spending by trimming the drug entitlement.Agriculture subsidies increased 40 percent while farm income...
  • VRA, ALL OF IT, FOREVER?

    The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 and included a number of "emergency" provisions that were set to expire as early as 1970 but were extended and amended in 1970, 1975 and 1982. They will soon be extended for a fourth time, two years before they are due to expire--and for another 25 years. This bipartisan rush illustrates the descent of the residue of the civil-rights movement into the barren politics of gesture and nostalgia. The eager participation of Republicans demonstrates cravenness and two kinds of opportunism, one deservedly futile, the other disgracefully successful.The VRA ranks above Social Security, the GI Bill of Rights and other landmark legislation as the 20th century's noblest and most transformative law. Before it, African-Americans in the South depended on something undependable--the kindness of strangers. Largely excluded from the electorate, they could not compel the good will of the political class. Until 1965, when swift change began.Today there are 43...
  • Mr. Breyer's 'Modesty'

    Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's new book is more interesting than its author probably intended. "Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution" demonstrates how a posture of judicial "modesty"--Breyer's word--can empower a judge to wield immodest power in cutting down constitutional impediments to a--his--political agenda.Breyer begins by asserting a distinction between what he considers two kinds of liberty--"modern liberty," meaning freedom from government coercion, and "active liberty," meaning freedom to participate in government. But from the fact that the Constitution's Framers valued "active liberty" it does not follow that, as Breyer argues, government measures that encourage--or are packaged as encouragements of--active liberty should be considered congruent with the Framers' overriding purpose and hence should usually survive constitutional challenges.Breyer asserts that the Framers did not merely value freedom to choose active liberty--participation in...
  • LABOR SINCE THE OVERPASS

    Dearborn, Mich.--A suitable venue for contemplating organized labor's current disarray is here, at the footbridge over Miller Road. In 1937 it led to the main entrance of the foremost example of America's manufacturing might--the Ford Motor Co.'s River Rouge plant, then the world's most fully integrated car-manufacturing facility, from blast furnaces to assembly line. Five years later the plant would exemplify America as the "arsenal of democracy." It made jeeps, tanks, trucks and engines for B-24 bombers. But on May 26 the footbridge to the plant made history."The Battle of the Overpass," a heroic event in American labor history, began when Walter Reuther, president of UAW Local 174, and three colleagues started across the footbridge to distribute leaflets as part of their campaign to unionize the plant. They were savagely beaten by perhaps 40 Ford thugs and thrown down the overpass stairs. The thugs confiscated most photographers' film, but James (Scotty) Kilpatrick of The Detroit...
  • WHAT WE OWE WHAT WE EAT

    Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, is the most interesting conservative you have never heard of. He speaks barely above a whisper and must be the mildest disturber of the peace. But he is among the most disturbing.If you value your peace of mind, not to mention your breakfast bacon, you should not read Scully's essay "Fear Factories: The Case for Compassionate Conservatism--for Animals." It appeared in the May 23, 2005, issue of Pat Buchanan's magazine The American Conservative--not where you would expect to find an essay arguing that industrial livestock farming involves vast abuses that constitute a serious moral problem.The disturbing facts about industrial farming by the $125 billion-a-year livestock industry--the pain-inflicting confinements and mutilations--have economic reasons. Ameliorating them would impose production costs that consumers would pay. But to glimpse what consumers would be paying to stop, visit factoryfarming.com/gallery.htm....
  • A DEBATE THAT DOES NOT END

    John Scopes attended high school in Salem, Ill., where his commencement speaker was the town's most famous native son, William Jennings Bryan. Their paths would cross again.Eighty years ago Scopes, 24, a high-school football coach and general-science teacher, attended a meeting in Robinson's drugstore in Dayton, Tenn. There, to the satisfaction of community leaders who thought that what was to come would be good for business, Scopes agreed to become the defendant in a trial testing Tennessee's law against teaching "any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals."So began "the most widely publicized misdemeanor case in American history." That is Edward J. Larson's description of the "monkey trial" in his 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning "Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion." With that debate again at a rolling boil,...
  • CHOICE UNDER FIRE, YET AGAIN

    Florida's Supreme Court last week was the latest venue for the movable feast of meretricious arguments by which public-school teachers unions wage war in any city or state where families of poor children try to escape from failing public schools. The attack on Florida's school-choice program relied on 19th-century bigotry and 21st-century obscurantism.Florida's Opportunity Scholarships, the nation's first statewide school-choice program, was enacted in 1999 to ameliorate a gross civil-rights injustice--the fact that poor families whose children are trapped in terrible schools are helpless to prevent their children's life chances from being blighted. The program empowers students to transfer from failing schools, as defined by set criteria, to the public or private school of their choice.Teachers unions immediately filed suit to block this escape route--this underground railroad, if you will--from the public-school plantation. The suit cited two provisions of Florida's constitution...
  • BROWNBACK'S PLANS FOR 2008

    In 1988, the arrival of the religious right and social conservatism as formidable and entwined forces in the Republican Party was signaled when Pat Robertson received 25 percent of the vote in the Iowa presidential nominating caucuses, second to Bob Dole's 37 percent. Seventeen years later, when Robertson was asked on ABC's "This Week" who he thought might make a fine Republican nominee in 2008, he began his answer: "There's an outstanding senator from Kansas..."Sam Brownback, 48, won the Senate seat Dole vacated when he became the Republican presidential nominee in 1996. In 2008, all Republican aspirants will seek the support of the religious right and other social conservatives. Those factions are a large portion of the party and a larger portion of the party's primary voters.Two candidates could have special strength with that group. One is Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, if in 2006 he survives what seems certain to be a difficult campaign for a third Senate term. The other will...
  • THE ODDNESS OF EVERYTHING

    Invited by the University of Miami to address members of the class of 2005, the columnist repaid this courtesy by telling them that even though they surely had showered before donning their caps and gowns, each of them had about a trillion bacteria feeding on the 10 billion flakes of skin each of us sheds in a day. If each 2005 graduate were disassembled into his or her constituent atoms, each graduation gown would contain nothing but atomic dust. But as currently assembled, this star dust--really: we are all residues of the Big Bang--is living stuff, capable of sublime emotions like love, patriotism and delight in defeating Florida State.The body of every Miami graduate has about 10 thousand trillion cells, each containing a strand of DNA that, uncoiled, would extend about six feet. If that person's DNA were spliced into a single strand, it would extend 20 million kilometers--enough to stretch from Miami to Los Angeles and back 2,270 times.So says Bill Bryson, author of the...