Stories by George F. Will

  • Race-Norming In Michigan

    Before America became as enlightened as it is now, Asian-Americans were denied, among much else, the equal protection of the law. In various jurisdictions they were forbidden to testify in courts against whites, practice law, be employed by corporations, attend public schools, marry Caucasians (a California law prohibiting marriage between a white and a "Negro, mulatto, Mongolian or member of the Malay race" was signed in 1945 by Gov. Earl Warren), own land, catch salmon for sale or profit and do many other things. That was then.This is now. Soon--perhaps before this NEWSWEEK reaches most readers; certainly by July--the Supreme Court will decide whether it is constitutional for public universities to adopt admissions policies that discriminate against, among others, Asian-Americans. That is one dimension of the University of Michigan's admissions policy of racial preferences for certain minorities, in the name of "diversity."Undergraduate applicants who are African-American,...
  • High Noon For 'Diversity'

    The late Justice William Brennan reportedly said that the most important word in the Supreme Court is not "justice" or "equality" or "law" but "five." Soon the Supreme Court, and perhaps Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as the decisive fifth vote, will decide whether racial preferences will be part of American higher education forever, or whether America will continue its long, meandering march to a colorblind society.The result may turn on how she construes fidelity to her departed friend Justice Lewis Powell. He did more than anyone else to make the word "diversity" ubiquitous.The court will be ruling on the constitutionality of the racial preferences used at the University of Michigan and its law school. Undergraduate applicants get 20 points added to their scores (150 is the maximum; a perfect 1600 SAT result earns just 12 points) if they are African-Americans, Hispanics or Native Americans. The university says preferences granted to these races are not racial preferences but...
  • The Stiletto's Sharp Idea

    Secretaries of labor, if they are republicans, generally come and go quickly. Organized labor and its many congressional allies are so relentlessly hostile to Republicans, the secretaries grow weary of constant guerrilla warfare, and depart: their average tenure since 1960 is just 24 months--less than half the 47-month average for Democratic secretaries.But the current secretary, Elaine Chao--as slender as a stiletto, and as steely--is not going away. She is the first real conservative to serve as Labor secretary. One reason John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, says he has "never seen a secretary of Labor who is so anti-labor" is that Chao wants to compel union leaders to provide useful information to union members about how their mandatory dues are being spent. She proposes strengthening the reporting requirements of a 1959 disclosure law.The junior senator from Massachusetts, John Kennedy, made his support for that law central to his presidential campaign. He served on (and his...
  • The Politics Of Vengeance

    Many members of the House and Senate say they ran for office out of love--of justice, equality, peace, the American way, etc. James Inhofe says he ran for Congress in 1986 for "vengeance." In a city full of people who pretend to believe that politics should be kinder and gentler, Inhofe is refreshing. He does not even pretend.When he was a developer--that word gives environmentalists the vapors--he says, "The chief obstacle I had always was the federal government." Spoiling for a fight with that dragon, in 1966 he won a seat in the Oklahoma Legislature and three months later flew to Washington to testify against Lady Bird Johnson's Highway Beautification Act, not because he dislikes beauty, but because under the act Washington "won't give the states dollars they have paid into the Highway Trust Fund unless they jump through certain hoops."Then there was Inhofe's friend Jimmy Dunn. When Carol Browner, head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton administration, left...
  • Measured Audacity

    Not many people even know there is a memorial in the nation's capital to Ulysses Simpson Grant, whose hard slogging--"I propose to fight it out on this line, if it takes all summer"--saved the nation from dismemberment. The Grant Memorial, at the east end of the Mall, was not dedicated until 1922, the centennial of his birth.But in 1908 one of Washington's central traffic circles was named after Philip Sheridan. The circle features an equestrian statue of the cavalry officer who performed with such dash in the Shenandoah Valley. The country's imagination is captured by military flashiness, like that of the pistol-packing--they were ivory-handled pistols--George Patton, who said: "There are only three principles of warfare: audacity, more audacity, always audacity."There will be no monuments in Washington to Tommy Franks, who is about as flashy as cottage cheese. But when future officers of America's studious Army gather at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., to study Franks's war...
  • Three Strikes And You're In

    If being dumb were a crime, Gary Ewing and Leandro Andrade would be Al Capone and Don Corleone. And if "possibly misguided" or "arguably unfair" were synonyms for "unconstitutional," perhaps the Supreme Court should have struck down the sentences imposed on Ewing and Andrade under California's "three strikes" law.But they are not synonyms. So the Supreme Court last week rightly refused, in two 5-4 rulings, to prevent California from punishing Ewing and Andrade with the "three strikes and you're out" law passed in 1994, under which someone convicted for any felony after two previous convictions for "serious" or "violent" felonies can be incarcerated for a long spell.Someone like Ewing, who in 2000 was on parole from a nine-year prison term when he tried to walk out of the pro shop at a Los Angeles country club with three $399 golf clubs concealed in his pants leg. Or someone like Andrade, a heroin addict stealing to support his habit, who in 1995 was stopped by security personnel at...
  • After Powell, Before War

    At 10 a.m. eastern time Wednesday, as Colin Powell arrived at the United Nations to tutor some slow learners about the obvious regarding Iraq, North Korea--it was midnight there--announced it was reactivating the Yongbyon nuclear facilities, but only to produce electricity "at the present stage." This announcement came five days after U.S. satellites had seen fuel rods being moved around the facility, which has an insignificant capacity for generating electricity but can produce fissile material.This was eight days after the president's State of the Union address, in which he said: "Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq." Four days after the president said that, the shuttle disaster taught Americans that one of the astronauts was an Israeli pilot who in 1981 participated in an act of muscular unilateralism--Israel's raid that destroyed Baghdad's nuclear reactor. Were it not for that raid, Iraq...
  • Howard Dean: Not Nuancing

    Howard Dean breakfasted last week in the 2800 block of Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue, 12 blocks northwest of where he intends to take up residence in 24 months. He ate responsibly, as befits a physician--no bacon, no eggs, no fun. Grits. South Carolina's primary will be crucial.He has not practiced medicine since August 1991, when he was Vermont's lieutenant governor and was told, while treating a patient, that the governor had died. Last week Dean was in his second week of unemployment after five terms. One advantage he has in the competition for the Democratic presidential nomination is that he is unemployed. As Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were at comparable points in their quests for their 1968, 1976 and 1980 nominations, respectively. Dean has been to Iowa 18 times. He has been everywhere more than any other candidate.Another Dean advantage is that he has been a governor, as were four of the last five presidents, and eight of the 18 20th-century presidents....
  • Once More, The Bullhorn

    The President's economic policy announced last Tuesday in Chicago refutes the notion that today's disputes between the two parties express merely "the narcissism of small differences." The president spoke the day the 108th Congress convened, and what he said means that the 108th will bear some resemblance to the 97th. It convened in January 1981 and eight months later passed the landmark legislation of that decade, President Ronald Reagan's tax cuts.The spirit of Reaganism was in the rubric that the federal government should "deliver the mail, defend the shores and get out of the way." In Chicago Bush said "the role of government is not to manage or control the economy... but to remove obstacles standing in the way."Reagan was told he could not have both his tax cuts and his military buildup. He replied: We'll just see about that. Bush, told that he could not simultaneously prepare for war and again have significant tax cuts, proposed a $674 billion package rather than the $300...
  • 2002: Let's Keep Dancing

    Onward and upward with homo sapiens. A 7 million-year-old skull uncovered this year in Central Africa belonged to someone the size of a chimpanzee and is the earliest--by about a million years--yet discovered member of the human family. In 2002 his descendants were threatened by savage primitives who, in the name of the Creator, were possibly plotting to reverse, using smallpox spores, one of Homo sapiens' recent triumphs over an infectious scourge. Much the most important event of 2002 was a nonevent--the second major terrorist attack on the American homeland that did not happen. Four homegrown terrorists from the 1970s, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, pleaded guilty to a murder committed during a 1975 bank robbery in Carmichael, Calif.Complex geometric carvings on a rock found this year in a South African cave suggest that complex and abstract thinking began in Africa, not in Cambridge, Mass., and began twice as long ago--77,000 years--as had been believed. When did it...
  • The Sound Of Bakersfield

    Bakersfield, Calif.--Buck Owens came to this city, 100 miles north of Los Angeles, at the southern end of the prodigiously fertile San Joaquin Valley, to pick cotton, not a guitar. He came for the same reason lots of others came west from Texas and Oklahoma: happiness was the Dust Bowl in their rearview mirrors.The Owens family's rearview mirror was on a 1933 Ford sedan. In 1937, when Buck was 8 and John Steinbeck was just beginning to write "The Grapes of Wrath," 10 Owens family members packed into it and headed west. His parents had been sharecroppers on the southern side of the Red River that separates Texas from Oklahoma. Because the trailer hitch broke in Phoenix, the family lived there for a few years, sometimes traveling to the San Joaquin to pick carrots in Porterville, peaches in Modesto, potatoes and cotton in Bakersfield. During such work he got the idea that picking a guitar might be more fun.Which he is doing at 73, in his Crystal Palace nightclub, where he recently...
  • 'Electronic Morphine'

    On the North bank of the Ohio River sits Evansville, Ind., home of David Williams, 52, and of a riverboat casino. During several years of gambling in that casino, Williams, a state auditor earning $35,000 a year, lost approximately $175,000. He had never gambled before the casino sent him a coupon for $20 worth of gambling.He visited the casino, lost the $20 and left. On his second visit he lost $800. The casino issued to him, as a good customer, a "Fun Card," which when used in the casino earns points for meals and drinks, and enables the casino to track the user's gambling activities. For Williams, those activities became what he calls "electronic morphine."By the time he had lost $5,000 he said to himself that if he could get back to even, he would quit. One night he won $5,500, but he did not quit. In 1997 he lost $21,000 to one slot machine in two days. In March 1997 he lost $72,186. He sometimes played two slot machines at a time, all night, until the boat docked at 5 a.m.,...
  • Jimmy Carter, Disappointed

    Jimmy Carter, whose reputation as a better ex-president than president constitutes damnation with the faintest possible praise, is a Christian whose services to his faith include making vivid the scarlet sin of pride. He is serenely and incorrigibly convinced that even seemingly intractable international conflicts are actually mere misunderstandings that can be cured by exposing the world's most obdurate rulers and regimes to the sweet reasonableness and sheer goodness of himself. So in 1994, having spent less than 90 hours in North Korea, he announced that in those hours he had solved the pesky little problem of North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Doubtless this was one of the achievements for which Carter was recently honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.There can be a serendipitous time to receive terrible news, and last week, while Carter was still luxuriating in his warm bath of post-Nobel praise, came a cold shower--news that North Korea's drive to become a nuclear power, a drive...
  • Optimism And The Economy

    The cupboard where democrats store their adjectives must be nearly bare. "Tragic, deplorable, abysmal" and "atrocious" is Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's description of the economy. "Stumbling, staggering, faltering," says Nevada's Sen. Harry Reid, who plays Sancho Panza to Daschle's Don Quixote--Reid is majority whip. But there is something Quixotic about their effort to make the economy, rather than war, the focus of this election season.Last week Al Gore, whose words are coy but whose behavior is not regarding his quest for the Democrats' presidential nomination, gave a speech criticizing President Bush's economic policy. But Gore's speech was eclipsed hours later when Bush, standing with House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Gore's 2000 running mate, likely rivals of Gore for the nomination, announced a bipartisan resolution about the use of force against Iraq.Gore said Bush's economic policy is ruinous. However, the essence of that policy is the 10...
  • Etchings And Then Posters

    President Theodore Roosevelt explained how he helped his secretary of war, William Howard Taft, campaign to succeed him: "I told him he must treat the political audience as one coming, not to see an etching, but a poster." Bold strokes, bright colors. We are entering a poster phase of the Iraq debate.The etching phase has been a litany of technicalities concerning United Nations resolutions not complied with. Now come other matters. The poster phase began with the president's U.N. speech, in which he accused Saddam Hussein of widespread "torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands, children in the presence of their parents."In this departure from the focus on weapons of mass destruction, the president was amplifying a theme--Saddam's personal viciousness--that will recur. An Iraqi doctor living in exile testifies that all the doctors at the hospital he worked at were ordered to participate in the...
  • Politics And The 'Ideopolis'

    In this autumn's elections, a tendency is in tension with a rarity. The party holding the presidency has lost House seats in 32 of the 34 off-year (non- presidential) elections since the Civil War. So the Republicans' majority in a House divided 223-210 is in danger. But rarely do parties gain seats in four consecutive elections. Democrats gained in the last three.A shift of six seats would make Dick Gephardt speaker, but could make George W. Bush's re-election easier. He could blame Democratic control of Congress for all discontents. And if Democrats control both houses, re-electing Bush would satisfy the voters' preference for divided government, which they have produced in 13 of the last 17 elections.However, in an eye-opening new book, "The Emerging Democratic Majority," John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, both Democrats, argue that whatever happens in November, powerful demographic and social currents will soon produce what their title announces. If that majority materializes, its...
  • Another Pose Of Rectitude

    George Orwell's axiom about intellectuals--that some ideas are so silly that only intellectuals will embrace them--needs a corollary that covers U.S. senators: No international agreement is so grandiose in its ambitions and so unclear about the obligations it imposes that it cannot receive the support of many U.S. senators. Consider the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has again, as in 1994, endorsed CEDAW, which the United Nations adopted in 1979. By now 170 countries have accepted its provisions, such as the obligation to "take all appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women."Such unlikely exponents of advanced feminism as...
  • The Nature Of Human Nature

    -Adolph EichmannThese are the best of times for the worst of people. And for the toxic idea at the core of all the most murderous ideologies of the modern age. That idea is that human nature is, if not a fiction, at least so watery and flimsy that it poses no serious impediment to evil political entities determined to treat people as malleable clay to be molded into creatures at once submissive and violent.All political philosophies rest on notions of human nature. And what we think human nature is--indeed, whether we think there is such a thing--depends somewhat on conclusions we draw from political events, such as these: A mother rejoicing that her teenage child has blown herself up in the process of blowing up other mothers' children. A Palestinian infant dressed as a suicide bomber--parents will have glittering dreams for their children.There was violence, but there were not suicide bombers with celebrating choruses, when Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority thugocracy began its...
  • Hog Heaven: Harley At 100

    Milwaukee--in 1903, young men (the hyperkinetic president was just 45) were on the move. The Wright brothers--Wilbur, 36, and Orville, 32--left their bicycle shop in Dayton to take their 12-second, 120-foot flight at Kitty Hawk. And William Harley, 21, and Arthur Davidson, 20, working in a 10-by-15-foot shed here, built a motorcycle. On the eve of its centennial, the company born in that shed is spectacularly successful, and one of America's best-known brands. No American company has such devoted customers.The Information Superhighway is littered with the wreckage of New Economy companies. But America's real highways are humming with the distinctive sound of an iconic Old Economy product--Harley-Davidsons. Their sound (think potato-potato-potato) is so beloved by enthusiasts that the company tried to have it declared a trademark.Last weekend the company began a 14-month-long 100th-birthday bash. It has much to celebrate, including increases in production of more than 10 percent...
  • One Nation Under Judges

    Last week was replete with reminders that there was something to be said for the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling that there is something wrong with the Pledge of Allegiance's assertion that this is "one nation under God." But that court, famously imaginative and frequently reversed, got wrong what is wrong. The phrase "under God" hardly constitutes "establishment" of religion. But it is inaccurate: this is one nation under judges.Although conservatives, especially, were apoplectic about the circuit court's (doubtless short-lived) decision, it has aroused wholesome indignation about the too-central role of judges in the nation's governance. And conservatives, especially, were pleased last week by the Supreme Court's decision to get out of the way of states and localities that want school-choice programs that empower parents to choose to direct public tuition money to religious schools.Largely lost sight of in the swirling controversy surrounding those decisions was a third, which also...
  • Elias Knows Everything

    Last Monday Nancy and Henry Kissinger arrived at a Manhattan restaurant at 8:10 p.m. and excitedly recounted what they had just listened to in their car: a Yankee rookie in his first major league at-bat had hit a home run off a fearsome pitcher--the Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson, who is 6 feet 10 and looks like a giant praying mantis with an attitude.Before the Kissingers had time to examine their menus, some baseball commentators were reporting that this was the first time since 1986 that a player in his first major league at-bat had homered against a likely future Hall of Famer (Will Clark off Nolan Ryan) and the first time ever that a player homered in his first at-bat off a pitcher who the previous season won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in his league.Who tells us such things lickety-split? The busy beavers at the Elias Sports Bureau.On a Saturday evening last month the Devil Rays scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Orioles, 6-4, thereby snapping a 15...
  • A Train Wreck Called Title Ix

    On this 30th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX, the law prohibiting sexual discrimination in education, consider this: has even more nonsense been written about Title IX than has been committed in its name?Title IX, as adumbrated by ideology-besotted Education Department regulation writers, has produced this lunacy:Colleges have killed more than 400 men's athletic teams in order to produce precise proportionality between men's and women's enrollments and men's and women's rates of participation in athletics. And Title IX has given rise to a huge "gender equity" industry of lawyers, sensitivity-trainers and consciousness-raisers.The industry prefers the word "gender" to "sex" because "sex" suggests immutable differences, while "gender" suggests differences that are "socially constructed" and can be erased by sufficiently determined social engineers. The story of the policy train wreck that Title IX has become in the hands of such engineers, and of further misadventures that...
  • Being Green At Ben &Amp; Jerry's

    If you have an average-size dinner table, four feet by six feet, put a dime on the edge of it. Think of the surface of the table as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The dime is larger than the piece of the coastal plain that would have been opened to drilling for oil and natural gas. The House of Representatives voted for drilling, but the Senate voted against access to what Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and presidential aspirant, calls "a few drops of oil." ANWR could produce, for 25 years, at least as much oil as America currently imports from Saudi Arabia.Six weeks of desultory Senate debate about the energy bill reached an almost comic culmination in... yet another agriculture subsidy. The subsidy is a requirement that will triple the amount of ethanol, which is made from corn, that must be put in gasoline, ostensibly to clean America's air, actually to buy farmers' votes.Over the last three decades, energy use has risen about 30 percent. But so has...
  • Powell's Path To Jerusalem

    Last week The Washington Post reported "the belief held by many Israelis that the recent suicide bombings are an example of anti-Jewish violence." Those who hold this "belief" reject alternative explanations of the violence, such as: The terrorists are targeting Brazilians but are confused about which hemisphere they are in.Intellectual confusion and moral miasma, expressed in Orwellian language, now permeate U.S. policy and media coverage concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hence the entire war on terrorism is out of kilter. Can an administration that is jerked around like a small poodle on a short leash held by Yasir Arafat mount a major war to change the Iraqi regime? The administration's position is that Arafat is not a terrorist, he is a plausible peacemaker. So how does the administration convince Bush's "mighty coalition" (which is mightily wary of war with Iraq, even one in which it is merely a spectator) that Saddam Hussein is unregenerate and intolerable?Stroking...
  • Israel And The Bush Doctrine

    Fox News broadcast President Bush's speech in Georgia on Wednesday afternoon live, a few hours after a suicide bomber perpetrated the Passover massacre in a hotel in Netanya, Israel. During part of the speech, Fox used a split screen--Bush speaking on one side, while the other side showed pictures of the aftermath of the blast that blew body parts 50 yards from the hotel. Bush could not have known that he was being seen on a split screen as he said this:"I laid out a doctrine and it's really important for when the United States speaks it means what they say. And I said that if you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist; if you feed one or hide one, you're just as guilty as those who came and murdered thousands of innocent Americans. It's an important part of any foreign policy to do what you say you're going to do, and we did. Thanks to the mighty United States military, the Taliban no longer is in power."The juxtaposition of Bush's statement and the pictures of...
  • DROPPING THE 'ONE DROP' RULE

    It is probably the most pernicious idea ever to gain general acceptance in America. No idea has done more, and more lasting, damage than the "one drop" rule, according to which if you have any admixture of black ancestry, you are black, period. This idea imparted an artificial clarity to the idea of race, and became the basis of the laws, conventions and etiquette of slavery, then of segregation and subsequently of today's identity politics, in which one's civic identity is a function of one's race (or ethnicity, or gender, or sexual preference).Today nothing more scaldingly reveals the intellectual bankruptcy and retrograde agenda of the institutionalized--fossilized, really--remnants of the civil-rights movement than this: those remnants constitute a social faction clinging desperately to the "one drop" rule, or some inchoate and unarticulated version of that old buttress of slavery and segregation. However, in California, where much of modern America has taken shape, a revolt is...
  • Virtue At Last! (In November)

    Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, pioneering new frontiers of fatuity, says some parts of the Shays-Meehan campaign-finance bill please his boss and others do not. "But ultimately the process is moving forward, and the president is pleased." Ultimately, in Washington, the celebration of "process" signals the abandonment of principle. ...
  • Soft Money, Odd Thinking

    Rep. Richard Gephardt set a winter indoor record for audacious arguing when he wrung this lesson from the Enron debacle: "The real scandal here may not be what the administration did to help Enron, but what it avoided doing because it was concerned that the campaign contributions created the appearance of conflict." Political people are adroit at arguing that anything and everything that happens, or does not happen, demonstrates the wisdom of whatever they want. Many in the media, too, want stricter campaign-finance laws, meaning tighter government regulation of political communication by everyone except the media. Media coverage of Enron relentlessly stresses how many legislators received campaign contributions from "Enron." Small wonder people think the corporation itself gave vast sums to candidates. But the total of the corporation's contributions to candidates was: 0. Corporate contributions to federal candidates have been illegal since 1907. ...
  • 'Events, Dear Boy, Events'

    When Harold Macmillan became Britain's prime minister, he was asked what would determine his government's course. He replied with Edwardian languor: "Events, dear boy, events." As he well knew. An event--the 1956 Suez debacle--had catapulted him into 10 Downing Street. An event--the sex-and-spies Profumo scandal--would grease the skids under him in 1963. ...
  • John Nash's Renunciation

    A quaint ceremonious village" is how an elderly villager, Albert Einstein, described Princeton. There, in 1948, a first-year graduate student from West Virginia dropped by Einstein's office to suggest improvements to the great man's understanding of quantum theory. Einstein was polite but unpersuaded by John Forbes Nash Jr. ...