George F.

Stories by George F. Will

  • Wow! Or Maybe Just Sort Of.

    Victoria Will, Princeton sophomore, is in her dormitory room noodling on her computer when it says "ding." Glancing at its screen, she says, matter-of-factly, "Bettina is sending me a message." Ms. Will's father, assuming Bettina is a friend e-mailing from another college, asks, "Where is Bettina?" Ms. Will points to the wall in front of her: "Next door." Why, asks her father, doesn't Bettina just walk the 10 feet to Ms. Will's room? Ms. Will's answer, a look of bemused condescension, expresses her opinion that the question betrays an antiquated person's incomprehension of the New. ...
  • A Diamond In Orange County

    Tempe, Ariz.--Out here where the desert sun almost makes the dry air crinkle like cellophane, the best baseball player you know next to nothing about is preparing for his fourth full season. His team does its spring training in Diablo Stadium. That figures. The Angels have had a diabolical history. ...
  • James Madison Remembered

    There is no monument to James Madison in Washington. There is a tall, austere monument to the tall (6"2"), austere man for whom the city is named, a man of Roman virtues and eloquent reticence. There is a Greek-revival memorial to Madison's boon companion, the tall (6"2"), elegant, eloquent Jefferson, who is to subsequent generations the most charismatic of the Founders. But there is no monument to the smallest (5"4") but subtlest of the Founders, without whose mind Jefferson's Declaration and Washington's generalship could not have resulted in this republic. ...
  • The Ultimate Emancipation

    Immediately after his confirmation by the senate, during which he was pilloried as racially "insensitive," John Ashcroft crossed First Street NE to the Supreme Court to be sworn in as attorney general by a friend, Justice Clarence Thomas. Ashcroft has named as deputy attorney general Larry D. Thompson, a black conservative who, testifying for Thomas at the 1991 confirmation circus, reminded senators and civil-rights groups opposed to Thomas that "black Americans need not and should not think alike." Recently, Thomas, in a Washington lecture, deplored the suffocating "orthodoxy" and "canon" regarding race, and "the silence of self-censorship." ...
  • After Barak: Benign Neglect

    Charles de Gaulle, lamenting the fractiousness of the French, famously wondered, "How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?" De Gaulle should have tried dealing with the Israelis. Israel, with more than a dozen feuding parties, is a country in which some people seem to care most about making sure there is no bus service on the Sabbath, and some care most about seeing that there is such service. There is truth in the jest that two Israelis can generate three factions.However, given sufficient provocation, Israelis can produce an emphatic electoral outcome. Provoked by Prime Minister Ehud Barak's astonishing concessions to the Palestinians (95 percent of the West Bank, division of Jerusalem) and by the Palestinians' contemptuous and violent response to the concessions, Israelis cashiered Barak, replacing him with Ariel Sharon, who says that the Oslo "peace process," begun nearly eight years ago, is dead. Since the "process" began, 550 Israelis have died in the...
  • 'Let Us...'? No, Give It A Rest.

    Come Saturday, on the Capitol's west front, the 43d president, immediately after becoming such, will look out, figuratively speaking (and as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote at the conclusion of "The Great Gatsby"), toward "the dark fields of the republic" rolling on, and will unburden himself of his inaugural thoughts. Whatever they are, and whatever his manner of expressing them, the event will supply evidence of the evolution of the nation's preoccupations and sensibilities.His Inaugural Address, the nation's 54th, presumably will make no reference, as Monroe's did, to coastal fortifications, and no reference to polygamy, which Garfield's said "offends the moral sense of manhood" and Cleveland's said is "destructive of the family relation and offensive to the moral sense of the civilized world." We have come a long way, in every way, from the day when the first Inaugural Address was delivered in the Senate chamber of Federal Hall on Wall Street on the inhabited southern tip of Manhattan...
  • 'Peace Psychosis' In The Mideast

    Bill Clinton may have saved his very worst for last. With remarkable--even for him--self-absorption, as he tap-dances toward the exit he is pursuing as his crowning legacy something that only the cynical or delusional could call a "final" Middle East "peace agreement." In three weeks Clinton will be gone, leaving intensified Middle East chaos for others to cope with.Israel's Ehud Barak has resigned as prime minister, triggering Feb. 6 elections that polls indicate he will lose in a landslide. For him, the long term is five weeks. Yet by then he hopes to have achieved a "permanent" solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is now in its sixth decade. Yasir Arafat founded the Palestine National Liberation Movement, committed to Israel's destruction, when Eisenhower was president and Ben-Gurion was Israel's prime minister. Through 14 Israeli prime ministries and nine U.S. presidencies, Arafat has remained so committed.It has come to this: Clinton has asked Barak--who has a...
  • Y2k: You Must Remember This

    The Florida peninsula, the last part of the continental United States to emerge from the ocean, has been called a geological afterthought. This year caused many Americans to curse geology and wish that the afterthought had gone unthought. A wit says that before Nov. 7 Al Gore argued that his opponent was a nitwit, and after Nov. 7 he argued that his voters were nitwits. George W. Bush warned people not to "misunderestimate" him, but the 36-day Election Day showed that Gore did. The baseball team Bush used to own a bit of gave shortstop Alex Rodriguez a 10-year contract worth a minimum of $252 million, enough to buy the Twins and the Expos and have about $72 million in change left.When Chicago named a street Hugh Hefner Way, an incensed man got a street in his Chicago suburb temporarily named Alan Greenspan Way. Call the behavior police: a Washington gala celebrating the 35th anniversary of Medicare featured 102-year-old Mark Powell, who said he smokes five or six cigars a day. The...
  • 'Had 'Em All The Way!'

    NEW YORK (AP)--The New York Mets announced today that they are going to court to get an additional inning added to the end of Game 5 of the World Series. "We meant to hit those pitches from the Yankee pitchers," said the Mets batting coach. "We were confused by the irregularities of the pitches we received and believe we have been denied our right to hit." Another portion of the Mets legal claim stated that, based on on-base percentage, the Mets had actually won the World Series, regardless of the final scores of games. "It's clear that we were slightly on base more often than the Yankees," said a Mets spokesman. "The World Series crown is rightly ours."Years ago, when the Pittsburgh Pirates would win a wild one--say, scoring four in the bottom of the ninth of a 14-13 seesaw thriller--their bumptious broadcaster, Bob Prince, would exclaim, "Had 'em all the way!" There will be no such bravado from whomever it is that the last dimpled chad turns into the 43d president.It is too late...
  • Oh, Swell: New York Wins Again

    Only in America. in a year in which presidential politics is a Horatio Alger story, proving that a Yale-educated son of a president can grow up to run for president against a Harvard-educated son of a senator, the national pastime is proving that two teams from New York, each with a payroll the size of the GDP of a medium-size Third World nation, can get to the World Series. Is this a great country or what?Listen up, New York. Not that you, in your self-absorption, give a damn, but this is how the rest of us feel about your October party: A wit who disliked both Thomas Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle said that it was good of God to arrange for the two of them to marry so that only two people instead of four would be made miserable. For America west of the Hudson, the best thing about a Subway Series is that it guarantees that millions of New York baseball fans--the followers of whichever team loses--are going to be depressed.A Subway Series is particularly galling to us geezers who were...
  • A Question For Gore Next Week

    Mr. Vice President, do you favor passage of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, or do you believe, as your supporters at the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) do, that a woman who seeks an abortion has an indefeasible right to a dead baby, no matter what?" Here is the story behind that question, which George W. Bush should ask Al Gore next week during the first debate.The act, authored by Rep. Charles Canady, Republican of Florida, would extend the law's protections--would protect the right to life--to infants who survive abortions. Such babies sometimes are born as a result of abortions sought because the babies have (or sometimes are mistakenly thought to have) defects like Down syndrome or spina bifida. The House committee that passed Canady's bill 22 to 1 heard heart-rending testimony about born-alive babies being discarded alive into soiled hospital linen or left on a baby scale, unattended, without warmth or nourishment, their hearts beating...
  • A Hamiltonian Moment Again?

    On Aug. 28 Joseph Lieberman said: "Isn't Medicare coverage of prescription drugs really about the values of the Fifth Commandment: Honor your father and mother?" On Sept. 5 George W. Bush said: "By history and by choice, our nation makes a promise: We will honor our fathers and mothers by providing quality health insurance to every senior citizen." The battle is joined.At times it seems to be largely a battle between reactionary liberalism and reactive conservatism. Such liberalism circles the wagons to defend existing government programs from challenges (e.g., public education against school-choice voucher programs) or even modest revision (e.g., partial privatization of Social Security). Such conservatism contents itself with moderating enrichments of the entitlement menu (e.g., prescription drugs under Medicare), nibbling at the edges of government's failures (e.g., Bush's halfhearted school-choice proposal) and sticking with failures even as evidence against them accumulates (e...
  • The 158-Game Winning Streak

    In 1971 Cubs rookie pitcher Bill Bonham, after failing to retire any of the four Cardinals he faced in his first major league appearance, said, "I guess I was due for a bad outing." In 1982 the Cardinals' Kelly Paris, after scoring the winning run in his first major league game, said, "I'd have to say, looking back, this is the high point of my career." Keeping one's perspective is important in baseball.Two years ago Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel to put baseball's economic condition in perspective. The panel studied the increasing revenue disparities among the teams and the impact of them on competitive balance. Recently the four independent members (Richard Levin, president of Yale; Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board; former senator George Mitchell, and this columnist) issued their report. All four had begun with varying degrees of skepticism about the severity of baseball's problems. They ended, their skepticism dispelled,...
  • Politics In A Macaroni Era

    In January 1946 Charles de Gaulle, fresh from his heroic role as France's liberator, and disdaining the banal normality of peacetime administration, abruptly resigned as president of the provisional government. Having fought for the grandeur de la France, he told a colleague, with characteristic hauteur, that he did not wish to "worry about the macaroni ration."The death of most political fighting faiths, and the eclipse of public life by the private sector's productive prodigies, make this a macaroni era in politics. That may be why people fixated on public life (politicians, journalists) ascribe disproportionate importance to minor matters, such as Al Gore's choice of a Jewish running mate.Gore's choice was nowhere near as bold as Woodrow Wilson's 1916 nomination of Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court. The nomination of Joseph Lieberman does not break a barrier. Rather, it underscores the fact that a barrier has been reduced to rubble by what Lincoln called "the silent artillery...
  • Being 'Most Mentioned'

    Clearly George W. Bush finds Pennsylvania's Gov. Tom Ridge congenial company. "Two minds with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one," is perhaps how Bush puts it when waxing poetic. Ridge, 54, a solidly assembled 6 feet 2 inches, radiates executive energy. Like Bush, he is confident, upbeat, relaxed, humorous, conservative (six tax cuts in six years) and a practitioner of what he calls "limited but activist government." Unlike Bush, Ridge is a fluent extemporaneous speaker: his sentences parse and form paragraphs. He has a knack for pithy dispraise of Al Gore. Ridge calls Gore "Dr. Dark" who, had he been at Philadelphia in July 1776, would have denounced the Declaration of Independence as a "risky scheme." ...
  • Of Death And Rent Seeking

    What is called the national pastime operates 30 teams in 28 cities from April through October. Another national pastime is much more ubiquitous and constant--it goes on everywhere, year-round. The technical name for it is "rent seeking," and a manifestation of it in Tennessee proves that you cannot avoid it even by dying.Rent seeking is what economists call the bending of public power for private economic advantage. Sometimes it is the use of government by interest groups to confer advantages on themselves (e.g., tariffs and import quotas to protect the textile industry and sugar growers). Sometimes it is the use of government to impose disadvantages on competitors. The government's antitrust action against Microsoft is, in part, successful rent seeking by a Microsoft competitor, Netscape.Often rent seeking is done under the guise of licensing requirements for professions, from hairstyling to taxi services. Many of these requirements have less to do with protecting public health and...
  • Compassionate Liberalism

    The Clinton administration, which thinks it takes a village to raise a child, knows that a masked SWAT-type team with battering ram, automatic weapons and pepper spray suffices to snatch a child, terrified, in a predawn raid. But Elian was fortunate. The last time Janet Reno--one of the worst attorneys general in American history and certainly the most lethal--inflicted her caring on children, they were incinerated. Besides, the government, practicing compassionate liberalism and heeding the advice of its latest batch of "experts," had on its getaway plane some Play-Doh. Kneading it is supposed to ease a child's stress.A few days before the paramilitary operation against Lazaro Gonzalez's home, one of Reno's experts, a pediatrician with a long record of crackpot leftism, came--without meeting Elian--to the convenient (for Reno) conclusion that Elian needed to be quickly "rescued" from "psychological abuse" at the hands of his relatives. Fear of child abuse was Reno's excuse for...
  • Straight Talk From Arizona

    Phoenix--If George W. Bush wins, conservatives will be glad they failed to abolish the Department of Education. Surely he would have the wisdom to make Lisa Graham Keegan, Arizona's superintendent of Public Instruction, secretary of Education. That is, unless this July he has the audacity to roll the dice and make her his running mate.Keegan, 40, supported the candidacy of John McCain, who, regarding straight talk, is a shrinking violet compared with Keegan, a Stanford-educated intellectual cactus who radiates prickly thoughts. Such as: "Everyone is complicit in trying to make the education system look good without merit." And: "This country is so content not to know the truth about its children, it's horrifying." And: "Those who believe there is 'still time' to reform our centrally planned educational systems ignore the fact that while there may be time, there is no reason to do so.""Sometimes," she says, "when we ask Washington for help, we run a very real risk of getting it."...
  • Don Zimmer's 52D Season

    Tampa--want to see the face of baseball? turn to the back of this page. What? You expected the sunburst smile of Ken Griffey beneath a backward-turned Reds cap? Or Pedro Martinez's assassin stare from the Fenway Park mound? No, such superstars come and go, but Don Zimmer is a baseball lifer.Currently he is the Yankees' bench coach, whose job during games consists of sitting next to manager Joe Torre and dispensing advice based on intuition--intuition that distills more than half a century of experience. Understand Zimmer and you will understand baseball--and one reason why today's Yankees are so successful. No other sports franchise has the Yankees' glamour--the pinstripes, Yankee Stadium, 25 World Series won, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Jeter. But beneath baseball's glitter there always is the grit of men like Zimmer.He is the last former Brooklyn Dodger still wearing a major-league uniform. His number this year is 52, the number of years he has been a professional ballplayer. His number...
  • The Censoring Of Zachary

    Measured in terms of America's traditional causes of discord--antagonisms arising from class, race, ethnicity and religion--there never has been more domestic tranquillity. Yet the sulfurous wrangling about religion in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination has made many Americans anxious about uncivil aggressiveness by some Christian factions bent on using government for sectarian purposes. But some Christians believe they are on the receiving end of aggression by government. Consider how growing up in America feels to Zachary Hood.In 1996, when he was a first grader in a Medford, N.J., public school, his teacher rewarded students' reading proficiency by allowing them to bring from home, and read to the class, a story of their choice. The only requirement was that the selections be of age-appropriate brevity and complexity. Zachary chose the story "A Big Family" from "The Beginner's Bible." This is the complete text:"Jacob traveled far away to his uncle's house. He...
  • Conservatism, Mccain Style

    John Mccain is no doubt not the first person who, late at night after a long day, has said something strange in the convivial atmosphere of the NASCAR cafe in Myrtle Beach. But what he said there on the eve of the voting in South Carolina suggests why he is doing so very much better among Democrats and independents than among Republicans. He said: "We can eradicate evil. We can eradicate differences between rich and poor." Well.As to the first, it has been tried, often. For example, at the time of the French Revolution, some enthusiasts thought the job could be done by strangling the last king with the entrails of the last priest. The results were unsatisfactory, and Edmund Burke's articulation of what was wrong with such political overreaching became the modern genesis of what is called conservatism.As for eradicating the "differences" between rich and poor--whatever that might mean--perhaps it would be prudent to defer attempting that eradication that until some more bite-size...
  • Philadelphia In 2000: Like 1948?

    Although the democratic convention in Los Angeles is still six months away, it is not too soon to start yawning. But when Republicans convene in Philadelphia, brotherly love may be as scarce as it was when last a party convention was held there.The Democratic nomination contest is all but over because Bill Bradley has difficulty attracting Democrats. Bradley has Adlai Stevenson's earnestness without the leavening wit that made it palatable. (Asked his opinion of the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, the middlebrow exponent of "the power of positive thinking," Stevenson quipped, "I find Saint Paul appealing but Peale appalling.") Bradley's last three elections suggest that he has severe limitations as a candidate for office. Before losing in Iowa and New Hampshire, his most recent election was a decade ago, when he barely won a third Senate term, beating the then unknown Christine Whitman by just 3 percent, even though he spent $12.73 per vote against her 87 cents.In 1968 there were just 15...
  • Then There Were Four

    After months of bounding off buses and into gaggles of strangers, the presidential candidates should by now feel much as Job did after he lost his camels and acquired boils. But the candidates manage, most of the time, to resemble human sunbeams, up and doing with a heart for any fate. Now their fates will come with a rush, beginning next Monday when some actual voters, all of them Iowans, will finally be able to intrude upon the nominating process. The fates of all but four candidates are already known.Bill Bradley's task against Al Gore is difficult. John McCain's task against George W. Bush is even more so. Bradley is trying to be nominated without much help from two substantial portions of the base of the Democratic Party--African-Americans and organized labor. McCain is running against much of the Republican nominating electorate.McCain favors campaign-finance reforms opposed by most Republicans. And he criticizes Bush's large proposed tax cut in language (the cut, he says,...
  • Aids Crushes A Continent

    Imagine 40 million orphans in sub-saharan Africa by the end of this decade, many of them organized into "kid armies." Does this grotesque recasting of "Lord of the Flies" in real life get your attention? Ron Dellums hopes so.Dellums, tall, slender, elegant and angry, came to Congress in 1971, the first black ever elected from a white majority district. Representing Oakland, home of the Black Panthers, and fermenting Berkeley, he was radicalism incarnate. Today, 64, with gray hair and a gray beard and wearing a black turtleneck and a long flowing topcoat, he looks like a prophet who stepped simultaneously out of the Old Testament and Gentlemen's Quarterly.These days his mind is on something of Biblical proportions--a plague akin to the Black Death that killed one third of Europe's population in the middle of the 14th century. Dellums, who in 1971 began the push for sanctions against South Africa (they were imposed in 1986), thinks the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa can crush the...
  • 1999: Sort Of Satisfactory

    Nineteen ninety-nine was a suitable exclamation point for a century that would like to be remembered more for its wealth than for its wars. America's prodigious wealth-creation threatened to deprive Americans of the delights of complaining, at least other than as Gilbert and Sullivan did:Some baseball fans grumbled: a Los Angeles TV sports anchor said, "Dodgers and Angels highlights at 11. Please watch anyway." And there was war.In Kosovo--actually, over Kosovo--NATO practiced a kind of warfare made possible by modern technologies and perhaps made necessary by modern sensibilities. It was a war waged on the principle that there are values important enough to fight, meaning kill, for, even if they are not important enough to die for.Kosovo was a small, mostly Muslim entity, brutalized by a mostly Orthodox nation of which Kosovo was (and is) legally a part. As the year ends, Chechnya is a small, mostly Muslim entity being brutalized by a mostly... oh, never mind. At the year-end,...
  • Are Children Little Adults?

    An American revolution in child rearing has tiptoed in on little cat feet. One sign of it is the locution "quality time," by which busy and uneasy adults tell themselves that the diminished quantity of time they are spending with their children is redeemed by its quality. Another sign is crib mobiles, which arrived in the 1950s, harbingers of today's vast smorgasbord of learning accessories for babies.Wonder why there are so many television programs about childlike adults ("Seinfeld," "Friends," "Ally McBeal")? These reflect "the elongation of youth" by those who "loiter on the outskirts of adulthood," dressed in jeans and sneakers like prepubescent children. Notice the cartoons for adult viewers ("The Simpsons," "King of the Hill"). And the "juvenilization" of movies that attract undifferentiated audiences of adults and children ("Star Wars," "Indiana Jones"). When children are regarded as little adults, adults become childish.So says Kay S. Hymowitz in her book "Ready or Not: Why...
  • Mccain Moves Up, Up There

    A published list of prudential maxims (e.g., "Never give your wife an anniversary gift that needs to be plugged in"; "Never order barbecue in a place where all the chairs match"; "Never buy a Rolex from someone out of breath") could have included this one: Never extrapolate February politics from November polls.John McCain, uppermost underdog in the competition to deny George W. Bush the Republican nomination, is doing well in one of the places where he must do well or go home--New Hampshire. However, a McCain surge right about now was almost as predictable as autumn itself, for several reasons. One is that this is how the system is supposed to work.The improvised and constantly evolving nomination process is the haphazard result of largely uncoordinated decisions by the states and parties. But because the process begins in two states like Iowa and New Hampshire, both small but in many other ways dissimilar, a candidate with limited resources (of money, national reputation and...
  • Rough Rider In Green Bay

    America had seen something like Vince Lombardi's Chiclets-teeth grin before. His face often radiated competitive fury, but when it crinkled with happiness, you saw the visage--and spirit--of Teddy Roosevelt, apostle of the strenuous life, who could have said, as Lombardi did, that fatigue makes cowards of us all. TR thought an occasional war could invigorate the nation, tuning its spirit and teaching it teamwork, and thought football could serve as a substitute. However, he found college football--the NFL was two decades away--alarmingly rough. Being the first busybody president, he convened a White House conference on rules changes to cut down the number of undergraduates being killed and maimed.In 1959, half a century after TR's last full year in office, Lombardi drove his mauve and white Chevy from his native New York, where he was the Giants' offensive coach (Tom Landry coached the defense), to Green Bay. In the turbulent next decade, stalking the sideline in his camel's hair...
  • Politics And The Test Ban Treaty

    President Clinton, whose cynicism never loses its power to astonish, put on a long face and, with that tone of sincerity that betokens his tendentiousness, lamented that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty had become tangled in "politics." Indeed it had, but long before last week.The treaty purports to ban all nuclear explosions. But the treaty does not even define prescribed nuclear tests. As Sen. Richard Lugar said in his lethal analysis of the treaty, "Russia believes hydro-nuclear activities and sub-critical experiments are permitted under the treaty. The U.S. believes sub-critical experiments are permitted but hydro-nuclear tests are not. Other states believe both are illegal." U.S. negotiators might have been able to hold out for elimination of such dangerous ambiguity, but they were under pressure to produce a treaty in time for a United Nations signing ceremony before the 1996 election. The ceremony was 42 days before the election.But now, at long last, the spell cast by arms...