George F.

Stories by George F. Will

  • Marx In A J. Press Suit

    HUSBANDING HIS STOCK OF POLITICAL CAPITAL AND his reservoirs of political courage for expenditure during his third term, President Clinton has declined to do the sensible thing. It would be sensible to give China permanent ""most favored nation'' status and begin looking for more suitable levers for prying China's rulers away from political despotism and economic irrationality. Instead, we remain condemned to debates like the one now coming to a boil, in which the passions are as heated as the outcome is certain. ...
  • Big Scare In The Big Apple

    NEW YORK CITY, HOME OF THE AVANT-GARDE AND the last to learn life's lessons, is unhappily pondering the possibility that the Second World War might be over. The city is staring into an abyss: rent control, enacted as a wartime measure, might be end ed. This is of more than parochial interest to that most parochial of American places. The history and current controversy about rents there is a case study of how democratic governments make mistakes and resist unmaking them. ...
  • Consensus And Ladders

    A JOKE PERENNIALLY PERTINENT IN WASHINGTON: AN economist and a normal person fall into a deep pit with sides too steep to climb. The normal person exclaims, "We're trapped!" The economist replies, "Don't worry, we'll simply assume a ladder." A budget deal is coming. Ladders are proliferating. ...
  • Presidential Moisture

    WHAT? CAN IT BE TRUE? OUR PRESIDENT HAS not yet wept publicly this week? Well, the week has a way to go. His propensity for tearing up is not merely an eccentricity. His presidency is defined by its moistness, which defines a distinctively modern sensibility. ...
  • Alomar In Context

    ROBERTO ALOMAR BECAME A SWITCH HITTER AT THE age of 7 because his father, a major leaguer (he roomed with Henry Aaron), said that would help Roberto to be "an everyday player." Today Alomar, baseball's best second baseman, is giving new meaning to the phrase "everyday player." The Orioles' 1996 season was ended in mid-October by the Yankees (with an assist from an umpire's blown call on a catch by a kid in the fight-field seats). By the first week of November Alomar, who earns $6 million a season from the Orioles, was playing winter ball back home in Puerto Rico for pocket change. He is baseball straight through. "Whenever I am done with this game, I am going to say, 'I played all those years and did not miss a chance to play'." ...
  • Louisiana Larceny?

    MARK SEIFERT MOVES ASIDE HIS BREAKFAST plate, puts a small tape player on the table in the dining room of Washington's Four Seasons Hotel and presses a button. The recorded voices seem to describe the stealing of a U.S. Senate seat by means so raw they startle, even in the context of all the other Democratic sordidness of 1996: ...
  • Political Unitarianism

    WALK, WITH EYES AVERTED, PAST THE ERUPTION of metal that passes for art and dominates the huge atrium of the Hart Office Building. Enter the first-floor office with the portrait of Hubert Humphrey, the office of Minnesota's Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone. There you will find the flame of liberalism. It is not a hard and gemlike flame. ...
  • Heirlooms, Not Hedonism

    WHAT? YOU SAY YOU HAVE NOT YET BOUGHT A Patek Philippe wristwatch? Yes, of course, no law says you have to do the right thing for your descendants. But, really, buying such a watch, even though it is a bit pricey, is not crass. Quite the contrary, it is simply the thoughtful, genteel thing to do. ...
  • Save Us From The Purists

    SINCE THE APPLE INCIDENT IN EDEN, THE HUMAN RACE has been disappointing. Hence term limits for Congress may become one of the few exceptions to the rule that when Americans want something, and want it intensely and protractedly, they get it. Only the political class can enact limits, and limits would be unnecessary if that class were susceptible to self-restraint. ...
  • Orwell, Call Your Office

    OH, SO THAT IS WHAT THE FUROR WAS ALL ABOUT. Last autumn Democrats spent nobody knows quite how many scores of millions of dollars, raised from no one knows precisely how many Indonesian connections and Buddhist temple ""community outreach events,'' to run ads warning elderly Americans about Republican extremism. The extremism supposedly took the form of plans to ""slash'' Medicare. The Republican proposal of January 1996 was for trimming projected spending by $158 billion over six years, which comes to $26.3 billion per year. Last week President Clinton proposed shrinking Medicare spending by $138 billion over six years, which comes to $23 billion a year. So $3.3 billion a year in a Medicare budget of $1.4 trillion through 2002 is the difference between statesmanship and savagery. ...
  • Tale Of Two Countries

    BEFORE THE BIG DECEMBER DANCE AT ST. LUKE HIGH school in Jersey City, N.J., Sister Peter, a woman of abundant faith but few illusions, advised newcomers to the staff, "Their dancing might get a little explicit, but there is nothing we can do about it--until it resembles foreplay. Then stop it." The 10th graders in Mark Gerson's five American history classes knew what would happen if they did things he wanted to stop. They would "get a Frank." They would be given after-school detention, during which they would have to listen to recordings by Gerson's hero from nearby Hoboken, Frank Sinatra.Gerson, then 22 and fresh from Williams College, had grown up 20 miles from Jersey City, in, effectively, another country--affluent Short Hills. He had wanted to spend the 1994-95 academic year teaching in an inner-city public school before going on to Yale Law School. However, he could not get so much as an interview from the sclerotic public system. (Jersey City has the nation's highest...
  • 1996 In Our Wee Galaxy

    EVER SINCE COPERNICUS CAME TO HIS CONCLUSIONS about the heavens, the idea has been seepinginto the consciousness of our species that we are not, after all, the center of the universe. Thus few took notice of, and no one was scandalized by, the biggest news of 1996, reported in San Antonio at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society. A headline in The New York Times, Jan. 16: SUDDENLY, UNIVERSE GAINS 40 BILLION MORE GALAXIES. Fifty billion instead of 10 billion. In the Milky Way, our run-of-the-mill galaxy, the sun is just one of 50 billion to 100 billion stars. ...
  • Perfume And Vinegar

    There' was a danger that Abram might become too well pleased with his own good fortune. Therefore God seasons the sweetness of wealth with vinegar. ...
  • A Boneless Wonder?

    IN 1931, WHEN CHURCHILL WAS IN THE OPPOSITION, HE SAID this to the House of Commons concerning Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald: ""I remember when I was a child, being taken to the celebrated Barnum's Circus which contained an exhibition of freaks and monstrosities, but the exhibit on the programme which I most desired to see was the one described as "The Boneless Wonder.' My parents judged that that spectacle would be too revolting and demoralizing for my youthful eyes, and I have waited fifty years to see the boneless wonder sitting on the Treasury Bench.'' ...
  • Big Stick Conservatism

    THIS COULD GET CONSERVATIVES' DANDER UP. A category of small businesses is being subjected to injurious regulation in New York City. That city, the capital of liberalism and hence of overbearing government, is disrupting the free market by burdening, with the intent to discourage, a form of commerce involving a legal commodity. The government is doing this because it disapproves of the practice of supplying the particular commodity for which there is a demand. Furthermore, the government wants to engage in social engineering, shaping the social climate of neighborhoods by purging this commerce from most of the places where market forces have produced it. ...
  • Healthy Inequality

    ECONOMISTS TODAY PERFORM THE STERN DUTY FORMERLY done by dour Calvinist divines, that of telling many complainers that nothing can be done about their complaints and, besides, the suffering is good for them. Now pastors Jeremy Greenwood and Mehmet Yorukoglu argue convincingly that something currently decried as a social dysfunction and injustice-the combination of slowing productivity growth and widening income inequality-is actually a recurring and benign phenomenon. ...
  • A Partial Home Run

    SERVING AS A SURROGATE BOB DOLE DURING BILL Clinton's debate rehearsals, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell was sufficiently ferocious to make Clinton anxious. So Clinton, who evidently understands the axiom that a compliment is a forensic anesthetic, administered one to Dole in the opening minutes of the Hartford event, and added a few as he went along. Dole reciprocated, and even abstained from flinging the epithet ""liberal'' until 10:05 Eastern time. ...
  • Inflation Inflated

    ON TUESDAY THE INSCRUTABLE AND, ACCORDING TO critics, incorrigible Federal Reserve may raise interest rates as a preemptive move against inflation. If the critics are correct, this will confirm the axiom (coined by John Keegan, the military historian) that victory is the mother of pedantry. ...
  • Man Of The Century, Alas

    LENIN'S PATIENCE, NEVER PLENTIFUL, WAS EXHAUST- ed. "Why," he demanded, "should we bother to reply to Kautsky? He would reply to us, and we would have to reply to his reply. There's no end to that. It will be quite enough for us to announce that Kautsky is a traitor to the working class, and everyone will understand everything." So in the name of a favored category of people, the working class, let's have an end to argument, and to Kautsky (a German socialist guilty of deviationism), and, while we are at it, to whole categories of tiresome people. ...
  • Conventional Journalism

    AT THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION IN SAN DIEGO, THE distress of the news media was big news, judging by the ink and air time journalists devoted to themselves. And now it is the Democrats' turn to drive journalists, and especially the television networks' news divisions, to distraction and perhaps out of town. Chicago is the scene of the second act of this year's two-act soap opera which asks: Can the media find happiness in a world where political conventions are not newsworthy, as the media understand that adjective? ...
  • A New Level Of Worrying

    NIGHTTIME ILLUMINATION AT THE LINCOLN Memorial attracted millions of midges, and spiders that fed on the midges, and sparrows that fed on spiders. Scrubbing away the bird droppings and spider webs made the marble vulnerable to exhaust particles. A modern technology, the jet airliner, has democratized tourism, enabling millions to travel to see Michelangelo's restored frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, where the heat of the visitors' bodies and the vapor in their breath combine with dust in the air to produce indoor acid rain. Warm, humidified, insulated and carpeted modern homes are comfortable not only for humans but also for fleas, which probably outweigh people on this planet.Laws protecting marine mammals have produced a sixfold increase in the sea lion population, with devastating consequences for their favorite delicacy, steelheads. The proficiency of smoke jumpers at extinguishing small forest fires has produced a ""fire deficit'' by building up flammable materials that feed...
  • Enter Lott, Stage Right

    TRENT. IT SOUNDS LIKE A HERO'S NAME FROM THOSE magnolia-scented romance novels with titles like "Thundering Hoofs From Shiloh" or "Plantation Passions." Last week Mississippi's Trent Lott, 54, moved to the Majority Leader's front-row desk vacated by Bob Dole, who will be 73 next month. This generational change may make the Senate less collegial. And that may be good. ...
  • The Pitch...It's Outahere

    THIS TIME, THE HAPPY HAITIAN THEORY CANNOT BE offered as an explanation. In 1987, the last time baseball experienced a power surge comparable to this year's barrage of home runs and high scores, a baseball thinker, who may have been kidding but you never can be sure about baseball thinkers, offered a hypothesis: The major league's baseballs are made in Haiti. Haitians are so happy about the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, they are working with extra pep and vim, winding the cord in the balls tighter, making them livelier. But nowadays the balls are made in placid, democratic Costa Rica by placid Costa Ricans who cannot be blamed for the suffering of major league pitchers, or given credit for the ecstasy of fans who think slugging is a good thing and agree with Mae West that too much of a good thing is wonderful. ...
  • The Politics Of Soulcraft

    AMERICAN POLITICAL DISCOURSE HAS BECOME THIN gruel because of a deliberate deflation of American ideals. So says Michael Sandel in a wonderful new book, "Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy." Sandel, a Harvard professor of government, believes that politics has been impoverished and life coarsened by the abandonment of the idea that self-government should be -- indeed, cannot help but be -- a "formative" project, shaping the character of citizens. ...
  • Civic Speech Gets Rationed

    SURVEYING THE CONSTITUTIONAL AND POLITICAL damage done by two decades of campaign finance "reforms," friends of the First Amendment feel like the man (in a Peter De Vries novel) who said, "In the beginning the earth was without form and void. Why didn't they leave well enough alone?" Reformers should repent by repealing their handiwork and vowing to sin no more. Instead, they are proposing additional constrictions of freedom that would further impoverish the nation's civic discourse. ...
  • Conservatism Gets Soiled

    JUST 15 MONTHS AFTER THE 1994 ELECTIONS, THE HIGH-WATER mark of modern conservatism, the conservative party is under assault from a man who clearly despises it and disdains the conservatism of its most successful modern president. Ronald Reagan spoke constantly of freedom. Pat Buchanan speaks of restrictions and proscriptions, closing ports to imports, closing borders to immigrants. Reagan imparted confidence to Americans. Buchanan, a whiner liberals can love for his litany of victimizations, presents America as the crybaby of the Western world. Buchanan wants to erase the Reaganite smile from the face of conservatism and replace it with his snarl of resentment about people "sitting on the corner playing bongo drums" in downtown Washington, about the economic onslaught from mighty Mexico, about the voicelessness of "Euro-Americans," about the teaching of "Godless evolution," and other affronts to this "Christian country." ...
  • An Epidemic's Evolution

    The aids epidemic is "one of those cataclysms of nature that have no meaning, no precedent, and, in spite of many claims to the contrary, no useful metaphor." So wrote Sherwin Nuland, who teaches medicine at Yale, in his hook "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter." No metaphor, perhaps, but the epidemic's evolution underscores a grim truth: life is regressive. That is, people with problems have a high probability of acquiring more problems. ...
  • Modell Sacks Maryland

    Art modell made dumb business decisions and needed the money, or at least wanted it more than he wanted the affection of his community where he once was ,a leader and now is a pariah. But what is Maryland s excuse for one of the most peculiar acts of government in memory? ...
  • Senator Byrd Is Not Amused

    Sen. Robert Byrd, whose visage is as stony as the mountains of his West Virginia, resembles William Gladstone, of whom it was said he did not lack a sense of humor but rarely was in a mood to be amused. Nowadays Byrd is notably dour because of what he and others consider a steep decline in decorum in Congress. An example of the "insolence" and "harsh and severe" rhetoric that Byrd finds grating came recently from Pennsylvania's Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a whippersnapper born the year Byrd was elected to the Senate (1958). Santorum said the president was telling "bald-faced untruths" about the budget and Democratic senators know it is "a lie" when they say the Republican tax cuts favor the rich. Sen, Connie Mack, the Florida Republican, displeased Byrd by saying that Clinton's "commitment to principle is nonexistent" and that Clinton "broke his word" regarding the budget. ...
  • Fanatics For 'Choice'

    Americans are beginning to recoil against the fanaticism that has helped to produce this fact: more than a quarter of all American pregnancies are ended by abortions. Abundant media attention has been given to the extremism that has tainted the fight-to-life movement. Now events are exposing the extraordinary moral evasions and callousness characteristic of fanaticism, prevalent in the abortion-rights lobby. ...
  • 'Arise, Ye Prisoners . . . '

    Arise, ye prisoners of starvation!" Exhorted the "Internationale," the anthem of the proletariat long ago, when the class struggle was supposed to be the engine of history and the proletariat was supposed to be the vessel of progress. John Joseph Sweeney has risen about as high as an American labor union man can, and as high as Washington's restrictions on high-rise buildings will permit. As the new head of the AFL-CIO, which has 78 affiliated unions, Sweeney occupies an eighth-floor office in the house of labor on 16th Street, looking down on the White House. (Doesn't everybody seem to nowadays?) ...
  • A Weird Sincerity

    Sen. Bob Kerrey, the Nebraska democrat, spoke with measured nalice. Asked if he trusts President Clinton's promise that he will not betray Democrats by coming to a budget agreement with Republicans without the support of Democrats, Kerrey said, "I trust him because [Senate Minority Leader] Tom Daschle trusts him." In 1993, after much agonizing, Kerrey cast the decisive vote for the Clinton Budget that Clinton recently said raised taxes too much. But Kerrey is not unusual in his unconcealed disdain. Among congressional Democrats there is scant affection and less respect for Clinton. ...