George F.

Stories by George F. Will

  • Events And Arguments

    WAR UNLEASHES POWERFUL CENTRALIZING forces in nations, and from the Civil War through the Cold War it was the principal cause of the concentration of government power in Washington. Which may partly explain why in 1942, with war freshly upon the nation, the Supreme Court ruled as it did in the case of Wickard v. Filburn. Today, with the nation at peace and uneasy about the centralizing tendencies of this war-filled century, conservatives are toiling to reverse the tide that resulted in farmer Filburn's setback. Their constitutional argument is getting a large assist from economic and scientific developments. ...
  • The Fourth Awakening

    When controversy erupted concerning gays in the military, it was noted that many members of the media have gay friends but no friends in the military. Today the socialization of journalists may also explain the incomprehension that colors coverage of the conservative Christian Coalition. Robert Fogel, professor of American institutions at the University of Chicago, explains that today's large political changes are "to a large extent spawned by changes in American religiosity," which is usually how change is spawned in this deeply religious country. ...
  • History Revs Its Engine

    Like a distant forest seen faintly through a fog, the national security concerns that will darken our children's futures have become visible in recent weeks. The concerns are as small as bacteria and as large as the country that contains a quarter of the human race. The concerns are as quiet as a nuclear reactor and as loud as a mortar shell exploding in a Balkan marketplace. All around the world the sound you hear is history again revving up its engine. Our children will not be bored after all. ...
  • Wonders In The Deep

    Aboard the USS Jefferson City (SSN 759) underway off San Diego--Submariners say there are just two kinds of ships: submarines and targets. Feel free to disagree. but smile when you do, because the 140-man crew of this fast attack nuclear submarine is armed. It carries torpedoes. Harpoon antiship missiles for distances torpedoes cannot travel--far over the horizon--and Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles. (Two submarines of this class, one in the Red Sea and one in the Mediterranean. launched a total of 12 Tomahawks during the Gulf War.) The Jefferson City can cruise quietly at above 25 knots submerged and its acoustic detection systems can find quiet adversaries. The psalmist didn't know the half of it when he wrote that they who go down to the sea in ships see "wonders in the deep." This ship is a wonder of tightly packed technology. ...
  • About That 'Sixties Idealism'

    If you're going to San Francisco," said a song of the Sixties, "you're gonna meet some gentle people there." If you had gone this June you might have met Wolfgang and Lisa Von Nester. Meet them now, before immersing yourself in the hot tub of bathos about the Sixties occasioned by the death of Jerry Garcia. If you are not steeped in the cult of the Sixties, you may not know that he was the "rock oracle" of the Grateful Dead, "a band that epitomizes freedom" (The Washington Post). Garcia, a guitarist, was a "mellow icon of '60s idealism" and embodied "psychedelic optimism" (The New York Times).Wolfgang, 23, and Lisa, 24, will be sentenced next week by a California judge who they must hope is a Deadhead, as the hand's astonishingly loyal and often nomadic fans like to be called. He could sentence the Maryland couple to six years in prison for abandoning their 3-year-old son at a San Bernardino mall on June 2. "I figured that without food and without money and without diapers to put on...
  • The Voting Rights Act At 30

    When Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944), the astrophysicist, was asked how many people understood his theory of the expanding universe, he paused, then said, "Perhaps seven." That may be more people than fully understand how we got from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the notion that racial gerrymandering is not only virtuous but also mandatory under that Act.Such gerrymandering to create "minority-majority" electoral districts is the quintessential "outcome-based" racial policy and a provocative political entitlement. The purpose of drawing lines to create districts in which minorities constitute a majority of the voters is to assist, virtually to the point of ensuring, the election of minorities to offices to which they presumably are entitled by virtue of their race or ethnicity. The result is "political apartheid," to use Justice O'Connor's phrase from the 1998 ruling invalidating North Carolina's districting scheme that produced the 160-mile-long district that straggled...
  • From Topeka To Kansas City

    Kansas City is just down the road from Topeka, where the crusade against school segregation began with what became the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision of 1954. Kansas City may henceforth be known as the end of the road for the crusade that went awry.Last week the Supreme Court began to pry loose the grip of judicial arrogance from Kansas City, where a judge's unbridled willfulness has produced one of the most spectacular abuses of power, and failures of policy, in American history. After nine years and a cost of approximately $1.5 billion, a program with the one goal of increasing the non-minority enrollment in the city's schools has produced a school system in which such enrollment is lower than ever -- below 25 percent. Furthermore, test scores are down, the dropout rate is up and the principles of separation of powers and self-government have been violated. The only good that has come of this is Justice Clarence Thomas's concurring opinion when the Court...
  • 'A Dog In That Fight'?

    When Hitler sent ribbentrop to Moscow in August 1939 to sign the nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union, he sent along his personal photographer with instructions to obtain close-ups of Stalin's ear lobes. Hitler wondered whether Stalin had Jewish blood and wanted to see if his ear lobes were "ingrown and Jewish, or separate and Aryan." This historical nugget (from Alan Bullock's "Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives") is offered at this juncture in America's debate about Bosnia, as a reminder of a quality European politics has sometimes had in this century. Some American policymakers need to be reminded.When Serbians took hostages from U.N. personnel in Bosnia and chained them to military targets as human shields, Warren Christopher was puzzled: "It's really not part of any reasonable struggle that might be going on there." While the Secretary of State, a sweet man sadly miscast, searches for reasonableness amid the Balkan rubble, there are "peacekeepers" where there is no peace to...
  • Political Ascents And Descents

    I realized," wrote a french aristocrat in her memoirs concerning the unpleasantness of the 1790s, "that the Revolution was inevitable when I noticed that the patissier was putting less butter in the brioches." The gift of discerning large portents in small things is useful in politics. Mark Bernstein demonstrates that with his meticulous analysis of some data that should deepen the depression many Democrats are feeling. And the data might convince today's hyperkinetic Republicans that they have more than just another 18 months to bring the Republic to perfection. Bernstein is a Philadelphia lawyer, but quite pleasant, and remarkably nimble with numbers. He has sifted the voting results from the 1994 House races and has come to the conclusion that the Democrats' prospects for soon recapturing the House are bleak. ...
  • Rethinking 1937

    In Nathaniel Hawthorne's day, as today, and as usual in America. the voices of various "experts" and "realists" gravely, warned that society's problems were more daunting than ever and demanded that old principles yield to new realities. Hawthorne, however, kept his head. It was time. he said, to consult "those respectable old blockheads who still . . . kept a death grip on one or two ideas which had not come into vogue since yesterday morning." ...
  • Hurricane Bob

    BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES. HERE COMES HURRICANE Bob-Bob Doman, that is, the Orange County congressman who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination. To get the jalapeno tang of this former fighter pilot and television talk show host, consider one of his golden memories, from 20 years ago, April 19,1975. He and his wife, Sallie, were attending the ceremonies marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Concord Bridge. There, by the rude bridge that arched the flood, where the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard round the world, Doman got into a fistfight. After Sallie did. Doman may be the most combative member of the House of Representatives but he is only the second most combative member of the Doman household. ...
  • 'Run, Jesse, Run,' Redux?

    THE "K STREET CORRIDOR" IN WASHINGTON IS A STRIP of high-rent office buildings full of high-rent lawyers and lobbyists who toil on behalf of interests strong enough to hire expensive talent to help them use the government to become even stronger. The corridor is, therefore, an unlikely place to find the keepers of the faintly flickering flame of America!s political left. But there you will find the crowded offices of the National Rainbow Coalition and its leader, Jesse Jackson. If you think he is, politically, yesterday's news, you may soon have to think again. He is armed with two ingredients of a consequential political episode-anger and a mailing list -and he is spoiling for a fight. "I will not," he vows, "stand idly by and allow 1996 to become 1876." ...
  • Presidential Minimalism

    Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, fresh from winning 91 of 92 counties and 67 percent of the vote and a fourth term, is seeking the Republican presidential nomination so he can be on the receiving end of what he was dispensing four decades ago. Then, as a Naval officer dealing with intelligence, he gave closed-circuit television briefings to President Eisenhower. Today, when foreign policy has receded farther from the center of the electorate's consciousness than at any time since the 1920s, Lugar is running to assert the primacy of foreign policy among the presidential functions. This will be a hard row to hoe at a moment when America's passionate political arguments are not about where and how Washington should project American power abroad but about where and how Washington's powers and functions can be dissolved or devolved to lower governments. ...
  • Good Man . . . Wrong Job?

    When democrats were thinking of offering their 1948 presidential nomination to Dwight Eisenhower, taciturn Speaker Sam Rayburn said of him, "good man, but wrong business." Does Rayburn's estimate of Eisenhower suit Bob Dole? Rayburn, who later revised his assessment of Eisenhower sharply upward, worried that the soldier, shaped by the military's command environment, might not be sufficiently rhetorical and wily for the political environment of persuasion and negotiation. Today even many people who wish Dole's candidacy well worry that his lifetime as a legislator -- he was elected to Congress when Eisenhower was president, in 1960 -- has revealed, or developed, proclivities that would be disabilities in a president. ...
  • About Those 'Orphanages'

    With a tendentiousness that seems characteristic, Hillary Clinton has entered the welfare reform debate by denouncing ""the unbelievable and absurd idea of putting children into orphanages because their mothers couldn't find jobs.'' But the serious idea being considered by serious people is that infants whose mothers are, say, 16, unmarried, uneducated, unemployed, addicted and abusive might be better off in institutions. Ms. Clinton should be shown James Q. Wilson's recent lecture to the Manhattan Institute. It demonstrates how to bring intellectual honesty and humility to bear on the problem of character development, the problem that is commonly called the ""welfare crisis.'' ...
  • The Restoration

    Americans bandy the word ""revolution'' with the insouciance of a fortunate people whose history has spared them any recent acquaintance with the rigors of the real thing. The revolution due to begin in January with a bang of Speaker Gingrich's gavel may indeed involve greater change than Washington has seen since the New Deal. However, the huge wave about to hit Washington did not rise suddenly from a flat sea. It is part of a tide of conservatism that began rising in the late 1960s because of disappointment with Great Society social engineering and dismay about the coarsening of the culture. This protracted revolution is actually a restoration, a reconnection with the most continuous thread in America's political tradition, commitment to limited government. ...
  • A Kind Of Compulsory Chapel

    The high school test asked students to identify the ""Hellenic epic which established egotistical individualism as heroic.'' The correct answer was ""The Iliad,'' the message of the question being this: Individualism is egotistical and egoism, rather than anything more noble, defines Western civilization. When a University of Pennsylvania student wrote of ""my deep regard for the individual,'' an administrator underlined the word ""individual'' and wrote back: ""This is a red flag phrase today, which is considered by many to be racist. Arguments that champion the individual over the group ultimately privileges [sic] the "individuals' belonging to the largest dominant group.'' ...
  • The Curdled Congress

    THE CURDLED 103RD CONGRESS, DURING WHICH THE first member ever indicted for child pornography (Mel Reynolds, a Chicago Democrat) dashed back from his arraignment to vote for the crime bill, began with an abuse of power and ended in bitterness. In November 1992, Republicans gained 10 House seats. In January 1993, House Democrats, in bovine obedience to their leaders, voted to give the five delegates from Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia-- all Democrats, of course--full voting rights on the floor when the House is functioning as a Committee of the Whole, the mode in which most important decisions are made. So now 47,000 residents of Samoa, who pay no U.S. income taxes, have as much say about raising taxes and spending revenues as do the 540,000 residents of Speaker Tom Foley's district. ...
  • O-Klahoma,

    He was proud to be an Okie from Muskogee. But in Congress he voted like a liberal from Manhattan. And last week his career collapsed under the accumulating weight of its contradictions, crystallizing a Democratic worry: This year, money may not be enough. ...
  • Forrest Gump On The Potomac

    As members of Congress crept back into Washington from America, their eyebrows singed and their ears ringing from close encounters with constituents, there was a tasty omelet of events demonstrating how dicey it is to be a Democrat as this autumn's elections draw near. ...
  • Up From Geniality

    As slender as a Stiletto, and as cutting, David Frum's "Dead Right" arrives at a moment when conservatives, flush with some summer successes resisting Clintonism and anticipating substantial gains in this autumn's elections, are feeling chipper. Frum's book, constantly scolding and sometimes scalding, should complicate their complacency. He says few conservatives are serious about combating the social ills they deplore. ...
  • Tony Gwynn, Union Man

    Tony Gwynn, baseball's best pure hitter, stood in the Padres' dugout in San Diego listening to a friend talk about Ted Williams. The friend said that when Williams hit .388 in 1957, his 38-year-old legs probably cost him at least the five hits that would have given him a .400 average. Gwynn replied that his own sore knee -- it has been drained three times this season -- has cost him at least six hits. ...
  • R = C2

    TODAY'S POLITICAL CLASS DIVIDES ITS TIME BETWEEN deploring the public's cynicism and doing things that deepen that cynicism. Hence the public's mood may be, if anything, insufficiently dyspeptic. Certainly the president whose campaign promise of a middle class tax cut was patently disingenuous should not be amazed if Americans (in his words) "indulge themselves in the luxury of cynicism." Having featured his promise to end "welfare as we know it" in about 40 percent of his campaign commercials, he now tentatively and tardily advances a tepid reform proposal so late in the congressional session that it probably will be lost in the legislative shuffle, which is what his core liberal supporters want, and perhaps he does, too. The public's cynicism about this can be considered reciprocal. ...
  • The Tenth Problem

    President Clinton, the uncoolidge, is relentless-ly garrulous, but he is reticent about the Korean crisis. The United States is on a narrowing, descending path to a fearful choice between the risk of war half a world away, or a retreat from the world. Yet the president has not apprised Americans of the possibilities. ...
  • Since Mckinley's Cigar

    IN THE SUMMER OF 1901, AT WILLIAM MCKINLEY'S HOME in Canton, Ohio, a photographer approached to take the president's picture. McKinley laid aside his cigar, saying, ""We must not let the young men of this country see their president smoking!'' That camera was a harbinger of the graphic revolution in communication that would help enlarge the place of the presidency -- the most photogenic piece of America's government -- in the nation's consciousness. McKinley was a transitional figure. He had presided over America's passage into imperialism in the war with Spain, and his assassination late that summer produced the first modern president, Theodore Roosevelt, who proclaimed his office a ""bully pulpit'' for shaping the public's mind and morals. ...
  • A Stupendous Mystery

    IF SOMEONE SURREPTITIOUSLY TOOK EVERYTHING BUT ESPN from my cable television package, it might be months before I noticed. But I am up to speed on the subject du jour: Why are so many baseballs flying over fences? Players and fans who share Flaubert's flair for le mot juste say the ball has been "juiced." Must be a conspiracy. Or not. ...
  • Sheldon Hackney's Conversation

    SHELDON HACKNEY HEARS AMERICA TALKING AND IS dismayed. He thinks the talk is inexpert and unorganized and needs federal help. Hackney, who heads the National Endowment for the Humanities, wants Washington to organize a "national conversation" about pluralism. The NEH was created pursuant to LBJ's promise that Washington would transform America into a great society. That transformation still has a way to go, but perhaps Hackney's "conversation" is the missing ingredient of greatness. ...
  • Orwell In New Jersey

    THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE HAS BEEN JOINED. A SUIT filed in New Jersey by the National Organization for Women, the state American Civil Liberties Union and others claims that mothers on welfare have a constitutional right to additional payments for however many children they choose to have, in or out of wedlock. The suit argues, in effect, that the state law denying welfare increases for babies born to women already on welfare violates the Constitution's "privacy" right because it intrudes upon "the most personal of decisions: whether or not to have children." Because the law attempts to "influence" family planning and reduce rates of conception and childbirth, it burdens the welfare mothers' "fundamental rights to make decisions about family composition, conception and childbirth without undue governmental intrusion." ...
  • Facing The Skull Beneath The Skin Of Life

    THERE IS A LARGE LACUNA IN THE NATION'S CURrent conversation about medical matters. Unless we talk about something we flinch from facing-death-we will aggravate some problems of modern medicine, for two reasons. Enormous costs are incurred in the final months of patients' lives. And society's stance toward death shapes its stance toward life. Unless we think more clearly than modern medical prowess inclines us to think about dying, we shall not understand something strange. ...
  • Came The Revolution...

    HAVING STORMED, IN THE NAME OF LES MISERABLES, the ramparts of Republican reaction, Democrats, who call themselves "the party of compassion," now have produced a budget that slashes assistance to poor people for home heating, but cuts nary a nickel from the National Endowment for the Arts, an agency paradigmatic of government's solicitude for the already comfortable. Welcome to the revolution. Moral ostentation was liberalism's delight during the fallow years when Republicans were in power and homeless people were in the streets illustrating the "uncaring" nature of Republicans. But in the liberal party's budget the big winner is the Justice Department, primarily because of funding to put more police on the streets where homeless people still are. No wonder many liberals are uneasy and the administration's leading liberal, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is quite cross. ...
  • Coming Next, Clinton's Year One

    HOLLYWOOD'S 1929 PRODUCTION OF "THE TAMING OF the Shrew," starring Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, had this credit line: "By William Shakespeare, with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor." We have now had a year of government as scripted by the Founding Fathers, with additional thoughts by the Clintons and associates. Among the conclusions now possible is this: The post-Cold War contraction of the presidency, which Clinton did not start and cannot stop, is part of the reassertion of constitutional normality, meaning congressional supremacy. And the inertia of events, combined with the country's continuing, even deepening, conservatism, is pulling Congress to Clinton's right. ...