Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune. His twice-weekly column on national and international affairs, ...

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Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman

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Netanyahu's fantasy about Iran

Netanyahu's fantasy about Iran

March 4, 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu came to the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday and offered an idea so simple and brilliant that everyone in the White House must have felt dumb for not thinking of it. His alternative to the imperfect deal the U.S. may strike with Iran? A perfect deal.

  • 'American Sniper' and our crazy laws on the insanity defense

    February 27, 2015

    When a Texas jury rejected an insanity defense and convicted Eddie Ray Routh in the murder of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, it raised a question: If this guy isn't crazy, who is?

  • Whites have a role in the plight of black families

    February 25, 2015

    The breakdown of the black family is a sensitive topic, though it's not new and it's not in dispute. President Barack Obama, who grew up with an absent father, often urges black men to be responsible parents.

  • Jeb Bush mistakes slogans for reality

    February 20, 2015

    Foreign policy is a complicated and bottomless topic, which forces politicians to address it with abstract words and punchy sound bites. Smart politicians know the difference between the messy realities and the simple pictures they paint. The danger lies with politicians who mistake the slogans for reality.

  • Don't penalize baseball players for being clever

    February 18, 2015

    Baseball, being the noblest sport, has many lessons to teach: the value of daily persistence, the inevitability of failure and the likelihood that luck will not override ineptitude (looking at you, Cubs). But, as a creation of humans, it is also prey to human imperfections, like the urge to suppress useful changes to spare those who resist adaptation.

  • In praise of mediocrity

    February 13, 2015

    I rise today to speak in praise of an underappreciated attribute: mediocrity.

  • Misusing the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage

    February 11, 2015

    Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has a unique legal mind. He could say, like Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat, "I'm not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours."

  • Illinois is lead car on the road to ruin

    February 7, 2015

    Americans are addicted to living beyond their means, at least when it comes to the functions of government. That's why the federal debt tripled over the past decade and under President Barack Obama's budget plan would keep growing indefinitely.

  • An Iran deal is nothing to fear

    January 23, 2015

    Pondering the looming specter of a nuclear-armed Iran, some Americans are deeply worried that we won't reach a deal to block that possibility. Some people have a different fear: that we will.

  • Conservatives rethink liberty vs. safety

    January 21, 2015

    This week, the Supreme Court made a decision that was somewhat newsworthy: upholding the right of a prison inmate to do something the prison authorities prohibit. What made it really unusual is that the decision was unanimous, with all the conservative justices signing on, and that the opinion was written by one of the most conservative, Samuel Alito.

  • Cancel the State of the Union

    January 18, 2015

    Mid-January is the time to ask the annual question: Are we ready for a big, noisy, overhyped prime-time production that has outgrown its simple origins and usually leaves us feeling both gorged and disappointed? If not, you may want to skip the State of the Union address and prepare for something humbler, like the Super Bowl.

  • We worry too much about terrorism

    January 15, 2015

    Each of the attacks in Paris that killed 17 people last week was an atrocity, an affront to freedom and an act of terrorism. On those points, most people agree, and they're right. Most people also fear this marks the beginning of a rash of extremist violence in the West. On that, they're probably wrong.

  • Religious violence and the road to civilization

    January 11, 2015

    Sigmund Freud said the founder of civilization was the first person who hurled an insult instead of a rock. He was almost right. The true founder was the first person to respond to an insult with an insult of his own.

  • The flimsy case for regulating Uber

    January 2, 2015

    If you've ever stood on a cold street late at night wishing desperately and hopelessly for a cab, Uber is the answer to your prayers. Its pricing model, which includes higher fares at times when demand peaks, is designed to make sure you get a ride whenever you need it.

  • In 2014, frightened governments did scary things

    December 24, 2014

    We all have tasks we try to get done before the end of the year, and Kim Jong Un's is amping up the crazy. Last December, the North Korean despot approved the execution of his uncle for allegedly plotting against him. This December, his agents hacked Sony Pictures computers over a comedy depicting his assassination.

  • The strange source of our Cuba policy

    December 19, 2014

    For a long time, the U.S. ostracism of Cuba has been like the vintage American cars on the streets of Havana: obsolete but imperishable. It didn't topple the Castro government, didn't force human rights progress and didn't unite the world behind us. Yet failure was no enemy of longevity.

  • Targeting 'assault weapons' again

    December 18, 2014

    The 1994 federal law banning "assault weapons" was a high point of the gun control movement and Bill Clinton's presidency. Signing the bill, he said it was the beginning of "our effort to restore safety and security to the people of this country." But something happened that he and his allies had not predicted: nothing.

  • Here comes another mortgage binge

    December 12, 2014

    Plenty of people who go on wild drinking binges end up with sound reasons to avoid repeating the experience: painful hangovers, lasting embarrassment, ruined relationships, encounters with police. But that doesn't stop some of them from doing it again. Maybe these are the same people running the federally backed mortgage companies.

  • Government bungling, CIA-style

    December 10, 2014

    Anyone skeptical about entrusting ambitious tasks to the government was not stunned by the dismal rollout of the Affordable Care Act. It featured technical snafus, cost overruns and false advertising ("If you like your plan, you'll be able to keep it."). Things got so bad that President Barack Obama apologized and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigned.

  • Are blacks to blame for cops' actions?

    December 5, 2014

    When a white cop kills an unarmed black man, many blacks see a pattern of prejudice that generates official suspicion, hostility and abuse based on skin color. Many whites, however, say it's the fault of blacks. If they weren't committing so much crime, they wouldn't get so much attention from police.

  • At Gitmo, a tough policy to swallow

    December 3, 2014

    President Barack Obama is a champion of using video cameras to prevent and expose misconduct by uniformed people with guns. He is also a great believer in banning the use of torture on detainees in the war on terror. It may come as a surprise, then, to find that he doesn't want to release videos of Guantanamo inmates being force-fed.

  • Restaurant calories and government appetites

    November 28, 2014

    On Thursday, hundreds of millions of Americans risked obesity, heart disease and indigestion by eating large quantities of food with no precise knowledge of the caloric content. If many of them felt regret on Friday, it was not because they were duped into overeating by the absence of nutritional data.

  • Why blacks distrust police

    November 26, 2014

    Black anger that Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson was not charged for killing Michael Brown stems partly from the fact that blacks in America often face much worse treatment from cops than whites do. Only rarely do whites get an unpleasant taste of what minorities have to swallow.

  • Hillary Clinton is not too old to be president

    November 19, 2014

    Are there good reasons to vote against Hillary Clinton? If you gave me some time — like two seconds — I could come up with some.

  • China-U.S. status: It's complicated

    November 14, 2014

    Americans like to keep the world simple, dividing important countries into two groups: valued allies and hateful enemies. That approach suffices when we're talking about South Korea and North Korea. But it doesn't work well when it comes to China.

  • Making enemies, one war at a time

    November 5, 2014

    "War," it's been said, "is God's way of teaching Americans geography."

  • Ebola quarantines trample freedom

    October 31, 2014

    I am a faithful and loving husband to a wonderful woman, and I do not make a practice of hugging women I don't know. But if I had the chance, I wouldn't hesitate to embrace Kaci Hickox.

  • Even on Ebola, Obama is dull — and that's good

    October 29, 2014

    In responding to the Ebola crisis, President Barack Obama is being his usual self — passive, detached, unable or unwilling to lead. So say his critics, who accuse him of being an idle observer of his own presidency.

  • Why I'm voting for Bruce Rauner

    October 24, 2014

    With Halloween approaching, the way to scare small children is to conjure up specters of witches and ghosts. Terrifying economists is easier: Just say, "Illinois."

  • Even terrorists have a right to citizenship

    October 22, 2014

    U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, doesn't trust Barack Obama to protect Americans against Ebola, defeat the Islamic State, oversee the IRS or revamp the health insurance system. He decries the expansion of federal power Obama has brought about. But Cruz wants to give him another power: deciding that some Americans will no longer be Americans.

  • Ebola and terrorism: Letting fear get the best of us

    October 19, 2014

    Americans are living under a dire threat that could quickly escalate into a national emergency. No, not Ebola or the Islamic State but the hugely overhyped fear of them. The public resembles one of those cartoon elephants perched on a chair in trembling terror of a mouse.

  • Dangerous people and deadly force

    October 1, 2014

    When a man jumped over the White House fence, ran across the lawn and entered the residence, the Secret Service failed and failed again. One of the most conspicuous and surprising failures was that though it had armed agents on the ground and snipers on the roof, no one fired a shot to stop him.

  • You want a war? Pay for it

    September 27, 2014

    Young people may find it hard to believe, but going to war used to be a big deal. When the United States started bombing Iraq in January 1991, Americans somberly watched President George H.W. Bush address the nation and saw live video of Baghdad being bombed. The Bush address drew one of the biggest audiences TV had ever had.

  • Capitalism and climate change

    September 24, 2014

    For some of the people in New York this week demanding action on global warming, the menace is not just carbon dioxide. The real Tyrannosaurus rex is the American economic system. On Monday, the day after the huge march through Manhattan, a few hundred protesters showed up in the financial district for "Flood Wall Street." Their slogan: "Stop Capitalism. End the Climate Crisis."

  • Do we need corporal punishment?

    September 19, 2014

    You think Marine Corps boot camp is tough? In the old days it was much tougher. Drill instructors often corrected recruits by kicking them, punching them or hitting them with sticks. Broken jaws and bloody noses were not unusual.

  • I'm living large, but it's an illusion

    September 17, 2014

    A few months ago, I made a trip to attend my daughter, Isabelle's, commencement at an institution of higher learning. Having no apparel to signify my investment in this particular school, I entered the bookstore and found a shirt emblazoned with its name. Too impatient to try the shirt on, I eyeballed the medium and the large and decided the medium would fit.

  • Obama's unnecessary war

    September 13, 2014

    President Barack Obama said Wednesday night that the United States is going to war "to degrade and ultimately destroy" the group known as the Islamic State.

  • The Ironman puzzles and inspires

    September 10, 2014

    MADISON, Wis. — A glorious September day is breaking over scenic Lake Monona, but nearly 2,500 people are about to have perhaps the most miserable experience of their lives.

  • Ignorance fuels the call for war

    September 3, 2014

    The New York Times ran an unfair headline the other day: "Arab Nations Strike in Libya, Surprising U.S." It was unfair not because it was inaccurate but because the latter phrase suggested there was something noteworthy in our surprise. When it comes to events abroad, surprise is our natural state.

  • Gay marriage and the limits of tradition

    August 29, 2014

    In all the bad days that opponents of same-sex marriage have had lately, few compare with the one they had this past week in a courtroom in Chicago. Lawyers defending the bans in Wisconsin and Indiana were buried in an avalanche of skepticism and incredulity.

  • A Mideast war we should avoid

    August 27, 2014

    In fighting disease, aggressive action is not always advisable. Two years ago a federal panel recommended against routine use of a test for prostate cancer because it carries "a very small potential benefit and significant potential harms." Some men get false positives, and many true positives lead to risky surgery for cancers that grow so slowly as to pose no threat.

  • In Ferguson, protest or vote?

    August 24, 2014

    Not all the residents of Ferguson, Mo., are black; not all of them are out protesting; and some think the protesters are neglecting a better avenue for change.

  • Do black leaders ignore black-on-black crime?

    August 21, 2014

    The shooting of Michael Brown and its turbulent aftermath have renewed an old question: Why does the black community raise a ruckus when a white person kills a black person, which is rare, but not when a black person kills a black person, which is far less rare?

  • Ferguson and our stubborn racial divide

    August 16, 2014

    Fifty years ago this summer, President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Back then, it was reasonable to expect that by 2014, America would be a fully integrated nation in which equality prevailed. But as the events in Ferguson, Mo., dramatize, the country still resembles what a presidential commission described in 1968: "two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal."

  • How Hillary Clinton will fail liberals

    August 14, 2014

    Hillary Clinton's aggressive foreign policy will preempt a liberal domestic agenda

  • How to prevent unarmed kids from being shot by cops

    August 12, 2014

    Figuring out why an unarmed black teenager was shot multiple times by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, will not be easy. The police department said 18-year-old Michael Brown attacked the cop and tried to take his gun; a young man who was with Brown said the cop cursed at them for walking in the street and then grabbed Brown by the neck. So the truth may never be known: Was Brown was the innocent victim of a brutal cop or a violent punk who asked for trouble?

  • The intelligence community keeps lying

    August 7, 2014

    A diplomat was once defined as someone whose job is to lie for his country. That's apparently what makes diplomats different from intelligence officers, whose function is to lie to their country.

  • Concealed carry is nothing to worry about

    August 3, 2014

    Gun control advocates are learning the downside of getting their way. Recently, a federal judge struck down the District of Columbia's ban on the carrying of concealed handguns. Anti-gun forces have been losing in legislatures for a long time. Now they are finding that even where they win, they lose.

  • Wisconsin's voter ID law survives

    July 31, 2014

    In a pair of decisions today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the voter ID law signed in 2011 by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The court said it did not violate the state constitution by creating a new qualification for voting and didn't amount to a poll tax, as long as the state makes IDs available without charge.

  • The inflation alarms are still false

    July 17, 2014

    There is a point at which firmness of conviction becomes obstinacy, and there is a point at which obstinacy becomes comedy. The latter was on spectacular view the other day when a prominent inflation hawk self-destructed on national TV.

  • Cruz, Obama and the border crisis

    July 9, 2014

    It's not surprising that Republicans are blaming Barack Obama's immigration policy for the high number of unaccompanied Central American kids showing up at our southern border. Unlike in Ronald Reagan's day, the modern Republican Party is generally hostile to immigration, legal or illegal. But it is a bit surprising to hear Texas Sen. Ted Cruz demand action to curb "the surge of immigrants who are illegally arriving each day."

  • Did Obama cause the border crisis?

    July 7, 2014

    Republicans blame the surge of unaccompanied children and mothers with young kids on President Barack Obama.

  • The real meaning of Hobby Lobby

    July 3, 2014

    Organizations concerned with public policy have a habit of hyping developments that relate to their concerns. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that some corporations are exempt from paying for employees' contraceptive coverage under Obamacare, both sides loudly trumpeted its importance.

  • In Iraq, echoes of Vietnam

    June 26, 2014

    A corrupt government that has alienated many of its people finds itself unable to overcome a growing insurgency in an endless civil war and expects a superpower on the other side of the globe to come to its rescue. That's the story in Iraq today — which carries eerie echoes of the not-so-distant past.

  • Race and the Mississippi election

    June 25, 2014

    Tea party champion Chris McDaniel and his supporters are not amused by the irony of seeing their opponent in the Mississippi GOP Senate primary, incumbent Thad Cochran, win by mobilizing black Democrats to turn out for him.

  • Obama goes back into Iraq

    June 20, 2014

    President Obama's decision to send up to 300 advisers to help the Iraqi army reverse its recent setbacks is not as big a deal as it sounds. Opponents of the war, of which I'm one, shouldn't take it as the first step back into the quagmire.

  • Should 'Redskins' lose trademark protection?

    June 18, 2014

    Two things strike me as clear from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's decision to revoke the trademark registration of the Washington Redskins on the ground that the name is disparaging to Native Americans.

  • The Bergdahl-Taliban deal and Congress

    June 11, 2014

    The House hearing on the deal swapping five Taliban members held in Guantanamo for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been mostly unenlightening. But a few things seem clear from what has been learned since the exchange occurred.

  • The Tiananmen massacre as history

    June 4, 2014

    When the protests arose in Beijing's Tiananmen Square 25 years ago, it was easy to believe that China was on the brink of political liberalization. The world was clearly moving in that direction. Autocratic regimes in South Korea, the Philippines and Chile had given way to democracies. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was relaxing repression and pursuing reform.

  • Shinseki resigns, which won't help

    May 30, 2014

    The resignation of Eric Shinseki strikes me as inevitable, politically necessary and largely irrelevant if not counterproductive. Once the troubles in the Department of Veterans Affairs blew up into a major scandal, the administration's critics, Democrats as well as Republicans, made him the target of denunciations. Getting rid of him allows the president to buy some time by giving the impression he's done something decisive to help veterans. But it's not likely to do much good.

  • Let car buyers shop on Sunday

    May 14, 2014

    November 1984 was the last time residents of Illinois could do something taken for granted in other states: go to a car dealership and buy a car -- on a Sunday. That's when a law passed by the General Assembly took effect, forcing dealers that wanted to stay open to close their doors.

  • Voter ID takes a hit

    May 2, 2014

    Republican legislators across the country have been pushing voter identification laws that are advertised as attempts to prevent election fraud, and they got a big boost in 2008 when the Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law. But a federal court ruling this week makes it clear the fight is not over yet.

  • Chapman: Easing up on Sunday liquor sales

    April 23, 2014

    The Chicago City Council is finally taking up one of my pet peeves: the city's absurd rules on Sunday liquor sales. Under the current laws, liquor can't be sold before 11 AM. Under Ald. Pat O'Connor's proposal, big grocery stores would be allowed to sell it starting at 8 AM.

  • No state funds for Obama library

    April 21, 2014

    By any reasonable standard, Barack Obama's presidential library ought to be in Chicago, where he lived most of his adult life and undertook his political career, not New York or Honolulu. But if the price to Illinois taxpayers is going to be $100 million, as the state House executive committee proposes, the state should let it go elsewhere.

  • Is U.S. credibility at stake in Ukraine?

    April 18, 2014

    The Russian aggression against Ukraine seems unsurprising to critics of President Obama, including the crusading editorial board of The Washington Post. An editorial this week blamed the unrest in Donetsk and other eastern cities on the administration's alleged failure to act, and raised a familiar charge. Unless the president does something soon, the United States will "lose what little credibility it retains on Ukraine."

  • Jeb Bush's immigration gaffe

    April 9, 2014

    In calling Jeb Bush's comments about illegal immigration a gaffe in my headline, I'm using the term in the way Michael Kinsley famously defined it. A gaffe, he said, is not when a politician tells a lie but when he tells the truth. It may be that the former Florida governor has alienated such a large segment of the Republican Party that he no longer has any hope of being nominated for president in 2016. But that doesn't refute what he said.

  • Jeb 2016: What kind of Bush would he be?

    April 7, 2014

    Jeb Bush is one of the best options available to the Republican Party in 2016. That's the good news. It's also the bad news.

  • Should Illinois' income tax hike be extended?

    March 24, 2014

    If you're a Republican or a Democrat, you can find encouraging news in a new poll on how Illinois voters feel about various issues. But if you're looking from a less partisan perspective, you'll probably be depressed. It shows just how challenging it will be to solve the state government's budget problems.

  • Rauner is GOP's moderate hope

    March 14, 2014

    Illinois Republicans often have trouble gaining statewide office because of an old problem: Candidates who are conservative enough to win GOP primaries are too conservative to win general elections, and candidates moderate enough to win general elections can't win their primaries. The largely unnoticed fact about this year's race for governor is that the party seems poised to give the nomination to someone who is more centrist than right-wing.

  • Your hotel smoke detector may not save you

    March 10, 2014

    One of the great safety advances of our time is the proliferation of smoke detectors in homes, workplaces and hotel rooms. It's easy to take them for granted. But three times in recent months, staying in hotels, I've done that -- and it's turned out to be a mistake.

  • Soldier Field expansion would be a mistake

    March 7, 2014

    What is it about Soldier Field that makes Chicago mayors lose their judgment? The renovation completed in 2003 was one of the worst blots on Mayor Richard Daley's record, burdening taxpayers with $432 million in costs and giving the Bears the smallest stadium in the NFL.

  • The right skater won Olympic gold

    February 21, 2014

    In any other sport, it would have been cause for celebration -- an unknown youngster pulls out all the stops to upset a legendary but aging star on the biggest stage of all. But when 17-year-old Russian Adelina Sotnikova unexpectedly captured the Olympic gold in ladies figure skating, the cries went up that the fix was in.

  • Rand Paul on Clinton and Lewinsky

    February 17, 2014

    When it comes to presidential politics, I sometimes wonder if Republicans are just too divided to do what they need to do in order to win elections -- as in the case of immigration reform. But sometimes I wonder if they really want to win -- or if their candidates would rather be heroes to the party's most extreme elements. 

  • Give felons the vote

    February 12, 2014

    In this country, going to prison doesn't mean losing all your rights forever. Ex-convicts enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right against self-incrimination, and even the right against unreasonable searches. But in 11 states, their right to vote is restricted, and in four (Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia), it's entirely gone for good.

  • Snowden makes NSA look bad

    February 10, 2014

    Eight months after Edward Snowden leaked secrets about the National Security Agency's mass surveillance, The New York Times reports that intelligence officials "have determined that he used inexpensive and widely available software to 'scrape' the National Security Agency’s networks." Really? It took the better part of a year for our crack security teams to figure out how he got the information he leaked?

  • Free Sunday liquor sales

    January 30, 2014

    One of the oddities of life in America is going to the grocery store on Sunday morning to lay in various supplies, only to find yourself unable to get a six-pack of beer. Chicago is like many other places in restricting sales of alcohol on this particular morning. You can't buy it in a store until 11 a.m.

  • Chicago tries to block medical marijuana

    January 27, 2014

    Politicians have a way of losing their grip on reality when it comes to marijuana. That's the problem in Chicago, where Mayor Emanuel and powerful alderman Ed Burke want to slap absurdly strict limits on medical marijuana dispensaries.

  • A court rules for polygamy

    December 18, 2013

    A federal court's decision to strike down part of a Utah law banning polygamy may not surprise social conservatives who predicted that legalization of same-sex marriage would soon legitimize multiple-partner ones. But that's a misreading of an opinion that is really about personal freedom from state intrusion.

  • A court rebukes the NSA

    December 16, 2013

    The U.S. district court ruling today that the National Security Agency's collection and scrutiny of bulk telephone records probably violates the Constitution offers hope that it's not too late to preserve personal privacy in the age of terrorism. But what the judge said should not really be surprising. It's a measure of how warped the public debate has become that his common-sense conclusions sound almost radical.

  • The road not taken by Mandela

    December 6, 2013

    A black activist who went to prison for opposing a white supremacist government, only to end white rule and become leader of the nation? That's the inspiring story of Nelson Mandela. It's also the ignoble one of Robert Mugabe, whose terrible example in neighboring Zimbabwe may have steered Mandela in a better direction.

  • Should we arm TSA agents?

    November 4, 2013

    It may sound crazy that the Transportation Security Agents assigned to keep guns out of airports have no protection against anyone who brings a gun to a security checkpoint planning to use it. So when a man showed up Friday at Los Angeles International Airport with a rifle, he was able to kill one TSA agent and wound two other agents and another person before he was finally brought down.

  • Can Obamacare work?

    October 21, 2013

    Democrats worked for 60 years to get a federal program to achieve something resembling universal health insurance. Too bad they didn't use that time to make sure that when they got it, it would work.

  • Obama's inadequate case for war

    September 10, 2013

    President Obama's speech making the case for U.S. military action in Syria was a clear and succinct statement of his outlook, with a nod to the possibility of a negotiated solution putting Bashar Assad's chemical arsenal under international control. But it failed to shore up the two big weaknesses in his argument. 

  • Hillary supports the Syria attack

    September 9, 2013

    The showdown with Syria has taken a toll on President Obama's standing with the electorate. Only 40 percent approve of his handling of foreign affairs -- the lowest number ever for him.

  • Chapman: Kerry says this won't be war

    September 4, 2013

    George Orwell wrote that political language "is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." His thesis was vindicated today by John Kerry, who told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that in attacking Syria,  "I don't believe we're going to war. I just don't believe it." What, then? "Limited military action" is Kerry's preferred term.

  • Is Obama showing weakness?

    September 2, 2013

    A favorite Republican claim about Barack Obama -- about any Democraticpresident -- is that he lacks strength. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia took up the theme yesterday, detecting in his Syria policy "weakness on the part of the president." Former UN ambassador John Bolton said the decision to ask Congress for authority to attack showed "weakness of the kind we haven't seen in an American leader in decades."

  • Obama prepares to attack Syria

    August 26, 2013

    The Obama administration, overcoming its sensible caution about intervening in Syria, now looks determined to take military action in response to Bashar Assad's apparent use of chemical weapons. It's obvious that whatever we do may not work. But if Obama can live with that reality, the intervention may not be too costly.

  • Obama stays out of Syria

    August 23, 2013

    Presidents are generally defined by their willingness to take big, bold actions. But activity is often misguided -- as George W. Bush proved in invading Iraq, as Jimmy Carter did in lavishing funds on synthetic fuel. When it comes to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people, Barack Obama has decided that inaction makes more sense. It's a refreshing change, and it's wise.

  • Cut off aid to Egypt

    August 16, 2013

    The struggle going on in Egypt among the military, the Muslim Brotherhood and secular groups is a complicated one that few Americans claim to understand. But two things are not hard to grasp. The first is that an unelected government is using deadly force on a mass scale against opponents who have been largely nonviolent. The second is that by continuing to provide more than a billion dollars a year in aid to the regime, the United States is effectively condoning this savagery.

  • Obama's deceptions on Snowden

    August 9, 2013

    It's no surprise that Barack Obama thinks Edward Snowden was out of line in disclosing the secret surveillance programs carried out under him and George W. Bush. But his criticism today of the man behind the NSA leaks was deceptive and inaccurate.

  • Rewarding good drivers, at long last

    August 5, 2013

    I consider myself a safe driver, and with only one minor accident and one ticket in the past 37 years, I think I have the record to prove it. But being a relatively careful driver is a frustrating experience. It means dutifully respecting the rules of the road even as you watch careless, aggressive and inconsiderate jerks get away with murder.

  • Obama and Snowden

    August 2, 2013

    Barack Obama was far preferable to John McCain and Mitt Romney, but there are times when I wish he hadn't been elected. The Edward Snowden case is one of those. If Obama were still in the U.S. Senate and Cain were in the White House, I'm guessing Obama would not be too sympathetic to the idea that the NSA whistleblower did grave damage to our security and deserves severe punishment.

  • Chapman: The sales tax holiday folly

    July 29, 2013

    The state of Illinois doesn't make a lot of good fiscal decisions, but it made one two years ago when it canceled the sales tax holiday it had held in 2010. The reason was that the state was low on money and couldn't afford to give up the revenue. Too bad other states haven't followed suit.

  • Mowing the lawn without harming the planet

    July 22, 2013

    I've long been aware that gas-powered lawn mowers are a major source of air pollution. Given what I'd heard about electric ones, not to mention the cost of a new machine, I had resigned myself to contributing to the damage. But when my old mower died, I took another look, and I ended up buying a zero-emission version.

  • Obama's ineffectual help to Syrian rebels

    July 15, 2013

    After vowing to respond if the Syrian government used chemical weapons against rebels, President Obama found his bluff called when evidence emerged that it had done just that. After weeks of deliberation, he elected to send some arms to the insurgents. 

  • Will Rick Perry run for president?

    July 8, 2013

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry won't run for re-election in 2014, which leads to speculation that he's planning another race for president instead. From the standpoint of journalistic entertainment value, I wouldn't object. But if he seriously thinks he has a chance of winning, he really should reconsider.

  • Why immigration reform probably won't pass

    July 1, 2013

    Sometimes, when Congress addresses an issue, there's a big fight, and once the matter is resolved, everyone pretty much moves on. This was the case with Bush administration's Medicare prescription drug coverage, and it was the case with President Obama's termination of "don't-ask-don't tell." In those cases, the risks of being wrong on the issue are minimal. Voters have other things to worry about.

  • The future of the Voting Rights Act

    June 28, 2013

    When the Supreme Court struck down a major section of the Voting Rights Act, which required nine states to get federal approval of any election change, there were howls of anger and despair among liberals. They see the provision as vital to preventing new efforts to marginalize minority voters throughout the South, and they see no hope that Congress will act to create new protections.

  • The anti-Plan B myths

    June 14, 2013

    The Obama administration's decision to allow Plan B to be sold over the counter without an age restriction, forced by a judicial ruling, has many people aghast by the horrors it will unleash. But really, it's nothing to fear. Consider the claims:

  • NSA surveillance defeats democracy

    June 13, 2013

    "And so the charges of the hysterics are revealed for what they are: castles in the air. Built on misrepresentation. Supported by unfounded fear. Held aloft by hysteria. On this and every other tool provided in the Patriot Act, charges of abuse of power are ghosts unsupported by fact or example."

  • Is collecting phone records an outrage?

    June 12, 2013

    A few weeks ago, the Obama administration found itself under attack from Republicans as well as journalists for its handling of an investigation of a leak to the Associated Press about an al-Qaida operation. It seems the Justice Department had gone to court to secretly obtain the records of all calls on some 20 phone lines used by AP reporters, allowing the FBI to know whom the reporters had been in communication with over several weeks.

  • Can we trust the NSA?

    June 10, 2013

    The dividing line between those who are creeped out by the National Security Agency's surveillance of phone calls and Internet communications and those who are cool with it comes down to a simple question: Do you trust the federal government not to misuse its power?

  • The rise in violent crime

    June 5, 2013

    Last year, for the first time since 2006, violent crime increased in the United States. This probably won't surprise Chicagoans, who saw murder rates spike last year. And it's not easy to explain, since there nothing obvious happened that would account for the national trend. But the uptick is not great cause for concern. Judged against recent history, things are pretty good on the crime front.

  • Limiting police drones in Illinois

    May 31, 2013

    If law enforcement agencies had a free hand, we might all soon be living in a version of what Sting sang: "Every step you take, I'll be watching you." The advance of unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, has made suffocating surveillance not only possible but affordable.

  • Red light cameras: My experience

    May 27, 2013

    I've heard a lot of complaints about red light cameras -- a cynical trick to reap revenue, an invasion of privacy, an unsuccessful safety measure. That was before I got a ticket for going through a red light -- my first traffic citation in 10 years. It cost me $100. And after my experience, I'm actually more amenable to them than I was before.

  • Medical marijuana: Will Quinn go along?

    May 20, 2013

    A bill to legalize the medical use of marijuana has passed the Illinois General Assemly and now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has yet to disclose whether he'll sign it. But based on his comments today, I'm betting he will.

  • The Nixon false equivalence

    May 19, 2013

    "The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know," said Harry Truman, who made it his task to absorb a lot of it. Many people who have not followed his example are not averse to using what little they do know, with the inadvertent effect of exposing how much they have to learn.

  • Medical marijuana at last?

    May 17, 2013

    Illinois can't be accused of rushing to embrace medical marijuana: The first state to allow it did so in 1996, and the General Assembly is only now getting around to approving the idea. Whether it will become law is not clear: It now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has yet to say if he will sign it.

  • Does Plan B empower predators?

    May 3, 2013

    Reproductive-rights groups think the morning-after pill, Plan B, should be available to any girl who wants it. They believe teens benefit from avoiding unwanted pregnancies. But some opponents say the drug actually endangers adolescent girls.

  • Brain damage and the Boston bombing

    April 22, 2013

    When it came out that suspected Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a former Golden Gloves boxer, I wondered if there might be a connection. It's not that boxers are necessarily violent people outside the ring, but boxers are subject to brain damage from repeated hard blows to the head. And brain damage can have unpredictable effects.

  • Domestic terrorism still rare

    April 15, 2013

    After 9/11, Americans assumed we were in for weeks, months or even years in which savage acts of political violence would become commonplace on American soil. We had all discovered how fanatical and savage our enemies were, and we could easily see how many easy targets were available.

  • The truth about border security

    April 10, 2013

    One of the major issues holding up an immigration reform bill is securing the border. Critics warn that if we don't seal off our southern boundary, any bill that allows some illegal immigrants to gain legal status will trigger a surge of new arrivals, like what happened after the 1986 amnesty.

  • Cook County's malignant gun tax

    April 1, 2013

    As part of continuing efforts by state and local officials to remind law-abiding gun owners that they are repugnant to all decent folks, Cook County today began assessing a new "violence" tax of $25 on every gun sale at suburban stores.

  • Same-sex marriage, as I saw it in 1989

    March 27, 2013

    I wrote my first piece in favor of same-sex marriage on Oct. 12, 1989. And though my views have developed a bit since then, today seems like a good day to run that column again. So here it is:

  • From sodomy to gay marriage

    March 26, 2013

    The Supreme Court argument on the constitutionality of a California ban on same-sex marriage took place on the 10th anniversary of the arguments in another critical case involving treatment of gays. In the end, allegedly activist liberal justices  defied an age-old social consensus, to the howls of conservatives. And yet a decade later, the ruling is so innocuous as to be almost forgotten.

  • Don't repeal Obamacare -- yet

    March 22, 2013

    I've always had mixed feelings about President Obama's health care reform. It offers too many goodies while asking too little of those who will benefit. It assumes expensive prevention services will pay for themselves. It relies on a coercive individual mandate that Obama rejected when he ran for president.

  • Our fruitless quest for missile defense

    March 21, 2013

    Foreign policy is often a form of theater, with elaborate rituals and pretenses that no one takes too literally. But rarely have the gimmicks of stagecraft been as obvious as in the latest standoff between North Korea and the United States.

  • Bloomberg meddles again

    March 18, 2013

    I'm starting to think New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a double agent, whose ambitious efforts to interfere with personal choice are designed to discredit the cause he claims to champion. Last week, a federal court slapped down his ban on the sale of sugary sodas over 16 ounces in size. But did he learn humility from that experience?

  • Portman's shift on gay marriage

    March 15, 2013

    In response to Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's announcement that he now supports same-sex marriage, after learning his son is gay, some gay-rights supporters of marriage equality wondered, acidly, why Republicans have to have a personal stake before they grasp the case for marriage equality.

  • Bad to worse in Afghanistan

    March 13, 2013

    Over 11 years, the United States has expended more than 2,000 lives and $620 billion fighting the war in Afghanistan and supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai. And what have we accomplished?

  • Chicago's progress on murder

    March 4, 2013

    Among some Americans, particularly those who detest President Obama or Mayor Emanuel, it's accepted wisdom that Chicago is a daily orgy of bloodshed and murder. By any reasonable standard, the level of violent crime in the city is unacceptably, tragically high. But let's not ignore the emphatic signals of genuine progress.

  • Syria: Staying out or getting in?

    March 1, 2013

    Secretary of State John Kerry announced yesterday that the United States will provide $60 million in direct aid to the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad. For those of us who oppose direct US intervention in the conflict, the good news is that the aid is all "non-lethal," suggesting considerable caution on the part of the administration. The bad news may be that this is the first step on the road to putting American forces in harm's way.

  • My book recommendations

    February 20, 2013

    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about my fondness for fat books, my current one being Victor Hugo's novel "Les Miserables," and some readers wrote to ask for other books I would recommend. Here's an incomplete list of my favorite novels, not all of them doorstops.

  • A balanced budget amendment?

    February 18, 2013

    Almost unnoticed in Sen. Marco Rubio's response to the president's State of the Union address was a drastic proposal: amending the Constitution to require a balanced budget every year. Or rather, it would be drastic if it were serious, which it plainly is not.

  • Yes, America has gotten freer

    February 1, 2013

    In a recent post on Sen. Ron Johnson's comments on "Atlas Shrugged," I noted that in many ways the country has gotten freer since it was published in 1957. A skeptical reader demanded to know in what ways. Here's a preliminary list:

  • False alarms on amnesty

    January 31, 2013

    To hear opponents tell it, you don't want to be standing along the U.S. border when an immigration reform bill becomes law. Millions of foreigners who were previously content in their native lands will hear about it, pack a bag and storm across the U.S. border, trampling anyone unlucky enough to be in the way.

  • Leahy, LaPierre and the Vermont paradox

    January 30, 2013

    Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy chaired a Judiciary Committee hearing today where he questioned Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association about expanding background checks to cover private sales, which produced an interesting exchange. (The answer is no.)

  • Atlas isn't shrugging

    January 28, 2013

    Charlie Peters, a self-described "neoliberal" who edited The Washington Monthly, told me many years ago that the problem with liberals is they see themselves as heroes in a novel. Many conservatives today do the same thing, and they know just the novel: Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged."

  • Will Obama end 'perpetual war'?

    January 24, 2013

    Midway through his inaugural address, Barack Obama proclaimed, "A decade of war is now ending." A cynical listener might respond: "And a new decade of war is about to begin." Obama sounded pacific notes Monday. But it will be a huge surprise if he can get through four years without going to war.

  • Obama the liberal?

    January 21, 2013

    One of the clear messages of President Obama's inaugural address is that he is going to be more overtly liberal than in the past. He mounted a strong defense of the programs created in the New Deal and the Great Society, argued that "preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action," and said safety net programs "do not make us a nation of takers" -- take that, Mitt Romney. He wasn't trying to sound like a bipartisan centrist.

  • Australia's gun control: Success or failure?

    January 18, 2013

    After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia enacted a sweeping package of gun restrictions far more ambitious than anything plausible here -- including a total ban on semiautomatic weapons, a mandatory gun buyback, and strict limits on who could own a firearm. John Howard, who was prime minister at the time, wrote the other day that his country "is safer today as a consequence of gun control."

  • Obama's Potemkin gun plan

    January 17, 2013

    Political trends come and go in response to events. Gun control was the rage during the Clinton administration, but over the past decade or so it became an obsolete cause. After the horrific crimes in Newtown and Aurora, though, it's staging a comeback.

  • The NRA's latest debacle

    December 21, 2012

    Given its disrepute in the wake of the Newtown massacre, I thought the NRA could only improve in public opinion. But in his highly anticipated appearance today, Vice President Wayne LaPierre managed to make the organization look even worse than before.

  • Put National Guard in schools?

    December 19, 2012

    Of all the bad ideas I've heard in the aftermath of the Newtown murders, the worst comes from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who wants to provide federal funds for states to send the National Guard into schools. She quotes the Guard as saying it is "particularly well suited for domestic law enforcement support missions" since it is "located in over 3,000 local communities."

  • Raising the Medicare age is no solution

    December 10, 2012

    It's a simple, reasonable idea that would recognize growing lifespans and trim federal outlays on a fast-growing part of the budget, Medicare. The idea? Raise the age of eligibility from 65 to 67. The trouble is, it will help one problem only a little while making another one significantly worse.

  • The Supreme Court and gay marriage

    December 7, 2012

    The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases challenging laws against same-sex marriage, and that's good news for supporters of the concept. Each of these cases gives the justices room to expand the rights of gay couples without taking the huge step of asserting their constitutional right to wed. And I'm guessing that's what they will do.

  • Michelle 2016? No. No. No.

    December 5, 2012

    The Democratic Party has plenty of credible possibilities for the 2016 presidential nomination, including several women: not just Hillary Clinton, but Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Ellen Warren of Massachusetts, even Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. But who does Newsweek magazine focus on? Michelle Obama.

  • Can Republicans shift on immigration?

    November 28, 2012

    It's obvious to everyone that Republicans need to take a less restrictive and punitive approach to immigration. That became clear on Election Day, when Mitt Romney found himself badly beaten among a Hispanic segment that is only going to keep growing.

  • The lesson of Cutler's concussion

    November 16, 2012

    Jay Cutler won't play for the Bears Monday night at San Francisco, and fans should be glad. After suffering a concussion on Sunday, he clearly shouldn't exposed himself to risk again so soon. But the Cutler episode only shows that the current way of handling such incidents is dangerously obsolete.

  • Unhinged by Obama

    November 11, 2012

    On Wednesday morning, sober conservatives pondered an election defeat, swallowed their disappointment and turned their attention to things that truly affect their lives, such as work and family. But there are other conservatives, who were profoundly affected by their collision with reality.

  • Letitia Baldridge's real mission

    October 31, 2012

    If you read the headline on her obituary in The New York Times, referring to her as an "etiquette maven," or The Washington Post's description of her as the "doyenne of decorum," you might have an image of Letitia Baldridge as a stern, exacting schoolmarm who would rap you on the knuckles for using the wrong fork. From my one experience with her, she was nothing like that.

  • The day after we attack Iran

    October 29, 2012

    Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are agreed on one thing: If Iran refuses to give up its apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons, at some point we will have no choice but to intervene with military force. The discussion, to the extent there has been one, is just about where that point lies. But an attack on Iran would not be the end of matter. It would just be the start.

  • Foreign policy surprises ahead

    October 25, 2012

    Americans who watched Monday's debate learned that Mitt Romney wanted to sound like Barack Obama on major world issues and that Obama wanted to highlight the contrasts. They learned that Romney can be vague and Obama can be condescending. They learned that Bob Schieffer can't keep a discussion from veering off course.

  • The monster from the black energy drink can

    October 24, 2012

    The Food and Drug Administration is investigating Monster Energy over reports that it was connected to five deaths over the past three years, including a 14-year-old girl who died of heart arrhythmia. Investors responded by dumping the company's stock, and it's safe to assume some parents are steering their kids away from energy drinks, whose high caffeine content is taken to be a mortal threat.

  • Myths of Iraq and Afghanistan

    October 21, 2012

    When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the other day the U.S. war in Afghanistan is "succeeding" and "has turned an important corner," I could have sworn I had heard that before. Where could it have been?

  • Obama lacks vision? Good thing

    October 18, 2012

    Barack Obama was more assertive and combative in the second presidential debate Tuesday, but the inspiring orator of 2008 still had trouble painting a vivid picture of what his second term will look like. He wants to strengthen manufacturing and promote energy independence, but it's hard to find a grand theme or a sweeping vision.

  • Romney's feint on Pell Grants

    October 17, 2012

    Mitt Romney is unusually prone to 180-degree reversals of policy for naked political reasons, but it's hard to think of a chutzpah moment in his campaign more striking than his assertion last night, when a college student asked him about the bleak job climate. Romney responded by saying, "I want to make sure we keep our Pell Grant program growing."

  • The HPV vaccine and teen sex

    October 15, 2012

    If you could vaccinate your kids against cancer, wouldn't you do it? The answer may sound obvious. But we can vaccinate our kids against some vicious types of cancer -- and many parents are deliberately choosing not to.

  • Biden 2016?

    October 12, 2012

    Barack Obama probably enjoyed Joe Biden's aggressive performance in last night's debate, which was designed to fire up loyal Democrats demoralized by the president's weak showing in his outing last week. But among Democrats, I suspect there was one viewer with mixed feelings: Hillary Clinton. If she's contemplating a run for president in 2016, she may have to contend with a formidable opponent in Biden.

  • The NRA's stubborn endorsement of Romney

    October 5, 2012

    When he ran in 2008, Barack Obama sang from the National Rifle Association hymnal: "I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people’s lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away."

  • 'Fusion centers' and terrorism

    October 3, 2012

    After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority tried to combat terrorism with posters instructing, "If you see something, say something." In 2008, it proudly announced that 1,944 people did exactly that. What it didn't mention is that the reports of suspicious activity and items led to only 18 arrests over the previous two years -- none connected to terrorist plots.

  • Will pot laws go up in smoke?

    September 30, 2012

    Judging from recent history, any young person who aspires to be president should be aware that certain attributes seem to be critical. You have to be male. You have to have an Ivy League degree. You have to have been a governor or senator. And, don't forget, you have to have smoked marijuana.

  • Is the Fed fooling the markets?

    September 14, 2012

    Free-market advocates, a group that emphatically includes me, think that markets are generally efficient, digesting all relevant information to reach reasonable conclusions. From the way the equity markets responded to the Federal Reserve's new round of quantitative easing -- they rose sharply -- you'd assume it's a healthy thing for the economy.

  • Romney's health care confusion

    September 10, 2012

    Mitt Romney often comes across as a newcomer trying to learn an alien language. In his case, the language is conservatism. He's been running for the Republican nomination president off and on since 2007, but he still stumbles in addressing the natives.

  • Obama didn't save the auto industry

    September 5, 2012

    We heard it last night from former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, and we'll probably hear it a hundred times more before the Democratic convention is over: "Barack Obama saved the American auto industry." It's a great line, especially in battleground states like Ohio and Michigan. Too bad it's not true.

  • Tobacco and free speech

    August 24, 2012

    The test of a society's commitment to freedom comes when it involves the rights of the unpopular. Not many people are less popular than the tobacco companies, which are regarded as shameless merchants of death. But a federal appeals court says their low status doesn't deprive them of First Amendment protection.

  • Russian subs, dubious dangers

    August 22, 2012

    The national news media has largely ignored a story that has gotten a lot of attention among conservatives -- that a Russian attack submarine surreptitiously spent a month in the Gulf of Mexico. This is taken by some to prove that Vladimir Putin is a dangerous enemy and confirm Mitt Romney's view of Russia as our "number one geopolitical foe." But let's be serious.

  • Putin's fear of Pussy Riot

    August 17, 2012

    Vladimir Putin is a famously tough guy -- a former KGB agent who knows karate, plays hockey and gets photographed shirtless on horseback. But the Russian strongman is not really so strong. Evidently he's scare to death of three women who play in a punk rock band with the unforgettable name of Pussy Riot.

  • Paul Ryan's incontestable virtues

    August 13, 2012

    Having been on vacation until today, I'm late to the Paul Ryan party. But as someone who thought the selection of Sarah Palin thoroughly discredited John McCain's judgment, I have to say Mitt Romney has passed the most important test to date of his fitness to be president: choosing a running mate who would make a plausible president.

  • The assault weapons myth

    August 1, 2012

    Gov. Quinn wants to outlaw the sale and possession of "assault weapons," insisting that "there is no place in Illinois for weapons designed to fire rapidly at human targets at close range." He doesn't mention that even if his ban were to pass, there would be plenty of other legal firearms that can be used to fire rapidly at human targets at close range -- or long range, for that matter.

  • The silence on gun control

    July 27, 2012

    President Obama said yesterday that "AK-47s belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities." You could take this as damning evidence that he has a secret plan to confiscate our firearms. Or you could take it as a head fake to mollify gun control advocates on his way to doing nothing.

  • Chick-fil-A and free speech

    July 25, 2012

    In Chicago, the competition for the title of "most embarassing alderman" is intense and never-ending. But for the moment, no one comes close to Joe Moreno, who says he won't allow Chick-fil-A to build a restaurant in his 1st ward because he abhors its president's views on same-sex marriage.

  • The weird GOP attacks on Obama

    July 18, 2012

    If I were conspiracy-minded, I'd suspect Barack Obama has deployed several moles to sabotage his opponent. Take John Sununu, who yesterday attacked the president for having used drugs, spent time abroad and lived in Chicago. Or Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who now claims to have proof Obama's birth certificate is a fraud. Mitt Romney's aides are vowing to expose Obama's past, insisting he wasn't "vetted" the last time around. If I were David Axelrod, I'd be smiling.

  • Syria would be no cakewalk

    July 16, 2012

    With Bashar Assad waging a brutal war on his own people, there's a definite temptation for Americans to look for ways the United States could use its military power to turn the tide against the dictator. And past interventions in Libya and Kosovo have created the impression that we could play a decisive role in defeating Assad's forces at very low risk to our own.

  • Give Jesse Jr. a break

    July 13, 2012

    Along with everyone else, I think the voters of Jesse Jackson Jr.'s district are entitled to know a lot more about what's wrong with him and what his prospects are. But I don't think it's fair to blame him for the lack of information, and I don't think it's fair to blame his father.

  • Iran and nuclear proliferation, cont.

    July 11, 2012

    In my Sunday column, I explained why we shouldn't expect a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if Iran manages to acquire the bomb. History indicates proliferation is rare, because most states facing nuclear enemies see no need to match their arsenals. But there's another reason to doubt an outbreak of proliferation: It's not as easy as it looks.

  • The continuing Afghanistan failure

    July 9, 2012

    The last two days have been a very bad spell in Afghanistan, with bombings that killed seven U.S. troops along with Afghan soldiers, police and civilians. But then, are there ever good days in Afghanistan?

  • John Roberts and Obamacare

    July 3, 2012

    When Chief Justice John Roberts is being excoriated by conservatives for upholding the Obamacare individual mandate -- just as when he is pilloried by liberals for concluding corporations have a right to engage in campaign spending -- the underlying assumption is that he has acted cravenly or politically. His motives are seen as sinister, and his reasoning attacked as a mere pretext. It's assumed that the meaning of the Constitution is inescapably clear and that no honest, intelligent person could avoid it.

  • Chicago decriminalizes pot

    June 27, 2012

    The Chicago City Council doesn't always act with wisdom and frugality, but it did so today in voting to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Treating it as a crime wastes money, diverts police from truly scary activity and brands many minority youngsters with a police record that will hold them back in life. This new policy is more humane and more responsible.

  • Arizona and the new immigration reality

    June 25, 2012

    Supporters of Arizona's "show your papers" immigration law take comfort that the Supreme Court upheld the part allowing police to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop. The Federation for American Immigration Reform called the decision "an important victory" for those "who want their jobs, tax dollars and security protected from mass illegal immigration." But since the police can't charge or hold illegal immigrants indefinitely, it may not have much effect.

  • Obamacare, myth and reality

    June 20, 2012

    Back when President Obama's health care reform was making its way through Congress, there was a lot of discussion of its various provisions. But since it became law, its actual content has been lost in the partisan warfare. Republican voters are strongly against it. But aside from the individual mandate, it's not clear they really know what it does.

  • Burke, Rahm and pot

    June 18, 2012

    Ald. Ed Burke is not too keen on the mayor's proposal to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, partly because because he is "very concerned with anything that gives kids the idea that this is not a bad thing to do." But Mayor Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have by far the better of the argument. Treating simple pot possession as a crime is a pointless endeavor and a terrible waste of resources.

  • Obama's immigration move

    June 15, 2012

    President Obama's decision to halt the deportation of illegal immigrants who were brought here as children is at best a rough and temporary remedy for a serious problem. I'm not entirely comfortable with the executive branch electing such broad non-enforcement of a valid law. I'd much rather see the law changed.

  • Can Chicago teachers win a strike?

    June 11, 2012

    Members of the Chicago Teachers Union have voted by a nearly 90 percent majority to authorize a strike, which could happen this fall. That doesn't mean it will happen. But teachers may be forgiven for thinking they can get their way by walking. In the past, they always could. This time, I think, is different.

  • Why Obama should withdraw

    September 18, 2011

    When Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in 1984, his slogan was "Morning in America." For Barack Obama, it's more like midnight in a coal mine.

  • If the U.S. Congress became a carmaker

    June 7, 2009

    The Edsel was one of the biggest flops in the history of carmaking. Introduced with great fanfare by Ford in 1958, it had terrible sales and was junked after three years. But if Congress had been running Ford, the Edsel would still be on the market.

  • The wrong answer for illegal immigration

    March 19, 2006

    What would you do to move to another country? Most of us wouldn't do anything, because we don't want to leave. And most of those who profess a desire to emigrate, like Alec Baldwin, eventually conclude they can stand it here after all.

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