Jules Witcover has reported and analyzed the news from Washington and around the country for more than half a century. His column, "Politics ...

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Jules Witcover

Jules Witcover


Ben Bradlee, nonpareil editor

October 22, 2014

WASHINGTON -- The death at 93 of the Washington Post's incomparable editor Benjamin C. Bradlee is both a journalistic and personal loss to all of us who had the opportunity to work for and under his driving and joyous leadership of one of America's truly great newspapers.

  • Old Obama magic proves elusive on campaign trail

    October 22, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- As the final two weeks of the midterm congressional campaign unwind, President Obama is searching for the political magic that put him in the Oval Office six years ago but that seems to have slipped away.

  • Obama unveils his Ebola response

    October 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Harry Truman's old adage, "The buck stops here," has been confirmed, at least politically, in President Obama's highly visible response to the Ebola crisis. His lengthy talk on the subject televised from the Oval Office was clearly devised not only to calm mushrooming public fears but also to reassure fellow Americans he was personally on the case.

  • Bush administration's chemical weapons cover-up reignites old argument

    October 17, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The New York Times report that the George W. Bush administration discovered old chemical bombs and rockets in Iraq and withheld the knowledge "from troops it sent into harm's way" is an echo of the discussion over alleged new weapons of mass destruction that triggered its 2003 invasion of Iraq.

  • Romney stands tall amid weak Republican field for 2016

    October 15, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- An early indication of the paucity of prospective Republican presidential candidates for 2016 is the recent boomlet for Mitt Romney, the loser in 2012. His reputation for defending big business while being tone-deaf to the needs of the middle class undid him two years ago.

  • Troubles all around, Obama's legacy is clouded

    October 12, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- It's often said and written that presidents, to achieve greatness, require great challenges. Washington had the challenge of creating a new nation; Lincoln had the Civil War; FDR faced the Great Depression and World War II. All clearly qualified by that standard and achieved greatness.

  • Catalogue of woes puts Washington in the doldrums

    October 10, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Baseball lore recalls that legendary manager Casey Stengel, when running the hapless 1962 New York Mets, forlornly asked his charges: "Can't anybody here play this game?" It's an appropriate question right now in the nation's capital concerning not only baseball but also football and politics.

  • Another cabinet veteran laments Obama's wartime leadership

    October 8, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Less than a month away from the midterm congressional elections that may determine Barack Obama's chances to rebuild public confidence in himself and his presidency, there seems to be little rallying around him, even within his own Democratic ranks.

  • A timely history lesson for the Secret Service

    October 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Secret Service agents nursing their wounds from the recent disclosures of incompetence in protecting the president should read Carl Sandburg's account of how one of their forebears failed in his assigned task on the fateful night in April 1865 when Abraham Lincoln went to Ford's Theater.

  • Secret Service SNAFU a wake-up call for the White House

    October 3, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The latest disclosures of Secret Service breakdowns in the agency's prime mission, the physical protection of the president, are grim reminders of a most disturbing particularly American malady -- the assassination of the nation's political leaders.

  • Despite Obama's wishful thinking, prospects grim in Middle East

    October 1, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In striving to sell his strategy for taking on the jihadist terror group the Islamic State, President Obama has offered a heavy dose of wishful thinking about the new Iraqi leadership and his coalition of the willing that includes Arab allies.

  • Timing a debate on war-making

    September 26, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Now that President Obama has laid his case before the United Nations for a concerted international war on the emerging Islamic State, if and when should the argument be debated in Congress?

  • UN speech may indicate a tougher Obama

    September 26, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The President Obama many fellow Democrats have been looking for ever since his 2008 election may have shown up this week at the United Nations. His tough and direct call on the rest of the international community to step up to the challenge of global terrorism displayed a spine they have long felt missing in action.

  • Sometimes the gaffe police go too far

    September 24, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- A wit once observed that a bachelor is a man who never makes the same mistake once. That would be good advice for politicians who are prone to repeating ill-chosen words or behavior that tags them forever thereafter as dumb, careless or mean-spirited.

  • Obama's wartime nightmare

    September 21, 2014

    WASHINGTON--Congress has now temporarily bought into what has become President Obama's war against the terrorist Islamic State. Both the House and Senate have voted limited funds to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight, not against their country's dictator, but against this new brutal peril from the region.

  • Obama's promise about combat troops is a rhetorical dodge

    September 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In Barack Obama's determination to preserve his legacy as the president who got America off a permanent war footing after the 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he is relying on transparent semantics.

  • Hillary and the Iowa steak fry

    September 17, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Democrats from around the country, and political chroniclers as well, again flocked to Iowa last weekend for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry, a traditional event for raising cholesterol levels and presidential ambitions.

  • Obama caught in a Catch-22 in Syria

    September 14, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In reluctantly deciding to take the fight against the terrorist Islamic State into Syria, President Obama finds himself caught in a political and military version of "Catch-22."

  • Reality impinges on Obama's Middle East strategy

    September 12, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The strategy President Obama has laid out to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the new Middle East terrorist peril reveals him as a man divided between combating the immediate threat and persevering in his determination get this country of "a perpetual war footing."

  • Obama's future may hinge on response to Islamic State

    September 10, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In his televised speech to the nation Wednesday evening, Barack Obama has a major opportunity to put his wavering presidency back on track by firmly and clearly saying how he intends to deal with the terrorist Islamic State. He must stop talking about containing it and start emphatically talking about and taking the necessary stops to destroy and eradicate it.

  • Is Mitt Romney contemplating another run?

    September 7, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- As the crystal ball on the 2016 Republican presidential nomination remains blurred , two-time loser Mitt Romney appears willing at least to entertain the possibility of trying a third time.

  • Facing threats abroad, Obama shores up party base at home

    September 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The Labor Day weekend just past marked the traditional Democratic pitch to American working stiffs. President Obama made it by asking them to put their collective shoulders to the wheel for the self-styled Party of the People in the November congressional midterm elections, so critical to his hopes for a more cooperative Capitol Hill in his last two White House years.

  • A cautious president, or a careless one?

    September 3, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In the wake of President Obama's surprising comment to reporters that "we don't have a strategy yet" to deal with the surging terrorist threat of the Islamic State threat in Syria and Iraq, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein has observed: "I've learned one thing about this president, and that is he's very cautious. Maybe, in this instance, too cautious."

  • War-weary president at a crossroads

    August 31, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Faced with a renewed Islamic terrorist threat in the Middle East as Russia raises the stakes for war in Ukraine, President Obama finds himself still trying to hold the line on the use of U.S. military manpower.

  • Obama in the lion's den

    August 29, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Addressing the annual American Legion convention in Charlotte earlier this week, President Obama sugar-coated his defense of selective use of military force by reciting what's been done to cope with the Department of Veterans Affairs' failures to deliver promised benefits to returning troops.

  • Obama needs no more 'red lines'

    August 27, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama, in his determination to get American foreign policy off what he has called "a perpetual war footing," must take care now not to box himself in with any more comments about "red lines" that restrict his options.

  • With an ill-timed slap at Obama, Hillary falters

    August 17, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton's tactical retreat in her soft apology and meet-up with President Obama at Martha's Vineyard, after her ill-timed criticism of his "failure" in aiding Syrian refugees, indicates she may not be quite ready to put her best foot forward for the 2016 presidential race.

  • Did Nixon commit treason to win presidency?

    August 15, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In an exhaustive new book, journalist and researcher Ken Hughes makes the case not only that Richard Nixon, as a presidential candidate, committed treason by interfering in peace negotiations in Vietnam, but also that he sought to use the circumstances to enhance his election chances on the eve of the 1968 presidential campaign.

  • A darker cloud falls over Nixon

    August 13, 2014

    WASHINGTON--In the flurry of new books on the Nixon tapes, another allegation worse than Watergate against the late president has been revisited by a researcher at the Miller Center of the University of Virginia, reviving charges of a possible treasonous act by Richard Nixon during the Vietnam war.

  • Obama doctrine put to the test

    August 10, 2014

    WASHINGTON--Even as President Obama continues to insist that there will be no return of American "boots on the ground" in Iraq, stark reality is severely testing what has come to be known as the Obama Doctrine--that the use of U.S. military power has limits defined by America's own national interests.

  • Finally, Nixon admits guilt

    August 8, 2014

    WASHINGTON--On the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation as president, his admission of guilt has finally been made public in a 1983 videotaped interview with him by an old White House aide.

  • Obama making less than he could of a do-nothing Congress

    August 6, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The 113th Congress has just slinked out of town for a five-week summer recess, leaving behind its lowest public approval rating in 25 years, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll. A majority of voters surveyed -- 51 percent -- expressed disgust with their own legislators for their inability to do their job.

  • Senate newbie Cruz stirs more trouble for Boehner in House

    August 2, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- No one could have been more pleased to see the arrival of Congress's five-week summer recess than House Speaker John Boehner. It offers a welcome breathing space in the seemingly endless civil war between his Republican caucus's far-right conservatives and its moderate establishment members.

  • Republicans shocked -- shocked! -- at speculation over Obama impeachment

    August 1, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- House Republicans were rushing out the door for Congress' five-week summer recess Thursday divided for once on how to oppose President Barack Obama: impeach him for failing to "faithfully executive the laws" or just sue him for it?

  • If Hillary doesn't run, why not Joe?

    July 30, 2014

    WASHINGTON --That Hillary Clinton will seek the presidency in 2016 is now widely taken as a given. Certainly she has given every sign of it, short of saying "Yes." But what if she doesn't?

  • The 2016 Republican presidential nomination: Whose turn?

    July 27, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- For more than 60 years with hardly a break, the Republican Party has chosen as its standard-bearer someone who has been able to claim it's his turn. Not since military hero Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio, whose supporters so contended in 1952, has a conspicuous outsider run away with the prize.

  • Obama's relevance hangs on Dem showing in midterms

    July 25, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Congressional midterm elections, the poor cousin to presidential voting in the American political system, will take on a critical role for President Obama in November. The results may well determine whether he will become a premature lame duck two years before his second and last term expires.

  • The Obama doctrine under fire

    July 23, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- A major ramification of the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine is how it challenges and imperils the Obama Doctrine as the president spelled it out in his speech at West Point on May 29.

  • Obama finally lashes out on downed plane

    July 20, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- On the day that saw the double whammy of the downing of a Malaysian Airlines over Ukraine and the Israeli invasion of Gaza, President Obama seemed at first conspicuously unengaged for a man customarily regarded as the leader of the "free world."

  • The Get Obama show goes on

    July 18, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- It's beginning to seem like the longest running off-Broadway show, the Republican effort to end the Obama presidency prematurely. The latest act was staged the other day before the House Rules Committee.

  • Pivoting to foreign policy, Rick Perry strikes two adversaries

    July 15, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama's yearning to become a peacetime president continues to be frustrated by the reality on the ground in the Middle East, and by Republicans' zeal to capitalize on it politically at home.

  • 'Photo op' gaffe reveals Obama's tin ear

    July 13, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama's comment that "I'm not interested in photo ops" about the border crisis during last week's visit to Texas was akin to your neighborhood pup not being interested in chasing squirrels.

  • At last, Cleveland gets another turn in the limelight

    July 11, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- After 80 years, the city of Cleveland, much maligned in lore as "the mistake on the lake," has been selected to host a national political convention in 2016. Famous Ohioans President William McKinley and Mark Hanna, the Karl Rove of his day, might well be turning in their graves.

  • Hillary's money 'problem'

    July 8, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's much-publicized book tour has kicked off with all the ballyhoo of a presidential candidacy now widely expected to occur. But it has already provided fodder for mild speculation that her Democratic nomination and election two years hence may not be a sure thing after all.

  • Obama's Iraq dilemma: Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't

    July 6, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama's decision to send another 200 U.S. troops to Baghdad to secure the American Embassy and the airport there could be called a victory of reality over wishful thinking -- the notion that the Iraq crisis could be resolved without more U.S. boots on the ground.

  • Obama stands firm on executive orders

    July 4, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- This Independence Day weekend is marked not only by patriotic, flag-waving parades and fireworks. It also features a sharp declaration of independence from Congress by a president frustrated by the legislative headlock its Republican members hold on him.

  • Republicans tentatively unfurl the impeachment flag

    July 2, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Some Republicans in Congress, having wasted the 2012 election trying to get rid of President Obama with Obamacare as their bludgeon, are now talking about crippling him in the 2014 midterm cycle by crying impeachment.

  • Howard Baker, the last of the Republican moderates

    June 29, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- At a time when the Republican Party needs a heavy dose of compromise to bring functionality back to government, one of its most admirable models of goodwill and working across the aisle has departed with the death at 88 of Howard Henry Baker Jr. of Tennessee.

  • GOP still needs to fix its minority voter deficit

    June 26, 2014

    WASHINGTON--The alleged "raid" on the Republican senatorial primary in Mississippi, wherein black Democratic voters were said to have crossed over to vote for longtime incumbent Thad Cochran, has outraged his tea-party challengers. It sounds like a version of the old Dixie lament that "those people" should stay with their own kind.

  • Not all media rolled over for Iraq War

    June 25, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- It's usual that an accusation against reporters comes from the political right, whether alleging they're in the tank for President Obama or that they're giving Hillary Clinton a free ride on the Benghazi terrorist attacks. But now a charge comes from the political left, passed on by a professional news kibitzer, Media Matters for America.

  • A black hole in American history

    June 20, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- When historians get around to appraising the start of the new century, what will they say about it? If circumstances continue as they have been, the period may well be deemed a deep black hole in the political life of this country.

  • Obama's foreign policy woes lead to sagging approval rating

    June 20, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- As critics debate whether President Obama is tough enough to lead America at war, he boosted his stock by ordering the capture of the alleged mastermind of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Yet, at the same time, he appears to fiddle while Iraq burns.

  • Laurel and Hardy in the Oval Office

    June 18, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- As Oliver Hardy used to tell Stan Laurel is those old black-and-white movie comedies, "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!"

  • The heavy price of our folly in Iraq

    June 15, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The can of worms that George W. Bush cracked open in Iraq in 2003, which Barack Obama tried to close and essentially gave up on by the end of 2011, is now spilling over into a major Middle East catastrophe.

  • Few tears are shed for Eric Cantor

    June 12, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The stunning primary loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the first ever suffered by any congressional leader of either party, may well reflect his Virginia constituents' souring toward his personal hubris more than any cosmic policy issue.

  • With candid memoir, Hillary clears the ground for candidacy

    June 11, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Asking whether Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016 is getting to be like asking whether the pope is Catholic. She continues to insist she hasn't decided, but if you walk and quack like a duck, you must be one.

  • Playing the executive card

    June 8, 2014

    WASHINGTON--As President Obama contemplates November's congressional elections, the odds are they may produce Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. That would likely mean more of the same legislative frustration that has met his presidency to date for the rest of his presidency.

  • Bete noire McCain keeps Obama's feet to the fire

    June 6, 2014

    WASHINGTON--Sen. John McCain, whose failed challenge to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election still rankles fellow Republicans, is back in harness as his party's chief Obama scold and bête noire.

  • Jules Witcover: On presidential firings

    June 4, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama's firing of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, transparently dressed up as a resignation under congressional pressure, seemed somehow out of character for a chief executive known for patience and dislike of wielding the knife.

  • Obama defends his tenacious moderation

    June 1, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama, in his West Point commencement address the other day, went to unusual lengths to explain and defend a foreign policy that critics have argued is entirely too cautious in addressing America's challenges abroad.

  • Obama outlines the limits of foreign intervention

    May 30, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In keeping with his determination to get America off "a perpetual wartime footing" after more than a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama's commencement address at West Point was a sobering preview of what lies ahead for the graduates.

  • On the 9/11 memorial and museum

    May 28, 2014

    NEW YORK -- The new memorial and museum commemorating the worst attack on the continental United States in history stands starkly as remembrance of that morning in lower Manhattan nearly 13 years ago when terrorism rained down on the Twin Towers from those two hijacked jetliners.

  • VA scandal offer Obama's critics yet more ammunition

    May 25, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The developing furor over waiting times for military veterans needing critical care for war wounds and trauma is a particular political dilemma for President Obama. It comes in the midst of his central effort to shift the nation's agenda of fighting wars away from what he calls a "perpetual wartime footing."

  • Democrats struggle to get voters interested in midterm elections

    May 23, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In terms of public interest in elections, the voting for members of Congress in off-years, when no presidential candidates are on the ballot, is historically low. The stakes generally seem not very great, and familiarity breeds success for incumbents, who are re-elected at a rate of about 90 percent.

  • Kerry warns of excessive isolationism

    May 21, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- As secretary of state, John Kerry has left no doubt that he is ready, willing and able to go anywhere and do anything to make headway in his unenviable pursuit of progress in international stalemates.

  • Turmoil, and intimations of gender bias, at the Gray Lady

    May 18, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The print journalism world has been shaken by the firing in no uncertain terms of Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of the New York Times. The reaction has created as much buzz within the newspaper craft as the resignation little more than a year ago of Pope Benedict XVI.

  • Rove stirs the pot with Hillary inuendo

    May 16, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton hasn't even thrown her hat into the 2016 presidential ring yet, but Republican tremors over the very thought have already unleashed red flares about her age and health that question her qualifications for the office.

  • Midterm elections may seal fate of Obama's legacy

    May 14, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Every two-term president since the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951 has faced being a lame-duck upon his re-election. Barack Obama clearly is no exception. With approximately 28 months left in his presidency, the clock is running out as he seeks to achieve a favorable legacy.

  • Beating the dead horse called Benghazi

    May 11, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- After endlessly trying to repeal and replace "Obamacare," the GOP has come up empty-handed. The health-care law appears to be gaining more public acceptance. So congressional Republicans are doing what they can to revive another old hobby horse -- Benghazi.

  • Jules Witcover: Reading the early primary leaves

    May 9, 2014

    Is the Grand Old Party coming to its senses? The question arises from the latest Republican congressional primary elections, in which all party establishment incumbents were renominated over tea party favorites promising to move the GOP even farther to the right.

  • Black athletes are not charity cases

    May 6, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The outrageously bigoted remarks attributed to the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team mock the positive role black athletes have played in professional sports, even as those sports have served as an exit ramp from poverty.

  • Economy is looking up, but politics are stuck in neutral

    May 4, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- On the surface, the news that the nation's unemployment rate dropped last month from 6.7 to 6.3 percent would seem to be cause to conclude that the American economy is finally recovering from the Great Recession of 2008. Instead, the cautionary flags continue to fly.

  • For D.C. insiders, name of the game is getting the 'get'

    May 2, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In the highly competitive news business in this ultra-political town, a constant battle goes on among reporters to obtain interviews with the most knowledgeable governmental insiders from the White House to Congress. This is particularly so among television anchors vying to bag superstars for their shows.

  • Obama defends his foreign policy doctrine

    April 29, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Why President Obama was off in the Asian Pacific while Russia was stirring up trouble in eastern Ukraine has caused critics to question his foreign policy priorities, not to mention his resolve. At one point he was asked what was "the guiding principle" of the Obama Doctrine.

  • Dangerous mischief-making in Ukraine

    April 9, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The report that protesters have declared two eastern Ukraine cities to be independent republics questions President Obama's assurance that there is no "military solution" to the crisis that began with Russian President Vladmir Putin's land grab of Crimea.

  • Court ruling may boost influence of political parties

    April 4, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Like an optimist looking through a pile of manure in hope of finding a pony, if one examines the latest Supreme Court decision on campaign finance law, one positive outcome comes into view: It will give a helping hand to our struggling two-party system.

  • Court opens door wider to buying of public office

    April 4, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Forty years ago, Congress enacted sweeping limits on political campaign spending in the wake of a shocking disclosure that one man -- Chicago insurance executive W. Clement Stone -- had given more than $3 million for the 1972 reelection of President Richard M. Nixon.

  • The Jeb Bush boomlet

    April 2, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Inevitably, considering the absence of a clear Republican frontrunner for the 2016 presidential election, the name of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush of the family dynasty has been rushed to the fore. On his record in office and his soft-spoken personal appeal, he would seem a natural to go to the head of a list of only moderately impressive wannabes.

  • The limits of power in the Nuclear Age

    March 30, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Two current news stories underscore how the world of power politics has changed since the darkest days of the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear Armageddon hung over the globe.

  • Obama rules out military solution on Ukraine

    March 28, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- During the Cold War, the Western allies kept relative peace by committing to intervene militarily against overt violations of the national borders set at the end of World War II. In the current crisis in Ukraine, President Obama's straightforward acknowledgment that there is no "military solution" will no doubt come as an affront to hard-liners at home.

  • Obama's measured response to Russia is the right one

    March 25, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Russian President Vladimir Putin's land grab of Crimea, with more threatened to come, has Republican neoconservatives eagerly lining up to denounce President Obama as a deplorably weak leader who settled for throwing snowballs at Putin rather than military muscle.

  • Bob Strauss, a remarkable Democrat

    March 23, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Former Democratic National Chairman Robert S. Strauss, who passed away Wednesday at a robustly lived 95, was a happy political warrior whose talent and energies took him far afield from his chosen playground, even to Moscow where he served as the first American ambassador after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

  • Jules Witcover: A footnote in presidential history

    March 21, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In reporting the death at 86 the other day of Howard "Bo" Callaway, a former Secretary of the Army in the Nixon and Ford administrations, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called him "the first superstar" of the Georgia Republican Party. In 1966, he was the first Republican to run for governor since Reconstruction days.

  • The year of the Russians

    March 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- After a quarter of a century of relative calm since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians are coming again. On the heels of their successful Winter Olympics in Sochi, in which they won the medals competition, the regime of President Vladimir Putin has swiftly pivoted to much more serious gamesmanship in neighboring Ukraine.

  • Hitler analogy overstates situation in Ukraine

    March 16, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In American domestic politics, messing with Social Security is known as "the third rail," referring to the power source for trains that is fatal to the touch. In foreign policy discussions, invoking the name of Adolf Hitler promises the same lethal result.

  • Are Democrats looking beyond Obama?

    March 14, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Democratic strategists were particularly dismayed at the loss of their congressional candidate, Alex Sink, in Tuesday's special election in Florida's 13th congressional district, fearing it might be seen as foretelling doom for the Obama presidency, with nearly three years still to run.

  • Remembering Joe McGinniss, chronicler of presidential image making

    March 12, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In the history of presidential campaign books, Theodore H. White's "The Making of the President" series in the 1960s set the standard for inside-the- campaign books to follow. He combined unique access and a sweeping view of the process to help voters judge the candidates and understand the quadrennial exercise as well.

  • Christie back in form, but Trafficgate cloud lingers

    March 9, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Gov. Chris Christie, beleaguered back in New Jersey and in the national media over the scandal of contrived traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge, unveiled his strategy for putting his 2016 presidential aspirations back on track the other day before the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

  • What makes Jerry run?

    March 7, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- At age 75, Gov. Jerry Brown, California's onetime political wunderkind, has just announced his candidacy for a fourth term. After three long-ago failed presidential bids, it's not that he's given up the notion of someday occupying the White House. It's just that he's a realist and has plenty he still wants to accomplish right where he is in the Golden State.

  • Obama's cool-headedness is diplomacy, not appeasement

    March 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- To hear some American hawks talk about President Obama's reaction to the Russian move into Crimea, you'd think he's grabbed Neville Chamberlain's umbrella of appeasement and rushed off to Munich.

  • A more realistic president?

    March 4, 2014

    WASHINGTON--As President Obama embarks on his sixth year in the Oval Office, he does so with a greater reality of the political equation he faces, as clearly demonstrated the other night in his State of the Union address.

  • Republicans eye Ohio

    March 2, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- While other Republicans zero in on November's midterm congressional elections in the hope of derailing the Obama presidency, the GOP National Committee is busy making plans for its 2016 national convention. Seven cities are finalists to host it, including three in Ohio -- Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. The others are Denver, Dallas, Kansas City and Las Vegas.

  • Congressional old guard retires, leaving calcified partisanship in place

    February 27, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The trend of abandoning Congress continues as its longest-serving member, Democratic Rep. John Dingell Jr. of Michigan, former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has announced he will retire. He is going out with a bang, remarking that he finds "serving in the House to be obnoxious" given its members' inability to work across party lines.

  • Jules Witcover: Biden unfairly denigrated in presidential contention

    February 26, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In the already tiresome guessing game of whether or not Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016, there's a wide assumption among Democrats that the nomination is hers for the asking. One apparent rationale is that the party has no one else to turn to who has comparable national recognition or appeal.

  • U.S. never reaped bonus of post-Cold War world

    February 23, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Many American viewers of the Olympic Games in Sochi were no doubt disappointed that the Russian and U.S. hockey teams meet in a rematch of their historical 1980 clash for the gold medal. That huge upset sent roars of "USA! USA!" across what was then the Cold War world, as if it were the triumph of freedom itself.

  • Wealth inequality contributes to enduring 'class warfare' in politics

    February 21, 2014

    WASHINGTON--Despite the comforting myth that we're all in this together, disagreement over what constitutes a fair share in the nation's economic pie continues to flourish in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

  • Needed: Another GOP declaration of conscience

    February 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The political equivalent of schoolyard bullying seems back in vogue to a degree seldom seen since the days of the late Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, who used bare-knuckle intimidation to cow a whole country into viral anti-communism in the 1950s.

  • A less than loving Valentine's Day in Washington

    February 16, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- On the feast day of St. Valentine in the Anglican Church and various other religious jurisdictions around the globe, love may have been in the air, but not here in the Nation's capital.

  • Is sanity creeping into the GOP leadership?

    February 14, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Is it possible that the adults in Congress are finally taking over?

  • Obama's crowning legislative achievement is now his albatross

    February 12, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's latest delay in fully implementing the employer mandate in its embattled health-care insurance law confirms the harsh fact that it remains a huge political albatross hanging around the president's neck.

  • The troubling legacy of Obamacare

    February 9, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Like Watergate before it, Obamacare has become the gift that keeps on giving -- to partisan opponents determined to bring down an American president.

  • Americans are shunning the 'evil weed' (and embracing another)

    February 7, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Americans' addiction to harmful drugs is in the news again in a big way. The nation's largest cigarette-selling pharmacy firm, CVS Caremark, has decided to stop peddling them at its 7,600 stores. Larry J. Merlo, its chief executive, explained that "cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered."

  • High expectations dashed, on the gridiron and in Washington

    February 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The peril of high expectations, in sports as in politics, was emphatically driven home Sunday to millions who watched the Denver Broncos' and Payton Manning's performance in the Super Bowl. The premature anointment of Manning as the greatest quarterback of all time went a-glimmering as he and his teammates were humiliated by the Seattle Seahawks in a 43-8 pasting.

  • A more realistic president?

    February 2, 2014

    WASHINGTON--As President Obama embarks on his sixth year in the Oval Office, he does so with a greater reality of the political equation he faces, as clearly demonstrated the other night in his State of the Union address.

  • Obama's unheralded goal: Getting foreign policy off combat track

    January 31, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The most poignant moment in President Obama's fifth State of the Union address came near the end, when he introduced the Army Ranger severely wounded in Afghanistan sitting in the House gallery, to thundering and heartfelt applause from the standing members of Congress below.

  • Chris Christie: Still in your face

    January 29, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plays the victim in the George Washington Bridge scandal, betrayed as he puts it by underlings in his office, much political crepe is being draped around his broad shoulders. But it doesn't necessarily have to be a shroud over his national ambitions.

  • The curse of the two-term limit

    January 26, 2014

    WASHINGTON--As Barack Obama struggles to gain political traction as a lame-duck president in his remaining three years in office, the two-term limit on service in the Oval Office has encouraged a premature public focus on the identity of his successor in 2017.

  • Nuclear safety issue lingers

    January 24, 2014

    WASHIINGTON--Shades of Cold War anxiety were rekindled recently by reports that Air Force investigations were underway into alleged drug use, as well as cheating on preparedness tests, among nuclear missile launch officers working in the nation's pressure-cooker underground bunkers.

  • Gates reflections flawed on America's last 40 years of war

    January 21, 2014

    WASHINGTON--Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in discussing his new book, has had a lot negative to say about how President Obama and his national security team operated during his own involvement with them. But after having served under several other presidents of both parties, he made another more sweeping observation that warrants sober reflection.

  • Advice to candidates: Don't underestimate New Jersey

    January 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- It's called the Garden State and in earlier days was known for the many vegetable farms in its rural central and southern counties. But New Jersey's reputation beyond its borders more often casts it now as a rough-edged place where the natives "tawk" funny and say they come from "Joisey," (except, of course, around Princeton).

  • Anticipating tough midterm elections, Obama mounts bully pulpit

    January 17, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Nine months before the midterm congressional elections that could make or break the final push for President Obama's legacy, he is revving up a broader outreach effort in the hope of reviving the support and spirit that brought him two terms in the Oval Office.

  • Robert Gates, the silent fox in the chicken coop

    January 15, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- One of the best and enduring aspects of presidential cabinets has been the willingness of many chief executives to appoint at least one member from the opposition party. The practice demonstrates bipartisanship and also gives the president access to views that may not always be offered by loyalist appointees.

  • In Christie's denial, shades of Tricky Dick

    January 12, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Not since Richard Nixon assured an audience of newspaper editors in 1973 that "I am not a crook" has a major political figure so conspicuously defended his character as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has done in declaring, "I am not a bully."

  • Gates' complaints about Biden are wide of the mark

    January 9, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The new tell-all memoir of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the Obama carryover from the George W. Bush administration, breaks with the traditional code of cabinet members. It dictates that they keep their reservations on presidential decisions to themselves at the time and then take them to the grave.

  • Obama administration firm: No boots on the ground in Iraq

    January 8, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The U.S.-financed and trained Iraqi army of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has had to scramble to regain control over of the once-liberated Anbar province against the latest incarnation of the al-Qaida terrorist menace. Not surprisingly, the call has gone out from the Maliki regime for Uncle Sam to come running to the rescue again.

  • Obama's relevance hinges on unifying party behind him

    January 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- As President Obama faces the new year presumably refreshed by his Hawaii vacation, he also faces a growing impression, fanned to be sure by his Republican critics, that he somehow has become irrelevant, especially in the wake of the Obamacare rollout fiasco.

  • As Democratic left revives, will Hillary join its ranks?

    January 2, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Much is being made of former President Bill Clinton's swearing-in of New York's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at their side at City Hall. The cameo apparently sought to declare Democratic harmony in Gotham, that supposed bastion of liberalism.

  • After a fruitless year in Washington, New Year's blues ahead

    January 1, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- As President Obama greets the new year amid the balmy breezes of Hawaii, he must brace himself for the stiff winds that await him back here in the nation's dysfunctional capital.

  • A year consumed by Obamacare fight, with more to come

    December 29, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- As the end of 2013 approaches, seldom has a domestic issue so dominated the political center stage as Obamacare did this year. The president's health-care insurance law has ridden a policy roller-coaster and will still have a huge question mark hanging over it in 2014.

  • Snowden declares victory, and Obama might concede

    December 26, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In an interview in Moscow, former National Security Agency surveillance operative Edward Snowden has claimed he's "already won" in his mission to throw the NSA on the defensive over its sky's-the-limit sweep of Americans' phone conversations.

  • After horrible year, Obama's Christmas break couldn't come soon enough

    December 25, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- As President Obama tries to enjoy his Christmas vacation in Hawaii (the land of his birth, as recognized by most Americans except the diehard fringe still casting him as a foreigner), he has a lot to reflect on.

  • Americans show more signs of war fatigue

    December 22, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- As public support for sweeping security surveillance of Americans' phone traffic to frustrate terrorism at home appears to be coming unglued, so has their patience with the longest war in U.S history, in far-off and incomprehensible Afghanistan.

  • Jules Witcover: Hillary and the high wire

    December 19, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In Barbara Walters' latest ABC News interview with Hillary Clinton, the former first lady and secretary of state barely moved the needle in the will-she-won't-she guessing game over seeking the presidency in 2016. She said she will do so "sometime next year," which will allow her plenty of time to hit the ground running, if indeed she is not already doing so.

  • Iowa Poll on 2016 presidential race an occasion for fantasy politics

    December 17, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Three years before the next presidential election, Republican also-rans are making noises about trying again. The most conspicuous is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 but quickly faded and pivoted to his own television show to lick his wounds and contemplate his future.

  • Bob Dole still doling out good advice

    December 15, 2013

    WASHINGTON--The famous Douglas MacArthur line that "old soldiers never die, they just fade away" certainly doesn't apply, not yet anyway, to World War II combat hero and later Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole.

  • Obama reaping a long-awaited backbone bonus

    December 13, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- It may have been a long time coming, but President Obama's decision to stand up to the obstructionists in Congress that led to the 16-day government shutdown in October has begun to pay off.

  • Mandela and Obama: Two paths to power

    December 8, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Seldom does the death of a foreign leader touch the hearts and conscience of Americans as did the passing at age 95 of Nelson Mandela, who suffered, struggled and eventually led South Africa out of the scourge of racial apartheid and became, almost miraculously, its president.

  • Is Obama equipped to tackle income inequality?

    December 6, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Even as President Obama continued to cheerlead for his beleaguered health-care insurance law, he pivoted sharply the other day to a broader agenda he says will govern the remaining three years of his presidency: combating income inequality.

  • Obama's fate and legacy

    December 4, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- When American presidents leave office, they hope they will have left behind a legacy of good works earning history's good judgment. Some, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and FDR, achieve that distinction, but most others fall short in one way or another.

  • Kibitzers seek to mess with the presidential debates

    December 1, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- One of the best features of our quadrennial presidential campaigns is the series of debates between the major party nominees, plus another between their running mates. Voters tune in the by millions and get a better look at them than they might at any number of staged political events, whether run by the parties or by news-media sponsors.

  • Obama's Thanksgiving turkey

    November 29, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Barely a year after President Obama's re-election, he sat down for his Thanksgiving dinner with some policy achievements to be thankful for, but with the bone of one major political turkey sticking in his throat.

  • The second act of John Kerry

    November 27, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- General Douglas MacArthur, in being relieved of his command by President Harry Truman in the Korean War, famously declared that "old soldiers never die, they just fade away." The last part of that has most often applied as well to defeated presidential nominees.

  • Senate Democrats go nuclear to preserve majority rule

    November 24, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The old axiom, be careful what you wish for because you may get it, is back in play here with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's successful change in Senate rules dealing with that old albatross, the filibuster.

  • Jules Witcover: Remembering the national tragedy 50 years ago

    November 21, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Any American old enough remember 50 years ago is likely to recall just how and where he or she heard of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the sorrowful and dramatic days following November 22, 1963, culminating in his burial on that Arlington Cemetery hillside overlooking the Lincoln Memorial.

  • The fateful politics of November 22, 1963

    November 20, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Among the greatest ironies of President John F. Kennedy's fateful visit to Texas in late November 1963 was that it was a political mission to resolve a rift among Texas Democrats looking toward his own re-election bid in 1964.

  • His cool gone, Obama needs to show competence

    November 17, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Until recently, one thing about Barack Obama that voters could count on was his coolness -- that through all tribulation he would remain unflappable and steadfast. He was notably able to retain his composure in the face of unremitting partisan opposition. His self-confidence and optimism always kept him on course.

  • Rx for Obama's recovery: First, do no harm

    November 15, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The instruction to medical practitioners generally ascribed to the Hippocratic Oath -- above all, do no harm to the patient -- obviously applies to President Obama in the enrollment fiasco bedeviling his health-care insurance law.

  • Remembering wartime unity, national purpose, now long gone

    November 13, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Another Veterans Day has come and gone, celebrating the millions of Americans who served in the so-called War to End All Wars and all the wars since.

  • Obama's broken promise, weak apology

    November 10, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama's sort-of apology for saying, "If you like your heath care plan, you can keep it," is in keeping with the tradition of Oval Office occupants trying to cover their posteriors when they are suddenly exposed.

  • Do gubernatorial elections point to midcourse correction for GOP?

    November 8, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Because New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states that choose their governors in the first year after a presidential election, much significance -- perhaps too much -- is ascribed to the results of this week's elections.

  • Of presidential gaffes and calamities

    November 6, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Every American president has to weather occasional political gaffes. Whether their own or those committed by associates, they cause temporary embarrassment or pain but are ultimately survivable. Loose lips may sink ships, as was often said in warning during World War II, but they're seldom fatal in the normal course of governing.

  • Jules Witcover: On dumping vice presidents

    November 3, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- A new post-mortem account of the 2012 presidential campaign holds that President Obama's strategists toyed with, but rejected, the notion of dropping Vice President Joe Biden from the Democratic ticket and replacing him with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

  • Obama, and Obamacare, falter under divided government

    November 1, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- As President Obama struggles to defend his health-care insurance law amid a serious enrollment snarl, the reality of divided government challenges the view that such a split in authority and responsibility is a good thing.

  • Jules Witcover: Deniability becoming a problem for Obama

    October 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Probably not since Claude Rains as Police Capt. Louis Renault in "Casablanca" claimed he was "shocked, shocked" to learn gambling was going on in Rick's Café has there been a more celebrated a case of deniability than the defense of President Obama over U.S. spying on foreign leaders.

  • Obamacare: Milestone or a millstone for the president?

    October 27, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Just as the Nixon White House tapes have been for years "the gift that keeps on giving" for the Democrats, Obamacare seems destined to be a recurring basis for political mischief by the Republicans.

  • GOP fights on against Obamacare, at its peril

    October 25, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In the wake of the public uproar over the government shutdown, Democratic hopes for recapturing control of the House of Representatives next year have risen sharply. The party need to pick up 17 seats, and the main question is whether the current furor against the Republicans will remain until the midterm elections of November 2014.

  • Witcover: Obamacare incompetence puts president's legacy in peril

    October 23, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In some important ways, the last month or so has seen some impressive advances for President Obama. Under ordinary circumstances, his success so far at staring down Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad over chemical weapons and then his rebuff of the House Republicans' demand to defund his health-care insurance law would be recognized as political triumphs.

  • Witcover: What McCarthyism can teach us about Cruzism

    October 20, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In the wake of President Obama's emphatic victory over the ultraconservatives determined to kill his Affordable Care Act, he has as much interest as moderate Republicans do in seeing these ideological zealots cut down to size.

  • Jules Witcover: Default averted, a fresh start for Obama

    October 18, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- While the tea party faction of the Republican Party licks its wounds and strains to put a positive spin on its abysmal failure to defund Obamacare, President Obama emerges with a stiffened spine for the budget and debt limit battles ahead.

  • Pursuit of Obamacare repeal mirage led GOP astray

    October 16, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- As some in Congress have groped for a way to avert economic Armaggedon, House Republicans have continued to chase their mirage -- the repeal or defunding of "Obamacare" -- at the expense of the nation's much more serious problems.

  • Seeking a way out of budget showdown, with honor intact

    October 13, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Now that both sides in the Great Shutdown Fiasco seem to be inching their way toward an exit strategy, the central concern appears to be how to arrive at it with the least political damage to each of them.

  • GOP retreats on Obamacare

    October 11, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The political peril of letting perceived public-opinion polling drive policy has now been clearly demonstrated in the failure of the Republican campaign to repeal, replace or defund President Obama's health care insurance law.

  • Why not a secret budget deal?

    October 9, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- As much of this capital city warns of approaching Armageddon if the current government shutdown continues, it may be instructive to recall how a more perilous fate was encountered 41 years ago, and how it was averted.

  • The slick salesman from Teheran

    October 8, 2013

    A man "may smile, and smile, and be a villain," to quote a play of some renown called "The Tragedy of Hamlet" (Act I, Scene V). This suave new "moderate" president of Iran smiles and smiles, too. Experienced and worldly diplomat that he is, His Excellency Hassan Rouhani dispenses ever more rhetorical softsoap, the kind guaranteed to ease and smooth, all the while winning time. And time is the one invaluable, irreplaceable commodity in that other great tragedy, the one called Realpolitik. Or sometimes The Great Game of Nations. And his excellency's skill at it is undeniable, for he's played this game before. Expertly.

  • Despite myopic blame game, one party can act to break congressional deadlock

    October 6, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The current row over who's to blame for the latest government showdown brings to mind the story of the two men arguing on a street corner whether the world is round or flat. They agree to ask an amiable passer-by to settle the matter.

  • Despite myopic blame game, one party can act to get nation out of congressional deadlock

    October 6, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The current row over who's to blame for the latest government showdown brings to mind the story of the two men arguing on a street corner whether the world is round or flat. They agree to ask an amiable passer-by to settle the matter.

  • A real referendum on Obamacare

    October 4, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- A year and a month from now, in the November 2014 congressional elections, American voters will have their next opportunity to cast a real vote for or against President Obama's beleaguered health care law.

  • Change comes to Washington

    October 2, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- When Barack Obama was seeking the presidency in 2008, he pledged to change the way Washington works. Well, it has changed all right, but he has not been the architect.

  • Do we need to maintain a dole for former presidents?

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In this era of huge federal debt and fiscal dysfunction, it's less than heartening to learn from the Congressional Research Service that the nation's four living former chief executives got a total of $3.7 million in pensions and operating expenses last year from Uncle Sam, aka the American taxpayer.

  • Why annihilate the GOP?

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Still reeling from the Republican defeat in the 2012 presidential election, House Speaker John Boehner warned in a Ripon Society speech the other day that the re-elected Obama administration is now out to kill off their party.

  • Holding the national security course

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama's latest changes in his top national security team seem more a shift to a stronger emphasis on human rights than a break with his long-range determination to keep the United States out of nation-building adventurism.

  • Hagel runs the Senate gauntlet

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON--Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, nominated to be President Obama's secretary of defense, arrived at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee knowing what to expect. His critics, conservative fellow Republicans poised to extract their pound of flesh, did not disappoint.

  • A Congress divided

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The Senate provided the country a rare and modest glimpse of bipartisanship in its 68-32 passage of the comprehensive immigration reform bill laboriously accomplished by the Gang of Eight -- four Democrats and four Republicans. But overcoming the rigid and obstructionist partisanship of the House Republicans will be another matter.

  • Gun madness again

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- While President Obama focuses on pulling a rabbit out of a hat in his zigzag route toward chemical-weapons disarmament in Syria, the challenge of disarming "ordinary" weapons of human destruction at home continues to be brushed aside.

  • One more Bush?

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Amid the wreckage of the Mitt Romney presidential debacle and the Republican scramble to find a new savior, now comes ... yet another Bush!

  • Should we continue to be the indispensable nation?

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In Hillary Clinton's farewell remarks in February on stepping down as President Obama's secretary of state, she echoed one of her predecessors, Madeleine Albright, declaring America to be "the indispensable nation."

  • Obama's limited war on guns

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- As a consensus has slowly built that Congress will at best settle for half a loaf on tough new gun-control legislation, President Obama continues to do a version of a Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope dance on the issue.

  • A partisan remembrance

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- A striking contrast between the 1963 March on Washington and Wednesday's 50th anniversary celebration of it, and of Martin Luther King's historic "I have a dream" speech, was the visible unity and nonpartisanship of the first and the scarcity of both in the second.

  • Taking Biden seriously

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- As the second Obama term gets underway, much is being said and written about the president finally emerging as a tougher, stronger Democrat in the liberal mold of past party greats. His second inaugural address pressed Republicans in Congress to accept a broader, more aggressive package of social programs and reforms than he embraced in his first term.

  • Targeting Hillary

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's swan song before the Senate and House committees on foreign affairs was in a sense a prelude to any future bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. It gave Republicans a last chance to cast her as an irresponsible guardian of American security in the Benghazi terrorist attack while she held the reins at the State Department.

  • Bringing California back

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The state governor who once was America's youngest showed up at the National Governors Association meeting here this week as its oldest. Jerry Brown, who first served at age 38 as California's chief executive (1976-83), returned at age 74 in the third year of his third term (2011-2015), arguably going stronger than ever.

  • Twitter, the scourge of campaigns

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Some 45 years and 12 presidential elections ago, a young campaign insider named Joe McGinnis wrote a tell-all book called "The Selling of the President 1968." It peeled away the most conniving calculations that helped put Richard Nixon in the Oval Office, and told much about Nixon himself.

  • On ending perpetual war

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama's speech declaring that the United States is not committed to "perpetual war" signals no swift end to America's fight against terrorism. But it does lay out his redirection from the previous open-ended Bush policy that went beyond self-defense to nation-building in the Middle East and elsewhere.

  • Bye-bye, Bachmann

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- If a twig falls in the forest, does it make a sound? In the case of Republican Congresswoman and tea party champion Michele Bachmann, the answer is as loud as possible. Her decision not to seek a fifth term in her House seat from Minnesota was newsworthy only in the sense that she had sold herself for so long as indomitable in her pursuit of political notoriety.

  • Anthony Lewis: A voice is lost

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- My generation of newspapermen lost one of its most lucid, influential and admirable voices the other day with the passing at 85 of retired New York Times columnist and Supreme Court analyst Anthony Lewis.

  • From crisis to crisis, little relief for Obama

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Earlier this month, this country seemed on the brink of launching missile attacks to punish the Syrian government for using chemical weapons against its own people. With that crisis averted, or at least postponed by diplomacy, we've moved on to the internal threat of our own government being shut down.

  • Obama and un-relevance

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Is the United Nations still relevant? On Tuesday, President Obama lectured the world organization on living up to its promise to settle disputes through collective action, at a time when its credibility remains in doubt.

  • Self-immolation on Capitol Hill

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON--The political version of setting oneself on fire has been playing out in Congress these last days by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and the merry band of House Republicans willing to set a torch to the nation's fiscal obligations.

  • Benghazi hearing give GOP another chance to target Hillary

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hoped she could segue quietly into private life as she pondered a presidential bid in 2016, that fantasy has been abruptly harpooned in the resurrection of the political squabble over the terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.

  • The presidential mouthpiece

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In the wake of the ouster of elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi by the country's military leaders, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has given assembled reporters the benefit of his position on the matter.

  • The dilution of journalism

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Viewers of the television political talk shows may have noticed a phenomenon in the afterbirth of the last presidential election. High-powered consultants from both campaigns have invaded the studios as panelists, chewing over the political events of the day beside career reporters and analysts who had recently been covering them.

  • Chuck Hagel survives

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- After all the thunder and lightning signifying nothing but more Republican obstructionism, former Sen. Chuck Hagel has taken over at the Pentagon, vowing a realistic approach to America's military role in the world.

  • Obamacare threatens to become election issue again

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The political football of health care insurance, supposedly taken off the playing field in 2012 by the Supreme Court decision declaring the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act constitutional, is being kicked around again.

  • A stain on the Democratic brand

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- One consequence of presidential nominee Mitt Romney's loss last November was an internal autopsy on the reputation of the Republican Party itself. Questions were raised whether its "brand" had been seriously damaged as excessively conservative and hostile to middle-class America.

  • Reinventing Watergate

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Who would have thought after all these years that the Republicans would turn to Richard Nixon for political advantage?

  • Colorblind justice?

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The acquittal of armed community watchdog George Zimmerman, a white man charged with second-degree murder in his shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen-age boy, raises more questions than answers about our system of justice.

  • Obama got ahead of himself with 'red line' talk on Syria

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Theodore Roosevelt famously advised that America should "speak softly and carry a big stick." President Obama, in his approach to the civil war mayhem in Syria, has got it about half right.

  • Romney's surprising post-mortem

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- After three months of licking the wounds of his defeat, Mitt Romney surfaced Sunday on Fox News with a somewhat unexpected rationale for his disappointing election outcome. What cost him the White House, he seemed to say, was what he loved to call and still calls "Obamacare."

  • Their Nixon

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Political junkies the other night were treated (if that's the proper word for it) to a television rerun of the Richard Nixon era, a chance to wallow in Watergate as of old, through often-grainy home movies of three of its star participants.

  • More Big Brother snooping

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The revelation that the federal government has spied on millions of supposedly private phone and Internet communications makes President Obama's headache over the IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking tax exemptions seem a passing migraine.

  • Benghazi yet again

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The debate over the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that briefly enlivened the 2012 presidential campaign will be revived today (Wednesday) in a hearing before a House committee exploring allegations that the Obama administration was derelict in failing to respond.

  • Another do-nothing Congress

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama's second term is already beleaguered by the same barrier that stymied his first four years -- a Congress that seems unable or unwilling to get its most serious business done. He looks longingly if not overly optimistically toward the 2014 congressional elections to bring him a Democratic majority on Capitol Hill that may be a pipedream.

  • Washington gets its badly needed fix

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Karl Marx is credited with saying that religion is "the opium of the people." But here in the nation's capital, baseball is the drug of choice that rescues political junkies from the unpleasant realities around them.

  • Fiddling while Rome burns

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Here are some of the run-ups to the current fiscal crisis threatening to rip holes in the fabric of American life and security as we know it:

  • America's veteran

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- This year's observation of Memorial Day brought out the usual heartfelt remembrances of the nation's military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. At the same time, it spotlighted those, now elderly, who fought and have survived.

  • Honoring the 43rd president

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- To nobody's surprise, all four living former presidents were on their best behavior the other day at the dedication of the library and museum named for the latest of them, George W. Bush, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

  • The resilient Jerry Brown

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- It's said in politics that timing is everything, that success depends on picking the right time to make one's move. When Barack Obama decided in early 2007 to launch a presidential bid as a freshman U.S. senator at age 45, the naysayers wondered why he was in such a hurry. He proved them wrong.

  • Obama's revealing reflections

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Probing questions at presidential news conferences sometimes have a way of getting their principals to reflect on their state of mind -- and at the same time the state their presidency, particularly when things aren't going well.

  • Snowden out in the cold

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- During the long Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union, when a spy from either side defected he was said to be "coming in from the cold." In the evolving case of Edward Snowden, the self-described whistleblower on National Security Agency secrets, he seems to be having an uncommonly difficult time accomplishing it.

  • The nuclear option again

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- We're decades past the Cold War years when the two leading nuclear powers of the day, the United States and the Soviet Union, talked freely about their MAD strategies, which stood for Mutual Assured Destruction in any nuclear-weapons exchange.

  • Obama's second coming

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The first two weeks of the second Obama administration have signaled that a more assertive president now sits behind the Oval Office desk than the one who settled in there after his first inauguration four years ago.

  • Fiscal trench warfare

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- As the clock ticks down on the sequester solution to the nation's budget mess, it's looking more and more like a descent into World War I trench warfare. The two partisan sides are dug in, declining to surrender inches of policy and ideological territory while the political battlefield continues to be torn up around them.

  • The path and price of citizenship

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- This Independence Day comes amid unusual focus on the estimated 11 million undocumented aliens already here, yearning to breathe free without the threat of what Mitt Romney clumsily labeled self-deportation.

  • Obama's uncertain trumpet

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In President Obama's running argument with the Republicans in Congress over who's responsible for the legislative stalemate on Capitol Hill, he suffers self-inflicted wounds by continuing to run up the same white flag that undermined his own efforts in his first term.

  • On journalism's red line

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The announced sale of The Washington Post to Internet business innovator Jeff Bezos seems at first a major blow to the tradition of newspaper ownership in the hands of families dedicated to the craft of journalism.

  • War of words over Syria

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- While the slaughter goes on in the Syrian civil war, a remarkable war of words has broken out over the threatened use of American force there, led by of all people Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • Grand Old Party of never

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Many present-day Republicans seem bent on making "Backward, Christian Soldiers" their marching song in their relentless determination to "repeal and replace Obamacare," even to the point of repeating their lemming-like plunge over the cliff of another government shutdown.

  • Dick, Ike and Ted

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Just as they say that the poor are always with is, so it is with Richard Nixon, arguably the most tormented American president, who comes back to us in the new book "Ike and Dick" (appropriately subtitled "Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage").

  • Leakmania

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- We now know more than ever before that American society leaks like a sieve. Supposedly secret information pours out from government, from its hired contractors, from Congress, from giant corporations, from political parties, all in the effort to gain advantage -- military, industrial, political -- in a highly competitive world.

  • The buck stops short

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In the pell-mell rush in some quarters to equate the IRS scandal with Watergate, a question that featured prominently in the latter is bubbling up. That would be then-Sen. Howard Baker's query about Richard Nixon: "What did the president know, and when did he know it?"

  • On talking things out

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- A Democratic president takes a bunch of Republican senators to dinner and invites the losing GOP vice-presidential nominee to lunch. Meanwhile, a freshman Republican filibusters the Senate for 13 hours against theoretical U.S. use of unmanned drones on our own soil. What's going on here?

  • Boxing Obama in

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Greater than the risk of being accused of criminality in the three scandals now gripping the Obama administration is the peril that the president's substantive agenda is being hopelessly knocked off track.

  • Obama's luck

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- After months of talking himself into a corner on Syria, President Obama can thank his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for offering him at least a temporary reprieve from a military move that could destroy his presidency.

  • The GOP goes under the knife

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In what unfortunately has been labeled an "autopsy" of the Republican defeat last November, surgeons of the party establishment and its most conservative offshoot had their scalpels out during over the last week, carving up the corpse.

  • On partisan echo chambers

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- There was a time when the lines between the practices of politics and journalism were clear-cut. Professional politicians did their thing, which was getting elected and getting others elected. Professional journalists did theirs, writing and telling how the politicians did what they did. Seldom did the two meet in public opinion forums

  • GOP to showcase Rubio as new face of party

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In the Republican Party's developing effort to put on a new face after last November's presidential defeat, the latest gesture is trotting out freshman Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to deliver the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union Address before Congress next week.

  • On going to Congress

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- A dozen years ago, as President George W. Bush was beginning to build his case for invading Iraq, a key Justice Department lawyer argued forcefully before a Senate subcommittee that the president had the power as commander-in-chief to wage war without going to Congress.

  • Obama's choice on Syria

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Ever since Barack Obama entered the Oval Office in 2009, his foreign policy has been driven in large part by a determination to reverse that of his predecessor, George W. Bush, who put the United States on a reckless course of interventionism abroad.

  • Straight talk from the Pentagon about getting involved in Syrian civil war

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The Hollywood version of American military leadership has often cast it in bombastic terms, like the hot-headed Air Force general played by George C. Scott in "Dr. Strangelove" or Burt Lancaster's ambitious power-seeker in "Seven Days in May." More recently, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld toted that image.

  • Obama frozen in angst as Middle East violence deepens

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama, in a sea of foreign policy troubles, accepted his leadership responsibilities in a CNN interview last week while lamenting the complexity of these challenges.

  • Amnesty, American style

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- We Americans like to think of ourselves as a forgiving people, willing to turn the other cheek to offense in the interest of getting on with life. Although the most conservative of us rail against "amnesty" in its many forms, we actually practice it repeatedly.

  • Obama's quest for legacy

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Second presidential terms are supposed to give the occupant of the Oval Office a voter-endorsed ticket to pursue a more favorable narrative place in the history books. Barack Obama's second time around, however, is developing more as a rerun of his first term's effort to clean up the inherited mistakes of his predecessor, and a defense of his own major first-term legislation.

  • Damage control again

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- As it must come to all American presidents, it seems, Barack Obama's policy agenda is being crowded out of the headlines by the imperative of damage control against administration scandal.

  • Sitting short in the saddle

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- If the Barack Obama Story were to be made into a movie these days, it's certain that a John Wayne type would not be cast in the leading role.

  • Security vs. privacy

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The latest open debate over security and privacy is a welcome pivot from the irksome father-knows-best attitude that has prevailed too long regarding the government's contention of superior judgment in the realm of national security.

  • Fighting the last political war

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, in previewing his revamped plan to balance the federal budget in 10 years, included a continuation of his party's campaign pledge to "repeal and replace Obamacare."

  • 50 years after the march

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The current remembrance of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom of half a century ago has rightly focused on Martin Luther King's epic "I Have Dream" speech, which prophesied racial progress that at the time many saw as a pipedream.

  • Where the buck still stops

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- A rare phenomenon occurred on Capitol Hill the other day when two ranking officials of the Obama administration testified that they had differed with the president they still served over providing arms to the rebels in Syria seeking to oust dictator Bashar al-Assad.

  • Bush's war, 10 years later

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The 10th anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq seems an appropriate time to look back at how it all happened and what it has wrought, not so much for Iraq as for the United States, which poured its own troops, treasure and world reputation into that colossal misadventure.

  • Obama's blunt challenge to Congress

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Of all the words spoken, written about, broadcast, googled, tweeted or even just mused over in President Obama's State of the Union address, none were more pointedly delivered than the four in his direct appeal for tighter gun-control legislation: "They deserve a vote."

  • Tricky Dick, we already knew ye

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The release of the last 340 hours of the Nixon White House tapes adds little to what we know by now about the first American president to resign. Indeed, the final installment doesn't tell us much more than we should have known about him long before the first tapes were ever released.

  • Supreme Court's decisions rattle its credibility

    September 30, 2013

    The Supreme Court's mixed bag of decisions in the session's final days, particularly on voting rights and same-sex marriage, seized the nation's headlines but did little to bolster its own clarity or credibility.

  • An energized lame duck

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- It's sometimes said that a lame-duck president is a weakened leader from the first day of his last term. The two-term limit of the 22nd Amendment, imposed by wrathful Republicans in 1951 in response to FDR's breach of the George Washington tradition, is supposedly a political kiss of death against achieving future goals.

  • Avoiding a death spiral

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the bipartisan Gang of Eight seeking historic reform of American immigration policy, has warned his party colleagues they'd better get aboard or forget about electing one of their own to the Oval Office in 2016.

  • What Obama legacy?

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- There is something about the start of a second presidential term that induces talk and speculation about the incumbent's eventual "legacy." Such notions are usually based on the president's accomplishments in the first term plus expectations -- or fears -- of what might yet come.

  • RNC power grab

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, in an ambitious effort to direct a party makeover in wake of its defeat last November, has targeted the next presidential cycle's debates and primaries.

  • Dubya's library opens debate about presidential record

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The other three living former American Presidents -- Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton -- are all scheduled to show up tomorrow (Thursday) at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It will be another of those mandatory gatherings at which genuine sentiments and observations will be suppressed or set aside for the sake of the appearance of national comity.

  • A death in the family

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- To a lifelong newspaperman, the abrupt sale of an iconic publication like The Washington Post seems akin to a personal loss, a death in the family, although the prospective new owner vows to keep it afloat.

  • Judging Obama over Syria

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In the exceedingly tentative deal struck to avert an American attack on Syria, as much attention is being devoted to winners and losers as to the possible outcome -- removing the threat of Syria's chemical weapons without the further killing that such an attack would produce.

  • Biden's 2016 strategy

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The slow summer political season is inevitably leading to speculation about what may happen in next year's congressional elections, on which President Obama's prospects for his final two years in the Oval Office may rest. It's widely assumed that if he doesn't somehow gain control of Congress in 2014, he'll wind up with a host of unrealized legislative ambitions,

  • The bugaboo of Obamacare damages GOP

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Tea party and other Republican fear-mongers are again working themselves into a lather in their latest assault on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a key part of which will be implemented Oct. 1.

  • The demise of moderate Republicanism

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Among the casualties of the 2012 presidential election, along with Mitt Romney, was the vanishing breed of moderate Republicans of which he once was a star, until his embarrassing lurch into conservatism.

  • The good old days, and now

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The much-lamented passing of my old column partner, Jack Germond, has unleashed a flood of nostalgia about the good old days in political reporting. Then, it was said, men -- mostly men -- were hard-drinking, hard-playing boys on the bus who cavorted through presidential campaigns as if they were Willy Loman getting by on a smile and a shoeshine.

  • Hagel's challenge

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska who survived a stormy confirmation hearing to become the new secretary of defense, had a coming-out party of sorts Wednesday before the National Defense University, the government's graduate school for American and foreign military officers.

  • Political silly season

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- With Congress in the doldrums of summer recess, our town has inevitably sunk to the game of making political mountains out of molehills.

  • Jersey straight talk

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- While many of his fellow Republicans continue seeking the holy grail of defunding Obamacare and another possible government shutdown over it, New Jersey's brash Gov. Chris Christie has made them an offer they would be wise not to refuse.

  • Obama's battery recharge

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In the midst of President Jimmy Carter's economic doldrums in 1979, he sought to restart the nation's engines with a speech in which he essentially accused the American people of losing confidence. Although he never used the word, it was widely called his "malaise" speech, and he caught public hell for it, getting swamped the next year in his bid for reelection.

  • Pollution in the news stream

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In today's ever-growing coagulation of fact, fiction and rumor from print, digital and social media, where is the news consumer to look with confidence for the truth?

  • The return of maverick McCain

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- In a now-rare exhibition of sensible compromise in the United States Senate, John McCain of Arizona has re-emerged as the unpredictable maverick who had seemingly vanished in his 2008 bid for the presidency.

  • Scandals put presidential credibility on the line

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- When the storm of administration scandal first hit President Obama, he offered a good impersonation of Claude Raines in "Casablanca," expressing shock that gambling was going on in Rick's saloon. His verbal outrage at the snooping of the IRS and his Justice Department was intense, but not very reassuring.

  • State of the union, at home and abroad

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- President Obama's first State of the Union address of his second term, following in the fashion of his second inaugural address, focused on the state of the nation at home: the need for more jobs and a revived middle class, as well as such specifics as immigration reform and steps against gun violence.

  • The passing of moderate Republicanism

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The death this week at age 96 of former Pennyslvania Gov. Bill Scranton, briefly a Republican presidential candidate in 1964, was also in a sense a final obituary on moderate Republicanism that began fading from the political scene half a century ago.

  • So long, Jack Germond

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- American journalism has lost a giant in the passing at 85 of Jack Germond, my longtime pal and partner in the joyful chronicling of the antics and outrages of political reformers and rogues alike over the last half-century.

  • A trapped Obama should stop digging a deeper hole

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama's presidential tenure has been marked by a rather naive supposition that his persuasive powers and the justice of his positions can overcome objections in both domestic and foreign policy, and eventually carry the day.

  • Obama's huge gamble

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- For a notoriously cautious politician, Barack Obama has taken a major gamble on his presidency in deciding to put his promised attack on Syria on hold, and then asking Congress for authority to go ahead.

  • Gun control's timid advocates

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- For all the clamor from the White House and many in Congress to address the American scourge of gun violence, signs continue to point to a half-measure solution at best.

  • John Kerry finds his role

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry still has a long way to go in his intensive quest for Palestinian-Israeli peace. But his diligent and persuasive pursuit of it suggests that his uneven career search for a legacy of his own may finally have found its proper track.

  • Obama and Rubio: A study in contrasts

    September 30, 2013

    WASHINGTON -- The anticipated verbal duel Tuesday evening between President Obama and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida -- the former in his State of the Union Address and the latter in the official Republican response -- was an obvious mismatch. It seemed a case of man vs. boy, and of a perhaps overly ambitious agenda for the future vs. the same old GOP naysaying.