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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

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Jim Webb explores candidacy in 2016

November 28, 2014

WASHINGTON -- Political crystal-ball gazers widely predicting a cakewalk for Hillary Clinton to the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination are not likely to change their minds in light of former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's decision to form an exploratory committee to evaluate his own prospects.

  • Chuck Hagel leaves Obama's war against war

    November 26, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The surprising decision of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to leave his Pentagon post after only 21 months of service has been widely greeted as a combination of his frustration in the job and a conclusion at the White House that he turned out to be the wrong man for the job.

  • Obama's immigration gamble a bid to salvage legacy

    November 23, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama's decision to follow through on his plan to reform immigration policy through an executive order is an uncharacteristically bold gamble, made in the hope of salvaging the final two years of his presidency and his own political legacy.

  • It's time to kill the lame duck session

    November 21, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The current lame duck session of Congress, which ends on Jan. 3 and includes senators and representatives defeated on Nov. 4, began with the same old partisanship that characterized the last few years in Washington, as the Senate rejected the Keystone XL pipeline construction bill by a single vote.

  • Obama must secure authorization for force in Middle East

    November 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Before President Obama does anything else in the lame-duck Congress or the new one in January, he needs forthrightly to seek an update or new authorization for the new war he's fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

  • Lincoln's vice-presidential switch changed history

    November 16, 2014

    CHICAGO--The other day I found myself at the famous Abraham Lincoln Bookshop here, talking about my latest effort, a history on the evolution of the American vice presidency. The visit brought to mind a little-discussed Lincoln story in the book that I will convey here in necessarily abbreviated form.

  • A lethargic electorate stuck in place

    November 14, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- For all the millions spent on advertising in both parties for the midterm elections, voter turnout was the lowest since World War II, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.

  • Where the buck really stops

    November 12, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- The thrashing that voters administered to the Democrats in the midterm congressional elections confirmed the old admonition Harry Truman kept on his White House desk: "The buck stops here."

  • President's foreign policy intentions lie in ruins

    November 9, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Now that the usual vows of good intentions are over between President Obama and the elected Republican leaders of the House and Senate -- all vowing willingness to work together to break the long legislative stalemate on Capitol Hill -- the question is will it really happen?

  • Is Obama now irrelevant?

    November 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton's Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives in the midterm congressional elections. Thereafter, he felt the need to declare at a press conference that "the president is relevant here."

  • Nixing midterm elections a good idea, but an unlikely one

    November 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- As American political junkies pore over the mid-term congressional election results to appraise President Obama's fate for his final two years in office, a very welcome idea has emerged from the hallowed halls of Duke University.

  • Cruz is the Republican who needs a history lesson

    November 2, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in again throwing previous Republican presidential nominees Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney under the bus of his own White House ambitions, needs to brush up on his political history.

  • Bradlee receives a royal Washington sendoff

    October 30, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In the closest thing in the nation's capital to royalty, the mighty of the news capital of the world gathered at the Washington National Cathedral Wednesday in a regal farewell to their departed sovereign, editor Ben Bradlee.

  • Remembering Frank Mankiewicz, a respected professional in politics and media

    October 29, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- In the hard-boiled if fading world of print journalism, it's often said that the only way to look at a politician is down. And the worst crime of all is to work both sides of the street, doubling as a reporter while working for a pol, or vice versa.

  • Hillary takes a leaf from Nixon's book and hits the campaign trail

    October 26, 2014

    WASHINGTON -- As 2016 Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton joins her party's push to survive the challenges it faces in the Nov. 4 midterm congressional elections, she is taking a page from the comeback playbook of another one-time presidential loser: Richard Nixon in 1966.

  • 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.